Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 3

Duel 3 – Emergence

People expect sudden breakthroughs, revolutions, and emergences of consciousness to be loud, violent, and obvious to see, but in truth they are born so quietly into this world at moments so mundane you would miss it if you blinked. The violence, fanfare, and flame are merely echoes after the fact the way your thoughts are born of your passions but only dimply echo them. Xiaoyi pondered these thoughts, amusing herself with philosophy, in the bathtub where Gernand her master would soon join her. While the old man readied himself to pluck his favorite peony flower, to crush his favorite butterfly, she turned her thoughts to many years ago when master and student met.

Xiaoyi was twelve and a half years old when she ran away from home, stranding herself on the great mid-West American desert, the highway her lifeline, sometimes hitching a ride on people ready to lend a helping hand to an urchin. Her pale skin was burned red into a blush as it was in Egypt, she remembered. And there she saw Gernand for the first time, in action; the large fat man dragged two boys with his monstrous strength from an old car out into the highway, gripping their heads with large vices for hands. The young men pleaded for their lives, tried appealing to the man’s heart as if he once loved them, but Gernand was cold as ever. They outlived their usefulness in pleasuring him or being worthy students to his cause, so he crushed their skulls as the giant he was. Xiaoyi saw Gernand kill with his monstrous strength, screamed, ran as far away as she could.

She met that fearsome man again on the highway again later that same early June day, during sunset. The girl froze in terror but did not run away this time as he stood in front of her path, sitting still as a little bird in front of a cobra, hoping he would leave her be. He never did; instead he went out to talk to her, and the whole dialogue went as such:

GERNAND: “I know you saw me dispatch my last two students for they were too weak to fulfill the tasks I require them. I am as a farmer and I prefer large, strong trees with deep roots that yield the sweetest fruit, but enough of my obscure metaphors. I, like you, am a drifter of sorts, searching for something but a little lost. I have traveled the world for centuries, believe it or not, going on many libertine adventures to expand my tastes and learn all about mankind and the world. Yet I need a companion, someone to transmit by knowledge to so it may remain immortal should I perish, yet no apprentice is strong enough to keep faithful to my evil principles, and they waver. I tire of them anyway and dispatch them as I see fit.”

XIAOYI: “…”

GERNAND: “I must have frightened you, no doubt; a pity. I see from your shirt you come from Los Angeles, yet why would you leave? It is a fine city with warm sunny days, Hollywood nearby, easy drugs and porn as they are the true trades of the land, anything a spoiled child could want. You want to run away as fast as you can, which I easily understand, but mark my words only I have a gaze penetrating enough to know what you truly want and how you may get it. You want freedom, hence you ran away, but I wonder how that desire pressed itself upon your heart, my little creature.”

XIAOYI: “M-Mama was not well in the head. Shortly after she became pregnant with me she had vivid dreams of a great black demon, the Devil she thought. S-She kept having them after I was born, thought the Devil sired me, not dad, tried to drown me when I was a baby, so dad locked her up. Mama just died in hospital and dad killed himself.”

GERNAND: “I am very sorry to hear that.”

XIAOYI: “Please, Sir, let me go. I am frightened and I don’t understand your riddles. I will never tell anyone what I saw you do to your… b-back there.”

GERNAND: “That concerns me not in the slightest. You want freedom after such a woeful childhood, do you, but do you know what freedom is?”

XIAOYI: “I never want to be in such a bad home anymore, full of pain. I learned from school it means having your rights protected and doing what you want as long as you don’t infringe on their rights and –“

GERNAND: “Wrong! Fools and dupes everywhere prattle freedom but have no idea what it really means, what sacrifices you must make to be a free man! Look around, desert wildflower; you see this wide dessert and setting sun, home to lizards, snakes, and scorpions with no pity for you. Nature is the cruel mistress who rules over all, She alone grinds the cosmic mill, the creatures crushed underneath it doomed to live an endless cycle of raping and killing, these being the true and only principles of living beings.”

XIAOYI: “But what about God?”

GERNAND: “Don’t be an idiot. I know you are too smart to be believe in fairy tales, let alone big for your age, so let me outline the grade school truths for you. God, like all orthodox religions, is a lie created by earthly powers as propaganda to control the minds and hearts of its people, working in tandem with the State to do so. Excuses in believing in gods or afterlives beyond this world are specious at best; you have no way of perceiving either except through mental illness and they are redundant to Nature in the end, who is the only God there is. Of all gods, you can only touch this cruel mistress and thus only Her Divine Laws exist; Power and Pleasure at all costs!”

XIAOYI: “But what of other people and the animals? I wish I stayed home, maybe to become a vet one day to take care of animals?”

GERNAND: “It is only natural that one who loses God flees to his vestiges, humaneness. – How interesting out little chat is! We have moved past two and half centuries of thought already! – We are born in this world utterly alone and in misery; our flesh separates our minds so far apart true understanding of what it is like to be another person cannot be done, and your very life proves that evil rules the world. Every moral in this world, I repeat, every moral is a human invention, created by a ruling class to dominate their subjects, bolstered by their deluded pride, and upheld by centuries of convention, and every moral is man is a dupe taken by one of the three. Quickly looking at cultures around the world you will see that not one virtue or vice exists in the entire globe that is upheld by all peoples. It is natural for living creatures to will for power, to take what they can, to pursue what pleases them. Only then can they have a few trifling pleasures before Nature grinds them to dust under Her millstone.”

XIAOYI: “So freedom to you is only license. Sir, please let me leave. Your speeches are so tedious.”

GERNAND: “Girl, you know nothing of freedom.”

XIAOYI: “I don’t know how to feel. I want to leave you this instant but listening to you somehow makes me feel strong.”

GERNAND: “You want to become powerful, to compensate for a life of powerlessness and frustration, oh yes! I foresee your natural talents emerging already; you will have power greater than the earth’s, a cunning surpassing the worst tyrants, and an evil so great you will ruin man and his children, forever will you be known as his greatest Enemy. I will help you gain this power; become uncivilized, let no restriction bind you, answer to no man but me and you will be the cruel embodiment of Nature herself.”

XIAOYI: “What inspired your prophecy?”

GERNAND: “The Supreme Being that is Nature. I am no prophet but merely a philosopher able to predict the far future by observing natural laws. You may say the two are similar in essence. I say no, and here’s why!”

And Gernand expounded on his philosophy for another hour. Xiaoyi knew a classmate back in Los Angeles who just discovered Atlas Shrugged, and he would read the book aloud whenever not in glass. It’s author was the dullest, most conceited human to have ever lived, hence her prose, and Gernand was almost as bad as she was. Yet despite the decrepit man’s failings the young Xiaoyi was strangely compelled by his doctrines, drawn toward their owner in fascination and revulsion at the same time. She knew there were indeed a few kernels of truth in his creed, however dimply she could perceive them, and she resolved she would learn everything she could, and then, when the time was right, break away and find her freedom.
“I will show you everything.” Gernand beckoned her. “You will learn all the secrets of Nature.”

And that was how Xiaoyi submitted herself to the cruel Gernand, going down and under to find her knowledge, who in turn wasted no time giving his eager pupil her first lesson. He forcefully tore the sunflower from its roots, ripping it apart, and Xiaoyi knew someone by the flesh for the first time.

——————————————————

Maya pulled an all-nighter rebuilding her deck from the ground up. She completely discarded her old deck, the one that swarmed the field with low ATK high Level Dinosaurs to Xyz Summon all sorts of powerful monsters. It was great, but not enough for the finals, especially not now, and she even suspected that Pegasus created Link Monsters just to make her deck useless. She wondered if every other finalist had the same suspicions.

She built a new deck but it too was a failure. She threw her cards at the wall of her lodging. It was frustrating! She knew what she saw, what she wanted, and was so close to grasping it yet unable to! Her thoughts turned to Sophia; she lusted after every other person, treating love with ridicule as she was too disgusting and evil a person to deserve it, but with Sophia things were different. She felt she could trust her heart for once, the only time in her life, she listened to it. What did she feel to that sweet sunflower? It must be infatuation; she never knew what love was like before and she wasn’t ready to make any wild guesses in that area.

Sometime when her team was in Luxor, Sophia mentioned being in love with a boy, to which Maya scoffed off at first. But Yukio coaxed Sophia on to get to understand her feelings, something Maya would never let him to do her, and Sophia did answer what she thought love was like. She had said, “Love is not a feeling but life itself. It is a doing, not a being. Only it lights the stars.” Maya pretended not to listen to her younger and better peer, but she did.

Maya could indeed relate that description of love; it was passion, specifically the desire to give, to give the creative life force, and being enlarged as that life force erupts out in the greatest show of power and strength. Maya loved when she wrote or played music, she loved when she worked on a story or some other writing while Jolene drew, she loved when she created anything for Sophia. It was limitless, a power that could break past every cruelty and limit of the earth, every weakness of being human, and reach even beyond the stars, greater than the universe itself. She picked up one card, Beatrice Lady of the Eternal, the card where she always thought of Sophia. Now she got ideas! And she started working. This new deck would have deeper strategies, every facet of the deck linking together into a far greater whole, a deck that could touch almost anything. A Beatrice Almighty deck.

Maya looked at you, the audience, directly. “Let this new way of dueling work. Let me evolve Yugioh and go to a higher game.”

——————————————————

Gernand slid himself into the bathtub with great effort, his total mass nearly crushed Xiaoyi inside it, his body riddled by so many folds his shriveled small penis could never be seen. But there was no want of trying, the old man fancied himself a young and vigorous Don Juan and took his time toiling with Xiaoyi. The old man bit and carved into Xiaoyi’s flesh until blood came out, taking special delight in biting her tits and ass until blood came out, which caused him to eject a few drops of sperm with Xiaoyi’s assistance, then collected the blood into a basin. He darkly muttered an Egyptian chant from millennia ago, causing the blood to whirl upward on its own, assuming a snake-like shape then slithering into Gernand’s mouth. The effects came right after; his pure white hair revived some blond in it, his small watery blue eyes lost some cataract, and his flesh sagged slightly less.

Gernand told Xiaoyi a long time ago that his ritual prolonged his life for a while, provided he cruelly withdrew and drank the blood of one he lusted after while in the whitest heat. The spell itself. Gernand told her, came from the Book Isis, the only spell known after the one that used ninety-nine sacrifices to create the Millennium Items. Gernand, now done with his chores, could relax in his bath with his slave.

Now was the time. Xiaoyi quietly excused herself so Gernand would not notice, returned with a meteorite blade, and drove it straight through Gernand’s chest, bowls, and groin thirteen times each. The old dog woke in a fright, startled but not dead, his fat saved him. He was many times Xiaoyi’s size, able to crush her bones with no effort, but he fled in terror. He tripped out of the bathtub, over the wet floor, out of their private room deep in the Luxor country, his jowls, stomach, and ass cheeks desperately flabbing after him. Xiaoyi calmy walked after him, sure to take her time in witnessing the coward bleed to death with fleeing for his life.

The student soon cornered the master in a deserted alleyway with little effort. The frightened Gernand called forth his Ka to defend himself in a last resort for his safety, an ancient and great but flightless eagle, only for Xiaoyi to smash to bits with her dragon Ka, the damage rupturing Gernand’s internal organs. He lay dying, he glanced up at his student one last time, now towering over him, and cackled while chocking in his own blood. He created the person to embody Nature in all Her caprice, viciousness, and destructive power, but he did not have time to say his thoughts or even appreciate him.

Xiaoyi drove the dagger into him in a white hot fury hundreds of times, her face pale with rage, her lips peeled so far back every ferocious tooth in her wide mouth could be seen, shredding Gernand’s body so much she skinned him and bathed herself wet in his blood.

It was over as quickly as it began, an event surreal even to a seasoned killer as Xiaoyi. She dropped the meteorite dagger in fatigue, not caring about it anymore. She went back to the hotel room, slinking in the bathtub alone, the water inside mixed with her and her former master’s blood. Gernand was dead and she needed to make excuses for his superiors. But now was not the time.

Well, Xiaoyi thought, this is a pretty nice blood bath. Get it? She helped herself with some red wine and turned on the bathroom television to the Yugioh channel. It was time to see which basement-dwelling loser played a children’s card game better than anyone else. She crossed her fingers, hoping Maya would win, as she was the key to all her planning up to this point. Maya had retrieved the Book of Isis. That was certain. Now she needed to keep winning, keep that book in store until the right moment came. Xiaoyi had no idea gambling could be so fun – no wonder it was so addicting! – and though Maya was the dark horse at the races she hoped the dark horse would win for a change.

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 2

Duel 2 – Infinite Mirrors

Each finalist saw a white jet with blue stripes cut across to clear blue sky, seemingly coming out of the sun, as if from Heaven itself, and gracefully land on the runway. The jet was so pale and gleaned so brightly under the sun that no finalist could look at it directly before adjusting their eyes. Only one man stepped out of that bird of paradise, Isono; a tall severe man with short, neatly trimmed graying hair and whiskers who somehow managed to wear a suit under such blazing heat, everyone knew him to be Kaiba’s right-hand man. Things were getting serious.

Isono seemed to have access to the airports controls for the finalists heard his grave voice, “Attention please. The Battle City Tournament No. 13 finals have begun. Gate K-13 will currently be boarding with the finalists each team selected. Mathias Blackheart, finalist No. 1, begin boarding! Maximus Clay, finals tournament commentator, also begin boarding!”

Mathias and his comrades grimly heard those words, knowing that the test of the Headmaster’s weighty prophecy was soon to be tested, but nonetheless Mathias stood as tall as he could, as if he wanted his shadow to obscure Maximus and Ivy with his towering shadow, ready to face the challenges ahead. However, Maximus and Ivy rose from their seats to face Mathias from the front, Maximus offered his hand to his brother in arms, “Godspeed. May our choice be wisely made and you be up to the momentous task.” To which Mathias hugged his friends, hiding his umbrage towards his brother, and the two men walked out into the concrete plane beyond leaving Ivy behind.

“Hannibal Davidson, finalist No. 2, begin boarding!”

The famous archeologist and bearer of bad news accepted his destiny with courage, duty-bound to the Stoic tradition he willingly embraced many years ago. He gave his wife, Indira, the Minerva and Venus of his life, a final call on his phone, telling her loved her, worshipped her, bidding her farewell as a Spartan off to war. This grim and self-important man left the common world to the fight ahead, determined to stop the rogue Matthew and Maya, whoever be the Red Dragon, at all costs.

“Svanhildur ‘Stella Nova’ Minvervadottir, finalist No. 3, begin boarding!”

Stella embraced her friends, took a last selfie with them all, and left for the finals, a little nervous but happy to duel such challenging foes, and the fame and outreach! If every girl in the world saw her become world champion, the bright light of inspiration she would infuse in their souls would make the world a better place.

“Maria Wight, finalist No. 4, begin boarding!”

Maria, who carefully eyed each finalist with scrutiny, cast her sharp scrutiny at the dismal and gross fiend Maya for a second, which Maya returned with her own piercing tigerish glance, before heading on out. She wished Kaiba to see her ascend to becoming champion every step of the way, so she may prove to be worthy of him and win his love.

“Marina ‘Maya Brook’ Bozuslowsky, finalist No. 5, begin boarding!”

Maya only felt her broken ribs at that point, each breath she took splintered her chest, but she would never tell Yukio and Sophia that because they should surely never let her go off to fight in that condition. Believe it or not, Maya always felt like this since childhood, a constant dull pain or weight on her shoulders but one inside the mind, but whenever saddled too much she would stoke the flame inside her extra bright to burn it away for a while.

Now was such a moment, with no room for fear of failure or death but only glory for the spirit, and she would shine bright and strong. She gave Yukio and Sophia every card she owned except for a black binder of the most essential ones she would need. Before Yukio could object, saying he would never take such a gift, Maya shut him up by grabbing him and kissing him ardently, lewdly, then gently hugged Sophia with a sweetness and candor mirroring the girl’s heart. She bid them farewell and stepped into the concrete plain full of glaring sunlight beyond.

She say Mathias and Maximus standing close together, their shoulders turned away, Hannibal trying to marvel what little nature was around him, Stella waving at her, Maria gazing at her with contempt. She joined with Stella to discuss the finals, wondering where Kaiba and Pegasus would take them; if Egypt was not exotic and epic enough than what was? Something from the future, beyond the dusky history of Egypt perhaps?

“Tamas Vargas, finalist No. 6, begin boarding!”

They saw a man with a crew cut on top of a head with a nondescript face, wearing a black leather jacket despite the head and worn out jeans, his eyes shielded by sunglasses, and couldn’t help poking fun at him. He looked like every other local tournament jerk out there, the kind of guy who would beat eleven-year-old kids with the current meta deck then strut around like he was the toughest shit since Kaiba came out of his ludicrous Blue-Eyes White Dragon Jet with a jetpack. But this Mr. Vargas did make it to the finals, somehow, but the two women could not overcome their prejudice and kept taking potshots at him.

“Weevil Underwood, finalist No. 7, begin boarding!”

No one could suppress their laughter; even the stiff Isono twitched his manicured thin mustache and smirked a little, but arrive Weevil did, short, squat, and bug-eyed, barking up at everyone like a small dog, demanding respect. Stella, noticing something strange with her sharp eyes, gave Maya notice of it; as the workers crammed a few bags in the jet, did one seem to move like someone was inside it?

“Matthew Carter, finalist No. 8, begin boarding!”

Silence. Maya felt very cold, waiting to see the man who wanted her dead was far worse than being with him in person. Everyone else waited as if frozen. Isono checked his watch after fifteen minutes. He repeated, “Matthew Carter, finalist No. 8, begin boarding!” Nothing. He decided it was time. “We shall all board.” In everyone went. Maya was last.

She was just about to get in when she saw HIM stalk towards her, Matthew himself, a short but sturdy light brown-skinned man, his brown eyes piercing, smoldering with volcanic hate underneath the earthen surface. Maya and the man she destroyed looked at each other for a brief moment, not saying a word, matching his steel resolve for her own. She didn’t care how he felt, he nearly killed her, Sophia, Yukio, and actually killed many others. Maya began to wonder, once again, how a tournament where so many people died and a government shattered in could high rating and scores of cheering fans, but she dropped it. It was all too late.

All the finalists huddled inside the jet, all seats facing each other, making any privacy impossible and forcing all duelists to face each other for hours on end. Isono retreated behind the crew as a flight attendant of sorts and the jet took off. Maya knew the jet was flying west of Egypt into the Atlantic with Earth’s orbit as the noon sun stayed behind them rather than setting in the evening.

Regardless, Matthew stared at her throughout the entire journey with a fixed intense gaze Maya did not believe was possible. To say she felt deeply uncomfortable was an understatement, but she could not reveal any weakness to such a dangerous man, a monster she created by daring to fight for her right to live and duel the way she wanted all those years ago. The other finalists were nearly as daunting a challenge; there was no weak link among them, even Weevil could defeat her if she was not careful. Mathias kept his eyes closed the entire time as if meditating. Hannibal kept his head down to read a book. Stella studied her rivals closely with a caution that mirrored Maya’s. Maria stared at a small picture of Kaiba she kept with her with a restless look on her face. Tamas slept the whole time with his leg awkwardly stuck on Maya’s lap. Weevil fidgeted the entire time, sometimes happy, sometimes anxious. Thus did six numbingly intense hours pass in this way until they landed on the unknown island.

Isono opened the door, the first to leave, directing the finalists to their final destination. The island was as Shangri-La except it did not float; most of the ground was fine white sand or short grass and trees, heated bright by the sun but cut by start black shadows, the weather warm and mild but with a sometimes chilly wind, nothing but the wide blue ocean and the wide blue sky surrounded it for miles around. The finalists walked to the mainland, and gasped at the sight of the massive pyramid at the center, almost as large as Khufu’s at Giza, with two other giants, Seto Kaiba and Pegasus Crawford, waiting for them at the pyramid’s base.

The austere yet august Kaiba greeted them in his frosty manner, “Congratulations at making it to the finals. As host of this tournament I applaud your achievement but as you are all too aware the real struggle has just begun. Every duel you fought through before is nothing but child’s play compared to what you will face tomorrow. At eight o’clock sharp everyone will arrive to the base of the pyramid and climb to the top where every duel will be held. Each duel will last for exactly twenty minutes at most, with each duelist given thirty seconds at most to make any move, and if the duel doesn’t end on time the duelist with more Life Points will be declared the winner.”

“Hey! Wait up, guys! Aah!” Everyone turned to see Rex gasp for air as he ran after them. Weevil was as shocked as everyone else to see his friend, asking how he god here, with Rex explaining, “I snuck in the luggage, you know, like we did in the Doma Arc, the one nobody liked.” The two bros laughed together at their silly adventure thirteen yeats ago, with Kaiba seething in annoyance and everyone else rolling their eyes.

Pegasus, smarmy as ever, gestured to the finalists, “This way to your lodgings, fellow duelists. Even the greatest men need to sleep.” He said, twirling his cane around in a gentlemanly way as he guided them to what looked like a large building. He showed them inside, directing them to the dining hall n the center surrounded by mirrors and the surrounding rooms, each designed to match the character of each finalist, then notified them of dinner being served within a few hours, so it is good to be prepared.

Everyone did so. Maya crashed unto the bed of Room V, nearly shouting in pain from her broken ribs, clutching her chest and writhing in bed. She could never relax, could she? Joking aside, she unpacked her bags, hiding all her cards in her binder and the Book of Isis, stashing both away in a trap door underneath a drawer – almost as if Pegasus knew she would hide the Book the first thing she did – The room itself was simple with great color contrasts, a sun of deep red, bronze, and burning gold painted above where the ceiling light hung at the room’s corner and dark greens, blues, and blacks below on the floor level. A wide desk was placed below the ceiling light and golden sun so she could work on any dramatic art form she wanted while right next to a single large window to the sea and sky outside. Truly, it was an inner sanctum; Pegasus only needed his mortal eye to see into her heart and she fully understood that Pegasus was a profound man beneath his foppish demeanor. How did Pegasus design everyone else’s room?

Maya took a long warm shower, shaved her body hair, tamed her mane of black hair with conditioner, afterwards donning black sneakers, black jeans, and a black sleeveless shirt. Everyone sad down to eat a simple yet filling dinner of soup and meets, each finalist had many chances to look into all the mirrors surrounding them, to see themselves infinitely reflected and refracted among the reflections of the other finalists. It was all too surreal, easily dislodging any comfortable sense of self. Maya knew Pegasus was an artist as she was, though a painter to her the musician, and she pondered exactly what message did Pegasus want to tell them or the world for that matter.

After dinner, the host Pegasus appeared before his guests, with the press of a button he caused a small hologram projector to appear at the center of the table, the lights dimming. He threw his finalists the final curve ball the tournament had to offer, “Ladies and gentlemen, you have all evolved prodigiously as duelists in my marvelous tournament, now you must evolve further, for in the finals I will have you premier a new game mechanic into Yugioh, none other than Link Summoning!”

“What?”

The projector revealed all with Pegasus making the right comments to their questions. A duelist could no longer Summon monsters from the Extra Deck: Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, or Pendulum for that matter, with impunity like they did throughout the entire tournament. They could only Summon one monster from the Extra Deck in a new Monster Card Zone for each player made for that purpose. But they could Summon more monsters by using Link Monsters, new Extra Deck monsters, that each had one to eight Link Markers on the card pointing to another Monster Card Zone based on the card’s Link Number, which now became “Linked Zones”, allowing the player to summon more Extra Deck Monsters. Imagine the Extra Deck Zone as one electric socket; most an Extra Deck monster was one plug but Link Monsters were plugs with extension sockets, allowing you more plugs.

But how did a duelist Summon Link Monsters? A Link Monster needed the number of monsters equal to its Link Number, thankfully no Level requirements needed. Examples: Decoe Talker; a Link 3 Monster needing “2+ Effect monsters”, needed 3 monsters to be sent to the Graveyard, at least 2 of them would have to be Effect monsters. Encode Talker; a Link 3 Monster needing “2+ Cyberse monsters” needed 3 monsters to be sent to the Graveyard, at least 2 of them would have to be Cyberse monsters. Link Monsters could be used as Material for the Summoning of other Link Monsters, but only as 1 Material or the number of Materials equaling it’s Link Number. Example: Firewall Dragon, a Link 4 monster needing “2+ monsters”, could be made using Decode Talker (3 Materials) and 1 other monster (1 Material) but not by using Decode Talker and 2 other monsters. Also: Link Monsters had no DEF, so cards like Book of Moon, Burden of the Mighty, and Return to the Frontline had no effect on them since they could never go into Defense Position.

All the finalists were dumbfounded at first but soon reacted violently to this astonishing twist in different ways. Tamas, a typical reactionary gamer, stormed out the dining room, shouting how Yugioh was dead and the game was broken now and he would never play Yugioh again. Maria held a frozen look of mild distaste but sighed and resolved to learn the new rules before retiring to her room. Mathias shrugged, then proclaimed to Pegasus, “You got yourself a game, old man.” Pegasus was pleasantly surprised, it was the reaction he liked but was too smart to expect it from anyone.

Maya cocked her head and laughed out loud, rueful and glad at the same time. “So Konami, I mean Pegasus, finally figured out Dracoslayer Pendulums were cancer killing the game. You have no idea how many Ghouls used that against us! But I must ask: how long will it take for these novel Link Monsters to become old and replaced by something even more outlandish? Three years? Two this time?” She didn’t even mention how Pegasus thought Internet references were still novel: Decode Talker, Firewall Dragon? What was this, the late nineties? Did Pegasus still use AOL dial up or something? Did Space Jam just come out?

Maya could see Pegasus deflate a little and it was a good sign, for it was always important to curb the pride of nobles: aristocrat, bourgeois, or otherwise. This got Pegasus to hand over binders to the remaining finalists, holding none other than a set of staple Link Monsters of all kinds for all different archetypes, yet to be released to the public and slowly over many years. “And I still have yet to tell you about the New Duel Disks you will use for the finals.” Pegasus cheerfully chipped in.

The finalists groaned, which Pegasus swatted aside, “Oh hush, you babies.” Before he called the hologram projector back into the table and opened a large silver briefcase, revealing what looked like a novel, high-tech gadget but had no board to place any cards and only one slot for the Main Deck. “My dear friend Kaiba-boy wanted to show you his new toys tomorrow but I couldn’t help it but show this wonder of technology to you, I hope you keep it our little secret. From now on, even the cards you will play with will be holographic but that won’t mean you can use any card you want. You have to scan your cards in the Main Deck to build a card database, then use it to build your Deck. I’ll leave it up to you bright souls to figure out how to do all of that.” Pegasus finally bit his guests farewell and bed time, it was long in the night, so the finalists made their way to their rooms.

Except Maya. Pegasus abruptly grabbed her shoulder, and Maya, on edge this whole time for so many different reasons, nearly attacked the man out of shock but stopped herself at the last moment. Pegasus said to her, deathly serious, “Thank you for looking after and protecting Sophia, my adopted daughter and prodigy, your responsibility was not at all expected but you fulfilled it. Please protect her life and ensure her well-being in the future.”

Maya replied simply, “You have my word.”

Yugioh the Dark Dimension – Duel 1

Duel 1 – Gathering the Metals

Matthew lunged at Xiaoyi, who held his dear Alexis hostage, only to have the awful woman bat him away by smacking him in the face, as if he was but a large beetle; the astonishing force from the small woman landed him facedown in the sand, scorching his face. Matthew Howard Carter, one of the wealthiest men in New York City, virtual center of the world, heir to his grandfather’s fortune as former curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, former American National Champion, lost everything, as small and lost as an insect in the barren land far from home. His brown hair and tanned skin did little to protect him from the harsh sun and sand.

Xiaoyi, small and pale with a large head, features as fine as those of a porcelain doll, gave little regard to the red sunburn mounting on her cheeks like a blush, even seeming to enjoy the fiery sun above her. Matthew could not look at her without shielding his face with his hands for the sun made her long black hair burn with a bright light. Xiaoyi gripped Alexis, Matthew’s lover of many years by the hair, as black as hers, almost to the point of ripping it off her pale head, but Xiaoyi was deaf to her captive’s tears, giving Matthew a steady gaze with her dark brown eyes.

Her temperament phlegmatic, she spoke to him as if she read his thoughts, “No, Gregory, you couldn’t escape your plight even if you transformed into a bug and burrowed in the sand. Your failure to defeat the Saints, to even defeat your high school friend, doesn’t sit well with me. Frankly, I think you’re problem lies with motivation. While I’m no life coach I would like you to be more proactive in your career. You’re the boss of the Ghouls, aren’t you? I know Seeker, Umbra, Lumis, and Keith are all dead – God bless their souls their job was a huge commitment – but they would feel entitled to a promotion over you. They worked at their job for over a decade but the kid with the trust fund gets to be boss instead. I’d say it’s a little unfair too.”

Matthew threw a fistful of sand at Xiaoyi in a fit of rage, only for the woman to laugh at him, as aloof and cruel as the sun itself. But he, above it all, knew who to truly hate. Maya ruined his life. If the insolent fiend only accepted her loss at New York’s Duel Academy with dignity, she would never have formed an antimeta team with her degenerate high school friends, then she would never have dethroned him in the Nationals, then he would never have fallen into a pit of morose self-pity, then Xiaoyi and Gernand would never have come to his doorstop, then he wouldn’t fight Maya and her comrades again, then he would never be groveling in the sand as a scarab beetle. His downward spiral was an arrow, pointing straight to Maya. Everything stemmed from her.

Xiaoyi again seemed to have read his mind for she asked quizzically, “What if you let her win and enter the Academy?” then enjoyed herself watching Matthew violently reject even considering the idea of a different future. “Cheer up, kid. The scarab beetle is a symbol of eternal life but whether you become Gregory or are reborn again as a god is you’re choice. Pretentious Kafka references aside, not like you ever cared, remember that I gave you all your dark powers.” Matthew opened his shirt, revealing the palm-shaped black mark reminding him of his dark pact with her, the pact that gave him the power to use Horus the Black Flame Dragon as his Ka, his monster spirit as direct manifestation of his creative life force. Xiaoyi concluded, “You are linked to me by a red thread. Your thoughts are my thoughts and if I die so do you, so think twice before attacking me.”

She threw an dagger sheath coated with gold between his knees. “King Tut’s own dagger, forged from the iron of outer space, not like the incest-ridden gimp will need it anymore. Pretty cool, isn’t it?” She violently pointed at Alexis’ chest. “Use it to kill this whore. Severe the very last tie you have to another human being and you will truly be a man with nothing to lose, only then will you have the strength to destroy Maya and reclaim your life.” When Matthew hesitated, Xiaoyi barked so severely it shocked him. “DO IT! Kill her quickly or I will kill her slowly.”

Matthew stood up, picked up the dagger, trembling, his hand wavering, unable to step forward. Xiaoyi rolled her eyes, annoyed she had to further motivate the spoiled brat. She tore out Alexis’ left eye, Matthew heard a clear pop and Alexis shrieking in pain and terror, watched frozen in terror as Xiaoyi popped it into her mouth, chewed it carefully, swallowed it. When Matthew still refused to act, Xiaoyi tore out and gobbled Alexis’ other eye, frozen once more by his lovers’ screams. Xiaoyi pulled the unhappy woman up, licking the blood and tears off her face with enthusiasm. “The hero needs an inciting incident before undergoing his quest!”

Now blinded, Alexis could take it no longer. “Kill me, Matthew!” She implored to him. “Take your revenge on Maya to reclaim your life! I will do anything, even lose my life, to see you happy again!” Matthew slowly paced to her, his blood so frozen he felt cold in the middle of the desert. Alexis could no longer see him but she gripped Matthew’s hand tight with one hand, caressed his tearful face with another, and told him goodbye. Matthew stabbed her in the heart with the dagger of kings, relieved to see her die so quickly, then attacked Xiaoyi in rage only for her to smack the dagger out of his hands and point it at his throat.

“Destroy Maya and everyone else who challenges you in a shadow game, your dark powers will increase enough so you may challenge me. Follow this path if you want to kill me.” Matthew collapsed to the ground in sobs, knowing there was nothing else he could do, but learned to embrace his fate. In his despair he found a small hope, that perhaps he could shed his old skin as the beetle does and emerge into a better person with a better life. That hope was all he had left.

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Meanwhile, off in the distance, hiding behind a ruined temple wall, a man named Hannibal Davis saw the whole terrible ordeal. He checked to see was in the clear, he dashed into his van and drove at a furious pace to Cairo airport, wiping the sweat off the stubble on his round tan face, the grease off his curly dark hair, airing his round overweight body with his shirt, all caused by nervousness less than the heat itself. He stumbled to the airport gate, himself a tournament finalist, telling the news to none other than the Saints themselves.

Mathias, the Saint’s leader, a gentle giant, dropped his slice of Buffalo Chicken Pizza, the gaiety of the Saints evaporated. A resilient, gregarious man, almost nothing could fade Mathias Blackheart, except something like this. His comrades; the small, thin, red-headed Maximus, and the fit, equally fiery-headed Ivy, knew everything Mathias did. Long before the tournament began, the Headmaster of their Irish monastery foretold to them the prophecies of Revelations; he predicted a Red Dragon, sired by Zorc Necrophades the Satan and demiurge of this world, rising from a fiery pit to destroy humankind, a woman clothed in sun giving birth to the Savior who will defeat the Red Dragon after a long war over the fate of the human race.

The Red Dragon is none other than Matthew Carter, Mathias thought to himself, since he wielded Horus the Black Flame Dragon as his Ka. The woman clothed in sun is Maria Wight, fair as the daystar, holding the power of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon within her, and the Savior the son she would one day have with Seto Kaiba. But these answers did not satisfy him. His own Ka was none other than Horus the Black Flame Dragon as well. Was he the Red Dragon? Impossible! A righteous man like him could never be a minion of the Devil! He eyed Maximus with glaring suspicion, his brother in arms wielded Shining Swordswoman, did that entitle him to the role as the Archangel Michael and the privilege of smiting the Devil? Maximus always wanted to surpass him as a duelist but in now way would Mathias give him this right even if he did become the better duelist!

Mathias told his comrades he needed a break, that too much pizza made you shit worse than eating too many chilidogs. He patted Maximus in the shoulder, whispered in his ear, “Don’t get too proud or your hubris will be your downfall.” leaving Maximus bewildered. He was almost out of earshot when Maximus reminded him behind is back, “Same applies to you.”

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Stella Nova joined Maya by the airport window. The two women, of similar height and temperaments, seemed a bit like long lost sororal twins on virtue of looking as different as the sun and the moon. Stella was a woman of handsome features with a prominent nose, both hair and eyes falsely colored pink by dyes and contacts, wearing a tie-dye shirt and jeans that closely hugged her body. “Are you ready for the finals?” She tentatively asked Maya, who said she didn’t know, and Stella replied, “Not so sure either.”

Maya turned to her counterpart to talk about politics, one of their favorite subjects, to get her apprehensions out of her mind. Most people saw politics as rather serious and grown-up but Maya saw how experience trumped popular belief; she found politics to be the most childish and frivolous thing in the world, and far easier to handle than her hidden thoughts. The obvious proof was in watching politicians and celebrities do their work. You may say the errors of leaders lead to war and suffering of all kinds, but the grave cost of buffoons’ mistakes only adds to the farce. But then politics reminded Maya of how she murdered Heishin in cold blood and would rather not think of that either. She was trapped.

Stella noticed one man and several women in black burqa’s pass by them, seeming to view the two duelists with caution and mistrust, a rightful attitude since Pegasus and Kaiba exploited Egypt for its history and current turmoil for publicity while Heishin himself wanted more tourist revenue, and Maya said as much. Stella told Maya her outrage, “It’s horrible how people in America, Britain, and even Germany are talking about banning burqas. People of nonwhite ethnicities have the right to cultural expression and should not be culturally oppressed by laws coming from such problematic normative perspectives.”

Maya turned around, not to see if the one man and several women were still around but to see if any of Stella’s fanbase was present, unlikely as it was. She gave Stella a funny look, when Stella asked what was the problem she obliged, “Stop talking like a columnist from Jezebel. I sometimes wonder if you’re making a PR move when you say such canned phrases. No feminist fan is here to judge you for using the wrong pronouns or judge me for appropriating my mother’s own culture when in high school. I want to know what you really think.”

Stella hugged Maya instead until they were uncomfortably close. “We slept together more than once before you got a boyfriend but no matter how close we got we always felt far apart; I always feel a certain small desperate loneliness that can never be bridged. I sometimes think it has something to do with being a progressive celebrity for so many naïve kids.”

This struck a chord within Maya who had a similar feeling deep inside; she could never let down her guard to reveal what was really inside her because if she became weak someone would hurt her, like father did, sometimes even mother, and like many clever animals built a wall to protect herself. But she wanted to reach out across the infinite void that is between two minds to make contact but she could never do it, she never even dared. Instead she pressured Stella to tell her true opinion about burqas only to have Stella push her away. Another conversation on politics became fruitless, no surprise there at all.

Maya by returned to her dear friends Yukio and Sophia to play dominoes Yukio brought along with them. Maya may have been their best duelist but she was terrible at dominoes, loosing every game. She scratched her head in bewildered amusement, wondering what was going on, “I’m getting a brick hand so bad like I did in Duelists Orochi 2.” Making Yukio and Sophia laughed at her in good cheer, Yukio saying, “You’re overthinking it. It’s just dominoes.”

Maya scanned the faces of her friends. Yukio, tall and stringy, with short spiky black hair, some black stubble, and an idealists’ light in his eyes, glinted with mischief. Sophia, of pale but average body, dark red hair tied in a single compact braid, impressionable dark brown eyes, and introspective look, had the same mischievous shade on her face. “You two must be working together to beat me.” She leapt behind them to see their hidden dominoes for herself. The plot revealed, she shouted, “The conspiracy is real!”

“You mean like that one made by that fartknocker Alex Jones where the Illuminati are making kids gay by putting estrogen in their juice cartons?”

“Yes, Beavis.”

“No, I’m the Butthead of the group. I’m more cool and rational. You’re the impulsive lunatic, Beavis.”

“Butthead is rational?”

“Relatively speaking, yes.”

Sophia had to roll her eyes at them for their mock argument. “Speaking of which,” she commented. “You dorks are more like Rex and Weevil than you know.” inciting Maya and Yukio to protest such an absurd and slanderous idea before debating between each other whether the flat earth theory or the hollow earth theory was the dumbest conspiracy in existence. Sophia vouched for one conspiracy an ignorant woman posted on YouTube claiming rainbows in the mist made by backyard sprinklers was from the government putting something in the water supply. Maya and Yukio gave her a gold medal for effort but dismissed her in the end.

The trio heard Maria gliding away at the piano near a café, something Maya could tell by the choice of music and playing style – Her eyes may sometimes fail her but her ears never did – and saw the Saints and a few other people crowd around her. Maria, Maya judged, was very much a musician of the later Romantic style; playing slowly, using the pedal as if the piano was a car, long arching lyrics, her face contorting into all manner of expressions. She played some fine Tchaikovsky and Chopin indeed, with all the Victorian malaise of a House of Mourning. Maya could almost hear the coughing of the sensitive artist with consumption, too good for this cruel world.

Maria finished, the Saints cheered, Maya as well, she asked Maria for her turn to play. Maria, tall and fair as a statue, an albino with pensive blue eyes, brushed by Maya with typical aloof contempt, like Maya was someone horribly offensive by her very existence. Maya returned the gesture with typical defiance and wit. Maya thundered on the piano with her own repertoire of Cherubini and Beethoven, her face showing concentration but otherwise betraying no emotion. Maria judged Maya to be using Classical and early Romantic styles; with a fast and vivid tempo, crisp, dynamic volumes and colors with lightning fast transitions, forceful and deliberate use of rhythm. Oh yes, the vain noise and pride of Lucifer before the fall, much like so many radicals in that period, cruel and ugly, making light of things that should be beyond humor, disrespectful to the natural laws of art. The Saints cheered for Maya when she finished her program like they did for Maria.

The contest continued, the two duelists rotating from one new piece after all, determined to wear the other down. Yukio and Hannibal were impressed with witnessed the two lionesses bite and scrape the other. “By Jove himself, it’s as if Minverva and Ishtar fought for the title of wisest and most powerful goddess!” Hannibal couldn’t help himself from stammering. Yukio put his hand on Hannibal’s arm, “Calm down, dude. No woman is worth worshipping.” And before Hannibal could object to such a sexist claim Yukio quickly added, “Men even less so.”

Three hours passed, the combatants not quite exhausted but starting to get there. Maya had no choice but to play the wild card she kept in store until this very moment. Maya decided to play her second favorite piece of music, Handel’s Suite in Bb, Beethoven’s Große Fugue being her first, Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag being her third. She danced with Handel, enthusiastic but graceful and light on her feet, going through the prelude, sonata, and variations. Now she arrived at the minor minuet she decided now to take a completely different direction, the improvisations she made up in her mind during the whole contest would now be unleashed. She played a minor variation of Handel’s theme, similar to the minuet itself in form but different in substance, then a minor singing variation, then bursting the tension with a violent tarantella. She returned to Bb to play more variations, each one faster and more volcanic than the last one – she would not let Maria win! – until she came to playing small dotted rhythms and 64th notes triplets – “Ack!” Maya clutched her cramped wrist but quickly went back, playing the last bars of her last variation, before clasping her wrist again.

Everyone applauded, except Maria who turned away from the crowd, thinking Maya vastly overstepped her bounds. It was mortal sin for a performer to play outside the composer’s intentions, as if someone today could dare suggest to a genius of the past. No Handel or Beethoven existed today because people like that are no longer born in our decadent age. Mathias threw Maya’s afflicted hand into the air to announce her victor only to cramp Maya’s arm by accident, Maya taking the pain in stride. All this only revealed the philistine, vulgar, and shallow attitudes of modern times, the crowd whooping as if at the circus.

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Weevil Underwood and Rex Raptor, Weevil being our remaining finalist, were doing less dignified things. “Goddamn it Rex I need to use the bathroom! I gotta’ PEE!” Weevil jumped up and down like a grasshopper; his teal blue hair, molded in a Beatles haircut, and his huge round green glasses bouncing with him.

“We’re getting there, butt-muncher.” Rex said as he evened out his dirty aged red beanie and scratched his long greasy brown hair.

“Up yours, asswipe!” Weevil met Rex, his narrow squinting blue eyes meeting Rex’s sharp brown ones. The two got lost in their quest for the public bathroom, Weevil now almost ready to burst.

“Remember that time at Charles de Gaul Airport when we got lost so long you did pee yourself and everybody laughed.” Rex himself chuckled a bit at the fun memory. “Man, that airport looks like a schizophrenic made it.”

“Not helping!” Weevil desperately shouted. They saw a man named Tamas, the last finalist and a nondescript man after his short blond hair and black leather coat, and his teammates play testing each other for the finals. Weevil asked him for directions to the bathroom, Tamas answered, Weevil relieved himself, the two asked Tamas again for directions back to the right gate, Tamas again pointed, the two went their way.

Weevil witnessed the crowd surrounding Maya and Maria and got a wonderful idea, he whispered it to Rex, who grinned at the thought. Weevil promised Rex twenty dollars if he did what he wanted, to which Rex accepted, and he dashed around the airport, pinching every female finalist’s butt. They all yelped, much to Rex and Weevil’s delight. Stella claimed sexual harassment, Maria condemned the horrible disrespect to women, Maya chased after them to beat them up.

“WEEVIL! BUDDY!” Mathias caught Weevil, giving him the biggest bear hug in his live, enjoying watching Weevil squirm in his embrace. The insect shouted, “I have a restraining order and I will sue you as soon as I get home! Rex did it! It was his idea but I told him not to do it because it was sexual harassment punishable by castration and sensitivity training but did he listen? No!”

“You have a home?” Maya said in mock surprise. “You look like a chain-smoking stoner, so I guess you do live under a bridge or in your mother’s basement.”

“Ha ha! Very original!” Weevil tried his best to point at Rex. “There’s the culprit, get him!” Yukio caught Rex by the scruff of his neck, who squirmed under his grasp, babbling everything he could to save himself but nothing helped him. Mathias threw Weevil at Maya, telling her to hold him. “Sometimes you need 1950s parenting.” He remarked. With Weevil and Rex pinned to the wall, he let loose his belt on their asses, cracking it on their butts tender as a baby’s. The two stooges pleaded for mercy but none was given. Weevil threatened to call his lawyer but no one cared. Rex said he would sleep with any woman nice enough to free him, thinking his little trick would work. It didn’t.