Friendship Games is retold, but with less academics and athletics and more card games.
It's been three months since Sunset Shimmer lost the Autumn Crown Tournament to Twilight Sparkle and found her ambitions of invading Equestria thwarted. She's since begun to reform as the school turns itself around from the bitterness of the tournaments, and with a new deck in hand she's even made friends.
However, a rival school is soon to arrive for their annual cross-school tournament, and among the ranks of their elite duelists is a familiar face who's been investigating Sunset's mysterious deck. Sunset isn't the only duelist out there with knowledge of magic, and she'll soon find herself facing a dark duelist who seeks to use her cards and powers for their own purposes.
Together with her friends, Sunset is going to have to put the duelists of Crystal Prep in their place and stop the plans of her new enemy. It's time to duel!
The redhaired warrior women hefted her sword and leapt into the air, light gleaming off of shining gold armor. She descended in a two-handed cleave, slicing apart the defending monster in cybernetic hockey armor. The monster exploded in a blast of wind.
Sunset looked down at her duel disk as Rainbow Dash’s Life Point counter ticked down to zero, her portrait lighting up red along with the numerals. “That’s game.”
Rainbow lowered her arm and shook her head. “I’m gonna beat you one of these days.”
“I only had six hundred Life Points left, that was pretty close.”
Watching the duel from the stands at the side of the back field, Applejack snorted. “Sure, close for a normal duelist. It’s a bit different for your magic voodoo powers.”
Sunset frowned. “I told you, I don’t do that anymore. I don’t even know if I can.” She looked down at her hand, flexing her fingers. I haven’t had any of my powers flare up since… She shook her head to dismiss the memory of blinding white light engulfing her.
“My turn next!” Pinkie jumped in place. “I wanna try out my new deck!”
“I’ll pass this one.” Sunset walked to the stands to join the others, unstrapping her duel disk and setting it beside her.
“I’ll give it a go, Pinkie.” Rarity stood up and adjusted her duel disk’s placement on her arm. Pinkie squeed and ran out onto the grass while Rainbow came to sit down as well.
“Five bucks on Rares,” Applejack said, holding out her hand.
Rainbow reached out and slapped it. “You’re on. Fluttershy, Sunset, you want in?”
Fluttershy shook her head.
“No thanks,” Sunset said.
On the grass in front of them, Rarity and Pinkie stood opposite each other and raised their arms, their duel disks lighting up. Applejack held up her own disk and entered spectator mode, Fluttershy and Rainbow leaning in.
Behind the trio, Sunset took a breath and looked out over the field. They weren’t the only students playing. Sunset saw three other duels going on, small bunches of students watching. Other groups were seated around the tables under the trees at the far end of the field, cards spread out on them for trades and playing.
Sunset closed her eyes and smiled. It’s amazing how much has changed in so short a time.
It had only been three months since Twilight had won the Autumn Crown Tournament, and the student body of CHS had begun to move on from its bitter and competitive atmosphere. There was talk that the upcoming Spring Crown Tournament would do away with the winner’s privileges and just have the winner be a bragging-rights position. Others were petitioning for some sort of material reward of cards or a gift certificate to a local card shop.
I guess it makes sense. I’ve kinda set the precedent twice now. She had been the one to manipulate Celestia into giving the winner of the tournaments – Sunset herself – special privileges. Since her loss to Twilight and Twilight returning to Equestria, the school had been in the odd position of being without a reigning champion. Celestia had first approached Flash Sentry, then Sunset and Rainbow, about assuming the position, but all three had declined. Twilight’s departure had absolved that drive and need to be the best that had hung over the school for years.
I owe a lot to her. Sunset opened her eyes, not paying attention to the duel in progress. She saved the school from me. She saved me from myself. Thinking back now, it was like watching someone else’s life. The life of someone full of hate and pride and jealousy. Someone who needed to assert her superiority over others no matter how she made it happen. Sunset bit her lip and lowered her head. That’s not me anymore. I have the deck to prove it. She smiled and reached down to her duel disk.
Her hand hit the slot where the deck was inserted and her fingers felt cold plastic.
Sunset snapped her head down and saw her duel disk empty. She looked around the area and caught movement under the metal bleachers. Lowering her head to look between the seats, Sunset saw a figure in a hooded blue sweatshirt kneeling with their back to her, hands moving to flip through a stack of cards.
“Hey!” Sunset stood and ran to the end of the bleachers to jump to the ground. At her voice the figure’s head snapped up and they ran, Sunset’s cards falling to the grass. Sunset reached them and stopped, noticing the figure’s hands empty as they pumped their arms to jog across the street. A bus stopped nearby and when it pulled away the figure was gone.
“Sunset?” Applejack’s voice drew Sunset to look behind her and see her friends looking at her.
“I think I just caught someone trying to steal my deck,” Sunset muttered.
Rarity gasped. “The nerve! Who would do such a thing?”
“I dunno, they escaped.” Sunset pointed at the bus pulling down the street.
Rainbow squinted and put a hand over her eyes to look down the street at the back of the bus. “The eight?” She lowered her hand and rolled her eyes. “What a shock.”
Sunset finished gathering her cards – it seemed there were none missing, at least – and stood up. “What’s a shock?”
“The eight bus connects to the north end,” Rainbow explained. “And there’s only one reason someone from the rich side of town would be down here snooping at the dueling fields.”
The five spoke in unison. “Crystal Prep.”
“Canterlot’s rival school,” Applejack explained. “A bunch of upper-class snobs with more money than talent.”
Rainbow nodded. “With the Friendship Cup this weekend, they’d totally sneak down here to spy on us and get a look at our decks.”
“Right.” Sunset looked back at the bus as it turned the street corner. “But do you really think they’d stoop to spying?”
Rainbow nodded “They totally would! You know what they’re like.”
“Actually, I don’t.” Sunset held up her hands.
Rainbow recoiled. “Say what?”
“She’s never competed in the Cup,” Rarity reminded. “Though I always did wonder why, darling.”
Sunset winced and rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, I always saw the posters and heard duelists talking about it, but I didn’t see the point in taking part. You know, that point being I wanted to take over the school and make everyone bitter and competitive. School spirit rivalries weren’t really helpful for that.” She grimaced and put a hand to her face. “I’m sorry, I know how that sounds.”
Fluttershy stepped up and gently pulled Sunset’s hand away. “It’s okay, Sunset, you don’t duel for that now.”
“The point is,” Applejack cut in, “Crystal Prep has always looked down their nose at us and rubbed our faces in how much better they are than us, long before even you came on the scene.”
“Spying is the least of our problems, this rivalry isn’t fair on principal,” Rarity said. “CHS is a standard secondary school while Crystal Prep is specifically for duelists aiming to turn a career out of the game. They take courses studying the game inside and out.”
Fluttershy nodded. “They say more than four in five graduates goes on to be a professional duelist, or something related like a judge or a card designer.”
“If it’s that unfair, why get so worked up over it?”
“Because they’re jerks about it!” Rainbow snapped. “They make CHS a laughing stock! I’ve been laughed out of tournaments because everyone knows CHS duelists are just wanna-bes.” She raised her nose in the air and faked an upper-class accent. “If we were serious about the game, why wouldn’t we attend a preparatory school? If you want to be the best you have to make the commitment, not treat this like some silly hobby.”
“Right.” Sunset shrugged. “But that’s hardly our fault, right? I mean, if they’re so rich then they can afford all the rare cards they need to make the best decks. What chance do normal kids have?”
“Not only that. They also use the Expert Rule system.” Rarity tapped on her duel disk a few times and showed Sunset a header labelled ‘Rules’. “CHS uses the Casual Rules. That means Fusion-only extra decks, one Field Spell in play, and some other minor details. Crystal Prep uses a professional ruleset, Expert.”
“You know all those Synchro and Xyz Monsters no one at this school really uses?” Applejack shook her head. “Them’s all the rage at Crystal Prep.”
Pinkie nodded. “No one here likes the Expert rules since the Casual rules are more fun. So when it comes time to duel with Experts, most of our students don’t really know what they’re doing. Not to mention none of them actually have decks that use Synchro and Xyz Monsters, so they’re outmatched against more advanced decks.”
“Well, why not change that?” Sunset asked. “You said the Friendship Cup is this weekend. It’s only Tuesday so we have four days to learn how to play at Crystal Prep’s level.”
“Seriously?” Rainbow snorted. “You really think we can master a whole new ruleset and summon mechanics in just four days?”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Twilight mastered the game from scratch in three days.”
“She had magic.”
“And we have each other.” Sunset looked around the group. “Do we wanna give it a shot or not?”
They looked at each other. Fluttershy smiled. “Well, I do have a couple Xyz cards that could work in my deck.”
“Ah’m switching to a Fusion deck, might as well learn new rules while I’m at it.”
Rarity sighed. “Oh, very well. What have we got to lose but a few hours of our time?”
“I’m in too!” Pinkie grinned.
Rainbow nodded. “What the heck, let’s do it!” She stuck her hand out. One by one the others piled theirs on. “Crystal Prep, this year you’re going down!”
The bus stopped and the hooded figure stepped off, throwing her hood back to reveal a mass of pink-streaked purple hair tied into a bun. She walked down the street and turned down a walkway to a small two-story home.
“Mom, I’m home!” She slammed the door behind her. “I’ll be in my room!” She didn’t wait for an answer before toeing off her shoes and jogging up the stairs. She reached the door to her room, a child’s glitter-coated art project reading ‘Twilight’ hanging from the door.
Twilight sat down at her computer and turned it on. While it booted up she reached over to a table by her desk and pulled a camera drone over to her. She grabbed the remote control and loaded up the last video entry it had recorded, dated from last week. It began to play, displaying a duel on the back fields of CHS.
“I knew it.” Twilight paused the video and sat back, rubbing her chin. “The same girl and the same monsters…” Her computer let out a three-tone chime to signal it was finished booting. Twilight turned to it and opened her browser, typing and clicking rapidly as the home page loaded. I have to let the principal know my suspicions, but best to double-check one last time now that I got a closer look.
“Twily?” Twilight didn’t stop working as her door nudged open, an older boy with blue hair peaking in. “Mom wants to know if you want gravy with supper.”
“Not now, Shiny, busy,” Twilight muttered, her eyes fixed on her computer. Those symbols were definitely something new. What was that card type? Pendulum? Before she could continue her train of thought, she found a large burly white arm wrapped around her head.
“Too busy to chat with your BBBFF?” Shining Armor laughed.
“Let go!” Twilight pushed his arm away and adjusted her seating before going back to her work.
Shining looked at her computer screen, recognizing the program she was using as a card database. “Is this about that CHS duelist again?”
He sat down on the edge of Twilight’s bed. “I knew you were obsessive but this is a bit much, even for you.”
Twilight huffed and turned her head. “It is not obsessive! I told you, I’ve searched my entire database of cards and I have no idea what deck she’s playing. I’ve emailed judges, designers, spoken to pro duelists. None of them have any idea what this ‘Harmony Guardian’ archetype is, much less these ‘Pendulum’ monsters.”
Shining shrugged. “Maybe you just misheard the name?”
“No.” Twilight shook her head as she went back to her work. “I went down there and snuck a peak at her deck when she was distracted. Her card layout is unlike any I’ve seen: two boxes for effect text and red and blue symbols on the side. I also can’t figure out how she plays them.” She waved her hand to the side. “I’ve used the drone to record a few duels of hers but the plays don’t make sense. She seems to play her Monster cards as Spell cards sometimes, and when her monsters are destroyed they don’t seem to register as being in the graveyard.”
Shining frowned. “Twily, if you get caught talking about this stuff, I could get in serious trouble. I don’t need people whispering that the school champ has his little sister spying on Canterlot High the week before the Friendship Cup.”
“You’ll appreciate it when I prove that they’re cheating,” Twilight replied. “Using cards no one has heard of before and that seem to have different mechanics that aren’t fully understood? They’re up to something. It’s possible they have an insider who is getting them cards not on the open market yet, or more likely, they’re using fake cards. Either way, I can’t ignore it.”
“I think you’re jumping to conclusions,” Shining said. “But if you’re right, fair point on investigating it. Have you let the principal know about this? If there is a chance that CHS might try to pull something underhanded this weekend, we can’t keep it to ourselves.”
“That was my next step. I was just double checking my database to make sure there’s no chance I overlooked something. I didn’t.” Twilight gestured at the browser window she had open. “I set up this website bot to track the most popular Duel Monsters news sites and keep a running update of all known cards in circulation, even the ones no one could possibly have like tournament-exclusives. If these ‘Pendulum’ cards aren’t in my database, then they don’t exist.” She went to her email and began to type up her message.
“Well, let me know what you find,” Shining stood up. “Come down when you’re done, mom wants to talk to you about supper.”
“Sure.” Twilight heard her door click closed and kept typing. When she was finished she read over her message to the principal.
“I recognize directly emailing you is highly unorthodox, but I feel this matter is of the utmost importance and must be brought to your attention. For the last few months I have become aware of strange cards being used by a duelist at Canterlot High, seemingly their former champion Sunset Shimmer. What concerns me is that these cards, identified as ‘Pendulum Monsters’, do not seem to exist in any known card database, and all contacts in the professional world I have reached out to reaffirm that judgement. I believe CHS may be trying to use illegal cards in this weekend’s Friendship Cup and wanted to inform you of this, so that suitable actions may be taken to ensure the integrity of the tournament.”
Twilight thought for a moment, then typed one more sentence.
“I’ve attached some evidence of my suspicions to this email for you to look at.”
She clicked the paperclip icon and browsed to one of the video recordings she had taken with her drone of Sunset dueling, and attached it. Satisfied with her email, Twilight hit Send. She picked up the viewer for her drone and let the video play, watching the redheaded duelist summon her unknown monsters three at a time; a slap in the face to all Twilight knew about the game.
I don’t know what you’re up to, Sunset Shimmer, but I’m onto you and you won’t get away with it.
Sitting on the bed in her apartment with her legs crossed under her, Sunset finished laying out her deck and looked over it. This deck has been doing just fine so far, but I’m not really sure if it can keep up with pro-level duelists like Crystal Prep might have. But what other options do I have? Sunset had never spent much time collecting cards, she’d never had the money to spare. Besides, her power to shift the contents of her deck as needed had ensured her continual dominance. Sure wish I had that power again. She flexed her hand and frowned. As unfair as it was using magic like that, it would come in handy now. Her win-loss record since the Autumn Crown Tournament was a perfectly respectable 24-7. But a 31-0 record would be even better.
Sunset’s phone buzzed and she reached out to her nightstand to pick it up. Rainbow had texted her.
*Tomorrow the school votes on which duelists they want in the Friendship Cup*
*Rumor says the five of us will be a shoe-in since everyone loves us after the last tournament*
Sunset smiled and typed out a response.
*How many duelists compete?*
*It’s seven-on-seven. There’s us five, and Flash is usually in. And maybe you*
Sunset paused. Maybe?
*Why only ‘maybe’?*
*Normally the champions of the Autumn and Spring tournaments are in, and then the school votes on the other five. That’s been you the last couple of years, but you always declined entry. This year, hard to say*
Sunset nodded. Wish I had taken an interest in these things before.
*I’ll talk to Celestia tomorrow, she’ll probably let me in given my win streak.*
Sunset set her phone beside her and took a deep breath. I can do this. For them. If they want a win, I can give them one. She had tried to lay low after the Autumn Crown, just hang out with her new friends and try not to get on anyone’s nerves. Whatever purifying magic Twilight had used on her seemed to have worked on the rest of the school, too, or maybe it was just Sunset’s imagination. Either way, most everyone seemed nicer and no one was really looking to cause trouble for her. But at the same time she noticed people whispering when she dueled. The applause when she won was usually polite, not genuine.
I may not be that kind of duelist anymore, but I still have a long way to go to be accepted here. A win against Crystal Prep will help… assuming I can pull my weight. I talked a good pep talk before but I really have no idea what I’m getting into.
She shook her head. I can’t worry about that. I know I’m still good, I can do this. I just have to make sure I’m allowed in, and Celestia can handle that tomorrow. No use mulling it over tonight.
She gathered up her cards and set them on her nightstand, then tapped out a good night text to Rainbow and plugged her phone into the charger.
“Twily!” Shining Armor’s voice called up the stairs and echoed into her room. “Come on, I’m ready!”
“Coming!” Twilight finished her typing and saved the deck list she was working on. She grabbed her duel disk, a streamlined purple and pink rectangle just slightly wider than her arm with the deck slotted into one end, and strapped it on. She shut down her computer and then jogged down the stairs. She looked at the time display on her phone and smiled. “8:29. I’m ready on-time.”
“Barely.” Shining ruffled her hair and pulled open the door. The two siblings walked to the car parked in the driveway and climbed in, Shining driving.
Twilight looked down at her phone and began to open the browser when the device buzzed and a numeral appeared over the email icon. She tapped it and opened her new email. She read it and gasped.
“The principal wants to speak to me before class.”
With ten minutes left until classes began, the students were beginning to empty out of the halls of Crystal Prep. As Twilight headed to the main office she saw several students with duel disks looking at statistics. With the Friendship Cup this weekend, duelist standings to get into the top seven rankings and compete were going to be locked on Friday night. Anyone close to edging into the top seven was itching to duel and get their record up.
Twilight reached the office door and pushed it open. The main secretary raised her head and smiled.
“Good morning, Twilight.”
“Good morning, Miss Amore.” Twilight waved. “The principal wanted to see me?”
“Yes, go right ahead.” Ms. Amore nodded towards the door on the left end of the room.
Twilight walked past the counter and paused in front of the door to compose herself. You know why you’ve been called, and you know you’re right. Just explain what you know and don’t start to babble. She raised a hand and knocked.
Twilight turned the handle and stepped inside, giving what she hoped was a friendly smile.
Twilight stepped inside the principal’s office, hoping her smile masked her nervousness. “You wanted to speak to me, Principal Sombra?”
Sitting at a desk in the room, clad in a ruffled red silk shirt beneath a deep grey suit, the principal raised his eyes from his computer and smiled. “Yes, Twilight. Come in, sit.” He gestured a hand to the two chairs in front of his desk then went back to typing. Twilight gently shut the door behind her and sat down. Sombra continued to type for a moment, vibrant green eyes focused on his monitor.
Should I say something? Or just wait? Twilight fidgeted as she pondered what to do. Sombra had never been cruel to her, or anyone at Crystal Prep that she’d heard. In fact, most at the school, student and teacher alike, spoke of him as an effective and reasonable administrator. Still, every time Twilight saw him and heard him speak, something about him unnerved her.
Sombra moved his mouse and clicked a few times. He then reached to the side of his monitor and turned it so Twilight could see it – the video she had sent him of Sunset dueling. As the video played he sat back in his chair and clasped his hands. Twilight was unsure whether to pay attention to him or the video.
Sunset’s voice came from Sombra’s speakers. “I Pendulum Summon Harmony Guardian Magia and Harmony Guardian Compassio!” Twilight saw the two monsters appear on Sunset’s field in pillars of purple and red light. As they manifested, Sombra reached out to tap the spacebar on his keyboard, pausing the video.
Twilight waited while Sombra continued to stare at the paused recording. Finally, he turned to face her. Twilight felt her body seize up as her eyes locked with his. They almost glowed in the dim lighting of the office. It took her a moment to recognize he was speaking to her. “You realize that if Canterlot High knew you were recording their duels like this and showing them to me, it would reflect very poorly on the both of us and Crystal Prep itself,” he said cooly.
Sombra ended his sentence with a blink. Twilight regained her composure and swallowed heavily. “Yes, sir. But I considered it worth the risk to bring to light the possibility that their champion duelist is cheating.”
“Risk, you say?” Sombra turned his monitor back and clicked a couple times. “This file you sent me states it was recorded two months ago. You waited for some time before bringing this to my attention.”
Twilight felt her palms begin to sweat as Sombra looked her in the eye again, green boring into purple. “I-I just thought that I should confirm my theory before speaking to you.”
“Oh?” Sombra raised his head but didn’t break eye contact. “My apologies, thank you for explaining that. Otherwise I might have presumed that your interest in this duelist was out of selfish curiosity over her unknown cards, and that it was only recently with the Friendship Cup approaching that you thought perhaps you should let others know of such things since your attempts to unravel the mystery yourself have hit a dead end.”
“That…” Twilight paused as she took in his words. “That… may not be entirely false…” she trailed off into mumbles.
Sombra chuckled softly, still looking her in the eye. “Twilight, please, do not misunderstand. I am indeed very grateful to you for bringing this to my attention. But I do not approve of lies. We should always strive to be honest with others and especially with ourselves, don’t you think?”
Twilight just nodded.
“Good. Then, allow me to give you my honest thoughts on this matter.” Sombra sat up and leaned on his desk. “I think your suspicions are perfectly well-founded, and merit further investigation.”
Twilight brightened. “You do?”
“Indeed. As you say, there is no documentation of these cards or ‘Pendulum’ monsters existing, and if neither I nor you can discover their secrets with our network of information and contacts, then I’d dare say this is indeed something else.” Sombra looked away and thought for a moment. “You have not informed anyone else of your spying, I hope?”
“Of course not.”
“Excellent, please keep it that way.” Sombra nodded and brought his hands closer to his mouth, clasping his hands and tapping a finger. “I think the best course of action, for the moment, is to proceed with the Friendship Games.”
“What?” Twilight blurted. “But, you just said you agree with me, she’s cheating!”
“Indeed. Yet, what can I do with this knowledge? Tell Principal Celestia? She will demand evidence, and will ask how we procured it. Shall I send her your video?”
“Right…” Twilight frowned and thought. “Is there anything we can do at all?”
“Short of cancelling the tournament - which is out of the question - no. It is an unfortunate circumstance we find ourselves in.” Sombra sighed. “But, just because we cannot confront CHS with what we suspect, does not mean we cannot take action against them. Friday evening the rankings for the school’s duelists will lock, and the seven with the best win-loss ratio will proceed to the Friendship Cup with myself and Vice-Principal Hope on Saturday.” Sombra nodded in Twilight’s direction. “I would like you to be among those seven duelists.”
“Me?” Twilight shook her head. “I’m afraid I don’t duel.”
“You have a deck, yes?”
“I do, but I don’t use it.”
“I know. Your ranking in the database is 0-0.” Sombra tapped his fingers together and thought for a moment, staring at Twilight. “You have always been of interest to me, Twilight. You run a website and database on dueling that I know many other students here use and speak highly of. Your grades are among the best of the school. Your teachers tell me you have expressed an interest in becoming a card designer after graduation, a career path you certainly have the ability and ambition to succeed in. And yes…” He looked at Twilight evenly. “Tell me, Twilight: why abstain from dueling?”
“I don’t see the point.” Twilight scrunched her face. “Dueling is a game of skill, capable of being distilled down to basic mathematical probability formulae. Once the contents of one’s deck are sufficiently analyzed and weighed against the opponent’s, it is easy to determine who the superior player is. At that point actually dueling is a formality.”
“Chance and luck would protest that thesis.”
“Chance and luck are not deciding factors, only mitigating. A percentage can still be refined from analysis and will produce reliable results. If I stand an 80% chance of winning, is it really necessary to go through the trouble of playing that result out?”
“And should a duel fall into the last 20%?”
“A further cause as to why single-elimination duels are inadequate to properly demonstrate one’s skill at the game. There’s a reason professional tournaments run on a best-of-three system, after all. I would imagine it's the same reason we collectively use a best-of-seven system in the Friendship Cup. The more data you collect, the fewer outliers you have to deal with and the more reliable your result will be.”
Sombra laughed. Twilight noticed he kept an even eye on her even as his laugh reverberated in the room. It was a sincere laugh yet it felt restrained. “You’ve thought this through, I see.”
Twilight looked sheepish. “My brother has tried to get me to play. I’ve had to explain this before.”
Sombra’s laughter faded to a soft smile. Twilight thought it looked almost like a smirk. “Fair enough. You’re not wrong, Twilight, but not quite correct, either. There is more to dueling than what analysis and probability can tell you. You’d understand this if you played once in a while.”
“I’ve heard that, too. I find it unlikely.”
“And that is your opinion to which you are entitled. I, however, must act in the best mind of the entire student body.” Sombra’s humor faded back to professionalism. “As principal, I have the authority to disqualify duelists from entry into tournaments for various mitigating circumstances such as poor behavior, low grades, and so forth. Likewise, I can promote anyone to tournament entry for similar reasons.” He clicked on his computer and turned the monitor towards Twilight. “This is the current seventh ranked student on the campus. Despite her talent, she has a knack for causing trouble and often misses classes and fails exams.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Duel and defeat her, publically, today if that is suitable for you. I already have just cause to remove her from the tournament and put you in it on grounds of marks and standing and so forth. But, so as to avoid any accusations of bias or unfairness on my part, I would like it to be established that you are her superior. No one will question your placement once this is established.”
Twilight frowned. “I don’t know. This seems wrong.”
“Wrong?” Sombra smiled and held out a hand as if offering her something. “I merely wish to extend an invitation to a deserving student, to give her a chance to show her fellow pupils what she can do. What I know she can do, if only she would apply herself. And at the same time you would aid us all in removing a troublesome and unreliable rogue from the Friendship Cup, and I would rather not have such a duelist representing our academy.”
“If it would lay to rest your concerns, Twilight, know that I have already considered this course of action for her, just with other duelists in place of yourself. I truly do desire this duelist removed, and you have provided me fair reason why you deserve to take her place. I only want to ensure that your reputation does not suffer from this deed.”
Twilight took a breath. “Right… okay. I’ll duel her at lunch.”
“Excellent.” Sombra withdrew his hand. But do try to win, please. If you lost I’d have quite a problem on my hands.” He chuckled.
“I’ll win. I know her deck. Mine can beat it.”
“Good. As for the Friendship Cup, I have some other leads in it that I’d like to pursue in due time. For now, keep your spying between us and send me any more materials you have on this ‘Sunset Shimmer’, particularly videos.”
Sombra stood. “Then we both have our plans moving forward. I confess, I personally am looking forward to seeing what you can do. I’ve always suspected you have the potential to become one of the finest duelists in your year, perhaps one of the best this institution has ever seen, if only you would make the effort. I’d very much like for you to prove me right.”
Twilight blushed again as she stood up. “I’ll do my best, Principal Sombra.”
Sombra smiled and held out a hand again. Twilight reached out to take it, his smile growing. “I could ask for nothing more than that, Twilight.”
He looked into her eyes again as they shook hands. Twilight smiled back and held the gaze unflinching.
I guess he isn’t so scary once you get to know him.
Sunset grabbed an apple from the bowl of fruit at the end of the lunch line and turned. She headed to the group’s usual table and found their trays pushed aside with cards strewn between them. She sat down at the end and leaned over to survey the length. “Prep work?”
Rainbow Dash made a face as she examined a pair of cards. “I’m trying to find room in my deck for Tuner monsters, and they have to be the right ones in the right amount. At least I never used my Extra Deck before. I can have my pick of Synchros without worrying about anything besides their level.”
“I share your torment,” Rarity replied. She sniffed and held up a thin stack of cards. “These are all the Xyz monsters I have and the few I can use aren’t worth using anyway. I’ve been made to understand my Crystal Beasts lend themselves well to rank four Xyz decks, but what good is that if I have no Xyz cards to use with them?”
Fluttershy smiled. “I’ve been able to add Xyz Monsters to my deck just fine. My deck was already designed to summon multiple level two monsters at once, I just have more options for how to use them now.”
“Wait, I’m confused.” Sunset held up a hand. “What do levels have to do with being able to use those cards or not? Extra deck monsters don’t need tributes to be summoned. Or, do these ones?”
“Here.” Rainbow slid closer to her and set a card in front of her, a monster card with a silver-white background. “This is a Synchro monster, and this is a Tuner monster.” She set a normal monster card next to the Synchro card, and tapped her finger where the card’s type was listed; the word ‘Tuner’ was written next to its standard typing. “When you have a Tuner monster and a non-Tuner monster, you can perform a Synchro Summon to summon any Synchro monster with a level matching their combined levels. This Tuner is level two, and this Synchro monster is level eight, so this Tuner plus a level six monster lets me summon the Synchro. Or a level three Tuner plus a level five monster. You get the idea.”
Applejack snickered. “Ah guess that’s one good takeaway of this tournament – it’s makin’ Rainbow Dash learn math.”
Rainbow stuck her tongue out before going back to her explanation. “And then Synchros have summon restrictions like other cards, like the monsters have to be certain types or attributes. Otherwise it’s just like Fusions, the monsters get removed from the field, no reviving them if you didn’t summon them properly, and you keep them in the Extra deck until you need them. Tuners go in the main deck.”
Sunset nodded. “So you have to find a way to work these Tuner monsters into your U.A. deck?”
“Exactly, and it bites.” Rainbow groaned. “I had this baby fine-tuned to perfection, and now I have to change it all around!”
“On the bright side, you’ll have a lot of new options for playing,” Fluttershy said. “U.A. decks have a lot of high-level monsters, and they can easily replace each other in play. You’ll be able to summon a lot of different Synchro monsters by summoning a Tuner and swapping out your monsters for ones with the levels you need.”
“Yeah. Still bites.”
“Here, Sunset!” Pinkie tossed a few of her cards on the table. “I’ll show ya how Xyzs work!” Sunset looked down at the cards, one of them with a black background. “Xyzs are kinda like Synchros, except not. Get it?”
Sunset raised her head and gave Pinkie a bored stare.
“Allow me.” Rarity reached over to gesture to Pinkie’s cards. “Xyz monsters rely on having two or more monsters in play with the same level. Then you can overlay them on top of each other to Xyz Summon.” Rarity piled two cards on top of each other and then placed the Xyz card on top of them, their edges sticking out from the sides. “And as Rainbow said, there are sometimes restrictions like needing certain types and attributes, or more than two monsters.”
Sunset picked up the Xyz card to read its text. “Doesn’t seem too complicated, I guess. But why pile them under the card like that?” She set the card back down on top of the stack.
“Because the monsters used for the Xyz Summon don’t get discarded like Fusion and Synchro. They stay attached to the Xyz monster, as overlay units. Think of them like Equip cards that don’t take up a card zone. Xyz monsters often have to detach overlay units to use their effects, then those cards get discarded.”
“And check this out.” Applejack tapped the card, drawing Sunset’s eye to the upper-left corner. Four black circles with yellow stars ran from the left side of the card to the right. “Xyz monsters don’t have levels, they have ranks, whole different thing. So any card that uses levels for their effects don’t work on Xyzs one way or the other.”
“It also means you can’t use Xyzs for Synchro material, because they have no levels to work with,” Rainbow grumbled, shuffling through a pile of cards.
“Or other Xyz summons,” Fluttershy added.
“You can use Synchros for Xyzs though, right?” Pinkie asked. Rarity turned to answer her.
The conversation redirected, Sunset sat back and thought. These mechanics don’t seem too bad, I guess. But we’re only just learning them, we don’t really know how to play against them, and we don’t have a lot of options for using them ourselves. How are we supposed to beat Crystal Prep like this? She let out a small huff. Why did I give that stupid pep speech?
“You’re thinking mean thoughts!” The sound of Pinkie’s voice made Sunset jerk and look her way. Pinkie wagged her finger. “Stop it!”
“I was not!”
“Then what were you thinking?”
“I was thinking…” Sunset tried to think of an excuse. She failed and settled for slumping in her seat. “…that we’re totally gonna lose this weekend.”
The comment got everyone’s attention back on her. “You were the one who told us yesterday to go for it!” Rainbow said.
“And I didn’t realize what we were getting into,” Sunset groaned. “I don’t have any of these cards to use! And you guys have only a few.”
“Well, you do have your Pendulums, they’re in a league of their own,” Rarity said.
“Yeah, but I have no idea how they’ll stand up to Crystal Prep duelists using all these new cards. Besides, you can’t pin all your hopes on me. It’s seven-on-seven, we need four wins. Even if Flash and I win our duels, at least two of you have to win.” Her eyes bulged and she winced. “I mean, you know… sorry. That came out wrong.”
“You’re not wrong, dear.” Rarity reached out to pat Sunset’s hand on the table. “We have an uphill battle for sure.”
Sunset had a thought. “Have any of you girls beaten Crystal Prep duelists before?” Everyone shook their heads and Sunset sank back again. “Darn.”
“You sure you don’t have any Synchros or Xyzs you can lend us?” Applejack asked. “Ah gave Fluttershy some o’ mine, and Rainbow borrowed her Tuners from Rarity. We gotta pool our stash and help each other out.”
“Sorry.” Sunset shook her head. “I never needed new cards. I could always just magic up new cards from nothing when I needed them in the middle of a duel.”
Sunset sighed and let the conversation move on from her again. Listen to yourself. They’re all trying to help each other, and you’re just you and have cards no one else has or can use. She looked at her hand and flexed her fingers. Even if I could use my powers again, it wouldn’t be much use. They can’t use magic like mine to make new cards for themselves. She bit her lip. Everyone thinks I’m a sure win because I have these Pendulums and was a running champ. Don’t they get that the only reason I ever beat them was because I cheated? I never even used Fusion before and now I have to play against all these new cards.
“Hey.” Sunset raised her head to see Pinkie smiling at her. “You’ll be fine. We believe in you.”
Sunset forced herself to smile. “Thanks, Pinkie.”
“Did anyone want to practice with me after school?” Fluttershy asked. “I think my new deck will work pretty well.”
Applejack nodded. “Ah could. Mah new plants are Fusion focused so Ah know they’re good to go.”
Rarity shook her head. “I must decline, my attempts at integrating Xyz are falling short. I may need to consider alternatives.”
“I’m out,” Rainbow called. “Tomorrow I should have this down.”
“I could try it, I’ve got a dedicated Xyz starter deck.” Pinkie tapped her chin. “Haven’t used it much but it should be fine out of the box, right?”
“I could give it a shot,” Sunset said. “We’ll all have to duel each other to get lots of practice, anyway.”
The rest of the group nodded. “We got this, together!” Rainbow grinned and punched a fist into her palm.
Sunset smiled. “I remember when I was that confident.”
Twilight entered the cafeteria and looked around. She usually ate lunch in the computer lab while she worked on her research and the unfamiliar room seemed to shrink in on her. She shook her head. This will be fine. I’ve run the numbers. I stand a 74% chance of winning, that’s almost ¾. I just have to find her. She walked down the aisle scanning tables until she saw the purple hair with a teal streak she had seen in the duelist profile Sombra showed her. She approached it and stopped a few feet behind her.
The table’s conversation talk ceased. The girl in question turned her head, purple and green hair falling over the jacket of her uniform hanging from the chair. She made a face when she saw who had spoken. “What?”
Twilight raised her duel disk. “I challenge you to a duel.”
It was as though a bubble of silence fifteen feet across suddenly dropped around them. Multiple heads turned to stare at the scene and utensils dropped to trays.
Starlight burst out laughing. “Twilight, please. If you wanted me to humiliate you, you should have just invited me to pants you. It would take a lot less time and be just as easy for me.” Her friends at the table laughed.
“I’m serious. And I’m not the one who’ll be humiliated,” Twilight replied. “Unless you’re too scared to accept a challenge and let your ranking slip?”
Starlight’s humor immediately turned into anger. She jumped to her feet and glared. “What was that?”
“You heard me.” At least I hope so. Trash talk isn’t my strong suit.
Starlight looked at the clock hanging on the wall. “Well, there’s still twenty minutes left in lunch. I’ll beat you and have fifteen minutes to spare.”
Twilight didn’t see who called it out but the response was immediate. The room filled with the squeak and groan of tables and chairs moving across the floor. Twilight watched as several tables of students quickly pulled out of the way, creating a rectangular open area across the main aisle. Starlight tossed her hair and walked away to the other end. She spun on her heel when she reached it and raised her arm, purple and green duel disk on her wrist.
“Let’s make this quick.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Twilight looked down at her duel disk, a rectangular device with her deck slotted above her wrist, the disk purple with pink linings along the sides and a matching stripe along the top. At least I remember how to use this. She pressed the single blue button next to the disk’s touchscreen.
“Duel disk OS-005.4 online.” The mechanical voice from the disk droned to life as the disk lit up. Twilight’s deck shuffled itself as the touchscreen projected holograms into the air, a ring of the cards in Twilight’s deck rotating in front of her. On the front end of the disk the holographic emitter slid open and projected a field of hard light energy around it, forming a curved card tray of purple light.
“Challenger detected. Processing…” The hologram of Twilight’s cards folded themselves up into one and it flipped over to show her profile image and record. Another card appeared next to it and flipped to show Starlight’s image. Twilight calmly looked at the record under her opponent’s image – 61-4. “Challenge details as follows: ranked match, Expert ruleset, one-versus-one, no time limits. Accept challenge?”
“Last chance to back out,” Starlight called.
“If you want to take it I won’t hold it against you,” Twilight replied. Without another word she reached out and pressed her finger to the touchscreen. The screen rippled and flashed at her touch.
A holographic coin appeared between the two duelists, their heads on either side. It flipped and landed, displaying Starlight’s portrait. “Starlight Glimmer takes first turn.”
“Perfect.” Starlight picked up her opening five cards, fanned them out, and laughed. “Well, this will be over sooner than I thought. I summon ‘Constellar Aldebaran’.” A glowing portal of light appeared behind Starlight. A monster in silver and brown armor adorned with crests of stars jumped out and kneeled in front of her, a pair of curved horns rising from its helmet (1300/800). “I activate Aldebaran’s effect to Special Summon another Level 3 Constellar monster from my hand. I summon ‘Constellar Leonis’ in defense mode!” A second silver and brown-armored monster jumped from Starlight’s portal, this one covered in glowing blue spikes with a blue blade of energy extending from its wrist (1000/1800).
“I then activate Leonis’ effect. Once per turn I can perform an additional Normal Summon of a Constellar monster. I summon ‘Constellar Kaus’!” A third warrior in silver armor jumped in front of Starlight, this one wielding a large silver and gold bow (1800/700). Starlight pointed at Kaus. “I activate Kaus’ ability. Up to twice a turn I can increase the level of a Constellar monster by 1. I boost the level of Aldebaran.” Kaus turned and fired an arrow at Aldebaran. The knight glowed gold as it was struck (Level 3 → 4).
Starlight stretched her hand up. “And now, I overlay Constellar Aldebaran and Constellar Kaus! Using my two Level 4 monsters, I construct the overlay network!” The watching students began to applaud and cheer. Starlight’s two monsters turned transparent, their images outlined in gold. Within each of them a spark of gold light floated out and began to orbit them, leaving streaks of light in the air. Starlight grinned as the two forms slid together into a mass of gold light. “By the light of the bull and the light of the archer, open a path to the cosmos and gallop to a shining new star!”Starlight’s Extra Deck ejected her card and she picked it up. “I Xyz Summon ‘Constellar Omega’!” The golden light burst, revealing a centaur in gold and silver armor with the two sparks of gold light circling it (2400/500).
“I think I’ve done enough for now, so I’ll end my turn.” Starlight crossed her arms. “Good luck, Twilight.”
“I don’t need luck.” Twilight stiffly drew her card as it ejected to begin her turn. She slid it into her hand and pulled out another. “I activate the Continuous Spell card ‘Lightsworn Sanctuary’.” Four golden pillars swirled into existence around Twilight and extended beams at their tops, banners hanging from them. “As long as this card is in play, each time a card is sent from my deck to the Graveyard, I can place a Shine Counter on my Lightsworn Sanctuary.
“Next, I activate the Spell card ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. This lets me discard three cards from the top of my deck, and then I can add a Level 4 or lower Lightsworn monster to my hand. I choose ‘Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden’. However, she won’t be here long. I activate ‘Solar Recharge’ and discard Minerva to draw two cards, and then I discard the top two cards of my deck.”
Twilight slid her card into her duel disk and then drew the offered ejected cards. The auto-shuffler beeped and retracted two cards, slotting them out in her discard slot. “At this time I have activated the effect of Minerva. Since I sent her from my hand to the Graveyard, another card is discarded from the top of my deck.”
-Twilight’s Deck: 25 cards-
Starlight laughed. “You’re going to burn out your deck at this rate. But sure, go ahead, send all your cards to the Graveyard. It’ll save me time.”
“The Graveyard is a more reliable resource than the deck.” Twilight pushed her glasses up her nose. “I will demonstrate this with the effect of Lightsworn Sanctuary. Once per turn I can discard a Lightsworn monster in my hand and then retrieve another from my Graveyard to my hand. I discard ‘Ehren, Lightsworn Monk’ and retrieve ‘Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter’. I then set a monster in defense mode, and one card face-down. That will end my turn.” Twilight’s two holograms shimmered into place, their backs to Starlight.
“That’s all? A lot of talk for a whole lot of nothing?” Starlight drew with a smirk. “I’ll show you some real dueling. I summon ‘Constellar Algiedi’ and activate his effect to Special Summon ‘Constellar Acubens’ from my hand.” Starlight’s first monster descended from the golden portal above her, a slim figure in silver armor wielding a club with a blue gemstone set in it (1600/1400). Algiedi raised its club and fired a ray of light at the ground. Within the circle of light rose a second monster, a massive silver robot with a pair of glowing orange scissor claws (800/2000). “The effect of Acubens activates now, raising the attack power of all my Constellars by 500 points!”
Starlight pointed across the field. “Constellar Algiedi, attack!” The silver figure (1600 → 2100) ran forward and swung its club at Twilight’s facedown card, revealing a white wolf-like beast (200/100).
Twilight calmly reached to her duel disk and turned her card over. “Since you attacked Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter, its effect activates. I destroy one card on the field, and then send the top three cards of my deck to the Graveyard. I choose to destroy Constellar Leonis.” As Algiedi’s club drove Ryko down, the beast opened its mouth and fired a ray of light. Leonis exploded in a blast of sparks. Its task done, Ryko shattered into light. Twilight looked down as her deck beeped and retracted her cards to discard them.
“So you held off one attack, here comes another two! Contellar Omega and Constellar Acubens attack directly!” Omega (2400 → 2900) raised its hooves and stopped, sending a burst of light across the field. Acubens (800 → 1300) raised its scissor claws and fired one like a missile on a long cable. Twilight looked away as the two holographic attacks exploded in front of her.
-Twilight Life Points: 3800-
-Twilight’s Deck: 22 cards-
“And I’m not done yet. I overlay my Acubens and Algiedi. Using my two Level 4 monsters I construct the overlay network!” Starlight’s two monsters slid together and lit up. “By the light of the crab and the light of the goat, open a path to the cosmos and gather the light of the stars!”Starlight held her card up before placing it on her duel disk. “I Xyz Summon the Rank 4 ‘Constellar Praesepe’!” Starlight’s newest monster burst out of the light, a burly knight in bright silver and gold armor with a massive pair of energy disks mounted on the back of its hands (2400/800). “I end my turn.”
“Very well.” Twilight drew and placed the card on her duel disk. “I activate another copy of Charge of the Light Brigade. I send the top three cards of my deck to the Graveyard and then add a Level 4 or lower Lightsworn monster from my deck to my hand.” Twilight held out her searched card. “The card I take is ‘Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner’.” Her duel disk beeped and a card in her Graveyard ejected. “Further, one of my discarded cards was ‘Wulf, Lightsworn Beast’. Since he was sent from my deck to the Graveyard, I can Special Summon him, and I shall do so with him in defense mode.” A muscular humanoid wolf rose onto Twilight’s field, its paws on the end of a club it had stuck into the ground (2100/300).
-Twilight’s Deck: 17 cards-
“Next I summon ‘Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner’.” A young woman clad in white robes appeared on Twilight’s field in a flash of light, two scarves fluttering in the air behind her (1000/1000). “I activate Lumina’s effect and discard a card to Special Summon a Lightsworn monster in my Graveyard. I Special Summon ‘Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn’ in defense mode.” A new monster appeared, a man in a dark blue cape with black pants, a pair of daggers strapped to his thighs (1700/1000). “I activate Raiden’s effect now and send the top two cards of my deck to the Graveyard.” Twilight’s duel disk beeped as her cards discarded. She tapped her touchscreen. “One of my discarded cards was ‘Lightsworn Judgment’. Since I discarded it, I can add a monster card from my deck to my hand.”
“I now activate the effect of Lightsworn Sanctuary. I discard ‘Shire, Lightsworn Spirit’ and return Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden to my hand. I then end my turn.” In front of Twilight, Lumina and Raiden lit up in gold light. “During my end phase the effects of Lumina and Raiden activate. Lumina sends three cards from my deck to the Graveyard and Raiden sends two."
-Twilight’s Deck: 10 cards-
“Man, she’s worse than I figured.”
“Does she even know how to attack?”
“She’s doing more damage to herself than to Starlight!”
The whispers of the crowd reached Twilight’s ears. She narrowed her eyes. They think this duel is all about damage and attacking. They’ll see on my next turn.
“I’ve gotta say, I expected to win, but this is too easy.” Starlight yawned as she drew and casually slipped her card into her card tray. “I summon ‘Constellar Pollux’.” A knight in spiked silver armor stepped out of Starlight’s summon portal, a sword with two parallel blades in its hand (1700/600). “I activate Pollux’s effect to perform an additional Normal Summon this turn, and summon ‘Constellar Siat’.” A small knight hopped onto Starlight’s field, eyes gleaming inside its helmet. It barely came up to the knees of her other monsters (100/1600). “I activate Siat’s ability, and let it copy the level of Constellar Pollux. And I’m sure you know what’s next.” Starlight smirked and held up her cards.
“I overlay the Level 4 Constellar Pollux and Constellar Siat! By the light of the twins and the light of the waterbearer, open a path to the cosmos and gallop to a shining new star! I Xyz Summon ‘Constellar Omega’.” Another centaur rose in front of Starlight from the merging of her two monsters. “But you know what?” Starlight grinned. “I think we can do one better this time. I think I’ll give him an upgrade! Using the Rank 4 Constellar Omega, I construct the overlay network!”
The crowd went wild as Starlight’s monster glowed brightly, a golden silhouette weaving in the air around it. “With the galaxy as your guiding light, gallop down the path to the cosmos and take flight among the brightest stars!”She thrust her fist into the air. “Rank-Up, Xyz Evolution!” Constellar Omega burst apart in rays of light, the rays striking the silhouette around them and filling it out. “Using a Constellar Xyz monster I control as the sole Xyz Material, I Xyz Summon the Rank 6 ‘Constellar Ptolemey M7’!” The shape shattered to reveal a large silver and gold dragon, wings of the night sky spread into the air and its tail coiling down and around Starlight (2700/2000).
“Constellar Ptolemey, lead the charge! Attack Lumina!” Starlight’s dragon opened its mouth and fired a ray of white light. Lumina raised her arms to defend herself as the light struck her in an explosion of light energy.
-Twilight Life Points: 2100-
“Omega, Praesepe, finished off her other monsters!” The two Constellars raised their hands together and fired twin beams of light across the field. Raiden and Wulf gleamed and exploded as the beams struck them each in turn.
“That’s it for me. I end my turn.”
“Good.” Twilight reached to her deck and drew.
-Twilight’s Deck: 9 cards-
“You know, I admit I almost feel bad about this.” Starlight sighed and shook her head. “Your first duel and you picked it with me. A shame it barely lasted three turns, and you couldn’t even scratch my Life Points. At least make this last turn count, Twilight.”
“I will.” Twilight nodded. “We agree on one thing, Starlight – this is the last turn. For you.”
The students watching burst out laughing. Starlight did the same. “Are you blind or just trying to make a joke? Take a look at the field, you have one Spell card that isn’t doing much, a face-down you would have used by now if it did anything worthwhile, and no monsters, whereas I have three of my best monsters out.”
“Your words show how unskilled at this game you really are.”
Starlight’s laughter stopped. “What was that?” she snapped.
“I don’t care what’s on the field, Starlight. I’m more concerned with what’s in your hand.”
Starlight looked down and turned her hands over. “You are blind, aren’t you? I don’t have any cards in my hand.”
“Exactly. You used them all. You got so caught up in an easy win that you overextended yourself. Once I get rid of your cards on the field, you’ll have nothing left to play but whatever you draw next turn.”
“Sure.” Starlight rolled her eyes. “Wiping out my field? I’d like to see you try.”
“Then watch closely.” Twilight tapped her duel disk’s screen. “I activate my Trap card ‘Glorious Illusion’. This lets me revive a Lightsworn monster in the Graveyard. I revive Lumina.” The robed woman rose up in front of Twilight again, her scarfs blowing out. “I activate Lumina’s effect and discard ‘Rinyan, Lightsworn Rogue’ to revive Wulf, Lightsworn Beast. Then I summon Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden.” A young woman with red hair and white robes stepped onto Twilight’s field. She extended an arm and an owl flew out of the summon portal as it closed, perching on her forearm (800/200).
Twilight held her hand out. “And now, I tune my Level 3 Minerva with my Level 4 Wulf.”
Starlight stepped back, grimacing. “That card is a Tuner!?” Around her the crowd gasped.
Minerva split into three rings of green light arranged in a horizontal column. The rings moved to rotate around Wulf as it dissolved into four sparks of light. The rings spun faster and a bolt of light shot through the four sparks, growing to engulf the rings.
Twilight’s duel disk opened on its far end and a card slid out. “I bind together my two Lightsworn, and call forth from my Extra Deck this monster! I Synchro Summon the Level 7 ‘Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn’!” The pillar of light receded to reveal a large white dragon standing next to Twilight. On its head rode a knight in gleaming gold armor with wings extending from the back, a glowing white sword in its hand (2600/2000).
“I’m not done yet.” Twilight held up a card in her hand. “Remember how I was able to add a monster card to my hand when I discarded Lightsworn Judgement on my last turn? Well, it’s time to use it.” Twilight set her card on her card tray. “Using the power of the Lightsworns in my graveyard, I bind together four of them with different names so that I can Special Summon ‘Judgement Dragon’!” Another large white dragon flew out of a golden portal and landed on Twilight’s other side, wings withdrawing as it touched down (3000/2600).
“I activate the special effect of Judgment Dragon!” Twilight raised her hand and snapped her fingers. “I pay 1000 Life Points and destroy all other cards on the field!” Judgment Dragon opened its mouth and began to summon particles of light between its jaws.
-Twilight Life Points: 1100-
“What!?” Starlight gaped. “You idiot, you’re going to destroy your own cards, too!”
“Wrong.” Twilight held up her duel disk and tapped one of the cards there. “You should pay more attention to my cards, Starlight. Remember when I played Lightsworn Sanctuary, and I explained about its first effect? Every time I’ve sent cards from my deck to the Graveyard, Lightsworn Sanctuary gained a Shine Counter. Now it’s time to use them. Since Lightsworn cards I control are about to be destroyed by a card effect, I can remove two Shine Counters for each of them to prevent their destruction. I count three Lightsworn cards: Michael, Lumina, and Lightsworn Sanctuary itself. I need two counters for each of them, and Lightsworn Sanctuary has eight Shine Counters on it, so that’s two more than I need.”
The pillars around Twilight lit up in a golden barrier and sent out two rays of light, projecting the same barrier around Michael and Wulf. Judgment Dragon snapped its head down and fired a blast of light rays. The rays struck Twilight’s cards and dispersed into sparkles, ripples forming in the golden barriers. The rays reached Starlight’s field and pierced her monsters. Starlight watched with wide eyes as her three monsters exploded into showers of light, the remains raining down around her and fading.
“And now, it’s my turn to attack.” Twilight thrust her hand out. “Judgment Dragon, Michael the Arch-Lightsworn, Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner, attack Starlight directly!” Judgement Dragon fired a beam of light. Michael raised his sword and pointed in command for his mount to follow suit. Lumina raised her palms out and sent out two smaller rays. The three attacks swirled around each other and exploded in Starlight’s face.
-Starlight Life Points: 1400-
Starlight glared as the smoke cleared. “I’m not done yet!” she snarled. “You only have 1100 Life Points left, and I still have one more turn! I can turn this around!”
“Yes, you could,” Twilight said calmly. “As unlikely as it may be, the right draw would allow you to rebuild your field and wipe out my Life Points. Which is why I have to remove that possibility from the equation.” She snapped her fingers again. “I pay 1000 Life Points and once again activate the effect of Judgement Dragon.”
The dragon fired rays of light out. Twilight’s hair blew out behind her as Michael and Wulf exploded, and the pillars of Lightsworn Sanctuary crumbled around her.
-Twilight Life Points: 100-
“You’re insane,” Starlight hissed. “What does destroying your own cards accomplish?”
“I’ll explain the effect of Michael the Arch-Lightsworn now, if you have the patience to allow me. It’s common courtesy in this game.” The ghostly image of Michael appeared behind Twilight. “Since Michael the Arch-Lightsworn was destroyed by a card effect, I can select any number of Lightsworn monsters in my Graveyard and shuffle them into the deck, and recover 300 Life Points for each of them.” Twilight tapped her duel disk screen as a row of monster cards ran across it, her finger pressing to them in turn. “I choose to recover fifteen Lightsworn monsters.” She held up her duel disk as it lit up in white light. One by one cards retracted inside her duel disk from her Graveyard slot and emerged back on top of her deck. When the last card was placed they rapidly shuffled themselves.
Twilight lowered her duel disk. “During my end phase I activate Judgment Dragon’s effect, discarding four cards from the top of my deck. That will end my turn.”
-Twilight Life Points: 4600-
-Twilight’s Deck: 20 cards-
The crowd was silent. Starlight’s duel disk beeped and ejected the top card of her deck. She ignored it, staring across the field with her mouth hanging open.
“You just took out almost all my Life Points in one turn… and then you went from 100 points to 4600, and recharged your deck in the same move…” she whispered.
“You could have won this duel, if you made better decisions,” Twilight replied. “But you were so busy thinking this was an easy win that you made several misplays. I spent my time getting my cards into play for my final turn, but you never thought ahead more than the next turn and your next attack. That is why you lost, Starlight. Not because I drew better cards or you drew terrible ones. Because I knew how to use my cards properly, and you didn’t.”
“You’re right…” Starlight looked down at her duel disk and the card being offered for her draw. She reached down and put a finger on the edge of the card to slide it back into place.
“I surrender this duel.”
Twilight looked at her duel disk display The word ‘FORFEIT’ appeared over Starlight’s portrait as it lit up red. Starlight’s portrait and field dissolved and Twilight’s portrait grew to fill the screen, the word ‘WIN’ under it. Twilight’s new record appeared as the word dissolved: 1-0.
“She just beat Starlight in three turns…”
“Are we sure Starlight didn’t throw the game?”
Twilight’s ears twitched at the murmurs of the crowd. She turned her head and saw several of them fall silent at her gaze. She reached to her duel disk and gathered up her cards, then turned it off. The hard light card tray faded and her deck cycled back into the card tray and shuffled.
Across the cafeteria, Starlight collapsed back into a chair, staring down at her still-active duel disk.
“Twilight!” Twilight turned her head as a girl with red and purple hair ran up to her. “You just beat one of the best duelists in the school!”
“Yes. I did.”
Someone else in the crowd shouted, “How did you do that?”
Twilight closed her eyes and pushed her glasses up, her brows creased in annoyance. “I played the game better than her.” She looked at the clock on the wall. “Pardon me, class begins in five minutes.” She turned and left the cafeteria, the crowd parting for her as she passed.
Sunset took a deep breath. You can do this. She’ll listen to reason. She wants the school to win the Cup, right? She nodded to reassure herself and then turned the handle to open the door to the office. “Mr. Kibitz?” The older man looked up, eyes narrow over his sandy mustache. “Is Principal Celestia free at the moment?”
Kibitz slowly reached to his phone, pressed a number on the dialpad, and then picked it up. “Ma’am, Sunset Shimmer would like to speak to you… yes.” He hung up. “Go in.”
“Thank you.” Sunset crossed the office to Celestia’s door. She knocked softly.
Sunset pushed the door open and froze, her breath catching in her throat.
Rays of light streamed through the windows, giving a warm glow to the furniture in the room and the mare sitting at the desk, multi-colored hair streaming in the air around her horn and down her back. She smiled at Sunset, bowing her head. “Sunset, have a seat.” She gestured a hoof forward.
Sunset jerked and blinked rapidly, turning her head away. When she looked back she saw Celestia giving her an odd look, her hand still extended to gesture to one of the chairs in front of her desk.
“Thank you.” Sunset came closer and sat down. It’s not her. She’s in Equestria. You’re nothing special, just another student to her. She immediately regretted her choice of wording in her thoughts.
“What can I do for you?” Celestia leaned her elbows on the desk to clasp her hands.
“I wanted to talk to you about the Friendship Cup,” Sunset said. “Voting for the entrants has concluded, right?”
“Yes, I’ll be announcing the seven duelists who will be competing at lunch today.”
“About that.” Sunset hesitated. “I wanted to ask if I was one of the ones who’ll be in it.”
Celestia frowned. “Sunset, I’m afraid it would be highly improper to disclose that information early.”
“I know, but…” Sunset sighed and shook her head. “I just want to be sure that the best duelists we have get a chance to compete. My friends have been working hard to improve their decks to stand a chance against Crystal Prep.”
“I see.” Celestia tapped her fingers and then turned to her computer. She clicked around a few times before continuing. “Well, I can tell you this much, the identities of the seven duelists voted to compete in the Friendship Cup would not surprise you were I to share them. However, I’ve only been able to contact six of them.” Celestia sat back. “Attempts to get in touch with Twilight Sparkle have led me to dead ends. After the tournament she never attended any classes here and I cannot even find evidence she was meant to transfer here. Suffice to say, based on what I’ve found, she wouldn’t be interested in attending the Friendship Cup for Canterlot High.”
“Right.” Sunset nodded.
“That said, if Twilight were hypothetically one of the seven duelists chosen to compete, and if I could not find her… we would need a replacement.” Celestia looked back at Sunset.
“I’m still a good duelist, even if I didn’t win,” Sunset whispered. “Please, put me in.”
“There is precedent for such things. Your win-loss record and tournament victories are strong proof of your talent.” Celestia leaned forward again. “But, before I even entertain the idea, answer me one thing, Sunset; why do you have this sudden interest in things?”
Sunset swallowed a lump in her throat. “I know I didn’t care about the Friendship Cup in past years. But I’m not the same person I was then. I know this tournament means a lot to the students of this school, and I’d like to be part of it to try and give them a win.” She slowly smiled. “I want to compete in a tournament for the right reasons, not just to prove I’m the best.”
Celestia nodded. “I see. I believe you, I do. But still, there are many other talented duelists in the school. I’ve already been considering this decision very carefully. I’ll be making the announcement today at lunch. You’ll know then.”
“Thank you.” Sunset stood up and bowed her head. “I do mean what I said.”
“I know.” Celestia smiled. “I’ve seen you with those girls. You’re not the same person you were last tournament. Twilight brought out the best in you.”
“Yeah…” Sunset got a distant look in her eyes as she remembered seeing her rival among the other students as fillies. “She does that to ponies…”
Sunset jerked as she realized what she had said. “Uh, I said she does that to people. You know, bring out the best.” She smiled awkwardly and approached the door. “I should go and get to class.” She waved and shut the door behind her.
Twilight picked up her tray from the end of the line and turned to walk back into the main cafeteria. She approached the doors to head to her usual lunch spot, an abandoned classroom with a row of computers along the back wall that she could use to work once she was done eating.
“Twilight, wait up!”
She stopped and turned her head. A girl with multi-toned blue hair waved at her from the end of the lunch line. Twilight waited patiently while the girl paid for her meal and walked up to her. “Come on, I got us a table.”
Twilight tilted her head. “Us?”
“Yeah, over here.” The girl jerked her head and headed into the crowd. Twilight’s expression didn’t soften as she followed her to a table with four other girls sitting down. The blue-haired girl sat down and gestured her hand towards them. “This is where the best eat. I’d say you’ve earned the right to have a seat here.”
One of the girls at the table with bright green haired nodded. “Starlight used to sit with us now and then, until she got too good for us and started hanging out with her groupies.”
Twilight slowly set her tray down and slid onto the bench.
The blue-haired girl grinned. “Allow me to introduce the gang. I’m Indigo Zap.” She leaned back in her seat and put her hands behind her head. “You might have heard of me.”
“Yes, I believe I have.” Twilight pushed her glasses up with her forefinger. “I recognized you properly once I saw the five of you together.” She looked around the table in turn. “Lemon Zest, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat, and Sunny Flare. You call yourself the Shadowbolts, right?”
“Well, aren’t you well-informed!” Sour Sweet gushed. “If I didn’t know any better I’d peg you as a stuck-up know it all!” She snarled the last words.
Twilight leaned away at her tone. “Did I mistake your names?”
“Relax, dear.” Sunny Flare put a hand on Sour Sweet’s shoulder and smiled at Twilight. “Yes, that would be us. It seems our reputations precede us, as they should.”
“Shining Armor talks about you sometimes,” Twilight replied.
“I would presume so, seeing how often we challenge him,” Sugarcoat said. “Even if our win-loss record couldn’t surpass his, a victory would be a symbolic show of superiority.”
“Hey Twilight, got any secrets to share on that front?” Indigo nudged her and winked.
“Yeah, you know.” Indigo shrugged. “How’s he so good? Do you have some kind of program that builds his deck for him, does he have to train ten hours a day?”
Twilight gave her a quizzical look. “I’m not sure I follow. There isn’t any sort of secret like that to my brother’s dueling. He just practices hard, builds his deck well, and knows how to use it effectively.”
“I do all the same things!”
Twilight shrugged. “Than it stands to reason he’s simply better than you, doesn’t it?”
Sunny Flare let out a small, indignant huff. “It's good to know you think so little of us.”
Twilight turned her attention her way. “Not at all, you're all extremely skilled. But, if you were capable of defeating Shining Armor, you would have done it by now.”
Sugarcoat murmured. “She's got us there.”
“She's just so confident!” Sour Sweet gushed. She scowled after. “Makes me wonder how badly we'd crush her if she faced us!”
“Yeah, good idea.” Lemon Zest put her elbow on the table and leaned across to look at Twilight with a raised eyebrow. “Think you could beat us?”
Twilight paused in eating her lunch and looked around the table at the five girls staring at her, her eyes stopping on Indigo. “Is that a challenge?”
“Do you want it to be?” Indigo replied immediately.
“No.” Twilight shook her head. “I'd have little to gain by dueling any of you. As for Sour Sweet's statement, while a win wouldn't be outside the realm of probability, it wouldn’t be favorable to me within a reliable degree of certainty. All the reason more not to try.”
“Wow, really?” Lemon scrunched her face. “That's lame. You won't duel anyone you don't know you can beat?”
Twilight furrowed her brow. “If I have minimal chance of defeating a duelist, I don't see the point of facing them.”
Sugarcoat gave the new girl a half-lidded stare. “With the right combination of luck and skill, anything is possible.”
“Possible, yes. Probable, no. Luck is just a word for variables one hasn’t solved for yet.” Twilight adjusted her glasses. “At any given time in a duel, the odds of a duelist drawing a particular card on their next turn can be definitively calculated as long as one knows the contents of their deck. Then, knowing the contents of the opponent's deck and the current state of the field, one can determine the statistically best usage of that card to have the most impact at increasing their own resources or draining the opponent's resources.
“A duel is merely the process by which duelists take turns putting this formula into action, and the deck is the tool they use to execute it. True, a duelist may occasionally defy the odds of random chance, but they can’t manage it every turn. Under these conditions, and presuming optimal decision-making from both players, eventually the duelist whose deck is more efficient at this process will gain enough advantage over the other that their ability to follow the process will be compromised beyond repair. Shortly thereafter, the duel will certainly reach its conclusion.”
The other five stared at Twilight as she finished her explanation.
Indigo let out a low whistle. “I feel nerdier just listening to that.”
Lemon nodded. “There's more to this game than statistics, you know.”
“Having fun!” Indigo grinned. “The adrenaline rush of a great draw, the thrill of pulling off that epic combo to clench the win, the rush of victory as you watch that Life Point counter tick to zero!”
Sour Sweet grinned. “Watching the hope drain out of their eyes as you back them into a corner and grind them down one card at a time.”
“Yeah…” Indigo leaned back in her chair and sighed. “It's the best feeling in the world. Know what I mean?”
Twilight looked down at her deck. “No. Not really.”
Sunny Flare frowned. “Weren't you excited when you defeated Starlight?”
“I expected to defeat her, and I did. It was merely the formality of playing out the result.” Twilight picked at her half-eaten food. “I don't find it very exciting when it was just the probable and logical outcome.”
Sour Sweet peered closer at her. “If you don't play for fun, why even play this game?”
“I intend to go into card design when I graduate. I've already applied to internships at a tournament venue to shadow under judges.”
Indigo rolled her hand through the air. “And you want to do that because…”
“Card design is a promising career path with a lot of room for advancement and development.”
“So is being an electrician, why not look at that?” Lemon snickered and high-fived Indigo.
“I have.” The two lowered their hands. Twilight gestured to her duel disk. “Hardware development for duel disks. But I find the hazardous factory environments unappealing. And I don’t want to carry heavy loads every day and I don't know how to operate a hand truck.”
Lemon shrank back. “Oookay then…”
Before Twilight could continue, the PA system buzzed on.
“Attention, duelists of Crystal Prep,” Sombra boomed. “Tomorrow the 25th annual Friendship Cup with Canterlot High will be held.” The students cheered. Twilight noted Sombra paused to allow them before continuing. “This year’s cup will be held at Canterlot High grounds. As per the usual, our seven students with the best win-loss record on the campus will be advanced to the standings. With the rankings locked over the weekend to ensure the integrity of the standings, the seven students accompanying Vice-Principal Hope and myself are as follows:”
Twilight saw Indigo hold up a hand with a finger extended. As Sombra spoke, she slowly swiveled her hand around the table to point.
Indigo’s hand turned to go into the cafeteria. Twilight looked where she was pointing. Starlight Glimmer sat upright at her table, smiling proudly.
“Regarding the seventh position in the tournament…”
Starlight’s smile vanished.
“Representing our school in public events is not merely a matter of skill, but of school pride and spirit. Our seven students must stand for the values of Crystal Prep. For reasons related to concerns of this nature, and for recent developments with her dueling record, I have made the decision to discount the school’s seventh-ranked duelist from the cup.”
The cafeteria burst into murmurs, several of them protesting. Twilight noticed several students turning to look at her, the number growing by the second.
“Under the circumstances, it is to my discretion to determine how to fill the empty spot. Since choosing representative duelists based on skill has proven a flawed system, I have selected the seventh duelist based on grades and extracurricular activities. Joining the six top students in the Friendship Cup this year will be our star academician, Twilight Sparkle.”
The number of students looking at Twilight swelled to encompass the vast majority of the cafeteria. She kept her eyes on Starlight as the other girl turned her head and they made eye contact. Starlight calmly stood up and walked out of Twilight’s view.
“Directions to Canterlot High can be found posted outside the office and on the school website’s page for the Friendship Cup. Competing students may make their own way to Canterlot High at 10 am, or report to Crystal Prep by 9 am to receive a ride there. Other students are invited to attend the cup at their leisure. And to those seven duelists who will be representing us – good luck, and good draws.”
The PA crackled as Sombra ended his announcement.
“Soooo,” Indigo said slowly. “I’m gonna guess you dueling Starlight the other day wasn’t a coincidence?”
Twilight watched the cafeteria crowds go back to their own business. However, several were still looking at her, now glaring or giving looks of disapproval. She looked away from them and back to the girls at her table.
“Every hypothesis needs to be tested for viability before attempting to put it into action.” Twilight lifted her burger to her mouth and took a bite.
“I managed to fit a couple of Tuners in my deck, but it’s gonna be slow.” Rainbow flipped through a stack of cards. “I don’t have good ways to search them out so it’s down to luck of the draw.”
“At least you have something.” Rarity shook her head. “I don’t have any Rank 4s that can be summoned using the Crystal Beasts since they all need certain monsters I don’t have.”
“But your deck is still good when used right,” Sunset said gently. “You have Rainbow Dragon, that’s plenty strong.”
“It’ll have to be.”
The PA beeped twice to signal an incoming announcement and the group fell silent.
“Attention, students,” Celestia said, “Voting for the seven students who will compete in the Friendship Cup has been tallied. In no particular order, the seven students voted in are as follows: Flash Sentry. Rainbow Dash. Rarity Belle. Fluttershy Breeze. Jacklyn Apple. Pinkamena Pie.”
The cafeteria whispered as Celestia paused before the seventh name. Sunset bit her lip and held her breath.
“At this time I admit there has been a complication. Many students have voted for Twilight Sparkle to compete, and as winner of the Autumn Crown Tournament, she would normally have full rights to that privilege. However, Twilight has not attended school since the tournament and there is no record of her registration here. For this reason it seems her entry into the Autumn Crown Tournament was fraudulent.”
The student whispering grew louder with this revelation.
“Under these circumstances, I have no choice but to disqualify Twilight Sparkle from entry, and declare the position of winner of the previous Autumn Crown Tournament to be vacated. With that so noted, we are still in need of a seventh duelist to take part in the Friendship Cup. Based on her previous tournament wins and consistent dueling record, I have chosen Sunset Shimmer to compete.”
What seemed like every set of eyes in the cafeteria turned to glare at Sunset.
“All students are welcome to attend the cup tomorrow. Official ceremonies will begin at 10 am.”
The PA channel closed with a low whine.
Sunset slowly turned her head to see the entire cafeteria staring at her table. She slowly stood up and cleared her throat.
“I know a lot of you hate me right now, and for good reason. But…” She shook her head. “I’m not the duelist I was before. I’m going to prove that at the Friendship Cup. That’s why I wanted to take part. To win it for all of you.” She held up her duel disk. “Like me or not, I’m one of the best duelists you’ve got, right?”
Movement. Sunset turned her head and saw Flash step out of the crowd. He stepped up to Sunset and looked her in the eye. She did her best not to look away. After several seconds Flash turned to the crowd.
“She has as good a chance of beating a Crystal Prep duelist as anyone. What’s the worst she can do? Lose? So let’s give her a chance.”
Slowly, the cafeteria returned to normal. Sunset let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. “Thanks, Flash.”
Flash reached to an adjacent table to grab an empty chair and pulled it closer to sit down. “What do we do now?”
“Panic?” Fluttershy whimpered.
“That's your answer for everything!” Rainbow groaned.
“We need to stop thinking of ourselves at amateurs vs professionals,” Rarity said. “Sunset and Flash are recurring champions, Rainbow, Applejack and myself have impressive win-loss records. Fluttershy’s record has been climbing steadily ever since the Autumn Crown Tournament, and Pinkie’s record has always been comfortably average. Our unity aside, at least five of us could be seen as the school’s top duelists.”
Applejack folded her arms. “Flash, you’ve faced Crystal Prep kids before. What can we expect?”
“The best.” Flash frowned and shook his head. “Even I can only occasionally beat one of them, and I’d be lying if I said it was ever an easy win when I did get one. Their access to Synchro and Xyz just makes them too unpredictable. They could be using anything.”
“Well, let’s be generous and count you as a win,” Rarity said. She began to count on her fingers. “Applejack is using a new Fusion deck that’s proven fairly effective, so she could stand a chance. Pinkie and Fluttershy have Xyz, so there’s two more. And Sunset has her Pendulum monsters, so that’s another.”
Flash tilted his head. “Pendulum monsters?”
“Don’t worry about it, you won’t remember them,” Sunset answered. “Let’s just say I have a deck they can’t possibly know about and expect. But, I don’t know how effective it’ll be on its own since I’ve never faced Synchro or Xyz.”
“Right.” Flash nodded. “Well, sounds like you girls have been getting ready. That’s good. Still, don’t get complacent. There’s no telling what Crystal Prep will throw at us. Good luck, though.” He stood up. “Sunset, come here a sec.”
Sunset stood and followed. Flash led her to the doors of the cafeteria and stepped outside them, holding them for her. When they close behind Sunset, Flash spoke. “Why isn’t Twilight here anymore?”
“Why ask me?” Sunset glared. “Do you think I did something?”
“No. But you know something.”
“She’s…” Sunset trailed off. “She’s not here. She can’t be.”
“So she showed up for one tournament, beat you, and then vanished?”
“That doesn’t sound strange at all.” Flash breathed deeply. “We could use her, you know. She wasn’t just a good duelist. She was an example. She showed this school what this game could be for us, what it used to be.”
“I know…” Sunset sighed. “And here I am, reminding everyone of what Twilight fought so hard to get rid of.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Flash shook his head. “If she’s not going to be show, maybe you’re the symbol we need instead.”
Flash looked her over. “You’re really going for this ‘reformed’ thing?”
Sunset scoffed. “I’m not ‘going for’ anything. I’ve changed for real.”
“Then this is your chance to prove it. If you’re a symbol of what went wrong with our dueling, then it’s time to tear yourself down.” Flash slowly smiled. “I believe you. At least I want to. Give everyone reason to think the same.”
Sunset returned the smile. “Thanks.”
“You can thank me by dueling your best tomorrow. Crystal Prep’s duelists will be the toughest you’ve ever faced.”
Sunset put on a brave face and shrugged. “After what Twilight showed me is possible with this game, what could Crystal Prep have to surprise me?”
Sunset slowed her motorcycle to a stop in an empty space in Canterlot High’s parking lot, turned her key off, and flipped down the kickstand. She climbed off the bike and looked down at her duel disk. Here we go…
The morning was slightly chilly as Sunset approaching the field behind the school. Celestia and Luna were sitting at a large table with a deck reader and a laptop. Two rows of collapsible metal stands had been set up, one for each school; CHS’s was rapidly filling up. The display boards had been erected from the tennis court, but the dueling field remained beneath the concrete.
“Sunset!” the girl turned her head and saw her five friends waving at her, sitting on a bench beside the tennis court. She waved back before approaching Celestia and Luna.
“Here for registration.” She offered her deck to Luna.
Luna took Sunset’s deck, ran it through the deck reader, and then held the deck back once the cards were scanned. “Standard tournament rules apply, no usage of cards not registered in your deck.”
Celestia smiled. “Good luck, Sunset.”
Sunset paused, and then returned the smile. “Thank you.” She turned and walked up to her friends. Flash was sitting not far away and looked up at her to give her a small nod.
“Crystal Prep’s duelists are due here any second,” Rainbow said. “Feeling confident?”
“Yes… no. Maybe?” Sunset scrunched her face. “There’s only so much that practice and preparation can do before the real thing, you know?”
Rarity nodded. “Indeed, which is why there’s no further use fretting over such things. We’ve done our best to prepare, now we duel our best and see how we do.”
Sunset began to respond when Rainbow stood up and pointed. “Here they come!”
The students of Canterlot High turned their heads.
A black limousine turned the corner down the street and drove towards the school. Behind it came a school bus. The limo turned into the parking lot and stopped with the back door aligned with the stairs leading down to the field. The school bus stopped on the roadside and opened its doors.
Students clad in purple and blue uniforms filed off the bus and walked to the empty stands opposite of the CHS students and sat down. More than a few dirty looks and a couple obscene gestures passed between the opposing student bodies. Sunset saw a few of the Crystal Prep students glance at her and her friends, but no remarks or gestures were directed at them. It was then that she noticed something odd about each of them.
“What kind of duel disks are those?” Sunset asked. “They don’t have card trays.”
“Crystal Prep gets funding grants from all kinds of dueling institutions,” Rarity replied. “Their duel disks are the most advanced consumer models on the market. They use cutting edge hard light hologram technology to project holographic card trays.”
“Wow.” Sunset looked down at her own disc, red and orange, the card tray curled up in a horseshoe shape around the main body with her deck and touchscreen. And to think this was advanced technology to me when I first came here.
Once all of Crystal Prep’s students were seated, the door to the limo swung open. Sunset turned her head.
A tall man with pale grey skin in a dark grey suit and a red ruffled shirt stood out of the limo. He took a moment to adjust his jacket and then turned to offer a hand to a lavender-skinned woman stepping out behind him. She took the hand and stood up, a silver briefcase in her other hand. Pale blue hair fell over her shoulders and a dark blue suit. She smoothed out her pink pencil skirt and smiled at the man, then stood beside him.
Now more students came from the limo. The first was an older boy with blue hair and pale skin. Sunset thought he looked vaguely familiar but couldn’t place him. Behind him came five more Crystal Prep duelists, all girls.
When the sixth girl stepped out of the limo and stood up, Sunset’s breath caught in her throat.
It can’t be.
Dark purple hair with a streak of pink and purple. Lavender skin. Purple eyes.
The seven students walked down the field, the man and woman following them. They stood in a line in front of another bench and took their seats, the girl that looked like Twilight Sparkle on the end. Sunset continued to stare in spite of herself. The girl noticed and turned her head to stare back, her eyes narrow.
The mutual look was broken when the man stopped at the bottom of the stairs and stood between them, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Principal Sombra, Vice-Principal Hope.” Celestia approached him and extended a hand. “Welcome back to Canterlot High.”
“Thank you, Principal Celestia, Vice-Principal Luna.” Sombra took the offered hand and shook it twice, then turned it and bowed to briefly press his lips to the back of it. “You are looking well.”
“Thank you, and you as well.” Celestia held her hand out towards Sunset and her friends. “Allow me to introduce our chosen duelists for this year. This is Flash Sentry, Rainbow Dash, Rarity Belle, Fluttershy Breeze, Jacklyn Apple, Pinkamena Pie, and Sunset Shimmer.”
Sombra looked down at Sunset. She felt a chill go down her spin as his eyes locked on hers.
“So, this is the Sunset Shimmer I’ve heard so much about.” Sombra turned his full body towards her, his hand returning to behind his back. “I’m pleased to see you finally deigned to compete in the Friendship Cup. I’ve wondered what Canterlot High’s long-running champion can offer our students in terms of competition, and now here you are.”
Sunset swallowed heavily. “I… just wanted to represent my school.” Any confidence she had drained away the moment Sombra chuckled softly.
“Of course. That is why we are all here, is it not?” Sombra turned away and Sunset felt like collapsing to the grass. He extended a hand over the row of Crystal Prep duelists. “Allow me to introduce our duelists. Our current champion and 1st ranked duelist in the school, Shining Armor. Accompanying him, Sour Sweet, Sunny Flare, Indigo Zap, Sugarcoat, Lemon Zest, and Twilight Sparkle.”
This world’s Twilight… Sunset bit her lip. What were the cosmic odds that she would be here, today, on the opposite side of the tournament. Sunset leaned back to look at the other Twilight again. Her hair was tied up in a bun and she wore glasses and a Crystal Prep uniform. But it was Twilight Sparkle. Is that what Celestia meant by getting in contact with her? Did she know she would be here?
“Shall we?” Celestia turned her body to indicate the field.
“Quite.” Sombra nodded and followed her, Luna and Hope behind them. The four walked up to the table Celestia had set up. Hope set the briefcase in her hand down on it, then sat down behind it next to Luna. Celestia picked up a microphone from the table.
“Students of Canterlot High and Crystal Prep Academy, welcome to the 25th annual Friendship Cup!” She paused to allow the students to cheer before continuing. “For twenty-five years, this cross-school tournament has been held in the spirit of friendly competition, to unite our schools in their love for the game of Duel Monsters and their drive to better themselves and be the best.
“For those who have not attended the tournament before, I will briefly explain the rules. Duelists will be randomly matched and hold a single-elimination duel. We will hold four duels today and three tomorrow. In the event of a tied score after all seven duels have been held, an eighth tie-breaker duel will be held with each school allowed to choose their duelist secretly.”
Celestia turned her head. “And now I will hand the microphone over to Principal Sombra.”
Sombra took the offered microphone and cleared his throat before raising it. “Good morning, students and duelists of Canterlot High. Today, your chosen representatives will face the seven best duelists that Crystal Prep Academy can offer. Disregard your school’s history in this tournament or our school’s reputation. As each pack is a chance to acquire a coveted rare card, and each duel is a new opportunity to better one’s understanding of the game, so is this tournament yours to lose, or win, if you are good enough. There can be no doubts or hesitation moving forward. There is only what is to come, and how we each, as schools and as individuals, handle it.
“But for now, before we begin, there is another matter. Being that this is the 25th year of the Friendship Cup, to mark this auspicious occasion, Principal Celestia and I have decided to do something different.” Sombra placed the microphone back on its stand on the table.
The watching students began to murmur as Celestia reached under the table, and Sombra walked up to the silver briefcase Hope had placed down. Sunset peered closer as Sombra opened it and reached inside. He withdrew a Crystal Prep duel disk, colored dark grey with red details, and slid it on his wrist. Celestia stood from the table with a gold and white disk on her arm.
“Oh boy,” Fluttershy whispered. The two schools cheered loudly as the two principals walked out onto the grass and turned to face each other.
“An exhibition duel,” Sunset said.
The display boards lit up with Celestia and Sombra’s portraits and field displays. Celestia raised her arm and turned on her duel disk, the card tray’s three parts sliding together and extending out. Sombra lifted his arm in front of him, a holographic tray of red light projecting from the outer edge of his disk.
“This duel will use the Expert ruleset of the tournament, but will have no impact on tournament standings,” Hope announced on the microphone. “Without further ado, begin the duel!”
Once more the schools cheered. The word ‘DUEL’ flashed on the display board in large letters before sliding to either side.
-Celestia Life Points: 8000-
-Sombra Life Points: 8000-
Celestia’s portrait lit up.“The first turn is mine.” Celestia picked up her opening five cards and spread them out. She smiled and slid one of them into her duel disk. “I activate the Spell card ‘Cards From The Sky’. I banish ‘Harvest Angel of Wisdom’ from my hand in order to draw two cards, but I’m forbidden from Special Summoning this turn.”
Celestia looked at her new cards and held one of them out. “I activate the Continuous Spell Card ‘The Sanctum of Parshath’.” A large marble temple sparkled into place behind Celestia, a large flight of stairs leading up to an altar depicting a winged warrior with a shield and sword.
“With my Spell in play, all of my Fairy-type monsters gain 300 attack points, and my face-down Spell and Trap cards cannot be targeted or destroyed by card effects. Next, I summon ‘Shining Angel’ in attack mode.” A beam of light shined down in front of Celestia. An angel in a white robe with large wings descended in front of her, crossing his arms (1400/800 → 1700/1100). “I then set one card and end my turn.”
Sombra’s duel disk beeped and ejected a card. He picked it up and slid it into his hand, and looked over his array. After several seconds of silence he raised his eyes to Celestia. “I activate the Continuous Spell card ‘Dark Contract with the Gate’.” A swirling dark portal appeared on the ground in front of Sombra. A black claw emerged from it, a scroll sealed with black wax held in its grasp. The wax broke open and the scroll unfurled to reveal glowing red scripture.
“This card affords me the right to add a ‘D/D’ monster from my deck to my hand each turn. In exchange for this benefit, I will take 1000 points of damage during each of my standby phases.” A card slid out of his deck. “I will invoke this power now, and add to my hand ‘D/D Swirl Slime’.”
“They’re supposed to be really tough,” Applejack said. “But as Ah hear it, they’re pretty pricey to try and put together a deck of them.”
“Not that the head of Crystal Prep cares about money,” Sunset finished. The others just nodded.
Sombra pulled two cards from his hand. “I now activate the effect of D/D Swirl Slime. Using cards in my hand including Swirl Slime itself, I conduct a Fusion Summon! I fuse together D/D Swirl Slime and ‘D/D Lilith’!” A swirling vortex appeared behind Sombra. A green and red woman with a vine-like body, and a green slime with green claws, appeared before the vortex and were drawn into it. Sombra clasped his hands together and bowed his head, his eyes closed. “Demon of slime and demon of petals, combine your powers and invoke the form of a blazing demon king!” Sombra raised his head and opened his eyes. “Fusion Summon! Awaken, Level 6, ‘D/D/D Flame King Genghis’!”
A fireball shot out of the fusion vortex onto Sombra’s field. The flames burned away to reveal a knight in deep purple and blue armor, a massive red shield and sword in his hands. He stood up tall and snapped his sword out to the side, flames bursting around it (2000/1500).
Sombra lifted a card in his hand and thrust it onto his card tray. “I now summon ‘D/D Berfomet’.” A demonic humanoid yellow eagle rose from a portal in front of Sombra, eyes glowing red (1400/1800). “I then activate the effect of D/D Lamia in my hand. By sending my Dark Contract with the Gate to the Graveyard, I can Special Summon Lamia, but I must remove her from the game when she leaves the field.”
The hand in front of Sombra lowered into the ground. Above it a portal opened and a woman with the body of a red and blue snake slithered out, coiling in front of him (100/1900). “I activate the effect of D/D Berfomet. Once per turn I can select another D/D monster on my field, and change its level to anything I wish between 1 and 8. I change D/D Lamia to Level 3.” Lamia lit up with red light.
Sombra held his hand towards Lamia. “I feel it is imperative that at this time, I call attention to the fact that D/D Lamia is a Tuner monster. With that known, I tune my Level 4 D/D Berfomet with my Level 3 D/D Lamia!”
“Oh no!” Pinkie cried.The students of CHS booed.
Berfomet turned into four clusters of light while Lamia burst into three green rings and floated to encircle the clusters of light. The rings began to rotate, and a pillar of light shot through them.
Sombra spread his hands out. “Demon of feathers and demon of scales, align your powers and invoke the form of a storming demon king!” He brought his arms together and drew the card from his duel disk as it ejected. “Synchro Summon! Arise, Level 7, ‘D/D/D Gust King Alexander’!”
A knight in pale grey armor with a green cape emerged from the pillar of light, a long sword in his hand. Blue lights on his armor lit up as he held his sword up and sent a gale of wind up into the air (2500/2000).
“The effect of Flame King Genghis activates. Since I just Special Summoned a D/D monster, I can Special Summon a D/D monster in the Graveyard. I choose D/D Lilith.”
Genghis pointed its sword out and fired a bolt of red energy at the ground, creating a ring of fire. A woman with her lower body trailing into a mass of green vines spiraled up from the flame, arms crossed (100/2100).
“Reviving Lilith activates her effect, returning D/D Swirl Slime to my hand. Further, it so happens that my Gust King Alexander also has an effect, very similar to Genghis’. Since I summoned a D/D monster, I can revive a Level 4 or lower D/D monster. Return to me, D/D Berfomet.” Alexander held up its sword and conjured a whirlwind above it. Berfomet flew out and landed beside it.
“And now, I overlay my D/D Lilith and D/D Berfomet. Using my two Level 4 monsters, I construct the overlay network!”
Rarity’s jaw dropped. “Impossible…”
“That’s a heck of a combo,” Applejack muttered.
Sunset just stared. Around her the boos and gasps of the Canterlot High student body had given way to stunned silence.
The two monsters turned transparent and slid together, orbs of blue light emerging from within to orbit around them. Sombra held a hand out in front of him. “Demon of petals and demon of feathers, unite your powers and invoke the form of a crashing demon king!” He clenched his fist and brought it back. “Xyz Summon! Come forth, Rank 4, ‘D/D/D Wave King Caesar!” The light burst out in a flash of blue. A knight in thick blue and purple armor stomped out, a massive sword in its hand (2400/1200).
Celestia gaped at the three monsters standing in front of Sombra. “I… I’ve never seen such skill. Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz in one deck? On your first turn?”
Sombra smiled. “You see? This is why Crystal Prep wins year after year after year. Because we always strive for an absolute victory. Nothing less will satisfy us, and so we duel with nothing less than our absolute best. Behold the pinnacle of our dueling!” Crystal Prep’s students cheered as Sombra pointed across the field. “D/D/D Flame King Genghis, attack!” Genghis swung its flaming sword and sent a wave of fire across the field.
Celestia looked away as Shining Angel exploded. She turned her head back and tapped her duel disk’s screen. “When Shining Angel is destroyed in battle, its effect activates, summoning a Light monster with 1500 or fewer points from the deck in attack mode. I call forth ‘Nova Summoner’!” A fairy in the shape of a glowing orange and green ring with white rings appeared in front of Celestia (1400/800 → 1700/1100).
“It will not be here long. D/D/D Gust King Alexander, destroy it!”
Alexander twirled its sword and sent a slicing blast of wind across the field. Nova Summoner split into three parts and exploded.
“Nova Summoner’s effect activates now. I summon a second Nova Summoner, in defense position!”
“And it will meet the same fate as the first. D/D/D Wave King Caesar, attack!”
Caesar slammed its sword into the ground and sent a wave of water out. Nova Summoner tumbled back and shattered as the wave hit it.
-Celestia Life Points: 6900-
Celestia smiled. “Now I invoke the true power of Nova Summoner! While my Sanctum of Parshath is on the field, I can treat it as the Field Spell ‘The Sanctuary in the Sky’. And since that Field is in play, Nova Summoner allows me to summon ‘Airknight Parshath’!”
A glowing portal appeared behind Celestia. A centaur in shining gold and blue armor leapt out, ornamental wings wrapped around his torso. A shield shaped like four outstretched wings was mounted on his left wrist and a sword held in his right hand (1900/1400 → 2200/1700).
“Hmph. Not bad.” Sombra folded his arms. “I end my turn. It is your move, Celestia.”
“Thank you.” Celestia drew. “I’ll start my turn with the Trap card ‘Reckless Greed’. I can now draw two cards, but I must skip my Draw Phase for my next two turns.”
Celestia held up one of her new cards. “I activate the Spell card ‘Trade-In’. I discard the Level 8 ‘Lightray Gearfried’ from my hand, and then draw two cards. Then I summon ‘Lightray Grepher’.”
A man in a white and blue uniform stepped onto Celestia’s field from a portal, a slim sword in his hand (1700/1600).
“I activate Grepher’s effect, and discard a Light monster from my hand to banish a Light monster from my deck. I discard ‘Freya, Spirit of Victory’ and banish ‘Meltiel, Sage of the Sky’. And now, I offer my Airknight Parshath as a tribute, to Special Summon ‘Neo-Parshath, the Sky Paladin’!”
A flurry of white feathers burst around the knight and spiralled around it and up into the air. With a flash of light, the feathers scattered, revealing a larger knight with the lower part of its body tapering off into large white wings. An even longer sword and a reinforced shield were mounted on its arms, and a ring of gold and blue metal circled the air behind it (2300/2000 → 2600/2300).
“My Graveyard currently contains Shining Angel, Nova Summoner, Freya the Spirit of Victory, Lightray Gearfried, and Airknight Parshath. So the stage is set for these.” Celestia smiled and held up the two cards in her hand. “Since I have five Light monsters of different names in the Graveyard, I Special Summon ‘Lightray Diabolos’ and ‘Lightray Daedalus’!”
The ground shook as two large portals of light appeared behind Celestia. From one of them came a large white and blue serpent, coiling through the air like water before coming to a rest (2600/1500). The second portal unleashed a massive silver dragon with blue wings, light coursing along silver and gold armor on its limbs (2800/1000).
The crowd of Canterlot High applauded wildly. Rainbow Dash pumped her fist “Yeah, you show ‘em!”
Applejack nodded. “She’s got three hefty monsters in play, and Sombra’s got nothin’ face-down to protect his.”
Sunset turned her attention to Celestia’s opponent. Sombra’s face was calm and impassive as he watched Celestia thrust out her hand.
“Lightray Diabolos, attack Wave King Caesar!” Diabolos opened its mouth and summoned a field of light orbs to its jaws.
Sombra reached down to tap a prompt on his duel disk screen. One of the blue orbs circling Caesar sparked and dispersed.
Diabolos’ attack fired, a large orb of pure light. It struck Caesar and the monster exploded into blue energy.
-Sombra Life Points: 7600-
Sombra reached to his deck. “Since Wave King Caesar has been destroyed, I can add a Dark Contract card from my deck to my hand. I will take ‘Dark Contract with the Swamp King’.”
Celestia nodded. “As you wish. As for me, next is Lightray Daedalus! Attack Gust King Alexander.” Daedalus snapped its mouth forward and fired a ray of light across the field. Sombra didn’t even flinch as Alexander was pierced and exploded.
-Sombra Life Points: 7500-
“And then, Neo-Parshath the Sky Paladin! Destroy Genghis!” Neo-Parshath floated across the field in a shower of feathers, arm raised. The sword descended and cleaved through Genghis, its sword falling to the ground as the demon bisected and shattered.
-Sombra Life Points: 6900-
“The effect of Flame King Genghis activates when you destroyed it, letting me return the Dark Contract with the Gate that’s in my Graveyard to my hand.” Sombra calmly took his card as it ejected.
“The effect of Neo-Parshath activates since it dealt damage to you, letting me draw a card. And then, I have one more attack, from Lightray Grepher!” Grepher charged and swung its sword at Sombra. He pulled back with a small grunt as the holographic blade went through his body.
-Sombra Life Points: 5200-
“Also, now that your Life Points are lower than mine, the effect of Neo-Parshath is active. It gains attack points equal to the difference in our Life Points.” Neo-Parshath hummed as the ring circling it glowed gold (2600 → 4300). Celestia looked at her drawn card and slipped it into her duel disk. “I set one card and end my turn.”
Three pillars of light in blue, red, and green colors erupted in front of Sombra. Celestia inhaled sharply. “What?”
Sombra held up his arm, the Graveyard slot on his duel disk glowing. “Did I forget to announce I had used Wave King Caesar’s special ability when you declared your attack upon him? My apologies, how rude of me. Permit me to explain now.”
The three pillars of light began to pulse as he spoke. “By detaching one of Caesar’s Xyz materials, I set a condition on the field where, at the end of your battle phase, all of my monsters that have been destroyed this turn can return to the field. Observe.” The three pillars faded, revealing Sombra’s three monsters glowing before him.
Celestia grit her teeth. “I thought I had destroyed them.”
“You did, and with a well-executed move on your part, Celestia.” Sombra drew his card. “I begin my turn, and there is the matter of my bargain to resolve.” The monsters in front of Sombra lit up red. “The effect of Wave King Caesar demands offering, in the form of 1000 Life Points for each monster its effect restored. A small and worthwhile sacrifice.” He closed his eyes and grunted as sparks flew around him.
-Sombra Life Points: 2200-
Celestia frowned. “With your Life Points so low, Neo-Parshath yet again gains attack points equal to the difference in our points.” Neo-Parshath glowed and grew larger, the feathers on its wings spreading out (7300).
Sombra folded his cards into his hand and gave a short clap. “I am sincerely impressed by the technique you’ve shown today, Celestia. You’ve proven yourself to be a duelist worthy of this school. I truly mean it when I say that you should feel no shame for what is about to happen.” Sombra drew his hand back and placed two cards on his duel disk.
“I activate the Continuous Spell cards ‘Dark Contract with the Swamp King’ and Dark Contract with the Gate.” Two more contracts rose in front of Sombra, clutched by demonic hands. “I invoke the power of Dark Contract with the Gate, and add to my hand from my deck ‘D/D Nighthowl’.”
Sombra thrust his hand out. “And next, I invoke the power of Dark Contract with the Swamp King! Once per turn, I can conduct a Fusion Summon! I fuse together D/D/D Flame King Genghis and D/D/D Wave King Caesar!” The two demons were drawn into a vortex in front of Sombra.
“Demon of flame and demon of tides, combine your powers and invoke the form of an indomitable blazing demon king!” Sombra’s card ejected from the far end of his duel disk, purple light shining from it. “Fusion Summon! Awaken, Level 8, ‘D/D/D Flame High King Genghis’!”
The vortex flared out a giant plume of flame, a shadowed form within. The flames swirled around a fixed point and were drawn into the blade of a gigantic orange sword, held by a towering demon in black armor set with red and blue bands. Three other hands held a pair of daggers and a large red shield. The demon crossed its four armaments together and sent a wave of red light over the field (2800/2400).
“I summon ‘D/D Nighthowl’ and activate its effect to revive a D/D monster in the Graveyard. I choose D/D Berfomet.” A large pair of jaws with a small pair of yellow eyes on the top appeared in front of Sombra (300/600). It turned and fired a ray of red light at the ground, D/D Berfomet rising from the earth.
“Seeing as my D/D Nighthowl is a Tuner monster, I shall now Tune my Level 7 D/D/D Gust King Alexander with my Level 3 D/D Nighthowl!” Nighthowl turned into three rings of green energy that rotated around Alexander, a pillar of light rising to obscure it.
“Demon of fangs and demon of gales, align your powers and invoke the form of an indomitable storming demon king!” Sombra smirked. “Synchro Summon! Arise, Level 10, ‘D/D/D Gust High King Alexander’!” Alexander’s sword sliced through the light, revealing a massive green blade held by a demon in shining silver armor, a large green cape fluttering behind it (3000/2500).
“Since I have summoned a D/D monster, I activate the effect of Flame High King Genghis to Special Summon a D/D monster in the Graveyard. I revive my original D/D/D Flame King Genghis.” Sombra held a card out, pointing it at Berfomet. “I activate the Spell card ‘D/D Level Modulation’. I can select two D/D monsters I control with Levels, and make them equal. I will raise the Level of D/D Berfomet to match Genghis, Level 6. With that done, I overlay my D/D Berfomet and D/D/D Flame King Genghis. Using my two Level 6 monsters, I construct the overlay network!” The two slid together as blobs of blue energy.
“Demon of feathers and demon of flame, unite your powers and invoke the form of an indomitable crashing demon king!” Sombra thrust his hand into the air. “Xyz Summon! Come forth, Rank 6, ‘D/D/D Wave High King Caesar!” The blob of blue burst to reveal a larger, bulkier demon in dark purple armor, a massive club with yellow spikes swung over its shoulder (2800/1800).
Fluttershy whimpered. “He’s unstoppable…”
Rarity bit her lip. “How can one deck achieve such levels of power with so few resources? His hand is still full of unused cards!”
Sunset looked at Sombra’s hand to confirm Rarity’s observation, and let out a small growl when she did. He’s not dueling at his full power. He’s toying with her.
“Now that I am done with my summonings for the moment, I will invoke the powers of D/D/D Gust High King Alexander. Since I control at least three ‘D/D/D’ monsters, Alexander gains an additional three thousand attack points!” Alexander’s cape blew out behind it. An orb of wind encircled it and was drawn into its sword, the green metal shining (3000 → 6000).
Sombra looked up at the towering form of Neo-Parshath. “Your Neo-Parshath has gained considerable power from the difference in our Life Points. But it is only one card. Your other monsters are far more vulnerable!” Sombra pointed across the field. “D/D/D Flame High King Genghis, attack Lightray Grepher!” Genghis held up its sword and ignited it in flame, then ran forward.
Celestia reached to her duel disk. “Since you just declared an attack, I activate ‘Lumenize’!” The card moved in front of Lightray Grepher and flipped up. “My Trap card negates your attack, and now Lightray Grepher—”
“A Trap card, you say?” Sombra interrupted. “I will save you time explaining your card’s effect, by explaining my own. Once per turn, Flame High King Genghis allows me to negate and destroy a Spell or Trap card!” Genghis slashed down, cutting through the Trap and Grepher standing behind it. Celestia looked away as Grepher exploded in a burst of fire.
-Celestia Life Points: 5800-
“Next, Wave High King Caesar, attack Lightray Daedalus!” Caesar charged forward and jumped, gripping its club with both hands. It brought it down on Daedalus’ head. The serpent convulsed and shattered into shards.
-Celestia Life Points: 5600-
“And finally, Gust High King Alexander, strike down Lightray Diabolos!” Alexander rose up into the air and summoned wind into its sword. It descended in a typhoon, its sword held out. The blade struck Lightray Diabolos in the head and burst out the bottom, wind exploding from the wound. Diabolos lit up in gold light and exploded.
-Celestia Life Points: 2400-
“I set one card and end my turn.”
Celestia’s portrait on the display board lit up to indicate her turn. She looked down at her deck.
Sombra reached to his duel disk. “Now that your turn has begun, I will activate my Trap card ‘Contract Laundering’. This allows me to dispose of the two Dark Contracts on my field, and for each of them I regain one thousand Life Points and draw a card.” The demonic hands in front of Sombra descended into the ground, the contracts in their hands burning away.
-Sombra Life Points: 4200-
Sombra looked up at Celestia’s field. “With your Life Points now lower than mine, your Neo-Parshath gains no further power but that afforded by your Spell card.” Neo-Parshath shrank down behind Celestia, its golden aura dimming (2600).
“You’re not out, yet!” Rainbow called, cupping her hands to her mouth. “You’ve still got a good monster out! You can turn this around!”
“No, she can’t.”
Rainbow and the group turned their heads. Sunset clenched her hands on her tights. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “It’s over.”
“Well? Will you not draw to begin your turn?” Sombra pressed a hand to his forehead and scoffed. “My apologies, how foolish of me to forget, the effect of Reckless Greed forbids you from drawing a card for two turns. Such a shame seeing as your hand is empty right now. An aptly named card indeed.”
Celestia swallowed and lowered her arm. “I end my turn.”
“You’ll not even switch your monster to defense? As you wish, then. It will save me time declaring superfluous attack commands.” Sombra’s eyes flashed as he pointed over the field. “D/D/D Gust High King Alexander, destroy Neo-Parshath the Sky Paladin!”
Alexander ran forward and jabbed its sword, a slicing spear of wind shooting out from it. Neo-Parshath raised its shield in front of it. The spear of wind tore through the shield and engulfed the angel, its wings snapping back. Celestia closed her eyes as it exploded in a flare of light, feathers falling over her.
-Celestia Life Points: 0-
Sombra’s portrait on the display grew larger to fill it, encompassing Celestia’s. The holograms of his monsters faded. He gathered his cards from his duel disk and turned it off. “That was invigorating.” He put a hand to his chest and bowed. “Thank you for the duel, Celestia.”
Celestia said nothing, standing still with her eyes closed. She took a deep breath and then reached down to pick up her cards from her disk.
The silence was broken by the cheers and whistles of Crystal Prep’s audience. Sombra nodded in their direction before heading to the table. On the other stands, Canterlot High still stared.
Sunset watched Sombra calmly unstrap his duel disk and place it back in the briefcase on the table.
Is that the kind of duelist I’ll have to face in this tournament?
Movement caught Sunset’s eye. She looked over at the bench at Crystal Prep’s seven duelists. Only six of them were sitting, and one was standing and applauding.
If Sunset didn’t know any better, she would think she saw satisfaction in Twilight Sparkle’s eyes.
Canterlot High’s cafeteria had been turned into a social hub for the tournament, with food and drink lining the tray and tables set up for free duels. The two sides of the cafeteria, divided by the tiled path between the doors on either end of the room, were decorated with banners, flags, and posters for their respective schools, the letters “CHS” on one side in blue, and “CPA” in purple letters on the other side. The students of the two schools had naturally gravitated towards their respective side, leaving the tiled path between the doors as an empty neutral ground.
“That can’t be Twilight… can it?” Flash furrowed his brow. “It looks just like her, and she has the same name.”
Sitting next to him, Sunset shook her head. “That isn’t our Twilight. It’s someone else.”
“So Crystal Prep just happens to have a duelist who looks exactly like Twilight and has the same name as her?”
Sunset tried to think of another explanation for this coincidence and failed. “Yes.”
Flash sat back and said nothing more. Sunset tried to catch a glimpse of Twilight across the cafeteria but couldn’t among the crowd.
This doesn’t change anything. It isn’t the same Twilight. It’s someone else. Different person, different life, different deck. It means nothing. Even as she thought it, she didn’t buy it. Twilight’s human counterpart being here changed everything. What will the rest of the school think? They can’t be blind, they know it.
“I’m more worried about the duel we just saw!” Rainbow exclaimed. “Sombra treated Celestia like a chew toy – chewed her up, slobbered over her, mangled her into a knot, then tossed her aside when he got bored.”
Rarity wrinkled her nose. “Thank you for the unnecessarily detailed metaphor, Rainbow Dash.”
“She’s right, though.” Applejack shook her head. “Celestia played a darn good game. She coulda whooped me somethin’ fierce. But Sombra? That was just another level.”
“Do you think all the Crystal Prep duelists are like that?” Fluttershy whispered.
“Unlikely,” Flash spoke up. “Most decks they utilize are only teched to handle one Extra Deck summon type, very rarely you’ll face someone with two. Not a lot of archetypes have the mix of cards needed to reliably support all three, unless the archetype itself is designed to do that.”
“Like Sombra’s,” Sunset said.
“Exactly, but that’s the exception, not the rule. I haven’t ever heard of a duelist using all three before and pulling it off that well.” Flash slowly nodded. “Applejack is right. Sombra is just something else.”
“He sure put on a show, that’s for sure.” Pinkie chugged a glass of punch in her hand. “He just wanted to scare us, to intimidate us! Well, guess what, meanie-bo-beanie? We aren’t scared of you!”
“Maybe we’re a little scared…”
Sunset looked up at a nearby wall where a projector showed the seven duelists from either school in vertical columns. “Flash, you’ve faced Crystal Prep duelists before. Recognize any of these ones?”
“Yeah. Those five call themselves the Shadowbolts.” Flash pointed to five of the seven portraits. “They shuffle themselves around the top six slots sans number one all the time, challenging each other and winning and losing. They’re in a league of their own, spending all their time training and honing their decks against each other.”
“What about the number one slot?”
Flash pointed to the boy at the top of the column. “Shining Armor, six-time champion of their semi-annual tournaments.”
Sunset nodded. That’s where I recognized him. Twilight’s brother. “What does he use?”
“No idea. He changes his deck every year to keep it fresh. Last year he ran Gaia Knights, and the year before that it was Six Samurai. This year, who knows?”
“Well, at least we’re five out of seven,” Apple said. “What about that Twilight of theirs? What’s she use?”
“No clue. I’ve never seen her in the tournaments before.”
“And check this out.” Rainbow held out her phone with Crystal Prep’s website open on her browser. “Her dueling record is 1-0. What kind of top duelist is that?”
Sunset narrowed her eyes. She has no duel record but is selected to compete in a top-level tournament. And this is when she was an unknown in prior years? That doesn’t add up. “I’ll ask her.” Sunset stood and walked towards the Crystal Prep side of the cafeteria.
At her approach the nearest Crystal Prep students turned to her and stopped chatting. The stares and silence rippled out through the crowd as it parted for Sunset. By the time she neared to the table for the chosen duelists of the school, they were looking right at her when she emerged from the crowd.
Sunset saw the deep purple gaze of the alternate Twilight Sparkle look up at her, and hesitated. They’re almost identical. This Twilight wore glasses, had her hair tied into a bun, and wore a Crystal Prep uniform. But beyond that she looked just like the Twilight that Sunset knew.
The voice cut through Sunset’s apprehension and made her focus back on the new Twilight. She nodded. “Hello.”
“So, you’re Sunset Shimmer.” Sunset turned her eyes towards Shining Armor, who had his elbows on the table to support his chin. “They say you’re the best duelist Canterlot High has ever seen.”
Twilight wrinkled her nose and sniffed at Shining’s remark.
Sunset shook her head. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Agreed.” Twilight’s voice drew Sunset’s attention back to her. She had her eyes closed and her brow creased as she pushed her glasses up. “I can find no record of Sunset’s deck in any database I know of, nor has anyone ever bothered to record her duels for others to see. It seems rather premature to praise her skill without any evidence of such.”
“Excuse me?” Sunset glared down at her. “If you have something to say to me, just come out and say it.”
“As you wish.” Twilight made to stand up when Shining Armor put a hand on her arm, stopping her with her hunched over the table in mid-movement.
“Twily,” he said, a slight edge to his voice. Twilight looked at him and he said more softly, “Chill. We’re here to duel, not to talk trash about our competition.”
Twilight stared at him for a moment before turning to look back at Sunset. She closed her eyes and sank back down in her chair. “My brother is right. We’ll let our dueling speak for itself, once the tournament begins.”
“Fine,” Sunset replied. She looked down at Twilight’s duel disk. “CHS has seen the rest of you guys before, but not you, Twilight. How’d you qualify?”
For a moment Sunset thought she saw Twilight’s annoyed composure falter. She recovered quickly, though, and cleared her throat. “I was admitted into the tournament based on academic achievement, not my dueling record.”
“That’s self-evident. You’re only 1-0.”
“Hey,” Shining held a hand up, his eyes narrow. “She’s one of the best students in our school. A record isn’t everything.”
“You ought to know, Sunset,” Twilight replied. “Your own record is sparse for someone with your reputation.”
“That’s different.” Sunset regretted the response the moment she gave it. Twilight justified her concern.
Dammit. “It’s a long story.”
“Really?” Twilight tapped a finger on the table, her eyes narrow. “My working theory is that your ‘Harmony Guardians’ are ineligible for professional play and you keep to unranked duels so you can keep using them. The only thing I can’t figure out is why the faculty here would let you use them in tournaments.”
The word fell with the thud of a lead weight. Sunset turned and stepped aside as Sombra walked up to them, his hands clasped behind his back. He looked down at Twilight and shook his head. “That’s enough.” Twilight meekly shrank down in her seat.
Sunset stiffened when Sombra turned his head to her. “We take this competition very seriously at Crystal Prep. Some students get carried away with it all and make hasty accusations. Please forgive Twilight’s rash behavior and words, Ms. Shimmer.”
“Of course.” Sunset nodded.
“If you would please excuse us, I would like to confer with my students before the tournament begins. I’m sure you have preparations to make as well.”
“Yeah.” Sunset stayed in place for a moment, until Sombra looked away from her. She turned and walked back to her table. She looked over her shoulder to see Sombra talking to the Crystal Prep students.
Why does it feel like he’s still watching me?
Flash looked up as Sunset sat down. “How’d it go?”
“Not well.” Sunset scrunched her face. “Their Twilight is nothing like the one we know. She’s rude, she’s condescending, and she just insulted my dueling right to my face.”
“Sounds like a typical Crystal Prep duelist,” Rainbow muttered, her arms crossed.
“Don’t matter.” Applejack shook her head. “Like you said, she’s not our Twilight, so there’s no use fretting about her name or what she looks like. It’s not like she’ll go easy on us.”
“Did you find out what deck she uses?” Rarity asked.
Sunset shook her head. “I didn’t get a chance to ask, but she seems to know my deck, so that’s a disadvantage.” When she finished she paused. Her eyes widened.
Pinkie didn’t notice and took up the reins of the conversation. Sunset looked over the cafeteria but couldn’t see Twilight between the crowd.
“Huh?” Flash noticed Sunset’s whisper. “What was that?”
“She knew my deck,” Sunset said aloud.
“How does she know my deck?”
Flash held up his hands. “Maybe she saw you dueling?”
Sunset bit her tongue to keep from giving Flash an explanation he wouldn’t understand. She remembers. Sunset’s current deck cast the same curtain of memory over all who saw it that her previous deck had. Only the five friends around her could remember she used Harmony Guardians.
That’s impossible. How could she know? Unless… Sunset thought back to earlier in the week when her deck had been stolen. They said it was likely a Crystal Prep duelist. Could this world’s Twilight have been spying on her and taken the chance to look at Sunset’s deck? Perhaps that was how she knew. Maybe if Sunset wasn’t actively dueling with them, the memory-distorting powers of her cards didn’t manifest.
That must be it. It’s either that or… She frowned and shook her head. The alternative is even more impossible, not to mention even more worrying. She had to have been the thief I caught. The only other explanation is…
“Students, the opponents for the first round of the Friendship Cup will soon be selected. The seven ranked duelists of both schools are asked to be at the field as soon as possible. Others may remain in the cafeteria and designated common areas, where the duel will be broadcast.”
Once Celestia ended her announcement, Sombra held his hand towards the exit of the cafeteria. “Come, duelists. We’d best not keep anyone waiting.” The seven stood and followed Sombra out the doors into the hall. He pushed open the doors to the field and held it as they walked past. “Twilight.” Twilight stopped when Sombra spoke as she neared. “A moment, please.”
Twilight backed out of the line and let the others go. When they has passed, Sombra let the door close and looked down at her. “Please explain what happened in the cafeteria a minute ago.”
She swallowed. “Shining complimented Sunset’s dueling… and I guess I let it get to me.”
“That much is apparent. You’ve not forgotten the importance I placed upon discretion in the matter of Sunset Shimmer, have you?”
“Of course not.”
“Good. I ask that you keep to that. And, yet…” Sombra peered closer at her. “I sense something else is amiss with you. I would prefer to resolve such a matter now, that it will not interfere with tournament proceedings further.”
Twilight nodded, holding his gaze. “The students here. Several of them seem to recognize me, they called me by name.”
“I see.” Sombra waved a hand in the air. “Pardon my forwardness, but I fail to see how this is cause for alarm. You run a prolific website on dueling that many students utilize. No doubt you are unaccustomed to such recognition from your peers, but here in Canterlot High, your accomplishments are more notable.”
“Thank you.” Twilight coughed lightly, her cheeks warm. “That seems a bit of a simple explanation, though. They seem very familiar with me.”
“Perhaps they aim to make friends and coax information from you about your deck, then. Or even more simply, their efforts at friendship are sincere. I can think of no other likely scenario.”
“No guesses. We need confidence moving forward.” Sombra gently put a hand on Twilight’s shoulder and smiled. “I merely expect you to do your best, but only because I know that will be more than sufficient to overcome any duelist you may face today.”
“What about Sunset Shimmer?”
“Ah, yes.” Sombra’s smile didn’t fade. “I am still looking into a private matter about her, but I don’t believe she will be a problem. Regardless of whatever cards she may have or what skill she possesses, this is a seven-on-seven tournament. One, perhaps even two losses, are permissible. Disappointing, but not beyond salvation.”
“Fair point.” Twilight nodded. “I’m ready, then.”
“Good. Let us proceed, then.” Sombra raised his eyes from Twilight to push open the door again, gesturing her forward with his free hand.
Sunset watched Twilight sit down on the Crystal Prep bench. The grassy field before them had been marked with four cones that sent out holographic light beams, tracing out a rectangle. On the scoreboard on the far side of the court were the fourteen portraits of the participating duelist, arranged in a row beneath their school logo.
Hope lifted the microphone from the principal’s table. “Now that we are assembled, we shall choose the first duelists to compete.” The first portrait in the two rows lit up – blue for Canterlot, purple for Crystal Prep – and began to flash. The two student bodies cheered as the light flipped between portraits, and then began to slow.
Sunset looked at Twilight, the other girl looking at the screen. What would happen if we had to duel?
The portraits slowed even further and then stopped, flashing. The highlighted portraits slid down in the display and grew larger.
“Our first duel is decided! CHS’s Fluttershy Breeze will face CPA’s Sour Sweet!”
“Oh no.” Sunset turned her head. Rainbow and Applejack stood up and pulled Fluttershy to her feet.
“Ready to whoop butt, Fluttershy?” Rainbow grinned.
“No! I'll crack under the pressure! I'll snap like a twig!”
The CHS students began to chant her name. Rainbow and Applejack sat down, leaving Fluttershy to slowly creep up to the dueling field. On the Crystal Prep bench, Sour Sweet stood up, tossed her hair, and walked up opposite her.
Sour Sweet pursed her lip. “You’re so scared. I don’t know if I should stroke your arm or shove you down.” She grinned. “Oh, wait. Yes I do.” She turned and strutted to the far end of the field.
“You got this!” Rainbow called out.
“Give that brute what-for!” Rarity chimed in.
Fluttershy raised her duel disk and pressed the button to activate it, the arm swinging out and folding into place. Sour Sweet’s disk projected a pale pink light field.
“And now, let the first duel of the Friendship Cup begin!”
The portraits of the two flashed in sequence before stopping on Fluttershy. “We have the first turn decided,” Radiant Hope announced.
Fluttershy’s duel disk beeped and ejected five cards. She gulped and picked them up. “Okay…” She looked at her hand and fumbled with one of the cards, her fingers slipping once before she gripped it properly to place it on her duel disk. “I summon ‘Baby Raccoon Ponpoko’.”
A small raccoon with a tiny drum strapped to its chest jumped in front of Fluttershy, scratching its ear (800/0). “I activate Ponpoko’s effect to set a Level 2 Beast from my deck to the field.” Fluttershy pulled her card from her duel disk and set it on her card tray.
“I then set one card and end my turn.” Fluttershy’s cards materialized in waves of golden sparkles in front of her.
Sour Sweet grinned. “Aw, it’s so cute! It’s such a shame it has to die!” She drew with a flourish, looked at her card, and held it out. “I activate the Spell card ‘Amazoness Call’. I’ll use it to add to my hand ‘Amazoness Princess’, and then I immediately summon her.” A small, dark-skinned warrior woman in red and purple armor landed from a portal in the air in front of Sour Sweet. She stood up, smirked, and lifted a spear from her back, twirling it to point it toward Fluttershy (1200/900).
“Summoning Amazoness Princess activates her effect, adding an Amazoness Spell or Trap card to my hand from my deck. I’ll take and activate ‘Amazoness Village’.” A large jungle of trees sprang up from the ground around Sour Sweet. Branches and grasses on the ground around her came together and joined together to form a circle of huts and tents. “With this card in play, all my Amazoness monsters gain 200 Attack points.”
Sour Sweet pointed. “Amazoness Princess, time to hunt your dinner! Attack Baby Raccoon Ponpoko!” Amazoness Princess (1400) hefted her spear and charged across the field. “At this time I activate my Princess’ special ability. When she attacks, I can discard a card to summon an Amazoness monster from my deck in defense mode. I’ll discard ‘Amazoness Baby Tiger’ and call out ‘Amazoness Queen’!”
One of the huts behind Sour Sweet cracked apart and fell open, revealing a large wooden throne decorated with animal skulls. Sitting on it was a blue-haired warrior clad in armor of animal hides. A large curved sword with a spiked guard rested between her legs, her hands on the end of the hilt (2400/1800 → 2600/1800).
“I activate my Trap card!” Fluttershy flung her hand up, the hologram rising in front of her. “It’s called ‘Beast Soul Swap’. It lets me return a Beast-type monster on the field to my hand, and then I can Special Summon a Beast monster with the same level from my hand. Return to me, Ponpoko!” Ponpoko glowed and shot away in an orb of white light, the spear piercing the air where it had been.
Fluttershy lifted another card from her hand. “In its place I’ll summon ‘Mogmole’ in defense mode.” A small anthropomorphic mole with goggles and a giant hand drill popped out of the ground, blinking up at the Amazon standing over it (800/800). Amazoness Princess looked down in return.
Sour Sweet held up her hands. “Whatever, it’s still dead. I continue my attack.” The Princess grinned and twirled her spear to stab it down at Mogmole. Mogmole screeched and exploded. “Oh well,” Sour Sweet smirked. The ground next to the tunnel Mogmole had drilled shook, and another drill head emerged preceding a familiar pair of goggles.
“Not quite.” Fluttershy smiled. “Once per duel, when Mogmole is destroyed in battle, I can revive it.”
“Go ahead, it’ll die again next turn.” Sour Sweet tossed her hair. “I end my turn.”
Fluttershy drew and held out a card. “I once again summon Baby Raccoon Ponpoko and activate its effect to set a Beast-type monster from my deck.” The raccoon appeared in front of Fluttershy beside a face-down card. “I then flip up the monster I set last turn, ‘Baby Raccoon Tantan’!”
A raccoon with a larger vertical drum over its chest rose from the card backing, banging padded drumsticks on its instrument (0/800). “When Tantan is flipped up, I can summon a Beast from my deck. I call ‘Catnipped Kitty’ in defense mode.” A pastel purple cat hopped onto Fluttershy’s field, a jingling bell on its collar, and rolled onto its back (0/500).
Sour Sweet made a face and stuck out her tongue. “If your cards get any more sickeningly cute, I’m gonna hurl.”
“Don’t underestimate animals just because they’re adorable.” Fluttershy held her hand out towards her new monster. “Catnipped Kitty has a very powerful special ability. Once per turn I can select a monster on your side of the field and make its defense points become zero for the rest of the turn.” She pointed her finger. “I target Amazoness Queen!”
Catnipped Kitty rolled onto its paws and bounded across the field and up to the collapsed hut Amazoness Queen’s throne was in. It purred loudly and rubbed up against her ankles, nuzzling affectionately. The Queen looked down at it and her scowl faded into a soft smile (1800 → 0).
“Oh come on!” Sour Sweet protested.
“I’m not done yet.” Fluttershy looked towards the stands.
“Go for it!” Rainbow called. Applejack nodded.
Fluttershy smiled and reached to her card tray. “I overlay my Baby Raccoon Tantan and Mogmole. Using my two Level 2 Beast monsters, I construct the overlay network!” The two beasts turned into transparent red outlines and slid together, undulating.
The crowd of CHS burst into gasps and cheers. Sour Sweet growled and stepped back. “Since when do Canterlot duelists know this kind of summoning?”
“Since now.” Fluttershy put her hand over her duel disk. “I unite the powers of the raccoon and the mole, to summon a brave new animal guardian!” She grabbed the card that ejected. “I Xyz Summon the Rank 2 ‘Number 64: Ronin Raccoon Sandayu’!”
The red light burst apart, revealing a humanoid raccoon in red samurai armor, its eyes glowing. Two orbs of red light orbited the air around it, trails in their wake. Twin capes of yellow burst from its shoulders to flutter in the air. It reached to its back and pulled out a large polearm, spinning it twice and then pointing it at Sour Sweet (1000/1000).
Sour Sweet put a hand on her hip and snorted. “An armored rodent with a thousand points. That’s your big play?”
“No. This is: Ronin Raccoon’s special ability.”
One of the red orbs around the samurai shot across the field and circled Amazoness Queen. Red light leaked off of her into the orb. “By detaching one of Ronin Raccoon’s Xyz materials, I can Special Summon a ‘Kagemusha Raccoon Token’ with attack points equal to the strongest monster on the field.” The orb of light floated back to Ronin Raccoon and grew into a ghostly red samurai raccoon, a katana strapped to its back (2600/0).
Rarity applauded. “Marvelous!”
Rainbow Dash grinned. “I told her she could do this, she just needed the confidence.”
“You said it, Dashie!” Pinkie high-fived the other girl with a squee.
Sunset looked at the other end of the field. Then why isn’t Sour Sweet more upset? The girl looked annoyed and disgusted, but for her current state in the duel she was rather calm.
Fluttershy flung her hand out. “Ronin Raccoon Sandayu, attack and destroy Amazoness Queen!”
The samurai charged across the field, the blade of its polearm held out. Amazoness Queen raised her head from the cat at her ankles to see the enemy approaching. She narrowed her eyes and raised a hand to her face.
Sour Sweet smirked. “Please.”
Ronin Raccoon jumped in front of Amazoness Queen and stabbed its spear forward. The Queen jerked her hand and the blade clanged off her gauntlet to embed itself in the wood of the throne next to her head. The samurai blinked, confused. The Queen glared and took hold of the shaft of the spear, then jerked it back to pull it from the wood, the momentum sending Ronin Raccoon stumbling off the hut and falling to the ground, its spear falling beside it.
Fluttershy stared. “What happened?”
“My Amazoness Queen is the proud ruler of her tribe,” Sour Sweet said. “She won’t let a little rodent like that lay a hand on her, or any of her warriors for that matter. You see, as long as Amazoness Queen is on the field, all my Amazoness monsters can’t be destroyed in battle, including the Queen herself!”
“Darn.” Fluttershy frowned. “Okay, then. My Kagemusha Raccoon Token attacks Amazoness Princess. Even if I can’t destroy it, I can deal damage to you.” The spectral samurai leapt up and slashed with its katana as it fell. Amazoness Princess screamed as the katana sliced across her torso in a wave of red light, leaving no wound.
-Sour Sweet Life Points: 6800-
“I set one card and end my turn. The effect of Catnipped Kitty ends and Amazoness Queen regains her defenses.” Fluttershy lowered her duel disk. Catnipped Kitty shook itself and ran across the field to rejoin Fluttershy, Amazoness Queen watching it go.
The students of CHS cheered. Applejack smirked. “Look at that, got in the first hit and it was a good one.”
“Keep it up!” Rainbow called.
Sour Sweet sighed and tossed her hair. “Ya know, I was trying to go easy on you, since you looked ready to faint if I tried attacking.” Her duel disk beeped and ejected its card. “Buuut, if you can handle the rough play, let’s go for it.” She drew her card, looked at it, and grinned as she turned it over to show it to Fluttershy.
Fluttershy paled and her eyes widened. “Oh dear.”
Sour Sweet swung the card into her duel disk. “I activate ‘Polymerization’!” The stands of Crystal Prep roared as a swirling purple vortex appeared in the air. “I fuse my Amazoness Queen with the ‘Amazoness Swords Woman’ in my hand!”
The Queen stood up from her throne and looked up at the portal, then leapt into it. Sour Sweet held her hands out. “Ruler of hunters and swordbearer of hunters, combine your wisdom and wit, and reign supreme over this battlefield!” She brought her hands together. “From the deepest depths of the darkest jungles, I Fusion Summon ‘Amazoness Empress’!”
A bolt of light shot out of the vortex and into the former throne of Amazoness Queen, shattering it and the hut it had been placed in in a shower of splinters and bone. The smoke cleared to reveal a massive warrior woman with white hair and red war paint on her muscles. Animal skulls adorned her shoulders, her waist, and her head, forming a horned crown. She snapped her hand out to the side, a red cape blowing out behind her, and in a flash of red light a massive curved, spiked sword appeared in her grasp (2800/2400 → 3000/2400).
“W-wow,” Fluttershy whimpered.
“Impressive, isn’t she?” Sour Sweet chuckled. “Don’t worry, soon you’ll get to see her in action, up close and personal. But first, from my Graveyard I activate the second effect of Amazoness Call.” Amazoness Empress lit up in a purple aura, the monster inhaling deeply.
“By banishing Amazoness Call from the Graveyard, I can allow my Amazoness Empress to attack all monsters you control!” Sour Sweet laughed. “What do you think happens next?”
Fluttershy swallowed heavily. “I think you’re going to hurt me a bit.”
“Nope; I’m gonna hurt you a lot!” Sour Sweet gnashed her teeth and held her hand out. “Amazoness Empress, rip her beasts apart!”
The Empress coiled her legs and sprinted forward, her sword held out to the side. “We’ll start with that disgusting rat that damaged my Life Points!” The Empress reached the Kagemusha Samurai and cleaved it in two in a shower of red sparks.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 7600-
“Next, the pesky vermin that evaded me last turn!” Amazoness Empress turned its head to glare at Baby Raccoon Ponpoko and sliced through the monster. It squeaked as it exploded into light.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 5400-
“That’s enough of that,” Fluttershy said, her face stern. “The effect of Catnipped Kitty prevents you from attacking it while I control another Beast-type monster. And while I control another Beast-type monster other than my Ronin Raccoon, it can’t be destroyed in battle.”
“Fine by me. You’ll still take damage!” Sour Sweet laughed. Ronin Raccoon braced itself and held up its polearm between its palms. Amazoness Empress struck the polearm and sent the raccoon sliding back across the ground.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 3400-
“Let’s see what’s under Card Number Four!” Amazoness Empress held its sword up and pointed the tip at Fluttershy’s face-down card. “Now might be a good time to mention that while Amazoness Empress is presiding over my field, any Amazon that attacks a defending monster inflicts piercing damage. Sucks to be you!” The Empress stabbed her sword down.
“Not that much!” Fluttershy shot back. Her facedown card flipped over, revealing a small feathered mask and a pair of hands clutching a tiny axe (450/500). “My face-down monster is ‘Hane-Hane’, and when you flip it up with your attack, I can return a monster on the field to the hand! Or, for your Amazoness Empress, she goes back to the Extra Deck!”
“What!?” Sour Sweet’s jaw dropped.
Hane-Hane swung its axe and sent a massive gust of wind up at Amazoness Empress. The Empress was whirled up into the air and sent crashing into the trees of Amazoness Village. Her sword flew from her grasp and cleaved apart Hane-Hane.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 900-
Sour Sweet growled. “She won’t go without giving you a parting gift. When Amazoness Empress leaves the field, I can revive my Amazoness Queen!” The trees shifted as Amazoness Queen strode out of them and returned to the ruins of her throne, the wood magically reassembling itself around her as she sat on the remains. “Unfortunately my other monsters can’t attack the turn I use Amazoness Call’s effect, so I’ll switch my Amazoness Princess to defense mode and end my turn.”
Fluttershy nodded. “Right.” She drew and looked at her card.
“You’re just delaying the inevitable, you know?” Sour Sweet said. “You got in one lucky hit, but now you know what my deck is really capable of, and you’re down to 900 Life Points. At this rate you'll be lucky to survive my next turn. You barely even survived that one.”
Fluttershy steeled herself and shook her head. “I’m not out of Life Points yet. I still have cards to play, and I’ve seen friends that have won with less against better than you. I won’t give up!” She placed a card on her duel disk. “I summon ‘Nimble Beaver’.”
A small beaver with a twig in its mouth jumped up from a pool of water that spontaneously appeared at Fluttershy’s feet (400/100). “When I summon Nimble Beaver, I can Special Summon another ‘Nimble’ monster from my deck. I’ll bring out another Nimble Beaver. And then, I overlay them. Using my two Level 2 monsters, I construct the overlay network!”
The two Nimble Beavers turned blue and slid together, then lowered into the water. Fluttershy clasped her hands. “I unite the powers of my two beavers and call on the spirit of the feline that dwells in the depths.” She reached to the card that emerged from her duel disk. “Xyz Summon! Come on out, Rank 2, ‘Cat Shark’, in defense mode!”
A black and white aquatic monster jumped out from the pool and landed in front of Fluttershy in a spray of water, two orbs of blue light circling it. It stood on a pair of hind paws and waved a pair of front flippers in the air. A fish tail slapped the ground behind it and a cat’s face with whiskers and fur topped its body (500/500).
“I activate Ronin Raccoon’s special ability, and detach its final Xyz Material to summon another Kagemusha Samurai Token, copying the attack power of Amazoness Queen.” The remaining orb of red light orbiting Ronin Raccoon flew around Amazoness Queen and then back to Fluttershy to form a spiritual samurai visage (2600/0). “I then activate the effect of Catnipped Kitty, to sap the defensive power of Amazoness Princess to zero.” The cat ran up to the amazon and began to rub against her legs. She looked down at it and awkwardly moved the shaft of her spear to rub the cat’s neck (900 → 0).
“Finally, Cat Shark’s effect. By detaching an Xyz Material from it, I can select an Xyz monster I control and double its stats for one turn. I choose Ronin Raccoon.” One of the blue lights surrounding Cat Shark floated into Ronin Raccoon. It puffed its chest and stood up straighter (1000 → 2000).
Sour Sweet huffed. “So what? It doesn’t matter how strong your monsters are, you can’t destroy my Amazons in battle while Amazoness Queen is in play. You’re just doing the same moves you pulled last turn.”
“Not quite. I learn from my mistakes, which is why I set this card on my last turn.” Fluttershy held her hand up as the hologram of her card flipped over and rose. “I reveal my Continuous Trap card ‘Roaring Earth’! While this card is in play, when a Beast-type attacks a defending monster, it can pierce its defenses and still deal damage to you.”
“You little…” Sour Sweet snarled. “That’s the same effect my Amazoness Empress had! You’re just copying me!”
“Well, actually, I had set my card on my last turn, before you summoned your Empress.” Fluttershy gave a small smile. “So, really, it's more like you copied me.”
Sour Sweet’s response was to growl louder.
“Ronin Raccoon Sandayu, attack Amazoness Princess!” The samurai charged and stabbed its polearm through the Princess’ shoulder. It pulled it back and the Princess stumbled to a knee.
-Sour Sweet Life Points: 4800-
“Since the effect of Roaring Earth let me inflict damage to you, its second effect activates. I can select a monster on your side of the field and decrease its stats by five hundred points. I choose Amazoness Queen.” Fluttershy’s card sent out a rippling wave of energy at Amazoness Queen (2600/1800 → 2100/1300). “And then, my Kagemusha Samurai attacks!” The ghostly samurai stabbed the Princess’ other arm, driving her to her hands and knees.
-Sour Sweet Life Points: 2200-
Roaring Earth shot a wave of energy at Amazoness Queen again (2100/1300 → 1600/800).
“Not much of a queen now, is she?” Rainbow Dash taunted.
“I set a card and end my turn. At this time the stats of Ronin Raccoon return to normal.” Fluttershy put a hand to her chest and took a breath.
“Is it another trap card that’s gonna piss me off?” Sour Sweet asked. “Ya know what, don’t answer that, I don’t care either way. You should have lost this duel last turn!”
“Maybe. But I didn’t.” Fluttershy smiled proudly. “I’m not winning, sure, but I haven’t lost yet, either.”
“You idiot!” Sour Sweet snapped. “You really think those cutesy little animals can handle my Amazon deck another turn?”
“They’ve done a good job so far.” Fluttershy shook her head. “I believe in them, the same way my friends and my school believe in me. With them behind me, I won’t give up, even if I have no cards left to play.” The Canterlot High students applauded at her words.
“Gimme a break,” Sour Sweet muttered. “You know why my school cheers for me? Because I’m the best. They know it, I know it. And by the time I’m done with my next turn, you’ll know it too!”
Sour Sweet drew with a growl and a glare. “My move!” She looked at her drawn card, slipped it into her hand, and pulled out another. “I summon ‘Amazoness Sage’.” A woman with a pale beige cloak and blue hair materialized in front of Sour Sweet, a wooden staff adorned with animal teeth in her hand (1400 → 1600/700).
Sour Sweet pointed. “I switch my Amazoness Princess to attack mode. And now, Amazoness Queen attacks Ronin Raccoon Sandayu!” The Queen hefted her sword and hurled it across the field.
“I reveal my Trap card ‘Draining Shield’!” Ronin Raccoon held up its arm and a glowing disk appeared over it, projecting a barrier of green energy around it. “Your attack is negated and I recover Life Points equal to your monster’s attack points!” The sword hit the green barrier and shattered into sparkles that kept going and washed over Fluttershy.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 2500-
Rainbow Dash pumped her fist. “She took the lead!”
“Not for long!” Sour Sweet snapped. “Amazoness Sage, attack the samurai!” The sage raised her staff and shot a beam of yellow light. Ronin Raccoon endured the hit, its heels digging into the ground.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 1900-
“Since Amazoness Sage attacked, her effect activates, letting me destroy a Spell or Trap on your side of the field. I choose Roaring Earth!” The sage chanted and sent a rippling wave of magic from her staff. Roaring Earth shuddered and shattered.
“Next, Amazoness Princess attacks Ronin Raccoon. This also activates her effect, summoning an Amazoness monster from the deck in defense mode. I call out ‘Amazoness Fighter’.” A particularly muscled woman in furred green armor rose from the ground, pounding a fist into her palm (1500 → 1700/1300).
Amazoness Princess hefted her spear and threw it, the blade piercing Ronin Raccoon’s armor.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 1500-
“I set a card and end my turn.” A face-down card materialized in front of Amazoness Queen’s throne. Sour Sweet crossed her arms. “Make your move.”
“I will.” Fluttershy drew and held her hand towards Cat Shark. “I’ll begin by activating Cat Shark’s special ability. I detach its Xyz material to grant Cat Shark double the stats this turn.” The feline fish puffed up as a blue aura lit over it (500 → 1000). “Then I use the Spell card ‘Pot of Avarice’. I return my two Nimble Beavers, Mogmole, Hane-Hane, and Baby Raccoon Ponpoko to my deck, and draw two cards.”
Fluttershy looked at her new cards and held out another. “I activate the Spell card ‘Cross Breed’. I banish Ronin Raccoon Sandayu from my field and ‘Dark Desertapir’ from my hand. Since these two monsters have the same Type and Attribute, a monster with those same stats can be added to my hand. I choose ‘Chow Chow Chan’.”
As Ronin Raccoon dissolved, a ghostly black tapir appeared behind Fluttershy. “Banishing Dark Desertapir triggers its effect, reviving a Beast monster in the Graveyard. I revive my Baby Raccoon Tantan in defense mode. Then, I overlay Baby Raccoon Tantan and Catnipped Kitty! Using my two Level 2 Beast monsters, I construct the overlay network!”
Fluttershy put her hand over her duel disk as her two monsters turned transparent and slid together. “I unite the powers of the raccoon and the cat, to summon a brave new animal guardian!” She held out her card. “Xyz Summon! I call forth another Rank 2 Number 64: Ronin Raccoon Sandayu, in defense mode!” Another samurai jumped out of the portal, twirling its spear and stabbing it into the ground when it landed.
“I activate Ronin Raccoon’s ability, and detach one of its Xyz Materials to summon a Kagemusha Samurai Token with attack power equal to the strongest monster on the field. Right now that’s my current Token, so I get a second copy.” The ghostly red image of the Kagemusha Samurai lit up and split into two (2600/0).
“And now, to attack.” Fluttershy drew back her hand.
Sour Sweet sneered. “Yeah, not yet, you don’t. I reveal my face-down card ‘Amazoness Shamanism!” Glowing magical glyphs appeared under each of Sour Sweet’s monsters. “First, every monster I control is destroyed. Then, for each of them, I can revive an Amazoness monster from my Graveyard in defense position.” Sour Sweet’s four monsters lit up and exploded in showers of green magical sparks. “I destroy my four monsters, and revive in their places Amazoness Sage, Amazoness Fighter, Amazoness Princess, and Amazoness Baby Tiger.
“Summoning Amazoness Princess activates her effect, letting me add Amazoness Call from my deck to my hand.” Light shone from the Graveyard on Sour Sweet’s duel disk. “Also, now that an Amazoness monster has been destroyed, the effect of Amazoness Village activates, letting me summon an Amazoness from my deck with a Level equal or lower than that destroyed monster. I’ll target Amazoness Queen as the monster that was destroyed, and summon a second Amazoness Queen!”
Amazoness Queen materialized in her throne, her sword between her legs. In a row in front of her, Amazoness Sage, Princess, and Fighter, kneeled with their arms crossed over their chests. At the end of the row lay a small tiger with a ring on its tail (500/500). Sour Sweet grinned. “Go ahead, attack all you like. I just hope you remember my Amazoness Queen’s effect.”
“I do.” Fluttershy frowned and looked at her hand. “I can’t deal any damage to you now, but I won’t let you damage me, either.” She took a card from her hand and held it up. “I activate the Spell card ‘Swords of Revealing Light’!” Gleaming swords of pale yellow energy rained down from the sky, stabbing the ground around Sour Sweet’s monsters.
“This card remains in play for three turns, and for those three turns you’re forbidden from attacking me. With that done I end my turn.”
Sour Sweet’s duel disk beeped and ejected the card for her draw. She picked it up and looked back at Fluttershy. “Ya know, I hate to admit it, but you’ve been one of the most annoyingly persistent opponents I’ve had in a long time.” She smirked and shook her head. “I never would have expected a duel this interesting from a Canterlot student, of all people. You’ve really put on an impressive duel today.”
Fluttershy slowly smiled. “You really mean that?”
“Nah.” Sour Sweet’s smirk turned into a vicious grin. “I’m just screwin’ with ya.” She drew her hand back and slotted a card into her duel disk. “I activate the Spell card ‘Fusion Recovery’ and return Polymerization and Amazoness Swords Woman in my Graveyard to my hand, and then activate Polymerization!”
A sparking purple vortex appeared behind Sour Sweet. “I treat my Amazoness Baby Tiger as ‘Amazoness Tiger’ and fuse it with my Amazoness Fighter!” The two monsters flickered and were drawn up into the vortex.
Sour Sweet held her hand up. “Prince of the jungle and brawler of hunters, combine your ferocity and strength and awaken the predator that even hunters fear!” Her card ejected from her duel disk and she snatched it up to slap it on her duel disk. “I Fusion Summon ‘Amazoness Pet Liger’!”
A pillar of dark red light burst out of the trees behind the Amazoness Village. The earth shook and the trees parted, revealing a massive liger, pale beige with black stripes. Armor plating with spikes covered its shoulders, gleaming blue against the dark orange of its mane. It prowled up next to Sour Sweet, glaring at Fluttershy with one red eye, the other closed by a jagged scar, and roared at her (2500 → 2700/2400).
“Isn’t he something?” Sour Sweet smiled and patted the monster on one of its armored portions. “He isn’t as cuddly as your little runts, but I think he makes up for it with brutality. You should also know he’s quite protective of his Amazon trainers. You see, as long as Amazoness Pet Liger is in play, you’re forbidden from attacking any Amazoness monsters except for my liger.”
Sour Sweet held up another card. “I activate Amazoness Call now, and add from my deck to my hand ‘Amazoness Archers’. Then, I set two cards and end my turn.” The card backs shimmered in front of Sour Sweet.
Fluttershy tensed. “I know what you’re trying to do.”
“Oh?” Sour Sweet batted her eyes. “Do tell.”
“One of those facedown cards is Amazoness Archers. If I try to attack, you’ll use it to lower the power of my monsters and force them to attack you. The only target they can attack is your Liger, and Amazoness Queen would prevent my stronger monsters from destroying it, so it could crush my weaker ones.” Fluttershy shook her head. “If I were to try and attack, I’d lose this duel.”
“Bingo.” Sour Sweet smirked. “Care to try it and test that?”
“No. But I think I know a flaw in your plan.” Fluttershy drew her card and looked down at it. “You only have one copy of Amazoness Archers, because if you had drawn another copy before now, you would have used it already. You might have drawn a second copy last turn. But you would also have used Fusion Recovery before if you had it, so you probably drew that.” She smiled confidently. “One of those facedown cards is Amazoness Archers, and the other is a bluff!”
Rainbow Dash cheered. “That’s my girl!”
Rarity nodded. “She’s followed the game perfectly to deduce such a trick.”
“Well, whoop-dee-doo.” Sour Sweet scowled. “Aren’t we so clever? So what, it doesn’t matter if you know or not, the card is still there, ready and waiting.”
“Actually, it does.” Fluttershy placed her card on her duel disk. “First, I activate the Spell card ‘The Big March of Animals’!” The field shook as auras of green light lit up over her cards. “With this card, for every Beast-type monster I control, all my Beasts gain 200 attack points!”
“Nice one!” Applejack called.
The Kagemusha Samurai Tokens grew larger and their katanas longer (2600 → 3400), Ronin Raccoon’s polearm got a larger blade (1000 → 1800), and Cat Shark’s fins grew longer and sprouted claws (500 → 1300).
“So you powered them up, big deal.” Sour Sweet shrugged.
“It is, because now, my Kagemusha Samurai Tokens have enough power to take the lead in this duel!” Fluttershy pointed. “Kagemusha Samurai Token, attack and destroy Amazoness Pet Liger!” The ghostly red warrior drew its katana and charged.
Sour Sweet sneered. “You idiot! I activate the Trap card ‘Amazoness Archers’!” The card flipped up and lit up red. “This saps the attack power of all your monsters by 500 points, and forces them to attack!”
“I don’t think so!” Fluttershy called back, holding up a card. “From my hand I activate the effect of Chow Chow Chan!” A small dog wearing a red kimono appeared in front of Sour Sweet and pounced on the hologram of Amazoness Archers, forcing it back down. “By discarding Chow Chow Chan when you active a Trap while I attack, that Trap is negated!”
“And now my attack continues safely.” Fluttershy smiled. The Samurai Token reached Amazoness Liger and raised its katana over its head.
Sour Sweet’s expression of shock suddenly turned into a sneer. “One tiny little flaw in your deduction, by the way. My second facedown isn’t Amazoness Archers. But it isn’t a bluff, either!” She reached to her duel disk and tapped the screen, the card flipping over and rising into the air. “I activate ‘Trap of Darkness’!”
The front of the card shimmered and clouded over in dark purple mist. “This card lets me pay a thousand Life Points, and then I can copy the effects of a Trap card in my Graveyard.” Sour Sweet laughed. “Guess which one?”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “Oh no.”
The clouds on the front of Trap of Darkness cleared, revealing Amazoness Archers. The card lit up and shot out a flurry of arrows, striking Fluttershy’s monsters. As they growled in pain from the arrows, their eyes began to pulse red.
Sour Sweet crossed her arms. “So much for your attack.”
The Kagemusha Samurai Token (3400 → 2900) stumbled to its knees at the arrows and swung its katana into the Liger’s paw. Amazoness Liger snapped its paw up and flung the Token away.
-Sour Sweet Life Points: 1000-
The red-eyed animals on Fluttershy’s field began to creep forward, eyeing Amazoness Liger. Fluttershy bit her lip and stepped back. “It didn’t matter which card I tried to destroy. You tricked me…”
“Welcome to the big leagues. Now, where were we? Ah, yes, I think you have another attack or three to declare.”
Fluttershy looked down and whimpered at the glowing eyes of her monsters. She sank to her knees swallowed heavily. “I… I attack Amazoness Pet Liger with my other monsters.” As soon as she finished, the horde ran forward.
The second Kagemusha Samurai Token reached the Liger and stabbed its shoulder. The katana glanced off its armor and the Liger knocked it back.
Sour Sweet Life Points: 800-
Ronin Raccoon (1800 → 1300) jumped up and descended with its polearm. The Liger glared up at it and rose on its hind legs to swat it to the ground, keeping its paw on the raccoon to slam it into the dirt.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 100-
Cat Shark ran up to the Liger’s paw and jumped to bit into it. The Liger lifted its limb to glare at the cat hanging off of it by its teeth.
Sour Sweet smirked. “And this is how our duel ends; with a whimper.”
With a growl, the Liger stomped its paw, shattering Cat Shark.
-Fluttershy Life Points: 0-
Radiant Hope raised the microphone to her lips. “The first duel of the Friendship Cup is decided! The winner is Crystal Prep Academy’s Sour Sweet!” On the projection of the tournament standings, Fluttershy’s portrait greyed out and receded back into the row of Canterlot High duelists, while Sour Sweet’s lit up purple in its row.
“As if there was any doubt?” Sour Sweet gathered her cards from her duel disk and snorted. “I’m just annoyed it took so long.” She tossed her hair and marched back to the Crystal Prep bench, crossing her legs.
On the field, Fluttershy slowly pushed herself to her feet, she turned off her duel disk and began to extract her cards from it.
“You rock, Fluttershy!”
The cheer from the crowd drew her attention. The assembled CHS students cheered and clapped again, shouts of encouragement and congratulations among them. Fluttershy, her face red, bowed and hurried over to the bench where her friends were on their feet.
“Ya did good, hun,” Applejack said, nodding.
“Yeah, you whooped butt!” Pinkie chimed in.
“Thanks. I did my best.” Fluttershy put a hand on her chest. “I’m sorry I couldn’t win.”
“Don’t be.” Rainbow shook her head. “It’s one duel out of seven. We’re still in this.”
Before Sunset could add her compliments to the conversation, Hope spoke again.
“We will now choose the opponents for the next round. After the second duel there will be a brief intermission before continuing with the third duel.”
On the display the rows of students began to blink again, blue and purple cursors highlighting a portrait and enlarging it before moving on. After several seconds the cursors stopped and the portraits grew to encompass the screen.
“Our next duel is decided! Canterlot High’s Jacklyn Apple will face Crystal Prep’s Sugarcoat!”
The students clapped politely. Applejack adjusted her hat and raised her duel disk. “Well, that’s mah cue.” She nodded at the group and walked onto the field.
On the Crystal Prep bench, Sugarcoat stood and followed Applejack. When Applejack stopped at her side of the field, Sugarcoat paused next to her and turned her head. “I heard you’re one of the best duelists at this school.”
Applejack nodded. “That’s right.”
“What’s your record?”
“From the last semester? 39-4.”
“Hmph.” Sugarcoat pursed her lip. “You’ll do.” She turned forward and continued to her side of the field, swiftly spinning to face Applejack.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Applejack called, glaring.
“I would have preferred to face Sunset Shimmer. She seems the one of you most likely to pose a challenge for us. But your record is adequate enough.” Sugarcoat raised her arm in front of her. “I’d prefer you at least make me exert effort to win. I have no patience for unfulfilling duels.”
Applejack’s glare turned into a small smile. “Well then, ya came to the right girl. I’m gonna give ya a duel ya won’t soon forget!”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Sugarcoat pressed the button to activate her duel disk, the device projecting a card tray of pale purple light. Applejack activated her own disk and her tray swung outward and lit up.
Applejack’s portrait lit up on the display. “Jacklyn Apple will take the first turn.”
“Ah wish they’d stop using that name,” Applejack muttered as she picked up her opening hand. She looked at her cards and grabbed one. “Here Ah go! Ah summon ‘Predaplant Ophrys Scorpio’!” A black scorpion appeared in front of Applejack, roots on its back running up to a plant sprout behind its stinger tail (1200/800). “Ah activate Scorpio’s effect, an’ discard ‘Predaplant Cordyceps’ to Special Summon a ‘Predaplant’ monster from mah deck. Ah call out ‘Predaplant Darlingtonia Cobra’.” A snake with a body like a plant vine slithered in front of Applejack, its jaws patterned like flower petals (1000/1500).
Sugarcoat tilted her head. “Predaplants. Interesting.”
Applejack grinned. “Worried?”
“Ya should be.”
“I think not.” Sugarcoat pushed her glasses up her nose. “Continue, please.”
Applejack’s grin faded. “Just ribbin’ ya a bit. But fine, if that’s what ya want. Since Ah summoned Darlingtonia Cobra from mah deck, Ah can add a Fusion card from mah deck to mah hand.” She held her card out as it ejected. “Ah take this, ‘Polymerization’. And then Ah set a card and end mah turn.” Applejack lowered her duel disk as her card materialized. “Go for it, girl.”
“Naturally.” Sugarcoat stiffly drew, slid her card into her hand, and withdrew another. “I activate the Field Spell ‘Magnetic Field’.” Pillars of shining grey steel rose in the shape of a cross around Sugarcoat, sparks coursing along their length. “As long as this card is in play, I am allowed to revive a Level 4 or lower ‘Magnet Warrior’ monster in the Graveyard, as long as I control an Earth-Attribute Rock-type monster.”
Sugarcoat held up another card. “I summon ‘Delta the Magnet Warrior’.” Trails of electricity rose from the ground, tracing out the image of a monster that solidified in a flash of silver light. It was a spindly robot, limbs of circular steel cable connecting hands, feet, and a head of silver-blue metal with magnetic bars running along the edges. A horseshoe magnet around a triangular prism of metal made its head, yellow eyes blinking on the metal (1600/1400).
The duel disk beeped and ejected a card. “Since I just summoned Delta, I use its effect to send a Magnet Warrior from my deck to the Graveyard. I choose ‘Alpha The Electromagnet Warrior’. I then immediately use the effect of Magnetic Field to revive Alpha to my field.” The pillars of steel shot bolts of lightning to the ground next to Delta. Another robot manifested, covered in bulky grey armor with magnets on its joints. It held outs its hands and summoned a shield with a magnet, and a staff consisting of a magnet and two long electrical coils, and swung them out (1700/1100).
Sugarcoat reached to her deck. “Alpha’s summon triggers its effect, letting me add a ‘Magna Warrior’ monster from my deck to my hand. I choose this, ‘Berserkion the Electromagna Warrior’.” She placed the offered card in her hand, and then pointed forward. “And now, I attack Ophrys Scorpio with Delta The Magnet Warrior!”
Delta swung its hands together and created an electrical field between its magnetic limbs, sending a surge of lightning across the field.
Applejack flung her hand up. “Ah activate mah Trap, ‘Plant Food Chain’! This gives Ophrys Scorpion an extra five hundred points!” Yellow tendrils sprouted from the scorpion’s back and entwined around its tail. (1200 → 1700). Delta’s attack struck the scorpion and it recoiled. The electricity traveled along its body, collected at the plant tip of its tail, and fired back. Delta convulsed with the impact and exploded.
-Sugarcoat Life Points: 7900-
“First hit!” Rainbow cheered on the sidelines.
Sugarcoat frowned. “I activate the second effect of Magnetic Field. Since a monster that battled with an Earth-Attribute Rock-type monster of mine was not destroyed, it returns to its owner’s hand.” Applejack’s Scorpio turned into an orb of light and lowered into the ground, its card on Applejack’s duel disk lighting up.
“Phooey.” Applejack grumbled and picked up the card.
Sugarcoat smirked. “You won’t defeat my deck with tricks like that so easily.”
“Ah hope not, you’re Crystal Prep after all,” Applejack said with a smirk of her own.
“For now, I continue my turn. Alpha The Electromagnet Warrior attacks Darlingtonia Cobra.” Alpha ran forward, spinning its sword of magnetic coils in the air, and brought it down on the Cobra. The snake cringed and lit up in lightning before exploding.
-Applejack Life Points: 7300-
“I set two cards and end my turn.” Sugarcross crossed her arms. “Make your move.”
“Ah will!” Applejack drew with a flourish. “Ah’ll start by activatin’ ‘Predapruning’. Ah use it to revive Darlington Cobra from the Graveyard!” Applejack’s field shook and ripped open a chasm; Darlingtonia Cobra slithered out from within it. Applejack picked a card from her hand and swung it into her duel disk. “Next, Ah activate ‘Polymerization’! Ah fuse Darlington Cobra with Ophrys Scorpio!”
The crowd cheered as Applejack’s two monsters swirled together in a vortex of green light. “Ah fuse mah stinging predator and mah venomous predator, and let a vicious new plant bloom!” Applejack held her card up. “Ah Fusion Summon ‘Predaplant Chimerafflesia’!”
A large coil of vines burst from the chasm and splayed out on the field. A large circular mouth ringed with teeth and surrounded by plump pink petals was at the end of the largest of the vines, and two smaller mouths rose up beside it on smaller vines (2500/2000).
Applejack pointed at Alpha on Sugarcoat’s field. “Ah activate Chimerafflesia’s effect; Ah can target any monster on the field with a lower Level than it, and banish it!” Chimerafflesia lashed out its two mouthed vines towards Alpha.
“I chain with Alpha The Electromagnet Warrior’s effect.” Sugarcoat snapped her fingers and Alpha shattered into scrapings of metal and sparks of light. “By offering Alpha as Tribute during either of our turns, I can summon a Level 4 Magnet Warrior from the deck. I choose another copy of Delta the Magnet Warrior and summon it in defense mode.” The shrapnel of Alpha’s destruction congregated in an orb of metal and lightning, reforming into a new Delta, kneeling with a barrier of electricity around it.
“Since the target of your effect has left the field, it is nullified.” The mouths of Chimerafflesia struck Delta’s barrier and recoiled with high-pitched shrieks. “I also get to activate Delta’s effect since it was summoned. I send ‘Beta The Electromagnet Warrior’ from my deck to the Graveyard.”
Applejack pouted and shook her head. “Fine then, Ah’ll just get rid of your monster the hard way. Chimerafflesia attacks Delta!” Chimerafflesia lashed outs its tentacles again and shattered Delta into shards of metal. “Ah end mah turn.”
“And it is my turn again.” Sugarcoat drew and tapped her duel disk screen. “I’ll begin by activating my Trap card ‘Magnet Conversion’. This lets me select up to three Magnet Warriors in my Graveyard and return them to my hand.” She tapped three more times, the cards sliding out of her duel disk as she did, and then held them up. “I’ll take back Beta and my two Deltas. And then, I’ll summon Delta to the field.”
As the silver magnetic robot appeared in front of Sugarcoat in a shower of sparkles, she ignored it in favor of pressing tool prompts that popped up on her duel disk. “I activate Delta’s effect to send ‘Gamma The Electromagnet Warrior’ from my deck to the Graveyard, and then use the effect of Magnetic Field to revive Gamma.”
Sugarcoat’s newest monster manifested from the lightning of Magnetic Field. It was a short, stocky robot with thick armor in dull gold, a magnet forming its collar and a magnet mounted on the back of each large fist (800/2000). “Summoning Gamma activates its effect, letting me summon Beta from my hand. This then triggers Beta’s effect, adding ‘Alpha The Magnet Warrior’ from my deck to my hand.”
Sugarcoat smiled and looked up at her three monsters hovering in front of her. “And now, all the pieces are in place.” She pulled a card from her hand and held it up. “I banish Alpha The Electromagnet Warrior from my Graveyard, and Beta and Gamma The Electromagnet Warriors from my field, to Special Summon!” Her two monsters on the field turned into orbs of lightning and began to swirl around her, Alpha’s hologram emerging from her duel disk and turning into lightning to join them. “Come forth, ‘Berserkion The Electromagna Warrior’!” She slammed her card onto her duel disk.
The orbs of lightning around her circled higher into the air and collided in a flash of light. The orb grew larger, the air crackling, sparks shooting out of it. It gleamed and then exploded outward to reveal a massive robotic monster. Its limbs were armored in red, silver, and blue, the metal curved and gleaming. Sparks flew from electrical coils embedded in its shoulders and running along its arms. A sword formed from a metal rod with electrical coils appeared in its hand, and it thrust the blade up to summon lightning to it, a metallic clang echoing across the field (3000/2800).
Rarity gaped. “Look at the size of that behemoth!”
The robot thudded down in front of Sugarcoat, the ground shaking. She held her hand up. “I’m sure you know what happens next.” She flipped her hand out to direct her monster. “Berserkion, destroy Predaplant Chimerafflesia!”
Berserkion leapt into the air and stabbed its sword down.
Applejack shook her head. “Not today! Ah activate Chimerafflesia’s ability! When it battles, the monster it fights loses a thousand points, and Chimerafflesia gains it back!” Chimerafflesia’s two vine mouths swung forward towards Berserkion.
“I chain with my Trap card ‘Magnet Force’.” The Magnetic Field pillars around Sugarcoat lit up blue and shot beams of energy toward Berserkion. “During the turn I activate this card, my Rock and Thunder-type monsters are unaffected by your monster effects.” Sugarcoat gave a small snort. “My attack continues.”
Berserkion swatted aside Chimerafflesia’s vine mouths and impaled its sword into the main growth, shattering it in a spray of electricity.
-Applejack Life Points: 6800-
“And next, Delta attacks!” Delta held its hands up and fired an orb of lightning at Applejack. She raised her arm and braced herself as the attack hit.
-Applejack Life Points: 5200-
“I set one card and end my turn.”
Applejack lowered her arm from her face to reveal a small smirk. “Not bad. Ah was expectin’ a bigger hit, though.”
Sugarcoat frowned. “What?”
Applejack stood upright. “It was pretty obvious you were gearin’ up for somethin’ big, with how you kept searching out all those different monsters. A deck like that doesn’t focus on gettin’ all kinds of monsters into play without somethin’ to do with them. Sure enough, there he is.” She put a hand on her hip. “But only 3000 points? Ah hope he’s got a heck of an effect, because that’s plain underwhelming.”
“As a matter of fact, he does,” Sugarcoat replied, giving a small snort. “Now, will you take your turn or will you continue to insult my monster?”
“You’re right. Wonder if he can stop himself from bein’ destroyed? Only one way to find out.” Applejack drew. “First, Ah use the effect of Chimerafflesia in the Graveyard. The turn after it gets destroyed, Ah can add a Fusion card from mah deck to mah hand.” She took her card from her deck and immediately slid it into her duel disk. “Ah’ll take ‘Fusion Recovery’ and activate it immediately to get Polymerization and Predaplant Ophrys Scorpio back to mah hand. And then Ah’ll summon Scorpio to the field.”
Applejack flipped a card out from her hand as her scorpion appeared in front of her. “Ah’ll use Scorpio’s ability and discard ‘Rose Lover’ from mah hand, to summon ‘Predaplant Flytrap’ from the deck!” The ground in front of Applejack cracked open. A small spindly vine with hand-like leaves and a pair of jaws formed from two large leaves grew up from the crack (400/800).
Applejack smiled. “See that there? That’s the monster that’s gonna take out your Berserkion.”
Sugarcoat frowned. “You must be joking.”
“Nope. Here, Ah’ll show ya. Ah use Predaplant Flytrap’s special ability and place a ‘Predator Counter’ on your monster.” Flytrap opened its jaws and shot a glowing purple seed at Berserkion. The seed landed on Berserkion’s shoulder and sprouted into a tangled mass of green and purple vines, a growth in their center pulsing with purple light. “As long as that Predator Counter is on your monster, its level is sapped down to 1.”
Applejack pointed. “And now, Predaplant Flytrap attacks Berserkion!” Flytrap lowered to the ground and slithered like a serpent toward Berserkion.
Sugarcoat scowled. “Are you crazy?”
“Nope. Flytrap’s got a special ability. See, any time it battles a monster with a lower level, that monster gets destroyed instantly.”
Sugarcoat’s eyes widened. “No!”
Flytrap stopped in front of Berserkion, raised up, and opened its jaws. The Predator Counter on Berserkion glowed brighter and exploded in a cloud of green spores. The spores fell around Flytrap and it took on the same glow as the Counter. Before Sugarcoat’s eyes, Flytrap grew taller and bigger, until it towered over Berserkion and its jaws were as large as a person. It dove down and snapped its jaws over Berserkion’s head. The robot convulsed and exploded in a spray of purple and green spores.
Applejack smiled. “When Flytrap destroys a monster with that effect, its level increases by its level.” Flytrap slunk back to Applejack’s field, still glowing (Level 2 → 10).
Sugarcoat narrowed her eyes. “Berserkion’s effect activates. When he’s destroyed, his component monsters are returned from my banished zone. I summon back my three Electromagnetic Warriors in defense.” The pillars of Magnetic Zone around Sugarcoat conjured three orbs of electricity and sent them floating down in front of her to reform Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.
Sugarcoat began tapping on her duel disk screen. “With my monsters summoned their effects activate. Alpha lets me add another copy of Berserkion from my deck to my hand, Beta lets me add ‘Gamma The Magnet Warrior’ to my hand, and Gamma lets me summon Alpha The Magnet Warrior from my hand, in defense mode.” Another robot knelt in front of Sugarcoat, slender and grey with a shield and sword, the sword handle shaped like a magnet and an emblem of the same on the shield (1400/1700).
Applejack nodded. “And on your next turn you’ll get rid of the three of them to bring Berserkion back. Heck of a combo.”
“Indeed.” Sugarcoat pushed her glasses up. “And if you destroy that Berserkion I’ll just bring back my Magnet Warriors again and search out another Berserkion.”
“Yup.” Applejack put a hand on her hip. “Ah figured you had something like this planned. Searchin’ out all those different monsters with themed names? You were building up to something big.”
Sugarcoat nodded. “And you allowed me to do it because you knew you had the means to get rid of whatever it was I summoned.”
“Not a foolproof plan, but it worked.” Applejack held up two more cards. “Ah set two cards and end my turn.”
“Shall I presume those cards are something to stop me from calling Berserkion back to the field, or are they to defend your Flytrap so you can use it to destroy Berserkion on your next turn?”
“Maybe. Or Ah could be bluffing both ways. It’d be right silly of me to make moves that obvious, wouldn’t it?”
Sugarcoat stared at Applejack evenly. Slowly, she smiled. “No. You’re no fool. Even if I knew what kind of cards those are, those are your best options for a move, so of course you’d take them.”
“Just as Ah know you’re probably gonna call out Berserkion on your next turn because that’s your best move.” Applejack nodded. “But that’s the kind o’ game this is, ain’t it?”
“Move and counter-move, anticipate and intercede, until one of us can’t do it any longer and falls behind.” Sugarcoat nodded back. “For a Canterlot duelist, you’ve done a decent job keeping up with me so far.”
“Ya ain’t seen nothin’ yet, sugarcube.” Applejack raised her duel disk in front of her and leaned forward. “If you wanna win this thing, you gotta come at me with everything you’ve got!”
“And when I do, you’d better be prepared to handle it!” Sugarcoat drew with a flourish and a smirk. “This duel is only just getting started!”
Sugarcoat drew and slid her card into her hand, and then took a moment to look over the array of cards. She thought for a moment before lowering her cards and looking at Applejack evenly. “The trick now is, figuring out what manner of protection those face-down cards offer you.”
“Ain’t it?” Applejack nodded.
“Due to the rulings concerning Berserkion’s summoning, were you to negate it, if you attempted to destroy it as I summon it, its effect to revive its parts would trigger again. I would search another copy of Berserkion with the effect of Alpha The Electromagnet Warrior, and summon it back immediately. Additionally, you have already seen that destroying my Electromagnet Warriors on the field is pointless, since I can banish them from the Graveyard to summon Berserkion.” Sugarcoat shook her head. “I’d wager then your face-down cards are more to protect your Predaplant Flytrap, so you can use it to destroy Berserkion on the next turn.”
Applejack held up her hands. “Ya got me there, hun.”
“However you plan to protect it, I won’t hesitate any further.” Sugarcoat flipped out a card from her hand. “I banish Alpha, Beta, and Gamma The Electromagnet Warriors, to Special Summon Berserkion, the Electromagna Warrior!” The three robots broke apart and combined into Berserkion once again, the magnetic robot knight raising its sword and bellowing.
“I activate ‘Monster Reincarnation’, and discard Delta the Magnet Warrior to return Berserkion the Electromagna Warrior to my hand.” Sugarcoat held out a hand. “Then, I activate Berserkion’s effect! I banish Delta The Magnet Warrior from the Graveyard, and destroy Flytrap!” Berserkion pointed its sword out toward Flytrap. The ghostly image of Delta appeared over the sword and turned into a field of lightning that condensed at the tip and shot a lightning bolt.
Applejack smirked. “See, ya made a mistake there, hun – y’all think destroyin’ Berserkion is the only way to stop it. Ah reveal mah Trap card ‘Fiendish Chain’!” The Trap card flipped up and four black chains emerged from it. They snapped around Berserkion’s limbs and pulled tight, sparking. “With this card in play, Berserkion can’t attack and his effects are negated.”
Sugarcoat scowled. “There were any number of ways you could have halted Berserkion. Effect negation wasn’t one I considered likely. No matter, though. I have two other monsters.” She pointed. “Delta The Magnet Warrior attacks Predaplant Ophrys Scorpio!” Delta ran forward, lightning sparking over its right-hand magnet.
“Ah reveal mah second Trap ‘Bamboo Scrap’.” Scorpion shimmered and exploded, leaving behind two orbs of green light. Delta stopped as it reached the orbs, its magnet striking air. “By offering Scorpio as a tribute, Ah Special Summon two ‘Plant Tokens’ to your field.” The green orbs floated in front of Sugarcoat and turned into a small growths of grass, eyes peeking out from them (800/500).
“I fail to see what purpose that will serve.” Sugarcoat folded her arms. “I cannot attack your Flytrap safely, so I’ll end my turn.”
“You got it.” Applejack drew, looked at her card, and pointed across the field. “Ah use Flytrap’s ability and put a Predator Counter on Delta.” Flytrap opened its jaws and spat a green spore onto Delta; the spore struck its chest and grew into a glowing purple and green vine.
Applejack swung her hand out. “Ah attack Berserkion with Flytrap!” Flytrap chittered and slithered across the field. It reached Berserkion, grew tall enough to overshadow it, and snapped down to bite its head. Berserkion exploded, the chains binding it fading into smoke.
“A pointless effort.” Sugarcoat held her hand over her duel disk. “Berserkion’s effect activates, returning Alpha, Beta, and Gamma to my side of the field.” Sugarcoat’s duel disk beeped and flashed red. “What?” As she scowled at it, she saw movement on the ground and raised her eyes. She gasped. “Those!?” At her feet, the two Plant Tokens Applejack had summoned danced in front of her, jumping back and forth.
Applejack grinned. “Sorry, but with those two Tokens on yer field along with Alpha and Delta, you have too many monsters. Berserkion’s effect is a package deal, ya summon all of its pieces or ya summon none of them.”
Sugarcoat gave a sharp nod. “So that was the point of those tokens. Clever. But it won’t be enough to shut me down yet.”
“Ah hope not.” Applejack crossed her arms. “For now Ah set one card and end mah turn.”
“Very well.” Sugarcoat took the card that ejected from her deck. “You shut down my Berserkion summon loop. Impressive. But that won’t be enough to win.” She smiled and reached to her hand. “My deck is full of variable options. I’ll show you one now. I banish Berserkion in the Graveyard, as well as Alpha The Electromagnet Warrior and Gamma The Magnet Warrior in my hand, and Special Summon ‘Block Dragon’.”
Sugarcoat’s three monsters appeared in front of her and burst into shrapnel. The shrapnel turned vibrant colors and gathered together, forming a dragonoid monster made of plastic building blocks, sitting upright on its hind legs with claws of steel held out (2500/3000).
“I switch Alpha The Magnet Warrior into attack mode. Then, Block Dragon, attack Predaplant Flytrap!” Block Dragon drew backs its snout and then snapped it forward, spitting out a cloud of blocky, pixelated red fire.
Applejack scrunched her face. “What’ll that do? Flytrap’s effect will destroy it.”
“No, it won’t. Block Dragon’s effect prevents Rock-type monsters I control from being destroyed by card effects. Since Flytrap can’t use its effect, we continue to a normal battle.”
“Crud.” Applejack winced.
Block Dragon’s flame reached Flytrap and the monster exploded in a ball of fire.
-Applejack Life Points: 3100-
Sugarcoat snorted. “You’re wide-open to attack now. I’m sure you know what comes next. Delta the Magnet Warrior, attack directly!” Delta charged forward, a magnet hand held out.
“Ah activate ’Counter Gate’!” Applejack’s card flipped over to reveal a mirrored panel. “Mah Trap negates your attack and lets me draw a card, and if it’s a monster Ah can summon it.” She drew her card and flipped it open. “Ah got ‘Predaplant Spinodionaea’, so Ah summon it.” The mirror displayed an image of a large green lizard, its skin vibrant green like a vine. The mirror shattered and the lizard leapt onto the field with a growl. A mouth formed of plant leaves sprouted on its back and opened, the maw quivering (1800/0).
Applejack pointed at Delta. “Ah use the effect of Spinodionaea and put a Predator Counter on Block Dragon.” Spinodinaea’s rear mouth spat a plant spore onto Delta that burst into bright green and purple leaves.
“Very well. I end my turn.” Sugarcoat frowned. “You were very fortunate to have drawn that card. You’re running a bit low on Life Points, and even lower on cards.”
“Ah’s take that luck, if it holds out.” Applejack drew her card, looked at it, and smiled. “And it seems to be fer now! Ah activate ‘Fragrance Storm’. This lets me destroy a Plant monster on the field and draw a card. Ya don’t seem to want those Plant Tokens, so let me get rid of one.” Sugarcoat looked down as the token dispersed into leaves.
Applejack drew and flipped her card over. “Ah drew ‘Predaplant Moray Nepenthes’, so the effect of Fragrance Storm lets me reveal it to draw again.” She drew her second card, looked down at it, and grinned. “Well now, lookie here.” She raised her eyes to Sugarcoat. “Here’s an oldie but a goodie. Ah activate ‘Mystical Space Typhoon’! Ah use it to destroy Magnetic Field!”
Sugarcoat turned her head to either side as the pillars of Magnetic Field were engulfed in three localized wind storms, the metal crumbling and being drawn into a vortex overhead.
“Now Ah’m free to attack ya all Ah need to,” Applejack said with a grin.
“Yes, but you lack a monster of sufficient power to defeat my Block Dragon,” Sugarcoat replied.
“Wanna bet?” Applejack reached to her hand. “Ah summon Predaplant Moray Nepenthes from mah hand.” A growth of dark brown roots sprouted in front of Applejack, two vines on the top blooming into twin mouths (1600/1000).
Applejack waved the last card in her hand at Sugarcoat. “Ah’ve got one more card left. Might as well use it now.” She flipped it over, drew her arm back, and slapped her card on her duel disk. “Ah activate Polymerization, and fuse together Spinodionaea and Moray Nepenthes!” A purple vortex with tendrils of green energy appeared behind Applejack and drew in her two monsters. The vortex spun and flashed, its light growing.
“Ah fuse mah reptilian predator and my twin-headed predator, and unleash a vicious botanical nightmare!” Applejack held her card up. “Ah Fusion Summon ‘Starving Venom Fusion Dragon’!” She slammed her card on her duel disk, the card tray lighting up purple.
The ground shook as a massive plant bud grew behind Applejack and rose into the air. It shone purple and burst apart, a dragon flying out of it and circling the field. Its body was lithe and green, armored in hardened purple growths with thorns emerging from them. Orbs of orange light lit up on its claws, shoulders, and wings, pulsing with energy. The dragon stopped its flight above Applejack, a vine-like tail lashing the air, and roared (2800/2000).
The crowd cheered wildly as Applejack pumped her fist. “Since Ah just Fusion Summoned mah dragon, he gets an attack boost equal to a Special Summoned monster on your side of the field for the rest of the turn. Ah choose Block Dragon.” An aura of purple energy lit up over Block Dragon and trails of it swirled into Applejack’s dragon. The orbs on its wings grew brighter (2800 → 5300).
Applejack thrust her hand out. “Starving Venom Fusion Dragon, attack Block Dragon!”
Starving Venom Fusion Dragon swooped down and flew forward. The orbs covering its body sent streams of energy curling into its mouth, congregating into a large fireball. The fireball launched and engulfed Block Dragon, a plume of smoke shooting into the air. Sugarcoat looked away, teeth gritted, as her monster melted and exploded.
-Sugarcoat Life Points: 5100-
Sugarcoat looked back at her. “The effect of Block Dragon activates when destroyed. I can add up to three Rock-type monsters from my deck whose total levels are eight.” Her card ejected. “However, I’ll only be needing one: ‘Valkyrion the Magna Warrior’.”
Starve Venom descended back behind Applejack. “Ah end mah turn. Starving Venom loses its attack boost now.”
“Good.” Sugarcoat drew, looked at her card, and set it on her duel disk. “I activate ‘Trade-In’. I discard Berserkion the Electromagna Warrior in order to draw two cards.” She looked at her two cards and smiled. “I place one card face-down. Next, I offer three monsters as Tribute.” The image of a pink robot with magnetic wings appeared in front of her. “I combine ‘Beta The Magnet Warrior’ and ‘Gamma The Magnet Warrior’ in my hand with Alpha on the field!” They lit up blue and broke apart. Within the blue field, the pieces of the three began to gravitate together, connecting in new ways. “I Special Summon ‘Valkyrion, the Magna Warrior’!”
The blue energy field faded around a gigantic steel robot, magnets set into its joints and forming horns on its head. A large pair of wings spread in the air behind it, and a sword with a magnet for a handle was in its hand, the blade gleaming (3500/3850).
Applejack grimaced. “Well, that bites.”
“This bites even worse.” Sugarcoat snapped her fingers. “Valkyrion, attack and destroy Starving Venom.”
Valkyrion leapt into the air and held up its sword. Lightning struck the blade, casting it in a yellow glow. Its wielder flew forward and impaled the dragon, lightning shooting into its body.
“Delta the Magnet Warrior, direct attack!” Delta held up a magnet arm and shot a blast of electricity at Applejack.
-Applejack Life Points: 800-
Applejack shook her head as the smoke of the attacks cleared, the air crackling. “Ah ain’t goin’ without a fight. When Starving Venom is destroyed, he takes all your Special Summoned monsters with him.”
The ghostly image of Starving Venom flew out of Applejack’s duel disk and into Valkyrion. It convulsed and shattered, its pieces raining to the ground and fading. The Planet Token in front of Sugarcoat caught flame and withered to ash at her feet.
Sugarcoat narrowed her eyes. “Very well. I end my turn.”
“Good.” Applejack put a hand on her duel disk. “This is mah last card. Feeling lucky?”
“Yes,” Sugarcoat nodded. “This duel was entertaining, and you put in an admirable performance. But the result is decided. Now we’re just playing it out.”
“Ya think so?” Applejack tensed her arm. “Let’s just see then!” She drew with a flourish, holding her card out. She drew it back, looked at it, and grinned. “Well, let’s see how this factors in your victory plans.” She placed her card on her duel disk. “Ah activate ‘Dragon’s Mirror’!” A large mirror appeared in the air, the wings, claws, and tail of a dragon carved from its frame. “This lets me banish the Fusion parts needed to summon a Dragon-type Fusion monster from mah Graveyard, and summon it. Ah banish Predaplant Flytrap and Starving Venom Fusion Dragon!”
The mirror pulsed and glowed purple, its surface cloudy. Applejack reached to her duel disk, fingers poised. “Ah fuse mah botanical nightmare and mah carnivorous predator, to bring out a toxic terror like no other!” The mirror cracked down the center, the image of glowing purple eyes appearing in either half. “Ah Fusion Summon ‘Greedy Venom Fusion Dragon’!”
The mirror shattered and a massive dragon flew out of the frame. Its serpentine body was glowing blue, purple, and yellow, streaks of light along its limbs. Wings like the growths of a plant spread behind it, crackling with energy. It circled to float in front of Applejack, roaring down at Sugarcoat (3300/2500).
“Greedy Venom Fusion Dragon, destroy Delta!”
Greedy Venom drew back its mouth and fired a jet of purple energy. Sugarcoat raised her arm and braced herself as the blast struck Delta, washing it away.
-Sugarcoat Life Points: 3400-
“Ah end mah turn.”
Sugarcoat lowered her arm. “You were able to get off some good hits with those dragons. And to use monsters in your Graveyard for the Fusion? You’re either very lucky to have drawn that card, or very skilled to have it in your deck at all.”
“Ah prefer to think the second one, thanks.” Applejack put a hand on her hip and gave a small smirk.
“Perhaps. Fusing using monsters in the Graveyard is quite clever of you.” Sugarcoat smiled. “Please excuse me for copying you!”
Applejack’s smirk vanished. “Say what?”
“Before you end your turn, I reveal my Trap card ‘Necro Fusion’.” The students of Crystal Prep began to cheer as Sugarcoat’s card flipped up, glowing blue. “This Trap lets me conduct a Fusion Summon, by banishing the materials for it from my Graveyard.” The card generated a blue vortex, electricity crackling. “Thus, I banish Berserkion the Electromagna Warrior, and Valkyrion the Magna Warrior!”
Sugarcoat leaned forward, light reflecting off her glasses. “I combine the energy of the magnetic valkyrie and the electromagnetic berserker, to bring forth the ultimate electrical marvel of battle!” She grabbed her card from her duel disk. “I Fusion Summon ‘Imperion Magnum the Superconductive Battlebot’!” She placed the card on her holographic card tray and it lit up in rays of blue light. The fusion vortex in front of her widened as her new monster stepped out of it.
The components of both its Fusion materials – rather, the pieces of the six individual Magnet Warriors – had merged to form a robotic centaur knight, hooves beating at the ground. A massive sword with a guard shaped like a magnet was in its right hand, and a pronged cannon emerged from its left shoulder, electricity coursing along its length. Imperion Magnum swung its sword and sent out waves of energy along the ground, bellowing (4000/4000).
Imperion Magnum drew back its sword and galloped forward. It jumped up above Greedy Venom and descended, swinging its sword to point down. The blade impaled Greedy Venom between the shoulders and pinned it to the ground, Imperion Magnum leaning over it. The cannon on its shoulder hummed and fired a beam of blue energy into the dragon’s head, obliterating it.
-Applejack Life Points: 100-
“Greedy Venom’s effect activates!” Applejack called. “When it gets destroyed, so does every other monster in play!”
From the smoke of Greedy Venom’s destruction, a beam of purple energy erupted over Imperion Magnum, the robot exploding.
Sugarcoat smiled. “Thank you.”
Applejack recoiled. “What?”
The smoke began to clear, revealing two large silhouettes where Imperion Magnum was destroyed. Sugarcoat raised a hand to pushed her glasses up her nose. “When Imperion Magnum is removed from the field because of an effect of your cards, I can summon its material components from my deck.”
“Oh crud…” Applejack stepped back. “Then that means…”
“Indeed.” Sugarcoat raised her head to look up at the smoke. It dispersed, revealing the forms of Berserkion and Valkyrion towering over Applejack.
Applejack grit her teeth and turned her head away. “Get it over with.”
“You dueled well, Applejack. But not well enough.” Sugarcoat thrust her hand out. “Berserkion, Valkyrion, direct attack!”
The two magnetic warriors put their swords together and sent an entwined beam of blue and yellow electricity towards Applejack. The attacks hit and shot up into the sky in a column of light.
Sparks in the air as the light receded, Applejack collapsed to her knees, her hat falling from her ground as she let her head fall forward.
-Applejack Life Points: 0-
The holograms faded away. Sugarcoat gathered her cards from her card tray and the hologram retracted. “There is no shame in losing to a superior foe. At least you made me work for my victory.”
Applejack reached out to pick up her hat, brushing it off. “Yeah. Ya got me right good. Don’t make swallowin’ it any easier. Know what I mean?”
“No, not really.” Sugarcoat strode back to the Crystal Prep bench, not looking at Applejack further as she passed her.
Luna’s voice rang from the speakers. “We will now take a brief intermission before the next duel.”
The stands of Canterlot High and Crystal Prep began to slowly empty, the students variably heading down the street to a small strip mall, or going inside the school. On the field, Applejack stood up and turned as her friends ran up to her.
“You did great, AJ.” Rainbow grinned and held out her fist.
Applejack bumped her fist and nodded. “Thanks, Rainbow. Ah got no regrets. Played the best game I could.”
Fluttershy bit her lip. “We’re down two games, though. We both lost.”
Sunset, her eyes narrowed and her arms crossed, nodded. “Yeah, because you guys were outmatched. Their decks just move too fast and hit too hard to stand up to them.” The other five turned their heads to look at her. Sunset’s expression softened and she shook her head. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just… this isn’t right. Applejack, you’re one of the best duelists in the school, and if you hadn’t pulled out those dragons at the end, she would have crushed you.”
“Welcome to the Friendship Cup,” Rainbow snorted. “You should have seen it two years ago. We didn’t win a single duel, so once we lost four duels the first day, they called off the second day’s duels.”
“Well, they tried to,” Rarity said gently. “Principal Sombra was adamant the duels continue, and they did. We lost them as well.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Sunset looked at the table where the principals and vice-principals were sitting. “If he wants to give his students an ego stroke, there should be ways to do it without having to humiliate us.”
Pinkie held up her hands. “Whatcha gonna do? It’s not like we can just stomp over there and start screaming in his face aaaand there she goes.”
The five watched as Sunset began walking towards the principals.
Applejack shook her head. “Ah ain’t gonna stick around for this. Anyone wanna head inside and grab a snack?”
Pinkie grinned “Ooooo, the third-floor vending machines by the stairs restocked on Thursday! Let’s go!” She grabbed Rainbow and Applejack by the wrists and pulled them towards the school, leaving Fluttershy to follow. Rarity glanced back at Sunset before going with her friends.
Sunset stepped on the grass in front of the table. Celestia was talking to Luna while Sombra worked on a laptop and Radiant Hope was doing some sort of paperwork.
Celestia looked up from Luna. “Ah, yes, Sunset?”
“Pardon my interruption, but I’d like to speak to you for a moment about the Friendship Cup?”
“Certainly. What is it?”
“What is the point of the Friendship games?”
Celestia swept a hand over the assembled crowd. “We like to foster goodwill and community between our two schools, Sunset. Canterlot High and Crystal Prep are the two largest high schools in the region. It’s a friendly interschool rivalry no different than any other, simply expressed through Duel Monsters instead of athletics or grades. It’s a day where both our students can mingle together and bond over a game they both enjoy.”
“But it isn’t.” Sunset pointed at the scoreboard displaying the 2-0 record. “As I hear it, every year Crystal Prep wipes the floor with Canterlot High, and I’m seeing it happen again now. That doesn’t seem like much of a friendly rivalry.”
“Celestia,” Sombra said, raising his eyes from his laptop. “If I may interject for a moment?”
“Of course, Principal Sombra.”
Sunset turned to Sombra and faltered a moment as he looked at her, his green eyes piercing her teal. “Ms. Shimmer, the wins or losses of either school are irrelevant. What is important is the sense of school pride one gets from their showing in this tournament. It is a day when, no matter what tournaments we may have as separate institutions among our students, we can unite them as one against a greater opponent.”
“But we always lose,” Sunset stressed. “And I heard that even when we’ve lost all four duels the first day, you’ve insisted on holding the next three, even though the tournament is a lost cause at that point. What’s the point in dueling your students when they’re clearly better than us and are obviously going to win?”
Sombra frowned, his brow creasing. “I must say, Ms. Shimmer, for a champion duelist you seem to have a very pessimistic view on this game.”
Sunset was taken aback. “What?”
“True, our students have access to better cards due to their personal wealth, and our educational facilities focus on Duel Monsters and thus they know the game better. But this is hardly a promise of victory, as past, individual losses of our duelists will attest.” Sombra narrowed his eyes slightly. “Besides, if I may ask you on a personal level – what sort of attitude is it to have, where if victory is unlikely yet not impossible, you would give up on those grounds? That’s hardly a constructive attitude, especially in a game like Duel Monsters.”
Sombra folded his hands together and cupped them on the table as he leaned forward. “There is a saying among some, ‘the duel isn’t over until the last card is played’. I believe very thoroughly in that idea. One can never be certain of victory or defeat at any time, for until one’s Life Points reach zero, any card they draw could reverse a loss, or leave them floundering despite having a lead. Tournaments are the same way. True, there have been occasions where Crystal Prep has won all four day one duels. But then what if Canterlot High were to win all three duels on the next day?”
Sunset shifted her weight between feet. “I… I guess that’s a fair point. But—”
“Not to mention that, on an individual basis, there is one’s performance to take pride in.” Sombra smiled. “I did see your friends congratulate each other on their dueling so far, and rightfully so. Even if they did not win, they have put in an impressive performance against us, and I can promise you that my duelists do not make errors or go easy on opponents. Are they wrong to take pride in themselves based only on the outcome of their duels and not on the hard-fought game they played up to that point?”
“You’re twisting what I said.”
“I am merely paraphrasing a supposition I believed you provided, but perhaps I misunderstood. My apologies, then. Allow me to restate my points. Even if victory is unlikely, it is worth playing on the chance it will yet be attained, and that is true both of a duel and a tournament. And the outcome of these duels does not matter, just the skill one shows in them. If Crystal Prep were to lose today, I would be disappointed, but it would not bother me too greatly. All I care about is enjoying the duels you and your friends put on and seeing how you fare against my duelists, and that has always been my desire in the Friendship Cup year after year.”
Sombra sat back. “Is that an acceptable answer to your original question?”
Sunset paused, Sombra looking at her and waiting for an answer. How did he turn this around on me like that? I came over here ready to yell at him and put him in his place, and now I’m agreeing with him. She took a deep breath. “It’ll do.” It felt difficult to put ambiguity into her response.
“Excellent.” Sombra stood up. “I’m glad we could assuage your concerns. Good luck to you when your time to duel comes. I’m quite interested in what you have to show me.” He looked to Celestia and gave a small bow of his head. “If you’ll excuse me, Celestia, I have business I would attend to before our intermission is ended.”
“Thank you. Hope, if you would?” Sombra nodded at Celestia, then at Sunset, and turned and walked towards the parking lot. Radiant Hope stood up and followed closely behind him.
Sunset let out a breath. “That was scary.”
Sunset did a double take and looked at Celestia. “Huh?”
“He does have quite a way with words, doesn’t he?” Celestia raised her eyebrows. “I often feel our conversations are framed in the context of me being a subordinate, even if that is hardly the case. He can be quite a presence when he wishes to be.” She shook her head and looked up at Sunset. “Even so, he’s not wrong. I know it can be frustrating for our students to do so poorly here, but it is worth trying, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Sunset sighed. “It just doesn’t seem fair that they’re so much better than us.”
“I know, but that’s out of my hands. Even if we offered more education on the advanced mechanics of the game, the students here don’t have access to the cards Crystal Prep does, and opening the school’s duel rules to those advanced mechanics would mean that those of you who can afford those better cards will start winning more often.”
“And then we’re in the same situation as we are with Crystal Prep now.” Sunset nodded. “I get it. It sucks, but it’s as fair as you can make it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still suck.”
Celestia gave her a small smile. “I won’t say you’re wrong, Sunset. What I will say is that you and your friends are some of the best duelists we’ve seen in years. If anyone could win the Friendship Cup, it’s you. I feel better about our chances this year than any other in recent memory.”
“Thank you, Principal Celestia.” Sunset blushed and returned her smile. “That means a lot.” She looked at the Crystal Prep bench. “I just wish I could focus on the tournament and not keep thinking about—” She stopped herself.
Applejack pressed the keypad to confirm her selection and the coils of the vending machine turned, pushing a chocolate bar forward until it fell to the bottom. She squatted down and reached her hand into the slot to retrieve the treat. “Ah should cut back on this kind o’ junk food. Granny says it’s gonna make me fat.”
Pinkie let out a huff. “Give up candy? What kind of madwoman is she?”
“Ah gotta stay healthy, Pinkie. Ah work the farm fields.”
Rarity nodded. “And not everyone has the same sweet tooth you do.” She stepped up to the machine and smiled as she pressed her coins into the slot. “I think some baked snack chips will do for me.” The coils turned and Rarity crouched to grab the bag from the slot.
“Who ya think’s gonna duel next?” Rainbow asked, the five walking down the hall.
Applejack shrugged. “It’s random, who knows?”
“I’d hope Flash or Sunset comes next.” Rarity gave a small sigh. “I have no doubt either of them could pull out a win without difficulty. The rest of us have it more difficult.”
Rainbow nodded. “Flash for sure, Sunset, probably.” She snickered. “I just had the thought. Know what would be funny and cool for her to get matched with?”
“Twilight?” Fluttershy whispered.
“Er, no.” The group turned as Fluttershy fell out of step. She pointed to the door to the computer lab. The group came back and peeked in the window.
Twilight sat at one of the computers in the otherwise empty room, typing rapidly. She leaned closer to the screen and adjusted her glasses, then reached into her pocket and took out her phone.
“What’s she doing?” Rainbow whispered.
“It seems she’s making a phone call,” Rarity replied.
Twilight finished tapping her screen and raised her phone to her ear.
A humming and a high-pitched beeping filled the air. Four sets of eyes turned from the window.
“Pinkie, your skirt is vibrating,” Rainbow hissed.
“It does that sometimes, no biggie.”
Rarity groaned. “It’s your phone!”
“Oh. Should have been specific.” Pinkie reached into the pocket of her skirt and pulled out her phone. “What’s up? Uh-huh… no I’m not busy, I’m just in the hall with my friends watching you.”
Inside the computer lab, Twilight turned her head to the door.
“Hi!” Pinkie grinned and waved her hand. Inside the lab, Twilight’s mouth moved. Pinkie nodded. “Sure!” She opened the door and stepped into the lab. “Is this better?”
“Yes.” Twilight hung up her phone and slipped it into her pocket. Pinkie looked at her phone with a pout as the call disconnected.
“Hi,” Rainbow raised her hand and waved.
“Hello.” Twilight looked between them. “I had wanted to ask Pinkie a few questions, but now I’m wondering why you were spying on me?”
Rarity stepped forward, hands clasped over her front, and smiled. “So sorry for that, dear, we didn’t mean to snoop. We were just wondering what you were doing.”
“Well, that’s what I wanted to ask Pinkie about. I see here she maintains the school’s duelist database and thought she could answer a question.” Twilight gestured her hand to her computer. The five came closer and saw the home page for Canterlot High on her screen, currently on the directory page. “I was looking at the duelist profiles of you five. I hadn’t heard of you before this tournament and was wondering why you were chosen to compete.”
“That’s easy.” Rainbow pulled a chair over and sat down, draping her arm over the back. “We’re awesome!”
“I see.” Twilight stared at her blankly.
Applejack rolled her eyes. “What Rainbow means is that we were friends with the winner of the last tournament and the school likes us.”
“Ah. That makes sense.” Twilight nodded. “The win-loss records for some of you didn’t seem to reflect what I’d expect from tournament entrants, so I assumed it was popularity.”
“What’s that mean?” Rainbow asked, narrowing her eyes. “You saying’ we ain’t good enough to compete against you?”
“No?” Twilight scrunched her face and shook her head. “I simply mean that, some of you, anyway, don’t seem to have a win-loss record consistent with being the school’s best duelists.”
“How can you tell that?” Fluttershy asked.
“While I was browsing I looked at the profiles of several other students here and did some rough calculations to get a ranking for each of them, presuming the one I looked at with the highest ratio, Flash Sentry, is the top ranked. For example, you would rank approximately in the thirtieth percentile.”
Fluttershy blinked. “You figured that out by looking at our website profiles?”
“Yes. Though, I didn’t have time to look at all of them and based this on a small sample size. My conclusions are being presented with a considerable margin of error.”
“I noticed something else on this site, too” Twilight turned to the computer and clicked on another page, bringing up a poster for the Autumn Crown Tournament. “The website claims that a duelist named ‘Wind Whistler’ was the victor of your last tournament. But I can’t find a record of her in the directory and no one I ask about her seems to know who I’m talking about.”
“Yeah, well…” Rainbow rubbed the back of her neck. “It turns out it was someone faking like they were a new student and just happened by that weekend, and they wanted in the tournament, so Celestia let them. Then when it ended, they never showed up again.”
Pinkie nodded. “I blanked out their profile and put an alias in.”
Twilight frowned. “So the winner of the previous tournament was someone who entered under false pretenses? Who? I know several of you dueled them and you just said you were friends with them.”
Rarity shook her head. “It’s… difficult to explain.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Applejack interjected. “The point is they ain’t here now, so ya don’t need to worry about that. What we should all be focusin’ on is the tournament now.”
“Quite.” Twilight nodded. “I’m disappointed the duels have been one-sided so far. The tournament is more interesting to watch when Canterlot is able to challenge us properly.”
“Eh, we’ve done fine.” Applejack smiled and put her arm around Fluttershy. “We did our best, got no regrets.”
Fluttershy smiled. “At least we had fun trying.”
“Most institutions that encourage a competitive atmosphere use the Expert rules,” Twilight said. “If you want to have a better chance defeating our school next year, perhaps you should consider asking Celestia to implement a rule change for tournament play.”
“Casual is more fun!” Pinkie said. “That’s why they call it casual, otherwise they’d call it ‘Meanie No-Fun Rules’ or ‘Serious Business Rules’.”
Twilight gave a small smile. “Not inappropriate names. We take dueling very seriously at Crystal Prep. It’s the launching point for a lot of careers in Duel Monsters.” Her smile faded. “If you don’t mind me saying, if any of you wanted to pursue a future as a professional duelist, it would help you a lot if you enrolled at Crystal Prep.”
“Yeah, right.” Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Like any of us could afford it.”
“There are scholarship programs if you show skill in dueling or have advanced academic knowledge. That’s how I got admitted.”
“Really?” Rarity raised her eyebrows.
“Yes.” Twilight smiled proudly. “I was in my final year of elementary school when I began development of an algorithm to calculate a value I called ‘duelist level’. It took into account multiple factors in deck building, including consistency, speed, field control, and hand control, to produce statistics on how effective a duelist’s deck is. Principal Sombra heard of my program and met with me, and after I explained to him how it worked, he invited me to attend Crystal Prep.”
“Lucky.” Applejack nodded. “Did ya have to beat him in a duel or something?”
“What? Oh, no, no.” Twilight rapidly shook her head. “I wouldn’t stand a chance against Principal Sombra. Besides, I don’t duel much, even before designing my program.”
“Why not?” Fluttershy asked.
“There’s little point to it for me.” Twilight held up her duel disk. “I’ve looked at hundreds of archetypes and themes, and Lightsworn cards have the most preferable combination of speed, versatility, and consistency that I’ve seen. Once I made the choice to focus on them, I spent hundreds of hours fine-tuning my deck to precision. At this level of refinement, I just need to know an opponent’s deck type to determine the probability of being able to defeat them or not. Actually dueling them is unnecessary.” She gave a proud smile as she finished.
“Wow.” Rainbow scrunched her face. “That sounds so boring.”
Twilight’s smile vanished. “Boring?”
“You’re telling me!” Pinkie exclaimed. “There’s no fun in it if you always know how duels are going to go! That’s what makes it exciting!”
Twilight pushed her glasses up her nose. “I’m sorry, but I don’t participate in this game for fun. I study to advance my knowledge of the game and I take my efforts very seriously.”
“Why even bother if you don’t enjoy it?” Rarity asked.
Twilight paused and blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“If you don’t enjoy Duel Monsters, why spend any time on it at all?”
“I didn’t say that.” Twilight shook her head. “I merely enjoy it on a different level. Each deck is a variable and each duel is a problem to be solved.” She smiled, her eyes distant. “It’s like when your parents get you a book of math problems for your birthday and you can’t help but stay up all night solving them.”
“We all know that feel,” Rainbow muttered.
Twilight began to continue, but her phone vibrated. She took hold of it, looked at the screen, and stiffened, her eyes wide. “Pardon me, I have to go.” She stood and bowed her head towards them. “Thank you for speaking to me.” She stepped around them and briskly walked out of the room.
Rarity let out a breath. “Well, that was an unexpected encounter.”
Rainbow stuck out her tongue and faked a gag. “I’d say more like a reminder why Crystal Prep sucks. Just talking about how smart she is and how good her deck is.”
“She’s nothing like the Twilight we knew,” Fluttershy said.
Pinkie crossed her arms. “Did you hear what she said about changing the rules? She’s no fun at all! She’s the opposite of fun, she’s like… some, not-fun, no-fun, non-fun-having… duelist person.”
Applejack slapped her forehead. “Pinkie?”
“She wants fun? I can give her fun.” Rainbow smirked and punched her palm. “Whoever I’m against, I’m gonna squash them! We ain’t outta this yet.”
“Ah’m more wonderin’ what she was thinkin’ comin’ here and askin’ us questions like that.” Applejack frowned. “Good thing ya erased Twilight’s duel profile, Pinkie. That coulda been a lot of tricky questions.”
Pinkie nodded crisply. “Celestia told me to. She said that if Twilight wasn’t actually registered in the school then she should be DQ’d.” Pinkie held up her hands. “Not like it matters now, right?”
Twilight stepped out of the doors to the parking lot of Canterlot High and descended the short flight of concrete steps to the asphalt. As she crossed the parking lot back to the entrance to the field, the limousine from Crystal Prep opened its back door.
“Twilight.” Twilight raised her head at the sound of her name and looked to see Radiant Hope holding the door open. She gestured a hand to the limo. Twilight swallowed, already knowing who was waiting in the back seat, yet she obediently came forward and rounded Hope and the door to slide into the seat. The door was shut behind her.
Alone in the limo, Twilight raised her eyes to Principal Sombra and found him looking at the window separating the driver’s seat from the passengers, his fingers steepled before his face. In the dim light of the limo, his bright green eyes almost seemed to be glowing.
“For what purpose did you access the school database?” Sombra whispered.
Twilight licked her suddenly dry lips. “I was confused as to why duelists with such poor dueling statistics had been chosen to represent the school.”
“I wanted to know who had won their Autumn Crown Tournament. I could find no record of who it might have been and all video recordings of the tournament have been removed from the internet.”
“And…” Twilight hesitated. “That’s all.”
Sombra turned his head to look past Twilight. She looked out the window next to her and saw the girls she had been talking to leave the school and walk across the parking lot, not paying any mind to the limo. Sombra turned his head forward again and closed his eyes. “I did say to you once before that we should be honest with each other and with ourselves, did I not, Twilight?” Twilight quickly nodded. “Please, then, divulge the real reason you spoke to them.”
Twilight paused and looked at the floor of the limo, her eyes sweeping around as she thought over her answer. “I… the winner of their previous tournament has had their identity covered up, I can find no information on them. I know several of those girls dueled the winner, and they claim to be friends with them, but they refused to identify them. They just said it was a student who was disqualified after because they weren’t a real student. And now the five of them are entered in the tournament despite the fact their records and skill level make them extremely poor choices for representatives.”
She shook her head. “It’s all highly suspicious.”
“You suspect further ill manner of goings-on?”
“Maybe. We already know Sunset Shimmer is cheating, somehow. This could be part of it. Or not. I’m not sure.” Twilight inhaled. “The point is, something strange is happening with Canterlot High’s duelists. Something they’re aware of and covering up and refuse to talk about.”
“Perhaps. It is also possible they are embarrassed that an anonymous duelist entered the tournament and defeated them all under a false pretense. It would reflect badly on both student and faculty if an unknown element were to insert themselves into the situation without difficulty, sweep the tournament brackets, and then leave immediately after. Or, perhaps, the student who won did not desire to have the fame that comes with their win and asked their identity be concealed.”
“Both of those scenarios make sense. But I’m not sure that’s the case.” Twilight furrowed her brow. “There’s something very strange going on at this school. I can’t figure out what, but I know it isn’t my imagination. Every scenario I begin to construct to explain the oddities in their behavior, they fall apart the more I investigate.”
“An investigation?” Sombra raised an eyebrow. “You seem to be taking these things rather personally, Twilight.”
“Challenging problems are the best kind. It makes finding the answer more rewarding.”
Sombra gave a small smile. “You dislike being unable to understand things. You have a very rational mind, it is what makes you such a good student. But if you practice strict adherence to what one can only observe with the rational mind, you close yourself off to other possibilities. It would do you very well to accept that, perhaps, you are overthinking this.”
Twilight frowned. “I know. But I can’t help it. There’s a lot of strange things going on at this school. And I know that Sunset Shimmer and her cards are at the center of it. I just can’t figure out how.”
“I agree entirely.”
Twilight perked up and looked at Sombra. “Really?”
Sombra nodded, his eyes still forward. “Yes. Certainly, there is something amiss here that warrants further study. And I do believe that Sunset Shimmer plays a critical role in the suspicious elements you have noted.” He turned his eyes to Twilight. “But for now, if you please, avoid further socialization with those girls. If they are up to some sort of nefarious cover-up, it would do us no good to hint we suspect them, and any questioning of them on the fact would serve to that end.”
“Do not apologize, you have done nothing wrong.” Sombra reached up a hand and knocked on his window. The door opened immediately. “For now, let us return to the field, Twilight. Please do not fret about this further. I’d like you to keep your mind on the dueling.”
“Yes, sir.” Twilight bowed her head. Sombra stepped out of the limo and moved back, extending a hand to help Twilight to her feet as she emerged.
Hope looked at her watch. “It is time to end the intermission. I’ll go inform Vice-Principal Luna.” She walked briskly onto the field and across the grass.
Sombra gently put a hand on Twilight’s back. “Come. Let us see who is next to play.”
Twilight glanced up at Sombra. “Do you really plan to look into my suspicions about them?”
“Indeed. I have a working theory as to what may have happened, but I lack sufficient evidence to support it.”
“Is there anything I could do to help?”
“Not at the moment, no.” Sombra smiled and looked down at her. “But I appreciate your willingness. I do believe the time will come soon when you will be of great help to me, Twilight.”
Twilight blushed. “Thank you.”
The two reached the field and Sombra removed his hand, Twilight sitting down.
“Now that all duelists and officials are present, we can choose our next duelists!” On the display screen, the five remaining duelists for either side had their portraits begin to flash.
Sunset stared at Sombra as he sat down next to Hope. Was he talking to Twilight just now?
There was a fanfare and the crowds cheered. A high-pitched squeal drew Sunset’s attention to the bench next to her, where a certain large puff of pink hair had just inflated larger.
“The next round of the Friendship Cup is set! Canterlot High’s Pinkamena Pie shall face Crystal Prep’s Lemon Zest!”
“The next round of the Friendship Cup is set! Canterlot High’s Pinkamena Pie shall face Crystal Prep’s Lemon Zest!”
“Yay!” Pinkie jumped up into the air, a burst of confetti shooting from her shoulders. “My turn!”
Lemon Zest stood up from the Crystal Prep bench and stretched. “About time, I was getting bored.” She began to walk out onto the field, when there was a rush of pink and blue in front of her.
“Hi there!” Pinkie grinned in Lemon’s face and grabbed her hand to quickly shake it. “I’m Pinkie Pie!”
“Uh, yo,” Lemon smiled back, grimacing as Pinkie shook her hand hard. “I’m Lemon Zest.”
“Cool. So like, on a scale of one to ten, how fun do you want this duel to be?” Before Lemon Zest could even open her mouth to respond, Pinkie held up a hand. “Trick question, the answer is always ten!”
Lemon grinned. “Dude, you’re totally speaking my language right there. I’m always tuned to ten. Sometimes even that’s not high enough.”
“I know, right!?”
“Will the two duelists please take their positions at the field?” Luna’s voice droned from the speakers.
“C’mon, let’s go.” Lemon nodded over Pinkie’s shoulder.
“Oh, yeah. Over there, gotcha!” Pinkie winked and skipped over to her spot on the dueling field. She held up her duel disk and activated it, swinging out her arm as it clicked together and lit up.
Lemon walked to the other end of the field, turned, and held up her arm. She pressed the activation button on her duel disk and a tray of bright green energy projected from the front.
“Hope you’re ready for this!” Lemon called. “Ya seem cool, which is why I ain’t gonna go easy on ya!”
“You got it!” Pinkie nodded.
“Let the third duel of the Friendship Cup begin!”
-Pinkie Pie Life Points: 8000-
-Lemon Zest Life Points: 8000-
On the display board the portraits of the two flashed, then stopped with Lemon’s lit up. “Crystal Prep will take the first turn.”
“Sweet.” Lemon drew her opening hand from her duel disk and fanned them out. She smiled wide and pumped her fist. “Already loving it!” She grabbed a card and slapped it on her duel disk. “I activate the Spell card ‘One for One’. This lets me discard a monster card from my hand, and then I can summon a Level 1 monster from my deck.”
Lemon twirled a card in her hand and slotted it into her duel disk, then tapped a prompt on her screen. “I’ll get rid of ‘Morphtronic Cameran’ and summon ‘Morphtronic Celfon’!”
A large yellow cellphone appeared in front of Lemon Zest. A sheen of light washed over it and it broke apart, transforming into a large yellow robot with bright pink eyes. The screen of the phone cracked down the center and swung back, forming a pair of wings (100/100).
Lemon tapped on her duel disk again. “I activate Celfon’s ability. Once per turn I can roll a die, and whatever the result is, I can reveal that many cards on the top of my deck and summon a Level 4 or lower Morphtronic monster among them.” Lemon snapped her fingers. “Go, Morphtronic Speed Dial!”
Celfon thrust out its chest, made up of the top half of the phone form’s dial pad. The numbers lit up in rapid sequence before stopping on ‘4’. “Awesome!” Lemon grabbed four cards from her duel disk, looking over them, and nodded. “I’ll bring out ‘Morphtronic Remoten’!”
A white remote control for a video player appeared next to Celfon. The screen blipped to life to show a pair of eyes as arms and legs cords shot out of its sides (300/1200).
Lemon nodded at Remoten. “Next I’ll use Remoten’s ability. By banishing a Morphtronic monster in the Graveyard, a Morphtronic with the same Level can be added from my deck to my hand. I’ll get rid of Cameran and get a second one out, and then I’ll summon him.”
The card ejected from her duel disk and she swiftly slotted it on the card tray. A large red camera appeared in front of her and transformed into another robot, the flash of the camera mounted on the back of its arm (800/600).
Pinkie gaped. “Those monsters are so cool! Oo, oo, do they combine into one super-duper-awesome giant robot?”
“No. But they do combine into something even better!” Lemon held her hand up. “I tune my Level 3 Morphtronic Remoten with my Level 2 Morphtronic Cameran!” Morphtronic Remoten burst apart into three glowing green rings. The rings floated around Cameran and began to spin, while Cameran glowed yellow.
Lemon smiled. “I tune the frequencies of my remote control and my camera together, and home in on the signal of a high-tech prodigy!” She brought her arm back and raised her duel disk, her hand poised over the back of the device. A card snapped out from it and she grabbed it and placed it on her duel disk. “Synchro Summon! Come on out, Level 5, ‘T.G. Hyper Librarian’!”
The rings around Cameran contracted and then exploded out, revealing Lemon’s new monster. A tall, slim humanoid figure in a white and black robe stood in front of her, a white cloak trailing down its back. It raised its head, concealed by a military cap and glasses, and snapped an arm out, a book tracing out in green light and then popping into existence in its hand (2400/1800).
Lemon lifted a card in her hand. “Next, I’ll banish Morphtronic Remoten from my Graveyard, to Special Summon ‘Morphtronic Smartfon’.” A slim smartphone materialized in Lemon’s line of monsters and snapped apart, the pieces within unfolding to form hands and feet. The top of the phone popped up, revealing a slim pair of red eyes (100/100).
“I’ll activate Smartfon’s effect. It’s kinda like Celfon’s effect, but instead of summoning a Morphtronic monster from the deck, it adds a Morphtronic card into my hand. Go, Morphtronic Messenger!” Smartfon’s screen on its chest began cycling through numbers, stopping on a two.
Lemon picked up her two cards, frowned, and held them out. “My two cards are ‘Power-Up Adapter’ and ‘Air Cracking Storm’. Since neither is a Morphtronic card, I have to add them back to my deck.” She placed the cards on top and her deck automatically reshuffled.
“Aw, that sucks for you,” Pinkie pouted.
“Yeah…” Lemon held up her hands. “But don’t worry, I’ve got one more move anyway. I’ll tune my Morphtronic Celfon with my Morphtronic Smartfon!” Smartfon turned into another green ring that rose up and lowered over Celfon. Lemon extended a hand into the air. “I tune the frequencies of my cellphone and my smartphone together, and home in on the signal of a high-tech speedster!” She grabbed her card from her duel disk and put it on the tray. “Synchro Summon! Rolling out, Level 2, ‘Formula Synchron’!”
Lemon’s new monster was shaped like a race car, with legs emerging from below it and arms from the sides between the wheels. It stood next to Hyper Librarian and rested its hands on the car part that formed its chest (200/1500).
“When I summon Formula Synchron, its effect activates, letting me draw a card. Also, performing a Synchro Summon activates the effect of Hyper Librarian, letting me draw again.” Lemon picked up her two cards and folded them into her hand with the rest. “I think that’s good for now, so I’ll end my turn.”
“Cool!” Pinkie grinned as she drew. She looked at her card and held it out. “I pay a thousand Life Points, and activate the Spell card ‘Toon World’!”
A shower of sparks and a cloud of pink smoke billowed into the air behind Pinkie. A large green book with cartoon characters spun out of it and hurled into the air, landing in front of her and springing open to reveal a pop-up city rising from the pages.
-Pinkie Pie Life Points: 7000-
“What the heck is that!?”
Pinkie paused and turned her head to see Applejack staring at her. “Pinkie, you said you had a fancy new deck with Xyz monsters and stuff!”
Pinkie shrugged and held up her hands. “Eh, it wasn’t really clicking with me. This deck is way more fun! It has cartoon dragons in it! Cartoon dragons make everything better!”
Applejack slapped a hand to her face. Rarity slumped forward. “She’s going to lose, isn’t she?”
“Yup,” Rainbow muttered.
“Anyway, where was I?” Pinkie turned back to Lemon Zest and looked down at her hand. “I summon ‘Toon Masked Sorcerer’!”
A circular portal in front of Pinkie opened and a purple and red mist poured out, solidifying into the shape of a humanoid figure in a purple robe with a long, bright red shock of hair. The figure shook its head, its face covered by a bright blue mask, and sat down in front of Pinkie (900/1400). “I guess that’s it, so I’ll set three cards down and end my turn.”
“That’s it?” Lemon put a hand on her hip and frowned. “Come on, dude, gimme something to work with here!”
“Sorry, bad hand.” Pinkie shrugged again. “I didn’t have any other monsters to summon yet. Maybe next turn!”
Rainbow’s eye twitched. “Does she even know this is a tournament!?”
“That sucks. Here, let me pick up the slack!” Lemon drew and reached to her hand. “I activate the Spell card ‘Junk Box’. This lets me revive a Morphtronic in my Graveyard, but it’ll be destroyed at the end of my turn. I revive Morphtronic Celfon.” The hologram of Lemon’s Spell card broke apart into scrap metal that rapidly reformed into the yellow robot.
“I activate Celfon’s effect, Morphtronic Speed Dial!” The six numbers on Celfon’s chest lit up and stopped on 3. Lemon picked up the three cards on her deck and flipped one out. “I summon ‘Morphtronic Magnen’ in defense mode.” A blue horseshoe magnet materialized in front of her and turned a pale blue, light gleaming on its surface (800/800).
“And now, I tune my Level 1 Morphtronic Celfon with my Level 2 Formula Synchron!” Lemon held her hand up as Formula Synchron turned into green rings that encircled Celfon. “I tune the frequencies of my cellphone and my speedster together, and home in on the signal of a musical marvel!” She placed her card on her duel disk with a grin. “Synchro Summon! Rock on, Level 3, ‘Martial Metal Marcher’! I summon you in defense mode!”
A squat robot built of brass rose in front of Lemon, its body formed from old musical instruments, with arms made from horn pieces and the pipes of an organ mounted on its back. A screen on its chest lit up and displayed volume levels as it raised its arms and blasted a soundwave out (500/2200).
“Summoning Martial Metal Marcher activates the effect of my Hyper Librarian, letting me draw a card. I also get to use my Metal Marcher’s own ability, which is to revive a Tuner monster in my Graveyard with its effects negated. So Formula Synchron is coming right back.” Lemon drew as Formula Synchron rose next to the Metal Marcher.
“Next, time to attack!” Lemon pointed across the field. “T.G. Hyper Librarian, take out that Toon!” Hyper Librarian brought its hands together and formed an orb of pale blue light. The orb sparked and shot a beam of energy across the field.
“I don’t think so!” Pinkie called. “I activate my Continuous Trap card ‘Toon Defense’!” A long wooden crook extended of the Toon World book and hooked around Masked Sorcerer. “When you try and attack a Level 4 or lower Toon monster, I can change it to a direct attack instead!” The crook pulled Masked Sorcerer into the book, leaving Hyper Librarian’s energy attack streaming towards Pinkie.
“So now you’ll just take the full force of the hit!” Lemon cried.
“Nope! I use my second Continuous Trap ‘Spirit Barrier’!” A glowing field of yellow energy encircled Pinkie. Hyper Librarian’s attack struck in a shower of sparks and dispersed. “With this Trap, as long as I control a monster, any damage I take from your attacks is reduced to zip-zilch-zeee-ro!”
Lemon grinned. “So I can’t attack your monsters with that first Trap, and my attacks don’t hurt you because of the second. Not bad.”
“Thanks!” Pinkie smiled back as Masked Sorcerer emerged from Toon World, dancing from either foot.
“Time to step it up then.” Lemon Zest held out a hand. “I end my Battle Phase, and then, I tune my Hyper Librarian with my Formula Synchron!”
Formula Synchron’s twin green rings floated over Hyper Librarian. The monster inside sparked as metal began to gather around it and circle it. “I tune the frequencies of my librarian and my speedster together, and home in on the signal of a mechanical powerhouse!” The metal condensed around Hyper Librarian and lit up. Lemon pumped her fist. “Synchro Summon! Take flight, Level 7, ‘Power Tool Dragon’!”
The metal shell shattered, revealing a large, gold, mechanical dragon with silver plates of metal running down its back to its tail. Its right arm was an electrical screwdriver bit, and its right a large shovel claw. Red eyes flashed to life and it flew over the field, circling behind Pinkie to return to Lemon and alighting beside her (2300/2500).
“Awesome!” Pinkie cheered. “I was hoping you’d pull out a big baddie monster like that!”
“You were?” Lemon replied, confused.
“Yup, because now I get to activate this! My Trap card ‘Toon Mask’!” Pinkie’s Trap shimmered and turned into a large mask of a cartoon ogre. “This card lets me choose a monster on your field, and then I get to summon a Toon monster from my deck with the same level!”
The mask oozed black ink from behind it, and the ink swelled and grew into a monster’s shape. “Since your Power Tool Dragon is Level 7, I’m gonna summon the Level 7 ‘Red-Eyes Toon Dragon’!”
The mask shattered and the ink dripped away, revealing a cartoon black dragon with stubbed wings, an oversized mouth, and large red eyes. It flapped into the air in front of Pinkie and let out a high-pitched roar, flexing its claws (2400/2000).
“Cool.” Lemon nodded. “I’m not quite done, though. I activate Power Tool Dragon’s special ability. Once per turn I can take three Equip Spell cards from my deck, then you randomly pick one of them and it gets added to my hand.” Lemon reached to her duel disk’s screen and tapped through the display. The holograms of three cards appeared in the air over Lemon’s head. “Okay, go for it.”
Pinkie scrunched her face and murmured, her eyes turning back and forth. She put her hand out to point as she spoke. “The left one! No, the right! No, the center. Ah, no, wait, the right again! Can I use my phone-a-friend?”
“Here, lemme make it easy for ya,” Lemon chuckled. “It’s three copies of the exact same card, so it doesn’t really matter.”
“Ooooooh. That’s kind of a clever trick, actually.” Pinkie smiled. “Okay, take the middle one.” The cards vanished and Lemon took the card that ejected from her deck. Pinkie brushed off her forehead. “Phew, for a second there I was kinda worried!”
The sound of a palm hitting the owner’s forehead resounded from somewhere behind her.
“I’ll set a card and end my turn.” Lemon smiled. “Your move again.”
“And what a move it’s gonna be.” Pinkie drew and looked at her card, and gasped. “And it just got even better! I activate the Spell card ‘Toon Rollback’!” A film reel appeared from her card and wound around her dragon, then shimmered and was absorbed into it.
“This card lets me select a Toon monster I control and attack twice with it this turn!” Pinkie tapped on her duel disk. “Next I’ll use my Red-Eyes Toon Dragon’s ability to summon any Toon monster from my hand. Come on out, ‘Toon Dark Magician’!”
The Toon World book billowed with purple smoke. A small wizard in bright blue and red robes flipped out and posed, pointing a staff at Lemon (2500/2100).
The Canterlot crowd cheered as Pinkie put a hand on her hip. “How’d ya like that?”
“Nice!” Lemon nodded. “Too bad Toons can’t attack on the same turn you summon them.”
“Yeah, that’s a bummer. But on the upside, they get to attack you directly as long as I have Toon World on the field! And it’s only one of my Toons that have to wait to attack. As for the others…” Pinkie spun and thrust her hand out. “Red-Eyes Toon Dragon, double direct attack!”
Red-Eyes Toon sucked in air, its jaws glowing orange. Its wings flapped quickly as it rose into the air and snapped its head down, shooting two fireballs toward Lemon Zest. She grimaced and raised her arms as they collided.
-Lemon Zest Life Points: 3200-
“Next, my Masked Sorcerer attacks!” The Masked Sorcerer stretched its hand across the field, its fingers crackling. As the smoke cleared around Lemon it thrust its palm into her face and exploded the energy. The Sorcerer wagged its tongue and drew its hand back, flashing a ‘V’ sign.
-Lemon Zest Life Points: 2300-
“When my Toon Sorcerer damages you, I get to draw a card.” Pinkie drew, looked at her card, and shook her head. “This card’s no good, so I’ll use it to activate my Dark Magician’s ability. I can discard a Toon card from my hand to summon a Toon monster from my deck. I discard ‘Toon Dark Magician Girl’ and summon ‘Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon’!”
The Toon World book closed, spun, and opened on a cloud of silver smoke. A silver-blue dragon flew out, bright blue eyes glaring at Lemon as large white fangs shone in its mouth (3000/2500).
“And on that, I’m gonna end my turn.”
Lemon Zest took a deep breath and rolled her neck. “Okay, playtime is over then, huh?”
“Sorry, but when I play, I play hard!” Pinkie said with a stern look.
“I can work with that.” Lemon smirked as she drew. She reached to her hand to put the card aside and took hold of another. “I’ll start by activating ‘Morphtronic Accelerator’. This lets me return ‘Morphtronic Boomboxen’ from my hand to the deck to destroy a card on the field. I’ll get rid of Spirit Barrier!” Lemon’s card fired an orb of orange light across the field; it struck Pinkie’s Trap and shattered it. “Then, I get to draw again.” Lemon drew and looked down at her card, then went back to her hand.
“Since I control a Machine-type monster, I’ll activate ‘Iron Call’ to revive my Morphtronic Smartfon. And then I’ll summon ‘Morphtronic Vacuumen.” A green and yellow vacuum cleaner appeared in front of Lemon. Its suction head swiveled around to reveal a pair of eyes, and the suction hoses on its side rose as limbs (0/0).
“Now, I’ll tune my Vacuumen with my Smartfon.” Lemon put her hand over her duel disk and leaned forward as Smartfon turned into a green ring that hovered around Vacuumen “I tune the frequencies of my smartphone and my vacuum together, and home in on the signal of a flying scout machine!” She grabbed her card and held it out.
“Synchro Summon! Reporting in, Level 2, ‘T.G. Recipro Dragonfly!” A small red and green insectoid robot appeared in front of Lemon, a propeller blade set into its midsection spinning to keep it in the air (300/300).
Lemon licked her lips. “And now everything is in place.”
Pinkie tilted her head. “What do you mean? That thing doesn’t look very nasty.”
“It isn’t, but I really don’t have much use for it. I just needed a Level 2 Synchro monster. The one you really wanna be worried about is my Martial Metal Marcher.” Lemon jerked her thumb at the machine. “See, he’s a Synchro monster, sure, but he’s also a Tuner monster. Which means everything is in place for this!”
Lemon spread her arms out. “I Tune together my Level 3 Martial Metal Marcher, Level 2 T.G. Recipro Dragonfly, and my Level 7 Power Tool Dragon!”
Pinkie’s jaw dropped. “All three of them!?”
Martial Metal Marcher turned into three golden rings that began to spin. Dragonfly and Power Tool Dragon flew into the middle of the ring, sparks shooting between them as they hovered closer.
“I tune the frequencies of my scouter, my musician, and my dragon together, and home in on the signal of the ultimate battle mech!”
The three monsters lit up yellow and sent a column of light up into the sky. The sky, already getting darker in the early afternoon, turned overcast. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed. Lemon looked up and stretched out her hand.
“Synchro Summon! Seek and destroy all in your path! Descend, Level 12, ‘T.G. Halberd Cannon’!”
A bolt of lightning struck the ground behind Lemon. From the flash of light, a massive robot stood up. Streamlined black limbs were covered in orange and yellow armor, glowing brightly. Its head, silver and sculpted in an expression of stern determination, rose from its main body and its eyes flashed to life. It raised its hand and the image of a gigantic polearm appeared as a green wireframe, before it materialized for real. The robot gripped it tight and twirled it over its head, then planted it in the ground (4000/4000).
Pinkie stared, her eyes wide. “T-that’s a big monster!”
“You think he’s big now, wait until you see him up close!” Lemon pointed across the field. “T.G. Halberd Cannon, attack Toon Masked Sorcerer!”
Halberd Cannon leapt up into the air, spun its halberd to point down, and then began to descend. The blade began to glow and crackle with energy.
“Wanna activate Toon Defense now, or are you gonna let it connect?” Lemon asked.
Pinkie frowned. “I’m gonna take a lot of damage either way, so I’ll make it a direct attack! Go, Toon Defense!” Toon World stretched its crook out and pulled Toon Sorcerer into the book.
“Cool. Though, if I’m being honest, I was just being polite and letting you pick first. It really doesn’t matter.” Lemon shrugged.
Lemon pressed a prompt on her duel disk screen. “I activate my face-down card ‘Limiter Removal’! At the end of this turn all of my Machine monsters will be destroyed, but until then, their attack points double!”
Across Halberd Cannon’s body, sparks flew and wires and gears popped out of its joints. A pair of rocket boosters on its back activated and shot it toward the ground faster (4000 → 8000).
Pinkie’s face fell. “Crud.”
Halberd Cannon’s polearm stabbed into the ground in front of her and erupted in a massive shower of lightning.
-Pinkie Pie Life Points: 0-
Pinkie let her arms fall to her sides. “Well, that didn’t work.”
“Hey!” Lemon ran up to her and held out a hand. “You still pulled out some great moves there! That was fun!”
“Yeah! I mean, ya know, not to be mean but I knew I was gonna win anyway, but it was cool playing it out.”
“Thanks!” Pinkie grinned and shook her hand vigorously. “Maybe I can lose to you again sometime!”
Rarity rested her cheek on her fist. “This is either very infuriating or very endearing and I’m not sure which.”
“Ah am,” Applejack muttered, her arms folded.
Sunset watched Pinkie come back while Lemon Zest returned to the Crystal Prep bench. “Come on guys, we’re not out of this yet. We can still mount a comeback!”
“Yeah, right,” Rainbow snapped. “We’re screwed.”
“We will now choose our duelists for the next match. After this duel the tournament will continue tomorrow.”
“Who even cares?” Rainbow called. In her normal voice she said, “Let’s just go home and call it a day. We can’t lose the tournament if we aren’t here to play in it.”
Rarity gave a grim nod. “I have to say, going home to catch up on sewing seems a more productive way to spend my weekend than watching us humiliate ourselves here.”
“No!” Sunset jumped to her feet and moved in front of them as Rainbow went to stand. “Look, yeah, it sucks that Crystal Prep has better cards than us, and we’re one duel from having no chance. So what?” Sunset slammed a fist into her palm. “You guys were the ones who were enthusiastic about doing our best in this tournament. You can’t give up like this.”
Sunset closed her eyes and took a breath. “I know it sucks. I’ve been saying it along with all of you. But we came here to try our best. Until that fourth duelist’s points hit zero, we’re still in this. So even if it’s a long shot, we might as well try, right? It’s just like in a duel, no matter how badly we’re losing, one card can still turn it around!”
She opened her eyes. “Who’s with me?”
The other girls on the bench stared at her, their mouths hanging open and their eyes wide.
Sunset blushed and looked between them. “Well, it wasn’t my best public speaking…”
“Sunset?” Rarity raised a hand and jabbed a finger to the side.
Sunset turned her head and saw where Rarity was pointing – the display board.
Her expression morphed into a copy of theirs.
“The final duel of the day is set! Canterlot High’s Sunset Shimmer will face off against Crystal Prep’s Twilight Sparkle!”
Dedication Through Light and Darkness - Sunset vs Twilight (Part 1)
Dedication Through Light and Darkness – Sunset vs Twilight (Part 1)
The afternoon sun was obscured by the clouds, brief waves of light shining down on Canterlot High. On the back fields, grass rustling in the wind at her feet, Sunset looked over at the Crystal Prep bench. Twilight rose to her feet, pushed her glasses up, and walked out onto the field. Sunset watched her go, her eyes wide.
“I’m… dueling Twilight?”
“Will the Canterlot High duelist please take her position on the field?”
Sunset jerked at the loudspeaker and jogged up to her side of the dueling field. Opposite her, Twilight reached down and activated her duel disk, the card tray projecting in a beam of purple light. Sunset looked down at her own disk and turned it on, the material card tray swinging into place. She raised her head and took a breath.
Twilight looked up at her.
Sunset nodded. “May the best duelist win, right?”
Twilight’s nose twitched. “Indeed.”
“And now, let the final duel of the day begin!”
-Sunset Life Points: 8000-
-Twilight Life Points: 8000-
The portraits on the display screen flashed and stopped with Sunset’s lit up. “Sunset Shimmer will take the first move.”
“Right…” Sunset looked down at her deck as her opening hand ejected. She reached down and fanned out her cards. “I summon ‘Harmony Guardian Magnanimity’.” A shimmering mirrored portal appeared in the ground in front of her. From it rose a pale-skinned warrior woman in jagged, crystalline blue armor. She spun on one foot and reached to her waist to draw a rapier, brandishing it twice and then planting the tip on the ground (1200/800).
Sunset took a breath and looked up at Twilight; the other girl just watched her, waiting.
She’s not Twilight… she’s not Twilight.
Sunset lifted two cards from her hand and held them out. “Using the Scale 3 ‘Harmony Guardian Risus’ and the Scale 5 ‘Harmony Guardian Magia’, I set the Pendulum Scales!” She swung her hand and placed the cards on the far ends of her duel disk. The disk lit up in red light and gleamed.
Two columns of light, one pale pink and one lavender, rose on either side of Sunset. In the pink column rose a warrior woman in rounded pink armor, a pair of crossbows hanging from her waist. In the purple column was a warrior in smooth purple armor with a gnarled wooden staff strapped to her back.
“Using the cards in my Pendulum Scales, I can now Special Summon monsters from my hand or face-up in the Extra Deck, as long as their levels fall within the Scales!” Sunset announced. She held up her cards. In the pillars of light above, Risus and Magia held their hands out and sent out beams of light that swirled together to form a portal in the air. “Pendulum Summon!” She brought her hand down and placed the cards on her disk. “From my hand, I summon ‘Harmony Guardian Gracia’ and ‘Harmony Guardian Honestas’!”
The portal above Sunset flashed and two streaks of light shot out and impacted her field. From one came a warrior in green armor carved in the shape of forest plants, pink hair streaming down her back. She took hold of a whip coiled at her waist and let it unfurl to hang from her hand (900/1800). The other light faded to reveal a warrior in bulky orange armor, kneeling behind a large broadsword embedded in the ground. She stood up and lifted up the sword, dirt flying as she swung it twice and then rested it on her shoulder (1800/300).
Magnanimity lit up blue between the two monsters. “When I Special Summon a Harmony Guardian monster while Magnanimity is on the field, I can activate her effect and draw one card.” Sunset drew and flipped her card over. “I’ll activate it immediately, the Spell card ‘Harmony Jewel’. This lets me send Gracia from the field to face-up into my Extra Deck. In return, I can draw a card.” Sunset withdrew Gracia’s card from her disk and slid it into the Extra Deck slot, then reached to her deck and drew.
“I activate the effect of Magia in my Pendulum Zone. Once per turn when I have two Harmony Guardian monsters in my Pendulum Zones, I can retrieve a Harmony Spell card in my Graveyard to my hand, but I can’t activate it for the rest of the turn. I’ll take back the Harmony Jewel I just used.” Sunset removed Harmony Jewel from her Graveyard slot.
“Then, I use Harmony Guardian Risus’ Pendulum effect, letting me return a card on my side of the field to the hand. I’ll take back Harmony Guardian Magia.” The pillar of purple light faded as Magia turned into an orb of light and swirled into the ground.
“I set one card and end my turn.” Sunset lowered her duel disk.
Across the field, Twilight drew her first card. “Very well.” She looked at her drawn card and reached over to her hand. “I activate the Spell card ‘Solar Recharge’. I will discard ‘Garoth, Lightsworn Warrior’ to draw two cards, and then the top two cards of my deck are discarded.” Twilight lifted her two cards from her deck and two more retracted into her duel disk.
“I summon ‘Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner’.” Twilight placed the card on her duel disk. Rays of light shone from the ground as a woman in white robes materialized, scarves fluttering in the air (1000/1000). “I then use Lumina’s effect. By sending ‘Felis, Lightsworn Archer’ from my hand to my Graveyard, I can revive Garoth.”
Next to Lumina appeared a man in gleaming white and gold armor, a large polearm in his hands (1850/1300). Twilight leaned forward. “Garoth, attack Harmony Guardian Magnanimity!” Garoth hefted his polearm and charged across the field, the tip pointed at Magnanimity.
“I activate my face-down Spell card!” Sunset swept her hand out. “It’s a Quickplay Spell called ‘Harmony Shock’, and I can activate it by sending a Harmony Guardian on the field to the Extra Deck. Once I do, I can destroy a card on the field. I send Honestas to the deck and destroy Garoth!”
Honestas faded away, leaving an orb of electricity behind. The orb shot into Garoth’s polearm, making him convulse and collapse, shattering as he hit the ground.
Twilight frowned and reached back to her hand. “I set two cards and end my turn.” The two holograms materialized in front of her. Lumina lit up in a golden aura. “At the end of each of my turns, Lumina sends the top three cards of my deck to the Graveyard.” Twilight’s three cards retracted into her disk, and light came from her Graveyard slot. She looked at her screen and extended a finger to tap an icon. “The effect of ‘Wulf, Lightsworn Beast’, activates since he was discarded by a Lightsworn effect. I summon Wulf to the field.”
A glowing portal appeared next to Lumina and an anthropomorphic wolf in white and gold armor stepped out, a large axe over its shoulder (2100/300).
-Twilight’s deck: 27 cards-
Twilight lowered her duel disk. “Your move.”
“Thanks.” Sunset drew, turned her card over, and smiled. “I activate the Spell card ‘Harmony Journal’.” A large brown book appeared in front of Sunset, its cover bearing a shield emblem with six jewels around a pink star. “This Spell lets me pick two Harmony Guardian monsters from my deck. You choose one of them to add to my hand, and the other goes face-up in my Extra Deck.” Sunset tapped her duel disk’s screen. “I pick ‘Harmony Guardian Magnanimity’ and ‘Harmony Guardian Pietas’.” The journal’s pages flipped open to display images of the two monsters.
Twilight closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “I doubt it matters, but I choose Pietas for your hand.”
“Why would it not matter?” Sunset replied. Twilight’s response was to open her eyes and wait. Sunset’s duel disk ejected the card and she picked it up. “Whatever, nevermind then. I activate Harmony Guardian Pietas in my empty Pendulum Zone.”
A column of light rose beside Sunset again. In it hovered a warrior in pale blue armor, its plates designed in swirling curves. A long spear with a jagged blade hung over her back.
“I activate the Pendulum effect of Pietas. Once per turn with another Harmony Guardian in my other Pendulum Zone, Pietas can target and destroy one face-down Spell or Trap card on the field.” Sunset pointed. “I choose the left face-down!”
The card flipped over and rose up, revealing ‘Glorious Illusion’. Pietas held out its hands and fired a blast of lightning into the card, shattering it.
Twilight frowned as she lifted the card from her duel disk to discard it. “That card could have revived one of my Lightsworns.”
“Really?” Sunset let out a breath. “Lucky guess for me then.”
“If you say so,” Twilight muttered.
Sunset narrowed her eyes but didn’t respond. She picked a card from her hand and set it on her duel disk. “I summon ‘Harmony Guardian Magia’.”
In front of Sunset materialized the purple-skinned warrior, her armor forming a six-pointed crest of spikes on her back. She reached back to take hold of the staff on her back and brought it forward, a pink crystal on the tip glowing (1500/1300).
Sunset looked across at Twilight. Does she even recognize what that card is? True, it was an armored warrior in purple armor, but the overall aesthetic was immediately recognizable as Twilight Sparkle. If the other Twilight noticed the similarity, she didn’t show it. Her expression was the same as before; mild irritation.
“And now, I call on the power of my Pendulum Scales!” Sunset extended a hand into the air. “Using the Scale 3 Risus and the Scale 5 Pietas, I Pendulum Summon!” A swirling portal opened between the two columns of light. “From the Extra Deck, Honestas, Magnanimity, and Gracia! I summon you back to the field!” Three streaks of light shot out of the portal and struck the ground before Sunset, fading to reveal her three monsters.
“So that’s how Pendulum Monsters work.” Twilight raised her eyes and looked between the two monsters floating in the air above Sunset. “When they leave the field, they go to the Extra Deck face-up instead of the Graveyard. Then when you conduct a Pendulum Summon, you can summon those face-up Pendulum Monsters back to the field.”
“Yup, as long as I have two monsters in the Pendulum Zones with Pendulum Scales that their levels fall between.”
“And the card in your Pendulum Zones, they are considered Spell cards, not Monster cards, while in those card zones?”
“Yup, that about sums it up.” Sunset nodded and allowed herself a smirk. “Cool, huh?”
Twilight’s head snapped down to glare at her. “I was going to say it flies in defiance of this game’s established rules, but I can tell that isn’t a concern to you.”
Sunset’s expression soured. “Be that way, then. Since I just Special Summoned Harmony Guardian monsters, the effects of Magnanimity and Magia that were already on the field activate, and I’ll use them in that order. Resolving backward, Magia’s effect lets me take a Spell card from my Graveyard and put it on top of my deck. I’ll take back Harmony Shock. Then, Magnanimity’s effect lets me draw a card.”
Sunset picked up Harmony Shock, put it on top of her deck, then immediately took it back out and put it back on her duel disk. “I activate the Spell card Harmony Shock again, and use it to destroy Wulf by returning one of my Magnanimities to the Extra Deck.”
Magnanimity dissolved into sparkling crystals; electricity generated between them and fired out to shock Wulf. The beast exploded in a shower of sparks.
“Alright!” From the stands behind her, Rainbow whooped. “That’s how you do it!”
Rarity smiled. “Well done, indeed! Give her what-for!”
“You got it!” Sunset thrust her fist in the air, donning a confident smile. “I have four monsters ready to attack, and I’m not holding back.” Lowering her elevated hand, she pointed at Twilight’s monster. “Harmony Guardian Honestas, attack Lumina!” Honestas swung her broadsword behind her and charged.
Twilight put a hand on her duel disk screen and tapped. “I activate my Trap card ‘Lightsworn Barrier’.” A field of white light manifested over Lumina. “With this card on the field, each time one of my Lightsworn monsters is attacked, I negate that attack by sending two cards from the top of my deck to the Graveyard.” Honestas’ sword struck the barrier over Lumina and it was flung back, landing in front of Sunset.
“My Trap is Continuous, so any other attacks you try will be negated as well,” Twilight said. “Though I will still need to pay the cost to use its effect.”
That’s exactly what she wants, too. Sunset bit her lip. That’s her strategy; keep sending her cards to the Graveyard to set up plays. I’m not helping her. “I end my Battle Phase.” She reached to her hand. “I activate the Spell card Harmony Jewel. I return Harmony Guardian Gracia to the Extra Deck and draw a card.”
Sunset looked at her new card and then turned attention back to her duel disk. “I then use the effect of Harmony Guardian Risus and return Harmony Guardian Magia to my hand. That will end my turn.”
“Good.” Twilight drew. She looked over her hand and raised her eyes to Sunset. “Thank you for explaining the capabilities of Pendulum Monsters for me. I needed to confirm their mechanics before I could begin working on shutting down usage of them.”
Sunset narrowed her eyes. “How do you plan to do that?”
“One thing at a time. I activate Lumina’s effect, and discard ‘Shire, Lightsworn Spirit’ to revive my Wulf.” Lumina held her hand out and conjured a golden portal through which Wulf stepped. “Then I offer Lumina as tribute, to summon ‘Celestia, Lightsworn Angel’.”
Lumina dissolved into light that swirled in a mass of feathers. From the swarm came a winged warrior with long, blue hair, holding a staff with a glowing orb of light on the end (2300/200).
“Celestia’s effect activates when I summon her by tributing a Lightsworn monster. By sending four cards from the top of my deck to the Graveyard, I can destroy two cards on the field.” Twilight lifted her head. “I destroy the cards in your Pendulum Zones!”
Celestia held out its staff and fired two beams of light. The light struck Pietas and Risus and they exploded in rays of golden energy.
“My Pendulums…” Sunset scowled. “I can summon them back next turn as long as I can set a new Pendulum Scale.”
“On your next turn, maybe, but it’s still my turn.” Twilight reached to tap the screen of her duel disk. “One of the cards discarded by Celestia was ‘Lightsworn Judgment’, which allows me to add a monster from my deck to my hand when it is sent to the Graveyard.” She raised her head and looked between her two monsters. “Next, I attack and destroy Honestas with Celestia.”
Celestia pointed her staff again and a beam of golden light fired, piercing Honestas. “Then, Wulf attacks Magnanimity.” Wulf hefted its club and ran, slamming it into Magnanimity and sending her flying into the air to shatter.
-Sunset Shimmer Life Points: 6600-
“I set a card and end my turn.”
-Twilight’s deck: 19 cards-
Twilight looked across at Sunset and shifted her eyes back and forth. “Your field is empty, now.”
“Maybe, but I’ve got an Extra Deck full of monsters ready to go!” Sunset drew and grinned. “And this is where the comeback starts.” She held her card into the air. “I activate the Field Spell ‘Harmony Academy’!”
The ground behind Sunset cracked and split open. A large crystalline schoolhouse rose behind her, its banners and doors bearing a crest with six colored jewels around a pink star. It finished rising into place with a thud, the crystal shimmering.
“With this Field Spell in play, once per turn if I have no cards in my Pendulum Zones, I can place one of the monsters in my Extra Deck in the Pendulum Zone, but its effects are negated for this turn.” Sunset reached to her Extra Deck and withdrew a card. “I’ll take Harmony Guardian Magnanimity and place her in the Pendulum Zone. And I’ll follow that by placing Magia from my hand in my other Pendulum Zone.”
Sunset looked up as her two monsters floated into place above her. “And now with the Pendulum Scale set, I Pendulum Summon!” Her Extra Deck glowed as her hand hovered over it. “From my Extra Deck, I Pendulum Summon Harmony Guardians Gracia, Magnanimity, Risus, Pietas, and Honestas!” Her two Pendulum Monsters held their hands out and conjured a swirling portal between them.
“No, you don’t.”
Sunset lowered her head. “What?”
Twilight pressed a finger to her duel disk’s screen. “I activate my Trap card ‘Vanquishing Light’.” Her card flipped up and lit up in white light. “By offering a Lightsworn monster as tribute when you attempt to summon monsters, I can negate the summoning and destroy them.” Twilight raised her eyes to look at Sunset. “I offer Wulf as tribute, and negate your Pendulum Summon!”
Wulf was drawn back into the hologram of the Trap. The Trap condensed into an orb of light that shot across the field and rose into the portal of Sunset’s summoning. The portal shone and exploded, rays of light shining from the dust.
Sunset grit her teeth as she watched the portal’s remains fade. “Fine. But unless you plan to draw another copy of that Trap, I’ll just perform another Pendulum Summon next turn and they’ll all be back!”
Twilight sighed and shook her head. “I barely even understand how those cards work and yet I seem to know more about them than you do.”
“What do you mean?” Sunset snapped.
“Look at your duel disk and find out.”
Sunset lowered her eyes and saw her would-be summoned cards sliding into her Graveyard slot from the Extra Deck compartment. “Why are they being discarded?”
“It’s a basic rule of summonings.” Twilight pushed her glasses up her nose, her eyes closed. “As you said, when a Pendulum Monster would otherwise be sent from the field to the Graveyard, it goes to the Extra Deck instead. However, the rulings on the negation of a monster’s summoning states that when a monster has its summon negated, it is considered to have been in its place of origin at the time of that negation.”
Twilight opened her eyes. “Your Pendulum Monsters were in the Extra Deck when you tried to summon them and I negated that play. Thus when they are now destroyed, they are sent to the Graveyard like any other card would be.”
Sunset’s eyes widened. “But… I had five of them…”
“Yes, you did, and in overextending yourself so recklessly you made yourself vulnerable to counter-play.” Twilight shook her head. “That’s the error in ‘high risk, high reward’ playstyles – inevitably the risk fails to deliver on the reward.”
“I don’t need you to lecture me on how to play!”
“Very well. Continue your turn.”
“I will!” Sunset looked at her hand and scowled. I would if I had any good moves to make! This is my only card left! She sighed and lifted her card. “I set a monster in defense mode. I then use the Pendulum effect of Magia to return Harmony Jewel to my hand.” Sunset took her from the Graveyard slot, looked down at it, and took a breath. “That’s all. I end my turn.”
“I expected to win this duel, but I was anticipating more of a challenge before we got to that point.”
Sunset’s eyes widened before narrowing into a glare. “What did you say?”
“It merely took two cards to completely derail your Pendulum strategies and wipe out your field. You’ve exhausted your resources too quickly and have little in the ways of recovering them. The only card left in your hand is Harmony Jewel, and you can’t afford to give up a monster in your current state. You’ll have no options left once the cards on your field are gone.”
Twilight reached to her hand. “And I have just the means to make it happen.” She held her card in the air. “I bind together the power of four Lightsworn monsters with different names in my Graveyard, in order to Special Summon ‘Judgment Dragon’!”
The dark clouds overhead flashed and a shadowed form flew out of them. Rays of light pierced the clouds and illuminated it, a massive white dragon. It landed behind Twilight with a thud and roared (3000/2000).
Twilight raised a hand and snapped her fingers. “I pay a thousand Life Points to activate Judgement Dragon’s effect. Every card on the field other than Judgement Dragon itself is destroyed!”
Judgment Dragon’s mouth glowed brightly, particles of light gathering in its maw. It snapped its head down and fired, streams of light swarming the field. Sunset’s Pendulums monsters were struck and exploded, while her facedown card flipped up to reveal Gracia, who shattered as the light hit her. The light blasted through the walls of Harmony Academy and the crystal structure collapsed into dust. On Twilight’s field, Celestia and the card hologram of Lightsworn Barrier were hit and burst into shining particles.
-Twilight Life Points: 7000-
Sunset stared at her, her mouth hanging open. “How could you?”
“Even with no Extra Deck monsters to summon, your Pendulum Monsters are a concern. I wasn’t about to leave them in play in case you—”
“You think I care about that!?”
Twilight frowned and paused her explanation.
Sunset’s face twisted in disgust. “You just destroyed everything on the field.”
“Including your own cards.”
“You have few monsters left in play to attack with, so my Trap is irrelevant, and Celestia has no supportive effects after her initial summoning. I would have little usage for them if they remained in play, whereas Judgement Dragon’s effect has cleared out your field. Compared to that advantage, two cards is an acceptable cost.”
Sunset’s hands shook. “How can you think that way?” she hissed. “That’s not how a real duelist treats her cards!”
“Oh?” Twilight’s lip curled. “And how should a duelist treat her cards, Sunset? Should we make up our own cards and ask our friends to please let us use them no matter how unfair it is?”
“If you have something to say then say it!” Sunset snapped.
“Fine, I will.” Twilight crossed her arms. “You have no business playing Duel Monsters. You cheat and use fake cards to play, making up their powers as you go along. The most baffling part of it is that the students and teachers at your school let you get away with it.”
On the sidelines, Sunset's friends shared looks of confusion. Applejack scratched her head. “How the heck does Twilight know that those Pendulums aren’t real? Ain’t no one but us supposed to be able to remember them?”
“I’m a cheater?” Sunset replied, glaring. “You have no room to talk! I’ve spent all day watching Crystal Prep duelists use cards my friends and I can’t hope to get our hands on, nevermind knowing how they work or how to counter them!” She clenched her fist. “My cards symbolize the bonds I’ve forged with my friends. They’re unique and special, they’re proof of how far I’ve come!”
“How far you’ve come? Look at your duel disk. You’re supposed to be the best duelist this school has to offer, aren’t you? From the way the cards stand now, you’re about to lose in four turns.” Twilight snorted. “Your friend on the bench is barely even ranked, and she lasted almost as long as you against Lemon Zest and did more damage to her before she lost.”
She peered closer at Sunset. “I think this duel has been rather revealing about you, actually. Without your cheating to support your plays, your deck ran out of steam and was shut down with barely any effort. You’re not a champion, Sunset. You’re a fraud.”
On the sidelines, Radiant Hope frowned. “What are they talking about?” She leaned forward to the microphone, then stopped as Sombra calmly reached his arm out and clasped his hand over it.
Sunset huffed. “You accuse me of cheating because I have cards you don’t know about? Then I say Crystal Prep is cheating for using entire rulesets we don’t know. What’s the difference?”
“That’s not the same thing!” Twilight scowled and stamped a foot. “For one thing, we train hard at Crystal Prep, we actually have to build our decks and get the cards for them, the same as Canterlot High duelists. Everyone who’s here, from either school, has worked hard to refine their skills and make it this far. Except for you. You didn’t earn a spot in this tournament. You faked your way to the top.”
“No, I didn’t. I can’t, not anymore.” Sunset sighed and looked down at her duel disk. “However I got these cards, they’re all I have.” She raised her head. “You call me a cheater, Twilight, but this entire duel I’ve been playing you fair and square, on just my own skills.”
“Is that so? Then it seems I’m right after all; without trickery to help you win, you can’t keep up with the rest of us. In which case there’s nothing left to do but play out this result.” Twilight thrust her hand out. “Judgment Dragon, attack her directly!”
Judgment Dragon opened its jaws and channeled light into its mouth. A beam of light fired across the field and washed over Sunset, sending her tumbling backwards.
“I end my turn by sending four cards from my deck to the Graveyard via Judgment Dragon’s effect.”
-Twilight’s deck: 14 cards-
-Sunset Shimmer Life Points: 3600-
Twilight lowered her duel disk. “I only need to draw a monster with at least six hundred attack points on my next turn, and it and my Judgment Dragon will end this duel. Draw and make your final move.”
Kneeling on the ground, Sunset’s fingers dug into the grass. She stared at her hands, eyes narrowed. “I can’t lose… I can’t…”
“Why do you care?” Twilight asked. “You didn’t bother to enter this tournament in past years. And now that you’re here you complain that we have cards you can’t measure up to. You made the choice to enter and you could have just walked away at any time. Why does the Friendship Cup suddenly mean so much to you now when you never entered before?”
“Because…” Sunset inhaled deeply. “My friends are counting on me… they want to win this tournament. I have to win, for their sake.”
Sunset’s eyes widened. That voice…
“Do you really mean that, Sunset?”
Sunset slowly raised her head and saw the edge of her arena booth in front of her. She grimaced and put a hand on the railing, closing her eyes. “Yes. They’re counting me… if I lose this duel…”
“From the looks of things, that’s exactly what’s about to happen.”
“No. I can beat her. I can…” Sunset took a breath. “If I could… could…”
Sunset licked her lips. She cracked open her eyes and saw a single card on her field.
“Do you want to win, Sunset?”
Sunset swallowed heavily and nodded. “I have to.”
“And what would you be willing to do for that victory?”
Sunset raised her eyes to look across the arena. Only shadows were there to see, her dueling booth alone in the darkness. She looked back at her field and the single card there.
“Then you know what you need to do.”
A bead of sweat rolled down Sunset’s face. Her breathing heavy, her chin quivering, she slowly reached out her hand.
“For my friends.”
She clenched her eyes and let her hand fall on the card.
Rays of red light shone up between Sunset’s fingers and the card began to smoke and crackle.
Twilight frowned. “Sunset?” In the stands, Canterlot High and Crystal Prep students alike were whispering to each other.
Sunset was kneeling on the grass, her head down.
“Is she giving up?” Fluttershy whispered.
Rarity pursed her lips. “The poor dear, she did her best.”
Celestia looked at her phone. “It’s been almost two full minutes.” She looked over the table. Sombra removed his hand from the microphone and looked at Hope, giving her a nod. She leaned closer to it.
“Sunset Shimmer has thirty seconds to take her turn. If she does not, we will deem this match a surrender and victory—”
A pillar of flame erupted from around Sunset.
The watching students screamed. Twilight’s breath caught and she took a step back. Sombra’s eyes widened and he snapped his head to the field.
The flames faded, embers glowing in the air. The grass around Sunset was scorched black in a perfect circle, smoke rising and blowing away. Sunset stood up, her head down, hair billowing, and lifted her arm above her head. The embers and smoke swirled around her and were drawn into her deck.
Sunset slowly raised her head, her hair whipping in the air behind her.
Pinkie whimpered. “Guys? Tell me I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing.”
Rarity’s hands shook in her lap. “I remember those eyes…”
Twilight gaped. “S-Sunset?”
Eyes glowing bright red, Sunset lowered her arm and put a hand on her deck. “My turn.” She didn’t look away from Twilight as she drew her card, flipped it over, and placed it on her duel disk. “Activate Spell card, ‘Infernal Harmony’. Two Light-attribute Harmony Guardian monsters in my Graveyard are banished.”
The holograms of Gracia and Risus flew out of Sunset’s duel disk and dissolved. “Then, two Dark-attribute Harmony Guardian monsters are added to my hand.” Her deck lit up red and shuffled, the cards ejecting from the top.
Sunset grabbed her cards and held them out, the glow in her eyes intensifying as she spoke. “Using the Scale 3 ‘Harmony Guardian Compassio’ and Scale 9 ‘Harmony Guardian Infernal Juniperus’, I set the Pendulum Scales!” She swung her hand down and placed the cards on her disk.
Pillars of light, red and teal, erupted from the ground beside her. In the red pillar was a warrior woman in gold armor, a shield and sword in her hand, red and yellow hair flowing down her back. In the teal field was a warrior in green and purple armor, her helmet forming a visor across her eyes. A flail with a flattened metal disk for the head hung from her hip.
“Using the cards in my Pendulum Scales, I can now Special Summon monsters between their Scale levels from my hand or face-up in my Extra Deck!” Sunset thrust her hand up. “Pendulum Summon! Come forth, my monster servants!” A crackling portal opened over her head and streaks of light shot onto her field.
“From the Extra Deck, Harmony Guardian Gracia, Harmony Guardian Magnanimity, and Harmony Guardian Magia! I summon you in defense mode!”
The streams of light vanished and Sunset’s three monsters appeared kneeling in front of her.
Sunset stared at Twilight, her eyes still bright red. “I now tune my Level 4 Harmony Guardian Infernal Juniperus with my Level 4 Harmony Guardian Gracia.”
“What!?” Twilight shook her head. “You can’t! Monsters in the Pendulum Zones are considered Spell cards, they can’t—”
“Harmony Guardian Infernal Juniperus’ special ability,” Sunset interrupted coldly. “When it is in my Pendulum Zone, I can conduct a Synchro Summon using Juniperus and a Level 4 Harmony Guardian on my side of the field.”
Juniperus turned into four glowing green rings and began to encircle Gracia, sparks of energy crackling between them. The rings caught fire and Gracia lit up in a bright red aura.
“I harmonize the spirits of the guardian of kindness and the fallen guardian of inspiration, and open the dimensional gates to call on the harshest of dark musicians!” The rings circling Gracia contracted around it and a column of flame erupted up from them.
The light in Sunset’s eyes flared up. “Synchro Summon! Awaken, Level 8, ‘Harmony Guardian Infernal Ariette’ (2300/1300)!”
The flame pillar receded to reveal a creature hovering in the air, leathery purple wings keeping it aloft. It was a female humanoid being, its skin purple and covered by violet and dark green armor with a silver star on the shoulders and its gloves. A red gemstone set in the middle of its chestplate gleamed brightly. Long purple hair floated in the air behind it, streaks of silver light shooting down the strands. The warrior held out her arms and a massive trident appeared in her hand, crackles of purple energy shooting between the tips.
As the new Synchro monster slowly lowered to the ground behind Sunset, Twilight stared up at it in shock, her mouth hanging open. “This is impossible…” She lowered her eyes to Sunset. “How are you doing this? Sunset!”
Her eyes pulsing with red light, Sunset’s response was to curve her lips in a cruel smile.
Dedication Through Light and Darkness - Sunset vs Twilight (Part 2)
Dedication Through Light and Darkness – Sunset vs Twilight (Part 2)
-Sunset Life Points: 3600-
-Twilight Life Points: 7000-
“Sunset!” Twilight called out her opponent’s name. Sunset, eyes glowing red, stared back at her with a small smirk, before extending a hand towards her field.
“Since I just Special Summoned a Harmony Guardian monster, the effects of Magnanimity and Magia activate in sequence. I place the Spell card Harmony Academy on top of my deck and then draw a card.” Magia held out a hand and projected an aura of energy around Sunset’s card, and Magnanimity added her own energy and levitated it to Sunset’s hand.
“Well, how about that? I drew Harmony Academy.” She folded her arms. “That’s all from me. Your turn, Twilight.”
“My turn?” Twilight’s eyes widened. “What’s going on? What’s wrong with your eyes?”
Rainbow looked between the two duelists on the field. “How is Twilight seeing her eyes? I thought only we can see them!”
“I’d rather not see them, thank you.” Rarity shuddered, prompting Applejack to put a hand on her shoulder.
“Nothing’s wrong with me at all, Twilight,” Sunset said coolly. “Make your move.”
Twilight turned her head. “Principal Sombra!”
With his eyes still locked on Sunset, Sombra hesitated before looking back at Twilight. “You heard her, Twilight.”
“But, you can see this, can’t you?”
Celestia followed Twilight’s gaze to Sombra. “Principal Sombra, what are they talking about?”
Sombra closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He reached over to take the microphone in front of Hope and lifted it towards him. “My apologies, Celestia, observing students. I am sure it is no secret that duelists can fall victim to dramatics in the heat of a game. While Miss Shimmer’s duel disk seems to be having some sort of malfunction that is distorting Twilight’s view, it does not seem to have interfered with her ability to play, so I would suggest this duel continue without any further undue interruptions.”
“Continue?” Twilight shrieked.
Sombra lowered the microphone and nodded.
Twilight turned forward and reached to her duel disk. “I… draw.” She picked up her card and then reached to her duel disk screen. “I activate Judgment Dragon’s effect. I pay a thousand Life Points and destroy all other cards on the field.”
-Twilight Life Points: 6000-
Judgment Dragon opened its jaws and began to summon light between them.
“I don’t think so.” Sunset lifted a hand and snapped her fingers. Infernal Ariette twirled her trident and charged forward. “Since Harmony cards on my side of the field are about to be destroyed by your card effect, the effect of Infernal Ariette activates. I can banish Ariette until the end of the turn, and your destruction effect is negated and your card destroyed.”
Ariette reached Judgment Dragon and stabbed her trident through the monster’s neck. Judgment Dragon’s body convulsed and exploded in a flash of purple light.
Twilight let out a small huff. “You were waiting for me to do that. You played the exact card you needed to counter my dragon’s effect and then let me try to use it.”
“You are smart,” Sunset snickered.
Twilight’s hand, shaking at her side, clenched into a fist. She narrowed her eyes. “You’ve never had that card before. How did you get it?”
“And how would you know what cards I have, Twilight?”
Twilight’s breath caught in her throat. She blinked rapidly. “I…”
“Twilight!” Sombra’s voice made Twilight turn her head his way. He shook his head. “If you want the chance to prove yourself against her, this is the time.”
“Is not giving up. I would advise that you do the same.” Sombra gave her a stern look and a firm nod.
“…Very well.” Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m not out of this yet.” She opened her eyes again and held up the card in her hand. “I activate the Spell card ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. I send three cards from the top of my deck to the Graveyard and add a Level 4 Lightsworn monster from my deck to my hand.”
As Twilight’s cards retracted into her duel disk, she saw her screen blink; she let out a breath. “I got it…” She tapped the displayed prompt and a card ejected from her deck. “I take ‘Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden’ into my hand.”
Twilight’s Graveyard light up white. “When I activated Charge of the Light Brigade, I sent Wulf, Lightsworn Beast, to the Graveyard. I can now Special Summon him, and I then Normal Summon Minerva.”
Two portals opened in front of Twilight. From the left a wolf-like warrior rose from it, the head of his club on the ground with his paws on the handle. From the right came a small, frail woman with white robes and bright red hair, an owl perched on her shoulder (800/200).
“I activate Minerva’s effect.” Twilight looked at her duel disk and swiped through a display of her cards. “When I summon her I can add a Light-attribute Dragon monster from my deck to my hand whose Level is equal or less than the number of Lightsworn monsters in my Graveyard.” Her card ejected into her fingers. “I’ll take another copy of Judgment Dragon into my hand.”
-Twilight’s deck: 8 cards-
Twilight looked between her two monsters. “Next, I tune my Level 3 Minerva with my Level 4 Wulf!” Minerva split into green rings that encircled Wulf, spinning. “I bind together my two Lightsworn, and call forth from my Extra Deck this monster!” Twilight drew her card from her duel disk and put it on the card tray, the card lighting up. “I Synchro Summon ‘Michael the Arch-Lightsworn’!”
A portal appeared in the air above Twilight. A large white dragon flew out of it, a knight in silver and gold armor on its back. The dragon landed in front of Twilight and roared, the knight thrusting his sword into the air (2600/2000).
“I activate Michael the Arch-Lightsworn’s effect! I pay a thousand Life Points to banish one card on the field.” Twilight pointed. “I choose Harmony Guardian Magnanimity.” Michael’s sword lit up in a bright white aura and he swung it down, sending an orb of light shooting across the field. Magnanimity lit up in light and exploded as the orb hit her.
“Next, Michael attacks Harmony Guardian Magia!” Michael’s dragon opened its mouth and fired a beam of white energy. The beam lanced through Magia and she exploded.
Twilight took a breath. “I end my turn by sending three cards from the top of my deck to the Graveyard due to the effect of Michael the Arch-Lightsworn.”
Sunset’s eyes flashed red. “And during the end phase, my Harmony Guardian Infernal Ariette returns to the field.” The ground in front of Sunset cracked apart in rays of purple light, and Ariette rose up in front of her, her trident over her shoulder.
-Sunset Life Points: 3600-
-Twilight Life Points: 5000-
-Twilight’s deck: 5 cards-
“My turn again.” Sunset drew and held her hand out towards the monster beside her. “I activate the Pendulum effect of Harmony Guardian Compassio. When my other Pendulum Zone is empty, Compassio places a Harmony Guardian monster in the Graveyard or face-up in the Extra Deck in that Pendulum Zone, but its effects are negated until the next turn. I’ll bring back my Harmony Guardian Magia.” A column of purple light shone down beside Sunset, Magia floating down within it.
“I call on the power of the monsters in my Pendulum Zones. Using the Scale 3 Harmony Guardian Compassio and the Scale 5 Harmony Guardian Magia, I Pendulum Summon!” Sunset smirked and looked up at the summoning portal conjuring between her two monsters. “Come forth, my monster servants! Harmony Guardian Gracia and Harmony Guardian Infernal Juniperus, I summon you!” Streaks of yellow and blue light shot out of the portal and impacted her field, revealing her monsters standing tall.
Sunset thrust her hand out. “I overlay Gracia and Juniperus! Using my two Level 4 monsters, I construct the overlay network!”
Twilight grit her teeth. “That too?”
A black vortex appeared in front of Sunset, drawing Gracia and Juniperus into it in auras of yellow and teal light. “I align the spirits of the guardian of kindness and the fallen guardian of inspiration, and open the dimensional gates to call on the liveliest of dark musicians!” Sunset put her hand over her deck and a card emerged from the Extra Deck in sparks of red light.
“Xyz Summon!” Sunset drew the card and swung it onto her duel disk. “Awaken, Rank 4, ‘Harmony Guardian Infernal Sonare'!”
Pale blue lightning crackled from the vortex as Sunset’s monster floated out of it, clad in bright blue and pink armor with bands of dark blue metal around her gauntlets and boots. A red gemstone gleamed on her breastplate and two orbs of blue light orbited her. She grinned and held out her hands, summoning a pair of curved daggers with streaks of pink light shooting along the bladed edges (1500/2400).
Sunset held up a card in her hand, her fingers and the card lighting up red as she spoke. “I equip Ariette with the Equip Spell ‘Harmony Necklace’. This card increases the attack power of Ariette by five hundred points.” Ariette looked down as a shield emblem with six jewels surrounding a star appeared on her neck, hanging by a chain.
“And now, Ariette, destroy her monster!”
Ariette (2300 → 2800) grinned and charged forward, sparks of energy coursing along her trident. She leapt into the air and stabbed down, the trident piercing Michael’s armor and digging into the neck of the dragon. Michael shattered in sparks of purple light, and as Ariette leapt away the dragon beneath the two did the same.
-Twilight Life Points: 4800-
“I activate Michael’s special ability!” Twilight called. “When he’s destroyed, I can shuffle any number of Lightsworn monsters in my Graveyard into my deck, and I recover three hundred Life Points for each.” Her duel disk glowed white as she tapped her screen and the cards in her Graveyard began to retract. “I take back ten Lightsworn monsters.” Twilight’s body glowed the same light as her duel disk. “That gets me back ten cards and three thousand Life Points.”
-Twilight Life Points: 7800-
“You won’t be keeping them for long!” Sunset laughed and pointed, her hair billowing in the air. “Infernal Sonare, direct attack!” Sonare grinned and charged, her daggers held out to the side. She stopped in front of Twilight and flipped into the air, bringing her daggers up in a criss-crossing, spiralling slice.
-Twilight Life Points: 6300-
-Twilight’s deck: 15 cards-
“I end my turn.”
“And I begin mine.” Twilight growled and drew. “I still have enough Lightsworn cards in my Graveyard for this! I bind together four of them with different names, and once again Special Summon Judgment Dragon to the field!” The clouds above Twilight split apart and another copy of her dragon flew onto the field, landing behind her.
Sunset sneered. “And will you try to use its effect?”
“I’m not stupid,” Twilight replied. “You’ll just use Ariette’s effect to counter it. But there are other ways to clear the field. Judgment Dragon, attack Infernal Ariette!” Judgment Dragon opened its jaws and summoned particles of light between them. “Once she’s destroyed in battle, the rest of your field is defenseless from Judgment Dragon’s ability!”
Sunset gasped in faux horror. “What an unexpected and insightful strategy! Too bad you didn’t account for Sonare’s effect. When you declare an attack, I can detach an Xyz material from Sonare to negate your attack and instantly end the battle phase.”
One of the balls of light orbiting Sonare was absorbed into the gem on its chest. Sonare held her hands over it and generated a field of blue energy. The energy expanded to encompass Sunset’s field, creating a dome of blue light. Judgment Dragon fired its attack and the stream of light energy washed over the barrier.
Twilight frowned and looked away. “Fine then. I discard four cards from the top of my deck for Judgment Dragon’s effect, and end my turn.”
“Good.” Sunset drew with a smirk. “I think it’s time to end this.” She reached to her hand and held out a card. “I activate the Spell card Harmony Jewel. I return a Harmony Guardian monster on the field to the Extra Deck and draw a card. I’ll get rid of the Harmony Guardian Magia in my Pendulum Zone.” Magia broke apart into pieces as Sunset drew.
“Next, to replace Magia, I activate ‘Harmony Guardian Infernal Bellis’ in the Pendulum Zone.” The column of light that appeared next to Sunset was a deep green this time. Rising inside it was a warrior in dark green armor with red details curling along the edges of her armor. A scythe with a glowing blue-green blade was strapped to her back.
“I call on the power of the monsters in my Pendulum Zones. Using the Scale 3 Harmony Guardian Compassion and the Scale 9 Harmony Guardian Infernal Bellis, I Pendulum Summon!” Sunset looked up at the summoning portal above her. “I summon Harmony Guardian Risus from the hand, and Harmony Guardian Magia and Harmony Guardian Infernal Juniperus from the Extra Deck!”
Her five monsters in a row in front of her, Sunset spread her arms, her eyes crackling red. “And now, Twilight, would you like to have a guess as to what Bellis lets me do?” As Twilight opened her mouth, Sunset cut her off. “You know what, let’s just cut to the chase and show you! I activate Harmony Guardian Infernal Bellis’ special ability! Using it and Harmony Guardian Infernal Juniperus, I conduct a Fusion Summon!”
A purple portal behind Sunset began to spin as her two monsters leapt into it. “I unite the spirits of the fallen guardian of nature and the fallen guardian of inspiration, and open the dimensional gates to call on the greatest of dark musicians!” Sunset drew her card from her duel disk and held it up.
Orange rays of light shone from cracks in the ground in front of Sunset, and the dirt exploded out as her newest monster leapt into the air. A suit of deep purple armor covered the warrior woman’s torso, spikes on the shoulders, boots, and gauntlets. A red gemstone glowed in the warrior’s breastplate. Long orange hair blew in the air behind it, streaming from a horned helmet. The warrior reached to her waist and swung out a massive mace, spikes emerging from it and crackling with energy (2100/1200).
Twilight frowned. “I presume at this point, Adagium has some effect that will destroy my Judgment Dragon?”
Sunset sneered. “You think you’re so clever, don’t you? No, it doesn’t.” She swept a hand towards her middle monster and jabbed her finger next to Twilight. “Harmony Guardian Infernal Ariette, attack Judgment Dragon!”
Ariette coiled her legs and charged, holding up her trident. Judgment Dragon looked down at her and lifted a paw to stomp on her; the warrior’s armor crumpled as its wearer dispersed into purple light.
-Sunset Life Points: 3500-
“What did you do that for?” Twilight asked.
“Watch and you might learn something.” Sunset held her hand up. The image of Ariette’s trident appeared floating in the air, glowing purple. “When Harmony Guardian Infernal Ariette is destroyed as a monster, I can place her in my empty Pendulum zone.” The ghostly image of Ariette appeared behind her weapon and took hold of it, solidifying in a flash of light.
Sunset leaned forward. “And now that she’s in the Pendulum zone, her Pendulum effect is active. For every Harmony Guardian I control, including the ones in the Pendulum zones, my Harmony Guardians gain two hundred attack points. With Compassio and Ariette in the Pendulum Zones, and four Harmony Guardian monsters in play on my field, they all get a twelve hundred point bonus.”
Ariette held out its trident. Tendrils of purple energy shot out from it, striking the backs of Gracia, Magia, Sonare, and Adagium; a fifth wrapped around the ankle of Compassio.
Twilight grimaced. “A minute ago, you were lecturing me on how a real duelist doesn’t treat her cards like that.”
“What can I say? Considering it’s gonna be the move that shuts you up, I’d say it’s an acceptable cost!” Sunset gave a cruel laugh, the light in her eyes pulsing. “Harmony Guardian Infernal Adagium, attack and destroy Judgment Dragon!”
Adagium (2100 → 3300) ran forward and leapt into the air. Her mace glowed with orange energy, sparks flying between the spikes. She descended and slammed the head into the skull of Judgment Dragon. The dragon convulsed and exploded in rays of orange light.
Sunset chuckled as Adagium lowered beside her. “When Adagium destroys a monster in battle, her effect activates. The defense points of your destroyed monster are dealt to you as damage!” Adagium smirked and held out her mace, shooting a beam of orange light across the field.
The blast hit Twilight and she cried out and stumbled back, clutching a hand to her chest. “W-what?”
-Twilight Life Points: 3400-
“Well, looks like there’s no monsters left in play on your side of the field,” Sunset called. “I’d say this is the beginning of the end, but that was already true three turns ago.”
Twilight raised her head, wincing. “Sunset, w-wait…”
“No thanks. Harmony Guardian Infernal Sonare, direct attack!”
Sonare (1500 → 2700) jumped in the air, daggers raised. She flung them forward, the blades glowing bright blue. They shot through Twilight and she gasped and fell to a knee.
-Twilight Life Points: 700-
“One more attack and this is over.” Sunset chuckled. “And I have the perfect card to finish you.” She thrust her hand forward. “Harmony Guardian Magia, attack Twilight Sparkle directly!”
Magia floated up into the air and held up her staff. A large orb of purple energy began to pulse and spark along the tip.
Twilight lifted her head and looked up at the monster. “Sunset…”
Glowing red eyes staring unflinching, Sunset turned her hand over and snapped her fingers.
Magia twirled its staff and snapped it down, firing the magical orb at Twilight. The orb hit the ground in front of her and exploded in rays of light. Twilight screamed as she was sent flying backwards from the blast. She hit the grass heavily and rolled, her cards flying from her duel disk and scattering behind her.
Sunset’s hair fluttering in the air fell to her shoulders, and the red light in her eyes faded.
-Twilight Life Points: 0-
Sunset blinked and gasped. She slumped forward, stumbling to stay upright, and put a hand to her head. The holograms of her monsters faded before her.
On the sidelines, Hope covered the microphone and cleared her throat, then took her hand back. “The winner of the final duel of the day is Canterlot High’s Sunset Shimmer!”
Sunset blinked as the CHS crowd began to cheer. She looked up to see Twilight on her stomach, not moving. “Twilight?”
“The final three rounds of the tournament will begin at 10 am tomorrow. Registered duelists are requested to be here by that time.”
As Sunset watched the motionless body of her opponent, five girls clustered around her and obscured her view.
“That was awesome!” Rainbow put an arm around Sunset and shook her, grinning widely. “You kicked butt.”
“Not the words I’d use…” Rarity said quietly.
Sunset looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“You were scary!” Pinkie cried. “The red eyes and the sneering and the ‘grr-arg’ stuff.”
“I…” Sunset held her head and closed her eyes. “I remember I wanted to try and tap into my magic again… I drew a card, and…” She looked down at her duel disk and the three new cards there. “Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz?”
“Yup.” Applejack nodded. “Was something alright.”
Sunset picked up her three cards and read them. Her eyes widened. “These cards…” Infernal…
She pushed her way through the group and looked across the field. The other Crystal Prep duelists were standing around Twilight, and Shining Armor was kneeling beside her with a hand on her back.
Sunset’s hand shook, her cards slipping from her fingers and floating to the grass.
I did this…
“Sunset?” Fluttershy’s voice cut through her thoughts. “Are you okay?”
Sunset turned and ran across the field towards the school.
“Easy, Twily.” Shining Armor put her arm around his shoulder. “Come on, let’s go.” Twilight whimpered as he stood, bringing her to her feet with him.
“I…” Twilight blinked and reached up to her head to remove her glasses. The eyewear was bent, and one of the lenses had cracked. “That hurt.”
“Stop being a drama queen,” Sugarcoat muttered. “It’s just the feedback system in the duel disks. They put out—”
“I know how duel disks work!” Twilight gasped. She shook her head. “That was different. That hurt.”
“You’ve said before you don’t duel.” Sunny Flare shrugged. “Perhaps you’re just not used to it.”
“No… this…” Twilight winced. “And those eyes… I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Yeah, she’s got pretty eyes. Nice legs, too.” The others glared at Indigo Zap. “What?”
“You didn’t see it?” Twilight looked between them. “Her eyes were glowing! Bright red!” The others looked at her blankly. Twilight’s jaw dropped. “None of you saw it!?”
“Girls.” The crowd turned as Hope approached them. “If you’d like a ride back to Crystal Prep, the limousine will provide one. Otherwise you are all free to go home.”
“Vice-principal Hope!” Twilight stepped forward, taking her arm from Shining Armor. “I need to speak to Principal Sombra, please.”
Hope shook her head. “Principal Sombra had to depart to take care of administrative duties. I’ll be taking the seven of you back to the school. He’ll be here tomorrow if you need him.”
“Twily, let it go.” Shining Armor put a hand on her shoulder. “Come on, you’ve had a big day.”
Twilight closed her eyes and nodded. She heard the group begin to walk forward and let her feet follow them, stumbling slightly. She looked down at her broken glasses and carefully put them back on, the cracked lenses crooked in front of her eye.
Sunset coughed and let the cold water run down her face and drip into the sink. She cupped her hands under the faucet and splashed herself again. She sucked in a breath.
Sunset shut off the faucet and reached up to the paper towel dispenser on the wall, grabbing a sheet and holding it to her face. She wiped herself off and turned to lean against the sink, staring down at her boots.
My magic… She gripped the edge of the sink tightly. I should have known what it would do… why did I do it?
You did it because you wanted to win. You wanted to keep your school’s hope alive.
I didn’t want to hurt anyone!
Then you should have played better, then you wouldn’t have needed your magic at all.
I did the best I could!
And it wasn’t enough. You weren’t enough.
Sunset closed her eyes. “Twilight could have done it. She could have used her magic safely. She could have won without hurting the other Twilight.”
But Twilight isn’t here. You are.
And I’m not enough.
Then become better.
Sunset’s brain didn’t have an answer for that.
After a long period of silence, she stood up and walked out of the bathroom. She shoved her hands in her pockets and began to walk down the hall, watching the tiles pass under her feet.
I guess an apology wouldn’t help much. ‘Hey, sorry I used my forbidden magic on you to cheat and win the duel. Didn’t mean to hurt you though’. She frowned. Something doesn’t add up, though. How does Twilight know about my cards? And what’s her deal with me? She seems to hate me. What’s going on?
Sunset raised her head.
One hand holding open a door to a classroom, the other gesturing her inside it, Sombra smiled at her.
Sombra grabbed a chair by the back of the seat and pulled it towards the desk Sunset sat at. The metal squeaked as Sombra swiveled the chair around to face Sunset, and then sat down in it, his hands clasped on the desk.
Sunset looked around the room. I don’t think I have classes here. Which room is this? The posters and boards around the room seemed to indicator some sort of English class. When Sunset looked at the back of the room where bookshelves were lined up, she met Sombra’s green eyes and found herself transfixed.
Sombra stared at her for several seconds. Sunset fought the urge to fidget in her seat. I should look away. This is creepy… why can’t I look away? The lights were on in the room and yet Sombra’s face seemed to be in shadows, his features obscured.
At last, he spoke.
“Impressive victory, Miss Shimmer. You’ve reversed Canterlot High’s fortunes in this tournament.”
Sunset swallowed heavily. “Thank you.”
Sombra sat back in his seat. He raised his eyebrows and gave a small incline of his head. “Tell me, which of those cards that you used were created wholecloth during the duel? I am merely curious.”
No. Sunset felt a chill run up her back. “I… I got a few lucky draws. That’s all.” Sombra continued to watch her, his expression unchanging. Sunset nodded. “Just luck.”
“I believe the truly skilled make their own luck. And you, Miss Shimmer, are skilled.”
“I don’t think my dueling is going to change what I draw.”
“Is that so?” Sombra took a deep breath and looked away. He stood and clasped his hands behind his back, taking a few steps away.
Sunset bit her lip. He’s probing, trying to get me to reveal something. “Principal Sombra, what are—”
“May I call you Sunset?”
Sunset paused. “Huh?”
Sombra turned back at her. “Would it bother you terribly if I used your given name?”
Sombra nodded. “Then if I may, Sunset, I would prefer it if you dropped your pretenses of naïve innocence. I know what you did down there.”
He’s bluffing. He has to be. Sunset’s hand shook at her side and she clenched it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, you do.” Sombra raised his head slightly. “I do not think you are a fool, Sunset, and I would not treat you like one. I hope you will afford me the same respect. So when I say to you ‘I know what you did’, I expect you to respond with the understanding that you do not need to lie to me."
His eyes boring into Sunset’s, Sombra leaned forward. “If it will set your mind at ease, allow me to say the word first – magic.”
Sunset’s heart skipped a beat. She closed her eyes and took a breath. “You know?”
“I have said so, did I not?”
Sombra waved a hand in the air. “Surely you did not think you were the only one in this world with power, did you? It is rare, true; I would not question it if you claimed to have never met another. But they are out there.”
He’s not wrong. Sunset had heard rumors and stories, but they’d never affected her so she hadn’t paid any attention nor had much interest. I was content to just wait for the portal to reopen so I could invade Equestria.
“But, yet…” Sombra tilted his head and narrowed his eyes slightly. “Your powers are different, somehow. I have met many duelists who can draw whatever card they may need, or create new cards from nothing. But I have never met a duelist who can create new types of cards.” His eyes fell on Sunset’s forearm and her duel disk. “Could I have a look at those Pendulum monsters, please?”
Sunset’s free hand moved to cover up her cards. “No.”
“I don’t trust you.”
Sombra’s lips twitched down slightly. “You offend me, Sunset. Not once before have I ever lied to you, and I do not intend to start now. What cause is there to distrust me?”
Anger boiled up in Sunset at his words. She channeled it into a glare. “You’re the head of the school that has humiliated and pushed around Canterlot High for years.”
“You deem me a scapegoat for your school’s ill performance?” Sombra snorted and shook his head. “I chose to take Crystal Prep to a higher level of competition, and Celestia refused to keep up. If you want someone to blame for Canterlot High’s loss of the tournament every year, look to your own principal.”
Sunset paused and blinked, her glare fading. “What do you mean?”
Sombra spread his hands. “Under my careful eye, Crystal Prep has become one of the most prestigious dueling institutions in the country. When I first became principal, eleven years ago now, Crystal Prep was much like Canterlot High. I instituted a dueling ranking system, decreed school events utilize the advanced ruleset of professional play, and I changed entry into the Friendship Cup to be based on merit rather than a student vote.”
He turned his head to the wall, and Sunset followed his eyes to a poster for the Friendship Cup. “I have told Celestia that her school could be the same as ours, if she would adopt my reforms. The benefits of my system are self-evident, but Celestia refuses. She once told me that it was the decision of her students, they wanted the Friendship Cup to be about fun, and had little interest in advanced rulesets or ranking systems. She agrees with that sentiment, and has told me she doesn’t want her school to be ruled by competition and bitterness.”
Sombra looked over at Sunset, stepping back towards her. “I have made Celestia offers of equality and fair competition, and she remains loyal to her students and to her ideals. Admirable. But misguided. Imagine what this tournament could be if Canterlot High would only rise to meet the challenge properly, instead of stagnating in mediocrity.”
“Is that what you think we are?” Sunset replied.
“Yes. But there are always outliers. Like you.” Sombra smiled at her. “I had often wondered about you. Canterlot High’s mysterious champion who never duels outside of tournaments. But you never entered the Friendship Cup, and what little I knew of you showed no higher ambition from you as a duelist than dominating your school. I brushed you off as a low priority, a probable false lead.”
He stopped in front of Sunset, his smile widening. “And now today you demonstrate to me your magic is not only active, but powerful beyond compare. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to apologize to you for my erroneous presumptions.”
Sunset stood, her chair squeaking, and looked up at him. “Well, you found me. What do you want with me?”
“To invite you to Crystal Prep.”
Sunset faltered. “What?”
Sombra reached into the jacket of his suit and withdrew a small pamphlet with a photograph of Crystal Prep on it. “Normally, tuition at our school is rather expensive, but it is worth the price for the caliber of instruction you would receive. I accept nothing less for my students than the best faculty and the best facilities, and we teach within the highest percentiles in the region for both Duel Monsters and conventional courses.
“What you will not read in pamphlets like this, however, are the private dueling classes we host. In the safe environment of this closed setting, in a class only I may authorize admittance to, Crystal Prep students with the potential for magic can hone their abilities and awaken the full breadth of their powers. An opportunity you will never find at Canterlot High.”
“A free tuition to a private school with magic lessons?” Sunset looked at the pamphlet. “You just finished boasting about how you use Crystal Prep to track down duelists with magic and train them. But why? What do you get out of this?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Crystal Prep’s reputation speaks for itself. We have tutored champion duelists for years, not to mention professionals who enter other fields of dueling such as card and game design. Success breeds prestige and prestige breeds influence.” Sombra closed his eyes and gave a small chuckle. “You could not imagine how much money Crystal Prep gets from sponsors and donors every year.”
“Money doesn’t make your school or your students better than Canterlot.”
“No – being better makes us better.”
“And it makes you arrogant.” Sunset glared. “I used to use my cards to push people around and control this school. And you think running an entire school that way is how I should learn? That I’d want to re-learn how to be a bully?”
“Bully?” Sombra frowned. “The only inequality you suffer from is that which you afflict upon yourselves. If you and your fellow students tire of losing the Friendship Cup, speak to Celestia about it. We could stop holding the tournament, or you may adopt my methods. Crystal Prep is proof they are successful. We have many students enrolled even now who hone their craft both magical and benign. Some have skill enough they could pose a challenge even to you.”
Suspicion bloomed in Sunset’s mind. “Twilight.”
Sombra’s gaze did not falter. “Yes?”
“She remembers my deck. She knows Pendulum monsters don’t really exist.”
“Proof of her latent abilities. She holds promise.” Sombra looked away and gave a small huff. “I have tried to encourage her to expand her horizons, but her mind is rigid and closed. She is intelligent beyond compare, and it has done her well in her classes, but she could be so much more if she could unlock her true potential. I have not yet given up hope for her, but if she did not awaken her powers when dueling you, I am uncertain what more it will take.”
“You expected her to awaken her magic dueling me?”
Sombra looked back at Sunset. “If you are concerned I somehow arranged your confrontation, do not be. I have not influenced the randomly chosen duels of the tournament, you have my word. But I will not deny that when I saw the two of you matched, I grew rather excited. I had hoped at least one of you would spur the other into awakening.” He smiled again. “And so you did.”
“Yeah, well…” Sunset sat down in another desk and rubbed the back of her neck. “It’s not something I’m proud of. I could have seriously hurt her.” She looked at her deck. “I can’t control it. I didn’t even know I could summon it up like that. But I won’t use a power that I can’t stop from hurting others.”
“A fair assessment. I do not think Twilight was in any serious danger, if that will help put your mind at ease. And while your magic is unlike any I am familiar with, I believe the same tutoring techniques used for other duelists could help you hone and learn to control it.”
Sombra stood and held out the Crystal Prep pamphlet again. “Attend Crystal Prep, Sunset, and I can help you unlock and master your abilities. You could become a duelist unparalleled but for a handful of others like you.”
Sunset stared at the offering for several seconds.
I don’t even know why I can’t control it, much less how. And it made me into… that. “You really think you could help me?”
“I promise it. I think attending Crystal Prep would be the best thing for everyone, including yourself.” Sombra inclined his head slightly. “I would hate to think what may happen if you lost control of your powers while dueling one of your friends.”
Sunset’s head skipped a beat. My friends… She took a shaking breath and looked down at her duel disk. This deck was born from Twilight’s deck, and then reformed from my friendship with the others here. If I left them, would my deck vanish? Or would it change to something else, something I don’t even recognize? She moved her eyes to the Extra Deck slot, empty. If just using my magic this one time caused those evil cards to appear, what could happen to me if I abandoned my friends?
She looked up at the pamphlet in Sombra’s hand, and raised her arm to gently push it aside.
Sombra frowned. “May I ask why?”
Sunset inhaled deeply. “I can’t say I’m not at least a little curious. And I do want to learn how to control my magic. But I can’t leave Canterlot. I have friends here.”
“You could make new friends at Crystal Prep. And contact with your friends here would not be forbidden.”
“It’s not that simple.” Sunset took a breath. “I belong at Canterlot High. Crystal Prep may be great, but… all the things you said about how you reformed it, the way your students duel…” She stood firmly and locked teal eyes with green. “Like I said: I’m not interested in re-learning how to be a bully.”
Sunset looked back at Sombra. After holding her gaze for several seconds, he gave a brief bow of his head. “This is the second time today I have been disappointed.” Sombra sighed and tucked the pamphlet back into his suit. “You may consider my offer remaining open, at least until the end of the tournament. Think it over a bit more and we can talk again tomorrow.”
My answer will be the same. Aloud Sunset merely said, “Sure.”
Sombra extended his hand, now empty. “Once again I congratulate you on your win. Whatever you may choose, you have a unique gift, Sunset. I hope you will do what is needed to nurture it.”
“…Thank you.” Sunset took the hand and shook it.
Once their hands stilled, Sombra withdrew his. “If you do not mind, I will take my leave. Good evening, Sunset. I will see you tomorrow.”
With a short bow and a nod, Sombra turned and calmly walked out of the room, leaving the door open behind him.
Sunset waited, listening to his footsteps echo down the hall.
“Twily?” Shining Armor knocked twice on the closed door. “Dinner’s ready.”
“Not hungry,” came the muffled response.
Shining frowned and turned the door handle. “Twilight?” He pushed the door open and peaked his head into his sister’s room.
Twilight sat with her back to him, working on her computer. Her duel disk lay on the desk next to her, a cable running from the disk to the computer.
“No, no, no!” Twilight grunted and slammed a fist beside her keyboard. “It won’t even transfer!”
“What are you doing?” Shining asked, coming up to her.
Twilight turned to her duel disk and examined the cable connection as she spoke. “My duel disk doesn’t have any records of my duel with Sunset. Any time I try to access data from it, either the programs crash or the data is corrupted. The duel record is corrupted. The video and audio recordings are blank. Even the record of my opponents didn’t add Sunset to the directory.”
“Should run some maintenance on it, make sure it runs properly.”
“It worked fine yesterday!” Twilight shrieked, her eyes snapping up at her brother. “But the after I dueled Sunset, everything went haywire!”
Shining leaned closer. “Twily, what’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong?” Twilight grunted angrily and clutched her hair. “Everything’s wrong! That duelist is something beyond just cheating, Shining! Her eyes were glowing! So was her deck! How do you explain that?”
“Error with the holograms?”
“And her new Extra Deck cards that I’ve never seen her use before despite recording almost twenty hours of footage of her dueling?” Twilight jabbed a finger at her camera drone on her dresser. “I checked. Literally, I rewatched it all. And now all the data of the duel is corrupted?”
“Twilight.” Shining sat down on the bed. “Look at me.” Twilight turned her eyes his way. “You’ve had a long day. How about we go grab some food and you let your mind rest, and you come back to it in an hour? Maybe you’ll come up with something over dinner.”
“I’m not hungry,” Twilight muttered.
“We had an early lunch at the tournament, you are so.” Twilight’s stomach growled. Shining smirked and pointed to it. “See?” He put his hand on Twilight’s shoulder and gave her a playful shake. “You’ll think better on a full stomach.”
Twilight closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “Let me give you a scenario. A duelist with cards you’ve never seen before – nevermind they’re an entire type of card you’ve never seen before – is out there. Emails and phone calls to judges and card designers, and research on every card database you know of, turn up nothing. When you face her in a duel, her eyes start glowing and she starts playing cards you are absolutely certain she didn’t have before. Her cards physically hurt you, beyond what a duel disk is designed to do normally. And then after the duel, your duel disk has no data about the duel.”
She opened her eyes. “Would you not be even the slightest bit curious as to what was going on?”
Shining pulled his hand back. “Yeah, that’s definitely weird, and I’d want to know more. But my first step would be to approach this girl and just ask her about her cards. I wouldn’t spy on her with a camera drone and try to steal her deck.”
“I wasn’t trying to steal it, I just wanted to look at her cards.”
“I would have just asked her.”
“If she’s cheating then she’ll say no.”
“And if she isn’t cheating, she’ll say yes, and you’ve been spying on an innocent girl.” Shining shook his head. “Twily, curiosity is one thing; this is obsession.”
“I knew it,” Twilight muttered. “You don’t believe me. No one does.” She gave her cell phone an accusing look. “The only person who ever thought I was onto something was Principal Sombra. And he hasn’t returned my calls all night.”
“He does run our school, Twilight. He’s a busy man.”
“I know, but I need to talk to him!” Twilight cupped her hands to her face and groaned. “I just want someone to explain this to me. It doesn’t make sense.” She looked at her duel disk and flicked the hinged flap that covered up the cable ports on the bottom.
“Everything I know about this game tells me I’m wrong. Judges, designers, store owners, websites, databases. Even my own schoolmates. They all tell me those cards can’t exist. But I’ve seen them, I’ve played a duel against them. I know what I’ve seen, and I know that what I’ve seen can’t be real.”
She looked back at Shining Armor. “Does a crazy person realize they’re going crazy?”
“You’re not going crazy, Twily.”
“Isn’t that just what you’re supposed to tell a crazy person to make them feel better?”
Shining chuckled at the remark; Twilight didn’t. He quickly stopped and he stood up, moving in front of her.
“You are not crazy, Twilight.” Shining hugged her, patting the back of her had. “You are the smartest duelist I’ve ever seen, and that isn’t your BBBFF talking, that’s the Crystal Prep champion. If you say something is going on, I believe you. And I know you’ll figure it out.”
“Thank you,” Twilight mumbled into his shirt.
“But,” Shining continued. He stepped back and put a hand on her chin to tilt her head up. “You need to know when to take a step back. What was it you used to say to me? ‘A poor duelist focuses on beating what’s on the opponent’s field; a great duelist focuses on beating what’s in their deck.’”
“I don’t think that’s quite the same thing…”
“Point is, whatever is happening with that Sunset Shimmer girl, yelling at your duel disk and calling yourself crazy isn’t going to give you the answer. You’ll be free all day tomorrow, you can look around Canterlot and talk to people then if you need to.”
“See?” Shining smirked and ruffled her hair. “Your bro is good for more than being a handsome duelist.”
“Stop that,” Twilight scowled and pushed his hand off her hair.
“I will, if you come get dinner with me.”
“Fine, but after dinner I’m coming back to work on this.”
“As long as you get to sleep at a proper time, sure.”
“…‘kay.” Twilight stood up and obediently followed her brother out of her bedroom, pausing at the doorway to look back at her duel disk, and then to her broken glasses folded up on the desk in front of it.
Why can’t I understand this?
Sitting at her desk in her apartment, Sunset stared at the Magia card on top of the scattered pile of cards in front of her.
Why did I receive these cards? Twilight left me her deck to take care of. Then they turned into these. Why? Sunset sighed and slumped in her chair. Twilight trusted me to use her deck properly. And somehow I turned it into this… I don’t even understand what ‘Pendulum’ is supposed to mean in regards to the Elements of Harmony. Sunset reached into the pile and picked up her Compassio card. Her lip quivered as she looked at it.
Dark attribute… needs the other Pendulum Zone empty to use its effect… the other six synergize perfectly with each other. This one relies on being alone. She let Compassio fall back on top of the others. Twilight’s deck was born from the bond she shared with her friends in the two worlds. So what does this deck say about me? That I corrupted Twilight’s cards into something that shouldn’t exist? She stared at the card, the fae knight’s eyes a mirror of her own teal.
Is that card what I am? Even when trying to be good, I’m part of something evil?
Sunset’s phone vibrated from the bed. She leaned over and picked it up, turning it over to reveal a text alert from Rarity.
Are you okay?
Sunset reached to touch the keypad icon, and paused. She moved her hand over to the phone icon and tapped it instead.
The line rang twice before it picked up.
“I don’t know.” Sunset fought down a lump in her throat. “Rarity, those cards… you know what they were called.”
“I do. Rainbow Dash retrieved the ones you dropped on the field.”
“Okay.” Sunset bit her lip. “How are you guys doing?”
“Pinkie has been, well, Pinkie about it - I can’t be certain if her exaggerations are for comedic effect or simply how she cannot help but express herself.”
“She’s saying you turned into a monster.”
Sunset ignored the pang in her chest. “And the others?”
“Fluttershy is worried about you more than what you did. Applejack hasn’t discussed it much, but I can tell she’s concerned.” Rarity huffed. “Rainbow Dash thinks it’s, to quote her, ‘totally awesome’. She wants to know if you can give magic to the rest of us.”
Sunset narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Quite not. I recall the last time you did that. Better to say, I recall pieces of it.”
Images of a darkened parking lot and her hands glowing with red magic entered Sunset’s mind. She shut her eyes to will them away. “What about you?”
“I could do without seeing you in that state ever again. Otherwise, I’ll be fine.”
“I wouldn’t do anything like that to you again, Rarity. Never.” Sunset gripped her phone tighter and pressed it closer to her head. “I don’t want to hurt you, or the others, or even Crystal Prep’s students! I didn’t mean to do... What happened today wasn’t what I wanted!” She stopped and caught her breath, clutching a hand to her face. “I’m sorry… Please believe me.”
Hand still on her face, Sunset closed her eyes and nodded. “Thank you. Really, thank you.”
“I think the question we’re all pondering in our own way is what happens now.”
“I’m not sure.” Sunset lowered her hand and breathed deep. “I guess, no more magical duels for me. Good thing I won’t have to duel again in this tournament, right?”
“Indeed. I do hope you’ll still come to support us? We can’t know the match-ups, of course, but it’s Rainbow, myself, and Flash left to duel.”
“Of course I’ll be there. Wouldn’t miss it.”
Sunset pulled her phone away to look at the clock on it. “I’ll let you go get some sleep, then.”
“You do the same, darling. And try not to beat yourself up about this. We’ll figure this out together.”
Sunset hung up and tossed her phone back to the bed.
Figure it out together… She lowered her head, letting her hands hang from her knees. I know one person who could tell me what it means. But she’s in another dimension. She glanced back at her stack of cards on her desk.
The crowds on the back field of Canterlot High were growing larger by the minute when Sunset drove her motorcycle into the parking lot and into an empty space. She skidded to a stop, turned off the engine and kicked down the stand, but didn’t dismount. Face concealed in her helmet, Sunset watched the crowds begin to filter into the stands. She pulled her phone from her pocket and glanced at the display.
10:50. They’re probably already down there. Her hand still on the handlebars of her bike tightened its grip. They want me to come cheer them on. They’ll be worried if I don’t show up. Especially with what happened. Taking a deep breath, Sunset slid her phone back into her pocket, took her helmet off, and hung it on the handlebar, and stood up. She slowly walked to the entrance to the field, her boots crisp on the pavement.
At the stairs down to the grass she paused and looked at the bench for Canterlot High. Her friends were there, some sitting down and others standing, but they all turned their heads towards her when she came into view.
Rainbow Dash ran up to her. “Hey!” She stopped at the foot of the stairs and reached into her pocket. “These are yours.”
Sunset stepped down the stairs, her eyes locked on the three cards in Rainbow’s hand. She swallowed and slowly reached out to take them. “Thanks for getting them.” She fought the urge to rip the cards up then and there. Somehow, I have a feeling it wouldn’t do any good.
“Sunset?” Sunset girl raised her eyes to see Fluttershy stepping up behind Rainbow. “How are you doing?” she whispered.
“I’m… doing. Thanks.” Sunset looked over at the Shadowbolt bench, five of the opposing duelists already seated and chatting with each other. “Have you seen Twilight? The other Twilight, of course.”
Rarity sighed. “I’m afraid not. I had wanted to check on her myself, but she’s a no-show.”
“Darn.” Sunset scrunched her face. “I hope she’s okay.” She looked at her new cards in her hand, then folded them up and slid them into her duel disk.
“Too bad you’re not allowed to duel again,” Rainbow said, eyeing the cards as Sunset put them away. “You kicked some major butt yesterday. Wouldn’t mind seeing you do that again.”
Sunset’s head snapped up, her mouth hanging open. “How can you say that?” Her expression twisted into one of anger. “I could have hurt her, Rainbow!”
“Yeah, but you didn’t.” Rainbow held up her hands. “And you got those sweet new cards out of it.”
“Sweet new cards?” Sunset jabbed a finger at Rainbow’s chest, making the other girl step back as Sunset came towards her. “I just tapped into magic I wasn’t even sure I had anymore, and I turned back into that arrogant, violent duelist you saw from the Autumn Crown tournament and before! Is that the kind of teammate you want?”
“No; I want the kind of teammate that wins!” Rainbow pushed Sunset’s finger away. “I don’t see how this is any different from what Twilight did during the tournament!”
Sunset paused. “That…”
“Well, dear…” Rarity put a finger on her cheek as she thought aloud. “If memory does serve, Twilight would become more cold and direct when her magic activated. Perhaps it’s just this type of magic as a whole that affects a duelist, so not just you?”
“All the more reason not to use it.” Sunset shook her head. “Twilight had to use magic, the fate of Equestria was at stake. This is just some silly school competition.” When several of her friends narrowed their eyes at her words, Sunset immediately grunted and held up a hand. “You know I didn’t mean it like that!”
“Yup.” Rainbow nodded. “You sure weren’t thinking that way yesterday when you used it in the first place.”
“Because I didn’t know that would be what happened!” Sunset insisted. “I didn’t think I’d lose control like that.”
“So if you could control it, you’d be okay with using it again?” Rainbow continued.
“You’re…” Sunset huffed. “This isn’t the same. There’s a difference between having stronger cards than them, and using magic to make new cards they can’t hope to counter! Is that how you want to win, Rainbow? By cheating?”
Rainbow’s jaw dropped. “I’d never cheat to win anything! How can you even think that?”
“Because that’s what you’re asking.” Sunset looked down at her duel disk. “Twilight is right on one point – if I rely on this kind of advantage to win, it’s cheating. And even if they are elitist, Crystal Prep doesn’t deserve that. And Canterlot High deserves to have duelists representing them who won’t stoop that low.”
“It’s okay.” Sunset shook her head. “But you shouldn’t go thinking this is a good thing, it isn’t.”
“I know. It’s just...” Rainbow nodded over at Crystal Prep’s bench. “They’re still gonna wipe the floor with us. And it’s still gonna suck when we lose.”
“And if we do lose, we should at least lose fairly,” Sunset finished.
Rarity coughed lightly and gave Sunset a small smile. “Well, I do agree wholeheartedly with half of that – we should play fairly, yes?” She looked between the two expectantly. Sunset nodded. Rainbow caught her eye, shrugged, and pulled out her deck to begin looking through it.
Sunset felt a chill go down her back, and turned her head.
Sombra stepped down the stairs onto the field, his shoes echoing crisply on the concrete.
“Excuse me,” Sunset said, waving at Rarity. She jogged up to Sombra as he touched down on the grass. “Principal Sombra!”
Sombra turned his head and smiled softly. “Ah, good morning, Sunset.” He put a hand on his breast and gave a small bow of his head. “I trust all is well with you?”
Sunset swallowed heavily. “As well as could be expected.”
“Good to hear.” Sombra raised his eyes, green eyes gleaming in the morning sun. “Is there something I could do for you?”
“I just wanted to make sure you hadn’t told anyone else about…” Sunset looked around; no one was nearby. She erred on the side of caution anyway. “What we discussed yesterday?”
Sombra’s smile faded. “Why would I, Sunset? I above all others understand the need for discretion in these matters.”
“Right.” Sunset nodded. “I just thought, I mean, I said no to you. I thought you might be upset or offended.”
“No. Disappointed, perhaps, but not offended.” Sombra held a hand out beside him. “I extended a generous offer to you for your own benefit, and you declined it. That is your choice to make.” He drew his hand back. “Although, as I said before, the offer is still available until the end of the tournament, if you wish to accept it.”
“Thank you.” I won’t.
Sombra raised his head and looked around the field. “On another note, Sunset, have you seen Twilight Sparkle today?”
Sunset’s brow creased. “You haven’t seen her either?”
“No.” Sombra shook his head. “After the events of your duel with her yesterday, I wish to make sure she is well. I was indisposed last evening and had to refuse attempts from her to contact me. When I called her house this morning, her brother told me she had left to come here early. But I’ve not seen her here and she was quite terse when I called her cellphone.”
“Are you worried about her?” Sunset asked.
“I do not know. But I would like to see her myself to make sure of her well-being.”
“I’ll let her know to come see you, if I find out where she is,” Sunset said.
“Thank you, that would be appreciated.” Sombra looked at his watch. “Pardon me, please, I expect my fellow principals are waiting on me.” He bowed his head again and turned to approach the principal’s table.
Sunset looked at her phone. Time to start. Where’s Twilight?
Twilight yawned, blinking rapidly. She looked over the page again and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Of course there’s no video available.” Sitting alone in Canterlot’s computer lab, the school’s website for the Friendship Cup displayed the results of her duel with Sunset. But where a video of the duel – typically taken from the school’s security cameras – ought to have played, there was only a static screen with a ‘Video Not Found’ message. To the right, where a synopsis of the duel turn-by-turn should be, there was a more simple line of text reading ‘Records corrupted’.
Letting her eyes remain closed a moment before continuing, Twilight lowered her hand to the mouse and clicked back to the tournament rundown, then clicked on the link to the second duel, Applejack vs Sugarcoat. The statistics came up and the video appeared with a thumbnail of the two, and on the right side the synopsis of the duel. She clicked to play the video and watched for a few seconds to confirm its contents, then clicked back again.
“There must be a way.” Twilight sat back in her chair and folded her arm, thinking and giving the webpage an accusing glare. If a hundred camera phones were aimed at this duel, hypothetically speaking, would they all malfunction? That’s a statistical impossibility. But the idea itself is unviable. I can’t simply ask every student who recorded the duel to let me see the video. It’d take too long and draw too much attention.
She took a breath. “This is a dead end. Step back, redefine the parameters of the problem.” She looked at the navigation bar of the webpage and moved the mouse cursor over them to view the menus. Coming to one, Twilight’s eyebrows raised, and she clicked the button for the Autumn Crown Tournament.
The page showed a poster for the tournament, and below it the brackets of the top sixteen duelists’ progress through to the finals. Twilight’s eyes zeroed in on the empty silhouette opposite Sunset’s portrait in the last duel, the space where the duelist’s name should have gone under their portrait a blank line. Twilight clicked to view the duel’s page, and once again found a corrupted video and duel summary.
“Sunset’s duels are unreadable, but what about you?” She looked at the empty opponent profile and clicked to the previous page. The mouse cursor moved over the duelist’s profile and a subsequent click prompted no result. “No profile page, makes sense.” She scrunched her nose. “Did they keep track of the results of the preliminary round?” She shook her head as soon as she finished. “No, even if they did, there’d be dozens of duels to scan and no duelist to filter them by; I’d have to check the list one by one.”
Twilight’s eyes moved backwards through the brackets, tracing the unknown duelist’s progress. “Rainbow Dash and Rarity. They won’t reveal anything they didn’t before.” Her eyes came on the bottom of the brackets, to the duelist’s first opponent in the top sixteen. Twilight looked at the listed duelist and clicked to open their profile.
“Trixie Lulamoon…” Her eyes scanned her profile. “Win-loss record, 27-7. Deck, Magician Girl.” Twilight scrolled down and found a brief summary of Trixie’s past duels outside the tournaments. “Even if they don’t keep full records and video of standard duels, the fact her opponent history and profile exist are good enough. It’s something to try, anyway. Unless of course she’s in on this… whatever it is.”
Distant cheers drew Twilight’s attention to the window. She pushed her seat back and walked over to look down at the field behind the school.
Radiant Hope cleared her voice before raising the microphone to her lips. “Students of Canterlot High and Crystal Prep, welcome to the second day of the Friendship Cup!” She paused while the crowd cheered. “For any of you who may not have been present yesterday, a brief recap of the duels.”
The display screen over the field showed the seven portraits of Canterlot and Crystal Prep’s duelists in a row, the portraits growing larger as Hope spoke of them. “Crystal Prep’s Sour Sweet defeated Canterlot’s Fluttershy Breeze, Crystal Prep’s Sugarcoat defeated Canterlot’s Jacklyn Applejack, Crystal Prep’s Lemon Zest defeated Canterlot’s Pinkamena Pie, and Canterlot’s Sunset Shimmer defeated Crystal Prep’s Twilight Sparkle!”
Sunset saw several Crystal Prep students look at the Canterlot bench at Hope’s final remark.
“Today, the final three duelists from either school will face off. If, at the conclusion of all seven duels, there is a tie, we will hold a tiebreaking duel shortly after today’s third duel. Otherwise the tournament will be rewarded to the first school to achieve four victories.” Hope handed the microphone to Luna sitting beside her.
“And now, let the second round begin!”
The students cheered again while the portraits of the schools’ remaining duelists began to flash at random.
“It’s one of us,” Rarity whispered. Rainbow reached over and patted the back of her hand laying on the bench.
The portraits stopped, two of them lit up.
Rarity’s breath caught.
“Our next duel is decided! Canterlot High’s Rarity Belle will face Crystal Prep’s Sunny Flare!”
On the Crystal Prep bench, Sunny Flare stood and tossed her hair, then walked onto the field.
Rarity inhaled. “Very well.” She stood and walked out, stopping at the close end of the markers. Sunny Flare reached the other end of the field, spun on her heel, her hair flying about her, and raised her arm.
Rarity smiled. “May the best duelist win.”
Sunny returned the smile with much less sincerity. “I will, yes. Thank you.”
“Let the duel begin!”
Mythical Bestiary - Rarity vs Sunny Flare (Part 1)
Mystical Bestiary – Rarity vs Sunny Flare (Part 1)
-Rarity Life Points: 8000-
-Sunny Life Points: 8000-
Sunny Flare’s portrait lit up on the duel screen.
“Marvelous.” Sunny drew her opening hand and flipped a card out from it. “I shall summon ‘Hazy Flame Cerbereus’.”
A circle of fire lit up in front of Sunny. From within them rose a large three-headed dog, its entire body made of flickering orange and red flames. The three heads looked at each other before turning forward to growl at Rarity (2000/200). Sunny sniffed. “I’m allowed to summon the Level 6 Cerbereus without a tribute, by sapping its attack strength by half.” Cerbereus groaned as its body lit up red, the flames of its mane dying down (2000 → 1000). “I end my turn.”
“Very well.” Rarity drew with a flourish, looked at her card, and held it out. “I’ll begin with this Spell card, ‘Crystal Bond’. This lets me add a Crystal Beast monster from my deck to my hand, and then a Crystal Beast with a different name is placed in my Spell and Trap zone.” Rarity tapped on the screen of her duel disk and picked up the two cards that ejected. “To my hand I’ll take ‘Crystal Beast Sapphire Pegasus’ and in my Spell and Trap zone I’ll place ‘Crystal Beast Amber Mammoth’.” A bright orange gemstone with a shadowed form inside it materialized in front of Rarity in a cluster of light orbs.
“Next, I summon Crystal Beast Sapphire Pegasus in attack mode!” A blue gemstone appeared in front of Rarity and shattered, a winged white horse flying out of the shards (1800/1200). “When my pegasus is summoned, I can place a Crystal Beast monster from my deck in the Spell and Trap zone.” Another card ejected from her deck into her fingers. “I’ll place ‘Crystal Beast Topaz Tiger’ in play.” Beside her orange gemstone manifested a yellow one. “And then, another Spell card, ‘Crystal Beacon’. Since I have two Crystal Beasts in my Spell and Trap zones, I can summon a third from my deck.”
Rarity’s deck lit up in red light. “Come on out, ‘Crystal Beast Ruby Carbuncle, in defense mode!” Within the rays of light appeared a small purple quadruple with large red eyes and a round red gem on its tail. It jumped down in front of Rarity and mewled (300/300). Rarity smirked. “When Ruby Carbuncle is Special Summoned, all of my crystallized Crystal Beasts in the Spell and Trap zone are released! Amber Mammoth and Topaz Tiger, I summon you!”
Ruby Carbuncle held up its tail and cried. The gemstone on its tail lit up red and shot beams of energy into the yellow and orange gems behind it. The gems glowed brightly and shattered. From the orange gem came a large mammoth, a circular amber stone on a crest on its forehead (1700/1600). A white tiger with a horn and a collar studded with yellow gems stepped from the rubble of the other gem (1600/1000).
Sunny’s eyebrows lifted. “An array of formidable monsters. And all on your first turn, as well? Impressive.”
“Thank you.” Rarity put a hand to her chest and gave a small bow of her head. “I think you’ll find the beauty of my Crystal Beasts is best appreciated up-close! Topaz Tiger, attack Hazy Flame Cerbereus!” Topaz Tiger roared and charged forward, paws padding over the grass. “When my Topaz Tiger attacks a monster, it gains 400 attack points!” The tiger (1600 → 2000) reached Cerbereus and pounced, claws extending from its paws. Cerbereus reared up and was knocked onto its back, and Topaz Tiger slashed it apart.
-Sunny Life Points: 7000-
Sunny sniffed and reached to her duel disk. “When Hazy Flame Cerbereus is destroyed, I can add a ‘Hazy’ card from my deck to my hand.” She held up her card. “I’ll take this, the Continuous Spell card ‘Hazy Pillar’.”
“Very well. As for me…” Rarity flung out her hand. “Sapphire Pegasus and Amber Mammoth, direct attack!” Sapphire Pegasus spread its wings and conjured an orb of blue energy between them, and Amber Mammoth generated an orange orb between its tusks. The two flung their heads forward and fired the orbs across the field, two circling each other before exploded around Sunny Flare
-Sunny Life Points: 3500-
Rainbow Dash pumped her fist. “Alright, and just on the first turn!”
“That’s our Rares!” Applejack called. The rest of the Canterlot crowd cheered loudly.
“Thank you, thank you.” Rarity turned to the bench and bowed. “But please, stay your praise, for the duel is not yet over.” She turned back to Sunny and smiled. “With those attacks I shall end my turn.”
Sunny rolled her tongue in her mouth as her duel disk ejected her card for her turn. “Your showboating is unearned.” She reached down and drew her card.
Rarity gave an indignant huff. “Bold words for someone who lost half their Life Points on the first turn.”
“True, your move was a good one. But you’ve left your field open to counter-play, and you’ve no idea what cards are in my hand.” Sunny’s lips curled in a small smirk. “Style is not nearly as important as substance, and unfortunately you only have the former. I’ll show you the latter.” She reached to her hand and picked up a card to slide into her duel disk. “I activate the Continuous Spell card Hazy Pillar.”
The ground behind Sunny split apart. A glowing, wavering pillar of bright orange fire rose up from it, the top flickering and snapping the air. “As long as this card is in play, any Hazy Flame monster I may summon requires one less tribute for their summoning.”
She flipped another card out of her hand and swung it onto her card tray. “Since I now need no tributes for it, I’ll summon the Level 6 ‘Hazy Flame Sphynx’ in attack mode.”
A large fireball emerged from the Hazy Pillar and floated in front of Sunny. The flames expanded and grew into a form laying on the ground, and then receded to reveal her monster. A beast with the body of a lion and the head of a woman lounged on the grass, her mane a field of orange and red fire. Jeweled blue and yellow regalia covered her forehead and neck (1900/1900).
Sunny smirked and reached to another card. “I now activate the Spell card ‘Card Advance’. This allows me to look at the top five cards of my deck and place them back on top of the deck in any order I wish, and I’m also afforded an extra Tribute Summon this turn.” Sunny’s cards ejected from her duel disk, and she picked them up and fanned them out. She let out a small giggle. “Oh my, I didn’t expect to have luck like this on my side. This duel may be over quicker than I thought.”
Rarity huffed and put a hand on her hip. “Just place your cards.”
“Very well.” One by one, Sunny put the five cards back on her deck, and rolled her neck when she was done. “Now that that is done.” She gestured a hand to her monster. “I activate the effect of Hazy Flame Sphynx. Once per turn I can guess if the top card of my deck is a Spell, Trap, or Monster card. I then reveal and discard that card, and if I guessed correctly, I can summon a Fire monster from my hand or Graveyard.” She put a hand on the top of her deck and smirked. “I have a very strong hunch that the top card of my deck is a Monster card.”
Rarity scowled. “So that’s what you were up to. Clever.”
“I know.” Sunny drew and held up the card. She press a hand to her cheek. “How fortunate for me! It is a monster, ‘Hazy Flame Hydra’. Hydra now gets discarded, and I can summon a monster.” She pursed her lip. “Although, my Hydra is now in the Graveyard and is a perfectly fine card itself, why get rid of it so hastily? I use the effect of Hazy Flame Sphynx to revive my Hazy Flame Hydra!”
Hazy Flame Sphynx turned its head and opened its mouth to shoot a column of fire at the ground. The flame formed into the shape of Sunny Flare’s monster and dispersed to reveal it, a writhing mass of red serpentine necks topped by pairs of red jaws with glowing eyes (2300/200).
“Next, the effect of Card Advance allows me to conduct an additional summon this turn. I summon ‘Hazy Flame Mantikor’, and by the effect of my Hazy Pillar, I shall do so without needing a Tribute.”
A swarm of fireballs floated out of the pillar of fire and congregated, growing into a quadrupedal form and dispersing. A large red lion with leathery wings crouched in front of Sunny, its mane a ring of orange fire (2200/300).
Sunny laughed and pointed forward. “Now begins the counter-attack! Hazy Flame Sphynx, attack Crystal Beast Amber Mammoth!”
Hazy Flame Sphynx leaned its head back and shot a jet of fire from its mouth. The fire struck Amber Mammoth and knocked it through the air, the beast trumpeting as it struck the ground and exploded.
“Next, Hazy Flame Hydra, destroy Sapphire Pegasus!” The Hydra’s heads turned to face each other and summoned an orb of fire between them. The orb launched forward and engulfed Rarity’s monster in a flash of light.
“Finally, Hazy Flame Mantikor, attack Topaz Tiger!” Sunny’s Mantikor roared and leapt through the air, pouncing on Topaz Tiger. It lifted its paw and extended claws of flickering orange fire, slashing through Topaz Tiger and into the ground, the monster scattering into specs of orange light.
-Rarity Life Points: 6800-
The Crystal Prep stands cheered as Sunny tossed her hair and winked at them. “I do hope your menagerie of mangy mammals enjoyed their time on the field. Short and sweet is the best way for monsters to be summoned.”
“I disagree.” Rarity lifted her monsters from her duel disk. “Mine won’t be going very far at all. Whenever my Crystal Beasts are destroyed, I can place them in my Spell and Trap zones as Continuous Spell cards.” In front of her, blue, yellow, and orange particles of light swirled around each other, forming large gemstones with the shadowed form of Rarity’s monsters inside them.
“Yes, and then once you come up with a way to Special Summon Ruby Carbuncle again you can call all of them back.” Sunny sighed and shook her head. “They are annoyingly persistent pests. Fortunately, I know exactly how to get rid of them for good.” She sneered and held a hand into the air. “I overlay my Hazy Flame Hydra and my Hazy Flame Mantikor! Using my two Level 6 monsters, I construct the overlay network!”
Rarity’s eyes widened.
Sunny Flare’s two monsters turned into orbs of orange light and swirled into a flaming vortex above her, red light gleaming from the center. She spun in place as she reached to her duel disk, her hair and skirt flying through the air. “Using the serpent of fire and the lion of fire, I spark the kindling that will light the flames of malice!” She stopped with her hand in place, a card ejecting into her fingers. “Xyz Summon.” She swung her card out and onto her duel disk with one swift motion. “Take flight, Rank 6, ‘Hazy Flame Basiltrice’!”
The Hazy Pillar behind Sunny blazed hotter as a shadowed form appeared within it. With a loud screech, a massive avian monster flew out of the flames and circled the field, two balls of orange light orbiting it. Wings of fire and gold swept through the skies, feathers in blue and orange and red rustling and a long serpent’s tail flicking the air in its wake. The monster touched down behind Sunny on six claws and raised its chest proudly, red eyes blazing beneath a golden crown and a hair of blue fire (2500/1800).
Rarity swallowed heavily, a hand to her chest. “It’s magnificent…”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it?” Sunny looked up at her new monster looming over her. “You’ll get a chance to get an up-close view next turn, I promise you. But for now, there is the business of my Hazy Flame Hydra to attend to. When my Hydra is used as an Xyz Material, the monster I summon with it gains an additional Xyz Material, in the form of another Hazy Flame Monster in my Graveyard. I choose my Hazy Flame Cerbereus.” A third ball of light rose from Sunny’s duel disk and joined the other two orbiting the Basiltrice.
“Then, I’ll use Hazy Flame Basiltrice’s special ability. By detaching an Xyz Material from it, I can banish a monster on your side of the field or in your Graveyard.” Sunny sniffed. “I think I’ll get rid of that hairball eyesore I left alone thus far!”
Rarity gasped. “Carbuncle!”
Hazy Flame Basiltrice opened it beak as one of its orbiting lights flew into its mouth. With a law caw it snapped its head forward, a beam of bright orange light lancing across the field. Ruby Carbuncle mewled as the light consumed it, its forming shattering under the blast. Rarity grit her teeth and looked away, raising an arm to block her eyes.
Sunny smirked. “I do believe that’s one Crystal Beast that won’t be rejoining us in the near future. I do hope you aren’t particularly partial to rubies. Or winning duels, for that matter.”
Rarity glared across the field as she lowered her arm. “Thank you for your concern, but I don’t need it. I’m quite capable of dueling without the need for an opponent’s pity.”
“I disagree, but we can discuss that after I beat you.” Sunny looked at the cards left in her hand and slipped one into her duel disk. “For now I’ll set a card end my turn.”
“It’s about time!” Rarity drew her card and looked down at it. She raised her eyes back to Sunny Flare, and then Hazy Flame Basiltrice above her. She put her card into her hand and swept her eyes between them.
Rainbow groaned. “Come on, Rares, just grab another Carbuncle from the deck! You gotta be running more than one!”
“Which won’t be of much help,” Sunset interrupted. “If she can’t get rid of Sunny’s monster now, Sunny will use the Basiltrice’s effect next turn and banish another one of Rarity’s monsters. Unless she can ensure it’ll be safe, summoning another copy of Ruby Carbuncle is one of the worst moves she could make.”
Fluttershy bit her lip. “Does she have anything at all to take it down?”
“I’m not sure.” Sunset shook her head. “Rarity’s a great duelist, but she’s always relied more on field advantage than brute force attack power.”
On the field, Sunny leaned to the side and looked past Rarity. “Your friends got chatty all of a sudden. I think they’re worried that you don’t seem to know what to do.”
“Actually, I was pondering the best way to get rid of that burning eyesore.” Rarity smiled sweetly. “But if you’re curious as to what I was thinking, then let’s just get on with it. I activate the Spell card ‘Crystal Promise’. This lets me summon one of my crystallized Crystal Beasts back to the field.” Rarity snapped her fingers. “Sapphire Pegasus, I release you!” The blue gemstone shattered and the winged horse flew out. “Since I summoned Pegasus, its effect activates again, letting me place ‘Crystal Beast Ruby Carbuncle’ in my Spell and Trap zone.” A gleaming purple gem materialized in line with Rarity’s other crystals.
“Next I shall set a monster in defense mode.” She held up another card. “Finally, I shall activate the Equip Spell card ‘Crystal Release’. By equipping this card to my Sapphire Pegasus, it gains eight hundred attack points.” Small clusters of gems in various colors appeared around Sapphire Pegasus and attached themselves to its wings, the horse rearing up (1800 → 2600).
Sunny glared. “Should I be worried?”
“Not if you aren’t particularly partial to winged monstrosities!” Rarity snapped back. “Sapphire Pegasus, attack and destroy Hazy Flame Basiltrice!” Sapphire Pegasus flapped its wings and rose into the air. The gems on its wings lit up in rainbow light, and it snapped its wings forward, sending a volley of energy bolts in seven colors across the field.
“I don’t think so.” Sunny rolled her eyes and tapped her duel disk’s screen. “I’ll activate my Trap card ‘Slip of Fortune’. This negates your attack and banishes Hazy Flame Basiltrice until the next turn.” Basiltrice turned into a ball of flame and was drawn into the Hazy Pillar. Pegasus’ attack flickered out and vanished in the air.
“A costly move.” Rarity looked at the display of the field on her duel disk. “You’ve lost the monsters attached to Basiltrice.”
“A small price to pay to keep it in play.” Sunny shrugged. “It’ll be back next turn ready to attack.”
“I’m aware.” Rarity slid another card into her duel disk. “I set one card face-down and end my turn.”
She lowered her arm and took a breath. “I’m not out of this duel, not by a long shot.”
“Not yet, but artistry takes time, and I’m just getting warmed up.” Sunny let out a small chuckle. “You haven’t even seen what my deck can really do.”
“Funny,” Rarity replied. “I was thinking much the same thing.”
Twilight let the door to the auditorium door swing shut behind her and stepped forward to the aisle in front of her. The room was largely full of students watching the duel outside via a projector directed at a large white cloth draped from the rafters to make a screen. She idly glanced at the duel in progress.
No, focus. You need to get to the bottom of this before the tournament ends. She turned her head to either side and found what she was looking for.
Leaning on the railing running along the top of the isles, a girl with silver hair and pale blue skin watched the duel with a small frown, her arms folded with a finger tapping on her elbow.
Twilight moved toward her. “Excuse me.”
The girl turned her head and her expression fell. “What do you want?”
“You’re Trixie, right?” Twilight stopped in front of her. “I’ve been looking for you.”
Trixie gave her a suspicious look. “Why?”
“I need to ask you some questions.” Twilight reached into her uniform and withdrew a notepad and pen.
“Sorry, the Great and Powerful Trixie doesn’t do interviews.” Trixie sniffed and tossed her hair. “But feel free to follow me on EweTube, MyNook, blah blah blah.” She began to walk past Twilight to the door when Twilight put a hand out on her arm.
“It’s not an interview,” Twilight said. “Please.”
Trixie jerked her arm away. “What do you want?”
“I need to know some things about the winner of the last Autumn Crown tournament at this school,” Twilight said.
Trixie burst out laughing, drawing looks of annoyance from a few students sitting nearby. “Oh, that’s rich.”
Twilight lowered her hand, confused. “Why?”
Trixie gave her a sideways look. “Is this some sort of scheme of yours, like a trap or a sting or something? Or do you just get your jollies off pretending to be an idiot?”
“I didn’t come here to be insulted.” Twilight put a hand to her temple and sighed. “I just need to know some things. Like how come there’s no official records of who the tournament champion was, or why Sunset and her friends won’t talk about them.”
“Oh, gee, I dunno, let me think.” Trixie put a hand on her chin and cocked her head in an exaggeration of pondering the question. “Maybe it’s a cover-up, because they don’t want anyone to know who won.”
“I’ve reached the same conclusion!” Twilight exclaimed. “They won’t say anything, but you will, won’t you? We can work together on this, expose the… the whatever-it-is they’re doing.”
Trixie dropped her hand and scowled. “You’re funny. Not.”
Twilight recoiled. “Huh?”
“If you want me to be silent, then fine, I’ll keep my mouth shut. It’s not like anyone seems to care anyway.”
“Care about what?” Twilight hissed.
“About how a Crystal Prep duelist pretended to be enrolled here and steamrolled everyone.”
“They did?” Twilight gasped and looked away, her mind racing. Her eyes darted around. “That would explain almost everything. It would certainly explain why Sunset and her friends don’t want to talk about it, and why all the records of the duelist who won would be erased from the school website.”
“Okay, seriously, what are you up to?” Trixie put a hand on her hip. “You’re either really good at playing dumb, or you aren’t playing.”
“Play what?” Twilight shook her head and turned back to her. “What? You know who it was?”
Trixie rolled her eyes. “Sure I do, Trixie faced her in a duel and lost during the top sixteen. Though I can’t remember quite how, I’m fairly certain it involved cheating. Not me, of course, I don’t need to cheat to win, but she definitely did.”
“Who is she?” Twilight pleaded. “All video records of their duels are gone, but if you just give me a name, I can investigate this further.”
“I’ll do you one better than a name.” Trixie pulled out her phone and began to swipe through it. “Trixie’s fans posted pictures of her spectacular dueling. Strangely, most of the pictures seemed to be corrupted. But there is one that survived, before the duel actually started and Trixie had just made her entrance.” Trixie held her phone out. “Voila.”
Twilight looked at the photo, taken from someone standing behind Trixie as she bowed to an applauding crowd. Her eyes traced to the other side of the image where Trixie’s opponent stood in the background.
She grabbed the phone from Trixie’s hand and held it closer to her face, her eyes going wide.
“That… that’s…” She tapped the photo to zoom in, the person opposite Trixie a bit blurry but still recognizable. “What was her name?”
Trixie’s phone clattered to the carpeted floor.
Mythical Bestiary - Rarity vs Sunny Flare (Part 2)
“Afraid not.” Trixie picked up her phone and rubbed the screen on her sleeve. “If this is broken, you’re paying for it.”
“I’ve never met you before. I’ve never been to this school.” Twilight shook her head again. “That wasn’t me.”
“Then it was someone who looks exactly like you, save for the glasses and the uniform.”
“A lookalike…yes.” Twilight nodded quickly. “Yes, it has to be. Someone was impersonating me.”
“You sure decided on that explanation pretty quick.”
“It’s the only explanation that makes sense.” Twilight took a deep breath. “This explains a lot. I should have hypothesized this sooner.”
“Uh, hang on.” Trixie held up a hand. “I don’t think you get what I’m saying. It wasn’t someone who just looked like you. They looked exactly like you, right down to the same hair colors with the same stripe. They sounded just like you, too.” Trixie sniffed. “Though she was a lot nicer than you. So Trixie has heard, anyway. Personally I think you’re about the same level of annoyance.”
“Hair dye or a wig could copy hair well enough. Voice imitation and personality can be chalked up to faulty memory.”
Trixie peered at her closely. “You’re really clinging to this theory, huh?”
“What else could it be?” Twilight asked. “I certainly wasn’t me competing in that tournament, so it had to be someone else.”
“Someone who looks like you, talks like you, and has the same name as you.”
“How do you explain it, then?”
Trixie shrugged. “You’re lying. You’ve got amnesia. You have a twin sister you don’t know about. I’d suggest she came from an alternate universe, but she didn’t have a beard.”
“No, dubious, unlikely, and impossible.” Twilight shook her head. “Occam’s Razor states that the simplest answer is most probable to be the correct one.”
“Someone impersonated you exactly to enter our school’s tournament, win it, and then vanished and had all records of her entry erased. That sounds simple to you?”
“No, but nothing about this is simple no matter how I try to justify it…” Twilight rubbed her forehead. “I need to find that girl, whoever she is.”
“Good luck with that,” Trixie replied. “She kept to herself while she was here, more or less.”
“Surely she spoke to someone?”
“As far as I heard, the only person she ever spoke to much was Sunset Shimmer and her friends.”
Twilight paused. “Them?” Her expression darkened. “Of course they’d know…” She clenched her eyes shut. “This simultaneously makes more and less sense the more I learn.” She looked back at Trixie and nodded. “Thank you.”
Trixie gave her a sidelong glance. “So, what happens now?”
Twilight inhaled. “There’s someone I need to speak to again.”
-Rarity Life Points: 6800-
-Sunny Life Points: 3500-
“My turn.” Sunny smiled as she drew. “Now the second effect of my Slip of Fortune returns Hazy Flame Basiltrice to my field.” The Hazy Pillar behind her flared up and the Basiltrice flew out of it, embers swirling in the air in its wake.
“Yes, and it has no Xyz Materials with which to use its effects now,” Rarity said.
“Not a concern.” Sunny tossed her hair and gestured to Hazy Flame Sphynx. “I shall now use the effect of Hazy Flame Sphynx. I guess the type of card on top of my deck and then send it to the Graveyard, and if I guessed right, I can revive a Fire monster in the Graveyard.” Sunny place her hand on her deck. “I’m going to guess it’s a Monster card.” She turned the card over and barked out a chuckle. “Lucky me, it’s another copy of Hazy Flame Sphynx. It goes to the Graveyard, and I’ll revive my Hazy Flame Hydra.”
A jet of flame erupted from the ground in front of Sunny, and the multi-headed serpent slithered out of it and rose up.
“Next, I’ll summon ‘Hazy Flame Hyppogrif’.” A fireball floated from the Hazy Pillar and expanded into the shape of a new monster. The flames receded to reveal an avian with fiery wings and four talons crouching on the ground, a crest of red fire on its head (2100/200).
Sunny smirked. “And now, I overlay my Hazy Flame Sphynx, Hazy Flame Hydra, and Hazy Flame Hyppgrif! Using my three Level 6 monsters, I construct the Overlay network!”
The three monsters turned into orbs of flame and floated towards the Hazy Pillar, circling it in streaks of light. Sunny held her hand up. “Using the serpent of fire, the avian of fire, and the lion of fire, I spark the kindling that will light the inferno of malice!” She swept her arms through the air, bringing her hand down to her duel disk. “Xyz Summon!” She whipped the card out and slid it into place on her duel disk, the card tray lighting up. “Take flight, Rank 6, Hazy Flame Basiltrice!”
A shockwave of orange and red energy burst out of the Hazy Pillar, signaling the Basiltrice’s arrival as it flew out. It circled around Sunny and landed on her right, three orbs of orange light circling it.
Rarity sniffed. “And this one has three materials to use its effects with.”
“Ah, ah, not quite.” Sunny wagged her finger. “One thing at a time, dearie. When Hazy Flame Hydra is used as an Xyz Material, another Hazy Flame monster in my Graveyard can be attached as an additional Xyz Material. I choose my Hazy Flame Mantikor.” Another ball of light emerged from the ground and floated into orbital formation with the other three.
“Now that that is taken care of, I think you should be aware of my Basiltrice’s other abilities.” Sunny chuckled softly. “With three or more Xyz Materials, my Basiltrice gains two hundred attack points for each of them. And with four or more Xyz Materials, you cannot target my Basiltrice with card effects.”
Rarity grimaced. “A hefty investment for such benefits.”
“Trust me, it’s worth it!” Sunny pointed across the field. “Hazy Flame Basiltrice, attack and destroy Sapphire Pegasus!” Basiltrice (2500 → 3300) opened its mouth and fired a stream of flame. Sapphire Pegasus (2600) whinnied and reared up as the fire consumed it, its form washed away.
-Rarity Life Points: 6100-
“The effect of Crystal Release activates.” Rarity tapped her duel disk screen and a card ejected from her deck. “I can now place ‘Crystal Beast Amethyst Cat’ in my Spell and Trap zone.” A pale amethyst crystal materialized to Rarity’s right, the shadowed form of a monster inside it.
“Go ahead, it won’t save your other monster! My second Hazy Flame Basiltrice attacks!” The Basiltrice launched its attack. Rarity’s hologram flipped over, revealing a tortoise with green gemstones in its shell (300/2000). It groaned as it dissolved in the flames.
Sunny smirked. “Now that my original Basiltrice has served its purpose, I’ll use the second effect of Hazy Pillar: once per turn I attach a Hazy Flame monster in my hand or on the field to a Hazy Flame Xyz monster. I’ll attach my first Basiltrice to my second.” The Basiltrice lit up orange and condensed into a ball of light that hovered towards the second. “With a fifth material, Hazy Flame Basiltrice gains a thousand extra attack points, and cannot be destroyed by card effects.” Sunny held up a card in her hand. “I set one card and end my turn.”
“Very well.” Rarity drew with a flourish and smiled. “I’m almost grateful you were able to power up your monster to such extremes. It will make my move all the sweeter when it wipes that smirk off your face!”
“Oh my!” Sunny gasped and pressed a hand to her cheek. “I shudder in anticipation!”
“You’ll eat those words!” Rarity hissed. “I summon ‘Crystal Beast Cobalt Eagle’.” A bird with a jeweled collar set with blue crystals and the same crystals embedded in its wings swooped down to perch in front of Rarity (1400/800).
Rarity held up her duel disk. “Sapphire Pegasus and Emerald Tortoise are in the Graveyard, Cobalt Eagle is in my Monster zone, and Amethyst Cat, Topaz Tiger, Amber Mammoth, and Ruby Carbuncle are in my Spell and Trap zones. With the seven Crystal Beasts now in play, I activate my Trap card ‘Rainbow Gravity’!”
Rarity’s card flipped up and lit up in white light. Streams of light in the colors of the rainbow rose into the air. It reached the clouds and let out a wave of multicolored light across them. Rarity smiled and closed her eyes. “By the powers of this Trap card, from my deck, I Special Summon ‘Rainbow Dragon’!”
The light in the air above them shone brighter, the silhouette of a long, serpentine dragon appearing within it. With the sound of a mighty roar the light cracked and broke apart. From the shards came a giant white and gold dragon in a rainbow aura, massive white wings spreading into the air, gemstones in seven colors embedded in its scales. It descended behind Rarity and coiled in the air above her, glaring at Sunny Flare with golden eyes beneath a crested helmet of white and gold (4000/0).
Sunny’s eyebrows lifted and she gasped. “Such a beautiful beast! The size, the colors! I almost feel jealous.”
“Thank you.” Rarity gave a small bow. “I’ll let you see its power for yourself now! Rainbow Dragon, attack and destroy Hazy Flame Basiltrice!”
The gemstones on Rainbow Dragon’s scales lit up and sent seven streams of colored light up to the horns on its helmet. With crackles of energy, it opened its mouth and fired a beam of light at Sunny’s field.
Sunny scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Such beauty and yet such a brute when it comes to strategy. How uncouth.” She reached to her duel disk and touched a screen prompt. “I activate my Trap card ‘Safe Zone’.” A wall of pale blue crystal rose up in front of Hazy Flame Basiltrice. “With this now active, my Hazy Flame Basiltrice cannot be destroyed by battle or card effects, or targeted by card effects.”
Rarity let out a small huff. “That is simply absurd! At what penalty can that card work?”
“Oh, a severe penalty, actually. My monster is unable to attack you directly now, and if my Safe Zone card is removed from the field, my monster is destroyed.” Sunny held up her hands. “Though, as long as Hazy Flame Basiltrice has five monsters attached to it, it can’t be destroyed by card effects, not even my own.”
Rarity pouted. “Clever.”
“I know.” Sunny winked at her. “I do still take damage from the attack, but it’s a minor inconvenience.”
Rainbow Dragon’s light beam faded away, and the blue crystal wall in front of Basiltrice receded.
-Sunny Life Points: 3000-
Rarity sighed and looked at the last card left in her hand. “I end my turn.”
“Wonderful, my move again!” Sunny smiled sweetly as she drew. She looked at her card and reached to her touchscreen. “First things first. As incredible as that dragon is, I’m afraid it’s between me and your Life Points, so it has to go. I detach Hazy Flame Hydra from my Hazy Flame Basiltrice to use its effect and banish Rainbow Dragon!”
Basiltrice crowed and flapped its wings to rise into the air, embers in its wake. One of the orange orbs circling it flew into its mouth and grew into a massive ball of fire. Basiltrice drew its head back and snapped it forward, the fireball spreading into multiple streams of fire that spread out and weaved through the air. The assault struck Rainbow Dragon’s body, pelting its wings and scales in small explosions. Its body lit up in orange light and it dissolved away into embers.
Rarity gaped, her eyes wide. “My Rainbow Dragon…”
“Is gone,” Sunny finished. She flipped over the card she had drawn. “And unfortunately for you, I’m still here. I summon Hazy Flame Mantikor.” A blast of fire next to her heralded the arrival of her lion-like monster, red skin glowing and fiery mane shimmering (2200/300).
Sunny pointed across the field again. “Hazy Flame Basiltrice, attack Crystal Beast Cobalt Eagle!” Basiltrice (3500) opened its beak and shot another blast of fire at Rarity’s monster. Cobalt Eagle was incinerated, burnt feathers flying into the air.
-Rarity Life Points: 4000-
“And next my Hazy Flame Mantikor attacks directly!” Mantikor roared and spat a fireball at Rarity. The attack struck the air before her and washed over her.
-Rarity Life Points: 1800-
“And now just to be safe, I’ll use the effect of Hazy Pillar to attach Mantikor to Basiltrice as a new fifth material. That will end my turn.” As her Mantikor turned into a fireball that began to circle Basiltrice, Sunny fanned herself with her hand. “Is the heat too much for you? Don’t worry, just one more turn and it’ll be over.”
Rarity lowered her head, her hands clenched at her side. “No…”
“Yes.” Sunny rolled her eyes. “Be honest with yourself, dearie. We both know you never stood a chance.”
“I stood more than a chance!” Rarity shot back, raising her head. “Fluttershy, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie all gave you great duels, and Sunset was able to beat Twilight! I’ve given you a hard duel and you know it!”
“Not really. I played a bit cautious to feel out if you had any surprises for me.” Sunny shrugged. “Once I realized you didn’t, I could focus my resources into just finishing you off quickly. The only thing you have that could have posed some problems was your Rainbow Dragon, and you see how easily I got rid of it.”
Sunny shook her head. “I’m sorry you have to hear it from me before you lose instead of just realizing it yourself, but one victory doesn’t make Canterlot worthy of facing Crystal Prep. The best of your friends was just barely enough to defeat the weakest of our group, after all.” She tossed her hair and waved to the Crystal Prep crowd, who cheered in response. “Face it, dearie – you just can’t compare to moi.”
“Compare?” Rarity hissed, her hands clenching tighter. “You’re right. There is absolutely no comparing me to you!” Sunny turned back as Rarity shouted at her. “I duel to bring beauty and spectacle to the game, to prove to any who doubt me that victory and power don’t have to come at the expense of grace and elegance. But you? You’re just an egomaniacal braggart who enjoys rubbing their opponent’s nose in the dirt. There’s nothing graceful or elegant about someone like you!”
On the sidelines, Sunset’s heart skipped a beat. She inhaled sharply. This feeling… She clenched at her chest and stared at Rarity. It can’t be. It’s impossible.
Rarity shook her head furiously. “You say I never had a chance? Well, I say I did and still do. A duel isn’t over until the last card is played, and this tournament isn’t over until the fourth of our group loses their duel. And that’s not going to be me. For myself, for my friends, and for my school, I’m going to show you who I am!”
Eyes flaring with violet light, Rarity put a hand on top of her deck. “My turn, draw!” She whipped her card out, sparks of violet light in its wake. She turned the card over, looked at it, and held it out. “I activate the Spell card ‘Crystal Overfusion’!”
Rays of violet light shone from Rarity’s card. Above her in the air, the images of Sapphire Pegasus, Cobalt Eagle, and Emerald Tortoise appeared. In front of her, the crystallized forms of Amethyst Cat, Amber Mammoth, Topaz Tiger, and Ruby Carbuncle began to crack apart, glowing the same light.
Rarity’s voice echoed as she spoke. “By banishing Crystal Beast cards in my Graveyard and on my field, either as Monsters or as Spell cards, I conduct a Fusion Summon!”
The crystallized monsters shattered, and the shards rose into the air, swirling around each other in a sphere. Rarity slid her card into her duel disk and a ray of seven-colored light shot up into the sky, engulfing the gem dust and lifting it into the clouds. The clouds twisted and swirled around each other, white light flashing within.
“Is she doin’ what Ah think she’s doin’?” Applejack asked.
“B-but, Rarity doesn’t have magic!” Fluttershy protested. She turned her head to the side. “Sunset?”
Sunset didn’t reply, continuing to stare, eyes wide, at the duel.
Rarity put a hand over her duel disk. “By uniting the lights of the seven gems, I create the bridge to a new future and summon forth a crystal guardian like no other!” A card materialized between her fingers and she slapped it on her duel disk. “Fusion Summon! Descend, Level 12, ‘Rainbow Overdragon’!”
The clouds parted and Rarity’s new monster slowly lowered from above them. A massive white and gold dragon, even larger than Rainbow Dragon, spread its wings across the field and raised its head, eyes glowing white beneath a gold and silver horned crest. Its stomach was shining violet scales, light in seven colors pulsing within them. It hovered above Rarity and roared, the force shaking the field.
Sunny stared in awe. “Magnificent…”
Wisps of violet energy coming from her hands and eyes, Rarity looked at Sunny sternly. “This is the card that has sealed your fate.”
Sunny looked at her duel disk and burst out laughing. “It has the exact same stats as Rainbow Dragon! It may be even more beautiful, but it isn’t any more powerful. Did you forget my Basiltrice is immune to destruction and targeting by any manner? You can’t get rid of it, and then on my next turn I’ll just banish your new dragon just like the first!”
“Of course you would think that,” Rarity whispered. “Someone like you only sees destruction effects and monsters stats, and thinks she is untouchable as long as she can control that kind of play. Not so.” She raised her head. “I activate Rainbow Overdragon’s special ability! By offering it as Tribute, all other cards on the field are shuffled into the deck!”
Sunny’s jaw dropped. “What?”
Rainbow Overdragon spread its wings. Sunny Flare’s Hazy Flame Basiltrice lit up in seven-colored light and squawked as it was drawn across the field. Sunny turned her head as the Hazy Pillar behind her condensed, fire roiling inside a sphere of the same light, and floated after the Basiltrice. When the two forms were close enough, Rainbow Overdragon swept its wings around them and bowed its head. Sparks crackled over its wings and the dragon dissolved, Sunny’s cards vanished from within its grasp.
Sunny clenched her fist. “You lost just as much as I did with that move, and you have nothing left! On my next turn I can—”
“I was not finished,” Rarity interrupted calmly. She reached to her duel disk as a card ejected from her Graveyard slot, and she held it up. “I activate the effect of Crystal Overfusion in my Graveyard. By banishing it when the monster it summoned leaves the field, I can search my deck, hand, Graveyard, or banished zone, for a Rainbow Dragon card, and summon it.”
With a shimmer of purple light over it, Crystal Overfusion in Rarity’s hand transformed into Rainbow Dragon. “From the banished zone, return to me, Rainbow Dragon!” The vanishing particles of Rainbow Overdragon came together behind her and formed into the visage of Rainbow Dragon, the beast roaring proudly.
“Destruction and creation, rebirth and regrowth. This is what my deck is. What I am.” Rarity’s eyes glowed brighter as she spoke.
Sunny stepped back and scowled. “You think this means anything? Your school still has to win two more rounds to beat us! This duel doesn’t make Canterlot superior to Crystal Prep!”
“No.” Rarity’s hair fluttered softly as she whispered. “Just as your school’s past victories don’t make you superior to us.” She spun in place, hand brought back over her shoulder, and thrust it out, her clothing and hair sweeping in her wake. “Rainbow Dragon, attack Sunny Flare directly!”
Rainbow Dragon opened its jaws as it summoned energy from the seven gemstones in its scales. It thrust its head forward and fired a beam of searing light. Sunny grit her teeth and closed her eyes as the attack struck her.
-Sunny Life Points: 0-
On the display board, Sunny’s portrait turned grey and Rarity’s grew to fill the screen. “The winner of the fifth duel of the Friendship Cup is Rarity Belle for Canterlot High!” The Canterlot stands erupted into cheers, applauding wildly.
The light faded from Rarity’s eyes and she slumped to the ground, gently sitting down. She swallowed and breathed heavily. “Oh… oh my…”
“Rarity!” She turned her head to see Rainbow Dash running up to her, grinning widely. “That was awesome!” Rainbow laughed, grabbing her hand and pulling her up. Rarity gasped sharply, her legs shaking for a moment.
“How did you do that?” Applejack asked. “You don’t have magic! Ah mean, ya don’t, do ya?”
“I… I don’t know.” Rarity blinked several times and put a hand to her chest. “Sunset, what do you make of this?” When there was no response, Rarity looked between the group clustering around her, and they parted to look with her.
Sunset was nowhere to be seen.
Cybernetic Revolution - Rainbow Dash vs Indigo Zap (Part 1)
Cybernetic Revolution – Rainbow Dash vs Indigo Zap (Part 1)
“Where did Sunset go?” Rainbow swiveled her head across the field. She paused as Sunny Flare marched past them, not even turning her head her way, and passing the Shadowbolt bench to head into the school.
“I didn’t see,” Fluttershy said.
Rarity swallowed heavily. “I hope she’s alright.”
“Oo, oo!” Pinkie jumped in place. “Maybe she ran to go get you the ‘Congratulations On Your Awesome Victory And Also Having Magic’ cake she had ready for you!” The rest of the group affixed her with annoyed looks. “What? It’s what I’d do.”
“If the assembled students will please clear the dueling field promptly, we will now choose the next two duelists,” Radiant Hope announced.
On the display board above the field, the highlighted portraits of Rainbow, Flash Sentry, Shining Armor, and Indigo Zap began to flash in blue and violet borders. After several seconds, the outlines stopped and two portraits grew larger.
“The next duel is decided! Canterlot High’s Rainbow Dash shall face Crystal Prep’s Indigo Zap!”
“Yes!” On the sidelines, Indigo jumped up and pumped her fist, grinning ear to ear.
“Now?” Rainbow gaped. “B-but, we’ve kinda got something important going on here!”
“You betcha you do!” Indigo called as she jogged past. “C’mon, I’ve been waiting for my turn since yesterday!” She reached the other side of the field and turned around, raising her duel disk. With a press of her touch screen, a card tray of dark blue energy materialized along the front.
“Will the Canterlot High students save for Rainbow Dash please vacate the dueling field?”
“We’re kinda in the middle of something!” Rainbow called over, directing a scowl at the principal table. She watched, her expression hard as Sombra placed a hand over the microphone and leaned to say something to Hope. Hope nodded as Sombra stood and withdrew his hand, and she leaned back to the mic.
“We will take a brief ten minute break while the duelists clear the field.”
“Ah’ll take it.” Applejack nodded at Rainbow. “We’ll go find Sunset, you take care of things down here.”
“You got it.” Rainbow stepped away from the group. “But you get her back here quick. I don’t want her missing my win!”
As the group filed off the field, leaving Rainbow alone, Indigo smirked. “You actually might wanna tell them to take their time. I can’t imagine how embarrassed I’d be if my teammates saw me lose as badly as you’re about to in about ten minutes.”
“Don’t worry, in eleven minutes you won’t need to imagine it!” Rainbow replied.
Indigo’s smirk twisted into a look of confusion. “So, a minute after I beat you, I’ll know how embarrassed you feel?”
“Yeah! I mean, no, you will! Be embarrassed!”
Applejack rolled her eyes as the four reached the stairs up to the parking lot. “Ah think she’ll be fine without us.” As she turned forward again, she froze, looking across the field.
Fluttershy turned her head, squeaked, and backed away when she saw what had gotten Applejack's attention. The four stepped aside as Sombra walked past them. The rival principal paused with one foot on the bottom step, and without moving his head, turned his eyes to look at Rarity. Applejack gasped and tightened her grip as Rarity suddenly became heavier to hold and her knees shook under her. After a moment of silence, Sombra looked forward and continued up the steps, approaching the Crystal Prep limousine.
Rarity swallowed heavily and put a hand on the railing of the stairs to steady herself. Applejack turned her attention back to her. “Rares, you okay?”
Rarity nodded. “Quite, dear. I think I may just need another moment to get my bearings.”
Pinkie tilted her head as she watched Sombra climb into the back seat of the limo. “What was that about?”
The empty bathroom echoed with the sounds of clanging metal. With a continuous barrage of punches, the cover of the paper towel dispenser slowly caved in, the white now marred by streaks of silver where the paint had come off, and streaks of red where blood had been left.
Sunset let her hand rest in the sizable dent she had made. Breathing heavily, she glared at her own hand and gave a final punch to the metal. Wincing at the impact, she brought her hands back and stared down at her knuckles, the skin cracked and bloodied. Her hands shook slightly until she willed them to stop.
She moved to the sink and turned on the taps. She held her hands under the water and watched the red wash away. She ripped off a length of paper towel and pressed her hands dry; when she pulled the towel back the wounds were still raw and slowly seeping blood again. She twisted the taps off and inhaled.
Should visit the nurse.
Wrapping the paper towel around one hand and cupping it over the other, Sunset slowly pushed open the door into the hall and made her way to the stairwell doors. She descended carefully, unable to grip the railing. The walls resounded with her boots hitting the steps, one by one until she reached the bottom. She pulled the door open and paused when she saw who was coming down the hall.
Hoping the other girl hadn’t seen her, Sunset ducked back into the stairwell and slid down below the windows in the door. She swallowed heavily and looked at the hand she was nursing, red spots showing on the white paper towel.
A gentle rapping came from above her head. Sunset ignored it and lifted her eyes to stare at the steps in front of her. The door beside her swung open.
“Sunset?” Rarity knelt next to her and put a hand on Sunset’s shoulder. The contact made Sunset’s breath catch, but if Rarity noticed it she didn’t say anything. “What happened to your hand?”
“Some idiot smashed it against a paper towel dispenser,” Sunset muttered, turning her head away.
“I see.” Rarity gently moved the paper towel away and looked at Sunset’s wounds. “How many times did she hit it?”
“I lost count.”
“Well, you let her know if she does anything like this to you again, I’m going to have some very choice words for her that I’d otherwise not use in polite company.”
Sunset looked back at Rarity and locked eyes with her; her eyes confirmed what was implicit from her words. Sunset tried to look away but found herself unable. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” Rarity tilted her head. “I don’t follow.”
“What happened to you out there!” Sunset shrieked. “Your eyes, the glowing, the new cards!” She sighed and pulled her knees up to her chest and buried her face in them. “You probably don’t remember. It was magic again. It took control of you. I didn’t do it, I swear!” She raised her head. “Maybe it was residual because of what happened yesterday, or back…” She stopped herself from finishing that thought. “Are you okay?”
“Actually, I feel rather pleasant.”
“…What?” Sunset swiveled her head, confused.
Rarity lifted her eyebrows and shrugged. “To be honest. I feel almost refreshed. Like waking up from a nap or stepping out of a shower.”
“Rarity, please don’t joke.”
“I’m not.” Rarity put a hand over Sunset’s. “I remember everything that happened. I remember drawing my new card, summoning a monster, and winning the duel.” She gave a small murmur. “It’s a bit hazy, like something you were only half-awake for. But I remember it all the time.”
She looked at Sunset. “And more pressingly, I don’t see how what I did out there was your fault.”
“Don’t you?” Sunset shook her head. “I corrupted you with magic in the last tournament, and I just used magic again yesterday. That can’t be coincidence.”
“I don’t disagree on that. But I think it a bit presumptuous to run away and blame yourself for it. And besides…” Rarity gave her a warm smile. “I don’t think this was quite the same.”
“What do you mean?”
Rarity’s expression darkened. “When you did… that, to me, during the Autumn Crown tournament, I had no recollection of anything until Twilight defeated me. But as I heard afterward, I became quite unpleasant for the duration.” Her face brightened into a smile again. “This was nothing like that. I felt I was in control of myself, and I stayed who I was. I just…” she grew distant and glanced away. “I knew I couldn’t let my friends down, and I wanted to win for their sake. Then I felt this rush of energy, and…” she trailed off.
“I thought I wanted the same thing during my duel with Twilight,” Sunset whispered. “But look what happened to me.”
“I won’t pretend to have all the answers, darling. But I know that whatever it is you think you need to blame yourself for, one way or the other, you don’t.”
“I wish I could believe that.” Sunset shook her head. “It would be easier if we could actually explain how you suddenly got magic.”
Rarity nodded and pushed herself to her feet. “I agree entirely. But sitting here blaming yourself won’t help us figure it out, will it?” She held out a hand and stretched it into Sunset’s field of view. Sunset turned her eyes to the offered hand. After several seconds of hesitation, she reached out and took it, letting Rarity pull her up. Rarity carefully unwrapped the paper towel to look at Sunset's wounds and gently dabbed at them.
Sunset felt the tension in her shoulders lessen as Rarity rewrapped her hand. “Thanks, Rarity.”
She patted the back of Sunset's hand. “What are friends for?” She gestured her other hand to the hallway. “I believe Rainbow Dash is starting her duel soon, if you want to observe.”
Twilight stepped onto the field and looked at the principal table. She frowned when she saw the empty seat next to Hope. “Where is Principal Sombra?”
“Took off?” Lemon Zest held up a hand, leaning on her bench with her head tilted back. “Why?”
“I need to see him.” Twilight looked at the others. “Do you know where he went?”
Pacing back and forth in front of the bench, Sunny shook her head. “We have more important things on our minds right now! Not that you care, or you’d have been here earlier.”
Hands on her knees to support her head, Sugarcoat rolled her eyes. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you need a babysitter more than a principal.”
“Shut up!” Sunny jumped to her feet and glared down at the other girl. “I don’t need to be talked down by the likes of you!”
“Would you rather we go get Rarity?” Sugarcoat said, smirking slightly.
Sunny bristled. “She got lucky, nothing more.”
“She beat you, nothing less.”
“I’ll rematch her after!” Sunny practically snarled the words. She swiveled her head the other way. “Twilight, you wanna take down Sunset too, right?
Before Twilight could answer, Sour cut in. “Will you both grow up? You lost, get over it! I lost to Sugarcoat last week, you don’t see me whining and angsting about it.”
“I am not angsting!” Twilight protested, glaring at the other girl. “I am investigating! Sunset Shimmer is…” she stopped herself and took a breath. “She may not be what she seems.”
Sugarcoat sat up. “Meaning what?”
“I…” Twilight sighed. “I’m not allowed to say.”
“That’s not very much to go on.”
Lemon stood up and put an arm over Twilight’s shoulders, then reached out to Sunny with her other hand but was slapped away. She looked at Twilight and smiled. “Look, Twi, these are the big leagues. It’s rough and it’s hard and it ain’t always fair, but that’s how the cards are dealt sometimes. But you can’t let it get to you like… like her.” She jerked her thumb at Sunny.
“Bite me,” Sunny hissed. “I think Twilight is right, that duel wasn’t legitimate. It couldn’t be.”
Sugarcoat slapped her forehead. “Give me a break.”
Twilight stepped out of Lemon’s hold. “Why, what happened?”
“I told you, she got a lucky draw! Do you want me to draw you a diagram of how she moved her hands as she played her cards?”
“Maybe.” Twilight looked over the group. “I can’t go into details, but I’ve been looking into something for Principal Sombra. Something about Canterlot and its duelists. And if Rarity’s win wasn’t legitimate, that might be part of things. So how did it happen?” Twilight looked at her duel disk and tapped to call up the tournament records.
“She got lucky!”
“You said that already,” Sugarcoat said.
“I need specifics,” Twilight said. She paused and squinted at her duel disk’s projection. “No recording of the duel?” After a moment’s thought, she raised her eyes to the four girls. “Sunny, what cards did Rarity use to beat you? Name them.”
Sunny opened her mouth. She hesitated and put a finger to her lip. “...It’s strange. I can’t seem to recall.”
Twilight turned her eyes among them. ”Do any of you remember?”
“Uh…” Lemon scratched her neck. “Sunny had an Xyz card out.”
“Hazy Flame Basiltrice,” Sour Sweet offered.
“Right. And Rarity had an empty field… she drew…” Lemon tilted her head. “I guess I wasn’t really paying attention. Did she summon Rainbow Dragon again, or am I misremembering the turn order?”
“I’m fairly sure she did…” Sunny said.
“This can’t be coincidence…” Twilight lowered her head, a hand to her chin. “But she wasn’t even here…” The sound of footsteps behind her caught her ear and Twilight looked over her shoulder. “Principal Sombra!” She ran over and stopped as he kept walking past her.
“Not now, Twilight,” he said sternly as he headed toward the principal table.
Twilight kept pace with him as she spoke. “I need to speak to you, sir. It’s urgent.”
“Sir, I think we need to cancel this duel.”
Sombra stopped and spun on his heel, green eyes boring into Twilight. She stopped in her tracks and leaned back.
Sombra turned back around and continued to his seat alone. Twilight swallowed heavily and debated approaching, but quickly decided against it when she heard her name.
“Twilight!” She looked over shoulder and saw Lemon waving at her. “You wanna have a seat and watch the duel?”
Twilight looked at the dueling field where Rainbow and Indigo were positioned.
“...Yes. I do.” She quickly walked to the other girls and sat down. She tapped her duel disk screen and a projection of the duel stats appeared above it.
“If the two duelists are ready, we can begin shortly.”
“Ready, and waiting!” Rainbow called back.
“Eager to lose?” Indigo taunted.
“Then let the duel begin!”
-Rainbow Life Points: 8000-
-Indigo Life Points: 8000-
The crowd cheered as the two portraits on the display board flashed in sequence and stopped with Rainbow’s lit up. “Rainbow Dash will take the first move.”
“Sweet.” Rainbow picked up her opening hand from her duel disk and looked over them. “And we’re off to a heck of a start!” She picked up a card and slid it into a slot on her duel disk. “Let’s get an arena worth dueling in! I activate the Field Spell ‘U.A. Stadium’!”
A column of light burst up from behind Rainbow and split, fanning in a circle around her and Indigo. In its wake appeared the walls of a massive sports arena, glass windows framing spectator boxes and rows of seats. As the circular energy met again and finished forming the field, a large ring appeared floating in the air above them and activated in rows of blue lights, holograms projecting displays and statistics of the duelists.
“That’s more like it.” Rainbow grabbed another card from her hand. “I summon ‘U’A’. Midfielder’.” A portal appeared in the air before her and her monster jumped down into a crouch, an athlete with spiked brown hair and glowing silver and green armor (1200/1000).
Rainbow reached to tap on her duel disk’s screen. “When I normal summon a U.A. monster, the effect of U.A. Stadium lets me add a U.A. monster from my deck to my hand.” The holographic field projected the image of a card that flipped over as Rainbow took her card from her deck. “I’ll take this, ‘U.A. Goalkeeper. Next I’ll return Midfielder to my hand in order to Special Summon Goalkeeper in defense mode.”
Midfielder swirled up into another portal. With a large thud, Rainbow’s monster descended to the field, a massive creature in thick white and orange hockey armor with glowing green lines crossing the pads. It crouched and held its hands out to the side, a red visor over its eyes lighting up (1000/2800).
“Special Summoning a U.A. monster activates the other effect of U.A. Stadium, giving all my monsters a permanent boost of five hundred attack points.” Rainbow snapped her fingers and pointed at Goalkeeper as electricity surged over its armor (1000 → 1500). “I place one card face-down and end my turn.” She crossed her arms. “I’m all set, bring it on!”
“Careful what you wish for!” Indigo drew with a flourish, looked at her card, and barked out a laugh. She swung her card onto her duel disk. “Since you set it up, let me spruce it up. I activate my own Field Spell, ‘F.A. Circuit Grand Prix’!”
A horizontal wave of energy shot out behind Indigo, leaving black asphalt on the ground behind it, steel-blue railings lining the edges. The wave turned and weaved up and down the walls of the stadium, tracing out a racing track along the edges of the field. The energy wave reached the start of the track behind Indigo and rippled out, creating a large circular pit zone around her.
“Next I’ll summon ‘F.A. Sonic Meister’.” A horizontal portal appeared on the road behind Indigo. With a roar of an engine, a gleaming silver, blue, and orange race car sped out, two large rocket engines blazing on either side of a large central rear wheel behind the driver. The race car turned and moved into position next to her, the engines dying down (0/1000).
Rainbow looked up at the holograms as several close-up angels of the monster popped onto the screens with its stats. “Zero attack points? It must have a killer effect, huh?”
“You’re smarter than I thought,” Indigo snickered.
“My F.A. monsters have a print attack of zero, but once in play, they have attack power equal to their Level times three hundred.” Indigo held up four fingers. “Sonic Meister is Level 4, so that works out to twelve hundred attack points.” Sonic Meister’s driver grinned inside his helmet and revved his engine (1200).
“Next I’ll throw a card face-down and end my turn.” Indigo rolled her shoulders and slumped back. “Go for it.”
“With pleasure!” Rainbow smirked and drew. “First, let’s get rid of that obvious Trap you left out, with the Spell card ‘Mystical Space Typhoon’!” A cyclone blew out of Rainbow’s duel disk and whirled across the field. “Say buh-bye to your face-down.”
“Sorry to say, it isn’t a Trap!” Indigo called back, putting a hand to her duel disk. “I’ll activate that card now, the Quickplay Spell ‘F.A. Downforce’. This lets me increase the Level of my Sonic Meister by two for the rest of the turn.” Sonic Meister’s engines lit up blue and began to rev louder.
“Oh, and my Sonic Meister has an ability, too. When I activate an F.A. Spell or Trap card or its effect, it gains a Level permanently.” Indigo held up her hand again, three fingers extended. “All in all, Sonic Meister is at Level 5 now, plus two for the rest of the turn, which means it’s attack points are at twenty-one hundred.”
“If you wanna confuse me with math, you’re gonna have to try harder than that!” Rainbow shouted. “Your field is still clear, so I’m safe to summon U.A. Midfielder again. That activates the effect of U.A. Stadium, letting me add ‘U.A. Mighty Slugger to my hand. And just like last time, I’ll return Midfielder to my hand and special summon Mighty Slugger.”
Rainbow’s newest monster descended from a portal above her, a baseball star in black and silver sports armor. It posed with an arm held out, a metal cylinder in its hand, and with a flash of light it extended a holographic red light in the shape of a baseball bat (2300/700).
“Special Summoning Mighty Slugger triggers the effect of U.A. Stadium again, giving both my monsters an extra five hundred points. I then switch Goalkeeper to attack mode.” Mighty Slugger (2300 → 2800) grinned and turned its head to watch Goalkeeper stand up, beating a fist into its palm (1500 → 2000).
Rainbow nodded. “Just in case you have any other tricks up your sleeve, you should know that when Mighty Slugger attacks, you aren’t allowed to activate cards or effects. So there’ll be no stopping this hardball!” She thrust her hand out. “U.A. Mighty Slugger, attack and destroy F.A. Sonic Meister!”
Mighty Slugger grabbed a glowing blue baseball from a pouch on its waist, tossed it in the air, and spun to wallop it with its bat. The baseball blazed across the field, sparking brightly. The baseball smacked into Sonic Meister with an explosion and a shower of sparks.
“Oh yeah!” Rainbow pumped her fist. “First you lose your monster, next you lose a ton of Life Points!”
Indigo rolled her eyes. “Strike one and two. Check again.” She looked over her shoulder. The smoke of the attack cleared, revealing Sonic Meister, engine still revving.
“What gives?” Rainbow exclaimed.
“It’s Sonic Meister’s special ability – it can’t be destroyed in battle when it battles a monster with a lower level than it. Your Mighty Slugger is only Level 5, and Sonic Meister is Level 7.” Indigo scoffed. “Oh, my mistake, Level 9 now. See, the effect of my Circuit Grand Prix field grants all F.A. monsters a boost of two levels during the battle phase. And now that he’s at Level 9, Sonic Meister has twenty-seven hundred points. Mighty Slugger is at twenty-eight, so your attack barely scratches me.” Indigo put a hand on her hip. “How’s that for some math, Rainbow Dunce?”
-Indigo Life Points: 7900-
Rainbow growled. “Keep talking, Indigo Yap! I end my turn.”
“Goodie!” Indigo drew and reached to her hand. “I’ll start this turn by summoning ‘F.A. Whip Crosser’.” A portal opened behind Indigo. An armored blue and yellow motorbike rode out of it, the driver clad in armor of the same color scheme. He popped a wheelie and drove up beside Indigo before letting the wheel down (0/1000).
“Whip Crosser has similar abilities to my Sonic Meister,” Indigo said. “Namely, he has three hundred attack times his level, and he increases in level as I use F.A. Spell and Trap cards or effects.”
She reached to her duel disk. “Like this one. I activate the effect of F.A. Downforce in my Graveyard.” The image of Indigo’s card appeared above her and dissolved. “By banishing Downforce, I basically get its effect again, boosting my F.A. Sonic Meister two levels for this turn only. And since I activated the effect of an F.A. Spell card, they also get another permanent level gain.”
Indigo held her hands out to gesture to her two monsters. “That means Sonic Meister is Level 6, Level 8for this turn, and Whip Crosser is Level 5.”
“Stop making me keep track of this stuff!” Rainbow screamed.
“Too much going on?” Indigo laughed. “Here, this will simplify one thing at least. I switch Sonic Meister to defense mode, and then activate the Spell card ‘F.A. Test Run’.” A computer console rose next to Sonic Meister, cables snaking out of the machinery and attaching to the car.
“This card changes Sonic Meister back to attack mode, and then I get to destroy one card on the field.” Indigo tapped her chin. “I’d like to go tit-for-tat and get rid of your face-down card, but that Midfielder combo is getting on my nerves. I’ll destroy U.A. Stadium!”
The computer exploded and sent blasts of electricity in all directions. Around them, the walls of U.A. Stadium began to crack apart and crumble, creating a massive cloud of dust. The debris hit the ground and dissolved into particles of light, piece by piece.
“Crud,” Rainbow muttered.
“And by the way, just to make sure you’re still keeping up, that’s another F.A. Spell activated and another level on my monsters.” Indigo grinned. “I think we’ve built up enough speed now, so let’s see how they run! I enter my battle phase, and now the effect of my Field Spell gives my F.A. monsters another boost of two levels. F.A. Sonic Meister, attack U.A. Mighty Slugger!”
Sonic Meister (Level: 11, ATK: 3300) revved up and sped off across the field, crashing through the guard rails of the pit stop. It drove into Mighty Slugger, the baseball player splaying out across the front of the car, and after driving another second, it screeched to a sudden halt. Mighty Slugger flipped through the air and crashed into the wall of the stadium.
-Rainbow Life Points: 7500-
Indigo’s duel disk beeped and ejected a card, which she picked up. “Once per turn, when an F.A. monster destroys a monster in battle, I get to draw a card due to the effect of my Field Spell. Oh, and since that’s an F.A. Spell effect triggered, that’s another level booster!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow muttered. “Any more effects you wanna pile on?”
“Actually, yes.” Indigo pointed at Sonic Meister. “As long as it has a current Level of seven or higher, F.A. Sonic Meister can attack two monsters a turn! Here comes the second lap!”
Sonic Meister (Level: 12, ATK: 3600) roared to life again and turned to drive at U.A. Goalkeeper. The car shot passed it, braked, and turned, and the rear end of the car slammed into Goalkeeper and sent it tumbling across the grass before it shattered.
-Rainbow Life Points: 5900-
Indigo winked at Sonic Meister as her monster drove back into place through the hole it had punched in the guard rails. “And I hope you haven’t forgotten about Whip Crosser. I certainly haven’t! F.A. Whip Crosser, direct attack!” Whip Crosser (Level: 9, ATK: 2700) zoomed forward, hopped over the guard rails, and aimed itself at Rainbow Dash.
“Not this time!” Rainbow growled. “I activate my Trap card ‘Reinforce Truth’!” The card flipped over and lit up. “This lets me Special Summon a Level 2or lower Warrior from my deck.” Rainbow tapped the hologram of her selected card and it ejected. “I’ll summon ‘X-Saber Pashuul’ in defense mode!”
An elderly warrior with a massive mess of tangled black hair, dark blue armor, and a massive sword, appeared in front of Rainbow and knelt.
Indigo lifted her eyebrows. “Huh, going off-brand, are we?”
“I’ll play whatever cards I need to beat you,” Rainbow replied. “X-Saber Pashuul can’t be destroyed in battle, so go ahead and attack if you wanna waste more of my time.”
“Nah, I’m good.” Indigo shrugged. “I end my turn, and the Spell boosting effects wear off of my monsters.” Sonic Meister (Level: 8, ATK: 2400) and Whip Crosser (Level: 7, ATK: 2100) glowed as their engines slowed.
“Fine by me. I’ll be destroying them this turn no matter what level they are.” Rainbow put a hand on her deck and glared at Indigo. “This duel isn’t even at half-time yet.”
Indigo laughed. “Keep telling yourself that, Dunce. Truth is I’m already set to lap you and leave you in my dust.”
Cybernetic Revolution - Rainbow Dash vs Indigo Zap (Part 2)
Cybernetic Revolution – Rainbow vs Indigo Zap (Part 2)
“There they are!” Rarity pointed out the window as they passed by. Sunset paused and looked out at the distant back field.
“Rainbow isn’t doing so well.”
“Then let’s get down there and support her!” Rarity replied, pulling her down the hall.
-Rainbow Life Points: 5900-
-Indigo Life Points: 7900-
Rainbow glared as her duel disk beeped and ejected a card. “I’m not out of this by a long shot,” she snapped, grabbing the card and drawing it out. She slid it into her hand and picked another. “I summon U.A. Midfielder again, and return it to my hand to Special Summon ‘U.A. Rival Rebounder’.”
A glowing portal on the ground in front of Rainbow spread open, and as she reached to place Rival Rebounder’s card onto her duel disk, her display buzzed and flashed red. “Huh?”
Indigo raised a hand. “You might wanna pay attention to my Whip Crosser from now on.” She gestured to the motorcycle rider, now glowing bright yellow. “Whip Crosser is Level 7, so whenever you want to use the effect of a monster of a lower level than Whip Crosser, you need to pay three hundred Life Points.”
Rainbow grit her teeth. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. Fine, I pay!” She tapped her duel disk screen to confirm. “And as I was saying, I’ll summon Rival Rebounder to the field!” The portal flashed green and a figure in bright white basketball padding rose from it, orange lines lighting up his padding as he raised his head (2200/2300).
-Rainbow Life Points: 5600-
She held out her hand. “And now, I tune my Level 2 X-Saber Pashuul with my Level 6 Rival Rebounder!”
X-Saber Pashuul lit up green and split into three rings that rotated and floated around Rival Rebounder. Rival Rebounder glowed orange as a column of yellow light rose around it.
“I sync up the blade of the knight and the ball of the athlete, and bring out a grand new titan!” Rainbow grabbed her card and slapped it on her duel disk. “Rise up, Level 8, ‘Colossal Fighter’!”
The light receded, revealing a massive figure in thick beige armor. It stood up, light gleaming off a green visor over its eyes, and crossed its arms (2800/2000).
Indigo smirked. “Not bad.”
“You think he’s cool now, wait until you see him up close!” Rainbow pointed across the field. “Colossal Fighter, attack F.A. Sonic Meister!” Colossal Fighter bellowed and charged across the field, arm raised.
“You dunce!” Indigo snorted and smirked. “Since it’s the battle phase, my Circuit Grand Prix field gives my monsters two more levels, and Sonic Meister gets stronger than your monster!” Sonic Meister’s driver grinned as its engine revved louder, tires squealing (Level 8: → 10, ATK: 2400 → 3000).
“Good for you,” Rainbow replied. “Too bad my Colossal Fighter has a boosting effect too. He gets an extra hundred attack points for every Warrior-type monster in the Graveyard.” She held up her duel disk. “I count four – Midfielder, Goalkeeper, Pashuul, and Rival Rebounder. How’s that for some math?”
Indigo’s smirk fell. “Dang.”
Colossal Fighter (2800 → 3200) jumped up and descended, slamming a massive fist into the front of Sonic Meister. The race car buckled and bent on the front axle, snapping up into the air in a shower of shrapnel, and then exploded.
-Indigo Life Points: 7700-
Colossal Fighter jumped back in front of Rainbow. She flipped up a card from her hand. “I’ll set one card down and end my turn.”
Indigo nodded. “Good, my move.” She drew and then reached to her hand. “I’ll start with a Spell card you should recognize, Mystical Space Typhoon. It destroys your face-down card.” Rainbow frowned as Indigo’s card hologram sent a cyclone across the field. In front of Rainbow, ‘U.A. Penalty Box’ flipped up and shattered.
Indigo reached her hand over to her duel disk screen. “Now that your field is looking clear, I activate the effect of F.A. Test Run in my Graveyard. By banishing Test Run, I can destroy a card on my field.” Indigo looked around. “I think we need a change of venue, so I’ll destroy F.A. Circuit Grand Prix.”
With a series of explosions along the asphalt, the track around the field cracked apart and dissolved into green and orange dust.
“Why would you get rid of your own Field card?” Rainbow asked.
“It’ll be worth it. First, I activated the effect of Test Run in my Graveyard, so my F.A. Whip Crosser gains a level. Then, the effect of Test Run lets me Special Summon an F.A. monster from my deck. I summon ‘F.A. Turbo Charger’.”
A bright yellow portal opened on the track behind her and a massive monster truck rolled out, painted bright purple with glowing yellow exhaust pipes emerging from its hubcaps and the sides of its cabin. It rolled up next to Indigo, looming over her (Level 6, 0/1500).
Indigo’s duel disk beeped and she tapped a prompt. “Since F.A. Circuit Grand Prix was destroyed by a card effect, I can use its effect to add an F.A. card from my deck to my hand. I’ll take this, ‘F.A. City Grand Prix’. That’s another F.A. Spell effect that activated, so Whip Crosser and Turbo Charger both gain a level.” Whip Crosser (Level: 7 → 9) and Turbo Charger (6 → 7) glowed brightly.
“Then, let’s give them a new road to try out. I activate the Field Spell F.A. City Grand Prix!” Indigo slipped her card on her duel disk with a grin. A wave of energy rippled out from around her. City streets with painted crosswalks and streetlights traced around them, transparent holograms of scenic buildings rising up from the ground. When the field was completed, the streetlights simultaneously lit up green.
“Since I just activated—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Rainbow muttered, waving her hand. “Another F.A. Spell, another level on all of them, I get it. You don’t need to remind me every time.”
“Hey, do I interrupt you when you’re rambling off what your cards do?” Indigo snapped. “Anyway, as I was saying, this Spell gives all of my F.A. monsters a boost of two levels during both the Battle and Main Phases, and it prevents you from targeting them with effects.”
“Uh-huh. So now’s the part where you attack, right?”
Indigo scowled. “Well, if you’re so impatient, let’s cut to it! F.A. Whip Crosser, attack Colossal Fighter!”
Whip Crosser (Level: 12, ATK → 3600) drove forward and popped a wheelie, sailing into the air and slamming into the chest of Colossal Fighter. Colossal Fighter fell back and shattered over Rainbow’s head.
-Rainbow Life Points: 5200-
“Colossal Fighter’s effect activates!” Rainbow called. “When it gets destroyed, I can revive a Warrior-type monster in my Graveyard. I’ll bring back Colossal Fighter itself, in defense mode.”
“He ain’t coming back for free!” Indigo called. “Whip Crosser is Level 12 now, so your monster’s effect costs you three hundred Life Points!”
“Worth it!” Rainbow slapped her palm on her touch screen and Colossal Fighter rematerialized kneeling in front of her.
“That’s debatable, ‘cause he won’t be here long!” Indigo pointed. “Turbo Charger, take him out!” Turbo Charger (Level: 10, ATK: 3000) roared onto the field, tires tearing up the grass in clumps. It slammed into Colossal Fighter and sent it tumbling back before it shattered again.
“And I’ll use his effect again.” Rainbow tapped her screen.
-Rainbow Life Points: 4600-
Indigo put a hand on her hip. “If you’d summoned him in attack mode, you could have kept him around and saved yourself some points.”
“Yeah, but you might have pulled out another Spell to make your monsters gain levels,” Rainbow replied. She grinned. “Besides, he still did what he needed to do.”
“Kneel there and let me destroy him?”
“Exactly.” Rainbow flung her hand out. “Using the effect of Colossal Fighter, I revive my U.A. Rival Rebounder!” The armored basketball player rose in front of her, eyes narrowed.
“By the way, this activates my Rival Rebounder’s effect. Since I summoned him on your turn, I can summon another U.A. monster from my hand or the Graveyard. And I’ll bring back from the Graveyard my U.A. Goalkeeper!” Another portal opened beside Rival Rebounder and the armored soccer goalie came out, hunched down with arms spread.
-Rainbow Life Points: 4300-
“Go ahead, the more effects you use the more points you burn.” Indigo shrugged. “But, hey, it’s not my job to tell you how to play. Me, I’ll just set one card and call it a turn.”
“I don’t need you to tell me how to play!” Rainbow replied as she drew. “Here, lemme show you what I’ve got waiting!” She turned her drawn card over and grinned. “Well, that wasn’t part of the plan, but it just got even sweeter. I activate the Field Spell U.A. Stadium!”
A wave of light around the field rose into the air, tracing out another set of bleachers around the outside of Indigo’s race track.
“Now that it’s in play, I return U.A. Rival Rebounder to my hand, to Special Summon U.A. Midfielder!” Rival Rebounder turned into light and shifted into the form of Midfielder kneeling. “Then I offer U.A. Goalkeeper as tribute and Normal Summon Rival Rebounder to the field again.” Goalkeeper dissolved and its armor pads lit up, shifting into Rival Rebounder’s armor as it appeared within it.
“Normal Summoning Rival Rebounder triggers his effect again, summoning a U.A. monster from my hand. I summon ‘U.A. Playmaker’!” A football player in shining silver pads appeared in front of her, streams of energy glowing orange around it.
“Since I Normal Summoned a U.A. monster, the effect of U.A. Stadium lets me add a U.A. monster from my deck to my hand.” Rainbow’s deck ejected the card into her fingers and she flipped it over to show Indigo. “I’ll take this, ‘U.A. Dreadnought Dunker’, and I’ll return U.A. Midfielder to my hand to summon him.”
Between Rainbow’s first two monsters materialized a muscular basketball player in dark blue and black pants and a thick silver and orange chestpiece (2500/1800).
“All those monsters effects are gonna keep costing you,” Indigo warned.
“I know,” Rainbow replied, not even looking at her buzzing duel disk as she pressed her finger to the prompt.
-Rainbow Life Points: 3400-
“Now that I’ve Special Summoned a U.A. monster, the second effect of U.A. Stadium boosts all of them an extra five hundred attack points.” Rainbow thrust out her hand. “And with all that taken care of, I attack your F.A. Turbo Charger with U.A. Playmaker!”
Playmaker (2600 → 3100) hunched forward and charged across the field, leaning with one of its broad shoulders. It barreled into the front bumper of Turbo Charger, the steel buckling with a loud metallic crunch. The monster truck tipped back on its rear wheels and then over onto its back, the chassis crumbling as it exploded.
-Indigo Life Points: 7600-
Indigo snorted. “You’re down to less than half your Life Points and you’ve barely scratched mine. I’ve seen Crystal Prep students who can duel better in their sleep! And provide wittier banter, too.”
“Careful what you wish for!” Rainbow replied with a smirk. “U.A. Dreadnought Dunker, attack F.A. Whip Crosser!” Dreadnought Dunker (2500 → 3000) held up a hand, an orb of blue energy gathering from its fingertips.
“You dunce!” Indigo groaned. “It’s the Battle Phase, so all my F.A. monsters get two more levels. That puts Whip Crosser at Level 12 again, stronger than Dunker!”
“Not quite.” Rainbow reached for her duel disk and pressed her finger to a screen prompt. “I’ll pay that three hundred Life Points to Whip Crosser to use Playmaker’s effect. When another U.A. monster attacks, Playmaker can give up eight hundred of his own attack points and transfer them to my other monster!”
Indigo’s eyes widened. “What!?”
“Do you need me to repeat that?” Rainbow asked coyly. “Here, lemme just demonstrate!”
Playmaker (3100 → 2300) held its palms out towards Dreadnought Dunker. Streams of orange energy flowed out of its armor and into Dunker’s, causing it to glow brighter. Dreadnought Dunker (3000 → 3800) grinned, spun in place, and hurled the ball of energy it held across the field. The orb struck Whip Crosser (3600) and blew right through it, leaving a gaping hole along the length of the motorcycle before it exploded.
-Rainbow Life Points: 3100-
-Indigo Life Points: 7400-
“Oh yeah, and you might wanna know about Dreadnought Dunker’s effect.” Rainbow jerked her thumb at her monster. “When he deals damage to your Life Points, a card on your side of the field gets destroyed. So I’m nuking F.A. City Grand Prix!”
Indigo stepped back and grimaced as the race track dissolved around her. She looked at her duel disk and reached to the screen. “When F.A. City Grand Prix is destroyed, I can add an F.A. card to my hand.” She picked up the card that popped out. “I’ll take ‘F.A. Auto Navigator’.”
Rainbow counted on her fingers. “Let’s see, you had two monsters before, I had three, two have attacked… huh.” She folded her fingers down, leaving one up. “Guess what comes next!” She pointed across the field. “U.A. Rival Rebounder, direct attack! And just like with Dreadnought Dunker, I’ll use Playmaker’s effect to power it up.”
Rival Rebounder (2200 → 2700 → 3500) held its hands together and summoned another orb of blue energy, and Playmaker (2300 → 1500) threw its own smaller orb of red energy into it. Rebounder jumped and flung its hands down, sending the two-colored attack flying at Indigo. She looked away as the orb struck the ground at her feet and exploded in a cloud of smoke.
-Indigo Life Points: 3900-
“I’d say that scoreboard is looking a little more even now.” Rainbow crossed her arms. “How about that?”
As the smoke on the other side of the field cleared, Indigo reached up and wiped the corner of her mouth. She grinned crookedly. “Yeah…okay then. Now you’ve got my attention.”
“Cool, because I’m gonna win on my next turn and I don’t want you to miss it.” Rainbow winked. “For now, I’ll end—”
“Hang on.” Indigo pressed a hand to her duel disk. “Before you end your turn, I activate my Trap ‘F.A. Overheat. This lets me summon an F.A. monster from my hand.” She placed the card on her duel disk. “I’ll play this, ‘F.A. Hang-On Mach’, in defense mode.”
A glowing portal next to Indigo opened. A hovering motorcycle, pale blue and silver, drove out, the driver ducked down behind the windshield.
“Whatever.” Rainbow shrugged. “Would have been handy like, ten seconds ago, to block my attack. But hey, it’s not my job to tell you how to play.”
“The difference is that one of us doesn’t need the help. My turn.” Indigo drew, holding her card out. “I activate the effect of F.A. Overheat in my Graveyard. By banishing it, I can activate F.A. City Grand Prix from my Graveyard.”
“Again?” Rainbow rolled her eyes as the race track traced out along the field again.
Indigo ignored her. “I activated two F.A. cards, so Hang-On Mach gets two more levels, plus two from my field. That brings it to Level 8. Next I’ll activate ‘F.A. Pitstop’. This decreases Hang-On Mach’s level by two, and then I can draw a card.” As she drew, Indigo nodded towards Hang-On Mach. “Although, since I just used another F.A. card, it goes up once more. That makes Hang-On Mach Level 7.”
She took another card from her hand. “And now everything is set for this! Since I have an F.A. monster with a level higher than its normal level, I can Special Summon ‘F.A. Auto Navigator’ from my hand!”
A small cylinder rolled out in front of Indigo and unfurled into a tablet computer. Its screen lit up, projecting the holographic image of a small woman in a pink dress with a parasol and bushy blue hair (0/0).
Indigo looked down at the hologram. “When I summon Auto Navigator with its own effect, the F.A. monster I chose for its effect is lowered back to its original level, and Auto Navigator’s level becomes the amount it lost. Since Hang-On Mach is Level 7, it goes down to Level 4, and Auto Navigator becomes Level 3, plus two more from my Field Spell. Also, the effect of Auto Navigator lets me add ‘F.A. Off-Road Grand Prix’ to my hand.”
Rainbow tilted her head. “You spent this whole duel so far pumping your levels up higher and higher, and now you’re keeping them low?”
“Yes. For this!” Indigo held her hand in the air. “I tune the Level 5 F.A. Auto Navigator with the Level 4 F.A. Hang-On Mach!”
Rainbow’s jaw dropped. “That thing is a Tuner!?”
Auto Navigator glowed green and separated into five glowing rings. Hang-On Mach hovered higher into the air and glowed orange as the rings came along it, energy crackling between them. Indigo tilted her head back to look up at them, a hand above her duel disk. “I link together the avatar of speed and the hoverbike of speed, and together they accelerate towards a titanic new form!” Her monster ejected from her duel disk and she seized it and placed it on the card tray. “Synchro Summon! Roll out, Level 9, ‘F.A. Motorhome Transport’!”
The ground shook and the race track behind Indigo cracked apart and lifted into the air, revealing the doors of a lift platform built into the ground. The platform rose into Rainbow’s view, carrying a massive white truck, orange and blue stripes painted along the sides. Retracted ramps were built into the sides, and vehicle maintenance bays were visible through the windows. The truck ground to a halt, the cab hissing, and two large mechanical claws lifted out from the sides and clanked together (0/3000).
“W-whoa…” Rainbow swallowed heavily. “That’s a big one.”
“You’ve no idea,” Indigo replied. “First, as you might have guessed from its stats, F.A. Motorhome Transport has the same effect as my other F.A. racers, namely that his attack power is equal to its Level times three hundred. It’s currently Level 9, and then rises two more from my Field Spell.” Motorhome Transport revved its engine and glowed orange (ATK: 3300).
“Next I Normal Summon an oldie but a goodie, F.A. Sonic Meister.”
A ramp on Motorhome Transport lowered and the silver race car wheeled out to the ground (0/1000).
Indigo held up a card. “One card left to play, Rainbow. Care to guess what it does?”
Rainbow scowled. “It’s an F.A. Spell to power up Sonic Meister.”
“Close.” Indigo swung the card onto her disk. “It’s the Spell card ‘Galaxy Queen’s Light.” Around the finish line of Indigo’s race track, spotlights materialized on scaffolding and shone on her two monsters.
“I select a Level 7 or higher monster, and for the rest of this turn, all other monsters I control become the same Level as it!” She thrust her hand towards Sonic Meister. “With the boosting effect of my F.A. Circuit Grand Prix, my F.A. Motorhome Transport is Level 11, so Sonic Meister becomes Level 11, and then gains two more levels from the Field too!”
The spotlights intensified their glow, streams of energy coming from them. They wrapped around Sonic Meister and the car glowed a bright silver (Level: 13, ATK: 3900).
Indigo grinned and pointed across the field. “Battle phase! Sonic Meister, attack U.A. Rival Rebounder!”
Sonic Meister’s engine roared and it skipped across the field, flame trails in the wake of its tires. It slammed into Rival Rebounder and sent it tumbling backwards, its armor sparking and falling apart around it as it rolled. It stopped and dissolved into light.
-Rainbow Life Points: 2700-
“Since Sonic Meister destroyed a monster in battle, it can attack again! Take out Dreadnought Dunker!” Sonic Meister’s tired screeched and smoked as it turned in place and jetted in front of Rainbow to strike Dunker, the monster dissolving on impact.
-Rainbow Life Points: 2600-
“And there’s still Motorhome Transport!” Indigo levelled her finger at Rainbow’s last monster. “Attack Playmaker!”
Motorhome Transport’s horn blared and it slowly rumbled across the field. It stopped in front of Playmaker, and the football star looked up at the truck’s claws as they descended on it. They grabbed Playmaker by the shoulders, lifted it into the air, and swiftly slammed it into the cab’s grill. Rainbow looked away as Playmaker exploded in a shower of sparks.
-Rainbow Life Points: 800-
“With the attacks done, I end my turn, and Sonic Meister returns to Level 4, plus two from City Grand Prix.” Indigo rolled her neck as her two monsters drove back into position behind her. “How about you save yourself the trouble and just end your turn so I can attack and win this?”
“Nope.” Indigo shook her head. “By my count, the only card left in your hand is U.A. Midfielder. Sure, you still have your Stadium in play, and there’s some decent combos you could try depending on what you draw. But it won’t be enough. I have almost half my Life Points, the effect of City Grand Prix prevents my F.A. monsters from being targeted by your card effects, and Motorhome Transport itself cannot be destroyed by battle or card effects because of its own effect.
“Your best combo was that Synchro revival trick to swarm the field, but I can’t think of a Synchro that could end this in one more turn, and even if there was, you’d still need to get a Tuner out and summon it.” Indigo held up her hands. “Even at my best, I couldn’t play my way out of this no matter what I drew.”
“Yeah, well, that’s you!” Rainbow growled. “I’m me, and I still have a turn to take, which means there’s still hope of taking you down!” She clenched her fist and brought it over her chest. “I’ve kept up with you just fine until now, even pulled ahead for a little bit. That says to me that for all your talk and fancy rare cards, your deck isn’t all that better than mine.”
Rainbow’s eyes flashed and her body began to glow bright blue. “And if you and I are an equal match, then I say that until my Life Points hit zero, this duel isn’t over!”
On the stairs from the parking lot, Sunset gasped and stumbled, tripping down the steps. Rarity gasped and ran to her, kneeling. “Sunset?”
Sunset’s eyes were wide as she clenched a hand in the grass. Again?
“Hey, you okay?” Sunset turned her head. The voice had come from the Crystal Prep bench, but it wasn’t directed at her – the girls sitting on the bench were staring at the one of them standing up and watching the field.
“My turn!” Eyes blazing blue, Rainbow raised her duel disk and drew, the card flashing blue in her hand. She looked at her new card and then reached to the lone card in her other hand. “I summon U.A. Midfielder, in attack mode!” Rainbow’s monster appeared in front of her, hunched over and ready to move. “And since I just summoned a U.A. monster from my hand, I can Special Summon the Tuner monster ‘U.A. Strategist’!”
Next to Midfielder rose a monster in a silver uniform with blue and orange stripes, a clipboard under one arm and a whistle dangling from its neck. The monster raised its head, eyes staring sharply under a white baseball cap, and let out a grunt (1000/600).
At the stairs, Rarity gaped. “Sunset? I don’t believe Rainbow has used that card before, has she?”
Sunset’s hand shook as she pushed herself to her feet. No, she hasn’t.
“I activate U.A. Strategist’s special ability!” Rainbow held up her duel disk as cards began to emerge from her Graveyard. “Once per turn, I can return up to three U.A. monsters in my Graveyard to my deck, and a U.A. monster on my side of the field can gain or lose a Level for each of them.” The transparent images of Rival Rebounder, Dreadnought Dunker, and Playmaker appeared above Strategist. “I return three monsters to my deck, and have U.A. Strategist gain three Levels, making it Level 6!”
Strategist raised its whistle and blew into it; at the sound, the specters of Rainbow’s monsters flowed into it in flashes of blue light.
“And now, I Tune my Level 6 U.A. Strategist with my Level 4 U.A. Midfielder!”
Strategist’s whistle echoed as it turned into six green rings that floated into the air. Midfielder rose up into them as they began to spin. A pillar of blue light shot down through the rings.
“I unite brains and brawn, coach and player, and call in the unparalleled master of the field!” Rainbow’s duel disk popped open and a new card materialized in her Extra Deck. She grabbed it and held it up. “Meet a superstar like no other! Rushing in, Level 10, ‘U.A. Marvel Victor Prime’!”
The pillar of light receded, revealing a darkened form floating in the air. Around the field, the lights of Indigo’s track darkened, and spotlights on U.A. Stadium swung around, shining on the monster. Clad head to toe in a silver bodysuit with glowing blue and orange stripes up the sides, it hung ominously in the air. The monster raised its head, scruffy blond hair blowing in the wind, and dropped to the ground, landing on its feet. It held a hand to the side and a pair of orange sunglasses appeared in its fingers; it slipped them on, grinned, and reared up to its full height, arms crossed (2700/2500).
Indigo’s eyebrows lifted. “Not a bad show to go out on, at least.”
“You tell me,” Rainbow replied. She pressed her fingers to her duel disk and another card ejected from her Graveyard. “I activate the effect of U.A. Penalty Box in my Graveyard. By banishing it, I can add a U.A. Spell from my deck to my hand. I’ll take ‘U.A. Powered Jersey’ and equip it to Victor Prime!”
Victor Prime held its arms out. A set of black and red armor with massive spikes, electricity sparking from them, appeared around it. One by one the pieces gravitated onto Victor Prime, the armor’s red sections lighting up once complete, forming a large spiked chestpiece and gauntlet.
“U.A. Powered Jersey gives the equipped monster an extra thousand attack points, and battle damage you take from the monster wearing it is doubled.” Rainbow thrust her hand out, a blue aura over her entire body. “So without any further delay Victor Prime, attack Sonic Meister!”
Victor Prime (2700 → 3700) tensed its limbs and leapt into the air. Lightning coiled from the spikes of its armored jersey and into its gauntlet. With a laugh, it brought its arms together and thrust them forward, firing a beam of blue energy. The beam lance through Sonic Meister (1800) and the race car exploded. Indigo cried out as the shockwave of the blast washed over her.
-Indigo Life Points: 100-
“Now that the monster wearing the Powered Jersey has destroyed your monster in battle, its second effect activates – it can attack again!” Eyes glowing bright blue, Rainbow pumped her fist and pointed. “U.A. Marvel Victor Prime, attack F.A. Motorhome Transport!”
Victor Prime, fists still held out, turned them towards Motorhome Transport. With a smirk, another beam of blue light fired.
The blast pierced Motorhome Transport’s cab through the grill. The mechanical arms sparked and fall apart to the ground. The length of the truck shook, panels bursting and windows shattering, before the entire length collapsed and exploded.
-Indigo Life Points: 0-
Rainbow’s eyes ceased glowing and she stumbled slightly. “Whoa…” She put a hand to her head. “That’s a rush.”
“You’re telling me!” Indigo ran up to her. “Right here!” Rainbow looked at her and grinned. When Indigo was close enough, she brought her hand forward and clasped Rainbow’s. “That was a heck of a duel.”
“You’re telling me,” Rainbow replied.
“Rematch after the tournament,” Indigo said, giving a small smile. “You got lucky this time.”
“Are you crazy?”
The two parted and turned their heads; Twilight was staring at Indigo. “Did you not see what happened?” Twilight demanded, pointing at Rainbow.
“She got a good topdeck and beat me.” Indigo held up her hands. “Eh, how the game goes sometimes. A win’s a win.”
“You…” Twilight shook her head, bringing her hands to her temples. “You can’t be serious…”
“Chill, Twi.” Indigo patted her on the shoulder as she walked toward the Shadowbolt bench. Twilight stayed in place, breathing deep.
Sunset cautiously approached. “Twilight?” At her voice, Twilight’s head snapped up to stare at her. Sunset took a step back.
Twilight swallowed heavily. “I know I’m not crazy. I know I’m not imagining things. What was that?”
Before Sunset could respond, Rarity stepped up next to her. “Wait. You saw that? What Rainbow did? And you remember it?”
“Glowing eyes, glowing deck, using cards that I am one hundred percent certain don’t exist? That’s hard to forget.”
“How is this possible?” Rarity looked at Sunset. “Sunset?”
Sunset looked around and rested her eyes on the school.
“I think we need to find somewhere private to talk.”
Sunset bit her lip and looked down the row of her friends, standing in various positions around the classroom they now occupied. Most of them stood around or leaned against the chalkboard, while Rainbow sat at the teacher’s desk. Sunset turned her head to looked at Twilight, leaning against the back desk, and hesitated to speak.
Twilight must have noticed. “Tell me,” she said firmly. When Sunset didn’t answer, she continued. “I know I’m not crazy. I know what I saw. And you all saw it too.” She looked at the other five who avoided her eyes. Twilight looked back at Sunset. “What is this?”
Sunset took a deep breath. “Magic.”
Twilight’s eyebrows raised slightly. “Magic. That’s the best story you can come up with?”
“I know it’s hard to accept, but it’s true.” Sunset gestured to her friends. “I, I mean, we, apparently, have magic. It manifests in our dueling with new cards. But the magic erases memories of people who see them, so no one remembers it.”
Twilight looked at Rarity and Rainbow. “So you two have Pendulum monsters too?”
“I wish,” Rainbow muttered.
“No, they don’t.” Sunset gently shot a glare at Rainbow. “My magic isn’t the same as theirs.”
“I don’t know.”
“And the rest of you?” She looked at Applejack, Pinkie, and Fluttershy. “Do you have magic?”
Pinkie held up her hands.“Only in my dreams.”
“No, we don’t,” Applejack replied. Fluttershy shook her head, too.
“Seriously?” Twilight scoffed, her eyes widening. “You guys brought me here to explain things, but you really don’t understand it yourselves, do you?”
“No, we don’t.” Sunset shook her head.
Rarity stepped up and put a hand on her shoulder. “I know that isn’t a satisfactory answer, but I’m afraid it’s the best we have. Rainbow Dash and I didn’t have magic until today, and Sunset hasn’t used hers in some time. We’re not entirely sure how this all works or what it means.”
Twilight barked a small chuckle and threw up her hands. “Great. Good to hear. You guys have magic you can use to cheat at Duel Monsters and attack duelists, and you don’t even know how or why.”
“What happened with us was an accident!” Sunset shouted. She stepped towards Twilight; the other girl stepped back at the same moment. Sunset stopped. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she said softly.
Twilight eyed the other girl warily. “Didn’t seem that way at the time.” She shook her head. “You guys complain about us being bullies and not dueling fair. But last I checked, none of us have ever used this game to attack anyone.”
Sunset flinched and looked away.
“Hey.” Applejack stepped up beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Y’all both need to calm down. Sunset’s tellin’ the truth. What happened in your duel was an accident, and she regrets it, we all do. We’re all tryin’ to figure this out together, but we don’t have all the answers. Sorry if that ain’t a good enough explanation for you.”
“Explanation?” Twilight hefted her backpack on the table and rifled through it. She held up several notebooks and tossed them on a desk. “I’ve spent months trying to figure out what’s going on in this school: writing down observations, and sketching your cards. I thought I could make sense of things if I just approached them rationally. But this? Magic? That isn’t rational, that isn’t sense. It’s an impossibility.”
She cupped her hands to her face. “You’re really trying to tell me that there is magic in this world that could be used like this? To hurt people, to warp their minds, to create things out of thin air? And you think I need to ‘calm down’ because the people who have this power can’t control it and don’t understand it?” She shouted her final words.
“Dear, listen.” Rarity came up to her and carefully reached up to pull her hands away. “We know this is a lot to take in. It was for us too, when we found out.” She gestured at Sunset. “You’re afraid of her. I understand, truly, I do. But what Sunset showed you during your duel, that person she was, she isn’t that person anymore. Why her magic regressed her to that state, we don’t know. But we are going to figure it out, and in the meantime she is terribly sorry for what happened and has no interest in hurting anyone.”
Twilight looked at her evenly. Slowly she swept her eyes over the others, finishing on Sunset. When Sunset looked back at her, Twilight swallowed and slowly slid into one of the desks.
“This game used to just make sense,” she whispered. “Collect cards, build a good deck and use it effectively, and you can make it in the world.” She looked at the journals scattered over the desk and flipped one open, revealing pages of sketches of monsters with card statistics next to them. She dismissively slapped the page with the back of her hand. “I was planning to be a card designer when I graduated. Make my living improving this game. That’s why I went to Crystal Prep. But this?”
She raised her eyes to the group. “I’d thought this was some sort of scam or conspiracy to cover up cheating. Now I wish it was that simple. Cheating I can explain. But magic?” She snorted. “Why even bother dueling at all, if people like you are out there? I spent years studying and collecting cards to build the best deck I can. But what’s the point if duelists like you can just magic up new cards to beat me. What kind of game is that?”
“Hey, welcome to our world!” Rainbow snapped. “Pulling cards out of your butt no one else has heard of and you can’t counter? We deal with that at this tournament every year.”
“No, she’s right.”
All eyes in the room turned to Sunset. The other girl reached up to Applejack’s hand on her shoulder.
“Using my magic to beat duelists who were better than me is how I used to control this school. I thought it made me better than the rest of you, thought it made me unstoppable. But it was cheating, plain and simple. I never could have gotten as far as I did without it. I used it to be a bully.”
Sunset slowly stepped forward and sat in the desk in front of Twilight, who backed away in her seat. Sunset did her best to ignore it as she held up her duel disk and took her deck out. “I don’t know why my deck became these Pendulum monsters. And I don’t know why these dark versions of them manifested in our duel with my magic again. I don’t know why any of this is happening.”
Twilight looked at the cards in Sunset’s hand. “Can I see them?” Sunset held them out, and Twilight cautiously reached out and took them, flipping them over and examining a few of them.
Sunset kept her eyes on the cards and bit her lip before speaking. “I am sorry for what I did to you. All I can say is that if I could go back, not use my magic, and lose to you fair and square, I’d do it.”
“What?” Rainbow exclaimed behind her.
“She’s right,” Fluttershy whispered. “I didn’t need magic and I almost beat Sour Sweet.”
Applejack nodded. “Ah kept up with Sugarcoat just fine.”
“I had fun dueling Lemon, even if I lost,” Pinkie said.
Rarity looked back at Rainbow. “Even if we two almost lost, we put in a good showing before we needed magic, yes?”
“None of us need magic to beat Crystal Prep.” Sunset looked between them. “Look at what we’ve been able to do with just our cards. Next year, if the school is really united again, and we all helped each other? Who knows what could happen? But if we just keep using our magic to win, we won’t grow as duelists or as people, and neither will the rest of the school.”
“And these?” Twilight’s voice snapped Sunset’s attention back to her. “Would you give up your Pendulums?” Twilight asked. “Even if you don’t actively use magic to win duels except against me, these are cards that shouldn’t exist and have unfair mechanics compared to other cards. So what happens to these?”
Sunset looked at the cards in Twilight’s hand and held out her own. Twilight returned the deck and Sunset fanned them out. One by one she looked at the cards symbolizing the group. Then she found her own card, and slid it aside to look at the other monsters below it, the word ‘Infernal’ a blight to her eyes.
I still don’t understand why they exist myself. Why did Twilight’s cards change into these? Why are their cards Light and mine is Dark? What is the word Pendulum even supposed to mean for me? She swallowed and slotted the deck back into her duel disk. “I don’t know. What I do know is that deck symbolizes the bond I’ve formed with these girls. They helped me be a better person who doesn’t need to use magic and dueling to push people around. And…” she inhaled deeply. “I’m not sure what it says about me.”
“Not like it matters.” Twilight shrugged. “Any new deck you tried, who’s to say your magic won’t just change it, too?”
“Yeah.” Sunset nodded. “But we’ll figure that out. All of us have dueled now, so there’s no more chance of magic happening in this tournament. Tomorrow we can sit down and think—”
“Wait.” Twilight stood up, her eyes wide. “Your last duelist.”
“Does he have magic?” Twilight’s voice was urgent.
“No.” Sunset shook her head.
“But you said neither did the rest of you until today. So are you sure?”
Twilight’s eyes darted to the door. “Shining Armor…” She grabbed her backpack and notebooks and ran out of the room, the group stepping out of her way.
“Twilight!” Sunset ran to the door and looked after her.
Twilight didn’t stop. “I’m not chancing my brother’s safety on your half-guesses!” Before Sunset could respond, Twilight reached the doors to the stairwell and was through them.
“Flash can’t have magic, can he?” Applejack asked from the classroom.
Rarity tapped her chin. “I’m afraid we don’t have enough information to say with certainty.”
“We don’t even know why we have magic, why wouldn’t he?” Rainbow said.
Fluttershy looked at the doorway. “Sunset?”
Sunset turned around and found them watching her expectantly. “I…” She came back into the room and leaned against the wall. “Okay, let’s think. None of you manifested your magic until I did, right?” Rainbow and Rarity nodded. Sunset looked at her duel disk. “I could say it was just the stress of wanting to win badly was what triggered mine. But why would that trigger yours, especially if they’re not the same kind of magic?”
“Maybe it was our good magic again!” Pinkie piped up. “Ya know, we tried to help Princess Twilight beat you before and did something magical, I think. Maybe because you turned evil again our magic-senses tingled and woke up to stop you again!”
Rainbow slapped her forehead. “Pinkie, not helping!”
“Wait.” Sunset stood up. “She might be onto something.”
“Or on something…”
“You guys said you were bonded with Twilight because of her deck, right?” Sunset looked at her cards. “Maybe some of her magic is still in this one. I mean, it was her deck she left with me before it changed to these. What if when my magic activated, Twilight’s magic responded by giving you magic?”
Rarity and Rainbow shared a skeptical look. “Er, is that how that works?” Rainbow asked.
“It’s a better explanation than nothing.” Sunset rubbed her chin. “If Twilight’s deck connected you before, and there was still some of her magic in my cards, maybe when my magic tainted my deck, her magic was forced out of it and into you.”
“Tainted your deck?” Rarity tilted her head. “What do you mean?”
Sunset reached into her extra deck slot and held up her three monsters. “Well, these obviously aren’t good guys, whoever they are. When my magic corrupted Twilight’s deck and added these dark cards, maybe the light left from Twilight went to you guys.”
Fluttershy shook her head. “I don’t think you corrupted Twilight’s deck, Sunset. Maybe it’s more that your deck just needed a balance of the two of you, instead of being all Twilight.”
Sunset gave a small smile. “Thanks, Fluttershy. But that doesn’t really make me feel better if my influence was still about adding more bad guys to the deck.”
“So, if it was because of Twilight and her deck that we got magic,” Applejack began, “then Flash should be fine, right? He never bonded with any of us or with you two, not like Twilight did with us.”
“Right, but we can’t be sure. I used my magic on him in the semi-finals last time, after all. Maybe that got to him the same way Twilight did to her.” Sunset looked at the clock. “Intermission is almost done. We should get to the field. If Flash does have magic, we’d better make sure it’s the good kind.”
Twilight briskly jogged down the steps of the field and looked across the grass. “Shining!”
Across the far side of the field, Shining Armor perked up and waved. Closer to Twilight, Flash Sentry looked over his shoulder at her voice.
A whistle from the side. “About time!” Twilight turned her head and saw Indigo Zap waving her over. “C’mon, grab a seat!” She shuffled over to clear a spot on the bench.
“Now this is how you end a tournament!” Lemon Zest cheered. “Champion duelists from both schools facing off in the last duel with a tied score? This is what it’s all about!”
Twilight approached them but didn’t sit down. “Where is Principal Sombra?”
“Went off to do something, again,” Sour Sweet muttered. “Makes me wonder if he even cares about this tournament anymore.”
“What’s up, Twi?” Lemon asked.
“We need to stop this tournament. Shining could be in danger.” The group stood up and surrounded her, talking at once. Twilight raised her arms and spread them, making them back away. “I found out what’s going on with this school’s duelists.”
“Is this about that cheating conspiracy stuff?” Indigo groaned. “You lost, let it go!”
“It’s not cheating,” Twilight hissed. She lowered her voice. “It’s magic.”
Sugarcoat snorted. “Magic?”
Sunny Flare sighed. “Dearie, I understand trying to justify one’s defeat, but even I wouldn’t resort to such absurdity.”
“Think about it,” Twilight swiveled her head to make sure no one was listening before she continued. “Have any of you guys been able to look up footage of my duel yesterday? Or Indigo and Sunny’s duels today?”
“We haven’t tried.” Lemon shrugged. “So?” Next to her, Sugarcoat raised her duel disk and tapped on the screen.
“And none of you remember how the three of us lost, do you?”
“Of course I do!” Sour Sweet snapped. “You…” she paused, scrunched her face. “Uh, hang on, lemme think…”
“Don’t bother.” Twilight leaned forward. “That’s one of their powers. They can make sure you don’t remember anything, so you can’t call them out on cheating or having cards they shouldn’t have. And any time you try to look up info on them, the database is glitched and corrupted.”
“She’s right.” Sugarcoat gestured to her duel disk. “I just tried to access the videos of the tournament’s duels. The last three won’t play.”
“Okay, whoa.” Lemon held up her hands in defense. “You really want us to believe those girls have magic and are using it to cheat at the tournament?”
“Not just cheat,” Twilight rubbed her arm. “Yesterday, I could feel Sunset’s monsters attacking me. I think they could use their magic to cause real pain.”
Indigo held her head. “And Sunny and I had our memories of it erased?”
Sunny pressed a hand to her chest, her breathing quickening. “Did they hurt us and we just can’t remember it?”
“No, they claim they don’t understand how to control it yet,” Twilight replied. “Which is why we need to make sure no one else duels them in case they lose control.”
“Our final intermission is over, so if our two duelists are ready, we can begin.”
“Wait!” Twilight screamed. She pushed through the rest of the Shadowbolts and ran up to the principal’s table. “Principal Celestia, Vice-Principal Hope?”
Hope covered the microphone with her hand. “Yes?”
“We need to stop this tournament, the duelists could be in danger.”
“Danger?” Celestia stood up. “What do you mean?”
Before Twilight could continue, Hope held up her other hand. “Apologies for this interruption, Principal Celestia. Principal Sombra has explained to me that Twilight Sparkle has a personal interest in this tournament. She’s just overreacting to some misunderstandings.”
“I am not overreacting and I am not misunderstanding!” Twilight insisted. “Something is going on here, and Principal Sombra knows about it, but he won’t listen to me and won’t do anything!”
Celestia looked between Hope and Twilight. “What is happening that you’re worried about, Twilight?”
“Magic. The Canterlot duelists are using magic to hurt duelists and cheat the game.”
After a moment of silence, Celestia sat down. “Please start the duel, Vice-Principal Hope.”
“We will now begin the final duel of the Friendship Cup! Crystal Prep’s Shining Armor will face Canterlot High’s Flash Sentry!”
The roar of the student body was deafening, cheers and applause filling the air. Twilight looked back at the field and watched as her brother activated his duel disk, a card tray of blue light projecting from the front.
“They say you’re the best this school has to offer,” Shining said.
“I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve,” Flash replied, raising his duel disk in front of him.
Shining smiled. “Only a few?”
“I like to keep things challenging, or else it’s just boring.”
Twilight bit her lip and clenched her fist.
“Let the final duel begin!”
Rivalry of Warlords – Flash Sentry vs Shining Armor
Rivalry of Warlords – Flash Sentry vs Shining Armor
-Flash Life Points: 8000-
-Shining Life Points: 8000-
Flash’s portrait lit up on the display board. “Flash Sentry will take the first turn.”
Flash’s duel disk ejected five cards; he picked them up, looked down at them, and reached for one. “I’ll start off big with this, the Spell card ‘Gem-Knight Fusion’. I use it to fuse ‘Gem-Knight Sapphire’ and ‘Gem-Knight Obsidian’.” Flash’s two monsters appeared above him, glowing blue and black, and swirled together, light shining from them. “I merge the powers of water and rock and crystallize the form of a chilling new fighter!” Flash grabbed his card and slapped it on his duel disk. “Fusion Summon! Ready for battle, Level 6, ‘Gem-Knight Aquamarine’, in defense mode!”
A shard of ice crashed out of the fusion vortex and shattered to reveal Flash’s new knight. Clad entirely in bright blue armor with a pale brown cape and a shield encrusted with sapphires on its right arm, it knelt in front of Flash and wrapped its arm around its knee, positioning its shield forward (1400/2600).
Flash’s duel disk beeped. “Since Gem-Knight Obsidian was sent to the Graveyard from my hand, I’ll use its effect to revive Gem-Knight Sapphire, also in defense mode.”
A spray of water from the ground next to Aquamarine heralded the revival of Flash’s monster, armored in pale blue and arms crossed over its chest (0/2100).
“I’ll then banish Obsidian to activate the effect of Gem-Knight Fusion, returning it to my hand. Finally, I set a card and end my turn.”
On the Shadowbolt bench, Sugarcoat looked up at Twilight. “Is he using magic?”
“I don’t know.” Twilight shook her head.
“You don’t know?” Sunny Flare hissed.
“I haven’t tried to sense anything like that before!” Twilight replied, giving her a small glare.
A few feet away, Sunset watched the group out of the corner of her eye. Her fingernails dug into her palm. They know, she told them. She quietly kicked herself. This was a mistake.
“Good opener.” Shining smiled as he drew. “Don’t mind if I top it. Since you control a monster and I don’t, I can Special Summon ‘Heroic Challenger – Assault Halberd’ from my hand.”
The ground in front of Shining cracked apart, and a knight in silver and purple armor climbed up from the crevice, a three-bladed polearm on its back. It stood up and swung the weapon forward, twirling it and planting the end in the ground (1800/200).
“Next, I’ll Normal Summon ‘Heroic Challenger – Thousand Blades’.”
A knight in dark grey armor rose in front of Shining, dozens of sword blades emerging from its back and sticking into the air. It hefted a spear in both hands and grunted (1300/1100).
“I’ll activate the effect of Thousand Blades. By discarding a Heroic card from my hand, I can summon a Heroic monster from my deck, and then Thousand Blades is changed into defense mode.” Shining flipped a card out from his hand. “I’ll discard my ‘Heroic Challenger – Double Lance’, and summon from the deck ‘Heroic Challenger – Clasp Sword’.”
Another knight rose in front of Shining, wearing silver armor with gold trim, and holding its right arm out towards Flash, a sword blade extending from a large golden gauntlet (300/100).
“Since Clasp Sword was summoned by the effect of a Heroic Challenger, its effect lets me add another copy of Heroic Challenger – Double Lance to my hand.” Shining thrust out his hand. “And now, I overlay Thousand Blades and Assault Halberd! Using my two Level 4 monsters, I construct the overlay network!”
The Crystal Prep bench cheered in tandem with the crowd. Shining smiled and held up his hand as his two monsters slid together, their shape shifting and growing. “By the light of the arsenal and the light of the halberd, I illuminate a swift new warrior!” He held his duel disk up. “Xyz Summon! Ride forth, Rank 4, ‘Heroic Champion – Gandiva’!”
The combined form of Shining’s monsters melted away, revealing a black horse covered in bright red war armor. Mounted on its back was a warrior in black and gold armor, a large longbow in its hand. Two orbs of red light orbited the monster, trails behind them in the air (2100/1800).
Shining slid a card on his duel disk and then lowered his arms. “I set a card and end my turn.” The face-down materialized behind Gandiva.
“Not attacking yet?” Flash asked.
Shining shook his head. “I like to see what my opponents can do before I take them out.”
“Then get ready for a show.” Flash drew with a smirk and reached to his hand. “I activate Gem-Knight Fusion, and use it to fuse Sapphire and Aquamarine!” Flash’s two monsters swirled together in shades of blue. “I merge the powers of water and ice and invoke the wrath of a turbulent new monster! Fusion Summon! Ready for battle, Level 7, ‘Gem-Knight Amethyst!”
Flash’s new monster was heralded by a blast of water from the vortex. Wearing dark purple and blue armor with a matching cape, it held its arms out. Water swirled around its left arm to form a shield, and a spout of water shot from the back of its right arm, forming a sword blade (1950/2450).
“Since Aquamarine was sent to the Graveyard, its effect activates, returning a card on your side of the field to your hand.” Flash pointed. “I choose your Xyz monster, but since they can’t be added to the hand, it goes back to the Extra Deck!”
Aquamarine’s spirit appeared above Flash and shot a flurry of ice crystals out. Gandiva’s horse reared up as the monster dissolved.
“Not bad,” Shining said.
“I’m just getting started,” Flash replied. “I banish Gem-Knight Aquamarine from the Graveyard to add Gem-Knight Fusion back to my hand. Then I summon ‘Gem-Knight Alexandrite’.” A warrior in shining white armor with red gemstones materialized on the field, a clenched fist held out (1800/1200). “I use Alexandrite’s effect, and offer it as tribute to Special Summon a Gem-Knight Normal Monster from my deck. I’ll bring out ‘Gem-Knight Garnet’.” Alexandrite lit up in white light and changed form, the light fading to show a monster in bright red armor with a red jewel on its chestplate (1900/0).
Flash flipped over another card. “I once again activate Gem-Knight Fusion and use it to fuse Garnet with ‘Gem-Knight Lazuli’ in my hand.” The two swirled around each other in red and blue light. “I merge the powers of fire and rock and spark the spirit of a fiery new fighter! Fusion Summon! Ready for battle, Level 6, ‘Gem-Knight Ruby’!”
A plume of fire heralded the arrival of Flash’s monster, armored in bright red with a blue cape and holding a long, red spear that was slung over its shoulders (2500/1300).
“Since Gem-Knight Lazuli was sent to the Graveyard by a card effect, she lets me return Gem-Knight Garnet to my hand. Next, I’ll use Gem-Knight Ruby’s effect.” Flash looked up at Gem-Knight Amethyst. “By offering my Amethyst as a tribute, Ruby gains its attack power until the end of the turn.”
Ruby pointed its spear at Amethyst, and the monster turned into water and flowed around the weapon, blue and red light shining from it (2500 → 4450).
“Now, battle phase!” Flash thrust his hand out. “Gem-Knight Ruby, attack Heroic Challenger – Clasp Sword! Ruby Spear Strike!”
Ruby jumped in the air and swung its spear forward. It twirled the weapon in the air for a moment before hefting it back and hurling it to the ground. The tip pierced Clasp Sword and it shattered.
Flash pumped his fist. “By the way, when Ruby attacks a defending monster, it pierces its defenses and still deals damage to your Life Points.”
A blast of fire shot out of Ruby’s spear and around Shining Armor, who looked away and grunted.
-Shining Life Points: 3550-
“Gotcha.” Flash pumped his fist and smiled.
“Yeah, you did,” Shining replied. “And since you damaged me, the effect of Heroic Challenger – Thousand Blades activates, letting me revive it from the Graveyard.” Shining’s monster materialized in front of him, glaring at Flash.
Flash nodded. “Fine. I end my turn, and Ruby’s attack power returns to its original value.”
On the sidelines, Applejack scrunched her face. “He took a heavy hit from that first attack, how come he didn’t have anything to protect himself?”
“Perhaps he made a misplay?” Rarity suggested.
Sunset narrowed her eyes. Or he wanted it to happen. She turned her gaze to Flash. Either way, Flash seems to be doing fine so far, no signs of magic and no signs of needing it to win. But that could change, now. She turned her head slightly to see Twilight watching the duel intently, biting her lip.
“My turn.” Shining reached past his deck to his duel disk screen. “Before I draw and begin my turn, I activate my Trap card ‘Reinforce Truth’. This lets me summon a Level 2 or lower Warrior from my deck. I’ll use it to summon ‘Heroic Challenger – Ambush Soldier’.” A small figure in camouflage fatigues and a green and yellow cloak appeared kneeling, a jagged sword in its hand (0/0).
“Now I draw,” Shining did so and reached to his screen again. “And now I’ll use Ambush Soldier’s effect, and offer it as tribute to summon two Level 4 Heroic monsters from my deck.” He tapped twice and two cards ejected. “I summon ‘Heroic Challenger – Spartan’ and another copy of Heroic Challenger – Assault Halberd.”
Ambush Soldier spread its arms and dissolved as a pair of portals opened behind it. From one stepped Assault Halberd again, polearm at the ready. From the other came a warrior with yellow and red armor, a spear in one hand and a massive shield in the other (1600/1000).
“Next I summon Heroic Challenger – Double Lance, and activate its effect; when I Normal Summon it, I can revive another copy of Double Lance from my Graveyard.”
Two more portals opened, one in the ground and one in the air. The same monster came from both, a knight in thick blue and white armor, both hands holding a long spear (1000/1000).
Rainbow gaped. “Five monsters!?”
“That’s right!” Sour Sweet stuck her tongue out from the Shadowbolt bench. “Don’t be so surprised. Your wanna-be champ has nothing on Shining Armor!”
“Wanna come a bit closer and say that?” Rainbow snapped. Sour Sweet began to step forward but an outstretched arm from Indigo stopped her.
Sunset looked across Shining’s field. He wanted Clasp Sword out of the way so he’d have room to play something better.
“Alright, let’s try this again.” Shining held out his hand. “I overlay my Heroic Challenger – Spartan with one of my Heroic Challenger – Double Lances. Using my two Level 4 monsters, I construct the overlay network!” The two cards slid together, forming an orb of red light that shifted into a familiar form. “By the light of the shield and the light of the lance, I illuminate a swift new warrior!” Shining picked up his card. “Xyz Summon! Ride forth again, Rank 4, Heroic Challenger – Gandiva!” Shining’s horseback warrior rode onto the field again, bow in hand, twin orbs of red light circling it.
“Next, I overlay my Heroic Challengers Double Lance, Thousand Blades, and Assault Halberd. Using my three Level 4 monsters, I construct the overlay network!” The three monsters came together in a mass of orange light, the form crackling. “By the light of the arsenal, the light of the short sword, and the light of the halberd, I illuminate a stalwart new warrior!” Shining’s duel disk lit up in orange light as his card emerged from the Extra Deck slot. “Xyz Summon!” He took the card and slid it on his card tray. “Raise your blade, Rank 4, ‘Heroic Challenger – Kusanagi’!”
Shining’s new monster erupted in a blast of fire. Clad in brown armor padding with orange metal plating over its shoulders and torso, it held up a hand and a blade of pure fire appeared within its grasp, glowing bright. Three orbs of orange light circled the monster as it swung its sword to point it at Flash (2500/2400).
“Next, I activate my Spell card ‘Heroic Chance’.” Gandiva lit up in red light, its horse whinnying. “For the rest of this turn, my Gandiva doubles its attack power, but it can’t attack you directly.” Shining pointed. “Not that that’s a problem! Heroic Champion – Gandiva, attack Gem-Knight Ruby!”
Gandiva (2100 → 4200) reared and charged forward. Its rider lifted its bow and drew it back, an arrow of pure red energy appearing on the string. The string snapped forward and the arrow pierced Ruby’s armor, Flash’s monster lighting up red before exploding.
-Flash LP: 6300-
Flash reached to his duel disk. “I activate my Trap card ‘Brilliant Spark’!” The hologram of the card flipped up, the image of Gem-Knight Ruby hovering in front of it. “Since a Gem-Knight monster was just destroyed, you take damage equal to its attack power!”
“No I won’t!” Shining called back. “Heroic Champion – Kusanagi’s special ability! By detaching an Xyz material from it, your Trap is negated and destroyed, and Kusanagi gains five hundred attack points!”
One of the orbs floating around Kusanagi flew into its sword and it lit up with orange light. Kusanagi swung the blade and sent a crescent of fire across the field. It struck Flash’s card and it burned up in an instant.
“Damn,” Flash muttered.
“Sorry.” Shining shrugged. “Heroic Challenger – Kusanagi, direct attack!”
Kusanagi (2500 → 3000) ran forward and slashed across Flash with its blade, the hologram passing through him.
-Flash LP: 3300-
“That ends my turn.”
And evens up the score, Sunset thought.
Flash put a hand on his deck and took a breath. “I’m not out of this yet,” he whispered, drawing his card. He looked at it and set it on his duel disk. “I activate the Spell card ‘Painful Decision’. This lets me send a Level 4 or lower Normal Monster from my deck to the Graveyard; I’ll discard ‘Gem-Knight Tourmaline’. Then the second effect of Painful Decision adds another copy of Tourmaline to my hand.”
He reached to his Graveyard slot. “Next, I banish Gem-Knight Amethyst from the Graveyard to return Gem-Knight Fusion to my hand, and then I activate it to fuse Gem-Knights Garnet and Tourmaline in my hand.” Glowing orange and yellow, Flash’s two monsters appeared above him and spun together. “I merge the powers of fire and lightning and bring into clarity the form of a shining new fighter!” Flash smiled as his card ejected. “Fusion Summon! Ready for battle, Level 7, ‘Gem-Knight Prismaura’!”
A bolt of lightning struck down from the vortex, heralding the descent of Flash’s new monster. Clad in gleaming white and gold armor with a flowing red cape, white crystals emerged from its shoulders. It raised its arm and a lance of gleaming crystal appeared in its right hand, its left holding a round shield (2450/1400).
“I banish Gem-Knight Alexandrite from the Graveyard to return Gem-Knight Fusion to my hand, and discard it to activate Prismaura’s effect – I can destroy one card on the field! I choose your Heroic Champion – Kusanagi!”
Prismaura held its lance out and fired a shining bolt of light from the tip. The light hit Kusanagi and it shattered, dissolving as it fell toward the ground.
Prismaura ran across the field, lance levelled at Gandiva. The lance struck it and pitched it back off its horse, the monster exploding in a shower of orange light particles.
-Shining Life Points: 3200-
Shining tapped his duel disk and a card ejected from his Graveyard. “Since I just took damage, I activate the effect of Heroic Challenger – Thousand Blades and revive it from the Graveyard.”
Flash let out a small huff as Shining’s monster appeared in front of his opponent. “I’m getting sick of that thing already. I end my turn.”
Shining drew and looked at his card. “I set one card face-down, and then summon ‘Heroic Challenger – Night Watchman’.”
A figure in black armor with a white mask and a dark purple cloak appeared in front of Shining in a burst of shadows. It brandished a sword in its right hand and held a lantern up in its left (1200/300).
“I overlay my Thousand Blades and my Night Watchman. Using my two Level 4 monsters, I construct the overlay network!” The two monsters turned black and came together, light shining from them. Shining’s duel disk gleamed as he held it up, his other hand over it. “By the light of the arsenal and the light of the lantern, I illuminate a leader and warrior without peer!” He brought the card out of his duel disk with a flourish. “Xyz Summon! Reign over this battlefield, Rank 4, ‘Heroic Champion – Excalibur’!”
The ground shook and then erupted outward. A warrior in bulky silver and dark red armor leapt up onto the field, a massive broadsword held in the air. It landed, light rippling off spikes on its shoulders and helmet, and gripped the blade with two hands, holding it steady. Twin orbs of purple light circled it, pulsing (2000/2000).
Shining swept his hand through the air. “I activate Excalibur’s special ability! By detaching its Xyz materials from it, its attack points double until the end of your next turn!”
Flash stepped back. “No way!”
The orbs of light around Excalibur lit up and slammed into its sword. It roared and held its blade higher, the steel glowing and growing larger (2000 → 4000).
Shining pointed across the field. “Heroic Champion – Excalibur, attack Gem-Knight Prismaura!”
Excalibur hefted its sword up and then slammed it into the ground. A shockwave rippled out, purple light shining from cracks in the earth. The tremor reached Prismaura and a blast of purple energy erupted over it, dissolving it.
-Flash LP: 1750-
“I end my turn.” Shining lowered his duel disk. “One more attack and it’s over.”
Flash tensed and put his hand over his deck. “That’s assuming you get one.”
“I will, unless you can win this duel this turn.” Shining looked closer at Flash’s hands. “But you don’t have any cards left on the field or in your hand.”
“Maybe.” Flash gave a weak grin. “But I know for a fact that there’s a card in my deck that can turn this around. I just have to draw it.”
“One card? Not good odds.”
“Nope. But they’re not zero. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m still in this!”
Sunset leaned forward, her eyes focused squarely on Flash. He seems fired up, and this is just what happened with Rarity and Rainbow. But… The tension in her shoulders lessened. I’m not sensing anything. He doesn’t have magic. She turned her head. “Twilight!” The other girl looked over at Sunset. Sunset smiled. “He’s safe.”
Twilight said nothing and looked back at the duel.
Flash gripped his card. “My turn! I draw!” He swung his card out. He turned his head to look and flipped it over between his fingers. His smile widened as he turned his eyes back to Shining Armor. “Looks like I just beat the odds.”
Shining hesitated. “What?”
Flash slapped the card on his duel disk. “I activate the Continuous Spell card ‘Brilliant Fusion’!” A vortex in rainbow colors burst into light above Flash, wind pulled up into it. “This lets me conduct a Fusion Summon of a Gem-Knight monster using monsters in my deck, but the monster summoned has its stats lowered to zero.”
“Impossible!” Sunny Flare’s head whipped around to stare at Twilight. “That can’t be a legitimate draw!”
“If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t know it anyway,” Indigo muttered.
“No, she’s right.” Twilight nodded sharply. “That wasn’t magic. That was luck.”
Flash tapped on his duel disk and one by one his cards ejected; he grabbed them and held them out. “From my deck I fuse Gem-Knights Sapphire, Garnet, and Lazuli!” He slipped the cards into his Graveyard slot, and the Fusion portal flashed brighter. “I merge the powers of water, fire, and rock, and bring into focus a gleaming and graceful warrior!” Flash punched the air “Fusion Summon! Descend now, Level 10, ‘Gem-Knight Lady Brilliant Diamond’!”
The vortex widened and Flash’s monster lowered to the ground, arms crossed. Armored in pale gold and silver, a red cape fluttered below a crest of spikes emerging from its shoulders. It raised its head, light shining off a helmet and breastplate made of diamond, and shouted, thrusting a sword into the air (0/0).
“Since I sent Gem-Knight Lazuli to the Graveyard, its effect adds Gem-Knight Garnet to my hand. I’ll also banish Gem-Knight Prismaura from the Graveyard to return Gem-Knight Fusion to my hand.” Flash took his two cards back and quickly put one of them on his duel disk. “I summon Gem-Knight Garnet, and activate Lady Diamond’s effect. By offering another Gem-Knight as tribute, I can summon any Gem-Knight Fusion Monster from my Extra Deck!” Flash touched his duel disk screen and pulled his card out. “From the Extra Deck, come forth, ‘Gem-Knight Master Diamond’!”
Gem-Knight Lady Diamond pointed her sword at Garnet; its armor began to crack apart, white light shining from within. The monster exploded out, an even larger warrior growing out of its remains. It towered over the field in silver and beige armor, a large sword on its back. It brought an arm back, gripped the handle, and swung it forward, seven colored gemstones on the sides of the blade lighting up (2900/2500).
Flash smiled and held up his duel disk. “Master Diamond gains a hundred attack points for every Gem-Knight in my Graveyard. I have nine – two copies each of Garnet, Sapphire, Lazuli, and Tourmaline, and also Ruby. That’s an extra nine hundred points. I’ll also use the second effect of Brilliant Fusion. By discarding my Gem-Knight Fusion from my hand, Lady Brilliant Diamond regains its original stats until the end of your turn.”
Lady Brilliant Diamond’s armor gleamed brighter and it stood up straighter, a white aura over its body (3400/2000). Beside it, Master Diamond’s sword lit up white and the gemstones on it gleamed (2900 → 3800).
Shining smiled. “Pretty impressive combo out of one card. But neither of them is strong enough to take on Excalibur.”
“Not yet,” Flash replied. “I activate Master Diamond’s second ability. By banishing a Gem-Knight Fusion Monster in the Graveyard, Master Diamond can gain its effects. I banish Gem-Knight Ruby, and then activate its effect as Master Diamond’s effect – I offer Gem-Knight Lady Brilliant Diamond as tribute, and all of her attack points transfer to Master Diamond!”
Master Diamond held its sword up. Lady Brilliant Diamond turned into a shimmering field of glowing light and floated to surround the blade. The gemstones on it flared into a rainbow of light and Master Diamond bellowed (3800 → 7200).
Flash smirked. “And by my math, that makes Master Diamond just strong enough to end this duel.”
The Canterlot High students in the crowd cheered loudly. Rarity cupped her hands to her mouth. “I don’t believe it, he’s done it!”
“Yeah he has!” Rainbow laughed, throwing an arm over Applejack and Pinkie.
“No way!” Lemon Zest cried from the Shadowbolt bench. “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
Sunset smiled. And he did it without magic, even if he did get lucky on his last draw. He did it by himself. looked over at Shining Armor, and her eyes fell on the hologram in front of him. Her smile vanished. Wait. It’s not over yet.
Flash pointed over the field. “Gem-Knight Master Diamond, attack Heroic Champion – Excalibur!”
Master Diamond lowered its blade to the side and charged, sparks and wisps of energy in its wake as it thundered across the field.
Shining smiled. “You’re a heck of a duelist, Flash.”
“You too,” Flash said. “I had to push my deck to its limit just to keep up with you.” He shook his head. “But there was no way I was gonna let my school down.”
“Same here,” Shining replied. “Which is why, even if I feel a bit bad doing this to you, I have no choice.”
Flash’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I can’t stop myself from losing, Flash!” Shining called. “But for the sake of my school, I can stop you from winning!” He reached to the screen of his duel disk and tapped, and the hologram of the face-down card in front of him turned over and rose up. “I activate my Trap card, ‘Heroic Retribution Sword’!” Excalibur’s sword pulsed and turned black, a red aura over it. “With this card active on my Excalibur, any battle damage I take from battles with it is also inflicted to my opponent!”
Flash gasped. “T-then…”
Master Diamond stopped in front of Excalibur and swung its blade. Excalibur brought its own sword forward to catch the strike. The two swords clanged loudly, silver and black sparking against each other. Excalibur’s sword cracked, and shortly after Master Diamond’s sword cut through it and into the knight holding it. As Excalibur was cut apart, the tip of its broken sword spun through the air and towards Flash. The knight exploded as the blade struck Flash.
-Flash LP: 0-
-Shining LP: 0-
The students of both schools fell silent as the holograms flickered and deactivated. At the principal’s table, Radiant Hope blinked and slowly leaned towards the microphone.
“Students of Canterlot High and Crystal Prep… the final duel of the Autumn Crown Tournament has ended in a draw.”
The crowd of collected Canterlot High and Crystal Prep students stared silently as the Life Point meters on the display screen both clicked down to zero, and the portraits of Flash and Shining lit up the words ‘DRAW’ over them.
Rainbow gaped. “Can that happen?”
“Obviously, it just did,” Applejack said.
Flash slumped forward. “Wow… I thought I had you.”
“You almost did.” Shining walked towards him and clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re definitely a great duelist, Flash.”
Flash nodded and patted Shining’s wrist. “You too. Obviously.”
Sunset saw Celestia reach over to take the microphone from Radiant Hope, and then stand up. “I must say, this is an unexpected turn of events. I have seen the occasional tie duel in the past, but I can’t recall a Friendship Cup where we’ve had a tie result for the entire tournament.” She shook her head. “However, we are prepared for this with a tie-breaker system. Each team of duelists shall select one of their own to play a final tie-breaker duel. These selections shall be secret until both teams have decided, and then we shall hold the duel.”
The crowd began talking among themselves. Sunset saw the Crystal Prep team look over at them, and then moved into a huddle on the far side of their bench as Shining came up to them.
“Sorry, girls.” Flash walked up to the group, shaking his head. “Choked on the last play.”
“It’s not your fault,” Sunset said, giving him a smile. “You were on the ropes and made a heck of a comeback.”
“But what do we do now?” Fluttershy asked.
“Easy!” Rainbow pumped her fist. “We pick one of us to kick butt one more time!”
“And who do you suggest we put forth?” Rarity replied, folding her arms together.
“Not it!” Pinkie called. The group looked at her with various states of surprise. She held up her hands. “Eh, I had fun, but if you guys wanna win this, Toons probably aren’t the way to go.”
“Not me,” Fluttershy whispered.
Applejack rubbed the back of her neck. “Ah gave it mah best, but Ah gotta admit, Ah had a lot of trouble keepin’ up with Sugarcoat. Ah dunno how Ah’d fare against the rest.”
“So it’s between us four.” Rainbow looked between Rarity, Flash, and Sunset. She put a hand on her chest and smiled. “And I would have no problem going out there and being awesome one more time.”
Rarity waited until Rainbow finished, watching her, and then shook her head. “Rainbow, darling, I’ve no doubt you would be capable of winning this final duel, and I’d like to think I could as well. But we both know it can’t be either of us.”
Sunset paled as Rarity turned to look at her, the rest of the group doing the same.
“Sunset?” Flash echoed.
Rarity’s gaze flickered over to Flash. “Flash, no offense, you’re indeed one of our best. But there’s some things going on here that would require a fair amount of explanation we don’t have time to divulge at the moment.”
Sunset turned her head his way. “Remember how Twilight’s dog could talk?”
“This is a bit more intense then a talking dog, isn’t it?”
Flash sighed and gave Sunset a sideways look. “Why do I feel like I’ve been kept out of the loop on something big?”
“Because you have.” Sunset reached up to rub her arm. “It wasn’t by planning, though. I can explain after this. About Twilight, me, everything.”
“But for now, we need Sunset to duel one more time,” Rarity said gently. Sunset looked down and saw Rarity’s hand on her arm. She raised her head to the group.
Applejack nodded. “You’ve got the best chance of any of us.”
“Agreed,” Fluttershy chimed in.
Sunset gently lowered her arm out of Rarity’s hand. “I don’t want to.”
Rarity’s arm fell to her side. “Sunset—”
“You saw what I did to Twilight in our first duel,” Sunset said. She put a hand to her chest, clenching the fabric. “I don’t know how or why, but facing Twilight woke up something inside me I didn’t know was even still there. If I duel her again, what if it comes back out? What if I do something worse with it?”
“That’s a chance none of us like the sounds of,” Applejack said. “But what about the rest of us? Apparently, we got some kind o’ power too, and we know even less about it than you do. We could lose control just as easy as you, even easier Ah reckon, since you’ve got experience with this.”
“And besides!” Pinkie wrapped her arms around Sunset. “We’re all here for you, just like we were with Twilight! The one that’s actually a pony, I mean. If you start to feel those evil vibes coming on, we know to talk you down this time!”
“You don’t even know you could do that,” Sunset grunted in the tight grip and wormed her way out.
“None of us know anything,” Fluttershy reminded her. “But I think Applejack is right. Now that you know what could happen, you can resist it happening, right?”
“Maybe…” Sunset sighed and shook her head. “I know you’re right. I have to do this. But I don’t have to like it.”
“You got this, Sunset!” Pinkie cheered. “We’re all behind you and we know you can do it! Believe in the friends who believe in you!”
“What she said,” Rainbow said, jerking her thumb at Pinkie. “And hey, if magic and talking doesn’t work, we’ll just tackle you to the ground. Usually works when I need to get someone to chill.”
Sunset chuckled lightly. “Thanks, you guys. We’ll keep that option on the table, even if it is a joke.”
Rarity leaned back to look over at the huddled Crystal Prep bench. “Now we just need to wait to see who they choose for their representative.”
Sunset looked at the rival team and swallowed heavily. “I have a feeling we already know.”
“I think we should choose the best duelist among us,” Sour Sweet said with a smile, “so I’ll just assume you’re all voting for me.”
Sugarcoat adjusted her glasses. “Clearly our best hope is to have Shining Armor duel again.”
“No!” Twilight yelped.
Shining frowned and looked down at her. “Twily?”
Twilight’s eyes snapped up to his. “I just mean… uh…” She took a breath. “You know that thing I’ve kinda been obsessed over? It wasn’t nothing.”
Shining groaned. “Twilight…”
“She’s not lying!” Sunny Flare cut in. “Those girls have magic, and they’re using it to cheat!”
“You’ve gotta be joking.”
Indigo shook her head. “I wish she was. Sunny and I have no memories of our duels, and the recordings of them aren’t showing up on our duel disks. Whatever is going on with those girls, we can’t remember how they beat us or look it up.”
Twilight waited for Indigo to finish before speaking, drawing Shining’s attention back to her. “I know it sounds crazy, believe me. I feel crazy for just thinking it’s even plausible. But I can’t find any other explanation for what’s going on.”
“And you just jumped on the idea they have magic?”
“No – they told me themselves.”
Shining let out a breath. “You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” Twilight nodded.
Sugarcoat stepped forward. “Twilight knows the most about this. And somehow her memories aren’t affected.”
Sunny nodded. “Indeed. If we must pick a duelist to face them, we need one who could somehow counter their abilities.”
Twilight gaped. “What? I-I can’t do anything like that!”
“But you do understand this more than us,” Lemon replied. “And you can remember the stuff they do with their magic, so you know what to expect.”
“The point is that I don’t know. They can change their decks any time!”
“But at least you’ll be able to take notice of when they do,” Sunny said. “And that’s an advantage we can’t have, meagre though it may be.”
“She’s right; if they’ve got some freaky powers, you’re the only one who would know,” Indigo said. “So we really don’t have a choice then, do we?”
Before Twilight could respond, Sugarcoat and Sour Sweet saw something past her and raised their heads. The group parted and turned as Radiant Hope approached them.
“Girls, I’m sorry for interrupting,” Hope looked among them and then down at Twilight. “Principal Sombra would like to speak to you, Twilight.”
Twilight blinked, and then scowled. “Now he wants to talk to me?”
“Yes. He says it’s urgent.” Hope gestured a hand. “We shouldn’t keep him waiting.”
Twilight looked up at Shining Armor. He looked back and put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay, Twily.”
Twilight nodded at Hope, and she walked past the group and up the steps to the parking lot. Twilight followed her to the parked limousine, where Hope pulled open the back door for her. Twilight climbed into the back seat, the door shutting behind her.
Sitting with his hands clasped in his lap, staring forward, Sombra whispered her name in the darkness of the limo.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” Twilight said, trying to put an edge to her voice.
“I have been letting things play out,” Sombra said softly. “They played out in ways I was not expecting.”
“Play out…” Twilight stared at him, her eyes slowly widening. She raised a shaking hand to point at him. “You know. Wait, no. You’ve known.”
“How much?” she demanded.
“At least as much as you do, perhaps more.” Sombra murmured in his throat, his fingers tapping. “But not nearly as much as I would prefer.”
“Then explain it to me.” Twilight shook her head furiously. “This is impossible. Magic is impossible. Impossible. If you know what’s going on, tell me the truth.”
“That is the truth, Twilight,” Sombra said simply. “Sunset Shimmer and her friends possess magic that augments their decks. It is no lie, I assure you.”
“This…” Twilight slapped a hand to her face and grimaced, her fingers clutching her head. She let out a frustrated groan.“I can’t believe you’re saying this. What about me? I seem to be the only one who knows. How do I fit into things?”
“You have been my valuable aide in this investigation. And now the time has come to bring it to a close.” Sombra turned his head, green eyes flickering brightly in the darkness. “Twilight, listen to me very carefully. I was content to watch things unfold and see what developed, but the situation has changed. The duel you are about to face Sunset in is of greater importance to me than this tournament’s outcome.”
“You know they will choose her,” Sombra interrupted, “as I know your teammates have chosen you. Am I wrong on that?” Twilight shook her head. “Good. It is of great importance to me that you prevail in this final duel. There is too much at stake for us to falter.”
“And how do you suggest I do that?” Twilight looked away. “If she can freely change her deck any time, how can I prepare for that kind of opponent? You saw what happened in our first duel.”
“Yes.” Sombra leaned forward. “But this will not be the same as that duel. I suggest evening the playing field.”
Twilight felt a chill go down her back. “How?”
“The obvious way.” Sombra smiled slightly. “You’ve been a great help to me thus far, Twilight. I feel it is only fair that I repay your assistance. And you do wish to defeat Sunset, don’t you?”
Twilight’s mouth felt dry as she opened her mouth. “I…”
“The honor of your school, your team, and yourself, have been damaged. They must be redeemed. And Sunset must be made to understand she cannot do as she pleases without retribution finding her, one way or the other.” Sombra’s eyes bored into Twilight’s as he spoke. “I need to know you are capable of this, Twilight. I need you to defeat Sunset Shimmer for me. Will you do this for me?”
As Sombra’s words seeped in, Twilight slowly nodded. “Yes.”
“Wonderful.” Sombra’s smile widened and he reached up to pat Twilight on the shoulder. “I knew I could count on you.”
Twilight’s head felt faint as Sombra smiled at her, eyes gleaming green.
“Yes… Principal Sombra…”
Sunset looked down at the principals sitting at the table nearby. “Are you sure she’s coming?”
Hope nodded. “Sombra said he wanted to talk to Twilight before the duel.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. “That’s not suspicious or anything.”
“Sunset,” Celestia scolded gently, “Sombra would never stoop to underhanded methods to win. Why would you even think so?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Sunset said under her breath.
Hope gestured toward the stairs. “She’s coming now.”
Sunset raised her head and saw Twilight descending to the field. She took a breath.
“Sunset, if you’ll take your place on the field, we’ll begin,” Celestia said.
“Right.” Sunset walked out to her position on the grass and looked down at her deck. “Here goes nothing.” She raised her arm and leaned forward, and then paused. Across the field, Twilight had her arms down beside her, her head low. “Twilight?”
At Sunset’s voice, Twilight slowly raised her head and opened her eyes.
“Students, we’ve had a Friendship Cup like no other in recent memory!” Hope said over the speakers. “With the final score being three victories for either school and one tie, Canterlot High’s Sunset Shimmer will face Crystal Prep’s Twilight Sparkle in the deciding duel. Are both duelists ready?”
“Yes,” Sunset whispered, not taking her eyes off Twilight.
Twilight tilted her head. “No.”
Sunset blinked. “What?”
“This venue is inappropriate for a duel like this.” Twilight raised her arms, bringing her duel disk in front of her and putting a hand above her deck. “I will provide a more suitable environment.” Dark energy crackled between Twilight’s fingers and her cards, and a purple aura lit up over her.
Sunset’s heart skipped a beat as a pulse went through the air. She inhaled sharply. No…
Eyes glowing dark purple, Twilight thrust her hand out towards Sunset. In a rush, billowing clouds of darkness erupted from her feet and grew to surround the field. The stands of students, the table of principals, and Sunset’s friends, were obscured by the clouds. When they reached behind Sunset they lit up in light and then faded, thunder roiling within them.
Sunset looked around, taking a step back. “A Shadow Game…” She looked back at Twilight. “Twilight, do you even know what you’re doing!?”
“Absolutely,” Twilight replied, lowering her hand. Her eyes slowly pulsed with purple light as she spoke. “This is the power of magic, isn’t it?”
“Evil magic!” Sunset cried. “You don’t understand what this kind of magic is!”
“You’re right,” Twilight said coolly. She slowly smiled. “I didn’t understand magic before. But I do now. And soon I’ll understand it a lot more. And so will you. That’s what we both want, isn’t it? To understand our powers and what they can do? What better way than a duel?”
“Not like this.” Sunset shook her head. “This is dangerous.”
“So was our first duel.” Twilight held up her duel disk. “You used magic against me then, and we both came out of it fine. I’ve just put us on an even field this time. Or are you afraid to duel an opponent you can’t bully around with magic?”
“It’s not like that at all!” Sunset snapped. She clenched her fist and glared. “What happened during our duel was an accident. I would never use my powers to hurt you.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t.” Twilight lowered her arm and brought her duel disk back in front of her. “Unlike you, I can control this power, and I intend to. If you can take it or not, that’s on you now. And if you can’t, too bad. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that one way or the other, we’re not leaving this field until a duel is held.” She pressed her hand to her disk and the card tray ejected in an array of jagged, purple light.
Sunset reached to her own disk. “If this is what it’ll take to snap you out of it, fine.” Her card tray swung out and lit up.
Twilight slowly chuckled. “This is a whole new evolution of dueling we’re about to witness here. I admit, everything else aside, this is kind of exciting.” Her aura shone brighter, eyes gleaming. “Now, Sunset Shimmer, let’s see what our magic can really do!”
“Be careful what you wish for.” Sunset leaned forward, her coat and hair blowing out behind her. “It’s time to duel, Twilight!”