• Published 30th Apr 2016
  • 9,323 Views, 977 Comments

My Little Pony: Friendship is Numerous - Monty Eggman



Based on the Equestria Girls movies and Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, this series tells the story of Sunset Shimmer in her quest to locate a series of dangerous cards that corrupt those who find them. It's time to Duel!

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RANK 31: An Ember of Passion:

Author's Note:

And so, we reach the end of 2018 with the follow-up to the previous episode.

Overall, I had a good Christmas this year, though there was a bit of sadness prior to it. My grandmother, Catharine Jessup passed away on the 18th as a result of failing health. If you wish to say anything concerning it, send me a personal message (instead of leaving a comment).

I hope everybody had a good holiday, and I will see you all in 2019. :twilightsmile:

RANK 31: An Ember of Passion:
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THE STORY SO FAR...:
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In Canterlot High School, every student is wild over the world's most popular trading card game: Duel Monsters! Every day, players of the card game, known as "Duelists", go head-to-head to see who among them is the best around. Among the Duelists in attendance at CHS, one of the best is a young teenager named Sunset Shimmer, a girl from another world...

After defeating yet another Number-possessed Duelist and claiming another Number card (and subsequently earing her Turbo Duel license in the process), Sunset Shimmer decided to look around the town of Bloodstone for something to do, since her initial plans of entering a Duel Monsters Tournament back in Canterlot were not possible. While driving on her new Duel Runner, she caught sight of a Duel involving a powerful dragon named Felgrand Dragon. The owner of the card was an older teen named Ember who, upon encountering Sunset, immediately challenged her to a Duel, without giving any reason as to why.

Sunset agreed to the Duel, but only to try and learn more about Ember through her play style. While Ember's Deck was tough, it was no match for Sunset's Chronomaly Deck, and she was beaten without even damaging Sunset once. Sensing that something was holding her back, she asked Ember why she wasn't dueling with all her strength. Eventually, Ember caved in and revealed that her father, a former Duelist named Torch, had forbidden her from dueling.

Determined to help Ember and find out why her father didn't want her dueling, Sunset is prepared to face Torch and figure everything out. But can Sunset succeed where Ember had failed...?

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"So, what's your plan?" asked Ember, a blue-skinned teen in the town of Bloodstone. "How're ya gonna get my dad on my side about this whole thing?"

"...That I'm not sure of just yet." admitted Sunset Shimmer, who had met the young up-and-coming Duelist just today and had offered to help her figure out why Ember's father Torch had outlawed her from dueling. "But where there's a will, there's a way. My friend Applejack told that one to me." Humming to herself a little, she then told her new companion, "I think the first thing we ought to do is to learn some more about your father's dueling career and figure out what made him stop. I'm pretty sure it may have something to do with his attitude now..."

"Annnnnnd... how're ya gonna do that?" asked Ember. "It ain't like he's willing to work with us on this one. I told you: Every time I bring it up, he says he doesn't wanna talk about it."

"Perhaps not..." thought Sunset, "but I think if I'm going to figure out what to do, I'll have to start... by paying your dad a little visit!"

Ember was a bit surprised by this comment, as she and everyone else knew just how scary her father could be. "You're... gonna try and talk to my old man?" asked the blue teenager. "No offense, but there's no way someone like you will be able to get any info out of him. After all, if I couldn't get him to talk about his dueling career or why he doesn't want me dueling, what do you think your chances are?!"

"I will admit, it won't be easy," the red-and-yellow girl replied, "but that doesn't mean it's impossible!" She then smiled a bit and calmly said, "I think the reason that you can't get any answers from your father is because you're going about it the wrong way."

"How so?"

"You're trying to ask him directly when it's pretty clear that he won't say anything about it." Sunset smirked a little and added, "But then... who said we HAD to ask him about it directly, or even ask him about it at all?"

"What are you talking about, Sunset?" asked the blue girl, still not sure where this was going.

"I think there could be a way to find out more about your father that won't require him to actually tell it to us." the otherworldly girl told her. Putting away the Duel Pad on her arm and stuffing it into her backpack, she then said, "And we'll start by looking around your home and see what we can find."

"Dig up?" asked Ember. "You've gotta be crazy! If he catches us snooping around his things, he'll be furious! You'd have a better chance of swan-diving right into an active volcano and not get burnt!"

"Then we'll just have to make sure we don't get caught then." Sunset simply replied. "Since he won't tell you what's going on, we don't have another choice. So it's either this, or we give up on this completely. What's your choice?"

Ember thought about it all for a while, not sure if what Sunset suggested would actually work. "I've gotta be honest, Sunset..." she started to say, "this sounds like more trouble than it's worth..." But then, she began to think about all of the secret Duels she had and how much she enjoyed dueling as a whole... Even the match against Sunset felt quite enjoyable, even though she had lost. Coming to a decision, she told her new companion, "Okay... I'm in. Let's give it a try."

Smiling and nodding, Sunset put her jacket back on and strapped on her motorcycle helmet, telling her, "Then let's get going. We haven't got a moment to lose!" She then got onto her fiery red Duel Runner (which she received as a gift after returning the driving instructor at the DMV to normal and taking the Number that possessed him), revving the engines to get it warmed up. Ember then carefully sat down behind her and held on tight to make sure she wouldn't go flying off. The inter-dimensional teen then sped off, getting onto the road and making her way to Ember's home.

As they drove down the road, Ember gave Sunset directions on how to get to her house. Sunset, however, didn't really need the instructions, as she had already seen her house earlier (she decided it was best not to mention that fact, though). On their way over, the blue teenager then asked Sunset, "I've gotta admit, this Duel Runner is pretty awesome... Is it true that you got it after beating that guy Klaus at the DMV?"

"That's right." the red-and-yellow girl confirmed. "He was pretty tough, but I managed to pull through and win against him, even when he thought he had me cornered." She then told her new friend, "That's one of the great things about Duel Monsters; it teaches you never to give up on anything until the very end."

"Never give up, huh...?" asked Ember. "No wonder you're so determined to convince my old man into letting me duel."

Nodding her head, Sunset then said to her, "And I know you have that same feeling yourself. I know deep down that you never gave up on the idea of being able to compete in Duels without having to hide it from your father. All I want is to try and help you make that dream come true."

Ember was happy to hear someone say that to her, but was still perplexed by all this. "So what's the deal anyway?" she then asked. "Why're you goin' out of your way to help me? You didn't even know who I was until today..."

"Maybe that's true," Sunset responded, "but I know enough. I know exactly how you feel, and I want to show you just how valuable a helpful friend can be. Just like how a whole bunch of helpful friends gave me a hand when my times were at their darkest..."

"Woah, that's pretty deep..." Ember thought out-loud. "These friends of yours; they must be pretty lucky to have someone like you, huh?"

"...To be honest, it's more like I'M really lucky to have them." the red-and-yellow girl said. "But... that's a story for another day." Getting back on the main task at hand, she then asked, "How much further until we get to your house, Ember?"

"Huh? Oh! Uh... not much further." the blue girl said to her. "Just take another right at the next intersection." Sunset nodded and followed her new friend's directions, making another right turn ahead.

Finally, the pair had reached Ember's house. Sunset knew that they had arrived at the correct location, because she had spotted the dragon statue near the front door; it was the spot where Ember had hidden her Deck so that her father wouldn't know about her dueling behind his back. "Well... here we are." said the blue teenager. "My house."

Looking around, Sunset then noticed that a car was missing from the garage that was built into the home. "Doesn't look like anyone's home..." she stated. The last time she was here, Sunset recalled that there was a old-looking black car in the driveway, which she assumed belonged to Ember's father.

Noticing the empty garage as well, Ember breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Good, my dad's not home right now. That means we might be able to find out something before he gets back." The two girls stepped off of Sunset's Duel Runner as the red-and-yellow teen took off her helmet. "Still, we'd better move fast: I have no idea when he'll get back, since I'm usually not home before then." Sunset nodded as the two of them walked up towards the front door. Ember then used her key to unlock the door and allow them inside.

The two girls then slowly entered the house. Sunset moved even more quietly and cautiously, just in case there was anyone else inside. Noticing this, Ember then told her, "Relax, Sunset... There's no one here but us."

A bit surprised, the red-and-yellow girl asked her, "Really? What about your mother?"

Ember was silent for a bit after her new friend asked that question. She then told her, "She... doesn't live here anymore. She and my dad divorced a long time ago... And that's all I'm sayin' about that." Sunset was a bit saddened to hear that Ember's parents had split apart, but decided that she wouldn't say anything else about it. Based on Ember's tone of voice, Sunset figured that it was the one thing that she probably would NEVER talk about, no matter what. Besides, it wasn't the most important thing right now anyway.

The two of them walked into a large room with a fancy-looking desk in the center, with a bookshelf behind it. Strewn across the desk were several important-looking papers. "This is my dad's Study." Ember told Sunset. "If there's anything worth looking for regarding him, this is where we'll find it." She then warned her, "Just be careful: He can't know that we were in here, so make sure to leave everything where it is. He's very meti- um... metal... uh..."

"...Meticulous?" Sunset asked, guessing the word that Ember was trying to pronounce.

"Yeah, that." the blue girl confirmed. "So don't mess with his stuff too much, or I'll never hear the end of it."

"I'll try my best." the inter-dimensional girl said with a nod. The pair then looked around, trying to find some sort of clue that would help them to figure out why Ember's father acted the way he did. Whatever it was, Sunset figured it must have been pretty bad for him to try and keep his daughter from dueling.

For the next several minutes, Sunset and Ember looked around Torch's study, but couldn't find anything. Getting a little bit frustrated, the blue teenager said to her companion, "Rrrgh... this is pointless! We've been here for a long time and we haven't found anything!"

"Don't give up hope yet, Ember..." Sunset urged her. "We just have to keep looking for anything out of the ordinary." As she inspected the bookshelf, she then spotted a red book that seemed a little out-of-place: It seemed to have been put there upside-down. Turning her head, Sunset read the title of the book on its spine: "...Peering Into Your Potential." she read. Humming to herself, she then said, "This book... it doesn't seem like the others. Maybe there's something in here that might give us a clue." She then reached for the book and took it off the shelf.

But before she could open it, something else happened: Like something out of a mystery movie, the bookshelf that held the book began to slide along the wall to the left. Sunset and Ember just stood there, not sure what was going on. "Uh... Sunset?" the blue girl asked. "Wh... what did you just do...?"

"I... I don't know...!" the otherworldly girl replied. "I just took this book out of the shelf to see if there was something inside of it! I didn't know it would do something like this! I swear!" She then asked, "Why didn't you warn me that would happen if I took the book out?!"

"'Cause I didn't know about it!" Ember told her. "My dad doesn't want anyone snooping around in his Study, so I never seen anything like this before!" The two girls could only watch as the bookshelf continued to move aside, revealing its secrets to the two of them.

Once it finally stopped, Ember and Sunset were amazed at what they found: Behind the bookshelf was a large trophy case that was filled with several awards. A light had automatically switched on, allowing the golden prizes to shine and shimmer in an impressive display. Needless to say, the two of them were awestruck by what they saw.

"Woah... what's up with all this??" Ember asked. "I've never seen so many trophies all in one place!"

Stepping towards the display case, Sunset then made an interesting discovery about these awards, "These aren't just any trophies, Ember..." she began to tell her friend. "These are all Duel Monsters Tournament Awards! And all of them are for placing first!"

"What?! ALL of them?!?" asked the shocked blue teenager. "I don't believe it... So it was all true: My dad was not just a great Duelist... He was AMAZING!!"

"And you were right about him being meticulous, Ember." Sunset observed. "All of these awards are arranged in order of the year in which he received them." But as she looked at each and every award, she then noticed something odd. "Hmmm... what's with this big, empty space here?" she asked. "It looks like-"

But her thought was interrupted when the two girls heard a sound that made Ember's heart skip a beat: The sounds of a car pulling into the garage. "Oh, crud!! That's my dad!" she exclaimed, sweating a bit. "If he finds us in here, he'll go into a rage!" Thinking quickly, the two of them pushed the bookcase back to its original position and Sunset replaced the book that she took out of it. The bookshelf gave off a CLICK sound, letting them know that it was locked into place once more. "Hurry and get out of here, Sunset...!" Ember instructed her in a low tone of voice. "There's a way out the back, but make sure he doesn't see you."

"What about you?" asked the otherworldly girl.

"I'll distract him so that you can get out of here." the blue teen replied. "Just get moving!"

"Okay." Sunset said with a nod. "I'll head over to the town library. Just meet me there as soon as you can." Ember nodded as the red-and-yellow girl slipped out of the room and exited through a back door. Luckily, Sunset had thought ahead and did NOT park her Duel Runner right in front of Ember's house, so that Torch would not know that someone else was there.

Luckily, she escaped from the house before Torch came walking in. To say he was an intimidating man was an understatement; one look at his hardened face and large body could outright terrify most folks. He had dark, slate-blue skin with some slightly darker splotches, along with a pair of fiery orange eyes that completed what may have been the scariest-looking scowl on his face. His hair (which had long ago started thinning) ranged from light yellow to sienna brown in color. He wore a black suit with a red crystal pinned onto the left side shirt pocket.

Torch looked down at Ember and said to her, in a deep-sounding voice, "You're home early, I see... Unusual; you're usually not here when I come home from work."

"Ummm... I, uh... I finished up my... my errands a bit earlier this time." Ember fibbed to her father, trying not to seem too scared of him. "That's why I'm, uh... why I'm home early. That's all."

Torch just stared at her, saying nothing for a few seconds. Sighing a bit, he then told her, "I'm starting to wonder what these... 'errands' you speak of actually are." Giving his daughter a bit of a glare, he then added, "You're not... up to anything, are you?"

"Uh, me?! No! Not at all!" the blue girl assured him.

The adult man simply huffed, figuring there was no point in saying anything more on the matter. "Well, in that case," he told her as he walked into his Study, "were one of those 'errands' studying for that school project of yours that you need to have done after your Spring Break is over? You had better not be slacking off on your schoolwork like you seem to do every now and then... You know as well as I do that I do NOT tolerate slacking off of any kind."

Remembering what Sunset had said to her earlier, Ember then told her father, "Oh! Yeah, thanks for reminding me about that! There's this book I need to get from the library in order to, um... finish the project!" In reality, she had actually finished this school project already just so that her father wouldn't get on her case about it all the time. "Guess I'd better go and get it!" she then said, preparing to leave. "Oh, WHAT would I ever do without you, Dad?"

"...I'd rather not imagine something like that, to be honest." Torch said with a bit of a grumble. "Just go and get this book and finish up the rest of your schoolwork! I have a lot of work to do here, and I DON'T want to be disturbed!"

"Yeah... I hear ya." Ember said in a low voice as she picked up her things and walked out the door. As she did, Torch stared at the front door, humming to himself in thought. Something about her attitude made him a bit more suspicious about her than usual, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it...

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Back in town, Sunset waited by her Duel Runner at the Bloodstone Public Library building, watching for when Ember would show up. As she waited, the girl thought to herself, (I hope Ember's alright. I was able to get a glimpse of her father, Torch... and he was pretty scary-looking; now I can see why she was so determined to make sure he wouldn't find out about her dueling. He looks like a volcano that's ready to blow at the slightest thing!)

Taking a look at her Deck stored safely away in her deck box, Sunset then said, "I don't care how scary he might be, though; I have to help him see the error of his ways. I know he must have some reasons for his actions, but even he must know how badly Ember wants to become a Duelist. Whatever is making him feel this way, we need to get to the bottom of it and figure what to do about it!" Sighing a little, she then added, "After all, I know for a fact that Ember is a talented girl, and I can't call myself a Duelist if I don't help her realize her potential." Putting away her Deck, she finished her soliloquy, saying, "This isn't just about convincing her father to let her Duel; it's also about convincing Ember about how strong she really is, and I'll do whatever it takes to help them both!"

After she was finished with her thoughts, the inter-dimensional girl suddenly heard a familiar voice coming from nearby. "Hey! Sunset!! Over here!!" it yelled.

Sunset Shimmer glanced over to her left and saw that the voice belonged to Ember. The blue teenager was running as fast as she could to reach her. "Alright! You finally got here!" Sunset told her new friend. "I was hoping that your father hadn't figured out everything too soon."

"He was a bit suspicious at first, but I managed to fib my way out of it." Ember told her. She then asked, "So, what're we doin' here at the library? I thought we were gonna find out what's up with my father and why he's keepin' me from dueling..."

"We are, and we will." Sunset told her. Turning around to face the building behind her, she then stated, "Like my friend Twilight always says: 'If you're ever in doubt, always check the library for the answer!' That's what she'd be telling us if she were here." Ember still wasn't sure where her new companion was going with this, but decided to follow along, figuring that there was some point to it all.

Inside of the building, it was all quiet (as any good library ought to be), with everyone inside either reading the books that they had checked out or sitting in front of a computer, looking up things on the web. Sunset walked up to the front desk and asked to have some time with one of the computers. She presented her library card to the librarian working there, and after everything was in order, the librarian gave her a pass that would allow her to use one of the computers made available to guests.

Sitting down in front of the screen, Sunset then started typing on the keyboard, telling her friend, "Alright, now let's see what sort of information we scrounge up here..."

"I still don't get it..." Ember told her. "Why are we here in the library looking for stuff? We won't be able to figure out what to do about my dad here."

"Oh, I can assure you that we will, Ember." the otherworldly girl told her. "That's if what I found in your father's Study was accurate."

"What're ya talking about?" asked the blue teenager. "What'd you see?"

"When that trophy case opened up and we saw all of those awards, I noticed that there was an empty space right next to the most recent trophy that your dad had in there." Sunset explained to her. "It seems that your father had planned to put his next award there, but couldn't for some reason. Are you starting to understand what I'm saying now?"

Thinking about what she had told her just now, Ember began to see where her new friend was going with this. "Wait a sec..." she began to ask, "are you telling me that-?"

"Exactly." Sunset replied, knowing what she was going to ask her. "But it's only a hunch; hopefully, whatever I can get off of here will be able to confirm my suspicions or not..." She then typed up Torch's name on the search engine, hoping to confirm her assumptions. After doing so, several results came up relating to him. However, many of them were about his current position as the owner of Bloodstone Real Estate. Deciding that she needed to give more specific information, Sunset then typed the word "duelist" next to the man's name. After that, several different results appeared, including a picture of a young man that looked very familiar to Ember.

"Is... is that my dad??" asked the blue teen. "It's weird seein' him with hair... or with a smile."

"That's him alright." the red-and-yellow girl confirmed. "According to this, he had entered every major tournament both in here and throughout the country. Back then, he was known as 'Torch, the Dueling Inferno', as his opponents' monsters were always left in ashes after he was done with them. Anybody who faced him in a Duel only contributed to his long list of victories; he had never lost a single match."

"Woah... that's amazing..." said an astonished Ember. "To think that MY dad was an undefeated Duelist back in his time... It's incredible..." But this only continued to puzzle her. "But is that's true, then what happened to make him completely change his tune?"

"Right here, it says that after his last victory in a major tournament, he went to compete in the Nationals." Sunset read off of the webpage. Clicking on a hyperlink that was attached to the name of the tournament where Torch's most recent victory came from, she was able to pull up a date. "Just as I thought:" she told her companion. "This date matches up with the one that was engraved on the last trophy that I saw in that case! Luckily, your father's meticulous nature made figuring that out very easy, as he had all of his awards arranged in the order in which he won them."

"So what, then? What happened at the National Tournament?" Ember asked, speaking in a tone that suggested that she already knew what happened.

Clicking back onto the pervious page, Sunset then made her way to another page that detailed all of the information regarding the National Tournament. One of the things that was shown on there was the tournament bracket, which listed all of the Duelists that competed, as well as who won against who. Sunset then gasped when she saw one of the other names that were listed among the competitors. "I don't believe it!" she said in an amazed-sounding voice. "One of other people in the tournament... was Vice Principal Luna!"

"Wait, did you say Luna??" asked Ember. "As in the former Pro Duelist?"

"Yeah, that's her alright..." the inter-dimensional teen answered. Looking at the brackets, she then told her, "According to this, both your father and Luna had made it all the way to the final match. But when the Duel ended... Torch had lost."

"He... lost?" Ember then inquired. "How... how bad did he lose?"

"...Pretty badly." Sunset told her. "He lost without even damaging her once." She then suddenly remembered that, during her earlier Duel, Ember had lost in the same fashion. Feeling a bit guilty, she then said to her, "Um... sorry, Ember."

"What're you sorry for?" asked the blue girl, a bit confused at first. But then, after realizing what she was talking about, she then said, "Oh, that? You don't need to be sorry 'bout that, Sunset. I wasn't playing at my best, so I don't blame you for it." Getting back on the main topic, she then asked her, "So what happened after my dad lost?"

Looking back on the webpage, Sunset then answered her, saying, "Says here that, after his defeat, Torch just got up and left the building. He wasn't even there for the award ceremony, and he left the 2nd place trophy behind. After that, he hadn't been heard from in the dueling world again..."

"Woah..." Ember replied, a bit amazed at how her big, scary father could take losing a Duel so hard. "So that's what it is... That loss must've bummed him out so much, that he doesn't want anything more to do with it, and that's why he's not letting me duel."

"It sure seems that way..." the red-and-yellow girl commented, thinking about everything so far. "From what I can gather, it looks like your father lost his spirit and passion for dueling when he lost at the tournament. And it's those bitter feelings that are making him act this way towards you." Sunset sighed to herself, knowing full well how one's bitterness can cause someone to lash out and cause problems for those around them.

"So... what now?" Ember asked her friend, causing Sunset to snap out of her daze. "Now that we know what's up, what're we gonna do about it?"

Sunset hummed to herself, trying to think of some way to convince Torch to let his daughter become the Duelist she felt that she was meant to be. Coming up with something, she then told her, "I think the only way you'll be able to get your father on your side is re-awaken his love and passion for dueling."

"Re-awaken it?" asked Ember. "You don't mean that I should duel him, do you??"

The jacket-wearing teen nodded and said to her, "It's the only thing that'll work, Ember. He's been bitter about his loss for a long time. And I think the best way for him to get rid of that bitterness is in a Duel!"

Ember wasn't as sure as Sunset was on the whole idea. She then asked her, "But how am I gonna convince him into dueling me anyway? He'd never do it!"

"Then just make him an offer; one that you know he wouldn't refuse to take." the red-and-yellow girl suggested. "And don't worry: I'll be right there with you help you through it!"

"Y...you will?"

"Absolutely, Ember. After all, true friends support each other."

The blue teen (even though she wouldn't show it on her face) was truly touched by how much support Sunset was giving to her. She was even willing to stand up to someone as scary as her father in order to lend her a helping hand. Ember knew that refusing her new friend's offer was not an option. "...Alright, if you're so sure about this," Ember told Sunset, "then I'm willing to do it."

Nodding, the otherworldly girl told her friend, "Then let's get a move on, Ember! There's no time to waste!" The pair then left the library and hopped onto Sunset's Duel Runner. They immediately took off, heading straight towards the house where Ember and her father Torch lived. Somehow, someway, they were going to convince the man to come out of his retirement from dueling...

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After a short drive back to the suburbs, Sunset pulled her Duel Runner to the side of the road, a few feet away from Ember's house. The blue teen was a bit confused by this action and asked her companion, "What're we stoppin' here for? My house is just up ahead."

"To discuss a few more things before we confront your father." Sunset answered.

"What kinds of things?"

Taking off her motorcycle helmet, the red-and-yellow girl turned around to face Ember and told her, "Before we go in there, you need to make sure that you're ready for this. After all, once your father hears about what's going on, there's no doubt he'll get pretty angry and try to intimidate you. But you have to have the courage to tell him how you really feel and not let him see your fear." Pausing for a moment, she then added, "The biggest challenge for a Duelist is overcoming their nervousness, and that often must be done BEFORE a Duel as well as during one."

Ember sighed a bit. She wouldn't admit it out-loud, but she did have a slight amount of fear in her at the thought of standing up to her own father.

"But just because it's difficult, that doesn't mean that you can't do it." Sunset continued to tell her friend. "You just need to find the courage to speak your mind and let him know your feelings; the same way that you did when you challenged me to a Duel earlier."

"...You... you think it's really that easy?" asked Ember.

Nodding, the otherworldly girl said to her, "I KNOW it's that easy, Ember. Even though I can tell that you aren't the type that's often willing to share her feelings with others."

"H-how'd you know that?"

"Because like I told you before," she continued to say, "I used to be the same way. But now I know that keeping my feelings and pain to myself only made things worse for everyone, especially myself. And deep down you know that, unless you stand up for what you believe in now, nothing's going to change for the better! This is something you need to do before it gets any worse!"

Inspired by Sunset's strong words, Ember nodded and confidently told her, "You're right, Sunset; this is something I've gotta do. I don't care how much he tries to scare me! I'm going to tell my dad exactly how I feel and that's that!" No longer feeling nervous about the situation, she then told her new friend, "Let's get over there and do what's gotta be done!"

Happy to see her feeling much more confident in herself, Sunset nodded and told her, "Yeah, let's go!" She then revved up her Runner and drove up to the front of her house.

Hearing the sounds of a vehicle outside, Torch lifted his head up from his work desk and looked outside. There, he saw Sunset's Duel Runner and Ember sitting on it. (Ember?) he asked himself. (What's she doing on that motorcycle? The library isn't that far from here...) He then gasped when he saw what was strapped onto his daughter's right arm. (What?! Is that a Duel Pad?!) Growing and snapping his pencil in his fist, he snarled to himself, "I knew it..." He then got up from his desk and headed towards the front door.

Just as Torch entered the living room, Ember and Sunset walked into the house. Right away, they could see that Ember's father was not in a pleasant mood. But even in the face of such an angry... face, Ember bravely walked towards her father, ready to say what she needed to say.

"So... the rumors ARE true..." Torch said to his daughter in a low, unhappy voice. "You HAVE been dueling behind my back! Admit it! And don't you dare try to lie to me!"

Ember nodded yes and said to her father, "I didn't plan on lying, Dad. I HAVE been dueling for a while now without you knowing about it. But now it's time for that to end!"

"Indeed..." Torch agreed, though not in the way that Ember was conveying. "Hand over that Duel Pad and Deck right now, and maybe I WON'T ground you until your high school graduation!"

"That's not what I meant by that, Dad..." she then told him. "I meant that it was time for YOU to stop preventing me from dueling!"

"WHAT?!" shouted Torch. "Absolutely not!! You know full well that I forbade you from dueling under my watch!"

"Yeah, I know that!" Ember responded. "But what I really wanna know is WHY you don't want me to duel! You've never given me a reason as to why you keep me from dueling, and I'm sick of it! So unless you give me a good reason right now as to why I shouldn't be doing this, I'm not going to let you keep me from dueling, no matter what!"

Torch was now more confused and more angry at his daughter's actions. He then glanced over to Sunset standing behind her and angrily asked her, "You... you put her up to this, didn't you?!"

But Sunset also wasn't about to let him intimidate her as she told him, "I didn't put her up to anything she didn't already want to do. I know first-hand that your daughter is a great Duelist and she can only get even better. But not if you don't support her rather than stifling her!"

"You be quiet!" Torch yelled, face getting red. "You have no right to intrude in matters regarding my daughter and I, so stay out of it!!"

Sunset was about to say something back, but Ember put her arm out to stop her, saying, "He's right about one thing: This is between me and my dad right now. If anyone's gonna tell him off, it'll be me, got it?"

Nodding and taking a deep breath to calm herself, the red-and-yellow girl replied, saying, "I understand, Ember. Even so, you still have my support in all this."

Calming herself down as well, Ember then said to her father, "I'm just gonna get to the point: Yelling at me isn't going to work. Punishing me isn't going to work. Nothing you can think of will change my mind about me and Dueling, got it?"

Grumbing a little, Torch then said to her, "You're quite the stubborn one, aren't you?"

Smirking a little, she responded, "Yeah, I suppose I am... But only because I got it from you."

Torch now realized that his usual brand of intimidation-based parenting skills weren't going to be effective on her anymore. However, even though he was willing to admit that he wouldn't be able to scare his daughter out of dueling, he wasn't about to buckle under that easily. "Be that as it may," he told her, "I still do not want you dueling, and that's final!"

"If that's how you really feel, then there's only one way to settle our argument." Ember said to him. "And I don't think I need to tell someone like you what that is, right?"

Torch did know what she meant by that. "You mean to say that you want to duel me?" he asked. "And why should I?"

"Because if you win, then I'll willingly give up dueling for good." she told him. "But if I win, then you let me become a Duelist and not complain about it!"

Torch just stood there for a moment, staring at his defiant daughter. He wasn't sure what had come over her all of a sudden. (Ember... what's going on with her right now??) he asked himself. (The things I said to her just now would've scared someone twice her age! I should know: I do the same to my employees whenever THEY screw up! Just what's gotten into her?? ...Has she always been like this and I didn't know it?)

"Well, Dad?" Ember asked him. "What's it gonna be?"

Huffing, he then answered her, "Very well, then... If it'll finally put this matter to rest once and for all, I'll accept your challenge." He then walked into his Study and operated the bookshelf that concealed his trophy case. However, trophies and awards were not the only things in there: Inside was a red-and-black Duel Pad, along with a Deck and D-Gazer. Taking those specific items out of the case and strapping them on, Torch felt a strange feeling come over him, one that he hadn't felt in a long time. But he pushed it aside and said to his daughter, "I hope you enjoy this Duel, my daughter... because it will be the last one you ever have!"

"We'll see about that!" Ember responded as both of them activated their devices and drew their opening hands. "Now let's duel!!" (Torch: LP 4,000) (Ember: LP 4,000)

Sunset, activating her own Gazer, mentally told Ember, (Do your best out there, Ember... After all, your future is practically riding on this one Duel. So give it all you've got!)

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Ember and Torch looked over their opening hands closely, each of them already trying form the best strategy that they could. The intimidating man then looked over towards his daughter and thought, (Ember, you are not ready for the brutal nature of the dueling world, and you never will be... And I will make sure you know that by the end of this Duel!) Deciding that he would go first, Torch shouted, "I'll begin with this monster in Attack Mode!" After playing his first card of the Duel, a geyser of flames then erupted from the floor in front of him. Ember and Sunset watched as a small, black object - in the shape of an egg, emerged from the flames and rested itself in front of its owner.

"What's that thing?" asked Sunset.

"It... it looks like an egg." Ember figured.

"It's not just ANY egg, you two..." Torch told them. "It's my Black Stone of Legend! (The Black Stone of Legend: Level 1 / ATK 0 / DEF 0) But don't be fooled by its lack of attack and defense points, as its true power is locked INSIDE of it! By releasing my Black Stone, I can replace it with a new monster from my Deck!" At that moment, the stone began to glow a deep red and exploded into flames. Taking a card out of his Deck and putting it onto the card tray of his D-Pad, he then said, "Behold!! The ferocious and deadly dragon whose black flames of fury incinerate anyone unfortunate enough to get in its sight!! I Summon the Red-Eyes Black Dragon!!"

The flames in front of Torch began to swirl into a cyclone before eventually taking shape. The flames formed themselves into a gigantic dragon that was so big, it leveled the living room along with the rest of the house (not for real, of course; only in the AR virtual reality display) The dragon was made up of jet-black scales covering an overall thin body, with large wings, sharp claws, and a piercing red-eyed stare that could scare almost anyone (Red-Eyes B. Dragon: Level 7 / ATK 2400 / DEF 2000).

"Incredible..." said Sunset. "He managed to Summon the legendary Red-Eyes Black Dragon on his first turn... Good for him, but not so much for Ember. Fortunately, since he's going first, he can't attack with it yet."

Torch, however, had something else in mind. "You might think my dragon can't strike you just yet, Ember... but I'm afraid you won't be getting off that easily." He then took a card from his hand and told his daughter/opponent, "I now play the Spell Card, Cards of the Red Stone! By sending a Level 7 Red-Eyes monster from my hand to the Graveyard, I can then draw two cards from my Deck." He then chose to send a monster from his hand to pay the cost of his Spell Card. After drawing his two cards, he then added, "In addition, after I draw my cards, I can then send another Level 7 Red-Eyes monster from my Deck to the Graveyard!" And that's exactly what he did.

(He must be sending monsters to the Graveyard so that he can Summon them later...) Ember figured. She then asked her father, "So what about those cards you drew? Let's see 'em!"

"...If you saw what I drew, then I'd doubt you'd be so eager for me to use them." Torch then asked her, "Remember when I said that I had a way for my dragon to attack you, even though I took the first turn? Well, you're about to see what I meant by that!" Revealing one of the cards he drew, the man shouted, "I activate Inferno Fire Blast!!"

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Inferno Fire Blast:
(Normal Spell Card)

Target 1 "Red-Eyes B. Dragon" in your Monster Zone; inflict damage to your opponent equal to its original ATK. "Red-Eyes B. Dragon" cannot attack the turn you activate this card.

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"Oh no...!" gasped Sunset. "Thanks to that card, he'll be able to inflict a ton of damage on Ember right now!"

"Now my daughter," Torch said to her, "say goodbye to 2,400 of your Life Points!!" He then shouted to his monster, "Go, Red-Eyes!! Inferno Fire Blast!!" The powerful and vicious dragon then launched a powerful fireball from its mouth, sending it towards Ember like a bullet. The blast then exploded upon impact, causing her a ton of damage.

"Ember! You okay?!" asked Sunset out of concern. The blue teenager was forced onto one knee as a result of the impact, but was able to get up with little difficulty (Ember: LP 4,000 - 2,400 = 1,600).

"Now do you see, Ember?" asked Torch. "The dueling world is too much for someone like you! You're better off if you quit right now!"

But Ember huffed and said to her father, "Please... you're gonna have t' do a LOT better than that if you plan on ending my dueling career!"

Grumbling a bit, the intimidating man then said, "I'll place two cards face-down and end my turn."

"Then it's my turn! I draw!!" Ember shouted as she drew her first card of the Duel. She then looked over her cards closely, trying to figure out the best way to use them. (Aw man... It's my first turn, and I've already lost over half my Life Points! How am I gonna beat my dad now...?) she wondered.

"Don't be nervous, Ember!" Sunset shouted to her. "Just because you're behind now, that doesn't mean that you're in a hopeless position! Just stay calm and tell yourself that you can get through this!"

Ember didn't reply back, but took her new friend's words to heart. (She's right...) she said to herself. (I've just gotta keep a level head... My nervousness about my dad was what made me lose my Duel to Sunset, but I don't plan on letting it happen again! I won't let him scare me... not at all!) She then took out most of the cards in her hand and shouted, "I'll set FOUR cards face-down!!" The images of four cards then appeared in front of her.

"F-four cards??" asked Torch, sweating a little. (What's she up to...?)

"Next, I'll Summon Paladin of Felgrand in Attack Mode!" Ember declared. Her first monster of the Duel was a blonde-haired man with shiny blue armor and a long, sharp sword (Paladin of Felgrand: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 300). "Then, I use his effect and equip him with my Level 8 Divine Dragon Lord Felgrand from my Deck!" At that moment, a phantom image of a gigantic gold and silver dragon with shimmering black wings appeared over her Warrior monster before infusing itself into his sword. "With my Divine Dragon equipped to him, my Paladin is now immune to all of your monster effects!"

"Hmph, but not from my monsters' attacks!" Torch reminded her. "And my face-down card here will allow me to Summon more of them to attack you with! I activate Return of the Red-Eyes!! With my Red-Eyes Black Dragon on the field, I can bring back any Normal Monster from my Graveyard to join it! And since the Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon in my Graveyard is a Gemini Monster, I can bring it to the field! So come forth, Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon!!"

A dark-purple portal then emerged onto Torch's side of the field, shooting out a mixture of red and black flames. Out of the flames came a dragon that was even scarier-looking than his first one, with fiery red wings and glowing red eyes, along with a shiny black body that shimmered in the light of its own fire (Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon: Level 7 / ATK 2400 / DEF 2000).

"A what monster?" asked Ember.

"He called it a Gemini Monster." Sunset answered. "I've heard about them..."

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Gemini Monsters:

This type of Effect Monster is treated as a Normal Monster while on the field or in the GY. While a Gemini Monster is face-up on the field as a Normal Monster, its controller may Normal Summon it again (as a result, they have used up their one Normal Summon/Set on that turn). If successfully done, it will be treated as Effect Monster and, in turn, gain its effect. This action is often referred to as a "Gemini Summon".

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Ember growled a bit under her breath, knowing now that she had to deal with TWO powerful dragons instead of just one. But she wasn't going to let her father see her sweat. "I end my turn!" she shouted to him.

"Hmph... As I thought: You don't have what it takes to survive in the dueling world if that is the best you can do!" Torch said to her. He then drew his next card and declared, "Now I'll give up my Normal Summon this turn in order to Gemini Summon my Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon on the field!" At that moment, the second dragon that Torch had Summoned became bathed in a bright, white light as it gave out a mighty roar. "Now my dragon has fully regained his power! Now, when he battles, my Black Flare Dragon can further damage your Life Points at the end of any Battle Phase that he participates in! So I'm afraid that, one way or another, this Duel will end right on this turn!"

"Oh really?" asked Ember in a defiant tone. "Then just try it, if you think it'll work!"

"Oh it will, my daughter..." Torch said to her, "and my next few moves will make sure of it!" Taking the card he drew this turn, he then played it and announced, "I activate Foolish Burial Goods! This card allows me to send any Spell Card or Trap Card from my Deck to the Graveyard. And the card I choose will be... Return of the Dragon Lords!!"

This move surprised both Sunset and Ember. (Return of the Dragon Lords??) the inter-dimensional girl asked herself. (But that card could have allowed Torch to bring back a Dragon monster from his Graveyard... So why did he dump it out his Deck...?) Ember, however, had a feeling she knew what her father was planning...

"Now for the move that will end this Duel and your foolishness for good!" shouted Torch, quite sure that he had this Duel won already. "I activate the Trap Card, Burst Breath! By releasing my Red-Eyes Black Dragon on the field, I can destroy every monster on the field whose defense points are less than his 2,400 attack points!"

"But that'll wipe out your monster, too!" Sunset told him.

"Not quite..." Ember corrected her friend. "Since his Return of the Dragon Lords is in the Graveyard, all he has to do is banish it, and his monster will stay on the field. That's why he sent that card to the Graveyard earlier."

"Exactly." Torch confirmed. "Which means that once your monster is gone and I attack you directly with my Black Flare Dragon, you'll lose this Duel! And once you do, I'll make certain that you never hold a card again!" Thrusting his arm out, he then shouted, "Now, Burst Breath! Wipe out her monsters!!" The Trap Card then released a powerful blast straight towards Ember's side of the field. "You lose!!" said the man, confident that he has defeated her.

"Guess again, Dad!" Ember shouted. "You forget about all my face-down cards?"

"Wh-HUH??" Torch gasped.

"I activate the Quick-Play Spell, Magical Spring!!" the blue girl told him. "This card lets me draw a number of cards from my Deck equal to the number of face-up Spells and Traps that you've got on the field! Since you've got your Burst Breath AND your Return of the Red-Eyes face-up on the field, I get to draw two cards!"

"Maybe so," Torch told her, "but since you ALSO have 2 Spell Cards face-up on the field, you have to discard two cards after you draw two! And besides that, it won't stop you from losing your monster or this Duel! Your move was completely pointless! If you're going to play useless cards like that, then you're better off if you quit dueling for good!"

"...Did I say that I was done?" Ember asked. "There's a lot more to my strategy than that, Dad... Because I'm going to chain a second card to my Magical Spring before it resolves!" Tapping her D-Pad's screen, she then declared, "I discard one card to activate my Trap Card, Rainbow Life!"

"What?!" shouted Torch.

"Thanks to this card," Ember explained to her father, "instead of losing Life Points this turn, I GAIN Life Points equal to whatever damage I would take this turn! Which means if you attack me directly this turn, you'll only make me even stronger!" She then smirked and added, "But I'm STILL not done yet."

"Y-you're not?!" asked Torch, who was beginning to get a little concerned for himself.

"Nope, because now I chain a THIRD card to my Rainbow Life! Go, Emergency Provisions!" she then shouted. "Now by sending any number of Spells or Traps to the Graveyard, I then gain a thousand Life Points for each one of them! And I'll choose to send Magical Spring and Rainbow Life, along with the Divine Dragon that's currently being used as an Equip Spell on my Paladin of Felgrand!" And with that, all three of those cards disappeared from the field, boosting Ember's Life Points considerably (Ember: LP 1,600 + 3,000 = 4,600).

"Th-that can't be!!" shouted Torch, surprised by that move. "How could you have known how to do all of that?!?" The look on his face was one of pure astonishment.

(That was a great move on Ember's part...) Sunset thought to herself. (Even though she sent her activated Spell and Trap Cards to the Graveyard, she still gets their effects since Emergency Provisions doesn't negate the cards it targets. That means she still gets the protective effect of Rainbow Life, and then the draw effect of Magical Spring. And not only that, but because she no longer has any face-up Spells or Traps on her field, she won't have to discard any cards after using Magical Spring! And from the look on Torch's face, I don't think he expected his own daughter to make such a good move like that...)

Ember then drew two cards from her Deck with her Magical Spring as her father's Trap Card destroyed her monster. Torch then banished Return of the Dragon Lords to prevent his own monster from getting destroyed by his own card. The blue teen then smirked and asked him mockingly, "What was that you said earlier? You said that you'd beat me on this turn! So why don't you go ahead and do it?! Well??"

Torch grumbled, but he knew that he was out of moves for this turn. Scowling, he said to his daughter, "It's your turn..."

"Somehow, I had a feeling you'd say that." she told him. "I draw!" She then pulled her next card and looked at it. Afterwards, she played her card and said, "I activate Pot of Desires! I banish ten cards from the top of my Deck face-down and draw two more!" After removing a sizable chunk of her Deck and drawing her next two cards, she looked them closely and thought, (These could help out a lot...) Ember then played one of her newly-drawn cards and shouted, "I activate my Continuous Spell, Ruins of the Divine Dragon Lords!"

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Ruins of the Divine Dragon Lords:
(Continuous Spell Card)

If a monster(s) is Special Summoned, except from the GY, while you control a Level 7 or 8 Dragon monster: That face-up Special Summoned monster(s) has its effects negated until the end of this turn (even if this card leaves the field). Once per turn: You can send 1 other face-up card you control to the GY; Special Summon 1 "Dragon Lord Token" (Dragon/LIGHT/Level 1/ATK 0/DEF 0). If this card is in your GY: You can send 1 Level 7 or 8 Dragon monster from your hand or face-up from your field to the GY; add this card to your hand.

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"And now that I have that card on the field, I'll activate my remaining face-down card!" she then declared. "I play my Call of the Haunted, which I'll use to revive my Divine Dragon Lord Felgrand from the Graveyard!" With the help of her Trap Card, the Dragon monster that she sent to the Graveyard with her Emergency Provisions Spell Card was back on the field, this time as a Monster Card. It let out a powerful roar that shook the area around them (Divine Dragon Lord Felgrand: Level 8 / ATK 2800 / DEF 2800).

"No...!" said Torch, realizing her plan a little too late. "You had that card ready to Summon your Dragon back to the field after I wiped out your Paladin!"

"To be honest, I was kinda shocked that you fell for that, Dad." Ember admitted.

"What is that supposed to mean?!" he asked, seemingly offended.

(She has a point...) Sunset pondered. (If those websites describing Torch were accurate, he should've been able to see her plan and counter it. I guess his time away from dueling has made him a bit rusty... and I have a feeling that Ember was counting on that fact when she challenged him.)

"I expected a lot better out of you, Dad," Ember told him, "but I guess you spent a little TOO much time in retirement..."

Growling a little, Torch then told his defiant daughter, "Just make your move...!"

"I'd be glad to!" she responded. "I activate my Divine Dragon's effect! Since I Special Summoned him from the Graveyard, I can now banish your Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon from the game! Go, Divine Decimation!" Her dragon then let out a bright light from its wings, shining several bright rays onto Torch's dragon and wiping it out completely. "Heh... so WHO, exactly doesn't have what it takes to survive a Duel? Looks to me like you're the one that's in trouble..."

Torch said nothing in response, but his situation brought up some old memories; ones that he wished would leave his mind. He remembered going into the final Duel of the National Tournament, facing off against his opponent... and then losing in shame.

Continuing her turn, Ember then shouted, "Now I'll Summon my Kidmodo Dragon in Attack Mode!" Her next monster was a tiny, salmon-colored dragon with cute, beady black eyes and tiny little wings (Kidmodo Dragon: Level 3 / ATK 100 / DEF 200). "Now for my Battle Phase!" the blue teen shouted. "Attack, Felgrand and Kidmodo!!"

"URRRGH!!!!" grunted Torch as both her Dragons struck him hard: First Felgrand (Torch: LP 4,000 - 3,500 = 500), and then Kidmodo (Torch: LP 500 - 100 = 400). Now it was Torch who had fallen far behind in Life Points; quite a change from when the Duel had started.

"I'll set one card face-down and end my turn." Ember told her father. "Like it or not, I'm gonna be a Duelist, Dad! And not even you can stop that from happening!!"

Torch was still completely shocked by how well his daughter was playing. (I don't understand...!) he thought to himself. (How is Ember this strong?! I banned her from dueling, so she shouldn't have been able to pick up on the game so well...!) After thinking a bit more, he then asked himself, (Did... she really manage to figure it all out on her own? But how?? ...And what's this strange feeling I'm getting? It feels... sort of familiar... Like I've had it before, but where? And when??)

Sunset and Ember just stared at the large man, wondering what we was doing just standing there, not making a move. "Uh... what's up with my dad?" asked the blue teenager. "It looks like he's spacing out..."

"I guess he's finally figured out that you're not going to be as easily beaten as he thought." the red-and-yellow girl figured. "Now the only way he'll be able to beat you is if he starts taking this Duel seriously."

"What d'ya mean by that, Sunset?" Ember asked.

"It means he'll need to re-awaken his passion for dueling, just like he did in the past." she answered her. "In other words, he'll need to stop treating you like a child and START treating you as a worthy opponent!"

Ember still didn't quite understand what her friend was talking about... but Torch was beginning to. (My... passion for dueling?) the man thought. (Is that what this whole thing is about?? To get me back into dueling?) Sighing, he then said to himself, "That could never happen... I gave up all that up. I no longer have that passion in me." But the more he talked about it, the bigger that feeling he was getting became.

"Well, Dad?" asked Ember. "You gonna make your move or what?!"

Snapping himself back into reality, Torch then shouted to her, "Fine, if that's what you want! I draw!!" After drawing a card from the top of his Deck, he then immediately played it. "I activate MY Pot of Desires! By banishing the top ten cards of my Deck face-down, I can draw two more cards!" After removing a sizable chunk of his Deck and drawing his next two cards, he then played one of them. "Next, I'll activate a second Spell Card! Dark World Dealings!"

"Dark World Dealings??" asked both of the girls.

"I guess you are aware of what this card does, then." Torch stated. "Now we each draw one more card from our Decks, then after that, we each discard one!" Torch then drew the next card from his Deck and smirked, knowing that he got a good draw out of his Spell Card. He then discarded one of his Monster Cards to the Graveyard afterwards. Ember drew another card from her Deck... and then discarded that card, as she didn't need it right now.

(Torch must be setting something big up...) thought Sunset Shimmer. (But what is it?)

Taking another card out of his hand, the large man then said to his daughter, "Get ready, Ember... for a taste of what you'll get in the dueling world!! I activate the Spell Card, Dragon's Mirror! This card allows me to banish monsters on my field or in my Graveyard to Summon a Dragon-Type Fusion Monster from my Extra Deck!"

"A Fusion Summon?!" exclaimed Ember, a bit worried at what her father was planning to bring out.

Taking two cards from his Graveyard, Torch then stated, "From the Graveyard, I banish the Red-Eyes Black Dragon, as well as the card I discarded with Dark World Dealings: My Gearfried the Red-Eyes Iron Knight!" The two monsters then appeared on the field before being sucked into a red-and-blue vortex that appeared in the sky. "Black dragon with the crimson eyes! Metal knight with the crimson eyes! Rise from the black shadows and carry the fallen back into battle!" Torch chanted. "Fusion Summon! The ferocious and deadly dragon with steel armor! Red-Eyes Slash Dragon!!"

After the chant was complete, a blast of flames came shooting out of it, striking the ground in front of Torch. Out from the flames came a pair of glowing, red eyes that carried with them a sense of dread. When the flames finally died down, Torch's powerful dragon was on the field once more, except now it was covered in strong, steel armor, colored black, red, and silver. On each of its forearms - as well as on its tail, there was a large, metal blade that looked as though it could cut through absolutely anything.

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Red-Eyes Slash Dragon:
(Fusion-Effect Monster/Dragon/DARK/Level 7/ATK 2800/DEF 2400)

"Red-Eyes B. Dragon" + 1 Warrior monster
When a "Red-Eyes" monster declares an attack: You can target 1 Warrior monster in your GY; equip it to this card as an Equip Spell with this effect.
* The equipped monster gains 200 ATK.
When a card or effect is activated that targets a card you control (Quick Effect): You can send 1 Equip Card you control to the GY; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy that card. If this card is destroyed by battle or card effect: You can Special Summon as many monsters from your GY as possible, that were equipped to this card.

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Sunset was surprised by the appearance of this powerful dragon. "Unbelievable..." she said. "He actually HAS that card? I've never seen one before!"

Ember was equally as shocked by the appearance of her Dad's monster. (I never knew he had that in his Deck, even though I knew he used a Red-Eyes Deck...) Regaining her composure, she then reminded her father, "Your Slash Dragon might be strong, but its attack points are still lower than my Divine Dragon! And because you Special Summoned it, my Ruins of the Divine Dragon Lords negates its effects this turn!"

But that comment only made Torch snicker. "That won't matter, Ember!" he boldly told her. "This Duel will end in my victory all the same!" Tapping his Duel Pad, he then shouted, "I once more activate the effect of my Return of the Red-Eyes to return my Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon to my field!" And just like that, his monster revived itself and was ready to wreak havoc. "Your Ruins card only negates the effects of my monsters if they weren't Summoned from the Graveyard." the man reminded his daughter. "But since my Black Flare Dragon WAS Summoned from there, it's not affected by it!"

"That's not good..." said Ember, knowing what her father was going to do next.

"Now, I Gemini Summon my Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon, so that I can use its effect!" Torch yelled as his dragon began glowing in a white light. "And as you recall, if my Black Flare Dragon battles, he can then inflict his original attack power on you as damage!" Taking another card out of his hand, he then added, "And not only that, but I'll use my Axe of Despair Equip Spell to give my Slash Dragon another one thousand attack points!" (Red-Eyes Slash Dragon: ATK 2800 + 1000 = 3800)

"Oh no...!" Sunset gasped, realizing what was going to happen. "If he attacks all her monsters this turn, the battle damage combined with that effect damage will drop her down to zero Life Points! She won't survive it!" But then she noticed the cards that her friend had on the field. (Or can she...?) Something told the otherworldly girl that this Duel wasn't quite over just yet...

"Time to end this Duel!" shouted Torch, smirking as he did so. "Red-Eyes Slash Dragon, attack her Divine Dragon Lord!! Inferno Steel Fire!!" The armor-plated dragon then screeched as it shot a powerful flame at Ember's dragon, wiping it off the field in an instant, as well as inflicting some damage to the blue-skinned girl (Ember: LP 4,600 - 300 = 4,300). "And now it's my Flare Dragon's turn to attack!"

Ember braced herself for whatever her father had in store for her. (Bring it on, Dad...) she told him mentally. (Give me all you've got!)

Torch then went over his plan in his mind. (My Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon has 2,400 attack points, and her remaining monster has only 100...) he pondered. (After I attack, she'll be down to just 2,000 Life Points! Then, once my Flare Dragon uses its effect, she'll drop all the way down to zero! I'll win the Duel!) He then paused for a moment, as if he had forgotten something. (...Oh, and that would mean that... she would quit dueling.) he recalled in his memory. (How did I forget about that...?) Deciding that now wasn't the time to dwell on that, Torch then shouted, "Flare Dragon!! Wipe out her Kidmodo Dragon! Inferno Fire Blast!!"

Sunset gasped as the man's second monster launched its attack, sending a vicious fireball straight towards Ember's tiny dragon. The creature was too weak to survive the blast and was destroyed instantly. "Ember!!" she called out to her friend.

Chuckling to himself, Torch then said, "This Duel is over... You've lost, Ember." But when the flames dispersed and the smoke blew away, the man gasped at what he saw next. "What?!?"

Sunset was equally as surprised to see that Ember was still standing. Not only that, her Life Points didn't seem to have decreased (Ember: LP 6,000). "Sorry, Dad..." she told him, "but I'm not gonna go down that easily!"

"But... but how?!" asked Torch, having no idea what was going on. "How did your Life Points increase?! They should have gone down to 2,000!!"

"They would have, but they didn't." the blue teen replied. "Right after your attack hit me, I activated a Trap Card just before I took any damage!" The rest of the smoke finally cleared away, revealing the image of her face-down card, only now it was face-up. "It's called Nutrient Z! Since your attack would have hit me for at least 2,000 points of damage, this card give me 4,000 more Life Points BEFORE the damage is inflicted!"

"What?! No!!!" exclaimed Torch, shocked at how prepared his daughter was for the situation.

"Thanks to that Nutrient Z card," Sunset began saying to herself, "Ember gained a huge amount of Life Points, nearly doubling what she had started out with (Ember 4,300 + 4,000 = 8,300). After that big boost, the damage she took from Black Flare Dragon's attack was practically nothing (Ember: LP 8,300 - 2,300 = 6,000)! In fact, now she has even MORE points than when the turn started!" Smiling to herself, she then said, "Guess that extra time we took getting some new cards at that store on the way over here paid off."

"That's not all:" the blue girl continued. "Since Kidmodo Dagon was sent to the Graveyard, I can use his effect to Special Summon my Arkbrave Dragon from my hand!"

Ember's father gasped, having been taken completely by surprise. Not only did she survive such a powerful attack from his Red-Eyes monsters, but now she even managed to Summon a new monster to protect her. Her white-and-gold dragon with two sets of powerful wings then flew from the sky and onto the field, sitting in front of its controller and putting itself in Defense Position (Arkbrave Dragon: Level 7 / ATK 2400 / DEF 2000).

Torch just couldn't wrap his mind over how well his daughter was dueling. But before he could make any remark, Ember made one of her own. "If you're wondering how I'm doing so well right now, Dad..." she told him, "it's because I studied up on you before challenging you. Since I knew what kind of Deck you used back when you used to be a Duelist, I fine-tuned my own Deck so that I could beat it! I knew your strategy was all about hitting me for as much damage as possible, so I put in a few recovery cards to keep me safe from them!"

"You... you actually knew what I was going to do??" Torch asked, surprised (and a bit impressed) by the fact that Ember had seemed to thoroughly prepare herself before the Duel began.

"That's right, Dad." she answered him. "That proves how much I'm willing to do in order to become a great Duelist myself! I know it won't be easy, but I still want to go out there and do my best, just like you used to!"

That last comment made Torch gasp; he hadn't realized just how far his daughter was willing to go in order to become a Duelist. For a moment, he contemplated surrendering the Duel to her... But of course, he wouldn't. Changing the subject back to the Duel in progress, he then calmly told her, "Since Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon battled, he now inflicts his original attack power on you as damage." His Gemini Monster then let out a roar as it shot out another blast of flames that struck Ember directly (Ember: LP 6,000 - 2,400 = 3600). "You may have survived this turn," he informed her, "but next turn, I WILL defeat you. And there isn't a thing you can do about it! Now make your last move!"

Ember did her best to remain strong, even as her own father was coming after her with his dragons. As she prepared to draw her next card, she then heard Sunset say, "You can do it, Ember!"

Glancing back at her new friend, the blue teenager asked her, "You really think I can? Even you have to admit, this isn't exactly the best of situations right now... One way or another, this probably will be my last turn."

"Maybe," the inter-dimensional girl replied, "but that doesn't mean it's hopeless! It's like my friend Applejack told me: 'It ain't over 'til the last card's drawn!' You've still got one more card to draw, and it could very well be exactly what you need. But you'll never know until you draw it."

"You've got a good point, Sunset." agreed Ember. "I've got to try, at the very least..." Putting her fingers on the top card of her Deck, she added, "Win or lose, no one'll accuse me of wimping out! I WILL become a Pro Duelist someday, even if that doesn't happen right now! I'll just keep trying until it happens!"

That comment of hers seemed to affect Torch a little. "She's... she's not afraid of failure?" he asked himself. "Even if she loses this Duel, she's still willing to keep at it...?" For that moment, he began to wonder if it was wrong of him to prevent his daughter from becoming a Duelist.

"It's my turn! I draw!!" shouted Ember as she drew her next card. Once she got a look at what she drew... she smiled. "Perfect." she said. Facing her father, she then asked him, "You ready t' watch me win this Duel?"

"W-win??" asked Torch, not sure what she had planned.

"The first thing I'll do is activate the other effect of my Ruins of the Divine Dragon Lords!" Ember declared. "By sending my Arkbrave Dragon on the field to the Graveyard, I can Special Summon a Dragon Lord Token to my field in Defense Mode!" And just as she said, her larger dragon vanished from the field. In its place, a statue of a dragon rose up from the ground in front of her (Dragon Lord Token: Level 1 / ATK 0 / DEF 0).

"You must be kidding me..." said Torch, not intimidated at all. "You sent such a powerful monster to the field just to Summon a no-attack or defense monster??"

"Well... not really." the blue girl answered him. "Summoning the Token was nice, but what I really wanted was to put my other monster in the Graveyard."

"How come?" her father asked.

Ember then took the card she had drawn this turn and shouted, "I activate a Spell Card from my hand! I play... MY Return of the Dragon Lords!"

"What the-?!" said a surprised Torch.

"That's right, Dad: I have one in my Deck, too!" she told her father. "Only I'll use mine to re-Summon my Arkbrave Dragon back from the Graveyard!" In an instant, the dragon that she had previously sent to the Graveyard was now back on the field.

"So you sent your dragon to the Graveyard just to bring it right back??" asked the large man. "I don't understand what the point of that was!"

"The point, Dad, was that Arkbrave's effect only works when it's Summoned from the Graveyard, just like with my Divine Dragon Lord!" Ember told him. "When Arkbrave Dragon brought back from the Graveyard, his effect banishes all of your face-up Spell and Trap Cards!"

"What?! ALL of them?!" gasped Torch.

"ALL of them." she repeated. "And as an added bonus, Arkbrave then gains two hundred attack and defense points for every single card he gets rid of!" Ember then thrusted her hand into the air and shouted, "Go!! Magic Neutralizer!!" The dragon then roared loudly as it shone a brilliant light on the field. It was a light so powerful, that it managed to wipe away Torch's Axe of Despair and Return of the Red-Eyes (Red-Eyes Slash Dragon: ATK 3800 - 1000 = 2800). Then, Ember's dragon gained even more power after having used its effect (Arkbrave Dragon: ATK 2400 + 400 = 2800 / DEF 2000 + 400 = 2400).

"T-twenty-eight hundred attack points?!" exclaimed Torch. "But that means-!"

"You've got it, Dad." Ember told him. "That means that when Arkbrave attacks your Flare Dragon, this Duel's over!" She then shouted to her monster, "Go! Arkbrave Dragon!! Attack his Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon!! Arkbrave Light Stream!!" Ember's dragon then charged up energy in its mouth and shot a powerful ray at her father's lower-ATK dragon. The blast hit it dead-on, destroying it completely and wiping out the rest of the man's Life Points (Torch: LP 400 - 400 = 0) (WINNER: Ember).

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Torch dropped to his knees, eyes wide with disbelief at what had just happened. "I... I don't believe it..." he uttered quietly. "I lost... Ember actually beat me..."

"Alright, Ember!!" cheered Sunset. "You won! I knew you'd do it!!"

The blue teenager gave her new friend a thumbs-up and told her, "Of course I could; with everything that I had riding on the outcome, there was no way I'd let myself lose that Duel!"

Sunset nodded and told her, "From the moment we met earlier, I knew you had a lot of talent... But I also knew that you had a lot of pressure on you because of your father." Smiling, she then said, "But once you got rid of all of that pressure, there was no stopping you! The most important thing a Duelist needs to know is to never let their fears or worries get the best of them. No matter what stands in your way, you have to face it head-on!"

"You bet I will, Sunset." Ember said with a nod. "I won't back down from anything, no matter what!"

Happy to hear that, the otherworldly girl then told her, "That's good to hear. You've stood up to your own personal demons and overcame them." The two of them looked over towards Torch, who was still shocked after losing the Duel. "Now it's time for your father to overcome his demons as well..." Sunset then added. Ember nodded yes and the two of them walked over towards the large man.

"I... I don't understand...!" Torch said to himself, still a bit in denial from his loss. "I used to be a pro at this game...! I've had far more experience than she does!" Punching the ground in frustration, he then shouted, "So how did I LOSE?!" At that moment, he then saw his daughter and her friend standing in front of him.

"Alright, Dad... we had a deal:" Ember told him in an assertive tone. "Since I won, that means you're not allowed to keep me from dueling anymore. No exceptions."

"Urrrgh... no... no, I can't let you...!" Torch responded, still unable to process everything.

"What?!" shouted Ember. "Why not?! Tell me what the big deal is! Why don't you like it if I duel?!"

Getting up, he then told his daughter, "You... just can't...! You're not ready for the brutal nature of the dueling world!"

"What do you mean 'I'm not ready'?!" argued the blue teen. "I think it's pretty clear that I've got what it takes to do well out there! What are you so concerned about?!"

"I... well, I..." Torch struggled to say why he didn't want his daughter playing Duel Monsters, but something was keeping him from doing that.

"I think I know what's going on here..." Sunset suddenly spoke up. Walking over towards Ember's father, she asked him, "Does your reason for keeping Ember from dueling have anything to do with that Duel at the National Tournament years ago?"

Torch gasped a little. "You...! How did you know about that?!" he asked.

"When Ember left to go to the library," the red-and-yellow girl explained, "she and I looked around on the Internet to find information about your past dueling career. We then found out about the last official tournament Duel you ever played: The only Duel you had ever lost... The one where you played against Luna."

Torch grumbled a bit, not happy about the girl bringing up that bitter memory again.

"I have a feeling that, because of your defeat that day," Sunset continued to tell him, "you decided that you wouldn't allow your daughter to duel... That way what happened to you then wouldn't happen to her."

Ember was a bit surprised to hear that. Her anger towards her father subsiding a little, she calmly asked him, "It's true, isn't it...? You didn't want me to lose badly against someone like you did, is that it?"

With all of it out in the open, Torch knew that he couldn't keep his feelings bottled up anymore. Sighing, he confessed, saying, "It's true... When you told me a long time ago that you wanted to be a Duelist, all I could think about was the day that my dueling career ended. Without even thinking about it, I decided to forbid you from dueling." Sighing again and looking away in shame, he then added, "That way... you wouldn't fail as bad as I did..."

Ember was taken aback by what her father had told her. She now realized that the only reason he was keeping from dueling was because he was trying to protect her from suffering a humiliating defeat, just like he had suffered during that tournament. "I... I had no idea..." she told him. "Why didn't you tell me, Dad? If you had told me this long ago, we might've been able to work things out, or something..."

"I just didn't want you to think less of me, that's all." Torch admitted. "But you're right... We should have talked about it. Then things might not have gone out of hand the way they did..." With a solemn look on his face, he then told his daughter, "Please forgive me, Ember... I'll understand if you don't, but you must know that I'm truly sorry for everything I've put you through regarding the matter."

The blue-skinned girl wasn't really sure what to do. At first, she was angry at her father for preventing her from becoming a Duelist. But now that she knew why he was acting that way, she couldn't seem to get mad at him anymore. Confused, Ember glanced over to Sunset and asked her, "Wh... what do you think I should do...?"

Smiling warmly, the jacket-clad teen told her, "While he may have gone about it all the wrong way, he was only doing it for you because he cares about you, Ember... You can't really blame him for that." Nodding her head, she then said, "If I were in your position, I'd forgive him. He may have done wrong, but his intentions were good. Believe me, it'd be best just hug it out and help each other move on."

Ember thought about what Sunset had told her, and decided that she was right. Turning over to her father, she said to him, "While I'm not into the whole 'hug it out' thing... I agree with everything she said." Trying her best to smile, she added, "You were just looking out for me, and now that I know that, I can't stay mad at you."

Torch was surprised, but pleased to hear that his daughter was willing to forgive and forget. "Thank you, Ember." he said, smiling warmly (possibly for the first time ever). "I just didn't want anything bad to happen to you... With your mother not in the picture anymore and everything, I just, well-"

"Dad, don't worry about it." Ember interrupted. "I just said that I forgave you. Let's just leave it at that."

Torch stopped his sentence short, and the father and daughter each shared a friendly laugh with each about the whole thing. Going back to a serious tone, the man then said to Ember, "During our Duel, I was able to feel just how strongly you wanted to become a Duelist. And I must admit, you managed to bring back that spark - that love for dueling that I thought I had lost so long ago..." Sighing a short sigh, he then told her, "But I was honest when I told you just how tough the Dueling world really is. There are many players out there with more experience and stronger Decks than you might have... Knowing that, are you sure you want to be a part of all that?"

"Of course, Dad." the blue-skinned girl told him without a second thought. "It's been my dream ever since I heard about how great a Duelist you used to be." Looking at her Deck in her D-Pad, she then said, "And I know there's people out there that may be better than I am... But I won't let that stop me! I may lose every now and then, but I'll never give up on becoming a great Duelist!"

Torch was impressed by his daughter's determination, even after he had warned her about all of the powerful Duelists that were out there. He then said to her, "When I had the chance to become a Pro, I foolishly threw it all away... I will only allow you to keep dueling if you can promise me that you won't make the same mistake that I did. Can you do that?"

Ember nodded and said, "I promise that I'll make you proud of me, Dad. As long as I have your support, I'll do my best!" Torch smiled a little, happy to know that his daughter would always give her all, no matter how tough the challenge. Sunset Shimmer, watching the whole time, wiped a tear from her eye at the touching moment before her.

Outside, Sunset was prepared to leave Ember's house for a new destination. As she was getting onto her Duel Runner, she heard a voice calling out her. "HEY!! Sunset!!" The red-and-yellow girl looked up and saw that Ember was running over to her.

"Hey, Ember. What's up?" Sunset asked.

"Just wanted to thank you again for everything you did." the blue teen told her. "I guess it wasn't a bad idea after all to let you help me patch things up with my dad."

"I was just doing what I could to help." the otherworldly girl simply replied. "In any case, I'm glad that you and your father are on good terms with each other again and that he's going to let you become a Duelist for real."

Ember nodded and smiled before asking, "So, where are ya heading now?"

"Not sure, really." Sunset admitted. "I was only just passing by this area, looking for something to do since a tournament in my hometown got cancelled because of a roof leak."

"A tournament? You mean a Duel Monsters Tournament?" asked the blue teenager. Sunset nodded yes to answer her friend's question. "Well, I heard there's one going on here in Bloodstone tomorrow. If you stick around for a bit, you could probably try it."

"Really? Thanks!" Sunset said, grateful to her. "Are you going to join, too?"

"Not yet." Ember answered. "I'm gonna train with my Dad for a little bit before I get into any kind of real competition. But when I do get into it, I'll want a rematch with you. And I can promise you that I won't be as easy to beat next time!"

"I'm counting on it, Ember." the red-and-yellow girl replied, eager to face her again one day.

Pulling out her deck box, Ember then pulled out one of the cards inside and showed it to her new friend. "Here, Sunset." she told her. "Take this card. It's the least I can do for everything you've done for me and my dad. It might help you win the tournament tomorrow."

Taking the card, Sunset gasped and asked, "Is this Tornado Dragon?! I've always wanted one! And you're just giving it to me?" The blue girl nodded yes. "Wow, thank you so much! I'll use it well!" the jacket-wearing teen replied, putting the card safely away in her own deck box.

"Good t' hear." Shaking her friend's hand, Ember smiled and told her, "See ya around, Sunset Shimmer."

"Until we meet again." Sunset replied, also smiling from the new friendship she had forged with Ember. After that, Sunset started up her Runner and drove off. Ember watched on, still smiling and happy to have met such a good person today.

Back in the home of Mrs. K (a.k.a. Kisara), inside of the desk drawer where she had kept her multi-colored blank Number cards, the one with a yellow color in its picture began to glow a light in the shape of Sunset's necklace...

-- To Be Continued...

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