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A Song from the Divines

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Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of the Yu-Gi-Oh characters. However, the fantasy world and the OCs are mine.  This fanfic contains strong language, violence, and sexual content.

The Story's rating is now M for obvious reasons.

Update: April 22, 2022: Thank you for the guest for your input. I apologize if the story feels like a slog. Talking to a few of my friends, they've agreed there were some elements to the story that didn't help move it forward. I tried to be like George RR Martin with his genius way of telling multiple stories in one but it appears I have much to learn before I do anything like that. If you enjoyed Avi's POV, you can find her tale in a separate story called The Summoner of Dragons.


The Siege of Karad-Antha Termnnia

17 Years Ago



The forest of Askar was pitch black, its secrets only to be revealed when lightning stretched over the Termnnian sky, lighting up the land. The howling winds were overcome by the sounds of a great battle taking place outside the hidden mountain fortress of Karad-Antha.

Black Luster Soldiers ran across the battlements kicking ladders off the crumbling outer wall.

One of them grabbed a hook with his hand and pulled it up with all his might. The squad of orcs and hobgoblins hanging on to it squeaked and then smashed stupidly against the crenellation before falling to their doom hundreds of feet below.

J'Anthelos 'Jaime' Anthelion Darasssius was his name. Commander of the 121st regiment and the 1,500,000th Black Luster Soldier brought into the world by the Goddess of War in her attempt to aid the word from the foulness of Anubis and his Orc armies, whose numbers were almost like grains of sand on the beach. It seemed like many of those numbers were here tonight.

The Dark Magic Cavalry below had been wiped out as were the Black Luster Soldiers from Mythic Squad and Meta Company. They were all gone.

The howling winds were then joined by a cry of anguish coming from within the fortress. "It has begun," Jaime thought. "Blast! Of all the times for it to happen!"

Behind him, a ladder made its place on one of the crenellations of the wall. Another squad of orcs climbed up onto the wall and were ready to charge until a force of magic pushed them off and sent them flying into the canyon below.

"My Lady!" "Lady Yvonne!" The Black Luster Soldiers shouted as a woman with a long braided ponytail of raven-black hair ran down the wall. She was clad in a pleated white skirt and armor made of platinum-colored steel. She had a sword in one hand and a diamond-shaped tower shield in the other.

"Commander!" the woman called out. She bashed an Orc on the face with her shield, pirouetted, sliced his neck, and then kicked him off the wall.

She was Yvonne Stravinski Marietta Coutette of White Shore. Master sorceress, leader of the Lodge of Witches in the Senate, and the House Carl of the family who owned the fortress. She kicked another ladder off the wall, sending more Orcs to their deaths. A goblin ran towards her and jumped, but she was quick. She jumped and spun vertically as she enchanted her beautiful sword, extending it with a magical cobalt aura that sliced the little creature in half.

"Commander J'Anthelos! Commander J'Anthelos is that you!"

"Yes!" Jaime called. "What is it?"

"You are needed inside, Commander. The Lord and Lady of the Fort request it."

"I cannot abandon my post!" said Jaime. "The Orcs are too many, we can't hold them. Carl Yyvonne, the fortress is lost. We must make for the caverns and make for the Pass of Areldor, it is our only hope."

"No, there is no hope. Not for your men anyway. We can't afford to bring them all with us."

"I will not abandon my soldiers!" Jaime shouted.

Yvonne grabbed him by the arm. "Commander! You must come with me. You are a close member of this family. They need you alongside them if we have any hope of escaping."

"What about my men!?"

"I understand. But if they come with us, the orcs will know about the pass. They will make for it and corner us there. Everyone will die. The Celtra. The Eyar. And their son. You have no idea how special this boy is, Commander. We need you with us."

"Go with her!" shouted a Black Luster Soldier armed with a luster longbow. "We'll take care of these vermin. If what I hear is true, the Lord's son is the Song from the Divines. The one mentioned by Norman the Conqueror."

"I understand," Jaime said.

"It's been an honor, sir," said another Black Luster Soldier.

Jaime sheathed his sword and followed Yvonne into the fortress. The chaotic sounds of the battle were pacified by its thick stone walls. He could still hear them, but they were enervated. Lighting flashed outside the thick rustic windows as Yvonne led him up the spiral staircase to the main tower of the fortress, which housed the family living here.

Another cry of agony reverberated across the stone walls. Yvonne darted up the steps and signaled Jaime to follow her. He made it to the chamber. Every housemaid in the fortress surrounded the bed where Lady Luthia Noctiva Androsa lay giving birth to her child. Jaime had to squint his eyes for only a few dozen candles lined on the night tables on either side of the bed and the fire in the chimney provided light.

Yvonne placed her sword and shield on a chair near the entrance of the castle. "Rosie! Rosie!" she called the Celtra by her nickname. "It's okay. We're getting you out of here." She asked two maids to stand aside as she came through to aid her friend with the birth. She could see the crowing cap of the child's black hair. "All right, Rosie, easy, easy, deep breaths."

"They're coming through!" the Celtra woman sobbed.

"The Black Luster Soldiers are holding them back," Yvonne assured her.

Jaime heard someone coming toward him. It was his friend Lord Gabriel Delgado. He was an Eyar — powerful wizards who were tasked by Mana the Goddess of the Arcane Arts and Horakhty to aid mankind into prosperity and shield them from the malice of Zorc and his mother, Odiva the Perfect Goddess.

"Jaime!" Gabriel said. The two hugged one another and patted their backs. "How goes the battle?" he asked. His cinnamon skin seemed pale from all the fear in him. He was sweating profusely and even shed a few tears.

"It does not bode well, my friend," Jaime said. "The Orcs are too many. There are thousands of them outside the wall. Thousands more are in the tunnel and beyond.

"Then we must abandon the fortress," said Gabriel. "Master Yu-Gi-Oh promised we would be safe here."

"We all did. But it appears you have a rat in your midst. There is no way someone could have known she was here."

"A trouble for another time," said Gabriel. "We must discuss our plan of escape."

But there was going to be no escape this night. The hours went on and the Black Luster Soldier's numbers were dwindling. An hour past midnight, Jaime and the army were gone. Yvonne, fearing for her life, abandoned those she loved and fled into the mountains. She was never seen again. Meanwhile, Gabriel and Luthia ordered the fortress maids to run into the caverns.

Now they were all alone.

The gates to the estate were pounded violently by the army of Orcs on the other side. Gabriel gathered his weapons and sprinted to the courtyard to deal with the army himself. He could hear the screeches, grunts, and roars over the stone walls of Karad-Antha. He heard his baby boy crying from the bundle of blankets in his lover's arms. The symphony of war and the great claps of lightning were frightening him.

"Where are the Black Luster Soldiers?" Luthia cried out, cradling her child. She hobbled towards him.

"Go bacK!" Gabriel shouted. "What are you doing here? Go back!"

"Where is the army? Where is everyone?"

"They're all dead!" Gabriel cried out. "You must get out of here, dearheart. The fortress has fallen and our allies are many leagues from here. They will never make it in time!"

"No, I'm not leaving you!" Luthia shouted.

Gabriel walked to her and grasped her cheeks. "You never will! I will always be with you. Get out of here! Give my son the chance to live. For if you don't, my death tonight will be in vain. Please, Luthia!"

The gates were bashed again by the hammer of a large troll covered from head to heel in rusty iron armor. The gate splintered and the iron bent from the incredible impact. Another powerful blow and the gates fell forward, surrendering to the strength of the troll.

Like rats in the plague, orcs began to pour into the courtyard of the mountain fortress. They all gave great battle cries and charged for Gabriel and his beautiful wife.

Luthia grasped her baby close to her breast. She watched as Gabriel nocked three black arrows with sharp mithril heads onto his exquisite silver bow. He let go, launching them towards the orcs. One was struck in the eye, the other in the heart, and the third through the mouth. But they kept pouring in.

Gabriel, again, launched three arrows at his foes. Luthia muttered an enchantment that made the three arrows turn into thousands. The attack caused the oncoming orcs to drop dead all the way to the end of the gate. Despite the devastating attack, the orcs just kept coming, pouring through the ruined gate like an endless flood of black iron and putrid flesh. Luthia had not the strength to perform such a spell again. The baby still cried, begging for the noise to stop.

Gabriel dropped his bow and conjured two scimitars made of light with just his thoughts. "GO!" he shouted at Luthia.

He took one last look at her. It hurt him deeply that this could be the last time he would see her heavenly jet-black hair, speckled with Silver Mountain Bells. Never would he see her bright blue eyes or the silk gowns she always wore. Luthia bowed to Gabriel. Large drops of tears flew from her eyes. She turned to leave but was grabbed by the wrist.

"You would let me depart this world without one final kiss?" he said.

Luthia sobbed while forcing a smile. She kissed Gabriel quickly. The heavy footsteps of the orcs were getting louder.

She darted for the castle then stopped and held out her hand. She charged a mighty spell that blasted the orcs back with devastating force, killing and maiming a few to give Gabriel a fighting chance. She prayed her spell would give her the opportunity to see him again while running back into the fortress, clutching her baby close.

Gabriel gave a mighty war cry while holding up his scimitars. They burst into sparkling silver flames. He dashed for the orcs. He leaped for the first one, arching his arm to point the blade at the creature. He jabbed the orc in the shoulder. The flames seared his insides bringing a slow and painful death.

Gabriel freed his sword from the orc's neck and performed an elegant spin toward two more of the beasts. He stabbed both orcs in their gullets with his blades. He released the scimitars from their throats and jabbed one of them up another orc's mouth and the other he used to cut off the side of the second one's head like an apple.

He charged toward two more of the fell beasts. He put all his weight on his right leg to perform a mighty leap which turned into a spin. He flew and became a tornado of blades, cutting away at his enemies.

But they kept pouring in.

Just then, Jaime and a surviving force of Black Luster Soldiers jumped down from the walls and joined Gabriel in battle.

"Jaime!" Gabriel yelled in joy. "You still live?"

"Yes. We won't let you fight them alone. Come on you ugly bastards!" He bashed his sword against his shield. "Come on! You want to fight? We'll give you a fight!"

The other Black Luster Soldiers banged their swords on their shields as well. Hooo! Hooo! They chanted loudly, their powerful voices thundering across the courtyard. The orcs whimpered in fright at the sight of the tall black-armored warriors whose swords were as long as a man. And the battle chant chilled their blood like ice. They were very afraid, but the orcs had orders to fight no matter what.

They cut through a third wave of orcs like a hot knife through butter. Then they paused, forming a line in front of Gabriel. They pounded their shields again and chanted: Hooo! Hoooo!

Luthia watched the battle from her bedroom tower. For the first time that night, she smiled. Victory was near. But then a giant figure slowly walked into the courtyard. He was armored in heavy, colossal black armor of mirror-steel. The helmet was shaped like a jackal crowned with a blue and gold nemes and glowing red eyes. He carried a massive hammer with red glowing patterns. The handle was longer than a man and the hammer itself was the size of a juvenile dragon's skull. The orcs cheered behind him, raising their weapons and shouting in Dark Speech.

The boots from the man's armor thundered with each step. The Black Luster Soldiers formed a defensive wall in front of Gabriel.

"Anubis!" whispered Gabriel. "It's you!"

Anubis looked down at the soldiers. A metallic growl erupted from his helmet. There was something glowing inside his chest piece. It was blue and shaped like a pyramid with the golden Wdjat of the Pharaohs of Selbak sealed on the front.

Without warning, Anubis swung his hammer, sweeping away ten Black Luster Soldiers into the air. They were tossed violently over the walls of the fortress. Another swing from the hammer and five more were swatted away. The soldiers bellowed in pain while they twirled violently to their doom on the other side of the wall.

Anubis slammed his hammer on the ground, creating a large crater. The force tossed five more over Gabriel's head. They screamed while flailing through the air. Jaime charged forward and gave Anubis a small challenge. But despite his valiance, he fell, crushed like a bug under the might of Anubi's hammer.

All that was left standing in his way...was Gabriel.

A low, thunderous chuckle boomed from inside the helmet. Anubis lunged his hammer at Gabriel.

The Eyar backflipped, the hammer missing him by inches. Gabriel landed on his feet and took a spring up the large hammer, then to Anubis's forearm where he made another leap and jabbed the evil sorcerer on the neck.

"ARRRGH!" Anubis roared.

Gabriel leaped off Anubis's large pauldron.

"You will not take my son!" Gabriel said coldly.

Anubis laughed.

"Neshka oorü et nen beya mekra-soon!"

Gabriel ran for him but was struck back by the powerful force of Anubis's hammer. He flew towards a tree with so much force he bent it. Trying his best to stay conscious, he breathed heavily. But his body gave way and he was greeted with darkness.

Someone was laughing at him.

Gabriel opened his eyelids. They felt like stones as he forced them open. His weary eyes saw the malevolent grin of Yami Bakura, the Witch-King of Termnnia.

"Hmm, I think you might have overdone it, my lord," Bakura said, getting up.

Two orcs grabbed Gabriel by the arms and dragged him towards the center of the courtyard. Orcs were all around him, cheering in their fell language. The rain continued pouring mercilessly. Lightning flashed in the skies above. The orcs carrying Gabriel stopped.

He looked at the state of his home. The fortress was burning. His Black Luster Soldiers were scattered all around him, dead. And the monstrous hellspawn of Odiva the Jealous were all around him, cheering for his capture. He noticed another figure walking in circles around him.

Yami Marik.

He looked down at Gabriel with a smile that bared his sharp, devilish teeth. A glowing Wdjat shone on his forehead. His long, tattered, black cape swung behind him menacingly with each step. Marik's heavy black armor plating, thick and strong, groaned along with his footsteps. Marik cackled as he circled around the fallen Eyar. The orcs behind him snorted and grunted, waiting for blood.

"Hello Gabriel," Yami Bakura said, walking from behind Gabriel. He had his hands behind his back while casually strolling next to Marik. His armor was jagged and plated. It was jet black and glowing with red designs. Curved arches extended from their armplates and greaves. Bakura's black cape was torn and clasped to his gorget by a brooch in the shape of a bat. "Lovely night, isn't it?"

Gabriel said nothing. A woman's desperate grunting was caught by his ears. He searched desperately for her in the ugly mob of orcs.

A king from the northern lands wearing red and black dragon armor was leading her towards the mob by a rope he fastened around her neck. Her baby was cradled in the nook of her arm.

"Ah," said Marik. "Here she is now. The last of the Celtra in our grasp."

The king in the dragon armor threw her in front of Gabriel. She willfully landed on her right side to avoid falling on the baby. "That should be all then," the king said to Marik.

"Indeed," Bakura answered instead.

Marik brandished his Millennium Rod. "Bring her to me!" he ordered the orcs. "At last, the last Gardner of the World will be dealt with!"

"Wot's that ya got there!" an orc shouted, grabbing the baby from Luthia's grip.

Luthia screamed, protesting that the orc let go of her child. Bakura held up his hand to stop the orc.

"Ah, ah, ah. I'll be taking that."

The orc kicked Luthia in the stomach. She fell to the ground moaning in agony and clutching her belly. She had just given birth an hour ago, and her womanhood and stomach were sore. Blood started pouring out of her mouth, for the Orc ruptured one of her ribs with the iron-plated tip of his boot.

"LEAVE HER ALONE!" shouted Gabriel.

Another vile wizard named Dartz came from behind and whacked him in the head with his elbow. "No theatrics, Gabriel," said Dartz. "You'll only prolong your suffering."

"Dartz?" said Bakura. "So you've joined us after all."

Dartz grinned. "I did not think you would succeed, my friend. I admit I was wrong in my worry."

"YOU!" shouted Gabriel. "How could you betray the order!? Horakhty summoned us to cleanse the world of darkness!"

"We have other plans," said Bakura. "Horakhty and the Goddesses are weak." The baby cooed in his arms. Bakura smiled and rocked the child gently. He cackled vilely when he looked at his eyes the color of hazel. "He has his mother's eyes."

"Give me back my baby!" sobbed Luthia. Her blood bubbled around her tongue. "Please. Please. Give me back my child."

"Let him go!" shouted Gabriel. The orcs holding him down laughed at him. "Let go of my son!"

Anubis silenced him with just a few mighty steps. The earth shook when he walked. Many of the Orcs in the ranks whimpered in fear of their Lord and Master, backing away and shivering.

Bakura bowed, getting down on one knee and holding the baby up to the Dark Lord.

Anubis walked towards the child, cackling like the villain that he was. Luthia screamed and he silenced her with a violent punch to the top of her head, and her face smashed against the ground. He then stomped on her head with his heavy boot. Luthia cried in agony, feeling her skull flattening against the weight of the dark lord.

"Luthia!" Gabriel yelled. Gabriel's fury could no longer be contained. He ripped the arms off the orcs holding him down and punched them so hard with magically enhanced fists that their heads went soaring away. He had no swords to use so he used the arms he tore off as clubs, smacking the crowd of Orcs out of his way in a hellish fury. He finally reached his wife. He grabbed Marik with telekinetic magic and slammed him to the ground five times. Then he created a powerful blast of magic that sent Dartz flying towards one of the guardhouses, smashing it to pieces.

He went for Anubis, but his dark powers were too great. He grabbed Gabriel by the arm and broke it with a squeeze.

"ARRGGH!" shouted Marik. He raised his Millennium Rod and used its ancient magic to lift Gabriel from the ground and toss him through the air. He slammed him into trees, smashed him into shrines, and dragged him across the walls leaving trails of blood. Luthia wailed in horror, watching helplessly as Marik smashed her husband's body around the courtyard like a child would throw a doll in a terrible tantrum.

"Enough!" shouted Bakura.

Marik roared violently and slammed Gabriel to Luthia's feet. He was battered, bleeding, and broken. He lost an eye and his jaw was dislocated. He gasped for air. Blood came out of his mouth instead.

Dartz lifted him up with telekinesis and dragged his mangled body in front of Anubis.

"GABRIEL!" Luthia shouted.

Anubis held out his hand. "OBLIVION!" he shouted.

"NOOOOO!" Luthia shouted at the top of her lungs when the vile spell was cast. Gabriel's body was gone, shattered like glass from the multi-colored blast of dark magic. His armor fell sadly to the ground, clinking, and clanking. Luthia went into a fetal position and lamented at the loss of her husband. "NOOOOO!" she coughed.

A horn blew in the distance briefly pausing the violence. "The Horn of Arath-Inthel," said Dartz. "A relic of House Taylor. Yugi Muto's allies have arrived."

The orcs grew worried. They started grunting and whimpering.

"Form ranks you maggots!" shouted Anubis. "Form ranks!"

Bakura placed his hand on Anubis's arm. "Whatever you plan to do, Anubis. Do it now. You cannot fight them in your state."

"Give me the boy!" said Anubis. "I must take his power and add it to my lifeforce if I am to combat Yugi's friends."

Luthia shouted in protest and with a great force of will, got up from the stump. She clawed the dragon-armored king in the face and charged at Anubis. But she ran into Oblivion. Her body shattered. Her torn bloody dress flew away in the wind and disappeared into the darkness of the mountains.

"Pity," said the king in the dragonic armor. "I take it that's my queue to leave."

"Do it now!" shouted Marik. "We'll take care of Yugi Muto and his friends."

Anubis held his hand over the baby. A blue aura slithered out of its body and into Anubis's fingers. The baby shivered and coughed.

"Yesssss," hissed Antilles.

Lightning flashed in the sky. A choir started to sing from the heavens.

"That song!" shouted Dartz. "No! It can't be!"

Long, red, bony fingers parted open the clouds like a curtain. A giant dragon's head slowly and menacingly loomed from them. The orcs babbled in horror as they were locked on by the cold stare of Slifer the Sky Dragon. The divine beast glared down at them from his realm, furious at the injustice that took place this night.

"Let him go Anubis!" shouted Dartz. "WE MUST GO!"

The Dragon was not one to argue. He darted out of the fortress and got on his horse, riding back to the other side of the mountains where his army was waiting. Slifer loomed down at Anubis snarling.

"What sorcery is this!" Anubis hissed from inside his helmet. He looked down at the baby, shaking with confusion and fear when he saw the child's left eye glowing green.

"NO! It cannot be!" He shouted. "IT'S YOU!" He screamed in horror and raised his hand over the boy while charging his deadly spell. "OBLIVION!"

A flash of light from the sky blinded him. Slifer the Sky Dragon was charging up his most powerful attack. Thunder Force.

The orcs pushed and shoved to get away. Bakura, Dartz, and even Marik knew there was nothing they could do and ran for the hills as well. Just then, Anubis felt great pain in his arm. Someone had jabbed the blade of a sword in his arm. A flash of black and gold flew by his eyes. As he tried to fathom what happened, he realized something. He looked down at his arms and saw that the baby was gone.

"NO!" He watched Jaime sprinting into the burning castle to take shelter from the attack. Before Anubis could take another step, he was met by a blast of white-hot burning light. Seconds later, there was only darkness.


A/N: Thank you for dropping by! Just wanted to see what it would be like to mix Yu-Gi-Oh, Total War: Warhammer, Game of Thrones, and The Lord of Rings together.

I've been having a good time writing this story for the past five years. I made so many friends along the way and for that, I am very grateful. I've met interesting people throughout this long and sometimes tedious journey and I forever thank them for the lessons they've taught me such as taking my time, and just writing for the love of the hobby and not the reviews.

I apologize for leaving that selfish and thoughtless rant last summer. I screwed up big time doing that. I spit in the face of all the readers who have supported me over the years. I compared myself to others and lost sight of what this is really all about.

A big, big thank you to the following

Time Thief, who is now a close friend of mine. Thanks for cheering me up with your bright and warm personality and motivating me to keep on writing. I wish her luck with her marriage.

Yung Warrior, author of State of the Meta — one of the most popular Yu-Gi-Oh GX stories in the fandom. A big thanks to him for setting me straight and teaching me that popularity isn't everything. Just enjoy the hobby and keep on trucking no matter what.

Presea221, my fanfiction sister, who is not afraid to be honest with me and points out all my flaws. Check out her stories. If you're a fan of Edo Phoenix, you'll definitely enjoy her work.

Blackfyre Phoenix author of the outstanding Yu-Gi-Oh GX story, Wings of Cerulean. Another friend who's not afraid to point out my flaws and give suggestions.

KingofGames23. He and I had a rocky start but we became good friends. He's trying his best to write his own story but go easy on him, for he has a disability. Help him improve and check out his story on AO3.

LoverofYugiohYaoi for standing up for me and helping me with the issue against quite possibly the worst person I ever met on fanfiction.

I love working on this fantasy world and I dedicate much of my free time to expanding it. And I recently learned how to mix sounds together and had a go trying to do an audiobook reading of the story.

Just wanted to see what it would be like to mix Yu-Gi-Oh, Total War: Warhammer, Game of Thrones, and The Lord of Rings together. So far the results have been positive and I've been having a good time writing this story for the past five years. I made so many friends along the way and for that, I am very grateful. I've met interesting people throughout this long and sometimes tedious journey and I forever thank them for the lessons they've taught me such as taking my time, and write for the love of the hobby and not the reviews. I love working on this fantasy world and I dedicate much of my free time to expanding it. And I recently learned how to mix sounds together and had a go trying to do an audiobook reading of the story. Here's a sample here if you want to check it out.

I'd like to give a shout-out to Michael Ghelfi for giving me permission to use his sounds. He's an amazing composer who creates awesome ambiances for reading or for your D&D sessions. I left a link to his channel in the description of my first two videos. Check out his channel. If high fantasy and listening to ambience is your thing, you won't be disappointed.

I wish I could spend more time on these stories, but sadly, my job and the bills are keeping my hands tied. If you like what you've read, please, by all means, leave some kudos behind or comment to leave your thoughts. Or, show your appreciation by continuing to read haha. If it's not your cup of tea, that's okay, too. Thank you anyway for stopping by and checking it out.

Until next time, I'm TheSingingSword. Keep writing and keep creating. Look me up on Instagram as TheSingingSword where I post videos of pack openings and the cards I've collected over the years.

Eoveth!

Chapter Text


    I change many things, discard others, and try again and again until I am satisfied. Then, in my head, I begin to elaborate the work in its breadth, its narrowness, its height, its depth... I hear and see the image in front of me from every angle, as if it had been cast, and only the labour of writing it down remains.

-Ludwig Van Beethoven

 



From the Diary of Maximillion Pegasus 

Feb 2 Year 989 3AOS


It seemed to be coming from the sky. From where I do not know; for there is no rip or bright gateway or even so much as a speck of light in the night. The sound came from the skies and broke the silence of the night around eleven o'clock. It sounded like heavy trumpets, but upon focusing my ears toward the sky it appeared that the sound had a rhythm of lyrics. Upon closer inspection, it appears that the blasting sound is actually a song.

Yes, somewhere out there, is a song being sung in a mysterious language that I believe to be Divine. Each verse shook the earth like a violent quake causing many structures to crack or even collapse. The Great White Mountains even shiver in agony. I can see trails of dust and debris sliding down their majestic white slopes. A few lamp posts have tumbled and just recently one of the Librarians of the Upper Keep has reported that the very sea is churning. ...

I just got back from the halls after looking out the window. The song in the sky seems to be causing a disturbance in the very balance of nature itself. In the sea I saw Spiked Seadras, Roaring Ocean Snakes, and even the legendary Kairyu-Shin emerging from the depths and staring up into the sky. The beasts began to roar, and to my shock their grunts and howls were matching that of the melody coming from the sky.

The night has gotten stranger. Now it seems like dragons have emerged from their lairs and are flying around in the sky, roaring along with the song. As I write this, I see them making dazzling effects with their energy breaths as they 'dance' across the sky. And now cards across the city have been lighting up in an eerie green glow. It has been going on for hours without end. No doubt the powerful sound is causing much panic.

I can hear many screams outside alongside the prayers of Yeyunist priests who claim that the mysterious song is the heralding of the second coming of their god, Yeyu, Master of the Fires of Judgement. And there are those who believe it is Horakhty herself coming to grace us with a visit, but then, there are many in the Grand Library who are fearful that it is Zorc Nercophades returning to our world.

S ome of my fellow Librarians were so horrified of this thought that they jumped from the windows so as to have a more peaceful death. Fools the lot of them, for this song seems to blissful and to benign to be something of the Shadow Realm. As powerful as the sound is it is rather soothing to the ears. Like the gentle waters on the Silver Rivers of Thara. It was like a choir of a million angels foretelling a great mystery. If this song is from the very Divines themselves, what is it about?

And why are they singing it?

I wish I knew.


 

 

Chapter Text

 


Bakura's Report


And so they've brought him at last. I watched them as they delivered the boy to the doorstep of the orphanage. Yugi and all of his little friends have come to say goodbye to the prince. The best part about all this is...they have not a clue that I'm here. No doubt Yugi and his friends believe that I was killed in the battle of Karad-Antha after the boy destroyed Anubis in his sleep. Our mission to destroy the Celtra and the Eyar was a success, but its thanks to that boy in that bundle that I am here in this plain and boring world. But I wonder what madness would have driven them to put Prince Daveed in there.

An orphanage? Yugi. You are such a naïve fool. So many families on this island with great wealth to match that of many of the kings of our world, and you put the Prince of Termnnia in an orphanage. While I can see the intent in this little scheme; putting Daveed in a place where the Sisterhood would least expect it and then pray a family takes him and disappears, there are a lot of flaws in this little flim-flam. I've already exploited it. Hopefully, Denethon and his girls don't find out. He is so wrong. Killing the boy would be a tragic waste.

There is great power in him, why can't he see that? That power was devastating enough to have killed our supposed 'invincible' leader, Anubis. Perhaps, with a little influence, I can get the boy to come with us. That will be hard to do, considering Denethon's assassins are scouring the dimensions looking for him. Marik can only hold them back for so long. Our Millennium Items are strong, but I fear they are no match for the power of an Eyar. While Marik hides the boy's presence from the Sisterhood, I will do what I can to watch and raise him in my own way.

Yugi has failed to see that he practically delivered the prince to me on a silver platter.




The Dream


A veiled and vast chapel awaited him at the end of a long and gloomy hallway of ancient stone. The dank air rang with a mysterious unseen choir, singing an eerie tune as the young man marched through the darkness towards the dim, pale light that beckoned him. His footsteps echoed in his ears, though drowned out by the everlasting hymn. On small displays, candles flickered revealing mosaics of various Duel Monsters from his deck. The hem of his armored black coat swayed dramatically at his heels and the chains that hung around under his neck jingled. He passed by small nooks, which housed lonely wooden pews lined the length of the hallway. The floors of black and white tile were finely polished. Stained glass windows, lit by an eerie blue light outside, lined the hundred-yard chapel.

There were figures painted on them. People the boy knew from his life, and there were some faces which he had never seen before. The characters in the windows were frozen in mysterious poses with the best monsters from their decks behind them in majestic and battle-ready stances. Black pillars formed a line down the length of the chapel. The rib vaulting of the ceiling above was intricately designed yet it was too dark to see.

The boy stopped when he saw a figure, dressed in the same coat as he, standing five yards away. He was waiting for him. A pyramid-shaped object made of gold hung around his neck. "Your Grace," said the figure, removing his hood. His eyes were a rich shade of amethyst. He had blond crooked locks forming the fringe. The rest of his hair was spiked. They were black in color with magenta rims. When the hood went down, his wild hairstyle bounced free.

"Why do you call me that? I am not a King," the boy said, keeping his hood down. Only his chin and the pink of his chapped lips could be seen.

Yami smiled warmly when the young man he so longed to meet stepped out of the shadowy hallway into the chapel at last. "I'm not so sure of that," said Yami with a smile. His narrow eyes were focused and full of determination. A determination to get through to his guest.

What he knew about the boy in front of him was of the gravest importance. But the boy was too agitated to care, let alone listen to what he had to say. The hooded boy took a dominant step forward and balled his fists. The leather of his gloves screeched in agony. "For as long as I can remember, all you've done was pester me. You've bored me with your rhetoric. All this crap about my past. And my future as some High King. Why?"

Yami bowed. "It's almost time for you to come home, Prince Daveed. Soon, it will be time to face your destiny." He buried his hand into a compartment in his cape. As quickly as he put it in, he pulled it out and furiously tossed a golden crown at Daveed's feet.

Daveed scoffed and kicked it away. "I don't want that."

"YOU HAVE NO CHOICE!" shouted Yami, furiously stomping his foot on the ground. "Damn it, Daveed. I knew much damage to you has been done, but I did not expect this! What has he done to you?"

"Who?" Daveed asked with a chuckle. He was as still as a statue. 

"Bakura!" Yami shouted. He extended his arm, holding out his hand. Slowly, he turned his wrist, his fingers curving toward him into a fist. "I know you've seen him. I can see your heart clouded in darkness. You have lived a perverted life because of him. I should have known keeping you hidden was too easy."

Another cold and defiant scoff escaped Daveed's lips. "Bakura? He's just a figment of my imagination. Just. Like. You."

Yami gritted his teeth and balled his fists. "Daveed..." he growled.

"Stop calling me that!" The stranger shouted, waving his arm vertically across the air to silence him. "I'm only going to say this once...Spirit. Whoever the heck you are. Go away and leave me alone. Let me dream in peace!"

"You cannot hide from your birthright," said Yami. "Sooner or later you're going to have to come to grips that you are not part of this world. You belong to us. With your people. As High King!"

"Go away."

Yami let out his frustrations with a deep and sorrowful exhale. He still felt as though his heart was knotted up in his chest.  "I'm going to have to get through to you one way or the other, Prince Daveed!" Yami held out his arm. An arcane circle glowing purple with a tinge of magenta formed over his wrist and spun slowly over it. Yami breathed out his nose sadly. He opened his eyes to look at the cloaked boy. "I have tried. But the darkness in you is too strong. You cannot become king behaving like this. Perhaps your future servants will do a better job than I in waking you from the madness Bakura has inflicted upon you."

Prince Daveed smirked and held up his right arm. "You sure you want to do this?" An arcane circle of beautiful design and blue in color appeared over his forearm. "This may be just a dream, but it's my dream. I can make anything happen, you know?"

"It's Time to Duel!" shouted Yami.

"You first...Master," sneered Daveed.

"I won't be taking you on alone," said Yami.

His image seemed to vibrate violently. From his body emerged a little boy. He looked just like Yami, just shorter and younger.

"Yugi?" Daveed gasped.

"We'll pull through for you," Yugi said. "One way or another. We will cleanse you of the darkness inside of you."

"DUEL!"

LP 8000

Yami drew a card from out of thin air. It appeared as gold light but then materialized into a physical card. "I'll begin first! I activate Dark Magic Circle! Next, I place four cards face down and end my turn."

"My turn," said Yugi. "I play the spell Advanced Ritual Art! I send a Dark Magician from my deck to the Graveyard to Ritual Summon the mighty Magician of Chaos! Oh, and I'm not through either, Daveed; for I use another Ritual called Chaos Form to summon the Magician of Black Chaos MAX!"

Daveed grimaced at the sight of all those powerful magicians and took a step back.

Yami chuckled. "Looks like the odds are against you, Daveed. What can you possibly do to get out of this situation."

Yugi smiled. "I don't think he can, Yami. He's too weak. He can't even remember his own heritage. And getting possessed by a total creep like Bakura? Ha! I expected a lot more from the Song from the Divines."

"Shut up!" shouted Daveed.

Yugi smiled "Did I touch a nerve there, Daveed? I place a card face-down and end my turn."

"It's about time," Daveed said impatiently. "Draw!" He examined his options. Daveed looked up from his hand at Yami and Yugi, then grinned. "I discard a Dinosaur to Special Summon, Two-Headed Kaiser Rex in attack mode!"

The two-headed beast burst out of the ground and stood proudly over Daveed. The silvery hair flowing from the back of their heads flowed in the breeze. They roared and snapped their long tail around. The ax-blade at the end of it was thirsty for blood.

ATK/2400 DEF/1800

"Now, I use Amber Fusion, this card allows me to fuse dinosaurs from my hand or deck to conjure any dinosaur-type Fusion monster I want. So I'll be fusing Uraby and Trakadon together to form the mighty Troodon!"

The two raptor monsters appeared beside him. One was dark brown with black tiger stripes. The other was blue, striped with lime green. A vortex appeared behind them and sucked them both in.

Out from the vortex jumped out a raptor with shiny, gray, scales and black tiger stripes. The scales faded to black on its claws and feet and the tip of the tail. Its arms, back, and tail were adorned with black and blue feathers and was crowned with two black horns on its head. It hissed, letting out a long black tongue. Troodon's teeth and claws shined brightly in the sunlight. Its neon blue eyes were like fire, burning into Yami and Yugi's souls, finding the fear deep inside and burning it out. It was a monster he had never seen before. He wondered what it would do.

Troodon

ATK/2800 DEF/1600

Daveed held up another card. "Finally, I play Gift of Melodia which lets me draw a card for each dinosaur on my field and in the Graveyard. So that's four cards for me. If I had six or more Dinosaurs, I could have drawn six cards. Hmm. I place a card face-down and attack Yami directly with Troodon!"

The dinosaur screeched and sprinted towards Yami. It held out his left claws, the right claws were glowing neon blue and the left ones were neon green. They elongated to more than a foot in length.

"I expected you to do that," said Yami. "I activate my trap card, Magician's Navigation, allowing me to summon my ever-faithful companion, Dark Magician!"

"Urk!" Daveed went. Too late. He was hoping to end the Duel before Yami could summon the heart and soul of his deck.

Dark Magician rose out of an arcane circle, his signature green staff hovered next to him. He grabbed it and spun it around.

"And that's not all my trap will do!" said Yami. "I can also call upon Dark Magician Girl!"

The most beautiful monster in the entire game of Duel Monsters made her appearance as a curtain of roses opened to reveal her. Doves flew out from behind her as she twirled delightfully in the air, he long blonde hair whipped around behind her, and her short skirt lifted teasingly, showing off her thighs and the lower portion of her curvy rump. She looked down at Daveed, then her oversized hat fell down over her eyes. She squeaked and lifted it up before winking flirtatiously at the boy. 

"Ah, great," said Daveed. "The whore of Duel Monsters. Very, well, I'll replay my attack and destroy your Dark Magician Girl."

"Predictable as always, Your Highness!" Yami gloated. "I reveal the spell, Dark Burning Magic. Now that I have both a Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl on the field, this will destroy all cards you control."

"NO!" shouted Daveed. "From my hand, I discard Regaliazowler and activate its effect!"

On his field appeared a ceratopsian dinosaur colored brilliant white with gold tiger striped down its body. Its frill was elongated, broad, and was adorned with golden spikes. The horns on its head also shined bright gold. Growing out of its shoulders were golden blades resembling crescent swords with scrollwork inlaid with platinum. It had a curved gold and white ax-blade on its nose. Its bright-green eyes flashed and the creature summoned an arcane aegis of white. It had animated glyphs and arcane circles spinning around in its design.

The Dark Burning Magic spell bounced on the aegis and died down as though it were a gust of wind.

"What's this?" said Yami. "You monster has negated my spell!"

"That's all right," said Yugi. "Because now my Magician of Chaos's effect activates. Once per turn, when a card effect is activated, I can select a card Daveed controls and destroy it. His Troodon is history!"

Magician of Chaos crossed his arms over his chest and summoned his staff, which could move and cast spells on its own. The staff's crystal started glowing bright violet and fired a burning magic laser at Troodon, but the magical aegis Regaliazowler created blocked the effect as well.

"Wait, what's going on here?" cried Yugi. "Your monster stopped the effect of my Magician of Chaos as well!"

Daveed sighed with relief. "Regaliazowler protects all Dinosaur-Type monsters from being destroyed by all card effects for the duration of the turn. Also, when he is sent to the Graveyard this way, he leaves behind a five-hundred-point boost to the dinosaurs I have on the field. Troodon, attack Dark Magician instead!"

Now standing with 3300 ATK, Troodon cut Dark Magician to shreds. He grunted, coughing out blood and then shattered to pieces. Dark Magician Girl gasped in fright, shocked to see her master be destroyed so easily by such a primitive creature.

Daveed held out his hand toward Dark Magician Girl. The leather charm bracelet on his wrist jingled. "Don't worry, baby. You won't be alone for long. Two-Headed Kaiser Rex's second head activates."

"Second head!?" Yami shouted.

Daveed sniggered. "Yeah. My prehistoric pet comes loaded with surprises. With two heads, my Two-Headed Kaiser Rex can attack twice per turn, but before each attack, his second head will decrease the attack of the targeted monster by one thousand points. Oh, and. He gains one-hundred extra attack points for every Dinosaur on my field and in the Graveyard, increasing his attack to three thousand. So not only will Two-Headed Kaiser Rex destroy your Dark Magician Girl, but he'll take down a big chunk of your Life Points. Now, my beast, destroy that bitch!"

Dark Magician Girl frowned and wrinkled her nose. She watched as Two-Headed Kaiser Rex opened its two mouths and charged two balls of bright blue energy and they hurled towards her. "Hmph!" she said.

Yami shook his head in disappointment. "Did you honestly believe you could insult my monsters and get away with it? For shame, Daveed. I activate a trap! Magician's Combination. Now, I sacrifice Dark Magician Girl to bring back my Dark Magician!"

"What does it matter?" laughed Daveed. "He's still weaker than my Two-Headed Kaiser Rex, on the count of the powerup Regaliazowler left behind."

Yugi took a step forward. "It will matter once I activate this! Magic Cylinder. Now you take damage equal to the attack points of your Two-Headed Kaiser Rex!"

Two colorful cannons appeared on either side of Dark Magician. The attack from Two-Headed Kaiser Rex was sucked inside.

Yami formed a wide grin and looked at his partner. "Thank you!" he said.

"Don't mention it, Aibo!" said Yugi. "Now, Dark Magic Cylinder, transfer that monster's attack back at Daveed's Life Points! FIRE!"

The second cylinder discharged the blast towards Daveed. Suddenly Troodon jumped forward and opened its mouth.

Yugi gasped. "It's Troodon!" 

Both he and Yami watched in horror as Troodon absorbed the entire attack and devoured it. Troodon closed its mouth shut, flames hissed through its teeth. Daveed, meanwhile, was laughing.

"When you try to damage my Life Points with card effects and Troodon is on the field, Troodon will absorb the damage and fire it right back at you!" He held out two fingers towards Yugi as though he were aiming a gun at him. "Bang," Daveed said calmly.

Troodon's eyes burned blue. The black strips on its body started burning blue as well. It fired the attack with two times the force. It hit Yugi, knocking him back more than five feet.

"Yugi!" Yami shouted. "No!"

Yugi landed on his back with a loud plop and came to a stop.

Yugi - 5000 LP

Yugi struggled to get up. "Incredible power," he said, spitting out blood.

"These cards," Daveed said. "How come they don't exist?"

Yami helped Yugi back up, then turned to face Daveed to answer his question. "They do exist," he said. "But just not in your world. Seeing you use them with ease shocks me, but it also brings me great joy. You're getting better, Daveed. I don't remember the last time you damaged Yugi's Life Points like this."

Daveed chuckled bashfully and scratched the back of his head. "I don't think I ever did. Maybe when I beat you, you'll finally stop haunting my dreams. I end my turn."

"All right," said Yami. "My turn." He closed his eyes and put his faith in the Heart of the Cards, hoping it would allow him to draw what he needed to stop Daveed. "My faith rewards me with this," said Yami. "Card of Sanctity. Now we all draw until we have six cards in our hands. Now, I activate Monster Reborn. Return to the field, Dark Magician Girl!"

Dark Magician Girl came out of the ground with two angel wings, which dispersed as soon as she was on the field. She spun around and blew Daveed a kiss.

"And now!" Yami continued, "I use Polymerization, fusing together my Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl, joining them together to form the ultimate wizards! Behold! The Dark Magicians!"

"What's this?" Daveed asked, shocked to see both creatures formed together into a powerful duo.

The Dark Magicians

ATK/2800 DEF/2300

 

Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl both got new outfits and staves. Dark Magician Girl's hair seemed longer as well. She leered at Prince Daveed with fiery hate in her beautiful, blue eyes. Daveed started to regret calling her a bitch.

"And don't forget," said Yugi, "When a spell is activated, my Magician of Chaos will automatically destroy a card you have, so I will aim for one of your face-down cards."

The Magician fired his spell at Daveed's card and evaporated it. For Yugi, it was a lucky guess.

"Well done, Yugi," Yami said happily. "Mirror Force was his face-down card."

"Yeah, that would have been bad for both of us. It could have sent all our monsters back to the deck."

"All right, Daveed," Yami said sternly. "No more games. I equip my Dark Magicians the Ultimate Wizards with Power of the Ancients. Now, for every time my Magicians are involved in a battle, Power of the Ancients gets a spell counter, which will increase the attack points of my Magicians by five-hundred for each counter it gains. And that's not all, Daveed. I activate the power of Diffusion Wave Motion. Now, my Magicians, attack, and silence Troodon with Dark Burning Magic!"

The attack of both monsters increased to 3300. And now that the effect of Regaliazowler was over, Troodon was weaker. The two magicians aimed the staves at the dinosaur and blasted it to pieces.

Daveed - 7500 LP

"Now it's my turn," said Yugi. "Magician of Chaos, attack and destroy his Two-Headed Kaiser Rex!"

Daveed wouldn't let him. "Sorry, Yugi, but Two-Headed Kaiser Rex won't go down that easily. When he's attacked, I'm allowed to special summon a Dinosaur from the Graveyard and shift your attack towards it instead. Rise, Noble Swords of Dragon!"

Two-Headed Kaiser Rex howled at the sky and revived a dinosaur with sleek, metallic gray skin and glowing blue stripes. Its spikes were curved like a saw and elongated at the middle row, raising over ten feet high. They were colored white with neon blue at the center. Its tail split into three and was tipped with sword blades. Its head was crowned with ten horns and a beard grew from underneath its chin. It rose on its hind legs and held up its tail, forming a magical ward with beautiful glyphs that deflected the attack of Magician of Chaos.

ATK/2100 DEF/3000

"Sucks to be you," said Daveed. "If a monster that attacks Noble Swords of Dragon fails to destroy it, the attacking monster gets destroyed instead."

"Oh no!" Yugi shouted.

Noble Swords of Dragon summoned thirteen swords of light that formed in a circle in front of him. They flew through the air and stuck on Magician of Chaos. He shattered like glass. Despite this, Yugi was not worried.

"Too bad for you," said Yugi. "When Magician of Chaos gets destroyed, I'm allowed to summon this card from my hand, ignoring his summoning conditions. Black Luster Soldier -Super Soldier, appear!"

"Out of the frying pan," said Daveed.

"And straight into the flames," said Yugi. "Now, I use the quick-play spell, Shrink, which cuts your Two-Headed Kaiser Rex's attack in half."

Black Luster Soldier finished what Magician of Chaos started. He slashed off both of Two-Headed Kaiser Rex's heads with one mighty slash of his divine-crafted sword. Black Luster Soldier - Super Soldier appeared in front of Daveed and slashed him across the chest. His effect allowed him to inflict damage to Daveed's Life Points equal to the ATK of the monster he just destroyed. Daveed gripped his chest and fell to his knees. But then, Magician of Black Chaos MAX joined in on the attack and jabbed his bladed staff through his chest.

Yuri coughed out blood. "You're...killing me."

Daveed couldn't comprehend what happened. He looked down at the blade, his blood dripping down the metal and slithering through the inlaid scrollwork. "No...fair..." he gasped. He looked up and saw that Yami had activated a spell of some kind that destroyed Noble Sword of Dragon. And Yugi had something else that called upon a dragon-riding warrior named Lord Gaia the Fierce Knight. His vision was blurry, so he couldn't see the cards or read what he did. What the hell did it matter what they were anyway? He lost.

Magician of Black Chaos MAX pulled his blade out of Daveed's gut. He looked down at Daveed with those lifeless red eyes. "Hmph," he said. He turned and walked away slowly as Lord Gaia the Fierce Knight flew towards Daveed. The last thing Daveed saw was the dragon he was riding rearing its head and bathing him in flames.

Chapter Text

Bakura's Report


The little prince has become so precious to the family. He has a beauty to him possibly unseen in this world. Perhaps it has to do with his heritage in Feldia. He has cinnamon skin, is black of hair, and has a face like a cherub, some winged humanoid in Earthling mythology. I can confirm he has that glowing green eye everyone talks about. What does it mean? What does it do? How did he get it? I have a theory as to how, but I will not speak of it. I won't even dare write about my speculation, for those Sisterhood bitches are nosy, and no secret is safe from them.

The boy to this Montgomery family is...perfect. So beautiful and pure is he that Jacob and his wife thought up a lie to make it seem as though they had given birth to this gift. The media fawns all over him. Everyone flocks to see this perfect baby and believe it! They believe their lies. They believe the man I gave Yuri to and his wife had something to do with this child. It makes my job of keeping him hidden all the easier. The lie has been burned into everyone's minds like a raging wildfire. 

It amazes me how gullible everyone here is. And it amazes me how little things like a beautiful baby boy can cause the people of this world to go in such a frenzy. Then again, they don't seem like a very smart bunch. Some hate each other because of the color of their skin, political affiliations, pretty much anything really. These people just really don't like each other. They walk around all day, noses stuck to these strange devices that connect them to a network full of mundane things like cat pictures, half-naked girls wiggling the butts for money, and songs from the musicians of this world. Can I even call these dimwits musicians? All I hear is noise. Ugh. And they keep on repeating the same phrases over and over again like moronic robots. Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag! That's lit!

Goddesses, these people are so stupid. It's no wonder Dimensional Mages avoid this place like the plague. 

It almost brings me great pain to know we have to keep him here, but this place is so mundane and insane that even the Sisterhood avoids coming here. Nevertheless, Marik is casting a spell on the Gates that will hide the boy's power from them should they decide to look here. Although I doubt that's going to happen any time soon. 


Yuri Montgomery - The Montgomery Palace, Aquarius

September 2 - Year 18 4AOS (Fourth Age of the Sun)


Hail to the King!

Seventeen-year-old Yuri Montgomery woke up with a jump and gasped for air as though he had been underwater for a long time. His body was covered in sweat, drenching his t-shirt and boxers. He slapped his forehead with his palm and rubbed away the wetness from around his eyes. Even though his bedroom was stifling, Yuri felt as though he was trapped in a freezer as he lay in his bed, thinking about the horrors that transpired during the night.

A Duel. He was in a Duel.

The monsters that he and his opponent played just came to life. It was just a dream, he kept telling himself. But...but they seemed so real. He could smell the old stones of the chapel. The slight pinch of incense in the air. Even the sweet and musty scent coming from the robes of the magicians his opponent summoned. He could even feel them, their attacks. He winced, rubbing a burning sensation on his chest. It was the spot where his opponent's monster slashed him across the chest with his sword. He had the dream for more than a year now, and it was getting more and more violent.

He was breathing heavily, trying to calm the beating of his heart which was thumping so fast it caused his chest to burn. He felt like he ran a mile. The morning outside his window was still very dark; much more now, due to the incoming storm that was approaching. He rested his head against his pillow and closed his eyes, listening to the ambiance around him. The soft trickle of water from his Z-Tower waterfall PC and the rocky water walls that lined both sides of the hall towards his room, the wind blowing through his open window.

He was safe. He was home. Safe. Safe from Yugi.  

Hail to the King!

He gasped loudly. He sat up and looked around, wondering who said that. He breathed a sigh of relief when it was just his clock waking him. It blasted the radio station he had it set to, currently playing Avenged Sevenfold's Hail to the King.

"That had better be a coincidence," he muttered as he turned the knob to lower the volume. He took off his soaked shirt and tossed it at the corner of his room, then wiped the sweat off his tan skin with a towel he had in a drawer inside his night table. A beautiful pendant rocked back and forth over his chest. He grabbed it and held it tightly with his fist. It was a musical locket; gold in the shape of a shield with platinum moldings beautifully engraved on its surface. On the face of the shield was a coat of arms depicting five dragons circling a crown.

Their eyes were made of real diamonds. He opened it, and a soothing melody from a music box inside began to play. He didn't know what the name of the song was, but he called it Passionate Duelist; for those words were engraved inside the necklace.

"What the hell do you want from me?" he whispered, gasping for air. 

King? He thought. No, not me.

Yuri was anything but a king. He couldn't even call himself brave. In fact, he couldn't even hurt a fly. His name meant Lily Flower in Japanese. It was given to him by his uncle, Sergei Dargon, the owner of the Ruby Dragon Gaming card shop as a way to mock his weakness, for Yuri was often called delicate like a flower. He couldn't even remember the name his parents gave him anymore because all anyone called him was Yuri. 

The wind howled, causing the frame of the mansion to creak and rumble. Yuri yawned before he gave a long and loud groan. He did not want to get out of bed. It was still the first week of school, and he was recovering from his summer sleep schedule of late nights and sleeping deep into the afternoon.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Someone was walking around upstairs.

Deep down, he hoped his mother had gone back to bed and forgotten about him. He was in no mood to go to school today, especially not after the night terrors that took place the night before.

From the dark, an abnormal trait of his was shining brightly. His right eye. That eye was what made Yuri controversial in the school. His left eye was a normal shade of hazel brown. However, the right one was bright green...and glowing. The eye's illumination was so bright, it could be seen piercing the dark. His friends at school made use of it.

If they ever hung out in the city at night or went to the beach for their evening walks, they could always count on a green glowing dot floating in the dark to let them know he was around. Yuri enjoyed his weird trait, but at the same time hated it; for it caused the kids at school to alienate him because they thought a glowing eye was just abnormal. Some refused to sit next to him because they thought it was some kind of disease.

His parents took him to the best optometrists in the world, but his eye left them at a loss for words, leaving the mystery unsolved, though that didn't stop people from trying to figure it out. Some have even tried getting rid of it. One rainy night a crazy preacher barged into his room and tried to perform an exorcism on him because the people who looked at Yuri when he went to church saw his eye and thought of it as more of an evil than a gift.

"Damn school," Yuri said in a soft whisper in case his mother was nearby. "It starts way too early and ends so late."

He refused to move and remained in bed, still harboring a hope that his mother would find that rare feeling of sympathy and let him stay in from school today. Anxiously, he slid his thumb up and down the crisp edge of his pillowcase, for he loved the feeling it had. Often he would fold it around his finger and thumb to make it snap to relieve him of stress. It was an odd habit, but he enjoyed it nonetheless; he didn't know why.

Again, the wind howled and the mansion creaked against its force. Yuri's window was slightly open to let in a cool breeze to refresh him from the summer heat. The soothing sounds of the waves crashing on the beach in his backyard were like music to his weary ears. Even the faint rumble of thunder in the distance was a calming noise for him. He sighed and basked in the ambiance around him. It brought a sense of normalcy to the morning and calmed him down.

Monsters? Men with colorful, pointy, hair? Yeah, right.

Thunder rumbled again. Hopefully, the storm wouldn't catch him on the way to school. Yuri wouldn't mind if it caught on after his lessons, for he would just travel to the card shop his godfather owned and play Duel Monsters with his friends.

Duel Monsters! He almost forgot.

He turned on the desk lamp on his night table. It brought a soft glow into the darkness of the stormy morning and blinded him almost.

"Aaack!" He waited for the colorful flashes of light to stop flying around in his eyes before he opened the night table drawer and took out his deck. That would be the last thing he wanted to forget on a day like this.

If he forgot his cards, he would be stuck in the card shop without anything to do, and he hated using someone else's deck to play. It just wasn't the same as using his own deck. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he had a sort of 'connection' with his cards. Every player seemed to think so. A deck of Duel Monsters cards was like an extension of themselves. Using somebody else's monsters was just not as satisfying if you pulled a victory; for it felt like the victory was theirs since it was their deck, their cards, and their strategies that won you the game.

Duel Monsters wasn't his strong suit. He didn't like the game because he was never good at it, even though his father was the game's creator. But it was still very fun to play against his friends, who weren't that good themselves. They were quite casual. And whenever he heard the song coming from his beloved musical shield necklace, he just felt a motivation like no other to get better at the game; a feeling like he was born to play Duel Monsters. He opened it and laid back on his pillow so he could peacefully listen to the song.

Despite his sudden preparation for an afternoon of games, Yuri was quick to fall back asleep, still praying with all his might that his mother would allow him to stay home from school today. Or perhaps that she had slept in. Being a model, she went out frequently with her co-workers and business partners going to parties and clubs where she spent the entire night not coming back until dawn. For a woman who was more than forty years old, Yuri had to admit his mother looked quite young, even gaining the affection of his friends when they came over to study with him and play video games in the basement.

Still, Yuri was able to sneak an absence or two thanks to his mother sleeping in. He hoped he could have such an opportunity today. All was silent. There was not a sound until the sudden groan of the pipes along the walls rumbled indicating that someone was using the bathroom upstairs. It brought his hopes crashing down. He felt like someone dropped an anchor on his chest. Clearly, someone up there was getting ready for a new day. He then heard footsteps creaking about in the floor above his bed.

"Damn," Yuri muttered. So close. So close. Whoever that is, go back to bed before mom wakes up. It was wishful thinking at best. He knew for certain that it was his mother preparing breakfast upstairs for his father, Jacob.

Yuri heard his mother coming down the stairs with heavy stomps indicating she was angry. Then he heard the shuffling of her slippers on the carpet outside the hall to his room down in the basement where he lived.

Then silence.

Yuri groaned and smacked the wall with his fist when his mother started pounding on the door of his room. She started yelling at him to get out of bed. "Yuri! Yuri Montgomery! Get out of bed this instant or you'll miss the ferry! Your father is late for a meeting so he can't take you to work. So move it!"

"I'm already changing, mom!" Yuri yelled back, not in the mood to deal with his mother and her constantly changing mood.

Yuri swung his legs over his bed and sat down on the edge. He rubbed his hands up and down his face. He was so not looking forward to this morning. On top of that, he was still a nervous wreck from the nightmare he had earlier.

"YURI!" his mother shouted again in an irritating high-pitched screech.

"I'm awake!" Yuri shouted back, slamming his foot on the floor in frustration.

His mother did not approve of that behavior. He could hear her muttering nasty and angry things in Spanish as she walked away. Yuri quickly showered and dressed. Afterward, he put on his uniform for school. Or tried to. "I hate this thing," he muttered trying to fix his tie in the mirror.

"Morning, Sport," his father Jacob said, entering the room. "Need some help?"

Yuri let out a soft chuckle. "Please," he said, turning to his father.

Jacob chortled and set his mug down on the dresser by one of the windows. "A senior in high school. All these years wearing this uniform and you still can't get your tie straight. Come on, Yuri."

Yuri felt his tight grip tug on the tie. "Not so tight, dad!" Yuri croaked.

"You have to learn to fix this yourself, Yuri," Jacob said with a yawn. "One day, you're going to have to be wearing these on a regular basis. You know I'm not going to be around forever to help you do your ties. How are you going to attend the meetings and speak with the press with a messed up tie?" He laughed.

"I know, I know," Yuri groaned. "I'll try to learn how to do these myself, dad."

Jacob gave a nod. He sighed heavily and said: "Try not to cause any trouble this year, please."

Yuri shook his head. "Dad, all those things I did...That was a long time ago."

Jacob pursed his lips. A grim look came over his face. His muscles dropping in sorrow upon remembering all the trouble Yuri once caused as a youngster. He fixed his son's tie and lightly tapped Yuri's shoulder. "Off you go, Yuri. You're going to be late for the ferry."

"Thanks, Dad," Yuri said, watching his father leave.

Yuri slipped his single strap backpack over his shoulder before leaving the comfort of his warm and cozy room. Upstairs in the kitchen, he helped himself to a piece of toast and a juice pack for breakfast, much to the chagrin of his mother who started going on another rant about eating healthy and living longer if he ate properly.

He paused and gave a defiant groan, hoping his mother would get the point that she was not helping anyone with her rambling and her raised voice. She finally quieted down and paused, staring at Yuri furiously. It felt like an eternity before she said: "Go!" Not wanting to be bothered with him anymore.

"Bitch," Yuri muttered, going down the hall to the atrium at the entrance.

He put on a black skull cap beanie as he stepped out the front door. His father's bodyguards greeted him as he stepped out. They patrolled the grounds of the estate with submachine guns, and they wore tactical ponchos over their clean black suits to keep dry from the rain that was ready to douse the floating city Yuri called home.

"Good morning, sir," said McRaven, a former Navy SEAL now head of security to the Montgomery estate. He followed Yuri through their garden, which seemed more like a tropical jungle.

"Morning, Jack," Yuri said, walking through the tropical gardens.

McRaven stayed close behind, holding an itchy index finger over the trigger of his custom AR-15. Yuri couldn't help but notice the hi-tech thermal sights which he thought was a bit much. Then again, it was necessary.

The Montgomery estate was struck by thieves and pirates performing many heists over the years trying to get what they could of the Montgomery fortune, and the most sought-after prize was Yuri. Being the son of the world's only trillionaire had its perks, but there were many downsides to it as well. The reason for so many hired guns out and about the grounds of the estate was because Yuri was kidnapped when he was just a boy and was held for ransom. He didn't remember much of that night, but his parents could never get it out of their minds. Ever since the incident, they made such a fuss for him, insisting that a squad of their mercenaries follow him to school, to which Yuri would constantly refuse.

"Ms. Paula at it again, sir?" McRaven asked, secretly handing Yuri a bar of Snickers from his pocket.

"Thanks, Jack," said Yuri, happily taking the candy bar from him. "Yeah, it seems like my mom goes to bitch-mode when you least expect it. Did you hear all that?"

McRaven laughed. "Hear it? You can hear it from the other islands. Be sure to bundle up out there, sir. The weather's going to be nasty today so I heard."

"Yeah, I heard it on the news," said Yuri. He shrugged. "Or tried to," he said referring to his mother.

"Need a ride to school, sir?" asked another guard, who guarded the center of the garden where a beautiful fountain stood.

"No thanks, Bill, I got it," Yuri said with a wave of his hand. "Happy Birthday, by the way." He tossed Bill his present. A golden Rolex watch.

"Hey, thanks, Yuri," the bodyguard said happily.

McRaven fist-bumped Bill, congratulating him for the gift and wished him a happy birthday. "Yuri, it's been a week since I took you to the gym for your workout? What's going on, buddy?"

Yuri tittered softly and bit into the candy bar. "Some things have happened lately. Weird things. I haven't been myself lately, Jack. But I promise we'll hit the gym this weekend."

"All right, and don't forget we're going to the range so we can do some more handgun drills." He patted Yuri's shoulder.

They neared the gate. McRaven entered a guardhouse and placed his hand on a scanner. The gate beeped and slid open. "Okay, sir. Have a good day at school," said McRaven.

A clap of thunder boomed across the cloudy skies. Yuri turned and waved goodbye to McRaven and Bill before he left the estate. He put on his Beats, glowing brightly in punch-red LED lights, and searched through the music on his phone, wondering what song to play.

He shrugged when he found his choice and let it play as he stuffed his phone into his pocket. I'm Sorry Miss Jackson by Outkast. Yuri grinned and bobbed his head up and down along with the beat of the song as he walked the gated neighborhood of Sheffield Manor.

The song mixed with the sweet tropical air calmed his nerves, still anxious and upset from the squabble with his mother, and most of all his dream. The images of the man with the colorful hair flashed in his mind. He shook his head and looked at his stealth black gauge watch and grinned when he saw it wasn't as late as his mother stressed it was.

"I've got time," Yuri said, walking to a nearby vendor on the bridge that connected his island to the next one. A ferry waiting at the port would take him to the central island where his school was.

He bought himself a Greek gyro and walked to school with a warm belly and lifted spirits. He stopped by the street waiting for traffic to go by. The crossing guard, an officer in a Kyrptek Neptune BDU and a black vest and helmet, held up his hand to stop the oncoming traffic. "It's all yours, Yuri," said the officer.

"Thanks, Roman," Yuri said, crossing the street.

All of a sudden, he wasn't feeling so tired and angry anymore. And the dread he felt from his nightmare seemed to wash away when he saw the loving faces that greeted him every morning. The pack of Lamborghinis roaring through the streets sure got his attention. Crowds of onlookers stopped what they were doing to film them.

Again, his surroundings brought back a sense of normalcy to the day. Besides his glowing eye and being the son of the city's founder, Yuri was just your average teenager. He smiled and bit into his gyro, then walked to school.


Yugi


A bard merrily played his lute outside the inn, soothing the souls of many passersby busy with matters of so on and so forth. The tavern's windows were open, eager for a scarce summer breeze to cool the dining room for the customers, many of whom were merchants, regulars from the town, and even adventurers looking for a bite to eat before setting off to loot another dungeon or explore a cave to deal with a horrible monster that lurked in the darkness deep below the surface of the earth.

But Yugi Muto made himself comfortable on the rooftop of the tavern, brandishing the golden 3D puzzle around his neck. Though he was a boy who looked to be in his teens, he was quite old. Eternal youth was a gift blessed to his people, The Eldori, a magical people dubbed as the Painted Folk, for they were born from drawings created by the Goddess of Arts and Song to live alongside Men.

"Are you all right?" said Yugi's alter ego. The spirit of an ancient king who lived inside the Millennium Puzzle around his neck.

"You Dueled him again, didn't you?" Yugi asked, setting his arm over his left knee, he wanted to avoid talking about the meeting with the Senate. Somehow, despite the evidence of Rare Hunters returning and threatening the prince, things were not going to go in their favor.

"I did," Yami said, standing over him in spectral form. Nobody but Yugi could see or hear him.

"So how did it go?" Yugi asked. "This is like the fourth night in a row that we've visited his dreams."

"The situation grows dire," Yami answered, crossing his arms over his chest. "Even the God Cards have chosen to intervene. Slifer put himself inside my deck to try and get our exiled prince to understand who he is. But I fear our enemy has somehow gotten into his head."

"Impossible," said Yugi. "We would have known if Bakura was messing around with the prince. We have an informant down there watching him, don't we?"

Yami closed his eyes and took a heavy breath. "Bakura is like a shadow in the dark. Not even those with the keenest of eyes will be able to spot him. But why Bakura hasn't made a move on Daveed for so long worries me."

"We should pick him up now," said Yugi. "If what you say is true, the prince won't be around for much longer, and Termnnia will once again be without a High King. And that's the last thing we need right now. His death is going to spark another war I tell you. It's brewing in the minds of many around here. There are hundreds of lords, barons, and kings who pray to the Goddesses for his death so they can seize the opportunity to claim the Diamond Throne, The Heart-EartH Crown, and the God Cards. Hell, the continent broke into a long war just to see who could father him after High King Antar died. Remember?"

"You don't have to lecture me: I know," said Yami. "But have no fear, Yugi. My informant is keen in both eye and sword; he will notify me in case of any dangers."

"I sure hope so," said Yugi. "I find it ridiculous that the Senate has ordered the prince to never come home unless he becomes a great Duelist."

Yami looked down at the boy. "It was a ruse by House Dragonheart to postpone his return to the throne."

Yugi sucked on his teeth, balling his fists. "House Dragonheart. The Senate was bought out then?"

"It has, but as I said, have no fear. Kaiba is going to oversee his training. If there's anyone out there who can forge our prince into a master Duelist, it's him. He'll know what to do."

"Yeah," Yugi groaned as he got up. "I'll bet."

He jumped from the roof of the inn, landing on his feet by the pen where the pigs and chickens lazed about. Feeling proud of his daring feat, he 'humphed' confidently and adjusted the sword belt around his waist housing his golden, gem-encrusted rapier he named Anzu. Yami reappeared beside him with a scowl creasing his face as he scorned him.

"You're going to break your neck doing that!"

"Whatever," Yugi bragged, fixing the belts and iron plate decorations on his leather gear. "You're just mad that you ain't got the moves."

"You can keep the moves," Yami scorned. "I want our bones intact."

"You're no fun, Spirit," said Yugi. "Man, I don't know about you, but I'm going to get myself a burger."

"Again?" Yami said shaking his head in disbelief. "You had two earlier today."

"Nah, those were sliders. I want a triple-decker! With bacon, lots of cheese, and..."

"All right, all right, go!" Yami grumbled. "But don't come crying to me when you end up looking like King Forrest."

"Were I that gluttonous," said Yugi.

He heard something and stopped.

A group of boys, Eldori; just like him, were blocking his path. They looked rather young, and their hair was styled in odd shapes and colors. They wore uniforms from a local Dueling school near the heart of the city where the best players in the country studied to be masters so they could fly to the East and compete in the Kaiba Dome to become legends.

Someone must have told them Yugi was around, for they had smug looks on their faces. A win against Yugi Muto the Undisputed Champion of Termnnia would not only grant them fame but fortune and immortality.

"I told ya he was around," said a snobbish-looking youngster with gelled blond hair, no doubt the leader of the group. He pushed his gold glasses up the bridge of his nose and walked towards Yugi with his hands in the pockets of his blazer. "We challenge you to a Duel, Yugi Muto," he said. "We won't take no for an answer."

"I have business to take care of," Yugi replied, trying to control his anger.

The boys were still young, however, they seemed well-bred enough, and educated enough to have been taught some manners. They were being very rude to him.

The other boys formed a circle around Yugi, and morphed various states of jewelry from buttons, their wristwatches, and earrings into academy issue Duel Disks, contraptions used to conjure monsters from their cards. No manners indeed, Yugi thought with a scoff. Looks like I'm going to have to teach them some.

"I'll go first," the boy with the gold glasses, named Jonathan, said as he drew. "The fame I shall achieve when I beat you, Yugi, will be glorious. They say that if one does beat you, they can have anything they want. You know, I've had an eye for Princess Alexandra von Klause. The House of Dragonheart will practically beg me to marry her after I beat you."

Yugi rolled his amethyst eyes. Then again, it didn't surprise him that his foe would start monologuing of the rewards they would gain should they beat him. "Just go," he said. "Less talking and more playing. I've got somewhere I've got to be."

"Yes," Jonathan sneered. He bragged about how he was an honor student at the school, showing off the gold badge pinned on his chest. He ran a D/D/D Deck, and on his first turn, his monsters swarmed the field. In no time at all he had the likes of D/D/D Abyss King Ragnarok, who was in the Pendulum Zone. D/D/D Cursed King Siegfried (ATK/2800), D/D/D Gust King Alexander (ATK/2500), and D/D/D Abyss King Gilgamesh (ATK/1800).

"Bet you didn't know I could Link Summon, did you?" Jonathan sneered.

Yugi sighed. "I've seen it before, kid. I'm not a novice. Link Summons are the new trend these days but don't think it'll give you an advantage over me. In fact, I'll take you down with a little old-school summoning technique. Watch. I draw!" – Yugi examined the card and smiled – "I play the Spell Card, Fusion Dispatch! I choose a Fusion Monster and then I can Special Summon one of its materials to the field. I chose, Gaia the Dragon Champion, now I can summon Gaia the Fierce Knight!"

The iconic monster from Yugi's Duelist Kingdom days appeared before him. The purple stallion reared on its hind legs and whinnied. Its rider, the legendary Gaia, raised his red lance in the air and grunted.

ATK/2300 DEF/2100

 

Jonathan slid his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Gaia the Fierce Knight, huh? That card is ancient. He won't stand a chance against the might of my Different Dimension Daemons!"

Yugi smiled. "Not alone, he won't. And he's never alone. I'll show you what I mean but first, I activate the spell, Set Rotation. It allows me to add a Field Spell face-down to your field spell zone and mine. Now, I flip my card over. Behold! The Field Spell, Galloping Gaia!"

A ring of red and black fire surrounded them. Jonathan sniggered. "I don't think so, Yugi! My Cursed King Siegfried will negate the activation of your spell. Heh, heh, heh. So much for that!"

Seigfried held out his armored hand and formed a white glyph that muted Yugi's spell and canceled its effect.

"No harm down," said Yugi. "I now use the card, Spiral Fusion! I summon Sky Galloping Gaia the Dragon Champion!"

A flaming portal opened above Yugi. From it, Gaia flew out on top of his flaming red dragon. His armor was wider and was made of solid gold. Yugi's smile grew wider upon seeing the flaming dragon rider above him.

 

"And since I used Spiral Fusion to summon him, Sky Galloping Gaia the Dragon Champion gains 2600 attack points."

"WOW!" shouted Jonathan. "He has 5200 attack points!"

"And I'll use his effect!" shouted Yugi. "But first, from my Graveyard, I activate the effect of my Cursed Dragon - Curse of Dragon!"

"No!" shouted Jonathan. "I don't know what you're planning from there, but your strategy won't come to fruition. I use the spell, Designation from the Grave. This card will now banish your Cursed Dragon! Still think you can win."

"I do," Yugi said with a smile. "I can still use the effect of my Gaia. He allows me to add Spiral Spear Strike to my hand. But first, I summon Bombarding Catapult Turtle!"

Another one of Yugi's Duelist Kingdom monsters returned, this time with a sleek new design and effect. The turtle grumbled as it was rendered to the playing field.

"And then," Yugi continued, "I activate Spiral Spear Strike! Then, I sacrifice Bombarding Catapult Turtle to special summon Soldier Gaia the Fierce Knight!"

A fiery glyph morphed behind Yugi. From it emerged Gaia's newest form. He was a tall, armored giant armed with a golden trident. His black and gold cape waved elegantly in the wind. The sun shined on his armor, making it flash like a radiant star. He spun his staff and forced D/D/D Gust King Alexander into defense mode.

ATK/2600 DEF/2100'

Soldier Gaia charged and attacked D/D/D Gust King Alexander. Thanks to Spiral Spear Strike, all 'Gaia the Fierce Knight or Dragon Champion' monsters could inflict piercing damage, meaning even if a monster was in defense mode, the opponent would still take damage to their Life Points. Sky Galloping Gaia got to work at once, destroying Cursed King Siegfried. Then, Gaia the Fierce Knight galloped into action and jabbed his saber into D/D/D Abyss King Gilgamesh's chest for more damage.

"Nice playing with you, boys," Yugi said, taking his leave after his quick victory.

After a short walk, he stopped in front of the Blackwing Inn and listened to the hubbub coming from the inside. He heard many voices and the sound of music booming through the thick wooden door. Yugi pushed it open and the noise increased twofold.

The merry sounds of a lute, drums, and fiddle blasted from the corner where the tavern's band played by the hearth. Dancing to the music on a stage lit up with candles was a girl with soft reddish-brown hair tied into long pigtails with little white bows that had bells attached to them, jingling as she moved along with the music.

Her lovely green eyes were large and full of purity, and her skin was the color of buttermilk. She donned a bodice corset of engraved leather with frilly white sleeves and a small skirt that showed off her ruffled undergarments which caught more of the crowd's attention than her lovely dancing.

"Yugi!" called one of the tavern's bar maidens. "Téa," Yugi replied happily. He turned bright red as he admired her racy barmaid outfit. He gulped, pulling the collar of his cape. "Um...I see you're here, too." He croaked timidly. 

"That I am," Téa replied. She was holding up a tray with fresh drinks and a plate of freshly cooked turkey. "The guys are over by the window booths. I'll be with you in a moment; my shift is almost over."

"Thanks, Téa," Yugi said, stretching the collar of his jerkin. "Uh, what's a Princess of Gardenrealm doing working in this place?"

Téa winked. "Ah, what's a little extra coin here and there. Besides, Mai opened this place up. It's the least I can do for bringing me to Emboldor in great style. Have a seat and I'll be right with you, okay?" She patted his shoulder as she walked away.

Yugi looked back at the stage to see the girl dancing to a different song. The girl grabbed the hem of her skirt, teasing the customers with a bit of skin and the lacy garter around her thigh. Yugi smiled, and blushed into an even darker shade of red, recognizing the girl as Serenity Wheeler, the sister of his best friend Ser Joey Wheeler the Black Dragon Knight.

Serenity clapped her hands wowing the patrons of the tavern who gathered around the stage throwing gold coins and a few Star Chips at her feet as they begged her to dance some more.

Sitting in their own booth by a window were four familiar figures whom Yugi quickly identified as his friends. Two of them were playing cards, and the others were watching the game with great anticipation.

Ser Joey Wheeler; Captain of the Royal Guard, and his friend Ser Tristan Taylor; Commander of the High King's Special Security Forces, the Glaive of the Gods. They were playing a round of Duel Monsters. A prize pool of a few rare cards, a sack of silver coins, and a chipped garnet were handsomely laid beside the playing mat, eagerly awaiting the winner of the match.

The other two were a young man and a woman. Duke Devlin, son of the Thane of Devlinshire and Chamberlain of the High King, was helping himself to a tankard of ale by the window. The warm afternoon sunlight made his green eyes glimmer like emeralds, and his spiked, black hair turned a shade of gray in the bright light.

The woman, a golden-haired beauty with eyes of amethyst, was Mai Valentine, who apparently was the owner of the place. She held onto a mug of ale that was barely sipped and still foamed. She took one more sip to see if she could develop a taste for it but cringed when the bitter-sweet beverage went down her gullet. She made a face of disgust and pushed her mug away. She coughed and focused on the match at hand.

"I warn ya, Tristan," Ser Joey growled. "You take one peek at my sista, and we'll settle dis wit swords instead 'o cards, capiche?" He looked at Duke, who did his best to keep his eyes on everything else but Serenity on the stage. "Dat goes fer you, too, Devlin. Just because I let Serenity hop on da stage like dat, does not mean I approve."

"You have to admit, she's earning a bit of gold up there," said Mai. "She has the men of this place wrapped around her little finger. And it looks like she's having fun."

"Ey!" shouted Joey, snapping Tristan out of his hypnosis. "It's yer move. C'mon already, play something."

"Okay, I will," said Tristan. "Try this on for size. My ace of spades, The Cyber Commander, and I'll boost his power with the Spell-Card, Machine Conversion Factory."

"Yeah, dat aint bad," said Joey, looking at the cards in his hands, wondering what to play next. "But wait till ya see dis. I summon Leogun. With an attack of seventeen-fifty, yer Cyber Commander is scrap metal. And dere goes da rest of yer Life Points."

"Weak, dude," Tristan groaned, picking up his cards and watching Joey scoop up every coin he wagered in the match. "Best two outta three!"

The music had died down as the song ended, but as quickly as it faded, the band played another tune. Serenity had grown tired and bowed, thanking the patrons for enjoying her show. She bent down and started picking up the coins and Star Chips. She added them to a sack tied to her leather belt where she kept a jeweled dagger in a scabbard decorated with useless ornamentation. The blade could burst into flames with just a thought as well, thanks to its fire enchantment.

Serenity called her dagger, Luthia, after a dearly departed friend of hers. She used the dagger as a means to keep the rowdier men away, and she was not afraid to use it if they got too touchy with her. Serenity joined them at their table once she was done collecting her coin. Beads of sweat fell down her delicate face. Her body glistened and her face peachy-pink with exhaustion.

"Hello, Yugi," Serenity greeted the boy. She took a handkerchief from the table and rubbed it on her chest to wipe away the sweat. "How are you?"

"Looks like you were having a good time," Yugi replied.

A soft giggle came out of Serenity's lips. "Yeah, it was a blast." Serenity looked at the mug of ale Mai had left unfinished. "You going to drink that, Mai?" she asked.

Mai shrugged and pushed the tankard towards her. Serenity picked it up and chugged down the drink with two or three mighty gulps. Ale spilled from the corner of her mouth and poured down her neck and chest. Joey glared at Duke and Tristan, to make them gawk elsewhere.

"How can you drink that piss?" Mai asked. Serenity slammed the tankard on the table and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

"It's an acquired taste," Serenity responded, followed by a timid burp. "'Scuse me," she said.

Mai burst out laughing and playfully patted Serenity's backside. "My little baby bird, when we get back to Domino, I'm treating you to an apple martini. It's so much better than this swill these Western Folk drink."

Yugi rubbed the back of his head, feeling rather sad for Mai. She spent most of her life in the bustling neon-laden streets of Domino City. No doubt she wanted to leave the middle-aged culture of the Western Lands and return to flatscreen televisions, shopping malls, cell phones, and holographic technology.

"Hey, Yuge," Joey said shuffling his deck. "So how did it go with our friend? You know...our future ruler."

Yugi sighed, rubbing his Millennium Puzzle. "It was worse than I thought," he said.

Serenity gasped. "What happened? Is he okay, Yugi?"

Yugi nodded. Téa joined them moments later and rested her arm on the top of the booth where Yugi sat. "Did he do it?" she asked. "Was the Pharaoh able to get through to him?"

Yugi gave a weak gulp. "It was even worse than I thought, guys,"

Joey grunted. "Yuge, c'mon. Ya gotta tell us everything."

Chapter Text


Pamela 'Patty' McKnight - Paradiso Primo, Aquarius

September 3rd - Year 18 4AOS


The alarm clock on her phone began to blast its jingle. The motor inside caused the phone to rumble in its perch. Its owner, a very lazy girl, stirred around on her bed, agitated by the noise. She was semi-awake as she started looking for the phone. She flipped from belly to her back and laid on her side, heavy eyes darting about for the blasted device.

When she saw the phone was out of her reach, she slammed her head back down, stuffing her pillow over her head, hoping it would go off on its own. The irritating buzzing woke someone else. A Shih Tzu puppy by the name of Max. He was lying in a foam bed at the foot of his master's four-poster bed with white curtains flapping from the stormy breeze blowing through an open window. Outside her window, she had a view of the bay. The sky was pitch black from the storm approaching, thunder started to pound the skies like war drums. 

A RAPTOR helicopter soared over the neighborhood, flying so low it shook the luxury compound she lived in. But it didn't even phase the girl. She merely stirred in bed and let out a loud snore.

The puppy was getting worried. He wanted nothing more than to stop the alarm from wailing; for it was a sound he did not enjoy, especially this early in the day. Throughout the summer, he was used to long and calm mornings, sometimes sleeping in until noon with his pretty owner; the platinum-haired, Patty McKnight, who was clearly knocked out from clubbing with her friends the night before despite it being a school night.

Worried Patty was going to be late, or was perhaps even dead, Max yawned and stretched before he scampered away from his bed towards Patty, dodging a mess of books and underclothes that littered the floor. Patty snored softly on the naked mattress. The crisp white sheets were strewn all over the place when she tossed and turned throughout the night.

The wind outside howled like a group of wailing ghosts, announcing the storm had arrived. Rain pounded the mansion and thunder rumbled in the skies. Cars drove by making loud swishing noises as they went down the soaked roads. The puppy whined as if it knew his owner was going to be late for school. He scurried back and forth next to the bed, wondering what to do.

Only Patty's arm was visible as it hung from the edge of her bed. Max walked to it; his golden tag jingling with each step. He sniffed her fingers causing her to moan and lightly swat him away. Max whimpered softly at the sudden movement, but he was determined to wake her up. He licked her hand, this time he got Patty to say something obscene. She pulled her arm back over her bed.

She shifted around in her sheets, clad in a gray midriff top and black lacy undergarments. She stripped out of her pants earlier in the night to keep her cool from the night's humidity. Her ceiling fan spun at maximum speed, but failed to cool her, as did the fan on her desk. Patty groaned and buried her head even deeper under her pillow to block out the noise and find a cool spot for her face. She was not looking forward to waking up and going to school.

Max realized this and lost his patience. He growled and began to bark. He hopped up and down while dashing back and forth across the length of Patty's bed. He knocked over a tin container with a collection of common, non-foil Duel Monster cards which she had neatly arranged the night before. The noise of the tin crashing against the ground and Duel Monster cards fluttering all over the place finally woke her.

"Baby, baby, what is it?" Patty managed to say, forcing herself up.

She leaned over her bed to look at him. A curtain of long, messy, blonde hair with pink highlights flowed over her shoulder, almost touching the girl's wrist. The butterfly necklace of sterling silver, centered with a rainbow opal hung from her neck. It caught the meager light of the stormy morning and flashed. Patty puckered her lips and made kissing sounds to calm her puppy. Being a teacup puppy, Max was so small he could fit in both her hands. Patty cupped them together allowing her dog to walk into them. She lifted him up, kissed his head, and rubbed her nose with his before placing him on her pillow.

"What the hell's the time?" she asked, laying on her side as Max walked about, getting comfortable. The surface of the pillow was still radiating with Patty's warmth, giving the puppy a sense of calm and making him sleepy.

Patty petted his back gently with her fingertips, the gold and silver star and heart charms on her bracelet flashed and clinked against one another. She sat up, crossed her legs, and finally reached for her phone. It lay at the end of her bed, buried under a pile of underwear, shirts, and socks. Finally, it rang no more and the morning was silent, save for the rain tapping the roof.

"I hate school," she said, rubbing her eyes from sleep.

She scratched the back of her neck and grumbled in her throat. Her butterfly necklace swung to-and-fro over her chest. Max started to stand on his hind legs and swatted at the necklace with his paw. Patty giggled softly, watching him try to hit her necklace for a couple of minutes, then lifted him up over her head.

"I wanna stay in bed and play, too, babe. But, I'm a senior now. I can't skip school like I once did."

She set him down on her pillow, then pondered the fact that this was her final year of high school. "Man. My last year already? Pretty soon I'm off to college." She slapped her thigh. "I know this year is going to be different. It will be! It must be. I promised Yuri I'd leave my old habits behind. I've got to focus on my studies. If I pass, I can graduate and I can put this shit behind me. Right, Max?"

There was no answer.

"Max?"

She looked down to see if Max was listening, but he was knocked out. The puppy found serenity with the alarm finally off and being in the warmth of Patty's pillow. Patty sniggered softly at the sight of him. He looked like a tiny brown furball.

"Lucky for you, you can keep on sleeping," she said. She gently got out of bed so as not to wake him. "Yeah, lucky indeed." She headed for the window. "You get to stay home and chill while I have to go out on this beautiful rainy day."

Patty stretched and scratched the back of her leg. "Uh oh!" she said when she heard the bus's engines rumbling in the distance. Being late for school was not how she wanted to start off the day, especially with it being the first week. She skipped her shower, quickly brushed her teeth, and had five minutes to put on her uniform and fix her hair. She quickly put on her backpack and grabbed her phone. She kissed Max on the head causing his tail to wag joyfully.

"See you after school, baby," she whispered.

She left her room and went down to the kitchen. Her black boots caused the floor to thump loudly with each step. The fact that she lived in a giant compound of glass and white steel didn't help. It seemed as though every move she made was amplified loudly. She cringed from the noise and damned it. Patty stood on the step frozen in worry. She did not wish to wake her parents. That would really suck if they woke up. The last thing she wanted was to get punched in the stomach before school. She darted into the hallway after leaping off the last step.

Patty sulked to the counter to prepare a meager breakfast of toast with plain butter and jelly. Her parents were asleep on the couch, knocked out from binge-watching their favorite television series the night before. For this, she was glad, because most days she would find them arguing with one another, or yelling at her for not cleaning the mess they made.

Patty filled Max's dog bowls with food and water before she exited the house. She strolled into the gardens of the estate she lived on, walked around the large fountain in the courtyard, and waited in front of the gate to take the bus to school. As she got on, she quickly made her way to the back of the bus — secluded just the way she liked it. As she passed a lot of boys' heads turned. Her sweet perfume awakened a few of them, and she got some awkward stares from the other girls. 

Once she sat down, she put on her earbuds and started blasting songs on her phone. The other students continued to stare at her. They could hear the loud riffs of the guitars blasting through her earbuds. Patty ignored them and stared at the passing neighborhood and the dark ocean behind the lines of giant mansions. As the bus got closer to the central island, Phobos Island, she noticed holographic billboards advertising a big tournament set to take place next summer.

The Millennium Tournament.

She had heard so much about it in the papers. Phobos Corp claimed it was going to be unlike any tournament the world had ever seen. Thinking about Duel Monsters, Patty unzipped her backpack and took out her deck.

At the bottom of the deck was her most prized card. A Ghost Rare Zera the Mant.

The monster was a giant, armored, behemoth of blue with a purple cape that had a devastating ATK of 2800. Patty had won many Duels with that card, which she could have sworn came out of the blue. She woke up one morning and just saw it in there, complete with the card needed to summon him. A Ritual Spell; for Zera the Mant was a Ritual monster that needed to be summoned with a specific spell card. It was truly rare and unique.

And yet, she loved and hated it at the same time. She loved the card because of the awesome rarity it was made in, and that it granted her so many victories the other students gave her the nickname The Grim Reaper of Aquarius.  She also hated the card because...as odd as this sounds, it had a strange influence over her as she grew older and older.

Ever since she got the card, Patty was plagued with erotic and bizarre nightmares, and she heard demonic whispers in her head, telling her to do outlandish things, which drastically changed her character and her look. Once a girl who was polite and very shy, Patty started to grow rebellious, and sometimes...very uncaring. She cussed a lot, started wearing revealing clothes when she went out with her friends and started doing drugs. She also found herself going to underground nightclubs, drinking excessively even though she was underage, and making love to anyone who desired her.

For this, her reputation suffered at school. Despite her prodigious talents as a Duelist, mathematician, and artist, she made out with so many guys that everyone started referring to her as the school harlot. 

She never told anyone for fear of embarrassment, but there would be times when she pretended Zera was her lover. She slept next to the card, going as far as buying a pillow to rest it next to her head, and she even kissed the card. Her love for the card began to grow sickly. Being an introvert, she didn't have many friends except for Yuri, whom she knew since they were very young. And he, too, was an outcast much like her.

Even though he was the son of the founder of Aquarius and president of the Phobos Corporation, Yuri was not very well thought of at school because of his meager Dueling skills, his strange glowing green eye, and the dark rumors from his childhood that still enveloped him like a dark cloud.

It's been whispered that Yuri had an imaginary friend whom he called Bakura. Patty remembered Yuri talking about him all those years ago in elementary school. He said Bakura was a demon that would appear and harm anyone who tried to hurt him. No one believed him. Her own father said that Bakura was an alibi Yuri used whenever he beat up other kids. It was possible. Yuri did get into a lot of fights at school from kids who were jealous of his massive fortune. Patty was always there when there was a scuffle going on.

Then, an hour after it was over, she would hear that Yuri was in the office again for hurting students. One afternoon, Yuri was almost sent to jail because two boys were found in a vegetative state at his feet. He claimed they were bullying him and threatened to beat him until Bakura came down and saved him. Naturally, no one believed him. They theorized he jumped out at the kids when they least expected it and beat them. Since his father was the island's owner and creator, he was able to throw money around to silence the issue, but Yuri had to be homeschooled for the rest of his elementary school years for the safety of the other students...and for himself, for some kids wanted to get revenge for what happened to their friends by throwing him off a bridge.

Patty called herself crazy for falling in love with her Zera the Mant card, but Yuri having deadly imaginary friends took the cake. She shrugged it off. They were scary stories about him, but that's just it. They were just stories. She had known Yuri for years and never had an encounter with Bakura, same with Nick, Tyson, and their transgender friend Carter. Patty then put her cards back into her backpack. It would be another fifteen minutes before the bus reached the school, so she leaned her head against the window and fell asleep.


Nick Rogers - Slums Underneath the Central Island


FInal Fantasy VII: REMAKE

Art by Kurobot (Deviant Art)


Nicholas Rogers's annoying alarm buzzed relentlessly, shaking both the night table it was perched on and the frame of Nick's bed. He forced himself up and smashed the alarm clock with his fist, finally shutting it down. He cursed through his teeth, so his foster mother could not hear him. If there was one thing in this world she couldn't stand, it was foul language. Even though it was still early in the morning, darkness still enveloped Nick's room. He climbed down his makeshift bunk bed and sulked to the window, pulling the curtains apart.

Only a bright grayness filled his room, but there still wasn't enough light to illuminate the whole of it. 

That was because, where he lived, he could never see the sky. He lived in a townhouse in the shanty part of Aquarius where the poor and downtrodden lived in makeshift houses built of wood and junk underneath the titanic plates and columns holding up the big city above them. Doomed he was to live in the underbelly of Aquarius, stuck under the shadows of the plates and the tall highways that connected the other islands to it. 

Nick opened the windows to his room. A fierce wind smashed him in the face and knocked a few action figures off their shelves. The loud cacophony of foul mouthes, South American music, fierce winds, and seagulls flying under the plates greeted him. The waves smashing against the hull of the floating island almost drowned out the rest of the ambiance of the slums. Heavy machinery operating in the junk level just above the slums 

"Another day in paradise," Nick said, lazily scratching his ass. 

Oddly enough, Phil Collin’s song titled Another Day in Paradise was playing from a radio perched on the window of a poor vendor’s food truck. The people down here were poor, dirty from head to toe, and making a living off whatever they could find.

The people up top. Well…well they didn’t have a care what went on down here. This place and the people living in it were beneath them. Literally. The poor souls who got stuck down in Los Angeles Rojas were people who were unfit to live in Aquarius or refugees or immigrants who tried to sneak in and got caught. 

The people up top called them Stowaways since they were living beneath the plates the way a stowaway would if they were hiding aboard a ship. Phobos Corp and their military arm, RAPTOR, didn’t do anything about it. Due to some deal with the mafia running the streets of Aquarius, the Stowaways were allowed to build their rundown city out of the trash they would scrap from the garbage dump.

"Today is going to be the day!" Nick Rogers said, looking out the window of his room. A home. Considering where he was, he was thankful to have that

Nick's foster mother, Consuelo, had saved enough money to buy a building crafted from three giant containers fused with a wooden house to use as a home and a place to conduct her business.

Nick and his adopted brother, Sam, lived in separate rooms on the second floor, while Consuelo was quaintly living on the third floor, which was a studio apartment. She was an immigrant from Lima, Peru who paid a syndicate known as the Martinetti Family to get her to Aquarius, so long as she paid back her debts afterward.

Lately, she was falling behind on her payments making Nick worry. The Martinetti family was a dangerous faction. Falling behind in payments usually led to being taken off the island. Or worse.

"If I can just win the tournament next month!" Nick whispered to himself. "Consuelo will have enough to pay back those jerks."

As he put his shoes on, he saw a picture of the Phobos Tower on his laptop. That building is the tallest structure in the western hemisphere and it was about to get bigger; for construction was almost complete on a fourth tower that was being made to commemorate the founder's son, Yuri.

"Bah!" Nick scoffed and closed his laptop. He couldn't help but feel offended every time he looked at that building.

It made no sense that there were some in this world who could stand to live in tall and luxurious ivory towers like that and sleep soundly at night while people like Nick and his family suffered from a provincial life in the slums. If they had the technology to create an artificial sun to power this floating monstrosity, as well as make it sail around the world like a boat, why couldn't they do something to improve the lives of everybody down here?

As much as he wanted to diss the tower, he couldn't, because his best friend was the son of the owner of said tower.

"Yuri," Nick said, tying his shoes. "I know you and I are like brothers, man, but can't you do something to help us out down here?"

Nick had tried to convince Yuri to aid his family with their financial troubles, but even though they were the closest of friends, Yuri was quite spoiled and sometimes rotten to the core. Yuri always refused him, and his father - though aiding Nick with a few scholarships now and then - was not keen on aiding those less fortunate than himself, especially if they were stowaways who paid crime lords to get them into Aquarius.

"Nicholas! Samuel!" Consuelo called from down below. "Apúrense (Hurry up!). The guards are not patient men. If you don't go to them on time, they won't let you up. You don't want to be late for school."

Nick quickly dressed in his uniform, which was badly creased and wrinkled, and even stained with chili sauce. He put on his trademark beanie with the symbol of the Earth Attribute in Duel Monsters embroidered on the front, and hurried downstairs where his brother, Sam, was sitting at a booth helping himself to a bowl of Fruit Loops.

"What up, bro!" Sam said.

Nick high-fived his little brother. "Hurry up so we can head out, man. The ferry's about to leave soon. I can't be late for school because I'm in enough trouble as it is with Mr. Montgomery."

Sam sneered, his cheeks bloated; for they were full of the cereal. "Yeah, you almost flunked last year, dude. He was plenty mad at you. If you screw up your senior year, you can forget about going to college."

"It's no laughing matter!" Consuelo said, approaching the booth with a plate of waffles for Nick. "Mr. Montgomery trusted you to have good grades, mi amor, but you constantly failed him. Had it not been for those after-school programs, you would have flunked your junior year. Promise me you'll get Duel Monsters out of your head and focus on your studies."

Nick sat down in the booth, quickly cutting the waffles with his fork.

"But, Consuelo, there's a big tournament coming up in the convention center next month. It has a cash prize of fifty thousand dollars. If I win, you'll have more than enough money to pay back the Martinettis and keep the restaurant going strong."

"I appreciate your trying to help, Nicholas," Consuelo said, running to the kitchen to check on the chickens she had to prepare for lunch that day. "But that is a huge gamble. There are no guarantees you'll be successful."

"Especially not with that deck," said Sam.

"Shut up, Sam!" Nick snapped.

"Hey! Hey!" yelled Consuelo. "I will not have that kind of language here, Nicholas!"

Sam sniggered silently and pointed at Nick. Nick shot him a grim look, baring his yellowed teeth.

Once done with their breakfast, they kissed their foster mother goodbye and walked through the slums dubbed Los Angeles Rojas. A mariachi song called Las Gaviotas was playing loudly on the intercoms conveniently placed around the slums. Sam put his hood over his head. He could not tear his gaze from the size of the Phobos Tower, which stood thousands of feet into the sky. The upper half was completely covered by clouds.

"Look at the size of that thing," said Sam. "I still can't believe it no matter how many times I see it. Someday, we're gonna move out of here and live in a place like that!"

"It's not a place to live," said Nick. "That's where Duel Monsters is made. But it is on the central island where all the big dogs of Aquarius live. I promise we'll move there someday."

"You don't even have any rare cards in your deck," said Sam. "Let alone monsters with more than thirteen hundred points."

"Oh yeah, well you just watch," Nick said approaching a vendor selling cards from a caged window to his small convenience store.

Nick bought a Metal Raiders pack with the money he was supposed to use for his lunch. He had enough to buy Sam a pack of candy. He thanked the man and walked back to the road towards the pier where the ferry would take them to school.

"Come on, Lady Luck," Nick said shaking the pack for good luck. "Watch you get nothing," Sam said, eating one of the candies.

"Oh yeah, you just watch!" said Nick.

He opened the pack anxiously and pulled the cards out. There were nine cards per pack with a chance for an ultra-rare or even a secret rare.

He flipped through the cards.

Griggle. Kagemusha of the Blue Flame. Water Element. Wood Remains. Candle of Fate. Zone Eater. White Dolphin. Electric Snake, and finally his rare card.

It was a normal rare known as Furious Sea King, whose name was imprinted in silver letters.

"Oh, yeah," Sam said sarcastically. "Those are real tournament winners in there."

"Okay, so maybe my luck was bad with this pack. But it will get better soon, you'll see."

"Sure it will," said Sam. "You said that last time." Nick pocketed his new cards and gave Sam a stern look.

"One day, Sam, I'm going to make you eat your words."

They walked across the slums and approached a metal gate guarded by two RAPTOR soldiers. "Passport?" One of them demanded. 

Nick and Sam showed them their passes to get to the top of the plate. The guard nodded and handed their passports back. "So you're a senior now, eh, Nick."

"Yeah, that I am," Nick replied. He stuffed his passport into the pocket of his school blazer. 

"I hope your grades are good. If they are, you could get a good job. Something that can pay you lots of money so you don't have to come up and down all the time."

"He wants to be a pro Duelist," said Sam. "As if."

"Geez, tell everyone, why don't ya!" Nick barked at him. "Seriously, man, you're such a pest."

"Whatever, dude, don't be late when picking me up. I can't wait to see my darling Patty again."

"All right you two," laughed the guard. "Get moving. Good luck this year, Nick. Don't waste the opportunity Mr. Montgomery gave you. You've got a million doors open to you."

Nick and the guard fist-bumped. "Thanks, Miller. See you later." 


Yuri - St. Augustus Senior High School


"Hey, Yuri. Earth to Yuri…Yuri? Yuri? HEY, ASSHOLE, WAKE UP!"

"Huh…wha?" Yuri snapped out of his daydream.

He was in the middle of a Duel which brought back the images from the dream he had last night.

Truth be told, it was not the first time he had seen the man with the golden pyramid around his neck. The man visited Yuri in his dreams since his seventeenth birthday a year ago, and they only got worse as his eighteenth year was fast approaching. Eighteen.

It was an age most kids in the floating metropolis of Aquarius would brag about and be excited for. It meant independence, the blooming into adulthood, and more lavish and adventurous lifestyles. But because of the intense nightmares, Yuri was feeling more dread than happiness.

Nick sat on the other side of the lunch table. His arms crossed over his chest and his cards quivering in the grip of his hand. He gazed impatiently into Yuri's abnormal eyes. "Let's go, Yuri!" Nick grumbled, tapping his cards on the table.

Yuri. It was a name given to him by his father-figure, Sergei. He wasn't called by the masculine term, Yuri, meaning Farmer in the Russian language. Uncle Sergei teased him by calling him, Yuri, the Japanese term meaning lily flower because Sergei often joked that the boy was like a flower, for he was tender, sweet, very shy, and easily got hurt on the job at the card shop. Yuri gave a yawn and covered his mouth with a polite hand.

Nick began to grow impatient. "Come on man, I ended my turn five minutes ago!" Nick leaned back in his chair, the steel groaning while trying to move along with him. "What's gotten into you?"

Yuri groaned and ran a hand through his jet-black hair. His bangs, hanging on the left side of his face, slid through his fingers and bounced back into position.

He took his eyes off his Dueling hand and looked around the cafeteria of St. Augustus Senior High School, grinning at the paper ghosts hanging from the ceiling and the laughing Jack-O-lanterns of orange construction paper taped to the walls.

A black banner reminding the students of the Homecoming Dance was hung over the hallway leading to the cafeteria with the words in orange glitter and decorated with silhouettes of witches, cats, and a haunted house by a full moon with an orange backdrop.

Nick shook his head, frustration boiling in his chest when he realized Yuri was flat-out ignoring him. "What gives?"

"Sorry," Yuri said in a rather monotonous, yet chilling tone. "I was up all night." Nick scratched his chin and said: "Up all night? Doing what? We didn't have that much homework."

"I had a dream," Yuri said as he sighed.

"Dreaming again?" Patty said with a warm smile. She was watching the game from the windowsill overlooking their table in the cafeteria.

Nick made a nasty sneer as he looked at the pleated black skirt of her uniform. The sunshine in the window behind her made her glow like an angel.

The storm was finally over, so now they would have no trouble going to the card shop to play for the rest of the afternoon. "What was it this time?" Nick asked, scratching his head and admiring Patty's little skirt.

"I saw two men in a Duel," Yuri answered.

"You sure it wasn't you?" Patty asked, kicking her legs back and forth playfully from her perch.

Yuri nodded in reply as he looked back at her. "I'm sure it wasn't me. The man's opponent was Mr. Hairdo."

"Him again?" Patty said in shock. She leaned her head to the right in amazement. This was the fourth time Yuri complained about having a nightmare with this mysterious character.

"What did he want this time?" Nick leaned forward. "And are you sure this dude, Mr. Hairdo, was Dueling wasn't you, bro?"

"Yeah, I'm really sure it's not me," said Yuri, scratching his forehead. "He kept calling the other Duelist 'prince'. And I know it wasn't me because they Dueled at a level I haven't seen before. The two of them were masters of their craft. The Duel they played was just beautiful. They used monsters I haven't seen before. Any of you hear about Synchro Summoning?"

"Synchro what?" said Nick.

"What about Xyz Summoning?" Yuri asked.

"Sounds new to me," Patty said with a shrug. "Are they a new concept your father has made up?"

Yuri grunted and shook his head. "I asked him, and he said he didn't know what I was talking about."

"Hmm." Patty scratched her chin. The tiny black stars on her fingernails glimmered with each movement. She narrowed her bright green eyes, heavily outlined with mascara, and started pondering the mystery. "That's odd."

"Yuri scratched his head again, this time a little more hectically. "As I said, he was called Prince. And I'm no prince."

Patty giggled at his words. "No, but you're the heir to the biggest fortune in the world. That kind of makes you a prince. Ah, yes! A Prince of Duel Monsters."

"I don't think so," said Yuri.

Patty leaned forward and patted his shoulder. "You'll always be a prince to me, Yuri."

Nick watched with an ear-to-ear grin as Patty crossed her long legs before he said: "And what did Mr. Hairdo say to the other guy? This prince?"

Yuri shrugged at the question. "He said it was almost time for him to come home or whatever. The weirdest thing I forgot to mention is, Mr. Hairdo is a fucking cartoon."

"A cartoon character with a funky hairdo?" said Nick. He suppressed a laugh because he knew how sensitive Yuri was. His lips trembled and he sniffed. "What the hell have you been smoking, kid?"

"You're so weird, Yuri," Patty said with a shake of her head.

"Well, I too have a dream," said Nick.

"You do?" Yuri asked.

"Yes!" Nick placed a hand over his heart and held out his other hand clutching his cards dramatically. "I have a dream…that, my fellow men, won't be judged by the color of their skin. And that Yuri would finally wake up and make his move!"

Yuri scoffed in annoyance and leaned back in his chair. He felt the back of his head hitting Patty's knee.

"Nice to know your essay on Martin Luther King has increased your IQ by a few points," Patty said. She rubbed Yuri's temples, causing Nick to go red.

"They just won't stop," Yuri groaned. He patted Patty's hands and thanked her.

"Yeah, right, dreams," Nick said laughing out loud. "He knows I beefed up my deck with an arsenal of new butt-kicking monsters for the tournament next month at the convention center. In that case, I don't blame him for stalling. Well, Yuri, are you going to make a move or what?"

"I end my turn," Yuri replied, rather droll.

"Without playing anything?" Patty asked. "That's pretty risky, dude." She waved to flag down two of their friends, who noisily entered the cafeteria.

"Are they at it again?" asked their South Korean friend named Carter Kim. He jogged into the cafeteria after she was done helping his friend with a project in the chemistry lab. Unlike the other boys, Carter was wearing a girl's uniform with torn black leggings under the skirt, and his face was covered in makeup. His hair was spiked and pointed upwards with three curved bangs hanging over his forehead.

"Yup, this game is just that addicting," replied his lab partner, an African American young man whose name was Tyson. He stood over Nick, arms folded over his chest. "I was hoping to go up against Yuri, but it looks like Nick beat me first. How's the match going?"

Patty moved her head from side to side and pursed her lips. "Well, it's not looking good for Yuri."

"You serious? Nick's beating him?"

Nick sneered, flashing his unhealthy teeth. "Okay, Patty, we'll just see how excellent Yuri is after this."

He rubbed his rugged chin whilst putting on his thinking cap as he looked at his hand wondering what to play next. He had a Burglar, Hinotama Soul, M-Warrior #1, Skull Servant. "Ah," he said when he found the monster he wanted to use.

"Here we go. I summon my Furious Sea King." He slapped his card onto the paper playmat.

"So, loves, tell me again how this game works?" Carter asked. "Yuri's godfather really motivated me to get into the game."

"The cards have attack points on them," explained Patty. "Players can pit their monsters against one another in exciting Duels. Each player starts off with 8000 Life Points. But since this is a casual game and we're short on time, Nick and Yuri are playing with 2000. The one who can get their opponent's Life Points to zero wins."

Nick attacked Yuri's monster; a reptile called Drooling Lizard. Patty did the calculations on her iPhone deducting the difference of their monster's attack points from Yuri's Life Points. She made a worried click with her tongue. The chibi Zera the Mant keychain on her phone jingled when her wrist jolted from the shock of Nick taking the lead over Yuri.

"Damn, Yuri, Nick's brought you down to your last nine hundred Life Points. You gotta play smart if you want to win this match, man."

"Nice card, huh?" boasted Nick, he held up the Furious Sea King for her to see. "And rare, too — notice the silver lettering. Bet you don't have anything that can stand up to him, eh, Yuri." He looked up at Patty and gave a flirtatious click. "Pretty impressive, eh Patty?"

"It's a nice card," Patty admitted with a scowl; for she could see that Nick's eyes were not facing hers. She glared at him disapprovingly, and she crossed her arms over her chest to block the view from his insensitive gaze.

Carter was also offended and snapped his fingers over Nick's face. "You, sir, need to stop focusing on her boobs and worry about what Yuri is about to play next."

"She's right," Patty said. "I can see it right now, and it's not going to end well for you. So you better set a trap or something."

Yuri would have scorned Patty for giving Nick the warning, but he didn't care. His mind was still fogged by his strange dreams. Besides, Nick didn't pay any attention to her warning. He was quite confident with his new monster, despite having such a meager ATK, and resorted to flirting with Patty again.

And, again, she rejected his love, not that it mattered. There was no crushing that spirit of his, it was like a piece of iron. Nick never gave up no matter how badly Patty rejected him. She told him once that it did not matter what he did, she would reject her from now until doomsday.

Yuri didn't blame her. Though good friends since a very young age, everyone in the group agreed that Nick was not decent-looking. And to make matters worse, he reeked of his own body odor. He didn't care too much about his person, not even showering after gym class. He, Yuri, and the others ran the tracks in the tropical afternoon heat and he was sweating profusely. When class was done, he just slapped some body spray on his person and washed his face in the sink before dressing up for class again.

Carter smelled the nasty odor, made a gagging sound, and walked away fanning the air with her hand. "Oof, it smells like shit up in nyah,"

"God DAMN, Nick!" Tyson said scooting towards Yuri's spot while waving the air in front of his face. "You need to shower after gym class, dawg. You reek like the ammonia in the frog we dissected last year."

Patty scoffed and tapped her fingers on her biceps. "Humph! You are so juvenile, Nick. Can we go back to the game please?"

"Yeah, please, I have work later," Yuri said recollecting himself. Nick nodded in agreement. He checked his watch for the time and grinned seeing he had time to spare for the task he had to do later.

Nick bobbed his head. "Well, Patty's good looks almost distracted us from my victory. You're still stalling, Yuri. I can tell you got nothing that can stand up to my rare Furious Sea King."

"Yeah, it's a nice card," said Yuri. "But he's not good enough to contend with this." Yuri put down an even stronger monster on the mat.

"Black Dragon Jungle King. Attack!"

Yuri's beast was ultra-rare with gold letters and a holographic background, shaming Nick's Furious Sea King and his miserable silver lettering.

Patty whistled and said: "Wow, twenty-one hundred attack points! See Nick? Now THAT'S an impressive monster. Nice moves, Yuri."

"Son of a bitch!" groaned Nick. "Not him again. With an attack strength like that, he demolishes my Sea King and my Life Points."

"Another gift from Sergei?" Carter asked.

"A reward," Yuri corrected. "He gives me free packs for every 'A' that I bring home."

"Well you are a hard-working kid," said Patty. "That must mean you got plenty of packs last semester when our grades came in."

Tyson gave a warm laugh and playfully slapped Yuri's shoulder. "You sure the cards Yuri has in his deck have nothing to do with the fact that his father created the game?"

"My dad would never do such a thing and you know that," Yuri said, looking up at Tyson. "It wouldn't be fair to the other players if he pulled favors."

"Whatever you say, pal," said Nick.

A student watching the matches nearby from his table shook his head. "Eh, he's good but he's not as good as Andre Martin."

"Andre who?" Yuri asked.

"Oh, he's the new kid in school," said Patty. "He's supposed to be really good or something."

"He is," said the fellow student. "Me and my friends took him on three on one and he whooped us all. Yuri's Black Dragon Jungle King is mere peanuts compared to some of the tough monsters Andre's got in his deck."

"Oh, really?" Tyson looked down at Yuri with a cocky smirk and folded his arms over his chest. "Well, I don't know about you, but Yuri's going to be President of Phobos Corp one day and he's going to be the lord and master of Aquarius. Not to mention he's going to practically own the game once he takes the helm of his father's empire. My man's smart, too. What he lacks in strength, he more than makes up for with his smarts. See, Yuri doesn't go in guns a-blazin' with tough monsters. He's got strategy. That's how he wins his games."

"I get all that. But no disrespect to the future President of Phobos Corp but beating the same guy over and over again doesn't really count as good. If you guys think you can go against him, he's downstairs in the first-floor cafeteria. Some guys have set up a gauntlet-style match against him. If you hurry, you can get there on time and face him. But like I said, he's good. I wouldn't be surprised if he already finished those guys off."

"We'll just see about that," said Patty. "Thanks for the info, bud. Come on, guys. I wanna see this Andre Martin guy for myself."

"Is he really anything special?" Carter asked. 

"I never got that vibe?" Patty said. She jumped off the windowsill to grab her things from the table. She slid on her backpack and pulled her loose skirt up. "Come on. I think this'll be fun. Maybe the school's got itself its new Duel King."

They left the cafeteria, took the escalators downstairs to the first floor, and hurried to the cafeteria. There was a crowd of students in there, mobbing around one of the tables. Seeing that Yuri was coming through, the other students parted to let him and his friends pass. There was a young man with spiked dirty blonde hair drawing his first card as his next victim sat down to take him on. He had big black glasses with lenses that could turn dark on sunny days and a black round piercing on his left ear and on his right index finger, he had a gold ring in the shape of a lion with rubies for eyes clutching a giant diamond in its mouth.

Andre Martin. That was him all right. Patty stood next to Yuri to see the match. She nudged Yuri on the arm and pointed at Andre to confirm it was him. 

"I'll let you go first," said Andre. He was shuffling his deck, his cards protected by sleeves with fancy regal frames to give the monsters a royal look.

"Not that it matters," said his opponent. "I summon Celtic Guardian in attack mode. And I'll set a card face-down and end my turn."

"Not bad. For a rookie," Andre chuckled. "I activate the spell card, Banner of Courage. This will increase the ATK (Attack) of my monsters by 300 during battle. Next, I play Double Summon."

The other students ooohed at the spell card.

"Double Summon!" Carter almost croaked. "That's no easy card to find around here."

"Why's that?" Nick asked with a scoff, trying his hardest to remain unimpressed.

"It's in the name dumbass," said Patty. "Come on. Double Summon. What do you think it means? He can conduct two normal summons in one turn." 

"Two monsters?" Nick gasped.

Andre held up his cards. "I summon Millennium Golem and Judge Man in attack mode."

"Wow!" the students all said.

Andre held up a spell card with two fingers. "Next, I'll play Mystical Space Typhoon to blow away that face-down card of yours."

"My Mirror Force!" the opponent hollered.

"I saw past your bluff," Andre laughed. "Now I activate the spell, Tremendous Fire. This will deal 1000 points of damage to you. I lose 500 but it's a small price to pay. Then, I'm equipping Millennium Golem with United We Stand."


"Another rare spell card!" Tyson said over the gasps of the other students. "This will increase his ATK by 800 for each monster I have out on the field, increasing his ATK to 3600! I'll attack your Celtic Guardian and end the game."

"NO FAIR!" shouted the student.

"Get out of the way!" the boy's arrogant companion said shoving him to the side so he could sit down. "You always were the weakest, man. Let me take over!"

 "Are you the last one?" Andre asked. "I sure hope you are. I've got a train to catch."

"Don't worry, this will be quick. I summon Launcher Spider in attack mode and then I set two cards face-down and end my turn."

"Draw!" Andre said. "I'll set a card face-down and summon a monster in defense mode. I end my turn."

"And I'll start mine. I summon Cyber-Tech Alligator in attack mode. Then I'm activating my face-down card. The spell, Ultimate Offering. Now I can make an additional summon by paying 500 of my Life Points. I'll pay a thousand to summon Spikebot and Rude Kaiser. Now I've got four monsters against your puny face-down card! I'll attack first with Launcher Spider."

"You've activated my trap card. Trap Hole of Spikes. This will destroy your Launcher Spider and then you take damage equal to half of its attack points."

The opponent dropped his cards. "I...I lost."

"Wow," Patty whispered. "He beat that guy on his own turn."

"Stupid move," Yuri said walking away. 

"Who?" Patty asked. She followed him out of the cafeteria. "Hey, where ya going, Yuri? Who made the stupid move? Andre or his opponent?" 

"His opponent for one. We have 2000 Life Points. It seemed kinda dumb for that guy to waste them so carelessly like that. Like the guy upstairs told me. Easy opponents are nothing to brag about."

"I'll say," said Tyson. "But you're no easy opponent, Yuri. Why don't you take on Andre Martin and show everyone in school who's really the best?"

"Yeah, take him on, Yuri!" Patty said, grabbing hold of Yuri's arm. 

Yuri shook her arm off and he patted her head. "Calm down, tiger. And I can't now. You heard what he said. He's got a train to catch. And we've got a bus to ride. We gotta pick up Nick's brother from school. We need to hurry or I'll never hear the end from Consuelo about how irresponsible we are."

"Why don't we pay the shop a visit? I could use some new powerful cards for my deck. Maybe I'll even beat you."

"Keep dreaming, kiddo," Patty said jumping off the windowsill and grabbing her backpack. "Yuri's twice the Duelist you'll ever be."

Yuri appreciated her comment and patted her knee as thanks. "Well, before we go to the shop, I think it'd be best if we pick up your little brother, Nick."

Nick nodded in agreement. "Yeah, Consuelo, was all up on my grill last time I forgot to pick him up."

They picked up their cards, slipped on their backpacks, and proceeded out the door of the school's courtyard where Yuri squinted after stepping out the door and the bright afternoon sun assaulted his eyes. There was a tall fountain of silver in the shape of a monk carrying books and scrolls in the crook of his arm. Outside, a group of girls from the varsity volleyball team was huddled around the fountain awaiting their rides. A few of them were even Dueling, the captain showing off her new Super War-Lion monster.

"Hi, Yuri!" one of them called out. "Thanks again for the packs."

Yuri waved at her bashfully.

"What are you doing giving free packs to girls and not me? Your best friend!" said Nick.

"She's new in town," said Yuri, "Her name's Natalya - She's my uncle's niece. Most of the cards in her deck are from the beginner's structure deck. I just chipped in with a few Magic Ruler packs to help her out."

"That's so nice of you, Yuri," said Patty. "Care to show me the same courtesy someday?"

"Wouldn't she like to tag along with our group?" Tyson asked. "I'd like to get to know her a little better."

"Not a good idea," said Yuri. "Besides, we still have to pick up Sam."

Tyson shrugged. He looked back at the girl with a smug grin.

Yuri breathed out of his nose to let out his frustration. "Don't get any ideas, my godfather was once the world sambo champion back in Russia. So, behave around her, please. For your sake."

Tyson nodded, knowing best not to annoy Yuri. 

Chapter Text


Ser Joey - The Spire of the Kings 

September 4 - Year 18 4AOS


The Spire of the Kings, the place where the High Kings of Termnnia called home. Ser Joey Wheeler the Black Dragonknight happily made his way down the halls of the castle located at the top of the mountain known as the King's Mountain.

He passed by patrols of Black Luster Soldiers and Buster Bladers who defended the Spire with their lives. He entered the throne room where his friends would be discussing the new alliance which would bring Termnnia together. Two Dragonic Knights had to open the horrendously tall doors for him.

"Thank ya, gentlemen." Joey nodded his head, feeling quite proud of himself for he had just won a Duel Jousting tournament. He coughed confidently and marched into the throne room.

"Mornin' everyone!" he called out so his friends could hear his voice over the thundering waterfalls. They were standing together over a war table in front of the majesty of the Diamond Throne.

Tristan, Duke, Téa, his sister; Serenity, Mai, and Ser Yusei of the Five Dragon Knights surrounded it.

"So good of you to join us," said Yusei.

"We've only been waiting like an hour," grumbled Mai Valentine, the most beautiful Eldori in Termnnia. She was often called the Delight of Termnnia and even The War-Starter because of the countless, foolish wars that many lords, nobles, and even kings, have started to just claim her.

"Yer, lookin' radiant as ever, Mai," Joey said.

Mai smiled and defiantly rolled her eyes. "Don't think you can flatter me just because you're an anointed knight, Joseph."

"Heh, heh, ha!" laughed Joey. He looked around and noticed someone was missing. "So where's Yuge?"

"If you would have been here earlier, you would have already heard the news," said Ser Yusei. "Looks like Master Yu-Gi-Oh took a head start and left for the Senate meeting."

"What?" Joey cried out in shock. "Without us?"

Serenity gently handed him a note. Joey scanned the note repeatedly with his brown eyes to his brain could comprehend what he just read. He couldn't believe it. "What!" he cried out. "And he's not gonna join us for Serenity's briefing either. He says he's going south to find some 'secret weapon' that will put a halt to the Naralians. Man, the nerve of dat guy. At least he could'a let one of us tag along."

"Maybe it's for the best," said Ser Tristan Taylor. "Yugi and the Spirit of the Puzzle work well when they're alone."

"What do we do now?" Yusei wondered as he stroked his chin. "I got my Duel Runner fueled up for nothing."

"Well..." said Serenity. "We're just going to have to trust Yugi. If this so-called 'secret weapon' is capable of putting a stop to the violence taking place up north, so be it. He's got his quest and I've got one for all of us."

"So let's hear it," said Mai. "Prince Daveed is coming back. Soon, we'll have our High King. Maybe then, he'll get us out of this mess with those religious radicals from the Covenant up north and the Orcs who threaten war in the East across the sea."

"If the lions don't eat him first," said Ser Yusei. "When we bring Daveed back from hiding, we're putting him in the den. There has been so much backstabbing and corruption over the years. Three times already we have kept bad people from sitting down on the Diamond Throne."

"Ah, we got nothin' t' worry about," said Joey. "The Divine Beasts are just gonna strike down da person dey hate and see unfit to sit on it, right?"

Yusei tapped on the map. "Of course, but that was in the days of the Kings of Old. Nowadays, they just stand idle and do nothing. As I recall King Antilles of Dragonrock summoned Slifer before Daveed was born."

"Yeah, before," said Joey. "But den he came to his senses and went to a real heir to da throne in Prince Daveed. He summoned all three Divine Beasts just as a baby."

"Talk about power," Yusei said sharing Joey's wonder at the boy's gift. "I certainly can't wait for him to come home. I imagine he goes by another name, right Serenity?"

"Yeah, he's been given a cute nickname," Serenity giggled. "It means flower because they say he's so sweet and delicate like one."

"What do they call him?" Joey asked.

Serenity giggled. "Yuri."

"Yuri?" Joey scratched his head for a moment and smiled. "Yeah, I kinda like it. It suits him. It's less serious than Daveed of House Whatchamacallit. "

"Right," said Mai. "Well, let's get down to business. I know Yugi's putting up a valiant effort in the senate, but we all know they're going to veto his request to bring Yuri back early. They say they need a better track on his progress."

"Say what?" said Tristan.

Yusei chuckled in his throat. "It's politics for creating a waste of time to keep Yuri off the throne. But Serenity found a way for us to keep tabs on Yuri's Dueling skills on Earth."

"Yes, I have," said Serenity. She set her messenger bag on the table, opened it, and took out a stone of black glass veined with what looked like burning amber. "Seeing Stones," she said. "Thought to have been lost in the Inquisition but there's still a few left. And Yugi knew just where to find some for all of us."

"Sweet," said Tristan. "So we can keep tabs on Yuri any time we want, right?"

"Uh oh," said Mai. "Yuri's still just a child. What if I catch him..."

"Don't worry, Mai," Serenity said at once before Mai could finish. "The stones only give you visions of the target when they're Dueling, so we don't need to worry about any surprises."

Yusei burst out laughing. "Man, that's a relief. You all sure know how to prepare for anything, huh? It's no wonder you practically won the Gate Wars by yourselves."

"Thanks, Ser Yusei," said Mai. "I just hope our preparing will be enough to grant us favor with the Senate."

"And if they don't?" Duke asked. "Just what do want us to do, Serenity?"

Serenity cleared her throat and paused to gather her thoughts. "Yuri is living with a very rich man in the Standard Dimension named Jacob Montgomery. He's a good father and he loves Yuri to death. However, he doesn't spoil him. He's very strict when it comes to money. So strict that he won't even lend him a few coins or whatever they use for a pack of cards. It's because of this that Yuri has to work for little to no pay at a card shop."

"What!" everyone shouted. 

"The future High King of Termnnia working retail!" shouted Joey. "Man, dat makes my blood boil."

Mai's face turned pink and her lips trembled. "That guy is the richest man in the Standard Dimension. How could he do this to him?"

"I don't know, " said Serenity. "That's just the way it is. The father believes that the only way Yuri should get money is if he earns it. And with that...curse Bakura placed on him, his spirit is clouded by doubt and fear. He doesn't want excel any further than where he is right now. Solomon Muto believes that Yuri can overcome this curse by Dueling. However, since he can't have access to good cards, his deck is..."

"Crap," Joey said. 

Serenity clicked her tongue. "I was about to say not good, but that will do, I guess. So I started thinking. What if we could lend Yuri some money?"

"How, pray tell, do you plan on us doing that?" Duke asked.

"The Monster Hunters Guild," Serenity answered. "Now that the days are getting darker and we're another year without a High King on the Diamond Throne, the pathways to the Shadow Realm are getting wider and more abundant. Monsters are popping up everywhere. The Guild Masters have called it the gold rush. And I want all of us to take part in it. Yugi agrees."

Joey leaned over the table. "So lemme get dis straight. You want us to take on contracts for da Monster Hunters Guild. And we use the money we earn to give Yuri some funds to get new cards?"

"That's just the first phase of my plan," Serenity said, brushing some hair over her ear with her fingertips. "Thanks to Yugi and some documents provided by Prince Ryon of Katina, I've uncovered the location of a very powerful artifact that is sure to convince the Senate to bring Yuri back. Mai knows a person who can get me to the secret location of this artifact, however she charges a fortune. A king's ransom pretty much because she's the best."

Tristan scratched his head and sighed. "So you want us to travel all over Termnnia, find guildhalls for hunting monsters and earn enough money to not only finance your expedition to find some long-lost artifact but also give Yuri a bit of spending money. This is crazy."

Serenity placed her hands over her lap and made an expression with sorrowful eyes, her cheeks started flushing pink. "Tristan. I know it sounds crazy but you're all the best warriors in Emboldor. You're the only group of fighters I know who can help me with this. Won't you please be a part of this? For me? Tristan? Pretty please."

Tristan suddenly smiled and puffed out his chest. "Of course, I will! You can count on me, Serenity! Ser Tristan is on the job!" 

"Idiot," said Duke. "All she has to do is flutter those long eyelashes of hers and she can get you to delve into a Blue-Eyes White Dragon den. Well, if this is for Yuri, then I'm on board. His dad's philosophy might be the end of us. So we cannot afford to let him hold us back." 

"I don't know what good I'll do," said Yusei. "But if me or the other knights come across any contracts while we scout for the long-lost Dragon Summoner, then we'll take the jobs and send any funds back to you as soon as we can."

"I guess I'm in," said Mai. "It sure beats sitting around the Spire of the Kings all day waiting for something to happen."

Joey crossed his arms and sighed. "Fine. I'm in. We put Yuri in there. So it's up to us to get him out. I'm in. When do we leave?"

"We best leave now," said Serenity. "I have a feeling the Senate is going to be of no help to us today." 


The Grand Council Chamber - Yami Yugi


The hearing was not going at all like he planned. Yami Yugi placed a hand over his eyes and listened as the voices of the few favoring his notion were drowned out by those favoring the scheme of his opponent, King Antilles Dragonheart of Dragonrock. He stood beside Yami in a metal box with iron rails coiled with vines. He looked at Yami and grinned, knowing full well he had all but lost this battle.

He was tall and lithe for a man his age. He was balding, losing most of the hair in his forehead and dome. The wisps that remained were a pale color of blond mixed with silver. His chin and neck were fuzzed by a grizzled beard. The sunlight caused his bluish-green eyes to twinkle with arrogance.

Yami turned his gaze away and looked at the councilors, leaders of the Termnnian senate with Pegasus in the middle as High Chancellor of Termnnia. The Right-Hand of the High King, a title dubbed to those who found themselves in such a position. Pegasus and the Councilors were sitting along a fifty-foot curved wall shaped to look like the wings of a mighty dragon.

The head was where the High King's chancellor sat and dealt with these problems. The throne was carved underneath its mouth, a glowing crystal embedded in its head.

That was where Pegasus sat. Surrounding the wall was a deep moat with small lit fountains. Behind the wall, four tall stained-glass windows illuminated the Grand Council Chamber in an explosion of colors. Violet, blue, purple, red, yellow, and green clashing for dominance.

Councilor Jane Chrichton stood and said: "The recent wave of assassins is a matter of great concern. But there is no evidence that Bakura was involved in any way."

Lord Gwendon Smith, another member of the council spoke, too. "The investigations led by the House of Intelligence has turned up no evidence to support your claim that Bakura and other associated members of the Sisterhood are of any threat."

He held up a large stack of papers. "Per command of the council, we have sent an agent to keep an eye on him. Said agent sends us long and very detailed reports of the prince's daily activities. We have read them very thoroughly and thus fall, he reports no wrongdoings or strange activity. The prince is safe and sound."

"Has he seen everything?" Yami countered, pounding his fist on his desk, and shaking the green lamp. "What of my friend Joey? He slew a whole group of them the day before yesterday. They tried to torture his sister and Ser Tristan. A Royal Guard. And they carried this!"

Yami held up a hood ripped off from a cloak. A golden eye was emblazoned on the top. Those on his side gasped, while those opposed howled in contempt.

"It's the mark of the Rare Hunters," he said. "They are trying to find him! Come to your senses. Bakura is not the only one involved in this matter."

"The one who should come to his senses is you, Master Yu-Gi-Oh," sneered Antilles. "We are only trying to help the boy."

"How is keeping him in danger going to help him?" Yami retorted. "We must bring him back to Termnnia now!"

"And have him in even more danger?" said Antilles. "You wish to bring him back here without even giving him the time to adjust to his destiny. Think of the trauma you will put upon him."

"He has to find out sooner or later."

Antilles bowed his head respectfully.

"I understand that, Master Yu-Gi-Oh. There will be a time and place for that. But now is not said time. The prince needs to learn how to Duel if he is to survive as High King here. I've read the reports the agent from the special activities division has written. His Dueling skills are quite poor. Lackluster and unworthy of a High King. What is to happen if he returns to rule with his undistinguished skills and someone were to challenge him with the Dueling Pact? He'd lose and the challenger takes everything away from him. All the lives lost and the money spent to keep him secure would have been for nothing."

"Hear! Hear!" shouted a senator on Antilles' side.

"Rare Hunters," Antilles spat. "You said the leader of those so-called Rare Hunters was a poor excuse of a youth who let his own greed and jealousy consume him to the point he was taken over by a vile spirit. The Rare Hunters are nothing but sodding mercenaries picking off the scraps of whatever job they can find. And I am sure everyone here is wise enough not to take the word of a Wheeler seriously."

The leaders who favored Antilles laughed and pounded their desks. Yami turned his head quickly to look at Antilles and snarl at him. Councilor Lockwood pounded on the arm of his throne with a jeweled mallet. "Order! Order!" he shouted. "That's enough! Settle down all of you!"

"No disrespect to your friend, Master Yu-Gi-Oh," said Councilor Kastark. "But the testimony of a knight with a track record like Joey Wheeler's is hardly compelling proof."

Those on Yami's side began to bicker and yell. Senators of the beast folk roared in his defense.

On a balcony overlooking the chambers, Alexandra giggled at the chaos. She waved a fan up and down to cool her face and neck. "My uncle always knows what to do," she sneered.

"Order! Order!" shouted Councilor Lockwood.

"You're just mad Slifer the Sky Dragon chose another!" shouted one of the senators.

"Enough!" said Pegasus, finally breaking his silence. "The chosen Duelists of the God Cards is not the purpose of this meeting."

Antilles smiled again. "This meeting has no purpose. Councilors and Senators. Master Yugi and his friends waste your time. And mine."

"You cannot hide behind your cronies, forever, Antilles!" snarled Yami.

"There is still one issue that is most noteworthy!" called a senator by the name of Arthur Hawkins. "Yugi, what about those visions you said you have? Where you visit the prince and Dueled him. Didn't he say that Bakura had some influence on him?"

"A dream?" Antilles said to the councilors. "A dream to be used as evidence? How am I to prove my case in safeguarding the prince with a corroboration such as this?"

"I agree," said Councilor Lockwood. "My apologies, Senator Hawkins, but this testimony is of no good here. The judgment of this council is based on facts and evidence. Not horrible nightmares and the speculations of a paranoid individual."

"Do you have anything else to add to this case, Yugi-boy?" Pegasus asked, before taking a sip of wine.

Yami hung his head. "You've made your decision. I will say no more on the matter. Let the Senate decide what to do with the boy."

"So be it," said Councilor Chricton. "In accordance with the bylaws of the Termnnian Kingdoms, a vote is required. All in favor of keeping Prince Daveed Delgado Wollcroft of the House Plantegrast in the other dimension until his Dueling skills have become favorable, please say Aye."

"Aye!"

"Aye!"

"Aye!"

"Aye!"

Hundreds of Ayes followed.

"All those opposed?" asked Pegasus.

"Nay!" said Senator Hawkins,

"Nay!" shouted a Teegrai, senator.

Hardly any came out.

"The Ayes have it," said Councilor Chricton. "The Senate has found no evidence of any connection with Bakura and the assassins looking to jump for the Gates. Lord Yugi, your petition to have Prince Daveed returned to Termnnia is denied."

Antilles scooped up his scrolls and looked at Yami one last time. "I am glad to see justice was served. If anything, you're the one doing the most harm to the boy, Master Yu-Gi-Oh."

"This meeting is adjourned," said Pegasus.

Yami said nothing and watched as Antilles walked away.


Patty - Neros Island Pier, Aquarius


Later that night, Patty watched the city from her cab, high up on the Ferris Wheel perched on the city docks. It was raining heavily as it usually did when Aquaris sailed past Florida's waters. Thankfully, it was nice and warm in her cab. She bit into a cheeseburger and sighed. Patty made it a habit to sit on the Ferris Wheel before she went home and reflect on the day's events. Reflect on her mistakes. Cherish the memories she made today. And most of all, think about Yuri.

Just as she was about to get on, Andre walked out of the crowd, a hot dog in hand. "Patty!" he called. "Hey, Patty." 

"Oh, you're that new kid everyone's talking about. What are you doing here?"

"Just getting a bite to eat. You?"

"I'm just...I just wanted to take a walk."

"Well, I'm not doing anything. Do you want to get something to eat?"

"I just ate, thanks."

"You don't look very happy. Something on your mind?"

"It's Yuri. He's been scaring me lately with all this talk about dreams and stuff. He says some guy with pointy hair is haunting his dreams. Dueling him and stuff."

Andre stopped chewing for a moment. He swallowed and rubbed his chin. "Really, huh? Interesting."

"You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

"Only what little I've heard from word of mouth. But I have a theory. If Dueling is on Yuri's mind, I have a feeling it will do him some good. He needs the practice. I offered him my help but...he just doesn't want it."

"It's not that he doesn't want it. He just...Look, I know you mean well. But you just jump into things without knowing anything. You don't even know us and already you're charging in white-knighting for us. Sure we've Dueled a couple of times, but that doesn't make you our friend, you know?"

The look of hurt on Andre's face made her feel bad. "Sorry if that sounded harsh. But you need to stop and think about the situation first. You expect Yuri to get good because of some motivation. That's not how things work in the real world. How do you expect Yuri to get better if his cards aren't all that good?"

"If his deck is trash, how come you have so much confidence in him?"

Patty didn't know how to answer that. "I just do," was all she could say.

Andre rubbed his chin. "I'm confused. If Yuri's the son of the game's creator, how come he doesn't get any cards or use his money to get some on his own?"

"Are you kidding? Mr. Montgomery is very strict when it comes to his kids earning money. Yuri's brother, Buzz, started his own company not too long ago. And his older sister, Kat, is going to be a Hollywood celebrity pretty soon. She and her friends are on par with the Kardashians right now. Yuri hasn't made any advances, sadly, since he's all that's left to take over for Mr. Montgomery. I mean, there's his little brother, Andrew, but he's too young. The point is, Yuri can't get a cent of Mr. Montgomery's money. He's got to earn money himself. Why do you think he's sweeping floors and cleaning windows at his uncle's card shop. It's not easy being Yuri, Andre. But he's trying his best."

"I understand. Still, I hope I can earn you guys' trust. I can help you guys, you know."

"I appreciate it, Andre. I really do. If we need your help, believe me, we'll call you. I'm sure the guys are warming up to you, too."

"You really think so?"

"Yeah, Yuri says your cool. Well, I really need to get going. So, talk to you later?"

"Wanna exchange numbers?"

"Not right now. But see you at the card shop next time."

"I'll be there. I hope you and I can have a rematch. Wanna put any stakes on the line?"

Patty cocked her hip to the left and placed her hand on it. Her jeans were wide around her waist, giving Andre a clear view of the strap of her pink thong. She saw his eyes dart downward and she smiled. The lights of the Ferris Wheel flashed brightly in her eyes, making them twinkle with color and radiate with mischief. "Well, I see you want to make things interesting. Well, what do you have in mind?"

"Loser buys lunch."

"Pfft, either way, you're making it so I spend an afternoon with you, huh? You cheeky bastard. But if those are the terms of your match, I guess I'll accept. But to make sure you don't get any ideas, we'll have lunch in the Ruby Dragon's cafe."

"All right, I understand." 

"Not a guy of many words, are you? Well, I need to get going. So long, hotshot."

She left him standing bewildered behind her. She bought her tickets to the Ferris Wheel and got on. She stretched her arms over the seat and looked out to sea. It was pitch black out there. The lights from ships in the distance flashed and the floating guard towers shined like beacons. 

"What could his dreams mean?" she wondered. "The same guy. They're always Dueling. I get that Yuri's important around here, but could there be more to him than I thought? Maybe he's meant for more than being the future president of his father's business."

She looked at the tower looming over the island. The top half was concealed in the clouds.

"What does this Mr. Hairdo guy want with my friend? If he was real, I mean. He's not, but Yuri has had that dream far too many times for this to be pure coincidence. And he's getting more and more frightened."

She looked at her Zera the Mant card at the bottom of her deck. "You have answers. I know you do. So...talk to me."

Chapter Text

 

Yuri - ???

September 6 - Year 18 4AOS



Yuri found himself in a very strange world again. He was walking down a beach with a starry night sky above him, glowing with what appeared to be the Northern Lights. But they were purple, blue, and pink instead. Gentle waves crashed against the shore, soaking his bare feet. Up ahead was a boy with wild brown hair sitting on a log in front of a campfire roasting marshmallows. 

"Hey," the boy said waving. "It's good to see ya again, man."

"Jaden?" Yuri said. "Is that you?"

"Of course, it's me. Who did you think it was."

"Now I know something's going on." Yuri stopped in front of the fire. 

"What do you mean?"

"You're not the only one I've been seeing in my dreams. Well...I didn't think I'd ever see you again since the last time I dreamt about you was in the fourth grade. But other people have been coming into my dreams as well to Duel me."

"Duel you!" Jaden let out a loud laugh full of joy. "Man, do I envy you, man. You get to Duel in your dreams, too! I wish people could Duel me in my sleep. Well, now that you're here, why don't we hang out for a bit? We could stay up late and talk about Trap Cards and Duel strategies."

"I think I'll pass," Yuri said with a chuckle. Yup. Jaden was just as he remembered him. Still overly enthusiastic about Duel Monsters. 

"Oh well, what about a Duel instead? Your time is almost coming, Yuri. I need to take you on so we can see how much you've learned."

"Why is everyone talking about my time almost coming? What does that mean? What are you trying to do? Oh, wait, wait, wait, don't tell me. I'm going to be a king, right?"

"Bingo."

"Oh no, you too? Seriously? Why is everyone disturbing me in the night to Duel me and talk about kings and crap? You've got the wrong guy!"

"No, we don't, Yuri. You're the one everybody's been protecting all these years."

"Protecting?" 

"Yeah." Jaden stood up. "You're not going to believe what we went through to make our home — your home — your REAL home — a better place for you to rule. I know it sounds crazy and I know how much you love this world. But it's time to face the facts. You're our king. You're our savior. You saved us from the most horrible evil to ever terrorize our world."

Yuri stuffed his hands into his pockets and looked at the sky. "As cool as this all sounds I find it all hard to believe. A king. It sounds cool and all but...No. No. This is just a dream, Jaden."

"No, it's not. I'll make you see reason soon enough. Get your game on!" 

A Duel Disk magically appeared on his arm and one appeared on Yuri's as well. Yuri looked at his Duel Disk and scoffed. "I don't know what Dueling me is going to do to make you convince me this is real. But if you wanna go, so be it." 

He powered on his Duel Disk and then drew his starting hand.

LP 8000

T1

"I'll go first," Yuri declared. "Hmm. Not bad. I set a card face-down and summon a monster in defense mode."

T2

"My turn!" Jaden called out. "I summon everybody's favorite golden boy, Elemental HERO Sparkman!" He called on a hero clad in blue and gold armor. Sparkman came soaring to the field surrounded by a cloak of electricity. He flexed his arms to reveal his 1600 ATK points.

"Now, I'm gonna attack with Sparkman! Destroy his face-down monster, Sparkman! Static Shockwave!"

Elemental HERO Sparkman attacked Yuri's hidden monster. Before the surge of electricity reached it, the card flipped over and revealed a hideous one-eyed creature hiding inside a blue jar. The creature screamed when it got zapped and then vanished from the field.

"A Morphing Jar!" Jaden cried out.

"That's right. Now we have to discard our entire hands and draw a fresh new one."

Jaden grimaced and stacked up the cards in his hand before sending them to the Graveyard. "Aww, man. I had some combos in there I could have used to bring out my best fusion monsters."

"Well, Jaden, as a wise man once told me. With a whole new hand comes a whole new perspective. The game. Ever shifting."

"Trying to psyche me out, Yuri. You're right about one thing. A fresh hand means fresh new ways to take you down. I end my turn."\

T3

"I guess it's my turn then." Yuri conducted his draw phase and smiled. "I activate Pot of Greed. Two more cards, baby. Now, I'm going to activate my face-down card. Ultimate Offering. With this card, I can make an additional Normal Summon or Set so long as I pay 500 Life Points. I'll pay 1000 of my Life Points to set these two monsters face-down. That's it for me."

T4

Jaden - 8000 LP

7000 LP - Yuri

"You mean that's it, Yuri? All right, then. You asked for it. I'm gonna turn up the heat with this. I summon Elemental HERO HEAT!"  

He summoned a flaming hero in a white and red costume with 1800 ATK. "And with HEAT's special ability, he gains an extra 200 ATK points for each HERO on the field, raising his ATK power to 2000. Now, HEAT will destroy you face-down."

Elemental HERO HEAT launched a fireball from his hands attacking another one-eyed creature hiding in a pot.

"Aww, no! Not Morphing Jar again!"

"You know what that means."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Jaden had to discard another good hand and replace it with a new one. It wasn't bad but it wasn't as good as the last one he had. "Okay, now I'll attack your second face-down monster with Sparkman. I swear, Yuri if it's another Morphing Jar."

Sparkman blasted the monster with his Static Shockwave attack. Another one-eyed fiend in a jar but this one was synthetic and hiding inside of a satellite.

Jaden cringed so hard that he started baring his teeth. "Oh no, that's even worse! It's Cyber Jar!" 

"That's right. And he destroys all monsters on the field. So your two HEROES are gone."

Sparkman and HEAT screamed and shattered like glass. 

"Now we pick up cards from our decks. And if any of them are level four or lower monsters, we can summon them to the field. I summon just one. Gagagigo in attack mode!"

He summoned a ten-foot-tall humanoid lizard with burning yellow eyes and sharp claws with 1850 ATK points, making him a formidable monster. 

"I summon Elemental HERO Clayman in defense mode!" said Jaden. "That's all I can do. You sent all my best monsters to the Graveyard with your stinkin' jars. I'll throw down three face-downs and end my turn."

T5

"My turn!" Yuri swiped his card off the top of his deck. "I'm going to pay 1000 more Life Points with Ultimate Offering to summon Armored Lizard and Jigabyte. And since this is a dream, I can use those interesting summoning mechanics you guys always use against me. I open the Overlay Network."

"You can Xyz Summon!" Jaden exclaimed with joy. "Sweet! Let's see what kinda monster you can cook up, Yuri."

"You won't be so excited for long, Jaden. I Overlay Gagagigo, Jigabyte, and Armored Lizard. XYZ SUMMON! RANK 4! Gagagigo the Risen!"

Gagagigo looked like he had evolved to his most powerful form. His skin was a lighter shade of green than before, He wore a white mask, and parts of his body were covered by white and gold armor. Gagagigo the Risen held up his arms and snarled. His 2950 ATK displayed next to him. Yuri was so amazed by the splendor and power of the monster that his arms slumped over his sides and his eyes bulged. "Wow!" 

"That's amazing, Yuri! I see the others have taught you a lot. You know how to Xyz Summon now."

"I guess so." Yuri narrowed his eyes and his lip twitched. "Meh, this is my dream. I guess I'm good at everything in my dream."

"No, Yuri! You can do it! You can actually Xyz Summon like a pro. Your Ultimate Offering strategy to bring that guy out is some cool stuff."

"Thanks. And if you like him, then you're going to love this. I'm using the spell, Ancient Rules. This allows me to special summon a high-level Normal monster from my hand. Say hello to Gagagigo in his most corrupted form. Gogiga Gagagigo!"

Now Yuri had two of Gagagigo's most powerful forms both from his good and evil side. Like Gagagigo the Risen, Gogiga Gagagigo had 2950 ATK.

A Kuriboh with wings floated over Jaden's shoulder. Wooooooo it hooted. "I know, Winged Kuriboh. The prince really knows what he's doing."

"That's the power of the Jar monsters," said Yuri. "They can turn the tide when you least expect it. I had a crappy hand one moment. But now, here I stand with the two strongest monsters on the field."

"And the fun just keeps going on," Jaden said with a smirk. "I've gotta hand it to ya, Yuri. You know how to throw down. But, if you think those two lizard men are going to take me down, you've got another thing comin', man."

"We'll just see about that, Jaden."

"Bring it on, Yuri!"

"Very well. Gogiga Gagagigo! Attack his Clayman."

Gogiga Gagagigo leaped across the field and slashed Elemental HERO Clayman with his sharp bronze claws. "Rrrrrarrr!" Clayman roared before he exploded.

"You activated my trap!" Jaden laughed. "Hero Counterattack! Now, you have to choose a card from my hand. And, if it's an Elemental HERO I can summon it. And I'm sorry to tell you, Yuri. It doesn't matter what you pick, cuz I've got two HEROES in my hand ready to throw down."

"I choose the one on the left."

"Nice choice! Here comes my pal, Elemental HERO Neos!" 

Jaden summoned a nine-foot-tall warrior in white and red and blue markings. He was a giant of a humanoid with 2500 ATK.

"Whoa, Jaden!" Yuri stepped in between his two Gagagigo monsters to get a good look at Neos. "When did you get him? You didn't have that card last time we Dueled."

"Went through changes as I got outta Duel Academia. I see you're about to finish high school, too. Congratulations, man. Oh, and one more thing. Hero Counterattack also lets me destroy one monster you control, so goodbye Gogiga Gagagigo."

"Rrrrar!" Neos grunted. He jumped towards Gogiga Gagigio with a single bound and punched him in the stomach, shattering him to pieces. 

"That's it for him!" said Jaden. 

"Well, as impressive as Neos is, he's still no match for Gagagigo the Risen. Attack!" 

Gagagigo the Risen rushed over the beach leaving a trail of sand as he flew by. He and Neos locked hands with each other. Their muscular arms quaked as they tested each other out. Both monsters snarled, grunted, and breathed heavily as they tried to best one another in this lock of strength. Something was wrong, Yuri thought. His Gagagigo the Risen was 450 points stronger than Jaden's Neos. He should have destroyed him by now. Suddenly, a force field formed between the two monsters. Gagagigo the Risen let go and was pushed back to Yuri's side of the field. 

"What happened?" Yuri shouted. "Your monster should have lost that round!"

"Ha-ha," Jaden laughed. "Nah, he couldn't be destroyed this turn. Cuz I activated the face-down card, Hero Barrier! Neos can't be destroyed this turn by your Gagagigo the Risen."

"Then I guess I end my turn," Yuri said. "Your move."

  T7

Jaden - 8000 LP

Yuri - 6000 LP

"I draw!" Jaden declared. "You know, Yuri, that Cyber Jar of yours may have actually cost you the game."

"What makes you say that?"

"Remember, when we picked up those five cards when it was activated? Well, I was able to get some sweet spells added to my hand because of it."

Woooooooo! Wing Kuriboh hooted again. 

"You really think I should wake him up? All right, if you say so, Winged Kuriboh. All right, I activate my third face-down. The spell card, Instant Contact! By paying 1000 of my Life Points, Yuri, I'm allowed to special summon a Level 7 HERO monster from my Extra Deck. And I choose, Elemental HERO Flame Wingman!"

A giant winged hero flew out of the jungle nearby and landed next to Neos. He held out his right arm, shaped like a dragon's head, and snapped its jaws to intimidate Yuri. 2100 ATK displayed beside him on the holographic screen.

"Next, I activate Fusion Recovery! This card lets me add a monster and a Polymerization card to my hand and I'll activate it now. Elemental HERO Flame Wingman and Elemental HERO Sparkman, combine yourselves and form into Elemental HERO Shining Flare Wingman!"

The monsters merged together and transformed into a winged warrior wearing shiny mirrored armor.

"That's not all, Yuri. I summon, Elemental HERO Blazeman! And when he's summoned, I can add a Polymerization card to my hand. And I'm going to use it right now. Elemental HERO Neos and Shining Flare Wingman, combine yourselves and become Elemental HERO Shining Neos Wingman!" 

 

ATK/3100 DEF/2500

"Oh no!" Yuri stepped backward, almost tripping on a rock. 

"And I'm still not done, Yuri. I still have one more card to play. The spell, Miracle Fusion! Now, I'm going to fuse Neos Wingman with Elemental HERO Flame Wingman, Shining Flare Wingman, Elemental HERO Neos, Sparkman, Avion, Clayman, Burstinitrix, Bubbleman, Captain Gold, Necroshade, Neo Bubbleman, and Bladedge. Time for you to wake up, Yuri. Wake up your inner king, man. Like these guys have. Combine yourselves with Neos Shining Flare Wingman and WAKE UP YOUR ELEMENTAL HERO!!"

Yuri couldn't believe it. Almost every HERO in Jaden's deck had come out to lend Shining Neos Wingman their power. 

"Your Shining Neos Wingman was stronger," said Yuri. "Why did you use him as a material for something much weaker?" 

"This special monster gains 300 ATK points for every HERO I used as a material. I counted thirteen, Yuri, so that's a grand total of 6400 ATK points."

"I don't believe this!" 

"You should. It's time to wake up, Yuri! ATTACK!" 

All the E-HEROES ganged up on Gogiga Gagagigo, beating him down one by one until he was gone. The damage Yuri took brought him down to 3450 Life Points."

"Now, Wake up's effect activates!" said Jaden. "See, when they destroy a monster, they'll deal damage to your Life Points equal to your destroyed monster's original ATK points."

"WHAT!?" 

Elemental HERO Flame Wingman soared past the other heroes. He landed with a thud in front of Yuri. Flame Wingman held up his dragon-headed arm and blasted Yuri with 2950 points of damage. Yuri's body went stiff from the stinging pain of the flames coming out of its mouth. His LP plummeted to a measly 500.

"It's time to wake up, Yuri," Jaden repeated. "Wake up."

Blazeman pumped up his fist, then flew towards Yuri to end the game. 

"Wake up, Yuri. Wake up...."


Andre - Augustus Senior High School/Standard Dimension

September 7 - Year 18 4AOS


The next day, Aquarius was passing through the waters near South Florida. Outside was getting blistering hot, but the students were cool and fresh inside the school. It was a perfect day for doing laps in the pool during gym period. Their gymnasium was built underwater since the school was so close to the ocean. All they had to do was take a slow and long ride down the escalator to get there.

Andre marched out of the locker room clad in the red and gold trunks emblazoned with the coat of arms of the school. He didn't even enter the pool, he just stood outside the entrance and stared at the beautiful architecture of the gym and glass dome with hexagon-shaped tiles. They were dozens of feet under the water. Above him was a world of azure blue. He saw schools of fish swim by and even a pod of dolphins swimming by. The walls were lined with waterfalls pouring into an indoor river that connected with beautiful organic environments. It amazed him what people could create when they let their imaginations run wild. Although, they didn't have much imagination when it came to the athletic uniforms the girls wore.

"Damn," Andre thought as he saw a few girls walking past him to play volleyball. Just then, he spotted Yuri and his friends walking by to find a spot to lay their towels so they could swim. He gulped spotting Patty in the blue once-piece she wore. It really accented her...features. She must have said something provocative, for her friends backed up from shock.

"You're gonna get what!?" Carter cried out. 

"Patty you can't be serious," Yuri said with a groan. 

She laughed at their faces and turned around to show off her plump backside. "Yeah. For my eighteenth birthday, I wanna get a butterfly tattoo on my butt? What do you think? Maybe I could get them to draw a wing on each cheek?"

"And then what?" Tyson snickered. "You get people to think you've got a butterfly trapped in your ass?" 

Nick sighed with disappointment and slumped his shoulders. "Awww no. Please don't. You've got a cute butt, Patty. Don't ruin it by putting ink on it."

"Mmm-mmm," Carter croaked in his throat. "I hate myself for saying this, but I have to agree with Nick on this one. Patty, don't ruin yourself with tattoos. Your skin is so radiant and pure." He ran a finger down her arm. "So silky smooth. No, no, no. No tattoos, honey. You're fine just the way you are?"

"What?" Patty whined. "I was hoping at least you'd be on board with this Carter."

"Honey, I helped you with that skin in the salon. It's my creation. Beauty is art, girlfriend. And I don't want to see my art ruined by ugly tattoos. Do you think Leonardo Da Vinci would approve of someone spraying graffiti on the Mona Lisa? Mmm-mmm, I think NOT! You ruin your skin with any of that shit, Patty, and I will give you such a spanking!" 

Andre noticed that Yuri was looking rather distraught this afternoon. He had bags under his eyes and he was yawning awfully. 

"What's with him?" Andre wondered. He walked on over to see what was wrong with Yuri.

"You don't want me to get you a soda or something?" Tyson asked.

"Don't, that'll make things worse," Patty retorted. "I mean, yeah, he'll get a quick buzz but the sugar's gonna make him pass out even quicker. Just get into the pool and take a few laps. I'll join you."

"I appreciate it," said Yuri. "But I'm going to head back to the locker room and catch some Z's for the next thirty minutes."

"You're not going to get credit for the day," said Carter. "Your grade is going to suffer and that's the last thing you need. You're so close to ruling a big business empire. Your grades need to be at their best. Come on, Yuri, what's going on?"

Yuri looked around, his face creased with unpleasantness. He rubbed the back of his neck with his palm until Patty placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I had another dream last night."

"Uh oh," the gang said together.

"Was it Mr. Hairdo again?" Patty asked. 

"Not exactly. Some kid named Jaden Yuki challenged me to a duel last night."

Andre stopped and kept his mouth closed to keep himself from gasping from shock. "Jaden?"

"Jaden Yuki?" Natalya asked. "Who's that?" She took a gulp of her cherry energy drink.

"I don't know. Another person I keep seeing in my dreams. He kicked my ass with a giant fusion card. I checked the card database and there's nothing like it in existence. Why do I keep seeing fake monsters in my dreams?"

"Maybe it's destiny," said Carter. "I think you're seeing some cool concepts that can easily get implemented into the game."

"Maybe he's right," Patty said. "Perhaps all this excitement about running the company with your dad and then inheriting it has probably filled your head with everything Duel Monsters related. And I've got to admit they do sound kinda cool. All this stuff you've talked about. Xyz and Synchro, right."

"Yeah, I agree," Tyson blurted. "Maybe these dreams are your creativity going wild."

"They're going a little too wild," Yuri replied. "They don't feel like dreams. They're more like nightmares. No matter what I do, or what card I play, the people I'm Dueling are always one step ahead of me. I can't beat them no matter what I do. If I start strong, they always come back stronger. My dreams always end with their best monsters coming to get me. I don't think I'm ever going to get a good night's sleep."

"Oh, dear," said Natalya. "Have you tried taking sleeping pills?"

"Sleeping pills don't work anymore, Natti. I take them like M&M's and I still wake up screaming in the middle of the night."

"Man, this is tough," said Tyson. "It really bugs me seeing you like this, man. I wish there was something I could do to help."      

"Why don't you spend the night with me?" Patty suggested.

Yuri felt like he was short on breath and his face went red, though it was hard to tell from the blue light that filtered the room. "Spend the night with you? I don't know, Patty. After you got arrested last year, my parents aren't that comfortable with us hanging together. I can't imagine what they'll say if I ask to sleepover at your place."

"You can always lie and say you're chilling with me," said Tyson. 

"There's no need to lie," said Patty. "Let's go talk to your parents after school. Let them know that we have a big, big, project that needs finishing up."

"That's no ruse either," said Nick. "You guys do have a big project on The Elephant Man that's due in a couple of days."

"Right, and since me and Yuri are quite the study bugs, we wanna get it done now. Come on, Yuri, let's do it. You need the grades, you need the sleep, and this could be a great opportunity for me to be on better terms with your parents."

"I guess uh...." Yuri stopped, noticing Patty had some kind of bruise on her thigh. "Wow, that's looks bad, what happened?" 

Patty scowled and hid the bruise with her towel. "I...I fell down the stairs last night. Max scampered too close to my feet and I tripped."

"You've been tripping a lot lately," Carter said suspiciously. "What about those welts on the back of your legs. The scar on your shoulder and the..."

"I have accidents, okay! Quit making such a big deal. So Yuri are you going to stay with me tonight or not?"

"What's spending the night with you going to do?" Yuri asked.

"I think you need some company by your side. Whenever I got scared, I always snuck to my...my friend's house and I always felt better. And since we're working on a project, you'll be too busy to think about Duel Monsters. It'll be fun. I'll order some pizza. Deep dish, pepperoni with extra cheese. C'mon, I know it's your favorite."

"Ugh," Yuri chortled, "you know I can't resist that."

"Can I come over?" Nick asked.

"No," Patty said at once. "This is just a night for me and Yuri."

Andre felt he heard enough and finally approached the group. "Hey, guys."

"Hey, it's that Andre guy," said Nick. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I'm new around here so I thought I'd get used to everyone. You guys are the ones they call the Misfits of St. Augustus, huh?"

"Just the haters," Patty replied. "So you're new in town, huh? Where did you come from?"

"Oh, uh...from a place much farther than you guys have ever traveled, I'm sure."

"Dude, piss off," said Carter. "The five of us traveled around the world last summer. We've been all over Europe, partied in the Maldives; went on road trips in Peru. We've been to places you've never even heard of. Try us."

"Oh, um, you probably wouldn't have heard of it. I come from a place with lots of castles and stuff."

"You mean Europe?" scoffed Tyson. "Been there done that, dawg. My dad opened up restaurants in Paris and London and I've been to both their grand openings. But if you wanna keep where you came from on the down-low, we get it." 

"Uh, thanks. I heard you guys are some good Duelists. You especially. The one with the green eye."

Nick got a little flustered by this and stood up. He crossed his scrawny arms, making him look like he was Yuri's bodyguard or something. "One with the green eye? Man, you're not from Europe. You're from another planet. How can you not have heard of the Prince of Duel Monsters? This is Yuri Montgomery!"

"Ah...so you're Yuri, huh. You're the one everybody's talking about. You play Duel Monsters, too? Maybe you and I can Duel some time."

"Sorry chum," Nick said with a mocking tone, "but Yuri doesn't waste his time with just anyone. You wanna get to Yuri, you're going to have to get through me."

Patty rolled her eyes. "Ignore the Terminator, here. He gets mad if someone else beats Yuri instead of him."

Andre grinned. "So, you think I can beat your friend, Yuri."

Patty's grin faded. "I didn't say that. Nor did I say you could. I saw your deck yesterday. That's quite an impressive assortment of monsters you've got there. But there's more to this game than brute strength. Yuri's no pro by any standards but he can hold his own against some tough monsters."

"I'd like to see that for myself. Are any of you acquainted with the shop, Ruby Dragon Gaming?"

"Dude, we only go there every day after school," said Nick. "And Yuri's godfather owns the place, too."

"Is that so? Well, why don't we meet up there after school and have a few squash matches? As I said before, I've heard talk that you guys are some of the best in school. I sure hope you are. I'm getting really bored going up against scrubs. With the money some of these guys have, I'm surprised they can't afford to find themselves better cards."

"We can Duel you if you want," said Natalya. "I think it could be fun."

"Sounds good," said Andre. "I'll see you guys later, then." 

Andre waved goodbye as he turned and walked away.


The weather grew awfully humid, so much so that Yuri felt his flesh getting cooked in the light of the sun. He also found it hard to breathe as beads of sweat ran down his brow. Patty waved her black baseball cap in front of her face to cool herself. She removed her blazer and tied it around her waist. Tyson could no longer endure the humidity. He took a water bottle from his backpack and poured it over his head. Patty yawned while giving a stretch and putting her arms behind her head.

"Hey," she said. "Let's get some water. It's not healthy to be walking around this heat without water."

None of them disagreed. Along the way, they thankfully encountered a vendor truck on the sidewalk. They each bought cold drinks. Yuri, not satisfied with his lunch, bought himself a chicken sandwich. Patty wasn't in the mood to eat, but the chicken in the sandwich was cooked to perfection and was handled with love and care by the vendor. She shrugged and bought one for herself. 

"This is so good!" Patty said, her mouth was covered with mayo. "Ugh, they're always putting so much of this stuff, I swear."

"Yeah, I hate it when they drown the food in so much," Yuri agreed. His fingers were getting covered with mayonnaise. Eventually, he had to wipe his fingers as best he could on the paper wrapping the sandwich and eventually his school slacks.

As they continued down a hill, they passed by an alley. There, Yuri saw a very heartbreaking scene. Two children, a girl, and a boy, both very young. Their clothes were worn and old. They were searching for food from trash cans. The girl managed to find a half-eaten burger in a white take-out box, but it was covered with flies. She started swatting them away. 

Both children looked at Yuri and his friends in their expensive school uniforms, nice shoes, and accessories. Their faces turned red in shame of their old, smelly, raggy clothes. The girl looked like she was going to burst into tears. Patty wanted to keep on walking and avoid them. Then she noticed Yuri looking at the kids.

"Yuri, one day that kindness is going to nip you in the bud."

Yuri didn't listen to her. He looked at his sandwich before walking to the children. The little boy hid behind the girl, most likely his sister, and peered from behind her hip. Yuri knelt down so he could look them in the eye. He stretched his arm forward, offering them the sandwich. "Here. Go on, take it."

The little girl's mouth widened with glee and she swiped the sandwich away. She could have eaten it herself, but she gave it to her brother instead. Yuri ruffled the boy's hair as his sister giggled. Tyson approached and handed them his bottle of water. He held up his hand over the boy's head. The boy jumped, giving him a high-five. 

Patty sighed heavily in defeat. She approached the girl and gave her the sandwich. "Here," she said. She then reached into her purse and gave the girl a twenty-dollar bill. "Use it wisely, okay."

The children thanked them without a word and ran off into the alley, no doubt hoping to get away from RAPTOR. The children were most likely Stowaways. And it was RAPTOR's job to remove Stoways from the upper levels. Yuri and the others watched the children until they were gone and continued to the elementary school, which was perched right on the beach.

As they walked down the sidewalk in front of the school, Yuri bit his lip trying to ignore the various slogans and jokes the youngsters learned from social media. His sneakers were wrecked and just as he feared, a child approached him pointing at the footwear of his school uniform screaming: "What are those!?"

"SHOES!" Yuri yelled in frustration, scaring him away.

Nick waved to get his young foster brother's attention. Sam looked like a miniature version of Nick, save that his hair was even more ragged and hidden under a cap placed backward on his head. He wore a basketball jersey and baggy jeans, and a silver chain around his neck giving him the appearance of a rapper.

"Nick!" he called out swaying his shoulders from side to side as he walked. The boy was ten years old and proud of it by the way he smiled and the energy that radiated from his joy. "I thought you'd never show up. You know Consuelo's not going to be happy about this." He clicked and gave Patty a wink after lowering his sunglasses. "How ya doin' doll face?"

"Right..." Patty said cringing.

Nick grimaced at the thought of facing Consuelo's wrath. "Sam, if you promise not to snitch me out to Consuelo, I promise to get you a pack at the game shop by the harbor."

Sam's face lit up. Then he turned his head to look at Yuri. "Yo, Yuri, you work today?"

"Yeah," Yuri answered, "I work every day."

"Great, maybe you can give me a discount."

"Let me see your grades," said Yuri.

Sam slid off his backpack and opened it. He searched for his most recent quiz. "Here, I think you'll be impressed."

Yuri took the quiz and examined it. He smiled, bobbing his head up and down with approval.

"An A-plus, huh? Awesome work, Sam, that's a free pack."

"Killer, Yuri, you da bomb dot com." Sam snatched the quiz from Yuri's hand and stuffed it into his pocket. He held his hand up for a high five. Yuri went for it, but Sam ducked his hand. "Too slow!" he teased. His friends mocked him for falling for that.

With Sam now in the group, they left the school grounds to make the journey downtown. They took many buses and trains through the islands of Aquarius before they made it downtown to the central island where Yuri worked. The largest tower in the western hemisphere, Phobos Tower, dominated everything in sight. The bus took them up a bridge called the Emerald Highway which spiraled upward to get them to the top of the city. 

"Isn't it amazing?" Nick said, looking out the window of their bus. "To think that one day, Yuri's going to be sitting on the top of that tower."

Yuri whimpered. "I hope not."

"You're the crown prince of Duel Monsters, Yuri," said Patty. "You have to. Now that your older brother has refused to take the reigns of your father's business."

Yuri shook his head. Tyson sighed sympathetically and patted his back. "Come on, guys, leave him alone. He doesn't have to do it if he doesn't want to."

They decided to drop the conversation for Yuri's sake. The boy was rather sensitive about his inheritance to the family business. None of them blamed him. Though he played a good game as the gang boasted but he was nowhere near to being at the level of top-tier Duelists from the pro leagues. How could one be the president of the most popular game on the planet and not know how to play it?

"Oh, Yuri, I didn't mean anything by it," said Patty.

"It's okay," said Yuri, trying his best to smile.

The bus dinged. The synthetic woman's voice announced the oncoming destination. "Next stop. Cornerstone Galleria on Fourth Avenue."

Yuri and his friends picked up their things. The bus came to a heavy stop, forcing the friends to jerk forward. The vehicle hissed and then lowered itself to convenience the passengers.

"Have a good day, Yuri," said the bus driver.

"Thanks, Mike," Yuri said getting off.

His friends followed him into the megastore, Ruby Dragon Gaming; two floors with shops catering to customers with different tastes in games. They smelled good quality food sizzling in the kitchen of the store's diner. Nick took a nickel out of his pocket and tossed it into the fountain at the center of the atrium. They went upstairs to greet the man who had grown to be the father of the entire group.

"Yuri!" said a large and muscular man standing behind the counter of glass with an assortment of cards, booster boxes, custom playmats, and figurines. "What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I work today, remember?"

"Oh no, you don't work till this weekend, my young friend. Remember? Claudia is filling in for you because you needed some time off for your mother's birthday."

Yuri slapped himself on the forehead. "Oh, that's right. I have to buy cake and ice cream later. Well then, I guess I'm just window shopping today, Uncle. Oh, and my little friend here got an A-plus on his quiz."

Sam nodded triumphantly and crossed his arms.

"Oh, did he now?" Sergei said looking down at Sam. He went to the booster box displays and pulled out a new pack. "Well, Ruby Dragon Gaming's policy says, kids with good grades get...a free pack."

"Thanks!" Sam said taking the pack from Sergei. He wasted no time in opening it.

"Remember," said Nick, "Any holos are mine."

"In your dreams, homie," said Sam. "This is my pack!"

"Ah, and this is for you Carter," Sergei said tossing him a water monster structure deck.

"Wow!" Carter remarked in joy, catching it with ease.

Nick was beginning to grow rather flustered. "Hey, what gives Sergei? Everybody's getting free stuff except me."

"What do you mean, Nickolas?" Sergei asked with a sneer.

Nick bellowed in anger. "How come he gets a free deck and I don't?"

Sergei laughed. "Because I saw the grades from your math tests. A-plus beats C-plus, so Carter gets the deck. But here, a card for your effort. It's better than the F you got last year, so I see you're improving."

"What kind of card is it?" Nick asked, lunging for the counter with excitement.

Sergei slid the card across the counter. He sniggered cruelly.

"Spirit of the Mountain?!" Nick whined picking up the card.

Patty laughed when she saw the monster. It was a fat little gnome wearing scarlet overalls with gray sleeves and an oversized green cap. He had a brown horn to his lips covered in a white beard.

"Oh, Nick," she cooed, "how cute!"

"Son of a bitch..." Nick groaned.

"He's super rare from the Tournament Pack," said Sergei. "This card is hard to get."

"Yeah, because he stinks!" said Nick. "Come on, Sergei, don't you have a warrior for me like Gaia the Fierce Knight? Or a dragon just like Yuri's Jungle King? Or maybe even a powerful Spellcaster like the Dark Magician?"

"Those cards are only for good students," Sergei said strictly. "You want good cards, I want good grades."

"Yeah, like that'll ever happen," said Sam. "Say, Pats, why don't you blow on this pack for good luck. I might get something really rare."

"I'll chuck that thing in a shredder if you ask me that again," Patty answered sternly.

"Guess I gotta hit the books more," Nick said in defeat.

"Da," Sergei agreed. "But because your grades improved last year. I think I'll present you with this card."

He opened one of his thick binders for cards he was willing to give away as gifts for his favorite customers. Yuri and the gang were no exception.

"Meteor Dragon?" Nick asked, gently taking the card from him. "Interesting. I think I'll hold on to this one. Maybe he'll come in handy someday."

"Man, it's hot," Patty said, fanning her face with her hand. "Hey, Yuri, you play a good game. Why don't you enter the locals or something."

Yuri chuckled. "No way. Just because I beat my buddy a few times doesn't make me tournament-ready. Not that I want to mind you. Those guys play aggressively."

Tyson let out a loud laugh and slapped Yuri on the back. "Well, his name doesn't mean flower for nothing."

"Laugh it up, Tyson," Yuri muttered. He hated that name. "Hey, Nick, if you want to play, that Andre guy is over on Table 3. Looks like he's got no challengers today."

"Well, obviously," Tyson said looking over towards the table. A young man was sitting alone at the Duel Table, flipping through his cards as he waited for an opponent to play against him. "Andre Martin, right? He's the new kid at school."

"And he's really good from what I hear," said Patty. "Jake Peterson said he lost two games against that guy yesterday. I'd like to see what he's made of, but unfortunately, I didn't bring my deck."

"No," said Yuri, "but you remembered to bring Zera the Mant. Why do you always do that?" 

"I must," Patty said. "You know someone broke into my room again the other day?"

"How?" Yuri asked. "Isn't your dad the commander of RAPTOR? How could anyone be breaking into your home?" 

"What did they take?" Nick wondered. 

"The same as usual. A few of my rare cards, a credit chit. Well, are you gonna play or what, Nick? Hurry up, the guy's waiting."

Nick hurried toward Andre's table. "Hey!" he said. "You want to play? I'll take you on."

"Sure," Andre said, holding his palm out toward the empty chair. 

Nick took off his backpack and sat down. He fished his deck out of the pocket of his trousers and placed them on the Duel Table. The screen beside them displayed the 3D battlefield where the monsters would play. It would switch with every match. This time, the screen displayed the ramparts of a giant castle in the mountains. 

"Hey, you're Yuri Montgomery's friend, right?" Andre asked. 

"That's right."

"Is he here? I'd like to try my hand against him."

"Sorry, big guy, but if you wanna get to my friend, you've gotta get through me first. Now, let's do this."

"All right, then," Andre replied. He shuffled his deck one last time and placed them on the liquid-crystal display that acted as the game mat. His cards were covered with black sleeves, but the screen could sense the cards he played thanks to the microchip built inside of them.

LP 2000

"Who should go first?" Andre asked

"I'll go first," Nick rudely declared. "I summon Man-Eating Plant! Ha!" He slapped his card on the mat very hard. The screen beside them showed the monster rendered with the Unreal Engine. The Man-Eating Plant snarled and snapped its thorny vines around, waiting for a monster to devour. 

"Your turn!" said Nick. "What have you got?"

"Man-Eating Plant, huh? That's a very interesting opening move."

"No need to be so modest," Patty said walking towards the table. "You and I both know he made a dumb move."

She stood by Nick and cocked her hip to the right and placed her hand on it. Andre looked at her curved figure with a wolfish smile and adjusted his glasses. "Well, now. I see someone's not afraid to call it like it is. Sorry we never got acquainted at the pool earlier. What was your name again? Patricia? Penelope?"

"The name's Pamela McKnight. But my friends call me Patty. So, handsome, what have you got to counter that big, scary, plant Nick summoned?"

"Oh, I've got just the thing," said Andre. "Celtic Guardian!" He summoned one of the most famous monsters in the game. He appeared on the Duel Screen and slashed his sword through the air. He stood still and his attack points were displayed. 1400. 

"I hope you can do better than that, Andre!" Nick sneered. "My Man-Eating Plant is going to eat your Celtic Guardian alive. Attack!" 

"Nick...don't!" Patty groaned covering her eyes.    

"Is he really going to..." Yuri began. 

Tyson crossed his arms and shook his head in dismay. "Yup," he answered. 

Celtic Guardian dodged the Man-Eating Plant's attack by jumping backward. He moved like the wind. He was so fast that he looked like a blur. The elf warrior then lunged into the air, sword up over his head in a falcon guard, and then he slashed the plant's head off with the greatest of ease. 

Nick's mouth fell wide open while Andre leaned back in his chair and snickered. "What?" Nick gasped. "He lost? But he's the Man-Eating Plant?"

Carter slid both his hands across the air and walked away from the embarrassment that was Nick's Duel with Andre. He hurried to the cafe to get himself a nice, cold, lemonade. Yuri and Tyson followed, but Patty stayed behind. There were a few things in this world that entertained her, and one of them was seeing Nick getting his ass kicked in a Duel. He was what the kids called a 'Decker' a player who's all talk but no game.  

"I set a card face-down and end my turn," Andre said.

"A lucky move," Nick boasted. "Let's see. Hey, this guy is pretty tough. I summon Zanki!" He summoned a samurai in red armor. He appeared on the field after a display of Japanese kanji popped up. His bright yellow eyes flashed in the darkness of the arena. He raised his long katana over his head and charged once Nick declared his attack. 

"I activate, Reinforcements!" said Andre, revealing his trap card. "Now Celtic Guardian's attack increases by five-hundred points. He's much stronger than your Zanki!" 

Celtic Guardian raised his sword, blocking Zanki's attack. The horse cut attack he did would have cut Celtic Guardian's sword in half, but it was protected by magic elvish runes and was durable thanks to the magic steel it was made from. Celtic Guardian pushed Zanki away then kicked him in the stomach with his boot to knock the wind out of him. He then charged and slashed Zanki across the chest in a flash. Zanki fell to his knees, his throat rattling with death. He fell face-first on the cobbled stone and shattered to pieces. 

"Not again!" Nick grunted. 

"Trap cards will do wonders for your deck," Patty commented. "I keep telling you that, but you never listen."

Patty shook her head no. "He has no traps or spells in his deck. It's just pure aggression." 

 "That's right. I filled this deck with every butt-kicking monster I could find!"

"What good that's done you," said Andre. "I activate the spell, Ookazi. This will deal 800 points of damage to your Life Points. Next, I summon the Mysterious Puppeteer and set another card face-down."

"Oooo," Patty hotted, shaking her hips to tease Nick. "One more wrong move and it's over for you, dumbass."

"I can take him!" Nick declared. "I summon Garoozis! With an attack strength of 1800, he'll prove more than a match for your two monsters. Go, Garoozis, attack his Celtic Guardian."

"First off," said Andre. "Since you Normal Summoned a monster, I gain 500 Life Points. Secondly, I activate the spell, Rush Recklessly. This will boost Celtic Guardian's attack by 700. That's goodbye to your Garoozis and the rest of your Life Points."

"Whaaaaaa!" Nick grimaced. "Aww, man. Beaten by the new kid."

Patty giggled at his defeat and looked at Andre. "Don't worry, big guy. Not all of us are hopeless like he is. If you want a challenge, face my buddy, Yuri."

"I think I will. His dad only created the game, so I have no doubt he's good." He shuffled his deck and put it in his pocket. "But I have to get home and finish my homework. Say, do you guys hang out here often?"

"Every day after school," Patty answered. Yuri then came to the table with a bag of chips and a soda in hand. 

"Damn, Nick," he said. "You lost already? That's a new record."

"Laugh it, up, Yuri. I just got a bad hand."

"That's what they all say," Andre said, shouldering his backpack. "So, this is the famous Yuri. Wow, your eye really does glow."

"Don't ogle at it," Patty said, covering Yuri's eye with her hand. "He doesn't like that."

"Sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to stare. It's actually pretty cool-looking, Yuri. I hope I can play against you tomorrow."

"Sure," Yuri replied. Being the shy guy that he was, his responses were often brief and dry. He stepped back to let Andre pass so he could leave.

Meanwhile, Nick leaned towards Patty and put his arm over her shoulder. Before he got comfortable she walked forward to escape. "Yes?" she said.

"Nothing. It's just there's a really nice restaurant close by where we can get some good Chinese."

Patty crossed her arms. "I can't. I have a date tonight."

Carter let out his hideous high-pitched twittering. "Girl, who? Who? Tell me who?"

"You serious, Patty?" Tyson asked. "Who are you dating?"

"My shower, my bed, a hot bowl of ramen noodles, and my favorite pink panties."

Yuri looked at her sternly. Even though she was a wild card, there was no need to be so damn crude all the time. But he knew Patty was saying such things just to press Nick's buttons, building up his emotions to make him hit on her again just so she could burn him with another dose of rejection.

"Ooo," said Nick, unsurprisingly falling for her bait. "Sounds like a party."

"Uh, yeah. One that you're not invited to, jerk. See you guys later."

Yuri shook his head as she boarded the ferry back to her island. "Nick, you're an idiot. You know I'm hanging out with her tonight."

"Yuri, you lucky dog," said Sam.


King Antilles Dragonheart - Spire of the Kings/Throne Room


Niwatori chicken was usually a beast of burden used by many travelers to cross scorching deserts, rough mountains; any difficult terrain really. And sometimes, they were used to make delicious dinners fit for a king. Antilles cut into the meat of a Royal Emboldorian Red, a type of Niwatori that was bred to be served as the official meat of all the rulers of Termnnia.

King Antilles Dragonheart cut into the juicy meat with ease as if he were using his family blade to cut down an enemy soldier as he did in the Nymph Wars many years ago. He ate the meat and savored the flavor. He closed his eyes to keep them from tearing up. Clearly, there was nothing like a Royal Emboldorian Red with a side of Scarlet Kiss to end the day and prepare for a long day of politics in the morrow.

"I thank you for bringing me here in great style, Your Majesty," said Lord Merthaw Brocktree, King of Orange Hill, one of the Five Kingdoms of the Hellgarian Estates in Thara. "And for treating me to such a delicious meal. You must be very desperate to win the debate tomorrow to have spared no expense for me."

"Well, I have no more choice in the matter. The boy turns eighteen in a couple of weeks. And once he does, there will be no stopping Yugi and his friends from bringing him back home and declaring him High King."

"So what can I do to help you in the matter?" said the portly king, bits of chicken and globs of sauce hung from his messy beard. His platinum crown flashed in the light of the dozens of candles illuminating their dinner.

Antilles drummed his fingers against the table, waiting for him to finish eating before speaking. After Merthaw swallowed, Antilles said: "I require your Senators to bring me a vote of confidence in keeping Prince Yuri placed on Earth."

Merthaw laughed. "Bribery, eh? Never thought I'd see the great Antilles Dragonheart stooping to such a low." The petty king chuckled. "But, uh, tell me, Antilles. Are we really going to plot something like that here?"

He looked over the limestone railing beside their table. Down below was the throne room and standing majestically over all it surveyed was the Diamond Throne, sparkling in the light of the moons.

"In the Throne Room of the Spire of the Kings? Antilles, you have balls, but this is most unwise." He tapped his ear. "The walls have ears, you know?"

"Ears hear nothing once you've stuffed them with enough gold," said Antilles. "I will do whatever it takes to get my power back. I summoned Slifer! I was chosen to be the new High King of Termnnia. And then that song burst from the sky and brought out that boy. And when he did, he took everything away from me. My throne, my kingdom, my destiny!"

"And what do you plan to do about it?" Merthaw said, cleaning his mouth with a handkerchief he kept in his pocket. "Like you said, he's coming back soon and there will be little any of us can do to stop it."

"That is why I am coming to you. I don't want him to come back, he makes me miserable, and you don't want him to come back because his absence makes you lots of money thanks to me. Orange Hill is the greatest of the Five Kingdoms in the Estates of Hellgari. And the richest. But I ask for how much longer? Three of those kingdoms are in open war and two of them have the biggest armies and the most hate for you. They will unite each other to oust you from power. I can help you, you know this."

The doors burst open. "Uncle!" chimed a beautiful, golden-haired maiden wearing jeans and a tank top as though she lived in the modern cities of the East. Save for the small, golden, diamond-studded tiara on her forehead, Merthaw would never have guessed that the girl was the Princess of Dragon's Nest. Alexandra, his beloved and licentious niece.

"Oh, Uncle!" she sang out.

"Oh, and who is this lovely, young, dumpling?" Merthaw said lustfully, his mouth watering as though he were looking a well-cooked meal. The girl passed him, filling his nostrils with a sweet scent of cherries. He peered through his monocle and examined her smooth curves. "Is this the famous princess I've heard so much about?"

"What is it now, Alexandra?" Antilles said, rubbing his eyes. "Can't you see I'm working?" He slammed his fist on the arm of his chair. "I thought I told you not to bother us tonight."

"But you're always working," Alexandra said, leaning against his chair provocatively.

"But, of course, I am. I am the King."

"And being King means you've got plenty of time and cash to spare for your beloved niece. I...need a little gold for some time out in town tonight."

"Are you finished with your studies?" Antilles asked. "You know that the Obelisk Blue Dorm only accepts students with high marks and impeccable Dueling skills, yes?"

"I finished all my work, Uncle," Alexandra said, turning around and sitting on the arm of his chair. She examined her nails, admiring the way the candlelight made their polish shimmer. "And my essay on King Regis XXIV of White Marble. And my report on the Dragon Wars of the Second Age and I Dueled Master Voskar all morning and won, save for the draw we had earlier." She fluffed her hair. "I've been a good girl. And you said good girls are rewarded. Well, where's my reward?"

Antilles groaned. "Well, if that is what you want. I have a blank letter of credit in my desk. But do know that I will be reviewing your work thoroughly tonight. If I find out you've been lying to me, I will put you under my debt until you repay every Star Chip I've given you, and I'm sending you back home to your father. I told you that you can accompany me and Uncle Peter on my trip across Emboldor if you study."

"You're no fun," Alexandra said, walking to his desk, taking the letter, and walking out.

When she was gone, they continued with their meeting. "You were saying, Antilles."

"Of course. In order to keep Yuri from coming back, certain...accidents must take place. But to finance these accidents, I'm going to need gold, and I'm sorry to say the Gate Wars have severely drained my finances. Which is why I require your gold."

"You expect me to just hand you my gold just like that? Antilles, you'll bankrupt me."

"In exchange for your gold, I can give you a weapon that will make you the one and only king of the Estates."

"I'm listening."

"You must marry your daughter to my nephew, Ser Darrien Dragonheart."

Merthaw's eyebrows raised. "Oh, the Knight of the Clear Wing?"

"Yes. He commands one of the last True Dragons flying in Termnnia. The Clear Wing Synchro Dragon. A True Dragon is more potent in battle than an army 10,000 men. Use this dragon to unite the kingdoms."

"How do I do that?"

Antilles took a gulp of wine and smiled after he set the goblet down. "Any way you want. When any of those kingdoms come to your doorstep, use the dragon to send a message. You have the power now! The dragon can be used as a way to hold the rest of the kingdoms hostage until they sign of truce of agreement and declare you as the one true king. Or you can burn them all down with the might of this great beast."

"Ah, it doesn't matter which way I go in the end. I'm the king of the whole caboodle."

"Yes. You can trust this beast. It is because of Ser Darrien and my niece's dragon, Bruton, that no one dares raise their banners against Dragonrock. Either way, the Estates of Hellgari will then be known as the Kingdom of Hellgari once you have this mighty dragon by your side. Who knows, you might even declare independence from the Province of Thara with all the power you'll gain. But I get ahead of myself. In the end, the kingdoms and all their resources will be yours. All I ask is for a percentage of those resources to finance the 'accidents' that will keep Yuri from becoming High King."

"But Ser Darrien is from your House. Your family. Won't people get...suspicious?"

"People stay silent once they're faced with dragon fire, my friend. None will dare say a thing about you. I promise."

"And all I need to do to make this happen is have my Senators vote for your plan's approval in the hearing tomorrow? Very well, Antilles. You have a deal." He raised his goblet. "If it means the protection of my family, my kingdom, and my legacy, then I say piss on the boy. Let him rot in that world."

Antilles chuckled and held up his goblet as well.


Yuri - Azalea Island/Patty's Home


Yuri let out a loud yawn as he shut his textbook and closed his laptop. "Well, that's all she wrote," he said. "You want the last slice of pizza?"

"I'm good," Patty replied. She got up from her desk and went to her drawers to find some pajamas. 

"So where are your parents?"

"They're at a party on the central island," Patty replied, fishing out pink pants with yellow stars all over them and a white tank top. "They won't be back until morning since they always drink the night away and stay the night with their host. My dad says he's honored you decided to stay here nevertheless. You're always welcome here. You're like a son to him. Wish he had that same affection for me."

"What do you mean?"

Patty picked up Max and set him on her bed. "Nothing. It's just me talking out loud. Anyway, you can have the bed. I'll sleep on the loveseat by the window. Do you mind turning around while I change?"

"You can't go to the bathroom?"

"I would but it's bedtime and if Max sees us going this way and that, he's going to start howling and he'll wear the sleep out of you. Come on, I won't take long."

Yuri turned and clasped his hands over his eyes and looked out the rain-splattered window. The palm trees swayed eerily against the dark purple sky. He heard Patty's belt jingling as it came undone and it slumped on the floor.

"So, Yuri. I couldn't help but listen to what that Andre guy had to say earlier. About you going pro."

"I need better cards to go pro. And with my dad the way he is, I can't get money. So I have to work. Sergei pays well but it's not enough to get the best cards on the market. I need a new hustle if I plan to get new cards and make it pro. What about you, Patty? Have you ever thought about being a pro Duelist? You're a lot better than me."

"Nah, I told you before. I'd rather create monsters. I want to excel with my painting so I can land a job in Phobos Corp as an artist for the Duel Monsters Department. Maybe you and I can work together or something. Oh, that'll be great. Maybe we create our own archetypes or something. Oh, we've got to make Zera the Mant support. You can look now."

Yuri turned in time to see Patty buttoning up the sleepshirt that matched her pajama pants. She picked up Max and held him up to her cheek so she could rub it against his furry head. He started licking her. 

"I figured you want Zera the Mant support," said Yuri. "But what if being an artist wasn't in the cards? What if you had no other choice but to go pro?"

Patty chewed on her bottom lip as she pondered the question. "I suppose I'd consider it. It'll be great. If I could...I'd do it for the traveling. On stage with my cards, wowing the crowd with my Feast of Fiends deck. Going from city to city around the world and going up against the best of the best. Meeting new people, seeing new places. I love Aquarius, don't get me wrong, but I wanna see other things, too."

"Yeah, same here. Other countries, other cities. I wanna see them all."

"Maybe someday you will," said Patty. "I think it's in the cards for you. A guy as gifted and blessed and..." She bit her lip and giggled. "Cute as you can do anything he wants. Hey, Yuri. Can you make me a promise?"

"Sure."

"If you ever do make it big and become all these things. Promise you'll never change. Promise you'll always be the same Yuri I know and love...er...I mean, we all know love."

"Well, I can't guarantee I'll always be the same. So is it okay if I promise I won't change too much?"

Patty thought about it for a moment and shrugged, wagging her head from side to side. "Meh. I guess that'll do. Oh. And one more thing." 

"Okay."

"Will you promise me that...promise me we'll always be friends. No matter what. No matter how badly I screw up. No matter how bad things get. No matter what life throws at us. Promise you'll always be my best friend. Always?"

Yuri smiled. "That's something I can promise."

Patty swooned. "You're the best thing to ever happen to me, Yuri. I'd be so lost without you." She held out her free arm. "Hugs?"

Yuri rolled his eyes. "All right." He got up and embraced her. "Friends forever. Got it."

"Thank you, Yuri." Patty was glad they were stuck in their embrace. She tried to keep it together but eventually, a big happy tear rolled down her cheek. "Thank you."


Lore


The City of Aquarius


Aquarius. The 'Floating City' was built by famed Trillionaire and creator of Duel Monsters (Supposedly), Jacob Montgomery. The city consists of five large islands (Neros, Mobius, Alejandra, Gondolin, and Eden) that connect via tall and winding highways to the central island, Phobos Island, which is shaped like a five-pointed star to resemble Númenor from the Silmarillion, Jacob Montgomery's favorite book. He was so inspired by the beauty in Tolkien's works that he wanted to build the wonders he pictured in his head when reading those stories. At its center is Phobos Tower, the largest tower in the western hemisphere (2600 ft).

Aquarius can move from place to place thanks to hundreds of powerful turbines and thrusters. The city is guarded by a large and well-equipped private security force known as RAPTOR, who effortlessly defends the city against pirates and smugglers. They also act as a border patrol, sailing the waters around Aquarius looking for potential Stowaways who illegally sneak into the city. Aquarius is its own country with its own government. Because of the overabundance of luxury and wealth, Aquarius is a city exclusive to the world's 1%.

Like any civilization, poverty unfortunately can be found here, resting underneath the plates of the central island. The slums, called Los Angeles Rojas, sit below the plates (Which stand one-hundred-fifty feet above the water) and are home to Stowaways; illegal citizens who boarded Aquarius hoping to find work and a better life in the city that has often been called Paradise. However, since they are not legally affiliated with the city, they cannot, and are arrested and sent back to their homeland.

The Martinetti Family, the mafia of Aquarius, saw a form of profit in this predicament and personally built the slums to house the Stowaways in exchange for having them work for meager pay in the underbelly of the Aquarius fixing the city's thrusters and systems all the while racketeering the residents for protection from RAPTOR. Because of the family's influence on Phobos Corp, the company has turned a blind eye to them.

The city is a luxury resort with extravagant pools such as the Jade Lagoon, the largest pool in the world, beating Chile's San Alfonso del Mar's Seawater Pool. It has man-made beaches, shopping venues, excellent schools for the resident's children, a plethora of nightclubs, and state-of-the-art Dueling Arenas which is the key product that helped build Mr. Montgomery's lavish fortune. Some say he gets generous loans from a shadowy figure by the name of Seto Kaiba.

Chapter Text

 


Mai - Spire of the Kings, Emboldor

September 8 - Year 18 4AOS


Mai got out of bed and wrapped a dark red blanket around her naked body. She approached the balcony silently, walking on the balls of her feet so as not to wake Serenity, who was sleeping like an angel in her bed across the pool in the middle of her room. She opened the glass and gold doors and stepped onto the balcony to overlook the Bay of Kings.

In the distance shined Dallian Academy, a private prep school for students looking to enter the elite Duel Academia far across the sea to the East. Helios -The sun- had not shone over the mountains yet, but its glow announced its arrival. The three moons were slowly fading behind the sea and the sky was a mix of warm gold and lavender. Mai smelled the sweet, salty air to calm her nerves.

She was outraged that the Senate would even think to agree to Antilles's ridiculous terms. While it did have some merit behind it, it was foolish to keep the little prince stuck in the other world. Deep down, she knew sending him there was a bad idea. It was one thing getting him in there, but another getting him out. Hopefull, Yugi and his alter ego would prove their case and win this time. 

Mai felt the blanket slip and the cold air wasted no time kissing her exposed flesh. She shivered and pulled the blanket up over her shoulders. "I hate politics," she mumbled. She looked over the railing and saw a familiar little boat sailing towards the sea. It couldn't be. "Yugi?" she whispered. "Where the hell is he going?"

"He's going to begin setting up his Alliance," Téa said, walking out of the darkness clad in a pink night tie. "I'm glad I'm not to late. I was hoping to see him before he left. I have a feeling we're not going to see him again for a very long time."

"Why is he going to look for them now?" Mai asked. "It's way too soon for that. "

Téa shook her head. "If Yuri can't come back yet, then he might as well get the Princes ready."

"Has he already found candidates for such an honor?" Mai asked.

"Oh yeah. He's already got the best of the best to be in the Royal Termnnian Table with Yuri when he's High King. Seven powerful and, may I add, very handsome princes." She giggled. "Prince Michael Octavius Dalton of Eredas. He's the master of The Hundred Dancing Swords and is an elite Duelist. His Archfiends swarm the field and dominate his opponents with a deadly array of effects and restrictions that keep them from attacking or activating effects. Prince Jon Jahangir of Riftgaard. The Thunder Prince they call him because he wields a massive ax forged by the Thunder Goddess. And his a master Thundermancer as well. On top of that, he has a mighty Eidolon who fights by his side. Gearfried the Iron Knight."

"Whoa..." Mai whispered.

"And from the Kingdom of Uzumé is Prince Jaeyoung Shim. He was trained in the arts of war since he was ten years old. He's also trained in martial arts by the Red Dragon Monks of the Imperial Mountains. That young man was also born under the Star of Might. Once in an eon, the Goddess of War will bless a great warrior with incredible strength and speed. Jaeyoung can punch mountains and cause them to crumble and he took down an army of bandits with the help of his Senka Warriors."

"He's a Summoner, too?" Mai said. "Wow. What a talented young man."

Téa nodded. "Yup. He is sure to be a thorn in the side of our enemies. Antilles especially. He has a hate for the Uzumenese."

Mai wrinkled her nose in displeasure. "Who doesn't that man hate who isn't Dragonheart?"

Téa sighed, her eyes still on Yugi's boat, which was now a little dot in the distance. "It doesn't matter. Jaeyoung is going to be the least of his worries when they're all assembled. Alongside great fighters, we have talented spellcasters like Prince Ryon Balor of Katina. He is skilled in every form of elemental magic. Ice, fire, lightning, earth, wind, light. You name it, he can do it. King Forrest's troops tried to lure him into a trap by conquering a city where his fiancee was living in. To draw him out even further, the Fat King violated her and recorded it."

"That pig!"

"Oh, that was the worst mistake of his life," said Téa with a half-grin. "Ryon charged into the fields alone and summoned a great firestorm that burned 5000 Naralian soldiers in a matter of minutes. All that was left of them was a giant field of ashes that took weeks to clean. Forrest never attempted to conquer Katina again. And then we have the handsome, and...handsy, Prince Anastasio Trevelyan, Prince of Mondé. When I say handsy, I mean handsy. He grabbed my butt a few times when we danced at the ball in honor of his birthday. He as only fourteen."

Mai laughed.

"He's a good kid nonetheless. I just hope Yuri and the others can teach him a thing or two about manners. He's skilled in the arts of White Magic and swordcrafting, meaning he can enchant weapons with fire and lighting at his whim. Also, he holds a unique archetype of monsters called the Crystal Dragons. His main monster is the Diamond-Burst Dragon. I've seen it before, and let me tell you, it's a beauty. Speaking of beauty, from the Adamantium Citadel, there's Phoenix Lockheart. I personally recruited her into the Alliance. It's only natural that we do, considering mages are being persecuted all over the continent by the Covenant's Witch Hunters. Hmph. Phoenix will show them what for. When I taught at the Adamantium Citadel, she was my brightest student. Mai, I've never seen a girl with so much power before. She can animate fire, summon Phoenixes to do her bidding, and is also a cunning Duelist using a Phoenix deck. I guess you can guess where she gets her name from. Aside from being a master pyromancer, she's also skilled in White Magic as well. Rumor has it she can put a stopper in death."

"Now that's a very useful skill," said Mai. "Good call bringing her in, hon."

"Yeah, and just between you and me, I think the Alliance could use a woman's touch." Téa winked. "And on top of skilled warriors and magicians, we have Prince Marcel Walston of the Kingdom of Akuuda. He goes by the name the Dragoon of Red-Eyes. Akuuda is the last place on Earth that still thrives with True Dragons. And they're Red-Eyes Black Dragons to boot."

"Yes," said Mai. "They gave Joey and Serenity the cards for their service to the kingdom many years ago."

"Right. Marcel has a fierce companion. A Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon. Now that's an Alliance, eh, Mai?"

Mai laughed in excitement. "I'll say. You know, I'm kind of feeling better already. I guess I should follow Yugi's example and keep a cool head in these trying times."

"That's all we can do," Téa agreed. "I guess while Yugi is out to get the princes ready, we have Serenity's little quest to go on."

Mai tapped her finger on her lip. "Hmm, I wonder what that little darling has in store for us?"


Yuri - ???


Where am I? What is this place?

Yuri felt cold. As if he was standing naked in a blizzard. He was standing on a platform of sorts that resembled a massive mosaic window depicting an all-too-familiar character. "Yami?" Yuri gasped, recognizing the figure on the image. Floating beside him, looking as though he were in a deep-sleep was what appeared to be a younger version of him. "Yu...Yugi," Yuri muttered.

Through the glass, Yuri saw what looked like an endless version of Aquarius's central island going on for miles and miles with Phobos Towers standing proudly in the middle. Yuri's toes curled and his palms grew sweaty as vertigo slowly sank in when he realized how high he was. He looked to the sky and saw four long and narrow mosaic windows.

It was as if he was standing inside a model city in the middle of a dark and cold church. The images on the windows displayed three young women, a blonde woman who looked like she came straight out of a Japanese manga.

The other two women - an adorable redhead and a lovely brunette with shoulder-length hair - looked the same. The fourth clearly depicted a woman, but instead of a clear picture, it was only her silhouette surrounded by familiar images in small spheres orbiting around her head.

One was Yuri with a crown on his head. The others were of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a crown, and what looked like...Bakura.

Who were these people? Who were the three women being depicted on the windows in the eternal night sky? Who was the fourth? And why did it seem she had a deep connection with Yuri? He shivered and rubbed his arms with his palms to warm his skin.

Even though he was dressed in baggy winter jeans, a long black shirt underneath a brown leather jacket, and a beanie to keep his ears warm, he was freezing.

Suddenly, a pedestal rose out of the ground, directly out of the Wdjat Eye engraved on the golden 3D pyramid around Yami's neck. There was a sword in the stone, with a blade of gold and crossguards engraved and covered in jewels. It didn't look like any other blade.

It looked like a weapon fit for a king. Yuri approached the weapon. There was a keychain of gold dangling from the pommel of the sword.

The 3D pyramid was hanging at the end. Yuri walked around the blade, admiring its beautiful surface shimmering in all the colors of the rainbow as though it were a secret rare foil card.

He reached for it - his hand concealed in fingerless black gloves - and grabbed the black leather grip of the sword. He didn't have to pull with all his might, for the weapon elegantly slid through its imprisonment until it was up in the air, safe in Yuri's grasp.

Yuri gave the sword a few swings. It left behind a trail of glittery lights with each swing. It was a good sword - a little too extravagant in design - but that's what made it special to him.

Yuri looked at the crossguards. They looked like wings. He felt the ground shudder. The pedestal vanished in a flash of noisy light. Yuri backed away from the light.

His heavy boots thumped loudly on the glass - the chain hanging on his hip jangled. He looked around then stared at the sky.

The glossy, black night, glittering with infinite stars was blanketed by the beautiful light of an orangy-green aurora. The night was still and incurious. But Yuri was breathing heavily. Something was coming. He felt it. He looked to his feet, for he felt them getting hot.

What he saw frightened him. His reflection was staring back at him. Then it turned black. Was it his shadow? No, it was not his shadow. He wished it was, but unfortunately, shadows don't have glowing red eyes and teeth as tall as a house. It was just as Yuri feared. A monster!

The shadow reflection in the glass slithered towards the other end of the mosaic platform. And then took the form of a behemoth standing almost a hundred meters high. He recognized it at once. He had seen Yami show it off in one of his dreams more than a year ago. He remembered the monster's name.

Obelisk the Tormentor!

Lightning flashed all around the giant god-like creature as he spread his wings. His body was bluish-black. He seemed more demonic than in the card Yami showed him. His piercing, red eyes stared directly into Yuri's soul.

He lifted his fist. He was going to smash Yuri. Yuri ducked out of the way. He saw the ground darken underneath the shadow of Obelisk's fist, then felt a bone-rattling slam and the platform shaking violently.

The feeling of vertigo grew stronger as Yuri felt the platform shimmy in the air thousands of feet above the city below.

Again, Obelisk attempted to smash Yuri. Yuri got up and sprinted down the platform before rolling out of the way.

Again, he felt the horrible impact of the fist hitting the ground and the fierce wind that almost pushed him towards the edge of the platform. Obelisk gave out a roar that could be heard hundreds of miles away. Yuri screamed and covered his ears before his eardrums burst. He heard them ringing.

The wind was getting stronger as a terrible storm engulfed the battlefield. Obelisk was shielded by the towering storm clouds until he was nothing more than a silhouette with red eyes. His body was only revealed when the lightning flashed, making even more terrifying.

Obelisk twirled his fists until he conjured a dark ball of energy that rained down red-hot orbs that could turn Yuri to cinders with a touch. Yuri slashed them away with his sword. Obelisk almost chuckled at the sight.

Again, he slammed both his fists down on the platform, hoping to smash Yuri like a bug. He held out his arms and used telekinetic powers to lift buildings off the ground and orbit around him.

Obelisk telekinetically tossed them at Yuri. Yuri braced himself. His sword started glowing bright blue and gave him six wings. Yuri flew into the air and sliced the buildings in half with one powerful slice.

He did it again and again, dodging each of Obelisk's attacks. He used his wings to pick up speed and rocketed towards Obelisk's face. He repeatedly slashed the blue gem inlaid in Obelisk's forehead until it cracked.

The God Card reeled in pain and swatted Yuri away with a gust of hurricane-force winds from his own wings. Yuri was tossed through the air until he passed out. When he woke, he found his arms and legs bound hundreds of feet over the platform by a Duel Monster called Binding Chain.

He couldn't move no matter how hard he tried. Lighting flashed. Obelisk was staring right at him. He leaned forward until he was face to face with Yuri. He sneered at the boy. He stood back upright and held up his fist to launch his most powerful attack. Fist of Fate!

Oh no! Yuri was in trouble now. If Obelisk hit him with that attack, he was done for. He knew this was mostly-likely all just a really bad dream. But it felt so real. The agony. The fear.

The magical steel that held his arms and legs together. And the sounds. The horrible sounds Obelisk made. Would he wake up from the dream after Obelisk hit him? What if the attack was really going to kill him?

He was not going to sit idly by and find out. Time seemed to slow down. Yuri mustered all of his strength and finally broke the magical chain. Obelisk's fist was just a mere dozen feet from him and would reach its mark in a fraction of a second. Yuri swung his sword, intercepting Obelisk's massive fist, smashing the flesh to pieces. Obelisk roared in agony.

He grabbed Yuri with his other hand and tossed him into the air. Yuri soared through the storm clouds - lighting flashing dangerous close to him and the thunder booming loudly in his ears.

He flew up until he was directly over the clouds. Despite how high he was, Obelisk looked still looked like a giant. He was now flying towards him.

Yuri seized his moment and threw his magical sword. It was engulfed in blue flames, looking like a comet and it struck Obelisk's blue gem. Then, it exploded. Yuri blacked out.

The sword spun back to the platform and stuck itself deep in the glass. Yuri fell and smacked hard on the glass. Obelisk came down as well, slamming hard on the platform with a mighty crash that caused many of the buildings below to crumble. Yuri forced himself back up. He grabbed the sword and pulled with all his might until he freed it from the ground.

He dashed toward Obelisk, again, aiming to damage the gem on his forehead, now shattered. He slashed and slashed until it broke into a thousand pieces. Obelisk grunted and reached for Yuri with his last breath, grabbing him and imprisoning him in his grip.

"King..." The behemoth muttered. He started cracking. Light burst out of the cracks on Obelisk's face. He was going to blow. And as he lay there dying, he laughed. Laughed like a madman. Yuri braced himself as a hot, white flash erupted in his face.

He prayed to God, hoping it would all end quickly.


Yuri woke up screaming at the top of his lungs, his arms and legs flailing around as though he were warding off a killer. 

"Yuri! Yuri!" Patty cried, shaking him. "Yuri! Yuri!" As Yuri calmed down, her voice lowered to that of a soothing whisper. "Shhh," she went, rubbing his arm as he started to catch his breath. "You were dreaming again?"

Yuri wheezed heavily and nodded. "A monster," his voice cracked, "a big...blue monster attacked me. What did he want? What did he want? Why can't they just leave me alone?"

Patty rubbed his shoulders gently the way a caring mother would. "Shhhh, it's okay. It's okay, it's over." 

Yuri turned to look at her and when he realized he was...in bed....with HER...he cried out in shock, backing away until he fell off the bed. "Ooof!" he grunted, hitting his head hard on the floor and tumbling end over end. "Patty!" he managed to shout. "Why the hell were you sleeping next to me?" Yuri crawled backward when he saw she was partially dressed. "What the! Why the hell did you take off your pants?"

"It was getting hot."

"You couldn't turn on the AC?"

"I was tired," Patty replied, covering herself with one of her giant pillows to keep from making Yuri feel uncomfortable. "And I didn't want to wake you."

"Why did you...sleep...NEXT TO ME!?"

"Nothing. No reason. Sorry if that bothered you so much."

"Ugh, never again! Never again! Don't ask me to stay the night anymore, okay."

He saw the look of hurt in Patty's eyes. "Is it me?" she asked. 

"No, I..."

"It's your mom and dad, huh? They still don't like me, do they?"

"They do, they just want you to get better. They've known you since we were kids. You just need to go down a better path."

"Easier said than done," said Patty. "Sorry. I didn't mean to freak you out or anything. Come on, let's get dressed. The bus comes in an hour."

"All right." Yuri stood up and left her room to go wash and dress.


Andre - Aquarius/Neros Island


"How often has Yuri been having these dreams?" Andre asked.

He invited Tyson over to the Crystal Pier on Gondolin Island. He was hoping the others would show up, but it was only Tyson today. He asked if Tyson wanted anything but he refused. For the past few days, Andre had been hearing about Yuri's nightmares. He saw him dozing off in class and sometimes, he'd be so scared that he wouldn't even watch a duel, let alone touch his cards. He wanted to get to the bottom of this as best he could.

"I don't even know why that's any of your business," Tyson replied. He was playing billiards alone on the pier. Smack! The balls bounced around, hitting one another closer to the holes. He managed to get three solids in with one hit. "Nice," he said to himself. "I shouldn't even have answered this call. The only reason I came was because I thought the others were gonna be here. You know, I should just walk home right now. I don't even know you, dawg."

"So let's get to know each other. I don't want to be enemies here. I want to help. Yuri's an important guy here on Aquarius, I get that. I know you and the rest of his posse feel the need to watch over him and take care of him but..."

"Damn right we do. You don't know what he's been through his whole life. You think it's easy being the son of a multi-trillionaire? It's not exactly the life of luxury."

Andre laughed. "He doesn't need a life of luxury to be good a Duel Monsters."

"Man, you don't know nothin'!" Tyson made another shot and landed two more solids. He gave Andre a stern look and went to the other side of the table to aim at an orange solid close to the left pocket. "This isn't about Duel Monsters. Yuri's the only child Jacob Montgomery has that wants to take over the family business. Since he was a little kid, Yuri's been groomed for a life of great responsibility and wealth. I don't expect some new kid to understand. Stop acting like you know everything about him, cuz you don't."

"Then help me understand. I want to help him. I really do."

There was a long pause.

"He's been having them since January of last year," Tyson finally said. He was looking through his phone to avoid making eye contact with Andre. "Again, it's really none of your business but this thing's been bugging me for a long, long time. If you think you can help, I'm all ears."

"And so am I. Keep talking."

"Well, the dreams have actually been starting back on December 16th. Yuri has some falling out with an old friend."

"I see. Is this friend around here?"

"No, she's from Greece."

"Oh, she's a chick!? Well now. How would describe his relationship with her?"

"We flew out to Greece last year to visit her. They looked like really good friends. I think they met on a Dueling forum or something back when we started high school. They became close ever since. But after spring break their friendship took a turn for the worst."

"What happened?" 

"I don't know. It all started when she came into possession of some dragon. A Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon, I think it was called. She started to become pro with it."

"Galaxy-Eyes, you say? Did you ever see her play the card when you visited her?"

"We sure did. It was a Normal monster of the dragon-type with 3000 attack points. I saw her play it when we were in a local Dueling event in Santorini. That was the last time any of us saw her. She said he had to take the ferry back home to Athens cuz something came up. When we got back home from our trip, Yuri tried contacting her. But she never answered. Even if she did, it was scarce. Dry and short replies. And she only messaged him every few weeks. Eventually, she started telling him she couldn't speak to him for a month cuz she had a lot of work to do or something. And that's bullshit. I don't care how busy you are. There's always time for your friends when they just wanna talk. And there was more to it."

"Like what?"

"Social media, duh? She said she was too busy studying and doing homework and shit. She was no friend to Yuri. I could tell she didn't roll like that anymore. If you ask me, I think she was letting the fame she got with that Galaxy-Eyes card get to her head. The beginning of the end was on spring break. She said she needed to use that time to study. Again, Patty showed me proof that it was bullshit. She was partying with her friends, taking trips to Rome, and Monaco. Staying in cool hotels during invitational tournaments and things like that. Didn't look like she was too busy. Then Yuri saw her posing in a tight bikini with a bunch of guys in some club during the European championships in Italy and he freaked out."

"Freaked out?"

"Wouldn't you? A bunch of assholes was taking shots off her body, grinding on her, making her twerk. Yuri didn't like that. I guess he never saw her as that kinda girl. Come to think of it, neither did me or the gang. She's a Tolkien nerd like Yuri is, an excellent mathematician, a philosopher, charitable, a skilled duelist, and she came off as really shy. Anyway, he confronted her about it and she didn't get back to him until about two weeks later. But it was too late. Yuri blocked her for good and they never spoke again."

Andre sipped his latte until it was empty. "And you think Yuri's nightmares are a result of that breakup?" 

"Oh, hell yeah. Those two were close. Really, really close. They bought each other gifts; they talked until the sun went down, and dueled on Dueling Network for long periods of time. Yuri often called her his mentor when it came to Duel Monsters. I mean, she was pretty good. And they sparred online for hours, so I guess some of her skill rubbed off on him. Yeah, so, when the friendship ended, Yuri became so depressed. And that's when the nightmares started happening. Stress can do that. Especially the stress of losing someone you really cared about. Or in this case, finding out they never cared all that much about you in the first place. Yuri sobbed until he threw up and he cried so much his head hurt. He said he never felt a pain like that. Not even the pain of losing his grandmother hit him that hard. That's how much she cared for him."

"Hmm. Poor guy. It's a shame you guys lost contact with that Greece girl. I would have liked to chat with her."

"Forget it, dawg. She's not worth it. Any friend who can put you off for weeks without a word is no friend. And no one does that to my pal and gets away with it. So what's this all for? If you're gonna help, help."

"With the information you've provided for me, Tyson, I think I have everything I need. Yuri just needs to get his mojo back. And I know just what to do. Leave it all to me."

Chapter Text

Bakura's Report


Despite my best efforts to help the boy grow, he is still a glorified wimp. He started his first day of kindergarten today and was already pushed around by some of the boys. Even though he wears the best clothing, has the best supplies, and is a child of the most powerful family in the world, something about him seems punchable. I can't help but want to wallop the boy myself. The bullying I fear may contribute to his lack of confidence.

Today, was a grim day for the prince, and for me. A group of bullies tied Yuri to a tree and punched him repeatedly for standing up to another outcast in the class. A little girl by the name of Pamela (Nickname Patty). This is too much. There is only so much a person can take. In order for Yuri to grow, it seems I must break a few rules.

I intervened and saved Yuri from the bullies, but I did my job a little too well. The boys were so frightened of my display that they went into a vegetative state, and their hair turned bleach white. Needless to say, Yuri and his family got into a bit of trouble with the school. The press is eating this up as well. The kids in school have started calling Yuri a monster, and have dubbed me The Pink-Haired Demon. I chuckle because I am now known as the island's official boogeyman.

The kids spread rumors not to bother Yuri, otherwise, Bakura will get them.

This is working out better than I thought...


Yuri - Montgomery Palace/Aquarius

September 11 - Year 18 4AOS


Yuri woke to a beautiful morning. There was no Duel this time and for the first time since the beginning of the year, he woke up feeling great. He sat up and covered his mouth with a polite hand as he gave a big yawn. Then he swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He rubbed his eyes and squinted to read the numbers on his clock. The numbers read 7:45 a.m.

"Aww, man," Yuri grumbled. He rubbed his eyes with his palms to get the sleep off. "Sergei wants me to work today."

As much as the poor boy wanted to play games with his friends after school, he had to go to work for the sake of his Duel Monsters reputation. Even though he was the son of the richest man on the planet, Yuri's relationship with his father was a strict one.

He was not allowed to be given cards by his father to prevent having an unfair advantage over the competition, and he did not have an allowance; for his father was very strict when it came to money.

If he was going to get cards, he had to do so like everyone else with their own money, meaning he had to get a job. So he found work last summer at Ruby Dragon Gaming. It was not how he planned on making a living, but there was nothing else he could do. He didn't have the know-how to start a business like his older siblings Kathy and Buzz, both living the good life somewhere in Europe. Buzz was a professional soccer player and owner of a sports clothing line, and Kathy was a movie star married to a professional duelist from Spain, whose father was the owner of a diamond mine in Africa. 

Yuri gave another yawn, praying he might get his own break soon. He walked to his computer to search for a song to play from his library. He smiled when he found the right one. The perfect song to play when getting up for work and helping him push on through the long drama that was life. He clicked on it, waited for the song to load, and when the window popped up on the screen, he began to dance once the beat of the song's intro started to play.

Holding Back the Years...

Yuri dressed, put on his work shoes, and left the Montgomery Estate. After sailing to the next island on the ferry and taking the bus to the edge of Neros Island, he finally made it to school. 

Natalya approached him with a buttered toast clutched between her teeth. "Morning, Yuri! I hope you studied for that math exam today."

"That was today..." Yuri sulked. "Aww, man. I can't get a break." 

She and Natalya walked down a long hallway towards the entrance to the school, which was an aquarium filled with colorful fish and small sharks.

They noticed a commotion coming from a part of the hall that displayed a coral reef. Patty was cornered against the glass as a young man and his friends surrounded her. 

"C'mon, Pamela, don't make me ask again?" said the leader of the group. A young man with shoulder-length messy blonde hair. He had his blazer tied around his waist and carried a briefcase containing his cards and school supplies. Judging by all the clanking it made whenever he moved, they were probably ruined. 

"Look, Maxwell, I told you before, I'm not interested, all right. Back off!" 

"We need you, Pamela!" said one of Maxwell's friends, another blonde but with mullet and a long braid coming out the back of his neck.

"No, you guys just want a poster girl for your puny little faction. Do you guys actually believe anybody's going to take you seriously just because you have a few rare spell cards in your decks?"

"They will if we have you within our ranks," Maxwell said with a suave voice. "Forget Yuri and those Misfits. You deserve a champion by your side and that's what I intend to be. I'll be the newest Duel King in school before the year's over. And every king needs his queen, right?" He placed his hand on her thigh and slid it upwards, to which she swatted it away.

"Back off, Maxwell! I'm warning you!"

"That's no way for a lady to act," Maxwell said. "Maybe I should teach you a few manners."

"Don't get any ideas! My father is the Commander of RAPTOR. If you idiots harm me in any way, you'll find yourselves in the slums!" 

"Back off, Maxwell!" Yuri commanded the boy. Natalya hit one of his friends with her backpack and stood in front of Patty while Yuri confronted Maxwell. "Leave Patty, alone, man. She doesn't want to join your stupid group."

"Stupid?" the buff football team member got up close so he could look down at Yuri. "You wanna say that to me again? You have the audacity to call my group stupid." He shoved Yuri back with both palms to the shoulders. "You who hangs out with this piece of filth!" He pointed at Nick.

"What you say!?" Nick shouted.

"You heard me, Stowaway! How can you stand to hang with this guy in the group, Patty? He's not one of us."

"One of us?" Yuri asked.

"Yeah. We're citizens of Aquarius. He was snuck aboard our beautiful like a rat hiding in the darkness. You can't call yourself a citizen if you plan on making friends with a Stowaway!"

"My father allowed him to study with us!" Yuri said.

"Oh, did he now? If so, I always knew he was a kook. You all deserve to be called Misfits. So go on, Yuri. Call my group stupid again. Say it and I'll..."

"You'll do what?" Tyson said, storming down the hall. He was bigger and stronger than Maxwell. He was so confident with his strength that he even placed his hand on Maxwell's shoulder and shoved him back. "You'll never be a Duel King, Maxwell. No amount of shiny spell cards can help you in that venture. Patty can't help either. She's a good Duelist but she doesn't work miracles. You're just not that good. Stick to football, dawg."

Andre walked into the aquarium hall. And when he saw the scuffle taking place, he rushed to get himself involved. But it was too late. The vice-principal stormed into the hall. "Hey!" she shouted, sternly clapping her hands together. "Get to class! Now!" 

Maxwell backed away from Tyson and then left with his friends. 

"You good, Patty?" Tyson asked. 

"Yeah, thanks," said Patty replied. "Thanks for helping me back there, guys."

Andre tried to catch up to them but the throng of students got larger and separated them from him. They grew farther and farther apart until he lost them. Yuri, Nick, Patty, Tyson, and Natalya were gone but Carter remained in the hall. He stood in front of a fountain examining his nail polish.

"Hey," he said. Half his face was covered with his long black hair and his eyes appeared feminine from all the mascara he put on. "You're the new hotshot Duelist everyone's talking about."

"I guess so," said Andre. "What was that all about?" 

"Maxwell Jacob Roberts, that's what," Carter replied. "He's some wannabe hotshot who wants to be one of the school's Duel Kings."

"Duel Kings?" Andre asked.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot you were the new kid around here. Allow me to explain. There are four groups running the Duel Monsters action in this school. Each of them has got a leader called a King. And they're the best players in school. First, you got a gang of hotties called The Red Suns. These guys run awesome fire decks with cards that slowly and painfully burn your Life Points down to cinders in a few turns. Their leader is Cody Calloway, a winner of five tournaments at the Ruby Dragon Gaming shop." Carter bit his lip and his eyes rolled upward. "Mmmm, the things I'd let him do to me."

"Dude..." said Andre.

Carter giggled and brushed some hair back with his fingertips. "Sorry, where was I?"

"The Duel Kings?"

"Right. Okay, who's left?" He placed his finger on his bottom lip. "Ah, right. Second is the Albrecht Family, a group of five brothers with a huge following around here. They got duelists in their group who will do anything for them so be careful. The Albrecht Brothers are all sophomores but they took the school by storm last year. Their best player is Cornelius Albrecht IV. These guys have decks filled with nothing but cards of the highest rarity. Every card down to their weakest monsters glimmer. Then you got The Jewels of Paradiso Prima. They're a group of girls led by some pretty boy named Diego Morales, he's their Duel King. He personally manages the girls and has plans to get them into the pro leagues. For the past four years, he's been doing a good job at that. Neither Diego nor his girls have been defeated. They have decks with an archetype of dragon monsters called Gem Dragons, which they use to devastate their opponents with their power and beauty. I've seen them before at the Ruby Dragon and they're scary. And the fourth but unofficial group. The Misfits of St. Augustus. Me, Yuri, and the crew. Well, I'm not included yet, actually."

"Why not? I thought you've known them for a while You guys seem so close.

"Nah, I'm still new around here myself. I only got acquainted with Yuri and the boys because of Patty. She loved the way I styled her hair at my mom's salon and we became friends. She helped me around my first day of school here and that's when I met the guys. Hopefully, I can prove myself and be a part of their group."

"So you guys are the unofficial fourth group, huh?" Andre said. He formed a cocky smirk and his eyebrow lifted, piqued with interest. "Let me guess, Yuri's the Duel King of your group, right."

"That's the thing. We don't know who to call our Duel King. It should be Patty since she's the best player out of all of us. But Yuri. Man, when he gets in the game, he can play. A lot of punks challenge him because he's the so-called Prince of Duel Monsters. And he can beat them. Even with a deck of weak monsters, Yuri comes up with ways to come out on top. But...there's a problem. He can't win tournaments. I don't know what happens when he sits down during a tournament. It's like the lights go off and he's lost. Same with being in large crowds. He plays fine when it's just us, but when other people get involved, he gets scared and plays like an amateur. I've never seen such a shift in skill before. One second he's a rising star, the next, he folds and runs home."

"It's like he's afraid of going pro."

"That's what it sounds like to me. He's got so much fear in him. For some odd reason, he's afraid of going higher when it comes to Duel Monsters." He made his already high-pitched voice grow higher, mocking Yuri. "Go ahead, make me President of a multi-trillion dollar corporation. Make me the owner of the largest floating city in the world. But heaven forbid I go pro. Man, the guy makes no sense. It just frustrates me, you know. If Yuri'd learn to overcome his fears and grow a pair of balls, he could do amazing things, I'm telling you. He'll never get far with so much fear and doubt in him. He'd be the fourth official Duel King in the school by now."

Andre scratched his temple, unsure about Carter's enthusiasm towards Yuri. "I don't know. You really think Yuri can be a Duel King in this school?"

"I do. I really do and nothing can convince me otherwise."

The first bell rang, warning students they had five more minutes left to get to class. Carter picked up his backpack, bid Andre goodbye, and sauntered to his first-period class.


Now that school was closed for the day, all three floors of the shop were filled with young gamers. The scent of burgers and other foods from the shop's diner perfumed the air. A few pumpkins were grinning in the corners and the walls, bursting with color from the posters advertising tournament-worthy Zombie decks, as well as posters announcing the shop tournament called the Halloween Monster Mash. The prize would be a shiny Pumpking the King of Ghosts who which had an alternate art and was shimmering in a new rarity called Ghost Rare. A booster set called Haunted Mansion was on display by the cash wrap.

There would be a small chance one of those boxes contained a Ghost Rare monster. The main creature on the box art was a Summoned Skull with alternate art.

"Yer late!" snapped Sergei, as Yuri clocked in on the computer by the counter.

"I had a little dragon trouble," Yuri said pointing at the bruise under his eye. He got it when he ran into the cardboard sign of a Blackland Fire Dragon outside the store during his rush into the store. What he deserved for walking around with his head in the clouds. 

"BAH!" Sergei said with a loud laugh. He slapped Yuri hard on the back, knocking him forward. "Did big, powerful dragon burn our little flower?"

"OY! Sergei!" laughed another co-worker, his brother, Boris. He set down heavy boxes of new merchandise on the counter with a loud thump. "Go easy on little Yuri today, ah."

"Da, of course, we must," teased Sergei. "Enough of his little petals have been picked."

The other sales associates laughed and started playfully mocking Yuri.

"Not today, Sergei," Yuri said, putting on his red apron.

"Indeed. We have much work that needs doing," said Sergei.


As the day progressed, the shop started getting noisy. Yuri saw his friends coming in through the door, exhausted from their journey to pick up Sam from school. "Hi guys," he said, sweeping the floor behind the counter clean of stickers and bits of cardboard.

"Hey Yuri," Patty said, wearing a black hoodie in the shape of a dragon. The sleeves had claws, her hood was adorned with horns, and cloth frills ran down the back to a tail that hung near the bottom. "Let go you little twerp!" she said sternly to Sam, playing with her tail.

"Well, you know me," Sam said, playfully swinging her tail from side to side. "I love chasing tail."

"Oh!" said Sergei. He maliciously drummed his fingers on the counter in disapproval of the young boy's insensitive behavior. "Audacious, isn't he?"

"You have no idea," Patty said, swiping her tail from Sam's grip. She walked away from the boy and leaned close to Tyson for some protection. He grinned and placed both hands on her shoulders, lightly pushing her away from his view.

"Hey, Sergei," said Nick. "I came to get some new cards."

"Ah, you got money?" Sergei asked, raising his chin in greed.

"And how," said Nick, showing him a wad of twenty-dollar bills he earned from recycling the garbage in the marina of the slums. "So, what've you got on display today?" Nick leaned over the counter to look at the new shiny cards.

The bell over the door jingled again. Natalya came running in with a skip in her step. The strap of her backpack was struggling to stay on her shoulder. Her face was red from running in the heat and soaked from perspiration.

"Hi Uncle!" she called out, running quickly to the counter to kiss Sergei on his scruffy cheek.

"Natalya," said Sergei, wiping her sweat from his cheek with his knuckles. "So how did it go?"

"You're going to be so proud of me, uncle," Natalya said running to the stockroom of the store. She smelled of cinnamon spice and perfumed the air with her scent as she passed by.

Proud. Hah. She didn't need to tell him that. He already knew Natalya had good news. She was a very gifted girl, already earning herself a spot in the school's top ten. Had she been registered as a citizen of Aquarius much earlier, she would have been attending Phobos Corp. Academy with the sons and daughters of the island's most elite families. Sergei had a twinkle in his eye. From where he stood, Yuri could tell his godfather was being filled to the brim with pride again.

For the longest time, he boasted about Natalya's grades and accomplishments at parties and when having dinner at Yuri's house, which was a common occurrence. Natalya came out of the stockroom lickety-split, tying her apron over her pink tank top and jeans. "I scored the highest in the exam!" she cried out proudly.

"That's my girl," said Sergei. He pounded his chest with the utmost pride and admiration.

"What exam?" asked Tyson, reading a comic book from one of the stands near the store's front window.

"Natalya's been taking extra classes at St. Christina University," said Yuri, carefully stacking booster boxes on the shelf behind the cash wrap. Nick was eyeing them all greedily, as did Sam and Carter. Yuri saw the greed in their eyes and laughed before he said: "It's a requirement for the school she wants to go to."

"Sheesh," said Tyson, putting the comic back where he found it. "I aim for a good school, too, but I don't have to work THAT hard for it."

"Well, Tyson, my friend," said Sergei. "My Natalya isn't going to any other school. She's going to an Ivy League school in New England."

"Wow, I wish I could," Nick said drearily, feeling a tad jealous.

"Congratulations," said Patty, leaning against the counter and swiping her tail away before Sam could play with it. "You must be working really hard if you have to juggle school, a job, and our pal Yuri at the same time."

"Hey!" said Yuri, feigning insult.

Natalya laughed at her joke while picking up boxes of Magic the Gathering cards. "If I can handle Yuri, I can handle anything. He's a handful, he is. When will I get to meet your other two friends, Yuri?"

"Y-you won't see them as often," said Yuri, his voice got shaky when he felt his nerves getting the best of him. "They're rather busy."

"Oh dear," Natalya said, feeling upset. She smiled again and picked up another box of cards. "Maybe some other time, I suppose. I really want their autographs."

"Judge!" A player called out from one of the tables to report a foul. Natalya held out her palm. "Be right there," she said before she walked away.

"Autographs?" said Patty, backing herself against the counter when she noticed Sam was circling her legs to look up her skirt. "Just who are these friends of yours, Yuri?"

"Never mind that, Patty," said Yuri, pulling Sam away by the scruff of his neck. "Get over there!" he commanded him, pointing toward the fountain. "Anyways, if you're here to buy, I'll help you on register one. If you're here to Duel, the tables are open. But you have to be quick; we have a tournament later on."

"A tournament," said Sam glowing with excitement. "Where do I sign up?"

"If you want to register, make it fast," said Yuri. "That's why there's a crowd over there."

"Oh snap!" said Sam, rushing away.

"You're not going to join, Nick?" Carter asked. "This is a tournament for novice players. It could be a chance to spruce your skills."

"I'm no beginner," said Nick, confidently crossing his arms. "I can handle myself."

"Yeah, that's why your record stinks," said Patty. "I'm going to register for the Halloween tournament, Sergei."

"Da, right this way," he said, leading her to the sign-up list on the column nearby.

"What? What about the Halloween Dance?" Yuri asked. "You were really looking forward to that."

"I have no one to go with," Patty replied. "And as you know, I was recently dumped."

"Again!?" said Carter. "But I thought things were going well between you and Morty."

"I thought so too, but he made me an offer I had to refuse. Don't ask me what it was because you don't want to know."

"Do you have anyone to take you to homecoming?" Natalya asked, returning from the table after settling the dispute between the players. "That's coming up really soon."

"I haven't found anyone who would take me," said Patty with a shrug.

"You can always ask me to go with you, baby," Sam said, leaning against her leg. "I see you like pink."

Patty cringed and yanked her mini-skirt down as far as she could to keep him from seeing anything. Sergei lightly placed his hands on Sam's shoulders and pulled him away from her.

"Mind your manners, boy," he said. "That is no way to treat a lady."

Patty smiled at Sergei for coming to her defense. "I'd sooner ask your brother out, Sam."

"Really?" Nick asked.

"No!" Patty proclaimed at once.

"Come on, boys," said Sergei. "Leave her alone. If you bother Patty again, I'm booting you from my store. I'm warning BOTH of you."

He led her away from the brothers. Carter followed behind him and tapped his shoulder. "Mr. Sergei," he said. "I was wondering if, Yuri and I could have a Duel."

"I'm working right now, Carter," said Yuri.

"Oh," said Carter, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. "Oh, yeah, I forgot."

Sergei patted Carter's shoulders gently. "No, no, no," he said. "I think Yuri Dueling is just what I need right now. Besides, my boy," he looked at his wristwatch, "you are long overdue for a break."

"Okay," said Yuri, undoing his apron. "I'll go get my stuff." He headed for the stockroom.

"Thanks, Yuri," said Carter. "I'll hold a spot for you at table twelve."

"You must be pretty proud of that deck if you're going to take on Yuri," said Patty, signing her name on the tournament list.

"I managed a few wins the other day," said Carter. "Five victories."

"Great job," said Tyson. "You're coming along great."

"Da," Sergei agreed. "I told you that Water deck would do you wonders. Makes sense you chose that element, seeing as how you want to join the Navy after school ends, ya?"

"Carter, you serious?" Patty asked. "You're going to the Navy?"

"Well..." Carter said nervously. "No. It's something my dad wants. I'd rather work my magic at the salon up in Diamond Street."

Patty fluffed her hair. If ever she had a problem with it or needed something done with it, Carter was the person to see. "Actually, I think that suits you so much better, baby. Why not do that instead. Just let your dad know that RAPTOR isn't for you and become a hairstylist. No one knows hair quite like you do."

"Da. I agree with Patty," said Sergei. "Follow your dreams, my young friend."

"You're right," Carter said. He blinked his eyes rapidly to keep the tears from coming out. "I'll have a talk with my old man tonight. I'm going to put my foot down and let him know that I am no sailor. Yuri, I'm feeling pretty boosted right now, baby. I hope you have your best cards on you. Like that Black Dragon Jungle King. He's your best card, right? I want to test that handsome bitch out for myself."

Yuri came back out of the stockroom with his deck in hand. He and Carter sat down at their table. Their friends gathered around them. A liquid-crystal screen over their table displayed an empty Colosseum with torches lighting up the night. Their Life Points were displayed on the screen as well.

"Let's Duel, Yuri!"

"Show me what you've got, Carter," said Yuri, setting down his deck. The hi-tech playmat scanned his deck.


LP 2000


"I'll go first, seeing as I'm the challenger," said Carter. "I play the Field Spell Card, Umi!"

He slapped his Spell Card on the mat. The Colosseum then turned into an ocean with a rocky island at the center housing the ruins of a temple that resembled the Parthenon. Carter searched his hand wondering what to play.

"Now that's what I'm talking about!" Carter beamed at the new scenery on the Duel Screen. "I summon Turu-Purun in attack mode!"

The screen displayed a short and stubby sea creature with one eye, a large mouth with his two large teeth coming out the corners, blue skin with an anchor tattooed on his chest, two gold armbands, a red cape, and a tail. His weapon of choice was a trident.

ATK/450 DEF/500

"Oh, I love it," Carter hooted, clapping his hands. "And look, he matches my nail polish. "Also, Umi will give him a field power bonus, raising his attack to six-fifty. Can you top that, my love?"

"I'm sure he can," said Patty. "It was smart of you to use the Umi card to give your water monsters a field power bonus, but it's still pretty weak."

"You can beat him, Yuri?" Carter asked. "But. I've got a field power bonus. Doesn't that count for something? Aw, fuck me, you can beat him, can't you?"

Yuri let out a friendly laugh. "Yeah, with this guy, Mechaleon,"

He summoned a large chameleon-like monster. Its attack was 800, more than enough to beat Turu-Purun.

"Aw," said Carter, watching Yuri's monster destroy his on the screen. His Life Points now at 1850. "Damn, ho," he said, discarding Turu-Purun to the grave.

"Yuri is Dueling!" Sam said, squeezing past Nick and Tyson to get a better look. "Why didn't anyone tell me? I've always wanted to see Yuri play."

Patty scooted towards Yuri a little more to get away from the kid. She filled Yuri's nostrils with her scent of amber musk perfume, pleasing him, for he was tired of the smell of burgers and french fries and cardboard.

"I play a card face down and end my turn," said Yuri.

"My turn," said Carter. He drew gingerly. "I summon Liquid Beast!"

He summoned a monster made of orange goo with five blue eyes. It had an attack strength of 950, plus the field bonus from Umi made him 1150. He looked at the Mechaleon's attack. 800. He smiled confidently, pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, and attacked.

"I use Reinforcements," said Yuri, flipping over his trap card.

Carter groaned, fanning his cards over his face to control his temper. "Ah, fuck me. What does it do?"

Yuri nodded. "It will raise my Mechaleon's attack points by five hundred, so he beats your Liquid Beast."

The monsters battled on the screen making the score 1700.

"Got to do better than if you want to beat Yuri," Patty said.

"I know, bitch," Carter retorted, sassily snapping his fingers three times over her face. "I think I'm getting the hang of this. Good play, Yuri. You're good."

Yuri shook his head. "No, man, you're just a beginner. I can teach you some time if you want. My students, however, end up being better than me."

"Like me," said Sam. "Have you seen me Duel yet, Patty?"

"Can't say that I have," said Patty. "Did you really teach him, Yuri?"

Yuri replied with a shrug. "Just the basics. Seems like he got better at the game if he feels confident enough to play in the Halloween tournament. Anyways, it's my turn. I summon Trakadon in attack mode."

"Dinosaurs, huh?" said Sam. "You always were the dinosaur nerd, Yuri."

"They're the sole reason I got into the game," said Yuri. "Sucks there aren't that many of them. It's your move, Carter. Got anything to stomp my dinosaur and my Mechaleon?"

"At thirteen-hundred attack points, your Trakadon is tough," said Carter. "But wait till you see this. I summon Wow Warrior in attack mode. His attack is twelve-fifty, but with my Umi, it raises him to fourteen-fifty. I will destroy your Mechaleon!"

Yuri picked up the card and set it down in the discard pile. "Well, you finally got him."

On the screen, the scaly blue creature reared on its hind legs and roared. It dashed across the temple and attacked Mechaleon with a powerful bite.

The chameleon-like monster gave a horrid croaking noise after the dagger-shaped teeth of Wow Warrior crunched on his flesh. He wobbled about and fell dead. His body consumed by rays of light, and then he disappeared. Wow Warrior stomped on the ground victoriously. He snarled as if telling Trakadon that he was next.

After the battle, Yuri's Life Points went down to 1350.

Carter snapped his fingers three times, jerking his head from side to side. "Mmm-hmm, now you're my bitch, Yuri."

Patty let out a loud, astonished, gasp. "Wow, Carter got the lead!"

Sam looked up at her with a wide grin. "Man, if a 350-point lead is all it takes to excite you, I can't wait for you to see me Duel!"

"Ew," said Patty. "What are you going to do now, Carter?"

"I'm going to play this card face down, and activate Pot of Greed so I can draw two cards. Your move, Yuri."

Yuri drew.

"Mammoth Graveyard in attack mode," said Yuri, "and I use the Equip Spell Card, Invigoration, which raises the attack of Earth-Attribute monsters by 400 points, but decreases their defense by 200."

The Mammoth Graveyard's attack went up to 1600. The Duel Screen now showed the skeleton of a large mammoth sliding its right foot on the ground, ready to charge. Yuri attacked with it, but Carter was ready. After his Wow Warrior was destroyed and his Life Points went down to 1500, he activated a Trap Card.

"It's called Attack and Receive," said Carter. "This card activates when I take damage. I will inflict seven hundred points of damage to you."

"What?" said Yuri now standing at 650.

"Wow, Carter, that's brutal," said Tyson. "You've almost got this."

"I knew Yuri wasn't good," said Sam.

Yuri wished for a way to turn the Duel around, but he was not so fortunate. Carter beat him with a new monster called Roaring Ocean Snake; a Fusion monster with an ATK of 2100. On the screen, the powerful red serpent summoned a massive tidal wave that drowned Yuri's monsters and dropped his Life Points to 0.

"My turn," said Sam, "Though I wanted a challenge."

"Forget it," said Yuri, picking up his cards. "I have to get back to work."

"How's about a little one-on-one Patty?" Sam asked.

"Sure, I'm game," Patty replied with a shrug.

"With cards or without cards?" Sam raised his eyebrows up and down.

"Hoo! Hoo!" went Tyson. "Damn, this kid's dangerous."

"On second thought I think I'll pass," Patty said walking away.

Natalya hopped over the counter. "Why don't I play him?" she asked. "If I can?" She looked at Sergei for approval. Her uncle scratched his scruffy chin and gave a shrug.

"Well, why not? It's a slow day. You can play, darling, as a reward for all your hard work at school."

"Thank you, Uncle," said Natalya, kissing his cheek again. She removed her deck from her back pocket. "Okay, you. Let's Duel."

Sam leaned back casually in his chair as he crossed his arms. He had a look on his freckle-sprayed face that Yuri quickly identified as trouble. Sam took a cherry-flavored lollipop from his jacket, undid the wrapping, and put it in his mouth while he waited for Natalya to undo her apron.

"Say, Natalya," he said, sucking on the candy. "I heard you have yourself a bird deck. That true?"

"Oh yes," Natalya said sitting down on the other side of the table. "I love Winged-Beast monsters."

"Word on the street is you have yourself a pretty powerful one. Why don't we make this match interesting by say...putting it up on the line? What do you say?"

"I'd say you're out of your mind," said Natalya. "My grandmother gave me this card. You'd have to put your money where your mouth is in order to make me put my best monster up."

"Funny you should say that," sneered Sam, his eyes twinkling with confidence. His grin grew so wide it was ear-to-ear. "I have a hundred bucks right here!" He showed her the money, much to Nick's disapproval.

"Where did you get that?" Nick said, almost with a yell.

"Wouldn't you like to know," said Sam.

"No, no!" yelled Nick. "You can't put that money on the line for a card, Sam. Even if it is rare, it's not worth putting a hundred bucks at stake, we're on a very tight budget!"

"I accept," said Natalya. "I saw this really nice jacket in the mall the other day. That money could help me buy it."

Nick grimaced as he turned to look at her. "No offense, Natalya, but I hope you don't win. You have no idea what this idiot is costing us right about now."

Natalya shrugged. "I accept the terms of your challenge, Sam. You're on."

"You'd better come prepared," said Sam. "I practice Dueling every day. Even on weekends. There's no way I'll lose. Your rarest card is going to be all mine."

Natalya narrowed her eyes and set her cards on the LED touchscreen playing mat.

"You sure you know what you're doing?" Sergei said, coming up behind Natalya. "Your babushka scrapped up for months to save enough money so she could buy you that card."

Natalya kissed her Uncle's cheek. "I've got this. He is not going to win."


LP 2000


"I'll let you start first," said Natalya.

"Fine by me," said Sam, drawing his first card. "See how you like this! I summon Battle Warrior in attack position!" (ATK/700 DEF/1000). "I set two cards and end my turn. Your turn, beautiful."

"Ha, you're so cute," Natalya said sarcastically. She looked at Patty. "So, this is what you have to put up with every day, huh?"

Patty's eyes rotated and she crossed her arms. "You have no idea. Welcome to my world."

"Well, I'll show him some manners. "I summon Kurama in attack mode!" She slapped her card onto the LED playing mat. The screens on the wall then showed a fiendish, featherless, blue bird with a whip-like tail and dragon-shaped wings. (ATK/800 DEF/800). "And now, your Battle Warrior goes bye-bye. Attack!"

The bird squawked and dove towards Sam's warrior. But he was one step ahead of Natalya. "Not too bright," he vexed, flipping over his face-down. "I activate the Trap Card, Reinforcements! This will increase my Battle Warrior's attack by five hundred points, making him more than a match for your monster." (ATK/1200)

Everyone watched the screen as Battle Warrior raised his fists and leaped into the air. His right fist started glowing blue and he punched the bird in the stomach.

"OH!" Everyone shouted as the bird was blown up by the impact.

Natalya wrinkled her nose impatiently, feeling rather annoyed with herself for not seeing that coming. She was so focused on making Sam pay for her arrogant attitude and his rudeness towards Patty, that she failed to even see the face-down cards he had. He had such a pretentious grin on his face as he drew his next card and said: "I'm even better than you high school, kids. I'm good"

He examined his hand, wondering what to play next. "If you can't handle my Battle Warrior, there's no way you can handle this. Here comes Masaki the Legendary Swordsman!" He viciously slapped the card onto the mat. The screen displayed a samurai with green armor and a long katana. (ATK/1100 DEF/1000)

"Your turn, Natalya. Can your birds handle my mighty swordsman?"

"I'll make you eat your words you little brat," Natalya muttered. "I play Pot of Greed, allowing me to draw two cards. Next, I summon Droll Bird and..."

"No you won't," Sam sneered with sickening overconfidence.

Yuri stood his ground, trying to remain calm. That horrid smile triggered something in him. He felt like he wanted to teach the young brat a lesson. It took everything in his being to keep his cool and say something he was going to regret. Though he and Sam were very close, Yuri was not approving of both his nasty attitude and his insensitive flirting with Patty which made him ill to his stomach. He kept his mouth shut, wondering what was the Trap Card he played.

"Check it out, Natalya. House of Adhesive Tape. If your monster has a defense of five hundred or less, it automatically gets destroyed.

Natalya sighed, ending her turn.

Natalya-1600 LP

Sam-2000 LP

"This is going to be one easy victory, man," Sam said drawing his card. "Ha, this monster is gonna make you change your underwear. I summon Cyber Soldier of Dark World. With an attack of fourteen-hundred, I doubt you have anything that can stop him."

Natalya smirked. "You must be really full of yourself to be thinking like that. I draw! Oh, perfect. I play the Spell Card, Card Destruction. Now I can get rid of my crappy hand, and draw a new one. You do the same."

"Ha, a crappy hand," Sam scoffed, tossing his cards into the Graveyard. He picked up a new hand per the effect of Card Destruction. "You know, these aren't exactly my best monsters, and they still have been kicking your butt." He looked at his new collection of monsters and grinned. "I hope you have something good on that hand of yours, Natalya. Otherwise, your prized bird is mine."

"Keep dreaming, punk." Natalya was losing her patience. "I play the Field Spell. Mountain!"

Patty clapped with joy. "Oh, here we go. Now things are getting interesting."

She saw the Colosseum turn into the ruins of a fortress perched atop a tall mountain surrounded by smaller ones. The wind howled fiercely, causing the ancient tattered banners running along the top of the fortress to flap violently. The sky was a shade of cold gray, and thunder rumbled within the thick veil of clouds.

"Wow, what have you done?" Sam asked, marveling at the new scenery on the screens. It was a beautiful change compared to the dull Colosseum that was the default playing field, but he knew it only meant trouble for him and his monsters.

Natalya smiled. "This Field Spell grants a field power bonus of two hundred points to my Winged-Beast monsters. After this, you'll find they won't be so easy to take down. I play my Spell Card, Double Summon! This card allows me to conduct two Normal Summons this turn. First, here's Queen Bird!"

The screen displayed a giant vulture with white wings, tinged green at the tips. The feathers on its head and chest were scarlet red, and its neck was the size of the arm of a full-grown man. (ATK/1200 DEF/2000).

Natalya searched her hand, wondering what card to play next. "And here comes Takuhee!" Natalya joyfully put the card down on the map. The newest monster of the match was a large brown eagle with a golden beak. (ATK/1450 DEF/1000).

 

With the field power bonus, Queen Bird's ATK was now 1400 and Tukahee's was 1650. Sam gulped when he saw that Natalya's Winged-Beasts were no mere spring chickens like he joked they were. Tukahee attacked Battle Warrior. The bird spread its wings, taking off into the air. It circled over the ruins and dove with incredible speed. BOOM! A cloud of dust and debris burst into the air.

Yuri and his friends jumped and cheered when they saw the violent impact being displayed. Finally, Queen Bird made her move. She took flight and grabbed Masaki with her talons, taking him up into the sky and over the mountains. She let him go. Maskai screamed as he plummeted to his death.

"Dude that sucks!" Nick laughed, pointing at Masaki's misery.

Sam's mouth hung wide open while his eyes darted across the field, wondering what just happened. He was in the lead. And now he was trailing behind with a mere 750 Life Points.

"Get ready to pay up," said Natalya, feeling confidence brimming through her once again.

She was finally smiling, and her frustration towards Sam was long gone now that she was satisfied with his displeasure at the current situation. She just loved the way he looked at the field and his hand, wondering what he did to get himself into such a disadvantage. She prayed that he realized that he was just too overconfident for his own good.

She hoped that her attack had humbled him somehow. Natalya then turned her gaze towards Patty, who was also quite content with Sam being stuck at the bottom of the barrel in the match. No doubt she was glad the little boy who constantly harassed her was getting his comeuppance with this Duel.

Sam gulped and started to bite his lollipop, crunching it to pieces. It was now that he realized his hundred-dollar bill was slowly slipping from his grasp along with any hopes of getting the Ultra Rare card he so longed for from Natalya. He drew his next card. What he got made him smile.

"Perfect!" he yelled. "I activate Polymerization! Fusing together my Lesser Dragon and Steel Ogre Grotto Numer One to become Metal Dragon!"

The screen showed a metallic serpentine dragon with a body made of bright chrome, with claws of gold and ridges of spikes down its back colored red. (ATK/1800 DEF/1700).

"And next, I use the Equip-Spell, Machine Conversion Factory to increase his attack and defense by three-hundred points raising him to twenty-one hundred! Now roast her pathetic Queen Bird, Metal Dragon!"

Metal Dragon charged a red laser inside of its mouth and fired. The beam of bright red light struck Queen Bird in the chest. She exploded and dropped Natalya's Life Points to 900.

"And next I use the Spell known as Dian Keto the Cure Master, raising my Life Points up by a grand, bringing me back up to the lead."

Natalya-900

Sam-1750

"Impressed, Patty?" Sam sneered, looking at his crush who was many years his senior.

Patty tossed her hair over her shoulder and looked away. "Humph. I've got to admit, you've turned things around, Sam."

Sam slapped a hand over his heart. "That means a lot coming from you. Maybe one day I'll impress you enough that we can go out on a date."

"Keep dreaming, punk," said Sergei. "Make a comment to Patty like that again, and you're out of my store."

"Thank you, Sergei," Patty said with a smile.

Sam shrugged, not at all feeling remorseful for his behavior. "Sheesh. Nobody has a sense of humor nowadays. Well, Natalya. I hope you're ready to fork over that bird of yours. Is he powerful?"

"Why don't you ask him and see for yourself. I play Shallow Grave, allowing us to bring back a monster from our Graveyards in face-down defense position. Now I shall tribute Tukahee and my revived Queen bird so I can summon Simorgh, Bird of Divinity!"

Yuri and the others went silent and watched in awe as Natalya's favorite monster soared out of the clouds.

Sam gasped in shock, wondering how he could let this happen. Not only was her rarest monster coming towards the field, but it was an effect monster. He was sure it was going to have a nasty surprise for him when Simorgh landed.

He was a monstrous bird with brilliant feathers of jade green. The wings were transparent and trimmed with solid ones at the top of the wings. The solid feathers were decorated with brilliant gold chains. He had four large tail feathers made of gold. His legs were braced in anklets of gold crusted with gems. On the top of his head, he bore a red crown.

Simorgh, Bird of Divinity

ATK/2700 DEF/1000

Nick moved closer towards the screens to get a better look at the giant bird. "Wow, Natalya, that's an impressive monster. Trade for it?"

"No, I'm not going to trade for it," snapped Natalya. "You must be out of your damn mind. Now, Sam. It's time I taught you some respect. I use Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy your Machine Conversion Factory, weakening your dragon's attack points. Simorgh, attack and destroy the Metal Dragon!"

Simorgh raised its mighty wings and gave a powerful flap which sent a mighty flurry of razor-sharp feathers flying towards Metal Dragon. They cut him down to size.

"My dragon!" Nick yelled, watching his dragon get blown to pieces on the screen in front of him. His Life Points dropped down to 850.

Natalya smirked. "Now, I place two cards face down. I end my turn."

"M-my turn," stuttered Sam. "I draw. I use Monster Reborn to bring back your Queen Bird in defense mode. With a defense of two-thousand boosted to twenty-two hundred thanks to your mountain. She'll defend my Life Points. I end my turn and...HEY!"

His Life Points dropped to 0.

"Wha-what happened?" he cried out.

"Simorgh's special effect," said Natalya. "During our end phases, Simorgh inflicts us with one thousand points of damage. However, the damage is reduced by five hundred for each Spell and Trap card we have on our fields, thereby keeping my Life Points safe, but since you didn't have any out, you took the full blast. Sorry, Sam, but Simorgh stays with me. And I believe you owe me a hundred bucks."

"NO!" Sam wailed slamming his head on the table. "I was so close to winning!"

"You gotta pay up, bro," said Nick.

"That's okay," said Natalya. "Sam learned his lesson, which is all the reward I'll need. You played a good game, Sammy. But you got a lot of mouth. See to it that you learn a little respect."

Natalya picked up her cards. The battlefield on the screens faded and returned to the logo of the card shop.

"Okay, you two," said Sergei, patting Yuri and Natalya's shoulders with his big hands. "Fun's over. Get back to work."

The door to the store opened and the store's jingle rang to announce another customer. It was Andre, looking for another afternoon of Dueling. "Aww, man," he said when he noticed Yuri's uniform. "I guess there's no playing against your right now, is there?" 

"Afraid not. You'll have to wait another nine hours before my shift is done."

"I'll take him on, though," Patty said. 

"You'd Duel me?" Andre asked, his face getting red.

"Yeah. To make up for your match against Nick. Also, didn't you say you were going to Duel against Yuri during the week? Where did you go?"

"Oh...uh, I had other stuff to take care of. You understand."

Patty's lips formed that cocky smirk again and her eyes flashed with confidence. "Or you were scared of my friend's strength."

Yuri chuckled, wiping the glass countertop. "I'm not that strong. Table 4 is free. I'll keep it reserved for you guys." He picked up the store's tablet and with a few taps, the table was theirs.

Patty waved her hands happily. They were covered deep in her sleeves, which flopped around. "Ooo, Table 4. That's the one with the view of the water." Patty skipped away. "Thanks, Yuri. You're the best." She pulled up her chair and sat down. Andre sniffed the air, which was scented with her cotton candy perfume. 

Andre sat down, took out his cards, and they began their Duel.

"Ladies first," he said. 

"Okay, then," Patty said. She whistled as she drew the top card of her deck and added it to her hand. "I summon a monster in defense mode."

"You don't want to reconsider that move? I've got good cards in my hand. They're going to give you a tough time."

"Just go," Patty said. 

"If you insist," said Andre. "I summon Flame Champion. And now I'll strike down your monster!"

Patty picked up her card after it was destroyed on the Duel Screen. Flame Champion sliced Patty's mystery monster in half with her flaming sword. Flame Champion posed victoriously and jumped back to Andre's side of the field.

"Claw Reacher, huh?" said Andre. "You trying to psyche me out with that weak opening move?"

"Maybe," Patty said. "I summon Terra the Terrible!" 

She called upon a hideous green swamp creature with big red gloves and red marking on his chest and arms.

"Patty," Andre said smiling. "I have a feeling you have something in store for me. Bring it."

"If you say so. I activate the spell, Flame Chain. I select one monster on the field and its ATK decreases by 400 points. And now I'm going to boost Terra the Terrible's power with Archfiend's Staff of Despair. Now, your monster's ATK gets decreased by half of Terra's ATK points, so her power is now 900. Terra the Terible attack Flame Champion!"

Terra the Terrible jabbed Flame Champion with lightning-fast punches and destroyed her, bringing Andre down to 1700 LP. 

"Not bad," said Andre.

Patty waved him off with a yawn. "Your move." 

Andre stroked his chin. "Wow, that fast, huh? All right. Let's see how you handle this card. I call on the diamond dragon, Hyonzanryu! At 2100 points, your creature doesn't stand a chance. Attack, Hyonzanryu."

The diamond dragon appeared in a flash. As soon as it was rendered on the field, it flew up high and blasted Terra the Terrible with a prismatic beam that turned him to ashes. 

Patty blinked in surprise. She didn't expect Andre to have such a strong card in his deck. She blew a bubble with her gum while discarding her fallen monster to the graveyard. "Well," she said. "That was unexpected."

"I'll understand if you want to quit. He's one of the strongest cards in my deck."

"Quit? No, no, no. I don't quit. I summon this card. Dark Chimera!" 

"That card?" Andre said. He leaned over to see the card. "But he's only got sixteen-ten attack points. What a strange offense. How are you going to beat my Hyozanryu with that card? I'm interested."

"Equip-spell cards," Patty said. "The same stuff you lectured Nick on using, remember? This is the Black Pendant. This will increase its attack points by 500 points. Now Dark Chimera is stronger than your diamond dragon. And with this attack, you lose..." Patty giggled. "Ten Life Points." 

"Geeze," said Andre. "You're a livewire, huh? All, right, let's see where this goes. I summon this card in defense mode."

"And I call on Reaper of the Cards," Patty said, sliding her card onto the mat so it could be rendered on the screen.

 

"Reaper of the Cards?" Andre said with a gulp. "Such a dark deck for one so pretty and bright."

Yuri passed by and laughed at him. "Compliments don't work on her, man. Don't even try and get into her heart."

Andre looked at him and shrugged. "Just trying to be nice. I summon "  

"Not to me, babe," said Patty. "Too many scars. I use the Zera Ritual card and summon my man." 

"Zera the Mant," said Yuri. He patted Andre on the shoulder and walked away. "Have a lovely night."

Before Yuri could walk away, Tyson ran up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Yo, Yuri. Got a second, man?"

"What's up?"

"Well, my dad and I got a new grill and my relatives came over to commemorate the opening of our second restaurant on Goldolin Island. I was wondering if maybe you'd like to join us for dinner tomorrow tonight. I'd really appreciate it if you came over. In fact, my family requested you come over. It's been ages since they've seen you, man."

Yuri's face lit up. He absolutely loved Tyson's family. "Sure, I got lots of time. And I'd like to see what you can do with that new grill. Should I bring any food?"

Tyson laughed. "Naw, man. I think we've got this covered."  

Chapter Text


A great convoy with three-floored iron wagons pulled effortlessly by six Megazowlers made its way through the rainy labyrinth of stone hills and rocky cliffs that were known as the Fords of Garreth-Ulthil which meant the Rains of Death in the ancient Norman tongue.

There were Naralian guards in heavy metal armor equipped with giant lances and shields surrounding the wagons with their heads confidently held high. Above them flew a white and gold mech carrying a lance and a cybernetic shield. A Holy Knight of Naralia no doubt, the elite order of warriors whom King Forrest sent for his most questionable missions. 

“Ser Azrael here, no problems!” the pilot of the mech said. He yawned with boredom, hoping for some action before reaching Naralia. “How’s the cargo?”

“Guardian 1 to Knight 7. It’s under control. Just a few more days and we can finally be out of this forsaken country.” 

“Right," Azrael responded. 

Inside the largest and most decorated carriage rested Lord Ballister the Flaming Hammer, one of the ten generals of the infamous brothel known as the House of Flowers. Lord Ballister was a giant of a man clad in orange and black armor studded with rubies and wearing a cape of fur made from a giant bear he slew in his youth. He was bald and had wild triangle-shaped eyes with beady irises, giving him a wild and manic look. 

He paced around with a tankard of wine in his hand and stopped to look at his trophies. On the wall was the most macabre collection of hunting trophies anyone had ever seen. Mounted on the walls were the busts of young women he had hunted for sport on his estate back in Naralia. They were cut down to their shoulders and mounted on polished wooden plaques, staring into the abyss with glass eyes and their skin was still smooth and soft after being washed with a preservative elixir concocted by alchemists in the House of Flowers. He had blondes on one side, brunettes in the middle, and red-heads on the other. Many girls on display were humans of every race, Lionheart, Altex, Brexon, Sunborne, Norman, and even Dragonborn. He even managed to successfully kill Elvish girls when he rarely encountered them. To the right was a stuffed Duel Monster called Nekogal #2. She was posing on a wooden branch inside a glass case.  

The vile lord thumped his chest and paced around some more. He was still frenzied from the raid earlier. They had just pillaged a small town nestled around an abandoned iron mine. The raid was effortless on the count of the giant mech they had as an escort back north. They slaughtered the men relentlessly. From above, the mech pilot used his giant pulse rifle to blast their livestock to pieces and destroy the guard towers that positioned two archers as sentries. He burst out laughing, remembering their feeble attempts to shoot down the mech with their arrows. They bounced off its metallic body and young Ser Azrael proceeded to blast them to smithereens. Not wanting the mercenaries of the Golden Swans company to be devoid of action, he flew off and watched as they raided the town, hacking down the men or any woman they deemed unfit to work in the House of Flowers. Skulls were smashed, heads were chopped, and houses were set on fire. Lord Ballister looked to the corner to see the fresh catch of village girls as they cowered in a cage in the corner. The other wagons were already full with the spoils of their heartless raids, so he built a cage to house them in his own personal carriage. He laughed at them with a thunderous roar that shook the place, causing them to cower in their tight prison. The six girls in the cage were daughters of the town's leader, a dairy farmer who was famous in the easter regions of Thara. Lord Ballister cut his head off, peeled the flesh off the skull, and stuck it on a pike, waving it in front of the girls to terrify them.

They would have made it past the border into Narlia a week ago, but Lord Ballister was having so much fun pillaging and torturing Termnnian girls that they stopped at every village capturing as many as they could for a fat bonus. 

His tardiness didn't go unnoticed though. A hologram activated over the war table at the center of his chambers. The insignia of the King of the Holy Naralian Kingdom was suddenly displayed. 

"Lord Ballister! Lord Ballister, are you there!?" someone shouted. 

"Who is this?" the giant answered, throwing his empty tankard into the fireplace. "What do you want?"

"This is King Forrest!" said the voice. "We were told you'd be here by yesterday, yet you are still in Thara, many leagues from the border. What is the holdup?"

Lord Ballister laughed as he scratched his massive belly. "The south is full of great merchandise for the House of Flowers. Lots of expensive girls live in these parts. I couldn't help but want to stop by and bring some home for the House of Flowers."

"You are drawing too much attention. It has come to my understanding that you are being followed by a knight named Ser Gerhalos. Need I remind you of who he is, Lord Ballister?"

"No need. I heard plenty about him. Don't worry. With the Holy Knight you lent us, he won't get within a mile of this caravan."

"See that he doesn't! And what of my prize?"

Lord Ballister looked at an iron maiden made of silver and covered in scrollwork and floral engravings. It was sealed shut with five locks and entwined with hundreds of chains. 

"It's coming to you soon, my liege," said Lord Ballister. "Soon, you will be the most powerful king in all Termnnia."

"I sure hope so. I expect to see you here in three days. Forrest out."

The hologram powered off and Lord Ballister was alone again. He raised a golden goblet next to his chair toward the iron maiden. "It's almost time. You, my friend, are gonna make me obscenely rich. Hehehehehehe... HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HAAAAAAA!"


 Andre - Neros Island/Aquarius

September 12 - Year 18


Andre walked from his bed toward the window of his very unique apartment. This complex was built underwater. On some days he'd see schools of fish swimming by or even whales. A group of them swam by at sunset last night. 

He looked at his bed and saw his date from last night still asleep in her underwear. He had hopes she'd be the one but most likely she was another one-night stand, and she'd be dressed and out of the room as soon as he got out of the bathroom. 

He walked to the living room nearby. The shades of his window were down, leaving long vertical shadows against his flat screen on the wall. 

He made sure the girl was asleep before opening the palm of his hand. He created a charm that allowed him to communicate with anyone he wanted from Termnnia. 

"Report," said his contact. Yami Yugi was staring at him from an illusionary sphere that displayed his face.

"Master. I have come in contact with the prince."

"How is he?"

"He's doing well for the most part. His Dueling skill seems to be top-notch according to his friends but I want to see his skills for myself. Permission to Duel Prince Yuri, sir."

Yami closed his eyes and chuckled softly. "I had forgotten that's what they call him now. I almost don't remember that his parents named him Daveed. You have permission to Duel him so long as you have monsters that only exist in their records. If you use anything they're not familiar with, not only will the citizens of the Standard Dimension ask questions, but I'll haul you back and imprison you for using Termnnian artifacts in another world. Am I clear?'

"Crystal clear, sir. You don't have to worry. I've already constructed a deck fit for their format."

"Good. Keep a close eye on him, Andre. Our enemies are still looking for him. Report anyone or anything suspicious to me at once."

"I understand sir. And when can we take back the..."

"That's a topic for another time. I will say no more on the issue. Is there else you wish to report?"

"No, sir."

"The good luck, Andre. Yugi out."

The sphere faded and Andre went back to the bedroom to check on the girl. Just as he thought, there was no sign of her. 

"Figures," he said.


Yuri - Washington Family Restaurant, Aquarius


Aunt Margret let out her warm signature hearty laugh as she came out of the kitchen holding a bowl of rice, still steaming from the pot. "Oh, this is so fabulous!" she declared. "There's nothing like getting together with friends and family and sitting down to a good meal. Pamela, darling, can you take this is and set it next to the soda? It is hot!"

"Yes, ma'am," Patty replied politely. She got up from the table to help Aunt Margret. Aunt Margert approached her seat on the other side of the table, her smile growing wider upon seeing Yuri sitting next to Patty, who Tyson also invited to dinner that night in the dining room of their new restaurant. It was built on the fifth floor of the new section of the Phobos Island Mall, offering a panoramic view of the city and ocean outside. It was night, so all Yuri could see was nothing but darkness, stretching as far as the eye could see and the ripples of the waves against the harbors and parks, reflecting the colorful neon that lit night.

Yuri and Patty were both dressed their best tonight, however, that seemed unnecessary as Tyson's family came by in their casual clothes. Tyson came by with a platter of fried chicken and set it in front of Yuri and Patty. As soon as it hit the table, the Washington Family reached over and grabbed as many as their fingers could nab. Yuri and Patty watched in awe at the large portions Tyson's very large family was serving themselves. Each and every one of them from Aunt Margery to Tyson's father was fat and happy, Tyson being the exception since he and Yuri worked out at the gym every night to end the day. 

Tyson's father, Mr. Dennis Washington, got up and tapped his steak knife against his glass, welcoming the family and Yuri and Patty to the completion of his new restaurant. 

"We've come a long way since we first got here," he began.

He went on about the days when he and his brother sold hot dogs on the streets, then moved up to buy their own food van. Finally, that grew to become a catering service and eventually a five-star restaurant that earned him enough money and fame to move him and his family to Aquarius, where he continued to make their empire grow. For almost an hour, he told stories about his adventures to get to where he was today. It wasn't an easy road. Mr. Washington's tale of success was filled with discrimination, murder, blackmail, and betrayal. Betrayal from his closest friends, his investors, and even his own family, which explained why it was so small at the moment. Even his wife, Tyson's mother, wasn't in the picture anymore.

Mr. Washington had to be smarter than all of them if he was to survive the little war they had going. And a war it was. There were tales of shootouts, attempted assassinations, the destruction of his old restaurant, and a family coup just to get the money to get things started.

His story was so exciting and thrilling, that a movie company bought the rights to it and were working on both a documentary and a feature-length film called Mr. Sensational: The Rise of the House of Washington. He even had a poster of it already. He brought it out on an easel and removed the white cloth to show everyone. Yuri and the others stood up and clapped when it was revealed. 

The poster had Will Smith playing as a younger Dennis Washington. He was on the cover in black and white, the title underneath him in white curvy white letters. His arms were crossed over his chest. One hand wielded a gold-plated Desert Eagle with floral engravings; his signature weapon and on the other hand he held a spatula.   

When his speech was done, he said: "Dig in!" 

Finally, it was time to eat.

"I am hunh-gray, I am hunh-gray," said Grandma Washington. "I am hunh-gray. Come on now." She waited for Tyson's father to pass the barbeque ribs.

"Gawd damn, Yuri!" Mr. Washingron exclaimed. "It's like we don't see yo ass no more, good to see ya, son. You, too, Pamela, baby. How long's it been?"

"Oh, I say it's been about a year," said Aunt Margret. "You kids sure have been busy lately. Pamela, my baby, are you still trying to get into that school? What was it again?"

"FZD School of Design," Patty replied before she at a strip of chicken. 

"Da hell is dat?" replied Tyson's oldest cousin, Ernie, who brought his son Teddy along.

"It's an art school in Singapore."

The entire clan looked at her and then exchanged looks of surprise at one another. "Oooooo," they all said. 

"Why y'all wanna go so far away to get an education?" said Cousin Ernie. 

"Because they want the best," said Aunt Margret. "And these kids deserve the best. They've been working hard these past four years in high school. It's time for them to grow and focus on their futures."

Ernie scoffed. "Why does Pamela need to go all the way to Singapore just to learn how to draw? It don' make no sense!"

"Because she wants to do something with her life!" snapped Mr. Washington. "She don' wanna settle down in no convenient store the way you did."

"Hey, I didn't get no fancy diploma or go to no far away school, but I still became something of myself. Because my family is here." He tapped the table sharply. "Man, if you guys go traveling to these faraway places, y'all gonna miss a lot." He patted his son on the back. "You're gonna miss Teddy's life. His golden years, pretty much. You're gonna miss out on his first date, his first...well, everything. And then y'all gonna blame yourselves."

"Don't mind him," said Grandma Washington. "He ain't made nothin' of himself so he gets mad at the world for getting farther ahead than him. But just because you kids is busy don' mean y'all have to stop paying us a visit every now and then. You know, kids, in my day people would always visit their families. Didn't matter what was goin' on. They came by with some pie, a little ice cream, and they'd sit around the table and cherish the moment they had with one another."

"Oh, yes," said Aunt Margret. "Nowadays the youngsters are running around with their phones, their hot cars, and now Duel Monsters. Pamela, don't you fret, child. It doesn't matter how far you go to make your dreams come true. So long as you remember and love your family, that's what matters. Don't you be forgettin' about us now."

"Oh, I never will."

Aunt Margret smiled, lifting her hands to her face. "Awww, so sweet, my baby. And what about, Yuri? Why have you been away from us for so long? I remember when you was younger, playing with Tyson at the playground. And you and him would come over and eat dinner with us all summer. It was so lovely. Such a shame that stopped." 

"I needed a job," Yuri replied. 

"That's for damn sure," said Mr. Washington. "Your dad still not lending you any money, Yuri?"

"I'm afraid not." Yuri helped himself to some mashed potatoes and handed the bowl to Patty. "He's still in that 'you want it, you gotta earn it mentality'."

"Well, he's a smart man," Aunt Margret said, already ripping the fried skin off her chicken with her fork. "He's a smart man. I've seen a lot of wealthy parents spoil their kids and they all grow up being delinquents. Any of y'all heard of Travis Booker?"

"Yeah," Yuri, Patty, and Tyson said together. 

"His dad is the owner of the big-ass car dealership in town."

"Indeed," said Aunt Margret. "It was his eighteenth birthday yesterday. And to celebrate, he and all his friends took their fancy hot cars into the central plaza and blocked the roads off to host his party. RAPTOR didn't do a damned thing about it. Traffic was held up for hours and those kids just didn't care. That's what happens when you give money to a child so uncaringly. I often say this — and forgive me for being dramatic — but I say giving a child that much money is like handing them a gun."

"I guess I can kind of see your point," said Yuri. "The consequences can be pretty severe."

"You are absolutely right, Yuri. I'm glad your father continues to be harsh on you when it comes to money. If he spoiled you, you wouldn't be the kind, gentle, sweet, young man that you are now."

"I wasn't always," Yuri said, shooting Tyson a sad look, remembering the times he and Tyson bullied the stowaways for money with their gang. Tyson was the muscle of the group. Even though he was a kid, he could knock down an adult and beat them badly. 

"That was then, this is now," said Aunt Margret. "You two have grown up to be better men. You study hard, you work hard, you help out your communities now. You shouldn't be so hard on yourselves for what you did in the past. You were just little boys. And you know what they say. Boys will be boys." 

"Boys will be boys," repeated Mr. Washington. "Speaking of which, I heard Tyson got a new deck. Why don't you try it out against Yuri after dinner?"

"You want us to Duel?" Tyson asked. "If Yuri wants to, I guess it's fine."

Yuri shrugged. "Why not? I think it'll be fun."

"There, you see," said Mr. Washington. "Boys will be boys. Like in the old days when Tyson and Yuri would rush to play the Xbox after dinner."

"Aww, such precious days," chimed Aunt Margret. 

After they were done eating, Mr. Washington closed the restaurant and led them to the mall's state-of-the-art Duel Tables, with bigger screens to better see the action taking place. Yuri, Tyson, and Patty had to leave them for a second to rush to the nearest card shop to make new additions to their decks. Yuri was more than happy to spend some money on cards since payday was the day before. He was anxious to see what he would get from the new packs. When they left the store and opened their packs, Yuri sighed. As usual, his pulls were a disappointment.

"Just my luck," Yuri said. All three packs were normal rares. Tyson and Patty scored an Ultra Rare and a Super Rare.

"Don't feel bad, Yuri," Patty said. "I'm sure your luck will change one of these days."

"I highly doubt that," Yuri said, tossing the wrapping away in the nearest trash can. 

"Yuri, don't doubt yourself so much," Patty continued. Tyson nodded in agreement. "You're going to blow our minds one day." She stopped in front of a small playing area for lesser-known card games. There was a small group of kids making sounds with their lips and acting dramatically as they lay their cards on the playing field, which seemed full of unnecessary accessories. 

"What are you guys playing?" Patty asked. 

"Beat it, girl! These grounds are for elite players!" a boy said rudely. 

"Well, excuse her," said Tyson. "What exactly is this elite game you guys are playing if you don't mind me asking?"  

"We're playing Redakai!" another boy boasted proudly, sticking his chest out. 

There was a long, awkward pause. Then Yuri, Tyson, and Patty burst out laughing. "HA!" they said at once. "HAHAHAHAHAHAH!"

"LOSERS!" Patty called as they walked away. 

They made it to the Dueling Grounds where Mr. Washington made reservations for the three of them to play in. He stared at the huge screen, shaking his head in disapproval. 

"I sure can't wait for those new devices to come out," Mr. Washington said as Tyson and Yuri got ready. "It'll make these overgrown screens obsolete."

"Yes, I do agree," said Aunt Margret. "You ready boys?"

"Give us a show now," said Grandma Washington. "Come on, come on!" 

"Duel Monsters," grumbled Cousin Ernie. "What an overhyped game."

"You're too old school," said Tyson. "All right, Yuri. Ready?"

"I'm all set."

"DUEL!"

LP 2000

 

Turn 1 

"I summon Armored Lizard in attack mode!" Yuri set the card down on the touchscreen game mat. The zone he put the card in shined brightly. Then, on the screen beside him, the Armored Lizard took for, hissing as it came to life and showed off its 1500 ATK.

"All right, Tyson, that ends my turn."

Turn 2

"Armored Lizard, huh? Yuri, you're making this too predictable. So I'll keep you guessing with this monster face-down." He slid the card horizontally on the field. "Then, I'm going to play the field spell, Forest. This is gonna give all the beast monsters in my deck a 200-point boost. And then I set one card face down. Your turn, Yuri."

Turn 3

"You're probably just bluffing," Yuri said. 

"Take it easy, Yuri," Patty said, watching the Duel from a chair beside their table. "Tyson's been playing this game longer than you have."

"Yeah, don't underestimate me, Yuri. I'm not Nick."

"Thank God," Patty said with a roll of her eyes.

"I know, I know, I know. Take a joke, you guys. Knowing my luck, things aren't going to go my way in this game. I set a monster in defense mode, too, just so I can keep you guessing, Tyson. And then I'm going to play Pot of Greed and draw two cards."

"Hey, that's a rare spell card," Patty said. "Nice."

"Don't hurt him now!" Mr. Washington called from the stands nearby. 

"I'll try, sir," said Yuri. "Now, I'm going to attack your face-down monster. Go, Armored Lizard!"

His monster slashed his claws in an intimidating display, then ran across the forest to cut down Tyson's monster. 

"Sucker!" Tyson said. He flipped over the card, revealing a giant hamster with black and white fur and tendril-like hair sticking out of its head. The hamster smashed against Armored Lizard, sending him flipping through the air. Armored Lizard landed on the ground on his feet, sliding back to Yuri, using his left claw to anchor itself to a stop.

Yuri's Life Points trickled down to 1500, for the hamster's defense was much higher than the Armored Lizard's attack.

"You just attacked my Super-Nimble Mega Hamster," Tyson said. "With the field power bonus he gains from the Forest, his defense went up from 1800 to 2000. Nice try, Yuri."

"Aw, damn. Well, I end my turn."

Turn 4

"Ouch, Tyson, that was brutal," Patty said. 

"That hamster is some scary shit!" Mr. Washington called out.

"Yeah, like Stranger Things!" commented Grandma Washington. Meanwhile, Teddy rolled his head around in laughter. "That's cool," he said.   

"You haven't seen anything yet, Cuz," Tyson bragged. "Man, it feels good to be Dueling again! Let's see what my deck's got in store for you next." He drew his card and smiled. "Sexy. Get ready, Yuri! Here comes the king of my deck. I tribute my hamster to summon —"

"—Tribute?" Yuri interrupted. "We're playing by official tournament rules?" In tournaments, Duelists had to tribute monsters in order to summon powerful ones. Since they didn't play officially in any league and just played by their own rules, Yuri and his friends never had to worry about those kinds of things. But Patty's tapping on the table told him things were about to change.

"Might as well get used to it," said Patty. "They're going to be making us play with those rules by winter. So might as well start clearing your deck out of all those high-level monsters."

Again, Tyson nodded. He seemed to do that a lot whenever Patty said anything. "Yeah, you gotta prepare for anything Yuri. Anyways, as I was saying, I'm going to summon my ace. Behemoth, King of all Animals!

"That's not good," Yuri said. 

   

ATK/2700 DEF/1500

The screens displayed a big, purple beast with a long mane of violet hair and horns. He snarled, revealing green gums and shiny, sharp teeth as tall as a man. The creature Tyson summoned was almost as big as a mountain. 

"Hold on," said Patty. "He's a Level Seven monster. Shouldn't that require you to offer two tributes for his Advanced Summon?"

"True, true, but at the host of 700 of his attack points, Behemoth can be summoned with one monster. Besides, I wouldn't want him to come out in his full power. It wouldn't be fair to Yuri. Now, when he's successfully Advance Summoned, I can add my hamster back to my hand. All right, Yuri, it's time to show you why Behemoth is the King. Attack his Armored Lizard!"

The beast rose up on his hind legs and let out a mountain-crushing howl. He then dashed across the forest and stomped on Armored Lizard like an insect. The chair Yuri sat on rumbled to simulate the impact. "Arrggh!" he grunted. His Life Points fell to 800.

"I end my turn, Yuri. Impressive, huh?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I Draw!"

Turn 5

"I can't do anything to combat your behemoth, so I'll set a monster face-down and end my turn."

Patty clapped her hands. "Hang in there, Yuri. You can hold out against him. I know you can."

Turn 6

"Patty, you shouldn't get his hopes up. I've got Behemoth in play. And I never lose when I have Behemoth on the field. My monster is gonna rip Yuri's defenses down until I can get at his Life Points. For now, I'll set a monster of my own and attack your face-down monster with Behemoth."

Behemoth charged across the forest once more, knocking trees down and smashing hills. He stomped his foot on Yuri's face-down monster, Mechaleon. It let out a croaking scream before it shattered to pieces. 

Turn 7

"You are not going to make this easy for me, are you?" Yuri said. "I set another monster and end my turn."

Turn 8

"Too bad, Yuri," said Tyson. "If you couldn't stand up to one Behemoth, trying fighting two. I sacrifice my face-down monster to summon Gravity Behemoth!"

ATK/2300 DEF/2000

"That's a big monster!" Cousin Ernie shouted upon seeing the gray-colored beast that looked like it hailed from another planet. Its body was as thick as stone, and it was almost as tall as Behemoth, King of All Animals. 

"And I'm going to boost the power of Behemoth, King of All Animals with Beast Fangs! This will increase his attack points by..."

"I get it, I get it," Yuri said. He placed his hand over his deck. "I quit."

"Yuri, you can't just quit," said Patty.

"Quitter!" Grandma Washington called out.

Mr. Washington stood up from his seat. "Quit? Yuri, you know how much I paid to rent these tables? Come on, boy. Get back in the game."

Yuri didn't listen and picked up his things. "I can't. I forgot I have to go to work tomorrow."

"You okay, Yuri?" Patty asked. 

"No. I need to get home. Thank you for inviting me, everyone. But I have to go."

"Hey, Yuri," Tyson said. "Don't take it so hard, man. I thought we were having fun."

"There's only so long that I can tolerate calling my rotten luck can be fun, Tyson. I need to get going."

"That's okay," said Patty. "I understand. We'll meet you at the shop tomorrow. I can still hang around and Duel you, Tyson."

Yuri said one last goodbye to the Washington family and left the Dueling Grounds. "Stupid game!" he muttered as he stormed outside.


The Ruby Dragon, Gaming Shop, Aquarius - Yuri

September 13 - Year 18 4AOS


"Congratulations," said Sergei, pacing back and forth in front of the new associates as though he were a military general leading his troops to war. "I bet you little cherubs think it's time to make your mommies and daddies proud, no? That the paycheck they wasted on you was worth every penny because you found yourselves a job. But don't get your hopes up, kiddies."

Sergei took a large sip of coffee from his black mug that read: BOSS in big, white letters.

"I am sure you think of yourselves as full-grown adults because I gave you opportunity to land job here in Ruby Dragon Gaming — the best gaming store in all of Aquarius."

He chuckled boastfully at the sound of that. He worked really hard to earn that title. That was no boast he spewed out. That was a fact.

"This is just a job. It's foot out of your bedroom door. You aint out the front door yet, my young comrades. If you want to set your foot out the door, you need to find a career! But this! This is not a career, my little birds. No! No! No! If you want a career and stand where I am standing in the next ten or so years, then lend me your little ears and listen! Listen closely. Listen veeery fucking closely, kids, to the words that are coming out of my mouth because Uncle Sergei is about to hit you with your reality! I am not your friend. I am not your daddy! I am not your shoulder to cry on if you have problem. I am your boss! And every morning when you walk through those doors...your ass is mine!"

"Oh, uncle," Natalya said, spraying Windex on the glass counter. "Always so over-the-top."

"Ahem," Sergei said looking back at her. "So long as you are on the clock, there will be no cellphones. There is to be absolutely no conversation impertinent to your work. There will be no bathroom breaks taken unless authorized by me or my veteran workers such as Yuri. Yes, this is Yuri Montgomery, son of Jacob Montgomery. But don't think you're here to make friends with him or ask him how the son of the richest man on Earth works at a game shop because if you do, I will kick your ass out of this store. You will not look at Yuri! You will not walk next to Yuri! You will not TALK to Yuri unless it has to do with work. You want to talk to my Godson, then you have to earn that privilege. Am I understood? Excellence! I demand it and I expect it. Now, get to work, kiddies. We got games to sell."

The nervous associates gave nervous glances at one another and walked slowly to their designated areas to do their jobs.

Natalya laughed. "Man, it wasn't too long ago that I was in that position. How did you feel when Uncle Sergei hired you for the first time?"

"Nervous," said Yuri. "Even though I get yelled at from time to time, I have to tolerate it."

Natalya gulped. "I know I'm breaking a major rule here, Yuri, but I am curious. How is it that a boy as rich as you stooped to working a mere retail job?"

"I'm not rich," Yuri answered, setting up the new shipment of booster boxes. "My parents are rich. My father is not to keen on raising lazy little bastards who choose to do nothing but live off their parent's fortune. If I want money, I'm going to have to invest, create a business, and get a job. And with my track record, I can't create a business. I don't know shit about investing either. So, all I have left is my godfather's card shop. I can't complain. At four hundred every two weeks, I'm good."

"That's wonderful," said Natalya. "So, how come you don't spend money to make yourself a kick-ass deck to play in the big tournaments. You could earn a good rep that way and it could lead to contracts with major Dueling Leagues."

"I tried," said Yuri, setting up another booster box. "But luck has never been on my side. While everyone around me got super-rare cards, I got stuck with normal rares. While everyone else finds gold, ghosts, and secrets, I get silver. The only holo I ever got was a Mirror Force."

"Hey, that's a good start," said Natalya.

"I guess so," Yuri replied in a droll voice. He looked out the window, splattered with raindrops. The smell of the coffee downstairs and the soothing jazz music on the intercom relieved him of his stress. But, the bags under his eyes revealed how much rest he got the previous night.

"Did you have the dream again?" Natalya asked.

"I see Patty couldn't keep her mouth shut," Yuri keened as he rubbed his eyes, still heavy with sleep.

"What did he want?" Natalya asked, leaning against the countertop. "This Mr. Hairdo everyone talks about.

"The same as usual," Yuri replied opening and setting up another box in no time at all. "He talks about birthright. God cards. A kingdom waiting for me."

"Sounds like you've been playing Dungeons and Dragons with Carter again," Natalya chuckled. "But, it doesn't stray too far from the truth. I mean, this whole city will be yours one day."

"Maybe that's it," Yuri said with a soft chuckle of his own. "I guess it's the stress of having to take over my father's business. I...I don't think I'm ready for such a responsibility. Like I told you, I had three options to make money. Build a business, invest, or get a job. Unfortunately, I only have enough skills for the latter. If I can't even make the other two options work, then what hopes do I have of running a huge business empire?"

"Those things take time," Natalya said, brushing her chestnut hair over her ear with her fingertips.

"And I'm running out of it," Yuri said sadly. "I'm about to graduate soon. Huh. After all the shit I've caused, I'm surprised I'm even a senior right now. I got arrested a lot, you know."

"But those days are over. You're a changed guy from what Sergei and the gang tell me. And I'm more than sure Jacob won't throw you into the company without some training. There's still some time left to groom you for the responsibilities as President of Phobos Corp."

"Da, there is much time," Sergei said approaching the two. "But Yuri's position as President of Phobos Corp has nothing to do with work."

"Ah, but Uncle," Natalya replied. "This is Phobos Corp. Duel Monsters. And aren't we in the business of Duel Monsters?"

"I suppose so," Sergei said, rubbing his bushy chin. "Still, it is in no way associated with my game shop. Enough talking and get back to work, lest I make you clean the bathrooms again."

That was the last thing Yuri wanted. He looked at Natalya and said: Sorry, we'll talk about this later."

Natalya nodded her head repeatedly. "Okay. I understand. We'll talk later."

Later came, but Natalya had other company to be with. As soon as she and Yuri walked out of the store, a Lamborghini Aventador colored dark red and tinged to black at the front rolled up on the sidewalk in front of them. The door slid up. A good-looking young fellow from Phobos Academy came out and put his sunglasses over his forehead.

"Natalya!" he called out. "Wanna take a ride? I just got it this morning."

Natalya jumped up and down as she squealed with delight. She ran to the car to examine it. "Oh my God! It's incredible!"

"Ain't it something?" the lad boasted. "Come on, the others are at Nefeli Island having a barbeque on Frederico's yacht, let's go!"

"Hey, Yuri, I'll see you at work tomorrow, da?" Natalya said.

Yuri shrugged and waved her goodbye. "Da," he replied sadly.

"Wait a minute," said the lad. "Yuri? As in Yuri Montgomery? So it's true. You are working retail. Whatever for, my man?"

"Reasons that are too difficult to explain," Yuri managed to grumble. Despite who he was, he could not afford a luxury such as an expensive car or his own yacht the way the other rich kids on the islands did.

"Man, I'm glad I don't have that kind of problem," the lad said as Natalya slid the door up and got in. "Okay, it was nice meeting you. See you around. Perhaps we'll Duel sometime."

"Oh, sure!" Yuri began. "I'd like to..."

Before he could finish, the young man got into his seat and closed the door. The Aventador's engines growled and then it sped off. "Woo-hoo!" Natalya shouted as it zoomed down the street and leaving Yuri alone on the sidewalk. He sadly shook his head and walked home.

"Damn, she just left you, huh?' Andre said coming out of the shop.

Yuri stopped and turned. "You have a knack for showing up unexpectedly, you know."

"Hey, I was hanging out in the back with Carter and Tyson. Have you seen Patty anywhere?"

"You sure are getting attached to her. I suggest you don't do that."

"I just want to Duel her is all, man. Say, since she's not around, why don't we have a quick game. Come on. Nick is starting to bore me. He's just too lame. I heard a lot of good stuff about your skills."

Yuri tapped his foot on the ground. He looked from left to right as he pondered the idea. He shrugged. "I guess one duel couldn't hurt."

"Great! I've got a table all set up for us, come on!"

Yuri followed Andre inside. He saw Carter and Tyson at the counter buying a few packs for a fun match. Yuri then sat at the Duel Table Andre had for them. He got out his cards, shuffled them, and proceeded with the match.

LP 2000

T1

"I'll start first," Yuri said. "I summon Mechaleon."

"And that's it?" Andre asked.

"Just go. I don't make a lot of money to get good cards."

"But your father is the richest man in the world. How do you not have money?"

"If I'm to get money, I need to earn it. And working here in the shop is the only way I can. Now hurry up. I thought you wanted to Duel not chatter."

T2

"Take it easy, man, I just want to have some fun."

Yuri leaned back in his chair. "Sorry. I've been having an off day."

"I understand, man. All right, to counter your lizard, I summon this card. M-Warrior Number 2." He slid the card on the mat. Just like that, the creature's image was displayed beside them on the screen.

"And now I'll use the Sogen field spell, which increases the attack of Warrior monsters by 200 points. Then I give M-Warrior the power of Legendary Sword. This will increase his attack by another 300 points. His attack is now 1000. It's not much, but at least it will take down your reptile. Attack."

The warrior grunted. He charged across the rolling green hills, raised his new sword, and yelled. He cut Mechaleon across the belly. The reptile monster shrieked and then vanished. Andre set a card face-down and ended his turn. "Go," he said.

T3

Yuri blew a bang off his face with the corner of his mouth. His Life Points shriveled a little to 1800. "Just as I thought. You have a thing for equip-spells. I summon Krokodilus. He's a hundred points stronger than your M-Warrior. Attack!"

"I activate Reinforcements!" Andre held up his trap. "M-Warrior's attack increases to 1500, now he's stronger than your monster."

Again, Yuri sighed, He didn't even bother watching the monsters battling on the screen. He drew and tossed another throw-away monster on the field called Ancient Lizard Warrior. And he wasn't defending, either. He left the monster out in attack mode.

"Yuri, are you even trying?" Andre asked. "This can't possibly be your best."

"I can only do what I can with what little I have," Yuri replied. "So don't lecture me about my best. What you see is what you get."

"I'm disappointed in that," Andre said. "Very disappointed. Your friends look up to you and this is the attitude you walk around with."

"Can you get on with your turn?"

"If that's what you want. I summon Celtic Guardian in attack mode. Then I use the card, Tailor of the Fickle. It switches control of an equip-spell card with another monster. So I give Legendary Sword to Celtic Guardian. Then I use United We Stand. This will increase Celtic Guardian's attack by..."

"That's game," Yuri said, picking up his things.

"But I didn't even..."

"There's no need. See you next time, Andre." Yuri slipped on his backpack and walked off.

Andre narrowed his eyes and shook his head in displeasure. "With an attitude like that, you're going to grow up to be one pathetic king, Yuri. Master Yugi isn't going to be pleased."


Lore


The House of Flowers

The House of Flowers is a powerful and well-connected brothel in the capital of Naralia where it was said all the girls are sent to work after they were captured by King Forrest's troops in his campaign to conquer the other Sixteen Kingdoms of Termnnia. With an income of 5 billion gold a month, they are one of the most powerful organizations in Termnnia. They are organized by seven powerful oligarchs who call themselves the Governers. With their great wealth, they have amassed their own private army known as the Golden Swans and their own Navy called the Rose Fleet, who sail across the seas to find islands with girls of rare cultures never before seen in Termnnia. They also have a secret guild of their best agents known as Office XIII. This guild sends these skilled warriors on missions to locate villages with beautiful girls for the Golden Swans to raid later. The agents of Office XIII won't shy away from partaking in assassinations, taking out anyone the Governers of the House of Flowers believe to be a threat to them.

Aside from capturing and selling women as slaves, representatives of the House of Flowers are known to meddle with the Termnnian Senate, bribing any delegate they could get their hands on, offering them money and pleasurable company in exchange for blocking any legislation that dared to regulate the slave trade or ban it. They even go as far as helping the senators write up bills that force the government to grow lenient with their...shady business. Agents working for the House of Flowers were even known to bribe lords of all titles, and even kings from across Termnnia to give their caravans safe passage back to Naralia.

Those who govern within the organization's halls have influence with every brothel across the continent, which makes it easy for them to get a hold of information from each of the three factions in the current Fifth Great War of Succession (The conflict in which King Forrest and Prince Hector battle the Alliance for control of the Diamond Throne).

They are said to know every dirty secret in the continent and it's even rumored that they hold the secret of Prince Yuri's location in the Standard Dimension .   

Chapter Text

Bakura's Report


Though he has made some sort of a family with the likes of Pamela, Nicholas, Tyson, and Carter, Yuri's true companionship lies with two youngsters named Crystal Anderson and Ren Kakihara. These two youths have been by his side since the day they were very young. I find these two individuals highly interesting. When these three are together, there is a grand radiance that causes the darkness within me to shudder and grow ill.

Crystal Anderson. Crystal is a girl who...tragically lost her father just a year after she was born in an oil rig explosion. She is a girl of great beauty and splendor, and of great skill, wielding the most powerful and rarest dragons in all Duel Monsters, earning her the name of Queen of Dragons.

Though her love for Yuri is great, she is the one who is furthest away from Yuri for a great deal many reasons.

One) She is what these people call a 'Pop' Singer. She is known all over the world and the city goes through great lengths to promote her music and her products. After following her for some time, I've learned she takes her academics very, very seriously, dedicating most - if not all - of her free time to her studies. When she's not preparing for an exam, she's working and working, always on the run.

Two) Her life is under control of the island's mafia, a very violent but well-orchestrated criminal organization operating in the underground world of the city. As I write this, she is dating the young man who had Yuri beaten to a pulp; and forced me to call upon the Paradox Brothers to train him in hand-to-hand combat, although those skills have faded since his Duel with the Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle.

Yuri's Duel with the Spirit was not the only magic behind the cleansing of all that I have taught him. The girl's love for him had a hand in that as well.

Curiouso r, curiousor.

I'll look into her a little more meticulously. My interest in the girl has been piqued to say the least. It seems that the main ladies in Yuri's life have strong ties to each side of the spectrum here. Pamela -or Patty- her heart is shrouded in supreme darkness. But Crystal...her heart showers all with radiant light.

And Ren...well...Ren is a rather difficult one. Very difficult. Curiously, he and his family just appeared out of nowhere. They both met when Yuri was still living in the orphanage. For a moment, those two were inseparable but upon turning sixteen, Ren frequently started vanishing for long periods of time.  He even dropped out of school, which is odd considering he is one of the top students in his class. Someone or something is tearing him away from his friends and his studies. I have a hunch as to 'who' this someone might be.

If my hypothesis proves correct, we may have a problem here.

The bond in their hearts is a powerful one. Something I haven't felt since my battles with Yugi and his pitiful band. If I let Yuri linger in so much light, I will lose my grip on him, and all these years manipulating him would have been all for naught.


Yuri - Montgomery Palace

September 15 - Year 18 4AOS


After another long day at work, Yuri wearily made his way downstairs to the basement and into his room so he could shower and dress into his pajamas. When his sore muscles touched his soft mattress and the warmth and crispness of his white sheets; his body surrendered to sleep. But like many nights before, he found no rest in his slumber. Once more, Yugi found him in his dreams.

Instead of a chapel where they usually met, Yuri met with Yugi on a beach with a city glowing against the night not too far in the distance across the sea.

"Will you ever let me get a good night's sleep?" Yuri asked. "I have to work tomorrow."

"Not a chance," Yugi chuckled. "You know, meeting you like this is starting to make me bond with you, Yuri. I feel like I'm starting to really get to know you."

Yuri smiled. "Yeah, you, too, Yugi. You know, you're not as bad as your other half. He's...kinda pushy."

"Forgive him. We're all on edge where we really come from. And I heard you've been quitting your Duels recently. That's not good Yuri. That's not good at all. It means there's still work to be done. And what better way to restore the confidence that's been hidden from you with a Duel?" 

Yuri smirked and held up his right arm. "You sure you want to do this?"

An arcane circle of beautiful design and blue in color appeared over his forearm.

"Yeah. Sorry, Yuri, I know you don't like him. But this has to be done." His Millennium Puzzle started glowing and wobbling back and forth around his neck. Yugi held his head up high and shouted: "YU-GI-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!" 

After a flash of light, Yugi's appearance changed. He was taller, his hair was a lot wider and his bangs longer. His eyes, once round and large, full of innocence, became angular and brimming with power. 

"It's Time to Duel!" shouted Yami.

"You first...Master," sneered Yuri.

Yugi began his turn activating a spell called Foolish Burial of Belonging. Then another called Magician's Encore. And then another card called Dark Magic Inheritance. Finally, another spell called Dark Magic Circle, adding more cards to his hand. He slapped another spell onto his arcane circle called Magician's Right Hand before setting three cards face down.

Yuri began his turn. 

"All that for a few spells. Let me show you what I can do! I summon, Trinity!"

He then summoned a Dinosaur-Type monster. A raptor with sleek metallic gray scales and a white underbelly. She had bright green eyes and a crown of black horns. Prince Daveed removed her from play to Special Summon two Level 4 or lower Dinosaur-Type monsters from his deck. He called forth two Megalomasher X, a ferocious sea-dinosaur that smashed out of the tiled flooring of the chapel. They hovered over Prince Daveed, flapping their massive flippers.

Then he performed an Xyz Summon, overlaying his two Megalomasher-X monsters into Evolzar Dolkka, a prehistoric dragon.

Yuri went for a direct attack, but Yugi activated his trap card, Magician Navigation. From his hand, he summoned his faithful servant. The Dark Magician. The trap also allowed Yami to summon Magician's Rod. Yami then activated the effect of his Dark Magic Circle and removed Dolkka from play. Next, he used a Quick-Play Spell called Illusion Magic allowing him to tribute Magician's Rod and allowing him to add two copies of the Dark Magician to his hand.

Back and forth the two of them went.

"Two-Headed Kaiser Rex!" Yuri shouted, summoning the more powerful version of the Two-Headed King Rex. The two-headed monster burst out of the floor and roared. His massive body covered in natural armor trimmed with purple neon. The two heads were crowned in sleek horns of pure ivory surrounding purple gems. Long silvery hair flowed from the back of their heads and the end of their tail was shaped like an ax.

"Not him again!" shouted Yami.

With the ability to inflict double piercing damage and attack twice, Yuri dominated the first few turns of the Duel before being destroyed by Yugi's Mirror Force which was blessed to him by his faith in his deck.

Yugi slapped his next monster onto the arcane circle. "Celtic Guard of Noble Arms! Lend me your strength!"

Yugi's Celtic Guard of Noble Arms emerged onto the field alongside the Obnoxious Celtic Guard. They slaughtered many of Yuri's monsters, but the prince was able to get rid of them on his following turn, summoning Ultimate Tyranno, an ancient beast with 3000 ATK (Attack).

Yuri summoned horrible beasts such as Ultimate Conductor Tyranno, Super-Ancient Dino-Beast, and Giant Rex; all of them had a lifespan of one or two turns; for Yami was far too skilled and too clever to allow such monstrosities to keep him down for long. It was Yami's turn to inflict pain in the game. He summoned every all-star from his deck from Dark Eradicator Warlock to Dark Magician Girl and a beautiful spellcaster called Magi Magi Magician Gal who trounced Yuri's monsters and devastate his Life Points for many turns.

Though Yuri was a fine player himself, he could mostly stall and keep his monsters alive for one more turn before losing them to Magi Magi Magician Gal and Dark Eradicator Warlock. He ended his turn by playing a spell that increased his Life Points by 1000, giving him enough time to stall Yami for one more turn. One last card was all he needed to change the match, but even he knew there was not much he could do against the King of Games.

What do you want me for?

Why do you continue to haunt me?

Magi Magi Magician Gal struck his Life Points directly after Yugi removed from play his Neo Uraby. Yuri went spinning rapidly through the air after the attack and he did a flip and landed on his feet, but he slid a few feet back, for the force of the spellcaster's attack was brutal.

I don't want to go with you! I love my friends and family.

He summoned Super Conductor Tyranno on his next turn with a clever combo of spells from his dwindling hand. The electrical dinosaur destroyed Magi Magi Magician Gal.

I belong here, you understand? This is my home, and you will not take me from it.

They Dueled ferociously. The game was back and forth, none of them were showing signs of letting up, but Yugi knew it was time to end the duel.

"Prepare to feel a force like no other!" Yami shouted. "I sacrifice my Magicians in order to summon a Divine Beast. The very monsters who have selected you to rule Termnnia and save us from darkness!"

"No," said Yuri.

"I CALL UPON THE WINGED DRAGON OF RA!" Yugi shouted.

Prince Daveed looked up at the ceiling and saw a golden falcon-headed dragon lighting up the sky with fire from its wings. When it roared it sounded like a thousand dragons calling out at once in great triumph.

"The time is nigh," said Yami. The Winged Dragon of Ra charged its massive attack. "With this attack, I pray your eyes to be opened! Until we meet again, Prince Daveed."

Ra fired its blaze cannon at Yuri, turning him to ashes in a matter of seconds.

"AAHHHHHH!" Yuri screamed, sitting up in bed. He panted and sobbed, once again getting adjusted to being back in his world. He buried his face in his hands and cried for an hour.  

When he finally pulled himself together, he got out of bed, took off his wet clothes, and went to the bathroom to shower under hot water for a long, long time. By the time he came out of the bathroom, the feint glow of dawn appeared on the horizon. Yuri put on some boxers to cover himself and slumped back to bed, tears rolling down his eyes. Finally, he went to sleep.  

Little did he know he was being watched by a figure lurking in the shadows.

The figure removed her hood to reveal Serenity Wheeler. She never told anyone, but from time to time she would enter the D.D Gates and check on Yuri; watching him grow and making sure he was safe. Now and then she would slip him all sorts of gifts from candy to little toys and even cards. She could not believe he was now a young man.

"Little Daveed," she said in a whisper as soft as the wind. A wide grin on her face, as this was the closest she had ever been to the boy in all these years. "Or is it Yuri now?" She said approaching his bed. Her boots were enchanted by a stealth spell, completely muffling her footsteps. She sat at the foot of his bed and stared at Yuri as he slept.

"It's almost time for you to come home," she said rubbing his shoulders.

To touch him sent a chill down her spine. It had been forever since she felt Yuri. She found it almost hard to believe this boy was the baby she held in her arms so many years ago.

"But something tells me your road back to our world will have many difficult challenges," she continued. "So I've brought you a companion to accompany you on your journey."

She took a card out of one of the pockets on her coat.

"I know how much you love these monsters. Yugi tells me this is the perfect card for you. He said he felt it in his heart that this creature belongs to you."

Serenity got up from the bed and walked to his night table where his deck stood. She carefully slipped the card inside. "I'll see you again soon," she said leaning forward towards him. "Your mother and father would be so proud of you."

She kissed his forehead and then got up placing her hood over her head. She turned to get one last glance at him before vanishing back into the darkness.


September 16 - Year 18 4AOS


"Hopefully, they won't bother me here," Yuri thought as he lay on a marble bench listening to music on his expensive headphones. The bench was perched on a small hill overlooking the aquatic garden paradise in the front yard which was his mother's prized possession, having nearly worked two years to make it the masterpiece that it was. She said she had hoped to make it resemble the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis in the bible. She did not fail in that aspect, for the garden turned out to be one of Yuri's favorite places to go when he wanted to relax and forget about his troubles with school.

Yuri opened his right eye — the left closed shut to block out the sun's rays. He looked around and thought his mother did a wonderful job with the garden. Rocky waterfalls, forests of palm trees, colorful flowers, and a pond with a fountain and underwater lights.

As he gazed at the koi in the pond, Yuri began having memories of walking home at night alongside a man with spiky pink hair who was looking down at him with a bright smile on his face. He wore a black coat and wore a katana or something on his back. He remembered the man placing a comforting hand on his back.

Was it a dream? Yuri wished he could make that assessment, but the image in his head felt more like a memory than a dream even though the spiky-haired man was a cartoon character.

Soon both his thoughts and the silence of the afternoon were suddenly broken by the beeping of the main gate, followed by the crunching of gravel from the driveway. A jet-black Lamborghini Murcielago arrived, parking right behind Mr. Montgomery's car.

Where have you been? Yuri thought to himself as the engine stopped.

The door raised open. Out of the expensive vehicle emerged a young, blonde-haired, beauty. She gracefully stepped out into the tropical sunlight like a Greek goddess.

[Artist - Lerina V]

She blessed Yuri with a beautiful smile and removed her sunglasses. Her skin was almost tan in color as if kissed by the sun's fiery lips. This was no doubt the cause of her always spending her free time bathing on the beaches of Aquarius. Her skin had not a bump and shone brightly in the light like a mirror from the suntan lotion she had applied earlier.

Her face was delicate and heart-shaped; her lips, naturally red, were covered with glossy lipstick. What Yuri loved about the girl approaching him were her eyes. She was born with a condition called Heterochromia Iridium meaning her eyes had different colors. One eye was baby blue, and the other was bright emerald green. A pendant Yuri gave her was around her thin neck, and there was a jeweled hairpin in the shape of a butterfly on the left part of her hair. She wore a very short white summer dress with a ruffled hem, flapping over her thighs with each movement she made.

Crystal Anderson. She was the girl Yuri's friends observed in the music video. And little did they know, she was a dear friend of his since kindergarten.

She walked towards him, her lace high-heeled sandals clopped on the pavement. She stopped and stood over him, smiling until her lips parted like a curtain and her snowy-white teeth could be seen. Her hair, the crisp color of champagne, went down in sensuous curls down her back and blew gently in the salty ocean breeze creating a sort of halo behind her. A sweet, citrusy smell wafted from it, and the breeze carried the smell to Yuri's nose further exciting him.

The old friends just looked at each other and kept silent, both of them waiting for someone to say something and break the silence. Yuri didn't know what to say. He hadn't seen Crystal all summer. Then again, not much during the spring either, for she had gone on a music tour that season. He hadn't seen her since. She seemed to have grown much more beautiful. She was taller than he remembered, and it wasn't because of the high-heeled sandals she wore. She looked like a completely new girl. He dared say that she was more of a young woman now. And she was slimmer and curvier now. Her dress was pressed tightly against her bosom and butt. The girl fluttered her eyelashes and giggled.

Crystal tilted her head to the left and giggled again. Yuri felt his insides grow ice-cold just looking at her. He didn't know what to say to her.

"Say something, silly," Crystal finally said. "A hello would be greatly appreciated right now. God, it's been so long."

Yuri sat up and removed his headphones. "You're back from Monaco so soon?" he croaked. "I was not expecting you home until after my birthday."

Crystal stepped forward. She leaned down and kissed his forehead just to make him go red, something she found awfully cute. "I wouldn't miss your eighteenth birthday, Yuri. We've got to celebrate! I have so many ideas about what we can do."

Yuri gulped. "You do?"

"Of course, I want to throw a party for you. It's not every day someone turns eighteen."

Yuri smirked and let out a soft chuckle. "So you came back to throw me a party, eh?"

"Oh, well, yeah," Crystal said sitting down on his legs. Yuri bit his lip. He hated to think so piggishly, but her butt was so soft. He balled his fists, doing all he could to keep himself from...

"Ahem," he said. "Any other reason why you're here?"

"Well, it's a beautiful day today. I was wondering if you'd like to head to town with me and, you know, hang out."

"I have time," said Yuri.

Just then a red and black McLaren P1 sped into the driveway. When the car stopped, the door immediately opened revealing Yuri's best friend and neighbor: Ren Kakihara. At nineteen years old, Ren was looked upon as the older brother of the trio.

"Going into town without me again?" Ren asked as he removed his ruby-lensed sunglasses. He leaned against his car and folded his arms over his chest. The leather of his jacket screeched trying to keep up with his every move.

"Well, you're almost never around," said Crystal said folding her arms as well. She had a cheeky grin on her face. "I called you twice, but you never answered."

"Had a morning date," said Ren.

"Another one?" Yuri asked.

Ren smirked arrogantly. "Ooooh, I don't like that tone of yours, Montgomery. Jealous much?"

"I forgot how to laugh," Yuri responded with a frown.

"So, where are you two headed?" Ren asked.

"Well, why don't we stop by Sergei's card shop?" Crystal suggested looking down at Yuri. "We haven't been there in forever. Now that my album's finished we'll have lots of time to play Duel Monsters."

"I like that idea," said Ren. "You in Yuri?"

"Of course," Yuri replied.

"Sweet," Crystal said tossing her hair back. "I have a mind to buy a few packs. Let's go. Who are you going to ride with, Yuri?"

Ren smiled and let out a chortle. "Come on, Crystal." He gazed at her sitting on his legs. "The way things look now, we all know Yuri always wants to ride with you."

"Hey, what are you insinuating!" Yuri said sitting up.

Ren laughed and got into his car. Yuri followed Crystal into hers. He put on his seatbelt and held his stomach as Crystal sped out the driveway and down the road, crossing the long bridge into town. From the window, he admired the wavy design of the bridge. At night, it glowed in blue neon and white lights. He could see the tall buildings of Aquarius's central island, the home of the island's 1%.

He had been there a couple of times. His father made do with their beachside estate because he hated living in the big city, and that was fine with Yuri since he too was not fond of living there either. Aside from the knots in his stomach from Crystal's erratic driving, he was feeling rather glad to be with his two best friends.

He hadn't seen Crystal and Ren in a while. Due to his family business, Ren would disappear and reappear making it hard to spend time with him. And Crystal, juggling both school and her music career, was always working and studying while constantly on the run. The fact they also went to different schools didn't help any. Ren and Crystal were attending an elite private school near the ocean on the central island, while Yuri went to the local one downtown.

"So, how's life been?" Crystal asked, eyeing a RAPTOR convoy speeding past them in the other direction. "I haven't seen you in a while."

"Boring," said Yuri.

"I expected as much," Ren said, through the phone on Crystal's smartwatch. "You always say things are so monotonous."

Crystal sighed. "Oh come on, kiddo. You've had to have been doing something fun."

"I guess not," said Yuri. "You'd think that living with a billionaire would have its benefits but..."

"I know what you mean," said Crystal stopping at a red light. She took the time to fix her hair and apply her makeup in the mirror.

Just then another exotic sports car drove up beside them. A cocky group of twenty-somethings started howling at Crystal. The driver was egging her on for a race to the beach, while the others made crude comments about her body. Crystal smiled and revved up her engines to show she accepted their challenge.

"Crystal don't!" Yuri cried out, squeezing his stomach. When the light turned green, the boys sped away at maximum speed down the road, while Crystal was still at the light. She broke out laughing and continued to drive.

When they finally made it to downtown Aquarius, Crystal drove into a parking garage. Ren followed behind them. "So what would you like to do?" Crystal asked getting out of the car. Her voice echoed in the concrete walls of the dark and cool parking garage. The only light source came from the wall lamps casting a boring white glow to light the darkness. The screeching of rubber on the pavement was irritating as was the beeping of the car alarms amplified in the vastness of the building.

"What do we do first?" Crystal asked as Ren locked his car with a compact key and then joined them behind her vehicle.

"I am a tad hungry," answered Yuri. "Why don't we get a bite to eat first?"

Ren concurred with a pat on his stomach. "Yes, I think that's a great idea. Duel Monsters can be hard to play on an empty stomach."

Crystal shrugged. She wasn't starving, but she admitted she could use a bite right about now. "Great. We'll eat at my mother's restaurant."

"I didn't know she was a chef," Yuri said looking at Crystal.

"Oh, she's not; she just owns the place."

The three friends then traveled through the bustling beach town. Crystal ignored the paparazzi that followed her every step of the way. She and Ren held hands to make it look like they were a couple. It took a while, but at last, they made it to their destination, a five-floored building of white limestone and glass. Once they got inside, the staff ran from their posts to greet Crystal, one of whom was the manager.

She was a chubby middle-aged woman dressed in all white from her blazer to her pants. She squealed with delight and clapped her hands seeing Crystal come in to have lunch at her place.

"Crystal darling, it has been too long."

"Hey, how've you been Maggie?" Crystal said bracing herself for Maggie's tight bear hugs.

The woman wrapped her arms around Crystal's little frame, completely enveloping her. Yuri heard Crystal's spine crack, followed by two loud smooches on each of Crystal's cheeks.

Maggie let go of her and admired her two friends. "And who are these handsome young fellas?"

"My two best friends in the whole world. Ren and of course you'll know Yuri."

"Yuri!" Maggie said aloud, placing both hands on her chubby cheeks. The sunlight coming through the windows made her periwinkle nail polish flash. "My, my, my, so finally you come out to see the light of day. You keeping out of trouble? Staying away from the fight clubs, I hope?"

"Maggie!" Crystal whispered to hide her shock. Why would anyone wish to bring up those horrible days again was beyond her.

"I've turned a new leaf," said Yuri, sliding his finger across his chest. "Cross my heart. Those thug days of mine are over. I did it for her."

Crystal bit her lip and blushed.

"Aww, well aint that sweet," said Maggie. "Welcome to you both."

"Uh, thank you?" Yuri said bashfully.

Ren smiled and bowed. "Thank you, ma'am."

"Do you know a place where I can freshen up, Maggie?" Crystal asked.

"Oh?"

"I'm such a mess," Crystal laughed.

Yuri turned his head so as not to see Crystal's top which stuck to her skin from the sweat on her chest. Maggie giggled uncontrollably when she saw this. "Indeed. You can dress in my office. In the meantime, we'll find your friends here a seat."

"Thanks, Maggie, you're the best."

As Crystal left to clean herself a waiter led Yuri and Ren to a table overlooking the ocean and was nestled by an indoor river with exotic fish. Yuri could see that infinite blue line of the ocean and the long white beach overrun with small colorful specks that were the people below.

"What a fancy place," Ren said, moving his head left and right, eyeing the elegant design of the restaurant.

"I agree," said Yuri. "The architecture here is amazing. The gilded arches. The gleaming white walls and the waterfalls make for a swell set up."

Moments later Crystal came out of the bathroom smiling. Ren and Yuri couldn't help but stare at her as she walked out of the elevator. The hem of her dress seemed to flap with every movement.

"Doesn't she shine like a new penny?" Maggie asked Yuri who did not respond.

Yuri got up and pulled up a chair. Crystal thanked him and sat down as the waiter came and introduced himself. He took out his notepad ready to take their orders. Crystal ordered herself salmon with a baked potato and Yuri ordered prime ribs while Ren had himself a bone-in rib-eye, which cost more than what Yuri made in a month at the card shop.

Crystal laughed, loving their admiration for her. She told her two friends that lunch was on her today. The waiter bowed and ran to the kitchen coming back just moments later to serve them their drinks.

"Oh, Pierre," said Crystal.

The waiter turned.

"Yes, Miss Anderson?"

"Can you make sure that nobody with a camera is allowed up here? I would like to eat with my friends in peace."

"At once, Miss Anderson. I'll send Jonathan down to make sure paparazzi don't come and interrupt your meal." He went back to the kitchen.

"You look amazing," said Ren, admiring the small diamonds sewn onto Crystal's dress. She sparkled with each movement she made.

"Oh, thank you," said Crystal. She picked up her glass of water delicately and drank it. "So how's the business been for your father, Yuri?"

"It's booming all of a sudden," Yuri answered. "There have been pre-orders for some new machine my dad built. I don't know what it is, but he said it would revolutionize the game of Duel Monsters."

"Ooh, sounds exciting," Crystal.

"Mind if I join you?" asked a young man arrogantly walking towards them.

He was twenty years of age by the looks of him, and he also appeared obnoxious in attitude for his state of dress. A blazer, buttoned shirt, and slacks; all colored black. His brown hair was slicked back and caked with gel. On each of his fingers, he wore expensive rings, one of them the signet ring of his family showing off the emblem of a crowned phoenix spreading its fiery wings in front of a shield with crossed rifles behind it. The skin on his face was smooth and gave a soft glow when the sun shone down on him.

Brett Martinetti, nephew of Lucio Martinetti, the head of the mafia who ran Aquarius's underground in the slums. RAPTOR did little to phase their operations, which included minuscule things like the shipping of rare cards to terrible acts such as human smuggling. It was thanks to Brett's family that Nick and Sam were smuggled into the city and adopted by Consuelo.

One would think RAPTOR would have done them in by now, but the Martinetti family had enough money to make those mercenaries look the other way, and young Brett used his ties with the Mafia to get whatever he wanted. Money, luxury condos, cars, rare Duel Monster cards, and especially girls. He had the grin of a cunning wolf on his face as he took Crystal's hand and kissed it.

"Oh, great," Yuri muttered.

"Keep calm, little brother," said Ren. "We don't want to start another incident."

As Brett kissed her hand, Yuri noticed that Crystal's smile was weak and she was trembling. She seemed to force her lips into that smile.

"What are you doing here?" Yuri asked.

Brett slid the chair back and sat down. "Oh, I was just testing out the new Ferrari my father bought for me. That's when I saw you, Ren, and dear Crystal walk into this fine establishment. I just had to join you."

Yuri watched as Brett admired Crystal's dress. Ren folded his arms. He still kept a smirk on his face however it was weak. No doubt he was using it as a diversion to hide his irritation; for he too had little tolerance for Brett's presence.

"So how do you like the new car I gave you?" Brett asked. A curious eye rolled toward Yuri's direction to see his reaction to the news. Ren noticed this too. He could see right through Brett like a window. He knew how close Yuri and Crystal were, and he liked to pull at Yuri's emotions by showering Crystal with expensive gifts and trips to secluded islands in the Keys and in Greece.

Crystal blushed and cleared her throat to answer Brett's question about the car. She, again, forced her pink lips into a smile and said: "Oh, it's dear. I love it."

"You bought Crystal the car?" Yuri asked with a gulp.

Ren nudged him softly in the ribs. He pursed his lips and looked down at him while giving off a stern 'ahem.' It was his way of telling Yuri not to fall to Brett's taunts.

"Indeed I did," Brett said superciliously answering Yuri's question. "For her birthday. And, uh, what did you get her Montgomery?" He looked at the choker around Crystal's neck. The girl saw this and blushed even more, giving her cheeks the likeness of a ripe peach. She looked down at her lap to avoid Brett's cold green eyes.

"A rose-shaped diamond on a strap of leather?" Brett scoffed. "It looks like a collar. What, Yuri, you believe Crystal is a dog?"

Crystal's mouth fell wide open.

"Hey it was custom made!" said Yuri. His voice was rising. "I made it the way she wanted it."

"Now, now boys," said Crystal. "I loved both of your gifts very much. Please play nice, would you?"

"Right," Brett said, rudely snatching the menu from the waiter who came to attend him. He insolently read his order to the young nervous waiter "Steak; medium-rare, and add extra gravy to the mashed potatoes? And a bottle of your finest champagne. Can you do that?"

"At once sir!" the friendly waiter stammered.

Yuri just sat there the rest of the time listening to Brett boast about his accomplishments over the past few months. He cut into his steak and ate it, chewing politely before looking at Yuri. He wiped his mouth with a white cloth napkin and said, "How's the card game business been for you, buddy?"

"I wouldn't know," said Yuri, looking down at the beach. "I'm not part of it. I just live off of it."

"Ah, yes scraping off your father's fortune. Although, I doubt you can call him father."

"Huh?" said Yuri.

"What are you saying, Brett?" Crystal asked.

"Well, mother, tells me Yuri was found dumped in the yard. It makes me wonder who your parents really were. They probably were piss poor if they discarded you into the doorstep of a hard-working family the Montgomerys. Of course, some say that you were first found in the orphanage that was burned down not too long before they found you."

"What! Well, it's not true!" Yuri said, his voice was getting louder.

He could feel anger roll up in his chest. Seeing Brett's grin grow even wider made him want to leap from his seat and tackle him. He could. Though he left his fighting days behind him, he still had the strength to smash Brett's face into a bloody pulp. Brett knew this as well, however, he was not the least bit worried. Yuri was under restraint from the authorities.

One wrong move and it was back to the Black Tower with him. If that happened, the school would no doubt expel him; he was already in enough trouble with all the hell he caused in his freshman and sophomore years.

"Why are you really here, Brett?" Ren asked. "To make a nuisance of yourself like last time?"

"No, relax man, I was just curious. I overheard my mom and Yuri's mom talking one afternoon. Mrs. Montgomery seemed rather secretive about it."

"Maybe you misheard!" said Crystal.

"Whether or not you were dumped in the bushes is not my place to say," said Brett. "If the topic distresses you so much, then I will drop it."

"Good!" said Yuri.

"But, if the event were real..."

"Brett!" snapped Crystal. Slamming her fist on the table, shaking the plates and silverware.

"I'll say it again, guys, I'm just curious. I was rather shocked when I heard them speaking. If the fact that Yuri was left on the doorsteps is true, it leaves a great mystery of who his real parents were."

"Well there is no mystery," said Ren. "So just drop it!"

"Perhaps it can explain why his eye is always glowing?" said Brett.

"My eye?" said Yuri.

"Of course," said Brett. "Nobody in the Montgomery family has a weird glowing eye. I took the liberty of studying the Montgomery family tree just last night. There was no one in the lineage with a condition like yours, Yuri. And get this, my mother said she never saw your mother pregnant."

"Huh?"

"Our moms have known each other for quite some time, Yuri. She said Paula never had a plump stomach. Yet, you came out of the blue. How do you explain that?"

"That's enough!" snapped Ren.

"Well, Yuri?"

Yuri just stared at Brett, narrowing his eyes like a predator ready to strike at its prey. In this case, Yuri was a lion, and Brett was a large rhino, who was even deadlier.

Suddenly, Brett's phone buzzed. "Pity," said Brett. "Urgent family business. Well then, I believe I must go."

He dropped three one hundred dollar bills onto the table. "I got this one, guys. See, Montgomery, I'm not so bad." Brett turned and left. "Smell ya later, guys."

"What's his problem?" Yuri asked when he was finally gone.

"I'm sorry guys," Crystal said, sadly.

"You going to be okay?" Ren asked, handing her a napkin.

Crystal sniffed and cleaned her tears. "I'm sorry. Poor Yuri deserved more than that."

"Well, what are you gonna do?" Yuri said. "People like him are everywhere."

"I know," said Crystal.

"Want to head for the card shops?" Ren asked. "I'd like to start Dueling."

"Oh, I would," said Crystal. "But...I'm afraid I have some family business to take care of. I just got a text from Mother. I'm sorry guys, but we're going to have to cut this day short."

"Well, I hope all goes well," said Yuri. "And if you're free this week, Crystal, want to go to the beach?"

"I'd love too," Crystal said. "I'll put that as a maybe on my schedule. God, it's been so long since the three of us were at the beach. Just the three of us, together. And hey, I was wondering if you'd like to come with me to a party next weekend, Yuri."

"A party?" Yuri asked

Crystal reached into her purse. She dug around for a moment.

"I don't know, Crystal," Ren said, folding his arms. "Do you think he's ready for the big time?"

"I know he is," said Crystal. She then handed Yuri the invitation. "It's being hosted by Henry Frost. He's throwing another 'I'm the richest Duelist in the universe' party in a couple of months."

"And it's also to celebrate the launch of the new piece of technology from Phobos Corp," Ren added.

"Dad's company?" Yuri asked. "Must be that pre-order thing everyone's talking about."

Crystal nodded. "Well, Yuri, wanna go?"

"I don't know," said Yuri.

"Pleeeease," Crystal said making puppy eyes.

"No, no, no, no, no!" Yuri snapped. "Don't think those are going to work on me!"

Crystal made the cutest whimper as her lips trembled. Yuri surrendered and said: "All right, I'll go."

"Those eyes," Ren said taking Crystal's hand and planting a soft kiss on it. "No one can ever resist them."

Crystal smiled and playfully rolled her pretty eyes. "You certainly have a way with girls, Kakihara."

"Yeah, a regular Casanova." Yuri pouted.

After they had their dessert, Crystal and her friends had to go their separate ways for the day. She waved goodbye and got into her car and drove off. The echo of her car's engine thundered in the garage, and her wheels screeched as she took off. When she was gone from sight Yuri got in the McLaren with Ren.

"So what makes me so interesting?" Yuri asked as Ren sped out of the garage.

"You're our little brother Yuri. At least that's how Crystal feels about you."

"And how do you view me?"

"The same," Ren said with a grin. "And I also see you as a Duelist with some potential. Don't you think that words on that musical pendant of yours mean something?"

"Passionate Duelist," Yuri murmured.


Ren drove through town until he found the red sign of the game shop. He chuckled softly when he saw the entrance shaped like a ferocious red dragon guarding a horde of cards. He found a place to park in the shop's newly constructed parking garage, though the fee to use it left Ren really frustrated.

"Five bucks," he said, sliding his card across the machine. "Damn, Sergei, you're killing me. Don't I pay that old geezer enough scrounging pack after pack for the card I want?"

They walked down a set of glass stairs into the third floor of the game shop. Ren whistled. "This place is so huge. It's like a fucking mall in here."

"Being a game shop, there's going to be kids, so please watch your mouth, Ren," said Yuri.

The automatic doors slid open, letting Yuri and Ren step inside. They were blasted by a gust of cold air from the store's air conditioning. Their noses picked up food from the shop's burger stand, and the shop thundered from the surround sound intensifying the sounds of the Duel Monsters as they combated one another. Small children were playing by the Duel Tables so they could see their monsters fight on the screens.

"Ah, Yuri!" called Sergei. "And I see you've brought a friend. Ren, old boy, long time no see. It's almost like we don't see your ass anymore, good to see you son."

"Sergei," Ren said, shaking his hand. "I had a bit of business overseas. Which reminds me." He dug into the pocket of his jacket and handed him something wrapped in tin foil. "It's from you-know-who, and it must be put deck you-know-which when the time comes. But take care of them. He wants them back as soon as possible."

"Very well," said Sergei. He took the package.

"What is that?" Yuri asked.

"Nothing to concern yourself with, my boy," said Sergei. He opened the safe underneath the Playboy bunny floormat behind the counter. "They will be safe in here, Ren, trust me."

He stood up and then handed Ren a thick stack of hundreds. Ren flipped through the bills with his thumb. He cut the wad in half.

"Half for you," he said.

"You are very generous. How is the old boy doing, Ren?"

"I wouldn't worry about him. And don't ever mention him again."

Sergei looked at Yuri and nodded. "Right. You two have fun. I believe Patty and the others are waiting for you, Yuri."

Ren bowed respectfully. He put an arm over Yuri's shoulder and led him away. Yuri wanted to know what in the world just happened. A million questions were just lining up at his tongue, ready to bash Ren until Yuri got answers.

But something in his gut told him that it was probably best to stay out of Ren's affairs. He heard rumors that Ren was probably running as an errand boy for the Martinettis. If that was the case, then he really didn't want to know what went down between him and Sergei.

"Yuri!" Patty called from a table upstairs. "Over here!" she was waving her arms to get his attention.

"Friend of yours?" asked Ren, following Yuri upstairs. His eyes on Patty, who was sporting a black tank top and a ruffled pink and black skirt.

"Yup," Yuri answered.

"Pretty."

"Don't start," Yuri said, going up the steps.

"Whoa," said Nick, looking up from his Duel with Patty as Ren and Yuri came up the stairs. "Is that Ren Kakihara, the former champ of Aquarius?"

Andre came by holding a burger from the cafe. "Ren? So he's that good, huh? Is he going to play with us?"

"Seems so," Patty said. She leaned on her chair, watching the former champion walk up the stairs to their Duel Table. As he passed by, a lot of girls stopped and gawked at him. Some whispered at each other and giggled. Others took out their phones to record him walking around in the card shop, while a whole mob ran to him, stuffing magazines, pictures, and napkins for him to sign. Ren stopped and told the girls he had time to sign all of their things. Yuri squeezed by and met up with his friends. 

"You didn't tell me you were friends with Ren."

"Is he that big of a deal?" Andre asked. "Yuri, don't tell me you've been keeping him a secret from your pals this whole time."

"Were I that inconsiderate," Yuri answered sharply. "No, Ren is a very busy guy. He and his family have this huge business involving telecommunications. He's a real wiz-kid; knows all about that stuff like the back of his hand. So his dad has him tag along sometimes on important trips to help him out and even train the new employees. And as Patty said, he was the former champ until Crystal knocked him off the pedestal."

"I could think of no better opponent," Ren chimed, handing back a magazine to a girl. "It was the Duel of the Year as I recall."

"I can't believe you knew Ren all this time, Yuri?" Tyson went up to Ren and shook his hand. "Pleased to meet you."

"The pleasure is all mine," said Ren. "I know you. Your father owns that restaurant in the Phobos Towers cafe, right? Have you and your father begun to branch out."

"Next year," Tyson replied. "We've already begun plans to open ten restaurants in California, Washington DC, and Florida."

"Best of luck to you and your father, Tyson. What do you do around here. Yuri tells me you're an employee here in the shop as well."

"Part-time. I help out around the kitchen from time to time. I like it here and I'm surrounded by my friends. Plus, Sergei pays really well and gives us dental and stuff."

"I couldn't expect anything less from him. He's a good man." Ren moved across the large table and looked at Carter. "And you must be Carter Kim, correct?"

"I am. I wish Yuri told me you were coming, baby, I would have picked out something nicer to wear."

"Nonsense. You look beautiful, my friend. How is your make-up line going? My mother follows you all over social media. She says you've made a deal with Gardenvine."

"We're working on something," Carter said, trying to keep his cool. Ren was so damned handsome and his exotic and strong cologne was driving him insane. "But if anything comes up, I'll be sure to let you know, honey. I'll send your mom one of my first products, too."

"Much appreciated. Who's this fellow."

"We just met him a few days ago," Yuri replied. "His name is Andre Martin. He's new here in Aquarius."

"I see. So you trust him?"

Yuri looked at Andre and smiled, then gave a nod. "Andre? Yeah, he's cool." 

Ren and Andre shook hands. Andre almost cringed from Ren's strong grip. "Yeah, nice to see you, Ren. I've heard some interesting things about you. But I didn't you know you were well acquainted with Yuri."

"Yeah, what gives, Yuri?" Patty asked. "A former champ is your friend and you didn't tell us?"

"You must excuse him," Ren chuckled, softly. "Yuri has a knack for keeping his female acquaintances from me. Especially the cute ones, Miss…"

"McKnight. Pamela McKnight, but my friends call me Patty."

"Pleasure to meet you, Patty," Ren said, taking Patty's hand and kissing it.

"Oooh…" Patty swooned.

"McKnight, huh?" Ren said. "You wouldn't by chance be the daughter of RAPTOR's commander, would you?"

"Guilty as charged," Patty replied. 

"Impressive. Yuri sure does keep high-profile friends around, doesn't he?"

"Can you focus on the match please?" scoffed Nick.

"You'd best concentrate on those face-down cards she has," Ren said, gently letting go of Patty's hand. "I wouldn't attack if I were you."

"Dude," said Nick. "You think because you're a champ you can tell me how to Duel?"

Ren frowned at him. "Calm down, I'm just trying to help."

Nick brushed him off with a wave of his hand. "Whatever. I summon Destroyer Golem. Pretty, sweet move, huh?"

"No, not even for a beginner," scoffed Ren.

"I wasn't asking you, hotshot!" said Nick.

"If you want to survive her next turn, you should play that card in defense mode."

"It's your move, Patty," Nick said, ignoring Ren's advice.

"I summon my Dark King of the Abyss," Patty said, slapping her card onto the table. The tables they were playing with were brand new, updated with an animated playing field, giving the players a bird's eye view of their monsters with a white grid that was there mostly for aesthetics. The Duel Screens even got a new look to make them appear more futuristic. They were surrounded by LED lights that changed from blue to green. The screen displayed Patty's monster morphing onto the field from a cloud of darkness. 

"Please," Nick laughed. "Your skeleton man can't stand up to my golem. Why don't you quit while you have the chance?"

"Because I'm playing these cards," Patty answered, flipping up her two face-down equip-spell cards. She put them on her monster. "Sword of Dark Destruction and Dark Energy!" she boasted.

"What are those?" asked Nick, scratching his head.

"The Sword of Dark Destruction is a vile blade forged for Dark monsters," Tyson explained. He took a sip of his soda, trying his hardest not to laugh and make Nick feel bad. "It gives them a juicy boost in power. And Dark Energy increases the power of Fiends too. With those powerful artifacts equipped to her monster, Patty can wipe out your golem, and then some."

"Uh…no!" babbled Nick.

He looked at the Duel Screen next to their table. Patty's skeletal sorcerer raised up his new sword and shattered his golem to pieces.

"That brings your Life Points down to zero, Nick, once again I win."

"Man, you suck at this game, Nick," laughed Carter. "And you expect to get into the pro leagues."

"Not if he keeps making mistakes like that," Ren jeered again.

"I would have won had it not been for you, Ren," Nick said raising his fist. "You broke my concentration. How's about you and I have a match?"

"You don't want to do that, Nick," said Yuri. "He was crowned as the Champion of Aquarius for a reason."

"Back out of this, Yuri!" snapped Nick. "He's not so tough. Crystal Anderson saw to that when she kicked his ass three years ago. He hasn't been able to win his title back since. So, what do you say, Ren?"

"Very well," Ren said.

"Hold on, hold on," said Patty. "I owe Andre here a Duel. Sorry, Nick but your little grudge match is just going to have to wait."

"Aw, whatever," Nick said, getting off the table. He leaned against the railing and made way for Andre. He set his backpack down beside his seat, a flashy LED ergonomic chair that Sergei just bought for the new Duel Tables. They shuffled their decks and the match began.

"I must say I'm rather pleased with this," Ren said. "Nothing makes me happier than seeing a young lady Duel. Have fun, you two."

LP 2000

T1

"Oh, this is going to be fun all right," Patty said. "All right, Andre Martin. Let's see if you can't fare better this time around. I set a monster face-down and activate the field spell, Wasteland. Your move."

T2

"Starting off on the defensive already? That's fine. I summon Alpha the Magnet Warrior." He slipped the card out of his hand and gently placed it on the mat. He looked down at the animated playing field and saw his magnet-themed warrior monster from above. On the screen, Alpha swung his sword around. He made a low metallic hum then his stats displayed next to him. 

"Alpha the Magnet Warrior?" Patty said. "I had no idea the new sets came out."

"They haven't. But my dad is a top-ranking employee that works for Yuri's father. Staff members can get beta access to new cards, you know. And it looks like you're going to be one of the first to get trounced by him. Since you've activated the Wasteland spell, Alpha's attack go up by 200, so that makes sixteen hundred. Next, I give him this card. Invigoration, which will increase his attack by another 300 points. So that's 1900 attack points. Go, Alpha! Attack her face-down monster!" 

Alpha swung his sword dramatically, then darted across the field toward Patty's creature. A powerful force knocked him back, preventing him from completing his attack. Andre then watched as the ground in front of Alpha shook. Out of the sands of the wasteland, a giant castle rose up and floated higher and higher into the sky.

"The Castle of Dark Illusion?" Ren said. "Not bad. This is getting interesting."

"What the...I wasn't expecting that."

"Of course, not," Carter said. "Patty likes to switch things around. She's already beaten Nick with her dark deck, now you have to contend with her zombie deck."

"Zombies, huh? So that's why you played Wasteland." 

"Yup, yup, yup," Patty said, making her lips pop. "You lose thirty Life Points. But don't get comfy. I'm going to take some more down with this guy. My turn."

T3

Patty drew her card. She popped her lips a few more times, thinking about what to play next. "Hmm," she said. She fiddled around with her white bow. The pink streaks on her blonde hair seemed to flash in the LED lights that surrounded her and Andre. "Well, this is a nice card to play. Bam! Dragon Zombie. Rise up from the grave, you little cutie!" 

"Cutie?" Andre murmured. He looked at the beast rising out of the earth. He was a four-legged dragon with small wings. His body was purple with decay. He could see the dragon's bones and his wings were like sticks. He clawed his way out of the earth and stood directly under the shadow of the Castle of Dark Illusions. 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you're going to say," Patty said vexingly. "Oh, but Patty, your monster is too weak. Save it. The Wasteland field will increase his attack by 200. And now his attack points will go up by just a little more with this card. Violet Crystal!" Dragon Zombie's body started glowing purple and his eyes flashed white. "Oooo, he likes it. Good boy. Yeah, Violet Crystal will increase his attack points by another 300. So now his attack points go up to 2100. Your little magnet thing is no match for him, Andre. Attack him, Dragon Zombie!" 

The undead dragon opened its mouth, releasing a terrible cloud of acid that ate away at the magnet warrior's body, causing him to rust in seconds and evaporate. 

Andre - 1770 LP

Patty - 2000 LP

"Combo attacks can be quite devastating," Ren commented. "You play very well, Patty."

"Well, shmell," said Nick. "What happened to just winning with the stronger monster? All these spells are nothing but cheese. So lame."

"Yeah, that's why you suck, Nick," said Tyson. 

Andre raised his thumb to his lips and started chewing on it. "Man, you've got me outplayed this turn," he said. "Your Dragon Zombie is going to be hard to contend with. I summon Kagemusha of the Blue Flame in defense mode."

T4

"Better get your wallet ready, Andre," Patty bullied. "I'm gonna order something big. I summon the Thirteenth Grave!" A wolf howled from the distance. A skeleton garbed in a tattered teal cloak burst out of the ground, carrying a rusty iron claymore. Its bones were dark brown and it let out a terrible laugh. The field suddenly got dark and Dragon Zombie's attack increased to 2300.

"Wondering why that happened?" she asked. "Every standby phase for the next four turns, the Castle of Dark Illusions will increase my Zombies strength by 200. Now, from my hand, I equip my dragon with Fairy Meteor Crush. This card allows the monster equipped with it to inflict damage to your Life Points even if your monster is in defense mode. Dragon Zombie, burn out the blue flame with Breath of Decay!"

Dragon Zombie lunged forward. He opened his mouth, releasing the acid cloud again. Kagemusha of the Blue Flame was obliterated, as were the rest of Andre's Life Points. 

"But...holy crap! Patty, you're good. I didn't even get to play any of my best cards yet."

"She does that," said Tyson. "No offense, dawg, but Pats is waaaay out of your league. She's won the locals here in the shop three times. She's the best player in the group, so I suggest Dueling Nick a few times before challenging her again." 

"No, I want to try again."

"Find another table to lose to her, then," said Nick. He picked up Andre's cards and stuffed them back in Andre's backpack. "I've got a Duel to win."

"All right, all right," Andre said getting up from the table. "Hey, Ren. Beat this dipshit, will you?"

"Now, now, let's not get nasty," Ren said, sitting down after Patty got up. He sniffed the air. "That's a lovely scent you're wearing. I believe it's the latest from Crystal Anderson's newest perfume line. Very classy."

"Oh…thank you," Patty said blushing.

"I'll let you start first," Ren said, turning his attention to Nick.

"Fine," said Nick. "I summon Armaill in attack mode!"

ATK/800 DEF/1300

"And he screwed up already," Patty said shaking her head and adjusting her bow.

"Can you beat that?" Nick asked.

"And how," said Ren. "I summon the mighty, Gray Wing." Ren played a dragon with brownish-black scales and a white underbelly. Its wings were a dull gray color.

ATK/1300 DEF/700

"That's a good card," Carter said looking at the screen to see the dragon rendered in 3D. "But don't you usually use a Warrior deck?"

"I usually do," Ren answered politely. "But not against amateurs like this guy."

"Amateur!" snapped Nick.

"This is a random deck I play with for fun," said Ren. "It's an assortment of my favorite monsters in the game. If I used my real deck, this Duel would be too easy. Now, Gray Wing, attack his Armaill!" Ren commanded.

The dragon soared over the arena and showered Armaill with a blast of its fire breath.

Ren snorted. "I set a card and end my turn."

"Okay, that was a good opening move," Nick said sending his monster to the Graveyard. His Life Points were now at 1400. "But you're going to have to do better than that if…"

"Please," Ren interrupted. "That attack doesn't even count as my best. So do us all a favor and cease with the 'you can't beat me' crap. As far as everyone's concerned this match is already over. I place a card face down and end my turn."

"Already over, huh?" Nick said drawing his card. "I think not because I'm summoning my Wolf Axewielder to the field."

ATK/ 1650 DEF/ 1000

"His attack strength is sixteen-fifty. That's more than enough to slay your Gray Wing. Attack now!"

"You are such a dunce," Ren said, flipping up his face-down card. "Activating my spell card: Rush Recklessly. This card will boost my dragon's attack by seven hundred points. Making him more than a match for your Wolf Axewielder."

"No!" Nick said. He looked at the screen and saw the dragon burn his wolf warrior to a crisp. He lost 350 Life Points dropping his score to a mere 1050 Life Points. "Well, my wolf won't be gone for long. I activate the spell card: Monster Reborn. Now my wolf comes back to the field. And you got nothing to protect your dragon."

"Again, you are just plain pathetic," said Ren. "You just made your wolf nothing but a big target for my dragon."

"As if," sneered Nick. "My wolf's got sixteen-hundred-fifty attack points, while your Gray Wing has only measly thirteen hundred attack points now that the effect of Rush Recklessly is over. Do the math, ya dope. My wolf's gonna win."

"So you, say," Ren said drawing his card. "You think this game is all about who has the strongest monster. You just rush in head-on, thinking because your monster is a few points stronger that you're going to win the fight. I'll show you the error of your ways, kid. I play the spell card: Dragon's Gun Fire. When I have a dragon on the field, I can activate this card and choose one of its two effects. And I'll choose the first, which will deal eight-hundred points of damage to your Life Points."

"Oh no!" cried Nick.

His points dropped to 250.

"Now for another spell card. Block Attack. This card will force your monster from attack to defense mode."

"So what?" said Nick. "If you attack my monster I won't lose Life Points."

"Until I activate this," Ren said equipping his dragon with a card called Fairy-Meteor Crush. "Now with this card, my dragon can inflict damage to your Life Points even if your Wolf is in defense mode."

And with that attack, Nick's Life Points went to 0.

"Holy crap," said Tyson.

"Well spank my ass and call me Charlie," said Patty, placing her hands on her hips. "He creamed you with one monster, Nick."

"You ought to be ashamed," Ren said, shuffling his cards and stuffing them back in a leather deck case. " Gray Wing is one of the weakest cards in my deck. If you can't stand up to him, you have no business in the pro leagues."

"Argh, but how?"

Yuri sighed and said: "I told you, Nick, you need to utilize spells and traps. Traps to keep your monsters safe and spell cards to boost their power. Combing is an important aspect of this game."

"This isn't over, hotshot," sneered Nick. "I'll beat you yet."

"Humph, challenge me when you win an official Duel. I don't waste my time with arrogant fools too stuck up to know they lack the skill to play."

"What?!"

"I was only trying to help and give you some hints. But you thought so highly of yourself and blew me off. I can tell when I'm not wanted. Yuri, I will take my leave."

"Are you sure, Ren?" Yuri asked.

"I'm sure. Do you have a ride home?"

"I'll take him home," said Patty. "We can drop him off, after closing time."

"Well, it was a pleasure meeting you guys, some of you anyway. Yuri, maybe next time we can go on our card buying spree."

"I'm sorry, Ren. He'll be better behaved next time."

"Let us hope," Ren said, walking downstairs.

"Nice job, ya creep!" said Tyson. "All he wanted to do was give you some pointers for the match."

"Do you always have to be such a jerk, Nick?" Patty said, sternly folding her arms. "Show some respect. He's the former champion."

"I know all those rich-boy players," Nick, shuffling his cards. "I could have taken him if my good cards weren't at the bottom."

Patty scoffed and rolled her eyes. "You need to have good cards in order to have good cards at the bottom. Want another rematch, Andre?"

"No, thanks. I'm not in the mood anymore. I'll catch you guys later.

After he left, the rest of them continued to play until sunset. By then, all the customers were going home, and Sergei was ready to close the game shop. Patty went outside to find her vehicle.

Yuri then got a text on his phone. "Hey, guys, I have a ride home after all."

"You sure, Yuri?" Patty asked, putting on her jacket.

"Yeah, someone I know is coming to get me."

"Well, okay, hon. I guess I'll see you at school."

"Yeah, see you in school, Yuri!" called Nick, as he followed his friends out the door.

Yuri gave a long sigh, picked up his cards, and said goodbye to Sergei and the others before stepping outside.

"Be here on Tuesday after school!" called Sergei.

Yuri waved his arm as he exited the shop. A gesture to show he heard and understood. Once he got outside, he saw that it was raining heavily. "Curse this tropical weather," he pouted.

He heard a soft 'ahem' mixing with the torrential downpour.

Yuri turned around to find Crystal leaning against the wall of the shop still clad in her white dress, but she had a denim jacket over it to shield her from the chill of the stormy wind blowing about. Her flower-shaped diamond was looking like a star around her neck as it reflected the light.

Crystal looked up at Yuri. Then she smiled. Her cheeks blushed red, and her eyes flickered in the dull white light of the fluorescent lamp underneath the arched awning of the store.

Uh-oh, thought Yuri. He knew that look, and it meant trouble.

"So. Want to know how to really play Duel Monsters?"

Chapter Text

 


Yuri


Yuri followed her to her car. Night had fallen by the time they arrived at their destination. Crystal took Yuri by the arm to a domed arena with floodlights moving back and forth in the rainy night sky.

"What is this place?" Yuri asked.

"Wait till you see," said Crystal as they walked past a fountain of silver and glass.

"You're gonna yank my arm off woman!" he cried out as she dragged him down the path to the building.

"Hey look," Nick said spotting Yuri and Crystal going into the dome. He, Tyson, and Carter stood in line ordering hot dogs from a stand nearby. Patty was in her car, waiting for them to get their food.

"Wasn't that Yuri?" Tyson asked. "What business does he have in that new Duel Dome?"

"And who was that girl?" said Patty. "She looks awfully familiar."

"I don't know," said Nick. "But we're going to find out. I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I think Yuri's been keeping secrets from us. Come on you guys."

"Wait up!" Tyson called out, chasing Nick down the street. Carter was gasping for air, running to try and catch up. Patty got out of her car and pulled her jacket over her head before chasing down her companions.

"Hey, what about your hot dogs, kids?" called out the vendor. "Kids? Hey!"

Meanwhile, inside the dome, Yuri began to feel his heart beating. The Duelists in the building looked out of his league, many of them had arrogant looks on their faces.

Crystal said they were the best players in the world, many of them traveling from afar to try out the new technology that was being shown off in this strange Colosseum-like building. The dome rumbled as if shaken by an explosive. For a brief moment, Yuri heard a powerful roar booming from down the halls as if a horrible monster was being kept inside the walls.

"What is this place?" Yuri asked, nervously.

"Come on," said Crystal taking him to one of the desks in the central atrium. "What arenas are free tonight?"

"We have arena one-thirty-three available, Miss Anderson," The pretty receptionist answered.

"Thank you. We'll take it."

"Okay, just sign your names here."

Yuri and Crystal signed their names on the list then sat on cushions by the giant colorful fountain at the center of the atrium. "Crystal what the hell is going on?" Yuri asked.

"How do you not know about this place?" she asked.

"I do. It's just my dad told me to steer clear of it."

She laughed and then leaned her head on his shoulder. "Well, you've got a big mouth after all. You can't keep secrets even if your life depended on it. Well, I've got to say, I missed you, little guy. I'm so glad to be back home."

"How long before you leave again?" Yuri asked, knowing well enough to know that Crystal's visits were always brief. If there wasn't a big tournament for her to play in, it was another one of her concerts that dragged her away.

Crystal did not reply, and instead pulled out a bar of chocolate from her jacket. She unwrapped it, breaking off a small brick which she offered for Yuri. He took it and ate it in. He looked at her, still awaiting a response when: "Eek!" she yelped.

She looked at Yuri and started laughing. "Oh, damn! A piece of chocolate fell in between my boobs!"

Yuri rolled his eyes. "And what, pray tell, do you want me to do about it?" he asked.

Crystal punched his shoulder playfully before digging through her purse for a napkin. "You could help or something, dude! Oh man, I can feel it melting! My bra is going to be ruined! Do you have any idea how much it cost?"

"Want someone to lick it off?" someone asked obnoxiously. "Well, well, well, Crystal Anderson. We meet again."

"Oh no," said Crystal, turning to see a young man with gelled blond hair dressed in a clean pin-striped suit.

"I thought I'd find you around here, Crystal," the kid sneered.

"Yuri, this is Randall Lawson," Crystal said with disgust. "He won last year at regionals."

"Oh," said Yuri. "Pleased to meet you." He extended his hand.

The boy cackled and stood up straight. "Ha, you're not worthy to shake my hand!" 

"Is that so?" said Yuri. "Then excuse me."

"Well that was rather rude," said Crystal. "What do you want, Lawson?"

"I want a rematch. You know, that Duel we had back at the Phobos Corp Ball? I would have won if you didn't shuffle my deck wrong."

"Oh, give it up," said Crystal.

"So what do you say?" said Lawson. "You game?"

"No, but my friend here is."

"Wait, what?" Yuri said in shock.

Lawson laughed. "Please. This guy probably couldn't even Duel his way out of a paper bag. I'd have a rougher time playing a game of solitaire. I want a challenge, Crystal. I want the champion. I want the Queen of Dragons. I want you." He licked his lips. "Yeah, damn right I want you."

"Then face my friend," said Crystal. "Come on, Lawson, you're always bragging about your power. Why not show it off tonight?"

"All right, fine. I'll Duel him. But if I beat him, you and I will play, no questions asked."

"It's a deal then."

"Good, then let's get started."

Yuri and Crystal followed Lawson to an arena down one of the halls. When Yuri walked through the sliding metallic doors, he felt his breath getting sucked right out of his body. Lawson led him into a stadium big enough to hold more than a hundred people and the arena had two platforms. One was red, and the other was blue.

Lawson chose the red one and hopped on. Little did they know, Andre was watching them from one of the entrances to the arena. The darkness of the hall concealed him. "What is that girl getting him into?"

"Hold on," said Crystal. "I know he's no dinosaur, but, I want you to have this." She reached into her purse and took out a shimmering card from the Premium Gold Series.

"Wow, thanks," said Yuri.

Crystal planted a kiss on Yuri's lips. "Good luck, now go kick ass, honey."

Yuri eagerly jumped onto the platform. It rose high up. The height caused Yuri to grow uneasy. He heard the machinations hiss and whir as the platform took him higher above the arena. He set his deck down on some hi-tech interface. A scoreboard above the field read 2000 in white numbers.

"This is not good," said Andre. "I hope she knows what she's doing. It's going to take more than one card to get Yuri through his match. I hope he's as good as everyone says he is."

Crystal looked up at the VIP box and saw Brett staring down at the arena with a scowl on his face. She sighed heavily. It didn't surprise her that Brett would be here tonight. "You can do it Yuri!" she cheered him briefly. "I'll be right back."

"Wait, you can't just let me do this alone!" Yuri called out.

Crystal turned and blew him a kiss and climbed the stone steps to where Brett was going to watch the match. He was not happy. Crystal remained oblivious to Yuri's pleas for her to stay. She reached the top of the stone steps to the VIP box where Brett was waiting. He grumbled impatiently pouring himself a glass of champagne. Suddenly, the lights in the arena turned off leaving everything in darkness. It was dark. Too dark. Yuri almost felt like going into a panic, for he couldn't see a thing. And then the playing field began to light up, illuminating the stadium in an eerie green glow.

"You're putting him up against the regional champion?" Brett asked.

"I have a feeling he can win," said Crystal. "I know he can..."

"What's wrong with you?" Brett asked. "You think you can just scheme your way into making Yuri a good Duelist?"

"Scheming? Whatever do you mean?"

"Don't play dumb, Crystal," Brett said walking so close to her they went face to face. "I saw you putting a card into his deck. If you think that monster will be enough for Yuri to defeat Lawson, you are sadly mistaken, kid."

"Well, if he's so skilled, what reason do you have to get so angry?" Crystal said with a cocky smile. "And what if Yuri wins and proves you wrong?"

"You better hope he doesn't," snarled Brett. "Lawson is my protégé. I spent a lot of time and money getting him where he is. And if he loses to Yuri because of your interference, there will be consequences."

Brett tapped on his engraved platinum and gold belt buckle. Crystal gulped then frowned and stomped her right foot forward causing Brett to back off. "I don't care what you say!" she said with spite.

Brett backed off, surprised at the girl's sudden outburst of courage.

"If Yuri wins tonight it's because he's gotten better at the game. Sure I may have given him a card, but you're right; it won't be enough to ensure a victory. That just proves that if Yuri wins, it's because he's got the skills to beat your protégé and to participate in the tournament this summer."

"Never!" said Brett. "I will never allow it. Leon will allow it.

"That's not up to you to decide," said Crystal. She looked down at Yuri on his platform as he drew his cards. "Come on, little guy. Kick his ass."

"Let's do this!" cried out Lawson. "I summon Master and Expert!"

There was a glow on Lawson's side of the field. Suddenly a man in red armor and a bright green scarf appeared alongside a four-legged beast with a hungry look on its face, with a bright gold mane.

ATK/1200 DEF/1000

When Yuri saw the beast he yelped and almost fell backward. Whatever was going on, the monster had come to life. It was snarling, breathing, grinning, and laughing. The arena even seemed to produce the creature's odor.

"It's real!" Yuri shouted. "The monster's real!"

He wanted to jump off and run away, but he saw how high he was. He wasn't going anywhere. The beast was so realistic it was frightening.

"It's not real you idiot!" sneered Lawson. "It's holographic technology. The scanner on the interface reads the cards we play and renders them in holographic form."

"Your father just started using it in last year's tournament," Crystal called out from the VIP box. "That's why business was booming Yuri."

"Why am I the last to know?" said Yuri.

"That's what you get for not paying attention to the game, Yuri," said Brett. "How the hell are you Jacob Montgomery's son?"

"Wait a minute did she just say your father was the one behind all this?" said Lawson. "If that's so, then you're a Montgomery." He snapped his fingers. "Of course, that explains that weird glow in your eye. Jesus, Yuri, you really are a freak." He shivered with excitement. "Wow, this is going to put my name on the map when I beat both a Montgomery and the Queen of Dragons in one night."

"You're not beating anyone yet," said Yuri. "I summon Armored Lizard!" Yuri's field started glowing too. Then out came a two-legged lizard in armored blue flesh armed with razor-sharp claws. It screeched upon being rendered on the field.

ATK/1500 DEF/1200

Nick, Tyson, Carter, and Patty ran into the arena. What they saw caused them to stop in their tracks.

"LOOK!" shouted Tyson.

Patty gasped and covered her mouth with her hands.

"No way!" said Nick. "Real monsters!"

"It can't be," said Carter.

Andre leaned against the entryway and folded his arms. "So, the whole gang is here, huh? Hopefully, they can help Yuri out with some motivation." He grinned. "So, the son of the game's creator, pfft, sure. And the regional champion. I wish I had a hot dog and a bag of popcorn for this match. Oh, well. Their strategies are plenty for me to snack on. Let's see how Yuri can stand up to this Randall loser."

"Great," scoffed Brett from the VIP box. "Yuri's little lackeys are here polluting this beautiful arena with their filth."

"What is your problem?!" shouted Crystal.

"Don't you raise your voice at me, little lady!" Brett said furiously, slapping the back of his hand.

Crystal grimaced and looked back at the field in time to see Yuri command his monster to attack.

"Armored Lizard attack!" commanded Yuri. But he said it with such enthusiasm. It felt like he was commanding the monster to attack and do his bidding. The holograms did bring a new feel to the game. It wasn't like casual games at the card shops. Yuri's heart was racing. Sweat was coming out of every pore in his body. His hands shook, and his legs were quivering. This match felt like a real battle.

His monster gave a shriek and ran to its opponent. It used its sharp claws to cut Master and Expert into ribbons.

"Yes!" cheered Crystal.

"Hmm," said Brett. He took a sip of his champagne. "Not bad."

Lawson's Life Points dropped to 1700.

"Okay, so you have a little fight in you. Time to step things up a bit. I summon the Mystic Clown!" Lawson summoned a strange, mad fiend wearing a purple leotard decorated with eyes and a weird colorful mask.

"Mystic Clown?" said Yuri. "But his attack points are the same as my Armored Lizard's. They'll destroy one another."

"That may be so," said Lawson. "But I'd have to be a fool to send my Mystic Clown on a head-on attack with your Armored Lizard. That's why I'm performing a combo. I use the equip spell card, Dark Energy. This spell card boosts the attack and defense of Fiend monsters by three hundred points."

The clown had a dark aura glowing around him. He gave a hideous cackle and began to dance, taunting Yuri as his attack increased to 1800. The creature shot out a ball of black energy at the Armored Lizard. Yuri's monster shattered like glass upon being struck by the energy blast. His Life Points dropped to 1700 as well.

"Now we're tied!" said Yuri.

"Don't make me laugh!" said Lawson. "I use the spell card, Goblin's Secret Remedy. It will increase my Life Points by six hundred points."

Lawson's Life Points went up to 2300.

"Oh no!" gasped Crystal.

"I told you, little lady," said Brett. "Yuri's got no chance against my student."

"Oh come on Yuri!" shouted Nick. "You didn't have any traps or anything!"

"Come on, Yuri!" coached Crystal. "The game is still young. You can do it!"

"Pipe down!" Brett grabbed her by the collar of her jacket, pulling her back from the window.

"That girl again," Patty mumbled to herself. "Just who is she?"

So far Yuri had a bad draw.

"What are you doing!" Andre muttered angrily. "Duel, you damn fool. Pfft. And he's supposed to be king one day!"

"Drooling Lizard!" Yuri cried out, summoning a yellow-skinned lizard with a hard green shell and a long black tongue. "Defense Mode!"

"You think that pathetic reptile will be enough to hold out against my clown?" laughed Lawson. "Go, Mystic Clown! Attack his lizard!"

"Oh-no," Crystal said again. She watched in horror as his army of Reptile monsters was slaughtered.

Three turns went by.

Yuri lost his Ancient Lizard Warrior, and then his Lizard Soldier followed by his Mechaleon.

"Stop wasting my time!" shouted Lawson, after the Mystic Clown destroyed his Krokodilus. "If you have nothing that can stand against my clown, then forfeit the match!"

"You leave him alone!" shouted Patty. "God, this jerk is all talk!"

"Okay, here we go," said Yuri. He drew. "Giga Gagagigo, Attack!" Yuri shouted summoning his new monster. It was a tall human-like lizard with a green-skinned body toned with large muscles. It had a thick tail swinging behind him. The beast was protected by thick, polished metal armor.

With 2450 attack points he made short work of the clown. The damage to Lawson was 950 dropping his Life Points to 1350.

Yuri gave a leap. "YES! Now I'm on the offensive, Lawson! I will play a card face-down and end my turn."

"Now it's my turn," said Lawson.

"So far you've been getting your butt kicked Mr. Regional Champion!" teased Nick.

"I don't recall letting you dweebs into the arena!" shouted Lawson. "I would kick you out, but defeating this poor excuse of a Duelist in front of his peers just sweetens my victory which is now upon me."

"Oh yeah?" said Patty. "There's probably nothing in your deck that can stand up to his Giga Ga-Ga whatever-the-fuck-it's-called."

Brett, meanwhile, drummed his fingers on the bar top. "Ultra-Rare; twenty-four-fifty attack points; I suppose that Giga Gagagigo was your doing, Crystal?"

Crystal twiddled her thumbs and looked away to avoid his stern gaze. "Well...I had to, Brett. Yuri needs an edge."

Brett nodded. "It's a good card, but I'm afraid it won't do him any good. If that cybernetic lizard is the only powerful card Yuri has in his deck, then this Duel is over."

"How do you figure that?"

"Watch."

Lawson held up a card. "I now activate the ritual spell card: Garma Sword Oath!"

"Augh!" gasped Crystal. "A ritual monster!"

A tablet rose from the ground, shaking the arena. Nick, Tyson, Carter, and Patty hung onto the rails for dear life. After the tablet towered over the field, two golden torches with a wdjat eye appeared on either side of it spewing purple flames.

"Now I'll tribute from my hand my Ancient Brain and Masked Sorcerer in order to ritual summon the mighty Garma Sword!"

The two monsters appeared on the field. The flames then engulfed the monsters, sucking out their life forces which turned the flames blue. The torches spewed out their icy-blue flames onto the field. From the flames, Yuri saw a silhouette. The flames dispersed revealing the creature.

A monkey-faced warrior, wearing a midnight blue head ornament and a skirt. It had pearly-white armor over its torso and had six arms holding onto sharp curved white-gold swords.

ATK/ 2550 DEF/2150

"That's an impressive monster!" Patty said, after a loud gulp.

"Damn right he is, my dear," boasted Lawson. "Garma Sword is the rarest and most powerful card in my deck! He has won me countless victories, spelling doom on my opponents when he arrives on the field. And how's about I boost his power with Malevolent Nuzzler!"

A green-skinned fiendish maiden appeared behind Garma Sword and put her arms around his neck. She whispered in his ear a spell that sent him into a rage that boosted his attack by 700 increasing his attack to 3250.

"His monster's attack just boosted to the top of the charts!" Crystal yammered.

Brett gibbered making his wolfish grin. "Lawson's just showing off now. He's never had to boost his monster's attack like that before. It looks like he wants to make an example of your friend. So unless you sneaked a Perfectly Ultimate Great Moth or a Gate Guardian in there; Yuri's got no chance."

"Oh...I'm so sorry," Crystal said sympathetically.

"ATTACK!" roared Lawson.

His Garma Sword ran to Yuri's field. The six-armed warrior slashed off Giga Gagagigo's limbs and tail. Yuri lost 850 Life Points dropping him to 850.

"And now I'll burn you good with a little Ookazi. This will deal 800 points of damage to you, Yuri. Feel the heat!"

The flames surrounded Yuri. They were dangerously real. They fooled his brain and his senses to make it feel like he was being burned. Yuri screamed in agony then fell to his knees.

"Brett we have to stop the match!" cried Crystal. "The holographic systems are too much for him."

"You brought him into this, Crystal," Brett said with a sinister smile. "And why should I stop the match? He's down to his last fifty Life Points."

"Don't give up Yuri!" cheered Nick.

"Come on, you're still in this man!" cried Patty.

Yuri drew his card.

"Swords of Revealing Light!" shouted Yuri.

"YES!" cheered Crystal. She jumped and clapped her hands.

Swords of pure light fell from the sky and encased Garma Sword. The swords prevented Lawson from attacking for three turns.

"Oh man, the excitement." Crystal jeered.

"This isn't your ordinary children's card game, kiddies," Brett agreed, looking down at the frozen monster.

"What good will a three-turn delay do you?" sneered Lawson. "You're only prolonging the inevitable. Well, while you cower behind your swords, I'll boost my Life Points back up with the power of Dian Keto the Cure Master."

Lawson's Life Points increased to 2350.

"I then summon my beautiful, Succubus Knight!"

Lawson summoned a six-armed woman wearing a red leotard the revealed her shoulders and the upper half of her breasts. There were two bat-like ornaments over her chest and crotch. She smiled at Yuri, and provocatively licked her lips.

"That will end my turn," sneered Lawson.

"I draw," said Yuri. "I summon Black Dragon Jungle King, with an attack strength of twenty-one hundred."

Yuri's dragon impressed his friends when it came out fully rendered in holographic form. It was one of the strongest cards in his deck. It was a wingless, chubby beast with black scales and a royal purple underbelly. It's claws, spikes and horns were made of ivory.

B. Dragon Jungle King

ATK/2100 DEF/1800

"Attack his Succubus Knight!" Yuri commanded his dragon.

His monster belched purple flames that fried the female monster to a crisp. She cried out in agony. Her colorful leotard ripped away in the flames along with her flesh. Lawson lost 500 Life Points bringing him to 1850.

"Ha!" laughed Lawson. "That's fine with me. But I'll take some more Life Points with a little Red Medicine for good measure."

The spell increased his Life Points by 500 now raising him back to 2350.

"Hey, that's not fair!" exclaimed Patty. "No matter how much damage Yuri does to him; Lawson just increases it on his next turn."

"Now he's just toying with him," said Tyson. "There was no need to boost his points by that much. He's already got Yuri on the ropes."

"This guy is nothing but a bully," Carter growled. He felt like beating the stuffing out of the arrogant rich kid.

"And now I'll get rid of your dragon with the spell card: RAIGEKI!" Lawson cried out, dramatically holding up his card in the air.

Dark clouds swirled over the battlefield. Then bolts of lightning fell from the clouds striking the field until Black Dragon Jungle King was hit The monster roared as the powerful bolts of electricity cooked his body. The dragon shattered like glass. Yuri and his friends stared hopelessly at the smoldering crater on the ground where the dragon once stood.

"So much for your dragon, Yuri!" Lawson said, followed by a laugh.

"I play a monster in defense mode!" said Yuri.

"My turn!" said Lawson. "Ha! That defense monster won't do you any good. Look at this! I drew the spell card, Stop Defense. Now, on my next turn, when I'm free of your swords, I will activate this card and force your pathetic monster in attack mode so my Garma Sword can finish you off once and for all. I end my turn!"

The swords vanished. Now Garma Sword growled and stretched his arms and swung his blades through the air to warm up his muscles.

"Ugh, I can't watch," Patty said burying her face in her arms.

"Don't cover your eyes, babe," sneered Lawson. "You're going to miss one hell of a show." He followed his taunt with a cartoony laugh.

"I wish there were something we can do to help," said Nick.

"All we can do is put our faith in his next draw," said Carter.

"Come on," said Crystal.

Andre saw a gold flash on Yuri's fingertips when he placed them on the top of the deck. "What was that just now?" he wondered.

"I draw," said Yuri. "Huh...what's this?"

"Just end your turn already!" shouted Lawson. "It doesn't matter what card you drew, kid, this match is over!"

"I think not," said Yuri.

"You've got nothing that can stand up against my Garma Sword. Just forfeit!"

"I won't," said Yuri. "I drew just the card I needed. The Black Tyranno."

"What the hell is that!" shouted Lawson.

"I've never heard of that card before!" Brett whispered.

"I didn't put that in his deck!" Crystal whispered. "What the hell is that?"

Everyone stared in awe as the ancient monster appeared on the field. The creature stood over twenty feet high. It had black armored flesh; spiked bands on its arms; a long tail; thick, powerful legs; teeth as long as swords, and heterochromia eyes. One eye was like amber against flames and the other was glowing green...like Yuris. It reared its head up and roared. Suddenly, Crystal noticed a crest, very regal in appearance forming behind Yuri, and his green eye started to illuminate even brighter.

"Yuri...," she said in an astounded whisper. "What's happening to you? What is that monster? I've never heard of it before." 

The same crest shining brightly behind Yuri formed in Black Tyranno's glowing green eye. Again, the great beast reared his head up and roared so powerfully that Lawson felt a trickle of urine go down his pants. The speakers sparked, for the monster's cry was so loud and so dominating. The lights in the arena flickered on and off. Everyone cried out as their ears burned with the agony of the deafening roar and covered them with their palms. Brett cried out as though someone lashed out at him, and he squatted down, slapping his hands over his ears to protect them from the awful noise Black Tyranno was making.  

Black Tyranno

ATK 2600 DEF/1800

When the jet-black dinosaur stopped roaring, he stomped his massive feet against the ground. He stared at Lawson and smashed his tail against the ground to display his dominance. The Black Tyranno was telling Lawson that this was his battlefield. He owned it. No one else.

"I don't know what he is or how you got it," said Lawson. "But color me impressed. Heh, despite all that showmanship, he's still not tough enough to take on my Garma Sword."

"Who says my Black Tyranno will attack your Garma Sword?" Yuri said with a confident snicker.

"I have no other monsters for you to attack!" shouted Lawson. "You have no choice but to attack my Garma Sword!"

"Not until I activate this!" said Yuri. "I've got a spell card called Block Attack. This card is the exact opposite of that Stop Defense spell you have in your hand. The spell forces your monster from attack position to defense position."

"What's the point in that?" sneered Brett from the VIP box. "Yuri may destroy Lawson's Garma Sword, but no Life Points will be lost."

"And for my final trick," said Yuri. "I use De-spell and destroy your Malevolent Nuzzler."

"I still won't lose points, Yuri!" Lawson arrogantly repeated himself.

"And now for my Black Tyranno's special ability!" Yuri announced loud and proud. "When you have nothing but defense position monsters on the field my Black Tyranno can attack you directly."

"WHAT!" shouted Lawson.

"No way!" Brett said, with a change in tone. "Incredible power! Where did he get a card like that?"

"Yuri?" Crystal whispered. "You're actually going to beat him."

The Black Tyranno gave another roar and then dashed for Lawson. He stomped Garma Sword and then gave a mighty whip of its tail dealing 2600 damage to his Life Points. No one could believe it when Lawson's scoreboard dropped to 0.

"I lost...but...but how? I... I'm the regional champion. There's no way this nobody could have defeated me."

"All right, Yuri!" shouted Nick. "You did it!"

The platform lowered. Yuri collapsed to the floor.

"Whoa, whoa, give him some air guys," said Tyson, seeing Yuri sitting on the edge of the platform, exhausted and panting as though he had run a great distance. Sweat fell from his forehead in large drops. His body was quivering as though he was out in the cold.

"AWWWWW! YEAH!" Nick roared. "That was sick man!" he happily fist-bumping Yuri.

"Yuri!" cried Patty. Her legs were quaking. One of her cheeks was bleeding from when she was squeezing her face with her nails in anticipation. "You were amazing. I can't believe you pulled it off. You won! You really won!"

"Are you kidding!" said Carter. "This was not just a win! You beat the regional champion! You're a force to be reckoned with, after all, Yuri! I knew it! I just knew it!"

"Let's hear it for Yuri, guys!" Nick shouted as he and Tyson picked up their friend and paraded him out of the arena.

The two of them began to sing:

For he's a jolly good fellow! For he's a jolly good fellow!

For he's a jolly good fellow who kicked the champion's ass!

Andre gave a nod and smiled. "Not bad, Yuri. I knew coming here was a great idea." He walked away and disappeared into the shadows.

"He did it!" Crystal laughing with both excitement and disbelief. "You really did it!"

She was about to go down to congratulate Yuri but she felt a vice-like grip on her wrist.

"Come on. I'm going to take you home," Brett snarled.

"But I just want..." said Crystal.

"NOW!" shouted Brett. And with another powerful yank, he dragged Crystal down the halls and out of the arena. Crystal had no choice but to follow him. She looked back down the hall towards the entrance to the arena and smiled.

You were great tonight, Yuri. But I have a feeling you'll only be getting better.


Yuri


It was a good thing he lived in the basement. Otherwise, someone would have heard him screaming.

Yuri, sitting up in his bed, was breathing slowly, drenched in a cold sweat. His heart racing in his chest; biting, gnawing and thumping as if escaping from his body. He was surrounded by darkness causing him to whimper in despair, thinking the creatures in his nightmare were probably lurking in the shadows ready to murder him. He fumbled through the dark, looking for the damned lamp.

He felt the table beside his bed, knocked over his deck, spilling the cards all over the floor. He found the bottom of the table lamp and caressed the stem all the way up until he found the chain and tugged it illuminating his room with its soft light.

There was nothing but his room.

He buried his face in his sweaty palms and softly cried. The numbers on his clock read 3 AM. He dressed into a pair of jeans and slipped his denim jacket over his bare torso and ran out of the house. He needed to get away from his room. He needed to see his world. A stroll past the shore would calm his thoughts hopefully. The crickets chirped alongside the hissing cicadas in the trees. He heard the soft hum of cars in the distance. He put his hands in his pocket and slowly strolled down the sidewalk towards the bridge into town. The lights of Aquarius's central island lit up the ocean. The pearly-white metallic street lamps lit his way, washing him in their dull orange glow.

"Yuri!"

"Ren," Yuri said, turning around to see his friend walking behind him.

"Damn man, it's almost four in the morning. What are you doing out so late?"

"I just wanted to go for a stroll," Yuri answered, sheepishly.

"You look distraught," Ren said, lighting a cigarette. "Everything all right?"

"Yeah...sort of."

"Come on, let me join you."

The two men made their way down the bridge. A few cars rode by disrupting the silence for a brief moment. Yuri then stopped and leaned on the black railing, resting his chin over his crossed arms to look at the dark sea. The moon, slowly fading into the horizon, caused the water to glimmer. A bouey was ringing somewhere in the darkness. He heard waves crashing against the shore not too far ahead.

"What's with that getup?" asked Ren. "You're not exactly in the kind of shape to be walking about shirtless.

Yuri looked down at his bulging belly. His knack for eating fast food after school was finally nipping him in the bud.

"How's Crystal?" he asked. "I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to her after my victory against the regional champ."

"She's fine," Ren responded, exhaling smoke. Yuri coughed, causing Ren to chuckle. "If it bothers you so much, you could just tell me to put it out."

"I can handle it," coughed Yuri, fanning the smoke away from his face. "Was she able to get home safe?"

"Yeah, Brett took her home."

"I hate that prick," Yuri grumbled. "I can't believe he has the audacity to do what he did and just hang around us like nothing happened. The way he treats her. You'd think he owns her or something."

"To some extent," Ren said, flicking his cigarette into the sea. "His family does manage her music career,"

"You should make a move," said Yuri. "Before it's too late."

"I should say the same about you," Ren said leaning back on the rail beside Yuri.

"What are you talking about?" Yuri asked.

"Oh, you know what I'm talking about. Remember when we were kids? You and I would go through hell competing against one another for her affection. Who could run faster, who could Duel better, who could buy her better gifts."

"And you would always beat me," said Yuri. "As of right now, I concede. I knew it was hopeless since the day we met her. She's always liked you most. I see the way she looks at you."

"Me?" Ren said with a grin.

"Mm-hmm," said Yuri. "What chance do I have to get a girl like Crystal? I'm just a delicate little flower, remember?"

"Yuri don't..."

"I don't care, Ren. Do something before Brett beats us both to her. Damn...sometimes...sometimes, I just want to kill him."

"That's a pretty strong statement, kid; you really feel that way?"

"I can't help it," Yuri replied sadly. "Not after all he's done. I think it's because of these feelings that I've been getting these dreams."

"Patty told me about that online last night," said Ren. "She said you've been talking about them all month."

"They're horrible," said Yuri. "It also explains what I'm doing out here."

"You had another one?"

"Mm-hmm."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I guess," said Yuri.

"What happened?"

"I saw..., Well, I don't know what I saw,"

"That's pretty vague," said Ren. "And here I was, on my toes, expecting a real horror story."

"It wasn't a clear picture," Yuri retorted. "Not at first, but over the past couple of weeks, they started getting a little more transparent. I could see...a city on fire. It looked like it was being attacked."

"A city?"

"Yeah, but it looked medieval,"

"Medieval?" Ren asked again.

"Yeah, ramparts, castles. It was dark. The rain was falling from the sky. Then these...horrible monsters just burst through and started attacking. They began killing people...butchering them. Men, women, children...babies."

"That's horrible," said Ren.

"I could even smell the fires...I could hear the people screaming. Those monsters...grunting...killing...eating. The weird thing is, these feel more like memories than dreams. Like I've been there before."

"Deja vu?" Ren asked.

"In a manner of speaking," Yuri replied. "But that's impossible, right? Castles, monsters, magic. There is no way I could have led a former life in some dungeons and dragons bullshit."

"No," Ren chuckled. "No, not really, no. What else did you see?"

"I saw cartoon characters looking down at me."

Ren burst out laughing.

"Yeah, pretty dumb, huh?"

"Man, and I thought I had problems," Ren said, breathing slowly to catch his breath.

"Don't tell, Crystal," said Yuri. "She's worried about me enough as it is,"

"I won't say a word," said Ren, laughing again. "Do you feel better?"

"A little," said Yuri.

"Come on then," said Ren. "Let's go home."

They started walking back. Ren stopped.

"You know, Yuri, despite all your flaws, I love having you for a friend."

"Likewise," said Yuri, following Ren back to the estate.


Crystal


The drive back Brett's seaside mansion was a long and silent one. Brett remained in his seat, face glowing red in anger and no doubt humiliation for seeing his prodigy get beat by Yuri, who was often called out for having no skill whatsoever in the game. He breathed heavily like an elephant after a powerful spring. Deep down, Crystal started getting scared. Normally Brett would be kissing her and fondling her as they were driven back home. If he was in no mood for that, then she really was in trouble.

The stretched limousine stopped in front of the lavish golden gates of Brett's mansion. Two guards wielding AR-15's waved, welcoming their young employer back home while the gatekeeper pressed a red button forcing the gates to fold open.

A chill of fear ran down Crystal's body when the limo jerked forward and moved again. She felt her heart whacking against her chest, demanding to be let out and escape the punishment that was about to take place.

The limo made a slight curve to go around the pond with the glowing fountain in the center of the courtyard. Four of Brett's security guards went down the steps in unison and split off to go on each side of the limo to let out Brett and Crystal from their own doors.

"Welcome back, sir," said Santiago, his twenty-two-year-old right-hand man.

"Ma'am," said the guard escorting Crystal. Something wasn't right. They were meaner than usual tonight. They walked on either side of her as they followed Brett to the backyard to his private golf course overlooking the moonlit ocean behind the palm trees. Crystal was forced to stand on top of a hill watching Brett shoot balls into the night with his club.

"I'm very disappointed in you, Crystal," Brett said, putting another ball on the tee. He readied himself for the shot. "Very, very disappointed. You know how much time and money I put into making Randall the Duelist he is now?"

Crystal remained silent, eyes glued to the moonlight. Brett scoffed at her muteness and whacked the ball.

"No, I didn't think you would." He set up the tee and put another ball on it. "Do you know how much money Randall's family paid me to make him the powerhouse he is? Or sorry, I mean was." He whacked it away, and again he set another. Crystal guessed he was doing this to control his anger, and she prayed it was being cooled by his game.

"Crystal, Randall's father is the son of the Secretary of Defense! I got paid a bundle to make sure his kid was good at something because before I came along, Randall was shit. Randall was nothing but an embarrassment to his family. I whipped him into shape with Duel Monsters. When he won the regionals, his father was so proud and offered a four-year contract to my uncle's PMC. We're talking three hundred million dollars, babe."

He laughed and whacked another ball away. He leaned against the club as he let out his laughter. "You can imagine my disdain when he called and yelled at me for the loss." He laughed so hard he snorted. "The internet can be a cruel, cruel bitch; I'm sure you can relate."

Crystal narrowed her eyes.

"Word got out of how Yuri beat Randall with that Black Tyranno. Quite an impressive monster that Black Tyranno. Pity he's in the hands of a weak Duelist like Yuri."

"If he's so weak, then why did he beat Randall?"

"So you're gloating at me now, huh?" chuckled Brett. "Naw, naw, go ahead. Have your moment. Have your moment. You earned it. You made Yuri make me look like a complete fool. So...how did you get Mr. Montgomery to make Yuri that card?"

Crystal gasped, gingerly placing a hand on her chest. "Excuse me! You think I gave him that card?"

Brett looked at her and grinned. "I don't think," he tapped his temple with a ringed finger. "I know. I know you gave it to him. Of course, after Mr. Montgomery printed it. You two never liked me. No doubt you'd send that punk Yuri to go do your dirty work."

"You really are insane," said Crystal. "I had nothing to do with the Black Tyranno and neither did Jacob."

Brett leaned back, waving his golf club in circles. "So the card just came out of nowhere, right?"

"Get a grip on yourself! So Randall lost. It's just a game."

Brett narrowed his eyes. His smile faded. He looked at both the guards standing beside Crystal and nodded at them one by one. Before she could even ask what he was doing, they grabbed her by the arms and slammed her to the ground.

Brett tossed Santiago a golf ball. The young mercenary caught it and laughed maliciously, ordering Crystal to pucker up her lips so she could hold the ball up with her mouth. She whimpered and shivered in fear, wondering what they wanted to do with her. She felt something hard and cold tap against her skull.

She looked up. Brett was looking down at her, his cruel smile back on his face. The golf club waved back and forth over her nose. He was going to hit her with it. She whined, shaking her head. "D-d-don't do it. I'm sorry," she said. The ball rolled off her mouth. Santiago slapped her and put the ball back on her lips. She sobbed.

"Randall's father was not too pleased with his son losing, Crystal," Brett said, still waving the club over her face. "He cut off the deal, costing us millions. I promised him Randall would be undefeated. And he was...Until now. Losing to a nobody just shows how weak he truly is. Your interference with that match cost me my reputation. My family's good name. This game is so much more than a moronic children's card game, Crystal. I don't know how I can make you understand that. Look at all I have. Look at all Yuri has. Look at what you have. This game brings power to those who know how to play it. The more you win, the more power you gain. Everyone wants to sponsor you. Everyone wants to be you. The commoners worship champions like you and me as though we were gods!"

He held out his arms dramatically and sniffed the air as though he were breathing in his own power like a drug.

"And there's one thing you have to understand, tootsie. Yuri's father may have invented the Duel Monsters, but that doesn't mean he owns it. No, no, no. It's my game, Crystal. My game." He raised the club over his shoulder with a loud woosh. "You understand?"

WHACK! The ball was launched off her mouth and zoomed into the night. Crystal yelled and rolled to her side in agony, for the club hit her right on the lips. Blood trickled from the side of her mouth.

"This thing isn't over, Crystal," Brett sneered, admiring his work. "Thanks to you, Yuri has a big target painted on his back. That Black Tyranno sure is something. One way or the other, it's going to be mine." He tapped the club against her temple. "And if you ever interfere again, I'm going to nail your blonde ass to my office door! But before that happens, you're going to see Yuri well acquainted with the fishes; forgive me for being cliche."

He rubbed his chin.

"Ah, I've always wanted to say that though," he said fixing his tie. "Makes me feel like a real gangster. All right, fellas. Pick up the bitch and send her to her room. Oh, and you better clean that up, baby. You've got to shoot a video tomorrow for your new album. Sweet dreams."

Santiago and the other guard picked Crystal up. "Get up!" he growled, yanking her by the arms, and dragging her away.

Chapter Text

Yami Yugi - Emerald Harbor, Emboldor

September 18 - Year 18 4AOS


After walking for hours on his journey south to Lower Emboldor, Yami finally entered the port town of Emerald Harbor. It lacked the lavishness and majesty of the other harbors around the Sea of Kings but nevertheless, it was an important hub of trade for many and was guarded by a small garrison of Black Luster Soldiers from the famed Tiger Company. They marched around in their dark armor and bore shields with a roaring tiger crafted on the front and their plumes were glowing orange, making them look like flames. 

Still, despite their presence, Yami kept his hood up to keep his face hidden. Lower Emboldor was enemy territory now, what with the young Prince Hector Delgado's confederacy rising in power. Many here were against Yuri's claim to the throne and followed Hector as though he were Norman the Conqueror himself. And as he passed by a very ill-looking tavern, he saw some buccaneers laughing and holding harlots wearing nothing but thin silk for clothing. One of them was being mounted by the sea warrior right there in the streets for all to see. She laughed and giggled as her client howled and slapped her thighs and rump. While that was happening, his companions were throwing axes at pictures nailed to the wall. Pictures with High King Antar's image on them, as well as Yugi's, Joey's, and Serenity's. The buccaneers were cursing at them and hailing a prosperous reign for Prince Hector, hopeful that he would uncover the 'Titans' that would secure him his seat on the throne and perhaps overthrow the God Cards.

"A pox on Prince Yuri!" shouted one of the pirates, tossing a dagger at a picture of High King Antar. 

His companion raised his mug as he groped the exposed left breast of the harlot sitting on his lap. "Aye! I hope the young Hector can find those Titans and give those God Cards a run fer their money!"

"Titans?" Yugi asked as he hovered over Yami's shoulder. "What are they talking about?"

"I don't know," Yami replied. "But whatever they are, they're giving Hector the support he needs to have the entirety of Souther Emboldor at his side."

"Man..." said Yugi. 

"I wouldn't worry," said Yami. "Let's go. We cannot stay at this inn."   

Yami found a better place to stay near the edge of town. The accommodations weren't the best he'd ever seen and the food was being cooked by a stout and dirty man with large boils on his face leaking puss. He was hungry but not so that he would eat food cooked by the man. Yami made his way up the creaky stairs to his room, which was as small as a walk-in closet. His bedding was a dirty hammock by the window and one night table with a candle on it. 

Yami sat on the hammock and took a deep breath as his leg muscles could finally relax. The wrist-mounted computer on his wrist began beeping. A call! Yami wearily held his arm up and turned on the computer to answer the video call coming in. Joey and Tristan appeared on the screen. They were camping out by a fire in the middle of the forest.

"Joey? Tristan?" said Yami. "How have you been?"

"We could ask you the same question," said Tristan. "You left without a word or anything. Do you even know about Serenity's plan to help Prince Yuri?"

"She gave me a few details before I left," said Yami. "I understand she wants to raise money for the boy and convert it into the currency used in the city he lives in."

Joey let out a victorious laugh. "Nyeh-haha! Yeah, and we're doing a good job so far. We raised about 20,000 gold so far hunting monsters," said Joey. "Tristan and I just hunted a giant red bear that was influenced by a dark spirit. He's been killing livestock and eating children for weeks. But we sure showed him. The Lord of Fairfax is gonna give us a sweet payload for him."

"But knowing Serenity, it's still not going to be enough for her. Mai and the others have gathered about 50,000 gold with all the contracts they've completed and Serenity still told them more was needed. I don't know how much is going to be enough for her."

"That does sound bad," said Yami. "Be sure to keep an eye on her, Joey. Serenity is no longer that shy, petit, young lady we once knew."

Joey looked down behooved and sighed at the ground whilst rubbing the back of his neck. "I know. All those years in the Silver Paladins really shaped her into a very tenacious warrior. She's determined, Yuge. She's really determined. As are Téa and Mai. They cared for Yuri when he was a baby so this quest really means a lot to them. I know you got your mission, Yuge, but, hopefully, you can help us out with the cash."

"I can't make any promises," Yami said shaking his head. "But I'll see what I can do. I'm about to meet with Ser Gerhalos."

"Ser Gerhalos!" gasped Joey. "You mean...her old guardian?"

"Yes. He claims he's found a very powerful weapon being transported to Naralia. He said it's something that acquires my attention. Knowing Ser Gerhalos, it must be important."

"I see," Tristan replied in a soft voice. "Well, with him by your side, you'll be able to take on some fierce monsters. We're another year without a king. The days are getting darker and the walls separating our world and the Shadow Realm are crumbling. We've been getting reports of powerful creatures being spotted in the wild day after day. It's not safe to travel the roads after dark anymore. Like there wasn't enough to worry about."

"Yeah, it's really bad," said Joey. "While we were at an inn, we heard some highwaymen saying they won't patrol the roads when the sun goes down anymore because of all the monsters showing up. You know it's bad when thieves talk about their operations out in the open, Yuge."

"I know. If Ser Gerhalos and I encounter anyone needing help with monsters, we'll do what we can and send you the funds. But for now, take great care and be wary. Like you said, Joey. The days are getting darker. No telling what we'll be going up against these days."

"Ain't dat the truth," Joey agreed. "So how's that protege of yours doing, Yuge?"  

"You mean Andre? So far he tells me Yuri is safe and that there's no trouble, save with some rich nemesis that bothers him."

"Hah!" laughed Tristan. "A rich guy giving Yuri trouble. Kinda reminds me of you and Kaiba when you first met all those years ago, huh?"

"Brett Martinetti is nothing like Seto Kaiba," said Joey. "Don't get me wrong, money bags ain't no saint, but compared to that Brett kid, he might as well be. It had to take Pegasus to keep me from marching into a Gate so I could kill him. You shoulda seen what he did to Yuri."

"Do not get involved with them," said Yami. "The little they know about us the better. I wouldn't worry about Brett anymore, Joey. Ever since the incident, Yuri has been surrounded and protected by very powerful friends. And he's on constant watch by both Andre and the other informant we have down there. He'd have to be a fool to tangle with our prince anymore."

"What about his Dueling skills?" Joey asked. "Dat's the big one. Is he ready for dat big tournament Kaiba is setting up in the summer? You know he's gotta win those games if he's gonna have any hope of coming back."

Yami sighed and looked over his shoulder out the window. "They're coming along from what I hear. But I do hope he gets more help in that aspect. We're running out of time."


Andre - St. Augustus High school/Aquarius


As Andre passed the halls of St. Augustus High School, he heard a lot of talk about Yuri's big win against Randall Lawson. Whispers about a new mystery monster his father made just for him. 

Andre heard some kids saying they wanted to see the monster for themselves. Others bragged that they could easily beat the monster, whatever it was.

"Yuri's not so tough," he overheard Maxwell bragging to a group of girls he immediately identified as the Gems of Paradiso Prima. "If it were me against him, I would have easily won."

"Yeah, right," said one of the Gems, a golden-haired girl named Maria Friedman. "Randall Lawson is a Regional Champion from the United States. He was personally trained by Brett Martinetti, the best Duelist in Aquarius. That's no walk in the park."

"You girls really think Yuri won by skill? He got lucky. There's no way he could beat a Duelist of Randall's calibur. And what if the rumors are true? That the mystery card everybody's talking about was given to him by his father? He can't be like us so he gets his daddy to give him special cards to give him an advantage."

Another girl from the group named Taryn Conti rolled her eyes and mocked his words with a scoff. "You would like to believe that. I don't know Yuri personally but he's a nice guy who plays for the sake of friendly competition."

Her teammate, another blonde with a flower in her hair named Barbie Tyrell agreed. "Yeah, he's a good boy. And there's no way he was gifted with a powerful card. Jacob Montgomery is a very stern man. He doesn't give his kids anything. If they want something, they have to earn it."

"You girls are so naive," said Maxwell. "Yuri's a cheat. Which is why I need your help to take him out and prove what a fraud he is!"

Andre had heard enough and stepped up to confront him. He shouldered his backpack and stood in front of Maxwell to look him in the eye. 

"Maybe you'd like to face him yourself!"

"Get lost asshole!" Maxwell barked. "We weren't talking to you."

"Actually, we were just leaving," said another Gem by the name of Carolina Fairfax. "This guy is writing checks with his mouth that he can't cash in."

"Hey! We're not done yet!"

A good-looking boy with jet-black hair and bright blue eyes came up from behind the Gems and smiled proudly. Andre immediately figured out he was the third Duel King, Diego Morales.

The young millionaire from Spain flashed an arrogant smile as he stood in front of the ladies, whom he hoped would be superstars in the future. Andre backed away to give them their space and let Diego confront the wannabe Duel King.

 "Maxwell. Making the nuisance out of yourself again, huh? Do us all a favor and make yourself scarce. You're bothering my friends."

"Come on, Morales. We need each other right now. Aren't you afraid that cheater is going to take your throne?"

"Throne?" Diego laughed. "Don't you think you're being a little melodramatic? It's just a silly title the kids around here give to the best Duelists in school. Actually, I rather hope Yuri can become one of the school's Duel Kings before the year is over. In fact, I'm betting money on it." 

"What? How could you want him to be one of you guys?"

Diego sniggered softy. "Well, he is the heir to the most powerful company in the world and this beautiful city we call home. It's only natural the other students show him the proper respect he deserves as a Duel King. And that card he used to beat that arrogant bastard Randall Lawson is going to help him gain that title I'm sure. But that doesn't mean I won't try my hand at him eventually. I'll send my Gems his way first to see if he and that mystery card are worthy of my time."

"You won't have to worry about that. I'll take down both him and his new dinosaur monster and become a Duel King myself. You'll see."

"Good luck," Barbie sing-songed with a cute giggle. She mockingly swayed her head from side to side, making her pigtails flap around. "If not even a champion from America can stand against that monster, what makes you think you can?"

"You'll see," Maxwell waved his hand and walked away. 

Diego flipped Maxwell off as he sulked down the halls. "So you must be the new kid in school. Andre Martin they call you, right?"

"That's right."

"What's your interest in Yuri?"

"What do you mean?"

"What's your interest in him? Financial? Romantical? Trying to take him down and make a name for yourself? Lord knows everyone wants to, now that he's beaten an American regional champion. You must have quite the connection with him for you to just randomly stand up for him like that."

"I don't have any interests at all. I'm just curious about the guy. He seems to be a big deal around here."

Taryn couldn't help but laugh at him. "Dude you really are new around here. Of course, he's a big deal around here. Now things have gotten even more interesting with that victory he pulled last night."

"I know right!" Barbie squealed happily. "We knew Yuri was good but to have the skills to beat a Duelist like Randall. I didn't know he had it in him."

"Hmm," Carolina said. "I wonder if all that talk about him being shy was just BS and he's been holding out on us the whole time. I mean nobody just gets that good."

The bell rang. It was time to go to class.

Diego clapped his hands. "Come on, girls. Off we go. Expand your minds and soak up every bit of the knowledge you'll be blessed with today."

"Wait, Diego!" Andre called.

"Hmmm?"

"What'll it take for….uh, I dunno. A guy like me to be a Duel King?"

Diego responded with a leer. "To be the best, you've got to beat the best. You need to defeat one of the Duel Kings in school. But you can't just simply challenge them. You need to be worthy of their time."

"How do I do that?"

"Well, I became a Duel King after I won a tournament at the Ruby Dragon and acquired fifty victories. Start by doing that. You need to gain the interest of a Duel King in order to play against one. And what better way to gain their interest than winning big. But I wouldn't get any ideas. Competition is fierce. And we're all betting on Yuri."


Antilles - House Dragonheart's 5th Mountain Estate, Emboldor


"Will you not join me, Uncle?" Alexandra Dragonheart asked as she dipped her toe in the river. She squeaked when the briskness of the water touched her skin and stepped back.

Antilles smiled, watching her undo her robe. He sat back in his armchair admiring her gleaming white one-piece bathing suit. He lit a few candles to give his desk some light. He had an outdoor office built out here, kept safe from the elements with an awning. Inside were chests full of manifests and journals, wardrobes with extra clothes, and an icebox to keep his drinks and food.

"Go swimming in that cold water? I will do no such thing." He dipped his quill into the ink bottle and started scribbling a letter. "You go on ahead and have fun, my love. I have much to do."

Alexandra pouted like a spoiled child and looked over her shoulder at her uncle. "You never want to have any fun, Uncle Antilles." Alexandra slowly waded into the river. "Always so busy."

"I am the King of Dragonrock, my sweet. Of course, I'm busy. I have sixteen holds in my kingdom to look over and as Warden of Emboldor, I have many more places to look after. Hundreds more Holds to keep an eye on as well as dozens of petty kingdoms; ten of which are in open rebellion against High Chancellor Pegasus."

Alexandra held her arms over her head and stretched, then let out an annoying whining sound. "It's that boy-king, Hector, is it not? What's he doing that's got you so preoccupied in this matter? I thought the Gate Wars were won and done with."

"He's keeping the war alive with his lust for power. Even though he lost the Battle of the Seven Princes, he is still campaigning against the crown."

"Fool that he is," Alexandra said, bending over to douse her arms with cold water to combat the hot Emboldorian heat. "I heard from one of the palace maids that he has fifty-thousand men at his disposal and tons of gold to keep people on his side. I wonder who could be supplying him with all those resources."

"Hector no longer wants just the crown," said Antilles. "The Ironwyrm Family was captured by the High King's forces about a week ago. They were plotting to give him more gold and more soldiers, but not for an invasion of Rassay. That mission will never be achieved after the loss he suffered. Lord Karvan confessed that Hector was assembling his troops to go on an expedition. They're looking for maps."

"Maps to what?" Alexandra asked. She was now waist-deep in the water.

"A great and terrible power. Something that could possibly even kill the God Cards."

Alexandra raised an eyebrow at his words. "Oh, really? And what power is that, Uncle?"

Antilles smirked. "Go and take your bath, you cheeky girl."

His niece reared her head back and laughed before diving into the water and disappearing. Antilles shook his head and began to finish his letter. All of a sudden, something shot out of the water and hit the bottom of his desk with a wet splat. Antilles cursed and got up from his desk to see what had been thrown at him. He smiled seeing Alexandra's crumpled bathing suit lying there. He picked it up, folded it, and placed it by the fire pit to dry.

"Oh, that girl," he said, then a fierce wind blew the trees and almost knocked the awning over. "Oh, what now?"

A shadow swooped over the forest, followed by a powerful roar that sent all the birds scattering, and the animals of the forest went silent. Antilles walked out from underneath his awning and looked up to see Clear Wing Synchro Dragon flying in circles above him.

"Ah," Antilles said. Just the person he had been waiting for. His young and handsome nephew, Ser Darrien Dragonheart waved from atop his mighty mount. The dragon landed in a clearing and he got off, landing on his two feet with a loud clank. Ser Darrien's spring-green eyes flashed when the light of the sun touched them. His golden-blonde hair was cut short on the sides and the top was pointed up with gel. He had a neatly trimmed beard. He was only twenty but had the strength and wisdom of a veteran who had seen many wars. His armor was thin to show off his muscular physique and only plated on the most vital areas.

He approached Antilles and knelt. "Uncle," he said. "So good to see you."

"Rise, Ser Darrien, there is no need for the Dragonheart Ace to bow anymore. You have done me proud, I will not have you soil your honor with frivolous protocol."

"If you say so, Uncle. It's only right that I bow to the king." He saw Alexandra's bathing suit drying by the fire. "I see Cousin Alexandra is keeping you company." He looked around. "Where is she?"

"She swam to the waterfall to bathe. Come, let us take a walk. We have much to discuss."

"Yes, we do. You can imagine my surprise when my father gave me the order to not only fly to the Estates of Hellgari and defend the Kingdom of Orange Hill but to meet my bride-to-be. Uncle, what is this? You know I'm in love with Nanya."

Antilles stopped and looked at the boy sternly. "That girl is nothing more than the milkmaid. If you wish to bed her during your free time, that is fine. But she is not to be married to you."

"But Uncle —"

"—the girl is beneath you, Darrien. A milkmaid is not suitable for a Knight of Dragonrock. The King has spoken."

Darrien paused, wet his lips, and swallowed. "I understand..."

"Didn't you once promise me you would do anything for our family, Darrien? You said you would help me make this family the most powerful and feared on the continent. And that you would help me establish the grandest dynasty the world has ever seen. One that could last ten thousand years. Did you not?"

"I did."

Antilles patted his shoulder. "Don't be so downhearted now, Darrien. Princess Alianore is a very beautiful girl. She's two years younger than you and is very rich. Well, soon to be once her father's army gets a hold of your dragon."

"What did you promise him?"

"The unity of the Estates. And in return, I get a share of all the profits he gains when he plunders the riches of all his fallen foes."

"You're not still plotting against the return of Prince Yuri are you, Uncle? Because if you are, I want no part in it. The Gates Wars have failed to change anyone's mind, Yuri is going to be eighteen in a matter of weeks, and soon he will return. Every kingdom, grand and petty, is highly anticipating his return. You will get caught. And then what of our dynasty?"

"Our dynasty can only be at its best when I take the Diamond Throne, Darrien. I was this close!" He held up his thumb and index finger. "I summoned Slifer the Sky Dragon in my duel against Crowler. I was already being celebrated as the future High King of Termnnia. And then he came along and took it all away from me."

"It was the plan of the Goddesses, Uncle. There's nothing you can do about it."

"I can and I will. It's been done before. I have my ways, Darrien. I have friends in high places. While the kingdoms of Termnnia crumble in their wars in the south and in the north, we get stronger. Soon, I will have amassed an army that no one would dare challenge. These next few months will determine our stance in history, Darrien. And it begins with you. Marry the girl. Unite the Estates with your dragon. And give me the resources I need to keep that divine bastard out of Termnnia. Will you do this?"

Darrien stood still for a moment. Then he nodded and thumped his vambrace against his chestplate. "I will. For House Dragonheart."

Chapter Text


Brett - Salazar Towers Luxury Suite/Aquarius

September 19 - Year 18 4AOS


"Where did you come from?" Brett just stared at the replay of Yuri and Randal's Duel all morning, admiring the Black Tyranno and the powerful effect that easily ended the match. Attacking Life Points directly if the only monsters his opponent had were defense position monsters? Combine that with spells like Harpie's Feather Duster, Heavy Storm, and Mystical Space Typhoon, and he would be a force to be reckoned with. With the LP count at 2000, he could be a one-turn-killer.

"I must have that card — will you guys keep it down back there!" he shouted at two of his friends playing air hockey at the back. 

The two friends put the strikers away and walked off. "Sorry, Brett. No, problem."

Brett tapped the remote on his chin before rewinding the part where Yuri summoned it again. He heard someone giggling. Crystal was sitting in front of his desk reading a fashion magazine with an irritating smirk on her face. 

"What the hell's so funny?" he asked. 

"You," Crystal replied defiantly, eyes still locked on the page she was reading. "You're really losing it, Brett."  

"Losing it, huh? You're really happy about this, aren't you?" 

"I can safely say that I am. After what you did to him all those years ago, I'm glad he can make you quiver in your boots. Yuri and that Black Tyranno are going to change the game around here."

Brett opened the mini-fridge underneath his desk and opened a can of lime soda. "Not if I have anything to say about it."

"What are you going to do about it, Brett? If you lay a finger on Yuri again, your uncle's going to toss you into the ocean. He's already mad enough as it is after he learned you were playing golf with my mouth." She rubbed the corner of her mouth with her finger, showing that it was fully healed. "Bruises heal, Brett. But I don't think there's much you can do to recover from whatever Uncle Lucio has in store for you if you ever try to hurt me again. Nephew or no nephew. He's done worse to his brothers and his cousins."

The magazine she was reading was suddenly pulled from her fingers. Brett crumpled it up with his grip and tossed it aside. "You really think Uncle Lucio is going to help you forever, Crystal? Things are gonna change around here really soon. And for your sake, you better stay on my good side." 


Yuri - Ruby Dragon Gaming Shop/Aquarius


Sergei was quite puzzled by what he was seeing on the Duel Screens. Black Tyranno was there, fully rendered in a 3D model. Yuri commanded it to attack and it destroyed Nick's new Freed the Matchless General, an ultra-rare warrior-type monster with 2300 ATK. Sergei would have been notified if there were updated models added to the system, but he received no such notification at all. Yet Yuri's new and mysterious Black Tyranno was right there rendered in full detail as though he belonged to the game. It was like magic. 

"I don't know," he said, rubbing his chin, trying to come up with an answer for what was going on. "Jacob isn't one to keep secrets from me. He would have told me if he added a new monster to the game. And it's unlike him to just give special favors to his kids. He won't give them so much as a penny if they didn't work for it. I don't know."

"It's best not to worry about it," Patty said. She was sitting beside him with a basket of fries in front of her. She quickly drowned them in ketchup. "It is what it is. Yuri's new ace monster is real. He's in the holographic systems in the Duel Dome and, apparently, he's working just fine here."

"Could Yuri have hacked the..."

"I don't think so," said Natalya. She helped herself to one of Patty's fries. "Yuri can't even mod his games without some help. I seriously doubt he knows anything about hacking systems or rendering such high-quality models like that monster we see on screen."

"I set a monster in defense mode," Nick said nervously. He couldn't tear his gaze away from the Black Tyranno on the screen next to their table.

Yuri chuckled confidently and showed off his game-ending spell card. "I activate the spell, Giant Trunade. This will send all our spell and trap cards back to our hands. And since you've got nothing but defense position monsters on your field, Black Tyranno can use his special power and attack you directly. That's game."

"Hooray!" Natalya clapped her hands. She got one last glance at the Black Tyranno before the screens faded to black and displayed the Ruby Dragon Gaming logo. 

"Aw, crap!" Nick threw the cards in his hand on the table. "Man, Yuri, you and that new monster of yours are unreal. You seriously don't know where you got it from?"

"No." Yuri picked up the Black Tyranno card and held it close to his face to look at it. "I really don't know who gave this to me. Most likely it was my dad. He's probably just covering things up."

"He certainly has the money to," Sergei said approaching their table. "That card is legit. It has its own code, microchip, 3D models, and holographic models for the advanced holographic systems they're using in the Duel Dome. If it's safe to use there, then I guess it's okay with me. However, until we can figure out where it came from, I'm afraid I have to ban it from being used in the shop's tournaments."

"Aww, how come?" Patty asked. 

"He's a strong card with a strong effect," said Sergei. "And he's not in the card database. I've looked at all 1200 cards and he's just not on the list. Until he's at least in the card database, he's an illegal card. But you guys can play squash matches with him. I'll have no problem with that."

"I understand," said Yuri. "Man, hopefully, we can get to the bottom of this."

Tyson bumped Yuri's shoulder with his fist, clutching his deck. "Mind if I step in, Yuri?" he asked. "I think Nick would like to get his ass handed to him by another opponent." 

"I won't be so easy," said Nick. "You and me, Tyson. Let's do this. I'm not afraid of your Beast King Deck."

"He's all yours," Yuri said getting up from the chair so Tyson could sit down. He shuffled his deck and set his cards on the touch-screen playing mat. 

LP 2000

"I'll go first," said Nick. "I'm gonna play the Sogen spell. This will increase the ATK of Warrior and Beast-Warrior monsters by 200 points. And here's Masaki the Legendary Swordsman in attack mode. Then, I equip him with Fusion Sword - Marusame Blade."

Tyson suddenly looked worried. "Damn, looks like you opened a lot of packs this morning, Nick. I don't remember that in your deck before."

"Yeah, it's one of the new sweet equip spells. I traded a Witch of the Black Forest for it. And judging by that impressed expression on your face, I can tell you know what it does. It will increase Masaki the Legendary Swordsman's ATK by 800 points. Add that to the field advantage he gets from Sogen, and that's a 1000 point boost, so his ATK is now at 2100. I set a card face-down and end my turn. Your move." 

"Nice play, Nick. Seems like you're getting the hang of this game. All right, I'm playing the field-spell Forest. This will increase my Beast monsters by 200 points. Now I'm summoning Leogun in attack mode!"

The Duel Screen showed a jet-black lion with a golden mane roaring on a rock in a clearing in the middle of the forest. 

 


"My Forest field spell will increase his ATK to 1950."

"Pfft!" Nick waved it off. "He's no threat to my Legendary Swordsman, Tyson. He's still too weak to take him on."

"I wasn't done, Nick. I equip him with the spell, Beast Fangs!" Leogun's fangs were enhanced with sharper metal teeth, with the canines made of gold. "This will increase his ATK by 300. Now Leogun stands at 2250. And I'm not done yet. I activate the spell, Poison Fangs." Suddenly, green acid began dripping from Leogun's teeth.

"What does that do?" Nick asked. 

"You'll see soon enough. I attack you with Leogun!" 

Leogun sprinted through the forest until he reached Masaki. The two did battle for a few seconds but Leogun got the best of Masaki the Legendary Swordsman and sliced his back with his sharp claws, cutting right through his armor. The battle reduced Nick to 1850. 

"Well, at least I didn't take too much damage."

"Oh no, sir. You are going to take some heavy damage. Here's where Poison Fangs come into play. When you take damage from an attack involving a beast monster, you lose 500 Life Points."

"Damn it, Tyson! Give me a break!" grumbled Nick, now at 1350 LP. "Is it my turn?"

"Nah, I'm just gonna mess with you some more with this. In case you got any ideas about beating my Leogun. I use Polymerization to fuse Gazelle the King of Mythical Beasts with Berfomet and create Chimera, the Flying Mythical Beast! Now, I end my turn."

   

Nick slapped both hands on the table and propped himself up with his arms. He leaned forward to get a better look at the card. "Wow, thanks a lot, Tyson! Man, it seems for every rare card I get, you guys get like five! Man, this isn't fair!"

Tyson leaned back against his chair, folded his arms, and nodded his head. "Mmm-hmm. Mmmm-hmm. That's right. My deck is full of the great kings of the wild. The strongest beasts to ever roam the jungle. You and your puny warriors got no chance."

He smiled all of a sudden. "Meh, that's something I would have said a while ago. But I just got my hands on the brand new starter decks."

"A starter deck?" Tyson mocked him with a sarcastic laugh. "Man, Nick, you crack me up."

"Hey, it comes with good spells. Like this one. Dark Hole."

"Huh!" 

Patty wanted to laugh but she didn't want to encourage Nick. She placed her fingertips over her mouth and snickered through her nose instead. "Oh, damn. Sorry, Tyson, but the spell card wipes the whole board clean of all monsters."

"Yeah, well, when Chimera the Flying Mythical Beast is destroyed, I can summon Gazelle the King of Mythical Beasts in defense mode." 

"Heh, not like that card's gonna do you much," Nick boasted. "I summon a new monster that will not only defend me but help me cut your monsters down, too. Total Defense Shogun in defense mode!"

 

"What in the world is that?" Tyson wondered. 

"He's a cool monster that can attack you even when he's in defense mode."

"Wait? What? He can do that?" 

Patty leaned over the card to get a better look at the text, in case Nick misread it. "Yup. He can do that. But if he does, his ATK applies not his DEF."

Tyson slid his hand up his face and sighed. "Man, cards are getting so weird nowadays. All right, I'll accept that. He's got an ATK of 1550,"

"1750," Yuri corrected him. "Remember, Nick's Sogen is in play."

"Right, 1750. And my Gazelle only has 1200. So I guess that's it for my monster, huh."

"And a chunk of your Life Points," said Nick. "I reveal my face-down card. Burning Strike. I can equip this trap card to a face-up monster I control. And when it attacks, it can inflict piercing damage to you."

The 3D rendering of Total Defense Shogun sliced through Leogun with his giant sword.

"Oh, crud!" Tyson grunted, surprised that Nick of all people was doing this. "You got...better, Nick."

Nick - 1850 LP

1450 LP - Tyson

"He got a lead over Tyson?" Carter said aloud.

Andre walked in to join them. His face was red from walking out in the summer heat. "Wow. Looks like that starter deck did wonders for you, Nick."

"Andre?" Nick said with a tone of disappointment in his voice. "Just great." 

"Easy, there, Nick," Patty said. "No need to get hostile. What are you doing here, Andre?"

"Oh, nothing. I just beat some gang of students called the Red Suns. Man, they were some of the toughest players I've ever faced."

The gang paused what they were doing and looked at him.

"You beat the Red Suns? All of them?"

"Well, all except their Duel King. But he was impressed. He told me to prove my skills at some tournament Mr. Sergei is holding here. The Wyvern Cup."

"You plan on entering the Wyvern Cup?" Nick asked. "Heh. Too bad. I'm entering that tournament and I plan to win. Like you said, this starter deck has done wonders for my deck, which was already good to begin with. Your turn Tyson."

"One starter deck isn't going to be enough for you, Nick. I play Graceful Charity. This lets me draw three cards so long as I discard two from my hand. Now, I'll set a monster in defense mode and end my turn."

"So much for your beast kings," Nick said with a sneer. "I know you were all talk, Tyson. I attack your monster with Total Defense Shogun. And remember, you take damage even if your monster is in defense mode."

Total Defense Shogun was shown charging through Tyson's forest. He slammed his giant sword on the ground, striking what looked like a flying squirrel. 

"What was that?" Nick asked. "Huh? Hey, wait! Why did your Life Points go up by 1000?"

"You attacked Nimble Momonga, Nick. When you destroy him in battle, he increases my Life Points by 1000. And I can summon two more from my deck face-down. And because you destroyed a beast-type monster, I can banish two Beast monsters from my Graveyard and special summon this guy from my hand. Yellow Baboon, Archer of the Forest, with an ATK of 2600. Your Total Defense Shogun ain't gonna protect you from him."

  

"Aww, no!" Nick almost threw his cards down. Man, this ain't fair."

Andre knew he shouldn't tease but after talking so much smack and boasting about winning the Wyvern Cup, he just had to speak out. "I thought you were ready for the tournament, Nick. Doesn't look like you're even ready to take on Tyson. It's your move man."

"I know, I know. Now, I'll use Monster Reborn to bring back Behemoth, the King of All Animals from the Graveyard."

"Man, now I've got to confront his ace monster, too?" Nick tossed his hand down. "Forget it, man. It's over."

Andre laughed. "Looks like you need some more practice, Nick."

"Back off!" he heard someone say. To his surprise it was Yuri. 

"Oh...uh...sorry, Yuri. Say, are you going to be participating in the Wyvern Cup?"

"No, you can count me out? I don't do tournaments." 

"Aww, Yuri, come on!" Patty begged him. "You just have to join."

"No!" Yuri almost shouted. "I uh...no. I...I got a lot of homework to do. See you guys later." Yuri picked up his backpack and stormed out of the shop.

"What was that all about?" Nick asked. "You'd think he was offended or something."

"What did I tell you," Carter said to Andre. "Even with that Black Tyranno in his deck, Yuri is still afraid to enter big events. He'll never be a good duelist like this."

Little did they know, they were being watched by Joey with the Seeing Stone he got from Serenity in Termnnia. He was sitting on the head of a giant he, Tristan, and Yugi killed for the 10,000 gold bounty put out by the Duke, who was being troubled by it. The Duke's men and some villagers were tying ropes around his corpse so they could take his body to the meadow and burn it.

"Yuri..." Joey whispered. Now that the Dueling was over, the images faded and he could see no more. "What's wrong, man? Why are you so scared of going to tournaments?" He formed his hand into a fist and shook it. "Bakura. He had something to do with this. It's probably that curse Yugi was talking about."

He put the Seeing Stone into his knapsack and stood up so the Duke's men could cut the giant's head off to keep as a trophy. Yami Yugi approached him, cleaning the giant's blood off his regular sword with a handkerchief. 

"What news?" he asked. 

"Yuri's scared of entering tournaments, Yugi. It's just as Andre said."

"What of the other informant?" 

"He says the same thing. Yuri runs away at the mere mention of a tournament. You think it's dat curse Bakura placed on him."

"Perhaps. There's nothing we can do about the curse, though. Someone else is taking care of that. And for the sake of Yuri's safety, I will not say who. By the way. Is it true that he has...it."

"You mean the card?"

"Black Tyranno. Yeah, they've bonded. I was hoping he would give Yuri an edge in overcoming his fears but...it doesn't even look like he's helping."

Yami Yugi wrinkled his nose. "Your sister is a defiant one. I didn't think she would go behind my back and steal the card from me."

"But Black Tyranno's been looking for Yuri, right?" 

"It matters not. I was going to give him the card when he got back to Termnnia. Instead, he's running around with a card many are believing was made by Jacob Montgomery to give him an unfair advantage over the competition. I will deal with her when we get back to the East but as of now, I forbid her from becoming involved with any mission regarding Prince Yuri. Am I understood? I will not be afraid to have her locked up, Joey. Sister or not, she broke the law by sneaking Black Tyranno into the Standard Dimension."

"I know, Yuge, I know. Ever since Yuri's eighteenth year began, she's been growing out of control. I'll understand if you'll have to send her to the big house."

"Thank you. This operation must be conducted with the greatest of care. One slight misstep and our enemies will play their hand and ruin everything we've worked so hard to achieve."  

 

Chapter Text


New Harbor, The Claw, The Coastal Kingdoms - Princess Rose and the Knight of Toads

September 21 - Year 18 4AOS


Yes, she is beautiful thought Ser Artemis Carahar as he watched Princess Rose striding towards the seat beside her father, King Walter of the Claw.

She moved with such elegance and grace with a pinch of authority in each step she took. Her gown was thin and made of white silk with silver threading forming flowers and scrollwork. For many years the two of them had been friends. He had seen her grow from a little flower romping the fields chasing butterflies and putting blue flowers in her hair to this masterpiece of femininity standing before him now.

While Rose grew to be tall and slender, Artemis became big and strong after many years of squiring under the best knights in the Coastal Kingdoms. Marriage was often the topic of discussion between the two and Artemis didn't stray from the thought. He had talked to Rose many times about it, but she was oblivious to the thought, waving it off at once so she could drag him outside and Duel.

Having been accepted into Broxiton University, the School of Kings, Rose was much more persistent to play the game and improve her skills. Ever since she had gotten her letter of acceptance, Dueling became her one and only priority. She started missing court, skipped dinner, avoided parties, and lost interest in suitors. Artemis once recognized her as a stereotypical princess, dreaming of handsome knights in jeweled armor sweeping them off their feet and riding off into a beautiful palace with towers of silver and gold.

As children, she forced him to act as the dashing hero riding in from afar to save her from an army of orcs and vampires. But now that she had bloomed into a young woman, her thoughts were stuck on politics and Duel Monsters.

"Good morning, my lady." "Good morning, my lady." "My lady," the women from the court greeted her as she passed by.

The windows in the courtroom were open to let in the fresh ocean breeze and cool the guests from the dreadful humidity of the coasts. Rose was more than prepared for the heat in her new gown. The sleeves, though long and flowing down to her hips, exposed her arms and they flapped like a banner in the salty winds of the coast. The hem went down to her thighs, exposing her legs, which were concealed in black leggings that were thin enough to keep her cool.

"What's the occasion?" she asked her father.

"Your Uncle Merthaw is riding in from the Hellgari Estates to grace us with a visit."

"That's a long way to go for just a visit," Rose said, placing a handkerchief on her lap. A servant came by with a bowl of soup filled with kray, mollusks, and other morsels from the sea. "Is there important business, Father?"

"There's always important business to be had these days, love," said Walter, a man of dull blonde hair. His beard was long and braided and his eyebrows were sturdy and bushy.

"Is King Merthaw going to help us deal with the confederacy to the south?"

Walter set down his fork. Suddenly, he didn't feel like eating. "Somehow, I have a feeling this meeting has nothing to do with the confederacy," he said with a tone of worry in his powerful voice. "There was great urgency in the letter he sent me."

"And the confederacy is not a cause for great urgency?"

"They're merely a rabble of spinless fools bowing down to a spoiled brat and his sorceress who offers him 'visions' of the future. The seven princes of Termnnia gave his brothers a trouncing he shan't soon forget, so I doubt the Tyrant Prince is going to rise up anytime soon. No, I sense something else going on. I feel it in my bones."

"What do you mean?"

Walter ruffled her hair with his massive palm. "Darling, why don't you go out and Duel with your friend Artemis when you finish your lunch? It's going to be a while before King Merthaw arrives."

"If you insist," Rose said. "I do hope there's nothing wrong, Father."

Rose finished her soup, then went down from the salts above the court to find Artemis, who was sitting with the other knights by the window. When she approached, they stood up. "As you were," she said, holding up her hand. "Artemis. Care to join me for a Duel in the fields?"

"But King Merthaw is on his way."

"Father says it's going to be a while before he reaches The Claw. Come, come, join me."

"As you wish, Princess. Gentlemen, if you'll excuse me."

He got off the bench and followed Rose to the narrow fields behind the castle, North Star, which stood in the middle of The Claw, which was made of three rocky peninsulas that were in the shape of an eagle's claw. The castle connected to other castles on The Claw via covered stone bridges. Across the sea from their peninsula was the town of New Harbor. Merchant trading ships and small fishing vessels already docked in the harbor bobbed up and down in the wild waves.

Shacks built beside the sea moaned in anguish as the winds blew on them, trying to knock them down. The air above the town was fogged with smoke from the stone chimneys and seagulls circled over the town hoping to get a catch of freshly caught fish in the ports. The water was dotted with ships in the distance dominated by the silhouette of a formation of mountains called The Triplets, where a tall stone lighthouse shined brightly above the fog. A wall of gray stone smeared in white from gull droppings surrounded the town with towers that had red roofs and bright torches that could light much of the land at night.

"To think this will all be yours one day," Artemis said. "To think one day you will no longer be a princess. But a Queen. What will happen to us when that day dawns upon us, my friend?"

Rose looked at him a giggled. "When that day comes, worry about it. Right now, you've got me to contend with. Are you ready for another trouncing?" Princess Rose giggled again and started strapping her Duel Disk to her wrist. It was crafted to look like a silver plate and glimmered with precious white gems.

"My third one today," Ser Artemis said in disdain. "Princess, is there truly nothing else you want to do today?"

Rose replied with a brief shake of her head. "Don't you want me to pass my entrance exam?"

"I don't see what the whole point of that entrance exam is? If you can manage to beat the proctor, doesn't that already establish the fact that you can Duel and don't need to go to a school that teaches you how?"

"You still think this is nothing more than a game, do you? Come on, Artemis. I've already told you about the Dueling Pact. Yes, many of us have armies as a means of self-defense, but the best way to resolve any dispute is with a Duel. That's why each kingdom has institutions like Duel Academia and Broxiton University. They don't only teach the youths of each country to Duel like professionals but to answer the call in case their king, or lord, or whatever, summons them to represent the nation during a duel in case there is a dispute or a crisis of interest."

"Then why have we broken out into all-out civil war these days? Southern Emboldor is a confederacy against us, princesses are battling against one another for Yuri's hand in marriage, and the Holy Kingdom of Naralia expands their grip on everyone."

"Some people don't like using logic. It's a rare thing to see in times like this."

"So settling things with a game of cards is logical?"

"It may not be logical, but is far more honorable. Would you rather kings settle disputes with a Duel or by having tens of thousands slaughtered on the battlefield? I think it's a good idea. Now, let's start, shall we? You go first."

LP 4000

"Be it so," Artemis said. "I will start the Duel off with Graceful Charity; draw three, discard two, you know the drill. Then, I summon Cyber Falcon in attack mode! I set two cards face-down and end my turn."

ATK/1400 DEF/1200

"You believe that winged bucket of bolts is going to help you, Artemis?"

"I this point, I really don't care anymore, Princess."

"Sheesh, way to take the fun out of things. Draw!" The Duel Disk launched her card out of the dealer and she caught it with ease. "I activate the field spell, Wetland!" The Duel Disk then hummed and started glowing. The environment around them changed from the green fields of the sunny coasts to a rainy swamp with frogs calling out from almost every nook and cranny. "This spell card will increase the attack of level 2 or lower Aqua or water-attribute monsters by 1200 points. Next, I summon a monster face-down and end my turn."

"Hmm, going easy on me, Princess? I assure you that will be a costly mistake. I activate the card, Cost Down! By discarding a card, I can lower the level of the monsters in my hand by two, making them a little easier to summon. Now, I tribute Cyber Falcon to summon the indestructible Fiendish Engine Omega!"

ATK/2800 DEF/2000

"Attack her face-down monster, my fiend!" Artemis commanded, pointing his finger dramatically at the face-down monster Rose had. The giant, hulk-of-a-robot released noxious fumes from the exhaust pipes on its shoulders and then charged across the bog, splashing water up into the air when its massive feet smashed the ground. It raised up its arm and sliced the face-down monster with the giant cleaver-like blade mounted over its wrist. Rose suddenly laughed as a long tongue slithered from underneath the card. A strange-looking frog was revealed from underneath the sliced-up card it hid under. Using its tongue, it snatched Fiendish Engine Omega and picked it up with incredible force. The frog tossed the machine into the air and it turned back into a card, which flew back into Artemis' hand.

"You've attacked my Des Flop Frog," she said. "A new addition to my deck. When he gets attacked, he can send monsters back to your hand. Your Fiendish Engine Omega got sent right back to the drawing board, wouldn't you say, dearest?"

"You're a witty one," Artemis said, admiring the way Rose's dress flapped against her body. "I will end my turn."

"Goodie, now it's my turn. I will discard T.A.D.P.O.L.E from my hand to summon Swamp Frog (ATK/1000 DEF/500)!"

A giant golden frog hopped out of the water and splashed next to Rose. She gingerly stepped away as the cold water touched her skin. "Oh! Friendly isn't he? Now, I will activate his effect and send a Frog monster from my deck to the Graveyard. Surprise, surprise, it's one of my favorites! Ronintoadin! When this handsome fellow is sent to the Graveyard, I can banish a Frog monster and special summon it to the field (ATK/100 DEF/2000)."

PLOP! A bright bluish-green frog covered in purplish oriental markings jumped out from behind a curtain of grass. "Now, Artemis, I will Overlay my two frogs to create the one and only Toadally Awesome!"

Her two frogs jumped into a dark, swirling vortex known as the Overlay Network, where they turned into two orbs of light. They swirled in the air and then took a dive into the water behind Rose. Things were still, then, all of a sudden, a great column of water burst from behind the princess. From it emerged two enormous white toads. The second toad, who oddly carried a peach on its back, was smaller than the other, but it was bigger than an elephant. It landed on top of the bigger toad and lay there lazily.

 

Toadally Awesome

ATK/2200 DEF/0

"Don't forget," said Rose, "with my field spell card out, Toadally Awesome gains an extra 1200 attack points. Now they stand at 3400! Woo-hoo! Now I summon Unifrog!"

The croak of another frog monster radiated from the water. It jumped out, revealing a purple frog with a white underbelly. Its most distinguishing feature was a light-blue horn on its head.

"Okay, Artemis, I attack you directly!"

"I think not! I activate my trap card, Negate Attack. Now, your battle phase will be ended. Nice try. Now I believe it's my turn."

"Oh, wait a second!" said Rose. "Once during either of our standby phases, I can remove and Xyz Material from Toadally Awesome and summon a frog monster from my deck. And it's one of my absolute favorites! Arise, Prince Percival!"

Not summoned was a prince, but a giant frog monster known as Des Frog.

"Still believe those frogs will turn into handsome princes one day, Rose?"

"You never know. It happened long ago during the foundation of my House. Who's to say it won't happen to me?"

"Well, if you never find your Prince Charming, rest assured you can always look up to me. You know I can take good care of you, right?"

Rose tittered. "You're very sweet my dear Knight of Toads. But I'm afraid you're not a lord. You are but the Ward my father took in battle. If you wish to serve by my side, then you can. But I am sorry to say there cannot be a union between us, no matter how much the old ladies gossip about it."

"I shall not give up hope. Who knows? Perhaps one day I will sweep you off your feet."

Rose reared her head up and her eyes rolled to the top of her head. "Perhaps. But it is not today."

"There's always tomorrow. And the day after that. One way or another, I will have your heart, dear princess. Now, I activate Pot of Greed, which —"

"—I activate the effect of Toadally Awesome. By sacrificing Unifrog, I can negate the activation of your spell and then set the card on my field.

Artemis groaned but the sting of defeat wasn't all that bad. After losing so many times today —actually the past few months — he was quite used to it. "Well, so much for that duel."

Rose started her turn. She drew another Des Frog, then removed an Xyz Material from Toadally Awesome to summon another Des Frog from her deck.

"I activate Polymerization!" she declared, fusing together her three Des Frogs into a gigantic behemoth of a frog called D.3.S Frog, who had an attack strength of 2500. It attacked with Toadally Awesome by its side, letting out supersonic croaks that knocked him flat on his back. His Life Points went to 0.

As soon as they did, both he and Princess Rose heard a horn in the distance, followed by the roar of a strange-looking white dragon with wings of glowing glass.

"Uncle Merthaw!" Rose said, turning off her Duel Disk, the holograms disappearing at once. "It can't be! He's already here!"

Artemis struggled to get up. "The King of Orange Hill? And was that the Knight of the Synchro Dragon? So, he's here too?" He tried to lift himself up but couldn't. "Hey! Hey, wait up, Rose!"


Yami Yugi - New Harbor, Gull Island District


"We're close now," Yami thought. He was so tired of slogging for miles with King Merthaw's royal caravan.

They picked him up as they were traveling on the Kingsroad. Yami didn't trust the King of Orange Hill all that much. But since they were heading to the same place he was, he happily tagged along. 

"Just a few more steps and we'll be inside a warm inn with some food in our bellies. A warm fire and a roof to shield us from this blasted rain."

Hopefully, he's here too, Yugi bellyached. 

"Don't worry, my friend. He said he'd meet us here."

He crossed the covered stone bridge into the Gull Island District of New Harbor. The bridge was wide enough to permit vendors to set up shop and call out their wares to passing travelers. Even a few apartments were built onto the bridge. Yami could see windows lit up from fireplaces within, showing that people were living comfortably within. He came to a fruit vendor and noticed someone tall standing in front of it asking for a sack of apples. The man was a giant standing ten feet tall and covered in a black cloak and wielding a giant claymore the size of a man. He turned his head at just the right time to see Yami coming toward him.

The man waved and put down his hood, revealing he was no ordinary man. He was of the Leogai, beast folk with the heads of mighty lions. This one's mane was wiry yet still sleek as a blanket of gold. He had many scars from previous battles on his broad golden-furred arms, markings he wore proudly. He was the legendary Ser Gerhalos, the Champion of Emboldor.  

"Master Yugi!" the Leogai said. He paid the vendor for the apples and took the sack. "So glad you could make it. I thought you were going to be here a little later so I took the liberty of purchasing myself some of these famous Kingstown Apples for the road."

"It's no trouble at all, my old friend," Yami said. Despite the Leogai's size, he still embraced him. Ser Gerhalos patted Yami on the back and they left the bridge to go into town.

"What news of the boy?" Ser Gerhalos asked. "It's his eighteenth year, is it no?"

"Two more months, I'm afraid," said Yami. "It will be the longest of my life. Eighteen years feel like a week compared to the next two months. Even then, I fear there is going to be trouble, which is why I am thankful for miss Serenity Wheeler. Is she certain this convoy of Naralians has what we're looking for?"

"I would bet my life on it," Ser Gerhalos replied, already helping himself to an apple. "Serenity Wheeler is becoming somewhat of a master when it comes to the gathering of intelligence. I thank you for coming all the way down here to help me retake the 'treasure' the Naralians took from us. I am sorry it came to that, My Lord. I should have kept a better watch over..."

"Say no more," Yami said calmly. "No one blames you, Ser Gerhalos."

"Forgive me for poking my nose where it doesn't belong, my friend, but why have you come with the King of Orange Hill? You know he has close ties to Antilles. Speaking of which, I noticed banners of House Dragonheart amongst the caravan. What is going on?"

"Our travels intertwined and he asked me to come along. I don't trust Merthaw as far as I can throw him but I suppose it's better I traveled with him since it can get rainy this far in the Coastal Kingdoms. I wonder why he came all this way for."

"I wonder the same," said Ser Gerhalos. "Perhaps we can get some answers from him while we're here. Am I correct in assuming you'll be staying at the castle?"

"Of course," said Yami. "You're welcome to stay with me if you want."

"I am most happy to accept the offer. I can't stand the inns here. The hallways smell like gull shit and piss."


Front Gates of the Five Tower Castle - King Walter


The gates creaked open and the guest flooded across the stone bridge in a river of white, orange, gold. There were more than a thousand of them, for the caravan of bannermen, sellswords, knights, paladins, and champions seemed to stretch all the way across the bridge to the city and outside its gates in the countryside.

Among the orange and gold banners emblazoned with the colors of Merthaw's house, Walter saw the black and red banners depicting the dragon with the flaming heart. House Dragonheart had come along as well in all their pomposity. Standing out from the carriages was a massive triple-floored wheelhouse pulled by more than a dozen bison armored in black, red, and gold.

Walter and his own men hurried down to the courtyard to greet his host. Whoosh! Clear Wing Synchro Dragon flew over the courtyard twice, creating a fierce wind that startled the castle guard and even Lord Walter himself. The dragon roared and settled on the grass gently. The dragon's rider, the young Ser Darrien, jumped off and landed gracefully on his own two feet. He removed his silver-steel helmet, plumed with green and blue LED fibers. The castle maids gathered on the balcony of the top floor and tittered wildly upon seeing him stand there with his beast, which seemed more machine than organic.

"Beautiful isn't it?" said Peter Dragonheart, a dwarf, and brother to King Antilles. He carefully walked down the steps of the Dragonheart's personal wheelhouse. "I take it this is your first time seeing a dragon before, Your Highness?"

Walter didn't answer him right away. Though short, Peter, the Little Dragon as he was often called, seemed taller than even the most-armored of the knights that traveled with him.

"Yes, but I never imagined my first dragon would look like this? You sure it isn't just a machine."

"It hails from another dimension," said Peter. "A world quite unlike ours. And, by the grace of the Goddesses, it chose my nephew as its rider."

"Goddesses save the King!" said a priest from the Temple of Saffaani who proudly served House Dragonheart.

Right when he said that, King Merhaw rode in atop his warhorse. Everyone in the courtyard knelt in respect for him. "Up! Up!" he commanded. He looked at his brother with a frown then dismounted. "You! Eight years and not a word! Forget that I existed or something? Mother would have had your head for that."

Walter raised his head up and narrowed his eyes. "I don't recall any messages from you. You ass!" He looked at his brother from head to toe. "Look at you. You've gotten fat."

They glared at each other for a moment. And then...they broke out laughing.

"Ha! You broke first!" proclaimed Walter, wagging his finger at Merthaw. "You owe me a gold coin."

"Walter you old fart!" Merthaw said hugging the King of the Coasts. "You are luckily met!"

"Merthaw!"

"How remarkable you are looking today!"

"I wish I could say the same. You appear exhausted."

"Ah, well, riding with these pompous Dragonhearts will do that for you. It was a long road, brother. Even longer when you have those blonde-haired bastards asking to stop and eat every step of the way."

"Oh, I do hope you're not talking about us," said Peter, waddling toward them.

"Brother...what is the meaning of this? Dragonhearts? Have you forgotten it was them who usurped the Diamond Throne and killed the Plantegrasts?"

"That was more than two decades ago," said Peter. "Honestly, where would we all be if we let go of past grudges? Much better off than we are now, let me tell you?"

"Why have you sided with the Dragonhearts, Merthaw?"

"I would like an answer to that as well," said a familiar voice.

The three men turned in the direction of the voice and bowed their heads when they discovered it was Yami Yugi coming towards them with Ser Gerhalos.

"Lord Yugi?" Merthaw cried out. "You're here as well? And you come with the Dragon Summoner's former guardian."

Ser Gerhalos growled at the term 'former'. The knights behind Walter stepped aside to let Yami through. Peter bowed his head and said: "Master Yugi! What an honor this is!"

"Lord Peter," Yami greeted him quickly.

They heard the flapping of silk and the clop of heels stamping against the mud coming from the gate. "Uncle Merthaw!" Princess Rose shouted. "Uncle Merthaw!"

"Rose!" Merthaw said, opening his arms to catch the princess in a great bear hug. He laughed and spun her around. "Rose! How is my little sweetpea? Look at you!" He backed away and examined her from top to bottom. "All grown up and I've missed it. I take it there's a long line of nobles... or a handsome prince perhaps looking to claim your heart, my dear?"

Rose waved her hand a couple of times. "No, no, but who's to say my husband to be won't come riding in real soon? Oh!" She saw Yami and did curtsey. "Something important must be afoot if even you are here, Lord Yugi." The princess gave him her hand, which he took and kissed it.

"My princess," he said smiling. "You grow more beautiful every day. Yes, there is much to discuss."

Rose clapped her hands, calling for everyone's attention. "Well, come along everyone! Come in! Come in and rest yourselves. You must have had a long journey and you must be famished! Father, shall I send for the cooks?"

"Indeed. We must prepare a great feast for our guests! Let us go!"

"Lead the way, your highness," said Yami. His pocket started vibrating. "Huh?" He took out the Seeing Stone that Serenity gave him. It was glowing red inside.

"What's that?" Ser Gerhalos asked. "Yami is that a Seeing Stone?"

Yami smiled. "Yes. A Duel's about to begin. Please excuse me, my friend."


Andre - Duel Dome/ Neros Island, Aquarius


It was a long journey to get from the school to the Duel Dome, especially with the storm outside. But he finally made it to the Duel Dome, where he heard that Yuri and his group got access to one of the arenas for the rest of the afternoon as a way of getting on good terms with Mr. Montgomery and his massive wallet. Andre wasn't surprised the people who built this place would be kissing up to him like this. You needed a lot of money to keep this place running.   

Andre made his way down the halls and saw the group occupying one of the arenas down below. They were still clad in their school uniforms, for they skipped their last period to come here early and beat the storm. Andre walked down the stone steps as Yuri and Carter jumped onto the platforms to begin their Duel. Nick, Natalya, Tyson, and Patty leaned on a glass railing decorated with circuit board patterns next to the arena to get a better view of the monsters. 

"Hey guys," Andre said. Thunder rumbled outside and the rain began splashing the building violently as he came down.

"You!" Nick shouted. "Man, can't we get a moment's peace without you barging in?"

Patty held her hand up over his face to shut him up. "Hey, Andre. I can't say I'm too surprised to see you here. It seems like you're around no matter where we go."

"I heard from Diego that you guys were going to be here. I know I wasn't asked to come down here but I wanted to see the new holograms myself. I'll stay out of your way. I'm not here to Duel. I'll just watch." He took his backpack off and sat down in the row behind the railing where Patty, Nick, and Tyson were watching from.   

"Even with your Black Tyranno, Yuri," said Carter, "you're still no match for my sea monster deck. I'm gonna give you a spanking just like I did last time."

"We'll see about that Carter." Yuri chuckled. He placed his deck on the touch-screen playmat.

LP 2000

"I'll go first!" Carter said. Though it was kind of hard to hold his cards with his long fake nails. "Hmm. Nice, nice, very sexy cards. I play the field spell, Umiruka!"

"Look!" Tyson shouted, pointing at the arena as it was filled with cool blue water. 

"This spell will increase the ATK of all my water monsters by 500 points but it will also decrease their DEF by 400. Not that it matters. I summon Terrorking Salmon in attack mode."

Something started moving around beneath the surface. Then, a giant armored fish with glowing red fins rose out of the water, splashing water everywhere. It looked so real. It wasn't cheap CGI either, everything from the light, shadows, textures, everything made the creature appear to be a living breathing animal. Once it was done showing off, it fell back into the water. 

"With Umiruka in play, my Terrorking Salmon's ATK increased to 2900. And I'm not through yet. I play Polymerization, fusing together Hyosube with Beastking of the Swamp. This card can be used as a substitute for any fusion monster, by the way, since I don't need a Mystic Lamp in my deck."

"Hyosube and Mystic Lamp?" said Andre. "Uh oh. I know what that makes."

"Roaring Ocean Snake, duh!" said Nick. "You don't need to be a pro to figure that one out." 

Roaring Ocean Snake rose out of the water, letting out a terrible roar. There were intelligently placed mechanisms in the arena that could shoot out water to go along with the holographic splashes the monsters made to make the Duel even more immersive. Patty and Natalya felt a few hitting their faces and they backed away giggling.

"Roaring Ocean Snake is strong enough as it is," said Carter. "But with the home field advantage Umiruka gives my water monsters, his ATK climbs up to 2600. I set a card face down and end my turn. Your move, Yuri."

"Your monsters sure are tough, Carter. But they're not going to be out for long. I activate the spell, Shield and Sword."

"Aww, no! You damn troll! That's messed up!" 

"Oooooh!" Natalya hollered, clapping her hands. "Now Carter's monsters ATK get switched with their DEF. And since Umiruka weakens their defense points, Carter's sea monsters have turned into nothing more but small guppies." 

Roaring Ocean Snake - ATK/1400

Terrorking Salmon - ATK/600

"Now, I'm going to summon Black Tyranno in ATK mode!"

The gang cheered once the star of Yuri's deck arrived. It stood over the water as if hovering over it, roaring at the now weakened monsters Carter had on his side of the field.

"And now I'm going to activate a Polymerization card of my own, fusing together Two-Headed King Rex and Crawling Dragon #2 to summon Bracchio-Raidus!"  

Yuri summoned a giant blue brontosaur-like monster that reared its long neck out of the water and bellowed like a whale. Its legs were concealed underneath the water so only its neck and large back could be seen. 

"Bracchio-Raidus is also a water monster," said Yuri. "So he gains the 500 extra ATK from Umiruka. I'll attack both your monsters and end the game."

The dinosaurs attacked and clashed fiercely with Carter's sea monsters. The battle reduced his LP to 0. 


Winner: Yuri


"Aww, nuts," Carter said. "Black Tyranno sure has changed you, Yuri. I've never seen you play that aggressively before. When was the last time you've ever OTK'd someone?"

"I'm going next!" Nick shouted. 

"Shut up, dude!" Patty said, massaging her ear. 

"Ahem," Diego said from the top of the arena with his entourage of blondes. "Perhaps one of my Gems can take him on."

"Diego Morales?" Yuri asked.

"Oh wow," said Natalya. "What's one of the school's Duel Kings doing here?"

"My friend Maria wants to test Yuri's Black Tyranno out for herself." He stepped to the side and held out his arm towards her. 

"If that's okay with you, Yuri," said Maria. 

"Um, sure," Yuri said. "Go ahead."

Maria approached the platform and it lifted her all the way up to the top, high over the field below where the monsters were going to do battle. 

"Man," Tyson whispered, looking at Maria and the rest of the so-called Gems that hung around Diego. "They weren't kidding about these Gems. Man, they are hot!"

"Well, yeah, Maria especially," said Natalya. "Her mom's a Victoria's Secret model. So it's easy to see where she got her looks from."

"Get a grip!" said Patty. "Gems of Paradiso Prima? Pfft. Man, they think they're so flashy, don't they? I hope Yuri kicks her ass."

LP 2000

"Duel!" they both called out.

"Yuri!" Diego called from the stands below. "Be a gentleman and let Maria go first."

"Ugh, he makes me sick," Patty said. Much to her dismay, Yuri agreed to let Maria go first.

Maria drew her starting hand, one card at a time. The rings on her fingers and the bracelet of gold glimmered with each draw. "I heard you're really good," said Maria. "Let's see how you'll fare against a Gem of Paradiso Prima. I'll set two cards face-down and summon Lord of Dragons in attack mode!" Maria summoned a sorcerer in dark dragon bone armor and a blue cape with a high collar and 1200 ATK. "That will end my turn."

 "I draw!" Yuri declared. "I summon Spawn Alligator in attack mode!" He summoned a red-scaled alligator monster standing on two legs wearing white and black armor. 

 

"Now, I'll set two cards face-down as well and attack your Lord of Dragons with Spawn Alligator!"

Spawn Alligator opened his mouth and fired a beam of red lightning at Lord of Dragons. Maria was quick with a counter. "I activate Negate Attack. Now your battle phase ends. Is that all for you?"

"Yes."

"Then I'll draw." She smiled and flung some of her hair over her shoulder. "I activate the spell, Flute of Summoning Dragon! When Lord of Dragons is in play, I'm allowed to summon two dragons from my hand. Now I summon Ruby Dragon and Luster Dragon!"

She summoned two dragons, both identical in appearance save for their color and ATK points. Ruby Dragon, who had 1600 ATK cast red reflections and sparkled like the stars. Luster Dragon, a dragon made of sapphire radiated with blue light and flashed like a thousand photographers taking pictures all at once. 

"Wow, that's very pretty," said Natalya. 

"What a waste of a turn," said Patty. "Those jeweled dragons are no match for Yuri's Spawn Alligator."

Maria heard that and replied with nothing more than a gentle snicker from her nose and a smile. "I activate the spell, Dragon Heart. Here's how it works. I send three dragons from my deck to the Graveyard and one dragon-type monster on my field will have its ATK increased by 1000. I choose Luster Dragon, so now its attack increases to 2900."

"Oh, shit!" Patty said at once. "Me and my big mouth!"

Maria pointed at Spawn Alligator and commanded Luster Dragon to attack!" 

"I activate the spell card, Shrink!" Yuri shouted, flipping over his face-down card. This will cut your dragon's ATK in half."

"No, it won't," Maria giggled. "Thanks to Lord of Dragons, you cannot target Dragon monsters with card effects. Nice try, Yuri!"

Luster Dragon blasted Yuri's Spawn Alligator. Fans alongside the arena burst into action, blowing the spectators as though they got hit with an explosion. Yuri shielded his face with his arm until the explosion died down. 

"Nice try, Yuri, but not good enough. I end my turn."

Yuri - 1300 LP

2000 LP - Maria

"My turn," said Yuri. He rubbed a bead of sweat from his forehead. Man, she completely outmaneuvered me. These Gems are true to their reputation. "I summon a monster in defense mode and end my turn."

"Aww, Yuri, is that all?" said Diego. He had his arm over Barbie's shoulder, twisting a lock of her hair around his finger. "The Duel hasn't even begun and Maria's already got you with your back against the wall."

Andre wanted to say something but he refrained from saying anything at all. He was stunned. Maria knew exactly what to do to stop Yuri's tough monster. And with Lord of Dragons in play, he couldn't target them with effects, meaning they were going to be harder to destroy. If the other girls had the same Gem Dragon deck as the one Maria was using, then they were going to be tough to beat. He couldn't imagine what it was going to be like going up against Diego, who was the leader of the group. He certainly wasn't a Duel King for nothing. 

"I draw!" said Maria. "I activate Pot of Greed. Now I get two more cards. And I'm going to use Polymerization, fusing Lord of Dragons with Divine Dragon Ragnarok. And I create the mighty King Dragun!"

Lord of Dragons merged together with Divine Dragon Ragnarok and emerged from the fusion vortex in his most supreme form. He was up in the air, now a giant of a man with the golden body of a heavenly wyrm dragon. 

"Just like Lord of Dragons before him, my King Dragun will prevent you from targeting my dragons with card effects. And once per turn, I can special summon a dragon from my hand. I special summon Hyozanryu the Diamond Dragon!"

King Dragun blew into a golden flute shaped like a dragon's head and then the diamond dragon appeared next to him. The diamond dragon's body reflected the light and it cast bright fractals on the walls and the floor along with rainbow hues.

"And don't forget Yuri, I still have my normal summon to conduct. I call upon Luster Dragon #2!"  

Now she summoned a brilliant emerald green dragon with 2400 ATK points. When all of her Gem Dragons were together, they were shrouded with a brilliant iridescent aura. 

"Oh, this is bad!" said Carter. "That girl just swarmed the field with all those dragons."

"I'll attack your face-down monster with Luster Dragon #2!" Maria shouted. "And then I activate the face-down card, Dragon's Rage. Sorry to disappoint you, Yuri, but even if your monsters are in defense mode, my dragons will still inflict damage to you as long as this trap remains on the field."

"I activate my trap card, Draining Shield!" said Yuri. "Now my Life Points will increase by the ATK of your Luster Dragon and it will stop it from attacking!" 

Yuri - LP 2700 

"Fine with me. I'll attack your face-down monster with King Dragun!"

King Dragun fired a beam of fire from his flute, blasting Yuri's monster, Armored Lizard. He lost 1200 LP from the piercing damage and was now at 1500 LP.

"The Gems are as good as they say they are," said Natalya. "Wow!"

Diego lowered his head and nodded confidently. "Beautiful. My Gems are perfection. Don't you agree, Yuri?"

"I guess so," Yuri managed to say. "You've trained them well and supplied them with good cards. I choose to end my turn without playing a card. Your move, Maria."

"Don't think playing nothing is going to stop me, Yuri. I activate the spell Dragon's Gun Fire! A dragon monster of my choosing will now inflict 800 points of damage to your Life Points. Hyozanryu! Blast him!"

Hyozanryu fired a glittering white fireball at Yuri's Dueling Pod! It was enveloped in a cloud of white smoke with sparkles slowly flying into the air. "AAAAUUUUGGGH!" Yuri screamed, holding on for dear life. He didn't know which way was which. If took one wrong move, he could fall from the platform, possibly to his death. 

Yuri - 700 LP

"I have two more Dragon's Gun Fire cards in my deck, Yuri. Stall all you want. It's not going to save you."

"Yuri's gonna lose," said Andre. "I guess he's no match for them after all." 

Tyson clapped his hands to boost up Yuri's confidence. "Come on, Yuri! You're still in this, bud!" 

"I activate Dian Keto the Cure Master!" Yuri said holding up his spell card. "Now my Life Points will increase by 1000 points. And then I set a card face-down and end my turn."

"Increasing your Life Points won't save you for long, Yuri," Maria said. "I find you quite a bore, Yuri. I guess all that talk about you at school was nothing but hype. Definitely not worth Diego's time. He so wanted to Duel you. Anyway, I activate the spell, Hand Destruction. Now we discard 4 cards from our hands and draw four new cards. Don't worry, if you have less than four cards, you can still draw four cards. And look at what I drew. Dragon's Gun Fire."

Again, Yuri got blasted and his LP took a hit, plummeting to 900. 

"I summon Black Tyranno!" Yuri shouted, summoning his best monster.

"Oh no!" Maria gasped, taking a step backward from the shock of seeing the monster that beat Randall Lawson.

Yuri's friends held up their fists and cheered as though they were greeting a friend who had just come back from a long trip. Now he was the strongest monster on the field. "Now, I activate the spell, Double Attack. I discard a monster from my hand, and then I select on monster on the field whose level is lower than the monster I discarded. And that monster happened to be Gogigal Gagigo! A level 8 monster and Black Tyranno is level 7. Black Tyranno, attack and destroy King Dragun and Luster Dragon #2!" 

Black Tyranno's eyes flashed bright green. He roared the most thunderous roar any of them had ever heard and slew Maria's two dragons. 

Yuri - 900 LP

1600 LP - Maria 

"So much for your dragons," Yuri teased her. "I set two cards face-down and end my turn."

"Not bad, Yuri. Not bad at all. You managed to take a bite out of my Life Points. Your Black Tyranno is impressive, but he's nothing compared to what I've got in store for you. First, I activate the spell, Monster Reborn. With this, I'll bring back Luster Dragon #2 from the graveyard. And then, I use the spell Adamantine Sword Revival. This card will transform Luster Dragon #2 into the mighty Diamond Head Dragon!"

Diamond Head Dragon stood taller than Black Tyranno, or any other monster on the field for that matter. Its wings even reached over the stands and the tail coiled over Maria's pod. 

"My Diamond Head Dragon's ATK points become the ATK points of the revived dragon I used as tribute plus 1000 so his ATK points are now 3400! More than enough to defeat your Black Tyranno, Yuri. Diamond Head Dragon, attack!"

Maria's Dragon opened its mouth, charged up a beam of green light, then fired. Everyone braced themselves as the beam of green light soared across the field to strike down Black Tyranno.

"Not so fast, Maria! I activate my face-down card, Rising Energy! By discarding a card from my hand, Rising Energy increases Black Tyranno's ATK by 1500, raising his ATK to 4100!" 

Black Tyranno countered by firing flames that were the same color as the background of his card. Diamond Head Dragon's beam of light collided with Black Tyranno's green flames, creating a massive explosion at the center of the field. A gust of wind blew towards them. Everybody held on and screamed as they were hit by the blast. As Patty leaned forward and held onto the railing, her skirt started flapping around giving Andre a glance at her cherry-patterned underwear. "Awesome!" he said. 

Black Tyranno, still firing the flames with all his might, took a mighty step forward and charged it up to make his flaming attack even more powerful. It eventually pushed back Diamond-Head Dragon's green beam of light back into its mouth. Diamond Head Dragon growled in defeat before he blew up. The arena rocked and pieces of Diamond Head Dragon rained down on the field. Now Yuri and Maria were tied at 900 LP. 

Maria switched her monsters to DEF mode. Since she still had her continuous trap on the back of the board, she was safe from Black Tyranno's special ability. But Yuri figured out a way to get around that. Fairy Meteor Crush, which was already in his hand just waiting for the right moment to be activated. Yuri equipped it to Black Tyranno, giving him the ability of piercing damage. He attacked her for Luster Dragon for game.


Winner: Yuri


"He...he beat me?" Maria babbled in shock. 

"Well done, Yuri!" Diego said. He got up and started to clap. The rest of the Gems did too. "Well done. You certainly turned things around with Maria."

Maria sadly stuffed her deck into her backpack. "I'm sorry, Diego. I failed."

"You have nothing to be ashamed about, Maria," Diego assured her gently. "Please, don't see this as a loss. See this as a learning experience so that next time Yuri won't be so lucky." 

"I will, thank you! And thank you for the match, Yuri. That was fun. Diego, you taught us everything we know. What do you think of Yuri? You think you can teach him to go into the pro leagues."

"That won't be necessary!" Yuri cried out at once. "I don't want to go pro. I'm fine the way I am now, really."

"Really? said Diego. "Yuri, you're limiting yourself. I mean, yeah, you don't have to go pro. You're going to run Phobos Corp one day and make more money than all we will in three lifetimes, but Duel Monsters is something you should really excel at. You should wow the world with your skills."

"I don't think so. I appreciate the gesture though."

"What are you so afraid of?" Maria asked. 

Yuri paused for a moment. He thought about it really hard but couldn't come up with an answer. "I don't know. I just...I just don't want to. So, anyway. Who's up!?"


Back in Termnnia, Yuri's image in the Seeing Stone faded. "Well done, Yuri," Yami Yugi said, pocketing the stone and returning to the throne room.

That night, the winds picked up, causing the waves to crash violently against the rocky shores of the claw. The dark skies were lit with the occasional flash of thunder in the dark purple skies. The temperature had grown chilly and the banners atop the towers waved violently in the gale. But inside the great hall, King Walter and his guests were cozy, warm, and well-fed. The hall became blurred with the smoke of hot meat roasting in the ten fire pits that lined the length of the great hall. The walls were decorated with the banners of green, gold, red, black, white, and orange; the great horned toad of House Calhart; the black dragon of House Dragonheart; and the rich orange tree of Orange Hill.

Princess Rose was sitting on a balcony playing her harp and singing songs of heroes from the Great Dragon War of the Third Age.

"Beautiful," said Merthaw, raising his goblet towards her. His voice could barely be heard amongst the clangor of cups, plates, and drunken laughter. "When she sings, she reminds me of her mother. You've raised her well, brother; she's grown magnificently. Denita would be so proud."

Walter stroked his golden beard. "I admit, I have memories of her when Rose sings. I miss her so."

"I am sorry for your loss," said Yami. "But I have to ask." He extended his hand toward Peter, who was sitting across from them at the table. "What is going on here? Have you not forgotten what this man's brother is doing in the Senate? What he has done to keep Prince Daveed stuck on earth."

Peter shut his eyes and smiled, trying to keep his composure. He set his goblet down and sat up straight. He cleared his throat and said: "My Lord, please, call him by his new nickname. Oh, what was it now?" He stared at the vaulted ceiling as he gathered his thoughts. "Yuri, correct? I like it. It matches your name, Yugi." He rested his arm on the table and drummed on it with his tiny fingers. "And I heard there is a distinct meaning to the name. Flower, I believe. Because the boy is delicate and frail as one."

"Yes, what you heard is true," Yami said. He drank the last gulp of wine in his cup. "The boy is delicate." He lied. He dared not tell anyone about the days when Yuri was a young, heartless criminal. Especially not a Dragonheart.

Peter laughed at the thought of Yuri being dubbed a delicate flower. "Not exactly the qualities I want in a High King. If I wanted to serve someone flowery and whatnot, I'd go to Gardenrealm and serve under House Gardener. Mavara knows I won't be able to do that; they'll bore me to death with their friendship speeches. But, I digress, I've read the reports, Master Yugi. Yes, this is a great urgency to bring the boy back."

He popped open a new bottle of wine and poured himself some. He hiccuped as he popped the cork back in.

"Not far across this country's border lies the confederate kingdoms and estates, all of them under the power of his cousin, Hector, who, despite losing his brothers and the Gate Wars, continues his revolution against Rassay. And to the north, The Fat King conquers lands as he pleases, taking everything from Kings and Lords like candy from a baby. And with each realm he takes, this religion, Yeyunism, finds easier access to cities everywhere and spreads like the plague across our beloved continent. The topple statues of the goddesses and great heroes, whom we revere and hold dear to our hearts. They teach their faith, burning, raping, and murdering as they go because their flaming mad god told them it was okay to do so. Yugi, they're destroying institutes of magic, developing barbaric organizations to hunt mages and other spellcasters like animals, and they want to erase our culture and our history. Poor Prince Yuri has a lot on his plate, you know this."

"I do."

"We wouldn't have to deal with this if the Dragon Summoner had not gone missing!" snapped Ser Gerhalos.

"And I do hope you find her," Peter said, trying to sound magnanimous. "My Lord, admit it," he started rhythmically patting the table with his palms, his head swaying about obnoxiously.

He smiled and said: "You just want to bring him back because you feel that having a king on the Diamond Throne will be enough to save our continent from delving further into madness. I'm sorry to say, Master, it does not work like that. Times have changed drastically. It's not enough to have a king anymore. We need someone who can RULE! Otherwise, sit any fool on that damned chair and call him High King. Have your friend Joey sit on it for all I care. It won't be enough. Yuri needs to learn how to Duel and govern. My brother may be working hard to keep his time on earth prolonged, but I assure you it is for the boy's interest. Yugi, please, be reasonable. This boy is about to be given a very powerful position; the most powerful in the world, may I add. In order for him to keep it, he needs to be a good Duelist — which he's not. He needs the knowledge on how to rule — which he does not have. Let him learn. Let him get stronger. Let him learn how to govern. That floating city where you sent him, as beautiful as it is, is full of corruption and all sorts of terrible things. Let us help him clean it up and prove he can be a good leader."

"You will help us do this, Peter?"

"Any way I can, Lord Yugi"

Yami then looked at Merthaw. "And what on earth did Antilles promise you?"

Merthaw sat up, his lip twitching nervously. "He didn't promise me anything, Lord Yugi. That is the truth. It's just that...civil war has broken out in the Hellgari Estates."

"I've heard about that," said Yami. "Forgive me for not looking into it sooner. Matters regarding the boy have kept me busy."

"Well, while you were busy with your matters, much was happening in my realm. A few months ago, archeologists from the Clovermeadow University discovered an Ancient Norman ruin. After many days there, the scholars uncovered a library that made the ruin the most significant archeological discovery of our time. These ruins were once the great fortress Sacre Vox, the impregnable stronghold ruled by the famed warlord Karas-Thelossian."

"Impossible," said Peter. "The only man to ever defeat Tiberius Pendragon in battle? How extraordinary! What did you discover?"

"A great deal many things. And an old smithy where there were three rare Ellenanian Steel ingots. No weapons were found, sadly. Tiberius Pendragon saw to that after he starved Karas-Thelossian and his men to death in their fortress. But the library, my friends, was the real treasure. Hordes of information. Books with thousands of years of Embol-Norman history. Think of what we could learn from all that. However, that was not all they uncovered. Going farther into the ruins, the scholars found the lost treasure trove of Karas-Thelossian."

"Treasure trove, you say," Peter said greedily and rubbed his hands together. "What kind of treasure?"

"Gold. Mountains of it. The halls of treasure honey-combed into the mountains where the fortress was built. And to sweeten the pot, there were treasure maps detailing the location of more hidden troves filled with the spoils of Karas-Thelossian's campaign to conquer Emboldor. Naturally, the other lords of the Estate learned of this and wanted their share of the pie. Soon their greed turned into madness and before I knew it they were all gathering armies, marching to one another's holds, trying to take each other out for a bigger share. Two of the lords from the Houses of Colomy and Major have banded together to take me down. I did not want this, Master Yugi! So, Antilles devised a plan to get me out of this predicament."

"I don't like it when Antilles and the word 'plan' are used together," said Yami. "That combination usually leads to very devastating results."

"Dear, Yugi, have some compassion, please," said Peter. "The Hellgari Estates border close to the Kingslands. You don't want Yuri to come home and have to fix another civil war now, do you? Especially when he already has a confederacy to deal with down south."

"What does he plan to do?" Yami asked. "And no lies! I know how to detect a lie, so don't test me on this, Merthaw."

"No lies, Lord Yugi. He intends to marry my daughter with his nephew."

"Marriage. Another word I despise when it involves Antilles."

"Please, listen, Lord Yugi. If there was any other way, I would have turned to someone else. But you were nowhere to be found. Your mission with the boy has sadly blinded you to everything else going on in Termnnia. And as powerful and influential as you are, I doubt you can resolve all the problems in the world."

"Why does Antilles want your daughter to marry Ser Darrien?"

"To help reform the Hellgari Estates into one unified kingdom," Peter answered. "Our family holds two of the few remaining True Dragons in Termnnia. With my nephew, Darrien and his dragon, none will dare stand up against them. We do not need another long and expensive war on our hands, Yugi. Let us end this one before it goes completely out of control."

Yami closed his eyes and sighed. "I understand your goal, Merthaw. It's a very bold plan. A little too bold if you ask me. I agree that tensions in the Hellgari Estates have worried me over the years. Indeed if this conflict remains unresolved, it could lead to dire consequences. My only concern in this is what Antilles has to gain by marrying Ser Darrien to Alianore?"

"Absolutely nothing," Merthaw assured him. "Just the best interests of the country and Prince Yuri. Think of what will happen when the Estates are united, my lord. Ser Darrien promises a strong defense to guard the northwestern borders of Emboldor."

Yami tapped his fingers on the table. "I have no choice but to take your word for it. Good luck in bringing unity to the Estates. I do see great benefits in this."

He leaned toward Merthaw ominously. "But mark my words, Merthaw. If you double-cross me, my friends, Emboldor, or Prince Yuri, in any way, you will have a million Black Luster Soldiers at your doorstep. And what I promise...I fulfill."

Chapter Text


Andre - Neros Island, Aquarius

September 22 - Year 18 4AOS


It had been weeks since Andre started getting the hang of St. Augustus Senior High School and its rules regarding Duel Monsters. He had made a few friends since coming here and was slowly starting to get to know Yuri and his so-called Misfits, though his relationship with Nick was still rocky. The guy was full of himself and did not want anyone to be within their ranks. He seemed to want to keep Andre away from them. And what were Yuri's ties to Ren and Crystal, two people who he felt were powerful and mysterious? There was something odd about those two, especially Crystal. There was almost some sort of magic to her and he wanted to figure out what it was. 

"I have to meet her," he said to Yami through the magic sphere he created with his palm. "I feel something about her."

"Is it important?" Yami asked. 

"It is to me."

"Do not bother her!" Yami commanded him. "We know a great deal about that girl and it's best you don't get involved. Leave her alone, I'm only going to tell you this once. Upset her in any way and you will be punished. Don't test me, Andre."

The feed was cut and Andre was alone again. He only smiled at Yami's threat. There must have been something up with Crystal if even Yami Yugi didn't want him getting involved like she was some classified subject that was above his pay grade. Still, that didn't deter him from wanting to find out more about her. He grabbed his things and left his apartment to go find her. When he stepped outside, he grumbled, for it was still raining.

"Aw, man! You'd think the guys operating this thing would move the city away from the rainstorms."

He put the hood of his jacket over his head and trudged off into the night to find Crystal. The likely thing to do was ask Yuri about it but he didn't appear at the Ruby Dragon this afternoon. And it didn't seem like the others knew about her either. He passed by a cafe with an outdoor patio as he headed downtown.

"Andre?" 

Andre stopped. Patty was sitting outside by a wooden table having tea. A red umbrella with string lights around its base shielded her from the rain. Her laptop was in front of her displaying complicated equations for her calculus class. A black slouchy beanie covered her head with only a few curls of her platinum blonde hair streaked down over her face, which had a bruise.

"Patty. Hey. Funny running into you out here. What happened to your cheek?"

Patty rubbed it. "Oh, I uh...I ran into the door on my way out of the house. I guess it's even worse than I thought if even you can see it."

"You know Patty, I know it's none of my business but I can't help but notice you coming to school with different injuries. First, you're limping, then your ribs hurt. You have bruises on your arms and now your cheek. Are there...you know...problems at home?"

"No. Everything's...peachy." She raised her cup to her lips and drank some tea. "So where are you running off to?"

"I was looking for that blonde hair that brought Yuri to the Duel Dome the night he defeated Randall. Do you know anything about her?"

"No. I had no idea Yuri was friends with someone like that. She was a hottie, too, so I'd definitely remember her. Although....she looks kinda familiar. I can't quite put my finger on it. I feel like I've seen her before."

"I see. Well, if you happen to see her again, can you let me know?"

"Why's that?"

"I just wanna ask her a few questions, that's all. Something tells me she had something to do with Yuri's victory over Randall Lawson."

"You think she gave him the Black Tyranno?" 

"Maybe. I'm not ruling it out. But this has something more to it than just cards. I feel like she has a great influence on him. I mean, no offense to you guys but Yuri seemed really happy with her. Happier than usual. I daresay even happier than he's with you guys."

"Really?" Patty shut her laptop. "Now I'm kinda piqued about who this mystery girl is."

"Wanna help me look for her?" Andre asked. 

Patty's phone started to jingle with a tune from her favorite cartoon series. She took it out of her pocket. The Zera the Mant chibi hanging from the case with other charms she added clanked when it brushed alongside them. "Oh, it's Natalya." She answered the phone. "Hey, baby. Yeah. Uh-huh. I'm on Neros Island, downtown sector. Why, what's going on? No way. You're kidding me. Okay, I'll be right there."

"What happened? Yuri and Natalya went to the Ruby Dragon to pick up a few things when some jerks in expensive black suits challenged them to a match. They won but things got violent. Thankfully, Sergei was the World Sambo champ back in Russia and he kicked the guys out of the store."

"Guys in black suits? That doesn't sound good."

"I recall some guys like that around the arena when Yuri faced Randall. And that girl you mentioned. She was in the VIP box with him. Hey, wait! I think that's her over there! Look! Look!" 

Andre turned around and noticed a black Escalade surrounded by young men in expensive black suits like Natalya described on the phone. One of them opened the door and Crystal stepped out in a glittery white dress with a plunging neckline. One of the men held an umbrella over her and walked her inside an expensive-looking restaurant. Without thinking, Andre darted across the street ignoring Patty's calls to come back. She warned him that the men escorting her looked like trouble but he didn't listen. He darted inside the restaurant's atrium. A man stopped him in front of the fountain by placing his hand against his chest. 

"Sir, do you have a reservation?" he asked.

Andre pushed him aside and darted into the restaurant looking for Crystal. He found her by the window with a plate of pasta already waiting for her. She was being accompanied by four other young ladies. They were in the middle of toasting their success when Andre stepped up. 

"Excuse me," he said. The girls set their glasses down and looked at him. "Sorry, to interrupt. But which one of you knows Yuri Montgomery?"

They all pointed to Crystal, who raised her hand. "I do," she responded. "What do you want?"

"I just wanted to ask if..."

He was grabbed by someone strong. He was turned around and came face to face with the guy Crystal was with the night of Yuri's Duel. "What the hell do you think you're doing barging into my place and disturbing my friends?"

"I just want to talk to..."

"Yeah, well, you can't. Lose him!" He told two of his guards. They grabbed Andre by the arms and literally threw him outside into the rain. He fell hard on his back, the impact knocked the wind out of him. "Aaaaugh!" he groaned as the two men walked back inside. "Thanks a lot." 

He heard someone walking towards him. Andre rolled to his back and saw Patty looking down at him as she shook her head. "You idiot. You just barged into the Malebolge."

"The what?"

"The Malebolge. It's a restaurant owned by the mafia. Only they and their closest connections are allowed in there." 

"I just..." Andre winced as he tried to stand up. He finally got back on his own two feet. "I just wanted to talk to her."

"Well, I saw everything from the window. That guy who...escorted you out was Brett Martinetti. The nephew of the city's mob boss, Lucio Martinetti. That girl must have some kind of relationship with him. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is mess with Brett Martinetti's girls."

"I didn't know a mafia ran this place," said Andre. "What's a mafia doing in a city like Aquarius?"

"It's a long story. But let's just say the lowest forms of human life were able to find ways to slither around the city and even squeeze the great Jacob Montgomery into letting them slide. When you can get a multi-trillionaire like him to look the other way, you know you have power. And the Martinettis are a family you shouldn't mess with. Yuri tried to stand up to them a long time ago. Brett and his boys beat him so bad he was put in a vegetative state. You're lucky all he did was throw you out."    

"Thinks he's a real tough guy, doesn't he?"

"He is a tough guy. He's an experienced street fighter, business prodigy, playboy, and he's an elite duelist who's won lots of tournaments and had multiple championship reigns in an American junior's league. Trust me, you don't want to mess with him."

"Whatever. But this isn't over. If anything, Brett's the one who's messed with the wrong guy. He's going to get what's coming to him. You'll see."  

Chapter Text


Yuri - Ruby Dragon Gaming Shop, Aquarius

September 24 - Year 18 4AOS


"Come on, give me something good," Yuri said, opening his new pack.

Killer Needle, Tongyo, Bottom Dweller, Deepsea Shark ("Hey, I got a complete Fusion," said Yuri), Corroding Shark, Skull Stalker, The Drdek. Finally. It was time for the rare card.

"SHIT!" Yuri shouted.

Nekogal #2

"So much for that," he grumbled.

Sergei let out a loud laugh from behind the counter. "What's the matter, Yuri. Didn't get anything good?"

"Nope. I think Black Tyranno is going to be my only rarest card."

"Oh, that's too bad," Sergei said, washing the glass counter. "You know, since you did a good job on your test last week, I think I can give you something for free."

"Really? Gee, thanks."

Yuri got up from the table. He hurried toward Sergei to see what the new card was going to be.

"Ta-da!" Sergei said, holding it up. Actually, he had two. "Behold, the Field Spell, Gaia Power. Since you run a deck with lizards and a few dinosaurs, I figured this would come in handy. It will increase the power of all your Earth monsters by five hundred points. But there is a big drawback. It will increase the power of your opponent's Earth monsters, too. And it will decrease their defense by four hundred. So use it wisely. And here's a good card to go along with it. Gilasaurus. You can special summon it any time you want, meaning you can also conduct a normal summon if you haven't already. He'll go along well with your Gaia Power spell, but he also comes with a drawback. He allows your opponent to special summon a monster from their Graveyard. So don't summon it with its ability if there is a high-powered monster in the opponent's grave."

"I'll remember that," Yuri said, taking the cards. "Thanks, Sergei."

"Wanna try them out?" Patty asked, watching Yuri from behind a shelf with a cherry soda in her hand. "Nick's looking for an opponent over at Table Two."

Sergei grinned. "Ah, you see. A perfect opponent for you to play against. And an easy one." He let out a loud laugh.

Patty led Yuri to the table where Nick sat. She walked with a limp.

"You okay, Patty?"

Patty turned her head to look at him and smiled. "Yeah, I just hit my shin on the dining room table today. Come on, the table is right over here."

She pointed it out to Yuri. Tyson and Carter were opening a big pile of packs they just bought, handing Nick their commons and repeats.

"Yuri!" Nick called out loudly. "Glad you could join us. I just got some new cards for my deck. Want to go against them?"

Yuri was more than happy to oblige. After all, he wanted to see what his new Gilasaurus and his field spell could do. He took out his deck, sat down, and placed it in the drive recognizer on the table. The giant screen beside their table lit up. A holographic playmat was displayed from the projector above their table. The screen then showed the default colosseum where the monsters were to do battle.

Their Life Point meters displayed 2000 and they were ready to go.

"I'll start off first," Yuri said after he and Nick rolled dice to see who would start the game. He drew six cards and smiled. "Okay, Nick. I'll start things off a little heavy. I summon Grappler in attack mode."

He placed the card on the mat. The screen beside them showed a tall, two-legged, purple lizard with a red cape. His yellow eyes glowed like two headlights. His forked tongue slithered from his yellow sharp teeth.

ATK/1300

"Not bad, Yuri. But let's see how it handles this. I summon the Mystical Elf in defense mode."

He summoned a beautiful elf with silky blue skin. She was draped in a green dress and had long, flowing, blonde hair. Her hands were locked in prayer as she muttered divine words.

"With a defense of two-thousand, you sure are going to have a hard time getting through that," said Nick. "And I think I'll play these two cards face-down. It's your turn, buddy."

"Way to go, Nick," Patty cheered. She sipped her cherry soda. "You've learned how to defend."

Nick enjoyed Patty's compliment a little too much. He bobbed his head up and down confidently. "Ah, see how much I've improved, Yuri? Even Patty's starting to dig me? So, where do you want to go for lunch after our Duel, babe?"

Patty rolled her eyes and walked away from him. She stood over Yuri and patted his shoulder. "I think I'll keep my mouth shut from now on. Yuri, teach him a lesson."

"Will do," said Yuri. "I draw. Perfect! I play the Field Spell, Gaia Power!"

The field turned into a dense forest. The monsters were in a clearing where a gigantic magical tree stood dominating the other trees. A sound of bells rang from its branches as the wind blew through the leaves.

"With this card, all our Earth monsters will gain a five-hundred point boost," said Yuri. "But they lose four-hundred defense points."

"You sure you want to do that, Yuri?" Nick said with an ear-to-ear grin. "That means my Earth monsters will get the field power bonus, too."

"I'm sure my monsters will be able to defeat anything you've got," said Yuri. "I summon Mammoth Graveyard!"

The forest trembled with the great call of an ancient mammoth. From the trees walked the giant skeleton of the beast, still protecting the grave of its herd from those foolish enough to steal from it. It towered over Grappler and waved its head around, flashing its great tusks to intimidate Nick.

Tyson clapped. "Nice, Yuri! With the field spell, your Mammoth Graveyard's attack points climb to seventeen-hundred."

Nick laughed. "It's still not enough to get through my Mystical Elf's defense."

"Until I give my Mammoth Graveyard this," said Yuri. "Invigoration!"

Mammoth Graveyard's bones were outlined with a beautiful multi-colored aura. It bellowed triumphantly, feeling its power growing.

"With this card, Mammoth Graveyard's attack will increase by four-hundred and decrease its defense by another three-hundred. But, thankfully, I'm not going to be using him to defend. Now, with my Mammoth's attack at twenty-one-hundred, your Mystical Elf goes bye-bye. Attack!"

Mammoth Graveyard reared on its hind legs. It then lowered its head and charged toward the elf. Nick chuckled.

"Not so fast, Yuri. I activate the trap, Castle Walls! This will increase Mystical Elf's defense by five-hundred points."

Mystical Elf prayed to the gods for help. Her prayer was answered, for a beautiful arcane circle appeared in front of her, acting as a shield. Mammoth Graveyard slammed against it. He could not break the barrier. The impact caused him to tumble to the ground.

Yuri bit his lip in embarrassment as he watched his Life Points dwindle to 1600.

"Wow," Carter said, his eyes glued to the screen. "Nick outsmarted Yuri."

"I guess there's a first time for everything," said Patty.

Nick's move made him rather cocky. "See, what did I tell ya? You guys are looking at the new and improved Nick Rogers."

"It's amazing what a few commons and repeats can do for an amateur's deck," laughed Carter.

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up." Nick waved his hand pretentiously to show he did not care what Carter had to say. "It doesn't change the fact that I have the lead in the match. And it's my turn, too. Oh yeah, watch this. I use Polymerization, fusing together Mystical Elf and Curtain of the Dark Ones to become Kamionwizard!"

He summoned a sorcerer in red and black armor wielding a large scythe. Long blonde hair came out from the back of his head. His face was concealed behind a vile black and red mask.

ATK/1300

Patty slurped the last of her cherry soda while making a confused expression on her face. "Uh...Earth to Nick. Have you not seen Yuri's Mammoth Graveyard? Plus, your Kamionwizard is a Dark monster. He won't get the field power bonus."

"Gee, thanks, Lady Obvious. But with this card, I won't have to worry about it anymore. I activate Mystical Space Typhoon. Your Field Spell goes adios!"

"Ah, crap," said Yuri.

Nick nodded. "That's right. And your Invigoration card still makes your Mammoth much more powerful, but I've got a little spell of my own. I equip my Kamionwizard with the magic power of the Malevolent Nuzzler. The magical charms from this sexy enchantress will increase the power of my Kamionwizard by seven hundred points for a grand total of two thousand."

Patty slowly clapped her hands. "Congratulations. You can add."

"What's the matter, Pats? Mad that Yuri's not as strong as you say he is. Go, Kamionwizard! Slice and dice his Mammoth Graveyard!"

Kamionwizard let out a horrible laugh as he ran toward his opponent. He jumped into the air with a mighty bound and lifted his scythe. He then slashed it across Mammoth Graveyard's skull. The great beast bellowed in defeat and exploded, dealing another 400 points to Yuri's Life Points. Now, he was at 1100 and Nick was standing tall with 2000.

"See, I've taken no damage this entire Duel," Nick boasted. "Got anything to say about that?"

"Don't get cocky," said Patty, taking a stick of very sweet bubblegum out of her baggy cargo pants. "You have the lead, so find a way to maintain it."

"I draw," said Yuri. "I summon Emperor of the Land and Sea in defense mode and switch Grappler to defense as well."

Nick snapped his fingers, he felt he had all he needed to prove his point to Patty. "Running scared, Yuri? I summon Bean Soldier in attack mode!"

He summoned a bean with a small sword, skinny arms, and legs with small curved, brown boots.

ATK/1400

I'll attack your Grappler with him! Go, Bean Soldier!"

Bean Soldier jumped and then scurried towards Yuri's Grappler. He sliced his head off with a mighty blow. Then, Kamionwizard made short work of Emperor of the Land and Sea. The big, blue, reptile roared in pain and exploded.

"And down they go!" Nick said pumping up his fist. "Wait till everyone hears I beat the Prince of Aquarius without a sweat. Your move, Yuri."

"I draw," he said. Patty smiled at the card he got and patted his shoulder. Yuri looked up at her and winked. "Well, I think it's time to shut you up, Nick. I used Pot of Greed, letting me draw two cards."

"Seriously, why does everyone have to explain what it does?" Nick wondered.

"Now, I activate the spell, Magical Stone Excavation. I discard two cards to add a spell card to my hand."

"Uh oh," said Nick. "Does that mean...?"

"Yeah, Gaia Power comes back." He played the spell at once, returning them to the enchanted forest with the great tree. "Now I summon my old pal, Black Dragon Jungle King."

"Yes!" Patty clenched her fist in excitement. She looked at the screen and saw the wingless dragon stomp out of the forest. With the field spell, his 2100 ATK became 2600.

Black Dragon Jungle King roared and breathed purple fire at Kamionwizard, completely obliterating him. Nick's Life Points fell to 1400.

"Oh no! I hate that fucking dragon! He always ruins everything! I'm switching Bean Soldier to defense mode."

"Is that all you have for a turn?" Yuri asked, drawing his card. "That's not going to work, Nick. I Special Summon Gilasaurus to the field in attack mode."

"Sweet!" said Nick. "Thanks to him, I can bring a monster back from the Graveyard. My Mystical Elf Returns to the field in defense. Now, you can't strike my Life Points, Yuri."

"Oh, I think he can," Patty retorted with a wink.

"See this?" Yuri said, showing Nick the card.

"Stop Defense!" Nick cried.

"That's right. Now your Mystical Elf is switched from attack to defense mode. Black Dragon Jungle King attacks and that's game."

"Aw, crud," Nick said. The Duel Screen showed Black Dragon Jungle King destroying the poor Mystical Elf with his purple flames. "Nice moves, Yuri. I think I still got a' ways before I can beat you. But mark my words, that day is gonna come soon. I'm going to get stronger."

"You'd better," said Carter. "Watching Yuri beat your ass is getting so old."

"Hardy, har, har," Nick replied. "Say, Patty, you game?"

Patty shook her head. "At the moment, no. I gotta use it, man."

"Just a quick game?"

"No, bro. It's urgent. Last night I had a one-pound beef burrito and a plate of nachos the size of a monster truck tire. And if I don't find the bathroom soon, this place is going to be called Brown Dragon Gaming, you dig?"

Yuri held up his hands. "Just...use it," he said.

Patty's eyes widened. She held her stomach. "Oh, God!" she squealed and ran away.

"Sheesh," said Tyson. "If she keeps eating out like that, she's gonna lose them curves, know what I'm saying?"

"I sure as hell don't want her to lose 'em," Nick said, picking up his cards. "She has to look good for our first date."

Carter pinched the bridge of his nose. "Dipshit. You can't still be thinking Patty is going to want to go out with you, do you, Nick?"

"She digs me. She just doesn't know it yet."

"What the hell do you have to offer a girl like Patty?" said Yuri. "Sure, she's foul-mouthed, lacks decent manners, and may dress like a skimpy punk, but she comes from a very wealthy family. Her dad is a top-ranking officer from RAPTOR. She's a millionaire. And you..."

Nick paused. He stared angrily at Yuri. "What? Say it. Go on. Say it!"

"You're a stowaway," said Yuri. "The kind of people her father is paid to hunt down and deport from the island. Do you really think Lt. Commander Troy McKnight is going to want his daughter to go out with a stowaway?"

"But your dad and I are really tight," said Nick. "That's got to count for something."

Tyson sighed. "Nick. You saved Yuri's life, and for that, you've made Mr. Montgomery forever grateful. But I've seen firsthand how Troy deals with stowaways. He shows no mercy. He doesn't care who is on your side. In the end, you're just another dollar on his paycheck. And if something happens, God forbid, Mr. Montgomery ain't gonna do nothing. The Lt. Commander is one of the best he's got. He's ex-military, quelled the great Pirate Raid of '97, and stopped the robbery of the Aquarian Bank. Come on, Nick, I don't mean any offense, you're cool, bro." He locked hands with him. "But if things got heavy, Mr. Montgomery would choose him over you. 'Cause he's worth more than you."

"Ex-military," Nick scoffed. "A drunk like him? He probably cleaned the shitters or something."

"Troy McKnight?" Yuri retorted loudly. "No. He didn't. He was in Somalia."

"Huh?"

"Mogadishu. Black Hawk Down? Does that ring the bell?"

"You mean like the movie? He was there?"

"He was," Tyson said nodding his head. "He was about as young as we were. He's seen shit. Really bad stuff. Of course, he drinks it away. Aside from being a vet and a hero here in the city, he also saved Yuri's life."

"He did?"

"Remember when I was kidnapped by those terrorists?" Yuri crossed his arms and leaned back on his chair. "Maybe not. We were little kids at the time. But Lt. Commander Troy led the team that saved me from them." He looked at the ceiling. "At least, I think it was him who saved me."

The memories of a man with grayish-pink hair flashed in his eyes. His maniacal sneer. His demonic eyes. "Bakura," he whispered.

"Huh?" said Carter.

"Nothing. The point is, Patty is way out of your league, Nick. You've got to stop chasing her. Otherwise, you might get hurt."

"I appreciate your concern, guys, but the Lt. Commander doesn't scare me. He may do a good job of tossing out people he deems unequal to himself, but he ain't a good father. Patty came into class with another bruise on her arm."

Yuri, Tyson, and Carter sighed at once. They did notice that. And it possibly explained the limp she had today.

"I talked to my father about it," said Yuri. "Patty denies anything happens."

Nick slammed his fist on the table. "Oh, gee, I wonder who made her say that."

"She does a good job of hiding it," said Carter. "I was with her in the bathroom at school last year. I watched as she applied makeup to one of the bruises on her shoulder. When I asked what happened, she told me to shut up and mind my own business. I was hurt. She never talked to me that way." Tears formed in his eyes, messing up his eyeliner. "OMG, what a bitch. Anyways, Nick, honey, she doesn't want to admit anything is wrong."

"More likely she doesn't want to lose that fortune of hers," said Tyson. "If Lt. Commander Troy goes down, Patty's going down with him. She'll lose everything."

They heard the toilet flush in the bathroom. Patty walked out and stretched. "Phew," she said in relief. "I wouldn't go in there for a couple of days...Or weeks."

"You nasty, ho," Carter said, covering his nose, for Patty drowned her clothes in perfume.

Patty laughed and smacked his back. "So, what are you guys up for right now? I don't feel like spending the whole day here playing?"

"OMG, I know," said Carter. "Come on fellas, let's hit the beach or something. Head to the park. Check out the mall. I don't know. Anything is better than hanging out here all day."

"I'd rather stay and work on my deck," said Yuri.

"Same," said Nick. "I was this close to beating Yuri. I want to try again."

"Well, let's see," Patty said, taking out her deck. "You wanted to play against me, right?"

"Yes, I did!" Nick said, shuffling his deck. "Beware, Patty. I am gonna be unstoppable with these new cards in my deck."

Patty yawned. "You sure about that? You said the same thing when you played against Yuri, and you got your butt kicked seven times."

"I was going easy on him. Let's do this."

Many turns later, Nick was about ready to end the match.

"Okay, Patty," Nick said choosing his next card. "I summon Celtic Guardian in attack mode. And he'll clear the field of your That Which Feeds on Life. That brings your Life Points down to 300, babe, one more deadly attack from my elf guy and you lose. Give it up!"

"I draw," Patty said calmly. "I summon Baron of the Fiend Sword." She summoned a demon resembling a bulldog, dressed in a fine black tuxedo and top hat. He carried an exquisite sword made of shadowy steel that looked like darkness made solid and outlined with a dark red aura.

"At Fifteen-fifty attack points, he won't do too much damage. But once I give him this card, he'll end the game. I equip him with the Axe of Despair."

"Where did you get that?"

"It's ultra-rare," Yuri answered as he held a basket of fries. "You're going to have a hard time finding it. And for good reason. That card boosts the power of her monsters by one-thousand points."

"Wha-wha-what!?" Nick babbled.

Patty smirked and puckered her lips, making a kissy face expression. "That brings your Life Points down to zero, Nick.  Once again, I win and you suck."

"Aw, lame!" Nick groaned, smashing his face on the table. "You really do know how to bring a guy down, Patty. How did you get such luck getting that powerful card?"

Patty chuckled, shuffled her deck, then fixed her bow. "I didn't get it through luck. My grandma gave it to me yesterday. She's more of a collector than a Duelist. She's got like seven copies of this card in her Spell Card binder."

"Yeah?" Nick said, launching himself out of his chair.

"Don't even think about it," Patty warned him. "My grandma is no charitable woman. I had to help her paint a mural on the tool shed in the backyard all weekend to earn this, and a hundred extra bucks."

"Man, you guys just rake in money, huh?" Nick sighed sadly. "I never get anything."

"Because you don't work for it, baby," Carter said, fixing his makeup. "You just expect all good things to fall onto your lap. Life doesn't function that way."

Nick wasn't satisfied. "Easy for you to say. You guys were all born here and have rich parents to live off of."

"The Prince of Aquarius living off his father's fortune?" laughed Tyson. "Come on, man. If that were true, Yuri would be driving Ferraris and spending money like crazy. Not to mention he wouldn't be working here to earn his keep."

"He's still got more than I've got," Nick countered.

"There is just no satisfying this guy," Patty stood up. "Anybody next?"

"I'd like to play," a boy in a very fancy uniform said, walking towards their table. He was no more than eight years old but the uniform he wore was from Phobos Corp Academy. A school Yuri's father would have wanted him to go to, but due to his troubled past and horrible marks, he was denied from going there, much to the shame of Mr. Montgomery.

"Who are you?" Patty asked.

"Seth Conroy, my dear," the boy said, handing her a flower.

"Do you always carry these?" Patty asked.

"Always, for the beautiful women whom I encounter. Which one of you is worthy of my time?"

"Think you're a real hotshot, do you?" said Nick. "Sit down and let's play. I can take you one."

"After your last performance, I think not," the boy said with a devious smirk. He pointed at the Duel Screen, still showing replays of the last Duel between him and Patty. I'm looking for a much worthier game. Which one of you lot is the Prince of Aquarius?"

"Figures," Carter said, jerking his thumb at Yuri.

"Me?" Yuri said, pointing at himself.

"Yes," Seth said with a nod. "Ah, there's no mistaking that green eye of yours. Extraordinary functions you've got there, Yuri. You're the first human in recorded history to be documented with bioluminescence. But that's not why I'm here. I heard you started Dueling recently, and I want to see your skills for myself."

Nick got out of his seat. "Yuri, obviously we're dealing with a snot-nosed punk over here. Show him proper manners, would ya?"

"Oh, contra ire," Seth said, taking his seat. "I don't expect to lose. See, I'm a prodigy. Not only have I excelled through school, but I'm a very capable Duelist. I've earned my place in the Duel Monsters championship next year."

"At such a young age?" Patty asked, cocking her hip to the side. "And that uniform is from Phobos Corp Academy. Isn't that a high school?"

"It is," Seth replied, looking at Patty amorously. "But, being a boy genius, I've been skipped right into your level."

"No way," said Tyson. "That's lit."

"Ah, lit, indeed. Yuri Montgomery. I think we've wasted enough time. Come, let us Duel."

LP 2000

"You may start," said Seth, not bothering to want to roll the dice.

"Okay. I summon Tomozaurus in attack mode."

A theropod roared as it stomped into the colosseum. Its scales were the shade of chewing tobacco and it had glowing yellow eyes. Despite its fearsome presence, the dinosaur had mere 500 ATK points.

"Next, I set a card face-down and end my turn."

"Ah, trying to bait me into a trap," Seth said as he drew. "Nice try. I use Mystical Space Typhoon to blow it away."

Yuri discarded his trap. It was a Draining Shield card, which could have increased his Life Points if he attacked with a monster.

"I play Polymerization, fusing Monster Egg and Hinotama Soul together to create the mighty Charubin the Fire Knight."

A wall of flames appeared before Tomozaurus. From them emerged a tall and lithe knight wearing silvery-steel armor and a ragged red cape. His weapon of choice was a massive spiked ball and chain, which he wielded with a long handle that required him to use both his arms.

ATK/1100

"Attack him, Charubin!"

The Fire Knight spun his massive weapon and struck Tomozaurus in the gut. The dinosaur growled and shattered to pieces.

Nick cringed from the impact. "Ouch, that had to hurt."

Yuri's Life Points fell to 1400.

Seth chuckled, amused by the devastation his monster had caused. "I set a card face-down and end my turn. Your turn, dear boy."

"Okay, that was a lucky shot," Yuri admitted. "I summon Armored Lizard in attack mode. With an attack of fifteen hundred, your Fire Knight will be torn to shreds. Attack!"

"I think not," said Seth. "I reveal my face-down card. Reinforcements. This will boost my monster's attack by five hundred points."

Charubin smashed his spiked ball into Armored Lizard's chest, cracking the thick armor that gave the creature its name. Yuri was now down to 1300 Life Points.

"Attacking without considering your opponent's face-down cards is a childish move," said Seth. "Fool. As the heir of the game and your father's company, you should know better than that."

"I'll keep that in mind," said Yuri. "I set two cards face-down and end my turn."

"Very good. See, you're learning now. But that won't do you any good. I use Heavy Storm to clear your face-down cards."

"No, you won't. I counter with Magic Jammer. By discarding a card from my hand, my trap will negate your spell."

"Okay, so you managed to counter my moves. But it won't do you any good. I use Pot of Greed to draw two cards. Next, I use the effect of Monster Reborn to bring back your Tomozaurus in attack mode."

Yuri blinked. "Huh? What would you do that for?" He then realized the purpose of that play. "Oh, shoot!"

"That's right. But that's not all. I use the magic of Polymerization once again, fusing together Mystic Horseman and Battle Ox to create the mighty Rabid Horseman!"

His fusion conjured up a minotaur with the body of a centaur. The Rabid Horseman roared, pounding his boulder-sized fist on his chest. His right frontal leg clopped on the ground eagerly for battle.

ATK/2000

"And with this attack, I end the Duel."

"That easy, huh?" Yuri asked.

"What?"

"Didn't you say it was childish to attack when your opponent had a card face-down? I still have one left if you haven't noticed. Wall of Disruption. This will cause your monsters to lose eight hundred for each one you control."

"Oh, drat!" cried Seth. "No matter, my Rabid Horseman is still stronger."

"I know," Yuri said calmly. "But I'm still standing. Can't say the same for you after this turn."

"You bluff? I don't lose to rookies like you."

"There's a first time for everything."

"Why you. You will not defeat me. I set Charubin in defense mode and end my turn."

"I draw," said Yuri. "I play Pot of Greed. Next, I use the spell, Stop Defense. This will force Charubin back to attack mode."

Seth gasped. "No! He has only zero attack points."

"That he does. He'll be of no help against this. Black Dragon Jungle King."

With that attack, the Prodigy of Phobos Academy lost his first match in many, many, months.

"I...this can't be."

"So how come it is," Patty taunted him.

Seth sighed heavily. He picked up his cards and stood up. "It seems I have much to learn. Yuri. Thank you. And good luck. Perhaps you'll be as good as me one day."

Yuri laughed. "Thank you for playing against me. If you ever want to play again, we'll be here."

The boy smiled and waved, then made his way out the door.

Yuri felt very pleased with his victory...until.

His head stung as though someone shot an arrow into it. He saw an image of the man from his dream. Yami. He was smiling at Yuri and gave a thumbs up.

"Yuri!" Nick cried. He handed his friend a bottle of water. "You okay, man?"

Yuri gasped for air. "I'm fine," he finally said. "It's okay. I just...I just got a headache. Tyson...my pills."

"You sure, bro?" Tyson said, handing Yuri his medicine. "We should get you to the doctors."

"I'm fine," Yuri said, taking them and then gulping down water. "I think we've been in here for too long."

Tyson patted Yuri on the back. "You know what, guys? I think the beach sounds like a pretty good idea right now."


Drakestone Inn, Emboldor - Joey


"Well, that was pathetic," Joey said, staring at the Seeing Stone that Serenity gave him. It showed replays of Yuri's Duel with Nick.

He was sitting at an inn with Tristan and Duke, all three of them exhausted after a long hunt to bring down Skullbird monster that was terrorizing a town. The Earl paid them handsomely with a sack of gold coins and a chipped ruby, but those went directly into Serenity's account for the expedition she was saving up for.

Still, they had enough silver and a large coin called a Plate, which bought them a week at the inn.

Joey took a long gulp of beer from his tankard and then asked: "Is that really all they have? All that they can play with?"

Duke nodded his head. "Sadly, yes. Kaiba doesn't want to give them access to the new cards until Yuri improves."

"That sucks," said Joey. "Why hold the whole world back because of one guy? I thought the game paid for that whole island he lives in."

"That island was a gift to those people," said Duke. "Paid for by Seto Kaiba. Why? I don't know. The whole history of that place is covered in black ink."

"Why?" Tristan asked, cutting into his pork sausage.

"Can't answer that," Duke replied with a shrug. "I may be the High King's chamberlain, but even that information is above my pay grade. I do know that Duel Monsters wasn't that popular of a game until recently. Ever since Yuri's twelfth birthday, the game increased in popularity with the Magic Ruler, Pharoah's Servant, and Dark Labyrinth booster sets having been released."

"What!" cried Joey. "You've gotta be kidding me! Those sets are ancient!"

Duke shrugged. "It's all Seto wants to give them. Maybe it's for the best Yuri starts off this way. I think Pendulums, Synchros, and that other stuff we play with are way out of their leagues."

"Argh, that Kaiba," said Joey. "Didn't he recently send a hundred cards into the Void so he could teach aliens how to play the game? What makes these people any different?"

"The people of that world aren't that smart. Despite their intelligence, they use it to make each other lazier and upgrade useless things like phones and music players. Had it not been for Kaiba, the technology that keeps that city moving and afloat would not even exist. You know, they can get clean unlimited energy from the sun but continue to kill each other for oil and pollute their planet with toxic power plants. The people of Earth are way too greedy and way too sensitive."

"You don't think that's affected Yuri in any way, do you?" Tristan asked. He shoved a cut of sausage into his mouth.

"Our Agent is keeping a close eye on him. And based on the reports Pegasus gets every week, Yuri's doing just fine. He's had a shift in character, thank goodness."

Joey finished the last of his ale. "I know, man. What was up with him all those years? He turned into a thug. A violent thug."

"Bakura's work, no doubt," said Duke. "Thankfully his Duel with the Pharaoh cleansed his spirit and cleared his mind. He's no longer tainted by darkness."

"But that's a big whoops on our part," said Joey. "How could we not anticipate Bakura would be there? How could we not have seen him? It makes me so angry."

"You're not the only one, Joey," Duke said with a heavy sigh. "I cut my arms for weeks when I found out. Chastisement for being so cynical. For thinking putting Yuri in another world was going to be enough to keep him away from all evil."

Tristan wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and set it on his lap. "What's done is done, you guys. The Spirit of the Puzzle exorcised all the evil out of our Prince with that Duel."

"But what's to keep Bakura from coming back?" said Duke. "If he corrupted Yuri once, what's to stop him from doing it again?"

"King Antilles, that's who!" Joey slammed his fist on the table. "I can't believe he barred us from going in to help him. If that doesn't prove he's bought out the Senate, I don't know what can."

"Well, they're all on his side and there's nothing we can do about it," said Duke. "The only thing we can do is hope Serenity can get through to the other world with that card. And hope that Yuri uses it well."

"Of course, he can," said Joey. "I've watched Yuri's Duels for quite some time now. He believes in his deck. He's got the Heart of the Cards on his side. So long as he's got that, he'll be unbeatable. And before you know it, he'll be back home in no time. I trust in him and so should you."

He looked at Yuri's image in the magical sphere. Joey clenched his fist, his spirit burning passionately. "Come on, Yuri," Joey muttered. "Don't let us down, man. The whole world is countin' on ya."


 

Chapter Text


The Ruby Dragon Gaming Shop, Aquarius - Yuri

September 25 - Year 18 4AOS


He couldn't let anyone find out. He just couldn't! He splashed water on his face repeatedly, praying that his efforts would dull the color of the dark bags underneath his eyes and relieve his heavy eyelids from the burden of sleepiness.

Dreaming again. What would Sergei and the others think of him? Surely they'd think he was crazy, especially having dreams about the spiky-haired individual, Yami, who kept challenging this poor Prince character and beating him until he turned to dust.

There was a little voice in the back of his head telling him that the prince was him, but Yuri was sure that was not the case, and he forced his entire being to believe in that.

Being the king of another dimension? Real monsters? Magic? Living cartoon characters? There was no way. It was too ridiculous.

"Stupid," he said, splashing more water on his face and slapping his cheeks. He looked at his reflection. "Get a grip on yourself. Next thing you're going to be looking for Roger Rabbit."

There was a loud banging on the door. "Yuri!" Sergei shouted. "You've been in there for ten minutes. Finish whatever it is you are doing and get back to work at once."

"I'm sorry," Yuri muttered, trying to come up with an excuse. "Those scrambled eggs mom made me didn't go down so well."

He heard Natalya laughing, for she was close by and heard what he said. He moaned and scrubbed his hands over his face in embarrassment. Sergei told her to get back to work and rapped on the door again.

"Well, you have one minute to finish what you're doing in there and return to your duties, young man. And everything better be clean when you get out of there. If I do happen to see a shit smear on that toilet bowl, I will personally tell Natalya to shit in your mother's fish pond. She'll do it, you know. She's a rebel."

"What!?" shouted Natalya. "I would never!"

Yuri splashed one last handful of water on his face, dried himself, and then walked outside into the storage room to pick up the latest shipment of figures. He heard Sergei's radio blasting Bryan Adam's song, Everything I do.

That made his stomach feel ice cold. The song was used as a promo for an old Robin Hood movie when he was very young. He recalled all the dreams he had. They were all set in a strange medieval world. Castles, old villages, majestic forests, and people in old clothing.

That just made Yuri laugh. It reminded him of how foolish it was to think these dreams were anything more than just dreams. The middle ages were over and most importantly, monsters and magic did not exist. He looked around at the stockroom, examining all the logos on the boxes. He stopped and listening to the sound of the hanging lamps on the ceiling humming. Electricity. Modern technology. Normalcy. He was just Yuri and this was his home. That was that.

Natalya was leaning against the wall checking her phone, waiting for Yuri. She looked up from her phone and smiled. "Feel better?" she asked, trying to suppress her laughter.

"Shut up," Yuri mumbled, picking up the boxes of Anime figures. "What are you looking at?"

"Patty," laughed Natalya. "She's been hinting a special surprise to her followers on her eighteenth next week."

"Oh, gee, I wonder what it could be," Yuri said, checking his phone to see Patty's update.

She was clad in a Misty cosplay, looking innocent and sweet as she held her stuffed Pokemon in her arms. Natalya swiped her phone to go to the next image, this time it was Patty in a tank top and denim jeans cut so short, they looked like panties.

"That girl is going to run into trouble one of these days," Yuri said, feeling horribly displeased.

"Oh, don't be such a pain in her butt," said Natalya, putting her phone away. "Let the girl have some fun."

"You haven't been here for too long," said Yuri. "You don't know Patty like I do. Sergei chipped in to get her out of jail because we let her 'have some fun'. Eighteen is a dangerous age for girls like her. They think they can do anything now because they're adults. And then RAPTOR is on the news excavating a dead body from the harbor."

"I had no idea it was that bad," Natalya said, pocketing her phone. "What did she do?"

"Party late on school nights, fabricated fake IDs to get into the clubs, attending yacht parties where rowdy monkeys would use her as a plaything. That kind of stuff. And we can add petty theft to that list as well."

"She's a bad girl?" Natalya said scratching her chin. "Funny, she didn't strike me as being that kind of person."

"My friends and I have done what we could to keep her straight," Yuri explained, leading her down the hall to the store. "But this whole lewd cosplay scene she's been playing out is making me uncomfortable. And I fear it's going to get worse once she turns eighteen next month. I'm scared for her, Natalya."

Natalya laughed and lightly elbowed him on the arm. "Come on, Yuri. Patty is a sexy girl. You know you like her content."

"I'm serious! This is how it starts, Nattie. First, she poses in raunchy cosplay, then it's her underwear...scratch that, she already did that last week in a twerking video she posted. Man, then it's nudes. After that, it wouldn't surprise me if she started doing amateur porn."

"Yuri!" Natalya almost shouted. She conked him on the head with her palm. "I'm VERY disappointed in you. How could you think of your friend in such a way?"

"You think I'm happy making conclusions like that? No, of course not! But when you see the ones you love hanging out with certain types of people, go to stupid parties, and act a certain way, what else are you supposed to do?"

"Grow up, will you?" Natalya said, holding open the door for him. "What a stupid way to think. Not to mention dangerous — to both you and to Patty."

"Sorry," Yuri said sadly.

"EEEK!" someone at one of the Duel Tables shouted in the shop's Dueling Room.

It was Patty.

The Duel Screen showed a monk called Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer spin his staff and destroy her Zera the Mant with ease. Patty's cards dropped out of her limp fingers. Even though he couldn't see her expression, Yuri could hear her babbling and even sniffling.

"And that's that," said a young man, clad in an indigo and gold uniform, showing all in the shop that he was a student from the elite Phobos Academy. "You didn't pose much of a challenge. I knew all that talk about you was just crap. It goes to show that those followers are more in love with your pictures than your Dueling skills. But I'm not surprised you were so mediocre."

"I...I lost?" Patty breathed. "But...but how? I didn't even get a chance to play my best cards."

The young man chuckled and slid his fingers through his thick, light brown hair. His thick bangs bounced over his forehead. "You lost indeed. I won fair and square. Now, it's time to hand over my prize."

"Here," Patty said, handing him some cards which included an ultra-rare spell Axe of Despair and United We Stand.

"Excellent," the lad said, swiping the cards from her fingers. "It makes me wonder how cards like these can find their way to such insignificant specks."

"What was that?" Patty growled, grinding her teeth and clenching her fists in anger.

"Nothing," said the lad. "Tell me, is there anyone here worthy of my talents? I grow weary of you, Patty. Do the world of Duel Monsters a favor and just throw your deck away. Stick to showing off your bubble butt to drooling mongrels. It's the only thing you're good at."

"Now wait just a second!" Natalya said hurrying to the table. "Just what is going on here, Floyd? Don't you have anywhere better to be? A garbage dump perhaps? Or thousands of feet beneath the sea and away from humankind?"

"Natalya," said Floyd. "I'm surprised to see you working here."

"You know this creep, Nattie?" Patty asked, picking up her cards.

"Sadly, I do. He's Floyd Patterson, captain of the new Phobos Academy Duel Monsters Team. His skills are top-notch, but his attitude is total garbage. But as far as I'm concerned, those cards belong to Patty. Give it back to her right now!"

"No can do, babe," Floyd said, tauntingly waving the cards in between his fingers. "Patty put them up for grabs; those were the terms of our game. I won, she lost. The cards are both mine."

"Then I'll play you for it!" Natalya dug into the pouch in her apron. She held up her deck.

"You wish to play?" Floyd chuckled. "Very well, but you must put that Simorgh bird on the line."

"Natalya, don't do it!" Patty urged her. "Not for me. Like you said, he's good. He didn't even let me play my Zera the Mant. Don't worry about United We Stand, I can just find another one."

"No you can't," Natalya said with a smile. "You put up a lot of good cards and a handful of cash to get it from Parker. Please, let me win it back for you."

"I can find another one!" Patty continued to argue. "But you won't find another Simorgh. Natalya, that card is special to you. It's a keepsake from your grandmother. I won't stand to see you lose it to this creep."

"Are we going to play, or what?" Natalya asked Floyd, feeling insulted that Patty would think she would lose to the arrogant boy. "Axe of Despair and United We Stand for my Simorgh."

"Nattie!"

"It's a deal," said Floyd. "Sit down. Let's play."

LP 2000

"I'll begin first," Natalya announced. She drew. "I set a card face-down and summon Takuhee in Attack Mode."

She placed her card on the sensor. The screen beside her displayed the large brown bird monster flapping its wings in the ancient Colosseum.

ATK/1450

She continued her turn. "Then I equip him with Follow Wind, which increases his attack and defense by three-hundred points. But I'm not done yet, for I use the Field Spell, Mountain. This will increase my Winged-Beast's attack points by two-hundred points."

ATK/1950

"I end my turn."

"My turn," Floyd grinned as he drew. "I set a monster face-down. That ends my turn."

"Playing chicken are we?" Natalya taunted.

Patty bit her lip. It was unwise for Natalya to be so overconfident. She made the same mistake before and it cost her dearly. She chose not to say anything to Natalya so as not to rile her.

Natalya drew. "I summon Faith Bird!"

She called on her blue-feathered falcon with a long graceful tail and brilliant white claws.

ATK/1500 + 200 = 1700 ATK

Natalya attacked with Tukuhee first. The bird screeched and soared into the air, flying high over the Colosseum. Like a jet plane, it roared as it zoomed through the ice-cold mountain air. It extended its claws. They flashed in the dim sunlight. It approached Floyd's face-down monster. The monster was flipped up.

A man wearing orange robes with an ornate blue shoulder cape and matching hat rose out of the ground.

Banisher of the Light

ATK/100 DEF/2000

LV 3

He held out his palm and created a divine-looking arcane glyph with animated rings and flowing runes written in an ancient language. Tukuhee ran into the barrier and was knocked back. It screeched and then landed flat on its back when it hit the ground with a thud.

Natalya stuttered when she saw the battle taking place on the screen. She lost a mere 50 Life Points, but the nasty look and obnoxious chuckle coming from Floyd made her feel like she lost 10,000 points of damage.

Floyd rudely declared his turn. He slowly slid the top card off his deck, chuckling at Natalya's misfortune. "I summon a monster face-down and set this card on my backboard. Your move."

Natalya was nervous at this point. Another face-down monster. She started feeling sweat moistening her underarms. Floyd didn't seem to care if he was attacked or not. What if he wanted her to attack. What if he didn't? What if he was just playing with her emotions. She batted her eyelashes nervously. Losing to him was bad enough, but to know her grandmother's keepsake card was just unacceptable.

Patty was right, she thought to herself. Accepting Floyd's terms was a big mistake. At this point, she would rather deal with his taunting than lose her card. But it was too late now. Forfeiting was still a loss.

She decided to gamble and attacked the face-down monster. This time, Faith Bird was attacking. It screeched and looked like a turquoise blur in the air. It finally struck the face-down monster, which was revealed to be a Needle Worm.

"Allow me to explain what my little friend does," said Floyd. "And hold on tight because his effect is gonna 'bug' you." He laughed at his lame humor. "Needle Worm when flipped forces you to discard the top five cards of your deck. But here's where my Banisher of the Light comes to play. So long as he's out on the field, all cards are banished instead of being sent to the Graveyard. So those cards you have to discard are removed from the game. Go on."

Natalya did as she was told. She gasped. Simorgh was one of the cards. He was banished and there was nothing she could do to bring him back to the game. Just like that, Floyd prevented her from using her best monster. Was it a premonition of things to come? Was she really going to lose her prized monster?

"My turn," Floyd said laughing. "So much for your oversized chicken, eh? And without him, there's nothing you can do to stop me. I use the spell, Card Destruction. We now discard our hands and draw the same amount of cards we previously held."

Natalya gulped. Her hand only had two cards, so she could only draw two cards. But Floyd still had a full hand pretty much. He had more cards than Natalya did, giving him an advantage over her.

He held up his next card mockingly. "Now, I flip up my face-down card, Ultimate Offering. Now we summon more monsters at the cost of five hundred points per creature. I'll set this monster face-down and offer up five hundred of my points to set these extra cards. Now, I play the Spell Card, Delinquent Duo. At the cost of one thousand of my Life Points, I can select a card in your hand and discard it. Or in this case, banish it, thanks to Banisher of the Light. Oh, Skull Red Bird. Good card; too bad you can't use it anymore. Ah, but my spell has another effect. If you have more cards in your hand, you have to select a card to discard. And since you only have one card, you don't have much of a choice."

Natalya sighed and sent her Queen Bird away. She bit her lip and tightened every muscle in her body to keep herself from shedding any tears and giving this bully any more pleasure.

"You're in the lead now, Natalya. Silly me. Oh, wait! Never mind, I'm going to get those points back with this card, Poison of the Old Man. This lets me choose to either regain my points or take points from you. I'm choosing to increase my Life Points. Now I gain twelve-hundred."

Natalya wrinkled her nose. Her toes curled in her shoes and her fingers trembled. He was starting to annoy her. Mind games; this she knew. He was messing with her to make her emotional and do whatever it took to take him down. Sadly, it was working. She could not bear to listen to him trash-talking her and belittling her cards. And most of all, she could not bear to lose her keepsake.

What was I thinking?

She attacked. "NO!" shouted Patty. But it was too late. Takuhee attacked, soaring towards the face-down monster.

Another Needle Worm. Another five cards were banished from the game. She was too scared to attack the other face-down monster and ended her turn.

Floyd continued using cards to damage Natalya's deck, picking it apart piece by piece until she had nothing left.

She lost via deck out.

"No," she moaned. "I lost."

"That you did," he laughed, picking up his cards. He held up his prized Banisher of the Light Card. "You were worse than the last one. Patty at least did damage to me. Now, a deal is a deal. Fork over your rarest card now."

"Natalya, don't do it," Yuri said, running towards the table. "That card is..."

"No, Yuri," Natalya sniffled. "My grandmother taught me to honor my word. No matter what. And that's just what I'm going to do."

She handed Floyd the card. He quickly swiped it from her fingers.

"Give it back!" shouted Patty. "You don't need that card in your deck. You don't even run Winged-Beasts."

"My deck?" Floyd laughed. "This bloody chicken doesn't deserve a spot in my deck. But don't worry, maybe he'll serve as a coaster for my drink."

Natalya's nails dug into her palms.

Patty slammed both fists on the table. "If I so much as see a wrinkle on that card I'll..."

"Patty, stop!" Natalya said, head still down on the table. "Don't do anything reckless. Just stop."

"You won't get away with this!" Yuri shouted.

Floyd slid his fingers through his silky brown hair. A few locks bounced over his forehead. "You sound like a cheese ball Saturday morning character." He examined Yuri's glowing green eye. "Ah," he said nodding. "You're the Prince of Aquarius. Word on the street is you got some mystery monster in your deck."

"That's right," said Yuri. "You want it? Then you'll have to Duel me for it. I win, you give BOTH Patty and Natalya's cards back. I lose, you can have my new monster."

"Sure, nothing will please me more than defeating the son of Jacob Montgomery. And winning the monster that beat Randall Lawson will be a great pleasure."

"Fine," Yuri said, crossing his arms. "But, I don't have my deck on me right now, and I'm working all week. So why don't we schedule our match for this weekend? Sunday sound good?"

"Actually, that's a perfect time to face me," Floyd said, stuffing his three prizes into his breast pocket. "I sure hope you're ready."

"I'll beat you alright," Yuri growled, narrowing his eyes. "Now get the hell out of my uncle's store!"

Floyd scoffed, stood up, and put on his backpack. "Not that it matters to me. Once the new Dueling Grounds are complete, this dump will be obsolete. Smell ya later, losers. And you enjoy your Black Tyranno while you can, Yuri."

He got waved at them and stepped out the door.

Patty placed her hand on Yuri's shoulder. "I sure hope you know what you're doing, Yuri. That Black Tyranno is the strongest monster you have. Please, don't do this."

"I'm going to whether you like it or not, Patty. Don't talk me out of it."

"Yuri, don't," Natalya sobbed, wiping tears from her eyes. "You saw what he did to me. I don't want the same thing happening to you. Don't do this. Please."

"I'll find a way to do it," said Yuri. "Nobody messes with my friends and gets away with it. I'll get your cards back, girls. Don't worry."

"Ooooooo," hooted Patty. She arched her back provocatively and leaned on his shoulder. "You hear that, Nattie? We've got ourselves a knight in shining armor here."

"I suppose we do," she said. "I believe in you, Yuri. And thank you."

Andre Martin suddenly ran into the Duel Room. He placed his hands on his knees and bent over, trying to catch his breath. "I just saw a guy named Floyd Patterson walk out of here. I hope none of you Dueled him. He's been going to card shops all over Aquarius and challenging people for their best cards."

"You're a little late," said Patty. "Floyd whooped both my ass and Natalya's." She patted her backside.

Andre gasped and stood up straight. "Aw, man. I...I'm so sorry. I wish I could have gotten here sooner."

"There was nothing you could do about it," Sam said as he walked into the Duel Room while slurping on a soda. "Patty and Natalya are very stubborn girls. Believe me, they're not shy from backing out from a challenge."

Natalya clicked her tongue and shuffled her deck. "I hate to admit it, but the kid's got a point. I really wanted to show that guy what for. Especially after what he said to Patty."

"I could get your cards back if you want," Andre suggested.

"That won't be necessary," Patty said. She placed her hand on Yuri's shoulder and shook it. "But we've already selected our hero for the task."

"Me?"

"Him?" Andre said. "Sorry, girls, I admire your confidence in your pal, but I hate to say it. He's not fit for the job."

"What are you saying?" Patty said in a graveling tone. "You dissing my boy?"

Andre shook his head at once. "Yuri, I'm just stating the facts, man. You're a good Duelist and all, but compared to Floyd Patterson, you don't stand a chance. Don't let your victory over Randall get to your head."

"Don't tell that to me," Yuri replied. He shook his hands around. "You got to tell it to this little lady. But, I already said I would and I'm a man of my word."

"I have no doubt about that." Andre stuffed his hands in his pockets. "But I'll be more than willing to take your place. I'm not so bad myself when it comes to Duel Monsters."

Sam laughed at him. "Dude, you think that just because you beat my lame-ass brother that you're good? No offense, guy, but Nick is just about the worst Duelist on the island. If you want a challenge, I say you go against me."

Andre looked at the boy while his mouth formed a grin of intrigue. Maybe the boy wasn't all talk like his brother. "So, is that a challenge, Sam?"

"Yeah, you bet it is. Yuri's got some skill. It's not much to boast about, but it's blooming. Come on, big guy. You talk a big game. Let's see what you got. Ladies, step aside, please." Patty and Natalya got off their seats. Sam sped for Patty's seat and took off his backpack. He then looked up at Yuri and winked when he felt the warmth clinging to the seat. "Aww, yeah. It's still warm."

Patty rolled her eyes. "I'm getting a soda," she said walking away.  

"You're a real ladies' man, aren't you?" Andre shuffled his deck and placed them on the LED mat. "Maybe a match with me will teach you some manners."

LP 2000

T1

"Whatever, let's Duel!" Sam declared. "I'll go first. I summon Lightning Conger in attack mode!"

An electric eel-like monster flashed onto a field surrounded by the ruins of an ancient castle on the Duel Screen. It screeched as it reeled its head up and blasted lighting all over the place as a sign of dominance. 

T2

"So that's all you can muster, little man?" Andre said with a snigger. "Man, the perks of being so young. Try this on for size, kid. The Mysterious Puppeteer. At 1000 attack points strong, your Lightning Conger is no match for it. Beat it, Puppeteer!"

 

The purple-robed puppet master knelt down and sicked his little wooden puppet at Sam's Lightning Conger. The puppet grew long claws which it used to slash the eel's body. Lightning Conger wagged its head from left to right before falling lifeless on the floor, his body disappearing.

T3

"You fell for it!" Sam said. "Did you really think I'd start off like that on purpose? Now you've left your monster open for this. Your Puppeteer is strong, but wait till you see this. First, I set this card face-down. Next, I activate the field spell, Mountain." The scenery in the game world changed. Now the monsters were standing on a temple on the top of a mountain, surrounded by a vast range of smaller, snow-capped mountains. "Now I summon this guy. Winged Dragon, Guardian of the Fortress Number One! Take that!" He smacked his card down with all his might and the screen displayed a big-headed blue dragon with two large wings and spikes going down its back to its tail. 

"My Puppeteer's effect activates!" Andre declared. "When you summon a monster, my Life Points increase by 500."

Sam didn't care. He was proud his monster was now the strongest on the field. He held up his fist in triumph. "Cool! Now with my mountain spell, his attack points increase to 1600. Looks like your Puppeteer is about to head into early retirement. Destroy him, Winged Dragon. Fireball attack!" The blue dragon flapped its wings forward to thrust him upward above the field. It then opened its mouth and fired a large fireball at Andre's Puppeteer. The Mysterious Puppeteer screamed, then was turned to ashes, dropping Andre's Life Points. 

T4

"I draw," said Andre.

"You should have seen the look on your face!" Sam declared. "Oh, man, it was priceless!"

"No need to be rude," Natalya commented. She was watching the Duel over his shoulder. Patty stood right beside her. She bit into her thumbnail nervously, hoping Andre would find some way to turn the game around. But he didn't. He went defensive the next turn and that was it.

T5

"Man, that's all? You're no better than my brother, Andre. "Awesome! Check this card out. Polymerization! Now I fuse together Winged Dragon Guardian of the Fortress and Fairy Dragon together to become the mighty Kaiser Dragon!" 

Andre let out a gulp and glared at the screen, watching Sam's two dragons get sucked into the fusion vortex. From it emerged a golden serpentine dragon with skinny arms and legs and large wings. Sam giggled confidently in his seat. Seeing the creature come out of the vortex like that brought such joy to him. A feeling of power. And, the dragon was a super-rare. Holographic, which was more than anything his older brother had in his collection. 

"Whoa," Patty said. "I've got to say that's one impressive dragon, Sam. Nice work."

Sam looked over his shoulder. "Thanks, Patty. That means a lot. If you think he's impressive now, babe, just wait till you see what he can do next. I equip Kaiser Dragon with Dragon Treasure. This card will increase his attack to 2600. And don't forget about my Mountain spell. This will give him another juicy boost, raising his attack points to 2800! Now he's the strongest monster on the field. Combo attacks are devastating, huh? Hope you're taking notes, Yuri. This is something you need to do, too. You can't always rely on brute strength to win your Duels. Not all players are as weak as my brother."

"He's got a point," Patty said reluctantly. Even the little prick's advice, as insulting as it was, came out as magnanimous. Sam pointed at Sam's monster and declared his next move. "Go, Kaiser Dragon! Attack his face-down monster!" 

Andre chuckled and flipped over his monster. "Sorry, junior. You've just attacked my Man-Eater Bug. And he'll automatically destroy one monster when he's flipped."

"Yeah, that's not gonna happen, moron. I activate my trap card. Royal Command."

"Damn!" Patty cried out. "That's a very rare trap card, Sammy. And not only that, it will cancel out all of Andre's flip effects. Sorry, big guy, but your Man-Eater Bug is useless." 

"Where was that card when I needed it," said Natalya. "That card is the bane of Floyd's deck."

"It's up for grabs," Sam boasted. "The cost is one date. Any takers?"

Patty shook her head and flicked him off. "No, thanks, chump. Yuri's going to take care of Floyd for us."

T6

"I still say you're making a mistake," said Andre. "If you want your cards back, you're just going to have to trust in my skills. I can help you. I summon another monster in defense mode and end my turn."

T7

"How lame," Sam said with a laugh. "Stop saying you can take on Floyd. Admit it, chump. You're just trying to impress the girls." Andre said nothing. "Yeah, just as I thought. They're way out of your league man. Patty is the daughter of RAPTOR's commander. And Natalya is the heir to a multi-million dollar franchise. Ruby Dragon Gaming. And just who are you, huh? Where did you even come from, dude? You know what, don't answer that."

"I feel sorry for the woman that shit you out, dude," Patty said to Sam. "God, you're so obnoxious!" 

"And you are so friggin' hot!" Sam said. "All right, it's my turn. And I activate Pot of Greed. I draw two cards." He used his two fingers to slip the two top cards into his grip. "Now that's what I'm talking about! I activate Fusion Sage. This card lets me add Polymerization to my hand. And I'm going to use it. I merge together Steel Ogre Grotto and Lesser Dragon together so they can become Metal Dragon!"

Andre bared his teeth and balled his left hand into a fist. He looked at the fusion taking place in the field. After a bright flash, the long, metallic dragon formed. It let out a low, metallic, call, then circled around the field.

  

"I'm not through yet, Andre. I equip my dragon with Gust Fan, which increases his attack points by 400! My dragon's attack increases to 2250! There, now I've got two strong dragons on the field. If you can't take these guys down, what makes you think you can beat, Floyd? Hah."

"He just wants to help," said Yuri. 

"He just wants to stroke his own ego," Sam declared. "I know his type. Except for the skills, you're just a carbon copy of my brother, Nick. 

"I'll beat your dragons, kid," Andre boasted. "First, I activate this card. Tremendous Fire. It may cost me five hundred of my Life Points, but it's a meager price to pay for taking down your Life Points by 1000. Now, I summon Hyozanryu!"

Sam scoffed. "He's a strong dragon, but he's no match for my monsters."

"So you say. Thanks to your Mountain spell, its attack increases to 2300. But wait till you see this. Monster Reborn. With this card, I summon my Mysterious Puppeteer from the Graveyard. Don't say he's weak, because, after this attack, it's all over for you. I increase Hyozanryu's power with United We Stand!"

Sam's heart skipped a beat and his cards dropped from his hand. "What! But...that's not fair. Where did you get a spell that rare?"

"Who cares?" Andre said, finally glad to shut Sam up. "All that matters is I'm going to win. United We Stand will increase Hyozanryu's power by 800 for every monster I have on the field. So, with my Puppeteer in play, Hyzonaryu's power increased by sixteen hundred points. I attack your Metal Dragon and end this game."

"Aw, nuts!" Sam said. He threw his cards on the mat and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms in a pout. "Well, I could have gotten you if you didn't use such a cheese, spell. That card should be banned with how powerful it is."

"Well, that's why it's so rare," said Patty. She went glum, remembering her lost United We Stand card. "Man, how could I have been so dumb?"

"I said I could..." Andre started to say.

"I appreciate the help," Patty interrupted him. "But it's okay. I'm fine. Yuri's going to help me out."

"If you say so. But Yuri's got a lot to learn. Don't you, man? I mean that in the best way possible."

"I suppose," Yuri replied. 

"I could teach you."

"What good is teaching him if he doesn't have the cards he needs?" Natalya said. "Yuri can train with you from dusk until dawn, but that won't matter unless he's got some good cards in his deck." She pursed her lips. "Hmm, you know, Patty, maybe sending Yuri to Duel Floyd wasn't such a good idea."

"It's too late," Yuri groaned. "I already accepted. I'll just have to earn a few bucks and open some packs. I guess then I'll just have to hope for the best. Patty, anything from your collection I can use?"

"I have a Sakuretsu Armor. But it's ultimate rare. I can't just give it to you."

"How about a Duel?" Andre said. "Your card on the line."

"Uh, no." Patty put on her backpack. "I've already lost a rare card and I don't plan to lose another one. I've got to get home, guys. If I'm late, dad's gonna whip my ass. See you."

"Bye Patty!" they all said. 

"Hold on!" said Sam just as Andre got up. "Let's go again. Best two out of three."

"Sure, kiddo. You're on. Yuri, want to watch? You could learn something."

"No, I can't. I have to get back to work. It's almost closing time. You two enjoy yourselves, though." 


When the last customer left and the shop was vacuumed and wiped clean of dust, it was time for Yuri to clock out. He put his apron away and then said goodbye to Sergei. By the time he walked out the sun had gone down behind the Atlantic. The street lights turned on illuminating the dark sidewalks and roads of Aquarius. It seemed rather scary, what with the reports of hooded goons vanishing into the shadows, but Yuri had a remedy to make his walk home a lot easier. He took out his phone and put on his black beats trimmed with lime green neon lights.

As he walked home, he listened to Benny Mardones' Into the Night. If there was one thing Yuri loved more than anything in the world, it was walking home from work, traversing from island to island while listening to songs from the 80's and the 90's. The stars were starting to twinkle overhead as if lighting his way home.

He felt no need to rush home and found a bench to lay on so he could listen to his music, enjoy the scenic ocean view, and wonder if he was going to have another Prince Daveed dream again. He got a text from his mother, asking him to buy a tub of ice cream on the way home to serve after dinner. He stopped into a nearby drug store and found what he needed.

Yuri walked past the park and heard little children's voices from deep in the park calling out monster names. He knew they were just Dueling. He leaned on a railing over the park to see the action, but there was not one Duel going on.

A whole bunch of them were taking place. Kids of all ages were trading cards, Dueling and having lunch, ordering burgers, hot dogs and ice cream from the stands in the park. There were flat-screen televisions near the eating areas so the kids could watch the 3D battles going on as they ate.

Duel Monster Cards had microchips inside of them, and when played on special tabletops, the monster was displayed on the screens. Yuri smiled and leaned on the rusty black iron rail to watch the games taking place below.

"Okay now I summon my Seismic Crasher!" shouted a boy in a black baseball cap. The warrior appeared on the screen making the boy quite confident. Their friends cheered and jumped seeing the monsters on the liquid-crystal display next to the Dueling table. Seismic Crasher did battle with another boy's Musician King, a guitar-wielding spellcaster who used music as his weapon of choice.

Duelists of all ages ran around in excitement, looking for opponents to Duel and people to trade cards with. Underneath a willow tree perched by a pond, Yuri spotted a few boys from the elementary school getting ready for a Duel.

"There's no way you can win this time, Eddie. I bought a lot of cards this week and made my deck super strong!"

The other kids oohed and ahhed.

"If you think you can beat me with your 'new cards', Tim? I say we have a match!"

Yuri smirked watching them march to an open field. The screens turned on making them look like they were playing in a meadow and they were off.

Vendors selling booster packs, clothing and snacks yelled out their wares. Meanwhile, the Duel Screens displayed dragons as they took off into the sky blasting away other monsters.

Yuri gave a chuckle when he listened to the hooting and whistling of glee when beautiful female monsters like G.B Hunter and Gemini Elf were summoned.

"Hey, Yuri!" someone called out. Yuri saw Nick, Tyson, Carter, and Patty on the other side of the street under the light of the lamp waiting for the cars to pass.

When the cars stopped rolling by they all sprinted towards their friend.

"Boy, am I glad to see you guys," Yuri said happily. "I got your text, Patty, why did you want me to come here?"

"Just to hang out," said Patty. "It's kind of hard not seeing you as often, Yuri."

"Yeah," said Nick. "We were hoping to see you sometime, what with you working at the shop now. We have to hang out a little more what with us finishing school."

"Wow," said Patty. "I can't believe we graduate this year. We're on our way to college."

"Damn, already?" Tyson said rubbing his cheek. "I remember us playing at the park pretending to be knights. Pretty soon we'll be going to different universities."

"Don't fret about it, big guy," said Yuri. "It's still the second month of the school year. There's still plenty of time for us to see each other before then."

"What's with the ice cream?" Tyson asked. Yuri looked down at the bag.

"Oh, this?" Yuri answered. "These are some treats for dessert. Where's Sam? Did he go home?"

"Yeah, Consuelo picked him up," Patty replied. "And a good thing too. I was just about ready to toss him into the sea. He asked if we wanted to play basketball right after we left the shop. We did, but it was a quick game thanks to Tyson's keen eyes. Turns out, Sam only wanted me to play so he could look up my skirt as I made my shots."

"What a creep," said Carter. "Nick, you outta do something about that kid, honey."

Nick shrugged. "Boys will be boys. What are you gonna do?"

Patty rolled her eyes. "What do you think, Yuri? Should Sam stop hanging out with us? This is getting way out of hand. Yuri? Yuri?"

"Basketball goood," Yuri muttered.

"What are you thinking, Yuri?" Patty sneered.

"Nothing," said Yuri. "How's Natalya doing?"

Patty shrugged. "She stopped crying after a while. But she remains hopeful that you can beat Floyd this weekend. Are you sure you're up for the task, Yuri? Floyd looks way out of your league."

Yuri frowned and crossed his arms. "I said I can, and I will. Come on, let's check out the park. I heard they've got some new stuff down there."

"He's right," said Nick. "Let see what they got."

"Now that's what I'm talking about!" Tyson said rubbing his hands together. "Gonna get me some new cards!"

Yuri followed his friends down concrete steps into the park. There were lamps on the sides of the steps lighting the way.

"Hey wait for me!" called Carter.

"Some things never change," Patty said shaking her head.

Children scurried around with excitement, and young adults sat under the trees trading cards or having a snack. There was a song playing on one of the television screens next to the card stand.

It was the latest song of the beautiful pop singer: Crystal Anderson; a blonde girl with stunning heterochromia eyes and a smile that could melt one's soul.

Nick and Tyson were staring at the screen mesmerized by her beauty and her rich and sugary sweet voice as she sang her cheerful love song at the beach, shaking her hips and smiling at the camera. The words came out of her mouth like a whisper just making her look even cuter.

"Ah," breathed Tyson.

"Beautiful," whispered Nick. "One day my Dueling skills are going to be so good, I'll impress her!"

"Will you guys get a grip?" groaned Patty. "She's just another no-talent pop singer."

"I beg to disagree," said Yuri, his cheeks turning red. "She's a cut above the other artists. Unlike them, she can actually sing, and she sings about beautiful things."

"No talent!" barked Nick. "She's the heir to the Anderson fortune, can sing like a goddess and she's the current United States champion!"

"Is that so?" said Patty, raising an eyebrow with disbelief.

"You don't follow pro-Dueling do you?" asked Tyson, placing his hands on his hips and shaking his head.

"I'm more concerned about my art." Patty crossed her arms over her chest. "Not that I'm gloating or anything. I want to make cards more than I want to play them."

"You hope to work for Phobos Corp as a card designer?" Carter asked, biting into a sandwich he just bought with the last of his money. "That's sweet."

"Oh, hey!" said Nick. He ran for a stand that was selling rare cards. Tyson, Patty, and Carter followed. Yuri stayed behind watching Crystal sing her song.

"Oh, Yuri, not you too!" snapped Patty.

"Oh…coming," Yuri said following her.

Nick was drooling over the cards. Their colorful foil sparkled in the lights of the black iron street lamps. "Look at the power on this guy!" He said pointing to a ritual monster called Super War Lion.

"My deck could use a powerhouse like him. I'll take it."

"Uh, you might want to do a rain check on that Nick," Patty said pointing out the price.

"Fifteen dollars!" Nick cried out. "That's robbery."

"Plus his ritual card," Carter said pointing at the Spell Card needed to summon the lion.

"Aw no!" Nick cried. He reached into his pockets and pulled out a dollar. "How much do you have?" he asked his friends.

Tyson reached into his pocket, taking out all the money he carried. He only had three dollars, as he already spent most of what he had on a water-based structure deck for Carter.

Carter only had one dollar, but he was secretly carrying two hundred in emergency money in his back pocket.

Patty scoffed and hitched up her skirt doing curtsy as a gesture to show she had nothing. Yuri shrugged, for he spent all the money he had buying ice cream for his mother's birthday party. That was the last he had of last week's paycheck.

"Five!" Nick groaned. "Not even close."

"You can afford one booster pack," said Tyson.

"Guess you're right," said Nick. "I'll take one pack, please."

"Come on, Nick," said Yuri. "Just keep saving money for your Xbox and to help with Consuelo. We shouldn't spend money on cards anymore; we're too old for this man."

"We're never too old for Duel Monsters," said Nick, taking his pack from the cashier's hand. "I can't spend enough. I've got to beef up my deck so I can Duel in the pro leagues."

"There are no guarantees," Yuri said, shaking his head. He admired Nick's determination, though.

"Yeah, you'd first have to prove yourself in the independent circuits," said Tyson. "And even then, as Yuri said, there's no guarantee big players like the WDF (World Dueling Federation) or Dragonfire will find you. You'd be stuck in the independents for years, maybe forever; and they only pay like fifteen hundred a month."

"Not enough to pay rent man," said Yuri.

"Maybe you guys forgot, I'm good."

"You're sixteen and forty," said Patty. "Not the best ratio."

"Do you guys have anything better to do than to walk all over my hopes and dreams?"

"We're not trying to keep you down man," said Yuri. "It's just the reality of life. Things don't always go as planned for some of us. Why don't you just go to college and get associates so you could at least make a comfortable living? You can't base your life on Duel Monsters alone."

"Easy for you to say," pouted Nick. "You live with the richest man in the country."

Patty scoffed. "But he doesn't leech off his father. Yuri still goes out and works. Don't take Yuri's fortune as an excuse for your miserable life, Nick."

"Oh no, bro, your ice cream," said Carter.

Yuri looked at the bag and saw some of it ooze out of the box all over the plastic bag.

"Damn!" he cursed and quickly ran.

"Where are you going?" Nick called out.

Yuri held out his arm as he continued to run from the park. "I've got to get this back to Paula! See you guys at school!"

He heard his friends call out their goodbyes. He climbed up the steps and disappeared around the next corner.


Patty


She stood by the fountain, watching as Nick, Tyson, and Carter waved goodbye and went back to their islands. When they were out of the light of the street lamps, Patty gave a heavy sigh and made her way to the docks and ride the Ferris Wheel.

How fast the years have gone by, she thought. How fast. It seemed like only yesterday that she and Yuri met those three in the fourth grade. Now...now they were seniors. And all three of them had aspirations and goals of their own that they would follow.

Despite the wisecracks that they tossed at one another and their troubled pasts, they had developed quite a friendship. And it hurt her deeply to know they would soon go their separate ways.

Tyson, being the son of the owner of a five-star chef, would soon inherit his father's empire and he was going to New York to learn to be a chef at his father's culinary academy. Carter wanted to start his own makeup line one day. She knew he could do it. He was already such a hit as a hairstylist.  

Nick, well, Patty had her doubts, but she knew Nick long enough to know that if he wanted something, he would work his damnedest to get it. And what he wanted more than anything right now was to be a professional Duelist. If he were to accomplish such a goal, he would go around the world as a pro Duelist.

And Yuri. He was the only thing on her mind. What was to become of him? She looked up at Phobos Towers, dominating everything on the islands. To think he would soon be up there sitting in that office high above the clouds. Would she ever see him again?

"Stupid," she muttered. "I can't have feelings for him. It's just not meant to be. What would Yuri want with a girl like me?"

She started to worry. He would inherit the Phobos Empire at a young age. Regardless of his glowing green eye, there were some girls in the school that found Yuri sexy and his glowing eye added more mystery to him, which they found quite irresistible. To say nothing of how he developed his body.

She heard rumors that he fought in underground fight clubs in their freshman and senior year. And with muscles like the ones he had, she started to think the rumors were true.

She shook her head. "No," she said to herself, biting her lip. "No, no, no. Not after what happened last time."

Patty purchased a ticket to the Ferris Wheel, which lit up the night and the glossy, black waters of the Atlantic in its beautiful rainbow-colored neon.

As she sat there, she wondered if she and Yuri could really share something special with one another. Her doubt would always win.

"If I don't want him...then why am I so worried someone else will take him?" she whispered, staring out into the ocean. She spotted RAPTOR patrol boats zooming through the water and one the floating guard towers far off in the distance that formed the protective triangle-shaped perimeter around the islands.

Anyways, Yuri was young and very rich. The richest boy in the world his father would often boast. And it was true, with a multi-trillion dollar inheritance in the future, who could argue with those words? The girls would be flocking at his doorstep and for as long as she could remember, Yuri was a boy who was desperate for a girlfriend. She wanted to take that to her advantage.

"We'll see," she whispered, now looking at the city. "Yuri. You're one weird dude, but I know with all my heart, that you're going to grow into a man of great importance.


Lore


The Islands of Aquarius


Phobos Island: Home of Aquarius's top earners and the center of the island chain. The Phobos Tri-Towers dominate the other islands. The island is shaped like a five-pointed star and is nearly the size of Manhattan. It is beautifully adorned with natural environments, plaza-sized aquariums, and a skyscraper known as the Bustamante Building, which stands a few feet shorter than the Burj Khalifa and doubles as a waterfall that falls into a grand lake with fountains that shoot water hundreds of feet into the air. On its own, not too far from the center, are the small chains known as Eden Island and Sapphire Island, home to the island's most elite residents and guests.

Neros Island: A recreational island where the students of Phobos Academy and St. Augustus Senior High School mostly go to relax after a long day of lessons. The world-famous Ivory Clocktower rules from its spot at the top of Athennia Hill, overlooking the island like a castle fit for a king.  There are golden beaches, forests of tropical ponds, and the Duel Dome where Duelists can play the game of Duel Monsters with an interesting twist. Naros island has its own small chain of three islands branching off of it consisting of Enron, an industrial zone where ships come to unload and load cargo. Azalea, which houses a vast collection of animals for its safari; and Martin island, which is home to high-end neighborhoods and the little town of Paradiso Prima.

Gondolin Island is  where the elite Phobos Academy resides. The school grooms its students to become future entrepreneurs, leaders, and Duelists. The RAPTOR security forces have their base of operations at the harbor to the south of the island.

Then Alejandra Island and finally  Mobius Island which house the citizens of Aquarius. 

Chapter Text

Bakura's Report


An odd phenomenon occurred not too long ago involving the girl named Patty, who I have kept a very close eye on since the day our little prince met her. There is darkness in her heart. Something I have not felt since the day Marik found his dark side via the Millennium Rod. I left Yuri alone and proceeded to observe the girl.

She has a troubled life. Her father is a drunken mercenary with ties to a criminal syndicate living in the shadows of this floating city. Ah, and her step-mother. She is the one with the foulest mean streak in the household. Far greater than her father's I must say.

The other day, before I discovered the girl's affinity for the shadows, I saw the mother beating the poor girl to the point where she was knocked out. Then, both the mother and the father left her there on the floor as they enjoyed a microwaved dinner and a movie.

I have my reasons for being who I am, but, Goddesses, even I am not that cruel. Not towards children. The girl turned nine today. All she wanted to do was celebrate her birthday. I am beginning to believe this is why darkness is manifesting in her heart so strongly. She has a lot of hate for her family and this world. I like it.

She tried committing suicide today. She refrained from doing so, with my help of course. I had to knock her out. As I took her to bed, I noticed some strange activity coming from her nightstand. A card was beginning to take form there. Two actually. A Ritual Monster and it's Spell Card. There is nothing benign about these cards.

These are gifts from the Shadow Realm; of this, I have no doubt. In fact, a plethora of poltergeist activity began to erupt as the cards took form. Her toys, trinkets, clothes, and drawers were flung about. The lights go out and I heard a fearsome growl coming from under her bed. I lay the girl down and tuck her in for the night. I sense these malevolent forces are here for her, and they don't mean her harm.

I check the card. It was Zera the Mant, one of the strongest monsters of the Fiend-Type. A dark beast if I ever saw one. I heard the growl again and when I looked under her bed, I saw burning red eyes staring at me from the darkness.

No doubt the beast wants me to leave her alone. Well, it seems to me like I have no more say in what happens to the child. Zera the Mant is her guardian now. Be that as it may, I have no intention of leaving the girl alone. She has proven to be far too interesting.

I am puzzled by all this. There is far too much wonder and magic at work here for this to be an affair for Earthlings. I will look into this matter soon. The girl is good friends with Yuri, and now has Zera the Mant as a guardian of some sort, but she needs a better 'influence'. She is still young, and who knows. She may one day prove of great use to me.


Patty - St. Augustus Senior High School/Aquarius

September 26 - Year 18 4AOS


Patty let out a heavy yawn as she walked into the girl's locker room. She wanted to fall asleep in there and rest, for not only did she not get enough sleep the night before but because she hated gym period. Just hated it.

However, she followed Yuri's advice and decided to muster up her strength and attend. If she missed class, she would have detention again. And her father would not tolerate her in trouble (The bruise on her ribs was proof of that). She found her locker at the end of the chamber and slid her backpack off.

"Has anyone seen Yuri?" a red-headed girl from the cheerleading team asked as she and her friends undressed to change into their gym uniforms.

"No," a girl with a ponytail replied, unbuttoning her blouse. "I heard he called in sick today. What a damn shame. I finally mustered up the courage to ask him to the dance."

"You mean homecoming?" the third girl asked. "No way! I totally forgot about that. But what happened to him? I hope he's okay. Is it serious? There's been a rumor going around that he's suffering from internal bleeding or something when he was kicking ass in the underground."

"That's just a rumor," the red-head corrected her sternly as she slipped her skirt off. "A guy like Yuri would never partake in fight clubs. He's too delicate for things like that. That's why he's called Yuri after all. It means lily flower in Japanese. Isn't that cute? It fits him perfectly. I think he's a really sensitive guy. Too bad he can't play Duel Monsters. His skills are shit."

"Yeah," the girl with the ponytail agreed, taking her skirt off as well. "My little brother beat him at the local tournament back in July. Still, it doesn't matter to me if he can't play. All I want from him is that fortune he's gonna inherit. Can you believe it? Ten trillion dollars! And he's a hottie to boot. I don't know about the rest of you, but I find that glowing eye of his really sexy."

Patty wrinkled her nose. She hated when girls spoke of Yuri that way - seeing him as nothing more than a meal ticket to fame and fortune. An immense fortune. She undid her tie and unbuttoned her blouse, trying her best to ignore their gossip.

"So hypothetically speaking," the redhead said, "if Yuri were to date one of you, what would you do with his fortune?"

The girl with the ponytail pondered this for a second. "I would buy a garage full of the world's hottest cars. And I would also buy myself a huge plot of land in the country all the way in Texas or something. Maybe an island all to ourselves!"

"More importantly, who do you think has the best shot of getting out of high school with him?" the third girl asked.

"I'd like to say me," the redhead replied, "but I think Madison has a better chance than any other girl in this school, even though she's going out with Mark. But I don't think her relationship with him will last long. I heard he's going to be dropped from the team as the quarterback because of that injury. Word around the halls is that he isn't playing as well as he used to. He missed three game-winning opportunities last season. And you know Madison. She's picky. If her man doesn't make her look good, she wants nothing more to do with him, just like she did to Andre last year. She dumped him big time because he broke his arm in last year's game. If Mark doesn't deliver, I hear she's going after Yuri next."

"What about that girl, Patty? Isn't she like his best friend or something?"

"Patty!" the redhead laughed. "That skank? I honestly don't know what she did to qualify as a friend for Yuri, but I'm not worried. Yuri would never mix himself with a girl like her romantically. Have you seen her Instagram and her account? Ew, Thot City, population her and her big ass. And not to mention all the crap she's done at the Nexus. I like to party as much as the next girl, but Patty, huh, she takes it to a whole new level. I wouldn't worry about her being the one for Yuri. There are better girls out there than her."

Patty slammed her locker with all her might, dressed as quickly as she could, and stormed out before she heard another word. She gritted her teeth and hoped with all her might that school would end quickly.

"Duel Monsters," she muttered. "That's all I need. A quick round of Duel Monsters."


Later

After school, Patty walked alone to the card shop and immediately started to play against other Duelists to blow off some steam. She played her Zera Ritual spell, causing the boy in front of her to get sweaty and nervous. He couldn't believe he let her get away with summoning that monster. Not now that he was so close to beating the girl everyone spoke of and hilariously dubbed Sombra.

His ultra-rare monster, Chakra; with an ATK strength of 2450, saved him from the wrath of her 2000 ATK monster, Swordstalker, and pummeled all of Patty's other monsters the entire game. Chakra was practically winning the Duel for him, shaving Patty's Life Points down to a mere 800 points.

He looked at the Duel Screen, watching in grief as Zera the Mant raised his massive claws and sliced Chakra down to small pieces and dealing enough damage to his Life Points to win Patty the game.

"What? That can't be!" a young man cried out in disbelief when his Life Points reached 0. "You couldn't have beaten me so easily!"

Patty yawned with boredom, having defeated another mediocre opponent that afternoon. "Why, because I'm a girl?"

"But I ranked fourth in the shop's tournament last year! I'm one of the Ruby Dragon's best players! There's no way I could have lost this easily. You...you must have cheated!"

Patty scoffed, curtseying her head up and down while she twirled her eyes. "Uh-huh, yeah, yeah. You're so inadequate."

She picked up her cards and shuffled them back into her deck. "Accept the fact that you lost and move on, you big baby. Better yet, why don't you Duel with your own reflection? That way if you lose, it'll be to yourself."

Her opponent picked up his things and left, obviously burned by her statement. She heard him mutter 'bitch' as he made his way out the door.

Sergei approached the table, placing his hands on his wide hips. He chuckled and said: "Made him think twice for underestimating you, eh?"

Patty took a long gulp from her bottle of ice-cold chocolate milk before she answered. "Wouldn't be the first time it's happened." She wiped her mouth with her sleeve. She rested her chin on the palm of her hand and yawned.

A lock of hair flew over the right side of her face, tickling her skin. She rolled her eyes again and blew it off with a puff of air from the corner of her mouth.

Sergei scratched the bottom of his chin ponderously. "You don't look happy about this victory, Patty."

He checked the win/loss ratios on his tablet. When he found Patty's name he tapped it happily.

"Wow. You went seven-and-one today, sweetheart. That's very impressive. You know how many Duelists would kill for a ratio like that?"

Patty smirked but brushed away that remark with a shrug. "I have to admit that I'm a little bored. Only one person out of the eight people I've Dueled beat me? Some of these guys were the best Duelists in your store. Makes me wonder how with those skills."

Sergei's face lit up. He sat down on the chair across from Patty. "You're saying that my store is home to mediocre Duelists?"

"I meant no disrespect, Sergei. This isn't about the store. It's just me being picky."

"No, no. I understand you completely. In fact, I think you're building quite a reputation here. You know, I overheard some players the other day talking about you and your Zera the Mant card, Patty. They started calling you the Sombra, which means Shadow."

Patty smiled, but, again, she shrugged it off. "I don't want to build a name for myself. I just wanna play."

"And by all means, please do. Not only will it bring more customers into my store to want to Duel my little goddess," he reached over and tapped her nose. "But it will also keep you busy from doing all those things you used to do."

Patty's smile faded. She bit her lower lip; for she knew this was just a ruse for Sergei to check up on her again.

Sergei helped reintroduce Patty to Duel Monsters a few years ago when she got herself into trouble with alcohol and drugs, and just recently she was caught living a very provocative nightlife after an embarrassing video of her at one of the clubs went viral throughout the island.

Yuri wouldn't talk to her for a month when his friends showed the video to him at school. Tyson, Carter, Nick, and even Sam avoided her for a while. To top things off, she was arrested multiple times for possession and public intoxication which broke Sergei's heart.

He had hoped Duel Monsters would help her stay away from her sins.

Sergei made sure no one was around before he spoke. "So how have things been, Pamela?"

Uh-oh. Real name. Now she knew he was serious.

"Sergei, not now," she said, pocketing her deck. She fumbled through her backpack to avoid looking at him, hoping he would walk away and leave her alone.

"No, no, no!" said Sergei. "Ever since Mr. Montgomery busted you out of jail, I've made it my personal responsibility to watch over you, young lady. Lord knows your father is too much of a drunk to do it himself. How he's able to afford that mansion here on the central island is a big mystery for me."

"He has ties with the Martinettis," said Patty. "All he has to do is perform their dirty deeds and he rolls in the dough."

"I was afraid of that," said Sergei. "But his crap with the mafia is not my concern. Natalya says she saw you and some friends going inside a certain...establishment last night?"

Patty gasped. Sergei nodded his head. He drummed his fingers on his biceps. His leg shook, eager to hear her reply.

"I didn't drink," said Patty. "Security was tight because it's a place so for us teens. Nothing hardcore like those places I used to go. All we did was have dinner and dance, Sergei, I swear."

"Don't lie to me, Patty. She saw you go into the Nexus. The Nexus is not a place for young kids like you, Pamela. You paid someone to get you a fake ID again, didn't you?"

"I'm sorry."

"What were you doing going in there so late? It was a school night." He watched Patty hunch her shoulders and played with a lock of her hair. "Hmm?" he said waiting for an answer.

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" Sergei's voice got louder. "No! Sorry isn't going to cut it when you repeat the year, Patty!" Sergei tapped his finger on the table. "Sorry isn't going to cut it when you're sitting in the penitentiary wasting years of your life for messing up so badly! What the hell has gotten into you, child? This isn't you! These things you're doing. The things you let guys do to you. Patty, it's been a year and I can't get the images of that video out of my head. I couldn't believe that it was you. And you were so young. God almighty up in Heaven, I still refuse to believe it was you. Do you have any idea what you did to Yuri when he saw that filth? You! You who he sees as a sister more than a friend."

"I'm not going to live my life to just have Yuri's approval!" Patty snapped. "Yuri may be my best friend, but he's not in control of me. My world does not revolve around him. I'm turning eighteen next week, Sergei. I'm grown up. I've got my own life now!"

"Oh," Sergei replied mockingly. "Who do you think you are? Hot stuff? That you'd go drown yourself in drink and let guys do whatever they want with your body? You may be turning eighteen years old but damn it, Patty, you're just a child!"

"Why are you doing this to me?" Patty whimpered.

"Like you said, it's almost your eighteenth birthday! You're getting older, Pamela and it's only going to get worse. Believe me, I know girls like you. You're adventurous. You want to live life and explore things you've never done before, even if it means degrading yourself. You're a smart, kind, beautiful young lady, Pamela. I don't want to see you hanging around some dumbass punk who thinks it's cool to have a flock of bimbos in his arms doing anything and everything at his whim like he was some trainer taking care of common dogs! That's not what I want for you. I know you love to paint and draw. You aspire to be an artist, yes?"

"I do," Patty said, wiping a tear from her eye. "More than anything."

"So that's what I want you to be. Please, Patty. Do something to better yourself."

Patty nodded her head, her face scrunched up in shame and sorrow. Sergei got up from his seat and gave her a hug. When Patty felt the warmth and comfort coming from his embrace, she could no longer contain her feelings and sobbed.

Sergei patted her back, then rubbed it to soothe her. "You know you can come to me when you need to, right? And your friends, too. You're not alone, Patty. We all want you to be something better."

Patty sniffed and hiccupped. "I will be. I promise."

"Good girl. You, Yuri, Tyson, Carter, Nick, and even Sam; yes even Sam, are like my own children. I want to see you all grow and be taken care of."

Patty just nodded her head. She heard Sergei chuckling, forcing her to look up at him. "I almost forgot," he said. "I've found your application to be a waitress at my store's diner. You sure you want to do this, Patty? You're already working at the Crab Shack."

"I need money for my supplies," Patty said, wiping tears and the mascara that they smudged off the corner of her eyes. "And besides, Yuri and now Tyson work here. He's your head chef now, right?"

"Da," said Sergei. "That Tyson is one hell of a good cook if you can believe that."

Patty chuckled. "Get's it from his father."

"So I heard," said Sergei. He moved in on Patty for another hug. "I hope you take that story into account. No matter how deep in despair you are, there is always a light that can help you succeed."

"Yes, Sergei," Patty said nodding her head, her hair tickling the bottom of Sergei's chin.

Then Sergei's gaze focused on the window. "Hey, I think I see an opponent worthy of your talents."

Patty gently pulled herself out of Sergei's embrace and saw Yuri walking by the window. A black armored pickup truck from RAPTOR rolled by, patrolling the streets looking for stowaways and pirates.

Yuri stopped to look at it and waved at the mercenaries. Knowing he was the son of the man who signed their paychecks, they waved back and hollered. Yuri went through the sliding glass doors and walked into the store. He tossed a quarter into the atrium's fountain before greeting Sergei.

"Afternoon, Sergei. Oh, Patty, what are you doing here?"

"She works here now," said Sergei, putting an arm around her. "Say hello to my new waitress."

"Well," Yuri said, rubbing his chin. "I can tell Nick and Sam are going to be happy about this. Those shorts are kind of tight in the hindquarters."

"YURI!" Patty shrieked.

"Well, when do you start work?" Yuri said, waving his hands up and down to calm her.

"Not till next week," Patty answered him, feeling relieved that he was here. "But I thought I'd sharpen my skills today." She sat up on her seat and blinked to dry the moisture on her eyes.

Yuri removed his cap and set it on the counter. "Were you crying, Patty?"

"Da," said Sergei. "I told her a joke about the shoe cobbler and the sea monster. I have never seen her laugh so hard before. I had to get her a bottle of water to keep her from laughing herself to death, da?"

Yuri laughed. "Oh, man. That joke. Sergei, you almost killed me the first time you told me that one. Is it a slow day today?"

Sergei shrugged. "You know how it is around this hour. After lunchtime, the Duelists start pouring in. And they should. I just got a shipment of that new pack, Pharoah's Servant. It's full of rare and powerful Trap Cards to stump your opponents. I think it's a good thing. We need more traps so players who don't have access to those rare cards like Natalya's Simorgh and your Black Tyranno can have a better chance. These will certainly keep the battlefield even."

"Yeah, I agree," said Patty. She finished the last of her chocolate milk. "One thousand Life Points every turn if you don't have at least two face-down cards? And Black Tyranno attacking Life Points directly? Where do these rare cards come from?"

"I don't know," said Yuri. "But I think it's kind of cool some players out there have cards they can call their own. Such as the Red-Eyes Black Dragon. Can you believe there are only five of them out there?"

"Only four of them have been found," said Patty. "I'd give my left arm and my mansion for that dragon. He's said to be worth millions."

Sergei coughed into his hand. "Well, since you both are here, why not have yourselves a quick match? I've never seen you two play before."

"But I have to clock in, Sergei," said Yuri.

"Forget about it, Yuri. Look at the place. In fact, Patty's been having an off day. Why don't you spend the rest of the afternoon with her?"

Patty shook her head. "Sergei, I don't want to be any trouble."

"Nonsense," said Sergei. "I think you kids need to go out there and enjoy your youth. Yuri, today is on me." He took out his wallet, taking out a few hundred dollar bills and slapping them on Yuri's palm. "After your match with Patty, take her out to a lovely lunch by the sea."

"What's gotten into you, Sergei?" Yuri asked. "You're paying me to skip work?"

"Yuri, don't bicker," said Patty. "I think I could use a little lunch. Besides, Sergei wants to see us Duel. Who are we to argue, right?"

Yuri stuffed the bills into his pocket. He was still perplexed, but he could not find it in him to refuse the prospect of a free lunch and an opportunity to skip work. He simpered as he looked into the eyes of his godfather.

"Thanks, Sergei," said Yuri. "So, Patty. I guess we shall have ourselves a Duel?"

"Have a seat," said Patty. "I'm all set to go. I got my deck shuffled and everything."

Yuri sat down and removed his jacket. He fumbled with his pockets as he searched for his fun deck. He finally found the cards and set them on the table.

"So, get anything new?" Patty asked.

Yuri shook his head. "No," he said sadly. "If I want to get cards, I have to get them myself. With my own money. But I've been saving up for a car instead."

"Well, whatever floats your boat," said Patty. "I'll start things off easy for you and summon Job-Change Mirror in defense mode (DEF/1300). Can you get past his defense?"

"Let's see," said Yuri. "Draw. I summon Beaver Warrior in attack mode (ATK/1200 DEF/1500). Your Job-Change Mirror's defense maybe 100 points higher than my Beaver Warrior's, but with this Spell Card, Stop Defense, the mirror switches to attack mode, and with that, I will attack."

"Ouch, not bad," said Patty.

Patty-1600 LP

Yuri-2000 LP

Patty drew her card. "Well, serves me right for going easy on you, Yuri. I summon Horn Imp (ATK/1300 DEF/1000). And that does it for your Beaver Warrior. Too bad. I think that card is kind of cute."

"Well, this card I'm about to play is what I call hot. Say hello to Kanan the Swordmistress."

Patty hooted when she saw the alluring, hazel-haired warrior appear on the Duel Screen, gracing the empty Colosseum with her incredible beauty. Her armor was green with silver trim. She carried a sword of brilliant steel in one hand and a shield of royal blue with steel plating.

Kanan the Swordmistress

ATK/1400 DEF/1400

Patty bit her lip, staring at the warrior lady on the screen, waving about her sword eager for battle. She held out her sword and gave a fierce battle cry as she charged for the Horn Imp. She slashed the Imp in the stomach with one swift and graceful strike of her sword. The Imp howled in defeat as his body began to glow and dispersed into a thousand little orbs.

As her Life Points were reduced to 1500, Patty bobbed her head up and down to show she was impressed. "Wow, Yuri. I've got to admit, she's really hot. Trade for it?"

Yuri smirked. "I'm glad you like her, Patty. But she's not up for trades. She's one of my favorite monsters in the game."

Patty laughed at him. "Aw, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you have a card crush on your Kanan the Swordmistress, Yuri."

"A what?"

"A card crush," said Sergei. "It's what happens when a player develops feelings for their favorite cards."

Yuri scratched his head in confusion "You mean to fall in love with them? Kind of like Patty and her Zera the Mant?"

Patty rolled her eyes, leaning back in her chair. "Yuri, you make it sound like my affection for my card is something serious."

"I didn't mean anything by it. Anyways, I set these two cards face-down and end my turn."

"What are you planning, tough guy?" said Patty. "I summon the Reaper of the Cards in attack mode!"

The virtual Colosseum in the screen grew cold. An ominous fog rose out of the ground followed by a spine-tingling howl.

The phantom known as the Grim Reaper of Duel Monsters rose out of the ground, raising his scythe up, ready to take Kanan's sword. A necklace of cards attached to a string flapped around his neck. Bony hands with tan skin and clawed fingers wrapped around the wooden handle of the scythe.

Reaper of the Cards

ATK/1380 DEF/1930

"So, he may be twenty points weaker than your Kanan, but, if I combine him with Dark Energy, his ATK increases to 1680. Attack!"

The Reaper of the Cards howled and menacingly floated towards Kanan. She only smirked and readied her sword for a counter-attack. Yuri activated one of the Traps he set. "Here we go, Reinforcements. This will increase Kana's ATK by five hundred points."

Kanan made a great leap into the air, dodging the Reaper of the Card's scythe. The curved blade struck the ground and was stuck.

Kanan landed on the handle of the scythe and ran up the length of it with the most incredible display of acrobatics. She spun dramatically and cried out in battle as she jabbed her sword into the face of the reaper. The phantom howled and disappeared.

"You got me again, Yuri," Patty said glumly. "Now I really have to take off my kiddie gloves."

Patty-1380

Yuri-2000

"Good, good," Sergei said, rubbing his hands together with great anticipation. So far, the two of them played a very good game. Sergei excused himself and walked from their table to the stockroom. He picked up his phone and dialed a close contact of his. "It's me. Yeah. Yeah, he's getting better. Yuri's learning it seems. But so long as Jacob restricts his ability to get cards, he'll never improve. I think it's time I made a few more phone calls. Stay tuned, my friend. This is getting interesting."

Yuri and Patty played another few rounds before they decided to pack their things and go out for lunch. But before Patty could stuff her deck into her backpack, she froze. She stared at something behind Yuri.

"What?" he asked, turning around. He grunted disdainfully when he saw Floyd coming into the shop, backpack slung casually over his shoulder by a single strap.

"Word about you is spreading fast," Floyd said with a sneer. "Your victory at the Duel Dome has made you quite the star. They say you got a new secret rare card or something. Black Tyranno, huh. I wanna see it. Most importantly, I wanna have it. You owe me a Duel after all."

Patty grabbed Yuri's wrist. "Whatever terms he sets, don't accept it. You saw what happened to me and Nattie."

Floyd loved the fear in her voice. It gave him a sense of control over the two. "I don't blame you for holding Yuri back. I can already tell you two are scared. That Black Tyranno of yours sure is something, Yuri. To be honest, I'm not surprised your dad made you that all-powerful card. Anything but the best for daddy's little boy."

"My dad didn't make me anything," Yuri said softly.

"Yeah, right," chuckled Floyd. "Unless that card came out of nowhere, there's no other person in this world who could authorize a card like that."

"Duel him, Yuri," someone said behind Floyd.

Floyd turned. His eyes widened and his mouth formed a wide grin and fell open. He wolf-whistled when he saw Crystal standing in front of the fountain behind him, clad in her school uniform.  A flannel skirt and a white blouse. Her tie was partially undone. Her boots and long socks were custom — an addition she made to her Phobos Academy uniform. She carried her knapsack by its handle.

"Hey, it's that girl from the Duel Dome," said Patty. "I knew I saw her that night."

Floyd ran his hand through his hair and spoke in a very suave tone. "Hey, Crystal, come to see me trample this chump?"

"Quite the opposite, Floyd," Crystal said smirking. "You weren't there when Yuri played against Randall. He completely humiliated him. The loss was so devastating that Brett completely disavowed Randall from his training program. Randall hasn't been seen since. You sure you've got what it takes to challenge Yuri to a Duel and face losing your trustworthiness to the Phobos Academy team, and with Brett, who is going to offer you the contract in the pro leagues? A loss to Yuri would unquestionably change his mind about you, wouldn't it?"

"I'm not scared!" Floyd barked. "How dare you insinuate such a thing. I can take on Yuri with my eyes closed."

"Is that a fact?" said Crystal. "You like taking rare cards from the losers, right? Well, should you happen to defeat Yuri, which you won't, you can have the five rarest cards in my dragon deck."

Floyd flashed his horrid grin again. "No way! Any five of the rarest cards from your deck?"

Crystal reached for the deck case hanging on the back of her skirt. She popped it open with a flick of her fingers and held up some cards to entice him. 

"Oooooh!" Floyd hooted. "Me likey. Me likey a lot!" 

"Crystal!" Yuri cried out. "What are you doing?"

"Uh-huh," Crystal said ignoring him. "That's how much faith I have in Yuri. Not only will you keep the cards you took from his friends and his Black Tyranno, but you might get my ace dragon as well as four other dragons of your choosing."

"Crystal, don't!"

"What are the stakes on my end?" Floyd asked.

"You give back all the cards you took from the everyone you've Dueled in Ruby Dragon Gaming."

"Oh, really? Why don't we make things even more interesting?" He looked at Patty. "Patty's got a pretty rare monster, too. One that I had hoped she would fork over but she cheated me with a fake. I expect you to put the real thing up along with Crystal's dragons. Show me the card, baby."

"Patty? You cheated this guy?" Yuri asked.

"Yeah. I gave him a fake card. There's no way I'm putting up Zera the Mant."

Floyd pointed at her and shot her a venomous glare. "You better give me what I'm owed, Patty. Otherwise, things are gonna get ugly. My father can turn your life into a living hell. Put Zera the Mant on the table along with Yuri's Black Tyranno and Crystal's dragons. Do it or I won't agree to the terms and you won't get the cards I won back."

Patty sighed. She took off her backpack, dug around for her deck, then held up her most precious card.

"There! Happy!" she snapped. "Yuri, you better not lose this. There are a lot of prizes at stake in this match. If my United We Stand wasn't on the line, I wouldn't be doing this."

"It's a deal," laughed Floyd. "Your overconfidence sure has stunted your senses. Not only will Yuri's dinosaur and Patty's Zera be mine, but so will that Dragon Emperor of yours. This is going to make my day. Let's Duel, Yuri!"

"Not here we won't," said Crystal. "Let's Duel in a more appropriate setting."

"Oh no," Yuri gulped.

Moments later, he found himself on a Dueling Platform in the exact same arena of the Duel Dome where he faced Randall. Floyd tossed his backpack into the platform and jumped in. The platform rose twenty-feet high over the arena. Crystal was sitting on one of the bleachers, helping herself to a sandwich she didn't finish at lunchtime during school. She still bore that sickening, overconfident smile on her face, even though her lips were dotted with crumbs. Patty was sitting next to her, chin propped on her palm. She didn't appear as confident as Crystal was. In fact, she hadn't said a word since she got here. She just stared at Yuri with a nervous glance, eyebrows curved with worry, already dreading the thought of losing her Zera the Mant card.

"Um, so tell me how you know Yuri exactly?" Patty asked looking to Crystal.

"Oh...well, he and I have been friends since we were really little. You haven't seen much of me because of my career."

"I know. A world-famous pop star and fashion model. I mean jeez, I figured Yuri would have told us he was friends with you. To be honest, it's not the first time he's kept a celebrity pal a secret from us. The night Yuri played against Randall, we had a run-in with another long-lost buddy of his. Ren Kakihara."

"Oh, so you guys met Ren? Quite a character, isn't he?"

"Yeah. And judging by that look in your eye, you know him, too."

"Yuri, Ren, and I were best friends. But a lot of drama happened that split us apart. But...I don't want to bore you with all that."

"Ah, thanks," Patty said, focusing back on the match.  

"So you made him go up against it, huh?" Andre Martin said coming down the steps to join them. "You guys are making a huge mistake."

Crystal narrowed her eyes at him and shook her head. "I'm sorry, who the hell are you?"

"Some hotshot from school trying to be a Duel King," said Patty. "Just ignore him. He's gonna yap our ears off about how much better he is than Yuri."

"Don't worry, Patty, I won't," said Andre. He set down his bag and sat behind them. "I'll give Yuri all my support."

Crystal and Patty turned their heads to watch the match. They were just in time. Floyd drew his starting hand.

"With my rare cards and my skill, there's no way you'll win, Yuri! You go first."

"If you insist! Draw! I summon Black Dragon Jungle King! That ends my turn."

Black Dragon Jungle King rose out of the ground from a vortex of sparkling light. He swung his long neck from side to side and roared. The holographic stats hovered beside him, displaying his 2100 ATK.

"Not bad," said Floyd. "But I've seen better. Get ready, Yuri. I set a monster in defense mode and a card face-down. Make your move."

"I draw," said Yuri. "I summon Gagagigo in Attack Mode!"

He slapped the card down, summoning his lizard-like humanoid fighter. Gagagigo swiped his claws through the air and growled. His 1850 ATK was rendered beside him.

"Now, I'll attack your face-down monster with my monster! Black Dragon Jungle King, attack now!"

Black Dragon Jungle King heaved and fired a jet of purple flames at the face-down monster. The attack was blocked! An arcane barrier of divine design formed in front of the flames, completely putting them out.

From the steam, Yuri saw the contour of a figure standing there It was Banisher of the Light, just as Yuri dreaded. But Black Dragon Jungle King's ATK was 100 points higher than the Banisher of the Light. He could still defeat it. Until...

"I activate my face-down card, Castle Walls. This will increase Banisher of the Light's defenses by five hundred points. He stays safe, while you lose four hundred Life Points."

"I'm aware of that," Yuri growled.

Yuri-1600 LP

Floyd-2000 LP

"Oh no!" Crystal cried out, slapping both her palms over her face.

"I knew it!" grumbled Andre. "Why didn't Yuri take that face-down card into consideration?"

"What was he supposed to do?" Patty snapped at him. "Stand by and do nothing? That'll just give Floyd to come up with a new and better strategy."

"He was screwed either way," Crystal said coldly. "No! No! He can fight his way outta this. Come on, Yuri. Stay strong!"

"My turn," Floyd sniggered, looking at the girls who started to look a little apprehensive about their deal with Floyd. "Hope you have my cards ready, ladies! I play the Field Spell, Chorus of Sanctuary!"

The field was enveloped by soft, fluffy clouds. A golden gate with a warm light radiating behind it rose behind Floyd.

"This Field Spell will increase the Defense of our monsters by five-hundred points. Now my Banisher of the Light's defense will increase to twenty-five-hundred! And next, I play this monster face-down."

Not good, Yuri thought. He knew he must have played the Needle Worm he used to wipe out Patty and Natalya's decks. Even if he didn't attack it, Floyd would still flip it up and activate its effect, forcing Yuri to discard the top five cards on his deck to the Graveyard. And with Banisher of the Light in play, those cards would instead be banished from the Duel, and he would never revive them.

If Black Tyranno was one of those five cards, he would lose his only chance of winning this Duel and getting Patty and Natalya's cards back. And Crystal would have to relinquish over five of the rarest dragons from her deck.

Trust in my deck, Yuri thought. Just like Mr. Hairdo keeps telling me to do in my deck. Come on Heart of the Cards.

He drew. "Aw, fuck the Heart of the Cards," he muttered. He drew a weak dinosaur called Anthrosaurus. He set it in Defense Mode and ended his turn.

"Didn't get what you wanted, huh?" laughed Floyd. "I didn't think so. Now, I flip over my Needle Work, activating his effect. Say goodbye to the top five cards of your deck, Yuri!"

Yuri muttered something nasty and then gasped. Black Tyranno was the first card he had to discard. No! It couldn't be! He was going to be drawn next turn. With him gone, he lost. This couldn't be happening!

Floyd laughed at the sad expression Yuri made. He looked at Crystal who was slumping in her chair.

"What did I tell you?" said Andre. "Next time, don't have too much confidence in someone just because they have one good card. Yuri's good but without that Black Tyranno, he's screwed now."

Floyd relished at the glum faces Patty and Crystal had. "I told you both you were way in over your heads! No one can stop me and my Banisher of the Light deck destruction combo! Yuri! I'll keep forcing you to banish cards from your deck until you deck out just like Patty and Natalya. I struck gold today, my friends. I get to keep the cards of those two hotties, your Black Tyranno, and now Crystal's best dragons are going to be mine."

"I set another Needle Work in defense mode, try and attack it, I dare you. Of course, even if you don't, I'll still force you to discard cards. It doesn't matter what you do, Yuri. This game is over!"

Yuri gulped. He looked at the top card on his deck. He didn't want to reach for it. He trusted the Heart of the Cards like Yami told him to. In a way, he felt relieved. Maybe they were just stupid dreams.

Either way, he was about to let his friends down with this draw.

"I play Pot of Greed, allowing me to draw two cards," he said. For what good it would do for him. He drew and smiled. "Hey, Floyd. You're right. This Duel is over. For you."

"Bluffing isn't going to get you far, Yuri."

"Who said I was bluffing?" Yuri replied confidently. "I activate the spell, Mystical Space Typhoon, destroying your Chorus of Sanctuary field. Now, all you have out are defensive monsters, setting the stage for your defeat."

He heard Crystal gasping with joy from her seat. He looked at her and winked.

"I activate the Spell Card, Burial from a Different Dimension!"

"OH NO! NOT THAT CARD!"

"Yup, with this spell, I can return three banished monsters to my Graveyard. Now, for the final spell of the game. Monster Reborn! Come back to us, Black Tyranno!"

A rain of feathers swirled over the field, followed by a ray of bright light. Black Tyranno rose out of the ground roaring triumphantly. He stomped on the ground and swung his tail, lustful to do battle and wreak his vengeance upon the fool who had him banished.

Floyd shivered on his platform. He looked at Black Tyranno's eyes. One of them was blood red and the other was bright teal and glowing, just like Yuri's green eye.  Black Tyranno roared and charged through Floyd's defenses, then chomped all 2000 of his Life Points with one powerful bite. 

"Whoa..." said Andre. "He did it. What was that aura radiating off of him a second ago? I only feel that kind of power when Yugi duels."

Floyd straightened his tie and lowered himself down. Yuri did the same and they met up with the others below. Floyd stayed true to his word and gave Yuri back Patty's United We Stand and Natalya's Simorgh.

"Promise you won't tell anyone about this?" he asked.

"If your promise to stop making people ante up their cards every time you play them, I'll consider it," said Yuri, taking the cards from him. Crystal was standing proudly behind him with her arms crossed over her chest. She had a smirk on her glossy lips and a look in her eyes that said: "I told you so!" to Floyd.

"Yes, sir!" Floyd said bowing. "You have my word, I won't force anyone to fork over their cards again. I promise."

"Run along now, Floyd," Crystal said in a mocking tone. "Dr. Baker's science project is due in two days, so you better get hopping."

"Right, see you in class, Crystal." He walked away and stopped. He looked back at Yuri. "Hey, Montgomery. Good game. Let's play again sometime."

Yuri smiled and nodded. Floyd gave him a thumbs up and walked out of the arena.

"That was cool, Yuri," said Andre. "You surprise me every day. Sorry about what I said yesterday."

"No big deal," Yuri said. 

"So, you ever thought about being a Duel King?"

"He has," Patty answered for him. "They've all said he could face them. I mean, he owns a pretty sweet dinosaur and he beat an American Regional Champion. For all intents and purposes, Yuri is a Duel King in my book."

"It's not a title he needs," said Crystal. "Yuri doesn't need to be called a king to show the world how good he is."

"Well, I don't mean to boast," said Andre, "but I'm about to participate in the Ruby Dragon's Wyvern Cup Tournament next weekend. I already spoke to one of the Duel Kings in school. All I need to do is win that tournament and he'll happily Duel me. I beat him, I get to be a Duel King."

"Good for you," said Yuri. 

"Hope you win, then," said Patty. "That'll make seeing Yuri beating you all the sweeter." 

Chapter Text

? - The Platinum Knight

The Shadow Realm


The knight coughed as he sat in front of the fire. He could taste the iron flavor of his blood on the top of his tongue. He did not want to get up from his spot in front of the fire, but he knew he had a job to do.

The new Crown Prince of Termnnia depended on him. He removed his helmet so he could eat the last of the stale bread rolls inside of his pack. This was it. If there was no food inside of the castle, looming eerily above him from the top of the mountain, he would starve.

Crickets chirped in the long, yellow grass all around him. An owl screeched from somewhere in the forest of dead trees. Lightning flashed in the blood-red sky, followed by a blast of thunder that disoriented the knight.

He did not want to get up. Too long had he been in this shadowy abyss. Too long had he been without seeing the sunlight. Since hearing the sweet melody of birds.

He did not remember the touch of grass. The taste of cold water from the river. The taste of food. Good food. Hot meats roasting on the fire with a tankard of golden ale made of juniper berries and topped with cream seasoned with cinnamon.

Then again, save for the Prince's spirit guiding him, he had no memory of pleasant company. No.

For almost two decades he had been trapped here in the dark recesses of the Shadow Realm searching. Searching for pieces that led to a great and wondrous treasure. And one of those pieces was hidden inside that dreaded castle.

The thought of finding food and water in its dark halls brought some strength to his legs. He soon found himself standing up and heading for the castle.

As he wandered through the cemetery, he encountered horrible undead Duel Monsters, such as the annoying Clown Zombie, who would bounce out from behind tombstones and dance atop his acrobatic ball. It made a horrible cackle and attacked the knight with its rusty scythe. The Platinum Knight encountered about a dozen of them and slew them all one by one. Then, out from the ground, arose a skeletal warrior with a giant claymore for a weapon. Then another and another, each of them draped in ragged tunics of purple, teal, black, or red.

The 13th Grave. Following them were battalions of Zombie Warrior, skeletons with iron pauldrons and sharp axes.

Those beasts proved a nuisance, but it was nothing the knight could handle. One swing of his giant diamond blade and he slaughtered them, scattering their bones all over the cemetery. It was a long and difficult journey into the castle, but he finally made it.

He stopped in front of the castle steps to regain some energy and catch his breath. But he would not rest for long, for a fiery portal opened and from it appeared the guardian of the castle entrance.

Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. The boar-like monster was gigantic in size, with muscles like boulders and large wings to create gusts of wind that caused trees in the courtyard to collapse and fall.

Cir thumped his chest and squealed, challenging the knight to combat. He had no choice but to accept the monster's challenge. They battled for hours on end, neither one showing any signs of stopping. The knight, even though clad in colossal armor, moved like the wind, proving difficult for Cir to catch.

He landed a few lucky blows every now and then during the fight, but he proved no match for the knight's speed. Their battle shook the foundations of the castle. Bells, hanging sadly in their towers, rung loudly. Cir was bleeding magma-like blood from its wounds.

The knight's armor was cracked and chipped in various places. His magic cloth-of-gold cape, which shielded him from the cold of the Shadow Realm, was tattered and dirty. No matter how tough he was, no matter how badly Cir wanted to win, the Platinum Knight would not allow the monster to win. Never!

Finally, The Platinum Knight saw his chance. He struck Cir on the knees, causing him to kneel forward in agony. The Platinum Knight jumped and held up his sword, infusing it with the holy light of Horakhty.

The blade started to glow and grew ten-fold its original size. And finally, he struck the monster and decapitated it. Cir's head flipped over the castle walls and rolled down the mountain. His body writhed about for a few seconds before it collapsed, smashing the ruins of a once beautiful fountain. Dust slowly rose into the air.

Seeing that the battle was over, the knight felt his legs turn to jelly. He fell on the ground, exhausted. He crawled towards a tree and leaned on it, gasping for air. An arcane circle formed next to his resting place. He grabbed his sword, ready to strike whatever came through the gate. He sighed with relief when he saw that it was his old friend.

Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss. He was an expert on the Planes of the Shadow Realm, especially the Burning Abyss, a realm where terrible pets of Odiva, Goddess of Perfection, were said to lurk.

So legendary were his travels, that he was forever immortalized in the game of Duel Monsters. Each beast that was part of the archetype was documented by him and given to Maximillion Pegasus to create into cards.

"You have arrived," said Dante. He examined the knight. "Hmph. You look terrible. Here."

He gave the knight a purple handkerchief with three buttered scones inside. The knight grabbed them at once. He took off his helmet and scarfed them down. The shadow of the tree above concealed his identity from Dante.

The Platinum Knight chewed his morsels loudly and grunted with each bite. Dante smiled and opened another sack, taking out a bottle of wine to wash down the scones.

"How long has it been since you had food?" Dante asked, helping himself to a buttered scone.

"Too long," the knight replied.

Dante was getting worried about the knight. "You need to rest."

"I'll rest when I find all the pieces," the knight replied, eating the last of the scones.

Dante handed him another napkin, this time with apple slices, grapes, and cubes of sweet cheese.

"Thank you," the knight said wearily. "Besides, there is no rest to be found here. Every shadow is a hiding place for some kind of a monster. I fear more will be on their way now that I have killed the guardian."

"They will not come here," said Dante. "Not now that I have arrived. The blessed light of Horakhty and the Almighty Andu radiate through me. I will go with you into the castle and seek the piece you desire so much. But first..."

Dante cast a spell that mended the knight's wounds, regained his energy, and even fixed the cracks in the knight's armor. The knight suddenly found himself jumping up and stretching.

He felt rejuvenated. He even dared to fight with Cir two more times with his bare hands. Dante took out a pendant from around his neck and his clothing changed from his red tunic and black slacks to brilliant robes of white and gold.

He had a staff infused with divine, magical energies, which granted him power over the dark monsters of the Burning Abyss. Now, they were going to help him here, in this pointless world.

The two companions went inside the dark castle. Upon entering the atrium, they were ambushed by a terrible monster.

Dark Balter the Terrible! He was a Fiend with dark brown armored flesh, shielded by plates of golden armor. He wore a green cape and a white decorative collar. On his brow shined a crown with rubies and emeralds.

He let out a terrible laugh and pumped his fist. His ragged, gray mane whipped in the gust he created to unleash his slicing wind attack. Dante and the Platinum Knight dodged the attack. Dark Balter the Terrible was a towering beast - the top of his head almost reaching the ceiling. The rusty iron chandeliers that hung from the stones above waved back and forth, fiercely.

"You cannot stop us both!" shouted Dante. "Hand over the treasure, and we will let you live!"

Dark Balter the Terrible reeled back in laughter, then started swinging his claws all over the chamber. They were lit on fire to deal terrible damage on his two foes. "Watch him!" shouted Dante.

Back and forth for more than an hour, the three combats went. Dark Balter was not keen on giving up his piece. No! He could not. The Pink-Haired Master was relying on him to keep the piece safe. But he failed. After another grueling hour of battle, Dark Balter was slain by the Platinum Knight and Dante. He fell with a loud crash on the ground and disintegrated, leaving behind a rusty, iron safe.

"At last," said the knight.

Dante touched the emblem on his cloak and his clothing returned to normal. "That should be all for the evil that lingers here," he said, checking for enemies with a life-detection spell. Meanwhile, the knight smashed the safe with his fist and pulled the door open. "There you are," he said, reaching inside.

What he pulled out was a great treasure indeed. A photograph.

"Will that save him?" Dante asked.

"No," the knight responded, putting the photo in one of the compartments in his cape. "Look around you, Dante. If the world looks like this, he will never come home. But I see great hope."

He looked at one of the cracks on the floor. A flower was beginning to grow out of it. The knight typed something on his gauntlet. A holographic computer screen revealed windows of data, graphs, pie charts, and pages of an internet page. He then saw the anatomy of a young man.

Restoration at 65% said the cool, female voice.

"Your hold over him will soon be broken, my liege. Don't let us down, Della."

Chapter Text


Andre - Duel Dome/Aquarius

September 27 - Year 18 4AOS


The day of the Wyvern Cup tournament came at last. Since this was a special event, Sergei had it hosted at the Duel Dome so the players could have access to the holographic systems. He had an entire arena bought out for the whole day. There were tables with food being served by Tyson and his cooking team. He was behind the food stand located right next to the Dueling arena cooking barbeque, fried chicken, popping popcorn, and other treats. As he did this, he handed out brochures advertising his father's new restaurant at the Phobos Corp Mall.

The arena was getting full of players and spectators who received invitations to the event. Andre was sitting alone in the bleachers setting up his deck, adding and removing cards to make his deck balanced. Since coming to Aquarius all those weeks ago, he learned that it was unwise to underestimate these players. Even if the format wasn't as advanced as it was back home in Termnnia, they were still pretty skilled and worked well with what they had. Having a deck with nothing but high ATK monsters was not a wise thing to do so he spent the last few days buying cards.

He paused for a moment and thought about Yuri. If Yuri was going to be in the tournament, it meant he had to contend with his Black Tyranno, who was a very fierce monster capable of ending matches with a single blow if Yuri played him right, and he oftentimes did.

He also prepared his deck for the others in Yuri's group in case they decided to join. If they did, this was going to be hard to win. Tyson had his Behemoth, King of All Animals. Patty and her Zera the Mant, who always devastated her opponents whenever he came out. Natalya was also skilled with her winged-beast deck, using field spells like Mountain and Rising Air Current to raise their ATK to the top of the charts. And her Simorgh was already strong enough as it was with his 2700 ATK. He didn't know what Carter had as an ace, but just like Natalya, he had just the right amount of powerful field spells to make their ATK go up high and overwhelm his opponents.

And Nick…well….he wasn't too worried about Nick.

He soon spotted Yuri and his group below, helping themselves to pizza. They seemed to be having a good time. Patty suddenly pointed to the lounge up in the rafters. Andre looked up too. He narrowed his eyes and his stomach felt as though someone stuck a bag of ice into it. It was Brett, the young man who had him thrown out of the restaurant. He was surrounded by his group. There was one guy who stood out from the rest. A tall guy with black feathery hair wearing a black leather jacket, white pants, and a white scarf. A pretty Japanese girl with long black hair flowing down to the back of her legs was arm in arm with him.

They were getting comfortable in their luxury seats, helping themselves to root beer and soda. Crystal soon came into view dressed in her best, and she was with the girls having dinner with her in the restaurant.

Andre overheard some student talking nearby. One of them identified them as the Dragon Sisters of Aquarius. They were a Dueling Team in the Pro Leagues and were ranked #1 in the whole world. What they all had in beauty, they matched with power; for their decks were filled with the rarest, most powerful dragons in Duel Monsters. And with new sets rumored to come out, Andre had a feeling they were going to get even stronger. One of them, an Asian girl with reddish-black hair came up from behind Crystal and wrapped her arms around her neck. She kissed her cheeks multiple times and laughed. They seemed so happy to be here and watch the event. They were so young, probably still in High School like Andre was, and they all had bright smiles on their faces.

It upset him greatly seeing them under the watchful eye of that Brett character. They seemed to be nothing more than accessories in his eyes. Something to make him look cool. Andre's blood began to boil the more he stared at Brett. He remembered what Patty told him. About how Brett beat Yuri so badly he was in a vegetative state for many weeks. Yuri. That kind and gentle boy. The future High King of his homeworld. If only Brett had known who he was dealing with.

"Five minutes!" called Natalya. She held a microphone, announcing the time left before the tournament began. She was standing next to the grand prize. A check worth 3000 Credits and a six-foot-tall three-level black and gold trophy with a dragon's head and red glass wings crafted on the cup at the top.

Finally, when everyone got settled and the players had arrived, Sergei took the microphone and greeted everyone, thanking them for coming to the event tonight. He made a huge announcement. From here on out, all major events and tournaments in the Ruby Dragon were going to be held in the Duel Dome. That sure got everyone excited. When he was done with the promotions, he called up the participants for the first Duel of the tournament.

Floyd Peterson, the deck milling Duelist. And he was up against…Patty! Just as Andre thought. Patty was in the tournament after all. She was dressed to impress with her get-up. She had on a RAPTOR baseball cap backward on her head. She sported a white and pink crop top and tight denim cutoffs and black boots that went up to her knees. On her hands, she had fingerless black gloves with carbon fiber knuckle guards and black athletic sleeves covered her arms. Before the match, she painted gridiron lines on her cheekbones for the sake of looking cool, and it was working on some of the spectators. They ate her look up and adored her. Her exposed curves caused many of the boys in the arena to hoot and whistle for her. Loving the admiration she got from the spectators, she waved at them and blew kisses.

"DUEL!" Sergei shouted once they were both ready.

Floyd began with his usual Needle Worm and Banisher of the Light combo, banished Patty's monsters as well as milling her deck little by little. However, Patty was more than ready to deal with his combo. It might have gotten the best of her last time but it was certainly not going to work this now. After he successfully banished more than 20 cards in Patty's deck, she summoned a new fiend monster called Gran Maju Da Eiza.

This creature could gain 400 ATK points for every one of Patty's banished cards. And since she had 26 cards banished as a result of Banisher of the Light, Gran Maju Da Eiza had 10,400 ATK points, the most ATK anyone on the island had ever seen before. She equipped it with a Fairy Meteor Crush spell that she got from Nick. With it, her fiend could inflict damage to Floyd's Life Points even if his Banisher of the Light was in defense mode. And that was the end of that.

The spectators got up and cheered for Patty's victory. She turned to face them and obnoxiously bowed before turning to look at Floyd. "Oy! Peterson!" she called. She winked and bent over, smacking herself defiantly on her butt before the elevator took her down. Payback for the loss she suffered last time.

Brett swirled his flute of lime soda around with his wrist as he admired Patty from above. "That girl," he said. "Who is she?"

"Her name's Pamela McKnight," said Santiago. "She goes by the name Patty. Because of her affinity with Fiend and Zombie monsters, they call her the Grim Reaper and the Fiend Queen. She's the daughter of RAPTOR's Commander."

"Ah, and so that makes her a rich girl, too. I love her more and more."

"Well, sorry to sour your view on her, but word on the street is she's also good friends with that kid who beat Randall a few weeks ago."

"Yuri huh?" said Brett. He caught Crystal's attention. "Such a shame that girl is wasting her time with the likes of him. She deserves better company, don't you think?"

"Thinking about taking her under your wing, boss?" asked one of Brett's friends. "I've gotta say, I'd love to have her around."

"Same here," drooled another of his friends.

"That'll depend on how well she performs in the tournament. If she makes it to the finals, I'll consider talking to her." '

The tournament progressed. Andre had to deal with a few tough opponents but he was able to pull through. Nick was also in the games, but he was knocked out by a cheerleader from another high school in the first rounds. The semifinals came and went and now there were only two Duelists left.

Andre and Patty.

This is it, Andre thought. In order to be taken seriously as a Duelist by Master Yugi and to be seen as a worthy friend to Prince Yuri, I'm going to have to beat Patty. Damn, she was starting to warm up to me. Hopefully, she doesn't take this loss too hard. I have to do what I have to do.

Patty finally came into view as the elevator took her up to the Duel Pod. Her adoring fans got up and cheered for her again, whistling and calling her name, some even calling her to date them.

"You look good," said Andre, shuffling his deck as he waited for her to stop grandstanding and taking videos for her Instagram reels.

"Wish I could say the same for you," Patty said. She took her deck out of her back pocket and set it on the touch screen mat. "Don't get too mad when I beat you, new kid. You had an incredible journey, but it stops here."

"You sound so sure of yourself," said Andre.

Brett let out a cold chuckle and slowly clapped his hands. "Wow. She sure is sassy. I like this. My money's on her winning this thing. And I'm not saying that because she's got a pretty face and cute butt. She knows how to play her fiend deck really well. This Andre guy. Pfft, he isn't all that impressive. In fact, he bores me."

"I know," Santiago agreed. "All he does is go in aggressively with his big monsters and hopes that will be enough to win."

Brett gulped down the last of his soda. "That may have worked in the early stages of the tournament but now he's up against the best these games had to offer. I'm going to love watching her tear this loser apart."

"DUEL!" Sergei shouted into the microphone once Andre and Patty were ready.

LP 2000

T1

"I'll go first," said Patty. "I set two cards face-down and summoned Baron of the Fiend Sword in attack mode."

She summoned a dog-faced fiend wearing an expensive black suit and a black bowler hat. He sneered, menacingly slapping the blade of his fancy dark sword against his palm.

ATK/1550

"And that ends my turn," said Patty. "Your move, new kid."

T2

"Is that your opening move, Patty? You holding out on me?"

"Yeah, right. I'm not a Duelist like you. Hurry up and make your move."

"I sure will, Patty. Watch this! I summon Launcher Spider in attack mode! With a devastating attack power of 2200! And I'll attack your Baron of the Fiend Sword with him!"

Patty quickly flipped one of her face-down cards up. "You simpleton! I knew that's how you would be starting out. I activate the trap card, Trap Hole of Spikes!"

Before Launcher Spider could fire a single rocket from its launchers, it fell into a hole with spikes at the bottom, piercing through its tough metal armor.

"When you attack with a monster that's been summoned this turn, my trap will destroy it and you take damage equal to half of your monster's ATK points."

"Aww, man!" Andre slammed his fist on the table. "Damn, I've taken damage on my own turn!"

Patty - 2000 LP

900 LP - Andre

Brett howled with laughter and clapped his hands. "Idiot! What did I tell you guys? Patty's no doubt been watching him carefully. She anticipated that fool would start the duel off with his strongest monsters and she made him pay dearly for his amateur mistake by taking him down to his last 900 Life Points."

"She's good," said Santiago. "I wonder how this Andre moron is going to bounce back from this? With only a handful of Life Points left, he can't afford to make mistakes like that again. He's going to have to think carefully if he wants to have a chance against Patty."

"Think? No, he clearly can't think. Not if he's making stupid moves like that. Patty's just one attack away from winning this thing."

T3

"My turn!" said Patty. "I draw. Oooh, I like this card. I summon Zoa in attack mode! Then, I'm going to activate the spell, Allure of Darkness. First, I banish a Dark monster from my hand, and then I can draw two cards."

Andre braced himself for the worst. Then he felt himself breaking apart when he saw her smile.

"Oh, I am just so good. I'm going to lay this little number face-down and then I'm going to end my turn. I don't want to end things too quickly."

T4

"Very funny," said Andre. "I'm not afraid of your boogeymen. I may be down but I'm not out. I have trust in my deck and it gets me out of tight spots right when I need it." He drew his card and smiled. "And my faith rewards me with one of my newest monsters. Dark Magician!"

"What!? The Dark Magician?" Patty asked. "I've never seen one in person before."

Brett leaned forward to get a better look at the monster. "No way! Dark Magician, huh? How'd this loser get a monster of that caliber? He's a prized monster that's only given to the most elite players in the world in special tournaments."

"Relax, boss. He probably stole it or won it from an arrogant player who put it up as a bet."

"Surprised, Patty?" said Andre. "Watch as I boost my magician's strength with Book of Secret Arts. This will increase his ATK by 300. Now he's stronger than your Zoa. Dark Magician, attack!"

"Don't think so! I reveal my face-down card, Metalmorph! Now Zoa's ATK will increase by 300 points!"

Zoa's claws turned to metal. He blocked Dark Magician's attack then ran towards him and sliced him across the chest.

"NO!" Andre yelled. His Life Points trickled to 800 LP. "My Dark Magician! You beat him."

Brett opened another can of lime soda. "She destroyed the Dark Magician without breaking a sweat."

Santiago sniggered in his seat and ate a potato chip. "The Dark Magician is a good card," he said. "But useless in the hands of an incompetent fool."

Brett chuckled and slid his hand up Crystal's leg. "That's harsh, Santiago."

"He's only telling it like it is," said Raven's girlfriend.

Down below in the Duel, all Andre could do was end his turn.

T5

Patty was leaning over the table of her pod, her back arched to give her followers in the audience a good view. She yawned, cheek resting on her palm propped up by her elbow.

"So it's about to end so soon?" she said. "Kinda anticlimactic for a tournament that's so hyped. But then again, I didn't expect much going into this seeing your ridiculously simple play style."

"What are you saying?"

"You just toss the strongest monster you can find into your deck and throw them onto the field whenever you Duel. That may work at school but things are serious now. Heh. You always talk about beating Yuri and becoming the best. You won't come even close with moves like that."

"You think you're going to beat me, Patty?"

"With the way things are looking now, it sure is looking that way. If you still think you're going to win, maybe my next move with change your mind. First off, now that I have a Zoa equipped with Metalmorph on the field, I can tribute it to summon Metalzoa!"

Zoa's body was then transformed to be completely cybernetic. There was not an ounce of the original monster remaining. He was now a full-fledged machine with 3000 ATK points.

"And then, I'm going to use my second face-down card. Call of the Haunted. This will let me bring back a monster from my Graveyard. And I choose Zoa!"

Andre couldn't believe it. Now he had to deal with a souped-up Metalzoa and the original Zoa.

"And the fun won't stop there. I activate the spell, Pre-preparation of Rites. Now I can add a Ritual Spell from my deck to my hand as well as a Ritual monster who is named in the spell."

"Oh no!" Andre began to quiver in his sneakers.

Patty sacrificed Baron of the Fiend Sword and Man-Eating Treasure Chest from her hand and summoned her ace.

"Time to play, my love." Patty feverishly kissed the card and slapped it down on the field. "Rise, Zera the Mant!"

Baron of the Fiend Sword vanished into a puff of purple smoke that got sucked into a gold cauldron. The crowd cried out in amazement when Zera the Mant made his appearance at last. Zoa and Metalzoa stood on either side of him, making him look like a king.

"Aw, it's over for him!" Nick said happily. "Patty always knows what to do. Andre didn't stand a chance."

"She's amazing," Brett whispered to himself. She whittled him down to his last few Life Points and was easily able to summon an army of her toughest fiends to battle. This idiot clearly didn't know who he was messing with."

Patty cocked her hip to the right and placed her hand on it. "All right, Andre. If you wanna quit, now's your chance. These three are the main stars of my deck. And if you couldn't handle dealing with just Zera in our casual matches, there's no way you can fight all three of them. You thought you could wow me with that Dark Magician, huh? Man, I wish I could have seen the look on your face when I made Zoa more powerful with Metalmorph. It was priceless."

"Somebody better do something about that attitude of yours," said Andre. "One day, it's gonna come back and bite you in the ass."

"Ooooh," Patty wiggled her bottom tantalizingly. "What are you gonna do hotshot? Punish me? Yeah, right. You're in no position to be making threats. I set one card face-down and end my turn. Hurry up and make your move."

T6

"With pleasure! I've drawn Raigeki! This mighty spell will annihilate all of your monsters at once."

"Yeah, no. Not gonna happen. I activate the trap card, Dark Bribe. This will negate your spell and destroy it. The only drawback is you can draw a card. Not that it matters."

"You sure about that?" Andre asked. "I was expecting you were going to cancel out my card with a trap. I've got you right where I want you, Patty. Your ass is mine!"

"Say what?"

"First, I'm going to activate the spell card, Monster Reborn! And with it, I'll revive my Dark Magician!"

The spectators gasped and oohed and aahed when Dark Magician returned.

"Big deal," said Nick. "Patty beat that thing once, she can do it again."

"I'm not so sure that's going to be the case this time," said Yuri.

Andre held up another spell. "I activate the spell, Riryoku! This card lets me cut the ATK of one of your monsters in half. I choose your Metalzoa. Now the ATK points he lost get added to Dark Magician!"

Crystal covered her open mouth with her fingers. "Now his attack becomes 4000!"

Andre continued. "And then, I activate this spell card, Blue Medicine, which will increase my Life Points by 400, giving me just enough points to activate this card. Diffusion Wave-Motion! This card works when I have a Level 7 or higher spellcaster on the field. It lets said magician attack all your monsters at once. You fell for it, Patty. I knew you couldn't help but summon all those monsters at once. I've seen you Duel lots of times. Summoning all those monsters at once is a clever move. You know how to use your cards well. But I was smarter than you this time!"

"You set me up?" Patty whispered.

"What!" Nick shouted. "Andre planned this all along!"

"That can't be!" Carter slapped both his hands on the side of his head.

"You thought I just played the same old way at school, huh? Well, I don't do that anymore. I've changed. You can thank Yuri for that. Dark Magician! Attack and destroy Patty's army of fiends!"

Dark Magician spun his staff around and held it up high. A ball of black energy formed over the top of his staff and it released dark magic blades across the air that cut Patty's monsters and her Life Points down to size.


Winner: Andre


"Boys and girls!" shouted Sergei. "We have our winner! Andre Martin!"

"What a shame," Brett said. He stood up, feeling sour over Andre's victory. "Still, keep an eye on her. That girl shows a lot of promise."

"And what of this Andre guy?" Santiago asked.

"He just got lucky." Brett straightened his tie. "He's of no interest to me."

Brett thanked him, then looked at Crystal. "And you," he held out his hand. "Come along now. It's time for your bath."

Crystal looked at her friends. "I'll catch up with you guys later. Enjoy the party. If you encounter Yuri, tell him I said hi."

Down below the crowd gathered around the stage as Natalya handed Andre the trophy and the check with the prize money. Meanwhile, Yuri and the others gathered around Patty.

"I screwed up," she said. "Argh! I shouldn't have taken him so lightly. I had my best monsters out."

"Don't worry," said Yuri. "You tried your best. And with the new sets coming out next month, your fiends are sure to get plenty of support that will take him down next time."

"This is going to be troublesome," said Nick. His voice was hoarse and he felt as though someone stabbed him in the gut. He hadn't felt this way since he went to Wrestlemania XXX with Yuri and saw the Undertaker's 21-year winning streak come to an end at the hands of Brock Lesnar.

"What's going to be troublesome?" Carter asked.

"That guy," Nick jerked his thumb back at Andre, who was taking pictures with Sergei and Natalya. "He's done everything he needed to do to become one of the school's Duel Kings."

"Forget about that stupid title," said Tyson. He rubbed his hands on Patty's back to soothe her. "We're gonna graduate in a few more months so it's gonna mean nothing pretty soon. If anything, we should forget about Duel Kings and trophies and shit like that. Let's just go back to having fun at the Ruby Dragon after school. The competition takes the fun away and brings out the worst in us."

"I totally agree," said Carter. "Patty. I haven't seen you yap your mouth like that. So unlike you."

"I know. I made myself look really bad up there. I was just so caught up in the moment, you know."

"Forget about it," said Yuri. "Let's head over to my house and raid the freezer. Mom bought a ton of tubs of ice cream the other day. You know what that means."

"Ice cream tower!" Patty cheered happily. "Now that's what I'm talking about."

"I've got plenty of toppings we can use from the kitchen," said Tyson. "Let's celebrate Patty the Loser!"

"Har, har, har. Eat my ass, Tyson."

Tyson bobbed his head up and down, raising his eyebrow. "Hey now, that's not a bad idea. I could soak it up in some barbecue sauce, toast it in the oven till it's cooked to perfection."

"Oh, God!" Patty slapped her palm over her face.

"Yeah, but first I'm gonna tenderize it real good!" He slapped his hands together.

"I GET IT!" Patty slapped his arm. He backed away laughing. "Cannibal!" Patty burst out laughing.

The friends left the arena and headed for Yuri's house, hoping that a little ice cream and some time together would soothe the wounds of Patty's defeat and brighten her day.

Chapter Text


Yuri - Montgomery Residential Palace, Aquarius

September 29 - Year 18 4AOS


Patty was still pretty glum about losing the tournament throughout the whole week. It was all she could keep thinking about. She was so close. If she managed to put a burn damage spell in her deck or had a monster with the ability to inflict piercing damage, she would have won the tournament.

"Cheer up," said Natalya. "Don't be so gloomy." She handed Patty a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice as they stood together in the kitchen moping that afternoon. They heard Andre was going to be at the Ruby Dragon and didn't feel like going for Patty's sake.

Yuri was leaning against the refrigerator, cutting an apple carefully. "You'd think after beating him so many times she'd have a victory in the bag."

Tyson drummed his fingers on the counters, nodding yes to Natalya so he could have a cup of orange juice as well. He lifted his glass and said: "Yeah, well, Patty didn't anticipate the new kid having a Dark Magician in his deck."

"Hey, gang," Mr. Montgomery said coming into the kitchen. He saw the pitcher of orange juice on the counter and reached for it with glee. "Did you make this Natalya?" he asked, pouring himself some juice.

"Yes, sir. I bought these oranges from the grove on Eden Island.

"Wow, honey, this is very good," Jacob said after drinking some. "You all look a little glum today. Come on, it's Saturday. You should all be happy. Didn't you all get A's on your essays? You worked on those for weeks. I figured you'd be doing whatever it is you kids do these days."

"Patty's still glum about losing the tournament to that new kid," said Natalya.

"Oh, I see. Was it a close match?"

"Forget it," said Patty. She leaned against the counter and reared her head up. "I don't want to talk about the tournament anymore. The more I think about it, the more irritated I get."

"Well, it's all you're going to think about if you're moping here the whole day. Why don't you kids go to the beach? It's a beautiful morning. And I think you need to leave Duel Monsters out of your lives for just a day. Next to your studies, Duel Monsters seems the be the only thing you kids do."

"Actually, the beach sounds like a nice idea," Natalya said. "Come on, guys. Let's go. Mr. Montgomery is right. Let's stop thinking about Dueling and have some fun."

"But Duel Monsters is fun," said Nick.

"I think Nattie's right," said Yuri. "It's been a while since we've gone surfing, too. What do you say, Patty? The waves are growing pretty high today."

"Sure, why not? I'm game."

"Then it's decided," said Jacob. "Have fun out there, you guys. And be safe."

They cleaned up the kitchen before going upstairs to put on their swimsuits and gather the boards. They crowded into Mr. Montgomery's SUV and he drove them all the way to the luxury of Eden Island, arguably the second most beautiful island in Aquarius. There were no buildings here, save for two hotels, but they were so concealed behind the high palm trees that they seemed almost invisible. The beaches were almost white as snow and since they were by the Florida coast, the water was turquoise in color.

Patty stretched and pulled her shorts down, revealing a hot pink bikini bottom. She kept her large blue shirt on though and laid down on a lounge chair with an umbrella. As she got comfortable, she noticed Nick standing there with that goofy look on his face.

"Dude, bugger off!" she said. She put her sunglasses on and rested her hands on the back of her head.

Natalya set her things down on the lounge chair next to Patty. She stretched as well, breathing in the sweet, salty air of the ocean. "Oh, this is so nice. Hey, anyone up for watermelon?"

"Me!"

"I will!"

"Yeah, that would be great!"

"Oh, I would!" said Carter. "I would love, love, love, looooove some watermelon right now."

"Sounds like we all do." Natalya dug through her purse to find some Aquarian notes. "Okay, but I'm going to need a few helping hands to bring it here."

"Hey, you can always count on me," Tyson said. He set down his things and followed her to the snack bar.

Patty stretched again and moaned as her muscles relaxed. "Wow, guys, this is just glorious. I really needed this."

"Happy to help," Carter said. He followed Natalya and Tyson to the snack bar to help with the food as well.

"Yuri, what about you?" Nick asked.

"Huh?"

"These dreams you keep on having. The ones with Mr. Hairdo. Are you still having those?"

Yuri didn't want to talk about it. He dug through his backpack for the sunscreen, hoping Nick would forget about it. But he still remained where he was, staring at Yuri, hoping for an answer. Patty lowered her sunglasses and Yuri saw the look of concern in her eyes. She wanted to know about the dreams too.

"I still have them."

"Every night?"

"Almost. Last week he only visited me once. He kept talking about the same crap. Something about a King and stuff like that. I don't know."

"Oh, come on!" Patty said sitting up. She patted Yuri's thigh and took her shirt off. "Enough of this nightmare stuff. We came here to relax, didn't we? So come on. Let's cool off in the water. Last one there's a rotten dragon egg!" She ran past them towards the water.

"Yeah, and the first one there's gotta eat it!" Yuri called, taking off his shoes. Nick, enamored by the sight of Patty in her skimpy two-piece tossed his shirt off, took off his sandals, and ran after her.

Yuri removed his shirt and took off his shield pendant, carefully stuffing it in a special compartment in his backpack that could only be opened with his fingerprint. He chased after Nick and Patty, both already in the water. As he passed by a forest of palms, he stopped. There was a tall figure standing amongst the palms concealed in a messy hooded cloak. It was ragged and dirty. Flies swarmed around it. The figure's face was hidden inside the darkness of his hood as though Yuri were looking into a starless void.

"What's with you?" he asked. "Are you all right?"

"This world," the figure said. "It's devoid of all things wondrous and magical. It is flat. Plain. Dull. Monotonous. It is no wonder they call it the Standard Dimension."

"What are you talking about?" Yuri asked.

"And in this world as plain as a page with no words lies a speck of brilliance. The hope for all worlds."

"Who…who are you?" Yuri asked. "Yugi?"

"I am merely a pilgrim. I wander the highways that link other worlds together. This plane of existence you live on is nothing more than a speck of dust floating in an open field. Despite how small it is, it is still connected to the Heart of All Worlds. The world from whence you came."

Yuri began to field better the more he listened to the hooded man's ramblings. "Hearts? Worlds? Pfft. I think you've been playing too many Tetsuya Nomura games, dude. Get some fresh air. Some sunlight. Trust me it'll do you some good."

"I wouldn't ignore what's going on around you, boy. The balance of all worlds is hanging in the balance and you are the single grain of sand that can tip the scales."

"Yeah, right. You better run along now, whoever you are. If you're a Stowaway, you need to go. I won't hesitate in reporting you."

"Yuri!" Patty called from the water. "Come on! The water's amazing!"

"I'm coming!" Yuri yelled. "As for you…huh!"

The man was gone.

"That's weird. Other worlds? Balance? What the hell's he talking about?"


Yami Yugi and Ser Gerhalos - Somewhere in the Embolodrian Wilderness


Yami Yugi stoked the fire with a stick, eyes, and ears ever sharp, on the lookout for the slightest bit of danger. Even with a giant Leogai like Ser Gerhalos, you could never be too careful. Yami looked up and watched as Ser Gerhalos sharpened his giant claymore with a whetstone. 

"What happened to you and the Summoner of Dragons?" Yami asked.

Ser Gerhalos stopped and froze like a statue. He didn't even blink, for the memories were too strong. "I don't recall the last days of her company," he said. "I had an accident that expelled me from the group for a while. I found Avi as she was escaping the bastards who kept her prisoner in the ancient Norman fort. She told me they were slaughtered. Her group, I mean. All of them were brave warriors whom she loved with all her heart. Blair Flannigan the Mystic Dragon Knight was the only one who escaped. The others were not so fortunate. Constantine. Young Tordo. Aldara the adventurous. Santigo the Burglar vanished after they were attacked. No one has heard from him since. After they were slain or scattered, the Naralians captured Avi with Anti-Magic Drones, which severed her connection to the magic world. And then they shackled her with chains made of Orichalcium, the rare metal from Akuuda. Do you think..."

"Prince Marcel was not involved. Long has he given me reports of stopping Naralian smugglers trying to sneak the metal out of the continent. As skilled as he is, I fear even he cannot stop all of them."

"I see." Ser Gerhalos stared at the crackling fire in front of him. "I...I do not blame him at all. I was... never mind. Well...when they captured her. The Naralians raped her. The Red Priest from the Church raped her. The Dragon Hunters who killed her friends took turns mounting her like she was a common whore. And the Mech Pilots who slaughtered the mighty Constantine and his dragon did unspeakable things to her. She. The Summoner of Dragons. Reduced to being a plaything for the enemy. She managed to escape with it was thanks to your apprentice, Andre, that I found her in time. I took her to Lord Erendon of the Golden Elves for aid. She...she was whipped so many times. There were bite marks on her breasts, thighs, and buttocks. And they tore her fingernails one by one. He said he would heal her but I was not allowed in their sanctuary. They turned me away. I saw as they took her into the forest. And I never saw her again. That was...two years ago now. This was not how I envisioned her journey. I have watched her gain power dragons. I've seen her vanquish armies of bandits, slay giants, and overcome the dangers of hidden temples. For the longest time, I thought we were actually going to achieve something. I thought we were on the road to a great victory for Termnnia. Little did I know, we were leading her to a horrible nightmare. If I had only been there."

Yami stoked the fire again and looked up at Ser Gerhalos. "If you had, you'd be dead, too. I haven't heard any news about Avi in a while. Last I heard she was in Ibellia aiding Chazz Princeton in reclaiming his kingdom. But they were just rumors. He claims he never saw her."

"I'd like to think she played a part in his victory. How else could the boy summon a dragon as powerful as the one he summons."

"He doesn't summon it, Ser Gerhalos. The dragon's his partner. A beast of this world. As much as I'd like to believe Avi is with him, I'm afraid I have to take his word for it. I believe Avi is still with Lord Erendon."

"I sort of believe that too. We could really use her. Now that she's gone, King Forrest doesn't worry about the Treaty of Dragonfire anymore. He has begun conquering kingdoms again. We need her! But she is either awol in the wilds of Termnnia or stuck with the Elves. What is this weapon you keep telling me about, Master Yu-Gi-Oh? Can it stop the Naralians?"

"Yes. It can. Its destructive power is so great, King Forrest sends mercenaries by the thousands to try and find it."

"Then we must make haste," said Ser Gerhalos. "No telling what King Forrest will do if he gets his hands on it."    

 

Chapter Text

Mai Valentine - Rassay, Captial of Emboldor 

September 30th - Year 18 4AOS


The scolding hot water soothed the wounds on her back, an injury she received when she got slashed by the claws of a pesky fiend called Lisark (ATK/1300 DEF/1300), whom she hunted down and earned a large pouch of gold Star Chips. She bit her lip when she felt the wounds sting for a little bit. Serenity's arm suddenly came through the plastic curtain of her shower, holding onto a bottle with a glowing blue liquid.

"Ribbon finally made the potion," Serenity said. "It'll heal your scratches instantly so she tells me."

"Let's hope it works," said Mai, her voice reverberating in the tiled walls. "This stings worse than that sunburn I got last summer."

She attempted to reach for the bottle, but Serenity yanked it out of her way.

Mai rolled her eyes and slid her hands down her scalp. "Say, did you hear the rumors going on in Domino?"

Serenity didn't answer.

"Apparently Kaiba adopted a little princess to the family. Wanna go see her?"

Serenity still said nothing.

Mai sighed, sticking her head under the stall to wash away the shampoo from her hair. "What now?" she grumbled.

"Promise me you'll stop being so careless," Serenity ordered her. "Yuri is coming back soon. I want us all to be there and greet him when he comes back."

"Do you need the money or don't you?" Mai asked impatiently.

"Not so badly that you had to risk your life the way you did today," Serenity said through gritted teeth. She clasped her other hand tightly on her towel, still damp from her sitting in the hot tub overlooking the city below. "And the day before that and the day before that. It's foolish."

"We need money to fund both Yuri and that expedition of yours, don't we?" Mai said, rubbing her shoulder. "We need to start taking drastic action. You heard what Yugi said. Antilles and his party convinced the Senate to keep Yuri trapped in the other world until he learns how to Duel. You read the ESS Agent's report. It confirms what you said. His father doesn't give him a penny. He has to work for his cards, but he chooses to save his money for the bare necessities for school and for travel around that island. And when he does buy cards, he's out of luck. He never gets what he needs."

Serenity extended her arm. Mai swiped the bottle from her grip and poured the liquid into her hand. She rubbed it on her back, feeling an ice-cold briskness that magically healed her deep wounds in an instant. "Ah, White Mages. You gotta love 'em."

"I know what we have to do," said Serenity, sitting down on a red leather love seat. It was dark in the bathing chamber, save for the silvery-blue light of the moons and the lamp in Mai's shower. Serenity could see her shadowy form behind the curtain. "And I think I have a card that can help him out."

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Mai asked. "Don't you dare ride south to use the Gates. Yugi and Pegasus don't want you meddling there. If they find out you used one, our plans to finance Yuri are sunk."

"You don't understand, Mai. That card is...special. Like Yuri was meant to have it. Yugi found it at his front door for a reason. It belongs to Yuri."

"Serenity, you're going to risk all the work we've done just to give Yuri a card? Is it that important?"

"Yes."

Mai sighed. "I hope you know what the hell you're doing, little lady. If you get caught, you could land us all in jail. And then how is Yuri going to get his money?" She turned the stall off. The last few drops dripped on the ground. "Can I have my towel, please?" Mai asked, reaching her hand through the curtain.

Serenity looked for the rung. She pulled the towel from it and handed it to Mai. She stepped out seconds later, fastening it tightly over her chest.

Her hair was soggy and mangled. Mai walked toward the mirror, flicking on a switch to turn on the lights outlining it. She picked up a golden brush and swept her hair.

"Don't screw this up, Serenity. Not when we're so close to helping Yuri come home. I know how much he means to you. He means a lot to all of us. We helped to raise him when he was a baby, so Joey, me, Yugi, and everyone else feel like his mommies and daddies. We all feel a great responsibility for him. And, we ALL made a promise to Rose and Gabe that we'd take care of him if anything happens. You tell me not to be reckless, yet look at you."

"I can do it, Mai. Trust me."

"I've been trusting you for years, Serenity," Mai said with a sigh. "Now, I'm starting to get worried. Whatever you do, don't screw up. I mean it."

"Of course," said Serenity.

"That's a good girl."

"BOO!" someone shouted.

Mai and Serenity jumped. The voice belonged to a man.

"Who the hell?" Mai shouted. "Hey! What's the big idea, you fucking pervert!"

The man stepped into the moonlight. He wore a clean tuxedo, a black masquerade mask with red gems shaped like teardrops, a black cape, and a top hat with a rose tucked in it.

He chuckled, for it pleased him to see the two young women almost naked. "Sorry," he said, followed by another horrid chuckle. "Did I catch you, ladies, at a bad time?"

"What the hell do you want?" shouted Mai. "Get out of my apartment now!"

"Sure, just as soon as you hand over that card Yugi Muto plans on giving to our dear exiled prince."

"How do you know about that?" Serenity shouted.

"Master Marik knows all and see's all. He has eyes and ears everywhere."

"Marik," Mai said balling her fists. "I knew that bastard couldn't be trusted."

The masked man laughed. "Once in the shadows, you stay in the shadows. Just like you, Mai Valentine."

"Blah, blah, blah!" Mai shouted. "I'm not afraid of you. You can either leave the easy way or the hard way, chump!"

"I prefer the hard way," laughed the masked man, holding up his shadowy Duel Disk, which was shaped like a crescent moon. "We Duel for it!"

Mai grunted and looked at Serenity. "Okay, hon, hand me my Duel Disk."

Serenity gasped. "Are you sure? Mai, he works for Marik. You know his goons always have nasty tricks up their sleeves."

"So what?" Mai said with a smirk. "Enough talk. The Duel Disk, chop! Chop!"

Serenity hurried to the dresser and picked up the harpy-shaped ring levitating on a magical stand of black glass. She gave Mai the ring at once. Mai slipped it on and transformed it into a Duel Disk. The bathing chamber was huge and domed with a rotunda, giving them enough space to summon monsters for a Duel.

"Nice," the masked man said, licking his lips, adoring the sight of Mai Dueling in nothing but a towel. He entertained the thought of summoning a powerful monster who could attack her with enough force to possibly blow it off her body.

LP 2000

"I'll start first," he said drawing. "I summon Midnight Fiend in Attack Mode! And since we're playing at night, he gets a thirty percent increase in points thanks to the field power bonus. And that will do it for me."

He conjured a skinny, ill-begotten creature with skin the color of rotting flesh and crescent-shaped wings. Drool oozed from its mandibles and it wriggled its claws to flash them in the moonlight.

Serenity gasped and backed away at the sight of the hideous monster.

The masked man laughed at her. "Aww, is the little baby scared?"

ATK/800 + 240 = 1040

DEF/600 + 180 = 780

"What a weak start," Mai said. She tisked at the weak monster. "If you're the best Marik has to offer, then he should be no threat to us. And I'm about to show you what a big mistake it was thinking you can take on a lady and get an easy win. Gooooo Harpie Queen in Attack Mode!"

The scantily clad Harpie burst onto the field through a curtain of rose petals. Her teal-colored ponytail whipped through the air. Her brilliant, white wings glimmered in the silver light of the moons.

ATK/1900

Mai declared her attack on the weak monster the masked man summoned. Harpie Queen flapped her wings and screeched, zooming towards Midnight Fiend. She slashed the creature across its thin neck, decapitating it.

Its body shattered and blasted the masked man with 860 points of damage. His Life Points plummeted to 1140.

"You pushover," laughed Mai. "You think you're a threat to anyone with monsters like that?"

The masked man chuckled. "The moonlight compliments your skin ever so beautifully," he moaned. "The shadows lust for your flesh again, Miss Mai."

Mai frowned. "Shut up and start your turn already!"

"With pleasure," the masked man said, drawing his card with his teeth. "I summon The White Magical Hat in Attack Mode!"

He summoned a gentleman wrapped in a white cape clasped to his a purple tuxedo. He wore a gold monocle and a white top hat and sported a bushy mustache of brown hair.

"You've got to be joking," said Mai. "You think that pathetic monster can take down my Harpie Queen?"

The masked man let out a high-pitched laugh that echoed across the bathing chamber. "No, he cannot take on your Harpie Queen in battle...but, he can take you down. White Magical Hat, kill the woman now while I find the card!"

"What!" Mai shouted.

"Did you honestly believe I'd let you keep the card in a little game of Duel Monsters?" sneered the masked man, drawing a black rapier studded with rubies from his cloak. "The card of House Delgado belongs to Master Marik, and there's nothing any of you can do to stop him."

White Magical Hat sprang into action. Mai quickly realized that the monster the masked man summoned was no Phantom or a Kaiba Corp hologram. It was real. She ducked out of the way in time. rolling to safety.

White Magical Hat smashed his cane on the ground with such strength, he created a crater on the white and black tiled floor. Serenity conjured fireballs with her palms and launched them at the White Magical Hat. He saw her amateur skills and laughed then performed a backflip to dodge the oncoming spells.

The masked man sped towards her. Serenity swerved left and right, evading the rapier as best she could until she was backed into a corner and could proceed no more. The masked man held up his arm, ready to cut her down. Suddenly, something coiled around his wrist and kept him from striking her down.

He smiled, realizing what it was that was holding him back. Mai used her towel like a whip and wrapped it around his wrist and hold it back. Her nakedness was concealed by the shadows where she stood. She yanked the towel, pulling the man towards her. He lost his balance and tripped.

The White Magical Hat appeared behind Mai, but she heard him coming. She ducked her head to avoid being hit by his cane. In a flash, she tightened her towel and snapped it in the monster's face, knocking away his monocle.

White flashes burst in his eyes. Serenity, who found the time to dress into a pink hoodie, launched a fireball at his chest. Mai felt the heat burn her face as it flew over her. The fireball hit the White Magical Hat and burst into a thousand embers.

He grunted and rolled to a stop. Mai wrapped her towel back on and used her knowledge of conjuration to summon her Harpie Lady.

The winged beauty screeched as she materialized into the world and flew in circles above the bathing chamber. She grabbed the White Magical Hat and tossed him at a nearby column, shattering it.

The masked man recovered from his fall. He reached for the rapier, but Serenity kicked it away. The rapier spun across the tiled path and plopped into a nearby pool. The masked man kicked himself back up and started throwing punches at Serenity.

Thankfully, her brother taught her the basics of hand-to-hand combat, skills he learned from the dark days of his youth hanging with gangs and other criminals to earn money for his family.

Serenity raised her fists and raised her arms each time she saw a punch rocketing towards her. She kicked. The masked man stepped back in a fraction of a second and resumed assaulting Serenity with a flurry of punches and lightning-fast jabs, which she dodged beautifully. Mai and Harpie Lady came speeding towards him. He twirled away, missing Mai's punch and Harpie Lady's claw.

White Magical Hat came to the rescue ramming his cane into Harpie Lady's gut. White Magical Hat jumped up and kicked her hard in the stomach, knocking her into the pool with a great splash.

The masked man laughed at the success of his monster. He then started jabbing at Mai. Mai blocked each punch with her arms and sidestepped to keep him guessing. Serenity came in, hoping to distract him with a fireball.

He was too fast for that, and kicked her palms, launching the fireball at the ceiling. He resumed going after Mai and felt so bold that he tugged on her towel a few times for a look. He almost got her, but Serenity kicked him on the shin.

"Bitch!" he shouted.

Mai smacked him in the jaw. The masked man kicked his legs up and he spun back up to his feet. Serenity attempted to kick him, but the masked man grabbed her by the foot. He leaned his head to the left to look into her sweater and grinned.

"Oooh, nice," he said.

"Ack! Pervert!" Serenity shouted, twirling to the right and using her other leg to smack the man across the face with a powerful kick.

He howled in agony and backed towards a nearby column, smashing into it. The White Magical Hat jumped to his defense, acting as a wall to shield his summoner.

"Enough is enough!" said Mai. She made complicated gestures with her hands until a razzle-dazzle rose-colored glyph formed over her palm, conjuring a rain of rose petals.

Harpie Lady suddenly rose out of the water with a Rose Whip in her hand. She flicked her wrist and sent the whip flying towards the White Magical Hat. It coiled around his neck tightly like a noose. The thorns dug into his flesh causing trickles of blood to ooze from his wounds.

Harpie Lady screeched and flew up high, dragging the White Magical Hat in a deadly ride around the rotunda. He smashed into vases, columns, and statues, breaking his bones with each impact. His face turned purple and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. He was gone. Harpie Lady released him and he shattered.

She then wrapped her whip around the masked assailant's neck. Mai and Serenity took turns punching him and kicking him towards the balcony. Serenity leaped into the air and knocked him over the rail with a spinning kick.

The masked man screamed as he plummeted to the streets below. The Rose Whip snapped his neck a mere ten feet from the ground.

Mai and Serenity collapsed on the ground exhausted as Harpie Lady burst into a rain of rose petals. They both panted heavily and groaned. Mai pet the back of Serenity's head affectionately. "You okay?" she asked.

Serenity nodded. "I guess he wasn't so tough after all."

Mai laughed. "That's my girl. Do me a big favor, okay, hon."

"What is it?"

"Find the fastest damn horse you can and get that card to Yuri. I think he's in even more danger than we realized."

"I will," said Serenity. "Gather the guys tomorrow. Once we win the gold from that upcoming event, we can stop monster hunting and go on our quest."

"It's about time," chuckled Mai. "Yugi did his best to keep the Senate from causing any more damage, but I think even he's given up. He's already started to gather the princes for his alliance."

"And we need to find my artifact," said Serenity. She sat up and looked at the moons.

Hold on, Yuri. We're all with you. You're not alone. We'll get you home. I promised I would.

Chapter Text

St. Augustus Senior High School, Aquarius - Yuri

September 30 - Year 18 4AOS


It was hard not to get noticed now that word had gotten out that he had beaten Randall Lawson. Even though that news was more than a week old, his phone buzzed all through the day with notifications that he was making new friends and was getting messages from some who wanted to see his Black Tyranno card or where he got it.

At school, he was mobbed by students, all of them eager to see his new card. He was so relieved when the final bell rang. Yuri didn't even wait for his friends. He barged out of the school and dashed into the city, where he was never heard from for the rest of the day.

He put his phone on mute and stuffed it in his backpack, then marched to the beaches on the back of Naros Island where he was sure nobody could find him. He was finally alone. The beaches, though manmade, were very natural-looking, hidden by a forest of palm trees, rocky cliffs, and rolling hills.

Yuri remained on that spot until the sun went down and the stars began to sparkle in the heavens. Yuri built himself a small fire on the sands and just sat there for hours and hours. He heard footsteps coming from behind him. He turned quickly and saw a big figure coming towards him. The moonlight revealed the person's silhouette. He finally revealed himself. It was Andre of all people.

"Whoa, there you are!" he said. "Man, everyone's been looking all over for you."

Yuri looked away and wrapped his arms around his legs. "Really? I've been avoiding them all day."

"Your folks are really worried about you, man." Andre stepped into the light of the fire. "There are rumors going around that you fell into the sea. Come on, let's get you home."

"I don't want to leave this spot." Yuri kept his eyes on the waves crashing against the shore.

"What do you want to do then?"

"Disappear."

"Why?"

"I don't like all this attention. Bad enough my dad's pressuring me to become his heir to the company. But now this. I can't get a moment's peace anymore. I went to the bathroom to take a leak and these girls barged in and started filming me. Jealous girls are starting to harass Patty because they think there's a thing going on between me and her. And all these dreams, too. I just want a moment's peace."

"What kind of dreams have you been having."

"You wouldn't understand," Ren said walking out of the forest with Crystal by his side.

"Yuri!" she cried. She dashed across the sands, passed Andre, and hugged him from behind. "We were so worried about you. Didn't you hear any of us calling you? Why did you run away?"

"Because I need some space. I wasn't ready for all this attention."

"You should be," said Ren. "You're the son of a trillionaire. Isn't it common knowledge that the press would be after you? Everything you do is going to be on tomorrow's magazine, that's the life we lead, unfortunately."

Yuri rose his left shoulder to shake Crystal off. She whimpered sadly and sat back, her knees on the sand. Yuri then reached out and patted her hand as an apology.

"For a moment people were starting to believe that I wasn't interesting. And I was happy about that." He took out his deck from his back pocket. He flipped through his cards until he found the beast that made him the talk of the whole island. "Now because of him, everyone wants a piece of me."

"So face your challengers," Crystal said. "You can do it."

"Not with a deck like mine," Yuri said. "I never get anything good when I open packs. The only thing I ever scored was that dragon I gave you. After that, I got nothing. My dad's the creator of the game, you'd think I'd have some luck finding some cards."

"I did say I could help you," Andre said.

"What good are your lessons if I don't have the cards to play?" Yuri said.

"Good point."

Crystal stood up. She bent forward, brushing the sand from her knees. "I can help you get some cards, Yuri. This is silly. You can't keep running away every time you face a problem."

"I know."

"So let us help you," said Andre. "I can for sure. I'm close to becoming a Duel King at school."

Ren brushed his hair back to keep his bangs from flapping over his eyes in the ocean breeze. "Yuri. Come on. It's time for you to grow up. I always said you had potential. Now's the time for you to show it. Not just to the gang, but to the whole world. We all want to see the Crown Prince of Duel Monsters step up his game. So what do you say."

Yuri stood up, balling his fists tightly. "I guess you're right. But don't expect too much from me."

Chapter Text

 



? - The Knight


The air inside the castle was so musty. So thick. He could barely breathe. He was weakened from fighting so many horrible creatures on his way up the fortress to find the next creature standing in his way of the next piece to save himself from the hell he was stuck in.

He drank the last of his elixir. His body was rejuvenated, but he still felt fatigued with worry and despair, weighing him down with a deadly burden. His armor clinked and clanked with each movement he made outside the door to the boss of the castle. Someone who was hellbent on keeping him stuck here. To keep him from saving the prince. There would be no help from Dante here. He had gone off to another castle to search for artifacts. What they were, he didn't say.

The knight gathered his courage and burst through the door. When he did, a heavy, shadowy, wind, struck him. Mixing with the wind was the sound of a fiendish chanting. When the wind died down, the knight lowered his arms and found himself in a rotunda lit with thousands of candles. There were figures garbed in dark torn, robes, kneeling around an alter. They were chanting something awful and held out their arms, which looked like nothing more than bone wrapped in leather.

From the alter appeared a portal; a gateway for their master. He chuckled awfully as he arose from the portal. A vile ruler from a dark plane adorned in light, black armor outlined with lavender and a ragged red cape flowed behind him.

Angmarl the Fiendish Monarch had arrived. And he was ready to do battle. Long had he heard of the knight who had stormed his castle and killed many of his fellow guardians. His power was stronger, this he knew with all his heart. He would not fall the way the others did. His treasure was not going to be taken. His burning red eyes pierced the darkness. He towered over the knight, standing eleven feet tall.

The knight felt his legs getting wobbly just looking at Angmarl's height. Did he have the strength to take on such a creature. No! He could not start doubting himself now.

He couldn't.

He closed his eyes and thought of days when the sun used to shine down on him and bring him warmth. The colors of the flowers blooming in the fields all around him. The sweet smell of the apple orchards that surrounded the dirt road to his palace. The sound of water rushing down the river where he bathed with his friend. Her silky, chestnut hair and her smile flashed before his eyes.

The knight readied his weapon and prepared for battle. Angmarl enjoyed this. He wanted the legendary knight of broken hearts to challenge him with his full potential. Otherwise, this battle was going to be very boring. He held out his hand and conjured a sword made from darkness.

The two warriors then circled each other to confirm combat. The robed worshippers made way, sulking into the darkest corners of the castle. Still, they chanted. It was as if the chant was all they knew how to say. All they knew how to do. What a pitiful existence.

Angmarl was the first to strike. The knight rolled out of the way, avoiding the massive sword, which crashed into the ground with tremendous force. The rotunda shook. Dust fell from the cracks above and the iron chandelier that hung from the center rocked back and forth. Angmarl swung his sword back and forth, striking the ground as he tried to get the knight.

He was fast, but he could tell the knight's speed was weakening with each tumble he took. The worshippers still chanted, but it sounded much livelier now. The knight could feel their words pounding down on him like a sack of bricks. It was a curse. They were helping Angmarl defeat him. Each second that passed, the knight could feel his strength waning.

He tried to conjure Curse of Dragonfire, but he could not. He was weak. Tired from all the fighting. It was taking its toll on him. For two decades he had been stuck in this horrible nightmare. There seemed to be no end to it.

Every beast he faced was worse than the last one. Each piece that he found was smaller and smaller. The so-called restoration was so excruciatingly slow. At this point, he figured that the quest was nothing more than a farce. The memories of her came back to him. The sunlight shining down on her as she disrobed by the riverbed, coaxing him to join her for a bath. Her silky skin. Her breasts and buttocks glistening with river water…her gorgeous smile. Too much

He let out a frustrated scream as he felt as though his heart exploded. He just had to see her again. And he was not about to let these...these...CREATURES stop him from seeing her. From seeing the sunlight again. He wanted to smell flowers again.

He wanted to eat food again. He wanted to drink something other than those bitter elixirs Della and Dante gave him to replenish his strength and prolong his suffering in this terrible abyss. He wanted peace! Was that too much to ask!

He ran for the worshippers and struck them down relentlessly. Angmarl stood still. He was stunned to see the knight do this. He was told that he was noble. He would never hurt anything more than the guardians.

He smiled. The world was breaking him.

And he soon accepted defeat. He would try his hardest, but he knew he was not going to win this fight.

Despair was beginning to fill the knight's dark soul. That meant he was weakening. Which meant the prince was never going to get the help he needed. Master Bakura pulled out all the stops with his plan. There was no saving him. There was no bringing him back. Even if he would fall now, he would be victorious. The knight was not leaving this world. He was doomed to fight here and suffer here forever.

The knight was then overcome with great power, unlocked by the madness he tried to keep contained. His sword was suddenly engulfed with the flames from Curse of Dragonfire. He slaughtered the last of the worshippers, who were begging for mercy.

He would not listen. They committed the sin of stopping him from achieving his goal. And now they were paying the price. Angmarl laughed at the knight for his cruel deeds. When the last of his followers were killed, the knight looked at Angmarl and charged at him. Angmarl held up his sword and blocked his attack, but at a great cost.

The blow was so powerful, the rotunda began to collapse. Soon, rays of sunlight shined through the cracks and assaulted Angmarl. To any other person, the rays of the sun would be a blessing. But for him. It was like being bathed in the fires of damnation.

He was weakening with each passing second. Steam billowed off his body. He was gurgling with agony. The knight saw his chance and slashed Angmarl's body repeatedly with his large blade. The rotunda echoed with the violent clash of steel against steel and the cracking of bone. Angmarl's body was breaking.

He fell to his knees gasping for air. The knight finally put him out of his misery and cut his head off. Angmarl's body twitched and writhed on the ground like a worm wriggling on the talons of a hawk. And then, it dissolved into nothing, leaving behind another rusty safe as the other monsters he had slain. The knight smashed it open with his fist and ripped it open. What he saw broke his heart.

The treasure inside. He held it tightly against his chest and sobbed. His body ached from the battle, but his grief and even a touch of joy forced him to ignore his discomfort. It was a flower. The computer on his gauntlet started to hum.

Restoration at…60%

The knight roared and smashed his fists on the ground. But he made sure the flower was not harmed. There it stood in his grasp of steel, fluttering back and forth as if it was caressed by a gentle breeze. A fiery portal opened behind him. He had no reason to worry, for it meant she had arrived.

"That is indeed a very sacred treasure," Della said, removing her hood. Long curls of golden hair flowed down to her chest and past her back. She was clad in a sacred, white robe with red designs on the front. A white staff with a bright crystal she held with her fingertips.

"Leave me!" the knight shouted. "You have been of no help. All these years, you have led me to nothing. Nothing but more agony. More fighting. More suffering. I want to go home. But I see now that it is no longer an option. You have filled me with false hope. Prince Yuri is set to come home at any moment. You assured me years ago we would complete this task before his eighteenth birthday. Now that time is nigh. And look at me. I feel the madness taking over."

"Your deeds have not gone to waste, Ser Knight." Della approached him and placed a hand on his pauldron. "Thanks to you, Master Yugi was able to cleanse the darkness The Witch-King Bakura used to cloud his young mind."

"But what of me?" asked the knight. "Too long have I wandered here. I...I cannot bear to throw myself into another battle. What terrible deed have I committed to condemning myself to such a fate?"

Della couldn't help but shed a tear for him. "You're already letting the darkness take over you?"

The knight stood up to release himself from her touch. "Do not lecture me about being strong. I have stayed firm for nye almost a decade now. I have nothing left. Each battle only restores Yuri for but a percentage. And each Fiend I face grows stronger. Yuri isn't getting any better and neither am I. I can't go on like this anymore, Della."

"I assure you this path is not leading you nowhere, Ser Knight. Please, stay strong. That flower in your grasp will be your greatest weapon yet."

"What do you mean?"

"She loved those flowers, didn't she?"

The knight looked away. He then stared up at the red sky. "Yes. She loved them. She always asked for me to touch her with them before we made love." He chuckled. "And if we were to have a daughter, she would name her after this flower. Nanaveal. Hope in the ancient Celtran language. But I suppose you know all about that."

Della smiled. "Yes. I do. Keep that flower close to you, Ser Knight. It just might be the key to open the doors out of this world."

The knight picked up his sword. "I hope you're right. If my next battle is just another fight for a percent. I will go no further."


Joey - Maplewood

October 1 - Year 18 4AOS



People ran from their homes and crowded along the Yellow Road to get a good look at the parade of knights and Duelists marching towards the town of Maplewood in heart of the county of Ravenhill for the upcoming Duel Monsters tournament offering a very hefty reward. They had spent weeks scouring Emboldor and beyond looking for contracts, and Joey thought a good old tourney was a great way to earn money for Yuri's expenses in the Standard Dimension.

There were many famous players heading to the fairgrounds, but none struck the people more than the Black Dragonknight of House Wheeler. Children pushed and shoved through the throng of villagers to get a good look at him. Ever since he slew the vile giant who lived in the mountains, he became a great hero to the people here. The villagers cheered and waved black and red flags fashioned from torn sheets or clips of cloth tied onto sticks to show their support for him.

"Ser Joey!"

"It's Ser Joey!"

"Look, mama, it's Ser Joey!"

Tristan, riding on a gray mare, grumbled, riding behind Joey and his black stallion adorned in Red-Eyes Black Dragon-theme chanfrons and cruppers. Joey waved from atop his horse like a conquering hero. His helmet, crested with a statue of his black dragon and a red and black plume, was tucked under the crook of his arm.

"All hail the conquering hero," he said glumly.

Duke sighed, twisting a lock of his black hair around his finger. "Let him have his moment. It's not often that he does, you know. Besides, everyone knows you as Ser Tristan the Brave. Just not around these parts."

"Or any parts," Joey vexed him.

Tristan growled. "Why you..."

"Hey, just joshin' ya, man," Joey said with a wink.

"Now, now, Tristan," Serenity said, riding up to catch up with him. "No fighting. This is supposed to be fun. Besides, I think you guys need a break from all that monster hunting."

Tristan was at a loss for words. Serenity rode atop a Golden Emboldorian Stallion, which took her ten years to breed. She wore a bodice corset, green with burgundy laces and short, white sleeves; a tan skirt, and polished leather boots with floral engravings on the side. Her saddle was even engraved with scrollwork and loaded with books, her purses, and her sword, which hung from the back. She had silk flowers in her hair and a black choker with a gold tag around her neck. The mere sight of her caused him to calm down.

"So, are we good?" she asked.

"Yyyyeah," he said.

"Is it a good idea to let Joey represent us?" Mai said from all the way in the back. Instead of a horse, she rode atop a brilliant white stag armored in silver steel. She drank the last gulp of wine from the leather sack around her hip.

"Have faith, Mai," said Serenity. "After this, we can finally head to Yugi's castle in the storm coasts and plan our next move."

"I just hope your artifact is worth all those months of monster hunting," said Duke, looking back at her from behind the black high collar of his cape.

"It will be," Serenity assured him. "When we finally give it to Yuri, no one, not even the Senate, will deny him his return. And we can finally stick it to Antilles for proposing that stupid law."

They, at last, made it to the fairgrounds, which appeared to them from over the hill. Already champions participating in the tourney set up pavilions along the wide grassy meadows. Serenity pointed out a great spot for Joey. There was a willow tree by the river, and the other participants were so busy trying to find spots closer to the Dueling Grounds that they hardly noticed it.

"Last one there pays the winner a gold crown!" shouted Joey. He kicked his stallion into a gallop. Tristan and Duke followed.

"Such, children," said Mai.

Even though Joey's horse was armored, it ran like the wind. Unknown to any of them, he had the horse's armor enchanted to make the animal run faster and have more stamina, even regain it quicker. Then again, so did Tristan and Duke's steeds. Before Serenity knew it, she saw them at the willow tree. She turned to look at their workers and servants, who trailed behind in a caravan of wagons and covered carts.

"We'll make set up my brother's pavilion down there," she called out.

"Yes, My Lady," said Jaque, the chamberlain of House Wheeler.

Serenity and Mai sped down the hill towards the willow tree. The three knights who raced ahead of them were already tackling one another playfully. Serenity stopped her horse underneath the willow tree and tied her to the trunk. She opened a sack of oats and fed her three handfuls before her servants arrived with a troth so the tired steed could refresh herself with a long drink.

"Good girl, Sunny," Serenity said, petting the mare's blonde mane. She wrapped her arms around Sunny's neck and kissed her before joining Joey and the others in setting up their command tent. With a little bit of telekinesis from their court wizard, Zoey, Joey's young and very obnoxious cousin, the command tent went up in ten minutes. The flag bearing the colors of House Wheeler flapped from the center pole. Scarlet and gold pennons flapped along the sides of the tent as well, the colors of the House where Joey's mother hailed from.

"All right, y'all!" Zoey hollered with her palm beside her mouth. "Bring 'em in."

The servants rolled their wagons toward the tent and unloaded their furniture. "I've got my own tent," she said pretentiously to her own band of servents. "We'll set it up over here."

Zoey then stood outside the tent with her knuckles to her hip like some sort of conquering hero. She had the dirty blonde hair that all the Wheelers had, tied into two long braids then went down to her waist. A splash of freckles on her face gave her a very innocent look, one that deceived many who tried to get the best of her. Her bright, sky-blue eyes were ghostly but completed her cute appearance. She wore a green and tan corset, heavy brown boots, and a tan miniskirt that barely covered her rump. She was small but not to be trifled with; for she spent a great deal of time training with Joey and the Black Luster Soldiers of Rassay when she visited Joey and Serenity during the summer after school let out for the holidays.

Serenity wanted to play with dolls and quilt with the handmaidens in the tower, but Zoey had other ambitions. She wanted to joust in the tournaments like the colorful knights she adored since she learned to walk. And she wanted to be an expert swordswoman; perhaps even be a guardian for the High King when he returned.

"Any word on Yuri?" Mai asked. She was helping herself to a bowl of strawberries covered in cold cream. 

"Dinnae call 'im that!" she snapped at Mai when she referred to him by his cute nickname. "Yuri's a pansy's name. Not one fer a High King. I'll call him by his rightful name, Daveed, thank ya. And ya will do well t' refer t' him that way in me presence."

"She's definitely got that Highland fire in her," Mai whispered to Serenity.

Zoey ordered someone to pitch her tent right next to the river and then scratched her butt long and good.

"And their mannerisms," Serenity said in disgust. "But she's Princess of Glowerness, so that gives her some right to be pretentious."

"Not just that," Mai said, biting into an apple. "She's got their fighting spirit. Her schooling with the Black Luster Soldiers taught her enough to join her father in battle last summer. Jaime himself taught her."

"The Black Luster Soldier of the Evening Twilight?" Serenity gasped. "Wow. He's the one who saved Yuri from Anubis. I had almost forgotten about him."

"She put her skills to good use," Mai continued. "She and Jaimie fought back a rival clan who wanted control of the loch their castle resides by. See that axe she carries on her back?"

Serenity nodded.

"She used that to cut off the lead of the clan chieftain."

A blare of trumpets sounded off behind the camp. A large party of knights suddenly rode past the camp. Halberds and spears bearing banners of periwinkle and gold flapped over them. There must have been a hundred of them. A white and gold two-floored wheelhouse rolled in the center of the flood of periwinkle knights. It was being pulled by two Mad Sword Beast draped in bright blue armor edged in gold.

Some powerful Lord must be arriving, Joey thought. A curtain behind one of the windows to the coach was pulled aside. Joey couldn't make out who it was, but whoever was in there seemed to smile at him. The face was concealed behind the curtain again and the wheelhouse moved on.

"Oooh, aren't we impressed," Zoey said, mocking the caravan of knights with her fingers. "Yeah, go on! Flash yer bright colors. If you ken who this man is, you'd turn back right noo."

One of the knights stopped and pulled his visor up. "Show some respect, girl! This is the caravan of Jack Ganon."

"Ya think I don't know that?" she shouted. "I saw 'im whilst I visited Domino weeks ago."

"He defeated you, so I heard."

"Yer bum's oot the windae!" she shouted. "I dinnae lose to 'im! It was a draw, it was!"

"Says you, welp!" yelled another knight.

"Welp!" shouted Zoey. "I am da Princess of Loch Stormhammer! Yoo'd do well to respect me, Ser Knight."

"A princess?" said the other knight. "A Highland one at that. No wonder your manners are that of a lowly peasant. You watch yourself, girl. Say one more word about the Lord, and I'll break my foot up your royal ass!"

"HA!" shouted Zoey. "Thinking about me arse are we? Well, here you go!" She bent forward and lifted her skirt up, mooning the knights. "Come and kiss it, ya bastards!" she said, pulling her panties down. She laughed and started smacking her exposed rump.

"Oh, Goddesses!" Serenity groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I can't believe we're related."

Mai laughed and stepped forward, standing in front of Zoey's buttocks, wiggling in the wind. "Pardon her, good Sers," she said with a bow. "She's still young. For your trouble." She removed two pouches with gold coins from her belt and tossed them at the knights.

"Thank you, My Lady," the knights said, both recognizing Mai for her infinite beauty.

Mai turned around and kicked Zoey, knocking her forward.

"Wot was dat fer?" she shouted, yanking her underwear back up.

"For acting like such a pig!" Mai yelled. "That is no way for a princess to act. Who in the Shadows taught you to behave that way?"

Zoey jerked her thumb to the west.

Joey and Tristan had their breeches down mooning the knights as well and boasting about their success in the future.

Mai shook her head. "That stupid monkey."

Chapter Text


Yami Marik - The City of Domino, Termnnia

October 1 - Year 18 4AOS



"He has grown so much," the deep-voiced demon said leaning back in his booth. A glass of sweet, burning, scotch with a sphere cube jingled in the clutches of his long, tan fingers like snakes adorned in rings of gold and different precious stones.

A neon sign hung on the red-brick wall beside his table. It read Salazar in a tantalizing red light that washed the dull marble table in red and blue. His Millennium Item reflected the light of the neon sign perfectly making it look like there was a hellish blaze within the relic. Soothing noir-style jazz played from a neon-lit jukebox on the lonely corner of the bar. The music mixed with the soothing sounds of the rain tapping against the window of the bar. Outside, the city was lit up by an explosion of color from the various red light signs of the Red Bunny's District.

There were animated signs of pink and red, shaped to look like the silhouettes of women in sexual poses and dancing on poles. Even from his seat, Marik's companion, Bakura could see the pretentious form of the House of Gray looming over the poorly kept apartment buildings which housed the unwanted and forgotten of Domino City.

Marik took a long gulp of his drink as a large truck drove by. Its wheels washed against the soaked streets outside. Some water from a puddle it ran over splashed against the window. As Marik raised his glass to his lips, the leather of his hooded brown leather jacket groaned while keeping up with his movements. Underneath he wore a sleeveless black shirt that was torn from a Duel he had earlier. The leather of his jacket even showed signs of wear and tear.

He smiled and said: "His Dueling skills, no doubt, have improved. But that Black Tyranno card. No. That is a rare gift indeed."

Bakura sniggered, leaning casually against his orange leather seat. He straightened his dark denim jacket, bringing the fur-trimmed collar closer to his neck to warm him from the chill of the fan swirling overhead. His Millennium Ring shined brightly over the gray t-shirt. A veil of smoke clouded the roof from the tobacco gobblers sitting about the bar hoping to wash away their long and miserable day with a stiff drink, cheap steak, and buxom beauties to look at.

The waitresses were in small orange skirts and tight black tank tops that fit snuggly over their chests. One of them stopped by to refill their drinks. Bakura tipped her for a nice view down her shirt. He picked up his refilled glass of scotch and drank slowly.

Sitting beside him was Dartz, one of the officers in charge of the assault on Karad-Antha, the mountain fortress where their lord and master, Anubis, was slain by Prince Daveed when he was only a few hours old. His black overcoat still glimmered with ice-cold rainwater, for he had just arrived a few minutes earlier.

Bakura peered towards the bar and saw a man with a United States bandana on his head, chugging down an entire bottle of Forwost beer. His cards slipped out of his hands and fell on the black-and-white-tiled floor.

Bakura found it quite queer that a man, an Eldori of all things, would be wearing the colors of a flag from another world. What was so special about it? He wondered. But he had no time to ponder that sort of thing. Right now, he and his fellows were in quite a precarious position.

The Black Tyranno.

"I wonder how he got it?" said Bakura, bringing his drink to his lips again. "That card was said to be locked up in the vaults of House Delgado's castle."

"No doubt it was that stupid girl, Serenity," Dartz said, stirring his drink in his hand, causing the ice cubes to jingle along the sides of his glass. "She has such a love for the boy it was sickening. I wanted to barf every time I saw her cradling him in her arms as though he popped out of her own twat."

Bakura sniggered at his crudeness.

Marik sneered. "In any case, the Black Tyranno has found its way to the Prince. Not only do we need to take that card from him for its rarity, but for his own safety. An ancient power resides in that card. One that only the Lords of House Delgado can only wield."

"Aren't you being a bit melodramatic?" Bakura sniggered, putting his arm on the top of the booth seat. "The card's not even that good."

"I wasn't talking about the card effect," said Marik. "The Black Tyranno only listens to the Kings of Feldia. The Sisterhood knows of this as well. If they detect that power, they could find Yuri."

"And kill him before the plan can be set in motion," Bakura added.

"Then we just take the card from him," said Dartz. "Simple as that."

Marik, again, gave a mischievous snigger to withhold the obscenity he wanted to throw at Dartz for his impudence. "Were it so easy," he said calmly. "I told you, an ancient force resides in that card. We can snatch it from Yuri a thousand times, and a thousand times that card will return to him."

"Why?" said Dartz.

Bakura tapped the table with his finger and answered before Marik could. "That card is an Oath Monster. They are bound by the will of the Goddess who blesses the House of the monster's keeper. The only way to get that card is by beating the owner in a Duel under the Pact."

Dartz pinched the bridge of his nose, remembering the holy vow Termnnian Kings used to settle their disputes so as to avoid total war. "What must we do then?"

"I shall send my Rare Hunters to take it from Yuri," said Marik. "The non-Eldori ones, of course."

"Yuri won't give up his monster without a fight," said Bakura. "Even if the boy loses, he has skill in hand-to-hand combat."

Marik looked at Bakura with his crazed look. "A feat you and the Paradox Brothers so generously taught him."

There was a vexing tone in that statement. Bakura's face creased into an expression of agitation. "It had to be done," Bakura brooded. "The people of that world were chewing him up and spitting him out. I had to do something to make him stronger. Which is more than I can say for Yugi and his pitiful band." He brought his glass to his lips to sip the last bit of scotch.

"You aided Yuri in getting stronger?" chuckled Dartz. "Why, you practically raised him from what I heard. You loved the boy."

Bakura slammed his glass on the table. "I did what I did for Lord Anubis. He needs a King, not a wimp! And you sure as hell didn't do anything to help him. Yuri would have been dead if it wasn't for me. We need him!"

"Why do you want him alive so badly?" said Dartz. "We could have killed him long ago if it weren't for you. Just who's side are you on I wonder?"

"I am on the side of Odiva!" said Bakura, making his oath to the Fallen Goddess and Mother of Zorc Necrophades. "And if the plan is to succeed, Yuri has to be strong. You know this. Or are you too busy trying to resurrect your 'pet' to care about the master anymore, Dartz?"

"My child will serve his purpose. At least he has one unlike the cockamamy plan of yours, Bakura."

"You can gather a thousand souls with that bloody Seal," said Bakura. "You will never get the Kovan-Tara to revive and regain the power it once had thousands of years ago."

"You call it by its Elvish name?" chuckled Dartz. "How amusing."

"That's enough," said Marik. "Are we in favor of sending in the Rare Hunters or not?"

Bakura chuckled, making the sound of a knife scraping against stone. "They're your lackeys," he said. "If you want them to go after Yuri, so be it. I've learned there are going to be two tournaments being held. There is a Duel Carnival being planned during the winter. And then one that takes place before the summer when Yuri comes home. That is the big one. Those games will determine whether Yuri comes home or not."

"Hmm," said Marik. "Then see to it that he doesn't win those games. I want that Black Tyranno card. It would make a nice addition to my collection."

"I'll bet," said Bakura. "As I said, send the bloody Hunters. Deep down, I have a feeling that you're only going to be wasting your time, Marik."

Marik nodded at the challenge. "You feel that Yuri's skills surpass that of my Rare Hunters?"

Bakura signaled the waitress for another refill with his finger. She nodded, swelling up another glass for a poor laundromat owner at the corner, who was eyeing the golden items Marik and Bakura possessed.

"The boy just beat a regional champion," Bakura said after ordering his drinks. "I think he has a few more surprises up his sleeve. While I have faith your Rare Hunters will get the job done, I still have my money on the boy."

"I'll wager you these," Marik said happily. He reached into his jacket and took out a deck box of polished mahogany decorated with gold. He opened it and tossed out a stack of Gold Rare cards from the Premium Gold Series.

Handsome red rubies also fell out of the deck case. The laundromat owner saw this and stood up in his seat. He wanted to take the items from them at gunpoint with the fire-enchanted pistol he kept tucked in the waistband of his trousers. But there was a terrifying aura coming from the three men. He thought better of it and sat down.

Bakura, meanwhile, chuckled. He poured from an exquisite leather sack, two handfuls of gold Star Chips and Crowns. He added his own Gold Rare cards to sweeten the pot.

"Hmm," said Dartz, rubbing his chin. "Impressive."

"You're on, Marik," laughed Bakura. "I say Yuri kicks the Rare Hunters out of the other world in no time at all."

"Ha!" said Marik. "And I will wager these if he doesn't. But don't underestimate my Duelists, Bakura. They are the elite of the elite."

Bakura laughed out loud. "Yeah, look how well that turned out in the Battle City Tournament."

"Those were the old Rare Hunters," said Marik. "These Duelists are the Neo Hunters. A new generation of Duelists, who will take down Yuri. I oversaw their training personally."

"I do hope you're ready for a bit of a disappointment," said Bakura.

A woman entered the bar, dressed in a black hooded coat. She tsked angrily when she saw the three men sitting in their booth getting drunk. Darkness kept her eyes hidden, but the light of the diner revealed beautiful red lips and locks of golden hair, and a slender neck. The coat hugged her round, perfect form causing the laundromat owner to go red and breathless.

"So here I find you," she said. "Drinking the night away when there is so much work to do."

"Work?" scoffed Marik. "All you have to do is keep those sisters of yours on a leash before the time comes to bring Yuri home."

"And I assure you that's no easy task," said the woman. She put her hands on her hips and tilted to the left. "Do you boys know how much trouble I'm in right now? There was a meeting earlier tonight involving the Sisters and Lord Denethon. They know the Black Tyranno is missing. The card is bound only to Delgado blood. The boy is of Delgado blood. And last I heard, he summoned the damn thing. The island where he lives is talking all about his Duel. Those stupid fools working for Yugi did that no doubt."

"They are too self-righteous," Dartz agreed.

"But what reason do you have for worrying?" said Bakura. "If I'm not mistaken, you have half the Sisterhood siding with me? Do you not?"

"I still have much work to do in that prospect," said the woman. "Nevertheless, some have listened to our cause. But it's caused much division within the Sisterhood. Denethon knows this and suspects me. Bakura, you must keep Yuri from playing that card. If Yuri is found out, they will come for him. They will kill him. And if he's gone, Lord Anubis is forever doomed."

"You don't have to keep reminding me," said Bakura. "Now stop worrying, my dear. You're doing beautifully. Everything is going according to plan."

The laundromat owner suddenly approached them after gathering the courage to confront them. He could take it no more. Gold. Jewelry. Rare golden cards. And a beautiful Eldori woman to boot. He loomed over them with a drunken fury and tossed a black bag on the table. "All right, boys, drop the loot and the bag and nobody gets hurt!" he commanded. "And the lady is coming home with me!"

Marik, Bakura, and Dartz just kept their trademark grins. "I'll take him," said Marik. "Are you familiar with the game Duel Monsters?"

"I don't have time for games!" said the owner, Mr. Guss Driscol was written in gold letters on the nametag pinned to his striped suit. The logo for his business, Suds and Suds Co., was in blue underneath the letters, dwarfing them in size.

"Of course," said Marik. "We're all busy. But Duel me, and not only will you win all we have laid here on the table, but you'll get so much more."

"I'm listening," said Guss.

"I have many beautiful friends," said the woman, putting a sexy tone into her voice. "And they're all dying to make the acquaintance of a very promising businessman such as yourself."

"Oh yeah?" said Guss, his mustache shivered in excitement.

"Uh-huh. We live downtown near the House of Gray. You know. The King's District."

"So, you ladies have money?" said Guss.

The woman nodded and pulled on Guss's tie. "Indeed I do. Now, there is no need to get nasty. We all just want to get on with our night in peace. I can tell you're armed. Naughty, naughty. There is no need for that. You win, you get to keep the gold and the cards. And I take you home to meet my lovely friends. Lose, well, you don't get the cards, but I can tell you're a hard-working hunk." She put her hands around his neck. Guss made a crooked grin from the corner of his mouth. "I'll still reward you with a night with me and the girls."

"Sounds good," said Guss. "But I'm in dire need of some money. As much as it'll please me fucking you and your lady friends, I fear I'll still be left penniless. The King has made it hard on all of us ever since his do-gooder son, Prince Michael, eliminated the slave trade."

"So you were a human trafficker?" said Marik.

"Once upon a time," said Guss. "Thanks to him, I lost my condo. My Limo. My entourage. Sorry toots, but I need gold."

The woman smiled and unzipped her jacket to reveal the swell of her breasts. Guss's face looked like it turned into an apple. "We don't live in the King's District for nothing," the woman said. "Have some fun with us, and we'll pay you handsomely. My girls are lonely. They want someone to play with. Accept the Duel, handsome. You win either way."

Guss cackled nervously. "Oh yeah!" he said. "Let's play." He held up his wrist. There was a D-Pad strapped to it.

Marik then led Guss outside in the rain. Their cards and equipment were thankfully waterproof so they had no problem Dueling the cold rain. Marik stood on one end of the sidewalk, and Guss on the other. The hooded woman was leaning against the wall, shielded by the rain by the red awning over her head.

"DUEL!" They both shouted.

"I'll go first!" said Marik. "I summon Necrolancer the Time Lord in attack mode."

Marik summoned a one-eyed green creature with skinny arms and legs. There was a horn protruding from his head and two long fangs came out from his overbite. A golden dimensional ring appeared behind him. His weapon could send his foes to different points in time and be lost forever. (ATK/800 DEF/900)

Guss was next. "I summon Doron in attack mode!"

The card projected by his side jumbo-sized. Then, a vortex of glittering light swirled over the card's art. Out came a strange-looking character with a shadowy body striped in red with a tinge of green. (ATK/900 DEF/500). Guss laughed. His monster was 100 ATK points stronger than Marik's, and he was about to get stronger.

"Behold, the Equip-Spell, Legendary Sword!" He shouted, equipping his monster with a sword that had a bluish-white blade and a golden hilt. "This card will increase my monster's ATK and DEF by 300 points! (ATK/1200) Your Necrolancer is history!"

Doron sniggered cruelly, raising his new weapon and slashing Necrolancer in half.

"Argh," Marik said calmly, still grinning despite seeing his monster getting slaughtered and losing 400 of his Life Points.

Yami Marik-1600 LP

Guss-2000 LP

"My turn," said Marik. "Draw." He examined his hand and broke out into a laugh. Lightning flashed and thunder bellowed, making his amusement much more dramatic.

"This is going to be one short game," Marik laughed. "You're a Decker. Duelists who are all talk and no game. You avoid the new rules because they are far too complicated for your feeble mind."

"Hah!" laughed Guss. "I assume you're talking about Synchros, Xyz (X-eez), and Pendulum Summoning. Don't make me laugh. This is how you play the game, bub!"

"So be it," said Marik. "I play the Spell Card, Polymerization. Fusing together my Possessed Dark Soul and Frontier Wiseman together to create...Dark Balter the Terrible!"

Yami Marik summoned a frightening fiend lord who stood ten feet tall. He was almost concealed in the darkness of the night. A streetlamp nearby highlighted his silhouette. The beast had a golden, layered, spiked body. The upper body was covered by a bright green robe with white fur trimming. He had long, mangled, blond hair and green eyes that pierced the night.

Dark Balter the Terrible

ATK/2000 DEF/1200

"Two thousand Points!" gasped Guss.

"Ha!" Marik bellowed. "If you were more informed with the new gameplay, monsters like him would seem like nothing. Survival of the fittest, Guss. I now Equip my Dark Balter with Megamorph. This card will double my monster's ATK if my Life Points are lower than yours, thereby raising Dark Balter's ATK to 4000!"

"NO!" cried Guss.

"Dark Balter!" shouted Marik. "Attack and end this match!"

Dark Balter the Terrible lived up to his name. He picked up Doron from the throat and held him up high. Using his claws, he eviscerated the little warrior monster and wiped out Guss's Life Points. The woman in the hooded cloak approached the man with open arms.

"Well, I sure got my butt kicked," said Guss. He took the pistol out of its holster. "All right, pretty boy. Hand over the stuff."

Marik scoffed. "I thought we had an agreement. Foolish man."

Guss sneered, grabbing the woman by the front of her coat and dragging him towards him. He put an arm around her shoulder. His hand slid down her back and stopped over her buttocks. "Nice," Guss said, rubbing his hand in circles over the woman's rump. "And you say there's plenty more of this back at your place, huh?"

"I did," the woman said coldly.

"I'm going to be rich tonight," said Guss. "Gold cards. Gems. Coins and Chips. And all the girls for me to feast on. Ah. I'm in Heaven."

"Not yet," the woman said, and she jabbed a jewel-encrusted knife into his back.

Guss croaked from the pain and dropped his pistol. His fingers stiffened from the pain and could no longer grip the weapon. Guss dropped to his knees, arms stretching up to the sky He gasped for air; for the pain grasped his lungs like a vice. Dark Balter the Terrible, still being rendered on the field, crossed his arms and laughed.

Marik approached the senile old fool and held up his Millennium Rod. A blade slid out of the bottom of the rod with the press of a button. Marik looked down at Guss with madness in his eyes before he slid the blade across the poor man's neck.

A river of blood poured out of the wound. Guss gagged and purled in fright. He pressed his hands over the wounds in hopes of slowing down the bleeding enough to find help. But he was no fortunate this night.

In a matter of moments. He fell face-first into the ground. He was gone. A river of blood slithered from underneath his empty shell.

"Dumb bastard," the hooded woman said, picking up his body.

Marik watched as she dragged Guss's corpse by the arms into the alley where she tossed the body into a dumpster. Bakura came out of the bar, gripping the collar of his jacket over his neck. "He still wanted more, didn't he?" Bakura asked.

Marik tilted his head down the alley to point out their hooded companion doing what she could to hide the body. Bakura laughed maniacally. "Amateur," he said. He took a lighter from his pocket, flicked it on, and tossed it into the dumpster. A wall of flames erupted from within, and he shut the top of the dumpster to keep the rain from putting out the flames.

"Well," said Marik. "That was rather enjoyable. "Let's make these weekend outings a regular thing, shall we?" He bowed. "Now you must excuse me. I have to prepare my Neo Hunters for their mission."

"Make it quick," said Bakura. "If Yuri is called, all the years of planning would have been for naught."


Yuri - Montgomery Palace

October 2 - Year 18 4AOS


Even though he would have rather stayed home reading, Yuri could not find it in his heart to break a promise to Crystal. How could he? Then again, besides her brute of a boyfriend, Brett, how could anyone break a promise to a girl with a face like hers? He woke up early on Saturday, as he said he would. About 7 in the morning. He dressed, made sure Black Tyranno was in his deck, had a quick breakfast, and stormed out the door into the city.

He took the bus to the central island and then hailed a cab, which took him downtown where the shop was located. The lights to the giant shop were opened already from the inside and the LED lights placed around the windows flashed in different colors. Yuri stopped and looked up at the brand-new 3D billboard showing a red dragon roaring and snarling inside its dark, flaming domain. When he blew fire at the air, pyrotechnics hidden in the walls fired flames.  

"It's about time," Yuri said. He watched the dragon's looped animations. "Man, Sergei outdoes himself sometimes."

"Hey," someone said. Yuri looked away from the dragon and saw that it was Crystal. She was smiling at him as she peered through the door. "You going to stand there all day or what? We're all waiting for you?"

"All?"

"Yeah, me, Ren, and that Andre guy who followed you to the beach. We're going to have a few squash matches to help better prepare you for the future."

Yuri followed her inside. "You look nice," he said, complimenting her short white summer dress.    

Crystal stopped when she heard his compliment. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him. She then gave a twirl to better show off her outfit. "Thank you, honey," she said and continued into the shop. "Are you always so sweet?" She approached him, leaning forward as though she were a toddler looking at a puppy behind the pet shop window. She blessed him with her sweet smile again, then stretched her neck towards his cheek to plant a kiss on it. She giggled and kept on strolling through the massive store. 

Yuri sure did miss her. He had almost forgotten how beautiful, sweet, and playful she was. It had been a year since he had last seen her since she left on her music tour across Europe.

"I got this in Italy," she said, pointing to a white hairband with gold butterflies on the sides flashed in her hair. Yuri just bellowed softly in his throat and nodded his head. He was at a loss for words. Seeing Crystal was like finding a rare card in a booster pack. This time, he hoped he could get to keep it. 

As she passed by, the sweet smell of passion fruit and cherries perfumed the air.

She said: "I know this is a bit early to call you for Dueling, but it needs to be done. Now that you're famous around here, everyone's going to want a piece of you, buddy. You know as well as I do how many hotshots inhabit this floating metropolis of ours. I know a couple of guys at school who are eager to slay Black Tyranno for their followers on social media."

Yuri gulped and followed Crystal upstairs where the newer tables were. To his surprise, she led him even farther into the shop. Ah, yes! That's right. Ruby Dragon Gaming's new patio was opened the night before. If it wasn't for the need to study for his math test, Yuri would have been there that night. Crystal walked through automatic sliding glass doors into the warmth of the morning sun. The patio gave off a view of the ocean, which was colored in a lovely shade of turquoise as far as the eye could see. Over the railing, Yuri saw expensive megayachts sailing below. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue and there were only a few clouds in the sky. 

Nirvana, Yuri though. 

Ren was sitting beside one of the tables, which had a red umbrella trimmed with string lights providing the players shade from the sun. The surface was cluttered with four booster boxes Crystal bought and some packs Ren picked up along the way. He sat up in his chair and made a face of discomfort. He loosened his black tie a bit and said: "Good morning, Yuri. Glad you could make it." The silver and gold rings on his fingers flashed when the sunlight beaming through the window touched them. He sported black slacks, and a red buttoned shirt under a black vest damasked with royal flowery patterns. The silver chain of his prized pocket watch hung from one of his buttons. He wore sleek black sunglasses with red mirror lenses to shield his delicate eyes from the sun.   

"Where's Andre?" Yuri asked. 

"Pfft. You mean the great and mighty future Duel King? Probably running late," Ren replied. "Merry Christmas," he extended his arm and slowly waved it over the goods that were for Yuri. "Well, what are you waiting for? Dig in."

"All of this is for me?" Yuri asked, pointing at his chest. 

"Awww!" Crystal chimed. "Ren. Isn't he the cutest? Come on, dear. Sit down. Open your stuff. What did you get?"

Yuri pulled the chair back and sat down. "Well, I guess it's too much to hope for some good dinosaur cards, huh?"

"Why on earth would you want to run them?" Ren asked. "There's no strategy to them. They're just big giant beat sticks."

"Well, you know me," Yuri said, struggling to open the plastic wrapped around the booster box. "Dinosaurs have been a love of mine since I was a little kid. I've had all sorts of dreams about them, too." He stopped unwrapping the plastic. "You know...aside from my dreams about that strange guy with the freaky hair, I've had some dreams about a black dinosaur."

"Ah," said Ren. He slurped some of his coffee. "Perhaps it was destiny Black Tyranno found you."

"Oooo," Crystal hooted like a ghost, wriggling her fingers. "Mysterious. Need some help, honey?"

She gently took the box from Yuri. She dug into her purse, pulling out the keys to her Lamborghini, and sliced open the plastic.

"There," she said, handing the box back to Yuri.

He took the box back with excitement and opened it. He grabbed the first pack and opened it. "Wait, wait!" Ren said, holding out his hand. "I heard that it's good luck to sniff the pack." 

Crystal pouted and put her hands on her hips. "Ren, seriously. You've been watching way too many TeamSamurai videos. Sniffing the packs is childish and dumb. Yuri, whatever you do, don't sniff the — ugh, he sniffed the pack."

Yuri had the opened back right under his nostrils. He took a big whiff of the cards. Yes, there truly was nothing like the smell of new cards in the morning. "Oh, boy, let's see what's in here." He shuffled through the commons. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "United We Stand!"

"Whoa!" Ren shouted. He almost spat his coffee out. "An extremely rare card already?"

"Way to go, Yuri!" Crystal said with a clap. "Yaay!" 

Yuri tilted the card from left to right so the holographic foil of the card could catch the light of the sun. "Hey, maybe my luck's turning around already." He opened the next pack and got an equip-spell card called Horn of the Unicorn."

"That gives your monster an extra seven hundred points," explained Ren. "Give that card to Black Tyranno, and he'll be a beast!"

"He already is one," said Crystal. She sat on the edge of the table, stirring her latte. "I watched him in battle. Ren, I've never seen Randall so scared."

"I can imagine. Such a shame I wasn't there to witness all the action. Did...did Brett hurt you?"

Yuri put down his cards and looked at her. "Why would he hurt you?" he asked. 

Crystal bit her bottom lip, remembering how Brett punished her by whacking a golf ball resting on the put in her mouth. "I'm fine," she said. "He can't hurt me. Otherwise, his uncle will..." She slid her finger across her throat. "I'm not afraid of him."

"That doesn't really answer my question," said Ren. 

"No, it doesn't. But keep asking and the one getting hurt might be you. Or even Yuri. You remember what Brett did to him last time, right. Stop trying to be a hero, Ren."

"If that is what you wish." He looked for a way to ease the tension. "So, what else did you get, Yuri."

"I got a dinosaur. Mad Sword Beast."

"That's great," Crystal said, returning to her cheerful demeanor. "Now you can inflict Life Points even if your opponent's monster is in defense mode. I can't wait to see what you get next. Go on, go on."

"Okay, okay," Yuri said, pulling out the next pack. 

After an hour, the table was covered with stacks of new cards. The ones Yuri wanted for his deck, he added to his deck. At that moment, Andre came in. "There you are," he said. "I looked all over the store for you guys. Man, this place is big. And this patio is lit."

"I personally asked Sergei to build it," Crystal bragged. "Well, I paid for it actually."

Ren slapped her on the thigh gently. "All right, Princess Money Bags, we get it. You're filthy rich. Have a seat, Andre."

"Where are Nick, Patty, and the others?" Andre asked. "I thought they'd be here." 

"It's Saturday," said Yuri. "Nick's working at the restaurant with his foster mom, Tyson's at his father's establishment for breakfast, Carter hates waking up on Saturday mornings, and Patty...she's not answering."

"Aw, I would have liked to meet your friends," said Crystal.

"Wow, what's with all these cards?" Andre said. He picked one up. "These are brand new." 

Yuri swiped it from his hand. "Yeah, and they're mine."

Andre chuckled. "Well, man, it's good to see you got yourself some new cards. Want to try them out and see if you can last longer than two turns."

"Andre beat you in two turns, Yuri?" Crystal asked. 

"Yeah, but I didn't have these," Yuri replied, holding up his deck. "All right, Andre. Let's go."

Andre sat down, then waited for Yuri to clear the table. "Aww, man. I've been waiting for this. Yuri, try not to rage quit this time."

"Who knows," Yuri said. "Maybe you'll be the one rage quitting this time." 

LP 2000

T1

As soon as both their decks touched the mat, a wide monitor rose out from the side of the table to display the 3D battles. "Man, I love this place," said Andre. "All right, Yuri. I'm glad to see you're confident enough to talk a little smack. Let's see if you can back it up. I'm not holding back."

"Neither am I. You said you're here to teach me, so don't disappoint. I'm starting first. I summon Uraby in attack mode! And that ends my turn."

"Yuri!" Crystal began until Ren held up his hand.

"He's here to learn. So let him learn."

T2

Andre grinned and nodded, agreeing with what Ren said. "That's not good, Yuri. Summoning monsters like that with no protection? I figured after your Duel with Randall that you'd know better than that. All right, I summon Darkfire Soldier Number One!" He placed the card on the mat. On the cliffside ruins on the screen, fire burst out of the ground and revealed a strong-bodied warrior with a curved blade. "And then," Andre continued. "I equip him with the Salamandra spell card. This increases the power of fire monsters by 700 points."

ATK/2400

"Oh, shit," Andre heard Crystal mutter. He bobbed his head confidently and commanded his monster to attack Yuri's dinosaur. The attack was devastating, the speakers boomed from the explosion Darkfire Soldier's sword created. Yuri's Life Points went down to 1100. 

"Odds don't look so good for now, Yuri," Andre said. "It's only the first round and you're already at a disadvantage." 

T3

"Well, attack points aren't everything. I set a monster in defense mode, set two cards face-down, and end my turn."

T4

"Don't disappoint me, Yuri. I summon Celtic Guardian and equip him with Legendary Sword, increasing his attack to 1700. Then, I set a card face-down and attack your monster with him."

"The monster you attacked is Sword Arm of Dragon!" Yuri declared, revealing his brand new dinosaur monster. The creature appeared in the game world, slashing Celtic Guardian back with its spear-shaped tail and dealing damage to Andre's Life Points, reducing them to 1670. 

"Now, that's a cool card. But his defense won't save him from Darkfire Soldier. Attack."

"And you just activated my set cards. I reveal Reliable Guardian and Castle Walls. Reliable Guardian increases the defense of a monster by 700 and Castle Walls gives it another 500 points. Now his defense is more than enough to hold against your Darkfire Soldier."

Sword Arm of Dragon roared, halting Darkfire Soldier #1's attack. The soldier stumbled for a moment but continued on with his charge. Sword Arm of Dragon whipped his tail, parrying the soldier's flaming sword with the diamond-shaped end of the tail, which was as hard as steel. It pushed him back with a headbutt, then it swung its tail again, slashing Darkfire Soldier on the chest and sending him flying across the field back to Andre's side. Andre's jaw dropped when he saw his Life Points go down to a mere 840. 

"Wow!" Crystal exclaimed. "Andre took a lot of damage, and it's not even Yuri's turn yet. 

"Aw, man," thought Andre. He got way better. Those cards Crystal and Ren gave him worked wonders for his deck. But if that's the way he wants it, so be it. "Good move, Yuri. I end my turn. And now that the turn is over, your Sword Arm of Dragon's defense points go back to normal. I'll finish him off with Darkfire Soldier."

"You won't do such a thing," Yuri sneered, for the first time in a while feeling like he was in control. "I activate the spell, Eternal Rest!"

"Yes!" Crystal cheered. 

"You're screwed, big man," Ren said. "Eternal Rest destroys all cards outfitted with Equip Spells. Your two monsters are toast." 

"And now that he's gone," said Yuri. "I'll switch Sword Arm of Dragon to attack mode since he's the strongest card in play right now."

Andre bit his tongue in agitation. But he was not scared. He knew what he had to do. "Good game, Yuri. But I'm afraid I have to end it right here."

"What do you mean?" 

"First, I activate my spell card, Pot of Greed. Now I draw two cards. Next, I reveal my trap card, Ultimate Offering. I can offer 500 Life Points and get an extra normal summon this turn. But I don't have enough Life Points. Well, for now anyway." He held up his card. "I cast the spell, Dian Keto the Cure Master. With this card, my Life Points go up by 1000. Now, I summon Alpha the Magnet Warrior in attack mode. Then, I pay 1000 Life Points to summon Beta and Gamma the Magnet Warrior."

"Oh no!" Crystal groaned when she realized what it was that he was going to summon. "Where did he get a card that powerful?"

"Now that I've got all three magnet warriors on the field, I can sacrifice them, merging them together to become Valkyrion the Magna Warrior."

Yuri took a look at what was happening on the Duel Screen. The three little magnet warriors disassembled. Their pieces floated in midair for a moment and then they suddenly merged together to form an even larger magnet warrior

"Sorry, big man," he mocked Ren's words. "But now Yuri's the one who is screwed. You know, with monsters as strong as this guy, I wonder why people are up in a buzz about your Black Tyranno. I mean, on paper, his effect is pretty good but when you think about it, there are much better monsters out there."

"People love Black Tyranno because he's the only one of his kind out there," Crystal answered. "And it's kind of cool for Yuri to have his own unique signature monster."

Andre shrugged. "But Valkyrion is far stronger than him so..."

Crystal's face went red. She started storming toward him; it looked like she was about to murder Andre. Ren grabbed the part of Crystal's dress over her rear to hold her back. "Hang on, my friend. Calm down. As for you, don't end your sentences with so. It makes you sound like a smart ass."

"Dumb ass is more like it!" Crystal said. She turned and smacked Ren's hand. "And let go. You're pulling on my underwear, asshole."

Ren did as he was told. Her dress snapped back into place. Crystal straightened it out and looked back at Andre. "It's a pet peeve of mine! I absolutely HATE it when people end their sentences with so. DURRR I dunno what else to say so...."

"Easy, Crystal, come on." Yuri grabbed her hand. "Why don't you get yourself a drink or something?"

"Yeah." That was all she had to say and she stormed out of the patio. Her high-heeled sandals plopped loudly against the wood.  

"Wow," Andre said, trying to process what happened. "I didn't mean to make her mad."

"She's easily triggered," said Ren. "Still, it's a dick way to make a point. Try to be more polite."

"Sorry," Andre said. "Force of habit is all. But I'm not gonna change just because one person doesn't like it."

"Then I suggest not to be around when Crystal is. She's a lady. Respect her wishes. Now make your move, teach."

"The final move," said Andre. "Look, Yuri, even when the coast looks clear, it's best not to let down your defenses. Anything can happen, man. Like I said, your Black Tyranno is strong, but, there are stronger monsters out there. Valkyrion attacks and that ends the game. Once again, the Prince of Aquarius loses to me."

"Aw, damn," Yuri said. "Sorry, Ren."

"Don't be," said Ren. "You've got a lot to learn. And that's what these squash matches are for. But here's a tip. Reduce the size of your deck, man. I mean look at that brick. You got like, what, sixty-five cards in there? Trim the fat from your deck. And you've got a lot of it. Lots of weak vanilla reptile monsters. I know how much you love dinosaurs, Yuri, but there just aren't that many of them. So you're just going to have to add something else or make a new deck entirely until your dad comes up with some support for them or something."

Yuri looked at his deck sadly. "You really think so, Ren."

"Stop being such a baby!" snapped Andre. "Come on. Do you want to get better at the game or not?"

"Don't raise your voice at him!" Crystal said coming through the doors with a tall cup of lemonade. "You beat him. But it doesn't give you the right to scold him. And lord help you if you scold him in front of me again."

Ren backed away from the table. "Aww, hell no. She's got that crazy look in her eyes. She wants to Duel."

"I'd be more than happy to," Andre said. "Have a seat. But, uh, calm down. You look like you're about to burst." 

"I apologize if I appear perturbed," Crystal said, taking her deck out of her purse. "I just lose it when someone triggers me with my pet peeves."

"Well, a friendly Duel should take care of that," said Andre.

"Maybe some other time," said Crystal. "You don't want to Duel me when I'm mad. Besides, we've got a little prince to train. Okay, Yuri, shuffle that deck and let's go at it again. You're not leaving here until you start playing like a pro."

Chapter Text

Joey - Mellowfields Tournament Preliminaries

October 3 - Year 18 4AOS



The first day of the Mellow Fields Tournament began. Joey woke up once the cock started crowing at dawn. He dressed into his armor and marched into the fairgrounds to buy himself something to eat before the games began. The morning smelled sweet with sausages, pancakes, pretzels, eggs, and bacon. Joey asked for one large pork sausage and a horn of ale to wash it down with. The air was fogged with smoke from the cooking carts and from the smithy who came by to sell and repair arms and armor. Something big flew overhead. Joey looked up and saw a party of knights riding Phantom Griffons over the fairgrounds. One of them blew on a horn, announcing their leader to the crowd.

He stopped and waited as a merchant selling exotic pets and mounts walked by showing off creatures such as Dark Gray, Serpent Marauder, and a flaming plant called Firegrass, who could keep gardens clean by eating weeds and pesky rodents. But the real prize of his stock was a mystical beast called Sunlight Unicorn; a fair creature with a bright, white coat and a flaming mane of blue fire. The price for it was an astonishing 100,000 Star Chips.

Joey heard lively music coming from the pens where the horses and other mounts were kept, groomed, and fed. The merry chirp of a windpipe, the hearty beating of a drum, and the sweet rhythm of a tambourine. The players didn't draw much of a crowd. As Joey approached, he began to see why. He noticed their pointed ears, brightly-colored eyes, fair faces, and silky hair. They were Elves. Had it not been for their pretty dancer, they wouldn't have even gotten their decent pile of pennies and halfpennies. He saw a silver or two in the hat to place the tip, so unlike the other human players, whose bags, hats, or purses were filled with silver and gold or even a gem. The Elven girl spotted Joey and slowed down. Her shoulder was sensuously raised to her chin. She batted her eyelashes and smiled before continuing on her with dance.

A little boy wanted to watch her but his mother pulled him away. "Stay away from them, child!" she said sternly. "Elves. They'll charm you with magic and rob you blind!"

The Elf girl paid no heed to the woman and continued dancing away. She had flowers speckling her long, cool-brown hair, which sprayed their air with its sweet, citrusy aroma as she whipped her hair around. Joey reached into his pouch and threw three silver shields into the hat. The Elf girl bowed.

"I had no idea ya fancied pointy-eared ones," Zoey said, standing behind Joey. She was munching on a sausage crafted to look like a unicorn, with the other end of her wooden skewer.

"I don't mind 'em," said Joey. "I'm not like you."

"Have ya forgotten dat they enslaved our kind fer thousands of years in the First Age of the Sun?" she said. "Their kind has blood on their hands."

Joey looked at her. "And you're seriously going to hold a grudge for something you took no part in and ended long ago? It was they, not the Kings of Men who came to Prince Yuri's aid when Anubis attacked."

"Say what ya want," said Zoey. "I dinnae like 'em. They should go back to the forests where they belong. It was the people of the Highlands who suffered the worst of their brutality. Had it not been for Lazaria Whiteglint, the human race in Termnnia would be all but extinct."

The Elf girl giggled as she spun. "You should know Lazaria's campaign would have been a failure had it not been for the Red Leaf Council. Do you know what it was?"

"Da hell do I care?" said Zoey.

"It was a pact of Golden Elves and Crimson Elves, who rejected the idea of slavery from their Meteoran counterparts. Before the council, your so-called 'Liberator' would have fallen to Taros-Nezzenthrien, and your kind would still remain in chains."

"Ah, to hell with ya," said Zoey. She turned and walked away.

"Don't mind her," said Joey.

"I'm rather used to it," the Elf girl said, continuing with her dance, and still wearing her smile. "Prejudice can turn one blind to their emotions. Even their own history."

"Zoey doesn't like to be proven wrong," Joey said with a chuckle. "When da facts are stacked against her, she resorts to her fists and foul language. Such is the way of those who are ignorant."

"I couldn't agree more, Ser Joey the Black Dragonknight," said the Elf girl. "I wish you luck in the tourney today."

"And I wish you luck," said Joey. "Wit da Church of Yeyu and people like Zoey running around, it's a dark time fer yer kind. Here, take this." He handed her an ultra-rare Gilford the Legend card. "I have like ten copies of dis guy," Joey insisted when the girl refused his gift. "He'll be worth a lot. I can guarantee you and your troop can find some fine dining and bedding tonight."

"Etherina bless you, kind Ser," the Elf girl said with a bow.

Joey heard a blare of trumpets coming from one of the towers in the pearly-white castle overlooking the town and the fairgrounds. He said farewell to the girl and hurried to a great gathering of players who stood underneath the balcony of the tower where the trumpets sounded.

Two women stepped out over the balcony hand-in-hand. One was dressed in black. Her hair was tied into an elegant bun. The second woman had long hair that looked like sunlight beaten into silk. She was draped in a bright white dress with a plunging neckline. It was short, barely reaching her thighs, but it flowed on the back, the cloth touching her ankles. Their tiaras glistened in the bright light of Helios. By the color of their hair and their iridescent eyes, Joey concluded at once that they were Axeri, a golden-haired race of people from the Lionheart region of Thara, a country to the south of the continent.

Then, from behind, came a creature that caused the crowd to gasp and some to even cheer. A tremendous dragon, black as burned steel and heavily armored. The membranes on its wings were navy blue and its eyes burned red as did a scar on its chest.

They were two of western Termnnia's greatest heroes. The Queens of Black and White. No one knew why, but they were immortal and blessed with everlasting youth and beauty. These two had been alive since the Waltz of the Dragon Queens and witnessed the fall of House Rosenkruz and High Queen Evangelia's disappearance. 

"Look at that!" said a knight. "The legendary Black Brutdrago. A survivor of the Night of Flames and Tears."

"Aye, that's him all right," said Zoey. "He's kept the kingdom safe for thousands of years. Rumor has it that he's even granted long life and eternal youth to his two mistresses there."

"No way!" said a knight in red armor. "I've heard the Queens of Black and White had an ancient bloodline. But immortality? That simply cannot be."

"None are sure what it is," said a knight in azure armor. "But immortality is what they have. Those women may look like they're in their blooming twenties, but they are actually more than a thousand years old. Many wizards begged to know their secret. But it's one that only Black Brutdrago knows. And it seems like he's not telling. Had they told their secret to Tiberius or Evangelia, we'd probably be in better days. Some say that as soon as their dragon dies, they will die with him."

"I suppose that makes sense," said the knight in red armor. "Dragons can live for more than a hundred thousand years, so those two are going to outlive us and even our grandchildren."

Joey stroked his chin, marveling at the two women above. He had heard of them before. Their legend was told over a dozen times at dinner by his mother and sister, and in the dozens of inns he entered. Having long life, great wealth and power, and one of the last True Dragons in Termnnia made them a force to be reckoned with. They motioned to the crowd and the participants below, who were waving banners and throwing confetti in the air. Balloons floated toward the sky, mixing with the dozens of kites that lazily glided in the air over the town.

A man dressed in purple with a round hat plumed with a red feather blew into his trumpet. "Presenting their Royal Majesties! Queens Angeline and Della Blackdragon. And their ever-faithful companion Ser Blackbrute."

The Black Brutdragon roared loudly, shaking the countryside. The man in purple cowered and covered his ears, but Queens Angeline and Della still smiled, holding hands and continued waving to the crowd.

"Greetings all of you!" Queen Angeline, the woman in black, called out. "Welcome to the three-hundredth annual Mellowfield Spring Tournament. Let's not waste any time. Once the fireworks go off, the games begin."

She and Della kissed. The crowd cheered and Black Brutdragon blew dark-red fire at the sky as rockets launched into the air and burst into clouds of colorful smoke.

"Well, here goes," said Joey. "If I win dis tourney, we'll get the prize money and fund that expedition of Serenity's."

Hee hee hee hee!

"Aw, no," Joey turned and saw two familiar faces approach him. "Red and Weevil," he said in disdain. "Why am I not surprised to see you two fuckers here?"

"Keep talkin', Wheeler!" Rex grunted angrily, remembering all the losses he suffered at Joey's hands, one of them resulting in the loss of his Red-Eyes Black Dragon at Duelist Kingdom. "Things are going to be quite different in these games, I promise you!"

"And Wheeler," laughed his friend, Weevil. "Don't think I forgot how you have beaten me in the Battle City Tournament. You won't get far in these games, I assure you. My deck is swarming with new rare and powerful insects."

He started laughing when someone came up from behind and put him in a chokehold.

"Strong words coming from such a small guppy," said the stranger.

"Mako Tsumami?" Joey said. "Wow. Didn't expect to see you all the way out here."

"I couldn't pass this up," Mako said, still keeping a hold on Weevil.

Weevil broke free and turned to yell at him. "You think you can win this!" he shouted.

"Of course, I can," said Mako. "My new denizens of the deep will assure me victory here."

Rex sneered and crossed his arms. "Don't think your sardines will stand a chance against my dino horde!"

"Ha!" laughed Mako. "My new White Aura Whale will be more than a match for your Two-Headed King Rex."

Joey shook his head. "Some things never change."

He walked away, hoping to get as far away from them as he possibly could from them.


Layla Lovecraft - Eden Island, Aquarius

October 3 - Year 18 4AOS


Young Layla set up her equipment in her room on the top floor of her beachside apartment suite. As she adjusted the settings and height of her camera, she hummed the theme song from Attack on Titan, one of her favorite Animes.

The camera revealed all the materialistic luxuries a person could want behind her. Luxury furniture, expensive electronics, and decorations that would have the average Joe burning in rage. She thanked her career as a professional Duelist, gamer, and online entertainer for her riches. With an allowance of five million a year, she happily retired at the age of twenty-one.

Once all that was taken care of she put on her white hooded sweater in the shape of a dragon. A frill of cloth spikes went down her back and a little tail came out the bottom of the sweater. The hood had two horns and a hot pink interior and her hands were concealed in the sleeves which sealed to form cute dragon claws. Then she pulled up a black frilly skirt and fishnet stockings.

Her bright blonde hair was formed into two long pigtails with pink streaks. White headphones illuminated by pink neon lights hung over her neck.

She turned on the camera and she smiled and waved. The sunlight peering through her white draped windows made her huge blue eyes sparkle giving her the appearance of an anime girl.

"What's up, guys! Layla Lovecraft here at PinkDragon_Gaming with another session of 'Let's Talk'."

Cut to Layla clapping. "Yay!"

"But before we start, here are the Texts of the Day!"

Cuts to Layla with her phone. "Okay, the first one is from LonesomeWarrior069 with: Hey, PinkDragon_Layla. OMG Ur So HAWT! Show us your tits!"

Layla stares coldly at the camera. "Hey, LonesomeWarrior!" She flips both the birds. "Fuck you!"

"Sorry about that guys. This next one is from GEEKLORD1020."

The video cuts to her snickering at the name. "Ha, ha, Geek lord."

Cut to her coughing into her dragon claw sleeve. Her eyes dart from left to right mischievously. Now the video cuts to her reading the text from her fan. She leans back in her elite gaming chair.

"Hey, PinkDragon_Layla, did you catch any good memes this week?" she read out loud. "Like seriously guys? I am a Duelist. This is a channel about Dueling and you want me to talk about memes?"

Next clip shows Layla standing in the harbor with a jug of milk. She leaps into the air and flies through space with the soundtrack Shooting Stars by Bag Raiders.

Now she's back in her room. A plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies is in front of her. Her face is red from her little stunt and she chuckles. She looks into the camera.

"Ahem, sorry you had to see that."

She bites into another cookie.

"Mmm, my girlfriend made me these. Her cookies are so beast!" She sticks her left thumb up with approval as she takes another bite of her cookie. "Mmm! Love you, baby!"

The video now shows her leaning back in her chair. "Well enough of those you guys. So here's what's making Dueling news. First off, my reaction to Phobos Corp finally releasing their holographic technology for everyone."

She pumps her fist.

"YES!"

Layla jumps around the room and then twerks as the song Bubble Butt by Major Lazer is playing in the background.

Back to Layla in her chair

"I am so excited about this you guys. Holographic Dueling was normally reserved for championship tournaments and there are some pompous assholes, a.k.a the 'elite' (She makes quotations with her fingers) out there who claim that's only reserved for them. In the words of my friend, AJShim, the Virginia state champion..."

The video cuts to an image showing a black and white picture of a woman from the 1950's spraying air freshener all over the room. The words: Smells like Bullshit is written above her in big black letters. Audio plays the sound of AJShim saying his famous quote. "BULL-SHIT!"

Layla points at the camera and pouts while yelling

"NO! NO! You guys suck!"

She sits back in her chair

"Now holographic Duels aren't new to me because, being a championship Duelist, I've used them before. But when I got home I would always resort to using those lame low-rez Duel Screens and that would totally suck the fun out of the game. I felt bad seeing everyone else not have access to this awesome tech. But it appears your voices have been heard and Phobos Corp has begun construction of local arenas here on Aquarius! But that is not all Duel fans!"

A cut to her screeching with excitement and waving her dragon claw sleeves.

"Leon Caldwell, the marketing director and head of the Phobos Corp technological division, has also announced that the company is working on their newest toy. As you can see Leon standing in front of a silhouette of the new piece of tech. He said in an interview with Duel Magazine, quote: I am pleased to announce that we are finished working on Phobos Corp.'s newest, most advanced and most ambitious product yet. With the release of holographic technology to the public, we quickly got to work on a way to let Duelists play with holograms anywhere, anytime."

Layla droops over her desk. Mouth wide open with shock. A minute goes by before she says:

"HO-LY SHIT! Portable hologram Duels?"

Clip of Layla throwing hundred-dollar bills at the camera.

"I'm throwing money at the screen but nothing is happening!"

Back to her in her chair

"Now, while we're on the subject of holographic tech it should be known that Aquarius's first local arena, The Duel Dome, was built just a few nights ago, and WOW! Talk about action. We had Duelists from all over the country flock to our little playground. There were some pretty elite players there including my bestie and former teammate, Crystal Anderson the Queen of Dragons! Okay, now get this. My girlfriend was there that night and says she saw Crystal entering the dome with a kid who she thinks is Yuri. As she entered the dome she was challenged by the regional champion, Randall Lawson. And Crystal put Yuri up to Duel him."

Layla stares at the camera confused. "Like whaaaat?"

"Okay, guys, Yuri may be the son of the CEO of Phobos Corp and Duel Monsters creator, Jacob Montgomery. And heir to this entire island! BUT he has been labeled number one on the list of Aquarius's worst Duelists. You gotta admire Crystal's confidence in him. Now here is where things get interesting. Yuri BEAT him in that Duel."

Layla shouts slapping both hands on the sides of her face.

"WOOOOOW!"

"No, you guys, this is not a joke. Yuri won. Now, personally, I hate Randall Lawson; he is a nasty, egotistical pervert and there I days I wish I never met him. But he is being trained by the former world champion, Brett Martinetti. Randall may be a creep but I respect his Dueling skills. Which leaves me to wonder. How in the hell could an amateur like Yuri Montgomery beat a guy like him? Well, the answers may lie in a monster that has been labeled as the Black Tyranno. This is a card that has never been seen or heard of before. One of Randall's buddies posted a video of the monster on Instagram. I'll leave the link in the description. And what do you guys think is going on? Is Yuri's father giving Yuri new cards? Possibly. Is it a lie? A hoax? A fake card? Let me know what your opinions are in the comments. As for me. Well, there's only one way I'm going find out if that card is legit or not."

Layla held out her deck.

"I'm going to challenge Yuri to a Duel and see for myself. Yeah, that's right. Me and Yuri. One-on-one. Stay tuned for that boys and girls. Well, that's the video for today guys. Thanks for watching. As always, leave your comments down below. If you enjoyed the video, please give it a Like. And if you're new to my channel make sure you hit that subscribe button."

Cut to Layla making a cute pouty face

"Or I'm going to be a very sad panda."

Back to Layla being happy and enthusiastic again

"And don't forget to hit Pink_Dragon's website where you can get some cool t-shirts and other merchandise. And promo cards signed by me and the rest of the team. Last week the girls and I posed for this year's calendar."

She holds it up. Her team leader is on the cover in a bikini and hides it from the viewer's view while wagging her finger.

"If you want to see the ladies of Pink-Dragon Gaming in some lewd shots be sure to pick it up. If you do so now, I'll give you guys a fifteen percent discount. Not just on the calendar but any other merch you want to get. Just type in the word TYRANNO. But do so now, because this offer is only available for today. And why wouldn't you guys want to get this calendar? I'm topless in March."

She gives a flirtatious wink.

"And Yuri, you better watch out, kiddo. Crystal ain't the only one around here with a powerful dragon deck! Better get your game on, My Dude, cuz it's time to Duel."


Yuri - Montgomery Palace/ Paradiso Prima, Aquarius


Bark! Bark! Meow! Meow!

Dance with me purple cow!

"These Geico commercials get weirder and weirder by the day," Yuri grumbled as he lay there on his bed listening to the radio which was set to wake him for school. He was contemplating whether to get out of bed today, for he just had another nightmare.

This time he was inside of a room. A woman was holding down the door, trying to keep a vile entity from coming in. The door burst open. Then, a shadowy, shapeless mass entered the room chanting something evil before aiming his hand at the woman. He fired a blast a multi-colored light at her, burning her to ashes. Her smoldering skeleton fell to the floor.

The mass approached Yuri. A pyramid, burning with vile light was hanging around its neck. It removed its hood revealing a face, burned to the bone with strips of charred flesh still clinging to the not-so-clean skull.

"FROM THE LIGHT COMES THE DARK!" The thing shouted. And then Yuri woke.

"That's the last time I sleep with Duel Monster cards under my pillow," Yuri grumbled, scratching the back of his head.

"Yuri, dear, you awake in there?" called Paula from the top of the stairs to the basement.

"Yes, mom!" Yuri called back.

"Hurry up now, you don't want to be late for school."

Yuri showered, shaved, and got dressed. He then tossed his homework and cards into his backpack and slipped it over his shoulder before walking out of the room.

"So, there he is," Jacob said as Yuri walked up the stairs from the basement into the kitchen. "Word has finally reached my ears that you beat the regional champion."

"Oh, yeah," Yuri said rubbing his back. "I kind of got lucky."

"I think he's lying," said Andrew, shoving a spoonful of cornflakes into his mouth. "Yuri never beat me in a match. So how could he beat the regional champion?"

"Don't talk with your mouthful, young man!" Mrs. Montgomery snapped while slapping Andrew's head lightly with the newspaper. Buzz snickered with a mouthful of eggs as he pointed at Andrew's mishap. Kathy shook her head, reading a magazine as she ate her toast. His two older siblings. Yuri never got to see them much since they were traveling the world, always out and about, working, working, working. He only saw Buzz and Kathy once in a while. Still, it was good to see them at last, and they were both equally as impressed about his victory of Randall."

"You should read Duel Monster forums more, Andrew," Buzz said after swallowing his eggs. "And Twitter buzzed about it all night."

"Nice job, bro," said Kathy. "But there's been talk that you brought out a shiny new monster into the field. One that no one had ever seen before."

"Let me see," said Jacob. "You haven't been sneaking into my safe have you, Yuri?"

"No, sir," Yuri said taking out his deck and handing it to his father.

Mr. Montgomery searched through the cards and found the card everyone was talking about. "The Black Tyranno? I never printed this before?"

"Perhaps you missed the memo," Mrs. Montgomery said pouring coffee into his Kuriboh cup. "You can't possibly know every card that pops up."

"No, I suppose not. But this one is powerful. I should have known about it. I guess Two-Headed King Rex is no longer the strongest card of the dinosaur-type."

"It must be a fake," said Andrew.

"No, it's not," retorted Mr. Montgomery. "The card is very real. It has its own code. The foil is the same as the ones I use in my business, and it even has its microchip in the corner. Well, folks, I don't know how, but, this is a legit Duel Monsters card."

"Are you going to let me keep it?" Yuri asked.

"For now, anyway," said Mr. Montgomery, handing Yuri his deck back. "Rest assured I will get to the bottom of this."

"I see no need," said Mrs. Montgomery. "Andrew has his signature card, that no one else has. So why shouldn't Yuri?"

"I guess so," Mr. Montgomery said with a smile. "I suppose now that you have beaten the regional champion you're going to need a tough signature creature in your deck. But rest assured, Yuri, if I see any more unknowns appear, I will start an investigation."

"I understand sir," Yuri said stuffing his cards into his pocket.

His little sister waddled towards him.

"Hey, Cindy!" Yuri picked her up and blew on her tummy to make her laugh. "Want to count how many days are left? Huh?"

She grinned and waved her arms happily in response. "Let's see," Yuri said picking up her arm and pressing her hand to the days on the calendar. "One…two…three…four…five more days until my birthday."

"Oh whoopee," groaned Andrew, stuffing cornflakes into his mouth.

Yuri checked his watch. "Uh-oh, gotta go. I'm going to be late."

He set Cindy down.

"Have a good day son," said Jacob.

"Be safe out there!" called Paula. "The neighbors have reported some thieves in black hoods walking around out there."

"No worries, mom!" Yuri called out as he ran out the door.


There was a commotion outside the school once the final bell of the day rang. Yuri, Patty, Carter, Nick, Tyson, and Natalya headed to the cafeteria to see what was going on and spotted a crowd of students cheering around a table. The Duel Kings of the school were holding up their thumbs in approval and Diego stood up, holding up Andre's arm, announcing that he was the school's newest Duel King. 

"You've got to be kidding," Yuri muttered. 

Andre shook hands with his fellow classmates and the other Duel Kings patted him on the back and welcomed him to their group.

"He actually did it?" Tyson asked. "Andre became a Duel King?"

Nick stomped his foot on the ground and grunted furiously as he darted out of the school. "Bastard! Comes out of nowhere and starts taking over. You should have taken that spot, Yuri. Everyone was expecting you to."

"I don't want it!" Yuri yelled. He followed Nick out of the school along with the others. "I thought we agreed Duel King was a title none of us need."

"Yeah, Nick, what's the big deal?" said Patty.

"The big deal is it belongs to that guy. I never liked him, you know. Ever since we first ran into him, he's rubbed me the wrong way." 

"What made you feel like that?" Tyson asked. 

"Forget it! Let's go. I don't wanna be here anymore."

"All right, all right," said Yuri. As he walked out of the school, he ignored whispers as he walked out. Some people called him a cheater. They claimed that a Duelist such as him could never defeat a champion player like Randall. Then, there were some who wanted to get a shot of Black Tyranno for their blogs and some even wanted to buy it off of Yuri.

"Things haven't been the same since I summoned that monster," said Yuri.

"You should be happy for this kind of publicity, Yuri," said Tyson.

"Yeah, Carter's right," said Patty. "Even if you're not one of those stupid Duel Kings, a majority of the school finally acknowledges you as the great Duelist you really are. Think about who you've beaten since then. One of the Gems of Paradiso Prima, Floyd Patterson, that wiz kid from Phobos Corp Academy. The list is gonna go on, I can feel it."

"Some have called me a cheater," said Yuri.

"Let the haters hate," said Carter. "They're just jealous that it was you and not them who took down Randall."

"Meh, I'm with Yuri on this one," scoffed Nick. "All this publicity sucks."

"Why?" asked Patty. "Because the cameras are focused on Yuri and not you?"

"I'm talkin' about you, Pats," said Nick. "Ever since Yuri won that Duel every camera on the island chain has been focused on your ass!"

"What the hell is he rambling about?" Yuri asked. They walked down the sidewalk towards the card shop to hang out and have lunch. It was Friday after all and Yuri was free from work today.

"They all think I'm your girlfriend, Yuri," said Patty. "And I've got to admit, my friend's list has been spiking on social media."

"This is bullshit!" said Nick. "Patty's my girl!"

Patty scoffed. "What do you mean your girl?"

"Well, not yet, but you will be."

Patty rolled her eyes. She grabbed Yuri by the face and planted a big kiss on his lips all the while flipping her middle finger at Nick.

"See you tomorrow, boys!" Patty said walking off leaving them all stunned.

Yuri smirked confidently and walked away with his hand behind his head.

"Hey!" said Nick. "Don't let that sink into your head, Yuri! Yuri!"

"Yuri Montgomery!" someone called out. "Hey, Yuri! Yuri!"

Yuri looked around for the voice.

"Over here!"

"No way!" said Tyson, spotting Layla Lovecraft waving at them from the top of a hill. "Layla of PinkDragon Gaming?"

"Who's she?" Yuri asked, watching the girl run down the hill towards them.

"She is one of the members of that all-female gaming clan. PinkDragon Gaming. They have teams for every well-known game like Call of Duty and Halo. Layla was once Crystal's teammate in the Duel Monsters Team Tournament two years ago. The famous Sensational Dragon Sisters because they all packed seriously well-built dragon decks and dominated the competition."

"What does she want with me?"

"We're about to find out."

Layla made it down the hill and jumped from a stone ledge. "Woo, glad I finally caught up with you. You Yuri? The one with the glowing green eye?"

"Yeah, that's me."

"I heard about your Duel against Randall Lawson. Man, he is such a creep, my congratulations on defeating him."

"Uh, thanks."

"Now, I've got a question for you, Yuri. Do you think it was skill that allowed you to beat Lawson? Or was it sheer dumb luck?"

"Sheer dumb luck," Yuri answered immediately.

"Care to find out for yourself?" Layla asked, pulling her deck out of her pocket. The cards had gold trim.

"Wow!" Yuri and the others said.

"Go for it, Yuri!" said Tyson.

"I don't think so."

"Why not?" Layla asked. "If you win, I could end all those nasty rumors about you cheating."

"Huh?"

"Come on, Yuri, take my word for it. My fans always listen to what I have to say. And if I say you're legit, you're legit."

"But that's only if I win," said Yuri. "Which I can't. You're a champion player. I'm not. You could easily beat me. Even with my Black Tyranno."

"Then the rumors are true after all," said Layla. "You're running away from a match and that's cowardice."

"You have made a correct assessment," said Yuri.

"Cheaters are cowards, Yuri," said Layla. "If you walk away from my challenge, you're proving all those naysayers right. Come on, kiddo. Prove them all wrong."

"Very well," said Yuri. He said this with such confidence. He even puffed out his chest and agreed again."Yes, yes, of course, I'll face you. I can't run away forever." Images of a knight clad in platinum flashed through his eyes, filling him with courage. "Come on. The card shop is just down this way."

"We're not going to no card shop, Yuri. I'm playing you at The Duel Dome."

"Oh boy," groaned Carter. "Here we go again. That place is starting to become really popular."

"Come on," said Layla. "I can fit you all in my car."


They jammed into Layla's convertible and took them to the Duel Dome after a short drive. When they were in the elevator, she opened a box full of booster boxes.

"Here," she said. "Fill your deck up with these. There should be some cool dinosaurs in this set you can use."

"Wow," said Nick. "These are from the new set!"

"They're only for Yuri," said Layla, "hands-off."

Yuri knelt down and opened the box. "Wow, thanks, Layla."

"Hey, Yuri, you better think about this," said Carter. "These are brand new cards that won't be released until next month. They're going to contain a lot of cards we've never seen before."

"I'm a quick study. Layla, with these new cards and my evolving skill, there's no way you're going to win."

"Ooooh," Layla leaned against the wall. "Well now. Look who's suddenly brimming with confidence. What's with the change in attitude?"

"I don't know," Yuri replied as though she asked what was the meaning of life. "I really don't know. I'm just...I just don't feel that scared anymore." Again, he saw scenes with the platinum knight flashing through his eyes. "I'm not scared." He placed his hand over his heart. "And I don't know why."  

Ding!

The elevator took them to the topmost arena. By that time, Yuri had found plenty of new cards to add to his deck. He gave it one last shuffle and put it in his pocket.

"Okay," said Layla. "You take blue I'll take red."

"Okay," said Yuri.

They took their places. The platforms arose. The scoreboard above displayed 2000 Life Points.


"Where do you think you're going!" Brett shouted at Crystal.

"I think I saw them come up here!" said Crystal.

"Who?" Brett said joining her on the balcony suite overlooking the arena below. "Well, well, Yuri. I should have known you'd wet your panties seeing him come up here."

"He's brimming with confidence today," said Crystal. She leaned over the glass railing beaming at him. "The most I've ever seen him."

"And his opponent is Layla!" Brett said softly. "Wow, she looks like she's ready to kick some ass."

"My former teammate should prove a formidable opponent for Yuri," Crystal agreed. "She's sure to take his game to a higher level with this Duel."

"Or give him a most crushing defeat," sniggered Brett, going to the bar to help himself to a drink. "While Randall was goofing around in regionals, Layla was playing a serious game in the world championships. Yuri doesn't stand a chance."

Meanwhile, inside a lounge on the other side of the arena, Ren had arrived, too. He stood there quietly to watch Yuri's match. He kept to the shadows so no one could see him. Most of all Raven. "So you're here, too?" he whispered. 

"Hold on, Yuri," Layla said, opening her backpack. She sent a drone into the air. "Just need a little something to record our match."

"Pretty cool," said Yuri. "So we're going to be Dueling live on your streaming channel or something?"

"Got that right. You're going to be live in 3...2...1!"

Layla waved to the camera mounted on the drone and introduced herself and Yuri to her viewers. 

"Is this the same Yuri we know?" Tyson asked. He sat down with the others in the first row next to the arena. "Since when is Yuri cool about getting filmed in front of a live audience?"

"Yeah, this is really strange," said Carter. "Yuri should be running for the hills by now at the mere mention of the word camera and live. But look at him. He's just accepting it like it's nothing. I also wonder where this sudden burst of courage came from."

"I don't know where," said Nick. "But I'm just glad Yuri's getting some confidence out there. If this keeps up, he should be on the right path to being the Duelist we all expect him to be."

Layla finished the introductions and then the drone flew higher.

"I appreciate you challenging me, Layla," Yuri said. 

"Thanks, you're first!"

"With pleasure," said Yuri. "I summon Trakadon in defense mode!"

Trakadon

ATK/1300 DEF/800

"That all?" Layla laughed. "You're going to have to do better than that. I summon Sky Dragon!"

Sky Dragon

ATK/1900 DEF/1800

After Layla commanded her six-winged beast to attack, the dragon fired a bright blue beam at Trakadon. The little dinosaur screeched and was blasted away. Yuri lost 700 Life Points dropping him to 1300.

"I'm sure you can do better than that," said Layla. "You defeated Randall Lawson. Come on, show me how you did it."

"Yeah, he may have defeated Randall Lawson," said Nick. "But Randall Lawson was not a legendary Sensational Dragon Sister."

Crystal balled her hands into fists and smashed them on the railing. "Damn! Maybe he got a little too confident! What the hell was that?"

"Arrogance can be your greatest enemy," said Raven. "However, just by looking at him, I can tell that's a trait that's very rare for him."

"Perhaps he's still getting used to his newfound courage," said Asuka. "It can be a very strange feeling for someone who's been so fearful and weak the way he's been for his whole life. He's probably exploding with so many emotions right now. He just has to keep them in control."

"Come on, Yuri!" Layla called. "I want you at your best."

"All right," said Yuri. "You want me to do my best, I will. I will play Polymerization to fuse together another Trakadon in my hand with Beast King of the Swamp and create Pragtical!"

Yuri summoned a quadrupedal dinosaur with royal purple skin with its shoulders and head crowned with spikes.

Pragtical

ATK/1900 DEF/1500

"But that's not all!" said Yuri. "I equip him with Raise Body Heat and boost his attack by three hundred points raising Pragtical's attack to twenty-two hundred!"

Pragtical attacked at Yuri's command, slashing Sky Dragon in the chest. The feathered dragon screeched and exploded into a thousand pieces. 

"Hm." Layla wrinkled her nose. Her Life Points went down to 1700. "Okay, nice combo attack by the way. But here comes my next monster. I place two cards face down and summon Serpent Night Dragon!"

Crystal clasped her hands together.

"What's with you?" Brett asked, watching Crystal get jittery.

"Oh, I'm so jealous!" said Crystal, seeing the dark serpentine dragon slithering in the air over the field with its four wings. "I've wanted that dragon for years. It's so rare."

"I thought you had a Serpent Night Dragon," said Raven.

"Maybe not like the one Layla just played," said Brett. "That's not like any Serpent Night Dragon I've ever seen. This one is jet-black and the wings are bigger."

"It's an alternate art card," said Crystal. "The chances of getting those are one in a million! Regan, Layla's girlfriend, gave it to her for her birthday while on a vacation in Hawaii."

Serpent Night Dragon

ATK/2350 DEF/2400

The rare alternate form of Serpent Night Dragon held its body up and spread its red membranous wings which were almost as long as its body. It had sharp blades coming out from behind its scrawny legs and arms. A shadow mane of black hair with a blood-red hue waved ominously from behind its head. Long curved spikes went down its back to its whip-like tail with an ax-shaped weapon at the end.

The dragon screeched and summoned shadows, which flew out and destroyed Yuri's dinosaur.

Yuri-1150

Layla-1700

"So far I'm not impressed, Yuri."

"Well nobody asked you to be impressed!" Yuri retorted. "You're a fool if you think this was going to be like your Duels in those fancy-pants tournaments. I told you, I'm not a good Duelist."

"Come on, kiddo, I meant no disrespect. Crystal sees a lot in you is all."

"She does?"

"Yes. It takes more than sheer dumb luck to defeat a good Duelist like Randall. It takes skill and heart. I want to see something in you, too, Yuri. And I want to help bring out that potential in you. But that's going to be hard to do if you're not putting your all into this Duel. Passionate Duelist is what Crystal calls you. Well, I haven't seen any passion in you. All you've been doing was throwing down random monsters in hopes that I end this Duel quickly. I know you've got something in that deck that can stand up to my dragons."

"I just might," said Yuri. "You know, I'm starting to feel bad."

"Why's that?"

"Crystal. All her life she's tried to cheer me on. Pushing me to be the best. But every time I just shove it in her face. When I beat Randall the other night...I felt alive for the first time in years. But as the days went by, my doubt ate away at my confidence. Doubts that I actually could beat him."

"Doubt is the nastiest monster of them all, Yuri," said Layla. "But it's one we all have to fight at some point. And like any other monster, it can be slain, but that all depends if you want to armor up and fight it."

"You know," said Carter. "She's right."

"Yeah," said Tyson with a nod of his head."

"Hey Layla!" said Nick. "Thanks a bunch for the pep talk. Maybe we can go out for dinner and give me some of that motivation."

"Sorry, babe," laughed Layla. "I've got a girlfriend already. It's your move, Yuri. Hit me with your best shot."

"Right," said Yuri. "I place two cards face down. Summon this monster in defense mode and end my turn."

"Now we're talking," said Layla. She drew her card marking the beginning of her turn. "You've got me guessing and on my toes. That's how my opponent should play. But, will it be enough for my next beast?"

"Bring it on, Layla."

"Wow," said Crystal. "He's all geared up and ready to fight."

"Careful what you wish for," jeered Brett. "I think Layla drew her best card."

Layla kissed the card she drew.

"Tri-Horned Dragon!" Layla slapped her strongest monster onto the playing field. She summoned the strongest of the lesser dragons. It was a stubby beast with blue scales, a red underbelly, and yellow claws and spikes.

Tri-Horned Dragon

ATK/2850 DEF/2350

"But hold on there," said Layla. "I activate my trap card, Dragon's Rage. This card will give my dragons the power of piercing damage, which means that even if your monster is in defense mode, you'll still take damage. And at twenty-eight-fifty attack points, my Tri-Horned Dragon will end the game with this attack. Go Tri-Horned Dragon, attack Yuri's face-down monster."

"Activate trap card!" said Yuri. "Sakuretsu Armor."

"Oh no!"

"This card allows me to destroy your attacking monster."

"Close but no cigar, Yuri. I activate a trap card of my own. The Dragon's Bead! At the cost of a card in my hand, my trap card will negate the effect of your trap and destroy it!"

"Fine," said Yuri. "I will flip up my face-down monster, Gale Lizard! I can select your Tri-Horned Dragon and send him back to your hand."

"You still forget," said Layla. "My Serpent Night Dragon is still free to attack your Gale Lizard."

Yuri braced himself for the attack. Gale Lizard was torn to shreds by Serpent Night Dragon's sonic shadows attack.

Yuri-200

Layla-1700

"Oh, dear," said Asuka. "He took quite a hit."

"Revenge never tasted so sweet," said Brett, pouring himself another glass of scotch. "I knew one of my girls would take Yuri out eventually."

Crystal groaned with frustration, remembering that it was Brett who was the manager of her team with the Sensational Sisters. Not that they needed him. He just tagged along to make himself look good.

"I've got to hand it to you, Yuri," said Layla. "That was pretty tense. You saved yourself for the moment."

"If you thought that was amazing wait till you see what I can do next," said Yuri.

"Give me your best shot kiddo!"

"With pleasure. I draw! I activate my Pot of Greed card, which allows me to draw two additional cards. And now I'm summoning Gogiga Gagagigo!"

He summoned a humanoid reptile that stood ten feet high. He had flaming red skin and gold armor covered his torso, crotch, arms, and legs, and barbed the end of his tail which was the size of a full-grown man. The armor covering his elbows and knees was spiked.

Gogiga Gagagigo

ATK/2950 DEF/2800

"Oh geez!" said Layla. "Should I be worried?"

Yuri's monster stormed for Layla's Serpent Night Dragon and tore it to shreds with his sharp golden claws.

Yuri-200

Layla-1100

"Nice move," said Brett. "But she's still in the lead. Damn, I love this game."

"I summon Tri-Horned Dragon in defense mode!" Layla proclaimed. "Now, you can't strike my Life Points!"

"Oh, can't I?" said Yuri. He flipped the card he drew with his fingers to show her.

"Black Tyranno!" cried Layla. "He does exist!"

"Oh no!" said Brett, almost spitting out his drink. "No! No! No! The card that beat Randall!"

Yuri summoned it to the field. Black Tyranno reared its head and roared into the stadium making the Jurassic Park Tyrannosaurus Rex roar.

"You can't use your Black Tyranno's effect anyway!" said Layla. "I have two trap cards on the field, so Tri-Horned Dragon is not the only monster I have on the field."

"Not for long," said Yuri. "I activate the final card of the game, Heavy Storm. With this card, all our spells and traps are destroyed."

A fierce gale erupted from the ground and shattered Layla's two traps.

"This can't be!" said Layla. "I...I lost."

Yuri had not even made the attack yet, but already Layla knew the game was over. Black Tyranno smashed past Tri-Horned Dragon and gave Layla a swipe of his tail.

Yuri-200

Layla-0

Crystal jumped up and down with joy. "He did it!" She looked at Brett. "He really did it!"

"Doesn't surprise me," said Brett. "Layla was the weakest of the sisters. Come along, now. We've got important matters to attend to."

"I have no part in those matters, Brett. You go on!"

"I said let's go!"

"One of these days, Brett. You're going to regret treating me this way."

"Keep on dreaming toots," he slapped her rear as she walked by and winked. "Man! I love doing that."

On the other side of the arena, Ren smiled. "Nice work, Yuri." He turned and left.

"That was amazing," said Layla. "And I streamed the whole game live, so if anyone still has anything negative to say about your skills Yuri, they're idiots."

"Thanks for the game, and the pep talk, Layla," said Yuri. "I'm not afraid to show the world what I'm made of."

"You still have a long way to go if you want to be a champion, Yuri," said Layla. "But with a heart and skill set like yours, I wouldn't be surprised if that day came soon. Good luck in your future Duels."

"You too," Yuri said. He wanted to shake her hand but he got a hug instead.

Chapter Text

Crystal - Martinetti Mansion/Aquarius

October 5 - Year 18 4AOS


A sudden rasp on the white gilded door awoke her from her slumber. Crystal opened her sleepy eyes. The incoming sunlight was almost blinding her, causing her to squint. She picked herself up with her elbows and looked around her beautiful bedchamber. Her bed, king-sized with maroon sheets and drapes hung on the carved mahogany bedposts. The walls were trimmed with gold lit up with wall light strips. The chandelier above was made of polished bronze and crystal. Her room resembled that of a king's chambers. Ornate and beautifully decorated.

"Up!" her mother, Helen, shouted from the door. "Up now!"

"I am awake, mother!" Crystal shouted.

"Hurry up then," Helen called. "You have much to do today."

The doors suddenly creaked open. Crystal's maids arrived with fresh clothes. Some helped her out of bed, then straightened her bedsheets while a few more opened the curtains of her bedroom, letting the sunlight into the room and revealing the view from the fourteenth floor of the tower.

"Good morning, dear," one of the maids said to Crystal. She held up two dresses for her to choose from. "Another busy day today it seems."

"Yeah, I guess so," Crystal said picking a white gown to wear for her morning drive with Brett.

"Good morning, Crystal," Brett said walking into the room. He was finely dressed in a crisp black suit and tie. He stopped and examined her nightwear. A thin, white, babydoll nightie. "Another lovely weekend for us to enjoy."

"What are you doing here?" Crystal said stepping behind a dressing screen at once to change and escape Brett's wolf-like gaze. She heard Brett sniggering at her shame. She ground her teeth and balled her fists. Her ears started to grow hot and the knot in her chest had returned to make her day ill. She could always count on Brett to ruin her day. Thankfully, it was just a morning with him alone.

"Have you forgotten?" Brett said, casually strolling towards one of the windows looking out to sea.

"What?" Crystal asked, tossing her nightie over the screen.

"Today we have breakfast with Leon Caldwell. The host of the Millennium Tournament." He turned his head to look at Crystal's silhouette on the screen, lit up from the rays of the sun from the window on the other side. His mouth twisted into his wolfish grin, watching her change.

"Mr. Caldwell?" Crystal said after a long pause. She stopped and looked out the window. The long white curtains flapped in the strong oceanic breeze from the south. She heard the palm trees rustling outside in the garden. The serenity of the morning almost soothed her frustration. She let out a deep sigh to finally relieve it all from her body. "Really? He's back from Majorca?"

"Yes," Brett answered. "He's going to discuss the rules and overall layout of the tournament. It's going to be the biggest Duel Monsters event in history, what with the holograms getting better and better. Mr. Montgomery spared no expense in making the monsters as real as possible. Maybe he made them too real. Yuri almost wet his pants when he dueled against Lawson last time. That just goes to show that Duel Monsters is becoming a game that's not for the faint-of-heart."

"Oh, please," Crystal said coming out from behind the screen in her silky white dress. She strolled to her mirror and started primping herself. "I think you're taking this a little too seriously. Duel Monsters is a game. It's supposed to be fun."

Brett let out a hardy laugh. He walked towards her and watched as she brushed her hair. She froze. A sense of power overcame Brett. He loved that Crystal was so scared of him. So obedient. "It was a game, Crystal. Now it's something more. Duel Monsters is unique. It gives players power. Those who can harness it become champions, like us. Playing for fun strips the game of its pride. The losers can play for 'fun' if they want to, but I guess they can have those cheap card shops to play in."

"Power, huh?" Crystal said, peering at Brett from the corner of her eye while putting on the choker Yuri gave her. "You're still young. Maybe one day you'll grow up and realize how ridiculous you sound."

Brett didn't appreciate those words. He grabbed her by the forearm and lifted her up so her ear was close to his lips. "Maybe when you mature a little more you'll come to see Duel Monsters as I do!" Brett said with a scowl on his face. His breath smelled of scotch, making Crystal cringe.

"You're hurting me," she said.

Brett went silent and then scoffed as he let her go. "Take that off," he said, ripping the chocker off Crystal's neck. "I expect you to wear the diamond necklace I bought you last night."

"What's wrong with this?" Crystal whined, examining the jewel desperately to make sure it wasn't damaged. She sighed with relief to see that it was fine.

Brett snatched it from her hands and tossed it to the side. It slammed into her perfume bottles placed neatly on a silver platter. They clanked loudly as they fell. The platter shook for a moment then came to a stop. Brett grabbed her chin and held her head up. Crystal gasped, feeling his rough hands press tightly against her skin. "You look like a common dog wearing that thing!" he said, sliding his hand down her neck and to her chest.

"It was a present," Crystal replied in a frightful whisper. "Yuri gave it to me."

"All the reason for you to take it off."

"Fine, if it bothers you so much, I won't wear it."

"Well, I'm glad you finally see some logic," Brett said with a confident smile. He let her go and kissed her shoulder. "Mother always told me you were a little dunce. I was beginning to think she was right. You're so naïve, confused, idiotic at times. But, my God, you are so damn beautiful."

He held out his arm. Crystal took it, and they walked out of her bedchambers and down the mirrored halls with bronzed statues and chandeliers of diamond and glass. They, at last, left the estate and went down the white steps towards Brett's limousine which took them to a restaurant in the middle of town.

Crystal stared sadly out the window, watching the other kids her age walking about the streets, eager for Halloween which was fast approaching. They were laughing and joking. Some chased each other into the fountains to cool down from the hot tropical sun. How Crystal wished she could join them. She continued watching the kids until they were out of view. Crystal gave a long sigh and stared at her lap.

"Master Martinetti must be pleased today," said the driver.

"And why is that, Bernard?" Brett asked, checking the sales of his online business on his phone.

Bernard let out a friendly laugh as he looked back at them from the rear-view mirror. "Have you forgotten, sir? Today is your twenty-first birthday. You are finally a man."

"Ah, yes," Brett said with a chuckle as he set down his phone. "I've been so busy with work and this little mouse's career that, I almost forgot." He pinched her bottom and howled with laughter.

Crystal narrowed her eyes at him and looked out the window. She couldn't stand his grandiloquence any longer. It stank up the air as much as his cologne did. How she wanted to just rip the car door open, jump out, and run away to find Yuri and Ren.

"Time sure flies, eh?" Brett said.

"Yes," Bernard laughed again. "I remember driving around a little toddler. Now, look at you. And your lady friend. You look very young, I must say. What age will you be turning, sweetie?"

"Oh, I just turned eighteen in August," Crystal replied.

Bernard nodded at her reflection in the rearview mirror. "And what of those little friends of yours, miss? The boy with the red hair and the one with the green eye, Montgomery's boy if I'm not mistaken."

"Yes. My best friend, Yuri, is seventeen going on eighteen this month on the twentieth."

"You will not speak of him here, dear," said Brett. "Ren, I don't mind, for I respect him as a Duelist. I get ill feelings only when I think of that Yuri."

Crystal flashed him an arrogant smirk as she rolled her shoulders. "You're just mad he beat, Lawson,"

His cheeks started burning red at the memory of seeing the Black Tyranno destroy the reputation of his star pupil. "Any fool could have beaten Lawson," Brett scoffed.

"That's not what you said during the Duel," said Crystal. "You were on Lawson's side the whole time."

"He was up against the kid I loathe with all my being," said Brett. "What else was I supposed to do? Besides, I didn't think he'd have that card in his possession."

"The Black Tyranno, I know," Crystal said with a smile. "What power."

"And it belongs to Yuri of all people," Brett said, balling his fists. "That's what's been pissing me off. A card of such ferocity should belong to only the greatest duelist, not that amateur."

They arrived at the restaurant. Bernard got out and opened the door for Brett and Crystal. They stepped out of the cool car and into the humid air of Aquarius.

"Enjoy your breakfast, kids," Bernard said returning to the limo and driving off.

"This is the vice president of Phobos Corp," Brett whispered into Crystal's ear. "Now be on your best behavior."

"You don't have to worry about me," Crystal said, stepping forward.

The two walked inside, graced by a cool blast from the air-conditioning. Brett told the waiter they had a reservation. The waiter bowed and led them to a table by a pool with cerulean blue water and gray stones from which water fell into the pool below. There was a young man, twenty-two-years-old, sitting at the table sipping coffee. He wore a pin-striped suit with a dark red tie.

"Caldwell," Brett said.

"Martinetti," said Leon. "Have a seat. Ah, this must be the lovely, Crystal Anderson. Our local champion. You're even more beautiful in person."

He took her hand and kissed it. Crystal thanked him for his compliment, then sat down next to Brett.

"I understand your student was beaten in a duel a few days ago," said Leon. "Word has reached my ears that it was…Daveed. Or is it Yuri now, as they called him online."

"You know him?" Crystal asked, setting down her purse on the table.

Leon looked at her and sniggered. "Yes. We have crossed paths before. It was not pleasant. I will leave it at that; I hope you understand."

"Oh, very well, sir," Crystal said with a polite nod.

"Glad I'm not the only one who sees him as a nuisance," Brett said, crossing his arms. "The kid's a nightmare. He had the gall to put his hands on me."

"And he had every reason for attacking you," Leon said sipping his coffee. Brett's expression suddenly morphed from arrogance to shock. "Yes, I said it," Leon assured him. "You did hurt this young lady very badly. That was not very gentlemanlike of you, Brett, putting your hands on a girl the way you did. Had I been there, I would have kicked your ass, too."

"Well, I learned the error of my ways," Brett said taking Crystal's hand. "Crystal, I was just…agitated. You mean so much to me. You know I would never hurt you."

Crystal smiled, but deep down she knew he didn't mean that from the bottom of his heart.

"Well, what's done is done," said Leon. "Let's leave that matter behind us. We have a tournament on the way, do we not?"

"Of course," Brett chirped. "Why don't we start by…" His phone vibrated. "What!" he growled, for it was Randall Lawson calling for a second chance. He looked at Crystal and Leon, putting his hand over the microphone. "Would you two give me a moment?" Brett said walking off.

"Sit next to me, my dear," Leon said holding out his hand towards the empty seat beside him.

Crystal did as she was told and sat down, cautiously beside Mr. Caldwell. It amazed her how young he was. She had heard much about him and has seen him on the Phobos Corp magazine from time to time, but this was her first time seeing him in person. His skin was sunkissed, meaning he vacationed a lot in the tropics, but she didn't need to see the color of his skin to know that. She was a follower of his on social media.

She would see him on yachts on the waters of Italy, partying with girls in Greece, and sunbathing in Dubai. He had a slicked pullback hairstyle with a stripe on the side, a clean beard, and green eyes. Brilliant green eyes that pulled Crystal in like a moth to a bug zapper. Crystal hunched her shoulders and bit her lip mischievously as she smelled his exotic cologne. She had also seen enough of his beach pictures to know he was well built underneath that clean, black suit. She had seen him naked before in many pictures with models. She didn't want to say it, but Leon was a boy she admired and fantasized about when she was alone.

She wanted to let him know how she felt, but how would she say it? She didn't want to seem easy, especially now that everyone knew of her affair with Brett and Yuri. But just looking into his eyes, Crystal could tell he knew how she felt about him.

"You okay?" Leon asked.

Crystal snapped out of her hypnosis and coughed timidly. "Yes. Yes. I'm fine. I'm just...uh...I'm a big fan." Damn it!

The waiter arrived and asked them for their order.

"Bring us stacks of hotcakes, Devon," said Leon. "And don't stop bringing them out. We'll eat as many as our stomachs can handle. For drinks, I'll have a refill on my coffee, my friend, Brett, who stepped out a while ago will also take a coffee, and my lady friend here will have a glass of milk. Would that be all right with you?"

"Yes, that's fine," Crystal said with a nod. The waiter bowed and left. "Mr. Caldwell," she said once the waiter left.

Leon held out his hand to stop her. He grinned. "Call me, Leon, please. You're making me feel rather old."

Crystal nodded her head and placed both hands on her lap. "Oh, of course, Leon. How do you know Yuri so well? What did he do to make you feel this way?"

"You love him very much don't you?" Leon asked, tapping the table.

"Yes, he's my friend," Crystal replied, doing all she could to keep from blushing. She twiddled her thumbs nervously on the crisp hem of her dress. She felt her toes curling in her shoes, and sweat starting to spew from every pore. She hated it when people asked her that question. In love? With Yuri? She may have looked at him as her brother, but to be in love was rather difficult, especially with the way he had been acting in the past two years.

Leon nodded his head and fixed the cuffs of his shirt. "Yes, I know you two are good friends, but you love him, don't you?"

"I call him my brother sometimes," Crystal said, almost as if stamping those words down to keep Leon from asking any more questions.

Leon sighed and looked up at the painting hanging on the walls of the restaurant. He figured Crystal was dodging the question and continued on with the conversation. "A brother? How sweet. How long have you known him?"

"We first met when we were still babies," Crystal replied. "We've been through so much together. He's like family to me. So, to answer your question, Leon. Yes. I love Yuri very much. We've been there for each other for years. Nothing can separate us. Well, except for my music career, but thankfully I have a few months off before the next concert."

The waiter arrived with the hotcakes and the drinks. He placed Crystal's milk beside her plate with a thud then handed Leon his coffee.

"Ah, drat," he said with a chuckle. "I don't know how many times I have to tell them to bring more butter when I order these damn things. Devon, bring me a plate of butter please."

"Yes sir, sorry sir," the waiter said as he left.

"Why so much butter?" Crystal asked.

"Because the butter here is homemade. In this place, the butter goes with everything; it's to die for. It mixes so well with the maple syrup making it so much sweeter. And I love the way the spongy interior of the hot cake just soaks up the flavor. I never eat my hotcakes without my butter and my syrup. You can eat them if you want, but I recommend waiting for them to bring out the butter."

"I can wait. I'll take your word for it," Crystal said, placing a handkerchief on her lap.

"Smart girl. Pass me the sugar, please, sweetie," Leon said pointing at the bowl next to Crystal.

She nodded and picked up the bowl by its handle, carefully giving it to Leon. He took it from her and placed it near his plate of hotcakes with a loud thud that shook the silverware. He dumped spoonful after spoonful of sugar into his coffee.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you what I know about Yuri. What I say could be a little too devastating for you."

Crystal frowned. "I can handle it, Leon. Don't treat me like a child. Everyone around her does."

Leon stared at her with a smile. The girl was very persistent, and he loved her for it. Devon arrived with his plate of butter.

"Thank you, Devon," Leon said, sending him away with a wave of his hand. Leon took a spoon and scooped up as much of the creamy butter as he could from the plate. He shook it off over his hotcakes, then gave Crystal some as well. Leon picked up his fork and knife, ready to dig into his long-awaited hotcakes. He turned his head. Crystal was still staring at him, waiting for him to tell her about Yuri. He cut into the fluffy meal until it was a neat triangle and stuffed it into his mouth. He chewed the morsel and savored the flavor. He looked again at Crystal, still awaiting her answer. He smiled and swallowed. "Aren't you going to eat?"

"Oh!" Crystal gasped. She cut into her hotcake and ate some of it. "Wow. It is very sweet," Crystal said after swallowing her slice. "It does mix well with the syrup. Now, you were going to tell me about Yuri."

"He's my little brother."

"What?" Crystal said, grimacing. "You're a Montgomery?"

"I WAS a Montgomery," Leon said calmly cutting his hotcakes. "The blood of Duel Monster's founder flows through my veins, not Yuri's."

"But he…"

"He is not a legitimate family member," Leon said, his calm voice was gone. Crystal saw his face glowing red and his eyes twinkling with spite.

Crystal was paralyzed from the waist down in shock. It looked like Leon would assault her at any moment. Could what Brett said in the restaurant the other day have been true?

Leon ate another slice of his hotcake. "I was still just a toddler, but, I remember when they first brought Yuri into our house. I saw them running outside. Then, when they came back in, they were carrying him."

"But you were still a baby boy," said Crystal said, trying to control her emotions. "Maybe you just…"

"No," Leon said, sternly. "I was young, but I wasn't stupid. I never saw my mother pregnant. I heard his cries outside our house that night, Crystal. I heard voices. Someone left him out there. And whoever they were, they were not normal. That eye of his…is not normal."

He ate another pancake, furiously.

"The kid grew up to be a failure. He just slept his days away in that basement wasting my father's money, but they loved him dearly anyway. I worked my ass to get to where I am. But it wasn't good enough for my parents. All they cared about was Yuri. And once I turned eighteen and finished high school, I moved away and cut all ties with them."

"But that's…so cruel," said Crystal.

"Maybe, but not as cruel as having him in my life. Every accomplishment I made meant nothing to my parents. It was always Little Yuri first. I want nothing more to do with him. And my father can't get rid of me from the company. Who was it who built him the technology to create the Duel Monsters holograms? I don't know who left that bastard at my doorstep, but rest assured; I'll find out. And Crystal. If you ever mention Yuri around me again. I will make you regret it."

His phone rang. "I have to take this call. Excuse me."

He took Crystal's hand and kissed it before getting up to leave. When he was gone, Crystal heaved and tears fell from her eyes.


Yuri - Ruby Dragon Gaming


Late again, Yuri thought. Sergei was going to give it to him now.

He took the bus to the shop. He was now five minutes late and getting later by the second. The bus finally made it to the stop, and Yuri dashed for Ruby Dragon as fast as he could. When he stepped through the doors, he screamed.

A blue dragon known as Winged-Dragon Guardian of the Fortress #1 was snarling at him. It roared causing Yuri to run outside, almost smashing through the glass doors.

"STOP!" someone shouted before he could go any farther. Yuri tripped and fell down on the ground scraping his hands on the sidewalk.

Yuri turned and saw Sergei coming out of the shop with some contraption on his wrist.

"Yuri, you're late again!"

"What is that!" Yuri cried out, trying to catch his breath.

"It's the new machine that will revolutionize Dueling forever, Yuri. It's called a Duel Disk. With these babies in arm, you won't need oversized arenas to see monsters rendered in holographic form. The Phobos Corp's technological division has been working on it for years. Now you can have exciting Duels anywhere you go. Provided you pay the modest fee of twelve-hundred dollars."

"Holy crap, dude, I know what a Duel Disk is. I used one of the prototypes before." Yuri said, getting up from the ground. "But the one you're using. Wow! That was so real."

"Da," said Sergei. "These new devices are going to be used for the upcoming Millennium Tournament."

"So, that's the big tournament everyone's been talking about," said Yuri.

"And I see you've been personally invited," Natalya said coming out of the shop. She had a gold letter in her hand with an extravagant seal on the back.

"I've been invited to attend?" Yuri asked, timidly taking the letter.

"Word has reached the ears of many elite players that you beat the regional champion and one of the Sensational Dragon Sisters," said Sergei. "I think Leon has finally acknowledged you as a decent Duelist."

"He can shove it up his ass," said Yuri tossing the letter in the trash.

"But, Yuri!" said Natalya.

"No one said Leon was going to be there!" Yuri retorted.

"Boy, you've got to let that go," Sergei said fishing out the letter.

"What's going on?" asked Natalya. "Why does, Yuri hate Leon Caldwell so much."

"He wasn't always called Leon Caldwell," Sergei said coldly.

"What do you mean?" Wanda asked.

Sergei let out a scratchy sigh, sliding his large palm down the back of his head. "The boy used to be called Leon Montgomery."

Wanda put her hands over her mouth. "So you mean that…"

"Yeah," Yuri said, sadly. "He's my older brother."

"So what's with the name change?" Natalya asked.

"Complicated family issues," said Sergei. "Let's just say that Leon does not like our Yuri. He despises his very existence so much that he'd move away from his family and legally change his name out of spite as long as the child drew breath."

"That's horrible," said Natalya. "Why would anyone hate their brother that much?"

"As I said," said Sergei. "Complicated family issues."

"Leon came up with this ridiculous notion that I was not legitimate family," Yuri said, balling his fists. "He tried hard to prove I wasn't part of the Montgomery family. He stated that they found me dumped in the yard. The other day Brett said he overheard my mother and his mother talking about the same thing."

"Yuri, please," said Sergei. "Regardless of what anyone thinks, you have Montgomery blood flowing through your veins. The love you get from everyone makes those losers jealous. That's why they say and do these things."

A biker dodged and weaved around cars in a black Kawasaki Ninja. It was clearly a female, for she wore tight torn jeans and a white tank top under a denim bolero jacket. The biker parked her motorcycle in front of the store and removed her helmet. It was Crystal. She shook her curled golden hair and tucked her helmet underneath her arm.

"Hey, Yuri," she said. "I was looking all over for you."

"Well, hello, hello," Natalya said lightly nudging Yuri in the ribs.

"Mr. Dargon," Crystal said, bashfully. "Could you excuse Yuri from work this afternoon?"

Sergei crossed his arms and looked at her sternly. "Oh? Why would I do that?"

"I…I want to have some time with him. Alone, if you don't mind."

Natalya giggled, elbowing Yuri's side. "Alone time with the ladies. Yuri's getting good."

"Natalya, please," said Yuri. "What's wrong, Crystal? You look…distraught."

"It's nothing really," said Crystal. "I just…want to spend time with you."

"Is it okay, Sergei?" Yuri asked.

"Well…" Sergei said, stroking his square chin.

"I'll pay you for the trouble," Crystal said. She reached for one of the saddlebags mounted on her bike to get her purse.

"No, no. It's all right," said Sergei. "Besides, it's a slow day today. I don't think we need your help today, Yuri."

"You sure?" Yuri asked.

Sergei smacked Yuri's back playfully. "You're questioning going out on a stroll with her?" Sergei asked.

Crystal smiled and did her best to look timid. She flushed blood into her cheeks, making her look rather cute.

"Okay, okay," said Yuri. "Thanks, Sergei."

"Think nothing of it, my friend. I'll see you some other time." He and Natalya went back into the store wishing Yuri luck on his outing.

"Wow, nice bike," Yuri said. "And you look...you look amazing."

Crystal handed him an extra helmet. "Well? You gonna stand there looking at my butt or are we gonna go riding?"

"I wasn't...Damn you!"

Crystal laughed. "Just teasing you. Come on!"

"Well, not for nothing but isn't it usually a guy in a hot bike that picks up the chicks?"

"Not in my book," said Crystal. She nudged the helmet his way.

Yuri put it on and climbed behind her. He gulped as he wrapped his arms around her slender waist. Crystal looked over her shoulder, giggling. "Yuri. You're making me blush."

"You are such a damn tease, you know that."

"And you love me for it." She winked and put on her helmet. She checked to make sure the coast was clear and took Yuri on a long ride across all the islands of Aquarius. They went up and down and spirlaled around the highways orbiting the central island. 

Finally, Crystal decided she wanted to go for a walk and parked her bike in a nearby parking garage in one of the towns on Eden Island.  

"What's going on?" Yuri asked following Crystal into the city. "I thought you were going to hang out with Brett today at the new arena."

Crystal grimaced. She looked away, pretending to giggle. "I told him I wasn't feeling well. He doesn't know I'm here."

"You shouldn't have to lie," said Yuri. "You can just tell him off. It's not like he owns you or anything, right?"

Crystal bit her bottom lip. She then smiled and said: "I feel so much warmer when I'm with you," she said, followed by a shiver that caused her to rub her hands up and down her shoulders. "That Duel arena was so dark and cold. And there's only so many Duel Monsters matches I can take. By the fifteenth game, I was getting bored."

"There's more to life than Dueling," said Yuri. "Screw those losers."

"Yeah, want to head to the beach?" Crystal asked.

"I don't have any swimming trunks."

"I'll buy you some then," said Crystal. "Hey, I couldn't help but notice Sergei carrying a black and gold envelope. Was that your invitation to the Millennium Tournament next summer? "

"Oh geez," said Yuri. "That event."

"You haven't forgotten about the tournament have you?"

"Well with all the excitement going on, can you blame me? Beating the regional champ, your former friend; a tag team champion herself; and having my Black Tyranno in general. I mean, come on. Fancy tournaments wouldn't be on your mind, right?"

Crystal shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. "No. I guess not. Come on. We're getting closer. I can hear the waves."

The two friends found a shop to purchase their things for the beach. Crystal bought herself a white bikini and Yuri got black trunks with gold Chinese dragon designs on the right leg. Then she purchased towels and sunscreen, and they made their way to the beach. The sand was blistering hot, but thankfully Yuri's new sandals guarded his feet. Crystal spread out the towels and then stripped out of her cutoff jeans down to her bikini. Yuri, gulped focusing on the ocean ahead of him.

Crystal noticed him blushing. "Hee, hee. You like it?" she asked as she tried to free her ankles from the rumpled shorts.

Yuri pretended to look. "Uh...yeah...you look great."

Crystal gave a twirl, then sat down and applied her sunscreen making her body shine. Yuri didn't want to look so he just continued staring out into the ocean watching the people dodge the waves.

He felt something soft on his shoulder. He looked down and saw that Crystal was resting her chin on it.

"You sleepy?" Yuri asked.

"Yeah, I've had these dreams," said Crystal.

"Really, what about?" Yuri asked, eating a pretzel from their bag of snacks.

"Well, I'm all alone in the darkness. There are these shadowy, faceless masses surrounding me; laughing at me; undressing me with their gaze until I stand before them completely naked. I scream at them to stop and leave me alone, but they keep on laughing at me. I shout for help, and none comes for me. The shadows begin to surround me, and I feel their cold touch on my flesh. I thought I was going to get killed by those wretched creatures...then...he shows up."

"Who?" Yuri asked.

"There's this radiant glow surrounding me. I look up, and I see a knight adorned in platinum standing before me. He waved this massive blade and shouted: 'Foul creatures be gone!' And with one mighty swing of that beautiful blade, he smites the shadows. And then he picks me up, and clothes me in his glimmering, white cape. God, I felt so...so warm. I felt safe...and then...I wake up. I... I think the knight was you."

Yuri gave a disapproving laugh. "You believe that this knight is me why?"

"I don't know," Crystal said, not appreciating his doubting tone. "I just feel it. The warmness I felt when he saved me. I felt like I was in a sanctuary of calm and serenity. It's a feeling I have when I'm with you. You had to have been the knight. All these years you and I have been friends. I know you're tired of hearing this, but you're like a brother to me. I care a lot about you, buddy. It's kind of why I broke up there in the restaurant the other day when Brett said those awful things. I hate having to see people disrespect you."

"Don't worry about me," said Yuri, biting into another pretzel.

"Can you promise me something?" Crystal cooed.

"Hmm?" said Yuri

"Promise me that...if I'm ever in a bind. You'll come to my rescue. Just like the knight did."

"What's gotten into you?" Yuri asked.

"Can you just promise me?"

"I can't be." Yuri sighed. "I don't have what it takes to be your prince charming, Cinderella."

"Why not?"

"I could barely help you the last time you needed help. That night Brett got wicked crazy and beat you. In the end, Ren was the one who rescued you. Not me. If there's anyone around here who's to be your knight in platinum armor, it's Ren."

"But, I don't want it to be, Ren," Crystal whined.

"He should be," Yuri sadly continued. "He's older than me; stronger than me. Better looking than me."

"I don't care for those things," said Crystal. "You're my hero."

"I'm no hero," Yuri said looking at the scar on his wrist. The cut he got from Brett the night he fought him. "I won one Duel, big deal."

Yuri took out his deck from the pocket of his jeans folded by the towel and stared at the Black Tyranno.

"If he didn't wind up in my deck, I would have lost that night. Even in Duel Monsters, I must rely on someone else to get me out of trouble. I can't seem to do things myself. I was too weak. Someone had to bail me out once again. No. I'm a failure, Crystal. I tried to be your knight in shining armor once. But, I can't…. You're going to have to find someone else to get you out of trouble, honey. I'm...I wasn't meant to succeed."

"That's not true," Crystal said nuzzling Yuri's arm. "You're not a loser. If you were, I'd have nothing to do with you. I don't deal with losers. Save for Brett, but that's complicated. You're something much greater. I feel it in my heart."

"You think so?"

"Would I lie to you? Now, just...just promise me."

"I promise."

Crystal leaned her head forward with a stern look. "Cross your heart?"

"Cross my heart."

She smiled. Her golden hair fluttered in the gentle ocean breeze. "Thanks, bro, you're the best friend a girl could ask for."

They sat under the sun for a while then ran to the water to cool off. Crystal laughed when she went waist-deep into the water. "The water's so much clearer, today," she said with a heavenly smile.

"And colder!" Yuri said, running away from the waves coming to engulf his feet and ankles.

Crystal beckoned him back into the water, doing her best to assure Yuri the water wasn't too bad. He eventually took her word for it and walked toward her. Yuri took a deep breath, then hand-in-hand he walked with Crystal farther and farther into the water until it was up to their waists.

Crystal held onto Yuri as tightly as she could. She saw a huge wave approaching. She smirked mischievously, finding this an opportune time to play a prank on Yuri and get him completely wet. She turned him around so he could not see the wave coming. She pretended to coax him farther, but he dug his feet into the mud, anchoring him down so he could go no further. He looked up and saw the wave. He wanted to run, but it was too late. It crashed into them. Crystal laughed, then screamed as she was engulfed by a wall of water. Yuri felt his feet get ripped from the mud as he fell backward. He flung his arms to push himself back up. He took a deep gulp of air.

"You did that on purpose!" he shouted as he laughed. He saw Crystal laughing as she struggled to pick herself up. "Nice tan!" he shouted, laughing at the exposed upper region of her buttocks.

"Hey!" Crystal cried. She pulled her bikini bottom back up and waded towards Yuri laughing. "You big jerky; you know you like it," she said. She screamed and wrapped her arms around him. "ANOTHER ONE!" she shouted as a huge wave headed right towards them.

They screamed, preparing for impact. The wave hit them with a loud smack, knocking them underwater. They played in the water for an entire hour before going back to the sand to dry themselves. Then they decided to call it a day. They went to the stalls at the boardwalk to clean the sands off their bodies. They left the beach and went to a restaurant at the pier where Crystal invited Yuri to try lobster. They cracked open the shell with ease and ate the meat. Crystal took a big chunk with her forked and dipped it in tarter sauce.

"I was never accustomed to seafood," said Yuri with a mouth full of lobster. "But, it's not that bad."

Crystal gave a soft chuckle, helping herself to another glob of lobster meat. "I'm glad you like it. See, all you have to do is try." She was still clad in her bikini, but she had a white pareo wrapped around her waist. She reached towards her plate, fork in hand, and took out a piece of the juicy lobster meat.

"Oh, before I forget," she said with a mouthful of lobster. "I bought you something."

Crystal dug into her backpack and pulled out a box set of cards, colored black with golden filigree designs.

"Oh, man you didn't," said Yuri. "The Duel Monsters Premium Gold Series?"

"Hell, yeah," said Crystal. "Sadly, I don't think I'll be around for your birthday next week. Brett and I have to engage in a photoshoot to promote a magazine in Santorini." She rolled her eyes. "Anyways, think of this as a very early birthday gift. The gold series has bling as well as power. You know, I was also kinda hoping these would come in handy for the new Duel King. I was kinda hoping it would be you. You can imagine my surprise when I learned the new Due King was some new guy. Some dude with a big lion ring."

"Andre Martin's his name. He can have it. I didn't want it anyway. I already have too much attention drawn to me."

"Yuri."

"Crystal, please. I'd rather not get into this again."

"All right. If you say so. Well, this box isn't going to open itself;. Come on, let's open them."

Yuri picked up his knife and slit open the plastic over the box. He opened the slot to reveal five mini boxes inside. Inside were black and gold booster packs. "Wow, these look amazing. The whole card shimmers."

"I see someone's day has gotten brighter," Crystal said, setting down her soda.

Yuri opened more and more packs, each one thick with twenty-five golden cards. "Mirror Force, Reasoning, Mystical Space Typhoon; Tri-Horned Dragon! Look at all these!" Yuri said with joy.

"Yeah, I like the packaging too," said Crystal, picking up one of the discarded casings. "In fact, I love it. They look like boxes of chocolate."

"You'd just give me a whole box of Gold Series cards?" Yuri asked.

"Why not?" Crystal said with a shrug. "I got an entire truckload full of these damn things from admirers as a gift for my birthday. The son of EveCorp's CEO gave me these and a diamond ring. He hoped gold cards and a fancy ring would make me marry him. Twit. I figured you could use one or two considering your deck suffers pretty badly."

"That's because I don't play much," said Yuri. "No offense, but I don't like the game as much as I used to. In fact, before my match with Lawson, I was starting to hate it."

"That's gotta change," Crystal said taking another sip of her drink. "I'm going to make you a pro if it kills me. That inscription on your necklace reads Passionate Duelist. I know whoever wrote that is right."

Yuri opened the shield to let the song play. Crystal hummed along to the music rocking her head from side to side.

"I thought I was the one doing the rescuing," Yuri said sarcastically. "As far as I'm concerned you've been the one saving me."

"This doesn't mean much compared to what happened last time."

"Let's not talk about that," Yuri said, opening another pack. He looked through the cards. "That was the worst phone call of my life."

"I'm sorry," Crystal said, setting down her glass.

A man suddenly approached them. He was young; blonde and dressed in azure swimming trunks and a white sleeveless shirt and an aqua blue Duel Disk was mounted on his right wrist. "Hey you!" he called out. "You Crystal Anderson?"

"Yeah."

"The name's Chris Atoms. You may have heard of me. I'm the surfing champ of Aquarius."

"Not a big surfing fan, bro," Crystal said. "Was there something you wanted?"

Chris flashed her a white grin, standing out against the orangey flesh he had. "I see you've got a Duel Disk. You got some time? Let's have a match."

Now that was something Crystal wanted to hear. She rewarded the surfer with her beautiful smile. "Sure, I was getting a little bored."

"If I had him as company, I would be too," the young man said, commenting rudely about Yuri.

That Crystal did not appreciate. "Now, I'm really gonna kick your ass," Crystal said, rather offended. Her face blushed pink from her anger. If there was one thing she hated more than thunder and lightning, it was someone insulting her best friend. She got up from the table with force, causing all the silverware to jingle.

"Why don't we put ante up some cards just to make this interesting?" said Chris.

"What do you have?" Crystal asked.

"This!" the man said holding up a card. "It's called Tyrant Dragon. And it's printed in Utimate Rare."

"Ooo, shiny," said Crystal.

"I see it impresses the lady," sneered Chris. "Yeah, this card was given only to finalists from the regional tournament last year. A tournament in which, I ranked second. As for you, Queen of Dragons, why don't you put up that legendary dragon everyone's been talking about?"

"As rare as that Tyrant Dragon is," said Yuri. "I don't think your..."

"I got it, Yuri," Crystal interrupted. "All right you're on."

"Yeah, let's do this!" he said activating his Duel Disk that looked like it was built from water made solid.

Crystal put on her gleaming white Duel Disk, shaped like an angel's wing. It had an aesthetic effect in which holographic white feathers shot out of the deck when Crystal drew her cards.

"Whoa, custom Duel Disks?" said Yuri.

"That's right," Crystal said making hers shimmer. "Aren't they cool?"

"You are so hot," said Crystal's opponent. "Say, why don't we make things even more interesting?"

"I think not. Your card will suffice, thanks," said Crystal. "And if you laugh at my friend again, you'll regret it."

Chris wriggled his fingers. "Ooo, scary. How's about we let you start off first?"

"You're too kind," Crystal said, drawing her card. The white feathers fluttered out of her deck when she drew. "I'll summon Spear Dragon, lay a card face down, and that'll do it for me."

Crystal's dragon was the size of a mini-van with a sixteen-foot wingspan. It was dark blue with a white underbelly, and its head had a long and pointed beak the size of a full-grown man. Its ATK was 1900.

Their Duel was drawing up quite a crowd.

"Not bad," said Chris, drawing his card. "I use the spell card, Polymerization, to fuse Gruesome Goo, Amazon of the Seas, and Sea Kamen into the Man-Eating Black Shark!"

Chris summoned a 30-foot shark with jet-black flesh and eyes like molten gold. Two muscular arms protruded from underneath its flipper.

Man-Eating Black Shark

ATK/2100 DEF/1300

Chris continued: "Next I'll play the spell card, Pot of Greed, which lets me draw two cards." He drew his extra cards. "Ah, cool. I'll  activate my field spell card, A Legendary Ocean,"

The ground turned into water. Crystal looked down and saw she was standing over a sunken civilization many miles below her feet.

Her opponent began to explain the card's effect. "This card reduces the level of my water monsters by one. I now summon Giant Red Seasnake!"

A serpent-like creature jumped out of the water; its blood-red scales glimmered in the sun. The sea monster had cerulean stripes and a cerulean beard with matching appendages slithering around the sides of its mouth where gleaming razor-sharp teeth made their home.

Giant Red Seasnake

ATK/1800 DEF/800

Giant Red Seasnake gave a roar as it fell back into the water. The field spell also increased the attack of Chris's water monsters by 200, so now Man-Eating Black Shark's ATK was 2300, and Giant Red Seasnake's ATK was 2000.

He attacked, but Crystal activated her trap card, Negate Attack. The trap card allowed her to, of course, negate his attack, thereby ending his Battle Phase.

"You got lucky, Crystal. Make your move."

"I use the spell card: Trade in; this lets me discard one level eight monster from my hand, so goodbye Van' Dalgyon the Dark Dragon Lord."

She kissed her rare card and gently put it into the Graveyard. Crystal was always rather delicate with her cards. They were a treasure to her. Yuri felt she even treated her dragons as friends. Apologizing to them every time she sent them to the Graveyard.

"Now I will draw two cards!" she announced. "Sweet. I summon Des Volstgalph!"

The dragon flew down from the sky. It spread its wings to slow down and roared as it landed beside its master with a great crash. It was a unique-looking dragon with dark blue flesh shielded by gleaming scarlet armor.

A spiked armored vest seemed to cover its torso. It had crooked wings, feathered just a little at the top. Its ATK was 2200 and could inflict 500 points of extra damage when it attacked a monster. The opponent came prepared, though.

As soon as Crystal called her attack, a wall of water spouts erupted from the water and stopped her dragon from going any further. They did nothing to stop his only two monsters from being destroyed, but they shielded his Life Points.

Tornado Wall was a card that could negate damage to the user's Life Points, but it could only be activated if the field spell, Umi, was out on the field. However, A Legendary Ocean could still be treated as the Umi card.

Crystal had the most powerful monsters on the field, but it didn't mean anything if she couldn't inflict damage.

The Duel continued in Chris's favor, but soon Crystal turned things around.

The time was right to summon her ace dragon.

"And now," she declared. "I'll banish one light monster and one dark monster from the graveyard to summon...Chaos Emperor Dragon-Envoy of the End!"

Crystal summoned a dragon with glossy turquoise scales and adorned in razor-sharp platinum armor. It had a long neck and claws that shined brightly in the warm southern sun. The reflections on its armor were almost blinding.

It was also true what they said about Crystal only using it when she was mad. Even though he had seen it before, Yuri could not get used to seeing the creature in its monstrous form under the command of someone like Crystal. A card like Chaos Emperor Dragon-Envoy of the End was too brutal for her, but if she was angered enough, and she was, her opponent had to contend with it.

It had long fiery orange hair coming out from underneath its helmet. It gave a powerful roar as it opened its wings stretching thirty feet. The attack and defense point display showed the beast's stats.

3000 ATK and 2500 DEF

The surfer began to shiver. The hologram was so realistic, as was the dragon's ferocity. He looked down at the boy and snarled as if it too was mad that the surfer kept insulting Yuri. Crystal stood proudly in front of her ultimate beast. Her beauty matched with the dragon's imposing presence was truly a sight to behold.

Even Yuri began to feel intimidated. No monster in his deck, not even his Black Tyranno could equal the dragon in power and majesty.

Now Crystal activated its effect. She paid 1000 Life Points, and then she, and her opponent discarded all cards from their hands and destroyed all monsters on the field.

300 points of damage were inflicted to the opponent for each card that Crystal sent to the Graveyard. And there were many for a total of 3600 points of damage.

The surfer fell to his knees as Chaos Emperor Dragon fired white-hot flames.

His Life Points went down to zero.

"And that's all folks," Crystal said, brushing her hair over her shoulder. Her dragon roared one last time before it disappeared.

The crowd around them cheered.

"They don't call her Queen of Dragons for nothing," Yuri said, in disbelief.

"Well, a deal's a deal," Chris said standing up. He sighed heavily, handing Crystal his Serpent Night Dragon. "I shouldn't have underestimated you like that."

"Quite all right," Crystal said taking the card. She looked at it and giggled as the holographic foil shimmered in all the colors of the rainbow.

"You're good. I hope we can play more often."

"If you promise to stop acting like a total jerk, and apologize to my friend there. I'll add you as a friend online," Crystal said, looking her opponent in the eyes,

"Promise," the surfer said shaking her hand. "And I'm sorry too, buddy."

Yuri smiled and nodded his head. The loss humbled her opponent. It seemed more like Crystal's kindness had more to do with it than the Chaos Emperor Dragon.

Chapter Text


Joey - Mellowfields

October 7 - Year 18 4AOS


Joey lay on the comfortable bed inside his pavilion tent unable to find sleep. It had been hours since Tristan and Duke had been gone. Pfft. Well, he was a participant and all-around favorite to win the tournament so he needed to rest.

They went on a monster hunt without him. And since his sister ordered the hunt, they were gone in an instant. They would fly up to the moon if she asked them to.

"Arrgh!" Joey smashed the ground with his fist. That was such an insult. The destroyer of the Dark Lord working retail! What madness. And he was not making enough to get the cards he wanted because Yuri was saving money for a car...a very expensive car. Buying booster packs was out of the question and if Yuri didn't get new packs to strengthen his deck, there was going to be a big chance he would lose.

What's worse is that Seto Kaiba approved the shipment of new cards and archetypes to Earth. If Yuri fell behind, he was in big trouble, even with the legendary Black Tyranno in his deck.

So now Serenity organized another expedition to get enough coin to sustain Yuri until summer when the Millennium Tournament began. He needed to qualify; Termnnia depended on it.

"Man!" Joey said. "Nothing's ever easy, is it?"

As he listened to the fire, he started to get bored. That was until he thought of the Seeing Stone. "Oh yeah!" he said aloud. He sat upright then dug into his knapsack to search for it.

What was Yuri and the gang up to today?

And did they get into any interesting Duels? Whether or not they appeased the Senate, it did not matter. Joey just wanted to see young Yuri in action in a game of Duel Monsters. Sure enough, Yuri did just that...


Earlier That Day

St. Augustus Senior High School - Yuri


"So, did you guys hear the news?" Nick asked his friends at lunch.

"About what?" Patty asked, biting into her hamburger.

"There's some bigshot insect duelist going around town beating up former participants of last year's regional championship. Word around the islands is, he's beaten them all."

"Someone clearly has a lot of time on their hands," Patty rolled her eyes at the ridiculousness.

"Can you blame him?" Tyson asked while dipping his fries in ketchup. "With the Millennium Tournament so close people are trying to get noticed. It's an invitational tournament where only the best of the best can be invited."

"Well, so long as he stays away from me I don't care," Yuri said with a shrug.

"You really think people are going to ignore the guy who defeated the regional champion and Pink_Dragon Layla are going to ignore you?" Carter asked.

"I hope so," said Yuri.

"Don't count on it," laughed Patty. "Like it or not, you've painted a huge bullseye on yourself with those impressive victories. Not to mention your Black Tyranno is something out of this world."

"He could be for all I know," said Yuri. "My dad is the creator of the game, and even he doesn't know where it came from."

"He's probably faking it to hide the fact he's covering for Yuri," said Nick. "Nothing but the best for daddy's little boy."

"Ha, ha," Yuri mocked him.

"Fat chance," said Carter. "Mr. Montgomery is not one to pull favorites, even on his own sons. Hell, Leon, even had to work his butt off to become world champion."

"Don't speak his name in front of me," Yuri growled.

Carter let out a gasp and slammed his hand over his mouth. "Sorry," he said.

"Why don't we see if bug boy is around," said Nick. "I'd like to take him on."

"Sure," said Patty. "Go get yourself killed."

"What!"

"Even if by some miracle you beat this guy, there is no guarantee you'll be noticed by Phobos Corp," Patty said with a conniving chuckle.

"You are so sexy when you're bitchy," Nick commented.

"Nice try," said Patty. "But I seriously doubt bug boy is going to want to take you on, Nick. If anything, he's going to be coming after Yuri."

"Come on, Yuri, take him on!" pleaded Tyson.

Yuri slammed his head on the table and groaned. He winced, smelling the sour smell of ammonia-ridden surface cleaner the custodians used earlier. He quickly raised his head and looked at his friends. "All right, all right. But don't expect anything miraculous. Not too long ago, they built a small-sized arena at the park. Maybe we can lure him out there. Of course, there's going to have to be some Duels in order to notice him."

"I'll take care of that," said Tyson. "My dad found me some cool new beast-types the other night. He won them in a dart game. I'm itching to try them out."

"You sure, big guy?" Patty asked.

"Hell yeah. You give me the duels and I'll put on a show that will get our bug duelist to notice us."

The bell rang. They picked up their trays and then proceeded together to their class on American Literature. Natalya was in there too. She waved to them and they sat together.

"So, you're going make Yuri duel that bug duelist?" she asked. "I hope he kicks his ass. That bastard has no manners."

"You Dueled him, Natalya?" Yuri asked.

"Da," she replied. "He fought against my boyfriend who ranked tenth in the regionals last year. He was such a big mouth, I swear. I decided to teach him a lesson with my birds and he walloped me."

"I'm having second thoughts," Yuri whimpered, sinking into his chair.

Tyson patted his back. "Come on, Yuri. You've got one thing that no one else on this island has. Black Tyranno."

"Will he be enough?" Yuri groaned. "What am I getting myself into?"

"Don't back down, Yuri," Patty said chewing on her pencil. "If you do, that bug creep has already won."

"All right gang!" their teacher, Mr. Grossman, called out, coming into the class while the final bell rang. He sat behind his deck decorated with small pumpkins and ghost bobbleheads.

He slammed his ruler on the side of his deck. "Put a lid on it! Come on now, you guys. Patty, take the cap off, please. Mr. Martinez, settle down! Robert and Harrison, please put your cards away, it's time for class."

The students finally went quiet.

"Okay, first thing's first. A couple of announcements have been made in regard to the upcoming Halloween Dance. With the ongoing popularity of holographic technology on the rise, our school will be outfitted with its own Dueling Arenas within the next month."

The class let out cheers and gave a round of applause.

Mr. Grossman held out his hands to pacify his pupils and he continued. "There is a sign-up list for the school's very own Duel Monsters team. Tryouts will begin in the next couple of weeks once our duelists have their own facilities built, courtesy of Aquarius's own, Jacob Montgomery. However, the new arenas will be located near the gymnasium where the dance was supposed to take place. Therefore, the dance will be moved to the country club at the park. Tickets are on sale, so if you haven't already picked them up, do so now. And now for the fun part. Take out a pencil and a clean sheet of paper. We're having a pop quiz on the story Raisins in the Sun. I hope you've done your reading."

"Awww!" groaned the class.

Mr. Grossman opened his briefcase and took out the quizzes. He gave it to his students to pass down to each other.

"Hmm, the Halloween Dance, eh?" said Nick. "Who will I go with? Hey, Patty…"

"No."

After school, Yuri, Nick, Tyson, Patty, and Carter dueled in the cafeteria until four o'clock and it was time to pick up Sam, much to Patty's dismay. But she would tolerate Sam just for a chance to see Yuri in a duel and play Black Tyranno again. They took a bus to the park where the new arenas were being put to use. They were not of high quality like the ones in the Duel Dome, and for that Yuri was thankful. The holograms in that arena were just too real for him.

"Well, here we are," said Patty. "No sign of our bug duelist."

"He'll be here," said Tyson. "We just gotta show him there are better games to be had. All these little kids have no game."

"Wanna back that up with a match?" Sam asked, taking out his deck. He flipped his cap backward to show he was ready.

"Sure, show me what you got, little man," said Tyson. "C'mon, there is a vacant arena over here."

"Watch this, sugar cakes," Sam said to Patty with a click. "This is going to be epic."

"Augh, just go!" Patty grumbled.

Sam winked and went to take his place.

Yuri grinned. "You really need to stop wearing skirts and tops so short if you don't want him to bother you. You know we have to pick him up after school."

"I can dress however I want," Patty retorted. "It's who I am. I'm not going to stop dressing the way I like because of some perverted little twerp."

Nick didn't like what she said and scowled at her. "Hey! That twerp's my brother, Patty."

"Now I know why he is the way he is." Yuri sniggered.

"Duel!" Tyson and Sam called out.

Tyson drew first. "All right kid, we're trying to get the attention of a hotshot duelist, so let's make this game as epic as possible."

"Why not get Yuri to play?" Sam wondered. "Wouldn't it make more sense to just lure the guy in with Black Tyranno?"

"You don't think we thought of that already?" said Patty. "Besides, if Yuri plays that Black Tyranno out here, everybody in town's going to want a piece of him."

"You make a good point," said Sam. "Can't afford to have all those men coming down here and taking my girl."

"Augh," Patty scoffed, lying on the grass and putting her gloved hands behind her head to cushion them. She crossed one leg over the other and swung it back and forth. Her legs, concealed behind fishnet tights, caused Yuri, Nick, and Carter to go red. Natalya laughed at the sight.

"Aight, I'm going first," said Tyson. "Bam, I'm summoning Wolf in attack mode!"

A white wolf, a recolor of Silver Fang to be exact, howled onto the field.

Wolf ATK/1200 DEF/800

"Is that puppy all you've got?" Sam sneered. "I thought you wanted this duel to be epic. Well, I'll show you. Go, Bean Soldier!"

He summoned a green bean with skinny orange arms with hands covered in white gloves. His skinny legs went into feet in orange pointed shoes. He carried a steel sword with a red Japanese symbol on the blade.

 

Bean Soldier ATK/1400 DEF/1300

"Slice and dice his Wolf!" Sam commanded, holding up his fist ever so dramatically. Yuri sniggered at the drama Sam displayed. It was very cringe-worthy.

The Bean Soldier let out a strange cry and charged at Wolf. He slashed him across the chest. Wolf whimpered and then shattered to pieces.

Tyson cringed when his Life Points went down to 1800.

"Not bad, eh Patty?" said Sam. "Wasn't that cool?"

"Yeah. Sure. Whatever."

"In time, she will love me," said Sam. "I place a card face down and end my turn. Your move, Tyson."

"All right, that was deliberate," said Tyson. "But I'm going to turn your little Bean Soldier to paste when I summon this bad boy, Togex! (ATK/1600 DEF/1800) Attack his monster!"

"I think not," said Sam. "I activate my trap, Reinforcements. Now, my Bean Soldier gets an additional 500 attack points."

The Bean Soldier leaped towards the oncoming horned monster and cut him with his sword.

Tyson-1500 LP

Sam-2000 LP

"So far, the only one making this duel epic is me," said Sam. "Now it's my turn. I summon Masaki the Legendary Swordsman. Your turn!"

"Playtime is over!" said Tyson. "I drew Polymerization. And I use it to fuse my Silver Fang and Darkworld Thorns to make Flower Wolf!"

Flower Wolf ATK/1800 DEF/1400

"And I'll boost his power with the Mystical Moon, which increases my Flower Wolf's attack by 300 for a total of 2100 attack points. Say goodbye to your Legendary Swordsman!"

"Oh no!" cried Sam.

The Flower Wolf summoned a swarm of flower petals that shredded the samurai swordsman. Sam lost 1000 Life Points.

Tyson-1500 LP

Sam-1000 LP

Sam couldn't keep his eyes off the scoreboard. He was so confused and embarrassed. Patty smiled victoriously as she lay on the grass, loving the sight of Sam learning his lesson.

Sam tapped on the board, hoping there was some mistake. "It can't be! But…but I was in the lead. He took me down to half my Life Points with one powerful attack!"

"Such is the power of combining your monsters with magic and traps," said Patty. "I bet that Reinforcements combo is the only thing your little noggin could come up with."

"I hate Spell cards," said Sam. "They're so confusing. I like to pit beast against beast."

"Raw power is not the only way to win, Sam," said Yuri. "I should know. I've faced monsters that are twice as scary as that Flower Wolf, but it was because of my trap and spells that I was able to overcome them and steal a victory."

"He speaks the truth, young Sam," said Natalya. "Combining cards is an important aspect of the game."

"But the game is called Duel Monsters!" pouted Sam. "Why can't the monster with the strongest points just win?"

"Because the game won't be as fun," Patty scoffed. "Sorry if your little brain can't comprehend how to use spells and traps. And you think you can impress me with a mindset like that? I like brains, not brawn."

Sam put a finger to his temple. "The square root of an isosceles triangle…"

"Just make your move, kid!" Patty groaned. "God, you're pathetic."

"That's her way of saying she loves me, guys!" Sam called out.

"Like brother like brother," chuckled Yuri.

As Tyson was decimating Sam, Patty couldn't help but hear a commotion coming from the next arena. There was a little girl on the ground crying as two boys were looking down at her. They all seemed to range from ages nine to ten.

"Hey, Yuri, can you help me out?" Patty asked. "Looks like there's trouble."

"Yeah, I've been keeping my eye on those three for a while."

"Hold on, guys," said Patty. "Yuri and I are going to step out for a moment."

"Sure," said Natalya. "I'll hold down the fort."

"Good, keep an eye out for our bug duelist."

"Will do," Carter replied. "Hey, Tyson! I call the next game!"

Yuri and Patty approached the three youngsters.

"You can't play with us and that's final!" shouted a boy in a green shirt and khaki pants.

"What makes you think you can play Duel Monsters?" asked his friend, young lad with a cap and two missing front teeth. "You're a girl! Girls can't play!"

"Then explain to me why the United States champion is one!" Patty scolded the two boys, who gawked at her good looks. "You two are a bunch of creeps, you know that!"

"Well, Crystal Anderson has dragons!" said the boy in green. "She can play a good game."

"But she's a girl, you're just condescending yourself at the moment."

"I'm not condimenting!" shouted the boy. "I don't even like ketchup!"

The little girl kept crying.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" Patty asked. "Did they hurt you?"

"No, but, nobody will let me play," the girl sobbed. "They said my cards are useless."

"There is no such thing as a useless card!" Patty said. "I'll prove it by beating these creeps with your deck."

"What? I'm not dueling you!" said the boy in the cap.

Yuri scoffed and folded his arms. "What's wrong, tough guy, scared of being beat by a girl?"

"Don't cry, baby," Patty said, fixing the girl's pigtails. "What's your name?"

"Patty," the little girl replied, wiping her tears.

Patty grinned and gasped with joy. "No way! That's my name, too!"

"Really?" Little Patty asked. Her cute face lit up.

"You know who this guy is?" Patty asked, jerking her thumb towards Yuri.

"A glowing green eye!" Little Patty cried out. She gave a timid gasp. "You're Yuri!"

"Guilty as charged." Yuri patted her head.

"YURI!" the boys shouted.

"I wanna play you first!"

"No, me!"

"If you want to duel me, you're going to have to duel her first!" said Yuri. "I'll play the winner of the match."

"Huh?"

"Hey, she's a girl using useless cards, right?" Yuri shrugged. "It should be a quick game for a real 'Pro' like yourself."

"All right," the boy in the cap said, puffing out his chest. "But if I'm going to duel Yuri next I'm going to need an edge, so Patty, you're going to have to put up your rarest card."

"Sure," Patty said, reaching for the deck box strapped to her right calf. "See this?" she said holding out her card.

"Zera the Mant!" cried the boy in the green. "She's got Zera the Mant bro! You have to win this."

"You sure about this, Patty?" Yuri asked. "That card means a lot to you?"

"I can handle this," said Patty. She jumped onto the blue platform while the boy in the green took the red one. He introduced himself as Wilson, though, Patty didn't care.

"Duel!"

"I'll start first," said Patty. "I summon LaMoon in attack mode!"

The fairy gave a soft melodious hum while she rendered on the field through a display of sparkling lights.

"This is going to be so easy!" said Wilson. "I summon Goblin Attack Force!"

He summoned a band of green goblins wielding spiked clubs. Their attack points were 2300.

"Woah, I wasn't expecting something that powerful on the first turn!" Patty grimaced, seeing the green band of brutes wave their clubs in the air and holler, ready for their turn to do battle..

"Of course, I didn't expect you to," sneered Wilson. "Attack!"

The Goblins charged at La Moon and pulverized her with their crude melee weapons. She groaned in agony and shattered.

"Oh yeah!" Wilson said, doing the dab.

"Fuck!" Patty muttered. Her Life Points falling to 900.

Wilson's friend cheered. "You devastated her with one powerful attack! Her Zera the Mant is as good as ours."

"What have I gotten myself into?" said Patty. "Shit, I really put my foot in my mouth this time."

She looked down at little Patty. She started to cry.

"See," she sniffed. "My deck is useless. It's only the first turn and already she's losing."

"Don't worry," said Yuri. "She can turn this around."

"Draw," said Patty. "Oh, nice. I play Pot of Greed allowing me to draw two cards." She drew her cards and smiled. "Someone has been reading up on her new set," Patty said looking down at little Patty. "I'm impressed."

Little Patty hunched her shoulders and blushed.

"I play two cards face down and summon Eldeen!"

Patty slapped her card onto the field and summoned a beautiful woman with blue hair and robes the color of cream. She carried a beautiful golden wand as her weapon.

Eldeen ATK/950 DEF/1000

"What good will that weak monster do?" laughed Wilson.

"Oh, you'll see," said Patty. "Remember, Goblin Attack Force goes into defense mode after it attacks and his defensive power is…Nothing. Nathan. Nada. Zip!"

"Zero defense points!" cried Wilson. "Oh no, I just messed up!"

Eldeen gave her wand a twirl and blasted the goblins into nothing.

"Yay!" Little Patty cheered going up and down. "Hooray!"

"I told you," said Yuri.

"It doesn't matter!" said Wilson. "I'm still in the lead. And I'll wipe away your little witch with my Rude Kaiser! With an attack power of 1800 he'll destroy your Eldeen and win me the duel."

"Wanna bet?" Patty laughed when she activated her Trap Card.

"It's a trap!" shouted Wilson.

"Damn right it is Admiral Ackbar," laughed Patty. "Well, two, to be exact. My first card is called Ready for Interception. This will flip one Warrior or Spellcaster to face-down defense position. So Eldeen will defend my Life Points!"

Rude Kaiser cut Eldeen in half. She was destroyed, but Patty's Life Points were unharmed.

"And my next card, Enchanted Javelin which will increase my Life Points by the attack power of your attacking monster."

"NO!" Wilson cried grasping both sides of his head. He slammed his elbows on the table, eyes on the board, searching for solutions to get out of the mess he put himself in with his arrogance.

"Not in the lead anymore," Little Patty teased when she saw Patty's Life Points increase to 2700.

"Be quiet!" shouted Wilson. "This doesn't concern you!"

Patty clicked her tongue and put her hand on her hip, challenging the pompous opponent with a stern scowl as well as her physique, which did more than enough to shut him up. "Oh, this is her deck," she said, "and it's kicking your sorry butt, so I think it does! Her cards aren't so useless now, are they?"

Wilson stuttered and looked at his hand, looking for just the right card to turn the tables against Patty and perhaps guarantee him the game. "Well, to make sure you don't have any more surprises in your hand, I'm using Card Destruction which forces us to discard our old hands and draw a completely new one."

"I know what it does," Patty said, tossing her card to the Graveyard. "Well, it's my turn now. Hmm, I end my turn."

"Got nothing huh?" said Wilson. "Wait till you see this card. Wolf Axewielder with an attack power of 1650! Can you beat that?"

"Let's see," said Patty. "I have only one monster in my hand. I think she'll be all I need to take out that overgrown wolf. I summon Dancing Elf."

Patty summoned a beautiful, winged elf with silky blonde hair the color of molten gold. She wore a revealing bluish-green gown and her wings were sixteen feet long. The feathers were razor-sharp blades.

Dancing Elf ATK/300 DEF/200

Wilson and his friend laughed at the weak monster.

"Keep laughing, twerp, because she's going to kick your sorry little butt! I play the Field Spell card, Rising Air Current. This will increase the power of Wind monsters by 500 but decrease their defense by 400.

ATK/800 DEF/0

"She's not strong enough yet," said Patty. "But I'm equipping her with Silver Bow and Arrow, boosting her strength to 1100. I'm not finished yet; Winged Trumpeter will give her another 500 attack points!"

"They're almost tied!" said Little Patty.

"Yeah, but my friend's Wolf still has fifty more attack points than your puny elf!"

"Well, I've got one more card up my sleeve," said Patty. "Malevolent Nuzzler."

The fiendish woman appeared behind the Dancing Elf. She wrapped her arms around her neck and whispered a spell into her ear before vanishing. Dancing Elf started growing more powerful because of the enchantment. She charged up her energy and screamed when she reached full power. She grew six more wings and the feather-blades grew to the size of longswords and they started to glow. The attack boost from the Malevolent Nuzzler increased the elf's attack by 700, increasing her to 1800 attack points.

"Wow!" said Little Patty in amazement. "I didn't know I could do that with my monsters."

Five turns went by and all Wilson could do was go defensive. Then he drew the card he needed to destroy Dancing Elf. During that time Patty activated two Hinotama spell cards which inflicted 500 points of damage.

"I play Heavy Storm!"

"Aw crap," said Patty. "Now all our spell and trap cards get destroyed."

"No!" cried Little Patty. "Now, Dancing Elf's attack goes back down to 300."

"Now to finally get rid of her!" shouted Wilson. "Here comes my Dice Armadillo!"

He summoned a mechanical beast with a hard blue shell and a mouth with sharp teeth and long claws for scratching his opponents. With a strength of 1650 he attacked and destroyed Dancing Elf. Patty's Life Points went down in half.

Wilson 850- LP

Patty-1350 LP

"Your turn!"

"So be it," said Patty. "First, I activate my third and final Hinotama reducing your Life Points to a mere 350 Life Points. Then I summon Neo the Magic Swordsman in attack mode!"

She set the card on the field. The holograms conjured a dashing blonde swordsman in green and gold armor and a blue cape. He was wielding a giant sword with blue runes circling around the blade.

"Attack and destroy the Dice Armadillo!"

Neo enchanted his blade. Then he quickly charged for Dice Armadillo, raised his sword, and cut the beast in half revealing wires and spilling oil, for it was a Machine-Type monster.

"Hey, is he the only male monster in your deck?" Yuri asked. "So far all the monsters Patty has played are female."

"Well, I wanted to add him in any way," Little Patty said going pink in the cheeks. "Neo's really handsome."

"I draw!" Wilson declared his turn. "Polymerization!" he shouted, holding up the card. "Now I fuse together my Ancient Brain and Tainted Wisdom to become, Skull Knight! (ATK 2650)."

The fusion monster he summoned was a fiendish beast in armor that looked like a giant skull and his shield looked like a skull. He used his long curved sword to slash Neo across the chest and reduced Patty to 400 Life Points.

"It's over!" shouted Wilson. "You've got no hope in beating my Skull Knight."

"I do actually," Patty smiled and revealed her card to Wilson.

"What the? Is that Unhappy Girl?"

He bellowed with laughter when Patty summoned a sad-looking girl with a torn blue dress and long orange hair.

(ATK/400 DEF/300)

Wilson gave annoying squeaky laughs while he slapped his forehead. "Look if you want to lose so badly, just give up."

Patty smiled. "I won't lose, because I'm equipping her with this card. Buster Rancher."

An oversized energy rifle appeared on the field. The Unhappy Girl's tattered dress turned into hi-tech futuristic armor. A scanner appeared over her eye and she took a seat at the weapon's control systems. Using a newfound strength, the Unhappy Girl picked up the rifle.

"This Spell Card only works on monsters with 1000 ATKor less," Patty explained. "And when attacking a monster with 2500 ATK or more it increases the equipped monster's attack by 2500 points."

Wilson dropped his cards in disbelief.

The Unhappy Girl aimed, charged up the weapon, and fired blasted Skull Knight away leaving Wilson standing with a mere 50 Life Points. But instead of going on, he wailed out loud, picked up his cards, and ran away.

"I'll take that as a surrender," Patty laughed. The platform lowered her onto the ground.

"You did it!" Little Patty said, greeting her.

"See," said Patty handing the little girl back her deck. "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do anything because you're a girl. You have a good deck here. Use it well. Now go find an opponent and have some fun."

"Thank you," said little Patty and she scampered away to play.

"Damn, she had a good deck," said Yuri.

"It was shit, to be honest," said Patty. "They're still young. They'll learn how to really play when they get older."

Yuri grimaced from Patty's brutal honesty. But he agreed that the kids were still you. He rubbed the back of his neck. "For a second there, I thought Zera…"

Patty looked at him and interrupted. "Did you really think I'd put Zera the Mant on the line, Yuri? It will be a cold day in hell before I give my monster up. Any sign of that bug duelist, Nick?"

"Nope, there's nothing," said Nick. "Look, it's getting late and I have to help Consuelo with the restaurant."

"Yeah, I've got to head home too," said Yuri.

Patty placed her hands on her hips. "If I didn't know any better, Yuri, I'd say you're relieved that this bug duelist didn't show up."

"Ha, ha, ha," Yuri. "There will be other days."


They packed up their things and walked out of the park. And that's when the image faded. Joey smiled despite his heart shrank knowing that the image was over for the day. He set the Seeing Stone back in his pack and laid back down on his bedroll.

"Man, Yuri, you and your friends sure are getting strong. Heh. Maybe things will turn out all right."

He closed his eyes and went to sleep. The Seeing Stone, however, failed to show him Andre who was approaching the group.


"What are you guys doing here?" he asked. 

"What's it matter to you?" Nick asked. 

Andre frowned. "Nick, what's going on?"

"Forget about him," said Tyson. "All he wants to do is cause trouble. Why did you chase us all the way out here? Wanna use the new arenas?"

"Yeah, I'd love to. Why don't we all have some squash matches or something?" 

"Fat chance," said Nick. "We don't need to spar with you." 

"Nick, stop!" said Sam. "Show some respect. He is one of your school's Duel Kings."

"So what? He thinks because he wins a few matches and impresses the most overrated group of Duelists in school he can hang with us?"

Andre stepped forward. "Look man I'm trying to be friends here. The only one who's giving me a hard time is you. Why? is it because of my deck? is it because I live up here like the others or is it because you just hate me for no reason outside of your ego and think outside of Yuri and yourself as being the best on the island."

"Not now we're not. But we will be soon. Yuri and I are evolving day by day. We don't need your help."

"Well here's a news flash, Nick!" said Andre. "There's always someone that's gonna be better eventually you'll get better than me and then I'll push hard to be better than you it's a cycle because I acknowledge Patty as being a better duelist than me. I just outsmarted her that time. She has the skills to bust my ass in two. I had to figure a way around her strategies. So why don't you do the same? Build the best warrior deck you can, Nick I don't care if I have to fund it for you..."

"Fund it!" Nick shouted. "What do you think I am some kind of charity case!? I can get cards on my own. I don't need you and your daddy's money."

"Fine whatever. But that doesn't excuse the things you say. You want to talk all this crap! You want to prove your better and don't want me around your friends then beat me."

"Is that a challenge?"

"Damn right it is! So what will it be Nick duel me or keep your mouth shut man because there's only so much someone can take before they snap and this is me holding back my anger, man!"

Nick backed away acting as though he were quaking in his boots. "Oh, look, guys. This is him holding back his anger." He wriggled his fingers around. "Ooooo!"

"You going to Duel or not?" Andre asked. He took his deck out of his pocket and showed him the Dark Magician. "Here. I'll even throw down my Dark Magician. If you win, you can have him."

Nick spit at the ground. "Keep your stupid magician, I don't want it. If you want to Duel, then we'll Duel! There's no need to add any stakes. Why don't we settle things in the new Dueling Grounds that are going to open soon downtown on the central island?"

"Sure thing. If I win, I expect you to stop talking trash about me. Got it!"

"That depends on how well you play. Pfft, even if you do beat me, I won't back down from calling you out. You're just some poser from out of nowhere looking to be popular. That's why you scouted our group in the first place and started running around the place looking for opponents. See you soon, Andre."

Nick said goodbye to his friends. As he left, he gave Andre the finger and headed home. "Yuri's evolving," he said, storming up to his room. "That means I have to as well. And there's only one thing in here that can help me do that."

He reached under the bed and pulled out a safe from underneath his bed and opened it. There was a single card inside. "I swore I'd never use you until she and I came together again. But I have to break my oath. I need you. Lend me your strength buddy. I need to win this next match."   

Chapter Text


Joey - Monster Hunters Guild of Mellowfields

October 8 -Year 18 4AOS


"But you're the Lord Commander of the Kingsbrand!" said Duke. "What the hell do you think you're doing working for the Monster Hunters Guild? And what about the tournament? Don't you have a match coming up?"

"We got a couple days to take a break," said Joey. "My sister needs some extra cash to embark on a quest. And I need a little backup in case the tourney don't work out. Not that it won't, mind you. I'm gonna win."

They didn't even get close to the guildhall. Once the clock struck 10, a mob of adventurers stormed to the notice board on the wall, looking for work.

Some went to the pretty receptionist at the front desk of the Hunter's Guild headquarters to see if there was better, high-paying work to be had. Tristan volunteered to withstand the crowd to find Joey some work.

After all, sweet Serenity needed help. And when she needed help, Ser Tristan would happily move mountains for her.

Amidst all the chaos, Joey and Duke sat around the last free table in the corner of the mess hall where the hunters would order hot foods and drinks to feast while they swapped stories of their latest adventures.

The building, which had a grand view of the countryside, smelled of the finest tobacco in the land being smoked by mages and knights to calm their nerves after a long and difficult hunt.

The herb-encrusted pheasant, duck, and hen being roasted in the kitchens perfumed the guild's headquarters with an enticing smell that made a hundred bellies rumble, and their owners quickly rush for the order window to buy the sweet meat with a side of baked potatoes and chips and mashed potatoes.

Joey was the only one not enticed by the smell, for he was already full from eating a stack of Elvish bread. He took a large gulp of ale from his tankard, one that was passed down by his family for generations.

It was decorated with intricate, leafy patterns and had a clever magical enchantment that kept the beverage as cold as the winds of the Arctic Kingdoms, so he never bothered to pay an extra copper for ice since his drink was forever in a refreshing briskness that cooled both his throat and his mood.

He tapped his finger against the side of his tankard and traced one of the curves engraved on the surface, wondering where the hell was his companion Tristan with today's work?

Joey scoffed. No doubt in his mind Tristan was in the bathroom again. He practically seemed to live there these days thanks to the luxury the extra coin and chip had provided them. They had breakfast a mere hour ago, perhaps less, he didn't know, all he knew was it wasn't that long ago. Now he was missing the best work because his bowels were going out of control.

"That damn, Tristan," Joey mumbled. "He eats like a pig but shits like an elephant."

He noticed there was an arrogant hunter - a high-ranked one at that - was standing by a table of female hunters, one of whom was his sister, Serenity.

What was she doing here? She was supposed to be watching over their pavilion back on the fields.

The hunter was still young and he proudly showed off his armor, enameled in a fine azure polish and engraved with brilliant ornamentation, and trimmed in dark orange. His weapon of choice was a halberd with a glowing, green blade, a masterwork-crafted weapon of magic and smithing.

"That's right ladies," he said arrogantly. "I single-handedly took down a Sword Arm of Dragon that was terrorizing the Baron of Emeraldshire's lands. I was too quick for him if you don't mind me saying. Those tails of theirs can pack a fierce punch and he ran as fast as a horse, but he couldn't catch me." He slid his hand down his spiked, orange hair. "Don't you think I'm amazing? A Sword Arm of Dragon, ladies. That's not a beast a mere noob can tackle. I guess you can call me a Dragon Slayer!"

Serenity laughed. "Impressive," she said, trying to trade a few of her cards for a Meteor Dragon card one of the girls had. "Sorry to disappoint you, but Sword Arm of Dragon is technically classified as a dinosaur, not a dragon."

The boastful hunter gulped nervously. He quickly reformed his cocky grin and scoffed. "Well, you know what they say about dinosaurs. I mean, they are closely related to dragons, aren't they?"

"It's still not a dragon," said a young girl with blue, swirled, pigtails, accepting Serenity's Wingweaver and Flame Champion cards. "So you can't be called a Dragon Slayer."

The hunter laughed. "Smart girls," he said. He leaned against the table. "But of course you are. You three are the fabled Sword Maidens of the Kinglands. Your reputation precedes you, ladies. You're as beautiful as the tales the bards tell. Is it true that you slew a Dungeon Worm up in the mountains?"

The girl with the blue pigtails nodded.

"I'm impressed," the hunter obnoxiously said, crossing his arms over his chest. "I could take one on if I had the time, but the Queens of Black and White need my services here, I hope you understand. You know, I just picked up a contract to tackle a pesky giant that's been harassing pilgrims on the road and stealing the virgins so he can feast on them in his cave. I can take him on myself, but I thought it would be fun if you lovely ladies would tag along. We can share the profit fifty-fifty. I'm pretty sure the giant has a juicy treasure horde in there, too."

"We'll go if we can lay claim to that," said an archeress with a long, reddish-orange ponytail. "You can keep the guild's reward."

"Really?" said the hunter. "Then how about we Duel? I win, we share the treasure. You win, you can keep it for yourselves and I will make do with the guild's reward of five hundred Star Chips. Deal?"

"Deal," said a lovely paladin with golden hair. "I will play you since I lead this party."

Serenity got out of her seat. She got what she wanted anyway, but decided to stick around and watch the game. They didn't look like they had Duel Disks, not that she cared. She preferred a tabletop Duel anyway. It was too early for Phantoms.

"I'll start first," the arrogant hunter said taking out his deck from a pouch on his leather belt. "I play this card. M-Warrior Number Two in attack mode. A brave warrior such as myself. Your move, paladin."

"I draw," the paladin said, tossing hair over her shoulder. "I summon Blackland Fire Dragon with an attack of fifteen-hundred. Your M-Warrior is no more."

"Hurk!" The hunter squealed.

He was not expecting something so tough. He lost a good chunk of his Life Points from that attack. Half in fact, since his M-Warrior was at 500 ATK.

He drew.

"Ah, he said. "Perfect. I play the Spell Card, Premature Burial, which will resurrect my M-Warrior at the cost of eight hundred of my Life Points. Then I play Polymerization, fusing him and M-Warrior Number One to become the mighty, Karbonala Warrior. Now our monsters are even. Your move."

"Our monsters will not stay even for long," said the paladin.

She waved her cards in front of her face, fanning her sweet perfume into the air, which made its way to the hunter's nostrils. He grinned, enticed by the beautiful smell.

The paladin laughed. "I equip my Blackland Fire Dragon with the Black Pendant. A beautiful trinket, one I wish I could wear, but I'll let my dragon have it instead. It will boost his attack points by five hundred, raising his power to two thousand. Attack!" She said, tapping her card delicately with the tip of her polished fingernail.

"Oh no!" cried the hunter. "I...I lost?" he smiled. "Well, I went easy on you. Still, a deal is a deal. "You can keep the treasure."

"A man true to his word," the paladin said, shuffling her deck. "That's a very rare commodity these days. You have earned yourself a hunting party. When do we leave?"

"As soon as possible, beautiful," the hunter flirted. He saw Serenity turn to leave. "And where do you think you're going, love? Don't you want to go on an adventure?"

"I would that I could," said Serenity, turning around to look at him. She bowed apologetically. "But I've got other business to attend to."

The paladin bid Serenity farewell and started to sing as she grasped a pendant around her neck.


Our world is still. No light is seen

And happiness, a trait unseen

There's nothing good. There's nothing bright,

Then Norman woke and walked that night.


A mighty hero of power untold,

A crown was made to claim his Hold.

But Elven-kings all mocked and laughed

For in their eyes, he was riffraff.

Away they sent our hero poor,

And behind him slammed the door.


Our world is dark. The Light, it fades,

The filth of Zorc Necrophades.

No warrior stands against the beast

But then a light shined from the East.


The Celtra sang and dragons roared

As The Conqueror on Slifer soared,

To challenge the demon of the Shadow Realm

The light of the Goddesses shines on his helm

The Winged Dragon bathed dark in flames

The Orcs all cried when Slifer came!

Obelisk smashed all foes to hell;

Evil ran from Ancient Beast as well!

Creatures of power now at his whim

No force on earth could stop him!


A king he was of Holy Light

His armor fair had Goddess might!

His sword of sun, no man can wield

And runes of power upon his shield!

His cape contained the light of moon

And hordes of gems on plate were strewn

No mortal had dared to claim his right,

For they all fell under his might!


Our world now shines. The light is strong

As Norman King rules Nelerond

The people dance, and Celta sing

For praise of their Supreme King

A castle fair was built for him

To house his warriors and his kin

The dancers danced. The Nymphs they sang

And at his gates the trumpets rang!


Our world is sad. The Light is dim.

The world now weeps and mourns for him

The Gods no longer hear his calls

The darkness dwells now in his halls

No light shines upon his tomb.

Forever now in Darkness' womb.

The Nymphs don't dance. And bells don't ring

Forever of his might, they'll sing!

There lies our King far in the deep.

Forever in eternal sleep.


"Ah," said the hunter. "What a beautiful voice. I see we have ourselves a patron of the Temple of the Conqueror."

"I owe him my life," said the paladin. "Norman the Conqueror has always blessed me in battle. The least I can do to repay the favor is to sing his song before I go to fight. His blessings give my sword arm strength."

Serenity walked to Joey and showed him the trade. "Finally," said Serenity. "I can finally make the Meteor Black Dragon with this card."

"Good fer you, sis," Joey said. "I don't mean to boast, but I got myself a high-paying job. Just waiting for Tristan and Duke to finish up some paperwork."

"What kind of a job?" Serenity asked.

"A high-paying one," Joey lied. "Don't worry though. We got dis one covered."

Hours later Joey licked his dry lips and looked around. He stood up from where he had been sitting on the small patch of grass of the Crown Beach. Here and there he was attacked by small swarms of insects.

The ruins of the ancient battleship, The Sea Goddess, sat ominously on the rocks far off in the distance, reminding the citizens of Rasaay of the ancient battle that took place hundreds of years ago in a civil war started by four greedy princesses vying for the Heart-Earth Crown.

"High paying work?" he grumbled. "We're on pest control!"

Tall palm trees swung back and forth in the wind. For such a beautiful beach, Joey thought it was an ugly place. Man, how can someplace so serene be home to so many annoyances? Every now and then, the beaches would be closed because of goblin gang wars or a sea monster would wash up and snap at the swimmers.

"Ey, Tristan!" he shouted to his companion.

"Yeah?" Tristan called back, scanning the sands carefully. His hand kept a firm grip on his battle axe.

Joey stretched and put his hands on his lower back. "Nyeh!" he cried out, listening to the sickening song of the pops. He groaned. He squinted in the harsh light of the sun burning his face.

He hated it. But most of all, he hated the sand.

Ugh. It was everywhere, and it was no doubt going to seep through every crevice in his armor and pour into his forbidden places. He could already feel it accumulating in his boots where it crunched between his toes. "Goddesses, I hate dis place."

"You do?" Tristan asked, kicking a rock into the sea. The sturdy metal of his boot clanked upon impact. "Huh, that's odd considering this is where you met Mai."

Joey moped the sweat dripping on his forehead with his cape. "I mean it, bro," said Joey. "I'm from da Crystal Mountains. The springs are soft and sweet and all I gotta worry about is a pack of wolves or giant spiders. But down here, man, seems every foul creature is drawn to the hot sun. I shouldn't be here. I should have stayed in Roseville snuggling with a nice tavern wench by the fire during the cool winters, ya know what I'm sayin'?"

Tristan shot him an irritating glare. He suddenly laughed inside his throat and continued his search. "So why didn't you just stick to hunting monsters there instead of following us here and annoying me?"

"I can't leave Yug all alone with da likes of you and Duke. Not to mention Mai, Serenity, and Téa have been actin' very bitchy lately with dere treasure hunt, am I right?"

"I guess," Tristan said, looking away from Joey. "Look, less yaking and more hunting. Crab Turtles burrow through the sands. They could pop out at any second and drag me down for breakfast. Besides, once the beaches are cleared, they'll be open to swimmers. And the girls, Joey. They will be parading their way down, man. Some are vacationing from Eredas. Come on, think about it. Itsy-bitsy bikinis, you know what I'm saying? Maybe some of them are available. Come on, I'm going to need you at the top of your game here."

"I can't be at da top of my game while I'm stuck in da sand," Joey continued to bellyache.

"How did you become a knight?" Tristan groaned. "It's not even noon and already you're annoying me."

"I just hate it here, man. I hate the sun. I hate sand." He sniffed the air. "Ugh, I hate the stench of salty seawater. I hate it all. And most of all..." He slapped his neck, feeling something crawling on it. "I hate these fucking bugs! I mean who doesn't hate bugs. My hate for them is hotter than the blaze of the brightest suns in the universe."

"Will you shut up?" Tristan shouted.

"Come on, I..." Joey stopped talking. He hated to admit it, but Tristan was right. There was a dangerous monster lurking in the sands beneath them, and Pegasus was paying them a hefty bounty in gold to get rid of it. With this last contract, they could begin with the expedition his little sister, Serenity, was planning.

If what she said was true, it could finally get them out of Rasaay where they had been toiling for years working as monster hunters. Ever since the defeat at Karath Antha, his reputation as a Termnnian knight suffered, and knowing that somewhere out there, far in the East where towers touched the sky, Seto Kaiba was laughing at his failures.

Just as he pictured himself jabbing his dagger into Kaiba's throat, the monster he was searching for popped out of the sand and gave out a horrid screech. Crab Turtle.

In the game of Duel Monsters, it was a Ritual Monster with 2550 ATK points, making it a formidable foe to go up against. It had a strong, green shell, eight crab leg-looking appendages -four on its belly and four larger ones on its back.

It had two powerful legs, colored purple with a shiny green shell that was used to shield his soft flesh. One slimy, yellow eye wriggled from a stalk forming from its head. The monster was as tall as a man and was equipped with two powerful pinchers that it used to grab its prey and drag it deep under the sand. They could also be used as awesome weapons, and the creature wasted no time in chasing after Tristan.

Tristan flipped out of the way, the hem of his brown trench coat flapped over his legs as they lifted into the air. The Crab Turtle's charge missed him by mere inches. Mid-flip, Even though it weighed a lot, Tristan swung his axe gracefully, cutting off one of the Crab Turtle's legs.

Dark green liquid oozed from the severed limb. Crab Turtle shrieked, waving its body from side to side. Tristan landed feet-first on the sand and wasted no time in lifting himself up with another powerful leap. He flipped through the air and smashed the family axe into the shell with enough force to crack it.

Crab Turtle shrieked again, going into a frenzy. It spun - a move Tristan did not expect - and smashed him in the back with one of his pincers. Tristan was thrown a few feet through the air and landed on his face in the sand.

He got up, spitting thousands of grains out of his mouth. Crab Turtle snapped his pinchers repeatedly to intimidate Tristan. The sounds they made resembled that of hedge clippers snipping in rapid motion.

"Hang on, Tristan!" Joey called, jumping off a rock standing over the Crab Turtle. He raised his sword and ignited the blade with fire with just a thought, thanks to an Elvish charm that dangled off the end of the pommel - a gift from his sister.

"YEAH!" Joey said, flipping for the sake of showmanship. "HASSAN CHOP!" he shouted, attempting to slice off another of the Crab Turtle's legs. But it was too smart for him; much too smart. The Crab Turtle used its long legs to jump up high. "Nyeh!" Joey grunted in confusion.

He saw white light flash through his eyes when the Crab Turtle's foot smacked him square in the face. Joey rocketed at the boulder, smashing his back against it. The searing pain forced his fingers to open, dropping his sword.

It fell with a clang on the ground. He grunted in agony. Blood dripped from his nose. "Aw man," he groaned. The impact caused him to see double. "Aww, man, I don't remember there being so many of them."

Tristan charged, smashing his axe against Crab Turtle's shell again. A direct hit. Tristan gritted his teeth when he felt his wrists stinging from the impact. He put all his strength into that swing.

Though it caused massive damage to the Crab Turtle, he wound up hurting himself. Crab Turtle made a blood-curdling shriek and backed-kicked Tristan away. Tristan rolled to a stop, again, he lost grip of his axe.

Joey could see that age was starting to catch up to them. Even though he was young enough to be seen by his elders as a teenager in Eldori years, he had been in this world for more than a hundred years.

Ten of those years were spent lazing away in his summer home after the defeat at Karad Antha. He could kill men with the greatest of ease, yes, none would dare mess with him. But monsters were starting to become too much of a challenge for him.

There was once a time when he would take on two Crab Turtles or even a Wyvern in the mountains with the greatest of ease. But now. He did not know what was happening to him. As much as he wanted to take down the Crab Turtle by himself, he realized that he needed help, and fast, or he and Tristan would surely die.

Using the charm his sister gave him, Joey mustered all the Mana he could and summoned a flaming warrior.

Mighty Flame Swordsman

ATK/1300 LINK-2

The warrior was an alternate form of the Flame Swordsman Joey once used in his early years as a Duelist. His look was more powerful and his armor a little exaggerated in terms of craftsmanship, and instead of one flaming orange sword, he carried two. Crab Turtle knew it was in trouble.

It tried to burrow back into the sand, but Mighty Flame Swordsman - in a cloak of flames - dashed for the creature and stuck it in the soft underbelly with both his flaming swords. The seared the creature's insides. It shrieked one last cry and was finally gone from the world.

Mighty Flame Swordsman removed his swords from the monster's body, crossed them over his chest, and vanished in a column of fire. Joey spat blood out his mouth and sat up against the rock. "Damn it," he whispered. "That was too close."

Tristan slowly got up. He hunched over, placing both hands on his knees as he gasped for air. "You know, you could have saved us both a lot of trouble had you just summoned him earlier."

"I can't," Joey whispered.

Just summoning the warrior made him feel like he ran around the city wall four times. Plus, his bones were hurting and his back ached from the impact. He cracked a few ribs but cured them instantly with a gulp of some medicine given to him by the Elves when he hunted a Snake Hair that stalked their burial grounds.

"I aint cut out for monster hunting anymore, Tristan. No matter how hard we try, they just keep comin' - each one more threatening than the last. I'm still in my prime, man, but I feel as though I were in the twilight of five-thousand (The final years of the toon-folk). The days are gettin' darker, bro. Every day the Diamond Throne sits there empty, we're one day closer to dark times - and I mean darker than usual. Monsters are crawlin' from every pit and stumbling closer to people. Without the l