Kaiba entered the Control Center in depths of the KaibaCorp building, a room as sanitized as a laboratory. Rows of female workers almost looking exactly the same, sat rigidly in front of a computer for each. With a sharp command to his drones Kaiba materialized a giant screen in front of him. With each computer connected to all KaibaCorp satellites, which provided a substantial portion of the world’s Internet service and all data of Yugioh, the Control Center was a window from which Kaiba could gaze at any part of the world he wished.
Kaiba knew this all too well. He aimed his gaze at Egypt from a bird’s eye view, registering each city the competitors arrived in, then zoomed in to Cairo. He snapped his fingers, disrupting each cable TV in all of Egypt to show his face, and announced, “Duelists, welcome to the 13th Battle City…”
Every duelist in the country stops and listens. Maria and Team A Capella put their hands together, “To win prestige and honor for the dueling world.” Michael and Team Homburg said in unison, “To win the title and prize money.” Akira and Team Gundam God Sayans shouted, “To keep Japan number one, where dueling should be!”
“…for the next twelve days the trials you will face ahead of you will be unlike anything you have ever faced. You won’t be merely competing in a tournament but will have your character as a duelist probed to its core…”
Stella and her companions gave each other the signal, “To win to take the game in an awesome new direction.” Mathias and his teammates bumped elbows with each other, “To win to save this world from a grave evil force.” Matthew and Alexis wait in the shadows with the Ghouls, “To win for vengeance.”
“Don’t think you will walk away from this tournament untested. Only those with the strongest willpower, those who cull their weaknesses as readily as they cull other duelists, those ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for their duelist’s pride, can hope to win.”
Maya glances at Yukio and Sophia, but speaks only to herself. “Will we win? Kaiba mentioned before how our character will be tested and how we’ll need to make the ultimate sacrifice. Is he boasting as usual or is there a deeper meaning? Who are the people behind the Ghouls? Why are they interested in this tournament? Even if I win, can I make my life relatively normal again? Will I be able to take my creative path where I want it to go?”
“LET THE 13TH BATTLE CITY TOURNAMENT BEGIN!”
DAY 1 : 9:30 AM : CAIRO
Yukio cracked his knuckles, ready for a fight. “All right! It’s time to take some Ghouls out. When we’re done they’ll be hung by their own hamstrings.”
“We will make them suffer. We will punish them so hard they won’t ever be a threat again.” Maya wholeheartedly agreed with Yukio’s fierce passions and eagerness since she felt them herself. “But since we’re dealing with criminals as well as top level duelists we have to play smart. We’ll sit and wait, examine our competition first, then pick a target.” Maya already had an idea who was the weakest link to take out, and it was Michael Gould.
Maria and the rest of her team took off from the Hilton Cairo Hotel, reasonably confidant in their skill and superiority. Whatever was out there, they would win as they always won.
Cairo was nothing like the ancient civilization it laid claim to. The entire city was incessantly noisy as a jackhammer and clouded in polluting fog. Every street was narrow and dangerous, overflowing with small cars and bicyclists. Maria and company only drifted away slightly from the main roads before they were surrounded by a gang of men in black. They tried to escape, but the rogues blocked them on all sides.
One of them took off his cowl, distinguishing himself as leader of the group. He was a middle-aged man with neck-length graying hair, a long nose, beady eyes, and wide lips always stuck in a smug grin. “Perhaps you are unaware but the Ghouls are taking over this tournament. You may call me Seeker and you are my first pray.”
Maria was caught completely by surprise. She knew Ghouls sometimes snuck in lesser tournaments, but a complete sabotage of a world championship? Either way, she didn’t care. A criminal was a criminal. She stood up to him, brandishing her duel disk. “You, scums, who pray on innocent duelists, who take cards duelists earned with their sweat, blood, and tears, I will never forgive you! Prepare to lose!”
Seeker’s didn’t faze his grin, not an inch. “Spoken like a true self-righteous hypocrite.”
Maria: 8000 || Seeker: 8000
MARIA’S TURN: “I know what you’re planning, Ghoul. Everyone knows your loss against the King of Games. You’re planning to summon Exodia, but I will defeat you before you can bring him out. Exodia decks aren’t even viable these days, anyway. I activate Foolish Burial. I mill Shaddoll Squamata, which lets me mill Shaddoll Falco. Since Falco was sent to the Graveyard, I revive him facedown. I activate Dragon Shrine, milling Rabidragon and White Stone of Legend, and by White Stone’s effect, I add Blue-Eyes White Dragon from my deck to my hand.”
“Blue-Eyes White Dragon? But only Kaiba has those!” Seeker remarks, his beady eyes wide open in surprise.
“Surprised, card thief? Seto may have three but I have the fourth and last one. It was torn in half before, but now it’s mended back together. I summon Maiden With Eyes of Blue.” A fair and serene girl, with white hair longer than Maria’s, graces the two duelists. “I equip her with Wander Wand, which lets me Summon my Blue-Eyes from my hand since my Maiden was targeted.” Her Maiden waves her new wand, and the legendary White Dragon shoots off from the fountain of light. It flies above the alley for a moment to roar and spread its wings above the city before flying down again.
“Think I’m done? Think again! My Maiden is also a Tuner, and I tune her and Blue-Eyes to Synchro Summon Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon!” The Maiden becomes one green ring and the White Dragon transforms into eight stars, which align with the ring and explode in a fountain of light. A large, silver dragon, even larger than the White Dragon emerges. “I activate Silver’s Cry. Welcome back, Blue-Eyes.” The White Dragon revives. “I banish Rabidragon and Shaddoll Falco from my grave to summon Black Luster Soldier.” A soul of light and soul of darkness fly from the graveyard and merge together, forging into the shape of a knight in black and gold armor. “And finally, I set three facedown cards.”
SEEKER’S TURN: He doesn’t look fazed at all. He still leers at Maria with his hungry eyes. He grins as a Cheshire cat, salivating at his prey, confidant he will win at any rate. “An impressive first move for a conventional duelist. I doubt you ever faced a duelist outside the sanctioned and protected tournament scene. I hunt down kids like you for breakfast. I summon Mokey Mokey.” A small, square being with wings flies into play. It looks like a marshmallow, except with small stubs for limbs and narrow eyes that are always closed.
Maria’s eyes widen in disbelief. There’s no way he’s playing with this deck against her! It has to be a joke!
Seeker seems to have registered her shock, for he says, “Relax. I won’t use something easy like Human Wave Tactics or Mokey Mokey Smackdown. I’ll play something much worse, but first allow me to get rid of your pesky backrow. I equip Black Luster Soldier with Darkworld Shackles.”
“I don’t think so. I activate Forbidden Lance and target my Soldier.” The Soldier’s sword is replaced by a white lance, which drains his strength. “He may lose 800 ATK but he’s free of card effects.”
“Oh, you naïve little grasshopper. I don’t care about your Soldier. I activate Release Restraint Wave. I get rid of Darkworld Shackles and all your spells and traps are destroyed.” Seeker’s shackles shatter, but they release a devastating wave of heat that incinerates Maria’s facedown cards that aren’t monsters. “I equip Mokey Mokey with two Amulets of Ambition and equip your Blue-Eyes with Ultra High Score.” Seeker’s fairy puts on itself two imposing gold amulets with eyes on them white the White Dragon has a bomb showing arcade scores branded in its scales.
“Amulet of Ambition makes my monster stronger by multiples of 500 for the difference in Levels between your Blue-Eyes and my Mokey Mokey. Ultra High Score makes your monster’s Level 12, and you lose multiples of 400 Life Points for the same difference in Levels between our monsters. Let’s do the math, shall we. Mokey Mokey gains 5500 ATK for each Amulet, giving it 11000 ATK total, which minus Blue-Eyes’ ATK is 9000 damage. Then, Ultra High Score does 4400 damage. You know what that means?”
All Maria can say is a silent “No.” She lost her first duel in the tournament!
“Mokey Mokey, attack Blue-Eyes White Dragon! Win the duel for me!” Seeker commands. Mokey Mokey dives at the White Dragon in full speed, its Amulets coloring it in blazing yellow like some golden meteor. It smashes straight into the White Dragon, causing the bomb to detonate, blowing up the entire alley in a fierce firestorm.
Maria: 0 || Seeker: 8000
Gleeful with victory, Seeker grinned so widely almost all of his teeth were showing. “Since you lost the duel you know what that means. You and your team will pay the price with your Millennium Item Card and your decks.” The gang of black-cloaked men pounced on the surrounded duelists, beating them helpless. Seeker held up the fourth Blue-Eyes White Dragon as if it was a gem of incomparable rarity and beauty. One of the rarest cards in the entire game was his!
“No!” Kaiba couldn’t believe his eyes. Maria lost the duel and was kicked out of the tournament? It must have been a lie! But true it was. To think that a duelist wielding the proud Blue-Eyes White Dragon could lose against a Ghoul! His heart blackened in deep shame and his face revealed as much. She couldn’t be unworthy!
A wireless phone rang. Kaiba picked it up. It was Pegasus. “Less than hour in the tournament and Maria is eliminated. I know it must hurt, Kaiba-boy, but you must let it pass. You can’t be shouldn’t be swayed by nepotism.”
Kaiba looked like he was about to kill Pegasus, albeit Pegasus was unable to see his death glare, let alone be intimidated by it. “Shut up.” Kaiba growled, and slammed the phone on the receiver. For a moment he was about to go to Egypt himself to help her. A battle waged in his heart over whether to intervene and cheat the rules or let the tournament run its course without her. As much as he felt for her, he chose the latter.
“Do you have any idea where Michael Gould is? I’ve tried searching for him but it seems KaibaCorp isn’t disclosing any of our locations on line.” Maya dug her fingers into her black curly hair as she often did when frustrated or trying to solve a problem.
Sophia, usually quiet, suggested that, “Kaiba and Pegasus made a lot of preparations so no one could cheat their way through. They want to make sure we can’t cut any corners.”
“I expected as much.” Maya admitted, mumbling under her breath in a way that sounded more like growling. “We have to come up with a new scheme.”
Yukio, who suggested the team look for duelists the old fashioned way only for Maya to chastise him, was eager to take a dig at her. “Right, you’re schemes are as effective as Malik’s from Yugioh the Abridged Series. A chessmaster you ain’t.”
“Funny. I always thought I was the Bakura of the evil duo. By that, I mean Jolene and I. You don’t make the cut.”
“I didn’t know there was a cut with you guys. What is there, some kind of evil counsel of doom? Do you need to get an evil high score on an evil exam to join the evil clubhouse to be evil enough?”
“Yukio, you’re as evil as a Catholic high school girl giving her first blow job. You think you’re Sid Vicious with a soul patch but you’re really Jack Black.”
Sophia had enough of their prattling. “Please, guys, get a room. Maybe if you play card games for a while you’ll cool down.”
“You’re mom plays card games, and in Hell!” Maya and Yukio rebuked Sophia together.
“If you keep ripping off Little Kuriboh he’ll have to sue you. But guys, seriously, look.” Sophia pointed at a group of duelists hobbling past them. They were Maria and her teammates. They clearly looked the worse for wear, their clothes torn and skin bruised and bleeding, as if a mob beat them up. They’re eyes were dull with the look of defeat.
Yukio rushed to grab Maria by the shoulders as if she’d fall down any moment now. Maya approached her immediately afterward. “Who did this to you?”
Maria confirmed Maya’s suspicions when she said feebly, “The Ghouls are back. His name is Seeker.”
“I know you two aren’t exactly nice to each other but you’ve got to help her.” Yukio said.
“Exactly! And I know how to!” Maya seized the Millennium Puzzle Card and put it on her duel disk. “The power of the Millennium Puzzle Card is to grand any wish you want but it has to be to help someone.” The holographs on her duel disk projected a holographic Millennium Puzzle, larger than life. “Puzzle, please show me where the Ghoul named Seeker is. He assaulted my rival and I want to get her deck back for her.”
Maria then pleaded to the Puzzle, “Show us the way so Maya can get my deck back for me.” The eye of the Puzzle glowed with light and projected a vision. In the vision they saw the Ghouls harassing a couple of duelists near the Cairo Museum. Now everyone knew where to go.
As they took a taxi, Maya realized the Ghouls were bolder than before. According to Maria, they ganged up on her team in an alley, far away from the public eye. Now, according to the Puzzle, they dared attack in the shadow of a museum. They were becoming arrogant and may just bite off more than they could chew. Yukio called the museum immediately just in case the Ghouls didn’t keep their word.
Maya, Maria, and their teams arrived just in time to see the Ghoul named Seeker deal a finishing blow to two duelists at once. He took their Millennium Item Cards and decks with glee, eager to capture more spoils of war. But it hardly satisfied him. He just beat “Insector” Haga and “Dinosaur” Ryusaki, two washed up has-beens who were nothing but the laughing stock of the entire dueling world. He wondered if Kaiba and Pegasus let them in the tournament as a joke.
“You, Seeker!” Maya suddenly declared in a startling, piercing voice. “I challenge you to a duel! I wager my team’s Millennium Item Card and our decks! But if you lose, you return everything you took back to us!”
Seeker clearly looked amused. “What’s this? My prey willingly comes to be captured in my net? Very well then, I accept you’re challenge. You go first.”
“No. I demand a coin toss.” Maya called on a neutral crowd member to toss a coin for them. She called tails and Seeker called heads. The coin landed on tails, so Maya chose Seeker to go first.
He seemed not to mind. “Humph! It makes no difference to me.”
“You’re probably the Ghoul equivalent of a capo with an army of foot soldiers. You’re an experienced criminal with an Swiss army knife of dirty tricks up your sleeve.” There was another reason, which Maya didn’t state. If she went first, it gave Seeker an opportunity to kill her in one turn.
Seeker’s ugly grin was as steady as ever. “Maybe, but why should your band of comrades trust you any less than me? I looked at your records, Marina Bozovic. You have been guilty of petty crimes since your adolescence, including theft, vandalism, usage of illegal drugs, and contumacy. You think because you weren’t put in prison nobody knows, but we Ghouls always know. What true difference lies between you and I besides experience and magnitude?”
Maya admitted she didn’t have an answer to his challenge. Even if she did she wasn’t in the mood to engage in a debate right now. “Fine, I am a criminal, if you insist. But I warn you. In a duel between thieves there is no mercy or decency. You’re as good as dead.”
“So we have a philosopher as well as a criminal amongst us. What an odd combination, but all the more entertainment for me. Let’s duel!”
Seeker: 8000 || Maya: 8000
SEEKER’S TURN: “I activate One for One. I discard a card to Summon Mokey Mokey from my Deck.” His stoic, marshmallow-shaped fairy appears as it did last duel. “Surprised to see me play such unusual cards? You think that just because you figured out how to play against the meta that we Ghouls didn’t do the same? We’re not dumb enough to actually play with the same decks pros, or rather prey, do in the tournament scene. You may have a good learning curve but it’s time for the fish to leave the water.”
Maya is unaffected, or at least appears unaffected. “Weren’t you the first guy to lose in Battle City? Granted, you lost against Yugi himself, but don’t exactly have any bragging rights, least of all to lecture to me. You’re as dense and smug as JC himself. You make a perfect first opponent, really.”
“You’ll pay for your insolence. I equip Mokey Mokey with Amulet of Ambition,” The fairy sports an ominous gold amulet with a piercing eye in the middle. “And I set two cards facedown.”
MAYA’S TURN: She evaluates the duel so far. To his credit, he does use an interesting deck, but she doesn’t know anything about it. She has to test the waters, to make him think what she plays this turn is all there is to her when she has more in store. “I summon Rescue Rabbit and use his effect. I banish it to summon two Spinodon from my deck.” A white and gray rabbit wearing a hard had appears only to disappear, replaced by two ferocious dinosaurs of fiery temperament. “Now I overlay them both to Xyz Summon Evolzar Laggia.” The two Spinodons fly into a black hole as beams of energy, which then bursts into light. The light clears, revealing a leprous dragon circled by rings of fire.
“An Evolzar deck. Interesting choice.” Seeker observes, but not for long for Maya has no patience for his conceits.
“Laggia, destroy Mokey Mokey immediately!” The dinosaur-like dragon fires a pillar of flame at the fairy.
“I activate Swords at Dawn, and I target the Ultra High Score I discarded last turn.”
Maya is all too prepared for a response, so she responds in kind. “I detach two Materials from Laggia to negate and destroy your card.” The two flames that circled Laggia leapt from it to the quick-play spell card.
“Not bad.” Seeker admits, “But not good enough. I activate Power Frame.” A steel cube constructs itself around Mokey Mokey, protecting it. Laggia continues its onslaught, first combusting Seeker’s quick-play spell in particles, then firing a cannon of flame, eager to hit its target. But the attack merely bounces off, and Mokey Mokey’s ATK rises to 2700.
Maya gruffly acknowledges his decent plays. If she is to win she must commit to more unorthodox strategies. She realizes that this applies to the whole tournament, not only this duel. She may have a two-card advantage, but that is no reason to relax. She never faced this kind of duelist before. “I set two cards facedown. You’re move. You’re at a disadvantage. Make it count.”