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The Call of War

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Shun took a deep breath.
The wind caught in his long trench coat when he stepped out onto the roof, making it flap behind him. Without a word he joined Kaito who was standing at the railing, looking over to the unfinished skeleton of the Heartland Tower which was still under reconstruction.
It was actually surprising that so many people had been in favour of rebuilding it when they were still short of housing space. People needed a symbol, he guessed, something that gave them hope. During the war they had been that symbol. The Resistance. Those people who were able to fight back against academia. But in the end it hadn’t been them who brought an end to all the fighting. That’s why people needed a new symbol.
“We’re making good progress, right?” he said.
Kaito didn’t answer.
He was still a mystery to him. The pain of losing their families and friends had changed both of them. They had both be consumed by their hatred and went out to destroy those who had turned their life into a hell of suffering. Although, over time they had grown calmer and abandoned this path. And eventually they had found their smile again.
He had seen it on Kaito’s face, when he met his brother and father again. It had felt good to see him happy.
But… Neither of them was able to return to the way they had been. A part of that hatred would always remain within them.
“Will you tell me what’s bothering you?” he asked and this time Kaito gave him a sidelong glance. Then his eyes turned back at the tower.
“I’m worried. That’s all”, he replied after a moment.
Kaito lowered his gaze into the street beneath them. A group of people in red jackets were carrying boxes to the nearest construction site.
“Academia… They are helping a lot, but… their presence alone already leads to conflicts. Right now it is just minor fights, but it’s only a matter of time until it will escalate.”
Shun followed the former soldiers with his gaze.
It was true. The other people on the street were avoiding them, one or two turned around after they passed and gave them resentful glares.
He turned back to Kaito.
“Getting used to each other takes time. It wasn’t different with you and me, right?”
Kaito examined him closely.
“Since when are you such an optimist?”
While Shun was trying to figure out whether he should feel offended or embarrassed by his friend’s remark, Kaito let his gaze wander off into the distance.
“Pain and hatred don’t disappear so easily, Shun”, he muttered.
“But we have been able to conquer it, right?”
Kaito gave him a glance and actually cracked a little smile. He was about to answer, when the loud noise of an explosion hit them and they whirled around. After a moment they could see smoke rising from a spot not far away.
Shun swore and took out his duel disk, before he leapt over the railing.

While the deafening noise of the explosion still rang in his ears, Allen heard a sharp squeal from somewhere ahead.
“Sayaka!” he shouted and darted around the corner, squinting through the thick veil of black smoke.
His heart almost stopped when a bright flash lit up the smoke.
“Sayaka! Where are you?!” he shouted again, desperate this time.
He knew the flash all too well. Not long ago it had taken away so many of his friends. No matter how often he saw it, he couldn’t get used to it. He couldn’t get used to the pain when someone important was erased from his life. And the thought that now Sayaka too…
But then he saw her, cowering on the ground, her glasses sitting somewhat crooked on her nose.
“Sayaka! Are you alright?” he asked as he knelt down beside her.
She gave him a brief glance and nodded, the shock still written all over her face. Then she turned to someone who was standing in the now clearing smoke.
“What are you doing here?!” she shouted at the figure whose face was covered beneath a long, hooded cloak.
The figure turned to her, waving casually with the card in her hand.
Horror clenched Allen’s heart when he saw the face on it, now forever living only as a small picture. Driven by an old instinct, he took out his duel disk and planted himself in front of Sayaka. It was alarming how easily he fell back into this habit, but he would protect her no matter what.
The figure hesitated.
“Allen?” they asked and with a fluid motion they swept the hood off, revealing a familiar face.
She smiled and came walking towards him.
“Wow, Allen. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen each other.”
When she reached him, she placed a hand on his shoulder.
“You’ve grown big.”
“I… guess so”, he replied, too confused by the sudden reencounter.
Then his gaze wandered to the card she was still holding in her hand. Now that he saw it up close, he could see the blue uniform of the academia student.
“Why did you do this, Anna?” he asked over the lump in his throat.
“Why?” she echoed and suddenly Allen noticed a hardness in her eyes that made him shiver.
“They’ve done the same to us. There’s no reason we shouldn’t do it to them.”
“But Anna”, he tried to protest, but she squeezed his shoulders tightly and gave him a look which he supposed was meant to be reassuring.
“You don’t need to worry, Allen. I’m going to make sure they won’t hurt anyone ever again.”
Without another word she put on her hood again and disappeared into an alley.
It wasn’t until Sayaka reached for his hand that he noticed he was trembling.
That look on her face… He had seen it already. He had seen it on Kaito’s face when he declared his personal vendetta against academia.
It was the look of someone who was prepared to die, but didn’t care about it.
“You… know her?” Sayaka asked.
Allen didn’t respond.
“This is bad”, he muttered. “This is awfully bad.”

Cold. That was her primary feeling. The terrible coldness which had nothing to do with the temperature outside.
She heard an explosion in the distance, but she didn’t pay any attention to it. All that mattered right now was in the devastated classroom in front of her. The poor remains of desks and chairs that had served dozens of students already lied scattered and wrecked across the room. Some of them were piled up around the door, reminding of a makeshift barricade.
It must have been a desperate attempt. However, it had been futile. The cards that lied in front of her, carelessly spread across the floor, told her.
She knelt down and picked them up, carefully, although her hands were shaking so hard she had trouble holding them. She brushed her thumb across them, across the frightened faces she spent so many days in school with. They were so close, and yet she would never be able to touch them.
There was no blood.
In a way, that made it worse. It made it feel almost unreal. There was no blood around, no dead bodies that told her this wasn’t a dream, nothing she could hold onto as she was falling down into that bottomless abyss. Nothing except these tiny cards which would be forever witness to the horror that had occurred here.
Nevertheless she felt tears running over her cheeks and her shoulders started shaking as she clasped them to her, no longer able to ignore the yawning emptiness inside.
This was war.
This was brutal, terrifying, relentless war. A war without justice. A war without rules.
This was war. And only the strongest would prevail.

That was what she had realised back then. That was the truth which academia had forced onto her, which war had forced onto her. And there was only one end to it which could satisfy her.
With the push of a button she carded the pathetic soldier that cowered before her and his quiet whining ceased.
There were still so many left.
But so what. She would get them all in the end.

The clock ticked so unbelievably fast. Unstoppably the hands races towards the future, the seconds blurring by in a blink.
Right now Gloria could understand what Noro was saying all the time.
Everything was happening so fast. Just half an hour ago someone came storming into the former academia headquarters, drivelling about someone who had started to card academia students and now the entire place was filled with the fearful chatter of frightened people.
She and her sister were trying to handle the situation while the commander was, of course, absent. When she let her gaze wander across the room, she couldn’t help but feel disgust at these people. In moments like this she felt a faint longing for the days of old academia. Back then they wouldn’t have fled like children who were afraid of thunder. The message that there was someone who didn’t just run away, who actually fought back, would’ve spurred them on even more. They would have headed out and hunted down that duellist.
But these times were over, she thought with a sigh. No honour. No glory. Now they were just a pathetic bunch of cowards.
“Miss Tyler?” a young woman asked and Gloria turned her attention to him. She had seen him before, but she couldn’t recall his name.
“Who-Whoever this duellist is, others will surely follow their example”, he stuttered. “Wouldn’t it be wiser to return home to academia for now?”
He ducked under her deprecating glare.
“We only have heard of a single person yet. Until we have more detailed information, everyone’s going to stay here.”
He looked like he wanted to say something else, but hesitated when he looked at her and bit his lip.
“Pull yourself together”, she snapped at him. “You’ve been a soldier of academia, haven’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am!” he answered with a peaking voice and turned to leave before she could slate him further.
These young people…
She and Grace weren’t much older though. It was strange how being in charge made you automatically feel older.
Suddenly the ground quaked a little. After a moment of shaken silence, something struck the building and debris came raining down on the cowering people inside. Most of them jumped aside in time, but Gloria could see one or two whose limbs stuck out from beneath the detritus.
At once she was on her feet, bellowed an order at those who were closest to her to take care of the wounded, before she grabbed her sister’s hand and dragged her outside.
A hooded figure approached them casually over the street. Gloria felt excitement rise in her chest. Whoever this was, there was something about them which made her want to fight them.
But, this was not how they were supposed to think anymore, she reminded herself. Their presence here was merely tolerated. One careless action and the whole city would turn against them.
“Who are you? And what are you doing here?” she asked firmly.
Always show your enemy how far you stand above them. This was something the professor had taught her, but she wasn’t willing to abandon it.
“I could ask you the same question”, the figure replied unmoved. “You don’t belong here.”
Gloria smirked. Apparently this was indeed the person responsible for the rumours.
“I am sorry, but we are here with the approval of the former Resistance. They are the ones in charge right now.”
“In charge…” the figure echoed hollow. Then they took off their hood.
While it surprised Gloria to see a girl beneath that cloak, even more surprising was how young she looked. She had to be fifteen, sixteen at the most.
“In a war, it doesn’t matter who’s in charge. In the end it is the soldiers on the field who decide who will live and who won’t.”
“What are you talking about?” Grace interrupted her. “The war is over. All we want to do here is help you with the reconstruction of your city.” She gave the girl a smile. “We don’t have any hostile intentions.”
It was good to have Grace at her side, Gloria thought. With her happy-go-lucky mentality, she managed to express things in a way Gloria would never be able to. Still, it didn’t have the desired effect this time.
Deadly anger was written on the girl’s face as she glared at them.
“How can you simply stand there and smile?! After everything you’ve done!? After hurting so many people!?”
As she reached for something beneath her cloak, her eyes narrowed and her face grew calmer.
“But you are going to understand their pain. May pain”, she said coldly and scattered a bunch of cards across the ground.
Gloria drew in a sharp breath as she recognised them, and Grace covered her mouth with both hands.
“So many?” she muttered dismayed. “And you carded all of them?”
The girl activated her duel disk in response.
“Grace. This is something we cannot ignore”, Gloria said in a narrowed voice.
Grace nodded and they took out their own duel disks.
“Okay. Which one of us do you want to defeat you?” Gloria asked.
The girl’s expression didn’t change at all.
“I don’t care about that. If you want, I’ll take on both of you at once.”
Grace let out a surprised whistle.
“Wow. Someone’s confident here.”
She exchanged a brief glance with Gloria.
“Alright. To make it fair, the two of us are going to share our field, graveyard and Life Points.”
“Whatever”, the girl replied.
Gloria was impressed. That girl either was confident she could beat both of them, or she didn’t even realise what she was doing.
Whatever it was, she was going to enjoy this.


“Since you are alone, you can have the first turn”, Gloria said.
The girl cast a glance at her cards and flapped one of them onto the blade of her disk. “Since I control no cards, I can Special Summon Rocket Arrow Express from my hand (ATK: 5000).”
Gloria involuntarily held her breath as she looked at the jet-shaped train that emerged on a track of rails in front of her. A 5000 ATK monster on the very first turn? She had to admit, that wasn’t bad.
“So, it’s a Railway deck?” Grace muttered. “Hey sister, it’s just like that little boy we defeated. Remember?”
Gloria smiled a little as she recognised it.
Right. That had been just before they lost against Yuya and decided to defect. However, her smile died away as soon as she looked at the girl’s face.
If she had looked angry before, then now her eyes glowed truly murderous.
“What have you done to Allen?” she growled sinister.

“No, Allen. Your Iron Wolf has the ability to hit your opponent unprepared. Don’t throw away that opportunity for a reckless attack.”
“I’m sorry, Anna.”
He looked up when she patted his shoulder.
“Don’t be sorry”, she said. “You’ve already gotten much better.”
His lips curved into an awkward smile when he glanced at her.
“Anna! We’re leaving!” a voice called from downstairs.
“Yes, mom! We’re coming!” Anna answered over her shoulder. Then she turned back at him.
“Promise me you’re going to practise while I’m gone. And when we meet next time, you’re gonna beat me, okay?”
“That’s never going to happen”, Allen replied sheepishly, although he really felt proud by how much faith Anna had in him. He would make sure he didn’t disappoint her.

Looking back now, Anna’s training had probably saved him. Without it, he wouldn’t have had a chance against academia.
However, Allen had missed the days when he was able to duel for fun without having to fear for his life. Even now he was rarely smiling. The memories of pain and anger had been carved too deep into his soul.
“Allen? Allen, could you please tell me what is going on?”
He glanced at Sayaka who was right behind him and tried to keep up.
“Who was this girl? And where are you going?”
Allen bit his lip.
After academia invaded Heartland, he hadn’t heard of Anna again. He had tried not to think about her, as he didn’t want to imagine what might have happened to her. But sill, he had often wished to have her determination, her strength.
“Anna is my cousin”, he answered. “She is the one who taught me how to duel, although I’m not nearly as good as she is. And the way she is now…”
He shuddered as he recalled her expression from before. The friendly squeeze of her hand while she was holding a carded person in the other… Vigorously he shook his head.
“When it comes to duelling, she’s a monster. I’m afraid of what else she could do. We have to warn…”
He stopped when he turned around the corner and stared at Anna’s Rocket Arrow Express. Standing across her were the two Tyler sisters.
Damn! Was he too late already?
“Whatever it was, I’m going to make you pay for it”, Anna said, picking another card from her hand.
“I Normal Summon Night Express Knight. This card can be Normal Summoned without a tribute by reducing its ATK to 0 (ATK: 3000 – 0).”
A second track of rails appeared and her first train was joined by Express Knight.
“I overlay the level 10 Rocket Arrow Express and Night Express Knight.”
The two machines turned into huge lights that swirled around each other before vanishing into the giant portal that had opened up in front of Anna.
“From beyond the Railway, arrive here and now, alongside the tremors of the earth! Xyz Summon! Appear! Rank 10! Superdreadnought Railcannon Gustav Max (ATK: 3000)!”
Allen and Sayaka were almost blown away by the gust that accompanied the monster’s arrival. The heavy train on its three tracks blocked half of the entire street, casting its
shadow on the skeletons of the unfinished buildings that lined it.
“I activate Gustav Max’s effect. By detaching one Xyz Material, I can inflict 2000 damage.”
“Anna! Wait!” Allen shouted.
Her head turned to him and for a brief moment her face lit up.
“Ah, Allen! You’ve arrived just in time. I’m going to punish those who have made you suffer.”
“No, wait! I need to talk…” Allen tried to shout, but his voice was drowned by the loud noise as Gustav Max extended its huge cannon.
The entire train jerked back a little as it fired a shell. One moment later the Tyler sisters were swallowed by a bright flash, followed by a wave of solid air that hammered against Allen’s eardrums.
It took a minute until the smoke settled and revealed a huge hole in the street. The Tyler sisters had gotten back to their feet, although their clothes looked pretty messed up.
“Well, well… What a surprise”, Grace said as she tucked a strand of her silver hair behind her ear.
“You’ve taken away half our Life Points already. It appears you are a worthy opponent indeed.”
Allen turned back to his cousin.
“Anna! You have to stop this! The people of academia are really trying to make up for what they did to us. There’s no need to fight them anymore.”
The look Anna gave him sent a shiver down his spine. It was so cold and merciless…
“What are you talking about, Allen? After everything they’ve done to us, after all the people they’ve hurt in this war, we’re supposed to simply forgive them?”
Allen shook his head.
“No. I’m not forgiving them just like that. But if we follow that eye for an eye logic as well, this will only lead to more violence.”
He curled his hands into fists as he thought back to the time he had spent after the invasion, searching the ruins for food, clothes or anything else that could be useful. He remembered seeing the hungry faces of the other kids in the morning and looking at their weary faces in the evening. Every day had been a struggle to survive.
“I don’t want that to happen. That’s why we should give them a chance to atone.”
Anna looked at him, thoughtful for a moment. Then she nodded slowly.
“It appears this war had changed you as well. Alright…”
She turned her gaze to Grace and Gloria.
“I am giving them a chance to atone by erasing them from this world.”
“No, wait!”
“Don’t you see it is useless?” Gloria interrupted him. “This girl understands only one language.”
She glanced over to Grace who was looking unusually thoughtful.
“Hey, Gloria. I think I’ve already seen her somewhere.”
She turned to Allen.
“Hey! You said her name was Anna, right?”
Allen nodded and Grace suddenly looked very wary.
“I knew it.”
Gloria examined Anna closely. Then her eyes grew wide.
“Is that…”
Grace nodded. “Kozuki Anna… She was the only duellist reckless enough to attack academia’s base directly. I heard she defeated thirty soldiers before the commander himself was able to stop her.”
Shocked, Allen darted around to his cousin. He had never heard of that. She actually had…
“So you’ve already heard of me”, Anna said coldly. “But that doesn’t matter. I will make sure you will never hurt anybody ever again.”
She inserted a card into her duel disk.
“From my hand I activate the Spell Card Special Schedule. It allows me to Special Summon Night Express Knight from my graveyard in defence position (DEF: 3000). And after that, since I control only EARTH monsters, I can also Special Summon Super Express Bullet Train from my hand (ATK: 3000).”
The two trains joined Gustav Max and with a shock Allen realised what she was about to do.
“No, Anna! This is wrong! If we fight like that, we are no better than they were!”
She gave him a cold glance and her eyes flicked back to the Tyler sisters.
“I overlay level 10 Night Express Knight and Super Express Bullet Train. From beyond the Railway, arrive here and now and shake the earth even more! Xyz Summon! Let my wrath hail down on this scum! Rank 10! Superdreadnought Railcannon Gustav Max!”
Allen watched in horror as Anna’s second Gustav Max appeared.
The street wasn’t broad enough for the two giants and to the new train scraped the wall of the houses, making plaster and concrete rain down on the street.
“For all this time, you have hunted us just for fun. You have chased us down, taken our homes, our friends and our families. But now the tides of battle have turned. Now it is you who hide and cower in fear. And just like you, I’m not going to show any mercy. I won’t stop until all that remains of academia has been wiped out.”
A menacing roar filled the air as the train’s cannon took aim at the young women in front of it.
“I detach one Xyz Material from Gustav Max to blow away your remaining 2000 Life Points.”
The noise of the shot was followed by the deafening quake when the shell struck the ground, blasting the two sisters off their feet (Gloria and Grace 2000 – 0 LP).
“How horrible”, Sayaka whispered as they watched Anna walking through the smoke towards the two women.
Gloria and Grace looked shaken as if they refused to believe they had been defeated on the first turn. When Gloria looked up at their victorious opponent, her gaze was filled with deep resignation.
Anna’s expression didn’t change as she raised her finger to her disk.
“No, Anna! This is wrong!” Allen shouted and bolted forward, trying to stop her somehow.
Anna’s gaze flicked to him, but there was no trace of the warmth that he remembered. Nothing of the cousin he once knew.
“On the battlefield there is no right, Allen.”
Suddenly she froze, her finger lingering just above the button which would turn Gloria and Grace into cards. Allen stopped as well, surprised by the man in the blue coat who had landed between Anna and the two women, his fierce, yellow eyes fixed on the girl.
Anna met his gaze without wavering.
“Would you please stop this?” Shun asked her. “Academia is no longer our enemy.”

“Gloria was baffled by the arrival of that man who had seemingly just fallen right from the sky.
She knew Shun was one of the most respected duellists of Heartland and one of the leaders of the Resistance, but what was he doing here?
The girl gave him a scrutinizing look.
“You aren’t one of this Fusion scum”, she noted. “Why are you protecting them?”
Shun gazed back at her.
“Because this is the decision we have made. Not to seek vengeance and work together to heal the wounds this war has left behind.”
Gloria felt bile rising up in her throat and pushed herself up.
How low had she gotten? Letting herself be protected by someone from Xyz.
“This has nothing to do with you”, she snapped. “Although I hate to admit it, we have lost and we are going to bear the consequences. So keep out of this.”
She realised she was breathing heavier than usual and her hand was curled into a fist. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been this angry. Angry at that man for protecting her, but most of all angry at herself. It was such a humiliation.
The look Shun gave her, however, calm and without a hint of anger or annoyance, unsettled her.
“Are you so eager to get carded?” he asked.
Gloria opened her mouth to answer, but no words passed her lips.
This man… What… What was this?
“Heal the wounds?” the girl echoed sinister and Shun turned to her.
“Don’t make me laugh. Even if all the people who were carded have been freed, even if this city is rebuilt until it looks the way it was, we cannot return to how we’ve been. What about those who starved because they didn’t find any food? Can you bring them back to life? What about the pain all of us have suffered? Can you take it from us? Erase all the sad memories?”
She shook her head.
“No. We cannot go back. And I can see in your eyes that you know this. The hatred I feel isn’t going to disappear. That is why I am going to continue the war they have started, until nothing is left of them.”
Shun considered her for a while and let out a sigh.
“I am sorry, but I cannot allow that to happen.”
He put on his duel disk and planted himself in front of her.
“If war is what you seek, then let me be your enemy.”
“No, Shun!” the Xyz boy shouted. “She is too powerful. Even you won’t be able to defeat her.”
Shun gave him a serious glance.
“You don’t know that. Nobody knows how a fight will end before it has started. Even if the opponent may appear ten times stronger than you, you still have to face them. Isn’t that what we have learned in our battles against academia?”
Allen appeared like he wanted to say something, but then he decided to remain silent. The girl’s gaze flicked back and forth between him and Shun and her lips curved into a barely visible smirk.
“Very well. Then I am going to fight you.”
Gloria felt how Grace reached for her hand and they dragged themselves over to the wall, leaving the battlefield to the two duellists.
As she rested her back against the wall, she noticed pain in several parts of her body.
Kozuki Anna… Back then, when she had read the information about her, she had dismissed it as mere rumours, but now that she had experienced her strength firsthand, she began to believe it. If even Commander Phoenix had had trouble defeating her, then what could this Shun do against her?
No, even if it may seem impossible, her and Grace’s lives as well as the peace between their worlds were at stake here. This was a duel that he absolutely mustn’t lose.
“Ready?” Anna asked and Shun answered with a brief nod.


“I’ll take the first turn, if you allow”, Shun said. “I Normal Summon Raidraptor – Tribute Lanius (ATK: 1800).”
A round portal opened in front of him and a mechanised bird of prey emerged from it, flapping its wings before coming to a stop just above the ground.
“I activate Tribute Lanius’ effect. Since he was summoned this turn, I can send one Raidraptor card from my deck to my graveyard. The card I choose is Raidraptor – Fuzzy Lanius. Its effect allows me to add another Fuzzy Lanius from my deck to my hand.”
Shun took the card from his deck, added it to the others and subsequently picked three of the other cards.
“I place three cards face down and end my turn.”
Anna drew a card from her deck.
Gloria couldn’t help it, but that girl was creepy. When she didn’t look like she was about to kill someone, her face didn’t show any emotion at all.
After they had given up the battle and started helping the people of Heartland, Gloria had seen the faces of many who had suffered. She had seen anger, fear and sadness.
Sometimes she had faltered under the knowledge that she was responsible for that. But all of these people had shown a degree of happiness. Maybe not towards her, but towards their friends and families.
This girl however… was different.
“I Normal Summon Night Express Knight by reducing its ATK to 0 (ATK: 3000 – 0).”
She appeared like the battlefield was her home, the only purpose she had left in her life.
Was this what the war had made of her? Was this what academia had made of her?
“Since I only control EARTH monsters, I can Special Summon Super Express Bullet Train from my hand (ATK: 3000). This monster can only attack if I send two other cards I control to the graveyard.”
If the professor’s goal had been to create the ideal soldier, then this girl would have fulfilled all his expectations. Her gaze as well as her determination were harder than steel. If she would’ve been born in Fusion, she certainly would’ve become an elite student.
“I guess you know what comes next. I overlay the level 10 Night Express Knight and Super Express Bullet Train. From beyond the Railway, arrive here and now, alongside the tremors of the earth! Xyz Summon! Appear! Rank 10! Superdreadnought Railcannon Gustav Max (ATK: 3000)!”
Gloria braced herself against the gust as she stared at the huge monster that had defeated her and Grace in a single turn.
She noticed her hand was shaking. What was this? Was she… afraid of that monster?
How pathetic!
Now she wasn’t any different than these cowards who had wanted to run before they had even seen the enemy?
What a shame.
Still, she could feel the dread that clenched her heart when she watched Anna’s cold smile. The girl looked at Shun’s little Raptor as if it was her next lunch. It certainly was no match for her Railcannon.
“I activate Gustav Max’s effect. I detach one Xyz Material and inflict 2000 damage to your Life Points.”
Gloria smirked.
Shun had three face-down cards. Surely he must’ve predicted that action and had made preparations to defend himself. To her surprise he didn’t make a move as Gustav Max aimed its cannon at him and fired its bomb shell. Even as the explosion enveloped him and blasted him off his feet, he showed no sign of reaction (Shun 4000 – 2000 LP).
What was this? Did he even intend to fight back? Or did he plan on losing this duel on purpose?
“And now for my attack. Gustav Max, attack his Tribute Lanius!”
The train took aim once again and fired another shell which blew apart Shun’s Lanius (Shun 2000 – 800 LP).
She was already on her feet and about to walk over to that guy and give him a tongue-slashing when Grace held her back.
“Take a look at his face, sister”, she said and when Gloria followed her gaze, she could see firm determination resting in his eyes.
No. These weren’t the eyes of someone who had already given up.
“I activate my Trap Raidraptor – Return. Since you destroyed a Raidraptor, I can add one of them back to my hand.”
Tribute Lanius reappeared in front of him, before returning into the card in his hand.
“I set two cards face down and end my turn”, the girl said. “Now try your luck in defeating me.”
Shun actually cracked a little smile. For some reason, Gloria felt like it was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen.
“If you are relying on luck on the battlefield, you must truly be a fool”, he replied.
Then his eyes narrowed.
“I draw.”

For all this time he had wondered about the reason.
Why had they been fighting? Why had this terrible war started in the first place? Why had the professor plunged them into this hell that had taken everything from him?
Never in a million years had he expected that his sister was the reason for all of this. No, not his sister alone. She and the other three girls who shared her face. The four fragments of Ray.
Since he had heard of him for the first time, he had always viewed the professor as a monster. It had never occurred to him that he could be acting out of love. He had acted out of the desire to revive his lost daughter. He had sacrificed thousands of people for her.
No matter how human his motives may have been, his actions definitely weren’t and Shun did not intend on forgiving him.
But his hatred for those who followed him had faded over time. He couldn’t blame the students of academia. Just like this war had formed him, their time in the custody of that man had made them who they were.
And Ruri was safe.
There was no reason for him to be angry at them anymore. At least at those who regretted what they had done and were willing to make up for it.
To be honest, he had carded many people as well, so he wasn’t that different, was he?
That was the reason.
His reason for doing what he could in order to pacify those who still harboured a grudge against them.
Like Anna.
He could feel the force of her hatred, the ferocity of the fire that burned inside her. Her drive for vengeance. It compared to his own or that of Kaito.
Maybe it was even stronger.
If there was one thing he knew how to do, it was fighting fire with fire.

“I Normal Summon Raidraptor – Tribute Lanius (ATK: 1800). Its effect allows me to send one Raidraptor card from my deck to the graveyard. I select Raidraptor – Readiness.”
He browsed through his deck, sent the designated card to the grave and picked another one from his hand.
“Since I control a Raidraptor, I can Special Summon Raidraptor – Fuzzy Lanius from my hand (ATK: 500). And next I overlay my level 4 Tribute Lanius and Fuzzy Lanius.”
The two mechanic birds soared into the sky before plunging into the galaxy-shaped portal that opened in the ground. With a deep rumble a large column of fire flared up, followed by a red glowing silhouette that charged towards the sky.
“Flaming falcon! Blaze with crimson light! Set flame your thirsting wings to cause havoc in your wake! Xyz Summon! Appear! Rank 4! Raidraptor – Blade Burner Falcon (ATK: 1000)!”
His mind welcomed the wave of fire that washed over him.
He remembered it very well. The feeling of heat on his face… That day when his world went up in flames and everything he knew turned to ash in the blazing hell that academia unleashed on them. That was when he decided to use that same fire against them, to make them burn for every single human they had hurt.
The fire had made him strong, although it was a strength he never had asked for. Still, he had decided to use this strength to protect what was dear to him.
“I activate Blade Burner Falcon’s effect. Because your Life Points are more than 3000 higher than mine, its ATK goes up by 3000.”
The glow around Blade Burner Falcon intensified, making it shine like a blazing red nova against the clear afternoon sky (1000 – 4000).
“But I am not done yet. I activate the Equip Spell Raptor’s Ultimate Mace and equip it to Blade Burner Falcon, increasing its ATK by 1000 (4000 – 5000).”
Shun had to admit that he was impressed by Anna. She was staring at his 5000 ATK falcon without a sign of fear or even surprise.
Let’s see whether your confidence is justified, he thought.
Blade Burner Falcon, attack her Gustav Max!”
His Raidraptor flapped its wings and dived down, speeding up like a flaming missile, ready to strike its target.
“Useless”, Anna commented. “I activate a Trap Card: Blitzkrieg Bombardment. By detaching one Xyz Material from Gustav Max, I can destroy one card on the field.”
A wide grin appeared on her face as her Railcannon took aim.
“Now shoot down that pathetic little bird! Fire!”
The shockwave from the heavy cannon rattled Shun, but he didn’t allow himself to back down.
“Counter Trap! Raptor’s Gust!”
Blade Burner Falcon was enveloped in a brief swirl of wind which deflected the shell and a beat later its blade-shaped body sliced through the heavy artillery weapon which exploded in a huge blast.
Raptor’s Gust negates an opponent’s Spell or Trap Card and destroys it, as long as I control a Raidraptor card”, he explained.
Anna was swaying a little as she got back to her feet. Shun needed to look twice before he realised she was shaking with some sort of manic laughter.
“I activate the second effect of Blitzkrieg Bombardment. Since a Machine-Type Xyz Monster has been destroyed, I can banish this card along with a Machine-Type Xyz Monster in my graveyard and inflict damage equal to its Rank multiplied with 200.”
Her grin grew even wider as she stared at Shun.
“I banish Gustav Max, a Rank 10 monster, meaning you take 2000 damage! Turn to dust!”
“I activate Raidraptor – Silent Roar to negate any effect that would inflict damage.”
A shimmering barrier appeared in front of him, but Shun nevertheless took a step back when the shell struck it.
The air that he breathed in was hot and choking and aside from a small area around him, the ground was entirely torn up.
He could feel it again. The heat of battle. The blood boiling in his veins. A battle to survive, with his actual life on the line…
Running away meant dying. Surrendering meant dying. Losing meant dying.
This was a duel in which he needed to give everything he had, in which he needed to let the flames inside him consume every part of his soul.
He glanced up at Blade Burner Falcon.
Yes. This was a fight that needed to be won at all cost.
He looked over to Anna and suddenly his confidence died away like a candle in the face of an upcoming storm.
The look on her face was frightening.
Kaito’s hatred was nothing compared to this. Even that of Zarc wasn’t. Never had he thought that there could be anyone who was able to unsettle him.
No. He mustn’t let her get to him like that.
“I… I set one card face down and end my turn.”

“You’ve managed to wipe out half my Life Points”, she muttered, her head lowered so Allen wasn’t able to see her face clearly.
“And you’ve sacrificed almost all of your Life Points to get such a strong monster on the field. You’ve earned my respect with that.
She glanced up and her eyes were wide with sick excitement. Much like… the soldiers of academia.
“I cannot spare anyone who chooses to protect that Fusion scum. I’m going to blast you to smithereens!!”
What in the world had become of her? She wasn’t the enthusiastic girl he knew from back then anymore. The smile that was on her lips now felt… wrong. So terribly wrong.
“I draw. First I activate Foolish Burial to send Rocket Arrow Express from my deck to the graveyard. And then…” She picked a card from her hand and placed it onto her disk. “…I summon Flying Pegasus Railroad Stampede (ATK: 1800).”
A shiny locomotive appeared before her, adorned with the silvery figure of a Pegasus, its front legs raised as if it was about to take off into the sky.
“I activate Flying Pegasus’ effect. It allows me to revive a level 10 Machine-Type Monster and Special Summon it in defence position. I revive Night Express Knight (DEF: 3000).”
“Stop it…”
Allen’s voice was barely a whisper.
“I activate Flying Pegasus’ other effect, changing its level to that of my Express Knight (4 – 10).”
“Stop this… Anna…”
“I overlay level 10 Flying Pegasus and Night Express Knight.”
Allen curled his hands into fists as he watched the two trains disappear in the familiar portal.
“From beyond the Railway, arrive here and now and shake the earth once again! Xyz Summon! Appear! Rank 10! Superdreadnought Railcannon Gustav Max (ATK: 3000)!”
“Oh no!” Sayaka whispered next to him, her hands pressed over her mouth.
Allen fell on his knees.
“Please, Anna! It’s enough! You don’t have to do this anymore!”
Her eyes turned to him, cold and hard, like that of a stranger. He felt a wet drop fall down on his hand and noticed he was crying.
“Leave Shun out of this. Please, Anna.”
For a moment everything was silent, aside from the noise of his sobs.
“Get up.”
To his surprise it wasn’t Anna’s voice who had said this.
“Do not beg for mercy when the fight hasn’t been lost yet”, Shun said strictly, his gaze fixed on his opponent.
“But Shun…”
He shook his head.
“This is a battle that cannot be won with words. If she thinks what she is doing is justice, then nothing we could say to her will make her see that she is wrong.”
Something deep inside him resonated with Shun’s words. A memory he thought he had almost forgotten about.
If you want to change this unfairness, words won’t be enough. If you want to change something, you need to get up and fight for what you think is right. What do you say, Allen?
“Yes, you’re right, Shun”, he muttered with a tentative smile and got to his feet.
“What… What are you talking about?”
Anna’s voice was irregular, her face twisted with anger and disgust.
“Justice? Right? Wrong? These things do not exist. In war, it is always the victor who defines what is just. They are right and the loser’s wrong. That is the rotten law that rules every world.”
She raised one hand high above her head.
“I am going to show you… the supreme power of a victor. I overlay Rank 10 Superdreadnought Railcannon Gustav Max.”
Allen watched in horror as the giant cannon turned back into a light and struck the galaxy-shaped portal.
“Leaving behind a trail of destruction, arrive to this battlefield, heaviest cannon train! Blast away even the strongest defence! Xyz Summon! Appear! Rank 11! Superdreadnought Railcannon Juggernaut Liebe (ATK: 4000)!”
At first Allen wondered where Anna’s monster was, but then he heard a deep rumble and the ground started to shake. This time the street definitely wasn’t broad enough. With a loud cracking noise steel was torn and concrete crumbled as the houses on both sides of the street gave way.
Allen couldn’t believe his eyes. He had never seen this monster of her before. ‘Huge’ wasn’t enough of a word to describe it. Even the two trains that served as the platform’s main carriers were larger than her previous weapons, not to speak of the artillery weapon itself which loomed sinister above the houses, its giant gun promising doom to everything it was fired at.
Still, it wasn’t as strong as Shun’s falcon.
“I activate the Equip Spell Train Connection”, Anna said with a dangerous sparkle in her eyes. “I banish Rocket Arrow Express and Night Express Knight from my graveyard to equip it to Juggernaut Liebe. This card doubles its original ATK, also if it battles a defence position monster, it inflicts piercing damage (4000 – 8000).”
Her lips curved into a grim smirk.
“And I also activate Juggernaut Liebe’s effect. By detaching one Xyz Material it gains 2000 ATK and DEF (8000/4000 – 10000/6000).”
“No way”, Sayaka whispered beside him.
A 10000 ATK monster? Now it was even twice as strong as Shun’s falcon.
Juggernaut Liebe, blow away Raidraptor – Blade Burner Falcon! Wipe out his pathetic defence!”
Juggernaut Liebe’s several turrets roared as they were angled. With a series of deafening bangs they unleashed a hail of deadly shells.
Shun flinched as his Raptor tried to evade the projectiles.
“When a monster equipped with Raptor’s Ultimate Mace is attacked by a monster with higher ATK, I can add a Rank-Up-Magic card from my deck to my hand and negate all battle damage.”
For a moment the cloudless sky was bathed in a blazing orange light as Blade Burner Falcon was hit by the attack, its smoking pieces falling to the earth like a shower of meteors. A mechanic wing landed close to Allen and Sayaka and she jumped a little.
Allen was praying that Shun knew what he was doing. He was his friend after all.
Then he heard bits of laughter and it made his stomach turn. Anna was breathing heavily, her shoulders rose and fell as if she had made a foot race, but her eyes were glowing with a menacing fire.
“That does it!” she muttered. “Three times you have avoided me now. I had planned on merely defeating you, but that won’t satisfy me anymore. I am going to show you real destruction!”
She took a deep breath and straightened herself.
“I activate the Trap Card Time Machine. This card Special Summons a monster that was destroyed and sent to the graveyard, so say hello to your Blade Burner Falcon (ATK: 1000).”
Allen blinked confused as Shun’s monster appeared next to him.
“But why does she…” he began.
Juggernaut Liebe gains one additional attack on monsters for each Xyz Material attached to it. Now, turn everything to ruins! Attack his falcon again! Perish!!”
All barrels fired and the entire street was engulfed in blossoms of fire. The blast of the explosion knocked Allen from his feet.
After a brief while of confusion, someone nudged at his shoulder. He turned around and saw Sayaka’s worried face above him. It was covered with soot and dust, just like… just like back then when he had found her, crouched behind a pile of debris, both hands pressed over her ears to block out the terrifying explosions in the distance that turned her home into a field of ruins.
Her eyes had been wide, but she hadn’t reacted to anything. He hadn’t even known if she perceived what happened around her. All he had thought of back then was to bring her to safety, to not just let her be found and carded like the others.
Sayaka’s mouth opened. He saw her lips moving, but couldn’t hear what she said.
He couldn’t hear anything at all.
He looked around, spotted Gloria and Grace who were just crawling out from behind a large stone slab. Then his gaze froze and he gasped. His chest was suddenly tight with dread as he stared at the scene which the fading smoke revealed to them. The buildings that had lined the street weren’t even recognisable as houses anymore. Academia’s headquarters were entirely destroyed. The asphalt was gone, either replaced with large craters or buried beneath the rubble.
It was a dire sight which he had tried so hard to forget. A sight which filled him with such horror that he wasn’t able to breathe.
It was a sight of war.
“No…” he muttered. “Shun, you…”
Something moved in the rubble. In a cloud of dust, Shun appeared, his coat torn and dirty, his hair messed up and covered by grey plaster. But he was up and breathing. His Life Points were still at 800.
Over the ringing in his ears Allen could hear his heart beating in joy and he let out a sigh of relief.
“How is that possible?” Anna asked.
She was staring at him like he was a ghost.
“You shouldn’t be able to stand after that attack. How is it you still have Life Points left?”
Shun met her gaze calm and with respect. His breath was going heavy and as he started to make his way to her, he was limping a little.
“I banished Raidraptor – Readiness from my graveyard. This protects me from every damage I would take for the rest of this turn.”
Anna gave him a sinister glare.
“So even now you continue to stand in my way. Then I am going to crush you next turn.”
Shun shook his head.
“I’m sorry, but there is no next turn for you. I activate my face-down, Rank-Up-Magic Doom Double Force. This card lets me revive a Raidraptor Xyz Monster that was destroyed this turn and rank it up into a monster with the double rank.”
A dark portal opened in the ground and Blade Burner Falcon emerged from it, before turning into a blazing light that re-entered the galaxy-shaped hole.
“Dauntless falcon. Hoist up the flame of anger. Become the flash of light that burns the land to ash. Rank-Up Xyz Change! Appear! Rank 8! Raidraptor – Satellite Cannon Falcon (ATK: 3000)!”
Shun’s new falcon was entirely white and red, like a harbinger of hope, but it paled in the face of Anna’s gigantic war machine.
“Since Satellite Cannon Falcon was summoned using a Raidraptor monster, it destroys all Spell and Trap Cards you control.”
The Raptor pointed its many cannons towards Anna and she gasped when a beam of light struck the card in front of her.
“Without your Train Connection, Juggernaut Liebe loses its 4000 additional ATK (10000 – 6000).”
Anna made an angry face.
“Fine. Then I end my turn”, she said through clenched teeth.
Shun closed his eyes for a moment, his body swaying a little as a light wind came up.
Allen could hardly imagine how exhausted he must feel and he had no idea how he managed to remain on his feet at all. But when he drew in a deep breath and opened his eyes again, his gaze contained a firm determination as if he said he was going to see this through to the end at all cost.
“Then it is my turn now. I draw.”

Kaito gazed down at the ravaged street below. The former headquarters of academia at its end had been razed to the ground. It was indeed very similar to the war zone which their city had been turned into.
He heard a noise above him and looked at the white Raidraptor passing over his head.
“Go, Shun”, he muttered. “Light the symbol of victory.”

Do not cry.
Back then she had cried so much that she didn’t know if she had any tears left to shed.
The ringing of distant explosions in her ear, she had cowered in the small shelter she had managed to find, cold and helpless. She had tried not to think of the cards that rested in her pocket, tried not to think of the frightened faces.
Of course she failed.
Sometimes the ground shook a little when another building crumbled. Her entire world was turning to ruins and there was nothing she could do to stop that.
When hunger finally drove her out of her hideout, she stared in horror at what was left of the once beautiful streets. Black ruins, empty and lifeless.
Do not cry.
That was the decision she made in that moment. Crying would change nothing. Crying wouldn’t bring back the people who had been carded. If she had time to cry, then she also had time to become stronger. And she was going to need strength in order to survive.
No, not to survive. In order to make those pay who were responsible for this. In order to inflict the same pain on them that they had inflicted on her and her friends.
Yes, she was going to make them pay. She was going to card them as well, tear them apart, grind them into the dust. She was going to raze their cities to the ground, turn their homes into fields of ruins. A hunting game… That’s what they had called it. A hunting game indeed. But who was the hunter and who was the prey here?
She could recall their grinning faces without effort, their gazes full with sadistic pleasure as they followed their Hunting Hounds in search of the next people who could entertain them, more like wild animals than actual humans. And just like wild animals they deserved to be slaughtered.
So why? Why did Allen and his friends try to protect them?
They had lost their homes as well. They had suffered the same pain as the people around them disappeared. Why couldn’t they see that these wild animals had no right to remain alive? Why did they fight for this vermin?
“I Normal Summon Raidraptor – Necro Vulture (ATK: 1000). With its effect I can tribute it to add Rank-Up-Magic Doom Double Force from my graveyard to my hand.”
She couldn’t express how much she detested that hard glare Shun gave her. How he dared to challenge her quest for vengeance. She was… She was going to make him pay as well.
“Next, I activate Satellite Cannon Falcon’s effect. I detach one Xyz Material and your monster loses 800 ATK for every Raidraptor in my graveyard.”
She narrowed her eyes as she tried to watch that annoyingly white bird soaring high into the air, followed by the silhouettes of five other birds which seemingly became on with it.
The falcon grew slower and stopped, aiming its cannons down at her. Then it unleashed a barrage of blinding beams which enveloped Juggernaut Liebe (6000 – 2000).
Anna watched in horror at her monster, visibly damaged by the attack, smoke rising from several holes in its hull.
“From my hand I activate Rank-Up-Magic Skip Force. This lets me rank up my Satellite Cannon Falcon into a monster which is two ranks higher.
Supreme falcon. Carry on the wishes of your fallen friends and fly off to the sky of victory! Rank-Up Xyz Change! Soar! Rank 10! Raidraptor – Ultimate Falcon (ATK: 3500)!”
When Anna turned around to her opponent, she gazed at golden wings that glistened bright in the sunlight. She couldn’t help but feel awe when the huge bird loftily took to the sky, rising until it was right in front of the sun, its precious body crested by the blinding light.
“I activate Ultimate Falcon’s effect. By detaching one Xyz Material, it makes all of your monsters lose 1000 ATK. Also you cannot activate any cards or effects until the end of this turn.”
The glow of the bird intensified, until it bathed the sky in its golden light, many times brighter than the sun. Anna shaded her eyes, but the glow shone through her hands and eyelids alike, until her entire mind was burning with that violent gold.
Dystopia guy! Attack her directly!”
Was this it? Was she going to lose again?
She heard a high-pitched scream, but she couldn’t tell who was screaming. Maybe it was even her.
Ultimate Falcon! Attack Superdreadnought Railcannon Juggernaut Liebe!”
When she looked up, the light of the sun was blocked out by a dense orb of blackness, flares of white cresting it, much like a solar eclipse.
Then the orb grew larger and she realised too late that it was closing in on her, striking Juggernaut Liebe’s main weapon. A moment later her monster vanished in a giant explosion. Like a leaf in the wind, she was blown through the air, eventually smacking into something solid that knocked the wind out of her (Anna 2000 – 0 LP).
She remembered. She had experienced this before.
“It was foolish of you to come here. No matter how much you struggle, in the end you will always fail. Your end is now.”
So many feelings were raging inside her. Pain about the things she lost. Anger at the soldiers who were responsible for that. Satisfaction about every one of them she had erased from this world. Deep, burning hatred.
And beneath all of that… melancholic resignation.
A violet light enveloped her and then… nothing.

Weakly, she opened her eyes, seeing Allen’s blurred face above her.
“Anna! Are you… alright?”
She heard his words, but they didn’t make any sense to her. She tried to move her head, reaching up and cupping his cheek.
He had grown so much. Not in height, but the look in his eyes was so mature. Too mature for someone of his age.
She felt a stab of anger and sat up, followed by a streak of pain that flashed through her rib. Allen caught her before she slumped to the side.
“It’s alright, Anna. I’m here. You don’t need to push yourself.”
“I can’t… stop here”, she muttered, her chest aching with every word.
“Say, Anna, is this the future you want to achieve?”
She glanced to the worn-out man who was limping towards her.
“What are you talking about?” she asked confused.
Shun gave her a sympathetic gaze.
“Look around you. This is our home. Do you want to turn it into a battlefield once more?”
She looked around, saw the smoking craters in the street, the crumbling buildings and torn-up walls.
She cracked a sad smile.
“This place isn’t our home anymore. Our home has burned down to cinder. This place is nothing but a poor imitation. And you have allowed that Fusion scum to be part of it.”
She almost spat out the last words.
“You are right”, Shun muttered. “Heartland will never be the way it was. But I don’t think it needs to. I mean, we have changed as well, haven’t we?”
He raised his head and gazed up at the sky.
“I am tired of fighting. This war has gone far too long. All I want is it to end already.”
Anna stared at him for a moment. He looked exhausted from their fight, but beneath that lied a deeper, vaster weariness.
Slowly she shook her head.
“As long as one of them remains, my hatred will not fade away.”
Shun glanced down at her and sadness flickered in his eyes for a moment.
“Commander!” she heard one of the academia women say.
Her eyes darted around, settling down on the young man who approached her. Her hatred blazed up the moment she recognised him, the grey hair and these condescending blue eyes.
“Why are you here?!” she hissed. “Carding me again?”
“I certainly have reason to”, Edo replied. “You have carded more than a dozen people. You have injured my lieutenants and destroyed our base.”
“Then what are you waiting for? This is what you academia scum came for, right?”
Edo closed his eyes.
“Fortunately I have arrived in time to evacuate everybody, so no one got injured by your rampage. About the people you have carded…”
He drew in a breath and sighed.
“I guess I have no right to blame you for that.”
To her surprise he knelt down before her.
“I apologise for everything we have done to you and your homeland. I am the one who led the attack on your people. I have realised far too late what we were doing to you.”
His clear blue eyes met her gaze firmly and she could see in them what she wasn’t willing to acknowledge: Regret.
“I am not saying that your hatred isn’t justified. If you want to take revenge, then take my life now. But please do not go after any of the people who are trying to atone for their mistakes.”
Anna couldn’t do anything but stare at him.
Of all the soldiers she had seen, he, the commander-in-chief, had been the one she hated most. He was their leader, the one who had given the orders to eliminate them.
She already felt her finger hovering above the button that would erase him, turn him into a card as punishment for every life he had destroyed.
But why was he kneeling down before her, bowing his head and apologising?
This didn’t make any sense.
She… She still hated him, but…
Damn! What was wrong with her?! She should card him already, make him pay for destroying her home, for taking away her friends. But for some reason, she couldn’t.
Her gaze flicked to Allen who was still supporting her, to the shy girl who was standing behind him, staring at her anxiously, to Shun who looked like he was going to collapse any moment and back to Edo.
Slowly she lowered her hand and sank back against Allen.
“I am not going to card you”, she said in a serious tone. “But should you hurt anyone ever again, I am going to kill each and every one of you Fusion scum.”

“This is our commander as we know him”, Grace flattered as she placed a hand on Edo’s back and pushed him towards the destroyed headquarters. Before they disappeared, she turned her head and gave her sister a mischievous smirk. Gloria answered with a sinister glare.
The girl, Anna, was also leaving, supported by the two Resistance kids. She was a fearsome individual and Gloria shivered when she recalled her last threat.
This was how the people of Heartland must have felt when they had been facing her and Grace.
Suddenly she actually was glad about her decision to abandon the professor. She didn’t want to have this feeling again, the terrifying knowledge that she was fighting for plain survival. If Shun hadn’t been there, she and Grace would’ve ended as cards as well.
Insecure, she glanced over to him. He looked tired and exhausted, but he also emitted a firmness that earned him her respect.
She walked towards him, until her noticed her, turning his head.
“You… didn’t have any reason to save me and my sister. So… Thank you.”
Shun considered her for a moment. Then he shook his head.
“I believe that Anna is right. The old Heartland, my home, exists only in memory now. But… I have chosen this place as my new home. The place where Allen, Sayaka, Kaito and all the others live. It means a lot to me, that’s why I’m going to protect it.”
He gave her a sincere look.
“And as long as you live here, it is your home as well, right?”
“I… I see.”
Gloria cast down her eyes. Nervously she fiddled with the hem of her uniform, trying to find the right words.
“Umm… Maybe… I could treat you for dinner some time?”
Shun raised a brow.
“You’re asking me out?”
Gloria could almost feel her sister’s excited stare in her back. She was certainly going to be very annoying in the next days.
When she noticed Shun was still gazing at her, she quickly turned away, hoping he didn’t notice the blush on her cheeks.
“Idiot”, she said bluntly. “I just don’t want to owe you anything. That’s all.”
She made a blatant harrumph and stalked away.
Stupid Grace. Whenever Gloria listened to her, she ended up in some embarrassing situation. She should really start to smarten up.

She felt warm.
She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this warmth. She didn’t know what it was that made her feel this warm.
Maybe it was Allen’s care as he treated her scrapes and bruises. Maybe it was Sayaka who had begun to smile at her after Allen started to tell her stories about when they were younger.
For such a long time, hatred had ruled her thoughts. But now it was gone, leaving her in a strange state of serenity.
She wasn’t sure how she was feeling about academia.
She wasn’t able to simply forgive them. And even if Edo’s words had sounded convincing, there were people who didn’t think the way he did. It was impossible that there weren’t.
What was she supposed to do now?
She didn’t know. Maybe she should stay here for a while, watch Allen and his friends and take a look at the progress he had made.
And then…
Well, she could still decide that later.