My Little Pony: Friendship is Numerous

by Monty Eggman

First published

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!

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...

Another crossover series, this time combining the worlds of Equestria Girls and the Yu-Gi-Oh! series. The series is basically a retelling of the story of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, from the point of view of the EG cast, taking place between Rainbow Rocks and Friendship Games.

The story follows Sunset Shimmer, who is credited as the strongest Duelist in Canterlot High School. However, her skills are put to the test when she unwittingly releases a dangerous power into her world; a power that alters the egos of those that come into contact with it. Now Sunset has tasked herself with trying to return that power back to where it came from, hopefully before that power creates a real world crisis. She'll need the help of her friends, and the power of her Deck, to see her through the tough battles ahead...

Though the story is based mostly on Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL's story, I have taken a few creative liberties, such as allowing a more heavy use of Synchro and Fusion Monsters in addition to Xyz Monsters (which are still mostly the main focus). Although none of the new Pendulum Monsters (or Link Monsters) will appear, expect to see a few cards from Arc-V (and VRAINS) to pop up.

All Duels shown use the current rules and rulings (excluding Link Summoning) at the time they were written. If you need a more detailed explanation of the game's rules, go to yugioh-card.com to find a digital version of the rulebook, as well as other vital information. With all that said...

IT'S TIME TO DUEL!

Updates whenever I can finish a new Rank, always updating on the last full week of a month.

UPDATE: Rank 50 has been posted!

RANK 1: Friendship is Numerous:

View Online

RANK 1: Friendship is Numerous:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Infinity upon infinity...

There is a theory amongst our greatest minds, that our universe, as expansive as it may be, is not the only one. They believe that there may be an infinite number of other universes out there: Some are slightly different from our own, while others vastly deviate from ours.

As a result, these "alternate realities" may play out similar events differently from another reality. In one such case, in one universe, a great battle between two worlds took place: The war between the Astral World and the Barian World, with Planet Earth as the stage. In this war, one world sought to eliminate the other to increase the power of their own. During the battle, fragments of power from both sides were scattered across Earth, and the two worlds clashed in order to reclaim this power, in the form of the mysterious "Numeron Code". In time, the war ended with the Astral World's victory, and peace was brought to the universe once more.

However, in another universe, the story of this battle took on a slightly different variation; like before, this war would determine the fate of the universe. But how it started and who got involved resulted in a much more different retelling of the tale...

This is the story of a young teenage girl, who is seeking to do good in her life to make up for many past mistakes. On this day, however, a certain event will soon take place that will change the lives of both her and those around her forever...

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Rural area, outside Canterlot City: Time 12:54 p.m.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was a bright and sunny Sunday; a perfect time for people to spend the day outside. For many, including the residents of the bustling city of Canterlot, that day would be spent outside of the metropolis, at the large-scale flea market that was open to the public every weekend. Many people attended the flea market - either as merchants selling their wares, or as customers checking out all of the various goods. All in all, it saw a lot of business each week, and everybody left the market with content smiles upon their faces.

In the parking lot, a pair of vehicles pulled into two parking spaces beside each other. One of the vehicles was a large, red pickup truck. There was a bit of caked-on mud along the bottom of the truck, which suggested that it was often used for various forms of work as well as for transportation. The other vehicle was a bright pink Volkswagon Beetle, which was heavily decorated with all sorts of fun-looking stickers. On either side of the vehicle, the word "PARTYMOBILE" was painted in many bright colors. On the back bumper, there was a bumper sticker that read, "Honk if you like parties".

The passenger side door of the red truck opened first, and out of the vehicle stepped a young teenage girl. She had yellow skin, swirly red and yellow hair, and aqua green-colored eyes. She wore a black leather jacket overtop of a purple shirt with a picture of a red and yellow sun on it, an orange skirt with yellow and purple stripes, and a pair of long, black boots, each with a purple flame pattern on them.

The driver's side door of the truck opened next, and another teenage girl stepped out of the vehicle. She had orange-colored skin, with yellow freckles under her bright green eyes. She had long blond hair tied up into a ponytail underneath her brown cowgirl hat. She wore a white shirt with green towards the top of it, a blue jean skirt held up with a brown belt with an apple-shaped buckle, and a pair of brown cowgirl boots that each had a picture of three apples on them, arranged together in a triangular pattern.

The orange-skinned girl wiped some sweat from her forehead after leaving the pickup truck. "Whoo-ee, it sure is hot today!" she said, commenting on the sunny weather. Looking over towards the yellow-skinned girl, she asked her, "How come you ain't gettin' warm from wearin' that black jacket, Sunset Shimmer?"

"Not sure, to be honest." the yellow girl answered. "I've had this outfit since I first came here, so I guess I've just gotten used to it..." The girl's name was Sunset Shimmer, and although she appeared to be an ordinary person, she had a secret known only to her and her close friends: She was actually from another universe entirely, a world that was populated by ponies. Long ago, she had used a magic mirror to travel from her world to this one, and had been living here ever since.

Sunset glanced over at the bright pink vehicle next to the truck and stated, "I guess everyone else decided to carpool with Pinkie Pie..." She then asked the orange-skinned girl, "Is it just me, Applejack, or does she seem to have more decorative stickers on her car every day?"

"It ain't just you, Sunset." the girl named Applejack replied. "Ah've noticed that too. What Ah'm really wonderin' is where she keeps gettin' more stickers; Ah'm startin' t' think that she must have a whole garage full of those things..."

"Wow! How'd you know about my secret sticker garage?" asked a bubbly, cheery voice. "I've never told anyone about it!" The voice had come from a grinning, pink-skinned girl that had come out from the driver's side of the pink car. She had poofy hair that was colored in a darker pink color, and had bright, baby-blue eyes.

She wore a dress that was white on the top and magenta on the bottom; the top of the dress had a pink heart shape printed upon it, while the skirt portion had a picture of three balloons (two blue and one yellow). The dress was held together with a purple band around the waist, and overtop of it, the girl wore a small blue shirt. The rest of the ensemble consisted of two blue bracelets and a pair of blue boots, the latter of which were tied with a pink ribbon on each.

"Wait, you actually have a garage with nothin' but stickers in it?" asked Applejack. The pink girl vigorously nodded yes to answer her. "So then..." the orange girl then inquired, "where do y'all put your car?"

The pink girl giggled and replied, "Where else? The garage!"

"So wait: You have more than one?"

"Nope. Just the one."

Applejack was about to ask another question regarding how she could possibly fit a car in a garage that was supposedly completely filled with decal stickers. But in the end, she just sighed and decided not to try and inquire her about it any further.

Sunset chuckled a bit at the conversation between the two before saying to the pink girl, "Hey, Pinkie Pie... I see you're just as silly as you were yesterday."

"Really?? Only JUST as silly as yesterday?" asked Pinkie, a bit disappointed. "Aww...and after I try my darndest to be sillier every day!"

"Um, I didn't mean it like that..." the yellow girl told her. "I'm...I'm sure you'll find a way to top yourself sometime today." The pink girl smiled, happy to hear that. Just after Sunset made that comment, the other three occupants of the pink car stepped out onto the pavement of the parking lot.

The first one, coming out of the front passenger's side door, was a girl with pure white skin and dark blue eyes, topped with blue eye shadow and large eyelashes. She had long, swirly hair that was violet in color with a jeweled barrette on top. Her dress was light blue on top, and the skirt was of a similar violet color to her hair with a picture of three, four-sided diamonds printed upon it. The dress was held together with a purple belt with a blue buckle, she wore a pair of gold bracelets on her wrists, and she wore a pair of purple boots, each one emblazoned with a shiny, blue gem on the top.

The second one, coming from the driver's side back door, was a cyan-skinned girl with magenta-colored eyes, and scruffy, rainbow-colored hair. She wore a white shirt with a rainbow-colored lightning bolt printed upon it, with a cobalt blue shirt overtop of it. She had on a pink skirt with white stripes (with black shorts worn underneath), two rainbow-colored wristbands on her wrists, and large blue shoes that seemed to be a cross between boots and sneakers, based on their appearance.

The last of the passengers from Pinkie's car came out from the other back door. She also had yellow skin, but it was slightly lighter in color compared to Sunset Shimmer. She had bluish-green colored eyes with pale pink eye shadow, and long, elegant-looking pink hair with a butterfly-shaped barrette worn off to the side. Her sleeveless dress was white on the top, while the skirt portion was colored a light green with pink and white frills on the bottom of it and a picture of three butterflies printed on the front. Her boots were also colored green, with white soles on the bottom, and white frills at the top. She also had on a pair of pink socks with white polka-dots.

The violet-haired girl looked up towards the sky while shielding her eyes from the bright sun above. "Oh dear...it certainly is warm today..." she commented. "Had I known that, I might have dressed a bit lighter." She then reached into a purple purse that she was carrying with her, pulled out a pair of pink sunglasses with pink lenses, and put them on her face. "There...that's a little better..."

"Rarity's right," said the rainbow-haired girl next, waving her hand in front of her face in an attempt to cool herself down, "it is pretty hot today; I'm already startin' to sweat." She then asked the pink-skinned girl, "Hey, Pinkie! You wouldn't happen to have-"

"Refreshments?" Pinkie Pie interrupted, finishing her friend's question. "Of course I do, Rainbow Dash!" She then unlocked the back trunk of her car, opening it to reveal a large cooler inside. Pinkie then opened the cooler, inside of which were all sorts of different kinds of drinks in plastic bottles. Pulling out a bottle of spring water, she then said, "Here ya go, Dashie! Think fast!"

The pink girl tossed the beverage over to Rainbow Dash, who smirked as she easily caught it in mid-air. "Thanks, Pinkie." she told her, popping the top off of the bottle and gulping down some of the water inside.

"Mineral water for me, if you don't mind." Rarity requested.

"Alrighty-righty, Rarity!" Pinkie responded, getting out the drink that the violet-haired girl wanted. After that, the pink girl gave the rest of her friends the drinks they wanted, with Applejack getting a bottle of apple juice, the pale yellow girl having some fruit punch, and after that came a pair of Colta-Cola cans: One for Sunset and one for herself.

"Alrighty then...if we're all ready, then let's get a move on before all the good stuff's taken." Applejack then suggested. The other five girls nodded and followed her to the entrance to the flea market.

The six teenagers strolled through the gigantic open market, taking in all of the sights and sounds. People from all over the city and the suburbs had come to get the best deals on all sorts of different things, and there were many booths set up, each one selling unique wares. There was so much going on, it was almost impossible to see it all in just one day. "So, where should we go first?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Not really sure." Applejack responded. "But whatever we do, we can't dilly-dally fer too long. We need to get to the main buildin' by 2 o' clock fer the big Farmer's Auction. Ah heard there's gonna be all sorts of neat antique farmin' equipment up fer grabs, and Ah don't wanna miss mah chance at gettin' some!"

"Don't worry, we'll make it on time." Rainbow assured her. "We all know how much your family likes collectin' old farm stuff." She then said, "Until then, if anybody needs me, I'll be lookin' around for some new sports equipment. Later!" The cyan-skinned girl then sped off to do some browsing of her own.

Applejack then asked Rarity, "What about you, Rare? What'll you be doin' fer the next hour or so?"

"I think I'll see if the big clothing booth has anything interesting to purchase this week." the white-skinned girl replied. "I could always use a new dress or something to change my style every now and then..."

"I think that stand is right next to the pet supplies booth..." the pale yellow girl then chimed in, speaking in a very quiet tone of voice. "I need to go and see if there's anything I can get for the animal shelter... Perhaps I could come over there with you...if that's okay with you, that is..."

"Of course it's alright, Fluttershy." Rarity told her. "Let's go right away." As they walked, the violet-haired girl then added, "If I could make a suggestion, perhaps you could get something to pacify those hamsters of yours so that they don't go crazy again..."

"Now, now...they were just being playful." Fluttershy informed her. "They didn't mean to upset you..."

After the two of them left, Applejack then turned over towards Sunset and Pinkie, saying to them, "Looks like it'll be just the three of us fer a while, huh?"

"Seems like it." Sunset replied. She then asked, "So what should we do first?"

"Ooooh! Ooooh! I know!!" shouted Pinkie excitedly. "Why don't we go and see if we can finally find something at the market that Sunnie might like?"

"Uh..." was all that the red and yellow-haired girl could utter.

"That sounds like a mighty fine idea t' me, Pinkie!" stated the orange girl.

"Um...do we really have to?" asked Sunset, not sure why they decided to focus on her right now.

"Well...it's just that Ah couldn't help but notice that y'all come with us to the flea market every week, but y'all never get anythin'." Applejack noted. "Now Ah know you don't exactly have a place of yer own right now, but it still seems kinda weird... Not t' offend or nothin', mind you. It's just that Ah would think you'd have at least some cash saved up by now..."

"Don't worry about it. I understand what you're saying." Sunset told her. "Money's not the issue here, really..." She then went on to say, "The truth is, I'm just saving up for something really special, that's all."

"Special how?" asked Pinkie curiously.

"Well," Sunset began to explain. "When I first came here...I was quite possibly the worst kind of person imaginable. I hurt a lot of people, especially you guys..." Letting out a sigh, she then told them, "But thanks to all of you - and Twilight of course, the old Sunset Shimmer is gone and she's never coming back. I've become a much better person on the inside, and for the first time in quite a while...I'm finally happy. You guys have done so much for me, despite what I did to all of you and others, and I want you to know that I truly appreciate it..."

"It was our pleasure, Sunset." Applejack responded with a smile.

The yellow-skinned girl then added, "So, because of that, I wanted to find some sort of memento; something to symbolize my fresh start in life. Something that will remind me every day to be the good person that I should be and want to be."

Pinkie sniffled a little upon hearing those words. "That's so beautiful..." she replied. "Up to now, I never thought that I could cry and be happy at the same time."

Applejack was also happy to hear what Sunset had told them both. "That was well said, Sunset... Ah'm happy to know that you believe that and are doin' your best to be a better person." The country girl then told her, "And after hearin' all that, Ah'd be honored t' help y'all find that special somethin' that yer lookin' for!"

"Me too!!" chimed Pinkie.

Sunset smiled and told them, "Thanks, girls. That means a whole lot to me." Putting on a look of determination, she then declared, "In that case, let's go and see if we can find that thing today!"

"Yeah! Let's go!" Applejack and Pinkie Pie shouted in unison. With that, the trio then began strolling around the various stands to try and help Sunset find the special thing she was looking for.

Several minutes passed by since then; it was nearly quarter to two, meaning that there were only fifteen minutes left until the Farmer's Auction that Applejack wanted to get to was scheduled to start. Unfortunately, the trio didn't have much luck finding that special something that Sunset wanted.

"Oooooh! What about that, Sunnie?" asked Pinkie Pie, pointing to a fancy-looking dress that was being sold by a light-peach colored woman with light-blue hair.

"...Nah, I already thought about getting a new look." Sunset told her. "I was actually thinking about going with something that was light-blue in color, as a matter of fact."

"Well, y'all can't go wrong with a cute li'l plush toy." suggested Applejack, picking up a small stuffed animal that just so happened to be a pony with a yellow coat. "How 'bout this one?" she then asked.

"Uh, that's okay... I think I'll pass." the yellow girl told her. "No offense, but the ponies in your world look kinda weird." She then chuckled and added, "But then again, I guess you'd say the same to me if you saw any of the ones from where I came from." Applejack chuckled back as she put the stuffed toy away.

Pinkie sighed a little and told her friends, "That's just about all the booths here...and we still didn't find anything superly-special for Sunset yet!" Frowning a little, she said to the yellow girl, "Sorry we couldn't help you out..."

"Aw, don't get too bummed out, Pinkie." Sunset told her, patting her on the shoulder. "Maybe we can try again next week."

Suddenly the three of them heard a deep-sounding female voice from nearby. "If something special is what you all seek, then why not come here and take a peek?" the voice said to them.

The three of them looked around, trying to figure out where the voice came from. "Uh, who said that?" asked Applejack.

"Over there!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, pointing over to another booth.

The others looked in the direction that their pink friend was pointing in. There, they saw a stand that sold some rather... unique items. The objects on display consisted of many strange, ancient-looking artifacts that appeared to have been gathered from all over the world.

The woman in charge of the stand was also quite unique herself: Her skin color was mostly light grey, with several dark grey stripes and blotches dotted all over her. Her black-and-white hair was done up into a stylish mohawk, with some hair draped behind her head. She had cobalt-blue eyes, and wore what appeared to be a dress made out of animal skin (or at least it looked as though it was made out of it), colored in tan and dark green stripes, held together with a belt that had a swirly spiral design on the buckle. Her footwear was of a similar color to her dress, meaning that it was likely made from the same material. The woman also wore several bracelets on each of her wrists, large earrings on her ears, and several gold bands around her neck.

"Who's that?" asked Sunset Shimmer, having never seen this woman before.

Applejack looked at the woman closely and finally recognized her. "Hold up...Ah know who she is!" she exclaimed. She then asked the woman, "Ain't you Zecora, the woman who runs the curio shop in town?"

The woman nodded yes and told the country girl, "Your words, they are indeed true; selling unique artifacts is what I love to do."

"Unique artifacts, huh...?" Sunset Shimmer said to herself as she looked at all of the different items that Zecora had for sale. Needless to say, the collection was quite impressive. "Wow...these all look so neat! Where'd you find them all?" she then asked the woman.

"It is my life's work, to travel far and wide," Zecora began, "to look for items that others would buy. Once every year, I go on a trip; by plane, or train, or even ship. Once I arrive, I look around...to search for things that have never been found."

"Really?" asked Sunset, becoming interested.

"Yep!" Pinkie chimed in. "Every time Zecora returns from one of her big, long trips, she comes back with all sortsa superly-duperly neat stuff! Rarity thinks some of it is creepy, but I think it all looks so COOL!!"

"Wow...that must be a really exciting life for you, Zecora." the yellow girl then told the worldly woman. "Y'know, to be able to see all sorts of neat places, people, and things. It sounds like something somepo-er, somebody would really enjoy."

"I must admit, I have no regret." Zecora said with a nod, She then asked them, "So, now that the introductions are out of the way, tell me: How can I help you three today?"

"Well, Sunset here's tryin' to find somethin' real special fer herself, and we're helpin' her look for it." Applejack replied. "Y'all think one of them li'l trinkets might be what she's lookin' for?"

"It's quite possible, so please look around. I promise you won't leave here with a frown." stated the woman.

The three of them scanned her table and looked at all of the unique objects on display. The items included jewelry, pots and statues made from mud and/or clay, and even some clothing that had a tribal-like appearance to them. The trio looked around, but nothing seemed to really catch their eye.

Then, all of a sudden, Sunset noticed one item on the table that immediately got her undivided attention. "What's this?" she asked as she picked the small object up. The item was an arrowhead-shaped piece of gold with a very pointy end on the bottom. The object was shaped like an arrowhead, but it didn't have the typical appearance of one; there were small gaps on either side of the item after the pointed end, preceding a small bar above it. A second set of gaps was in between that bar and a second bar that was put all the way on the top. The pointed part contained long creases on the front and back, along the very tip and on all the connecting bars. The top of the item was adorned with an aqua green jewel and a small, diamond-shaped piece connected to that.

"Wow...lookit that..." said Applejack as Sunset Shimmer held the item between her thumb and index finger.

"It's so pretty..." commented Pinkie Pie, eyes sparkling. "If Rarity were here, she'd so totally say that the jewel matches your eyes perfectly!"

"I have to say, it DOES look pretty nice..." the yellow girl commented. She then asked Zecora, "Where'd you find this thing?"

The woman hummed a bit to herself before telling her, "It is quite bizarre, even I must say... Its origins I haven't found to this day..."

"Wait, yer tellin' us that even YOU don't know where this came from, Zecora?" the orange-skinned girl asked in surprise.

"I tell you the truth; I never lie." the woman answered. "I spotted it as I walked by. It was high up in the mountains, far from any city... And let me say, the trek there was quite nippy." Zecora shivered a bit, just thinking about her travel up in such a cold region.

"So you found it in the mountains?" asked Sunset. "And you don't think it came from there?"

"Oh, no, no, no...I don't think so." Zecora replied. "No person could survive and live in such a harsh place... I was there for mere moments when I thought frostbite covered my face... Someone must have dropped it; who, I am not sure. But I knew it was special, so I pocketed it, nothing more."

"Woah..." Applejack then glanced over at Sunset Shimmer, who was still looking at the mysterious object, and told her, "Ah've got a bad feeling 'bout this, Sunset... Ah mean, y'all heard Zecora; even SHE don't know where that doohickey came from... Perhaps we oughtta just keep lookin' and find somethin' else for ya."

"I don't know... I'm not getting that kind of feeling from this thing." the yellow girl informed her friend. "To be honest, I think it looks really neat, and that's not just because of its appearance. It's like Zecora told us: she thought that it was really special...and, quite frankly, so do I." Looking at it some more, she then added, "Y'know...looking at it a bit closer, it kinda looks like...a key, doesn't it?"

"Ah guess it does..." Applejack commented.

"Maybe that's what it could mean to me...a key: A key that opens the door to a new and brighter future for me..." Sunset then told them all.

"Yeah, and maybe it could be like, REALLY super-huge and covered with big, long chains and a face with BIG sharp teeth and glowing eyes- OOOH! And maybe it could even talk, too!!" Pinkie Pie said with massive amounts of enthusiasm.

The others just gave their hyper pink friend an odd look, not sure how else to respond to that. Sunset Shimmer then cleared her throat and asked Zecora, "Anyway...how much? For this item?"

"I am pleased to hear how much that item means to you." the black-and-white woman responded. "So here is what I think that I shall do: I believe it is destiny that you would find this here, so I will sell it for half price, my fellow peer."

"Wow! Thanks, Zecora!" said the yellow girl happily. She then pulled a wallet from out of a red purse that she was carrying with her, took out some money, and handed it to Zecora in exchange for the key-shaped item. Although Sunset Shimmer did not have a place of her own, she was able to land a part-time job to help support herself.

Zecora nodded and told them, "Come again... And tell your friends!"

After taking the object, Sunset then asked, "Hey, Pinkie...can you lend me a piece of string from your string collection?"

"Sure!" the pink girl replied, reaching into her poofy hair and pulling out a long, thick, black string. "Here you go!" Sunset thanked her friend as she took the string.

It was about five minutes before the Farmer's Auction, and people were already making their way inside the building where it was being held. Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy were already inside, sitting down and waiting for the rest of their group. "So, um...what did you get, Rainbow Dash, if you don't mind me asking...?" asked the pale-yellow girl shyly.

"I got some great golf supplies for practically nothin'!" said the cyan girl, showing off a large golf bag full of clubs, irons, and other various items such as tees and golf balls.

"Golfing?" asked Rarity, curiously. "I never would have pegged you to be interested in golf, Rainbow Dash."

"Well, since I pretty much excel in most other sports already, I figured I'd give this a try." the rainbow-haired girl told them. "How hard could it be?" She then asked them, "What about you? What did you guys find?"

"Well, I've found this lovely new ensemble for quite a low price." Rarity answered first, showing off a pink and white dress, along with several jewel-encrusted bracelets and a necklace. "I cannot wait to try this one on when I get home!"

"And I found some fun new pet toys for the animal shelter." Fluttershy then chimed in. "I even found some new laser pointers as well! Oh, the kitty-cats just love playing with those things! I just loving making all my animal friends happy until they get adopted..."

"Speakin' of friends," Rainbow then spoke up, "where's Sunset and the others? They were supposed t' meet us here."

"We're right here." said Sunset's voice from right next to them as she, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack finally came in and sat down next to the others. Almost immediately, they began to take notice of the red and yellow-haired girl's recent purchase.

"Wow, did you just get that necklace, Sunset?" asked Rainbow Dash, pointing to the item that was around her friend's neck. Sunset had taken the key-shaped trinket that she had purchased from Zecora's booth and turned it into a necklace, using the string she borrowed from Pinkie Pie.

"Yep. I got it about a minute or two ago." stated the yellow-skinned girl. "What do you think?"

"I think it looks absolutely darling on you!" Rarity complimented her. "That jewel at the top matches your eyes just perfectly!"

"Didja hear that?!" Pinkie spoke up. "I totally called it!!"

"Where did you find it, Sunset?" asked Fluttershy.

"We found it at this stand run by Zecora." the red and yellow-haired girl answered. "She sold it to me for half price, saying something about it being meant for me..."

"She probably said that so you'd buy it from her..." Rainbow stated.

"Well, I think looks very nice on you, Sunset." Fluttershy told her. Sunset Shimmer smiled upon hearing that from her.

"Okay, let's quiet it down a bit, gals; the auction's 'bout t' start." Applejack informed them all. The other five girls got the message and stayed silent so that Applejack could pay attention to the auction, which was ready to get rolling almost immediately.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Later that night, some time after their trip to the flea market, Applejack was getting ready to go to bed. She took a quick shower, brushed her teeth, and changed into some lime-green pajamas. After she was done, Sunset Shimmer then entered the bathroom next to do the same, changing into some fuchsia-colored pajamas after she was finished. Normally, the yellow-skinned girl took up residence at a homeless shelter (after all, she wasn't from this world, so she didn't actually have a home for herself), but she and her friends had worked out a deal that, every Sunday night, as well as any night that preceded a major holiday, Sunset would sleep over at a friend's house instead.

Tonight, Sunset Shimmer decided to spend the night at Applejack's. She enjoyed spending time with the orange-skinned girl's family - which included Apple Bloom, Applejack's younger sister, Granny Smith, the grandmother who also worked at Canterlot High School as a lunch lady, and Big Macintosh, the older brother. Some of the things she did with them included playing games with Apple Bloom, talking with the older members of the family, and of course, sitting down for a hearty and healthy family dinner.

In the normally-empty guest bedroom, Sunset Shimmer was sitting on the bed while looking through the few belongings that she had brought with her from the homeless shelter. Among those things was a small, red plastic box. She opened it and pulled out a small deck of cards, with each one having a swirly, vortex-like, brown design on the back. She looked through each of them, humming to herself at the same time.

Just then, Applejack knocked on the door before asking, "Hey, Sunset! Are y'all still awake?"

"Yeah, I am." she answered. "Come on in."

The door then opened and the freckled farm girl strolled inside, carrying an extra blanket. "Here's the blanket y'all wanted me t' get." she told the yellow-skinned girl, setting it down on the floor. Noticing that the gold key was still around her friend's neck, she then asked, "Uh, you're still wearin' that thing?"

"Yeah, I didn't bother to take it off yet." Sunset replied. "In fact, I might just leave it on all night, so I don't forget to take it with me when I leave."

"Suit yourself." Applejack said to her, shrugging. She then walked to the bed and glanced over at what Sunset was doing. "Ain't those your Duel Monsters cards?"

"Just some of them." answered the yellow girl. "The rest are safe in my storage space at the shelter; I decided to bring my Deck with me to look over before I went to sleep for good tonight."

"Ah see..." hummed the farm girl.

"I still remember how you and the others got me into it." Sunset Shimmer told her. "I still remember that day... It was on the night of my-" Sunset then coughed a little. "...my little temper-tantrum, shall we call it?"

"Well, Ah wouldn't call it, 'little', but sure." Applejack commented. The "temper-tantrum" that she was referring to was when Sunset, in a moment of pure rage, had actually transformed herself into a terrifying, demon-like creature using Twilight Sparkle's magic crown. She had done some damage to the school, but after she was turned back to normal, she was forced to fix everything she had wrecked.

The yellow girl chuckled awkwardly a bit before continuing. "Anyway, after I had to fix up the front entrance to the school, I was pretty exhausted... And it was really late by the time me, Snips, and Snails were finished. Then, as I slowly walked downtown to get to the shelter, I passed by Sugarcube Corner... And that's when Pinkie Pie invited me to come inside to see all of you."

"Yeah, Ah remember that." stated the orange girl. "Pinkie spent almost the whole night putting together her...'Turning-the-Meanest-Girl-in-School-into-a-New-Friend Party'... Ah think I got that all right." Applejack then added, "Ah still remember how awkward it was after you showed up... None of us really knew what t' do with somebody that had practically ruled the school with an iron fist..."

"Yeah...we were all just sitting there, staring and saying nothing for about five minutes." Sunset stated. "I remember that, for a while, the only sounds we could hear were the long, sucking sounds we were making from drinking our shakes." Holding up her cards again, she then added, "Good thing Pinkie decided to break the ice when she got out her card collection to show me."

"Ah'm still not sure how she managed to fit forty-seven binders in her backpack like that..." the farm girl commented.

Sunset then continued, saying, "She showed me all of the different cards that she had collected, and even taught me about the card game. After that, she helped me build my first Deck, and we all played a couple of rounds with each other. It took me a while, but after a couple of games, I finally got the hang of it... I even managed to beat all of you eventually."

"Yeah, y'all sure picked up on it quite fast, Sunset." complimented Applejack. "Ah also remember that it was the first time Ah saw ya havin' such a pleasant smile on your face."

"Yeah, I know... I remember that we were all having such a good time that night, that - for a brief moment, I had forgotten about what had happened earlier." the yellow girl informed her friend. "Up until then, I never thought that I'd ever want to make any friends... But you were all willing to give me a chance and help me to be a better person." Looking at her Deck again, she added, "Who would've thought that it would all start with something as simple as a friendly card game?"

Applejack chuckled a bit. "Ah know what ya mean." she told her friend. "Ah sure didn't see it comin' either. But when ya think about it, when you're tryin' to make a new friend it helps to start with somethin' small and work your way up from there."

"I suppose that makes sense." Sunset said as she put her cards away and picked up the blanket that Applejack had brought with her. "Well, it's getting late... We'd better get to sleep so that we can get up early for school."

"Yeah, good idea." the farm girl agreed, heading for the door. "G'night Sunset."

"Good night, Applejack." After the orange girl left the room, Sunset gave out a deep yawn as she pulled the blankets over her body and switched off the small light sitting on the small table next to her. She then closed her eyes and fell asleep...

About two hours later, though it seemed like an instant to her, Sunset Shimmer's eyes opened wide, but when she looked around, she saw that she wasn't in the guest bedroom of Applejack's house anymore. She appeared to be standing on a large cliff, with a long, narrow path that extended out from it, zigzagging ahead into a dark, cloudy haze.

(Where...where am I?) she asked herself in her head. Looking down, she noticed something else strange. "Wha-what am I wearing?!" she asked when she looked at the outfit that she was now donning: They appeared to be some sort of ceremonial robes from an ancient society - all white in color, with a long cloth draped over the front of the skirt that had an emblem printed upon it. Sunset was surprised to find that the emblem looked just like the item that she had bought from Zecora, which she was still wearing around her neck.

"What's going on here??" she then asked. "What is this place?" She looked around, glancing at all of the emptiness around her.

"...Come...come..."

Sunset's head jerked forward when she heard a strange voice ahead of her. "Who said that??" she asked, getting a bit worried. "Who's there?!"

"...Come...come..."

The voice just continued to speak to her, and Sunset figured out that if she was going to find the source of the voice, she'd have to go and see it for herself. Still not sure if she was making the right decision, Sunset Shimmer carefully walked along the narrow path, following the voice into the dark fog ahead of her. When she got to the end of the path, she looked up and gave out a slightly terrified gasp...

Right there in front of her, there was a giant double-door gate that seemed to be taller than any skyscraper in Canterlot City. Large chains wrapped tightly around the doors, and an eerie, evil-looking face was emblazoned upon it, having glowing yellow eyes and one large mouth with many, many sharp teeth in it. On the center of the gate was a small hole, which had been put on the top of the door face's mouth.

"Sweet Celestia..." said the young teenager, mouth agape. Noticing the way the door looked, she then asked herself, "How does Pinkie guess these things right on the dot...?"

"You have finally come, I see..." said the low, booming voice, which appeared to either be coming from behind the door...or possibly from the door itself. "I have been waiting for you... You who holds the Emperor's Key..."

"Emperor's Key...?" asked Sunset. Holding up the trinket she was wearing, she then inquired, "You mean this thing?"

"Yes..." the voice replied. "I have waited long for this day to come... The day that I am opened at last..."

"Woah, hold on a sec... You expect me to OPEN you?" asked the girl. "Sorry, buddy...but whenever I see large doors with big demon faces on them, I tend to stay as far away from them as possible."

"Then listen to this..." the door told her. "I happen to know what it is that you desire the most..."

"What I...desire most?" asked Sunset. "What do you mean?"

"I know many things that you wish to have..." the voice answered her. "And I can grant you those wishes... All you have to do is open me with the key around your neck..."

"Are...are you telling the truth?" asked the girl.

But the voice did not answer the question and simply told her, "Come... Open the door... Do it, and you'll gain new strength... However, you'll lose what you hold most important...!"

Sunset wasn't sure what it meant by that. "New strength...?" she asked herself. "Lose what I hold most important...?" She then chuckled weakly and thought, (Okay...now I KNOW I'm dreaming... I get it now; I probably have to open the door in order to wake up. The only thing I'll probably lose is a little sleep, that's all... At least, I hope that's the case...) Sunset then said to herself, "Well...I guess I don't have much of a choice... Dream or not, I'll probably never wake up unless I do this..."

The yellow girl then walked towards the door as it told her, "Do it... Open the door...and fulfill your destiny!"

Sunset took the necklace off and put it into her right hand. She then pulled back her arm and said to herself, "I really hope that I'm not doing something stupid right now..." Without wasting another moment, she thrust her hand forward and shoved the key into the hole in the door. Once she did, a bright light shot out of the hole as the chains around the door disintegrated.

Sunset trembled as she took her arm out of the giant keyhole and watched the double doors slowly open. As they did, an even more intense light began to emerge out from behind the gate. Before long, the area around the girl was bathed in the most powerful flash of light she had ever seen...if she COULD see anything at the moment. It was so bright, that it was impossible to make out anything in front of her.

Luckily, the light faded away as quickly as it came, and Sunset was able to open her eyes. When she did, she saw that she was now wearing her normal outfit instead of the strange robes she had on earlier. But that wasn't the strangest thing she saw: Sunset looked around herself and saw several small, square-shaped lights surrounding her in a large sphere. "What are these things...?" she asked. "There's so many... There must be about a hundred of them...!" She then reached up to touch them, but before she could make contact, all the light squares suddenly flew away from her, disappearing into the black void that she was floating in.

"Huh?? What just happened?!" she then asked, trembling a little. "What's going on?!? Someone explain what the hay's going on here...!!!!" she yelled, eyes closed tightly and her fists clenched.

Sunset Shimmer then opened her eyes again and gasped; she was now sitting upright, on a bed in a guest bedroom. She then realized that she was now back in Applejack's house. (Huh...? What happened...?) she asked herself. Looking around, she could see that she was indeed in the bedroom that she was staying in tonight. The area around her was quiet, with only the chirping of the nighttime crickets outside providing any sort of sound at all.

Holding her head, she then thought, (Woah. That...was WEIRD.) Turning the small lamp back on, she then added to her soliloquy, thinking, (What kind of whacko dream was that...? Maybe it was from the jumbo-size strawberry milkshake that Pinkie got for me at the flea market...) Just then, a small blinking light was caught by the corner of her eye. "Huh?" she asked out-loud, looking over towards the source of the sudden light.

The light was coming from the top of a small-sized antique writing desk. Sunset Shimmer walked over to the desk to see what it was. She then saw that the object was rectangular-shaped, but that wasn't all; the object seemed to be a card: A Duel Monsters card, based on the back design. But when the girl picked it up, she saw something peculiar about it...

"Huh? What the... This card's blank...!" she noted, looking at the image-less card she was holding in her right hand. "There's nothing on it... Why is that??"

Just then, a shadowy mist appeared around the blank card, which then surrounded Sunset Shimmer. When that happened, she began to feel very strangely. "Urk! Wh-what's going on...?!" she asked in distress. "My head...it hurts...!"

A voice, similar to the one that came from the door in her dream, began to speak to her in a menacing tone...

"Yes, Sunset Shimmer... Yes... Let the Number take hold..."

The girl heard the voice, but the sudden pain in her head kept her from thinking too much about it. "Who...who was that...? Where did it come from...?!" As she strained, a bizarre mark began flashing on the back of her right hand, which somewhat resembled the number 33.

The voice then spoke again, repeating, "Yes... Let the Number take hold..."

"Who is that...?!" she asked as she groaned. "What are you talking about?! Get outta my head...! Get outta my head!!"

After that last scream of hers, the necklace around her neck began to glow. As the glow began to get brighter, the mark that was appearing on her hand began fading away until it was gone completely. After that, the shadowy cloud went away as well, as did the intense migraine that Sunset had gotten. In but a few seconds, the bizarre phenomenon was over.

Sunset Shimmer began breathing heavier than ever, trying her best to recover from what had just happened...as well as trying to actually figure out what happened. "...What was THAT all about...?" she asked herself, completely perplexed. She then glanced at the card she had picked up earlier, and saw something that shocked her: There was now an image printed upon what was once a blank card. The card now had a black-colored frame, and its picture showed what appeared to be a floating fortress.

"Huh?? I could've sworn that this card was completely blank when I first saw it..." Sunset noted to herself. "Where did this picture come from?" She then read the name of the card, which was printed at the very top, above the artwork. "Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech..." she uttered. "Never heard of it..."

Just then, the girl could hear a knock on her door. "Sunset? Hey, Sunset!" shouted Applejack's voice. "Is everything okay in there?"

Upon hearing her friend's voice, she then said, "Uh, yeah! Everything's okay...!" As she did, Sunset quickly went to her backpack and grabbed her red deck box, opening it and putting away the card that she was holding inside of it.

"Are ya sure...?" asked Applejack. "Not t' pry, but Ah could've sworn I heard screamin' in there."

"Oh...uh...I...I had a bad dream, that's all!" she told her. "Nothing major...!"

For a moment, no one said anything. Then, the orange-skinned girl said, "Okay then...just wanted t' make sure y'all were okay, that's all... G'night, then."

"Uh, yeah... Good night, AJ." Sunset replied. As she climbed back into her bed, she continued to think about her bizarre dream, as well as the equally bizarre card that she had found... As Sunset Shimmer laid her head down on her pillow, something told her that this was only the beginning...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The next day came and progressed just like any other day: Sunset Shimmer and her closest friends made their way down the streets to get to Canterlot High School to attend another day of classes. As Sunset strolled down the hallways of the school, people took notice of her new piece of jewelry, complimenting the yellow-skinned girl on how nice it looked on her. Sunset appreciated the comments; it was definitely a nice change from what she had gotten from people several months ago, when the only looks she got were looks of pure contempt.

The day progressed normally for Sunset as she attended her classes for the day. This included Science class, where Applejack helped her to grow a beautiful flower using a special growth serum, and Home Economics - where today, a substitute teacher had to fill in for the day, and the substitute just so happened to be Pinkie Pie's mother. To this day, Sunset, along with her other friends, were unsure as to how Pinkie could have possibly come from a family like that, as Pinkie's mother - along with the rest of the family, were so very different from the hyper pink girl.

The school day eventually came to a close, and Sunset was just finishing up with Gym Class, the last class she had for the day. After a thorough shower, she changed back into her normal outfit and draped her new necklace around her neck after she was finished. She then sat down on the seat in front of her gym locker and reached into her purse, out of which she pulled her red deck box. She opened it and pulled out one of the cards inside: It was the card she found last night, the one that had previously been blank, but now had a picture upon it.

Taking a closer look at the card, Sunset Shimmer saw that all of the text was written in a bizarre language. She had remembered that, back when she was still the personal student of Princess Celestia in her own world, she had studied all sorts of different languages, many from lost civilizations. But the thing she found odd was that, although she had never seen such a language like the one that was on the card in her life, she could read it as if it were written in plain English.

"What's the deal with this card...?" she asked herself. "I know I've never seen writing like this before, but somehow, I can read it perfectly..." She then flashed back in her mind the events of last night, when she first found the card. "And what was up with that weird headache I got after I picked it up? It felt as if someone...or something, was trying to get into my head for some reason..." Looking at herself, she then added, "But...I don't think anything bad happened to me; I still feel like myself, both inside and out..." She then thought to herself, asking, (I wonder what my friends would say if I told them about it...? I'm not sure if-)

But Sunset's thoughts were interrupted when she heard the sound of the locker room door opening. She quickly hid the strange card back in her deck box and put everything back in her purse, moments before she saw her friends walk inside to see her. "Hey, Sunnie! Hey Sunnie!!" cheered Pinkie Pie, hopping her way over to the red and yellow-haired girl excitedly.

"Oh, uh...hey guys!" said Sunset, trying to hide her worried feelings from her friends. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, it's been five minutes since the final bell, and you didn't come outta the locker room yet..." Rainbow Dash told her. "We were beginning to wonder if you got locked in the shower again..."

The red and yellow-haired girl huffed and told her cyan friend, "I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring that up again, Dash."

"Oh...er, sorry..." the rainbow-haired girl responded, rubbing the back of her head.

"Anyway," Applejack butted in to try and quickly change the subject, "just t' let y'all know, Sunset, everybody else is already out in the yard. We just didn't want ya t' miss out on what everybody's doin' out there."

Sunset's head perked up upon hearing that. "Oh, yeah! I almost forgot!" she exclaimed, grabbing her purse from the bench that she was sitting on. "C'mon, girls, let's get going! We don't wanna miss out on the fun, do we?"

"Miss out on fun?" asked Pinkie Pie rhetorically. "Not a chance! Let's go!" The six of them then headed out of the locker room towards their next destination.

The six teenage girls made their way outside to the schoolyard after they each stopped by their lockers to grab their bags and other belongings. As they looked around, they saw many students standing out in the open fields in pairs. Every pair of students were facing each other and wearing some sort of silver-colored compact device on their arms. The device resembled a computer tablet, but in addition to a touchscreen mounted onto the arm, there was a tray coming out of the side of it with five blue and white spaces with red, downward-pointing triangles on each space. Underneath the tray was a small slot, and in the slot was a deck of Duel Monsters cards. Each student also wore a small lens over their left eyes that was placed upon their ears.

"Seems as though we've arrived just in time." said Rarity, looking around.

"Yep, looks like it." added Applejack. "Now that classes are done fer the day, everybody's already out duelin'."

"Awesome!" said Sunset, getting pumped up. "Time for me to get in there and show 'em what I've got!" She then looked around and asked, "Now...who's gonna be my first opponent...?"

"How about him?" asked Pinkie Pie, pointing to a teenage boy with jet-black skin and greyish-blue hair, in light and dark stripes. Like everyone else, he was wearing a similar device on his right arm.

"You mean Thunderlane?" asked Rainbow Dash, looking over at the boy.

"Yeah, I think he'll do just fine." said Sunset. She then walked over to Thunderlane and called to him, "Hey! Thunder!!"

The boy turned around to face the red and yellow-haired girl and asked, "Sunset Shimmer? What's up?"

"You don't look like you're doing anything right now." she noted. "You wanna duel me?"

"A Duel? Sure." Thunderlane replied with a slight smirk. He then took his Deck out and added, "I've gotta warn ya, Sunset, I've gotten better since the last time we've dueled."

The girl smirked a bit herself as she got out her own device (which was yellow in color as opposed to silver) from her backpack, along with her Deck and a lens similar to the ones that the others wore over their eyes. "You have, have you?" she asked him. "I suppose we'll see soon enough." Sunset Shimmer then placed the touch screen-like device on her right arm and said, "Activating Duel Pad!" Upon saying that, her device then deployed the same type of tray that had jutted out of the other students' devices. Next, she took the lens that she was holding and placed it over her left eye while saying, "Duel Gazer, activate!"

After both Sunset and Thunderlane put on their lenses, a haze engulfed the area around them for a brief moment. Everything around them still looked the same, except that the area had a slight greenish tint to it, and small colored screens were scattered all over the field. A computerized female-sounding voice then said, "AR Vision Link established."

Shortly afterwards, all of Sunset's friends got out their own lenses to place over their eyes. "We'd better get our Duel Gazers on so that we can watch Sunset's Duel." Applejack told them all. The five of them did just that, placing the gazers over their left eyes and switching them on.

"I must say, these devices are quite remarkable." stated Rarity. "They make the game look so realistic, it's beyond astounding!" The five them glanced around, switching their Gazers to different frequencies so as to take a peek at the other students' Duels as well. Warriors on horseback charged through the fields, kicking up divots in the ground,... Gigantic dragons flew across the skies... Powerful magicians casted all sorts of mighty spells... And for a short moment, a small, brown fluffball with green claws and large eyes floated right past Fluttershy, whose eyes sparkled upon seeing how adorable it was.

Sunset smirked and asked her opponent, "You ready to get this started?" she asked him.

"Born ready." Thunderlane simply replied. The two of them each drew their opening hands and shouted in unison:

"Let's Duel!"

Meanwhile, inside the high school, a faint but pleasant melody flowed from out of the Band Room. Inside the room were two students, who were among the few that weren't dueling outside. One of the students was sitting on a small stool, playing a cello with several blank music sheets in front of her. She had sepia-colored skin and long, dark brown hair that flowed down as far as her hip area. She had violet-colored eyes and wore a plain, white, buttoned shirt with a violet vest worn overtop of it, topped off with a pink bowtie. She wore a light pink skirt that had a picture of a lavender treble clef on it, along with a pair of black shoes and long, white socks.

The girl's name was Octavia Melody. Every day, after classes were over, she went over to the Band Room to work on new compositions. Usually, she went to the room by herself, but every now and again - such as today for instance, she would bring her friend Vinyl Scratch over to accompany her.

Vinyl had white skin, and wild, electric-blue hair in stripes of light and dark colors. She had red eyes, though most of the time, she wore a pair of black sunglasses with purple lenses over them, so they weren't always visible. She wore a white fleece jacket overtop of a shirt that was colored in white, blue, and cyan, complimented with a short, white skirt with a black beamed eighth note printed upon it. Under the skirt, she wore short pants that were magenta-colored with several purple lightning bolts decorating them on each leg. She also had on a pair of sneakers that were mostly blue, with teal stars on the fronts of the tongues, white velcro straps, white soles, and other markings that were either purple or teal in color. She also wore a pair of fingerless gloves on each of her hands, and had a pair of white and teal headphones around her neck.

Octavia played a few notes on her cello at a slow pace before stopping and jotting down the notes on the blank music sheet in front of her. "Hmmm...yes, I think that would sound very good..." she hummed to herself.

Vinyl, who was slumping down on the seat that she was sitting on, groaned and asked in a whining tone, "Taaaaaviiiiii...! How much longer is this gonna take...??"

The sepia girl sighed and told her, "If you continue to complain about it, Vinyl, it will be much longer than it needs to be... Now would you stop whining and let me concentrate?"

"But I'm BOOOOOORRRRRRED!!! And HUNGRRRRRRRYYY...!!" the blue-haired teen complained, groaning even louder.

Octavia grumbled a bit under her breath, clearly becoming more frustrated by her friend's griping. She then asked her, "Well then why don't you go and get something from one of the vending machines for us both instead of sitting here and moaning?"

"Ugh, fine... Anything t' get out of here for a while..." Vinyl responded. She then got up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Octavia sighed and asked herself, "Why do I even bother bringing Vinyl here...? All she ever does is whine and complain while I'm trying to do my work." Taking another deep sigh, she added, "At least I'll have a few minutes of peace while she goes to the vending machines..." She was then about to go back to playing her cello when she noticed a small piece of blank paper on the ground nearby where Vinyl was sitting. "What's that...?" she asked, getting up and walking over to it. Looking at the paper closely, she then groaned a little and hypothesized, "Must be a piece of trash or something... Vinyl probably left it behind, I'll wager; she seems to conveniently forget how to use a refuse bin every so often."

Octavia then picked up the paper, and felt something weird about it. It was made of too sturdy a material to be a candy bar wrapper, though it wasn't as tough as say, cardboard. Rather, it was somewhere in the middle. "Odd..." she muttered to herself again. "Where could this have come from...?"

Just then, a shadowy cloud appeared around the piece of paper, which then surrounded Octavia herself. She gasped and began to hold her head while groaning in pain. "Uuuuugh...what...what's going...on?" she asked, straining, "Why am I getting such a bad headache...?"

The sepia-skinned teen then heard a sinister voice inside of her head. "Yes, Octavia..." it said to her. "Let the Number take hold..."

"...N-Number...? What are you-?" But before she could finish her sentence, the shadowy cloud around her grew bigger. She then let out a scream as the fog dispersed all over the room, eventually dissipating. Octavia fell to her hands and knees, breathing heavily after the whole ordeal. However, several things had changed: The blank paper now had an image upon it, showing a black frame with a picture of an armored man wearing a purple cape.

That wasn't all; Octavia then slowly opened her eyes - which now looked somewhat empty, and instead of having their usual violet color, they were now bright red. She also seemed to be scowling a little, as if something or someone had angered her. As she growled a little to herself, a mark then appeared on the base of her neck, which looked similar to the number 80.

Just then, Vinyl had returned, carrying a cherry soda and a bag of chips for herself, and a granola bar for her friend. "I'm back, Tavi..." she said to Octavia as she set the food and drink items down on a nearby desk. Pulling up a chair next to the desk, she then sat down backwards on it and groaned, saying, "Alright, let's get this overwith already... I wanna do something that's a lot more interesting sometime today..."

Octavia's glowing eyes shifted towards Vinyl, then over to her cello. "Oh...you do not believe that my music is interesting at all, do you, Vinyl?" she asked in a low, slightly menacing tone.

"Sure don't." the blue-haired girl answered. "No offense, but I'd rather watch paint dry instead."

The sepia-colored teen then chuckled softly and replied, saying, "Well then, in that case...perhaps I might know of a way to make things...a lot more interesting for you..." She then grabbed the neck of the cello with both hands and picked it up, all the while keeping that sinister look on her face...

Back outside, the Duel between Thunderlane and Sunset Shimmer was still going on. Thunderlane was doing pretty well, but Sunset was doing much better (Thunderlane: LP 1,000) (Sunset Shimmer: LP 1,300). The jet-black teen sweated a little, wondering what his opponent was going to do next.

"My turn. I draw!" said the red-and-yellow girl as she took a card off the top of her Deck. She then looked at it and said, "Here's where it all ends, Thunder! I Summon Chronomaly Crystal Skull from my hand in Attack Mode!" After playing her card, a large, shiny human skull appeared in front of her (Chronomaly Crystal Skull: Level 3 / ATK 900 / DEF 600), sitting right next to another of her monsters, which appeared to be a shiny skeleton, minus the head (Chronomaly Crystal Bones: Level 3 / ATK 1300 / DEF 400).

"Lookit that!" said Applejack, pointing to the field. "Sunset's got two monsters with the same Level on her side of the field!"

"Alright!! She's setting up her favorite move!!" cheered Pinkie Pie, nudging her head in between Applejack and Rainbow Dash. "Go for it, Sunnie!!"

Sunset Shimmer looked over at her pink friend and nodded to say that she would. She then declared to Thunderlane, "I overlay my Level 3 Crystal Skull and Crystal Bones to create an Overlay Network!" After she made that announcement, her two monsters then transformed into a pair of bright yellow lights that flew into a red, spiral-shaped portal. "I Xyz Summon Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut!!" she said, finishing her move.

Out of the red portal, a flash of light suddenly burst out, revealing itself as a human-like figure clad in purple armor with wings on its back and a single mirror on its chest area. Swirling around this new monster were two yellow balls of light (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: Rank 3 / ATK 2100 / DEF 1000 / OLU 2).

"A-an Xyz Monster?!" stuttered Thunderlane, knowing that he was in trouble now.

"Alright! Sunset got that special monster of hers onto the field now!" noted Rainbow Dash with a smirk.

"She used those two Level 3 monsters of hers to call out an Xyz Monster with an equal Rank from her Extra Deck." Rarity added. "Now she has a much more powerful monster to fight with."

"And best of all, those two monsters she used to Summon it don't get sent to the Graveyard right away!" Pinkie Pie chimed in. "They instead become Overlay Units that help support her new monster!"

Sunset Shimmer then smirked and shouted, "Go, Crystal Chrononaut! Attack him directly!!" And with that order, Sunset's Xyz Monster leapt forward and delivered a devastating punch straight towards Thunderlane.

"ACK!!!" the boy grunted as the punch knocked away his remaining Life Points, ending the Duel in Sunset's victory (Thunderlane: LP 1,000 - 2,100 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer).

"Yeah!!! Way to go, Sunset!!" cheered Rainbow Dash, throwing a few air punches.

"Way to go...!" Fluttershy meekly added.

The red and yellow-haired girl gave a hearty thumbs-up to her friends before glancing back over to Thunderlane. "Looks like I've won again, Thunder." she told him. "But it was pretty close; it could've been either one of us."

"Eh, you're just sayin' that." the boy replied. "You whupped me and you know it." He then got up and told her, "But it ain't gonna happen next time! I'll be back with an even better Deck, and I'll duel you again!"

"Heh. I'm looking forward to it." Sunset told him as he left the area.

Sunset's friends then ran up to her to congratulate her on her victory. "Very well played, Sunset." Rarity complimented. "That was a most excellent victory!"

"Yeah! Thunderlane didn't even know what hit him!" added Rainbow Dash.

"Whaddya mean, Dashie? Of course he knew what hit him!" Pinkie Pie argued. "He got hit by a big, purple fist!"

"Ugh, that's not what I meant by... Oh, never mind." the cyan girl said, not wanting to get into another confusing argument with Pinkie.

Sunset Shimmer chuckled a little and said to her friends, "Thanks, girls. I really appreciate the support." Looking at her Deck, she added, "Especially since it was thanks to all of you that I was able to finish this Deck. I don't think I would've been able to complete it all by myself."

"It was our pleasure, Sugarcube." stated Applejack with a smile. "It took a real long time t' get all the cards needed for it, but Ah think it was well worth the effort, don't y'all agree?"

"Sure do." agreed Rainbow. "I mean after all, Sunset hasn't lost a Duel ever since she started usin' that Deck!"

"So, um...who are you going to play against next?" Fluttershy then asked the red and yellow-haired girl.

"Well..." Sunset began as she looked around for a new opponent. But before she could say another word...

"...AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!"

The six girls suddenly heard someone screaming nearby. "What was that??" asked Rarity.

"Sounded like it came from over there..." Applejack replied, pointing towards the soccer field.

The other girls looked over and saw someone running towards them, flailing her arms hysterically. The girl appeared to be another student. She had pale yellow skin much like Fluttershy, and had medium-length, dark red hair. In her hair, she wore a rose flower off to the side, and her eyes were green, matching the color of her dress.

"Isn't that Roseluck?" asked Fluttershy.

"Looks like her..." said Rainbow Dash. "What's got her all worked up this time?"

"Let's go and see." Sunset suggested. The group ran over to the screaming girl to see what was going on.

Once they got in front of the apparently terrified student, Applejack waved her arms to try and get her to stop. "Hey, Roseluck!!" the farm girl shouted. "Over here! Stop!!"

The scared girl immediately noticed the people in front of her and stopped in front of them all. "Applejack? Is that you?" she asked.

"Yeah, it's me." the orange girl answered. "What's up? Y'all look like you've seen a ghost..."

"Well, it wasn't a ghost...but I was scared of something." Roseluck told her. "That's why I was screaming and running as fast as I could: To get away from it...!"

"What do you mean?" asked Sunset Shimmer, walking up. "What's 'it'?"

"Well..." Roseluck began, "I was walking down the hall after taking care of some things in the Agricultural Department... I passed by the Band Room when I heard something inside; it sounded like something crashed..."

"Crashed?" asked Rainbow Dash.

Roseluck nodded before continuing her explanation. "I went to look, but before I could, I could hear someone screaming, 'No! Stop! Don't hurt me!' Then after that, I heard more crashing sounds! I was so terrified by what I had heard, I ran away as fast as I could... But I know that something horrible is happening in there!!" The scared girl then ran off, continuing to distance herself as far away from the school as possible.

The other six girls looked at each other, a bit shocked by what they heard. "What do you suppose could be going on in the Band Room?" Rarity asked her friends.

"It's probably nothing..." thought Rainbow Dash. "Roseluck freaks out over almost everything, though not as much as Lily does... I'm pretty sure it's nothin' to worry about."

"Well, we should go and see, just to be totally sure." Sunset recommended.

"Sounds good t' me." Applejack agreed. "Let's go!" The six girls then left the yard and ran back into the school to see what had scared Roseluck so much.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The group of friends zigzagged their way through the halls in search of the Band Room. "There it is!" shouted Pinkie Pie, pointing at the door ahead and to the right of them. Once they got in front of the door, they could indeed hear smashing sounds from inside.

"Did y'all hear that, gals?" asked Applejack. "Somethin's getting smashed in there...!"

"Or maybe even someONE..." added Dash.

"Oh dear..." Fluttershy whimpered, trembling a little. "I-I don't think I want to know what's going on in there..."

Just then, a scream was heard from behind the door. "No!! Stop it!! Cut it out!!!" it shouted.

"That voice!" exclaimed Sunset. "That was Vinyl Scratch! She must be in trouble!" The red and yellow girl didn't hesitate for one second before opening the door. But nothing could prepare them for what they saw next...

On the floor, beside several knocked-over chairs, was Vinyl (minus her shades), trembling and displaying a look of pure fear. In front of her was her friend, Octavia...but you wouldn't be able to tell that they were friends if you hadn't seen them before now. In Octavia's hands was her cello, but she was holding it by the neck, hoisting the larger end of it into the air. There were some scratches on the instrument - which, along with the way that she was holding it, safely suggested that she wasn't using it for music right now.

Octavia, with a crazed, angry look upon her face, swung her cello down, aiming it straight towards Vinyl, who dove out of the way just in time to avoid it. "Tavi!! Stop it!!" she pleaded. "What're ya doing?! Have you gone crazy?!?"

The sepia-skinned girl glanced at her with eerie red eyes and told her in an intimidatingly low voice, "What's wrong, Vinyl...? You wanted my music to be more interesting, didn't you...? I'm just granting your wish!" She then swung the instrument again, missing Vinyl by a hair.

"This ain't what I meant by that!!" the blue-haired girl screamed. "If this is about me bothering you while you're working, I'm sorry already!!"

"You had your chance to be sorry..." Octavia told her in a menacing tone. "Now, you're about to be sorry for a whole different reason!" She then raised her cello up into the air to strike Vinyl again; the blue-haired girl looked for a way out, but couldn't find one. "Now...tell me, Vinyl..." the sepia girl began to ask, "do you think my music is boring NOW?!"

"No!! Don't!!" the poor girl pleaded, closing her eyes and raising her hands to shield her face as Octavia swung the instrument down.

THUD!

Vinyl whimpered with fear before she realized that she hadn't been struck. "Whuh...huh??" She then opened her eyes and moved her hands away. When she looked up towards Octavia, she gasped when she saw why the musical instrument-turned weapon didn't hit her: Sunset Shimmer had quickly stepped in-between the two of them and caught the cello in mid-swing. "S-Sunset Shimmer?!" she asked in surprise.

Octavia growled a bit when she saw the red and yellow girl in front of her, preventing her from doing the unthinkable.

Sunset glanced down at Vinyl and asked her, "Are you alright? Are you hurt?"

"No, I'm fine... Thanks to you." the blue-haired girl told her.

Sunset's friends were flabbergasted by what had happened in front of them. "Okay...just t' be clear here: Y'all saw what Ah saw, right? My eyes ain't playin' tricks on me, right?" asked Applejack.

"If they are, then all of our eyes are playing tricks on us, then..." Rarity informed her.

"Y'know what?" began Pinkie Pie. "You can keep that from happening if you just walk around with your eyes closed for a really long time. Your eyes can't play tricks on you if they can't see anything, right?"

"Wait, what...?" asked a confused Applejack.

Getting back to the topic on-hand, Fluttershy then asked her friends, "W-what's going on...? Why is Octaiva attacking Vinyl like that? I thought they were friends..."

"Yeah, they're supposed to be!" added the pink-skinned girl. "I mean, sure; they argue a whole lot, but it's been specifically established in the fandom that Vinyl and Octavia are besties!"

"What? 'Fandom'? What're you talkin' about...?" asked Dash, scratching her head.

Sunset then posed a question similar to Fluttershy's to Octaiva. "Octavia, what on earth are you doing?!" she asked her. "Vinyl's your friend! And last time I checked, using your cello as a club to attack her isn't something that a friend would do."

"This is none of your business, Ms. Shimmer..." snarled the sepia teen. "This is between me and Vinyl, so make yourself scarce right this second!"

"Not gonna happen." the red and yellow girl told her. "When somepon-er, somebody starts attacking someone else for no reason, it kind of becomes my business... So I'm not budging from this spot anytime soon!"

"You annoying little..." Octavia growled. She then groaned and held her head in pain. As she did, the 80 mark on her neck began glowing again.

Sunset noticed the mark and thought, (What's that...? I've never seen that mark on Octavia the last time I saw her... Yet, why does it look so familiar?)

Octavia then began to hear strange voices in her head. "...Duel... Duel..." it said. "...Take the Number..."

The voice, as well as the sudden migraine, suddenly vanished from the sepia-skinned girl, who stared straight towards Sunset Shimmer with a fierce expression on her face that was complimented by her glowing red eyes. "Well, it seems quite clear to me that you won't leave no matter what I say to you, am I wrong?" she then asked Sunset. The red and yellow girl shook her head no to say that she wasn't moving an inch. "In that case, perhaps we can settle this dispute in a different manner..." the cello-wielding teen suggested. "How about we have a Duel?"

"A...Duel?" asked Sunset, a bit surprised.

"Indeed." Octavia confirmed. "If you win, I'll leave Vinyl alone. If I win, you are to leave immediately."

(She can't possibly be serious about this...) thought the girl in the black jacket. She then looked at Octavia again and added to her thoughts, pondering, (Something doesn't seem right here...besides the fact that Octavia's attacking her best friend. It kinda feels like there's something else to all of this...) As she pondered, the strange symbol on Octavia's neck began glowing again. (And I'll bet that mark on her might have something to do with it...)

"So...what will it be?" asked the sepia girl with a sneer.

Sunset grumbled a little, but figured that she had no other real options right now. (I could just go and tell Principal Celestia or Vice Principal Luna about this...) she thought, (but I don't wanna leave Vinyl here alone with her...I guess I'll have to take her up on her offer, then.) The red and yellow girl then shouted to Octavia, "Alright, then. I'll agree to your terms. But don't expect an easy win, Octy!"

The sepia-skinned girl put her cello aside and chuckled, saying to her adversary, "Accepting my challenge will be your last and greatest mistake, Sunset Shimmer..."

But Sunset paid no heed to Octavia's threatening words as she prepped herself for another Duel. "Activating Duel Pad!" she shouted as the device on her arm unfolded its card tray once again. Sunset then got her Duel Gazer and put it over her left eye and said, "Duel Gazer, activate!"

Octavia smirked wickedly as she activated her Duel Pad and Duel Gazer. "AR Vision Link established." said the computerized voice as a digital copy of the surrounding area projected in front of the eyes of everyone wearing a Duel Gazer, which, at this point, was everyone in the room now. Everyone watched as the two girls began their battle, not sure what would happen after it was all over...

-- To Be Continued...

RANK 2: Playing a Different Tune:

View Online

RANK 2: Playing a Different Tune:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Though Sunset has had a rough past, she has finally been able to put most of it behind her and begin working towards a much brighter future. To commemorate her new outlook on life, the young girl purchased a mysterious, key-shaped necklace to serve as a symbol of her "rebirth". However, the very next night, Sunset had a bizarre dream in which she saw a large, diabolical-looking door that beckoned her to open it. When she did, she released a powerful force from the other side. Upon waking up, Sunset discovered a strange blank card that immediately took on a new form upon her touching it. At first, it doesn't seem like too much to worry about...

But when another student named Octavia Melody finds a similar card at school the next day, her personality suddenly changes, and not for the better. Before long, she's seen attacking her best friend Vinyl Scratch, seemingly for no reason! Sunset manages to stop the attack and refuses to allow any harm to come to the up-and-coming DJ. Then, all of a sudden, Octavia challenges Sunset to a Duel, stating that she'll stop trying to attack Vinyl if Sunset manages to win.

Sunset Shimmer has agreed to take her on, but is suspicious about Octavia's current state; she believes that something is wrong, but can anything prepare her for what she'll face next...?

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was the end of the school day at Canterlot High School, but there was still quite a bit of activity going on within its walls. In the school's Band Room, Sunset Shimmer and Octavia Melody were about to compete against one another in a game of Duel Monsters. However, earlier on, the sepia-skinned girl was discovered attacking her best friend, Vinyl Scratch, and nobody knew why. Even stranger was when she suddenly challenged Sunset to a Duel. No one knew exactly what the deal was; not even Sunset's best friends Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, or Pinkie Pie could figure out what was going on.

All of the people in the room pulled out and activated their Duel Gazers (in Vinyl's case, she had hers built into her shades), which were special lenses that allowed someone to see things within the Augmented Reality. It was necessary in order for people to watch a Duel that was in progress. After switching on their eyepieces, Rainbow Dash then asked, "I don't get it; why is Sunset dueling Octavia? We could just report her to the Principal right now!"

"Maybe Sunset knows somethin' 'bout all this that we don't." Applejack assumed. "It's hard to tell, but she seems to have a kind of 'sixth sense' about stuff like this..."

"You mean like when she knew that those Dazzling girls were up to no good?" asked Fluttershy.

"Mhmm." the orange girl hummed, nodding her head yes. "And to be honest, Ah've got a sneakin' suspicion that somethin' smells rotten in the Alamo..."

"How can you tell?" asked Pinkie Pie. "The Alamo's nowhere near where we live, which is-" She then quickly covered her mouth and whipsered to herself, "Oops... can't say that; it hasn't been canonically established yet...!"

Sunset and Octavia then drew their opening hands, ready to start brawling. "Let's DUEL!!" they shouted in unison (Octavia Melody: LP 4,000) (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000).

Vinyl watched the two combatants as their Duel began. She still wasn't sure what was going on, but hoped that, when it was all over, that her friend would be back to her old self. The blue-haired girl also began to suspect that something else was going on that was causing Octavia to lash out.

"If you don't mind," Octavia started, "I'll make the first move."

"You sure about that?" asked Sunset. "You DO know that the player who goes first can't draw a card on their first turn, right?"

"Believe me, I won't need that much of a head start..." the sepia girl told her. Taking a card from her hand, she then declared, "I'll begin by playing the Spell Card, 1st Movement Solo!" After she played it, a large, digital replica of the card materialized in front of her.

(She's starting things off with a Spell Card, I see...) thought Sunset.

"Spell Cards often have one-time-use effects on the field, but many of them are very powerful." noted Rarity. "The fact that Octavia's playing one even before she plays a monster must mean she's setting up something later on..."

"Now..." began Octavia, "since I currently do not control any monsters at the moment, 1st Movement Solo allows me to Special Summon any monster from my hand or my Deck that's Level 4 or lower and has 'Melodious' in its name. And I choose to play Serenade the Melodious Diva from my Deck!" Upon saying that, her Duel Pad's auto-shuffling function mixed up her cards; when it was done, one card was left sticking out from the top. Octavia pulled it out and placed it onto the card tray face-up and horizontally.

After the digital card appeared on the field, a young maiden with pink skin and hair rose up from out of it. She wore a dress that was colored yellow and orange on top, and red on the long skirt below, along with yellow frills at the very bottom of it. The red part was decorated with musical notes, and on her back was a pink, wing-shaped object (Serenade the Melodious Diva: Level 4 / ATK 400 / DEF 1900).

"Since I cannot attack on my first turn anyway, I placed my monster in Defense Mode to protect myself." Octavia informed her opponent. Taking out two cards with pink-colored frames from her hand, she added, "I'll set two cards from my hand facedown on the field, ending my turn."

"Sunset had better be careful..." said Applejack. "There's no telling what Octavia has hidden on her field right now..."

"Aw, what's she got to be worried about?" asked Rainbow Dash rhetorically. "She'll win this no matter what Octy's got waiting for her!"

Sunset was happy to hear that, but she was still being cautious in her mind. She knew that something was still amiss, but decided to worry about it later. Right now, she had a Duel to win. "It's my turn!" she said. "I draw!" After putting the card she drew into her hand, she took out a different card and said, "I activate Foolish Burial from my hand!"

"So you're playing a Spell Card first as well, I see..." Octavia commented.

The red and yellow girl took out a card from her Deck and stated, "I'll use my Spell Card to send Chronomaly Crystal Skull straight to the Graveyard." After doing that, she then declared, "Next, since you have a monster on the field while I don't, I can Special Summon Chronomaly Crystal Bones from my hand in Attack Mode!"

Sunset Shimmer then placed her chosen monster onto the D-Pad's card tray vertically. The shiny, headless skeleton creature then appeared in front of her, shimmering in the light (Chronomaly Crystal Bones: Level 3 / ATK 1300 / DEF 400).

"Now I activate Chronomaly Crystal Bones's effect!" Sunset then said. "When it's Special Summoned with its effect, I can Special Summon any other Chronomaly monster from my hand or my Graveyard! So I'll bring back my Chronomaly Crystal Skull from the Graveyard in Attack Mode!"

A dark purple portal then appeared beside Sunset's first monster, and out of it emerged a shiny human skull, which chattered its teeth upon its arrival (Chronomaly Crystal Skull: Level 3 / ATK 900 / DEF 600).

"I see... so that is why you sent your Skull to the Graveyard earlier." hummed Octavia.

"Aw cool! She's gonna bring out her secret weapon again!" cheered Rainbow Dash.

"Go for it, Sunnie!! It's all you out there!!" Pinkie screamed ecstatically.

The red and yellow girl smiled and nodded. She then faced Octavia once more and shouted, "I overlay my Level 3 Crystal Skull and Crystal Bones to create an Overlay Network!" Once more, the red summoning portal appeared in front of her, sucking in her two monsters, turning them into a pair of yellow lights. Afterwards, a figure surrounded by two balls of light then leapt out of the portal, landing in front of its user. "I Xyz Summon Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut!" Sunset Shimmer said, finishing her summoning chant as her powerful monster folded its arms and glared at the opposing player (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: Rank 3 / ATK 2100 / DEF 1000 / OLU 2).

"I see... so you're an Xyz Monster user, are you?" asked Octavia.

The red and yellow teen smirked and told the sepia-skinned girl, "Now, if I remember correctly, I haven't yet Normal Summoned or Set a monster... So I'll summon Chronomaly Golden Jet in Attack Mode!"

Sunset's new monster was, as its name suggested, a golden jet plane that smashed its way through the roof (though not for real, of course) and stopped in front of its controller (Chronomaly Golden Jet: Level 4 / ATK 1300 / DEF 1400).

"Now, Crystal Chrononaut! Attack her Melodious Diva!" Sunset ordered. Her Xyz Monster sped forward and delivered a swift punch to the gut of Octavia's monster, destroying her and sending it to the sepia teen's Graveyard. Octavia simply huffed, seemingly not worried at all.

"Now Octavia's defenseless!" noted Applejack.

"That means that Sunset can now attack her directly...!" said Fluttershy.

"Yep." the orange girl replied. "Once a Duelist gets rid of all the monsters on their opponent's field, they can have their monsters attack the opponent instead, which'll do some serious damage to their Life Points!"

"And since Sunset has an additional monster on the field, she can do that right now!" Rarity added.

The red and yellow girl then shouted, "Alright! Go, Golden Jet! Attack her Life Points directly!" The bizarre jet plane then hovered into the air, charging up a pair of laser beams from the front of it.

But Octavia told her foe, "If you actually think that I'm going to allow you to strike me that easily, you had better think again!" Tapping her Duel Pad's touchscreen, she then declared, "I activate a Trap Card: Pinpoint Guard!!"

Sunset gasped as one of her opponent's facedown cards revealed itself. It then caused a large, stone fist to rise out of the ground in front of Octavia, blocking the laser beam shots from Golden Jet. (Darn... she blocked my attack!) the red and yellow girl thought.

"This card activates when a monster of yours declares an attack on me." Octavia explained. "It then allows me to revive one Level 4 or below monster from my Graveyard." Taking a card from out of her device's Graveyard slot, she then stated, "Of course, since Serenade the Melodious Diva is the only monster in my Graveyard, I shall Summon her back to the field." She then placed the card back onto her card tray, putting her in Defense Position.

"Crud... I should've known it wasn't gonna be that easy." Rainbow Dash commented, groaning a little.

"Some of the trickiest cards in the game to overcome are Trap Cards." Rarity explained. "Since they can be activated at any time after the turn they are set, they can take a Duelist completely by surprise. Sunset had better be careful, especially since Octavia still has one more facedown card on her field..."

Sunset grimaced a little. (Darn...) she thought. (Her monster's defense points are too high... And even if I could attack it, the other effect of her Trap Card will keep it from being destroyed in battle anyway...) Deciding not to attack with her other monster, the red and yellow girl took out two cards from her hand and said, "I'll place two cards facedown and end my turn."

"I thought as much." Octavia replied. "Now it's my turn... I draw!" Looking at the card she drew, which showed a picture of a cheerleader girl wearing a blue outfit, she thought, (This will be useful later...) The sepia-skinned girl then placed her drawn card into her hand before declaring, "I now release Serenade the Melodious Diva!" After making that announcment, a swirling cloud engulfed her only monster and caused it vanish.

"Wait, did she just get rid of her own monster?" asked Rainbow Dash. "What gives?"

"Octavia didn't just get rid of her monster, she released it." Applejack explained. "The only reason she did that was so that she could Summon a much stronger monster in its place."

"It's called a Tribute Summon." Rarity added. "Because the terms 'tributing' and 'releasing' mean the same thing."

"Oh yeah, that's right..." said Dash, remembering that rule. "I forgot that because I hardly ever do it when I play."

Continuing her explanantion, the young fashionista told them, "Anyway... depending on how many monsters a Duelist releases, they can Summon more powerful monsters. Since Octavia released one monster, she can Summon either a Level 5 or a Level 6 monster to replace it."

The sepia girl chuckled a bit and told the group, "Well, you're ALMOST right... However, there is one thing you should know: Serenade's special effect allows me to treat it as two monsters if it's released for the Tribute Summoning of a Fairy-Type monster."

"TWO monsters?" asked Sunset.

"Exactly, and I believe you know what that means, Ms. Shimmer..." Octavia said. "It means that I can now Summon a Level 7 or higher monster to the field. So please give a rousing applause for my Mozarta the Melodious Maestra in Attack Mode!!"

After playing her new monster, the creature then rose up from the giant digitalized copy of the card. The monster had ice-blue skin, light violet hair, and wore a large, red dress with pink frills. She had a pair of butterfly-like wings on her back and held a conductor's baton in her right hand (Mozarta the Melodious Maestra: Level 8 / ATK 2600 / DEF 2000).

"Alright, I'll admit... I sure as hay didn't see that one coming..." Sunset remarked.

"How's Sunset going to defeat a monster that strong...?" asked Fluttershy.

"Well... knowing how these usually go," began Pinkie, "Sunnie's probably already got the card that she needs to beat it. And then after that, we'll more than likely never see it again." The others just gave her a look in response.

Not paying attention to what the silly pink girl was saying, Octavia then shouted, "Go, Mozarta! Attack Chronomaly Golden Jet!!" Her target was that card because it had lower attack points, and thus, it would do more damage to Sunset.

"Heh heh... I knew you'd try that, Octy." the red and yellow girl told her opponent.

"What?" the sepia girl said with a gasp.

Sunset Shimmer tapped her touchscreen and said, "I activate a Trap Card! Shift!!"

*******************************

Shift
(Normal Trap Card)

When your opponent targets exactly 1 monster you control (and no other cards) for an attack, or with a Spell/Trap effect: Target another monster you control that would be an appropriate target; that attack/Spell/Trap now targets the new target.

*******************************

"I'll use my Trap Card to force your monster to attack a different monster on my field!" the red and yellow girl declared. "So I'll redirect your attack to Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut!"

"Urrrgh... Fine! Have it your way!" shouted Octavia. "Then I'll take him out of the fight instead!" And with that, the cello-player's elegant monster began singing a particularly loud song that was immediately directed towards Sunset's Xyz Monster.

"I'm afraid that's not gonna work, Octy." the red and yellow girl informed her. Taking out a card from underneath her Xyz Monster card on her Duel Pad, she declared, "I activate the effect of Crystal Chrononaut, which I'll trigger by removing one of its Overlay Units!" She then placed the card that she took off of her device into the Graveyard. On the field, her Xyz Monster drew in one of its swirling lights, absorbing it into the mirror on its chest (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: OLU 2 - 1 = 1).

"Alright! She's gonna use her Xyz Monster's effect!" cheered Pinkie. "When an Xyz Monster uses up one of its Overlay Units, that allows it to use its special power!"

"Special power...?" Octavia began to ask.

"That's right." stated Sunset. "Now thanks to its effect, Crystal Chrononaut can't be destroyed by battle or by card effects for the rest of this turn!"

"So that's why you used your Trap Card to make me attack it, am I right?" asked the sepia girl.

"That's not ALL that I did..." the black jacket-clad teen added. "It also makes it so that you take all the battle damage from this battle instead of me!"

"What?!?"

Everyone watched as Octavia's monster's attack struck Sunset's Xyz Monster. However, thanks to its special ability, Crystal Chrononaut blocked the attack and absorbed it into its mirror. Then, a second later, it fired a focused beam of light from its chest, which struck the sepia-skinned girl dead-on.

"AAAACK!!!" screeched Octavia upon taking the hit (Octavia Melody: LP 4,000 - 500 = 3,500).

"Yeah! Take that!!" said Rainbow Dash.

"Very nice move on Sunset's part, using that Trap Card in combination with her Xyz Monster's ability." Rarity complimented. "It's a good start, but this Duel is still a long ways away from being finished."

Octavia grumbled, annoyed that she had been tricked into damaging herself. "I... end my turn..." she said in a soft, but angry tone.

"Very well then." said Sunset. "My turn... I draw!" After taking her card from her Deck, she then immediately played it, announcing, "I activate the Spell Card, Chronomaly Technology! First, I take one Chronomaly monster from my Graveyard and banish it from the game completely. Then, I get to see the top two cards of my Deck. One will be placed in my hand, and the other goes to the Graveyard."

Sunset then took her Chronomaly Crystal Skull card out of her Graveyard and placed it back into her deck box (which was now mounted to a belt that she was wearing). After that, she then took two cards from the top of her deck and looked at them. She then made her choice, placing one of the cards into her hand and sending the other one, Chronomaly Tula Guardian, to her Graveyard.

"So what did you choose...?" asked Octavia.

"You're about to see it right now, Octy." the red and yellow girl answered. "I'll switch Golden Jet to Defense Mode and play the Continuous Spell Card, Chronomaly Pyramid Eye Tablet!" Once the card appeared on her side of the field, Sunset then added, "Thanks to the power of this card, all of my Chronomaly monsters get an extra 800 attack points!" (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: ATK 2100 + 800 = 2900) (Chronomaly Golden Jet: ATK 1300 + 800 = 2100)

"Cool! Now Sunset's crystal guy has the most attack points now!" Rainbow noted.

"And since that Spell Card that she played is a Continuous one," added Applejack, "that means its effect stays as long as it's on the field."

With the stage all set, Sunset did not hesitate to make her move. "Crystal Chrononaut! Attack Mozarta!" Now that the Spell Card was strengthening it, the armored creature was easily able to defeat Octavia's high-level monster, and even do a bit of damage in the process (Octavia Melody: LP 3,500 - 300 = 3,200). "And with that, I'll end my turn." the red and yellow girl finished.

Octavia was now getting frustrated by how easily Sunset was dueling circles around her. (This can't be... I cannot lose to someone like her!!) she thought to herself.

"Heh, what's wrong, Tavi?" asked Rainbow Dash. "Gettin' nervous? After all, Sunset's one of the best Duelists in the school! Did you really think you'd be able to surpass her that easily?"

The sepia girl grumbled... and then began holding her head and groaning in agony. "Urrrgghh... this pain again..." she said to herself. "Why is my head hurting so much...?"

"Do it..." said the sinister voice in her head. "Call forth the Number..."

"The... Number..." muttered Octavia. Looking back towards her opponent, she then said, "My turn... I draw..." After slowly taking her card, she then delcared, "I now Summon Aria the Melodious Diva in Attack Mode!" Her new monster was a pink-skinned girl with violet hair, wearing a skintight, burgandy bodysuit, an orange skirt, and boots similar in color to her aforementioned bodysuit (Aria the Melodious Diva: Level 4 / ATK 1600 / DEF 1200).

"And since I now control a Melodious monster," the classical music-loving teen continued, "I can also Special Summon Canon the Melodious Diva in Attack Mode to join it!" Her second monster had violet skin and blue hair that was shaped simlarly to a flame. She wore a dress that colored dark purple, dark blue, light pink, and black, and had on a pair of golden glasses (Canon the Melodious Diva: Level 4 / ATK 1400 / DEF 2000).

"But those monsters aren't strong enough to beat any of Sunset's cards..." Pinkie Pie observed. "What's she trying to do?"

"Wait... those monsters she Summoned... Don't they have the same Level...?" asked Fluttershy.

"You're right, darling!" exclaimed Rarity. "They're both Level 4!"

"So wait... Does that mean that Octavia's gonna Xyz Summon, too?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Ah think she is..." answered Applejack, getting a bit worried, as did Sunset.

Vinyl, who had stayed silent since the Duel began, said to herself, "I know Tavi's Deck just as well as she does... The only Xyz Monster she has in there is Fairy Cheer Girl, and she ain't strong enough to fight any of Sunset's monsters... What's she planning?" The girl then gulped a bit and asked, "And why do I have a bad feeling about what she might be planning...?"

Octavia chuckled evily and turned towards Sunset's friends with an nasty, crazed grin on her face, saying to one of them, "Ms. Dash... you said earlier that I had no hope of surpassing your friend's power... But that's ancient history... I now have a new power; one that is unsurmountable by anything!" Turning back towards Sunset Shimmer, she told her, "What I am about to bring out is a creature the likes of which you have never seen before!"

The red and yellow girl said nothing, bracing herself for anything that the sepia-skinned girl could have planned.

"I now overlay my Level 4 Aria and Canon!" Octavia announced as her two monsters transformed into a pair of yellow lights. After that, a summoning portal appeared in front of her. However, instead of it being a red portal like Sunset had used for her Xyz Monster, it had a galaxy-like appearence.

"That portal... That's not the usual kind of portal used for an Xyz Summon..." noted Sunset Shimmer.

"With these two monsters, I can build the Overlay Network!" Octavia declared. "Prepare to face a monster that you shall never defeat! I Xyz Summon... Number 80: Rhapsody in Beserk!!"

The portal then let out a huge explosion of light; when it faded, a large symbol appeared on the ground... a symbol that Sunset immediately recgonized. "That symbol...!" she said to herself. "It looks just like the mark that was on Octy's neck!"

From high above, a large object that had two small purple spheres circling it began descending to the floor below. It then began to unfold itself into a more humanoid form, taking on the appearence of a large, armored human with huge fists, a long, purple cape, and piercing red eyes. In addition, the 80 mark that had appeared on the ground earlier was now imprinted upon the neck area of the armored monster, signalling the completion of its Summoning.

*******************************

Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Fiend-Type/DARK/Rank 4/ATK 0/DEF 1200)

2 Level 4 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. You can target 1 face-up Xyz Monster you control; equip this monster you control to that target. It gains 1200 ATK, it cannot be destroyed by battle, except by a "Number" monster, also it is treated as a "Number" monster. You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 card in your opponent's Graveyard; banish that target. You can use this effect of "Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk" up to twice per turn.

*******************************

Sunset's jaw dropped when she saw the monster that Octavia had unleashed onto the field. "What is this thing...?" she asked herself, not exactly sure about what she had just witnessed.

"What on Earth is THAT monster...?" asked Applejack.

"I don't know..." said Pinkie Pie. "I'm not sure if it even CAME from Earth..."

Octavia smirked wickedly as the mark on her neck appeared again, this time, staying there for good. "This card's power shall present itself much later on..." she told Sunset. "For now, I will place Rhapsody in Defense Mode and end my turn..."

Sunset Shimmer was a bit confused. (What's her deal...?) she asked in her mind. (She claims that monster she Summoned couldn't be defeated, but it doesn't even have any attack points! And its defense points aren't all that high either... What in Equestria is she planning...?)

"It's my turn; I draw!" the red and yellow girl said, drawing her next card. Looking at it, she thought, (It might be a good idea to prepare a Plan B, just in case... And this card might be able to help me do that.) Placing the card into her Duel Pad's Spell & Trap slot, she announced, "I'll set one card facedown, and switch Chronomaly Golden Jet to Attack Mode!" Pointing straight at Octavia's Xyz Monster, she shouted, "Golden Jet! Attack Rhapsody in Beserk!!" And with that order, the jet plane monster fired a pair of laser beams at the creepy creature, causing a large explosion.

"Bullseye!" exclaimed Rainbow Dash. "So much for that ugly thing!"

But Octavia smirked once more. "I wouldn't be celebrating if I were you..." she told them. "Just look!"

The others gasped when they saw that the sepia-skinned girl's Xyz Monster was still on field, despite it being weaker than Sunset's Golden Jet. "I-i-it's... still there?!" asked Rarity, shocked.

"Okay... I don't play the game very often," stated Rainbow, "but even I know that ain't right!"

"She must be cheatin'!" protested Applejack. "That monster's defense points were a whole lot lower than Golden Jet's attack points! So why wasn't it destroyed?!"

Octavia chuckled as the mark on her neck began glowing brighter. "I told you my new monster couldn't be defeated..." she said to them all. "Rhapsody in Beserk is a special type of monster known as a 'Number' monster."

"A Number...?" asked Sunset. She then thought, (Why does that sound familiar...?)

"Exactly, Ms. Shimmer." the cello player replied. "And I'm sorry to tell you... but a Number can only be defeated by ANOTHER Number."

"WHAT?!" asked the rest of the people in shock.

"That's not fair!!" yelled Rainbow Dash. "What gives you the right to use some super-card that can't be beaten by anything else?!"

"Sorry, Ms. Dash, but the Complaint Department is closed for the day." Octavia responded with a chuckle. "Thanks to this new card of mine, not even Sunset will be able to defeat me!"

(That's... nuts!) thought a surprised Sunset Shimmer. (So in order to beat that Number card, I have to use ANOTHER one?! How am I gonna do that??) The red and yellow girl sighed and said, "I'll end my turn."

"Of course you are." Octavia responded, drawing a new card. She then declared, "I now activate the effect of Rhapsody in Beserk! By removing one of his Overlay Units, I can banish one card from your Graveyard! And I choose to banish Chronomaly Tula Guardian, the only monster in your Graveyard at the moment!"

Octavia's monster then absorbed one of its floating spheres and opened up a dark purple portal in front of Sunset Shimmer (Number 80: Rhapsody in Beserk: OLU 2 - 1 = 1). It then reached into the portal, pulled out a blue stone statue that was human-like in its shape, and used its power to turn it into a black vapor. The red and yellow girl just stood there, unable to respond.

"Now I summon another Aria the Melodious Diva to the field!" Octavia then told her adversary, bringing out another pink girl in a burgandy bodysuit. "And then I'll activate my facedown card: Call of the Haunted! This card revives any monster from my Graveyard and puts it back onto the field!"

"Are you gonna use it to bring back that Melodious Maestra card, then?" Sunset assumed.

"Actually, I am not." the sepia-skinned teen answered. "I have a much better idea..." She then announced, "I revive Serenade the Melodious Diva from my Graveyard, then I overlay her and Aria to create an Overlay Network!!"

The group gasped as Octavia opened another summoning portal and used it to draw in her two new monsters. Unlike the last one that she had opened, this portal was the normal red color as opposed to the galaxy-like one she had used to summon her other Xyz Monster.

"I now Xyz Summon... Fairy Cheer Girl!" Octavia shouted as a young girl with blue fairy wings and a green dress came out of the portal with a pair of yellow lights swirling around her. She had short blue hair and carried a pair of yellow pom-poms in her hands. She gave out a slight giggle after floating back down to the ground (Fairy Cheer Girl: Rank 4 / ATK 1900 / DEF 1500 / OLU 2).

"Awwwwww! What a cute little fairy!" said Pinkie Pie, eyes sparkling.

"Pinkie! That's the enemy!" Rainbow Dash reminded her.

"Oh, right!" the pink girl replied. She then cleared her throat and instead said, "Awwwwww! What a cute little enemy!" This elicted a groan out of the rest of the spectators.

Sunset thought to herself, (She just Xyz Summoned another monster... At least this one isn't one of those Number things...)

"Next, I will use Fairy Cheer Girl's ability:" stated the cello player. "Once per turn, I can remove one of her Overlay Units in order to draw another card!" Octavia's new monster then drew in one of her lights and absorbed into one of her pom-poms (Fairy Cheer Girl: OLU 2 - 1 = 1). She then shook her pom-poms excitedly, releasing a power that flew into Octavia's Deck, prompting her to draw another card. After doing so, she then told Sunset, "Now, I activate the other ability of Rhapsody in Beserk!"

"It has ANOTHER effect?!" asked the red and yellow girl.

"Indeed it does..." answered Octavia. "It allows me to target any other Xyz Monster I control and lets me equip said target with it! Just watch!!"

The group looked on as the sepia-skinned girl's Number monster stood up and glared at Fairy Cheer Girl. The cutesy cheerleader looked over at the scary creature, shivering. Just then, the Number turned into a thick, black cloud and phased right into Fairy Cheer Girl's body, causing the monster to scream in pain and terror. "AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"

Vinyl, watching this all go on, thought to herself, (Tavi... she's... she's hurting her... Can't she see that...?) She seemed a bit sad as she continued her personal thoughts. (I gave her that fairy card a long time ago as a friendly gesture, and this is how she's gonna treat it...? What's happened to her...?)

In time, the dark cloud that was Octavia's Number monster had fully phased into Fairy Cheer Girl's body. The little fairy put on a smile, but it wasn't a pleasent-looking one. She now had a very wicked-looking expression on her face, and she also had the 80 mark on her neck like Octavia did.

Horrified, Sunset asked her opponent in a slightly disappointed tone, "Octavia... what did you do to her??"

"It's quite simple, actually..." the sepia girl replied. "Rhapsody has the power to possess any Xyz Monster I choose. When it does, it increases that monster's attack power by 1,200 points (Fairy Cheer Girl: ATK 1900 + 1200 = 3100). And in addition, Fairy Cheer Girl is now treated as a Number monster; which means now she can't defeated by anything but another Number!"

"That's not good..." noted Applejack, getting worried. "Now that Fairy Cheer Girl has higher attack power than either of Sunset's monsters."

"And worst of all," Pinkie Pie added, "she got a LOT less cute." She then looked over at the evily grinning fairy and shuddered a little.

"I'm not done just yet, though..." Octavia stated. "Just in case you were planning to counterattack somehow, I'll make sure that there's no chance of that happening. So I'll play the Spell Card, Mystical Space Typhoon!"

"No!" shouted Sunset. "That card can destroy any Spell or Trap Card on the field!"

"That is correct." said the cello player. "And I'm pretty sure you know which of your cards I plan to eliminate... But for those who don't know, I'll tell you: I choose to destroy Chronomaly Pyramid Eye Tablet!" And with that, she played her card and whipped up a quick, but fierce storm that shattered Sunset's Spell Card. "And now that it's out of the way," the sepia-skinned girl continued, "your monsters no longer get an increase to their attack points, making them quite vulnerable!" (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: ATK 2900 - 800 = 2100) (Chronomaly Golden Jet: ATK 2100 - 800 = 1300)

"Uh oh... this isn't gonna be pretty..." noted the red and yellow girl, knowing that she was in trouble now.

"Now! Fairy Cheer Girl! Attack Chronomaly Golden Jet!!" shouted Octavia. The possessed cheerleader monster then smiled wickedly and delivered a powerful kick to Sunset's lower-attack monster and dealing a massive blow to the otherworldy girl's Life Points (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000 - 1,800 = 2,200). The force of the blow caused her to step back a bit to try and recover. "Had enough, Ms. Shimmer?" asked the sepia teen. "Would you prefer to surrender to me now and spare yourself of any further pain?"

"Urrrgh, don't bet on it, Octy..." she told her opponent as she tapped her Duel Pad's touchscreen. "I activate the Trap Card Stonehenge Methods!" After revealing her facedown card, she then explained, "After one of my Chronomaly monsters is destroyed, this card lets me Special Summon a Level 4 or lower Chronomaly monster from my Deck in Defense Mode! So I'll play Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem!" After that, a red human-shaped statue then appeared out of the ground in front of Sunset Shimmer and took a defensive pose (Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem: Level 4 / ATK 1500 / DEF 1000).

"Hmph... irritating little gnat..." snarled Octavia. "Have it your way, then... I end my turn!"

"My turn, I draw!" Sunset drew her next card, but wasn't too pleased at what she got. "This won't help me right now... But I might as well play it anyway." Placing the card into the Spell & Trap slot, she told her opponent, "I activate Temple of the Sun!"

*******************************

Temple of the Sun:
(Continuous Spell Card)

Face-up monsters you control that were Special Summoned from the Graveyard gain 300 ATK.

*******************************

Octavia huffed. "That was pointless... Do you plan on wasting my time and yours playing cards that won't aid you in any way?" she asked. "You're not going to win anyway, so why continue embarrasing yourself?"

"Just make your move!" Sunset grumbled, not really keen on being insulted by her.

"It would be my pleasure... I draw!" Octavia then placed the card into her hand and said, "I activate the effect of Fairy Cheer Girl once more and draw another card from my Deck!" After disposing of her Xyz Monster's remaining Overlay Unit (Fairy Cheer Girl: OLU 1 - 1 = 0), the cello player drew another card from her Deck. She then glanced at Sunset's Xyz Monster and noted, "You've left your Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut in Attack Mode, because its effect would protect it from being destroyed if I were to attack it..." Octavia then smirked and added, "But that requires you to remove its other Overlay Unit."

"Where are you going with this...?" asked the red and yellow girl, not really keen on hearing the answer.

"I'll show you." replied Octavia. "I play Space Cyclone from my hand! This allows me to forcibly remove an Overlay Unit from any Xyz Monster on the field. And I choose yours!"

Sunset gasped when Octavia's Spell Card extinguished her Xyz Monster's last Overlay Unit, sucking up the circling sphere into a minature black hole (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: OLU 1 - 1 = 0). Now she couldn't use its ability to protect it anymore, making it a sitting duck.

"And next, I'll Summon Freya, Spirit of Victory in Attack Mode!" the cello player shouted, summoning a young girl with ice-blue hair in a blue outfit, holding two red pom-poms (Freya, Spirit of Victory: Level 1 / ATK 100 / DEF 100). "Because of her effect," Octavia added, "All of my Fairy-Type monsters gain an additional 400 attack and defense points! Now my monsters are more powerful than ever (Freya, Spirit of Victory: ATK 100 + 400 = 500) (Fairy Cheer Girl: ATK 3100 + 400 = 3500)!! Also, as long as I have another Fairy on my field, you can't attack her with any monster, so don't even try!"

"Just great..." said Sunset, grimacing.

"Aw, c'mon!! Like that prissy cheerleader needs any MORE attack points?!" complained Rainbow Dash.

"Oh dear... this is looking worse and worse by the second..." Rarity noted with despair in her voice.

Octavia then pointed ahead and shouted, "Go! Fairy Cheer Girl!! Attack Crystal Chrononaut!!" The fairy cheerleader cackled a little as she performed another powerful jump kick, this time, to Sunset's Xyz Monster, shattering it and sending it to the Graveyard.

"Ack!!" grunted the red and yellow girl as she took another blow to her Life Points (Sunset Shimmer: LP 2,200 - 1,400 = 800). She fell onto her back from the impact, groaning.

"You may as well stay down, Ms. Shimmer... In but a few turns, this Duel will end with my victory." stated Octavia, "Perhaps now you'll learn to keep your nose out of other people's business!"

"C'mon, Sunnie!" shouted Pinkie Pie. "Get up! You can still win! I don't know how you can, but you can still win!"

Sunset got back up onto her feet; she didn't want to give up, but she didn't know what to do. (How am I gonna beat Octavia now...? None of my monsters are as strong as her Fairy Cheer Girl. Even then, she can only be destroyed by a Number monster, and I don't have any!)

Just then, the red and yellow girl let out a gasp; a sudden realization came to her. (Hold on... that's not true! I almost forgot...! I DO have one of those cards! It was that one I found last night!) She then took the card out of her deck box and looked at it just to make sure. Sunset read everything on the card: The name, the effects, its attack and defense; everything.

(This is it... this card could win the whole Duel for me...) Sunset thought. However, she had some second thoughts about it as she glanced back over to the now-crazed Octavia Melody, and her glowing neck mark. (But...) she thought again, (I'm not sure I want to use it... I'm pretty sure that Number monster that Octavia used is what caused her to act the way she's acting, based on what I've seen so far... And I sure as hay didn't need a cursed trading card to become a cruel person...)

"What's with Sunset?" asked Applejack. "It seems like she's havin' a hard time making some kinda decision..."

"Well, she's not exactly in the best of situations, after all..." Rarity reminded her friend. "She's in a tight spot, and she knows that if she loses, Vinyl, and perhaps all of us, will be at Octavia's mercy..."

"She won't lose!" Fluttershy shouted quietly. "Sunset can get out of this! She would never let anyone hurt anybody, no matter what!"

"Fluttershy's right, Sunset!" cheered Rainbow Dash. "There's no way you can lose this!!"

"You can do it, Sunnie!!" added Pinkie Pie. "You'll win for sure!! After all, you've got your lucky key necklace, the one that you said would remind you stay a nice person instead of a big, mean, turn-into-a-demon-lady-that-destroys-the-school person!!"

"Way to be subtle, Pinkie." Applejack said with some slight sarcasm.

When she heard Pinkie's words, Sunset then realized something. (Hold on... Even though I have a Number card in my hand, I don't feel any different... I don't feel like I want to go and hurt someone for no reason, unlike Octavia...) she thought. (Could it be that I'm somehow immune to whatever they do to people...?) She then remembered that, last night, she had been afflicted by a strange headache, which Octavia seemed to suffer from ever now and then, and that she heard strange voices that seemed to want to take over her mind.

(That's right...) Sunset pondered, (now I remember... I felt as if something was trying to get in my head, but for some reason, I guess it didn't succeed. Whatever that Number card was trying to do to me didn't work, and I'm still my usual self.) The red and yellow girl was now pretty sure that she would be able to safely play her Number card; either way, she didn't have any other options. (Alright, for Octavia's sake, I'll do it! I just hope my friends won't be too freaked out when I play this card...)

The red and yellow girl then gave a fierce, determined look to Octavia, telling her that giving up wasn't even a consideration. "So you're still going to fight on, are you?" asked the sepia girl.

"Of course I am!" Sunset answered. "I'll do whatever it takes to protect a friend!" Tapping her touchscreen, she then shouted, "I activate the Trap Card Miracle's Wake!! This card allows me to bring back one monster from my Graveyard that was destroyed in battle this turn! So Crystal Chrononaut, return to the field in Attack Mode!" After her Xyz Monster reappeared from out of a dark purple portal on the ground, she then added, "And since he was Special Summoned from the Graveyard, Temple of the Sun gives him 300 more attack points!" (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: ATK 2100 + 300 = 2400)

"So what?" asked Octavia. "It's still weaker than my Fairy Cheer Girl by a large amount, so once I destroy it again, you'll lose the Duel!"

"Don't count me out just yet..." Sunset informed her opponent. "This Duel's still on, and it's my turn! I draw!!" She then pulled the top card of her Deck, hoping that it would be something that would help her win the Duel. Once she got a look at it, she sighed out of relief and said, "Octavia... Don't you worry; I'm gonna save you from yourself."

The sepia girl chuckled and asked, "And what is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that I know that you're not willingly saying or doing anything that's happened here so far." the black jacket-wearing teen answered. "But I know who's REALLY pulling the strings here, and I promise that I'll destroy it!"

"What's Sunset talking about?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Not sure..." pondered Rarity, "but from what I can gather, Sunset believes that Octavia's words and actions so far are not truely her own."

"You mean like mind control?" asked Applejack. "It seems a bit farfetched t' me..." Thinking about it a little more, she then said, "Then again, it could explain why Octy's actin' the way she is... She's not normally a violent person, so it does seem kinda suspicious that she'd go an' attack somebody for no reason..."

After hearing the farm girl say that, Vinyl began to suspect that as well, (She's right...) she thought. (I've known Tavi since Kindergarten, and she's never been mean t' anyone... Sure, she can be a stuffed shirt sometimes, but she'd never attack someone... So that can't possibly be the same Tavi I know that's fighting Sunset right now!)

Back at the Duel, Sunset then began her next move; her biggest move yet (or at least she believed it would be). "I release Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem in order to Tribute Summon Chronomaly Moai Carrier!" she declared. The monster that Sunset played from her hand was a pair of large, blue stone objects that seemed to resemble the clawed end of a crane; in addition, it appeared to be carrying a head-shaped statue (Chronomaly Moai Carrier: Level 5 / ATK 900 / DEF 1800).

"Hmph... that doesn't scare me in the slightest." Octavia commented.

"Then how about this?" asked Sunset. "Since I currently control a Chronomaly monster, I can Special Summon Chronomaly Moai from my hand in Defense Mode!" She then took out another card in her hand, the one she had just drawn from her Deck during her Draw Phase and placed in on her Duel Pad's card tray. The monster that emerged was a giant, stone head that perfectly resembled the head statues of Easter Island (Chronomaly Moai: Level 5 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1600).

Suddenly, Octavia noticed something about the monsters Sunset played. (Hold on... Both of her monsters are Level 5...) she noted to herself. (Is she... is she planning another Xyz Summoning?)

Her friends thought the same thing, but something was amiss. "Wait, hold up..." began Applejack. "Ah've seen Sunset duelin' fer quite a while, but I don't remember her ever havin' any Rank 5 Xyz Monsters in her Deck..."

"Perhaps she managed to acquire one recently?" Rarity hypothesized.

"Maybe... but she usually tells us about any new cards she's gotten." Rainbow Dash reminded them all.

Sunset sighed a bit and thought, (Well... here we go; I'm gonna do it... But first...) She then turned to her friends, specifically Applejack, and said, "Before I make my next move... there's something I need to tell you, AJ."

"Huh?" asked the country teen.

"...Last night," the red and yellow girl began, "when you thought you heard me screaming and came to check up on me, I told you that I had a bad dream... But there's more to the story than that... I was too afraid to tell you, because I thought you'd freak out if I did."

"What do y'all mean...?" asked Applejack.

"Something else happened that night; something that I'm not sure I can easily explain..." Sunset continued. "I didn't want to upset you or any of the others... especially after what happened to Octavia just now." She then sighed a sad sigh and added, "I've been hiding something from all of you the entire day, and for that, I'm really sorry... I'm sure that when I make my next move, you'll understand why I was so concerned about it."

The others didn't know what Sunset Shimmer was talking about, but figured that she felt uneasy about something. What it was, they couldn't harbor a guess, but they also figured that they wouldn't be in the dark about it for much longer.

Sunset then faced her opponent and told her, "Alright Octavia... get ready, because I'm not giving up without a fight!" She then raised her right hand into the air and shouted, "I overlay my Level 5 Moai and Moai Carrier to create an Overlay Network!!"

The others watched as both of Sunset Shimmer's newly-summoned monsters turned into a pair of orange lights that got sucked up into a summoning portal. However, the portal had a galaxy-like appearence, just like the one Octavia used to summon her Number card. "Wh-what's going on??" asked the cello-playing teenager. "Is this some sort of a trick?!"

"No, it's not." answered the red and yellow girl. "It's the monster that's gonna free you from whatever evil power is controlling your body!" She then shouted, "Now, meet my new Xyz Monster!!" Taking the bizarre card from out of her deck box, she placed it onto the tray and said, "Come forth!! Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech!!"

The portal then gave off a powerful explosion of light, leaving behind a violet marking that slightly resembled the number 33. Then, smashing through the digital roof above them all, came a gigantic, floating fortress that easily dwarfed everyone in the room. Atop the fortress was a large, cicular platform, on top which was what appeared to be a minature continent. A glowing, blue sphere could be seen inside, and the same marking that was on the ground was also imprinted upon the front of the structure. In addition, a pair of floating yellow spheres circled the behemoth repeatedly.

*******************************

Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Machine-Type/LIGHT/Rank 5/ATK 2400/DEF 1500)

2 Level 5 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card to target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; inflict damage to your opponent equal to the difference between its original ATK and current ATK, and if you do, this card gains ATK equal to the damage inflicted.

*******************************

Needless to say, everyone was shocked when they saw the giant fortress, as well as hear what its name was. "Did... Sunset say... Number??" asked Rarity, jaw dropped and pupils dialated.

"She did... She has a Number card too!" Rainbow Dash replied.

"But... why was she so concerned about it?" asked Fluttershy.

Applejack, pondering a bit and thinking about everything that happened so far, came to a conclusion. "Wait... Ah think Ah might know..." she said. Everyone else turned to face her in order to hear what the farm girl had to say. "Did y'all notice that when Octy played her Number card, she started actin' even creepier than when this all started?"

Everyone nodded yes to say that they did notice that.

"Ah'm willin' t' bet that's the reason she's actin' this way." the country teen continued. "Somehow, that Number card is causin' her to go berserk!"

"You can't be serious, AJ..." said Rainbow Dash, not conivinced. "How does a trading card cause somebody to randomly attack people?"

"Ah know it seems weird, but think about it: Have any of you ever heard about a card like Octy's before?" asked Applejack.

"Well... now that you mention it..." began Fluttershy, "it does seem strange that we've never heard of it..."

"Indeed..." Rarity chimed in. "You would think that we would have seen such a powerful card in the past, or read about it on the Internet... And it couldn't have come from a new set, because there haven't been any new releases lately."

Still not believing it much, the cyan-skinned teen then inquired, "Okay, let's say that all of that's true: If so, then how come Sunset's not acting all crazy or whatever?"

"That Ah'm not sure of... not that Ah'm complainin' or anythin'." Applejack replied. "But back to t' the main subject, Ah believe Sunset was concerned that we'd think she'd end up acting the same way as Octy because she also has one'a those Number cards."

"I suppose that could make sense." Rarity said, nodding in agreement. "But she should know that she had nothing to be concerned about..."

Everyone was certainly surprised when Sunset Shimmer played her Number card, but no one was more shocked than Octavia, who did not expect it at all. (That... that's impossible!!) she thought, sweating. (How did that upstart get a Number card as well?! I thought for sure that she didn't have any!!)

"You don't look so calm right now, Octy..." Sunset told her. "Did my move shock you that much?"

The cello player growled and told her, "Perhaps a little... but it matters not: You may have a Number card on the field, but its attack power is only 2,400, which is 1,100 less than my Fairy Cheer Girl! She'll reduce your fortress to rubble next turn!"

"Sorry, Octy. You're not gonna GET a next turn!" the red and yellow girl informed her. "This Duel is ending right now!" She then took a card from underneath her Xyz Monster card and shouted, "I activate Machu Mech's effect! First, I remove one of its Overlay Units!" The giant fort then brought out mutliple cannons out from inside of itself, and one of its swirling lights flew into its uppermost pillar (Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech: OLU 2 - 1 =1).

"Next," Sunset continued, "I target one monster on your side of the field, and then the difference between its original attack power and its current attack power gets sent to you as damage!"

"What?!? Oh no!!" shouted Octavia in despair. "But I... I increased Fairy Cheer Girl's attack power by a total of 1,600 points!! And now I'm going to take that as damage to my Life Points?!"

"Exactly!" confirmed the otherworldy girl. "Thanks to this one card, I'm turning your own strategy against you!" Pointing straight towards Octavia's Xyz Monster, she then ordered, "Machu Mech, target Fairy Cheer Girl and absorb her power!"

Sunset's Number card then began radiating a yellow light, which also surrounded Fairy Cheer Girl. Octavia watched as her monster struggled, but was unable to escape Machu Mech's effect on her. Just then, the dark cloud that had possessed the cheeleading fairy earlier was sucked out and drawn into one of the large cannons. Afterwards, the 80 mark on Fairy Cheer Girl dissolved away, and her nasty, evil look also vanished. She looked around, seemingly unaware of what was going on.

"No... no this can't be...!" Octavia protested.

"Now, Chronomaly Machu Mech!" Sunset then announced. "Fire your cannons and blast away her Life Points!"

The sepia girl shook as all of fortress's cannons aimed straight towards her and began charging up. Then, once it was ready, Sunset's monster fired mutliple shots straight at Octavia, sending her flying a short distance and landing on her rear (Octavia Melody: LP 3,200 - 1,600 = 1,600).

"Wowee, did you girls see that?!" asked Pinkie. "Sunset just blasted half of Octy's Life Points in one shot!"

Rainbow Dash had to admit: That was pretty impressive. "So... awesome..." she muttered.

Octavia, getting up and grumbling under her breath, said to her foe, "I'm still here, Ms. Shimmer... You haven't won this yet!"

"No, but I will in a few seconds." stated the red and yellow girl. "I now activate the other effect of Chronomaly Machu Mech! After it damages you with its first effect, it can then absorb the Life Points you just lost and turn them into attack points for itself!"

"It does WHAT?!?!" exclaimed Octavia in shock.

Machu Mech then began glowing again, drawing in large amounts of energy towards itself and making itself even stronger than before (Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech: ATK 2,400 + 1,600 = 4,000). "Now my Number card's attack points are higher than your Fairy Cheer Girl's!" Sunset Shimmer informed her opponent.

"This... can't be..." the sepia-skinned girl muttered in disbelief. "I was close... so close... I had this won!"

"Not anymore, Octavia!" said the red and yellow teen. "Go, Chronomaly Machu Mech! Attack Fairy Cheer Girl! Meteor Meltdown!!" Octavia could only watch as Sunset's Number card took aim and fired its shots towards her Xyz Monster. The cheerleader dropped her pom-poms and stretched her arms out wide, using herself as a human shield to block the powerful shot from Octavia. The monster then gave a look back towards the sepia girl and gave off a pleasent smile before being blasted to oblivion.

Octavia just stood there, not believing what had just happened (Octavia Melody: LP 1,600 - 500 = 1,100). "My... my Fairy Cheer Girl..." she muttered, mouth agape. In her mind, she recalled the smile her monster gave earlier: Somehow, it reminded her of her friend Vinyl.

Sunset Shimmer felt a bit sorry for Octavia, knowing that none of what had happened so far was her fault. Still, Sunset had a job to do, and defeating the cello player was the only way to complete that job. "It's still my turn, Octavia." she told her opponent. "And I still have one monster left to attack with... And since you no longer have another Fairy-Type monster on your side of the field, your Freya, Spirit of Victory is now vulnerable to attack!" The red and yellow girl then shouted, "Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut! Attack Freya and end this Duel!"

Sunset's remaining Xyz Monster clenched its fists and leapt forward, arms straight out in front of it. Octavia's reamining monster shrieked and tried to avoid the attack, but she wasn't fast enough to get away from Crystal Chrononaut's mighty punch. She got hit and was sent flying right towards her controller, colliding with her and causing them both to fall to the ground.

"AAAAACK!!!" grunted Octavia as she was thrown down to the floor hard from the impact of both the attack and her own monster. Once both of them hit the floor, Freya self-destructed, turning into millions of small, yellow lights. And with that, the Duel was over (Octavia Melody: LP 1,100 - 1,900 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Amazing!" cheered Rarity. "Sunset won the Duel!"

"She did it!! I KNEW she'd do it!!!" Pinkie screamed ecstatically. "I don't know how she did it, but she did it!!! ...Did she?"

"Heh, that's our Sunset for ya..." said Applejack. "She's at her best when she fightin' for somebody else."

The red and yellow girl heard what her friends were saying, happy to know that they didn't seem to be thinking differently about her because she had a Number card. She took a deep sigh of relief and said, "Glad that's all over..."

Just then, the key around Sunset's neck began to glow brightly, which immediately got her attention. "Huh?" As she looked at the key, she then saw something else that seemed strange: A small ball of light phased out from Octavia's chest area and floated in mid-air. "What in Equestria is that...?" she asked.

"What's that ball of light?" asked Rainbow Dash, not sure what was happening right now.

Sunset continued to stare at the light and began reaching her hand out towards it. Just then, the light flew straight towards her. Instinctively, Sunset put her outstretched hand in front of her face, catching the light with it. She then noticed that the light felt solid. When she went to look at it, she saw that she was now holding a Duel Monsters card. But it wasn't just any card: It was Octavia's Number card, Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk.

Sunset Shimmer wasn't sure what was going on, but before she could think about it anymore, she heard Vinyl shouting, "Tavi! Tavi!! Get up!! Speak to me!!"

The red and yellow girl ran over towards Octavia, who was still lying down on the floor, completely motionless. Sunset checked up on her, hoping that she would be alright. As she glanced all over the sepia-skinned girl's body, Sunset then noticed the 80 mark on her neck... moments before its glowing dulled and it vanished completely. "That mark's gone..." she said to herself. "Is it because I defeated her...?" Sunset then kneeled down next to Octavia and asked her, "Octavia! Are you alright?? Please, say something!"

At first, the young girl said nothing, but then, Octavia began to groan as her eyes slowly opened. Sunset and Vinyl then noticed that her eyes were now back to their normal violet color. With a tired tone of voice, the cello player said to Sunset Shimmer, "...Thank you... Thank you so much... for getting that... thing... out of me..." After that, she moaned one last time and fainted.

"Tavi!!!" shouted Vinyl, hoping with all her heart that her friend hadn't gone to that symphony orchestra in the sky.

Sunset checked Octavia's pulse and breathed a sigh of relief. "She's okay..." she told Vinyl. "She just passed out... I don't blame her, though, with everything's that she's been through." Sunset then glanced over towards her friends and said, "Dash... AJ... Can you get Octavia over to Nurse Redheart?"

"Uh, sure! Of course!" said Rainbow. She and Applejack ran over to where Octavia was, picking her up. She was hoisted onto Applejack's back with Rainbow Dash's help, and the three of them quickly left the Music Room, heading straight for the Nurse's Office.

Vinyl watched as the two of them left the room with her friend. "You should go with them, Vinyl." Sunset told her. "I think Octy could really use her friend right now..."

"Uh, yeah... sure." said the electric blue-haired girl. As she headed towards the Music Room exit, she stopped and turned to Sunset Shimmer, saying to her, "Hey... thanks, Sunset. For savin' Tavi... When she spoke last, I could tell she was back to her old self again... So, again... thanks."

"You're welcome, Vinyl." the red and yellow girl responded. "Think of it as a 'thank you' for helping me and my friends out against the Dazzlings." The up-and-coming DJ nodded and smiled before leaving the room to go see her friend. After she left, Sunset then looked at the Number card she had gotten; the one that she suspected had something to do with Octavia's sudden violent acts. She could just feel that there was an enormous amount of power inside of it.

Rarity walked up to the otherworldy girl just as she put the card away in her deck box. "Great job, Sunset." she told her. "That was an impressive comeback!"

"Yeah, and you came from behind to win, too!" added Pinkie.

Fluttershy blushed a little as she meekly said, "Way to go..."

Sunset appreciated their comments, but still felt bad about what she had done... or rather, what she HADN'T done. "You... you guys..." she began. She then bowed her head forward and told them, "I-I'm sorry... I'm sorry for not telling you about the Number card earlier! It's just that... well, it's just that I-"

"It's alright, Sunset." Rarity said to her friend, putting a hand on her shoulder. "We understand. But you should have known that we would never think differently of you over something like that."

"Really?" asked the red and yellow girl. "So... can you forgive me for being so secretive about it?"

The violet-haired teen nodded yes and added, "Of course we can, darling. Believe me, compared to what we've forgiven you for in the past, this is, as Applejack would put it, 'small potatoes'."

"Besides," Pinkie chimed in, nudging beside Rarity, "You played such an awesome Duel, we could NEVER stay mad at you, even if we tried!" Fluttershy nodded to say that she agreed them both.

Sunset wiped a small tear from her eye, happy to hear all of that. "Thanks, guys..." she told them. "That really means a lot to me... Now I'm even gladder that I got to know you all."

"You're very welcome, Sunset." said the yellow and pink girl in her usual soft tone. "But next time, please tell us if something's troubling you... If that's okay with you."

"We know your intentions were good when you chose not to tell us about your Number card," Rarity added, "but we're your friends, Sunset; you know you can always tell us about anything that you're concerned with. And you should know that we'll always be there to help you."

"You're right..." the red and yellow girl said with a sigh. "I should have known you'd all understand... But I was just too scared to say anything." She then put on a pleasent smile and told them, "But not anymore: From now on, I'll be a lot more open about these kinds of things." After she said that, she found herself in the middle of a warm group hug, courtesy of Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie.

After they broke off the group hug, Pinkie Pie asked, "Well, all this excitement has gotten me all hung-thirst!"

"What?" asked Rarity, confused by the bizzare word that her silly friend friend had said.

"Hung-thirst!" Pinkie repeated. "It's a word I made up that means that I'm both hungry AND thirsty at the same time! Let's go to Sugarcube Corner and get some ice cream and milkshakes!"

"Sounds like a good plan to me." Sunset replied.

"We should probably go and check up on Ms. Octavia first." Rarity commented. "The poor girl's been through a lot, and frankly, I won't feel any better unless I know that she's alright."

"Good idea..." said Fluttershy. All of them left the room, except for Sunset Shimmer. Turning back towards the red and yellow girl, Fluttershy asked her, "Are you coming with us, Sunset...? I mean, if you want to..."

"Yeah, just go on ahead... I'll catch up later." the red and yellow girl answered. "I just have some thinking to do..." The shy girl nodded and left to catch up with her friends.

Once she was alone, Sunset Shimmer began thinking about everything that had happened since last night. (What's going on here...?) she pondered. (First, I have this bizarre dream... Then these "Number" cards show up... Then Octavia goes crazy. I know that there's a connection to all of this somehow... I just hope I can figure it all out before things REALLY get out of hoof...) Sunset then grumbled and added, (No, I meant, "hand"! Not "hoof"! How come I'm still not used to this world's vocabulary? I've been here for years now...!) The red and yellow girl sighed and left the room, heading to the Nurse's Office to see her friends and check on Octavia. But she knew, deep down, that what she experienced today... was only the beginning.

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Sunset Shimmer (2 Numbers total):

- Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech
- Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk

---------------------------------------------------------------------

RANK 3: Picture Imperfect:

View Online

RANK 3: Picture Imperfect:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

One day, Sunset Shimmer purchased a mysterious key-shaped necklace at the local flea market. That very night, she had a bizarre dream in which she encountered a large gate, which she unlocked using her new necklace. After she did, an incredible power flowed out from behind the gate, in the form of an intense light. When Sunset woke up, she obtained a strange Duel Monsters card, known as a "Number" card.

She wasn't the only one who found one of these cards: Octavia Melody picked up her own Number card, which, for reasons unknown, caused her to suddenly begin acting violent, even going as far as to attack her best friend, Vinyl Scratch. Luckily, Sunset Shimmer stepped in to stop Octavia from causing anyone any harm. The cello player then suddenly challenged Sunset to a Duel, with the safety of everyone involved at stake. It was a tough Duel, but Sunset was able to defeat Octavia and her Number card, Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk, using one of her own: Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech. After her victory, Sunset obtained Octavia's Number card, causing the cello player to return to her normal self.

As of now, Sunset Shimmer has yet to figure out the origins of the Number cards, but is determined to solve the mystery behind them... hopefully before anybody else falls prey to their dark power...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was another beautiful afternoon in the busy city of Canterlot. School had been dismissed some time ago, and Sunset Shimmer and her best friends were spending some of that afternoon at the local pizzeria, known as Mach Pizza. By the time that classes were over and the after school programs had ended, the group of six were practically famished. The red and yellow girl sat at a large corner booth table with Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy, while Pinkie Pie waited by the front counter to get the pizzas. Once the food was ready, Pinkie carried them over to the table and said, "Okay, girls! Get ready to dig in!"

"Pinkie! Watch out for that wet spot on the floor!" Rarity alerted to her friend.

"Huh?" said the pink teen, but it was too late; she stepped right onto a small puddle of water next to a "Wet Floor" sign and slipped. "WOAH!!!!" she screamed as she flipped over backwards, tossing the pizza boxes into the air. However, Pinkie managed to land on both of her hands, while her feet caught the boxes before they could hit the tile floor. The silly girl then "walked" on the palms of her hands, continuing to head towards the table where her friends were.

"...How does Pinkie do that??" asked Sunset. "I could attempt that about a thousand times and I'd never pull it off."

"I'm just wondering how she's able to keep her skirt down the whole time..." Fluttershy noted. "Or is it up because she's upside down...?

Pinkie set the pizzas down onto the table and put herself right-side up before answering Fluttershy's question. "Clumsiness is no excuse for not being modest." she told her yellow and pink friend.

"I am glad that you feel that way, darling." Rarity chimed in. "Even when it should be physically impossible."

Applejack then reached towards the pizza boxes and opened them one at a time. "Alrighty then..." she said, "let's see... Here's the pepperoni one for Rainbow and Rarity..."

"Awesome!" said the cyan-skinned teen, taking the box from Applejack.

"And here's the one for me and Pinkie:" the farm girl continued. "Half-sausage and half... uh..." She then glanced at the other half of the pizza curiously before finishing her statement, saying, "...half-candy corn, apparently..." The orange teen then asked, "Pinkie, how'd you even get that as a topping?"

The pink girl shrugged her shoulders while still having that big smile on her face. "Beats me, AJ." she told her. "I didn't write the menu. Though I DO make frequent use of the suggestion box..."

Applejack sighed and opened the third and final pizza box. "Okay... that means the last one's the mushroom n' green pepper pizza for Fluttershy n' Sunset." She then handed the box over to them so that they could have their fill of the meal.

Rarity had already started eating a slice of the pepperoni pizza, using a fork and knife to carefully and cleanly enjoy her meal. Before she could bring the fork to her mouth, she heard Rainbow Dash next to her, slobbily eating her pizza slice and getting sauce and pepperoni grease all over her hands and face. Rarity narrowed her eyes and told her friend, "Rainbow Dash, don't you have any table manners?"

"Table what?" asked the cyan girl, still greedily devouring her pizza slice.

The white and violet teen sighed and then told her, "Well, could you at least use a napkin so that I won't have to be embarrassed sitting next to you?"

"...FINE. Whatever." said the athletic teen, grabbing a napkin and wiping her hands and mouth area with it. After doing so, she then glanced over at Fluttershy and Sunset next to her and asked them, "Hey, how come I've never seen you guys order anything like pepperoni or sausage or anything like that? No offense, it just seems kinda weird."

"Rainbow, you know that I'm a vegetarian..." Fluttershy reminded her. "I can't stand the thought of eating a poor, little animal..."

"As for me, I'm a pony from where I come from." Sunset Shimmer added. "And we're all herbivores over there. It would just be kinda weird for me to eat any sort of meat product. I've tried it; didn't really care for it."

"Well, you ain't the only ones that don't get meat toppings on their pizza." Applejack said, pointing over towards Pinkie Pie with her thumb. "Every time Pinkie orders a pizza, she always gets some sorta candy put on it... Just last week, she actually got hers with marshmallows and bits of chocolate on top, and had it served on a tray made outta graham cracker."

"I called it, 'Pizza and S'more to Go With it'!" the pink teen replied enthusiastically.

Sunset Shimmer let out a slight chuckle at Pinkie's response, and soon after, everyone else gave a chuckle of their own. Then, Rarity spoke up and asked the red and yellow girl, "So, Sunset... What was it that you were telling us earlier this morning? Something about a dream that you had on the night you stayed over at Applejack's house?"

Sunset's mood changed after Rarity asked her question. She didn't seem to want to talk about the bizarre dream that she had. However, she had promised, both to her friends and herself, that she would be more open to them about anything that bothered her. The otherworldly girl sighed and said to them, "Yeah... I guess I should tell you all exactly what happened concerning that dream..."

"Look, if it bothers you to talk about it, you don't hafta say anything..." Rainbow Dash informed her.

"No, no... I think I'll feel a lot better if I just get this off my chest right now and get it over with." Sunset responded. Taking a another deep breath, she then told them all, "Anyway... the dream I had... It started with me standing on some sort of cliff, with this really narrow path extending out from it. When I looked at myself, I was wearing some sort of ancient-looking outfit, like I was some sort of priestess or something; I couldn't really tell..."

"What did this outfit look like?" asked Rarity, becoming interested in that part.

"Um... I don't really remember it that well." the red and yellow girl answered. "It wasn't the most important thing that happened, really..."

"...That's your opinion." the violet-haired girl rebutted.

"Uh, maybe y'all can tell Rare 'bout that part later...." suggested Applejack. "Y'know, when you can remember more of it." Rarity huffed a bit, wanting to know more about the outfit Sunset had on in her dream. But she decided to let it go for now.

Sunset Shimmer nodded and continued her story, saying, "Anyway, I heard this weird voice calling out to me, and when I walked along the path to see what it was, I came across the largest door that I've ever seen."

"A door...?" asked Fluttershy.

"Yeah, it had chains all over it, and a REALLY creepy-looking face etched onto the front." the otherworldly girl described.

Pinkie Pie then leaned towards Applejack's ear and whispered, "...So totally called it...!"

"So what happened next?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Well, the voice I heard was coming from behind the door... or maybe it WAS the door; it was hard to tell." Sunset told them. "It told me to open it to... 'fulfill my destiny'..."

"What did it mean by that?" asked Applejack.

"I don't know... Nothing it said made any sense to me."

"Well, you didn't open it, did you Sunset?" asked Rarity.

"I thought that I had to in order to wake up." the red and yellow girl answered her. She then held the key that she was now wearing around her neck and added, "So, I unlocked the doors, using the necklace that I got from the flea market."

"Hold up; you used THAT to open the gate in your dream?" asked Rainbow, pointing to the necklace. "And right on the same day ya got it? Now that's really weird..."

"Well, that makes two of us, then." Sunset replied, agreeing with her cyan friend. "Anyway, after I unlocked the gate, the chains vanished, and then there was a sudden flash of light... And after that, I woke up."

"So is that it...?" asked Fluttershy.

"I thought it was..." the otherworldly girl answered. "But, there's actually a little more to the story..."

The others leaned in closer to hear what their friend had to say next.

"After my dream, I saw something glowing on the desk that was in the bedroom..." Sunset explained as she took out her red deck box and opened it. "And that's when I found this..." She then pulled out a card from inside the box: Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech.

The others stared at the card that their friend was holding. "So that's the card that you were talking about..." said Rarity. She then asked, "What did you call this thing? A 'Number'?"

"It's awesome..." said Rainbow, reaching up to touch it. Then, all of a sudden, Sunset's hand jerked away, preventing the athletic teen from being able to come into contact with the card. "Hey! What gives, Sunset?!" she asked, annoyed.

"...Sorry, Rainbow. But I think it'd be best that you didn't touch this card." the red and yellow girl informed her. "I don't want anything bad happening to you."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Fluttershy.

"Well... don't you remember what happened a couple days ago?" asked Sunset. "I mean, you all saw what happened to Octavia, right?"

There was a sudden silence in the air when the others heard her say that. "Oh... yeah." Applejack spoke up. "Ah almost forgot about how she acted..."

"Yeah, she went comPLETELY crazy!" added Pinkie Pie. "And not the good kinda crazy like me, the bad kind: The get-picked-up-by-men-wearing-white-and-put-into-a-strait-jacket kinda crazy!" As she said the last sentence, Pinkie wrapped her arms around the front of her body to simulate wearing a strait jacket.

"But what does that have to do with your Number card, Sunset?" asked Rarity.

"Nothing." answered the red and yellow girl. "It was HER Number card that had me concerned. Don't forget; she had one, too. And I'm suspecting that it had something to do with her sudden personality change."

"And how, exactly, does a trading card cause someone to go totally nuts and attack their best friend?" asked Rainbow Dash, a bit skeptical.

"I'm not sure..." Sunset replied, "but what I do know is that, when I picked up my Number card, I suddenly got this massive headache, and I heard some weird voice in my head... It was as if someone - or something - was trying to take over my mind..."

"Take over your mind?" Fluttershy repeated. "Oh my..."

"But y'all seem just fine t' me, Sunset." Applejack noted. "You didn't start goin' crazy and attackin' people fer no reason..."

"Yeah, I know." Sunset told her. "For some reason, whatever force was trying to take control of me wasn't able to succeed in doing so..."

"But how? And why?" asked Rarity.

"I have no idea..." the red and yellow teen answered her. "All I know is that I should probably try and figure it all out before things really get out of hoo-, I mean, hand."

"Well, you can count on us to help out!" Rainbow Dash announced.

"Same here." added Applejack.

"Me too! Me too!!!" Pinkie Pie shouted excitedly.

"Um... I'll help if it's okay with you." Fluttershy meekly chimed in.

"I'll do whatever I can to aid you as well." Rarity calmly told her friend with a confirming nod.

Sunset Shimmer smiled and said to her friends, "Thanks, girls... I really appreciate it. I could use all the help I can get... Just be careful, okay? I don't know much about these Number cards yet, and I wouldn't feel good if anything happened to you all because of them."

"We promise." Applejack informed her. "Besides, we've already had more than our fair share of danger up t' now, so somethin' like this ain't new t' us." She then told everybody, "Anyhoo, we'll talk about stuff like that another time... Let's get back to our food before it gets cold." The others nodded in agreement and went back to eating their pizzas.

Meanwhile, back at Canterlot High School, there was still some activity going on inside. Though most of the students and staff had already left for the day, a few were still within the walls of the building, wrapping up whatever they were doing and preparing the rooms for the next day of classes. In one of the classrooms, the one used for the Photography Class, a man with dark-grey skin and white and silver hair had just finished filing away some important papers.

The man's name was Hoity Toity: He was the Photography Class teacher... and quite a snappy dresser, to boot. He wore a pair of fancy shades with purple lenses, along with a fancy black jacket with white cuffs on the sleeves, a white collar, and a fan-shaped insignia on the right side of the chest area. He wore a red frilled shirt underneath, a pair of navy-blue dress pants, and a pair of leather shoes that looked quite expensive.

Once he was done with his work, he then walked over to the door leading to the Dark Room and knocked on it a few times. "Ms. Photo Finish?" he said in a deep, slightly upper crust-sounding voice.

"Yes? What is it, Mr. Toity?" said a voice from the other side, which sounded akin to a German accent.

"My apologies if I have interrupted anything that you were doing," he told the person on the other side of the door, "but I simply wished to inform you that I have finished with my work for the day and I am taking my leave. I trust that you will have everything locked up before you depart as well?"

"Yes, Mr. Toity. I promise that I will." the voice responded. "I should not be much longer anyway."

"Very well. Then I shall see you tomorrow." Hoity told her. "Have a pleasant night, Ms. Finish." The man then took his belongings and headed out through the door.

Some time later, the door to the Dark Room opened, and out of it stepped a young teenage girl with sky-blue skin, short silver hair, and a pair of round shades. She wore a dress that was designed with several vertical black and white stripes on the top and a solid black design for the bottom, with white and pink stripes and some small light-pink diamonds above those stripes. Separating the top and bottom halves of the dress was a pink sash. The top had a pink collar, and the girl also wore a pair of black boots tied with pink ribbons.

The girl, named Photo Finish, was a student in Canterlot High, but she was also the personal student aid to Hoity Toity. She frequently assisted the teacher with his work, both during the time she attended his class, as well as times when she was not in his class, such as right now, after school was already over for the day. She was nearly ready to leave the room, just as Mr. Toity had done earlier. However, she decided to stroll over to a wall on the other side of the classroom. It was there that Photo Finish had all of her best photographs set up; many were taken within school grounds, and a few others were of the city and its surrounding suburbs.

The sky-blue teenager admired her work for a few moments before saying to herself, "Such beauty... such elegance... The very definition of... the magics!! And soon... so very soon, my work will be all over the magazines and galleries of this city, and my name shall be a household word!!" Photo then sighed to herself and added, in a slightly saddened tone, "I just wish it wouldn't take so long to be noticed by anyone important... I feel as though my talent may never be recognized; just the thought of it... Actually, I do not even WANT to think about it...!"

As she spoke to herself, a faint glimmer was caught by the corner of her eye. Photo Finish glanced over to her right and saw a blinking light coming from a far-off table, next to a pair of computers. "What is that...?" she asked herself. Curious, the sky-blue girl walked over to the table and saw that the blinking object was a Duel Monsters card, based on the back design.

"What is this doing in here?" she asked. "Was it left behind...?" Photo Finish then smiled a little and thought, (Perhaps I'll hold onto it until somebody comes to claim it... Besides, I do like the artwork on these cards, and it probably wouldn't hurt to take a small peek at it...) But when she picked up the card, Photo was astonished to find out that the card was totally blank on the front. "What is this...?!" she asked. "Why is there no picture on the front?? That cannot be right..."

At that moment, a purple haze began to surround the card. But before Photo could acknowledge that fact, the haze began surrounding her as well. "Ack!! What's happening?!? What's going on?!?!" she screamed.

"Yes, Photo Finish..." said a voice in her head. "Let the Number take hold..."

Photo Finish struggled, but the force that was entering her mind was too great for her to overcome. The purple cloud then consumed her, phasing into her body. The girl fell onto her hands and knees as an image began to appear upon the blank card. In addition, her shades began to glow bright blue, and underneath her right eye was a blue symbol resembling the number 25.

The girl then got up and muttered to herself, "Yes... yes... It is now clear to me..." She then stood up and pulled out her camera, which was hooked onto a spot on the left side of her hip. "If I am to be noticed the world over as a photographer... then I must show everyone... the TRUE MAGICS!!!" The blue 25 then glowed brighter under her eye...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The very next morning at Canterlot High, the students were pouring into the hallways, ready for another day's worth of classes. Sunset Shimmer, as usual, traveled to the school with her best friends, chatting with them on the way over before eventually parting ways with most of them as they went to their classes. Sunset and Rainbow Dash headed off together to their first class and continued to talk with one another.

"So how's the soccer team doing so far in practice?" Sunset asked her athletic friend.

"Eh, not so great, but DEFINITELY better than last year. At least twenty percent better..." Rainbow answered. "Last year, they were moving so slow, I could run circles around them no faster than how I'm walking right now."

"Woah... really?" asked the otherworldly girl, a bit surprised.

"...Well, maybe not THAT bad, but you get the idea." the cyan girl informed her. "I think Coach Iron Will was a little too soft on 'em last year; it's the only thing I can think of."

("Soft" isn't exactly a word I'D use to describe him...) Sunset thought. (But then, I'm not Rainbow Dash...)

As they turned a corner down the hallway, the two teens noticed a peculiar sight: Right in front of the classroom that they were heading towards, there was a large group of students standing or sitting around, seemingly waiting for something or someone. The room nearby from where they all were was the Photography Lab, where, or course, the Photography Class took place. "Huh?" Sunset began to ask. "What's going on? Why is everypo-... er, I mean, why is everybody sitting out here?"

"Dunno... Let's go ask." Rainbow Dash suggested.

The two walked over to the crowd and approached a smaller girl amongst their classmates. She seemed to be a tad younger compared to either Sunset or Rainbow Dash, based on her size. She had orange skin, short, magenta hair, and purple eyes. She wore a dark-grey hoodie with a blue shirt underneath. She had on a pair of green shorts and a pair of dark-grey boots with blue socks.

Rainbow approached the younger girl and asked her, "Hey, Scootaloo... what's going on here? Why is everybody standin' around, doin' nothing?"

The magenta-haired student looked up at her and responded, saying, "Oh! Hey, Rainbow Dash!" She then rubbed the back of her head and answered the question, telling her, "Yeah... I don't know what's going on... All I know is that the teacher's not here yet."

"Mr. Toity isn't here?" asked Sunset. "That doesn't seem right..."

"Maybe he called in sick?" the cyan-skinned girl hypothesized. "And maybe his substitute forgot when to come to class?"

"No, Mr. Toity's here, alright." Scootaloo rebutted. "I saw his car pull up when I came here with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. Where he went after that, I don't know."

Sunset then looked over at Rainbow Dash and asked her, "So what do we do now?"

Before the athletic teen could respond, everybody in the hall could hear footsteps approaching them. They saw that it was none other than their teacher, Hoity Toity. However, he seemed to have a worried expression on his face (and given the fact that his shades covered a good amount of his face, if his worried look was noticeable, it was definitely serious).

"Mr. Toity!" Scootaloo spoke up, running over to him. "What's wrong? What took you so long?"

Hoity sighed deeply and responded, saying, "My sincerest apologies, class... It's just that... well..." He seemed to not want to talk about what was worrying him, but decided to in the end, figuring that his students deserved an explanation as to why he was late. He then asked them all, "Have any of you seen Photo Finish anywhere?"

"Uh... no, we haven't." Sunset Shimmer answered him. The rest of the class gave similar answers to their teacher.

The dark-grey man sighed again and said, "I was afraid of this... Usually, Photo Finish informs me ahead of time if she is running late or absent altogether. The fact that I have not heard anything in regards to that worries me greatly..." He then looked up at Sunset, Rainbow Dash, and Scootaloo and added, "And besides, there's so much going on throughout the remaining days of the week, and I really need her assistance now more than ever..."

"Maybe I could fill in for her." the red and yellow girl suggested.

"I appreciate the gesture, Ms. Shimmer," Mr. Toity replied, "but only Photo Finish knows my entire classroom itinerary for the week; I cannot have just anyone take her place."

"Then maybe we could help you find her." Rainbow Dash proposed. "It's still a while before classes start, and there's a pretty good chance that she might be at school, so it's at least worth a look around."

"I suppose there isn't much else that we can do..." the fancily-dressed teacher stated. He then nodded and said to them, "Alright then, let us look around and see if we can find her."

"Sounds good to me." Sunset agreed.

Rainbow Dash then glanced towards Scootaloo and asked her, "You wanna come and help us, Squirt?"

"Sure!!" the orange youngster replied enthusiastically. "Beats standin' around here!" Interestingly enough, Scootaloo didn't mind that Rainbow Dash called her, "Squirt". To anyone else, it would have sounded like an insult, but when Rainbow said it to Scootaloo, she made it sound more like a proud title instead. The little orange girl ran up towards the group of four as they all headed out of the hallway.

After they left, another student, a smaller girl with pink skin, purple and white-striped hair, and a shiny tiara huffed and said in a snooty tone, "Well this is JUST great!! What do they expect us to do until they get back?!?"

"I got a new rubber band, Diamond Tiara!" said a yellow-skinned boy with teal-colored hair in a dopey voice. He then pulled out a pink rubber band from out of his pocket and started stretching it.

"Yeah, great: A rubber band... Whoop-de-doo, Snails..." the girl said in a less-than-interested voice. The yellow boy then stretched the rubber band as long as he could. He then pointed it right at the tiara-wearing girl...

SNAP!!

"YEEEOOWWCH!!!"

Far away from the Photography Lab, Hoity Toity, along with Sunset, Rainbow, and Scootaloo, wandered the halls of the school looking around for the missing Photo Finish, as well asking anyone they met about her whereabouts. But no one knew where she was; not even Principal Celestia or Vice Principal Luna had any idea.

About five or so minutes later, the four of them were still searching. Luckily, it was still early, so there was still plenty of time to look around before classes officially started. "This is starting to become rather futile..." sighed Mr. Toity. "We have been searching the school for quite a long time, and we have not yet found Ms. Finish."

Sunset, who was currently leading the group, turned back towards the teacher and told him, "Well, let's not give up just yet, Mr. Toity. I'm sure sooner or later, we'll find her or someone who's seen her, and then we'll-"

"Sunset! In front of you!!" Rainbow suddenly shouted.

But before the red and yellow girl could react, she bumped right into somebody else, causing both her and the other person to fall backwards. The person she literally bumped into was a another student: He was a boy with pale-orange skin, blue eyes, and short, spiky blue hair. He wore a black shirt with red and white stripes on it, overtop a white shirt with a picture of a shield and a lightning bolt printed upon it. He wore a pair of blue jeans and a pair of black and white sneakers.

The rest of the group went over to the otherwordly girl to check up on her. "Hey, Sunset? You alright?" asked Scootaloo.

"I'm fine..." she answered the younger girl. "Just a bit sore." She then got up and helped the boy that she bumped into back onto his feet. "Sorry about that, Flash Sentry..." she apologized to him. "I wasn't watching where I was going."

"That's alright." the boy told her. "I wasn't paying attention either." Flash then chuckled a little and added, "Heh... it's kinda funny, though... I literally bump into so many people around here, I probably should start wearing a shirt with a warning sign on it."

"Well, it doesn't appear as if any harm was done here, so I think you should be alright for now." said Hoity Toity.

Flash turned his head towards the teacher when he heard him speak. "Oh! Mr. Toity! Perfect timing!" he said to him. "I needed to talk to you about something. I was on my way over to your classroom, but I guess you saved me the trip over there."

"You wanted to talk to me?" asked the grey-skinned man. "About what?"

"Well, I walked into the locker room to get ready for Gym Class," the boy explained, "but when I went to open the door, I heard some guys yelling and screaming inside."

"Yelling and screaming?" asked Rainbow Dash. "Over what?"

"I don't know, but there's something else:" Flash continued to tell them. "I heard this other voice in the locker room... but it wasn't a guy's voice; it was a girl's voice. And it sounded like... Photo Finish."

The group gasped when they heard him say that. "WHAT?! Photo Finish?!" asked Sunset. "What's she doing in the Boy's Locker Room??"

"I do not know, but she had better have a VERY good explanation for it once we find her." stated Hoity Toity. "Let us go and confront her immediately!" The rest of the group nodded and followed the teacher towards the Gymnasium area, now joined by the boy, Flash Sentry.

The five of them reached the Gym and approached the door to the Boys' Locker Room. But before they could open it, they all heard a rushing of footsteps coming towards the door. "Quick!! Out of the way!!" warned Sunset Shimmer. The five backed off just before a flood of male students came running out. Some were in their normal clothes, some were in their gym clothes... Some, however, were only in their underwear as they ran screaming out of the locker room.

Needless to say, Sunset and the others were befuddled with what they saw. "...Okaaaaaaay... that's a mental image that's gonna haunt me for a while." stated Rainbow Dash, referring to the male students that were only in their underpants specifically.

"Let's just be glad that we didn't come here right when they were about to take a shower..." Sunset noted. She then walked back over to the door and opened it, knowing that there was no one else inside... except for one individual. Sure enough, the others saw that it was indeed a girl inside, and just like Flash had told them, it was Photo Finish, who was holding her camera and seemed slightly annoyed that all of the students that were in the room had ran off.

"No way... it IS her...!" said Scootaloo, shocked.

Hoity Toity then walked inside and asked, in a slightly angry tone, "Ms. Finish! What is the matter with you?! This behavior is QUITE inappropriate!"

"Do not attempt to stop me, Mr. Toity!" Photo said to him, slighty frustrated. "I am simply here to capture beauty on film, and I will not allow anyone, not even you, to prevent me from preserving the MAGICS!!"

"Really?" asked Rainbow Dash. "'Cause all I see you doing is making other people REALLY uncomfortable! So don't even try and justify it!"

"Yeah! What she said!" Scootaloo chimed in.

"Do you not realize that you are risking suspension or perhaps even expulsion by doing what you are doing in here??" Mr. Toity reminded her. "I do not want to have to report you to the Principals, but I will if I have to!"

"There is always risk involved in pursuing fame and fortune!" shouted Photo Finish. "I thought you, of all people, would understand that!!" As she spoke, the 25 symbol under her right eye began to glow brighter.

That glow was immediately noticed by Sunset Shimmer, who started to feel an eerie sense of déjà vu. (That symbol...) she thought to herself, (it looks similar to the one that Octavia had on her neck when she was attacking Vinyl!) She then gasped and added to her thoughts, (Now I see what's going on...)

The group then watched Sunset Shimmer step forward to confront Photo Finish directly. "Sunset? What are you doing?" asked Flash Sentry.

The otherworldy girl then glanced over at Hoity Toity and told him, "Mr. Toity... let me deal with Photo Finish for you."

"What? What are you talking about, Ms. Shimmer??" asked the teacher.

"Don't report her to the Principals just yet..." she asked of him. "I know what's going on and I know what to do about it. Just trust me, okay?"

Hoity was a bit confused as to what Sunset was going to do, but Rainbow Dash said to him, "I think Photo'll be in good hands, Mr. Toity. You can trust that Sunset will figure out what's wrong with her." The man was still a bit skeptical, but decided to let the situation play out some more before making any rash decisions.

Sunset Shimmer then stood directly in front of the photographer-gone-crazy and said to her, "Photo Finish... I know what's going on here; I know you're not doing this out of your own free will. But I know what's REALLY making you do all of this, and I promise that I'll stop it!"

"Oh you do, do you?" asked Photo Finish. "In that case, just TRY and stop me!"

"Very well, then." The red and yellow girl then pointed straight at her and declared, "Photo Finish, I challenge you to a Duel!!" The others gasped when they heard her declare her sudden challenge.

"Hmmm... I see. So you aren't just blowing smoke, are you?" inquired Photo. "You DO know what is at work here... Otherwise, you wouldn't have even thought of challenging me to a Duel."

"Exactly." stated Sunset. "So what do you say? Do you accept the challenge?"

"If that is what you wish, then so be it!" replied the sky-blue girl. "But if I win, I stay and continue my work within this room!"

"Fine by me." the red and yellow girl said back. "But if I win, you leave immediately. No excuses." Photo Finish nodded to say that she accepted the terms. Sunset then took out her backpack and pulled out a device from it: It was her Duel Pad, which she immediately strapped onto her left arm. "Activating Duel Pad!" she shouted as the device unfolded its card tray. She then took out her Duel Gazer and placed it over her left eye. "Duel Gazer, activate!" she then chanted.

Photo Finish pulled out her black-colored Duel Pad and placed it on her arm. She then appeared to turn a dial on the left side of her shades, which caused the left lens to turn from light blue, to a bright green; Photo Finish's Duel Gazer was built into her shades, and the dial she turned activated it. Once both of their Duel Gazers were activated, a computerized voice then said, "AR Vision Link established." A digital copy of the locker room was then projected as the two Duelists drew their opening hands.

"LET'S DUEL!!" they both shouted to each other (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000) (Photo Finish: LP 4,000).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

As Sunset and Photo began their Duel against one another, the remainder of the group had gotten out their Duel Gazers so that they could watch what was going on (in Hoity Toity's case, he had his Duel Gazer built into his shades, just like Photo Finish). "I don't understand..." the teacher began to say. "Why, pretell, is Ms. Shimmer dueling Ms. Finish?"

"I'm not totally sure," Rainbow Dash replied, "but there's something eerily familiar about this whole thing..."

"How so?" asked Flash Sentry.

"Well, not too long ago, Sunset was dueling Octavia, just like she is right now with Photo Finish." the cyan girl explained. "At the time, Octy wasn't acting like herself at all... She was going completely crazy, and nobody knew why. But then, after Sunset beat her, she was back to her normal, kinda boring self again."

"So, is that why she's dueling Photo Finish right now?" asked Scootaloo.

"Maybe..." Rainbow figured. "I suppose we'll see soon enough..." The rest of the group then glanced back towards Sunset and Photo Finish in order to watch their Duel.

"If you don't mind," started the red and yellow girl, "I'll make the first move!" She then took out a card from her hand and said, "I Summon Chronomaly Nebra Disk in Attack Mode!" After placing it onto the card tray, a large, green disk with white spots and some sort of smiley face materialized in front of her (Chronomaly Nebra Disk: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1500).

"You know that you cannot attack on your first turn, so why did you play that in Attack Mode?" asked Photo Finish.

"Simple:" Sunset began to explain. "By Normal Summoning Nebra Disk, I can now take any Chronomaly card I want from my Deck! And I choose the Spell Card, Chronomaly Technology." After making that move, she then stated, "Next, I'll discard Chronomaly Crystal Skull from my hand to use its effect, allowing me to take any Chronomaly monster from my Deck or my Graveyard. And I choose Chronomaly Moai."

"She must be setting up something for later..." noted Flash.

"Probably a good idea." said Rainbow Dash. "I don't think Sunset's ever dueled Photo Finish before, so she probably has never seen what kinda Deck she uses."

Taking one last card out of her hand, Sunset Shimmer then said to her opponent, "I'll set one card facedown, ending my turn."

"Then it is my turn! I draw!" said Photo Finish, drawing a card from the top of her Deck. After placing it into her hand, she then said, "I'll set one card facedown as well. And then I will Summon my Illuminating Shutterbug in Attack Mode!"

The monster that Photo Finish brought out appeared to be a humanoid robot of some sort, with cameras for hands, as well as a camera built into its chest area (Illuminating Shutterbug: Level 4 / ATK 1900 / DEF 1100).

"And don't bother trying to use your facedown card to save you, Ms. Shimmer!" Photo informed her. "When my monster attacks, it prevents you from activating your Trap Cards until the battle is over!"

(Crud... that means my monster's wide open to attack...) the otherworldly girl thought to herself.

"Now, go! Illuminating Shutterbug!!" shouted the sky-blue teen. "Attack Nebra Disk!! Photogenic Laser!!" Photo Finish's robot monster then pointed its cameras straight towards Sunset's monster, letting out a bright flash from all three of them. The light was so intense, it caused Sunset and her audience to shield their eyes. Unfortunately for Nebra Disk, it had no hands to cover its... face with, so it received the full force of the attack and was destroyed.

Once the light died down, Sunset Shimmer and the others opened their eyes, and the red and yellow girl let out a tired sigh (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000 - 100 = 3,900). "Is that all you've got?" she asked her opponent.

"For now, but I promise that there shall be more magics to come." the photographer said as she ended her turn.

"Then it's my turn!" stated Sunset. "I draw!!" She then looked at the card she got, and was pleased by what she saw. "Time for something new, then." she said as she examined her hand and took out a card from it. "Now, since you have a monster on your side of the field and I don't," she said to Photo Finish, "I can Special Summon this monster from my hand! I play Oracle of the Sun in Defense Mode!"

Sunset's new monster appeared to be some sort of Incan priest. He wore several robes that were colored red, white, and grey, a gold hat with two wings attached to it, and he held a staff with several white feathers on it. On the front of his robe was a large sun emblem (Oracle of the Sun: Level 5 / ATK 1000 / DEF 2000).

"And since that was a Special Summoning, I can still Normal Summon a monster this turn." the red and yellow girl then said. "So now I'll Summon Supay in Attack Mode!" The teen's second monster was a wooden mask with two horns sticking out of it, and had all sorts of markings upon it, including a pair of blue and red eyes (Supay: Level 1 / ATK 300 / DEF 100).

"But those two monsters aren't strong enough to fight that camera guy." said Scootaloo.

"No, but Sunset might be trying to use those monsters to call out something from her Extra Deck instead." said Flash.

"But her monsters don't have the same Level." the magenta-haired girl argued. "She can't use them to bring out an Xyz Monster..."

"True, but that ain't what she's gonna do." Rainbow Dash informed her. "Just watch and you'll see what I mean, Scoots."

Photo Finish huffed a little and told Sunset Shimmer, "Sorry, Ms. Shimmer, but those two monsters do not scare me in the slightest."

"They're not supposed to." the otherworldly girl informed her opponent. "They're here to call up something that WILL scare you." She then shouted, "I tune my Level 1 Supay to my Level 5 Oracle of the Sun!" After making that announcement, Supay turned itself into a small, white light that shot up into the sky, coming back down in the form of a green ring that surrounded itself around Oracle of the Sun, turning him into five smaller lights (Level 1 + Level 5 = Level 6).

"Dragon deity of the Moon, calm the chaos!" Sunset chanted. "Give rest to the weary with your soothing night breeze! Synchro Summon!" At that moment, a large column of light engulfed the ring and the five lights completely. "Show yourself! Level 6! Moon Dragon Quilla!"

Out from the column of light, a glowing blue stone with a face engraved upon it emerged and took its place on the field. Then out from the stone came four blue dragon heads with long, purple necks, snarling and ready to battle (Moon Dragon Quilla: Level 6 / ATK 2500 / DEF 2000).

"A Synchro Summoning?!" asked a surprised Photo Finish.

"What did she just do?" asked Scootaloo.

"Sunset's Deck isn't just for Xyz Summons." Flash informed her. "She also has lots of cards that support Synchro Summoning as well..."

*******************************

Synchro Monsters:

Synchro Monsters, which have white-colored frames, are a type of Monster Card that can be used in a player's Extra Deck. In order to Special Summon a Synchro Monster from the Extra Deck (called a Synchro Summon), you must have (in most cases) one Tuner Monster, and one or more non-Tuner Monsters face-up on your field; these are called Synchro Materials. In addition, the combined Levels of all of the Synchro Materials must equal the Level of the Synchro Monster you are attempting to Summon. If these conditions are met, send all of the Synchro Materials to the Graveyard, then place the Synchro Monster you wish to Summon on the field, in face-up Attack or Defense Position.

*******************************

"Alright! Now Sunset's got a super-strong monster on the field to fight with!" said Rainbow Dash. "Go ahead and let 'er have it!" she cheered to her friend.

"It'd be my pleasure!" said the red and yellow girl. She then gave out her order to her Synchro Monster, telling it, "Go, Moon Dragon Quilla! Attack her monster with your Lunar Streams!!" The dragon heard the order and charged up energy inside of each of her four mouths. Then, each of them fired a large ray at Illuminating Shutterbug, vaporizing it and turning it into nothing more than a charred smudge on the tile floor.

The rest of the attack then hit Photo Finish, depleting some of her Life Points (Photo Finish: LP 4,000 - 600 = 3,400). Then, the sky-blue girl shouted, "I activate my Trap Card! Trade-In Special!" After her card flipped face up, she then told Sunset, "Since you just destroyed a Machine-Type monster on my side of the field, I can then banish it from the Graveyard and Summon two Level 4 or lower Machine-Type monsters to the field to replace it! So now I Summon two Tripodbots from my hand to the field in Defense Mode!"

After playing her cards, she then brought forth two smaller robots that walked on three, pointy, metal legs, and had tall, neck-like posts with a camera on the top (Tripodbot [x2]: Level 3 / ATK 1450 / DEF 400).

(Two Level 3 monsters, huh...?) Sunset thought to herself. (That means she must be planning to Xyz Summon a Rank 3 monster on her next turn...) Having no other moves left, the otherworldly girl ended her turn.

"It's my turn! I draw!!" declared Photo Finish. After drawing her card, she then gave off a sinister smirk. "Perfect... now I have exactly what I need to vanquish you!"

"Vanquish?? Uh oh..." said Scootaloo, getting a bit worried.

Rainbow Dash started getting a little worried as well, mostly because something about Photo Finish's attitude at the moment was both very creepy... and very familiar. Mr. Toity was also concerned about his best student, wondering what could have come over her.

"I activate this Spell Card from my hand: Quick Star: LV 3!" the photographer announced. "Since I have two monsters on my field with equal Levels, this card will raise both of their Levels by three!" (Tripodbot [x2]: Level 3 + 3 = Level 6)

"L-Level 6??" asked Sunset Shimmer, surprised. (Now she can bring out a Rank 6 Xyz Monster!) she then pondered to herself. (This isn't good...)

"I now overlay my two Level 6 Tripodbots!" stated Photo Finish as her two monsters transformed into a pair of bright yellow lights. After that, a summoning portal appeared in front of her; it looked just like the summoning portal that Octavia had used to Summon her Number card, which Sunset immediately noticed. "With these two monsters, I can build the Overlay Network! Now prepare to bear witness to... the ULTIMATE MAGICS!!" The portal then let out a large light explosion, leaving behind a symbol that looked like the one under her right eye. "I Xyz Summon Number 25: Force Focus!!"

After her declaration, a large box-shaped object, along with two yellow lights, descended down from above. As it turned out, the box resembled a giant camera. The camera then began to open up and all sorts of other lenses and cords extended out of it, and its number symbol then appeared just below its biggest lens.

*******************************

Number 25: Force Focus:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Machine-Type/LIGHT/Rank 6/ATK 2800/DEF 2400)

2 Level 6 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card to target 1 face-up Level 5 or higher Effect Monster your opponent controls; negate the effects of that opponent's face-up monster, until the end of the turn.

*******************************

Sunset growled a bit upon seeing Photo Finish's monster. "I knew it..." she said to herself.

"What kinda card is that, Rainbow Dash?" asked Scootaloo. "I've never even heard of it!"

"Me neither..." added Flash, who was just as surprised as everyone else upon seeing the Xyz Monster's appearance.

Rainbow Dash stared at the huge camera-shaped monster, and then glanced over at Photo Finish, who was starting to act even creepier than before, cackling after she made her move. The cyan girl then saw that the 25 symbol under the photographer's eye began glowing even brighter than before. (This is just like before...) she thought. (When Octavia brought out one of those Number cards, she started acting even crazier than before the Duel started... Sunset was right: Those cards really ARE causing people to go nuts!)

"Now for my next move," began Photo Finish, "I'll play a Spell Card from my hand: 7 Completed! This Equip Spell will give 700 points to my monster's attack or defense points! And of course, I'll choose to raise its attack power!" After playing her card, a bright green energy flowed into her Number card and made it more powerful than before (Number 25: Force Focus: ATK 2800 + 700 = 3500).

(This isn't good... Those Numbers are super-tough to begin with, and she only made hers even tougher!) Sunset complained in her mind. (Luckily, if she DOES attack my Moon Dragon, I can use her effect to raise my Life Points by an amount that's equal to half of her attacking monster's attack points... I just hope that will be enough to help me get through this Duel...)

But the photographer chuckled and told her foe, "If you think I am not aware of your monster's abilities, you had better think again!" She then took out a card from underneath her Number card and declared, "I activate the effect of Force Focus! By using one of its Overlay Units, I can negate the effects of any Level 5 or above monster that you have on the field! And I choose your Moon Dragon Quilla!"

Sunset gasped when Photo's Xyz Monster absorbed one of its floating spheres (Number 25: Force Focus: OLU: 2 - 1 = 1) and let out a bright flash that was directed towards the red and yellow girl's Synchro Monster. The flash was so bright, everyone ducked their heads so as to avoid it. However, Sunset's dragon was hit with most of the flash, causing her to roar in pain and fall over forward to the ground.

"Now that that's taken care of," began the sky-blue girl, "I can attack without worry!" Pointing straight at Sunset's dragon, Photo shouted, "Go! Force Focus!! Attack Moon Dragon Quilla!!" The giant camera then charged up a powerful light beam and fired it right at the Synchro Monster, destroying her with one single blast and taking out a sizable chunk of Sunset's Life Points (Sunset Shimmer: LP 3,900 - 1,000 = 2,900).

"Woah... that's definitely not good..." said Scootaloo.

"Yeah, if she can't defend herself on the next turn, she'll lose the Duel!" added Flash.

"Don't count her out of this just yet, guys." Rainbow told them. "Sunset'll find a way outta this mess, beat Photo, and stop that Number card from making her go crazy!"

Mr. Toity glanced over at Photo Finish, then at Sunset. He then mentally urged the otherworldly girl, (Please, Ms. Shimmer... Please help her...) It seemed as though the teacher was also convinced that his star student wasn't in control of her own actions.

"It's my turn..." Sunset told her opponent. "I draw!" After she drew her card, she glanced at it and began to think of what to do next. (Okay... it's a bit of a long shot, but I think this is probably my only chance to defeat that Number card and wipe out the rest of her Life Points.) She then took the card that she had just drawn and placed it facedown onto the field, saying, "First, I'll set a facedown card, and then I'll also activate the Spell Card Chronomally Technology!" After the digital version of the card appeared in front of her, Sunset then informed Photo Finish, "After banishing Chronomaly Crystal Skull from my Graveyard, I can see the top two cards on my Deck; one goes to my hand, the other, to the Graveyard."

The others watched as the red and yellow girl did just that, taking one of the two cards into her hand and placing the other in the Graveyard slot. "Whad'ya think she's doing?" asked Scootaloo.

"Hopefully, she has some sort of plan for a counterattack going right now..." said Flash Sentry.

After resolving her Spell Card, Sunset then announced, "Next, I Special Summon Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem from my hand, which I can do after I play a Chronomaly Spell Card on the same turn." She then played her card in Defense Position, bringing out a red, humanoid-like statue to the field in front of her (Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem: Level 4 / ATK 1500 / DEF 1000).

"In addition," the otherworldly girl added, "since the only monsters I control at the moment are Chronomaly monsters, I can activate the effect of Nebra Disk in the Graveyard, allowing me to bring it back to the field in Defense Mode!" At that moment, Sunset's green, disk-shaped monster emerged from a dark-violet portal that appeared in front of her. Taking one more card from her hand, she then finished her move, stating, "Last, but not least, I'll set one monster facedown in Defense Mode." After placing the card facedown and horizontally on her Duel Pad, an image of a facedown monster appeared onto her field.

"So you're building up your defenses to try and hold out until you find a way to overcome my Number card?" asked Photo Finish, smirking evilly. "You're just wasting your time; nothing you have can stop Force Focus!" Photo then drew her next card and shouted, "I Summon Mechanicalchaser in Attack Mode!!".

She then played the card she just drew, bringing out a green, sphere-shaped robotic monster. It had a sword built directly on the bottom of it, it had six long, thin arms, each one holding some sort of weapon, and a pair of steel wings on its back (Mechanicalchaser: Level 4 / ATK 1850 / DEF 800).

"Now go, Force Focus!!" Photo Finish announced. "Attack her Nebra Disk!!" The giant camera monster then charged up its laser and fired it, aiming it right at Sunset's frisbee-shaped monster.

"That won't work a second time, Photo Finish!!" the otherworldly girl yelled back. Tapping her Duel Pad's touchscreen, she declared, "I activate Negate Attack!!" One of her facedown cards then revealed itself, and its power went into effect right away.

*******************************

Negate Attack:
(Counter Trap Card)

When an opponent's monster declares an attack: Target the attacking monster; negate the attack, then end the Battle Phase.

*******************************

After Sunset flipped her Trap Card face-up, a large vortex manifested itself in front of Nebra Disk, absorbing the laser that Force Focus fired and saving the red and yellow girl's monster from being destroyed. Photo Finish grumbled and said, "That just buys you one turn! That's all it does!!"

Sunset Shimmer then drew her next card, smiled and said, "You're absolutely right: I only get one more turn. But that's all I need to beat you!"

"You lie!" protested the photographer.

"Wanna bet?" Sunset then declared, "I release my facedown monster, Apocatequil, in order to Tribute Summon Chronomaly Winged Sphinx!" The girl's facedown monster then disappeared in a plume of smoke as a large, stone creature flew through the roof above. It resembled the Sphinx statue in Egypt, but it also had a pair of long wings constructed onto its sides, though how it was able to fly with them was a mystery (Chronomaly Winged Sphinx: Level 5 / ATK 1600 / DEF 1900). "Now," the red and yellow teen added, "after Chronomaly Winged Sphinx is Tribute Summoned, I can use its effect to bring back any Level 5 Chronomaly monster from my Graveyard."

"I'm afraid that I cannot let you do that!" Photo said to her foe. "I use Force Focus's effect once more and negate Winged Sphinx's effect!" The giant camera monster then absorbed its remaining Overlay Unit (Number 25: Force Focus: OLU: 1 - 1 = 0) and let out another flash, causing Sunset's newly Summoned monster to lose most of its power. "There!! Now you don't have any way to fight back! This Duel will be over and you will fall before my dueling magics!!"

But the photographer then noticed something strange: Sunset wasn't worried at all, in fact, she was actually chuckling a bit. The red and yellow teenager smirked and told her opponent, "You did just what I was hoping you'd do, Photo Finish..."

"What do you mean...?!"

"I said that Winged Sphinx had an ability to bring back one of my monsters." the otherworldly girl reminded Photo. "But I never said that I was activating it."

"Huh?!? What?!?" was all that the silver-haired girl could reply with.

"I knew you'd try and stop my monster's effect if I used it," Sunset explained, "so I tricked you into using up your monster's other Overlay Unit! That way, you wouldn't be able to stop me from making my next move!"

"Oh no...!" Photo Finish said after hearing that.

"I don't need to use Winged Sphinx's effect;" Sunset stated. "I have another way of bringing out another Level 5 monster!" Taking out another card from her hand, she then declared, "Now, since I control at least one Chronomaly monster, I can Special Summon Chronomaly Moai in Defense Mode!" After placing the card onto the tray, the girl's Easter Island head-like monster appeared in front of her (Chronomaly Moai: Level 5 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1600).

"Oh no!! She has two Level 5 monsters on the field!!" Photo then looked at her Number card and added, "And without any Overlay Units, I have no way of stopping her!"

"I overlay Winged Sphinx and Moai, both Level 5!!" shouted Sunset Shimmer as her two monsters transformed into a pair of orange lights and were sucked up into a galaxy-like summoning portal. "With these monsters," she continued, "I can build the Overlay Network!! I Xyz Summon Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech!!!" The portal then exploded, leaving behind a purple-colored 33 mark on the tile floor in front of her. Then, crashing through the roof above came Sunset's fortress-like Number card (Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech: Rank 5 / ATK 2400 / DEF 1500 / OLU 2).

"Sh-she has a Number card as well?!" Photo Finish asked herself in shock.

"Woah..." said Scootaloo. "That thing looks so cool!!"

Flash Sentry was also pretty surprised by the emergence of Sunset's Number card. "Where'd Sunset get a card that powerful? I've never even heard of it before..."

Rainbow smirked and said, "This shouldn't take much longer. Sunset's got that shutterbug on the ropes now!"

The otherworldly girl then said to her opponent, "I activate the effect of Chronomaly Machu Mech! By removing one Overlay Unit, I can damage your Life Points by an amount equal to the difference between Force Focus's original attack power and its current attack power!"

The sky-blue teenager gasped as one of Machu Mech's swirling orbs phased into a pillar (Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech: OLU: 2 -1 = 1). This then caused several cannons to come out of the fortress and aim themselves right at her, firing a blast that took out some of Photo Finish's Life Points. "Ack!!!!" she screamed upon taking the hit (Photo Finish: LP: 3,400 - 700 = 2,700).

"That's not all:" Sunset then told her. "After Machu Mech damages you with its effect, it then absorbs the Life Points you lost and turns them into attack points for itself!" (Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech: ATK 2400 + 700 = 3100)

"It's still not enough to defeat Force Focus, Ms. Shimmer!" reminded the silver-haired teen. "And even if you attack my Mechanicalchaser, you won't be able to deplete all of my Life Points!"

"Trust me, I'm aware of that." the red and yellow girl stated. "But I'm not quite finished with my move yet." She then shouted, "Now, I overlay Aztec Mask Golem and Nebra Disk, both Level 4, to build ANOTHER Overlay Network!!"

"What?! She is Xyz Summoning again?!" asked Photo, shocked.

Sunset Shimmer's Aztec Mask Golem and Nebra Disk transformed into an orange light and a yellow light, respectively before being drawn into another galaxy-like portal, which let out another light explosion. "I Xyz Summon... Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk!!" shouted the otherworldly girl as she played her second Number card. The explosion from the portal revealed a red 80 on the floor and brought out a large armored man wearing a purple cape (Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk: Rank 4 / ATK 0 / DEF 1200 / OLU 2).

Photo Finish began shaking a little, as she did not expect this move on Sunset's part. "How... how is this possible?! She has TWO Number cards?!? This must be some sort of trick!!!"

Rainbow Dash gasped a little, saying, "No way... she just summoned the Number card that Octavia used against her!"

"Okay... that's it. I can't deny it anymore." said Scootaloo. "Sunset just got a WHOLE lot cooler."

"Now I activate the effect of Rhapsody in Berserk!" Sunset Shimmer announced. "With it, I can equip him to any other Xyz Monster I control, raising its attack power by 1,200 points!" The newly-summoned Number then performed a mighty leap onto the top of Machu Mech, pressed its giant hand upon the top of the fortress, and transferring its power to its ally (Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech: ATK 3100 + 1200 = 4300).

"This can't be!" protested Photo Finish, getting worried. "Now it's stronger than EITHER of my monsters! I don't have any choice but to defend on my next turn!"

"Sorry, but I won't even let you do that!" the red and yellow girl told her. She then tapped her touchscreen and shouted, "I play the Quick-Play Spell Card, Limiter Removal!!!"

"NO!!! Not that!!!" screamed the sky blue girl in shock and fear.

"Now, for the rest of the turn," Sunset explained, "this card doubles the attack power of all of my face-up Machine-Type monsters, giving me more than I need to defeat your Force Focus and win the Duel!!" The card's power then flowed into Machu Mech, surrounding it with a firey red aura (Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech: ATK 4300 x 2 = 8600).

"Alright!! This is it!!" cheered Rainbow Dash, knowing that her friend was about to making her finishing move.

"Go!! Chronomaly Mach Mech!!! Destroy Force Focus with your Meteor Meltdown!!" ordered the black jacket-clad teenager. The Xyz Monster then aimed its many, many cannons at Photo's Number card and fired, turning the camera-shaped monster into an unrecognizable pile of scrap metal.

The remainder of the blast hit Photo Finish directly, causing her to scream and fall on her back hard. And with that, the Duel was over (Photo Finish: LP 2,700 - 5,100 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Alright!! She did it!!" cheered Scootaloo, pumping a fist into the air. "Sunset beat her!!"

"Great job, Sunset!!" Flash added.

"Yeah, that was awesome!!" chimed in Rainbow. "Photo didn't even know what hit her!!"

Mr. Toity said nothing, but he was also happy. Both for Sunset's impressive victory, and the fact that she was able to stop whatever caused Photo Finish's sudden change in behavior.

Sunset then sighed out of relief, and then noticed something else was happening; her key was now glowing. "My necklace..." she said to herself. "It's glowing again... just like it did when I beat Octavia." The red and yellow girl then glanced up at Photo Finish and saw a ball of light rise up from her chest.

"Um... what's that??." Flash asked upon seeing the light.

"I don't know..." Rainbow responded, "but this same thing happened with Octavia after Sunset beat her in a Duel..." Scootaloo and Hoity Toity didn't know what they were talking about; for some reason, they couldn't see the light sphere that was clearly visible to the others.

The otherworldly girl stared at the light for some time, thinking about the last time that she had seen this phenomenon. She then decided to reach her hand out, just like the last time. Sunset then saw that the light flew over towards her hand, just as she thought that it would. The light then shaped itself into a card, revealing itself as Photo Finish's Number card, Force Focus. In addition, the bluish glow from the photographer's shades turned back to their normal fuschia color, and the 25 mark under her eye disappeared.

"This is just like last time..." Sunset said to herself. "After I beat Octavia, I got her Number card... And now I have Photo Finish's card." She then began thinking to herself and deduced, "So that's it... Every time I defeat a Duelist with a Number card, I then get that card from them..."

Her inner monologue was suddenly interrupted when she and the others heard groaning sounds coming from Photo Finish. She put her hand up to her forehead as she got up, asking herself, "...What... happened...? Where am I...?" She then looked around the area and, realizing where she was, shouted, "What?! What's going on?! Why am I in the Boy's Locker Room?!? I could have sworn that I was in the Photography Lab!!"

"Uh... what's up with her?" asked Scootaloo, confused.

"I don't know..." stated Hoity Toity. "It is if she has no memory of what she was doing a moment ago..."

"...Maybe that's because that's exactly what happened." Rainbow figured.

"You serious?" asked Flash Sentry.

"I'm still not really sure how it's possible," the cyan girl told him and the others, "but if that Number card really was what was causing Photo t' go crazy, losing that card to Sunset turned her back to normal, and because of that, she might not remember much of what happened, if anything..." She then glanced at the rest of the group and said to them, "Unless you guys can think of any other reason... After all, she could be faking it to save face."

Mr. Toity then looked over at his star student, seeing for himself that she really didn't seem to know where she was or what had happened. It was enough to convince him that Photo Finish wasn't in control of herself earlier on, and that she did not mean to cause any trouble at all. He then walked over to her and said, "Ms. Finish, I am glad to see that you are okay."

"Mr. Toity...?" she then asked him. "What happened to me? Why am I in this room...?" She then gasped and inquired, "I wasn't sleepwalking again, was I?"

"Um... You might have been." the teacher said to her, though he still wasn't exactly sure about the cause of her strange actions. "But do not worry, everything will be okay. Now come on... let us get back to the Photo Lab. Class will be starting very soon."

"...Yes... okay, Mr. Toity..." Photo replied, still a bit groggy from the Duel she was in that she didn't seem to remember. The two of them left the locker room soon after.

Rainbow Dash then said to the others, "Well, I guess we'd better get out of here, too." Sniffing the air and wincing a little, she then added, "I've had enough of the smell of this place for quite a while."

"Right now, I'm just glad the smell in here is the only thing I need to worry about..." Sunset Shimmer told her friend.

"I'd better go and figure out where the rest of my classmates are and tell them that everything's okay here." said Flash Sentry, heading for the door. "I'll see you guys later!"

After Flash left, the three girls then left the locker room, making their way back to the Photo Lab. Scootaloo then glanced up at Sunset Shimmer and asked her, "Hey, Sunset... After school's done today, you think you could come over with me, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle and give us some dueling advice?"

"Really?" asked the red and yellow girl in slight surprise. "You really want me there?"

"Sure!" said the young orange girl. "We've just started a club for learning how to play Duel Monsters, and we could really use some help from an expert! Personally, I'd really like to learn more about that Synchro-thing that you did earlier; I thought it looked so cool!"

Sunset smiled warmly, happy to hear that someone actually wanted her to lend them a hand. She then nodded and said, "Sure. I'll be there."

"Great!" cheered Scootaloo. "I'll tell Bloom and Sweetie at Art Class! See ya there!" She then ran on ahead, heading to the Photo Lab.

The otherworldly girl smiled as Rainbow said to her, "Looks like somebody's got a new fan, huh?"

"Yeah, it sure seems like it." stated the red and yellow girl.

"And you didn't even have to scare her into liking you, either." the cyan girl added. Sunset then glanced over at her with narrowed eyes, causing Dash to say to her, "Uh, sorry about that..."

The otherworldly girl sighed and told her, "Eh, it's okay, Rainbow... Nowadays, I can kinda look back on those days and laugh a little about it."

"Uh, good t' know." Rainbow Dash then picked up the pace a little more and told her friend, "Anyway, I'll see ya in class."

"Okay... see you later." After the athletic teen left, Sunset Shimmer began thinking about what she had experienced so far. Looking at the three Number cards she now possessed, she then thought to herself, (Where did these things come from...? And why? All I know is that these things have proven themselves to be really dangerous... And it seems like I'm the only one that can stop them...) She then added to her monologue, saying to herself, "So every time I defeat a Number user, I get their Number card... But... what would happen if I lost to one of them? Would that mean that... I'd lose MY Numbers to them...?" The thought made the girl very uncomfortable; she decided not to think about it anymore and walked a bit faster to get to her class on time.

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Sunset Shimmer (3 Numbers total):

- Number 25: Force Focus

---------------------------------------------------------------------

RANK 4: Fashion Disaster:

View Online

RANK 4: Fashion Disaster:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Lately, Sunset Shimmer's skills in Duel Monsters have been put to the test when she encounters a series of powerful cards known simply as "Numbers". The cards, as well as the Duelists who use them, have shown themselves to be overwhelmingly powerful. However, the Number cards' powers have also been revealed to be dangerous as well: Octavia nearly caused bodily harm to her best friend, Vinyl Scratch, while under the influence of one of them. Only when she was defeated in a Duel and her Number taken away did she return to her normal, non-violent self.

She wasn't the only one to become corrupted by the power of a Number card: Photo Finish had obtained one some time after Octavia had found hers, and her desire to become a famous photographer nearly made her infamous as a Peeping Tom. Fortunately, Sunset was able to stop her, and managed to obtain her Number card after defeating her.

Now Sunset currently possesses three Number cards: Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk, Number 25: Force Focus, and the first one that she had found, Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech. However, she still has no clue as to where they came from. All she knows is that she must try and stop these cards from causing any more trouble, as well as to prevent others from becoming corrupted by them... especially her best friends.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was a cloudy night in the city of Canterlot: At 10:46 p.m., most of the city's residents, as well as those who lived in the suburbs, were already getting ready to go to sleep. It was a Sunday night, so the young otherworldly teenager, Sunset Shimmer, went to stay at a friend's house for the night. Tonight, she decided to stay over at Rainbow Dash's place for a sleepover. Of course, right now, sleeping was the last thing on their minds at the moment...

"Ha! I got it!" shouted the cyan teenager as she and Sunset were playing a video game. "Did ya see that?! I got to the top of the flagpole!"

"Yeah... by bouncing off of MY head." the red and yellow girl reminded her.

"Hey, all's fair in love and war." Rainbow Dash told her. "When it comes to a competition, I don't hold ANYTHING back."

"Except this isn't a competition, Rainbow... This is Co-op Mode." Sunset told her friend. "Co-op! As in the first four letters of the word, 'cooperation'?!"

"Yeesh, you don't hafta yell, Sunset... I'm right here." The athletic girl then asked Sunset, "What's gotten under your skin today?"

The otherworldly girl sighed as she put down the controller before saying, "Sorry... it's just that I've been a bit tense lately, you know?"

"About what?" asked Rainbow Dash. "You mean those Number cards?"

Sunset nodded as she took out her deck box and pulled out the three Numbers that she had. "I still haven't figured out where these things came from..." she stated. "I've looked everywhere for information about them: I've talked to other collectors, searched through the Internet, and practically everything in between. But no one's seemed to have ever heard of these cards. By all accounts, they shouldn't exist."

"Woah... that's weird..." Rainbow commented.

"All I know so far is that if someone comes into contact with one of them, they start acting like a completely different person..." the red and yellow girl then said, "And there's also something else; when I found my first Number card, it was totally blank. But then, right after I picked it up, a picture appeared on it all of a sudden."

"You know, now that I think about it," the cyan teen spoke up, "doesn't it seem a little strange that the Number cards that Octy and Photo had seemed to be like... I dunno, the absolute perfect cards for them?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, let's start with Octy's card..." Rainbow replied, pointing to the card in question. "She called it, 'Rhapsody in Berserk'. Doesn't rhapsody have somethin' to do with music?"

"Yeah, it's a musical term." answered Sunset Shimmer. "It's an instrumental composition of irregular form."

"Uh, yeah... sure." The athletic girl then added, "Not only that, but when me and AJ were takin' her to the nurse, she mentioned that the last thing she remembered before picking up that card was that she was annoyed by something that Vinyl had been doing at the time."

"That would explain why Octavia started attacking Vinyl..." noted the otherworldly girl. She then gasped as she picked up her most recent Number card. "That's not all! What about the card Photo Finish had? Force Focus?"

"You mean the one that made her start taking pictures of guys in the Boys Locker Room?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Uh huh." Sunset then looked at the two Number cards that they were talking about and said, "These cards were all originally blank, but after somepon-er, somebody picks one up, it takes on a new form..." Thinking about it for a while, she then hypothesized, "I think I get it now... The Numbers must transform themselves based on the desires and feelings of the person who finds them... Octavia loves classical music, and at the time, she was annoyed at Vinyl Scratch... And Photo Finish desires to be a professional photographer someday... So the Numbers took on forms that best represented the two of them at the time!"

"Woah, really?" asked Rainbow. "Are you sure?"

"Not completely, but it seems to make the most sense." the red and yellow teen answered her friend. "But without a way to test that theory, that's all it will ever be."

"So, if that is true..." the cyan teen began, "then what about your Number card? The big fort-thingy?"

"Chronomaly Machu Mech?" asked Sunset. She then looked at the card that she had found in Applejack's house, and tried to figure out what had happened that day that would have given it the form that it had. But she couldn't recall anything of the sort. "I'm not really sure, to be honest..." she told her. "I never really gave it any thought... But if I could harbor a guess, I think that it might have something to do with you and the rest of our friends."

"Whad'ya mean?"

"Well, ever since Twilight came here and taught me about the Magic of Friendship, and after all of you were willing to give me a chance, I've always treasured the bond that we still have today..." she answered. "And since then, I've been doing whatever I could do to protect that bond from anyone that wanted cause us harm, in one way or another... It's kind of a long shot, but that feeling could be comparable to that of... well, a fortress. One that's strong enough to stand up to anything that's thrown at it... But I'm still not totally sure if that is the reason that my Number card has the form that it has."

"I'd say it does." Rainbow Dash told her very confidently. "No doubt about it. If you truly feel that strongly about me and the others, there's no way that your card could ever become anything else."

Sunset smiled after hearing that Rainbow Dash was quite sure about her theory without even giving it a second thought. Still, she sighed a bit and told her friend, "But, like I said, I'm not completely sure that Numbers become what they are because of that... If only there was a way I could test out my hypothesis..."

"Hmmmm..." hummed the athletic teen, trying to think of a way that Sunset could figure out the Number cards' mysterious powers. Just then, her eyes caught sight of a small, glowing light from out of her bedroom window. "Hey... what's that?" she asked, pointing at the blinking light.

"What's what?" asked Sunset Shimmer, looking out the window as well. She, too, saw the light; the otherworldly girl saw that it was coming from the sidewalk right in front of the house. "Is that what I think it is?"

"What DO you think it is?" asked Rainbow.

"Let's go and check it out, just to be sure." suggested the red and yellow girl. The two of them slowly and quietly exited the bedroom and began heading out the front door.

The pair walked outside and closed the front door behind them. Rainbow Dash borrowed a flashlight so that they could see in the dark as they both headed towards the blinking light. Once they got up close, they saw a Duel Monsters card on the sidewalk, but there was no picture on it. "Just as I thought..." muttered Sunset.

"What is that?" asked Rainbow. "Is that one of those Number cards, Sunset?"

"I think so..." the otherworldly girl answered. "This is exactly what the first one looked like before I picked it up." Looking over at her friend, she instructed her, "You stay back... I'll go and take the card."

"Are you sure about that?" asked the rainbow-haired girl out of concern. "What if that card causes you to go crazy like Octy and Photo?"

"I don't think it will." Sunset informed her. "If that were the case, I'd already be doing that after I got the first one... For some reason, whatever it is that those Numbers do to people doesn't work on me. So I should be fine... I hope."

Rainbow Dash was still a bit concerned, but decided to put her faith in Sunset Shimmer. "Alright then..." she said to her. "Just... be careful, okay?"

Sunset nodded and began moving her slipper-clad feet towards the glowing card. She then bent down and stared at it for some time, still somewhat nervous. Finally, she mustered the courage to follow through with her actions and slowly took the card from off of the ground. At that moment, Sunset's key necklace began to glow and surrounded her with a bright light. It was so bright, Rainbow had to cover her eyes so as not to blind herself from looking at it too long. Then, as quickly as it came, the glow faded.

"Hey! Are you alright??" asked the cyan teen.

"Y-yeah, I'm fine..." Sunset said to her friend, wiping some sweat from her forehead. She then looked at the card and exclaimed, "H-hey! Look!!"

The pair looked at the glowing card as an image began to form upon it. Strange text began appearing on the card, followed by a picture of a glowing, blue orb.

"Woah... awesome..." commented Rainbow Dash, impressed by what she saw.

Sunset Shimmer stared at the new Number card, also impressed by its appearance. She then looked at the top of the card and read the name out-loud: "...Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk..."

"So is this what happened when you got your first Number, Sunset?" asked the athletic teen.

"...Sort of." answered the red and yellow girl. "Machu Mech did this when I first got it, but it also had this purple fog surrounding it, it gave me a really bad headache... and I could swear that I heard a voice in my head; and it wasn't a pleasant one, either." She then glanced at the card again and added, "But this time was different: This time... no voices, no fog, not even a slight migraine... I don't get it..."

"Well, let's try and figure it out some other time..." suggested Rainbow Dash. "It's gettin' pretty dark, and I know my folks'll flip out if I stayed up too late tonight."

"Yeah, good idea. Let's get some sleep and we can try and figure it all out later." Sunset agreed as she pocketed the new Number card before they both headed back into the house.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Several days later, on a Thursday afternoon to be precise, Rarity was hard at work; she was designing several dresses for both her and her friends for an event that would take place tomorrow night. It was none other than the Fall Formal, one of the biggest events in Canterlot High School. The fashion-forward teen wanted to make sure that everything was perfect before the big night.

Rarity made some slight adjustments to one of the dresses; it was orange on the top part, and blue with a starry background on the bottom, lined with a golden yellow design along the very bottom of the skirt. "Hmmm... I think that should just about do it..." said the violet-haired girl. "It's so hard designing fancy dresses for Rainbow Dash, since she doesn't like wearing them for whatever reason." She then glanced over to her side, where Sunset Shimmer was sitting on a stool in front of a large, pink vanity. "Sunset, darling... what do you think of it? I could use a second opinion."

"I think she'll be able to tolerate it, Rarity." the red and yellow girl answered her. "And considering her attitude towards dresses, that's the best you can get from her."

"I suppose so." stated Rarity. Turning back to the rest of the dresses, she then added, "I still wish you would go with us to the Fall Formal this year... It just wouldn't feel right if you weren't there with us. Not to mention that the dress that I made for you would go to waste..."

"I told you, Rarity... I'm not going." Sunset responded, sighing. "I'd rather not show my face there after how awful things went last year..."

"But that's all in the past, Sunset dear." the fashionista reminded her. "You've changed a great deal since then; you've done everything you could do to be a better person than you used to be, and now everyone else is finally able to see how truly nice you are now."

"I know that... and I'm glad that everyone at school's not treating me like a social outcast anymore..." the otherworldly girl replied. "But I'd still rather not show up at the Fall Formal... I just know that some people are going to say stuff about me behind my back when I'm there..."

"Well, so what if they do?" asked Rarity. "You should never be worried about insignificant things like that. Even if some people still do not think highly of you, you know in your heart that you're a good person now, and that's the only opinion that should matter to you. And you should not let little things like that ever prevent you from being able to enjoy yourself."

"...I guess you make a good point." admitted the uneasy girl.

"So, please... come with us all tomorrow night." Rarity implored her. "You'll have a great time, I promise you."

Sunset still wasn't sure if going to the Fall Formal was a good idea or not. But in the end, she just couldn't say "no" to one of her best friends. She sighed a bit, smiled, and said to her, "Alright, Rarity... I'll go with you guys."

"Oh, how MARVELOUS!!" cheered the fashionista excitedly. "I'm so glad that you changed your mind!"

Sunset nodded, but then told her, "I'll go to the dance... But I'm NOT running for Fall Formal Princess. As far as I'm concerned, I'm done with that forever."

"If you insist." agreed the violet-haired girl. "I won't try and force you to do that if you do not want to." She then hummed a little and added, "Although... I think I might try for that title myself... Though, it has absolutely nothing to do with you not being in the running; I was planning on getting nominated whether or not you were a contender..."

"No, it's okay with me." the red and yellow girl told her. "If you want to try and be the Princess this year, go for it."

"Okay then." Rarity replied. "Thank you for saying that. I just didn't want you to think I was being insensitive..."

"I know you're not like that, Rarity." Sunset informed her. "And if you do get nominated, you can count on my vote."

The violet-haired fashionista smiled upon hearing that Sunset would support her. Turning back over to her dresses, the violet-haired teen said to her, "Now, let's get you fitted for your dress and make sure it's absoLUTELY perfect! We have so much to do and too little time!" The otherworldly girl nodded and headed to the dressing rooms, with Rarity close behind.

The next school day came and went as usual; after classes were done for the day, Sunset and her friends (minus Rarity) headed out the front door. Normally, they would have gone to watch the other students participate in Duels, but with the upcoming Fall Formal looming ahead, everyone was busy getting ready for the event, including Sunset and the others.

"So you decided to go after all, huh?" Rainbow Dash asked Sunset Shimmer when the latter brought up the conversation that she had with Rarity the other day.

"Yeah, she talked me into it." answered the otherworldly girl. "I said that I'd go, but I'm still not going to participate in the Fall Formal Princess Election. It just brings up too many bad memories..."

"It's okay if y'all don't want to be the Princess." Applejack told her. "We're just happy that you're gonna be there with us tonight instead of staying by yerself at the shelter."

"Yeah! You're gonna have a GREAT time, Sunnie!" Pinkie Pie assured her. "I just can't wait to get into that snack table! The fruit punch, the giant cake, the brownies with the little festive autumn sprinkles on top... Pinch me, I must be dreaming..." Pinkie then looked around at her friends to see if any of them would actually pinch her. "Really? Nobody?" she asked. "Then I'll just pinch myself, then!" And she did just that, grasping some skin from her right arm. "Ow! ...Ow! ...Ow!" The silly girl then just kept on pinching herself and saying "Ow!" over and over again.

Ignoring Pinkie for the moment, Fluttershy then asked, "So where's Rarity...? Isn't she coming with us to help us get our dresses for tonight?"

"Don'tcha remember, Sugarcube?" Applejack then asked the animal-loving teenager. "She's headin' the Decoratin' Committee; She and a buncha others volunteered to pretty up the Gym for the dance."

"Oh... that's right, I forgot. I'm sorry..." Fluttershy apologized.

"It's okay." Sunset told them. "Rarity said she'd be there for a while, so she gave me the key to the closet where she put all of our dresses; that way, we can go and get them now."

"I just hope she didn't make mine too prissy and cutesy like she usually does..." Rainbow said with a groan.

"I think you'll be fine with it." the red and yellow girl told her cyan friend. "I saw what yours looked like, and I think even you'd be able to put up with it for a couple of hours." The rest of the group gave out a brief chuckle as they made their way to Carousel Boutique to get their outfits for the night.

Back in Canterlot High's Gymnasium, Rarity was busy setting up every decoration for the Fall Formal tonight. She and several other students had carefully placed every banner, table, speaker, streamer, and many other pretty things in just the right places and in just the right amount. The violet-haired teen was really giving those helping her a good workout, but she was fair and did handle some things by herself.

Once the last banner was hung up in place, Rarity then told everybody, "Okay, I think that will do it."

"I've gotta say, I love how you put everything together." said a girl with mint-green skin and hair with stripes of an even lighter green and white. "The decor looks even better than last year."

"I agree, Lyra." said another girl. This one had pale yellow skin with swirly hair in pink and indigo stripes. She then glanced over at Rarity and asked, "Speaking of last year, Rarity... Is that... friend of yours coming tonight?"

"Which one, Bon Bon?" asked the fashionista. "Do you mean Sunset?"

"Yeah, her..." the pale yellow girl.

"Well, she didn't want to go at first," Rarity informed her, "but I convinced her that she should go with me and the rest of my friends."

"Look, no offense, Rare," began Lyra, "but I still don't completely trust her. I mean, she did do some pretty bad things during the last Fall Formal."

"Now, look... I've told you many times already:" the violet-haired teen said to them. "Sunset's not that kind of person anymore, and she never will be again. You might not believe it, but she's done her best to change since last year, and she's done quite a good job at it."

"I... guess so..." replied Bon Bon. "She DID help out a lot when those Dazzling chicks tried to brainwash the whole school with their creepy, yet kinda catchy music..."

"I dunno... I'm still not letting my guard down around her, though..." stated the mint-green girl, still not totally convinced.

"You two can do whatever you wish," Rarity said to the pair, "but I would appreciate it if you did not speak ill about any of my friends. If you two really believe yourselves to be better people than Sunset, then you would know not to make such unflattering comments behind her back."

"Darn it... she's got a point..." Lyra grumbled a little.

"Fine, we promise." Bon Bon said to Rarity. "But we're only doing it for you; not for her."

"Have it your way..." the violet-haired girl responded with a sigh. She then looked back at the decorations and told them, "Anyway, you two can go home and get yourselves ready for tonight; I'll handle the rest of the finer details on my own."

"Okay. Later, Rarity." said Lyra as she and Bon Bon left the Gym.

After the pair left, Rarity sighed sadly to herself and thought, (What is it going to take for everyone to see that Sunset has truely changed her ways?) She then did her best to smile to herself and continued to ponder, (Well, I suppose that not everyone can see Sunset the way my friends and I do... And in the end, that's their loss, not ours. But enough worrying about things like that; I just have a few little things left to take care of, and then I can be on my way...)

Rarity walked towards the stage at the back of the Gym that had already been set up, checking to make sure that everything was in its proper place. As she did, she suddenly glanced over and saw something on the smooth, hardwood floor nearby. "What is that...?" she asked herself, walking over to it. "A piece of paper...?" She picked it up and added to her soliloquy, saying, "This simply will not do; I cannot have randomly discarded trash all over the floor just before the Fall Formal begins!"

But then, without warning, a purple haze began to surround the blank paper which then spread around Rarity's body. Just then, she began to suffer from an intense migraine. "AAAGGGHHH!!! What's going on?!? W-why is my head hurting so much...?!?"

"Yes, Rarity... Let the Number take hold..." said a deep and sinister voice in her head.

Rarity gasped upon hearing that. "N-N-NUMBER?!?" she exclaimed in fear. "Don't tell me...!! This is one of those-!" But she was unable to finish her sentence as the cloud engulfed her completely and she fell down onto her knees. After the bizarre event, the blank paper displayed the image of a jewel-encrusted crab, and a yellow symbol resembling the number 52 began to glow on the fashionista's forehead.

Rarity opened her eyes, which were now glowing the same yellow color as the symbol on her head. She then glanced left, then right, looking at all of the decorations that she and the other students had already set up. "These decorations..." she muttered softly. "They simply will NOT do..." Getting back up onto her feet, she then declared, "I must make this place the absolute definition of PERFECT! It's time for an Inspiration Manifestation!!"

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The night of the Fall Formal finally came, and every student at Canterlot High filed into the school in order to attend the festivities. The male students were wearing fancy suits and tuxedos while the female students had on their best dresses and formal wear (with the exception of Vinyl Scratch; since she was the DJ for the dance, she wouldn't be making much contact with the rest of the students anyway).

Sunset Shimmer, along with four of her five best friends, were on their way to the school to take part in the festivities as well. They were all wearing the dresses that Rarity had made for them for the dance. Sunset's dress was mostly light-blue in color and resembled a gown. It had short sleeves, a large, cobalt-blue bow tied around the back of the hip area, had cyan frills on the bottom, and it was topped off with a brooch that resembled the red and yellow sun emblem on her normal outfit. She also had on a pair of fancy navy-blue dress shoes and a pair of sparkly earrings with small rubies.

The rest of the group soon followed behind her, all decked out in their dresses for the evening as well. Applejack had on a dress that was mostly green and red and adorned with red roses, with a green top hat that had an apple emblem placed on the front of it. Fluttershy's dress was blue on top and green on the bottom, resembling a peacock. She also had a fancy barrette with a butterfly etched on it and two green feathers sticking out. Pinkie Pie's outfit consisted of a yellow dress with yellow-orange polka-dots on it, and several purple and white frills at the bottom. She had on a purple and white-striped bow, peppermint-shaped earrings, and an orange necklace that almost looked like it was made of candy.

Applejack looked on ahead at all of the students walking into the high school. "Looks like it's gonna be a big turnout this year;" she stated, "just about everyone in school's shown up!"

"Oh dear..." said Fluttershy meekly. "I was hoping there wouldn't be too many people there..."

"Aw, it'll be alright, Fluttershy." said Rainbow Dash, fixing up her dress and trying make herself as comfortable as possible in it. She then commented, "I gotta say, Rarity did a pretty good job on this thing; I still don't like wearing it, but it's not the worst thing I've ever worn."

"What IS the worst thing you've put on?" asked Applejack out of curiosity.

"THAT honor goes to that stupid pink bunny outfit my aunt made me for Christmas." the athletic teen answered. "I looked like a pink nightmare."

At that moment, Pinkie, putting on an angry expression, glared right at Rainbow and told her in a low tone of voice, "Don't EVER speak ill of the color pink..."

"...Uh... I'm sorry?" Dash responded.

"Apology accepted!" cheered the pink girl, switching back to a happy mood in less than a second.

Sunset looked around a bit nervously; she still thought that some people would make snide remarks at her for what happened during last year's Fall Formal. But so far, most of the students were too busy trying to get inside to pay any attention to her. "Somethin' the matter, Sunset?" Applejack asked, noticing her friend's worried expression.

"Huh? Oh... uh, nothing's wrong... Nothing at all." the otherworldly girl said, fibbing a little.

"Look, there's nothin' y'all need to worry about, Sugarcube." the farm girl assured her. "Just concentrate on havin' fun at the dance. And if anyone still has a problem with ya bein' there, that's their worry, not yours."

"I guess so..." Sunset responded.

Just then, Pinkie looked ahead towards the front doors and saw two adult-aged women walking towards them. "Hey, girls! Look!" she shouted, pointing at the people approaching them.

The rest of the group turned to face the two women: The taller one of the two had light-pink skin, pink eyes, and long, beautiful hair that was colored in teal, green, blue, and lavender. She wore a golden yellow shirt with a sun-shaped brooch on it, over top of a purple and white-colored shirt. She had on long pants that were purple in color, and had on a pair of sparkly, golden-colored high-heeled shoes.

The shorter of the two women had blue skin, turquoise eyes, and long hair that was colored dark blue and purple. She had on a pink shirt with a white collar that had an indigo moon pinned to it and a dark blue belt around the waist area. She wore a pair of long, indigo pants, and a pair of white, high-heeled shoes with pink socks.

"It's Principal Celestia..." stated Rainbow, pointing to the taller woman with light-pink skin.

"And Vice Principal Luna..." added Fluttershy, referring to the slightly shorter woman with blue skin.

"What are they doing here?" asked Pinkie.

"Well, Ah guess they're comin' to talk to us 'bout somethin'..." Applejack deduced, based on the fact that the two principals were heading towards them.

"Yeah, but about what...?" asked Sunset Shimmer.

The two women stopped in front of the group of five as soon as they reached them. The taller one, Principal Celestia, said to them in a pleasant tone, "Good evening, all of you."

"Uh, good evening, Principal Celestia." Rainbow Dash replied, trying to be respectful.

Luna glanced over towards Sunset and said to her, "I see you've come as well, Ms. Shimmer... To be honest, I did not believe that you would be here."

"I'm just here to be with my friends, Vice Principal Luna..." the red and yellow girl responded. "It's not going to be like last year, I promise."

"I certainly hope not." the blue-skinned woman stated, huffing a little.

"Now, Luna... be nice." Celestia said to the Vice Principal. "Sunset has come a long way since last year, and she's more than proven that she can be a good person now, when given the chance."

"I suppose you are right, Sister." Luna responded. She then looked back over at Sunset and told her, "I apologize if my comment to you sounded rude in any way."

"It's okay." the red and yellow girl replied. "It's not the worst thing I've heard."

"So, uh... just outta curiosity," Applejack began to say to the two principals, "what're y'all doin' out here? Ah thought you were already lookin' over things at the Gym."

"Well... that's the problem, actually." Luna answered her. "No one has been able to enter the Gymnasium at all tonight."

"Huh? Why not?" asked Sunset.

"We're not sure yet." Celestia told them all. "But we do know that someone is in there, based on the fact that we could hear someone talking behind the doors as we passed by."

"Hold on a sec..." Rainbow Dash suddenly spoke up. "I just realized something... Do any of ya happen to know where Rarity is?"

"No, not at all..." Fluttershy answered.

"She was supposed t' meet us here so that we could all get into the dance together." Applejack reminded the group. "Could she still be settin' things up in the Gym?"

"Maybe, but she should've been done with that LONG ago..." Pinkie stated.

"I've got a bad feeling about this..." Sunset chimed in, getting worried about her friend. "We'd better get to the Gym quickly... And if Rarity is in there, we have to ask her what's going on."

"I agree." said Celestia, nodding. "Luna and I will get you all to the Gymnasium so that we can figure all of this out."

"We had better hurry, Sister;" the blue-skinned woman informed her older sister, "the Fall Formal will begin in but a mere twenty minutes."

"Then what're we all standin' out here for?!" asked Rainbow rhetorically. "Let's go already!" She then glanced up at the two principals and said to them, "Um... after you, of course..."

The seven of them walked into the school and made their way towards the Gymnasium. Just as Celestia and Luna had told them, the doors were shut tight. On one of the doors, there was a note taped onto it. Applejack took the note and read it out loud: "Do not come in. Gym closed due to decoration repairs. Will open when ready. Love, Rarity."

"That's weird..." stated Sunset. "What would make her do that?"

"Look, when it comes to prettyin' stuff up, Rarity can become a serious whack-a-doodle." Rainbow answered her. She then grabbed the door's handle and pulled on it, but it wouldn't budge. "No good... it's locked up tight."

"How are we going to get in then...?" asked Fluttershy.

"I have an idea!" Luna spoke up. Turning to Celestia, she then told her, "Sister, go get the school's Master Key from your office."

"Good idea, Luna." the light-pink-skinned woman replied before turning around and running to her office. A few minutes later, she returned, holding a rather large key in her hand, which was designed to open any lock in the school. Celestia then shoved the key into the keyhole and turned it. A clicking sound confirmed that the door was now unlocked. "There, that should do it..." the principal said. She then opened the door, and when they saw what was in the Gymnasium, the group of seven, along with several students that were nearby the entrance, gave out a loud, collective gasp.

All over every square inch of the Gym's walls, ceiling, and floor, there were all sorts of fancy decorations. However, there were FAR too many; the colorful streamers created a multicolored spider web that drooped down from the ceiling. Each and every table was decorated with flower vases and extravagant centerpieces, leaving no room for snack trays or punch bowls. Large, carpeted rugs were placed over the hardwood floor, which was not at all suitable for dancing. Fancy drapes were placed overtop of the speakers, muffling out the sounds that came out of them. The Gym looked as though a party store and a fancy clothing store had exploded all over the room.

"What... What is all this...?!?" inquired Luna, not believing what she was seeing.

"What on Earth happened in here?!" asked Pinkie. "It looks like a party store and a fancy clothing store had explod- ...oh wait, somebody already said that... Never mind."

"Oh... my..." said a trembling Fluttershy. "This... this is all WAY too much...!"

"Yeesh... I'd call this place tacky," Rainbow Dash chimed in, "but I think even 'tacky' looks WAY better than this!"

"What the hay was Rarity thinking??" asked Sunset Shimmer, just as shocked by all of this as everyone else. "She would NEVER do anything like this!!"

"Well, y'all can go and ask her yerself..." said Applejack. "'Cause she's right there!" The farm girl then pointed ahead, showing everyone where the fashionista-gone-postal was. She was sporting a crazy grin as she poured an extra-large container of glitter all over one of the curtains on the makeshift stage.

"Ms. Rarity, what is the meaning of all this??" asked Celestia in a forceful tone.

The violet-haired teen looked over towards the group and said excitedly, "Aha! You're all just in time!" Tossing the glitter container away for the moment, she walked towards them and asked, "Isn't it the most beautiful thing you have EVER laid your eyes upon? This is probably my greatest work yet!"

"Yeah, well we don't think so!" Rainbow told her.

"Rarity, this is way, way, way, way, WAAAAAAYYYY too many decorations!!" Pinkie said to the violet-haired girl. "Nobody's gonna be able to enjoy the party in a place like this!!"

"So you don't appreciate my sense of style here?" asked Rarity, a bit annoyed. "Hmph... some friends you are. I happen to think it's absolutely perfect!"

"Well it's not!" Sunset told her. "You OVERdecorated the Gym, and now no one will be able to have a good time!"

"I'm surprised that you would feel that way, considering that you didn't even WANT to go to the Fall Formal at first!" Rarity snapped back. "You were so concerned over what other people thought of you, and now YOU'RE doing same thing to me right now! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!"

After she made that last comment, the 52 on her forehead began to appear. Sunset immediately noticed it and thought, (That symbol on her head... is that...?) Sighing sadly, she then said, "So that's what's going on..."

"Ms. Rarity, I put you as head of the Decoration Committee because I thought that you would do a good job." said Celestia, a bit of disappointment in her voice. "But it seems I was mistaken in my thoughts. Therefore, I am afraid that I have no choice but to dismi-"

"Wait! Principal Celestia! Hold that thought!" Sunset suddenly spoke up, interrupting the woman.

Celestia stopped herself as she, along with Luna, glanced over at the otherworldly girl. "Ms. Shimmer?" the principal began to ask, confused as to what she was doing.

"You might not want to go through with that just yet..." the red and yellow girl suggested. "It might not be such a good idea on your part..."

"And why is that, may I ask?" inquired the Vice Principal.

"Because I don't believe that Rarity's doing this out of her own free will." answered Sunset. "I believe that something or someone is making her do this."

"I beg your pardon?" asked Luna.

Applejack, getting a sudden and uneasy thought, asked her red and yellow friend, "Wait... are y'all sayin' that-"

"Uh huh." Sunset replied, knowing what the farm girl was going to ask her. "Call it woman's intuition, but I think that Rarity picked up a Number card..."

The rest of Sunset's friends gasped. "You're joking!" exclaimed Rainbow Dash. "Now SHE has one of those things, too?!"

"Oh no... Poor Rarity..." said Pinkie Pie in a saddened tone.

"What are you all talking about?" asked Celestia. "What is a 'Number card'? And what does it have to do with what's going on??"

"It's a long story, and I don't have time to discuss it right now..." Sunset told her. "The point is, I know what's causing her to do this, and I know how to fix it. So please... let me go and help save my friend from herself."

Celestia was skeptical at first about what Sunset was asking of her. But she then recalled that, earlier on, she had stated that Sunset was capable of being a good person when given the chance to. The principal then nodded her head and told her, "Very well then. If you insist... then go and do what you need to do."

Luna seemed a bit surprised at her older sister's decision. However, she figured that Celestia had good reason for it, and decided to go along with it.

Sunset Shimmer then walked towards Rarity and said to her, "Rarity, I know what's really going on here: You've picked up a Number card, didn't you?"

"A Number card?" asked the violet-haired teen. "Are you, by any chance, referring to this one?" She then took out a card with a black frame, showing it to everyone in the room.

"I knew it... That's what caused you to do all of this, isn't it?" asked the otherworldly girl.

"If you mean that this card is what allowed me to realize just what I was meant to do with my life, then yes; it is responsible." Rarity answered her. "Thanks to this card, I now know that it is my sole duty to make this world as beautiful as possible, no matter what others may think of it! And no one, not even you Sunset Shimmer, will get in the way of my mission!!"

"If that's what you think, then I have a way that we can settle this!" Sunset told her. "How about you and I have a Duel?"

"A Duel, you say?" asked the crazed fashionista. "And why would I want to do that?"

"If you win the Duel, you can keep this place as it is right now." the red and yellow teen told her. "But if I win, we take it all down: No exceptions."

"Is that so? And if I do get to keep the decor as it stands right now, none of you will complain about it anymore?" Rarity inquired further.

"It's a deal." Sunset responded.

Rarity thought about it for a while before finally saying, "Very well, I accept the terms; we have one Duel, and the winner determines what the decor for the Fall Formal will look like."

"Agreed." the otherworldly girl replied. She then glanced over to her friends and asked, "Fluttershy, can you get my backpack?"

"Oh! Sure, Sunset...!" the shy girl said, picking up Sunset's backpack from the floor next to her and handing it over.

Sunset Shimmer then got out her Duel Pad and Duel Gazer so that she could begin her Duel with Rarity. "Duel Pad, activate!!" she shouted as the device's card tray unfolded. She then placed the lens over her eye and yelled, "Duel Gazer, activate!"

Rarity got out her violet-colored Duel Pad, along with her Duel Gazer, activating them both. "AR Vision Link established." said the computerized voice as a digital copy of the Gymnasium was projected around them. All of the other people, including some students that had decided to enter the Gym, got out their Duel Gazers to watch the Duel.

"LET'S DUEL!!!" shouted both Sunset and Rarity as they drew their opening hands, ready to start the game (Rarity: LP 4,000) (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Everyone that had come to enjoy the Fall Formal were now about to get an extra bit of entertainment as Sunset Shimmer and Rarity were ready to begin their Duel against each other. Among them were Lyra and Bon Bon, who had previously assisted the fashionista in decorating the Gym. Needless to say, when they came inside, they were shocked at what they saw. "Woah...! What happened to this place?!" asked the mint-green girl.

"I don't know..." replied Bon Bon, nearly overwhelmed by all that she saw. "What was Rarity thinking?? This place was just fine when we left! I need to go and ask her what's going on here!"

"Well, you'll hafta wait, Bonnie." Lyra told her. Pointing ahead, she then added, "It looks like she's got her hands full right now..."

The pink and blue-haired girl glanced ahead and saw the scene in front of them. "Is that Sunset Shimmer...?" she asked. Looking closer at the red and yellow girl, she then thought, "I have to admit, she has a very nice dress this year..." She then asked her mint-green friend, "What are those two doing??"

"It looks like they're about to have a Duel..." Lyra answered her.

"A Duel?" asked Bon Bon.

"Uh huh." said the mint-green girl as she got out her Duel Gazer so that she could watch it. "This looks like it's gonna be a good one, even if Sunset's one of the competitors..." She then asked her friend, "You got your Duel Gazer, right Bon Bon?"

"Oh! Yes, it's right here." the pink and blue-haired teen replied, getting out the special lens from her purse and putting it over her left eye. They then proceeded to watch the contest, just like everyone else.

"You ready, Rarity?" asked Sunset Shimmer.

"Very much so, Sunset." the fashionista replied. "In fact, I'll even make the first move!" The violet-haired teen then took a card from her hand and said, "I'll place one monster facedown in Defense Mode!" Taking two more cards from her hand, she added, "I'll also set two cards facedown as well, ending my turn!"

"Very well, then... I draw!" Sunset then looked at Rarity's side of the field and thought, (Alright, since she only played facedown cards on her turn, I'd better be careful...) Placing a card from her hand onto the card tray, she declared, "I Summon Chronomaly Nebra Disk in Attack Mode!" After that, her disk-like monster appeared in front of her (Chronomaly Nebra Disk: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1500).

"By Normal Summoning Nebra Disk," Sunset continued, "I can then activate its effect! This allows me to take any Chronomaly card from my Deck and move it to my hand! And I choose Chronomaly City Babylon!" Sunset's Duel Pad then activated its auto-shuffle function; when it was done, the card that Sunset chose to add to her hand jutted out from the Deck, allowing her to easily take it. After doing so, she then shouted, "Now! Nebra Disk! Attack her facedown monster!!"

Rarity chuckled with a sneer. "Bad move, Sunset..." she told her. "Just take a look at this! I reveal my Gem-Turtle!!" Her facedown monster then flipped face-up, revealing itself as a yellowish-brown turtle with a green gem for a shell (Gem-Turtle: Level 4 / ATK 0 / DEF 2000).

"Aw, CRUD!!" the red and yellow girl exclaimed.

"When you attack a facedown monster," Rarity began, "it flips face-up to reveal how powerful it is. But since my monster's defense points are higher than your monster's attack points, you take the difference as damage!" Sunset gasped as she watched her Nebra Disk hurl itself at the fashionista's Gem-Turtle, ricocheting off of the bejeweled reptile and hitting her instead (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000 - 200 = 3,800).

"That's not all:" the violet-haired teen informed her opponent. "By attacking my Gem-Turtle while it was facedown, you've activated its Flip Effect!"

*******************************

Flip Monsters:

These Effect Monsters each have an effect that is activated when they are flipped face-up (which can happen when they are Flip Summoned, attacked while face-down, or flipped face-up by a card effect). All Monsters with a Flip Effect have the word "FLIP" preceding the Effect Text. Flip Effects are considered to be a type of Trigger Effect.

*******************************

Rarity then said to Sunset Shimmer, "Thanks to Gem-Turtle's effect, I can add one copy of Gem-Knight Fusion from my Deck to my hand." She then did just that, and her Duel Pad automatically shuffled the cards as well.

(Well, this is just great...) thought the otherworldly girl with a groan. (I helped her get a very important card out of her Deck, and all I did was lose 200 Life Points...) She looked over the rest of her hand and added, (But I'm not gonna give up! I have to defeat Rarity and get that Number card away from her!) Taking out a card and placing into her Duel Pad, she then declared, "I'll place one card facedown and end my turn."

"Good... then it's my turn! I draw!" The fashionista drew a card from her Deck, placed it into her hand, and took out a different card, telling her foe, "I Summon Gem-Armadillo in Attack Mode!" Rarity's new creature was an orange armadillo decorated with bright-red rubies, and appeared to have a pair of torpedo-like objects attached to either side of its back (Gem-Armadillo: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 500). "And when it is Normal Summoned, this card allows me to pull any Gem-Knight monster that I desire from my Deck! And I choose Gem-Knight Garnet!"

Sunset watched as, once again, Rarity pulled her chosen card from out of her Deck, after its auto-shuffle function mixed up the rest of the cards. (I know what she's about to do...) the red and yellow girl thought. She was getting a little worried, but wasn't about to show it in front of her friend-turned-crazy.

"And now..." the fashionista began, taking out another card from her hand, "I activate Gem-Knight Fusion!!"

*******************************

Gem-Knight Fusion
(Normal Spell Card)

Fusion Summon 1 "Gem-Knight" Fusion Monster from your Extra Deck, using monsters from your hand or your side of the field as Fusion Materials. If this card is in the Graveyard: You can banish 1 "Gem-Knight" monster from your Graveyard; add this card to your hand.

*******************************

"I'll use my Spell Card to fuse Gem-Knights Garnet and Emerald in my hand!" shouted Rarity, holding up the two monsters in her hand. At that moment, the human-like monsters appeared on her field, one mostly red and one mostly green, before turning into pure energy and joining together. "And now, I Fusion Summon Gem-Knight Ruby in Attack Mode!!" The energy in front of her then gave out a brilliant red flash; when it died down, a large human in shiny, sparkling, red armor and a blue cape had manifested in front of the violet-haired teen, weilding a sharp, red scythe (Gem-Knight Ruby: Level 6 / ATK 2500 / DEF 1300).

"That's right... Rarity's Deck is designed for rapidly summonin' Fusion Monsters from her Extra Deck." noted Applejack. "And many of the ones that she uses are real powerful."

Celestia and Luna, who were also watching the Duel through their Duel Gazers, were still not sure why Sunset was fighting Rarity right now. But the light-pink woman seemed to believe that there must have been a reason. Luna still seemed perplexed as to what was going on. "Sister, why aren't we doing anything about this?" the blue woman asked her older sister. "We could have this whole thing resolved in mere seconds!"

"...Let's not interfere just yet, Luna." Celestia told her younger sister. "There has to be some reason why Ms. Shimmer decided to Duel Ms. Rarity... It's as if there's something about this that she knows, but we do not..."

"Whatever could you mean?" asked Luna.

"...I suppose we'll see soon enough." answered the light-pink woman.

Back at the Duel, Rarity was ready to start her Battle Phase. "Now! Gem-Knight Ruby!! Attack her Nebra Disk!!" she ordered her monster. The knight then lunged forward and used its scythe to cut Nebra Disk in half, destroying it and damaging Sunset in the process (Sunset Shimmer: LP 3,800 - 700 = 3,100). "Looks to me like you're defenseless now, Sunset darling..." she then told her opponent.

"Yeah, well looks can be deceiving, Rarity..." stated the otherworldly girl, tapping her Duel Pad's touchscreen. "I activate the Trap Card, Stonehenge Methods! After one of my Chronomaly monsters is destroyed, this card lets me Special Summon a Level 4 or lower Chronomaly from my Deck! So I'll bring out my Chronomaly Golden Jet to the field in Defense Mode!" After that, Sunset took the card from her Deck and placed onto the tray, bringing out her golden jet plane to protect her (Chronomaly Golden Jet: Level 4 / ATK 1300 / DEF 1400). "Now you'll have to attack it instead of me!" Sunset informed her opponent.

Rarity grumbled a bit and yelled, "Have it your way, then! Gem-Armadillo, attack her jet!!" Her other monster then fired its torpedoes and blew up Sunset's newly-summoned monster.

"Good move on Sunset's part..." stated Rainbow Dash. "She may have lost another monster, but she kept herself from taking a heavy hit to her Life Points."

"But... now she doesn't have anything on her field..." Fluttershy pointed out. "If she doesn't play a monster on her turn, she's finished...!"

"Don't you go worrying about Sunnie, Fluttershy!" Pinkie said to her in a positive tone. "She won't lose to her THAT quickly! In fact, she won't even lose at all!"

Sunset heard Pinkie's words and felt better upon hearing them. Turning to face Rarity, she then said, "It's my turn! I draw!!" She then picked up the top card from her Deck, praying that it would help her. Once she got a look at it, she was quite pleased by what she had pulled. "I hope you're ready, Rarity," she told her, "because I'm not about to let you win so easily!" Playing the card she just drew, she declared, "I Summon Chronomaly Gordian Knot from my hand in Attack Mode!!"

Sunset Shimmer's new monster appeared to be several purple cubes, tied together in a confusing manner by several brown-colored straps (Chronomaly Gordian Knot: Level 3 / ATK 300 / DEF 900).

"So what?" asked Rarity, not intimidated even by a little bit. "That monster's too weak."

"Perhaps... so I guess it's a good thing that Gordian Knot has an effect, then." stated the red and yellow girl. "By Normal Summoning it, I can then Special Summon any other Chronomaly monster from my hand to join it. Then, Gordian Knot changes its Level to match that of the monster I Special Summon!"

"I-I beg you pardon?!" asked the violet-haired teen, a bit shocked.

"So now I'll bring out Chronomaly Sol Monolith from my hand in Defense Mode!" said Sunset, placing her next monster onto the card tray. The digital floor in front of her began to open up, and a tall, brown, stone slab with an orange circular slab on the top of it rose up in front of her (Chronomaly Sol Monolith: Level 6 / ATK 600 / DEF 600). "And now that it's out," the girl continued, "Gordian Knot changes its Level to match Sol Monolith!" (Chronomaly Gordian Knot: Level 3 > Level 6)

"T-two Level 6 monsters?!?" asked the fashionista, getting a little worried.

"Wait, is she gonna-?" Applejack began to ask.

"She sure is!" interrupted Rainbow Dash. "She's gonna bring out a Number card!"

"I overlay my Gordian Knot and Sol Monolith, both Level 6!!" shouted Sunset as her two monsters transformed into a pair of orange lights that were sucked up into a galaxy-like portal in front of her. "With these monsters, I can build the Overlay Network!!" An explosion of light soon followed, revealing the number 25 on the floor where the portal used to be. "I Xyz Summon Number 25: Force Focus!!" After that, a large camera with two swirling lights surrounding it came down from the ceiling above, pointing its gigantic lens right at Rarity (Number 25: Force Focus: Rank 6 / ATK 2800 / DEF 2400 / OLU 2).

"What the-?! What's that card?!" asked Lyra, surprised by the appearance of the Number card.

"Where'd Sunset get that card from?!" Bon Bon inquired. "I've never even heard of it!!"

Photo Finish was in the audience as well, watching the Duel when Sunset Xyz Summoned the Number that originally belonged to her. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something about that card seemed... eerily familiar.

"Now! Force Focus!! Attack Gem-Armadillo, the monster with the lowest attack points!!" Sunset shouted as she gave out her order. The giant camera then charged up an intense beam of light, shooting it right at the creature and vaporizing it, allowing the remainder of the blast to hit Rarity directly.

"Arrrrrrgh...!!" the violet-haired girl grunted after taking the heavy hit (Rarity: LP 4,000 - 1,100 = 2,900).

"Yeah! Nice shot, Sunset!!" cheered Rainbow Dash. "You got her good!"

"Yeah!! Go for it, Sunnie!" Pinkie cheerfully screamed, forcing the others nearby her to cover their ears.

After removing her hands from her ears, Celestia then asked Sunset's friends, "Tell me... what is that card that your friend played onto the field? In all my years, I've never seen one like that before..."

"Neither have I." added Luna. "And as former Pro Duelists, we know about almost every card in existence, so it is not often that we come across one that we have no knowledge of... So please, elaborate, would you?"

"Well, accordin' to Sunset and a coupla others," began Applejack, "they're called 'Number' cards."

"Number cards?" asked the light-pink principal.

"Yep." replied the farm girl. "But as for what they are and where they came from, we don't know diddly-squat. Not even Sunset knows much about 'em."

"The only thing we do know is that, when someone picks one up, it causes them to act very strange..." Rainbow added. "I mean, you should've seen what those cards did to Octy and Photo Finish."

Putting two and two together, Celestia then inquired, "So... you are saying that... the reason that Ms. Rarity is behaving in such an unsettling manner... is because she has one of these Number cards?" The rest of Sunset's friends nodded to say that was true.

"It sounds quite absurd, to be honest..." Luna stated.

"No, it is true, Vice Principal Luna..." Fluttershy told her. "And the only way to get Rarity back to her old self... is if Sunset defeats her and takes away the Number card..."

"Well, I suppose that explains why Ms. Shimmer wanted to duel her..." noted Celestia.

"It still sounds a bit ridiculous," added Luna, still not completely convinced, "but they seem sincere in their words; I suppose that is good enough for me."

"Right now, let's just hope that Sunset can win this and save Rarity 'fore it's too late..." Applejack chimed in as they continued to watch the Duel.

The crazed fashionista glared at Sunset and asked her, "So... I see you've decided to play one of your Numbers... In that case, I suppose that I should stop playing around with you, Sunset..."

The otherworldly girl pondered to herself, (I brought out a Number card not only so that I can defeat her monsters and take control of the Duel... But I also want to try and force Rarity into bringing out HER Number. If I can defeat her Number, whatever it is, I'll have a better chance of winning... I just hope her Number isn't too powerful...)

"It is my turn now..." stated the violet-haired girl. "I draw!" Looking at her card, she then declared, "I Summon Gem-Knight Tourmaline in Attack Mode!" Her new monster was another armored human, this one colored yellow (Gem-Knight Tourmaline: Level 4 / ATK 1600 / DEF 1800). "And next, I activate the effect of Gem-Knight Ruby!" Rarity then told Sunset. "By releasing Gem-Knight Tourmaline, I can then add its attack points to Ruby for one turn!"

"But Numbers can only be destroyed by other Numbers, Rarity!" the red and yellow teen reminded her.

"That is true, but I will still inflict damage when my monster attacks yours!" stated the fashionista. She then ordered, "Gem-Knight Tourmaline, transfer your power to Gem-Knight Ruby!!" The yellow-armored man then vanished into a swirling cloud and turned into pure energy, which began to flow into the Fusion Monster.

"Not so fast!" shouted Sunset. "I activate the effect of Force Focus! By removing one of its Overlay Units, I can negate the effects of any Level 5 or higher monster for one turn! And since Gem-Knight Ruby's Level of 6 is higher than 5, I'll target him!"

Rarity gasped as the otherworldly girl's Xyz Monster absorbed one of its glowing spheres (Number 25: Force Focus: OLU: 2 - 1 = 1) and then let out a bright flash that vaporized the energy stream that was flowing into Gem-Knight Ruby.

"Yeah! Now her monster's attack points can't get any higher!" said Applejack, praising the move.

Sunset smirked and told her opponent, "Sorry, Rarity... you'll have to do better than that to defeat me."

"And I shall do just that..." the violet-haired teen responded, snarling a little as the number on her forehead began to glow brighter. "As a expert designer, I always have ideas to fall back on in case my original vision is not possible... You're going to wish that you had taken the attack from my Gem-Knight Ruby, because soon, you'll be facing something far worse..."

(Here it comes...) thought Sunset, bracing herself.

"But first, I shall reveal one of my facedown cards: De-Fusion!" Rarity declared as she flipped over one of her set cards. "This Spell Card returns one of my Fusion Monster Cards to my Extra Deck, and in exchange, it permits me to Special Summon the two monsters I used to call it to the field!" Taking her Fusion Monster off of the card tray and putting it back in her deck box, she then stated, "So I send Gem-Knight Ruby to my Extra Deck and revive Gem-Knight Garnet and Gem-Knight Emerald!"

The giant human in red armor vanished from the field and left behind a pair of dark purple portals, out of which came two small humans, one in red armor, and one in green (Gem-Knight Garnet: Level 4 / ATK 1900 / DEF 0) (Gem-Knight Emerald: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 800).

"Rarity's got two Level 4 monsters on her field!" Pinkie noted, pointing frantically. "But she doesn't have any Xyz Monsters in her Deck!!"

"In the past, she didn't." Applejack told her. "But if Sunset was right about her gettin' a Number, then Ah think we're about t' see it, whether we like it 'r not!"

"Now, I overlay my Level 4 Garnet and Emerald to create an Overlay Network!!" shouted Rarity as her two monsters transformed into orange lights and were sucked up into a galaxy-like portal. "Now prepare yourself to see what TRUE beauty looks like!" The portal then exploded, leaving behind a symbol similar to the one on her forehead, which was now glowing brighter than ever. "I Xyz Summon... Number 52: Diamond Crab King!!"

Everyone gasped as they saw a humongous diamond come crashing through the digital ceiling, landing right in front of Rarity. Surrounding it were two orange lights. Before any move or comment could be made, cracks began to spread all over the diamond. Then suddenly, the gem exploded, sending shards of itself all over the place (luckily, none of them were real), leaving behind a large pile of spiky shards where the diamond used to be. Then, out from underneath the pile came a pair of blue pincers, one of which had a yellow 52 imprinted upon it, followed by a pair of beady eyes and a mouth, which gave out a bizarre-sounding cry.

*******************************

Number 52: Diamond Crab King:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Rock-Type/EARTH/Rank 4/ATK 0/DEF 3000)

2 Level 4 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle, except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; change this card's DEF to 0, and if you do, change its ATK to 3000. These changes last until the end of this turn. If this card attacks, it is changed to Defense Position at the end of the Battle Phase. If this card is attacked, change it to Attack Position at the end of the Damage Step if it has no Xyz Materials. You can only control 1 "Number 52: Diamond Crab King".

*******************************

The audience gasped when they saw the brilliant glow coming from Rarity's Number monster. "So that's your Number card, huh?" asked Sunset.

"Isn't it impressive?" asked the violet-haired girl. "My Number is a true personification of pure beauty! But as you are about to see, even the prettiest of things in this world can have quite a painful sting..."

(What's she talking about...?) thought Sunset. (Her Number card doesn't have any attack points, and yet... she put it in Attack Mode anyway... Something's up, and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna find out what that thing is capable of pretty soon...)

Sunset's friends were astounded by the appearance of Rarity's Number card. "So THAT's her Number card?" asked Applejack.

"Pfft. Typical..." huffed Rainbow Dash. "Of course it HAS to be something pretty and shiny for her."

Just then, the group noticed someone nudging beside them: It was Lyra and Bon Bon, who had a few questions for them. "Hey, you're Rarity's friends, right?" asked the mint-green girl. "Mind tellin' us what's goin' on?"

"Yeah," Bon Bon chimed in, "why'd she turn the Gym into a decorator's madhouse? And what's with those weird cards that she and Sunset have?"

"Oh, nothing much." Pinkie simply said. "They're just cards that have the power to brainwash people and make them go cuckoo."

"Say what...?" asked Lyra.

"What Pinkie's sayin' is that those cards down there are what's responsible for makin' her overdecorate the room." Applejack explained. "More specifically, it's that big crab-thing that Rarity just Summoned."

"But how does a trading card brainwash somebody?" asked the pink and blue-haired girl, confused.

"We're not exactly sure, but trust us: Those Number cards are nothin' but trouble." Dash replied. Turning back towards the Duel, she then told them both, "That's why Sunset's dueling Rarity: She's trying to get rid of that Number card and get her back to normal!"

"So... Sunset's trying to SAVE Rarity?" asked Lyra, a bit surprised. "AND save the Fall Formal?"

"You betcha!" Pinkie answered. "Sunnie would never let something bad happen to anyone, especially not her friends!" Lyra and Bon Bon looked at each other, surprised to hear that Sunset was putting herself on the line in order to help a friend. It made them question whether or not what they thought they knew about the red and yellow girl was true.

"Well?" Sunset then asked Rarity. "Are you going to just stall all night, or are you going to make a move?"

"If I were you, I wouldn't be so hasty." the violet-haired teen told her. "But since you insist, allow me to show you the true power of my Number card! I activate the effect of Diamond Crab King!" Taking one of the cards underneath the Xyz Monster and sending it to the Graveyard, she then shouted, "Now by expelling one of its Overlay Units, I can switch its attack and defense points for one turn!"

"Switch their stats?! Oh no!!" Sunset cried out in shock.

The giant crustacean then absorbed one of its swirling orbs into the shards on its back (Number 52: Diamond Crab King: OLU 2 - 1 = 1). It then screeched out a battle cry as it increased its power dramatically. (Number 52: Diamond Crab King: ATK 0 > 3000 / DEF 3000 > 0).

"Oh my... now Rarity's Number card is stronger than Sunset's!" Fluttershy stated, trembling.

"Diamond Crab King, destroy Force Focus!!" ordered the fashionista. "Shard Storm!!" The giant crab then screeched once again as it aimed its back towards Sunset's monster and fired off all of its razor-sharp diamond shards. Each shard stuck itself into the giant camera creature, causing it to explode. The impact of the blast dealt some damage to Sunset Shimmer, causing her to step back (Sunset Shimmer: LP 3,100 - 200 = 2,900).

"Now they're both even in Life Points..." Applejack noted.

"But not in monsters." Luna added. "Sunset is not in a good situation right now..."

"If this keeps up, the Fall Formal will be history!" complained Rainbow.

"Don't worry, Dashie!" shouted Pinkie Pie with a determined voice. "Sunset'll always save the day! And if you think she can't, she'll always find a way!"

Lyra and Bon Bon, after hearing how much Sunset's friends trusted her so much, were now beginning to doubt that the red and yellow girl was who they thought she was. Either way, they had no choice but to hope that Sunset would save the Fall Formal, as well as Rarity.

The fashionista then told her foe, "After it attacks, Diamond Crab King switches itself to Defense Mode, and its points return to their original values." (Number 52: Diamond Crab King: ATK 3000 > 0 / DEF 0 > 3000)

(Crud...) thought the otherworldly girl. (Not only does it have a powerful attack, but it goes right into Defense Mode afterwards? That means she can strike me whenever she wants, and I can't even touch her!) She then summoned up some of her inner courage and added, (But I can't give up! I have to defeat her! It's the only way to stop that Number from causing her any more harm!)

"It's my turn! I draw!" Sunset said as she drew her next card. Looking at it, she then thought, (Right now, the first thing I need to do is to make sure that she can't hit my Life Points... I have to put up a strong defense until I can make my move...) Taking a different card from her hand, she declared, "I Summon Chronomaly Moai Carrier in Defense Mode!" The large, crane claw-like monster then appeared on the field in front of her (Chronomaly Moai Carrier: Level 5 / ATK 900 / DEF 1800). "Since you have at least one card on your side of the field while I have none, I can Special Summon Moai Carrier from my hand!" She then took the card she just drew and placed it facedown on the tray. "Finally, I'll play another monster in Defense Mode to end my turn."

"Hmph... what a waste of time." stated Rarity. "All you can do now is hold off your inevitable defeat. It's rather pathetic, actually... Now I shall draw!" She then picked up her next card and grinned wickedly, thinking, (Mirror Force... perfect!)

*******************************

Mirror Force
(Normal Trap Card)

When an opponent's monster declares an attack: Destroy all Attack Position monsters your opponent controls.

*******************************

The fashionista continued to think to herself, (Now that I have this card, I am now TOTALLY untouchable! Even if Sunset can attempt an attack, I can eliminate all of her monsters with this card, paving the way for my victory!) Placing the powerful Trap Card into her hand, she then declared, "I now play my facedown card: The Spell Card, Spiritual Transference! This card allows me to revive any monster that is in my Graveyard; in exchange, I have to pay Life Points by an amount equal to half of the attack power of the monster I choose to summon! And I select Gem-Knight Garnet!!"

Sunset watched as a dark purple portal appeared beside Rarity's Number card, out of which came the small human in red armor. "Gem-Knight Garnet has 1,900 attack points; that means you have to pay 950 Life Points." Sunset reminded her opponent (Rarity: LP 2,900 - 950 = 1,950).

"Part of being an expert fashion designer is knowing when to make necessary sacrifices." the violet-haired teen replied. "And speaking of which, I now play the effect of Gem-Knight Fusion from the Graveyard. By banishing one Gem-Knight in my Graveyard, I can return my fusion card to my hand! So I banish Tourmaline in order to do just that!" Rarity then took out both her Gem-Knight Tourmaline and Gem-Knight Fusion cards from out of her Graveyard slot, placing the monster into her deck box, and the Spell Card into her hand.

"Uh oh... that means she can use that card again!" said Dash.

"Now, once more, I activate Gem-Knight Fusion!!" shouted Rarity. "And I shall fuse Garnet on my field, along with Sapphire in my hand!" At that moment, a blue-armored human appeared beside Garnet before the two turned into pure energy and joined together. "Now! Gem-Knight Ruby, return to the field!!" the girl shouted as her scythe-wielding warrior made his second appearance.

"Not that thing again..." said Applejack in despair.

"C'mon, Sunnie... you can get through this..." urged Pinkie Pie.

"Ruby, attack Moai Carrier!!" ordered Rarity as her monster sliced apart Sunset's faceup defense monster. But right after it got smashed, a shockwave emitted from out of the knight's weapon and struck the otherworldly girl (Sunset Shimmer: LP 2,900 - 700 = 2,200).

"Hey, wait a second!" Rainbow protested. "How'd she lose Life Points?! Sunset's monster was in Defense Mode!"

"It's because that Gem-Knight Ruby has the ability to deal piercing battle damage." Celestia explained. "It means that when Ruby attacks, the difference between his attack power and defending monster's defense power is dealt as damage to Sunset's Life Points."

"In other words," Luna added, "it means that Ms. Rarity can damage Ms. Shimmer no matter which Mode she places her monsters in."

"That ain't good..." stated Applejack. "If this continues, Sunset'll lose the Duel..."

Pinkie was about to offer words of encouragement, but somebody else beat her to it. "No way is she gonna lose!" Lyra suddenly shouted.

"Lyra??" said Bon Bon in surprise.

Looking over in Sunset's direction, the mint-green girl then yelled over to her, "Hey, Sunset!!"

The red and yellow girl glanced behind her to see who it was that was trying to get her attention. "Lyra Heartstrings?" she asked.

"Listen up!!" the mint-green teen continued to shout to her. "I'm gonna tell you this just once: You had better NOT lose to her right now!"

"You... don't want me to lose?" asked Sunset, mystified by Lyra's comments.

The mint-green shook her head no and told her, "Up until this point, I still thought that you were the same jerk that you were during the last Fall Formal... But now, after seeing you in action and after hearing how much your friends believed in you, I now totally believe THEM about what they've said about you; that you're trying to be a good person now! So you had better prove them right... and beat the skirt off of Rarity!"

Sunset was quite shocked to see that someone besides one of her friends had openly stated that they no longer thought that she was a still a bad person. She was also surprised by the next few comments that she heard:

"You can do it, Sunset!"

"We totally believe in you!"

"You can beat her, no problem!"

All around her, Sunset Shimmer saw that now every student was supporting her. It was quite clear to her now that no one ever thought of her as the wicked she-demon anymore. Wiping a happy tear from her eye, she then gave Rarity a fierce look and said, "You ready? 'Cause with everypo- I mean, everybody here giving me their support, I'll be able to beat you and get you back to your old self again!"

"Oh really?" asked the crazed fashionista. "I'd like to see you try!"

"If you insist..." said the red and yellow girl with a smirk.

"I'll place this card facedown and end my turn." stated Rarity as she set her Mirror Force Trap Card on the field. "It's your turn."

"Alright then, I draw!" Placing her drawn card into her hand, Sunset then took out a different card and declared, "I play the Field Spell, Chronomaly City Babylon!!"

"A Field Spell Card?!" asked Rarity, surprised.

"That's right." Sunset informed her. "Field Spells are special Spell Cards that go in the Field Zone, and often have effects that spread across the entire field! Just watch!" She then played the card, and when she did, the digital copy of the Gymnasium whited out around them. After that, both Duelists, as well as their audience, found themselves standing in ancient ruins on a chunk of land that floated in the sky.

"What have you done?!" asked Rarity, horrified. "No one can see my beautiful decorations anymore!!"

"Believe me when I say that no one WANTED to." Sunset told her opponent. "Now thanks to this card, I can bring back any Chronomaly monster from my Graveyard by banishing another one that has the same Level!"

"What??" asked the violet-haired girl.

"So I'll banish my Golden Jet, Level 4, to bring back Nebra Disk!" the otherworldly girl declared as she removed her Golden Jet from play and put it into her deck box. After doing so, Nebra Disk then emerged from a dark purple portal in front of her. "Next, I'll Flip Summon Chronomaly Cabrera Trebuchet!" she then shouted, flipping over her facedown monster, revealing it to be some sort of bizzare-looking machine with two arms connected to it by chains, along with some sort of metal tentacle on the front of the anvil-like object that it was attached to (Chronomaly Cabrera Trebuchet: Level 4 / ATK 0 / DEF 1800).

"Now she has two Level 4 monsters..." noted Fluttershy. "She's planning to summon an Xyz Monster...!"

(Octavia's Number is a Rank 4;) thought Rainbow Dash, (is she gonna play that... or...?)

Sunset then raised her hand as high as she could and shouted, "I overlay my Level 4 Cabrera Trebuchet and Nebra Disk!" The two monsters transformed into a pair of lights, one yellow and one orange, and were sucked into a galaxy-like portal. "With these monsters, I can build the Overlay Network!!" The portal then let out an explosion, revealing a Number symbol on the ground. "Now... I Xyz Summon Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!"

Rarity, along with the audience, gasped as a glowing sphere, surrounded by two swirling orbs, slowly floated down from the sky above. Once it stopped right above Sunset's head, the light began to dull slightly, revealing that, inside the sphere, there was what appeared to be an ancient-looking fortress inside. A pair of large, egg-shaped objects were placed across from each other on the sphere, and the number 36 manifested itself upon the sphere's surface.

*******************************

Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Machine-Type/LIGHT/Rank 4/ATK 2000/DEF 2500)

2 Level 4 "Chronomaly" monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle, except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; change its ATK to 0 until the end of this turn. You can Tribute 1 "Chronomaly" monster, then target 1 monster your opponent controls, whose current ATK is different from its original ATK; destroy that target.

*******************************

"Woah... lookit that thing..." said Applejack, awestruck by the appearance of Sunset's newly-summoned monster.

"Where did she find that one?" asked Pinkie.

"It was near my house last Sunday night." Rainbow answered. "She found it on the sidewalk and picked it up while it was still blank. Then there was a weird light show, and after that, it turned into that thing." The rest of the group looked at one another, still at a loss for words.

Rarity trembled a bit after Sunset brought out her new Number card. Staring at it, she then thought, (Since when did she get this Number card?! I thought she only had three of them, including that Force Focus card I destroyed earlier...) Shaking her head, she then pondered, (Well even so, her new monster's attack power is less than either of my monsters, so it won't save her anyway... And even if she attacks, I'll activate my Mirror Force and deflect the attack right back at her!)

Noticing Rarity's sudden smirk, Sunset figured that something was up. Glancing down at the field, she saw Rarity's Trap Card, still facedown on the field. (She obviously set a Trap for me; the moment I declare an attack, she'll try and destroy my monster with it... But I have another idea that just might work...) She then said to her opponent, "I'll end my turn by placing Chateau Huyuk in Attack Mode!"

"Huh? What's she doin'??" asked Rainbow Dash. "Her Number only has 2,000 attack points! It'll get whupped!"

"I'm not so sure about that..." Bon Bon spoke up.

"Huh?" said the rest of Sunset's friends.

"Bonnie's right." Lyra chimed in. "I think Sunset knows exactly what she's doin'."

Rarity chuckled, which soon turned to laughter. "That's all you are going to do?!" she asked mockingly. "You've OBVIOUSLY given up! Why else would you place your monster in Attack Mode, and risk having it be destroyed by either of my monsters? You'll soon pay for your mistake!! Now I draw!!"

The fashionista took a new card from her Deck and looked at it. "This will do just fine..." she said to herself. She then declared, "I switch Diamond Crab King to Attack Mode!" Her Number card then presented its pincers and moved forward slightly, ready to launch an attack. "Next," she continued, "I'll activate his effect and switch his attack and defense points for one turn!" (Number 52: Diamond Crab King: OLU 1 - 1 = 0) (Number 52: Diamond Crab King: ATK 0 > 3000 / DEF 3000 > 0)

(This is it... she's planning to launch a final attack to finish me off...) thought Sunset Shimmer, bracing herself.

"And now, I'll Summon Gem-Knight Lapis in Attack Mode!" the violet-haired teen shouted, playing the card she drew earlier. Her new monster was of a young female human, possibly in her teens, wearing armor that was beige and burgundy in color, and even had a skirt-like garment around her waist area (Gem-Knight Lapis: Level 3 / ATK 1200 / DEF 100). "And next, I shall activate the effect of Gem-Knight Ruby!"

"Uh oh, she's doin' that again..." said a worried Applejack. "And without Force Focus, Sunset has no way of stoppin' it!"

"Don't worry about a thing, AJ!" Pinkie told her. "Sunset will still beat her and get her back to normal!"

"C'mon... you can do this..." urged Lyra.

"Gem-Knight Lapis, transfer to Ruby and increase his power!" Rarity ordered. Lapis then turned into pure energy and flowed in the fashionista's Fusion Monster, making him even more powerful than before (Gem-Knight Ruby: ATK 2500 + 1200 = 3700). Rarity then thought to herself, (Alright, I doubt that Sunset has anything sneaky planned... but just in case, I'll attack with Ruby first before using Diamond Crab King...) She then pointed ahead and shouted, "Gem-Knight Ruby!! Attack Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!"

Sunset watched as Rarity's Fusion monster leaped up towards her Xyz Monster and struck it with his scythe. Even though the Number card could not be destroyed by a non-Number monster, the damage was still inflicted, and the otherworldly girl shielded herself with her arms and did her best to stand her ground, despite how much force was used against her (Sunset Shimmer: LP 2,200 - 1,700 = 500).

"And now..." Rarity continued, "Diamond Crab King!! Finish her off and win me the Duel!!" Her Number card then pointed its shard-covered back towards Chateau Huyuk and fired off its shards.

"Look out!!" yelped Fluttershy in distress. Everyone else watched on, wondering if this was the end of the Duel.

But Sunset Shimmer chuckled and said, "I was hoping you'd do that, Rarity!"

"Wh-what?!" said the violet-haired teen, suddenly not feeling too good after hearing that.

"I activate the effect of Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!" shouted Sunset, removing a card from underneath her Number card (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: OLU 2 - 1 = 1). "By removing one of its Overlay Units, my Chateau can target one of your monsters and drop its attack points all the way down to zero!"

"WHAT?!? NO!!!!" screamed Rarity as Sunset's card fired a blue bolt of electricity right at Diamond Crab King, stunning and weakening it (Number 52: Diamond Crab King: ATK 3000 > 0). The shards that it fired still struck Sunset's monster, but now that the crab's attack power was completely gone, they were unable to destroy it, instead becoming stuck in the blue force field that surrounded the fortress.

"Now that it's weaker than my monster, your Diamond Crab King, as well as this Duel, are finished!" the red and yellow girl proclaimed.

(No...! This can't be!! With his attack at zero, my monster is done for!!) thought Rarity, now shaking in fear. (And since I'M the one who initiated the attack, I can't use Mirror Force to block it!! She must have known that I set a Trap for her! How on EARTH could she have thought that far ahead?!)

"Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!" shouted Sunset. "Counterattack! Send those shards back where they came from!!" Her monster then began glowing incredibly bright, and then let out a flash of light as it fired the diamond shards right back towards Rarity's monster. The fashionista trembled, but there was nothing that she could do but watch her Number card be destroyed. The remaining shards then struck her directly, knocking her down and knocking her out (Rarity: LP 1,950 - 2,000 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"She did it! She DID IT!!! Sunnie WON!!!" Pinkie screamed in delight. "I knew she'd do it!!"

"Way to go, Sunset!! You beat her!!" cheered Rainbow Dash.

"Yeah!! Way to go!!" Lyra chimed in.

Celestia and Luna were also quite impressed; both with Sunset's dueling skills and also for the reason why she was dueling. "She is quite impressive, Luna." stated the elder sister. "It's quite clear that Ms. Shimmer has come quite a long way since last year..."

"That is true, Sister. I cannot deny that any longer." said the younger sister. "Sunset has truly changed her ways... and I believe it is because she has such good friends supporting her." The light-pink principal agreed with a nod.

Sunset took a deep sigh after her arduous Duel. At that moment, her necklace began to glow. She then glanced up and saw a light phase out from Rarity's chest. Knowing exactly what to do, the red and yellow girl reached her hand out and allowed the light to fly right into it. She then grabbed the light, which formed into Rarity's Number card after it was in her hand. In addition, the Number symbol on the violet-haired teen's forehead dissolved away completely, meaning that she was no longer under that card's control.

After taking the Number card and putting it away in her deck box, Sunset heard groaning sounds coming from Rarity. Concerned for her, the otherworldly girl then ran over towards her friend to check up on her. "Rarity! Are you okay??" she asked her.

The fashionista groaned and answered her saying, "...I... I am now..." She then looked over at her friend, eyes filled with tears. Swiftly embracing Sunset in a hug, she cried and told her, "Oh, Sunset...! I'm so sorry!! I knew what I was doing while under the control of that card, but I couldn't do anything to stop myself!! Please forgive me... I didn't mean to do any of those horrible things to you!!"

Sunset Shimmer then returned the hug and told her, "It's okay, Rarity... Everything's going to be okay. I know you weren't in control of your own actions; that's why I was fighting hard to bring you back to your old self. Besides, you've forgiven me for doing something a whole lot worse, so I think I can forgive you for anything that you did just now..."

Rarity was still crying a little, but she was happy to hear her friend say that. "Oh thank you, Sunset..." she told her. "You are indeed a true friend..." She then gave the otherworldly girl another friendly hug, which Sunset returned, causing everyone in the audience to smile at the heartwarming scene.

After breaking off of the hug, Rarity then frowned and said, "Even so, I'm afraid the damage has been done: I mean, just LOOK at this place!" Glancing around the overdecorated gym, she added, "The Fall Formal begins in only five minutes; there's absoLUTELY no way that I will be able to take down ALL of these decorations in time all by myself!"

"Now don't y'all fret none, Rarity!" said Applejack's voice. "You WILL be able to get this place ship-shape and on time!"

"Because you're not gonna be doin' it alone!" Rainbow Dash chimed in. "We're gonna help ya!"

"You... you will?!" asked Rarity, regaining hope.

"Sure, no problem, Rarity!" said Lyra. "We'll all get the gym back to the way it was, no sweat!"

"With all of us working together, we'll make this the best Fall Formal ever!" Bon Bon added.

Rarity then saw that everyone else in the room was on board with helping to restore the Gymnasium and make it presentable for the big event. Needless to say, she was absolutely pleased at how generous everyone was to help her, even after she had gone totally berserk. "Thank you..." she told them all. "Thank you all so much... I don't deserve such kindness..."

"Rarity," Sunset began, "you're a great person, and you always will be; of course you deserve it." She then took out her backpack and told her friend, "The other students and I will get this place back together... In the meantime..." The red and yellow girl then pulled out a neatly-folded dress from inside the bag and handed it to Rarity, saying, "...I think the only thing you should have to worry about is making yourself look presentable for the occasion."

"My dress..." stated the fashionista, "with all that has happened, I nearly forgot about it." She then told her friend, "But... I really should help out... It's my fault that everything is the way it is..."

"It's no problem, Rarity." Sunset told her. "You've been through so much already tonight... We'll handle things in here; you just worry about looking your best."

The violet-haired teen thought about it for a while, unsure about what to do. But she finally nodded and said, "Alright... if you insist... I know you'll all do a great job in here." Sunset nodded to say that she would as she gave her the dress. Rarity then left the gym, heading into a bathroom to get changed.

The next five minutes came and went, and thanks to Sunset Shimmer, her friends, and the rest of Canterlot High's students and staff, the Gym was restored to the way it was before Rarity picked up her Number card, and not a moment too soon. With the earlier Duel now just a memory, the Fall Formal was able to go on as planned. Every student was enjoying themselves, dancing, having a bite to eat, meeting up with their friends, and much more.

Not long after the event officially started, Rarity had finally returned, now wearing the dress that Sunset and the others had brought with them. Her ensemble was incredibly beautiful; it was mostly in a deep red color, with a blue collar adorned with pink and purple jewels, along with a few pearls. Around her waist, there were blue frills, with a purple lotus flower-like decoration on the back of her, and a long, blue train trailing from the back. The bottom of the dress, as well as the ends of the sleeves, were decorated with several interconnected purple diamond shapes, some of which were bejeweled, with longer, pinkish sleeves coming out from underneath the dress's sleeves. On her head was a blue hat with several small, pink jewels, a cyan hat pin with two long antennae-like appendages sticking out, and topped off with a large, pink feather.

"Oh... my...!" said Fluttershy with a gasp. "You look so beautiful, Rarity!"

"Thank you, Fluttershy dear." the fashionista replied. She looked around the room and added, "And the Gymnasium looks absoLUTELY perfect! Just the way it was before I found that horrible Number card..."

"Well, Lyra and Bon Bon were a big help;" Sunset stated. "they knew exactly what the room looked like when you were with them this afternoon."

"Well, I can't thank you all enough for everything that you've done for me." said the violet-haired teen. "You were especially a big help, Sunset: You put yourself at risk to save me from that Number card, and I shall not soon forget it. I daresay, this might be the only instance in which I'm actually GLAD to have lost a Duel."

"Heh, well if you ever need me to beat you again, just let me know." the otherworldly girl said jokingly. The others laughed in response to her funny comment.

At that moment, all of the students heard the voice of Principal Celestia, who was standing in front of a microphone on the stage that was set up in the back of the room. "Students of Canterlot High," she began, "my sister and I are very pleased to see you all here in attendance at this year's Fall Formal. And I speak for all of us when I say that this one will be one that we shall never forget."

The students chuckled a bit in response to their principal's comment.

"But now that the Fall Formal is going ahead as planned," began Vice Principal Luna, "it is now time to announce the name of this year's Fall Formal Princess! And I am pleased to say that it was a unanimous decision!"

"Wow... that sure is great, ain't it, Rare?" asked Applejack. "Y'know, to have the ENTIRE school vote fer ya."

"Well, actually... about that..." the fashionista began to say, "I actually dropped out of the running."

"Huh?!" the others said, surprised.

"After everything that has happened tonight, I lost all interest in becoming the Princess this year." Rarity admitted.

"But... if you're not competing," Sunset began to ask her, "then who won?"

"And the winner of the title of Fall Formal Princess is..." began Celestia, opening the envelope and taking out the paper that had the winner's name written upon it. She then read the name to herself, and then announced it out-loud:

"...Ms. Sunset Shimmer!"

The red and yellow girl's irises shrunk when she heard her name being announced; she was not expecting this to happen. "M-m-m-m-ME?!?" she asked, pointing to herself.

"Well, unless you have a twin sister with the same name as yourself, I do not believe that my sister was referring to anyone else." Luna told her.

Sunset looked around at everyone in the room, more nervous than she was during her earlier Duel. "But... I don't understand..." she said to the Principals. "Why did everyone vote for me? In fact, how did I even get nominated??"

"We can answer that for ya." Lyra suddenly spoke up. "After we got the place all straightened up, I went over to Principal Celestia and told her that you should be the Princess this year."

"And I seconded the motion." Bon Bon added.

The otherworldly girl was flabbergasted after finding out that not only did someone else nominate her for Fall Formal Princess, but also knowing that EVERYONE in school voted for her, without her having to force them to do it. "So... you all want me to be the Princess...?" she asked them, a bit meekly. "Even after how much of a jerk I was the last few years?"

"Of course." Lyra told her with a smile. "Because you're NOT a jerk anymore. After seeing you out there, trying to save Rarity from that weird card, we can now see that you're a whole different person now. And this is our way of saying that we like the new you, one hundred-percent!" Bon Bon nodded to say that she agreed with her friend, as did the rest of the students.

"So...?" began Celestia. "Will you come on up here, and accept your title? It's still your decision, Ms. Shimmer."

Sunset Shimmer was very touched that everyone in school actually wanted her to be the Fall Formal Princess this year, and that they were now totally convinced that she was a good person now. Wiping away a tear, she then said to the light-pink woman, "All right... I'll do it. I will accept the title that everyone here was nice enough to give to me." She then proceeded to walk up to the stage in front of the two principals to attend her official coronation.

"In that case, I hereby declare you to be this year's Fall Formal Princess!" said Celestia, placing the crown on the otherworldly girl's head. "Everyone, please give a round of applause for Princess Sunset Shimmer!" The rest of the students cheered loudly in response.

Photo Finish then walked towards the stage with her trusty camera and said, "Alright now, time for your official Fall Formal Princess photograph! Stay still now..."

But before the budding photographer could take the picture, Sunset put her hand up towards her and said, "Wait, before you do that..." She then glanced up at Celestia and asked, "Is it okay if I could have my friends join me for the photo? I don't think I could have gotten the title of Princess without them."

"Well, you are the Princess this year..." stated the light-pink woman. "If that is what you wish, then it is fine with me." Luna nodded to say that she was also fine with it.

Smiling, Sunset then looked over at her friends, including Lyra and Bon Bon, and said to them, "Well, what're you guys waiting for? Come on up here!" The others happily did so, joining their friend onstage. Photo Finish then clicked her camera, taking the picture of the new Fall Formal Princess and all of her friends. Truly, it would be a night that all of them would remember forever.

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Sunset Shimmer (5 Numbers total):

- Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk
- Number 52: Diamond Crab King

---------------------------------------------------------------------

RANK 5: The Apartment Altercation:

View Online

RANK 5: The Apartment Altercation:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Sunset Shimmer has recently been putting her stellar dueling skills to good use. After a series of dangerous cards known as the "Numbers" began to pop up all over the place, the teenager has been hard at work trying to obtain them from the Duelists that became possessed by them. Her hardest battle yet came when Rarity, one of her best friends, fell under the control of Number 52: Diamond Crab King. The card nearly caused her to ruin the Fall Formal, one of CHS's biggest events. Thanks to Sunset Shimmer and her powerful Chronomaly Deck, she defeated Rarity and obtained her Number, restoring her friend back to her normal self.

Sunset has accomplished a lot ever since the day she forged a strong friendship with her closet friends; now she is no longer hated by the entire school, and her new reputation of being both a good person and a powerful Duelist has been spreading all over the school and Canterlot City. Now, she is about to achieve her biggest accomplishment yet...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was another bright and sunny afternoon in the city of Canterlot. The school day had just ended, and all of the students in attendance at Canterlot High School departed from the building, either heading back home, or going somewhere in town to hang out. At Sugarcube Corner, the city's most popular sweet shop, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie were all sitting at a small table, seemingly waiting for something. To pass the time, the five teens talked to one another about various things, mostly about their card collections. After having been involved with the game of Duel Monsters fairly often for the past few weeks, it seemed like the best thing for them to talk about.

"So how's your new Deck coming along, AJ?" Rainbow Dash inquired the orange-skinned country girl.

"The Sylvan Deck? Almost done with it." Applejack answered. "I've actually been makin' a heap o' progress on it lately. Ah can't wait to try it out once Ah'm done!"

"You know... I think I might have a few Sylvan cards in my collection back home." Fluttershy chimed in. "Maybe you could come by and see it? ...Um, if you want to, that is..."

"Sure, Ah'll be there!" the orange teen responded. "Just as long as you keep that li'l ol' rabbit o' yours under control."

"I promise that Angel will be on his best behavior when you come by." the animal-loving girl assured her.

"What about you, Rainbow?" Rarity asked the athletic teen. "Did you build a Deck yet? I only ask because you're the only one of us that hasn't put a new one together recently."

"Yeesh, don't rush me! I actually have been workin' on one for a coupla days." Dash responded. She then looked over at Fluttershy and said to her, "After I'm done with it, though, I'd like to see how well it'd do against your Deck."

"Wha... me??" asked the timid girl. "Oh... I... I don't know..."

"Well, what about you, then?" the cyan girl then asked Rarity. "I've been wanting to take on your Gem Knight Deck for a while, especially after seein' it in action at the Fall Formal last month."

Rarity sighed. "Please... don't remind me of that." she told her friend. "I'd rather try and forget the day that I was acting MOST un-lady-like..."

Pinkie Pie then chimed in and said, "Not to mention that you were TOTALLY loco in the coco when you overdecorated everything! I mean, you HAVE to be a total, crazed NUT to clutter up the snack table and leave no room for stuff to eat!!"

"...Thank you, Pinkie..." Rarity said sarcastically. "I REALLY needed to hear all of that..."

"You're welcome!" the silly girl replied, causing the fashionista to facepalm.

Just then, the doors to the sweet shop opened and in walked Sunset Shimmer with a rather pleasant smile upon her face. It wasn't often that she was in this chipper a mood, but whenever she was, it usually meant that something particularly good happened to her. Walking over and sitting down with her friends, she said to them, "Sorry I'm late; Thunderlane wanted to duel me again, so I played a quick round with him."

"Did ya beat him?" asked Rainbow Dash, who had a feeling that she already knew the answer.

"You bet I did." the otherworldly girl told her.

"Is that why you are in such a good mood right now?" asked Rarity.

"Actually, no. I was in a good mood long before then." explained Sunset. "And it's also why I asked you all to come here today: I have some very big news for you all."

"Big news? What is it?" asked Applejack.

"Are you gonna try out for the baseball team and become captain?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Did you get noticed by a representative of a fashion magazine and they've asked you to be a model for them?" inquired Rarity.

"Ooh! OOH!! I KNOW!!" screamed Pinkie Pie. "Are you gonna try to beat the world record for eating an entire six-layer cake the fastest?!" She then told her red and yellow friend, "No offense, Sunnie, but you'll never beat MY record!!"

"Um... no, no, and DEFINITELY no." Sunset replied, answering all three questions in order. "Actually, this is something I've been looking forward to for a very long time..." The girl took a deep breath and told them all, "I'm finally getting a home for myself!"

The others gasped, both out of shock and out of joy for Sunset. "That's great t' hear, Sugarcube!" Applejack told her, happy for her friend.

"Oh, this is so wonderful!!" Rarity added. "You're finally going to be able to leave the homeless shelter!"

"That's right." the red and yellow girl confirmed. "In fact, today will be my last day there. The people there said that they're gonna miss me, though; it seems kinda sad that I'm leaving them all behind like that."

"Well, ya know what they say: 'A rollin' stone gathers no moss'." Applejack told her friend.

"It's true; I tried it." Pinkie added. Sunset chuckled a little at her pink friend's comment.

"Wait, hold on... How'd ya manage to afford your own place?" asked Rainbow Dash. "Your part-time job pays you well, but not THAT well."

"Well, actually, Vice Principal Luna's the one who was able to get me my own place to live." the otherworldly girl explained. "She knows a few people, and one of them happens to be a landlord of an apartment building in the city. So, she was able to pull a few strings and allow me to get an apartment there."

"Well, that was sure nice o' her t' do that for ya." Applejack commented.

"I believe it's because Sunset had saved the Fall Formal last month." Fluttershy figured.

"I was thinking that too." Sunset responded. "I feel a bit guilty about accepting that from her, though... I don't really know if I deserve such a thing or not..."

"Of course you do, Sunset darling." Rarity told her. "You've done so much to help those around you. I should know: I don't know WHAT would have become of me if you hadn't saved me from that Number card during the Fall Formal."

"You're welcome, Rarity." the red and yellow teen replied. "It was my pleasure."

"So... um... does this mean that you won't be coming by our homes for sleepovers every week anymore...?" asked Fluttershy, feeling a bit down just thinking about it.

"Oh, don't worry; that won't change." Sunset told her shy friend. "I'll still come and spend Sunday nights with all of you, just like before. The only difference is that now you could come and spend the night with me in my apartment if you wanted to."

"That sounds awesome, Sunset!" cheered Rainbow Dash. "We'd love t' come and visit ya!" The others nodded to say that they shared the same opinion.

"Thanks, girls." Sunset told them. Twiddling her thumbs a little, she then said to them, "There's just one thing though; the other reason I told you about this is... well, tomorrow, I'll be gathering all of my belongings from the shelter, and..."

"And you'd like us t' help ya out, right?" asked Applejack, finishing her friend's sentence.

"Um... yeah, that's right..." the otherworldly girl sheepishly replied. "I'm sorry, it's just that... if I were to do it all by myself, it would probably be nighttime by the time I'm done... and not only that-"

"You don't have to say another word, Sunset." Rarity interrupted. "We would be happy to help you move into your new home."

"Yeah!! And after that," Pinkie Pie loudly chimed in, "we could even have a HOUSEWARMING party!!! It'll be SO much FUN!!!"

Rarity, covering her ears a little, said to her hyper pink friend, "Pinkie, didn't we have a discussion about using our inside voices while in public??"

"But this IS my inside voice!" Pinkie told her. "This is how I ALWAYS talk when I'm at home!"

"Annnnnnnd it doesn't bother your folks none?" Applejack inquired.

"They've probably gotten used to it by now." Rainbow answered her.

Sunset then coughed a little for attention and asked her friends, "Anyway... do you think that all of you could come by the shelter tomorrow and help me get my belongings together?"

"Of course, Sunset." Fluttershy responded. "It would be my pleasure to help you out."

"Same with all of us." Rainbow added in a casual tone.

"Ah'll see if Ah can get Big Mac to bring in one'a our delivery trucks to use as a movin' truck." suggested Applejack. "Ah'm sure he wouldn't mind."

"And I'll make sure that everything is as neatly organized as possible." stated Rarity.

"And I'll... uh... And I'll... ummmm..." Pinkie Pie tried to think of something she could do, but couldn't come up with anything. So she simply said, "Well, I can't think of anything that I can do that relates to my personality the best, so I'll just do regular work instead!"

"Thanks a lot." Sunset told them with a smile. "I really appreciate it." The otherworldly girl was happy to know that her friends would help her move into her new apartment tomorrow.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The very next day, around noontime, Sunset and her friends all gathered together at the homeless shelter to help the otherworldly girl move out. It was a Saturday, so they had all the time they needed to tackle the job. Just as Applejack had promised the other day, she was able to get her older brother, Big Macintosh, to arrive with one of their delivery trucks. Normally, the truck was used to transport the apples from their orchard around the city and elsewhere. But today, it would be used as a moving truck.

"Thanks a heap, big bro." Applejack told her older brother, who was still sitting in the driver's seat after he parked the truck in front of the building. "I guess with you here, it means that Granny Smith was okay with y'all bringin' the truck over, right?"

Big Mac nodded, saying, "Eeeyup."

"That's good t' hear." The orange-skinned girl then walked over to her friends and told them all, "Okay, gals... we've got a lotta work to do, so let's make like ants and start gettin' busy! We don't wanna take too long here, after all."

"Heh, no prob, AJ. We've got this." Rainbow Dash said in a casual tone.

"Just as long as we can all agree that Applejack carries all of the heavy objects." Rarity added.

"Now hold on a sec, Rare..." the farm girl told her violet-haired friend. "Ah certainly hope that y'all will actually contribute to some of the labor, instead of havin' US do all the work fer ya..."

"Of COURSE I will!" Rarity said back. "I'll carry some things!!" She then added, "Just nothing heavy, nothing sticky, nothing with a foul odor, nothing that's loud and tasteless, nothing outright UGLY..."

Applejack groaned, slapping her face with her hand and shouted, "Rarity! You're doin' it again! You're whinin' about the work, and we haven't even started yet!"

"I was NOT whining!" argued the fashionista. "I was complaining! Would you like to HEAR whining?!"

"Girls, that's enough!" Sunset told them both, stepping in between the two quarreling girls. "This is not the time to be arguing over something like that!" She then told them, "For once, why can't you two be like Pinkie Pie right now?" She then pointed over to the silly pink girl, who had already started gathering some of the red and yellow girl's boxed belongings and walked towards the truck while balancing the large boxes on her head... somehow. "You don't see her complaining about the work or anyone else, do you?"

Pinkie giggled and told them all, "Why WOULD I complain? It's not often I get to balance lots of boxes on my head like this and call it work!" She then hummed happily to herself as she stopped behind the truck and unloaded all of the things that she was carrying inside of it.

Sunset then turned back over to Applejack and Rarity and asked them, "Now, can we all agree not to bicker with each other and get done what we need to get done?"

"Fine, Sunset..." the orange-skinned girl replied. "When you're right, you're right." She then put her hand out towards Rarity and said to her, "No hard feelings, Rare?"

"Sure... no hard feelings." the violet-haired teen responded. "...As long as you get all of the heavy things."

"We'll BOTH get all the heavy stuff." Applejack informed her. "Together."

"...Fine."

For the next hour or so, the six girls went to work, gathering all of Sunset's personal belongings and putting them into the truck. The back of the vehicle was loaded with all sorts of things, such as her clothes, a video game console, a few stuffed animals, several bath towels, and even a computer.

After they were all done, Fluttershy then said to Sunset, "You sure have a lot of things here in the truck..." She then asked, in a slightly uneasy-sounding tone, "Um... did you... um... get all of these things when you were..."

"Uh huh..." the red and yellow girl responded, feeling a bit guilty; she knew what Fluttershy was asking her. "Back then, I... well... kinda used my looks to get people to give me whatever I wanted... And before you all ask: Yes, I feel really bad about it now."

"It's alright, Sunset dear." Rarity informed her friend. "I must admit: I have done things like that in the past before I realized that it wasn't right." Coughing a little, she then added, "Anyway... changing the subject, where is your new apartment?"

"Vice Principal Luna printed out a map of the city and marked the location for me." Sunset Shimmer answered, pulling out a folded paper from out of a pocket on her jacket. She then unfolded it and pointed to a large circle that had been drawn upon it. "Here it is: The apartment building is on 60 S. Jump Street."

"60 S. Jump Street?" asked Applejack. "Ya mean THAT'S where your new home is?"

"You've been there?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Just the surroundin' area, really, but Ah've seen the place." the farm girl answered. "It's more like on'a them ginormous fancy-shmancy hotels rather than an apartment buildin'!"

"Really??" asked Sunset, sounding rather surprised.

"You didn't know?" asked Rarity.

"Well, I knew that Luna was giving me a place of my own, but besides giving me this map, she didn't tell me where it was or what it looked like." the otherworldly girl informed them.

"Well, we ain't gonna find out what the place looks like if we're all just standin' here, doin' nothin'!" Applejack reminded the others. "So let's get a move on already!" She and Sunset then climbed into the delivery truck while the others piled into Pinkie Pie's pink Volkswagon Beetle. The gang all drove off soon after, heading further into town.

When they all arrived at the apartment building, the six girls were totally flabbergasted: Just as Applejack had told them all, the towering structure was quite fancy-looking, and rightfully so: Jump Street just so happened to be located in the "richer" part of town, as evidenced by all of the other nice-looking buildings and people that walked around.

"This is asTOUNDING!!" Rarity said with a happy gasp. "I cannot believe we're actually here, in the nicer part of the city!" Looking around, she then spotted some well-known city folk, strolling around like anyone else. "Look!" the fashionista exclaimed. "There's Fancypants! And Jet Set! Even Mayor Mare herself is here!"

"Yeesh, Rare... Don't start makin' a scene." the farm girl told her. "What happened to your usual, 'act as polite an' sophisticated as possible' speech that y'all keep spoutin' at us?"

"Well, I can't help it, Applejack dear." the violet-haired girl told her. "It's not like any of us were expecting to see anyone famous today."

"That's true." AJ then glanced over at Sunset and asked her, "So how 'bout it, Sunset? Ah'll bet that you're feelin' pretty good about gettin' a place here, huh?"

The red and yellow girl said nothing at first: She was still completely amazed that Vice Principal Luna would do such a thing for her, of all people. "This is... this is... oh my..." was all that came out of her mouth, as she tried to describe her feelings right now.

"From your tone and stuttering, I can see that you're quite flattered by our gift." said an older woman's voice from nearby. The group turned their heads to see none other than Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna standing nearby them. "Good to see that you could make it over here alright." Celestia said, adding to her earlier comment.

"What're you two doin' here?" asked Rainbow Dash out of curiosity.

"We came to see all of you, of course." Luna answered. "Mostly Ms. Shimmer in particular." She then asked the otherworldly girl, "So, what do you think? It is nice, isn't it?"

"Yeah... i-it is..." Sunset meekly responded. "Maybe a bit too nice, even... You didn't have to go all out and give me an apartment in the rich part of town; I would've been fine with almost anything."

"I'm sure you would have." Celestia told her. "But Luna and I decided to reward you for all the good things that you have done for both the school and the community recently. And being well-known and very influential people ourselves, obtaining such a place for you was no problem at all."

"It also helps that I am actually a personal friend of the landlord." Luna added. "He and I go way back; we actually met each other during the time that my sister and I were still professional Duelists."

"Oh, were the two of you an item?" asked Rarity in an eager tone.

"Oh, no," the vice prinicpal answered, chuckling and blushing, "nothing like that. He's actually married. No, we're just longtime friends: Nothing more, nothing less. We've performed friendly gestures such as this for each other many, many times in the past. So, he had no problem in helping to get you a proper place to live, Ms. Shimmer."

"Well... thank you both so much..." the red and yellow girl replied, blushing and rubbing the back of her head. "I-I-I don't know how I could possibly repay you for being so kind, especially to someone like me..."

"There is no need to repay us; you have done more than enough for us and the school." Celestia told her. "This is OUR way of repaying you for all of your service so far, and in the hopes that you continue to be the good person that you are truly meant to be."

"I will, Princes- uh, I mean, Principal Celestia." Sunset replied. "I promise to you, my friends, and myself to be the best that I can be, in more ways than one." The white-skinned woman smiled warmly after hearing that, proud of her student for saying that.

"We can discuss things such as that a bit later." Luna suggested. "Right now, I believe there is still some more work to be done." She then picked up one of the boxes inside of the moving truck and told the others, "Everybody pick up a box and follow me; I'll show you where the room is." With a smile, she then added, "If you all were astounded by how the building looks on the outside, I believe that you will be even more impressed by what it looks like on the INSIDE..."

Needless to say, the vice principal was quite right about that, for once the six teens entered the apartment that Sunset would be living in (which was number 14, according to the door), their jaws nearly dropped. The apartment was MASSIVE, almost as big as a small house in the suburbs, complete with a spacious living room, a kitchen, a small dining room, a bedroom, and a bathroom.

The living room was far from empty, though, as there were all sorts of furniture set up, such as an L-shaped sofa set up along the back wall and various tables and desks placed neatly around the floor. To the left of the entrance was a small coat closet, and there was even a small counter set up in another corner nearby the entrance, much like one that you would typically see inside of a tavern, with a soda fountain, coolers, and other things behind the counter.

"Woah... lookit all this..." said a stunned Applejack.

"This apartment is simply ASTONISHING!" cheered Rarity.

"...I... I'm actually a little jealous..." Fluttershy meekly added. "I... I'm sorry."

"Wow, this is so GREAT, Sunnie!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie. "This place is so mega-super-humongous!!"

"It's almost as big as my place...!" Rainbow Dash chimed in, a bit surprised by what they saw.

"Yeah... it's... it's a lot to take in, that's for sure..." stated Sunset Shimmer, still not believing what was going on.

The group decided to stroll around the apartment to see what the other rooms looked like. Their first stop was the kitchen (to the right of the apartment's entrance), where they saw a nice, clean room complete with a small round table, a counter with several overhead cupboards above it, a stove, a large freezer, a refrigerator, and a double sink. No doubt about it, Sunset could cook all sorts of delicious meals in a nice kitchen such as this one.

The next room was the one that was adjacent to the kitchen: The dining room. There wasn't much inside, but it did consist of a large, rectangular dining table and matching oak wood seats. There was also a desk with cabinets placed off to the side of the table, and a houseplant in the corner to add to the ambiance.

The bedroom, located to the left of the front door, was also quite impressive. The bed was about queen size, measuring six feet wide and six-foot-eight long. The covers were colored baby blue, matching the sky blue walls perfectly, and the pillows were probably just as soft as they looked. On either side of the bed was a small nightstand, each one with a small lamp sitting on it. Along the left wall was a large dresser, made of oak wood, just like the table and chairs in the dining room. Nearby it was a walk-in closet, and next to that, a smaller dresser that was ideal for having a television set placed on top of it. Along the right-hand wall was a writing desk and a bookshelf, perfect for Sunset to work on any and all schoolwork.

Just beside the writing desk was a door leading to the elegant-looking bathroom. The bright-pink sink was the first thing one would see upon entering. To the left of the door was a clothes hamper, to use for storing dirty clothes that would eventually be taken to the washing machines downstairs. Next to the hamper was a bathtub, complete with a shower head and curtain, followed by a small bathroom closet. Even the toilet was fancy-looking, with a fuzzy seat cover and bronze flusher handle. Of course, the one thing that the group immediately took notice of was the...

"HOT TUB!!" screamed Pinkie Pie, pointing to the object in question.

"Dibs!!" shouted Rainbow in excitement.

"Hold on a second!!" yelled Rarity in an annoyed tone. "At least give us all a chance to see it first!" The three of them raced over to the hot tub, fighting over who would get to use it first.

Celestia chuckled a little, saying, "I had a feeling this would happen when they saw it."

"Yeah... y'all would think that they'd consider the fact that Sunset oughtta get to use the tub first, since it's actually hers." Applejack noted.

"Eh, I don't care who gets it first." the red and yellow girl casually stated. "But this does give me an idea..." She then walked over to Rarity, Rainbow, and Pinkie and said to them, "Now, now girls... there's no need to fight over the hot tub. How about this? Whoever does the best job of helping me get all of my stuff set up in my apartment gets first crack at it."

"That is no contest, Sunset: I will do QUITE a good job, being a master of interior design." Rarity informed her.

"Hooooooooold on a sec, Rarity... You're not the ONLY one that can make a room pretty!" Pinkie said to her violet-haired friend. "Have you SEEN the decorations at the parties I helped put together? They've gotten five balloons out of five on the rating system that I made up!"

"And if you think I'm gonna back out of a competition just because it's a decorating contest," the cyan-skinned teen told them both, "then you don't know Rainbow Dash as well ya think you do!"

"So it's on?" asked Rarity.

"It's ON!!" Pinkie and Dash responded. Soon after, all three of them rushed to start getting all of Sunset's belongings into the room and in the proper places.

With a smirk, the otherworldly teen said to the rest of the group, "And that, girls, is how it's done."

"Wasn't that a little underhanded, Sunset...?" asked Fluttershy. "If you don't mind me asking..."

"Well, it was either that, or have those three argue all day while we did all the work." the red and yellow girl responded.

"Point taken." replied Applejack. She then said, "Anyhoo, we'd better get back t' work, too. We can't have Rare and the others doin' everythin' by themselves, can we?" The others shook their heads no to say that they wouldn't just sit and not do anything themselves. Soon after that, everyone was busy once again.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It took almost an hour's worth of work, but at long last, Sunset and the others were able to get everything from the truck inside of her new apartment. All of her clothes were put away in either the closets or the dressers, her computer and game console were hooked up properly, and all of her other things were placed in the spots that the red and yellow girl wanted them in. After it was all over, Sunset decided that Rarity had done the best job of getting all of her things together, and, as promised, the fashionista was permitted to use the new hot tub first, much to her joy.

Rainbow grumbled a little; she didn't like losing at anything, even a decorating contest. But Pinkie Pie did her best to make her feel better by saying, "It'll be alright, Dashie; you know ya can't win 'em all... Tell ya what: You can go before me once Rarity's done."

The silly girl's offer was enough to cheer Dash up a little. "Thanks, Pink." she replied, still a bit miffed at losing to Rarity.

Looking around the new apartment, Celestia praised everyone's great effort, telling them all, "Very good work, everyone. Thanks to all of your hard work here, I'm sure Sunset will feel very comfortable in her new home."

"Anythin' for a friend of ours." Applejack replied with a smile. The others nodded to say the same.

Just then, there was a sudden knock on the door. "Um, I'll get it..." stated Fluttershy, walking over and opening the door.

On the other side of the doorway was an adult man with dark tan skin and short, dark-red hair. He had black eyes and a pair of bushy eyebrows above those eyes. His outfit consisted of a dark brown coat with fuzzy red cuffs on the bottom, as well as on the wrist and neck areas. On the left side of the chest area of the coat was a small picture of what appeared to be a Manticore: A mythical beast that consisted of parts of a lion, a bat, and a scorpion. He also had on a pair of black pants, brown leather shoes, and a brown hat on his head.

"Hello, am I interrupting anything?" he asked everyone in the room. His voice was very gruff-sounding, but also very pleasant.

"Oh, Manny Roar!" exclaimed Luna in delight. "I was hoping that you would show up soon! Come on inside!" The man did just that, walking into the living room and over to the group. The vice principal then said to the six teens, "Girls, this is Manny Roar: He is the building's landlord." Everyone greeted him politely and shook his hand. "Manny, this is Sunset Shimmer." Luna then told the man, introducing him to the red and yellow girl. "She's going to be your new tenant."

"So you're the young lady that Luna's been tellin' me about." Manny then said to Sunset, shaking her hand. "Well, you appear to be just as nice as she told me."

"Um, thank you, sir... That's very nice of you to say." the otherworldly girl replied. "I hope it's not too weird that I'm pretty much going to be living here by myself."

"Don't worry, Ms. Shimmer. Luna explained everything to me." Manny replied. "The deal was that, in terms of any and all paperwork, she is the owner of the apartment, but that you would be the one living in it."

"Really?" asked Sunset.

"Indeed." Principal Celestia chimed in. "Luna has insisted that she would help with most of your expenses, such as your monthly rent. Of course, we trust that you will be responsible for any other small expenses that might come your way."

"O-of course, Principal Celestia!" the red and yellow girl replied. "I was actually just about to say that I didn't want you both to pay for all my things for me. Trust me; I wouldn't feel right if you went and did that."

"Well, we're glad to hear that you've developed a sense of responsibility for yourself." stated Luna.

"Same here." Manny added. "I wish all of my past tenants were more like that."

"Uh, not t' change the subject or anything," Rainbow Dash suddenly said, "but I gotta ask something: Vice Principal Luna, you told us that this Manny guy is an old friend of yours; how'd you two meet?"

"Very well, I suppose you all should know." Luna replied. "It's actually kind of an interesting story..." The dark-blue woman then cleared her throat and began to tell her story.

"It was about several years ago, before we became high school principals." she told them all. "Back then, my older sister and I were well-known throughout the country as professional Duelists. We were among the best of the best; Celestia and I had won well over one hundred tournaments, many of which had very tough competitors participating. We had won more than enough prize money to be able to live off of it for many, many years. It was during one of these many tournaments that Manny Roar and I had met."

"I was in the audience when Luna won the final match and the championship." Manny then chimed in. "You should have seen her back then; whenever she dueled, she pulled off so many powerful moves, that her opponents looked like amateurs in comparison." The vice principal blushed a little upon hearing that. He then continued, saying, "Anyway, after the match, I went to look for her to get an autograph, when all of a sudden, when I wasn't looking, I tripped over a loose tile on the floor and fell over. When I hit the ground, I hurt my leg really bad..."

"Ooooooh... yeah, I know the feeling..." Rainbow Dash told him, sympathizing with the man's plight.

Continuing his story, Manny then told them all, "Anyway, I called out for help because I couldn't stand up, but there was no one around to hear me... or so I thought."

"I happened to be walking around the convention hall after meeting some of my fans when I heard him calling for help." Luna then said. "I rushed over and found him, holding his left leg in pain. I immediately called 911 and asked for an ambulance to come by and pick him up. I then hopped inside and rode over to the hospital to watch over him."

"Thanks to Luna, I was able to recover in just a day's time." Manny then explained. "Since she was able to get me help as quickly as she did, my leg was able to heal itself faster. She even used some of the prize money that she had won in the tournament to pay my hospital bills."

"Really?" asked Fluttershy. "Oh, that was so sweet of you, Vice Principal Luna."

"Well, I felt a bit responsible for what had happened." the dark-blue woman told her. "After all, he had injured himself on the day that he went to see me in the competition, so I did feel bad about it and wanted to do whatever I could to help him in his time of need."

"And I still appreciate it, Luna." Manny informed her. "After all, in the end, some good did come out of it; instead of getting your autograph, I got a new friend."

"You're quite welcome." Luna told him with a smile.

"Awwwwww... that's so wonderful!" said Pinkie Pie, getting a little teary-eyed from hearing the story. "So you've been good friends ever since?"

"Yep. Since that day, we've done all sorts of things, and have done favors for each other without a second thought." said the landlord. "So when Luna told me that she wanted one of her students to move out of the homeless shelter and have a proper place to live, I was all for it."

"Well, thank you very much, Mr. Roar." Sunset said. "You have no idea how much this means to me. And I promise to be the best tenant that I can be."

"I'm sure you will." Manny responded. He then asked her, "Anyway, Luna told me that you're quite a strong Duelist yourself. Perhaps you and I could Duel each other one day. After all, if someone like her says that someone's a strong player, that usually means that they are."

"Well, I do my best; nothing more, nothing less." the red and yellow girl told him. "And I'll definitely have to take you up on that offer sometime."

At that moment, Rarity had emerged from the bathroom, having finished with using the hot tub. Her soaking wet hair was wrapped up in a towel, and she was wearing a crimson red bathrobe that belonged to Sunset (which Sunset herself offered to Rarity prior to her using the tub). "Oh my, what a WONDERFUL experience!" she said, feeling as though she had just finished a lengthy session at a five-star spa. "The water was heated to absolute perfection! And the way the bubbles massaged every part of me just made all of my worries melt away..."

"Finally!!" shouted Rainbow Dash. "My turn!!" She then ran into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind her in less than two seconds.

Rarity put on an angry face and pounded the door, yelling, "Rainbow Dash, open the door this instant!! In case you weren't aware, my CLOTHES are still in there!!"

"Sorry, can't hear ya!" shouted the athletic teen. "Water's running too loud!"

"It is not!" the violet-haired girl yelled back. "You didn't even turn it on yet!!"

As the two girls shouted at each other from either side of the door, Sunset then said to Manny Roar, "Um, maybe we can talk a bit later; I'd like to uh, ...get settled in and everything."

"No problem, Ms. Shimmer." he replied. "I've got work that needs to be done anyway. You have a good day, all of you." The landlord then left the room soon after saying that.

"We'll see ourselves out as well." Celestia then said to the teens. "We'll see you all at school on Monday."

"Alrighty then, see y'all later." stated Applejack. The two principals then departed from the apartment for their home.

Pinkie then shuffled over to Sunset Shimmer and began to say to her, "Sooooooooooo... about that housewarming party..."

"Of course, Pinkie." replied the otherworldly girl. "I can't think of a better way to enjoy my new home than to share it with the people I care about the most." She then asked, "That is, if you all wanna stay over a little later..."

"Of course, Sunset." replied Fluttershy calmly. "We'd love to."

"I might as well stay for the next several minutes from now while I'm at it..." Rarity chimed in, huffing a little and glancing over at the bathroom door. "After all, it will be awhile before I can get into the bathroom again..."

"You DO know that I have a key that opens any door in my apartment, right?" asked Sunset.

"I do." the fashionista responded. "I just do not like to walk in on someone that is... well, you know. I do not like having it happen to me, so I do not wish it on anybody else... no matter how much they probably deserve it." The others nodded to say that they agreed with her on that one.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The next morning, at 8:37 a.m., Sunset Shimmer woke up and sat upright in her new, super-comfortable bed. After yawning deeply and stretching her arms, she smiled and thought to herself, (That was the best sleep that I've had since I left Equestria... The last time that I could remember sleeping in a bed this comfortable was back in Canterlot Castle...) The moment she thought of her old life as Princess Celestia's personal student, she put on a solemn expression before moving to open a nearby drawer in the nightstand next to her.

Sunset then pulled out a small photograph from the drawer and stared at it for a long time. It was picture of her (in her pony form) and Princess Celestia in what appeared to be an amusement park of some sort; they were both holding brightly colored balloons and had such cheerful smiles on their faces. Sunset had the photo with her since the day she left Equestria through the mirror portal; apparently, even back then, there was a small part of the red and yellow girl that showed remorse for what she had said and done that day, or she wouldn't have brought it with her.

"I still remember when this picture was taken..." she said to herself. "Princess Celestia knew that I really wanted to go to Whinny Land one day, and she surprised me with a trip there one summer. We had so much fun that day..." She sniffled a little, trying her best to hold back a tear before saying, "Princess Celestia... I wish you could see how much I've changed since the day I left... But most of all, I just hope that you can forgive me for being so stupid back then..."

Sunset then sighed to herself as she got out of bed and walked into her closet to get her outfit for the day (which was actually exactly similar to the outfit that she usually wore; she had more than one of the same shirt and skirt). She then placed her outfit on her bed before heading into the bathroom to wash up and make herself presentable.

After taking a quick shower and putting on her clothes for the day, Sunset Shimmer headed towards the coat rack where her favorite black jacket was hung upon. Right next to it were her long boots with the flame pattern on them. Before she could pick them up, she heard a knock on her door. "Are you awake?" asked the gruff voice of Manny Roar.

"Uh, yeah. I'm awake." she told him. "Come in."

Manny then unlocked the door and walked inside, carrying a small basket. "I just came by to see how well your first night here was... and to give you this little present." he told her.

"Oh, last night was great!" she told him with a smile. "The bed I slept in was like a dream! It's definitely a step up from the beds that the shelter had." She then added, "I just hope that my friends and I weren't too loud last night, what with our housewarming party and everything..."

"Oh, you don't have t' worry about that: The walls here are virtually soundproof, so you don't need to worry about disturbing me or any of the other tenants." the landlord explained.

"Oh... good to know." Sunset then pointed to the basket and asked him, "So what's in that basket?"

"Oh this? Just a little welcoming present that I give to all my new tenants." Manny explained, handing her the basket. "There's some fresh fruit, some high-end bath products, and a few other doo-dads here and there."

"Well, thank you very much, sir." she told him politely.

"No problem, Ms. Shimmer." The landlord then asked her, "So what're you gonna be doing today? Just curious."

"Well, Fluttershy is doing some volunteer work over at the animal shelter today, and I agreed to help her out." Sunset answered him. "There's a charity thing going on down there, and it's actually something she and I thought of together: See, people can pay to try and take me on in a Duel. And if they win, they can get one free pet adoption to use at any time. Either way, all of the proceeds go towards improving the shelter."

"Sounds pretty interesting, Ms. Shimmer." said Manny Roar. "I hope you and your friend do well."

"Thanks, Mr. Roar." Sunset then put on her boots and jacket and told him, "Well, I'll talk to you later; I can't keep Fluttershy waiting too long."

"Okay, have a good day!" the landlord said to her, waving goodbye. He then smiled a bit to himself, happy to have such a kind tenant as her living in the apartment building. He then walked down the hall, heading to another apartment next to Sunset's. He then stopped in front of the door, which had a number 16 bolted on the front and unlocked it.

Manny walked inside of the room, which was completely dark and mostly empty. The room had been previously occupied, but the tenant that had lived there had been forced to leave some time ago. The landlord sighed and said to himself, "Well, I'd better give this room a good looking-over before I send the cleaning staff in." He then switched on the lights, revealing that the room was extremely messy, with things such as spilled drinks, pizza boxes, and dirty clothes scattered all over the place.

The man held his nose and stated, "Ugh... the other tenants said it smelled bad in there, but this is just AWFUL!!" Walking inside, he added, "Normally, I dislike having to evict anyone from my building, but in the case of THESE slobs, I can make an exception. They can mess up the apartment they live in, but they crossed the line when they trashed the main foyer during one of their rowdy parties..."

Just then, Manny noticed that one of the things that had been dropped on the floor was a Duel Monsters card that, oddly enough, seemed to be in mint condition, unlike everything else in the room. This might have been one reason that the landlord noticed it. "Now what could something like this possibly be doing in here? I don't remember the previous tenants here having any interest in Duel Monsters..." he said as he picked up the card.

But just then, a shadowy cloud formed around both the card and Manny himself, and the landlord began to get a very bad headache. "AAAAARRRGHH!!! What the-?! What's going on?!?" he shouted.

"Yes, Manny..." said a dark voice in his head. "Let the Number take hold..."

Before he could ask the voice anything, the cloud phased into his body completely. As it did, a picture then formed on the blank side of the card, and a bright blue symbol resembling the number 16 began to glow on his right arm...

Much later in the day, at about 3:00 p.m. or so, Fluttershy and Sunset Shimmer were sitting in a bus, heading back to the city after finishing things up at the animal shelter. "Thank you so much, Sunset..." the shy girl told her friend. "Thanks to you, the shelter was able to raise a lot of money to stay in business for a very long time!" She then added, "I'm just really sorry that you lost some of those Duels you participated in for the event..."

"Actually, I have to confess something, Fluttershy:" Sunset began to tell her. "I actually lost some of the Duels on purpose, like with that little girl, Twist... She really wanted that little black kitten, and I was willing to throw the game so that she could adopt it right away."

"Awwww, that was so sweet of you, Sunset." Fluttershy praised her.

"Well, you said it yourself: The main goal of the shelter was to get pets adopted, and I wanted to help you do just that." the otherworldly girl reminded her. She then asked her friend, "So, you want to come over to my place for a while? I'd like to teach you how to play that video game that I was playing at Rainbow's house a couple days ago."

"Um... really...?" asked the animal lover. "Are... are you sure I won't be a burden to you when you play...?"

"You'll do just fine." Sunset assured her, just as the bus came to a stop at a corner not far away from where the apartment building was. The pair stepped off and began walking towards the building, but just then...

"This is HIGHLY ridiculous!!" said a posh, but angry-sounding voice. It was coming from an adult man with pure white skin and bright yellow hair, wearing a fancy suit that was the same color as his skin. "Just who does that UPSTART think he is?!?"

"Um... isn't that Blueblood?" asked Fluttershy meekly. "What is he doing here...?"

"Well, Vice Principal Luna said that he lives in the same apartment building that I do..." stated Sunset Shimmer. "Not all the time, though; just when he's visiting the city." She then asked herself, "I wonder what's got him so riled up? Maybe I should try and ask him."

"Um, are you sure...?" asked the shy girl. "He looks really angry..."

"It couldn't hurt to try." replied the black jacket-wearing teen. She then calmly approached Blueblood and asked him, "Um, Mr. Blueblood?"

The white-skinned man stopped in front of Sunset and said to her in a posh, but rude, manner, "I do not have the time to speak with you, whomever you are. So would you please be so kind as to leave me alone?"

"I just wanted to know what you were angry about." Sunset told him, still trying to be polite despite his rudeness. "I figured I'd care, since you live in the same apartment building as I do."

"...Oh you do, do you?" Blueblood replied, changing his demeanor a bit. "Well, if I were you, I wouldn't step foot in THAT establishment today, that's for sure!"

"And why's that?" asked the otherworldly girl.

"Because that dolt of a landlord is charging me a RIDICULOUS amount of money for this month's rent!!" Blueblood snapped back. "And he is not letting me into my room until I pay him what he thinks I owe him!!"

"He's what?" asked Sunset, surprised to hear him say something like that. "That doesn't sound right... Manny Roar's one of the nicest people I've met besides my friends..."

"Well, YOU can believe whatever you wish to, young lady." the man responded. "As for me, I have a lawyer to contact, so good day to both of you..." And with that, Blueblood walked off in a huff.

Sunset grumbled a bit, not liking the man's attitude. "I guess being rich and being polite are two very different things..." she commented. "How could he say all of that?! There's no way that someone like Manny would ever do something so cruel..."

"Still, something had to have made him so angry..." Fluttershy told her.

"That's true, I suppose... I guess we should figure out what's going on before we jump to any conclusions." the red and yellow girl stated. "And we'll start by getting a hold of Vice Principal Luna."

"I have her home phone number on my cell phone." the animal lover informed her friend. "I had to put it in when Luna decided to adopt that oppossum from the shelter a while ago."

"Good. Then go ahead and call her and see if she can figure out what's going on." Sunset then pulled out her own phone and added, "Meanwhile, I'll call the rest of our friends and see if they can help out, too."

In just a few minutes after making all of the necessary phone calls, the rest of Sunset's friends showed up in Pinkie's car. Not far behind them came both Luna and Celestia, who pulled up in a white 70's Fastback Mustang that was quite impressive to look at. Once the two principals got out of their vehicle, they walked over to the six teenage girls to meet up with them. "We came as soon as we could." Celestia told them. "So what's going on that you needed us out here so quickly?"

"Well, the thing is," Sunset began to explain, "I think something's happening over at the apartment building, and Mr. Roar might be involved..."

"Manny?" asked Luna, showing some concern. "Whatever do you mean by that, Ms. Shimmer?"

"Well, Fluttershy and I were heading to the building when we came across Blueblood." the red and yellow girl told them all. "He was angry because he claimed that Mr. Roar was overcharging him for his rent today, and that he wouldn't be allowed in his apartment until he paid it."

"Hmph, he's always over-dramatic over the silliest things." Luna informed the otherworldly girl. "And I'm fairly certain that he could pay the amount regardless of how high it may be." But then she said to them, "However, there is something unusual about this... This is not usually the day that Manny collects rent payments from his tenants..."

"I thought that Blueblood was just complaining for no reason also..." Sunset then said. "But after thinking about it for a little bit, the whole situation started to sound very familiar, and not in a good way."

"What d'ya mean by that?" asked Applejack.

"Well, think about it: When we all met Manny Roar, he was just about the nicest person we've ever met." the red and yellow girl informed them. "In fact, just this morning, he came by and gave me a fruit basket as a present! But then all of a sudden, he overcharges the tenants and refuses to let them in until they pay? No one changes their personality THAT quickly..."

"Well... you did, kinda." Rainbow told Sunset.

"...Okay yeah, I did. But there was a reason for that." the otherworldly girl. "Just like there's a reason behind what's going on right now. I think something's happened to Mr. Roar that causing him to act out like this, and I'm pretty sure I know what that something is..."

Rarity gasped. "Are you saying that... that he found a Number card?" she asked, knowing first-hand just how much those cards were able to change people.

"Oh dear..." Luna said, getting worried about her long-time friend.

"I don't know for sure if he has one or not, but I can find out if we can get to him." Sunset stated, answering Rarity's question. She then turned to Luna and told her, "That's why I need your help; besides me and Mr. Roar, you're the only one with a key to the apartment, in case he tries to keep me from going in there. And besides, if anypo- er, anybody can get through to him, it'll be you."

"I understand, Ms. Shimmer." the vice principal replied. "I'll gladly do whatever I need to in order to save my friend."

"Then what're we all standing out here for?!" Pinkie asked everybody rhetorically. "Let's go and subtract that Number card!"

"...'Subtract that Number card'?" asked Rainbow with a groan. "Really?"

"Okay, Dashie... fine..." the pink girl responded. "I'll think of something better on the way up to Sunnie's place." The group of eight then ran towards the apartment building to confront the landlord and figure out what happened to him.

Once inside the building, the eight of them took the elevator up to Sunset's apartment. Once they got to the right floor, they made a beeline for room number 14. Luna used her key to the apartment and unlocked the door. Sunset turned on the lights inside and saw that everything in the room was just as she had left it before leaving earlier in the morning.

"Well, it seems that Manny has not come in here yet..." stated the dark-blue woman. "Right now, I just pray that he's okay..."

"So what now?" asked Rainbow Dash. "Where do we even start looking for that Manny guy? This place is huge; he could be anywhere!"

"Such as right behind you..." said a gruff-sounding voice. The group quickly turned around and saw that Manny was standing right there, with an angry look in his now-bright blue eyes.

"Manny!" Luna exclaimed. "There you are!"

"What's going on, Mr. Roar?" asked Sunset. "I've heard rumors that you're not letting anyone in their apartments until they pay you the rent."

"Well, you've heard right, Ms. Shimmer..." Manny told her. "And on that note, I believe that you owe me some payments yourself."

"She doesn't owe you anything!" yelled Rainbow Dash on impulse. "And neither does anybody else here! If you think that you can jack up the rent and expect people to just be okay with it, you're crazy!!"

"Dashie's right!" shouted Pinkie Pie. "When it comes to charging rent, you don't know jack!"

The cyan teen groaned and said to her silly friend, "Okay, Pink... all you did there was take some of the words that I already said in order to make your comment. Usually you put a lot more thought into the silly stuff you say."

"Give me a break, Rainbow Dash... I can't make silly comments off the top of my head ALL the time!" Pinkie informed her. "I NEED a lot of time to come up with funny stuff to say! I mean, why else is there always a break between the FIRST thirteen episodes of a season and the LAST thirteen?" Of course, no one had any idea what she was talking about.

Glancing over to Sunset, Applejack then asked her, "So what about it, Sunset? Does he have a Number card or what?"

The red and yellow teen squinted her eyes and took another look towards Manny Roar. At that moment, she then spotted a symbol that looked like the number 16 on his right arm. "Oh yeah... he's got one all right." Sunset answered. "See that thing on his arm? All of the other people that had Numbers had symbols like that somewhere on their bodies."

"I noticed that too..." stated Fluttershy. "One of them was on Rarity's forehead when she had her Number card..."

"So what now?" Luna asked Sunset. "Are you going to duel him, just like before?"

"Mhmm. It's the only way to get the card away from him." the otherworldly girl replied. "Just leave it to me. I promise that I'll save him."

"I know you will. Just be careful, Sunset." the vice principal told her.

Sunset Shimmer then walked towards Manny Roar and said to him, "So... you won't allow me to stay here until I pay you something, right? Then how about I make you an offer that, if things go your way, will allow you to obtain something FAR more valuable?"

The landlord hummed a bit and said, "I'm listening..."

The red and yellow teen then pulled out her deck box and reached inside of it, taking out one of her Number cards; specifically, Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech. "See this card?" she asked him. "I could explain to you what this card is, but I'm pretty sure I won't need to, since you already have one yourself, am I right?"

"How did you know that I have a Number card?" Manny asked. "More importantly, where are you going with this?"

"Here's what I'm proposing to you:" Sunset told him. "You and I have a Duel. And if you win, you get this Number card, along with the other four that I have in my Deck. But if I win, I get your Number card, and you stop trying to force everyone to pay their rent today as opposed to the end of the month."

"Hmmmm... interesting..." hummed Manny. "You're saying that I'll get ALL of your Numbers if I beat you?" The black jacket-wearing teen nodded yes to say that she would do that. The landlord then smirked and told her, "Very well, I'll agree to that. Those Number cards will be more than sufficient as a payment from you."

"Alright then." Sunset then pulled out her Duel Pad and strapped it to her left arm. "Duel Pad, activate!!" she shouted as the card tray unfolded from out of the device. She then put on her Duel Gazer and said, "Duel Gazer, activate!!"

Manny Roar got out his Duel Pad and Duel Gazer, activating them as well. "AR Vision Link established." said the computerized voice as a digital copy of Sunset's apartment projected around everyone.

Sunset and Manny pulled out their Decks and placed them into their respective Duel Pads, ready to begin their battle. "Let's Duel!!" they both shouted to each other (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000) (Manny Roar: LP 4,000).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

As both Sunset Shimmer and Manny Roar drew their opening hands, the rest of the group put on their Duel Gazers in order to watch the Duel. "Well, here we go..." said Applejack. "Now Sunset's gonna have t' save this guy from turnin' into a complete lunatic."

"Let me tell you, it's NOT a pleasent feeling, darling..." stated Rarity. "Having that... whatever it was inside of my head, forcing me to do things against my will..." She then shuddered a bit before adding, "It makes my spine shiver just thinking about that horrible experience..."

"Well, don't you guys worry! Sunset'll stop that thing from causing any more trouble!" said Rainbow Dash with complete confidence in their friend.

"I do hope so..." Luna replied, still worried about her friend, as well as for Sunset.

"Alright, Ms. Shimmer," stated Manny Roar, taking out a large half-dollar coin. "We'll flip a coin to see who gets to go first. Call it in the air." The landlord then flicked his thumb, sending the coin into the air.

"Tails!" the red and yellow girl shouted.

Manny then caught the coin and slapped it onto the back of his left hand. He then looked at the half-dollar, grumbled and told her, "...Lucky guess."

"I'll take that as evidence that I called it correctly." Sunset assumed. She then looked over her hand and tried to think of what she would do first. She then glanced over at the card that she had drawn last from her Deck. (Hmmmm... Breakthrough Skill... I managed to draw it on my first turn, even... This will definitely come in handy...) Taking out two cards from her hand, she then announced, "I'll set one card facedown, and then I'll Summon a monster facedown in Defense Mode. And that will end my turn."

"My turn, then." said Manny. "I draw!" After taking his card from his Deck, he then asked his foe, "Why don't we start things off in a big way? I'll Summon Vylon Ohm in Attack Mode!" Manny's first monster appeared to be a cross between an angel and some sort of machine. Its hands were large, with bright lights on its palms, it had a pair of gold, metallic wings, and a diamond-shaped protrusion coming from out of the bottom of it (Vylon Ohm: Level 4 / ATK 1500 / DEF 200).

"And next," the man continued, "I'll play this card: A handy little Spell called Photon Lead!"

*******************************

Photon Lead:
(Quick-Play Spell Card)

Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower LIGHT monster from your hand in face-up Attack Position.

*******************************

"And now I'll call up Vylon Cube to the field from my hand, using my Spell Card!" announced Manny. His next monster, as its name suggested, was a floating, white cube with a bright core that could been inside of it. It had a small head poking out from the top of it, and two long arms coming out from its sides (Vylon Cube: Level 3 / ATK 800 / DEF 800).

"So what? They don't look so tough..." thought Rainbow Dash.

"Don't be so sure, Ms. Dash." stated Luna. "I know what he is trying to do... That second monster that he just Summoned happens to be a Tuner Monster..."

"Wait, a Tuner??" asked Fluttershy in surprise. "That means he's going to try a Synchro Summon!"

"That don't sound good..." Applejack commented.

"Now... I tune Vylon Cube, Level 3, to Vylon Ohm, Level 4!" announced Manny Roar. The cube monster's core began to glow very brightly, and soon the entire creature itself was bathed in a bright light. Eventually, it transformed into three smaller lights that shot into the air. They soon came back down in the form of three green rings that surrounded the landlord's other monster. "Almighty warring angel, arm yourself with your holy weapons and annihilate those who oppose your will! Synchro Summon!" Manny chanted as Vylon Ohm transformed into four smaller lights before both they and the rings were engulfed in a large pillar of light. (Level 3 + Level 4 = Level 7) "Descend now! Level 7! Vylon Sigma!!"

From out of the pillar of light came two large arms, wrapped completely in gold rings, followed by a pair of huge, metal wings. Soon the rest of the monster emerged from the pillar, with a main body that sort of resembled the Greek letter Sigma (Vylon Sigma: Level 7 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1000).

(That's weird...) thought Sunset as she stared at Manny's Synchro Monster. (For a Level 7 monster, its attack points are a little low... Something's up...)

"Now! Vylon Sigma!! Attack her monster!!" yelled Manny. As the creature began its attack, Sunset's facedown monster revealed itself (Chronomaly Golden Jet: Level 4 / ATK 1300 / DEF 1400). The man then smirked and stated, "And now I use Sigma's effect!"

The others gasped, wondering what his monster's effect was.

"Now," he then explained, "since Sigma is the only monster on my field, his ability allows me to give him one Equip Spell Card from out of my Deck!"

"ANY Equip Spell?!" asked Sunset in shock.

"That's not good..." stated Rarity. "Equip Spells are designed to strengthen any monster that it's placed upon. And more often than not, it doesn't go away until the monster that has it goes first."

"Now let's see... what to pick...?" thought Manny. Coming up with an idea, he then said, "Of course! What else? I'll give him one of my Vylon Components!" His Duel Pad's auto-shuffle function mixed up his cards; when it stopped, the card that he declared was left sticking out of the Deck, allowing him to easily take it and play it on his monster. After he did so, the gold ring that was closet to his Synchro Monster's right hand vanished and was replaced by a white ring with some sort of power core inside of it. "And even though this Spell Card doesn't increase Sigma's attack power, it DOES allow my monster to deal piercing damage!"

"Oh no...!" gasped Sunset, not expecting to take a hit this quickly.

"Now, Sigma! Attack her monster!!" ordered the landlord. "Light Beam Mark 025!!" The large creature then shot a bright beam of light at Sunset's only monster, wiping out both it and some of her Life Points (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000 - 400 = 3,600).

"Whoo-ee... that didn't look pretty." Applejack commented.

"Yeah..." Pinkie chimed in. "If he can do that just by shining a light on Sunnie's monsters, then I'm REALLY glad that thing doesn't have a laser sword or something! Just think of the damage that Sigma guy could cause with one of those things!"

Sunset brushed herself off, recovering from the hit. Manny then told her, "I'll finish my turn by placing one card facedown... Your move."

"Alright, Manny... you've had your fun." the otherworldly girl informed him. "But now it's my turn! I draw!" After drawing her card, she then announced to her opponent, "I play the Field Spell, Chronomaly City Babylon!" After she did so, the area around them all changed from an apartment to an ancient floating stadium.

"So what does this rock heap do?" asked Manny Roar.

"You'll see a bit later." Sunset responded. "For now, I'll do this: I'll Special Summon Chronomaly Tula Guardian from my hand in Attack Mode, which I can do if there's an active Field Spell Card in play!"

The ground in front of Sunset then broke apart as her large, blue statue-like monster rose up and stood tall in front of her (Chronomaly Tula Guardian: Level 5 / ATK 1800 / DEF 900).

"Next," she continued, "I'll discard my Chronomaly Crystal Skull in order to take Chronomaly Moai from my Deck and put it in my hand!" After she did so, she then shouted, "Last, but not least, I Summon the Tuner Monster, Fire Ant Ascator!!" After she performed the Summoning, a large, burgundy ant with yellow markings around its eyes crawled along the digital stone floor, standing right beside her first monster.

*******************************

Fire Ant Ascator
(Effect Monster/Insect-Type/Tuner/EARTH/Level 3/ATK 700/DEF 1300)

When this card is destroyed by battle and sent to the Graveyard: You can target 1 Level 5 monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon that target, but its effects are negated, also send it to the Graveyard during the End Phase of this turn.

*******************************

"What the-? You have a Tuner Monster, too?!" asked Manny in surprise.

"You bet I do!" she answered him with a smirk. "You're not the only one here that can Synchro Summon!" She then shouted, "I tune my Level 3 Fire Ant Ascator to my Level 5 Tula Guardian!"

At that moment, Sunset's ant monster burst into flames, causing everybody in the room to gasp and step back a little. After the flames started, it split itself into three fireballs that turned into pure light energy. Afterwards, they shot up into the air, coming back down as a trio of green rings that surrounded her other monster (Level 3 + Level 5 = Level 8).

"Dragon deity of the Sun, illuminate all the darkness!" chanted Sunset Shimmer. "Brighten the day with your benevolent light! Synchro Summon! Show yourself! Level 8! Sun Dragon Inti!"

After the chant was finished, Tula Guardian transformed into five smaller lights within the rings before everything was engulfed in another light pillar. When the light faded, a large rock in the shape of a sun appeared in front of the red and yellow girl. Then, from out of the rock came four red dragon heads with long necks. They let out a quartet of powerful-sounding roars that shook the area around it (Sun Dragon Inti: Level 8 / ATK 3000 / DEF 2800).

"Woah!! Look at that thing!" said an impressed Rainbow Dash.

"Yeah, that dragon looks like it could burn a whole 20 square-mile field just by breathin' on it!" added Applejack.

"Go, Sun Dragon!! Incinerate his Vylon Sigma!" shouted Sunset. "Solar Breath!!" The four-headed dragon then created large fireballs in each of its mouths before exhaling powerful flame streams at Manny's Synchro Monster. All that was left was a charred smudge on the floor where it stood as the remainder of the blast struck the landlord himself (Manny Roar: LP 4,000 - 1,200 = 2,800).

"Alright!! Nice shot, Sunnie!!" cheered Pinkie Pie. "Of course, it wasn't like you could miss him; you DID have four chances to hit the guy."

"It's a good start," stated Celestia, "but this Duel is far from over..."

"Indeed, Sister." Luna chimed in. "And I know for a fact that Manny doesn't take such blows too lightly... And that was BEFORE he picked up a Number."

The man grumbled to himself and said to his adversary, "You'll pay for that, Ms. Shimmer... I promise that!" He then told her, "I activate the other effect of Vylon Component! When it goes to the Graveyard, I can retrieve any Vylon Spell Card that I want from my Deck! I choose to take Vylon Material into my hand." And he did just that.

"Fine. I end my turn, then." stated the black jacket-wearing teenager.

"Alright then... I draw!" After Manny drew his next card, he then smirked and said, "Just what I needed..." He then played the card that he just drew, saying, "I summon Vylon Soldier in Attack Mode!" Manny's next monster was what appeared to be an armored angel with long, golden arms (Vylon Soldier: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 1000). "Next," he added, "I'll play the Equip Spell Vylon Material, which grants my Vylon Soldier an additional 600 attack points!" Manny's monster then acquired a weapon on its right arm that appeared to be a cross between a cannon and a bayonet (Vylon Soldier: ATK 1700 + 600 = 2300).

"That's still less than my Sun Dragon's attack power." Sunset reminded him.

"I know that!" grumbled the landlord. "That's why I have this card ready to go! I'll also equip my Vylon Soldier with the Spell Card, Mage Power!"

"Oh no... not that card...!" gasped Luna. Sunset also showed an expression that suggested that she wasn't too thrilled about seeing that card either.

"Thanks to this card, my monster will gain an extra 500 attack and defense points for EVERY Spell and Trap Card that I have on the field!" He then placed the card into his Duel Pad, which caused a bright green energy to flow around his monster. "I currently control two Spell Cards, including Mage Power itself, along with my facedown card! That's 1,500 attack and defense points total!" (Vylon Soldier: ATK 2300 + 1500 = 3800 / DEF 1000 + 1500 = 2500)

"Aw no..." Applejack responded, showing sings of worry. "And just when Sunset was takin' control of the game!"

"I hope she'll be okay..." added Fluttershy.

"Now!! Vylon Soldier! Attack her dragon!!" ordered Manny. The armored angel then charged up tremendous amounts of energy into its arm-mounted weapon, firing off a huge shot that obliterated Sunset Shimmer's Synchro Monster in one blast, and damaged the young girl as well (Sunset Shimmer: LP 3,600 - 800 = 2,800). The landlord then snickered and said to his opponent, "I told you that you'd pay, Ms. Shimmer, and I'm planning to get my money's worth by pounding away at your Life Points!"

But just then, his smirk disappeared when he and everyone else heard Sunset giggling and chuckling to herself. Everyone else was confused as to why the otherworldly girl was laughing after her powerful monster was destroyed. "She's... laughing?" asked Rainbow Dash. "What's up with that??"

"I dunno," Pinkie answered her, "but whenever a character starts chuckling like that in a Yu-Gi-Oh! story, it usually means that their opponent's in maaaajor trouble!"

Manny sure wished to know why Sunset was giggling the way she was. "What's so funny?!" he asked her.

"Heh heh heh... you just made a REALLY big mistake, Mr. Roar." she told him.

"M-mistake??" he asked, sweating a little.

"You heard me." she responded. "You see, by destroying my Sun Dragon Inti in battle, you activated its special ability." Showing him the card, she then explained to him, "This allows me to destroy the monster that destroyed him; after that, half the attack power of that monster gets dealt to you as damage!"

"What?!?" exclaimed Manny, having been taken completely off-guard.

"So say goodbye to your Vylon Soldier, Mr. Roar!" she told him. After she put her Synchro Monster in the Graveyard, Manny's only monster then exploded into a fireball and was destroyed. Some of the debris then struck the man, causing him to take some damage (Manny Roar: LP 2,800 - 1,900 = 900).

"That was AWESOME!!!" cheered Rainbow Dash.

"Indeed it was!" added Rarity. "They both lost their monsters, but Manny took some heavy damage, and now he's totally defenseless!"

"Which means that if Sunset can Summon a monster with 900 or more attack points on her next turn, and deal a successful attack with it, she'll win the Duel!" stated Celestia.

"Let's hope that happens, then..." Luna responded, hoping that everything would turn out okay.

Manny growled, gritting his teeth. "That was such a cheap shot, Ms. Shimmer... I'm NOT impressed."

"That's just the beginning, Mr. Roar." Sunset informed him. "So finish up with your turn, already."

"Very well, then..." he replied. "Since you sent my Vylon Material to the Graveyard, I can take a new Vylon Spell Card from out of my Deck. And I choose to take Vylon Matter!" After taking his card, he then played it, saying, "Next, I'll activate my Vylon Matter! Now I'll send three Equip Spell Cards from my Graveyard back to my Deck, and then after that, I'll draw one more card!" He then took his Vylon Component, Vylon Material, and Mage Power cards and shuffled them back into his Deck. After drawing his next card, he then placed it onto his Duel Pad, saying, "I'll set one card facedown and end my turn."

"Then it's my turn! I draw!" declared Sunset. She then drew her next card, hoping that it was a powerful enough monster. Luckily, that's what she managed to get. "I Summon Chronomaly Nebra Disk in Attack Mode!" she shouted, playing her new card onto the field. In an instant, the red and yellow girl's disk-like monster took center stage (Chronomaly Nebra Disk: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1500).

"And since I Normal Summoned Nebra Disk," she continued, "I can move one Chronomaly card out of my Deck and put it in my hand! And I choose to take Chronomaly Pyramid Eye Tablet." After taking her card, she then ordered, "Now! Nebra Disk! Attack his Life Points directly!!" Her monster then spun wildly and flung itself at Manny Roar. Everyone else prayed that the attack would be successful.

"Not so fast!!" shouted the landlord. "I activate a Trap Card! Magic Cylinder!!"

The others gasped as a pair of large, hollow tubes materialized in front of the man. Nebra Disk ended up flying right inside one of the tubes, only to come shooting out of the other one and right into Sunset herself (Sunset Shimmer: LP 2,800 - 1,800 = 1,000). "AAGH!!" she grunted after taking the hit.

"That's not good..." stated Rarity. "Magic Cylinder stops a monster from attacking, and then the monster's controller takes damage equal to its attack power."

"Shoot... and Sunnie was SOOOOOOO close, too!" whined Pinkie.

Luna sighed sadly a bit. (He managed to save himself from losing this turn...) she thought. (And next turn, he will have a chance to strike back... Please... be careful, Sunset...)

Sunset took a deep breath and said, "Well, looks like you get another turn, then... So make your move."

"First sensible thing you've said all day, Ms. Shimmer..." taunted Manny. "Now I draw!" Once he picked up his card, he began chuckling softly to himself, slowly increasing in volume until he was laughing hysterically. "At last! I drew just the card I needed!"

"Uh oh... I don't like the sound of that..." said a trembling Fluttershy.

"Join the club, Sugarcube..." added Applejack.

Manny then smirked evily and said, "I now Summon Vylon Pentachloro in Attack Mode!", playing a card that he already had in his hand. The creature appeared to be a mechanical being of some sort, but its design seemed to be impossible; it looked like a living optical illusion with long, sharp claws (Vylon Pentachloro: Level 4 / ATK 500 / DEF 400).

"What... the heck is that thing??" asked Rainbow Dash.

"That's not fair!" shouted Pinkie Pie, pointing out the monster's seemingly-impossible physical nature. "If anyone breaks reality for a laugh around here, it has to be me!!" She then paused for a second and added, "...Okay, me and Discord, but that's it!!"

"Who...?" Rarity asked at a low volume.

"And now... I activate the Spell Card, Machine Duplication!!" announced Manny, playing the card he had just drawn. "This card lets me Special Summon up to two more copies of any Machine-Type monster I control with 500 or less attack points! So I play two more Vylon Pentachloros from my Deck in Defense Mode!" And with that, two more of the same monster appeared on his field (Vylon Pentachloro [x2]: Level 4 / ATK 500 / DEF 400).

"Uh oh... he's just Summoned three Level 4 monsters in one move..." noted Sunset, already having a gut feeling about Manny's next move. "This is it..."

"Y'all think he's gonna summon his Number card now?" Applejack asked the others.

"I'm positive, Applejack dear." Rarity confirmed. "Sunset had better be on guard... I have a feeling that this is only going to get a whole lot worse..."

Manny then grinned a wicked grin as the glyphs on his arm began to glow even brighter than before. He then shouted, "I now overlay all three of my Level 4 Vylon Pentachloros!!"

"Hold up...! All THREE of them?!?" asked a surprised Sunset Shimmer.

Manny's monsters then transformed into a trio of yellow lights that were sucked up into that ever-so-familiar galaxy portal, which had formed in front of the landlord. "I use my three monsters to create an Overlay Network!!" The portal then exploded, leaving behind a blue symbol that resembled the one on his arm. "I Xyz Summon... Number 16: Shock Master!!!" The others watched as a large purple object in the shape of a cube descended from above, with a trio of yellow lights swirling around it. The object then began to open up, forming into a robot-like creature with a triangle-shaped head. As it transformed, it shot out bolts of blue electricity everywhere. After its transformation was complete, the number 16 could be seen on its underside.

*******************************

Number 16: Shock Master:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Fairy-Type/LIGHT/Rank 4/ATK 2300/DEF 1600)

3 Level 4 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card to declare 1 card type (Monster, Spell, or Trap); that type of card (if Spell or Trap) cannot be activated, or (if Monster) cannot activate its effects, until the end of your opponent's next turn.

*******************************

Everyone else in the room was surprised when Manny used all of his monsters to bring out his Number card. "H-he used all THREE of his monsters as Overlay Units??" asked Rarity.

"But I thought you only need two monsters to summon an Xyz Monster!" Rainbow protested.

"That isn't always the case, Ms. Dash..." Principal Celestia told her. "There are a few Xyz Monsters that may require many more monsters to serve as Overlay Units... And most often, those Xyz Monsters are far more powerful..."

"Just great..." sighed Applejack. "Ah should've known things weren't gonna stay easy for us for very long..."

Sunset Shimmer stared at the new Number monster before her, wondering whether or not she would be able to defeat it and Manny Roar. Of course, her primary concern was figuring out what it was capable of. "So this is the card that's caused him to go berserk..." she muttered to herself.

The landlord chuckled wickedly and told his tenant, "Now it's time to show off this Number's true potential!" Taking out one of the Monster Cards that were underneath his Number card, he then announced, "I remove one Overlay Unit from Shock Master in order to use its ability!" In an instant, one of the orbiting spheres flew right into the Xyz Monster's chest area (Number 16: Shock Master: OLU 3 - 1 = 2). "This ability, when activated," the man continued, "allows me to prevent the use of one type of card effect, until the end of your next turn! And just in case you had a backup plan in mind, I'll stop any attempt on your part to eliminate my Number card..." He then pointed towards Sunset and yelled, "I choose to prevent the use of any and all Spell Card effects!"

(Oh no...!) thought Sunset in despair. (Now I can't use my Chronomaly Pyramid Eye Tablet card to power up my monsters next turn!)

After his declaration, Manny's monster then projected a green electrical field around the area, which was designed to suppress the use of Spell Cards. "Now, I attack Nebra Disk with Shock Master!!" the landlord shouted. The Xyz Monster then started to draw in large amounts of energy into itself, releasing it in the form of blue lightning bolts that shattered the otherworldly girl's only monster.

The force of the attack hit Sunset hard, causing her to fall down on her rear end. "AAAACK!!!" she grunted upon landing on the floor (Sunset Shimmer: LP 1,000 - 500 = 500).

Manny smirked and said to his opponent, "Right then, I suppose that's enough for now... I'll end my turn."

"Rrrrgh... My turn..." said the red and yellow girl, slowly getting up and drawing her next card. Looking over her hand, she scrambled to try and figure out a way out of her predicament. (This isn't good...) she thought to herself. (He's already gotten his Number card out, and the cards in my hand aren't suitable for summoning any of mine!) Groaning, she then thought, (If only those Numbers didn't have that effect that keeps them from being destroyed in battle by anything but other Numbers!) But right at that moment, an idea came to her. (Wait... that's it! There is one way I can get out of this! It's been right in front of me this whole time!)

Sunset then looked down at her facedown card, thinking, (This Trap Card has a very powerful effect... It can stop any monster's effects for one turn. I just hope that'll be enough to help me beat him...) Taking out the card that she had just drawn, she then said, "First, since you have a monster on the field while I don't, I can Special Summon Chronomaly Crystal Bones from my hand!" She then placed her shiny skeleton monster onto her Duel Pad's tray in Defense Position (Chronomaly Crystal Bones: Level 3 / ATK 1300 / DEF 400).

"And since I Summoned Crystal Bones with its effect," she then added, "I can then bring out another Chronomaly monster, either from my hand or the Graveyard." Taking out another card in her hand, she then told her opponent, "So I play Chronomaly Moai to the field in Defense Mode!" The girl's head-shaped statue monster then rose out of the floor in front of her to serve as wall between her and Manny's Number card (Chronomaly Moai: Level 5 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1600). "Finally," said Sunset, "I'll use the effect of Nebra Disk and bring it back from the Graveyard, since I only have Chronomaly monsters on my field." She then placed her disk-shaped monster back to the field in Defense Mode to protect herself. "And with that, I end my turn."

Applejack breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good..." she said. "She was able to put up a whole bunch of monsters to protect her Life Points. At least she'll be safe for a li'l while..."

"Yes, but it will not be much longer before Manny is able to get past her defenses and attack her..." Rarity noted. "Hopefully, she'll be able to come up with a way to strike back before that happens..."

"...I'm sure she's working on it." said Fluttershy. "She'd never let anyone get to her without a fight..."

Manny didn't seem too worried as he drew his next card. "Is that really the best you've got, Ms. Shimmer?" he asked, taunting her. "If that's so, evicting you from here will be easier than I thought!" Once he got a look at what he drew, he smirked evilly and added, "Especially since I was able to get this card again..." Showing his adversary what he drew, he then asked her, "Does this look familiar, Ms. Shimmer?!"

"Oh no! Not Mage Power again!!" the red and yellow girl responded, getting a little worried.

"Correct! And I assume you know what that means?" the landlord asked. "It means I can power up my Number monster to even GREATER levels!!" He then played the card on his monster, raising its attack power by a large amount (Number 16: Shock Master: ATK 2300 + 1000 = 3300 / DEF 1600 + 1000 = 2600).

(Great... what are the odds that he'd draw that card AGAIN??) Sunset asked in her mind. (With two cards in his Spell & Trap Zones, his monster got a thousand more attack points...!) But then she realized something: (Wait... his Spell Card only gives his monster more power if he has cards in his Spell & Trap Zones...) She then figured out exactly what she would do next; it all depended on what Manny did on his turn.

"Now, once more! I activate the effect of Shock Master!" shouted the landlord. "I remove one Overlay Unit in order to prevent the use of monster effects until your next turn is over!" His monster then absorbed another of its orbs in order to use its power (Number 16: Shock Master: OLU 2 - 1 = 1).

"Not so fast!" said Sunset, tapping her pad's touchscreen. "I'll chain this Trap Card to your monster's effect! Go, Breakthrough Skill!!" After she made that move, her facedown card then revealed itself to everyone else. "This card allows me to negate the effects of any monster on the field for one turn! And I choose your Shock Master!!"

"Nice try, but I KNEW you'd attempt that! Which is why I decided not to stop you from playing Trap Cards instead!" Manny told her. "I'll play my Dark Bribe Counter Trap! It has the ability to negate the effect of your Trap and destroy it!!"

Sunset and the others gasped as Manny's Trap Card shot a beam of energy at the otherworldly girl's card and disintegrated it. "Oh dear...!" said Celestia. "He knew that she would do that..."

Manny snickered to himself and stated, "And since your Trap Card lost its power, my Shock Master's effect still works!" And just as he had said, the Number card then projected an orange field of energy, preventing the use of all monster effects. (Number 16: Shock Master: ATK 3300 - 500 = 2800 / DEF 2600 - 500 = 2100).

"This is bad..." said Rarity. "Shock Master's effect will keep either of them from activating any monster effects... The only effect that will still work is the one that protects his Number card from being destroyed by anything but other Numbers, since it's a continuous effect that stays active as long as it's on the field."

"That effect is so unfair!!" shouted an annoyed Rainbow Dash. "That's the kinda thing that gets cards put on the banned list!"

Despite what Manny had done so far, Sunset's confidence wasn't shaken; she was still determined to win. The landlord then told her, "Of course, there is some risk with my last move; Dark Bribe does allow you to draw one card from your Deck. So go ahead and take the card I was generous enough to let you have."

Sunset then drew her next card and placed it into her hand, telling herself that she'd make it through okay, no matter what.

"Now! Shock Master!! Destroy her Nebra Disk again!!" ordered Manny Roar. Once more, his Number card attacked and destroyed Sunset's disk monster, sending it back to the Graveyard.

"I see... that's why he decided to stop monster effects..." Luna noted. "That was to prevent Sunset from bringing back her Nebra Disk on her next turn... He's trying to remove her defenses so that he can finish her off in a few more turns..."

"You might as well start packing your bags now, Ms. Shimmer," Manny told her, "because I'll soon have you clear out of here once you're defeated!!"

But Sunset told him, "I'm not giving up that easily, Mr. Roar... I promised Vice Principal Luna that I'd save you, and that's what I plan on doing!" She then looked at her Deck and prepared to draw her next card.

As she began to draw her card, the otherworldly girl then glanced back over at her friends; she then noticed that Principal Celestia was smiling at her warmly. She nodded to her and said, "You can do it, Sunset... You can do anything as long as you truly have faith in yourself."

Those words really spoke to the young teenager; it was something that Princess Celestia had said to her while she was still in Equestria, as her personal student. With a smile and a nod, Sunset assured her that she would succeed in saving the landlord from himself. "It's my turn! I draw!!" The teen then swiftly pulled her next card. But when she got a look at it, she was shocked, but happy, to see what it was. (This card...!) she thought to herself. (This is the one I needed! But I didn't think I'd draw it THIS soon!) She then began to wonder about something to herself for a few seconds before deciding to dwell on it another time.

"Just give it up, Ms. Shimmer... There's not a card you can draw that will save you from my Shock Master!" Manny taunted.

"...You're wrong, Mr. Roar." she told him.

"What was that?"

"I said you're wrong." Sunset repeated. "Because I just drew something that WILL stop that Number card!"

"You're bluffing!" the man protested.

"Oh you'll see soon enough if I'm bluffing or not..." she told him with a smile on her face. She then pulled out another card from her hand and said, "I'll play the Spell Card, Foolish Burial! I'll use its effect to send my Chronomaly Moai Carrier from my Deck to the Graveyard! Then I'll banish that monster in order to use the effect of my Chronomaly City Babylon Field Spell! So now I can bring back one Chronomaly monster from the Graveyard that's the same Level as the one I banished!" As she took out two cards from her Graveyard (which included the one that she had just sent there), Sunset added, "Since Moai Carrier was a Level 5 monster, I can then bring back Tula Guardian!" The girl then put Moai Carrier away in her deck box before placing her other monster back onto the field in Attack Position.

Manny watched carefully, not sure what the otherworldly girl was up to. But he had a feeling he'd know very soon.

Still smirking, Sunset then said to him, "Now I think it's time for you to see MY strongest monster!"

"Strongest?" asked Applejack. "Is she talkin' about one of her Number cards?"

"If she is, I'm afraid it won't be enough..." Rarity answered. "The only one she can bring out is Chronomaly Machu Mech, and its attack power isn't high enough to beat his Shock Master."

Manny figured that too. "So you're finally going to Summon a Number to try and save yourself?" he asked.

But the black jacket-clad teen surprised everyone when she said, "Actually... I'm not."

Sunset's friends gasped upon hearing that. "Wait, she ISN'T bringin' out a Number?!" asked Rainbow Dash. "What's she thinkin'?!" But Celestia and Luna smiled and nodded to each other, knowing full well that Sunset had a plan for victory brewing.

"I release both Crystal Bones and Moai!" she declared, sending two of her three monsters straight to the Graveyard. "And now," she added, "I can call this monster to the field!! I Summon The Surpremacy Sun!!!"

At that moment, everyone watched as a gigantic ball of extremely bright light began to slowly descend from above the red and yellow girl. Once the ball of the light stopped coming down, it then began to form into a different shape, transforming into a dark red-skinned man wearing black armor and showing off several bright, bizarrely-shaped wings on his back. The figure definitely was not shy about showing how powerful he truly was.

*******************************

The Surpremacy Sun:
(Effect Monster/Fiend-Type/DARK/Level 10/ATK 3000/DEF 3000)

Cannot be Special Summoned, except by its own effect. During the next Standby Phase after this face-up card is destroyed and sent to the Graveyard: You can discard 1 card; Special Summon this card from the Graveyard.

*******************************

Everyone watching was astounded by Sunset's move, but even more so by the card she played. "What on Earth is THAT thing??" asked Rarity, still in shock.

"Don't lookit me, Rare... I ain't never seen a card like that one before!!" Applejack responded, eyes wide.

"Aiyiyi!! That thing is HUUUUUUUUUGE!!!" commented Pinkie Pie.

"Oh... m-my..." was all that Fluttershy could get out.

Rainbow Dash then turned towards Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna, asking them, "Hey, you two are Duel Monsters experts; have you ever heard of a card like what Sunset has out right now?

"Actually, we have." answered the light-pink woman. "It's called The Surpremacy Sun... It's part of a series of cards that are extremely rare, known as the Legendary Planets."

"But... the Sun isn't a planet." reminded Fluttershy.

"No, but this card is similar enough to the others in its line, that it's part of the archetype." Luna told the shy girl. "The Legendary Planets are a group of very powerful monsters based on the bodies in our Solar System. But the cards were printed in limited supply, and thus, not many Duelists possess even one of them... How Sunset managed to obtain one is beyond even me..."

"Well, Ah know she didn't get that back when she was acting like a jerk to everybody, because she didn't start playin' Duel Monsters until AFTER last year's Fall Formal..." Applejack noted. "Right now, though, all Ah care about is if that card is powerful enough to stop even a Number card."

Manny was just as shocked as everyone else was; he NEVER expected her to play one of the Legendary Planets. "A... Planet card..." he said, trembling, "I... I never thought that I'd even SEE one of those cards..." Trying to regain his composure, he then reminded Sunset, "You might have Summoned a very powerful and very rare monster, but not even that can destroy my Number card in battle!"

"You're right, it can't..." stated Sunset. "Not yet, that is. So it's a good thing that I have just the card I need at this very moment." She then tapped her Duel Pad's touchscreen, and a card image then appeared in front of her; it was none other than her Breakthrough Skill card.

"What?!" asked Manny Roar in shock. "But I got rid of that card!!"

"Not completely." stated the otherworldly girl. "Unfortunately for you, Breakthrough Skill has a second effect that lets me activate it from my Graveyard." Taking the Trap Card out of her Graveyard, she added, "All I have to do is banish it, and then I can negate all of the effects of any one monster you have on the field. And I choose your Shock Master!!"

Manny gasped as her card shot a purple bolt at his Number card, which suppressed its abilities. "What is the meaning of this?!?" he asked, getting scared.

"You're right that your Number can only be destroyed by other Numbers in battle." stated Sunset Shimmer. She then smirked and told her opponent, "However, thanks to Breakthrough Skill's effect, that ability has just been negated, which will allow me to destroy it with any of my monsters!"

Manny gasped; he hadn't realized that. He then looked at his monster and thought, (No... this can't be! She managed to remove the one thing that makes the Numbers practically invincible!!) He was also horrified to find out that his Shock Master's attack points were lower than her monster's by just 200 points. (Not only that, my monster's attack power was weakened when I played Dark Bribe... So Mage Power now only gives my monster 500 more attack points!) The landlord now realized a bit too late that Sunset had tricked him into using his Trap Card, just to weaken his Shock Master.

"So she had that planned this whole time..." stated Celestia. "She knew that the Numbers' defensive effect was just like any other monster's special ability... and that it could be negated."

"And now that Manny's Number card has lost that power, there's nothing that can stop Sunset from winning now." Luna chimed in.

"Alright! Way to go, Sunset!!" cheered Rainbow Dash. "Now finish him off!"

"It would be my pleasure!" the red and yellow girl replied. She then ordered, "Go! Surpremacy Sun! Attack with Solar Flare!!" And with that, the incredibly rare and powerful monster let out a powerful flash that did the seemingly impossible and destroyed the landlord's Number card completely. Not only that, the rest of the attack then struck Manny as well, slightly damaging him (Manny Roar: LP 900 - 200 = 700).

"No... my Shock Master... it's gone...!" Manny Roar said in disbelief.

"And I'm not done just yet!" shouted Sunset Shimmer. "Tula Guardian! Attack his Life Points directly!!" The giant blue statue then raised its fist and slammed right on the man's head, taking out the rest of his Life Points and ending the Duel (Manny Roar: LP 700 - 1,800 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer).

"She won!!" Applejack shouted happily. "Sunset won!!"

"I knew she'd win, I knew it!!" replied Pinkie. "And that's not just because she's a main character in the story!!"

Luna was happy, both for Sunset's victory and the fact that Manny would return to his old self again. She sighed in relief and thought to herself, (Thank you, Sunset Shimmer... I knew you would come through and save him...)

The otherworldly girl then looked over at the defeated Manny Roar, who was knocked out and lying on the floor. She then raised her hand forward as a ball of light came out of his chest and flew towards her. After she caught it, the light transformed into the landlord's Number card. She then took a deep breath, happy that this ordeal was over.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was around quarter after seven when Principal Celestia decided to head over to the apartment building to visit Sunset Shimmer. After the Duel, Sunset and the others helped Manny Roar onto the bed in her room, letting him rest there until he awoke from his unconscious state. Luckily, Celestia and Luna were able to convince all of the other tenants, even Blueblood, not to sue him for what he was doing earlier. Manny had no memory of what had happened during the time that he was possessed by the Number card, so no one told him about the events that had occurred.

The principal walked over to the door and was prepared to knock on it, only for it to open in front of her. Sunset looked up and was surprised to see the woman standing there. "Oh! Principal Celestia!" she said in surprise. "I-I wasn't expecting to see you here."

"I just came by to see how you were doing, Ms. Shimmer." said the light-pink woman. "I know you fought a very difficult Duel, and I just wanted to be sure that you were okay."

"Uh, don't worry about it... I'm just fine." the red and yellow girl told her. "A bit tired, but fine."

"So, what are you going to do for the rest of the day?" asked Celestia out of curiosity.

"I'm heading over to Fluttershy's house for a sleepover." Sunset answered. "We still agreed to have them even though I have a place to live in now."

"Well, I hope you two have fun tonight." the principal said to her with a smile.

There was a slight pause after Celestia's comment before Sunset decided to ask something: "Um... Principal Celestia? C-could I talk to you about something... one on one?"

"Um... sure. Anything you want." the woman responded.

Sunset nodded and motioned her to come inside. The two of them walked into the red and yellow girl's bedroom. Once inside, Sunset walked over to her nightstand drawer and opened it, pulling out the picture that she had brought with her from Equestria. She then handed the photo to Celestia and said, "Here... this is something that I think you ought to see... It's a photo that was taken before I came here."

The principal looked at the photo and was alarmed by what she saw. "Oh my..." she gasped. "Is this... you?" The woman was pointing to the yellow-coated Unicorn pony with the red and yellow mane. Sunset Shimmer nodded yes. Celestia then looked at the other pony in the picture and asked, "And this one... the one with the white coat and large wings... Is that-?"

"Yep..." the otherworldly girl responded. "That's you... Or at least, the you that lives in the world I came from..."

Celestia was certainly shocked to see her pony counterpart for the first time, but she wasn't sure where the young girl was going with this. "So... is this what you wanted to talk to me about?" she asked her.

"No... but it will help support what I do want to discuss..." replied the girl. The two sat on Sunset's bed as she told the principal, "Lately... I've been thinking about a lot of stuff... concerning the day I left Equestria and came here... Back then, I never really gave it much thought; I mean, I came here without even thinking about what I would do, where I would live... All that I was thinking about was how angry I was at the Princess when I wasn't getting what I wanted quickly enough..."

"I see..." hummed Celestia, listening to every word.

"In my rage, I didn't realize what it was that I was leaving behind..." Sunset continued solemnly. "I was leaving my home, my friends, my family..." She then sniffled a little and added, "And the Princess, who believed in me so much back then... And how did I repay her? By being stubborn, impatient, and rebel a without a clue... In fact, the last memory I have of her and myself were the harsh things that I said to her just before I jumped into the portal and came here..."

Principal Celestia really could tell that Sunset was feeling very down right now. She put her hand on the girl's shoulder and did her best to comfort her.

"People have always asked me why I changed so quickly after Twilight showed me that what I had been doing here was wrong..." she then told the woman. "Well... it's because I knew all along that I wasn't doing the right thing... And I'd been trying to fool myself into thinking otherwise. To fool myself into believing that I wasn't a failure as a student or a failure as a person... so that I wouldn't consider myself as Princess Celestia's mistake..."

"...You are not a mistake, Sunset Shimmer." the principal told her.

"Huh...? Why do you say that?" asked the red and yellow girl. "I was a menace back then! I hurt a lot of people, I stole a magic item and mutated into a she-demon! Heck, I blew UP the front entrance of the school in my rage! How am I NOT a huge mistake?!"

"Well... because if you were," the woman told her, "then you wouldn't be trying to be the good person that you are now. You only made mistakes; you are not one yourself. You've learned from your experiences, and are doing your best to become a better person... And from what I've seen from you so far, I believe that you've succeeded in that venture."

"You really mean that?"

Celestia nodded yes. "And if this Princess is anything like me - and she most likely is - she would be very proud to know that you've made such great progress." she told her.

Sunset smiled upon hearing that. She was pretty sure that the woman's words were true, seeing that both her and the Princess were essentially one and the same. "...Thanks, Principal Celestia." she said to her. "That really means a lot to me..." She then added, "I know I still have a lot to learn when it comes to friendship and just simply being a good person... but one day, I hope I can go back to Equestria, even for just a little while, so that I can personally tell the Princess how sorry I am to her... I just hope she can forgive me for what I did..."

"I'm sure she will. I guarantee it." Celestia said to her. Looking at her watch, she then said to Sunset Shimmer, "Well, you had better get to your friend's home; you don't want to keep her waiting too long, do you?"

"You're right, I'd better start moving." Sunset then grabbed everything she was taking with her and said, "Thanks for talking with me. You said some things that I really needed to hear."

"You're very welcome, Ms. Shimmer." Celestia told her. "Come back to me anytime if you wish to talk about anything else."

"I will. Thanks a lot." The red and yellow girl then left the apartment to go and visit her friend Fluttershy for the night.

As she watched her leave, Principal Celestia then prepared to leave as well. She took one last look at the photograph that Sunset had shown her and smiled a bit. She then placed the picture back in the nightstand drawer that Sunset originally had it in before exiting the apartment and going back home herself.

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Sunset Shimmer (6 Numbers total):

- Number 16: Shock Master

---------------------------------------------------------------------

RANK 6: Courage Clear as Day:

View Online

RANK 6: Courage Clear as Day:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Sunset Shimmer's dueling skills have been put to the test time and time again during her battles against the mysterious and dangerous Number cards. The cards have the ability to possess almost any Duelist that finds them, and alters their personalities to make them more malicious. However, Sunset's powerful Chronomaly Deck, along with her strategic mind, have seen her through many tough battles. Now, she currently owns six Number cards and has been able to prevent many of the disasters that came as a result of the Numbers' dark power.

Sunset says that she owes a lot of her success in Duel Monsters to the support that her friends have given her; they had taught her how to play the game, they have helped her construct her Deck, and they offer her plenty of good vibes when she participates in a Duel. But now, she and the rest of her friends are about to give some much-needed support to another up-and-coming Duelist...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was late afternoon on a Wednesday in Canterlot City. That meant only one thing for Sunset Shimmer and her best friends: It was time for them to practice their music. Besides playing Duel Monsters, the six of them also liked to play in a band together called the Sonic Rainbooms (a name that Rainbow Dash came up with because of how cool it sounded). They had formed the band some time ago, months after last year's Fall Formal. The thing is, every time that they really got into their musical numbers, it would have a bizarre effect on them; the six of them would end up forming pony ears in place of their human ears, and their hair would grow extra-long ponytails. In addition, both Rainbow and Fluttershy would have wings growing out of their backs. It began happening so often whenever they played music, that they began to call the phenomenon, "Ponying Up".

Today, however, there was little chance of that happening, since all that the group would be doing was to practice their sets, both together and individually. Still, Sunset Shimmer kept an eye out in case if any of them changed physically; one day, she hoped to try and figure out what really triggered that strange magic...

The group regularly met together in the music room to practice their songs. Each of them had a different role to fill in the band; Rainbow was lead guitar, Applejack was on bass guitar, Rarity played on a keytar (a sort of piano-guitar hybrid), Pinkie Pie played the drums, and Fluttershy had her tambourine. Sunset was lead vocal for the band, though sometimes she would also play backup guitar.

The doors to the music room opened and in walked Applejack, Sunset, Pinkie, and Rarity, each holding their respective instruments (or, in Pinkie's case, her favorite drumsticks). Rainbow Dash had already entered the room before all of them, and was casually sitting on top of the large speaker that her guitar was hooked up to while having a rather bored and impatient look on her face. "Yeesh, FINALLY!" she groaned, getting off of the object she was sitting upon. "What took you guys so long??"

"Sorry, Dash..." Applejack apologized. "We would've been here sooner, but... well, we've got a teeny-tiny li'l problem..."

The athletic teen sighed and asked, "Lemme guess: Fluttershy, right?" The other four girls nodded their heads yes. Sighing again, Rainbow then asked, "Is she STILL all worked up over what happened earlier today?"

"Probably..." figured Sunset. "She hasn't left Homeroom since the final bell rang. I'm starting to get worried about her."

"Well, you can't really blame her for it..." Rarity told her friends. "I mean, it was pretty sudden when the Principal made that announcement..."

---------------------------------------------------------------------
3 Hours Earlier...
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Every student in Canterlot High filed into the auditorium for a major announcement. It was for an event that had been on everybody's mind for the past few days. Everyone in attendance calmly took their seats, with Sunset and her friends all sitting together, like they always did.

After a few minutes, Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna walked onstage, stopping behind the podium in the center. "Students of Canterlot High," Celestia spoke over the microphone, "may I have your attention please?"

The students immediately quieted down upon hearing her request.

"Thank you." The light pink-skinned woman then told everyone, "As you know, this Friday, there will be a major event coming up that I know many of you are very excited for: It's our annual Inter-school Duel with our neighbors at Griffonstone High School!" The students cheered loudly after she made that announcement.

"Woo-hoo!!!! Finally!!!!" cheered Pinkie Pie, throwing her arms up and waving them erratically. "I've been waiting so super-long to see it!!"

"Um, girls? What's Principal Celestia talking about?" asked Sunset Shimmer. "What's Griffonstone High School?"

"One of our rival schools, besides Crystal Prep Academy." answered Applejack.

"You see, Sunset," Rarity began to explain to her, "every year around this time, our school and their school compete with each other in a Duel. We each pick a Duelist to represent us, and the winning school gets to display the Inter-school Duel Trophy."

"Sounds interesting to me." the otherworldly girl replied. She then asked, "So, what's this other school like? Griffonstone, I mean..."

"To be honest, I personally do not think too highly of them." the fashion-forward teen told her.

"Why's that?"

"Well, Sunset..." Fluttershy began to say, "they've been known to be pretty ruthless, especially when they Duel... I'd be really, really scared if I ever had to fight one of them..." The timid girl trembled a little just thinking about it.

"They're really that tough?" asked the red and yellow girl.

"Oh yeah." replied Rainbow Dash. "SUPER tough. Especially this one chick they've got over there. Her name is-"

But at that moment, Pinkie Pie covered her athletic friend's mouth and said to her, "Sorry, Dashie! You'll have to wait 'til later for the big name reveal! The Principals are about to say something!" The cyan girl pushed her silly friend's hand away from her face before she and the others turned their attention back to the main stage.

"Now," began Vice Principal Luna, "Griffonstone has already selected their representative for the Inter-school Duel. Today, we will have to submit our representative as well. And I am pleased to say that we have already made our decision on that very matter."

"We have made our selection based on your recent Duel records, according to the listings submitted by Kaiba Corp.," Celestia explained, "which, as you know, is the company that produces the Duel Pads and Duel Gazers that you use to play Duel Monsters. All of your Duels in the recent year are electronically recorded and transmitted to your records on the company's computer, recording things such as the Decks you most often use, as well as your win ratios."

Sunset Shimmer then glanced at her Duel Pad and thought, (I see... So that's how they figure all of that out...)

Luna then took out an envelope, in which was a small paper that had the name of the student they chose. "My sister, the rest of the school staff, as well as myself, each took a vote, and we have made our choice." Opening the envelope, she then announced, "The student who will be representing us will be..."

Everyone was on the edge of their seats, wondering who it would be. But nothing prepared them for the name that Luna gave out...

"...Fluttershy!!"

There was a collective gasp amongst the entire student body. No one expected that Fluttershy, of all people, would be chosen to participate. "Really? HER??" asked one of the female students. "What were they thinking??"

"We're gonna lose the trophy for sure, now..." a male student chimed in.

Suddenly, all eyes were on the timid yellow girl, who was now more scared and nervous than she had ever been in her entire life. "Ohhhh... oh my..." she whimpered, quickly getting out of her seat and hiding underneath it...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Yeah, that sure was a real shock to her, and everyone else." noted Applejack as she tuned her bass guitar while recalling what had happened earlier. "Ah'm sure Ah'd be as jittery and as nervous as her if Ah were in her shoes right now."

"Not to sound too boastful or anything," began Sunset, "but I'm honestly surprised that I wasn't chosen to represent the school for the big event. I mean after all, I've been dueling really well lately."

"I think it might be because you have those Number cards in your Deck that you weren't chosen, dear." Rarity reminded her friend.

"...Oh yeah. I forgot about that." the otherworldly teen responded with a sigh. She then told her friends, "Of course, had I been chosen to duel, I would've taken them out of my Deck first to be fair."

"We know you would've." Applejack assured her. "It's not like you to give yourself an unfair advantage over your opponents."

"Besides," chimed Pinkie, "Sunnie can't duel in EVERY episode! Ya gotta give someone else a chance to be in the spotlight for once!"

"Uh... yeah." the farm girl responded, not really understanding what the pink girl meant by that. Turning back to the others, she then said to them, "Anyhoo, gettin' back on topic, we've gotta do somethin' about Fluttershy; she can't hole herself up in the classroom forever, ya know."

"But what are we to do, Applejack?" Rarity inquired. "She's so distressed over the whole thing, that she does not want to talk to anyone, not even us."

"...I'll go and talk to her." Rainbow Dash told them, offering to try and help the timid girl.

"Really?" asked Applejack. "You think you can get through t' her?"

"Fluttershy and me have been friends since Elementary School." the cyan girl told them. "If anyone can snap her out of being all depressed and stuff, it'll be me."

"That makes sense." replied Sunset. "If you think you can help her, then go for it." The black jacket-wearing teenager then told Rainbow Dash, "And by the way, grammatically speaking, it's supposed to be, 'Fluttershy and I'."

"Yeah whatever, Grammar Police." the athletic teen grumbled as she put down her guitar and headed out the door.

As Rainbow Dash left the music room, Rarity then said to everyone else, "Well, it's up to her now... Let us hope that she is successful in helping Fluttershy." The others nodded in agreement, hoping for the same.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Rainbow Dash made her way to the classroom that served as Fluttershy's Homeroom class at the end of each school day. The athletic teen peered through the glass window on the door; sure enough, the shy young girl was inside, still sitting at her desk with her face buried in her arms.

(Well... here goes nothin'...) Dash thought to herself. She then took a deep breath, raised her hand to the door, and knocked on it. "Hey, Flutters!" she called out. "Are ya in there?"

"Go away!!" the timid girl cried out. "Just leave me alone!! ...If that's okay with you..."

"Well, t' be honest, it's NOT okay with me." the cyan teen told her. "Look, me and the others are really worried about ya... Can we just talk for a little bit?"

There was a long silence that followed after Rainbow Dash made her request. Then, finally, Fluttershy answered, saying, "...Fine... you can come in if you want to." Rainbow smiled a bit, now that she knew that her best friend was willing to talk about the situation. It was a small step forward, but a step forward nonetheless.

The athletic teen opened the door and walked inside. After shutting the door behind her, Dash pulled up a chair and sat backwards on it in front of Fluttershy. "So..." she began, "how've ya been, Fluttershy?"

"Just AWFUL..." the poor girl whimpered. "Ever since Luna announced that I was going to represent us at the Inter-school Duel, everyone's been giving me nasty looks..." She sniffled a little and added, "Now I know how Sunset felt when everyone did that to her... Let me tell you: It's not a pleasant feeling..."

"Yeesh... I'm sorry to hear about that." Rainbow told her friend, sympathizing with her.

Sniffling some more, Fluttershy continued, saying, "Everyone thinks that I'm going to lose... that I'm going to disappoint the whole school..." Nearly beginning to cry, she then added, "And quite frankly, I think they're right..."

Rainbow Dash felt really sorry for her best friend, but she wasn't going to let the other students' low expectations of her put her down like this. She then suddenly stood up out of her chair, which startled Fluttershy a little. "Flutters, that's not true!" she told her. "None of that junk is!"

"Wh... wha...?" the timid girl replied.

"You can't let those guys get to you that easily!" Rainbow then told her, in an attempt to lift up her spirits. "They don't know you as well as me and the rest of our friends do! I know something like this SEEMS scary, but you can get through it, no problem!"

"...Easy for you to say, Rainbow..." Fluttershy said with a sigh. "You've never been afraid of anything ever... Unlike me..."

"...Well..." Rainbow began to say in an uneasy-sounding tone, "that's actually not entirely true..."

"Huh?!" gasped the timid girl, not expecting to hear something like that. "Wh-what do you mean??"

The athletic teen sighed and responded, saying, "Fluttershy, you and me have been friends for a really long time; to be honest, I feel like you're the only one among our friends that, well... that I can talk to about anything, if you know what I mean: Stuff that I wouldn't say to Rarity, AJ, Sunset, Pinkie, or even Twilight."

The pink and yellow girl listened carefully, wondering where Dash was going with this.

"So... that bein' the case," the cyan girl continued, "I'm gonna tell ya something that I've NEVER told anyone. Something that I'd never admit to the others or anyone else... So promise me that you won't blab about it to anybody, okay?"

Fluttershy nodded yes and said, "I promise."

Rainbow Dash then cleared her throat and told her, "You see, Fluttershy... I wasn't always the super-tough, super-confident chick I am now... Long before we met, I was actually a lot like you."

"Y-you were??" asked the timid teen, surprised to hear that.

"It's the total truth, Flutters." the cyan girl confirmed. "I was shy and scared and didn't really want to be around anyone else at all. Not only that, everything that I tried to do only ended in failure, and the other kids made fun of me for it." Sighing again, she then told her friend. "Back then, I never thought that I'd ever be good enough to do anything, and I felt real down just thinking about it."

"Oh my..."

"Then one day," Rainbow Dash continued, "My mom and I were at the grocery store, pickin' up some things for dinner. I had some of my allowance with me, but I didn't know what to do with it. That's when I spotted a pack of Duel Monsters cards near the registers. I decided to buy the pack, and when I opened it..." She then reached into a pocket in her skirt and pulled out a card from inside of it as she spoke. "I found this card was inside..." She then showed her friend the card that she was talking about...

*******************************

Clear Wing Synchro Dragon:
(Synchro-Effect Monster/Dragon-Type/WIND/Level 7/ATK 2500/DEF 2000)

1 Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner monsters
Once per turn, during either player's turn, when another Level 5 or higher monster activates its effect on the field: You can negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it. Once per turn, during either player's turn, when a monster effect is activated that targets exactly 1 Level 5 or higher monster on the field (and no other cards): You can negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it. If this card's effect destroys a monster, this card gains ATK equal to the destroyed monster's original ATK until the end of this turn.

*******************************

Fluttershy let out a loud gasp when she saw her friend's shiny Duel Monsters card. "Oh my!" she said in astonishment. "You actually have Clear Wing?! That card's really, REALLY rare! How did you find it??"

"I just told ya: It was in that first pack I bought when I was little." Rainbow Dash reminded her. "And yeah, I was just as shocked as you were when I first got it. But not because of its rarity; I actually didn't know just how rare it was back then." Looking at the card's artwork, she then told her best friend, "Y'see, once I got a good look at the dragon on this card, I was immediately taken in by how powerful it looked; to me, this guy looked like he wasn't afraid of anything, and that he could take on any challenge or danger that came to him! And that's when I thought, 'Why can't I be like that?' I wanted nothin' more than to be as strong and as confident as that dragon. So that's when I made up my mind that, no matter what, I would give a hundred-and-twenty percent of myself every day, and do my best at whatever I set my mind to! And, well... the rest is history."

"Oh, wow..." said the yellow girl, impressed by her friend's story. "So that card gave you the confidence to be at your best at just about everything?"

"Not quite, but you're on the right track." the cyan girl answered her. "This card didn't GIVE me any more confidence in myself than I already had. But it did help me learn something about being at my best: It taught me that, no matter what people might say about you, or what low expectations they might have towards you, you have the power to get out there, do your best, and prove the naysayers wrong. You've gotta take everything they throw at ya and bounce it right back at 'em! All that matters is what YOU think of yourself; not what other people think of you... Do you understand?"

Fluttershy was completely silent after hearing what her friend had said. She had never thought about her situation that way before, and it was beginning to make her start to re-evaluate herself. She sighed a little and said, "...I do, Rainbow Dash, and you're absolutely right: I... I can't let what others think of me get in the way of doing my best... Like it or not, I was chosen to represent the entire school... And I have to make my school proud, no matter what!"

"So... does this mean that you're-"

"Yes, Rainbow." the now-no-longer-timid girl interrupted. "I'm going to go through with this Duel. And I'll fight my hardest out there and show everybody my true strength, just like you do every day!"

"I'm really glad t' hear that, Flutters." the athletic teen said with a smile. She then held out the card she had shown her friend and told her, "Here... I want you to have this."

Fluttershy gasped. "Y-you what?!" she exclaimed. "I-I-I can't take that from you! It means so much to you!"

But Rainbow Dash shook her head no and told her, "You and the others mean a WHOLE lot more to me. In fact, you were the first friend I ever had ever since I got my Clear Wing card. Like I said, all this card did was show me that I had the power to do anything I set my mind to, and you and the rest of our friends have shown me so much more. Clear Wing did its job helping me see all that, and I'll always be grateful for what it did... But I also know that I can't depend on it forever, and that I'll have to let him go. So that's why I want you to have it; maybe it might be able to draw out that spark in ya like it did for me."

The animal-loving teenager stared at the ultra-rare card for a long time, still shocked that the cyan girl was really just giving it to her. Still skeptical, Fluttershy then asked, "Are... you really sure about this, Rainbow...?"

"VERY sure." the athlete answered. "At least twenty percent more sure than ya think."

The pink and yellow girl blushed a little, pleased by how kind Rainbow Dash was to her right now. Now confident that her friend had made up her mind, Fluttershy nodded and said, "O-okay then... I'll take it." She then reached out and took Rainbow's Clear Wing Synchro Dragon card from her. She then stared at the valuable card for a while before telling her, "I promise that I'll take very good care of it, Rainbow..."

"Heh, you'd better." the cyan girl replied with a chuckle. "Now c'mon... let's go and meet up with the others."

"Okay..." Fluttershy said with a nod. As they headed towards the door, the yellow-skinned girl then spoke up, saying, "R-Rainbow Dash?"

"Yeah?"

The animal lover then gave her best friend a hug and told her, "Thank you... You said a lot of things that I really needed to hear... So again, thank you so much..."

"No prob, Flutters." the cyan girl said in a casual tone. "That's what friends do for each other." The two of them then left the classroom and made their way to the music room to meet up with the rest of their friends.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

About an hour or so later, Sunset and her friends left Canterlot High School after they were finished with practicing their music. The others were happy to see that Fluttershy was beginning to feel better since she had been selected to participate in the Inter-school Duel against Griffonstone High School. The pink and yellow girl was still nervous about the whole thing, though, and it was quite apparent to her friends.

"So, you're really gonna go through with this, Sugarcube?" Applejack asked her timid friend.

"Mhmm..." Fluttershy responded, nodding her head. "I'm still not sure how well I'll do, but at the very least, I have to try."

"That's a good attitude to have, Fluttershy." Sunset told her. "After all, you'll never know if you can or can't do something without making an attempt at it; that's something the Princess taught me back in Equestria."

"Are you sure you'll be okay for it, though?" asked Rarity out of concern. "After all, you're trembling even more than usual..."

"Yeah! You're shaking even more than Mrs. Cake's chocolate shakes!" Pinkie Pie chimed in. "And that's saying something!"

"Well, to be honest," the shy girl told them, "I don't know if I'm really ready to take on anyone from Griffonstone... After all, they have..." She then gulped a little out of nervousness. "...they have quite the reputation, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, they can be pretty brutal, I hafta admit..." stated Rainbow Dash. But she then put on a smile and told her best friend, "But you've got something that the other guy doesn't have: You've got all of us t' help ya out!"

"R-really?" asked Fluttershy in a hopeful tone.

"Of course." Sunset Shimmer informed. "We've all agreed to give you all the help and support you'll need to be at your best when you compete in the Duel on Friday. I promise you: We'll make sure that you're completely ready for when you go out there."

"Oh, that's so nice of you all..." the shy girl said, feeling better about herself.

"That's what friends do for each other, Fluttershy." Rarity told her. "On that note, I have a most EXCELLENT idea of how to boost your confidence, and I am going get to work on it immediately!" She then ran off and added, "I'll see you all tomorrow, girls! I have a lot of work to do, and not much time!" Everyone else stared at Rarity as she left the group and headed for who-knows-where.

"Huh... Anyone know what's on Rarity's mind?" asked Sunset Shimmer.

"Not sure," answered Applejack, "but if Ah know Rare as well as Ah think Ah do, Ah've got a feelin' that her sewin' machine's gonna be involved in all'o this." She then said to Fluttershy, "Anyhoo, we'll do our part in helpin' ya out too, Fluttershy. We'll be practicin' 'til we're blue in the mouth!"

"Oh thank you... thank you all so much...!" the shy teen replied, happy to know that her friends would support her in her time of need.

Several minutes later, Fluttershy met with Sunset Shimmer in her apartment. The otherworldly girl brought her friend to her home in the city so that they could have some one-on-one time in preparation for the upcoming Duel. Once Sunset unlocked her door (and after waving hi to the landlord, Manny Roar, as he passed by), she and Fluttershy sat down at her dining room table, across from each other, so that they could get to work.

"So, um... what should we do first, Sunset?" asked the animal lover.

"Well, I think the first thing that I'll do is to take a look at your Deck, and see if I can help make any improvements to it." stated the red and yellow girl.

"Oh, I understand..." Fluttershy said as she grabbed her backpack and pulled out a bright yellow deck box, in which was her Duel Monsters Deck. "Here you go." she said as she handed her cards over.

"Thanks." Sunset replied. She then carefully opened the deck box and pulled out Fluttershy's Deck. She then examined the cards carefully, one at a time. "Hmmmm..." she hummed to herself as she evaluated her friend's cards.

"So... um..." Fluttershy began to say, "Is it any good...?"

Sunset placed the Deck onto the table and told her friend, "Fluttershy... this Deck... I have to admit, it's very well-made!"

"I-it is...?"

"Totally." the otherworldly girl responded. "You have a very good balance of different types of cards and some really good combos, too. Quite frankly, it's one of the best Decks that I've seen, and I don't just say that about everyone."

"Oh, well... thank you, Sunset." the shy girl replied. "Quite honestly, I wasn't sure if my Deck was good enough for something like the Inter-school Duel..."

"Well, if it'll help you feel a little better, think about this:" Sunset Shimmer began. "Remember what Princes-er, Principal Celestia said earlier?"

"Um, what exactly?"

"She said that they selected you out of EVERYONE in the school, based solely on your dueling records." the black jacket-wearing teen told her friend. "The fact that you were chosen for it meant that you must have been doing something right!"

"Oh wow... I never thought about that!" Fluttershy responded with a gasp after realizing that.

"Well don't feel too bad about it; apparently that fact was lost on everyone at school, too." stated Sunset. "But all that means is that it'll be all the sweeter once you go out there and prove them all wrong!"

"You really think I can win?" asked the pink and yellow girl.

"I know you can, Fluttershy." said the otherworldly girl. "And that's why I want to help you as much as I can." Getting up out of her seat, she then told her friend, "And the next thing we'll do is to research some cool combos that you can use in your Deck. Follow me over to the computer, and we can start right away."

"O-okay!" Fluttershy replied with a nod as the two of them walked over to Sunset's computer to study up on different tricks and combos that could be applied to the animal lover's Deck.

Some time later, Fluttershy left Sunset's apartment and continued her training with her other friends, starting with Rainbow Dash. The cyan teen had recently finished her new Deck and wanted to try it out, so she and Fluttershy had a sparring match with each other so that they could both refine their skills. During the Duel, Rainbow taught her best friend to always go with her gut when making tough decisions, and that she should always take any opportunity she could get to take control of the game. The pink and yellow girl took those lessons to heart, and in the end, they actually helped her win their little match. Normally, the competitive Rainbow Dash didn't like to lose at anything, but since the purpose of their game was to help out a friend, she didn't mind and was actually quite proud of Fluttershy for how well she did.

The shy girl then headed for Pinkie Pie's house next, and just like she did with Rainbow, Fluttershy would have a Duel with Pinkie as well. During their game, the silly pink girl taught her friend to always keep her opponents guessing, and not to let them predict your next moves. Unfortunately for Fluttershy, she didn't fare as well against Pinkie as she did with Rainbow Dash, as the party-loving teen had managed to beat her, albeit by a small amount.

Taking off her Duel Gazer, Pinkie said to her friend, "Sorry, Fluttershy... But ya gotta play to win, you know?"

"It's okay." replied the shy girl. "I had such a great time dueling you, that I'm not depressed about it at all."

"That's so good to hear!" the party girl said to her friend. "The most important thing about playing Duel Monsters is having a great time when you're playing! That's even more important than winning! Don't get me wrong; you try to win of course, it's just that-"

"I think I understand, Pinkie Pie." Fluttershy interrupted. "Thank you very much." Pinkie smiled and giggled a little in response.

Later on, Fluttershy made her way over to Applejack's farm for dueling advice, as well a chance to play against her friend in some more sparring matches. After playing a few rounds, the two took a quick break, though the farm girl continued to offer her advice. "One important thing t' remember when y'all are duelin'," she told the shy girl, "is to always act like you've got the upper hand, even when your opponent's in the lead."

"Why is that?" asked the pink and yellow girl.

"Because that'll make yer opponent feel uneasy n' stuff." Applejack answered. "They'll think you've got somethin' planned for 'em, and that might make 'em second-guess their next move. Then, sooner 'r later, they'll make a mistake, and that's when y'all can swoop in and take the lead for real."

"But... it sounds a little dishonest, especially coming from you..." noted the timid teen. "If you... don't mind me saying."

"Ah get what yer sayin'," the orange girl replied. "But it's like they say: 'Alls fair in love n' war.' Duel Monsters is a game of the mind, so there's a lotta psychology n' stuff that goes into it. And besides, there's a good chance that your opponent might try t' do the same thing t' you, so you have t' make sure that y'all don't show any fear in front o' them, got it?"

"...Got it." Fluttershy said with a nod. Standing up, she then asked, "Um, Applejack? Can... can we play one more round? I'd like to practice trying to perform what you taught me, if that's okay with you."

"No prob, Sugarcube." the country teen responded, readying her dark-brown Duel Pad. Fluttershy activated her light green-colored device as well, and the pair began to play another game with each other.

The next day at school, Fluttershy walked down the hallways towards her first class. She did her best to ignore any stares or snide comments directed towards her. Her thoughts of her friends helping her out was all that she needed to keep her spirits up. When she turned a corner, she was surprised to see her friends nearby the door to her classroom. "Oh! What are you doing here?" she asked. "I thought you'd already be in class by now..."

"We've got plenty of time." said Rainbow in her usual casual tone, putting her hands behind her head. "Besides, we all want to be here for your big surprise."

"Sur-surprise?" asked the yellow girl. "What kind of surprise?"

Rarity then stepped forward and told the animal lover, "This kind of surprise, darling." The fashionista then took out a yellow, rectangular present tied up with a shiny, pink ribbon from out of her backpack. "Here. This is my contribution towards helping to boost your confidence before tomorrow's Duel. It took me almost all day yesterday to make, but it was all worth it to help you out."

Fluttershy took the package and opened it slowly. The others watched, still wondering what it was that Rarity had made. The pink and yellow girl gasped when she saw a well-made outfit inside. The outfit consisted of a short dress, jacket, and long pants, along with a pair of gloves. The clothes were colored mostly white, with several green and pink stripes decorating it. The gloves were of a light bluish-grey, with a pink stripe along the top. The jacket also had a pair of small, metal shoulder pads on it, and the skirt portion of the dress was held together with a belt that had a butterfly-shaped buckle upon it. A pair of light-grey boots (which were seperate from the items in the package) with pink soles and black on the tops completed the ensemble.

"Oh... WOW...!" replied an amazed Fluttershy. "It's... it's wonderful!"

"So awesome!" commented Rainbow Dash. "This is the coolest thing you've ever made, Rarity!"

"Yeah, it looks like it came from the future!" Pinkie Pie chimed in. "Or at least an upcoming series."

"Thank you all for your comments, girls." stated Rarity. "I think it's one of my best works yet, if I do say so myself." She then went on to explain, "I've always believed that, every now and then, a nice change of clothes helps to change one's inner self as well. I guarantee you, Fluttershy, once you put this outfit on tomorrow, you'll feel ten times stronger than ever before!"

"That's very sweet of you, Rarity. I like it very much." Fluttershy told her friend as she held her new clothes. "Thank you."

"My pleasure, darling." the violet-haired girl replied, giving the shy girl a hug. She then asked the others, "So, how did things go with her yesterday while I was busy?"

"Pretty well, as a matter of fact." Sunset answered. "I think she's ready to win that Duel tomorrow, for sure."

"Yeah, Fluttershy's gonna beat that other guy, no matter who it is!" Rainbow added. She then said to the pink and yellow girl, "Just remember everything that we've taught ya, and you'll do great out there!"

"I will, Rainbow Dash. I'll do my best." Fluttershy said. "Win or lose, I'll make the whole school proud!"

Sunset and the others gave out looks that told each other that their once-timid friend was more than ready for whatever challenge that awaited her tomorrow. They knew that she'd give the whole school a Duel to remember for years to come.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The very next day, in the large soccer field out in the schoolyard, the bleachers were filling up fast with students from both Canterlot High and Griffonstone High. It was now time for the big event: The Inter-school Duel. Just about everyone from both schools attended the event, eager to see the competition duke it out.

On the soccer field, Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna greeted the principal from Griffonstone before the Inter-school Duel began. The man seemed to be in his senior years, as he was very much older than either of the two women. He had grayish-pink colored skin, with a few dark-colored spots, including two large ones around his eyes. He lacked a bit in terms of hair, having only dark-grey strands growing on the back of his head, just above his neck. On his head was a burgundy fez hat with a light yellow stripe and tassel. His outfit consisted of a dark grey coat over top of a grey undershirt, complete with a light grey tie. His slacks were of the same color as his coat, and his leather shoes were a very deep black color. On the right side of the chest area on the coat, there was a golden-yellow emblem that appeared to look like a Griffon, a mythical creature that combined the traits of a lion and an eagle.

"It's good to meet you again, Principal Gruff." said Celestia, shaking the much older man's hand.

"You as well, Ms. Celestia." the other principal, named Gruff, replied. "And a hearty hello to you as well, Ms. Luna."

"Hmmm. Indeed..." the vice principal told him. "Just do not expect this year to end like last time, Mr. Gruff. This year, the trophy will be in OUR school."

"Peh, we'll see about that." Principal Gruff responded with a smirk. "As you know, I've selected our best young Duelist to take part in the festivities; a student that, up to this point, remains undefeated. I hope that fact doesn't dampen your school's confidence any..."

"I don't think we'll have to worry too much." Celestia told him in her usual relaxed manner, pretty sure that things would turn out well. "Just don't expect an easy win, Mr. Gruff."

"Hmph." the old man huffed. "Let us just make our way to the center of the field; this Duel isn't going to start itself, now is it?" The other two principals nodded and the three of them prepared to make their way over to the microphone stands that were set up in order to make the opening announcements.

Clearing her throat, Celestia then spoke into the mic, saying, "Everybody, may I have your attention, please?" Everyone quieted down after the Canterlot High principal spoke to them. "Now then," she continued, "I, Principal Celestia, my sister, Vice Principal Luna, and Principal Gruff from Griffonstone High School, all wish to thank you for coming to see our annual Inter-school Duel!"

The crowds from both schools cheered loudly, eager to see the big Duel.

"Now," spoke Vice Principal Luna, taking the microphone from her older sister, "as you know, the competition has been quite fierce over the past few years that we've held this annual event. The Inter-school Duel Trophy has moved back and forth between our two schools, which shows just how much both Canterlot and Griffonstone have grown in strength over the years. So I can say, with complete confidence, that this Duel will be filled with excitement and unexpected twists like none we've ever seen before!" The crowds cheered even louder after Luna got them all pumped up.

"I have to admit, your sister knows how to get the students excited." Gruff told Celestia.

"Well, she's always told me that, if she weren't a vice principal, she would most definitely have done well as a motivational speaker." the light pink woman replied with a chuckle.

Luna then smiled and said to the crowds, "Without further ado, let us begin the Inter-school Duel by introducing the first competitor!" Gesturing her hand over towards the gymnasium's back doors, she then announced, "Representing Canterlot High School, I am proud to present a Duelist that, at first glance, doesn't seem like the type that would be suitable for a major competition such as this. However, numbers do not lie, and they have shown that this competitor has had an extremely impressive track record with her Duels. Therefore, my sister and I are proud to present our Duelist for the Inter-school Duel... Ms. Fluttershy!!"

The students from both sides watched as the first set of double doors opened. Canterlot's students weren't expecting much, since they still didn't think that Fluttershy was a good choice for the big competition. But when the pink and yellow girl stepped out of the building, there was a sudden and collective gasp amongst the audience when they got a good look at her...

Fluttershy was wearing her new outfit that Rarity had made for her, and just as the violet-haired girl had told her friend, the animal lover definitely felt more confident just simply by wearing it. In addition to her new clothes, Fluttershy had also styled her hair differently to better match her new look. It had a more modern-looking appearance, with the length of her hair on the left side of her head positioned above her forehead, and some of the hair on the top of her head cascading down just slightly over top of it.

"Woah... Is that really Fluttershy?" asked one of the Canterlot High girls in slight astonishment. "I almost didn't recognize her... And not just because of the outfit."

"Duuuuuude... Has she always looked that good...?" gawked one of the male CHS students.

Following Fluttershy from behind were Sunset Shimmer, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie. They still had their usual outfits on, with the addition of light-green coats worn over top. On the left side of the chest area on each coat was a small emblem of three pink butterflies, and on the back of each coat were the words, "Team Fluttershy".

"Who are you supposed to be?" Principal Gruff asked the shy teen's friends.

"What does it look like?" Rainbow asked rhetorically. "We're the cheering section!"

"Cheering section??" The old man then asked Celestia, "Is that even allowed...?"

"As long as they don't give her any direct advice during the Duel, it's fine by me." the light pink woman answered.

"We won't need t' feed her any info." Applejack then told the adults. "She's already got everythin' she needs to win this!" She then turned over towards Fluttershy and asked her, "Ain't that right, Sugarcube?"

"Um... I guess so..." the animal-loving teen replied meekly.

"Do as you wish..." Gruff told them all. He then walked over and took the microphone from Vice Principal Luna so that he could introduce the other competitor. "Students, may I have your attention please? Representing Griffonstone High School, we have brought with us, our school's best Duelist! She has competed in many major competitions throughout the high school and elsewhere, and to this day, remains totally undefeated!"

"Oh my..." muttered Fluttershy, getting a bit worried.

"So now, without further ado, I bring you our other competitor!" Gruff announced. "Presenting Griffonstone's pride and joy: The warrior woman! The fierce female! The girl who takes no guff! The-"

"Oh, C'MON already!!" shouted a tough-sounding voice from nearby. "You're borin' everyone t' death, old man!"

Everyone turned to look towards the source of the voice and saw a teenage girl standing there. She had golden-brown skin and long, messy hair that was colored a very light grey and looked feather-like in appearance. She had deep yellow eyes, with blotches of grey around those eyes, and a look that told those around her that she wasn't one to be messed with.

Her clothes had a rugged appearance to them that added to her tough-looking personality: She wore a black leather jacket over top of a grey shirt that had the same Griffon emblem on it that Principal Gruff had on his coat. The shirt was torn along the bottom; whether it happened naturally or not remained to be seen. Her jeans were dark blue in color, with similar torn bits at the bottom of each of the leggings, and held up with a black belt. She also wore a pair of black boots, each fastened with a pair of buckles, and on her wrists were two gold bracelets. On her right arm was a Duel Pad, but it had a slightly different appearance compared to the ones that Sunset and the others wore. It was brown in color, and seemed to resemble a wing of some sort.

The girl walked onto the field and snatched the microphone away from Principal Gruff before telling him, "Since you're CLEARLY not gonna get to it anytime this century, I'll introduce MYSELF, Pops."

Gruff grumbled a little and said, "Fine... go ahead." He then walked off, muttering to himself. "Kids these days... no respect... I remember in my day..."

The tough-looking teenager then spoke into the microphone, saying, "Griffonstone, you guys already know me pretty well... But for those of you from Canterlot High, I'll introduce myself to you. And I promise to use small words and talk reeeeeal slowly so that you can understand what I'm sayin'."

That insulting comment spurred CHS's students into booing her. "What's THAT supposed t' mean?!" shouted Scootaloo, who was sitting next to her friends Apple Boom and Sweetie Belle.

Chuckling a little to herself, the Griffonstone girl then cleared her throat and said, "As for who I am, the name's Gilda: Best Duelist in Griffonstone High!" She then glanced over at Fluttershy and added, "And after I whup Ms. Flashy-Pants over there, I'll soon become the best in the whole city!"

Upon hearing the girl's name, Rainbow Dash grumbled a little. Sunset noticed her friend growling and asked her, "Dash, is something wrong?"

"Maybe..." the athletic teen. "It's just that I should've known that they'd pick HER to be Fluttershy's opponent..."

"Don't tell me that you actually KNOW that ruffian, Rainbow dear?" inquired Rarity, surprised.

"Yeah, I do." Dash answered. "Gilda and I used to be friends back in Middle School... and I emphasize the words, 'used to be'."

"What happened?" asked Applejack, wondering why the two of them weren't friends anymore.

"Well, back then, she and I were beasts out there when it came to sports and stuff." Rainbow Dash explained to her friends. "Nobody could beat us, and we knew it." She then sighed and continued, saying, "The problem was that, because we were so good at physical stuff, Gilda felt like that was enough of an excuse to make others do whatever she wanted them to do. She'd rough 'em up in order to make things go her way... I didn't believe the rumors until I caught her in the act one day. When I scolded her for it, she got all mad and, well... that was it."

"Woah..." Sunset said with a gasp. She then felt a little sick to her stomach, as what Rainbow had told them all reminded her of how she used to act.

"Oh dear..." Rarity responded in a worried tone. "She sounds like nothing but a common brute... I hope Fluttershy will be okay out there..."

At that moment, the Griffonstone girl, named Gilda, walked over to Fluttershy and the others. As the shy girl's friends gave her nasty looks, the roughneck then said to the pink and yellow teen, "So you're the chick I'm Duelin' against..." Snickering, she then told her, "You look like you're scared just to be standing here, let alone having to take me on."

"Don't y'all even start, gal..." Applejack told her sternly. "We're not just gonna let ya badmouth our friend like that, so just get t' your side of the field n' clam it!"

"Pfft. Like THAT'S gonna make me flinch." Gilda responded in an uncaring tone. Glancing over at her ex-friend, she then told her, "Looks like you haven't changed a bit, Dash; Back in Middle School, you and I could've had anything we wanted... but you decided to go soft and weak. And I don't got the time to deal with weaklings."

"Yeah? Well, I don't have time to deal with bullies that pick on other people for the fun of it!" Rainbow Dash rebutted.

"Oh, you've got the 'fun' part of that right." Gilda replied. "And I'm gonna have a blast taking your wimpy little friend down!" Turning around and heading back to the field, she then told her opponent, "So good luck; it STILL won't be enough t' save ya." And with that last remark, the girl from Griffonstone made her exit.

Fluttershy was now trembling even more than she was earlier, but she stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. "Eep!" she shrieked, looking over at the hand, only to see that it belonged to Rainbow Dash. "R-R-Rainbow...?"

"Listen, Flutters," the athletic teen said to her, "don't let Gilda get to ya; she's always acted like that. But don't worry about anything she tells you; her bark's a LOT worse than her bite, believe me."

"I... I don't know..." the animal-loving teen responded, still slightly intimidated.

"Look, Gilda thought I was weak just because I didn't act like her and bully other people to do whatever I wanted." Rainbow explained. "She thinks that being kind to other people also means being a wimp. But she's wrong, Fluttershy: Being kind to others makes us stronger, not weaker. After all, we've given you plenty of help and support for this Duel, and now you're stronger than ever! And you need to prove that to Gilda by beating her right here, right now!"

Fluttershy was still a bit nervous, but she knew that Rainbow Dash was right. Putting on the best look of determination that she could, she nodded and told her friend, "I'll do my very best."

"That's the spirit, Sugarcube!" cheered Applejack.

"You've no chance of losing, darling!" added Rarity. "With all of us supporting you out there, you can do anything!"

"Except flying." added Pinkie Pie. "You can only do that after Ponying Up... But other than that, Rarity's right!"

"Now you go out there and show her what a real Duel is all about!" Sunset told her.

Fluttershy nodded and ran over to the soccer field, taking her place on the side opposite from Gilda. Holding out her left arm, she shouted (in a slightly quiet tone), "Duel Pad activate...!" After her device unfolded its card tray, she then took out her Duel Gazer from a pocket on her skirt and placed it over her left eye. "Duel Gazer, activate...!" Gilda then did the same, putting on her lens and activating her Duel Pad which, after it completely unfolded, looked much more like a big, brown wing, with each of the five, large, feather-shaped plates containing a Monster Zone.

"AR Vision Link established." said a female-sounding computerized voice as a digital copy of the schoolyard formed around everyone.

"Let the Inter-school Duel between Canterlot and Griffonstone begin!" announced the three principals in unison.

"Let's Duel!!" shouted both Gilda and Fluttershy (Fluttershy: LP 4,000) (Gilda: LP 4,000).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Fluttershy's best friends (who, like everyone else, had switched on their Duel Gazers) sat down on a bench in front of the bleachers where their fellow CHS students were sitting as the normally-shy teen began what they knew would be a very tough Duel. As they watched the competitors draw their opening hands, Rarity then said to the others, "Well... we've done all we can for Fluttershy... The rest is up to her now."

"Ah just hope she'll be able to do well against an opponent like that Gilda person..." Applejack noted. "She seems like the type that doesn't hold nothin' back, even on somebody like Fluttershy."

"Got that right." Rainbow Dash agreed. But she then smiled and added, "But I know Fluttershy can beat her! No doubt about it!"

"Same here." Sunset chimed in. "She just needs to keep a cool head, and not let anything that Gilda says get to her."

On the field, Gilda sneered and asked her opponent, "Well, are ya gonna make a move already? I'm getting impatient, and I wanna get t' kickin' your butt sometime today!"

The shy girl trembled a little, but kept calm as she thought about her strategy. After figuring out what to do first, she then took a card from her hand and placed onto the Duel Pad, saying, "I-I place one monster face-down in Defense Mode... and then place one face-down card... Then, I end my turn."

"Pfft... about time you did somethin' other than quake in fear." the rude Duelist responded. "Now let me show you how this game is REALLY played. I draw!" After drawing her first card of the Duel, Gilda then declared, "I'll start by placing two cards face-down..." After setting her two cards (including the one she had just drawn), she then pulled out one of her Monster Cards and added, "and then I'll summon this guy in Attack Mode! Go! Raidraptor - Vanishing Lanius!"

The Griffonstone girl's first monster appeared to be a large, mechanical bird. It was strengthened with all sorts of strong body armor that consisted of many different colors, including green, blue, and silver (Raidraptor - Vanishing Lanius: Level 4 / ATK 1300 / DEF 1600).

"What kinda monster is that?" asked Applejack. "Ah've never seen one like that before."

"I think she called it a, 'Raidraptor'..." Sunset answered her. "Must be a new archetype or something. Right now, all I'm worried about is what they can do..." The rest of Fluttershy's friends nodded in agreement.

Gilda then continued her move, saying, "By Normal Summoning Vanishing Lanius, I can activate his effect: It allows me to Special Summon a Level 4 or lower Raidraptor monster straight from my hand!"

"A-another one??" asked Fluttershy, surprised.

"That's right!" confirmed the roughneck. Taking out another card from her hand, she then shouted, "So now I'll bring out Raidraptor - Sharp Lanius to the field in Attack Mode!!" She then played her card, calling up another robotic-looking bird to her side of the field. This bird was mostly covered in red armor that, true to its name, consisted of pieces that were almost as sharp as any sword (Raidraptor - Sharp Lanius: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 1000).

"But that ain't all!" Gilda continued. "Next I play the Continuous Spell Card, Raidraptor - Nest!"

*******************************

Raidraptor - Nest:
(Continuous Spell Card)

If you control 2 or more "Raidraptor" monsters: You can add 1 "Raidraptor" monster from your Deck or Graveyard to your hand. You can only use this effect of "Raidraptor - Nest" once per turn.

*******************************

"I'll use the effect of my Spell Card to take Raidraptor - Fuzzy Lanius from my Deck and put it in my hand!" Gilda informed her foe. Her Duel Pad then auto-shuffled her cards, leaving her chosen card sticking out of the top of her Deck after it was done. She then took it out and added, "Next, I'll Special Summon Raidraptor - Fuzzy Lanius straight from my hand, since I control a Raidraptor monster other than Fuzzy Lanius on my field!"

Everyone from CHS gasped when the roughneck summoned her third monster this turn. Her newest monster was yet another mechanical bird, this one covered with body armor that was colored mostly in dark blue and violet (Raidraptor - Fuzzy Lanius: Level 4 / ATK 500 / DEF 1500).

"Did she just summon a bunch of monsters in one turn?!" asked Pinkie Pie, astonished. "Isn't that against the rules?"

"Um, no... it isn't." Sunset told her. "Only one of those was a Normal Summon; the other two were Special Summons."

Pinkie seemed a bit disappointed. She huffed a little and said with a sigh, "Oh well... I guess the whole funny line about money doesn't really work in this situation anyway."

Fluttershy shook a bit after she watched Gilda summon her three monsters to the field. The Griffonstone girl then smirked and told her enemy, "Now let's do the math here: I've got three super-strong monsters on my field, and you've got just one measly monster on yours... By my count, you're about to take a ton of damage on just my first turn!" Pointing straight towards the shy teen's face-down monster, Gilda gave out her order: "Go! Sharp Lanius! Attack her monster!!"

In an instant, the red armored bird flew towards Fluttershy, slashing apart her face-down monster and sent it to the Graveyard (Naturia Cherries: Level 1 / ATK 200 / DEF 200).

Chuckling, the rude Duelist then told Fluttershy, "And now I can go for your Life Points next..."

But the shy teen told her opponent, "Um... actually, you can't."

"Say what?"

"By destroying Naturia Cherries, you've, um... activated its special ability." Fluttershy informed Gilda. "It lets me Special Summon two more copies of it from my Deck in Defense Mode." Her Deck then gave her the two other Naturia Cherries that she had on her. After taking them both, she then placed them face-down on her Duel Pad.

"Why you little..." grumbled Gilda, knowing that she wouldn't be able to inflict any real damage this turn. Huffing a little, she then said, "Fine, have it your way. I'll just tear those two monsters apart instead! Attack, Fuzzy Lanius and Vanishing Lanius!!" And with that order, the roughneck's other two monsters eliminated the other two Naturia Cherries that Fluttershy had just summoned.

"Not a bad move at all." noted Rarity. "Fluttershy just saved herself from taking any damage to her Life Points this turn."

"Yeah, but that Gilda chick's still got three monsters on her field." Applejack reminded everyone. "She's still not quite out of the woods yet."

"C'mon, Fluttershy!" shouted Rainbow Dash. "Those three monsters aren't nothin' ya can't handle! So go out there and give 'em a pounding for us!"

"O-okay." the pink and yellow girl replied. Facing her opponent, she then said, "It's my turn... I draw." She then took her next card and began to think of what to do next. She then tried her best to remember everything that her friends had taught her, starting with Pinkie Pie, in that she needed to do something that her opponent wouldn't see coming. Getting an idea, she then announced (in her usual quiet tone), "I'll set another card face-down... and then... um... I'll Summon Naturia Cliff in Attack Mode."

Fluttershy's new monster was a large slab of rock with two beady red eyes, as well as red grass on the top of it that was meant to resemble hair (Naturia Cliff: Level 4 / ATK 1500 / DEF 1000).

"Hmph. You finally Summoned a decent monster for a change." noted Gilda. She then smirked and thought, (But if you try to attack, I'll have my Trap Cards ready for ya...)

But the shy girl surprised everyone by saying, "I... end my turn."

Gasping, Sunset asked everyone, "She isn't going to attack?! But her monster could easily take out two of Gilda's!"

"Is she scared of Gilda's facedown cards, perhaps...?" inquired Rarity.

"I wouldn't jump t' conclusions just yet, guys..." stated Rainbow Dash with a smile. "I think Flutters knows what she's doin'."

The Griffonstone girl grumbled a bit. (Your wimping out saved you this time...) she thought to herself. She then shouted, "Fine! If you won't attack, I will!! Now I draw!!" Picking up her next card, she then declared, "I activate the Trap Card, Icarus Attack! By releasing a Winged Beast-Type monster that I've got, I can destroy any two cards on the field!"

"Uh oh... that sure don't sound good..." noted Applejack.

"So I'll release Fuzzy Lanius," Gilda started, "and destroy your monster, along with the facedown card on your right!" After making that declaration, Fuzzy Lanius was bathed in a bright light that expanded itself into a much larger light that looked like a mighty bird. It then dove straight towards Fluttershy, intending to take out its targets...

"I'm sorry, but... I can't let you do that...!" said Fluttershy, tapping her Duel Pad. "I activate the Counter Trap, Exterio's Fang!"

"What?! A Counter Trap Card?!" exclaimed the Griffonstone girl.

"Awesome!" cheered Dash, pumping her fist into the air. "Gilda sure didn't see that one comin'!"

"I'll say." stated Sunset. "Counter Traps are among the most powerful type of Trap Cards out there, because only another Counter Trap can respond to one."

"Now," began Fluttershy, "Exterio's Fang has the power to negate your Trap Card and destroy it, as long as I control a face-up Naturia monster."

Gilda growled a little. "So that's the REAL reason you put your monster in Attack Mode..." she deduced, realizing her opponent's plan.

"That's correct." the shy Duelist confirmed. "So now I negate and destroy your Icarus Attack...!" After she said that, the light energy from her opponent's Trap Card dissolved into the air, vanishing completely. After doing so, Fluttershy then sent one of the cards in her hand to the Graveyard, due to the other part of her card's effect.

"Yes!" cheered Rarity. "Fluttershy got her opponent to waste a very powerful card, along with one of her monsters! She's off to a very good start!"

Gilda didn't seem to be as happy about it, considering that she was the one who ended up paying for it. "Well, I suppose a wimp like you might be able to make ONE good move every now and then... But let's be realistic here: You don't stand a chance against me, and I'm gonna make that painfully clear to ya!" Placing another monster onto her Duel Pad's tray, she shouted, "I Summon Battlestorm in Attack Mode!!"

Gilda's next monster was a tall, tough-looking human man with fiery orange and silver body armor, metal gloves with talon-like fingers, a pair of gold-colored boots, and a pair of pitch-black wings on his back (Battlestorm: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 1000).

"Thanks to Battlestorm's effect," the Griffonstone Duelist continued, "he gains 100 extra attack points for every Winged Beast-Type monster on my side of the field! Since I've got three of them, that's an extra 300 points (Battlestorm: ATK 1700 + 300 = 2000)! But that's not all! I'll activate his other effect as well!"

"Wh-what does that do??" asked Fluttershy.

"It's pretty simple to figure out, even for you." Gilda told her. "Since I have three Winged Beasts on my field, his other power lets me destroy one Spell or Trap Card that you've got on the field! But since you only have one, I'll go for that!"

The others could only watch as Gilda's new monster slashed its claws and destroyed the pink and yellow girl's only face-down card. Fluttershy instinctively put her hands in front of her face to shield herself from the impact.

"Heh, so much for whatever secret plan you had for that card, wimp." the rude girl said with a sneer. "Whad'ya got to say to that?"

"Um... actually... I was... kind of hoping that you would do that..." Fluttershy told her.

"Wh-what??"

Taking the card that Gilda had destroyed out of her Duel Pad and showing it to her, the animal-loving teen explained, saying, "The card that you destroyed was Miracle Synchro Fusion... When it's destroyed while it was face-down because of an opponent's card effect, I can then draw one card from my Deck..." And she did just that.

"You've gotta be kidding me!" exclaimed Gilda, not expecting that.

"Woah, did y'all see that?" asked Applejack. "Fluttershy even made Gilda's move work out in her own favor!"

"But how did she know that Gilda would attempt something like that?" Rarity inquired.

"It's 'cause she decided to trust her instincts." Rainbow Dash told them. "That's somethin' that I taught her back when we were helpin' her out. I'll bet that she figured that Gilda would try to destroy her Spell and Trap Cards at some point, so she decided to set a decoy to trick her."

"Well, that sure seemed to work out." Sunset chimed in. "Let's just hope that Fluttershy can follow that up with some even better plays next."

Gilda was getting a little annoyed by how easily someone like Fluttershy was able to trick her. (This little wuss is REALLY beginning to tick me off...) she pondered. (But I ain't gonna let her win this! I'll make her pay for tricking me like that!) The Griffonstone Duelist then yelled, "Time for my Battle Phase!! I attack Naturia Cliff with Battlestorm!! Go! Razor Talon Slash!!"

Fluttershy braced herself as Gilda's powerful monster slashed its claws across the target monster's stone body. Afterwards, it was reduced to nothing but rubble, and the impact caused some slight damage to the shy Duelist (Fluttershy: LP 4,000 - 500 = 3,500). But Fluttershy stood her ground and gave out her best look of confidence towards her opponent.

"Wh-what's that look for??" asked Gilda, confused. "I just wiped out your monster! And five hundred of your Life Points!"

"Maybe so..." the pink and yellow teen told her, "but by destroying Naturia Cliff, you activated his special ability."

"Grrr... what NOW??" asked the rude teen, not too psyched to know about what her foe was going to do next.

"When my monster is sent from the field to my Graveyard, its effect permits me to Special Summon a Level 4 or lower Naturia monster from my Deck to replace it..." Fluttershy explained. Taking out her chosen card, she then announced, "I choose to Summon Naturia Dragonfly from my Deck in Attack Mode...!" She then placed the card on her Duel Pad, causing an adorable-looking dragonfly with big, blue eyes to fly out in front of her (Naturia Dragonfly: Level 4 / ATK 1200 / DEF 400).

"So what? My Raidraptors'll devour that bug in no time." Gilda told her enemy, not caring in the slightest. "Especially since its attack points are so low."

"Well, not really, actually." Fluttershy rebutted. "Because of its effect, Naturia Dragonfly gains 200 more attack points for every Naturia monster that I have in my Graveyard..."

"Huh??" asked the Griffonstone girl.

"I currently have five Naturias in my Graveyard, including the Naturia Beans that I sent there after using Exterio's Fang, so Naturia Dragonfly gains an additional 1,000 attack points..." the shy teen told her opponent (Naturia Dragonfly: ATK 1200 + 1000 = 2200). "That means its attack points are higher than any of yours..."

(Why that little...!) Gilda grumbled in her mind. (I don't get it! I've got more monsters on my field than she does! I've destroyed four of her monsters so far! I've even damaged her Life Points! But somehow, I'M the one at a disadvantage!) Huffing, she then told her foe, "Make your next move, already!"

"Just say you're ending your turn!" Rarity scolded Gilda. "You do not have to be rude about it!"

"...Whatever." the roughneck sighed.

"It's my turn... I draw!" Fluttershy then pulled her next card and placed it into her hand, then took out a different card and placed it on her Duel Pad. "I Summon the Tuner Monster, Naturia Vein...!" she shouted (quietly). Her new monster appeared to be an imp of some sort that was made completely out of bright green leaves (Naturia Vein: Level 1 / ATK 200 / DEF 300).

"A Tuner??" asked Gilda, having a good feeling about what her opponent would do next.

"Oh yeah... With all that she's done so far, Ah almost forgot..." Applejack began. "Fluttershy's Deck is pretty heavy on Synchro Monsters."

"Well, this is probably the best time for her to get a powerful monster on the field, since Gilda used up most of her strongest cards so soon..." Sunset Shimmer noted.

"Go for it, Fluttershy!" cheered Rainbow. "Teach that jerk a lesson about how a REAL Duelist does things!"

Fluttershy took a deep breath and then declared, "I now tune the Level 1 Naturia Vein... to my Level 4 Naturia Dragonfly." Her newly summoned monster then glowed brightly as it transformed into a single ball of light that hurled itself into the air. It then came back down as a green ring that surrounded her Insect-Type monster, causing it to glow as well. "Blessed forest, give me your strength!" the shy girl began to chant. "Call forth the beast as green as the trees to protect the creatures that dwell within it! Synchro Summon!"

After her chant, Naturia Dragonfly turned itself into four smaller lights within the green ring before both were engulfed by a column of bright green light (Level 1 + Level 4 = Level 5).

"Hear my call! Level 5! Naturia Beast!!" Fluttershy shouted, finishing the Summoning Chant. At that moment, a large creature emerged from out of the green light column, revealing itself as a massive, green-colored tiger that appeared to be just as much a plant as it was an animal. It gave out a ferocious roar that caused everyone, even Gilda, to cover their ears (except for Fluttershy) (Naturia Beast: Level 5 / ATK 2200 / DEF 1700).

"Woah! I didn't know Fluttershy had that card!" said one of the male CHS students. "That thing's super-strong!"

"You think she might actually win this now...?" one of the female CHS students asked another.

"...Maybe..." replied the other girl, still not completely sure about it.

Gilda was the most surprised; she did not expect someone like Fluttershy to have such a strong card in her Deck. Grumbling a little, she thought to herself, (Apparently, this wimp's a little tougher than I thought she was...)

The normally-shy girl then took the card that she had just drawn and said, "I now play the Spell Card, Leodrake's Mane, from my hand."

*******************************

Leodrake's Mane:
(Normal Spell Card)

Select 1 face-up "Naturia" monster you control. Its ATK becomes 3000, and its effects are negated, until the End Phase.

*******************************

"I use the effect of my Spell Card to increase Naturia Beast's attack power to 3000!" Fluttershy announced.

"I know what you're tryin' to do, but I'm not about t' let my Raidraptors take that big of a hit!" Gilda informed her foe. "I activate the Trap Card, Raidraptor - Readiness! Which means that, this turn, my Raidraptors can't be destroyed in battle!"

"Well, in that case," the pink and yellow girl began to say, "I'll have my Beast attack Battlestorm instead." (Naturia Beast: ATK 2200 > 3000) She then pointed forward and softly shouted, "Go...! Naturia Claw Strike!"

Fluttershy's powerful Synchro Monster then pounced towards Battlestorm and slashed at him with its powerful claws, destroying it and sending it to the Graveyard. In addition, the force of the attack also struck Gilda, depleting some of her Life Points as well (Gilda: LP 4,000 - 1,000 = 3,000).

"No way..." said a male Griffonstone student in the audience. "She actually damaged Gilda?? That never happens!"

Mr. Gruff seemed to be just as surprised when he saw his star Duelist take the heavy hit. Celestia then asked him, "So... it seems that the outcome of this Duel isn't quite so clear now, is it?"

"Hmph... not quite, Ms. Celestia." the elderly principal told her. "Gilda's just getting started with your student; In fact, much like a wounded animal, my little rising star is about to show you and her just how vicious she can truly be..." Luna and Celestia looked at one another, getting a little worried by what Principal Gruff had told them.

After making her only attack so far in the entire Duel, Fluttershy then said, "I now end my turn, which means that the effects of Leodrake's Mane are over now." (Naturia Beast: ATK 3000 > 2200)

Now Gilda was beginning to get angry; she couldn't believe that she had just taken damage from Fluttershy. Snarling, she then told her enemy, "Alright, I have had just about enough of you, girl... Up to this point, I was goin' easy on you because I thought you were a total wuss... But now you're starting to annoy me!!"

"Oh... my..." was all that the timid girl could respond with.

"You'd better get ready, you wimp! 'Cause I'm not gonna just stand here and let you make a fool outta me!!" Drawing her next card, Gilda then shouted, "I use the effect of Raidraptor - Nest, and pull another Raidraptor out of my Deck!"

But Fluttershy told her, "I'm sorry... but I have to stop you from doing that..." Taking two cards off of the top of her Deck and placing them into her Duel Pad's Graveyard slot, she then declared, "I use the effect of Naturia Beast...! By sending the top two cards of my Deck to the Graveyard, I can negate your Spell Card and destroy it."

"WHAT?!?" screamed the Griffonstone Duelist as, once more, her opponent managed to stop her move and eliminate her card.

"Yeah! Nice one, Flutters!" shouted Rainbow Dash.

"She stopped her again!!" cheered Pinkie Pie, hopping up and down on the seat they were sitting on, causing it to shake rapidly. "She's doing so superly-super well!!"

"Pin-n-nkie!! Sto-o-op sha-a-aking the ben-n-nch!!" shouted Sunset.

The silly pink girl immediately stopped hopping excitedly, sat down, and responded with, "Sorry. My bad."

Gilda grumbled again and thought, (Crud... I forgot that her monster could do that!) The Griffonstone girl was so flustered from what had happened to her so far, that she couldn't think straight right now. Looking at her hand, Gilda continued to ponder, (I don't have any other monsters in my hand... Just the two that I've got on my field...)

She then looked straight towards her foe and put on an angry face. (I knew I should've used Sharp Lanius's effect or Raidraptor - Nest earlier on, but I didn't think I'd need to use them against a weakling like her...!) Growling a little, Gilda then thought, (Even so, I've still got ONE card that she WON'T be able to stop, no matter how strong she thinks she is!)

"Alright then, Butterfly or Bumblefly, or whatever your name is..." the Griffonstone student told her opponent, "you've gotten this far, but your beginner's luck ends right now! Just remember: You FORCED me to do this!"

"Um... oh dear..." Fluttershy responded, getting even more worried.

"Now I overlay Vanishing Lanius and Sharp Lanius, both Level 4!!" yelled Gilda as her two monsters transformed into a pair of dark purple lights that were sucked up into a large portal in front of her.

"Uh oh... she's performing an Xyz Summoning!" Rainbow Dash commented.

"Oh dear... You don't think she has a Number card, do you??" asked Rarity out of concern.

"I sure hope not..." said Sunset, clutching onto her special key necklace.

After her two monsters were drawn into the summoning portal, the Duelist from Griffonstone began to chant: "Formed from pitch-black darkness, to fight those foolish enough to oppose it with its treacherous fangs! Xyz Summon!" The portal then let out a powerful explosion of dark energy, which began to form into a monstrous shape. Two large, spiky wings emerged first, followed by clawed hands and feet, then the rest of its body, which included a dragon head on a very long neck. "Appear now! Rank 4! Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon!" Gilda said, finishing the chant.

The entire creature was indeed a dragon, colored mostly black, dark-purple, and dark grey. Its chest area had several red lights glowing on it, and its long tail had a pair of claw-like spikes at the end of it.

*******************************

Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Dragon-Type/DARK/Rank 4/ATK 2500/DEF 2000)

2 Level 4 monsters
You can detach 2 Xyz Materials from this card, then target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; its ATK becomes half its current ATK, and if it does, this card gains that lost ATK.

*******************************

The students of Canterlot High, including Fluttershy and her friends, gasped at the sight of Gilda's super-powerful monster. "Ah don't believe it..." said Applejack, astounded.

"She has THAT Xyz Monster?" asked Rarity. "That extremely rare dragon??"

"I thought it was just a myth..." added Pinkie Pie, who for once, didn't have that usually-happy look upon her face.

"I've only heard about that powerful card;" noted Sunset. "I've never actually seen it before..." She then sighed a little and added, "But at least it's not a Number card; in comparison, that would've been a whole lot worse."

"Maybe so," Rainbow Dash chimed in, "but that thing on Gilda's side of the field is still pretty tough..." She then thought in her mind, (Don't get scared, Fluttershy... You're gonna need every bit of courage you can muster if you wanna take THAT ugly thing down!)

Fluttershy, of course, was shivering at the sight of Gilda's Xyz Monster. "Oh dear... this isn't good..." she said to herself. "Now how am I going to win??"

"You won't." Gilda answered with a sneer. "Dark Rebellion's my ace card, and nobody's ever been able t' beat it! And d'ya wanna know why that is?" Chuckling, she then added, "Well, maybe I'll just SHOW you what I mean..." The rude Duelist then shouted, "I activate Dark Rebellion's effect!"

Everyone leaned closer to the edge of their seats, wondering what was going to happen next...

"First, I remove BOTH of his Overlay Units!" Gilda started, sending both of the cards underneath her Xyz Monster card to her Graveyard. As she did, the two purple lights that were swirling around it phased into the two large orbs on both of its wings (Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon: OLU 2 - 2 = 0). Afterwards, the monster then shifted parts of its wings, revealing a pair of smaller orbs that unleashed several bolts of purple lightning. The bolts shot towards Fluttershy's Naturia Beast and constricted it like ropes, causing the giant tiger to roar in pain.

"Wh-what are you doing?!" asked the pink and yellow girl, getting scared.

"Dark Rebellion's effect allows me to target any one monster you have on the field and cut its attack power in half! (Naturia Beast: ATK 2200 ÷ 2 = 1100) But just so those attack points don't go to waste, my monster then takes those points and adds them to his own, making him even more powerful!!"

"It can WHAT?!?" shouted Fluttershy's friends in unison upon hearing that.

All the shy girl could do was watch in horror as her monster was weakened significantly, while Gilda's Xyz Monster grew even stronger than it was before (Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon: ATK 2500 + 1100 = 3600).

"This ain't gonna be pretty..." noted Applejack. "Her Synchro Monster's done for!"

"Oh dear... I can't watch!" Rarity chimed in, covering her eyes.

"Now, Dark Rebellion!! Attack that wimp's Naturia Beast!!" ordered Gilda. "Go!! Revolt of the Lightning!!!" And with that order, the powerful dragon then spread its sharp wings, which began glowing a bright blue. It then flew forward, charging up electrical energy into the spike on its chin and then stabbed it into Fluttershy's Synchro Monster, destroying it and causing a massive electrical explosion.

"AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" screamed the pink and yellow girl as she took heavy damage from the assault (Fluttershy: LP 3,500 - 2,500 = 1,000). She was thrown to the ground as a result of the impact.

"Oh no! Fluttershy!!" shouted Pinkie Pie.

"You alright, Sugarcube??" asked Applejack, concerned.

The timid girl struggled, but was able to stand straight up. Physically, she was okay, but mentally, she was devastated. A tear began to well up in her left eye as she trembled even more.

"Oh dear..." said Sunset. "She took a heavy hit there, and I don't just mean to her Life Points... That attack probably shook her confidence and is making her too afraid to go on..." Looking up at the rest of CHS's students behind them, she added, "And it's not like the rest of the students here are any help... I don't think they believe in her one bit..."

Rainbow Dash growled to herself and got up out of her seat. She then turned towards her fellow students and shouted to them, "Hey! Are you guys just gonna sit there or what?! Fluttershy's in a tough spot and she needs our support!!"

"What's the point?" asked a young girl with silver-grey skin and glasses. "She's just gonna lose anyway, so why should we even bother?"

"Because if she does lose, it'll be all YOUR fault!!" the athletic teen told them in a scolding tone.

"And what is THAT supposed to mean?" asked a girl with blue skin and striped hair that was colored an even lighter blue. "Trixie demands an explanation!"

"You want an explanation?" asked Dash. "Then I'll give ya one: The only reason that Fluttershy is nervous and scared out there is because none of ya believe that she can do it! You don't think she can win, and that's not gonna help her out there!"

The rest of the students gave out blank stares as Dash told them all exactly what she thought about their negative attitudes right now.

"I don't care how tough Gilda's cards are!" the rainbow-haired teen continued. "I don't care how many Duels she's won! And I don't care what Fluttershy's actual odds are against her! I know Flutters can win this, because she has my support! And she's also got the support of the rest of my friends as well!" She then gave the audience a piercing stare and told them, "And if you guys have any respect for her or our school, you'll give her your support as well! Do I make myself clear?!"

The shy teen gasped a little and thought, (Clear...? Wait a minute...)

The other CHS students were dead silent after Rainbow told them off. Now they began to feel really bad about how they were treating Fluttershy. At that moment, Scootaloo stood up out of her seat and said, "Rainbow Dash is right! Like it or not, Fluttershy's representing our school, and she's fighting her hardest out there for all of us! She's always been so good and kind to every one of us, and this is how we're gonna repay her? By making her feel like she can't do anything?!"

"Ah'm with ya, Scoots!" said a young girl with yellow skin, orange eyes, red hair, and a pink bow. She also wore a green shirt and blue jeans, along with a pair of yellow boots. "If Fluttershy's gonna beat that Gilda jerk, she needs t' know that we're behind her all the way!"

"I agree, Apple Bloom!" said the voice of a girl equal in age to both the pink bow-wearing girl and Scootaloo. She had white skin, green eyes, and pink and purple hair done up in swirls. She wore a pink and white-striped top and a long, yellow skirt, with a hot pink coat worn over top. She also had on a pair of long, pink boots. The girl stood up and shouted, "You can do it, Fluttershy!! You'll beat that meanie or my name's not Sweetie Belle!!" Pausing for a moment, she then asked her friends, "Wait... if she doesn't win this, does that mean I'll have to change my name?" That comment elicted a groan out of both Apple Bloom and Scootaloo.

After Rainbow's speech, and after the comments given by the three young girls, the other students finally realized that they had to support Fluttershy and help her feel like that she could win, despite the apparent odds. "Go get 'er, Fluttershy!" shouted one of the boys, who just so happened to be Flash Sentry.

"You've got this one in the bag!" shouted the voice of Lyra Heartstrings next.

"Same here!" added Bon Bon.

"I don't usually support anything even remotely violent..." added a hazy, female voice, coming from a green-skinned girl with braided, orange hair, "but I'm, like, totally with everyone else here... So I'm gonna, like, send every last one of my good vibes your way..."

Before long, Fluttershy began to finally hear cheers coming from her fellow students. Now they were finally supporting her in her tough battle instead of making her feel nervous. For the first time since the Duel began, the now-no-longer-timid teenager smiled warmly and said, "Thank you... Thank you everyone..." No longer feeling scared, she then gave her opponent a glare and told her, "I'm sorry, Gilda... but you're not going to win this Duel!"

"You've gotta be kidding me..." huffed the girl from Griffonstone. "A buncha your wimpy classmates become your cheering squad and suddenly you feel like Wonder Woman? Pathetic."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Gilda." the pink and yellow girl told her. "But I suppose you probably wouldn't understand; after all, I'll bet no one's ever wanted to cheer for you when you Duel, right?"

The rude girl grumbled and said, "Just make your stupid move already... I'm getting impatient."

"Very well then..." Fluttershy then prepared to draw her card. Before she did, she closed her eyes, and did her best to "feel" the positive attitudes of everyone from her school, wishing her the best of luck. Opening her eyes, she then shouted, "I draw!!" Taking her new card and looking at it, she was pleased by what she had gotten. Placing the new card in her hand for the moment, she then said, "First, I summon Naturia Stinkbug in Attack Mode!"

The animal lover's next monster was a large, green beetle. It had small roses at the end of each of its antennae, and its folded wings appeared to actually be leaves (Naturia Stinkbug: Level 3 / ATK 200 / DEF 500).

"You kept me waiting this long just t' bring out THAT wimpy little bug?!" yelled Gilda. "Are you trying to be as pathetic as possible in front of everyone here??"

But Fluttershy kept her confidence and ignored Gilda's rude remark. Taking the card she had just drawn, she then announced, "I now play this Quick-Play Spell Card from my hand! I activate Naturia Soothing Aroma!!"

"What??" asked the Griffonstone Duelist. "What's that card do??"

"Well, since I control a face-up Naturia monster on my field," the pink and yellow girl explained, "I can make the attack power of all of your monsters become their original attack power once more."

"Say what?!" asked Gilda.

"That means that your dragon's attack power returns to what it was when you Summoned it!" Fluttershy then told her.

Her Spell Card then gave out a sweet-smelling aroma that was enjoyed by everyone around them. The audiences from both schools, the three principals, and Fluttershy's friends all happily smelled the wondrous odor that surrounded them. "Oh my..." said Rarity with a pleased sigh. "What a WONDERFUL smell..."

"Ah have t' admit..." added Applejack, "it's quite intoxicatin'..."

"I could just sit here and smell it all day..." Sunset Shimmer chimed in.

Gilda grumbled as she looked at her Xyz Monster. Upon smelling the aroma, its urge to fight began slowly ebbing away (Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon: ATK 3600 > 2500). Scowling, she then told her foe, "You think a little stink cloud like that'll stop me?!"

"It will be a start." answered the animal lover. She then told her opponent, "After my Spell Card is finished, its other effect lets me draw one card for every monster that was affected by it..." She then drew one card from her Deck and placed it into her hand. "And with that, I end my turn."

"My turn then! I draw!!" Gilda then drew her next card and thought, (Even though her dumb Spell Card weakened my monster, it's still powerful enough to destroy her Stinkbug and take her Life Points down to zero...) But when the rude girl looked at her foe, she saw that she still had that newly-gained look of pure confidence on her face. (But wait... she should know that too... So why isn't she scared right now??) For probably the first time in her dueling career, Gilda was beginning to second-guess herself, and wasn't sure about what to do.

"Woah... check out Gilda, everypo- er, everybody..." Sunset said, pointing to the person in question. "She seems to be having a hard time making up her mind."

"That's 'cause Fluttershy is givin' her a real mighty stare." Applejack informed the otherworldly girl. "She's keepin' a confident look on her face to make her opponent feel like she's up t' somethin'."

"Heheheh, never thought I'd see the day that Gilda would actually BE intimidated by anyone." Rainbow said with a chuckle.

Gilda then began to worry that everyone was going to think she was actually scared of her opponent. Shaking her head, she then blurted out, "Dark Rebellion!! Attack her Naturia Stinkbug!!!" The rude girl's powerful dragon then flew in to attack once more.

"Gilda!! Don't do it!!" shouted Principal Gruff, instinctively trying to warn her. But it was too late to take it back now.

"I knew you would do that, Gilda..." Fluttershy then said to her. She then declared, "I activate Naturia Stinkbug's effect!!" At that moment, the green beetle on her field turned its back to Gilda's dragon, and let out a cloud of the worst-smelling odor that anyone ever experienced. And unfortunately, EVERYONE got a whiff of it.

"Ewwwww!! That's disgusting!!!" complained Diamond Tiara, coughing a little from the smell.

"I can hardly breathe...!" gagged the silver-colored girl sitting next to her, sticking out her tongue.

"Oh man...!!" complained Rainbow Dash. "That was NASTY, Fluttershy!!"

"What a horrid odor!!" added Rarity, holding her nose. "Just what kind of smell is that?!"

"I'll tell ya what it isn't:" Pinkie replied. "It's certainly not fresh-cut spring flowers spewed across a babbling brook with a hint of lemon..." She then looked ahead and added, "And yes, everyone... the whole point of this scene was to make a reference to Ed, Edd, n' Eddy." Of course, none of her friends knew what she was talking about.

Once the smell was finally gone, Gilda then asked, "What was THAT for?! Did you just cut one in front of my monster?!"

"I'm really sorry, everyone..." Fluttershy apologized, "but I had to do that in order to use Naturia Stinkbug's effect. Since you attacked one of my Naturia monsters, in this case, the Stinkbug itself, I can send it to the Graveyard. Then, not only does it negate your attack, but it also ends your Battle Phase automatically."

"Hmph... so you bought yourself another turn, so what?" the Griffonstone girl said in an uncaring tone. "You're just delaying your defeat, that's all." Taking the card that she had just drawn out of her hand, she then told her enemy, "And just to make certain that you WON'T beat me, I'll play this Spell Card from my hand! Poison of Lost Souls!!"

"P-Poison of Lost Souls?!" Fluttershy said in surprise.

"I take it that you know what it does?" asked Gilda. "All I have to do is banish any number of DARK monsters out of my Graveyard, and for each one that I get rid of, I can hit you for 200 points of damage!"

"Hey!" shouted Rainbow Dash. "Don't forget, that card also damages you, too!"

But Gilda huffed and told her former friend, "As if I really care about that!" She then took out some cards from her Graveyard slot and said, "I'll just banish all four of the monsters in my Graveyard, and then we'll both take 800 points of damage!"

Fluttershy gasped as a dark purple portal appeared in the center of the field. Out from the portal came a black mist that flowed towards both her and the Griffonstone Duelist, inflicting damage on them (Gilda: LP 3,000 - 800 = 2,200) (Fluttershy: LP 1,000 - 800 = 200).

"That jerk..." grumbled Rainbow. "That was such a cheap shot!"

"If Fluttershy doesn't do somethin' on her next turn, she's done for!" Applejack noted.

"All the more reason that we need to cheer her on and bring her to victory!" Pinkie Pie told them all. "Because that TOTALLY makes all the difference!"

"I agree wholeheartedly!" said Sunset.

"Same for me!" added Rarity. She then shouted, "You can still win this, Fluttershy! With all of us behind you, there's no way that you can lose!!" The rest of their classmates gave cheers of their own as well.

Fluttershy nodded, still feeling strong despite what she was up against. She then faced her opponent and said, "Do you hear that, Gilda? With my friends and my school backing me up, I have no more reason to be afraid of you!"

"Oh, can it already..." Gilda told her. "You're gonna make me throw up... Just make your move and lose already!"

"I'll make my move..." the pink and yellow girl began, "but I won't be losing! I have too many people depending on me to just let you walk all over me! Maybe you would understand that if you had friends of your own, Gilda..."

"...Touché." the Griffonstone Duelist replied. Even she had to admit that her opponent had a point there.

"It's my turn now... I draw!!" said Fluttershy as she swiftly pulled her next card. Once she got a good look at it, she let out a surprised gasp. "N-Naturia Pumpkin...! I remember this card...!" she said to herself. She then thought, (Sunset told me about a really good combo that I can use with this card... One that will allow me to Summon a even more powerful monster... But which one should I bring out...?) After looking over at her friends on the sidelines, particularly Rainbow Dash, the decision wasn't hard for her. "I'll do it..." she said to herself. "I have to do what Rainbow Dash told me; I have to trust my instinct... and take any chance that I have to win this Duel...!"

Placing her newly-drawn card onto her Duel Pad, Fluttershy shouted, "I Summon Naturia Pumpkin to the field in Attack Mode!!" The new monster was a sleepy little green pumpkin holding a small, yellow flower (Naturia Pumpkin: Level 4 / ATK 1400 / DEF 800).

"Pffft... that thing's nothin'." Gilda told her. "My dragon'll chew that thing up and spit it out!"

"I don't think so!" the pink and yellow girl rebutted. "Because I'm activating my monster's special ability! It allows me to Special Summon any Naturia monster from my hand if you control at least one monster! And I choose to Summon the Tuner Monster, Naturia Rosewhip!" She then placed the card horizontally on her card tray, causing a flowering plant to grow in front of her. Once it was fully-grown, it then formed a rose flower on its head, sported a pair of red eyes, and brandished a pair of thorny whips, all the while giving out a toothy grin (Naturia Rosewhip: Level 3 / ATK 400 / DEF 1700).

"A-another Tuner Monster?!?" asked the brown-skinned teenager.

"She's gonna Synchro Summon again!" said Applejack. "But what's she gonna bring out this time?"

Rainbow then looked at the Levels of Fluttershy's two monsters closely... and then let out a gasp, followed by a chuckle. Sunset, noticing this, asked her athletic friend, "What are you laughing at...?"

Rainbow chuckled a little more and answered, saying, "I think I know what she's planning to do..."

But Gilda didn't have any idea what her opponent was planning. "What could you possibly be tryin' to do NOW?!" she asked in a frantic tone. "You don't got anything left to fight me with!!"

"I have plenty left, Gilda." Fluttershy told her sternly. "Thanks to the help and support that my friends have given me, I have everything I need to defeat you and make my school proud!" Raising her hand into the air, she shouted, "I tune Naturia Rosewhip, Level 3, to Naturia Pumpkin, Level 4!!"

Everyone watched in anticipation as Rosewhip lashed out its namesake weapons and began to glow brightly. It then transformed itself into three small lights that flew into the air and came back down as a trio of green rings. The rings surrounded Naturia Pumpkin, causing it glow as well (Level 3 + Level 4 = Level 7).

"Spread those wondrous and beautiful wings and strike down your enemies at the speed of light!" chanted the animal lover with pure confidence in her voice. "Synchro Summon!" And after she said that, her Pumpkin turned itself into four small lights that were soon engulfed in a tower of bright, blinding light. "Appear now! Level 7! Clear Wing Synchro Dragon!"

The pillar of light soon faded away, and out of it came a ferocious dragon. Its body was mostly colored blue, white, and black, and it had large, clear blue wings growing out of its back that almost looked mechanical in appearance. Its large hands each had six, long claws growing out of it, and its long, striped tail had a large spike at the end of it. Its bright eyes let out a shimmering yellow color as it roared into the heavens above (Clear Wing Synchro Dragon: Level 7 / ATK 2500 / DEF 2000).

Needless to say, everyone was shocked by Fluttershy's new Synchro Monster; out of all of the cards they expected to see in her Deck, that was the LAST one they thought that they would see. "Th-that's NUTS!!" said one of the male CHS students. "Where'd Fluttershy get a card THAT rare from?!?"

"Trixie has never seen such a mighty dragon before!" said the blue-skinned girl. She then grumbled and added, "Some people just have ALL the luck..." After saying that, she gave a passing glance towards Sunset, still grumbling a little.

Even the principals seemed to be astonished by the appearance of the extremely rare and powerful monster. "Wh-wh-what is that thing...?!" asked Principal Gruff, almost at a loss for words.

"Sister..." Luna began to ask Celestia, "did... you know that Ms. Fluttershy had that rare card? More importantly, where did it come from??"

The light pink woman thought about it for a while, trying to figure that out. A thought then came to her as she glanced over at Fluttershy's friends, praising her for her awesome move. She then smiled and thought, (I think I might know how Fluttershy obtained that dragon...) She then silently thanked Rainbow Dash and the others for giving their friend the help and support that she needed.

Gilda was dumbstruck by what had just happened. "...You... You've gotta be kidding me...!" she stuttered, still not believing what she was seeing. "How'd this loser get such a rare card?? I've never even seen it before, much less know what it does!" She then growled and added, "That chump totally lucked out!"

Fluttershy, who was anything BUT shy right now, stared straight at her opponent and told her, "Since my Clear Wing's attack power is the same as your monster's, I won't attack just yet. So I'll end my turn."

"Pfft... and here I thought you'd stopped bein' a complete wimp. So much for that." the Griffonstone girl told her mockingly. Even so, she knew that she had to try and get rid of the Synchro Monster. But she still had no idea what it was capable of doing, and Gilda was getting more worried just thinking about it. "I-it's my turn! I draw!!" When she pulled her next card, she let a out a gasp and began to chuckle loudly. "Ha! Perfect!! Just what I needed to end this once and for all!"

Fluttershy braced herself for anything that Gilda had planned, but she kept her brave attitude.

"From my hand," the brown-skinned girl began, "I play two copies of Overlay Regen!!"

"Uh oh..." noted Sunset, getting a little worried. "After that Spell Card is played, it then becomes an Overlay Unit for one of Gilda's Xyz Monsters. But since she's playing two of them..."

"It means that her monster gets back BOTH of its Overlay Units at once!" Applejack said, finishing her friend's comment. "And that's all that it needs t' use its special ability again!"

"Does that mean that Fluttershy is in trouble right now?" asked Rarity.

"Not a chance." Rainbow Dash told them all. "She'll be just fine!"

Pinkie then gasped a little and said, "Hold on! I almost forgot! That card used to be yours, right Dashie?" The cyan teen nodded yes in response.

"Are you saying that Fluttershy has a way of getting out of this after all?" Rarity inquired next.

"You got it, Rarity." Rainbow responded. Pointing towards the soccer field, she then told them, "Just keep an eye on the field and don't blink."

Gilda then told her foe, "Now that my monster has both of its Overlay Units again, I'll wipe out that dragon of yours before you can do anything with it!" (Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon: OLU 0 + 2 = 2) Pointing ahead, she then shouted, "I activate Dark Rebellion's effect once more! I target Clear Wing Synchro Dragon and steal half its attack points!!" Immediately after that, the giant, dark-colored dragon absorbed its Overlay Units (Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon: OLU 2 - 2 = 0), and fired many bolts of lightning at Fluttershy's new monster.

"Fluttershy!! Watch out!!" shouted Scootaloo from the audience.

But the animal-loving teenager told her opponent, "I'm afraid that won't work a second time, Gilda!"

"Say what??" asked the Griffonstone girl, taken completely off-guard.

"I activate the effect of Clear Wing!!" shouted Fluttershy as she raised her hand into the air. In an instant, her Synchro Monster then let out a roar as its wings began to glow bright green, creating a circuit-board like pattern upon them. It then put up a powerful shield of green-colored energy around itself. When Dark Rebellion's energy bolts struck it, the shield deflected them all, and prevented them from causing any damage.

"What the crud just happened?!" asked Gilda, shocked. "Why didn't his effect work?!?"

"I'll explain..." Fluttershy began. "Clear Wing's special ability activates when you target a Level 5 or higher monster on the field with another monster's special ability. And since you targeted Clear Wing itself, who is Level 7, then not only does it negate your monster's effect, but it can also destroy your dragon and take its attack points for one turn!"

"WHAT?!? NO!!!!!" screamed Gilda upon hearing that.

After all of the purple lightning bots were dealt with, Clear Wing deactivated its shield and prepared for its next move. "Now, Clear Wing! Destroy Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon!" ordered Fluttershy. The massive creature roared as it fired large green rays at Gilda's monster, exterminating the menace once and for all (Clear Wing Synchro Dragon: ATK 2500 + 2500 = 5000).

Everyone gasped when they saw that Gilda's so-called un-defeatable monster... was defeated. "What... just happened...?" asked one of the female Griffonstone students, completely flabbergasted.

The three principals were also shocked by what they saw, especially Mr. Gruff. Still in a state of shock, he thought to himself, (That... can't be... No one has ever been able to defeat her Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon before...! Who IS this young lady...??)

Of course, the one that was most shocked by what happened was Gilda herself. For the first time since she showed up to the competition, her attitude had completely changed: No rude comments, no snide smirk on her face; she just stood there in total disbelief, eyes wide with a blank stare, and her mouth not making any sounds whatsoever.

Fluttershy, a bit surprised by Gilda's actions (or rather, inaction), asked her, "Um... Gilda? Are you okay...?"

The once-rude girl let out a long, sad-sounding sigh. She then looked up towards Fluttershy and told her, "...I've got nothing left... So just finish me off and get it overwith..."

For the first time, the pink and yellow girl actually began to feel sorry for her opponent, even though Gilda had given her such a hard time. Still, she knew that she had one more thing to do before the Duel would be over. "It's my turn... I draw." Fluttershy drew her next card and shouted, "Now! Clear Wing Synchro Dragon!! Attack Gilda directly!! Whirlwind Dive Slasher!!!"

Fluttershy's dragon then roared as its wings began to glow again. It then took flight, sheathed itself in a mass of green energy, and hurled itself like a meteor straight towards Gilda. The Griffonstone girl stood her ground, not flinching even once as she took the hit. And with that, the Duel was over (Gilda: LP 2,200 - 2,500 = 0) (WINNER: Fluttershy).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"The Inter-school Duel is now over!" announced Principal Celestia. "Fluttershy is the winner!"

The entire audience was shocked by the end result of the Duel. Canterlot's students were surprised, but excited that Fluttershy had won the Duel. Griffonstone, however, couldn't believe that their best Duelist had actually lost.

"Way to go, Fluttershy!!" creed Rainbow Dash. "You won!!"

"I knew you'd do it, Fluttershy!!" Pinkie screamed enthusiastically. "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!!!"

"That was an incredible victory, darling!" Rarity chimed in.

"It may've looked bad every now n' then, but you managed to pull through in the end!" Applejack then told her. "Congratulations!"

"Thank you... thank you everyone..." said the pink and yellow girl, smiling and wiping a happy tear from her eye. "I couldn't have done it without all of your support... So again, thank you very much...!"

"You're welcome, Fluttershy." Sunset told her with a smile of her own. "That's what friends do for each other."

Back on the other side of the soccer field, Gilda still couldn't believe that she had actually lost the Duel. "I... I don't get it..." she muttered to herself. "I didn't do anything different than before...! I dueled just like I always did in the past... And yet... I lost... Why??" The girl then looked ahead and saw Fluttershy's friends congratulating her on her victory. But instead of getting angry about her loss, she actually began to ponder about the scene in front of her. "No one's ever cheered that much for me whenever I won a Duel..." she noted to herself. "At least... not lately..." Thinking about it some more, she then sighed and told herself, "Now I get it... Now I can see how she won..."

The Griffonstone girl then walked over towards her opponent and her friends, which caused them to stop their cheers once they saw her coming. "What do YOU want?" asked Rarity, a bit miffed.

"...I... I just wanna talk." Gilda answered. "Is there a problem with that?"

"Kinda, seein' as how nothin' you've said so far to us or to Fluttershy here has been real nice." Applejack told her with a stern voice. "Maybe y'all are just better off turnin' around and-"

"Applejack, no..." Fluttershy interrupted. "Let her speak."

"Fluttershy? What're ya sayin'?" asked the orange-skinned girl, surprised.

"If she wants to say something to us, she can." the pink and yellow girl replied. "Just because she's been rude to us, that doesn't give us the right to be rude back to her." Applejack sighed, knowing that her friend had a point. Fluttershy then said to Gilda, "Okay... go ahead. Just tell us whatever is on your mind."

The Griffonstone girl paused for a moment, letting out a deep sigh. "...Look... Fluttershy...?" she began, feeling a bit uneasy. "This... this isn't real easy for me t' say this, but... well..." Sighing again, she then finally told her, "I... I'm... sorry..."

The others were surprised when they actually heard the once extremely rude girl actually apologize.

"I'm sorry... about what I said to ya..." Gilda told them. "If it makes ya feel any better, I really didn't mean any of it... I was just frustrated and stuff, and I was just taking it out on you..."

"Being frustrated is one thing." Rarity told her. "Being mean to someone is another."

"I know that..." the brown-skinned girl told her. She then told them, "But... the reason that I was frustrated was because... well, I was kinda jealous of all the support she had during the Duel... No one's ever given me that kind of praise in the past." She then looked over at Rainbow Dash as she continued to speak. "After Dash and I ended things between us... things... hadn't gone so well for me since then..."

"Whad'ya mean?" asked the athletic teen, curious to know what was on her former friend's mind.

"Back before we stopped bein' friends," Gilda continued, "I became so tough, that I thought that that's all I needed to excel in the world... That I didn't need anyone's help to make it out there... So I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that, by bullying them and forcing them to do anything that I wanted them to do. But then I lost you as a friend, Dash..." Sniffling a little, she then told them, "After that... I had virtually nothing left..."

The six girls listened to the Griffonstone student's story carefully. As she spoke to them, they were actually beginning to feel sorry for her, due to her past troubles.

"Dash... when you stuck your neck out for the guy I was roughing up, I felt like you betrayed me by looking out for someone weaker than we were..." Gilda told her ex-friend. "But now I realize that I was the one doing the betraying; both to you and myself. I thought that in order to be powerful, you had crush everyone that stood in your way and force them into respecting you..." Turning over to Fluttershy, she then said to her, "But you're different, Fluttershy..."

"I-I am?" the shy girl asked.

"You're a very strong person, but you didn't use it as an excuse to be cruel to other people... Not like me. And because of that, you got all these friends to support you..." the Griffonstone girl explained. "What I'm saying is that... well, the better person won today. And now I realize that you can be strong and kind at the same time... So again, for what it's worth... I'm sorry..."

Fluttershy thought about Gilda's words for a while. In the end, her kind and forgiving personality could not allow her to be mad at her. Giving her opponent a comforting hug, she then told her, "Apology accepted..." The Griffonstone girl then returned the hug, a tear welling up in her right eye as she did. Fluttershy's friends then agreed that this outcome was probably the best one, and they finally decided to forgive Gilda for her actions as well.

Gilda then looked over at Rainbow Dash and asked her in an uneasy tone, "Say, uh... Dash? I was wonderin'... Do ya think that... well... that we could, y'know... start over...?"

The smile on the cyan girl's face told everyone all that they needed to know. "I wouldn't have it any other way, Gilda." she told her, giving her a comforting hug as well. "To be honest, I was kinda hoping that we could make up and be friends again."

"Same here." the Griffonstone girl told her. "And I promise that I'll be a much better friend this time." Dash and the others smiled, knowing that Gilda was going to change for the better.

Just then, the seven of them heard sounds of someone blubbering behind them. They turned around to see none other than Principal Gruff making those crying sounds, "Oh, Gilda...! That was real beautiful of ya! I've been waitin' a long time to hear ya say all of that!"

Gilda rubbed the back of her head and told him, "Yeah, I can bet that ya have been..." She then apologized to him, saying, "Sorry that it took this long for me to figure that out, Grandpa."

The other six girls gasped when they heard her say that. "Wait a sec," began Applejack, "Griffonstone's Principal is your grandfather?!?"

"Yep." answered the Griffonstone Duelist. "He had to take over when the last principal was forced to retire. In fact, Grandpa here was the guy who taught me how to play Duel Monsters."

"Really? Your grandpa taught you?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"It's not really that unusual, Dashie." Pinkie Pie told her. "Grandpas teaching their grandchildren how to play card games is a lot more common than you might think. In fact, I think it's kind of a tradition, actually."

At that moment, Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna walked over to the group to say some things of their own. "Ms. Fluttershy, on behalf of all of us here at Canterlot High School," said Celestia, "my sister and I wish to congratulate you for your amazing victory!"

"Thank you, Principal Celestia." Fluttershy replied with a slight bow. "And thank you both for choosing me to represent the school."

"You're very welcome." Luna replied. She then said to her, "I'm sorry if this experience was frightening or stressful for you..."

"I have to admit... this was probably the scariest thing that I've ever had to be a part of..." the shy girl admitted. She then turned over to her friends and added, "But with the help and support of all of my friends here, I was able to find the courage I needed to go through with it." She then pulled out her Clear Wing Synchro Dragon card, smiling as she stared at it. She then said to the Griffonstone Duelist, "Gilda... thank you for being my opponent. It was an honor to Duel someone as strong as you..."

"Same here, Fluttershy." Gilda told her, shaking her opponent's hand. "You're a tough chick, and I respect ya for it." She then smirked and told her, "But just 'cause we're friends now doesn't mean that I'm gonna forget this loss. I can guarantee that we'll duel each other again someday, and by then, I'll be even tougher than before!"

Fluttershy smiled and told her, "I'd be more than happy to duel you again. And I promise that I'll be stronger, too." The two of them shared a friendly laugh as they cemented their new-found friendship/rivalry.

"Well, Ah'm glad t' see that everythin' all worked out in the end." stated Applejack.

"Yeah, with all of us being friends after everything's all said and done." Sunset chimed in. "I don't think we could've asked for a better outcome than this."

"I most certainly agree, Sunset." Rarity told her.

Gilda's eyes widened a little bit upon hearing the otherworldly girl's name being mentioned. "Wait, hang on: You're Sunset Shimmer?" she then asked her.

"Um... yeah, why?"

"Well, word around Griffonstone is that YOU'RE actually the best Duelist in Canterlot High." Gilda told her.

"Well, I do my best, I suppose." Sunset told her, trying to remain modest. She then asked, "Why did you want to know?"

"I was hoping to, well... ask for your help with something; though if we didn't make up and become friends after all this, I kinda doubt that you would've helped me. If I had I known you were Sunset, I probably would've been a LOT more polite to you and your friends..." the brown-skinned girl told her.

"Eh, don't worry about it. That's all behind us now, so let's just forget it and move on." the red and yellow girl then asked, "What do you need my help with?"

Gilda answered her, saying, "Well, you see... there's some weird stuff going on in Griffonstone; stuff that's even got ME creeped out by it."

"What kind of stuff, exactly?" Rainbow Dash inquired.

"I don't have enough time to tell you all now..." Gilda told them as she looked over at her fellow students, who were all getting ready to leave. "Listen," she then began to inform them, "meet me over at Griffonstone's front entrance tomorrow at noon, and I'll tell ya everything about it. Until then, see ya..." And with that, the no-longer-rude girl left to join the rest of her classmates on the trip back to their own school.

Sunset and her friends were still puzzled by what Gilda had said before leaving. "What do you suppose she was talking about?" asked Rarity.

"Dunno..." Rainbow answered her. "But it sounds pretty serious if she's asking somebody for help; she almost NEVER does that."

Sunset still wasn't sure what Gilda wanted her help with, but she suddenly began to get an unsettling sense of déjà vu. She then clutched onto her key necklace, already having a feeling that things were going to get even more crazy and perilous for her and her friends...

-- To Be Continued...

RANK 7: Crime and Punishment:

View Online

RANK 7: Crime and Punishment:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Just recently, Canterlot High School held its annual Inter-school Duel competition with one of its rival schools, Griffonstone High School. Both schools would select their best Duelists to participate in the contest, and the winning Duelist's school would obtain the coveted Inter-school Duel Trophy. Canterlot's principals, Celestia and Luna, surprised everyone when they picked Fluttershy to represent the school for the big event. Though nervous at first, she was able to go through with it, thanks to the support of her friends.

Of course, the competition wasn't going to be easy for the young animal lover, as her opponent in the Duel was a Griffonstone student named Gilda, notorious for showing no mercy to her foes, as well as having a bad attitude. However, even though Gilda proved to be a fierce opponent, Fluttershy was able to find her courage, and summoned her Clear Wing Synchro Dragon, which she had gotten from Rainbow Dash prior to the event, defeating the roughneck once and for all. After her defeat, Gilda apologized for her actions towards Fluttershy and her friends. In the end, they decided to forgive her, and they were all able to become friends in the end.

However, after everything was said and done, Gilda mentioned to Sunset Shimmer that something weird was going on in Griffonstone, and that she wanted her help to get to the bottom of it all. What the problem was exactly was anyone's guess, but the otherworldly girl knew in her heart that things were about to get even more perilous for her and the others...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

It was certainly a day of celebration for Sunset Shimmer and her best friends. With Pinkie Pie's help, everyone put together a congratulatory party for Fluttershy after her impressive victory in the Inter-school Duel. The party took place in Sunset's apartment, and many were invited. Besides Sunset and her friends, Principal Celestia, Vice Principal Luna, the landlord, Manny Roar, and Flash Sentry were all there to enjoy themselves and to give Fluttershy their congratulations.

"Great job, Fluttershy!" Rainbow Dash cheered for her. "You were awesome out there!"

"Thank you, Rainbow..." replied Fluttershy, who was still wearing the cool-looking outfit that Rarity had made for her before the big Duel. She then said, "It was really scary, but I'm glad that I decided to go through with it... I feel a lot stronger inside now than I've ever felt!"

"Well, we wouldn't have picked you to represent the school if we didn't think you could do it." Celestia informed her. "I knew the whole time that you would make us all proud, no matter the result."

"Thank you for saying that, Principal Celestia..." the shy girl replied. She then said to her friends, "And thanks again to all of you, for giving me all of your support."

"It was our pleasure, Fluttershy." Sunset told her with a smile, taking a small sip of soda from a glass that she was holding. "And we'd do it all over again in a heartbeat."

Fluttershy giggled a little in response, happy to hear that. She then took a deep sigh and said in a tired tone of voice, "Oh dear..."

"Fluttershy, darling," Rarity began to ask, "are you all right?"

"Just... a little exhausted... That's all..." the pink and yellow girl answered. She then asked, "Um, Sunset...? Would you mind if I... well, if it's alright with you... um..." The timid teen then meekly pointed towards the red and yellow girl's bathroom.

Knowing what her friend was asking of her, Sunset Shimmer nodded and said, "Sure. You can use the hot tub if you want to. After everything you've been through today, some relaxation could do you some good."

"Oh thank you..." Flutterhy replied with a slight bow. "Now... if you don't mind... I'd like some privacy please..." She then slowly walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind her, locking it so that no one could come in.

After Fluttershy made her comment, Rainbow Dash then glanced over at Flash Sentry, who was eating some cake that Pinkie had gotten from Sugarcube Corner. Noticing the cyan girl staring at him, he then asked, "What's that look for...?"

"Just wanting to make sure that EVERYBODY respects Fluttershy's request, if you know what I mean..." she told him.

Flash sighed and told her, "Look, you know me too well to think that I'd do anything like that... And besides that, I'm not really interested in Fluttershy that way, anyway. I mean she's nice and all, but she's not my type."

"I know. I was just teasin' ya a little bit." Rainbow said to him with a chuckle. "Besides, we ALL know what type you're into..."

Pinkie Pie then popped out of nowhere and asked, in a very rapid tone, "You mean human teenage girls that aren't really human teenage girls but in reality are magical pony princesses that can talk and fly and use magic and come from another world?!"

"Uh... yeah, let's go with that." the athletic teen responded to her silly friend.

Just then, there was a knock on the door. "Ah'll get it." Applejack said, walking over to the door. When she opened it, she was surprised to see who was standing there. "Gilda??"

Sure enough, the girl from Griffonstone High School, the one who was Fluttershy's opponent in the Inter-school Duel, was standing in front of the entrance to the apartment. "Um... Hey there." Gilda responded. "Am I too late for the party?"

Rainbow Dash walked in front of Applejack and told the brown-skinned teen, "Nah, we just got started. Come on in!" The Griffonstone girl smiled a little and nodded before walking into the room.

"Um, Rainbow dear..." Rarity began to ask, "Why is Gilda here?"

"Now guys, be nice." the athletic teen told her and the others. "Pinkie and I invited Gilda here so that she could enjoy the party with us and have a good time, ain't that right, Pinks?"

The party-loving teen nodded vigorously and told her, "You know what they say: The more, the merrier!"

"You can say that again." Rainbow replied.

"Well, I might not want to." Pinkie rebutted. "I'm afraid that if I say that phrase too many times, it'll get really super-annoying, and end up becoming a shadow of its former self."

"Um, I... guess that makes sense." Sunset spoke up with a chuckle. She then said to Gilda, "Anyway, we'd love to have you here with us. And by the time this party's done, you'll see that being friends with us has its fringe benefits."

The congratulatory party continued on, with everyone in the living room having all sorts of fun in various different ways. Sunset and Pinkie Pie supplied all of the party guests with tasty snacks and drinks from the bar counter in the living room, ensuring that no one stayed hungry the whole time. The games they played included a video racing game (which Rainbow Dash practically dominated in), Pictionary (in which Rarity did well, since she had lots of artistic experience), and of course, Duel Monsters.

Celestia and Luna watched as the young teens competed in friendly Duels against each other, pulling off all sorts of stellar moves and strategies. Even Manny Roar decided to get in on the action as well, and he competed in a Duel against Rarity. He used his Vylon Deck while the fashionista stuck with her favorite Gem-Knight Deck. The landlord had his Vylon Soldier on the field (Vylon Soldier: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 1000) up against Rarity's mighty Gem-Knight Ruby (Gem-Knight Ruby: Level 6 / ATK 2500 / DEF 1300). The fashionista had one face-down card on her field as well. Their Life Points were very close (Manny Roar: LP 1,200) (Rarity: LP 1,400), and it was Manny's turn.

"It's my turn! I draw!" The landlord pulled his next card and played it immediately. "I Summon the Tuner Monster, Vylon Prism!!" His monster was shaped like a glass prism with long, mechanical-looking arms, and wore bright white and gold armor all over itself (Vylon Prism: Level 4 / ATK 1500 / DEF 1500).

"Here comes one of Manny's Synchro Monsters..." Luna told her older sister.

"I tune both of my Level 4 monsters; Vylon Prism and Vylon Soldier!!" shouted the landlord as his Tuner Monster gave off a blinding flash of light, transforming itself into four lights that, in turn, became four green rings that surrounded his other monster (Level 4 + Level 4 = Level 8). Manny then chanted, "Great soldier of Heaven! Charge into battle with your holy weapons and declare war upon the unworthy! Synchro Summon!" After he said that, his other monster transformed into four more lights within the rings. "Descend now! Level 8! Vylon Epsilon!!"

Manny then called up an incredibly powerful monster to his field; It was L-shaped in appearance, with two long arms and two large wings coming out of its body. On its shoulders were decorative rings that were shaped like the Greek letter Epsilon (Vylon Epsilon: Level 8 / ATK 2800 / DEF 1200).

"Oh wow... what a beautiful creature!" complimented Rarity. "You don't often see ones like that in this game."

"Oh, it's more than just a pretty face, little miss." Manny told her. Playing his next card, he then said, "I'll arm Epsilon with the Equip Spell Card, Vylon Filament!" After his monster gained a pair of electrically-charged guns upon its arms, he then said, "However, I'll send my Equip Card to the Graveyard to activate Epsilon's effect! It allows me to destroy any monster on your field! And I select your Gem-Knight Ruby!" After ditching the Spell Card, Manny's Synchro Monster then charged up a ball of energy in its hands, which it then threw at Rarity's Fusion Monster.

"Not so fast!" shouted the violet-haired girl. "I activate De-Fusion!!" After she flipped her Quick-Play Spell Card face-up, Ruby then transformed into light energy that split into a pair of human-like creatures; one clad in red armor (Gem-Knight Garnet: Level 4 / ATK 1900 / DEF 0), and one in yellow armor (Gem-Knight Tourmaline: Level 4 / ATK 1600 / DEF 1800). After that happened, the energy blast whizzed right between the two monsters, missing them completely.

"Aw, crud..." groaned Manny Roar.

"Unfortunately for you," Rarity began to tell her opponent, "De-Fusion allows me to send my Fusion Monster back to my Extra Deck. Then, I can Summon the two monsters that I fused together to create it. As a result, because your monster lost the target of its effect, it has been completely nullified!"

"Smart play there, young lady..." Manny told her with a smile. "But since I sent my Vylon Filament to the Graveyard from the field, I can take Vylon Material from my Deck to replace it!" After taking his card, he then shouted, "Now Vylon Epsilon! Attack Gem-Knight Garnet!!" Manny's Synchro Monster then shot a pair of lasers from its eyes, exterminating the red-armored man in one shot. Luckily, Rarity had the right mind to put her monsters in Defense Mode. "You're lucky that I used up both of my Vylon Component cards," the man told her, "or I would've won after that attack... So I'll just play my Vylon Material on Epsilon and end my turn." (Vylon Epsilon: ATK 2800 + 600 = 3400).

"Very well, then... I draw!" Rarity then pulled her next card and smiled. "Not bad at all..." She then played the other card that was in her hand and declared, "I Summon Gem-Knight Emerald!!" After she played her monster, a man in sparkling, green armor appeared in front of her (Gem-Knight Emerald: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 800). "Next," she continued, "I activate Particle Fusion, and fuse both Tourmaline and Emerald!"

Everyone watched as Rarity's two monsters turned into pure energy and merged with each other in order to create a more powerful entity. "Ah wonder which monster Rarity's goin' for this time..." pondered Applejack.

Rarity then began to chant, "Gem tinged with lightning! Brilliant emerald of good fortune! In a whirlpool of light, combine to bring forth a new, dazzling radiance! Fusion Summon! Appear! The one who pursues victory, Gem-Knight Topaz!!" After she was finished, a large man wearing yellow-orange armor and wielding a pair of bizarrely-shaped axes took his place in front of his controller (Gem-Knight Topaz: Level 6 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1800).

"Impressive..." complimented the landlord, "but my Synchro Monster has higher attack points."

"Not for long..." Rarity told him with a smile. "Since I used Particle Fusion to Summon Topaz, I can activate my Spell Card's second effect! By banishing it from my Graveyard, I can then have my Fusion Monster absorb the attack points of one of the two monsters that I used as his Fusion Materials!"

"Huh??" gasped Manny Roar.

"I choose to add Emerald's attack points to Topaz for one turn!" the fashionista declared as she removed the Spell card from her Graveyard, causing a bright green energy to flow into her Fusion Monster (Gem-Knight Topaz: ATK 1800 + 1800 = 3600). "Also," she continued, "Whenever Topaz destroys a monster in battle, I can then inflict damage to you equal to your destroyed monster's attack power!"

"Oh no!!" shouted the landlord, realizing that he was in trouble now.

"Now, Gem-Knight Topaz!! Destroy Vylon Epsilon!!" Rarity ordered her monster. Topaz then slashed its axes across Manny's monster, slicing it into pieces and eliminating it, as well as damaging the landlord's Life Points slightly (Manny Roar: LP 1,200 - 200 = 1,000). However, the pieces of his Synchro Monster then exploded in a flash of yellow light that finished him off for good (Manny Roar: LP 1,000 - 3,400 = 0) (WINNER: Rarity).

"Alright! Way to go, Rarity!" cheered Sunset. "You won!!"

"Great job as well, Manny!" Luna said to her friend. "Despite what happened, you fought very well out there!"

The landlord smirked and said to the violet-haired girl, "Great job, missy. That was an impressive comeback. Though it's quite clear to me that I'm starting to get a bit rusty; I need to practice more."

"Well, for having rusty skills, you fought quite well, and I had a great time dueling you." Rarity complimented him. Manny chuckled a little, along with everyone else.

Fluttershy, in the meantime, was in such a state of relaxation in Sunset's hot tub, that she had only heard bits and pieces of what was going on in the living room. The pink and yellow girl sighed happily as she continued her soak.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

About a hour had passed since the party began and things began to wind down a little. Celestia and Luna said their farewells before leaving for home, and Manny left for his office to take care of important matters regarding the apartment building. Flash Sentry also said his goodbyes before leaving as well. Only the seven teenage girls remained in Sunset's apartment. They all decided to sit down and take a break from the party before eventually heading for home as well.

"Wow... I'm pooped..." Pinkie said with a happy sigh as she lay on the large, L-shaped couch. "It's been a REALLY long time since I've been to a party THIS good..."

"Tell me about it..." Rainbow Dash chimed in, sighing contently as well. "Right now, the only thing I wanna do is sit and just veg out for a while."

Sunset, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Gilda were all sitting at the round table in the living room, just across from the bar counter. They decided to talk with one another, mostly with the Griffonstone student, as they wished to get to know her better. "So, what did you think of the party, Gilda?" asked Sunset Shimmer.

"I really enjoyed it." the brown-skinned teen answered. "You guys sure know how to have fun." She then smirked and added, "Of course, if you wanna see some really cool parties, you should swing by the ones that we throw over at Griffonstone. I tell ya, we can get pretty crazy over there, but it's all in good fun."

"Well, we'll be sure t' check 'em out sometime, then." Applejack said.

"Speaking of Griffonstone," Rarity began to ask, "what was it that you were telling us all just after yours and Fluttershy's Duel? Something about strange things happening over at your school...?"

Gilda hummed a little and responded, "Yeah, I guess it wouldn't be a bad idea t' fill you all in on what's goin' on over there..." Clearing her throat, she then told them all, "Well, to start things off, there's this kid at our school named Martin... And let's just say that you could call him your typical bully magnet."

"How so...?" asked Fluttershy.

"Well, he's small, for starters..." the Griffonstone girl explained, "not very strong in the physical sense, kinda nerdy, scared of his own shadow, and he's a freshman, to boot." She then told them, "Just about everybody picks on the guy on a daily basis..."

"...Including yourself?" Rarity asked her, raising an eyebrow.

Gilda paused for a moment, looking down at the table with a guilty look on her face. That was enough to tell them all that the brown-skinned teen had done her fair share of giving this Martin kid a hard time. Seeing the sad look on her face, Sunset put a hand on her shoulder and told her, "It's okay, Gilda... Trust me, I know how you feel."

"Thanks, Sunset." Gilda responded. She then told the others, "And if it'll make you all feel any better, I'll never do anything like that again; I promise."

"That's good t' hear." Applejack told her with a smile. She then asked, "So if this Martin guy isn't so tough, then how come y'all are concerned about 'im?"

"Because recently, he hasn't been acting like himself." Gilda answered. "See, like me, he plays Duel Monsters, but he wasn't very good at it; in fact, everyone considered him to be the weakest Duelist in the whole school... But in the past few days, I've heard rumors that he's been beatin' people left and right... I even heard of one Duel in which he won just by making only one move..."

"Really?" asked Fluttershy. "That sounds pretty scary..."

"So he got better at Duel Monsters; why's that such a problem?" asked Rainbow Dash, overhearing the conversation from across the room.

"Because I've also heard rumors from the people he's beaten, that Martin got his hands on some super cards that are supposedly impossible to beat." the Griffonstone girl answered her best friend. "I didn't get the name of the cards, but there's been one word that I've heard from everyone that I've asked: 'Number'."

Everyone in the room gasped loudly once they heard that word. "Number?!" exclaimed Rarity. "You mean this Martin individual has a Number card??"

"A what?" asked Gilda, not understanding what they were talking about.

Sunset then took out her deck box and pulled out two of her Number cards: Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech and Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk. "These things." the red and yellow girl informed the Griffonstone student. "They're very powerful cards that can only be defeated by each other." She then sighed and added, "However, these cards can also corrupt and possess the people that hold them, making them even more dangerous than ever... And from what you've told us, it sounds like this Martin kid got his hands on one, and that's why he's become what he is now..."

"But that doesn't make any sense..." Gilda calmly protested. "I've never heard of a trading card that can turn people into complete jerks."

"Well, it is most certainly true..." Rarity told the brown-skinned teen. Shuddering a little, she added, "I should know; I was possessed by a Number card some time ago myself. It was the worst feeling that I've ever had in my entire life..."

Gilda was still slightly skeptical, but believed that her new friends weren't lying about what they were saying. "Well, if what you're sayin' is true," she told them all, "then this problem might be even bigger than I thought... But that just gives me another reason to put a stop to it!" She then told the otherworldly girl, "That's why I asked for your help, Sunset. Since you're Canterlot High's best Duelist, I know you'll be a big help in takin' Martin down for the count! Whad'ya say?"

Sunset Shimmer nodded, telling her, "I'm in, Gilda. If this guy has a Number card, then I have no choice but to fight him... Not only that, but once we defeat him, I'll take his Number card away, which will also take away the power that puts him under its control."

"Thanks, Sunset." Gilda told her. "With your help, I know that we can stop that guy's rampage once and for all!" Standing up, she then said, "Like I said earlier, meet me over at Griffonstone High tomorrow at noon, and we can discuss our plans further." Sunset nodded yes to say that she understood. Afterwards, Gilda left the room, heading back home.

"So... looks like it's back t' business as usual, huh Sunset?" asked Applejack.

"Seems like it." the red and yellow girl replied. "But I've got a bad feeling that this battle's gonna be a tough one..."

"You'll do just fine, Sunnie!" Pinkie Pie assured her. "You've got nothing to worry about at all! In fact, I'll even come with ya to give lots and lots of moral support!"

"You sure about that?" asked the otherworldly girl, slightly concerned. "It could be dangerous..."

The silly pink girl giggled and told her friend, "Of course I'm sure! I laugh in the face of danger!! Which isn't easy, since danger really doesn't have a face!"

Sunset chuckled a little, as did the others. "Well, if you're sure about it, then it's fine by me." the red and yellow girl told her. "Just be careful, okay?" Pinkie nodded vigorously, promising that she would do just that. Afterwards, the girls spent a little more time with each other before finally deciding to part ways for the rest of the day.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The very next day, Sunset Shimmer and Pinkie Pie were making their way to Griffonstone High to meet up with their new friend Gilda so that they could find and defeat a student named Martin in a Duel. Pinkie was looking at a large map of the city so that both of them could find their way to the other high school. "Oooooooookaaaaaaaay... I think we're just about there, Sunnie." the pink girl told her friend.

"That's what you said a half hour ago..." the otherworldly girl informed her. "Are you sure we aren't going around in circles?"

"Trust me; I know where I'm going..." Pinkie Pie assured her. "After all, this is the best map that I've got of the city of..." She then looked closely at the city name on the map curiously, reading, "...um... Tol... ret... nac..." Confused, the party lover then asked, "Tolretnac? That sounds like a city in Middle Earth..."

Sunset glanced over at the map... and then promptly groaned and slapped her face. "Ugh! No wonder we're lost!" she said loudly, grabbing the map. "You printed the map BACKWARDS!" She then pointed out that the city name that Pinkie had read was just "Canterlot" in reverse. Groaning again, the red and yellow girl complained, "We could be just about ANYWHERE in the city, and we have no way of knowing exactly where we are!"

"Hey! Sunset!! Pinkie!! You're right on time!" shouted a familiar voice.

Sunset's eyes widened upon hearing the voice behind her. When she turned around to look, she was shocked to see a large school building behind her, made from bright red bricks and nestled among several tall trees. Standing in front of the school's front doors was none other than Gilda; it was her voice that both Sunset and Pinkie had heard.

"We're... here...?" the otherworldly girl asked herself, surprised that they had somehow managed to make their way to Griffonstone High School, despite Pinkie's error. Turning towards her silly friend, she then told her, "Pinkie, I have no idea how you did that... but you have to teach that trick to me sometime."

"Sorry, Sunnie; there are some things in this world that are not meant to be known to mortals." the pink teen told her.

Gilda walked over to the pair and said to Sunset, "Glad you could make it here. 'Course, I didn't have any doubts about whether you would show up or not." Glancing over at Pinkie, she then added, "Huh, didn't know you were coming here, too."

"She insisted on it." Sunset informed Gilda. The otherworldly girl then asked her, "So, why did you want us to meet here to find this Martin guy? Today's Saturday; the school's closed."

"Yeah, but this is where Martin spends most of his time, regardless of what day it is. His dad's a teacher here, so he was allowed to have a key to get in so that he could work on his school projects." the Griffonstone student explained. "If I know the guy as well as I think I do, he'll probably be here."

"But how are we gonna get in?" asked Pinkie Pie.

"Don't worry 'bout that." Gilda answered, showing the two a large key around her pointer finger. "I told my Grandpa about the whole thing, and I was able to convince him into letting me borrow the school's master key."

"How'd you do that...?" asked Sunset, impressed.

"Well, being the granddaughter of Griffonstone's principal has its pros..." the brown-skinned girl told them both. Presenting the key once more, she then added, "With this key, we can get in any room in the school, and we'll be able to find where Martin's hidin'."

"Then let's get in right away, Gilda." Sunset suggested. "The sooner we get the Number card away from him, the better."

"Yeah, let's go! Let's go!!" cheered Pinkie Pie. Gilda then shoved the key into the keyhole on the front doors and turned it, unlocking them and allowing the trio entry into the building. However, the three were unaware that they were being watched by someone that was peering out from a second-story window.

"Heh... so big bad Gilda's finally coming after me, huh?" the figure said to itself. "And she's even brought along Sunset Shimmer to help her..." Chuckling wickedly, it then said, "This is TOO perfect. Not only will I get my revenge on Gilda, but I'll also be the one to defeat Canterlot High's so-called best Duelist!" The figure then held up a pair of Duel Monsters cards and added, "And the best part is, with these cards, there's no WAY that I can lose!" As it spoke, the two cards became surrounded by a shadowy aura; not only that, two marks appeared on the backs of the figure's hands: One looked like a 13, and the other, a 31...

Sunset, Gilda, and Pinkie Pie wandered the unlit hallways of Griffonstone High School. Even with the afternoon sun shining through most of the windows, many of the halls were still pretty dark. An eerie silence permeated the air, signalling the calm before the storm that would eventually follow. "Wow... this place is REALLY spooky when everything's all dark and quiet..." the pink girl noted, shivering a little.

"Don't worry, Pinkie." Sunset said to comfort her friend. "I'll be right here to watch your back." Pinkie smiled a little, happy to hear that.

Gilda looked around, but couldn't find any trace of the student they were looking for. So far, none of the doors they had checked were unlocked, and they couldn't hear any voices or anything that could have alerted them all to his presence. "He's GOTTA be around here somewhere..." the brown-skinned teen said, slightly frustrated. "So where could he be??"

"So you showed up at last, did you Gilda?" boomed a loud voice nearby.

Upon hearing the voice, the three of them looked around, but couldn't find out where it was coming from. "Martin?! Is that you?!" shouted Gilda. "Where are ya hidin'?!"

"Don't bother looking around: You're nowhere near where I am right now." the boy's voice told them.

Sunset then glanced up above one of the classroom doors after hearing the voice a second time, and realized where the source of the voice was. "Look! Up there!" she said to her friends, pointing at where she was looking. "There's a loudspeaker set up over there! He's talking to us via the PA system!"

Martin's voice chuckled. "That's quite right, Ms. Shimmer..." he then told her. "And not only that, I'm watching every move you make in this fine establishment that we call Griffonstone High School. Now... the real question is: Can the three of you find me...? Heh heh heh..."

Gilda growled a little and yelled, "Why should we have to?! Why don't you just come down here and face us like a man instead of hidin' and waitin' for us?!"

"Tsk tsk tsk... always the impatient one, aren't you?" Martin taunted. "I'm afraid that you'll have to come to me, as originally planned. I'm sure that, even with your inferior intelligence, you should find me in at LEAST 15 minutes. Still, don't keep me waiting for you...!"

"Grrr... that little..." Gilda grumbled. "He's messin' with us!"

"Don't let him push your buttons." Sunset told her. "He's just trying to put us off balance by toying with us. We have to stay calm and try to figure out where he is."

"Hmmmmm..." hummed Pinkie Pie. "He DID say that he was watching every move we make..."

Sunset gasped a little. "That's right! He did say that!" she exclaimed, realizing something. "And the only way he could do that is if he was watching the security cameras set up all over the place!"

"That means there's only one place he can be..." Gilda noted.

"The Security Room!" they all shouted in unison, figuring it out together.

"Follow me!" the brown-skinned girl told the others. "I'll show you where that room is! It's on the second floor of the school!" Sunset and Pinkie nodded as they followed the Griffonstone student to the correct location.

The trio ran up the stairs to the second floor and headed for the Security Room, where they believed that Martin was currently hiding in. Once they arrived at the door, Gilda took out the school's master key and used it to unlock the door. She then forcibly opened the door and shouted, "Alright Martin, you've got nowhere left t' hide! Come outta there before I MAKE you come out!!"

After Gilda made her demand, the trio heard soft, slow clapping from behind a large revolving chair that was facing all of the TV monitors that displayed whatever the security cameras were looking at. The chair then slowly spun around to face the three girls. Sitting in the chair was a young boy with very light brown skin with red eyes; one of the eyes was slightly darker in color compared to the other. He had white, feather-shaped hair like Gilda had, though his was cut much shorter. His outfit wasn't much; just a grey shirt made of a light fabric worn over a plain, white undershirt, bright cyan-blue pants, a pair of black shoes, and a pair of black wristbands that had the same yellow Griffon emblem that Gilda had on her shirt. He also had on a Duel Pad and Duel Gazer as well.

"So... we meet again, Ms. Gilda..." the boy remarked with an evil smirk.

"Oooh! Oooh! I know it!! I know this reference!!" shouted Pinkie Pie, waving her arms. "Ernst Blofeld, right?"

"Who?" asked Sunset and Gilda confused.

The pink teen put on a bewildered expression of her own and asked, "You SERIOUSLY don't know who Ernst Blofeld is?? Haven't you guys ever watched James Bond?! Sunset, I can kinda understand if SHE hasn't, and I know he's missing the fluffy kitty-cat, but still-"

"Hey!! Who said that you could interrupt me?!" the young boy angrily shouted at Pinkie Pie, getting up out of the chair. "Here I am, trying to be as intimidating as possible, and you TOTALLY killed the mood!!"

"You're a lot of things, Martin," Gilda told him, "but intimidating ain't one of 'em."

"In the past I may have not been very threatening, but I've changed, Gilda..." Martin told the brown-skinned girl. "I'm not yours or anyone else's punching bag anymore... And it's high time that I got my revenge on you for EVERYTHING you and the others put me through!!"

"Well, that's not going to happen, Martin." Sunset told him in a stern voice. "Even though you may be justified in what you plan on doing, that still doesn't make it right! Especially if your plans of revenge involve the use of Number cards!"

"Number cards...?" asked Martin curiously. Chuckling to himself, he then added, "I see... so that's what they're called." Looking over at Sunset, he then told her, "Well, it doesn't matter what YOUR opinion is, Sunset Shimmer... I've made up my mind: I plan on crushing Gilda, and I don't need YOU interfering with me!!"

Sunset and Gilda scowled a little upon hearing him say that.

But the boy then adjusted his glasses and told them, "Then again... perhaps I might have been a bit too hasty with that remark... Perhaps having you involved in all of this might not be a bad idea after all..."

"What're ya talking about?" Gilda then asked him.

Martin snickered a little and asked them, "I like to make a proposition to the two of you: Since the odds of you defeating me in a Duel are as close to zero as possible, why don't the two of you take me on as a team?"

The three girls gasped when he told them that. "You can't be serious..." Sunset told him. "There's no way that you can defeat us both on your own!"

"Yeah, you're comPLETELY crazy!!" Pinkie told the boy. "And I know crazy when I see it, believe me!"

Martin chuckled and responded to their comments, saying, "Listen... I've crushed every other Duelist here in Griffonstone without having to do much of anything. To be honest, it's become quite a bore... So what's the problem with me wanting to make things a little more interesting...? Still, I suppose the choices are yours and yours alone."

"Oooh! I know that one, too!" Pinkie then interrupted again. "That was from Legends of the Hidden Temple!!"

"Would you QUIT DOING THAT?!?!" yelled Martin, whining a little. "I can't sound menacing if you keep interrupting me like that!!!"

The silly girl huffed and told him, "Yeesh, sor-RY... I can't help that I like a good reference when I hear one..."

Gilda then glanced over to Sunset Shimmer, who looked back towards her. "I think we should take up his offer, Sunset..." the Griffonstone student suggested. "If the rumors I heard are true, then we'll need all the power we can get to take him down."

"I suppose you have a point, Gilda." the otherworldly girl told her, deciding that it would be best to team up with her. "I've got a bad feeling about this Martin guy myself now that I've seen him... Besides, it would be interesting to see how well our Decks can work together..." The brown-skinned girl nodded in agreement.

"So you do plan on taking me on together, then?" asked Martin. "Fine by me..." He then smirked and thought, (This is working out even better than I hoped! Once I win this Duel, I'll not only get my revenge on Gilda, but I'll also have the honor of crushing Canterlot's best Duelist at the same time!)

Sunset and Gilda both activated their Duel Pads and Duel Gazers, as well as sliding their Decks into the Deck Zone slots in order to prepare themselves for their Duel against Martin. He too, activated his devices so that he could participate. "AR Vision Link established." said the computerized voice as a digital copy of the hallway outside of the Security Room projected around them.

"LET'S DUEL!!" shouted Sunset, Gilda, and Martin (Sunset Shimmer & Gilda: LP 4,000) (Martin: LP 4,000).

All three Duelists drew their opening hands as Pinkie Pie put on and activated her Duel Gazer so that she could watch the Duel. Once everyone was ready, Martin then told his opponents, "Alright, here's how things will work: First, Sunset will take her turn. After she's done, I'll make my move. Then, after I finish, control will pass over to Gilda, then back to me, and then repeating back to Sunset."

"In other words," the red and yellow girl deduced, "you take your turn between each of ours, right?"

"Exactly." confirmed the boy. "In addition, to keep things fair, the two of you can only have a total of five cards in your Monster Zones and five cards in your Spell & Trap Zones at once, as if you were using just one Duel Pad. However, your Graveyards and banished cards are shared between you. Is that clear to the two of you?"

"I think I got the gist of it..." Gilda said with a nod. She then looked over at Sunset and told her, "Alright, you're starting us off... So make this first move count."

"I plan to." Sunset Shimmer then glanced at her cards as she began her turn. "First, I'll Summon my Chronomaly Nebra Disk in Attack Mode!" In an instant, her disk-shaped monster appeared on the field in front of her (Chronomaly Nebra Disk: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1500).

"Next, I'll play the Field Spell, Chronomaly City Babylon!" Sunset declared. Upon playing her card, the area around them transformed into a floating, stone arena. "Next, I Special Summon Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem from my hand, which I can do if I activated a Chronomaly Spell Card this turn!" the otherworldly girl stated. Her second monster then emerged onto the field, showing off its bizarre, bright red body (Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem: Level 4 / ATK 1500 / DEF 1000).

"Yay!! Sunnie got out two Level 4 monsters already!" cheered Pinkie Pie.

"I overlay my two Level 4 monsters, Nebra Disk and Aztec Mask Golem, to build an Overlay Network!!" Sunset shouted as her two monsters turned into a pair of lights, one yellow and one orange, that were drawn into a galaxy-like portal. After the portal exploded, it then left behind a symbol that looked like a 36. "I Xyz Summon... Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!" And with that, Sunset's sphere-encased fortress appeared from out of the sky above, surrounded by two yellow lights (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: Rank 4 / ATK 2000 / DEF 2500 / OLU 2).

Gilda gasped a little after Sunset summoned her Xyz Monster. "So that's a Number card..." she said to herself, impressed by its appearance.

Martin chuckled a little. "So that's how you know about the Numbers, isn't it?" he asked with a smirk. "I admit, it seems pretty strong... but it won't help you in this Duel, I can guarantee that!"

"We'll see, Martin." Sunset Shimmer told him. Taking the last two cards out of her hand, she then said, "I'll end my turn by setting two cards face-down." She then thought to herself, (I don't know what kind of Number he has, but if it's as powerful as Gilda believes it is, I'll have to do whatever I possibly can to protect us from it... If he attempts an attack, I can use Chateau Huyuk's effect to counterattack... Hopefully, that will be enough...)

"It's my turn. I draw!" said Martin as he pulled the top card of his Deck. After he did so, he then chuckled to himself and thought, (Heh... it seems I've already won this Duel anyway... All I have to do after this turn is wait patiently...) Taking out a card from his hand, he then declared, "I activate a Spell Card: One for One!"

*******************************

One for One:
(Normal Spell Card)

Send 1 monster from your hand to the Graveyard; Special Summon 1 Level 1 monster from your hand or Deck.

*******************************

"I send my Archfiend Inmate to the Graveyard," Martin began, taking a card from his hand and shoving it into the Duel Pad's Graveyard slot, "and Special Summon Wightmare from my Deck in Attack Mode!" After which, a skeletal figure with short, dirty blond hair (along with a similarly-colored mustache), and old, Victorian-style clothes appeared on the field, holding a teacup and saucer (Wightmare: Level 1 / ATK 300 / DEF 200).

"What the heck is that supposed to be?" Gilda mocked him. "Are we dueling, or are we havin' a tea party?"

"Peh... that's it, just laugh it up..." the boy snickered. "I assure you, you won't be laughing for much longer..." Taking out another card from his hand, he then declared, "I play another Spell Card from my hand! The Cheerful Coffin!"

"Huh? Why'd he play that card?" Sunset asked both herself and Gilda. "All that card allows him to do is discard up to three monsters from his hand..."

"Yeesh, what an idiot..." stated the Griffonstone girl. "That ain't gonna help him at all!"

But the red and yellow teen wasn't so sure. She started to get an unsettling feeling that Martin was up to something as she watched him send two more cards from his hand to the Graveyard.

Giving out a sinister smirk, the boy then told them, "Now it's time to show you what trouble you have just gotten yourselves into... From my hand, I activate the Spell Card, Tri-Wight!! This allows me to Special Summon up to three Level 2 or lower Normal Monsters from the Graveyard!"

Sunset and Gilda gasped; now his moves were beginning to make sense. "So that's it..." the otherworldly girl figured out. "He's been sending his monsters to the Graveyard so that he could Summon them back with just that one card!"

"But I still don't get it." Gilda rebutted. "Tri-Wight only brings back weak monsters; they shouldn't be able to stand up to your Xyz Monster..."

"Oh don't worry, Gilda... You'll get it soon enough; in more ways than one!" Martin told her menacingly. He then shouted, "I now revive all three of my Archfiend Inmates from the Graveyard!!' After he said that, three dark-purple portals appeared on his field; out of each one came a small, demon-like creature (shaped like humans), wearing black-and-white striped prison uniforms and practically covered in heavy chains (Archfiend Inmate [x3]: Level 1 / ATK 200 / DEF 200).

"No way... He just Summoned four monsters in just one turn!" Gilda exclaimed.

"And most importantly, they're all Level 1..." Sunset observed. Tensing up, she then added, "He's about to bring out his Number card..."

Martin snickered, which soon turned into cackling, as he declared in a loud voice, "I overlay Wightmare and Archfiend Inmate, both Level 1, and create an Overlay Network!!" Two of his monsters then transformed into a pair of purple lights that were sucked into a galaxy-like portal in front of him. "Arise, Number 13!" chanted the sinister student. "Emerge from the realm of darkness and pass your sinister verdict on my foe! Xyz Summon! Come forth, Rank 1! Embodiment of Crime!!"

The galaxy portal then exploded, leaving behind a mark that looked like the number 13. Afterwards, a large, spiked ball covered in chains descended from above, with two purple spheres orbiting it. The spiked ball then unfolded itself, revealing its true form as a large, evil-looking creature made up of petal-like appendages with a horned head towards the top of it. Below the head was a cross-shaped stone slab, and several chains; one of which had a large, circular saw at the end of it. On its side was a red 13, which also appeared on Martin's right hand.

*******************************

Number 13: Embodiment of Crime:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Fiend-Type/DARK/Rank 1/ATK 500/DEF 500)

2 Level 1 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. This card cannot declare an attack. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; change all monsters your opponent controls to face-up Attack Position, also all monsters your opponent currently controls must attack this card this turn, if able. While you control "Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment", this card gains these effects.
* This card cannot be destroyed by battle or by card effects while it has Xyz Material.
* Your opponent takes any battle damage you would have taken from attacks on this card.

*******************************

Sunset and Pinkie stared in slight terror as they saw the sinister-looking monster before them. "Wh-what's that thing??" asked the party lover, trembling.

"Quite possibly the creepiest-looking Duel Monster that I've ever seen..." Sunset answered.

Gilda sweated a little; even she couldn't help but feel even a little intimidated. However, she then noticed something peculiar: "Hold on..." she began, "he only used two of his four monsters to Summon that thing... So why'd he go through the trouble of bringing them all out if he didn't need them all?"

"Heh heh heh heh... Because I'm not quite done with my turn, Gilda..." Martin told her in a darker tone of voice. "You've only gotten a taste of the terror that awaits you both... Now it's time for the main course!!" He then raised his hand into the air and yelled, "I overlay my two Level 1 Archfiend Inmates and create ANOTHER Overlay Network!!"

The three girls gasped in shock and horror as the boy appeared to initiate another Xyz Summoning. "Th-this can't be!" said Sunset in slight fear. "He's summoning ANOTHER Xyz Monster?!"

"Uh oh... I don't like this..." said a shivering Pinkie Pie.

Martin's other two monsters then transformed into purple lights and were drawn into another galaxy-like portal. The boy then chanted, "Arise, Number 31! Drag the guilty into your dark realm and torture them until their ends! Xyz Summon!" The portal then exploded, leaving behind a giant 31 mark on the ground. "Come forth, Rank 1! Embodiment of Punishment!!"

From high above, another spiked ball descended to the ground and unfolded itself. The second monster was revealed to be similar-looking to the first one; the only differences were that its head horns pointed down instead of up, its body's color scheme was the opposite of its twin, and the end of its long chain had a spiked mace attached to it. In addition, the top of its body had the same 31 mark on it that had briefly appeared on the ground. That same symbol then began glowing on Martin's left hand. The boy's eyes then turned pitch-black, save for his glowing red irises, and he displayed a crazed, evil grin on his face...

*******************************

Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Fiend-Type/DARK/Rank 1/ATK 500/DEF 500)

2 Level 1 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. This card cannot declare an attack. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; change all monsters your opponent controls to face-up Attack Position, also all monsters your opponent currently controls must attack this card this turn, if able. While you control "Number 13: Embodiment of Crime", this card gains these effects.
* This card cannot be destroyed by battle or by card effects while it has Xyz Material.
* Your opponent takes any battle damage you would have taken from attacks on this card.

*******************************

Needless to say, Sunset was shocked by Martin's move. "This can't be..." she said in stunned silence. "He... he had TWO Numbers..."

Gilda was also surprised by Martin's move... but mostly by the way he looked after he brought them out. "What's up with that guy...?" she asked herself. "After he Summoned those two monsters, he started acting even weirder than when we started... What's his deal??"

Snickering, Martin then told his enemies, "Everything's all set... now you'll all pay for your crimes... And you will fall before the dark justice of my Numbers!!" Pointing towards Sunset, he then shouted, "Embodiment of Crime!! Begin the trial of darkness!!!"

The otherworldly girl stepped back a bit as Martin's first Summoned Xyz Monster floated towards her. Then, all of its chains shot forward in her direction, wrapping around her waist, both of her wrists, and around her ankles. "H-hey!! What're you do-WAAAAAGH!!!!" But before she could finish, the chains then pulled her backwards towards the Number monster, pinning her to the cross-shaped slab below its head.

"SUNSET!!!" shouted Pinkie and Gilda out of concern.

The red and yellow girl struggled, but for some reason, she couldn't free herself from the chains that were holding her down. "What's going on here?!" she protested. "I-I can't move!!!"

Growling, Gilda then yelled at Martin, asking him, "What do you think you're doing?!?"

The Griffonstone boy cackled and answered, telling her, "That's my Number's power... Your little friend has gone from being a participant... to being the accused. Soon, she will become a prime example of what will happen to you!"

"Hey! That's not fair!!" yelled Pinkie Pie. "Leave Sunnie out of this!! What did she ever do to you?!?"

"Quiet!!!" Martin yelled to the pink teen. "I wouldn't be so quick to boss me around if I were in your shoes... After all, I have the power to do the very same thing to you if I choose to..." Glaring over at Gilda with a sinister smirk, he then added, "Luckily for you, I have bigger fish to fry... For now it shall be Gilda's turn to be brought to justice!! Embodiment of Punishment, go and ensnare-"

"Hold it!" shouted the Griffonstone girl, raising her hand.

"What...?" asked the boy, stopping himself in mid-sentence.

The roughneck girl then chuckled a bit and told her foe, "Now I see what the deal is... Now I can see how you've been 'winning' your Duels..."

"What are you talking about?" Martin asked her.

"Don't play dumb." Gilda told him. "I can see how you've managed to beat everyone. All you've been doing is Summoning those weird monsters of yours and having them tie their chains around your opponents so that they can't move or reach their cards!"

"What?! How dare you say that!!" shouted Martin angrily.

"Why?" asked Gilda. "Because it shows everyone here that you're nothing but a total coward? I'll bet you couldn't win a Duel against me without having to resort to your wimpy little tricks! If you're so tough, then prove it right here!"

"Why do I have to?!" asked the boy, clearly getting more ticked off by what Gilda was saying to him. "I could just stop you right here right now whenever I please!!"

"Fine... go ahead." the Griffonstone girl told him. "But just remember this: if you do that... Then I'll make sure that the whole school knows just how much of a wimp you were for not even TRYING to fight me fair and square... If you've got something to settle with me, then quit tryin' to wimp out and face me like a man!"

Martin grumbled to himself; he was beginning to think that his foe had a point. (I hate to admit it, but she's right...) he pondered. (The whole point of this was to get revenge on her... But clearly using my Numbers' powers to ensnare her isn't going to work; she won't consider it a loss if I do that... and if that happens, I won't be completely satisfied with defeating her...!) Sighing, he then told her, "Very well... have it your way, Gilda... I'll spare you of the fate that befell your teammate, if only to prove that I am now more powerful than you are!"

"That's more like it." the brown-skinned girl told him.

"However, I am sorry to tell you that in Ms. Shimmer's case, I can't release her, even if I wanted to..." he informed them all. "As long as the Number that she's chained to remains on the field, she won't be going anywhere anytime soon."

Sunset groaned. "Well THAT'S just great..." she said sarcastically, already getting a cramp in her wrists from the chains. She then turned her head around towards her silly pink friend and told her, "Hey Pinkie! I need you to do a favor for me: When it's my turn, I need you to draw my cards and play them exactly as I tell you to, understand?"

"You've got it, Sunnie!" the party lover replied with a wink and thumbs-up. She then ran over to the field beside her friend. She then glanced up at the face of the Number card that captured Sunset and stuck her tongue out at it. As she did so, a small bead of sweat rolled down the side of Number 13's head.

"Fine, whatever! Let's just continue the Duel!" Martin shouted. "I activate Crime's effect! By removing one Overlay Unit, I can force all of your monsters to attack it this turn!" One of the swirling orbs then phased into the head of the monster that Sunset was chained to (Number 13: Embodiment of Crime: OLU 2 - 1 = 1).

"What kind of effect is that?" asked Gilda. "If you're trying to win this Duel, forcing us to attack YOUR monster isn't exactly a top-of-the-line strategy..."

But the boy snickered and told her, "As always, you're wrong... I forgot to mention: When both Crime AND Punishment are on the field, they cannot be destroyed in battle by your monsters as long as they have at least one Overlay Unit... Not only that, YOU take all the damage from the battle instead of me!"

"Say WHAT?!?" exclaimed the three girls.

Sunset could only watch as her own monster then turned towards her and charged up energy into itself. It then released it into a stream that hit her hard and took out most of hers and Gilda's Life Points. "AAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHH!!!!" she screamed upon taking the hit (Sunset Shimmer & Gilda: LP 4,000 - 1,500 = 2,500).

"Sunnie!!! Are you alright?!" asked Pinkie Pie, concerned for her friend's safety.

"Ugh... I've been better..." the red and yellow girl groaned. "But if he does that a few more times, we'll lose the Duel for sure..." Turning over to Gilda, she then told her, "Gilda, it's up to you! You have to stop him on your turn!"

"My pleasure, Sunset." the brown-skinned teen replied. "I'll get him back for what he did to you, I promise!" She then drew her next card and tried to come up with a strategy that would get them out of their sticky situation. "First, I'll play one card face-down..." she said, starting her move. "Then next, I'll Summon Summoner Monk!" Gilda's first monster was an old man with white hair, bleached blue skin, and red eyes, wearing a white and purple cloak (Summoner Monk: Level 4 / ATK 800 / DEF 1600). Though she played it in Attack Mode, its effect immediately put it in Defense Mode instead.

"Now, I'll activate the effect of Summoner Monk!" Gilda then declared. "By discarding a Spell Card from my hand, I can bring out a Level 4 monster from out of my Deck!" She then sent her Overlay Regen card to the Graveyard, which caused her monster to begin chanting in a bizarre language. "Now I Special Summon Raidraptor - Mimicry Lanius in Defense Mode!" She then called up another of her mechanical-looking birds, this one clad in mostly gold and white armor, and carrying what appeared to be a dark energy orb in its talons (Raidraptor - Mimicry Lanius: Level 4 / ATK 1100 / DEF 1900).

"Next," the roughneck girl continued, "since we have an Xyz Monster on our side of the field, I can also Special Summon Raidraptor - Singing Lanius from my hand!" Gilda's third monster was of a stout chick with small, armored, yellow wings, and a body that was mostly yellow and brown in color (Raidraptor - Singing Lanius: Level 4 / ATK 100 / DEF 100). "Finally, I'll Summon Raidraptor - Fuzzy Lanius from my hand, since I have Raidraptors on the field other than him!" And with that, she then called up her purple and blue armored bird to the battlefield (Raidraptor - Fuzzy Lanius: Level 4 / ATK 500 / DEF 1500).

"That was amazing...!" Sunset complimented.

"Yeah!" cheered Pinkie. "Gilda can Summon monsters just as fast as that crazy, evil guy can!" Martin just grumbled, both in response to Gilda's move and Pinkie's comment about him.

"Now I'll activate Mimicry Lanius's effect:" Gilda told her opponent. "Once per turn, I can increase the Levels of all the Raidraptors on the field by one!" The glowing of the orb on the gold and white bird began to intensify, and its power was felt by both itself and its comrades (Raidraptor - Mimicry Lanius: Level 4 + 1 = Level 5) (Raidraptor - Singing Lanius: Level 4 + 1 = Level 5) (Raidraptor - Fuzzy Lanius: Level 4 + 1 = Level 5).

"Now she has three Level 5 monsters out..." noted Sunset. "She must be going for a very powerful Xyz Monster." She then thought to herself, (I just hope it can somehow overcome those two Number cards...)

"I now overlay Mimicry Lanius, Singing Lanius, and Fuzzy Lanius, all Level 5!!" Gilda shouted as her three birds turned into a trio of purple lights that flew into a red summoning portal. "Ferocious falcon! Break through this fierce battle and spread your wings! Destroy our gathering foes!" the roughneck then chanted. "Xyz Summon! Appear now! Rank 5! Raidraptor - Blaze Falcon!" In an instant, a much larger bird, clad in red and black armor and possessing bizarrely-shaped wings, flew out of the portal with three purple orbs orbiting it. It then let out a shrill cry as it took its place beside its user (Raidraptor - Blaze Falcon: Rank 5 / ATK 1000 / DEF 2000 / OLU 3).

"Hmmmm... impressive, but I'm afraid it won't help you. Did you already forget? Neither Crime, nor Punishment, can be destroyed in battle while they're both on the field!" Martin reminded his nemesis.

"Maybe so," Gilda then said to the boy, "but your monsters aren't his target; see, Blaze Falcon's ability allows it to attack you directly if it has at least one Overlay Unit attached to him."

"What?!" he gasped in surprise.

"You realize it, don't ya?" the brown-skinned girl told him with a smirk. "Your monsters might be invincible... but that doesn't mean that YOU are."

"Alright! This might just work!" Sunset said, regaining hope. "His monster's effects won't matter if she's attacking him directly!"

"Yeah!! We might win this after all!!" Pinkie Pie added, getting back her smile.

"Go! Blaze Falcon!!" Gilda ordered her Xyz Monster. "Attack Martin's Life Points directly!!" Her monster then flew towards the crazed student, ready to strike him down.

"If you think I'll let you get out of this one, you're sadly mistaken!!" shouted Martin. Taking a card out from underneath one of his Number cards, he then declared, "I activate the effect of Punishment!! So now all of your monsters must attack it instead!!" (Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment: OLU 2 - 1 = 1)

"What the-?! He can use that effect outside of his turn?!?" asked Gilda, shocked.

"Heh heh heh heh...!" the boy laughed. "Now because of your sloppy move, You and your friend will be taking a total of 2,300 points of damage, leaving you with just a mere 200 Life Points left!! Then next turn, I'll exterminate you all for good!!" Gilda could only watch in horror as her monster swerved away from Martin and went to attack his other Xyz Monster.

But just then, Sunset said to Pinkie Pie, "Pinkie, quick! Activate the face-down card on my left!"

"Huh?" the pink girl perked her head up when she heard that. It took her a second, but she got the message and tapped the otherworldly girl's Duel Pad, activating the card that she had told her to play. The card then flipped face up, revealing itself as...

"Waboku?!? No!!!" screamed Martin in despair.

"That's right." Sunset told him, keeping her look of confidence, despite being hung up at the moment. "This Trap Card makes all of the battle damage we take this turn become zero! Which means our Life Points won't be going down!"

Gilda watched as Blaze Falcon struck Martin's Number card with a fiery dive-bomb, followed immediately by a giant laser from Sunset's Chateau Huyuk, as well as a blast of violet-colored magic from Summoner Monk. Although Punishment couldn't be destroyed because of its own effects, Sunset's Trap Card nullified all of the damage, sparing them all. The look on Gilda's face was one of horror and astonishment.

Martin then screamed at his enemies, "How dare you defy my brand of justice with such a card!! You'll pay dearly for that!!!"

Sunset huffed a little, not allowing his words to intimidate her. "Sunset... I'm... I'm so sorry..." Gilda then apologized to her. "We almost lost the Duel because of what I just did..."

"Don't worry, Gilda... we'll still beat him, I promise." the red and yellow teen told her teammate. "But right now, we need to keep him from damaging us... If his Deck relies on those two Number cards as part of his main strategy, then he'll probably have ways of restoring their Overlay Units..."

"You think he'll try to do that?" asked the Griffonstone girl.

"I know he will. If I were him, that's what I'd do." Sunset confirmed. Looking over at her teammate's hand, she then told her, "Gilda, play that Spell Card in your hand right now; it will allow us to hold out until we can think of a new strategy..."

"Uh, yeah... whatever you say." the brown-skinned girl replied. Placing the card in question into a slot on her Duel Pad, she then declared, "I activate Nightmare's Steelcage!" After she played her Spell Card, a metallic, cage-like wall materialized between them and Martin.

"Urrgh... you just HAD to play that card, didn't you?" asked the crazed boy.

"As long as this card's in play," Gilda then explained, "neither of us can attack with our monsters! Which means that for now, our Life Points will be safe from your Numbers' powers!"

"Don't forget, your Spell Card goes away after the end of my second turn, following its activation." Martin reminded his enemy. "It won't last you forever!"

"Two turns is all we need to kick your butt and win this Duel!" the roughneck assured him.

"Whatever... my turn, then..." The boy then drew his card and smirked when saw what it was. "Not bad at all..." He then told his foes, "I activate the card I just drew: Overlay Regen!!"

(Woah... that was a close one...) thought Gilda, getting a little worried. (Good thing Sunset figured that he'd use a card to restore his monsters' Overlay Units... But I have to ask: How's she remaining this calm, even though she's chained up to that slab and getting hit by our own monsters...?)

Martin then chose to use his Spell Card to restore an Overlay Unit on Embodiment of Punishment (Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment: OLU 1 + 1 = 2). "Since we can't battle each other while your Nightmare's Steelcage card is in effect, I have no choice but to end my turn." the boy said. He then snickered and said to Sunset Shimmer, "It's your turn now... Are you sure you're fine with continuing on? After all, I can imagine just how tight those chains wrapped around you are... You must be getting quite a cramp by now... Heheheheh..."

"You just worry about yourself." the otherworldly girl told him, not showing any signs of cracking under the pressure. She then said to Pinkie Pie, "Okay, you ready?"

"Mhmm!" the pink girl replied with a nod. She then drew Sunset's next card and showed it to her. "D'ya think this might help?" she then asked.

"Maybe..." Sunset answered. "But we've still got to find a way to get rid of these annoying Numbers of his... As much as I don't want to give him an inch, it IS starting to get a little uncomfortable up here..."

"Then just leave that all to me!" Gilda suddenly spoke up, tapping her Duel Pad's screen. "I'll activate my Icarus Attack!! By releasing one of my Winged Beasts, I can destroy up to two cards on the field! So I'll release Blaze Falcon... and destroy both of your Number monsters!!" And with that, the Griffonstone girl's Xyz Monster turned into pure energy, which shot at both of Martin's monsters.

"Alright!!" cheered Pinkie. "Bye bye, creepy Numbers!!"

Sunset was a bit skeptical. (It couldn't be that easy...) she thought. She then glanced over at their opponent, who didn't seem to be too worried at all, even as both of his monsters were struck by the deadly energy of Gilda's Trap Card.

The energy streams let out a pair of explosions that shook the area around them all. Thick clouds formed as a result of the impact, covering the entire battlefield. But once the dust settled, the three girls watched on and saw that... absolutely nothing had happened: Both of Martin's monsters were still there, to their astonishment. "HUH?! It didn't work?!?" asked Gilda.

"What happened??" asked Pinkie Pie, getting a little worried again.

"Heheheheh... Did you really think your weak little Trap Card was going to eliminate my powerful Numbers?" Martin asked in a mocking tone of voice. "Too bad... I'm afraid that, due to their effects, Crime and Punishment can't be destroyed by card effects when they're both on the field and have at least one Overlay Unit!"

"But you said that they couldn't be destroyed by battle!" Gilda protested.

"It's probably both." Sunset noted. "Apparently, Martin 'conveniently' left out that important little detail when he told us about their abilities..."

"That's so underhanded, Mr. Meanie-Mean-Pants!" Pinkie yelled at the boy.

"Hmph... I didn't think I needed to explain EVERYTHING to you simpletons..." Martin told them all as he adjusted his glasses.

"Crud... even THAT wasn't enough to stop him!" grumbled Gilda. "I'll just have to be even MORE aggressive on my next turn in order to beat him!"

"Gilda, I don't think that's a very good idea." Sunset informed her teammate.

"Huh? Whad'ya mean?"

"Just think about it: His monsters are designed to make it so that, the more force we use against him, the more damage that gets sent back on us..." the otherworldly girl explained. She then told her, "Listen, Gilda... there's something else you need to know concerning the Number cards..."

"What's that?" asked the brown-skinned girl.

"When a Number card is first found, it doesn't have a picture." Sunset said to her teammate. "But after someone picks one up, it then gains a physical form and special powers... From what I've observed so far, the Numbers take on their appearances based on the feelings and desires of whomever holds them."

"Really?" asked Gilda.

Sunset Shimmer nodded and continued, saying, "It's just a hunch, but if my theory is correct, Martin's Number cards might have forms based on his feelings; according to you, he's been constantly bullied and made fun of ever since he came to this school. It's very likely that because of all of the torment that he's suffered, he began to harbor feelings of hatred towards not only you and the other people that picked on him... but quite possibly everyone else; even people that had nothing to do with what happened to him."

Gilda stood there, completely stunned by what she had heard.

"Once he got his hands on those Number cards," Sunset continued to say, "his desire to punish those that bullied him, and everyone else, turned them into those monsters that he has on the field right now... And their abilities came from his desire to use his tormentors' own strength to do them in... That's why I think that becoming even more aggressive against Martin is not how we'll win this Duel."

"But how else are we gonna beat him?" asked the roughneck, confused.

"I'll answer that by asking you this question:" the red and yellow girl responded. "What would Fluttershy do in your situation?"

"Fluttershy...?" Gilda asked. This made her think about her Duel yesterday against the shy yellow girl. As she replayed the Duel in her mind over and over, Gilda then recalled that she tried to use pure, brute force to try and defeat her. But Fluttershy made the right decision to hold back and play passively until an opportunity to win presented itself. Sighing a little and calming herself down, the Griffonstone girl then said, "...I think I get it now, Sunset. Brute force didn't help me in my Duel against Fluttershy, and it won't help me here... If I'm going to be of any help to you, I'll need to start playing a lot smarter."

Sunset smiled after hearing that. "Thanks, Gilda." she told her. "We just need to wait for an opportunity to win this instead of trying to force it to happen." She then added, "Right now, we need to keep our Life Points from taking too many more heavy hits..." She then announced, "For my next move, I release my Chateau Huyuk to Tribute Set a monster in Defense Mode!"

"Okie-dokie-lokie!" said Pinkie as she took Sunset's Number card off of her Duel Pad and placed it (and both of its Overlay Units) in the Graveyard. She then placed the only card in her friend's hand facedown on the tray in its place. Martin grumbled a bit at that move.

(I get it...) thought Gilda. (By getting rid of our monsters with high attack points, we'll take less damage from his Number cards' effects... But is that her only plan...?) She then glanced at the lone face-down card in front of her teammate, wondering what it could have been. She did, however, assume that it was part of Sunset Shimmer's strategy.

"Next," Sunset declared, "I'll switch my teammate's Summoner Monk to Defense Mode and end my turn." Gilda then did just that before control passed back to their opponent.

"It's my turn... I draw!" Martin then pulled his next card and looked at it. Grinning wickedly, he then said, "Perfect!!" The boy then declared, "I activate the Spell Card, Magical Reference Search!"

*******************************

Magical Reference Search:
(Normal Spell Card)

Add 2 Spell Cards from your Deck to your hand, but you can only activate 1 of those Spell Cards this turn (but you can Set both). This card cannot be moved from the Graveyard to the Deck or hand, and it cannot be banished. You can only activate 1 "Magical Reference Search" per turn.

*******************************

"Using this Spell Card," Martin told his opponents, "I add Mystical Space Typhoon and Overlay Regen to my hand!" After he took his cards, he then declared, "Next, I'll play Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy Nightmare's Steelcage!"

The three girls gasped when the boy's Spell Card whipped up a powerful tornado that was strong enough to smash apart the large metal wall in-between them all. "No! Now he can damage our Life Points again!" said Gilda in distress.

"For once, Gilda, you're quite correct!" Martin said in a menacing tone. He then took away one of the cards underneath one of his Number cards and said, "I activate Punishment's effect once more!" (Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment: OLU 2 - 1 = 1)

After activating his monster's effect, Gilda's Summoner Monk switched back to Attack Position. In addition, Sunset's face-down monster flipped face-up, revealing itself as Chronomaly Moai Carrier (Chronomaly Moai Carrier: Level 5 / ATK 900 / DEF 1800). Upon doing so, both monsters rushed in to attack Martin's monster, with Gilda's monster firing a spell, and Sunset's monster shooting a pair of laser beams. Of course, because of its ability, Embodiment of Punishment sent all of the damage right back at them, staring with Moai Carrier's lasers (Sunset Shimmer & Gilda: LP 2,500 - 400 = 2,100), followed by the spell from Summoner Monk (Sunset Shimmer & Gilda: LP 2,100 - 300 = 1,800).

Martin cackled in a demented tone and said to his enemies, "It's only a matter of time before I end you both once and for all... Next turn, I'll be able to play my second Overlay Regen, which will restore an Overlay Unit on one of my monsters... And I'll use it to eliminate the remainder of your Life Points! Soon... so very soon, I'll make you and everyone else pay for what I've had to endure during my time here in this school!!"

Gilda, after hearing that, told him sternly, but calmly, "That's not going to happen."

"Why not?!" yelled the boy. "You deserve everything that I'm doing to you, and not even you can deny it!!"

"You're right about that." the brown-skinned girl replied, admitting to that. "I did bully you a lot... and I did some things to you that I'm not exactly proud of anymore..." She then gave Martin an angry glare and told him, "Even so, that's no excuse for what you're doing to Sunset right now!"

"Huh...?" the boy remarked, confused.

"You heard me." Gilda informed him. "She has absolutely nothing to do with anything that's happened between us, and yet you're trying to hurt her, too! You claim that you want to punish people for bullying you, but all you've done so far is torture a completely innocent person for no reason! You're acting no better than I did when I was bullying you! In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that you're acting even WORSE than I did!"

"How dare you!!!" yelled Martin in anger. "Are you suggesting that I'M being a bully?! ME?!?!"

"I'm not suggesting nothing!" the brown-skinned girl answered. "I'm outright TELLING it to you! You're nothing but a total hypocrite; you don't care who you hurt, just as long as you get what you want in the end!" Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she then added, "And now that I've seen it for myself, I now totally realize what a jerk I've been to you and other people... And for what it's worth, I'm sorry for everything that I've put you through..."

Martin was stunned when he actually heard Gilda apologize to him. But he then told her, "You can take that apology and shove it down your throat! I'm getting my revenge on you, and that's that!! I'll punish you and everyone else with the full weight of my anger and hatred!!"

"Is that so...?" the Griffonstone girl asked him. "Then there's no other choice for me to make: I'll face that anger and hatred head-on and eliminate it forever!" Gilda then pulled her next card and looked at it. She then thought, (I just drew Raidraptor - Nest... I can discard this card and use Summoner Monk to Special Summon a Level 4 monster from my Deck again... Then, I'll have enough monsters to bring out an Xyz Monster. But which one should I go with?) She then pondered, (I could go for Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon... but that wouldn't do us any good; He'll just use his monster's effect to force it into attacking, and we'll lose...)

Gilda looked over at Sunset, who said to her, "You can do this Gilda... Just remember: Standing up to a bully doesn't mean using force against them." She then smiled warmly and added, "Sometimes, it pays to be a little passive-aggressive, just like our friend, Fluttershy." Pinkie Pie nodded to say that she agreed with that statement.

"Be passive-aggressive...?" asked the brown-skinned girl. She then thought, (But no matter what we do, we can't destroy those stupid monsters of his!) Just then, she let out a gasp as an idea came to her. (Wait! That's it! How could I have forgotten about it?? There's one card in my Deck that can help us defeat him!) Gilda then smirked as she stared down the crazed boy, which made him step back a bit.

"I activate Summoner Monk's effect!" Gilda declared. "I discard my Raidraptor - Nest, and then Special Summon a Level 4 monster out of my Deck! Go, Raidraptor - Sharp Lanius!!" After she took the card out of her Deck, she then played it onto her Duel Pad, calling up a red and white-armored bird (Raidraptor - Sharp Lanius: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 1000). "And now I've got all I need to bring out the monster that'll wipe you out for good!"

"Sunnie, is she going to bring out that big, scary, dragon monster from yesterday?" asked Pinkie Pie.

Sunset Shimmer pondered to herself about that. (I'm sure that Gilda knows full well that Dark Rebellion won't help us here...) She then smirked and thought, (Heh... I wonder what she's got planned?)

Martin chuckled and asked, "So you're finally going to do it, huh? That's just fine!! Bring him out!! Bring out Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon!!"

But the Griffonstone girl chuckled to herself, asking him, "Whoever said I was bringing out Dark Rebellion?"

"Y-you're not??" asked the boy, not sure what was going on.

"Nope... I've got another monster in my Deck that's not quite as tough, but his special skills will prove to be far more useful in this situation!" Gilda then shouted, "I overlay my Summoner Monk and Sharp Lanius, both Level 4, and build an Overlay Network!" Everyone watched as both monsters transformed into a pair of purple lights that flew into a red summoning portal. "Noble marksman of the sky! Raise your mighty rifle in the name of justice and fell your enemies with skillful precision!" the roughneck chanted, "Xyz Summon! Take your place! Rank 4! Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer!!"

From out of the red vortex, a figure appeared that seemed to be a cross between a human and a bird, along with two green orbs circling around him. He wore a blue uniform that came with a long, flowing cape and a hat that were the same color. The hat had a red plume decorating the top of it, and on his back were a pair of bright, fuchsia-colored wings and tail feathers. His weapon of choice was a musket rifle, which he proudly held in his hands (Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer: Rank 4 / ATK 2000 / DEF 1500 / OLU 2).

"Wow... I didn't know she had that card..." said Sunset. "Now I see what she's trying to do..."

Martin, however, had no clue what his foe was attempting. "What's the deal, Gilda?" he asked her. "That monster can't destroy my Number cards! It's not even a Number, so it couldn't destroy Crime or Punishment even without their defensive effects!"

"Really now?" she then asked him with a smirk. "You keep telling us how 'inferior' our minds are, and yet you don't seem to be aware of what I'm about to do?"

"What could you possibly do?" Martin then asked her. "I told you, my monsters can't be destroyed!"

"...Except that destroying your monsters isn't my goal." Gilda rebutted. She then declared, "I activate the effect of Castel! First, I remove both of his Overlay Units..." When she did, the two green orbs flew into the bird-man's gun, and he immediately pointed the weapon towards the Number card that Sunset was chained to (Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer: OLU 2 - 2 = 0). The Griffonstone girl then told the boy, "Now, using his ability, I can select any card on the field, and send it back to its owner's Deck!"

"WHAT?!? NO!!!" shouted Martin in distress.

"You get it, don't you?" asked Gilda. "Xyz Monsters can't exist in your hand or your Deck... Which means that there's only one place it CAN go..."

"N-n-no... this can't be...!" said the boy, getting scared for the first time since the Duel began. "If she uses that effect on one of my Number cards... then they'll be sent back... to my Extra Deck!"

"That's right!!" the roughneck confirmed. She then shouted, "Go, Castel! Send Embodiment of Crime back to Martin's Extra Deck, and make it snappy!"

Martin could only watch in horror as Gilda's Xyz Monster fired its rifle, sending out of it not a bullet, but a super-strong whirlwind that hit Embodiment of Crime hard. In fact, it hit it so hard, that the chains that held Sunset onto its stone slab loosened and fell off, freeing the otherworldly girl and dropping her to the ground below. Luckily, she didn't fall far, and she landed safely onto her rear end. The Number card wasn't so lucky, as the whirlwind blew it completely off of the battlefield, and not long after that, it vanished into thin air.

"Sunnie!! You're free!! You're free!!" cheered Pinkie Pie, running over to her. "Are you alright? Are you hurt?"

Getting up, Sunset Shimmer told her friend, "Just a little sore in some places, but I'll live." She then turned to Gilda and said to her, "Gilda... thank you so much for getting me off of that thing."

"Heh, no prob." the Griffonstone girl casually responded. "Last I checked, friends help friends, right?" Sunset nodded yes to say that she agreed with that. Gilda then told her, "But now that you are free, I think it's high time Martin here learns his lesson about how karma works." The boy began to tremble upon hearing that, knowing that he was no longer in control of the Duel anymore.

"I think so too, Gilda." the red and yellow girl replied with a smirk. "So I think now's the perfect time to play this card that I've been saving for just such an occasion..." Tapping her Duel Pad's screen, she declared, "I activate the Trap Card, Xyz Reborn! This card allows me to bring back any Xyz Monster from our Graveyard back to the field! And I'm going to use it to revive this monster!" Taking out a card from her own Graveyard, she then declared, "Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk! Return to the field!!

Martin gasped when Sunset brought back the Number card that she had Summoned at the beginning of the Duel. The bright, blue sphere took its place above its controller, ready to do battle.

"Oh, and as an added bonus," the otherworldly girl continued, "After it brings back a monster, Xyz Reborn then becomes an Overlay Unit for the monster it Summons!" And true to her words, the Trap Card then turned into a pink light that shot up into the air, before returning as a yellow orb that orbited Sunset's Number card (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: OLU 0 + 1 = 1). "But it won't stay there for long," Sunset continued, "because I'm removing that Overlay Unit to use Chateau Huyuk's effect (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: OLU 1 - 1 = 0)! This allows me to reduce the attack power of your remaining Number card to zero!"

"Oh no!!" shouted Martin as he watched Embodiment of Punishment lose all of its power (Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment: ATK 500 > 0). However, there was nothing that he could do to save himself from defeat now.

"Yeah! Yeah! YEAH!!" Pinkie Pie cheered. "Now let him have it!!"

Sunset and Gilda nodded as they began their final attack...

"Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!" the red and yellow girl started.

"Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer!!" the Griffonstone girl added.

"ATTACK!!!" they both shouted in unison.

And with that simultaneous order, both of their monsters began to attack. Sunset's monster attacked first, releasing a gigantic stream of deadly energy that obliterated Martin's remaining monster in one shot and inflicted massive damage on him as well (Martin: LP 4,000 - 2,000 = 2,000). Once his Number card was gone, Gilda's musketeer then initiated his attack, firing his rifle and striking the boy hard, instantly ending the Duel (Martin: LP 2,000 - 2,000 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer & Gilda).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Alright!!! You won!! You WON!!!" cheered Pinkie Pie, hopping up and down excitedly. "I knew you could do it!!!"

Gilda let out a sigh of relief, as did Sunset. "Whew... that was a tough one..." the red and yellow girl said to both herself and Gilda. "But we did it..." Looking at her now-glowing necklace, she then added, "There's just one last thing to do now..." She then held up her hand towards Martin, who was now lying down on the tile floor of the hallway, stunned but still breathing. A pair of light balls phased out of his chest area and flew towards the otherworldly girl's hand. Afterwards, they transformed into the troubled boy's Number cards. "I'm taking these Numbers so that they'll never harm anyone ever again... That sound good to you, Gilda?"

But the Griffonstone girl said nothing; instead, she walked over to Martin, just as the kid regained consciousness. When he looked up at Gilda (with light purple-colored eyes instead of deep red ones), he immediately yelped and shuffled back towards the wall. He then pleaded, "G-G-Gilda... p-please...! D-d-don't hurt me!! ...Okay, if you're gonna hurt me, at least don't touch my face!!"

But the brown-skinned girl told him in a calm tone of voice, "Martin... you don't need to be scared anymore... I'm not going to hurt you at all."

"Y-you aren't?" he asked, bewildered. "Even after all that I was doing to you and Sunset??"

"I'm not." she confirmed, shaking her head no. "It's all my fault that you were acting that way... You were just angry at me for bullying you, and you had every right to be. But when you tried to hurt Sunset the way you did, you were beginning to lose your focus, and you ended up becoming the very thing you hated." She then sighed and told him, "I had no idea just how you felt whenever me or anyone else at school picked on you, and I feel really bad about it now... So, for what's it's worth... I'm... I'm sorry."

"You are...?" the boy asked meekly.

Gilda nodded, smiled and said, "From now on, I promise that I'll never pick on you or anyone else ever again... In fact, if anyone at school tries to do that to you anymore... They'll have to get through me."

Martin felt very touched that Gilda was going to stand up for him instead of torment him like everyone else. "Th... thank you..." he said to her. "That's... that's so nice of you... How did you change so quickly?"

"...I met some good friends recently, that's what." the Griffonstone girl told him. She then glanced over at Sunset Shimmer and Pinkie Pie; Sunset gave her a wink and a thumbs-up, while Pinkie waved her left hand in the air excitedly.

Minutes later, the four of them were standing outside of the school, ready to leave the area and head home. "Sunset," Gilda began to say to the red and yellow girl, "thanks for all of your help. I have t' say, this whole mess ended better than I thought it would."

"I'm just happy to see that you're going to be nicer to Martin from now on." Sunset replied. "I think deep down, he didn't really want to hurt anyone... I think all he really needed was a friend." She then asked the boy, "Isn't that right?"

"Y-yeah... that's right." he replied. It was quite clear that, without the Numbers controlling him, Martin was actually a very friendly and kind person. In fact, he seemed to act a lot like Fluttershy.

"Well, I think Gilda'll be a great friend to you, right Gilda?" Pinkie asked.

"Well, let's just say, I learned from the best." the Griffonstone girl replied with a wink. "And I promise to use what I learned and become a much better person now."

"And I think you'll be a lot happier that way." Sunset Shimmer then said to her.

Gilda then walked towards the otherworldly girl while reaching into a pocket in her leather jacket. "And to show my appreciation for everything you and your friends have done for me, I'd like you to have something; I think it might help you collect the rest of those Number cards..." She then pulled out a Duel Monsters card and showed it to her.

"Huh? Castel??" Sunset inquired. "Isn't this the card that was in your Deck during the Duel?"

Gilda chuckled a little. "I'm being nice, not stupid." she told the red and yellow girl. "That ain't the same monster that's in my Deck, it's a spare that I picked up a while back. I don't have any use for it, but I think it'll be a big help to you in your future Duels. So take it; I insist."

Sunset was quite surprised, yet happy, to see just how generous Gilda had become. Nodding her head yes, the otherworldly girl said, "Alright then, I'll take it." She then took the card that Gilda offered her and placed it into her deck box. "I'll take very good care of it, Gilda." she promised.

"Good t' hear, Sunset." the brown-skinned girl told her. "And hey, don't be a stranger; feel free to come and visit us here again if you've got the time."

"Sure." Sunset replied. "And feel free to come to my apartment for sleepovers if you want to." The Griffonstone girl nodded as everyone waved goodbye. The four of them departed the school and headed back for their homes.

As Sunset and Pinkie Pie headed back towards the city, the pink teen then said to her friend, "Ahhhh... I just love these happy endings... With everybody being friends and smiling at the end..."

"Yeah, me too." the black jacket-clad teen agreed. She then asked her pink friend, "So... this James Bond... Does that have anything to do with ropes or something?"

Pinkie giggled and pulled her friend closer to her. "Aw, Sunnie, you Silly-Billy... But don't you worry! When you come to my house tomorrow night, I promise to make a fan out of you, or my name's not Pinkamena Diane Pie!" Sunset still seemed a little confused, but decided to go along with it. The two continued to walk down the sidewalk as Pinkie hummed a little tune to herself: "Dun-dun-DA-DAAAAA-da-dun-aaaaa....!! Dun-na-naaaa... da-dun-aaaaa..."

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Sunset Shimmer (8 Numbers total):

- Number 13: Embodiment of Crime
- Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment

---------------------------------------------------------------------

RANK 8: What's Up, Dueling Doc?:

View Online

RANK 8: What's Up, Dueling Doc?:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Sunset Shimmer has, so far, done well in stopping the powerful and corrupting effects of the mysterious Number cards. She has been able to defeat every Duelist that had Numbers in their Deck, which included the two owned by Martin, a student at Griffonstone High School. His hatred towards the bullies that tormented him every day at school turned him into a sadistic individual that desired to take revenge on everyone. But with the combined efforts of both Sunset and Gilda, he was defeated, and his Number cards were taken away.

Now Sunset currently possesses eight Number cards. So far, her goal of preventing their power from being misused is coming along nicely.

But is she the only one that is after the mysterious cards...?

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Cheese Sandwich Family Fun Center / Time: 1522 hours (a.k.a. 3:22 p.m.)
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Down the road leading out of Canterlot City, there was a rather large building: It was known as the Cheese Sandwich Family Fun Center, which was a place for people of all ages to go and enjoy themselves. There were all sorts of fun activities, such as an enormous arcade, a laser tag arena, miniature golf, and batting cages. But today, someone was making the fun center a lot less fun for everybody.

Inside the building, a young teenage girl was running up several flights of stairs as fast as she could. The girl had light peach skin, along with short, blue hair and light purple eyes. She wore a cobalt-blue sleeveless top with a small picture of a pair of white sneakers printed upon the chest area. She had on a pair of navy-blue athletic shorts, tied with a drawstring, and a pair of white running shoes. On her wrists were a pair of white wristbands. She eventually got to the top of the staircase, opening the door wide and entering the room beyond it.

"Mr. Sandwich!! Mr. Sandwich!!" shouted the girl. "We've got an emergency!!"

"Please, Adrenaline Rush, call me Cheese." said a man inside of the office room. "MISTER Sandwich is my father's name." The man turned around to face the girl named Adrenaline Rush (or Addie for short). The man had bright orange skin and long, curly brown hair with a tuft of hair sticking up above his forehead, along with bold, green eyes. He wore a bright yellow shirt and long, blue pants, the latter of which was held up with a belt that had a picture of a grilled cheese sandwich painted upon the buckle. The simple ensemble was completed with a pair of red sneakers with white soles and rainbow-colored shoestrings.

"Um... sure. Whatever you wish, Cheese." Addie said to him, responding to his earlier comment. She then told him, "Anyway, we've got an emergency!"

"Lemme guess:" Cheese Sandwich responded. "A little kid crawled into the Skill Crane game?"

"No."

"Someone's doing a swan dive into the Bumper Boat pool?"

"No."

Gasping and putting on a horrified expression, Cheese then asked, "Don't tell me that someone figured out the patterns in Ms. Pac-Man and beat my high score?!?"

"Um... I don't think you'll need to worry about that." Addie then informed him, "Earlier, I was checking on the Batting Cages and making sure that everything was alright... Then all of a sudden, I heard some sort of commotion nearby! I think it was coming from the Go-Kart Track, but I didn't see what it was yet."

"I guess we'd better check it out, then." Cheese suggested. He then smirked and told her, "I'm sure it's nothing, Addie... So don't worry your head off; you only ever get one."

Unbeknownst to either Cheese or Addie, however, the commotion at the Go-Kart Track was far from being "nothing". Several people were shrieking as they managed to swerve out of the way of a speeding kart. The driver of the kart was a teenage girl with aqua green-colored skin and medium-length orange hair with lighter-colored streaks running all over it. She had violet eyes and wore earrings shaped like small lightning bolts, along with a pair of goggles on her head.

The outfit that she wore appeared to be a school uniform; more specifically, it was the school uniform for Crystal Prep Academy, another rival high school to Canterlot High. The uniform was mostly red-violet in color; the short-sleeved top had a bluish-violet ribbon tied on top of it, along with light-blue buttons running down to secure the garment. The skirt had a plaid design, consisting of thin lines, colored yellow, blue, and purple, against the red-violet background, with violet along the waist area. She wore a pair of navy-blue shoes that had a lighter blue streak design on either side of it, and a small ribbon tied on the top of it that was of the same color. Her socks were also violet-colored, and they sagged a little above the tops of her shoes.

The girl snickered and laughed as she continued to drive like a total maniac. "Ha ha ha ha!!! That's right! Get outta my way!!" she shouted as she cackled. "Slowpokes like you aren't worthy of racing on the same track as me!!!" The crazed teen then looked ahead and saw two more karts ahead of her, one pink and one silver, driving alongside of each other. The girl smirked as she slammed the gas pedal, propelling herself forward.

The drivers ahead of her just so happened to be none other than Diamond Tiara and her friend Silver Spoon. When the pair heard the insane driver coming towards them, they moved out of the way at the last second, allowing the aqua-green girl to speed right between them. "Hey!!" shouted an unhappy Diamond Tiara. "Watch where you're going, you lunatic!!"

The insane driver then slowed down, but only to turn the kart around to face them. "Sorry 'bout that..." she told the two of them in a sinister tone. Punching the gas, she then added, "This time, I won't miss!!"

Diamond and Silver gasped when they realized that the teen was trying to run them down on purpose. In an instant, the two of them quickly spun their karts around and drove as fast as they could in the other direction to try and get away. However, the crazed girl was slowly gaining on them. "D-Diamond...!" Silver Spoon said worryingly. "She's still behind us! If she catches up, it'll be all over for us!"

Diamond, for once, was just as worried as her friend was. Sweat and tears running down her face, she then said, "If we get out of this somehow, Silver... I'm turning over a whole new leaf! I'll stop picking on Apple Bloom and her friends! I'll get involved with a charity! I'll clean my plate! Anything!!"

The crazy aqua-green teenager was getting closer and closer towards the two young girls. It seemed inevitable that Diamond and Silver would be severely injured... or worse. The berserk kart driver got closer... and closer... and closer... until...

...nothing.

All of a sudden, the girl's go-kart had stopped completely, even though her foot was right on the gas pedal. "Huh?!" she asked herself. Looking down at the machine, she repeatedly stomped the gas, pounding it as hard as she could. "What the-? C'mon, you stupid piece of junk! MOVE!!!" But no matter how hard she tried, the small vehicle wouldn't move.

The girl grumbled and looked around her. She gasped when she saw that her go-kart wasn't the only thing that wasn't moving. Everything and everyone around her seemed to be completely frozen. Diamond and Silver still had their horrified facial expressions, even though they appeared to be completely motionless; they weren't even blinking. And not just them: All of the other patrons weren't moving at all either, and the aqua-green girl had no idea why.

"Wha... what's goin' on??" she asked herself. "Why's everything stopped all of a sudden?? Why am I the only one that can move?!"

Just then, the girl heard a bizarre sound coming from behind her. It appeared to be a slow, soft song, played on a harmonica. She turned around in the direction of the music and saw a tall man walking towards her. The man had a walnut-brown face and short, spiky dark brown hair, along with blue eyes. He wore a long, flowing brown overcoat over top of a white shirt, green necktie, and blue pants. He wore a pair of black-and-white shoes on his feet, and on the right side of his coat was a picture of an hourglass. On his left arm was a Duel Pad, which seemed to have a steampunk-like appearance to it. Last but not least, in his hands, was the bronze-colored harmonica that he was playing.

"Who the heck are you?" shouted the aqua-green colored girl.

The man then stopped playing his small instrument and looked over towards the teenager ahead of him. "Hmmmm..." he hummed as a small, red mark appeared over his left eye for about a second. He then looked at the back of the girl's closed fist, spotting a mark that appeared to look like a 91. The man then sighed and asked, "You must be Lightning Dust, am I correct?" His voice appeared to have a British accent to it.

"Huh?! How'd you know my name??" she asked in surprise.

"I know a great deal about you." the man told her. "You are currently sixteen years of age, but you will be seventeen in about... ohhhhh... three months and... one week, if I recall correctly. You are also a student at Crystal Prep Academy, and a member of their Lacrosse team; although I've heard that recently, you were suspended for two games due to, 'unsportsmanlike conduct'. Apparently you got a little TOO aggressive against the other team, even by CPA's standards..."

"Okay, buddy... you're startin' to creep me out here..." said Lightning Dust. "How do you know so much about me? And why?!"

"...How I know are details you would never understand in your lifetime." the man calmly told her. "As for why, the answer is quite simple, really... You have something that I want, and if I plan on obtaining it from you, I'll need as much information on you as possible, in order to plan for every possible contingency."

"What're ya talkin' about?!" asked Lightning, getting more irate. "You're makin' no sense at all! What is it you want from me?!"

"...Your Number card." he answered.

"My what?"

"Number cards only possess other Duelists." the man told her. "And I know for certain that you have one."

Lightning Dust then gasped a little and pulled out a card from a pocket in her skirt. "Hold on... are you talkin' about this card?" she asked, holding it up to him...

*******************************

Number 91: Thunder Spark Dragon:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Dragon-Type/LIGHT/Rank 4/ATK 2400/DEF 2000)

3 Level 4 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn, you can activate 1 of these effects.
* Detach 3 Xyz Materials from this card; destroy all other face-up monsters on the field.
* Detach 5 Xyz Materials from this card; destroy all cards your opponent controls.

*******************************

The aqua-green girl snickered wickedly and told the man, "I don't know where this card came from, or why... But ever since I got it, I've been livin' life in the fast lane! With this thing in my hand, I'll prove that NO ONE is faster than me! And I'll knock away anybody that tries to get in my way!!"

The tall man sighed and said to her, "Just like the others... you've fallen prey to the card's darkness as well. But that will soon change once I confiscate your Number card!"

"You think you can?" asked Lightning Dust mockingly. "Just who do you think you are sayin' junk like that without any way t' back it up?! Who are you?!?"

The man kept his calm demeanor and told her, "In the time it would take for you to pronounce my name, a million galaxies would be destroyed and reborn."

"...Huh?"

"You may simply refer to me as... The Doctor." he then added. "Of course, right now, I also go by another identity, known only by my adversaries: The Number Hunter."

"Number... Hunter?" asked Lightning. She then grumbled and yelled, "Oh who cares?! I'm gettin' real sick n' tired of that annoying attitude of yours!!" Getting out her Duel Pad and Duel Gazer, she then angrily added, "You want my Number card so bad?! Well, get ready, 'cause you're gonna get it!!"

"Yes, 'getting your Number card' is what I intend to do." The Doctor then activated his Duel Pad; a large panel slid out from the top of the touch screen, followed by two more panels that slid out from either side of the first one. Instead of putting on a Duel Gazer, the large red mark that had appeared over his left eye earlier showed up on his face again, this time staying there for good. "It's time to Duel!!"

---------------------------------------------------------------------
25 minutes later...
---------------------------------------------------------------------

What followed after the Doctor's declaration was an epic Duel between him and Lightning Dust. Although everything and everyone around them were still frozen in place, the contest between them was full of action as their monsters fiercely battled each other. But now, by this point, the Duel was about to end...

Lightning Dust shivered in fear as she stared down what appeared to be a humongous dragon. "What... what's that thing...?" she asked, whimpering a little. "I've never seen a monster that powerful before...!"

Drawing a card from his Deck, the Doctor then shouted, "Now, my great beast! Attack!!!" And with that order, the giant dragon behind him let out a powerful blast of light that sped towards his foe, striking her hard.

"AAAAAAAACKKKK!!!!!!" Lightning screamed as she took the heavy hit (Lightning Dust: LP 2,000 - 3,000 = 0) (WINNER: Dr. Whooves). She then toppled over, falling flat on her back, completely knocked out.

The Doctor then watched as a small ball of light phased out of Lightning's chest area. He then pressed a button on his Duel Pad, causing a small electrode to protrude from the front of the device. It then began to charge up with energy, which then caused the ball of light to drift towards it, as if it were a magnet. The electrode then completely absorbed the light ball, and a second later, a card came out of the Duel Pad's Graveyard slot: It was, of course, Lightning Dust's Number card, Thunder Spark Dragon.

"There we go..." the man said to himself as he stared at the card, his red eye mark disappearing as he did so, "Number 91 has been secured." After pocketing the card away in his deck box, he then looked at the chaotic scene in front of him. The now driver-less go-kart was still right on the tails of both Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. "There's just one matter left to attend to..." The Doctor then walked over and picked up Diamond from out of the go-kart. He then placed her outside of the track, on the other side of the wire fence. He then did the same with Silver Spoon.

Once he was content, The Doctor then reached into a pocket in his overcoat, pulling out a small communicator, which he placed over his right ear. He then pressed a small button on it, and after a while, began speaking into it. "Assistant? Are you there?" he said into the device. "...Good. I've located Ms. Lightning Dust and obtained her Number card... Yes... Yes, bring the Tardis over immediately. Once I enter, deactivate the device as we take our leave, as usual... Alright, then."

The man then stuffed the communicator back into his pocket. Not long after he did, a large object began to appear in front of him. It appeared to be a large, blue phone booth (in actuality, it was a police call box, commonly found in England). Once it fully materialized, its door opened, and the man walked inside of it. After the doors shut closed, the booth began to vanish into thin air.

Almost immediately as the strange object vanished, the patrons were able to move again. Diamond and Silver kept right on screaming in terror... until they realized that they weren't in their karts anymore. Before they could say anything, they saw the kart driven by Lightning crash into theirs, all of which of course, were now unoccupied. The three small vehicles were heavily damaged, but no one was hurt.

"Uh... Diamond? What just happened?" asked Silver Spoon, confused.

"Don't look at me, Silver..." the pink-skinned girl replied. "I have no idea what just happened... Not that I'm complaining, of course."

"Hey! Is everybody alright??" shouted a girl's voice from far away. Everyone turned around to see both Cheese Sandwich and Adrenaline Rush running towards them.

"Uh, yeah... we're just fine." Silver told them both. "...Somehow."

Cheese glanced over at the wrecked remains of the three go-karts and sighed, saying, "Aw man... those karts are completely totaled! Good thing I've still got plenty of cash from my album sales..."

"Let's just be glad that nobody got hurt from what happened here." Addie told her boss. "The last thing we need is a lawsuit against the place all because somebody went totally nuts." She then asked Diamond and Silver, "Speaking of which, could the two of you tell me who's responsible for all of this?"

"Hmph! It would be my pleasure!" the pink, tiara-wearing girl replied. "It was some crazy girl with bluish-green skin and yellow hair that did all of that!"

"...You mean her?" asked Addie, pointing to Lightning Dust, who was still lying down on the ground after she was defeated in a Duel earlier on (which nobody in the area even knew took place).

"Huh??" Diamond and Silver glanced over at the aqua-green teenager, now more confused than ever. "What's she doing over there??" Silver then asked. "Last time we saw her, she was behind us in her go-kart!"

"I don't know, but I'll get her to talk! Just watch!" Diamond then put on an angry face as she grabbed Lightning Dust by her shirt collar and brought her to face level with her. "Alright, you jerk!" the pink girl snapped at her. "Why'd you try to run us over?! What do you have to say for yourself?!?"

Lightning Dust groaned as she opened her eyes, which were now bright yellow, as opposed to earlier, when they were purple. In a groggy tone, she began to speak. But all she said was, "N... Number... Hunter... Num... ber... Hunterrrr..." After uttering those words, she then fainted and fell back onto the ground.

"Uh... what's she talking about, Diamond?" asked Silver Spoon.

"Heck if I know..." the pink girl replied. By this point, everyone in the area had gathered together, curious to know what had happened.

Among those in the crowd was Apple Bloom, Applejack's younger sister. After she heard what Lightning Dust had said, she began to ponder about it some more. (Number Hunter...?) she asked herself in her mind.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"A what hunter?"

"Number Hunter, Sunset." Applejack answered her friend, Sunset Shimmer, while they were having lunch at the cafeteria. With them was Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. "Yesterday, when Ah came to the Fun Center t' pick up mah sister and her friends, she told me that Lightnin' Dust was tryin' to run over Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon on the Go-Kart Tracks."

"Wait, did you say Lightning Dust?" asked Rainbow Dash. "From Crystal Prep?"

"Uh huh." the farm girl confirmed, nodding her head yes. "Then, all of a sudden, just when it looked like she'd hurt the two of them, Diamond and Silver were off of the track and out of danger, just before the karts crashed into each other. As for Lightnin', Apple Bloom told me that she was lyin' down on the ground, totally knocked out..."

"Woah..." was all that Sunset could say in regards to Applejack's story.

Fluttershy then decided to speak, telling them, "I've heard that, because of what happened, Lightning Dust was admitted to the hospital for a check-up. It wasn't anything serious, but there's a rumor that, as a result, she actually decided to drop out of the Friendship Games this year. l... I heard that someone named Indigo is going to take her place instead, though it hasn't been confirmed..."

"Hmph... Forgive me for saying this, but I don't feel too sorry for her." Rainbow Dash chimed in. "She's super-annoying, especially in a competition: She's overconfident, boastful, and doesn't think ahead... Not like me." Rainbow's friends just gave her an unconvinced look in response to that comment.

"What about that other thing you mentioned?" Sunset then asked Applejack. "You know... about this 'Number Hunter'?"

"Ah don't know much, Ah'm afraid..." the orange-skinned teen told her friend. "All that mah li'l sis told me was that 'Number Hunter' was the last thing Lightnin' Dust said before she fainted completely."

Sunset Shimmer pondered about that for a while, wondering what those words meant. Just then, Fluttershy gasped and asked, "Oh dear... You don't think that... there's someone else out there collecting those Number cards, do you...?"

The other three girls stopped what they were doing when they heard their friend say that. "No way... You really think that could be true??" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Well, it is a possibility." Sunset responded. "As we already know, the Number cards are extremely powerful, even by the usual standards of an Xyz Monster... So it wouldn't surprise me if there were more people out there trying to get them all."

"But if that's true," Applejack began to say, "then... there's a mighty good chance that this 'Number Hunter', whoever they are... might come after you, Sunset..."

"Oh... my..." squeaked Fluttershy, trembling at the thought of that. Sunset didn't show it on her face, but she did feel worried after Applejack had made that statement.

"Aw, whad'ya got to worry about?" asked Rainbow Dash rhetorically. "Sunset's the toughest Duelist here at school! There's no way she'd lose to some guy just like that!"

"That still doesn't mean that I shouldn't be cautious about it if it IS true." the otherworldly girl informed her. "Whoever this guy is, he must have some extremely powerful skills, especially if he's actively fighting against other Number users... Don't forget; Numbers can only destroy each other in battle, so his Deck must have some sort of strategy to fight them, regardless of that effect that they all have..."

"Well, don't get too worried 'bout it all, Sunset." Applejack told her in a calm tone of voice. "Ah'm sure you'll be able to deal with that guy, if'n when he shows up. You're a smart cookie, and we know you'll come up with somethin'."

"And don't forget, we're all right here by your side t' support ya." Rainbow then said. "Even if it's just in spirit." Fluttershy nodded to say that she felt the same way.

Sunset Shimmer breathed out a happy sigh. "Thanks, girls..." she responded. "That makes me feel a little better... But only just a little."

The other three girls could tell that their good friend was still a little nervous. Suddenly, Applejack spoke up and asked, "Ah got an idea: Ah'm not doin' much after school today... perhaps Ah could come over to your place for a sleepover tonight?"

"A sleepover?" asked the red and yellow girl.

The country girl nodded and added, "Ah was just thinkin' that you'd feel a little better if one of us stayed by your side, just in case."

The otherworldy girl thought about it for a while, thinking of what to do. She then smiled and said to Applejack, "You know... that actually would help me feel a lot better if you did that." Nodding her head yes, she then added, "Alright then, I'd love to have you stop by. I'll just have to let Mr. Roar know that you'll be showing up." The orange girl smiled after hearing that.

Rainbow Dash then took her left hand and placed it upon Sunset's right hand, which was resting on the cafeteria table, saying to her, "You've got nothin' to worry about, Sunset. I know for a fact that you'll be okay... There's no way some guy from out of nowhere will be able to beat you just like that. We know first-hand how tough you are, and you'll be able to beat him at his own game!"

Sunset blushed a little after hearing that. Chuckling a little, she then told her cyan friend, "What I wouldn't give to have even a shred of the confidence and courage you have every day, Rainbow." The athletic teen smirked a little in response as they all shared a small chuckle amongst each other.

Meanwhile, far away from Canterlot High, in what appeared to be a humongous laboratory of some sort, an adult man was strolling past the many strange machines that dotted the facility. The man was none other than the mysterious Duelist that, earlier on, had defeated Lightning Dust in a Duel and took her Number card: The man known simply as, "The Doctor".

Heading towards a large computer system, he stopped a short distance away from a black leather swivel chair. "Good afternoon, my assistant." he spoke, directing his voice towards the chair. "How goes everything?"

The chair spun around to face The Doctor, revealing that there was a young teenage girl sitting in it. The girl had light-grey skin, long blond hair, and golden yellow eyes. However, one of the eyes appeared to be misaligned, giving her an odd-looking appearance. She wore a light blue shirt with a darker blue collar and sleeve cuffs, a yellow necktie, a green skirt with a bubble design printed on it, and small, green shoes with long, white socks.

"Oh! Hi, Doctor!" the girl responded with a cheerful voice. "Everything's going great! I haven't found anyone else with a Number card yet, but that's good news too, right?"

"I suppose it is, Ms. Derpy." The Doctor replied with a smile, patting her on the head a little. "If the computer cannot trace a Number card, then that only means that their power is not controlling anyone." He then asked, "Speaking of which, did you record the most recent Number that I've collected?"

The girl, Derpy Hooves (who was also called "Muffin" on occasions), gasped and said, "Oops! I almost forgot to do that! Just hang on a second..." The grey girl then began to rapidly type up information into the large computer in front of her. After she was done, she then told the man, "All done! With your newest one, you now have a total of four Number cards!"

"Excellent. Things are moving quite smoothly so far!" Putting on a more serious face, he then told his assistant, "Even though it is good to know that no one has become possessed by a Number at the moment, I do hope that one is found soon... The fate of this world depends heavily on it."

"Don't worry, Doctor! I know you'll be able to get them all!" Derpy assured him. "You're such a strong Duelist, especially considering the fact that you've only recently started playing the game! No one will ever be able to get the better of you, because there's no one that's stronger or smarter than you are!"

The man smiled, happy to hear her say that to him. Sighing contently, he told her, "That's what I like about you the most, Ms. Derpy: You're just so optimistic and cheerful, that even the most dire of situations do not feel impossible with you keeping my spirits up... That's just one of the many reasons that I took you on as my assistant." He then said to her, "I just hope that you don't mind having to miss out on school or anything else this year while you're traveling around with me..."

"I told you before," the grey girl told him with a smile, "I'm perfectly okay with it. Sure, I'll miss everyone I know at school, and all of the other stuff back home... But the time that I've spent here with you has been so amazing, that I do not regret this experience for one second!"

The Doctor was also happy to hear that statement as well. "I'm glad you feel that way, Ms. Derpy." he replied. "And it has been a great pleasure to have you here as my assistant." The grey teen smiled back in response.

Just then, the two of them heard a beeping sound coming from the computer. "The scanners!" Derpy exclaimed. "They've found another Number card!"

"Hmmm... that certainly was fast." The Doctor then instructed his assistant, "Trace the signal and find that Number card's current owner, as well as their whereabouts."

"On it." the grey girl stated, typing commands into the computer. The computer screen then displayed a large map of Canterlot City and its surrounding area. Eventually, the systems were able to lock in on the target that it detected, displaying all sorts of information to the two of them. Derpy let out a horrified gasp and said, "Oh no... Of all people to have a Number... why'd it have to be THAT person...?"

"Do you... know this individual...?" asked the man, curious.

"Mhmm..." the grey-skinned teenager meekly answered, nodding yes.

"...And I can only assume that your relationship with this person wasn't exactly a good one?" the Doctor then asked.

Derpy shook her head no and told him, "It wasn't... This person's mean; and I mean REALLY mean. That person's caused SO much trouble in school... They didn't care who they hurt, as long as they got what they wanted!"

"And did they... do anything particularly upsetting to you in the past?" asked the man. Derpy then nodded yes to answer his question. The Doctor then put on a serious expression and said to his assistant, "In that case, this mission will be more than just simply obtaining another Number card... It will also be about getting you justice for whatever happened between you and this person..."

"So what's your plan, Doctor?" Derpy asked him.

"...Set a course for Canterlot City." he instructed her. "And once we arrive... I promise you that I will seek out and vanquish the one known as..."

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunset Shimmer spent the hours following the end of the school day at her apartment in the building on Jump Street. After informing the landlord, Manny Roar, that a friend of hers would be coming by to visit, the gruff, but kindly man made sure to allow her inside when she arrived. As the afternoon ended and dusk began, the otherworldly girl heard a knock on her door while she was watching TV. "I'm coming!" she called out as she got up off of her sofa and ran to the door.

Opening the door, she then saw that her friend Applejack had finally shown up, carrying some things in a suitcase. "Howdy, Sunset!" she greeted. "Sorry Ah'm later than Ah said Ah'd be; just had t' tie up some loose ends at the farm, some of them actually involvin' tying somethin' up."

"It's okay, Applejack." Sunset told her. "Better late than never, as they say. Come on in."

Applejack walked into the super-sized apartment and set her bag down next to the sofa that Sunset had previously been sitting in. Letting out a short whistle, she then told her red and yellow friend, "Ah'll still never get over how amazin' this place of yours is..."

"That makes two of us." Sunset chimed in. She then asked her friend, "So... what do you want to do first?"

After discussing it for a while, the two of them made a decision: The first thing that they did was pop up some popcorn, change into their pajamas, and watch some DVDs that the farm girl had brought with her from home. It was from a show that the red and yellow girl had never seen before, so of course, she had asked a few questions about it.

"Sooooo... lemme get this straight:" Sunset began to inquire, "This show's about some guy who's stuck up in outer space with these robots... and they're all forced to watch really bad movies?"

AJ gulped down some popcorn kernels and answered her, saying, "That's right. So to keep themselves from goin' crazy n' stuff, they make fun of the movie the entire time they're watchin' it."

"Sounds like an odd premise for a TV show." the otherworldly girl noted. "But I guess since it went on for so long, it must be pretty popular."

"Pretty popular?" repeated Applejack. "Y'all don't know the half of it." Munching on some more of the popcorn, she then added, "Actually, Big Mac's the one who got me into it; we've been collectin' the DVDs ever since."

"I can see why; it does get pretty funny after a while." Sunset coughed a little and told her friend, "Yeesh... all of that popcorn is making me thirsty; I'm gonna go and get some drinks from the soda fountain. Do you want anything?"

"Sure. Get me a Palomino Punch, if y'all don't mind." the country girl replied. The otherworldly girl nodded and headed towards the bar stand in the corner, to the left of the room's entrance.

Outside, on the apartment building's roof, a large object had slowly materialized itself into existance. It was the police call box that was owned by The Doctor. Once it came into view, its door opened, allowing the overcoat-wearing man to exit. Glancing around, he seemed unaffected by the cold nighttime winds that were blowing past him and causing the bottom of his overcoat to flutter around.

"Here we are..." he said to himself. "It's time to get to work..." He then strapped on his Duel Pad and pressed a button on it, activating some sort of device...

Back inside of Sunset's apartment, the red and yellow girl made her way to the soda fountain that she had behind the bar counter. She then took one of the glasses next to the machine, placed it under one of the taps and pressed the switch to dispense the liquid inside. However, nothing came out of it.

"Huh?" Sunset asked herself when she saw that the fountain wasn't doing anything. She pressed the tap again, but still nothing happened. "Aw man... is this thing broken?" she asked herself. "Great..." Walking back over to her friend, she began to tell her, "Uh, sorry AJ... the fountain's broken; I'm gonna go and tell Mr. Roar that-" But she cut her sentence short when she saw a rather odd scene in front of her:

Applejack was sitting completely motionless on the couch, seemingly unaware that Sunset was standing right nearby her. The show that they had been watching seemed to be stuck on one scene and was making no sound whatsoever. Finally, there were several pieces of popcorn floating in mid-air near Applejack's mouth; it seemed that the farm girl had begun tossing the kernels into her mouth before the bizarre event occurred.

"A-Applejack?? Applejack!" Sunset shouted, waving her hand in front of her face. But the orange teen made no response at all. Getting worried, the otherworldly girl thought, (What's going on here...? Why does she look like she's frozen??)

Running out of the room, Sunset looked around for any clues pertaining to Applejack's current state. But all she saw was more of the same: All around her, she saw tenants and staff frozen in action, completely unaware of the red and yellow girl's presence. The large grandfather clock in the hallway was also stopped, its long pendulum not moving back and forth like it usually did.

"What... what could have done this...??" asked Sunset, trembling a little.

Just then, the pajama-clad teen heard a loud voice around her, seemingly coming from a speaker of some sort. "May I have your attention please?" said the voice, with a hint of a British accent to it. "Would Ms. Sunset Shimmer please report to the roof of the building with your dueling Deck immediately? I repeat: Would Ms. Sunset Shimmer please report to the roof of the building with your dueling Deck immediately? Thank you."

"The... roof?" Sunset asked herself, not sure what was going on. Eventually, she decided that she should follow the voice's directions and head to the roof, assuming that she would find an answer there...

On the roof of the building, in front of the large, blue call box, The Doctor stood waiting for something... or someone. As he waited patiently, he took out the communicator in his coat pocket and placed it on his right ear before speaking into it. "Ms. Derpy? Are the video and audio feeds working properly?" he asked.

"Yes, Doctor!" the grey-skinned girl spoke from the other end. "I can see and hear you perfectly well!"

"Good." the man replied. "Now remember: I want you to remain in the Tardis at all times. As long as you are in there, my device will not affect you. But the very moment you leave the Tardis, you will be frozen in time like everything else."

"Don't worry, I remember." Derpy told him. She then asked the man, "Doctor... are you sure you want to fight Sunset? I told you earlier; she's not exactly a nice person... and that was BEFORE she got a Number card."

"I'll have to face her sooner or later, Ms. Derpy..." The Doctor told his assistant. "Better I fight her now, than after she obtains any more Numbers..."

"I suppose you make a good point." the grey-skinned girl told him. "Still, be careful, okay...?"

"I promise." the man told her. Just as he switched off his communicator, he heard footsteps coming towards him. The door ahead of him opened and out from behind it came Sunset Shimmer, wearing her pajamas and pink, fluffy Unicorn slippers, as well as her Duel Pad and Duel Gazer. "I see that you've decided to arrive, Ms. Shimmer." he told her.

"Who are you?" asked the red and yellow girl. "Did you have something to do with freezing everypo-er, everybody in the building?!" Her face and tone of voice told everyone that she wanted some answers right now.

"...You can call me The Doctor." the man told her, answering her first question. "As for your second question, the answer is yes... as well as no."

"What do you mean by that...?"

"You are correct that I had a hand in operating a device that has affected every tenant and staff member in this block of flats." The Doctor informed her. "However," he then said, "they are not actually frozen." Turning around and pointing to the call box behind him, he added, "As we speak, a device that I have built into the Tardis - that is the booth that lies behind me - is projecting a powerful energy field. This field has the ability to slow down time to one-ten thousandth of its normal speed, which merely gives the illusion that time has stopped dead in its tracks."

"Well, I guess that explains WHAT is going on around here..." Sunset noted. "Now I just want to know WHY... What are you getting out of slowing down time whenever you want?"

"It's very simple, actually..." the man then said. "Notice how everything here is moving slow except for the two of us? That is because only type of person can move freely within this field..." Narrowing his eyes, he then told her, "Only those who possess Number cards are unaffected."

Sunset let out a gasp when she heard him say that. At that moment, an ill feeling came over her when she realized something about the man after he made that statement. "Wait a minute..." she muttered. "That must mean... that you're that Number Hunter guy that I've heard about!"

Derpy, who was watching from inside of the Tardis, gasped a little when Sunset said that. "She already knew about him??" the grey-skinned girl asked herself. "How is that possible?"

The Doctor also seemed slightly surprised that Sunset knew about him already. "Hmmm... impressive. You have heard of me... I didn't know that my reputation would spread this quickly. But I suppose anything is quite possible." Looking straight at Sunset, he then asked her, "So... since you already know of my other identity, you must also know what I am here for."

"Believe me, I know exactly what you want from me, sir." the red and yellow girl answered. "But you're not going to get it! I won't allow you to take my Number cards!"

The Doctor hummed a little to himself and responded, saying to her, "I am afraid that it is for your own good that I take them, Ms. Shimmer. That sort of power does not belong in your hands. Better I take them now before you unleash their wicked energy on someone."

"Well, if you think that they're so wicked," Sunset then began to inquire, "then why are YOU collecting them? Why would you willingly put yourself at risk of falling prey to their power by obtaining them? And what's more, how do I know that you're not going to use them for some malicious reason?"

The man said nothing at first to answer the questions that she gave to him, as if he wasn't expecting her to ask something like that. Coming up with an answer, he then told her, "My reasons for doing what I am doing are not any of your concern... But I can assure you that my actions are just."

"Oh really?" asked the otherworldly girl, still not totally convinced.

"...Believe me or don't. It matters not." The Doctor said. "What does matter is that I have my mission, and I suppose that you have strong convictions of your own as well... The only way that we will be able to settle this dispute between us is through a Duel, don't you agree?"

Thinking for a while, Sunset then asked the man, "Not that I think it would matter, but... what if I were to refuse?"

"You do not have that option, I'm afraid." The Doctor informed her. "My device will not stop projecting the energy field until we duel; once the Duel's result has been decided - win, lose, or draw - the energy field will slowly vanish, along with its effects. Now do you understand the gravity of the situation, Ms. Shimmer?"

"I get it now." the red and yellow girl replied. "That device doesn't merely allow you to find Number holders, it also ensures that they don't have a choice but to duel you. You'll keep the field going until they accept your challenge."

"Precisely." The Doctor confirmed.

Sunset sighed and said to him, "Well, I guess that means that you'll get what you want... at least as far as a Duel." Activating her Duel Pad and Gazer, she then told him with pure confidence in her voice, "But don't expect an easy win! I won't let you defeat me!"

"Hmmmm... if I had a pound for every time I've heard that from an opponent," the man told her, "...well, I suppose that I would have three pounds so far." The Doctor activated his Duel Pad, just like Sunset had done before him. After doing so, the red mark on his eye reappeared. "I do not expect you to make it easy, but I made a promise that I would stop you! Now prepare to face the power of the Number Hunter!" (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000) (Dr. Whooves: LP 4,000)

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Derpy, from inside of the Tardis, watched as both Sunset and The Doctor drew their first five cards from their respective Decks. She then looked over at the red and yellow girl on the computer screen with a slightly angry glare.

"This is it..." the grey girl said to herself. "The Doctor's finally going to fight her..." Growling a bit, she then added, "Finally, Sunset... you're going to pay for what you did to everyone at school... What you did to me... I still remember the last time you bullied me like it was yesterday..."

---------------------------------------------------------------------
One year ago...
---------------------------------------------------------------------

In a relatively empty hallway in Canterlot High School, the young teenager Derpy trembled as she backed up against a wall of lockers. "P-p-please..." she meekly said as she shook. "Please don't be mad... I'm... I'm sure that there's a way that we could work things out... I-I'm sure there was some sort of mistake..."

Standing in front of the scared girl was none other than an angry Sunset Shimmer. Back when this event took place, Twilight Sparkle had not yet visited the school, and Sunset was still a cold, cruel individual. Behind her were two younger boys: One was Snails, who had dirty orange skin and bluish green hair, and the other was a blue-skinned boy with messy orange hair named Snips.

"I didn't ask you to start making excuses, Weird-Eyes." Sunset told her in a forceful tone of voice. "What I asked you to do is to explain to me WHY that article about me in the school newspaper didn't get printed!"

"B-b-but I-I'm not in charge of that, Ms. Sunset...!" Derpy whimpered. "I'm not the one who decides what gets printed in the Foal Free Press and what doesn't..."

Grumbling, Sunset then told her, "Look: I made one simple request; one teeny-tiny little request... I wrote up an article to inform the whole school as to why I should be elected as this year's Fall Formal Princess... And I thought I made it QUITE clear to you that I wanted it printed IMMEDIATELY! So what happened?!?"

"Um... um..." Derpy knew the reason, but she was too scared to say it: The self-praising article that Sunset had written was pushed aside to allow room for more important articles instead.

Groaning out of frustration, the red and yellow girl then told her, "Luckily for you, I have OTHER matters to attend to before the Fall Formal begins in three days, so I'll deal with you later..." She then turned to the two boys behind her and told them, "Snips! Snails! Let's go." The three of them then left the hallway, leaving a frightened and trembling Derpy behind...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"You hurt a lot of people, Sunset Shimmer..." Derpy said to herself with a scowl, "but now the shoe's on the other foot... And once The Doctor gets through with you, you'll be the scared, miserable wreck instead!"

Back outside, Sunset and The Doctor were ready to begin their Duel. But both sides seemed a bit unsure about the other. (What's this guy's deal...?) the otherworldly girl thought to herself. (What does he want the Number cards for?) Sunset noticed something else about the strange man that only raised more questions...

(What's more...) she continued to ponder, (he isn't acting like the any of the other Number users that I've dueled against... He still appears to be sane; and besides that, that glare he's been giving me is making me think that there's more to this than just taking my Number cards... like he's got some personal grudge against me. But I know that I've never met him before... so what's he got against me?)

The Doctor was not sure about his opponent either. (This girl... she seems different from the other three people that I've dueled against so far...) he thought. (So far, the Number holders that I've encountered were acting completely out of their character, becoming violent, reckless, and dangerous... But none of them questioned why I wanted their Number cards, or asked me what I planned on doing with them. This girl, however... seems to be the exceptional case... Something tells me that this won't be like the other encounters.) Shaking his head, he then told himself, (No matter... I promised Ms. Derpy that I would defeat this person for her... And I always make good on my promises!)

"I'll begin this Duel, if you don't mind." Sunset informed her opponent. Taking out a card from her hand, she declared, "I Summon Chronomaly Nebra Disk in Attack Mode!" After playing her card, her green disk-shaped monster appeared in front of her (Chronomaly Nebra Disk: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1500). "Next, I activate Nebra Disk's effect and take Chronomaly Pyramid Eye Tablet out of my Deck." She then told the man. "Lastly, I'll set one card face-down to end my turn."

"Very well, then. I draw!" The Doctor pulled his first card from the top of his Deck and looked at it. (This will be needed much later.) he thought as he placed the card in his hand before taking out a different card. "From my hand," he then declared, "I activate Photon Veil!"

*******************************

Photon Veil:
(Normal Spell Card)

Shuffle 3 LIGHT monsters from your hand into the Deck, then add 1 to 3 Level 4 or lower LIGHT monsters from your Deck to the hand. If you add 2 or more monsters, they must have the same name.

*******************************

The Doctor then selected three monsters in his hand and shuffled them into his Deck. "Now," he said, "I shall take three new monsters from my Deck to place into my hand!" After he took his cards from the Deck, he then shouted, "Next, I shall play Photon Lead, which permits me to Special Summon a Level 4 or lower LIGHT-Attribute monster from my hand in Attack Mode!" Taking out one of his other cards, he then placed it onto his card tray. "Come forth, Daybreaker!"

The Doctor's first monster was a tall knight in bright white armor. He wore a long, flowing cape that was colored red, wore a helmet that covered all but his eyes, and carried a large sword with a spiked handle (Daybreaker: Level 4 / ATK 1700 / DEF 0).

Just then, Sunset gasped after seeing her opponent's first move. "I see what you're doing...!" she told him.

"Hm?" hummed the man.

"Don't think that I'm not onto your plan, Doctor." the otherworldly girl said. "You used that first Spell Card of yours to pull three of those Daybreakers out of your Deck. You did that because you had a way of Special Summoning one of them and triggering its ability. An ability that will let you Special Summon the other two cards, am I right?"

"Hmmmm... impressive. You actually figured out my strategy." the man replied, legitimately impressed by Sunset's sharp mind.

"Well, it's been done before." the red and yellow girl informed him. "It's not news to me."

"Well, you are correct:" The Doctor confirmed. "By Special Summoning Daybreaker, I can now Special Summon another Daybreaker from my hand." He then took a second copy of the card and placed it onto the Duel Pad's tray in Attack Mode. "And the second Daybreaker's effect then allows me to Summon the third one!" And he did just that, playing his third monster onto the field.

"Which means that you have enough monsters to bring out an Xyz Monster..." noted Sunset Shimmer.

"Indeed, you are correct." the man told her. "But now let's see if you can overcome my strategy as easily as you predicted it!" Raising his hand into the air, The Doctor shouted, "I overlay my three Level 4 Daybreakers to create an Overlay Network!!" In an instant, his three monsters transformed into three balls of yellow light that were sucked into a galaxy-like portal in front of him. The portal then exploded, revealing a mark on the ground that looked like a 91. "I Xyz Summon... Number 91: Thunder Spark Dragon!!"

Sunset braced herself as a giant ball of electricity descended from the clouds above, bringing with it large lightning bolts that struck the roof around them. The white ball of light then began to form into a different shape, becoming longer and more serpentine in appearance. The creature that appeared was a large, snake-like dragon with a blue, scaled body, sharp teeth, and long, yellow whiskers coming from the sides of its head. Just beside its left eye was a purple 91 symbol (Number 91: Thunder Spark Dragon: Rank 4 / ATK 2400 / DEF 2000 / OLU 3).

"Woah... he just played a Number on his first turn..." Sunset said to herself in awe.

The Doctor stood proudly beside the giant creature that he had summoned as he told his opponent, "This is my newest Number card, courtesy of Ms. Lightning Dust... And with its power, I shall defeat you and obtain your Numbers as well!"

"Just try it!" the otherworldly girl told him without fear.

"As you wish." The Doctor then pulled out the three cards underneath his Xyz Monster and declared, "I remove all three of Thunder Spark Dragon's Overlay Units! By doing so, I can now destroy all other face-up monsters on the field!!" (Number 91: Thunder Spark Dragon: OLU 3 - 3 = 0)

Sunset gasped as a bolt of lightning shot from the clouds above and shattered her only monster on the field. Derpy, watching from the safety of the Tardis, cheered for her friend. "Yay! Way to go, Doctor!" she said happily.

The mysterious man then told his opponent, "Now that you have no more monsters on the field, I can strike your Life Points directly! Go, Thunder Spark Dragon!! Attack with Lightning Blitz!!" The giant serpent then let out a powerful shriek as it summoned a giant thundercloud above its head. From out of that cloud came many lightning bolts that shot towards Sunset Shimmer. The girl shielded herself from the attack as best as she could, but the bolts still managed to knock her down, causing her to fall on her rear end (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000 - 2,400 = 1,600).

The Doctor then said to Sunset, "It appears that my move has caused quite a bit of damage to you... Seems as though you can't predict everything."

Sunset slowly got up onto her feet and told him, "That's what you think..." Tapping her Duel Pad, she then shouted, "I activate my Trap Card, Hope for Escape!"

"Hope for Escape??" asked the man. "But that card can only be activated if I have at least 1,000 more Life Points than you..."

"Exactly." the otherworldly girl confirmed. "Given your reputation, I figured you'd pull off a strong move right away, so I prepared for it. Thanks to this card, I can pay 1,000 of my Life Points to draw one more card for every 2,000 points of difference between our scores!" She then drew her next card and added it to her hand (Sunset Shimmer: LP 1,600 - 1,000 = 600).

"Maybe so... but that move brought you down to just 600 Life Points." The Doctor reminded her. "Which means that if I land one more successful attack, you'll have lost without causing even one point of damage to me! But don't feel too bad: No one else has been able to damage me in a Duel so far."

"Well, don't get too cocky... there's a first time for everything." stated the red and yellow girl.

The man wasn't even slightly intimidated by Sunset's words as he took out the last card in his hand and placed it into the Spell & Trap Zone slot on his Duel Pad. "I'll set a face-down card and end my turn for now." He then thought to himself, (Now... let's see what you can do, Ms. Shimmer...)

Sunset prepared to draw her next card, still breathing heavily after the blow she received earlier. (This guy's tough...) she thought to herself, (one of the toughest Duelists I've faced so far... Now I can see how he's been able to deal with the Number cards...) Putting on a look of determination, she then said in her mind, (But I'm not gonna back down! I don't know what he's planning to do with those Numbers once he gets them all... and I don't want to risk the safety of myself and the rest of my friends just to find out... So I have no choice but to take him down!)

"It's my turn! I draw!!" the girl shouted as she drew her next card. After looking at it, Sunset then took out a different card (specifically, the one she drew with the effect of her earlier Trap Card) and declared her next move. "First, from my hand, I play the Spell Card, Shard of Greed!"

*******************************

Shard of Greed:
(Continuous Spell Card)

Each time you draw a card(s) for your normal draw in your Draw Phase, place 1 Greed Counter on this card. You can send this card with 2 or more Greed Counters to the Graveyard; draw 2 cards.

*******************************

(She's planning to reinforce her hand later in this Duel...) The Doctor hypothesized. (But I'll defeat her before she can make good use of those extra cards!)

"Next, I'll Summon Chronomaly Gordian Knot in Attack Mode!" Sunset Shimmer declared, placing the Monster Card on her Duel Pad's card tray. In an instant, the confusing knot-shaped monster appeared in front of her (Chronomaly Gordian Knot: Level 3 / ATK 300 / DEF 900). "And when Gordian Knot is Normal Summoned, its effect lets me Special Summon another Chronomaly from my hand to join it! And I choose to play Chronomaly Crystal Skull!" She then played the card that she had just drawn this turn, calling up her shiny, skull-shaped monster (Chronomaly Crystal Skull: Level 3 / ATK 900 / DEF 600).

"Sunset just Summoned two monsters with the same Level..." noted Derpy, still watching the Duel on the giant computer screen. "Does this mean that...?"

(...She's about to bring out her Number card.) thought The Doctor. (I knew it was only a matter of time.)

"I overlay my Level 3 Gordian Knot and Crystal Skull, and create an Overlay Network!" shouted Sunset Shimmer as her two monsters transformed into a pair of lights, one orange and one yellow, that flew into a red portal that opened in front of her. "And now... I Xyz Summon... Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut!!"

Out of the red spiral portal, a human-shaped figure clad in purple armor leaped out and took its place in front of Sunset. Its shiny armor shone in the bright moonlight as it folded its arms in front of itself (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: Rank 3 / ATK 2100 / DEF 1000 / OLU 2).

The man put on a perplexed look after Sunset brought out her Xyz Monster. (Wait a moment... That isn't a Number card...) he thought, slightly confused.

"Huh? What's going on??" asked Derpy, also unsure of what was going on. "She DIDN'T summon a Number? That doesn't usually happen..."

The Doctor didn't understand why Sunset didn't bring out one of her Numbers, but decided to push that question aside for a moment to focus his attention back to the Duel. "Your monster may be... interesting, to say the least," he told her, "but it has less attack points in comparison to mine... You would have been better off using a Number of your own to fight mine."

"Actually, that probably wouldn't have helped me in this situation." Sunset told him. "You are right: my monster is weaker than yours... right now, at least." She then showed her opponent a card in her hand: Chronomaly Pyramid Eye Tablet. "Did you already forget about the card that Nebra Disk put in my hand last turn?" she asked him with a slight smirk.

The Doctor gasped; he DID forget about that card. "Oh no...!" he spoke.

"I play the Continuous Spell, Chronomaly Pyramid Eye Tablet!" shouted the otherworldly girl. "This card increases the attack power of all of my Chronomaly monsters by 800 points!" After playing the card, a powerful-looking red aura surrounded her Xyz Monster, strengthening it considerably (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: ATK 2100 + 800 = 2900).

"Uh oh..." Derpy said, trembling a little. "Now Sunset's monster is more powerful!"

Growling a bit, The Doctor then reminded his opponent, "You do know that my Thunder Spark Dragon cannot be defeated by anything except another Number?"

"That doesn't matter! You'll still take damage equal to the difference between their attack power!" shouted the red and yellow girl. "Chrononaut!! Attack his dragon!!"

Sunset's monster then took a mighty leap into the air, positioning itself in front of Thunder Spark Dragon's face. It then pulled its arm back and delivered an ultra-powerful punch to the side of the Number card's face, knocking it down to the ground hard. Though the dragon wasn't destroyed by the attack, the force of the blow caused some slight damage to The Doctor's Life Points (Dr. Whooves: LP 4,000 - 500 = 3,500).

"Urrrgh!!" grunted the man upon taking the hit. Though the damage to his Life Points was small, the force of the attack felt very powerful to him.

"Oh no! Doctor!!!" screamed Derpy. "Are you alright?!"

"...Urrgh... I'm fine." he said to his assistant through the communicator. "I just didn't expect to take that hit, that's all..." Looking back towards Sunset Shimmer, he then pondered to himself, (Something's off about all of this... She didn't Summon a Number to fight me with... and yet... the force of that attack of hers was very powerful, considering the fact that the damage was only 500 points... There's clearly more to this girl than meets the eye, and it seems that not even using one of my Numbers on her will be enough to faze her.) Smirking a bit, he then thought, (But I think I might have ONE monster in my Deck that will do the job nicely...)

"Alright, that's the end of my turn, then..." Sunset told the man. "So make your move."

"Very well then... I draw!" The Doctor pulled his next card from the Deck and looked at it. Smiling, he told his foe, "You're definitely different from the other Number users that I've fought so far, Ms. Shimmer; you're much more powerful... So I suppose I should take this Duel a bit more seriously."

The otherworldly girl raised an eyebrow, wondering what he meant by that.

"I reveal my face-down Trap Card, Flash of Hope!" The Doctor told her, flipping over his Set card. "By banishing two LIGHT-Attribute monsters from my Graveyard, I can Special Summon 1 new LIGHT monster from my Deck in Defense Mode. So I banish two of the three Daybreakers in my Graveyard..." He took out two cards from his Graveyard slot and placed them in his coat pocket as he spoke. "...and then call Cybernetic Magician to the field!!"

The Doctor's new monster was a white-skinned human with yellow hair, wearing a white outfit with silver armor. Under the outfit was a blue pair of pants, and in his hand was a silver wand with a blue jewel on the front of it (Cybernetic Magician: Level 6 / ATK 2400 / DEF 1000).

"Of course, Flash of Hope does have its negative side effects." the man then stated. "The monster it Summons has its effects negated and it is destroyed at the end of my turn."

"Then what was the point?" asked Sunset Shimmer. Just then, the answer came to her. "Wait a second...! You're going to use it to Summon an even stronger monster, aren't you?!"

"Very perceptive, Ms. Shimmer." The Doctor answered her. Holding up the card he had just drawn, he told his opponent. "The monster in my hand is a creature like none you have ever faced before... It's a monster so powerful, that it can even bring a Number card to its knees..."

"I don't like the sound of that..." the red and yellow girl replied, getting a bit worried.

"I now release both Thunder Spark Dragon and Cybernetic Magician to Special Summon my most powerful monster to the field!!" shouted The Doctor. In an instant, both of his monsters were sucked into a pair of whirlwinds which then merged together into one large cyclone.

"Huh?!? Did he just get rid of his Number card?!" Sunset asked herself, astounded by the shocking move of her opponent.

"Yes!!" cheered Derpy, getting her hopes up once more. "Sunset's REALLY gonna get it now!"

When the cyclone disappeared, it left behind a strange, cross-shaped, boomerang-like object. The Doctor then began to chant, "The galaxy that lurks in the darkness. Become the light of hope and my very servant!" He then grabbed a hold of the bizarre object and hurled it into the air as hard as he could. "Descend now, embodiment of light!" he shouted as the object stopped high in the air and began to get brighter and brighter by the second.

"Wh-what's going on?!" Sunset asked. Looking up at the object in the air (and shielding her eyes from its intense light) she then thought to herself, (That... that thing is pulling in all of the light around us...!)

Placing the card in his hand onto his Duel Pad, The Doctor then finished his summoning chant. "Appear now, Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon!"

The object in the air then let out a brilliant flash that shone for several seconds, bathing the surrounding area with its intense light. The light then began to form into a large shape, which Sunset immediately recognized as a dragon. The dragon seemed to be made of pure energy, its body mostly light-blue in color, sparsely covered with bits of red and dark blue armor. It had enormous wings that shone brilliantly in the moonlight, and it had a long, spiked tail that looked like it could topple a building with one swipe. Its eyes had large, swirling lights where its pupils would have been that looked like galaxies; apparently, that's where the monster had gotten its name from.

*******************************

Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon:
(Effect Monster/Dragon-Type/LIGHT/Level 8/ATK 3000/DEF 2500)

You can Special Summon this card (from your hand) by Tributing 2 monsters with 2000 or more ATK. During either player's Battle Step, when this card battles an opponent's monster: You can target the monster this card is battling; banish both the opponent's monster and this card. At the end of the Battle Phase, return any monsters banished by this effect to the field, and if the other monster was an Xyz Monster, this card gains 500 ATK for each Xyz Material it had when it was banished.

*******************************

Sunset Shimmer was at a loss for words when she saw the uber-powerful monster that The Doctor Summoned to his side of the field. (What... what is that thing...?) she thought. (What kind of monster is that...? It's like nothing I've ever seen before... That thing makes the giant dragons in Equestria look like kittens in comparison!) The red and yellow girl trembled, not sure what to expect now.

"Are you scared, Ms. Shimmer?" asked The Doctor. "Well, I can't say that I blame you; Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon is the most powerful monster in my Deck... and no creature of this world is able to touch it, let alone defeat it..."

"Every card has a weakness, Doctor..." the otherworldly girl told him sternly. "And I'll find your dragon's weakness before this Duel ends!"

"I'm afraid that won't happen, Ms. Shimmer." the mysterious man informed his foe. "My Galaxy-Eyes will devour your remaining Life Points... and then justice will finally be served!"

"What are you talking about...?" asked Sunset, confused by what he meant with his last remark.

"You'll see soon enough!" The Doctor then shouted a command to his mighty dragon. "Go! Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon!! Attack Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut!!" The massive creature then let out a loud roar that shook the area around them.

"Bad move, Doc!" Sunset told him. "I now activate the effect of Crystal Chrononaut! By removing one Overlay Unit, I can make him indestructible for the rest of this turn, and send all the damage from this battle right back at you!!" Her monster then absorbed one of the yellow spheres that orbited around it into its mirror, preparing to use its ability (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: OLU: 2 -1 = 1).

"Hmph... did you honestly believe that I wasn't aware of your monster's effect?" asked The Doctor. "I knew that you would do something like that!"

"Y-you did??" asked the red and yellow girl in shock.

"Your monster is not the only one with a special effect, Ms. Shimmer!" the man told her. "Now behold the true power of Galaxy-Eyes!!" At that moment, the gigantic dragon's body began glowing even brighter than ever, covering the surrounding area in a light so intense, Sunset and Derpy had to cover their eyes so as not to go blind from it. When the light finally died down, Sunset gasped when she saw the scene in front of her...

"N-no way...!" she stuttered. "Both of our monsters are gone...!!"

"Quite correct." The Doctor replied. "Whenever Galaxy-Eyes battles an opponent's monster, I can choose to banish both your monster and my dragon from the field! As a result, your Chrononaut's ability has been nullified, since it is no longer on the field!"

"Perhaps... but it cost you your monster as well." Sunset Shimmer reminded him. "Seems like a tactical error to me..."

The mysterious man chuckled a little and asked his opponent, "...Oh, is it?" He then told her, "I now end my Battle Phase..."

And right after he said those words, a large ball of light began to materialize in front of them. Before Sunset could ask what was going on, the ball exploded into a flash, and soon after, the otherworldly girl saw that both of their monsters had returned to the field. "They're... they're back?!?" she asked in surprise. "What's going on??"

"After the end of the Battle Phase," The Doctor explained, "all the monsters that Galaxy-Eyes banished return to the field, in the same battle positions that they were in. Of course, your monster looks worse for the wear..."

Sunset looked at her monster and realized an important fact: because it had left the field, its last Overlay Unit was sent to the Graveyard (Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut: OLU 0). (No...!) the girl thought to herself. (I can't use his effect to protect him anymore!)

"And that's not all, I'm afraid." the man then told her. "My dragon has one more effect: Since it banished an Xyz Monster, it gains an additional 500 attack points for every Overlay Unit your monster had, prior to being banished!" As he said that, a yellow orb emerged from a violet-colored portal in the center of the battlefield and phased itself into his dragon, increasing its power by a small amount (Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon: ATK 3000 + 500 = 3500).

Sunset gasped when she saw the man's powerful dragon become even more powerful. "So not only can it remove itself from the field, it can also gain power from Overlay Units?!" she asked in shock.

Derpy smiled; normally, she didn't get enjoyment out of watching someone squirm. But Sunset was the exception. "Now you're in deep trouble, Sunset..." she said. "The Doctor's gonna beat you just like that other girl did last year!"

The Doctor then told his opponent, "My Galaxy-Eyes has 3,500 attack points right now, which is 600 more than your Crystal Chrononaut. And 600 also happens to be the exact amount of Life Points you have left. So unless you do something on your next turn, you will lose."

Sunset was a bit scared of the giant creature that the strange man had Summoned, but wasn't going to let that fear get in the way of her dueling. "Well, doing something on my next turn is exactly what I had in mind!" she told him as she drew her next card, Fire Ant Ascator (Shard of Greed: Greed Counters 0 + 1= 1). After looking at it, she thought, (Darn... this won't be able to help me right now... I need to try and hold out for a little while longer until I can find a way defeat his dragon...)

"First, I switch my Crystal Chrononaut to Defense Mode." the otherworldly girl then told the man. "Then, since I only control Chronomaly monsters on my field, I can bring back Chronomaly Nebra Disk from the Graveyard!" After she said that, her green disk monster emerged from a violet-colored portal on her side of the field and put itself in Defense Mode. "Lastly, I'll set one card face-down to end my turn."

"My turn, then... I draw!" The Doctor shouted as he drew his next card. "And now I Summon the monster I just drew in Attack Mode! Sunlight Unicorn!!" His next monster was a large, white Unicorn with a flowing, blue mane and tail and a dark grey horn (Sunlight Unicorn: Level 4 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1000).

(A... Unicorn?) Sunset asked in her mind. (...Really?) The irony of the situation was that, in Equestria, Sunset Shimmer was also a Unicorn.

"And now, I attack your Chrononaut with Galaxy-Eyes!" shouted the man as he stretched his hand out towards his foe. "Go!! Photon Stream of Destruction!!" The giant beast then let out a powerful blast of energy from its maw, reducing the red and yellow girl's Xyz Monster to nothing more than a vapor. "And next, my Sunlight Unicorn shall attack your Nebra Disk!!" The Doctor then shouted as his second monster galloped forward and rammed itself into Sunset's remaining monster, horn-first. Nerba Disk was shattered into many small pieces as a result.

(Rrrgh...! He just wiped out all of my monsters!) thought the otherworldly girl in despair. (But I can't give up now...! I have to try and beat him!) She then shouted, "I activate the Trap Card, Stonehenge Methods! This lets me replace my destroyed Chronomaly monster with another one from my Deck that's Level 4 or lower! And I choose my Chronomaly Golden Jet!" She then took the appropriate card from out of her Deck and placed it horizontally on her Duel Pad. After doing so, a gold colored jet plane-shaped monster flew in from out of the sky (Chronomaly Golden Jet: Level 4 / ATK 1300 / DEF 1400).

(Hmmm... she's still not giving in.) The Doctor thought to himself. (I'll just have to push her even more... It's the only way that she will Summon her Number card... Once she does, it will confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is possessed by one.) He then told her, "In that case, I will activate the effect of Sunlight Unicorn: Once per turn, I can excavate the top card of my Deck and reveal it; if that card is an Equip Spell Card, I can put it in my hand."

Sunset watched as the man took the top card of his Deck and showed it to her. Her heart sank when she saw what it was. "Fairy Meteor Crush...?!" she asked in disbelief.

"Indeed, Ms. Shimmer." The Doctor confirmed. "This card grants any monster on the field the power to inflict piercing battle damage... So when I play it on my Galaxy-Eyes next turn, I will be able to defeat you once and for all..." He then told her, "And once I do, I'll have fulfilled my promise to her by defeating you right here!"

"Wait... 'her'?" asked Sunset. "Who's 'her'?"

"I suppose you wouldn't remember, Ms. Shimmer..." the man then stated. "You stepped on so many people at your school, you couldn't honestly remember them all... But my assistant is still frightened to death of you for how you treated her in the past, and I promised that I would punish you for your actions against her!"

(What's he talking about...? Who in CHS could still possibly hate me??) Sunset wondered. (I thought that after I saved the Fall Formal this year, everyone in school finally forgave me for what I did...) Just then, a sudden thought came to her, (Wait... everyone at school was there when I fought Rarity's Number card that night... except for one person...) She then gasped when she realized who that person was. (Derpy! She wasn't there at the Fall Formal! In fact, I haven't seen her here at school at all this year... The last time I saw her was during last year's Battle of the Bands competition...)

Sunset now realized what was going on. (So this is what she's been doing this whole time...) she continued to ponder. (She's been with this Doctor guy all year so far... Which means that she doesn't know that I've changed my ways since last year...) She sighed a little to herself as she contemplated the situation. (I guess she must still be bitter about how I bullied her in the past, especially in regards to that selfish article I wrote about myself for the school newspaper...) Thinking about that day some more, she then continued to say in her mind, (I can't say that I don't deserve to punished for what I did to her... But I need to show her that I'm not that kind of person anymore, and that getting revenge on me now won't do any of us any good... And there's only one way that I can do that!)

"This Duel will soon end, Ms. Shimmer..." The Doctor told her. "Do you have any last words to say to me before I defeat you?"

"Actually, there IS something I'd like to say..." Sunset answered him, "but not to you."

"Hm?" The perplexed man raised an eyebrow, but said nothing more in response to the girl's comment.

The red and yellow teen then looked up at the large call box, the Tardis, and asked, "That booth of yours has all sorts of complex functions and gadgets built into it, correct?" She then added, "Which means that, in all likelihood, your assistant can see and hear everything that's going on here, am I right?"

The Doctor nodded yes to confirm that.

"In that case, now that I know all of that," the otherworldly girl responded, "I can say what I have to say." She then turned to face the Tardis and said, "Derpy Hooves... If you can hear me, there's something that I've wanted to tell you for a while now..."

"Huh...?" asked the grey-skinned teen, watching and listening from in front of the large computer.

Sunset sighed and told her, "Derpy... I... I'm... I'm sorry."

Derpy gasped when she heard that. "What? She's... apologizing??" she asked in surprise.

"Derpy..." she continued to tell her former victim, "what I did and said to you in the past was wrong... especially that thing with the school newspaper. I wasn't thinking about your feelings when I was giving you such a hard time over it... I was so focused on wanting power and notoriety, that I didn't realize that there was another way to be happy in life... And now that I fully realize that, just thinking about what I did to you and other people makes me feel horrible inside... So, for what it's worth... I'm sorry for everything, Derpy..."

"...Sunset..." the grey girl replied softly after hearing the red and yellow girl's heartfelt apology.

"And now that I know all of that, I need to prevent you from making the same mistake that I made." Sunset told her. "I know that I deserve to be punished for what I did to you... but getting revenge on me this way won't solve a thing. You still won't feel better after it's all over, because in the end, you'll still see me the way you did back then. If it's all the same to you, Derpy... I'd rather resolve this conflict between us peacefully: With words and understanding... Anger and vengeance clouded my thoughts back when I was bullying you and others, and I know now that they don't resolve anything in the long run. So please, Derpy... I'm pleading with you; don't go down the destructive path that almost ruined me... Let's talk about this and try to help each other move on..."

The grey-skinned girl was at a loss for words after hearing everything that Sunset Shimmer had told her. Now her perception of her former bully had totally changed: At first, she didn't believe her, and thought that she was fibbing just to save face... But the more Derpy pondered about it, she became less sure that her initial thought was true, and she became more sure that Sunset was truly sorry for her actions.

"Hmmm... very heartfelt, Ms. Shimmer." The Doctor told his opponent. "But I'm afraid you're one apology too late; this Duel between us will not end until one of us falls in defeat."

"In that case," the otherworldly girl responded, "I'll use this Duel to find a way to resolve all of this!" As she prepared to draw a card, she then thought to herself, (There's one card that I can use that might help me out here... I need to figure out a way to end this Duel without any further conflict. It won't be easy... but I know that I can do it! Even though they may just be here in spirit, I know that my friends are behind me all the way to give me their support!)

In her mind, Sunset looked around and saw all of her friends surrounding her: Applejack tipped her brown hat towards her and nodded, and Rainbow Dash gave her a wink to tell her that Sunset had her support. Rarity and Fluttershy nodded to her, while Pinkie Pie jumped up and down excitedly in the air. "Wowee...! This is what the inside of your mind looks like, Sunnie?!" asked the pink girl. She then shouted, "Echo...! Echo... echo... echo...!"

Sunset Shimmer glanced to her left and saw Flash Sentry and Gilda, both giving her a thumbs-up, telling her to keep on fighting the good fight. Beside them were Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna, smiling from how proud they were of Sunset right now.

Finally, one more figure appeared before her: It was a girl with light purple skin, long, straight, purple hair with pink and differently-colored purple streaks running along it, and deep purple eyes. She wore a light blue top with a pink bow on the collar area, along with a purple skirt with a picture of a pink, six-pointed star and several small, white stars surrounding it. She also wore a pair of black shoes and purple socks on her feet.

The purple-skinned girl smiled warmly and said, "You can do it, Sunset. With all of us, along with the Magic of Friendship by your side, there is nothing that you can't do!"

Sunset smiled and nodded, saying to the girl, "You're right. I can do this. And I will do it... for all of us." Bringing herself back into reality, she then shouted, with confidence in her voice, "It's my turn! I draw!!" (Shard of Greed: Greed Counters 1 + 1= 2). She then stated, "I now activate the effect of Shard of Greed! Since it has two Greed Counters, I can send it to the Graveyard and draw two more cards from my Deck!"

"Hmmm... relying on luck of the draw this late in the Duel?" asked The Doctor. "It probably might be easier for you if you simply surrendered."

"Perhaps it would be easier... but no one gets ahead in life by giving up." the otherworldly girl informed him. "And furthermore, I'm not relying on luck to get through this Duel; just as you fight hard for your assistant, I fight for my friends! And with them backing me up, I know that I can overcome any obstacle that comes my way!"

The Doctor, as well as Derpy, were amazed at how brave Sunset was right now, despite being far behind in the Duel. It was as if they could feel her true feelings resonating from her.

Sunset then closed her eyes as she placed her right pointer and index fingers on top of her Deck, preparing to pull the top cards from it. (My friends...) she thought to herself, (please... give me your strength...) Then, all around her she felt the presence of each and every one of her friends beside her; everyone that she had seen in her mind and giving their support each placed their hands on top of Sunset Shimmer's Deck, and they all pulled the cards simultaneously.

Sunset then took a look at the cards she pulled... and smiled. "It's about time I evened the score in this Duel, Doctor." she told him without any fear in her voice.

(...What did she pull...?) wondered the man.

"From my hand, I Special Summon Chronomaly Moai in Defense Mode, since I control a Chronomaly monster!" Sunset shouted as she summoned her Easter Island head statue look-a-like to her side of the field (Chronomaly Moai: Level 5 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1600). "Then," she continued, "I Normal Summon Fire Ant Ascator in Attack Mode!" She then brought out her giant ant monster, placing it beside Chronomaly Moai (Fire Ant Ascator: Level 3 / ATK 700 / DEF 1300).

"A... a Tuner Monster!" exclaimed The Doctor.

"That's right!" Sunset then shouted, "I tune my Fire Ant, Level 3, to Moai, Level 5!" After making her declaration, Fire Ant Ascator transformed into a trio of fireballs that then became small, white lights that shot into the air. After that, three green rings flew down and surrounded Chronomally Moai, turning it into five small lights within the rings (Level 3 + Level 5 = Level 8). "Dragon deity of the Sun, illuminate all the darkness! Brighten the day with your benevolent light!" the girl chanted. "Synchro Summon! Show yourself! Level 8! Sun Dragon Inti!"

In a burst of intense flames, Sunset Shimmer's red-scaled, four headed, dragon monster appeared behind her, giving out a powerful roar from each of its heads (Sun Dragon Inti: Level 8 / ATK 3000 / DEF 2800).

"Wahhh!! That thing's HUGE!!!" commented Derpy.

The Doctor then noticed that Sunset's Synchro Monster had almost equal attack power to his dragon. He then smirked a little and asked his opponent, "So you're going to try and take out Galaxy-Eyes with a suicide attack? I'm afraid that won't work, Ms. Shimmer. Thanks to its ability, my dragon has 500 more attack points than your monster! And even without those extra points, I can just simply take both of our monsters off of the field! So your attack on my dragon won't do you any good!"

"Hmph... who said I was going to attack your dragon?" the red and yellow girl then inquired.

"You're... not?" asked the man.

"I know brute force won't work on your Galaxy-Eyes, so I'm not planning to attack it." Sunset then put on a smirk of her own and added, "But I do plan to get rid of that dragon this turn..."

Both The Doctor and Derpy gasped when they heard that bold statement. (This must be it...) the man thought. (She's going to play her Number at last...)

"For my next move," Sunset continued, "I'll activate the Spell Card, Xyz Reception! By targeting one monster on my field, I can then bring out another monster from my hand with the same Level, as long as I reduce my new monster's attack and defense points to zero! So by selecting my Golden Jet on the field, I can then Special Summon Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem in Defense Mode!!" After playing her card, her red-colored golem appeared on the field in front of her (Chronomaly Aztec Mask Golem: Level 4 / ATK 1500 > 0 / DEF 1000 > 0). "And now I overlay it and my Level 4 Golden Jet to create an Overlay Network!!" And with that, her two monsters then transformed into a pair of lights, one yellow and one orange, and were drawn into a portal in front of her.

"Here it comes..." The Doctor said to himself, "She's Summoning her Number now..."

Sunset then began her summoning chant, saying, "Noble marksman of the sky! Raise your mighty rifle in the name of justice and fell your enemies with skillful precision! Xyz Summon!" She then placed her chosen card on her Duel Pad in Attack Mode. "Gilda, lend me your strength! Rank 4! Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer!!"

In an instant, Sunset Summoned the newest addition to her deck, calling up the human-bird hybrid that carried a powerful rifle in its hand (or talons), displaying its mighty and beautiful wings after taking its place in front of Sunset Shimmer. Surrounding it were two green orbs that circled around it constantly (Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer: Rank 4 / ATK 2000 / DEF 1500 / OLU 2).

"Wh-WHAT?!" exclaimed The Doctor, taken by surprise. "That... that isn't a Number either!!" Try as he might, he couldn't figure out what was going on, and why Sunset had not used a single Number card against him. (I don't understand...) he pondered. (I know my scanners are working perfectly... I know she has a Number card! In all of my Duels against those possessed by Numbers, they are compelled to Summon that Number, even if doing so would cause them to lose the Duel...) Just then, he gasped when he finally realized something. (Does this mean that... this girl is NOT possessed?!)

"I know you want me to bring out one of my Number cards, Doctor." Sunset told her opponent. "But I don't NEED a Number to get through this Duel! The only thing I need is the support of my friends!" Pointing to her newly Summoned Xyz Monster, she then told him, "I got this card from a good friend of mine, as a sign that she would always be there to support me in the tough times ahead! And I'd say that situations don't come any tougher than right now!"

"What's Sunset planning to do...?" Derpy asked herself, not sure about what the red and yellow girl's plan was.

"I now activate the effect of Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer!" Sunset shouted. "I remove both of his Overlay Units, which then lets me target any other face-up card on the field. And that card gets sent back to its owner's Deck!"

"Back to the Deck?!?" asked The Doctor. "You mean...?!"

"Exactly." the otherworldly girl finished. "While your Galaxy-Eyes may be immune to attacks, special effects such as Castel's are beyond its control. And once it's gone, you'll be wide open to attack!"

(This can't be...) thought the man, completely in shock. (If she sends my Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon back into my Deck, I'll have no way of stopping her attacks this turn! She'll destroy my only other monster and deal a total of 3,200 points of damage to my Life Points!! That will only leave me with 300 points remaining!) Looking at his Deck, he continued to think, (And the odds of me drawing a card to counterattack or even defend myself are depressingly low...!) Still in disbelief, he then asked himself, "Am... am I actually going to lose...??"

Sunset Shimmer then removed both of the cards out from underneath her new Xyz Monster (Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer: OLU 2 - 2 = 0), triggering its effect. "Go, Castel!!" she then shouted. "Send Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon back to his Deck!!" The bird-man then drew its two swirling orbs into its rifle, and fired out a powerful tornado straight towards the massive dragon. As powerful as Galaxy-Eyes may have been, even it was unable to withstand the mighty cyclone. It let out a roar as it was flung into the air, vanishing away completely.

The Doctor did his best to shield himself from the force of Castel's powerful tornado. But when he looked up to see if it was finished, he saw something coming towards him: It was a chunk of brick that had been lying on the rooftop, and it was being carried along the cyclone's winds. Although he saw it coming, it was too late for him to do anything about it. The brick struck him in the head and, along with the force of the tornado, sent him flying into the air, heading towards the edge of the roof.

Sunset gasped when she saw him flying into the air. "Oh no!!" she shrieked in horror.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Watching from the Tardis, Derpy was equally as horrified when she saw her mentor and friend in danger of falling fifteen stories to the hard ground below. "DOCTOR!!!!" she screamed. Instinctively, she got up out of her chair to leave the call box and help him... but she stopped when she remembered something important: "Hold on... if I go out there, I'll be frozen by that device! If that happens, I won't be able to help him at all!!" She then contemplated switching off the time-slowing machine, but then she wouldn't able to leave the Tardis in time to save The Doctor. She had no idea what to do as tears ran down her face. Then, all of a sudden...

"Hold on!! I'm coming!!!" shouted Sunset's voice from the computer.

"Huh?!" The grey-skinned girl immediately ran back to the computer and saw something that shocked her: Sunset Shimmer was running as fast as she could to the other side of the roof, towards where The Doctor was sent. Then, just as he fell off the side of the building, the red and yellow girl managed to just barely grab onto his left arm, saving him from certain death.

"Don't worry...!" Sunset grunted as she pooled all of the strength she had to hold onto his arm. "I've got you...!"

"S-Sunset?!?" exclaimed Derpy in shock. "She's... she's trying to save him?!" The grey teen then began to ponder in her mind, (The old Sunset that picked on me would have NEVER done this...) She then gasped and realized something. (...She ...she HAS changed!) the girl exclaimed in her mind. Now she was praying that her former bully would be able to save The Doctor's life.

Back outside, Sunset was pulling with all her might to try and get her opponent back onto the roof and safe from harm. But that task was difficult, given the man's weight. "Urrrgh...! URRRRRGH!!" the otherworldly girl grunted as she pulled on the mysterious man's arm. "This guy's so heavy... it's getting too hard to pull him out of there..." But she then told herself, "But I can't let him fall off the building! Even at my absolute worst, I'd never let someone die right in front of me! Enemy or not... I have to save him! I HAVE TO!!"

Then, at that moment, a red, sparkly aura began to surround Sunset Shimmer. She was too focused on trying to save The Doctor's life, that she didn't notice what was happening to her. All of a sudden, her human ears vanished from the sides of her head, immediately being replaced with a pair of pointy ears directly on top. Not only that, her hair began to grow into a super-long ponytail that almost reached the soles of her slippers.

All of a sudden, Sunset felt something inside of her after the physical changes to her body. "What... what is this...?" she asked herself. "This... power... It feels... familiar..." She then put on a determined look and began pulling the man off from the side of the building once more. But this time, she found the arduous task much easier, as if her strength had suddenly multiplied ten-fold. Then, with a loud cry, Sunset managed to pull The Doctor up and hefted him over her head and out of danger.

"She did it!!" cheered Derpy, relieved that her mentor was safe.

The otherworldly girl gently set the man down onto the roof of the apartment building and breathed heavily, exhausted after carrying a full-size adult human. "I... did it..." she said in between breaths. "I saved him... But... how'd I do it? I know I'm not THAT strong in the physical sense..." She then went to wipe some sweat from her forehead... and that's when she felt something on the top of her head. "Huh?" The teen then quickly looked at her reflection on her Duel Pad's touchscreen and saw the physical changes to her body.

"So that's what happened!" she exclaimed. "I must have ponied up from the stress... and that gave me the strength to pull him to safety!" She didn't know for sure if her transformation happened because of that, but she was glad that it happened when it did. She then turned her attention back to The Doctor, who was knocked unconscious when he had been hit in the head by the brick. Sunset immediately picked up his hand and put her fingers on his wrist to check for a pulse. She then breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank Celestia... he's still alive."

Noticing the slight gash on his forehead, the otherworldly girl then quickly ripped off a sleeve from her pajama top and tied it around his head as a makeshift bandage. "There... that's all that I can do for you right now..." she told him, even though she knew he wouldn't be able to respond to her comments. "I'm sure your assistant will be able to take care of things from here." She then raised her hand and placed it on his chest, saying to him, "Don't you worry... I know you'll be just fine."

Not long after her hand touched his chest, Sunset's key necklace began to glow brightly. "What the-? What's this thing doing??" she asked. Before she could ask another question, everything suddenly went white around her...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

When her vision returned, Sunset found herself in a room that was covered with all sorts of bizarre machines, as well as pipes that zigzagged all over the ceiling overhead. "Huh?? Where am I?" she asked herself. Looking down at herself, she saw something else surprising. "My... my clothes! These are the robes that I had on in my dream with that strange gate! What's going on??"

Just then, the otherworldly girl heard the sound of a door opening behind her, followed by footsteps. When she turned to look, she saw two people walking towards her. She was shocked to see that they were none other than The Doctor and Derpy Hooves. "Wah! It's them!" she cried out. Frantic, she then said to them both, "L-l-listen! I can explain!! I-I don't know how I got in here!!"

The two people didn't hear her and just continued walking closer to Sunset. They came closer... and closer... and closer, until... they walked right through her; literally.

"What the...?" Sunset asked, not sure what just happened. "Did they just... walk right through my body?" She then called out to them, "H-hey! What's going on here??" But they just kept right on walking, completely ignoring her. (I don't understand... It's like I'm not even in here...) the red and yellow girl wondered.

"Wow, Doctor!" cheered Derpy. "That was the greatest adventure yet!"

"I must admit, I enjoyed our visit to the Bo Dimension, no matter how little sense it and everyone living in there made..." The Doctor answered her. "I have no idea how that man was able to grow such long nose hair like he did... but, for once, I'd be better off not knowing about it."

"I liked that little orange spiked guy, though." the grey girl then told him. "What was his name again...? Don...? Poppa...?"

Sunset was confused as to what was taking place around her. "What is it that I'm looking at...?" she asked herself. She wondered about it for a while, trying to figure it all out. Then suddenly, it came to her. "Wait a second... are these... Am I looking at this guy's memories??"

Before she could think about it anymore, a beeping sound could then be heard by everyone. "Um, Doctor?" Derpy asked the man. "Your thingy is beeping again... What does that mean?"

"Well, it means that someone is trying to contact us..." The Doctor told her. "How they found us here, I don't exactly know... But we'll see who it is in a few seconds..." The man then began fiddling with the computer as Derpy and Sunset watched. For a while, it didn't seem like there was any progress being made...

But then, the monitor screen began to fill with with static, and a scratchy-sounding voice could then be heard. "...--cto-...D--tor...ca-...-ou...h--r m-...?" said the voice, though what it said was nearly impossible to hear.

"What was that??" asked Derpy. "I didn't quite catch that..."

"It appears our caller is not coming through very well..." The Doctor answered her. "There's no video feed, but we do have some audio... I'll just focus all of the power into increasing the strength of the audio feed, and we'll at least be able to HEAR who it is that's calling us..." The man began to type in some more information into the computer. After he was done, he then spoke into a nearby microphone and said, "There... can you hear me now?"

"...Yes... I can hear you perfectly well." the voice responded, now sounding a lot clearer. "Though it seems that I cannot see you..."

"You and me both, sir." the man told him. He then asked, "Now who are you?"

"Before I answer that, I must ask to speak to the one that they call, 'The Doctor'." the voice requested.

"That is me." The Doctor told him.

"Good..." The voice then told them both, "As for who I am... I cannot yet reveal my full identity to you right now, but I can tell you where I am from, and why I have contacted you."

"Very well then." the man replied. "I suppose it's better than nothing."

"Currently, I am contacting you from a world far beyond your own." the voice then informed him. "A nonphysical realm of existence that lies within the stars... The Astral World."

"Astral World...?" Sunset asked herself.

"Astral World? What's that?" Derpy also inquired. She turned towards her mentor and asked him, "Doctor, do you know anything about an 'Astral World'?"

"Only a little..." the man answered her. "From what information that I have, the Astral World is a higher plane of existence; a parallel dimension that transcends all other worlds. But... I am afraid that not much information exists that can tell us more, as this world is difficult to see, let alone enter. It seems that only people with certain criteria can bear witness to the Astral World... What those criteria are, I do not know..." Getting an idea, he then smiled and suggested, "But I suppose our new friend here might be able to shed some light on his home for us..."

"Very well, then..." the voice then said, agreeing to The Doctor's wishes. "It will help explain why I have come to you in the first place, so I suppose I can tell you more." The voice stopped talking for a moment before telling them, "The Astral World is a parallel world without Chaos; a true utopia. Great power freely flows within it and around us... But as you said, only certain beings are allowed to see my world... Only those who have spiritually ranked-up can enter the Astral World."

"Ranked-up?" asked Derpy.

"What does that mean...?" wondered Sunset.

"Although the criteria for seeing our world are strict," the voice continued, "there have been several beings throughout time and space that have witnessed the power of the Astral World. It can also be a safe assumption that many of your world's religions may have been born from the people who have seen my world."

"Well, if this world you come from is as powerful as you say it is," The Doctor spoke, "it's a very good possibility."

"Indeed, but we'll save that discussion for another time, Doctor... I must move on to the main point..." the voice said. "Yesterday night, on September the 13th in your world, a strange event had occurred that has troubled me greatly..."

"Wait... did he say September 13th?" asked Sunset. She remembered that day very well, and for good reason: "That's the night that I bought my necklace and had that weird dream...!"

"On that night... a doorway was opened between our worlds." the voice continued. "I am not sure how it has happened or why, but when that doorway was opened, a great amount of power from the Astral World escaped and now resides in your world."

"What kind of power?" asked The Doctor. "Is it dangerous?"

"Indeed." the voice confirmed. "This energy is sentient and is as much a resident of the Astral World as well as a power source. But not everyone is capable of controlling its power; even a small fragment of it can overwhelm one's spirit and make them subservient to that very power itself; a living corpse, if you will."

"Oh my... that sounds horrible..." Derpy commented, shaking a little. Sunset was also a bit worried from hearing that... as well from how familiar to her it all sounded, like she had experienced something like it before.

"This raw energy does not belong in your world." the voice told the two of them. "As long as it exists here, many who covet that power will seek it... And if that power falls into the wrong hands, many great disasters will befall your world, ranging from total enslavement... to total destruction..."

Derpy gasped, now more frightened than ever. Sunset was equally as horrified to have heard all of that.

"So... I can only assume, based on what you have told me and my assistant," The Doctor began to tell the being that contacted him, "is that you want my help in recovering all this power before something like that happens, am I correct?"

"That is correct." the voice replied.

"And... how would I be able to identify this power?" the man then asked.

"The power that has escaped from my world has split itself into many fragments..." the voice answered. "They have since taken on the form of ordinary objects, disguising themselves until they find a being to corrupt and enslave."

"And what do these objects look like?" The Doctor inquired further.

"...Duel Monsters cards." said the voice. "They are known as... 'Numbers'."

Sunset gasped loudly (knowing that nobody could hear her at the moment). "Did he say 'NUMBERS'?!" she exclaimed in shock.

"Numbers...?" asked The Doctor.

"Yes... and I need your help in gathering them all in order to ensure the safety of both of our worlds." the voice told them. "But it will not be easy... The Numbers have powers beyond those of this world; no creature of your realm can defeat them in combat."

"But how will we be able to stop them, then??" asked Derpy.

"It will take quite a bit of effort, but I believe that you, Doctor, will be able to succeed in the task..." the voice informed them both. "But I will not simply sit by and have you do all of the work yourself... so I shall lend you some of my power to assist you."

At that moment, a small ball of light appeared in front of The Doctor and Derpy. Sunset walked closer to them in order to see what was going on. The three of them watched as the light took on a different shape. Once the light faded, a blank Duel Monsters card appeared on the console of The Doctor's computer.

"A Number card...!" Sunset said to herself, recognizing it immediately.

"Um... why is that card blank?" asked Derpy. "What is it?"

"That is one of the Numbers." the voice answered. "It was the only one that I managed to recover after the energy from my world escaped. This card contains great power that will shape itself, based on the nature of your soul, as well as your deepest desires. But I have also infused it with some of my power; it will allow you to wield the card, without becoming corrupted by its power..." It then instructed, "Doctor... if you wish to assist me in my goal of recovering the Numbers... if you wish to save our worlds from a future of darkness... then take that card."

The Doctor and Derpy stared at the card in front of them. Sunset also watched as well, wanting to know more about what had happened during this point in time. "Wh... what are you going to do, Doctor?" the grey-skinned girl asked him.

"Well, you heard what our guest told us..." the man informed his assistant, "a great amount of energy from another world has come into this one, and is slowly corrupting those that come into contact with it." Looking at the card again, he added, "I'm... not sure that I can completely trust this person, but if there's a chance that our world and/or any other is in peril... then I have no other choice."

Without any more hesitation, The Doctor reached out and picked up the card in front of him. Once he did, a powerful light surrounded him and the card. Derpy stood back a bit as the energy around him grew even more intense. As the light flowed around him, a red mark began to appear over his left eye; the same mark that appeared whenever he dueled. After a few seconds, the light energy faded away, though the red mark remained over his eye.

"Doctor!! Are you okay?!" asked Derpy.

"Urrgh... Yes, Derpy... I believe so..." the man told her. When the two of them got a look at the card, they gasped when they saw something new upon it. "Oh dear... there's now a picture on this card!" he exclaimed.

"Oh wow... that monster looks so powerful..." Derpy commented, impressed by whatever was shown on it.

Sunset also managed to sneak a peak at the card for a few seconds. "Woah... and I thought his Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon was powerful..." she said to herself. "But that thing seems to be in a whole other league...!"

"Hmmmmm... I knew that I made a good choice in enlisting your help." the voice then said. "It seems that your spirit is even stronger than I first perceived it to be. But that only means that I have no doubt that you will succeed in fulfilling my wishes... With the power that I have given to you, you will excel greatly in hunting down the Numbers and those who are possessed by them..."

---------------------------------------------------------------------

After that last comment, everything around Sunset Shimmer went white again, and before she knew it, she found herself back on the roof, still sitting next to the unconscious Doctor. "What... what did I just see...?" she asked herself. "What did I just hear...?"

The otherworldly girl was still at a loss for words after bearing witness to what she assumed to be The Doctor's memories. What she did know, however, was that her opponent in the Duel had a legitimate reason for collecting the Number cards; he was just trying to prevent their power from causing any trouble, just as she was trying to do.

Looking around her, Sunset saw that everything around them was still being affected by the time-slowing device. "According to this Doctor guy..." she noted to herself, "time will only begin to move again when this Duel ends... But with him unconscious, there's no way that we can continue." She then thought, (But now that I know why he's doing what he's doing, there's no point in either of us taking the other's Number cards... All he and I want is to protect who and what we care about, that's all...)

Making her final decision, Sunset then tapped on her Duel Pad and selected the option to offer a draw. After doing so, she then moved to The Doctor's Duel Pad screen and tapped on it to confirm the option. As a result, neither of them won or lost the Duel, so neither of them would lose their Number cards to the other. Once she did so, she picked up the man again (she was still in her ponied-up state, so the task wasn't difficult) and placed him in front of the door to the Tardis. She then quickly knocked on the door and left for her apartment, her pony ears and ponytail disappearing as she did so.

Not long after that, time began moving again; the popcorn kernels that Applejack had tossed into her mouth finally completed their journey, and she happily munched on them as she laughed at what was happening on the TV. "Aheheheh! That was a real funny one!" she commented. "Ah didn't hear that joke the first time Ah watched this! What did y'all think, Sunset?"

But when she turned around towards the bar counter, she didn't see her friend over there. "Huh? Sunset? Where'd ya go??" she asked. Before she could ask again, she heard a knock on the door. Applejack then paused the DVD and went to the door to open it. When she did, she gasped when saw an exhausted Sunset Shimmer standing there with a missing pajama top sleeve, supporting herself by leaning on the door frame with her right hand. "S-Sunset?! What happened t' ya?!" she asked out of concern. "Y'all look like you've been in a fight or somethin'!"

The red and yellow girl breathed heavily, tried from her entire ordeal. "You don't know the half of it, AJ..." she said in an exhausted tone. "It's a long story... but I'm too tired to tell you right now..."

"Th-that's alright... y'all can tell me later when you're feelin' up to it." stated Applejack. Taking her left arm and putting it over her shoulders, she helped her friend to stand up and move. "Here... lemme help ya over to the couch... Y'all can rest there for a spell."

"Thanks, Applejack..." Sunset responded with a tired smile. "I'm glad to have such a helpful friend like you around..."

"Anytime, Sugarcube... anytime." the orange girl replied with a smile.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Urrgh... urrgh..."

"...Doctor...?" said a calming, concerned voice. "Are you okay...?"

The Doctor slowly opened his eyes as he finally recovered from the blow to his head. He slowly sat up and saw that he was now inside of the Tardis and no longer on the apartment roof building. He looked around, trying to find Sunset Shimmer, but only Derpy was there, sitting by his side.

"D... Derpy...?" the man said in a tired tone, still trying to recover from what had happened to him.

"Oh, thank goodness!! You're awake!!" the grey girl cried out, hugging him tightly. "Don't EVER scare me like that again, Doctor!" Tears of joy rolled down her face as she "scolded" him.

"Um... what happened?" he then asked her. "Why am I in the Tardis? The last thing I can remember was that I was dueling Ms. Shimmer..."

"You were." Derpy answered him. "But then you got hit in the head pretty badly... and after that, you almost fell off of the building... You almost died..."

"I... I did...?" the man asked, astounded to know that his life was in jeopardy. "Well then... I suppose that I owe a great deal to you for saving my life..."

"Um... actually, about that..." the grey teen began to tell him, rubbing the back of her head, "I wasn't the one who saved you... It was Sunset."

The Doctor gasped when he heard that. "S-Sunset?!" he asked in shock. "She saved me?! Are you absolutely sure??"

"Look, I know only one of my two eyes works properly, but I know what I saw!" she told her mentor. "After that brick hit you, you flew off of the roof and off the side of the building... But then Sunset managed to grab onto you and pull you to safety... She even tore off a sleeve from her shirt and used it to bandage the wound on your head."

"She did?" The Doctor then touched his forehead and felt something soft and cottony. By this point, he figured that it was okay to untie the bandage, so he did just that. He then held it in his hands, looking at the red bloody mark that was left behind; the only evidence that he had that confirmed that he had received an injury. He also saw that the red-violet color of the bandage matched the pajama top that Sunset was wearing during their Duel.

(She's... she's right...) the man thought, amazed by the evidence in front of him. He was also a bit confused. "But... I don't understand, Derpy..." he then said to his assistant. "You told me that Sunset Shimmer was the cruelest person you had ever met..."

"She was..." the grey-skinned girl replied, "but... I don't think she's like that anymore... I mean, you heard that apology she made to me, right? Not to mention that you would've been killed if it weren't for her." Feeling bad about it all, she then told him, "I wanted to get back at Sunset for everything she did to me... I wanted revenge on her for treating me like a doormat..." She sniffled a little as she spoke. "But she's right... even if I got my revenge, I wouldn't have felt better in the long run... All I would have done was cause her problems like she did with me, and nothing would have been resolved. Besides, seeking revenge on others, even if it's justified, just isn't who I am... And I hope you can forgive me for getting you involved with my problems..."

Sighing a little, The Doctor then said to his assistant, "Well... I suppose we were all wrong about Ms. Shimmer. One thing is for certain: She is not possessed by her Number cards... I am not sure how, but I am quite confident that she is not under their influence." Looking at his Duel Pad, he then added, "Especially considering the fact that she had declared the Duel a draw... when she could have just as easily forced me to forfeit while I was unconscious."

"Which means that you still have all of your Numbers." Derpy concluded. "And she still has hers."

Pondering for a while, the man thought about what to do next. "Derpy... I think I might have an idea." he told the girl after coming up with something.

"What is it?"

"...I'd like for you to return to your school for a while."

"Huh? Why?" asked Derpy.

"Hear me out..." the man told her. "We got into this mess because we didn't know enough about Sunset Shimmer... That lack of information nearly cost us all dearly. My life was in danger because of it; next time, it could be your life at risk, or both of us..."

That comment got Derpy's attention, and she decided to listen to what her mentor had to say.

"So I believe that, in the best interest of us both, as well as for Ms. Shimmer," he continued, "Our best course of action is to learn more about this young lady... And I feel that you would be the best candidate for finding that sort of information."

"Are... you asking me to SPY on Sunset?" asked Derpy, taken aback.

"Sort of..." the man replied. "I just need you to observe her daily routine, and see what she's really like. Watch her, converse with her, obtain info from other students, things like that. I believe that, this way, we can learn more about why Sunset is collecting Numbers, do you understand?"

"I think so..."

The Doctor then spoke again, telling Derpy, "I challenged Sunset to a Duel tonight because I wanted to get her Number cards before she could obtain more, because we thought she wanted them for malicious purposes... But since that's clearly not the case in this situation, we would be better off leaving her to her own accord and focus our attention on the Number holders that are actually causing trouble."

"That makes sense..." the grey girl responded. "No point in trying to fight her again if she's not possessed by a Number."

"And while I continue my search for Numbers," he then added, "your job will be to learn more about Sunset and what her true intentions are. Are you okay with that, Derpy?"

The grey girl thought about it for a while; she then recalled that, when Sunset apologized to her for mistreating her in the past, the red and yellow girl stated that she wished to resolve their issues peacefully through words instead of fighting. Taking up The Doctor's request would give her that opportunity. Derpy smiled and nodded, saying, "Okay, Doctor! I'll do it!" She then shook his hand to confirm her decision.

"Thank you very much, Derpy." he then said to her. "I knew I could count on you." He then stated to his assistant, "I'll write up a letter to your Principal, stating that, beginning next Monday, you are to return to school, and that the time you've spent with me should positively count towards your grades this year. I'm sure she would comply with a simple request such as that."

"I think so too." agreed the girl. "And I promise that I'll learn as much about Sunset as possible... and maybe... she and I can even be friends."

"Well, I suppose that could be quite an ideal outcome."

Derpy then stood up from her chair and told him, "Anyway, I'm gonna go to the drug store to get some more things for you to help with your recovery. And I think that you should put a hold on dueling for a while, at least until we know that you're completely okay, that is." Giggling a little, she then added, "You know, I just realized something: I'm playing Nurse... to a Doctor!" She then giggled a little more about the whole thing.

The Doctor chuckled a little himself at the irony. "Yes, I suppose you are, aren't you?" he replied.

Giggling a little bit more, Derpy then told him, "Anyway, you just stay here and worry about getting better... Until then, I'll do my part and help you out as much as I can, okay?"

The man nodded and said, "Thank you very much, Derpy... I must tell you, I have had many assistants over the years, helping me with my work... but you are particularly remarkable: You are bright, kind, caring, and you always have a knack for making the best out of even the worst of scenarios... To me, you're more than an mere assistant; you are also my friend. And I will always remember the good times that we've shared together."

Derpy wiped a happy tear from her eye after hearing him say that to her. "Thank you..." she told him. "And I feel the same way towards you, Doctor." Heading to the entrance of the Tardis, she then said, "Anyway, I'll be back in a few minutes... Just rest there and take it easy for a while, okay?"

"Okay." he responded. After Derpy left, The Doctor then continued to think about everything that had happened... as well as Sunset Shimmer. "That girl..." he said to himself. "There is more to her than meets the eye... As much as I hate to admit it, she fought very bravely, even against seemingly impossible odds... In all my years, I have never met someone with that kind of courage... I would like to know where she gets such feelings from... But one thing's for sure: This won't be the last time our paths will cross... We will face each other again one day, and see just whose convictions are stronger in the end..."

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Dr. Whooves (4 Numbers total):

- Number 91: Thunder Spark Dragon

---------------------------------------------------------------------

RANK 9: The Mysterious World:

View Online

RANK 9: The Mysterious World:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Some time ago, Sunset Shimmer encountered another Duelist that, like her, was seeking out the powerful Number Cards. His true identity was unknown, and he was simply known as, "The Doctor". He challenged Sunset to a Duel to not only claim her Number cards, but also to seek revenge on her on behalf of his assistant, Derpy Hooves. However, when his life came under peril towards the end of the Duel, Sunset surprised everyone by saving his life.

After doing so, Sunset was given a glimpse into The Doctor's memories, and learned why he was collecting the Number cards. He was working for an individual from a dimension known as the Astral World. This stranger claimed that a great amount of power escaped from his world one night and took on the form of the Number cards. Sunset then recalled that, on that same night, she witnessed a similar event in what she believed to be a mere nightmare...

Sunset has learned a bit more about the mysterious cards, but is still not sure about many things regarding them. She and her friends hope to find out more today, but right now, the six of them have gotten themselves into an... interesting situation...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Ugh... HOW do I get myself into these situations...?" groaned Sunset Shimmer, sighing as she placed her hand on her forehead.

"Huh... I never thought that I'd see something like this happen..." Rainbow Dash commented as she, along with Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie, witnessed the rather bizarre scene in front of them.

Standing in front of them all were a pair of young boys: Snips and Snails. At one time, they were Sunset Shimmer's minions during the time that she was still mean to everybody. But after the otherworldly girl decided to change her ways, she pretty much cut all ties with them from that point forward. But now the two boys stood before the girl that used to order them around all the time, wearing a pair of sinister-looking smirks on their faces.

"Ugh... what do YOU two want??" Sunset asked her former cohorts. "I told you two already: I don't want anything more to do with you guys... So just leave me and my friends alone!"

"Hehehehehhh... well, that's too bad, Sunset..." Snips said to her with a slight cackle. "'Cause we're not leavin' until we settle things with you once and for all!"

"Settle things...?" asked the red and yellow girl.

"That's right!" the pudgy, blue boy told her. "We've got beef with you, and we're not goin' anywhere until we take care of it!"

"Uh... beef?" asked Snails in his usual clueless tone. "But we already had burgers yesterday!" Snails groaned a little at his friend's bone-headed comment.

"I must say," Rarity began, "this is quite a strange scene that we are witnessing..."

"Ah can certainly agree with ya there, Rare..." Applejack chimed in. "Ah mean, jus' think about it: Sunset's old lackeys confrontin' her like this n' all... It's pretty ironic, ain't it?"

"But why...?" asked Fluttershy. "What would make them want to do this now?"

"Well, based on how this series has been going so far," Pinkie Pie began, giving her friends another of her typical silly answers, "they must have recently picked up Number cards, and it's caused them to go all creepy-crazy-cuckoo."

"Is that true?" Sunset asked her former cohorts. "Do you two really have Number cards?"

Snips chuckled as both he and Snails held up a black-framed card in each of their hands. "You betcha, Sunset!" the blue boy answered her as a purple mark resembling the number 56 appeared on the back of the hand that held the bizarre Duel Monsters card. "We've heard that you use cards just like ours... And now that we have Number cards of our own, we can finally get back at you for what ya did to us!! Ain't that right, Snails?"

"Uh huh! Uh huh! Uh huh!!" the dopey orange-skinned boy replied as a red mark resembling the number 63 emerged on the side of his left arm.

"Get back at me?" asked Sunset Shimmer. "For what??"

"Oh, don't pretend like you don't know!" Snips snapped at her. "You think that YOU had it bad after what you did at last year's Fall Formal?! Well, you weren't the ONLY one that everybody started hating after your little temper-tantrum!! Everybody picked on us and started sayin' mean stuff about us too!! And it's all your fault!!"

Sunset sighed a little and told them, "Look, I know how you two probably feel... and as far as that, I'm sorry that all of that stuff happened to you because you associated with me back then." She then informed the two boys, "That being said, though, you didn't HAVE follow me around and do what I told you to do... To be honest, I probably would have been better off looking for someone else to order around instead of you two."

"Oh, so now we're not GOOD enough to be your cronies?!?" yelled Snips, getting angry again as his eyes began to glow purple, like the number mark on his hand. "You're a real piece of work, ya know that?!?"

"But you just told me that-" Groaning and face-palming, Sunset Shimmer, in a frustrated tone, asked the dopey pair, "Look, what do you two want from me?! Because so far, the only thing you're doing right now is wasting mine AND my friends' time!!"

"We told you already!!" Snips answered her. "We want revenge on ya! And now that we have the power of these Number cards helpin' us, we'll beat the leather outta your jacket!"

"Bleh... you call THAT a witty comment?" asked Pinkie Pie rhetorically. "It wasn't even mildly amusing... I give it a two out of ten, and that's only because I'm being nice." The silly pink teen then pulled out a large, white card from out of nowhere; printed on it was a large "2". It was similar to the ones used by figure-skating judges.

"So it's a Duel you want?" Sunset asked Snips and Snails. "You two can't be serious about that... You wouldn't last two minutes against me." Sighing, she then added, "But if it'll get you to leave us all alone, have it your way..."

The two boys snickered, still sure that they could beat their former boss in a Duel, despite their general lack of skill and intelligence. The blue-skinned boy then hummed a bit and asked his companion, "So... uh... who should Duel her first?"

"Um... I think you should." Snails replied.

"Urk! Me?!" asked Snips in shock. "Nonononono! I think YOU oughtta fight her first!"

"What?!? Are ya nuts?!?" the orange boy inquired, sweating a little. "Whad'ya take me for, an idiot?!?"

"Yes, but that's not the point!!!" the blue boy responded. "I think YOU should duel Sunset first!"

"No, YOU duel her first!!" snapped Snails.

"No, YOU first!!"

"No, YOU!!!!"

The two continued to argue with each other over who would take on Sunset first. But neither of them could come to a decision, and it seemed like their bickering could go on forever. Needless to say, this annoyed Sunset and her friends.

"Rrrrgh... this is so stupid..." groaned Rainbow Dash. "A pair of cinder blocks could agree on something faster than these two!"

Fluttershy then spoke up, trying to say something to the arguing boys. "Ummm... is... is your argument going to be much longer...? I... kind of... have to use the little girl's room..." Of course, they didn't hear her one bit.

Finally, when it seemed like nothing else was going to happen, Sunset Shimmer, in a moment of pure frustration, grumbled and shouted at the pair, "WOULD YOU TWO IDIOTS CLAM IT ALREADY?!?!"

Everyone in the immediate area, including her friends, glanced over at the otherworldly girl after her outburst. Though she did her best to try and keep her anger under control, there were times when Sunset just couldn't hold it in. And this time appeared to be one of them.

Realizing that everyone's eyes were on her after her brief moment of anger, Sunset took a deep breath and apologized, saying, "...Um, sorry about that, girls." Her friends then nodded, to say that they understood why she had yelled at Snips and Snails just now. The black jacket-wearing teen then looked over at the boys and told them, "Look, since you two can't agree on who's going to fight me first, I have another idea..." She then pointed to both of them and asked, "Why don't BOTH of you duel me at the same time?"

Everyone gasped when they heard her say that. "Duel them BOTH?!" asked Applejack in shock. "That's nuts!"

Snips and Snails were equally as surprised when they heard Sunset offer to duel both of them at the same time. Chuckling, the pudgy blue boy then asked, "Are you REALLY sure you wanna do that, Sunset? After all, it'll be two against one!"

The red and yellow girl then smirked and told them, "If you each took me on one at a time, it wouldn't be a challenge for me... I figured that, if we did things this way, your two brains combined would at least add up to a full-size one."

"OOoooooooooo! She burned 'em goooooooood!" Pinkie commented, chuckling after hearing Sunset's witty comment. Rainbow Dash, of course, was laughing hysterically at it. Applejack chuckled a little to herself as well, and even Rarity and Fluttershy found it amusing as well.

Of course, Snips didn't find it too funny (Snails, on the other hand, didn't get it). Grumbling, he shouted, "How DARE you make fun of us!!! Just for that, Snails and I are gonna beat ya TWICE as hard!! Now let's duel!!!"

The three combatants strapped on their Duel Pads and Gazers, readying themselves for their Duel. Sunset's friends then put on their Duel Gazers so that they could watch what was going on. In less than a minute, the Duel was ready to begin (Snips: LP 4,000) (Snails: LP 4,000) (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000).

"I'll start off this Duel!" said Snips, taking out a card from his hand. "I play The Cheerful Coffin!! This allows me to discard up to three monsters from my hand to the Graveyard. And I choose to discard these three!" The boy then took three cards out of his hand and placed them into the Graveyard slot. Then, he took out the last card in his hand and shouted, "Then I play Tri-Wight, which allows me to Special Summon three Level 2 or lower Normal Monsters from my Graveyard!"

"Hey... I remember this!" Pinkie suddenly spoke up. "That Martin guy in Griffonstone played a move just like this!"

Taking out three cards from out of his Duel Pad, Snips then declared, "I summon three Volcanic Rats from the Graveyard, all of them in Attack Mode!!" After he placed the cards onto the card tray, three small fireballs burst out of the ground, forming into a trio of rat-like creatures. They were glowing red and yellow and appeared to be covered in small flames. Each of them puffed out a small flame from their mouths after emerging onto the field (Volcanic Rat [x3]: Level 1 / ATK 500 / DEF 500).

"He just got three Level 1 monsters on the field at once..." noted Fluttershy.

"Yep, and we all know what that means..." Applejack chimed in.

Snips thrust his right arm into the air and shouted, "I overlay all three Level 1 Volcanic Rats to create an Overlay Network!!" After he made his declaration, his three monsters transformed into a trio of red lights that were soon drawn into a galaxy-like portal in front of the blue boy. After the portal exploded, it left behind a purple 56 mark. "I Xyz Summon... Number 56: Gold Rat!!"

Everyone else watched as a figure emerged from out of the sky, falling straight down to the ground. It appeared to be a rat, but it had a very mechanical-looking appearance. Its body shone in the sunlight, radiating a powerful golden glow. Just behind its head, the same purple 56 appeared on the monster's body. In addition, three yellow lights orbited around the Xyz Monster continuously.

*******************************

Number 56: Gold Rat:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Beast-Type/LIGHT/Rank 1/ATK 500/DEF 600)

3 Level 1 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; draw 1 card, then shuffle 1 card from your hand into the Deck.

*******************************

Snips chuckled loudly, confident that he was untouchable now that he had summoned his Number card. "Just you wait, Sunset," he told his opponent, "'cause you're goin' down for the count!" He then glanced over to his companion and told him, "Alright, it's your turn now, Snails!"

"Oh! Okay!" the dopey orange boy responded. He took out a card from his hand and said, "I Summon Dancing Elf in Attack Mode!!" His first monster was a small-sized woman with blond hair, peach skin, a long, flowing, blue dress, and a pair of blue wings growing out of her back (Dancing Elf: Level 1 / ATK 300 / DEF 200). "Then I play One for One from my hand!" Snails added. "By sending a monster from my hand to the Graveyard, I can Special Summon a Level 1 monster from my hand or my Deck! I'll get rid of my Wingweaver, and then summon Key Mace from my Deck!"

The boy's second monster was a very small sprite wearing a blue and yellow outfit and hovering in the air with a pair of tiny wings. In its hand was a key, which it may have used as a weapon or a staff of some sort (Key Mace: Level 1 / ATK 400 / DEF 300).

"Awww... aren't those monsters just so adorable?" Fluttershy asked, eyes sparkling.

"Yeah... not to mention weak." Rainbow commented. "I've never heard of any serious Duelist that uses THOSE cards."

"Perhaps, but it matters very little right now..." Rarity noted. "After all, he's just summoned two Level 1 monsters, so it is quite obvious that he, too, is going for an Xyz Summoning."

"I overlay Dancing Elf and Key Mace, both Level 1, and build an Overlay Network!" shouted Snails as his two monsters transformed into a pair of lights, one green and one yellow, and sent them into another galaxy portal. The portal soon exploded as well, leaving behind a red 63 mark on the ground. "I Xyz Summon Number 63: Shamoji Soldier!!"

Everyone looked on as a large bowl with red and white stripes dropped slowly down to the ground. The bowl was filled to the brim with rice, and also had a rice paddle (for which the monster was named after) and a pair of chopsticks inside. Just then, an entire upper body emerged from out of it, with the rice paddle serving as its head. A pair of tiny feet then popped out of the underside of the bowl, and a long cape then appeared on the monster's back. It then used its hands to pull out the two chopsticks, holding one in each hand, and as it did so, a large red 63 appeared on the top of its head.

*******************************

Number 63: Shamoji Soldier:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Fairy-Type/LIGHT/Rank 1/ATK 0/DEF 2000)

2 Level 1 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. You can only use the effect of "Number 63: Shamoji Soldier" once per turn. You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then activate 1 of these effects;
* At the start of your opponent's next Standby Phase, each player draws 1 card.
* Each player gains 1000 LP.

*******************************

"Well Ah'll be... they BOTH managed t' Summon a Number on their first turn!" Applejack noted.

"Or more realistically," Rainbow chimed in, "one of them Summoned a rice bowl to fight Sunset with, and the other brought out Ratzilla... For bein' Number cards, they ain't that tough-looking..."

"Perhaps not..." Rarity agreed. Looking over at Snips and Snails, she then added, "Still, they don't seem to be worried about it at all, even though they probably should be."

Sunset wasn't too worried either, especially now that she had gotten a better look at the boys' Number cards. "That's really the best you have?" she asked them, trying to hold back a giggle. "I would tell you that I expected better out of you... but quite honestly, I didn't."

"Yeah, just laugh it up, Sunset!" cackled Snips. "You're never gonna beat BOTH of our Numbers! So just give it up!"

"Yeah! Give it up!" repeated Snails. He then asked, in his usual dopey tone, "Uh, what's she giving up, Snips...?" The blue-skinned boy groaned and slapped his face in response.

"...Well, you guys are at least confident, I'll give you that." the otherworldly girl told them. "But now let's see what happens on my turn... I draw!" After looking at her new card, she let out a slight gasp and told her opponents, "Well... it looks like this Duel is gonna end sooner than even I thought it would."

"Huh?" asked both Snips and Snails, not sure what she meant by that.

"I'll play the card that I just drew." said Sunset, placing the card into the Spell & Trap slot in her Duel Pad. "I activate Raigeki!"

"Uhhhhh... what does that card do...?" asked the orange-skinned boy.

Snips, with a crestfallen look on his face, answered his buddy, telling him, "It... destroys all of our monsters on the field..."

"Uh oh..." Snails replied, not happy to hear that.

"'Uh oh' is quite right..." Sunset told the dopey pair. "In fact, it's about to be a really BIG 'uh oh'! Now say goodbye to BOTH of your Number cards!!" And with that, the skies above began to darken, and a pair of huge lightning bolts shot down, frying both of the boys' Numbers at the same time and sending them on a one-way ticket to the Graveyard.

"Uh... Snails?" Snips began to ask. "T-tell me that didn't just happen...?"

"Uh... it didn't happen...?" the orange boy replied.

"Wow... not bad at all..." said Rainbow Dash, impressed. "Now those two dopes are defenseless! All Sunset's gotta do now is to wipe out their Life Points!"

Taking a card from her hand, she then said, "Now I'll Summon Chronomaly Mud Golem from my hand in Attack Mode!" Her first monster was a large, brown statue with a gold, featureless face and a pair of shiny, bladed weapons in its both of its hands (Chronomaly Mud Golem: Level 4 / ATK 1700 /DEF 1000). "Then, from my hand, I'll play the Spell Card Xyz Reception!"

*******************************

Xyz Reception:
(Normal Spell Card)

Target 1 face-up monster you control that has a Level; Special Summon 1 monster with the same Level as that monster from your hand. Its effects are negated, also its ATK and DEF become 0.

*******************************

"I'll use the effect of my Spell Card to bring out Chronomaly Nebra Disk from my hand!" Sunset then played her second monster to the field, placing it right next to her Mud Golem (Chronomaly Nebra Disk: Level 4 / ATK 1800 > 0 / DEF 1500 > 0). "Now let me show you two what a REAL Number card looks like!"

"Oh, she's gonna do it! SHE'S GONNA DO IT!!!" screamed Pinkie Pie excitedly.

"I overlay Mud Golem and Nebra Disk, both Level 4, and create an Overlay Network!!" Sunset Shimmer shouted as both of her monsters turned into a pair of lights, one orange and one yellow, and were drawn into yet another summoning portal. It then exploded, revealing a blue 36 on the ground. "Descend now, Number 36!" the red and yellow girl chanted. "Great palace of unknown origin, show yourself and display your mystical might! Xyz Summon!! Temple of Artifacts! Rank 4! Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!" After the chant was complete, Sunset's spherical monster flew down from the heavens above, shining an intense light over the entire battlefield (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: Rank 4 / ATK 2000 / DEF 2500 / OLU 2).

"But... that's not fair...!" whined Snips. "How come we didn't get awesome-looking Number cards like that one?!"

"That'll be the least of your worries, Snips..." the otherworldly girl informed him. Taking out another card from her hand, she then announced, "Now I play the Spell Card Limiter Removal! This card will double the attack power of all of my Machine-Type monsters for one turn!" As she did so, Chateau Huyuk's glow turned from blue to bright red (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: ATK 2000 x 2 = 4000). Sunset then took the last card in her hand and shouted, "Finally, I activate Oni-Gami Combo! By removing all of Chateau Huyuk's Overlay Units, I can now have it attack twice this turn!!"

"WHAT?!?!" shouted both Snips and Snails.

"No way..." Applejack said with a gasp. "That means that she can attack them both durin' the same Battle Phase! An' since she doubled her Number card's power, it's strong enough to wipe 'em out right now!"

"A One-Turn-Kill..." added Rarity, also surprised. "I never thought that I would ever see one for myself."

"That's Sunset for ya." Rainbow chimed in with a smirk. "Never fails to impress."

Sunset then put her right arm out forward and shouted, "Go! Chateau Huyuk!! Attack both Snips AND Snails directly!!" (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: OLU 2 - 2 = 0)

The two boys sweated and whimpered as Sunset Shimmer's Number card fired a pair of large, red beams, striking them both simultaneously. "AAAAAAAAACCCKKK!!!!" they both screamed, taking the hit dead-on and falling over onto their backs (Snips: LP 4,000 - 4,000 = 0) (Snails: LP 4,000 - 4,000 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer).

"She did it...!" said Fluttershy. "Sunset won the Duel...!" The other girls cheered in response to their friend's victory.

Taking a deep sigh, Sunset then raised her hand once more as a pair of light orbs phased out of the boys' chests. The orbs then flew into her outstretched hand. After that, the orbs transformed into Snips and Snails's Number cards, adding themselves to the otherworldly girl's collection.

After Sunset put away her new Number cards, Pinkie then clicked the button on top of a stopwatch that she had been holding in her hand. Looking at the time display on it closely, she then said, "One minute aaaannnnnnnd... six seconds!" She then told her red and yellow friend, "You were right, Sunnie! They DIDN'T last two minutes against you!"

"That was a mighty sweet victory, Sunset!" Applejack congratulated her friend. "You beat 'em both so fast, they didn't even know what hit 'em!"

"Yeah, just look at those two..." Rainbow Dash chimed in. "They still look totally clueless after it all... Oh wait: They ALWAYS look like that."

"Um... yeah, thanks girls..." Sunset replied in a less than enthusiastic tone.

Noticing that something was wrong with her friend, Rarity then asked her, "Sunset darling, is something the matter?"

"Um... well... uh, I..."

"...You know that you can always tell us if something is bothering you..." Fluttershy reminded her. "We only want to help you..."

The red and yellow teen sighed a little and replied, saying, "...Okay... I'll tell you. But not out here... I'd feel more comfortable if we talked about it somewhere where we can be in private..."

"Of course, Sunset... we understand." Applejack told her with a nod. "But where WOULD ya like t' talk about it?"

The six girls thought for a while, trying to think of a place that they could go to in order to chat privately. Just then, Fluttershy let a gasp, smiled and asked, "I know! How about we all go to the animal shelter to talk about everything? I have to check some things there anyway... Unless someone else has a better idea, of course."

"Actually, with what I have on my mind right now," Sunset began, "that might be the best idea, Fluttershy. Maybe being around the pets at the shelter will help me feel a little better..."

"Then it's decided!" Pinkie shouted with her usual enthusiasm. "To the animal shelter!" Everyone else nodded to say that they agreed and headed for the place in question soon after.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

At the Canterlot City Animal Shelter, there was always a lot of activity as the staff and numerous volunteers took care of business, attending to all of the shelter animals. This included feeding them, training them, getting them exercise, and even adopting them out to new families. Of the many people that volunteered their time and energy to the facility, Fluttershy was the one who did the most for the shelter. Her love of animals gave her all the motivation she needed to do a good job there day after day. Though she had received several awards from the shelter staff for all of her hard work, Fluttershy always believed that the only reward she ever needed was the knowledge that she had made one little animal's life better in one way or another.

As the pink and yellow girl started her usual duties, her five friends sat down on several chairs in the large animal playroom. This was where patrons could go to spend time with the pets that they considered for adoption. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were busy playing with a small Golden Retriever puppy. Pinkie Pie was busy watching a medium-sized iguana in its glass tank home, giggling as she watched it move around slowly. Rarity glanced over near the pet hamsters in their maze-like dwelling, shuddering a little as they looked over at her. Sunset stayed in her seat, petting a fluffy, white Persian cat that hopped up onto her lap.

Noticing that her friend seemed a bit more relaxed, Rainbow Dash asked Sunset, "So... ya feelin' any better?"

"Mhmm." the red and yellow girl replied with a nod, still stroking the fur of the cat in her lap. "Only a little bit, but better than I was a few minutes ago..."

Rarity returned to her seat and then inquired, "So... what has caused you to have such a downcast attitude recently?"

"Well..." Sunset began to explain, "it all started two nights ago... at the apartment building..."

"Two nights ago?" asked Applejack. "That was when Ah came over t' spend the night with ya..." Recalling the event in question, the farm girl then added, "Ah remember that, when last Ah saw ya, you seemed to be all worn out, not t' mention that you were missin' a sleeve from your sleepin' shirt..."

"That's right." confirmed the otherworldly girl. Sighing, she the continued, telling them all, "The reason for that was because... was because I met HIM..."

"Who's 'him'?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"...The Number Hunter."

All of the girls gasped when they heard Sunset tell them that. "You're SERIOUS?!" asked Rarity out of shock. "You had an encounter with that person?!" Sunset nodded yes to say that she did.

"But... how come Ah didn't know anythin' about it?" asked Applejack, scratching her head out of confusion. "Ah can only assume that you dueled this guy, but Ah probably would've noticed if there was a Duel goin' on..."

"Well, there's a reason for that, actually..." Sunset informed her orange-skinned friend. "But... I don't think any of you would believe me if I told you."

"Why are ya so worried about that, Sunnie?" asked Pinkie Pie, suddenly popping out from behind the chair Sunset was sitting in. "We've seen all kinds of crazy, dangerous, magical stuff already!"

"Pinkie's right, Sunset." Rainbow Dash then told her. "After everything we've been through, I'm willin' t' believe ANYTHING." The other three girls nodded to say that they agreed with the two of them.

"Well, if you think that, then I guess I can tell you what happened..." the red and yellow teen replied. "Okay then, here goes..."

For the next several minutes, Sunset Shimmer told her friends exactly what had happened that night on the roof of the apartment building. She told them all about the Number Hunter, and his other identity as "The Doctor", the device he used to slow down time, as well as the Duel that she had against him. She also told them all about what had happened afterwards, when she saved him from falling off of the building... and when she had gotten a look into The Doctor's memories, telling them all about the supposed conversation between the mysterious man, and the even more mysterious individual that had paid him a visit.

Needless to say, Sunset's friends were pretty stunned after hearing everything. "Woah..." Applejack said, still trying to take it all in.

"Oh my..." was all that Fluttershy could say about it.

"Hold up... lemme see if I've got this right:" Rainbow Dash spoke up, trying to figure everything out. "You're tellin' me that this guy stopped time in order to force you into a Duel with him...? And that these Number cards are actually from another dimension??"

"That's what I got out of it all." Sunset replied.

"...Well, I said that I'd believe anything." the cyan teen commented. "And I guess that there's no way that you could've made all this up."

"Someone else could've, Dashie." Pinkie Pie told her. "In fact, this could make for a pretty good series."

Rarity was still a bit confused about everything. "So... according to what you told us, this 'Doctor' person is collecting the Numbers on behalf of someone else... But who is this individual? And why do they want the Numbers?"

"I don't know..." answered Sunset. "But to me, that's not the thing that has me worried... at least not right now..." Letting out a sad groan, she then told them, "What's really got me down is something else that I heard the guy tell The Doctor."

"And what is that?" Fluttershy asked.

"According to what that guy said," the otherworldly girl explained, "the Number cards, or the power that became them, escaped as the result of a breach between his world and our world... A breach that he said... was opened on September the 13th."

"Hold on a sec!" gasped Applejack. "Wasn't that the same day that y'all had that nightmare with the big door and everythin'?"

"Mhmm..." Sunset hummed, nodding her head yes. "I'm sure it doesn't take two and two to figure out what's going on here..." The girl sighed sadly and continued, saying, "If you remember, I told you that, in my dream, I saw this huge door that told me to open it. And when I did, a huge rush of energy shot out towards me..." Taking out a card from her red deck box (specifically, Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech) she added, "Then, right after my dream was over, I found my first Number card... Do you see what's going on here, girls?"

The other five teens pondered about their friend's words for a while. Then suddenly, it hit them: "Hold on..." Rainbow started, "are... are you saying that-"

Sunset sadly nodded and told them, "That's right... It's because of ME that the Number cards are here in the first place..."

The others gasped a little upon hearing this shocking discovery. "Are... you serious, Sugarcube?" inquired Applejack.

"I'm pretty sure of it..." the red and yellow girl answered her. "That dream I had... the Number cards' power... what that guy said to The Doctor... it all fits in perfectly." Shedding a small tear, Sunset continued to say, "This means that everything that happened so far because of those cards is all MY fault! Even when I'm trying to be good, I still find a way to cause trouble for everyone...! What's wrong with me?!"

At that moment, Rarity stood up out of her chair and told Sunset, "There is NOTHING wrong with you, Sunset! And none of this is your fault!"

"Huh?? It isn't??" asked the otherworldly girl, confused. "I don't understand... How is it NOT my fault?! I opened that door and let those cards loose in our world! It was because of me that you were possessed by a Number!"

"It's not because of you that I fell under control of that card." the fashionista informed her. "I got possessed by it because I was careless, and nothing more. In fact, if it wasn't for you, I'd still be under its control." She then told Sunset, "And while it may be true that you opened the door that released the cards here, it is not your fault that they are doing what they are doing."

Sunset was about to say something, but decided to stay silent and listen to what Rarity had to tell her.

The violet-haired teen then said, "It would have been different if you knew what was behind that door and opened it anyway... But you know as well as I do that there was no possible way that you could have known what would happen after it was opened. After all, everything that you told us concerning the door happened in a dream... You could not have possibly known that what you did in that dream would have an effect in the real world. And what's more, you're doing everything in your power to stop the Number cards from harming innocent people..." Rarity then told Sunset, in the most confident-sounding tone that she could muster, "That is why I believe that you are not to blame for everything that has happened! The fact that you are showing remorse for what has happened, along with the fact that you are trying to fix everything as best as you can, proves that you would never intentionally cause harm to anyone else!"

Sunset thought about everything that Rarity had just said to her. The red and yellow girl dwelled on it for a while; the more she thought about it, the more sense those words made to her. Sighing, she then told her fashion-forward friend, "Perhaps you're right, Rarity... Blaming myself for what's happened isn't going to solve anything. What matters right now is dealing with the problem and fixing everything before it's too late."

"Um... I think I have an idea..." Fluttershy muttered softly, but no one heard her.

"But what're we gonna do?" asked Rainbow Dash. "There's still a whole lot we don't know about these Number cards, or about this other guy that's collecting 'em!"

"Um... I have an idea..."

But Fluttershy's comment was once again ignored when Applejack asked, "But where're we gonna find out anythin' about 'em? It ain't like there's a whole section in the school library labeled, 'Interdimensional Tradin' Cards' or somethin' like that!"

"Um... excuse me...?"

"But we have to try and do something..." Rarity informed everyone else. "We can't afford to continue going into these types of situations completely blind!"

As the five of them tried to come up with an idea, Fluttershy attempted to get their attention. But no matter how hard she tried, they didn't hear her. She then glanced over at the cat that was on Sunset Shimmer's lap, now sitting on a table next to her. The animal lover then whispered something into the feline's ear. The cat nodded and walked over to a nearby blackboard and began scraping its claws on it. This caused an ear-piercing sound to fill the whole room, causing everyone else to stop talking and cover their ears.

"AAAAAGHHH!!! What the hay is that noise?!?" Sunset shouted. "It's giving me a headache!!"

"Make it stop already!!!" yelled Rainbow Dash.

Fluttershy then tapped the cat's back, which prompted it to stop scratching the blackboard. Once the noise was done, the shy girl then spoke, saying to her friends, "I'm really, REALLY sorry that I had to resort to doing that... but, well... um... I... I actually had an idea of what we could do..."

"You have an idea?" asked Pinkie Pie. "Why didn't ya say so?"

"Um... well, actually... I did..."

"Oh... sorry 'bout that." Applejack apologized. She then asked, "So, what were y'all thinkin' of doin'?"

"Well... I couldn't help but notice that... um..." the timid teen began, "whenever Sunset takes someone's Number card, that necklace that she wears starts glowing first..." Fluttershy then turned towards Sunset and said to her, "And if I remember correctly, in your dream, when you opened the door, you used the necklace to unlock the door like a key, is that right...?"

The otherworldly girl gasped and answered her, saying, "Yeah, that's right!" Holding the necklace around her neck, she then added, "In fact, all of this stuff didn't start happening until after I bought this at the flea market."

"So... I was thinking that... maybe we should find the person that Sunset had bought the necklace from, and see if they might know anything about it." the pink and yellow girl suggested. "Um, unless you have a better idea, that is..."

"That's a great idea, Flutters!" Rainbow Dash praised her. "We can go find the guy that sold Sunset that thing, and then teach them not to sell dangerous stuff like that to people!"

"Hold on there, Dash..." Applejack spoke up, "Ah don't think she sold that thing-a-ma-bob t' Sunset because she knew what it was capable of... In fact, on the day that Sunset got the necklace, she told us that she didn't know anythin' about it in the first place... Ah'm pretty certain that if she knew it was dangerous, she wouldn't have had it out on display."

"Good point..." the cyan teen responded. She then asked, "But if that's true, then what's the point of going to her if she doesn't know anything about that necklace?"

"There's always a chance that she might have found out some things afterwards..." Sunset Shimmer answered her. "Besides, it's not like we have any better options anyway. This necklace is the only clue we have towards solving this mystery, and we have to make the most of it."

"Then it's settled: We're goin' with Fluttershy's plan and see what we can find out." stated Applejack. "Pack your bags, gals... we're off t' see Zecora!"

---------------------------------------------------------------------

After Fluttershy finished things up at the Animal Shelter, the six girls went into town, searching for Zecora, the woman that had sold Sunset the necklace that she wore. Applejack led the way, as she had visited the woman's place of business in the past, so she knew where it was. After a few minutes of walking around, they finally located the small shop. All around the outside, there were displays of tribal masks, spears, shields, and other bizarre items that you would never find in any other type of store. The shop had a mysterious look and feel all around it.

"Well, here's the place, gals..." AJ told her friends. "Zecora's Curio Shop..."

Rarity trembled a bit; she had been by the shop before, but never had the courage to walk inside. "Ughhh... do we REALLY have to go in here...?" she asked the others. "You know how much this place gives me the creeps..."

"What's so creepy about it?" asked Pinkie Pie, popping out from behind the fashionista. "These are the COOLEST things that I've ever seen! I can't wait to see what she has in there THIS time!!" Before another word could be said, the silly pink girl ran as fast as she could to get into the shop.

Sunset sighed and told the others, "We have to go in and see Zecora... She might be the only person who can tell us about the necklace and this Astral World place..."

"I agree, Sunset." Rainbow Dash commented. "I don't care if Jason or Predator or whoever is hidin' in that store! We've got a job to do, and we're gonna do it!!" She and Sunset then ran inside of the store as well, with Applejack following them close behind.

Rarity sighed sadly, still not too pleased with having to go into a store that she considered creepy. Fluttershy, understanding her concern, put her hand on her shoulder and said, "We should follow them, Rarity... The sooner we go in, the sooner we can get it overwith..." Rarity nodded, agreeing with her shy friend's words as they walked inside the shop together.

Inside the shop, there were all sorts of strange, mysterious objects strewn across the floors and shelves. The items seemed to come from almost every possible corner of the world. As bizarre as they looked, it was quite an impressive collection of rare artifacts. Zecora herself was nowhere to be seen, so the six girls decided to glance around until she showed up.

Rarity was still not too happy to be in the shop, evidenced by the grimace that was displayed prominently on her face. Wiping her finger on one of the items for sale, she stuck out her tongue and complained, saying, "Bleck! Not only are these things creepy... they're covered in DUST! ...Not to mention that there is little to no organizational plan in this place whatsoever! Even if I wanted something from here, Heaven forbid, I wouldn't be able to FIND it!"

"I agree..." whimpered Fluttershy, "this place is... kind of scary..."

"Scary?" asked Pinkie Pie as she rummaged through a box full of tribal masks. "No way!! These things are the best!!" She then hopped into the box of masks, continuing to rummage through them all. "Hey, Fluttershy! Check this one out!!" The pink girl then popped out, wearing an over-sized green mask with bulging bug eyes, a orange and purple-striped nose and a big toothy grin. "BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!!!" Pinkie shouted.

"AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!" screamed Fluttershy, fainting and falling onto her back.

Pinkie threw off the mask and giggled a bit at her practical joke. Just then, however, an antique rolling pin fell from a shelf above and struck the pink girl on the head, which stopped her laughing. "OW!!!" Pinkie grunted, rubbing the sore spot with her right hand. "What'd I do??"

Meanwhile, Applejack and Rainbow Dash were looking at all of the antique weapons that were on display, particularly the rack full of spears. Even though they were too young to purchase weapons, they could still admire them from a distance. "Those things look mighty sharp, don't they Dash?" asked the farm girl.

"Sure do." the cyan-skinned teen replied. "I'd bet, with one'a those things, I could be some super-tough warrior or somethin'! No one would be able t' beat me!"

"Unless, of course," Applejack told her, "Ah was your opponent, that is..."

"Peh! In you dreams, AJ... I could beat ya single-handedly!" bragged Rainbow. The two of them shared a smirk with each other; though they were friends, they were often rivals with each other when it came to physical sports and games.

Sunset, of course, had only one thing on her mind as she wandered around the small, cluttered shop. She walked up to the front counter, where an old-style cash register sat, ready for use. (Heh...) she thought to herself, (that looks just like the cash registers in Equestria... only ours are still brand-new.) Finding a small bell on the counter, she rang it and called out, "Excuse me?? Ms. Zecora? Are you there??"

Not too long after that, a woman walked out from a room behind the front counter. It was none other than Zecora herself, still clad in her animal skin-like outfit. "Ah, Sunset! It is you. What can I do?" she asked in her usual rhyme.

"Hello, Zecora..." the otherworldly girl spoke to her. Showing the woman the necklace around her neck, Sunset asked, "I was wondering if I could ask you something concerning this necklace that I bought from you a while back..."

"Oh my... is there something wrong with it?" asked Zecora. "If so, I can refund you, bit by bit..."

"Oh, no... I'm not here for a refund, Ms. Zecora." the red and yellow girl told her. "It's just that... have you been able to find any information on it since you sold it to me? Like... about a place called the, 'Astral World'?"

The striped woman gasped a little when she heard that. "Did... did you say... the Astral World??" she asked. "...Hmmm... I am glad that you have come to see me, girl..."

"You know about it?" asked Sunset.

"I do indeed, and I should have known, where that necklace of yours has come from..." Zecora answered. "Follow me... and see..." She then beckoned the young teen to follow her into the room in the back.

Sunset then called over to her friends, shouting, "Hey girls! Zecora wants us all to follow her into the back! Let's go!" The others stopped what they were doing and walked with the otherworldly girl into the backroom.

The group of teens watched as Zecora looked through her bookshelves in the back of the store, searching for some sort of reference material that was pertinent to their current situation. Once she found it, she pulled it out and said, "Ah! Here it is! Now listen to this..." She took the book over to a nearby table (after pushing aside some old maps and papers scattered all over the surface) and opened it to a particular page. "This page should tell you the info you need," Zecora continued, "now please go and take a seat while I read..." The striped woman was about to being reading the material in front of her...

But at that moment, Rainbow Dash spoke up and asked, "Uh, Zecora? Could ya do us all a little favor? Could you explain all of the stuff in that book to us WITHOUT doing that rhyming thing that you always do? No offense, but it'd make you a bit easier to understand..."

The mysterious woman hummed a little to herself, thinking about Dash's request. Sighing a little out of disappointment, she then answered her, saying, "...Very well. If I must." She then added, "I suppose it would have been hard to try and put all of this information into the form of a rhyme anyway." She then cleared her throat and explained to them all, "This ancient tome that is in my hands comes from an ancient civilization that existed around 3,000 years ago, during the same era as the ancient empire of Egypt."

"Egypt?" asked Sunset, becoming interested.

Zecora nodded and continued to tell them, "These people and their society once worshiped a powerful source of energy that they believed existed long before humans and all other life came into existence. They believed that this energy came from a nonphysical realm that existed far beyond our own world... Thus, they called this mysterious place, 'Asutoraru Sekai'."

"Asu-what?" asked Pinkie Pie, not sure what those words meant.

"Roughly translated," the striped woman continued, "it means, 'Astral World': A world among the stars."

"Oh wow..." gasped Rarity. "That world must be quite beautiful with a name like that..."

"So, where was this ancient Egyptian society, exactly?" asked Applejack, curious to know.

"Oh no... this civilization did not exist within Egypt, Ms. Applejack." Zecora corrected her. "According to archaeologists, this society was believed to exist somewhere in the Himalayas..."

"The Himalayas? Isn't that a mountain range that's nearby India and China?" asked Fluttershy.

"It is indeed, Ms. Fluttershy." the striped woman confirmed. She then pointed at Sunset's necklace and told them, "And it just so happens that I found that item from within those very mountains."

"Y-you did?" asked Sunset Shimmer. "But why didn't you tell me about all of that before?"

"...If you recall, Ms. Shimmer, I had told you that I was not aware of the necklace's true origins at first." reminded Zecora. "After I sold it to you, I decided to look through all of my reference materials to try and find more information." She then walked over to another pile of papers and pulled a few out to show the girls. "And that's when I came across these: These pictures came from the most recent archaeological dig concerning the ancient civilization I mentioned earlier. They were posted on the museum's blog, and I decided to print them out to look through later."

The six teenage girls looked at the pictures closely; there were all sorts of strange, yet interesting things to see on them. They mostly consisted of drawings of people and things that were painted or chiseled on stone slabs. One thing that caught the girls' attention the most were the pictures of what appeared to be several creatures under the command of human masters.

"Um... is it just me," Rarity began, "or do the stone drawings here look... sort of familiar?"

"Well... kind of..." Fluttershy responded. "But where have we seen them before?"

Sunset looked at the pictures as closely as possible... and then let out a gasp. "It can't be!" She then quickly reached into her purse and pulled out her Deck. Taking out one of the cards she had in her Deck (specifically Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut), she put it next to one of the creatures that had been drawn on the stone slab. To everyone's surprise, the pictures on the slab and on the card were almost exactly the same.

"Wowee!!" said Pinkie Pie. "They look just like each other!"

"So wait a sec..." started Rainbow Dash, "is this supposed to be a picture of... people dueling?"

"That's what it looks like, but it can't be true..." pondered Applejack. "Everybody knows that Maximillion Pegasus designed Duel Monsters durin' the mid-90's! So how in the hay could it have existed over 3,000-somethin' years ago?!"

(Wait... the creator of Duel Monsters has "Pegasus" as his last name?) Sunset asked in her mind. (...Really??)

"That is quite true, Ms. Applejack." Zecora informed the farm girl. "However, it is a little-known fact that Pegasus came up with the idea of the card game from his visits to many archaeological sites in Egypt and elsewhere. Using what he learned of these ancient monster battles, he decided to recreate them in the form of a card game, and thus, Duel Monsters as we know it today was born."

"Wow... so that's how it happened." Rarity commented.

"So, basically..." Rainbow Dash added, "he sorta ripped it off of a game that was played thousands of years ago?"

"It is best to think of the whole thing as Pegasus trying to recreate the game for modern times, and as a way for it to be played in a much safer setting..." Zecora explained. "Or at least, that was his intention... But as you all may know, there have been bizarre occurrences involving the game of Duel Monsters that many are unable to logically explain."

"Ya mean stuff like what happened a coupla years back? Such as the Battle City Tournament all the way over in Japan?" asked Applejack. "Ah heard that there were reports of competitors gettin' injured and collapsin'..."

"Don't forget about Duelist Kingdom before that!" Pinkie Pie reminded the farm girl. "There was some really weird stuff going on over there, too! And I'm not just referring to how weird the card effects were back then!"

"Come to think of it..." Fluttershy spoke up. "I heard a few rumors about some things that happened at one of the Duel Academy schools... Something about Sacred Beasts, I think... or, was it about some giant demon creature in a stone slab?" The girls looked at one another after recalling all of these strange, unexplainable events throughout the history of the Duel Monsters card game, feeling a tad nervous after hearing about all of it.

"It is quite distressing, I must say..." Zecora told them all, "but luckily, occurrences such as these are few and far in-between."

"So what does all of this have to do with my necklace?" asked Sunset. "And this Astral World place?"

Zecora took out another photograph that she had printed from the Internet and showed it to the otherworldly girl and her friends. "Perhaps this picture might assist you in finding the answer..." the striped woman said to them. "The supposed ancient society in the Himalayan Mountains were protected and governed by a small group of men and women, throughout many generations. They were exceptionally skilled in magic, and were capable of summoning monsters to fight those who would dare threaten their very way of life; much like the sorcerers in Ancient Egypt. They were called, 'Diak Ums': Duel Priests and Duel Priestesses.

"This picture here shows one generation of Diak Ums..." Zecora noted, pointing to the eight figures painted on the stone tablet in the photograph. The figures consisted of seven women, and one man. The drawings were relatively simplistic and didn't show a lot of detail, but based on the overall quality of the paintings, it was clear that they were highly respected during their time in this world. "These seven priestesses and one priest were thought to have been the most powerful of them all. The Diak Ums were all quite strong, but these eight individuals were particularly powerful, and knew a great deal of the energy that lived within the Astral World. And even then, not one of them ever considered abusing that power for their own personal gain; rather, they ensured that it would be used for the benefit of everyone in their society."

"Woah... that sounds pretty cool..." noted Rainbow Dash, now getting more interested in the whole thing.

Pinkie Pie looked at one of the figures in the painting and giggled a bit. "Hey, Sunnie!" she said to Sunset, pointing to one of the priestesses in the picture. "This one has your hair!"

"She does, does she?" asked the otherworldly girl, looking at the picture herself. As she gazed at the painting, something about it seemed to really interest her. Why, she didn't know. She then asked Zecora, "Say... could you make a copy of this painting for me?"

"Of course." the striped woman replied, taking the picture and heading for her computer, which had a printer/scanner hooked up to it. It didn't take long for her to make a quick copy of the photo and give it to Sunset Shimmer.

"So... what happened to these people in the painting?" asked Rarity. "I mean, besides the fact that they are most likely deceased, of course."

"That is a very good question." Zecora told her. "No one seems to know... In fact, the only records that exist that prove that the Diak Ums were alive are these ancient paintings. Even in the tombs of their city, there is no trace of their remains anywhere."

"How is that possible?" asked Sunset.

"Based on their scriptures," Zecora answered, reading the book once more, "they believed that individuals that are noble and pure of heart ascend into the Astral World and are reincarnated. Of course, it is unknown if this is true or not... but if it is, then it is quite possible that the Diak Ums became part of the Astral World after their physical bodies died. But what awaited them there is another story, one that has not yet been uncovered."

The six girls weren't sure what to make of everything they heard. They didn't know whether to believe it or not, but they knew for sure that it meant something big was on its way... something that they weren't sure that they were ready for...

Sunset Shimmer and her friends soon left Zecora's Curio Shop and headed off into town together. Eventually, they made their way into the city park where people did all sorts of outdoor activities, such as playing sports, walking their dogs, or gazing at the natural setting that the park offered. The group sat down on some nearby park benches as they thought about everything that Zecora told them.

"So... do you guys believe all that stuff she told us?" Rainbow Dash asked the others. "I mean... there's no way that it could all be true, could it?"

"Well, I do admit that it seems quite far-fetched to me..." Rarity noted. "But... I have this feeling that it may indeed have some merit, regardless of how impossible it may seem..."

"Yeah... I don't know why," Fluttershy meekly chimed in, "but all of it seemed... oddly familiar to me, even though I'm sure that this is the first time that I've heard about this Astral World..." Blushing a little, she then added, "Oh... I hope you don't think I'm strange for thinking that..."

"If you're strange for thinking all of that, Fluttershy," Sunset began to tell her, "then I guess that I am too. The more I think about what Zecora told us... and from what I heard when I looked into The Doctor's memory, the more it feels that I know about it all already... but I'm not sure how..."

The five other girls looked at one another and Sunset, not sure what to make of it all.

"There's something else too..." the otherworldly girl told them. "While Zecora was reading that book, I managed to get a peek at one of the photographs in it; I saw a picture of a stone slab with some sort of text written on it... and the writing looked exactly like the text on all of my Number cards."

"Really??" asked Applejack, startled a bit by what Sunset had just said, as were the others.

"Believe me, I'm not making this up." stated the red and yellow girl. "The writing on that slab looked just like the glyphs on the Number cards."

"Come to think of it..." Rarity spoke up, "I saw that picture in the book as well... And from what I remember from the time that I had my Number card, that text in the photograph looked very much similar to the text on the card that I had."

"So you think Zecora was tellin' the truth about everything?" asked Rainbow Dash, still somewhat skeptical, but interested in the whole thing.

"I'm not sure if everything she told us is true or not," Sunset answered, "but we can't deny that there's some link between the Numbers cards and this Astral World place. And I think that if we can learn more about this other world, we can figure out more about what the Number cards are, and why they are doing what they're doing."

"But how...?" asked Fluttershy.

The otherworldly girl sighed sadly and answered her, saying, "That... I have no idea..." Looking at her necklace, which she figured was the key to the whole mystery, she then added, "These Number cards and their users are becoming more and more dangerous every time I have to fight them..."

"Except for Snips and Snails." Pinkie interrupted.

"...Okay, besides Snips and Snails," Sunset continued, "these Number cards are getting more powerful with each Duel I fight involving them... Not to mention that there's some other guy collecting them as well. And who's to say that there aren't OTHER people that are actively collecting Numbers, too?" Sighing, she then said, "It's times like this that I really wish Twilight were here..."

"Yeah, I can agree with you on that one for sure..." stated Rainbow Dash. "I mean the only thing better than having one egghead trying to figure this whole mess out, is having TWO eggheads workin' on it."

"Yeah, I'll bet the two of you combined would be able to figure out all of this Number and Astral World stuff in a coupla minutes!" stated Pinkie Pie. Gasping, she then asked, "I've got an idea! Why don't you use your magic book-thingy and ask her to come by, Sunnie?"

Sunset sighed again and told her, "Believe me, I'd want nothing more than to ask her to come and help us with all of this... But I can't."

"You can't??" asked Rarity. "Why not?"

"Don't you remember?" the otherworldly girl asked her friends. "Twilight's a Princess back in Equestria; more specifically, the Princess of Friendship. I'm sure that, back in her world, she's got all sorts of problems and things to care of on a daily basis. And if that's the case, I don't want to disturb her. Like it or not, this is a problem... that I'll have to figure out without her..."

Sunset's friends could tell from the tone of her voice that, if she felt that she could, she would want nothing more than to have Twilight come back to their world and help them all out. But they understood Sunset's concerns about disturbing the Princess when she more than likely had things of her own to deal with. Still, none of them were comfortable with the idea of trying to resolve this issue with the Number cards without Twilight to assist them.

"Look, girls... let's not get so down 'bout all of this..." Applejack told them all. "Ah'm sure we'll figure out a way to resolve everything, with or without Twi's help." Patting Sunset on the back, she then added, "Long as we all remember to stick together n' support one another, we'll get through it all, Ah guarantee it."

The red and yellow girl smiled after hearing that. "You're right, Applejack. One way or another, we'll find a way out of this mess... together." The others smiled as well, knowing that they would do their best to solve the mystery of the Number cards and the Astral World.

Later that night, Sunset returned to the apartment building that she lived in. After saying hi to Manny Roar, she made her way into her apartment using her key and set all of her things down. She made herself something to eat with her microwave while watching her favorite game show on TV. After it was over, she walked into her bathroom, took a quick shower, and tied on her crimson-colored robe before walking into her bedroom.

Sunset then took her necklace and lay it on the nightstand next to her bed. This way, it would be within her eyesight, just in case anything were to happen to it. The red and yellow girl let out a deep yawn; after everything she and her friends had done that day, she was quite exhausted, physically and mentally. She was so tired, she decided to just go to sleep while wearing her robe, not bothering to change into her pajamas like she usually did (which made sense, considering that the shirt had its sleeve ripped off after her encounter with The Doctor; she had not yet purchased any new sleeping clothes yet). Pulling the covers over herself, she let out another deep yawn before going to sleep...

Hours later, though unbeknownst to her, Sunset's key necklace began to glow brightly. The otherworldly girl was sleeping so soundly, she didn't even notice what was happening around her; not even when a small ball of light came from out of the necklace and began swirling around in the air for a while. Eventually, the light ball phased right through the back wall of Sunset's bedroom, appearing outside of the apartment building, several feet in the air. The sphere began flying through the air, apparently heading for a particular destination that only it knew.

It wasn't much longer before the ball of light had made its way to Canterlot High School. As it was a late Friday night, the school was locked up tight. But the sphere wasn't interested in going into the building itself (not that it couldn't, since it was capable of moving through solid walls anyway); instead, it flew over towards the large horse statue in front of the school. On the large pedestal that the statue stood upon were four large mirrors. The ball of light flew around the statue several times... before it stopped in front of one of the mirrors. Then, all of a sudden, it phased into the mirror and disappeared completely...

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Ponyville, Equestria: Time 1:16 a.m.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

In another world entirely, night had long since fallen upon a small town that was made up mostly of small houses and buildings with straw-covered roofs on them. The town was known as Ponyville; to most, it seemed like any other small town. But it was often the site of many events that took place that would determine the fate of country of Equestria; the former home of Sunset Shimmer. While most of Ponyville seemed ordinary and unassuming, there was one structure that definitely stood out: A gigantic castle on the outskirts of town that was made up of purple and blue crystals. Just like the rest of the houses in Ponyville, the castle's interiors were nearly pitch-black, save for the bit of moonlight that crept inside, indicating that those who lived within it had turned in for the night...

However, deep within the castle's basement, one of the items in the large room began to start glowing, as if it had been activated somehow. It was a tall mirror, and the reflective surface had begun to ripple as a small light came out of it. Once it fully emerged, the sphere began whizzing around in circles inside the dark room. Eventually, the ball of light phased through the ceiling above, emerging into a long hallway. It then flew down the hall, passing by several large and extravagant rooms.

Eventually, the sphere of light stopped when it reached what appeared to be some sort of a meeting hall. Inside of the room was a large, circular table made of crystal, surrounded by six, tall chairs (and one short chair). Each of the tall chairs had a large symbol emblazoned upon the top of them: A trio of balloons, a trio of pink butterflies, a trio of blue diamonds, a rainbow-colored lightning bolt, a trio of bright red apples, and a pink, six-pointed star. Above the giant table was what appeared be to the bottom half of a tree with several, jewel-shaped ornaments hanging from its roots.

The ball of light slowly flew into the large meeting hall, approaching the large table. It then sat gently onto the surface of the table, flattening itself into the shape of a thin rectangle. It then began blinking, providing the only source of light in the darkened room.

Not long after that, a flushing sound could be heard from nearby, indicating that the castle bathroom had just been used. After the light in the room had been switched off, a figure came walking out of it. It was a little pony with a lavender-colored coat and a straight purple mane and tail with hot pink streaks running down them. She had purple eyes, along with a long, pointy horn on her forehead. On her back were a pair of large, purple wings that matched her coat color perfectly. On both sides of her rear end was a small emblem, known as a "cutie mark"; the mark was a six-pointed pink star that looked exactly like the one imprinted upon one of the tall chairs in the meeting room.

The lavender-colored pony yawned deeply as she walked down the hallway, her eyes drooping. Sighing and groaned from her tired state, she said to herself, "That's the third time tonight that I've had to get up to go to the bathroom..." Sighing again, she then added, "That does it: That's the LAST time that I let Pinkie Pie talk me into ordering a jumbo-size strawberry milkshake at the Hayburger Stand..."

As the pony walked down the hallway leading back to her bedroom, she passed by the meeting hall... and noticed a faint light coming from out of that room. "Huh?" She stopped after noticing the light and glanced over towards it, peeping into the room. She then saw the blinking light coming from the top of the circular table. "I thought I switched off the map for the night..." she said to herself. Not sure what it was at first, the lavender pony trotted over to investigate it.

"What is that...?" she asked herself as she looked at the blinking object closely. She then saw that the object was some sort of black-colored card. "A... trading card...? Where did this come from? It doesn't look like any trading card that I've ever seen..." She then placed her left front hoof on the card as she leaned over to take a better look at it...

But when she did so, the black card began to glow even brighter, surrounding itself with a white-colored aura. That aura also covered the lavender pony as well. "What the-? What's going on?!?" she asked, becoming frightened from what was happening in front of her. She tried to back away, but some sort of invisible force was preventing her from taking her hoof off of the card on the table. The pony covered her face with her other foreleg as the light around her got even brighter, filling the room completely. "Rrrrrrgh!!! Would somepony explain to me why this thing is going crazy?!?" she yelled.

Just then, all of a sudden, the light finally began to die down, and the room became dark once more. The pony noticed that the light had faded, and she immediately opened her eyes and moved her foreleg away from her face, placing it back onto the floor. Taking a deep breath, she then asked herself, "What... the hay... was THAT??" She then glanced over at the card that she found on the table and saw that it had changed: There was now text written on the card in various places, and a picture of a white and golden-armored warrior had appeared on what used to be a blank, white space. The pony looked closely at the card and began reading it...

*******************************

Number 39: Utopia:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Warrior-Type/LIGHT/Rank 4/ATK 2500/DEF 2000)

2 Level 4 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. When any player's monster declares an attack: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; negate the attack. When this card is targeted for an attack by a "Number" monster, while it has no Xyz Materials: Destroy this card.

*******************************

The pony had no idea what the text on the card meant. More so, she didn't recognize the writing that made up the card's text as any language that she knew of from her past studies. Yet, she was able to read the text perfectly as if it were written in English. "This doesn't make any sense..." she said to herself, confused by what had taken place so far. "I've never seen this language before, so how is it that I can read it? And what was with that crazy light that came out of it...?"

Sighing, the pony said to herself, "Forget it... I'm too tired to try and figure all of this out right now... But first thing in the morning, I'll gather up my friends and see if we can figure it out together." Pondering some more, she then added, "Hmmm... perhaps it might not be a bad idea to get the Princesses here as well..." She then pointed her horn at the strange card. A second later, both the horn and the card were surrounded with a violet-colored aura. The card then began to levitate off of the table and was dropped into a small, pink, wooden chest with gold-plated trims. The chest was then closed and properly secured, ensuring that no one would try to open it anytime soon. The pony then yawned deeply and continued heading for her bedroom in order to get back to sleep.

Morning soon came to the small town of Ponyville, and all of its residents were awake and ready to begin the day. Much like the individual that lived within the large crystal castle, almost everyone that lived in Ponyville (and Equestria as a whole) were ponies as well. But unlike the equines that occupied the world where Sunset Shimmer lived, they were capable of speech and many other human-like traits.

Inside of the large crystal castle, the lavender pony that lived within it had walked into the large meeting room. After glancing at the large table in the center, which now appeared to display a holographic map of some sort upon it, she then looked behind her and said, "It's in here, everypony... Be careful, though; I'm... not sure what will happen from this point forward..."

The lavender pony then strolled inside the room, followed by eight other individuals: First, there was a cyan-coated Pegasus pony with a rainbow-colored mane and tail with a rainbow-colored lightning bolt mark that flew in the air as she entered the room. Following her was a yellow Pegasus that walked on the ground, who had a pink mane and tail, and a mark that showed a picture of three pink butterflies. Next came a white Unicorn pony with a beautiful violet mane, with a picture of three blue diamonds on her flank. Walking right beside her was a young dragon with purple and green scales.

Next to enter the room was an orange-coated pony with a blond mane and tail. She wore a brown cowgirl hat on her head and had a mark that showed a picture of three, shiny, red apples. Behind her hopped a pink pony with a poofy, cotton candy-like mane and tail, and a picture of three small balloons on her rear end. Last to enter the room were two exceptionally large ponies known as Alicorns, which was also the same species that the lavender pony was as well. One had a pure white coat, a long horn, and a pair of huge wings. Her mane and tail consisted of several colors of blue, pink, and green that flowed freely in the air. The mark on her flank was a large, bright sun. The other Alicorn was slightly shorter than the other, and had a dark-blue coat color in addition to a long horn and large wings. Her blue mane also flowed freely, and her cutie mark was a white moon in the night sky. Both the larger ponies wore crowns on their heads, signifying that they were of royal status.

The lavender Alicorn pony strolled up to small, pink chest and used her magical powers to levitate it off of the table she put it on. "Carrying" it over, she then told everyone else in the room, "Here it is... This is the reason that I've brought you all here today."

"This thing?" asked the orange pony with a southern Texan accent. Looking at it curiously, she then inquired the lavender pony, "But... what's in it, Twilight?"

"I'm glad you asked, Applejack." the purple-maned Alicorn, named Twilight Sparkle, answered her. She then opened the chest with her magic and explained, saying, "Last night, when I was passing by this room, I saw a strange object sitting on the map here... When I went over to investigate it, I saw that it appeared to be some sort of card..."

"A card?" asked the white Unicorn. "You mean like a trading card, Twilight dear? Doesn't seem that unusual to me..."

"Yeah, Rarity's right..." the rainbow-maned Pegasus added, "Collecting trading cards seems like somethin' that eggheady nerds like you would do all the time. So why'd you bring us all out here just t' tell us that??"

Twilight narrowed her eyes a little and said to the cyan-coated pony, "I don't exactly appreciate being called an, 'eggheady nerd', Rainbow Dash... but right now, that's not important. And you'll let me continue, you'll all know why I'm so concerned about this card..." Using her magic, she then hovered it towards the pink pony in the room and asked her, "Pinkie Pie, you collect trading cards, right?"

"I sure do, Twilight!" the pink pony answered her. "Isn't that totally convenient to the plot that I just so happen to do that?"

The lavender Alicorn didn't know how to respond to that bizarre remark at first. Pushing the confusing words out of her mind for the moment, she then asked Pinkie, "Whatever... do you recognize this card at all? Have you ever seen it before?"

The pink pony looked carefully and closely at the black card that was in front of her. She hummed... and hummed... and hummed some more, apparently in deep thought. Suddenly, she let out a loud, happy gasp and said, "Oh yeah! I've got it!! I've got it!!!"

"You know something about it, Pinkie Pie?!" asked Twilight in a hopeful tone of voice.

"Yeppity-yep-yep!!" the pink pony told her. "I one-hundred percent know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt... that I have never seen this card before in my life." Most of the others in the room groaned loudly after hearing what she had said.

"Rrrgh... Ah should've seen that one comin'." replied the orange pony, named Applejack.

The yellow, pink-haired Pegasus pony then looked at the card next and said, "I don't recognize this card either... Mr. Duck and Mr. Beaver don't have any cards that look even close to that in their collections..."

"Wait a sec, your animals collect cards, Fluttershy?" asked the cyan Pegasus, named Rainbow Dash.

"Oh yes... they do." the timid yellow pony answered her friend. "In fact, they're very competitive whenever they play cards with each other, among other things... But... I get the feeling that Mr. Duck and Mr. Beaver don't really get along with each other very well; I think they might be a little TOO competitive..."

Twilight sighed to herself and then walked over to the other two Alicorns in the room. "Princess Celestia..." she began to ask the large, white pony while presenting the strange card to her, "do you recognize the language on this card at all?"

"Hmmmm..." The white Alicorn, named Celestia, looked at the card closely, studying each and every one of the glyphs printed upon it. The dark blue Alicorn then took a glance at it herself, hoping to identify the bizarre language as well. Celestia then sighed and told the lavender pony, "I apologize, Twilight... but I'm afraid that I have never seen a language like this one in my entire life..."

"You... haven't...?" asked Twilight in a disappointed tone of voice.

"My sister would not lie about something like that, Princess Twilight." the dark-blue Alicorn told her. "And I can say most certainly that I, too, do not recognize this form of writing at all either..."

"Really? You don't know what it is either, Princess Luna?" Twilight asked the dark-blue pony. Looking at the card again, she then added, "But if neither of YOU know about this language, then how is it that I am able to read it perfectly?? This is TOO weird..." Sighing, the lavender pony then added, "Of course, that wasn't the ONLY thing about this card that was strange..."

"Really?" asked the little dragon as he walked towards her. "What else did this thing do?"

"Well, for starters, Spike," Twilight began to explain, "when I first saw the card, there was nothing on it; no picture, no text, nothing. But then, after I touched it, it started radiating this extremely powerful light for about half a minute before anything else appeared on it..."

"Radiating light?" asked Pinkie Pie in a casual tone. "You mean like what it's doing right now?"

"Huh??" Twilight immediately looked back at the card that she was holding with her magic, gasping when she saw that it was glowing once more, just like it did that night. "Oh no!! It's doing it again!! Everypony, get back!!!" the lavender pony shouted to everyone else in the room as she dropped the card on the reflective floor before joining the others. They all stepped back, distancing themselves as far as possible from the strange trading card.

The card began glowing brighter and brighter, and before long, a galaxy-like portal formed where it lay. The vortex drew in large amounts of light energy, storing it inside of itself. Then, a second later, the portal exploded violently, leaving behind a large, red mark that looked like the number 39.

"Wh-wh-wh-what in Equestria is that?!?" asked Rarity out of fear.

"Forget that, Rarity!" shouted Applejack, pointing towards the ceiling. "What the hay is THAT thing?!?"

The other seven ponies and one dragon looked straight up at where the orange pony was pointing, gasping as a large, white and gold object began to descend to the floor in front of them. After it stopped coming down, the front parts of the object unfolded, revealing themselves to be incredibly large wings.

"Wh-what is that thing supposed t' be??" asked Rainbow Dash. "Is it some sorta spaceship or somethin'??"

The group continued to watch as the inner part of the object, which had previously been obscured by the large wings, began to change shape. It then began to unfold into a human-like being that was covered in bright, shiny armor that was white and gold in color, with some sort of green "core" on its chest, and armed with a pair of large swords sheathed at both sides of its hip area. Its head was mostly covered by a similarly-colored helmet that had a pair of golden scythe-like protrusions coming out of the sides. Only a pair of small, red eyes could be seen underneath it. On its left shoulder pad, there was a red symbol resembling the number 39. The figure that had appeared before them was the same figure on the card's picture, and after it had fully emerged, it clenched its fists and outstretched its arms, displaying a powerful-looking pose.

"That's not a spaceship, Dashie..." Pinkie Pie said to her rainbow-maned Pegasus friend. "It's a Transformer...!"

(A what...?) thought the others.

The figure, so tall that its head was almost high enough to reach the ceiling of the meeting hall, looked around at all of the occupants in the room. Its eyes then glanced over at Twilight Sparkle, focusing its attention on her specifically. When the lavender Alicorn saw that its eyes were on her, she began to feel a little nervous; even more so when the armored figure pointed at her. "You..." it said to her in a low, masculine voice. "Are you the one called Princess Twilight Sparkle?"

Twilight, still a bit intimidated by this strange figure, meekly answered him, saying, "Um... I-I-I am..."

The figure did not respond at first; he just continued to stare at the lavender pony with his glowing red eyes. Then, he began to move and, to everyone's surprise, he bent down on one knee and bowed respectfully in front of the young Princess. "Forgive me for my appearing so suddenly in front of you as I have... but rest assured, I come in peace, Your Highness." he then told her.

"You... do?" asked Twilight. "Who are you?"

Standing back up, the armored man then answered the lavender Alicorn, telling her, "You should already know who I am; it is written upon the card that bears my image..."

"The card?" Figuring everything out, Twilight then began to say, "Then... that means that you must be-"

"Correct." the figure interrupted her. "I am Utopia; The King of Hope and Wishes."

"King of Hope and Wishes...?" Celestia repeated to herself. She then told the armored giant, "That is quite an impressive title. Did you come up with it yourself?"

"I am what I am due to the deepest desires of the one who has awakened me." Utopia replied. Pointing at Twilight again, he then added, "It is because of this young girl that I have my physical form and power."

"Me??" asked the young Princess. "But... what did I do?"

"More than you may realize." Utopia told her. "But I suppose that I cannot blame you for feeling somewhat confused. So perhaps explaining more will help you to understand what is going on."

"It would probably help." Luna agreed. "Now tell us; what are you? And where is it that you come from?"

Utopia then pointed to his left shoulder pad (the one that had the red 39 on it) and began telling them, "I am known as a 'Number', one of one hundred beings that originate from a world far beyond yours or any other, known as the Astral World."

"Astral World?" asked Twilight. "Never heard of it..."

"Indeed... Not many outside of our world have knowledge of it." the man informed her. "Very few have heard of the Astral World, and even fewer have beared witness to it. It is a nonphysical realm of existence that existed before all others; the Alpha and the Omega."

The occupants of the meeting hall listened closely to Utopia's words, but not everyone understood what he was talking about. Scratching her head a little, Applejack then asked her friends, "So... do y'all know what the hay that Utopia guy's sayin? 'Cause Ah sure don't..."

"Nope." Rainbow Dash simply responded.

"Not a clue!" Pinkie Pie added enthusiastically.

"Well, whatever he's saying, it sounds very important..." noted Fluttershy.

"I believe so too, Fluttershy dear." Rarity chimed in, rubbing the underside of her chin. "But why did he come here? And why did he wish to see Twilight?"

"I don't know, Rarity..." Spike said to her, "but I just know it's gonna be something big..." He then walked over to Pinkie Pie and pulled a handheld day planner from out of her poofy mane and used a pencil that he had with him to cross out several days on it. "So much for my plans this week..." he said to himself as he finished his work and stuffed the planner back into the pink pony's mane hair. "Thanks for holding onto that for me, Pinkie." the little dragon told her.

"No problem!" Pinkie responded with a smile.

Rarity's question as to why Utopia had come looking for Twilight was also the question that was on the lavender Alicorn's mind. "Why have you come here, Utopia?" the young Princess asked him. "More importantly, how do you know my name?"

"The answers to both of your questions are one and the same." Utopia told her. "I have come here... to seek your help."

"M-my help...? With what??"

"From the world that I have come from, there is a great battle taking place:" the armored giant answered. "A battle to claim the power that we hold. However... our power cannot be wielded by just anyone; those that are unable to handle it risk becoming enslaved by it. This presents a problem for us and the residents of that world, as you can imagine."

"Sounds like it..." agreed Twilight.

"Yes, but that is not all..." Utopia continued. "I have sensed that there are wicked forces within that world that are also seeking our power. If they were to claim all of it, this other world would be doomed to a future of darkness and despair..."

"That sounds horrible..." stated Rarity in a sad-sounding tone of voice.

"I know..." Pinkie chimed in, also feeling down just hearing that. "A world where everypony is all sad, mopey, and not having any fun? I can't imagine ever living in a world like that!"

"Yes, indeed... Such a future cannot be allowed to emerge." Utopia told them. "If these evil forces succeed in obtaining us all, they will have power that no other force could ever hope to match. And once they conquer the world that I have come from, they will no doubt seek to control other worlds as well: Your kind may very well become their next victims..."

"We can't let that happen!" shouted Twilight. "We have to do something!"

"I agree completely, Your Highness." the armored man responded. "And that is why I have come seeking your assistance. Your power, along with your good intentions and feelings, may be just what is needed in order to vanquish these wicked forces and prevent them from succeeding in their heinous goals. The fates of this world and many others are at stake; we must win this battle at all costs." Utopia then asked the young Princess, "So... I ask you, Your Highness: Will you assist me in reclaiming our power and to keep it out of the hands of evil?"

The other occupants in the room thought about what had happened so far, as well as what had been told to them. Twilight pondered about it for some time, wondering what she should do. In the end, the lavender Alicorn realized that there was no other decision she could come to. With a look of determination upon her face, she said, "I will, Utopia. I'll do whatever I can to help you!"

"Are y'all sure about this, Twi?" asked Applejack, slightly concerned. "Are ya sure you can trust him?"

"If there's a chance that our world is in danger, then I don't have any other choice but to trust Utopia." Twilight answered her orange-coated friend. "As a Princess, I have to do whatever I can to make sure that everyone is safe... The last thing I want to see is something bad happening to this world and all of you... It's my duty to help protect Equestria and everypony that lives here. And that goes for any other world that might be in danger, too. So backing out of all of this is out of the question!"

"Well said, Princess Twilight." complimented Luna.

"Ah suppose you're right." Applejack responded. "Ah guess Ah would've done the same if Ah were you."

Twilight then turned to face Utopia and stated, "That being said, there's still one thing that puzzles me..." She then asked the armored man, "Utopia, how did you know who I was... and how did you know where to find me?"

"...Since you decided to help me with my concerns, I suppose that is only fair that I elaborate on those details." Utopia then explained to the young Princess, "I knew who you were and of the world from whence you came, because I have actually come seeking your assistance on someone else's behalf."

"Someone else?" Twilight inquired. "Who?"

"A person that you seem to be on good terms with, and to which the feelings are mutual." the armored man answered. "She is the one you call... Sunset Shimmer."

Everyone in the room gasped when they heard that name. "Sunset?!" asked Twilight, not sure if she heard him correctly.

"...Sunset Shimmer...?" repeated Princess Celestia in a slightly solemn tone. Just hearing the name of her former protégé brought back memories of the good times they shared together... as well some not-so-good times.

"Hold up a sec... Sunset Shimmer?" asked Rainbow Dash. She then looked towards Twilight and inquired, "Ain't that the name of that pony that stole your crown a while back?"

"Yes." answered the lavender Alicorn. "Not to mention that it's ALSO the same one that regretted doing that and is trying her best to change her ways as well." she then reminded her cyan-coated friend.

"...Oh yeah. Right." Rainbow responded, rubbing the back of her head. "I forgot about that..."

Twilight then turned back over to Utopia and asked him, "So Sunset Shimmer sent you to come find me?"

"Not necessarily..." the man replied. "She did not tell me to do such a thing directly. In fact, she does not know that I exist, much less that am I here speaking with you. However, she had desired for you to come to the world that she resides in to assist her and her companions in this battle as well..."

"You mean to tell me that Sunset and all of them are involved with this too??" asked Twilight in a surprised tone. "But... if she wanted my help, then why didn't she write to me in my magic book and ask for it?"

"She had contemplated such an idea," Utopia answered, "but I feel that she didn't do so simply because she wished not to disturb you..."

"Disturb her?" asked Fluttershy. "How?"

"...I think I understand." Twilight spoke up, having figured it all out. "She must have felt that by asking me to come and help her with what's going on in her world, she would be bothering me and tearing me away from my responsibilities as a Princess."

"I suppose that sounds plausible..." Celestia figured.

But Twilight then told them all, "But... she should have known that I would always be there to help her when she needs it." With a smile, she then added, "Helping others, especially my friends; those ARE my responsibilities as a Princess!" Putting on that determined look again, she stated, "So whether or not she thinks she needs my help, I'll go and do what I can to assist her!"

The others in the room were pleased to hear her say that, especially Princess Celestia. "Twilight, I am very proud to hear that from you." the white Alicorn told her. "You truly know what it means to be a Princess, and that is to always be there to help those that need it."

"Thank you, Princess Celestia." Twilight responded with a nod. She then turned back over to Utopia and told him, "Utopia, you can count on me! I promise to help both you and Sunset as much as I possibly can!"

"Thank you, Your Highness..." the armored man replied. Though his face was covered, everyone could tell that he felt pleased to know that Twilight was on his side. "And rest assured, I will use all of my power to assist you as well: As long as I remain with you, you shall not fall under the control of any of the other Numbers. I promise to remain loyal to you, even at the risk of my own life."

"Thank you, Utopia." said the lavender Alicorn. "And please, just call me Twilight; I really prefer to be called that, if that's okay with you."

"As you wish then, Twilight." Utopia responded.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

About an hour had passed since Twilight's meeting with Utopia. After she learned that her friend, Sunset Shimmer, had been fighting hard to prevent the mysterious Number cards from falling into the wrong hands, the young Alicorn Princess decided to go to her world and lend her assistance. Since then, she and her friends were hard at work, packing away all of the things that Twilight felt that she would need for her trip (mostly books, of course). As Twilight and her friends kept themselves busy, Celestia and Luna spoke with Utopia for a while; both of them learned a great deal about each other's homeworlds, and they also enjoyed each other's company as well.

Once Twilight had all of her things together, the group made their way to the meeting hall once more. However, there was something new in the room: It was a large mirror, which had been brought up from the castle basement. Of course, it wasn't just any ordinary mirror; it was actually a gateway between Equestria and the world where Sunset lived. Normally, the mirror could only open at certain times, but Twilight was able to construct a device to it that allowed her to freely open the portal anytime she wanted to.

Twilight checked all of her bags and said to her friends, "Okay... I think I have everything I need..." She then used her magic to grab the small wooden chest that held Utopia's card inside and placed it gently into her saddlebags as well. "Yep, I'm all set to go."

"Twilight..." Utopia spoke to her. "before you go through the portal, there is something else that you should be aware of." He then explained to the young Princess, "Due to the large amount of magical energy that freely flows in this world, I was able to gain my physical form so that I could communicate with you all... However, once you enter the world that your friend resides in, I will not be able to freely emerge from within my card."

"You won't??" asked Twilight. "Then how will you be able to help me?"

"In order for me to lend you my full power," he then instructed her, "you will have to obtain some special equipment that will allow you to Summon me, should you require my help. But do not worry, I am certain that your friend will help you get what you require." Utopia then stated, "In addition, I will still be able to speak to you in your mind and offer you advice."

"I suppose that's good to know..." Twilight then turned over to the others in the room and said to them, "Well, I guess I'll get going then..."

"Have a safe trip, Sugarcube." Applejack told her, giving her Alicorn friend a comforting hug.

"And do not worry about your castle, dear." stated Rarity. "We will happily look after it in your absence."

"Thanks, everypony. I really appreciate it." Twilight then glanced over at Pinkie Pie and said to her, "And I can trust that there WON'T be any wild parties held here that would make a mess of the castle, correct?"

"Yeesh, Twilight...! What do you take me for??" asked Pinkie, sounding a little offended by that remark. "Of COURSE I'd never do anything like that! Right, Dashie?"

"Uh, yeah! Of course not!" Rainbow Dash replied, sweating a little bit. She then asked, "Could you excuse us for a sec? Gotta use the, uh... little filly's room."

"Um, me too!" Pinkie chimed in.

The two of them then ran out of the room, heading for not the bathroom, but the front doors of the castle. They then opened the doors, revealing that there were three ponies standing there: A white Unicorn with an electric-blue mane and tail, a pair of sunglasses, and an eighth-note cutie mark that had lots of heavy sound equipment with her, an orange pony with a curly brown mane and tail, a yellow shirt, and a grilled cheese sandwich cutie mark, and a grey pony with a dull purple mane and tail that were perfectly straight, wearing a short, dull blue dress.

"Um, sorry guys..." Rainbow Dash told the three ponies outside. "Twilight said no..."

"Awwww..." the three other ponies groaned in disappointment.

"That's a shame..." the grayish pony responded in a slightly monotone-sounding voice. "I was really looking forward to having some fun..."

"It'll be okay, Maud." Pinkie told her. "We'll just have to have the party somewhere else! We'll keep in touch with all of you, don't worry." The three other ponies nodded before leaving the area.

Shortly after that, Pinkie and Rainbow Dash returned to meeting hall. Twilight, raising an eyebrow, asked them, "Uh... what was that all about...?"

"Nothing!!" they both told her very quickly.

The lavender Alicorn sighed a little and glanced around the room, noticing that someone was still missing. She then shouted, "Spike! Are you ready yet?! I can't wait here all day for you!!"

"Hold on! Hold on! I'm comin'!! Don't leave without me!!" shouted Spike's voice from a room nearby. In an instant, the baby dragon came running into the meeting room, carrying something in his tiny little arms. They were gemstones, which were his favorite thing to snack on. Spike stuffed his mouth full with as many gems as he could before reaching Twilight and the others.

The lavender Alicorn looked at her tiny little assistant and asked him, "Um... were you... having a snack this whole time we've been waiting??"

"Well, YEAH..." the dragon admitted. "Once we enter that other world, I'll turn into a dog again... So I'm gonna have my fill of jewels while I still can!"

"Ugh... fine. Let's just get moving; we can't afford to waste any more time." Twilight then walked over to Celestia and Luna to say her goodbyes to them for now. "Goodbye, Celestia... Goodbye Luna... I promise that I'll return here safe and sound."

"We know you will." the dark blue Alicorn responded.

Celestia then gave Twilight a small request, telling her, "Please... make sure that Sunset remains safe. You know I still worry about her well-being every day."

"Okay... I promise that too, Celestia." the young Alicorn replied. Spike then hopped onto Twilight's back as she approached the magical mirror. As for Utopia, he used his powers to return to his card, safely put away in the lavender pony's bags. "Goodbye, everypony!!" she said to the others, waving to them before entering the mirror.

"Goodbye, Twilight!!" they all said, waving back. "Come back soon!!"

As the young Princess disappeared into the magic mirror portal, her friends watched, wondering what would happen to her on the other side. "Do you think Twilight will be okay...?" asked an unsure Fluttershy.

"Ah'm sure she will." Applejack told her, putting her left foreleg around the back of the yellow Pegasus's head to comfort her.

"Let us hope so..." Celestia responded, still feeling a little worried, both for Twilight and for Sunset...

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Canterlot City Suburbs: Time 10:45 a.m.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

On a bright Saturday morning in the city of Canterlot, all was quite calm, especially in the suburban residences... well, unless you counted the commotion that Rainbow Dash made as she glided down the sidewalks on her in-line roller skates. She sped down the path, trying to move as fast as possible. Despite the incredible speeds at which she was moving, Rainbow had never once collided with anyone in her path. Not only was she fast, but she also had expert control of her skates. She swiftly made her way down the sidewalk before finally stopping in front of their high school, where Pinkie Pie was standing and holding her stopwatch.

Taking off her helmet, Rainbow then asked her pink friend, "So how was that, Pinks? What's my time?"

The pink girl then looked closely at the watch. Putting on a smile and gasping happily, she shouted, "I don't believe it! It's a new record!!"

"Awesome! I knew I'd beat my old time sooner or later!" Rainbow Dash said excitedly.

"Yeah! At this rate, we'll do superly-super well in the next Friendship Games, coming next year, on September 26th!" stated Pinkie Pie.

"Uh, yeah. I know when the games are coming, Pinkie." the cyan teen told her silly friend. "I told ya; I marked my calendar already." Smirking, she then said, "But you are right: If we keep training hard like this every day, we'll beat Crystal Prep so hard, they won't be able to live it down!"

Pinkie Pie nodded vigorously to say that she agreed with that statement. She then asked her athletic friend, "So what's next, Dashie?"

"Well, now it's your turn on the inlines this time, Pinkie." Rainbow Dash told her as she pulled off her roller skates. She then reached into her backpack (which Pinkie had been holding onto the whole time) and pulled out her regular shoes. As she put them back on, she then continued, telling her, "After that, we'll need to ask Sunset t' help us with the math part of the competition... As much as I ain't looking forward to it, we might as well get it out the way now."

But before Pinkie Pie could make another comment, they were suddenly interrupted by a strange noise nearby. When they turned to look, they saw that the source of the noise was coming from the large horse statue in front of the school. Not only that, a bright light was coming out of it as well. "Hey, Dashie! Look!!" the pink girl said to her friend. "There's a light coming out of the school statue!"

"Yeah, there is...!" noted the cyan teen. Smiling a little, she then added, "And we both know that there's only one reason why it would do that..."

Letting out another happy gasp, Pinkie began to ask, "You mean...?!"

"I sure do!" Rainbow answered her, already knowing what the pink girl was going to ask her. The cyan teen then told her, "I'll go over to the statue. Meanwhile, phone up the rest of the gang and we'll meet over at Sugarcube Corner. But don't tell 'em why just yet, got it?"

"All righty-righty, Dashie!" Pinkie Pie said in a cheerful tone as she pulled out her cell phone.

Several minutes later, Pinkie Pie, along with the rest of her friends (minus Rainbow Dash) sat in Canterlot City's popular sweet shop, waiting for the cyan teen to arrive. However, none of the others knew why they were waiting there, as Pinkie had not told them the reason yet, by Dash's request.

"So... any of y'all know what Pinkie brought us all out here for?" asked Applejack.

"If I knew, I would have said something, Applejack dear." Rarity responded. She then turned around to Fluttershy and asked her, "What about you? Do you know why she asked us to come here?"

"I'm sorry, Rarity... but I don't know..." the shy yellow teen answered her. "She didn't tell me..."

"That's absolutely correct, Fluttershy!" the silly girl chimed in. "I Pinkie-Promised Rainbow Dash that I wouldn't say a word about it! And I ALWAYS make good on a Pinkie-Promise!"

"Fair enough." Sunset said, deciding that it was useless to try and probe the information out of Pinkie if she wasn't willing to say anything. She then told the others, "The only thing I know is that, when Pinkie told me to come over here, she sounded pretty excited, so I can only assume that it's a good thing... Am I right, Pinkie?"

"Oh, you don't know how right you arrrrrrrrre...!" the pink girl responded, raising the pitch of her voice with each word that she said. She then looked out the window and gasped when she saw Rainbow Dash coming down the sidewalk towards the shop. "She's here!! She's here!! She's here!!!" the pink girl cheered.

The other four girls looked at one another, anxious to know what this was all about. They then watched as Rainbow opened the door to the shop and walked in. "Hey, everybody! I'm here!" she greeted her friends.

"So, what's going on here, Rainbow Dash?" Sunset Shimmer asked her. "What's this big surprise that you and Pinkie have for us?"

"Well, I guess you guys have been patient for long enough..." the athletic girl said to them. "You guys want a surprise? Well, I'll start by tellin' you all... that I didn't come over here all by myself."

"Huh?" Applejack began to ask. "What d' y'all mean by that, Dash?"

Rainbow chuckled a little to herself while glancing over to her left and shouting, "Okay, you can come in now!"

Everyone else watched the front door of the shop as they heard the pitter-patter of footsteps gradually coming towards them. And when the person making those footsteps entered the store, the other four girls gasped in total shock. "No way..." Applejack responded, totally surprised.

"I don't believe it...!" added Rarity.

"Is... is that...?" stuttered Fluttershy, not sure if her eyes were playing tricks on her or not.

"It... it is...!!" Sunset told them. She was the most surprised of all by what they saw.

Standing there at the door to Sugarcube Corner was a lavender-skinned girl with long, violet hair with pink and purple streaks running along it. She had deep purple eyes and wore a blue shirt with a pink bow on the front of the collar area. She also wore a purple skirt with a pink, six-pointed star emblazoned upon it, a pair of violet-colored socks, and small, black shoes.

The girl smiled as she looked towards the others in the room and said to them, "Hey everyone... Did you miss me?"

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Sunset Shimmer (10 Numbers total):

- Number 56: Gold Rat
- Number 63: Shamoji Soldier

Twilight Sparkle (1 Number total):

- Number 39: Utopia

---------------------------------------------------------------------

RANK 10: The Return of Twilight Sparkle:

View Online

RANK 10: The Return of Twilight Sparkle:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Approximately one day ago, Sunset Shimmer and her best friends paid a visit to the mysterious Zecora, who had sold the otherworldly girl a strange, key-shaped necklace. What Sunset and Zecora didn't know was that the necklace seemed to hold special powers connected to a dimension known as the Astral World; the world that the dangerous Number cards were believed to have come from. Though Sunset and her friends have learned a great deal of information, they still had little to no knowledge concerning the Numbers, the Astral World, or the necklace.

However, that following night, while Sunset Shimmer was asleep, a strange light had come from out of her necklace, making its way to Canterlot High School. From there, it found the dimensional passageway that connected Sunset's current home world with her former home world, the pony-populated country of Equestria. The light then transformed into a card, which was then found by Twilight Sparkle, not knowing that it was one of the Number cards. Fortunately, this Number, known as "Utopia", did not desire to control Twilight. Instead, he was seeking her help to locate the remaining Number cards.

Once Twilight discovered that Sunset Shimmer was also trying to collect the Numbers, the Princess of Friendship made the decision to enter the magic mirror portal and assist her. Currently, both she and her baby dragon assistant, Spike, have successfully made the jump back into the human world to meet up with the people that they know there...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"No way..." Applejack said, totally surprised.

"I don't believe it...!" added Rarity.

"Is... is that...?" stuttered Fluttershy, not sure if her eyes were playing tricks on her or not.

"It... it is...!!" Sunset told them. She was the most surprised of all by what they saw.

Standing there at the door to Sugarcube Corner was a lavender-skinned girl with long, violet hair with pink and purple streaks running along it. She had deep purple eyes and wore a blue shirt with a pink bow on the front of the collar area. She also wore a purple skirt with a pink, six-pointed star emblazoned upon it, a pair of violet-colored socks, and small, black shoes.

The girl smiled as she looked towards the others in the room and said to them, "Hey everyone... Did you miss me?"

"TWILIGHT!!!" cheered the six girls happily as they ran over to their old friend and gave her a group hug to welcome her.

The purple-skinned teen chuckled a little and said to them, "I guess this means you did."

"Of course we missed ya, Twi!" Applejack told her. "It ain't too often that y'all come by these parts!"

"Oh, it is so good to see you again, Twilight dear!" added Rarity. "It has been way, WAY too long!"

"Rarity's right..." added Fluttershy. "After all, it's been months since you helped us at the Battle of the Bands..." She then asked the purple girl, "Um... did you bring... did you bring Spike with you...?"

At that moment, a small, purple puppy poked his head out of Twilight's backpack. It was none other than Spike; whenever he traveled through the magic mirror portal, he transformed into a puppy instead of a human. "You bet she did, Fluttershy!" the puppy spoke to the shy teen. Fluttershy squealed a little out of happiness as she picked Spike up and out of the backpack and began hugging him.

Twilight then looked off to the side, noticing that her old friend Sunset Shimmer was approaching her. Turning around to face her, the purple-skinned girl then told her, "It's good to see you again, Sunset."

"Ummm... yeah, same here, Twilight." the red and yellow teen replied in a slightly unsure tone. She then asked her, "But... I have to ask: Why did you come here to this world again? Is there something wrong?"

"Well, nothing that I can think of..." Twilight answered, "but there is a reason I came by here."

"And that is...?" Sunset inquired further.

Twilight then reached into a backpack that she was wearing and pulled out a small box. She then opened it, took out the item inside, and showed the item to her human world friends, asking, "Do you happen to know anything about this?"

Sunset and the other girls gasped when they saw what was in Twilight's hand: It was a Duel Monsters card; more specifically, it was the Utopia card that had entered Twilight's home world to meet up with the young Princess. When they saw the strange writing on the card, as well as the red 39 imprinted on Utopia's left shoulder, they knew what it was right away.

"Oh no!! Twilight has a Number card!!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie.

"It's true!!" Rarity cried out. "She does!!"

Twilight, of course, had no idea why they were acting so distressed. "Um... girls...?"

Rolling up her sleeves, Rainbow Dash put on a fierce look and said, "Don't ya worry, Twilight, I'll get that card away from you! I ain't gonna let that thing take over your mind!"

"Wait! Hold on, Rainbow Dash!" Sunset suddenly told her while putting her hand up, performing a "stop" signal.

"Huh? Sunset...?" the cyan teen began to ask, confused as to why she was asked to stop.

Putting her arm back down, the red and yellow teen then stated, "I don't think Twilight's possessed by that Number card... Just look at her: She doesn't seem to be acting any different than how we're used to seeing her."

"Yeah... now that y'all mention it..." Applejack chimed in, "she seems perfectly fine. She certainly ain't actin' weird or crazy or whatever..."

"I know..." added Rarity. "She most certainly isn't acting the same way that I did... Perhaps Sunset is right; perhaps Twilight is NOT possessed by that card..."

"But... how...?" asked Fluttershy, still petting Spike.

Twilight still had no idea what the others were talking about. "Okay... could somepony - excuse me - someBODY please explain to me what's going on??"

"Um, it's kind of a long story, Twilight," Sunset Shimmer said to her purple friend, "but I'll be happy to fill you in on the details."

"Um... okay. Thanks..." Twilight replied.

"No problem." the red and yellow told her with a smile. "And don't worry about the whole somepony/somebody thing; I still mess it up every now and then." The purple teen chuckled a bit as the whole group walked over to a nearby table.

For the next several minutes, Sunset and her friends told Twilight and Spike about everything that had happened to them recently. They told her all about the strange dream that Sunset had, the appearance of the Number cards, the people that were possessed by them, as well as what they had learned from Zecora yesterday concerning the mysterious realm known as the Astral World.

"...Okay, let me see if I've got all of this right:" Twilight Sparkle began, trying her best to piece together everything that her human world friends had told her. "So you're saying that a bunch of trading cards from another dimension suddenly showed up here in your world and are brainwashing everyone that comes into contact with them? That sounds pretty intense..."

"Oh, it is, Twi." Rainbow Dash stated. "I didn't believe it at first until I saw it with my own eyes."

"Basically, what happens is that when somebody picks up a Number card," Applejack said to Twilight, "they start actin' completely outta their mind! They do things that they would never normally do, and they don't seem to be able to stop themselves." Turning over to Sunset, she then added, "All except fer Sunset here; for some reason, the Number cards don't affect her at all, but we ain't sure why yet..." Glancing back over to Twilight, the farm girl then asked, in a slightly suspicious voice, "You sure you ain't actin' funny or anythin'...?"

"I... don't think I am." the purple teen answered in an uneasy tone. "I still feel like myself... on the inside at least."

"I don't think we need to worry about Twilight, girls." Sunset told her friends. Looking back at Twlight, she then stated, "I'm pretty certain that Twilight isn't being controlled by the Number card that she has..." Rubbing her chin, the red and yellow girl pondered, "Still, this does raise a few more questions: First off, how is SHE also immune to the Numbers' power? And how did she get a Number in the first place? As far as I can remember, Duel Monsters cards don't exist in Equestria... Care to elaborate, Twilight?"

"Well, I'm not really sure about your first question, concerning why my Number card hasn't caused me to go crazy or anything," Twilight began. She was then ready to say something else, but then stopped her thought for a moment when another thought suddenly came to her. "...Wait, hold on... Now that I think about it, maybe I actually DO know why that is..."

The other girls leaned in closer to listen to what their OTHER otherworldly friend had to say.

"Last night," Twilight started, "when I was walking around the castle, I noticed this card on the table in the meeting hall. I didn't know what it was at first, because there wasn't a picture on it. But all of a sudden, after I touched it with my hoof, there was this crazy light show... and after it was done, the blank card turned into what it looks like now."

"Just like with all of the other Numbers..." Sunset interrupted. "They all start out as blank cards until somepo- er, someBODY touches it. Then, it goes under some sort of transformation or something." Having finished her comment, she then allowed Twilight to continue speaking.

The purple girl then continued telling them about how she got her Number card. "The next morning, I brought my Ponyville friends over to come and see the card, along with Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Unfortunately, they didn't know much more about it than I did. Then, as we were all talking, the card began floating in the air..." Looking at the card, Twilight continued, saying, "and this large, gold warrior, the same one on the card, emerged from out of this huge vortex that looked just like a galaxy..."

"Are you serious?!" asked Rarity. "You mean to tell me that your Number card Summoned ITSELF?! Without the aid of a Duel Pad?!"

"Actually, it is quite possible." Sunset told her fashionista friend. "With all of the magical energy that freely flows in Equestria, there is a good chance that the Number was able to Summon itself, considering that it's supposed to be from some other dimension." She then asked Twilight, "But why did it appear in front of you? What purpose did it have?"

"Well, according to Utopia," the purple girl answered, "he said he came looking for me because he needed my help."

"Your help...?" asked Fluttershy. "With what?"

"Well, he told me that several others just like him had been pulled out of their world, and he wants to return back there with all of them before somepony - excuse me - somebody tries to take their power and use it for evil purposes..." Twilight replied. "And from what you all have told me already, it appears that he was quite right about it, since his story and yours seem to match up perfectly."

(Evil purposes...?) thought Sunset Shimmer, feeling a bit worried. (But the only other person I know that's collecting Numbers is that Doctor guy. And I know for a fact that he's not trying to use them for evil at all...) She began to wonder just who else could possibly be after the Numbers and what their intentions were.

"So after Utopia explained everything to me, he then asked me to help him find his friends so that they could return home." Twilight continued to tell them. "Of course, I agreed to do just that, so I packed my things, stepped into the mirror with Spike, and well... here I am."

"So he didn't force you to do anything for him?" asked Rainbow Dash. "He actually asked you for permission?"

Twilight nodded. "And I think that's why he hasn't tried to possess me or anything like what you told me." she then stated. "Because he knows that he needs my help. At least... that's what I think it is right now."

"Well, Ah suppose that explains why your mind's still one hundred-percent okay." Applejack spoke up. "But what Ah don't get is how this Utopia guy knew to come and find you all the way over into the world that ya live in..."

"Well, actually... he told me how he knew all of that." the purple girl answered. "He told me that he came looking for me on someone else's behalf. Because someone here really wanted my help..."

"Whoever could that be?" asked Rarity.

"...It's Sunset, isn't it?" Pinkie Pie suddenly said, answering the purple-haired teen's question in an unusually quiet and serious voice (well, unusual for her). The other girls, except for Sunset, gasped a little after the pink teen said that.

Twilight nodded yes and said, "That's what he told me." Turning over to the red and yellow girl, she asked her, "Isn't that right?"

Sunset sighed and sheepishly answered, "...Yeah, that's right. I really did want you to come and help us out, just like you did before with the Dazzlings. But... well I, ...I just didn't want to-"

But the purple girl smiled and interrupted her by saying, "You don't need to explain anything to me, Sunset... I know that you didn't want to pull me away from my Princess duties. But I'm not just any Princess, Sunset; I'm the Princess of Friendship... And helping others in need, especially my friends, ARE what my duties are all about. So I have no problem coming all the way here to this world to do just that. No matter what world they come from, I would NEVER abandon my friends when they need me the most."

Sunset Shimmer said nothing at first as she began to process everything that Twilight had just said to her. Just then, she formed a smile, gave out a small chuckle, and replied, saying, "You're right, Twilight... I should've known that you'd always be happy to help us out... Please forgive me for thinking otherwise. You know as well as I do that I'm still getting used to the whole 'friendship' thing."

"It's okay, Sunset." Twilight replied, smiling. "And I do appreciate that you were being considerate of my feelings by what you were trying to do, or rather what you WEREN'T trying to do. But in any case, I'm here now, and I'm ready to do whatever I can to help resolve all of this and make sure that everyone here can live in peace once again!"

"Well, if that's what you really want, Twilight, then there's no way that I can say no." Sunset told her, deciding that it was a good idea to have her help out after all. The two of them shook hands to say that they were both okay with the decision.

"Well, it's good to know that we'll have somebody else to help us figure out all of this business concerning the Number cards." Rarity stated, feeling better knowing that their friend Twilight was here to lend them a hand. But just then...

"Wait!! I just realized something, everyone!!" Pinkie shouted. "Didn't Sunset just say that there aren't any Duel Monsters cards at ALL in her world??"

"Wait, she's right!" gasped Applejack. "Which means that Twilight doesn't know anything about it! And that also means that she doesn't know how to play the card game, either!"

"What are you girls talking about?" asked the purple girl.

"Um, well..." Rarity spoke, after clearing her throat a little, "to put it simply, Twilight dear, in order to obtain a Number card from somebody that has one is defeat them in a game of Duel Monsters... The problem is that, if you don't know how to play it..."

Twilight then gasped, realizing what the purple-haired teen was getting at. "That means... that I won't be of any help at all...!"

"Now calm down, everyone. No need to get worried." Sunset told her friends. "I've thought about that problem, and I have already come up with a solution to it." Folding her arms in front of her, she then stated, "Since Twilight here doesn't have any knowledge of the Duel Monsters card game, the obvious answer is that someone here needs to teach her how to play it. And I've decided that I'll be the one to teach her."

"Y-you'll teach me how to play it?" asked Twilight, a bit surprised. "Really?"

Sunset looked at her purple-skinned friend and told her, "Twilight... you've done so much for me in the past few months; you've helped me to completely change my whole outlook on life and made me into a better person. Not to mention that you've lent me and the rest of my friends a hand when the Dazzlings tried to brainwash everybody in school... You've helped me so much, that I think it's only fair that I should return the favor and help YOU out for a change."

"Wow... thank you..." Twilight replied. "I'm so glad to hear you say that."

"You said it was your duty to help friends out when they needed it," the red and yellow teen told her with a warm smile, "and I feel that it should be my duty as well." Putting her hand on top of Twilight's hand on the table, she then added, "With my knowledge and your determination, I promise that you'll be ready for anything out there!"

The purple-skinned girl was still astounded by what she was hearing; Sunset had certainly changed a lot since the day they had first met. In fact, she seemed to be even more knowledgeable on the concept of friendship than she had been since the Dazzlings incident. Twilight was certainly happy to know that Sunset Shimmer was truly taking to heart everything she had learned about being a good friend.

Smiling, Twilight told her, "Sunset, if only Princess Celestia could see you right now... I know that she'd tell you how proud she is of you. Because I certainly am."

Sunset Shimmer felt happy hearing that from her. The red and yellow girl then glanced over to her friends and told them, "I'm gonna go and take Twilight to my apartment and help her learn how to play Duel Monsters. However, I'd like all of you to lend a hand as well."

"How so?" asked Fluttershy.

Sunset reached into her purse and pulled out her wallet. Taking out some of the money inside, she then handed it over to Rarity and told her, "Here... I want you to use this to..." Sunset then began whispering the rest of her instructions in the fashionista's ear so that Twilight wouldn't know anything about it. Once she was done, she then asked, "Did you get all of that, Rarity?"

"Every word of it." the violet-haired teen replied. "You can count on me!"

Turning over to Fluttershy, Sunset then whispered more instructions to her, asking her to lend Rarity a hand with whatever she was asked to do. The shy yellow girl nodded yes to say that she would do just that.

"What about us?" asked Rainbow Dash, pointing to herself, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack.

"I'll let you guys know what I need you to do tomorrow." Sunset responded. "But I will tell you this: I'll need you to bring your D-Pads and dueling Decks with you, so make sure you have them ready to go."

"We won't let ya down, Sunnie!" Pinkie Pie told her enthusiastically.

"We'll all help ya out with whatever ya need us fer." Applejack added, tipping her hat to Sunset.

Twilight wasn't sure what was going on. "Um... what was that all about, Sunset?" she asked.

"Don't worry about it for now, Twilight." the red and yellow girl told her. "We've got a lot of other work that we need to do first, so come and follow me back to my place."

"Your place? You have a home now?" asked Spike, popping out of Twilight's backpack. "Since when?"

"I'll fill you in along the way." Sunset told both him and Twilight. "Let's just get going for now." And with that, the seven girls left Sugarcube Corner and headed back for their homes while Sunset and Twilight headed for the apartment building on Jump Street.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Later, in the early afternoon, Sunset unlocked the door to her apartment and switched on the lights. Once Twilight and Spike got a look at the huge room that they were in, they let out astonished gasps. "Oh wow...!" said the purple girl. "This place is amazing!!"

"Yeah! It's so big and everything!" added Spike, running on all fours and hopping onto the plush L-shaped sofa. "It's almost as nice as the castle back home!"

"Yeah... I know..." Twilight responded, still amazed. She then asked her friend, "And you said that your world's Luna just GAVE it to you??"

"Apparently." Sunset answered. "She and Celestia told me that it was a reward for all of the good things that I've done lately, including saving this year's Fall Formal from becoming a total disaster."

"I suppose that explains this photo you have here..." Twilight stated as she looked a framed picture on the wall. It was a picture of Sunset, her friends, and the two principals, taken on the night that Sunset had been unanimously elected to be that year's Fall Formal Princess. "I didn't think you'd ever go to a Fall Formal again after... well, you know."

"Not at first, but the others talked me into it, and I'm glad they did." the red and yellow teen replied. "And based on the fact that everybody at school voted for me to be the new Fall Formal Princess, I don't have to worry about anyone hating me for my past mistakes anymore."

"I'm glad to hear that, Sunset." Twilight said to her with a smile. "I can kind of understand how uncomfortable you must have felt, knowing that everyone around you was treating you like an outcast..."

"Well, I brought it on myself, so I kinda had it coming. But I know better now, so there's no chance of that happening again." replied the red and yellow girl.

At that moment, a thought came to Spike as he perked his head up. "Hey, Twilight! I just realized: Where are ya gonna stay while we're here in this world??"

"Urk...! I didn't think about that!" Twilight began to sweat a little as she said in a panicking tone, "The first time I was here, I slept over in the school library! Then the next time I came by, we all slept over at Pinkie Pie's house! I didn't even begin to consider what my living arrangements here would be this time!! Oh no... what am I gonna do?! I'll have to look at all my maps to find all of the possible places to live, and then I'll have to get MORE information from my charts and graphs in order to make sure that each location could meet the needs of both Spike and myself, and then after that-"

But before Twilight could say another word, Sunset put her hands on each of her friend's shoulders and told her, "Twilight! Calm down...! You don't need to get all worked up over this!" She then smiled and added, "I've already come up with a solution to that problem."

"You... you have?" asked the purple teen, easing up a little bit.

Sunset nodded yes and asked, "Why don't the two of you just stay here with me?"

"Huh? With you?" asked Twilight, not expecting to hear that.

"Of course." the red and yellow girl answered. "Think about it: It's only the most logical choice. You won't be far away from me or the rest of our friends, you won't have to worry about any expenses, you'll have all the space to move around that you could ever need, and well..." Sunset's voice began getting a little softer, as she started to feel a little shy about what she planned on saying next. "...To be honest," the girl continued, "I could use the company; it gets kinda lonely here, living all by myself..."

"...I can imagine..." uttered Twilight as she glanced around the apartment. "If I didn't have Spike around to keep me company, I'd feel the same way about living in my castle..." Smiling, the young Princess then looked back at her inter-dimensional friend. "Sunset...?"

"Yeah?"

"...I think I'll take you up on your offer." Twilight told her.

"You will...?" asked Sunset, wanting to make sure.

The purple girl nodded to say that she had made her decision. "I will." she replied.

"ALRIGHT!!" cheered Sunset Shimmer excitedly. Then, realizing that her sudden outburst wasn't in her mind, she quickly regained her composure, cleared her throat, and said, "I mean... alright then. I guess that settles that." She also let out an embarrassed chuckle.

Twilight giggled a little to herself as well as she set her things down. She then asked her inter-dimensional friend, "So, what should we do first? In regards to teaching me how to play this Duel Monsters game, that is."

"Well, the first thing we have to do is to help you build your first Deck." Sunset told her. "You can't duel without one, so we need to make sure that yours will be strong enough to handle almost anything." She walked over to a nearby closet and opened it, revealing several large, white, cardboard boxes were inside, along with a few binders as well. The red and yellow girl then motioned Twilight to come over to her, which she did. Handing her a box, Sunset told her, "Here, take a box and follow me over to the round table."

"Um, okay." the young Princess replied, doing just as she was told.

After about a minute or so, Twilight and Sunset moved all of the boxes and binders over to the large table in the living room. The two girls then sat down as the red and yellow girl then opened one of the boxes, revealing that there many Duel Monsters cards sitting inside of it. Twilight let out a gasp as she saw just how many cards her friend had managed to collect. "Wow... are all of these really yours?" she asked her inter-dimensional friend.

"Yep." answered Sunset Shimmer. "I started collecting Duel Monsters cards a while ago; to be more specific, it was a little while after Luna forced me to fix up the school's front entrance."

"Really? It was that long ago?" asked Twilight.

Sunset nodded yes. "Pinkie was the one who got me into it, actually." she explained. "She wanted to help break the ice between me and the others when I met up with them all that night after the Fall Formal."

"I'm not surprised to hear that; the Pinkie Pie in my world is the same way." Twilight told her. "She always knows how to help anypony feel better and have fun, even those that felt very uneasy coming in."

"That sounds like the Pinkie I know here." stated Sunset. "If there's one thing about Pinkie Pie that we can be sure of, it's that it's impossible to stay sad or angry whenever she's nearby."

Twilight nodded to yes to say that she agreed with that statement. Changing the subject, she then asked, "So, Sunset... can you tell more about these Number cards? Utopia said that you had collected a few so far..."

Sunset nodded yes and pulled out her red deck box from her purse. She then pulled out her Deck and placed the ten Number cards that she had gotten so far onto the table in front of Twilight. The otherworldly Princess saw that, just like the card that she had, all of Sunset's Number cards had the bizarre writing upon them as well. Spike hopped over from the sofa for the moment so that he could look at them too.

"Woah..." the little dragon-turned-puppy began. "They sure look weird..." He then glanced over at two of the cards in particular - Number 13: Embodiment of Crime and Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment - and shivered a bit. "Not to mention creepy..."

"So you got all of these by winning games, Sunset?" asked Twilight.

"Not all of them." the red and yellow girl responded. She then picked up Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech and Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk and explained, saying, "These two here are ones that I found myself, when they were still blank cards, much like how you got your Utopia card. The other eight, however, were owned by other people until I defeated them in Duels."

"I see..." Twilight replied, understanding everything.

For the next several minutes, Sunset told her the stories behind each of the other Number cards that she had. She also told her about what their former owners had done while under the control of them, such as how Octavia was spurred into attacking her best friend Vinyl Scratch, how Photo Finish nearly became a peeping tom, how Manny Roar almost became more of a tyrant than a landlord, and how a bullied student developed a sinister and sadistic personality brought on by constant torment. However, Sunset told Twilight that the most upsetting moment came when Rarity fell victim to Number 52: Diamond Crab King and almost ruined the Fall Formal until Sunset stopped her. The red and yellow girl also mentioned to her friend to not bring that event up in front of Rarity, as she still felt bad about it, despite that she had no control over herself at the time.

"Wow... I don't believe it..." stated Twilight, amazed by what had been told to her. "Utopia was certainly right about the Numbers being dangerous."

"I'll say." Spike chimed in. "Whod've ever thought that a few little cards could cause so much trouble?"

Sunset Shimmer sighed a little and said to her friend, "I hope what I just told you won't deter you from helping us out with all of this..."

"Quite the opposite, actually." stated the young Princess. "Now that I know just how dangerous these cards are, I'm more determined to help you guys out and prevent them from causing any more problems."

"...I knew you'd say that, Twilight, but I just needed to make sure." Sunset replied, happy to hear her friend say that. "And I promise to make sure you'll be ready out there." Putting away her Deck for the moment, the red and yellow girl then said, "Now, let's get right into it and help you get your new Deck together."

"Of course. Let's get started." the purple girl responded. As was her nature, she was always ready to learn about something new.

"Now," Sunset began her instructions, "as with any card game, it's important to have a good balance of different types of cards. Fortunately for you, I've got LOTS of different cards right here, and I'm willing to loan you some of mine to help you out." Twilight smiled, pleased to see that Sunset was being so generous right now.

"Of course, while having good balance in your Deck is important," the red and yellow girl continued, "what's most important is to pick out the cards that you like the best and build something around them." Pushing the box over to Twilight she then said, "Go ahead and choose the ones that look the most interesting to you."

"The most interesting...?" asked Twilight. "But... how do I know which ones are the best to choose? I've never seen any of them before..."

"Don't worry about that." Sunset replied. "Just page through them all and put aside the ones that seem good to you. After you do that, I'll get out some other cards that will support your choices the best."

"Oh, I see... I think I understand now." said the young Princess. "Okay... here goes." Twilight decided to look through one of the binders first. As she flipped through the pages, one card immediately caught her eye: It had a picture of a young wizard in a navy blue costume with an orange flame-like pattern decorating it in several places, and a long, shiny chain encircling him. Liking how it looked to her, she picked that card out and put it aside.

Sunset seemed pleased when she saw Twilight do that. (Not bad for a first pick...) she thought. (Even though this is her first time ever seeing these cards, I know that she'll make some good choices...)

After Twilight had picked out a few more cards, both from the binders and the boxes, Sunset looked over them all to determine what sort of strategy could be used with them. Once she figured out the best type of Deck to include them in, Sunset began rooting through the rest of her collection to find some good support cards. As she did, the red and yellow girl explained to Twilight exactly what she was including and why, as well as explaining most of the basic rules of the game. Naturally, Twilight had no problem with retaining it all; every bit of information, no matter how small, was picked up by the young Princess and stored in her brain.

After gathering together every possible card that she felt would help her friend out, Sunset then began arranging them all into a suitable Deck, making sure to include as many of Twilight's previous choices as possible. As she built the Deck, Sunset remembered the day that her friends had helped her to build her first Deck, as well as all the fun they had dueling each other. And now she was going to do the same for Twilight.

"Thirty-seven... Thirty-eight..." Sunset Shimmer counted as she put the last few cards into Twilight's Deck. "...thirty-nine... Forty! There we go!" Presenting the neat pile of cards to her friend, like it was an award, she told her, "Twilight Sparkle, I present to you your first dueling Deck."

The purple girl smiled as she took the Deck and looked through all of the cards inside. "Wow... this looks great!" Twilight said to her friend, "I just hope it will be strong enough to help you and the others find those Number cards."

"I'm sure it will." Sunset assured her. "After all, you picked out some very good cards in the beginning, so it wasn't hard to find others to help support them. With that Deck, and with the help of everyone else, you'll be a great Duelist!" At that moment, Sunset then recalled something else and said, "Oh! I almost forgot..." Handing her a few more cards, she added, "Here's your Extra Deck. I put in some good Xyz Monsters that will assist you in your Duels as well."

"Thanks." the purple teen replied politely. "I'll make good use of them." She then took the cards and put them and the rest of her Deck into a pink deck box that Sunset also had given to her to store her cards in. Looking at the now-closed box, she then stated, "Now all I really need to do is to try and play a game, now that I know what all the rules are..."

"You've got it." Sunset replied. She then glanced over at her clock on the wall and gasped a little when she saw how late it was. "Sweet Celestia! It's already past ten?! Wow, we spent lot more time putting your Deck together than I thought!"

"Yeah, I can't believe it either!" added an equally-astonished Twilight Sparkle. "Pinkie Pie was certainly correct about time flying by when you're having fun." She then glanced over back to Spike, who had moved back over to the sofa some time ago. Twilight saw that he was resting peacefully on the comfortable cushion and snoring. "Looks like Spike's already fallen asleep..." she said.

Sunset let out a deep yawn and stated, "Well, he's got the right idea... I think we should get some rest too. We've got a lot more to do tomorrow."

After the two of them washed up and changed into suitable sleeping clothes (Sunset had just today picked up some new pajamas for herself and Twilight on the way over to her home), the two walked over to the super-large bed to go to sleep in. Twilight glanced over to the writing desk and noticed an old-looking book sitting on it, recognizing it as the magic book that Sunset could use to communicate to her while she was in Equestria. She also saw a newly-framed picture above the desk; it was the photo of Sunset and Princess Celestia that was taken back when they had visited an amusement park a long time ago.

Sunset pushed back the covers on the left side of the bed so that she could climb in. Twilight then did the same thing on the right side and got into bed as well. "Sunset...?" she began to ask.

"What's up?" asked the red and yellow girl.

"I... just want to say that... that I'll do my best to help you and the others." the young Princess replied. "I just wanted you to know that..."

Sunset smiled warmly and told her, "I know you will, Twilight. I have total confidence in you. Princess Celestia chose you to be a Princess because she knew you'd do a good job... And I know you'll do a good job here as well, just like you always have." Sighing sadly a lttle, she added, "If only I'd been the kind of student you were back then..."

Sensing that her good friend was feeling a little down, Twilight put her arm around her shoulder to help comfort her.

"Twilight... I'd like to ask a favor from you." the red and yellow girl began to say.

"Anything. What is it?"

"...I'm not sure when, but... one day, either when you're here or when you're back in Equestria..." she told her Princess friend, "I might ask you to let me through the mirror portal for a little while, so that I can have the opportunity to personally apologize to Princess Celestia for the horrible things I said to her before I left and came here... And when I do, I'd really appreciate it if you could be there to give me some support."

"Of course I will, Sunset." Twilight said, accepting her request. "And I think you know as well as I do that Celestia would be happy to see you again." Leaning in closer to her friend's ear, she whispered, "Don't tell her I said this, but before I got here, she asked me to make sure that you would be safe from whatever is going on right now with these Number cards; I just thought that you should know that she still cares about you, even after all this time."

Sunset smiled a little; she was happy to hear that, even after how badly she treated Celestia, the Sun Princess still cared for her well-being. "Thanks, Twilight..." she told her. "I really needed to hear that."

"Anytime." the young Princess replied. Yawning and laying down, she then said, "Good night, Sunset."

"Good night, Twilight." the red and yellow girl replied, turning the light off. The two of them then went right to sleep in order to prepare for the next day. As they did, Sunset continued to ponder something else in her mind. (Twilight said that Princess Celestia still cared about me, even after what happened in the past...) she thought. (But if that's so, then... why didn't she follow me into this world and convince me to come back?) This was a question that had always been on her mind for a while, but she could never figure out the answer, but she always told herself in the end that there must have been some reason for it. Whatever the reason, Sunset knew that she wouldn't be able to figure it out right now, and pushed those thoughts out of her mind for the moment so that she could get to sleep.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The next day, at around 7:45 in the morning, both Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle got up out of the queen-size bed, ready to start their day. The red and yellow girl turned on the TV, switching to the local news while she went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for not only herself, but also for Twilight and Spike. She cooked up a nice meal of blueberry waffles with buttered toast and orange juice for them all to enjoy. And enjoy it they did; the young Princess was certainly impressed by how good of a cook Sunset was.

After the two of them changed out of their pajamas and put on their outfits for the day, Sunset, Twilight, and Spike (who had hopped into the purple teen's backpack, as usual) left the apartment and departed from the city to the suburbs. As they walked down the sidewalk, several of Sunset's classmates passed them by and greeted both her and Twilight.

"Hey, Sunset! Hey, Twilight!" said a passing Vinyl Scratch. "How's it goin'?"

"Pretty good, Vinyl." Sunset replied. "How's your new song coming along?"

"Should be finished with it soon." the music-lover answered her. "When I'm done, I'd like it if you could give me some input; y'know, to make sure it's perfect and stuff."

"You just let me know when and where, and I'll be there." the red and yellow girl promised. Vinyl smiled and nodded before continuing on her way.

"Hi, Sunset!" said another girl's voice. It was Roseluck, who was busy carrying a beautiful rose growing out of a flowerpot.

"Hey, Roseluck. How are you doing today?" Sunset asked her

"Just great! I wanted to thank you and your friend Applejack for the fertilizer you brought over to the flower shop last week." the flower-loving girl told her. "My plants have never looked healthier than they do right now!"

"Hey, no problem at all, Rose." stated the red and yellow girl. "Just wanted to lend a hand, that's all."

"Well, I certainly appreciate it. Thank you very much!" Roseluck told her before heading on her way.

Twilight felt very pleased after hearing all of the nice things that people were saying to her inter-dimensional friend. "I've got to say, Sunset," she began to tell her, "it certainly feels refreshing to see that people are treating you a lot better than they were the last time I was here."

"I know; I feel the same way." Sunset responded. "I have to admit, it feels a lot better having people like you because they WANT to like you. I just wish I knew that when I first came to this world."

"Better late than never, I suppose." stated the purple teen. She then asked her friend, "So, where are we going, Sunset?"

"We're meeting up with the others at the school." the red and yellow girl answered.

"The school?" asked Twilight in a confused tone of voice. "But... isn't today Sunday? I thought that schools close during the weekends."

"We're not going IN the school, Twilight; we're heading for the soccer field behind the building." Sunset informed her. "From this point on, I'm going to continue with your lessons on Duel Monsters."

"Continue with my lessons?" repeated Twilight. She then began to ponder in her mind about what Sunset had planned for them both today.

The two girls eventually reached the familiar horse statue that stood proudly in front of Canterlot High School. Though the building was locked up for the day, the students that attended the school often congregated there to chat or just to simply hang out. Some even went to the open fields in the back to play sports or duel each other.

Sunset and Twilight walked around the building, with Spike poking his head out of the backpack to see what was going on around him. It wasn't long before the three of them saw their friends Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity sitting on the bleachers, chatting with each other while they waited for them to show up.

Fluttershy glanced over and saw their other friends coming their way. "Oh! Everybody...! Twilight and Sunset are here...!" she informed them all.

The other four girls looked over to see Sunset and Twilight walking towards the bleachers that they were sitting on. "Alright! Y'all made it!" Applejack called over to them.

"What took ya so long?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"Rainbow Dash, be polite; It IS a long walk from the city to here." Rarity informed her cyan-skinned friend. The fashionista strolled over and said to Sunset and Twilight. "Good morning to you both. How was your stroll to the school?"

"Pretty good. It was no trouble getting here." Sunset answered.

"How did things go last night with Twilight?" Fluttershy asked. "If you don't mind me asking..."

"I think I'm starting to get the hang of things..." stated the young Princess. "Sunset helped me build a Deck and taught me about some of the basic rules so far."

"She's picking up on it almost as quickly as I did." Sunset added. "Of course, given how smart Twilight here is, I'm not surprised. I think she'll do very well as a Duelist once we're through." The purple-skinned girl blushed a little after hearing the compliment. The red and yellow teen then asked, "Oh! Speaking of which: Rarity, did you and Fluttershy find that thing that I asked you to find?"

"We most certainly did, Sunset dear." the violet-haired girl responded, pulling out a box from a blue reusable shopping bag that she had with her. Showing the box to Twilight, she then told her, "This is for you, darling."

"For me?" asked the purple girl. "What is it?"

"Something that you'll need in order to play Duel Monsters." Sunset answered. "Go ahead; open it."

Twilight nodded and took the box from Rarity. She then slowly opened it as Spike watched from over her shoulder. Inside, there was a violet-colored tablet and a pink-colored lens that was designed to fit on one's ear. "Uh... what are those things?" asked the little purple puppy.

"Yeah... what are they?" Twilight asked as well.

"A little gift from me to you." Sunset replied. "It's your new Duel Pad and Duel Gazer."

"My new what and what?" asked Twilight, not understanding.

"It's a super-special-awesome device that allows you to play Duel Monsters anywhere and anytime!" Pinkie Pie told her. "But the BEST part about it is that it makes it look like you're Summoning REAL monsters right in front of you!"

"Really?" asked Twilight. She then looked over at Sunset and asked her, "Is that really necessary to play a simple card game? It seems a bit over-the-top."

"Maybe, but it does make the game a lot more interesting." the red and yellow girl told her. She then added, "I asked Rarity and Fluttershy to pick one out for you yesterday and gave them some of my money to purchase it for you."

"Really? You went and did all that for me?" asked the young Princess.

"Of course, Twilight dear." Rarity replied. "Keeping up with my generous nature, I feel that there is no expense spared when it comes to helping out a friend." She then reached into her purse and took out a small amount of money before telling Sunset, "Oh, before I forget, here is your change, Sunset."

"Eh, that's alright. You can keep it, Rarity." the red and yellow girl informed her. "Think of it as a thank-you to both you and Fluttershy for helping us out." The fashionista smiled after hearing that, thanking her friend before evenly splitting the change with Fluttershy.

"So... how does this device work?" asked Twilight, looking at the tablet curiously.

"Here, I'll help ya set this thing-a-ma-bob up." Applejack said, offering her assistance. She helped switch on the device and worked together with the young Princess to put in all of the necessary information into the tablet. After all of the work was done, the Duel Pad displayed a main menu of sorts in front of a colorful background. Twilight immediately noticed that the symbol on the background resembled her cutie mark.

"So, what do you think of it, Twilight?" asked Sunset.

"I think it looks really nice." the young Princess said, looking at it after strapping it onto her left arm. "Thank you very much for getting it for me."

"It was our pleasure." stated the red and yellow girl. She then told her friend, "Now that we've gotten all of that taken care of, it's time to move on to the next part of our itinerary."

"Intiner-what?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"She means what we are going to do next, Rainbow." Rarity informed her athletic friend. The cyan girl nodded to say that she got it.

Walking over to Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack, she then told them, "Now that Twilight has a good grasp on the game so far, I think it would be best if she saw how a real Duel goes for herself." Pointing to her orange and pink-skinned friends, she told them, "Applejack, I'd like you to duel against Pinkie Pie."

"Huh? Me against Pink?" asked the country girl, wanting to be sure that she heard Sunset correctly.

"Oh wow! That's great!!" cheered Pinkie Pie. "Now I'll finally get to see your new Deck, AJ!!"

Sunset nodded and told Applejack. "I think that it would be a big help to Twilight if the two of you did this. What do you say?"

"Hmmmm... well, if it's to help out Twi, then Ah suppose it's okay with me." the country girl said. "Besides, Ah've been pretty curious t' see what Pinkie's been workin' on lately; she's been pretty tight-lipped about her Deck other than the fact that she's been makin' a new one." She then asked the silly pink girl, "So, y'all feel like lettin' us all in on what yer new Deck is, Pinkie?"

But the pink teen shook her head no and told her, "Sorry, AJ! You'll just hafta see what it is when we start dueling!"

The orange girl sighed and said, "Fine, have it your way..."

"Hey! What about me??" asked Rainbow Dash. "I haven't gotten a chance t' help Twilight out at all yet!"

Sunset put her hand on the cyan girl's shoulder and told her, "Don't worry, Dash: I've got something real special planned that I'll need your help with later on. For now, just be patient a little while longer."

"Ugh... fine." Rainbow responded with a sigh.

Sunset then took out her Duel Gazer and placed it over her eye. She then then told Twilight, "Alright, take that lens out and put it over your left eye; you'll need it to see what's going on during the Duel."

"Um... Okay, I see..." the purple girl replied, taking the lens out of the box that her Duel Pad was stored in and fitted it over her eye, resting it on top of her left ear. The rest of the girls did the same thing.

Pinkie Pie and Applejack stood at opposite ends of the soccer field, strapping on their Duel Pads and sliding their dueling Decks inside. "So, Pink... y'all ready fer this?" asked the country girl, clearly pumped up and ready to take her friend on.

Pinkie Pie giggled and answered her, saying, "I'm ready if you arrrrrre!!" It seemed that she, too, was excited to duel. Stretching her left arm out, she then shouted, "Duel Pad, activate!!" At that moment, the pink and blue-colored device's card tray slotted out and unfolded.

Applejack did the same thing with her brown-colored Duel Pad as she activated it. She then clicked a button on the side of the lens she wore and said, "Activatin' Duel Gazer!!" As she did that, Sunset then motioned to Twilight to press the button on her Gazer in order to switch it on while she and the rest of her friends did the same.

"AR Vision Link established." said a computerized voice as a digital copy of the soccer field projected around them all. Twilight, while not making any sounds at all, was certainly impressed so far by the advanced technology this world appeared to have.

Spike, of course, couldn't really see anything, since he didn't have a Duel Gazer like the others. "What's going on??" he asked, looking around the area. "I can't see anything!"

Just then, Fluttershy pulled out a small item from out of her purse: It was a smaller Gazer that appeared to be dog-sized; likely, it was custom-made, since a regular dog would not normally have a need for one. "Don't worry, Spike... I didn't forget about you." the shy animal-lover told him. "I got this one while Rarity and I were shopping for Twilight's Duel Pad."

"Aw thanks a lot, Fluttershy!" the puppy exclaimed, happily taking the lens and putting it over his left eye so that he could watch the Duel.

"Alrighty, Pinkie..." Applejack began to say to her friend/opponent, "don't expect me t' go easy on ya just 'cause we're friends..."

"That's okay, AJ! I don't want you to go easy on me!" the pink teen responded with a cheerful giggle. "Gimme your best shot! Otherwise, the episode won't be very interesting to read at all!"

"Uh, sure... whatever ya say." Applejack told her. The two of them then shouted, in unison...

"LET'S DUEL!" (Pinkie Pie: LP 4,000) (Applejack: LP 4,000)

---------------------------------------------------------------------

After a quick coin toss, it was determined that Pinkie Pie would make the first move of the Duel. Both she and Applejack drew their opening cards and gave them a good looking-over in order to figure out what their strategies would be. As they did, Sunset and the others continued to explain the rules to Twilight and Spike. The red and yellow girl reminded her Princess friend that, at the beginning of the game, both Duelists would draw five cards, and that the player that made the first move was not permitted to draw a card or battle on their first turn. Twilight nodded to say that she understood as she and Spike continued to watch the Duel.

"Alrighty, Pink... let's get this Duel goin'!" Applejack told her, ready to get started.

"Ah-ah-ah... be patient, AJ..." Pinkie told her friend while wagging her index finger. "A good strategy requires a LOT of thought." Looking over her opening hand some more, she then said, "Okay! I've got it!" Taking a card out of her hand and placing it into her Duel Pad's Spell & Trap Zone slot, she then declared, "First, I'll place one card face-down!" Taking another card out of her hand, she then added, "And neeeeext... I'll Normal Summon Madolche Mewfeuille in Attack Mode!"

After playing her Monster Card, an enlarged digital copy of the card appeared in front of Pinkie Pie. Then, from out of the card came a small, pink cat with blue eyes, wearing a long, brown, belt-like garment around itself. It seemed to look more like it was a stuffed toy, based on the stitchings that appeared to encircle the bottoms of its four paws (Madolche Mewfeuille: Level 3 / ATK 500 / DEF 300).

"Huh? A Madolche monster?" asked Applejack, sounding a little surprised.

"Huh... I shoulda seen that one coming..." Rainbow Dash commented. "That Deck type suits Pinkie perfectly."

"Next," Pinkie started, continuing her move, "since I Normal Summoned Madolche Mewfeuille, his special effect activates! So now I get to Special Summon ANOTHER Madolche monster from my hand!"

"Another one??" asked AJ.

"Yeppity-yep! Mewfeuille just hates being all by itself, you know?" Pinkie informed her opponent. "And luckily, I already have his best friend right here to join him!" Taking out another card from her hand, she then shouted, "I Summon Madolche Messengelato in Defense Mode!!" Her second monster was a small-sized human boy who was dressed like a mailman. He carried a large, green bag full of letters while also holding one envelope in his gloved hand (Madolche Messengelato: Level 4 / ATK 1600 / DEF 1000).

"Wait, hold on... I'm confused..." Twilight muttered before turning over to Sunset to ask her a question. "Sunset, I thought you told me that you could only Summon ONE monster per turn."

"You're almost right." the red and yellow girl answered her. "You can only Normal Summon or Set a monster once per turn... However, in the case of a Special Summon, you can do that as much as you want every turn, provided that you have effects that allow you to do so."

"Oh, I see..." the purple teen replied, understanding.

Pinkie, continuing with her move, then stated, "Now I'll use the effect of my Madolche Messengelato! Since I Special Summoned him, and I also have a Beast-Type Madolche monster on the field with him, I can now take any Madolche Spell Card or Trap Card out of my Deck! And I choose to take Madolche Chateau!" After she said that, her Duel Pad automatically shuffled her Deck; when it was finished, the card that she chose was left sticking out of the Deck Zone slot so that she could put it into her hand. After she took it, Pinkie Pie then shoved the card into her device and exclaimed, "And now I'll go right ahead and play my Field Spell Card right away!"

Upon playing her card, Pinkie's side of the field began to change. In an instant, a large castle appeared behind her. The building was quite... unique, to put it lightly; it appeared as though the entire structure was made out of sweet foods such as cake, cookies, flan, pancakes, and more. The ground underneath Pinkie's feet changed as well, creating a jigsaw puzzle-like design, which also appeared to be made of sweets.

*******************************

Madolche Chateau:
(Field Spell Card)

When this card is activated: Shuffle all "Madolche" monsters in your Graveyard into the Deck. All "Madolche" monsters on the field gain 500 ATK and DEF. If a monster(s) in your Graveyard would be returned to the Deck by the effect of a "Madolche" monster, you can add it to your hand.

*******************************

Pinkie Pie giggled and said to her opponent, "Now all of my monsters are much, MUCH stronger!" (Madolche Mewfeuille: ATK 500 + 500 = 1000 / DEF 300 + 500 = 800) (Madolche Messengelato: ATK 1600 + 500 = 2100 / DEF 1000 + 500 = 1500)

(Just great...) thought Applejack. (It's only her first turn, and she's already given herself a major advantage!)

"Hmmmm... well, I don't think I'll be able to do anything else just yet, so I'll end my turn." said the silly pink teen in a casual tone of voice.

"Alright then, get ready Pinkie Pie..." stated the orange teen. "Ah'm gonna show ya that you ain't the only one that can make a good move on their first turn!" Applejack then drew her first card and looked at it. "Not a bad start..." she said to herself, happy with what she managed to draw. "Ah'm gonna go and play the card Ah just drew! Go, Sylvan Charity!"

"Ooooooo... that's a really good card, AJ!" complimented Pinkie Pie.

"Well, thanks... Ah think so too." Applejack replied with a smile. "Especially since this card lets me draw three new cards from mah Deck!" After she did that, she then added, "Of course, there is a small price: Ah have t' take two cards from my hand and put them both on the top of mah Deck in any order. And Ah'll choose these two: Sylvan Lotuswain and Twilight Rose Knight!" After putting her two cards away, she then said, "Next, Ah'll set a card face-down, then I'll play mah own Field Spell Card, Mount Sylvania, from mah hand!"

Just as how Pinkie's side of the field became different when she played her Field Card, Applejack's half of the field also changed dramatically. When the light show was over, a large rainforest appeared behind the country teen, with a gigantic mountain overlooking it all.

"Now they both have one of those Field Cards out..." noted Twilight, making sure to learn everything she could from what she saw.

"Yep." stated Sunset Shimmer. "In the past, the rule was that only one Field Card could be in play at a time, no matter who played it. But recently, they changed that rule so that BOTH players could have one out."

"Either way, it's so amazing how it all looks..." said an impressed Spike. "These Gazer thingies really DO make it all look so real! It's so cool!"

"I have to say, I certainly agree with you, Spike." Twilight told him. "I used to think that magic didn't exist in this world, but it seems I might have been mistaken..."

"I thought the same thing the first time I put on one of these Duel Gazers..." Sunset stated. "Now I can see that magic isn't always just spellbooks and incantations: It seems that every world has its own kind of magic just waiting to be discovered."

Back at the Duel, Applejack then told Pinkie, "Now Ah'll activate the effect of Mount Sylvania! Ah'll send Rose Lover from mah hand to the Graveyard, which allows me t' place any Sylvan card in mah Deck on the TOP of mah Deck! And Ah think that Ah'll choose to move mah Sylvan Hermitree." After doing that, she then took out one more card in her hand and stated, "Lastly, Ah'll set a monster in Defense Mode to end mah turn." After placing her card onto the tray face-down, she then nodded to Pinkie Pie to say that she could go ahead and take her turn.

"Okie-dokie-lokie! It's my turn!!" the silly pink girl said as she happily drew a card from her Deck. Although she seemed quite happy with her draw, she decided to save her new card for later in the Duel. Placing another card onto her tray, she stated, "I'll Summon a monster in Defense Mode, change my Messengelato to Attack Mode... and then I'll go ahead and move onto my Battle Phase!" Pointing ahead, she then ordered, "Go! Messengelato! Attack AJ's monster!!"

The others watched as Pinkie Pie's mailman monster ran towards Applejack's hidden card. Once it got close enough, it swung its mailbag like a club and struck the card. The country girl's monster revealed itself as a short, firey mushroom holding a staff (Sylvan Komushroomo: Level 2 / ATK 100 / DEF 2000).

"Ha! Ah was hopin' y'all would do that!" shouted Applejack with a smirk. "By attackin' mah Sylvan Komushroomo and flippin' it faceup, you activated its ability! Now Ah can harvest up to five cards from the top of mah Deck!"

"Harvest...?" asked Twilight.

"She means Excavate." Sunset informed her Princess friend. "It's when you take cards off of the top of your Deck and show them to both Duelists. However, whenever AJ does it, she likes to call it 'harvesting' for some reason."

"I suppose it's okay..." Fluttershy commented. "After all, if it helps her enjoy playing the game, it can't be a problem."

After thinking about her next move, Applejack then decided, "Okay... Ah think I'll harvest three cards from mah Deck." She then took the three cards, revealing them to be Sylvan Hermitree, Mount Sylvania, and Sylvan Flowerknight. "Not bad at all..." She then told Pinkie, "Now listen up: After Ah harvest mah cards, Ah have t' send all of the Plant-Type monsters that Ah get to the Graveyard. So Ah'll ditch Hermitree and Flowerknight... After that, Ah'll put the Spell Card that Ah got on the bottom of mah Deck." Once she did that, Pinkie's monster then finished its attack, eliminating the small mushroom monster.

"Earlier, Applejack used an effect to put a card on the top of her Deck..." stated Rarity. "So why did she allow it to be thrown out so easily...?"

"I know..." Fluttershy began to answer her. "It's because the Sylvan cards all have effects that activate if they're excavated and sent to the Graveyard by card effects... I know because I played against her Deck before the Inter-school Duel."

Twilight pondered to herself after hearing what the shy teen had said. (Wow... it sure sounds like there's a lot more complexity to this game than I first thought... I just hope I can keep up with it all...) she thought to herself.

"And now Ah'll activate the effects of the two monsters Ah sent t' mah Graveyard!" declared Applejack. "First, Ah'll use Flowerknight's effect to move another Sylvan Hermitree to the top of mah Deck. Then, the effect of the first Hermitree that's in the Graveyard lets me rearrange the top three cards of mah Deck in whatever order Ah want them t' be!" And she did just that.

"Hmmm... you're clearly setting up something big, AJ." Pinkie observed. "So I'd better beat ya fast before I have to worry about it! And I'll start by having my cute little Mewfeuille attack you directly!" The pink girl's tiny kitty-cat then pounced towards her friend/opponent and slashed her with its claws.

"Aaaaaack!" shouted Applejack after taking the hit (Applejack: LP 4,000 - 1,000 = 3,000). Sighing, she then smirked and asked, "That all ya got, Pinks?"

"Yep. At least for this turn." Pinkie answered with a smile. "Your turn!"

"Alrighty then, I draw!" the country girl then drew her next card. Of course, she knew exactly what it was, since her earlier card effect let her freely rearrange her Deck. She then told Pinkie Pie, "Ah now activate the effect of Rose Lover in mah Graveyard! All Ah gotta do is banish it, and that lets me Special Summon any Plant-Type monster that Ah've got in mah hand!"

"Oooooooohhhhh... so THAT's why you wanted to rearrange your Deck, isn't it?" asked the pink girl.

"Right on the dot, Pinks." confirmed Applejack. "So now Ah'll bring out my mighty Sylvan Hermitree in Attack Mode!" Her next monster was a gigantic tree with red and green leaves and a large face upon the tree trunk. Above its eyes was a large, red jewel, which began glowing brightly (Sylvan Hermitree: Level 8 / ATK 2700 / DEF 1800).

"Amazing!" said an astounded Rarity. "She set things up so that she could easily Summon a high-level monster when she needed it the most!" Twilight continued to pay attention to every move made in order to learn the advanced tactics of the game.

"Now Ah activate the effect of Sylvan Hermitree!" declared Applejack. "Once per turn, Ah can harvest the top card of mah Deck, and then if it's a Plant, Ah have t' send it to the Graveyard." She then pulled out the top card and allowed both her and Pinkie Pie to see it. "Alright! It's mah Sylvan Cherubsprout! That means Ah can send it to the Graveyard!" She then placed the card in the correct slot and added, "And not only that, Ah can draw one more card with Hermitree's effect!" After drawing her card, she then told her opponent, "Next, since Sylvan Cherubsprout was sent t' the Graveyard after bein' harvested, its ability lets me Special Summon a Level 1 Plant-Type monster from out of mah Deck! And Ah'll select mah Sylvan Snapdrassinagon!"

Placing her next monster in Defense Position, her newest creature appeared to be a small human-like creature with a scarf covering its face. On its head were many pink flowers, some of which were still in the process of budding (Sylvan Snapdrassinagon: Level 1 / ATK 900 / DEF 400).

"Even though she's ahead of Pinkie right now," Sunset stated, "it seems that Applejack is still trying to plan some bigger plays for later on. Unfortunately for Pinkie, the Sylvans' effects make it very easy for their user to have almost total control over the cards they get."

Twilight stayed silent, though she kept on thinking about everything she had been told, as well as what she had observed from the Duel so far. As she saw, the young Princess could tell that this game wasn't too much different from the strategy games she had seen in the past, in the fact that victory almost always favored the player who could think several moves ahead of their opponents.

"Now Ah think it's time for me t' take control of this game!" shouted AJ as she played her next card. "Ah summon Copy Plant in Attack Mode!!" Her next monster then grew out of the ground in front of her, appearing to be nothing more than a mass of brown vines wrapped around itself (Copy Plant: Level 1 / ATK 0 / DEF 0). "Next, Ah'll use the effect of Copy Plant: By targeting one other Plant-Type monster on the field, Ah can alter Copy Plant's Level to match it! And Ah select mah Level 8 Hermitree!!"

After the order was given, Applejack's Copy Plant began to grow wildly, altering itself to look like a vine-covered version of her Sylvan Hermitree (Copy Plant: Level 1 > Level 8).

"I know what's comin' next..." Rainbow Dash spoke up.

"So do I." Sunset responded. Turning over to Twilight Sparkle, she then instructed her, "Pay attention to this move, Twilight: You'll need to know about it once you start playing." The young Princess nodded and watched the next move carefully.

"Ah now overlay mah Level 8 Hermitree and Copy Plant and create an Overlay Network!!" shouted the farm girl as her two monsters turned into a pair of lights; one red and one green. The two lights were then drawn into a red portal that formed in front of Applejack. "Great Guardian of the Sylvans!" she chanted. "Let loose your mighty roar and drive away those who would harm your blessed forest! Xyz Summon!!" Taking a card from her Extra Deck and placing it onto her card tray, she then finished her chant, saying, "Appear now, Guardian! Rank 8!! Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector!!"

Applejack's new monster emerged from out of the red vortex with two swirling yellow lights surrounding it. The monster appeared to be a large, white lion, only instead of hair, its large mane appeared to made of bright green grass. It also had two branches extending out of its head like horns, with a pair of earring-like pieces of jewelry attached to them. Around its neck was a collar with a large bell, and its size easily dwarfed all of Pinkie Pie's monsters (Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector: Rank 8 / ATK 2300 / DEF 3200 / OLU 2).

"So that's an Xyz Monster..." said an astounded Twilight.

"Th-that thing's humongous!!" added Spike, trembling a little.

Pinkie Pie wasn't scared, despite the fact that she was staring down an incredibly powerful monster. In fact, she was happier than ever. "Oh wowee!!" she cheered. "That guy sure looks super-tough! Great job, AJ!!"

"Well, don't go thankin' me just yet, Pink." the country girl told her. "After all, you're the one who's gotta fight it. But first things first, I'll use the first effect of Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector. Now Ah declare one card name, then Ah harvest the top card of mah Deck. If Ah get it right, I get t' put it in mah hand. But if Ah don't, Ah have t' toss it in the Graveyard."

"That's crazy...!" said Twilight. "There's no way that Applejack could guess the top card of her Deck like that!"

"That may be true, Twilight dear," Rarity replied, "but I don't believe that Applejack will be trying too hard to guess correctly."

"My thoughts exactly." Sunset agreed with a nod.

Placing her middle and index fingers on the top of her Deck, the farm girl then said, "Alright... Ah'm gonna guess that mah top card is... Sylvan Hermitree!" She then pulled the next card and looked at it. Letting out a sigh (but still smiling), she said, "Aw crud... It's Sylvan Flowerknight! Looks like Ah got it wrong..." Of course, from the tone of her voice, it was obvious that she was faking her "disappointment". After placing it in the Graveyard, she then told Pinkie, "Course, that does mean that Ah can put any Sylvan card Ah want on the top of mah Deck, like mah Sylvan Sagequoia!"

"I see... she guessed wrong on purpose in order to use the effect of another Sylvan card, right?" asked Twilight.

"Uh huh..." Fluttershy answered, nodding yes. "Applejack has a very tricky Deck; I should know... it took me about five games with her before I was able to beat it..."

Taking a card out from underneath her Xyz Monster, Applejack then declared, "Now I'll ditch one of Alsei's Overlay Units! In exchange, Ah can use its second power t' send any card on the field back to the bottom of its owner's Deck! And Ah'll choose your Madolche Messengelato!"

"Uh oh...!" said Pinkie Pie, getting a little worried.

The large, lion-like beast opened its maw and devoured one of its swirling orbs (Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector: OLU 2 - 1 = 1). After taking in the energy that it needed, Alsei belted out an incredibly loud roar that forced everyone but Applejack into covering their ears. Pinkie Pie's mailman monster couldn't take the scary noise and made a run for it, retreating to the bottom of Pinkie Pie's Deck.

"Looks like your little messenger won't be deliverin' any mail to Mount Sylvania for quite a while." noted Applejack. Throwing a forward air punch, she then shouted, "Alright, Alsei! Attack her little kitten!!" The beast roared once more as it leapt forward and stomped right on top of Pinkie Pie's Madolche Mewfeuille.

Pinkie Pie sighed sadly a little after taking the hit to her Life Points (Pinkie Pie: LP 4,000 - 1,300 = 2,700). But she smiled once more and said, "Nice play, AJ! But I'm afraid it's not over yet!"

"Come again?" asked the country teen.

"Since my Madolche Mewfeuille was destroyed," the pink teen continued, "he gets shuffled back into my Deck... Orrrrrrr that WOULD have been the case, if not for my Field Spell, Madolche Chateau! Thanks to my Chateau, my little kitty-cat gets placed back into my hand instead!"

"Crud... that means that you can just keep bringin' it back as much ya want, no matter how many times I destroy it!" noted Applejack.

"That's riiiiiiiight!" Pinkie giggled as she took her card and put it back into her hand.

"Then I guess that's the end of mah turn then." the farm girl replied. She then thought to herself, (Knowing her, she'll probably use that cat to summon more than one monster on her turn... Ah'd better be ready; even though Ah've got a tough Xyz Monster on mah field, there's always the chance she'll whip out somethin' even stronger... Luckily, Ah planned some moves in advance, just t' be on the safe side...)

"My turn!" cheered Pinkie as she drew a card. She looked at it and got excited, "Alright! That's just what I wanted to get!!"

The others watched on, wondering what the pink girl's next move would be.

"Once again! Madolche Mewfeuille in Attack Mode!!" shouted Pinkie as she summoned her cat monster once more (Madolche Mewfeuille: ATK 500 + 500 = 1000 / DEF 300 + 500 = 800). "And now I use his effect to summon another Madolche from my hand!" Taking the card she had just drawn, she added, "Madolche Anjelly! Let's have some fun!!"

Her next monster was an adorable little angel girl with long brown hair, a pretty white dress, and small little angel wings. In her hand was a small spoon. At the moment, there appeared to be some red gelatin in the utensil, which Anjelly immediately put into her mouth, letting out a content sigh from how good it tasted (Madolche Anjelly: ATK 1000 + 500 = 1500 / DEF 1000 + 500 = 1500).

Fluttershy and Rarity immediately took notice of how cute Pinkie's new monster was. "Oh my! It's so precious!!" Rarity shrieked happily. "I just want to go over there and hug it!!"

"Me too...!" added Fluttershy. She, too, was quite taken by Anjelly's cuteness.

Applejack had never seen Pinkie's new monster before, so she asked, "What's that little sprite supposed t' do?"

"Oh, she has a REALLY strong power!" answered the silly girl. "By releasing her, I can Special Summon any Madolche monster that I want from my Deck!"

"Wait, ANY one y'all want?!" asked the farm girl, startled a little.

"Uh huh! So I'll trade her out for my Messengelato!" Pinkie responded. Anjelly then sang a short, but beautiful song. After she vanished, Pinkie Pie's mailman monster reappeared on the field (Madolche Messengelato: ATK 1600 + 500 = 2100 / DEF 1000 + 500 = 1500).

"No way... Ya brought him back out??" asked Applejack.

"Yep!" answered the pink girl. "Neither rain, nor sleet, nor giant, scary lion/plant monsters will keep him from his appointed rounds! And thanks to his ability, I can now take another Madolche Spell or Trap Card from my Deck! And I choose my Madolche Ticket!" After getting her next card, she played it onto the field right away.

"Now what're y'all up to?" asked Applejack, not sure if she really wanted to hear the answer.

"You'll see..." Pinkie told her with a smirk. "But first, I'll Flip Summon my Madolche Marmalmaide and put her in Attack Mode!" After flipping her facedown monster face-up, it was revealed to be an orange-haired girl wearing a maid's outfit. In her hand was a book titled, "Madolches' Manners" (Madolche Marmalmaide: Level 4 / ATK 800 + 500 = 1300 / DEF 2000 + 500 = 2500).

"Now Pinkie has two Level 4 monsters out!" said Rainbow Dash. "She must be planning to summon an Xyz Monster, too!"

"You've got it, Dashie!" shouted the pink teenager. Putting her right arm up into the air, she shouted, "Messengelato! Marmalmaide! It's Overlay Time!!" After she said that, the two monsters in question turned into a pair of orange lights that flew into a red portal in front of the poofy-haired girl. "When this queen comes to power, you KNOW something sweet is around the corner!" the pink girl chanted. "Xyz Summon!! Sweet Queen of Treats! Rank 4!! Madolche Queen Tiaramisu!!"

From out of the red portal came a large and beautiful throne. Sitting on that throne was an even more beautiful woman. She wore a crown on top of her lilac-colored hair, along with dazzling robes of gold and chocolate-brown that draped to the ground. In her hand was a long scepter that shimmered in the sunlight. Swirling around her were two orange-colored orbs of light (Madolche Queen Tiaramisu: Rank 4 / ATK 2200 + 500 = 2700 / DEF 2100 + 500 = 2600 / OLU 2).

Once again, Rarity and Fluttershy had stars in their eyes when they saw Pinkie's new monster. Rarity was taken in by the beautiful outfit that the queen wore, already thinking about trying to make a similar dress in the real world. As for Fluttershy, she liked it simply for how cute and pretty she looked.

"Dangit..." sighed Applejack. "Ah was hopin' t' win this Duel BEFORE she got that card out...!"

"If you like Tiaramisu right now, then you'll love this!" said Pinkie as she pulled out a card from underneath her Xyz Monster. "By removing an Overlay Unit from her, I can have her send one Madolche monster in my Graveyard back into my Deck!" After she said that, Tiaramisu raised her scepter and drew one of her orange orbs into it (Madolche Queen Tiaramisu: OLU 2 - 1 = 1). Pinkie then used the effect to send Anjelly back into her Deck. "Not only that," she then told her friend/opponent, "but now her power lets me shuffle one card on YOUR side of the field back to YOUR Deck!"

"Say WHAT?!?" exclaimed Applejack.

"Sorry, AJ... but I gotta send your big, scary lion back to your Extra Deck! Bye-bye!" And with those words, Pinkie Pie had her Xyz Monster send Applejack's off of the field, leaving only one monster left on the country teen's side to defend her.

"No way... Pinkie just did to Applejack what she had done to her last turn..." stated Rainbow Dash, impressed by her pink friend's move.

"Wow... it's amazing how control of the game can change so easily..." noted Twilight. "It's hard to tell who will win this one..."

Pinkie then continued with her turn, telling Applejack, "Now for the best part! Now that I used my Madolche Queen to put Anjelly back in my Deck, the effect of Madolche Ticket now activates! So now I can Special Summon another Madolche monster from my Deck in Attack Mode! So here comes my Madolche Cruffsant!" And in a flash, Pinkie summoned another monster onto her field, bringing her to three monsters. Her new creature was a small puppy with a brown and white coat. It wore a collar with a bell on it, along with a tiny, yellow hat (Madolche Cruffsant: Level 3 / ATK 1500 + 500 = 2000 / DEF 1200 + 500 = 1700).

"Not bad at all..." Sunset said to the others. "While Applejack plans her moves ahead better than Pinkie does, Pinkie has one thing on her side: The element of surprise. She always keeps her opponents guessing as to what her next move will be, and often does something completely different to catch them off guard... And right now, it seems as though it's working..."

"Indeed..." Rarity agreed. "Pinkie is in quite a good position: If she can attack successfully with all three of her monsters, she'll win the Duel." The girls (and puppy) watched to see what would happen.

"Alright! Time for my Battle Phase!!" cheered Pinkie Pie. "I attack Sylvan Snapdrassinagon with Madolche Mewfeuille!" The pink kitten pounced forward, easily disposing of Applejack's only monster on the field.

Letting out a slight grunt out of frustration, Applejack then shouted, "Ah activate Snapdrassinagon's effect! Ah harvest mah top card, and then send it to the Graveyard, since it's a Plant-Type monster!" After doing that, she then added, "And since Sylvan Sagequoia was the one that got sent to mah Graveyard, his effect lets me put any Sylvan Spell or Trap Card in mah Graveyard back in mah hand! And Ah pick mah Sylvan Charity!"

"Nice move, but I'm afraid that it won't help you now!" Pinkie told her country girl friend. "Because I'm not done attacking yet!" Pointing forward, the pink teen then ordered, "Tiaramisu! Attack Applejack directly!!" The regal queen then stood up out of her throne and held up her scepter, drawing in enormous amounts of energy in order to prepare for a powerful attack.

"Uh oh... looks like Applejack's not going to win this game..." Twilight stated.

"...Don't count her out of this just yet, Twilight." Sunset said to her. "I have a feeling that she's got a backup plan all ready for it..." She then pointed her finger at the face-down card that the orange teen had sitting on her side of the field.

Applejack chuckled a little and shouted, "Sorry, Pink! But Ah ain't about t' let y'all win this Duel THAT easily!" Tapping her Duel Pad's touch screen, she then declared, "Ah play mah Trap Card: Sylvan Blessing!!"

The others gasped a little when the country girl flipped her card face-up... except for Sunset Shimmer. "I thought so..." the red and yellow girl said, "I didn't think she'd leave herself wide open like that..."

Applejack then explained what her Trap Card's effect did: "Thanks to this card," she told Pinkie Pie, "Ah can send one card from mah hand to either the top or bottom of mah Deck." Applejack then took a card from her hand (the Spell Card Reasoning) and placed it on the bottom of her Deck. She then told her friend/opponent, "Then, in exchange for that, Ah can then Summon a new Sylvan monster from either mah hand or mah Graveyard!" After thinking about it for a few seconds, the farm girl decided to Special Summon another Sylvan Komushroomo from her hand in Defense Position.

"So, does that mean that Pinkie's queen monster now has to attack that mushroom instead?" asked Twilight.

"Correct." Rarity answered. "Pinkie originally initiated an attack on Applejack directly. But before the attack could be completed, Applejack summoned a monster to defend herself with. The rules state that, if the number of monsters on your opponent's field change after you declare an attack, the Replay Rule goes into effect. Now Pinkie has to choose to either continue her attack with Tiaramisu and target the new monster, or abandon the attack altogether."

"Hmmmm... I see. Sounds pretty tricky." stated the young Princess.

"It took me a while to figure it out too, don't worry." Sunset admitted.

Pinkie sighed a little out of disappointment. "Awwwww...! That stinks! Now I can't win the Duel on this turn!" Sighing a second time - this time to regain her composure - she added, "Oh well, not much I can do about it, I suppose..." Pointing towards AJ's new monster, she shouted, "Tiaramisu! Attack Sylvan Komushroomo!" Of course, the queen had no problem defeating the tiny mushroom as she let out a powerful shot from her staff and blasted it off of the field. "And now, I attack directly with my Madolche Cruffsant!"

The little brown and white puppy barked loudly as it ran towards Applejack and bit her in the leg. "Yeeow!!" she screamed after taking some damage (Applejack: LP 3,000 - 2,000 = 1,000). "Get offa me, ya flea-bitten mongrel!" she shouted. After she said that, the country girl then looked over towards Spike and told him, "Uh, no offense there, Spike."

"None taken." the purple puppy replied.

"Hmmm... looks as though she still took a bad hit there..." noted Twilight.

"Perhaps," Sunset replied, "but more importantly, Applejack didn't lose the game. She may have lost a monster and all but a quarter of her total Life Points, but she still has one more turn to fight back." Turning over to her inter-dimensional friend, she then informed her, "That's something you should always remember, Twilight: If it comes down to a choice between losing some of your Life Points or losing all of them, always pick the lesser of two evils."

"That makes sense." the purple teenager responded, seeing the logic in it.

After her last attack, Pinkie Pie then said, "Well, I guess the only other thing I can do is this: I'll activate the special ability of my Madolche Cruffsant! By sending my Madolche Mewfeuille back into my hand, I can increase Cruffsant's Level by one and its attack power by 300!" The silly girl then took her kitten monster off of the field, allowing the puppy to gain even more power (Madolche Cruffsant: Level 3 + 1 = Level 4 / ATK 2000 + 300 = 2300). After that, she then ended her turn.

"I see what she did there..." Fluttershy said to her friends. "She did that so that Applejack couldn't attack her Mewfeuille during her turn."

"Yeah, I see..." Rainbow Dash chimed in. "Smart move, considering that her cat was the weakest monster that she had out."

Twilight then said, "Well, I'm not too surprised, to be honest; if your world's Pinkie Pie is anything like the one from mine, then it's safe to assume that she's a lot more intelligent than she makes herself seem..."

Sunset Shimmer nodded yes to say that Twilight's assumption was quite correct. "Pinkie's a very tough customer when it comes to Duel Monsters... In fact, she's only ever lost once, and that was to me."

Twilight was a bit startled after hearing that. "Really? You're the only one that ever beat her?"

"Yep, and even then it took me about nine games before it finally happened." the red and yellow girl stated. Turning back to the Duel in progress, she added, "Applejack's going to have to pull out all the stops if she's planning on winning..."

"For her sake, let us hope she does..." Rarity commented.

Applejack smiled as she stared down her friend/opponent, saying, "You're still as tough as Ah remember, Pink... But if y'all think that I'm gonna surrender now, then you're even crazier than I think you are!"

"Believe me, AJ," Pinkie replied, "you have NO idea how crazy I can get." Putting on a fierce look (but still smiling), she shouted, "Gimme your best shot! I can take it!"

"If y'all say so... I draw!" The country girl then drew her next card and looked at it closely. Putting on a huge smile, she cheered loudly, shouting, "Ah don't believe it! I drew EXACTLY what Ah needed!" Playing her new card right away, she then declared, "Ah Summon Lonefire Blossom in Attack Mode!!"

Applejack's next monster began to grow out of the ground, sprouting several small, purple leaves from its stem. A flower then bloomed at the top of the stalk, revealing what appeared to be a beige, spherical bomb (Lonefire Blossom: Level 3 / ATK 500 / DEF 1400).

"Huh? What's that do?" asked Pinkie Pie.

"Ah'm glad ya asked, Pinks..." the farm girl replied. "See, by releasin' one Plant-Type monster on mah field, mah Lonefire lets Special Summon any Plant-Type monster from mah Deck!" The pink teen gasped after hearing that; now SHE was the one that had been caught off-guard for once.

"But... she doesn't have any other monsters out..." noted Rainbow Dash. "How's she gonna use the effect?"

Twilight thought for a bit... and figured it out. "I know how..." she told everyone. "She's planning to release Lonefire Blossom itself to do that!"

The others gasped in surprise; both out of Applejack's brilliant play, and from the fact that the young Princess had figured it out all by herself. (Impressive...) thought Sunset Shimmer. (I didn't even have to tell her about that trick...) Turning back over to the Duel, she then pondered, (Since Lonefire Blossom's effect doesn't exclude it from being part of the Tribute cost, to Applejack, that card is basically a free pass to any monster she wants.) She then glanced back at Twilight and smiled, proud of her for being able to figure out that move as easily as she did.

"Alright, Lonefire Blossom!" shouted Applejack. "Ah release you from the field!" Upon saying that, the bomb at the end of Lonefire's stem exploded, creating a large cloud of smoke all over the field. "And with its effect," the farmer girl continued, "Ah choose t' summon Sylvan Sagequoia from mah Deck in Attack Mode!!" Once the smoke cleared away, a large tree could then be seen in front of the orange-skinned teenager. It had healthy, green leaves growing on its branches and a large face on its trunk. On that face were a pair of small glasses and a beard made out of vines (Sylvan Sagequoia: Level 7 / ATK 2600 / DEF 2100).

"Um... are you REALLY sure you wanna do that, AJ?" asked Pinkie Pie. "After all, he's not strong enough to defeat my Tiaramisu..."

"But I ain't quite through just yet, Pinkie." Applejack told her. Taking her last card out of her hand, she then declared, "Ah also activate mah Sylvan Charity again! So now Ah get to draw three more cards!" Looking at her Deck, she then thought to herself, (If Ah'm gonna beat Pinkie, Ah'm gonna need t' draw that card next... C'mon Deck, don't fail me now...)

Everyone watched as Applejack drew her next three cards, wondering what she would do next. "What do suppose she is hoping to draw?" Rarity asked.

"Maybe something that will support her Sagequoia...?" asked Fluttershy. The others could only wonder what the orange teen's plan was.

Applejack then took a peek at her new cards... and smiled. "Yes!! Ah drew it!!" Taking two of the cards that she drew, she then told Pinkie Pie, "Ah'll now place these two cards back on top of mah Deck!" After she did that, she then stated, "Next, Ah activate the effect of Sagequoia, which allows me to harvest the top card of mah Deck! And as y'all know, Ah can send it to the Graveyard if it ends up being a Plant monster!"

"And since Applejack just placed two cards back on top of her Deck," began Twilight, "that means that she must have put something there that will activate another effect once it gets discarded!" Once again, Sunset was happy to see that her friend was able to figure that out.

Applejack then sent the card that she pulled from the top of her Deck straight to the Graveyard, knowing full well that it was a Plant-Type monster. After she did that, she then said, "The monster I just placed in mah Graveyard was mah Sylvan Princessprout! And when it gets placed there after bein' harvested, Ah can Special Summon it and alter its Level from anywhere between one and eight!"

"Uh oh! That doesn't sound good!" Pinkie replied, sweating a little.

"As y'all can probably guess, Ah choose to bring Princessprout back to the field as a Level 7 monster!" the country teen informed her friend/opponent. After doing so, a small girl decked out in colorful, leafy robes appeared on the field and sat down on her knees (Sylvan Princessprout: Level 1 > Level 7 / ATK 100 / DEF 100). "And now Ah overlay her and mah Level 7 Sagequoia to create an Overlay Network!!"

The rest of the girls gasped as they saw both of Applejack's monsters transform into a pair of lights - one yellow and one green - and entered a large summoning portal. "So this was her plan!" Rarity exclaimed. "She was planning another Xyz Summoning!"

"Winged deity of Mount Sylvania!" Applejack chanted. "Spread your wings and unleash the fury of nature upon my foe! Xyz Summon!!" The portal then exploded, unleashing a column of red light that erupted from out of it. "Soar to the heavens! Rank 7!! Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter!!" the country girl shouted, finishing her chant and playing her Xyz Monster.

The others could only watch with astonished looks as a pair of golden-yellow wings emerged from either side of the red light. After that, a white-colored head that resembled that of a bird poked out next. On top of its head were many red flowers that were meant to resemble feathers. Its large, white body was decorated with a necklace of red flowers and a silver medal around its neck, and several long, red, rope-like objects draped behind its back.

*******************************

Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Plant-Type/DARK/Rank 7/ATK 2800/DEF 2500)

2 Level 7 monsters
Once per turn: You can send 1 Plant-Type monster from your hand or face-up from your side of the field to the Graveyard; look at a number of cards from the top of your Deck equal to the Level that the sent monster had in the hand or on the field, then place them on top of the Deck in any order. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; choose a number from 1 to 3, then excavate that many cards from the top of your Deck, send any excavated Plant-Type monsters to the Graveyard, and if you do, return up to that many cards on the field to the hand (min. 1), except this card. Also, place the other cards on the bottom of your Deck in any order.

*******************************

"There it is..." Sunset told everyone. "That's Orea; the strongest member of the Sylvans..."

"I didn't even get to see this card when I dueled Applejack..." Fluttershy noted, staring at the magnificent creature before them. "It's so beautiful..."

"Yeah, and I'll bet it's got some super-tough powers, to boot..." Rainbow Dash chimed in.

"Wow..." was all that Twilight could say as she was nearly mesmerized by the impressive bird monster that Applejack had summoned.

Pinkie was also quite taken in by the impressive creature. "Wowee..." she said in a slightly quieter tone. "I guess you're done messing around if you decided to bring THAT guy out, huh?"

"Ya got that right Pinkie..." the farm girl told her. "Just like you, Ah plan on winnin' this Duel, and Orea's gonna help me do just that! And I'll start by activatin' its ability!" She then took one of the cards underneath her Xyz Monster and sent it to her Graveyard in order to use her monster's power (Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter: OLU 2 - 1 = 1). "After gettin' rid of one of its Overlay Units," Applejack continued, "Ah can choose t' harvest up to three cards from the top of mah Deck!"

"And then what...?" asked the pink teenager.

"Well, for every Plant-Type monster that Ah harvest and then send to the Graveyard," the country girl explained to her, "Ah can then send up to equal number of cards - other than Orea itself - on the field back to a player's hand!" Pinkie Pie gasped in shock after hearing that.

"So that's her plan..." stated Rarity. "She's going to try and send all of Pinkie Pie's monsters back into her hand so that she can attack with her Xyz Monster directly!"

"Uh huh, that's right." confirmed Sunset.

"That means if Applejack can harv-... excuse me - excavate at least two Plant monsters from her Deck, she'll win the game!" Twilight figured out. It was clear that the young Princess had grasped a good amount of knowledge on Duel Monsters so far.

Applejack smirked as she said, "Alrighty then... Ah'll go right ahead n' havrest THREE cards from mah Deck!" She seemed pretty confident as she pulled her top three cards. But her smile faded once she saw them all. "Aw CRUD!! Ah only managed t' pull ONE Plant monster!!"

Pinkie Pie let out a sigh of relief, happy that she wasn't going to lose the Duel now.

Grumbling a little, Applejack took the one Plant that she did manage to excavate and said, "Well, since Ah WAS able get one Plant monster, that means Ah can send it to mah Graveyard..." She then pointed forward towards Pinkie's Xyz Monster and added, "And that means Ah can send one card you've got off of the field, like your Tiaramisu!"

The regal queen monster let out a cry as she was whisked off of the field and returned to Pinkie Pie's Extra Deck. In addition, its remaining Overlay Unit was sent to the Graveyard as well.

"As for the other two cards Ah harvested," the country girl continued, "Ah must place them both on the bottom of mah Deck in whatever order Ah want." After she did so, she then added, "Next, since mah Sylvan Lotuswain was harvested n' sent to the Graveyard, its effect lets me return up t' five Sylvan cards in mah Graveyard back to the bottom of mah Deck!" She then selected the cards that she wanted (two Sylvan Hermitrees, two Sylvan Sagequoias, and her Sylvan Flowerknight) and placed them back in her Deck. Once she finished with that, Applejack then shouted, "Alright, Orea! Go n' attack her little mutt!! Rainbow Feather Storm!!"

The large bird let out a piercing cry as it whipped up a fierce gust of wind. As it did, it shed several of its colorful feathers, sending them into the gust and firing them like bullets. The feathers struck Pinkie's Madolche Cruffsant, destroying it and inflicting some damage to his controller (Pinkie Pie: LP 2,700 - 500 = 2,200).

"I use the effect of my Field Spell, Madolche Chateau!" the pink teen announced. "Which means that Madolche Cruffsant returns to my hand instead of getting sent back into my Deck!" After taking her card back, she then added, "Next, since a Madolche card was sent back to my hand by a card effect, my Madolche Ticket lets me put Madolche Chouvalier into my hand from my Deck!"

"Not bad, Pinks... but you're still in a heap of trouble:" Applejack told her with a smile. "Mah Orea's the strongest monster in mah entire Deck! Ah'd certainly like t' see how you'd get outta of this one..."

"You would, AJ?" asked Pinkie Pie. "Well, okay then! I'll go and do just that, since you asked for it!"

"Uh... Ah was bein' sarcastic." the farm girl responded in a low tone.

But Pinkie wasn't listening as she drew her next card and looked at it. "Huh?" The silly girl looked at the card she drew carefully, thinking deeply about it for some reason. (Madolchepalooza?) she pondered. (Talk about déjà vu... It feels like I've seen this card already, but from where...?) Suddenly, her eyes widened as she let out a small giggle and lightly slapped the side of her head, as if she had come to a sudden realization. (DUH!! Of course! I remember now! I had one right at the beginning of the Duel! Silly little me!) Giggling some more, she then said to herself, "Well, better late than never I guess."

"What're y'all talkin' about, Pinkie...?" asked Applejack, slightly confused.

Not answering the question, Pinkie Pie tapped her Duel Pad's screen. After she did so, the face-down card that she had on the field revealed itself. "I activate Madolchepalooza!!"

"A Trap Card?!" exclaimed the farm girl.

"Oh dear...! I forgot that she had set a card during her first turn!" Rarity gasped.

Fluttershy gasped as well, remembering something about it. "That card... She used that to beat me when I dueled her...!" the shy girl informed her friends.

"You serious?" asked Rainbow Dash. "What does it do?"

"Well... if I remember correctly..." Fluttershy recalled, "it allows Pinkie Pie to Special Summon any Madolche monsters that she has in her hand for the rest of this turn."

"No way! She can bring out any monster she wants?!" asked Twilight.

"MonsTERS." the pale yellow teen repeated. "She can Summon more than one if she wants to..."

"That doesn't sound good for Applejack..." stated Sunset. "With that kind of power, Pinkie could try almost anything..."

Taking out two cards from her hand, Pinkie then told her friend/opponent, "I'll use my Trap to bring out these two Madolches!! Come on out, Madolche Puddingcess and Madolche Chouvalier!!"

Pinkie's first summoned monster was a young, blonde-haired girl with greyish-colored eyes. She wore a diamond-studded tiara on her head, there was a large cherry entwined in her hair, and her clothes appeared to be a fusion of both a royal dress and a sweet cake with its frosting-like design (Madolche Puddingcess: Level 5 / ATK 1000 + 500 = 1500 / DEF 1000 + 500 = 1500).

The second monster was a blonde-haired boy wearing what appeared to be a French-inspired army uniform, colored black with a piano-key design along the bottom, and topped off with a black hat that was decorated with a large, red feather. In his hand, he brandished a sword that seemed to be made out of a candy cane. The boy rode on top of a light blue pony with a light green-colored mane and tail that was as cute as a button (Madolche Chouvalier: Level 4 / ATK 1700 + 500 = 2200 / DEF 1300 + 500 = 1800).

"What're ya plannin' on usin' those two for??" asked Applejack.

"Uh uh uh! Can't ruin the surprise, AJ!" Pinkie told her, wagging her index finger. Taking out another card from her hand, she then announced her next move, saying, "Now I play the Spell Card, Instant Fusion!!"

"Instant Fusion?!" exclaimed Sunset. "She actually has that ultra-rare Spell Card?! I had no idea!"

Pinkie Pie giggled as she told the country teen, "Now with this card, I can Special Summon any Level 5 or lower Fusion Monster straight outta my Extra Deck! And it only costs me 1,000 of my Life Points to do it!" (Pinkie Pie: LP 2,200 - 1,000 = 1,200) Taking out a card from her Extra Deck, she then declared, "Now I summon Flower Wolf from my Extra Deck!"

Pinkie Pie's third monster was a large, navy blue wolf that had several pink flower petals growing out of its body. It let out a snarl as it jumped into the battlefield (Flower Wolf: Level 5 / ATK 1800 / DEF 1400).

"Ohhhhhh... I get it now..." Fluttershy said to herself. "THAT's why she wanted to trade with me for that card... Now I understand..."

Applejack was slightly puzzled by Pinkie's move. "Ah don't get it: Flower Wolf ain't very strong at all, and it's got no special effects. Not only that, it can't even attack me because of your Spell Card's effect. So what was the point?"

"I could tell you," the pink girl said to her, "but maybe you should check your Duel Pad and see for yourself!"

"Huh?" The orange teenager did just that, tapping the images of all of her friend's cards and looking at all of their information. Eventually, she let out a gasp when she finally figured it out: "No way...!" she said loudl. "Two of her three monsters are both Level 5!!"

"So that's it!" Twilight exclaimed. "She wanted to bring out enough monsters to do that X-Y-Z thing again!"

"Correct." Sunset responded. She then informed her Princess friend, "And by the way, you're not actually supposed to say each letter individually; you pronounce it all as one word: Xyz."

"Oh... sorry." the purple teen replied, rubbing the back of her head and blushing.

"Don't worry about it, Twilight." the red and yellow girl said to her with a smile. "Lots of other people get that wrong too."

"Alrighty then! Time for an Xyz Summon!" Pinkie Pie cheered. "Madolche Puddingcess! Flower Wolf! It's Overlay Time!!" After shouting those words, both of her chosen monsters transformed into a pair of orange lights and flew into a newly-opened red portal. "She's cute, she's yummy, and she's ready to party!!" the pink teenager chanted. "Nobody can stay bored when this little princess is ready to have fun! Xyz Summon!! A royal treat! Rank 5!! Madolche Puddingcess Chocolat-a-la-Mode!!"

A tiny figure then jumped out of the large, red portal. As it turned out, Pinkie's Puddingcess had returned to the field, putting her hand on her hip area and striking a cutesy pose in front of Applejack. The girl's appearence was slightly different, however; her tiara was replced with a fancy, brown crown, and her mostly-white dress was now a deep chocolate brown. In addition, a pair of orange orbs swirled around her.

*******************************

Madolche Puddingcess Chocolat-a-la-Mode:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Fairy-Type/EARTH/Rank 5/ATK 2500/DEF 2200)

2 Level 5 EARTH monsters
You can also Xyz Summon this card by using a Rank 4 or lower "Madolche" Xyz Monster you control as the Xyz Material. (Xyz Materials attached to that monster also become Xyz Materials on this card.) Once per turn: You can target 1 "Madolche" card in your Graveyard; shuffle it into the Deck. While this card has "Madolche Puddingcess" as Xyz Material, when a "Madolche" card(s) in your Graveyard is shuffled into the Main Deck (except during the Damage Step): You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; Special Summon 1 "Madolche" monster from your Deck in Attack Position or face-down Defense Position.

*******************************

"What the hay is that?!" asked Applejack. "There's ANOTHER Madolche Xyz Monster?!"

"Yeppity-yep-yep!!" cheered Pinkie Pie. "Chocolat-a-la-Mode is my newest and strongest card! And thanks to my Field Spell, she's even stronger!" (Madolche Puddingcess Chocolat-a-la-Mode: ATK 2500 + 500 = 3000 / DEF 2200 + 500 = 2700).

"Th-three thousand a-a-attack points...?!" the farm girl stuttered. "That's strong enough to take down MY monster!"

"Sorry, AJ... but I gotta play to win!" Pinkie then ordered, "Chocolat-a-la-Mode!! Attack her Orea with Choco-Boot Kick!!" The tiny little princess then jumped foward towards AJ's Xyz Monster. Though Chocolat-a-la-Mode was practically one-fiftieth the size of the Applejack's giant bird, she showed no fear as she delivered a power kick right in Orea's face, destroying the creature in the process (Applejack: LP 1,000 - 200 = 800).

"Now, Madolche Chouvalier!! Attack her directly!!" Pinkie then announced, sending her second monster into battle. The young soldier then slashed his candy cane sword at the farm girl, taking out the rest of her Life Points.

"Urrrgh... dang it..." sighed Applejack as she fell down to one knee. "Ah lost..." (Applejack: LP 800 - 2200 = 0) (WINNER: Pinkie Pie)

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Pinkie Pie walked over to Applejack after winning against her and asked, "Um... are you gonna be okay?"

The country girl sighed a bit and did her best to smile, despite having lost the Duel. "Ah'll get over it, don't y'all worry about me." Putting her hand out, she then said to her friend, "Great Duel, Pinkie; Ah have t' say, you certainly earned that victory."

Pinkie Pie giggled as she shook the orange teen's hand. "Thanks, AJ!" she told her. "You did really super-good, too! I actually thought I was gonna lose at one point!"

"Yeah, Ah thought fer sure that I had ya there with Orea's effect." Applejack told her. "But Ah guess that ya can't always plan for everything, can ya?" The two of them laughed a little, happy that they could have such a wonderful Duel with each other.

"That's so nice..." Twilight commented as she and the others watched the scene in front of them. "Even though Applejack lost the game, she still seems like she enjoyed herself... And Pinkie is even complimenting her for how well she played, too."

"That's what I always wish to see after a Duel." Rarity told her purple-skinned friend. "With both players being friends with each other, despite who won and who lost."

"Same here." Sunset added, smiling and nodding. "I believe that the most important thing that a Duelist should remember is to always enjoy themselves when they play, no matter who comes out on top. After all, if somepon- er, somebody can't even enjoy winning against someone else, then that's just sad..."

"Can't argue with that." Rainbow Dash chimed in. "I feel the same way out on the soccer field. Of course, I try to win, don't get me wrong, but I always have fun first."

Sunset then turned over towards Twilight and asked her, "So, now that you've seen how a real Duel goes, what do you think? Give me your honest opinion."

"Well, I have to say, after seeing something like that for the first time," the young Princess started, "I have to admit; I'm a little nervous about it... There are so many possibilities and variables to consider with every move you make, and just one little mistake could cost you everything..." The purple teen then smiled and added, "But... even knowing all of that, I'm also excited to try playing it! This Duel Monsters game really does look like something that I could get into! I can't wait to play a game for myself!"

"Well, I'm glad to hear that you're that interested, Twilight." the red and yellow girl replied, smiling. She then got up out of her seat and told her inter-dimensional friend, "And I think I might be able to help you get into the action right away."

"Y-you do...?" asked Twilight, not expecting that response.

"I do." Sunset then walked over to Rainbow Dash and said to her, "Rainbow, I'm sure you've been wondering what it is that I'd like you to do in order to help out Twilight, huh?"

"Yeah, so far I'm the only one who hasn't gotten a chance to help out yet..." the cyan teen reminded her. "Why is that?"

"Because you have the most important job of all." the red and yellow girl answered. "I'd like you... to be Twilight's first opponent!"

"WHAT?! Me versus TWILIGHT??" asked Dash in surprise.

"Hold on...! I-I-I have to fight RAINBOW DASH?!" Twilight inquired, getting nervous again.

"Exactly." Sunset Shimmer told them. "I really think that it would best if you two paired up and dueled each other. The experience would do nothing but benefit you both."

"But... are you sure that I can do well against her...?" asked the young Princess.

"...Who wins and who loses the Duel isn't what's important here." Sunset told her. "What does matter is how much you can learn from it."

"I... I'm not sure..."

Sensing that her friend was a bit nervous, the red and yellow girl then came up with an idea, "How about this: Try not to think of this as a Duel... Try to think of it as a... as a... a pop quiz! Like the ones Princess Celestia probably gave you in the past."

"A... a pop quiz??" asked Twilight, snapping out of her timidity. Gasping out of happiness, she then said, "Of course!! A pop quiz!! That's all that this is!!" Shaking Sunset's hand, she told her, "Thanks for saying that! I think I can relax now!"

"Uh, glad to help out, Twilight." the red and yellow girl responded with a chuckle.

"Pfft, figures..." Rainbow began to say. "Only eggheads like Twilight and Sunset would be excited over a pop quiz..." Shrugging, she then added, "Ah well, at least this means that Twilight won't be shaking in her shoes the whole time." Getting her blue and red Duel Pad out, as well as her deck box, she then said to her purple friend, "Alright then, you ready to get this game going, Twilight?"

"I guess we'll see soon enough..." the young Princess told her athletic friend. Although Twilight was still a little nervous about taking on an experienced player like Rainbow Dash, she was determined to do her best anyway. She knew that her first Duel would be her most important one, and she was ready to learn as much as she could from it.

-- To Be Continued...

RANK 11: A Royal Beatdown:

View Online

RANK 11: A Royal Beatdown:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

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...

Sunset's battle to obtain the Number cards has recently taken an rather interesting turn when Twilight Sparkle, a young Princess from Equestria (Sunset's former home), entered their world through the magic mirror portal. The Princess came to their world because Utopia, one of the many scattered Number cards, had come before her seeking her help on behalf of both himself and Sunset Shimmer. After everything was explained, Sunset and her friends agreed to accept her help in reclaiming the powerful and dangerous Number cards.

The only trouble was the fact that Twilight did not know how to play Duel Monsters, as the card game does not exist in her own world. Fortunately, Sunset Shimmer has taken it upon herself to show her the basic rules and help her inter-dimensional friend build her first Deck. In addition, Sunset's friends agreed to help out as well: Rarity and Fluttershy purchased a Duel Pad for her to play the game on, while Applejack and Pinkie Pie competed in a Duel against each other in order for Twilight to witness a real game for herself. As for Rainbow Dash, she had the most important job, according to Sunset: The athletic teen would be Twilight's opponent in her first Duel.

How will the Princess of Friendship fare in her first game of Duel Monsters? The answers lie ahead...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The sun was still shining brightly on a Sunday morning in Canterlot City and its surrounding suburbs. Some people were still at home, while many others were out, at either work or church. One of the people that had gone out for the day was the young teenage boy, Flash Sentry, who was riding his bike down the streets in order to get some early morning exercise. Though he had often beared witness to many of the strange happenings that had taken place at Canterlot High School, for the most part, he acted just like any ordinary boy his age as he casually rode his bike, not really heading for any specific destination.

Taking a deep breath of the fresh morning air, Flash said to himself, "It sure is a nice day today... Perfect weather for just riding around town in." As he continued forward down the street, he saw that the high school was just ahead. Seeing the school made him wonder what Sunset and her friends were up to today; they always seemed to have some sort of thing going on with them. Every now and again, he would pass by them while they were doing something fun and often joined in on their merriment if he didn't have anything more pressing to do at the time (which was fairly often).

Then, just as he passed by the high school's horse statue, he heard the sounds of cheering people nearby. "Huh? What was that?" he asked as he stopped his bike for a moment. He then looked in the direction of where he had heard the cheering, guessing that it was coming from somewhere behind the school. Curious, Flash Sentry got off of his bike and wheeled it around as he walked towards the school, heading for the direction of the soccer fields behind the building.

As he got there, Flash then saw some familiar faces sitting on the bleachers. "Hm? That's Sunset and her friends over there at the soccer field..." he noted to himself. His eyes then moved past the bleachers and onto the field itself, where he saw Rainbow Dash strapping on her blue Duel Pad. "Oh, I see... it looks like they're dueling with each other." the boy figured out. "But who's her opponent?"

Flash looked over towards the other side of the field... and his heart skipped a beat when he saw who was over there. "T-Twilight?!" he gasped when he saw the young purple-skinned girl, who was also putting on a Duel Pad, though she was doing it a little slower than Dash was as her face showed a look of uncertainty. Flash's mouth hung open, his face blushing as he was surprised to see the young girl again after so long. Not content to sit secretly on the sidelines any longer, the blue-haired teen locked his bike up at a nearby bike stand and ran over to join the others. "Hey!!" he shouted. "Hey, guys!!"

Sunset perked her head up when she heard the familiar voice shouting to them all. Looking over, she gasped a little when she saw who was coming their way. "F-Flash Sentry??" she asked, not sure if it was him at first. The other girls looked over at the boy as he ran towards the soccer field. Twilight glanced over as well, blushing a little after seeing who it was. However, she said nothing else as she just continued to stare at him.

Once he finally reached them all, Flash greeted them properly, saying, "Hey... good morning, everyone."

"Uh, good morning, Flash..." Sunset greeted back, trying her best to hide a slight blush of her own. It was a widely-known fact that, back before Twilight entered their world, Sunset and Flash used to date each other. At some point, they split up, though no one knew who broke up with who. After Sunset changed her ways, the two of them agreed to just be friends with each other; nothing romantic. Even so, the red and yellow girl still couldn't help but to blush a little whenever he was around, and it seemed that Flash, too, had that same problem.

Breaking the awkward pause, Applejack then asked the boy, "What're y'all doin' here, Flash?"

"Huh? Oh! Uh, I... I just happened to be passing by on my bike when I heard you guys." Flash answered her. "I saw that you were dueling, so I decided to come over and check it out. Is that okay if I do that?"

"Of course it is." Rarity responded, shuffling aside to allow the boy to come over and sit down with them all.

After Flash took his seat on the bleachers (sitting between both Rarity and Sunset), he then asked the red and yellow girl, "So... uh, I see Twilight's back in town; why didn't you tell me she came back here?"

"Well, she only just got here yesterday." the red and yellow girl told him. "That, and we've been pretty busy teaching her how to play Duel Monsters."

"Really? You guys are teaching Twilight how to play the card game?" the boy asked, becoming more interested.

"Sure are!" Pinkie answered him loudly as she leaned over from her seat above him. "In faaaaaaaact, you got here just in time to see Twilight play her first Duel!"

"Really?" asked Flash.

"Yep!" the silly pink girl told him. "Talk about a co-inky-dink; Twilight's about to compete in her first-ever Duel, and the boy that really likes her lots and lots just so HAPPENS to come and watch her play!!"

"Aheheh... well... I don't know about lots AND lots, but... oh boy..." the blue-haired teen said, rubbing the back of his head and trying to hide his newly-formed blush from the others as they gave out a slight chuckle in response. Spike, who was sitting on Fluttershy's lap at the moment, just rolled his eyes a little.

Back on the soccer field, Rainbow Dash gave out a slight smirk and said to her friend/opponent, "So, you ready t' do this, Twilight? After all, your boyfriend's watchin', and it'd be pretty rude of ya t' make him wait forever."

"B-boyfrend?!" asked the young Princess in a startled tone. Hiding her face a little, she then told her athletic friend, "D-don't be ridiculous, Rainbow... I-i-it wouldn't work out between us; I mean, I'm a pony, and he's a... a..."

"Human." the cyan girl finished for Twilight.

"Yeah, that."

Rainbow Dash snickered a little and told her inter-dimensional friend, "Aw, lighten up, Egghead! I'm just messin' with ya a little. I'm sure the me in your world does that to you a lot, right?"

"You don't know the half of it..." Twilight told her. "Wait... actually, you might..." Shaking her head, she then asked, "Look, are we going to do this or not?"

"Alright, alright already..." the cyan teen responded. Stretching out her left arm, she then shouted, "Duel Pad! Activate!!" After she said that, the card tray then emerged out of her tablet-like device. Pulling out her Duel Gazer, she then fitted it over her left eye and clicked a button on the side of it. "Duel Gazer! Let's go!!" Once Rainbow Dash was all ready to go, she then told Twilight, "Okay Twi, now you've gotta activate your Duel Pad so that we can start."

"Oh! Okay! I'll do that." The purple-haired girl then looked around on her device, trying to find something that would get it all set up. But she couldn't find anything of the sort. "Um... uh..."

Sighing, Rainbow then explained to her, "It's voice-activated, Twilight... You're supposed to yell out, 'Duel Pad activate'."

"Oh! Right... sorry." the young Princess apologized. Leaning over towards her device, she then said, in an uneasy tone, "Um... Duel Pad activate?" Right after she said those words, the card tray suddenly shot out of her tablet just inches away from her face, which startled her. "Sweet Celestia!!" the purple girl shouted. "That thing almost hit me in the head!!"

"Yeah, that's why the instruction booklet tells you to keep it AWAY from your face when you activate it." Rainbow informed her. She then told her friend, "Okay, now get out your Duel Gazer - that's this little lens thing here - and put it over your left eye." The cyan teen then pointed to her own Duel Gazer so as to help Twilight find and put on her own.

Twilight took out her violet-colored lens and placed it over her left eye, just as Dash had told her. "Like this?" she asked, wanting to make sure she did it right.

"Yep, you've got it." confirmed the athletic girl. "Now just face me and click the little button on the side; once ya do that, your Gazer will sync up with mine, and then we'll be able to Duel."

Twilight nodded as she did just that, following her friend's instructions carefully. Once she clicked her Duel Gazer's button, a green haze then flooded the area. "AR Vision Link established." said the computerized voice as a digital copy of the soccer field surrounded them all.

"Alright, get ready Twilight..." Rainbow Dash told her. "It's time to Duel!"

"Um... okay! Let's do this, Rainbow!" Twilight responded, ready to compete in her first Duel (Rainbow Dash: LP 4,000) (Twilight Sparkle: LP 4,000).

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The rest of girls, Flash Sentry, and Spike all activated their Duel Gazers in order to watch Twilight and Rainbow's Duel. Sunset then called out to her cyan friend, "Okay, listen Rainbow: This is Twilight's first Duel, so try and go a little easy on her, got it? Make it challenging, but not TOO challenging."

"I hear ya, Sunset." Rainbow replied with a nod. "Don't worry; I can play with a handicap."

After the red and yellow girl sat back down in her seat, Fluttershy then asked everyone, "Do you think Twilight will able to do well against somebody like Rainbow Dash?"

"Hard t' tell..." Applejack replied, unsure about how things would go. "Rainbow's quite the competitive type; she plays t' win, an' she doesn't let anyone get the better of her that easily."

"Well, as long as she remembers to hold back on using her best moves on her, Twilight will do just fine." Sunset then told her friends. "At least, I hope she will..."

"Of course she'll do just fine!" Spike told the red and yellow girl. He then shouted out, "Go, Twilight!! You can do it!!"

Rainbow Dash and Twilight then drew their first five cards, forming their opening hands. The young Princess then looked at the cards that she pulled, trying to figure out what they all did and how she should use them. The trouble is, since she hadn't looked at them much yet, she still wasn't entirely sure of what to do.

Noticing her friend's worry, Dash asked, "Uh, you alright there, Twi?"

"Huh? Oh! Uh... y-yeah... don't worry about me." Twilight said nervously. "I'm just... trying to remember what each of these cards do, that's all..." Rainbow sighed a little, knowing that her friend would need some time to figure everything out.

Sunset noticed Twilight's nervousness and called out, "Hey! Rainbow Dash!!"

"What is it??" asked the cyan teen.

"I think Twilight could use some extra time to look over her cards and figure out her strategy..." the red and yellow girl informed her. "So I think it would be best if you went first, understand?"

"Oh! I get it, no problem. I suppose that would help her a little." Rainbow Dash then asked her friend/opponent, "That okay with you, Twi?"

"Yeah, it's fine." agreed Twilight. "Go right ahead."

"If you say so." Rainbow Dash then took a card from her opening hand and announced, "I'll just place a monster in Defense Mode, and that'll be it." After she played her card face-down and horizontally on her Duel Pad, an image of a face-down card appeared in front of Rainbow Dash. Looking over at Twilight, she then told her, "Okay, it's your turn. That means you've gotta draw a card from your Deck."

"Wait... but doesn't the rule book say that I can't draw on my first turn?" asked Twilight, confused a little.

"That only applies to guy who makes the first move in the Duel." Rainbow Dash told her. "In this case, that means just me. But since you're going second, you DO get to draw a card, get it?"

"I think so. Thanks." The purple-skinned teenager then took the card on the top of her Deck and pulled it out of the holder. She then looked at it and began thinking about what to do first. (Now let's see...) she thought, (in order to get rid of Rainbow Dash's monster, I'll need to attack it using one of my own... Now, if I remember correctly, Rainbow put her card on the field face-down and horizontally; she called it Defense Mode...) Looking at a Monster Card in her hand, she then said to herself, (That's right...! Sunset told me that I have to place my Mo