Yugioh Endgame: Duel 16 – Serpents Thrive, Fear Remains Alive

The Valley of the Kings burns under the heat of the midday sun, so hot and dry Hassan Mubarak nearly has his backside burn and fuse with the seat of his army jeep. The current Egyptian President cannot find much romantic mystery in the desert he governs. The bright light above him seems to disinfect everything to the point of making the land sterile, like it broke through every tomb and burned all the mummies and ancient relics to ash. If the past, with its remains of an old world, are a kind of vampire sucking the life of the living – then the vampire should die? He has the weirdest deja vu right now for some reason.

Hassan sees a merciful large white tend and unsticks himself from the seat with his advisor, Simon Al-Mufti. He sees two familiar woman as he enters the tent, the first garnished in white clothes and large sunglasses, and the second in old blue jeans and a flat cap. Simon scratches his head in visible confusion.

“Why are you dressed like a discount Kim Kardashian?” Hassan addresses the woman in white.

“One: it’s hot. Two: I’m hot.” Maya quips in a facetious manner. 

“Fascinating.” Hassan remarks as he takes a seat near the two women. Knowing who they are and having their goals in mind, he can make an educated guess on what they’re after. “I’m assuming you want my help in taking out a high mage, perhaps Anubisius since he rules over the Middle East. I don’t know if I can do it for reasons you should know.”

Maya nods, admitting the fact, and gives her modest proposal. “I’m aware of the messy relationships in the Middle East. It’s like a love dodecahedron. America-sempai loves Israel-chan and Saudi Arabia-chan. The two are frenemies; Israel-kun has a decent friendship with Egypt-kun as of late but Saudia Arabia-kun has soured feelings for Egypt-kun for reasons more tedious than card games. TL;DR Egypt-kun has declined, become dependant on foreign support, and won’t give land Saudia Arabia-kun feels entitled to.” 

“You don’t need to explain it to me. If your complexion was lighter than mine I’d accuse you of white-splaining.” Hassan reminds her. “Egypt is so weak already I would rather die than make another humiliating concession.” 

“It’s not for you but for the audience. Not everyone knows. And,” Maya adds. “Turn that frown upside down. You can beat Anubisius and level the playing field. – By the way, Kim Kardashian was delicious. Maybe she lives in me to some extent.”  

Hassan is incredulous, but a part of him remains hopeful. Subtly reminded that Maya has superhuman powers, he still must test Maya to see if his hope can manifest into something real or if it is merely a cruel trick. “Let me take you and your prodigy on a tour of this ancient land free of charge. I would rather show my argument than tell it.”

He takes his guests beyond the Valley of the Kings, following a large truck heading on its way from Cairo to a nearby village by the Nile, now grown into a refugee camp. It is only one of many along the river bank, each giving asylum to about a thousand people. It is a very different place than what Maya and Sofia remembered from three years earlier: very crowded and dirty, crafted brick houses overshadowed by a large patchwork of makeshift tents, the river cluttered with waste.

The truck stops and the drivers unload crates containing water, toiletries, canned food, used clothes, frozen vegetables, and emergency aid kits, with Hassan directing a team of his army on how to distribute the crates and to whom. The party sees an old woman trying her best to wash her clothes in the Nile. Men on a nearby farm are forced to bury a large pile of human waste in the soil, trying to make the best use by making it fertilizer. Maya, always sensitive to smells, covers her face. Sofia, whose smelling is even more acute, gets watery eyes.  

Hassan gestures to the tent city-village. “Our world is like a pyramid now. Anubisius builds new palaces in Saudi Arabia, Momentum giving him all the energy he needs. The surrounding states are not so lucky. I depend on Saudia Arabia to keep my nation’s cities floating while I do what I can to help my unhappy people. How can I muster the strength to help you. Even your strength has limits.”     

Sofia tugs at Maya’s sleeve as if her teacher is her mother too. “Promise me that we will see the people in the tent city. We must know the faces of the people we are fighting for. We cannot have a revolution with an abstract mass like ‘the proletariat’.”

Maya nods sagaciously, then says, “You are so much wiser and stronger than me, Sofia. If only you believed it.”

As the women were about to go, Hassan asks Maya, “Why dress as Kim Kardashian in a place like this? You don’t look like a hero of the common man at all. Honestly, you look like a jerk.” 

“That’s the point. I am not. Look at me, Hassan.” Maya grabs his shoulders, looking him in the eye. “I am a black magician who sold my soul to the Devil to gain my powers. I can transform into a dragon and do other dark arts. I do all the good I can but only so much can be achieved through evil means. I have so much blood on my hands the Nile would fail to wash it away; it would merely turn my claws from red to green.”

She puts Hassan’s hand on Sofia’s shoulder. “I will help you create a new world but it is not a world where I will be welcome. Having me as a leader would be demeaning to the people of this planet. Worthy people like you two are the ones who must lead the people to make a better world.” 

Hassan’s suspicions remain. “Love for ‘the proletariat’ doesn’t drive you. Hatred of the ruling class does. If you truly served the people, you would act differently. A person like you, with your immense power, will always make me wary. Maybe there are things you’re not telling me. Well, Maya?”

“You can squint at me hoping to find a hidden agenda all you want, but you must take me for my word if you want Anubisius’ head on your wall.” Maya says. “I will tell you now that I have no secrets.”

With that finished, the three of them go through the tent city. They watch several children play with a ragged soccer ball nearby. A lone man on a small boat struggles to fish. A husband, wife, girl, and scabby little boy eat small portions of lunch in a tent. The 1 liter water bottle beside them is their only ration for hydration. The family beckons Maya and Sofia to come share in some of the lunch, much to their surprise. The two women refuse to eat, daring not to waste the family’s precious food, until the wife pressures them into taking a bite. Even then, they take only a small nibble.

Husband and wife try to have a conversation with Maya and Sofia – even the little girl joins in – but the two women cannot reply since they don’t know how to speak Masry. That Masry was the maiden name of Maya’s mother; that coincidence does not escape her attention. Hassan, kneeling from outside the tent, explains Maya: “They used to own a shop in Cairo before being forced out here. The daughter once went to a private school and wants nothing more than to go back there. The son has a skin rash because of the poor sanitation.”   

Sofia nudged Maya on shoulder. “You don’t know the names of any displaced person but you know the names of the high mages you’re about to kill. Don’t you think that’s funny?”

“A delicious irony in this tragicomedy.” Maya says.

Sofia clarifies it is not what she means by “funny”. Maya replies, “I understand, but you don’t either. This is exactly why I said I was unworthy. I’m not really a fighter for the people. We’re really third party allies who cut off the heads of the monster tormenting them. It is up to them – as it should be – to build fair and just societies. But – and you really must understand this, Sofia – we ultimately serve a different agenda.”

The husband asks Hassan what Maya just said. Hassan, being tactful, simply tells them they are the warriors who defeated one of the high mages. Sofia asks him the names of the family members. Hassan tells her: the husband is Malik, the woman is Turas, the girl is Najima, the boy is Waleed. He orders a soldier to give him a crate. Hassan, Maya, and Sofia take out all the contents and give it to the family, who dearly thanks them for the medicine therein. Turas kisses the three of them and Malik shakes their hands. Najima and Waleed wave goodbye. 

The name of the husband gives Maya an idea, so it sets her thinking. The party of three stops at a far less wholesome sigh. A wasted man with a patchy beard injects a drug in his vein with a needle, resting his back against a rock. Maya says, “Not to have a Dora the Explorer moment, Sofia, but do YOU know where the man’s heroin comes from?”

Plantaciones de amapola en Afganistán. Poppy Plantations in Afghanistan.” Sofia says with no enthusiasm.”

“And do YOU know who owns private plantations in Afghanistan but spends most of his time elsewhere?” Maya prods further.

Sofia does not bother to speak, the answer being so obvious. Hassan speaks for her instead. “If we are going to attack Anubisius, we need more forces. Egypt’s army is not enough.”

And he is right, as Maya admits. They need a cohesive network of fighters. But who? Maya and Sofia part ways with Hassan, setting out to camp near the tent city. Maya creates a fire to warm up some tea while Sofia plays with sticks on the sand, getting promptly hit on the head with a ball from one of the children. Sofia tells the children they should be with their parents, but they do not understand her, so she throws the ball far away at the tents, the children running after it.

“This is a Yugioh fanfic, by the way.” Sofia reminds Maya and the audience. “When are we going to duel? People are getting bored. Political commentary is boring.”

“Be good and I’ll get you a duel. If you’re bad, I’ll publish a socialist manifesto and make everyone read it.” Maya says while looking at the flames as they fly above the campfire into the starry sky.

Sofia closes the tent and goes to sleep, Maya soon following her.  

Yugioh Endgame: Duel 15 – Everybody Wants Poppy

Anubisius cannot help but pace restlessly in his vacation manor, occupied with the defeat of Secmeton from several months ago, stopping every once in a while to glance at the rich purple fields surrounding him. What if he is next? The poppy plantation his manor oversees in the Goston valley, more specifically the wealth it represents, gives him small comfort. He tightly clutches the Millennium Key hanging round his neck as if asking the artifact to protect him with its magic. 

But the poor wealthy man need not brood alone. A large helicopter blows over the poppy field, out of which steps out Pegasus. Yifan arrives on horseback wearing a cream pink skirt, looking like a little princess, which makes Anubisius scoff, while Kepura arrives in a black limousine. Anubisius puts on the bravest face he can as he goes out to greet the guests, inviting them to his palace. He calls on servants to set up small round table and soon thereafter everyone sits down to have a tea party. 

Yifan notices the anxiety of her host as it shows on his features: his face long and sullen, his skin wan, his long arms stiff as wood, and his speech correct and terse as the Queen’s English. She cautiously sips the rose tea, sticking her pinkie out in jest. “Why so British?”

Anubisius fails to respond. Kepura wipes his large thick lips with a handkerchief and lays out what everybody is thinking on the table. “One of us is down. What do we do?”

“I’m in no position to do such a thing but maybe,” Pegasus says while twiddling his thumbs. “World leaders should do something about this crisis on our hands.”

“Martis is in a conference with the President of the United States.” Kepura states flatly. “So far the American government has declared martial law on the devastated west coast while building forts to strengthen the defenses of the east coast cities. If I was a gambling man – which I am; it’s a serious problem – I’d say the terrorists will continue on the east coast or attack East Asia. The Momentum generators there are nearest to Los Angeles.”

Anubisius is about to speak up but he is cut short by a sharp objection. “Don’t be an idiot!” Kaiba severely admonishes Kepura. “The terrorists can fly like they’re devils from Hell, or Dragonball Z villains. No place on earth is safe geographically speaking.”

Pegasus quietly observed Kaiba parking his Blue-Eyes White Dragon jet outside, which certainly made a big noise, but the rest of the conference was too distracted to care. He sighs, “It’s everyone’s favorite party pooper.” All this while drinking his tea.

Kaiba is not alone; he is joined by an otherworldly woman, thin and very pale, with hair so fair it is almost white. Pegasus recognizes her to be Maria Wight, the Yugioh World Championship semi-finalist from three years ago.           

Anubisius finally has the courage to bluster at a random target. “Kepura, do something! You are the Field Marshall of the United States, the most powerful country in history!”

“Secretary of Defense. There is no American Field Marshal.” Kepura corrects him. “Besides, what am I to do? Order a nuclear assault on every potential target around the world? Our terrorist friends come and go as they please. They have no headquarters nor any chain of command.” He points an accusing finger to everyone around him in turn. “Their strategy is to form a cell when it is time to attack, even one under your very noses, then disperse.”

Yifan observes, “In other words, every underprivileged person on the planet is a potential enemy, about seven billion of them ever since Momentum became a thing. Meanwhile, the whole infrastructure of civilization as we know it depends on six generators. The terrorists can attack six billboards with targets painted on them. We can only grasp at smoke.” Yifan points to the servants of the house and the workers outside. “Even they can be plotting against us.” 

Anubisius puts his hand near his throat as if he is choking and even Kaiba drops his stoic mask, just a bit. Yifan covers her smile with a pale dainty hand, satisfied as a cat lapping milk.  

Kaiba covers his fear by lashing out. “How disgraceful! Our enemies are anarchist dogs who hide in the forest until they make a surprise attack. Fitting that a seditious woman like Maya leads a pack of hyenas.”

“Actually,” Anubisius adds, “Hyenas are more related to cats than -”  

“SHUT UP!” Kaiba roars like a blast of icy wind. 

Pegasus blows into the air and waves his hand like its a fan. “Do you have a strategy, Kaiba-boy?”

“You’ve done nothing from the beginning. You’re useless!” Kaiba turns on him, heaping more abuse. “You know that meme where Val Kilmer in Pulp Fiction walks around in bewilderment and has no idea where he is or what he’s doing? That’s you!”

Yifan finishes her tea, extremely amused from all the arguing going on, also making a note in her mind to steal Kaiba’s joke. Kaiba catches her smirking and demands she speak up, so Yifan tells him the truth. “I think it’s funny how easily you intimidate other people. All your constipated rage and vitriol comes from frustration and impotence. If you could achieve all the things you needed to, like getting a life, getting a girlfriend, beating Yugi in a card game, you would be a happier person.”

Kaiba rejects her advice at once, triggered into delivering a monologue on his philosophy. “Happiness is the mark of the imbecile. Man’s first scowl, his first profundity, came when the gods touched him on the forehead. A man who laughs and smiles often is shallow and dull. A man who laughs at everything kills a duelists’ pride by sneering on all that is heroic. A profound man does not laugh in joy or amusement. A profound man laughs in scorn and judgment. A profound man always has gravity and dignity about him. He is serious in every field and is never frivolous; he does not guffaw, he does not party, he does not waste his time socializing or drinking tea while the world collapses.” 

Yifan checks her watch, slouching on the tea table. “Cool story, bro.” Poor “Kaiba-boy” must be as boring and miserable as a Puritan. No wonder Maria broke up with him.  Anubisius cannot take it anymore. He smashes a vase in frustration, screaming. 

Pegasus decides to speak up. “Perhaps we should petition to every world power to double its defenses of the Momentum generators. America, China, Russia, and Pakistan come to mind. Even if they are set on protecting Momentum, we should still stress the danger of terrorists.”  

Yifan ponders the situation. If she is a gambling girl, she will bet Maya will take out Anubisius next. He is the weakest link. The poor thing must be frightened as a little rabbit. She can smell his fear. However powerful Maya is, she is still the underdog so she will exercise some caution, breaking one weak link after another until the whole chain falls apart.

Set on her prediction, Yifan gives false council. “Anyone who has seen Maya as a pro duelist knows she is a brash impatient person. Most likely she is already bored with taking out mere high mages and wants a real challenge, a legend like Kaiba, Pegasus, or Yugi. I’ll also venture to guess that Maya is an insecure person beneath all her dramatics – this is a common trait among outlandish people like her – so she wants to prove herself to mend her low self-esteem.”

Pegasus jumps to the conclusion. “Protect Japan and China, as well as my island since it’s near the shore of East Japan.”

“Correct.” Yifan confirms. She eyes Kepura next. “The American East Coast should be fine on its own. Also, India and Pakistan should protect China in case Maya wants to pull a fast one.”

The council, seeing her ideas to be most reasonable, agree. Even Kaiba nods in approval though still hating her guts. Strategies out of the way, he proceeds to his agenda. As he explains it, Maria has Blue-Eyes White Dragon as a Ka, meaning she can confront the terrorists since she can match their unnatural strength with her own. Unsure of such a bold claim, the council demands to see such power first hand.

Maria quietly assents, leading everyone outdoors. Being very shy among such powerful people, she lets Kaiba do all the talking while she concentrates on proving what words cannot. She has trouble getting in the mood at first but pulls herself together after a while, meditating for a full hour. Yifan can hear her Ka growing ever stronger like it’s a rising pitch, burning like a blue star, before anyone sees her glow in bright white. She grows and transforms, becoming a Blue-Eyes White Dragon in the flesh.

Meanwhile, decides to test Maria’s power first hand. She calls on Anubisius to order Saudia Arabia to launch a nuclear missile to Pakistan. He is at first bewildered until he reflects in shame on how he appeared so nervous and weak a moment ago. Steeling his nerves and wanting to get his balls back, he bullies an executive officer over a radio call to bypass all protocol and fire the weapon. He gets his way and within fifteen minutes the missile is launched.   

Everyone, even the servants and workers, stop to admire such power and splendor. Not bad, as Yifan thinks. She is a natural. Maya had to train for years to be like this, being an ordinary mortal with a humble background. But still, people like Maria who are chosen by the gods may have a huge head start but normal people with creativity and ambition have a higher ceiling. A god cannot truly be courageous or break new ground but mere mortals can. That is her pet theory. Either way, Maya has her work cut out for her.

“The missile has been launched.” Anubisius informs the council with a dry voice. 

“You heard the man.” Yifan tells the white dragon, pointing to the sun as if the warhead is there. “Fetch.”

The dragon takes off, breaking the sound barrier. Anubisius receives a radio call from the executive officer. The nuke was destroyed as soon as it was out of range. The white dragon promptly returns in triumph and reverts back into a human. Maria is strained from the exhaustion of executing such a difficult feat but still has the strength to sit down on a chair near Kaiba.

Anubisius sighs in relief and self-satisfaction, knowing that Maria will keep him safe. He orders the servants to deliver several old school opium pipes to the guests, transporting them a hundred years into the past. Anubisius, Yifan, and Pegasus take to enjoying themselves while Kepura, Kaiba, and Maria refrain. 

Enraptured from the opium, Pegasus quotes literature: “Life has always poppies in her hands.”

“Only if you’re a dreamer.” Yifan rejoins. Her brain sick with opium, she naps on the base of one of the manor’s many columns, transported into a dream. She arrives to an African Savannah, the origin of the human species, and sees Maya, a bright woman more beautiful than any other, blazing in the sky where the sun should be. Maya never leaves the midheaven, an idée fixe refusing to leave Yifan’s mind. Yifan stretches her arms to the sky, longing to embrace Maya, but cannot rise beyond the ground no matter how hard she tries.

“Cyndia…” Pegasus moans in sorrow. “My dear wife Cyndia… I still miss you…”