The two duelists stared each other down, Akira overseen by the two Ghouls behind him, Maya flanked by Yukio by her side. Maya felt her heart pound in anticipation and fear, yet also excitement at the extreme challenge before her while she felt her head build up in pressure from her wrath.
She hated Akira and everything he stood for. Privately trained in Japan’s finest Duel Academy and usually dressed in immaculate attire, he was a prodigy bred for success. With his hair fashionably died and spiked with gel, he looked more like an anime character than a real person.
At fifteen years old, he was already crowned World Champion. He breezed past every tournament, yet never really fought in them. His financial backers merely saved him a seat in the final round where he beat the last champion. But this time Kaiba and Pegasus hosted a real tournament, something they didn’t do in ages. The CEOs of Honda and Mitsubishi let their little boy out into the real world, thinking he was a grown man who would fight through his competition.
Of course they were did wrong, as was plain for Maya to see. She relished the sight of his torn clothes, his dirtied hair and face, the fear in his eyes most of all. He tried to look tough under the pressure but barely his true feelings. Maya suspected he feared facing her in a fair fight far more than the threats of the Ghouls leering behind him. It was a comforting thought, and helped stem Maya’s own fears.
To stem her fears even more, she forced herself to concentrate only on the game ahead. The Ghouls didn’t exist. The bombs on their neck didn’t exist. Heishin didn’t exist. Egypt didn’t exist. Her trials and anxieties didn’t exist. Only her opponent and her plan to completely break and own him existed.
“You ready for your big day, little man?” She called out to him across the necropolis wasteland. “Try not to cheat this time.”
Akira tried to posture himself as some aloof, dignified, important person like anime characters in the Yugioh TV shows often do, but failed miserably. “To think I have to face a low-level duelist like you! You are not even worth a fair challenge! You lack the soul of a true duelist!”
Typical. Was he sniveling just now? Maya agitated in her eagerness to school this fool at his own game. “Aww, how cute. Junior wants to play with the grown ups. You think you’re tough? I smacked around opponents ten times worse than you long before your balls dropped. What makes you think you’re any different?”
Akira was just about to make a comeback, probably some weak generic comeback about being a “true duelist”, whatever that meant, but Lumis cut him off. “He has us behind him and no prey of ours makes it out alive. Got it?”
“Pipe down you pot-bellied, skin-headed gimp.” Yukio shot back from across the wasteland. “Maybe you should leave the dueling for those of us without Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”
Now it was Maya’s turn to throw her barbs. “HEY BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD! Maybe you should face us intead of abducting little boys to do that for you, unless you goons into that sort of thing!”
Lumis definitely had a short fuse because it blew up right now. He angrily waved his remote controlled switch like a red flag. “You think you’re cute, you cheeky bitch? Watch me blow you to little bits right now, you motherfucker you!”
Umbra, the bigger, taller goon, grabbed Lumis’ short, stubby arms with his massive hands to restrain him. Lumis wriggled under his partner’s grasp, his short little legs comically kicking in the air, but he settled down.
Akira propped his Duel Disk of silver Academy design, ready for battle. “You will lose as the sad upstart you really are.”
“Upstarts win and for a reason.” Maya corrected him. “Here’s a reality check. You’re Edward Pakenham. I’m Andrew Jackson. We’re at the Battle of New Orleans. And this is Jackass.”
Akira: 8000 || Maya: 8000
AKIRA’S TURN: “ORE NA TURNO! DURAW!” Akira shouts as an anime character, oblivious to how silly he sounds. He stacked his deck before the duel exactly the way he wanted to. His victory was secure. “I activate Qliphort Scout and Qliphort Monolith as pendulums.” The two machine shell husks levitate above him far on either side, encased within two blue colums. “I pay 800 to search a Qliphort. Now, brace yourself for my ULTIMATO COMBO! I Pendulum Summon Qliphort Helix, Qliphort Disk, and Qliphort Carrier from my hand!” Three shells, each unique in size and shape, descend from the gateway that yawned between the two pendulums.
“And I tribute them all for Apoqliphort Towers.” The three shells fly back into the pendulum portal and a monstrous alien machine, with four turrets for legs, descends to the field. “With Towers’ effect you must discard a monster.” And Maya does so without complaint. I use Monolith’s effect to draw three cards, the number of monsters I tribute. TURNO ENDO!”
MAYA’S TURN: Maya can’t help but grunt in a very rude way. Akira played the exact same opening moves as in their last duel. He probably stacked his deck to get what he wanted. Maya wonders if he even stacked his deck in their last duel too… Back to the duel. “To quote your pint-sized Card Game Jesus, ‘Your monster may be powerful but it is not unbeatable.’” And she is right. Apoqliphort Towers is a formidable monster but it is mundane, a monster perfectly designed for its purpose and with little creative potential. Maya’s monsters on the other hand…
“Ready, little mans? I play Trade-In, tossing a Level 8 monster to draw 2. Since you have a monster and I have none, I summon Lizardon.” An ancient legendary dinosaur swoops from the skies, closer to a dragon than a dinosaur with its blazing breath, wings, and red hide. “I use its effect: discarding a Dinosaur to summon a Dinosaur from my deck, Quetzalcoatlus.” The majestic pterosaur takes to the skies with its fiery counterpart. “Next up, Inferno Reckless Summon!” Two more Quetzalcoatlus appear.
“I Xyz Summon Stella Pterra and Number 62: Galaxy-Eyes Prime Photon Dragon!” Two Quetzalcoatlus fall into a portal in space in time, unveiling an even more extravagant pterosaur, while the remaining Quetzalcoatlus and Lizardon open the doorway for an alien dragon, as dark and yet sparkled with light as the starry night itself. “I use Stella Pterra’s effect, bouncing your pendulums back to the deck.” With her words two gusts of wind come from the pterosaur’s wings, sending Akira’s pendulums out of sight. Akira gazes up at the awe-inspiring sight, the avian beasts so big and Akira so small. He gulps.
“Brace yourself, kid! You’re about to get bitch-slapped and pimp-slapped in one turn! Prime Photon Dragon, wipe out Apoqliphort Towers!” Maya detaches a Xyz Material as the dragon withdraws its long neck to prepare for the attack. The dragon draws forth its starry power from itself and its dinosaur neighbor, its ATK skyrocketing to 6700! “ATTACK!” Maya barks, and the interstellar dragon pierces the monstrous machine’s hull with its burst. The mighty Towers collapse on the ground, bursting into flame. (Akira LP 7200 à 3500) “You’re next! Stella Pterra, attack directly!” The pterosaur swoops just above Akira, blasting him with a sonic wave with its wings, pummeling him to the ground. (Akira LP 3500 à 700)
Finally, mercifully, Maya sets two cards.
AKIRA’S TURN: Trembling, Akira clamps his hands, nervous with sweat, around the bomb strapped to his neck. The small counter on it coldly mirrors the score on his duel disk. Only 700 Life Points! And on the first turn! His pride wounded, Akira takes his trembling hands and clenches them into fists. “I use a Tier 1 deck! – No, a tier 0 deck! – There’s no way am going to lose against an upstart who uses some dinosaur gimmick!”
“Keep telling yourself that.” Maya bores her eyes down on him with nothing but contempt.
“I’m dirty and grimy! I’m so scared for my life! I was kidnapped and forced to duel when I’m not ready! This duel is not fair
“You should have thought about that before bugging my duel disk last time.” Maya said, sympathetic as the desert for the dead around them, as if she and not the Ghouls made this duel happen.
Akira eyes the Ghouls behind him, somehow expecting compassion when there would be none. Lumis’ reciprocated by brandishing his remote. Akira trembles. No explanation is needed.
“I activate Qliphort Monolith and Qliphort Archive, and I Pendulum Summon again Qliphort Helix, Qliphort Disk, and Qliphort Carrier!” Akira’s old shell husk machines, the ones he sacrificed so eagerly last turn, return through the pendulum’s portal. I tribute Helix and Carrier to summon Qliphort Stealth!” Two of his machines vanish yet again, their place taken by a new shell machine that looks more like a space ship than anything else. “Helix, Carrier, and Stealth activate all at once!” Akira shouts as his Stealth fires three atomic beams from its husk, dematerializing Maya’s massive monsters and shattering one of her cards, much to her chagrin.
Akira feels his confidence rebuild. He is World Champion for a reason the usurper in front of him would never understand! Yet… she doesn’t look fazed. Why? Is he falling into a trap? He darts his eyes behind him in a quick glance. Lumis is ready to push the button as ever. Akira feels the sweat trickling down his face, seeping into the space between his neck and the bomb around it.
“This is it. Disk, strike Maya directly.” The shell husk that looks similar to an alien saucer hovers above its target, striking her with its bombs. (Maya LP 8000 à 5900) “Stealth, hit her directly.” His mighty flying ship locks on its target, charging its destructive rays, and unleashes them on its foe. The blast hits Maya head on, catapulting her to a wall of the necropolis. (Maya LP 5900 à 2800)
Yukio, startled at his friend’s injury, is about to jump to her side, but Lumis wags his finger and points to the bomb button, his cheeky grin creaking through the open side of his mask. Yukio resents the two Ghouls but and his inability to do anything far more, but he stays put.
Maya lays on her side on the sandy floor, but quickly crawls back to her feet, dusting the sand from her chest and knees. Akira sees the evil glint in her dark, narrow eyes. Nothing good can come from this. “You’re a great duelist, Akira.” Maya says, her voice soft and low, but far more dangerous. “You’re far greater than I thought you were. I used to think you were another mediocre champion, but no, you truly surprised me. A great duelist is truly generous to his opponents. You activated Inferno Tempest.”
Only at this moment does Akira realize the depth of his error, but is too late. The entire field explodes in a cataclysmic big bang, sweeping the Egyptian sands in a diabolical maelstrom. Akira watches in horror as every monster card in his deck and graveyard is vaporized in the flames. He watches Maya’s entire army burn away too, but she only grins back at him across the flames, her hateful, glaring dark eyes colored red by the fires. Before her appears two broken baby doll heads inhabited by monstrous worms. “You banished my two Necroface, so we both banish 10 cards.” Maya explains.
Akira trims his deck even further, but he isn’t ready to give up. “Don’t think this is over. No pro duelist plays Inferno Tempest for a reason. I set a card face down.” Akira ends his turn two ichthyosauri leap from the sands as dolphins leap from water.
MAYA’S TURN: “I summon two Fishstyx from my Banished Zone and use its effect to return two banished Dinosaurs to my hand, but I can’t draw this turn. I don’t need to. I play Extinction Record, banishing the two Quetzalcoatlus there and draw 3.” She shows her hand since her card told her to. Akira’s stomach drops instantly. It’s over.
“I overlay two Fishstyx to Xyz Summon Nanosaur Infinity.” Maya’s two water dinosaurs merge together into a wormhole to form a small, fiery orange raptor, carrying machine guns.
“Activate Lose 1 Turn.” Akira shouts. “You can’t use its effect.”
Maya grunts, slightly annoyed but nothing more. She sets three cards.
AKIRA’S TURN: “There has to be a way out of this situation!” He tells himself and his opponent at the same time. “I will find a way out! ORE NA TURNO! DURAW!”
“You idiot.” Maya says with disdain. “You have no idea how out of your depth you are against me. Activate Fairy Wind.” The magical wind graced with magical dust and plant seeds blows about the two duelists gracefully, but that is all it takes to destroy Akira’s pendulums and his trap. Then the gentle breeze turns into a sharp gust, cutting through both duelists with its magic dust and seeds.
The duel, however, is not done. Akira still has 1900 Life Points, but his Qliphort Disk is gone. “I activated Mystik Wok. I gain in Life Points the ATK of the monster I sacrificed.” Akira explains.
“Big deal. I play Anti-Spell Fragrance next.” Maya flips her card face-up, and Akira cringes at the blow. It is a quiet blow, but it totally cripples him. If he has to set Spells before activating them, then all pendulum plays are moot.
“GAAH! DAMN IT!” He shouts through the desert air. Maya, Yukio, the Ghouls, all glance at him coldly, as distant as the stars. “I still have a chance! Qliphort Stealth, vaporize Nanosaur Infinity with your blast!” The machine airship incinerates the futuristic dinosaur effortlessly. Maya then adds a banished “Nanosaur” card to her hand. Akira sets a card face down. He can still set a trap.
Except Maya doesn’t even let him due that. “I activate Nanosaur Infinity.” She declares, banishing a card in her hand. The sandy field below her yawns, then explodes underneath her, and three Quetzalcoatlus fly from the dimensional rift.
MAYA’S TURN: “My turn! Draw!” Maya moves with the grace and force of a true champion. “I bring back my banished D.D. Ancient Firebird,” a fiery, winged dinosaur, an ancestor of modern birds, leaps into play. “But I can use this effect only once in a duel.
“Activate Re-qliate!” Akira counters. But he knows it won’t stop her.
Maya simply continues, ignoring the sprung trap. “I tune D.D. Ancient Firebird and one Quetzalcoatlus to Synchro Summon Star Eater, and overlay two Quetzalcoatlus to Xyz Summon Number 62: Galaxy-Eyes Prime Photon Dragon again!” The Ancient Firebird breaks into green rings, Quetzalcoatlus turns into stars aligning with them, and the synchronized light show summons a massive space dragon in the act of consuming a small star. The other two Quetzalcoatlus crush into single lights, and open the interdimensional gateway allowing the interstellar Prime Photon Dragon to return.
Maya let her hatred for Akira and everything he stood for grow throughout the duel. Now, on the cusp of victory, she lets it go, letting the wildfire take its destructive course. She peels her lips back to bear her teeth, contorting her face into a horrible snarl a dragon would recognize as a smile.
She thrusts her fist in front of her as if she could knock Akira out cold. “Time to put an end to your sad Qliphorts! Star Eater, consume it!” The gargantuan dragon raps itself around Akira’s giant ship as a snake wraps around a mouse, crushing it, chewing it, obliterating it.” (Akira LP 1900 à 1500)
Akira’s loss was immanent, and with that loss it means he will die. Akira collapsed to the floor in weeping. “Please don’t! I don’t wanna’ die! I don’t wanna’ die! I don’t wanna’ die!” The boy’s reedy body shakes violently as his tears mix with the snot from his nose. He convulses, breathing too raggedly, taking in too much oxygen.
“Too late, spoiled brat. You ridiculed me by cheating and joined the Ghouls. Now pay the ultimate price.”
Yukio leaps in front of her, grabbing her by the arms. “You can’t do this! If you beat him, he dies!”
Maya violently shoves him aside. She strikes her left arm in front of her, her hand contorting into a vicious claw. “Prime Photon Dragon, kill –“
She froze right on the spot, stiff as a statue. She halted everything halfway, her body, her arm, her muscles, her speech, even her breathing. She felt the fire inside her give way to ice. Her reason told her exactly what she was about to do and the implications rang inside her head. All of a sudden, the summer desert felt very cold.
Akira turned his head away from the sand and looked up at her, too shocked to even feel grateful at the moment.
Maya stared at her hand twisted into a claw. It was all she could do. It was the first time she realized how monstrous the hand looked. She let her hand fall. “I’m not a murderer.”
“WHAT!?” Lumis eagerly awaited the duel to end in a decisive victory so he would have the pleasure of exterminating the humiliated loser, but that sadistic glory was denied him. He was like a child who got no presents for Christmas.
“You serious?” Umbra said in disbelief, almost as baffled as Lumis was.
“Yes.” Maya spoke, her voice distant, little more than a whisper. She talked more to herself than two the two goons.
Yukio hugged Maya in gratitude and pride, and Maya hugged him back absent-mindedly. But it was too soon to celebrate. Lumis clenched the bomb remote so hard he was about to crush it. “You’ve got to be kidding! What kind of bullshit is this!? I want to see someone DIE!”
“I’m not a murderer.” Maya said again, hard and certain. “I want to be a great force for change, both in the dueling and, more importantly, outside it. But I don’t want to be a destructive force.”
“You already are a destructive force!” Umbra violently shouted at her like a child throwing a tantrum. “You should watch yourself duel! You should see how you treat people around you! You should look into the anger, scorn, hatred, and sarcasm you show everyone around you! Make no mistake, Marina Bozovic! I know you are a thief and usurper at heart, I tell you! Everyone knows this!”
Umbra offered his own rebuke. “Don’t think you’re any better than us. You hate the law and society with as much malice as we do. You know as much as we do how hypocritical civilization is. We only live in crime and war. The ‘laws’ are whatever the local warlord chooses them to be, whether it’s Matthew, Heishin, or Kaiba. If you’re not the ruler and can’t use hypocrisy then you must use fraud to your advantage.”
Yukio stepped in to refute his enemy. “You’re no Joe Peshi and you’re no philosopher, so pipe down, Frankenstein. People treat each other decently because they actually empathize with each other. It’s natural human behavior, no matter what laws or society we live in. It’s not humanity that’s the problem. It’s people like you.”
Lumis shook the remote in front of Maya in an abrupt spasm. “Let’s see your real moral worth, the both of you, when put to the test! If Harlem Renaissance over here doesn’t smite Akira like the little bitch he is in thirty seconds, I send you all to Hell! Got it!? 30… 29… 28… 27…”
Maya couldn’t do it. She couldn’t kill him. But what she ready to accept death? She thought about how mother died. Now was she ready to join her? Apparently, she was. She wasn’t scared of death but she didn’t expect it all to end like this.
“18… 17… 16… 15… 14…”
But letting herself die didn’t help anyone. Everyone would die. Not just Akira, but Yukio too. She couldn’t let that happen! The instinct to survive, the fundamental terror of death all living creatures have seized her completely, driving out all contemplation. “I have to kill Akira!”
“What do you mean?” Yukio grabbed her again. “You’ll become a murderer!”
“10… 9… 8…”
“If Akira doesn’t die, then you will! I can’t live with that!” Maya almost cries herself.
“4… 3… 2… 1…”
“I’LL DO IT!” Maya roared. “PRIME PHOTON DRAGON, ATTACK!!!” Maya channeled all her energy into her dragon. As the beast readied itself to deliver the onslaught Maya wished there was some way to spare Akira’s life. If only there was a way to somehow disable Akira’s device! She poured all her energy into the dragon as if she could somehow make it happen by willing it
“Dragon, fire at Akira’s neck bomb only!” Maya commanded as her dragon fired its destructive burst stream. She felt so powerful, as if enlarged into something bigger than her own body, but felt so drained too, as if she was literally giving the dragon her energy.
The atomically powerful blast hit Akira on the mark somewhere above his chest and below his neck. Akira jettisoned ten feet across. As he hit the ground his neck bomb burst into pieces. Unbelievable! It actually worked! It actually worked!
Umbra and Lumis looked on, stupefied, their mouths hanging. Lumis didn’t even bother to try to push the button. He tried to smash it with his fist. It was all over. – Suddenly, a man darted from nowhere. He kicked Lumis in the face. The short Ghoul dropped the remote, howling and cursing in pain. Umbra tried to help his partner but he was as slow as he was big and tall. The man threw a small knife, hitting Umbra in the abdomen. He staggered, trying to get the knife off him with his big, clumsy hands but couldn’t. He would’ve fallen to the ground had Lumis not darted to his side and pulled out the knife from him. Recognizing defeat, the two Ghouls fled.
The mysterious man, completely unknown to our protagonists, took the remote and, after examining it for a while, pushed a smaller button on the side. The bombs came clean off our protagonists’ necks. Both of them clasped their throats, now scraped and red from the harsh braces they had to endure. The man wore nothing more than plain white tunic, white pants underneath, a white hat on his head, and a white shawl hiding his face. Our protagonists tried to get a closer look at him to figure who he was, but he was gone, vanishing as quickly as he came.
Maya and Yukio picked up the wearied and wounded Akira, each holstering one shoulder. Akira offered Maya his Millennium Item Card. “Take it. You beat me fair and square, as a true duelist.”
Maya declined the offer. “You had enough trouble for one day.” Maya wanted to also say, “You aren’t a worthy opponent. There is no reward in beating you.” But for once in her life she held her fast and sharp tongue.