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 Endgame – Duel 21: Dragonynamite

Duel 21: Dragonynamite

Adam: 8000 | Maya: 8000

ADAM’S TURN: “It is my Standby Phase, so I get to use Underworld Circle. I Special Summon Update Jammer (ATK 2000)!His trickster computer hacker revives from the Graveyard. Now I activate Will of the Salamangreat (Continuous Spell)!” But his card instantly flips facedown instead. “What?”  

“Oh, right.” Maya laughs, pretending she forgot to explain The Hecate Sisters’ effects. “They’re powerful when together. Red makes monsters unable to attack or use their effects when they’re Summoned. Yellow shuts down any card effects outside the field. Violet makes us Set Spells and Traps then wait a turn before using them.” 

“COME ON! How can I play long tedious combos now!” Adam whines.

“You don’t.” Maya flatly states the fact. “You now have to think several turns ahead like in the good old days. I could have killed you in a fancy cool way last turn. Now I’ll force you to die in a slow boring way.” 

Adam starts whining more and more. Old school Yugioh is boring. Duels shouldn’t have to last twenty turns. They’re too many girls dueling now, and that’s annoying. Adam caps his spiel with the statement, “If only you would let me play my combo. I would summon the most powerful monster you ever saw in your life.”

This piques Maya’s interest. “Go on.” She insists.

“If you let me, I will Summon a monster with over 10,000 ATK.”

“Not impressed.”

“This turn, and it’s stronger than a god card.”

Maya rubs her chin, intrigued further, and she reaches a decision after some consideration. She stashes away the Hecate sister cards in her butt pocket, causing the monsters on her field to vanish. “You have one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?”

“WHAT!” Sofia blurts in exasperation. She infers that Maya refused to duel at full strength against the high mage Secmeton, most likely to keep things interesting, something that endangered her cause and everyone on her side. Still, Sofia can forgive her because it is a good strategy not to reveal your trump card. Now, Maya showed her trump card, and then she took it away! Even worse, she quoted Eminem lyrics!

Sofia screams in frustration like a lunatic, rattling the locks binding her until her ankles bleed. “GET ME OUT! GET ME OUT! GET ME OUT!”

“Say please.” Maya requests, making Sofia howl more.

“She has some serious repressed anger issues.” Adam shrewdly observed.

“You have no idea.” Maya says. “By the way, I decline to revive a monster with Underworld Circle, just to let you know.”

“Right.” Adam double checks his strategy. It is foolproof. “I activate Will of the Salamangreat to Special Summon Sunlight Wolf (ATK 1800) from the Graveyard.” His card flips faceup. It kindles a flame that soon grows and transforms into his monster. “I activate Foxy in my Graveyard; I discard a card and pop Will of the Salamangreat to revive itself.” And so his monster reappears with 1200 DEF. “And since I just discarded Salamangreat Salamandra, I use its effect to draw one card.” And he does so.

“I activate Foolish Burial (Spell) to mill Cyberse Magician. Here it goes! I network Sunlight Wolf, Update Jammer, and Foxy to Link Summon Firewall Dragon Darkfluid (ATK 3000)!!!” Adam’s monsters activate five out of the six arrows of the link portal. With the conditions fulfilled, the portal bursts open, and the great dragon of the future descends in a stunning awful display.

Then, Four orbs appear above it. “My dragon gets a counter for each card type of Cyberse monster in my Graveyard: Cyberse Magician, Cyberse Clock Dragon, Cyberse Quantum Dragon, Firewall eXceed Dragon. When I battle, Darkfluid gets 2500 ATK for each Counter, meaning it gains 10,000 ATK! Darkfluid, attack Maya directly!”

“You better have a plan to counter that attack.” Sofia growls, grumpy over Maya giving Adam a chance to beat her. “And I’m still stuck here, in case you haven’t noticed.”

Dragon Darkfluid launches its devastating power with Maya in the crosshairs (ATK 3000 → 13,000). Maya flips her Continuous Trap Card. “Zoma the Spirit, become my shield!” A ghastly monster that looks like an undead dragon of sorts protects Maya with its feeble 500 DEF. It easily dies from Darkfluid’s attack, which is the point. Zoma forms into a spectral may from the smoke of its remains.

“You killed my monster, so it comes back from the dead to take a bite out of you.” Maya says. “Time for your just desserts. Eat 26,000 damage!” The spectral maw comes right for Adam’s head.

Adam shouts in haste, “I remove a Counter! Darkfluid, protect me from Zoma’s effect!” One of the orbs shines so brightly it burns itself out, but it dissipates the vengeful spirit for good. “Not only that, my dragon can attack again. Darkfluid, attack Maya again (ATK 3000 → 10,500)!”

Maya grunts, annoyed, and Adam’s monster is preparing another assault much to her chagrin. “I activate Defense Draw (Trap)!” Darkfluid opens fire, but its attack bounces off a barrier around Maya, and Maya gets to draw a card. 

Adam has no choice. He ends his turn.

MAYA’S TURN: “I use Underworld Circle’s effect during the Standby Phase. Resurrect, Celestial Siren Atropon (ATK 0)!” The strange sea serpent-like creature arrives from the shadows. The screen on its front materializes an image of the face of a youthful woman with red hair, but her eyes are missing. 

Adam also uses Underworld Circle, bringing back Cyberse Clock Dragon (ATK 2500), a badly named creature with glowing blue sapphires embedded in its body. Adam smirks, confident his dragon could use its effect to intercept any attack directed against his ace monster, Dragon Darkfluid.  

It is an annoying monster, but Maya may have the solution. “I activate D.D.R. – Different Dimension Reincarnation (Equip Spell)! I discard a card to bring back my banished Archfiend Swordsqueen (ATK 2500) to the field!” The fiendishly beautiful swordswoman and queen of demons traverses through a portal to this dimension. 

“But she has the same attack as my Clockwork Dragon!” Adam protests, then he realizes that he is doomed.

“It will do. Swordsqueen, kamikaze on Clockwork Dragon!” Maya orders. Her monster, fearlessly obeying her master, clashes with her opponent. The monsters slay each other, leaving only Darkfluid left. “Atropon, attack Darkfluid and end this duel!!!” Atropon seizes control of the dragon, forcing it to attack her, which it does. She easily catches the erupting flames, all 10,500 damage, and strikes Adam with it.

Adam: 0 | Maya: 8000

Adam falls off the stage to the ground, knocked out from the force of attack. Maya throws her hands up as if expecting applause. “Who’s next? Any volunteers?”

“Could you please get me loose!” Sofia calls out. “I’ve been waiting for almost half an hour!”

Maya got so lost in the excitement of taking control of a crime syndicate she forgot the real reason she was here. Remembering Sofia, her brown cheeks flushing crimson for daring to forget her, she demands Pandora give her the key to the shackles. Pandora assents, and Maya frees Sofia at last.

Just when everyone things the party is over, a Ghoul decides to be Batman; he swoops down to the stage from above, his black cowl making him look like a menacing shadow. He challenges Maya to a duel, his voice made low and dangerous by the mic in his mask.

Maya cannot resist accepting. “A new of episode Jackass? Here I come!”

Maya: 8000 | Clarence: 8000

MAYA’S TURN: “I Normal Summon Jowgen the Spiritualist (ATK 200) and Set a card.” An Eastern monk hears the call for his presence, and he obeys. Thus does Maya end her turn.

Clarence is almost exasperated as Adam was. “Another antimeta stun monster? How can I make my turn last over 30 minutes now!”

“I don’t know, dude. Figure it out.”

CLARENCE’S TURN: Clarence jumps for joy. “Yes! I drew the right card! But first…” He ponders his move for a minute. “Got it! I Normal Summon Supreme King Dragon Darkwurm (ATK 1800), and I use its effect to add Supreme King Gate Zero from my Deck to my hand. Then, I activate Gate Zero (Scale 0) in my Pendulum Zone.” The first guardian of infinite spacetime flanks Clarence in a column on his right.

“I activate Card Destruction (Spell).” And so both players discard their hands and draw anew. “Next I activate Dark Hole (Spell)!” And so both player’s monsters are wiped out. “Then I activate Card of Sanctity (Spell).” And so both players draw until they have six cards. “And I activate Pot of Greed (Spell) to draw even more cards! Next, I activate Supreme King Gate Infinity (Scale 13) in my other Pendulum Zone.” The other guardian of infinite spacetime flanks Clarence in a column on his left.

With columns present, the roof above Clarence seems to glow, as if ready to open a new dimension. “Pendulum Summon! Go, Endymion, the Mighty Master of Magic (ATK 2800), Reflection of Endymion (ATK 1850), Magister of Endymion (ATK 1500), Timegazer Magician (ATK 1200)!” The dimension gate opens wide from column to column, and the parade of brilliant magicians spills through.

But Maya rains on that parade with a Trap Card. “Bottomless Trap Hole!” Every magician, except Timegazer Magician, falls into a gaping void. Clarence does not care too much. “I activate Monster Reborn (Spell) to Special Summon Astrograph Sorcerer (ATK 2500).” The steward of the Supreme King revives from the Graveyard.

“Now, Astrograph Sorcerer, use your effect! I tribute you, then banish Starving Venom Fusion Dragon, Clear Wing Synchro Dragon, Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon, and Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon to Integrate Summon Supreme King Z-ARC (ATK 4000)!” A third column hits the field with light so strong it looks solid, bringing out a black dragon so huge only part of its hologram can manifest in the room. “I activate Premature Burial (Equip Spell) to pay 800 Life and bring Astrograph Sorceror back!” Now Clarence’s board is complete. (Clarence LP: 8000 → 7200)   

Maya worries if she will lose the duel. She calculates the total ATK of all monsters on the field and sighs in relief. She will survive but barely. Outwardly she is flippant, commenting, “The poor player struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Clarence declares his attacks. “Z-ARC, Astrograph, Timegazer, get her!” 

This will be a doozy. Maya braces herself. Z-ARCs attack hits hard, throwing her back to the wall. Astrograph and Timegazer pin her in place and strike her. She peels off the wall and falls to the floor (Maya LP 8000 → 300). 

“Oh my God, are you okay!” Sofia cries out.

Maya gets on her knees one short moment, rises to her feet during the next. “Just a sprained wrist. You know, the usual stuff when you play a card game.”

“The funniest thing is I have no fear right now.” Sofia says. “Yes, you’re staring down one of the scariest boss monsters in the game, but I know you’ll beat it. You’re too good for this game.”

Maya tightly clasps Sofia’s hand, feeling comfort from the warmth of her touch. “Thank you. I love you.”

Clarence ends his turn. “Let’s see you beat that, Maya!” He challenges.

MAYA’S TURN: Maya scoffs at Clarence’s arrogance. “A high ATK monster that can’t be destroyed by card effects is dirt common these days. I’ll dispatch it with ease. I Tribute Z-ARC and Astrograph Sorcerer to Special Summon Lava Golem (ATK 3000) to your field!” Clarence’s best monsters dissolve into lava, which clumps together to crudely form a new creature. 

Clarence did not see this coming. “I walked right into that one.”

“Sweetheart, your troubles are only starting.” Maya assures him. “I Set four cards facedown and activate Double Spell (Spell). I target two of the Spells you used last turn in your Graveyard: Monster Reborn and Card of Sanctity, and activate them. I Special Summon Celestial Siren Atropon (ATK 0) from the Graveyard and draw until I have six cards.” Her eerie eyeless monster revives, and she refills her hand. 

Clarence is briefly confused, wondering how Atropon ended up in the Graveyard in the first place. Then he remembers; he made her discard it with Card Destruction last turn.

Maya is all fired up now. Victory is in sight. “Let’s go! Atropon, attack Lava Golem!” The celestial siren catches the golem’s attack and reflects it back at Clarence, who jumps around the stage like a maniac, forgetting the fire is a hologram (Clarence LP 7200 → 4200). Leaving the Battle Phase, Maya activates Atropon’s effect, Special Summoning Celestial Siren Clothon (ATK 0) and Celestial Siren Lacheson (ATK 0) from her Deck.

“I overlay all three Celestial Sirens to Xyz Summon Blazedance Phoenix (ATK 3000)!” Three monsters burn together into one new entity. “I detach 1 Xyz Material to bounce a card back to your Deck and dish out 800 damage, and I’ll do this two more times.” Three Materials vanish. The phoenix dances three different ways. Lava Golem, Supreme King Gate Zero, and Supreme King Gate Infinity vanish from the field, and Clarence gets hit with more dancing fire (Clarence LP 4200 → 1800).

“Will I survive till next turn?” Clarence timidly asks, twitching.

Maya confirms his worst fear. “No chance. I move to my End Phase and activate Surprise Attack From Beyond (Quick-Play Spell). Phoenix, finish him!” The dancing bird swoops low to wipe out Timegazer Magician, burns the opponent, and sweeps him off the stage.

Maya: 300 | Clarence: 0

“Now that was an epic victory, like in our duel, right Adam?” Maya sticks out her ear, only hearing a groan from the ground. Maya gives a hearty laugh. “I thought so.”   

Sofia also laughs, shaking her head. “F*ck you, Maya.”

“Who wants to be the next victim?” Maya offers. “Anyone?” 

Even the most vicious and courageous Ghouls decline the challenge.

“Very good.” Maya picks up Pandora’s hat and tosses it at Hassan. “I present you new recruits.”

Hassan fights within himself for a time, unsure if he could accept such vile criminals for his and Maya’s revolutionary cause. Yet being rebels, they are naturally the underdog, severely outnumbered. They can use all the help they can get. Finally, he concedes, speaking softly to Maya so only she could hear him. “You’d better have a method to your madness. I sometimes wonder who and what you’re really fighting for, honestly.”

Yugioh Endgame – Duel 20: Super Smash Bros. Burly Brawl

Maya is an excellent strategist. That is fair to say, at least from Maya’s biased point of view. She could make a convincing argument with her dueling record from the past three books. Regardless, she is no stranger to making careful plans. But improvising a scheme in the proverbial heat of battle? And pulling it through? Now that is a test of skill. So Maya comes up with a bold idea at this very moment, brilliant or stupid, that profoundly changes the future course of events.

Maya challenges Pandora to a duel. “If you win, you can have me and Sofia together, some nice double booty.” – The Ghouls laugh at her immature joke. – “But if I win, you give Sofia back and surrender leadership of the Ghouls to me.”

Pandora, angry at losing his captive despite winning the last game, is too eager for compensation. “I accept. I need more than compensatory damages.” He orders Clarence to turn off the buzzsaws and unshackle him, but not poor Sofia, letting his ankles breath again. He silently speaks to his heart, “I’m getting too old for this. Maybe I should hang my oversized hat.”

Maya: 8000 | Pandora: 8000

MAYA’S TURN: “You know the etiquette; for there is honor even among thieves. Challenger goes first.” Maya this begins. “I Normal Summon Inspector Boarder (ATK 2000) and Set a card.” Her futuristic surfboarding policeman appears with a facedown card behind him for protection.

PANDORA’S TURN: “Running antimeta tech as usual, Maya? We Ghouls play outside the metagame.”

Maya disagrees. “No. You are the metagame.”

“I doubt that.” Pandora counters. “I activate Graceful Charity (Spell). I draw three cards and discard two. Next, Dark Magic Veil (Spell). I pay 1000 Life to Special Summon Dark Magician (ATK 2500) from my Graveyard!” The iconic sorcerer appears in the sinister red and brown version. I Set four cards and activate Card of Sanctity (Spell)!”

Maya springs her Continuous Trap. “I activate Final Attack Orders. Congratulations, you played yourself.” 

Pandora has no idea what Maya is talking about, so she explains everything. “My version of Final Attack Orders is a very old edition before it got nerfed. We keep only three cards from our Deck but mill everything else. Your Card of Sanctity is also old edition. You must draw six cards but have only three cards in your Deck, so you Deck Out. You lose.”

Sofia stares dumbfoundead like Neo from the Matrix does in that one meme. “Woah.”  

Maya: 8000 | Pandora: DECK OUT

“Unbelievable!” Pandora cries, falling to his knees. “How could you use such broken cards! That’s cheap!”

“I’m not screwing around but playing to win. You made me do this by chaining up Sofia for your cheap theatrics.” Maya says. “I think it’s time you hung your oversized hat. You’ll be happier under my leadership. I promise.”

Pandora casts his hat to her, sighing in relief. His servants, the Ghouls, violently reject the change in authority. They demand for a champion among them to rise and kill the usurper. Hassan and his militia try beating the Ghouls into submission, but the more tightly his forces squeeze around them the more rebellious they become.

A Ghoul jumps onto the stage, challenging Maya to a duel, which Maya happily accepts.

Maya: 8000 | Ghoul: 8000

GHOUL’S TURN: “I activate Pot of Greed (Spell)!” He announces, his voice deepened by a mic in his fearful mask. “Let me carefully explain what the effect of this card. IT can be activated only during your Main Phase. The player who activated this card must take the card from the top of their Deck and add it to their hand, and then immediately take the card from the top of their Deck and add it to their hand again. Then, I must place this card in the Graveyard.”

“Will you do this for every card you play?” Maya asks, clearly vexed.

The Ghoul gives a tentative cheeky answer. “Maybe?”

“Hassan, kill him.”

The Ghoul panics, fearing Hassan would blindly obey Maya because that is what he would do if Pandora told him to do something. “Okay! Okay! I’ll stop! Geez! By the ghosts of all the characters killed by George R.R. Martin, this mask is stifling!” He takes it off, revealing a pale face with blond hair on top. “I’m Adam. Nice to meet you.”

“I hope you don’t ruin this duel.” Maya warns him.

“I’m already ruining it, for you at least. Anyway,” He continues, his true voice a high-pitched nasal squeak. “I Normal Summon Babablazar (ATK 600), and use its effect to Special Summon Salamangreat Gazelle (ATK 1500) from my hand, and then I use its effect to mill a ‘Salamangreat’ card.” A fireball spirit and a fiery gazelle light the field with their presence. They seem to be made of blazing metal as if an alchemist forged them a minute ago.

Pandora had his migraines during the last duel. Now it is Maya’s turn to suffer. “By the Egytpian gods, you’re running a meta deck.” Maya sighs. “You’re already ruining this duel.”

Adam ignores her. “I network Babablazar and Gazelle to Link Summon Salamangreat Sunlight Wolf (ATK 1800)!” A blazing werewolf forged by alchemy jumps from the link network. “Now I discard Salamangreat Spinny from my hand to power up my Wolf’s ATK from 1800 to 2300. This triggers the effect of my second Salamangreat Gazelle, so I Special Summon it from my hand (ATK 1500)! And that triggers its effect, so I mill Salamangreat Falco. Then, I use its effect to Set the card I milled earlier. Finally, I activate Spinny in my Graveyard to Special Summon it.”

The product of this complex chain reaction is a small field presence, an armadillo and another gazelle. Maya looks at her wrist impatiently. “I don’t have a watch but I’m still looking at it.” She comments.

“You must be old!” Adam gawks as if he never saw a watch before. “What are you, a millennial? In this century, people check the time with iPhones.”  

“You said something about how no girl ever dated you? I wasn’t listening.”

“Original.” Adam snorts before continuing. “I overlay Spinny and Gazelle to Xyz Summon Salamangreat Miragestallio (ATK 1800)!” A stallion made of blazing iron gallops through the overlay network into this dimension. “I detach an Xyz Material to use its Effect. I Special Summon Salamangreat Foxy (1200 DEF)! Then, I Set a card.” He ends his turn with another monster, this time a fox, and an extra backrow card.

MAYA’S TURN: Maya studies the situation. Adam made a pretty standard play regarding the Salamangreat archetype. He set up a decent field and his backrow card was most likely… of course. Maya begins, “I activate -”

“Oh, one more thing!” Adam points out. “The rules changed a bit a week ago. You can Extra Summon monsters of each card type – like Fusion, Ritual, and so on – once per turn. You can fill the field with a diverse army of Extra Deck monsters like before, but you can’t spam with Link Monsters anymore.”  

“I guarantee people have found a way around it, but thanks for the tip.” Maya says, conceding gratitude. She already knows about the rule change but Adam’s thoughtful gesture is what counts.

“No problem! You’re gonna’ need it!” Adam beams, chipper as a puppy.

“I activate Soul Exchange (Spell)!”

“And I negate with Salamangreat Roar (Trap)!” Adam counters. His Sunlight Wolf vomits fire at Maya’s card, negating its effect and destroying it.

Maya shrugs it off. “No problem. Time for plan B. I Normal Summon Seven-Armed Fiend (ATK 650), and mill a Fiend from my Deck to use its Effect.” A hairy beastly devil emerges, a creature with six arms, and its head is even shaped like a hand. The monster decreases its ATK to zero and Special Summons two sentient forearms, the “Arm Fiend Tokens” (ATK 0). “I network Seven-Armed Fiend and its tokens to Link Summon Diabolus Ex Machina (ATK 0)!” The fiends dissolve and reconfigure into abstract sphere of black metal shards.

“Now for the wallop. I activate Underworld Circle (Continuous Spell)!” A barrier spins into place around the duelists and shrouding the field with a dark aura. All monsters on the field vanish in ghostly smoke, sent to the Graveyard, while monsters in both player’s Decks are banished. Diabolus Ex Machina, however, reconfigures. Maya pays the small price of banishing ten cards from her Deck facedown.

“Deus Ex Machina, attack directly!” Maya commands. “The black metal shards reveal themselves to be a swarm of tiny machines. They come together, creating a mosaic of the Devil’s face, for they are Legion. The face vomits fire and brimstone in the form of countless little machines, revealing its true power, its ATK skyrocketing to 9200!

Adam is done for – but he has a card ready. “I activate Extra Blowback (Trap)!” He sends five monsters from his Extra Deck to the Graveyard. Their spirits turn into parts of a mirror and, combined together, they reflect the attack back on the attacking fiend. The creature reels back and vanishes but is not destroyed. Maya returns it to the Extra Deck, disappointed but unfazed.

“So I’ll have to kill you the boring way. Time for plan C.” She says. “I set two cards facedown.”

As she ends her turn, three witches appear through a haze of green smoke: one an old hag in red, the other a large plump doyenne in yellow, and a seductive colleen in violet. Maya explains, “I can Special Summon these banished monsters in my End Phase: Red Hecate (1500 ATK), Yellow Hecate (ATK 1500), and Violet Hecate (ATK 1500), but I can’t draw next turn.”

“Do you have a plan D, E, F, all the way to Z?” Adam asks.

“No. What you see is what you get.” Maya assures him, but Adam does not believe her.

Yugioh Endgame: Duel 19 – Fish Styx

Sofia: 2900 || Pandora: 1200 

“If I go down, I’m taking you with me!” Sofia snaps, desperate, “I activate Crackdown (Continuous Trap) to take control of Dark Magician of Chaos!” A rope springs from her card, seizing the strongest of magicians, dragging him into the line of fire. Sofia loses her entire field and hand, all banished, but Pandora suffers too; he now only has four monsters.

Pandora wags his finger. “The last vengeful act of a loser. How pathetic! Now I Fusion Summon my ultimate wizard, Quintet -” He realizes he cannot. “Oh.”

Sofia hates smug people but cannot help being smug herself at the moment. “Quintet Force doesn’t give you Quintet Magician until after the card resolves, but now you lack the five Spellcasters needed to Fusion Summon it. I knew from the first turn, watching you swarm the field with Dark Magicians and Dark Magician Girls, that you probably had Quintet Force. Not only that, I activate N.D. Traveler in the Banished Zone, letting me Special Summon it (DEF 1300)!” Her cyborg goldfinch appears.

“Oh no!” Pandora shouts as if in the 4Kids dub.

“Oh yes!” Sofia thrusts her fist in the air. “Damn does it feel good being the guile hero!”

A vindictive Pandora points to the field. “Oh yeah!? I have four monsters; you have one! You lose! Dark Magician, attack!” And his monster gets ready to strike.

Sofia begins her counter attack. “My monster came back from the future not just to look cute. I return it and all my banished Dinosaurs back to the Deck to Fusion Summon N. Raptor MaXI – Britannia (ATK 2700)!” A large, bottom-heavy dinosaur with many different colored spots makes its crash landing, threatening to destroy all of Pandora’s monsters with the force of its impact.

“I banish Quintet Force from my Graveyard!” Pandora creates a blue-tinged magic force field, saving his monsters from a messy demise. “No servant of mine gets crushed, kicked, eaten, or pooped out by a goddamn yoshi!”

“My monsters are not yoshis!” Sofia waxes indignant. “They’re an original concept!”

Pandora scoffs, raising an eyebrow beneath his mask. “They eat things with unrealistically long tongues, they poop spotted eggs, and they come in so many colors they’re probably queer. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, bi, trans, poly, demi, semi, pan, whatever.”

Sofia’s cheeks become crimson. “Are you saying I’m bi?” The paranoid tone of her voice says, “How do you know?” She likes Jolene after all and even shares the same bed with her.

A Ghoul volunteers to break the awkward silence. “I main Yoshi in Smash Bros.” He comments.

“That’s why you suck, bro.” Another Ghoul says.

“Don’t hate, you Fox-maining-no-items-Final-Destination-only tourneyfag!” Retorts the first Ghoul, and the two fiends get into an argument. 

“Fantastic.” Pandora dryly complains. “Anyway, I overlay Dark Magician and Magician of Dark Illusion to Xyz Summon  Number 11: Big Eye (ATK 2700) and detach 1 Material to take control of Brittania.” Two Spellcasters make way for a new one, a nontraditional kind, a big upside-down cone with an eye. This odd creature entrances the enemy monster with its huge evil eye, forcing it to switch sides.   

“Come on! COME ON!” Sofia protests in exasperation. Just after she barely reclaimed control, she loses it again. She turns to me, the author, pleading, “Could you please give me a Heart of the Cards moment? Pretty please?” She tries making puppy dog eyes but fails miserably.

“No.” I say. “You’re not Yugi. If your Deck isn’t consistent enough, that’s your problem.”

Pandora is utterly bewildered. “Who are you talking to? Did the Duel make you crazy?” He suddenly beams with approval. “If it did, hop right in the audience! Now you’re one of us!”

Sofia, despite her deflated self-esteem, remains resilient, pushing onward. 

SOFIA’S TURN: “Okay. Finally my turn. I set a card facedown. I don’t care if I lose. I just want to make your victory hard.”

Such tenacity leaves Pandora unimpressed. “How quaint.”

PANDORA’S TURN: “Magicians, attack!” He commands, eager to finish the Duel. He does not betray it, but he feels exhausted, which is a near constant state of being for anyone past thirty.

Sofia, who is not even twenty, easily fights on despite her self-doubt. “I activate Soul Leveler (Trap)!” A dense cloud of specters appear to drain half of Sofia’s life, then raid Pandora’s field, forcefully dragging his monsters to the Graveyard. (Sofia LP 2900 → 1450)

Pandora briefly puts his fingers beneath his ask to squeeze the place between his eyes. This girl is giving him a migraine. How does Maya handle her? “I set a card facedown and end my turn.”

SOFIA’S TURN: Excellent! Sofia draws a good card. “I Normal Summon Kleinekarnosaur (ATK 500) and pop it to search another Dinosaur.” The vicious little t-rex barely appears before eating itself in a gruesome but fascinating display of gluttony and rapaciousness. Sofia adds a Dinosaur from her Deck to hand. “And I banish two Dinosaurs from my Graveyard to Special Summon Ultimate Conductor Tyranno (ATK 3000)!” The massive predator, brimming with a sickly dark energy, nearly takes up the whole stage. 

“Stop right there!” Pandora orders, as if afraid Sofia will declare an attack. – The window for using his Trap Card is small indeed. – “I activate Shadow Balance (Trap)!” A huge scale takes over the whole field, except the scale is alive with jaws for balances. Pandora’s side is empty, lighter than a feather, but Sofia’s side weighs heavy with a monster. The jaw underneath the dinosaur clamps shut, like the mouth of a Venus fly trap, swallowing its prey.

“Oh…” Sofia stops in her tracks. “Shinosaurus.” 

“I’ll enjoy licking your saltosaurus tears.” Pandora promises her.

“Ew, gross.” Sofia recoils. “Is this harassment? I think it’s harassment.” Jolene will definately think this is harassment. Sofia turns to the audience of Ghouls. “Do you think this harassment?” Actually, Sofia just being here is harassment. “Oh, gobisaurus! STRANGER DANGER! STRANGER DANGER!” 

PANDORA’S TURN: “I activate Wizard’s Mirror (Spell)!”

“It’s like Dragon’s Mirror but for Spellcasters, right?” Sofia correctly guesses.

“Yes.” Pandora confirms. “That is quite obvious. I banish five Spellcasters from my Graveyard to finally Fusion Summon Quintet Magician (ATK 4500)!” A tall dimensional magic mirror appears behind him, releasing the great wizard within as if freeing it from a prison. The monster itself is constantly surrounded by five hexagram circles. “Quintet Magician, attack!” All five hexagrams hit Sofia squarely in the torso. (Sofia LP 1450 → 0) 

Sofia: 0 || Pandora: 1200 

The Ghouls cheer wildly at the victory of their leader, and in such a close game too! Pandora can finally relax, basking in the applause. The Ghouls even applauded to Sofia, eager to give her a fine farewell before she gets butchered by the buzzsaw now swerving towards her ankles. 

“Well that checks out.” Sofia remarks. She tightly shuts her eyes, puts her hands over them anyway, and starts singing, trying to make light of a dark situation. Guess she’ll have to replace her feet with a flipper.

“So long and thanks for all the fish.
So sad that it should come to this.

We tried to warn you all but, oh, dear.
You may not share our intellect,
Which might explain your disrespect
For all the natural wonders that grow around you.
So long, so long and thanks for all the fish.”

The doors burst open as Maya barges in, her eyes blazing red, with a blast of fire so strong the whole wall breaks down. The Ghouls flee in terror, except for the two of them still arguing about Smash Bros., but keep smacking onto the three remaining walls like flies trying to exit a glass window. 

“Ce que les flambeaux!” Pandora is too flabbergasted to speak English.

The buzzsaw cuts part of Sofia’s ankle but Maya comes to the rescue before it can do any more damage. She catches the thing with her hands and tears it away from the wall. She is superpowered enough at the moment to do so but not strong enough to avoid getting her palms cut. 

Maya urgently clasps Sofia’s shoulders. “By the Egyptian Gods, are you okay! Tell me where the bad man touched you!”

Sofia hugs Maya tightly, her sadness at disappointing her friend far greater than any fear for her life. “I’m sorry I failed you. I tried my best.”

Maya strokes Sofia’s hair, whispering soothing words for her. “Criminals, like the Ghouls, are AIDS. They keep adapting and coming back. There’s no shame in being caught off guard, but you must remain alert in the future.”

Sofia nods, secretly wiping her eyes. She will not dare show Maya her tears. “That’s a weird way to console someone, but fine. I promise.”

“Que fais-tu ici, folle salope noire!” Pandora shouts from behind her. “She is my spoils of war!” 

Maya turns to face Pandora. She has exhausted her Ka searching for Sofia, so she makes it recede, her eyes returning to their natural dark brown color and her body no longer stronger than anyone else’s. Otherwise, the strain on her body will be too great. Now, she will have to fight with – cards? Yes. Unbelievable.

Yugioh Endgame: Duel 18 – Ice and Dice, Knives and Lives

Sofia: 3400 || Pandora: 4400

Pandora shrieks as the buzzsaw creeps nearer to his ankles, randomly waving his arms like he is a tube man. The audience of Ghouls points to their leader and gleefully boo at him, chucking tomatoes (they brought just for this purpose) his way. 

“Your magic show sucks worse than Penn and Teller’s!” Yells a Ghoul. “I’ve seen better street artists in New Orleans!” Balks another. “Go back to molesting kids in Neverland, you Michael Jackson-voiced loser!” Hisses a third.

Truly loyal comrades, as Sofia observes. They remind her a bit of the hyenas in The Lion King. They even have a campy, effeminate leader. Now for some lime green smoke and – BOOM! Green smoke bursts into the air and the bright stage lights waver, beaming all the colors of the rainbow. The Ghouls balk in mad laughter at their idiot master.  

Pandora shrieks at random people in the audience, “Clarence, I need technical support! Get your black-cowled a$$ here and help with the lights!” The green smoke and technicolor lights suddenly cease but the Ghouls keep having a good time. 

PANDORA’S TURN: “Ahem! After I was so rudely interrupted, let’s continue the show. I resume Pandora’s Great Escape! And I start by banishing the Galaxy Cyclone (Spell) in my Graveyard to destroy Egg Legacy.” Sofia’s card dissolves into dust and gets scattered by cosmic wind. 

“I activate Graceful Charity (Spell): I draw 3 and discard 2. I further augment my hand with Dark Magic Circle (Continuous Spell) to add a special card from my Deck to my hand.” 

“Is it a surprise tool that will help you later?” Sofia says in a deadpan tone.

“Not in this clubhouse!” Pandora affirms with enthusiasm. “I’m using it right now: Dark Magic Curtain (Spell)! I pay half my Life so my next Dark Magician (ATK 2500) can make his great entrance!” A skeleton animated by dark magic appears to draw back the curtain behind Pandora and – ta da! – a new wizard appears! (Pandora LP 4400 → 2200)

“But I’m not done yet. Here, watch your monster disappear!” Pandora’s magician conjures a dark magic circle around Sofia’s powerful raptor, transporting it to the Banished Zone. “Dark Magician, strike her directly!” Pandora shrieks. Sofia gets struck by sudden pain all over her body, like she is dying of poison, but it vanishes as suddenly as it appears. (Sofia LP 3400 → 900)

“That should do for now. I set a card and end my turn.” Pandora concludes with satisfaction. 

Sofia’s spirit – or is it her stomach? – falls to the ground. She will lose her feet and Maya abandon her out of disappointment! – Wait. Does she find Maya being disappointed scarier than bleeding to death on the floor of a degenerate’s basement. Strange world.

Sofia laughs in amusement and terror at the irony, clasping her shoulders with her hands. When she fell down, Maya and Yukio helped her get back up almost every time. But this duel is like the two times she faced Bandit Keith. She will have to magically conjure the strength inside herself, anything to get this nightmare of a duel over with. 

SOFIA’S TURN: “I activate Egger Planter (Spell)! I banish the 2 facedown cards I stole from you to draw 2 cards. I play Soul Absorption (Continuous Spell) and I activate Miscelleaneosaurus from my Graveyard; I banish 4 Dinosaurs from my Graveyard to Special Summon Tyranno Infinity (ATK 7000)!” The Ghouls cheer at seeing such a small but powerful monster, jumping as if dynamite is blowing them into the sky. Things are getting interesting!

As a matter of formality, Giant Rex returns to the field stronger than ever (ATK 2000 → 3200) and Soul Absorption heals Sofia. (LP 900 → 2900).   

“Tyranno Infinity, destroy Dark Magician!” Sofia commands, too eager to win the Duel.

Pandora balks at her audacity. “How naive to think you could defeat me, the master of magicians! I activate Magician’s Selection (Trap)!” The Dark Magician instantly forces the other dinosaur to appear in front of him as a meat shield, blocking the attack of Tyranno Infinity.

“Oh no…” Sofia whispers, not because her attack failed but because she could have played a Spell, but didn’t. I-I set two cards and end my turn.” Sofia stammers, covering her mistake as much as she can.

PANDORA’S TURN: The illusionist Pandora is not the greatest duelist but he is no idiot. He can read people like any good performer can, and he knows Sofia made a mistake. Now, he astutely judges, it is time to punish her for it, but he does have some respect for her. He claps in applause. “Wonderful! A fierce exchange, the kind of suspense I adore in a magic show.”

The clapping suddenly stops and the man becomes dead serious. “But you have little time to celebrate. Not with my next move: Card of Sanctity (Spell)!” Both players draw until they have 6 cards in their hand, Sofia groaning. Nothing good ever comes from this.

“I activate Thousand Knives (Spell)! I target Tyranno Infinity for destruction!” The Dark Magician casts a spell, throwing a rainstorm of kitchen knives at the monster.

Sofia quickly reacts, “I dodge the attack with Super Polymerization! Tyranno Infinity and Dark Magician fuse together to -” 

“I play Illusion Magic (Quick-play Spell)” Pandora counters with deft speed. The second Dark Magician to enter the Duel vanishes from the field. Pandora adds his third and last Dark Magician from the Deck to his hand. With no second target, the Super Polymerization card disappears, but the thousand knives do not. Before long, Tyranno Infinity gets butchered.

Pandora can see Sofia’s error at last. Had she played Super Polymerization last turn, she would have won the duel. Ah, what relief! 

“I discard the Dark Magician in my hand to Special Summon Illusion Apprentice Magician (ATK 2000)!” A long-haired variant of the Dark Magician Girl comes into play. “I activate Silent Doom to revive Dark Magician (DEF 2100), then activate Dedication Through Light and Darkness (Quick-play Spell) to sacrifice him to Special Summon Dark Magician of Chaos (ATK 2800) from the Deck!” At the end of this process, Pandora arrives to controlling a wizard with long black hair and tight black leather.

“My new magician isn’t just kinky, he has a powerful Effect.” Pandora assures his opponent. “I retrieve Card of Sanctity from my Graveyard and – guess what – I activate it! I refill my hand and we ride the merry-go-round once again, except this merry-go-round is covered with your blood! Don’t you think that’s fun?”

Sofia coldly retorts, “I think you need to direct the next Saw movie.”

Pandora replies, “I’ll look into it. I activate Monster Reborn (Spell) to revive Dark Magician (ATK 2500) again and activate Bond Between Teacher and Student (Spell). I Special Summon Dark Magician Girl (ATK 2300) and Set a card relevant to them from my Deck.” Master and apprentice reunite as a powerful duo and a new card appears in the back row. “Now here’s a real surprise tool that will help me later. I promise you that.”

“I doubt it. Only a fool takes the word of a criminal.” Sofia comments.

Pandora sheds a crocodile tear. “How can a woman be so young and pretty but be so cruel? You hurt my feelings.”

“I imagine it comes with the package.” Sofia postulates with a certain satisfaction. “Beauty with cruelty is not a bug but a feature in the system.” She thinks about how her friends will react to such a cynical but cliche remark. Jolene will chastise her for “internalized misogyny”. Maya will pretend to laugh like Homer Simpson, chuckling, “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.”  

Pandora chortles, “Spoken like a true realist from my birthplace. Why, you could’ve strolled through Paris with dapper shoes for all I know, but something tells me you’re not that type. Paying 1000 Life, I activate Dark Magic Veil (Spell) to Special Summon Magician of Dark Illusion (ATK 2100) from my hand!” Dark mist gathers to form the shadowy and spectral version of the Dark Magician. (Pandora LP 2200 → 1200) 

“My magicians are here; they are at your service, but not for long. I activate Quintet Force (Spell)! The magicians will be gone to form a new spellcaster unlike any you have ever seen but so will all your cards.” Pandora’s monsters cross their scepter’s together, gathering the energy needed for a powerful spell. The game’s end is nigh.

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…”

Yugioh Endgame: Duel 14 – Brulinner For Champions

Now the real sparring begins. Both women release a fraction of their power, eyes glowing red, brandishing swords of fire conjured by their willpower. Maya keeps a leisurely tempo for now, like that of a sarabande, moving slowly enough for Sofia to parry her assault without too much trouble. Thankfully, the fighters use minimal Ka on their swords, so even if Maya hits Sofia with the blade her student will merely get singed. 

Sofia blocks Maya’s attacks and counters with gestures of her own right after, all while skipping around the field, kind of like a highland dance. Maya picks up the pace to a gigue, then a gavotte, lashing at Sofia with ever greater speed and strength. It gets to the point where Sofia staggers under the blows, forcing her to stand her ground and make a committed counterattack, not half-hearted parries.

Maya surprises Sofia with a sudden drop and a kick to the stomach, a Capoercia that slams Sofia into the cavity of a large rock near the ocean waves. Literally backed into a corner, Sofia strikes back with heavy cleaves. Pleased, Maya lets Sofia plow her way through, keeping it challenging just enough to make Sofia sweat. Sofia takes a gamble; she lunges forward, burning the wrist of Maya’s sword arm. Unfortunately for Sofia, her dance is clumsy and, stretching herself too far, leaves herself open.

It is a fraction of a section, but an hour from the womens’ point of view. Maya takes advantage of her sweet time and slashes her opponent’s abdomen. Sofia yells, a thin black line burned past her clothes and into her flesh. dropping her guard entirely. Maya, all too happy to take advantage of the opportunity, lands a low blow right into Sofia’s wound, making her fall to the ground, utterly defeated.

Maya examines the wound, taking care not to wince, though she is very tempted to do so. “As my great grand uncle twice removed, Clarence Jones, loved to say, ‘Better have blisters and a scar than a stump on your wrist.’” She says in an exaggerated genial tone.

“You don’t have a great grand uncle twice removed.” Sofia moans as she clutches her abdomen. “I mean, you probably do, but I doubt you know his name, or anything he said.”

Maya sits in a cross-legged position near her apprentice, cocking her head in a quizzical manner. “Have you ever watched the Magic School Bus?”

“What’s that again?”

“A cooky teacher sends kids on magic field trips to give them science lessons.”

It rings a bell. Sofia finally gets it, and makes a sarcastic laugh. Maya helps her to her feet – she points to a place behind Sofia. “Look! Wayne is brutalising Eric and Megan!”

Sofia crosses her arms in disbelief. “I don’t believe you.”

“No, really! I’m serious! It’s disgusting! It’s like hardcore porn by National Geographic!”

This catches Sofia’s morbid curiosity, so she cannot help but turn around and watch. Indeed, the hooligan Wayne violently pecks Eric into submission, tearing out several feathers, and proceeds to rape Megan. Sofia drops her jaw in surprise and disgust. 

“PSYCHE! KIDNEY PUNCH!” Maya smashes the side of Sofia’s back, making Sofia double down on the floor again. “You fell for the oldest trick in the book. Unbelievable.” When Sofia complains how it can be a trick since Maya was telling the truth, Maya replies, “Yes, you can tell the truth but still use it for deceitful purposes. I am a lenient teacher compared to experience, which will teach you the same lesson by cutting your hand off instead.”     

Maya helps Sofia to her feet again, but with no tricks in mind. She brings out a portable electric stove and invites Sofia to cook with her, which Sofia does. Maya instructs her on how to cook, not merely to make any food to eat, but how to cook well, to make the tastiest most nutritious food possible. Together, they cook fish alongside tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. They top off the fish with a pinch of butter and natural salt.

Sofia muses on what to call their meal. You cannot call it brunch because it’s too late for breakfast and maybe you can call it dinner, but what can you call all three meals in one? “Bulinner?” Sofia suggests, feeling silly. Maya laughs a bit, giving her approval. Why not? 

“The smallest things are really the largest things.” Maya observes while they eat. Embarrassed at saying such a cliche, she elaborates. “People in the past tended to shirk off small physical things like your diet, the climate you live in, the land you live off of, your daily habits as not too important factors that determine your nature as a human being and the choices you make. But those are really the most important factors.”

“Which people?” Sofia asks. “What things did they think were important instead?”

“Philosophers in the past, specifically Western ones to my limited knowledge. I imagine they cared more about big metaphysical ideas like the state of your conscious mind, your relationship with God, or the philosophical ideals you choose to have. But all those things are based on the food we eat, the state of our bodies, and other ‘merely’ physical things. It seems obvious now but I doubt it was not too long ago. Even all the magic fighting stuff we do is just an extension of our bodies.” Maya speaks in slow, lazy way, not too sure of herself.

“What about the soul? This is a Yugioh fanfic after all.” Sofia inquires furter.

Maya nods, gazing at the waves lit into fire by the sunset, putting her thoughts together. She says, “I’d say consciousness, or the soul, is an emergent property created by the body. The actions of our cells create thoughts and various subconscious processes, which are not much on their own, but we fit them together like pieces of a puzzle. We create a fiction, a ‘virtual’ reality, where our little brain waves become somewhat coherent.”   

“What if you seal your soul into Millennium Item?” Sofia probes further.

“I guess the Millennium Item uses magic to change its host’s brain or create a consciousness in some other way.” Maya ruminates. “My point is the soul is not an actual substance like a rock or a pervert penguin. You might as well say the music I play is a substance. My advice to you: do not become preoccupied with your thoughts. We are not a being; we are a doing.”    

Sofia finishes her meal, laying back on the grass to see the stars. “Not to be disrespectful, but I think our readers are itching for a duel. We shouldn’t bore them.” 

Maya brushes her concern away. “Don’t worry. Let the plot take a promenade through Central Park. Do some world-building. We’re not in a New York Times bestseller, and thank God for that.” 

Sofia makes all sorts of sarcastic exclamations. 
“Wow!”
“Much high brow!”
“Such deep!”
“Very genius!”
“A great literature!”

Maya chuckles a bit, and says, “I didn’t discuss philosophy simply to bore you. It’s an appetizer of the next lesson, which you’ll learn when you’re ready. You’ll learn the final skill.”

“To transform into a dragon!” Sofia gasps. She trained under Maya in secret for three years, but Maya never brought it up until now.

Maya nods. “But not now.” She says. “Now, we rest and take the sword battles to the next level.”

“You tease!” Sofia scoffs as she lays down for a nap. She wonders if she actually likes Maya, and in more ways than one. It seems she does, a thought she finds amusing before she drifts to sleep. 

The women awaken to a dusk sky an hour later. They build up their Ka, their eyes burning red again, conjuring flaming swords from thin air once more, but more; they project fire from their backs and crowns, transforming it into black wings and horns. The penguins take seats around them to observe the battle. 

Teacher and student clash, throwing each other into the air, and from then onward dance as acrobats or birds, whirling around the landscape as if caught by a hurricane of the passions. They land on the base of the southernmost Andes mountains. Maya picks up the tempo of the exercise to a tarantella and gives Sofia a further challenge. “We’ll also play another game, a bit of a rap battle while we fight. It’s my turn. I clash blades with you, I deliver a line. Next time we cross swords, I come up with another line. Then, you’ll do the same.”

Sofia becomes baffled. “Are you kidding me? That’s the dumbest idea I ever heard.”

“You’ll like it. I promise.” Maya assures her, beaming in good humor. “It’ll teach you to think creatively on your feet. We must get out at least four iambs. Five is ideal. Also, we must rhyme four times – Hey! That works! – And…” She suddenly takes flight. “BEGIN!” The women tangle in the air like squabbling seagulls.

Gotta save the world! We gotta get lit!
But I must babysit a shrinking violet.
What can I do? Sofie doesn’t know shit.
She’s gotta get smacked in a royal battle blitz. 

Poor fool! You’re serious, but really dumb.
Your heart is gold but your feet are lead drums.
Don’t be timid, girl! Seize power! Get drunk!
Face your fears! Unleash the beast! Have some fun!  

Maya slams the wedge beneath Sofia’s ribs with her knee and ruthlessly throws her student to the rugged mountain below. Sofia stretches her palms out and, using her Ka as a shield, crash lands as a fiery meteor into a crater below. Maya lands nearby brandishing her red blade. Sofia swears at her teacher in frustration. “Ven a buscarme, puta!” Maya challenges her. Sofia replies with a fierce lunge, and they take off again, Sofia improvising verses of her own. 

You think you’re smart and chic!? Damn smarmy bitch!
You just got daddy issues! Admit it, witch!
Keep ridiculing people, and you’ll get a stitch
To match your crocodile tears and cheap tricks!

Call me a whore!? You know nothing of love
Or duty to anything above!
You only have your ego! You’re evil!
Like Yifan, an unrepentant devil!

Sofia tackles Maya head on, not caring about the searing cuts from her opponent’s blade. Fueled with fury and unleashing so much wrath she’s almost at the dragon stage, she pile drives Maya deep into a dark cave, getting them both buried in rubble.

Maya laughs in the darkness, her pain mixed with great pleasure. “You’re getting there! You dirty dog! You’re doing it!”

Sofia tightly clutches Maya’s waist. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to.” She would kowtow to Maya’s feet, begging forgiveness if she could. 

Maya gently dissuades her, adding: “Why do you feel sorry for being angry? I gave you a hard time. Your feelings are valid.” This moment takes Maya back to when she was in Egypt, buried under mounds of rubble in a cave. The dark night of the soul is a cliche, but Maya could say her time in Egypt was definitely that moment for her. She had a choice; she could either let herself die in her loss, pity, and confusion, or she could climb out of the mess and try again. She tells Sofia everything of that moment.

Sofia is deeply touched by Maya’s tale. She asks Maya if she can tell her something. When Maya affirms, Sofia says: “I used to be an orphan before I was adopted by Pegasus. – There’s a cliche if there ever was one! – It was more like a homeless shelter than any place a child could live in. I even considered becoming a baby prostitute. Thank God I never made that decision.”

Maya pities Sofia, even if only for a small moment. At least Maya had the choice of being a “soft prostitute” when she was a star duelist, not unlike what actresses and pop stars sometimes do in their careers. Maya never took it but it was a privileged option by comparison. 

“How did you end up in Pegasus’ care?” Maya asks.

Sofia answers, “Pegasus used to adopt orphans, especially if they came from poorer countries., like the Bragelina couple. But he had this Michael Jackson vibe too where he wanted to take sad children to his Neverland to give them a childhood they never had.”

“It’s really touching but also creepy and pathetic.” Maya observes. “I wonder why he refuses to grow up.”

Sofia knows the answer but does not feel like getting into it, so she resumes her story. “Pegasus once visited Kazakhstan, my homeland, presenting a mock Millennium Puzzle. He said that any child who managed to solve it would be adopted. Well, I stole it, naively believing I could sell it for the gold it was worth. Needless to say, it wasn’t. I got really upset but couldn’t think of anything else but to solve the Puzzle over the course of a few weeks. The police eventually found me, put me in jail, and returned the completed Puzzle to Pegasus, but Pegasus was so delighted with my achievement he adopted me. The rest is history.”

Her story causes Maya to ruminate for a long time, lost in thought. She did not fully know Sofias backstory until now. Perhaps, she wonders, she should be more sensitive to such a vulnerable girl. After all, was not Maya kind of like Sofia when she was a teenager? I mean, maybe, but Maya never let herself be vulnerable like Sofia does. She would lash out by being a delinquent instead. And if Sofia lived in luxury for the past decade, why is she still vulnerable now? – And it is just her, or is a flint of rock stuck up her – no, it is Sofia’s elbow. Well, that is compromising.

The women use their powers to lift away the boulders on them and exit the cave. They conjure their wings once more and fly down to the shore, but with no battles. They take each other’s arms and hop their way back in huge leaps and bounds in a little warm down dance.

“You did good today, kid.” Maya says, lifting Sofia’s chin up. 

“I’m not a kid.” Sofia says in return.

“I’m sure you’ll prove it in due time.” Maya gives Sofia a warm hug, which Sofia tries to return but cannot in full confidence in herself.

Sofia cannot help but smirk a bit to herself as she climbs the ocean shuttle to return home. Indeed, she had quite a workout. Before she shuts the hatch, she asks Maya if she can join the fight to capture the next Millennium Item. Maya says yes, which leaves Sofia with a happy heart on her way home.