Yugioh Endgame – Duel 24: Blitzschach

The high mage Anubisius does not sleep but prepares for war for the enemy is coming. He summons his servants to have his war suit ready, and so they equip their master with armor and weapons fit for his tall muscular body. The servants wrap him in a special bullet-proof nanofiber that resembles the white linen for wrapping mummies, green armored plates, and a thick shell to protect his entire back that also functioned as a backpack for storing weapons.

For the final touch, Anubisius dons a jackal mask, now transformed from man to god. What is a god but a man who has thoroughly mastered the natural and human worlds? Mere mortals still trapped in their bipartite reality struggle for survival with the fittest prospering and the weak perishing. The god rules this world as his dominion, an animal so strong it transcended such a kingdom by having no competition.     

With these thoughts, Anubisius grips his Millennium Key so tightly his knuckles pop. “Let the rats and dogs of the animal kingdom come.” He proudly declares. “The battle begins.”

Meanwhile, among the army of Egyptian soldiers and Ghoul criminals, Maya abruptly changes plans. She will take out Anubisius’s army first, burning herself out, then Mathias and Yukio will take over when drones and other reinforcements arrive. Once they burn out, the army can more easily secure the place and trap Anubisius. If the reinforcements arrive early, Maya will need to call her supernatural backup early.

Maya, realizing the trap her enemies prepared for her at the very last moment, tells Hassan, Mathias, and Yukio of the sudden change of plans. They argue with her that dreams are too uncertain a message. “You are as capricious as a tyrant!” Hassan scorns her. “No better than my father!”

Disappointed and worried, Maya brushes off this attack and stalks to a place by herself to meditate for ten minutes, fusing into her Ka, building up in explosive fire until she becomes a dormant volcano soon to erupt from millennia of slumber. If she cannot persuade her comrades to her strategy, she will force them to battle on her terms lest everyone fall into the trap and be destroyed, and – snap! – six blazing wings erupt from her back, two long horns crest her head, her eyes become the color of the dawn sun, and she brandishes a flaming sword. 

She leaps into battle, mowing down the lawn of poppies into a fiery channel. The first group of soldiers wonder if the rising sun is brighter than usual but night falls on them right afterwards. The other soldiers shriek as if they see Satan himself and desperately fire round after round at the wall of fire, all in vain. The bullets miss the lioness entirely or vaporize from the heat surrounding her. Only one bullet makes it, but it harmlessly embeds in her chest vest.

The drones soon arrive to drop missiles at their target, one almost hitting Maya. She dodges to safety at the last moment but the ricochet from the explosion propels her backwards, and she twists in the air, landing on all fours like a cat does lest she break her neck by falling face first. Then she completely commits to the air, forced to deal with more dangerous opponents. 

“What in the Lake of Cocytus is she doing?” Mathias cries in dismay.

Yukio curses in frustration. “I don’t know, but we must help her!” His bond to the mother of his child overrides his reason, and so he uses the same technique Maya did to partially merge into his Ka, No. 39: Utopia in a few minutes. A bewildered Mathias has no choice but to follow him, somewhat merging with own Ka, Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8.   

Hassan recognizes the situation they are in. The ground attack must not cease and battle must resume immediately. He summons the army of Egyptian soldiers and Ghouls, and they rush to battle. The ground fight is a stalemate of equal bloodshed at first but the scales slowly tip in Hassan’s favor. Yukio and Mathias take to the air to aid Maya in the aerial battle, for she is vastly outnumbered by several hundred drones. 

Whizzing about the sky blooded red from the early sunrise, the three flying warriors seem to flit in and out of existence from one point to another without any moment in between, puncturing one drone after another, like a hive of wasps warding off a rival tribe. With the drones overcome, it is now time to capture Anubisius, duel him, and win his Millennium Item. Time is running out, since the warriors’ halfway form can be sustained for at most fifteen minutes.

Mathias, Maya, and Yukio sunder the roof of Anubisius’s mansion like a crashing meteor, exposing their leader. The terrified Anubisius feels as if stripped naked despite his powerful armor. He fires his automatic guns at them only for the bullets singe to ash from the warriors’ magic aura of fire. He throws several grenades at them but to no avail. Mathias bats one grenade away. Yukio dodges the other grenade, and it kills several of Anubisius’s men on the plantation field below through friendly fire. Maya kicks the last grenade back to him like it is a deadly hacky sack, blowing Anubisius away.

The high mage is reduced to crawling in front of a large chair. Had he not worn armor, the grenade would have killed him. He brandishes the Millennium Key in a last effort to defend himself. Commanding its ancient magic, he attempts to separate the Ka of his assailants from their bodies. The warriors concentrate hard to resist the separation through sheer force of will, but they succeed though with exceeding difficulty, since pulling out a Ka half fused with the Ba is like separating sublime love from carnal desire.   

Mathias, Maya, and Yukio pause to catch their breath, sweat dripping from their foreheads. Maya, being the most greedy for victory and eager to destroy another Millennium Item, whips her flaming sword at Anubisius. The latter considers hiding in a foxhole leading to a vast secret chamber below the plantation doubling as a Momentum Generator.

“Um…” Anubisius formulates a half coherent thought for the approaching Maya. “I’m just gonna let you do your firebending nonsense while I take a vacation and – Look! A dragon!” He points to the sky.

Maya nears Anubisius, intending to cut his fingers off one by one until he duels her. “I’m not falling for that.”

“No, for realsies!” Anubisius pleads, his claim as sincere as his desire to live.  

The man is right. A mighty white dragon with six wings and the power to rival the gods, as bright as the sun in mid day, assaults the three warriors, battering them hundreds of feet in the air. Maria has come to the rescue, her Ka and Ba completely fused as one. With a single shout, Maria decimates Hassan’s army with a terrifying burst stream of destruction. Hassan and a handful of soldiers are miraculously saved by Mathias, who conjures a magical silver shield of dragonhide to protect his comrades at the last moment.

Hassan praises Allah, kissing the ground as he does so, but Mathias falls to the ground all winded out. The cost of defense was too high. The great Blue-Eyes White Dragon prepares for another attack, but Yukio rushes up to her in the air, aiming his blade for the heart. He hopes the medieval fable of a dragon’s weakness being the heart is true, but he never gets to find out since the white dragon bats him away with her wings. The white dragon then prepares for another attack.

A new dragon appears from nowhere, a chimera with the scales of ancient reptiles, the plumage of exotic birds, the gaudy fur of the great cats, and the long face of the apes, another six-winged divine beast with the brilliance of a star. This dragon hits the white dragon in the dead center of her chest with a golden breath of electromagnetic plasma, throwing the white dragon into the horizon and atomizing Anubisius’s mansion in the way.  

The dragon of variegated colors pounces after its rival without a millisecond of rest. The dragons clash in the orange and pink vault above, or do they dance like the wandering stars beyond the planets? They lock burst streams for a moment until their energies violently inflate into a devastating wave that blinds the sun and shatters the earth. All these events take just over a minute. 

Had Maya entered fresh into battle as a dragon she would have lasted a few minutes. But now, already fatigued from warring beforehand, she pushed far past her limit. The feathered dragon collapses on the ground, once more becoming Maya, her naked body gashed, scratched, battered, burned, and bruised.

Yukio rushes to help her up, Hassan following. Mathias briefly ponders, on seeing Maya’s body, if Eve and Serpent were truly one and the same, but the white dragon looming above shatters his reveries. A Ghoul gets a rude idea in his head; he touches Maya’s inner thigh under the pretext of helping her get up. He plans to stealthily grab Maya by the groin when no one is looking, but the pious Hassan, incensed by such outrageous conduct, shoots the Ghoul in the face, ending the lecherous fool’s life.

The white dragon dishes its final onslaught. Yukio conjures a shield of his own, what looks like a white technological marvel from the distant future, and joins Mathias in combat. The two warriors unite into one defense, planted to the ground as a great oak, and together they disperse the white dragon’s lightning torrent. The exhausted beast retreats, flying away to fight another day, vanishing from sight within a second.

Maya, breathing heavily, asks in a hoarse voice, “Where is Anubisius?”

“He most likely ran away.” Hassan answered.

“That cretin!” Maya raves, frothing at the mouth. Smoke might as well billow from her nostrils. “I’ll send that fool back to Fortnite!”

“You’re not even wearing pants.” Mathias teases her.


“I need to destroy that goddamn coward.” Maya insists.

“You need a band-aid and a nappy.” Yukio retorts in good humor. He detaches a small magnetic backpack that miraculously stuck to Maya’s back this whole time. He finds a duel disk inside as well as a small touch-screen device, a device whose function he does not understand, so he decides to ask Maya about it later. Yukio bandages Maya and swaddles her in a blanket while Mathias carries her. 

Two men, one of Hassan’s soldiers and a Ghoul, drags a cowering and shaking enemy soldier before their leaders. “Well, well, look what the cat dragged in.” The Ghouls sneers, thinking himself rather sardonic and clever.

“Wait, how can the cat drag anything in?” The soldier interjects. “There is no ‘in’ out here.”

“Who cares!” The Ghoul draws a dagger to the cowering man’s throat. “Where’s your boss? Your capo with the goofy name? Answer now or I’ll slaughter you like you’re a chicken!”

The man, though shaking, refuses to answer but instead boasts he would gladly die than tell. Yukio orders the Ghoul to stop. He promises the enemy that he would not kill but keep him captive as a prisoner though with reasonable accommodations. He is not a cruel man. “But if you tell me your master’s location, I will let you go. I swear by my blood.” The enemy spills the beans and Yukio releases him, true to his word.

Meanwhile, Anubisius consolidates himself in the secret chamber beneath what used to be his mansion. He really hopes no one finds him. Getting caught in a foxhole is so 2003. Just embarrassing. Next thing he knows, Yukio barges in, making him jump with a start.

“Yo, waddup.” Yukio greets him. “Get ready for the Shadow Realm, big guy.”

Yugioh Endgame – Duel 23: 4.5D Chess

Little Narmer runs to his mother who still sleeps under the green light of dawn. “Mommy! Mommy! Wake up!” He calls, but his mother might as well be a rock. He nudges her, pushes her, jumps on her back, but the mother slumbers. “Mommy, I’m hungry!” He demands, but he gets nothing. He jumps on her again. She remains a stone. He jumps on his mother once more, but she loses no beauty sleep. 

He slams into Maya, who in her dream sees everything happening to her from above, and she wakes up. She expects to see her child by her side and her husband in the living room, but instead topples through the air to meet the harsh yellow light and arid sand of the desert. She sees a sphinx, which barely surpasses her height by sitting on a granite slab, but the beast appears colossal, and its head has the silky black hair, pale skin, and narrow dark brown eyes that can only belong to Yifan.

Maya notices for the first time a legion of men draped in black robes and cowles like the Ghouls, each man waiting his turn in line before admission to the sphinx’s presence. The sphinx poses no riddle but each wise man rattles on and on in monologue for days, weeks, years. His beard turns grey, his eyes get dull and misty, his body shrivels like an old grape, becoming smaller and smaller until he vanishes. The next man meets the same fate, as does the man after that, and the man after that, but the sphinx files her nails in boredom. 

Maya recalls reading book after book on philosophy, politics, and literature during high school and college, determined not only to find some answers, to find things to believe in, but also to beat the white man at his own game. Well, it seems the old men are playing themselves. The sphinx gives Maya the side eye as if Yifan is asking her if everything she has done was a waste of time. 

Maya ignores the creature and sets out in the desert alone only to realize she is on a planet made of shattered glass. She meets someone else in this desert, a tall man with broad shoulders and stern countenance garbed in his trademark white trench coat. It is Kaiba, but Maya sees the fractured reflections of Sofia’s face in the shattered glass everywhere. 

They duel instantly and, as soon as they do, the sun transforms into a satellite, which then expands in a crystalline dome enveloping the entire world. Maya executes a strategy, but it fails miserably, like Kaiba knows exactly what she is doing, what she is thinking. Maya wonders why in frustration until she sees the cards in her hand reflected off the dome. 

Maya throws the duel disk at the dome, shattering it, and the crystalline shards fall on her like solid rain. She fears she will die but then wakes up, seeing her son by her side. Maya hugs and kisses him like she has not seen him for years, and she goes to the kitchen to make pancakes with her husband, but everything vanishes as a mirage in the desert, and she encounters Yifan as the sphinx once more.

Maya startles, noticing she is deep in the ocean inside the small submarine she used to escort Sofia half round the world and back. Where’s Sofia? She might as well wear a red and white shirt because she is nowhere to be found. Maya does not even know why she is ten leagues beneath the sea in the first place. What country would she go to? North America? She is the most wanted terrorist. Europe? Same. Africa? Looking at the same place over and over again never finds what is lost. Asia? Yifan rules the land with an iron fist in a leather glove, and she would probably screw with Maya in the real world as well as in dreams.

Maya gives up, returning to Egypt. She meets Hassan, also meets Yukio who brought Mathias along. Narmer is understandably not there but Maya still feels like there is a whole in her chest. They discuss a strategy to take out Anubisius, the next high mage with a Millennium Item. Their plan is to secretly send a small task force to Anubisius’ poppy plantation and raid it. Maya, Yukio, and Mathias only use their Ka after Anubisius sends reinforcements to do maximum damage with the few precious minutes they have to exert such great magical power. Then everyone is dismissed. 

Maya returns to the Ghouls hideout to sit on her throne as their new leader. Maya adjusts herself many times in discomfort, her butt hurting more than after Yukio gets kinky with her. How did Malik sit on this thing? Pandora, now the underboss, and several goombas give Maya their obesciences. “What shall be your bidding master…” Pandora stops, having no idea how to address his new superior. “Master Maya? Miss Maya? Mistress of All Evil? Your Malignancy?”

“Please stop.” Maya groans.

Pandora gets sillier. “Darth Maladicta? Satine the Satanic? Empress of Eternal Darkness? Stalina the Sinister? Ghoul Goddess? Shadow Game Sorceress? Duchess Dunkelheit?”

Maya settles on a name. “‘Miss Maya’ should be fine.”

“That hardly sounds evil or threatening.” Pandora objects. “You sound like a schoolteacher who has to watch over petulant children.”

“That’s exactly how I feel.” Maya puts it bluntly. “And I will show you how much fear I can put in two innocent little words.”  

With that in mind, Maya gathers her Ka as if itching for a fight and summons every Ghoul to the main hall of their hideout. She explains to them Hassan’s plan. “I need you to fight an army and burn a poppy plantation to the ground. My friend, Hassan Mubarak, needs you to supplement his army, but he must see which thieves and prostitutes among you have the fortitude to even begin training, so you’ll begin tryouts at his place first.”

“Ooh! I love tryouts!” Adam squeals in delight, jumping up like a puppy. “Give me a G! Give me an H! Give me a – ”

“Pandora, kill him.” Maya quickly orders. When Pandora fails to obey, Maya pulls out a small but lethal gun and fires a bullet into Adam’s head. The Ghouls watch in stunned horror as the body of their comrade falls to the ground and his life instantly disappears. Maya brandishes a butterfly dagger at Pandora, causing the underboss to squeak in a panic. “Disobey me again and Adam will ruin your afterlife forever.”

Clarence manages to speak up despite being terrified. “You know, Malik would brainwash us before killing us, and he never sent us to fight actual wars either. Evil masterminds monologue first and make convoluted plans later. You’re being too straightforward. Very unprofessional.”

“Let’s try this again. Pandora, kill him.” Maya orders. Pandora instantly draws his own gun and ends Clarence’s life. The Ghouls are so stiff with fear they might as well be statues. 

Maya smirks with amusement and gives them comforting words in a sardonic tone. “Listen, you must simply obey me. I don’t want your love, admiration, or even respect. This is not the mafia. There are no blood ties here. Only my will exists. There is no way but my way.”

Three Ghouls point their guns at Maya. “We don’t have to listen to you.” They declare, firing their weapons. Maya easily catches each bullet between her fingers, astounding the would-be killers.

Maya pops her fingers, one by one, at a leisurely place. “Force lightning Akhenaten style.” She then leans forward as if about to say something grave and important. “Boo.” The Ghouls cower back in fear. 

“Was that really necessary?” Pandora timidly asks. “I mean, you have a gun.”

“I overdid it, didn’t I?”

“If I may say so, yes. And, honestly, I can tell you’re new to the whole evil mastermind thing. I get the feeling you’re desperately winging it to establish your authority.”

“You are correct.” Maya admits with a certain innocent candor. 

She reaches for an iPhone. “I believe you guys use your own underground Internet called the ‘Dark Cloud.’ Correct?” The Ghouls quickly nod. “Pandora, what’s the WiFi password around here?” She receives the password, muttering while carefully typing it. “Password… One… Two… Three…” A moment later, and all is set. “You now have the coordinates to Hassan’s location. Be there tomorrow at nine before noon. No excuses for being late.”

“Um, I accidentally left my phone at home.” One of the Ghouls says in a sheepish tone.

“Then share with a friend.”

“Can I go to the bathroom?” Another Ghoul asks.

“Not until I dismiss you.”

“But Miss Maya, I really gotta go.” He whines.

“You will literally become a soldier tomorrow. Get some discipline.”

Before Maya takes her leave, she says, “Pandora will be your substitute teacher while I’m gone. If any of you misbehave, he will tell me and I will deal with you personally. And you,” She points to a Ghoul shivering near the pile of ashes that was once his comrade. “Get a broom and put your friend in a ceramic pot. At least give him a decent burial.”

The next day, Hassan arrives with his army to put the Ghouls through boot camp. Though the Ghouls are clearly no strangers to violence and subterfuge they lack proper military training and discipline, and it is up to Hassan to put them through a crash course to set them reasonably straight. 

Maya oversees the training just in case Hassan’s army teaches a Ghoul a technique that can be used against her, but she teaches no one her black arts. She uses the time to reflect on the dream she had, puzzling its meaning. Yifan taught her how to reach people through dreams and Maya taught it to Sofia in turn. The strengths of dreams are the ability to travel to different worlds and communicate to people in a way that cannot easily be detected. However, the communication itself is vague at best.

Yifan and Sofia were trying to tell Maya something, but what? Maya dismisses Yifan’s boastful message as a pretentious taunt, at least for now. Sofia is a different matter. Why did she disguise herself as Kaiba? Would Kaiba use his space station to somehow see through Maya’s tactics when they dueled? It doesn’t make sense. Maya would sing something to be a cheerleader of sorts, but she concludes that this chapter fills enough pages as it is. 

A month of intensive training passes. Maya spars with Yukio and Mathias several times and spends her free time looking for Sofia in vain. The leaders gather their forces and march for days through the Middle Eastern desserts at night, camping near Anubisius’s plantation.

A Ghoul lights a cigarette and comments, “Blood and opium, huh. Such is life. Such is death.” The man behind the cowl must have been an arts major before turning to crime. His comment has the trappings of philosophy but not its substance.

Mathias, Yukio, and Maya huddle together on the eve of battle. Mathias and Yukio have been talking to each other for a while and Mathias decides to speak to Maya first. “Your decision to lead the Ghouls was disturbing on many levels. I know we need reinforcements for our revolution but why not train the displaced people living in tent cities?”

Maya answers, “The Ghouls are a ready supply that needed little training. They also provide many resources since they are an international crime syndicate. There is no room for a clean conscience in a war this big. This is not a crusade. It is impossible to be a good soldier and a good Christian.”

Mathias refutes her. “I disagree. You say you’re pragmatic but it’s really about convenience and power. The means justify the ends. There is no point in fighting for freedom and the planet when you betray your very principles by letting criminals run amok. The Ghouls will make the world a less safe and less free place to live. Even in times of darkness, one can be a good Christian.”

Maya counterargues, “The alternative, possible human extinction while a handful of despots govern a burning planet, is much worse. The Ghouls will at most do childish antics like raping and murdering some people. I will deal with that problem later. When the war is won, I will make the Ghouls disappear. The new world is not for me or them. I will be the bad guy to make the dream of countless people come true. Those are the sacrifices I’m willing to make.”

Mathias shakes his head, clutching his glowing pendant. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve lived for over a century thanks to my philosopher’s stone, and I’ve seen countless men fall to darkness in this way. They thought they could separate themselves from their dark deeds but they became their dark deeds. Man cannot defeat his sinful nature.”

Yukio holds Maya’s hands. “Heed his warning. Also, be careful with Sofia. You went out of your way to save her a few chapters back. People now know she is your weak spot, and they will exploit it. I wish you treated our child with as much love.”

Maya pushes Yukio away. “How dare you say that! I would die for Narmer!”

Now the army sleeps as much as it can, for it will attack before dawn. Maya, with her eyes closed, suddenly understands her dream. Kaiba and Anubisius know of Maya’s tactic. She is stepping into their trap. “Oh…” She says flatly. “Oh… Shrink-and-an-Enemy-Controller.”

Yugioh Endgame – Duel 22: Dark Clouds in the Sky, Christmas in July

Skipping while I tweet.
Anakin hates sand.
No snow on the street.
Start a cool rock band.

Not a single sound.
New York is real bright.
Eerie all around.
Gentrified and tight.

Blah blah blah! Blah blah blah!
How does this song go?

I’ve heard it all day and night.
On the radio.

Sofia sings in cheerful tone, making up the words as she goes along. This causes Jolene to giggle, confused but entertained anyway. “Sofia, it’s July. It’s not Christmas.”

“Yes it is, over…” Sofia pauses. It is Christmas at the time this chapter is posted, but the sun right now scorches the world Sofia lives in. She trails away, “Over there…”

Sofia feels a small itching resentment towards Jolene for ruining her small moment of fun, wanting nothing more than to forget her humiliation at the Ghouls for kidnapping her and dispatching her in a duel. Worse, she now as to work with those same people. 

Speaking of work, they have to see the high mage Martis himself at the Freedom Tower. The two women report to his office shortly thereafter. Jolene, the artist of the two, notices how Martis’s office is cluttered with modernist furniture, the extreme contrasts in color and design hurting her sensitive eyes. Sofia, the awakening apprentice, smells a certain anxiousness from the high mage, something suggesting a hollow heart trying in vain to fill itself.

“You girls are late.” He sternly rebukes them. “Your computing skills are needed more than ever to protect us yet you go to Starbucks or Sephora or wherever. We’re taking my jet. Mr. Kaiba is setting a plan in motion.”

Jolene gets triggered from such comments but knows better than to argue with Martis about misogynistic stereotypes. Sofia appreciates the remarks. The more her enemies think her frivolous the better she can subvert them. Martis summons his bodyguards to escort them to the jet and soon everyone is thousands of feet in the air.

“We used to have a rock band.” Jolene recalls. “Yukio made it up and we would sometimes play in a bar to raise money, way back when were just Team Dark Duelists. The band had a bad name, but Yukio was always thinking of changing it.”

“What was it called?” Sofia asks with respectful curiosity. 

“Blood Velvet.”

“Yeah, it does need to be changed.”

So Jolene and Sofia spent the time coming up with a better band name, something dark, something edgy, something mystical, a counterculture icon. Magic Spiral? No, too bland. How about Mystick Spiral? – With a “c” and “k”! – No, they’ll get sued. Why not Blood Spiral? Enough with the spirals already! Dizzy Lizzy? Jolene claims Sofia’s suggestion as a stage name but gives it back to her. Sofia has the dark looks to pull off the “Lizard King satire” better. Strange Plays? Not striking enough, and not everyone is nostalgic over 90s video games anyway.

Jolene and Sofia never settle on a new band name. Before they know it, they are off in a helicopter to a rocky island shore. They see a pole in the distance so tall it went past the sky. Later they recognize it to be a sky elevator. No way! It is the KaibaCorp space station!

Martis escorts Jolene and Sofia once they land to meet Kaiba himself at the base of the elevator. The greetings are civil but short. The four of them enter the elevator and skyrocket past the sky of the earth. The pearl blue earth, the black horizon of outer space, and the sun’s unfiltered white rays cutting through the line separating both are a breathtaking view. Jolene and Sofia would have appreciated the grand sight a lot more if the g-force of the elevator did not make them feel like their bowels were being squeezed out of their bodies.

Everyone reaches the space station on top where Kaiba leads them to a computing room with a projection of the entire world on display. Kaiba points to the many nodes placed on each major city. “KaibaCorp uses a Crystal Cloud network, which not only gives someone the chance to duel anyone else on earth but also keeps track of each duelist at all times. A duel disk not only uploads data from a duel to the KaibaCorp main computer it also recognizes different users. No duelist can hide their location from me or suppress their permanent record.”

Now Sofia understands why the Ghouls still wear masks and cloaks. It is not just a tradition from back when Malik was their leader, it keeps them anonymous.

It is like Kaiba reads Sofia’s mind for he continues. “Still, a conniving dog like the terrorists we deal with can hide in other ways. He can hide his appearance to create an alter ego. He can reconnect his duel disk to an outside network, an underground Internet. Switching duel disks at regular intervals does not work if he is connected to the Crystal Cloud, but it can work if he is connected to a separate network instead.”

Sofia notices how all the nodes link not only to each other but gather to a point above the earth. “Why is there an extra point?” Sofia ventures.

Kaiba ignores the question, an action that tells Sofia all she needs to know. “Jolene, Sofia, you are the best programmers and hackers I know.” He says. “Your job is to help me find the terrorists’ underground network, their ‘Dark Cloud.’ This is not a request but an order from your employer. You two will stay with me in the space station until I decide to leave. You will have vital information and therefore cannot leave the station under any circumstances.”

But Kaiba is not heartless. He summons Mokuba to show the two women how the good services he will provide the two women to somewhat compensate for conscripting them into a new job. Such services include gaming centers, a library, a gym, and a luxury bedroom, a place they would live together in more comfort than if they stayed on the ground. 

Sofa thinks back to when she had a sparring session with Maya on the southernmost coast of South America. She told Jolene she went to the gym for the whole day, a lie that kind of made sense since Maya used a spaceship-submarine-thing to quickly whisk Sofia from one side of the globe to the other. “What if Kaiba somehow knows, and now he is hinting at me that I cannot make any more lies?” Sofia asks to herself in worry.

She calms herself down, knowing that worrying is useless. It is very unlikely Kaiba knows anything. Even if he did, how could he prove it? He needs Sofia. Her worry reveals her fear, not reality. An idea suddenly strikes her while she is in this train of thought. Glad to focus on something, she nearly voices an opinion but cuts herself short. 

Kaiba glances at her. “You have something to say? Speak.”

Jolene gently nudges Sofia, a reminder to be careful with her words. Sofia nods, then speaks. “You run a corporation that can completely destroy everyone’s privacy since the Crystal Cloud links to the entire Internet. Through that Internet, KaibaCorp has control of every satellite with nuclear warheads on earth.” 

Jolene knows what Sofia is implying, and she quickly shakes her head in an attempt to dissuade her friend from being too outspoken. Sofia ignores the warning, determined to speak the truth but in a tactful way. “I have the feeling you want to leave your stepfather Gozaburo’s legacy behind, hence why you completely revamped KaibaCorp from manufacturing weapons to manufacturing gaming machines. Yet looking at all the power you have, all the weapons you indirectly own, I believe Gozaburo would be happy if he had your position.”  

Kaiba raises his finger, about to say something, but does not make a sound. He broods over the issue instead. It was an idea he worried over for a long time but no one brought it up. Now someone put his thoughts, which used to exist only in his head, out in the open. A murky impression became a clear statement. He replies, “A fair criticism.”

Kaiba ponders another issue. He sits down on a chair and swivels it to face Sofia. “I have an extra task for you. Once we find the ‘Dark Cloud’ I want you to infiltrate the terrorists. You used to be on Maya’s team in the 13th World Championship, meaning you have a special relationship with her. You are to make contact with her again, befriend her, and bring her to me. I will dispatch her in a duel for the world to see before imprisoning her.”

Sofia finishes his thoughts, “You want to humiliate her before the world to prove her wrong and deter anyone from following her path. Locking her away will cut off the snake’s head.” Sofia’s new role as a double mole is too big to sink in yet.

“Hmm.” Kaiba murmurs as he strokes his chin. “Sofia, do you sympathize with Maya’s cause in any way? You can be honest with me.”

Sofia replies, “I don’t know how to feel about it. Most of the world is suffering under poverty and oppression, so rebel terrorists killing the high mages makes sense. Still, Maya seems like the kind of person who’s more interested in revenge or shits and giggles than fighting for a cause.”

“I see.” Kaiba then starts typing into a computer. “Enough chatting. Your work starts immediately.”

Jolene and Sofia set to work immediately, with Mokuba giving them drinks every once in a while. Sofia’s new position as a double mole now fully sinks in. Now what is she gonna do?

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 30

Duel 30 – Deal With the Devil

Threatened, Maya flipped the switch to her hotel room, revealing the intruder. “Xiaoyi! What are you doing here?” Maya exclaimed in shock.

“I’m here to give you an offer you can’t refuse.” Xiaoyi answered with a kind smile. “Please, sit down.”

Maya shut the door behind her, astonished. “You can’t be serious.” She said to herself. “You are the greater-scope villain after all, the one who secretly pulled the strings behind the entire tournament. Even I couldn’t count the number of plot holes in your scheme.”

“Well, Matthew did let the cat out of the bag. I should have chosen someone with more to lose, then he would be quiet.”

Maya pounced on Xiaoyi as a lion does on its prey, pinning the woman to the wall, chocking her so hard Maya bore marks on her fair skin with her nails. Xiaoyi did not flinch so much as blaze with bright light for an instant the way a Millennium Item does. The blow easily sent Maya across the room, crashing her against the wall so hard the wall cracked. Maya hung in mid air, petrified by the curse.

Xiaoyi hovered near Maya in a carefree manner, amused. “What a brave girl you are to challenge me, even after fathoming my powers. I understand my revelation and the trials I gave you were stressful, but touch me again and I will kill you in the blink of an eye.” And Xiaoyi let Maya down, who collapsed to the floor, doubling in pain, and opened the window, enjoying the spring breeze. “Shall we do business?”

Maya had no choice to admit she had to agree to Xiaoyi’s terms. She could not challenge Xioayi and she was sure Xiaoyi would incinerate her or something just as bad if she tried running away. “What do you want from me?”

“I want a partner. I want you to help me destroy civilization.”

“What?” Maya could not believe this. “I never took you for the anarcho-primitivist type. Why would you want to such a thing anyway? I want to know more about your involvement in Egypt. How did you manage to orchestrate the whole thing besides using dark magic Egyptian powers? You want me to be your partner, then tell me the truth!” But Maya knew she could not take anything Xiaoyi said at face value. That would be stupid in the extreme.

Xiaoyi sat on the bed, inviting Maya to the same. “First things first: I don’t think I need to tell you that democracy in America, or anywhere else, is a sham. Gernand de Laclose was the Executive Director of the one of branches of the World Bank Group. I was an employee before I promptly killed him, and took his place. Explaining how I climbed so high up the corporate ladder at such a young age involves a tedious history of lying and bribes I would rather not get into. I even make myself look far older when on the job because I doubt my ‘colleagues’ would trust a twenty-six your old with the world’s affairs.

“The World Bank can finance almost any country it wants. It ostensibly exists to aid developing countries and what have you. It is made of five subdivisions, each subdivision run by a board of directors, whose members agree on an action before it is passed. Getting what you want is not as difficult as you think despite such bureaucratic obstacles. Banks around the world put sticky fingers in each other’s pockets and get chummy with superpowers and mega corporations all the time. The rulers of mankind are many different people, but we all protect each others’ interests. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.”

Maya demanded, “I know how banks and big business work. Get to the point already.”

“Alright. kiddo.” Xiaoyi winked at her naïve pupil. “Gernand and me funded Heishin Mubarak through ostensibly funding the Egyptian government, and we even got some help from the CIA while at it too, which gave weapons to the Ghouls and Heishin’s army. I gave Heishin and Matthew some magic as icing on the cake. You killed them both, so I’m a bit low on peons.”

Maya skeptically raised an eyebrow. “I find that hard to believe. What was the point of it all?”

“I told Heishin about the Book of Isis, so he would waste his time finding a mystical artifact. Matthew just wanted to kill you, which was motivation enough, I guess. Either way, the MacGuffin itself isn’t that important; the point was test everyone to find a future partner. Whoever won the treasure hunt would be mine, and, since you found Egypt’s ultimate Easter Egg, you won. Congratulations!”

Xiaoyi gave Maya her outstretched hand. “Produce the Book for me. I know you have it. You wouldn’t dare leave it with anyone else, even your husband.”

Maya reluctantly handed Xiaoyi the great Book; there was no getting around her. Xiaoyi flipped through the razor thin emerald pages, delighted the Book revealed its secrets to her.

“Do you not know the history of this book?” Xiaoyi asked, and when Maya shook her head, Xiaoyi answered. “In legend, Isis herself wrote this book; the goddess was Egypt’s supreme magic user who even knew Ra’s secret name. Long after that, the great demon god Zorc influenced scribes to copy parts of the book to produce a secondhand volume, the Millennium Tome. Long after that, around the Amenhotep Dynasty, Akhenaten deciphered the Tome, using the knowledge he learned to create the Millennium Items. The rest is history.”

“So the Book of Isis tells you how to create Millennium Items, or recreate them.” Maya concluded.

“Indeed.” Xiaoyi pointed to what looked like footnote at the bottom of an emerald page. “Slay ninety-nine humans; smelt gold for seven days, adding the bodies of your victims into the recipe; create Millennium Items; profit. I learned almost all dark magic from Gernand, but with this Book I can complete my powers and teach them to you.”

Maya asked, “What makes you think I will say yes? Why would you want to destroy civilization? You are profiting from civilization very well.”

Xiaoyi gently sighed. “The same reason you are annoyed at being King of Games. I doubt you want to keep playing a boring children’s card game. You are all too aware how powerless you truly are in changing the world, how useless it is in trying to change the system while working within it; your cynical behavior during your career betrays the fact. And don’t give any of that I-marched-with-activist-groups-and-gave-donations crap. Your many comments, sparsed here and there over the years, reveal your disillusionment. You want to really change the world? Join me.”

“I decline.” Maya stated flatly. “I can manage on my own.”

But Xiaoyi would not relent. “Let’s play a game; not a shadow game, a normal trifling game. If you were president of the world, and you could implement any policies you wanted, what would you do?”

Maya took a while to think things through, then summarized her thoughts, “I would take away all the money and power I can away from big business and give it back to the American people. Big business will have to pay most of the taxes; money will go back to government services (the usual stuff like education, healthcare, roads et cetera), and welfare programs can slowly work to rebuild America’s middle class, and help pull people out of debt and poverty. Crooked bankers and CEO, like you Xiaoyi, would be jailed or executed for treason. Universities, prisons, and banks will no longer be privately owned.

“I know one hole in this plan. America and all first world nations have so much wealth because they plundered other parts of the world for centuries. Well, I imagine I can slowly undo that while fixing things at home. Once America becomes a good enough nation, we can slowly give back to third world countries by investing in them. We build their government and education and infrastructure and so on, and in turn they become our allies and partners. It will take a long time, but it could balance out the inequality.”

Xiaoyi listened to Maya in rapt attention, taking everything she said seriously. Xiaoyi said, “Very good. I used to think the same thing, but it won’t work. Here’s why: the vile CEOs will never give up their power without a violent revolution, and neither will the government because the two are one. Europe is no utopia, least of all because, at bottom, corporate masters still rule their servants; they sheathe their iron fist in a leather glove. Even if you have your way, your government will not last, because it will still be capitalism and a civilization, and both cannot last by their very nature.

“Look around you, Maya: the buildings, roads, cars, laptop, Internet, everything. We get it all by taking more resources from the earth than we can return. Once we run out of oil, coal, trees, and iron, the whole infrastructure will collapse. We dug ourselves into our graves; first by building the whole system on cheap fuel, then by meshing everything into one big system that draws all its powers from a few resources. The earth is the lifeblood to the whole system, but the earth is dying.

“It will take millennia to repair all the damage. We don’t have millennia, and even if we did, the masters of mankind would never do it. They would lose their power doing so, and they are so busy oppressing the rest of humanity to keep the system in check they would never have the time and energy anyway. Renewable resources won’t work, because they’re not efficient enough to replace old energy, and just making them burns ever more fuel to kill the planet. You’re scheme is noble, but it cannot work.”

Maya put her hands on head, shaking her head. She knew all of these uncomfortable facts but buried them for a long time, knowing they nullified almost everything she did. She suspected that liberal movements in the first world were a sham to some degree or another, but she stopped herself from knowing the full truth.

Still, Maya would not lose the game so easily. She forcefully said, “I don’t believe in your fatalist Decline of the West bullshit. We always have a choice when faced with challenges, and how we respond to them determines our future. Did you ever think how many millions – no, billions – of people would die if we carried out your scheme? You and me would be remembered as the vilest human beings in all of history, and justly so.”

Maya’s energetic rebuttal made Xiaoyi gently smirk; she had a lot of spunk! Xiaoyi persisted still, “I don’t care if you believe in Spengler or Toynbee; civilization will die no matter what we do. But we have a choice in how we can die. We can turn the crash into a gentle landing, but that would mean persuading the very people who will never listen to the likes of you. We orchestrate the crash and get it done over with in a few decades, stopping nuclear war while we are it. Or we can let everyone die from a long, agonizing decline, only to finished off by nukes. Are you so afraid of your reputation; to be a good guy even if everyone dies? The choice is yours.”

Xiaoyi clasped Maya’s with her own, and revealed one future to Maya: The earth prospers under Maya’s scheme. War and disease are no more, and all human beings rejoice. They develop machine technology more and more, merging with the machines into androids, then lose all physical bodies to live in a machine supercomputer in space that draws its nature from the sun. All human life from every era of history exists within this program, each human within his little universe. Twelve superhuman gods manage the entire matrix, but each thousand years the computer gets closer and closer to crashing. One day, it crashes within one seven thousandth of a second, and all human life is deleted. 

Xiaoyi shows Maya another branch of time: Mankind prospers once more, as Yugioh is taken to its highest level. Momentum is created, a perpetual motion machine powering all of society, allowing a phenomenon called riding duels to exist. But power corrupts; and human beings once more become wicked. Momentum, becoming sentient over the centuries, manifests monsters in real life, embodiments of the evil within people’s hearts, using them to terrorize humanity. Later, Momentum reverses, and all human infrastructures implode. All life on the planet becomes extinct. 

Xiaoyi reveals to Maya several more visions, all leading to the death of the human race. Then Xiaoyi reveals her last vision, a small extent of her power: A young woman bursts from the surface of a large river in a black forest, naked and clutching a fish in her hands. She tears off the fish’s flank and swallows it raw, before throwing it before a morbidly obese man. Later, that man, her master, is kidnapped, and the woman transforms into a huge, terrifying black dragon with fiery red eyes, with some reassures of a large bat. The dragon decimates an entire military base, recuing her master, before returning to human form. She promptly knocks the obese man out, quick to wipe out all his short term memory with magic so he would forget ever seeing her with such power, even giving a tiny morsel of it.

The two women returned to the humble hotel room. Maya fell to her knees, devastated, barely able to absorb all she saw. Xiaoyi’s spirit Ka was something Maya had never seen before or could even comprehend until now.

“Why?” Maya croaked in a coarse voice. She did not believe that Xiaoyi cared for humankind. Not one bit. She nonchalantly caused the deaths of thousands of Egyptians and tens of duelists, with the arrogance of a god. Why would she care now? Lastly, Maya asks, “What is your endgame?”

“I do because I can.” Xiaoyi stated, and then revealed to Maya her final plans.

Maya at last understood. Xiaoyi was insane. Yet Maya still insisting on challenging her enemy, despite that she witnessed her strength. Perhaps Maya always needed to thumb her nose at authority since childhood. “But why?”

Xiaoyi, irritated with such a stupid question, made what was perhaps the biggest mistake of her life. She said, “Do I need to give you more incentives? I cannot let you leave alive if you refuse to join me. I revealed too much. Know this: I have all the time in the world to find another partner, and I have other candidates around the world who can take your place. If you don’t join me, someone else will.”

Maya saw within Xiaoyi a deep darkness, not just Xiaoyi’s darkness, but her own, and the darkness of the entire human race. No one could stand against that darkness, unless Maya conquered the darkness from within. Maya or Sophia could only challenge Xiaoyi once they learned her secrets. Xiaoyi had indeed tested Maya well, but not in the way she thought.

“Yes.” Maya whispered softly, surrendering.

“I can’t hear you.”

“Yes.” Maya assented, louder this time. “I accept. I will join you.”

“Bravo!” Xiaoyi clapped her hands together; her dark murderous features instantly vanished, and she now seemed an innocent little girl. “Gernand and me spent over a decade preparing for our fateful day. I merely need to tweak a few little things and we’re all set. You, Maya, are the final piece to the figurative Millennium Puzzle. I could not be more proud of you.”

And she handed Maya a tiny note. “You will see coordinates to a location within Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Be there by next week, or I will find and kill you wherever you are. As I say once more, the choice is yours. Sweet dreams.” And she left the hotel room, leaving Maya stranded.

—————————————–

Maya reunited with Yukio and her baby boy at the end of the weekend. They spoke of how happy they would be, their plans together, a house they could one day buy, the day Narmer would walk for the first time, sending Narmer to school, attending parent-teacher conferences, paying for Narmer’s college, celebrating many Christmases to come together with Jolene, JC, and Sophia as family.

All this talk nearly made Maya weep in despair. None of it would ever come to pass. She would abandon everyone to save the human race from Xiaoyi, a devil in a woman’s body. There was no way she could make them understand, so she kept quiet. The couple spent their last day together at Central Park on May 23, celebrating Yukio’s twenty-fourth birthday, enjoying every moment in happiness. It was the best final gift Maya could ask for.

Past midnight, in that fateful morning, Maya quietly packed her bags, kissing Yukio one last time while he lay sleeping. Baby Narmer awoke, and so Maya cradled her son one last time, rocking him to sleep, singing to him the songs mother sang to her when she was a child. Once Narmer went to sleep, she laid him in his cradle, and kissed him one last time.

Sometime later, Maya visited Sophia’s hotel room in New York City, and told Sophia everything; all the coming darkness of night. Sophia remained skeptical at first, but when she say Maya cry she knew Maya was telling the truth. Maya offered her hand to Sophia. Only together could they defeat the darkness. Sophia accepted, and packed her bags. Together, the two women stole into the night.

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 29

Duel 29 – Declining the Challenge

Two months later on Valentine’s Day, Maya gave birth to a healthy baby boy in hospital, with Yukio present. The parents named the child Narmer in reference to the land wherein he was conceived. There was not a sweeter time of year for a child to be born. Yukio watched mother and child with joy and amusement, seeing such a fierce mother melt into goo nursing her baby. Later that month the couple merged their finances, in essence marrying.

Later that month all of Team Baby Blast Furnace; Maya, Yukio, Sophia, were invited to the The Duel Network to talk about Yugioh and the tournament they won. They accepted the challenge, but first the chancellor of the New York Duel Academy took the team out on a tour of his school. Maya and Yukio both tried to enter the academy and failed five years ago.

The trio gave something of a lecture in the main hall; the chancellor gave them notes telling them exactly what to say, which they did. Students then asked them questions, which were more revealing than any answer they made up. Sophia remarked how the students acted exactly like her adopted brothers and sisters, completely sheltered. At least Pegasus’ children were once orphans. Maya grew furious, but bottled her anger; she tore the chancellor’s notes apart during the lecture.

————————————-

And within due time, our heroes arrived to The Duel Network talk show, and even some other finalists arrived, presented by none other than Gail Aphor.

APHOR: “Today! All new! A fascinating celebrity gamer meetup! World Champion Marina Bozuslowsky, teammates Yukio Fujiwara and Sophia Yanova, rival finalist Maria White, and finalists Rex Raptor and Weevil Underwood GIVE IT UP! We’ll go inside their dueling adventures next! Let’s give them a big round of applause, people!

“So, Maya – can I call you that? – What’s it like being the King of Games? How does it feel to be the first woman and the first black person to be world champion?”

MAYA: “As long as the Huffington Post and Jezebel don’t embarrass me, I’m fine. I feel very happy and grateful being world champion – who doesn’t? – I always wanted to be a great duelist and rock the boat, but I never thought I could be King of Games. To be honest, I went into this tournament because I needed to pay the bills, being a finalist would have been enough. As for all the talk about race and gender, I’d rather have that discussed in a more level-headed and intellectual environment than reality TV.”

APHOR: “What, we’re not smart enough for you? You want to only talk to an academic elite? – Can I get that, people! – Everyone loves a true duelist!”

SOPHIA: “You willingly rocked the boat, Maya. You can’t runaway from people’s reactions now.”

MAYA: “I’m not running away. I know how easily the so-called masses bastardize complex social issues and make asses out of everyone. And perhaps I simply changed. I was a different woman before the tournament than now, so perhaps I became a bit more mature.

“As for said social issues; I’m very proud to represent women and black people everywhere. All my life society told me, explicitly and implicitly, that I could never amount to much; that I lacked the intellectual and creative potential. That was a big motivation for me challenging the status quo. Forcing conservative dorks to eat their own words is very satisfying; I freely admit.

“But being a big role model becomes a curse over time. People will revere you as an idol, sure, but they will soon try to control you like they own you. I can’t be everything to everybody, but I guarantee you, idiots will try to manipulate and abuse me into acting exactly the way they want for the pettiest of reasons. They will not listen to anything you say or follow your example. They will kill you by turning you into a celebrity.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: “Why you gotta’ throw shade like that? How can my little girl look up to someone who calls me, and other people of her race and gender, ignorant savage morons? Honey, I’ll show you how to throw shade! Talk like that and you’ll be the least popular world champion of all time!”

MAYA: “I don’t care. This is boring. Can we please talk about the Yugioh game itself?”

WEEVIL: “To be honest, I kind of miss the good old days when Yugioh didn’t have all this political garbage in it. I just wanna’ win and have fun.”

APHOR: “Okay guys, calm down a bit. – Shut up, Weevil! – Maria, what do you think about Yugioh right now?”

MARIA: “Yugioh is dying, and rogue duelists are killing it. You could only use a few decks back in the day, sure, but that gave duelists a standard to aspire you. They had to netdeck each other but they also had to tweak their decks a bit to get ahead. That was creative; that was like netdeck Inception. But now there is no standard; a duelist can win with whatever God forsaken trash if they have the brains to do it. Any loser with a good strategy can easily surpass even the God Cards these days. Once the gods were a force of destiny. Now they’re just another archetype. A dueling world that stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

APHOR: “I’m getting a pretty mixed vibe from the audience right now. So Maya, how would you respond to that?”

MAYA: “People have been saying ‘Yugioh is dying’ since forever. If I had a dime each time someone said that, I would never have to duel again. Yes, netdeck Inception is pretty interesting, but without new duelists challenging the old, the game will stop evolving. Pegasus creates new cards every weekend, so expecting the same meta deck to remain for all eternity is unreasonable.

“Regardless, Pegasus will always keep a metagame because he profits from it. He creates a new banlist forcing you to buy expensive new cards, which also forces you to sell old but good cards to afford said new cards. Next year, Pegasus creates new cards and a new banlist, and the cycle repeats. Kaiba updates his toys and gives them planned obsolescence, just like Apple does. Kaiba and Pegasus don’t care about the game anymore. For them, it’s all about keeping the capitalism machine running until Yugioh one day implodes on itself.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: “You ain’t a commie, are you, ma’am? Because I’ll tell you right now, communism is just as bad as fascism, and if you’re a commie you might as well be a Nazi. Why don’t liberal arts colleges speak about communism as the evil it is, just like we all do about Nazism? Did you know, Stalin was just as bad as Hitler!”

REX: “And we passed Godwin’s Law.”

APHOR: “Shut up, Rex! – Maya, how do you respond to that?”

MAYA: “I don’t respond to people that stupid. I talk to whomever I want. No one is entitled to my time and attention, no matter how famous I am.”

APHOR: “A true duelist wouldn’t disappoint their fans. Yukio? Sophia? Any thoughts?”

YUKIO: “I agree with Maria a bit. Yugioh used to have a nobler aspect to it. Back then, Yugioh had real sense of honor and competitive spirit, which was a good thing no matter how dumb the ‘honor of the duelist’ is. Now being a duelist is about having a career, just like in a corporate office. It’s all about money.”

SOPHIA: “I would like to address the many deaths that occurred during the tournament. I am deeply ashamed of it all. I would never have gone to the tournament if it would mean getting so many people killed. I’m so sorry!”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: “BULLSHIT! We gotta’ lock her up!”

MAYA: “Don’t feel guilty, Sophia. Let me wipe your tears. Matthew and his Ghoul underlings forced us to fight for our lives. Calling us murderers would be like blaming the victims in the Saw movies.”

YUKIO: “Not the best example, Maya.”

APHOR: “I heard you guys visited New York City’s Duel Academy. Can you tell me what that was like?”

MAYA: “The kids are spoiled and sheltered, and learn nothing about the real world. Academies do them more harm than good. Imagine if there was a basketball academy that taught kids nothing but how to play basketball. No algebra, no literature, no history. Nothing. Then you dump those poor kids into the real world with no life experience. Only a few of all basketball players become superstars; the rest starve. Yugioh is the same way. Even child prodigies have no guarantee surviving.”

TRAVIS: “Not cool, man! My name is Travis T., and I’m the number one duelist in the academy! No one disses my school and gets away with it! I challenge you to a duel! Right here! Right now! If you lose, not only do you apologize to everyone you hurt today, you give me the title of King of Games!”

MAYA: “I decline your challenge.”

AUDIENCE: “Gasp!”

TRAVIS: “A true duelist never declines a challenge!”

MAYA: “I just did. First of all, you have no right to challenge me. You don’t walk into a corporate boardroom and demand to become senior administrator. The same applies here. Win a national tournament, and maybe I will accept your challenge. Second of all, you’re no match for me. I would tear you apart in ten seconds, you brat. Third of all, even if you beat me and become King of Games, you will burn out fast and die young. You don’t know how to manage money, manage a busy schedule, handle debts, or avoid getting screwed over by every conman in the world. You’ll end up sucking dick for meth within a few months, and show business won’t shed a tear.”

AUDIENCE: “BOO!”

YUKIO: “You just had to piss everyone off, Maya!”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: “What foul language!”

MAYA: “Get bent, asshole. Now if you excuse me, I must take care of my child.”

Jolene, who was tending the infant at this point, tried her best to comfort the little creature, which was wailing from all the terrible noise and shouting around it. Jolene returned the child to its mother. Gail Aphor ensconced her guests away as much as she good, but could not fully save them from the ravenous audience. Though blocked by security, the audience harassed the guests as much as it could.

The third audience member screamed, “She’s making controversy! She’s doing it all for money!”

————————————-

The poor baby would not calm down, and both parents blamed themselves for going to the talk show. Yukio, Sophia, Jolene, and Maya all traded time with the infant until they calmed it down, putting it fast to sleep. Yukio then fell to blaming Maya for causing such turmoil during the talk show, with Maya retorting how she had to stand her ground; followers are vicious creatures that could never be appeased. It was their first argument as a couple, and it was so severe they nearly divorced.

The couple briefly split. Yukio taking the baby with him since he deemed Maya an unworthy mother, causing Maya to break into tears for her baby, overcome by a mother’s instinctive despair. Jolene and Sophia found Maya a hotel room for a few days, and stayed with her for a few days to comfort her.

Heart-broken, Maya wandered to a soup kitchen in the west side. Slumping her head on the meal tables, she stared at every homeless person she could find. Her parents drilled within her an intense fear of becoming homeless. If they didn’t pay rent, they would get evicted and become homeless. If Maya acted out, her father could lose his job and they would become homeless. If Maya didn’t do well in school nor go to college, she would become homeless. If Maya did not win a big Yugioh tournament, she would fail to pay her debts and become homeless.

Never did it occur to Maya’s parents, or even Maya herself, that “the homeless” were human beings. Understanding this for the first time, Maya wondered if playing so much dumb Yugioh was even worth it. Maybe becoming homeless was the better choice. They seemed happy in the soup kitchen, but that was probably a lie.

A volunteer, an old man, tall and clean-shaven approached behind her, and said, “I remember you!” Maya turned around. It was Greg, the old homeless man the team knew from four years ago. Maya greeted him joyously; and they talked through the whole afternoon.

Greg, it seemed, used part of the team’s prize money to rebuild his life. He managed to get a job in human resources and lived in public housing. It was no rags-to-riches story, but it was a miracle, or so he said, and Maya agreed. Maya told him her own story, feeling ashamed how she, someone who did have a rags-to-riches story, could be so unhappy. Greg reminded her, jokingly, that Hollywood actors did drugs and went to mental hospitals for a reason.

The two bade each other farewell. Maya called Yukio, telling him she was sorry for everything, and Yukio said the same. They would move back together after the weekend and promised to never argue again. Next time, they would work things out like rational mature adults, which, I’m sure you know, most couples are.

Maya went to a hipster bar and had a few good old shots, happy she could drink again as she was no longer pregnant, played darts a bit, danced, and returned to her hotel room. Though everything was dark inside, Maya could see the body of a woman.

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 28

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have many duties to do outside writing, so I must power through the last three odd chapters. Enjoy! 

Duel 28 – Spring Showers in December

Maya rose from bed; she got real tired of entering scenes by waking up. It was so lame the author even began a story with her main character waking up from bed. Maya hated being passive like that; that was how Maria should begin a scene. She took her time to explore her room because it was surreal: a hospital room so white it was like a generic afterlife scene in a movie. She noticed an ivee penetrated her arm and punched the port to make sure she was alive. ARGH! She was alive!

Maya wanted nothing more than to leave the hospital right now, but she was still weak, and the doctors would sedate her if she tried a “daring” escape anyway. So she sat down and watched a few channels from the small flat screen TV bolted to the ceiling. “Let’s see what went on in the world while I took a nap.” Maya mumbled to herself, turning on the news.

KAIBACORP AND INDUSTRIAL ILLUSSIONS CONTINUE COURT TRIALS
REPORTER 1: “Good morning New Yorkers! I am Dave and this is Susan. We continue our story where Seto Kaiba and Pegasus Crawford, leaders of the two biggest corporate giants of the gaming world, are continuing to undergo a tidal wave of lawsuits following the 13th Battle City World Championship. Their prosecutors, including Amnesty International, the United Nations, and grieving parents of deceased duelists, are charging them with violations of international law and crimes against humanity. Susan, can you fill us in on the details?”

REPORTER 2: “Certainly. According to Ali Treki, President of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Kaiba and Mr. Pegasus purposefully hosted their tournament in war torn Egypt to generate controversy and boost ratings, a trick commonly performed in reality television. There is nothing quite like a gladiator death match, at least that is what Mr. Kaiba and Mr. Pegasus thought. But was all the death and turmoil in Egypt worth it? We now turn to Hernandez de Istulto, expert economist, President of the Cato Institute, and pioneering investor of BitCoin.”

ECONOMIST: “Thank you, Susan. As of now, the exact motives of Mr. Kaiba and Mr. Pegasus are still unknown to us. Their behavior defies any good judgment of rational self-interest. Yes, as you said, they obtained controversy (i.e. attention), boosted ratings, and gained huge widespread appeal from duelists around the world, but at what cost! Surely, such a speculation had too high risk and too little reward.”

REPORTER 2: “Do you think their behavior reflects the huge boom and bust of the 2008 economic crisis? They seemed to have so few restrictions on their power, it’s as if they became deluded and thought themselves free of consequences.”

ECONOMIST: “No, no, no. A benefit to the corporation benefits the economy. It improves the competitive process that improves the individual and is inherent to such a good economy. Mr. Kaiba and Mr. Pegasus are the best businessmen in their field. It is unlikely they would endanger their businesses so recklessly: it defies rationality.”

REPORTER 1: “Thank you for your contribution, de Istulto. Now we turn to Jeremy for an eye-witness account of the trial at hand.”

CORRESPONDANT: “Thanks again, Dave. We see a massive crowd of people surrounding the courthouse at this moment. OOF! OUCH! They’re practically bulldozing past me right now. Hey, you there! What brings you to witness this occasion?”

PROTESTER: “We are protesting KaibaCorp and Industrial Illusions for their corporate greed and crimes against humanity. Did you know that Kaiba uses slave labor in Taiwan to make duel disks?”

CORRESPONDENT: “No, I did not know that. Are any duelists protesting right now?”

PROTESTER: “Well, you should know! I am a duelist. Sadly, there are a small number of duelists – they’re the basement-dwelling type – who defends Kaiba and Pegasus. They claim Political Correctness has gone mad and gamers are facing censorship from journalists.”

CORRESPONDENT: “Who are these people?”

PROTESTER: “As I said, basement-dwellers. That’s why you’ve never heard of them.”

CORRESPONDENT: “So why bother telling me about them?”

PROTESTER: “Maybe too much time on the Internet distorts your sense of reality.”

CORRESPONDENT: “I’ll say!”

REPORTER 1: “There you have it folks, on-the-ground action from Jeremy. He’ll be live in the court house right after this commercial break.”

Maya found herself enraptured in the details of these strange events, when a nurse came to her room, speaking. “Oh, thank goodness you’re awake! I never thought I’d see the day! You have visitors.”

Maya shut the TV off. All her friends quickly arrived. Everyone cried in excitement and hugged each other in a moment of pure joy, one that once in a blue moon. – Even Rex and Weevil came all the way from Japan! And Mathias came to check her out too!

“Thank God you came back!” Mathias exulted in prayer; while Yukio explained to Maya she was in a coma for three months. Maya looked dumb in surprise, and Yukio told her it was indeed true.

Everyone exchanged gifts, and Maya received first edition prints of all the link monsters she used in the tournament; a consolation Pegasus gave to all finalists after the tournament, monster cards printed before their official release. Likewise, Pegasus, being a man of his word, gave Maya a check of 2 million dollars. Maya held her prizes, astonished; she struggled so hard to earn the prize money, and it sat in her hands, all of it.

But Maya felt a deep guilt. She had paid for her prize in blood, not just her blood, but Matthew’s blood, the Ghouls’ blood, the blood of every other duelist who died. Yet she felt a weird kind of excitement knowing she fought such an epic battle and triumphed in the end, almost smelling the blood of her enemies on the cards, arousing her the way a shark becomes when smelling its prey. But the guilt remained.

Maya pushed away her prizes, and she was almost about to destroy them when Mathias stopped her. He spoke very sternly, “I know how you feel but destroy your prizes and everyone would have died in vain. Maximus and me lost our dearest family when we accepted our divine gifts and became Saints. We chose to use our gifts to aid the world. You must do the same.”

Yukio comforted Maya by putting his hand on her shoulder. “Look, if a Catholic is telling you not to feel guilty, maybe you shouldn’t.”

Maya listened to reason, something she didn’t do often. “I hope Stella is fine, back in Iceland with her family and comrades. Maybe I’ll finally see my dad; maybe he’ll be nice since I don’t depend on him anymore. Yes, that would be very nice.”

Everyone became dark and solemn in look, and Maya, looking at them, knew all too well what it meant; she knew happiness never last long, least of all with her. She asked what their saturnine looks meant, and Sophia answered, “Stella and Hannibal became brain dead soon after you won. You’re father died while you were in a coma.”

Maya shivered; the room seemed to become frigid. She really loved Stella, despite everything that happened between them, while she had no idea how to feel about her father. He ruined Maya’s entire childhood and the scars he left behind darkened her character and her life forevermore. He was the source of all the evil in Maya’s life, but that evil was all she had, and now the evil died she might as well fall through the floor. Maya instinctively touched her abdomen, feeling the substantial bump in it. What was this?

“You’re pregnant.” Sophia said joyously as Yukio clasped Maya’s hand, and Maya clasped his. Maya had no idea what to do or even how to feel for the hundredth time this year.

——————————————-

Seto Kaiba and Pegasus Crawford underwent their trail for months on end but a solution was met at last, and the news all too eagerly reported on it.

KAIBACORP AND INDUSTRIAL ILLUSSIONS BAIL OUT
REPORTER 1: “Good morning New Yorkers! I am Dave and this is Susan. Today a major development occurred in the lawsuit against Mr. Seto Kaiba and Mr. Pegasus Crawford. The two CEOs were charged for twenty years prison and their companies charged with 3 billion dollars, but both were recently bailed out. Susan, if you may fill us in on the details.”

SUSAN: “Of course, Dave. The various businesses partners of KaibaCorp and Industrial Illusions; including Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Google, even NASA, paid the bailouts for Seto Kaiba and Pegasus Crawford. They also saved both companies from bankruptcy, but the heavy cost of the weighty lawsuit was enough to send thousands of employees out of work.

“Yet there could be more to this story. WikiLeaks has just disclosed a document between the American CIA, the Pentagon, Industrial Illusions, and Kaibacorp, which concerns a KaibaCorp blueprint for building a space station linked to the earth by an elevator. Why would Mr. Kaiba, after disbanding his father’s military operations when he inherited the company, want to return to military projects? What is the end of such designs? Could Kaiba have made a deal with the devil? – Hold on, I just received a letter at my desk. What do you mean I’m fired!?”

REPORTER 1: “Oh ho ho! Someone was unprofessional for a moment there! In other news, another sex tape of the Kardassians was released online, where it has been shared all across the Internet. Uh oh! Looks like somebody forgot to make sure what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas!”

In either case, life rolled on as usual on all corners of the globe. Maya spent the next few months settling her affairs, boring chores leaving scarce time to spend with her friends. Not drinking or smoking pot for nine months due to her pregnancy was the least of her inconveniences. She first paid back all her debts so she would not evicted, but later sold her scant Chicago apartment to buy well-to-do quarters in the upper east side, a place she wanted to live in since forever. Then, she judiciously donated her prize money to charities and research projects she deemed best. – She did not give Amnesty International one damn sent. She canvassed for them before. She knew what those pricks were like.

Maya then moved from matters of the world to address matters of the spirit. She visited Iceland so as to aid Stella’s grieving family pay for the funeral expenses, but the family rejected all her money and spat in her face. Maya accepted their rebuke, and did not punch them in the face as she would otherwise do, as she was dealing with grief herself. She was now an orphan, just like Kaiba. “Eh, at least I wasn’t adopted.” Maya joked to herself while traveling back to New York.

Paying for her father’s funeral was a far easier task. For one, Maya did not have to deal with any family issues. Both her father’s and mother’s parents disowned their offspring when the children married out of wedlock, and Maya was glad of the fact for the first time in her life. Two families made of such bigoted fools did not deserve to attend her father’s funeral.

Maya made it a simple affair, inviting no one but Yukio, JC, and Jolene to the Long Island Cemetery. Mathias had long returned to Ireland; Rex and Weevil to Japan; and Sophia to Pegasus’ home in Las Vegas, only to pack her bags and move out to God knows where. Maya and her friends lowering her father in the grave themselves – Maya insisted on it – There, mother and father would remain together while their child, free from their grasping shadows, would live and die far away, where they could not reach her. Their simple tombstones read thus:

ALEXANDER BOZUSLOWSKY
OCT. 17, 1956 – SEPT. 25, 2009 

SHARBAT ALI
NOV. 19, 1962 – JUN 30, 1997 

A grim but interesting fact: Maya buried her father on her twenty-third birthday: Dec. 15, 2009. Maya had been so busy attending to other affairs; she paid the morticians to leave her poor father’s corpse a mummy pumped with formaldehyde and frozen in an ice chamber, in part to exact futile revenge on the man who once was. Her father made her alone from everyone else and forced her to wait for years to undo the damage he did to her, a process Maya would never finish. Thus, Maya made him wait, alone and frozen, before granting him the right to rest with his wife in peace.

JC put flowers on the grave, Jolene put precious drawings she made when a child, Yukio read a poem (or song) he wrote for this moment, and as he recited his work a small shower of rain gently fell on the small party: as if it was spring. Then sun refused to leave as he usually does as the solstice draws near; instead he cast his light on the world with all his might.

Tyrant men flaunt all their great might
Then die, forsaking their rights
To the earth, once in lovely gold,
Entombs them in dark wintry cold.

The sun, ever giving, returns
As meek flowers grow from bones,
As Spring’s gentle rainy showers
Nurtures young, yearning Sunflowers.

The gods have died; not one shall rise
To wipe the tears from my eyes,
But our strong hearts burn and glinter;
We alone bring Spring to Winter.

The gentle rain had washed all the dirt from the two tombstones away. With clean hearts and clear minds, the friends returned to life and celebrated the future with dance and play that day.

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 27

THE CLIMAX OF 3 YEARS OF WORK HAS COME!

Duel 27 – The Hero Comes Full Circle

MAYA: 6500 | MATTHEW: 1500

MAYA’S TURN: “I activate Dante, milling 3 cards. I normal summon Tour Guide From the Underworld and use its effect to special summon Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss.” Arriving from the underworld, a trolley drops off a comely little stewardess with red hair and a horned demon around the same size. “I activate Preparation of Rites, returning a ritual spell from my graveyard to my hand and adding a ritual monster from my deck. I play Good & Evil of the Burning Abyss, offering Tour Guide and Rubic to ritual summon Malacoda, Netherlord of the Burning Abyss!”

Matthew, observing the chief of the Malebranche arrive, speculates that Maya must have used Beatrice to mill Good & Evil. He thinks Maya may have milled it randomly with Dante, but he knows better. His opponent is a true woman, a true black, a true Russian, a true Jew; whatever mud the mongrel is made of. The thought reminds him of his Cuban mother, but thinking of even that pale woman gives him shame.

Maya remains unknowing and uncaring of Matthew’s hidden shame; she had gathered all her materials. She cried, “I banish Dante the Pilgrim, Malacoda, Dante the Traveler, and Spadiovolo, to bring forth GOLDEN GOD PHOENIX!” A chasm opens from the ground, and all Maya’s monsters fall into the fiery pit. The god beneath, devouring the offerings, finds the taste to its liking, and so rises from the depths to greet its master.

Pegasus chastises Maya, “It’s about time you summoned your god card! I know the element of surprise is fabulous and all, but goddamn did you need until the eleventh hour!”

Maya snarls, her bare teeth something a dragon would recognize as a smile, her eyes glaring with savage light. “Golden God Phoenix, destroy his dragon!” The two colossal monsters smash into each other, their struggle erupting a cyclone of golden fire. Everyone ducks for cover, except Kaiba, who gazes at the fight: stupefied, making a distorted grin, his whole body convulsed in orgasm.

Rex and Weevil hide as turtles do in their shells. “I just peed a little.” The pathetic Weevil whimpers, and he didn’t lie.

“Idiot!” Matthew shouts at Maya over the maelstrom, “I banish a dragon in my graveyard to protect Golden God Dragon!” And with his words, his dragon won the fight, burning away the golden phoenix it battled.

Maya retorts, “You know what a phoenix does, don’t you? Use your common sense! I banish a fiend from my graveyard to revive Golden God Phoenix!” And with her words, the mighty undead beast rises from the fiery pit once more. “Phoenix, battle his dragon again!”

The two titans smash each other once more. Each time Matthew saved his dragon and Maya’s phoenix died, Maya resurrected it and battled yet again. Matthew understands the infernal woman’s plot, but too late, spending the last dragon in his graveyard to protect his god. Maya, however, still had a rich store of dead fiends to fuel her god.

Maya declares yet another attack, making sure Matthew’s golden dragon is destroyed for good, but Matthew doesn’t let it happen! “I play Negate Attack!” Thus ending the engagement. Maya lets out a hoarse sigh, and sets two cards facedown.

“Seriously, how many more god cards will you make?” Kaiba gripes to Pegasus.

“As many I want, because I am God.” Pegasus says.

MATTHEW’S TURN: “I play Pot of Cupidity! I banish 10 cards from my deck to draw 2!” It is a desperate move, and Matthew knows it.

The young man shakes his head, “Oh, Maya, the irony. When we first dueled you were truly the underdog, but how easily you changed all that. Do you still think yourself a rebel, a fighter of the people? I hope not. At bottom, you’re a tyrant.”

This news shocks Maya a little bit. “What?”

“You’re a queen bee, an alpha bitch, a bitch in sheep’s clothing. Can I say more? Yes, you grew up in public housing on the lower east side, and you joined a ragtag posse of rebels, you can’t change your nature. Had you lived as I did, you would be Regina George. I watched your every move for the last four years. You wasted your money, hopped from boy toy to boy toy, destroying the career of every female rival.”

Maya wearies of this conversation. “Look, you creepy loser, how I choose to live is not your business, even if you watch me in the shower. I gave prize money to many nonprofits as well as to booze; every man I boned knew what he was getting into; and I defeated all my female opponents fair and square.”

“But worse, Maya, you’re a killer. Oh yes! I know what you did! Xiaoyi told me! You killed Heishin! You’re a murderer, a criminal, a thug! A stone cold killer! When this tournament is over, you will be arrested, tried for crimes against humanity!”

Maya, though keeping a straight face, begins to crack underneath. She can’t understand why killing a dictator and saving thousands of lives would haunt her. Perhaps because she did killed a man, something she never thought possible. Perhaps because she killed a man so coldly, an act so simple and decisive: as if she flipped a switch. Perhaps because, by killing Heishin, she truly understood the consequences of her actions in a way most people never learn.

Maya liked thinking of herself as a devil, a fiery person who broke the rules, laughing at the fools around her while she did so. But was she truly a devil, a real devil?

Matthew leaves her to think about it, long and hard. “I activate Future Fusion, milling 5 dragons. I set a card. You’re move.”

MAYA’S TURN: “Golden God Phoenix, attack his dragon!” It is still strange for a woman to court a man, and with so much fervor, but the struggle began once more. Maya and Matthew burn through their recourses.

Matthew rekindles his fuel. “I activate Buriel from the Different Dimension, returning 3 banished dragons to my graveyard!” The monsters collide once more until Maya is forced to banish a fiend from her hand to revive her phoenix for the umpteenth time. That is how Matthew knows she is low.

Maya admits as much, saying softly, “I set a monster and end my turn.” Matthew can hear her lose confidence with ever word she spoke, and it makes him giddy.

MATTHEW’S TURN: “I enter the standby phase, meaning I fusion summon Five God Dragon!” The great dragon bursts into existence out of nowhere, fully formed with five terrible heads made of different elements. “I activate Pump Up, doubling the ATK of my Golden God Dragon.”

Maya lurches back, what little confidence she has left snuffed out. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Quote Star Wars all you want in Hell! Golden God Dragon, destroy her facedown monster!” Maya’s monster, though unknown to Matthew, easily dies either way. “Now my golden dragon, destroy her golden phoenix!” Matthew’s dragon, blazing with an outstanding 8000 ATK, completely annihilates Maya’s phoenix. (MAYA LP 6500 à 2500).

The spiraling blaze falls on Maya with all its weight, burning her skin and clothes, the force blasting her off the arena. Maya never endured so much pain in her life. She coughs blood, her already broken ribs stabbing her with the force of a thousand hot serrated knives while new ribs broke. Facedown on the floor, Maya nearly blacks out from the pain.

Too many moments of torture pass, Maya unmoving. Kaiba, unmoved, orders Isono to begin a boxing count. Isono readily obeys, announcing, “If Marina Bozuslowsky does not rise within eight seconds, Matthew Carter shall be declared the winner! ONE!”

“TWO!”

“THREE!”

“FOUR!”

“FIVE!”

“SIX!”

“SEVEN!”

Maya remembers all her friends, waiting for her back home, counting on her: Yukio, Jolene, JC, Sophia, especially Sophia. She cannot lose now. She loses all care of her pain; thinking of it merely as weakness leaving the body, she summons the strength to stand up.

“EIGHT!”

Maya stands on very shaky ground, or is it her legs? Either way, she survived, hobbling back up the arena.

Matthew laughs at how stupid Maya looks. “You look really, really bad. I’m glad you stood up. I want nothing than to utterly defeat you. Five God Dragon, knock Maya down, forever!”

“I activate the monster you destroyed: Fiendfyre! I banish it and a FIRE monster from my graveyard!”

“And you will destroy my dragon and my life! Oh no, whatever shall I do!” Matthew gloats. “I banish Skill Prisoner from my graveyard to protect Five God Dragon!” Thus Maya’s fiery bullet bounces off Matthew’s dragon, leaving not so much as a scratch. “Let’s continue! My dragon, destroy her!”

All five of the dragon’s heads assault Maya with the four elements, but Maya uses all her strength to keep her ground. “I activate Dimension Exchange! I banish Golden God Phoenix from my Graveyard!” Her phoenix flies from the grave, rockets through the colorful fireworks from Matthew’s dragon, binds to the five-headed beast, then burns itself and its prey away.

Matthew grunts, disappointed. How persistent! Two turns later, Maya will revive Five-Headed Dragon to her field.

MAYA’S TURN: “Golden God Phoenix is banished during my standby phase, meaning I special summon my banished Malacoda!” The demon leader returns and, turning its real towards Matthew, makes a trumpet of its ass. Maya flips Matthew off to drive the point home.

“I set a card and end my turn.” Maya wears her proud and confidant mask, as always, yet beneath she writhes in doubt and self-loathing, like most of the time. She never believed in the heart of the cards, but if she could draw one more card…

MATTHEW’S TURN: “I’ve had it with your insolence! The duel will end now!” Matthew roars. He calls upon all the darkness of his body and soul, and lets the fires from his dragon overwhelm him. Flaming with hatred, Matthew leaps on top of his dragon in a single bound, binding himself with his monster. “Now I am a monster! I am the Golden God Dragon!”

“That’s new.” Maya comments wryly.

“You fool! I will blast you into oblivion!” Matthew slams Maya’s fiend with all his fury.

“I activate Spiritual Swords of Revealing Light!” Maya declares, paying 1000 life so the wall of shining swords can protect Malacoda. Enraged, Matthew lashes out again, and again Maya pays 1000 life to save her by the skin of her teeth. (MAYA LP 2500 à 500)

The beastly dragon roars, “I end my turn! There is nothing you can do, fool! Give up!”

Maya glares back at him, defiant as ever. “No one, not even the readers of this book who can see you’re most secret thoughts and emotions, will remember you as anything more than a spoiled child.” With these words, Maya draws her last card.

MAYA’S TURN: “Yes!” Maya speaks to her heart, drawing the card she needed. Her physical strength returns, and with it she gains the moral strength to look within her heart. Yes, Maya is a murderer, which means she can always become a monster, like Matthew, like every other human being. She is no longer an edgy teen living with an abusive father, or a celebrity in existential despair. She is a grown woman, which means making hard decisions and accepting the consequences of your actions. Matthew is too dangerous to be left alive.

Maya knows she has friends waiting for her at home, and a life worth living. Matthew threw away both. She has to defeat him once and for all. Their rivalry is over at last.

“I normal summon Necroface, and use its effect to return all banished cards to our decks!” A baby doll’s face, smashed, decaying, infested by a foul creature, absorbs the souls of every dead monster and every banished card into its body, the creature within growing in size until it rivals the size of Matthew himself.

“5600 ATK!” Matthew despairs. “NO!”

“I activate Pre-preparation of Rights, adding a ritual monster and ritual spell to my hand, and play Good & Evil of the Burning Abyss! I tribute Necroface and the Fluffal Dog in my hand to ritual summon a second Malacoda, Netherlord of the Burning Abyss!” Her offerings vanish, transforming through fire into Malacoda. “I use both their effects. I mill 2 Graff to cut you down to size.”

The ghosts of the recently deceased fiends possess the swords of their commanders. Both generals point their swords to Matthew in the sky, then, using their swords as reverse lightning rods, let the ghosts within strike their target.

Matthew limps in the air, his flight killed. Desperate, he screams, “KILL ME AND YOU’LL BE A MURDERER TWICE! YOU WILL BE A MONSTER FOREVER!”

“Goodbye, Matthew.” Maya bids these final words to her rival. She feels no hate, no regret, but oddly tranquil, the feeling of release when exorcising a demon. And fatigue. She is so tired, so very tired…

“Both Malacodas, kill Matthew.” Maya declares her last attack. The two fiends leap into the air and strike Matthew down from the sky. Matthew roars, cursing the world, and falls beyond the pyramid in golden flames, crashing to his fiery death in the darkness beyond. (MATTHEW 1500 à 0)

MAYA: 500 | MATTHEW: 0

All darkness vanished, leaving only the blazing sunlight in the early afternoon. Isono raised his hand, declaring, “THE 13TH BATTLE CITY TOURNAMENT IS OVER! MARINA BOZUSLOWSKY WINS THE TITLE KING OF GAMES!”

Maya walks, in a complete daze, to the center of the arena, looking down at Kaiba, at Pegasus, at the other finalists, and turned her vision to the wide horizon, to the infinite sky above and the infinite ocean below. The sun blazes her black hair, surrounding her head like a halo. The light only darkens her; her skin, her hair, her eyes, her look, and makes her look truly evil. Everyone gazes upward at Maya in awe, even Kaiba, even Xiaoyi watching from far away, even Sophia.

Maya lifts her hands in the air and looks at the sun directly, celebrating her victory in the only perfect moment in her life. Spending all her strength, she collapses into darkness.

————————————————-

CREATED CARDS

MAYA’S CARDS

Golden God Phoenix
DIVINE/Zombie/Fusion-Synchro-Xyz-Link/Level-Rank 10/ATK 4000/No Link Arrows
4 Fusion, Ritual, Synchro, Xyz, or Link monsters

  • Must first be Special Summoned from your Extra Deck by banishing 4 Fusion Materials you control of different Card Types (you do not use Polymerization). If this card was Special Summoned with the following Materials, it gains the the following Effects:
    • FUSION: If this card is targeted by a Card Effect; you can banish this card. Return it to your field during the End Phase.
    • RITUAL: If this card would be destroyed and sent to the Graveyard: you can banish 1 Fiend or Zombie; Special Summon this card.
    • SYNCHRO: If this card is Special Summoned from the Graveyard: inflict 500 damage to your opponent.
    • XYZ: If this card is banished, during your Standby Phase: you can Special Summon 1 banished Fiend or Zombie, ignoring all Summoning Conditions.
    • LINK: Once per turn during your Standby Phase; you can send 1 Fiend or Zombie from your Deck to the Graveyard.

Dimension Exchange
Continuous Trap
Banish 1 monster from your Graveyard: target 1 monster your opponent controls; banish it. During your 2nd Standby Phase after you activate this card: Special Summon your opponent’s monster, ignoring all summoning conditions.

MATTHEW’S CARDS

Golden God Dragon

DIVINE/Dragon/Fusion-Synchro-Xyz-Link/Level-Rank 10/ATK 4000/No Link Arrows
4 Fusion, Ritual, Synchro, Xyz, or Link monsters

  • Must first be Special Summoned from your Extra Deck by banishing 4 Fusion Materials you control of different Card Types (you do not use Polymerization). If this card was Special Summoned with the following Materials, it gains the the following Effects:
    • FUSION: If this card would be targeted by a Card Effect; you can banish 1 Dragon from your hand, field, or Graveyard. Negate and destroy your opponent’s card,
    • RITUAL: If this card would be destroyed; you can banish 1 Dragon from your hand, field, or Graveyard, and this card is not destroyed.
    • SYNCHRO: If this card destroys your opponent’s monster by battle: it can attack once more.
    • XYZ: If this card is in your Graveyard during your next Standby Phase; you can Special Summoned 1 banished Dragon during your next Standby Phase (ignoring all Summoning conditions.)
    • LINK: Once per turn during your Standby Phase; you can send 1 Dragon from your Deck to the Graveyard.

Dragon Mirage
Spell
Special Summon all Dragon monsters destroyed this turn. Their ATK and DEF are halved, they cannot attack, they cannot activate their Effects.

Xyz Drain
Spell
Detach 1 Xyz Material from 1 Xyz monster your opponent control and 1 Xyz monster you control: draw 2 cards.

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 26

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I won’t write duel terms like “Normal Summon” or “Effect” with capitals anymore. They make reading harder. I will embolden all the important cards so readers can easily follow what cards are being used and when.  

Duel 26 – Power Struggles

MAYA: 8000 | MATTHEW: 8000

MAYA’S TURN: As Maya draws her next card, she speaks to herself, “Matthew may bounce Beatrice with his Celestial Spheres, but he must lose a Dragon to do so. He doesn’t want that. He wants to build his Materials to summon his God.” Maya sets a monster and ends her turn.

MATTHEW’S TURN: “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? No more wisecracks to throw at me? Golden God Dragon is mine!” Matthew gloats. “I normal summon Manju of Ten-Thousand Hands, and use its effect to add a Ritual Monster from my deck. Then I activate Red-Eyes to revive Hieratic Seal, and then I play Hymn of Light, releasing Hieratic Seal to ritual summon Saffira, Queen of Dragons!” A human-like dragon of great beauty graces the stage, and with her arrival, Matthew uses her effect straightaway; he draws 2 cards, and discards 1.

Maya refutes him with a complex argument, “Hold your horses! I use Beatrice to mill Blaze Accelerator Reload, then banish it to mill a Volcanic Scattershot, and use its effect to mill 2 more of its kind! I destroy ALL your monsters!” She commences her military operation, step by strategic step, throwing a tidal wave of flame at Matthew to burn away his entire army and scald his flesh. (MATTHEW LP 8000 à 6500)

Matthew quickly puts out the fires on his clothes, saving his life but burning his shoulders and chest, hurt by his own dark magic. He then recovers, “I play Dragon Mirage!” His whole army returns, but its ATK and DEF halved, and it’s unable to attack. “How predictable.”

MAYA’S TURN: As soon as Maya draws, Matthew declares, “I activate Celestial Spheres! Return Beatrice to your Deck now!” He shatters his red-eyed dragon; the Enneads sublimate Beatrice back into pure light. “Look at you, Maya. You have no field and only one card in your hand. Surrender now and I will spare your life, hell, I’ll even make you queen of my new world!”

Matthew never intends to keep his promise, of course, and Maya easily sees through the lie. “I used to respect you as a rival, but you went full generic anime villain just now. I might as well kill it with fire.”

Matthew scoffs, “Ha! What can one card do for you?”

“Lots. I normal summon Fluffal Dog, using its effect to search for Fluffal Bear, and discard it to play Toy Vendor from my deck. I banish Fluffal Wings and Fluffal Bear, and destroy my Vendor to draw 2 cards, then activate Toy Vendor in my graveyard to search for another Bear.”

With the first cycle complete, Maya proceeds to the next one. “I discard Fluffal Bear to play Toy Vendor from my deck. Now I use Vendor’s effect: I discard Fluffal Wings and draw 1 card.” Maya did so, and shouts, “JACKPOT! I special summon a second Fluffal Dog!” And as she conjures her second stuffed animal to join the first, she concludes the cycle. “I banish Fluffal Wings and Bear, and destroy Vendor to draw 2, and use the destroyed Toy Vendor to add a Fluffal monster to my hand.

Matthew becomes astonished; Maya gathered two level 4 monsters, which means… “Oh. Shit.”

“I’m not done preparing yet! I overlay the two Fluffal Dogs to xyz summon Number 39: Utopia, and overlay it; I upgrade it to Number S39: Utopia Prime and then to Number S39: Utopia the Lightening!” The valiant space warrior, the emblem of all xyz monsters, travels the overlay network to arrive to our dimension, then emboldens its armor and weapons, evolving to a higher form. “Yukio and my other friends will give you a message! Utopia, destroy the Celestial Spheres; I detach 2 materials to double its ATK!”

Maya and Yukio’s monster bounds high in the sky, cutting down all nine Enneads. It jettisons to the ground, landing right in front of Matthew, and strikes him with a devastating blow. Matthew screams in pure agony, blown off the arena, almost falling off the pyramid itself. He coughs blood, writhing, his head and shoulders dangling off the edge. (MATTHEW LP 6500 à 1500)

First blood, just like last time.” Maya smirks. Damn does that feel good.

Maria objects, “But that isn’t first your first damage; that was your Volcanic Scattershot combo.”

But Kaiba corrects her, “Pathetic effect damage doesn’t count.”

Matthew crawls his way back up the arena, hobbling from his injuries. While gathering his bearings, Maya sets a card, ending her turn.

MATTHEW’S TURN: “Woman, I swear to God, the Devil, and all in between, I will burn you to ash, piss on you, and scatter you to the winds! Mark my words!

“I activate Xyz Drain, detaching 1 material from your Utopia and my Heliopolis; I draw 2 cards. I play Monster Reborn to revive the Celestial Spheres. I have gathered all my offerings to the gods! I banish them all to summon GOLDEN GOD DRAGON!” Lightning shoots from the sky, blasting Matthew’s monsters, and the supreme god, finding the offerings to its liking, descends from the highest heavens.

Golden God Dragon, destroy Utopia!” Matthew screams with all his hatred. The dragon blasts Maya’s warrior with golden flames, and Maya too is burned. (MAYA LP 8000 à 6500) The attack briefly forces Maya on her knees since, unlike Matthew, she had sustained many injuries before the battle began.

“On your knees, whore; that is a woman’s true place.”

MAYA’S TURN: “I set a monster. My turn is done.”

MATTHEW’S TURN: “Just what I thought. My God Dragon, destroy both her facedown monsters!” The dragon merely brushes its wings to scatter its prey’s ashes. “And I set a card.”

“Good.” Maya says under her breath, more to herself than to Matthew. “You destroyed Graff, Malebrache of the Burning Abyss and Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. With Graff, I summon from my deck Cir, Malebrache of the Burning Abyss, and with Scarm, I add Tour Guide to my hand.”

Matthew comments, “Fitting you use fiend monsters. Hell awaits you. I set a card.”

MAYA’S TURN: Hopefully, Maya’s next turn will kill Matthew, and if it doesn’t, she will at least mill her deck. “I link up Cir to link summon Charono, Ferryman of the Burning Abyss: with its effect I summon another Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss from my deck, and with the effect of Cir, I revive Scarm.

“I link up Graff to link summon another Charono, Ferryman of the Burning Abyss, using its effect to summon Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss from my deck, and use Graff’s effect to summon Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss from my deck. I link up both Charonos and Calcan to link summon Spadiovolo Swordsman of the Burning Abyss!” Maya finished her infernal parade with her ace fiend, the devil with a sword who divides the bodies of schismatics in Hell.

Maya then orchestrates her angelic parade, wedding Heaven and Hell together. “I overlay Farfar with Scarm to xyz summon Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss, and use its effect to mill 3 cards. I detach Farfa to do so, so I bounce Golden God Dragon back to your deck!”

The fiend leaps unto the celestial dragon, grasping it, slowly dissolving it. Matthew is dumbstruck; how can this be? Then he understands; the materials used to summon his dragon determine its effects. He did not banish a fusion monster, so his dragon can’t block itself from being targeted.

Matthew responds with, “Skill Prisoner!” The trap cards renders his dragon immune, shooing the fiend away as if it is a fly, sending it back to the underworld. “Cute loophole abuse, but it won’t work on me.”

“Nevertheless, I banish Destiny HERO – Malicious and Carboneddon from my graveyard to summon another Malicious and Wattail Dragon, then overlay them; welcome back, Beatrice!” With Dante and Beatrice reunited, Maya turns her attention to other matters. “Spadiovolo, destroy his Red-Eyes!” And her fiend slays the dragon as a noble knight would; it even wields the same rapier as the infamous Earl of Demise.

MATTHEW’S TURN: “Resistance is futile. May God strike you down! God, destroy the filthy Beatrice and Spadiovolo!” The dragon blasts Maya’s monsters with all its fury, understanding the hatred burning within its master. The fair lady screams, dying flames and agony, but the fencing fiend however…

“I use Beatrice to mill a card, then I use Spadiovolo’s effect!” Maya rebukes her opponent, milling no less than 4 Burning Abyss monsters, doubling her creature’s ATK. Dragon and fiend collide, but only one monster dies. Matthew had used the effect of Golden God Dragon to save his monster. Meanwhile, Maya uses the dead Beatrice to instantly summon Dante, Pilgrim of the Burning Abyss.

“I set a card and end my turn.” Matthew grunts in disappointment. The duel rages on, neither warrior giving ground.

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 25

Duel 25 – The Final Duel

The doctors in the medical room tended to Stella’s corpse as best they could: the whole procedure; IVs, EKGs, eye reflex exams: Stella did not return. She was truly in a coma. Maya no longer had the strength to be angry anymore to anyone, dropping to her knees in tears. Stella might as well be dead. Perhaps if she defeated Matthew in the final duel, if she killed him in his own twisted game, the act would revive his victims. Such a thing happened in the first Battle City, supposedly.

Maya suspected, in her grief, that Matthew’s defeat was a false promise at best. Xiaoyi minted Matthew to copy Malik, but only from zinc. What made her think Matthew would be man enough to fulfill such a promise? Maya held nothing but a false promise, and she had to kill another human being to get it, maybe. She was so tired of this stupid tournament, so tired; Yugi could only have felt the same way. Money, fame, finding yourself, fulfilling a destiny: none of it was worth such toil and murder.

Mokuba Kaiba set a few white flowers he brought with him on a stand by Stella’s bed. His older brother, Seto Kaiba, of course did not bother to look at the mess he made, but Mokuba was to blame too. He allowed his older brother to prepare and execute the entire tournament, down to the final duel where Maya would fight Matthew.

And Pegasus? Well, Maya thought, a dapper aesthete was a true nihilist if there was one. She wondered if Sophia was just a shiny trinket to him, a pearl he trusted to her to briefly care for, like Maya was Jared’s. And Maya? She played her part just by participating. She did put Stella in a coma after all, but oddly enough, she felt slightly better understanding that responsibility. It meant she had some power, and not everything was beyond her control. If she could defeat Matthew in his own shadow game, maybe, just maybe, Stella, Mathias, and Hannibal would all return to life.

Seizing her power, Maya edited her Deck one final time; now it was time to use her own God Card, finally, and the Deck would focus on bringing it out. She climbed back up the pyramid to the arena on top, and she discovered Matthew already there. Her heart was so lacerated, she had gone through so much stress; she was too tired to even hate him. She simply disliked him at this point, like he was another low-rated douche of the week she had to defeat.

And she judged this cooler attitude was for the best. It would not cloud her reason.

The day had reached high noon, and Matthew gazed at the horizon where ocean met sky with a wistful unfocused look. He said, “You know the Pyramids at Giza used to be coated in white and capped in gold? Now they are mountains of rubble. And you know our great city, New York, with its silver and grey skyscrapers clawing at the sky like Gothic cathedrals, and all that? It will soon be an empty place, a junkyard with tons of rusted metal. I used to believe that our city, our civilization was worth protecting, keeping pure, but I don’t care anymore.”

Maya coughed a bit as snot went down her throat, and she scoffed at him, “I really don’t care about the white man’s existential crisis. Civilizations, especially the property-owning classes you truly refer to when you say ‘our city’, are by nature poor excuses of human societies. ‘Our civilization’ was never mine, and people like you love to drive that point home. Everyone, everything, dies. Attacking scapegoats, like you did, only showed you to be a desperate coward, but I’m glad you finally understand the obvious, even if you needed to become an exile of your own city to get it.”

Matthew laughed bitterly at hearing everything Maya said. “You ruined my life, Maya. I can’t wait to kill you in this duel.”

And Maya said, “I will kill you, Matthew. I will be done with you once and for all.”

Maya remembered something Yukio said, which was: “But no matter what happens we’ll be together. And yes, Maya, I mean it. It’s not a cliché. If we stick together, trust each other, help each other, we can overcome anything.” Maya hoped they would support her; though they could not telepathically send her good thoughts like anime characters magically do, she thought it somehow help. It wouldn’t hurt.

Far, far away, way back in a New York City apartment, JC, Yukio, Jolene, and Sophia watched the duel commence from Jolene’s laptop.

JC drank a large bottle of coke, and grumbled, “She’d better kick his ass or I’ll fist her harder than the parade guys who live here.”

“You fist gay guys, JC? Gross!” Yukio joked, sipping a beer. “I only wish for Maya to win. She worked so hard with us for this goal, she risked so much; she only deserves total victory.”

Jolene bid everyone clasp a crystal, which everyone did while groaning. She offered what would be called a prayer everywhere else: “Please, may the cosmos bless Maya so she may win and be happy.”

Sophia had nothing witty or silly to say, and didn’t even know if she liked Maya that much. She simply said, “Good luck, Maya. May success be yours.”

DAY 13 : 12:00 PM : ?????

Back at the pyramid top, Seto Kaiba snapped his fingers with impatience. “Isono! Begin the duel now!” He commanded.

The referee readily obeyed, announcing, “MAYA BROOK VERSUS MATTHEW CARTER: THE GRAND FINAL DUEL FOR THE THIRTEENTH BATTLE CITY CHAMPIONSHIP! DUEL START!”

MAYA: 8000 | MATTHEW: 8000

MAYA’S TURN: “I Special Summon Primitive Butterfly from my hand, and activate Brilliant Fusion, milling Lazuli and Fluffal Wings to Fusion Summon Gem-Knight Seraphinite!” Two pretty creatures worlds apart, an emerald butterfly and sapphire knight meet in one space. “I use Butterfly’s Effect to raise its Level to 6. I Tribute Seraphinite to Summon Destiny Hero – Malicious, then overlay it with Butterfly to Xyz Summon Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal!”

Matthew smirks at the arrival of the blessed lady, “I never thought someone like you believed in the eternal feminine.”

“I don’t.” Maya corrects him. “Her dress and manners are pompous and gauge, yes, but she’s a great coworker. I activate Jewels of the Valiant and set a card.” Maya’s voice is joyless; her hand might as well be a dead draw.

MATTHEW’S TURN: “My God… My God…” He screams in an exalted yet despairing laugh. “Yes, I have the perfect hand! Prepare to see my grandfather in Hell!”

“Bring it!” Maya braces herself for the worst.

“Oh, I will. Revenge is mine.” Matthew gloats. “I Normal Summon Hieratic Dragon of Eset, and Special Summon Hieratic Dragon of Su with Hieratic Dragon of Nebthet as the Tribute, which activates, letting me Special Summon Hieratic Seal of the Sun Dragon Overlord!” A parade of three gaudy Egyptian dragons arrive in pomp and circumstance.

Maya comments at the sight, “Dragons from China, dragons from Egypt, dragons from Dragon Tales… I’m tired of these grandiose creatures. When will it end?”

“When thou shalt succumb to mine Wrath & Die the Death!”

“Even the way you talk is old-fashioned.”

“As opposed to what, modern degenerate existential dread!”

“Um,” Maya blinks twice in astonishment, amazed at Matthew’s lack of self-awareness. “I know I’m the black person here, but damn you sound like the pot right now.”

“Enough of your ridicule!” Matthew roars, his shout nearly shaking the ground, “I overlay Eset and Su to Xyz Summon Hieratic Dragon King of Atum, which I activate to: Special Summon a second Hieratic Seal of the Sun Dragon Overlord!” Two more dragons join the army. “I banish Atum to Special Summon Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon, and use its Effect to revive Su!” Matthews field now totals to four great reptiles.

But his turn isn’t over, of course it’s not; with a Hieratic player? “I link up Red-Eyes and Su to Link Summon Hieratic Seal of the Celestial Spheres, and overlay my 2 Hieratic Seals to Xyz Summon Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis!” The nine celestials Enneads and the supreme sun god arrive, hovering high in the air above the reach of mere mortals. “I Tribute 2 monsters in my hand so Heliopolis can destroy your entire back row!”

Maya quickly declares, “I activate Fiend Grieving: I shuffle a dead monster back to your Deck and mill Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, then use it’s Effect!” A winged fiend springs from Maya’s Graveyard to banish the nine glowing spheres, at least for now.

“Not enough!” Matthew continues to build his army. “Hieratic Dragon of Nebthet and Hieratic Dragon of Eset activate as I Tributed them: I Special Summon Luster Dragon 2 and Galaxy Serpent from the Deck, then tune them to Synchro Summon Stardust Spark Dragon!” Two dragons great and small, emerald and white, merge in stars of white and green to bring forth the iconic dragon.

All of Matthew’s dragons stare down at Beatrice in menace, but the lady remains stoic in the face of danger, much like Maya does. Matthew doesn’t care. The game is his! “Dragons, destroy Beatrice and kill my sworn enemy, once and for all!” The entire army merges its firepower into a single devastating blow, but even that world-shattering power bounces harmlessly off Beatrice.

Matthew demands what happened with fury and frustration, and Maya reveals to him the trick. “I used Beatrice to mill Electromagnetic Turtle, then used it to end your attack.”

Matthew ends his turn in vain, cursing everything from his birth to Xiaoyi to Maya herself. How could Maya utterly refute his grand opening turn with one pathetic card? The Enneads return, the heavenly beings uncaring of the turmoil the mortals endure below.

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 24

Duel 24 – Slaying the Dragon

Stella finally has her key card in place, a card that will seal Maya’s fiends back in Hell where they belong.

STELLA: 700 | MAYA: 3100

STELLA’S TURN: “I Normal Summon Night Dracolich!” As the black draconic skeleton crawls up from the dust below, Stella muses to herself that this is the first time she Normal Summoned this entire Duel. Yugioh was such a different game back then…

“Chaofeng attack Charono!” The ferryman is a weak Link Monster, and as such, Maya can’t switch it to Defending Position to spare her Life Points. As her heavenly dragon readies himself for the attack, Stella sprung her trap, “I activate Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror!” And as the evil spirit from Dark Necrofear haunting the field leaps from the dragon to strike Stella down and finish the duel, a magical mirror catches the evil spirit and puts it in place.

Free from evil restraints, Chaofeng pulverizes Charono with the light from its body. (MAYA LP 3100 à 700) Maya looks mildly surprised and amused, but Stella can see the bead of sweat falling from her forehead. “Wu’tien, attack Uria and finish the Duel!” Stella knows Uria needs Continuous Trap Cards in Maya’s Graveyard to gain power, and with only 2 buried there, its ATK is very weak.

“GOTCHA!” Maya seems to jump from out nowhere, like she popped from the darkness itself. “I banish Fiendfyre and a FIRE monster from my Graveyard!” Wu’tien leaps to the attack with her sword but a wall of flame generates from thin air, knocking the dragon empress back. The wall of flame collapses into a meteor, and Stella knows what will happen next.

“I destroy Dracolich for Wu’tien’s effect!” The empress dragon tosses her subject to the meteor to take the hit, dispersing the flames. Stella’s monster is spared and Stella does not take the damage that would have finished her. But her Battle Phase ends all the same.

“I set a card and end my turn.” Stella says, admitting her campaign failed, and Dark Necrofear spells another letter: “A”.

“Two more turns left.” Maya reminds her with the obvious, just to rub it in her face.

MAYA’S TURN: “I play Pot of Avarice!” She returns 5 dead monsters to her Deck and draws 2 cards. “Rats…” Maya softly speaks to herself; she has a nice big hand but it does not look promising. Maya did not believe a duelist could generate so much advantage and still have nothing, until now. “What a terrible deck. I must redo it.”

Maya thinks about how Mathias would have a field day with Maya playing Pot of Avarice. The Saints have a little in-joke amongst themselves where Maximus owns the prized card and Mathias makes every desperate attempt he can to get Maximus to trade it away. And with that brief thought, noticing the void where a big man with an even bigger garrulous laugh would be, Maya feels her heart pierced with a terrible sadness.

Maya had not felt this way since her mother died. Mathias did his best, giving all of his strength to protect her, and the world, from Matthew’s wrath, and Maya realizes her mother did nothing different. The poor woman, abused from her husband, did all she could to protect herself and her child. And Maya’s father? He did not have an easy life, and was disowned by his family, but so was Maya’s mother. That was no excuse.

“I put all my monsters to Defending Position, and I use Uria to destroy your facedown card.” Her monsters meekly obey her, but Uria does give Stella a sly punch below the bely by destroying her facedown Trap Card.

Maya destroys her Link Monster, protecting her Life, “I Tribute Charono to Set a monster facedown and set a backrow card. My turn is over.”

STELLA’S TURN: Stella knows Maya has something up her sleeve. She never admits defeat unless she ruses the opponent to play a dirty trick, but what other choice does Stella have but to fall for it? “Chaofeng, destroy Beatrice, the center of Maya’s Deck!”

The dragon volleys three balls of white-hot fire at the fair Lady of the Eternal, but Maya has something up her sleeve, “I activate Delta Barrier to negate your attack!” She revives 2 Continuous Traps from her Graveyard to aid the first one in blocking the dragon’s attack.

Undeterred, Stella barks, “Wu’tien, destroy Uria!” Her dragon empress slays the dragon demon by cutting off its head.

It would be hilarious if you nerfed Destiny Board at the last moment.” Maya jokes. “Boy, would I be salty!”

“You will be.” Stella replies in kind, “To gloat so early! I activate A Wing Beat of Giant Dragon! I return Wu’tien to my hand to destroy ALL Spells and Traps!” The reigning dragon queen rises to the heavens for the last time, her wings growing bright in tremendous size. She shunts her wings once, and vanishes in a flash, blowing away the Destiny Board, and Dark Necrofear dies a second time.

“Well I’ll be damned!” Maya shouts in utter shock as her strategy is shot to bits.

“You’ll never beat me with such a cheap trick!” Stella remonstrates her opponent. “I should slap you just for being that arrogant.”

Maya admits, “You losing to Destiny Board would disappoint me. I’m very happy you overcame the Occult Combo, but I must ask; why not destroy it sooner?”

“That’s my secret.”

“Or your mistake. I play a second Pot of Avarice!” Maya turns to you and all the other readers. She asks, “Can someone tell me what Pot of Avarice does?”

“Stale jokes are stale, Maya.” Stella nags impatiently, “Make your damn move already.”

“Very well. I set a monster. Turn over.”

STELLA’S TURN: “Well that was short. Not much to do when losing. I activate Preparation of Rites. I return a Ritual Spell and add a Ritual Monster to my hand, and I activate Yang Zing Cycle!” She Tributes Wu’tien herself in a surprise move; and as the sun has the moon, as light casts a shadow, as the mountain shares the land with the valley, a new darker dragon empress emerged. “I Ritual Summon Ci’xi, Dragon Empress of Yin!”

“When she is Ritual Summoned, Ci’xi adds two Wyrm monsters to my hand. Now Chaofeng, destroy Beatrice!” The old dragon succeeds in conquering the maiden this time, but his success is short lived. As Beatrice dies, Maya gives rise to Dante, Pilgrim of the Burning Abyss!

“I use its Effect.” Maya says. “I discard a Burning Abyss monster to draw a card.” When Stella reminds her that Chaofeng can now block the Effects of DARK monsters, Maya retorts, “Nah, really?”

“Ci’xi, destroy Dante!” The dark dragon empress draws her sword, a straight blade barbed with deep grooves like a shark’s teeth, screams a savage roar, and mercilessly butchers the pilgrim. Stella discards a card from Dante’s Effect; the penalty a player pays for slaying him. “I destroy a Wyrm in my hand to have Ci’xi attack again! Destroy a facedown card!” The evil queen slaughters the innocent Fluffal Wings under its hiding place.

“Since I destroyed Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing, I Special Summon Taotie, Shadow of the Yang Zing from my Deck; and then, Taotie, destroy Maya’s last monster!” The second dark dragon pounces on its prey, killing the Fiend underneath.

“I set a card and end my turn.” Stella then understands the awful truth. Maya never planned on winning with the Occult Combo; she used it merely as a distraction to build a counterattack. In Battle City, Bakura played the Occult Combo as his ultimate strategy. Maya used the king as a pawn.

MAYA’S TURN: “I banish Fluffal Wings and Fluffal Bear to draw a card. I now use the other Effects of the Burning Abyss monsters: I Special Summon Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; and Graff Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, and I Tribute them all to Special Summon Raviel, Lord of Phantasms!” Three devils from the malebolge appear soon to give obeisance to the last Sacred Beast.

“I activate Fallen Paradise. It’s just like…” Maya pauses to prompt a response.

“Pot of Greed.” Stella groans.

“Exactly. It allows me to draw 2 cards from my Deck.” And Maya does so, enjoying the vista created from her Field Spell, especially the large withered tree and the forbidden fruit clinging to a ruined branch. “Raviel, attack Chaofeng! It can’t be destroyed in battle, but you can!”

“I activate Damage Diet! I take half the battle damage!” Stella counters; both she and her monster are spared from death. (STELLA LP 700 à 450) 

“Very well. I set a card. You’re move.”

STELLA’S TURN: “Ci’xi, attack Raviel!” As the dark dragon queen leaps to split the fiendish titan in two, Stella adds, “I destroy Zefranu in my hand to double her ATK!”

“And I activate Power Wall!” Maya mills 4 cards and spares her Life. Ci’xi fails to even scratch Raviel with her blade and, seeing this, bounces back to her space in retreat.

“Good grief! That was situational!” Laments the astonished Stella. “I end my turn!” Stella does not worry too much. She has one last Wyrm monster in her hand, ready to sacrifice it to double Ci’xi’s ATK any time.

MAYA’S TURN: “To win is not enough,” Maya tells herself, “You must win to make a point. I must defeat Stella in a more intimate way. Please, let this work!”

Maya says, “I activate Good & Evil of the Burning Abyss! I Tribute Hammon from my hand to Ritual Summon Malacoda, Netherlord of the Burning Abyss!” Maya loses her entire hand to complete the ritual, giving rise to an imposing fiend brandishing its own deadly rapier.

“It will be a devil, not a knight in shining armor, that will slay the dragon. Malacoda, kill the dragon queen!” The dragon queen and chieftain fiend joust together, clashing blades, locked together in mortal combat.

On seeing the combat, Stella remarks, “How fitting an end. I’m the dragon queen, the best Dragon Duelist in the world, and you are a wicked fiendish person.”

“Yes,” Maya agrees, seeing the battle unfold. Her father was a fiend, but so is she; how could she complain and not be a hypocrite? She became like her father. He was a broken man who broke her; so Maya reasons she is forever broken too, and she instinctively touches the side of her mouth and eye.

She burns with anger; she hates her father with every inch of her body, down to the strands of her hair and tips of her fingernails becoming hot with fiery anger, for breaking her, for crippling her for life. Maya tightly squeezes her face with her hand, lost in the black smog of her hatred, but a clear light, a sudden thought, bursts through; we are all helpless in this world in some way or another, and understanding that and forgiving a bad person does not support or condone their evil. Maya doesn’t need to hate him anymore.

It is interesting how thoughts work. Maya took three seconds to complete the entire journey.

Stella announces, “I use Ci’xi’s Effect: I destroy Suanni in my hand to double her ATK.”

Maya snaps out of her thoughts, “I use Malacoda’s Effect: I mill another Malacoda to bring her ATK down.”

“But Chaofeng stops you!”

“I know, why I activate Breakthrough Skill! I banish it to negate Chaofeng’s effect!”

Cixi requests assistance of Suanni, the fire dragon, who willingly gives its life to power its queen’s blade. Malacoda, in turn, commands aid from another devil in Hell, and from the power of its spirit, the captain of the Hellish squad breaks Ci’xi’s blade. Disarmed, outraged, but not beaten, the dark queen impales Malacoda with her first, killing him. (MAYA LP 300 à 100)

“Good!” Maya thinks to herself. She baited Stella to waste her last defense. “Raviel!” Maya commands as a general in victory, “Destroy Chaofeng! Win the game!” The dragon of light and lord of darkness clash in an epic struggle, but Raviel wins the arm wrestle, slashing Chaofeng with a mortal wound that kills him. Ci’xi and Stella can only watch helplessly as their army falls in ruins. Maya, through Malacoda, made her real retribution; not by killing Ci’xi, but by letting her live to suffer her defeat. (STELLA LP 450 à 0)

STELLA: 0 | MAYA: 100

Stella dropped to her knees, feeling utterly weak, the dark magic surrounded everyone was already doing its work, draining her life force away. Maya sprinted to her as fast as possible, grabbing Stella’s shoulders to keep her from falling. Maya said, nearly crying, “I understand now. I forgave my parents. They were only human. I’m sorry, Stella, for everything I did.”

Stella put one tender hand on Maya’s cheek. “I know.” She fell into darkness, the darkness leaving with her. Maya holstered Stella’s body on her back; her body trembling and stressed, the warm spring breeze felt as ice as to her, and she carried the coma Stella to the hospital herself.

————————————————

CREATED CARDS

STELLA’S CARDS:

Wu’tien, Dragon Empress of Yang
LIGHT/Level 8/Wyrm
2600 ATK/2800 DEF
Ritual Monster

  • This card must first be Special Summoned with the Effect of “Yang Zing Cycle”.
  • When this card is successfully Ritual Summoned: Special Summon up to 2 Wyrm monsters from your Graveyard.
  • Once per turn: you can destroy 1 Wyrm monster you control; draw 1 card.
  • If this monster would be destroyed by battle or Effect: you can destroy 1 Wyrm monster you control, and it is not destroyed.

Ci’xi, Dragon Empress of Yin
DARK/Level 8/Wyrm
2800 ATK/2600 DEF
Ritual Monster

  • This card must first be Special Summoned with the Effect of “Yang Zing Cycle”.
  • When this card is successfully Ritual Summoned: return up to 2 Wyrm monsters from your Graveyard to your hand.
  • Once per turn: you can destroy 1 Wyrm monster from your hand or field; double this cards ATK.
  • Once per turn: if this card destroys a monster in battle; you can destroy 1 Wyrm monster from your hand or field, and this card can attack once more.

Yang Zing Cycle
Ritual Spell

  • Tribute Wyrm monsters from your hand or field whose Levels equal 8 or more: Ritual Summon 1 “Wu’tien, Dragon Empress of Yang” or “Ci’xi, Dragon Empress of Yin” from your hand.

MAYA’S CARDS:

Fiendfyre
FIRE/Level 1/Fiend
600 ATK/ 500 DEF

  • If your opponent’s monster attacks while this card is in your Graveyard: you can banish this card and 1 other FIRE monster; destroy the attacking monster and, if you do, inflict damage equal to half the monster’s ATK. End the Battle Phase.