Yukio Fujiwara quietly sipped his coffee in his lodgings. It was ten o’clock, reasonably late for normal people but not for him. He didn’t like to get up until two in the morning. His room in Stella’s communal house testified to his lifestyle. An electric guitar and a few amps were cuddled beside him like kittens where he woke up (which wasn’t his bed). After he took his last sip he once more dug through his landfill of old clothes underneath a Bob Marley poster. He couldn’t find it.
“Looking for this?” He followed the voice out of his room. Maya sat at a small, comely wooden table, looking out the window. She just arrived last afternoon. The morning dawn colored the Iceland suburb a soft gold. Some of those precious rays flowed through the window, illuminating the red highlights in her black locks and giving her skin a warm bronze glow. She only wore a home shirt and underwear.
She tossed at him a small plastic bag full of herbs crushed into green-brown balls. They gave an intense smell. “Don’t worry. I didn’t use any, but I know you can’t sleep well unless you get baked every night. I want you to be awake for a change. I haven’t seen you in so long.”
“Hmm… thanks?” He scratched his shaggy black hair and felt the stubble growing around his soul patch. He was too lazy to shave. Not even a giant quadruple-bladed electric shaver that could shave off the hair around an alpha male orangutan’s anus could make him shave. To be honest, he found Maya’s little theft right under his nose a blessing in disguise. He hadn’t seen her in ages either.
He stared into her eyes. The woman was a tiger but she was calm. She wouldn’t attack him. As she looked at him her eyes weren’t sharp or savage but were steadfast, warm. “Is this dream?” He murmured at last.
“Is it?” She mirrored his question felicitously. “Do dreams feel this real?”
“They do. Its like the dreams Sam Lowry had. He flies through the white and blue skies, in a lost world free of the city, and somewhere on the golden horizon is his angel. But that moment is too impossible to happen. That’s the only hint I have.”
She leaned towards him, her eyes still steadfast. “This isn’t a dream.”
“Not like Brazil?”
“No. Much better.” She slowly but inexorably leaned forward to kiss him, but Yukio pulled away at the last moment.
“I’m sorry, Maya. I found another woman after Jolene.”
They agreed it was time to get dressed and went to the living room below. All of Team Stella waited for them. The eponymous member, Stella herself, brightly greeted them, as did the rest of the team. Stella was the spunky pale one with a prominent nose and her hair dyed a bright bubblegum pink. Poppy was blond, with thick glasses, had a nurturing plumpness. Luca was especially small and had electric blue eyes. Willow wore her hair in dreadlocks, stashed under a beanie. Dahlia had a stout body and examined people with sharp eyes under two thick, arched eyebrows.
Maya nudged him, her mouth spread in a naughty grin. “So you’re the rooster of this hen pen, huh.”
Yukio blinked at first but it finally came on. “My God no you little pervert! Does everything have to be about sex with you, you lecherous spotted hyena! You know I go to bed with Stella!” All the women in the room giggled uncontrollably. Yukio’s face was as red as his hair was black.
Maya clapped her hands together. “Let’s get to work. We need to contact base. Jolene can hack the Internets to leak info about the World Championship. Then we’ll complain how much the meta sucks.”
Stella popped a can of soda. “Sounds like a plan.”
June 12, 2009
|Maya, Yukio, and Team Stella are on one end of cyberspace. Jiao, Jolene, JC, and Hassan are on the other.
MAYA: “I hope no one can spy on us.”
JIAO: “Don’t worry you’re noodle. Jolene made sure it’s private and she’ll delete all evidence of this conversation as soon as it’s over.”
MAYA: “Jolene, can you get any info on the World Championship before it’s broadcasted?”
JOLENE: “I actually did that. I hacked into Industrial Illusions. I didn’t hack into KaibaCorp though. It’s too risky. Yes, the World Championship will take place in Egypt. It’ll be like Battle City. You collect something similar to Locator Cards, which you use to get to the finals. There are eight finalists.”
STELLA: “Sounds like the veterans are trying to bring back the glory days.” She crumples the soda can and throws it out.
MAYA: “And the prize money?”
JOLENE: “I don’t know, but it should be big. That’s all I know. Sorry.”
JIAO: She’s in the background but everyone can see she’s painting another picture with her feet. “Something tells me, Maya, that you’re zombie swarm deck won’t do well in the tournament. I mean, look at what happened between you and Akira.”
MAYA: “He obviously cheated.”
JIAO: “Yaaaaa…. But…” She wags her big toe at Maya like it was a finger.
MAYA: If anyone could give the thinks-they’re-cute-and-quirky-but-really-very-obnoxious award, Jiao would get it. But it wasn’t the time to be angry. “We know that Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Qliphorts completely rule the meta now. But there’s more. Back in the day we had many great generic cards like chaos monsters, Yata, and Raigeki that could work in any deck. But now they’re either banned or ineffective. New cards are situational and only exist to help certain archetypes. In other words, Pegasus and Kaiba use archetypes and the ban list to strictly control what decks and which duelists are on top. Certain archetypes are boosted with cards carefully designed to only support them. Custom decks are left to die.”
STELLA: “So how do we beat the system? We, Team Stella, always try something different. I run Yang Zing myself. It’s all partly because of you since you inspired us to look for new things in this game. We’re invited to the World Championship but I doubt we’ll even make to the finals. At least we’re not has-beens who used to win championships with tier 1 decks but can’t get over the fact the game moved on without them. Deedee Chua, the ‘duel master’, still uses Dragon Rulers and wants to be taken seriously. He’s almost as pathetic as ‘Bandit’ Kieth, and as egotistical as him to match.
MAYA: “Time for some life hacks. What we need to figure out is what exactly do they control to keep their top three decks in place. In other words, what are they keeping out? Skill Drain doesn’t work because Qlophorts do just fine without effects and Burning Abyss and Shaddolls use so many effects in the graveyard. Banishing monsters will frustrate all three archetypes, but Macrocosmos and Dimensional Fissure are limited to one. Soul Drain can negate effects in the graveyard, and it’s also limited. And Banisher or Radiance is a weak and slow monster. I’m sure that’s all a coincidence. Bouncing only works a bit unless we bounce back to the deck…”
STELLA: “So we play banish and bounce decks?”
MAYA: “We also need to use control. We need to negate monster effects from outside the field and prevent our opponents from swarming and searching. Thunder King Rai-Oh is also limited. Again, just a coincidence. Or you can try to outrace your opponent. Perhaps we should do both. All the while we need to conserve as many cards as possible and have strong ATK while we’re at it.”
STELLA: “So we need generic cards or archetypes that banish, bounce, and control your opponent’s cards. But most are limited on the ban list.”
MAYA: “I know.” She buries her hands in her thick, curly hair. “If only we could magically change the ban list. – Wait! Jolene, can you hack into I2 and change the ban list? Be subtle so no one will notice. You can unlimit a few cards, just a few so it’s hard to notice until it’s too late, and don’t unban anything.”
JOLENE: “I can even make it look like someone from within the company did it, and make the change just before the tournament starts. My oldest cousin works at I2. He would make a good plant.”
YUKIO: “Guys, isn’t all this cheating?”
MAYA: “Pegasus and Kaiba are cheating this whole time. Matthew cheated with all of his power when he fought us. Akira cheated so I couldn’t even duel him. By their standards we’re being downright fair.”
YUKIO: “Speaking of life hacks, know this. Shady, sinister behaviors are slippery slopes down to hell. People aren’t chess pieces. They’re unpredictable and things way too often get out of control.”
MAYA: “Tell that to Pegasus and Kaiba.”
JIAO: “So I guess we’re done.” She dabs her toes on the canvas in whatever weird experiment she’s involved in. “Ah! Perfect!”
MAYA: “The session’s over. I promise I’ll be careful, Jolene.”
JIAO: “One more thing. It’s in your best interest to make a new team. It’s nice to have comrades in Battle Royale reality TV style stunts. Happy hunting.”
Maya and Yukio took it upon themselves to find their last teammate. Stella rent Yukio her car so Yukio and Maya could drive out of the town of Selfoss and into the small town Laugardælir, partly to enjoy the beautiful scenery and partly to find their third duelist. You may ask, why look in such a small town? Well, let me tell you. The great chess champion, Bobby Fischer, spent his final years in Reykjavik and was buried on the grounds of Laugardælir church. Since Fischer’s death duelists built an active community in Reykjavik, hosting many tournaments and many free for all dueling parties that spanned entire parts of the city.
But more importantly, Laugardælir became a shrine of sorts, drawing great duelists and chess players all over the world, even if just temporarily, where they created small elite clubs. The membership was never permanent as duelists whisked in and out during their visits but someone good was already there. Even Seto Kaiba paid respects to the great master’s grave. If you want to find great things it is best to look at places you wouldn’t usually expect.
Maya set a pair of roses on top of the Fischer’s grave. The tombstone’s marble was still fresh and the flowers on the grave were new and colorful. They visited the church, a small, hushed, sacred place, before they took off to a café. It was ok to be leisurely. Stella told them that it was best not to look for great duelists. Rather, great duelists would come to them.
Yukio sipped his warm, delicious coffee, thinking for a long time about what he wanted to say to Maya and how he wanted to say it. He needed to get this out of the way. “Jolene told me about what you did with her and that guy that one night. What you did was really problematic. You did BDSM when you were all drunk. It was a really foolish and dangerous thing to do. Jolene could’ve seriously gotten hurt. You know what that tells me? That you’ve lost respect for yourself as well as other people.”
Maya took her time to process his harsh words. Yukio watched Maya closely, almost like a guard dog. He saw the usual anger flare in her eyes her lips twist downward, features he saw the moment he first met her, but nothing else. He then saw hurt and remorse creep into her eyes. “I’m very sorry. I threw myself in the alcohol because I was cornered and didn’t know what to do. The World Championship is my last plan. If I lose, I’ll forever be an outlaw. I’m not making an excuse for what I did. I promise I’ll be nicer, at least to my friends.”
Yukio pushed his phone to her across the small table. “I remember you when you protected Jolene against the Crusaders and even against JC himself. I want to see that you again. You need to apologize to someone.”
Maya dialed the phone. After Jolene on the other side asked who it was, Maya said, “Jolene, I’m sorry about that one night. It was very reckless and selfish of me and I could’ve seriously hurt you. You didn’t deserve it. I’m very sorry.”
“It’s alright. I totally forgot about it. But thanks for apologizing. You’re a real friend.” Jolene said.
Maya knew Jolene was lying.
Maya and Yukio noticed people leaving the café, gathering in a ring. They soon found out why. A duel just started. On the right stood a young man who wore a decent suit, which he ruined by popping up the collar, wearing a baseball cap on its side, and wearing a gaudy gold watch. On the right stood a teenage girl with a black flat cap and studded jacket, complemented by her dark red hair, which she wore in a French braid, and contrasted by her rather pale skin. Maya and Yukio recognized the young man as Deedee Chua, the “duel master” himself. They figured out the girl’s name from his banter: Sophia.
Deedee: 4000 || Sophia: 4000
DEEDEE’S TURN: “My deck’s just craaaaaaazzzzyyyy! Oh my, this opening hand is super sexy! I activate Gold Sarchophagus to banish Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls.” A giant gold box opens, allowing a large holographic card to be placed inside it. “I discard Steam, Dragon Ruler of Droplets and Wyvern to summon another Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls from my deck.” A large but thin ice blue dragon flies beside him. “Since I discarded Eclipse Wyvern I banish a dragon from my deck. I banish Wyvern and Steam from my graveyard to summon Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos!” To contrast his thin and ascetic icy blue dragon, a fat and fiery red dragon appears beside it.
“Not done yet. Since Wyvern is banished, I add a dragon to my hand. I overlay Tidal and Blaster to Xyz Summon Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack.” The two dragons collapse into comets of different colors and enter what looks like a black hole. But it apparently is a wormhole to another universe because an absolutely huge fighter aircraft flies out, surrounded by two lights that revolve around it like electrons. “I detach Blaster,” One of the “electrons” vanishes inside Dracossack, “and summon two Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens.” Two small jets split away from the mother ship. “And tribute them both to summon Light and Darkness Dragon.” They shatter into pieces and a majestic dragon, half white and half black, replaces them. “And I set a card. Try to beat this! Dragon Rulers are still Tier 1 and you know it!”
SOPHIA’S TURN: “Dragon Rulers are strong and you have a pretty strong field right now. But LDD can be beat, even in one turn. Please don’t take what I say too harshly, but your dueling seems rather solipsistic. It’s like you’re just playing against yourself.”
“She’ll probably use a chain to beat it?” Yukio comments to Maya from the sidelines.
“Or she’ll drain its ATK to kill it in battle the old fashioned way.” Maya mused.
“Oh yeah?” Deedee smirks, compulsively shuffling his hand as loudly as possible. “Prove it! I’m the Duel Master K for a reason!”
“Fine then. I discard a card to summon Swap Frog.” A yellow horned toad hops into play. “My Nimble Angler now activates and I choose to activate Swap Frog’s other effect.”
“And I activate LDD!” Deedee’s dragon pushes an aura of light outward as if it was flexing a muscle. The wave of light hits Swap Frog, paralyzing it briefly. “Sure it loses 500 ATK and DEF but it’s a small price to pay to control your every move.” (LDD ATK 2800 à 2300) “I activate Swap Frog’s other effect, to bounce a monster back to my hand.” But that was as far as she got for LDD negated her Swap Frog again. (LDD ATK 2300 à 1800)
Sophia is unfazed. “Angler still goes through. I summon Nimble Sunfish and Nimble Manta from my deck.” True to form, a sunfish and manta appear. “I activate Swap Frogs last effect.” To which Deedee again interrupts her and negates its effect. “I summon Genex Undine,” A strange cyborg with a water tank for a stomach appears. “And activate its effect.” Once, more LDD negates. (LDD ATK 1800 à 1300)
Deedee is clearly amused. “Forget about LDD’s effect already? Girl, do you even know how to play this game? You duel worse than my little sister! You must be one of those fake geek girls. ‘Like oh my God, who’s Bruce Wayne? I’m a huge Batman fan!’ Or how’s this? ‘I’m such a nerd! I read all five Harry Potter books!’ I mean, you got some nice blowjob lips but you’re no Sasha Grey.”
Maya smacks her palm to her face. “Maybe he should shut up and buy an anime body pillow before I put him in a real body bag.” Douchebags come in all races, creeds, and nationalities.
Sophia just ignores the insult. Honestly, Yukio finds that level of maturity from a teenager frightening. Anyway, Sophia continues. “I overlay Swap Frog and Sunfish to xyz summon Ghostrick Socuteboss.” Sophia’s monsters fall into the wormhole, which then bursts in energy. A sleepy-headed girl with bat wings and in lingerie pajamas flies out accompanied by two orbiting spheres of her own. “Socuteboss, attack LDD!” Sophia commands, and Socuteboss casts her spell. Legions of bats from the netherworld swarm and consume LDD.
Deedee grimaces at the death of his once mighty dragon. Sophia activated all those monster effects to weaken LDD so it could be destroyed. (Deedee LP 4000 à 3900) “I activate LDD’s other ability. I nuke all my monsters to bring back a dragon from my graveyard.” Draccosack vaporizes in a field of flames and Deedee’s trusty Blaster returns.
“I activate Socuteboss’s effect, destroying your monster and voiding your monster card zone so it can’t be used anymore.”
“That’s where you’re wrong! I activate Fiendish Chain!” His trap springs, and iron chains lock Socuteboss in their fetters. “Not exactly loli hentai but almost as good.”
Sophia sighs. Even her patience is strained at this point. “Can you stop being gross for one minute? I set two cards.” And as she ended her turn, Blaster vanishes back to Deedee’s hand per its effect.
DEEDEE’S TURN: “So one turn passes for Gold Sarcophagus. Next turn, Tidal is all mine. I activate Lightning, Dragon Ruler of Drafts from my hand. I discard it and Redox to special summon Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms from my deck. But don’t blink. I banish it to special summon Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon and use its effect to bring back Blaster from my graveyard.” Storms gather and dark clouds form into a furious grey dragon, only to vanish and be replaced by a sinister dragon made of black steel, which is then accompanied by the familiar fiery red dragon.
Sophia springs her trap. “Ojama Trio!” Three circus freaks, yellow, green, and black, infest Deedee’s field, wearing only red tights. Deedee clenches his nose to protect himself from the awful smell caused by their constant farting. “You’re field is full, so you can’t summon any monsters.”
Deedee curses, annoyed. “No problem. I can’t swarm the field but you’ll still suffer. Blaster, roast Socuteboss!” Blaster launches a ball of fire at Socuteboss, who explodes into bits from the blast. (Sophia LP 4000 à 2600) “And REDM, destroy Undine!” REDM projects a fiery projectile of its own, blowing Undine up. (Sophia LP 2600 à 1000) She winces from the attacks but keeps her cool. Deedee concludes his turn and his Blaster once more returns to his hand.
SOPHIA’S TURN: “Alright, I got everything I need. I activate my trap Xyz Reborn. Socuteboss revives and this trap attaches to her as a Xyz Material.” Socuteboss revives, with one new orb revolving around her. “I Normal Summon Swap Frog and mill Nimble Angler.” With her monster sent to the Graveyard, another Nimble Sunfish and Nimble Manta appear on her field. “I overlay Swap Frog and Sunfish to Xyz Summon my second Ghostrick Socuteboss and my other Sunfish and Manta to summon my third Ghostrick Socuteboss.” Her four monsters vanish in two worm holes and two more Socuteboss are formed.
“I activate the effects of all three! Destroy REDMD and two Ojama Tokens!” The three Socuteboss three black holes to appear, which both consume REDMD and the two Tokens and stay so no monster can be on those zones. Deedee also loses Life Points from the two Tokens. (Deedee LP 3900 à 3600 à 3300) “Socuteboss number one, destroy the last Ojama Token, and my two other, attack him directly!” The first Socuteboss obliterates the last Token with her swarm of bats (Deedee LP 3300 à 3000) while the other two torment Deedee himself with their own legions of dark creatures. (Deedee LP 3000 à 1600 à 200) “And I activate Ground Collapse.” Deedee’s remaining two Monster Card Zones are crushed by two warp fields.
Maya gazes at Sophia as if she was in love with her and sighs fondly. “Really brings back the good old days, Yukio, back when I swarmed the field with WATER monsters myself. Even Deedee’s juvenile, abusive comments make me feel warm inside. Back then guys like him were all I had to worry about.”
Deedee looks anything but calm and nostalgic. “This is impossible! Nimbles and Ghostricks? What a n00b! I use Dragon Rulers! I can’t lose to you!” He screams in anger and throws his duel disk on the ground, scattering his cards everywhere. “FUCK THIS GAME! I’M OUTTA’ HERE!” And he stomped away in a huff.
Deedee: 200 (rage quits) || Sophia: 1000
Now the duel was over, the crowd scattered from the scene, but Yukio noticed that they still chattered among themselves. During the duel they whispered to each other, commenting on both player’s decks and strategy and even making critiques and postulating their own ideas, which they kept doing even as they dispersed. “Why didn’t Deedee play Fiendish Chain sooner? Some “master duelist” he is!” – “Because Fiendish Chain would be chained by LDD.” – “Why didn’t Sophia play Ground Collapse and Ojama trio during her first turn? She could’ve iced Deedee back then?” – “Toying with him? Didn’t draw Ground Collapse yet? I don’t know.”
Maya and Yukio approached the victor. They shook her hand and introduced themselves. “Приятно познакомиться.” Sophia greeted back, shaking Maya’s hand, and then Yukio’s. Sophia had small hands with thin palms, and long, bony fingers, her nails painted black. They looked like a witch’s hands as much as Maya’s hands looked like spiders. He was surprised by how strong Sophia’s grip was.
“Можете ли говорите српски?” Maya asked, to which Sophia replied bashfully. “Sorry, no. I can’t make out enough Serbian. I know some Russians who can but I’m not one of them.”
“We thought you’re duel was really great.” Yukio complimented her. “You show a lot of strength and originality. The World Championship is approaching and we’re making a team. We need one more member. Will you join us?”
Sophia analyzed them for a minute, her dark, slanted eyes soft but proping at the same time. “If I recall, you are Marina Bozovic and Yukio Fujiwara. Maya, you used antimeta zomies since 2005, and I remember you, Yukio, using Masked Heroes for the 2005 Nationals. How interesting! I was looking for a team myself. I accept.”
Yukio nudged Maya gently. “She’s approachable, polite, and kicks butt. See, you can be a great duelist without being belligerent.” To that Maya laughed, palmed Yukio’s face, and jokingly shoved him aside.
Maya saw Sophia wore a black shirt with the picture of the monster Necroface on it. “I’ve got an idea for a team name. Team… Dead Baby Humor!”
Yukio laughed awkwardly. “That’s a little too dark, don’t you think?”
“How does Dutch Baby Oven sound?”
“You may want to tone it down a bit.”
“Hmm…” Sophia puckered her lips and put her finger on them inquisitively. “I have a Tumblr called Baby Blast Furnace. Sounds good?”
Yukio groaned and waved his hand at them despairingly. “What’s wrong with you people? If you like dead babies so much why don’t you join Planned Parenthood. But whatever, I’ll accept the name. Forget I said anything about you two being different.”
“So we got a team! YAY!” Maya and Sophia jumped with joy. They dragged Yukio away by the arms. “Speaking of dead babies maybe we should shop at Hot Topic for the lulz.”
“Hot Topic? In Iceland?” Yukio groaned again. “Why don’t you buy a fake dog turd at Spencer’s Gifts while you’re at it.”
“Oh we will!”