Duelist Team of Canterlot High

by Brony-wan-kenobi

First published

Six students will represent Canterlot High in a childrens card game tournament. And none of them are the main seven!

Set in the same universe as DrakeyC's Yugioh stories as well as Tales of the Canterlot High Duelists

A new sensation is spreading across the nation: Team Dueling! All of the schools have been getting in on it, gaining sponsorships and donations...except for Canterlot High. With their old format rules and restrictions gone they now have a chance to start up their own team with VP Luna coaching them. But will this group of secondary characters have what it takes to make this a permanent thing? Or will they go down in flames....

Special thanks to Speculore for editing

Planning the Team

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It was at that special time when the day was giving sky to the stars and moon above Canterlot High as Vice-Principal Luna stood on the blue platform of the school’s dueling arena. Normally hidden underneath the basketball court, its large silvery steel walls rose a foot or so high into the air. The asphalt that normally would have been below her had been replaced with green steel with white boxes to show where one’s cards would be placed. Finally, across from her own stand which was raised high into the air, was another similar box painted red.

Slowly, Luna’s hand felt the cold interface before her where cards were once placed in a time before the invention of the duel disk. Off to the side was a cable jack that could connect to a person’s duel disk if they so choose. However, most students who dueled here didn’t bother with such things, preferring to use the console before her. Briefly, she remembered the days when having one of these things was a necessity to have a holographic duel requiring vast arena’s that held many of them. That for a school to own one of these was the envy of the district. Yet those days were far behind her, much like how the day had turned to night above her. Soon, this old dueling stadium would be retired, for it was so old that it could not support all of the new game mechanics.

A car driving into the faculty parking lot drew Luna’s attention from her musing. Turing around to see if she needed to reprimand whoever was there, she quickly spotted her sister’s car. As Luna pressed the button to lower herself to the ground she watched as Celestia got out of her car. Once both sister’s had their feet on the ground they approached each other ignoring the trees that had recently been stripped of all their leaves. Both women could see their breath in the air before them, but were able to ignore it for now as well as the slight shiver that went down their backs. The light of the fading day was lingering behind Celestia as the stars twinkled behind Luna’s back, the two of them meeting the other halfway.

“So, how did it go, sister?” asked Luna, crossing her arms as she spoke. She noticed Celestia shiver again, nearly dropping the briefcase she held with one hand. Luna could tell that her sister wanted to go inside to warm up yet her feet remained where she was.

“One of the better meeting’s I’ve had with the school board,” replied the Principal with a hollow laugh. “But for the most part they seemed to like the idea of our school competing against other duel teams. No doubt our recent improvement against Crystal Prep worked in our favor.”

Luna nodded in acknowledgment of this. Duel teams were quickly popping up within every school; joining the ranks of things like football, hockey, baseball, track, and other school sports. In the simplest of explanations they were a team of people who played Duel Monsters. Six students from each school would face off against six from another school using both the latest ban list and format. Nearly every half of the school in the state had their own Varsity teams, their duelists walking around with their letter jackets proudly. It was the type of sport that anyone could play really regardless of any physical handicap.

For some time now, both Celestia and Luna had been working hard to have their school join these ranks. However, several things had kept them back. Mainly, she school didn’t have such a grand reputation with dueling. The previous rules that prevented students from using extra deck monsters outside of fusions as well as using previous formats had given them the sad reputation as being stuck in the past. Some had even wondered if they believed that students at their school believed they could summon any monster from their hand, regardless of the level. Not to mention their farther poor history when dueling Crystal Prep which was not exactly kept secret from the masses. The idea of going up against other schools was seen more as a joke than anything to be taken seriously.

Recently, however, things had changed. Ever since the mysterious appearance of Twilight Sparkle at the Autumn Cup, things had been slowly improving. New rules for the in-school tournaments were already being drafted to allow various types of summoning mechanics as well as an overhaul in the schools ranking system. The students seemed to be getting along with each other better, a feeling of school pride swelling inside of them that was bolstered by the victories against Crystal Prep. In short it seemed like things were on the rise. That they were ready to take that first step into the world of inter-school dueling.


“I’m sensing a ‘but’ somewhere,” sighed Luna with a deadpanned look. “Let me take a guess: Spoiled Rich?”

“Got it in one,” said Celestia as she slightly hung her head. No doubt thinking of the woman who headed the school board, an arrogant rich sow of a woman who loved to have power over others. “Ultimately she feels like it’s a waste of time and resources. Even though most of the equipment will be things that the students have to pay for themselves, she is worried about the rest of the spending. The cost of fueling the buses, paying the driver, getting us the latest dueling stadium or some sort of updated arena. She still finds it hard to justify having a simple inner-school tournament that, as she puts it, wastes teachers’ and students’ time and money. So doing it with other schools was out of the question even with our few victories.”

“How did you counter her?”

“By reminding the entire board of the chance to get additional donors,” said Celestia with a ghost of a smile. “Tramping Heights High recently received a large donation to their school from a pro-duelist who happened to be impressed by their schools dueling team. The money didn’t just go towards buying them more state of the art duel disks, but funding went towards the art programs. Before that, Hope Hollow received a sizeable donation from Tike Footwear who also sponsors several duelists in the pros. It wasn’t just the school that got some money, but they also donated a new park set. Schools around the country are receiving these sorts of donations almost every week from companies who are scouting out the best up and coming duelists to sponsor.”

Luna hummed as she mulled this over while she noticed her sister beginning to shiver a bit more as a powerful wind blew. “You would think that they would focus more on places like Crystal Prep since it’s a school designed to train the next generation of duelists.”

“W-Well,” began Celestia through chattering teeth as she began to move towards the school clearly having enough of the cold. “T-That i-is true. P-Plenty of c-companies are s-still sponsori-ing students fro-om places like C-Crystal P-P-Prep, but they d-don’t m-make for g-g-good headlines.” At that moment, Celestia opened the door to the school with Luna right behind her not bothered by the cold as much. Celestia sighed as she rubbed her arms repeatedly, allowing the warmth to return to her. “Think about it: People love to root for the underdog. And it looks better for the companies who help support people like that who don’t have programs like at Crystal Prep.”

Celestia then began to move down the hallways heading towards her office. For what reason, Luna didn’t know but she followed her sister nevertheless. “That convinced at least half of the board to stand against Spoiled Rich. So we made a deal: Our school is going to set up a temporary team and duel Appleloosa High this Friday. If we manage to duel them and come out with acceptable results then the team will be put on a more long term triall basis to see if the cost of having such a team will be detrimental to the school. If not then the team stays. But that’s only if we do well at the match. If we fail there then the idea is scrapped until further notice.”

“Pity she wasn’t a duelist herself,” mused Luna as the two approached Celestia’s office. The two paused while Celestia fished out her key with Luna continuing. “You might have been able to finish it then and there if you challenged her.”

“If only that’s the way things worked in the real world,” muttered Celestia as she opened the door. Flicking on the light which nearly blinded the Vice-Principal with its brightness, the two entered the clean and pristine room. Calmly Celestia moved behind her desk while placing the briefcase on the counter before folding her hands. “Besides, I shouldn’t use force to resolve this. I have confidence in our students to do their best. That is all we can hope for.”

Luna nodded. “Very well then. I guess I’ll inform Sunset Shimmer and her friends to report to your office first thing in the morning.” Luna was about to turn around and bid her sister goodnight, but stopped herself when she saw the expression in Celestia’s eyes. They had widened considerable and a hand had been raised ever so slightly. Whatever was wrong? Surely they were going to use their most popular duelists to win this…right?

“Actually, I was thinking about that on the ride here,” admitted Celestia as Luna looked at her curiously. She then paused to let out a small sigh, her eyes looking down at the desk. “Sunset Shimmer and her friends, well, there is a chance that they might be tempted to use their magic to win. Or it might happen beyond their control. While their magic alters memories to make their opponents more…forgetful of the events as well as accepting to the fact that they lost, it will be harder to cover up if more and more people are seeing it in the open. Let’s also not forget that magic damages the footage files of any recording device. I don’t want to think about what will happen during a live duel that is being aired on TV or on the web. Twilight Sparkle of Crystal Prep used that to help show her fellow classmates that something beyond the normal was going on.”

At that, Luna nodded. At this school, part of her job was to maintain order and see to it that anybody breaking the rules was firmly disciplined. But not just her students but also the people who enter this school during events. Normally that meant putting a stop to pranksters looking to ruin other people’s hard work or overseeing drug tests to make sure none of the athletes from either school were using anything to boost their performance. This she could easily see where Celestia was coming from. If the coach from the other school recorded the duel and decided to play it back to the dueling team to show how they lost and how not to make the same mistakes in the future, he or she would be surprised to see all of their footage of those duels inaccessible. Probably more so when they realized that no one could recall how they lost exactly. No doubt they would begin to look into it and as more evidence that something foul was afoot they would no doubt accuse Canterlot High of cheating.

“What’s more, we have plenty of students here at our school who are skilled duelists,” continued Celestia as she opened her briefcase. “We can’t solely rely on Sunset Shimmer and her friends to solve all of our problems. Other students deserve to have a chance to represent Canterlot High as well as take home some of the glory.” Luna watched as Celestia pulled out two vanilla collared folders, each with a student’s picture on them. “When I was originally planning on putting this team together, I had also looked up a couple back up students as well. These two in particular caught my eye.”

Vice-Principal Luna looked down at the two pictures, recognizing them both immediately. One of them was Star Hunter, older brother of Star Chaser who at one time had been a duelist with a promising future. That was until it had been revealed that he had been cheating in order to the entrance exam for Crystal Prep along with several prior duels thus ending his career before it ever truly began. Following that, Chaser had gotten in trouble with the law from trying to rob a store and ending with him caught red handed poisoning several of Canterlot’s athletes in an attempt to take their place. Thankfully, Hunter was nothing like his brother as far as Luna could see. She had never had him sent to her office nor had she ever been informed of any ill behavior of his in class. As for the boy’s skills as a duelist…


Luna was patrolling the halls, looking for any after school stragglers and the like, when a large monster appeared outside. Startled by its sudden appearance for a moment, Luna had jumped back while placing a hand over her heart while her back was pressed against the lockers. She stared at the humanish shape outside the window, looking like a marionette grabbed in purple attire. Purple strings of energy were whipping around about it as its lifeless eyes stared downwards.

As Luna realized a duel was happening outside, she moved towards the window and looked down three stories to see who was dueling who. At once she noticed Hunter, a teen with light brown skin and a similar yet darker shade of hair, standing in front of the giant monster. Dressed in a black button up shirt and jeans, he kept his gaze on his opponent. On the other side was one of the members of Flash Sentry’s band, Dull Roar. On his side of the field was an old classic: Elemental Hero Shining Flare Wingman. The green skinned warrior was covered in silver armor with upturned wings on his back, radiating light in an attempt to fight back the darkness created by Hunter’s monster. Also on the field was a face down card.

From what Luna could see Dull Roar looked confident as he made sweeping gestures with his hand. From what Luna knew about Shining Flare Wingman, it not only gained more attack points with each Elemental Hero in the graveyard but it also inflicted damage to his opponent equal to the destroyed monster’s attack points. And that face down was clearly something meant to protect it. Turning her attention to Hunter, he showed only a ghost of a smile before saying something that Luna could not hear. But whatever it was rattled Roar, causing the boy to take a step back and breaking his confidence.

Luna then watched as Hunter continued his move. First he summoned a monster that Luna knew very well: Dark Armed Dragon. The large beast rose from the ground, half the height as the fist monster and covered in blades. He then summoned another monster, something that looked like a spell caster that then let him add a card to his hand before fusing it. What took the wizards place was a creature that looked like a silver knight being pulled on a chariot by some deformed demon. From there, the match was over. Roar tried to activate a trap when the largest monster attacked only for it to be negated and destroyed somehow, his Shining Flare Wingman being cut to ribbons. Following that the other two monsters attacked him directly, ending the match soundly.

---End Flashback---

Coming back from her memories, Luna turned to look at the other picture. It showed a girl wearing a purple sweatshirt and a matching plaid skirt. She wore glasses that were bandaged right about her light yellowish gray nose. Her hair was a brilliant amaranth with purple and violet streaks running down the middle, styled so that part of the top was tied up while the rest followed down her neck. Luna recognized her instantly as Moondancer without having to look at the name, a good student with very high grades. In fact, Luna didn’t know if there was any student in the school taking more honors classes than she was! She had also heard rumors that she was dating Hunter but those didn’t concern her that much. Now if she had heard that the two of them were doing something inappropriate on school grounds that would be a different story. As for her dueling history Moondancer’s record was limited. In fact she rarely ever dueled. But when she did…


“This can’t be possible!” yelled a boy in a posh accent, drawing Luna’s attention from her lunch. It had been a nice day, one without too much sun as well as a cool breeze that had begged Luna to have her break outside for a change. With a sigh, she set down her meatball sub before getting up to see what was happening. Hopefully it was nothing since she wanted to finish it while it was still warm. If it was something serious she would at least be there to deal with it.

As she turned the corner, Luna saw that two students were in the middle of a duel. Not uncommon during breaks. The one who had shouted, a boy with slicked black hair and a yellow jacket, had his back facing her. His fists were clenched tightly; body shaking from head to toe despite having two monsters on his side of the field while his opponent had none. One of them was a twin headed dragon made out of water that surged around its massive form. The other was one that, despite only seeing it from its back, Luna knew by name: True King Bahrastos, the Fathomer. It was a massive, serpent like creature of blues and purples with white wings that seemed to float from its back.

“I did all the calculations!” cried the boy as he gripped his hair. “This isn’t possible!”

“That’s what you say every time,” said his opponent, Moondancer. Her field was surprisingly empty of any cards, only specs of ash dancing in the air. Yet she appeared completely calm, checking her smartphone for something while the teen before her was having a freak out. “Only fifteen minutes left for lunch. Great, just great. I’m not only missing most of my free time when I could be doing something worthwhile but I have to deal with you again. The least you could have done was try to make this more interesting than adding one card that might have had a chance of stopping me.” Moondancer then pocketed her phone before reaching to draw.

As Moondancer drew, flames erupted around her causing Luna’s eyes to widen. The boy cried out in an over the top fashion as figures began to emerge from the flames, looking down at the water monsters as steam began to roll off their forms. Then, in less than a minute, the duel ended with the boy falling to his knees in defeat.

---End Flashback---

“Well, these two are skilled from what I’ve seen,” agreed Luna as she set down the documents. “But we’ll still need four more. Do you think we’ll be able to find them in time for this match?”

“I believe so,” replied Celestia calmly as she put the folders away. “There are plenty of students to choose from. Even the ones who never entered the Autumn Crown should be up for consideration. Perhaps we could use this as a chance to let them shine for a change.” Luna watched as her sister blinked before a look similar to enlightenment appeared in her gaze. “And I think I just thought of one. Lightning Dust!”


It was a lovely mid-autumn morning as Celestia got out of her car in the faculty parking lot when the sound of a crash caught her attention. Without bothering to close her car door, she raced as fast as she could in the direction of the noise fearful for what might have happened. Could there have been an accident in the student parking lot? Or had the softball team broken one of the windows due to an early morning practice? Again? Oh how she hoped it was the latter.

Turning a corner, Celestia quickly spotted three of her male students huddled around a fallen motorcycle. No, that wasn’t exactly right. It was a D-Runner! The bike once had a shiny black coat to it with bright yellow lightning bolts running down its sides. Now, however, it was scuffed and scratched up in various place along with shoe prints along the sides as the boys continued to kick it. One even kicked it so hard that the lightning shaped card tray in the front broke right off causing the three to laugh wildly.

The sight of this made Celestia eyes narrow while her fists clenched. This sort of behavior was something that no teacher or principal would ever tolerate. It was clear grounds for expulsion!

“HEY YOU JERKS!” screamed a voice causing not only Celestia to pause for a moment but the three boys as well. In that moment a blurring figure came racing towards them leaving a trail of dust in her wake before punching the first teen in the jaw. There stood Lightning Dust, her turquoise fist in the air and her amber hair slicked back. She was dressed in a black jacket with yellow lines going down her arms, a light blue shirt with a lightning bolt and three stars on it, and grey pants. The girl glared at the three as she breathed in and out. “THAT’S MY BRAND NEW D-RUNNER! DO ANY OF YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO SAVE UP FOR THAT?!?”

“Crap,” grunted one of them.

“Damn, I was hoping we’d be down before this bitch got back,” said another.

“It’s your own fault for bringing it here,” said the one who had gotten punched as he got to his feet. Blood was running from his lip, but he didn’t seem to mind it at all. “With all the enemies you have here, I’m surprised there wasn’t a line and a ticket booth set up for people to take shots at this hunk of junk!”

Lightning growled as she moved over to her fallen D-Runner, taking out a spare duel disk. “I’m going to take out all three of you losers,” she said as she put it on. “Or are you three to chicken as to fight someone who can punch back?”

There was no hesitation as all three of them pulled out their own duel disks. “We’re not afraid of you,” shouted one. In response, Lightning grinned as she activated her duel disk.

---End Flashback---

Luna frowned as her sister continued finished the story. “Lightning was able to defeat all three of them with some level of difficultly. Then, once the duel was over, I approached them to dish out some punishments. The three who had damaged her property were suspended for a month while Lightning received a day’s detention for punching him.”

“One of several she’s had this year,” replied Luna as she rubbed her forehead, thinking back to all of the times she had had that girl sitting in her classroom for detention or hearing about her from other people at the school. Yes, Lightning was both a talented athlete as well as a duelist and her grades were slightly above average. She was a driven girl to be sure, but her interactions with other students had caused incidents like the one Celestia had described since she first walked through these halls. Lightning was reckless in her passion to be seen as the best, sometimes injuring others in the process and seeming not to care. As an example, Luna knew why each of the boys were so angry at Lightning as to damage her property on school grounds. One of them had taken issue when Lightning, in an attempt to quickly get into position for a three point shoot in a basketball game, had knocked over his younger sister in order to get to that point with the result being a broken leg. It had been deemed an accident, but there seemed to be a lot of accidents where Lightning was involved. Another one of the boys had a friend on the soccer team who was limping after Lightning’s foot collided with his leg when trying to steal the ball.

Celestia, it seemed, was thinking along the same lines as her. “I know she has her issues,” began Celestia speaking in a tone that screamed to Luna that she would not like the outcome. “But maybe being part of a team where everyone is on equal footing. Plus I don’t think she can hurt anyone with holograms.”

“She may not be able to hurt them physically, but her words might be enough,” retorted Luna. “Lightning can be harsh when she thinks that others are not pulling their weight.”

“Still, it wouldn’t hurt to give her a chance,” insisted Celestia. Luna juts sighed while fighting the urge to shake her head. The tone her sister had used meant that the subject was closed. “So, do you have any suggestions?”

Luna brought a hand to her chin, thinking for a moment. She had seen so many duels this year alone that it was a bit hard to keep track of them all. Still there were a few that stood out to her. As well as the students who used them. Students like…

“How about Pharynx?” she suggested causing Celestia to look thoughtful for a moment.

“Pharynx,” echoed Celestia. “Isn’t he the one how helps out with school security during events?”

Luna let out a small smile. “Without even needing to be asked. Him and Bon-Bon make a good team. That’s the reason they didn’t join in for the Crown or the Cup, they were busy making sure that the rest of the students would be safe. He might be overzealous at times, but his heart is in the right place I believe.”

Celestia nodded. “Oh, I am aware. But have you ever seen him duel?”

The Vice-Principal didn’t answer right away, instead thinking back to the days leading up to the various events at school. Every day after school, she would see both Pharynx and Bon-Bon dueling each other. The young man was one of those duelist who didn’t bother with any extra deck monsters, instead preferring to tribute to gain a field advantage. It might not be the fastest deck in the world, but he clearly understood it and had worked hard to make it fast enough to put up a really good fight.

“He’ll do us proud I believe,” said Luna at last. She then sighed. “That still leaves us with two more students.” Folding her arms, she tried to think of another student to suggest. “How about Flash Sentry?”

“Hmm, he is one of the best duelists in the school,” admitted Celestia as she rested her chin on her hands. Slowly the older of the two women closed her eyes in contemplation before opening them again. “Perhaps not. He is close to Sunset Shimmer. And I would still prefer to allow other students to participate in this team.”

“Well then I would suggest not picking Snips and Snails,” said Luna in a firm tone. “Those two might be good duelists, but they have a history of poor decision making. The last thing we’ll want at this match is them embarrassing the school for some half baked idea.”

“I…tend to agree with that more than I’d like to admit,” said Celestia who shuttered. Most likely thinking of all the ways those two could get in trouble Luna surmised. Then, very suddenly, Celestia straighten up as her eyes went wide. “Oh, remember that one time we were called in to deal with the school play last year?”

Luna scrunched her face, doing her best to recall. However, there had been many times they had been called down to deal with this or that. In fact, she doubted if there had ever been a play that they hadn’t been called down to settle a dispute of some kind. One of the most notorious problems was with casting, students arguing with each other on who got to play who. But, if it was last year, the memory that stood out the most was…


“Come on, everyone wants to see superheroes these days,” said Snips loudly as both Celestia and Luna appeared in the doorway. Before them was a large auditorium with a large number of students sitting in the front who were all looking up at the stage. The stage was empty, the red curtain blocking everything that was backstage with both Snips and Snails standing in front. The two boys were wearing shirts that tried to make them look over muscled, with devices on their heads, and plastic oversized things that might have been guns. Well, maybe futuristic guns that were pink for some reason.

“Yeah, we need to, uh, go with what people want,” agreed Snails.

“No, no, no,” said another voice as a girl stood up. She had reddish hair that was curly and gave the impression of a lion’s mane. She wore an off white dress that had a reptilian scale like pattern on the side. This girl, Autumn Blaze, leapt onto the stage before twirling around to face the crowd. “We can’t do that!”

“Why not?” demanded both boys at once.

“Because we need something that will cheer people up and entertain them,” stated Autumn. “Something with music, comedy, and fun! Like, for example, a variety showcase where groups can put together something small. Or maybe drama like The Phantom of the Opera!” As she spoke, Luna noticed that several of the heads around her were nodding in agreement. Some looked excited by the prospects. “But a Youngblood comic adaptation? One with mass shootings? That’s more likely to get us all expelled before the first curtain call!”

“You don’t know that!” shouted Snips as he pointed at Autumn. He then turned to the rest of the group present. “Right guys?” Even from where Luna was standing she could see that all of the students there were firmly on Autumn’s side. Many of them were averting their gazes while others looked on with utter disapproval. It seemed like even Snips and Snails realized this as they took a step back. “Ah, how about we duel for it? Winner gets to decide.”

Much to everyone’s surprise, Autumn shrugged with a grin on her face. “It it keeps the two of you from dragging this out any longer than it needs to be then sure,” she said as a friend tossed Autumn her duel disk. She caught it and with a flourish attached it to her arm. At the same time the two boys went to get their duel disks. “Wait, you want me to duel both of you?”

“Well it is our idea,” replied Snips sounding a bit more confident.

“And it’s the only way we stan-oof,” went Snails as Snips elbowed him hard. “I mean, yeah.”

“Then we might as well make this fair,” said a new voice next to Autumn. Everybody jumped, including Luna and Celestia. Even from where they had been standing with a clear view of the entire room they had somehow failed to notice the girl with light green skin and dark green messy hair. She wore a brown sweater and jeans, her duel disk on her arm.

“Where did you come from?” asked Autumn as she looked at her partner, a hand over her heart as she spoke. Yet her voice didn’t sound frightened. If anything she sounded excited. “Are you like some sort of ghost that haunts the school? Because, if you are, that would be amazing! We could have the best special effects with you appearing and disappearing! Can you sing? Please tell me you can sing!”

“I’m Wallflower Blush,” replied the green girl as she rolled her eyes. “And I’m not a ghost! I’ve been sitting next to you since this all started. I said hello to you and everything!” She then paused for a moment with a considering look on her face. “And yes, I can sing.”

“Celestia, do you think we should get involved?” asked Luna as Snips and Snails got back onto the stage with duel disks equipped. “If what Autumn said is true there is no way we can allow something like that to take place.”

“Agreed,” replied Celestia. “Still, it looks like they are trying to handle things themselves. If they win then there will be no need for us to get involved. If they lose then we’ll be here to remind them that we cannot allow any such violence to take place on stage, fictional or not. Besides,” Celestia paused to allow a brief smile. “This looks far more entertaining than the paperwork back at our offices.”

“…You have a point,” agreed Luna as she turned back to the duel about to take place.

---End Flashback---

“Autumn Blaze or Wallflower Blush?” asked Luna for clarification.

“Why not both,” suggested Celestia. “From what I saw, both girls would have given even Flash Sentry a run for his money had they been able to take part of the Crown Tournament. And that will give us six students, enough to make the team complete.”

Luna gave a nod, glancing at a wall clock. The hour was growing late now and both women would need to be getting home soon. “Every well then,” said the Vice-Principal calmly. “I suppose now all that remains is to find a suitable coach to lead the team and inform him or her of our choices.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” replied Celestia with an odd smile on her face. “Because you will be coaching the team until a full time replacement can be found. You have been talking about taking on more responsibility for a while now so this is the perfect chance.”

Luna’s eyes widened at that. Had she heard right? Was Celestia appointing her as coach without even asking? Yes, she had been talking about more responsibility…but not like this. She had been thinking about getting herself a dog! Or maybe a goldfish or something!

“Sister,” began Luna before pausing to swallow loudly. “A-Are you sure you would rather do this? I mean, you have been pushing for this just as hard as I have. And you did decently against Sombra when you dueled.”

Celestia paused to give her sister a knowing look before standing up and turning to look out the darkened window. “Starting at the end of this week I will be leaving to attend the annual Leaders in Education conference. In other words, six straight days on non-stop boredom as I listen to lecture after lecture. If you would care to go in my place then by all means.”

Luna hung her head at that. “N-No,” said Luna. Without waiting to be excused or saying anything, Luna walked out the door knowing that she had a long night ahead of her. Not only did she need to brush up on the rules while also filling out all the paperwork but also consider who to ask should the six they had selected decide they didn’t want to join. Still, it had to be less stressful and boring than going to one of those conferences.

Duel Team Rules

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Luna stood within a classroom, the last bell of the day having rung only a few minutes ago. Looking slightly worn, the area below her eyes slightly darkened due to a lack of sleep, she kept her eyes on the clock while sipping her coffee. Behind her was a desk littered with folders full of notes she had spent a good portion of the night memorizing as well as the forms that the students would have to fill out before the match. With all this she hoped that she could at least appear to know what she was doing. The last thing she needed right now was for the students to become unruly with her.

“Seriously, sister; I will never understand what goes through your head at times,” muttered Luna darkly as she watched the seconds hand move by. Luna glanced behind her to see half of the students who had been called down: Lightning Dust, Star Hunter, and Moondancer. All three of them were sitting at desks with a small piece of paper in front of them. It was indeed the one she had written this morning, along with several others exactly the same as it. Well, she had written most of it herself with Celestia making a small revision that dropped what they were coming here for. She had said to make for a great surprise. More like wasting my time, Luna had thought when she had to quickly re-write the forms so that they could be sent out after first period. So far the three who had arrived believed that since Luna was asking them to stay after school they had gotten detention! If they didn’t want to do this then I could have used my spare time trying to find other students! But no, she’s the boss.

The door opened again and looking over at the door Luna saw that it was Pharynx. The boy was wearing a white and blue striped long sleeve shirt and jeans over his dark cyan skin. His dark crimson hair was slicked back, except for two sections that seemed to stick up like horns. A frown was on his face and his purple eyes looked desperate to get away from the figure tailing behind him: his brother Thorax.

“How late are you going to be?” asked Thorax causing Pharynx’s shoulders to stiffen. “I can’t believe you got detention on group therapy night! We were going to pass around the feeling stick and-”

“I…don’t know,” said Pharynx in a strained voice, looking over at Lightning nervously. Luna also looked over at the only other person in the room, seeing her grinning at the sight before her. “Look, I’ll call you when this is over. Best I can do.” He began to walk more into the room but was stopped when Thorax placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “What?”

Even from where Luna was sitting, she could see Thorax holding out his arms. “Hug for the road?” he asked. Pharynx didn’t say anything, but quickly shut the door on his brother’s face so hard that Luna winced. “O-Ok then. I’ll be waiting for your call. Don’t forget!”

A smile then crept onto Pharynx’s face as he turned around once more. “Thank you,” he said to Luna, his voice sounding far more cheerful. He said nothing more, simply moving towards the back where he sat down with a content look on his face. Lightning, Luna noticed, watched him as he did so but turned back around with a bored look on her face.

Moments later, Autumn Blaze came running into the classroom with a worried expression on her face. “Vice-Principal Luna, there has to be some sort of mistake,” she cried once she stood in front of Luna’s desk. “I can’t think of anything I did to get this. Whatever I did you could have given me a warning at least or talked to me. I heard we’re supposed to be quiet in detention. I can’t go hours without talking! Seriously, I can’t handle that! I can barely make it through a single class without saying anything! And my parents say that I even talk in my sleep!”

“Damn it Celestia,” growled Luna under her breath, her teeth gritted. The next time Celestia wanted something to be a surprise she would be the one to deal with the mess! When she spoke next, Luna made sure she was loud enough so that everyone could hear her clearly. “This is not detention! Nobody here is in any trouble!”

“Oh, that’s good,” said a voice next to Luna. Both she and Autumn both jumped back, noticing for the first time that Wallflower was standing next to Luna. As Wallflower began to twirl a lock of her messy green hair, Luna noticed that the others in the room had failed to notice her as well, even though she had been standing in the front of the room.

“Holy crap!” exclaimed Lightning as she placed both of her hands on the desk. “Are you some sort of ninja or whatever? I mean, you just appeared out of nowhere.”

“Actually I’ve been standing here for several minutes,” replied Wallflower, lowering her head a little as she spoke.

“Oh…ok,” said Luna slowly, surprised at this. “Well, how about you both take a seat and we can begin.”

Neither girl said anything, simply nodding as they took seats for themselves. Once everyone was seated again, including Hunter, Luna did her best to prepare herself. To be honest, she was more than a little nervous having never done anything like this before. She didn’t even think of herself as a good duelist, having lost to Celestia 70 times out of a 100! So who was she to lead a dueling team? Perhaps, if they managed to win, she would see to it that someone else took over the position.

“Thank you all for coming,” she said at last, ignoring the eye roll she got from Lightning. “Seeing how our time is limited and there is much to explain, I will get straight to the point: Canterlot High has decided to establish its own dueling team. All of you have been handpicked by both myself and Principal Celestia to represent our school.”

“You’re starting a dueling team?!” yelled Lightning with a grin on her face. Luna watched as she quickly stood up, pumping a fist into the air. “Alright! Finally a team where Rainbow Dash isn’t the captain!”

“Ah, why us?” asked Pharynx who ignored the death glare that Lightning was giving him. “I mean, I know I’ve never entered any official school tournaments before. Has anyone else?”

“No, because my deck wasn’t legal back then,” said Lightning as she sat back down folding her arms across her chest and looking sour. “Biggest jip ever. Totally would have beaten everyone out there if I could have used it.”

“Yeah, same with me,” said Autumn with a shrug. “Never really saw the point of making an entire new deck just to fit the rules here. Just felt like a waste of money, you know?”

“I didn’t even know that anyone ever saw me duel,” admitted Wallflower, a soft smile on her face instead of her normal frown.

Luna cleared her throat. “Well, yes. It is true that none of you have participated in an official school tournament. Mainly because most of you utilized summoning methods that were, until recently, forbidden. Others of you I’m sure had your our reasons not to participate, instead dueling privately. But with that said, those duels didn’t go completely unnoticed. I am sure that had more people known about your skills, a few of you might have gotten the popular vote to compete against Crystal Prep.”

“Something still feels off here,” said Hunter slowly as he looked up at Vice-Principal Luna. “I am confident in my own skills, but it seems odd that none of the people who dueled in the Friendship Cup are here right now. Sure not all of them won, but they did give duelists who were being trained to become professionals a run for their money.” Hunter paused for a moment, bringing a hand to his chin as he continued to ponder out loud. “For that matter, it feels odd we were all given invitations. Wouldn’t you have gotten more people if you had made an announcement or something? You would have gotten at least twenty or thirty students, potentially more for a try out session. Handing out private invites to the bare minimum of students needed to make a team makes me wonder if something else is going on. That you trying to keep this hush-hush for some reason.”

“Who says ‘hush-hush’ these days?” asked Lightning. “And really: who cares? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! To be the founding members of a school team!”

“But doesn’t any of this seem off to you?” asked Hunter. Behind him Pharynx nodded and to his side Autumn looked thoughtful on the matter. “Like there’s a bet going on or if they don’t know if this team will be permanent or something.”

As Lightning looked ready to make another comment, Luna made a split second decision. “He’s not wrong,” Luna said, earning a shocked gasp from most of the students in the room. She knew that her sister would not agree to her doing this, that this might put more pressure on them to succeed. However they had a right to know what was going on as well as needing to trust Luna. If they found out she was keeping something big like this a secret from them she would lose that trust. Also whether she liked it or not she was their coach and she would do this her way. if Celestia didn’t like it then she should have found someone else to do things her way!

“I’m not going to lie to you,” continued Luna as she gave them a firm look. “Both myself and Principal Celestia have been working hard to convince the school board to allow us this team. Up until now they have refused for various reasons, but have given our school a chance. At the end of the week we will be having a match against Appleloosa High. The results of the match will determine if we keep the team or not.”

“Wait, hold on!” shouted Lightning as she slammed her palms onto the deck. There was a look of mingled shock and horror on her face. “Appleloosa High?!? We have to duel against them?”

“Are they tough?” asked Moondancer, frowning as she watched Lightning sink a little in her seat.

“No clue,” muttered Lightning. “But they have annoying fans. I only played over there once and I still get headaches thinking about the place. They take team spirit to a whole different level.”

“Not a lot of time till the match,” muttered Pharynx as he crossed his arms. “Guess this explains why there wasn’t a school wide announcement. Having to organize something like that and then narrow it down the people who showed up to just six would have eaten away too much time. Then, if we don’t win or do good enough, then that would have all been a waste of time. But afterwards…”

“If the school board decides to make this team permanent, then we will be making an announcement so that others may join,” said Luna. “Naturally, if you all decide to do this then you will have a spot saved on the team.”

“So this is optional?” asked Wallflower.

“Of course,” said Luna. As she spoke, she noticed Hunter relaxing a bit. “No one here is going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. If you are unsure, please sleep on it and give me your answer in the morning.” Luna then placed a hand on some of the papers on her desk. “If you do decide to do this, then there are some forms you need to fill out and completed before Friday. The most important will be listing the cards in your deck to ensure that it is a legal deck. Please remember that once you submit these forms and it checks out you will be unable to alter your deck in any way. If you do then you will be instantly disqualified.

“Now,” continued Luna as she turned around and took a dry erase marker into her hand. “I’m going to explain the rules for you all so please pay attention. Duel Teams are counted as both an individual sport as well as a team one, earning points towards the total team score depending on the win. In total there are seven duels but only six of them will earn the team points.”

“Ah, I think I’m missing something,” said Autumn as Luna began to draw stick figures on the white board. First she had drawn a single figure before making six more some distance apart. “There’s only six of us. Does that mean that one of us duels twice or something?”

“The first duel is between coaches,” said Luna, not turning around but drawing a line between the single stick figure and the group. Once she finished Luna turned around to face the group while keeping the end of her marker just below the lone figure. “After this duel is over, the first real match is decided upon randomly. When the two students have been selected the winning coach gets to decide if their duelist goes first or second. This gives that coaches team a large advantage.”

“How?” asked Wallflower. “Does it really matter who goes first or second?”

“It can,” replied Moondancer, answering before Luna could. “Going first gives the duelist a chance to set up a powerful board meaning that their opponent will have to not only set their up but try to break up their opponents. On the other hand, there are decks out there that do better going second with their destruction effects. As long as Vice-Principal Luna knows our decks she can make the decision that would best suit our side.”

“Oh,” said Wallflower who looked a little embarrassed. “I guess my deck doesn’t really care who goes first or second.”

Luna let out a cough to get everyone’s attention back onto her. “From then on, whichever team loses gets to decide who gets to make the first move. So let’s say that I lost my duel against Appleloosa and then they won the first duel. In that situation whichever one of you was randomly selected to duel would be given the choice to go first or second.” Luna then turned back to the white board and began to write various words in large lettering so that everyone could see it. Words like Normal, Deck Out, Forced Deck Out, Forfeit, and Instant Win. “As I said, our team will earn points based on the type of victory that is achieved. If the match is won in the normal way, getting your opponents life points to zero, then you shall receive three points.” As Luna said this she wrote a large number three next to the word normal. “If you win because your opponent decked out, meaning he or she is unable to draw anymore cards, then you will receive two points. However there is such a thing as a forced deck out, meaning that you are the reason your opponent is unable to draw anymore cards. If that is the case then the team wins four points.”

“Well that sucks,” grumbled Lightning. “Some wimp makes a cowardly deck that lets him win without really trying and gets more points because of it. What a load!”

“Actually it is a legit strategy,” commented Autumn. “But it can leave them vulnerable to attacks and can help their opponent set up their graveyards faster.”

“I can see my brother using it,” added Pharynx as he rested his head on his hand. “Wimp hates fighting, even in video games. If he ever tried Duel Monsters he would probably make a deck like this.”

“That’s right,” said Luna. “Now, these next two are very important. As you know, a duelist always has the option of giving up or forfeiting. If they do that then their opponent gets one point. However, each team is allowed only one forfeit a piece and it can only be done during the main phase of that duelist turn. This is done to prevent one side from getting an advantage early on in the duel and then forfeiting the rest of the matches to get an easy win. Lastly there are instant wins and, if you manage to pull one off, your team will receive ten points.” Now, next to each word was the appropriate number of points that could be earns.

“So there’s a max total of sixty points,” muttered Pharynx. “But that’s only if everyone on the team is using an instant win strategy. While there might be a few decks trying to deck us out, it feels more likely that most people will be going for the normal way. What happens if we are tied with points? Will there be another duel?”

“No,” replied Luna as she set down her marker. “If something like that were to happen it would be too late to have another duel. So instead the judges would total up everyone’s life points and the team with the most would be declared the winner. Now, does anyone have any other questions?”

Several minutes later Pharynx, Lightning, Wallflower, and Autumn walked out into the parking lot. Most of them carried with them the forms that Vice-Principal Luna had given them on their way out. Well, everyone but Lightning that is who had the form crammed into her back pocket. Instead she held her biker helm in her grasp, slightly swinging it back and forth with a confident swagger.

“Oh my gosh, this is going to be so much fun!” cried Autumn with a grin. “And I’ve got nothing better to do this weekend so might as well~.” She then shot a look to the others around her. “What about the rest of you?”

Pharynx shrugged. “Well, normally I stay out of stuff like this,” he said as he held up his documents to glance over them briefly. “I’d rather just stay on the slide lines than in the spotlight. But then again it gets me out of going to Thorax’s weekend touchy feely retreats where all anyone ever does is share their feelings. And if this becomes permanent then I never have to...do...that...again…” As he began to trail off both Autumn and Wallflower turn to see that he had also stopped moving. Now he was standing there with a dreamy look in his eyes while a smile began to creep onto his features. Together both girls began to wave their hands in front of his face finding that it did nothing.

“I think he’s going to do it,” said Wallflower as she backed away when Pharynx feel to his knees. Despite this the smile never left his face. “Guess he really hates those retreats.”

“Seems like,” agreed Autumn. She then turned to look at Wallflower. “So, what about you?”

Wallflower blushed a little, twirling a bit of her hair. “It would be nice to be in the spotlight for a change,” she said. Then, very quickly she slumped over as a miserable expression took over. “Just hope everyone doesn’t forget I’m on the team like in softball. And tennis. And basketball. And-”

“God, we get it!” snapped Lightning as she stopped in front of her parked duel runner. Roughly she kicked the stand holding her bike in place before swinging a leg over to straddle the mean machine. After inserting the key and turning it on, she placed her helmet on. “And before any of you ask: you’d better fuckin’ believe I’m doing this!” With that said she drove off leaving the others in her exhaust.

“So, thinking about doing this?” asked Hunter as both he and Moondancer walked away from the school. Backpacks on their shoulders and coats tightly zipped up; they made their way down the streets as icy winds hit their faces.

“Leaning towards it,” replied Moondancer with a nod. “I know I’ve been against dueling publicly before, but with the old ranking system gone I don’t think too many people will bother me if I join the team. Plus there’s an actual after-school benefit to this. My grades are good, but being on a team like this will really look good on a college application. If we manage to make it to a championship, well, that’ll look even better.”

“I guess that’s true,” muttered Hunter as he looked away.

“What about you?” asked Moondancer.

Hunter didn’t reply right away, instead pulling out the documents Vice-Principal Luna had given them. He had skipped the form dedicated to writing down his entire deck which was made mostly of blank lines under headers like Monster Cards, Spell Cards, Trap Cards, and Extra Deck. Instead he was looking at a form with more basic information like emergency contact. His eyes lingered upon it for a moment or two, pausing to look at the parent or guardian section. Hunter felt a sting in his eyes causing him to briefly close them while lowering the documents before looking at his girlfriend.

“I don’t think I should,” he said. “Given everything that’s happened to my family.”

Moondancer frowned at that. “That’s no reason for you not to try,” she stated firmly, pointing at him. “Didn’t you say you wanted to get into the pros and write your own detective novel series? Well, here’s your chance to start making a name for yourself. And even if you don’t make it then you’ll still be able to get some experience in as well as the satisfaction that you did your best!”

“Well,” began Hunter but became lost for words. It was true that he did want to mix the two professions together. Perhaps writing the novels and using her career as a pro duelist to boost the sales. Or he could write about a duelist who solved murders and the like, using his experience as a pro to get some of the behind the scenes details right. He could really make a name for himself like…

“What about Chaser?” asked Hunter as the image of his brother appeared in his mind.

“What about that lying, sexist, murderous, jackass?” demanded Moondancer, grabbing Hunter’s arm to stop him. “He’s in jail and will hopefully spend the rest of his life there! Are you worried about how he will feel about you earning what he tried to get by cheating? After everything he’s said and done to you?”

“No!” stated Hunter as he pulled her arm away. “I’m just…worried they’ll see him instead of me.” As he said this, Moondancer’s eyes widened a bit yet did not say anything. All she did was watch Hunter as he continued to speak. “Remember what I told you about Principal Sombra? He wanted me to duel Chaser not just to see if he was a cheater, but to see if I was cut from the same cloth! It wouldn’t be too difficult to believe that others…would do the same thing. We look so much alike, you know? I can just see officials questioning every move I make when I’m up there or other people holding a grudge for the way Chaser treated them.”

Hunter then felt a hand touch his shoulder. Without looking, his hand reached up to be placed on top of Moondancer’s. “Hunter, I get where you’re coming from. But if you want to change their opinion you’re going to need to show them that you’re different. And you won’t do that by standing off to the sidelines.” Hunter turned to look her in the eyes, but still said nothing. “Look, how about you try it out with me. If they give you too hard of a time or you don’t like it then you can bail and no one will think any less of you. Well, no one who matters at least.”

Hunter remained where he was for a moment before, slowly, nodding. “Ok, I’ll give it a go then,” he said before shifting topics. “So, do you want to see that new Evil Hero movie that came out? Heard it’s supposed to be pretty good.”

Moondancer gave him a sour look that wasn’t really directed at him.“Saw a pre-screening of it and those morons ruined it!” Moondancer had both her hands balled into fists as she now walked, bits of her hair standing up while her cheeks turned red as she spoke. “They had it, they really had me at the grip of my seat with that movie. The best horror movie I’ve seen in a long time. And then, AND THEN, they go and mess it all up by explaining information we didn’t need. It was far scarier when I had to wonder if that super powered kid was killing everyone around him because his power corrupted him or that was what he secretly wanted to. Not because he was genetically programmed to do so!” For a long time, Hunter remained silent as Moondancer raved about the single failure of the movie. Just listening to her and nodding. And that was ok.

Sticking Up for a Teammate

View Online

“Holy shit!” yelled Lightning, her voice no doubt echoing through the library. Hunter couldn’t help but frown as he looked around nervously. While school had ended about a half an hour ago, there were still a couple of students within the large room as well as teachers to oversee it. Just from what he could see there were several students sitting at tables with their books out, turning their heads towards the duelist team gathered around him and shooting them icy looks.

Scratching the back of his head in annoyance, Hunter turned his attention back to the four members of the team who were standing before one of the long tables in the library looking awestruck at what they saw. For on the table were several long, thin boxes that were designed to hold one thing: Duel Monster’s cards. Thousands or perhaps millions of cards that had once belonged to Hunter’s brother, Chaser, sat there waiting to find a new owner. They had been organized by both type and archetype, separated by card dividers which helpfully labeled each of them for easy searching. There was even a section for what Hunter considered generic support cards: spells and traps that didn’t belong to any one archetype and could be splashed into multiple decks.

“Keep it down,” said Moondancer as she placed a pencil behind her ear. She sat at the table with a math book and notebook laid out before her, a finger placed on an equation as to not lose her place. “Some of us are trying to study.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Lightning muttered as she waved this off, slowly approaching the boxes as she did so. There was a hungry, almost primal look on her features as she eyed the treasures before her. “So we can take whatever we want, right? I mean, that’s what you called us here for.”

“You can,” said Hunter before Lightning dived towards them, searching through everything quickly. The other, however, showed far more restraint. They looked at the boxes longingly but also with traces of guilt.

“Are you sure about this?” asked Autumn. “It feels sort of wrong to just…take them. We could trade for them tomorrow or something. Or we could trade funny stories or jokes. I know this really good one about a priest who took part in a cruise safety drill that always brings a smile to my face.”

“Ah, no thanks,” replied Hunter who honestly didn’t know how to respond to something like that. “I just thought that since we’re doing this and there’s not a lot of time before our first match, we’re going to need all the help we can get. The best place to start is to improve our decks as much as possible.”

“Found them!” Lightning all but shouted again, drawing their attention back to her. She stood there, bent over the table looking from card to card as she mumbled aloud. “Got it. Crap. Crap. Got thre- OH MY GOD!” From where Hunter was standing, he could see Lightning’s face light up with joy almost to the point where stars were forming in her eyes. Quickly she pulled out three copies of the card she had been looking at, causing the cards behind them to be pulled up slightly. Upon seeing these her face lit up even more so, grabbing more and more cards until finally she stood up straight while fanning them before her with both hands. “I can’t believe you have these cards! I’ve been busting my ass looking for these since they came out!”

“Lightning,” hissed Hunter as he looked back towards the front. Already he saw that they were getting dirty looks from some of the other students. One or two were already gathering their things, either to leave the library or just move further away in hopes that things would be quieter. There were even a few, he noticed, that were moving towards them along the bookshelves. Perhaps doing so to find out what was causing all the noise or taking the roundabout way to tell them to keep it down.

He hoped things did not get worse. When Hunter had first thought of the idea of improving their decks, he had first considered doing so in a more private setting. Like his aunt’s apartment where they could as loud as they wanted to be. But he didn’t know their afterschool plans or to put pressure on them. He also regularly brought his cards here for trading anyways. Asking them to come and meet him here seemed like the best idea. Now he was having second thoughts. He had permission from the school to do his trading here on the condition that he didn’t disturb the other students. If someone reported them to one of the teachers that privilege would be gone.

As for the others, Lightning’s announcement caused their lingering doubt to vanish. Almost as one they approached the boxes, scanning the dividers for the cards they needed. As Lightning sat down at the table and pulled out her deck box to make adjustments to her deck, the others began to look over the various cards. Pharynx, Hunter noticed, moved more towards the generic support cards and stopping to look at the field spell cards he had starting with Plasma Zone: a card that offered a power boost to dark monsters and weakened light ones. As for Autumn and Wallflower, they had already found their archetypes and were quickly looking them over.

“Oh look,” said Wallflower as she held up a card to Autumn. “Isn’t this the cutest thing? And look at it’s effect. I always wanted to add it to my deck.”

“It is cute,” admitted Autumn Blaze as she took the card. Hunter watched as her eyes slowly traveled down the text of the card before frowning. “But isn’t it a little on the weak side? At most you’ll only get to use it’s effect once before your opponent easily runs it down. Something like that might cost you your match.”

As Wallflower was handed back the card, the green skinned girl frowned. “You really think so?” she asked, her shoulders slumping slightly. But only for a moment before she vigorously shook her head causing her hair to go flying around for a moment. “No! I know this would be a good card to add. I just need to make some slight adjustments to my deck and it’ll do a lot!”

“Well, if you’re set on it, how about we look over your deck together,” suggested Autumn, much to Wallflower’s shock.

“Y-You really mean it?” she asked. Autumn nodded before going back in to look for cards for herself.

“Just give me a couple of minutes,” she said. “Then we’ll see if your deck can use that card or what you need to do to make the most of it. Two heads are better than one. I mean, that’s what friends do for each other, right?” Wallflower stood there, staring at Autumn for a moment in disbelief before her eyes went wide while the biggest smile Hunter had ever seen in his life appear on her face.

“This card looks promising,” muttered Pharynx as he held a card in one hand. His free hand was slowly brought to his chin as he began to ponder aloud in a soft voice. “With a card like this I can shut down most decks people use these days. But will I be able to draw it? If I remember correctly it’s limited to one and not a lot of ways to search it out. Might not be-” He stopped suddenly and turned his head to look at a nearby aisle. “We’re being watched.”

Surprised, Hunter turned to look as well. At first he didn’t see anything in the direction that Pharynx had been focus on. Then his eyes were drawn to movement heading back towards the front. Due to all the books that were in the way Hunter couldn’t make out who the figure was, just that the person’s hair reminded him of flames. Not the red and orange flames that belonged to a person like Sunset Shimmer, but rather the flames of a candle. A light orange color in the center with a darker shade outwards.

“Probably nothing,” said Moondancer, drawing Hunter’s attention back to them. Her focus was now on the homework before her, quickly solving math problems as she spoke. “We have been making a lot of noise. Probably just someone who was curious.”

“I thought so at first,” replied Pharynx as he looked towards the front of the room. “But she was watching us for awhile. I think she might have been spying on us.”

“Do you think it was someone from Appleloosa?” asked Autumn. “Trying to check out our decks? Or maybe to put in some parasite card that they could then activate, turning all of our monsters into bugs so they could gain some kind of advantage?”

“Not unless Spitfire transferred there without anyone knowing,” replied Pharynx, ignoring everyone else’s confusion as to what Autumn had just said. But that confusion was quickly shaken as a loud slamming noise echoed through the room. Everyone turned to its source seeing Lightning with both her fists against the table and a look in her eyes that said she was out for blood.

Luna’s attention was pulled from the work on her desk by a sharp knock on her door. Before her was all the paperwork needed for the duelist team’s match. It wasn’t just ensuring that all of her student’s decks were legal, but also getting them a bus, fuel, a driver, and sending out emails to the parents or legal guardians to get their permission. Her own deck was also there off to the side, waiting for her to inspect it herself before her own match. It was curious to be receiving a knock on her door at this time. School was out and most teachers wanted to finish up their own work before heading home.

As soon as Luna gave permission to enter, the door swung open to reveal Spitfire who marched in front of her desk before bringing both arms behind her back. The girl stood there rigid, wearing an open blue jacket, matching pants, and a white shirt with a firebird in the middle as she stood at attention waiting for the conversation to start. Something she had been doing since she began her freshmen year. Perhaps it was because she came from a strict military family or because she had planned on joining the military when she graduated.

“What can I do for you?” asked Luna as she leaned back in her chair.

“Ma’am,” said Spitfire as she looked on intently. “I just overheard something that suggests that Canterlot High is forming a duel team and that Lightning Dust was made a member. I wanted to confirm this.”

Luna paused for a moment, holding a pencil at both ends and spinning it, as she considered how to answer. Right now they did want to keep this a secret so she could just deny it all. But the fact that Spitfire had mentioned a member of the team by name told the older woman that the teen before her knew at least some of it. Perhaps a little bit of the truth wouldn’t hurt right now and she could implore Spitfire not to go spreading this around just yet.

“You are correct,” said Luna as she set down her pencil. “We are forming a team, but nothing has been set in stone just yet. Once the team has been officially formalized both me and Principal Celestia will be making a formal announcement to the entire school. For that reason, I hope you will keep this between us.”

“Not a problem ma’am,” replied Spitfire almost instantly. “But I must argue against making Lightning Dust a member of this group. It would be a mistake letting her join. You will recall that I was the captain of the soccer team when she was a freshman. When I noticed her reckless behavior and lack of concern for others wellbeing was hurting the team I spoke with Coach Iron Will about it. In the end she was dismissed from the team and since then she has been kicked out of every team she has joined. Her behavior is a constant source of trouble, not just for her but for everyone around her. Vice-Principal, it would be a mistake to allow her to be a part of this team.”

Once again, Luna paused as she thought about what to say. “Thank you for your opinion,” said Luna at last, doing her best to choose her words carefully. “Similar concerns were brought up when Miss Dust was considered to be a part of this team. However, it was decided to give her this chance.”

At this, Spitfire’s stance broke. She quickly brought her hands in front of her and, for a moment, Luna thought she would slam her palms on the desk! Instead she seemed to be frozen there with a look of disbelief on her face. The teen did eventually recover, her face morphing into a more stern expression without resuming her previous stance.

“Vice-Principal Luna, don’t you understand what might happen?”

“Yes,” replied Luna sternly. “I am well aware that she might belittle her teammates, become overly rude to them, or shame them. We can be thankful that unless she finds a way to make any damage inflicted during the duel real that is all she can do. Until she does something that can be considered un-sportsman like to either the other team or her own, there is nothing I can do. I cannot kick her off based on what she might do.”

For a moment, Spitfire stood there, looking at Luna before finally nodding. “I understand. Sorry for bothering you.” And with that, the girl left without another word leaving Luna alone with a feeling in her gut she didn’t like.

Lightning Dust stomped down the hallways, her eyes moving to look down every corner as if expecting a figure to jump out and grab her. The girl’s fists were clenched tightly, so much so that her knuckles had turned white. The look on her face was no doubt so ferocious that even an angry dog would run away at the sight for her. But she didn’t care at all how she looked at that moment or what people thought about it. She certainly didn’t care what her new ‘teammates’ thought about her as she stormed out of the library. All that mattered was finding Spitfire.

Spitfire. Just thinking about that girl’s name caused Lightning’s blood to boil with rage. The only other one in the school who could even compare was Rainbow Dash. She could still remember that day back in her freshmen year all the way down to the scent of the wet grass. She remembered how she had been called down to the locker room, her shoes stained green from the grass. She had been smiling, which faded when she saw Rainbow Dash standing at the entrance of the locker room with her duffle bag over her shoulder. But she wasn’t alone because both Spitfire, Coach Iron Will, and several of her teammates were there. Before she knew what was happening, Spitfire told Lightning she was off of the team with the Coach nodding in agreement followed by asking Rainbow not to leave the team. It didn’t take her long to find out the whole story.

Maybe she could have let it go and move on with her life if the same thing didn’t keep happening. It didn’t matter what team she joined, there was Rainbow Dash and Spitfire. Both of them ready to talk to Iron Will and getting her kicked to the curb. Twin backstabbers that she thought where her friends, people she thought she could trust that kept twisting the knife in her back.

Lightning blinked and suddenly she found herself in the hallway halfway between the library and the school offices. And there, standing in her way, was the orange-haired bitch herself. Spitfire was just standing there, looking at Lightning like she was something vile she had found on the bottom of her shoe. Something that Lightning did her best to match and then some.

“So, you’re now spying on me?” snarled Lightning, her fists shaking as she did so. “Let me guess, went to talk to whoever to get me off the team like before? Bet you recommended the great Rainbow Dash to take my place.”

“I wish,” grumbled Spitfire as she stared back at Lightning. “Don’t know why, but it seems like they’re willing to give you a chance. Not that you deserve one.” Lightning was, honestly, taken aback by this. So much so that her anger faltered. She wasn’t being kicked off the team just like that? They were giving her a real chance.

“So if they won’t do anything then I will,” said Spitfire, catching Lightning’s attention again. “I’m going to talk to ‘your’ team so that they know everything about you. Once that happens, we’ll all go and talk to Coach Iron Will in the morning. Once he’s on our side I’m sure we’ll be able to talk some sense into Vice-Principal Luna or Principal Celestia.”

“Like fuck I’ll let you do that,” snarled Lightning. “Besides, how the hell am I going to hurt anyone?! This isn’t a contact sport or anything. Why don’t you go back to the track field or tennis court or whatever and leave me alone!”

“Not a chance,” spat Spitfire. “Back then, those girls you hurt were my responsibility. I won’t let you do anymore damage to anyone else as long as I’m here. Because your still the same reckless, irresponsible brat you’ve always been.”

“Fine! I’ll duel you to stop you right-” She reached back for her deck box only for her eyes to widen. It wasn’t there! She must have left it back at the library! Feeling like a trapped animal she turned her attention to Spitfire breathing hard as she did so. She could feel her heart pounding in her ears as she looked at that face, that face she hated so much. There was no way Spitfire would stay here and let her get her stuff. The moment her back was turned, fireball hair would take off to turn everyone against her! Now only one way to stop her and that was by force. She knew if she got into a fight then it was over. She would be off the team followed by a suspension. But if she just let her pass, she would convince the others to get her kicked out followed by seeing Rainbow Dash replacing her. Honestly, she didn’t know what was worse.

“Lightning,” came a voice from behind her. Both girls turned their attention to behind Lightning, finding Pharynx walking towards them with his duel disk on. It was a custom model, bright green and shaped like a beetle. “I’ll duel her for you.”

“W-What?” asked Lightning, her eyes wide.

Spitfire frowned. “You don’t know what’s going on Pharynx,” she said as she crossed her arms.

“You’re right, I don’t,” admitted Pharynx with a shrug. He then paused, feet spread as he held up the arm with his duel disk on. “At least not everything. But I do know that you were spying on me and my teammates. Then, when I follow Lightning after she ran off in a rage, I hear her demanding a duel with you. Kind of hard when you forget your stuff.”

“Look I’m only trying to-” began Spitfire but Pharynx held up a hand to silence her.

“I honestly don’t care what you were trying to do,” he said as the ‘shell’ on the back of his duel disk opened up to reveal card slots. “But I’ll give you this chance: beat me in this duel and I’ll let you explain yourself. But if I win then you leave us alone.”

“Hey!” shouted Lightning as her arms shook. “I can take care of myself!”

“I know you can,” said Pharynx, surprising Lightning. “I’ve seen you duel before and you could wipe the floor with her. But I think we both know that she’s not going to give you the chance to run back and get your stuff.” Both noticed Spitfire frowning deeply at that, but saying nothing to defend herself. “So just let me help you this once. It’s what teammates do, right?”

Lightning’s eyes widened at that, taking a step back until her back was against a locker. She could feel a tightening in her throat that kept her from talking as well as a stinging sensation in her eyes. That too she fought back for she did not want to appear weak. Not like the situation already didn’t make her feel that way.

“Fine then,” said Spitfire as she pulled out her our duel disk. It wasn’t as fancy at Pharynx’s was, but it was painted bright orange. Quickly she put it on her arm before inserting her deck into it. “I won’t back down from doing what’s right! If I have to beat you then so be it. Just remember, I was in the top eight at the Autumn Crown. Do you really think you stand a chance?”

-Pharynx Life Points: 8000-

-Spitfire Life Points: 8000-

Turn one: Pharynx

“We’ll see,” said Pharynx as he drew his cards (hand: six). Scanning his opening hand, Pharynx frowned in a way that Lightning had seen many times before. It was the same look she had seen on her opponents when they had a bad hand. Glancing across to Spitfire, the former captain of just about every team in school was looking very sure of herself. Something that didn’t sit well with Lightning, not at all.

“I’ll place two cards face down before summoning Steelswarm Caller in attack mode,” declared Pharynx. After two face down cards appeared in front of him, a very odd looking creature stood between him and Spitfire. It looked like a hunched over man covered in a shiny black suit that reflected the lights above them. Only this was no man. It’s way was too wide and looked deformed with large compound eyes that didn’t look like they could close. And it’s wings reminded her of a moth or something else like it she had seen in biology class. (1700/0) “I end my turn.”

Turn two: Spitfire

“Bad hand?” she asked while drawing (hand: six). “Too bad. I’ll step into attention with my Machina Gearframe!” Appearing on the field was a mostly orange android with white along its legs. Its hands were bulky, like they had weapons hidden within them, too bulky to be held on arms that thin. It looked at Pharynx with its single green eye that blinked over and over. (1800/0) “Modern warfare never had it this good. See, when this card is normal or special summoned I’m allowed to add one Machina monster from my deck to my hand. So I’ll be adding Machina Fortress.”

“Next I’ll discard my level 8 Machina Megaform to special summon Machina Fortress!” Grinning, Spitfire slid one card into her graveyard slot as a new monster rolled onto the field. It was a bright blue machine that was very tank-like. It came in on three treads, two large ones that ran up its sides and one in the middle that was smaller, with a large cannon next to its head. Sticking out of the treads were long arms with metallic fingers coming out. (2500/1600) “Next I’ll give my soldiers a boost with the spell card: Solidarity! As long as I have only one type of monster in my graveyard then all monsters on my field gain 800 additional attack points.”

“Now to battle! Machina Fortress, attack his Caller with Ion Cannon Stream!” Machina Fortress (3300/1600) began to lower its cannon as it began to glow a whitish blue, redirecting it towards Steelswarm Caller. Lightning clenched her teeth before closing her eyes and looking away. It was just too hard to watch. Her future was about to come crashing down. At least before she could have done something other than standing on the side lines like some helpless little girl.

“I activate my trap card,” announced Pharynx causing Lightning to look at the field once more. “Escalation of the Monarchs! This card allows me to tribute summon a monster once during either your main or battle phase! So I’ll tribute my Caller to bring out Steelswarm Mantis!” Everyone there watched as Caller began to dissolve into golden light, starting from the head down, before another monster stood in its place. It was a tall creature with the same black armored skin except around the chest which had a stream of blue running up from the waist to the neck area. It didn’t have hands, but instead claw like blades similar to its namesake. And on its back was a long swishing tail that seemed to be attracted to Pharynx. (2200/0)

“A monster with only 500 more attack won’t save you,” stated Spitfire with a frown. “Even Gearframe could mow it down.”

“Good thing I’m not relying solely on attack points,” said Pharynx with a ghost of a smile on his lips. “See, my monsters have some really interesting effects. When Caller is used a tribute summon for a Steelswarm monster, then I’m allowed to special summon one level 4 or lower Steelswarm monster from my deck. So I’m summoning another Steelswarm Caller in defense mode.” A dark, spiraling portal appeared on the field moments before the second Caller flew out of it and taking a knee when it landed “Then there is Mantis’ effect. When he is tribute summoned by tributing a Steelswarm monster then I can pay 1000 life points to special summon a Steelswarm monster in my graveyard. Meaning I can special summon my Caller back in defense mode.” As soon as Pharynx finished saying this, the end Mantis’ tail opened up like some sort of multi-toothed circular jaw. All eyes widened at this while the tail made something of a hissing noise right before it latched itself onto Pharynx’s side. The teen winced a little as Caller was returned to the field in a kneeing position.

Pharynx Life Points: 7000

“So, called in reinforcements,” commented Spitfire as Mantis’ tail released itself. Lightning could see the former captain looking over at the three monsters before her, examining the change in the field. “Fine then. I’ll redirect my attack to Mantis!”

“Not before I activate my other face down: Infestation Tool!” yelled Pharynx as his other card was filled face up. “Now I can send one Steelswarm monster in my deck to the graveyard in order to boost the attack points of one face up Steelswarm monster I control until the end phase. So I’ll boost my Mantis by sending my Steelswarm Moth in my deck to the graveyard.” From the trap, a bolt of lighting struck Mantis to raise its attack (2200 -> 3000) just before Fortress fired. But even with this power boost it was still no match for the fire power of the blue machine. Fortress’ attack left a large hole in Mantis’ chest right before it exploded.

Pharynx Life Points: 6700

Spitfire then let out a sigh. “Gearframe, take out one of his resurrected Callers!” Gearframe acted at once, raising both arms right before the fists shot out like rockets to destroy Caller. As the rocket arms returned, Spitfire’s frown became more visible. If Lightning had to guess why it was because she had expected to do a lot more damage that turn. “Alight, before I end my turn I’ll use the ability of Gearframe to equip itself to my Fortress.”

Lightning watched as Machina Gearframe raced to get behind Fortress, looking like he was getting into a mounted position to help aim the cannon. This was something Spitfire was well known for: union monsters. Monsters that could equip themselves onto other monsters, granting the equipped monster a bit of protection as well as sometimes giving an additional effect.

Turn 3: Pharynx

“I expected you’d do something like that,” said Pharynx as he drew his card (hand: 3). “Good thing I prepared for that.”

Spitfire continued to frown. “You’re bluffing,” she stated in a matter of fact tone.

“I’ll show you starting with this card: Recurring Nightmare. With this I can select 2 dark monsters in my graveyard with 0 defense and add them to my hand. So I’ll take back my Caller and Moth.”

“Oh, I see now,” said Spitfire as Pharynx’s duel disk spat out two cards from its graveyard slot. Lightning watched as Spitfire then pressed a button on her duel disk, looking up info on the two monsters her opponent had added. “You used that trap card as a Foolish Burial, sending a monster in your deck there so you could then add it to your hand. A decent move. But too bad for you Moth isn’t strong enough to destroy my Fortress. Even if it did or has an effect to destroy it, Gearframe will keep it on the field.”

“True, but destroying things isn’t the only way of getting them off the field,” said Pharynx as a grin. Both Lightning and Pharynx watched as Spitfire was visible surprised, taking a step back before turning her attention to the small monster remaining on her opponent’s field. “Let me show you: I tribute Steelswarm Caller to bring out Steelswarm Moth!” Caller quickly vanished from the field, being replaced by a larger but very slender monster. Like Mantis, its skin was like skinny black armor with exposed parts, but these areas were green instead of blue. Another thing it had in common with Mantis was its tail that was eerily close to Pharynx. Its wings were draped around it like a cloak. (2400/0)

“When summoned by tributing a Steelswarm monster its effect activates,” continued Pharynx right before Moth’s tail opened up and latched onto him. The teen looked like he was about to be knocked down but maintained his ground as he looked at Spitfire. “I give up 1000 life points to target two cards you control and send them back to your hand! So I’ll target your Fortress and Solidarity.”

Pharynx Life Points: 5700

“It’ll cost you more than some life points,” shouted Spitfire. “When Machina Fortress is targeted by my opponent’s card effect, I get to look at your hand and then discard one card from it.” As soon as she finished saying this, three holographic cards appeared before her floating in mid-air. She looked at them for a moment, before pressing one of them. “I’ll choose The Monarchs Erupt.” Nodding Pharynx slid the card from his hand into the graveyard as Moth spread its wings. Once fully extended a bizarre pattern appeared there and began to move about like a kaleidoscope. Fortress then turned around to face Spitfire, quickly moving its treads and knocking off Gearframe who landed onto the ground. As Gearframe shattered into a thousand pieces, Fortress returned to Spitfire’s hand as well as Solidarity.

“Don’t forget that there’s another effect going off,” said Pharynx as he began to go through his deck. “Caller lets me call forth a level four or lower Steelswarm monster. So I’ll bring out Steelswarm Sting!” Another portal appeared on the field and out came a black humanoid bee like monster with evil, yellowish eyes (1850/0).

“Now I attack you directly! Steelswarm Moth, you’re up first!” yelled Pharynx as he pointed at Spitfire. Moth bent its legs before launching itself towards Spitfire. When it landed in front of Spitfire, Moth wrapped its tail around her waist as it raised its hands next to her head sending supersonic waves towards her head.

Spitfire’s Life Points: 5600

Pharynx waited a moment, waiting to see if Spitfire could do anything after being attacked directly. When nothing happened he ordered Sting to attack. The second Steelswarm monster flew over to Spitfire, several needles shooting out of its stinger before being quickly replaced. Those projectiles hit the ground around her until one hit Spitfire in the chest, causing Lightning to grin and pump her fist in the air.

Spitfire’s Life Points: 3750

“I’ll set one card face down and end my turn,” finished Pharynx.

Turn 4: Spitfire

“My draw,” said Spitfire (hand: 6). The former captain looked at her card…and smiled. “Not bad, you managed to push me back a little there. But I’m far from done! I summon Machina Soldier in attack mode!” Landing on the ground in front of her was a large human shaped machine. It’s metal body was mostly green with its left hand replaced with a large blade. (1600/1500) “When Machina Soldier is normal summoned, and I have no other cards on my side of the field, he calls in the reinforcements from my hand. So Machina Fortress gets to roll out onto the field once again!” With that, Spitfire’s tank returned to the field.

“Next, I’ll give them both the backup they need by playing my Solidarity once more to increase their attack points by 800!” Spitfire smirked as sparks began to run over the bodies of both her machines, empowering them with the strength they didn’t normally possess. “Now I’ll get some payback at that Moth. Machina Fortress, let’s show him how we deal with bugs! Ion Cannon Stream!” Lightning watched as the blue tank’s cannon began to power up, locking onto Steelswarm Moth.

“I activate the effect of my trap card: Escalation of the Monarchs!” announced Pharynx. “And I’ll use it’s effect to tribute my Moth for Steelswarm Girastag!”

“You can’t!” Spitfire shot back. “I saw that card in your hand, remember? It’s a level seven monster meaning you’ll need to tribute two monsters!”

“Not if I use a Steelswarm monster as the tribute,” countered Pharynx as Girastag appeared where Moth had been standing. It was bigger, bulkier than both Mantis and Moth to the point where it took up most of the hallway. Like before it’s body was black only its exposed areas were orange. It also had a cannon in place of a left hand which the right was stroking in a loving fashion. As for its tail, it instantly opened up and attached itself to Pharynx. (2600/0)

“Giving up more life points for another edge?” demanded Spitfire.

“No,” replied Pharynx with a grin. “Girastag is different from most monsters in my deck. When tribute summoned using a Steelswarm monster, he sends one card you control to the grave and then gives me 1000 life points. And I’m getting rid of your Solidarity!” Lightning smirked as she saw the look of surprise on Spitfire’s face as Girastag pointed its cannon arm at her spell card. From it came a black, sticky looking tar like substance the reeked of rotten eggs which flew across the field before coating Solidarity. The card sank into the ground, ending its effects.

Pharynx Life Points: 6700

“I…I redirect the attack to Sting,” Spitfire said through gritted teeth as Fortress’ cannon turned. Within seconds it fired, blasting a hole right through Sting.

Pharynx Life Points: 6050

“I’ll set one card face down and end my turn,” finished Spitfire.

Turn 5: Pharynx

“Then I draw!” announced Pharynx. (hand: 2) “Prefect. I play the spell card Allure of Darkness. This card allows me to draw two cards and then banish one dark monster from my hand. But if I can’t then my entire hand is banished.” Two cards slid out from the top of his deck, which he took and looked at. “Ok, I’ll banish my Caller for cost. Then I’ll play my copy of Recurring Nightmare. Now I can bring back two more dark monsters to my hand as long as they both have zero defense points. I think I’ll take back one of my Caller’s and Moth.” Calmly, Pharynx took the two cards from his graveyard slot before adding them to his hand.

“Now I summon back to the field Steelswarm Caller in attack mode.” As Caller appeared on the field in front of Girastag, Spitfire gave it a look of loathing. “Now to battle. Girastag, send that tank to the scrap yard!” The large monster grinned at the command, showing off his sharp razor-like teeth. He raised his weapon hand up at Fortress and fired, sending more of the tar like substance at it. All three teens watched as the substance began to melt and eat away at the armor until it exploded.

Spitfire’s Life Points: 3650

However, that wasn’t all that happened. Shooting from the explosion was a metal orb that pulsated with whitish energy. When it landed on the ground there was a metallic clacking noise along with a crack as it rolled over to Pharynx’s side of the field.

“If my Fortress is going down then its taking one of your cards with it!” announced Spitfire as she trusted her hand forward. “When it’s destroyed by battle and set to the graveyard then I can target one of your cards and destroy it as well. Escalation of the Monarchs, say good bye.” With that, the orb exploded right under Pharynx’s trap card. The explosion pushed the teen boy back a bit while his card’s holographic form shattered into thousands of bits.

“I still have an attack left,” said Pharynx. “Steelswarm Caller, take out that tin soldier!” Caller didn’t need to be told twice. Using its wings, it buzzed across the field as its nails grew longer and began to drip a purple liquid.

“I activate my trap card: Roll Out!” yelled Spitfire. “Thanks to this card, I can equip one of my monsters with a union monster resting in the graveyard. So Gearframe, help out Machina Soldier!” Bursting from the ground appeared Gearframe, looking a little worse for wear but still in one piece. It placed both of its hands behind Soldier as if to help brace for the attack that was still underway. Caller’s nails slashed into Soldier’s chest, leaving melted scar marks that shot out sparks. But instead of being destroyed, Gearframe raced in front of it and began to give parts of its own armor in order to keep it on the field. When it was finished, both machines gave each other thumbs up before Machina Gearframe vanished.

Spitfire’s Life Points: 3550

“Alright then,” said Pharynx as he looked at his hand for a moment. “I’ll set one card face down and turn it over to you.”

Turn Six: Spitfire

“Then I’ll draw,” she said (hand: 3) Spitfire looked at her card before looking up at her opponent. “I have to say, never expected someone like you to be so tough. It’s been a while since anyone has pushed me this far into a corner. And with no extra deck monsters to boot. Not too bad.” Pharynx didn’t say anything, only nodding in response as Spitfire continued. “Just a pity who you’re doing all this for. What she’s done.”

Lightning clenched her fist again. While she was glad that Spitfire had been keeping her word and not saying anything, she knew what that jab was meant to do. To peak Pharynx’s curiosity. To make him wonder or even doubt if he was doing the right thing. Maybe even to get him to ask what she had done to earn such ire for Spitfire.

“I know all about what happened,” replied Pharynx with a shrug. Not being able to miss the shocked expressions on both girl’s faces, he continued. “Or, at least, the official on-the-books version. Remember I’ve worked with Bon-Bon nearly everyday since freshman year, getting complaints about Lightning all the time. I heard all about what happened freshman year.”

Spitfire looked at him, looking utter confused. “B-But if you know all that, then why not let me tell the others?”

Once again, the teen boy shrugged. “Plenty of reasons I guess,” he said in an offhanded tone. “She’s a member of my team so I’m looking out for her. It’s like with my brother. I might not get into all that touchy-feely crap he’s into and he’s too nice for his own good at times. We might not always see eye to eye but that doesn’t mean I’ll just sit back and let others bully him! So until she actually does something to hurt the team then I’ll stick up for her.” He then paused for a moment, making a face as he did so. “Oh and if she does get kicked off the team right now we might not be able to find someone else to replace her. Then I’m stuck going to one of those saccharine retreats.”

Lightning looked at Pharynx, feeling something odd in her chest. It felt…different from the anger she normally felt. The last time she felt like this was when she had first met Rainbow. When she had first found someone who she could connect with, someone she felt was on her side. Like a friend.

“Well soldier, normally I’d respect an attitude like that,” commented Spitfire. “Heck if you were a member on any team back when I was a captain of, I’d be proud to hear something like that.” At her words, Lightning clenched her fists once again while grinding her teeth. “But Lightning; she’s no good. And I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that the rest of the members on your team know that. Even if it means taking you down.”

“Funny, I could say the same about you,” replied Pharynx. “I take the security of this school very seriously so there is a part of me that admires how far you’re willing to go to keep people here safe. But on the other hand, this feels more like a petty grudge or something.”

Spitfire just shook her head. “Once this duel is over, you’ll understand everything,” she said. “I play the spell card, Monster Reborn, to bring back Machina Fortress!” Just like that, her tank returned to the field. “Next I’ll play the spell card: Iron Draw! If I have exactly two machine type monsters on my side of the field and nothing else then I get to draw two cards. However, I can only special summon one more time after this.” Calmly, Spitfire drew her cards. “Now I will normal summon Machina Sniper to the field in attack mode!” Appearing on her field in front of Fortress was a tanned colored android with an almost coned shaped head and rounded shoulders that carried a weapon that looked more like a light up toy than something for war. (1800/800)

“Planning on bringing out your decks big boss?” asked Pharynx. Lightning knew exactly what he was talking about. Machina Force. A monster with 4600 attack points…and nothing else with all the set up required to bring it out. It’s only effect was that it cost Spitfire 1000 of her own life points to attack.

“Can’t,” replied Spitfire with a shrug. “Don’t have the rest of the pieces in my hand. But what I do have is this: Limiter Removal.” She picked the card out from her hand, holding it up with a grin on her face. “You know what this card does, right? It doubles the attack of all machine monsters on the field until the end of the turn. Then they’re all destroyed.”

“Yeah, that’s why I activate my trap card: Lost Winds!” replied Pharynx quickly as his card was flipped face up. “This card allows me to select one card on the field that was special summoned and halve its attack points. Oh, and as an added bonus; its effects are also negated. Since Machina Fortress is the one who was special summoned then it has to be my target!”

“Doesn’t bother me,” smirked Spitfire as she played her spell card. As soon as she did, her monsters began to fidget while sparks began to fly from their joints. To add to it, Soldier and Sniper grew twice their normal size so that their heads almost touched the ceiling. “Soldier, attack Steelswarm Girastag!” Machina Soldier (3200) raised its bladed arm as it leapt into the air, its weapon vibrating so much that it could be felt in Lightning’s teeth. As the machine began to return to earth it stuck out its blade right before impaling it into Girastag’s chest.

Pharynx Life Points: 5450

“Now Sniper, take out his last bug!” shouted Spitfire as she pointed at Caller. Machina Sniper didn’t leap through the air, but instead took a knee as the lights on its weapon began to glow. Brighter and brighter it became until a solid blast of light shot out of it which hit Steelswarm Caller so hard that it was thrown back several feet and destroyed before it ever hit the ground.

Pharynx Life Points: 3550

Spitfire was now grinning broader than ever as she pointed to Pharynx himself. “Machina Fortress, attack him directly!” The attack was swift, so much so that the teen boy didn’t even have time to raise his arms to shield his face.

Pharynx Life Points: 1050

“With that, I’ll end my turn,” said Spitfire as her monsters began to explode around her. Still, Lightning got a bad feeling about all this. Spitfire just gave up all of her monsters without any spells or trap card to protect her for the next turn. So why did she look so calm? The answer came very quickly. As the smoke cleared around her, a new monster rose up from the ground behind her. Due to the tight space they were in, the holograms couldn’t show everything. But due to the amount of room it was taking up, Lightning knew it was big. The thing looked like a larger Machina Fortress, only it had long arms that reached across the field and its cannon looked like it was meant to shoot the moon.

“Meet Machina Megaform (2600/1500),” said Spitfire as she gestured to the machine behind her. “This big guy has an effect where I can special summon him from the grave when Machina Fortress is destroyed. All it costs me is removing that Fortress. Well, lets see you deal with this.”

Turn Seven: Pharynx

“I’ll find a way. Draw.” (hand: 2) He looked at what he had drawn for a moment before setting in on the field face down. “All I can do for right now is place a monster in defense mode and end my turn.

Turn Eight: Spitfire

“Well you did your best,” said Spitfire as she drew (hand: 2). “I summon to the field Scrap Recycler in attack mode.” Appearing on the field was a monster that could best be described as a motorized trash can. It moved about on two large wheels, spewing white smoke behind it as two claws felt around for litter on the ground (900/1200) “This guy has two effects. First, when its summoned I can send one machine from my deck to the grave. For that I’ll send Machina Force. Next, once per turn I can return two level four earth machine type monsters back into my deck to draw a card. So I’ll recycle my loyal Soldier and Sniper.” After returning the cards, her duel disk shuffled up her deck before a single card on the top was ejected. Spitfire took it before looking a little dejected. “Hmm, not the card I wanted. Oh well. Megaform, destroy his defense.”

The arms of Megaform began to move so that its hands were on either side of Pharynx’s face down creature. As if it were meant to keep it from escaping as it lowered its cannon towards the ground. There was no build up this time, just an instant plasma beam that hit the ground so hard and fast that Lightning didn’t have a chance to see the monster explode. All she knew was that the backlash of the attack pressed her against the wall.

“Now Scrap Recycler, attack him directly!” Scrap’s attack was not as big, flashy, or as powerful. It simply opened up a mouth between its wheels before bits of scrap metal were flung at Lightning’s teammate before Scrap went around to pick it up.

Pharynx Life Points: 150

“Now it won’t matter if you do manage to summon out one of your tribute monsters,” said Spitfire as she crossed her arms under her breasts. “Not enough life points to do anything. Go ahead and make your final draw.”

Turn Nine: Pharynx

“We’ll see. Draw!” announced Pharynx (hand: 2). As he drew his card, the floor before him began to crack horribly before a head burst out. It was small and black, looking back and forth with large goggles on its head. It then jumped out of the ground where it then took a knee, crossing its arms across its chest as it did so.

“Where did that thing come from?!” demanded Spitfire as she looked at it.

“From the graveyard,” explained Pharynx. “You destroyed Steelswarm Scout last turn. And he has this nice effect which says that if I don’t have any cards in my spell and trap card zones, then he can be special summoned. Something that helps me out with this card I just drew: Inferno Reckless Summon! Since a monster with less than 1500 attack points was special summoned to my side of the field, I can bring out as many as I want from my hand, deck, or even the graveyard. Well, as long as you control a monster. Which you do. It’s only down side is that you can search your deck as well and summon any copies of either of your monsters.”

“Crap,” swore Spitfire as she looked at her deck, making it clear she only had one copy of each of her two monsters. As Lightning let out a sigh of relief, two more copies of Steelswarm Scout appeared in defense position on Pharynx’s side of the field (200/0)

“I end my turn,” finished Pharynx.

Turn Ten: Spitfire

“That was a lucky draw,” said Spitfire as she drew her card (hand: 3)

“I won’t argue with that,” replied Pharynx with a shrug.

“Well, that luck won’t help you out much longer because I summon Red Gadget in attack mode!” declared Spitfire as her monster appeared on the field. It was a red, bulky thing with a large silver gear on its back (1300/1500). “This monster has the effect to add one Yellow Gadget to my hand when its summoned,” continued Spitfire as her duel disk spat out the card. “So next turn I know I’ll be able to take you out. ALL MONSTERS! DESTROY HIS FIELD WITH AN ALL OUT ATTACK!” What happened next was swift as well as destructive as each attacked Pharynx’s monsters. None survived, not even the one who was hit upside the head by Red Gadget’s large gear. “I end my turn.”

Turn Eleven: Pharynx

“Then I draw,” said Pharynx as he drew (hand: 2) while his three mini Steelswarms burst out the ground happily before taking a knee. “I play a copy of Allure of Darkness to draw two cards then banish one dark monster from my hand.” Lightning watched as Pharynx looked at his deck, his expression unreadable from where he stood. But she could guess. She had seen plenty of duelists in the past look at their deck, pausing for a moment as they did so. They were hoping for that magical draw that would help give them the win, that one card that could turn it all around. But, Lightning had to wonder, what card could help him get out of this jam?

Eventually he took the two cards, brought them up to his face, and grinned. “I banish Steelswarm Moth for the cost of Allure of Darkness,” he said before pocketing the monster. “Next, I tribute all three of my Scout’s to summon my decks big boss: Steelswarm Hercules!” At once, all three Scout’s were struck by red lightning while the ceiling of the hallway began to darken with black mist. Then a face appeared. It was huge. Black and yellow, with merciless red eyes that looked down at the field with a sense of giddiness that did not sit well with either of the girls. And coming form behind Pharynx was another tail, but one that looked like it was about to swallow him whole. Still it latched onto him, molding onto his back almost perfectly. (3200/0)

Spitfire let out a whistle as she looked up. “Damn, that must be a big sucker. Almost makes me wish we were dueling outside to get a good look at it. So, what does this one do? Force you to give up life points till you only have one and add them to himself?”

“No,” said Pharynx as he braced himself. “Hercules has the effect that, by paying half of my life points, he destroys all other cards on the field.

Pharynx Life Points: 75

The teen boy’s body jerked backwards as his life points were sucked away, drained to feed his monster. As it did, red lightning began strike the ground in an almost random pattern. Slowly, one by one, each of Spitfire’s monster’s were hit and exploded instantly. Finally, Spitfire stood there alone facing Steelswarm Hercules.

“Now I’ll play my last card: Sword of Dark Rites,” finished Pharynx as he slid the card into the spell and trap card slot. “I can equip this card to Steelswarm Hercules and he gains 400 attack points. Just enough to give me the win!” Spitfire only had enough time to look shocked as a single bolt of red lightning struck her cheek, knocking her down to the ground.

Spitfire Life Points: 0

Winner: Pharynx

Grinning, Lightning approached Pharynx not knowing that, in the shadows, someone had watched the entire thing.

Appleloosa High

View Online

Luna sat within her seat on the bus that had been on the road for the better part of two hours. This wasn’t the fancy buses or limos provided to the students at Crystal Prep, with heated personal seats or music coming out of the speakers. No, this was a standard school bus that normally had two to three students sharing the patched up seats. This was a bus with poor heating and everyone inside bounced at least a foot whenever there was a bump in the road. Thankfully not all of the buses that the school had were this bad, but it was the best Luna could get. All of the other buses were in use, either dropping students home or taking them to other events.

Thankfully the ride was just about done as they drove through historic Appleloosa. Glancing out the window, Luna looked out at a town had a vast western movie feel to it. With long boardwalk like areas were several ma and pa businesses with the buildings having a similar appearance to them. Homes they passed had an old colonial or Victorian feel to them, all in good condition with massive yard space between them. At first glance, a person passing through this town would think that it was stuck in the past. However, Luna had been here plenty of times in the past seeing the apartment complexes (which also had an old fashioned appearance to them despite having all the modern convenience of everyday life) as well a few gated communities. The reason for choice in aesthetics was due to the populace’s desire to honor the town’s history. Appleloosa had been a major trading hub back during the old pioneer days. It started off with people bringing with them fur pelts, metal ores, and various livestock to trade in the busy hub until folks just started setting down their roots in the surrounding area. As time went by and more trading towns popped up, Appleloosa kept people coming to them with their yearly events like horse races and rodeos which were still held to this day.

As they drove deeper into the town, Luna began to see signs of that famous Appleloosa pride. Large banners had been erected over stores and across light posts, cheering on the school’s duel team. People were walking towards the school with their faces painted in the schools colors of brown and red while carrying blankets. Some were even pulling coolers with them as they chatted with friends who had with them large brown bags no doubt full of snacks. Searchlights were active, lighting up the area where the school was.

Seeing that they would soon be nearing their destination, Luna turned in her seat to look upon her charges. All six students were scattered across the bus with only Hunter and Moondancer sitting next to each other. Both were reading books, but from what Luna could see Hunter’s leg was bouncing up and down in a nervous fashion. Autumn Blaze had her headphones on as she listened to music from her Ipod seeming lost to the music for the time being. Wallflower had sat in the seat across from Autumn. Every time Luna had looked upon the bus she had seen Wallflower either shooting nervous glances at Autumn or looking like she was trying to muster up her courage to sit next to her. Neither seemed to have happened. Pharynx was sitting with an open bag sitting next to him, reaching in to pull out a sandwich. Then there was Lightning Dust, sitting by herself as well with her arms crossed.

As she looked at the former athlete, the events of earlier that day returned to the Vice-Principal.


“Baseless accusations!” could be heard around the door leading to Vice-Principal Luna’s office right before the door opened. Standing at the threshold was Coach Iron Will, the blue man’s head looking inward as his hand gripped the door handle. Veins were clearly visible on his bare arms while his teeth gritted with clear anger. “The nerve of it all! You can be sure that I’ll be taking this up with Principal Celestia!” With that said, Iron Will walked out of the door and closed the door with such force that the glass rattled in its frame.

Much to her credit, Luna did not flinch or show any sign of fear. Not when the door slammed or even during the heated talk. She had had too many dealings of such things from heated students and angered parents to keep her expression stone worthy. It was only when the door had fully closed as well as the loud talk of indignation coming from the coach that Luna allowed herself to sigh while placing a single hand on her forehead. It was a shame. When their talk had begun less than a half an hour ago the tone had been met with friendly professional courtesy.

Ever since Spitfire had come into her office and the duel between her and Pharynx a few days ago, Luna had spent the following three days trying to uncover more about what had happened with Lightning Dust. Most of what she had found that had not been documented were simple rumor and hearsay. Normally that alone wouldn’t have raised any mental alarms with the Vice Principal. Yet when added together with the things that weren’t done when dealing with students like Lightning Dust caused her to worry. Normally when a student’s behavior on a team becomes a problem, it was the coach’s duty to speak with the student followed by his or her parents if the problem continued. But as Luna dug through the last few years of documentation, there was nothing. No notes detailing a meeting or even warning slips to Lightning. There was simply nothing.

Thus the reason she had gained today’s headache. Luna had decided to give Coach Iron Will the chance to set the record straight. Perhaps he had forgotten to submit the forms to the appropriate office or had gotten lost. At first he had claimed to not remember since it had been a while. Yet the more Luna had pressed, the more Iron Will seemed to squirm under her questions until finally he had exploded in a rage.

For a moment, Luna sat there with her fingers folded upon her desk while she collected her thoughts. Something had happened, something that a person in Luna’s position should have been on sooner. She did not dismiss her guilt by claiming that Lightning had never approached her or her sister with this issue, but she did think that Lightning should have. Nor did this grant Lightning instant forgiveness for her past actions towards other students in the hallways. It might even be too late to really do anything about, save for taking steps to ensure that this never happened again.

The ringing of her phone pulled Luna from her thoughts. Looking down, she saw that it was Celestia. “Hello, sister,” she said on answering it. “How is the conference?”

“Fine,” came the slightly out of breath answer. Luna frowned a bit. Why was Celestia out of breath right now? Her wondering on the matter didn’t get much further as Celestia continued. “But I did just get a call from Iron Will. He seemed pretty upset, thinking you were trying to take over the school or something.”

“Guess he couldn’t wait,” sighed Luna as she shook her head. “Don’t worry, your job is safe. Something just came to my attention about what happened a few years ago and wanted Iron Will to answer a few questions.”

“Oh?” came the response. “Mind explaining?”

“Maybe when you get back,” replied Luna as she glanced at the clock. Seeing the lateness of the hour she mentally swore to herself. Standing up, Luna reached across the desk for her deck. “We’ll discuss this more when we’re face to face. I have to be leaving. The duel against Appleloosa is tonight.”

“Right,” said Celestia slowly, a note of understanding in her voice. Luna could practically see her sister smiling as if she were right in front of her. “Well then, good luck to you and your team. I’m sure that-” Celestia was suddenly cut off as the sound of a door loudly opening behind her was heard followed by loud, festive music. Music that involved steel drums mixed in with the laughter of many people.

“Hey Celestia,” came a loud, slushed voice in the background. Luna’s eyes narrowed as she pulled her phone back to glare at it. “You just disappeared. Missing the luau! Come on, I saved you a couple of drinks!”

“Ah,” was all Celestia had to say, very clear panic in her voice as Luna brought the phone back to her ear.

“Sister,” she said in an icy tone. “It sounds like there’s a party going on. I thought you were at the Leaders in Education conference. Six days of non-stop boring lectures if I am not mistaken.”

“Well I am,” said Celestia loudly over a sudden increase in voice. It sounded like she was now surrounded by a large group of laughing party goers, the volume of the music rising more and more. “It’s just that this year it happens to be in Hawaii. I told you that, right?”

Luna could not frown any deeper if she tried. “No. No you did not,” she said as she took a deep breath that was meant to calm her. It, however, failed miserably. Had she known that little tidbit of information, she might, no, would have gone to the conference when Celestia had made the offer. Heck, her big sister had totally misrepresented it. In fact, how many of these out-of-state conferences had she told Luna were boring just so she could go alone. With the press of a button, Luna hung up on Celestia while making a mental promise to not take this lying down.

end flashback

“I’ll find some way to get you back for that, sister,” swore Luna under her breath as the bus took a sharp turn. Glancing up through the front window, Luna spotting their destination right ahead. A long brick building that did not have the same western or old fashioned appearance like all of the other buildings. Not as modern or flashy as something like Crystal Prep, but it did have large fields surrounding it for various physical sports. In the school’s parking lot, food vendors had set up stands and large BBQ pits had been created for this night. Students, parents, and perhaps many of the locals had all gathered here in a sort of community celebration. Much like they did with every home game or event.

“Alright everyone, we’re here,” said Luna as she stood up, taking hold of her seat to keep balance as the bus slowly moved through the parking lot. She paused for a moment to allow everyone’s attention to shift towards her, speaking again once she believed she had it. “Remember, while this still isn’t an official team outing; I expect all of you to act accordingly. If I see any ill behavior or rule breaking there will be consequences when we return. Is that clear?” A muffled response soon followed as the bus came to a complete stop. Figuring this was as good as she was going to get, Luna coughed in her closed fist before speaking again. “Well then, since we have a little bit of time before the match starts, how about you all look around and get something to eat if you haven’t already. I’ll send you all a text message when it’s time to report to the duel field.”

With that, her students began to rise and file out of the bus. Luna watched each of them as they left, but always making sure to keep an eye on Lightning. Part of it was because she feared the aggressive girl might start a fight or get into some sort of trouble. However, that might have been an unjustified fear since this was her big chance to actually be on a team. The other part being desire to sit down and talk to her. It was an internal battle she had been having ever since she had started looking into what had happened back in freshman year. Right now she wanted to talk to her, find out what happened from her point of view as well as just talking to her. Maybe saying something that might help her feel better or just something to let her know she wasn’t alone. But was this really the best time? When she was still trying to sort stuff out of her own end? Then, just like that, Lightning was off the bus.

“Well howdy there stranger,” came a very familiar and loud welcome. Looking out the open bus door, Luna spotted a man whom she had known since she and her sister were very young: Silverstar. It was almost like looking at an older version of Star Hunter, only Silverstar had blue eyes instead of Hunter’s unique yellow ones with slits for pupils. He also had a long, thick black mustache. The man wore a pair of dusty jeans with a light blue, button up shirt as well as a dark blue vest which had large silver buttons on it. To complete his rugged outdoor appearance the man had a dirty red handkerchief tied around his neck. He grinned broadly at Luna while extending a hand to help her out of the bus.

“Silverstar,” greeted Luna as she accepted the hand. “So good of you to welcome me.”

“Always a pleasure ma’am,” replied Silverstar as Luna stepped into the open air. The scent of the food around her being cooked hit her tenfold. The wonderful odors bringing thoughts of fairs or backyard barbeques she had been to when she was younger. “Glad ta see ya making your rounds in the Duel Team Circuit. Are ya the dueling coach or is there some other fella on the bus?”

“Just me,” replied Luna with a slight shrug. “Celestia is off at that conference-”

“In Hawaii, I know,” interrupted Silverstar with a playful eye roll. “Every time Thunderhooves was in the teacher’s lounge he just had to bring it up. Never pegged the man for the sun and surf lifestyle, but there you go. Hopefully they’ll be doing whatever they do at those functions. Never went to one myself, but I hear the talking part is awfully dull.” The man shook his head. “But hey, we can still have a good old time. How many years has it been since you an’ me had a good throwdown with cards?”

“Too long. If memory serves, it was when we were all at Camp Everfree,” said Luna with a smile right before her stomach growled. Not just a soft one, but a loud gargling noise that brought a rosy color to the woman’s cheeks.

“Can’t have that before a big duel now can we?” said Silverstar with a hint of a laugh in his voice as he offered Luna his arm. “Come along now, it’ll be my treat for our special guest. We can spend some time catching up as we chow down on my famous baby back ribs. Make them myself before every event and they run out like hot cakes in the winter. But no drilling me for information on my team, ya hear?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” replied Luna as she accepted the arm. As her arm connected with his, the Vice-Principal noticed something out of the corner of her eye. It was only for a moment, but she was sure she had seen a flash of yellow as well as a rainbow off in the crowd. She stood there for a moment wondering if it was who she thought it was. Or, was her mind just playing tricks on her.

“Something wrong?” asked Silverstar looking into the crowd with a frown on his face. His eyes became sharper as he searched for any signs of something wrong.

“No,” said Luna slowly as she gestured for them to continue. “Now, how has this school been treating you? Last I heard you were teaching High School Law.” As they walked Luna decided she would let it go and enjoy her time before the big duel. Just spending time with an old friend, reliving old time and eating a full slab of baby back ribs! If what she thought she saw was correct then she would deal with it then. Harshly.

“How is this place still standing?” muttered Pharynx as the students from Canterlot walked together in a group. Hunter eyed the only other guy in the group curiously as his head was turning this way and that, as if to scan everything in sight. “The fire pit is way too far from any of the fire suppression equipment. Heck, what I’ve seen there’s barely enough for a single fire. If multiple ones start up then this place is screwed royally. And the food stands! They are completely open! All it would take is one nut job to spike the food and drinks with something and-”

“You’re a little paranoid, aren’t you,” commented Autumn as she walked near him with her arms behind her back. “Come on and just relax. We’re guests here so we should enjoy ourselves. Look, they have those elephant ears over there. You want one?”

Hunter looked in the direction that Autumn was looking and, indeed, there was a stand selling the carnival favorite. Not that it was hard to miss with its yellow and red colored banners with pictures of buffalo’s on the windows. But not just elephant ears with tons of powdered sugar sprinkled on top. They were also selling things like caramel covered apples, deep fried pickles, deep fried twinkies, chicken on a stick, corndogs, and so on. Plenty of stuff to warm you up from the inside on a cold night like this. Glancing at Pharynx, he saw that the teen was shaking his head.

“No thanks,” said Pharynx as he turned to his side and folded his arms.

“Suit yourself,” said Autumn as she suddenly turned around to take a hold of Wallflower’s hand. The green skinned girl looked almost shocked at this, as if she had expected them to forget that she was there again. Her cheeks began to burn red as Autumn pulled her towards a stand not too far away. “Lets get some of that pulled pork! It smells delicious!”

“O-Ok,” was the only thing that everyone heard Wallflower say before being dashed towards one of the lines.

As the group watched, Lightning let out a hum before shaking her head. “You know, I think we’re all sort of getting used to that ghost girl. No longer surprised when she pops up behind us or just appears to the side or whatever.” Slowly she placed both hands behind her head, sticking out her chest a bit in the process. “Well, whatever. I’m going to grab me some carbs before the matches start. See you losers later.”

Hunter made no response as Lightning walked away, noting only briefly that she shot a brief glance back at them. It was only for a moment as if she expected them to tag along behind her or to call out to her for something. Once the moment had passed he saw her arms return to her sides and her stride having less energy than normal in it. Hunter didn’t mull over it for very long. Since accepting being part of the team, Hunter had seen her act like this plenty of times. Perhaps her aggressive front was beginning to weaken.

As he felt Moondancer pulling on his arm to get something to eat as well, Hunter felt the hair on the back of his neck begin to rise. He felt like a pair of eyes were boring into his back causing him to skid to a halt. As Moondancer looked at him to ask what was wrong, Hunter began to look around. At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Most of the people around them were either walking about and talking or sitting in groups as they ate their meals. Laughter was everywhere as well as excited talks about the matches that were about to happen, nearly all of them signaling that Canterlot didn’t stand a chance. A few passerby’s were giving him, Moondancer, and Pharynx questioning looks but seemed to move on with their lives fairly quickly.

Then, Hunter spotted him. It was a teenage boy around their age with gold colored skin, sitting on a bale of hay with a masked expression on his face as he stared fixated at Hunter. Once he saw that Hunter had spotted him, he did not try to look away or even pretend that he hadn’t been staring at him. Instead he rose to his full height of seven feet tall, towering over most people and proceeded to walk towards him. He wore dusty cowboy boots along with a pair of jeans, a white button up shirt, and a brown vest. His hair was mostly hidden underneath his Stetson hat, but Hunter could make out a yellowish color as well as amber around the sides. On his belt, a deck box was firmly attached with a red apple sticker placed firmly in the middle.

As the teen moved towards him, Hunter felt like he had seen this guy before. But how? He had never been to Appleloosa before. Not even passing near it. And it was too far out of the way for them to have bumped into each other at places like the mall. Maybe he had seen him on TV or something?

Finally the teen stopped in front of Hunter, looking down at him and the others. “Howdy,” he said.

“Ah, hi,” replied Hunter as the teen before him crossed his arms across his chest.

“Pardon my rudeness for staring at ya’ll,” continued the teen as he then leaned to the side, shifting his weight onto his left leg. “But I couldn’t help it. Are you, by chance, related to a rattler by the name of Star Chaser?”

The words hit Hunter like a ton of bricks as a wave of dread washed over him. Yeah, it had to be something like that. This was the reason he didn’t want to be here.

“I’m his brother,” said Hunter, watching the other teen’s eyes narrowing at him in clear dislike. It was clear that Chaser had left his usual bad impression on him. “Look, whatever he did-”

“I dueled him at regional’s a few years back,” interrupted the teen with bitterness in his voice as he placed his hands on his hips. “Down to the top six when I faced him. Mighty proud of how far I got till then. Never got to make a single move, over and done with thanks to that burn damage. Would have been ok with that too if he didn’t spend the rest of the night rubbing it in my face, talking about how great he was and what an ‘honor’ it was to be beaten by someone like him. Then I hear tale about how he likely cheated the entire time!” Now the teen had moved much closer, causing both Hunter and Moondancer to take a step back while Pharynx stood his ground. “Cheated me out of more than a single match. Now I’ll never know how if I could have placed! No time machine to fix that mess. So understand that dueling against his brother don’t sit right with me.”

“Hold on,” said Moondancer as she stepped forward while Hunter hung his head low. “You can’t blame Hunter for something his brother did!”

The teen side stepped Moondancer, his gaze fixed on Hunter. “Some rotten apples fall mighty close to each other,” he spat. “When I look at you, all I see is him! So I’ll be keeping an eye on you and if I see any funny stuff then your entire team is out of here.” With that, he turned and walked away.

As he did, Moondancer stomped her foot into the ground before pivoting around to look at her boyfriend. “Hunter, what was that? Why didn’t you defend yourself?”

“It wouldn’t have mattered,” replied Hunter with a shrug. “Chaser is an ass and pissed off a lot of people back when he was dueling. They want another shot at him, to take him down a peg hoping it will make something in the past better. Since he’s now in jail for a very long time they’ll never get that chance. So instead they’ll go after his brother. That corruption that they’re feeling, I understand it completely.” With that Hunter turned and began to walk away in the opposite direction the teen came from. “Besides, it’s not like I don’t see Chaser every time I look in the mirror.”

“This is going to be so good!” cried Autumn as she fought to contain herself. She and Wallflower where in probably one of the longer lines, whiffing in the scent of the pulled pork as Autumn bounced on her heels. With each step they took, that scent grew stronger and more mouth watering. Watching people ahead of them Autumn could see them walking away with their delicious prizes in hand, dripping with BBQ sauce and bits of onion. As for Wallflower, she was pressing her fingers together in a nervous fashion as her stomach growled.

Finally they reached the front of the line where the scent was the strongest. Literally steams of odor flew into both their noses, causing them to inhale deeply. As the two girls exhaled they mirrored the same dreamy expression while slumping forward a bit. Neither girl seemed to care if the rest of the world judged them at that moment as they stumbled towards the man behind the counter.

“What can I get for ya sweetheart,” he asked in a chummy fashion.

“I’ll take two of those pulled pork sandwiches with extra sauce and a cola,” said Autumn as she quickly pulled out the money.

“And I’ll have-”

“Coming right up,” interrupted the man, cutting off Wallflower as he turned around to make the sandwiches. When his back was turned, Wallflower hunched over a bit more while a more depressed look came across her face. Sighing the green girl placed a hand on the top of her head before slowly bringing it down.

“Hey, don’t look so glum,” said Autumn with a nervous laugh. Calmly she wrapped an arm around Wallflower’s shoulder to help her stand upright. “Maybe he just didn’t want to get bogged down with orders or something. I’m sure once he’s done with me he’ll take our order.” Not even a moment later did the man turn back around with two wrapped sandwiches and an off brand soda that looked cold to the touch.

“There you go,” he said before glancing around both girls. He brought a hand up to his mouth, ready to call on the next person, but Autumn raised a hand to get his attention. The man slowly lowered his hand before looking at the lion haired girl questioningly. “Something wrong with your order?”

“No,” replied Autumn, earning a frown for the pulled pork man. “But, you see, you missed my friend here.” As she said this, Autumn gestured to a glum looking Wallflower who wasted looking at the vendor. The man did a bit of a double take at this.

“I didn’t see her there before,” he said confused. He seemed to think about it for a moment before shaking his head. “Sorry kid, but no line cutting. Back of the line and wait your turn like everyone else.”

“Ok,” said Wallflower with a sigh. But as she moved to leave, Autumn placed a hand on her shoulder to hold her in place. At the same time she kept her gaze on the man before her.

“I said you forgot my friend,” repeated Autumn more firmly feeling anger beginning to build within her. “She was standing next to me the entire time. Heck, she even tried to say something when you turned around to get me my meal. So why should she have to wait through this line all over again!?”

“And I said I didn’t see her there!” repeated the man, his voice rising slightly. “One moment she’s not there and the next moment, poof, she’s there standing next to you. I don’t serve line cutters. This is supposed to be a fun night ok. Just go to the back, wait your turn, and you’ll get your sandwich.”

“Autumn, it’s fine,” said Wallflower as Autumn Blaze began to grind her teeth. “I’m used to this. Let’s just go somewhere else.”

Autumn stared at the man who just stood there, arms folded while jerking his head to the side. The message was clear: Take a hike. Behind her, people were beginning to complain. Shouts could be heard telling her to get out of the way. But all Autumn could do was stand there as her anger began to ignite within her. It was not ok, not by a long shot! When someone stands this long in a line they deserve to be served! Plus given the fact that he didn’t notice Wallflower the first time, what’s to say that the same thing wouldn’t happen again! It could happen again and again in some sort of endless loop. Not to mention that they were both hungry and the food was right in front of them!

Feeling the heat rising inside her, Autumn reached for the can ready to throw it in the guy’s face. But the moment she took a hold of the can, as well as realizing what she was thinking about doing, she froze. Glancing to the side, she could see her teammate fearfully looking back. So, closing her eyes, Autumn took a deep breath. When she finished, Autumn put on the fakest smile she had. Judging by everyone’s reaction, they probably thought she had gone crazy.

“You know what Wallflower, let’s go someplace else,” said Autumn as she let go of the drink. In a flash she grabbed her money back from the man who looked on in alarm and surprise. “Someplace that knows how to treat its customers.” With that, she led Wallflower by the arm away from the stand.

“A-Are you ok,” asked Wallflower as the man began shouting at them. But already his words were being drowned out by the crowd as they moved further and further away, their stomachs rumbling as they did so.

Autumn didn’t answer right away, instead glancing this way and that. Scanning the place for- AHA! Wordlessly she jerked Wallflower towards a large steel bucket full of water, ice, and soda cans floating at the top. Around it, people were reaching in, only to quickly jerk their hands out due to the cold, waving them around as if doing that in the cold air might somehow warm them. not that Autumn cared about that. She just zoomed in on the bucket as she marched over to it. Once she was in front of the steel bucket Autumn got down on her knees before dunking her entire head into the water and screaming at the top of her lungs. When she pulled her head up, the first thing she heard was people cheering at what she had just done. The second thing she heard was the chattering of her teeth.

“S-S-Sorry a-about t-t-that,” she managed to say as somebody handed her a towel. “Sometimes I lose my temper at the silliest of things. I just needed to cool off.”

“Ah,” began Wallflower as she leaned over to the side, her gaze shooting towards the cold water. “Do you normally dunk your head in freezing cold water?”

“N-No,” chattered Autumn as she began to rub the towel against her hair. “Normally I go behind the school or an empty restroom before screaming my head off with plenty of cursing. So m-much better than keeping it all inside until I burst into flames. But that’s only when I’m at school. Everywhere else, I just keep it all tucked inside till I get home.”

“…What happens then?” asked Wallflower slowly, as if she were afraid of the answer.

“Oh, I ask my dad to spar with me,” said Autumn with a shrug, tossing the towel back to the person who handed it to her. As she did so, she noticed Wallflower letting out a sigh of relief for some reason. “He’s teaches a couple different martial art classes at the local gym. Even put some mats in the basement so he could practice while at home. When I feel stressed or if the anger is starting to get to me, we head down there and I get tossed around like a ragdoll until I finally calm down.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you like fighting as much as the theater,” said Wallflower in surprise. Autumn quickly shook her damp hair.

“It’s not about fighting,” she said as she waved a hand. “All the stuff my dad teaches are about finding your focus point and finding inner balance. Without that, you’re like a wildfire destroying everything around you. But once you do have it, you’re more in control of your body and emotions. During those sparring sessions, my dad helps me find the source of what caused me to lose my inner balance in the first place. Getting knocked around is just a little extra motivation to find it faster.” Autumn then placed a hand right above her eyes before scanning the area. “Plus all that training does help me with the theater! Helped improve my lung capacity and my hand-eye coordination. Ohh, burgers. And the line is short!”

“Hello APPLELOOSA!” echoed a voice through the PA system, the last words being stretched out almost like a howl. His words echoed through the football field and carried up through the large bleachers that looked massive enough to host a professional game. The people packed into the stands, wrapped in their blankets as they sipped hot cider and chocolate, took a moment to echo the same cry so loudly that it was carried on the winds of the night. All eyes slowly became fixed on the field as some began to hold up signs in order to cheer on their favorite home team duelist.

“Let me hear it again! Hello APPLELOOSA!” cried the announcer. He waited a moment for the crowd to return the howl, which they did only much louder this time. “Well thank you all for coming out to see our dueling team. Tonight they are facing off against Canterlot High for the first time! So let’s show them what we’ve got!” As the crowd burst into another loud cheer, Luna looked across the field to where the Appleloosa duelists were situated. Silverstar was standing in front, miming that she still had some of the sauce from their meal together around her mouth. Blushing with embarrassment, Luna moved to quickly remove it before anyone else saw it.

“Now before we begin rightly, let’s introduce the TEAM!” cheered the announcer. As he finished, the crowd began to make noise in complete unison. Together they stomped their feet on the ground twice before clapping once. “First up we have our team captain: BRAEBURN!” From behind Breaburn waved to the crowd. She knew a little bit about this teen; that he’d been a part of several major dueling tournaments in the state, never winning any of them but coming close. However, what deck he used she could not recall.

“Next we have the girl with so much spirit that is just bursting to get out,” continued the announcer. “You’ve seen her at the talent shows, you’ve seen her duel, it’s SPARKLE SUNSHINE!” Music blasted over the noise the crowd was making, Japanese music by the sounds as a girl jumped out from behind Braeburn. She was about a couple heads shorter than he was, with light blue skin and long black hair tied into twin tails. The odd thing about her was how she dressed. It was a bright pink skirt and blouse, both cut short to reveal her stomach as well as to barely cover her nether region. Luna found herself frowning at this since such things at her school would have been considered highly inappropriate! On her arms and legs were black stockings that exposed her fingers while on her head was something like a pink nurse’s cap with white wings. In one hand she held a staff of some kind with a yellow star at the top. Was she one of those performing duelists Luna had heard about?

“Now save some of those cheers for duelist number three,” said the announcer, causing Sparkle Sunshine to pout. “He maybe down on his luck most of the time, but your luck will fall faster than your cards! It’s TROUBLESHOES!” Standing tall alongside the teen captain, Luna saw that Troubleshoes was built like a giant but slightly bent over. There were rings under his green eyes from perhaps a lack of sleep and had a face that screamed depression. His dark hair was unkempt, falling all the way down his brown neck. He was dressed in a blue shirt with black triangle patterns on it, ripped jeans, and a jean jacket on. A few people cheered for him, causing Troubleshoes to sink a little deeper.

“Next up is a true salt of the earth woman! Let’s give it up for the mighty LITTLE STRONGHEART!” Standing tall was a girl wearing something like a Native American poncho, decorated with purple beads. Underneath, the tanned skinned girl was wearing a yellow shirt with jeans. Raising a hand into the arm, Luna could see that she had an arm much like Applejack’s; muscular without looking too intimidating. Clearly she worked out a lot. Many people in the stands gave a loud cheer for her.

“Parents, you might want to cover your children’s eyes when this guy draws his first card,” continued the announcer. “Because once he starts dueling, screams are sure to follow. Lets give it up for QUICK STRIKE!” Quick strike was the smallest of them all, looking no bigger than some of the freshmen at Canterlot High. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt which concealed most of his face. But Luna could see those wide eyes underneath as well as she sickening green skin that made him look…unwell.

“And last but not least, the lady of the stars and stripes herself: LIBERTY BELL!” Liberty waved to the crowd with her black fingerless gloves over her steel grey skin. Luna found the girl’s attire akin to a biker with her leather vest, bright red shirt, and ripped jeans. On the top of her head was a bandanna with the stars and stripes on them, with her long silver hair flowing out down her back. As she turned, Luna could see that on the back of her vest was emblazoned a metal eagle with exhaust ports coming out of its wings.

“Can they compete with the challengers Lightning Dust, Autumn Blaze, Star Hunter, Pharynx, Moondancer, and…wait a names missing. Hold on a second.” For several seconds the sound of paper rustling could be heard over the speakers. Fighting the urge to roll her eyes, Luna turned to look at her charges. They were all there standing behind her with Wallflower lowering her head more than normal. “Ah, Wallflower Blush. Sorry about that. Don’t know how I missed it.” The announcement let out a cough. “But before that, can we have our very own Mr. Silverstar and Vice Principal Luna take the field for the opening duel?”

Taking a breath, Luna began to walk out into the field with her duel disk attached firmly to her arm. The people here had marked the area where she was to stand on the grass, giving plenty of room between the two. This also meant there would be plenty of room to give their monster’s plenty of room to breathe, to show them off in all of their glory. With each step they took, the crowd continued their stomping and clapping until both stood in their assigned area.

“Well then Luna,” said Silverstar with a grin. “Let’s have some fun.”

The Coach Duel

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Luna Life Points: 8000

Silverstar Life Points: 8000

Turn one: Luna

“I’ll make the first move!” announced Luna as she drew (hand: six). Briefly she looked at what she had drawn, smiling slightly as she looked up. “To start with, I’ll play the spell card: Trade In! With this card I can discard one level eight monster in my hand two draw two new ones. So I’ll send my Darkest Diabolos, Lord of the Lair to the graveyard.” Sliverstar said nothing as he watched Luna drawing two more cards. “Now I summon Summoner Monk to the field. (800\1600)” Appearing on the field was an old man with blue skin who wore a purple robe with a white stripe running down the middle. Long white hair and mustache ran down his chest as his red eyes stared at nothing.

“When this monster is summoned, he gets switched to defense mode,” continued Luna as her Monk began to float in the air, crossing is legs at the same time. “With that little bit of defense set, I’ll use his effect. I’ll discard my Veil of Darkness spell card in my hand to special summon one level four monster in my deck to my side of the field. So let’s welcome Ahrima, the Wicked Warden (1700/0)” Luna watched with a smile on her face as Summoner Monk began to chant in a foreign tongue, creating a portal that a giant blue wolf like creature leapt out of. Only, Ahrima had bright red glowing veins running across its body as well as a third eye on its forehead. “With this, the stage is set for this card: Lair of Darkness!” As Luna inserted the card into its appropriate slot, the field took on a massive change. The green grass they had been standing on vanished as it was instantly replaced by blackened earth with large cracks. From those cracks erupted large, thick streams of blackened vapor. Only these streams had, for lack of a better word, cracked faces within them that looked out about them. A few of these vapors were around the two duelist with one looking over Luna’s shoulder to grin wickedly at Silverstar.

“Well ain’t this a sight,” commented Silverstar as he waved off a pillar of vapor that was too close for his liking. “I remember back in the day when you would run Mystical Plasma Zone.”

“It is an upgrade,” admitted Luna, closing her eyes for a moment as she allowed herself to smile. “One of the effects of this card is that all monsters on the field are treated as if they were dark. It also helps me out with Ahrima’s effect. Since Lair of Darkness is on the field, I can tribute one dark monster on my side of the field to draw another card. And the card I choose is Ahrima himself!” Luna’s wolf let out a long howl as it vanished from the field, the ground beneath it cracked heavily as Luna drew a card. “And now, since I tributed a monster, the effect of Darkest Diabolos activates within my graveyard; returning it to my side of the field in attack mode!” (3000/2000) The cracked earth where Ahrima had been exploded so violently that Silverstar had to cover his face. The crowd gasped and cried out as a large, black dragon appeared on Luna. The space between its scales let out a glowing red color along with a bright red gem in the center of its chest while loose chains jingled across its body.

“Lastly I’ll set one card and end my turn,” said Luna, placing a card face down on her side of the field as another crack appeared next to Darkest Diabolos. “And during my end phase, another effect of my field spell activates. I get Torment Tokens added to my side of the field in defense mode equal to the number of tributes I made while this card is face up.” From the crack appeared a Torment Token (1000/1000) looking just like the other vapors with faces.

Turn two: Silverstar

“Well now, ain’t that an impressive opening move,” commented Silverstar as he drew (hand: 6) “Let’s see if I can top it. Hmm.” Briefly the man looked over his hand, glancing up at Luna’s field before returning to his hand. “Alright, I’ll start with this here card: Foolish Burial. For any folks out there who don’t know, I can now send any monster in my deck to the grave. So, for now, I’ll be saying adios to my Time-Space Police. Then I’ll play the continuous spell card known as Teleport. Nothing too fancy, just lets me special summon one of my psychic monsters if you got monsters and I have none. Err, I also have to pay 800 of my life points. Welp, I’m going to use it now to summon my Serene Psychic Witch in defense mode.” (1400/1200) With a flash, a figure in pink skintight attire appeared on the field in a kneeling position. In her hands she held odd mechanical devices that had long bands running down to her belt. Her red-eyed gaze was indifferent as she looked at Luna’s monsters past her curly red hair.

Silverstar’s Life Points: 7200

“Next up is my Hushed Psychic Cleric, who gets put into defense mode when he gets put on the field,” continued Silverstar as another monster appeared on his field in a kneeling position. (0/2100) This time it was an elderly man in white, futuristic robes lined with gold and decorated in green gem. His eyes were hidden by a metallic white visor, his grey hair lightly touching it. In one hand he held a staff which had wires coming out of it and connecting to his belt. “Now he don’t seem like much, but he does have this nice trick up his sleeve. Kind of a two parter. Right now I’ll use one of his effects to discard a card in my hand to banish my Police. With that, I pass the reins to you.”

“I guess we should have seen this coming,” said Pharynx as he brought a hand to his chin. “I don’t think anyone has ever seen the Vice-Principal duel before, but it makes sense that she would use a Dark deck. I mean, Principal Celestia used a Light deck.”

Autumn let out a hum as she looked around, flinching slightly as one of a gaseous faces appeared next to her. “But did she have to turn the field into something so…icky?” As she said this, the face pouted before slinking away. It eventually moved to sit next to Wallflower who was sitting on the ground, hugging her legs as she watched with rapt attention.

“Who cares what it looks like,” said Lightning as she pumped her fist into the air. “She already got a pretty powerful monster out on the field and all that Silverstar guy can do is defend himself. Might as well call this a win for us.”

“It’s a little too early for talk like that,” said Moondancer with a frown as she looked at Lightning. The two stared at each other for a moment, their eyes locked before Moondancer let out a sigh and returned her gaze to the field. “But I do think that you have a point. Mr. Silverstar used nearly every card in his hand to set up that defense. No trap cards on the field for a surprise, just a continuous spell card that offers little protection.”

“I…I’ve never seen those cards before,” said Wallflower as the holographic mist looked on thoughtfully. “Maybe they have some sort of defensive effect?”

“You might be right,” commented Hunter as he crossed his arms, eyes closed as if he were concentrating hard to remember something. “They’re old cards that I can’t remember anyone playing for years. But I’m sure that they must have some benefit for Silverstar.”

Turn Three: Luna

“Time to go on the offensive,” responded Luna as she drew (hand: five). “I’ll break your defense! And to help I summon my Stygian Street Patrol to the field in attack mode!” (1600/1200) The roar of a motor was heard before Luna’s monster made it onto the field, doing a wheelie on his bike as he did so. The monster looked like a man with a horned helmet while riding a motorcycle with an open jaw, two red lights shining above it answering for eyes. “But that’s not all, I’ll discard a card from my hand to activate the effect of my Summoner Monk to bring out a second Stygian Street Patrol!” Like last time, the Monk began to chant creating a portal on the ground that Stygian Street Patrol leapt out of, causing the crowd to gasp.

“Before I attack, I’m going to activate the effect of Darkest Diabolos. By tributing one dark monster, you have to send one card in your hand to either the top of bottom of your deck.” Luna snapped causing her Torment Token to vanish. With its dismissal, the card in Silverstar’s hand became shrouded in darkness causing its owner to frown. He then placed it on the top of his deck.

“Now time to attack! Stygian Street Patrol run down Serene Psychic Witch!” At Luna’s command, one of her bikers zoomed across the field leaving behind a trail of smoke and flaming tire tracks. As it drew closer the monster began to do a wheelie for a split second before brining ins front tire down on Serene Psychic Witch, destroying it in the process. As the monster shattered, Stygian quickly turned so that its tail pipe was facing Silverstar. “When this monster destroys one of your monsters, you take damage equal to the destroyed monster’s level times 100. So that’s 300.” As Luna finished explaining this, flames covered Silverstar from the tail pipe.

Silverstar’s Life Points: 6900

“Well that’s a nasty burn,” commented Silverstar, brushing himself off as Luna’s monster returned to her side of the field. “Well my Serene Psychic Witch has an effect when she’s destroyed by battle. Now one of my psychic monsters with 2000 or less attack gets banished from my deck and then gets special summoned to my side of the field during my standby phase. Guess I’ll banish Mental Seeker.”

“Something to look forward to,” said Luna as Silverstar’s duel disk began to shuffle his deck. “Now, Darkest Diabolos, destroy his Cleric!” From the jaws of Luna’s dragon came a mass of darkness that seemed almost fluid, running through the gaps in its teeth before flowing across the field to engulf the Cleric. The instant he was fully consumed the darkness seemed to ebb, being pulled back into Darkest Diabolos and leaving nothing behind. As the attack ended, Luna looked across the field and was surprised to see that her opponent did not appear alarmed or worried. In fact, he was smirking.

“Thanks for that Luna,” he was a multi-colored shimmer appeared on his field. “When my Cleric is sent from the field to the graveyard, the monster he banished gets to be special summoned. Return from the different dimension: Space-Time Police!” (2300/1500) At that the shimmer burst as a man stepped out onto the field. He wore skintight black mesh with a more sturdy blue armor on his legs, wrists, and shoulders. One each of these blue pieces of armor was a red gem that let out a red glow similar to the glow stick he held in his hand. He smiled broadly, showing off his teeth as he did so, while his eyes were covered by a visor and his hair covered by his policeman’s hat. The monster’s appearance caused the crowd to bring stomping their feet and clapping in unison again.

“Well, isn’t that a sight,” commented Luna over the noise of the crowd as she looked at the new monster. “But it’s not enough to take down my monster.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure,” said Silverstar as he wagged his finger at Luna. “You should know better than to judge a monster by attack points alone. While he may not be tough enough to tangle with your beastie, this officer can banish a monster on your side of the field when he’s special summon from the banished zone.” As he said this Space-Time Police held out his badge which sent a light towards Darkest Diabolos, causing him to shimmer and fade from the field.

“Ah yes,” said Luna as she closed her eyes, slightly lowering her head as she did so. “Now I remember. You used to use that card all the time back in the day. If I recall correctly, all I have to do is get rid of it and my monster comes back.” Luna suddenly opened her eyes, a more predatory look taking over her face. “Looks like I’ll have to wait till next turn to get my monster back. I end my turn.” As Luna ended her turn, a new Torment Token appeared on her side of the field in defense mode.

Turn Four: Silverstar

“Thank ya kindly,” said Silverstar as he drew. (hand: one) As he drew his card, another multi-colored shimmer appeared on his side of the field. Walking out of the shimmer was a young boy with green hair and a silver visor covering his eyes. He wore another skintight black suit but with purple armor covering his legs, wrists, and chest. This child also had on a small blue cape. “Mental Seeker here has an effect that activates when he is special summoned from the banished zone. I get to look at the top three cards in your deck, pick one, and then that card gets banished.” Mental Seeker brought a figure to his visor which sent a beam of light which struck Luna’s duel disk. Nothing happened to it, but three large holographic cards appeared in front of Silverstar who scratched his chin as he examined them. “Don’t fancy letting you draw more cards so I’ll be banishing Hand Destruction.” Wordlessly, Luna took the card as it ejected from her deck, pocketing it as her duel disk began to shuffle the deck.

“Now I’ll summon my Destructotron,” continued Silverstar. (1600/400) Something very machine like appeared on the field now, standing on four legs. It’s head looked like a TV screen at first, but under closer examination, it was more akin to a fish tank with a human head inside which leered at Luna. “He won’t be here for long because I’ll be tuning him with my Mental Seeker!” The crowd grew louder in their stomps and claps as Destructotron rose up into the air, becoming four rings that Mental Seeker jumped into. “Uniting flesh and metal, life and death. A new monster arises to achieve both! Synchro Summon level seven: Psychic Lifetrancer!” (2400/2000) A green skinned woman with long black hair appeared now on the field. It was hard to tell if the blue one piece bathing suit like outfit she wore was made of similar material or metal, but there was no doubt that one of her arms and both her legs were machines.

“I activate Lifetrancer’s effect to banish my Cleric to increase my life points by 1200.”

Silverstar’s Life Points: 8100

“Looks like all that work you did was for nothing,” said Silverstar. “Now, Space-Time Police, that bikers’ been going over the speed limit. Time to throw him into the slammer!” Silverstar’s cop teleported behind one of Luna’s Stygian Street Patrol monsters, tapping the back of its neck with the officer’s glow stick. Stygian Street Patrol cried out as it began to get shocked until it fell to the ground, vanishing instantly.

Luna’s Life Points: 7300

“I could destroy that other Stygian Street Patrol and do more damage,” mused Silverstar aloud as he scratched his chin. “On the other hand, I rightly don’t like that Monk giving you monsters from the deck. Lifetrancer, destroy it!” Lifetrancer held up her mechanical arm, an orb of darkness appearing above her palm. The orb was then thrown at Summoner Monk causing the monster to collapse into itself. “Now I pass the reins to you.”

Turn Five: Luna

“Thank you!” said Luna as she drew her card (hand: four) “I’ll summon Kuribandit in attack mode!” (1000/700) On the field appeared a brown fluff ball with green, scaly claws poking out. Around its head was a yellow bandanna and one of its eyes was covered by a patch. All in all it looked like a classic monster who had decided to dress up like a pirate for Halloween. “Then I’ll switch my Stygian Street Patrol to defense mode and end my turn.”

Luna paused for a moment to grin, removing her Kuribandit from her duel disk at the same time. “During the end phase of the turn Kuribandit was normal summoned, I can tribute it to draw five cards from my deck. Out of those five, one spell or trap card gets added to my hand while the remaining four get sent to the grave.” Silverstar said nothing, only nodding as Luna drew her cards. Wordlessly she examined them before separating one from the group, adding it to her hand, and then sending the rest to the graveyard. “Since I tributed a monster, that means I get another token in defense mode.”

Turn Six: Silverstar

“Looks like the tables have turned,” he said in a cocky, albeit good natured fashion. (hand:1) “I think I’ll set this here card face down and then activate Lifetrancer’s effect. This time I’ll banish my Witch to increase my life points by 1200.”

Silverstar’s Life Points: 9300

“Now let’s make this all quick and simple. Space-Time Police, throw that biker into the slammer for good. Lifetrancer, get rid of one of those tokens.” Both monsters leapt into action at the same time, Luna raising her arms to shield herself from the explosions her exploding monsters caused just in time. “That’s all I got. Make your move Luna.”

Turn Seven: Luna

“I will,” stated Luna as she drew her card. (hand: five)

“But before you do anything, I activate my face down!” shouted Sliverstar, smiling brightly through his mustache. “Bright Future! I get to return two of my banished Psychic monsters to my graveyard and then draw a card.”

“You’ll need it,” replied Luna as Silverstar drew his card. “Because I just drew Lilith, Lady of Lament! And I summon her now!” (2000/0) Mists began to gather and turn on Luna’s side of the field, slowing rising to create a funnel. Dark bat like wings erupted from the mist, blowing it away to reveal a demonic looking woman with long flowing red hair. Her body was shapely, yet plated as if armor had been fused to it along with a tail that swished back and forth. “When she in normal summoned her attack is changed to 1000.”

“Doesn’t seem worth it,” stated Silverstar as a dark shroud covered Lilith, her attack draining more with each passing word. “Unless she’s got one heck of a special ability.”

“Oh, she does,” smirked Luna as she pressed a button on her duel disk. “By tributing a dark monster, I can go through my deck and select three normal trap cards. You get to pick one of them at random which goes to my hand while the rest are returned to my deck. So I’ll tribute…Space-Time Police!” Luna pointed at the monster she had just named, quickly followed dark tendrils erupting from the ground to drag him into the earth. Someone in the crowd screamed as those tendrils wrapped around the cop before beginning to drag him into the ground, fighting it the whole way down as he tried to pry off his restraints.

“Now hold on a second there,” shouted Silverstar as Luna began going through her deck. “That there is my monster. You can’t do that!”

“Normally, you would be right,” said Luna calmly. “But my field spell changes it so that I can tribute one of your monsters once per turn. And with him gone…” Luna let her sentence hang as Space-Time Police was nothing more than a hand, clawing at the ground in an attempt to stay on the field. But it was no use. In a second, it was forced into the dark earth leaving the field. At the same time Darkest Diabolos returned to Luna’s side of the field, letting out an ear splitting roar as it did so.

As Silverstar gapped at where his monster had been, three holographic cards appeared before him. He looked at them blinkingly, as if he were confused or in a daze. Then it must have hit him, these were the cards Luna had chosen. Sighing, he picked the one in the middle.

“Thank you,” said Luna as she added the card to her hand. “Now, Darkest Diabolos, destroy Lifetrancer!” Another mass of darkness came from the maw of Luna’s dark dragon, seeming to consume Silverstar’s remaining monster before returning to its jaws.

Silverstar’s Life Points: 8700

“I’m not done!” continued Luna as she trusted out her hand. “Lilith, attack directly!” Lilith flapped her large wings sending her high into the air as darkness began to swirl around her hands. The darkness seemed to compress, becoming daggers which she flung at Silverstar.

Silverstar’s Life Points: 7700

“I’ll set these two cards face down and end my turn,” finished Luna as two face down holographic cards appeared in front of her. “But don’t think I’m leaving you with nothing. Now you get a Torment Token.”

Turn Eight: Silverstar

“Thanks,” said Silverstar as he looked at the token which had sprouted on his side of the field, drawing his card at the same time. (hand: 2) “I’ll be sure to make good use out of it. Because this here duel is about to go to the next level. I tribute that there token to summon my ace monster: Overdrive Teleporter!” The dark token vanished, replaced with a human in a white trench coat. Circuits seemed to be fused to the material and there was a visor covering his eyes. “Now I activate his effect, by paying up 2000 life points I’m allowed to special summon two level three psychic monsters to my side of the field.”

Silverstar’s Life Points: 5700

If this drop in life points bothered him, Silverstar didn’t show it. He kept his eyes focused on his Overdrive Teleporter as two green portals appeared next to him. Out of one portal appeared another Metal Seeker which hopped onto the field and went into a defensive position. From the other came a copy of Serene Psychic Witch which calmly walked onto the field before taking a knee.

“Now it’s time for a tune up,” shouted Silverstar as the crowd began to clap and stomp their feet even louder than before. “I tune my level three Mental Seeker with my-”

“I’m afraid not,” interrupted Luna, her face down card being revealed as she did so. The crowd gasped and boos were quickly followed upon seeing what she was about to do. Yet Luna kept her focus on Silverstar who appeared utterly flabbergasted at what she was doing. “Deck Devastation Virus! I tribute your Overdrive Teleporter in order to destroy all monsters in your hand and field with 1500 or less attack points. Also, any cards that you draw for the next three turns that meet these requirements goes straight to the graveyard.” As she spoke, Overdrive Teleporter’s skin began turn a mix of red and black, his hands going to his neck as if he couldn’t breathe. Soon enough he exploded, his particles hitting the monsters next to them before they too became infected and were destroyed.

“Well you sure ain’t changed none,” muttered Silverstar as he sent his cards to the graveyard. “I remember back in the day, you’d always use Change of Hearts to steal everyone’s best monster before using it as a sacrifice for one of your own big boys.”

“What can I say, if it works don’t fix it,” shrugged Luna over the boos and accusations of her being a cheater.

“Well, luckily I still have some moves!” yelled Silverstar. “First off, Serene Psychic Witch’s effect goes off. So I’ll banish Esper Girl and bring her back later. Then I’ll play one card face down and end my turn.” As Silverstar set his card, two tokens appeared on his side of the field.

Turn Nine: Luna

“Then I’ll draw,” said Luna as she drew her card. (hand: four) She looked at the card in her hand and smiled briefly. “I believe we have kept the crowd from seeing the real duel long enough. I remove one of my Stygian Street Patrol in order to special summon my Plague Wolf from my hand in attack mode!” (1000/1000) On Luna’s field appeared a half decaying wolf, its scent so wretched that all of those close to it, minus Luna, had to cover their noses. “Next, I tribute my Wolf and Lilith in order to summon Caius the Mega Monarch!” (2800/1000) Giant hands shot out of the ground, grabbing both of Luna’s monsters and shattering them instantly. Climbing out of the earth stood a mammoth monstrosity equal in size to her dragon. It wore purple armor, blood dripping from its claw like fingers and parts of its shoulder guards. Its helmet was skull-like, with massive bone horns as a tattered cloak billowed behind it. As it stood there, purple skulls escaped from behenth its armor, shooting in all directions while screaming.

“This is the end,” said Luna with a note of finality in her voice. “When this monster is tribute summoned using dark monsters, I can target two cards you control, banish them, and then deal you 1000 points of damage for each.” More ghostly skulls came out from Caius’ armor, wrapping themselves around the twin tokens that protected Silverstar, and pulling them towards the giant monster.

Silverstar Life Points: 3700

Silverstar grinned. “Pity,” he said. “I was hoping to pull out my Hyper Psychic Blaster.”

Luna nodded. “I was hoping to pull out Yubel,” she said. “But all good things have to come to end sometime. Now both monsters, attack!” Twin streams of darkness were launched at Silverstar, knocking him backwards.

Silverstar’s Life Points: 0

Winner: Luna

Before the holograms had faded, Luna began to walk across the field. Ignoring the boos, hisses, and taunts thrown at her she made her way to Silverstar. The man was slowly sitting up while massaging his head, his cards scattered around him. As she drew closer, Luna noticed one of the cards was a trap card: King’s Synchro. Figuring it must have been his face down, Luna was sure that had he been able to get a Synchro monster on the field things would have turned out differently. Luna moved in front of Silverstar and held out a hand which he took.

“Good duel,” she said while helping him up.

“On your part,” he said with no hint of malice. “Bad draws. Heh, it happens. Perhaps next time things will be different.”

“Perhaps,” agreed Luna with a grin, her eyes closed.

“Well folks, looks like the winner is Canterlot High,” came the announcers voice, silencing the crowd. “But that don’t mean that your Appleloosa Buffalos are out! Not when our own Sparkle Sunshine is going up first again Moondancer.”

First Round: Inferno Song

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Music began to blast out of all the speakers after Sparkle Sunshine’s name had been announced. The teen girl began to bounce up and down, throwing her arms into the air before twirling her staff around above her head. As she seemed to dance about, several dozen of the male students began to gather around her. Once they surrounded her, Sparkle Sunshine slammed her staff down into the ground and began to sing through the star at its tip, the staff acting like a megaphone so that everyone in the crowd could hear.

“You're never getting any sharper with that,

so lemme be the instructor for your heart.

So you think you're some kind of hotshot, huh?”

“Naked soul wake up!” chorused the teens around her, earning a wink from Sparkle as she danced about.

“You can't pull the wool from my eyes if that's all you got,

You need to use the present continuous form, Don't you know, baby?

'Cause after 3 secs there's no guarantee that you keep me feeling so warm.

I didn't expect to get a hold of your signal but you still don't know anything,

But to step up into getting my heart throb?

NO-NO-NO, it's top secret confidential.

My lips are sealed!

STUDY NOW!! It's a love-based curriculum don't throw the book down it's only the intro,

Write it directly on your heart, like chalk on board so it couldn't be rubbed off with an eraser,

Mood determines progress!? So be prepared and don't believe in things like affinity,

The precise moment is important STUDYxSTUDY let's do some more!”

Sparkle then took a step forward, pulling her duel disk out from behind her and tossing it into the air. “Boy meets girl!” she sang as she watched her duel disk spin above her.

“It’s destiny!” chorused her backup.

“Study! Study!” sang Sparkle as her duel disk’s holder slid onto her outstretched arm, instantly locking into place.

“Love is fickle!” came the chorus.

“Boy meets a girl,” sang Sparkle as she pulled out her deck and quickly slid it into her duel disk. She then threw up her arm as lights shined on her from all directions. “All together now! Let’s begin!” As the crowd erupted into cheers, Sparkle stood there panting from the performance she had just given. Sweet was glistening off her face as she held up her fingers making the ‘V for victory’ pose.

Scowling, Moondancer put on her duel disk as she approached her corner for the duel. “Somebody is clearly desperate for attention,” she muttered as she looked over at her opponent. Yet as she looked at her, Moondancer suddenly felt like she herself was being stared at. As if eyes were gazing through her. Looking slightly alarmed, she began to look back and forth only to see that everyone in the crowd was still looking at Sparkle Sunshine. This left only one option left which was proven as soon as she turned to look behind her. Her teammates were all staring at her excitingly, as if waiting for her to do something. Even Hunter. “What?” she asked quizzically.

“Are you going to sing too?” asked Autumn in a slightly energized tone. “If you don’t have an idea, I have a few!” Next to her, Lightning smirked slightly.

“…No,” stated Moondancer flatly before turning her attention back to her opponent. Raising her duel disk, she pressed a button to connect her duel disk to Sparkle Sunshine’s so that they could speak to each other without shouting. “What even is that outfit?”

Sparkle blinked in response before pressing the same button on her duel disk. “This is a Magical Milky Girl XP cosplay costume that I made myself!” she said in a sugary up-beat tone. As she spoke, her voice was also connected to the speaker system so that the crowd could hear every word they said. “Don’t tell me you haven’t seen it before? It’s only like one of the cutest magical girl anime out there right now. In fact, I wore this to the state cosplay competition this year. And I won!”

As Sparkle jumped into the air, most of the male (as well as several of the opposite gender) crowd leapt to their feet. “We love you!” they cheered, pumping fists into the air.

“I’m not really into that sort of super cute junk,” replied Moondancer, shaking her head slightly. “If I were to watch something like that, it would have to be one of the darker magical girl shows out there.”

“Should have guessed, given how depressing you dress,” stated Sparkle causing Moondancer to let out a small growl. Not because of the insult itself, but from the memories it brought back. She could still remember how Rarity harassed her endlessly, trying to give her an unneeded make-over.

“Alright girls,” came the announcer’s voice. “Let’s not keep all these good folks waiting. Since Vice-Principal Luna won the first duel Moondancer gets to decide who goes first.”

“I’ll start,” said Moondancer, her eyes narrowing as their duel disks activated.

Sparkle Sunshine Life Points: 8000

Moondancer Life Points: 8000

Turn one: Moondancer

“Let’s see,” said Moondancer as she looked at her cards. (hand: 6) “I’ll start with this, the field spell: Dragonic Diagram!” As Moondancer played her field spell, the field changed…slightly. It wasn’t anything earth shattering like Luna’s had been, warping the area into a hellish nightmare. No, all that happened was a giant golden rune appeared in the middle of the field looking like something from norse or greek mythology. “Now I activate my field’s effect; by destroying one card in my hand I can search my deck and then add a True King or True Draco card from there to my hand. So I’ll destroy my Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys in order to add my Mariamne, the True Dracophoenix to my hand.”

“A straight one for one,” mused Sparkle as Moondancer added her card to her hand, her previous card seeming to burn away in her hand and turning to ash. “Not bad I guess.”

“Now I’ll summon her to the field!” announced Moondancer as she held up her level nine monster for everyone to see. “All I have two do is destroy two cards in either my hand or my field and I can special summon her. However one of those cards has to be a wind monster. So I’ll destroy Disciple of Nephthys and Matriarch of Nephthys, both wind monsters!” (2700/2100) The two cards in her hand burst into flame in Moondancer’s hand, their ashes raising to the sky while the sound of large wing beats were heard. Looking up, the crowd gasped as a creature with six white wings descended upon the field. This massive monster landed on the ground with its four, bird like feet before shaking its long swan-like neck while its golden mane blew in the wind.

“Mariamne has another effect you should be aware of,” commented Moondacer, regaining everyone’s attention. “When she is special summoned using two wind monsters, the top four cards on top of your deck are removed from the game face down. Also, she gains three hundred attack and defense points thanks to the field spell.” (3000/2400) Mariamne let out a loud howl as Sparkle’s duel disk ejected the top three cards.

Sparkle let out a hum as she looked at the cards she was losing. “Oh no. Not Terraforming!” Moondancer frowned at the mocking tone her opponent was using. Anyone who seriously played the game wouldn’t regret losing such a powerful card unless they had another method of getting their field spell or already had it.

“With that, I end my turn,” finished Moondancer.

Turn two: Sparkle Sunshine

“Seriously, that’s it?” asked Sparkle as she drew her card. (hand: six) “Using up that many cards just to put two on the field? Sounds like bad math to me, even if you do have a descent beat stick. Oh well.” Loud cheery music began to play behind her, causing the crowd to grow excited as she twirled around. Sparkle then thrust a hand into the air while holding a card proudly in her hand. “Alright everybody! Let’s get this concert started with this: Trickstar Light Stage!” The ground shook, nearly knocking Moondancer off her feet as a stage began to rise out of the ground behind Sparkle. Multi-colored lights shone down from steel beams, lighting up the four dancing girls in various costumes that looked tacky to Moondancer.

“When this card is played, I get a free Trickstar added to my hand,” said Sparkle in a chipper, but smug tone. “So I’ll add Trickstar Lilybell to my hand. And, as a super bonus, when she is added to my hand other than drawing I get to special summon her!” (800/2000) Sparkle slammed her card onto her duel disk as the device shuffled her deck. From the stage behind her, one of the dancing girl leapt from the stage to gracefully land on the field. A girl with long pink hair, she had ornaments in her hair that resembled bells as well as carrying a large one in her hand.

“But why let her have a solo?” said Sparkle, gaining a frumpy frown from Lilybell. “I normal summon Trickstar Candina!” (1800/400) Another girl leapt from the stage and onto the field, thing time a blonde wearing a mostly yellow outfit. In her hands was a megaphone. “Isn’t she a sweetie? Her effect lets me add any Trickstar card from my deck to my hand. So I’ll add Trickstar Lycoris.” There was a slip second pause as Sparkle added her card.

“Now I’ll play the spell card: Foolish Burial,” continued Sparkle. “You know what it does, right? So I’ll just go ahead and put Trickstar Corobane in the graveyard.” Smiling with sickening sweetness, Sparkle slid her monster into the graveyard. “But that isn’t all because I also have this card: Dark Room of Nightmare!” The ground behind Moondancer began to shake, a large slab of bricked wall appearing behind her as she turned to look. “With this card in play, every time you take effect damage you’ll lose an additional three hudred! Now I guess it’s time for battle. I think I’ll start with Lilybell who loves her fans so much that she’ll sneak around security to meet them directly!” Moondancer’s eyes widened after translating what Sparkle was trying to say, Lilybell seeming to fly across the field and smack her with the giant bell which caused a ringing in her ears.

Moondancer’s Life Points: 7200

“Now the effect of Light Stage activates! Whenever one of my Trickstar does battle or effect damage, you lose 200 life points!” Lights began to shine brightly on Moondancer, causing her to lift her arms in order to shield herself. At the same time, the speakers began to emit a powerful feedback loop. Doubling the noise second by second until it mercifully ended.

Moondacer’s Life Points: 7000

“Don’t forget about Dark Room of Nightmare!” Shadows began to appear on the stone slab, moving around until they took the form of a burly man holding a whip. A loud cracking noise was heard followed by Moondancer wincing at the slight pain she felt across her back. Thankfully the holograms could not reproduce the accurate amount of pain she would have felt if this had been real. Just enough for her to know what had happened.

Moondancer’s Life Points: 6700

“With that done Lilybell’s second effect can be activated!” cheered Sparkle as she jumped up and down with joy. “When she does damage to you, I can add one Trickstar monster from my graveyard to my hand. Lucky me I have one on my first turn.”

“You’re really starting to annoy me,” muttered Moondancer as she watched Sparkle return the card in her graveyard to her hand.

“Oh, don’t say that,” replied Sparkle with a slight whine in her tone. “Now I discard Corobane to activate her effect, doubling the attack of my Candina so I can take care of that monster of yours!” A golden glow surrounded Candina (3600) as she raised her megaphone to her lips. She then let out an ear piercing melody that sent Moondancer to her knees, barely able to hear the screams of everyone ease. As for Mariamne, the sound was so great that it exploded, leaving behind many feathers before they too left the field. At the same time, Sparkle’s Light Stage made its own encore followed by another whip strike from Dark Room of Nightmare.

Moondancer’s Life Point: 5600

“When Mariamne is destroyed, I can add one Wyrm monster from my deck to my hand as long as its not a wind monster,” said Moondancer as she slowly got to her feet. “I choose True King Agnimazud, the Vanisher.”

“Doesn’t matter to me,” said Sparkle as she revealed a card from her hand. “But before that happens, I’ll activate the quick effect of Trickstar Lycoris letting me send Lilybell back to my hand and special summon her in attack mode!” (1600/1200) Once again, one of Sparkle’s girls leapt from the stage and onto the field. This time it was a dark haired girl in a red outfit, carrying in her hand a sword. “And her effect means that every time you add a card to your hand, you lose 200 life points. So, since you’re adding a card to your hand, that’s four hundred points of damage thanks to both my monster and my stage! And don’t forget about Dark Room of Nightmare which takes an extra three hundred of your life points for each.” More light and sound struck Moondancer from the front while another sting ran across her back.

Moondancer’s Life Point’s: 4600

“And that was just her effect!” continued Sparkle as she twirled around once. “She still has an attack to give!” Lycoris appeared in front of Moondancer, slashing her across the chest with her blade while at the same time Light Stage began to bombard her with noise. Moondancer would have fallen on her back, but the strike from Dark Room of Nightmare caused her to stumble forward and land face down in the ground still clutching her cards.

Moondancer’s Life Points: 2500

“Oh dear,” said Sparkle in her sweet, fake concerned voice as she placed a hand on her cheek. “It’s only the second turn and I’ve nearly taken nearly all of your life points. And you haven’t even scratched me once. This must be super embarrassing. But I suppose it can’t be helped coming from a school that took fair play to such a ridiculous level.”

“It’s not over yet,” said Moondancer as she slowly got to her hands and knees. Around her the crowd had gone back to their double stomp followed by a hand clap which seemed to deafen everything else out. Looking up, Moondancer saw that Sparkle wasn’t even listening to her but instead waving at the crowd as if she had already won.

“Might as well be,” muttered Lightning as she stood there on the sidelines, arms crossed in front of her as she watched the duel play out in front of her.

“I know,” whispered Autumn with a nod. “No matter what she does, Moondancer will get burned with more and more damage. Draws a card: get burned. Use a spell or trap card: gets burned. Gets attacked: gets burned. That girl has made a deck powerful enough for her to get into Crystal Prep!”

“Well, Moondancer might win,” suggested Wallflower. “She still has life points.”

“That’ll depend on what she draws,” said Pharynx as he brought a hand to his chin. “But she’ll need to get rid of those spell cards if she wants to have any chance. They’re some of the most aggressive pyro monsters I’ve ever seen before.”

“…They’re not pyro monsters,” said Hunter, who kept his eyes on the field. More importantly, he kept his eyes on Moondancer as she remained there. He wanted to run over and help her get up, but the rule forbade him from entering the field out of fear that he might slip her a card that might help or whisper some strategy that might help her win. Not that he needed to do that for he knew what Moondancer already had planned. When her turn began she would-

“WHAT!!” yelled his entire team, startling Hunter so much that he jumped. Spinning around to look at them, Hunter saw that their eyes were fixed on him with shock and amazement.

“There’s no way those things aren’t pyro monsters!” yelled Lightning as she pointed to the twin monster girls on the field. “I mean, that’s mostly what pyro is most known for: burning your opponent. Heck, a lot of fire monsters have burn effects!”

“Well, they’re not,” replied Hunter simply. “Their fairy type. Heck, they’re not even fire attribute. They’re light.”

“Well, better wrap this up,” said Sparkle as she spun around to face Moondancer again. A sinister smile crept over her face as she set one card face down. “I think I’ll leave you with this little surprise and call it a turn.”

Turn three: Moondancer

“You got this Moondancer!” Moondancer, still on all fours, turned to look behind her. Standing there was Hunter, hands cupped around his mouth to ensure that she could hear him while the rest of her teammates looked dazed for some reason. Like if they just had their minds blown from a zen riddle or the like. Blushing and smiling slightly, Moondancer stood up tall.

“Yeah, I know,” she said as she drew. (hand: five) As she added the card to her hand, Sparkle’s cards went into effect. Lycoris struck her for two hundred, followed by another two hundred from Light Stage, and finishing up with three hundred from Dark Room of Nightmare.

Moondancer’s Life Points: 1800

However, Moondancer didn’t fall this time nor did she sway. She intead stood her ground as the field burst into flames. The crowd gasped and a few people screamed. Some even leapt to the feet moving up the bleachers trying to get away from the flames. And across the field, Sparkle seemed just as startled as everyone else.

“What…What’s going on?” she demanded.

“During my standby phase, the effects of the Nephthys monsters I destroyed last turn take effect,” replied Moondancer calmly. “Starting with my Scared Phoenix of Nephthys! She returns to the field and in the process destroys all spell and trap cards in play!” (2400/1600)

“What?!? No!” screamed Sparkle as she looked around, her hands on the side of her face as it contorted into horror. The markings on the ground from Moondancer’s field spell were burnt away while at the same time the stage behind Sparkle began to melt. Dark Room of Nightmare as well as her face down card exploded while a large creature rose from the flames. The creature looked like a bird made from golden metal, with long thin human like arms coming from its side as orange and red flames erupted from its wings.

“But that’s not all,” continued Moondancer as the flames had yet to subside. “Matriarch of Nephthys also returns to the field in defense mode!” (600/600) Rising up from the flames appeared a young woman with flames spreading behind her arms like wings. This bronze skinned woman was dressed in a white gown with golden wrappings around her exposed feet and arms. On her head was a headdress that again bore a striking resemblance to a bird, helped in part by the draping that went down her chest ending in red feathers. “Then there’s Disciple’s effect which, during my standby phase, I can add one Nephthys spell or trap card from my deck to my hand. So I’ll be adding Last Hope of Nephthys.”

“That Hope will cost you!” shouted Sparkle as her Lycoris activated its effect, burning Moondancer of 200 more life points.

Moondancer’s Life Points: 1600

“A small price to pay,” declared Moondancer as she inserted her next card into her duel disk. “Because now I’ll play my Last Hope of Nephthys. I target one other Nephthys card I control and one card you control, destroying both of them. So for my side I destroy Matriarch while for you monster I choose Candina.” The crowd gasped as Matriarch flew across the field, its fiery wings becoming an inferno as it did so. Once it was in front of Candina, Matriarch wrapped her arms around the younger girl before they both burst into flames and ashes.

“No way,” whispered Sparkle as she looked at the field. Then, something must have clicked in her brain as her shock turned into annoyance. “Hey, why didn’t you take any burn damage? Candina’s effect-”

“Burns me with two hundred damage after the card resolves,” said Moondancer as she pulled up Sparkle’s card on her own duel disk display. “However, in order for this to work, your monster needs to still be on the field. Since that’s not the case, I’ll take no damage.”

“But that’s,” began Sparkle before crossing her arms and looking away in a pouty fashion. “Whatever, it doesn’t matter really. You barely have any life points left. I can finish you off without her effect.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” said Moondancer as she played her next card. “I activate the ritual spell Rebirth of Nephthys to summon Devotee of Nephthys!” The ground began to break as a stone temple erupted from the earth behind her. On top of this temple sat the giant statue of a creature that was mostly bird like. It stood on its talons, wings somewhat outstretched on a rounded body with a long neck, its head looking down at Moondancer. Yet the creature also had two small arms for some reason. Leading up to the stature was a flight of stone steps with basins filled with flames helping to light the path. “In order to use this card I need to tribute a monster in my hand or field with an equal or greater level as the Ritual Monster I’m bringing out. So a copy of itself will work perfectly!”

Moondancer held up one of her ritual monster cards high into the air as she began to chant, the flames in the basins turning a ghostly blue as she did so. “Your faith has now been witnessed by the goddess. Be not afraid as you accept her blessings of death and rebirth. Ritual Summon Level Two: Devotee of Nephthys!” (1200/1200) The blue flames shot from the basins to spiral around the card that Moondancer held, expanding outwards to form a twister of fire. As quickly as it began, the fires died down to reveal another bronze skinned woman. Devotee wore an attire of blue with matching wrappings around both her feet and arms. Upon her head was a headdress with an elaborate bird’s face sticking out of the top with a bright blue feather in the middle. Long wrapped blue tassels flowed down her sides ending with flat light blue cloth. Finally, behind her were blue flames that looked like a long teal feather.

“Since I used a Devotee of Nephthys as the tribute of this ritual, my spell card has another effect with lets me destroy one card on the field,” continued Moondancer with a smirk as she looked at Lycoris. Behind her, the statue began to crack with lights shinning out from the openings. In a sudden burst the statue exploded, destroying Lycoris in the process.

“No!” yelled Sparkle as her field was made barren.

“Yes,” said Moondancer as Devotee held up her arms toward the sky, her hands covered in blue flames. “What’s more, when I Ritual Summoned my Devotee, her effect lefts me special summon to the field one Nephthys monster in my deck. And I choose a second Sacred Phoenix!” Flames shot out of Devotee’s hands high into the sky before twisting around into a circle. Acting like a portal, another one of Moondancer’s large golden bird-like beasts flew onto the field.

“Now I’ll attack you directly with all three of my monsters!” announced Moondancer as she pointed at Sparkle. The twin Scared Phoenixes roared in unison as they flew towards Sparkle Sunshine, flames flowing down off of their winds like a waterfall and onto the field as they did so. With nothing to defend herself, Sparkle was forced to take both of them as Devotee walked calmly towards her with her hands covered in blue flames. As her hands balled into fists, the blue flames became like daggers right before Devotee struck Sparkle in the gut.

Sparkle Sunshine’s Life Points: 2000

“Damn!” shouted Lightning as she made an uppercut motion in the air. “Never knew four-eyes there could be so savage, roasting her opponent like that. Look at her, their life points are nearly the same now.”

“That’s not all,” said Hunter. “Light Stage is Limited on the ban list. Meaning that she just destroyed the only one allowed in Sparkle’s deck. Unless she has a way to bring it back from the grave, we won’t be getting an encore.”

At the same time, Moondancer looked at her cards as her opponent stood with her head down and smoke coming off of her body. Ok, that was good enough to keep me in the game but I wish I could have done better. If only I had my Cerulean Phoenix I might have been able to finish this. Moondancer slightly shook her head. No time to think about what I wish I could have done, right now I need to focus on what I can do. I could destroy my Devotee and Phoenix in order to bring out Agnimazud…but it might be a waste. I’d rather bring him back when I have two fire monsters on the field so I can banish one of her annoying pop stars. That would be best.

“I end my turn,” announced Moondancer as Devotee was suddenly covered in blue flames. “And, as my turn end, I say goodbye to Devotee!” Grinning, Moondancer’s monster departed from the field.

“My concert,” whispered Sparkle as she began to stagger, the arm holding her cards dropping to her side. “The stage is ruined, the singers disbanded. Everything is ruined.” She then turned around to look at the crowd. “What do you all say? Think we can manage a reunion tour?” The crowd went nuts, most of them jumping out of their seats to cheer on their school’s duelist.

Turn Four: Sparkle Sunshine

“That’s what I thought,” said Sparkle as she drew. (hand: four) “You messed with the show and now the manager will make you pay! I play the spell card Monster Reborn to return Trickstar Corobane to the field in attack mode!” (2000/1000) Appearing on the field was another young woman, with long light purplish hair that was wrapped up in a spiked scrunchy. Her outfit almost seemed to have a Christmas theme to it, with holly attacked to her hat with berries in her dress, while carrying a staff.

“Next I’ll normal summon my Quick-Span Knight!” (1000/800) A new monster appeared on the field, one that confused Moondancer. All of Sparkle’s monsters so far had been dancing and singing girls, yet this one was clearly a machine. This purple coated robot had a wrench for a head and carried on in its silvery hands. “In case you didn’t know, Quick-Span is a level three tuner! And I’ll tune him with my level five Corobane! When the music ends and the crowd goes home, a figure arises. Blood, sweat, and tears he demands to help these girls become shinning stars! Synchro Summon Level 8: Blood Mefist!” (2800/1300) Both of Sparkle’s monsters vanished in a pillar of light and when it faded, a pool of reddish black liquid landed on the field with a squish. Then, rising up, the liquid formed a new monster. Like a ghost or a snake, it had no legs only a long black tail connected to a humanoid torso. It wore a black top hat on top of its pale, pointy eared head while also carrying a chain with a human skull on the top.

“Now get this, since I used Quick-Span Knight as for a Synchro Summon, one of your monsters loses 500 attack points,” explained Sparkle as one of Moondancer’s Scared Phoenixes diminished slightly. “Blood Mefist, show her what happens when you ruin a perfectly good concert! Bloody Bullets!” Blood Mefist held out its hands, tucking the chain under its armpit, as dozens of liquid orbs came out of its gloved hands. These orbs shot across the field in a barrage, hitting the weakened Phoenix and destroying it.

Moondancer’s Life Points: 700

“With that done, I’ll set this card and pass it to you,” said Sparkle as holographic card appeared on her field.

Turn Five: Moondancer

“Then I draw,” cried Moondancer as she drew. (Hand: three) “And during my standby phase Matriarch of Nephthys returns to the field!”

“I know,” said Sparkle with a grin. “But did you know that my monster has an effect that activates during the standby phase as well? No? Well get this: for each card on your side of the field, he deals you with 300 points of damage!” This time Blood Mefist held up his staff, sending out a ghostly blast that hit both of Moondancer’s monsters, passing through them, and striking Moondancer herself.

Moondancer’s Life Points: 100

“You should also know this,” continued Sparkle. “Each time you set a spell or trap card, you’ll lose more life points! In fact, do it once and you lose! But before that, I activate my trap: Trickstar Reincarnation! This card banishes your entire hand and then you get to draw cards equal to the number you banished. So it you were hoping for that True King monster to bail you out you can forget it!”

Frowning, Moondancer pocketed her hand and drew three new cards. It was upsetting that her plan had been so easily foiled, but what could she do? It was a legit card. However, she paused when she saw what she had just drawn…and smiled.

“Thank you for that,” said Moondancer, surprising Sparkle. “You just helped me get the cards I needed to end this duel in my favor!”

“No way!” shouted Sparkle. “I don’t believe you!”

“Then watch as I play Pre-Preparation of Rites,” said Moondancer as she held out her card. “This lets me add one ritual spell card from my deck to my hand and one ritual monster whose name is listed on the card. So I choose another copy of Rebirth of Nephthys and Cerulean Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys! Then, I’ll ritual summon him using the original Scared Phoenix as a tribute!”

Once again, the temple appeared behind Moondancer as she began to chant while her Phoenix was consumed by blue flames. “Oh great beast of the underworld, hear my call. Spread your wings and soar from the ashes of the nether flames into the world of the living. Ritual Summon! Level Eight: ‘Cerulean Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys’!” (3000/1000) The flames began to die down, revealing her Phoenix to the crowd. It’s metallic body was no longer golden but blue with ghostly blue flames coming out from in back of its head and wings. Its size had also increased, no doubt due to its increased power.

But that wasn’t the only thing that had changed. The blue flames from Cerulean flowed down onto the field and headed towards Moondancer. They wrapped themselves around her body, becoming a tight form fitting dress while also sending her hair flying backwards in an invisible wind.

“Ok, it’s big,” said Sparkle with a loud gulp. “But even if it destroys my monster, I’ll still be in the game and win the next turn! Count on it!”

“If you had another turn, you would be right,” said Moondancer with a nod. “But you won’t have one because of Cerulean’s effect. I can destroy Nephthys monsters in either my hand or the field to destroy an equal number of cards you control. And I just so happen to have one.” Matriarch of Nephthys nodded as its body was lifted by the blue flames of Cerulean and consumed by them. Cerulean then opened its mouth and fired a ball of flames that hit Blood Mefist and incinerated it on the spot.

“No!” screamed Sparkle as he only defense was destroyed.

“As I said,” said Moondancer, her monster preparing to launch another fireball. “You won’t be getting another turn.” And with that, Cerulean fired its attack at Sparkle directly. It’s blue flames turned white as they approached her, covering the entire side of her field and drowning out her scream while her life points dropped to zero.

Just His Luck

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Duel Score

Canterlot High: 3

Appleloosa High: 0

Silence filled the field as Sparkle Sunshine fell to her hands and knees, cards that had been in her hands fluttering about her before landing on the ground. The gapping crowd seemed to only be able to stare in silence as they watched their fallen idol who kept her head down low so that nobody there could see her face.

On the opposite side, Moondancer stood there wishing the holograms would fade a bit faster. The dress of blue flames she was wearing was a bit too revealing for her tastes, showing off the curves that were normally hidden via her sweatshirt. Her face flushed a little as she felt the eyes of her teammates staring at her backside and no doubt several in the stands. Honestly she had no idea why she let Rarity talk her into adding that program.

“Darling, playing your best card should be a big deal,” Rarity had said as Micro Chips worked on her duel disk. “It’s a powerful statement and you should appear in a position of power. Take my Ancient City – Rainbow Ruins card. If togas were in season, I would have one appear on me every time I play that card. But since it’s not I have settled on simply having the crowd chant my name. Believe me; once people see you in this fabulous gown they will be unable to take their eyes off you. Especially a certain boyfriend of yours.”

“Honestly, I think you just wanted to dress me up again,” growled Moondancer under her breath in the present. Shaking her head, she began to walk across the field while a trail of ghostly blue flames were left in her wake to shake her opponent’s hand. It wasn’t something that was done often in sports like this. Most of the time the duel would simply end with both duelists going their separate ways with the high chance of there being bad blood between them. Heck, it happened with Moondancer dueling that posh guy from her class. Still, despite Sparkle being incredibly annoying, she had dueled well and this was the first time their schools had ever dueled like this. So they should make the best impression they could. She only wished these holograms would vanish. With this dress still on and Cerulean Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys watching from above, she looked like some sort of evil empress or something walking over to her victim!

Just as Moondancer neared Sparkle, the fallen girl threw back her head to let out an annoying whine. “WAHH,” she wailed as she got up as the hologram of her giant phoenix dropped its jaw in surprise. Before Moondancer realized what was going on Sparkle had quickly turned around to run to her teammates as fat crocodile tears fell down her face. Her target was Braeburn whom she maneuvered behind while clutching at his hips. What she said next was loud, clearly done so that everyone around could hear her. “Braeburn, did you see that? That big meanie ruined my opening show! Now all my fans are going to hate me! She’s just so mean!”

As Moondancer stood there, eye twitching with her arms slightly held up, the crowd finally began to make noise. Turning her head to look at them, Moondancer saw that fists were raised in anger while they shouted ‘How dare you make Sparkle cry?!’ and ‘We still love you Sparkle!’. As they did, the holograms slowly began to fade, reverting Moondancer back to her normal appearance. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a smirk from Sparkle right before she stuck out her tongue like some sort of child.

“Ok, ok everybody,” came the announcer’s voice over the P.A. as Moondancer turned to head back to her team. “Calm down. This ain’t the way Appleloosians should act in defeat. Just please calm down so we can start up the next match.”

“That was awesome!” squealed Rainbow Dash from her seat overlooking the field. Her fists were clenched tightly, paper plates held a half eaten cowboy burger and fries falling to the ground without a care. With her heart racing Rainbow quickly turned to the girl seated beside her, the one who had brought her here in the first. “Did you know that nerdy girl was that hardcore?”

Spitfire, who was looking at the other end of the field where the rest of the duel team was, seemed to jump a little when spoken to. Quickly she turned to look at Rainbow, appearing slightly sheepish at that moment. “Ah, no,” Spitfire admitted. “Not really. To be honest I thought she was going to lose in her second turn.”

“Can’t blame you for thinking that,” said Rainbow with a grin as she slightly rocked back and forth, feeling so pumped right now. Way more pumped than she thought she would be. When Spitfire had privately informed her about the Canterlot Duel team and invited her to see the match, the rainbow hair girl had to admit she had felt so hot about the situation. A new team at school…without her on it? One that was all about dueling, something she had to admit she was pretty good at? Seriously, what were the people running the school thinking? But all that annoyance was quickly forgotten after seeing what Moondancer could do! Now all Rainbow could think about was how she and her U.A. deck would fair against her! That as well as wondering what the rest of the team comprised of.

Maybe on Monday she would challenge Moondancer to a duel. That would be so epic!

As Spitfire turned her head back to look at the rest of the team, Rainbow felt some of the excitement drain from her. It seemed so odd that Spitfire would drag them this far away to see some duels and then barely watch them. Heck, the last time they had been here Spitfire had stuffed her face on half of the BBQ. Now she was only drinking fountain water. Either she was on some sort of diet or something else was going on. Something that she had dragged Rainbow into.

Shaking her head, Moondancer returned to her teammates who were watching her. Hunter met her before she exited the field, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and holding her tight. The gesture was enough to make her blush brightly if not for the looks that the others were giving. Namely Pharynx, whose face had darkened several shades with what looked like steam coming out of his ears.

“That was so hot,” she thought she heard him muttered under his breath before turning his head to look away. “Lucky bastard.”

“What?” asked Moondancer. But before she could get an answer, Lightning Dust approached her quickly with a cocky grin. The next thing she knew was Lightning’s fist connecting lightly into her shoulder away from Hunter’s hand.

“Not bad four-eyes,” said Lightning as she smugly crossed her arms. “Gotta say, never thought you had it in you to be so savage.”

“You were amazing,” cried Autumn as she pumped her fist into the air. “First blood belongs to us all thanks to you!”

“People will remember this duel for a long time,” added Wallflower before sighing. “Lucky you.”

“You should be proud of yourself,” added Vice-Principal Luna as she stepped forward. “That duel was rough, but you handled yourself well out there. I am also proud that you tried to show good sportsmanship. I would speak to Mr. Silver Star about how his own students handle defeat, but it seems he’s already on it.” As she said this, Vice-Principal Luna turned her head to look around the field in a manner that suggested that Moondancer should do so as well. When she did, Moondancer saw a sight that despite herself made the girl smile a bit. Mr. Silver Star’s face looked flushed with either anger or embarrassment as he held a finger in front of the face of Sparkle. At the moment, the girl looked like she was trying her hardest to shrink into nothingness in order to get away from the man before her. Even her teammates seemed to be trying to keep their distance from what was being said, moving several feet away.

When Moondancer turned her head back to look at the V.P. and thank her, she saw that the older woman’s attention was elsewhere. Whatever she had seen had caused the woman’s eyes to narrow in a dangerous way. A look that Moondancer had only seen on a few occasions, like when this one guy had been skateboarding in the hallway and had run over a first year. Or when she found someone had taken her parking space. Curious as to what she was looking at Moondancer followed Vice-Principal Luna’s gaze finding that she was oddly looking at the crowd at the bleachers. Had she spotted someone horsing around up there? It was possible.

Come to think of it, the longer Moondancer looked, the more it seemed like she knew a few of those people up there. Was that-

“Time for round two everybody!” came the announcer’s voice suddenly, almost causing Moondancer to jump a little. “That’s right y’all, the next round has just been decided. Up next we have our own Troubleshoes going up against Pharynx!”

Pharynx nodded before heading out into the field, his teammates patting him on the back for good luck. As he moved, the teen took notice of the odd silence that now filled the air. Before the crowd had been going wild, making as much noise as possible to show their support. Now they seemed to dial it back to zero with the only noise being a shuffling in their seats. Out of the corner of his eye Pharynx noticed some were getting up and heading towards the ends of the rows. Perhaps to get a snack or use the restroom? Keeping his eyes on Troubleshoes as he too walked onto the field, Pharynx saw that this larger than life teen had also noticed the lack of enthusiasm for this duel. If he had to guess, it was because anybody who went up after a show woman like Sparkle would be seen as a step down. That or he was the weakest person on the team.

No, thought Pharynx as he stood in his appropriate spot with his duel disk already shuffling his deck. I shouldn’t think like that. Even if he is the weakest member on their team, that doesn’t mean he’s a bad duelist. Unlike us, he had to try out for this team meaning he defeated everybody else to get to where he is. I should keep my guard up until I can figure out his strategy.

“Go Pharynx!” shouted Lightning behind him, her lone voice echoing across the field. Turning his head, the teen saw Lightning waving at him as the other members of the team looked on curiously. As if surprised to see this much support from the former athlete. Admittedly he too was taken aback by this only being able to stare at her as she smiled in his direction.

“Seems like ya got a fan,” said Troubleshoes in a droll tone over the communicator. Head snapping back in front of him, Pharynx saw that Troubleshoes looked even more depressed. “Lucky you.”

“Y-You get to decide who makes the first move,” said Pharynx quickly as he felt heat returning to his face a little. God, what was wrong with him right now? Lightning was just a teammate cheering him on. Sure she hadn’t done that when Moondancer went out there so maybe she liked him a bit more? Or was it something else?

“First move belongs to you,” was Troubleshoes’ response.

-Pharynx Life Points: 8000-

-Troubleshoes Life Points: 8000-

Turn One: Pharynx

Pharynx said nothing as he drew his opening hand. Well this is fortunate for me, he thought. With this hand I would have been screwed if I went second. But going first I can put this guy in a really tight spot while ensuring my own defenses. I just need to focus on this match, put everything else off to the side until this is done.

“Get ready then!” announced Pharynx (hand: 6). “I’ll start off with the spell card Allure of Darkness! This card allows me to draw two cards but then I must banish one dark monster from my hand.” A small smirk appeared on Pharynx’s face as he drew two cards. After adding them to his hand he took hold of a card on the opposite side of his hand and held up for all to see. “I banish my Steelswarm Sentinel.”

“Now I summon to the field in attack mode my Steelswarm Gatekeeper!” (1500/1900) Shimmering onto the field was a creature that looked like it had the ability to walk on two legs but instead crawled on all fours. Perhaps one might have mistaken it for a very large armadillo or a small ankylosaurus minus the club like tail. However, neither of those creatures hand long human like fingers on its front limbs nor did they have glowing yellow eyes that shone in the dark eye sockets of a heavy set, featureless mask.

“I’ll end my turn with three face downs and call it turn,” finished Pharynx. As three holographic cards appeared behind his monster, the Canterlot teen noticed that his opponent’s expression hadn’t changed at all. He just stood there slightly hunched over looking as tired and depressed as the moment he was first announced.

Turn Two: Troubleshoes

“Alright then, I draw,” said Troubleshoes slowly as he drew a card (hand: 6)

“Before you do anything else, I activate my trap card Metaverse!” announced Pharynx, waving his arm out as one of his face down cards revealed itself. “This trap card allows me to search my deck for a field spell. Then I can either add it to my hand or activate it on the field. So I’ll activate my Domain of the Monarchs!” As he said this, a dark mist appeared on the field as an empty throne erupted from the ground behind Pharynx. It was a massive structure made of marble which towered over everything with the size of a skyscraper. Dully, Troubleshoes looked up at it while the dark mist reached up to his duel disk. “This field spell has an impressive effect. While I control no monsters in my extra deck as well as being the only one here to control a tribute summoned monster, you cannot summon monsters from your extra deck.”

“Bit of a problem there,” replied Troubleshoes in a weary tone. “You don’t got any tribute monsters.”

“Well, you’re not wrong,” admitted Pharynx as a smile slipped onto his face. “It would be a horrible misplay to activate this card right now. Unless, of course, I had a way of fixing that issue right now. Say with the card: Escalation of the Monarchs! As long as this card is on the field I can tribute summon during either your main or battle phase. And I’ll use its effect right now. I tribute my Gatekeeper to tribute summon my Steelswarm Mantis!” In a heartbeat, Gatekeeper dissolved in a flash of light only to be replaced with Pharynx’s clawed monster. (2200/0) At the same time, the black mist on Troubleshoes’ deck morphed into a clawed hand which gripped tightly on the boy’s extra deck slot.

“Now I can use Mantis’ effect,” continued Pharynx. “When this monster is tribute summoned using a Steelswarm monster, I can give up 1000 life points to revive one Steelswarm monster in my graveyard to the field. That means that my Gatekeeper is returning in defense mode.” As the teen spoke, his monster’s tail attached itself to his chest while hissing like a snake. Quickly his life points were drained, the tail looking like something was pumping into the creatures main body before Gatekeeper returned to the field.

-Pharynx’s Life Points: 7000-

Ok, that should be enough to give him some trouble, thought Pharynx as the tail released him. Right now I’ve blocked him from XYZ, Synchro, and Fusion summoning. Most decks rely on at least one of those three without many monsters to tribute summon. Unless he had a way to special summon a high level monster from his hand, he’ll need to either get rid of Mantis or my field spell. I can protect Mantis thanks to my trap Infestation Tool, but if he gets something like a Mystical Space Typhoon then I’m out of luck.

“Ya done?” asked Troubleshoes, his eyes shifting between both monsters belonging to Pharynx. “Well, ain’t this just my luck. I play the spell card Cup of Ace.” As Troubleshoes played his spell card a large silver coin appeared in mid air in front of the depressed looking teen. With a well practiced sweep of an arm it was caught effortlessly. “This ain’t no real fancy card. I flip a coin and if its heads I get to draw two cards. But if its tails then you get to draw two cards.” With that brief explanation over, Troubleshoes tossed the coin into the air. Both duelists watched it as it spun high into the air before it was caught by Troubleshoes who quickly slammed it on his other palm. Slowly he moved the hand concealing it away, his depressed expression never lifting. “Yeah, just my luck. Tails.”

“Tough luck,” said Pharynx as he drew twice. (hand: 3)

“I’m used to it,” replied Troubleshoes with a shrug. “But it’s ok. I got other cards I can use. Like One Day of Peace. In exchange for neither of us taking damage until the end of your next turn we both get to draw a card.”

“Ok,” said Pharynx slowly as he drew again. (hand: 4) He had to admit that he was a little confused right now as to what his opponent was thinking by playing these cards. All of them were helping Pharynx by reinforcing his hand. At least One Day of Peace would give Troubleshoes an extra turn.

“Hmm,” was that sound Troubleshoes made while he looked at his new card. “Think I’ll go ahead and play this: Dangerous Machine Type-6.” Rising out of the ground next to Troubleshoes was a spherical machine that stood nearly as tall as him. On its surface were six orbs, each with a question mark on them, while on its side was a lever like one found on a slot machine. “This here card is like a dice roll. I pull on the lever and the machine will shoot out a number from one to six. The number will determine its effect.” With that said, Troubleshoes pulled down causing the orbs to spin rapidly only to stop on the number four. “Was hoping for a three. Four means you get to draw a card.”

“There has got to be a better way for you to draw a card,” said Pharynx as he drew again. (hand: 5)

“There is,” said Troubleshoes. “I’ll set one card on the field and then play the card: Card Destruction. Now we both discard our entire hand and then draw the same number of cards we discarded.”

“Works for me,” said Pharynx, discarding his hand and drawing five new cards.

“Looks like I’m out of luck again,” sighed Troubleshoes as he looked at his new hand, shaking his head slightly as he did. “All I can do is set this here monster and place one last card face down. Your turn I guess.”

Turn Three: Pharynx

“Thank you,” said Pharynx as he drew (hand: 6). “I’ll start off by tributing both my Gatekeeper and my Mantis in order to summon up Steelswarm Caucastag!” (2800/0) A dark shadow appeared behind Pharynx as both Mantis and Gatekeeper turned into black mist which was then sucked up by the dark figure. Walking onto the field was a giant, insect-like monster with a black armor like an exoskeleton whose shoulder held several large curved spikes that were also found on its knees. On its chest and arms were several exposed areas revealing crimson colored muscles that radiated with power. Its back held large beetle like wings as well as a single tail. “Seems like your look really isn’t that great because I have two effects to activate. First, when Caucastag is summoned using two Steelswarm monsters I have the power to destroy either your entire front row or your back. I think the best option is to destroy any hidden surprises you might want to unleash when I declare an attack.”

“Well shoot,” said Troubleshoes dully as Caucastag bent its knees, tail moving so that it was soon over its head. The end of said tail opened up right before hundreds of red splinters of energy came shooting out of it, sailing high into the sky before falling down towards the three spell/trap cards controlled by the depressed teen. “Guess I got no choice. I activate my trap: Present Card. Then I’ll chain it with my other trap: Gift of Greed!”

“Wait, what?” yelled Pharynx in surprise, the energy splinters halting in mid air to allow the chain to resolve.

“First, Gift of Greed allows you to draw two cards,” explained Troubleshoes. Slowly, Pharynx complied, adding the cards to his hand. “Good. Now comes the effect of Present Card. This trap forces you to discard your entire hand and then draw five cards.”

I get it now, thought Pharynx as he got a fresh, new hand. He’s using a mill deck, trying to force me to deck out. That’s why he’s running so many cards that let me draw! Damn it, I hate playing against these cowardly decks! No wonder the crowd has died down so much, they must be bored out of their minds! At that moment, the effect of Caucastag continued, falling down onto the only card remaining on Dangerous Machine Type-6 which exploded violently.

“I still have the effect of Gatekeeper,” said Pharynx, his grip on his cards tightening up a bit. “When since he was face up when I tributed a monster I’m allowed another normal summon. And you gave me a good one with that trap of yours. Go Steelswarm Sting!” (1850/0)

“You might have more monsters, but it won’t matter. The effect of One Day of Peace will keep me from taking any damage.” Pharynx said nothing in reply. He knew Troubleshoes was technically correct in that he couldn’t do anything this turn. However, that didn’t mean he couldn’t build up his side of the field for an all out attack.

“Steelswarm Sting, destroy that face down monster!” Pharynx’s bee-like fiend launched several black spikes from its stinger at the face down card, impaling it with ease. There was then a flicker and the next thing everybody knew was that the spikes had now impaled a jar of some kind which shattered into a thousand pieces.

“When my Morphing Jar is flipped, we both discard our hands and then draw five cards,” explained Troubleshoes. Letting out a grunt of annoyance, Pharynx sent his entire hand to the grave before drawing his five cards. As he did, he noticed with alarm how thin his deck was starting to look.

Pharynx’s Deck: 14 Cards

“I end my turn,” was all he could say at this moment.

Turn Four: Troubleshoes

“Then I guess I draw,” sighed Troubleshoes (hand: 6). “Course, I won’t be doing much. I summon Destiny Hero Defender in defense mode!” (100/2700) Kneeling before Troubleshoes was a human who looked like he was made of grey brick or stone, face covered by shadows as well as steel bars allowing only two red eyes to be seen.

“Sorry, but I don’t think so!” yelled Pharynx. “I activate the effect of my Escalation of the Monarchs, tributing Sting in order to summon out Steelswarm Girastag! (2600/0) And when he is summoned to the field by tributing a Steelswarm monster he destroys one card on your side of the field while giving me 1000 life points. Now Girastag, destroy his Defender!” Girastag pointed its cannon arm at Defender before firing a black, sticky looking tar like substance the reeked of rotten eggs. Destiny Hero Defender remained still as it was quickly covered and then melted away leaving the field void of monsters.

Pharynx’s Life points: 8000

“Guess I’ll play the spell card Gravekeeper’s Servant then,” continued Troubleshoes without batting an eye. “With this card, every time you want to attack you must first send the top card from your deck to the grave. Then I’ll play four cards face down and pass it to you.”

Turn Five: Pharynx

Pharynx’s Deck: 13 cards

“Time to finish this,” shouted Pharynx after he drew (hand: 5). “First I’ll summon my Steelswarm Genome to the field in attack mode!” (1000/0) Now on the field was a creature that looked like an insect in its cocoon phase. If that phase included metal scales and its black eyes were visible. As Troubleshoes regarded this new monster with disinterest, Pharynx then held up a spell card. “But it won’t be on the field for long because I’ll play the spell card Double Summon. I think its name states pretty clearly what it does.”

“It does,” admitted Troubleshoes. “And I won’t let you use it. I activate my face down card: Dark Bribe. This negates your spell but also lets you draw a card.”

Pharynx’s Deck: 12 cards

“Why you,” growled Pharynx as he narrowed his eyes. “For a guy who complains about his luck all the time, you sure seem to get the results you want!”

“That’s just how it works,” replied Troubleshoes. “Wanted to play a more exciting deck, but never seemed to draw the cards I wanted and lost every gamble card I played or went up against. Luck was just never on my side. If I wanted to be on this team, I had to figure something out. This here deck just happened to be the only one that ever worked out.”

That comment took Pharynx a little off guard. But it made sense as to why this guy looked so miserable even while he was winning. He was playing this deck more out of an obligation rather than a desire.

“I get it,” said Pharynx after taking a breath, shoulder relaxing as he spoke. “That’s the price you pay for victory. Believe me, I can understand that.” The Canterlot teen then took a breath. “Just know that I’m willing to pay the price in order to win! Caucastag, attack him directly!” As Pharynx quickly sent one card from his deck to the grave, Caucastag raced across the field and threw a punch right into Troubleshoes’ face.

Troubleshoes’ Life Points: 5200

Pharynx Deck: 11 cards

Troubleshoes staggered after the blow, quickly righting himself while instinctively moving a hand across his face as if he expected there to be blood. “With each of those attacks, you draw closer to your loss. Seems mighty foolish.”

“Like I said, I’m willing to pay the price if it means I win,” replied Pharynx. “Now, Girastag, you’re up!” Girastag readied his cannon arm and fired while its owner sent another card from the deck to the grave. A mass of vile tar was soon fired, hitting Troubleshoes in the gut and knocking him on his rear end.

Troubleshoes’ Life Points: 2600

Pharynx Deck: 10 cards

“If I had been able to summon one more big monster, I would have won here,” said Pharynx as Troubleshoes slowly got to his feet. “Guess I’ll have to wait till my next turn. Genome, attack him directly!” After sending a third card to the grave, Genome…hopped across the field in a rather cartoony style. When it reached Troubleshoes it merely fell on his foot before returning to Pharynx’s side.

Troubleshoes’ Life Points: 1600

Pharynx Deck: 9 cards

“Took a big chance there,” sighed Troubleshoes. “You almost got me there. But you were just a bit shy and your deck is a bit thinner than it was.”

“It was either that or just stand here and do nothing,” replied Pharynx with a shrug. “And it’s not my style to just sit around doing nothing. So I’ll end my turn.”

Turn Six: Troubleshoes

“I’ll draw,” said Troubleshoes slowly. As he looked at the only card in his hand, his eyes widened slightly. “Looks like my luck has changed a bit. I activate my Monster Reborn to bring back Destiny Hero-Defender in defense mode. Then I’ll play Inferno Reckless Summon!”

Pharynx did a double take as Defender reappeared on the field. But he wasn’t looking at the monster, but rather the card that was just flipped face up. “Y-You have that card?!”

“I see you know what it does,” replied Troubleshoes. “Thanks to its power, I can now special summon as man Defenders from my hand, deck, and grave to the field. As for you, you can pick any monster on the field and special summon them.”

“I guess I’ll summon up two more Girastag’s,” said Pharynx, thankful that both were in his grave. Now he had a field full of monsters and on his next turn he could tribute his Genome for Steelswarm Longhorn; a monster with 3000 attack and the power to destroy one monster on the field per turn at the cost of 1000 life points. Of course, Defender had an effect that Pharynx knew very well. During his draw phase, each Defender would force him to draw another card. Thankfully he had just enough cards so that he wouldn’t deck out. With all this power at his fingertips, he might just win this match!

“I end my turn,” said Troubleshoes firmly.

Turn Seven: Pharynx

Pharynx’s Deck: 5 cards

“Alright then,” said Pharynx as he looked at his cards (hand: 7) “I tribute Genome, who counts as two tributes when bringing out a Steelswarm monster to summon my Steelswarm Longhorn!” (3000/0) Genome quickly turned into black goo which was then sucked up by the monster that took its place on the field. It was taller than his other monsters so that their heads barely reached Longhorn’s abs. Its body was once again made of an armored black exoskeleton with exposed silver-like flesh. On its head were long antennae that curved down its back and scissor like blades on its wrists.

“Powerful monster,” admitted Troubleshoes in a calming manner. “Too bad you won’t get to use him! I activate my face down card, the quick play spell card Book of Eclipse!” As his last face down card was revealed, a massive books appeared above his defenders looking like something from out of The Mummy movies. “With this card, all face up monsters are forced face down and in defense mode. Then, during the end phase, your monsters are flipped face up and you get to draw a card for each one of them.”

Pharynx looked on in shock as his monsters became nothing more than the backs of his cards all in a neat. Feeling his legs about to give out by this sudden turn around, he looked at his hand to find that he had nothing to help him out. Not a single spell card that would allow him another normal summon or anything like that. He had lost.

“I end my turn,” said Pharynx as he lowered his head, a shadow falling over it as his monsters were flipped face up and he drew five more cards.

Turn Eight: Troubleshoes

Pharynx’s deck: 0 cards

“I draw,” said Troubleshoes as he kept his eyes on his opponent. “Good match. I end my turn.” And with that, Troubleshoes won.

Heated Intermission

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Duel Scores:

Canterlot High: 3

Appleloosa High: 4

Light applause was scattered as the duel came to an end. Pharynx stood there, watching his opponent shrug before turning around to head back to his team while the holograms began to fade. For a moment or two Pharynx just stood there, wondering if there could have been anything he could have done differently. Maybe if he had managed to get Hercules out there or had more cards in his deck that would have allowed him to deal with traps. Perhaps even a few cards to help him recover his resources from the graveyard.

After a moment longer, Pharynx turned to leave the field. As he did he noticed that Breaburn was the only one who was smiling at Troubleshoes, punching his fist into the other teens shoulder in a playful fashion. The others seemed for the most part bored, too busy on their phones to realize that the match was over. And those were the ones who were still there! It seemed at least two had left during that match leaving a very angry Silver Star to pace back and forth.

Sighing, Pharynx looked ahead to where his team should have been. However his view was impeded by Vice-Principal Luna who gently placed a hand on his shoulder. “You did good out there,” she said.

“Maybe, but I still lost,” muttered Pharynx as his cheeks darkened. Due to the closeness and his rather, er, unflattering height he found himself getting an eyeful of Luna’s bosom without meaning to. It was pretty obvious to the boy that the stern head of discipline at the school wouldn’t take too kindly to having him ogle her chest.

Quickly he turned to look away only to find himself looking at another girl. “Sure you lost,” said Lightning. “But you nearly had him there at the end! And at least you went down swinging instead of giving up like some sort of wuss. Be proud of that.”

“She’s right,” said Hunter as he as well as the rest of the team approach, Luna releasing her hold on him as they did. “It was simply a bad match up. Probably the worst type of deck for someone like you to go up against. But despite that you gave it your all. And that’s all anyone here could ask of you.”

“I have no idea what those creepy bug things were, but they were amazing!” cried Autumn as she pumped a fist into the air. “They were like Monarchs only super scary looking!” She then blinked before edging a little closer to Pharynx, moving her mouth close to his ear before whispering. “But the whole life point taking thing looked super painful. Do you, like, have some sort of weird fetish we should know about?”

“What?!?” shouted Pharynx as he took several steps backwards, staring at Autumn who grinned at him. “No! I don’t… I mean how could you think…”

“Relax,” said Autumn with a laugh as she waved off his stuttering jumble. “I’m just messing with you.”

Frowning, Pharynx opened his mouth to say that it wasn’t funny. However before he could utter a sound the announcer’s voice boomed across the field. “Well everyone, that was a nice match for APPLELOOSA! Seeing as how everybody out there is scattered about, we’ll take a ten minute break so ya’ll can finish up whatever you’re doing and head back to your seats. Better hurry because the next match up has been decided: our own Quick Strike vs Lightning Dust of Canterlot High!”

“Yes!” cried Lightning Dust as she jumped up, shooting a fist into the air as she did. “‘Bout time I got a chance to duel. Now everyone here can see what real awesomeness looks like!” Grinning, she moved next to Pharynx and swung an arm around his neck. The next thing Pharynx knew was he was so close to Lightning that he could smell the body wash she used as well as feeling something else. “And don’t worry buddy. I’ll make sure to give them some payback just for you.”

“Ah t-thanks,” stammered Pharynx. “But just don’t get too cocky.” As he spoke, he looked over at the rest of his team for help. However all he saw were several amused looks, VP Luna even crossing her arms with a wide smile on her face.

“Ahhh, thanks there buddy,” replied Lightning as she somehow managed to bring him even closer. “Nice to see you worrying about me again. But don’t worry, I’ve got this one. Me and my deck are going to make…them…” Lightning’s words trailed off while her grip on him loosened. At first, all Pharynx could see were his teammates who were all looking at Lightning with surprise and possibly alarm. Turning to look at her, Pharynx saw that her expression as anything but happy or cocky. Instead she looked utterly pissed! Her eyes were narrow and pupils so small that they were the size of pin needles. As her arms fell to her sides Lightning’s fists became clenched along with her teeth.

Naturally worried at what could have caused her to behave like this, Pharynx turned his attention to the bleachers alongside Lightning. From what he could tell everything seemed normal. The steps leading up and down the bleachers were jam packed. Some seemed to be struggling to get out and back to the parking lot so they could grab a quick snack or drink before the next duel. Others were fighting to get back to their seats, moving against the downward current. One or two people were just standing as they stretched. But nothing about any of this seemed like something that would set Lightning off. So what could have…

Then, Pharynx saw it. It was only for a moment, but he saw it. Rainbow colored hair following a flame colored one, moving down towards the exit.

“They showed up?” he whispered in surprise. That surprise was tripled as Lightning ran off without another word, kicking chunks of dirt and grass in her wake as she did.

Rainbow followed Spitfire with a half lidded expression on her face, shoulders slightly slumped as she walked. In one hand she held her drink precariously by the lid so that the slightest pull from gravity would cause it to come flying down, slashing their legs with its cola goodness. The high she had felt since the first duel had long passed mostly due to the boring nature of the second duel. But that didn’t compare to what she was feeling now.

“Hey, Spitfire,” she grumbled the two made their way onto the parking lot. Spitfire didn’t answer, instead she weaved through the crowd. Like the needle on a compass, Spitfire’s eyes seemed to be fixated in the direction of the duel team from their school. She weaved this way and that, doing her best not to step on any toes.

“Spitfire,” repeated Rainbow as the two approached a line of port-a-johns. Here the crowd was at its thinnest, with the only people who would come close would be those who had to. Or Spitfire who was getting pretty close to the smelly plastic stalls. Just past them and they would be behind the Canterlot team.

As Spitfire began looking through the spaces between them…for some reason that Rainbow didn’t really want to know, Rainbow’s patience had come to an end. “Spitfire! Stop!” While she didn’t yell it, her voice carried with it enough force to finally grab the other girl’s attention. Not to mention that Rainbow had also thrown her cup against one of the stall doors. Liquid went flying in all directions causing Spitfire to jump in surprise before she rounded on Rainbow.

“What are you doing?!” demanded Spitfire as she approached Rainbow.

“What am I doing?” echoed Rainbow, pacing her hands on her chest in an exaggerated motion before stretching them out to Spitfire. “What are you doing Spitfire? You drag me all the way out here letting me think that we were just going to chill and watch some good duels. But that wasn’t the real reason, was it? No, you just want to keep stalking Lightning like some creep! For the love of God and everything awesome in the world, move on Spits!”

“Y-You,” stammered Spitfire as she retreated back a step so that her back was against the portable toilets. Her eyes were wide looking like she had just been struck by Rainbow’s back hand. As if something Rainbow had said had sunken in. However that didn’t last long as her eyes narrowed with determination while stepping forward. “You have to understand that-”

“No, I don’t,” interrupted Rainbow as she waved her arm in a silencing fashion. “Do you know why? Because this has become an obsession of yours!”

“I’m looking after my classmates!” growled Spitfire as she took a step forward, stomping her foot loudly as she did. “I’m trying to make sure no one else gets hurt or in trouble because of her! Is that so wrong?”

“Not when you take it to this level!” shouted Rainbow, causing several people’s heads to turn in their direction. “We’re giving up our Friday night, driving like a hundred hours to get here, all so you can do this! It’s insane. What are you going to do when we graduate? Watch Lightning from the shadows and every time she tries to join anything you ruin it for her!”

“Well…I never really…”

“Spitfire, I’m telling you this as a friend: let this go,” continued Rainbow. “Because, sooner or later, somebody is going to get-”

“You Bitch!” came a loud, snarling voice. Time seemed to slow down, with scenes appearing like photographs every time Rainbow blinked. The first shot was of Spitfire turning her head and looking startled. After blinking, Spitfire’s eyes were as wide as saucers looking up as Lightning was seen lunging at her. Lightning’s lower body was a blur, with her arms outstretched like claws ready to rip Spitfire apart. Another blink and the two had collided, Spitfire falling backwards while Lightning snarled at her. Then, when they hit the ground, time seemed to resume.

“…Hurt,” finished Rainbow, barley heard over Lightning’s noises of rage. Sighing, Rainbow moved quick enough to push Lightning off. As the angered girl scrambled to her feet, Rainbow helped a shocked, panting Spitfire to hers. “Alright, let’s just calm down. We don’t want any trouble here.”

“I doubt that!” yelled Lightning as she pointed Spitfire. “She came here looking to cause trouble!” With that, Lightning lunged forward towards Spitfire. Thankfully Rainbow saw that in time to get between the two, keeping them apart at arms length.

“See what I mean,” said Spitfire as she pointed at Lightning. “She’s a danger to everyone around her!”

“Not…helping,” grunted Rainbow as Lightning somehow got a new burst of strength. Perhaps it was rage fueled for she let out another howl as she tried to take several swipes at Spitfire, clawing at the air like a caged animal who saw that its prey was close. And in that scenario Rainbow was the bars which had already begun to bend.

“Shut up!” screamed Lightning before she pulled back. Finally free of the pressure, Rainbow lowered her arms before turning to look at her former friend. She stood there looking…hurt. “You made a deal with Pharynx, remember! If he bet you in a duel then you would leave us alone. But you couldn’t do that, could you? Could you?! Just have to keep twisting that knife in my back over and over again along with Rainbow!”

“Whoa, now hold on,” said Rainbow as she held up her hands in an effort to calm everything down. “Look, I really have no idea what’s going on. So please don’t go dragging me into this.”

“Well it’s a little too late because you helped start all this!” yelled Lightning before placing a hand over her heart. “I thought you were cool. That you were my friend! We could have been great together, but it looks like you only wanted the spotlight for yourself!”

Rainbow stood there, mouth hanging for what seemed like forever, until the shock ended. “I would never do that!” she shouted. “How could you even think that?”

“Lets see,” said Lightning, her voice filled with anger as she spoke. “We had a fight before you went running off. Then I get called into the locker room and you have a bag full of your stuff with Spitjerk standing next to you. I’m then told I’m off the team and her begging you to stay.” At that moment, Lightning’s face turned back into an angry snarl. “Let me guess, you told her that it was either me or you? Of course she would pick you since you’re just slightly better than me.”

“That’s not what happened!” shouted both Spitfire and Rainbow together.

“I went to talk to her after you did that stunt during practice,” said Rainbow. “Remember? The soccer ball went flying, hit that guy on the riding mower in the head which knocked him out and his rider nearly ran over Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie.”

“They just stood there!” yelled Lightning in response, pressing a finger against Rainbow’s chest. “You had enough time to run over to it, hop on, and then turn it off. More than enough time for them to side step it. But no, they just stood there like a couple of idiots. Besides, it was an accident! All we were doing was practicing some sick moves with our power kicks. It was an accident!”

“But that was part of the problem!” yelled Rainbow. “There were a lot of accidents around you. Like when you were so focused on scoring that goal you kicked me in the leg. I had to run the rest of the day with a limp. Or the time you stole that call from Cloud Kicker and broke her leg in the process. You were so focused scoring the goal that you didn’t notice that she was down until you rounded back, laughing!”

“Accidents happen in sports,” shot back Lightning. “We all get bruised up from time to time. How we deal with it and how hard we push ourselves separates those who see it as just a game from those who are really into it. I was out there giving it a hundred and ten percent everyday because it was everything to me. I wanted to do this for the rest of my life! Maybe get into the Air Force College or something like that on a scholarship so I could choose to either stay in the service or go pro. Heck, Spitjerk never said a thing about those accidents.”

“Because I thought they were just that, accidents,” said Spitfire as she stepped into the conversation again. “All I saw was a girl pushing herself. But that changed after I talked to Rainbow!”

“I see,” said Lightning as she crossed her arms. “So let me get this straight, after a week of never having a problem with how I was practicing you just suddenly had a problem with it? And that Rainbow never said she was leaving the team?”

That took Spitfire clearly by surprise. Slowly she looked at Rainbow with something like embarrassment on her face. “Ah…well…” began Spitfire, her tone sheepish.

Rainbow, however, shook her head. “I never said she had to pick one of us Lightning! All I wanted was for this recklessness to end! Because, well, we should be able to give it our all and still be safe. And when it looked like that wasn’t going to happen I thought it wasn’t worth staying on the team. Believe me, I was just as surprised when she kicked you off the team.”

Rainbow watched as Lightning was visibly taken aback by this. Her eyes went wide for a moment before looking away, scratching the back of her neck. “You never said anything about it,” she mumbled.

“Because you were trying to bite my head off before I managed to even say hello,” said Rainbow. Slowly she placed a hand on her heart as she took a step forward. “There are times that I really miss you, you know? You were the only one who could play nearly as well as me. I mean the rest of the team is ok, but none of them have ever pushed me like you did. Made me want to get better. We could have been Captain and Vice-Captain right now. Maybe the best Canterlot High had ever seen.”

Rainbow watched as Lightning closed her eyes tightly. “I think about it a lot as well,” she said, hurt dripping in her voice. Her teeth then began to clench as she rounded on Spitfire. “But that’ll never happen, will it?! Because someone decided to kick me off the team without so much as a warning! Just everything cool, ‘Great job out there Lightning’ one minute and then I’m off the team the next. Then it gets better because I can’t play on ANY team. I’m off after one accident and sometimes not even that! Just keep following me around.”

“Even when others tell her not to,” came the voice of Vice-Principal Luna. All three turn to see her standing there, hands on her hips, with Mr. Silver Star standing next to her. Neither of them looked all too happy at the moment and Rainbow got the sinking feeling that they were now in serious trouble. Briefly she glanced over at Spitfire to see something she never thought possible. Tough as nails, eat you up and spit you back out again Spitfire looked utterly terrified!

“W-Why are you,” began Spitfire as beads of sweat rolled down her face. But whatever she was going to say was stopped by a very harsh look from Vice-Principal Luna.

“Word reached both myself and Mr. Silver Star that a fight had broken out,” said Luna in a tone so cold that it gave Rainbow the shivers. “Given that Lightning had sped off in a rage and Pharynx confirmed that he had spotted you in the stands, it didn’t take me very long to figure out what might have happened. I had hoped that it was someone else though.” She then looked at Rainbow with a piercing look. “I was surprised to hear that you were here, though.”

“It’s not her fault,” said Spitfire quickly, her fear forgotten in the moment. “I brought her here without telling her what I was doing.”

“That may be so, but she did get involved in this regardless,” said Luna. She then looked at Mr. Silver Star. “How would you like to handle this? We are on your grounds after all.”

Silver Star sighed, scratching his head as he did so. For a moment, Rainbow feared the worst. If she remembered correctly, fighting on school grounds was at least a suspension back at Canterlot. Perhaps here as well. If he suggested that, then Rainbow might also position as Captain all because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time! Not only that, but the duel team would lose a member and might be forced to forfeit the rest of the game! This just didn’t seem fair! But…maybe that wouldn’t happen? Mr. Silver Star seemed like a chill dude. Maybe he would let them off with a warning or something?

“These may be Appleloosa grounds, but they are your students,” he said, causing Rainbow’s face to fall. “Think it may be best for you to handle this.”

Luna nodded while Rainbow felt her heart sink with despair. “Ms. Spitfire, when we last spoke, I made it clear that no un-sportsman like behavior would be tolerated from Ms. Lightning Dust. That she would be dealt with should that happen. Given that she ran off while as a guest of another school and got into a fight with a member of the audience, I believe that it qualifies as un-sportsmen.” Out of the corner of her eye, Rainbow saw Lightning’s legs quiver as if they were suddenly straining to keep her standing. A look of utter torment appeared on her face while tears began to form in her eyes. It wasn’t fair! They were the ones who really caused all this.

“However,” continued Luna after taking a breath. “Before I left to see what the fight was about, Mr. Pharynx told me about the duel he had with you Ms. Spitfire. About why you two had it and what the deal was. So considering that Ms. Spitfire had been both harassing and stalking Ms. Lightning Dust, I am willing to show her some ligancy this time.” At that, Lightning’s legs gave out. She fell to her knees in front of everybody, but with a smile on her face.

“Thank you,” she said, cleaning her eyes with her arm as she did so.

“Don’t thank me just yet,” said Luna as she shook her head. “The three of you still got into a fight and caused trouble so I cannot just pretend this didn’t happen. All three of you will report to detention on Monday. Ms. Spitfire, I am going to schedule a meeting with your parents to talk about your behavior. As for you Ms. Lightning, you are going to be seeing the school counselor at least twice a week to deal with this anger issue.” Luna then turned to look at Mr. Silver Star. “Does that seem sufficient to you?”

“Well, had any of my students been involved I would have demanded something a tad tougher,” admitted Mr. Silver Star. “But seeing as that’s not the case, as long as they get some punishment then I’m ok with it. Just glad our school’s first real duel wasn’t canceled. Would have been a real nightmare.”

Shortly after that, everyone parted ways. Mr. Silver Star walked off towards his team while VP Luna escorted Lightning Dust back to their own team without another word. This left Rainbow and Spitfire alone. Neither had been told to leave, so that was something. However, there was some tension in the air between them.

“Rainbow,” said Spitfire softly. “I’m sorry I-” She stopped however as Rainbow held up a hand.

“Spits, I still respect you,” said Rainbow as she gave her friend a tired look. “But right now, I really don’t want to talk to you.” And with that, Rainbow headed back to her seat. Alone.

Lightning walked next to Vice Principal Luna, not knowing what to say. While she didn’t like being in trouble, she knew it could have been so much worse. Her parents would have killed her if they heard that she had gotten suspended. And she didn’t want to think about what they would have done had she gotten expelled. Most likely her body would never be found. Plus it was sort of…nice having a teacher standing up for her like that.

“Just so we’re clear,” said Luna, breaking the silence between them. Lightning looked up to see that the older woman had a stern expression on her face. “That will be the only time I cover for you like that.”

“Because of the game?” asked Lightning. Yeah, that had to be it. This match was meant to see if the Duel Team would become a permanent thing at Canterlot. Having to forfeit would be a clear cause to dismiss it. Plus, wouldn’t Vice Principal Luna get in trouble as well? So yeah, guess it would make sense she would go easy on her like this.

“No,” was the shocking answer Luna gave, almost causing Lightning to stumble in her steps. “It’s because both me and Principal Celestia failed you so many times before. We had trusted Coach Iron Will had been following the rules, meeting with your parents and talking with you about any issues you were having before removing you from the team. It seems our trust was misplaced. Had we known about this sooner, we could have intervened.”

“Wait, you mean Iron Jac-, er, Iron Will and Spitfire couldn’t just kick me off the team like that?” asked a shocked Lightning Dust.

“Unless the situation was extreme, no, he couldn’t. Even if it was, he still should have informed us or made a record of the incident,” replied Luna simply before looking down at Lightning. “Once Principal Celestia returns from her trip, the two of us will be having a sit down with you and Coach Iron Will. Hopefully he’ll see the error in what he’s done and failed to do. But he won’t be able to bar you from trying out for any of the teams again, provided you make a small effort on your part.” Luna then sighed as she shook her head. “You are a driven student, that much is clear. But if you want to succeed in life, really succeed where it matters, you need to stop being so reckless. At the very least, show some remorse for the damage you cause.”

Lightning opened her mouth, ready to defend herself. It wasn’t her fault other people got in her way. They weren’t motivated like she was to do what it took to be the best! Why should she slow down just for them? Yet before a word could be uttered, she remembered all the things Rainbow had told her. How they had lost time because Lightning had been biting her head off every time they saw each other. That all she had wanted was for her to be a little more careful on the field.

Now that she thought about it a bit, perhaps she was a bit at fault. Sure, Pinkie and Fluttershy shouldn’t have stood there like a couple of idiots…but she was the one trying to do that super cool kick that started it all. And maybe she should have asked to see if they were ok instead of being impressed that Rainbow had been able to save them like that. Would a simple sorry have been too much?

Plus there was the fact that she was getting a second chance. Perhaps it wasn’t a smart move to mouth off to the adult who was cool enough to do that for her.

“Right, thanks Coach,” said Lightning. It was the only thing she could think of to say and perhaps it was the wrong thing as Luna seemed to stumble in her steps. The older woman looked down at her with an odd expression.

“Coach?” she echoed as they approached the team.

“Well, that’s what you are right now,” said Lightning with a sheepish smile. “Just sort of seemed right to call you that, you know?”

Coach Luna smiled at that. “Perhaps,” she said as the two of them made their way towards the rest of the team.

Round Three: Different Fangs

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“Alright ya’ll, better start getting back to your seats. The third duel will be starting in just a few minutes.” The voice of the announcer echoed through the field as Lightning Dust and Luna approached the rest of the team. As she walked with her hands in her jacket pockets, Lightning glanced over at the stands to see the crowd milling back in. Her eyes scanned this way and that, but they didn’t see any flash of rainbow or fire colored hair anywhere.

Lightning let out a sigh as she turned her head to look forward. Standing in a group together was her teammates, looking over at their opponents who were also milling together. It was then that something odd hit Lightning from within her chest. Like something was going to explode when she realized she had teammates again. And this explosive feeling wasn’t from anger or anything like that. It felt, well, nice.

As the students turned to look at the pair approaching them, Lightning began to feel something else towards one particular teammate. Pharynx turned to look at her, worry clearly visible in those big, purple eyes of his. On any other day or night, this would have just pissed Lightning off. Just the idea that someone thought she might not be able to take care of herself was enough to get her teeth grinding. Like she was a princess in a castle waiting to be saved. Yet as she stared into the eyes of a person who had helped her out, even when he didn’t have to, she began to think of it differently. He was just looking out for her, like two warriors to watch each other’s backs on the battlefield or some shit like that. And it felt nice knowing that he would do that for her. A weird kind of nice.

“We were worried something had happened,” said Hunter as Moondancer, Autumn, and Wallflower nodded in agreement.

“Something did,” said Lightning as she approached them, Luna hanging back to watch them. Taking another breath Lightning took her hands out of her pockets before approaching Pharynx yet kept them clenched tight. The others took several steps back while their eyes darted from one to the other, wondering what was going on.

“Ah,” began Pharynx, looking just as confused as the rest of them as Lightning stopped in front of him. The teenage girl could feel her face twitching slightly as she tried to figure out how best to express how she felt at this moment. She had lived so long in a state of anger, watching her back for the next person to put a dagger. So long, in fact, that she didn’t remember any cool ways of saying thank you. Honestly she didn’t know if that was sad, pathetic, or both.

“Fuck it,” she whispered under her breath. Pharynx, no doubt, heard her because he tilted his head in confusion. A confusion that tripled when Lightning suddenly, without warning, wrapped her arms around him and brought him in for a big hug. “Thanks for having my back there. I would have been toast without you.”

“Y-You’re welcome,” stammered Pharynx. Out of the corner of her eyes, Lightning could see his dark face lightening with a shade of pink and red. She could feel his arms twitching, not knowing if they should return the hug or remain where they were. So, to help him out, Lightning released him and took a step back.

As she did this, Lightning took stock of everyone’s reactions. Hunter seemed to have cocked an eyebrow while Moondancer tilted her head in confusion so that her hair was hanging on the left side of her body with her eyes slightly widened. Autumn Blaze, well, she had her hands clasped together as she did a little dance. A squeal of joy was emitted from her as her eyes turned into hearts. Then there was…honestly, she had gotten the girl girls name again. Green Ninja sounded cool and appropriate since she seemed to keep appearing out of thin air, but she doubted that was the case. Anyways, the green girl was blushing slightly while taking a step or three back.

Now with a slight smile on her face, which felt warm for some reason, Lightning brought a hand up and landed it on his shoulder. “I mean it dude,” she said as she looked at him directly in the eyes. “You’ve had my back plenty of times already. That makes you cool in my book. So if you ever need a hand for whatever, I’ll be there for you.”

“So, are we ever going to find out what happened?” asked Moondancer as she pulled off her glasses. As Lightning turned to look at her, Moondancer calmly brought it down towards the bottom of her sweatshirt where she proceeded to use the fabric to clean the lens.

“It’s been dealt with,” answered Luna before Lightning could say anything. All of the students turned to look at the Vice-Principal, Moondancer putting her glasses back on as she looked at the older woman. “That’s all any of you need to know. Just focus on the rest of the matches.”

At first, Lightning thought Moondancer would press the issue or something like that. Maybe say that they had a right to know. But instead, Moondancer just gave a small smile and nodded. “So nothing happened that would get Lightning kicked off the team. That’s all I really wanted to know.”

“Alright there APPLELOOSA!” came the voice of the announcer causing all heads to turn to the field. “The third match will now be starting. Let’s cheer on our own Quick Strike!”

“Alright!” cheered Lightning as she spread her legs and began to stretch them out, leaning from side to side as she watched her opponent enter the field. He was a tiny guy, maybe smaller than that squirt who always followed Rainbow Dash around. His face was concealed thanks to a black hoodie he wore that looked three sizes too big for the small fry. That along with old jeans and sneakers that looked like they were a little too worn down, gave her the impression of someone not too well off or given hand-me-downs. But despite all of this, something about him caused a shiver to run down her spine. She could still see his hands which were a sickly green color, giving her the impression of a rotting zombie or something.

The crowd above didn’t seem to be bothered by this. As soon as his name was announced they went back to the cheering they had done back when that Sparkle chic had gone out. “QUICK STRIKE!” chanted the crowd as they stomped on the bleachers and clapped their hands. Over and over again it went, seeming to get louder each time to the point where Lightning thought the bleachers were going to break.

“And his opponent from Canterlot High: Lightning Dust!” continued the announcer. If the crowd heard it, they paid it no mind as they continued to cheer for Quick Strike. Not that it mattered to Lightning Dust as she put on her custom duel disk before walking out to the field.

“So, how do you want to do this?” asked Quick Strike as his voice came over the communicator on their duel disks. He had a soft, yet sickly voice that did him no favors. “You get to decide who goes first.”

“You can make the first move,” replied Lightning after pressing the button to allow her opponent to hear her.

“Really?” asked Strike with slight confusion in his voice. Or was it more that he was nervous. It was hard to tell with this guy. “I would have thought you would like the first chance to set up the field.”

“That’s nice and all, but it’s not my thing,” said Lightning as she waved him off, her duel disk shuffling her deck for her. “Going second means I get first crack at taking some life points.”

Lightning Dust Life Points: 8000

Quick Strike Life Points: 8000

Turn 1: Quick Strike

“Crap,” groaned Quick Strike as he drew his cards. (hand: 6) He seemed to look them over carefully, at one point holding one closer to his face as if double checking to see if he could even use it. Finally, he placed a card on the tray. “I’ll summon the Sinister Serpent in attack mode.” (300/250) A green snake with wings on its back appeared on the field. “Then I’ll set the rest of my hand and call it a turn.”

Turn 2: Lightning Dust

Well, wasn’t expecting that, thought Lightning as she drew, looking at five face down cards behind the snake. (hand: 6) Probably has one of those trap decks and is trying to bait me. I mean, it is pretty obvious. A monster that weak with all those face downs behind it? Get real! He wants me to attack. A grin appeared on her face. Well, might as well give him what he wants. I’ll attack again and again until he has nothing left to hide behind! Then, victory will be mine!

“I’ll start off by playing my field spell: Dragon’s Ravine,” announced Lightning as she slid her card into the side slot. At once the field began to change, the grass of the football field they were standing on being replaced with light brown earth. Quick Strike seemed to look about, turning his head this way and take to take in this new landscape. Smirking to herself, Lightning watched as he jumped into the air for the space between them seemed to cave in on itself. What was left was nothing more than a chasm between them.

“Pretty neat, right?” asked Lightning while looking proud of herself. It was an awesome spell card if she did say so herself. “Now I’ll show you what I can do with it. I’ll discard my Dragunity Brandistock to add one level four or lower Dragunity monster to my hand. I think I’ll help myself to Dragunity Phalanx. And while I’m at it, I’ll summon him right now!” Slapping the card onto her card tray, Lightning watched as a figure flew up from the ravine. It was a small, blue humanoid dragon wearing golden armor. On its head was something that reminded her of a two pronged fork or something. (500/1100)

“I know what you’re thinking: he’s a wimp,” continued Lightning as Phalanx flexed his tiny muscles. “But he’s going to be super useful in this duel. Like right now! By sending him to the graveyard I get to special summon my favorite monster: Dragunity Arma Mystletainn!” (2100/1500) Phalanx dissolved into golden light right before another, larger dragon flew up from the ravine. This one had golden scales that look as thick as armor and a green gem in its chest. It flew on four wings, one set being the normal webbed version most people knew while the second set was feathered. And in its grasp, the dragon held a long sword.

“That’s your best card?” asked Strike after Lightning’s dragon let out a roar similar to that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. “Doesn’t seem all that impressive.”

“Wrong, he’s not my best card,” corrected Lightning. “He’s my favorite. A badass looking dragon with a sword, how could it not be? Not to mention he knows how to push himself and others. See, once he’s summoned, he can equip himself with any dragon Dragunity monster in my graveyard. Time to come back: Dragunity Brandistock!” Brandistock appeared on the field, a roundish grey dragon with a spike on its head. It rolled itself into a ball as a chain connected it to the end of Mystletainn’s blade.

“Now to show you what he can do!” shouted Lightning as she pointed at Quick Strike. “I’ll attack your monster!” Mystletainn let out a roar before soaring over the field. Taking the handle of the blade with both claws the dragon slammed in down on Quick Strike’s monster, destroying him while also creating a massive dust cloud.

Quick Strike Life Points: 6200

“I was hoping you’d do that!” yelled Quick Strike as the dust settled, the dragon at the end of Mystletainn’s chain flying high into the air at the same time. The small teen then swung his arm to the side as his middle face down card revealed itself. “I activate the trap card: Damage = Reptiles. Once per turn, when I take damage involving a reptile monster, this wonderful little trap lets me special summon a reptile from my deck. Only catch is that I can’t summon anything with higher attack points than the amount of damage I took. But that’s fine because I took enough to special summon Venom Boa!” (1600/1200) Slithering out of the trap card came a snake large enough to eat a medium sized dog in one bite. It’s body was a bluish purple and had three eyes, two where they were supposed to be and one in the middle of its head. Then, if that wasn’t freakish enough, at the end of its tail was another snake’s head!

Still, Lightning couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight. “Figured there was a reason you put such a weak monster in attack mode,” she said while tilting her head upwards. “Not like it’ll do you much good.”

“What are you-” began Quick Strike but stopped as he looked up, seeing Brandistock coming down fast. “What’s going on?”

“A monster equipped with Brandistock can attack twice during the battle phase,” explained Lightning. “And since your trap only works once per turn, that means by the end of this turn the field will be snake free!”

“Grr, I was hoping to save this for later,” muttered Strike as he activated another trap card. “This card is called Ambush Fangs and can only be activated when you attack one of my Venom monsters. It negates the attack and ends the battle phase. And for the cherry on top, it places a Venom Counter on your monster.” A snake made of purple liquid came out of the trap card, hitting Brandistock and knocking it out of the way so that it missed Serpent completely. The liquid snake then arced in the air as it fell onto Mystletainn, wrapping itself around the dragon’s arm before biting into it.

“A…counter?” asked Lighting as her monster returned to her side of the field. “What’s it do?”

“On its own, nothing,” replied Quick Strike as he pressed the final button on his duel disk. “But with the right cards those counters become your worst nightmare. Thankfully, Metaverse allows me to get the card I need straight from the deck and activate it on the field. And that card's name is Venom Swamp!” At once the field began to change again. An almost purple liquid sprang from the ground around her, growing larger and larger until it surrounded her. Small bits of plant life began to spring up around the banks except for near the edge of the ravine where the water flowed over like a waterfall. From what Lightning could see, the same was happening to Quick Strike’s side of the field.

At first, Lightning didn’t think too much of the change. Coach Luna had played a far scarier looking field spell after all. However, her opinion changed when she noticed her dragon was flying lower to the ground. That the liquid snake around its arm had bitten him, causing the yellow scales on its body to turn purple as well. Furthermore, his attack dropped by 500! (1600)

“What did you do?” demanded Lightning.

Quick Strike gave a soft chuckle. “My field spell can be very nasty to your monster's health,” he said slowly. “As long as it's on the field, every Venom Counter on your monsters will cause them to lose 500 for each. Slowly they will succumb to the poison and, when their attack reaches zero, they will be destroyed!”

Lightning let out a sigh as she glanced over at her dragon. “Well, at least I know what I’m up against,” she said. “I’ll end my turn.” As she said this, something happened that she didn’t expect. From the swampy area came another purple liquid snake. It shot out of the water, flying towards Mystletainn and wrapping itself around its leg. “Ok, what the heck man?!?”

“Oh, it seems like I forgot to mention one other effect of my card,” said Quick Strike calmly as the token bit into Mystletainn (1100). “At the end of every turn, all non-Venom monsters get a counter.”

“A gift that keeps on giving,” growled Lightning as she glanced at her monster.

Turn 3: Quick Strike

“You know it,” he laughed while drawing his card. (hand: 1). “Here’s another gift that keeps on giving. You remember Sinister Serpent? Well, during the standby phase, if he’s in my graveyard I can add him to my hand. Then I’ll play the spell card: Magic Planter. By sending one face up continuous trap card to the grave I can draw two cards. So I’ll get rid of Damage = Reptiles.” Calmly, Strike drew his cards after his trap exploded. “Looks like I got the lucky draw. Field Barrier! Now, with this card in play, my field spell cannot be destroyed while this card is on the field.”

“Yeah,” sighed Lightning as she watched Quick Strike activate the card. “I sort of figured that out from the name. Looks like I’ll be stuck in this dump for a while.”

“Yes, you will,” replied Strike. “But you won’t be alone because I have plenty of scaly friends who would love to say hello. I activate my trap card: Embodiment of Apophis! This trap becomes a monster on my side of the field! (1600/1800)” Slithering onto the field was a snake man wearing armor. Armor on his chest at least for this monster didn’t have any legs, only a long tail. In one hand it held a sword and the other a shield. While neither of those were unusual weapons, Embodiment also had a snake coming out of its back which hissed loudly as bits of green liquid came out of its mouth.

“But he won’t be on the field for long, because I’m using him to tribute the second Venom Boa I just drew!” Lightning watched as the trap monster vanished with a loud hiss, quickly being replaced with another large snake. The two Venom Boa’s now rested on either side of Quick Strike, their bottom ends curled up with their heads lifting into the air. “Now the fun can begin. I activate my first Venom Boa’s effect. Once per turn he can place up to two Venom Counters on your monster.” From the Boa’s mouth fired two more purple liquid snakes. The flew across the field, attaching themselves to Lightning’s dragon before finally sinking their teeth into him. (100)

“Looks like your favorite monster isn’t feeling too well,” mocked Strike with a snicker. “Don’t worry, I’ll put it out of its misery. Venom Boa, show that oversized iguana who the real king of the reptiles are!” The second Venom Boa let out a hiss right before launching itself over the ravine. As the crowd around them cheered for the home duelist, Venom Boa wrapped itself around Mystletainn’s neck and bit into it. The dragon let out a whimper of a roar before it exploded.

Lightning Dust Life Points: 6500

“I think that should do for now,” finished Quick Strike. While Lightning couldn’t see it, she could almost feel him smirking at her.

Turn 4: Lightning Dust

The Canterlot duelist said nothing as she drew her card. (hand: 4) Ok, good news is that I know what I’m up against. That, and he used up nearly his entire hand and back row in that turn. Right now he has only two monsters with 1600 attack points. The main problem is that field spell. As long as it remains in play, my monsters will get weaker with each counter he puts on them. Making them easier to take down. So how can I… Wait a second. Why didn’t he attack me with both snakes? Curious, Lightning began quickly tapping on her duel disk, a display of her opponent’s monster being brought up with all of its effects. Well isn’t that interesting. When they use that effect they can’t attack that turn. That’s why he only attacked with one. Ok, I think I can work with this!

“I’ll start off by playing the spell card: Cards of Consonance,” she began as she inserted her card. “With it, I’ll send my dragon type tuner Dragunity Aklys to the grave in order to draw two cards.”

“That’s fine with me because you activated my trap card: Appropriate,” declared Quick Strike with a proud hiss to his voice. “Whenever you draw cards outside of your draw phase, this handy trap lets me draw two. And it’s a continuous trap meaning it's going to be sticking around for awhile.”

“Like that will matter,” replied Lightning as they both drew two cards. “Perfect. I summon Dragunity Dux in attack mode!” (1500/1000) Appearing on the field was a creature that had the body of a man but the head of a falcon with large wings on its back. The clothing he wore was white with a tiny amount of mesh on its side. “When this bad boy is Normal summoned, I get to equip him with one level two or lower Dragunity dragon type monster in the grave. Then he gets a nice boost of 200 extra attack points for every monster that’s equipped to him. Now wake up Dragunity Phalanx!” A golden light appeared on Dux’s arm which he raised to the sky. When the light faded, everyone saw that Phalanx had wrapped itself around Dux’s arm to form some sort of fist weapon.

“Now that that’s done, I activate Phalanx’s effect,” continued Lightning, grinning broadly. “Once per turn, when he’s equipped to a monster, he can special summon himself to the field.” Just like that, Phalanx let go of Dux’s arm. The small dragon then leapt down so that it was standing in the air next to Dux.

“With that, the stage is set to begin,” said Lightning as she swung her arm to the side while the excitement in her chest began to rise. Out of the corner of her eye Lightning glanced at the crowd in the stands, hoping that Rainbow and Spitfire were watching. To see what she could do! “I tune my level two tuner Dragunity Phalanx with my level four Dragunity Dux!” A pillar of light came crashing down on her side of the field, but Lightning paid it no mind. Instead she calmly removed her two monsters from her card tray while beginning her chant. “Winged beast and dragon unite their power to become a legendary spear. Fly together to pierce thy enemies like no other! Synchro summon level six: Dragunity Knight – Gae Bulg!” (2000/1100) Shooting out of the pillar of light, faster than a rocket, was a white blur. It zipped this way and that, the crowd gasping in wonder at what they were about to see.

The light eventually stopped above Lightning, revealing it to be a dragon. It’s body was covered in white, heavy armor so that it was hard to see the purple skin beneath it. The dragon had two thin arms, but no feet or legs, only a long tail similar to a snake’s. It’s head was shaped like a trident with golden covered edges on the sides. Finally, Dux seemed to be riding the dragon who was also clad in heavier armor than he was before.

“What the,” stammered Sparkle Sunshine as she took in the sight of this new dragon as it flew around the field. After slamming her foot to the ground she looked at her teammates who, for the most part, looked as shocked as she was. “But…But they’re from Canterlot! That school doesn’t allow their students to use extra deck monsters other than fusions!”

“Apparently they changed those rules,” said Breaburn, who was the only one to not appear surprised. He just stood there, arms folded across his chest, as he looked on at what was happening before them.

“I don’t believe it,” growled Sparkle, grinding her teeth as she spoke. “I just don’t believe it!”

“Calm down,” said Breaburn without looking at the little brat besides him. “If you keep acting like that your fans will leave you.”

“My fans leave me?” said Sparkle in a false shocked tone, placing a hand over her chest. “Like that would ever happen. I am simply too cute and too talented for any of my fans to ever consider abandoning.” She then lowered her hand, slightly frowning as she did. “That said, all that anger might do something to ruin my adorableness. That would be such a shame. But I will admit that you’re right about one thing, there’s no reason to be upset. I might not like Quick Strike for being the puny, ugly thing that he is but I can’t deny his skills as a duelist. Even duelists from Crystal Prep begin to lose their nerve as his monsters poison their decks, watching their monsters withering away before them. And if that Lightning girl keeps sending out such weak monsters she’ll never stand a chance.” A grin quickly overtook the girl as she burst out a high and mighty laugh.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” replied Breaburn, his words going unheard by the laughing girl.

“All that for such a weak monster,” sighed Quick Strike slowly as he shook his head. “That thing will barely leave a scratch.”

“Who said I was done,” replied Lightning as she reached for one of the cards in her hand. “Because you haven’t seen anything yet! I’ll equip my Knight with Dragunity Divine Lance!” At that moment, a massive lance appeared in Gae Bulg’s claws. A massive, golden spear with a sharp blade. “This wicked weapon increases the attack of my Dragunity monster by 100 times its level. Then, during my main phase, I can equip one of my Dragunity tuners in my deck to this monster. So I’ll equip him with my Dragunity Corsesca!” As Gae Bulg’s attack rose (2600) a pink dragon with a long, thin black metal nose flew out of the ravine. The small dragon wrapped itself around the end of the larger dragon’s tail.

“Ok, so you made it a little stronger,” hissed Strike, a hint of worry now in his voice.

“And he’s just going to keep getting stronger,” said Lightning as she pointed at the first Venom Boa. “Because now I attack! And when I do I activate Gae Bulg’s special ability to remove one winged beast in my graveyard, increasing my dragon’s power by the removed monsters attack points!” Gae Bulg (4100) swooped up into the air, doing a backflip, and rocketing towards Venom Boa so fast its body began to stretch and blur. The crowd gasped as Gae Bulg impaled Venom Boa on its bladed horns, creating a sonic boom in the process.

Quick Strike Life Points: 3700

“Ok,” gasped Strike. “That hurt.”

“There’s more,” Lightning with a grin. “Since I equipped Gae Bulg with Corsesca, I can add a level four or lower dragon to my hand. I’ll be taking Dragunity Partisan. That’ll do so I’ll pass it to you.” As she did, the effect of Gae Bulg ended thus returning it to its prior attack (2600). However, its attack was also lowered thanks to the effect of Venom Swamp as a counter was placed on it. (2100)

Turn 5: Quick Strike

“Alright then,” said Quick Strike as he drew. (hand: 4) “I summon Venom Serpent to the field in attack mode!” (1000/800) Rising up from the mucky waters came a large two headed green snake.

“Now to cut your dragon down to size,” continued Quick as his new monster hissed loudly. “I’ll play the spell card Venom Shot. With this card I can send one reptile monster in my deck to place two Venom Counters on your dragon. So Vennominon gets a trip to the graveyard and you get two more counters.” Lightning groaned as Quick took a card out of his deck before sending it to the graveyard. How was she supposed to know he’d have a card like that? But there was no use complaining about it now as two more purple liquid snakes attached themselves to her monster to lower its attack even more. (1100)

“Not bad, but I think we can do better,” mocked Quick Strike. “Venom Serpent, one more counter if you please.” Seconds later another counter bit into Gae Bulg causing his attack to drop even more. (600) “You’re lucky you have that equip card or else your monster would have been destroyed. Not that it matters either way, because if you thought Venom Serpent had the same restrictions as Boa does then you are sadly mistaken! In fact, Serpent, why don’t you sink your fangs into that loser of a dragon!” Serpent let out a hiss before launching itself across the ravine. Quickly it coiled itself around Gae Bulg’s neck before biting into it, destroying it on the spot.

Lightning Dust Life Points: 6100

“You’re lucky I didn’t have another winged beast in my graveyard,” growled Lightning as Serpent returned to Quick Strike’s side. “Or else this would have played differently.”

“You’re right,” agreed Quick with a nod of his head. “But the simple fact of the matter is that you didn’t and your monster was destroyed. Now time for you to meet with Venom Boa.” Boa moved faster than Lightning would have thought something of that size would. The snake quickly got close to her before wrapping itself around her body before squeezing tightly. So much so that Lightning cried out as her life points fell even more.

Lightning Dust Life Points: 4500

“Now go ahead and make your move,” said Quick Strike.

Turn 6: Lightning Dust

Oh, I’ll make a move alright, thought Lightning as she drew her card. (hand: 4) Looking down at what she just drew, she saw it was another Cards of Consonance. Hmm, I could use this card to dig a little deeper into my deck. The only problem is that I’ll also be giving snake boy over there some more cards as well. Not the position I really want to be in. Besides, I might have something better for him.

Smirking, Lightning discarded her Cards of Consonance. “I activate the effect of Dragon Ravine again,” she said proudly. “This time, I’ll add Dragunity Militum to my hand. Then I’ll summon Dragunity Partisan to the field in attack mode.” (1200/800) With that a purplish blue dragon appeared on the field, one that had a golden armored underbelly and a large blade for a nose.

“My snakes will make mince meat of that tiny thing,” stated Quick Strike.

“I don’t think so because I’m activating his effect,” countered Lightning. “When this guy is Normal summoned, I can special summon any winged beast Dragunity monsters from my hand and then equip this guy with them! And I just so happen to get one just now. Come on out: Dragunity Militum!” (1700/1200) Appearing on the field was a woman in light armor, her face hidden but her long auburn flowing freely from behind her green mask. On her back were a pair of armored butterfly wings as she carried a sword. As soon as she landed on the field, Partisan went straight and stiffened in order to become a spear which she held in one hand.

“Dragunity Militum has her own effect, allowing her to target a Dragunity monster in my spell/trap card zone and special summon it,” continued Lightning as her monster let go of the spear so that it could become the dragon once more. Without saying anything more, another pillar of light came crashing down onto the field as Lightning began her second chant. “Ancient legends of the past return with their glory on the wings of dragon. Noble rider of feathers brings greatness. Synchro Summon Level Six: Dragunity Knight – Gae Dearg!” (2400/800) Wings were the first thing to escape the pillar. Red ones with webbing like that of a dragon. With a powerful flap, a dragon in red armor and a spear-like nose appeared in the sky above Lightning.

“Before I deal you some serious damage, I’m going to activate his effect,” said Lightning. “Once per turn, I can add any dragon or winged beast from my deck to my hand. Well, as long as they’re level four or lower. So I’ll add another Dux to my hand. Then I’ll discard the other card in my hand for cost.”

After moving her cards around, Lightning pointed at Venom Boa. “Gae Dearg, nail that snake to the wall!” Her dragon let out a mighty roar as it flapped its wings. Everyone watched as it began to spin, turning into a red twister that consumed and destroyed Venom Boa with ease.

Quick Strike Life Points: 2900

“You think that’s enough to beat me?!” demanded the snake duelist.

“Hey, I can keep this up all day,” replied Lightning with a shrug. “You keep bringing out those weak snakes and I’ll keep summoning dragons to rip them to shreds. So go on, make your move.” As Lightning said this, another liquid purple snake rose from the water to bite her Dragunity Knight. (1900)

Turn 7: Quick Strike

“I’ll show you,” hissed Quick Strike, his eyes almost seeming to glow from the shadow of his hood. (Hand: 3) “First I’ll use my Serpent’s effect to place a counter on your monster and then switch it to defense mode.” As the snake coiled up, it launched another counter at Gae Dearg to lower its attack points further. (1400) “Then I’ll set two cards before placing a monster in defense mode and end my turn.” As he ended his turn, another Venom Counter attached itself onto Lightning’s dragon causing it to cry out as the poison spread within its body. (900)

Turn 8: Lightning Dust

“Gee, wonder what that monster could be,” mocked Lightning as she drew her card. (Hand: 2) “Well, let's get this done right. I summon Dux again and use his effect to equip him with Phalanx. Then I’ll use Phalanx’s effect to summon him to the field so I can make another Synchro Summon another Dragunity Knight – Gae Bulg!” Several people in the audience began to boo loudly as the pillar of light reappeared on the field. But Lightning paid them no mind as she began to chant again, summoning a copy of her white armored dragon. Both dragons hovered above her head, ready to tear into the smaller snakes.

“Now it’s time for battle!” cried Lightning with a fist pump. “Gae Bulg will take down your Serpent while Gae Dearg will take down your face down!” Smirking, Lightning watched as Gae Bulg did another supersonic run at one of Quick Strike’s monsters, destroying it easily. Gae Dearg meanwhile impaled his face down Sinister Serpent.

“Do you really think that’ll be enough to stop me?” demanded Quick Strike, frustration appearing in his voice.

“I think so, yeah,” replied Lightning as she ended her turn. At that moment, both of her monsters were bitten by more counters. Gae Bulg (1500) let out a cry of pain as this happened while Gae Bearg (400) whimpered as it sank closer to the ground. Even with her monsters in this state, Lightning wasn’t worried about them at all. Gae Bearg was a goner, but if Quick Strike tried to attack him then he would have to deal with Gae Bulg. And with more winged beasts in her graveyard she could easily power him up to deal some serious damage.

Turn 9: Quick Strike

“I draw,” hissed Lightning’s opponent as he drew. (Hand: 1) “First, during my standby phase, Sinister Serpent returns to my hand. Then I’ll activate another Magic Planter. Since it’s unlikely you’ll be using any more draw cards, I’ll get rid of Appropriate to draw two more cards.” As the trap card vanished, Quick Strike drew his cards…and burst out laughing. “Oh, I couldn’t have asked for a better draw than this! Now you are finished!”

“Somehow I doubt that,” countered Lightning.

“Well, allow me to show you how,” began Quick Strike as he played one of his cards. “I activate the spell card: Snake Rain! By discarding one card from my hand, I can then send four reptile monsters from my deck to the grave. So I’ll discard my Sinister Serpent in order to send three Venom Cobra’s and one Venom Snake to the graveyard!”

“Is that supposed to mean something,” replied Lightning with a frown. “All you’re doing is filling up your graveyard with useless snakes.”

“Exactly!” shouted Quick Strike, taking Lightning by surprise. “I’m about to show you the true terror of my Venom deck with this: Viper’s Rebirth! As long as the only monsters in my graveyard are reptile type monsters, I can special summon one non-tuner monster in my graveyard. So please, everybody bow to Vennominon the King of Poisonous Snakes!” (0/0) The crowd went wild as a creature rose from the swampy waters. It was a snake man of sorts, dressed in fine robes that didn’t hide his long, snake like body. It had arms which ended in a cluster of snakes that slithered this way and that as the face stared at Lightning with red glowing eyes.

“At first, the King might not seem all that powerful,” began Quick Strike as he gestured to his hissing monster. “But, for every reptile in my graveyard, he gains 500 attack points. And right now I have eight.”

“Crap,” swore Lightning as she watched Vennominon’s power rise. (4000)

Quick Strike chuckled. “Time to put another puny dragon in its place. Vennominon, destroy Gae Bearg!” Vennominon raised its arms, the dozens of snake heads on it pointing at Lightning’s weakened monster. At once they began to spray an ugly black liquid at the weakened red dragon, melting him on the spot.

Lightning Dust Life Points: 900

“With that, I end my turn and due to the effects of Viper’s Rebirth my Vennominon is destroyed,” laughed Quick Strike as his sole monster exploded. But, as the explosion faded from sight, one of his face down cards revealed itself. “But that doesn’t mean I’m defenseless. Because when Vennominon is destroyed by any way other than battle, I can activate the trap Rise of the Snake Deity! With this I can summon my ultimate monster which stands above all others: Vennominaga the Deity of Poisonous Snakes!” (0/0) The crowd began to cheer wildly as a new monster rose from the waters, a few even screaming in terror. What appeared was a medusa-like creature, woman with snake hair and all that. Her skin was a pale bluish purple and the lower half of her body was that of a snake. Her arms were freaky as they were snakes themselves.

“Great,” muttered Lightning as she watched Vennominaga’s attack rise. (4500) As Gae Bulg got another counter (1000) the Canterlot duelist mused that it must have an effect similar to that of Vennominon. The good news was that Sinister Serpent would be returning to Quick Strike’s hand during his next standby phase, lowering its attack. The bad news was it wouldn’t be enough.

Thankfully, attack points weren’t everything.

Turn 10: Lightning Dust

“I draw,” she announced as she drew her card. (Hand: 2) Slowly she looked at the card she had just drawn, a trap card named Spiritual Wind Art – Miyabi. An ok card, but not the one she needed. Luckily for her, she knew how to get it. “Time to get that snake off the field. I activate the effect of Dragon Ravine again, discarding the Dragunity Couse in my hand to add another copy of Dux to my hand. Then I’ll summon Dux and use his effect to equip Couse to him.” As Dux raised his arm into the air, a blue dragon in black armor flew out of the ravine and attached itself to his arm.

“Let me guess, he can special summon himself too?” asked Quick Strike.

“Got it in one,” answered Lightning as Couse appeared on the field next to Dux. “Now I’ll tune my level two tuner Dragunity Couse with my level four Dragunity Dux!” Another pillar of light slammed down on the field, getting no reaction from the crowd. Out of the corner of her eye, Lightning could see them leaning back with bored looks on their faces. Well, she would certainly change that. “The twilight of battle has arrived at long last. Rider and dragon cut their own path to achieve ultimate victory! Synchro Summon Level 6: Dragunity Knight – Luin!” (1200/1900) Appearing on the field was a dragon that was less impressive than her others. It was a blue skinned dragon wearing purple armor with a horn that looked more like a switchblade.

Quick Strike chuckled at the sight. “You know this is pointless, right? A monster that weak will never stand a chance against my monster.”

“Hey, this card was given to me by my teammate,” said Lightning, her eyes narrowing. “Along with some of the newer cards in this deck. And I’m going to use them to take you down for another teammate!”

“Let me guess, that loser who faced off against Troubleshoes?” asked Quick Strike.

Lightning’s eyes narrowed to a dangerous level. “You’ll pay for calling him that,” she all but snarled. Lightning then thrust a hand forward. “When Luin is summoned, she can equip one Dragunity monster in the graveyard to herself. So return Couse. Then unequip yourself.” Now, Lightning had three dragons on her side of the field. “Couse has one other effect. See, he can be treated as a level two tuner monster or a level four. So now I’m going to use that effect to tune my level four tuner Dragunity Couse with my level six Dragunity Knight – Luin to create one of the most powerful monsters in my deck!” Another pillar slammed in front of her. However, as she began to chant the white light of the pillar began to change. It became a golden, radiant light that many had to shield their eyes with their hands. But Lightning kept looking forward as she chanted. “Through trial and unity a new height has been reached. Now shine with a brilliance beyond the light of the sun! Synchro Summon Level Ten: Dragunity Knight – Ascalon!” (3300/3200)

Gradually the pillar began to fade, but the golden light did not. It came from a dragon with six wings, wearing armor the color of the sun that gave off the same light. Its long body was like a spear with the head looking like a trident as a winged man rode on it.

“Ascalon, time to show your stuff,” announced Lightning as she removed Dux from her grave. “By removing one of my winged beasts from my graveyard, I can also remove one of your monsters from play! So that snake lady is out of here!” The light from the armor began to glow all the brighter until it blinded everyone in sight. But, when it faded, Vennominaga was still there. “What?”

“That was a good idea,” said Quick Strike. “However, Vennominaga is a deity. A goddess of snakes. Do you really think she earned such a title by being easy to destroy? No. On top of her massive attack power, she is immune to the effects of all spells, traps, and monster effects. Meaning the only way you can destroy her is to defeat her in battle. Futile really since she can revive herself instantly by removing one of her subjects from the grave.”

“So that move didn’t work,” snapped Lightning, feeling irritated. “I still have other moves I can do. I’ll switch Gae Bulg to defense mode and-” As Lightning touched the monster on her tray, a realization came over her. She looked over at the crowd and realized that they had come to the same thought. It…It was over. Once she ended her turn, both her monsters would lose 500 more attack points. Even if Vennominaga lost 500 attack points, once it attacked her she would take 1200 points of damage. More than enough to cost her the match. She couldn’t switch her Ascalon to defense mode because it was too late.

There was nothing she could do.

“Don’t you dare give up Lightning!” came a familiar sounding voice. Looking over at the crowd, Lightning could see her rainbow haired rival/friend standing up with her hands next to her mouth. “You can still win this!”

As Lightning blinked in surprise, another voice shouted to her. “Come on, you got this!” shouted Pharynx followed by the rest of her team. All of them, even four eyes and that green skinned girl were cheering her on with all their might. The only ones to do so if the entire field.

A small smile appeared on Lightning’s face. It was a touching move. But, in all honesty, there was nothing she could do. She had been reckless, not pausing to look at the monster’s effect before summoning her best monster. Didn’t they know that once the Swamp’s effect kicked in that-

Another burst of realization hit Lightning like, well, a lightning bolt. Her eyes went wide as she looked back at the field before a smug smile appeared on her face. Oh, there was a way to turn this around. It would be risky. She would take a lot of damage. But, if everything went right, then she would win this for sure!

“I’ll set this last card and end my turn,” finished Lightning as both her monsters got counters placed on them.”

Turn 11: Quick Strike

“It’s a little disappointing,” sighed Quick Strike as he drew his card. (Hand: 1) “I had hoped to use my monster’s instant win effect to ensure my teams victory. But it seems that even you realize that once it attacks the duel is over. Oh well. My Sinister Serpent returns to my hand, lowering my Vennominaga’s attack.” (4000) With a sigh, he shook his head. “Oh well, can’t have everything. Vennominaga, destroy that golden loser and end this duel!”

As Vennominaga’s snake hands opened their mouth’s, Lightning pressed a button on her duel disk. “Not so fast, I activate my trap card!”

“What good will that do?” demanded Quick Strike. “I already told you that traps have no effect on my monster!”

“I’m not using it on your monster, but on your field!” shouted Lightning, much to both Quick Strike as well as the crowds shock. “See, I know that Field Barrier protects your Swamp from being destroyed. But Spiritual Wind Art – Miyabi won’t destroy it. It’ll send it to the bottom of your deck, bypassing the protection that spell card provides. And all I have to do is tribute a wind monster. Gae Bulg, it’s time to drain the swamp!”

“No!” shouted Quick Strike. But it was already too late as Gae Bulg began to spin around the field leaving behind a trail of green wind. Faster and faster he went, until a twister was formed which sucked up all of the dreaded water around them into the air. Gae Bulg then turned, flying towards Quick Strike and slamming right into his deck. Everyone watched as the swamp seemed to be sucked into Quick Strikes deck as the smaller teen flailed his arm about as if trying to stop it. However, nothing he could do could stop the field from becoming a desert once more.

“Now with that field spell gone, the effects of your counters are history!” shouted Lightning as she pumped her fist, her remaining dragon regaining all of its lost attack points.

“You’ll pay for that!” yelled Quick Strike as Vennominaga continued her attack, her arms extending across the field to bite into Ascalon.

Lightning Dust Life Points: 200

“So you managed to survive,” spat Quick Strike as he kicked the ground in front of him. “Big deal. When my monster does damage, you get a Hyper Venom Counter placed on you. One more and you instantly lose the duel! Not like that’ll matter because now you’re defenseless and-” Quick Strike cut off as he noticed clouds forming above their heads, swirling directly above Lightning’s side of the field.

“Whoever said I was defenseless?” asked Lightning. “When you destroyed Ascalon, you activated his other effect. An effect that allows me to special summon an Drauntiy monster in my extra deck and special summon him. And that summoning counts as a Synchro Summon. Now meet the original boss monster of my deck: Dragunity Knight – Barcha!” (2000/1200) Coming out of the clouds was another large dragon, one with purple skin wearing green armor. Its face was white as well as having a chin that was more like a pointed spear. The serpent creature let out a massive roar, forcing Quick Strike back a step or two.

“Like…Like that will help you out,” said Quick Strike as he collected himself. “It’s not strong enough-”

“Right now, your right,” interrupted Lightning. “But this dragon, he has the power to help make all the sacrifices in this duel worth it. He takes all the dragons in my grave and equips them to himself, gaining 300 extra attack points from each. So I’ll equip him with Luin, Brandistock, Couse, Phalanx, and Darkspear!” As she spoke, five different colored lights came out of the ravine and connected with Barcha’s armor. As it did, the dragon’s armor grew more spikes and blades while its attack rose. (3500) “But that’s not all. Remember that my dragons also give the monster they are equipped to extra effects. Like Luin who gives my Dragunity Knight an extra 1000 attack points!” (4500)

“Gr, fine,” snapped Quick Strike. “I end my turn. Sure I’ll take some damage, but my monster will defeat you in the end!”

Turn 12: Lightning Dust

“We’ll see,” said Lightning as she drew. She looked at her card…and smiled. “First, I’ll unequip Phalanx and special summon him in defense mode.” As her smaller dragon appeared on the field, Barcha lost some of its attack. (4200) “Then I’ll equip him with this: Mage Power! This card will increase the attack power of my monster by 500 for every spell and trap card I control. Giving me a total of…” Lightning let her words hang as Barcha began to grow, each of the equip cards on him raising his power as well at the field. (7200)

“N-N-No way,” stammered Quick Strike, dropping the cards in his hand as he looked at the giant face of the dragon.

“You mocked my dragons this entire duel,” said Lightning. “And what’s more, you mocked someone who has been a real friend to me. You deserve this. Dragunity Knight – Barcha, end this!” With that, Lightning’s dragon took a deep breath before exhaling, sending a massive gust of wind shaped like a giant sickle at Vennominon, slicing her in two and knocking Quick Strike onto his back.

Quick Strike Life Points: 0

Harsh Memories

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Duel Scores:

Canterlot High: 6

Appleloosa High: 4

“Alright!” cheered Lightning as she began jumping up and down as she was announced the winner. Unable to control herself the amber haired teen threw her hands into the air at the same time as the holograms around her began to vanish. Out of the corner of her vision Lightning noted that Quick Strike had fallen onto his hands and knees, cards scattering everywhere as he looked down at the ground. She could also hear a chorus of boo’s from the stands that filled the evening air. But Lightning, she didn’t care one bit as her heart continued to race and adrenaline was pumped into her system.

Continuing to jump up and down, she made her way to her teammates with the biggest grin she had ever had in her life. Like her, they were quick to celebrate their victory as they crowded around her and cheered her on. As Lightning looked around her, she could see their smiling and excited faces. Even Vice-Principal Luna was getting in on the cheers, clapping and smiling at the team. With such a narrow, come from behind victory it almost felt like they had already won the tournament!

Without even thinking about it, Lightning wrapped her arms around Pharynx as she continued to jump. At first she felt his body become slightly tense, but eventually loosened up as he too jumped with her.

“Hey, Lightning,” came a voice that snapped Lightning out of her joy. In fact, it seemed to bring everyone back into the present as they all turned to look towards the bleachers. Standing there was Rainbow as she gave what was clearly an awkward smile as she scratched the back of her head. Slowly, Lightning let go of Pharynx so that she could stand before Rainbow with the rest of her teammates standing behind her.

“I, ah, wanted to congratulate you in person,” continued Rainbow. “Maybe later we can have a duel?”

Lightning raised an eyebrow at that. “For what stakes?” she asked. “You better not be using it to try and replace me or get onto the team.”

“No, no, no, no!” cried Rainbow quickly, waving her hands around wildly as she said this. “Just for fun. I’d like to see how my U.A. monsters do against those dragons of yours. I just thought it would be awesome and maybe we could get better together. You know, like in the old days.”

A small smile appeared on Lightning’s face before she held up a hand, quickly turning it to a fist and letting it hang there. “You sure about that? It’s the only team in school you’re not a part of or captain of.”

Rainbow looked at her, then at the fist, and then back at her with a smile. “It’s all yours,” she said before raising her own fist and pumping it against Lightning’s. “Trust me, this team is awesome enough without me being on it.”

“Then you better bring your A game when we duel, because I won’t go easy on your a-” Lightning managed to stop herself just in the nick of time, glancing over to V.P. Luna whose eyes began to narrow slightly. “Well, I won’t be pulling any punches when we duel is all I have to say.”

“Cool, wouldn’t have it any other way,” replied Rainbow as she, and Lightning, pulled back their fists. Lightning then watched as Rainbow turned her attention back to the bleachers. Or, rather, one particular spot. Focusing her gaze, Lightning could see Spitjerk sitting there with the crowd around her giving her some space. She was hunched over, looking like someone had put a thundercloud over her head so that it would have on her alone. Honestly it was a good look for her considering all the shit she had put Lightning through. After a moment, Rainbow turned to look at the team. “Well, I’d better get going. Good luck on your-”

“You loser!” came a shout that interrupted Rainbow.

“You loser!” shouted Sparkle, her voice gaining the attention of Braeburn as well as the rest of the team. Together they watched as the cosplaying teen stormed over to their fallen teammate whose head hung with shame. Not that it seemed to matter to Sparkle as she moved with clenched fists and looked ready to kick the poor fella before he could get up. Thankfully, she did not do any such thing yet it might have been less painful than what she actually did.

“You miserable disgrace!” she shrieked while standing over him, a hateful look in her eyes. Braeburn, Little Strongheart, and Mr. Silver Star all moved like one towards the pair but not before she let out some venom of her own. “You pathetic worm! How could you lose like that to one of them? Even after I gave you the barest of compliments a thing like you deserves you still lost! With your own boss monster out and everything!”

“I…I did my best,” muttered Quick Strike in a weak tone as he continued to look at the ground.

“Don’t you dare give me that crap!” snapped Sparkle with a dismissive wave of her arm. “You have one job on this team: to get us an instant win! Or, at the very least, get us a win. It should have been a walk in the park once you got that monster out! Now we are behind because of you! You utterly pathetic piece of slime! Vermin! No good cra-”

“That’s enough Sparkle,” said Braeburn in an angry tone, hands clenched into fists as he stormed over. Sparkle flinched at the power in his tone, turning around to look as he walked past her without giving her another look. Not even sparing her a nasty look. Instead he moved towards Quick Strike whose body was now trembling. He could hear the teen fighting back the sobs from both his defeat and the verbal abuse he had just gotten. Slowly, gently, Breaburn placed a hand on the hooded teen’s shoulder and felt him flinch as if he thought he was going to be attacked. When nothing came, Quick Strike turned his head to look up at Braeburn who still only saw his eyes glowing beneath the hood. “Ya did good out there, partner.”

“B-But I lost,” whispered Quick. There was a tremble in his tone and, while Breaburn couldn’t see it, he could tell that Quick Strike’s eyes were watering. “You w-were all counting on me.”

“Come on buddy, up on your feet,” said Breaburn as he helped Quick stand up. Gently he patted the smaller teen on the back as he led him over to where the rest of the team were standing. Yet as they passed Sparkle she puffed her cheeks before stomping her foot.

“I don’t know why you’re being nice to the little worm,” she hissed, causing Quick to visibly flinch. “He lost what should have been an easy match.”

“Funny you should say that,” said Strongheart as she moved in front of Sparkle. Strongheart eyed the other girls with an intense look as her arms crossed underneath her poncho. “I seem to recall you losing what should have been an easy match as well. You were in a much better position as well. Higher life points, a field of monsters. It should have been easy and yet you still lost.”

“Well,” began Sparkle as her face turned red. “That was…I would have won if she hadn’t destroyed my entire field like that!”

“Just like how Quick would have won had that Lightning girl not gotten rid of his field,” commented Troubleshoes as he approached, looking over at Sparkle with half lidded eyes. “Just his luck really. Can’t rightfully blame him for the same fault as your own.”

“Hey, shut it Troubleshoes!” snapped Sparkle as she sent a death glare at the larger teen. “I don’t need to hear this from the most boring player in town!”

“That’s enough there missy,” snapped Silver Star, speaking in harsh tones for the first time. “One more world like that and Ah’ll be makin’ sure you’re off the team for good. Don’t care how good ya are, Ah won’t let ya dampen the spirit of Appleloosa like that.” Silver Star then turned to Quick Strike who flinched under the man’s gaze. But when the man spoke again, it was with a much friendly and lighter tone. “Now there’s no need for tears, ya hear. Ya fought a mighty tough opponent and ya did your best. Ya should be proud of how well ya fought!”

“I did,” muttered Quick as he walked off the team, head still low. As he spoke, his voice sounded strained like he had something stuck in the back of his throat. His body swayed a little while his feet dragged a little on the ground. Thankfully, Troubleshoes appeared next to him, placing a hand behind his back to help him walk the rest of the way. “I really tried my hardest to win this for us.”

“Seriously,” muttered Sparkle as she stormed back Strongheart, intentionally bumping into her as she did. But under the gaze of both Braeburn and Silver Star, she said nothing else. She did, however, give them an evil look before making her way off the field with Silver Star following behind. Once they were on the sidelines again, Silver Star placed himself between Sparkle and the rest of the team. In a way he looked like a parent doing his best to keep a spoiled child in line. That or trying to keep said spoiled child from ruining everything for all the other kids.

After shaking his head, Breaburn paused as he caught sight of the Canterlot team. Most of them were looking away with a couple rubbing the backs of their head. It was clear that they had witnessed everything and were doing their best to pretend that they hadn’t. Even the rainbow haired girl who had joined them briefly looked like she wanted to get as far away from this uncomfortable scene as fast as possible, running back to the stands with a grimace. For a moment, Breaburn’s shoulders slumped while his stomach turned with shame. This was the first time their school had ever dueled against them, a chance for them to show off their Appleloosa pride! The pride that every citizen in this town felt. But instead the folks from Canterlot were getting an eyeful of rotten sportsmanship. It was enough for any fella around these parts to feel mighty low.

However, that feeling quickly dried up when he noticed the one teen over there who wasn’t looking away. Then again, they have a Star on their team, thought Breaburn bitterly. A surge of renewed anger began to flow through the large teen’s veins as he stared at the brown skinned teen. Chaser. Ah’ll never forget that rotten snake of a duelist till mah dying breath. Makes a rattlesnake like Sparkle seem like a baby hare with his sportsmanship! Walkin’ around the way he did, treatin’ other people like dirt, an cheatin’ all the damn time! Never did get that rematch with him ta show what. An’ that Hunter fella, bet he’s just like him. No good son of a-

“Looks like it’ll be a close match,” commented Strongheart, breaking Braeburn out of his thoughts. Startled, the larger teen looked down at his fellow teammate and vice-captain as she stared at the rest of the Canterlot duelist. Despite what she said, there was a bit of a grin on her face now and he could tell by how her arms were positioned that she had her hands in her pockets. “Don’t really mind since this will make things a bit more exciting. Three matches to turn the tide.”

“Three matches,” echoed Braeburn as he turned to look back at Hunter. “A lot can happen in that time.”

“Yeah,” replied Strongheart in an odd tone. Odd enough for Breaburn to look down at her again seeing that she was giving him a serious look on her face. “Just don’t go lookin’ for trouble if ya don’t get ta duel him.”

“I, ah, what?” stammered Braeburn, taking a swift step backward as he did. Only Strongheart was just as quick, closing the distance with two steps of her own.

“Ah was there when ya dueled Chaser, remember?” she said while grabbing Breaburn’s shirt, twisting it in her grasp. “An Ah got eyes in mah head. Ya been glancing over at that Star Hunter fella all night. Ah get ya want a piece of him an’ that’s fine by me, but don’t go throwing a hissy like Sparkle if ya don’t get ta duel him tonight. A team captain shouldn’t be actin’ like that, ya hear?!” Strongheart then let go, pushing Braeburn back a tad as she turned around. “Just remember that there’ll be other duels. Other chances ta duel him. Who knows, might get ta duel him on his home turf.”

Braeburn lowered his head a little as Strongheart walked back to the sidelines. It was so easy for her to say something like that. He could still remember how it felt that day back at regional’s.


Breaburn stood on the main dueling platform within the stadium as hundreds, maybe even thousands, of spectators watched him from every angle. Looking up at the covered ceiling, the large teen couldn’t help but think back to all the duels that had led him to this point. Over the last several days, he had faced many different opponents who used a number of different decks and dueling styles. His deck had stood against the heroic powers of the Elemental Heroes, defeating their many different fusions. He had managed to defeat the Synchro summoning of T.G.’s and even faced off against their boss monster. Then there was the creepiness of the Gimmick Puppets, which he overcame both their high attack power as well as avoiding that deck's instant win condition. But the hardest deck of them all had been the True Draco duelist. Several times in that duel alone, Breaburn had thought he was done for. That his time in this regional tournament was over. In the end, his skills and a bit of luck managed to help him scrape a win by the narrowest of margins. All of them and more, Breaburn had dueled and won just to stand here as a member of the top six.

Turning his head to look at the crowd cheering for him. His eyes fell upon his parents who were both beaming with pride in what he had done. Aunts and uncles who had been able to take time off of work as well as many of his cousins were also there. Friends like Little Strongheart, neighbors, and many others from Appleloosa were there to give him the support of the community. Even many of the duelists whom he had defeated were there to cheer him on. As he lived and breathed, that was the true sign of good sportsmanship!

Seeing all of that nearly brought a tear to his eye. With all this support, with this number of folks watching and cheering him on, he felt like he had already won. Now all that was left to do was see this through to the end. There was still a chance he could lose since everyone else had dueled just as many people to get to this point. But as long as he did his best, Breaburn knew he’d be able to head back home with his head held high.

“Attention duelists!” came the voice of the announcer as he walked on stage, a tall man with a really pointy hairdo. “We are now ready to begin the first round of the semi finals! First match will be Braeburn from Appleloosa vs. Star Chaser from Hollow Shades.”

“No, that isn’t how you do it,” said the other teen as he walked onto the stage. He was smaller than Braeburn, but that didn’t really mean much since most people were smaller than him. His skin was a light brown and his slicked back hair was more a darker shade of the same color. Despite it being warm, the teen wore a leather trench coat with a black wife beater shirt and jeans while his deck hung in a pouch attached to his belt. His yellow slit eyes displayed a smugness that didn’t sit well with Braeburn, nor did that smirk. While walking forward, the teen wagged his finger while making a ‘tisk’ sound like how one scolds a bad dog. “You’re supposed to announce the better duelist first, namely me. As for that guy, just leaving him nameless would save you time.”

“Hey now,” began Braeburn as he approached the teen who had to be Star Chasrer. But the teen only crossed his arms while tilting his head to the side to look at the crowd behind Braeburn.

“Tell me, that woman back there,” he began causing Breaburn to turn and look. “Do you call her mom or sis? Guess it doesn’t matter since to your kind they’re one and the same!” Veins began to appear across Breaburn’s body as he trembled with rage. He was used to good natured trash talk dueling a duel, but this? It was way below the belt. Even the announcer looked uneasy at that moment.

Feeling his anger get the better of him, Braeburn took a breath to try and calm down. As much as he wanted to throttle this punk he knew that he would be disqualified for doing so. Worse, he would be ruining that Appleloosa pride his town held in such high regards. It would be like spitting in the faces of everyone who had come to see him. So, Braeburn slowly extended his hand.

“How about we take the trash talk down a notch and have ourselves a friendly duel?” was all that Breaburn said. Breaburn watched as Chaser looked at him and then at the hand he held out while noticing the pleased look of the announcer out of the corner of his eye. Slowly, Chaser unfolded his arms and began to extend a hand as well. Then, much to Breaburn’s surprise, his hand was swatted away.

“Manure must have gotten into that inbred brain of yours if you think you’re good enough to shake my hand,” replied Chaser with a smirk that made him look evil. Laughing he turned, his hands throwing the back of his trench coat back as if to give it the impression that it was waving in the wind.

“You tell him son!” came the voice of a man who must have been Chaser’s father. But Breaburn did not search the crowd to look and see what the man looked like. Nor did he bother to give anyone cheering for that ass a second look. Instead he turned around to move to his position on the field.

“W-Well,” stammered the announcer, tugging on the neckline of his shirt. After clearing his throat, he seemed to get a bit more energy as he quickly raised his hand into the air. “Let the first round of the semi finals begin. Star Chaser will make the first move!”

-Breaburn Life Points: 8000

-Star Chaser Life Points: 8000

Breaburn said nothing about this as he drew his opening hand. After taking another breath to help calm himself down and keep his head in the game, he looked down to see what he had drawn. Much to his delight, it was a really good hand. Perhaps the best he had had since the tournament began!

Turn One: Star Chaser

“Going first,” replied Star Chaser as he drew his card (hand: 6). “At least this way you won’t waste any more of my time than you already have!” Braeburn let out a growl as Star Chaser played his first card. “I’ll make this quick by playing the spell card: Red-Eyes Insight! For the small cost of sending one Red-Eyes monster from my hand or deck to the graveyard, I can then add one Red-Eyes spell or trap to my hand. So I’ll send the original Red-Eyes Black Dragon in my hand to the graveyard in order to add Red-Eyes Fusion.

“Now I’ll play the spell card I just added,” continued Chaser as the crowd began to cheer. “This is a real fusion card. One that doesn’t restrict me from only using monsters in my hand but in my deck as well.” Grinning, Chaser removed two cards from his deck and sent them to the grave while the images of two black dragons rose high into the air above. The crowd began to cheer loudly and even Braeburn was getting a little excited to see what was to come. “Twin Red-Eyes, one of old and one of flare, come together to show burn away those in your wrath. Fusion summon Meteor Black Comet Dragon!” (3500/2000) As Chaser finished his chant, something large and made of black scales landed behind the smug looking teen. As the creature began to stir flames erupted from its scales as it soon took the form of a massive dragon that towered over everything in sight. The flames didn’t die down, instead they seemed to grow more intense as they spewed out, licking the tips of its many horns while also cracking many of its scales. The nightmarish dragon then opened its wings sending a wave of hot air towards Braeburn.

“Now wrap your deformed brain around this,” said Chaser with a laugh. “When this dragon is summoned, I can send one dragon from my deck to the graveyard in order to burn you for half of that monsters attack points. So by sending my last Red-Eyes Black Dragon in my deck to the graveyard you lose 1200 life points.” Braeburn's eyes widened as the Meteor Black Comet Dragon began to flap its wings, sending several orbs of fire towards him that had bits of black electricity shooting around them. For a brief moment, Breaburn heard the crowd stir in surprise only for their noise to be drowned out as the orbs exploded around him. The Appleloosa teen did his best to stand his ground yet was soon sent flying from the shock wave, landing on his stomach.

-Braeburn's Life Points: 6800

“Mighty good hit there,” grunted Braeburn as he got to his feet. “But it’ll take more than that ta keep me down.”

Chaser rolled his eyes in annoyance. “If you were smart you would have stayed down. This duel is over.”

“Really, because where Ah’m standin’ it’s just getting started,'' declared Braeburn as he pointed to the dragon. “That spell card ya used is mighty powerful, but has a hefty downside. Ya can’t summon any more monsters this here turn! An if ya think having one big bad monster is enough ta-”

“You really are stupid, aren’t you,” interrupted Chaser. “But I guess it can’t be helped given your limited gene pool. So I’ll do my best to use small words that you can understand. My fusion card, it also renames my monster to just Red-Eyes Black Dragon. So, if I use this Inferno Fire Blast I have in my hand…” Chaser’s words trailed off as he played the spell card allowing him to deal damage directly to Breaburn’s life points equal to the attack of his dragon. Said dragon opened its mouth to send a torrent of flames right at Braeburn who cried out in pain as they washed over him.

-Breaburn’s Life Points: 3300

“Now, it's time to send you back to the corn fields so you can stop wasting everyone’s time with your shitty dueling!” shouted Chaser as he played another Inferno Fire Blast. “Send my regards to your sister/cousin. I’m sure they’re the same thing.” And with that, another stream of flames struck Braeburn down ending the duel. All without him ever paying a single card.

End Flashback

A tremble ran through Breaburn’s body as he remembered how the rest of the night went. How he sat there in the stands, doing his best to be a good sport about it and watching the rest of the duels. He cheered on everyone who dueled Chaser, even when they lost on the very first turn. It didn’t stop there as Chaser felt the need to rub it in for the rest of the night, telling all those he defeated what an ‘honor’ it was just to have been defeated by the new regional champion. Had it not been for the other duelist helping him stay calm and insulting the little creep behind his back that Braeburn would have struck Chaser down with one blow. Still, Braeburn had come home with less pride than he thought he would have.

Then, it got worse.


“Hey Braeburn, you remember that creep you dueled against a few years back? The one from regional’s?” Breaburn looked up from his lunch tray just in time to see one of his fellow classmates sitting down across the table.

“Hard ta forget,” muttered Braeburn as he picked up his spork and knife. As he began to dig into his meal, the teen’s mind began to think up how to politely end this conversation. The topic was a well known sore subject for him. It had been years since that day and, try as he might, Breaburn had never gotten as far as he did that day. Sure he had won many other tournaments and was the captain of the dueling team, but whenever the regional’s came up he could never quite make it to the semi-finals. Nor was he ever given the chance to duel that condescending jerk either. So really he didn’t want to talk about it.

“Well it looks like karma hit him upside the head real good,” continued Breaburn’s classmate before he could ask him to drop it. Curious, Braeburn lifted his head to see an amused grin on the other guy's face. “Just found out the guys got a lifetime ban.”

Breaburn felt his body stiffen slightly at that. “What happened?” The words came out so quickly that he didn’t realize what he had asked until he heard himself. His face must have looked off as well because the other teen pulled back a bit.

“Get this,” said the other teen as he moved forward, leaning over the table so to speak in hushed tones. “That guy, he tried to get into Crystal Prep. Only they suspected him of cheating then caught the weasel red handed! Messed with the auto-shuffler in his duel disk or something. Figured he must have been doing it all along since he always won pretty close to his first turn. And always with the same combo. Now that I think about it, it seems pretty obvious that something was up. So all those awards and titles the little shit won: gone! Like they never happened.”

Something inside Breaburn’s stomach began to turn in a way he didn’t like. It just…it just seemed so wrong. Not what happened to Chaser, no that guy deserved it. But what about all the people he cheated? People like him who would never know how far they would have gotten had it not been for him. That day he could never get back. There was no way everyone would be called back for a do over!

“Oh it gets better,” continued the other teen as he opened up his pudding cup. “Turns out that guy didn’t take the news so well. Long story short, got drunk and when the booze ran out tried to rob a liquor store. He’s on trial right now, trying to tell everyone that it's his brother’s fault. Guess he’s going for some insanity defense since that doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. But, hey, you never know.”

Braeburn muttered his thanks to this news as he looked down at his tray. Yeah, now he really felt cheated. He could never have a rematch to put that guy in his place. Would never know how far he would have made it that day. And it might be a long time before Chaser got out of jail.

End Flashback

Since that day, Breaburn had tried to move on as best he could. He continued to duel like normal, doing his best to tell people he didn’t want to even think about Chaser ever again. That he just wanted to move on with his life. Only, it was hard to do when Chaser made headlines again. This time he was caught poisoning athletes at his new school, taking out the competition so he could easily become the top sports star or something. His name was suddenly the talk of the school with students wondering how depraved he had to be to do something so horrible. Then he was approached by people who knew that he had dueled Chaser. Some were expressing their gratitude that Chaser hadn’t done anything like that before they dueled. Others wondered if he was worried that Chaser might come after him for some reason. True, Chaser was clearly unstable. However, to come after him Chaser would have to remember him among all the people that he had ever dueled. Something that seemed unlikely given the arrogant teen’s personality. Eventually, this too began to fade from the gossip circles as life continued.

Now, tonight, he was going up against a team that had his brother on it! While there were some differences like his voice and his calmer mannerism, he still looked too damned close to that vile tongued rattler. For all Braeburn knew, he was just as sick and twisted only better at hiding it. Some rotten apples do fall from the same tree. So, Breaburn had been keeping an eye on the other teen and only that. Did Breaburn want to duel Hunter? Well…yeah, he did. If he couldn’t have his rematch with Chaser, Hunter would be a good stand in. Maybe he could even break that front he was putting up to show everyone what he was really like. Perhaps even getting some closure.

But, would he go on a rampage if he didn’t get to duel Hunter? As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Strongheart was right. He was the team captain and carried the pride of Appleloosa within him! If they didn’t duel, how would it look if he approached the other teen in the parking lot after the matches were over? If Appleloosa won, it might be seen as the team captain trying to rub it in. If Canterlot won, would people think that he was being a sore loser or something? No, that wouldn’t do. Maybe he could wait and hope for another chance to duel him but…

Shaking his head, Breaburn pulled out his phone. His hand trembled a little as he went through his list of contacts until he reached the name he was looking for. Adrenaline was flowing through his body, making him feel a little jittery as he pressed the call button and waited.

“Hey there buddy,” came the voice of Forecast, the same voice making the announcements as the duel. “Good timing. I was just about to make the announcements for the next-”

“Yeah, listen,” said Breaburn quickly, shooting a glance over at Hunter again. “I need ya to do me a little favor.”

“Ah, hope y'all are having a great time tonight,” came the voice over the P.A. system, causing Autumn to blink. She looked up at one of the speakers as a hand went under her chin. Something felt off. Throughout the night, he had sounded energetic and confident. Like a star on stage giving the performance his all. But now he sounded like a rookie, afraid he’d messed up his lines and dreading the musical number that was to come. Kind of weird. And she didn’t seem to be the only one to notice that. Many people in the stands were also looking at each other and mumbling aloud.

“Sorry about the delay,” continued the announcer after coughing loudly. Now he sounded a bit more like himself, a bit more confident in what he was saying. Yet something still felt off. “Now Ah’m sure ya’ll are ready for the next match ta show your APPLELOOSA pride! Next up we have our Vice Captain Little Strongheart walking onto the field. And she’ll be facing off against, ah, Autumn Blaze!”

Autumn’s eyes widened as a smile appeared on her face. Any thoughts about the weird stammer at the end of that announcement quickly passed as she felt a wave of excitement hit her. Finally it was her time to shine. Instantly she whipped out her duel disk which had been painted with fall leaves all over it except on its holo-emitters.

“Alright everybody,” Autumn announced as she pumped the air with her free hand. “Be sure to cheer me on as loud as you can. Maybe even sing a song or something to help pump me up!”

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” replied Lightning as she crossed her arms and shook her head with a small smile.

“Ahhh,” whined Autumn as she turned to her trusted green skinned friend. “Not even you, Spooky?”

“Actually, my name is Wallflower,” the green girl said, looking like she had been put on the spot.

“Really?” asked Autumn. “Weird, I thought it was Spooky for some reason. Oh well! Wish me luck everyone!” With that, Autumn raced onto the field.

At the same time, Strongheart walked out as well with her poncho flapping in the wind. Her walk was steady and controlled with a serious look on her face. It wasn’t until she reached her assigned position that she stopped, pushing part of her poncho to the side to reveal her silver duel disk resting in something that reminded Autumn of a gun holster. In a flash, Strongheart tossed her duel disk into the air causing it to spin rapidly as she shot her dueling arm straight up. The crowd went wild as the duel disk then landed right onto the arm of its owner, activating it on the spot!

“Wow, that’s pretty neat,” cheered Autumn as she clapped too. “Wish I had thought of a neat trick like that. Bet it took a lot of practice.”

“It did,” admitted Strongheart with a slight blush on her face as she scratched her cheek. “That and plenty of bumps on the head.”

“Well, if you put the same amount of practice into your dueling as you did that little trick,” said Autumn as she paused for effect. At the same time she brought her arm up to her face, covering the lower half so you could only see her eyes like how old time evil did with a cloak. Only, well, minus the cloak. “Then this is going to be awesome!”

Round Four: Inferno Fists

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“Ah’ll be making the first move here,” announced Little Strongheart loudly, earning a cheer from those in the stands. Autumn said nothing as she drew her opening hand, feeling a tingle in her fingers as she grinned in excitement.

Little Strongheart Life Points: 8000

Autumn Blaze Life Points: 8000

Turn 1: Little Strongheart

“Ah draw!” shouted Little Strongheart (hand: 6). Her draw was big, a massive sweeping arc that Autumn felt should have been accompanied by a wave of air shooting across the field. But while it lacked anything that dramatic the Canterlot duelist could feel the confidence in her opponent as she looked at what she had drawn. “First up, Ah’ll use the effect of my Dark Grepher. By discarding mah level 7 Inferinty General, Ah can special summon this monster in attack mode.” Autumn watched as Strongheart slid her card into the graveyard slot, allowing Dark Grepher (1700/1600) to appear. Grepher was a grey skinned man with white hair and glowing red eyes decked in leather armor. In one hand he carried a large blade that reflected the light brightly.

“But there’s more where that came from,” continued Strongheart (hand: 4). “Grepher has another effect that lets me discard a card from mah hand to send another dark monster in my deck to the graveyard. Ah’m discarding my Infernity Beetle to lay Infernity Avenger to rest.”

Autumn snickered a little as Strongheart sent another card to her graveyard. “Sorry,” she giggled. “But right now I have this image in my head of an emo ninja boy screaming ‘I’m an avenger’.”

Strongheart allowed herself a small smile at that. “Never heard that one before,” she said (hand: 3). “In any case, Ah'll set two cards face down and then activate One Day of Peace.”

“Ooh, I remember this card,” Autumn said excitedly. “That lets us both draw a card and then neither of us can be damaged until your next turn.”

“Seems you’ve got a good memory,” said Strongheart as she and Autumn both drew their cards. “And it seems like Ah’ve got good luck. Ah special summon Infernity Archfiend!” (1800/1200). Appearing next to Dark Grepher was a ‘man’ dressed in purple. A white mask covered his face, only allowing his orange spikey hair to be seen as an odd ring of some sort floated around his neck. From out of his robes came purple, clawed hands that gave off an eerie glow. “See, this card is quite special. If it’s the only card in mah hand, Ah can special summon it just by revealing it to you. And now that my Archfiend has been special summoned while my hand is empty, Ah can add any Infernity card to my hand from my deck.” Strongheart paused as a holoscreen appeared before her, displaying her choices. But it seemed like she didn’t need to think about it as she swung her arm to point at one of the cards. At once the screen vanished and a card was ejected from her deck.

“Now Ah’ll summon what Ah just added to my hand: Infernity Necromancer!” declared Strongheart (0/2000). As the crowd erupted into excited cheers, another figure in purple appeared next to Archfiend. Autumn took a step back as she saw that there was nothing but a skeleton underneath those tattered robes while a purple flame glowed around its ribcage. “Now that Ah have him on the field, Ah can activate Necromancer’s effect to revive mah Avenger! (0/0)” Autumn watched as the glow in Necromancer’s chest began to brighten while a figure appeared within it. A moment later a creature that looked like a demonic cowboy puppet hopped onto the field. It had no body beyond a short, boney spine that connected its legs to its oversized head which had a cowboy hat on it. A tattered cape billowed on its back as it held up two revolvers that seemed oversized when compared to the rest of him.

“With this, the stage is set,” continued Strongheart as she held both her hands in the air, the crowd cheering for her louder than ever. “Ah tune mah level one Infernity Avenger with mah level three Infernity Necromancer along with mah level four Infernity Archfiend!” A pillar of light came crashing down as Avenger became a single dark ring while the other two monsters dissolved into seven dark stars. There was then a flash as the pillar of light became a pillar of darkness while Strongheart chanted at the top of her lungs. “Power racing through all eternity giving darkness shape. Take now this power from the underworld to lay waste to all! Ah Synchro Summon Level 8: Void Ogre Dragon!” (3000/3000) From out of the pillar of darkness came a dragon with dark reddish scales and massive claws that would have put Buster Blader’s sword to shame. Several dark orbs decorated its body while on it the side of its face were long, thin horns or tusks.

“Not a bad move,” said Autumn as she reached over to her deck. Only, she was stopped when Strongheart held up a hand to wave a finger at her.

“Sorry there partner, but Ah still have more plays,” she said as her hand moved to touch her duel disk, Autumn feeling a touch of irritation at the same time. “Ah’ll be bringing back my Necromancer with my face down spell card: ZERO Max! It’s a nifty little card that lets little old me bring back an Infernity monster in mah grave as long as Ah don’t have a single card in my hand. It also destroys all cards on the field that has less attack than the revived monster, but since Necromancer has none, Ah don’t need to worry about that none.” And just like that, Necromancer was back on the field looking just as creepy as before. “Since he counts as a new monster now, Ah get to use his effect once more to bring back Infernity Avenger once again!”

“This again?” asked Autumn as Strongheart tuner returned to the field, tipping its hat up slightly with the barrel of its gun.

“Trust me, ya ain’t seen nothing yet,” smirked Strongheart. “Because here comes another Synchro summon! Ah tune mah level one Infernity Avenger with mah level three Infernity Necromancer along with mah level four Dark Grepher!” For a second time, Autumn watched as a pillar of light appeared on Strongheart’s field before it became a pillar of darkness. “Peer into the darkness and watch as the darkness looks back. Open up your eyes for its eyes are upon ya! I Synchro Summon Level 8: Hundred-Eyes Dragon!” (3000/2500) Another dragon appeared on the field. This time it was black with small green ones on its head…and many more purple eyes on its body! Those purple eyes ranged in size, going down its neck, on its chest, arms, feet, and even its tail. The dragon’s arms were long making Autumn think of something more akin to a gorilla only thinner with stringy looking digits.

“Hmm, let’s see,” commented Strongheart as she tapped a finger to her chin. “Do Ah want to do anything else?” Autumn’s eyes bulged at this. Could Strongheart really continue without any more cards in her hand? True, there was another face down meaning it could be another ZERO Max. However, after quickly checking her duel disk Autumn found that ZERO Max could only be used once per turn.

Eventually, Strongheart shrugged. “Nevermind, Ah think I’d better wait on that. Ah end my turn!”

Turn 2: Autumn Blaze

“Then I draw!” shouted Autumn as she drew her card. (Hand: 7) “Ok! First, I’ll activate the continuous spell card: Fire Formation-Tenki!” As Autumn placed her card in the spell/trap card slot, a large holographic card appeared next to her. “This card lets me add one level four or lower Beast-Warrior from my deck to my hand. So now I-”

“Hold it right there friend,” interrupted Autumn as she held up her hand again. “Ya won’t be searching anything because Ah activate the effect of my Void Ogre Dragon. Since Ah have no cards in my hand, Ah can negate the activation of that spell and destroy it!” Before Autumn could brace herself, her spell card was destroyed which nearly knocked the girl down onto the ground.

“Why you,” Autumn growled as she felt herself growing more irritated. Before she made her next move, she took a deep breath in order to help calm down. “Ok, ok. I can do this. Since I couldn’t get my search, I’ll just play my Fire Formation-Tensu so that I’ll be able to Normal Summon a second time as long as that monster is a Beast-Warrior. Now I summon Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Buffalo in attack mode!” (1700/1000) Once Autumn placed her card on her duel disk, a blue fireball shot from the device which grew larger and larger as it spun its way onto the field. When it touched the ground two small axes emerged out of it, cutting away the flames and revealing a Chinese warrior dressed in brown and silver armor. The flames that remain retreated to the monsters' back to take the form of its namesake. “Then I’ll summon my Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Caribou!” (1100/2000) Another ball of flame shot from her duel disk, only this it was a lavender one. When it touched ground, a beefy looking man carrying a two handed mace appeared wearing black and gold Chinese armor with horns on his helmet. The remaining flames formed around the top of his weapon before circling around him to form a caribou.

“Oh, and by the way, my spell card also gives all my beast warriors an extra 100 attack points,” said Autumn as the flames on Buffalo (1800/1000) and Caribou (1200/2000) grew. “But they won’t be here for long because I can now build the Overlay Network! Might of both buffalo and caribou, together you will feed the great predator of the jungle! I XYZ Summon Rank 4: Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Tiger King!” (2200/1800) Both of Autumn’s monsters were sucked into a vortex that appeared on the ground before a white hot ball of flames shot upwards. This time an old man with a white beard came out of the flames, dressed in armor of gold with red lines on top of it with heavy shoulder pads and a helm. The armor under that was black and brown while in one hand he carried a fan which was still on fire. On the warrior’s back were more white flames which took the form of a tiger in mid leap. A moment later, the flames began to grow larger as he was affected by the effect of Tensu. (2300/1000)

“When this bad boy is summoned, I can set one Fire Formation spell or trap straight from my deck,” continued Autumn with a grin as she selected her card. A moment later it appeared on the field behind Tiger King. “Next I’ll activate his effect: by detaching one material on him, all face up effect monsters currently on the field have their effects negated until the end of your turn.” Autumn paused to smirk a little. “Well, all monsters except Beast-Warriors that is. Finally, I’ll set one card and then let you have a go.”

Meanwhile, off to the side, Autumn’s teammates watched the duel with worried expressions on their faces.

“This isn’t looking good,” whispered Wallflower.

“No sh-,” began Lightning but stopped herself in time, glancing over to Luna to see if she heard. Thankfully it didn’t appear so as her eyes were focused on the duel before them. “One monster with 2300 attack vs two 3000 beatsticks. The math doesn’t look so good. Isn’t that right four eyes?”

Moondancer frowned for a moment, but before she could say something Wallflower spoke up. “No, I mean Autumn’s making bad moves,” she said. “I’ve seen her duel before so I know she could have easily summoned a monster that would have cleared the field. I think…I think she’s getting flustered.”

“You’re right,” agreed Hunter as Wallflower began to move away from the group. However, if anyone noticed this they didn’t say anything but continued to talk as if she were still there. “If she does have that card, then she had all the set up she needed in order to clear the board. She would have been able to take some damage to boot if it weren’t for that One Day of Peace.” Hunter then paused as he surveyed the field. Autumn wasn’t in a great position right now, but it wasn’t bad either. If those face downs were Fire Formation traps, they would definitely help. Now it all depended on what Little Strongheart drew next. As well as her face down card.

Turn 3: Little Strongheart

“Well this is troublesome,” laughed Strongheart as she drew. (hand: 1) “But that won’t stop mah charge. Ah summon Infernity Patriarch.” (1000/2000) Appearing on the field was an old man carrying a book in one hand, a weird hat, and clothing that was black with bits of orange mixed in. “Then Ah activate the effect of the Infernity General sleeping in mah graveyard. See, that effect of your Tiger King is quite powerful, stopping all monsters on the field, but nowhere else. So by removing the General from play, Ah can bring back two other monsters that are currently six feet under as long as they are level three or lower. Let’s say hello again to some familiar faces: Necromancer and Avenger!”

“YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!” shouted Autumn as she could feel her irritation turning into anger. She could already feel the tips of her hair beginning to burn as her vision shifted slightly to red. How many times in one duel was she going to summon the same monsters?

“Well, there is another drawback. Both of them have their effects negated,” explained Strongheart causing Autumn to calm down a little. “But that won’t be an issue since Ah get another synchro summon by tuning mah level one Infernity Avenger with mah level three Infernity Necromancer along with mah level four Inferinty Patriarch!” With that, another pillow appeared on Stronghearts side of the field which soon became a pillar of darkness. “Unending nightmares from all time itself. Merge now with the might of a dragon and take flight! Ah Synchro Summon Level 8: Infernity Doom Dragon!” (3000/2400) What stepped out of the dark pillar was like nothing Autumn had ever seen before. It looked like a dragon…with dreadlocks. That or a group of yellow horns turned upwards. It was bizarre. The black dragon had four arms, a pair connected to its shoulders that were thick and ended with pincers while the second set were unnaturally thin and ended in tiny claws.

“Now Ah activate mah monster's effect,” continued Strongheart. “When Ah have no cards in mah hand, Ah can destroy one monster ya control and inflict damage to ya equal to half of that monster's attack!”

“Not if I can help it!” shouted Autumn. “I activate my face down: Fire Formation- Tenken! I can target one of my monsters and make it immune to all other monster effects for the rest of this turn. Plus it gives my Beast- Warriors 300 more attack points! All for the low price of negating Tiger King’s effects for the rest of the turn!”

“Not likely, because Ah have a trap as well: Infernity Barrier!” announced Strongheart as a powerful wind was created in the middle of the field. Autumn raised her hands up to shield her face while Strongheart stood there, letting her poncho billow in the winds with her arms outstretched. “When Ah have an Infernity monster on the field and no cards in mah hand, this trap negates the activation of a spell, trap, or monster effect and destroys it!”

“NO!” screamed Autumn as her trap card exploded, moving her back a bit. A moment later there was another explosion as her Tiger King was destroyed. That blast had been far more powerful, knocking Autumn to the ground as her life points took a hit.

Autumn Blaze Life Points: 6850

“Lucky for ya mah monster can’t attack the turn it used this effect,” said Strongheart as the wind began to die down. “But mah other two monsters would be more than happy to say hello!” Before Autumn could even get onto all fours, two blasts from the dragons hit her and pushed her back onto the ground. She cried out in panic as her life points began to drop even more.

Autumn Blaze Life Points: 850

Before the attack ended, with darkness surrounding her, Autumn felt herself snap. It was getting to be too much. First her opponent summons two giant monsters like they were nothing. Then she negates one of her best opening plays. Then, when she thought she had the upper hand, that went flying out the window thanks to another giant dragon and a trap card! Normally Autumn could understand this, that things didn’t always go her way. That was just the nature of the duel. But…how could anyone get that much power from having nothing in her hand? And the fact that she had nothing in her hand, stopping Autumn from playing the game to this degree. The fact that she might lose without even scratching her opponent. Well, that was just it.

From the darkness, Autumn let out a feral howl of rage as she stood up. She could hear the crowd gasping as she stood there, her vision tinted bloody red as she looked at Strongheart who seemed to take a step back. Autumn could feel her body moving as if it were a machine, stepping out of the dark inferno. Her hand reached to her duel disk, ready to chuck it right in the face of her opponent. She could already see her next move: as Strongheart reeled from the surprise attack, Autumn would close the distance between them and begin punching her. Over and over again until her face was a pancake or someone pulled her off. Then she would set-

“Autumn, here!” came a cry from her green skinned teammate. Turning to glare at her, Autumn saw Wallflower as she struggled to bring a large tin container. With each step she took, the water and ice contained within it slashed over her teammate and onto the ground.

Color began to return to Autumn’s world as Wallflower set the tin next to her. Autumn took a step away from the field and towards Wallflower who was panting heavily from carrying something so heavy. Another step and Autumn could now see just how shaky Wallflower’s legs were from this effect as well as her slightly reddened face. Slowly it became clear what had happened to Autumn and what she had to do.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Autumn made her way to the container, got on her knees, and stuck her head in it. There, in the freezing cold water, she screamed with all her might creating thousands of bubbles both large and small. She screamed until there was no more air left in her lungs and no anger left within her. Only then did she pull her head out, throwing her large mane of hair back so that it went splat on her back. Autumn could hear the cat calls from the audience realizing that she must look really hot at this moment with the water running down her chest and into her cleavage. But that didn’t bother her at all as Autumn raised a slightly shaky hand to give Wallflower the thumbs up.

“Th-thanks for the h-h-help,” she managed to say through chattering teeth before turning to look at Strongheart. “Sorry about that. So, got anything else for me?”

Strongheart seemed to relax a little at that. “No,” she said. “Ya go on and make your move.”

Turn 4: Autumn Blaze

“Ok then,” said Autumn as she placed a hand on her deck. She looked across her mostly empty field before turning her attention to the stack of cards, gulping as she did. Her position wasn’t good, not good at all. There was a chance she could turn this around, but she needed a good draw. “I draw!” (hand: 2)

“Well, let's clear the board,” announced Autumn as she placed a card on her duel disk, an reddish orange flame shooting out of it. “I summon Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Bear!” (1600/1200) A sword cut through the flames when it hit the ground, revealing a muscular man who was decked in mostly black armor with bits of gold and red thrown in. The fire came forth from his sword which flowed behind him before taking on the form of a bear. As he stood there, the effect of Tensu strengthened him. (1700/1200)

“Now I activate his effect!” shouted Autumn. “By giving up my Fire Formation- Tensu, Bear can destroy one monster on your side of the field. Bear, cut down that Void Ogre Dragon!” At that moment, Autumn’s spell card transformed into blue flames which mixed into the flames of Bear. Once they had merged, Fire Fist Bear swung his sword towards the dragon sending a wave of flames in its wake. The fire hit the dragon which cried out as it was quickly overtaken, surrounded by fire before it exploded.

“That’s one dragon down,” cried Autumn as she pumped her fist. “But let's go for two more! I activate my trap card Fire Formation- Tensen! For the rest of this turn, Bear’s attack goes up by 700. Not just that, but all of my Beast-Warriors get 300 extra attack points while this card is on the field!” The crowd gasped as the flames around Fire Fist Bear rose, growing hotter by the second. (2600/1200)

“Not bad there mah friend,” said Strongheart with a whistle. “Too bad you’re a tad short there. That monster just doesn't have the points to take down either of my dragons.”

“I know,” replied Autumn, earning a look of confusion from Strongheart. “Which is why I’m sending the Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Swallow in my hand and the Fire Formation- Tensen on the field to the grave so I can activate the effect of Buffalo bringing him back!” Taking the two cards, Autumn sent them to the grave while her Buffalo shot out of the ground in front of her. “Now I have what I need to build the Overlay Network and do what I should have done from the start! Though mighty are the bear and the buffalo are, their power will aid your cunning. Open up your wings to take flight! I XYZ Summon Rank 4: Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Cardinal!” (1800/2200) Again, both of Autumn’s monsters were sucked into a vortex that appeared on the ground before a white hot ball of flames shot upwards from the opening. Another sword cut through the flames to reveal a younger man with a thick brown beard dressed in what looked like white robes. As he landed on the field, the white flames surrounded his sword which then took the form of a cardinal.

“Well that is something,” said Strongheart. “Still, Ah don’t see how that beast is going to take down mah monsters.”

“It can, but at the cost of both its overlay units,” said Autumn as she removed said units from her card. “Now I can target two of my Fire Fist monsters or Fire Formation cards on my field or in my graveyard. At the same time, I can pick any two cards you have on the field or in the graveyard. For myself, I pick Tensu and Tensen while on your side of the field I pick those two dragons.”

“What are ya gonna do? Banish them?” asked Strongheart.

Autumn shook her head. “No,” she said as Cardinal swung his sword, sending the fire bird to start flying around the field. “All the cards I picked get sent back into their decks.” The crowd gasped and some even began to boo as the fiery cardinal grew, becoming large enough to pick up both dragons before flying away with them. At the same time, Autumn removed the two Fire Formation cards from her graveyard and placed them on the top of her deck which was then rapidly shuffled.

“Now attack her life points directly Cardinal!” shouted Autumn. Gracefully, Cardinal raced across the field to the point where everyone watching wondered if his feet ever touched the ground. When he was close enough, Cardinal swung his sword right into Strongheart’s midsection.

Little Stronheart’s Life Points: 6200

“Not bad,” said Strongheart. “Got anything else?”

Autumn shook her head as she held up both hands, revealing that they were empty. “I’ve got nothing left. You’re turn.”

Turn 5: Little Strongheart

“Ah draw then,” said Strongheart as she drew. (Hand: 1) Slowly she looked at what she had drawn, keeping her face neutral before setting it in her spell/ trap card zone. “This is all Ah can do for now."

Turn 6: Autumn Blaze

“I draw then,” Autumn shouted while drawing her card. (Hand: 1) Before looking at what she now had, Autumn took a moment to realize the flaw of her opponents deck. Sure, those monsters could make some insane combos, but it left her opponent vulnerable if the board was broken. Now, she had to build up her presence before Strongheart could get the ball rolling again. And after looking at her card, she just might be able to do that.

“I play Pot of Avarice,” said Autumn. “By sending back five monsters in my grave to the deck, I’m allowed to draw two cards. So I’ll send back Brothers Swallow, Tiger King, Bear, Buffalo, and Caribou.” After quickly adding the cards into her deck and letting the deck shuffle, two cards were ejected from the top. At once, Autumn’s eyes widened.

“Now I get to play Fire Formation- Tenki once more to add one level 4 or lower Beast-Warrior to my hand,” said Autumn as her card appeared next to her. “I’ll be adding Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Spirit. And since I successfully activated my Fire Formation spell, I can now special summon Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Panda right from my hand!” (2100/400) Another fireball landed on Autumn’s side of the field which was then cut open to reveal a handsome man with a thin mustache in black and orange Chinese armor. His sword was bronze and the flames surrounding him took the form of a panda with its actual coloring. Moments later, the power of Tenki raised his attack by 100. (2200/400)

“Not good,” said Strongheart as she pressed a button on her duel disk. “Ah activate my trap card: Infernity Break! Ah banish mah Infernity Patriarch in order to destroy Panda!” Lightning shot out of Strongheart’s trap card, flying across the field towards the still smiling man.

“I don’t think so!” shouted Autumn as she felt her heart race. As she spoke, her Tenki spell card turned into blue flames which snaked its way on the field and then rose to create a barrier between the lightning and Panda. “When you try to destroy my Fire Fists with a card effect, Panda allows me to send a Fire Formation card to the grave in their place. Meaning you just wasted your card! Now with that out of the way, I summon Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Spirit in attack mode!” (500/200) Spirit lived up to his name when he appeared on the field for its body seemed to be made of nothing but dark flames. Dressed in silver armor, it floated onto the field next to Panda who nodded at him.

“Now to summon my favorite monster! I tune my level three Spirit with my level five Panda! Spirits of legend guide the mighty spear. Tremble now as the kirin takes to the battlefield. I Synchro Summon Level 8: Brotherhood of the Fire Fist- Kirin!” (2000/2800) A pillar of light appeared on Autumn’s side of the field this time and it stayed that way until finally the light dimmed revealing another man in Chinese armor. This time the armor was dark green and the man had a long black beard. In his hand was a spear where black flames came out of the back, circling around the weapon until they took the form of the half dragon, half horse: the kirin. “When this monster is summoned, I can set any Fire Formation spell or trap straight from my deck.

“Time for battle! Kirin! Cardinal! Attack her directly!” Both monsters soared across the field with their weapons at the ready. Cardinal stuck first, slashing at Strongheart’s midsection before Kirin impaled her chest and sending black flames directly into her. Yet despite this, Strongheart stood her ground as the crowd cheered.

Little Strongheart Life Points: 2800

“I end my turn,” said Autumn as she glanced down at her face down: Fire Formation- Tensen. She just had to make it through this next turn and the duel would be over. She would make an amazing come from behind victory. Just one turn…

Turn 7: Little Strongheart

“Ah draw!” she cried out. (Hand: 1) She looked at what she had drawn…and smiled. “Well now this sure has been fun. But as they say ‘All good things must come to an end.’ Ah summon mah Infernity Mirage!” (0/0) Appearing on the field was a white skinned creature wearing what looked like Native American robes with a head set of red feather. “When Ah have no cards in mah hand, Ah can tribute this monster to revive two Inferinty monsters in graveyard. Time to get back to work, Necromancer and Archfiend!”

“Them again,” sighed Autumn, glancing over at the bucket of water and wondering if she should go over there and scream again.

“That’s right,” sang Strongheart. “Now Ah activate Archfiend’s effect to add another Infernity Patriarch to my hand. Then Ah’ll summon him using his special effect. Next Ah’ll use Necromancer to bring back Avenger. Ah think ya know what that means, right? Ah can tune mah Avenger with mah Necromancer and Archfiend so Ah can bring out my Hundred-Eyes Dragon once again!” A moment later Strongheart had chanted her dragon back into existence. But Autumn wasn’t scared of it since she had a trick up her sleeve. Kirin had an effect that weakened her opponent's monsters by 100. Once she activated her Tensen, one monster would get 1000 extra attack points for this turn while the other would get 300. If Hundred-Eyes tried to attack Kirin, Kirin’s attack power would rise to 3000! Not only that, but Hundred-Eyes would be at 2900 and would be destroyed in the battle. If Strongheart attacked Cardinal, then she would only lose 100 life points. Still in the game.

However, Autumn had to wonder why Strongheart hadn’t gone for another Void Ogre or Doom Dragon. Void would have negated her trap and destroyed it, allowing her to win with one attack. Maybe she didn’t have another copy. That was possible. But Doom Dragon could have destroyed her Kirin just like that. Or was she afraid her face down was another copy of Fire Formation- Tenken?

“Time to activate the effect of Hundred-Eyes,” said Strongheart. “Since Ah have no cards in mah hand, Ah can remove Necromancer from my graveyard to have my dragon copy its effect. And Ah’ll use it to bring back Archfiend!” Autumn stood there, shocked as Archfiend returned to the field once again. “Now Ah’ll build the Overlay Network this time by overlaying two level four monsters Archfiend and Patriarch!” A vortex appeared in front of Strongheart, Autumn watching in surprise as both Infernity monsters were sucked in. Once they were inside, Strongheart began to chant while a whirlwind appeared around the portal. “Two fiends give their power to your weapons. Walk down this dusty street to bring law and order! XYZ Summon Rank 4: Gagaga Cowboy!” (1500/2400) The crowd cheered louder than ever as the whirlwind suddenly ended, revealing a cowboy standing there on the field, a tattered poncho around his body and a hat on his head. The monster was on one knee, green gun pointed at Autumn.

“Time to end this,” said Strongheart. “First Ah activate myCowboy’s effect. Since he’s in defense mode, his aim is far more steady, allowing him to use an overlay unit to hit ya for 800 points of direct damage!” Autumn watched as one of the overlay materials flew into the gun which was then fired at her, almost knocking her back.

Autumn Blaze Life Points: 50

“With that out of the way my Hundred-Eyes will attack Cardinal for game!”

“Grr, I activate my trap Fire Formation- Tensen which gives Cardinal 700 extra attack points as well as granting all Beast-Warriors 300 extra attack points while it's on the field!” shouted Autumn, heart racing even more so. She knew this was pointless, but if she was going to go down she might as well go down swinging. Cardinal let out a cry as his flames increased (2800/2200) while the fire from Kirin’s spear weakened Hundred-Eyes (2900/2500). But none of that mattered as the dark blast of energy fired down at Cardinal, destroying him as he cried out.

Autumn Blaze Life Points: 0

Winner: Little Strongheart

Dark Emotions Part 1

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Duel Scores:

Canterlot High: 6

Appleloosa High: 7

As the scoreboard updated, Autumn walked back to her teammates looking thoroughly embarrassed. She wasn’t the only one. Now that her front was before them, her whole team could see that her hair was still wet and clinging to her body…as was her top. Now they could all see her curves, her top becoming partially see through even in this low light revealing her bra. Both the teen boy quickly averted their eyes, noticing dozens if not hundreds of smartphones within the stands were raised to take pictures of their Fire Fist user.

“Sorry about that,” said Autumn, who seemed either oblivious to her current state…or she just didn’t care. “But that deck was just so annoying it really got under my skin, you know. Oh, thanks Wallflower.” Autumn took the towel that Wallflower had gotten her, from somewhere, and placed it on her shoulders before beginning to dry her hair.

“No problem,” replied Wallflower, her cheeks burning slightly from the praise. “And don’t worry about losing. It happens to the best of us, right?” Wallflower turned to the rest of the team, urging them with her eyes to help support her.

“Well,” began Lightning, shifting uncomfortably where she stood. “As someone who might, on occasion, let their anger get the better of them…I mean, errr.” Everyone looked at Lightning as she struggled to find the right words to say, seeming to get flustered the more she tried to vocalize what she wanted. After several more belated attempts, as well as a reddening face, she seemed to snap. “You know what? Yeah, you screwed up there! But we all mess up from time to time. At least you didn’t give up like some sort of pansy and kept fighting till the end.”

“Infernity can be annoying to deal with,” said Moondancer with a nod of her head.

“While I do wish you didn’t lose your head like that,” commented Vice-Principal Luna, looking only slightly stern. “You were at least able to get your head back in the game before things got too far out of hand. However, if this team does become a permanent addition to the school, you will need to work on controlling that temper if you wish to remain on the team. We can’t have Wallflower bringing you a bucket of water to cool your head during every duel.”

“Yeah,” added Pharynx, still looking away with tints of red on his cheeks. “It might make things more…complicated if you keep doing that. For everyone.” Autumn looked at Pharynx for a moment, blinking slowly before finally looking down at her dampened top. Rather than scream, however, she instead just repositioned the towel so that her bra could no longer be easily seen.

“Guess until I can keep a lid on it, I’d better start bringing some extra clothes to my duels,” she said with a laugh. “Maybe I can bring some of my costumes from home and do something like that Sparkle girl did. Sing a song after the duel or while you guys are dueling to really set the mood! That or I can just bring my own towels!”

“I think we’d all prefer you just not doing that in the first place,” sighed Moondancer, shaking her head slowly. Then, slowly, she turned her head back to the field as her body grew tense. One by one, the others followed suite as a growing sense of unease filled them. All of them began to think the same thing as they waited for the next announcement to ring through the air: Autumn had just faced off against their Vice-Captain, no doubt their second strongest duelist, and lost. No doubt the Captain would be even stronger, more skilled than her. So the question was: could they still win?

“Listen, Breaburn, its not too late to back out of this,” came Forecast’s whispered voice from Breaburn’s phone. “I can just use the randomizer like normal and you’ll have a 50/50 chance at dueling him.”

“Ah have ta do this Forecast,” Breaburn whispered back as he glanced over his shoulder to his teammates. Most of them were still congratulating Strongheart on her win, surrounding her and giving her all their attention. The only one who wasn’t was Sparkle who, like the spoiled drama queen that she was, was off by herself in a huff. No one was paying attention to him or his call.

“I was willing to change the last duel for you, but only to give you time to think about this,” whispered Forecast, his tone becoming more urgent and panicked. “If I hadn’t, then that Hunter fella would have dueled Strongheart. Now, please Breaburn, think about what you’re asking me to do for you.”

“Trust me, Ah know what Ah’m doing,” muttered Breaburn quickly.

“Damn it Breaburn!” whispered Forecast, his voice rising slightly with panic. “Do you understand what you’re asking me to do?!? This isn’t something that they’ll give us a slap on the wrist. Fixing matches is a serious thing! If anyone finds out, we’ll not only have to forfeit the game but we’ll both get suspended for cheating! You might not be able to duel in tournaments for a couple years. YEARS Breaburn! That’s if you’re lucky. And me, the school will never trust me to be an announcer ever again. Is it really worth it just to get back at some guy's brother? A guy who has never done anything to you?!?”

Breaburn didn’t answer right away, looking down at the ground as he mulled over his friend’s words. He was right about fixing matches, a term used within the dueling circuit to describe when two duelists were purposefully placed to face off against each other, being serious. In tournaments of any official nature, duels were supposed to be randomized in order to keep things fair and balanced. Still, there were those who tried to gain the upper hand, scoping out their opponents decks and finding out which ones were particularly weak against their own. Those duelists would then try their best to ensure that they dueled only those decks, be it by trying everything under the sun to convince the officials or to simply hack into the programming. That way, a duelist would be assured a higher rank at the end along with a greater prize. Or, in the case of a duelist team like his own, ensuring at least one win to their school. Maybe more depending on how much they wanted to push it. Naturally, those caught in the act of something like this were punished severely. Forecast wasn’t kidding when he said that he would be lucky to receive a tournament ban for the next couple of years. Not too long ago, Breaburn had heard about several students in a grand competition hacking into the randomizer system and were caught. If his memory served him right, that school was prohibited from entering any more matches for the rest of the season and all the students were expelled. And that was just what the school did to them! Since there was a $10000 grand prize for the winning school, the tournament officials took the duelist to court. Now while there wasn’t any massive prize like that for this match, there wasn’t a doubt in Breaburn’s mind that that didn’t mean they would be let off with a warning.

A lump began to grow in Breaburn’s gut as he thought about it. Yeah, if anyone ever found out, the least he would get would be a temporary ban regardless of his reason. But, it wouldn’t be just him who would suffer. The whole team would suffer, no, the town would suffer. The school’s reputation and pride would be shot once word got out that the team Captain was caught fixing matches. The entire team’s achievements over the years would be called into question and, when they were allowed to duel again, no one would trust them to work the randomizer all by themselves for some time to come. It might make it even harder for some of them to get into professional dueling. And Forecast, there was no telling what they would do to him. What’s more, the town which took great pride into everything that the school did, would no doubt be affected as well. Glancing behind him, Breaburn saw the smiling faces of his teammates as they celebrated their soon to be victory. Was he really willing to take this away from them?

Then, as he turned his head, Breaburn caught sight of Star Hunter staring at the field. Just looking at that face felt like having a white hot poker jammed into his gut. Without realizing it, his grip on his phone tightened to the point where it nearly shattered.

“Ah need this,” hissed Breaburn, now staring at Hunter. Anger and hate override all other worries, throwing them to the wind.

“Then do it on your time then,” insisted Forecast. “If you don’t get the chance to duel him, just wait till after the game and do it then! You don’t have to cheat like how his brother-”

“Ah am nothing like that rattler!” growled Breaburn dangerously into the phone. For a moment, there was silence but the teens anger did not ebb in the slightest. It was still rising as he stared at Hunter, all of his hatred coming up to the surface. “Them Canterlot folks will be leaving as soon as this here game is over. No way they’ll let me duel him then. Besides, it ain’t what he deserves. Just like his brother he is, trust me on that! He deserves ta be humiliated in front of all those fine folk.” Breaburn then took a breath and, when he spoke next, his voice was slightly calmer than before. “Look, ain’t nobody gonna find out if we don’t tell them. An’ if something does go wrong, it’ll be on me. Ah’ll just tell them Ah threatened ya or something.”

“Breaburn…” began Forecast, his voice sounding tired now. Probably realizing that there was no talking him out of this. When he spoke next it was with a defeated tone mixed with misery. Something that brought to mind a man walking to his own execution, accepting his fate. “Alright, I’ll do it.” And, without another word, Forecast hung up.

As Breaburn pocketed the phone, he bit his lower lip while some of the anger he felt towards Star Hunter began to fade. With worried eyes he looked up towards the booth in the stands where he knew Forecast was. Thanks to the fading light, the inside of the inside of the booth was too dark for him to actually see anything right now. Only shadows and silhouettes could be seen. One of those shadows took the shape of his friend sitting down, hands running through his hair as he remained hunched over for a sec. No doubt still uncomfortable about what he was going to do.

“Hey Brea,” shouted a voice from behind. Breaburn did the smallest of jumps before turning around to see Strongheart standing there with a hand on her hip, looking at him with mock anger. “Is that any way ta congratulate a teammate after a duel? Standing over here all by your lonesome an talkin’ on your phone? Expect that from Sparkle, not you.”

“Sorry about that,” replied Breaburn with a sheepish smile. “Just had ta take care of a few things, ya know?”

“No, Ah don’t,” replied Strongheart, her face becoming more neutral. “Ya always told us ta focus on the duel at hand. Anything else can wait till after, unless of course it be an emergency. And if there were an emergency, ya would be telling us all right away.”

Before Breaburn could even think of something to say, other than ‘It’s none of your business’, Forecast’s voice came out of the speakers. Only, now his tone sounded deflated. Like he had lost a great deal of energy. Even the crowd, who would normally be excited, chanting his name and stomping their feet on the bleachers, could feel this as well as they barely made any noise themselves. “Well folks, hope ya’ll are ready for the next match. For this round our Captain Breaburn will be dueling Canterlot’s Star Hunter.” The way he had said the word ‘captain’ sounded like he was trying his best not to spit it out, as he was trying to hold back the disgust in his voice. Breaburn winced at this, but did nothing else but start walking onto the field.

Strongheart, however, had other ideas as she gripped his arm as he passed her by. “Breaburn, you didn’t,” she hissed in a horrified tone. Breaburn kept his head down, feeling the smaller girl’s hand tremble as she began to put the pieces together. “Ah can’t believe ya would stoop ta this. Ah should tell Mr. Silver Star that-”

“Then do it,” growled Breaburn as he pulled his arm away. But he didn’t look at her. He knew that, if he did, the weight of his actions would come crashing down on him. So instead he kept his gaze fixed on Hunter across the field. “Go on, tell Mr. Silver Star ya think ah did. Cause us ta forfeit. Go on.”

For a moment, neither duelist said anything. They just stood there for several long seconds before Breaburn began to walk away. As he did, Strongheart finally spoke. “Ah hope this is worth it for your sake.”

Again, Breaburn didn’t respond as he walked to his spot on the field. Nor did he look back. He just kept his eyes on Hunter as he too moved out onto the field, still seeing Chaser’s file face looking back at him. With each step, his breathing became a little heavier and a little deeper. They didn’t understand, not a single one of them! But that was ok. By the end of this duel, he hoped he would be able to show all of them at this…snake was just like the rest of his kin. Maybe even catch him cheating during the duel. Oh, wouldn’t that be nice. But, he’d settle for just humiliating him. Then, when all of this was over, he’d sit down and talk to the both of his classmates.

“Well, looks like it’s my turn,” said Hunter as he inserted his deck into his duel disk. As soon as he heard the familiar click sounding that it was in place, he turned to the rest of his team. “Wish me luck.”

“Hey, you got this,” said Lightning as she playfully punched his shoulder.

“I’ve seen you duel before,” added Pharynx as he patted Hunter on the back. “I’m not worried in the least.”

“Go out there and show them who's boss!” cheered Autumn loudly, pumping her fist into the air. Right behind her was Wallflower, imitating the motion as best as she could with a nervous little smile. A small smile appeared on Hunter’s face as he nodded, happy to have the support of his team.

At the same time, Moondancer stepped in front of Hunter. “Just be careful out there,” she whispered before her lips touched his own. Out of habit and not caring at all that others were watching, Hunter wrapped a hand to her back just above her ass as he brought her closer to himself. The kiss deepened while their bodies smushed together, Moondancer’s glasses raising onto her forehead as she pressed her nice chest against his body. They might have kept going had it not been for the noise that Vice-Principal Luna made, causing them to pull apart with only a strand of spittle still connecting them.

Pulling away from each other, Hunter turned to look at his teammates once more. Both Pharynx and Wallflower looked a little uncomfortable at the moment while Autumn looked like she was ready to bounce with joy. Lightning was standing there with her jaw hanging open. As for the Vice-Principal, well she was standing there with her arms crossed, fingers tapping on her elbows as she gave the pair a dark look. He then saw Moondancer walk back into his field of vision, standing next to Lightning who turned her head to look at his nerdy girlfriend. Her mouth was still hanging open.

“Ah…I guess I’ll go then,” said Hunter before quickly moving onto the field.

Once he was away from his team, Hunter’s thoughts became more collected and focused on what was in front of him. Something felt amiss right now. Even the crowd could feel it as they had made such a noise for Strongheart that Hunter had expected something bigger, more bombastic for their Captain. But the cheers he heard now felt more forced while the faces he could make out looked confused. It was like something dark was looming over the match.

Then there was Breaburn. As the teen took his place, raising his arm so that everyone could see clearly his duel disk shuffling his cards, he kept an eye on his opponent. Given how Breaburn clearly hated him for what Chaser had done, he would have expected him to be a little excited at being given a chance to defeat Hunter. That or demanding that both schools double check his deck and duel disk to make sure he hadn’t tampered with anything. Well, he might still do that since they hadn’t started yet. Or maybe he was going to wait and try to ‘catch him in the act’ like how Sombra had done. Well, he would have to disappoint the teen. Chaser was Chaser. He was Hunter! And in this duel he was going to prove it. Still, there was something off about Breaburn’s expression that Hunter just couldn’t quite place.

“Go on,” said Breaburn after their decks had finished shuffling. His tone was harsh and swift while his gaze bore into his opponent. “Decide who goes first. That is the rules.”

Hunter looked down at his duel disk for a moment before lowering his arm. “You can have the first move,” was the simple reply.

Breaburn’s face twitched slightly. “Any reason why?” he demanded.

Hunter could feel his heart beat a little faster, but looked back at Breaburn with indifference. “I don’t need to justify my choice,” he replied. As he spoke, the crowd was growing more silent. It was as if they could feel the tension building between these two duelists.

“Ah beg ta differ,” snapped Breaburn as he pointed an accusing finger at Hunter. “Since we’re dealing with the no good brother of that cheating snake Star Chaser, Ah think Ah deserve ta know.”

Up in the stands, Spitfire’s body jerked at this revelation. Everyone at Canterlot High knew who Star Chaser was. Not too long ago, the police had dragged the teen out kicking and screaming after evidence had been brought to light that he had been secretly poisoning the top athletes in the school. The story had made headlines, appearing on national television with many reporters questioning the students. And one of those athletes who had been poisoned was the rainbow haired girl sitting next to Spitfire. As the crowd around her began to whisper darkly to each other, she turned to look at said girl. Rainbow was hunched over, sweat beginning to appear on her face as she held her stomach tightly. No doubt she was remembering the sensation of being poisoned, her body beginning to fail as she was rushed out to the hospital in an ambulance. Remembering how close she had come to death’s door.

“Hey,” whispered Spitfire as she leaned closer Rainbow. “Did you know Hunter was related to Chaser?”

“Hard not to see it for yourself,” said Rainbow, wiping away some of the sweat on her forehead. “They look almost like they could be twins.”

Spitfire nodded before glancing back to the field. Hunter did look a lot like the screaming manic she remembered from the news. Same skin and hair color as well as the same type of eyes. Perhaps they were the same height, it was difficult to really tell from where she sat. Yet there were some differences. From what she could recall, Chaser liked to dress in a style that made him look imposing or cool. Things like trench coats and slicked back hair. The way Hunter dressed was far simpler. Then there was the face. Chaser always seemed to have a smug, superior look about him when he wasn’t being hauled in by the police. Then he just looked like a maniac. His brother seemed calmer, more composed. But then again that could have been a mask, a façade to hide his true nature. She had only met Hunter a few times before, more in passing than anything else. To be honest, she didn’t know a whole lot about him other than he traded cards in the library.

“So is he anything like his brother?” asked Spitfire.

Rainbow shook her head. “I don’t know him personally,” she said. “But AJ spent a lot of time with him learning how to play Predaplants. She says he’s nothing like his brother. And I believe her.”

Hunter let out a sigh as the crowd began to mutter darkly. So, that’s how this was going to be then. “Very well,” he said finally, holding up his duel disk as he spoke. “While I built this deck to go first or second, I prefer to know what I’m up against. That’s all.” Breaburn looked like he was about to say something, however Hunter cut him off. “If you were going to claim that I might have cards hidden up my sleeves or something like that, don’t bother. We both went through the same deck registration process. If I were to do something like that, the moment I played a card not registered then I would be flagged for cheating and my team would forfeit.” For a moment, Breaburn stood there with a stunned look on his face before it quickly became an angry scowl.

“Alright you two, that’s enough,” said Silver Star, his voice echoing through the stands. “Times a wastin.”

-Star Hunter’s Life Points: 8000-

-Breaburn’s Life Points: 8000-

Turn One: Breaburn

“Alright then, Ah draw,” yelled Breaburn as he drew his opening hand. (hand: 6) As Hunter drew his own cards, he glanced over at the crowd. Already he could feel their distrust pouring down through their gazes. They were eyeing his every move, treating him like a criminal who might at any moment steal something and make a break for it. For a moment, Hunter’s free hand tightened.

“Ah’ll start by summoning Magical Musketeer Kidbrave in attack mode!” announced Breaburn as he slapped the card onto his duel disk. (1600/200) Appearing on the field was a cowboy with a tattered Stetson hat and a somewhat steampunk styled gun. Only Kidbrave’s gunslinging hand was ghoulishly pale with a red, webbed wing extending out from it like it was a vampire. “Next, Ah play mah Pot of Duality. With this Ah can take a peek at the top three cards in mah deck, add one ta mah hand, and then shuffle the rest back into mah deck. Only downside is that Ah can’t special summon for the rest of this here turn.” Hunter watched silently as Breaburn placed the spell card in the slot behind Kidbrave, a large pot with two faces on it appearing behind the monster before the duelist drew his three cards. Once they were fanned in his hand, the larger teen grabbed one and quickly added it with the rest of the cards in his hand while the rest were shuffled back into his deck. “But that ain’t all. Since Ah played that there spell card in the same column as Kidbrave, his effect activates: by discarding one card Ah can draw two.”

“I see,” said Hunter slowly as Breaburn discarded his card. “You’re still using that deck.”

“What’s that?” demanded Breaburn, drawing his cards.

“Your deck,” repeated Hunter. “It’s the same one you took to that tournament a few years ago. I was in the crowds that day, watching. As I recall, you played remarkably well.” Rather than feeling complimented, Breaburn’s muscles seemed to tense up as his scowl deepened.

“I end mah turn,” he growled.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Luna watched the scene unfolding before her with growing concern. Over the years of being Vice-Principal of Canterlot High as well as being in charge of disciplinary actions had given her a greater insight in reading the body lauguages of her students. Examining their guilt by the way they gripped their seat within her office, looking away, or how they tensed up during certain questions. Even a small twitch of the eye could clue her into something when talking to one of her students. Not that she needed this to tell that Breaburn was coming into this match with a clear grudge, one that he was taking out on Hunter. As for her student, it was because of those skills that she could tell that this was starting to get to him. While all she could see was his back, she could see that it was beginning to tense when the crowd heard that he was related to Star Chaser. Nor did she miss how Hunter’s hand momentarily tightened its grip. Clearly, this was starting to get to him.

Inwardly, Luna chastised herself. She and Celestia should have at least considered that something like this would have happened and the situation they would be putting Hunter in. His home life was difficult enough with his parents (a term she used loosely) abandoning him after neglecting him for so long. Now he was put in a position where he would be labeled a cheater or worse in front of a crowd all because of who his brother was. Thankfully it seemed that he was keeping himself under control. For now at least.

Reaching into her pocket, Luna felt around for her phone before grabbing it but not pulling it out. Silently she promised herself and Hunter that if that Breaburn kid began pushing things too far, she would call Silver Star to end this duel right away. Trash talk was one thing, but antagonizing the other student like this was something very different. As for the rest of the team, they seemed to be more focused on the actual duel.

“Alright!” cheered Lightning, having gotten her wits back together and watching the duel with great interest. “All that drawing and that’s all he could muster? A weak monster with no spells or traps? Dude must have bricked hard.”

“Shows what you know,” muttered Moondancer, looking worried. “This is probably the worst match up Hunter could go up against.”

“What’s that supposed to mean four eyes?” said Lightning as she glared at Moondancer. But that glare quickly faded when she saw the serious look in Moondancer’s eyes.

“Hunter brought his Shaddoll deck with him,” said Moondancer grimly. “It’s a powerful deck which would normally allow him control over the state of the duel. With Shaddoll Fusion, he can send cards from his deck to the graveyard in order to fusion summon any of his Shaddoll fusions.”

“Wait?! Any fusion monster he wants?” shouted Lightning.

Moondancer nodded. “But, there is a catch. In order to use that effect, he needs his opponent to have an extra deck monster out on the field. And against a deck like Magical Musketeer, one that doesn’t have any extra deck monsters, Hunter will be forced to rely solely on his draws to get what he needs. Also,” Moondancer paused for a moment, staring at Breaburn’s hand as she adjusted her glasses, “just because they aren’t on the field doesn’t mean there’s no traps.”

Turn Two: Hunter

“Very well, I draw,” said Hunter as he drew. (hand: 6) Briefly he looked at the card before examining the field. Not the best opening hand in this situation, he thought to himself. I can easily take down that monster, but the problem is his hand. It’s like a revolver with six potential bullets. Sadly, I have nothing to prevent those cards from activating or anyway to empty his hand. Meaning I’m going to have to do this the hard way.

“I summon my Mathematician in attack mode,” said Hunter. (1500/500) Now, standing on the field was an odd looking old man in robes as well as a graduation cap on his head. “When this monster is normal summoned, I am allowed to send one level four or lower monster from my deck to the graveyard. So I will send Shaddoll Squamata to the grave propping its effect to send another Shaddoll card from my deck to the grave. This time it’ll be Shaddoll Beast whose effect allows me to draw one card.”

“Awful lot of hoops just ta draw one card,” said Breaburn as Hunter’s deck began to shuffle his deck after dropping the two cards into the grave.

“Perhaps,” commented Hunter once the shuffling had ended and he drew a card. He eyed it before adding it to his hand and then pulling out the one next to it. “Now I will activate the spell card: Shaddoll Fusion. With this card, I fuse my Mathematician on the field with the Shaddoll Hedgehog in my hand. “They thought they could bind you; hold back your mighty power. While you are weakened, the corruption can never be contained! Fusion Summon El Shaddoll Shekhinaga!” (2600/3000) Both cards were pulled upwards into a massive swirling vortex, spinning around and round until they vanished inside. Then, lowing themselves from the vortex right behind Hunter were four large, curved towers followed by a massive female marionette. On one side of the marionette’s body was a dark purple while the other was white behind her were wings; an angelic white, feathery wing on one side while on the opposite was a demonic, black bat-like wing. As for the pillars, they seemed to match up with the coloring on the marionette with one side purple with while lines criss crossing while the other two had the exact opposite color scheme. Once they were on the field, strings shot from the towers and bound the puppet up tightly which then began to glow darkly.

“Since I sent Shaddoll Hedgehog to the grave, I can now add any Shaddoll monster to my hand,” continued Hunter. “So I’ll be adding another Beast.”

“Ha! Ah was waiting for ya ta try something like that!” shouted Breaburn as he placed a card in his duel disk right behind Kidbrave. “Ah activate mah trap card: Magical Musket – Desperado! This lets me target and destroy one face up card ya control!” As Lightning screamed ‘WHAT’ from the sidelines, a massive cannon appeared on the field and attached itself to Kidbrave. With a grin on his face the monster sent a powerful beam of energy at El Shaddoll Shekhinaga, blasting a whole right through its center and destroying it. “An since Ah activate a trap card in the same column as Kidbrave, Ah get ta activate his effect once more.” Calmly, Breaburn discarded one of his cards before drawing two.

“You may have destroyed my monster, but she did leave me with a parting gift,” replied Hunter as his duel disk beeped. “I can now add one Shaddoll spell or trap card in my grave to my hand. So I’ll be taking back Shaddoll Fusion for my next turn. Then I’ll set one card face down and end my turn.”

Turn Three: Breaburn

“Too bad ya don’t have nothing ta defend yourself,” mocked Breaburn as he drew. (hand: 7) “I summon Magical Musketeer Calamity to the field in attack mode!” (1500/1300) Now on the field was a red headed girl with thigh high boots, a battle bikini, and leather straps running across her body. She also wore a cape that looked like it was make of the same webbing as Kidbrave’s. On her shoulder was another steampunk looking weapon that looking like a cross between a laser cannon and missile launcher. “Next Ah’ll play the spell card Upstart Goblin, giving ya 1000 life points in return for being allowed ta draw one card.

Star Hunter’s Life Points: 9000

As Breaburn drew his card, Hunter noticed that Breaburn played the spell card in the same column as Calamity. “Now Ah can activate Calamity’s affect, bringing back one of the monsters Ah discarded ta my graveyard in defense mode. So take a knee Magical Musketeer Doc!” (1400/1200) Appearing on the field was a man with white hair and a lab/trench coat holding a sniper riffle. Once there, he took a knee. “Now Ah play the trap card Magical Musket – Dancing Needle from mah hand. This lets me banish three card in your graveyard. Now get El Shaddoll Shekhinaga, Shaddoll Beast, and Shaddoll Squamata. Oh, Ah also get a bonus thanks ta Doc. Ah can add mah Magical Musket – Desperado back from mah graveyard.”

Hunter let out a sigh as he took his three cards out of his graveyard, not offering a word of protest. “A little excessive,” he said as he pocketed the cards. “But to be perfectly honest, I would have done the same thing.”

Rather than feeling complimented, Breaburn seemed to grow all the angrier at that. “Why ya rotten-” he began before suddenly pointing at Hunter. “Calamity! Kidbrave! Attack directly!” Both monsters raised their weapons which began to glow and hum with power.

“I don’t think so!” shouted Hunter. “I activate my face down, the quick play spell known as El Shaddoll Fusion!”

“A FUSION QUICK PLAY!” screamed Breaburn. “But…But that…You can’t!”

“I can and will,” stated Hunter. “I fuse the Beast I added to my hand along with a copy of Squamata. The corruption spreads deep, turning heart and flesh into wood. Oh once mighty champion, fight for your new master to destroy his foes! Fusion summon El Shaddoll WINDA!” (2200/800)The two cards in Hunter’s hand turned into dark spheres of energy as another vortex appeared above their heads. Purple strings, much like the ones connected to Shaddoll Dragon lowered from the sky and connected to them before pulling them upwards. Up above them, a figure was lowered down to them by the purple strings. No, make that two. The first was of another dragon puppet, made of purple painted wood with ring shaped eyes and massive fangs. The other figure looked like a girl holding a staff. She wore purple clothing over her pale white wooden skin and her green hair was tied up into a ponytail.

“Like before, my monster's effects activate when discarded,” continued Hunter. “Beast lets me draw a card while Squamata lets me send a card from my deck to the grave. This time I’ll send Reeshaddoll Wendi whose effect then activates, letting me set any Shaddoll monster in my deck to my side of the field. I’ll choose Naelshaddoll Ariel.” Appearing on the field next to Winda was a face down card.

“Ya think that’s enough ta stop me?” roared Breaburn as he played another card from his hand. “Remember, I brought back my Magical Musket – Desperado so Ah’ll destroy it here and now!” Once again the cannon reappeared on the field which Doc took hold of this time and fired. It struck Winda, creating a massive cloud of dust on Hunter’s side of the field. But, as the cloud began to part, Winda was shown to still be there.

“Sorry, but Winda cannot be destroyed by card effects,” replied Hunter as Breaburn stood agasp. “So hurry up and finish your move because this duel is just getting started.”

Dark Emotions Part 2

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Breaburn stood there for a moment, fuming in anger as his direct attack failed. Glaring down at his duel disk, he pressed a button which would allow him to see Hunter’s graveyard. There was no way this was a legal move. But when he pulled up the card, Breaburn saw to his own irritation that it was indeed a quick play card with its only limitation being a once per turn. Suspicion still lingered, however, causing Breaburn to press another button allowing him to see a replay. Yes, Hunter had set that card (at least according to his duel disk) at the end of his last turn.

“Ya could have used that card during your last turn,” said Breaburn as he finally looked up from his duel disk. “If ya had everything ya needed, why didn’t ya?”

“Because that would have been wasteful,” said Hunter evenly, calmly looking back at Breaburn. “My Shaddoll’s have their limitations. Since I had already used those monster’s effects during my last turn, I wouldn’t get any more pluses if I used them for a fusion summoning. It just made more sense to do it like this.”

As much as Breaburn hated to admit it, Hunter had a point. By waiting, Hunter was able to both draw an extra card but also get a second body on the field thus putting him in a stronger position. It was the sort of thing he himself would have done. Yet despite that, Breaburn refused to believe that this was a clean move. There had to be some sort of cheating going on with this guy.

“Seems ya got mighty lucky getting two fusions in your hand,” said Breaburn at last, glaring harder at Hunter. “Especially one that ya could use during mah turn.” He watched as Hunter’s hand tightened into a fist for a moment while his eyes darkened, losing the calmness that they had. That jab had gotten to him. Good.

“There’s no real point, is there,” he said in an icy tone. “No matter what I say, any ‘good’ move I make has to be because I cheated. No way around it.”

Breaburn felt his hair raising slightly as he took a sharp intake of breath. “That’s right ya vile-”

“BREABURN!” yelled Silver Star from behind. The tall teen didn’t need to turn around to see that his teacher was looking at him with both disapproval and disappointment. And somehow, that just made him even angrier. Anger that he directed straight at Hunter!

Once more he glanced down at his duel disk to see if he could, or even should, make any other moves. With the appearance of those two new monsters, the battle had basically been reset. Meaning he could either redirect the attack or end the battle phase here. Attacking Winda was out of the question as both of his monsters didn’t have the attack power needed to take that thing down. As for his face down, Breaburn had been in such a state that he missed what its defense points were when it was announced. Now that time had passed, his screen wouldn’t allow him to look at it again meaning he would have to attack it blindly. Well fat chance of that happening!

“Go on,” spat Breaburn. “Ah end mah turn.”

Turn Four: Star Hunter

Hunter didn’t say anything as he focused on getting his own feelings under control. His hand was tightening into a fist before releasing itself over and over as he looked at Breaburn. Honestly he was doing his best to be a good sport in all of this, giving the farmer teen all the compliments he felt Breaburn deserved. But the accusations were cutting deep within him. Not that the staring crowd was helping. For the first time, they were deathly silent. More so than when Trouble Shoes was dueling. No doubt focusing everything on watching him thanks to what Breaburn had told them.


“Hunter, I need you to clean the basement.” A ten year old Hunter was suddenly pulled out of the book he had been reading, looking up at his mother from the living room. She was standing at the door, surrounded by Chaser and his friends, all of them looking excited.

“But,” began Hunter as he looked at his brother. Chaser had on a smug look on his face as he put on his coat. Last night, he had invited several of his friends to a sleep over which their parents had made sure was the best yet. Hunter guessed it might have been given the amount of noise he had heard from his room.

“No buts,” interrupted his mother. “The basement is a mess and I have to take everyone home before I take Chaser to the journey tournament.” Hunter watched his mother in disbelief as she placed a hand on the door handle. “You’re father’s going to meet us there. I’ve called Mrs. Silver Vein and she’ll be here within the hour to watch over you while we’re away. I don’t know when we’ll be back but please don’t make too much trouble for her and eat whatever she makes for you.” And with that, they left without another word.

Feeling his anger rising, Hunter pushed himself off the couch before making his way to the basement to see what the damage was. He walked down the wooden stair to behold a sight that turned his stomach. There must have been dozens of pizza boxes stacked up in towers in random locations, with dried cheese and pizza sauce hanging from the edges. Couch cushions, blankets, and other such items were thrown around without a care with many of them needing to be washed. On the tiled floor were puddles of soda and in one corner it looked like someone had vomited up their dinner. Hunter could see dirty spots on the walls, including some pizza sauce stains.

End Flashback

Even after all these years, I’m still having to clean up your messes Chaser, thought Hunter bitterly as he tightened his fist once more. To help get his emotions back under control, Hunter began to take several deep breaths. With each exhale, he felt his feelings being pushed back deeper within him. He could deal with them later, like with the school’s counselor or his aunt. Right now, if he wanted to win this match for his team, he had to be focused and not make rash moves. The four cards in his hand were powerful, but without his opponent having any extra deck monsters he couldn’t make the most out of his best card. Not only that, but he had already used the only two Beast’s he had in his deck. One was in his grave so there was a chance he could use it again, but the other was banished.

“I draw,” stated Hunter as he drew. (hand: 5) Looking at what he had just pulled, Hunter’s eyes widened. Terraforming! With this card, he could get his Magical Meltdown field spell which would then allow him to get Aleister the Invoker followed by Invocation. From there, he could begin crushing his opponent with overwhelming power.

“I play the spell card: Terraforming,” announced Hunter. “With this card, I can add any field spell in my deck to my hand!”

“Not so fast there,” countered Breaburn. “From mah hand, Ah activate mah own card: Magical Musket – Last Stand!” As he spoke, Breaburn slid the card into the slot behind Kidbrave whose weapon began to glow. “With this here card, Ah can negate the activation of that there spell card an destroy it!” Hunter watched with wide eyes as Kidbrave then fired a barrage of bullets at the hologram of his spell card, filling it with holes until it exploded. “Next, Kidbrave’s effect activates letting me discard one ta draw two.”

“Great,” muttered Hunter under his breath through gritted teeth while Breaburn drew more cards. There went that plan. With narrowed eyes, he began to look between his field and his hand. There was a play he could make, flipping Naelshaddoll Ariel to activate her effect and bringing back Shekhinaga. But that would leave Ariel in a vulnerable state, forcing him to either fusion or XYZ summon. It would give him the overwhelming force he would have liked, but would drain his hand more while wasting his monster’s effects. And right now, he needed to make every move count.

A small smile appeared on Hunter’s face. Perhaps it was time to show Breaburn some traps of his own. “I’ll set one monster face down,” said Hunter at last, another holographic card appearing right next to Winda. “Now I’ll have El Shaddoll Winda attack your Calamity!” The duelist pointed at Calamity while the dragon that Winda rode opened its mouth with an eerie series of clicks and clanks. From its mouth came not a stream of fire, ice, or anything of that nature. Instead it was thousands of glowing purple stings that flew across the field to impale the cowgirl who let out a scream right before she exploded.

Breaburn’s Life Points: 7300

“Grr, ya’ll pay for that one!” shouted Breaburn.

“Yes, I’m sure you’ll try,” commented Hunter. “With that, I end my turn.”

Turn Five: Breaburn

“Lousy cheatin’,” grumbled Breaburn as he drew. (hand: 7) “Think Ah might need a little help here. Lucky for me, Ah drew just what Ah needed. But first Ah’m gonna summon my Magical Musketeer Caspar!” As Breaburn said this, another gunman appeared on his side of the field. Caspar (1200/2000) had wild blond hair, dressed in dirty skin tight leather clothing with a gun in one hand that looked more like it had been cobbled together from several different guns. His shooting hand, Hunter noticed, was grayish blue and had one of those leathery red wings coming out of it.

“Now ta show you what this fella can do,” continued Breaburn. “But first, Ah activate good old Monster Reborn ta bring back Calamity which ya rudely destroyed!” With an almost evil grin, Breaburn placed the spell card in the slot right behind Caspar. As the red head appeared on the field, the teen farmer’s duel disk began to lit up. “Now, Caspar has a nice effect that allows me ta add any old Magical Musket from my deck ta mah hand. Think Ah’ll take Magical Musket – Cross Domination. Then Ah’ll use it right now!” Still grinning, Breaburn played the spell card in the same column as Doc who fired his sniper gun at Winda. El Shaddoll Winda let out a cry when it got struck before purple smoke began to pour out of it. “Bet you’re wondering what this card does. Well-”

“It reduces my monster’s attack and defense to zero as well as negate its effects,” interrupted Hunter glanced at Winda (0/0). When he returned his focus back towards Breaburn, a dark scowl had replaced the wicked smile. “If I recall correctly, you used it to win your second match in that tournament. Used it to take down a Neo Blue – Eyes Ultimate Dragon, right?”

“FINE!” yelled Breaburn, his harsh tone echoing through the silence. “So ya know what it does. Big deal. Well, now Ah get ta bring back Magical Musket – Desperado!” With an almost savage growl, Breaburn took the trap card out with a furious swipe as soon as it appeared in his graveyard slot.

“Ah’ll change Doc into attack position before Ah attack!” screamed Breaburn. “Calamity, time ta take your revenge an blast that stupid puppet right into the compost heap!” With that, Calamity took a knee as she aimed her weapon right at Winda. Not more than a second later did she fire, creating a giant hole through both the dragon and the girl which then shattered into thousands of sparkling lights.

Star Hunter’s Life Points: 7500

Hunter raised a hand over his face, protecting himself from the backlash. “Since you destroyed Winda and sent her to the graveyard, I can add my El Shaddoll Fusion to my hand from the graveyard,” he said in a serious tone.

“Go ahead,” laughed Breaburn before pointing to one of Hunter’s face downs. “Doc, blast it!” Magical Musketeer Doc nodded before taking aim, firing a single energy bullet right into the middle of the face down card. It then revealed itself to be a purplish dragon with stings coming out of all its limbs. It exploded like it normally should, only it left behind a ghostly image that hug in the air where it had been struck down.

“You activated my monster’s flip effect,” said Hunter with a ghost of a smile. “When that happens, I can send one monster you control back to your hand. Shaddoll Dragon, get Kidbrave off the field!” Everyone watched as the dragon’s ghost flew across the field, grabbing Kidbrave by the shoulders before soaring off into Breaburn’s hand. A glowing card appeared along with the rest of the cards he was holding which soon faded to resemble the rest.

“Caspar, destroy his other face down!” shouted Breaburn as he pointed to the face down card. Caspar’s gun fired multiple red bullets of energy towards the card as it flipped over revealing a girl with blue hair, holding a staff in her hands, within a golden dome. Her eyes were closed, making it appear like she was sleeping while also being suspended within her containment.

“Sorry, but those attacks aren’t enough to take down Naelshaddoll Ariel!” (1000/1800)

Breaburn’s Life Points: 6700

“Now to activate her affect,” continued Hunter as Breaburn glowered at him. “When this card is flipped summoned, I can bring back one of my banished Shaddoll monsters. So thank you for banishing El Shaddoll Shekhinaga!” The ground erupted behind Hunter, chucks of rock and grass shooting in all directions as El Shaddoll Shekhinaga reappeared behind its owner. As it hovered there, Hunter watched Breaburn as he took a step back in shock before reaching for a card in his hand.

“Ah hate ta use this,” growled Breaburn. “But that there hunk of wood won’t be here for long. Ah activate Magical Musket – Desperado. And since Ah’m using it in the same column as mah Calamity Ah get ta use her effect ta-”

“Let me stop you right there,” interrupted Hunter cooly. “El Shaddoll Shekhinaga, has an effect that I can activate before she goes boom. When one of your special summoned monsters activates their effects, I can discard one Shaddoll card in my hand to negate the effect and then destroy the monster.” Hunter then allowed himself a small grin as he saw the shocked look on Breaburn’s face. “And since you special summoned Calamity from your graveyard, it counts.” As Hunter slid his Shaddoll Fusion into the graveyard, the chain was completed. As another beam of energy was fired from Calamity’s cannon, several strings were launched from the two front pillars of Hunter’s monster and wrapped around the cowgirl’s limbs. El Shaddoll Shekhinaga fell to the ground, creating a massive dust cloud. But, in the shadows, everyone could see Calamity’s limbs being pulled off before she too vanished.

“Ah knew ya were just like Chaser,” growled Breaburn who was red in the face. “Just as cruel as he is. Maybe worse.”

“I wasn’t the one who programmed these images,” said Hunter as he pressed a button on his duel disk. “I’m going to get back this copy of Shaddoll Fusion since El Shaddoll Shekhinaga was sent to the graveyard. That is, unless you have a way to stop me.”

Breaburn narrowed his eyes. “Ah don’t,” he said as he spat on the ground. “Ah end mah turn.”

Turn Six: Star Hunter

“Very well, I draw!” announced Hunter as he drew. (hand: 4) Flipping the card over to see what it was, his eyes widened. This…was a very good draw. Not what he had been hoping for, but with this card he could get two good monsters on the field! Not only that, he would have a great back up should something go wrong.

“I summon Fairy Tail – Luna in attack mode!” announced Hunter. (1850/ 1000) Everyone gasped in surprise as a fox girl with light yellow fur and long flowing black hair appeared on the field. Luna wore a green Japanese kimono while holding a paper fan in one paw while her tail held a scroll. “When this card is normal summoned, I can add one spellcaster with 1850 attack from my deck to my hand. Even a copy of itself!” A card shot out of Hunter’s deck and, as it shuffled itself, Hunter held up the card to reveal that the card he had chosen was another Fairy Tail – Luna.

“Now that I have a light monster in my hand, I will use Shaddoll Fusion to fuse my extra Fairy Tail – Luna with the Shaddoll Falco in my hand,” continued Hunter as he played one of his fusion cards. Another portal appeared in the sky with purple energy threats coming down, attaching themselves to two of the cards in Hunter’s hand before pulling up to reveal ghostly images of a puppet falcon and the fix girl. “You who trample all in thy path, corrupting all in your wake. Do you dream of returning to your former self, oh knight of the gems? Fusion Summon: El Shaddoll CONSTRUCT!” (2800/2500) As Hunter finished his chant, the sound of a grand cathedral bell could be heard ringing deafeningly overheard as a monster was lowered from the portal. This giant was as large as El Shaddoll Shekhinaga and looked like her as well, minus the towers binding her. It’s color was different as well, with its hoop skirt painted blue as well and the pointed, almost blade like sleeves on its arms while the rest was painted silver. When it landed behind Hunter, thousands or even millions of purple threads extended behind it in a way that looked like it had sprouted wings.

“Now onto the effects,” said Hunter. “Since Shaddoll Falco was sent to the grave via an effect, he gets to return to the field face down.” At that moment a face down card appeared on the field two spaces away from Luna. “Then, Construct allows me to send any Shaddoll card from my deck to the graveyard. Once again, I’ll send Reeshaddoll Wendi allowing me to set any Shaddoll monster in my deck to my side of the field. So why not set another Naelshaddoll Ariel?” Now, Hunter’s side of the field was filled with monsters.

“I believe that will do…for now,” said Hunter as he looked across the field before pointing to Doc. “Time for battle. Luna, send Magical Musketeer Doc back to the infirmary!” Everyone watched as Fairy Tail – Luna’s tail swept in front of her, flipping the scroll into the air where it then began to float. The scroll then began to shine brightly and, when it faded, Doc was no longer on the field. However, the scroll now held the image of him, seeming to press against the paper as if trying to get out. Luna raised a single paw, setting the scroll on fire.

Breaburn’s Life Points: 6250

“Construct, finish off his front lines and eliminate Caspar!” shouted Hunter. Threads shot out from his marionettes hand, wrapping around the lone cowboy. Yet his gunner hand remained free with the weapon pointing right at Construct.

“Ah don’t think so!” roared Breaburn. “Ah activate the copy of Magical Musket – Desperado. Did ya think Ah only had one? HA! And Ah’ll activate it in the same column as mah Caspar.”

“In that case, I’ll activate El Shaddoll Fusion to combine Construct with Ariel to bring out my newest fusion,” countered Hunter as he slid the card into his slot. Caspar took aim and fired, but before his shot could hit its target both monsters were captured by purple stings which lifted them into the portal above. “You thought you were safe there, deep within the dark abyss of the ocean. Yet now you find that the threads of corruption know no limits. Fusion Summon: El Shaddoll Apkellone!” (2500/2000) Flying out of the portal was a very large, purple fish puppet with six blue eyes as well as long white teeth. On its bottom were small, insect like legs that jerked while making an unsettling clicking noise. On its sides were large fins which could have passed for wings. Finally, attached to the top of the fish was a woman’s torso. Or, at least, the upper body of another marionette. This one had long blue hair, pale white skin, and painted on purple robes that ended in edges. In one hand she held a blue staff that shot blue threads at Caspar which then wrapped around him.

“When Apkellone is summoned, I can target one face up card on the field and then drain it of all its effects,” continued Hunter. At the same time, a blue pulse ran down the blue thread towards Caspar who began to scream as his body seemed to be electrocuted. “Also, since Construct was sent to the graveyard, I get to add a Shaddoll spell or trap card back to my hand. El Shaddoll Fusion will do nicely.”

“Wicked monster!” snarled Breaburn as smoke began to roll off Caspar’s body while Hunter’s hand clenched again at the insult.

“Apkellone, dinner is served,” said Hunter. With a jerk and an unsettling rattle, the marionette jerked her arm back sending Caspar flying upward into Apkellone’s mouth. The crowd looked away as the cowboy was then impaled by the sharp teeth, exploding into thousands of yellow lights.

Breaburn’s Life Points: 4950

I think that should be enough for now, thought Hunter as he surveyed his opponents empty field. Apkellone can’t be destroyed by battle, meaning that he’ll have to waste another Desperado if he wants to get rid of it. But, if he does that, I get a card added to my hand. If he attacks my face down Falco, I’ll use it to summon Winda again making that trap useless. Or if he goes after Ariel, I’ll use her effect to set Beast from my banished zone. That way I’ll get some draw and discard power.

“I end my turn,” said Hunter.

Turn Seven: Breaburn

“And I’ll be sure to end YA!” roared Breaburn as he savagely drew while ignoring the gasps from the crowd. (hand: 6) “Ah summon mah Kidbrave again in attack mode. Then Ah’ll play mah trap card Magical Musket – Crooked Crown. This here is a continuous trap card that lets me special summon one Magical Musket monster from mah hand once per turn! An since Ah used it in the same column as Kidbraze, Ah get ta activate his effect!” With a rush, Breaburn drew twice and, when he looked at what he drew, his eyes gleamed in a way Hunter didn’t like. Looking suddenly more composed, Breaburn discard one card from his hand.

“If ya thought ya were done with this little miss, you’re in for a world of surprise,” announced Breaburn. “Come on back Calamity!” And just like that, the red headed girl reappeared on the field holding her giant cannon. “Now, Ah activate this card: Raigeki! Destroys all cards on your side of the field.”

Hunter’s eyes widened as storm clouds appeared above his side of the field. “I activate Fairy Tail – Luna’s quick effect. I can target one monster you control; you return the targeted monster back to your hand while I return Luna. And the monster I’m choosing is your Calamity!” Hunter paused for a moment, looking down at the card on his duel disk. For a split second, he considered not mentioning one other little detail of this card. However, he knew he had to do what was right. “But, there is a catch. You can negate this effect by sending a copy of that card from your deck or extra deck to the grave. So, will you do it?”

The Canterlot teen watched as Breaburn thought about it, mulling over his options before finally pressing a button on his duel disk. “Ta take ya down, Ah’ll pay that price,” he said while Hunter’s heart sank. After scrolling through his deck, Breaburn was seen pressing another button which ejected a card from his deck. Moments later, Hunter’s duel disk confirmed that the card ejected was the last Calamity and it was sent to the graveyard. With nothing more left to do, lightning rained down from the sky destroying everything it touched with near deafening noise. When it finally finished, Hunter stood there alone.

“Since you destroyed Apkellone, I can add one Shaddoll card from my deck to my hand,” said Hunter, doing his best to sound strong. “I choose another new card: Shaddoll Schism. Then I’ll discard my El Shaddoll Fusion.”

“Ya ain’t the only one gettin’ a new card,” replied Breanurn in an almost gleeful fashion. “Mah Calamity gets her effect as well. This time Ah’ll bring out the card Ah discarded with Caspar: Magical Musketeer Wild!” (1700/900) This new monster was something that looked like it had come out of a comic book or an action movie. Shirtless with spiraling tattoos all over its chest, this long, dark haired fiend carried massive chain guns on both arms along with missile launchers on his shoulders.

Now, as Hunter looked across the field with the many guns pointed at him, he felt like he was at the end of a firing squad. And perhaps that’s what Breaburn wanted.

“Now ta take what ya deserve!” shouted Breaburn, throwing a fist into the air and getting more into this.

“For the last time, I’m not-” began Hunter, but was stopped as Kidbrave fired his gun hitting Hunter in several places across the chest. The crowd made a noise that he couldn’t make out as he stumbled back while the blood in his head began to pound.

Star Hunter’s Life Points: 5900

“Now then ya dirty rattler,” said Breaburn. “Ya may have people fooled with that calm front ya put up, but deep down we both know the truth. You’re just…”

“Shut up!” yelled Hunter right before Calamity fired. His fist was tightening once again, only now his nails were digging into his flesh. As the beam hit him in the chest, the teen could feel his hand growing wet with his own blood.

Star Hunter’s Life Points: 4400

“…like…” continued Breaburn as Wild shot a barrage of bullets from both chain guns which showered Hunter in a hail storm of bullets.

“…HIM!” finished Breaburn as the missiles on Wild’s back were fired, as if to finish the blow. They landed around Hunter, seeming to knock him back as a cloud of dust surrounded him. Then…


Over at the Canterlot team, everyone watched with a growing sickness in their stomachs. They had seen their teammate take the verbal abuse seemingly well, but they could not hide their disdain when the words were matched with holographic bullets. Now, as Hunter’s words echoed through the night, Moondancer covered her mouth while the rest of the team looked on with worry. Well, most of them anyways.

“That wasn’t me!” said Lightning quickly, raising her hands as if to surrender for some reason. But no one said anything to this. They all just kept their eyes on the field while Vice - Principal Luna began to pull out her phone.

Breaburn stood there as the savage scream could be heard across the field, a small smile playing on his lips as the holographic dust cleared to reveal what he knew was the true Hunter. Now the rattler snake stood there, veins nearly popping out of his neck as he gritted his teeth. Hunter’s hair was messy now, looking almost wild as was the look in his eyes. Nothing more than a savage animal it seemed.

“SHUT UP!” screamed Hunter, throwing his head back and forth. “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!”

“Finally ya-” began Breaburn.

“Do you have any fucking idea what it was like living with that asshole?” demanded Hunter, taking a loud step forward while bringing a hand to his head. “I had to live with his racist, sexiest, and downright demeaning insults every fucking day! I hate him! I hate him! I! HATE! HIM!” Breaburn took a step back as Hunter’s hand slid down his face, showing that blood was now smearing on both his hair and face making him look deranged. But that was nothing compared to what happened next. “HATE! HATE! HATE!” he began to scream at the top of his lungs, tears now running down his face as he stomped on the ground with every repetition of the word. Over and over and over he went, making Breaburn wonder how he was even managing to take a breath. With each stomp, Breaburn’s smile faded until he was looking at the sight before him in horror at what he had done. He was watching a dame of emotions breaking, ready to flood an entire town with all the pent up rage.

Then, Hunter’s head jerked to look at Breaburn in a way that seemed unnatural to the large teen. “You stand there wining to me, TO ME, about how he humiliated you once! Poor you. You got to go on with your life and never see that ASSHOLE again! I had to deal with it EVERY FUCKING DAY! What?!? You think I was special enough not to be called retarded by him? Not to be insulted, demeaned, degraded by him EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY?!? Not to feel inferior to him when we have the same face? HA! I was his fucking maid, fucking punching bag! I was never good enough and he made damn sure to remind me. Him and my parents.

“And do you know what’s worse? DO YOU?!?” Hunter continued to scream. “I had the chance to finally, FINALLY take him down a peg. To shut that mouth of his and humiliate him! But even that was taken away from me and it was that bastard Sombra’s fault! It’s because of him that I’m left with nothing. He caused Chaser’s break down and fall from grace, NOT ME! But I got all the blame. My parents said IT WAS MY FAULT Chaser was no longer allowed to duel! Yeah! Add that to the pile of shit dumped on me! My own parents! Then when he goes and gets arrested, they have a break down! Then, when it happens AGAIN, what do they do? They abandon me without even a fucking note! ALL! BECAUSE! OF! CHASER! I HATE HIM!”

Breaburn flinched as Hunter began to stomp on the ground again, sounding more like a savage animal. Looking past him, Breaburn could see the horrified looks on his teammates as they seemed too frozen to do anything.

“It’s my turn now,” cried Hunter in a horse tone.

Turn Eight: Star Hunter

“I draw,” breathed Hunter, drawing from his deck so hard that Breaburn though he saw droplets of blood flying through the air. (hand: 2) “I set one card face down and end my turn!”

Turn Nine: Breaburn

Breaburn felt himself unable to move, just staring at the thing Hunter had become. He was still breathing heavy, yet had not lost any of the savageness in his eyes. One of his eyelids was twitching madly helping to make him look unstable. Watching this caused a wave of disgust to reappear within the taller teen. Only, the disgust wasn’t directed at Hunter. Slowly Breaburn raised a hand, but before he could do anything more Hunter began to scream once more.

“What’s the matter? Isn’t this what you wanted? To keep pushing me and pushing me until I broke? To go all crazy? WELL? Congratulations! You got your fucking wish!”

That made Breaburn flinch once again. He couldn’t deny that that was what he wanted. To show everyone the monster that Hunter really was. Slowly, Breaburn turned his head to look around him starting with the still silent crowd. They were watching everything with a look of disgust and shame. But it wasn’t Hunter they were looking at. It was him. He, who was the pride of Appleloosa, had pushed his opponent so far to the point where he had broken was now being looked down upon like he was a grub ruining a fine orchard. Quickly his insides felt hollow and numb, made all the worse when even his own parents refused to meet his gaze. Trembling a little now, Breaburn turned to look at his teammates. Strongheart quickly turned her head so that he was out of her sight while most of the others shifted uncomfortably where they stood. Only Sparkle was watching him with an amused look on her face.

Hands trembled as Breaburn turned to look at the raging teen. For a moment, he thought about placing his hand over his deck to declare he had forfeited. Yet something in the small, glaring pupils of Hunter’s told him it would not be wise. He had pushed him too far and, if he did just give up after all of this, there was no telling what the other teen would do in his rage.

“Silver Star, your student has gone too far,” growled Luna into her phone. Her eyes were fixed on Silver Star who was making his way over to her, walking around the field with his phone up to his ear.

“Ah know, Ah know,” he breathed in a panic. “If Ah knew for a moment he would try something like this Ah would have called for a redraw. Trust me Luna, Ah would never have let this happen.”

“Then call the duel off!” snapped Luna.

“We can’t,” replied Silver Star swiftly as he drew nearer. “The rules state that unless one of them is caught cheating or there is outside interference, the duel must continue until one is defeated or gives up!”

“Must continue?” repeated an enraged Luna. “How can you say that? I don’t think Hunter’s in his right mind right now to consider forfeiting and your student has been egging him on this entire time. I bet he’s getting a kick out of this.”

“Luna, Ah’m mighty sorry,” he said again. “But if we stop the duel now, both our schools won’t be able to have any more tournaments for the foreseeable future. And the school, we really need them sponsorships. State only has so much money ta pass around. Would have had ta cut our arts programs.” Now Silver Star was close enough for him to be heard without the phone. Disconnecting the call, he pocketed his phone as he now stood next to Luna. She could see the panic and shame written all over his face. “Ah’ll make this right…somehow.”

Luna bit her lip. Hard. She could understand where Silver Star was coming, she really could. It was those very sponsorships that she and Celestia were hoping for. The rules were the rules. But that didn’t mean she had to like them.

“You better,” said Luna evenly as she turned to watch the match unfold, gripping her elbows hard.

“Ah draw,” said Breaburn in a quiet voice. (hand: 4)

“I activate my trap card: Shaddoll Schism!” screamed Hunter as soon as Breaburn added the card to his hand. As his trap card flipped up, the ground in front of Hunter split open to reveal a deep fissure. From it shadowy tendrils began to flow outward, moving like snakes in the grass until they simply vanished. “I can use this card during the main phase of either player's turn, banishing cards from my field or graveyard to fusion summon! I banish one of my Fairy Tail – Luna’s as well as an El Shaddoll Construct in order to fusion summon ANOTHER Construct!” Another cathedral bell could be heard ringing as El Shaddoll Construct rose from the abyss. “Now for her effect. I send Shaddoll Falco from my deck to the graveyard which then allows it to appear on my side of the field face down.”

“Ah,” began Breaburn as he looked at his hand. “Ah…switch all my monsters ta defense mode and end mah turn.”

Turn Ten: Star Hunter

“Is that all you got? You were so fired up before!” yelled Hunter who began to pant a little deeper now. (hand: 2) He looked at the card he drew with those now tiny pupils for a moment before slapping it on his duel disk. “Finally. I summon Aleister the Invoker!” (1000/1800) Appearing on the field was a man in a hooded white and grey robes. In one hand, Aleister held a staff while in the other held a book. “With him on the field, I can add the spell card Invocation to my hand which I will then use! I banish my Aleister the Invoker with your Magical Musketeer Calamity in your graveyard in order to summon Invoked Machaba!” On the field, Aliester raised his staff him into the air as a large pentagram appeared on the ground around him. Above the spellcaster was the ghostly image of Calamity, hung there as if a daze. “Mystic power of sage and gunwoman, merge together to so that the light may become your armor! Ride now onto the battlefield! Fusion Summon! Invoked Machaba!” (2500/2100) Everyone watched as the pentagram rose, morphing the two monsters as it did. Aliester became covered in armor like that of a knight while Calamity was forced onto the ground, her hind legs becoming wheel like that of a chariot. Knight like armor covered her upper body as it buffed up, becoming the mount made to pull them onto the field.

“Ah,” began Breaburn as he held up a card. His hand was trembling now, looking unsure what to do. Finally he gulped loudly before playing the card. “Ah activate my last copy of Magical Musket – Desperado ta destroy that thing.”

“Like hell you will!” yelled Hunter as he slid his last card into the graveyard. “I activate my monsters effect! By discarding the same type of card as the one you just played, I can not only negate its effect but banish it as well!” A shot was fired from Kidbraze’s gun, only to have Mechaba’s shield deflect it with ease.

“Now I activate the other effect of Invocation, allowing me to return my banished Aleister to my hand by shuffling the Invocation in my grave back into my deck,” continued Hunter after he had finished with that, Hunter reached over to his face down monster. “But it gets better because now I flip Shaddoll Falco into attack mode! And when that happens I can set one Shaddoll Monster in my graveyard face down on my side of the field. So why not bring back Naelshaddoll Ariel for one last go?” As a purple bird puppet appeared on Hunter’s side of the field, so too did another face down card. “Normally I wouldn’t be able to flip summon on the turn it was set. But luckily for me, the card I used to fuck over your damned trap card was Resh Shaddoll Incarnation! By banishing this card from my grave along with another Shaddoll card, I can flip Naelshaddoll Ariel face up! That allows her effect to activate bringing back my banished El Shaddoll Construct in attack mode!” As Ariel appeared on the field, so too did a second Construct.

“Now I get to activate her effect once more,” continued Hunter. “I’ll send Shaddoll Hedgehog to the grave allowing me to add Reeshaddoll Winda to my hand. But that’s not all I’m doing! I will use the effect of Shaddoll Schism once more, fusing together my Falco and Ariel to summon El Shaddoll Anoyatyllis!” As Hunter spoke, the shadows coming out of the fissure grabbed both the named monsters, pulling them into its darkness as Hunter began to chant. “Power of the icy dragon, stolen to serve another. Pulled from the void sending a chill down thy enemy’s spine. Fusion summon: El Shaddoll Anoyatyllis!” (2700/2000) Slowly rising from the ground was another massively huge monster that took its places in-between the two Constructs. It was another large female marionette with purple painted on clothing and white skin. It also looked like there was a snake or something wrapped and fused to her body, ending at the back of her head to form some sort of headdress. Strings fanned out of her back to form wings as well as coming from her fingers.

“Sadly, my new monster can’t attack the turn it was summoned with Schism,” growled Hunter, tears still running down his eyes. “But it won’t matter because I can destroy all of your monsters in one go!” One by one, Hunter’s monsters launched their attacks starting with Mechaba. The monstrous chariot crossed the field leaving a cloud of dust in its tracks before running down Calamity and impaling her on the knight’s spear before she vanished from sight. Next came the two Constructs, wrapping up both Kidbrave and Wild before pulling them in so that they were impaled on the monster’s sharp sleeve.

Now the scene had changed, with Hunter having a massive field advantage. Four powerful and looming monsters looked down on Breaburn and his monster-less field. At the same time, Hunter was looking around almost wildly. His gaze shifted from his hand to the field to his duel disk back to the field and so on in an almost jerky fashion. Despite the eyes and the heavy breathing, his jaw was slowly beginning to unclench while his muscles seemed to loosen a bit. It was as if the anger was slowly leaving him.

“I end my turn,” he said at last, despite still searching for something.

But Breaburn knew what was wrong. Hunter had messed up.

Turn Eleven: Breaburn

“Ah…draw,” said Breaburn slowly with his head down. (hand: 4) “Thanks ta the effect of mah Crooked Crown Ah…Ah can special summon mah Magical Musketeer Starfire from mah hand.” (1300/1700) Appearing on the field was a woman who was dressed more like a belly dancer with a shawl covering her face. “Next Ah activate the effect of mah spell card Magic Planter, destroying mah Crooked Crown in order ta draw twice.”

“Hoping to get another Doc?” crooked Hunter, his voice clearly showing strain from all the screaming he had been doing.

“Nah,” replied Breaburn after he drew. He knew that what Hunter was getting at, that he would summon Doc to get any of the spells and traps in his graveyard. Of course, he knew he couldn’t even attempt that right now. But, with what he now had, he had all he needed to end this sad excuse of a duel he created. “Ah tribute Starfire in order ta summon mah deck’s ace: Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel!” (2500/2500) Starfire vanished in a sparkle of lights, replaced with a tall, lengthy man with long black hair, horns, and red glowing wings. He was dressed in a fancy looking trench coat as if to give himself an air of importance and the rest of his clothing looked very clean. His arms were crossed against his chest and in each of his hands was a gun that, again, had a copper, steampunk appearance to it.

“Now, Zakiel, attack the first El Shaddoll Construct!” yelled Breaburn. At first, all Zakiel did was lower his arms before bending him legs. Then, all of a sudden, he began to blitz across the field.

“You must have lost your mind,” growled Hunter as Zakiel was suddenly surrounded by the purple threads, blocking him from view. “My monster is the stronger of the two. You have-” Hunter was cut off as bullets were fired, being used to cut the threads. Something caused El Shaddoll Construct to tumble backwards as Zakiel launched himself into the air with one of his weapons glowing as he pointed it at Construct’s chest. “You used Magical Musket - Cross Domination, reducing my monster’s attack and defense to zero. But it won’t work. Next turn, I will be able to finish you off.”

“Ah know,” replied Breaburn with his head still down, sliding another card into his duel disk. “That’s why Ah’m ending it here and now with the card Magical Musket – Steady Hands, doubling Zakiel’s attack until the end of the turn.” Now Zakiel (5000) raised his other weapon as it began to glow red, firing both of them at Construct with a shot that echoed through the entire town.

Star Hunter’s Life Points: 0

Winner: Breaburn

Hunter watched as a massive hole appeared in Construct’s chest as she fell backwards, watching it as his eyes went wide with something that wasn’t anger. It was something else. Maybe realization or something like it. As the monster fell, its head turned, facing cracking as it looked back at Hunter before it completely shattered. A moment later it fell to the ground creating another massive cloud of dust that covered his side of the field. At the same time, Breaburn fell to his knees in shame. He just stared at the ground as his stomach felt completely empty while a vile, gnawing feeling gripped him. He had won…but it felt so damn hollow.

Then, as the holograms began to vanish, Hunter began to walk across the field. Only Breaburn didn’t look up. He just stayed there, flinching at every step he took waiting from him to do anything. Hit him. Yell at him. Maybe a combination of the two or something worse. Whatever he had planned, Breaburn knew he deserved it. He had manipulated the order of the duels, berated and made accused Hunter of things he couldn’t back up. He…He was no better than Chaser.

Finally, Hunter stopped right in front of Breaburn. The large teen slowly lifted his head, unable to hold back a gasp at what he saw. Hunter was standing there, looking more like his calm self from before. Along the way he had apparently tried to wipe the blood off his face, but Breaburn could still see smears of the red liquid around his slightly reddish eyes. It also looked like Hunter had tried getting the blood off his hand by rubbing it against his pants leg. It worked for the most part and it seemed that his hand was no longer bleeding.

“I know the match has already been decided,” he said, raising his good and unbloodied hand up. “But I still want to say this: You won. Good game.” As Breaburn remained still, he felt the color draining from his face while at the same time Hunter looked away for a moment. “I, ah, also wanted to apologize for some of the things I said. It was uncalled for.”

Breaburn looked at his face and then to the outstretched hand before rising himself. He could hear the crowd as they all took a collective breath and his own hand rose…before letting out a sigh of relief as he clasped hands with Hunter. “I’m sorry too. Good game.” He only wished he meant that second part.

After the Storm

View Online

Up in the stands, a certain figure dressed in a red business suit with long, flowing silver hair watched the two duelists shake hands with mild interest. Despite his age, he had the appearance of a man in his mid 20’s to late 30’s and kept his face half covered by his hair. He had his legs crossed, one on top of the other, as his hands rested upon them clasped together. On one side was a silver briefcase while on the other was his meal: the famous Appleloosa BBQ pulled pork with a side of fries and diet soda. This man was none other than the creator of Duel Monsters: Maximillion Pegasus!

Of course, the pulled pork was only one of the reasons he was here this night…although he would never deny that it was worth the trip! It wasn’t everyday that a school set up their own dueling team so how could Pegasus deny himself the delight of seeing such fine, raw young talent who desired to step into the limelight? And going up against such a fine school like Appleloosa on their first go? It was next to impossible for anyone to stop Pegasus! So far, he had seen sparks of talent down on the field. Moondancer had made excellent work of the Nephthys his team had worked so diligently to create. A pity that not many people played ritual decks so it was pleasurable to see one with his own eye. The Steelswarm duelist, however, did not draw too much attention from him but that was mostly due to his opponent making the duel utterly dull. Hmm, perhaps dull people like that need a field spell. Something to work on for later. The Dragunity duelist was very clever in getting rid of that Venom Swap. Why, before she had activated that trap, Pegasus had thought the match was over. How exciting! As for the Fire Fist duelist there was a need for improvement.

Then there was the Shaddoll duelist: Star Hunter. The third, but not final, reason Pegasus was here tonight. It was hard not to know about the boy seeing that Pegasus had been involved with Star Chaser’s lifelong ban. He had also watched the video of the duel between the two brothers that Sombra had sent him as proof of Chaser’s crime. To be honest, Pegasus had been more interested in the duel and needed a second watching to spot what Sombra had pointed out! Hunter certainly deserved props for using Lord of Red and in such a dramatic fashion while Chaser had been a bore using that Red – Eyes burn tactic to try and win. It was a shame that Hunter couldn’t attend such a fine dueling institute like Crystal Prep. He could have made himself quite the name.

Did he think that Hunter was as bad as Chaser? Oh heavens no. While Hunter was a no name before his duel against Chaser, Pegasus had never gotten so much as a whiff that the boy shared the same vile streak as Chaser. So he tended to judge the boy on his merits and own accomplishments.

A pity then that not everyone seemed to share this view tonight, souring what could have been such an entertaining duel. Pegasus didn’t know if that Breaburn fellow really believed if Hunter was just as just his brother or that he just wanted to take out his own anger and frustration. Perhaps it didn’t even really matter what his reasons were, seeing as the result would have been the same either way. Alas, such a pity.

Letting out a hum, Pegasus looked over at the silver briefcase as a faint golden light began to shine through the cracks. Light that only those who had been touched by magic could see. A smile appeared on the man’s face, nodding at the briefcase before turning his attention back to the two duelists. This might be considered the final reason he was here tonight, along with this precious cargo. For the last year or so, he had been bringing it to tournaments much like this one hoping to see a similar reaction like what happened to the original Crystal Beasts…before he mass produced them. In all that time, he had never once gotten so much as a spark or a glow. That is until Sombra sent him that video and the briefcase began to glow. And now, as Pegasus brought the straw of his drink to his lips, he believed he had found the one the cards wanted.

Movement below caught the man’s attention as both duelists began to head back to their teams, Hunter appearing a little more haggard.

“Well, I suppose I’d best make the young man’s acquaintance,” Pegasus decided as he walked out of the room with the case in one hand and his sandwich in the other.

Hunter slowly made his way back across the field feeling more drained than he ever had in his entire life. His legs felt like they were made of ten-ton bricks, causing him to stumble and almost fall over. If anyone in the crowd saw this they remained silent about it, Hunter barely able to hear them whispering to each other as the last match of the night would soon begin. Hunter’s eyes felt heavy, as if sleep was beckoning him at that moment. But none of that compared to his throat. It had been a long time since it had been this sore with his vocal cords feeling like they had been set on fire.

About halfway, Hunter finally noticed a figure approaching him. It was Silver Star striding across the field back to his own team with a deep frown on his face and hardened eyes. At first, Hunter thought that they were fixed on him. As if he had done something wrong which, to be fair, he had been swearing a lot at the top of his lungs. No doubt there were plenty of children in the audience. It honestly made sense, he had done over to talk to Vice – Principal Luna about his behavior and was now heading back. Yet, as the older man came closer to him, Silver Star’s eyes softened considerably and slowed down.

“Sorry you had to deal with that young man,” he said in a low, kind voice as he patted Hunter on the shoulder. Barely able to hold back his surprise, the teen looked up only to find that Silver Star was picking his pace back up. Turning his head, Hunter saw that Silver Star was heading straight towards Breaburn. For a moment, Hunter just stood there watching Silver Star before turning around and continuing his slow walk.

Eventually Hunter made his way back to his team who quickly moved onto the field and surrounded him. Just in time too as it was then that Hunter’s legs finally gave out, almost dropping to the ground if Moondancer hadn’t caught him. His girlfriend struggled to help keep him up as the rest of the team began to pat him on the back, all of their faces looking relieved. Most likely happy he wasn’t a screaming mess anymore. The only one who wasn’t here right now was Vice – Principal Luna. It seemed she had stayed behind for a moment and was now calmly walking towards them.

“Dude, that was brutal!” yelled Lightning. “I mean the way he was just accusing you and then you summoning all those fusion monsters like it was nothing. If you had gone against anyone else-” Lightning’s ramblings were drowned out as the other members spoke up.

“I feel so pathetic,” said Autumn. “Losing my cool just because my opponent summons non – stop and there you are taking all that for so long. I’m really going to have to redouble my training!”

“There really should be rules against stuff like that,” Pharynx added as he shook his head.

“-and then just pow, right in the kisser with a mean left hook,” continued Lightning, punching the empty air in front of her. She then turned to look at the rest of the group with a grin on her face. “But hey, at least you scared the living shit out of him with all that screaming. Seeing all the color drain from his face while he crapped up his pants was a treat after all that.”

“Yes, the screaming,” said Luna as she now stood in front of Hunter. Slowly, she reached out a hand and placed it on Hunter’s shoulder with a grip that was firm yet comforting. “You know I can’t look away from all the things you said, right. Swearing like that in a public place and causing a scene. I’m going to have to call your aunt and have a talk about this with her.”

“WHAT?!?” shouted Moondancer and Lightning in unison.

“B-But that’s not fair!” cried Wallflower.

“That’s right!” said Moondancer as she stepped forward, nearly knocking Hunter down as she still held him. “That Breaburn guy wouldn’t ease up on him! He had to stand there and take it! It was either that or forfeit! So how can-” Luna held up her other hand to silence the nerdy girl while giving her a short, soft glance with a half smile.

“My hands are tied on this matter,” said Luna as she turned back to look at Hunter. “The rules state that when a student has done something this outrageous while representing the school, I have to talk to their parents or legal guardian.” She paused and smiled again. “However, the rules don’t go beyond that, leaving the rest up to my judgment. I will be talking to Ms. Star Chart about what happened, all the things he said to you, and how long you endured it. She should also be happy to hear that I won’t be punishing you for this either. But, this can only be a one time occurence. Understand?”

“Yeah,” said Hunter with a nod while everyone else around him let out a sigh of relief. He then turned to look at the rest of the team. “I’m just sorry I let you all down like this.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” said Lightning as she playfully punched his side, causing Hunter to wince. The girl really didn’t know how to hold back. “We’re still in this thing! All green girl has to do is win and the points will be tied up! Then we go to that life point thing. I think with the way Pharynx didn’t lose any we should be-”

“Lightning, there won’t be a tie,” said Hunter as he gestured towards the scoreboard. He watched as Lightning gave him a dubious look before glancing over where, upon looking at it, her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

Duel Scores:
Canterlot High: 6
Appleloosa High: 10

“Woah, hold on there!” Lightning yelled as she stared at the board. “That can’t be right! Appleloosa should have nine points! We won twice and they won three times! How can they-”

“My duel, remember?” said Pharynx as he stepped up to Lightning. “The point system is based on how the duel is won. Normal victories are three points but forcing a deck out is four. Even if Wallflower wins her next match, we’ll lose by one point.” As Lightning’s face fell, Pharynx let out a sigh. “Appleloosa has their bases covered so they have the greatest chance to win. Troubleshoes tries to get them a deck out win and Quick Strike goes for the instant win condition while the others seem to work on normal victories. I can see why they’re so good.”

“Don’t sell yourselves short,” said Luna as she stood up tall. “I think you have all done very well given the circumstances and shown that we have the potential to compete in team dueling. That is why I’m going to go before the school board and speak on behalf of the team. If they agree with me, then I will invite all of you to be the founding members of the team.” Everyone turned their attention to Lightning who looked like she was about to explode with joy. At Canterlot High, above every sports trophy case was a picture showing the founding members of each sports team. From hockey to baseball and even chess, they were all immortalized in that still frame. Hunter noticed that Luna rolled her eyes at this before turning to look at Wallflower who let out a gasp at the seriousness of her expression. “Wallflower, I don’t mean to put any pressure on you but it will help my case more if you win. Or, at the very least, make it a close match. I’ll still do my best even if you lose…it’ll just be a little more difficult.”

“I,” began Wallflower as her face began to turn bright red. Her body seemed to grow stiffer as she stood straighter than before. “I’ll try not to let you all down.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” said Lightning as she moved behind Wallflower, resting her hands on the other girl’s shoulders. “She’ll be fine. And when she dominates her opponent you can count me in on the team.”

“Me too,” said Pharynx as he moved behind Wallflower as well. “Might be fun. And, as a bonus, I get out of all my brother’s touchy feely retreats and circles! No more trust falls and making emotional bracelets!” The dark skinned boy smiled as he looked up into the sky, a tear almost hidden to everyone as it ran down his cheek.

“I think I’ll join as well,” said Hunter, much to everyone’s surprise. He ignored them however and instead focused on Vice – Principal Luna. “I don’t want to give up on dueling and I can’t just let things stand the way they are. But, if this sort of thing keeps happening, I’ll have to leave…for my own sake.”

For a moment, Luna said nothing as she looked him over. As she did so, Hunter noted how her right eye narrowed to a point where it almost twitched as well as how her jaw shifted ever so slightly even though her mouth was closed. He could tell that right now she was having a very intense battle within her mind. One that he was fairly certain he knew what it was about. She knew that Hunter was a skilled duelist with a vast collection of cards that could help the team. On the other hand, she was one of the people responsible for him. Not just his physical wellbeing but also his emotional and mental wellbeing. No doubt after tonight she was worried that placing him on the team would endanger those last two. And if he had another break like tonight…

Finally, she let out a sigh. “Alright, but I need to make something very clear,” she said sternly. “Star Hunter, I am willing to let you get off with a warning because you have never done this before. That no one knew what you were walking into. But, if you stay on the team, there is a good chance that there will be others who will do the same. Meaning you will be actively walking into this same situation over and over again. Do you understand this?” Luna left a pause allowing Hunter to nod. “Then you need to understand that your outburst, while understandable, cannot be tolerated.”

“But that doesn’t seem fair!” shouted Autumn.

“Yeah, what’s Hunter supposed to do? Just take it lying down?” railed Lightning.

“No, she’s right,” said Hunter, surprising the two girls. Slowly, Hunter did his best to stand up more on his own power. Slowly he then looked over at Moondancer, their eyes locking. He could see the concern she had for him. The worries and fears all within that simple look. But then, he saw a shift. He could see that she understood what he wanted and agreed with him. When she nodded, Hunter turned to look back at everyone else. “Honestly, I didn’t like myself out there at the end. It reminded me too much of…him. But, I hope there will be more people out there willing to give me a chance to show that I’m not like Chaser. Or at least keep their feelings in check while we duel. If I can’t, then the only thing I can control is myself. I need to take responsibility.” Hunter then cleared his throat. “Ah, do you think it would be alright if I could get some water?”

“I don’t mind,” said Luna as she looked over across the field. Hunter, along with the rest of the team turned to look as well, seeing the Silver Star was shouting something at Breaburn and waving his fist in the air. “It looks like it might be awhile before the next match. Just be sure to head back here when you hear the announcement.”

As Hunter nodded, Moondancer spoke up. “I’ll go with him. Just to make sure nothing more happens.”

“In all mah years at this here school, Ah have never seen anything more disgraceful than that!” shouted Silver Star, spittle flying through the air and landing on Breaburn’s face. Out of instinct, the teen started to raise his hand to wipe it away, only to stop a third of the way as Silver Star’s face reddened even more.

No one had ever seen the man this anger before. Sure, the man could lose his temper when a student came up with a lame excuse for why he didn’t turn in his assignment, half assed it, or when an entire class failed to live up to his expectations. But in all those other times, his face had never turned that shade of red nor had he shown that many veins. Heck, you could almost see the anger rolling off his body making him scarier than fighting an entire field of Blue – Eyes! Yet, Breaburn stood there as his teammates said nothing. None of them came to his defense or tried to calm the man down. Not because they were afraid of his ire, but more likely they were just as mad at Breaburn. With the exception of Sparkle who seemed to be simply assumed by this sight, looking like she wished she had some popcorn to munch on.

“What you did out there was the most dishonest tactic ta win a duel!” continued Silver Star. “Nothing but a low down move that ah thought you were above. Accusing that poor fella non stop in front of the entire town!?! If ah had known that you were gonna act like that, ah would have taken a forfeit. Now this win is going to feel like a nasty lump in the throat when ah announce the win on Monday.”

Silver Star paused and shook his head. “This was supposed ta be us showing our Appleloosa pride ta them city folk from Canterlot. Our first time dueling against them and puttin’ on a fine show. And what do you think they’re going ta think of us when they head back home? That we have any pride in our town? NO! Do you think the folks up in the bleachers are feelin’ proud right now? NO! Breaburn, you-” Silver Star shoved one of his fingers right into Breaburn’s face, teeth gritted so tightly there might have been sparks. The older man had an ugly look in his eyes now, but that might have been because he was looking at something really repulsive right now. He then took a breath before pulling back. “Ah expected more from you, boy. You let not only me down, but the whole school by that showing. From this point on, you’re no longer Captain. But believe you me, that ain’t the half of it. No sir! Ah’ll be having a chat with Principal Thunderhooves about what happened when he gets back from Hawaii. We’ll be talking long and hard about this. Might be needing ta kick you off the team for the rest of the year! Maybe for good!”

Breaburn somehow managed to stay standing, though his legs felt like they were about to give out. He had expected some sort of penalty if he got caught fixing this match. And in the end, he knew he deserved to be punished for how he had acted. But hearing it from Mr. Silver Star who he had always gotten along with was something completely different. It was like the weight of everything he had decided to throw away tonight had finally come crashing down on him. Not only had he put his dueling future into danger, but he had most likely lost the trust of Silver Star. Maybe the entire school or even the town. How long would it be before he could put this night behind him?

What made this all the worse was that no one was standing up for him. Most of them just stood there, remaining silent. Most of them…

“Well, looks like there’s an opening for team Captain,” said Sparkle as she twirled around. “Since you’re no doubt looking, I think the position should be filled with the most talented show woman in town. Someone like-”

“Oh, don’t you dare think Ah had forgotten about you!” snapped Silver Star, earning an ‘eep’ from Sparkle as she jumped back. “Still fuming about how you handled your loss against that gal Moondancer. And that ain’t nothing compared ta how you treated Quick Strike after he lost! Oh, words will be had with Thunderhooves AN your folk! Ah…Ah…” The elder man let out a hiss of anger before he walked away. No doubt too angry to even look at the two.

“Well poo, another lame talk with my parents,” said Sparkle as she placed her hands behind her head. “But at least I can look on the bright side that Breaburn can mess up worse!” She then let out a loud laugh that cut right into Breaburn. He turned to look at the girl, tears beginning to sting his eyes. But, as he did, Sparkle turned to look at him with her old amused look. “Oh, I wouldn’t be trying to throw my weight around if I were you. No longer Captain, remember? Old high and mighty Breaburn has fallen off his high horse, just another lowly little duelist like the rest of us. I’m so glad I got to see it firsthand.”

Breaburn nearly felt himself stumble backwards at that, as if the smaller girl had punched him in the gut. Without really thinking about it, he turned to look at the rest of his team. Both Quick Strike and Trouble Shoes were looking away, not wanting to make any eye contact with him. Liberty was busy going over her deck, thinking about the duel ahead rather than what was going on in front of her. As for Little Strongheart, she was the only one to make eye contact. Only, he wished she wouldn’t.

“Don’t go lookin’ ta me for help there,” she stated flatly, but loud enough so that everyone around could hear. She then stepped closer, only stopping when she was right in front of him and able to pull down on his shirt until her mouth was next to his ear. “Ya got only a bit of what you deserve there. Ain’t told nobody what you got Forecast ta do for you and, for his sake, Ah ain’t gonna. But, if you had any sense, you would resign from dueling and never show yourself around these here parts again. An don’t you dare try to court me again! Ah don’t even want ta look at your sorry sight!” With that said, Breaburn’s eyes widened as he was then pushed back by Strongheart with enough force to nearly cause him to fall on his ass. Or maybe it was also because his legs had suddenly become as strong as a pair of twigs holding up an anvil. As he tried to straighten himself, he managed to get a look at Strongheart’s eyes. Full of disgust and regret, along with tears that were forming.

Breaburn’s eyes shifted to look down at the ground. They were right. She was right. He wanted to tell them all how sorry he was. How he now realized how wrong he had been. How stupid he had been. But he knew words wouldn’t do it. Not alone.

Slowly he looked up, shifting his gaze over to the Canterlot side of the field. There, he saw Hunter moving away from most of his team with the help of Moondancer. As he watched them, he could hear Strongheart saying something yet he ignored it. Instead he moved away from the rest of his team. He knew what he now had to do.

“You sure you want to keep doing this Hunter?” asked Moondancer. Hunter looked up from the cubed haystack he was currently sitting on, an ice cold bottle of water in his hands. Hands that were trying with all their might to twist the damn thing open!

“Yeah,” Hunter said with a grunt. “My throat feels like sandpaper right, gr, now!” As Hunter gritted his teeth, putting more and more strength into twisting the cap, Moondancer let out a sigh as she shook her head.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” she said.

“I, ah, know,” grunted Hunter again, twisting until he felt his palm skidding across the cap. The teen let out a hiss of pain, waving his friction burned hand around as if it had been set on fire. After a few swipes, he finally stopped and rested the bottle in both hands. “Moondancer, that duel made me realize something: I’ve been standing in Chaser’s shadow for so long it feels like it’s a part of me. It…It’s deep inside of me, gnawing and corrupting me all the time. I still dream about that duel at Crystal Prep, only in those dreams I’ve humiliated him and made him feel like how I’ve felt. Then…I wake up sick with how good it felt to see him so broken before me.” A shudder ran through Hunter’s body as he shook his head. “When I was out there, letting the anger take over, I felt like him. I didn’t care about anything or anyone. The only thing that mattered was ripping everything apart. Then, when I saw Construct get blasted like that, I saw what might be my future. Being just a puppet, letting my rage take control like that until it destroys me. So, I need to change that. I need to let go of Chaser and move on. What’s done is done. Now, all I’m going to focus on is the future and not worry about what could have been.”

“That doesn’t mean you should keep doing this though,” argued Moondancer. She then bit her lower lip, running a hand through her hair as she looked down at him. “Hunter, you’re a great duelist and I know how much you love the game. But just look what this one duel did to you. What if every time you go out there, Chaser gets thrown back in your face? Or you see a card that brings back memories of you and Chaser like the Inferno Fire Blast?”

“That’s why I said I’d leave if I kept exploding out there,” said Hunter as he moved to open the bottle again. Well, try to anyways. “I want to at least try and hope not every duelist out there is like Breaburn. Maybe I can make some headway, make a name for myself that really separates me from Chaser. But I won’t keep subjecting myself to a hopeless cause. If I really do keep exploding out there, or if I just can’t move on while dueling, I’ll walk away. For my sake.”

“Need a hand with that?” came a familiar voice. Both Moondancer and Hunter turned to see Breaburn standing a few feet away from them, holding out a hand. As Moondancer clenched her fists and trembled with anger, Hunter stared into the other teen’s face. Breaburn did not look like a guy who had just secured a victory for his team. He looked completely and utterly miserable.

“What are you doing here?” demanded Moondancer. “Come to twist the knife a little deeper? Or do you just-”

“Sure, knock yourself out,” interrupted Hunter, tossing Breaburn the bottle as Moondancer gave him a shocked look. However, Hunter kept his eyes on Breaburn. “But don’t be surprised if you can’t open it. I swear, those seals these days feel more and more like they fused-” Hunter stopped talking as Breaburn effortlessly opened the bottle and then tossed it back to Hunter. “Well, I’d love to say I loosened it…but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.” He let out a sigh before twisting the cap fully off and bringing the nose of the bottle to his mouth. “Guess I’d better work on strengthening my grip as well. Thanks by the way.”

“Ah…Ah, you’re welcome,” said Breaburn, his voice very uneasy as Hunter began to drink. “Ah sort of, er, heard what you were saying. About being in that ratt-, that asses shadow. Feeling more like him while you were dueling. Ah got ta say, Ah felt like that as well. Not proud of it at all.” He then paused for a moment. “Did ya…did you know you could have won?”

Hunter, now halfway finished with his bottle of water, raised an eyebrow before separating himself from his drink. Unable to help himself, he let out a sigh of relief at how good it felt. “Oh yeah,” said Hunter in an off handed tone. “Instead of summoning Anoyatyllis, I should have summoned Apkellone. With her effect, I could have negated the effect of your trap card preventing you from summoning Starfire and not having any tribute for your boss monster.”

A small smile appeared on Breaburn’s face. “Well, could have just normal summoned Starfire an then used them two spell cards.”

“Ah, but you’re only allowed to use each of them once per turn,” Hunter pointed out. “With her, at most you would have only been able to deal 2600 points of damage. I would have still been in the game, ready to attack with even more monsters. True you could have had more copies of those cards in your hand…but by that same logic all I had to do on my next turn was to summon Aliester, get my own spell card, and then negate whatever one you used.” Breaburn nodded, conceding to Hunter’s point. “But, that’s not what happened. I just wanted to hit you with brute force and lost.”

“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have,” said Breaburn with a sigh, a look of guilt returning. “Ah…Ah’m ashamed to admit it but Ah…cheated ya. Ah fixed the match ta make sure we would duel.”

“You did what?!?” yelled Moondancer who looked livid. “After all that talk about calling Hunter a cheater, you just go ahead and fix the match?!”

“Ah know, ah know,” said Breaburn as he shook his head. “It was mighty stupid of me. Ah just wanted ta tell you myself before Ah turn myself in. You, well, you deserve ta know that much at least from me.” At that, Hunter raised his eyebrow once again while Moondancer stood there looking shocked.

“Ahh, don’t bother,” said Hunter as he returned to his water. “We’re even.”

“WHAT?!?” shouted Breaburn and Moondancer in unison so loudly that Hunter choked on his water. As he couched, the two stood there looking like he had gone mad. That he didn’t know what this meant. But he knew. There would be serious consequences for Breaburn down the line, but for right now it would mean that Canterlot High would win by default. It would mean that the dueling team would more likely be confirmed. That or the school board would demand another trial match. And yet…

“Breaburn, did you know what deck I played when you did that?” asked Hunter.

“No,” said Breaburn, still looking puzzled. “Ah ain’t never heard of you before tonight. But that don’t mean that-”

“Then if you didn’t know, then there was no way you could have known I would have been put in a difficult position,” argued Hunter. “For all you knew, I could have been playing True Draco or something like that making the whole thing meaningless. Or I could have been playing a Jinzo or Ancient Gear deck, making all those traps useless. And besides, my brother cheated during your duel and you cheated against me. So just consider us even.”

As Hunter prepared to take another drink, Breaburn spoke up again. “But…But…” Breaburn looked at Hunter like he had lost his mind, unable to comprehend why he would throw this win away. Moondancer just looked at Hunter in a similar way or that he still wasn’t thinking straight.

“Look,” said Hunter finally. “I’m not saying this because I forgive you…not completely anyways. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted so that our school could win. But I get where you’re coming from. My brother hurt you. Badly. I’m sure if you never met him, you would never have tried to hurt me like that. Because, that’s what corruption does to people. It just keeps eating away at them until they turn into something ugly. And then it spreads, infecting more people along the way. So let’s just end this here; admit we both made mistakes and walk away.”

Breaburn’s eyes widened, a bit in shock as well as relief. “Ya…Ya sure about that?”

“Yeah,” said Hunter as he pulled out his deck. Slowly he fanned them out until he saw the images of Winda and Construct next to each other, looking at the hollowed forms of monsters that had also been corrupted. “Perhaps it’s also time I walked away from this deck as well.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then I came at just the right time,” came a new voice, causing everyone there to jump. All three turned to see a man with long white/silver hair in a red suit standing before them, a briefcase in one hand and stained fingers on the other. As they all looked at him, the man made a waving gesture with his free hand. “I believe I have exactly what you need now my boy.”

“Hold on there partner,” said Breaburn as he moved to stand between the Canterlot pair and this new person. “Now Ah know a good chunk of the folks out here and Ah know Ah ain’t ever seen you before. Who are ya?”

“Breaburn, how could you not recognize who he is?” demanded Moondancer as she shot an annoyed look at Breaburn. “That’s Maximillion Pegasus! You know, as in the guy who created duel monsters?”

“Ah, so wonderful to be recognized even after all these years,” said Pegasus with a smile, walking past Breaburn without giving him another look. When he finally stood in front of Hunter, Pegasus smiled. “An excellent duel out there, Hunter boy. You played marvelously just as I expected you to. Well, at least until the end that is. Such a sour end to it all. But alas, that’s life.”

“But how could you expect anything from me?” asked Hunter, picking up on that over everything else.

Pegasus merely waved a finger at that, tuting as he did so. “Your reputation precedes you, Hunter boy. Within certain circles, like mine, of course. And not because of that utter ruffian with his droll tastes.” Pegasus then got down on one knee, opening the briefcase before offering its contents to Hunter with his head bowed. Looking inside the teen saw a stack of cards in the middle, kept in place by foam. “You said it was your desire to walk out of Chaser’s shadow, did you not. Well, this deck will help you in that regard. Take it, they belong to you and you alone, Hunter boy.”

Curious, Hunter reached out to touch the card. As soon as his fingers made contact with the cardboard, Hunter felt a jolt of energy pass through him almost like an electric shock. Only, it didn’t hurt at all. It felt pleasant, relaxing even, like a warm blanket was being wrapped around him while the scent of his favorite meal tickled his nose. Unable to control himself, Hunter picked up the cards and began to go through them. After looking at the first card, his years widened. While he was not so arrogant as to think that he knew every card out there, he knew he had never seen this one before. Shocked, Hunter began to go through the deck seeing more and more cards he had never even heard about. There were even spells, traps, and extra deck monsters that were all unfamiliar to him.

“I’ve never seen any of these before,” Hunter finally admitted, looking over to Pegasus for answers.

“I should hope not,” replied Pegasus as he stood up. “The deck that you are holding right now is a one of a kind, one which only you will have…for right now at least.”

“But…” stammered Hunter as he looked at the cards in his hands and then back at the man who had given them to him.

“What good will they do him?” demanded Moondancer. “They can’t be tournament legal and-”

Pegasus interrupted with a laugh. “Ah that has already been taken care of. Not that hard really. This isn’t the first time a duelist has had a deck that they alone possess. Destiny Heroes, Crystal Beasts, Neos, and other such decks were one of a kind once. Each one used by master duelists who had fans flock to tournaments around the world just to see with their own eyes these exclusive cards. Then, when I finally do release them to the public, there will be swarms of people eager to get their hands on them. Just like when I first released all the Blue-Eyes cards to the public. Oh, the heart attack that man had!”

“Still, why me?” asked Hunter as he held these cards. “Why give them to someone like me? After how I acted out there?”

At that, Pegasus gave him an understanding smile. “My boy, do you really think you’re the first person to make a mistake? The first person to allow his emotions to get the better of them? I can hardly blame you for that little slip up.” He paused and let out a little laugh. “But, to answer your question Hunter boy, I didn’t choose you to have these cards; the cards choose you to have them.”

“Woah, hold on there partner,” said Breaburn seriously. Hunter could hear it in the taller teen’s voice that he didn’t trust any of this. Like it could all be a trap or a trick of some kind. Then again, with that sort of answer, who wouldn’t think something fishy was going on? “What kind of answer is that? Cards don’t pick who plays them!”

“Whether or not you choose to believe me is irrelevant,” said Pegasus as he turned to walk away. “What I have told you is the simple truth of the matter. Those cards belong to Hunter boy now. I will be very interested to see how he plays them.” And with that, Pegasus walked away.

“Hey wait!” shouted Breaburn. Hunter watched as the tall teen began to chase after Pegasus only to stop when another figure stepped in the way from behind one of the nearby stalls. Hunter recognized her as Strongheart, the duelist who had defeated Autumn. And he could tell that she had been there for some time.

For a moment, Strongheart looked at Breaburn as if she didn’t know what to say or what to do. Then, finally, she gave him the smallest of smiles before patting the taller teen on the back. “Come on, the last match is about to start.”

“We will now begin the final duel of the night,” said Forecast in a lifeless voice, lacking any energy at all. “Would Liberty Bell and Wallflower Blush please take the field.”

“Ah man, come on there,” complained Liberty as she took the field. “At least put in a little energy for the girl with the stars and stripes on her side!” Shaking her head, she knew why this was while taking her position. The game was pretty much over and done with, this was just a formality. That as well as the crummy way the last duel ended.

As her deck began to shuffle, she looked across the field to see no one was there. Liberty frowned, hoping that her opponent hadn’t chickened out or that she was trying to convince her coach to forfeit. Damn that would suck! Again. This was why she hated going last sometimes. She was always itching for a good duel, waiting and waiting for her turn just to have the other team say ‘why bother’. The only thing worse was when the other duelist was just going through the motions, clearly not giving a damn. Then Liberty blinked and when she opened her eyes that Wallflower girl was there, with her deck shuffling as well.

“Wow, you just seemed to come out of nowhere!” exclaimed Liberty, taken aback.

“I get that a lot,” sighed Wallflower, looking utterly dejected.

“Listen,” said Liberty in a serious tone. “This match might be over with, but I want you to give me your all. Show me what you got so we can at least end this in a blaze of glory! In America!”

“Ah, I’ll try?” stated the other girl, giving Liberty an odd look.

“Good,” said Liberty with a grin as they were signaled to start. “Since your team lost, you get to decide who goes first.”

“You can,” said Wallflower. “Doesn’t really matter much to me.”

“ALRIGHT THEN!” screamed Liberty so loudly that she hoped she woke everyone up around them, including the dead, so that they could focus on this sure to be an amazing match! “Let’s get this started! Forecast! Play my jam!” There was a sigh on the speakers before everyone heard ‘America, Fuck Ya!’ sung loudly.

-Liberty Bell’s Life Points: 8000-

-Wallflower Blush’s Life Points: 8000-

Turn One: Liberty Bell

“Let’s kick it up!” she yelled while drawing her cards (hand: 6). Grinning she looked at her hand, spotting her Blast Sphere in her opening hand. Oh yeah, this would make a great opening play. When her opponent attack this face down card, it would not be destroyed but instead equipped to that monster. Then, during Wallflower’s standby phase, it would explode taking the monster it was equipped to with it and burning her with damage equal to that monsters attack points.

“I’m playing this card face down and ending my turn,” announced Liberty. She could already see it now. Wallflower burning through cards in her hand to get an impressive boss monster out, only to have to either get rid of it or take a lot of damage.

Turn Two: Wallflower Blush

“I draw,” said Wallflower. (hand: 6) “I end my turn.”

Turn Three: Liberty Bell

As the crowd gasped, Liberty narrowed her eyes for a moment before shrugging. “Fine,” she said as she drew. (hand: 6) “I really hope it was just a bad hand and you’re not just throwing in the towel already. Well, might as well summon BM-4 Bomb Spider in attack mode!” (1400/2200) Appearing on the field was an eight legged metal tank with large rocket launchers on its back, looking like each one could hold six or eight.

“Now I attack you directly!” Liberty shouted, pointing at Wallflower as missiles were fired.

Ghost in the Shells

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“Now I attack you directly!” Liberty shouted, pointing at Wallflower as missiles were fired. They flew across the field, leaving trails of white smoke in their wake while making a whistling sound that rang in the ears of everyone in attendance. Yet while Wallflower looked on nervously, she did not raise her hands to protect herself. Instead, she held up a since card and placed it on her duel disk. As she did this a ghost appeared on the field, floating in front of her with no lower body but instead a greenish mist. The upper body of this monster was covered by a purple cloak, with two slender arms sticking out to reveal the sleeves of an orange shirt. Purple gloves covered its hands as it held a lantern in one of them. Its head was a pumpkin whose jaws were open wide to reveal a glowing set of eyes and matching grin. Finally, this creature was topped with a witch’s hat.

“A hand trap?” asked Liberty as she watched her attack pause.

Wallflower nodded. “Yes,” she confirmed. “When you declare a direct attack, I can summon my Ghostrick Lantern (800/0) from my hand onto the field and negate the attack.” The missiles began to move again, only now Lantern held up its…well, lantern which sucked them all inside. “Then my monster is flipped face down.” With that, Lantern sunk down into the ground becoming a face down card. The card then lifted slightly so that the glowing eyes and grin of the monster could still be seen.

“Not bad, but not good enough!” said Liberty with a grin, excitement in her eyes that almost seemed to shine. “I’ll just set one card face down and end my turn.”

Turn Four: Wallflower Blush

“Then I draw!” announced Wallflower (hand: 6). The green girl quickly examined the card she drew. Ok, really good draw! This will help keep my monsters safe until I’m ready. The only problem is that spider tank. After biting her lower lip slightly, Wallflower placed the card with the others in her hand before pressing a button on her duel disk. At once, info on her opponent’s monster appeared on the scene. Lets see. According to this, that spider tank can destroy one face up dark machine on her side of the field in order to destroy one of my face up monsters. Also has a burn effect when one of her dark machines destroys one of my monsters. Well, I won’t give her the chance!

For a moment, Wallflower began to feel more confident. That is until she glanced over at the stands. Many people were standing now with people milling down the stairways to leave. As if this match wasn’t happening. Like she wasn’t there. With shoulder slumping, Wallflower took back the card she had placed in her hand and held it up. “I’ll activate the field spell: Ghostrick Mansion.” Once Wallflower placed the card into the appropriate slot, the field around them began to change. Walls covered with cobwebs and peeling ancient wallpaper surrounded them, blocking off the view of the audience and entrapping them in a very large room. Within the room were small tables, covered in moth eaten table clothes with rickety chairs that looked like they were on their last legs. On the walls were several torn paintings along with candlesticks that glowed orange. As for Wallflower’s monster, the back of the card seemed to merge with the floor as if it were a part of it.

“While this field spell is in play, neither of us can attack face down monsters,” explained a downtrodden Wallflower as Liberty looked around at her new surroundings. “But we can attack our opponents directly if all of their monsters are face down. So I’ll set a monster in defense mode and let one other card face down. That’s all.”

Turn Five: Liberty Bell

“Think you can play defensively?” asked Liberty as she drew (hand: 5) “Sorry, but that’s just not gonna cut it. In America! I play my Spell Reactor RE in attack mode!” (1200/900) Appearing on Liberty’s side of the field was a red, dragon like machine with twin clawed hands and a rocket launcher on its underside. “With this tool of war, I can destroy one spell card you play per turn and then slam you for 800 big one! Now to attack you directly! BM-4 Bomb Spider let the missiles fly!” On her order, missiles were fired from her spider tanks back. Dozens of them soared through the air heading towards Wallflower who did raise a hand to shield herself this time right before they exploded around her.

Wallflower Blush Life Point: 7300

“Something’s not right,” said Liberty as Wallflower bent slightly over and began to cough loudly, the smoke from the explosions blocking her view of her opponent. “You should have lost a lot more life points than that.”

“My field spell has another effect, cutting the damage we take from attacks and effects in half unless it's done by Ghostrick monsters,” explained Wallflower after finally catching her breath, the smoke beginning to clear. However, she wasn’t alone. In front of her was a mirror, cracked and showing the image of a girl trying with all her might to get out. “And since you have now done damage to me, I can discard Ghstrick Mary in order to summon one monster from my deck face down on the field.” As she said this, another face down card appeared on her side of the field.

“I’ll say this, you got guts to take one of my missile barrages head on,” said Liberty. “But let's see if you have what it takes to do it again! Spell Reactor RE, fire away!” More missiles were fired, flying right at Wallflower. They struck with enough force that another cloud surrounded Wallflower once more, sending her into another coughing fit as her life points dropped.

Wallflower Blush Life Points: 6700

“I’d say that’s enough for now,” said Liberty with a grin as the smoke on Wallflower’s side began to clear up. Now everyone could see that her messy hair was covering her face which she had to swat out of her eyes in order to see. “You’ve shown me you can take some punishment, but do you have the guts to actually attack me? Come on and bring it!”

Turn Six: Wallflower Blush

“Be careful what you wish for,” said Wallflower as she drew (hand: 3) doing her best to sound tough. However, with her slightly bent over with her hair falling back over to cover her face it had all the impact of a tiny dog barking at a steam roller.

“I flip summon my monsters!” declared Wallflower, stretching out her arm palm open towards her field. “Come on out Ghostrick Lantern, Ghostrick Doll, and Ghostrick Jiangshi!” As Wallflower called out each of her monster's names, the face down cards vanished while the spooks began to fill the room. Lantern flew out, loops in the air while laughing with glee. Ghostrick Doll (300/1200), a child sized doll of a woman with pink hair wearing a white dress, rose from the ground before walking around. Ghostrick Jiangshi (400/1800), a pale white Chinese boy who had his arms straight out and a paper seal on his face, began to hop without ever once lowering his arms. “When Ghostrick Jiangshi is flipped face up, I can add one Ghostrick monster from my deck to my hand. But it's got to be at least one level lower than the total number of Ghostrick monsters I control. Meaning right now I can only get a level two or level one. I’ll go with the level two Ghostrick Yuki-Onna and summon her right now!” The windows of the mansion burst open, a gust of snowy wind rushing inside as Ghostrick Yuki-Onna (1000/800) appeared in pale white glow. She was a small girl with pale lavender hair with a large snowflake hair assessor and wearing a yukata.

“Now time to use one of the cards a friend gave me!” declared Wallflower, a tiny bit of happiness rising up in her chest. She only wished that she could see her teammates as she did this. “I’ll use my two level two Yuki-Onna and Doll to build the overlay network!” The floorboard beneath them began to creak and moan as a large hole appeared on the floor. Both of Wallflower’s named monsters jumped downward as they became pale blue lights. Magic has glowed through these walls for longer than one can remember. Now, intruders have come and disturbed all who dwell here. Rise from your slumber! XYZ summon Rank 2: Ghostrick Socuteboss!” (1400/1200) The first thing that came out of the hole was a long, yet cute yawn. Moments passed as a girl with bat wings began to flutter up and onto the field with sleepy eyes. Socuteboss had long, messy red hair which her pointy ears stuck out of. In her hands she held a pillow close to her red and purple pajamas with a pink nightcap on. Finally, flowing around her were two spectral looking orbs.

“Really? That’s your big move?” asked Liberty with a scoff. “It’ll barely put a dent in my life points.”

“I think it’ll do more than that,” said Wallflower, earning a raised eyebrow from her opponent. Confidently, Wallflower removed one of her monster overlay units. “See, what Socuteboss lacks in raw power she makes up for with a powerful effect. Namely destroying one of your monsters and blocking that zone! So say goodbye to your BM-4 Bomb Spider!” A moment later, Socuteboss threw her pillow at the spider tank, destroying it instantly. The only thing remaining was the pillow which grew larger and larger until it took up the entire spot.

“Not bad, but not good enough! I was waiting for you to do something like that!” said Liberty with a large smile on her face. “Because now I can summon my Desperado Barrel Dragon to the field in attack mode!” (2800/2200) Crashing through the walls of the mansion was a large machine that towered over Liberty who stood there with her arms crossed. This machine walked on two legs with a reddish body, but it's head and arms were that of revolvers with large bullets in their chambers. Wallflower shuttered as she looked at the head where, underneath the barrel, was a large metal jaw with a row of jagged teeth. “But that’s not all! I activate my trap card: Back to the Front! Now my BM-4 Bomb Spider back to the front lines in defense mode, ready to do more damage.”

Wallflower’s shoulders slumped. “Guess I’ll set another card face down and end my turn,” she said. Then, as a weird echoing giggling filled the room, she smiled. “But as my turn ends, the effect of Ghostrick Doll activates.” As the giggling continued, all the monsters on the Liberty’s side of the field began to shake while Wallflowers non-XYZ monsters began to sink into the ground.

“What’s going on?” shouted Liberty as her monsters were replaced with face down cards. “Doll isn’t even on the field anymore so how can she be doing this?”

“Because her effect is set in motion the turn she is flip summoned,” explained Wallflower. “Even if she’s no longer on the field, she’ll make all monsters on the field flip face down. Then, I’m allowed to summon a Ghostrick monster from my deck whose level is equal or less than the total number of monsters flipped by this effect. And with this many, I can basically pick any one of them.” Mist appeared on the field and, when it cleared, another face down card appeared on Wallflower’s side of the field.

Turn Seven: Liberty Bell

“Ha, neat trick but it won’t help you much,” said Liberty as she drew. (hand: 4) “Because I can flip all my monsters face up again easily!” With a wave of her hand on her duel disk, all of Liberty’s monsters were flipped face up once more. Now her Desperado Barrel Dragon, her BM-4 Bomb Spider, Spell Reactor RE, and her Blast Sphere were all face up. “See? Nothing to it. Now I’ll play my spell card: Allure of Darkness. Now I can draw twice as long as I banish one dark monster from my hand. Simple stuff.”

With new cards in hand, as well as one banished, Liberty let out a laugh. “Time to bring out the classics,” she said while holding up a card for everyone to see. “Lets welcome the original machine dragon: Barrel Dragon.” (2600/2200) On the field, Blast Sphere and Spell Reactor vanished as another metal dragon crashed through the walls. Like its updated version, it walked on two legs and had gun barrels for a head and arms. But there were some differences. Its body was silver and appeared cruder, less rounded and bulky. Then there were the barrels themselves which looked more like plasma guns. “I know some people complain about the censoring but…who cares! Laser, plasma guns are still awesome! In America baby!”

“I know what those dragons can do,” said Wallflower, eyeing the metal machines carefully. “They allow you to toss a coin three times and then, depending on how many heads you get, you can destroy cards on my side of the field.”

Liberty let out a whistle. “Not bad,” said Liberty. “You know your card history. The classic Barrel Dragon requires at least two heads in order to destroy monsters you got. Desperado, on the other hand, destroys only face up monsters equal to the number of heads I get. That, and it can’t attack directly for some stupid reason. Oh well. I-”

“I activate my trap card: Ghostrick Vanish!” interrupted Wallflower as her face down flipped face up. “By revealing my Ghostrick Specter, all of my face down cards and any face up Ghostrick monsters can’t be targeted or destroyed by card effects for this turn.”

“Not feeling lucky?” asked Liberty as she watched Socuteboss shimmer slightly. “Well, I guess it's better safe than sorry. For most people at least. Me? I’m all about ‘no guts, no glory’! In America! Now watch as I play my own field spell: Heavy Metal Raiders!” Darkness began to grow along the ceiling, but nothing else. No increase in life points, no searching. Nothing. “Time to attack! Desperado Barrel Dragon, let's put that monster back to sleep!” All three chambers of Desperado Barrel Dragon began to turn, sparks flying as they did so. Then, with the sound of a cannon being fired, all three shots were fired sending triple bullets at Socuteboss. Despite how she shimmered, Socuteboss was destroyed.

Wallflower Blush Life Points: 6000

“When my monster is destroyed, Ghostrick Specter can come out to play,” announced Wallflower as another Ghostrick monster appeared on the field. Ghostrick Specter (600/0) looked like a child with a bed sheet over him, with eyeholes and everything. Only everyone there could see the horns underneath the sheets and his tongue was sticking out. “When he is summoned this way, not only is he set face down on the field but I also get to draw a card.”

“You’re not the only one here who has effects they can use,” said Liberty as she gestured towards the sky. “First off, my Heavy Metal Raiders activates: once per turn, when one of my dark machines destroys one of your monsters, I get to special summon another monster to the field! Something like my Blowback Dragon!” (2300/1200) Crashing through the walls again, walked another mechanical dragon…sort of. It was more like a pair of legs and a tail, a long metal body, and a red gun for a head that sparked electric jolts. But it did have a lower jaw that was more massive than the others. As this forth monster took its place in the line, Liberty pointed to her spider tank. “Next my Blast Spider can now deal damage to you directly, equal to half of Socuteboss’s attack points! That’s another 700 smackers right there!”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” said Wallflower as missiles began to fly towards her again. “Remember my Mansion is still in play, cutting effect damage as well. Meaning that 700 becomes 350!” As she finished her sentence, rockets smashed against the ground around her and exploded. The green girl cried out as her life points fell even more.

Wallflower Blush Life Points: 5650

“Oh well, that just means I get to enjoy this duel even longer!” declared Liberty as she pointed at Wallflower. “And don’t forget, because of that field spell I can now attack you directly! Both monsters attack!”

“No you won’t!” shouted Wallflower as her other face down flipped face up. Before Liberty could get a good look at it, Wallflower’s monsters exploded up from the ground causing all of the machines to jump back in front. Not only that, but the crowd finally made a noise, with many people gasping and even a few screams. Lantern wailed loudly as he floated through the air, flashing his lantern while Jiangshi hopped up and down. Specter was running around like mad, waving his stubby little arms around while also blowing raspberries at everyone he saw. Lastly, there was Ghostrick Skeleton (1200/1100), a cartoonish looking grim reaper whose bones kept falling off of his body as he walked around with his scythe on one shoulder.

“Oh God, jump scares,” muttered Moondancer, a sour expression on her face. While the holograms made it seem to the two duelist on the field that they were in a large room, the walls were transparent for everyone watching. “The laziest of scare techniques. Might as well have had them jumping in front of her like in that bad remake of Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“That was a remake?” asked Lightning, pulling herself away from the duel and looked at Moondancer. “Heh, never knew that. Guess the original sucked as well.” At that, Moondancer’s head jerked to stare at Lightning with the fires of Tartarus burning in her eyes.

“You take that back!” roared Moondancer. “The original was way better and most of the sequels were masterpieces of horror the likes of which Bomb Bay can never hope to achieve!”

“Ah well,” said Lightning, gulping as she took several steps backwards trying to gain some distance from the angry nerd approaching her.

“This is good for Wallflower,” said Hunter, ignoring his girlfriend for the moment as he knew better than to get in the way of her love for horror movies. “With that card, she’ll gain the advantage…for the moment at least.” As he spoke, he and the crowd watched as all of Liberty’s monsters retreated backwards and eventually flipped themselves over in order to hide from Wallflower’s monsters.

“Not bad,” said Autumn as she looked out onto the field. “But…why didn’t she use that trap when Liberty attacked her Socuteboss? She really wanted to play that monster as soon as she saw it with all the cards you had and that trap would have protected her so why not use it?”

“Most likely, she benefitted more by having it destroyed,” said Pharynx. “Specter allowed her to draw a card and get another one on the field without wasting her normal summon next turn, but it required her monster to be destroyed. Now she can get all of her monster's effects this turn while also stopping the battle in its tracks.”

“But the most important part of that was the extra card,” said Hunter. “She’s got the monsters she needs to hold her own, but if she’s going for what I think she is, it’s gonna take a specific card in her deck. If she can pull this off, we’re going to see something amazing.”

“Thanks to my Ghostrick Scare, all your monsters are face down,” said Wallflower with a small smirk. “And with my monsters face up, their effects kick in! First, Jiangshi lets me add another Ghostrick monster to my hand so I’ll help myself to another level three! Then there’s my Skeleton. He banishes cards from the top of your deck equal to the number of Ghostrick monsters I controlled when he was flipped. I had three at the time.”

“What, are you trying to mill me?” asked Liberty as she removed her top three cards from her deck. After they were put away, she looked at Wallflower with a grin. “I’ll say this again, you got guts fighting me with these puny little things. And you’re putting up one hell of a fight!”

Wallflower blushed at the compliment. “T-Thank you,” she managed to stammer out.

“Now don’t get the wrong idea,” continued Liberty. “Just because I respect you as a duelist doesn’t mean I’m not going to do everything in my power to flatten you and crush every single one of your monsters. It’s just going to be a lot more fun. Because that’s just how I rock…in America!” Still grinning, Liberty placed her last card on the field. “Since I can’t do anything else, I’ll just set this card and crush you next turn.”

Turn Eight: Wallflower Blush

“We’ll see about that,” said Wallflower as she drew (hand: 5). Pausing for a moment, she looked at what she had drawn…and tried not to frown too much. Not what she was hoping for. Truth was, she would rather not use this card at all unless she had no choice. So, with a sigh, she added it to her hand before reaching for another card. “I’ll summon Ghostrick Stein to the field in attack mode!” Now appearing with her four other monsters appeared a large, Frankenstein monster. Ghostrick Stein (1600/0) wore a tattered red coat and pants over his blue skin. On the top of its flat head was a jar of green liquid which flowed into its head.

“Now everything is set!” announced Wallflower. “First I’ll use my two level one monsters Specter and Lantern to build the overlay network!” Once again the floor gave way as a deep, dark pit appeared in the middle of the field. Together, Lantern and Specter leapt into it without a trace of fear as Wallflower began to chant. “Time and time we’ve told you not to ride your horse in this mansion. But now, oh headless knight, we need your sword. Ride on to victory! XYZ summon Rank 1: Ghostrick Dullahan!” (1000/0) The sound of a horse’s cry filled the air as a small knight rode out of the hole on a tiny horse whose eyes were glowing red. The knight was headless, carrying his head under one arm while the other held his sword. “But that’s not all. I’m about to create the overlay network again using my two level three monsters Jiangshi and Skeleton!” For a third time, the hole reappeared in the middle of the room as Wallflower’s two monsters jumped downward into the darkness. “When hope is gone, undo this lock. So go ye forth on a moonlit walk. XYZ Summon Rank 3: Ghostrick Alucard!” (1800/1600) Rising up from the hole came a more regal, finely dress monster with a cloak. His head was white as was his hair, making it look like it was a spiritual orb set on fire…or maybe it was. It was his eyes and mouth that broke through the white like pools of darkness as he grinned evilly.

Alright, if this works I’ll have everything I need to win this duel, thought Wallflower. Once Stein attacks, I’ll be able to search for the card I need and then use it on her next turn. But…the problem is her monsters. Those metal dragons will just start destroying everything on my side of the field next turn. Especially that Desperado one. Better take care of it at the very least.

“Alright,” said Wallflower as she pointed to her Dullahan. “First off, my Dullahan gets an attack boost: 200 extra attack points for each Ghostrick card I have on my side of the field. With Mansion, Stein, Alucard, and himself that gives him an extra 800.” (1800/0) While Wallflower was explaining this, energy from all the Ghostrick cards began to flow into Dullahan causing it to grow slightly. “Next, before I attack, I’ll be using the effect of Alucard. By removing one of its overlay units, he can destroy one of your set cards. So I’ll destroy that one!” Wallflower pointed at the set Desperado Barrel Dragon. At the same time, Alucard flew up into the air before doing a swan dive onto the card with its mouth open wide. When it got close enough Alucard bit down into the middle of the card causing it to shatter.

Liberty laughed at this. “When Desperado is destroyed, he leaves me with a parting gift: one level seven or lower monster with a coin toss effect on it is added to my hand. Guess I’ll help myself to another Barrel Dragon!” Wallflower tensed as Liberty took the card out of her deck, without a care in the world. “With that out of the way, I activate my trap card: Call of the Haunted!” Crashing through the floorboards at that very moment was Desperado Barrel Dragon, its guns pointed at the three Ghostrick monsters. “Now you can’t attack me directly!”

“For now,” stated Wallflower as she removed an overlay unit from Dullahan. “My Dullahan has another effect, cutting your monsters attack in half for the cost of one overlay unit!” Dullahan rode his horse into the sky, sheathing his sword so that he could point a finger at Desperado. A glow surrounded the metal dragon causing it to shrink and weaken (1400). “Now attack Ghostrick Dullahan!” Wallflower’s monster quickly pulled out his sword, steering his steed towards his opponent. In a flash he rode past it, swinging his sword so fast it was almost like a single flash of light, landing on the ground when he finished.

Liberty Bell Life Points: 7600

“Finally hit me,” said Liberty. “However, you forgot about my field spell.” As she said this, Desperado turned and stomped its foot to send Dullahan flying back towards Wallflower. “Sorry to tell you this, but once per turn my field spell will prevent one of my dark machine monsters from being destroyed! Plus, as a kick ass bonus, that monster will gain the attack equal to the amount of damage I took.”

Wallflower gritted her teeth. Her plan had failed, horribly! She should have attacked first in order to get that card she needed! Looking down at her hand, she closed her eyes tightly. Right now she had to use that card. She HAD to! All she had to do was hope that she could survive.

“I end my battle phase,” said Wallflower in a gloomy tone while bring a hand over her tray where the field spell slot was kept. “But my turns not done because I’m bringing us a change of scenery. I play the field spell card: Ghostrick Parade!” The walls of the mansion came crashing down around the two duelist, creating a mountain of smoke that blocked both of their vision for several long seconds. When it cleared, they were now on a cobblestone path near a cemetery separated by iron spiked railing.

“Nice,” said Liberty as she looked around. “So tell me, what does this card do?”

“Pretty much the same as the first in regards to face down monsters,” said Wallflower. “Can’t attack or target them and, if all monsters on our side of the field are in defense mode, we can attack directly. Only the half damage thing is gone. I’ll take full damage while you take none at all.”

Liberty blinked at that. “Sorry, but that sounds like a really stupid card to put in your deck.”

Wallflower sighed and nodded. “Yeah, it seems that way…at first,” she said. “But, there is an upside. Whenever you attack me directly I can add any Ghostrick card from my deck to my hand!” Wallflower then sighed again. “With that, I’ll set one face down and then flip my Stein face down. Your move.”

Turn Nine: Liberty Bell

“Hmm,” said Liberty as she drew her card. (hand: 2) “Letting you get whatever card you want isn’t something I’m a fan of. But thankfully, there are ways around that. In America!” With a sweeping gesture, Liberty flipped all her monsters face up once more. At the same time, Desperado Barrel Dragon grew back to his original size with a few extra attack points (3200).

“Time to cut loose with my fire power!” yelled Liberty as she fist bumped the air. “But first, I’m going to stack the odds in my favor with the spell card Second Coin Toss! This bad boy doesn’t need much explanation. But for those who don’t know I’ll keep it simple: once per turn, if I don’t like the results of my coin flips, I get a second chance! With this card on the field I’ll use Desperado’s effect flipping a coin three times.” A large silver coin appeared in mid air in front of her, which was then caught with ease. At the same time, all three chambers on Desperado began to spin rapidly to the point where Wallflower thought sparks were going to appear. The Canterlot girl felt her heart racing as Liberty placed the coin on top of her fist, flipped it into the air and then caught it. “Heads.” As she announced this, the chamber on Desperado’s right arm suddenly stopped followed by a loud clicking sound. “Tails.” This time, the chamber on Desperado’s head stopped before the coin was flipped for the final time. “Heads! This means I can destroy those two little ghouls of yours!” As Liberty spoke the final chamber on the left arm stopped, followed by a click. Wallflower didn’t have any time to brace herself as massive bullets were fired from Desperado’s arms, hitting her two XYZ monsters and blowing them right off the field.

“You may have destroyed them, but they’re leaving behind a parting gift,” said Wallflower. “When either one of those two are destroyed, I can add back a Ghostrick card from my grave to my hand. So I’ll get back Mary and Vanish!” Wallflower watched as Liberty gave her an odd look. No doubt thinking that it was weird that she wasn’t getting a card like Lantern back in order to better protect her life points.

“Not a lot of good those cards will do,” replied Liberty eventually. “But don’t forget, my BM-4 Bomb Spider’s effect activates as well.” Missiles were fired from the spider tank, flying across the field and exploding all around Wallflower with enough force to knock her off her feet.

Wallflower Blush Life Points: 4250

“Now for my Blowback Dragon,” said Liberty as she gestured to it. “It’s another coin flip effect. As long as I can get at least two out of three heads, I can destroy any card on your side of the field. Like, say, this field spell that you're banking on.” Wallflower’s eyes widened as the coin reappeared. She had no way of protecting her field and no way of stopping this. Meaning she would have to rely on luck in order to make it to her next turn. And with her luck, she might as well just place her hand on her deck now and save everyone the trouble.

“Tails,” said Liberty in a slightly miffed tone. She then flipped the coin again. “Tails again. Drat!” Wallflower let out a sigh of relief as Liberty flipped the coin for the third time. “Heads. Looks like I don’t get to use Blowback’s effect…that is, if I didn’t have Second Coin Toss! Time for a redo!” Wallflower felt her eyes widening as Liberty flipped her holographic coin into the air. “Heads for me.” As she flipped the coin again, Blowback Dragon began to charge up with sparks running down its back. “Tails. Heh, one last chance. And I’m feeling really luck, in America!” The final coin flip looked more like a toss, with the coin flying high into the air. As it came down, Wallflower felt her heart beat faster with every flip it made. She narrowed her eyes in the hopes that she could make it out in some fashion but it was just too far away. Then, when Liberty caught it, Wallflower’s heart spotted as did her breathing. “…Tails.” Wallflower let out a sigh of relief, hearing her teammates behind her doing the same.

“Well, pity for me,” said Liberty. “But I think I might be able to win this duel here and now. Since Desperado can’t attack you directly, I’ll have the original Barrel Dragon fire up his cannons!” Wallflower braced herself as all three cannons on Barrel Dragon began to glow brightly, crackling energy dancing between the three. One by one they fired orbs of bluish white energy at her with so much force that she was thrown onto her back and landed on the hard ground.

Wallflower Blush Life Points: 1650

“Come on Wallflower, you got this!” shouted Autumn. As Wallflower turned to roll on her stomach, she heard the rest of her teammates calling out the same. Lightning shouted for her not to give up. Hunter yelled (as best as he could right now) that he believed in her. Pharynx said that he knew she could do it. Then there was Moondancer, with hands around her mouth to act like a megaphone, chanting her name. The sight caused her eyes to widen and for tears to almost appear in her eyes. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember the last time she had this many people paying attention to her. Not even when she was giving an oral presentation in front of Cranky Doodles’ class! Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw that there were still people in the stands moving. Yes, there had been people who had left, no doubt believing that Appleloosa had won, but it seemed the majority of the people who had been standing had only done that to let people get past them more easily! What’s more, Wallflower could see these people now moving back from the edge of their seats. They were watching her! Paying attention to what was happening! Wallflower didn’t care if they were doing that just to be polite, for entertainment, or whatever! They were watching her!

Seeing all this caused a surge of determination to run through her. This was her time to shine, and she wasn’t going to waste it! “I activate the effects of both Parade and Mary,” grunted Wallflower as she got back onto her feet, turning around so fast that her hair whipped behind her. The green girl stood there, hand on her hips in a manner that she hoped, no, showed her full confidence in that moment. “First is Parade, letting me add Ghostrick Renovation to my hand. Then I discard my Ghostrick Mary in order to get a Ghostick monster face down onto the field from my deck!”

Liberty chuckled as a new face down card appeared on the field. “Not like you’ll get a chance to play it,” she said before pointing at Wallflower. “Blowback Dragon, finish this duel up!” Sparks began to appear on the barrel of the gun that was Blowback Dragon’s head. With an almost deafening sound a stream of energy was fired towards Wallflower, gasping aloud. However…

“That won’t work!” yelled Wallflower as she placed a card on the field. Chilly wind began to blow across the field, bringing with them snowflakes which began to combine in front of her. The beam of energy began to slow down before it froze…somehow and landed on the ground in front of a snowman! “This is Ghostrick Jackfrost! When you declare a direct attack, I can negate it and summon him in defense mode! But that’s not all he does!” At that moment, Blowback Dragon began to shake before being flipped face down along with Jack Frost.

“Well played,” said Liberty, sounding impressed. “But I still have one attack left.” Missiles were fired at Wallflower again, soaring through the air with the greatest of speed. Like before the crashed around her, exploding and upturning the earth. Yet Wallflower stood her ground as the flames surrounded her.

Wallflower Blush Life Points: 450

“Once again, Parade activates allowing me to add a card to my hand,” she said with determined eyes. “I’ll add a second Renovation to my hand.”

“I guess you live for one more turn,” said Liberty. “Make it count.”

Turn Ten: Wallflower Blush

“Oh, I will!” announced Wallflower as she drew her card. (hand: 5) She looked at what she had drawn, and smiled. “First I’ll set two cards in my spell and trap zone before playing the spell: Card Destruction. Now we both discard our entire hands and then draw an equal number.”

“Heh, I hope you didn’t throw away both of those cards. Would have been a shame after all that damage you took,” said Liberty as she discarded her single card and drew one.

“Actually, only one was sent there because I want it there,” replied Wallflower, shocking Liberty. “But you’ll see that in a moment. I flip over Ghostrick Stein, Jack Frost, and Skeleton!” All three monsters burst out of the ground sending dirt flying everywhere. “At this moment, Skeleton’s effect activates forcing you to banish the top three cards from your deck.”

“Whatever,” sighed Liberty, Wallflower picking up a hint of confusion.

“Now it's time to create the overlay network once again! I’ll overlay Ghostrick Stein and Skeleton to summon Ghostrick Alucard again!” For the second time, Wallflower recited her chant allowing Alucard to return to the field. “Now, I can finish this duel properly. I’m building the overlay network once again using Alucard to bring out my decks very best!” As Wallflower spoke, a hole appeared in the ground which Alucard just seemed to float in the middle of. Then, Wallflower began to chant causing thousands of bats to come flying out. The crowd cried out in alarm while Alucard was hidden from view. “Ghostly giggles and echoed laughter fill the halls. You’ve had your fun, now it's time to leave. XYZ Summon Rank Four: Ghostrick Angel of Mischief!” (2000/2500) When the bats finally vanished from sight, a teenage girl now floated where Alucard had been with three orbs circling her. (OL: 3) She wore a black and purple dress, which showed off her long, torn stocking legs while a small top hat lay tilted on the side of her head. Her hair was long, pink with purple highlights while on her back were wings that held a mix of white and black feathers.

“Ok, that’s a neat trick,” said Liberty. “But the only monster on my side of the field it has any hope of pounding into scrap metal is my Bomb Spider. Of course you’ll just end up making it stronger so go ahead, attack me!”

“No, I won’t,” replied Wallflower as she confidently closed her eyes and smiled. “First I’ll use her effect to attach one Ghostrick card from my hand to this card as an overlay unit. So I’ll be using my trap card Ghostrick Night.” Wallflower held up a card which then turned into another orb that floated over to her monster and was then sucked into her orbit. (OL: 4) “Then I’ll use her other effect, detaching Alucard in order to add any Ghostrick spell or trap in my deck to my hand. A card like Ghostrick-Go-Round. Then, Alucard’s effect kicks in since it was sent to the graveyard, allowing me to add Ghostrick Specter back to my hand.” (OL: 3)

“What’s even the point of all that?” demanded Liberty.

“This is the point!” said Wallflower as she pressed a button on her duel disk. In less than a heartbeat a trap card was ejected which she then held up. “Ghostrick Renovation has two effects, one on the field and another in the graveyard. When I banish this card from the grave, I can overlay on top of my Angel with all the materials she has on her right now going to that monster. Ghostrick Socuteboss, come on back!” Angel of Mischief winked at Liberty before vanishing, becoming nothing more than an orb that floated around Socuteboss who appeared in her place. (OL: 4) “Now I’ll overlay Socuteboss in order to bring out my second Angel of Mischief!” Sleepily, Socuteboss waved before turning into an orb. Now there were five of them floating around the Angel of Mischief who did a little twirl in the air. (OL: 5) “With her back, I can add my the Ghostrick Specter I have in my hand to her as an overlay unit.” (OL: 6)

“Six overlay units,” whispered Liberty as she watched them fly around. “But…what’s the point. According to my duel disk, it isn’t getting any stronger. Does it have a field wipe effect when it gets a certain number…” Sounding worried now, Liberty went to her duel disk and began to examine the cards text. It didn’t take long for her eyes to widen. “When it gets TEN YOU WIN THE DUEL?!?”

“That’s right,” said Wallflower with a nod. “And I have everything I need to ensure that she’ll survive to the next turn. I’ll end my turn by flipping Jackfrost face down. Your move.”

Turn Eleven: Liberty Bell

“I draw!” yelled Liberty. (hand: 2)

“And I activate my face downs!” shouted Wallflower. “First, I’ll send us back to someplace more nostalgic with Ghostrick Renovation! With this, I can target Parade and then return it to my hand before activating a different field spell from my hand or deck. So we’re going back to the Mansion!” Walls shot up from the ground and, in the blink of an eye, the two found themselves within the familiar room inside Ghostrick Mansion. “Next I activate Ghostrick Vanish. I reveal the Parade in my hand making you unable to target or destroy her with card effects.” As Wallflower said this, Angel let out a giggle as her body became mist like.

“Not bad, not bad,” said Liberty. “But you’re forgetting that your monster is nothing compared to my machine's power output!”

“That is correct,” said Wallflower before gesturing to her last face down card. “But, you’re forgetting my last face down.”

“You’re right,” said Liberty with a grin. “It could be a trap that protects your monster…or it could be a bluff. Fifty-fifty odds. Well, like I said before: no guts, no glory! In America! But since I promised you I wouldn’t hold back, I’ll play the spell card Polymerization to fuse the Barrel Dragon in my hand with the Blowback Dragon on the field to bring out something really cool!” A swirling portal appeared in the sky, sucking up the cards as Liberty began her chant. “Time for an upgrade in this era of war! Shower your enemies with bullets galore! In America! Fusion Summon Gatling Dragon!” (2600/1200) Crashing onto the field was what was once Barrel Dragon, only that its legs had been replaced with spiked wheels, its arms and neck were longer and far more flexible, and the triple gun barrels were now gatling barrels.

“Now, Gatling Dragon, your target is Ghostrick Angel of Mischief. Take it down!” At Liberty’s command, the gatling chambers began to turn until they became a blur. Soon they fired sending thousands of tiny yellow lights flying across the field.

“Sorry Liberty, but you were wrong,” said Wallflower. “I activate my trap, Quaking Mirror Force!” The bullets rebounded off a barrier that suddenly appeared in front of Angel who giggled some more as the bullets hit the ground causing it to shake. The floorboards began to shake and rattle, knocking the machines down and flipping them over. Now only a surprised looking Liberty stood there, gazing at her now useless field.

“Liberty, you dummy!” shouted Sparkle, her voice sounding like it was coming from behind the wall. “Dummy, dummy, dummy! Why didn’t you use Blowback Dragon to destroy that face down? Or that rusty, stupid Gatling Dragon you love so much? Dummy, dummy, dummy!”

Wallflower watched as Liberty’s eyes narrowed. “I called her bluff and was wrong,” said Liberty. “Deal with it!”

“No, I won’t,” yelled Sparkle. “Not until you fix this mess you put us in. Just forfeit the match. They’ll get one point and we’ll still win.”

“Forfeit?!” yelled Liberty, visibly upset before turning around to look at the wall. “You have to be out of your mind if you think I’m giving up! I’m not some little coward who tucks her tail between her legs and hides behind her fanboys whenever something doesn’t work out for me! That’s not what a duelist does!” Liberty then turned to look at Wallflower. “Besides, even if I were to even entertain your logic, I couldn’t. I can only do so during my main phase.”

“Dummy, the rules never said main phase one or-” Sparkles voice was suddenly cut off.

“Alright, now lets see if you really can do this,” said Liberty.

Turn Twelve: Wallflower Blush

“Thanks,” said Wallflower as she drew. (hand: 4) “First, I’ll use Angel’s effect to attach my Ghostrick-Go-Round in my hand to her as an overlay unit. (OL: 7) Then I’ll remove the Renovation from my graveyard in order to overlay her into a Dullahan!” Another chant and Mischief popped into Dullahan, brandishing his sword as many orbs around him began to spin. (OL: 8). “Now I’ll overlay him into my third and final Mischief!” (OL: 9) Angel of Mischief reappeared on the field, the nine orbs spinning around her faster and faster until they became solid rings of bluish white light. “And now, I’ll attach my Ghostrick Parade to her making that ten.”

As the last card floated into her orbit, Angel of Mischief became surrounded in a bright blue sphere. Ghostly laughter could now be heard coming from every direction as the sphere began to expand more and more. It began to destroy the floorboards, the walls, and everything else in its wake. Wallflower stood there, being swallowed by the light with a calm smile on her face until she was blinked out of sight leaving Liberty alone. For a moment, she stood there with her arms covering her face as her end came closer and closer. Then…

“Well, this was fun…in America.” And with that, she lowered her arms as the light engulfed her.

Tournaments End

View Online

Duel Score

Appleloosa High: 10

Canterlot High: 16

Silence covered the entire field as the scoreboard changed, signaling the end of the duel. The people in the stands seemed glued to their seats with their mouths open. A cold wind blew past them, strong enough to knock over their empty cups, plates, and bags of chips. Only one man, Pegasus, moved at all. He stood up tall and politely clapped his hands which echoed through the silence.


“THE WINNER IS CANTERLOT HIGH!” screamed the announcer who seemed to just be coming out of a daze, his voice ringing through the speaker system. If one were to listen close enough, they might be able to hear his voice slightly breaking. As if he were about to break into tears of relief. “ITS OVER! CANTERLOT HIGH HAS WON!” The sound of his voice seemed to snap everyone in the stands out of their funk. Many of them stood up, knocking over whatever hadn’t already fallen down to the ground. But rather than scream in anger, demanding a rematch, or whatever else they cried out with joy at seeing an amazing come from behind victory. They hooted and howled, with some even unwisely jumping up and down in the stands. There were those who shook cans of soda before opening them, sending the drink flying into the air while others threw up popcorn as well as anything else they could use as confetti. From the sounds of it, they were reacting as through they had won themselves.

Down on the field itself, Wallflower and Liberty lowered their arms as their duel disks retracted. Both women were smiling, with Wallflower’s being the biggest. Tears threatened to appear in her eyes while she wished wholeheartedly that her monsters were real. That way she could give them all a hug for everything that they did tonight. Liberty took her loss with stride, picking up her cards and then kissing them before putting back her deck. She then turned around and waved at Wallflower without turning back, walking away like a badass.

At that moment, hands and voices surrounded Wallflower. It was her teammates! They were all saying things but, with all the noise, she couldn’t hear a word of what they were saying even though they were all right next to her! But she could see the smiles on their faces right before they picked her up. Before she knew what was happening Wallflower was being tossed high into the air, laughing all the while. As this continued, fireworks were fired into the night sky illuminating the background like glowing flowers of light. The joy that filled Wallflower’s heart was like nothing she had ever felt before and she knew deep down that this would be a night she would remember for the rest of her life.

It took fifteen minutes for things to sort of die down. The students had stopped throwing Wallflower into the air and had allowed her feet to touch the ground, but the celebration was far from over. As the crowd milled out of the stands, Wallflower’s teammates continued to congratulate her.

“That was amazing!” screeched Autumn from directly behind Wallflower, wrapping her arms around the green girl’s neck before bouncing up and down. “I thought you were a goner out there but you showed everyone!”

“It certainly had me at the edge of my seat,” said Hunter with a nod. “I thought my heart was going to explode when you played that Jackfrost at the last second.”

“That Liberty girl might have made superior fire power, but guerilla tactics can usually get around those sorts of things,” said Pharynx. “That and plenty of traps.”

“The ones in the hand were the most dangerous,” said Moondancer in agreement. “She had no idea what she was in for.”

“Yeah, way to go…what was your name again?” asked Lightning. For a moment, everyone there froze on the spot before turning to look at Lightning with wide eyed disbelief. Lightning looked back at this with a blank, confused expression before it broke. Her lips began to wiggled as her face scrunched up. Her eyes looked like they were beginning to water before finally the dam within her broke. “Pfff, hahaha! You should all see your faces! Of course I remember she’s Wallflower.”

At first, everyone looked at each other as if unsure how to react to this. Should they laugh alongside her or scold her? Wallflower, however, didn’t need much time to decide as she too burst out laughing. Soon the rest of the team began to double down with laughter. By the time the people in the crowd had approached them, the entire team was laughing so hard they were nearly in tears.

Off to the side, Luna watched her team with pride as the people in the stands began to shower them with praise. She stood there, allowing it to happen as she felt they deserved this. All of them did an amazing job tonight.

The crowd seemed to agree as well. While some headed home, talking quickly about the match or hurrying home in order to put their children to bed, others were approaching the Canterlot team. Head among them were Rainbow and Spitfire, making a beeline for Lightning. The Vice-Principal watched as Rainbow and Lightning high-fived each other with Spitfire standing a few feet away with her shoulder slumped and looking utterly miserable. Neither of the two girls paid her any mind, letting her stew in the situation she had put herself in. Luna was sure that, in time, they would forgive her for what she had done. But tonight? No, not tonight.

Others approached the rest of the team. Many of them just seemed to pat the duelists on the back while a few stayed, seeming to ask questions. If Luna hazard to guess they were asking questions that might improve their own decks. A few of them were handing out coupons. One of those was the pulled pork guy, if Luna’s memory served correctly. He was there, handing Wallflower several of them looking increasingly nervous as he rubbed the side of his head.

But movement caught her eye from the other side of the field. It was Silver Star, leading his team towards theirs. They all walked in a straight line behind their teacher, but even this couldn’t hide the towering form of Breaburn whose appearance caused Luna’s eyes to flash dangerously. If he was going to cause more trouble then, well, she would have much stronger words with Silver Star before they left. As well as after!

Thankfully nothing seemed to happen. Silver Star broke from his team before approaching Luna. Yet while he did this, Luna kept her eyes on the Appleloosa team. She watched as they all approached their opposing duelists to congratulate them, tensing as Breaburn approached Hunter with a raised hand. Thankfully, they both shook and gave each other a nod. Autumn and Strongheart shook very quickly before Autumn seemed to burst into a series of questions, pointing at Strongheart’s duel disk and motioning the throwing motion she had done before. Quick Strike shook Lightning’s hand while Pharynx and Troubleshoes did the same. Liberty and Wallflower shook before the America loving teen wrapped an arm around Wallflower’s neck and began to laugh loudly. Sadly, not everyone seemed to be in the best of spirits. Sparkle shook Moondancer’s hand with much reluctance, looking away as they shook and putting on a pouty face. After it was over, Sparkle broke their connection and proceeded to storm off.

“Howdy there,” said Silver Star as he walked towards Luna. Within moments, he was standing in front of her with his hand outstretched. “Heck of a night, heh?”

Luna smiled as she took his hand. “It’s had its highs and lows,” she replied as she shook. “I’m at least glad that this night ended on a high note. For both our teams.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” said Silver Star. “Mighty upset with them right now. The way some of them acted out there. No ma’am, ain’t the Appleloosa way.” At that, Silver Star’s eyes darted towards Breaburn and Sparkle. “If they stay on, well, they’ll be practicing their drawing and a whole heck of a lot of laps around the gym. Gonna make the rest of them do it too, group punishment an all that.”

“Well, hopefully I get to see them at their best next time we duel,” said Luna. “Perhaps it’ll be in Canterlot.”

Silver Star smiled broadly. “Ya’ll need the home field advantage the next time we face each other,” he said with a laugh. “Course we could always swing by for some group training an whatnot. Strengthen ties between our schools, help each other with strategies, an all that. Come on, we can talk more about the details over one last helping of ribs.” Still smiling, Silver Star held out his arm like before.

“Well now, that sounds simply marvelous,” said a new, third voice which startled the two of them. Looking over, they saw a man with long hair and a red suit not too far away from them. Before either of them could say anything, the man bowed. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Vice-Principal Luna. I must say that you put together a very strong team there. The final duel was by far my favorite as I simply adore Ghostricks. They remind me so much of my beloved Toons. A pity they didn’t go over so well with most duelists otherwise I would have ensured they continued to get support!”

“Ah…thank you Mr.…” began Luna as she took in this man.

“Oh, how absolutely rude of me,” said the man, a hand on his cheek that looked very theatrical. “Here’s my card.” With a flourish, the man pulled a card out of his front pocket and handed it to Luna while bowing a little once again. Luna, meanwhile, raised an eyebrow at this strange behavior but took the card nonetheless. On it was a name written in golden letters with a phone number below. Her eyes widened when she saw the name Maximillion Pegasus.

“A-Are you the-” began Luna, stammering as she showed Silver Star the card. Her friend’s eyes seemed to bug out before he too began to gape at the famous card game creator before them.

“That I am,” said Pegasus as he rose. He smiled an almost disarming smile before raising both his hands up to shoulder level in a manner that looked like he was going to give them a hug. But he just stood there as he continued to talk. “Now then, seeing as your school is about to join the ranks of other school dueling teams, I think it would be best for you to have the proper sponsorship!”

“Y-You want to sponsor us?” stammered Luna, her jaw dropping a little.

“Indeed I do,” said Pegasus, reaching out a hand to touch Luna’s chin before pushing up to close her jaw. “There now, much better. You won’t catch any flies like that! Now then, there is so much your school is going to need in order to properly compete without someone like myself you might be forced to cut funds from theater or music classes! Something like that would be simply dreadful. I couldn’t imagine a world where a school could not teach its students to appreciate the works of Mozart! So it would be my pleasure to provide your school with team issued duel disks utilizing the latest in hard light technology, the proper facilities in which to duel on, and even a few other things. Oh, and while I’m at it, some funding to help some of your other school activities. That should help secure your fledgling team from the petty grips of the school board, making you the envy of all the schools.”

Luna felt her legs growing weak as she stood there as she took this information in. Maximillion Pegasus, the creator of the game, was recognizing them as a serious team! Once word got out about this, the attitudes of many of the other schools in their district would no doubt change. They would see them as being serious about Duel Monsters, with a team to be taken seriously! Not only that, but they would be the envy of all others. There were not that many schools that provided the latest in dueling technology to help their teams, and even fewer had hard light duel disks! On top of that, he was offering them a new facility! Luna hadn’t really thought about where they were going to be putting the team in order to get training done. Normally Celestia or Iron Will would be in charge of things like that. She had assumed that, at best, they would be outside for as long as the weather would permit it. Then, when it didn’t, they would have to hope that the gym wasn’t in use.

The rest, well, that was icing on the cake! Funding was getting harder and harder every year affecting everything from sports, to classes, and even lunches. If someone like Pegasus, who was rich enough to provide their normal funding with the loose change he would find underneath his sofa, was willing to openly fund their school then the school board would have to be legally insane not to agree! And yet…

“Thank you,” said Luna finally. “But, I still don’t understand: why our school? There are so many out there with more established teams that also need this sort of help.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I can assure you that I have nothing nefarious in mind for your little school,” said Pegasus with a smile. “It just so happens that I have a personal interest with your team. So I am merely ensuring that it gets the attention that it deserves. As well as making sure that everyone will be watching it.” Luna wanted to say something about that, but Pegasus quickly turned and began walking away. “Please, have your sister and the school board give me a call when they are able to. So that we can hash out any trivial details. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my bubble bath, I’ll answer any time. Don’t keep me waiting too long.”

And with that, the man walked away leaving behind the stunned figure of Luna and a confused, as well as jealous, Silver Star.

“So, what'cha got planned?” asked Breaburn. “Really gonna use them cards?” Hunter didn’t answer right away as he and the taller teen continued to walk around the now empty field. It had been some time since the last duel had ended leaving the two all alone. Off in the distance, he could hear the sound sounds of cars leaving the parking lot as well as the crowd getting one last bit of food from the various fire pits, barbeques, and whatnot. Music was also in the air mixing well with the scent of food, making the teen wonder if everyone was partying right now. Briefly he pulled out his phone, checking to see if Vice-Principal Luna had sent him a text yet saying it was time to go. Seeing nothing, he placed the phone back into his pocket.

With that done, Hunter’s hand went to reach for the new cards he had which were secure in a deck box attached to his belt. He didn’t open it to pull them out but simply rested his hand over the plastic cover. Even with this barrier, Hunter could feel the warmth and comfort emanating from the cards. So much so that it took a great deal of effort to pull away from them.

“It feels weird,” answered Hunter. “Like…Like they’re old friends I can barely remember, but they remember me very well. Yet I feel drawn to them somehow and want to get to know them once again. I can just tell that they genuinely care about me and what to ease my-” Hunter then shook his head. “Honestly, it doesn’t make much sense.”

“That fella got you believing in that there magic talk?” suggested Breaburn, a hint of concern in his voice.

Hunter let out a laugh. “I have no idea,” he said, surprising even himself. “But, if these cards are as legal as he says they are then I see no reason in trying them out. They seem interesting enough. When I get home I’m going to do some testing to see how well they work. Maybe add a few of the cards I have in my own stockpile to them.” A thought then came to mind, causing Hunter to let out a sigh of frustration. “Then again, when Chaser finds out I got these cards, he’ll probably be sending me so much hate mail that the postman will have to have a separate truck just for me.”

Now it was Breaburn’s turn to laugh. “Getting’ that there fella all rattled up might just be worth it. Not that it should matter to ya. Ya said you were gonna start steppin’ out of his shadow, remember?”

“Yeah,” said Hunter with a nod. “You have a point there.” He then looked over at the Breaburn as they turned the corner of the field. Their walk was going nowhere, just them walking and talking. “So, what do you have planned?”

“Ah…Ah got some rebuilding ta do,” said Breaburn. “Don’t mind tellin’ that Ah lost a lot after our duel, even without me coming clean. Lost trust, respect, an even mah spot as Captain. Rightly too. So, Ah’m a gonna work on that trust an’ respect for right now. Becoming Captain again don’t mean as much as those two, ya know? Then, when Ah’m standing tall again, Ah was hoping ta have a rematch with ya. No yellin’, no blamin’. Just a simple rematch ta see where Ah stand against them there cards.”

“I’d like that,” said Hunter, closing his eyes for a moment. He then felt his phone buzzing in his pocket, which he pulled out. Sure enough, it was V.P. Luna, telling all her students to return to the bus. “Well, I have to go.” With that, Hunter separated from Breaburn and began to head off towards the parking lot.

“Hey, got a quick question for ya,” said Breaburn after Hunter had walked several feet. The teen turned, his golden yellow eyes fixed on Breaburn. “Ah know ya want ta walk out of his shadow, but Ah got ta know: was Chaser always so rotten?”

The question surprised Hunter more than he would have realized. No one had ever really asked something like that. So, for a moment, Hunter stood there as a chill wind blew in his face as he stared at the only other figure around.

Slowly, Hunter closed his eyes as he tried to remember the past. He thought back to all the abuse he had taken from Chaser, which lessened as the years were pulled back. Well, there was less calling him retarded outright and other such insults. Eventually, he was back at some of his earliest memories. He could see himself and Chaser at the kitchen table playing duel monsters for the very first time. A recently unfolded playmat separated them while, off to the corner, were the many booster packs that they had just opened. Their small hands were trembling with excitement, their life points written in red crayon next to them showing that they were both near zero. The duel had been going on for almost an hour now, with neither side gaining any long term advantage. Neither of them had gotten up from the table, not even to go to the bathroom. Then Chaser’s face lit with excitement, showing that had had lost his front tooth, as he played the Red-Eyes Black Dragon he had just gotten that day. With a single move, Chaser had attacked and won the duel. But what happened after that, Hunter couldn’t really remember. How had Chaser reacted to that first victory? All he could remember afterwards was their parents rushing over to congratulate Chaser, praising him for beating his older brother before telling Hunter to clean up the table. As for Chaser, he went to go watch cartoons.

“It’s been so long,” muttered Hunter as he looked up at the stars. “I think, maybe he wasn’t all that bad. But, well, you know what they say: Absolute power corrupts absolutely? I wonder if it’s the same with absolute adulation.”

Several days later, Luna stood in her sister’s office a few hours after the last bell had rung, doing her best not to smirk or burst out laughing. Celestia sat behind her desk looking very unlike her normal self. Most noticeable was her skin. Her normal, milky white complexion had been replaced with large patches of red. Her entire face was burnt, with dark circles around her eyes from a lack of sleep. Perhaps it was because her entire body had suffered this fate, made evident that she winced whenever she moved and was avoiding sitting back in her chair. Or it could have something to do with the several nights of non-stop partying she had been doing. Even though Celestia had washed her body and rubbed plenty of aloe on her skin, Luna could still faintly smell the alcohol on her. Finally, Celestia had clearly gained a little weight from her trip. The Hawaiian All-You-Can-Eat buffets had done a number on her figure, making her normal attire seem a little tight on her. Nothing she couldn’t fit with dieting and exercising for a couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks with no cake. Again, Luna fought hard not to grin at the personal hell her sister was in.

“It is done,” said Celestia, bringing a hand to her face as she smiled. However, the touch caused her to wince but eventually sank into it. “I have just been in contact with Spoiled Rich. She has, begrudgingly, agreed to allow this school to have its own dueling team. As a permanent addition.”

“Not that she had much choice,” said Luna as she moved to the opposite wall in the room, making sure her sister could see her leaning back against it. She could feel her sister’s ire shooting towards her from her eyes, no doubt jealous of the fact that she was not in any pain. And Luna was loving every moment of this! “Not when the school board heard about everything that Mr. Pegasus is offering. I heard he’s going to be sending his lawyer over sometime this week to go over how the money he is donating is to be spent.”

“Yes, I heard about that as well. From what I have gathered, he wants to make sure the money he is so graciously giving this school goes to the right places and not the pockets of people like Spoiled. And he wants one of us to be there at the table,” said Celestia, her eyes flickering towards her sun burnt skin, tight fitting clothing before returning to Luna. “And since you were the one to make contact with him, I think it would only be appropriate for you to-”

“But sister,” interrupted Luna in a sickening sweet tone that sent shivers through her sisters body, causing her to wince even more in pain. “I wouldn’t dare deprive you of putting the skills you learned from your Leaders in Education conference. I’m sure you learned much from the six straight days of non-stop boredom, listening to lecture after lecture. Who am I to deprive you of everything that you learned? Now, if you will excuse me, I have a meeting with a parent.”

With that, Luna turned so that Celestia could not see the smirk on her face. Some people would think that this sort of revenge was petty, beneath someone of her station. But right now, she didn’t care!

At the same time, Chaser sat at a long bench table eating his crappy dinner while seething with uncontrollable rage. The stuff they called ‘food’ here was little better than pig slop, looking more like they had blended together several different things, ate it, and then vomited it onto his plate! As he dug around for something, anything, edible his eyes couldn’t help but glance at his sleeve. No longer was the great teen dressed in the finest clothing his parents could afford to give him, but instead a full body orange jumpsuit that reminded him of that Apple hick! He didn’t even have his own boots, just a cheap pair of sneakers!

Gritting his teeth, Chaser looked around at the people he would be spending the vast majority of his life with. All of them wearing the same crap that he was with a few having ripped off the sleeves. These…utter losers were all older than he was, showing off their muscles and shaving their heads as they chatted with each other or ate their slop with gusto. Glancing upwards, Chaser spotted several guards walking on railings. They moved cautiously, their eyes alert for any signs of trouble.

Now his hands began to tremble with rage as all of this only served to remind Chaser that he was in a maximum security prison. It had been decided to try him as an adult, something about the seriousness of his crimes. Oh, please. All he did was make a few people sick by slipping rat poison into their drinks! Resisting arrest, bah! They were keeping him from returning to his rightful place at the top. His parents were nowhere to be found, skipping town and forcing him to be saddled with some court appointed loon who tried to defend him by saying he was insane! Did that moron get his degree from a cereal box?! The whole farce just seemed to go on and on, with whiny little losers coming up to the stands to whine about what he had done to them like that titless Rainbow whatever. Doctors soon took the stand, telling the court how close their loser patients had come to death and he just droned them out at that point. Then there was that rat Flash Sentry who told them how he had spotted Chaser sneaking into the locker room and caught him putting the rat poison in water bottles. Video footage was shown to the jury of his resisting those feeble brained officers who might as well be mall rent-a-cops.

Then, it was Chaser’s turn on the stand. He tried to get them to understand how stupid they all were. That this was all Hunter’s fault, that he should be the one on the stand and not him. Rather than helping him out like he was supposed to, his lawyer just covered his face with his hands. Not like the rest of the court was any better, their tiny brains not able to comprehend what he was trying to tell them. When it was all over, the jury came back in less than three minutes to declare him guilty on all accounts.

Then came the sentencing. The bitch of a judge prattled on about him showing no remorse of sanctity of life or some shit like that. Then that dog faced woman then gave him the most unfair ruling of 25 years for each person he poisoned!

So yeah, now he was stuck here with his only comforts being the occasional duel and thinking about all the ways he would get his just revenge. How he would break both of Flash’s hands until they were nothing but dust followed by kicking him in the head. How he would hunt down that flat chest loser who thought she was a great athlete and make her pay. Oh, he couldn’t forget about that Apple hick. No, couldn’t forget about that humiliation. It was her fault things got this far. If she had just lost like she was supposed to, he would have been able to duel against Crystal Prep! That bitch Celestia, for not going along and giving him what he deserved. She should have been there, fighting to ensure that the best duelist was on their shitty team. That and she clearly didn’t like him for some reason. How a stupid thing like that was ever made principal of anything was beyond him. Sombra for putting that life long ban on him! It was his fault he had to drink and then robbed that liquor store! His Aunt Star Chart for stepping in and taking Hunter out of the house so-…Oh Hunter, he would get it the worst. If there was anyone to truly blame for all of this, it was Hunter. Had he just lost in their duel in Crystal Prep, no one would have ever found out he had cheated. He would be there, living the good life with a phone filled with the contacts of finest booty at that school and a one way trip to the pros. It was his fault Applejugs won, giving her his cards! Sure he didn’t play them, but they were still his! And that stupid inbreed hick lost with them in her duel against the Prep! Yes, it was all Hunter’s fault. When he got out of here, he would make sure that Hunter would suffer like he should.

But all that would be in the distant future. Several times now Chaser had done what he could to find some weak point that these idiots overlooked. Only it seemed that in this case they weren’t as stupid as they looked! Each entrance had three bullet proof doors that people had to go through that required both a physical key as well as someone from the monitoring room to buzz them in. All of the widows were too high up to reach without someone noticing. The guards patrolling the walls were well armed, he had seen them enough times to get that. But that was all he could gather. Perhaps in time he would find a way out…even if time was his only option. And when he got out, he would make them all pay before trying to reclaim his glory!

Out of the corner of his eye, Chaser spotted someone staring at him. It was an older man with blue skin, short white hair, and a goat like face. Slightly leaning back, he watched Chaser in a way he didn’t like while chewing his food slowly. For a moment, Chaser wanted to grab the crap that this place called food and fling it at him. The only thing that stopped him was knowing what the guards would do to him. Several times these morons had isolated him from the rest of the prison, taking away his deck and his outdoor time so that he could sit inside a small windowless room for days on end. During that time, food had been sent to him through a slot at the bottom of the door ensuring that he received no contact with any other living thing. It was so dull.

After a moment or two, the man picked up his tray and began to move towards Chaser. The goat man kept his eyes on Chaser the entire time and eventually sat in front of him.

“Beat it geezer,” snarled Chaser, stabbing his fork into the mush before him. It seemed that the old goat was either hard of hearing or growing senile as he remained where he was. “Hey, old fart. I told you to-”

“I heard you,” said the man in a gravely, cold tone as he stared at Chaser. “Best learn some manners if you want to survive around here. If you want to get anywhere.” Chaser snorted, beginning to rethink his position on starting trouble. The old geezer was annoying him, wasting his time when he could be thinking about his revenge and how sweet it would be. Then, the geezer pulled out a deck of Duel Monster cards. Sliding his tray to the side, he began to shuffle them. “How about we play a nice simple game? Something to get your mind off things?”

“Why should I waste my time on someone like you?” snorted Chaser, gripping his fork a little tighter now. “Last chance: get out of my sight?”

“Ah, I see,” said the old man, a hint of a smirk on his lips. “Afraid to duel an old man.” Chaser felt his body stiffen as the older man leaned closer. “Not that I blame you. Heard some interesting things about you. Doubt you could beat anyone without those little tricks of yours. Best to run and hide, mewing like the frightened kitty you really are.”

Red hot anger surged through Chaser’s body as he slid his tray to the side, pulling out his deck while ignoring the look of satisfaction on the old man’s face. “Fine. It’ll be like twisting a baby’s arm,” said Chaser as he began to shuffle his deck.

The duel soon got underway, with Chaser taking an early lead. Not surprising since all the old fool had were useless non-effect monsters, summoning them one at a time like they were back in the beginning days of the game. Meanwhile, Chaser was using his Red Dragon Archfiend deck to beat his opponent with its burning might. It might not have been his Red-Eyes deck, but it had failed him far too often. But then, something began to change. The old fool began to draw just the right card to counter his board while building up on his own. The cards in his hand became useless with each passing turn and even his mighty dragons were destroyed. Then, soon enough, his life points hit zero.

“Well, that was fun,” chalked the old man.

“No, no!” seethed Chaser as he felt a fit of rage. “How did you do that? You had to have cheated! It’s the only way anyone could defeat me!”

“How?” echoed the old man. “Why, magic of course.”

Chaser stood up, glaring at the old man with hate burning in his eyes. “Don’t you give me that crap!” he all but shouted. “There is no such thing as magic!”

“Hmm, then tell me: what was the card I used to defeat you with?” asked the old man as he picked up the card and turned it so that its back was facing Chaser.

“I just saw it,” roared Chaser. “It’s…It’s…” But Chaser couldn’t remember. Even though it had just happened, he couldn’t remember. Slowly he began to sit down again, his mind working into overdrive. He could remember him playing a card. It was a mons- NO, a spell. NO, a trap. It defeated his monsters, it defeat HIM! So how could he not remember?!?

The old man chuckled as he turned the card to reveal that it was a spell card. “The name’s Grogar sonny,” he said.

“I don’t care,” whispered Chaser, his mind still reeling. “How…How did you do that?”

“I told you, magic,” replied Grogar, looking pleased with himself as he shuffled his deck. “The same magic that allows me to draw whatever card I want to turn the tide of the battle or, if I don’t have it, I can just create the card I need. Then, when the duel is over, people just forget and accept the loss.”

“That’s it?” asked Chaser. He didn’t know if he really believed all this, he really didn’t, but he couldn’t explain how he couldn’t remember that card. Or how the old man just kept drawing everything he needed. But… “Why show me this? To mock me?”

“No, you do that well enough on your own,” growled Grogar. “There was more to this magic. Power! Power to hurt others you dueled against. Power to torment them, leave them as nothing in things called the Shadow Games. I dueled many back in my day, defeating powerful magic users like myself. I drained them of their own magic growing stronger with each passing duel. Soon, I had acquired enough magical power to take over entire cities. But…I was defeated. My magic gone and my crimes laid bare, even through the magic’s fog they all knew the horrible things I had done.”

“Is there anyway you can speed up to the fucking point?” demanded Chaser.

“The point,” growled Grogar. “Is that my magic right now is only a fraction of what it once was. Not nearly enough people with the power coming through here. Right now, these basic tricks are all I can manage. Not nearly enough for me to break out of here. But if I had some help…”

Chaser’s eyes widened slightly. “What are you saying?” asked Chaser, although he already had a guess.

“I’m saying you have magic inside of you,” said Grogar. “You just need a little help pulling it out and learning how to use it. Now, I could just rip it out of you and use it for myself but I think we stand a better chance of getting out of here if we work together. So I’ll teach you how to use it and then together, we’ll make our escape.”

The insides of Chaser’s body began to burn as he hid a smile from the old fart. He had magic?!? Magic that would give him the ultimate cheat? Magic that could hurt people? Oh, he knew he was special. So much better than every other loser on this planet, but never in his wildest dreams did he believe he could do this! As the old man continued to blab on, Chaser was already scheming for himself. Yes, he would train under this old goat and endure whatever it took. If it was all a hoax then, well, he would make the old fool sorry. But, if it was real, he would learn everything he needed before finally going after those that wronged him.

And he would start with his dear, older brother.

A new...COACH?!?

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In what seemed like in no time at all, Canterlot High had their own dueling arena. Manly because Pegasus had hired a construction team who seemed powered by fifty gallons of red bull, a hundred gallons of caffeine, and acted as though they were going to get a billion dollars if the project was completed within a single weekend…done right! And so, low and behold, the weekend after the contract with the school board was signed a second story had been added above the gym.

“Oh Lordy,” cried Applejack as she, Hunter, and Moondancer walked up the stairway to the room, gazing around wide eyed at the sight before them. The room was roughly the same size as the gym below, minus the stage where in its place was what looked like a built in concession stand. Along the clean and freshly painted walls were rows of bleachers, much like the ones below them; only these looked like they were made of hard plastic rather than wood. Opposite of where the concession stands were, Hunter spotted a doorway with large bay windows on either side. On one of those windows, written in fancy cursive, was ‘Trading Corner’. Looking through the windows, Hunter spotted several long milky white tables as well as several glass cases. In the middle of the room was a large, blue circular platform slightly raised above the ground with the school mascot framed directly in the middle. No doubt this was where they were all meant to duel.

They weren’t the only three here as several people were right behind them as well as quite a few already mulling about the room, looking it over with barely contained excitement. There were, of course, those from the dueling team. Lightning and Pharynx were walking around, arms lightly touching the other as the teenage boy pointed out all the security systems that were mostly hidden from sight. Wallflower and Autumn were off near the concession stand going over how best to decorate the place. Autumn wanted to put up some posters of the team in kung-fu poses while Wallflower thought some nice flowers would be best. Also in the room were other notable duelists, some of the best in the school. Flash Sentry, for example, had walked to the top of the stands in order to get a bird’s eye view of the entire room. Trixie was running around only to suddenly stop, sliding on the floor as her cape bellowed behind her. Pinkie Pie was bouncing around, knocking off the hat of Night Quill who gave her an annoyed look before plopping it back onto his head. Rainbow Dash had just zoomed up the steps, looking around the room like she was staring at a mountain of Christmas Presents. Fluttershy timidly moved near the bleachers, doing her best not to draw too much attention to herself. Sunset was walking around, lightly biting her lower lip as she stared at the painting of the mascot on the walls. Then there was Rarity, who was nearly knocked down by her little sister and her friends as they charged head first to the platform.

Then, finally, there was Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna. Both women were on the platform, arms crossed as they watched their students with smiles on their faces. Clearly they were happy to see their students so impressed with this new addition. Or maybe Principal Celestia was just happy that her sunburn had greatly lessened over the last couple of days. Behind them was a table with a cloth covered several objects, waiting to be unveiled. And next to them was Photo Finish, holding her camera while looking very impatient.

“Land sakes,” muttered Applejack, her voice slightly echoing in the room. “This sure is something. Heh, bet this will sure beat dueling in the park. Well, if ah’m allowed ta duel in here.”

“I’m sure this won’t be strictly for the dueling team,” said Hunter in a reassuring tone. He opened his mouth to continue, but paused when he spotted another figure peeking her head out from the stairway noticing her fireball like hair. It was Spitfire, looking on with a pitiable expression on her face as her eyes lingered towards Rainbow who was heading over to Lightning causing warning bells to ring in his head. Hunter understood why right away as there had been an incident between Spitfire and Rainbow during lunch the following Monday after their duel against Appleloosa. After it was over, Lightning had decided to tell the entire team about what had been going on. About how Spitfire had been stalking her and preventing her from joining any team even going so far as to follow them all the way to Appleloosa. She also mentioned that it was being taken care of. That Vice-Principal Luna was taking steps to correct this behavior. At first, Hunter wondered if these measures had done anything given how long she had been doing this. However, that opinion was quickly changed as Spitfire pulled her head back and began to head down the stairs.

Turning back to everyone, Hunter cleared his throat before continuing where he had left off. “I mean, it’s not like the dueling team is going to be using it 24/7. I’m sure that the principals have thought of something.”

“Good,” replied Applejack with a grin. “Because Ah wanna keep improving on mah Predaplant deck. Ah know one of these days Ah’m gonna beat ya!”

“Keep on coming,” replied Hunter, grinning back. “Dueling against you will be good practice to help me get used to my new deck. And, for your help, I just got my hands on the new and very rare Predaplant monster. Should really help you.”

“Rarity!” yelled Moondancer, moving past the two duelist and making her way towards the fashionista. Rarity jerked a little when she heard her name being called before turning. When she saw that it was Moondancer, her face softened as a smile appeared. A very coy one at that.

“Moondancer, darling,” cried Rarity. “How are you? Did your duel disk download those new designs Micro Chips uploaded yesterday?”

“Yes, I did!” breathed Moondancer. Even though her back was facing Hunter, he could tell that she was now speaking through her teeth. “And I was very surprised to see that my outfit keeps changing based on what ritual monster I summon. Like when I summon my Devotee, I’m suddenly wearing a flaming bikini! Or that new outfit with my Phoenix!”

“I bet Hunter loved them!” cried Rarity, clasping her hands together while hearts appeared in her eyes. “Did he stop the duel right then and there, rush towards you to pick you up in his arms and-”

“No, he didn’t,” growled Moondancer, her ears turning red. Rarity seemed to come back to earth, looking at Moondancer with concern as she approached her. “See, I was dueling my sister when those…outfits appeared on me! In the backyard. And even though they were just holograms, my sister thought I was becoming ah…It doesn’t matter what she thought! What matters is that you are going to come over to my house and explain what you did! And that I had no idea you did it! And when you are done with that, you’re going to have Micro remove that program from my duel disk!”

“Ah yes,” said Rarity, looking downcast. “Did not think that one through all the way. I suppose correcting that mistake would be the right thing to do.” Then she suddenly brightened. “And while I’m there, your room could use a nice makeover. I could also go over some new designs which-”

“Rarity!” yelled Moondancer.

“Well you could at least show Hunter those outfits before they are deleted,” complained Rarity, doing her best to ignore the several strands of hair that were rising from Moondancer’s head. “After all, they were made for him to see you in them. It would be such a shame if he missed out on them.”

“Missed out on what?” asked Hunter, very curious now. And he grew even more curious when Moondancer turned her head around, her entire face now bright red, and then placed her hand over Rarity’s mouth.

“Nothing,” said Moondancer. “You heard nothing. Nothing at all. Right, Rarity?”

“Ok everyone, gather around,” said Celestia while clapping her hands, interrupting whatever Rarity’s reply would have been. Quickly, the pale white girl separated herself from Moondancer and quickly moved to her friends. Moondancer, face still red, reached out for her, as if trying to grab her hair and pull her back put was too slow. For a moment she stood there until Hunter wrapped an arm around her waist, causing her to jump a little before they both headed over to where the team had gathered. It was like there were two clumps of students, the dueling team standing closer to Vice-Principal Luna and the rest grouped up closer to Principal Celestia.

“Thank you everyone for coming to the grand reveal of the Pegasus Dueling Arena,” continued Celestia once everyone stopped moving, still smiling brightly. “And while the man who generously donated this wonderful arena to us could not be present, the six students who impressed him are! So please, give a round of applause to your classmates who made all of this possible! Moondancer. Autumn Blaze. Pharynx. Lightning Dust. Star Hunter. Wallflower Blush. Canterlot High’s very first official dueling team!” She paused for a moment as heavy clapping filled the air with a few students hooting and hollering. Briefly, Hunter looked over at his teammates to see that a few of them were red in the face.

“The six of you should feel proud of what you have done,” said Celestia as the adulation began to die down. “You have represented your school to show that we can compete in this sport on a more serious level. The skills you have shown have already born fruit, allowing us this massive arena as well as additional funding to all of our arts programs whose budgets will be increased. And yes, that goes for after school clubs as well like the gardening club.” At that, Celestia turned to give Wallflower a wink causing said girl’s face to turn completely red while still smiling.

“Starting today, the Pegasus Arena will be shared not just by our dueling team or our school, but the entire community,” said Celestia as stepped forward. “It’s primary role will still be to house our team, as well as the new location for the finals of the Autumn Crown and where the entire Friendship Cup will be taking place. But It will also be a place where duelists all over town can gather in unity. It was with that in mind that Mr. Pegasus added a card shop to the design, a place where people can gather and even store the cards they wish to trade. So that certain people don’t have to lug around a mountain of cards anymore.”

Hunter now felt himself grow flushed at this. It was true that he had been given permission to use the library for his trading, but hauling all those cards from his aunt’s apartment to school everyday had been extremely…taxing. But if they were going to allow him to store the cards here, and provided that there was some security to keep them safe, then this was just what the doctor ordered.

“Ah, excuse me,” said Sunset Shimmer, raising her hand as if this were a class. “I think we can fit the school in here for the Autumn Crown, but won’t it be a little, ah, tight if we had two schools inside?” Hunter found himself nodding as he looked around. The place was large, but only large enough to fit one school inside with everyone sitting shoulder to shoulder. It seemed unlikely that they would be able to fit two schools worth. Then again, not everyone from Crystal Prep tended to show up to the Friendship Cup.

“You’re right Ms. Shimmer,” said Celestia. “And, thankfully, Mr. Pegasus thought of that.” With that said, the ceiling of the roof split in half. Everyone watched as the sides began to move, pulling the bleachers back while the sky became more and more visible until finally it stopped. “Should the need arise, the roof opens up like so. Our duel monsters will then be able to take their full form as well as project themselves into the sky so that those around the school can watch!”

“Furthermore,” added Celestia. “This arena also has within it a holographic opponent system, featuring many different decks for all of you to duel against should you be in need of a partner. From what we have been told, there are three settings: red, yellow, and blue.” As she spoke, the air next to the principal began to flicker before the figure of a small boy appeared wearing a red coat with a duel disk on his arm. The crowd gasped in surprise, but Celestia continued to talk. “As you can see, the holograms are highly realistic and will come with a multitude of decks which will be updated regularly. This one right here is the red setting, aka: easy mode.” Celestia then nodded and the hologram then vanished.

“As I said, this arena will be for everyone’s use,” said Celestia. “However, in order to use it, we will require signed permission slips from everyone’s parents or legal guardians. This area hosts the latest in hard light technology, meaning that the holograms will become significantly more real. While there are safety measures in place to prevent any serious injuries from occurring, we can not prevent them completely. Should anyone use this area without said permission slip, they will be banned for life.”

“We have also been given these,” added Luna as she pulled the cloth off the table, unveiling twelve of the latest models of duel disks. Each one of them blue, looking like something that Crystal Prep would have; sleeker than the more common model while also lacking a card tray. “These duel disks will only be used by the members of the duel team during official events and practice as well as any participants in the Friendship Cup. Should I find that anyone at this school has taken them out of the building without permission, there will be legal consequences. Also, as part of our agreement with Mr. Pegasus, he will be supplying them with regular maintenance as long as we are not caught cheating or involved in any illegal dueling activities. Should that happen, it will be next to impossible for us to maintain any of this. If any of you are caught doing so, there will be harsh consequences.”

“Don’t worry about that Luna, I’ll make sure no one on my team will do any such thing,” said Celestia with a warming smile towards her sister. Yet, Luna did not return it. She, as well as the rest of the dueling team, stared at her as if she had just sprouted a second head.

“I’m sorry sister, but did you just say ‘your team’?” asked Luna, in a tone that clearly sounded as though she were forcing herself to stay calm.

“Ah, yes,” said Celestia, looking back at Luna curiously. As if she didn’t understand what the problem was of what she had just said. “I did.”

“I see,” said Luna as she approached Celestia with all the students watching. “I find that odd since you were the one to place me as coach.”

“As I recall, Vice-Principal Luna, you didn’t even want this position,” stated Celestia firmly, temper slightly flaring up as she spoke. Clearly, she did not like having this conversation now in front of all of the students watching them. “Didn’t you say that this position should go to the one who had worked hard to make this a reality? That the better duelist should have it?”

“That was before I found out the reason you gave me this position is because you wanted to go to that Hawaiian trip!” argued Luna, temper flaring as well. “Besides, I’m allowed to change my mind. You did remind me that I had been asking to take on more responsibility so I’m ready to take it. And besides, how are you going to manage this team when you can’t even handle being a substitute teacher for a single class!” At this comment, Hunter could see Celestia’s hands clench tightly while her shoulders stiffened. He could even tell that some of her hair was beginning to stand on end showing that this comment clearly hit a sore spot.

“Oh, I remember that class,” said Pharynx with a wince, just loud enough for everyone in the team to hear. “Every five seconds she was being called away to do something, turning science class into a study hall. I think at one point she came back half covered in cake.”

“But on the plus side, I got to finish six pages in the kung-fu musical I’ve been working on,” said Autumn with a wild grin on her face.

“Yeah, that’s right!” shouted Lightning, fist in the air. “We already have a coach and that’s Coach Luna! She was there with us when we faced off against Appleloosa!”

“Yeah, but isn’t Principal Celestia supposed to be the better duelist,” Flash pointed out. “I mean, she went off against Principal Sombra in the Friendship Games.”

“Yeah, and how well did that turn out for her?” Moondancer pointed out, staring at Flash as she spoke. At the same time, Hunter could see that the other members of the duel team were nodding with Moondancer.

“Ok, that’s a little unfair,” said Sunset, approaching Moondancer with her hands raised in a peaceful gesture. “Principal Sombra is in charge of a pro-dueling school. So it would be pretty unfair to compare that to how Vice-Principal Luna did in her duel against…whoever she dueled in Appleloosa.”

Tensions within the room began to rise as did the volume of their voices. While the duelists who had been with Luna during their trip to Appleloosa, including Rainbow Dash, argued in favor that she should remain as coach, the others did not see it that way. They argued that the better duelist should be in charge, yet Hunter felt there might be more to it than what they were saying. Vice-Principal Luna was generally un-liked since she was in charge of discipline, dealing out punishments and watching over the kids in detention. So perhaps there was a bit of bias there. Out of the corner of his eye, Hunter could see a similar standoff going on with the sisters with Photo Finish looking bored.

“Everybody calm down!” shouted Pinkie Pie as she appeared in-between the two older women. Everyone turned to look at her as Pinkie cleared her throat. “What we have here is a case where both parties have equal rights to the team. Now, normally, I would suggest something like cutting it in half so we could share it…but I don’t think it’ll work this time. So how about we just use our go-to and have our principals duel for it!”

As the crowd cheered, Celestia gave Pinkie a smile. “That is an excellent idea Pinkie Pie,” she said as she took one of the new duel disks off the table and slid it onto her arm. “What better way to break in this new arena than with a duel to see who will be coach. Unless Luna wants to back out?”

“YOU GOT THIS COACH LUNA!” shouted Lightning, Wallflower, and Pharynx at the same time. While Luna didn’t turn to look at them, Hunter could see her smiling as she took her own duel disk off the table.

“No sister, I won’t,” said the midnight blue woman as she slid the duel disk on her arm before inserting her deck. “So bring it on because I won’t hold anything back!” At the same time, their duel disks activated creating a tray of blue light which connected to their devices.

As the two turned to get to their appropriate sides of the platform, the rest of the floor was a madhouse. Students rushed to be seated, most of them moving to sit close to Principal Celestia on either side in a show of support. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash and Lightning Dust quickly moved the table out of the way before making their way to the opposite side of the gym where the rest of the dueling team went to Vice-Principal Luna’s side. After a moment or two, a girl named Scootaloo dashed across the room in order to sit next to her idol and cheer for Luna as well.

Celestia’s Life Points: 8000

Luna’s Life Points: 8000

Turn 1: Celestia

“Being the older sister, I’ll make the first move,” announced Celestia as she drew. (hand: 6) “And if you think this deck is the same as it was when I dueled against Principal Sombra, you will be sorely mistaken! First, I’ll summon Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands in attack mode.” (1400/1000) Hunter noticed Moondancer stiffen slightly as a greenish grey liquid appeared in front of Principal Celestia which then morphed into a creature with hands and arms coming out over everywhere. “When this creature is summoned, I’m allowed to add a ritual spell card or monster to my hand like Dawn of the Herald.” She then paused to smile before holding up her spell card. “Now witness as I tribute the level 6 Lightray Sorcerer in my hand to bring your end. We have heard the heavens calls, ready to receive them. Let its light shine down upon us all and banish the darkness. Ritual Summon Level Six: Herald of Perfection!” (1800/2800) Descending from the now open ceiling was a massive monster that looked almost egg-like with an hourglass figure. This monster had lights of red, purple, green and so on coming out of parts of its body while its wings were similarly multi-colored. The monster then hunched over, showing that it was in defense position.

“As an added bonus, sister, I am also able to now banish the ritual card to bring my Lightray monster back to my hand,” continued Celestia, looking pleased with herself while adding her monster back to her hand. “And now that I have two light monsters on the field, I think I’ll summon Guardian of Order in attack mode!” (2500/1200) Soaring down onto the field was a large warrior in white and gold armor, with wings coming out of its back in an X shape.

“These three should be more than enough as the opening act,” said Celestia as the students around her cheered. “So I’ll end it here and let you go.”

“Looks like Principal Celestia really has upped her game,” mused Moondancer, looking at the field as Celestia’s face down appeared. “Perfection might not be able to beat over her opponents with brute force, but its effect will slow Coach Luna down while filling up her graveyard. Then she can start beating down on her opponent with overwhelming brute force.”

“Do you think Coach Luna can do this?” asked Wallflower nervously.

“Well…,” began Hunter as he thought about it for a moment. “Perfection isn’t perfect. We do know that one of the cards in her hand right now is a spellcaster and not a fairy. She might not even have any left in her hand. On top of that, while Perfection is powerful, it’ll begin to eat away at her hand and leave her with nothing.” He then paused to smile. “But, if she thinks that Coach Luna’s deck is the same then she’s in for a big surprise. After our duel against Appleloosa, she asked if I had some certain cards to boost the power of her deck.”

“Wow, really?” asked Lightning, excited. “What cards?”

Hunter chuckled. “I won’t ruin the surprise.”

Turn 2: Luna

“Let me show you what I got,” said Luna as she drew. (hand: 6) “I hope you’re ready for this sister. First, I’ll discard Ahrima, the Wicked Warden in order to add Lair of Darkness to my hand! Then, I’LL ACTIVATE IT!” With that loud exclamation, Luna’s field took over the arena. The ground became black, with cracks appearing in every which way. As the bleachers turned into upturned earth, with geysers spewing out green mist in spots where no one was sitting, black vapors began to rise from the cracks. Distorted faces appeared in these misty steams, with jagged smiles that leered at everyone they saw.

But, as the ground began to change around Celestia, the principal grinned.

“Sorry sister, but you’re going to have to do better than that,” she said as she discarded a card from her hand. “I discard my Harvest Angel of Wisdom in order to negate that vile field spells activation and destroy it!” The lights from Perfection began to shine brighter than searchlights on the ground, burning away the decay wherever they shined until all was normal again leaving an annoyed looking Luna.

“It’ll take more than that to stop me! I summon Lilith, Lady of Lament in attack mode.” (2000/0) As Luna spoke, a demonic woman whose body seemed incase in black scale like armor appeared in the mist. Flapping her wings, she hovered in the air while her long red hair swayed this way and that. In the stands, some of the boys who had been cheering for Celestia began to drool at the sight of Lilith. “When this monster is summoned, her attack is decreased to 1000. But don’t let her lower attack fool you because she’s got a powerful ability. By tributing one dark monster on my side of the field, I can search out three trap cards and then you get to pick one at random.”

“Let me guess, you’re going to tribute Lilith,” said Celestia with a slight grin on her face. “After all, without that horrible field spell of yours, you have no choice.”

“Thank you so much for reminding me,” grumbled Luna as Lilith vanished on the spot. As she did, a series of cards appeared in front of Luna showing her options. “Hmm, I’ll take this one. Then that one. Oh, can’t forget about this.” Once the cards had been selected, the panel before her vanished as three very large cards appeared above her head. “Pick one sister.”

Celestia frowned. “I’ll pick the one on the right,” she said. Instantly a card appeared on Luna’s field while the rest of her deck began to shuffle.

“A good pick, for me at least,” said Luna as Lilith stood up straight again, turning to look at Celestia. “Unfortunately, I can’t do anything else this turn. So I’ll set two more cards and end my turn.”

Turn Three: Celestia

“Not that it will do you any good,” said Celestia as she drew (hand: 3). When she looked at the card, her eyes widened in surprise for a moment before a smile crossed her lips. “I’ll play the spell card Pot of Desires, a rare card that just so happened to be the grand prize for a limbo contest back in Hawaii. When activated, I am forced to banish the top ten cards of my deck face down before being allowed to draw two. It’s a high cost, but worth it if I can keep adding fuel for Perfection.” Still grinning, Celestia drew two more cards. “Next I’ll activate Card Trader. Starting during my next standby phase, I can shuffle one card in my hand back into my deck to get another draw.”

“I almost feel bad for doing this, but I aim to win this duel,” continued Celestia as she removed Manju from her holographic card tray. “I tribute my monster in order to bring out Airknight Parshath in attack mode!” (1900/1400) Galloping onto the field was a centaur like creature, with white wings on its back and covering its horse like lower body. The majority of its armor was blue while carrying a large sword. “Airknight Parshath, attack Luna directly!” Airknight rose onto its hind legs as it made a mad yell, raising its sword high above its head. Once all four of its legs were back on the ground, the centaur charged at Luna while its sword began to glow a golden hue. Running past the Vice-Principal it slashed her right across the stomach causing the slightly younger woman to fall to her knees in pain.

Luna’s Life Points: 6100

“Well, uh, that hurt more than I thought it would,” Luna managed to say through gritted teeth as she slowly began to stand back up.

“At least we know its working,” said Celestia. “When my Airknight deals damage, I’m allowed to draw a card. More power for my Perfection. With that done, my Guardian of Order will attack you directly as well!” Celestia’s Guardian wasted no time as its fist became covered in golden light, pulling it back as if to throw a punch from across the field. When it did, a beam of light shot from its fist hitting Luna in the face and knocking her down. Several students made noises of amusement as they saw the head of discipline face down on the floor.

Luna’s Life Points: 3600

“Sister, you should know now that there is nothing you can do,” said Celestia, looking confident again. “This duel is all but over. Just concede.”

“No,” said Luna as she slowly got up, staggering a little as she did. “I still have life points and cards in my hand. I can do this!”

Now Celestia looked annoyed, closing her eyes and turning her head to look away from her sister. “Why do you have to be so stubborn? But, if you insist on putting yourself through all this pain then be my guest. It’s your turn.”

“Thank you,” said Luna as she pressed a button on her duel disk. “But if you thought that my field spell was the only way I had to get tokens, then you are sorely mistaken. I activate my face down card: Fires of Doomsday! With this card I get to summon two Doomsday tokens in defense mode.” (0/0) Fire flames appeared in two spots on Luna’s side of the field. Though they quickly died down, the smoke and ash remained which combined into two smoky creatures with a single green eye.

“Wait, if she could use that, why didn’t she bring them out to protect her from those attacks?” asked Scootaloo as she looked puzzled by the sight before. “If she had done that then she wouldn’t have taken any damage. Well, maybe a little damage.”

“It's because Coach Luna needs some tribute fodder for her deck to function,” said Pharynx, who only briefly glanced at the younger girl. “Without that, the Coach has no chance of winning this. But, the question you really should be asking is: Did Principal Celestia let her summon those tokens because she didn’t have any more fairies in her hand or is she trying to bait her?”

Turn Four: Luna

“I draw!” shouted Luna as she drew (hand: 3). As she looked at her card, Hunter noticed her eyes were moving rapidly between the card she had just drawn and the other two cards in her hand. It was if she were examining a very complex puzzle, trying to put all the pieces together in her head. Several times she frowned, clearly not getting the desired result she wanted. Then, after about a minute of this, she seemed to settle on a plan.

“You’re not the only one who can get more cards,” she said. “I’ll play the spell card Reoccurring Nightmare. This spell lets me take two dark monsters in my graveyard with zero defense points and add them back to my hand. Lucky for me Lilith and Ahrima fit the bill nicely.”

Celestia, however, shook her head. “Let you have another chance to get Lair of Darkness out? Or another trap? I don’t think so. I discard my Power Angel Valkyria to negate that spell and destroy it!” As Celestia slid her card into the graveyard slot, the lights from Herald of Perfection shined down onto Luna to blast the card out of her hand.

“So you stopped that move,” said Luna who, surprisingly, began to grin. “But can you stop this one? I activate my trap Crush Card Virus! By tributing one of my tokens, I can destroy all monsters you control and in your hand that have over 1500 attack points!” Everyone gasped as one of the tokens exploded, becoming thousands of tiny specks that fluttered over to Celestia’s side of the field.

“Like I’d let that happen!” shouted Celestia, looking panicked as she discarded another card. “I’ll discard my Minerva, Scholar of the Sky to negate and destroy that trap!” Once again the lights began to shine out of Herald, burning away all of the germs Luna had unleashed upon the field. Yet Luna didn’t seem upset that her trap had failed. Quite the contrary, she seemed pleased as clear as the ground began to tremble. For a moment, the audience began to scream as massive cracks appeared in the floor thinking that the floor was about to give way. Thankfully they quickly remembered that this was the work of the hard light technology.

“Now the fun can begin, sister,” said Luna as she smiled broadly. “You may have stopped my trap, but I still tributed a monster on my side of the field. This activates the effect of Darkest Diabolos, Lord of the Lair, allowing me to special summon him from my hand!” The cracked earth beneath the women’s feet finally gave way as a massive black dragon erupted out of the ground behind Luna. Darkest Diabolos (3000/2000) was massive, even more so than when they were at Appleloosa. Perhaps it was because of the hard light technology, making everything more impressive for the glowing red cracks in its scales seemed more ominous than before. As did the gentle clanging of the chains on the dragon’s body.

“No, not if I-” began Celestia as she reached for the single remaining card in her hand, only to stop as she realized that it wasn’t a fairy. Hunter, as well as anyone else paying attention, knew that it was Lightray Sorcerer. A spellcaster.

“Sister, I had wanted to save that Crush Card Virus for something special,” said Luna. “But you forced me to burn through it as well as several other cards. I’m not going to let it be for nothing! I’m taking over the field right now by activating the continuous trap Sinister Yorishiro instead!” Luna’s face down flipped upright, revealing a card that seemed to emanate a black fog as well as a feeling of uneasiness. “Now, once per turn, I can normal summon a high level fiend from my hand without a tribute. So please everyone, give it up for my favorite card of all time: YUBEL!” (0/0) A whirlwind appeared in front of Luna, one with enough power that Night Quill hat to catch his hat before it went flying away! Then, a figure of a bat winged demon appeared. A grey and black creature that looked like it could be either male or female having heterochromia with one eye green while the other eye was orange. And, between both eyes was a third whose red pupil glared as Yubel smirked with its green lips.

As Celestia tensed at this, the crowd began to laugh. “What good is a monster with no attack points?” someone shouted. Others hooted and hollered, wondering in Luna had thrown the game. None of those students had noticed that Celestia was biting her lower lips as she scanned the field, eyes piecing together the situation she was in. But others like Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Moondancer, and Hunter had noticed and were realizing what she was realizing.

“I don’t get it,” said Scootaloo as she tilted her head. “Why summon something that useless?”

“Don’t you use Vehicriods?” asked Lightning, a slight smirk on her face. “I mean, that’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”

“Hey!” shouted Scootaloo.

“Lightning, knock it off,” said Rainbow, giving her renewed friend a meaningful glare. Lightning looked nervous for a moment, scratching the back of her head while Rainbow turned to her small fan. “Scoots, you really got to brush up on your duel monsters history to get this one. It might look weak, but that thing is like a walking trap. Yubel has the effect where it can’t be destroyed by battle and, when you attack into it, you take all the damage. Meaning the only way to get rid of it is to use destruction effects. That or bounce it off the field.”

“And the more you try to destroy it, the stronger it gets,” mumbled Moondancer as Scootaloo looked at Rainbow with wide eyes. “Principal Celestia is going to have to find a way to destroy it not once, but three times if she hopes to still win this duel.”

“You’ve had your fun, sister,” said Luna as she glared at Perfection. “But it ends now! Darkest Diabolos, turn off Perfection’s light once and for all!” Darkest Diabolos opened its jaw and, as it did, small bits of liquid shadows began to leak out from its teeth. The dragon then unleashed a torrent of the stuff onto the field, filling it up completely so that all of Celestia’s monsters seemed to drain into the stuff. Then, after a moment, Diabolos seemed to inhale the darkness back into itself. But, after it had done so, Herald of Perfection was no longer on the field.

“And now sister, I end my turn,” said Luna. “During this time, as per the cost of keeping Yubel on the field, I must tribute one monster I control. So I’ll tribute my remaining token.” Hunter watched as Celestia trembled, her fists clenched as the last token vanished from sight.

“Oh wow,” said Autumn as she took the sight in. “Now things are really getting interesting! Coach Luna has a monster that provides the perfect defense and a powerful offense! I wonder what Principal Celestia will do in the next act!”

Turn Five: Celestia

“Not bad, you managed to get your two best monsters out at the same time,” said Celestia as she drew (hand: 2) Hunter watched as Celestia’s hands were shaking slightly, as if this were the one thing she had hoped not to face. Perhaps it was when Coach Luna managed to get Yubel out onto the field that Celestia had a hard time countering. “It used to take you forever to get Yubel on the field with the right number of tributes for its cost. You’ve really improved, sister. But so have I! Now that it's my standby phase, I can activate the effect of Card Trader returning Lightray Sorcerer back to my deck in order to draw another card.” Celestia looked at the new card she had gotten and then placed it face down on the field. “All I can do right now is set a monster face down before changing the rest of my monsters into defense mode. Now go Luna and make your move.”

Turn Six: Luna

“My, someone’s a bit testy right now,” said Luna, drawing her new card (hand: 1). “Is someone upset because their big move didn’t work out as planned?”

“I’m miffed, not testy,” said Celestia. “Right now I’m trying to figure out how to win this duel when my best monster is gone and my hand is mostly empty. Things are looking bad for me.”

“I agree,” said Luna as she played her card. “And things might be getting worse because I play Allure of Darkness which allows me to draw two cards but then I must banish one dark monster or suffer a penalty.” Calmly, Luna drew her cards. Her lips twitched slightly as she removed one of them from her hand. “The monster I banish is Plague Wolf. But thankfully, the card I get to keep is much better: Terraforming!”

“NO!” shouted Celestia as a card slid out of Luna’s deck.

“Oh yes,” said Luna as she played her field spell. “Sister, Perfection might have been a good nightlight for a while. But sooner or later, we all have to face our nightmares! I play Lair of Darkness!” With that said, the field morphed again, with mist like faces coming out of the cracks in the earth that surrounded Celestia and laughed at her.

“Now I can show everyone the true power of this three card combo,” said Luna. “Diabolos, end Guardian of Order now!” At her grim command, Darkest Diabolos spewed out more of its liquid darkness onto the field before sucking it back up along with Celestia’s strongest monster. “Now I end my turn. But first, I have to tribute a monster to keep Yubel on the field. Thankfully, my field spell allows me to tribute one of yours. Yubel, feast on that Airknight!” Everyone watched as Yubel held out a hand as Celestia’s last face up monster exploded, turning into thousands of bright lights that went right into the fiend’s hand. “And finally, my field spell’s other effect kicks in. During the end phase of every turn, we both get Torment Tokens to our side of the field equal to the number of tributes that occurred during our turn. So I get one.” The ground on Luna’s side of the field cracked, allowing a black mass to rise. This Torment Token (1000/1000) moved its featureless arms across its chest in a defensive pose.

“With that, I end my turn,” said Luna, smiling from her side of the field. “So tell me sister, what will you do?”

Turn Seven: Celestia

“It’s a little early to be talking like that,” said Celestia as she drew. (hand: 2) “My life points remain untouched.”

“That may be so, but I have the field advantage,” said Luna. “And besides, all I need is one life point to win so just saying your life points are higher doesn’t really mean anything.”

“The field is yours…for now,” said Celestia. “But all that might change because I flip summon my Morphing Jar!” (700/600) Celestia’s card was replaced with, well, a jar. A large silver looking one at that. “When this card is flipped face up, we both discard our hands and draw until we have five cards. That’s five additional ways to reclaim the field.”

“So be it,” said Luna as the two of them drew until they had five cards in their hands. For a moment, the two looked over what they had drawn but Hunter focused mostly on Celestia. She was looking intently at one card in particular, at least that’s what he believed. Several times she looked up from the card to look at Yubel before returning to look at the card.

“Yes, this should do it,” said Celestia at last. “Time to take back the field and end this duel! Right now, my graveyard is jam packed with light monsters with different names! Meaning I can special summon Lightray Diabolos and Lightray Gearfried to the field in attack mode!” On either side of Celestia appeared massive pillars of light that seemed to dispel the shadows around her. When they vanished, two massive monsters stood before her. Lightray Diabolos (2800/1000) looked like a white version of Darkest Diabolos, but with several key differences. First of all, the main color scheme of the monster was white and blue with golden wings on its shoulders as well as on its head. Threads of white light had replaced the chains which fluttered about as if caught in a non-existent wind. Lightray Gearfried (2800/2200) was a large warrior who was about a head taller than Celestia decked out in white armor with a blue undercoat. In one hand he held a massive sword which held in its middle a glowing blue gem with the other held a large shield.

“Lets see which is stronger sister, my monsters of light or your dark fiends,” said Celestia with a slight smile on her face.

“It won’t matter,” said Luna, shaking her head. “If you attack my Yubel, it’ll remain and you’ll take all the damage. And neither of those monsters has enough attack points to match my Diabolos.”

“Not on their own,” said Celestia, warning bells going off in Hunter’s head as she said that. The same much have been true for Coach Luna as she looked ready to brace herself. “Lightray Diabolos, attack that dark knock-off!” The Diabolos of light opened its jaw as golden light began to rise from its long throat. “And now I activate the quick play spell card: Rush Recklessly! This gives my monster 700 more attack points until the end of the turn, more than enough to take down your dragon!” Lightray Diabolos (3500/1000) took several steps forward before firing a beam of light that put a hole right in the middle of Darkness Diabolos’ chest, destroying it.

Luna’s Life Points: 3100

“Lightray Gearfried, slay Yubel!” commanded Celestia as she pointed at Luna’s monster. Gearfried readied his sword, raising it high above his head as the blue glow of the gem implanted in it began to shine even brighter. He then swung it, sending a disk across the field right towards his target which stood there looking smug. That was until a golden chalice appeared in front of Yubel who took it and, at the same time, its attack points rose by 400. “I activate my other quick play spell card: Forbidden Chalice! In exchange for giving your monster a little attack point boost, all of its effects are negated!” As Yubel looked at the chalice, the blue disk sliced right through it and cut the monster in half.

Luna’s Life Points: 700

“Pity I don’t have another Rush Recklessly or else this match…would be…” Celestia’s words trailed off as the earth began to shake. Then, right in front of Luna, came a row of spikes. “What’s going on?”

“You destroyed my Yubel,” answered Luna with a grin. “Yes, Forbidden Chalice does negate my Yubel’s effect…but only while it's face up on the field. Destruction effects go off! Meaning I can summon its next form from either my deck or graveyard: Yubel-Terror Incarnate!” (0/0) People screamed as Luna’s new monster appeared on the field, a massive dragon like creature with twin heads and a crown of spikes between them. And, in the middle of its chest, was an eye just like on the forehead of the original Yubel. Only much, much larger.

“I-I thought that Chalice would stop that thing from coming out!” growled Celestia as she stared at the monster whose shadow engulfed both of her own.

“It was a good try, sister,” said Luna as she now stood between her monster’s feet. “But not good enough. Because now you are dealing with a stronger version of Yubel, one that reflects any damage taken when you attack it and nukes the entire field at the end of my turn.”

“I’m aware,” said Celestia. “Ah, I end my turn.”

Turn Eight: Luna

“I draw,” said Luna as she looked at the cards she held. (hand: 6) “And thank you so much for refreshing my hand. I’ll be sure to put these to good use.” Celestia let out a small growl but said nothing as Luna held up a card. “First, I’ll tribute my Yubel-Terror Incarnate and my Torment Token in order to special summon Duke Shade, the Sinister Shadow Lord from my hand!” Most of the crowd watched in confusion as both of Luna’s remaining monsters vanished. But there were those who knew what she was going, and the power of that single move. But before they could explain it to the people around them, Duke Shade (500/2000) appeared on the field sitting on a throne. The Duke was a lean figure who looked a lot like Lilith, without the bat wings and having a milky white face.

“Duke Shades affect grants him 500 additional attack points for each monster used as a tribute,” explained Luna as Duke Shade’s attack rose. (1500/2000) At the same time the ground began to shake once again. The crowd then cried out as Darkest Diabolos burst from the ground while letting out a terrifying roar that seemed to shake the entire room. As the Duke gave the dragon a passing glance, Darkness Diabolos bared its fangs at its Lightray version. “Oh, remember how I said I can special summon my dragon from my hand when a monster is tributed? Well the same thing happens when it's in the graveyard!”

“Terrific,” muttered Celestia.

“Next, when Yubel-Terror Incarnate leaves the field I am allowed to summon its final version! Yubel- The Ultimate Nightmare!” shouted Luna, raising her hands above her head as a new figure appeared behind her. If Yubel-Terror Incarnate was large, then this form was mammoth. The crowd screamed as Ultimate Nightmare was a fitting name for this thing. It seemed to keep most of the body it had in its twin dragon head form, only now there was another head between the two long necks. Another face appeared on its chest, along with human-like faces on dragon heads with eyes on its elbows and kneecaps! It’s four leathery wings were extended outwards as if ready to take flight.

Briefly, Hunter looked up from the duel to see the expressions on some of the other students. Pinkie Pie was doing her best impression of a cat, on all fours on top of Sunset’s head. The flame haired girl looked split between horrified by the monster Luna had summoned and in pain due to her pink haired friend. Fluttershy looked like she was trying not to wet herself while Rarity was trying not to gag. As for Applejack, she was trying to hide her sister’s eyes while her own jaw was hanging open.

“If you think that’s scary, just wait till you see its effect,” said Luna. “But that lesson will be a little later down the road. First, we have to finish the chapter of Darkest Diabolos. You all know how he can be summoned by now, but did you know he has another effect? No? Well, by tributing a dark monster, dear Principal Celestia will have to place one of the cards in her hand on either the top or bottom of her deck. I could use one of mine…but thanks to my field spell, I have the power to use one of hers! Diabolos, take your revenge!” A red light shined out from the red jewel in the center of Luna’s dragon, hitting Lightray Diabolos right in the chest before it vanished. Hunter’s attention shifted to Celestia, who was biting her lower lip as she sent a card in her hand to the bottom of her deck.

“Yubel- The Ultimate Nightmare, attack Lightray Gearfried!” shouted Luna.

“Is she giving up?” shouted Snips as all the eyes on Yubel began to glow. “That thing just looks scary, but it has no attack points.”

“Should I explain it or would you sister?” asked Luna as flames came out of the twin dragon heads connected to Yubel. “Unlike the other forms of Yubel, this one can attack and then reflect any damage I would have taken to my opponent. What’s more, the monster I attacked is destroyed.” Flames seared into Gearfried, who let out a voiceless cry before turning into ash. From there, thorny vines came out of the ground to surround Celestia. They wrapped around her quickly, holding her in place in a very uncomfortable pose as the thrones dug into her body.

Celestia’s Life Points: 5200

“Duke Shade, crack that Jar!” commanded Luna. The Duke gave Celestia’s remaining monster a brief glance before flicking its tail on the ground. From there a shadowy claw crossed the field which then picked up Morphing Jar and crushed it.

Celestia’s Life Points: 4400

“Last, but not least, Darkest Diabolos, attack my sister directly!” Luna monster didn’t hesitate to follow that command. It opened its mouth and sent the familiar wave of inky darkness that knocked Celestia down to the ground.

Celestia’s Life Points: 1400

The crowd was silent now as Celestia slowly got back to her feet. It seemed impossible. For most of the duel, Celestia had seemed on top. Not even taking any damage even when she lost control of the field. And now here she was, no more monsters with no more cards in her hand and depleted of nearly all of her life points. The older sister was breathing heavily, no doubt shocked by all those attacks.

“This…isn’t a pleasant feeling I’m experiencing right now,” said Celestia as she looked at her younger sister. “This is almost just like when I dueled Sombra. I managed to make a great comeback, destroying all his monsters, and then when it was his turn he crushed me. Now, here I am. I have taken down most of your field and then in one turn I find myself face to face with some of your best monsters.”

“If it makes you feel any better, the only reason I am able to do any of this is thanks to you sister,” said Luna.

“Thanks for rubbing it in,” said Celestia, a hint of bitterness in her voice. “If I knew that Forbidden Chalice wouldn’t have-”

“You are mistaken, Celestia,” said Luna, interrupting the other. “I mean, I am able to stand here right now defeating you because of all the times you defeated me in the past. Each defeat was another lesson that I learned, forcing me to consider how I can improve. And because you sent me away to coach our dueling team, I had such a wonderful time that I want to keep on doing it, perhaps helping future students down the road to be better.”

As Luna spoke, Celestia’s eyes widened. Not out of fear, but something else. It was like she was seeing her sister in a whole new light. Then, slowly, a smile appeared on the older woman’s face. “I’m glad to hear that. But, I’m not going to give up so easily. I still have a chance to turn this duel around.”

“True,” said Luna. “I end my turn. Show me everything you got sister. And I’ll keep showing you what I have!”

Turn Nine: Celestia

“I will!” said Celestia as she drew. (hand: 1) “All I can do is set this monster face down. You better hope that you can topple it.”

Turn Ten: Luna

“Interesting threat,” said Luna as she looked at what she had just drawn. (hand: 6) “I’ll finish this duel here and now using the cards that one of my students gave me! But first, I play the spell card Boogie Trap! After discarding two cards in my hand, I can target one trap in my graveyard and set it on the field. And the card I’m choosing is my Crush Card Virus! With this card back on my field I am able to play the card: The Fang of Critias!” Appearing on the field was a dark, silver dragon with spikes on its knees and a massive gem in its forehead. “I’ll use its power to turn my Crush Card Virus into something far more deadly!” As Luna discarded her trap, a black mist spewed out of her graveyard towards the dragon who began to cough while its owner began to chant. “Mighty dragon, no sword nor spell or even tiny germ may take you down. Make its power your own as you spread the plague with every flap of thy wings! Fusion Summon: Doom Virus Dragon!” (1900/1500) The scales on Critias shattered, revealing a smaller dragon with purple scales that seemed to be rotting off it despite it otherwise looking perfectly healthy.

“No,” whispered Celestia as her face down card turned black before crumbling into dust.

“Yes sister,” said Luna with a nod. “Doom Virus is much like my Crush Card Virus. All monsters on the field and in your hand that have over 1500 attack points are now infected, as will all similar monsters you draw over the next three turns. With this, even if you had something in the graveyard to protect you this turn, any monster you draw will be revealed and most likely destroyed.”

Celestia nodded, placing a hand over her duel disk to signal her defeat.

The next day, pictures were placed in both the trophy room as well as the Pegasus Arena. In these photos, perfectly framed, showed Star Hunter, Moondancer, Wallflower Blush, Autumn Blaze, Pharynx, and Lightning Dust. All six students were positioned around Vice-Principal Luna as they all held up their duel disk. For as long as Canterlot High stood, students would remember who they were. They were the first dueling team this school ever had and their legacy was one that would not be forgotten.

Not the end.