Team Baby Blast Furnace spent the rest of the day looking to duel Michael and Team Homburg, but with no results. During their search, Yukio decided to rent a car, if you could even call it that. – It was a rickety metal box made in the 80s with no air conditioning for the summer heat. After all, most teams fled Cairo ever since the Ghouls crashed the party and they weren’t going to catch themselves. – Resolving to find duelists in Memphis further south, they went to bed.
Except Maya. She went to Michael’s Internet channel on the Dueling Network, trying to figure out where he could be, something she tried to figure out all day. She knew Michael was Canada’s top duelist who, unlike Duel Academy rich kids, had at least some skill. Rex. W. Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobile, sponsored his team. He had a heroine addiction, which was embarrassingly exposed, but he went to rehab, only to get back into it.
Maya took her deck out and got to work on it. It was innovative but a lot of progress still needed to be made. Michael used Shaddolls, an archtype of monsters that relied on being sent to the Graveyard for their effects and making powerful fusion monsters. So now Maya tweaked her deck in such a way to cripple such a deck. Long ago she made the realization that deck building was creative like writing music was.
In college she taught Clarence that great music, no matter what genre, had an extra oomph to it on a technical and emotional level. Bad music was repetitive, boring, slow, and had a weak effect. Bad decks were the same way. Good decks quickly brought out strong cards but they had a certain depth to them. Good duelists didn’t use a one-dimensional strategy. They had many plans, making it difficult for an opponent to read them. But there were only so many strategies a duelist could cram into forty cards. Even when she fought against Matthew and his cronies she had to keep tweaking her deck between duels to match the situation.
Thankfully, Michael was one-dimensional, two-dimensional at most. As for his addiction, it was all too possible for a man with his money to relapse. If he did, then she knew where he might find him, and she didn’t need to waste the Millennium Ring Card’s powers to find him. Maya counted on her pessimism about Michael and the human race that night.
She quietly got ready for the encounter as to not disturb Yukio and Sophia. She covered her shirt and jeans with a long black dress, and then used a black piece of cloth to shroud her face with a makeshift niqab. A woman in an Egyptian city needed to be cautious when alone, especially at night. She would do this alone, so Yukio and Sophia would be safe. She looked back at them both. They looked like cute little animals when sleeping, especially Sophia. She looked like a little baby bat.
She approached a cab driver at the hotel entrance. “Take me to the City of the Dead.”
The cab driver raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure? Drug dealers and junkies crawl all over the place a night.”
But Maya promised to pay him double the amount if he took her there and stayed until she came back. The City of the Dead was in essence a huge cemetery over six kilometers long, stacked with tombs and mausoleums on almost every street. Some people, living people, actually lived there, whether forced into slums or wanting to honor their ancestors. It was also a notorious habitat for dealers and addicts.
Not too far away, Michael too looked for someone to duel. Any idiot desperate enough to wander into the necropolis made himself an easy target. His back and legs ached, reminding him of the terrible cramps he used to have. Anxiety squeezed his head and chest as if in a vice and half. He exchanged money with a man in the corner, receiving what looked like a few black rocks. He desperately wanted to go home.
No such chance. He came across a woman shrouded in a black niqab. He jumped a bit, yelling at her for startling him. The woman tore off her niqab, revealing a familiar person with a swarthy face, narrow eyes, and curly black hair. “Maya, what are you doing here?”
Maya glanced at the bag of black “rocks” in Michael’s hand. “So you went back to being a celebrity junkie. How pathetic.”
“You think this is funny, picking on a drug addict?” Michael’s usually calm and soft voice escalated quickly to a surprisingly loud yell. “You might as well kick a crippled kid you disgusting bitch.”
“You’re no innocent victim, Michael. Before rehab you leaked emails and personal information about Team Stella and other teams you didn’t like because they had more diversity in them. You passed the information like bait to Internet hate groups and upper-class teams to try to shut them down. You did this all out of spite while jacking yourself with a needle.”
“You slander me with lies with zero evidence, typical of a progressive. Team Homburg is elite. We have the best fashion, the most women, and the best decks.” Michael then began ranting. “Forcing ‘enfranchised’ women and minorities on top will turn the dueling world into nothing but a comfort zone, driving away harsh reality and competition for a ‘safe space’ of mass non-threatening conformity for ego-damaged millennials who think trendy hipster glasses will cure them of the emptiness of their souls.”
Maya only laughed at him with contempt. “Save your whining monologues for Reddit, you self-pitying prick Your federal offense is well-documented. Why you’re not in prison right now is beyond me.” Maya had enough of this petty repartee. She learned a long time ago not to argue with unreasonable people. “So are you going to duel me or not, tough guy? We both ante one Item Card.”
Michael agreed to her request, eager to put the arrogant upstart in her place.
Maya: 8000 || Michael: 8000
Maya’s Turn: “I Summon Nanosaur #1.” The fiery velociraptor carrying two rocket launchers on its back materializes. “And I’ll use its effect. I banish Rescue Rabbit from my Deck. Then I’ll set two cards. Let’s see what the leader of Team Fedora Rangers can do.”
Micheal’s Turn: Before Michael can even think up of an attack plan Maya interrupts him.
“I activate Macrocosmos and Vanity’s Emptiness!” Maya declares.
Michael’s jaw drops. He knows he is screwed. Now all his Shaddoll monsters will be banished, so he can’t use their effects! And he can’t Special Summon any monsters, so any plan to make a powerful Fusion Monster was gone! He needs to work around Maya, and fast. At least he can get rid of Vanity’s Emptiness this turn.
“I Summon Shaddoll Dragon!” Michael declares, and a black puppet shaped as a dragon appears with his command. “Dragon, attack Nanosaur!” The dragon’s eyes shine in a gaze deathly enough to kill Nanosaur on the spot. Maya grimaces as her Vanity’s Emptiness trap disintegrates from its own effect and she quickly adds the banished Rescue Rabbit to her hand accordingly. (Maya LP: 8000 → 7800) Michael concludes, “I set a card.”
Maya’s Turn: Now it is time to crank up the pressure. She knows that if she summons bigger monsters it will pressure Michael to summon his big monsters. In the process he will banish many of his Shaddolls, wasting them. “I summon Rescue Rabbit, and banish it to Summon two Spinodon from my Deck.” The familiar rabbit wearing a hard hat hops into play, only to vaporize. The smoke released from the act transforms into two fiery dinosaurs. “I overlay my Spinodons to Xyz Summon Evolzar Laggia.” A pale, volcanic dragon with wings replaces the two dinosaurs.
Maya hates Michael and people like him, reserving only scorn and contempt for them. Her anger always boiled, but she often corked it because it often had no appropriate outlet. Now was a proper time to open the cork a little bit. Maya clenched her first. “TAKE THIS! Laggia, burn Shaddoll Dragon to dust!” Laggia launches a pillar of flame from its mouth.
“Not so fast!” Michael reacts. “I activate my set El Shaddoll Fusion!”
“Not quite! I detach two Material for Laggia’s effect! Laggia, negate and destroy El Shaddoll Fusion!” The two fiery orbs surrounding Laggia detach their orbits and smash into Michael’s card. Laggia resumes its fiery brigade, incinerating Shaddoll Dragon. (Michael LP: 8000 → 7500)
Maya gives a restrained cackle, happy with the torment she is giving. “Haven’t you had enough punishment yet, you amateur?”
“I’ve been a champion at dueling long before you picked up a structure deck! I’d show respect if I were you!”
“And you were inept all this time. You simply bought expensive cards no one else could get and netdecked your way to the top. Too bad times are quickly changing. All cards are becoming commoner and cheaper. The so-called elite no longer own this game.” Maya sets a card. Michael used El Shaddoll Fusion to get past Laggia’s effect. Next turn, he will probably make a big attack to what advantage he can. That is why Maya waits, saving her big attack for the moment.
Michael’s Turn: All right! Maya took his bait. Laggia is no longer an issue. If only he could get rid of Macrocosmos. “I activate Galaxy Cyclone! Destroy her face down card!” A cloud of stardust appears and gathers force into a devastating whirlwind.
But it is to no use. Maya flips her face down card, another Macrocosmos, and the whirlwind harmlessly blows over.
“Wait! Macrocosmos is limite to one per Deck!”
“Not anymore. They changed the ban list just before the tournament began.” Maya explained.
“B- But why would they do that!?”
“Maybe to, I don’t know, make the competition a little more interesting.”
Michael doesn’t believe a word Maya says. She must have done something. “I Summon Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress, and use her effect to destroy one of your Macrocosmos.” A woman clothed in a robe as white as her hair is black appears through a square portal of light. She kneels to defend herself, firing a beam of light from her staff, destroying Maya’s card. “I activate Shadoll Fusion, and since you have an monster from your Extra Deck out I can fuse monsters from my Deck. I banish Raiden Lightsworn Assailnt and Shaddoll Beast to Fusion Summon El Shaddoll Construct!” Michael’s two monsters, one of light and one of darkness, blend together into a dark mist, and out from it emerges a doll of a woman, with pale skin and violet armor.
“Construct, attack Laggia!” The woman doll grows a net of strings from her hands and clings onto Laggia with them. Laggia cracks and implodes from the inside out. “You’re lucky you don’t take any damage from Construct’s effect. I set two cards.”
Maya’s Turn: She reaches inside to her heart and opens the cork of her volcano more, progressively building her fierceness and rage. If she doesn’t kill him this turn, she will still gain a decisive advantage. “I Summon Zsa Zsu.” A lithe, bird-like dinosaur with exotic plumage gracefully lands to the ground. “And I return her to my hand to Special Summon Fierce Ptera.” Her dinosaur disappears, replaced by a more hostile one, a pterosaur bearing its teeth. “Since Fierce Pterra is Special Summoned, I can Special Summon another dinosaur from my hand. Welcome back, Zsa Zsu.” The exotic dinosaur reappears, but now with another of its kind. “Since Zsa Zsu is Special Summoned, I can Summon another one from my Deck.”
“I overlay both Zsa Zsu to Xyz Summon Volcanoraptor!” The two Zsa Zsu’s collapse into a black hole, and a velociraptor covered in flames hops out of it. “I detach one Zsa Zsu to Summon Quetzalcoatlus from my Deck!” One orb leaps from Volcanoraptor, blossoming into a flaming portal where Quetzalcoatlus swoops. “With her summoning I immediately activate Infernal Reckless Summon!” Two more Quetzalcoatlus appear. Thankfully, Michael can Summon monsters of his own, so he Summons another Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress.
“I overlay two of my Quetzalcoarlus!” The two pterosaurs descend into a black hole, “Arise, Stella Ptera!” which turns inside out into a white hole, ejecting an even bigger pterosaur. “I detach 1 Quetzalcoatlus! Stella Pterra, bounce Construct and Lyla back to the hand!” The huge pterosaur beats its mighty wings, creating a deadly gust.
Michael isn’t ready to give up. “I activate El Shaddoll Fusion! I fuse my Construct and Lyla to Fusion Summon another El Shaddoll Construct!” Michael’s two monsters meld together, creating another woman doll.
“Not a bad play, but it’s not enough to save you. I activate the effect of my remaining Quetzalcoatlus!” The lesser pterosaur beats its own wings, bouncing Maya’s Volcanoraptor and Michael’s construct back to the Extra Deck. “Volcanoraptor is removed from the field, so I Special Summon a banished Quetzalcoatlus. I overlay two Quetzalcoatlus to Xyz Summon Galaxy-Eyes Tachyon Dragon!” Both pterosaurs dissolve away, birthing a mighty black dragon that radiated with an intergalactic dark aura.
“I overlay Tachyon to Xyz Summon Full-Armored Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon!” Tachyon falls into a black hole, giving rise to an even stronger dragon. Michael is appalled at the very sight of it. “I detach a Quetzalcoatlus! Galaxy-Eyes, destroy Lyla!” The interstellar dragon spreads its photon-emitting wings, concentrating the light into a deadly wave, vaporizing Lyla into ash.
Michael gulps loudly.
“TAKE THIS! Fierce Ptera, direct attack!” The small pterosaur savagely bites Michael’s neck. Even though it was just a hologram he feared for his life at that moment. (Michael LP: 7500 → 6700) “Stella Ptera, direct attack!” The larger pterosaur slaps Michael’s body with the fierce gusts of its wings, throwing Michael off his feat. (Michael LP 6700 → 3900) “Photon Dragon, attack for game!”
“I-I activate Dimensional Prison!” Michael stammers, scurrying back to his feet. The interstellar dragon fires a laser of pure photons from its mouth only to be swallowed by a forbidding vortex. The vortex sucks the dragon within it, which tries to fly away but in vain. Its gone.
Maya burns even brighter inside with the sudden halt in her plans, but she restrains herself relatively enough. “So you bought yourself one more turn.” Her voice is still sharp, her words still cut like a dagger. “Make it count.”
Micheal’s Turn: “I activate Upstart Goblin!” Michael puts his hand on his Deck, almost as if to surrender. “Please let me make a god draw.” He drew a card. (Maya LP: 7500 → 8500) “YES! I activate Raigeki!” Three bots of lightning descent from the sky, killing Maya’s three monsters! Michael wipes his forehead in a sigh of relieve, even though the midnight is cool.
Maya’s Turn: She feels a mixture of frustration and excitement. Though she didn’t like Michael killing her OTK, she did enjoy the challenge he gave her, however slight.
“I’m afraid it will all come to an end. I activate Fossil Dig, adding a Dinosaur to my hand. I Summon Tyranno Infinity!” A small but deadly tyrannosaurus rex appears, glowing with an aura not of this world. Maya gives a small smile with a hint of deviousness. “Tyranno gains 1000 ATK for each of my banished dinosaurs. Hmm, let’s see, I have Nanosaur, two Spinodon, Laggia, Fierce Ptera, two Zsa Zsu, three Quetzalcoatlus, and Stella Pterra. That makes it’s attack…”
Michael gasps, “IT’S OVER 9000!!!”
Maya laughed, a laugh both hearty and wicked at the same time. “YES!!! 11000!!! Tyranno Infinity, attack for game!” The fierce tyrannosaurus rammed Michael with his head, ramming him on the walls of a tomb. Michael’s body skids down to the floor, broken in defeat.
Maya: 8500 || Michael: 0
Maya stood over Michael, who slouched and rubbed his head and back in pain. “You know the rules. Give me your Item Card.”
Micheal could only moan a few feeble words. “No, I’m eliminated…”
Maya’s expression became pitiless and forbidding. She had almost no sympathy for him, and she only had a few hours left for sleep.
Michael sighed, perhaps giving the longest and most pathetic sign in his life. Team Homburgs are men of their word, even to someone like you.” He handed Maya a Millennium Rod Card. “No leave me alone.”
Three cards in one day (technically two days, but whatever). A good start, but Maya had one more thing to do. She quickly seized Michael’s bag of black tar heroine.
“Give it back. I’ll have withdrawal symptoms.” Michael pleaded.
“You’ll survive. As much as hate your guts, not even you deserve to die like this.” She threw the bag of heroine on top of a building. Michael impulsively scampered on the building wall as if he could actually climb to the roof. No such chance. “You’ll thank me later.” These were Maya’s final words for the night. Her only regret was paying the taxi driver such a high fee. At least it was with her own money, sparing Yukio and Sophia.
Heishin contemplated his burned, scaly black hand, the hand the mysterious woman gave to him several months ago. He loved the powers of darkness he now wielded with effortless authority and the fear it inspired in everyone’s hearts, but he had a certain anxiety. He didn’t trust either Gernand or his apprentice, wondering what they really wanted and what role he played in their schemes. They gave him the powers of darkness, but what price did he pay?
He was deeply dissatisfied with the Ghouls’ attack today. They smacked quite a lot of duelists around no doubt, but more duelists resisted them than he anticipated. Some teams were too strong. They needed to be liquefied if the Ghouls were to rule Egypt with an iron fist. All of these thoughts prevented him from sleeping. He imagined his ancestors to be the mighty pharaohs of old, especially the resurgent military kings of the New Kingdom, who restored their homeland to its golden era. He would do the same for Egypt in the twenty first century, for Allah, for Egypt, and, most importantly, for his son.
A soldier saluted to him. “Sir, the Ghoul commander is on the line.”
Hiehsin picked up the phone. It was the boy named Matthew, appointed by Gernand and his apprentice for a similar purpose. He heard Matthew say, “I discovered all the teams that gave us the hardest time in our raid of Cairo.”
“Excellent. Locate them and eliminate them all. If necessary, prepare a massive attack. Tear this land apart if you have to.”
Hieshin returned to his contemplation, looking out at the moon through the window his son jumped out of to escape him.