YGO COP 2: Duel 13 – Circus of Dreams

Mokuba Kaiba raced through the halls of Kaiba mansion, desperate to find his older brother, Seto. He just received word from Pegasus, who urgently needed to talk to Seto. He knew how much his older brother despised Pegasus but the situation was dire. The fate of both of their companies and the very Yugioh game itself depended on it.

Mobuka opened the door to Seto’s study, a room he retired to if he still needed to work outside the CEO’s office, which was often. Seto, dressed in an immaculately white business suit he so often wore these days, stood idly, his hands behind his back, looking out the window. Mokuba saw the reflection of his brother’s face on the window: stony, silent, brooding.

Seto spent the entire night thinking about the metagame: what it was, what it is now, and where it was going. As he looked at the sunrise he thought the very game itself was dying, or at least the form of it he lived and dueled by for most of his life to this point. The game was transforming to something very new.

In the past the game had a kind of mystique about it, based on a duelist’s spirit. Back then it had a lot more to do with owning powerful and rare cards, and having the riches to buy them. If you had such cards you were a better duelist. Seto never thought of it as a bad thing. For some reason he even thought being lucky or wealthy enough to have rare and powerful cards somehow meant you had a greater duelist’s spirit. It somehow meant Fate had chosen you as a superior human being.

But now that spirit didn’t exist anymore, and neither did Fate. Cards became so much cheaper and mass marketed almost everyone could get powerful cards. Powerful cards were like plastic chess sets. They no longer really mattered. It all boiled down to who was smarter and who could more inventively use the resources everyone collectively had. Even a low level duelist with low level monsters could kill a god card merely by being smart enough and using the right strategy.

Seto nostalgically looked at his three Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards. Back in the day they were one of the strongest cards, putting fear and dread in all duelists. Now, so many other cards were manufactured that hit the 3000 ATK threshold that were better. The spirit and pride of dueling vanished. Duel monsters became chess pieces to be manipulated, simple trading cards to gamble with, or just tools to push a higher goal that was bigger than the game itself.

Mobuka interrupted his musings, “Pegasus wants to meet with you tomorrow. It’s about the World Championship. It’s really important.” Mokuba stood by his brother, both of their bodies reflected by the window. Mokuba dramatically contrasted his brother. He was of medium height and child-like while his brother was tall and imposing. His hair was a messy jet black, recently trimmed, while his brother’s hair was brown and precisely cut. His deep blue eyes were wide and open while his brother’s were cold, piercing, and narrow.

He could see the grimace in his brother’s face just by mentioning Pegasus’s name. Seto silently told Mokuba, by some mutual understanding between them, that he heeded the call. In the afternoon he took a private jet all the way to Pegasus’s castle, tucked away in an island near Japan in the middle of the ocean.

“Why HELLO THERE, Kaiba-boy!” Pegasus greeted Seto Kaiba in a false, booming, jolly voice. He reclined in a expensive chair made of Italian silk, gesturing to a small table with a complete tea set, like he was a little girl hosting a tea party. “How goes business in the city? Did you shout down a few employees? Make any important telephone calls? Fire anyone?”

“None.” Kaiba noticed the mocking sarcasm that so often inflected Pegasus’s speech and he didn’t like it. Kaiba hated sarcasm, even though he sometimes indulged in it himself. “At least I’m not Michael Jackson stuck in Neverland. Let’s get down to business. I refuse to stay here for long.”

“Ooh! Scathing, angry, and impatient as ever, Kaiba-boy. You never change.” Pegasus took a moment to sip his tea.

“I don’t have the luxury to change.” Kaiba said.

“Or the capacity.” Pegasus countered. “Let’s get down and dirty, Kaiba-boy. I’m sure a no-nonsense man like you appreciate that. Anyway,” He suddenly became serious and opened a laptop. On it was the database of every duelist who entered the World Championship. Kaibacorp and I2 satellites in space watched their every move and every duel. “As you know, the Ghouls struck Cairo yesterday, eliminating many duelists. They retreated for now but I’m sure they’ll be back to cause more damage.”

Kaiba was losing even more patience. Did he fly all the way over here just for this? “The Ghouls are pests. They cause trouble but can’t do any real damage. They haven’t caused much trouble since they dispersed after the first Battle City.”

“Yes, but don’t you think they’re coming back together to form a real threat? I have a few leads to what they may want. Matthew Carter was the American National Champion for many years but lost his title in 2005. Since then he stopped going to tournaments, behaved erratically, and disappeared a few months ago. I suspect his activities, so I hired private investigators. They traced him to the Ghouls and even found information of his motives.”

Pegasus produced a small recording device and hit “Play”. The tape inside was damaged for it was nearly destroyed in an explosion, so Kaiba could only make out a few words. Apparently, a detective was interrogating a Ghoul. “Do you… any information… on Matthew…? – Another guy said… listened… Matthew… Book of Isis… Tournament… in Egypt… revenge… says Pegasus did it… avenge his grandfather… Please let me go!”

Book of Isis? Kaiba sat in shock for a moment, but his shock soon gave way to his usual incredulity on hearing anything about Egyptian mysticism. “So Matthew’s a dork who wants an old book. Big deal.”

“The detective in the recording died soon after! His college found the damaged tape on his corpse! Please take this seriously, Kaiba!” Pegasus was now visibly agitated. All the fun and games were over. “Matthew’s grandfather gave me the Book of Isis for safekeeping but the Ghouls soon murdered him! Now Matthew leads the Ghouls and thinks I’m the one who murdered his grandfather! And he’s after my book!”

Kaiba snorted. He enjoyed seeing Pegasus drop his silly act, especially if it meant watching Pegasus squirm in his $1,000 Salvatore white shoes. “The Ghouls are in Egypt but the book is with you, isn’t it? This shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”

Pegasus cast his eyes down, visibly sad and worried. “Sadly, no. It would be foolish and risky to actually carry it around my person. So I had it reburied in Egypt, buried in the deepest, darkest tomb, that no one could find it, not even Ghouls. It was the safest place I could think of. My hunch seems to have been right. The Ghouls didn’t find the book in Egypt, so they spent years cracking into every museum and government vault they could, but in vain. Now, finally, they’re back in Egypt and want to kill me.”

Kaiba didn’t know what to tell Pegasus. How could they deal with Ghouls? They were massive corporate heads but not part of governments, so they didn’t control any armies. The United Nations was plodding and incompetent in dealing with the revolution that exploded in Egypt, as with everything.

Pegasus had an idea, for he said, “Kaiba, since you run Duel Academies you could create some kind of army of trained duelists. Not from the students themselves of course, but professionals based there. I could even send my best protégés.”

Kaiba carefully pondered Pegasus’s words and responded, “It is a plan. I’ll assemble a special duelist task force to take out those Ghoul vermin once and for all. I’ll even contact the Egyptian government so my duelists can work with them. I expect you to hold your end of the bargain, Pegasus, and send your own duelists.”

“Yes, of course…”

“Then business is settled. Good day to you.” Kaiba swiftly stood up, cordial but cold, and left Pegasus to his worries.


DAY 2 : 5:26PM : ASSIUT

Team Baby Blast Furnace bade farewell to Team Stella and joined Team Buffalo Chicken to form a party of travelers. Sadly, there wasn’t any time left to have Sophia climb Khufu’s Pyramid. Yukio didn’t want to climb the Pyramid, seeing himself as unworthy of it after losing, and Sophia didn’t want to go it alone.

They traveled to the city of Assiut to spend the night, a modest city in the middle of Egypt. The streetlights lit the city’s universities, mosques, and hotels, making them stand out against the lonely, starless, dark sky. Mathias bawled how hungry he was, desperate to find a pizzeria in Egypt, so they searched everywhere they could for one.

The city crawled with militia, as Heishin wanted to cement his control of the land, which meant putting down any counter revolutionary insurgents. At one point Maya, Yukio, and Sophia lost their way and saw such a ghastly sight tucked back in a small street alley. A platoon of soldiers brought a three blindfolded men, throwing them in front of the platoon’s lieutenant. They spoke entirely in Arabic so our protagonists couldn’t understand them. But they could understand the body language. The soldiers tortured the men, beating them, hitting them with their guns, and breaking their fingers. The men finally snapped and seemed to confess something while pleading for their lives. The lieutenant shouted an order and the soldiers shot the men dead in their heads, leaving their bodies in the alley.

Sophia clasped her mouth in horror, almost in tears at the sight of murder. Maya and Yukio could only gaze at the sight, shocked and disturbed, but only briefly. Sophia nearly whelped out loud, but it was enough to make Maya and Yukio panic, fearing the soldiers would see them. They grabbed Sophia’s mouth and hand and fled as quickly as they could, hoping they wouldn’t be followed.

They met Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy in one of the main streets of the city. “Woah, you guys OK? You look like you saw someone got murdered.” Maximus said.

Maya, Yukio, and Sophia looked at each other and nonverbally decided it was best not to talk about it.

Both teams found a pizzeria in the more westernized part of town and Mathias finally got his fresh massive load of buffalo chicken pizza. Everyone else chowed down on the same dish, almost like Mathias was their leader. The pizza was very strong and filling. It made everyone much happier.

“You guys can’t be a bunch of counterculture rebel duelists with an empty stomach?” Mathias joked to the gang. “Better?

Maya, Yukio, and Sophia nodded. “Better.”

In good spirits, Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy told Maya, Yukio, and Sophia of their many stories and exploits. They hailed from California as the Saints, a secretive group of top class duelists who offset their opponents with unusual decks. They loved to challenge arrogant champions like Matthew and kick them to the curb to show how much they really sucked. They even made one former world champion cry.

“Ah, dueling to live by.” Maya commented before taking a bite of tasty pizza.

They told of their heroic deeds: stopping Set and his gang of Eternal Hunters, putting down the renegade Shinobi, a former Saint who let his resentment and arrogance corrupt him to darkness. They defeated Venom, Set’s understudy, and sealed the demon Loki back where he came from. When the Furies descended on the dueling world, the Saints took the mantle again and defeated them, gaining Ivy as a new member along the way. Finally, they defeated the monk Apep who masterminded all prior events.

“So what about you guys?” Ivy asked. She was usually the quiet one.

Maya and Yukio laughed awkwardly. Compared to the mighty deeds of these Saints their resumes were rather small. Still, they told their story. Originally, Maya and Yukio were part of Team Dark Duelists with JC as their leader. They defeated Matthew’s cronies who wanted to monopolize the metagame for their power-hungry and ideological ends. Then JC betrayed them for the sake of power and turned Team Dark Duelists into another corporate contracted team. It was up to Maya to wreck Matthew in the 2005 Nationals, which she did with extreme prejudice.

“I take it you’re new to the gang?” Ivy asked Sophia, who was also a quiet one.

“I just joined them before this tournament started. Before that Pegasus took me in to be one of his protégés. In Iceland I met Maya and Yukio. They seem like pretty nice guys.”

“You were taken in by Pegasus? That means you’re probably an orphan. Poor thing…”

Sophia said nothing to Ivy in return.

“How old are you guys? You seem pretty young.” Maximus asked the group.

Our team answered back. Maya was 22, Yukio was 23, while Sophia was 17.

“You’re only 17, Sophia? YOU’RE A BABY!” Mathias exclaimed as if he saw a cut puppy.

Sophia blushed. She hid her hands inside her sleeves and then used her sleeves to hide her face. She was embarrassed but also liked getting the warmth and attention.

At this point everyone was stuffed and the waiters cleared the table. Mathias proposed a little fun game where everyone put down each other’s favorite card on the table and talk about their futures. “Where will you go in life once the tournament is over?”

Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy, produced their cards: Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8, Swordswoman Crusader LV7, and Dual Vapor Dragon. They all said they planned on going back to California after the tournament and keep being the Saints.

It was now Maya’s, Sophia’s, and Yukio’s turn. Yukio went first. He put down his favorite card: Number 39: Utopia. “This card represents to me hope, fighting spirit, and infinite possibilities. I duel professionally and try to get a band off the ground, but my main job is middle management. If we win this tournament I’ll use the winnings to get my band off the ground. I don’t want to duel forever. I want to be a rock musician and a comedian. I hope that happens one day.” He was about to mention returning back to his family to apologize to his mother, but he didn’t. He vowed to himself he would do that.

Sophia put down her card: Fortune Lady Light. “I like her because she is innocent and pure. She is a sage who sees far and wide. She is strong but graceful. Even when angry or scared or against the odds, she never loses her will or hope. After the tournament I want to complete my schooling under Pegasus. I want to study Russian Literature and Photography either in Russia or in America. I want to become a photojournalist, to show what’s happening in the world, to make people think, and to make them better people.”

It was Maya’s turn, but she didn’t know what card to pick. She admitted she didn’t know what her favorite card was. Her thoughts about her future were as nebulous. She thought it was best to figure things out peace by peace, so she started with how she got here. “After I won the Nationals in 2005, I went to the University of Chicago to get degrees in Urban Studies and Music. I succeeded but I couldn’t go to the graduation ceremony. I worked odd jobs and tried to make ends meet as a pro duelist, but it wasn’t easy. I didn’t use any heat for the winter.” She was even homeless, living in a shelter for a few weeks.

Maya paused for a minute, thinking of where to go now. “I don’t want to be a concert pianist and I don’t feel I can make money composing. I was thinking of even joining Yukio’s band. But at the same time I have an obligation to fix American society and help people. I could be an activist or anthropologist, maybe both. I have two doors to my future, but they’re shut, not open. I don’t feel hope.”

“Why not?” Yukio asked gently.

“I compose mostly classical music, music people don’t pay for anymore. My music is clever but I don’t let my feelings through, writing what I really want to write about. I’m thinking of ways to write music in new ways, to integrate classical music in a new style, to put together musical forms in new ways to tell a story, and find ways to put my feelings onto paper. I wish I could do the last step, but there is…” She knew the answer but didn’t say it. It was a wall in her heart. If she let it open, she would be naked, and a river of pain would flow in. It would be chaotic and horrible.

“As an activist, I would always fight a war against the ‘system’ or whatever you want to call it. Once the ‘system’ is destroyed I won’t have anything left to do. I need to fight the ‘system’. I want to win and fight like I want to win, but at the same time I don’t want to actually win even though I really want to win, if that makes any sense.”

Yukio offered his explanation, “You always need to be the rebel. You define yourself not by what you actually like but what you hate, and then mold yourself to oppose what you hate. But if you actually win and what you advocate becomes a trend then you’ll need to fight against the very trend you started. When you want to be an activist you care more about this need you have than actual people needing help.”

“Yeah, that’s true…” Maya had no choice but to admit it.

Sophia decided to overcome her shyness and chime in with her own thoughts. “I do some music myself. I’m an alto singer. There is a quote from Mozart that basically says, ‘Genius doesn’t come from complexity or a fancy imagination but from love.’ You don’t have love, but most people don’t anyway. Love isn’t an infatuation you instantly get and have forever. Love is something that grows. It is a way of maturing and appreciating things and learning how to live. Love is something you learn.”

Maya widened her eyes ever so slightly but it said everything. It was a revelation. But Maya then denied it. “I don’t feel so optimistic about things. I have so much weight on me, the crushing burden, my forehead and chest feel crushed and sometimes feel I can’t breath. I wish I could just take the burden off but I can’t and I wouldn’t want to even if I could, because I have to. And is it even worth it? People can’t change even if they want to. The world will always be a brutal place and people will always be self-deluding hypocrites. It is rational to see life as the farce that it is and maybe just take your own life to spare yourself the pain of living. What is irrational? Hope.”

A dismal silence set in. It lasted for several minutes and definitely threatened to kill lively spirit from earlier. “Sorry for killing the mood. I’m 22 and already I’m forced to become a philosopher.”

“Well, that was edgy.” Maximus said jokingly, breaking the silence. “You may want to join Linkin Park or maybe Black Sabbath if that is not edgy enough for you.”

Maya joined in on the joke. “Black Sabbath is a pussy band. You need to know your bands more. Ask Yukio.” She mockingly sang one of Linkin Park’s best songs, grabbing an imaginary microphone. “CRAAAAAWLING IIIN MY SKIIIIIN! THESE WOOOUUNDS THEY WIIIIILL NOT HEEEAAAAL! FEEEAAR IS HOOOOW I FAAAAAAALL!” She couldn’t do it anymore and broke down with a hearty laugh and everyone joined in.

Team Buffalo Chicken and Team Baby Blast Furnace crashed in the Partner Tut Hotel and wished each other a good night. The room had only two beds so Maya and Yukio slept together while Sophia slept in the next bed. Sophia drifted to sleep first, Yukio second, but Maya stayed awake for a little while longer.

She couldn’t help but think about the three blindfolded men, executed, shot in the back of the head. In truth it stayed on her mind during the entire pizza dinner but it wasn’t so noticeable. Now, in the most lonely, terrifying minutes of the day, where you are alone with only your thoughts, the men’s deaths consumed her.

It was the second time she saw someone die. The first was her mother, succumbing to lung cancer in a hospital when Maya was ten. She and father put warm blankets and pillows on mother and held her hands to comfort her as she made the final journey. Mother was stoic and happy in her final moments, never once confused. Father asked for mother’s forgiveness for the times he hit her and yelled at her and mother forgave him. Mother then asked Maya’s forgiveness for not being strong enough to pursue her dreams and for not protecting Maya enough. Maya said there was no need for forgiveness for no offense was given. Maya watched her mother’s death rattle and saw the light leave her mother’s eyes.

What did it mean to die? Sometimes she thought death was a precious relief from the pain of living. It was sweeter than going to bed at last after a very long day. At other times she was scared of it, scared of not existing, scared of losing consciousness forever, scared of the infinite blackness. Or did your entire life unfold at your last moment and you floated in the sea of your memories forever? In either case, was there a moment of judgment where your whole life appears before you and all answers revealed themselves? Were you a good person? Did you do the right things? Did you live your life well?

How do you face your final moment? It was almost like you had to spend your whole life preparing for it. It seemed that you not only needed to know how to live but also know how to die.

As Maya slipped into the darkness of sleep, she envied people who didn’t dream. She often did, and they were always strange places. Sometimes they were merely disturbing, sometimes nightmares, but never pleasant. Strange lands… Like how she wrote music… Like dreams…

New Sonata Form

A while back I published a blog on how all the musical keys reflected a certain color or character, referencing Goethe’s color wheel. You can find it here:

Now I want to discuss about how to use these keys in a new sonata form, my sonata form for my future music. Sonata form was an ubiquitous way Classical and Romantic composers wrote instrumental music Just as…

Fictional books have:
Introduction à rising action à climax à denouement

Plays have:
Act I (introducing characters and plot) à Act II (darkest moments or greatest problems) à Act III (climax and resolution)

Theses generally have:
Introduction à body of research à analysis à conclusion

Hero’s Journey has:
Hero leaves hometown à hero navigates strange land to fight a rival or monster à hero dies or goes through a lowest point à hero defeats rival or monster and returns to hometown

Similarly, sonata form follows a similar narration or argumentation. It is in binary form, which means it is divided in two parts (that may or may not repeat). It starts with a theme in a home key. Ze modulates (or changes) to another theme in another key and makes some closing statements in that same key. Ze goes through a development section (where the composer changes different keys and explores the musical material). In the recapitulation where ze restates the two themes but everything is back in the home key. Ze then concludes the piece.

Most Classical and Romantic instrumental music comes in four movements, or parts. The first movement is usually the most complicated, and is said to represent strife or argumentation. The second movement is slower and gentler, and is said to represent thought. The third movement is faster and more playful, and is said to represent play. The fourth movement is usually as fast as the first movement if not faster, and is said to represent a conclusion or rejoining with the community.

Sonata form and movements were typically composed this way. I will use C major as the home key.

Sonata form:
1st theme – C major
2nd theme – G major
Development – (Any key)
1st theme recap – C major
2nd theme recap – C major

1st movement – C major
2nd movement – F major
3rd movement – C major
4th movement – C major

Sonata form and movements in minor keys typically went this way:

Sonata form:
1st theme – c minor
2nd theme – Eb major
Development – (Any key)
1st theme recap – c minor
2nd theme recap – C major

1st movement – c minor
2nd movement – Eb major
3rd movement – c minor
4th movement – c minor

I want to recreate sonata form for myself. I want my keys to relate to major and minor thirds, both in sonata form and between movements. It is more versatile, covers much more of the keyboard, and is more exciting.

I will show two different key progressions: one in C major progressing in intervals of major thirds, the other in c minor progressing in intervals of minor thirds. These keys are not meant to be set in stone, but they give me an idea of how to write new music.

I will show two versions of sonata form. The first version is the usual sonata form I just showed you. The second version is sonata form where the development is greatly fused with the 1st theme recap or the development doesn’t exist at all.

For major keys…

Sonata form (1st version):
1st theme – C major
2nd theme – E Major
Development – Ab/ab maj/min
1st theme recap – C major
2nd theme recap – A major
Coda – C major

Sonata form (2nd version):
1st theme – C major
2nd theme – E Major
Dev/1st recap – Ab/ab maj/min
2nd theme recap – C major
Coda – C major

1st movement – C Major
2nd movement – Eb major
3rd movement – A/a maj/min
4th movement – C Major

For minor keys…

Sonata form (1st version):
1st theme – c minor
2nd theme – Eb major
Development – F#/f# maj/min
1st theme recap – a minor
2nd theme recap – C major
Coda – c minor

Sonata form (2nd version):
1st theme – c minor
2nd theme – Eb major
Dev/1st recap – F#/f# maj/min
2nd theme recap – A major
Coda – c minor

1st movement – c minor
2nd movement – A major
3rd movement – Eb/eb maj/min
4th movement – c minor

There are still yet other key combinations. My second idea is to play all of the keys in sonata form and movements as I showed above, except in reverse order. So in sonata form it would go like C à Ab à E/e à C à C for major keys and c à A à F#/f# à eb à C à c for minor keys.

My only concern is with the order of my minor keys. I worry that if the 1st theme recap is not in the home key (c minor in this case) it won’t create the adequate feeling of homecoming so essential in sonata form, or at least most versions of it. If this is the case, then I have a slightly altered plan as backup:

Sonata form (1st version):
1st theme – c minor
2nd theme – Eb major
Development – F#/f# maj/min
Retransition – a minor
1st theme recap – c minor
2nd theme recap – C major
Coda – c minor

I hope I can try this out with my music soon. Let’s see how it turns out.

Dream Diary: Weird Stuff and Heroism

I had many dreams where I was at Ecole Classique, my old high school, and in this dream I was there again. Strange this is when I am at Ecole in my dreams the place hardly looks like the Ecole I actually went to. It always looks cleaner and more professional. The classes are more advanced and I sometimes even struggle in them. Sometimes I meet a few classmates in my dreams but usually I meet teachers and staff a lot more.

Anyway, I was to attend some kind of seminar in the school, in a room with many comfortable white sofas. However, the meeting wasn’t until noon and I woke up at around 8am so I had a lot of time to kill. So I kept visiting a friend in his small apartment on occasion. He wanted to apparently turn the refrigerator into some kind of building for miniature people. We did so. – The fridge inexplicably became more like a wooden cupboard in the process. It’s a dream, dude. – We finished but then decided we wanted to change it. We wanted to make the cupboard twice as thick to house more people but sacrifice some of its height. It was extra work but we did so.

I kept going back and forth between checking up on the seminar and helping my friend. At around 12pm I finally stayed at the seminar because it began already. I was a little bit late. I have no idea what the seminar was about. I knew my old headmaster, Mr. Sal, was there, complete with a fedora and suit.

Then I became a third person viewer, a floating invisible eye, like the camera recording a movie. Most of the time I am in this state. Anyway, I was a third person viewer and I watched the bumbling antics of Darth Maul and Savage Oppress. For those not familiar, they are two zabrak brothers from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series that try to create a criminal empire but are stopped by Palpatine, the reigning Dark Lord. I don’t remember too much except Anakin, Ahsoka, and Yoda stop them in a white, sterilized building.

Somewhere along the way I ended up in a campus library, except this campus was in the Dark World, an “evil” world ruled by the dark side of the force or something like that. I became a first person actor in my dream again and I tried to run away from this world. I ran in the city streets, meeting all sorts of “evil” people. They were simply a little aggressive and cynical, though. Nothing more.

Now I become Disney’s Hercules going on adventures. I go with a bunch of companions to slay the hydra. I killed it before, using only a sword, and even then it wasn’t too hard. Now it would be breeze, especially since I had a chainsaw of all things. – The hydra lunged at me and with the chainsaw I cut straight through its face in the middle, then sliced the head from the body. So my companions and me killed the hydra easily.

I am still Hercules and this is the final and most important scene in my dream. A queen and king came. The queen was on a sled with her baby. She said the tiny child was sick. I decided to make that child smile. I took something from a tree and went over to the child so it could see my face. The infant beamed up at me. The queen thanked me dearly. She said the child in its illness lost all hope. I made that child smile for the first time since forever and I gave it a ray of hope.

YGO COP 2: Duel 12 – Battle Couples And A Couple Of Lessons

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m just going to call mina ivy from now on. Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy are main characters imported from spectre2300’s Path of Virtue series. Spectre and I are friends who import each other’s characters in our fanfiction.

“YOU THINK TODAY’S OVER!” Mathias shouted in his dramatic, over-the-top way, “WE CALL DIBS ON DUELING THE WINNERS!”

Maya immediately stood up. The duel fired her up too. “I’ll take the challenge. Yukio and Sophia are worn out but I’m fresh.” This was a blatant lie as she was still tired from dueling in the City of the Dead last night.

“Agreed, but only on one condition.” Maximus added. “We’ll duel you guys in a tag team. But this time we ante only one Item Card. I don’t want to completely soil your victory, and we have only one Item Card anyway.”

Maya was about to make the nine thousandth sarcastic remark of her life when she stopped in her tracks in her mind. “ – wait, how did you not get any Item Cards?”

Maximus and Ivy blushed a burning red in complete embarrassment and pointed at Mathias. He swiftly turned around, booming, “All I wanted was some buffalo chicken pizza! Was that too much to ask?”

Maya made a facepalm more massive than the Pyramids behind her. “Buffalo chicken pizza… In Egypt…” No wonder they didn’t get any Item Cards. “Absolutely halal.”

“Now before you go about making Internet memes from 2015 in 2009 to sound edgy just to become outdated by the time this book is published, we, Team Buffalo Chicken, will decide who goes first.” Maximus quipped.

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ll understand later, Maya. Then everything will make sense.” Maximus rejoined his comrades to decide who would duel. ”ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS! ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS! Damnit! That doesn’t work!” They found another method and Mathias conceded the duel to Maximus and Ivy, grumbling about not being able to duel without his proper fuel.”

Yukio stretched himself on the sand before joining Maya by her side. “I’ll duel with you instead of Sophia. It’s better than way.” Maya didn’t plan on making Sophia her partner anyway. The poor kid just had the duel of her life. She needed a nap for all Maya knew.

The same crowd from last duel stayed put, hungry for yet another duel. Maximus and Ivy loaded their own unique duel disks. They were shaped like Christian crosses when folded but when unbuckled the sides assembled into a board to put cards on. Maximus bellowed, ‘LET’S ROCK!”

Team Baby Blast Furnace: 16000 || Team Buffalo Chicken 16000

YUKIO’S TURN: “Here goes nothing!” Yukio is itching for a fight already, but as his blood boils in passion something dark and cold knocks on the door behind him. The old spectre of guilt seeps through the door. The old boiler room of the family restaurant becomes painfully visible again. Yukio also feels a different pressure right in front of him. Maximus and Ivy are one of the best duelists ever. He needs to play something big and strong! Now!

“I Summon Summoner Monk.” The heavily robed Taoist priest appears and crouches down in Defense Position due to its effect.

Ivy, tight as a coil, watching every twitch Yukio makes, springs into action. “Perfect, I discard Maxx “C” from my hand. Each time you Special Summon a monster, I draw a card. Will you complete your combo and take the Maxx “C” challenge?”

“Don’t do it, Yukio!” Maya warns, thrusting her palm in his direction for emphasis. “You’ll give them the tools to beat us!”

But Yukio desperately wanted to chase away the dark cloud inside of him. The light of creative freedom was the only way. “For Summoner Monk’s effect, I discard a Spell andSummon Heroic Challenger – Thousand Blades!” A warrior in iron armor straddling over a dozen swords on its back heeds the call. “I activate Thousand Blades, discarding a Heroic monster to Summon Heroic Challenger – Extra Swords, and with his summoning I activate Inferno Reckless Summon to Summon two more from my Deck.” A lightweight warrior with barely any armor, wielding two light swords, appears, joined by two exact copies.

“I overlay all my warriors to Xyz Summon Number 86: Heroic Champion Rhongomyniad!” His heroic warriors collapse and join together into a dance of light, bringing forth a mighty new warrior wielding a huge sword and shielded in white armor. It’s ATK shoots from its original 1500 to 6000 from its own effect and all the Extra Swords overlaid to bring it out. “Rhongomyniad has four Xyz Materials, you and Ivy can’t Summon anything next turn.”

MAYA’S TURN: Maya eyes Maximus and Ivy with suspicion. Sure they are a bunch of fun guys who call themselves Team Buffalo Chicken but don’t they also go by another name: The Saints? They sound too much like Matthew’s own former team, the Shining Crusaders. Are they affiliated with him? Do they have his same self-righteous hypocrisy and his need to turn the game into only one way of dueling? Maya had been a pro for only four years and already she met enough people who wanted to the turn the game into a hegemonic hive mind for one lifetime.

Her father – a shadowy form of him, a petty disgusting creature – crawls into her brain. The world looks darker and she feels awful. The petty creature whispers into her ear how she unworthy, abnormal, defective. The volcano inside her boils again, building pressure under the surface. Unfortunely, her hand gives her little opportunity to vent her frustration.

“I Summon Spinodon and set 3 cards facedown.” The orange-colored, fiery dinosaur stomps its feet to announce its presence. “You’re move, Maximus.”

MAXIMUS’ TURN: Right after Maximus draws, Maya springs her trap. “Macrocosmos!” She shouts.

Now it’s Yukio’s turn to protest. “No! I need monsters in my Graveyard. You’re disrupting my strategy.”

“Disrupting their strategy is more important. It probably hurts them a lot more.” Maya reasons back.

Ivy can’t help herself so she seizes the opportunity to crack a joke. “Uh-oh! Is there trouble in paradise!? Are the married couple fighting?”

Maximus heartily laughs at the joke and carries out his turn. “I set a monster and three cards facedown. You go, love.” He passes the turn to Ivy.

IVY’S TURN: “Alright, not much I can do. I set a monster and three cards.”

Yukio detaches Extra Sword from Rhongomyniad, but it is banshed.

YUKIO’S TURN: “Rhongomyniad, slice and dice Maximus’ facedown!” Yukio orders. His swordsman throws his huge sword at the card, slicing it and the monster underneath it, what looked like Kagemusha of the Six Samurai. OK, Maximus is running a Six Samurai deck. Nothing Rhongomyniad can’t handle. “I end my turn.”

MAYA’S TURN: Maya’s hand is nothing impressive. The whole Dino Rabbit + Spinodon combo seems to clog the deck up. The normal monsters were making her deck slow. “I summon Zsa Zsu.” The colorful ancestor of birds leaps into play, with an ATK of 1600. “Zsa Zsu, attack her facedown!”

As the lithe dinosaur leaps to pounce on its target, Ivy springs her trap. “I activate Sinister Shadow Games and Mysterical Space Typhoon.” The typhoon comes first, sweeping away Maya’s Macro Cosmos. With Ivy’s cards safe from the banished zone, she can safely send her Shaddolls to the Graveyard, where they thrive. She sends Shadoll Dragon to the Graveyard ands flips Shadoll Squamata face-up. “Squamata goes first, destroying Spinodon and Dragon goes next, destroying your face-down.” She snaps her fingers with a fatal finality. “Pop! Pop!” And both of Maya’s cards are gone.

“More Shaddolls. Great.” Maya says, half in frustration and half in jest.

“You won’t get anywhere with that angry sarcastic attitude young lady.” Ivy chastises, wagging her finger playfully.

“Are you kidding me? Angry sarcasm was my first language. I learned Serbian, English, Nonchalant Cool As*hole, Pig Latin, and Internet Speak long afterward. It worked in high school and college, both in and out the dueling arena.”

“Let’s see it work in this duel. You can’t reject and attack your way out of everything.”

Maya sees Ivy’s remark as a challenge. She accepts. “I’ll show you! I activate Kaiser Coliseum. I end my turn.”

MAXIMUS’ TURN: “AWW YEAH!!! I’ve always wanted to pull this combo!” He shouts in glee. “Let’s go! Yukio, you’re not the only one who runs bada*s Utopias! I do too! I activate two Six Samurai United, one from my field and one from my hand!” The two continuous spell cards materialize, glowing with a neon-colored energy. “I summon The Six Samurai – Zanji.” A strikingly red-armored cyborg samurai appears, ready for battle, as two neon orb form and float above his United cards, one each. “I Special Summon Legendary Six Samurai Kizan because of his effect.” A new cyborg samurai, this one in black and green, marches into play, and two more orbs appear. “With two counters, I can send both United cards to the Graveyard and draw two each.” With that, he draws four cards.

Yukio is impressed by Maximus’ plays. “You want to swarm the field as desperately as a college freshman wants to get laid.”

“That was a pretty funny joke, but not quite. Yukio, you swarmed the field too quickly, like you wanted to take the game right away. You need to be more patient than that. I don’t know why you did it. You maybe wanted to flashy, were scared of me and Ivy, or you wanted to take something off of your mind.”

Yukio swiftly shakes his head as soon as he heard “take something off your mind”, confirming Maximus’ suspicions. His dead father reappears from the shadows of his mind and the fight they had in the restaurant boiler room all those years ago. If only he didn’t shout and leave his father he may be alive… The last thing he did was curse his father and slam the door behind him… What a terrible thing to do…

Maybe Maximus and Ivy do not know what’s going on, but Maya does. The winter after Maya, Yukio, Jolene, and JC graduated high school, Yukio told his father, straight up, he wanted to go to Borough of Manhattan Community College and become a musician. His father violently rejected it. Yukio needed to look after the family restaurant and since he was an only child no one else could do it. And how would he afford to live as a musician? Yukio cursed his father and left. Later that night the boiler room exploded, killing his father. Now Yukio only has his mom left, the same way Maya only has her dad left.

She needs to get Yukio and the duel back on track. If Maximus wanted to play mind games he went too far. “Hey you! Wannabe warrior therapist!” Maya shouts at Maximus. “If you want to pretend to understand people go to college and university for four plus years! Get back to the duel, Dime Store Freud!”

Yukio snaps out of it, his concentration back where it should be.

“Oh you really are a special case, Ms. Prickly.” Maximus addresses to Maya. “Am I right, Ivy? Anyway,” he now addresses Yukio. “Back to the duel! Now things can really kick into motion. I activate Xyz Change Tactics. I overlay Zanji and Kizan to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia.” The two samurais disappear into a black hole, building the bridge for Utopia to cross over, and Utopia arrived. “Each time I Xyz Summon a Utopia monster, I pay 500 Life Points and draw a card.”

“This is only the beginning, folks. I overlay Utopia to Summon Number C39: Utopia Ray, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Up-Magic Limited Barian’s Force, overlaying Utopia Ray to Summons Number C39: Utopia Ray V, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Down-Magic Numeron Fall to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia again, and draw 1. I Xyz Summon Number C39: Utopia Ray, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force, to overlay Utopia Ray to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia Beyond, and draw 1.” Maximus’ latest monster looks similar to the rest of the Utopia crew, except with more advanced black and white space armor and with huge nanotech gold metal wings resting on its shoulders. It is a sight to behold!

Maya is as impressed as Yukio is, but she and Yukio have a duel to win. “That’s a pretty neat combo but I have to stop it in its tracks. Bottomless Trap Hole!” A tunnel that appears endlessly deep, full of lost ghosts, gapes open right underneath Utopia Beyond. “I activate My Body As A Shield.” Maximus counters quickly, losing 1500 Life Points in the process. The tunnel to the infinite abyss below closes as quickly as it opened. Maya releases her tongue from the roof of her mouth, creating the “Tch!” sound familiar in disappointed duelists.

As hard as it seems to believe it, Maximus still has a long way to go with his turn. “I activate Rank-Down-Magic Numeron Fall to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia again, and draw 1. I Xyz Summon Number C39: Utopia Ray, and draw 1. I activate Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force, to overlay Utopia Ray to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia Beyond, and draw 1.” Utopia Beyond fires a futuristic gun at Yukio and Maya’s monsters, zapping them both. Rhongomyniad easily deflects the shock, but Zsa Zsu is hit very hard. “And finally – yes! – I play Stoic Challenge! Utopia Beyond has no less than 10 Xyz Materials!” The space warrior sparks and glows with golden, divine power, its ATK soaring to 9000!”

“AWWWW YEAAAAHH!!!” Maximus almost jumps up and down in glee. He even tries to do it but the Egyptian sand gives way and he almost falls on his face. “Now, Yukio, it is time to talk to my monster. Prepare for some electroshock therapy! Utopia Beyond, slay Yukio’s Rhongomyniad!” Maximus’ and Yukio’s two monsters, their two wills clash violently! They jousted, crashing into each other as medieval knights in the old days, and Yukio’s monster falls to the ground and shatter. Yukio feels the devastating shock of the attack, falling on the sand, receiving the doubled damage from Stoic Challenge. (Baby Blast Furnace LP: 16000 – 6000 = 10000)

Maximus finally concludes his turn, “I set three cards and end my turn.” Stoic Challenge vanishes from the field, taking Utopia Beyond with it. He has no monsters on his field. (Buffalo Chicken LP 10000)

IVY’S TURN: Ivy points her finger at Maya. “Now to deal with you, young lady!”

“You’d better deal with me!” Maya parries back. “Maximus would have won the duel if he attacked my Zsa Zsu. I was defenseless.” Maya has a hunch why Maximus spared her.”

“Yes, you were, but as you said when you claimed the American Nationals, it’s not about winning. It’s about sending a message. Maximus sent a message to Yukio. Now I will send my message to you, Ms. Prickly.”

She ponders her next move but it doesn’t take long as she is done in a few seconds. “I activate Spell-Shattering Arrow.” A brilliant arrow shoots from her card, piercing through Maya’s face-up Kaiser Coliseum and to her heart. Maya gasped, clutched her chest tightly for dear life. (Baby Blast Furnace 10000 à 9500) “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“You’re not the only antimeta duelist around town. Antimeta is great, especially yours, but it’s not enough. Your antimeta is too obvious. You treat your opponents the same way you treated your opponents in the past who ran Chaos Control, Dark Armed Dragon, and Monarchs. But duelists around the world are different. It’s not America in 2005 anymore. You’re still angry and contemptuous towards the same people, and that ironically blinds you from opposing the ‘system’ in better ways.”

Maya remembers all the times her father demeaned and hit her. She remembers when he called her “defective” because she couldn’t talk until she was three and asked a doctor if she was “insane” because she imagined and played too vividly as a small child. And there were the bruises, when he threw his anger and anxieties at her and mother, and she would cover up the bruises at school the next day. She held the smoldering anger in her until it hurt. She stole money from other children and sometimes even hit them.

Sometimes, she played the piano and composed her earliest music, releasing some of the pent up steam. She would join the boys and take on their challenges. But sometimes that wasn’t enough and she would explode. She once got expelled and father hit her very hard. Mother died shortly after the family moved to America. Maya wished ever since she could have somehow protected mother from dying as mother always protected her from father’s angry words and fists. She felt so helpless… but how could she stop an enraged man over six feet tall let alone lung cancer…

America was so different from Serbia. Whenever she earned As at school, got into a top college, composed great music, and climbed her way up the dueling world some prick assumed she got ahead through some quota or another. A few times police nearly arrested her for things she didn’t do. When she was assaulted twice, once in high school and once in college, the administrators told her it was her fault. The message to her was always clear. “You are an intrinsically inferior human being and unworthy of dignity.”

And who told her this message the most? The first person she often thought about was Matthew. People like Matthew: vicious, smug hypocrites, absorbed in their “superiority”, who tried to destroy anyone who was different because of their fear, ignorance, and resentment. They embodied an entire way of life that Maya reviled to its very core. To her the metagame isn’t just a way people played Yugioh. It is a way people lived.

All of these troublesome thoughts and associations flood Maya’s mind in an instant. She has seen them so often before. She is that familiar with all of them. To make things worse, Ivy is far from done with her turn.

“I Summon Denko Sekka!” Ivy declares as a samurai in electric blue armor takes its stance. “And I banish Squamata from my Grave to Summon White Dragon Wyverbuster.” An apparition of Ivy’s doll lizard evaporates and a blue dragon emerges from the smoke.

Maya can’t help but make a tongue-in-cheek remark. “Denko would’ve been much more useful last turn, huh.”

“You’re the one who is in trouble, not me.” Ivy retorts. “Denko, turn that ancient chicken Zsa Zsu into nice Thanksgiving dinner.” The samurai easily kills the dinosaur. Off with its head! “And Wyverbuster, attack Maya directly!” The blue dragon vomits a torrent of white light from its mouth, hitting Maya squarely in the chest.

Yukio has been waiting all turn to use Thousand Blades’ effect and now was the time. “Since my partner took damage, I resurrect Thousand Blades from the Graveyard.” And sure enough, Yukio’s multi-sword wielding warrior returns.

“I set two cards. You’re turn.” Ivy concludes. (Baby Blast Furnace LP 9500 à 6000)

YUKIO’S TURN: “Having two Double Lance in my hand isn’t so great.” Yukio thinks to himself. “But I’ll have to manage.” To Maya he says, “So far we didn’t cooperate. Now we need to work together if we want to take back the game. We have to put aside our issues to win.” Maya silently agrees.

“’kay, I Summon Heroic Challenger – Assault Halberd.” A tall knight in dark robes and with a long sword appears. “I overlay Thousand Blades and Assault Halberd to Xyz Summon Blade Armor Ninja.” His two warriors make way for a new one: a dark-armored ninja with two huge daggers. “I detach Thousand Blades so Armor Ninja can attack twice.” One of the ninja’s electron-like orbs, so often seen with Xyz monsters, absorbs itself into the body. “Ninja, take out Ivy’s monsters!” Armor Ninja deftly throws its two daggers at the dragon and samurai, swiftly eliminating them. (Buffalo Chicken LP 9500 à 9000) “I set a card. Turn end.”

MAYA’S TURN: “I may have only one card left but I can still do a lot of damage. You’ll be surprised how much I can do.”

“I never doubted either of your skills. It’s you beyond the game that is the problem.” Maximus says to both to Yukio and Maya.

“I activate Instant Fusion, paying 1000 Life Points to Summon Elder God Noden.” What looks like a ramen can opens, releasing its smoke. The fog congests into a Poseidon-like deity wielding a triton and driving a chariot. “And it can bring back a monster from my Graveyard. Welcome back, Spinodon!” The red and orange frilled dinosaur reappears. (Baby Blast Furnace LP 7700 à 6700) Now I overlay them to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia and overlay it to Xyz Summon Number S39: Utopia the Lightning.” The space warrior emerges from the collapsed void before upgrading a more heavily armored version of itself.

“Utopia Prime, attack Maximus and Ivy directly!” Maya declares, and her space warrior zooms to the opponent’s field, striking both squarely in the torso. (Buffalo Chicken LP 9000 à 6500)

“Oof!” Maximus gasps for air. “That was a strong attack.” Maya also stopped him from triggering his traps during battle because of her monster’s effect. “But on your Main Phase 2 I activate Xyz Reborn, I bring back my own Utopia and my trap becomes an Xyz Material!” Maximus’ own space warrior returns. (Buffalo Chicken LP 9000 à 6500)

“Thanks for the compliment, but it wasn’t needed. I end my turn.”

MAXIMUS’ TURN: “Now it’s my turn to Summon my own Number S39: Utopia the Lightning!” Maximus’ monster gets its own upgrade. “And I Summon Legendary Six Samurai Kageki, and with its effect I Summon Kagemusha of the Six Samurai from my hand.” Two new samurais, one green-armored, staunch, and barrel-chested, and the other red-armored, small, and thin take the field in arms. “I tune Kageki and Kagemusha to Synchro Summon Legendary Six Samurai – Shi En.” His two samurais got on the same wavelength, merging to form a mighty red samurai of high rank.

Yukio senses in the instant what Maximus wants to do. He wants to suicide his Utopia into Maya’s! “I activate Breakthrough Skill!” It is his only chance to do so. “Utopia’s effect is negated.” And surely it was. Utopia seems to wince under a cramp as its body briefly glows a malevolent red.

“It’s not it’s gonna’ help anyway.” Maximus sees the confusion on Yukio’s face so he clarifies, “Both mine and Maya’s Utopias stop each other from using our effects. Sorry kiddo, but no cigar.” He commands, “Shi En, butcher Armored Ninja!” Yukio’s ninja tries to resist but it’s futile. The august red samurai is too quick, slashing through its torso. (Baby Blast Furnace LP 6500 à 6200)

“Since we took damage I resurrect Thousand Blades.” Yukio interjects, and his warrior once more returns.

Maximus doesn’t pay attention. His sights are on Maya alone. “You ready, Ms. Prickly!” Maximus calls to Maya. “I’m going to give your space ranger the ride of his life! Utopia, attack!”

“Analyze this, Dime Store Freud!” Maya shoots back. “Utopia, attack!” Their monsters charge straight for each other. They smash together, exploding in a terrific atomic blast that almost knocks everyone off their feet, even the spectators! Everyone coughs from the Egyptian sand, since the two Utopias almost created a desert storm when they clashed into each other.

Maximus says, “I set a card. Ivy, their field is clear. Take it away!”

IVY’S TURN: Ivy winks at Maximus and gives him a thumbs-up. “With pleasure. I Summon Madolche Mewfueille, which lets me Summon Madolche Anjelly.” A small cat appears followed by a girl with a cute pink dress and candy in her hair. “I tribute Anjelly to Summon Madolche Hootcake from my Deck.” The girl disappears, replaced by an owl clasping a candy cane in its beak. “I use Hootcake to banish Anjelly from my Graveyard to Summon Madolche Messagelato and use its effect to add Madolche Chateau to my hand.” A youthful mailman in nostalgic formal attire arrives. The new Kaiba Corp. duel disk ejects a card from Ivy’s deck to her hand, something all the new duel disks do.

“I activate Madolche Chateau.” The spell card transports all the duelists and spectators into a rich candy land, far away from the ancient, barren Egyptian dessert. A massive ginger bread mansion looms in the background. “All my Madolches gain 500 ATK and DEF, and if any of them are to return to my Deck they go to my hand instead. “Moving on, I activate Instant Fusion to Special Summon Fusionist.” Ivy’s sealed ramen can pops open. Smoke spreads on her field and then condenses to form a black cat with wings and menacing red eyes. (Buffalo Chicken LP 6500 à 5500)

“I overlay Mewfeuille and Fusionist to Xyz Summon M-X-Saber Invoker.” The two beasts collapse to summon a swordsman with long red hair from another dimension. “And I use its effect to Summon another Madolche Messagelato and use its effect to add Madolche ticket to my hand.” Another mailman reports for duty and Ivy searches for another card.

Maya and Yukio both know they are probably done for this turn. The ice cold, stinging feeling of disappointment already sets in. But some hope stubbornly shines. Can they survive the turn and somehow turn things around?

Not a chance! “I activate Madolche Ticket.” Ivy says, “When a Madolche monster is returned to my Deck or hand I can add a Madolche monster from my Graveyard to my hand. That’s not all: If I control a Madolche monster, I can even Special Summon it. I overlay both Messagelatos to Xyz Summon Queen Tiaramisu.” The two mailmen jump into a newly formed void, which then disappears with the arrival of her Most Delicious Majesty, a queen in a dark gown with hair so luxuriant it looked edible. “I detach a Xyz Material to bounce you’re face-down card, Maya, and your Thousand Blades, Yukio.” The two cards return to their respective duelists’ hands.

“With Madolche Ticket I Summon Madolche Cruffsant.” A small, adorable lapdog with a tiny top hat hops into play. “I overlay Hootcake and Cruffsant to Xyz Summon Leviair the Sea Dragon, which I use to bring back my banished Madolche Anjelly.” The dimensional seadragon glides into play and with its breath opens a wormhole allowing Anjelly to return. “I tribute Anjelly again to Summon Madolche Messagelato from my Deck again.” The girl disappears replaced by Ivy’s third candy land mailman. Ivy searched for her final card: Madolche Lesson.

“Good game, Yukio, Maya. You two fought well but it’s over. Attack, my monsters!” Invoker slashes at Yukio and Maya, Leviair burns them, Messagelato throws a present box at them, which explodes, and the queen Tiaramisu casts a rainbow beam of light at them from her scepter. The collective strike ends the duel.

Team Baby Blast Furnace: 0 || Team Buffalo Chicken: 5500

The spectating crowd clapped loudly, cheering for all duelists, both winners and losers, just as they did for the last duel. Yukio and Maya knew they were outclassed by duelists far older and more experienced than they were. They humbly accepted the applause.

Maximus and Ivy shook Yukio and Maya’s hands. “That was a great duel. You both dueled with exceptional skill.” Matthew congratulated them with warmth and appreciation.

“Your dueling was just awesome. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Yukio admitted, while Maya said. “We have a lot of new strategies to learn. We’ll rebuild our decks so to become stronger than ever.” Yukio and Maya really started to appreciate Maximus and Ivy for their courtesy and kindness. Dueling was so often a cutthroat battle with bitter rivals who would do anything to win. But Maximus and Ivy actually made dueling fun and a positive experience again.

Yukio and Maya surrendered their Millennium Item Card, the Rod Card. New had four Item Cards left: the Puzzle Card they started out with, the Ring Card and Key Card Maya won, and the Key Card Sophia and Yukio won. They were more than halfway done but still had a long way to go. They reckoned things would especially get tough in the later stages of the tournament when few duelists would remain.

Mathias complained of his growling stomach and intruded from the audience. “I loved this duel and I’m really happy for you guys but can we get a pizza somewhere. We’re STAAAAARRRVIIIIIIIIIIIING!” Maximus, and Ivy laughed, Yukio shrugged, while Maya covered her face in pretend embarrassment.

Sophia took out a black shutter camera for she was very fond of photography and captured everything from the moment: Mathias’ bawdy laugh, Yukio’s puffed mouth, rolling eyes, and shrug, Maya’s laugh glittering behind the feigned embarrassment. They were frozen in time into timelessness, and Sophia loved that.

Dream Diary: Mario & Devils

I had some crazy dreams again. As usual my dreams happened in a series of episodes.

At the very, very beginning of my dreams I was some kind of celebrity or child star. I was with friends and we made up some kind of band for this one show (original word I wrote: presentation). During show time I did OK, nothing terribly good or bad. If my memory serves me well my friends were unreliable so I had to do everything.

In the next dream I was playing a very difficult hack of Super Mario 64 or a new Super Mario game that was very similar. The level had very little ground to stand on, as they were all objects floating on something that looked like water, but it wasn’t really water. Mario would get his but burned each time he touched it like it was lava. It may have been acid. It was a very frustrating level.

Out of the game I would walk down narrow city streets and small crammed shops. It looked like Chinatown. I have no idea why I was walking in a Chinatown-like place.

The last episode of my dreams was very strange. At first I was walking with friends in some kind of video game. We were climbing up a hill, through a forest, and we kept tripping over acorns of a certain color and with names on them or something like that. Whenever we tripped over a particular type of acorn a demon would swoop in and toss us down the hill.

Very quickly the demon transformed the whole landscape. It became like some kind of bedroom with huge proportions. My working desk was like a plateau and the bookshelves were like mountains. A lot of people (my friends?) managed to ascend as angels to the top of the highest bookshelf but I stayed behind on the ground with the demon. I think I was alone but maybe some people were down there with me too.

I would keep climbing up the desk and bookshelves to escape this monster but he kept dragging me back down. At one point he turned into a hurricane of fire, trapping me close to him. One time I managed to steal something from the demon and I managed to climb to the top of the highest bookshelf where all the people who fled him were. I presented the thing to them and told them to hang it in the heavens/ceiling. It was an asteroid or a star. I forgot its name. I was playing a rather Promethean role.

After that incident I became much better at avoiding the demon. I could easily jump away from him to flee him. On my desk I kept having to answer visual riddles where I had to guess the nature of something given nothing but it’s outline and a few objects as hints. The whole aesthetic felt very Super Paper Mario-ish. I woke up when I was trying to solve these riddles.