DAY 2 : 11:26 AM : GIZA
June 1, 2009
JOLENE: “Hey, dude! What’s up?”
YUKIO: “We’re off to a good start. We won two Item Cards yesterday. We’re making our way down to the Giza plateau. We might as well tour Egypt while we’re at it.”
HASSAN: Joins the network in the New Yorker Hotel. “Please take this Tournament very seriously. You still have four more Item Cards to win. My father already scourged Cairo with the Ghouls. Who knows what other cities he will strike. Look out for his armies, find duelists and beat them.”
YUKIO: “Dude, do you ever let up? If you want to solve this country’s problems why don’t you do it yourself?”
JOLENE: “Don’t worry, Hassan. They’ll disinfect Egypt with iodine as far as you’re concerned.”
YUKIO: Hands the iPhone to Sophia, who sitting on the front passenger seat. As they all speak, Yukio drives the team’s small, cheap car down the Egyptian country. The road is the only thing other than sand in the barren rock and desert land around them, like a Nile River of sorts, except the road is unlike the Nile. It is narrow, treacherously winding, and even broken in a few places. Yukio once accidentally drove through a pothole. The sudden jolts made Sophia bite her large lips hard, causing them to bleed a bit.
SOPHIA: “Hey guys!” Sophia gives Jolene a friendly little wave before wiping the sweat dripping on her forehead. The car was a moving stove from Hell. “How are things back at home?”
JOLENE: “Things are OK. JC is putting back together another Team Dark Duelists but made out of the poor and minorities who use rogue decks. Kind of like how we were like in ye olde days.”
JIAO: Suddenly appears from nowhere. “How has your dueling been, my free spirits? Did you pwn anyone at a children’s card game?”
YUKIO: “We won two Item Cards. We now have three.”
JIAO: She looks perceptively at them all through the camera iPhone and sees Maya sleeping at the back seat. “You mean Maya won two Item Cards.” Yukio’s cheeks almost flush with embarrassment, making him silent. Sophia nods. “It’s not fair having Maya do all the work. You guys gotta’ catch up.”
YUKIO: Glances at Maya for a second, but a second was all he needed. She sprawled herself out all over like she was sleeping in a messy college dorm, something she was very familiar with at this point, as if the molten heat didn’t exist. Was she drooling? “We’ll get it done. Sophia and me will duel next. Bye, Jolene, Hassan. May God be less.”
Sophia too glanced at Maya, or the slob that used to be her, and couldn’t help but giggle. “Awww, she looks like she needs a break.”
Without any more conversation the mood dragged back to the way it was before, stifling and silent. They had only thirty minutes left before they reached the Pyramids and the Sphinx at the Giza plateau, but thirty minutes felt like one hour too many.
Yukio and Maya both still had no idea who Sophia really was, so he took it upon himself to ferret something out of her. “We still don’t know too much about you.” He said. “Yes, we know you’re Russian, Pegasus adopted you, and you took accelerated programs under his guidance, basically becoming one of his prodigies. But you never mentioned anything else, not even when we were partying and playing games with Stella and her friends. We don’t know who you’re parents are, or you’re first birthday or when you first kissed a boy, if you know what I mean.”
Sophia ignored Yukio. She put her hand on her cheek and simply stared out emptily at the desert beyond, which seemed to span into infinity. Yukio could tell by the glint in her eyes and the look in her face it wasn’t pleasant. The despondency on her face hinted certain passivity, as if she accepted all the melancholy things around her as natural and inevitable.
“I’m sorry I asked.” Yukio said with sincerity and sadness. “I was too curious.”
Sophia smiled sweetly yet sorrowfully. “Sorry for what? Asking?”
“Um, yes.” He decided to drop it. It didn’t happen. Neither Yukio nor Sophia knew that Maya woke up and had been secretly observing their interaction for the last few minutes.
The Pyramids crept over the horizon. At first they merely popped up like little molehills but as the team drove closer and closer they bore witness to their true size. It is said there was never a person who, on first seeing the Pyramids, did not have their breath taken away. Our protagonists were no exception. They lost their breath in an instant; astonished the Pyramids were this huge. No wonder they endured for over four thousand years. They were indestructible. They were as much a part of the earth as mountains.
The team parked near a tourists’ bus and blended with the crowd, which wasn’t as easy as they thought. Most of the tourists were old couples who saved money for years on end just to visit this lost land. The tour guide, a short and stout man with sunglasses and curly black hair, directed everyone with a funny orange glove with a smiley face on it. “Mashi mashi!” He would call out and everyone would follow him.
The tourists first stopped by the Sphinx, a monument as serene and immovable as the Pyramids themselves, eternally staring at the horizon, paying no heed to the ants crawling over it that would die in a blink of an eye. It gazed at something far beyond this world, far beyond the horizon itself, perhaps even somewhere beyond the stars.
“Oh my God guys! I can’t believe it’s you!”
The team turned their head and, to their wonderful astonishment, found Stella and her team loitering around the Sphinx. They jumped for joy at the sign of each other and gave each other many hugs and kisses before divulging what they did for the last two days. Maya, still tired and wiping her eyes, gurgled how she got two Item Cards. Stella in turn brandished her Item Cards, a total of five! Mostly she and Willow got them.
The friends goofed off for a while, posing for group shots, taking silly selfies with the Sphinx. (Stella pretended to kiss it. Maya pretended to accidentally break off its nose. Yukio pretended to give it a mustache.) Their irreverence grew tiring after a while, so they blended with the old tourists once more. Mr. Mashi-Mashi Guy took them inside the pyramids. Everyone bumbled into each other as they climbed through the dark, dank, narrow tunnels into the burial chamber, a small chamber holding only the Pharoah Khufu’s barren sarcophagus. It was underwhelming.
They tried to climb the Pyramids but the guards wouldn’t let them. Maya, always sporting yet devious, saw an opportunity. “How about we duel for the right to climb the Pyramid.” She suggested. “The loser has to distract the guards so we can do it.”
“We? Aren’t you presumptive!” Stella joked in mock offense. “I saw what you did there! Guess it’s time beat that arrogance out of you. I accept you’re challenge.”
“Oh come on, Maya.” Yukio whined. “You’ve been dueling for us all the time. Give us a chance.”
“I was just going to. I just gave Stella a suggestion. I didn’t actually challenge her. Look who’s being presumptive?” Maya winked at Stella, making sure she got the barb.
“Even better, let’s make a two way duel.” Stella suggested. “Willow will be my team mate.” She then turned her attention to Sophia. “You ready for a fierce beatdown, little one?”
Sophia looked a little nervous but she choked it down and accepted the offer.
Stella, Willow took position while Yukio and Stella did the same. Poppey, Luca, Dahlia, and few other people, duelists and non-duelists alike, gathered around to be an audience. Maya sat on a stray pyramid stone, cross-legged, indulging on a box of baklava, clearly amused. She announced, “The battle of the century begins! Cards will be dropped! Fingers will be cut! Life Points will be lost! Grown ups will rage quit like children! Who will win a children’s card game? Find out fifty episodes later!“
Team Stella: 16000 || Team Baby Blast Furnace: 16000
STELLA’S TURN: “Since I can’t attack this turn, I’ll set up the board instead. It’s time to test them and see if they live up to their hype.” She says to herself. Out loud, she says. “I’ll set a monster and two face downs.”
WILLOW’S TURN: “I activate Black Whirlwind and summon Blackwing – Kris the Crack of Dawn.” A black-feathered bird-folk with red robes swoops into play, shortly accompanied by, “I summon Blackwing – Gale the Whirldwind.” A small bird with red crests on its head and shoulders takes the other Blackwing’s side. “I set a face down card. Go ahead.”
YUKIO’S TURN: “Alright, I got a strategy. I summon Summoner Monk.” A wizard in oriental robes materializes. “And I use his effect, discarding a card to summon Heroic Challenger – Thousand Blades from the Deck.” Now a monster representing Yukio’s true character appears, a mighty armored warrior carrying so many swords they seemed to fan out from its back like steel wings. “Now its effect. I discard a Heroic monster to summon Heroic Challenger – Extra Sword from my Deck.” Thousand Blades throws its sword in the air and shouts a warrior’s call. Another warrior, slight of frame and carrying two swords to big for its body, answers and joins its side.
“I use them as Materials to Xyz Summon Blade Armor Ninja.” The two warriors collapse into two small stars and fall into a black whole, which turns into a white hole. A ninja dexterously wielding two swords jumps from the blazing white portal. The usual. “Ninja gets an extra 1000 ATK from Extra Sword, and I detach a Material so it can attack twice.” Ninja absorbs one of the stars orbiding it into its body. “Here it comes, 3200 ATK! Armor Ninja, kill Blackwing Gale!”
Armor Ninja seemingly disappears, zipping left and right at blinding speed, closing in on its target. Willow springs her trap, “I activate Black Sonic!” Both her Blackwings form a ring together and cast it at Armor Ninja in a windstorm. He vanishes without a trace. “Now he’s banished. You’re plan’s finished.”
“On the contrary. It was my plan the whole time. I cleared the field a bit for Sophia.” He smirks. “Sophia, take it away.”
SOPHIA’S TURN: She draws her card but pauses. She hasn’t been at too many tournaments, least of all a World Championship as grandiose as this one is. Stella and Willow already seemed so tough. She resolves to make a move. “I activate Fortune Occult Connection, so I can –“
“I spring Mistake. No one can add cards from their Deck to their hand.”
“ – add a Fortune Lady to my hand… Hmm…” Sophia feels a cold pit in her stomach, but steels her resolve. She will carry on her strategy. “I summon Fortune Lady Light.” A fair witch with short golden hair aparates. She wields a wooden staff with an amber stone floating in the hook at the end. Her yellow dress is very loose and open, revealing a black leather undergarments and high heeled boots.
Stella is a little shocked at such a play. Even this surpises her. “Ah, Fortune Ladies. Interesting archetype but they are obsolete. They’re just too slow and too reliant on Lady Light to get their combos off. Believe me, I tried. Playing Fortune Ladies is a noble cause, but a lost one. Lady Dark is too weak in today’s metagame.”
“I’m not going into Lady Dark.” Sophia says plainly, but it is enough to make Stella widen her eyes a bit. “I activate Blessing Fortune, banishing Lady Light to summon 2 Fortune Fairy Tokens.” Lady Light disappears in a rain of autumn flowers, replaced by two tiny innocent fairies. “And as you know, when Lady Light leaves the field, I can summon any Fortune Lady from my Deck. So I summon Fortune Lady Aeter!” In a display of rainbow light a new Fortune Lady appears, similar in dress to Lady Light but draped in transparent robes and wielding a bigger staff.
“Lady Aeter, turn Gale into fried chicken.” And Lady Aeter blasted it with a torrent of fiery light. “Now for Lady Aeter’s effect. I banish it to summon Fortune Lady Water and Fortune Lady Fire from my Deck!” Aeter vanishes in a flash of light as she came and out of that same light aparate two Fortune Ladies radically different in appearance and character. Lady Water adorns herself in flowing blue robes and wears her long hair in a similar way. Lady Fire’s wears her red skirt short and sharp, and wears her red locks in one long braid the same way Sophia herself does. Sophia continues, “With Lady Water summoned, I draw 2 cards. With Lady Fire summoned, I destroy Kris and you lose the same damage as its ATK.” Lady Fire chants, almost shouts, her spell, crashing a meteor at the last Blackwing. Both Stella and Willow shield themselves from the fiery blast. (Team Stella LP 16000 à 14900)
“Now the battle is over, I equip Lady Fire with Wonder Wand, and tribute both to draw 2 cards.” Lady Fire’s staff is replaced by a big, awkward wand, but only momentarily as they both vanish. “I set a card facedown and activate Dimensional Fissure. Your turn.” Yukio gives Sophia a thumbs up, feeling only pride for her.
STELLA’S TURN: This was all very unexpected. She needed to come up with a plan. “Willow, I’ve got an idea. We’ve got to take Sophia out. She’s the weakest link. She uses an archetype so obsolete even rogue duelists like us can’t salvage it.”
Willow’s sullen face only casts doubt over Stella’s ideas. “I’m not sure about that. Sophia just shocked us with new amazing support cards.”
“Yes, but whatever new support cards she has it probably won’t help her out too much. Yukio’s Heroics are much more dangerous.” She said to Sophia and Yukio, “No offense to you. It’s the best strategy. Nothing personal.”
Maya listens to this little exchange with amusement, licking the sweet baklava sugar from her fingers, saying to herself. “That was your first mistake, Stella, and it won’t be your last.” She remembers how hard Stella tried to build a Fortune Lady deck last year, only to give up after she lost a Regional Tournament with it. “Your disappointment and envy is influencing her judgment. Hopefully, Yukio and Sophia will take advantage of it and Sophia won’t be afraid to unleash her power.”
“It’s time to attack!” Stella barks. “I activate Mystical Space Typhoon!” A cyclone crackling with lightning blows away Sophia’s Dimensional Fissure. “Now my next card, Dark Hole!” A black hole pops up from the space-time fabric, ready to suck every monster in.
“I chain with Revolution Fortune!” Sophia quickly counters. “I banish a Fortune Lady on my field to search another one in my Deck, but I can bring it back next Standby Phase.” With her words, Lady Water vaporizes into mist just before it falls into the black hole’s event horizon.
“That’s cute, but it won’t stop me. Pulao, Wind of the Yang Zing activates and I activate my set trap Yang Zing Creation! Now I can summon two Yang Zings from my Deck.” Stella registers the horror on Sophia and Yukio’s faces. “That’s right! Yang Zings, the best floaters out there rivaled only by Qliphorts. Now, I summon Jiaotu, Darkness of the Yang Zing and Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing.” Two oriental dragons slither gracefully above in the sky and descend on the field. Both have the faces, fur, and claws of tigers. One is small and golden in color, the other darker and fiercer. “I activate Wyrm Rejuvination. I return a Wyrm monster from my Graveyard to my hand a draw 1 card.
“Now for Jiaotu’s effect. I discard 2 Yang Zings in my hand to summon Zefraniu, Secret of the Yang Zing and Taoti, Shadow of the Yang Zing from my Deck.” Jiaotu the dark wyrm vomits a torrent of black flames. Two more oriental dragons heed the signal and appear. One of them shines like a jewel, the other one is brutish and with black scales. “Since I sent Zang Yun, Fortune of Yang Zing to the Graveyard by card effect, I draw 1 card – nice! It’s a monster – I summon it, Bi’an, Earth of the Yang Zing!” A small snake-like dragon crawls out of the ground and joins its group.
At this point a few duelists decide to drop in the crowd. Literally, drop, as in flump unceremoniously on the sand right next to Maya. They look like they’re enjoying a day at the beach, not participating in a daunting, unprecedented tournament. Maya instantly recognizes these colorful characters as Mathias, Maximus, and Mina. Mathias gives everyone a hello as big as his heart, to Maya, to Poppy, Lua, and Dahlia, and to the duelists. “TEAM BUFFALO CHICKEN IS IN THE HOUSE!” They all shout “Hello!” back just as gregariously. Though Maya is happy to see them she feels some exasperation too. She knows how wild they can be, even for her. Especially Mathias. He has as much zest as Robin Williams2. This is going to be a long day…
Stella is in now way done with her turn. “I tune Jiaotu and Zefraniu to synchro summon Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing!” Jiaotu disintegrates into two green rings and Zefraniu dissolves into six stars. The six stars align within the two rings and shine as a beam of light, which fades to reveal a large, tiger-faced dragon. “I use its effect, bouncing Yukio and Sophia’s face downs.”
As Baxia draws its wings up in the air, Yukio counters with his trap. “Call of the Haunted, to revive Thousand Blades!” Black mist creeps from the ground and forms into the familiar warrior. Neverthless, Baxia brings its wings down, the massive wave blowing away the two cards like sand. Thankfully, Thousand Blades survives.
“I now tune Chiwen, Bi’an, and Taoti, to syncrho summon Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier!” Chiwen becomes a ring and the other two dra gons stars that align with each other. A bright column forms, which summons the legendary Trishula. “Uh-Oh, the nefarious Trishula. That’s not good.” Mathias comments. “Tell me about it.” Maya grumbles. She tries to enjoy her baklava but now it tastes bitter.
Stella sets her eyes dead on Yukio as a bird of prey does. “I use Trishula’s effect, banishing Thousand Blades, a card in your hand, and Extra Sword.” Yukio’s three cards vanish from the game without a trace. “Who knows how many nasty Xyz monsters you made with Extra Sword. Now we crippled you, the stronger duelist, we can attack the weakest link. “Baxia, attack Sophia directly!”
The dragon shoots its breath at Sophia, who shields herself with her arms in self-defense. “Defend her, Summoner Monk!” Yukio commands, and with it his monk jumps in between Sophia and the dragon, dying. “Maybe you should attack me before shamefully attacking a player you think is weaker than you are!”
Stella curses herself. She forgot he still had his Monk out. “Whatever. Trishula, attack Sophia directly!” With a beat of its wings, Trishula strikes Sophia with the harshes blizzard. Sophia protects her body with what little she can, the cold cutting into her bones. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 16000 à 13300) “Take it away, Willow.”
WILLOW’S TURN: Her face is grim yet full of determination. “I’ll continue Stella’s assault. I summon Blackwing – Blizzard of the Far North, and use its effect to revive Kris.” A small white bird lands in play, followed by the dark birdman. “I use Black Whirlwind to get – oh, wait! – Stella’s Mistake stops me. Very well, I special summon Blackwing – Bora the Spear and Blackwing – Gale the Whirlwind.” A birdman with a spiraled lance and a large red face and a black bird with a red crest on its head flock the field.
“Xyz time! I tune Blizzard and Kris to synchro summon Blackwing – Nothung the Starlight, and use its effect!” The two birds synch with its other the usual way to summon a large birdman wielding a huge sword. The new monster shoots lightning from its sword, striking Sophia. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 13300 à 12500) “I tune Bora and Gale to summon Blacking Armor Master!” Her two remaining birds vanish, allowing a new black-feathered warrior to appear, this one cast in black iron armor.
“Get ready! Nothung, Armor Master, attack Sophia directly! Both avian warriors strike her down, Nothung with his sword, Armor Master with his claws. Yukio cries out for Sophia in pain and anger The blow hits Sophia so hard she yelps from the pain and is nearly thrown off her feet, but she stays sturdy. (Team Baby Blast Furnace LP 12500 à 8400)
The external pressure doesn’t Sophia so much but the internal pressure does. What chance did she have against so experienced and skilled duelists? What worth did she have as a person next to the, next to anybody? She felt as if a black weight was sitting on her shoulders, and a black mist shrouding her. She felt so low even the desert noon looked dark. Her awful feelings eroded some space inside her. Overwhelmed, she collapsed on one knee.