Jan. 2nd, 2014

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Ayaka had gone off and never returned, and even though Mototani and Torimaki had gone looking for her, Asuka had little hope of ever seeing her again. Manjoume’s death had hit her hard, and after Kenzan had disappeared in the dead of night, she had given up all hope of ever going home again.

That left just four of them now. Misawa had found them a place to hide with a friendly group of monsters, who weren’t so much trying to put up a resistance against Judai as stay as far away from him as possible. Asuka sorted through her deck and thoughtfully went over her cards. Cyber Blader, most definitely. Cyber Prima would be good too. Allegro Toile? She glanced up and caught the back of a passing monster.

“Cassia? Can I talk to you for a minute?”

The monster, a Different Dimension Warrior Lady, turned around and headed her way. Cassia and her boyfriend, Alexander, weren’t native of the Dark World, but they had decided to stay and help out once Judai had come to full power.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. Asuka spread her cards out on the table.

“I’m looking for a way to banish cards. Something reliable.”

Cassia looked over her cards. “They need to be banished? You’ve got a pretty good set for destroying here already.”

“Preferably, yes.”

“Hmm, well,” she reached into the inside pocket of her jacket, “I can give you Different Dimension Ground. It’s a trap. Will only last you one turn, though.”

Asuka accepted the card and studied it. A good start.

“To be really safe, you’d need Dimensional Fissure, but I don’t have a copy.” Cassia rubbed her cheek thoughtfully. “You know, I’ll ask around. I’ll get back to you.”

“Thanks,” Asuka said. “If all goes well, I’ll return them to you. If not…”

Cassia smiled sadly. “Say no more. Good luck.”

She walked off and Asuka gathered her deck again. It was progress. She leaned back and closed her eyes.

“Asuka-san?”

“Junko!” Asuka shot up. She hadn’t even heard her coming. “I’m sorry, what is it?”

“Please tell me you’re not going to face Judai.”

Asuka didn’t miss the lack of honorific. “I’m not going to face Judai,” she replied serenely.

Junko frowned. “Asuka-san, please promise me you will not face Judai. I… Momoe’s gone. I don’t know if I can stand—”

Asuka got up and hugged her.

“Don’t worry, okay?” she whispered. Junko sniffed and nodded. She wiped at her eyes.

“I hate this. I want to go home.”

Asuka did too. How would Fubuki be holding up? And her parents… First they’d lost their son, now their daughter.

“Go get some sleep, Junko,” she said gently. Junko nodded. She’d only just left when Shou appeared; Asuka got the impression he’d been watching them all along.

“Did you say that just to comfort her?” he asked.

“I don’t plan on dueling Judai,” Asuka replied. She shuffled her deck. She really hoped Cassia would be able to find her some more cards.

Shou scrutinized her. Asuka remained stoic under his gaze, and finally he slumped. He pushed his glasses up his nose.

“Whatever you do, just be careful, okay? After Kenzan… I don’t want to lose anyone else.”

“I promise, Shou-kun. I’ll be careful,” Asuka said. After all, she didn’t plan on dying.

OoOoO

Supreme King Judai, as he called himself these days, was surprisingly easy to reach. Asuka dueled her way past three soldiers with a cold ferocity she didn’t even know she possessed. Before she’d left, Cassia had caught her and handed her a few cards, along with the message to keep trusting her deck first of all. So far, it was doing her good.

“Asuka,” said Judai when she appeared. He sighed. “I suppose you’ve come to challenge me?”

“No, I haven’t.”

A brief look of surprise flitted across Judai’s face. Yubel leaned forward. “Then why are you here?”

Asuka took a deep breath. “Yubel,” she said, “I challenge you to a duel. If I win, you will release Judai.”

Judai laughed. Yubel got up gracefully.

“Interesting. But what makes you think I have any control over my Judai at all?”

Asuka remained stubbornly silent. Judai shook his head.

“I’ll give you the choice I gave Kenzan,” he said. “Leave, now. I have no need to kill those who don’t oppose me.”

“No. Because this is not you, and I will prove it.”

“Very well,” said Yubel. “I accept your challenge, Tenjoin Asuka.”

A duel disk appeared on Yubel’s left arm as she walked to the middle of the room. Asuka activated her own duel disk. If she couldn’t win this, she’d die, but if she could…

“The turn is yours,” Yubel said with a wide gesture. Asuka kept her face impassive. That might not be a bad thing. It gave her time to prepare. Her opening hand could have been better, but it would tide her over for a bit, especially if she was right about what Yubel was planning.

“I set three cards facedown,” she said,“ and I summon Cyber Petit Angel in defense mode.” Cyber Petit Angel let her add Machine Angel Ritual to her hand. She didn’t have any of her ritual monsters yet, but it might be useful. “That’s the end of my turn.”

Yubel drew and smiled.

“Let’s see how good you really are, girl. I set one monster and a card face-down. And then I activate a spell card: Triangle Force. It lets me activate two more copies from my—”

“Don’t think so.” Asuka hit a button on her duel disk. “I activate Spell Shield Type-8, and discard a card,” she did so, “to negate the effect of your spell card and destroy it!”

She carefully gauged Yubel for a reaction, but she was disappointed. Yubel remained impassive. Judai, on the other hand, raised his eyebrows.

“I see. I end my turn.”

Asuka took a deep breath. That facedown monster wasn’t something she liked. She drew, but was disappointed to see Doble Passé. It wouldn’t help her much against the Sacred Beasts. “I set two cards facedown and sacrifice Cyber Petit Angel to summon Cyber Prima!” she announced. Too bad that Yubel didn’t have any spell cards left on her field. “Cyber Prima attacks your facedown monster!”

Yubel flinched when her monster was blown away, but she grinned at Asuka.

“You destroyed Giant Germ. Which means you get 500 points of damage and I can summon two more Giant Germs.”

Oh, if only she’d still had Cyber Petit Angel, then she could’ve activated her facedown Pure Pupil… Now Yubel would be able to summon another monster and call on Raviel during her next turn, and she had nothing on hand to stop it—

“Oh, we’re going to have ourselves a bit of a gamble, I believe. You see, I don’t have Raviel in my hand right now. So we’ll see who has more luck on the next turn.”

Asuka gritted her teeth. She’d gone to all the trouble to prepare for the Sacred Beasts, only to have the borrowed cards not appear.

“I end my turn,” she managed.

Yubel drew. “Mmm, I suppose you got lucky. It’s not Raviel. But tell me, am I right in thinking you came prepared?”

“Obviously.”

“Yes, that Cyber Blader of yours wouldn’t be so good for me, would it?” said Yubel. “Oh, don’t look so surprised. Do you really think you’re the only one who prepared? It was only a matter of time before one of you showed some intelligence.”

Was that supposed to be a compliment? “Just get on with it,” Asuka muttered.

“Oh well, if you insist. I do believe it’s time for me to change strategies. I activate my facedown Flame of the End to summon two Doomsday Tokens. And I sacrifice them immediately to summon myself to the field.”

Asuka managed to refrain from gaping as a copy of Yubel appeared. At least it wasn’t one of the Sacred Beasts. But as she risked a glance at Judai, she suddenly wasn’t so sure anymore. Judai had slumped in his seat, looking almost bored now. Yubel-the-card didn’t have any attack points. That meant—

“I do believe your Cyber Prima is itching for a fight.”

Asuka looked up and gasped as Cyber Prima shot at Yubel.

“I don’t take battle damage. But you do.”

And suddenly Asuka realized what Yubel’s effect was. And how she could prevent it.

“I activate Doble Passé! Your monster’s attack becomes a direct attack on my life points!”

Yubel passed by Cyber Prima and hit Asuka, but no pain followed. Asuka lifted her head and grinned. “In return, of course, Cyber Prima gets to attack you directly.”

The explosion was blinding. Judai got up out of his chair, shouting something Asuka didn’t understand. When the smoke cleared, Yubel’s life points had gone down to 1700 and she looked angrier than ever before.

“You should just give up, girl. You cannot win this. I will not let you win this.”

“I believe I just proved I can,” Asuka said. “You’ve done something to Judai, and I’m going to snap him out of it, because that is not Judai.”

“You truly claim to know Judai better than I, who has known him for several lifetimes over?”

Several lifetimes over? That was new to Asuka. But she had known Judai for over two years, and maybe he wasn’t exactly what she’d always wanted him to be, but he was not this… ruthless overlord who killed everyone in his way. She glared at Yubel. “I know Judai. Are you done?”

“We’ll see. I sacrifice one of my Giant Germs to keep Yubel on the field and end my turn.”

Asuka drew and smiled. “I summon Cyber Tutu in defense mode.” If Yubel needed to sacrifice a monster to keep her own copy on the field… “And I attack your remaining Giant Germ with Cyber Prima!”

It cost her 500 life points, but at least she had gotten rid of the Giant Germ. She had no way of destroying Yubel yet —battling the monster would only lead to her own loss— so she ended her turn.

“I do believe you know what’s coming, don’t you?” Yubel shook her head. “3000 life points left. I’ll admit that you’re doing a good job, but how long do you think you’ll be able to keep this up?”

“As long as it takes.”

Yubel actually smiled. “I admit, you’re proving to have more intelligence than most.”

“I’m getting Judai back, whatever it takes,” replied Asuka. Judai shook his head in disbelief.

Her answer didn’t sit well with Yubel. “Is it so hard to believe Judai might love me? Or are you really that jealous? You can’t take him from me, you know.”

Asuka took several seconds to reply. “If you were his card, it’s hard to believe he didn’t care about you. But the real Judai would never kill so many people and if you claim to know him, you know that too!”

Yubel’s face became curiously blank. “I summon Grave Squirmer in defense mode,” she said. “And then, Yubel attacks Cyber Prima.”

Once again, Cyber Prima shot at Yubel, but this time, Asuka was more than prepared. “I activate Pure Pupil! With Cyber Tutu on the field, I get to negate the effect of your monster and destroy it!”

The etheric being clashed with Yubel and destroyed her. Asuka smiled a self-satisfied smile and Yubel, the real Yubel… Laughed.

“Congratulations. And thank you.”

“For what?”

“When Yubel is destroyed, I get to summon my second form: Yubel, das abscheulig Ritter!”

Asuka swore, but she went unheard over the roar of the giant, two-headed dragon that appeared. Another form? How many forms did this monster have? She couldn’t keep this up forever.

“Very well then. I do believe you know how this goes.”

And she had no choice but to watch Cyber Prima charge at the two-headed dragon. Her life points sank down to 700.

“Next, I activate the second effect of Yubel: das abscheulig Ritter. I will destroy my own Grave Squirmer to destroy your Cyber Prima!”

Asuka could barely believe her luck. “Trap, Angel Blast! I get to negate its effect and destroy your monster!”

Like Yubel before, Yubel: das abscheulig Ritter disappeared. And just like before, Yubel smiled.

“Really girl, you’re only doing me favors here. Though I must commend you. You are the first person to take out my two forms in one turn. So consider it an honor to see my final form: Yubel, das extremer traurig Drachen!”

“I cannot attack anymore, so I set one card facedown and end my turn. Here’s hoping you get a good draw, child.”

Asuka drew. This was Yubel’s final form. If she could beat it… “I activate Pot of Greed!” She drew another two cards and sighed with relief. She’d done it. She’d finally drawn Dimensional Fissure, which was now completely useless, but she’d also drawn…

“I summon Cyber Gymnatics and I activate its effect! I discard Dimensional Fissure to destroy your Yubel: das extremer traurig Drachen!”

She’d won. She could destroy Grave Squirmer with Cyber Gymnatics, and Yubel had only 1700 life points left. She’d be no matc—

“I activate a trap, Zero Hole.”

Cyber Gymnatics shattered. Asuka stared, in shock.

“Did you really think you were the only one who could use trap cards, girl?” Yubel said. “What will you do now? You have no cards left to save you. You aren’t going to attack. You put up a good fight, but it ends here.”

Asuka lowered her head as she ended her turn. Yubel was right. But if only…

“Judai, please! You have to remember! This was never you!”

“I remember everything,” Judai said slowly, eyebrows furrowed.

“He was born to rule,” Yubel spat.

“Even if that’s true, Judai would never act like this! He’s always tried to save everyone, not kill them!”

“You’ve already lost, girl.”

Asuka knew. She knew all too well. But if only she could get through to them…

“Judai would want to protect people and help make their lives better! If you know him at all, you know that!”

Something crossed Yubel’s face, and her eyes widened ever-so slightly. Judai stepped forward.

“Asuka?”

But then both of their faces went blank, unfocused. Maybe, Asuka thought, maybe they’d all been wrong. Maybe Judai wasn’t the only one brainwashed.

And Yubel said: “Yubel: das extremer traurig Drachen, attack.”

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