Sophia turned around and walked up to Mathias. Startled, Mathias asked, “Hey, can I do something for you?”
Sophia took a deep breath as if trying to sum up all of her strength in one action. She spoke boldly, “Mathias, I challenge you to a duel. I ante two Item Cards.”
A hammer from the sky must have struck Maya and Yukio for they stood frozen at the mention. Mathias widened his eyes a bit in mild surprise. “I honestly didn’t expect you of all people to challenge me. – I thought someone with as much ambition and hubris as Maya would do it but life is strange. – You sure you want to do this, kid? You’re friends worked really hard to get their last two Item Cards. If you lose to me, you lose everything they worked for.”
“Yes, I know the risks. I know how strong you are.” Sophia said. And indeed she was right. Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy were the best duelists in the entire tournament. They were even known worldwide as the Saints, righteous duelists who promptly defeated any champion who abused other people with his celebrity status. Mathias was so strong only Yugi and Kaiba could beat him, yet so humble he claimed no title for himself. Mathias brandished Sophia no less than twenty Item Cards. He didn’t lose a single duel.
“But.” Sophia continued. “If I win my team will have all Seven Item cards. We can make it to the finals.” By this point every duelist surrounded them, all their breaths held. People even quit their duels.
Mathias gave his advice, “You don’t have to take such a huge risk. Challenge other people. You’ll be able to make it to the finals in only one other day. If you lose, you’ll seriously set back your team, and you may not be able to make it.”
Sophia turned back to her companions, trying to put the thoughts raging inside her head into words. “I’ve felt like a liability ever since Bandit Keith assaulted me. You guys are so strong and smart. I’m so stupid and weak. I need to prove something to you guys. I’m not a liability. I’m just as good as you. And it’s not just that. I feel like a molting lizard or insect, like I’m ready to burst out of my own skin. I need to take this huge challenge!”
Maya gently put her hands on Sophia’s shoulders. She understood what was happening. “You’re growing as a person. That feeling deep inside you is telling you to break past your limits so you can keep growing.”
Yukio said, “You were never a liability to us. You won our duels and helped the team like we all did. Take Mathias down. Go get him.”
Maya and Yukio gave Sophia a warm hug. Empowered, Sophia restated her challenge. Mathias accepted. Everyone surrounding them fell into dead silence. He said, “Agreed. Tomorrow at seven pm before the dueling grounds opens. Be ready. You wanna’ beat me it’ll take all you got.”
He reached out his large, square hand and Sophia clasped it with her small, narrow hand, sealing the agreement. Our heroes went to bed early, prepared to tackle the big day tomorrow.
DAY 6 : 7:01 AM : LUXOR
The team rose early to get the day going. They bought food at a local store – they didn’t want to try making food again! – and ate in the comforting shade of their sleeping quarters. Sophia placed the card, Sophia, Goddess of Rebirth, on the floor in the middle of her room. It was one of the most powerful cards in the game, and Maya gave it to her. But it was so hard to Summon in a duel. You needed to banish a Fusion Monster, Ritual Monster, Synchro Monster, and Xyz Monster. Was there any way she could use it?
It wasn’t like Sophia had a choice. She did the research on Mathias using the Item Cards they had. He used three nigh unstoppable cards known as the Nordic Gods. The only way she could beat such divine creatures was to use one herself. She popped open the team’s card cases, strewing hundreds of cards on the floor, searching for an answer.
Maya and Yukio sat down next to their friend to help her. “You know what this reminds me of?” Yukio said. When Sophia asked what, he replied, “Yugi’s most famous duel with Kaiba. Not the one in Battle City, the one where Yugi draws Exodia for an instant victory. Exodia is like a puzzle where you assemble five pieces together. You’re deck is the same, where you need to assemble five pieces, the various types of monsters and Sophia herself.”
Maya sifted through the various cards on the floor. “Hmm… You don’t have any trouble summoning Synchros and Xyz monsters, but at the same time your Fortune Ladies stand more on their own than relying on other cards.”
Yukio had a brilliant idea. “Brilliant Fusion! Use this nifty combo: you use Brilliant Fusion to send Fortune Lady Light and a Gem Knight to get out Gem Knight Seraphinite. Play Junk Synchron to revive Lady Light. Synchro Summon Junk Destroyer to destroy Lady Light and use her ability.”
“If that’s the case, then you’ll want to focus on Rank 4 Xyz monsters.” Maya said. “Daegusto Emeral should help recycle your cards too.”
And Ritual Monsters? “Sophia held out a card she always liked: Saffira, Queen of Dragons. “It was always one of my favorites. So let’s throw in some support for that.”
It was a daunting project since Sophia had to cram together so many different combos. Sophia’s deck now had almost fifty cards in it. It went against common sense. The best decks were slim and got out simple combos as fast as possible. But Yugi and Kaiba weren’t like that, nor were most great duelists. Their decks had a certain multifaceted complexity to them. It made them much harder to use but allowed a duelists to play at a much higher level. Our heroes, whether they realized it or not, were already heading in that direction. Now Sophia would be the first one to fully manifest her potential. Sophia play-tested her deck against Maya and Yukio, dueling them again and again, and changing her deck in tandem. Our heroes, now satisfied, rested in the shade.
Yukio spoke to Maya, “You once said you wanted to beat Kaiba and Yugi, didn’t you?”
“You did?” Sophia said, mildly surprised.
“Yes. I’m more than capable, but I sometimes don’t want to anymore.” Maya said. “I have no incentive. Yugioh, it’s,” She gestured in futility. “Going nowhere. Sure, it’s suffering a massive power creep, but the game lost the moral force it used to have. Yugioh was simpler back then, even naïve, a battle between good and evil, but it was more meaningful. When we win this tournament I can hopefully settle my debts and buy a comfortable life. Then I can quite this game and go back to my music and writing. I’ll no longer be a reality TV star, a caged circus animal.”
Yukio smirked. “Let’s blame the economy and Republicans as usual.”
Maya looked deep into Sophia’s eyes. They were the same shade of dark brown, the same narrow shape, but the fires inside them were so different. Maya’s were sharp, piercing, bilious, while Sophia’s were tender, attuned, and sad. Maya said, “If I press on it has to be a deeper reason; someone to fight for, more creative paths to travel, and so forth.”
Then Maya twitched her fingers. “They itch.” She complained. She hadn’t played the piano or wrote anything down for one week too many. In desperation, she took a low desk from downstairs and drew a complete set of piano keys on it with chalk. Then she started to play, letting herself get lost in the music that wasn’t there.
Yukio and Sophia watched in fascination. Yukio played the guitar while Sophia sang, and all three could somehow read the music Maya played just by watching her. It was something they never heard before: up and down arpeggios on the right hand while two voices went down in thirds on the left hand. The two hands exchanged roles, the arpeggios retracted into block chords, then unfolded into scales, the descended thirds freed into a recitativo of sorts joined by octaves, then back to arpeggios and thirds, the descending thirds became ascending sixths, all while Maya meandered from g minor to every other key.
Yukio and Sophia knew the shape of the best. It was a Baroque-style prelude; melancholic, with a wistful beauty beyond this world, but moved as a force of nature. Its character kept changing as Maya modulated to different keys the way a prism broke white light into a rainbow of different colors. Dark green became a teal, ocean blue, then a glowing bronze, a baby sky blue, a brilliant yellow, a fizzling orange. And Maya went on for hours. Yukio and Sophia even walked outside to stretch their legs but Maya didn’t notice them. She was lost.
And then she was found. She staggered on her feet as if she fell down a rabbit hole into wonderland and just tumbled out. “It opens to whole worlds, dimensions, feelings, parts of your life, the past, present, future. And it’s different for each person; like an extradimensional entity that materializes in a different way to each person. Or like a divine creature that appears in a form most relevant to that person.”
Yukio laughed and slapped on the back. “You high or something? Of course it is. It’s like in Paradise when Dante says the spheres of Paradise and its angels are manifestations projected by higher beings in the Empyrean, not the actual beings themselves. Paradise appears differently to each person.”
“What did you see?” Sophia asked. Maya eyed her dead on for a few seconds before shaking her head, laughing at herself in bemusement.
DAY 6 : 6:56 PM : LUXOR
Re, the great sun god, was slowly dying, slowly falling down the horizon. Our heroes, hurrying to the dueling grounds not to be late, saw Mathias and his teammates just ahead. The sun crept behind Mathias, casting over the land a very long shadow. Every duelist in the tournament surrounded him as if they were planets and he was the sun itself. Sophia took her position, facing opposite Mathias, opposite the setting sun.
Maya, watching Sophia square off against Mathias in front of her, pondered the end of one duelist and the beginning of another. Mathias was an older duelist who was in his prime in a different era. Now things have changed. If Sophia wins, everything will be different after today.
Mathias shouted, “LET”S ROCK!” And the duel began.
Mathias: 8000 || Sophia: 8000
MATHIAS’ TURN: “I set a monster and card facedown.” Two larger than life cards appear before him. “You’re move.”
SOPHIA’S TURN: “I draw!” She notices the obvious. Her opponent has only two cards in play. Time to make a big attack! Seize the advantage! “I activate Brilliant Fusion! I sent Gem-Knight Garnet and Fortune Lady Light from my Deck to the Graveyard to Fusion Summon Gem-Knight Seraphinite!” A knight made of pure rock and the smallest of fortune ladies appear, then shatter into rocks that smash into each other, begetting a large, blue knight made of rocks. “I Summon Junk Synchron and use his effect.” A short, pudgy mechanic appears and so does Sophia’s fortune lady.
“I use Seraphine’s effect to Normal Summon again. Go, Summoner Monk!” A shinto priest bows in Defense Position. “I discard a Spell Card to Summon Fortune Lady Water from my Deck.” The most elegant of fortune ladies, with flowing dark hair, is called forth. “And use her effect to draw 2 cards.”
“I tune Junk Synchron with Seraphinite to Synchro Summon Junk Destroyer!” The mechanic bursts into three rings and sapphire knight aligns inside the rings as five stars. A pillar of light shines, then lifts like a curtain, showing a giant made of spare vehicle parts. “I use its effect. Pop Lady Light.” The small fortune lady bursts. “And I use her effect Summon Fortune Lady Aeter from my Deck.” A new fortune lady, a luminous queen of fortune ladies, takes its place. “And I overlay Lady Water with Summoner Monk to Xyz Summon Daigusto Emeral.” The two monsters collapse into stars, fall in a worm hole, and a heroic monster with a backpack of propeller fans jumps out. “And use its effect to return Lady Water, Seraphinite, and Junk Destroyer to my Deck and draw 1.”
“Lady Aeter, attack his facedown monster!”
“I spring my trap, Phantom Knight’s Fog Blade.” Mathias declares. A sword, made of a corrosive mist, not metal, impales the fortune lady queen, but does not kill her. Its body stiffens, forever frozen in time.
“Not a problem. Go Junk Destroyer!” Sophia’s tin can titan crushes Mathias’ monster, a rather rotund hamster, with is outstretched hand.
“I use Super-Nimble Mega Hamster effect. I summon Tanngrisnir of the Nordic Beasts.” With Mathias’ words a new monster appeared, a small white goat with red eyes.
“Daegusto Emeral, destroy Tanngrisnir!” Sophia declares. Her monster smashes the goat’s face, crushing it, only for two more goats to appear. Sophia bites her lip in frustration. She made a mistake! Now he has two monsters, meaning he can summon a Nordic God easier!
Maya and Yukio watch Sophia’s attacks unfold with grim faces. Yukio comments, “This is bad. Sophia rushed in without thinking straight. She used about 9 cards in her turn but Mathias stopped her with only 2. She’s trying to overwhelm Mathias right away with all of her speed and strength but it backfired.”
Maya elaborates, “Sophia’s dueling like a novice. A seasoned duelist knows when to bide his time or when to press for advantage. Mathias waited for Sophia to attack or at least expose her strategies. Now that he judged Sophia’s dueling to be inferior and built up a combo, he will strike next turn.”
MATHIAS’ TURN: “You made a mistake underestimating me, Sophia. I’m a very gregarious and honest man, but I’m no idiot. Now you’ll pay for your blunders. Get ready to meet the first Nordic God. I summon Guldfaxe of the Nordic Beasts,” A red yak jumped into play, “And tune it with my two Tanngrisnir tokens to Synchro Summon Thor, Lord of the Aesir!” His two monsters break down into rinks and stars and align as they ascend to the sky, now a colored in the beautiful colors of auroras. Snow slowly fell unto the desert ground. Then a thunderbolt strikes the ground, shattering the earth, toppling everyone but Mathias over! And thus appears Thor, a grey-bearded giant in a billowing purple coat, holding its legendary hammer.
“Next card is Mound of the Bound Creator!” The dessert sand morphs into an island of black dirt, surrounded by four pillars and the shapeless matter of chaos. Chains spring from the pillars to lock the God’s ankles into place. “Get ready for some action, kid! Thor, smack down Junk Destroyer!” The Nordic God smashes the tin man into shrapnel. “And Mound activates, dealing you an extra 1000 damage!” Thunder strikes Sophia down from the grey, foggy sky. Sophia clutches her knees, otherwise she would fall over. (Sophia LP 6500) “I set a card and end my turn.” Mathias concludes.
SOPHIA’S TURN: Her confidence shattered, Sophia thinks of defending herself at all costs. But she shakes her head. “No! I cannot run away! I have to attack! And I know how!” Mathias hears her madly yelling at herself. He almost wants to ask if she’s OK and quit the duel, but he knows it would disservice her to do so.
“I activate Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy your Fog Blade.” Sophia’s cyclone sweeps away the pernicious blade, and her fortune lady revives. “I Summon Fortune Lady Silent and Special Summon Equalizer Magician.” A tall, somber fortune lady with dark grey robes and cartoonish, mischievous professor, looking more like a mathematician than a magician, appear. “I use Lady Silent’s effect to boost time ahead for three rounds.” The somber fortune lady strikes her staff and space-time zooms ahead, but for only for one square meter. The other fortune lady in it grows in size and three levels, becoming ever stronger. “And I tune Lady Silent and Equalizer Magician to Synchro Summon Hi-Speedroid Chanbara!” A giant floating sword, really a machine, appears behind the pillar of white light.
Mathias chalks up nonchalantly, “More fancy moves? You must be the biggest, scariest duelist in town. What ever will I do?”
“Try making fun of me after I beat you.” Sophia rebukes him. “Lady Aeter, strike down Thor!” The fortune lady queen leaps right at the God’s face with boldness and impunity, and strikes its face with its burning, brilliant staff. The giant God, blinded, grabs its face in agony, roaring, and topples to the ground. (Mathias LP 7900) “Now I use Lady Aeter’s other effect. I banish her to Special Summon Fortune Lady Water and Fortune Lady Mist from my Deck,” Two fortune ladies of the water, one familiar, another new, smaller, and paler appear, “And draw 2 cards.”
Mathias claps his hands in admiration of Sophia’s skill. Sophia looks at him with suspicion and confusion so Mathias clarifies for her, “I’m not being sarcastic. I genuinely feel proud of you. You’re the second duelist in this entire tournament to succeed in killing a Nordic God. Everyone else gave up.” Sophia wants to know who the other duelist was but it doesn’t matter. Mathias has a caveat. “But you’re celebration is over. I Guldfaxe from my Graveyard to revive Thor, and deliver 800 damage!” The Nordic God stands up tall to its full height, groaning in irritation as if bitten by a mosquito. It spots Sophia, the source of its aggravation, and shocks her with a bolt of thunder from its fingertip. (Sophia LP 5700)
Sophia groans, not from the attack but from her mistake. In her fright she forgot all about Thor’s effect. Even worse, she realizes all the Nordic Gods can revive themselves. There’s nothing she can do but defend. “I tune Lady Water and Lady Mist to Synchro Summon Samsara Dragon.” The fortune ladies disappear, replaced by an otherworldly dragon engulfed in blue flames. But Sophia places it in Defense Position, for it has a strong 2600 DEF but meager ATK. “I switch Daegusto Emeral to Defense Position and set two cards facedown.”
It is now Mathias’ turn to press his advantage even further.
Created cards can be found on this link: HERE