“MATTHEW CARTER! EXPLAIN THIS TO ME THIS INSTANT!” Heishin roared to Matthew over his desk in the President’s office.
Matthew felt a bead of cold sweat run down from the back of his neck into his fine white suit. His suit, which he wore each time he went to Heishin’s office, was part of the cover of his role as the Ghoul leader. As far as the outside world new, he was the son of a wealth oil contractor, but at the moment he truly wished he was the son of an oil contractor. Life would be so much easier, and more fruitful. He had not avenged his grandfather’s death and he was becoming more impatient each day.
But right now he needed to answer Heishin with excuses of why the Ghouls failed to destroy every duelist in the tournament. Gernand apprentice, the same shady woman Matthew loathed but could not understand, herself dressed in a beleaguering business suit, glanced at him once and Matthew knew what to do. He opened a laptop and started researching the current statistics of every tournament participant. Heishin, apparently, did not know how to use a computer.
He revealed to Heishin his results. “For the record, my Ghouls have actually wiped out most teams. We didn’t just take their Item Cards but literally everything they had, even the clothes from their backs. But three top tier teams remain. Number one is Team Buffalo Chicken, with Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy. Number two is Team Baby Blast Furnace, with Maya, Yukio, and Sophia. And number three is Team Stella, with Stella, Poppy, Luca, Willow, and Dahlia. Right now they’re all in Luxor near the Valley of the Kings.”
Heishin barely let Matthew finish before insisting, “Well, what are you waiting for? Strike them now!”
“We need to regroup.” Matthew stated. “And think up of a better strategy.”
“I’ve had enough. Since you’re so incompetent in dealing with a few stupid Americans, I’m getting my army to deal with the problem myself.” Heishin said, rising from his desk, ready to storm out of the office.
Just before he did so, the apprentice said, “Not so fast.” Her voice was soft and unassuming, but she made Heishins stop in his tracks. She gestured to Matthew encouragingly, “If you will.”
Matthew opened his briefcase, displaying a collection of Yugioh cards to Heishin. “A German team developed a new top tier deck, brand new but already becoming big in the tournament scene. It combines all the best pendulum archetypes out there and counter traps to create a deck that swarm and take out an opponent in one turn and protect itself from monster summon or monster effect. It’s known as a ‘PePe deck.’”
Heishin did not how to play Yugioh, so Matthew, judging his perplexed look, stated simply, “It’s an unbeatable deck, but it will take three days to mass produce it for the Ghouls.”
Heishin waved his hand. “Accepted, but make no mistake, my army will reinforce the Ghouls by disguising as them. Now leave before I change my mind.”
When Matthew was gone Heishin bore his eyes down on the small woman beneath him. “I do not know what your master, Gernand, wants, but I did some of my own research deep into Egypt’s history. I believe I know what he and you want. Sometime during Pharaoh Akhenamkhanen’s reign in the 18th dynasty, the high priests used a spellbook called the Millennium Tome to ward off Assyrian invaders. They slaughtered a graverobber’s village to create seven gold talismans called the Millennium Items. But creating Millennium Items is only one spell in the entire Millennium Tone.”
The apprentice looked amused. “Go on.” She prodded.
“Older in Egypt’s history, perhaps older than Egypt itself, there exists another spellbook, the Book of Isis. The Millennium Tome is, in fact, a corrupted copy of the Book of Isis, which may explain why priests only used one spell. In either case, you and Gernand, your master, want the Book of Isis for its forbidden knowledge and magical spells. Thing is, I do as well.” Heishin patted the walkie-talkie on his waste. “You can maybe beat me one-on-one but not the entire Republican Guard. If you don’t tell me how to get the Book of Isis now, both you and your obese master will be wanted dead in all of Egypt.”
Heishin paused to see what effect his words would have on the small, young woman. She did not even blink. But she conceded, “Could you at least let my master and I copy the writing on the Book of Isis once you get it?”
“Of course.” Heishin smugly answered. “I will have everything I need. Now tell me, do you or your master have any idea how to get the Book of Isis?”
“Yes. Remember the emerald chamber we visited in the Prologue?”
“What Prologue?” The word utterly confused Heishin.
“Nevermind. To receive the Book of Isis, legend says you must defeat and sacrifice the strongest duelist to the Emerald Temple. You do so by beating them in a Shadow Game. Upon your victory, a hidden door in the temple will open and swallow the loser into the depths of the earth. It will then deliver to you the Book of Isis as a testament of your strength and worthiness.”
“And how do I know who the greatest duelist is?”
“Kill the duelist who is brave and stupid enough to challenge you.”
The apprentice’s answer pleased Heishin, for he directed her out of the office.
DAY 4 : 5:38 PM : LUXOR
Maya, Yukio, and Sophia met up with their friends in the dueling grounds. It was a strange experience for Maya. As a pro for four years, she had mostly dueled for prizes in large stadiums, surrounded by a screaming crowd, entombed by their expectations and her manager. She hadn’t dueled casually in a basketball court for a long time and the dueling grounds now before her recalled to her memory simpler times.
In fact, the entire dueling grounds were nothing more than a large rectangle dug into the rock and sand. Maya saw two children kick a small ball around, playing in pure, unsullied delight what looked like soccer, the setting sun casting long, gloomy shadows over their small, thin bodies. A young woman in a simple but elegant hijab, not unlike the ones Maya and her mother used to wear, called the boys home for it was getting dark outside. Something about the setting sun, the children’s long shadows, and the inevitable end of their innocent games made Maya feel very sad.
But there was no time for melancholy. Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy lit every torch surrounding the rectangle pit, hollering, “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!” The crowd of duelists leapt into the air, shrieking in such excitement Sophia covered her ears. And the celebration and games began.
Duelists fought against each other, every little move cheered, booed, or debated on. It reminded Maya of rabid cacophony in the stadiums in America, yet here all the excitement of a world championship duel reveled in a tiny box in the middle of the desert. Villagers came to the dueling grounds, lighting a fire, playing their flutes, and dancing as if to complete the festivities.
There was something surreal about the women dancing around the fire. They looked so wild against the backdrop of the twilight valley, holding an aura so dark and sinister yet so playful and lively. The fire seemed to dance with the women, growing larger and larger every passing minute. If the Chicago Stadium was the center of the dueling world, then the village in Luxor was at the very end, tipping over the edge. The sun sank into the underworld, sending the valley and the entire world to its end. Dawn would not bring a new day, but a new world.
Maya acted on impulse, dragging Yukio with her near the fire. The couple fell into a mad dervish, losing themselves into the fiery colors and music. Time and space blurred around them and they fell back, back into the times of Egypt and times long, long past. Every ghost of every era of the land came to the party, their voices coming out through the living. Maya and Yukio crashed into each other and fell on the sand, voraciously kissing each other and groping each other’s bodies.
To Sophia, who watched the spectacle from the third person, they seemed to obliterate each other in their passion, possessing each other so tightly they disappeared into a single person. Their groping sizzled into caresses. Then they got up. Their dance seemed to end as suddenly as it had started, as if they had just recovered from a seizure or a thunderbolt.
A short man ran into Yukio but Yukio, being tall, did not flinch while the short man fell to the sandy floor. He got up, shook his head, and cleaned his glasses. With his long-sleeved shirt, shorts, Beetles haircut, and round thick glasses, he was the epitome of the ‘90s era dork. None other than Mathias had chased him, and when Mathias caught up with him, he shouted, “WEEVIL!!! BUDDY!!!”
Weevil screamed in complete horror, frantically crawling away from his mad pursuer. He unfolded a document from his pants and brandished it in front of Mathias. “I have a restraining order! You’re not allowed to get within two hundred feet of me! You hear?”
“Oh I hear you all right, buddy.” Mathias grinned sadistically. “But your restraining order only applies in Japan. We are in No Man’s Land.”
Weevil scurried behind Yukio. “Rex! Save me!” He desperately pleaded.
“What the hell, Weevil?” Another short mean appeared behind his comrade. He looked like a burnout with his dirty looks, long, unkempt hair, and red beaner. “How’d you get into trouble this time?”
“I- I-“ Weevil was mortally offended. “I don’t get into trouble! Trouble finds me! Now help me escape the big lunatic chasing me!”
Maya and Yukio broke into hysterical laughter. Rex Raptor and Weevil Underwood, universally mocked as the Two Stooges, were the most comically inept duelists to ever live. In the ‘90s they were the butt monkeys of none other than Yugi and Jonouchi themselves, and in the ‘00s they were the butt monkeys of everyone else. How they managed to get into a world championship tournament, let alone any tournament, was a mystery to everyone, but some people suspected that tournament officials let them play only to watch them get humiliated.
With our protagonists incapacitated, Rex and Weevil were left to fend for themselves. Mathias grabbed them both, giving them noogies so hard it burned their skulls.
Maya, utterly baffled, said, “What history do these people have with each other? Actually, I’d rather not know.”
Yukio replied with, “I can only imagine the fanfiction they inspire, or worse.”
Sophia commented, “This is ridiculously inappropriate, and frightening as well.”
“You know what? We agree.” Maya and Yukio said in unison.
Weevil overheard their mockery, so he declared, “You think we’re funny, right? Think we’re nothing more than a laughingstock? We’ll prove you wrong!” He virulently pointed to Maya. “I challenge you to a duel! Right here! Right now!”
Maya burst laughing again, so hard her ribs almost cracked. “Oh, by the Egyptian gods! This is rich! What will I ever do against the mighty Bug Boy? Quick, give me some Raid! I really need the kills-fast, low-irritant kind because by the time the duel is over I’ll be annoyed more than anything else! Life, like Weevil, is too short for clichés, but I’ll indulge in some anyway! Why did Weevil cross the road? To lose a duel! What happens to Bug Boy in China? He gets served!”
Yukio laughed with her. “You’re a very bad woman. But seriously, you’re as funny as Rob Schiender.”
“Shut up, Yukio. You couldn’t make a George Takai pun to save your ass.”
The couple laughed a bit more but stopped, falling into awkward silence, when they saw how visibly hurt Weevil and Rex were. Yukio suggested to Maya that they stop and Maya agreed. Maya remembered when she used to be a dorky outcast in high school before she became a pro. She used to lose every duel and everyone made fun of her except Jolene. Back when she was Muslim, around the time the Iraq War broke, an angry classmate tore her hijab out of her hair so violently she shredded it, and Maya ran home crying. No one cared how bad she felt like no one cared now how Rex and Weevil felt.
“Sorry, Weevil.” Maya said. “It’s nothing personal. Even before I was a pro I preferred to duel people better than I was. I sometimes got my ass handed to me but the challenge and struggle far outweighed something as petty as a win-loss outcome. No offense but I don’t think you’ll deliver, and my skepticism is justified. My life is on the line in this tournament but I want to face the best of the best before the finals. Crushing the latest meta decks in the process is a plus.”
“If you think so, then get a hold of this.” Rex showed a total of four Item Cards. “How many do you have?”
Maya and Yukio were too embarrassed to admit Rex and Weevil of all people were ahead of them.
Yukio heeded Weevil’s call. “Weevil, I’ll accept your challenge.” To Maya, he said, “I bet you fifty dollars Rex and Weevil deserve to be taken seriously.”
“Bet accepted. We really need to get all seven Item Cards in the next few days.” To Rex, Maya said, “If your life partner Weevil beats Yukio or puts up a good fight then I’ll duel you next as seriously as I duel a national champion. But if Weevil loses by a landslide I won’t give you a second glance. You have a chance to prove yourself. Sounds good?”
“Accepted.” Rex replied. “But you’re pretty cocky. You’re not a world champion yet.”
“I know my limits, but I doubt you’ll surpass them.” Maya turned to Yukio and kissed him on the cheek. “Good luck, sweetie.” Her voice was sweet and sultry, exaggerated to the point of parody. “I’ll give you Raid if you need some.”
Yukio smirked, replying to Maya’s two-faced words with two-faced words of his own. “Of course, honey. Girls are so scared of bugs anyway.”
Sophia stuck her tongue out and pointed her finger at it.
“EXCELLENT!” Mathias boomed, and he ushered everyone to the center of the rectangle pit. “READY!” Yukio and Rex shuffled and cut each other’s decks. “SET!” They took their stands opposite each other. “LET’S ROCK!”
Weevil: 8000 || Yukio: 8000
WEEVIL’S TURN: “I’ll show you in only one turn how foolish it is to underestimate me, Yukio. I summon Naturia Marron,” a sweet, anthropomorphized Marron with wide blue eyes sprouts. “And set two cards facedown. I use Marron’s effect, sending another Marron from Deck to the Graveyard. You’re move.”
YUKIO’S TURN: “I summon Golbindberg.” A goblin with a red scarf and goggles flies into play in a WWI fighter plane. “And use its effect to summon Elemental HERO Shadow Mist from my hand.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself!” Weevil interjects him. “I activate Naturia Sacred Tree. I tribute Marron to summon Naturia Antjaw from my deck.” Yukio’s Shadow Mist, a shady, caped superhero emerges from the darkness. “Now I use Antjaw’s effect, summoning another Naturia Antjaw from my deck.” Two flying ants swarm Weevil’s field.
“Well I’m not done yet.” Yukio says, resuming his turn. “I use Shadow Mist’s effect to add Mask Change to my hand. “Shadow Mist, attack Antjaw!” His dark hero leaps for one of Weevil’s ants.
But Weevil stops him. “Activate Parasite Invasion! This continuous trap card summons a Parasite Paraside to your field and forces all your monsters to defense position!” A gross bug appears on Yukio’s field, growing wormlike appendages from its back, ensnaring Yukio’s monsters. The parasite drives its limbs through their bodies, polluting them into insect corruptions of their former selves. “Not only that, you can’t Special Summon for the rest of this turn. But don’t feel bad! I gave you a monster!”
Yukio, shocked, curses under his breath. He knows beating Weevil would be hard, but not this hard!
“And speaking of Special Summoning, I my two Antjaws activate. I summon Naturia Fruitfly and Naturia Rosewhip from my Deck.” A colorful fruit fly with eyes of a phlegmatic expression lazily hovers over the field while a thorny rose with sly-looking eyes sprouts from the ground beside it.
Yukio sets a card facedown and calls his turn quits.
WEEVIL’S TURN: “You’re still not taking me seriously, are you?” Weevil becomes indignant. “I can tell. Your set card is probably Mask Change. Did you think I was that stupid? That I couldn’t see through something that obvious? I’ll punish you for your arrogance! I use Fruitfly’s effect to take control of Goblindburg.” The pilot goblin flies over to Weevil’s side.
“Go, Synchro Summon! Rosewhip, Antjaw number one, Antjaw number two, combine together to make Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier!” Rosewhip dissolves into two clear emerald rings and the two Antjaws becomes stars, aligning within the green rings. They all transform into gate of blinding light, and a massive white and blue dragon arrives in the world, covering the arena in a blizzard of snow. “I use Trishula’s effect. Banish three cards!”
“Not quite! Mask Change!” Yukio springs his card. “I replace Shadow Mist with Masked HERO Dark Law!” The shadowy superhero clasps a shining mask, fixing it on its face. Its body melts away and transforms into an even darker superhero. “And since Shadow Mist was sent to my Graveyard, I add Bubbleman to my hand.”
“That’s nice, but Trishula still banishes three of your cards. I choose Dark Law, Shadow Mist, and one card in your hand.” Yukio is about to protest, but then grimly realizes that Trishula doesn’t target cards, so his Dark Law could not dodge the beast.
He moans, “Trishula, not again!” As the ice dragon conjures a severe blizzard, banishing his cards.
Weevil isn’t done. “I summon Naturia Cherries!” Two anthropomorphic cherries with cheerful, youthful faces appear. “I tune Cherries to your Goblindberg and my Fruitfly to Synchro Summon Crimson Blader!” Cherries transform into rings, Fruitfly and Goblindberg align as stars, and a portal opens, allowing the entrance of a tall, fiery swordsman brandishing two humongous swords.
“Let’s get going! Crimson Blader, slay Yukio’s parasite!” The swordsman slices the offensive creature to bits. “If Crimson Blader destroys your monster, you can’t Special Summon a Level 5 or higher monster!” Weevil snorts with glee, a strange, conceited, irritating noise. For an instant, Yukio suddenly wants to punch Weevil in the face. “Trishula! Hit Yukio directly, hard as you can!” Weevil barks. His dragon uses its monstrous wings, sweeping an entire ice storm at Yukio, battering him with frozen fury. (Yukio LP 8000 → 5300)
Maya witnesses the entire spectacle, and her jaw drops. “I think we stand corrected.”
Weevil hops with joy, laughing even more. “I end my turn with a card face down. WHERE’S YOUR RAID NOW!”