Hassan falls down the rabbit hole and crosses through the looking glass… Darkness… Silence… He feels himself slip in half, rather duplicate, not seeing his twin but feeling him in the pitch black waters.
They’re clad in gold and white, white, fair, youthful. The sun in their eyes, looking ahead to the rising sun. They enter a golden temple and meet the priestess in the holies and holies; a woman in white, skin pale as death, long hair dark as night; her forehead high, her nose and eyes odd, her thin red lips wide, grinning as a snake.
The princes beg her, “Give us the power to fly to the sun, down in the dark, and back again. Let be immortal, beyond human.” And the priestess flickers her forked tongue, beaconing them forward. The first prince declares, “Give me the power of the gods, to be taller than the greatest obelisk, stronger than the mightiest colossus, a granite giant to outlast all of time!” The priestess smells his princely haughtier, grants his wish; turns him into stone and shatters him into pieces.
The second prince implores, “Let me see behind the moon and beyond the stars, let me turn a green leaf and see its other fair side.” The priestess grips him as a vice, twisting his lefts arm. The prince pleads for pardon and mercy. The sorceress smiles, flickers her forked tongue, and inflicts on him a far greater cruelty. She touches his forehead; the prince reels, bursts into a phoenix, flies through the stars and beyond. He sees the universe in seconds, his head opens to every world, he crosses to every star in infinite space, sees the earth and the ants crawling on it bending towards their graves as soon as their born. He sees the infinite empty space between stars, between galaxies rendering them lost in the darkness, the space always infinitely larger than all the stars in the universe.
The prince leaves the holy and holies and sees a priest. The priest speaks his knowledge learned through scribes and rites, “The earth lay submerged at the center of a vast cosmic ocean, the Nun, which itself had a distinct, rough spherical shape. The Nun did not have any barrier at its ends, but rather the physical nature of the Nun itself gave it its shape and stopped it from spilling everywhere into chaos.”
The prince and priest travel to a faraway land, stand atop the ruins of a great civilization on top of a rocky hill. They see the Greek ruins and speak of Assyrian kings, great wars, the gods, and slavery. The prince reveals the true evils and slavery. The vexed priest says, “Egypt always had slaves and slavery was just as the gods decreed it; thus it is the cosmic order of the universe.”
The prince speaks. Every bricklayer and king, all common mud, see their gods unique, their empires eternal truths, every king commands his wars, conquests, enslavements under this hubris. “I lost my innocence when humanity lost its innocence to me.”
Hassan clutched the bedposts. Then realized he was awake. He didn’t fall off the bed this time. Wiping the sweat off his forehead, he put on his slippers, feeling his way through the dark room, stumbling to the kitchen, and turns on the light. He was in Chicago, JC’s house, with Jolene and JC, who still slept. Xiaoyi was nowhere to be found.
Hassan knew it was morning in Egypt right now, so he fetched some takeout Chinese food and in the fridge. He wondered how the gang was doing in Egypt, chewing his food as he thought as a cow chews cud, his thoughts dark and leaden. Would his father lose his control over Egypt or rule it forever with the Ghouls? He wanted his father to lose, but he feared if that happened father may die. He wanted nothing more than to be with his father again.
Xiaoyi entered the kitchen in a white dress so thin it was almost transparent. She sat on the table, and started eating from Hassan’s carton. Hassan noticed how quiet yet presumptive the move was, not unlike Xiaoyi herself. He stared at Xiaoyi, realizing the similarities her features shared to Maya’s and Sophia’s: their dark, narrow, snake-like eyes, broad foreheads, and full cheeks. Yet their hands were very different. Xiaoyi’s were as small and dainty as a noblewoman’s, Maya’s as a spider’s; palms wide with powerful, long fingers with large fingernails, and Sophia’s as a witch’s; narrow palms with long, thin fingers.
Xiaoyi leaned closer to him, bridging what seemed like to be the mental barriers between them. “You want to see your father again, don’t you?”
This took Hassan completely off guard. Xiaoyi’s face betrayed the deepest sympathy, her arms very warm, forgiving Hassan for his betrayal and cowardice for leaving his father.
“Yes, I very much do. I love him but I hate what he does. Now he’s a dictator who probably aligned himself to an entire crime syndicate. People die every day under his mad quest to create a great Egypt and, worst of all, I got all you guys into this. I thought fighting the Ghouls was enough but knowing my father he’ll crack down with his army once he’s frustrated. I don’t know how Maya, Yukio, and Sophia will defend themselves. They could really die. But I don’t want to defend them because if they retaliate father may die.”
Xiaoyi said, “You’re father is a soldier. He knew the risks of politics and war and willingly accepted them. Maya, Yukio, and Sophia aren’t the only ones chipping an ante in this tournament. Heishin bet his most precious cards too. This situation may be something bigger than your father’s life. His predecessor knew that too.”
“The old President?”
“Yes, and he lost his life from Heishin playing the game, fighting for what he believed in. He imprisoned corrupt politicians, brought back a multiple parties in Egypt, and made peace with Israel, a peace your father could easily destroy. He wasn’t always the feeble old man your father easily broke with his gun.”
Xiaoyi paused as if she wanted to say something of gravest importance but wanted to phrase it the right way, understanding the power her words would have. She held his hands with her own. “You have a duty to your country, to all the people of Egypt, not just your father. You can cure Egypt of its sickness and return it to relative peace. It will be hard, dirty work but we’re all behind you. You’re father never believed in you were capable of anything but we do. We know you are a warrior greater than your father.”
Hassan felt a fire burn in his chest and felt for the first time in his life he had a real chance to prove himself. No longer would he be under his father’s boot but would live beyond his father’s dreams. He nodded solemnly. “I agree. I’ll go back. I know colleagues who used to serve my father but who now defected. We could make an ally with all the duelists in Egypt and make a counter revolution.”
“See! You were always a good soldier.” Xiaoyi said warmly.
Hassan laughed at himself. “Man, I didn’t know I limited myself in so much.”
“What do you mean?” Xioayi asked.
“I mean, astrology is one example. Jolene is really into New Age stuff and I was into it myself. Yesterday she rattled off everyone’s birthdays and zodiac signs, and I can’t help but think how I put myself in a small box believing in a bunch of conventions and stereotypes that have nothing to do with reality. My father does the same thing to himself, but his boxes are his military and religious ambitions.”
“My birthday is on December 18. Yours is December 11, Maya’s is December 15, Sophia’s is December 10. Astrologers call us ‘Sagittarians’. Sagittarians are optimistic and freedom loving, happily charging forward through life to expand their horizons. They are silly, blunt, and simple-minded, with hoof-in-the-mouth disease, lovable and trustworthy but gullible and naive. They love to travel but hate commitments and have shallow emotions.”
Hassan looked over his shoulder to see Jolene and JC fast asleep. “But as I observe you three and myself I realize how little that description holds up to scrutiny. But it’s not just us. My father, born on May 4, is a ‘Taurian’, yet he loves war. He doesn’t indulge in food or art at all. Yukio, born on Mary 23, a ‘Gemini’, must be scatterbrained and superficial, but he isn’t. Jolene, born on September 13, is a ‘Virgo’, but doesn’t care about neatness. JC, born February 20, is a ‘Piscean”, but has no traits of a dreamy artist.”
Xiaoyi barely gave a knowing smile in amusement. “So that’s what the modern Pharisees say.”
“Explain. Don’t speak in riddles.” Hassan insisted.
Xiaoyi explained, “Reading your horoscope is like listening to a televangelist in a megachurch or rallying behind your favorite political party. You dull your intellect and emotions to join a congregation, believing there is a ‘proper’ place for you in this monstrous world. Want to find your soul mate and live happily ever after? You might as well play MASH. It’s more accurate and costs nothing.”
Hassan considered Xiaoyi’s words, then said, “I’ve been too timid all my life, following people I really hate. Maybe it’s because father always told me how disappointing I was, so I never believed in myself.”
“Maybe it’s time to change.”
“Maybe it is.” Heishin got up and started packing his bags. “Tomorrow I leave for Egypt.” Before he went to bed, he realized something: Xiaoyi, Maya, and Sophia were all left-handed.
DAY 7 : 6:01 AM : LUXOR
Maya and Yukio heard a loud knocking from downstairs. Mathias called for them out from below, saying he really needed to talk to them. Yukio groaned, taking his hand away from Maya’s breast, while Maya untangled her legs from his. Sophia rose from a separate bed, rubbing the gunk from her eyes. What did Mathias have to say that was so urgent?
Mathias, and Maximus and Ivy, showed our heroes exactly what, making them swear to never say a word of what they heard or saw. Mathias and his comrades held each other’s arms as if in prayer. Our heroes couldn’t tell if it they feeling some aura from them or if it was the rising sun’s warming rays, but it was a deeply powerful presence. Our heroes looked toward the rising sun and saw something extraordinary! A dragon bathed in fiery gold, a swordswoman in the purest armor, and a dragon of ice and fire soared through the rising sun as if climbing its rays, peaking at the sky with the highest zephyrs. Then they vanished; everything was over in a few seconds.
Our heroes were astonished, but Mathias explained it to them. “I noticed Sophia’s latent powers when she dueled me. She almost killed me back then!” Mathias gave an echo of a garrulous laugh just remembering it. “That was intense! And I suspect you two have powers too. We,” He gestured to Maximus and Ivy, “Are known as the Saints. We destroy arrogant champions, as you know, but, more importantly, we defend humanity and the earth from evildoers of all kinds, human and demons.”
Maya raised her eyebrow in severe skepticism. “Powers? Explain.”
“A Doubting Thomas to the end like Kaiba himself, I see. Very well.” Mathias said, “The occult is real. Magic exists. It’s a fact. Deal with it. One type of magic is summoning your Ka, as practiced by the Ancient Egyptians, who believed it to be the spark of life. It entered a baby at birth, animating his body molded from clay by the gods, and left at death. The Ba is the personality, no, the very person herself. When a person surpassed their trials in the Underworld, Ka and Ba merged together again, forming the Akh, or intellect; a complete soul. Maximus, will you?”
Maximus took over his comrade’s part, “What does this have to do with magic? The Egyptians thought the Ba could nourish the Ka to the point of it taking a bodily form. They thought a Ka could either be good, a spirit, or evil, a monster. This was how Pharoah Atem, wielder of the Gods, battled Bakura, King of Thieves, wielder of Diabound and Zorc. Today, Ka are your Monster Cards, and Ba are your Life Points. Sometimes you can channel your Ka without making it into a monster, as Ivy did to heal Mathias.”
Ivy took over, “But people use their Ka beyond magic. Each time you help a friend or do some other good deed, it nourishes your Ka, casts light on your Ba, and makes you a better person. If you do evil, your Ka grows darker and corrodes your Ba, eating you from the inside out. Each affirmation of life enlargens you and, believe it or not, you’ve nourished your Ka for a long time. The Ka and Ba nourish each other, your Ka growing brighter, your Ba growing stronger. It even happens when you play music and duel for what you believe in.”
Maya and Yukio talked to each other for a moment, Yukio then saying, “So your Ka is almost like your creative live force.”
“If that makes sense, yes.” Ivy said.
Mathias grew solemn and gloomy, which told everyone that whatever he would say would be of utmost seriousness. “Matthew has a Ka of his own, Horus the Black Flame Dragon. It takes years of training to wield such magic, or Heka, but Matthew took the quick route. An evil person forced his Ka to grow and hatch, but bound his life to his own. You must be prepared for Matthew, the Ghouls, and the wicked beings behind him.”
“How do you know any of this?” Maya asked.
“We cannot disclose such classified information.”
“Enough sarcasm. Don’t break the fourth wall just yet. You’re Kas are strong, but underdeveloped. We don’t have time to train but we can discover your Ka, stir it a little bit, make it a bit stronger.”
Mathias instructed for our heroes to put their hands together while he clasped his hands over theirs, with Maximus and Ivy putting their hands on top of his to support it. Everyone closed their eyes, concentrating, diving down the well of their beings.
Mathias rides through open space, streaking through the stars, a burning comet. A rainbow road across the horizon, a warrior; a burning bright blue-white sun, races across the road on a motorcycle, trailing stardust behind him. Further and further, he rides to the future, flying higher and higher to his destiny as a true duelist: Starlight Quasar Knight.
Up, up, away from the road, Mathias sees the farthest of stars and galaxies, and the limitless space they all swim in, a space always infinitely larger than all the stars in the universe. He flies further to the edge of the universe, the stars glowing gnats at the surface of a great bond, all stars and galaxies gathering together. To the event horizon: the stars are a body. Beyond the starry tent he sees a dragon, brighter than all the stars, blacker than the deepest space: Cosmo Dragon.
He follows the light beyond to a graveyard; dark, sorrowful, a fog fills the air, the smell of dust and death. A glint, a crack of gold, reaches him; the sun rises, filling the graveyard with light, shattering the fog, banishing death. A dark dragon climbs the sky with the sun; a skeleton of black bones, its insides on fire, singing, the whole world, the whole universe within the fire inside, the rising sun casts a ring around it, making it even darker and more glorious. The dragon looks directly down at him, right through him, right to his soul; the only being to ever really see him: Deadstar Dragon.
Mathias cast himself away, gasping, as did Maximus and Ivy. They never saw such Ka in their lives: neither spirits nor demons, neither good nor evil. The Saints knew their task to investigate the events at Egypt and discern humanity’s destiny was of the highest seriousness, but only now did they know the weight of their task.