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Yu-Gi-Oh! Cosmic Path [IC/PG-16]

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Last Saturday

It seemed that the worst was behind them...and now, they were going to be going out for their victory. And before she left, Vega placed her hand on Daichi's shoulder and gave him a soft smile, patting his shoulder and stepping away. That must've meant he was doing good...right? His outward appearance showed he was...inside, however...still didn't feel like it.


Earlier Today

Vega wanted to talk to the three that Dueled in the previous match...and wouldn’t you guess it, he was scheduled first. Not surprising, considering he lost first and whatnot. He hoped this wouldn’t be just a moment of him being yelled at in general, but then again, this was Vega and not Sai.

Daichi eventually strolled into the club room, where he saw Vega sitting down at the table. The young man, with a bag of his strawberry frosted and rainbow sprinkled donuts in his hand, already scarfing one down. “How’s it hanging, coach? Tell me this isn’t one of those moments like I used to have being sent to the principal’s office.” he laughed with a smile on his face. “Oh, you want one?” he asked, holding the bag out in Vega’s direction.

“Ah, I’m good. I’m trying to watch my weight, but thank you!” the coach laughed brightly, before motioning for him to sit down. “And… no, I wouldn’t call this that exactly. But I’d like for you to tell me how you felt about your match, first and foremost.”

Daichi took a seat and scarfed down another donut before putting the bag down. “Of course. What do you want to know exactly?”

“Mmm… how do you think you did? How do you feel like it went? After all, the crowd seemed to cheer for you… but you also felt a bit off to me afterwards.”

“Off? Me?” he started to laugh a bit, before shifting in his seat and then looked at Vega again. A slight sigh escaped his lips and his smile faltered. “...was it that obvious? Then again, guess you were always the one to see past that...even when you first got me in recruitment.” Daichi sighed again and ran a hand through his hair. “The Duel was amazing, don’t get me wrong. You know I was in my element and I played it up to a tee...it’s just...I didn’t expect the Action Field to change. I completely forgot that something like that was possible. And when it did...the Action Cards got shifted into something that Miss Honey was more familiar with, while I...”

“Well, if I can interject,” Vega reached over and put her hand on his that sat on the table, “I think you did absolutely spectacularly. While you and Sai have different ideas about entertainment and what passes, I know for sure you acted on what you believe. Did you not notice before the Duel?”

“The way the audience was captivated in the beginning moments before the Duel? With the grand entrance? Really, kind of hard not to notice that.” he had a small smile emerge, shaking his head slightly.

“No, not the audience. Your opponent. I figured it might be the case based on the announcer, but… look at the replays again."

That's when he noticed the area Vega spoke of it...

"...led by their captain, Action Duelist Honey Froswald! Some of you in the audience may recognize her as the younger sister of Major League Champion Elliot Dritte! Can she live up!?”
“...Can he measure up to the sister of a champion!?”

"She spent the intro of the duel and a good amount of it looking upset. Looking annoyed and angry. But, by the time you got close to her at the end, she was smiling. Why do you think that is?”

Daichi watched the replays again and again. Honey did seem annoyed and upset, but through the Duel...she began to smile. “Was it because of the atmosphere I ended up setting up?” he asked, looking at the replay intently now. “...compared to what Sai’s was...” Daichi cut himself short and glanced at Vega. “Alright, I’ll bite, coach...why do you think this is? Cause I know you’ve got some ideas going in your head about it.”

“You didn’t get scared when he said who she was or anything. You treated her like a person. You kept putting on a show. And I gotta tell ya, I was worried you’d crack!” Vega laughed a bit, rocking back in her seat and grinning, “But… you absolutely impressed me. You stood your ground and faced it head on. So, you may not have won your first professional duel… You may have found out some weaknesses in your deck and your reaction time… But I’d still count this as an absolute victory. Oh, and… It’s hard to gauge popularity in the minor leagues, but you do seem to be relatively popular for your debut.”

“...yeah...” Daichi nodded, a small smile still retained on his face as he pulled the Pendulum Magicians out, looking at them. “I...I got a lot to think about in reworking my line-up for my next performance...a lot...”

“You can do it. Show the world who you are and what you believe in, and you’ll make it far.”

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Today

"Anyway, while I encourage more discussion of the Duels since you've had time to think about it more, I would also like you to each look at your messages. I've sent info on the next team we'll be up against, and, well... It's a somewhat newer team, but one with a lot of fans and a lot of success so far. To the point that a number of the duelists on it are considered Major Circuit worthy or better. I'm not saying that I doubt you guys, by any means, but... do not take Team Free lightly."

Needless to say, Daichi had been glancing at the information on this Team Free for a bit, was also doing some heavy reading and research...on what exactly? Action Fields and their correlating Action Cards as well as potential ideas for editing his deck, He needed to work with things...speaking of...

"Now... We won't know who they send out against us on Saturday, but we still need to be prepared. We only really have Daichi for Action Duels, so I assuuuume we'll be going with him, but that leaves standard and turbo. Kendra, Eve, do you two think you're up for this next match?"

"Uh...yeah...about that..." Daichi spoke up, putting his stuff down rubbing the back of his neck, smiling nervously. "I was actually going to speak about that, coach. I'm gonna ask to not be Dueling this time around. I need to try and fix my deck and also need to read up more on the Action Fields with the correlating Action Cards that way I don't have the random surprise like I did with my first match."

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Around a year ago...

Vega: 400
Sai: 4000

“You’re impressive, like I heard,” Vega grinned ear to ear, a wild look in her golden eyes, “You absolutely seem like you’re what I want for the team I’m working on. And since the only condition to get you to join was to beat you…” Her voice trailed off as she drew for turn, eyes locked on the dragon on Sai’s field, then to her single set S/T, “I’m gonna go ahead and say welcome to the team.”

"You don't think it's going to be that easy, do you? Why would I join someone weaker than me?" Sai tapped lightly at his chin, looking up at his dragon, "Summoning my Almarduke rid you of all the link monsters on your field, not to mention that my life points are still at 4000. If you want me to join your little team, you're going to need to do better than that. Let's see what you've got!"

“Yeah, my life total is a bit low… but hey, I’m still fairly new to this deck, so cut me a little slack, ye?” She held the grin as she normal summoned Doshin @Ignister. “I activate Doshin’s effect! By returning my Linguriboh to the Extra Deck, I can search for A.I. Love Yousion!” the card produced itself from the deck as she placed another card onto her disk, “Then I Special Summon Gatchiri @Ignister in defense by negating Doshin’s effects!”

"It's flattering, but I'm not interested."

“Ha, good one! But I’ve already got someone I’m interested in, so you’re not breaking my heart any.” The shield bearing robotic humanoid appeared next to the box-shaped blob, causing the box to squeak a bit as a small shock hit it, before Vega held up the two cards in her hand. “I don’t need the card I drew this turn to win. I’ve had this planned from the beginning, oh master of fusion. After all, how do I speak to a Fusion Duelist… without using Fusion!”

Doshin suddenly faded away into data, causing an 8-point square to appear on the Extra Monster Zone. The data from doshin coalesced into red energy, shooting to fill the bottom left corner. Soon after, an angry looking robot appeared, pointing its link-shaped tail forward like a scorpion.

“I used Doshin to summon Linguriboh again, but he won’t be here for long! I activate that A.I. Love Yousion, using Linguriboh and Gatchiri as material! The earth trembles as it’s reshaped by the world! Come forth from the past and future, Earth Golem @Ignister!”

As a swirl appeared behind Vega, who clasped her hands almost as if in prayer, the two cyberse monsters began to lose shape, swirling around and thinning out until they were sucked into the center of the spiral… And then a burst of light filled the area, leaving a large rock-like robotic humanoid standing behind Vega, brandishing its fist. It lit up briefly as it was summoned, but the more notable thing was that Gatchiri’s shield was still on the field, attaching itself to Earth Golem’s chest.

“When Gatchiri goes to the grave from the field, one monster I control becomes immune to your card effects for the rest of the turn… so battle! Earth Golem, attack Almarduke and activate!”

The golem lumbered forward, pulling its arm back, only for data to surround it and cause it to grow, its attack increasing from 2300 to 5300, “It gains the attack of its target, provided it was summoned from the Extra Deck!”

"What's the matter? That's still not enough to beat me, weren't you saying this was the last turn?" As Sai taunted, the golem suddenly froze in place, its fist inches from Almarduke… who also seemed to have frozen, cracks appearing along the golem and dragon. "The hell is this?"

“Win over fusion, speak in fusion! I activated Final Fusion when Earth Golem attacked! When two fusion monsters battle, it negates the attack… and then burns both of us for their combined attack! That’s 8300 damage to both of us!”

The cracks began to light up brighter as she finished explaining the effect, energy seeping from them and beginning to cause small explosions, while she leered at Sai confidently.

"A tie isn't a win, you know."

As the light in the area grew brighter and brighter, the explosions beginning to sound off, Vega smirked back.

“I sure do.”

And then the full effect hit, engulfing the area in multiple loud explosions, leaving a cloud in the area… only for it to fade away slowly, revealing Sai’s life to have fallen to 0, while Vega’s remained at 400.

“As I said… Welcome to the team.”

Sai raised an eyebrow, before looking down at the information displayed on his duel disk. A smile slowly crept to his face as he read the effect of Earth Golem @Ignister. "Naruhodo ne... Glad to join."

-----

Sai stepped into the room, this time wearing a baggy hoodie and sweatpants, seemingly spray-painted with various designs all over, including a demonic eye on either side of the hood that loosely framed his head. He noticed Daichi had already arrived, and gave him a wink before addressing the team's coach, "Veeeeeegaaa, how was your date?"

“It was nice, thank you for asking!” the coach cheerfully replied, her long hair being brushed out of her face, “Now, why don’t you step back outside, so we can talk, hm?”

"But it's raining," droned Sai, as sunshine spilled over his shoulders. "What's wrong with talking in here?"

“I want private meetings with each of you. Daichi already had his, now it’s your turn, isn’t that fair?”

With an exasperated sigh, he shrugged and stepped back out, leaning casually against the wall. "So, it's time to sing my praises?"

“Mmm, not exactly,” Vega closed the door behind her as she spoke, tapping at her chin to find the words, “I would say you did a great job of showing who you are to the crowd… But I also wanna caution you in that regard.”

Sai slapped both hands to his cheeks, his face taking on a mortified expression. In these sneaker, he was actually at eye level with Vega and didn't even need to look down to address her "Et tu, Brute???"

“Now now, don’t get me wrong. I think you’re mostly fine, and you have points about being a heel.. But you do need to be aware of two things. The first being that your actions do impact the rest of the team, so you should be at least a bit cognizant of that. While, the other…” She looked to the side a bit wistfully before sighing, “Even the former top ranked player drew a lot of hate for his attitude. Angry, talking down to opponents at times, overkill. He had a fan base for sure, but it was the source of a good bit of controversy. Don’t go too far into that.”

"He sounds like quite a villain." Sai grinned in admiration of the mythical figure, allowing Vega to continue.

“Well, many saw Altair as a villain. He had next to no failures under his belt, but he made plenty of enemies. So I’m just letting you know that you probably went a little too hard with the last match. The idea is fine, but I…” She sighed loudly, “I don’t want to see you end up in the position he was in. That’s all.”

Sai pulled down his hood and stared at the sun, which was probably a bad idea, but it didn't seem to dissuade him. "I was just thinking, if I was going to win anyway, I may as well give that guy a good heroic origin story. I think he's gonna get a lot stronger because of this."

“And you’re probably right. But you don’t have to be the villain of  the story just because someone else is a hero. However, I do want to add… I think you’re still a great fit for the team. I’m not thinking of cutting you or punishing you or even scolding you. But I also don’t wanna see you mess up and go down the wrong path… do you get what I’m trying to say?”

"I do, but I hope you understand how different life is when cut from villainous cloth." Pulling his hood back up, Sai slipped into the building. "Tomodaichi! Excited for your redemption arc?"
 

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Rosalia sat at the table quietly, as per usual. Her legs were crossed as she listened idly, covered in dark jeans beneath a sweater of dark purple. For once at these meetings she was distracted. The last match was still playing over in her head, as well as the aftermath that had occurred before the group had gone out to celebrate. She had told the rest of the team she was going to freshen up, however...

- - - - - - -

The parking garage was quiet, to the point where the footsteps of several members of Team Wilding were echoing loudly through it as they returned to their various vehicles. Underneath them all was the strike of another pair of shoes, one that they missed until its owner spoke up, breaking the verbal silence that gripped the team members.

“Avery Froswald?” Looking back they could see the tall, stately Rosalia, her dark coat held closed at the front with one hand to keep away the chill. She had been looking dead at them when they hadn’t known she was there, but she quickly cast her eyes downward at the onset of their gaze. Her head soon followed, and she descended into an awkward and embarrassed bow, inclining her body thirty degrees.

“I’m Rosalia Marlowe,” she said, speaking to the pavement beneath her. “I’m the captain of Team Genesis… I wanted to approach you about the… match we just had. One part of it, in particular.”

“Eh, um… Avery is a bit… preoccupied,” The captain, Honey, rubbed the back of her head with a nervous laugh, “But I can imagine what it is…”

“So can I, and I don’t want to hear it!” came a sharp voice from a woman who stood more than a head over Rosalia, walking up next to Honey, “My brother can either handle it on his own terms or you all can fuck off. They purposely left me out so I wouldn’t be too ruthless, but your guy was far past that.”

“Come on, Aubrey, that’s not fair,” Honey pouted a bit, looking up to the giant woman, despite being shorter than Rosalia. “Both me and Sorrel liked our opponents. They probably didn’t know what was going to happen. Or how sensitive Avery is…”

Rosalia has taken a step back, straightening swiftly at Aubrey’s advance with a slight widening of the eyes. She looked like a deer in headlights. “Yes, it’s… Very much that. If I had known he was going to do something like that… Sashisematta has ideas about dueling and the circuit that some of us think are rather strange,” she finished, immediately knowing it was a rather lame way to end the sentence, especially in the face of Aubrey’s anger, a mistake she endeavored immediately to correct. “I just wanted to let Mr. Froswald know that I…”

She turned her head away, looking guiltily out towards the edge of the garage where the dimming sun of the afternoon was bleeding through in a vibrant deep orange. “I’m sorry he had to face that as his first match in the circuit,” she finished softly, the echoing space of the garage the only reason her words could be heard.

“He’ll be okay.” Honey smiled at her, walking forward to reach up and pat her shoulder, “He’s sensitive, but tough… And what upset him most was that he… he felt he let me down, and that he let your teammate get to him and trip him up. I appreciate the apology, and I’m sure he will too… But, if I may… be more like Daichi and less like Saishisematta, okay?”

- - - - - - -

Rosalia had only been able to deliver a very meek nod that day. Sai's dueling had struck an awkward chord in her. On the one hand, she found herself agreeing with Kendra, that it was too far. On the other...

He delivered Team Genesis its first victory. And who knows: What he says about people lining up in droves to see him lose... What if he's right?

It wasn't until Vega went into their next opponents that she finally snapped out of her thoughts, intrigued by new opponents. Team Free... She saw that two of them were in the S tier of adversary. She mentally started constructing ideas of opening strategies before-

"Kendra, Eve, do you two think you're up for this next match?"

The flinch she made at this was more inward than outward, but Rosalia quickly averted her gaze from Vega at this. Despite her being one of the more accomplished duelists, Vega was suggesting Rosalia sit this one out. She remembered the coach giving her a look back when the team was talking with Sai at the end of the math last week. Guilt bloomed fresh within her as she connected the dots easily.

She thinks I didn't handle the Sashisematta issue correctly, she thought grimly. And maybe she's right. She cast her gaze briefly over to Kendra, remembering her response. Is that it, then? she wondered to herself. Why she's asked Kendra instead?

She drew in a low, deep breath as Daichi said he wasn't up for dueling. By default that meant only Sai could fill his place, which Daichi had to know. She felt her thoughts scramble yet again, trying to figure what she could have done better, and to her frustration nothing came. Why was she captain if she couldn't overcome the first hurdle of Team Genesis? Because she was skilled? That seemed fairly useless right now.

She stood very suddenly, faster than she intended to, having to quickly reach for the table to steady herself on splayed fingers. She feigned casualness by adjusting her bag, before saying aloud, but not looking to the coach: "This all seems good, Miss Sterling. I'm afraid I... don't really have anything to add today. I can help the duelists prepare for their matches, though." 

She looked over very briefly to her co-captain, just enough for it to be clear she was addressing her before she looked back to the insides of her bag. "Kendra, I'll have to be going to the mall today to get a bit of shopping done... If you would like to accompany me we could discuss your strategy there." She made no mention of her chaotic inner thoughts. Those would come later.

Edited by Faytl

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Tuesday, February 18
3 PM

"Once again, congratulations on your first win, Team Genesis!"

Congratulations, indeed. It wasn't a perfect 3-0 sweep, but the fact of the matter was still that Team Genesis had stepped onto the stage for the first time, and got a win as their first introduction. Go, team, go.

"Before anything else, it was a great showing! I had Daichi, Sai, and Falisha show up early to have a talk with each of them individually, but for now, I'm sure you've had time to look over the replays I sent each of you... At least, if you were planning to at all~ Anyway, while I encourage more discussion of the duels since you've had time to think about it more, I would also like you to each look at your messages. I've sent info on the next team we'll be up against, and, well... It's a somewhat newer team, but one with a lot of fans and a lot of success so far. To the point that a number of the duelists on it are considered Major Circuit worthy or better. I'm not saying that I doubt you guys, by any means, but... do not take Team Free lightly."

Well, that wasn't very reassuring at all. Somehow, Evelyn got the feeling that it would now be Team Genesis on the receiving end of the treatment Sai had afforded his opponent during his duel. But that simply meant everyone would have to bring their A-game.

"Now... We won't know who they send out against us on Saturday, but we still need to be prepared. We only really have Daichi for action duels, so I assuuuume we'll be going with him, but that leaves standard and turbo. Kendra, Eve, do you two think you're up for this next match?"

And in this instance, Evelyn was happy to be part of "everyone". "Absolutely," she answered. This was, after all, what she'd signed up for. All-out, no-holds-barred professional duels against other professionals. If she backed down from the first chance to carry her weight around here, she wouldn't be much of a team member or a pro duelist, would she? And with how much Vega seemed to stress the point that this was not a team to take lightly, Evelyn wanted to handle the squaring off with them personally. As far as turbo duels went, anyway. Seeing a powerful duelist was one thing, but actually dueling them was another, and Evelyn wanted the latter.

But that could wait. Duel time wasn't right now. For now, Eve would...

I'll figure SOMETHING out.

Edited by yui

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╔. .═════════╗

She could accept Sai’s reasoning.

At least he HAD a reason, that was her concern. Brutality for brutality’s sake wasn’t something she would support or condone, especially if she was going to be forced into this co-captain position.

That said, his attitude didn’t sit right with her. She hadn’t even dueled him yet as far as she can remember, she hadn’t dueled very many of her teammates really, and she didn’t consider that relevant to the matter at hand. And regardless of what Sai thought…

She very much believed this was going to inspire people to come back at them with more venom just by association with Sai. The antics weren’t going to just disappear.

“I won’t be joining for food, I’ve got a late night ahead of me. Work needs me in, had to pull some favors to get the afternoon off for this. And then I’ve got stuff to check on. Have fun celebrating you all.” She waved her hand towards the rest, heading off as she put her hands in her pockets.

- - -

All of her leads were a bust. It was slightly annoying, to be honest.

The little card shops, those were fine, she didn’t expect to find much of help at them. A few main deck tech cards that might be useful were great, even. But the larger shops that she expected to be more useful, those had let her down. Very few of the rarer things she was looking for, very little Extra Deck options that she didn’t already have access to...

Kendra sighed gently as she laid out the cards of her deck in front of her, the problem was still right here. No matter how many changes she made, no matter what little alterations she made, there was always that risk. It was starting to grate on her, no number of tests was making things just right for her.

Her toolbox options were lacking. She had plenty of power behind the deck, Ultra Electromagnetic made sure of that. But she needed more options, she had even been considering asked Vega to postpone putting her into the next round just because of that, and yet she still hadn't solved her problems. Card shops weren't selling what she needed, at least not at a decent price, and even the more budget options weren't so easy to get a hold of at the moment.

It was frustrating.

She knew, realistically, she could bring it up with Vega. She could get a bit of help on getting the cards she wanted to put in the deck and just get to work from there, but she didn’t want to do that, at all. She didn’t want her deck to be made through the efforts of others more than her own. If she was going to follow this path, she was going to do it right.

But that meant things were progressing slowly. Her toolbox was missing a few flex options, her deck wasn’t consistent enough to the point she was happy with, all of this…

“Kendra, Eve, do you two think you're up for this next match?"

Kendra propped her head up on her arm, resting her elbow on the table as she considered the question. “...I don’t think so. My tests haven’t gone well, if no one is available to fill in, I’ll do it, but I think I need a bit more time. There’s a few cards I’ve got my eye on and I’ve almost got them sold to me, but I just need to do a bit more persuading… I don’t know if it’ll be done in time for the match.”

"Kendra, I'll have to be going to the mall today to get a bit of shopping done... If you would like to accompany me we could discuss your strategy there."

She winced for a moment, a little breath escaping her, she wasn’t prepared for that. It was easy enough to confront the fact she wasn’t prepared on her own, having someone else experience that was definitely not something she wanted…

But she also knew she had no way to outright deny it. She didn’t make plans, her schedule was always nearly empty, she was even going to be in that area trying to get a few more of the cards she wanted to grab for her deck… Which meant she would probably end up running into Rosalia there anyway. She took a little sigh, “...Yeah, sounds good. I was going to be in the area. One of the shops there has a card I’m trying to get my hands on, I’m just waiting to see if they’re going to sell it or if they’re going to keep using it as a pride piece…”

She cursed her luck for a moment. Rosalia will see right away that she isn’t ready, it wasn’t even just the Extra Deck she was dealing with right now. As if the day couldn’t get worse.

╚═════════. .╝

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"Uh...yeah...about that... I was actually going to speak about that, coach. I'm gonna ask to not be Dueling this time around. I need to try and fix my deck and also need to read up more on the Action Fields with the correlating Action Cards that way I don't have the random surprise like I did with my first match."

“...I don’t think so. My tests haven’t gone well, if no one is available to fill in, I’ll do it, but I think I need a bit more time. There’s a few cards I’ve got my eye on and I’ve almost got them sold to me, but I just need to do a bit more persuading… I don’t know if it’ll be done in time for the match.”

"I see..." Vega blinked a bit at the two's objections, but nodded, smiling at them gently. "We can work with that. After all, we're a bit lopsided in terms of who can do action duels, so I think this is a fine time for Sai to step up as an action duelist. Maybe see what it's like through Daichi's eyes. And Rosalia, you don't mind filling in for Kendra, do you?"

The coach turned around and doodled a bit more, making a pair of scissors with eyes next to Charlie, while she drew a gun with a wing on it next to Johnathan, following suit with the other four. A mirror half filled in, a snake with a headdress, Thomas, and a bird on fire. They weren't the best drawings ever, but they were a decent improvement on her @ignister blobs. As Rosalia offered to help and also go to the mall, Vega perked up and turned around, clapping her hands together.

"Yes, exactly! Eve, Sai, you two have homework to practice or at least spend time together this week. Same with Daichi and Falisha. Teamwork is important, and fostering friendships is a big step towards that! I'd like it if you guys just... did this of your own volition, too, but let's start off this way. Nice and easy."

The meeting continued for a bit, with Vega giving details she had found about the opponent's decks and playstyles, while encouraging the team to plan around them. As the meeting began to draw to a close, Vega nodded and placed her hands on the table.

"So, we'll meet up on Saturday at the arena. 12 PM sharp for the duelists, everyone else should be there around 12:30, at the latest. And, if you guys do well enough... There miiight be a reward next time we have a meeting~"

 

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 "We can work with that. After all, we're a bit lopsided in terms of who can do action duels, so I think this is a fine time for Sai to step up as an action duelist. Maybe see what it's like through Daichi's eyes. And Rosalia, you don't mind filling in for Kendra, do you?"

Rosalia was already turning towards the door. Nobody saw the wince in her face.

"I don't know, Miss Sterling... I don't know if that's what's best... best for the team." she said simply, bag over her shoulder as she opened the door to leave.

- - - - - - -

Rosalia left ahead of Kendra, agreeing to meet her at the mall later that day. She took in lunch while she waited Kendra's appearance, one of the few occupants of an outdoor table in the Seattle overcast at the small cafe she had alighted to at the mall's edge. She slowly picked at a piece of a bagel, not taking in much of the wind around her. It wasn't until she heard a familiar voice, distorted by speakers, that she winced back to awareness.

"Next time you have lofty ambitions, back them up with more than platitudes."

She turned to look, seeing the table just inside the cafe had several young men clustered around it, craning their necks to look at the tablet-like screen of one of their duel disks. A replay of the finish of Sai's duel was on it, and a few of them were laughing.

"Man," one of them managed, "look at this jackass."

"Yeah, yeah..." one of them sighed through a laugh. "Man, real big-headed for a new guy, right?"

Rosalia was suddenly very glad for the fact that she hadn't been in the match alongside Sai; It made her less recognizable.

Maybe Vega wanting you to sit the match out is a blessing in disguise.

She hurriedly payed her bill, rising and walking to the curb to head back towards the subway. Surely Kendra was still getting ready; She's be fine with Rosalia cancelling, surely. But even as she had the thought, she saw Kendra's head bobbing her way from across the street. She stopped, one of her hands worrying itself in a clenched fist.

You want what's best for Team Genesis, Rosalia... This is a good place to start.

"Hi, Kendra," she said softly, having changed course to walk to meet her teammate and turn back towards the mall. "Thanks for coming, really. Are you nervous about our upcoming match at all? I mean, after the last one..."

Edited by Faytl

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"After all, we're a bit lopsided in terms of who can do action duels, so I think this is a fine time for Sai to step up as an action duelist. Maybe see what it's like through Daichi's eyes."

This made Daichi inwardly cringe at hearing that Sai would be the one to step up as the Action Duelist, already figuring that his teammate would be able to see what he did when he performed...they were polar opposites and last Saturday proved that. Still, perhaps this would be something that could possibly bring them together...maybe...who knew.

"Yes, exactly! Eve, Sai, you two have homework to practice or at least spend time together this week. Same with Daichi and Falisha. Teamwork is important, and fostering friendships is a big step towards that! I'd like it if you guys just... did this of your own volition, too, but let's start off this way. Nice and easy."

"Homework from you?" Daichi asked, smirking lightly. "I think that's got to be a first, coach. You happen to be the type to never want to give us homework, buuuuuuuut I guess we can let that slide this time." he chuckled, before looking and moving in the direction of Falisha. "So, you have any plans this week? Cause seems like we're gonna be 'homework buddies' for this week."

Falisha, the Russian Adamancipator Duelist...the Synchro Summoner and Turbo Duelist. To Daichi's credit, she was one of the more colorful members on the team when she Dueled, namely utilizing the various stones and minerals in her Duel Runner...perhaps talks of something like that and the applications of this onto an Action Duelist and entertainer like Daichi...perhaps this combination was just perfect! Same time, he figured this would also make him possibly an assistant to her in her studies if need be. Honestly, he was fine with this...whatever happened would happen and it would definitely fall in line with Vega's homework orders. Truly a win win situation.

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Kendra was savoring the bit of time she had before she had to meet with Rosalia. It wasn’t something she was exactly eager to do… Not because of Rosalia, but because she would have to justify her decision to sit out of the duel.

Her decision.

Was it really? She wasn’t about to go into a duel where she was unprepared. Sai would have a field day with it, and she didn’t want to even have to think about dealing with the aftermath of that. This co-captain position was definitely more trouble than it was worth. She didn’t want to be dealing with the team’s management, she didn’t want to be in this spot, but she was. It was her job to try and figure out how to guide the team.

Why did they even need this position?

Vega was practically the team captain. Rosalia should’ve been co-captain, second to her. Is it purely because Vega can’t duel as part of the team? Maybe, it’s still a pain. Because of it, she had to monitor the others way more than she felt she was capable of doing.

She sat at her desk, her pen tapping against it as she looked down at her notebook. Work didn’t call her in, she couldn’t use it as an excuse to avoid the mall for a bit. She knew they wouldn’t call her in though, it was just a stray thought. She took a deep breath as she crushed the can of soda next to her in her hand, the can crinkling underneath her grip as she rubbed at her head gently. “Maybe it isn’t too late to duck out of the team and let them find a replacement… Ha.”

She glanced at the clock, it’d be time to go see Rosalia in about an hour. She was running on fumes, honestly. The wind was out of her sails and she was ready to just pass out, but…

“Time to go.”

---

She approached the mall after a brief detour at her local convenience store, she needed some caffeine. She took a swig of her energy drink as she approached the mall steadily, a deep breath escaping her as she saw Rosalia approaching her, bracing herself for the oncoming discussion.

"Thanks for coming, really. Are you nervous about our upcoming match at all? I mean, after the last one…"

Kendra shrugged her shoulders, “...Sai has his reasons. I don’t agree with them and I think he needs to consider all the angles, but it’s his choice. I don’t care about being in the same duel session as him. I care that I’m not ready.”

She let her hand clench on the strap of her bag lightly, a little sigh escaping her as she did, “...Long story short, deck isn’t consistent. Not for this stage. I need more… Everything. I need to tweak some tech options in the main deck, but more than anything, I’ve got some more Extra Deck cards I need to grab before I’m comfortable taking place in the duels…”

She paused there, her fingers squeezing around the can, causing it to crinkle underneath them as she did, “...So yeah, I’m nervous, but it’s not Sai’s fault. I just don’t have the tools I need to feel good about going in yet.”

The two of them had reentered the mall at this point, a little breath escaping Kendra as she rubbed at her cheek gently, “One of the shops here has a card, I've been haggling for it. It’s not a super rare card, but hard enough to get a hold of that I’m kinda still trying to get them to sell it. I have weaker options that can fill the gap, but the Extra Deck is the most important part of my deck, I’m only as good as it is flexible, if that makes sense. I’ve picked up a lot of stuff over time, I have lots of sub optimal filler options, but I want quality options too."

She paused there, before taking a glance at Rosalia, "You did the right thing, asking him why he did that, you know? I jumped in too quickly. I was thinking about the way he could hurt the others' own images. I still think he might've, but... I haven't been fishing to see what people think of Daichi and Falisha. Hopefully nothing too negative."

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eve.png

"Eve, Sai, you two have homework to practice or at least spend time together this week. Same with Daichi and Falisha. Teamwork is important, and fostering friendships is a big step towards that! I'd like it if you guys just... did this of your own volition, too, but let's start off this way. Nice and easy. So, we'll meet up on Saturday at the arena. 12 PM sharp for the duelists, everyone else should be there around 12:30, at the latest. And, if you guys do well enough... There miiight be a reward next time we have a meeting~"

So spending some time with Sai was like her homework for the week? Fine by her. If Evelyn was going to be part of the team, she wanted to get to know her teammates anyway. And who better to start with than the one and only Sashisematta Sai? She knew his name before ever joining Team Genesis, at least, though she'd never seen the man, be it in person, online, or otherwise. His presence on the team raised an awful lot of questions, which Evelyn wanted answers to. And if a bit of teammate bonding happened to be a convenient side-result, all the better!

Once the team meeting of the day had been adjourned, Evelyn got up and gave her legs a stretch. There were things to do, and teammates to do the things with. "So, Sai," Evelyn started. She wasn't really sure where to go from there. Well... whatever they were going to be doing, Evelyn wanted to go somewhere for it. And she doubted Sai of all people would be content to kick it in this rather standard meeting room if he could help it. So that probably was a good starting point. Gesturing out to the door, she decided on "We're supposed to do something together, right? We should at least get going to start. I'll drive."

"Can i sit in a side car? Do you have a cool helmet for me to borrow?"

"Sorry, no side car. Or helmets, unless we make a quick stop by my place. I only brought the one." As Evelyn led the way to her D-Wheel, that unfortunate truth became apparent. Overall, it was a very nice vehicle, albeit a bit on the smaller side, but very... average. Stock paint job, nothing special done to it unlike Falisha's, overall looking hardly any different than it would if Evelyn had just bought it earlier that day. That, of course, included the lack of a side car. "Let's just call it a work in progress."

"Are you trying to kill me? You want to be second best on the team that badly?? I will wait right here while you take the effort to be a responsible bike rider." Sai crossed his arms defiantly, dropping into a seat and kicking his feet up onto the table.

"...alright, I'll be right back," Evelyn sighed, putting on her helmet and getting into the seat. With no further ceremony or discussion, she started it up, and took to the road. The ride back to her apartment was short and uneventful. Once home, she simply went up to her apartment, and searched around for the helmets. She had several, both to change it up and in case of precisely this scenario. For Sai, it would have to be the flashiest thing available...

If, of course, he hadn't been so... Sai, about the immediate lack of helmet. Instead, Evelyn picked out a greenscreen-colored helmet from the bunch. It was a Christmas gift. You don't just throw away gifts. And she couldn't imagine Sai wearing this unless he had no other option. Which, if his sense of aesthetic demanded Evelyn keep the yellow helmet that matched her trusty raincoat, he wouldn't. The perfect petty payback. Second helmet in tow, Evelyn took back to the streets, riding back to the place and meeting back up with Sai, holding out the impressively green helmet for him.

"Here."

"Thank you Lady Rinnovieve," taking the helmet in hand, he placed it upon his head without hesitation. "Now we can have ourselves a safe night of adventure! What have you always wanted to do, but not had the chance?"

"I suppose... I've never been on a boat, come to think of it. That could be nice."

Edited by yui

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"Extra Deck options?" Rosalia asked, interjecting in a pause as the two of them began entering the mall. "I don't know much at all about using Xyz Summoning, but I'm sure that's something that we can square away for you. And of course you at least have your ace..."

It was Kendra's next words that caused Rosalia to draw up short. Kendra thought she had done the right thing? Rosalia wasn't sure if she agreed with Kendra about that at all. Every time she thought back to that altercation with Sai after the match, she winced inwardly at how ineffectual she had been. She had been only able to ask him why. And not even to act on it. Was what he said even a good reason? Every time she thought back to it she remembered the faces of Team Wilding, and Sai's team members who had been alongside him on that stage...

She winced when Kendra mentioned them too. She wasn't sure what the opinions were on their teammates; Any talk of Sai seemed to advertise itself louder than them. Like those boys back at the cafe.

Rosalia didn't talk much for the next twenty minutes or so, listening more to Kendra's musings on her deck, accompanying her to the card store to look at various monsters that could be summoned from the Extra Deck. Rosalia had a momentary pang of regret for cutting herself off from her father's finances; She hated using them for herself, but she wouldn't have minded funding the deck-building ventures of the rest of Team Genesis. Especially when she saw the card Kendra had been eyeing up.

"Oh," she muttered under her breath, leaning in to get a better look. "That is a good choice for you, Kendra." She was impressed, and it showed. She tapped on the glass of the counter in front of them with an idle finger. "This will probably help you a lot against whoever Team Free chooses to duel you. You have good instincts."

There was another moment before she added on: "... Maybe better instincts than me, in some regard." She then clarified the point further: "About Sashisematta." She was looking down at the card, not meeting Kendra's gaze. "I keep... thinking back to that and wondering what more I could have done. What more I could have done so that I was less unhappy with what happened there. So Daichi could be less unhappy. You as well... I think you may have been right to confront him about it. That you might have the interests of the team more at heart than I do. And I think Miss Sterling agrees."

She gave an small, embarrassed smile. "She thinks you're the most equipped to duel in the next match. I think you are too... You have the instincts for it, and the skill," she went on, gesturing to the card in the case. "I'm fully confident that you'll be able to outperform any of the shortcomings of your deck... And perhaps the shortcomings of your captain." She chanced a small glance to Kendra to see what her reaction was, but averted her gaze almost immediately, to look impassively down at the case of cards again. "You did a better job confronting Sashisematta than someone like me could ever do. I was too afraid to even push him on the subject. I... I intend to ask Miss Sterling to make you captain of Team Genesis. In my place." She tried as hard as she could to keep a casual tone in her voice while a part of her died inside trying to convey this to Kendra. She had just said more words in a row than Kendra had likely ever heard her say.

 

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I don't know much at all about using Xyz Summoning, but I'm sure that's something that we can square away for you. And of course you at least have your ace..."

Kendra let out a tiny yawn as she nodded her head lazily, “I have the ace… But it doesn’t fit every situation, you know? Can’t plow through with sheer force all the time. I like to keep things open for options…”

Her ramblings were relatively tame, considering how the other members of the team could get. She was quiet often, scanning across the cards in the shop as she mumbled gently, “I just need more options…”

The two of them just looked at cards in near silence for a while, before they finally got the card she had her eyes on for a while. She gave a little smile, “Right?” She glanced around, the workers busy in other parts of the shop as she mumbled, “Don’t give them too much to work with though, they’re already price gouging it as much as they can. If they wanna sell it at all.” Her eyes rolled for a moment, her finger tapping at the glass over it…

"... Maybe better instincts than me, in some regard." She then clarified the point further: "About Sashisematta."

Kendra paused for a moment, a tiny snort escaping her as she shook her head gently. She already had an idea where this was going, she had replayed the events there in her head a few times herself, she wasn’t surprised to hear Rosalia had as well.

“You didn’t need to do more. It was our first outing, you know? In any case, if either of us pushed Sai more, you know what he would’ve done? He would’ve tripled down. He already doubled down when he made his opponent hurt that way.” There was a bit of scorn in her voice as she said that, glancing towards the clock for a moment as she mumbled to herself, something quiet underneath her breath.

“...I don’t think next round is a good one for me, though. Everything is rough, seeing the duels we went through, my deck isn’t nearly ready to put up a real fight just yet. It’s close, but I have too many dead first turns…” She let out a tiny laugh, her hand rubbing at her cheek for a moment as she looked at Rosalia, raising an eyebrow, “As far as the ‘shortcomings’ of the captain… Then you’re going to pick yourself up and prepare for the next time something needs to be done, yeah? That’s how it goes.” She went quiet after that, waiting for Rosalia’s reaction.

"You did a better job confronting Sashisematta than someone like me could ever do. I was too afraid to even push him on the subject. I... I intend to ask Miss Sterling to make you captain of Team Genesis. In my place."

“That won’t be happening. This is entirely selfish, like absolutely, but I won’t be the captain here.” She tilted her head towards Rosalia, giving a little grin, “You really think someone like me will be able to herd these wild cats we’re dealing with? I’m glad you can let this out to me, you need an outlet, but…” She tapped at the glass for a moment, “How do I put this?”

She hummed for a moment, “I’m too lazy. You’ll find your voice, and I’ll support you as best as I can, but… Too much work to try and lead our misfit band directly.” She grinned, giving Rosalia a wink as she did, “I think you can handle it. You don’t give yourself enough credit.”

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Rosalia listened to Kendra's reply to her impassively, not interrupting at any point, letting her teammate answer fully before she even began to formulate a response. It struck her as much less stressful than she had been anticipating it. Perhaps because conversations with Kendra weren't the verbal swordplay that the topic of their conversation tended to engage in.

After a solid thirty seconds of thought, she closed her eyes, taking in a long, deep breath. "I'm sorry to hear that," she admitted, and meant it. "Being captain isn't a position I've ever thought I had the skill to undertake... I've only ever been at my best behind a duel disk. I'm not sure how exactly I got the captain job over you... Sashisematta voting for himself despite being explicitly told not to might have had something to do with it."

"Miss Sterling picked me when the vote was tied and I'm still not sure why. I'm not sure I can herd the... wildcats," she went on, pausing on Kendra's choice of terminology, "But... thank you for your confidence, at least." 

She turned away from Kendra, looking outside the store to the large intersection of mall passages that sat outside. At the junction before the shop several rectangular areas had been cordoned off, and based on the large monsters that were now strewn across it, holographically projected, it appeared to have been commandeered as a dueling area. Mostly local duelists without much experience, Rosalia had to guess. She saw a few monsters she recognized among the groups of duelists: Alien Shocktrooper, Marauding Captain, Princess of Tsurugi, Ghost Gardna, Whiptail Crow, Catapult Turtle... But the thing that caught her eye was the duel field that had become unoccupied while the two were in the shop.

"Kendra," she said suddenly, pointing to it. "Do you mind if I ask... You don't feel confident in the duel ahead. I... I don't feel confident myself, either. I don't feel confident about a lot of things... With Daichi not dueling, Sashisematta has to take his place in the Action Duel spot. So one of us has to... We have a way to settle this, I believe."

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╔. .═════════╗

Kendra let out a tiny sigh, this is part of what she was afraid of happening today. She knew her deck wasn’t ready for Rosalia, but if this was what it took to give the captain some semblance of.. Confidence wasn’t the right word, but if this was what it took to reassure her that she was better equipped for the coming duel, Kendra could handle it. At least the others weren’t going to be around to see it.

She let out a tiny mumble as she let her fingers drag across her ‘refurbished’ duel disk once she dragged it out of her bag. It wasn’t much, an older model that had been modified to work with the newer hardlight technology, a reminder to her… She strapped it onto her wrist finally, before turning towards Rosalia as the two of them prepared for what was about to happen, “...I’m not sure this is necessary, but if this is what it takes, I won’t hold back. We’ll see what happens.”

- - -

Rosalia strode to the far end of the duel field, pulling her Duel Disk and deck from her bag. She placed the bag a few feet behind her, off the field of play. Setting the Duel Disk over her arm gently as a metal band issued from the underside, moving to enclose her arm. She took a deep breath, eyes closed, as she placed the stack of cards into the Disk. It was swiftly shuffled, and with a burst of sound the blade of the duel disk flared to life, a curled image of a dragon’s head, with a single glowing eye blossoming to life.

Even as her duel disk turned on, Rosalia’s eyes opened, now for the first time looking across the duel field to meet Kendra’s eyes without an ounce of hesitation. Where previously her gaze was docile and her expression quiet, she now had a hard, flinty gaze as she drew her hand of five cards.

“Best of luck to you, Kendra,” she said softly, then, with a fierceness that belied her usual demeanor entirely: “DUEL!”

“The first turn is mine,” she continued, taking only a few seconds to look at the five cards in her hand. “Come, Autorokket Dragon!” A dragon bedecked in copper-toned metal appeared on the field, wings of green light issuing from the back.

Autorokket Dragon

Level 3, 1600/1000

“I set Autorokket as Link material! The materials for this monster is a single Dragon of Level 4 or lower. Link Summon! Striker Dragon!” Autorkket flew into the rectangular portal of light that bloomed to life before Rosalia, streaking into the border on the left-hand side, which lit up with a bright red arrow as the portal exploded into light, a lithe blue dragon in its place.

Striker Dragon

Link 1 (Left), 1000

“When Striker Dragon is Link Summoned,” Rosalia continued, placing her hand over her deck as a card was ejected from it, “I add Boot Sector Launch from my deck to hand. Striker Dragon’s effect activates.”

A long, metallic piece on the back of the dragon’s neck slowly pulled back. Gun enthusiasts would have been able to identify it as a gun hammer. This precipitated the very sudden explosion of Rosalia’s monster, which sent a great gust of wind and smoke billowing out across the duel field. Rosalia didn’t flinch as her hair was tossed behind her, focused purely on what this great burst of sound and noise communicated.

“By destroying this card, I return Autorokket from my Graveyard to my hand. Now I’ll activate the field spell Striker Dragon found: Boot Sector Launch!” The ground around Rosalia was outlined in green light as a circular gear was shown beneath her. A gear with six glowing green circles. “This card lets me summon 2 Rokket monsters from my hand every turn,” she continued, as the gear rotated with several clanking turns, two of the glowing circles centermost on Rosalia’s field, “so long as I summon them in Defense Mode. I summon the returned Autorokket, and Shelrokket!”

With two flares of light, Autorokket returned to the field, alongside a bulky, yellow-armored companion.

Shelrokket Dragon

Level 2, 1100/2000

Both glowed with a green light as their attack and defense points both rose. “Boot Sector Launch also strengthens every Rokket monster’s attack and defense points by 300,” she went on. It was almost robotic, how her tone of voice was, as was the regularity with which she took every action on her turn. “I set Autorokket and Shelrokket as Link Material. Link Summon! Dillingerous Dragon!”

Once again her monsters became darting motes of light that slammed into a portal of light, a dragon with the body of a gleaming revolver chamber and violet armor plating appearing before her, letting out a chattering roar as long gleaming barrels issued from its hands.

Dillingerous Dragon

Link 2 (Up, Down), 1900

“I set two cards face-down,” she said, almost before her dragon’s roar was finished, swiping her hand over her Duel Disk as the final cards for the turn left her hand. “Turn end.” She assumed a neutral pose, duel disk held in front of her, watching Kendra with sharp eyes. There was no thought of the hesitation from before. Merely a string of cards and applications of those cards running through her head, as well as one overbearing thought that tied it all together:

I will make sure the best duelist possible faces Team Free. Whether that is myself or Kendra.

- - -

“Draw.” Kendra’s hand tugged the top card from the deck, taking a quick glance towards it before adding it to her hand. She scanned the cards briefly, before plucking up the far left, “I activate the effect of Danger! Thunderbird. By revealing this card, I shuffle my hand…” She slipped it back into the group of cards, giving them a quick shuffle, “And have you pick one.”

Without even a second of thought, Rosalia raised her hand to point to the fifth card in Kendra’s hand. With six in hand, she knew there was little chance of hitting whatever Kendra wanted kept safe.

She flipped the chosen card around, revealing Batteryman D to Rosalia, which she quietly slipped into the Graveyard, “I discard the chosen card. If it wasn’t Thunderbird, I can special summon it from my hand.”

She took a little breath as she placed the card on the disc, ready for the crackling thunder to sound as the sky above her started to gather storm clouds. They parted with a gust of wind, the sound of giant wings beating down as the colorful avian descended from the sky. It landed on the ground, wings curling around its body now, as Kendra’s outstretched hand pointed towards Dillingerous Dragon, “Battle Phase!”

A loud bellow suddenly cut Kendra off, a great growling roar that resounded through the entire mall crossroads. Heads turned to see Kendra’s hair flying back under the force of the noise, as Rosalia stood behind a face-up card, her expression unchanged.

“Trap card: Threatening Roar,” she said calmly, her voice ust audible over the last echoes as the Trap card disappeared. “This card prevents the opponent from declaring an attack the turn it’s activated.”

Kendra winced at the trap card, mumbling lightly to herself underneath her breath. “Well, that’s unfortunate…” She looked at her hand for a moment, letting her fingers slip across the cards gently, before plucking up two of them. “I’ll set a monster and a card facedown.”

The cards materialized on the field in front of her, Kendra’s eyes closing for a moment as she let out a tiny sigh, “That’s the end of this turn. And probably the duel, huh? Not a great showing.”

For the first time since the duel started a crack formed in Rosalia’s unflappable expression, causing her to frown briefly. It wasn’t a frown of anger or irritation. If anything she looked slightly sad. “You’ve figured out the path forward for me as well, haven’t you?”

Kendra laughed gently, shaking her head softly as she glanced towards Dillingerous once again, “...I needed to get rid of that, I only really had one way to do it with this hand. I’m confident enough you have a way to close out the game, but maybe I’ll be wrong.”

Rosalia closed her eyes, taking another deep breath. “... We’ll see,” she said softly. “During the End Phase, Dillingerous Dragon’s effect activates… I can destroy an Attack Position monster that didn’t declare an attack during this turn.” Her dragon raised its guns, pointing them towards Thunderbird. “... Fire.”

A barrage of gunfire flew forward, striking into Thunderbird as a massive explosion surrounded the giant bird, Kendra’s monster consumed by a ball of flame. But there was more.

“The monster destroyed by Dillingerous also has its attack points inflicted to the opponent as damage. Thunderbird’s 2800 attack is inflicted to you.” The fireball suddenly expanded with fresh explosions within, the explosion swallowing Kendra for several seconds as her Life Points flew down.

Kendra watched as the gunfire engulfed Thunderbird, the explosion and resulting fireball’s expansion surrounding her. She closed her eyes as the gust pushed her back on her feet, sliding her against the ground as she dug in her heels. She opened up her eyes once the carnage started to calm down, a small smile on her face, though her eyes betrayed the disappointment she was feeling, “Goodbye, Thunderbird.”

Kendra's LP: 4000 -> 1200

- - -

“Draw.” Rosalia’s next draw was less energetic. She turned the card around to see that it was the sole thing her turn depended on: A monster she could summon. She breathed deeply, thinking it over. She saw the path through. Based on her previous experiences with Kendra’s duels, she was confident this way could see her through. But she also knew what happened if that was the case.

If I win, I have to remain captain in place of Kendra. 

She took one last deep breath…

“I summon Anesthrokket Dragon.” Once again short and clipped, her tone was back to the way it had been before. All business. A small, needle-headed dragon appeared on the field.

Anesthrokket Dragon

Level 1, 0/2200

‘I activate Monster Reborn,” she continued, as a spot on her field began glowing. “Using this summons any monster from the Graveyard. Be reborn, Autorokket.” Her old dragon rejoined the field, but it wasn’t around for long, it and Anesthrokket once again becoming Link Material to shoot through the air. “I set Autorokket and Anesthrokket as Link Material! The materials for this monster are 2 Rokket monsters. Link Summon, Booster Dragon!”

A black-bodied dragon with a scope for a head joined the fray, spreading wide wings to let out a metallic shriek.

Booster Dragon

Link 2 (Down-Right, Down-Left), 1900

“Reverse card, open. Quick Launch.” This was a card that should be very familiar to Kendra. The card was as close to a signature Spell card for Rosalia as any. “This lets me summon any Rokket monster from my deck, but during the End Phase it will be destroyed.”

“I summon Metalrokket!” This dragon was blue-armored, thin with a long, orange bullet protruding from the head.

Metalrokket Dragon

Level 4, 1700/1400

“Booster Dragon’s effect can increase the Attack and Defense Points of any monster by 500 once each turn,” Rosalia continued, as the great scope-head turned towards Metalrokket. “You can’t activate cards or effects when I use this aspect of Booster… But what that does do is activate Metalrokket!”

She raised a hand, pointing towards Kendra’s field as Booster moved in front of Metalrokket, the smaller dragon becoming a line of green light that shrunk down into a sphere only a few inches wide before siphoning into Booster Dragon’s head. As Rosalia picked Metalrokket up off the blade of her Duel Disk, the monster zone where Metalrokket had been blinked briefly. So too did the zone that Kendra’s monster occupied.

“I summoned Metalrokket to the same zone as both of your face-down cards,” Rosalia said quietly. “When Metalrokket is targeted by the effect of a Link Monster, I can destroy it, as well as every card in the same column as Metalrokket. Anti-Enemy Snipe… Fire.”

The scope flared, and the green sphere shot forward, massive holes being blown through both of the holograms of Kendra’s cards before they crumpled into light particles, a small, red disk of a monster appearing briefly before it too was blown asunder.

Kendra let out a tiny sigh, watching as Micro-Cell was blown to pieces and scattered to the winds, her hands scooping the cards and sending them to the grave. She smiled softly, “Looks like I’m wide open, huh? I should’ve thought about that happening, guess I have nothing to blame but myself this time.”

Rosalia tried to think of something to say that might be able to assuage Kendra. Between Kendra’s disappointment in herself and the fact Rosalia was remaining in a position she didn’t feel at all qualified for, she wasn’t sure what to do now. She tried to think of something, anything, Something Daichi would say, to make kendra feel better about her dueling efforts. Something Sashisematta would say, to make it something they could both laugh off.

But all that came was: “Battle. Booster Dragon attacks you directly.”

One last blast, another bolt of light smashing into the ground in front of Kendra, and that was that.

Kendra: 1200 > 0

Kendra didn’t flinch as that bolt came crashing down in front of her, a little breath escaping her once all was said and done. Once again, she felt her feet dragging against the ground for a moment, before she steadied herself. She gave a small smile to Rosalia, tilting her head back a bit as she did, “There. Definitely confirms that I need a bit more… Time to get this sorted out. I won’t be winning anything like this.”

Rosalia strode back across the duel field, bag once again in her hands and almost held in front of her like a shield. The second the duel had ended her general demeanor had resumed, the girl no longer assisted by the confidence of wielding a dragon. “I wish I had the time to do the same for my captainship,” she admitted, gazing up to the skylight ceiling of the mall junction, head tilted back at the same angle as Kendra. “Do you… still want  to be left out of the match with Team Free?”

Kendra collected her own items as she hummed for a moment, “You do have time. It might not feel like it, but… Considering how things have gone, it’s surprisingly quiet at the moment. And like I said, I’ll always be happy to help you sort through a decision.” She smiled for a moment, before nodding her head again, “...You saw that performance. That draw was awful, I need to optimize a little more, I think.”

Rosalia snorted gently. “Optimize… What a pair we are, one most effective in a duel and one most effective outside it… I do think there’s no time left for one decision, though.” She pulled her phone from her bag, firing off a brief text. She made no effort to turn her body away to conceal it from Kendra. It was a message to Sai.

Sashisematta,

Meet me before the match with Team Free. There is something we have to discuss.

“Whether I agree with you or you agree with me, something has to be done about Sashisematta… And I think I know what.” She looked back to Kendra, a weak smile on her face. “Thank you, Kendra… You’re a better co-captain than I think you realize. Our duel helped me realize that we all have something to contribute to the team… Even Sashisematta.”

Kendra raised an eyebrow at the short message Rosalia had sent off towards Sai, a little sigh escaping her as she nodded her head, “...Something does, and I trust your instincts on this one. I think I would be a bit too heavy handed with him. And I’m glad you got something good from that. For now… I think this is a good time to start thinking about heading home. I could use a nap…”

“Yes… I’m sorry you couldn’t get ahold of that card just yet,” Rosalia apologized, beginning to walk with Kendra back towards the exit of the mall. “And I’m… sorry I dragged you here to offer you a position you didn’t want.” She held up the phone again, dialing a number swiftly before holding it up to her ear.

“Miss Sterling… I was speaking to Kendra and we… She convinced me. I’ll be the one dueling in the Standard slot against Team Free.” And just briefly some of that authoritative tone that her voice had had during the duel took over.

╚═════════. .╝

Edited by Kazooie

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If there was one thing Evelyn liked about Turbo Dueling, it was the sensation of speed. And on the busy urban Seattle streets, the result of the desire to go fast was...

"This is what, the fourth red light we've caught in a row?" she asked.

The result was frustration at traffic and red lights. She wanted to cut loose and rocket down the highways and city streets, but that would be irresponsible. Especially on rare occasions like this when she had a passenger on board. Regrettably, she had to just grin and bear it. The bright side of having a passenger, however, was she could at least talk to someone while she waited for traffic lights and the cars in front of her.

"What brought you all the way out here anyway?" To her it was just second nature, but Eve imagined that if she had stayed in one country or the other full-time, a trip across the Pacific Ocean wasn't something she would take lightly. "Tired of Japan's pro scene or something?"

"To say I was seeking a challenge would be an understatement," Sai lifted the visor on the helmet he wore, doing his best to free the fly that somehow found its way inside, blowing gently to coax it off the tip of his nose. "The players here are crazy. You know the coach is the only person I've dueled and never beaten? Make you wonder why she isn't competing herself, huh?"

"It sure does." Not interested in the fame or fortune? There were plenty of people content to live a modest, simple life. Perhaps the coach was simply one of those types. As the light turned green and the cars in front of her started moving out, Evelyn asked the next, more important question. "Which way are we heading, again?"

"You wanted a boat ride, right?" Sai reached around in front of her, pointing to their left, "To the waterfront!"

"Waterfront it is!" Making the next left, Evelyn rode down the street at a responsible speed. A boat ride! What an exciting first! Hopefully things went well.

Edited by yui

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As the team went about their week, meeting up and preparing for the next matchup, Vega had sent them all a message. Just a promise that if they didn't lose the match, there would be a reward for them the next time they met up. But what could the reward be?

-----

Friday, February 28
7 PM

"Hey, don't be like that. I won't be choosing the team order forever, you know!"

Sitting in the corner of a dive bar, Vega laughed as she finished the sentence, earning an eye roll from the blonde person sitting across from her. While they did the motion, they wore a smile on their face, leaning back in the booth as they listened

"Besides... things worked out better than I expected, just from the team speaking up for themselves. Taking time where they needed it, or stepping up to cover for each other. In fact, I can't imagine a more perfect first opponent for Rosalia!"

As she finished her statement, she leaned back and took a swig of her drink, giving the other person a chance to speak.

"Eh? Knowing you, that probably means your captain probably plays a gun themed deck."

Vega choked on her drink, hitting her chest as she coughed, a bemused look meeting her. Once she recovered, she looked aside, quickly muttering. "I-I didn't say that, and it's not like that's what I meant!"

"So she does!" the other person's lips curled into a grin, "What a bad coach, giving away sensitive info~"

"I-" Vega cut herself off, face red as a beet as she was caught in that situation, struggling to find the words for it before the other person continued.

"It's fine, it's fiiiine. You know I won't do anything with that info. I don't think he would do anything with it, even if I did tell him. He's not that kind of guy, you know?"

With a sigh, Vega nodded and replied. "I just don't wanna screw them over. Yeah, you won't do much with it... But what if someone else did?"

"Please, I trust you know to keep your guard up more with other people." the blonde hummed as they toyed with their glass, fizz rising from the soda inside, "You've shown that you know when to keep your lips zipped tight. Besiiides, you said that this was all off the record from the start, yeah? Just two old classmates hanging out? Not to mention that you actually ordered alcohol, lightweight that you are..."

"I resent that!"

"You resemble it."

After some more banter and finishing her drink, Vega rested her chin on the palm of her hand as she looked at one of the televisions in the dimly lit bar, seeming to zone out just a bit as she watched the segment about her team's duel from the week before... before suddenly speaking up, words slurring ever so slightly.

"Show him for me, will you? It's not how I planned it, and I feel like I can't do enough to get through..."

"Don't worry, sis. I'll make sure that he understands. After all, 'speak to people in words they can understand'... You did it once. Now it's my turn to do it for him. Trust me, okay?"

"Thank you, Charlie."

-----

Saturday, February 29
12 PM

"Welcome, dear fans, to another match in our amazing minor league circuit!" The MC boomed from his booth up above the screens, "Today we see the new team, with quite a reputation made for themselves already, Team Genesis against fan favorite Team Free, with plenty of heavy hitters! How will our new team fare!?"

"He's so loooooud," Vega groaned, holding a pillow over her face, grumbling, "And he's just going to try and demoralize people again... can't we just skip the pleasantries today?"

Kendra's hand rubbed at her own head gently, a small mumble escaping her as she yawned out, "Yeah. He's loud. And he's already brought up Sai's stunts. I wonder how many more times he's gonna bring that mess up..."

"Hopefully no more after today..."

The arena dimmed, opening the spotlight on the standard duel field, where Rosalia and her opponent stood.

“First up, we have Team Genesis’ captain, Rosalia Marlowe, against Team Free’s Johnathan Nava! Rosalia has quite the uphill battle ahead of her if Johnathan’s record is anything to go by, but Team Genesis did have a strong showing in their first match! Can she do it!?”

Next up, the spotlight swapped to the action field, referring what looked like a decrepit factory as the setting.

"Then we have Sai Saishisematta!" the MC paused to wait for the boos of the crowd to quiet down a bit, "Against the captain of Team Free, Charlie Robin!"

In contrast to the boos, the cheer was even louder. Whether that was due to Charlie's fans or Sai's enemies, it didn't change the intensity of the reaction. Finally, the spotlight moved to the race track, where the two turbo duelists waited to take off.

"The third match is Evelyn Takao of Team Genesis against Agira Aarati of Team Free! Agira is known for his explosive antics, so let's see if Evelyn can match it!" 

"Is everyone ready!? 3.... 2... 1... DUEL!"

"Uggh, he finally shut uuuup," the captain groaned as she pressed the pillow against her face more, before muttering, "Can one of you guys hand me a water bottle?"

-----

Quote

Johnathan Nava: 4000 - Going First
Rosalia Marlowe: 4000

Rosalia strode across the duel stage, trying hard to shut out the sudden waves of noise that was battering her from all sides. The others had had to deal with this last match? How had Sai managed to be such a blustering force over all this? As her opponent came into view, she took a second to close her eyes, taking a long, deep breath.

Across the field from Rosalia, the man called Johnathan sighed, moving to remove a cigarette from his lips… Only to grasp at air, realizing he didn’t have one lit. Unfortunately.

“Just call me John. And don’t listen to that guy, it’s his job to make it ‘dramatic’.” John raised his arm and activated his disk as he glanced at the screens above, seeing it decide turn order. “And looks like I’m first. Good luck, miss.”

There were a few seconds before Rosalia responded. When she did, it was accompanied by the flash of her Duel Disk activating, both eyes opening to look straight on at Johnathan, raising her disk before her as she drew her starting hand. He was going straight to business. Good. 

“Pleased to meet you, John,” she said, the general politeness of her words belied by a strong, forceful tone. “I understand you’re ranked highly… I’m glad to face someone of your caliber.”

DUEL!”

“I normal summon Magical Musketeer - Starfire to Monster Zone 2. Then I activate Pot of Prosperity in the zone behind her. By randomly banishing three cards from my Extra Deck face-down, I can reveal the top three cards of my deck, which are... Pot of Duality, Monster Slots, and Solemn Warning. I think I'll take Solemn Warning."

As the woman wearing a shroud appeared in front of John, she took a quick curtsy as he activated the spell. Upon resolving it, she drew a gun from her dress and pointed at his deck, taking a shot at it as a crimson wing burst from her hip. Then, from the deck, came another person, this time a blonde an wielding his gun as he crouched, in defense position.

"When I activate a Spell or Trap in the same column as my Musketeers, they gain effects. In this case, Starfire lets me summon another one from the deck, and I chose Caspar in Monster Zone 4. Then I'll set a card in the ST zone between them, and pass. Your move, miss."

-----

Quote

Sai Sashisemtta: 4000 - Going First
Charlie Robin: 4000

"DUEL!"

"Well, I guess it's gonna be two fusion experts going at it. Sounds like an interesting matchup," Charlie hummed as they drew their hand, immediately running away from Sai towards a staircase in the abandoned factory, "Good luck, have fun! I'm sure you did your research~"

-----

"Alriiiight, nice to meet ya, but let's get going!" Agira punched his fists together with a toothy grin from under his mask...

"DUEL!"

...only to realize Evelyn used the opportunity to get the jump on him, cursing under his breath as he took off. "Hey, you can't take advantage of a guy's passion like that!"

As Evelyn took the first bend, and with it the first turn, Agira let out an anguished groan, before drawing his own card.

"Yo, I got it!" he beamed, pointing to Evelyn, "Just wait until it's my turn!"

Quote

Evelyn Takao: 4000 - Going First
Agira Aarati: 4000

 

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"Welcome, dear fans, to another match in our amazing minor league circuit! Today we see the new team, with quite a reputation made for themselves already, Team Genesis against fan favorite Team Free, with plenty of heavy hitters! How will our new team fare!?"

This was it...rather than being on the stage this time, Daichi remained on the sidelines. He needed to. While sitting in the spectator's box with the rest of the team, Daichi had a small table pulled towards his chair, his deck sprawled out and even had a few packs of cards stacked up as well. He would watch these Duels and fix his deck more at the same time. Needless to say, Daichi was excited...and then the groan came.

"He's so loooooud! And he's just going to try and demoralize people again... can't we just skip the pleasantries today?"

"Oh he's just enjoying his job...let him live a bit." Daichi flashed a smile, whilst listening in to the introductions. The one with Sai and Charlie, he paid extra attention to. He would be representing himself as the Action Duelist this go around. He hoped, of all things, his own reputation as an Action Duelist didn't get tarnished here. Though the sounds of boos at his introduction were definitely a sign of good things to come...

"Can one of you guys hand me a water bottle?"

Daichi was already on it, quickly reaching into the back next to him and pulling out a water bottle to hand to Vega. "Aaaaaannnnnnd to go with it…" he said, lifting his hands up a bit to do a few gestures, before in his left hand, two aspirin appeared. "Take these, should help alleviate the headache. And this is why you don't party too much before the day of the match, coach." he snickered, before turning towards Falisha's direction. The two of them hadn't had as much time to generally hang out like the homework assignment given to them by Vega insisted. Then again...didn't mean they couldn't start now...as long as it ended up happening before Monday, it was a perfect opportunity.

"Hey, Falisha. Care to help me out? Got a few packs to open...was told there were some good chances for new Pendulum Monsters in em. Figure I offer." Daichi said, holding up one of the packs he had.

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Rosalia was in the team’s private box at the arena before anyone else was. She had opted to keep the lights off, allowing only the light of day to illuminate the box. When the door opened before her to reveal Sai, the shadows in the back portion of the box made him look almost ghostly, his bottom half almost looking like they weren’t there. 

“Thank you for coming, Sashisematta. I wanted to have a talk with you… about last time.” She rose from her chair and walked around to face him, silhouetted in his vision by the sun behind her. “I’d like for you to hear me out first.”

"Of course. I'm always open to criticism from those who keep an equally open mind."

“... Your match against Avery was disrespectful to him… But you had intent behind it, a plan. I’m willing to see where it goes… for now. But you went too far against Avery. Do not push your luck… You’re skilled, there’s no denying it. And perhaps you’ll end up being correct about people wanting to see you lose. So for now we’ll wait and see if it works out. But don’t push it with this duel, Sashisematta.”

A shrug from Sai. "This duel is different, there is no need for me to play up my opponent. They are already a hero."

“I have one other condition.” Rosalia held up her Duel Disk, which was on video mode, paused on Sai’s duel with Avery. She hit the play button and the Sai’s own voice resonated from it.

"This is your first duel at a pro level, isn't it?"

Avery this time. “I don’t see why that’s relevant.”

"How could it not be? I'm sure your team captain is doing just fine, the duelist she is against is an idiot, but can you imagine how she would feel if you let her down?”

Rosalia hit the pause button. She hit rewind, repeating Sai’s last words against Daichi. She had not taken her eyes off of Sai the entire time. “Feel free to turn yourself into a heel to everyone else, Sashisematta… But I won’t allow you to drag anyone else on Team Genesis with you. Don’t insult the rest of the team on that stage. Is that understood?”

"Ah, I suppose that comment may have crossed a line. I still hold hope that it will incite change within Daichi, but I will take your opinion into consideration."

"I didn't ask you to take it into consideration." Rosalia's eyes narrowed. Her expression was only two or three degrees north of a glare. "I asked if it was understood."

"Feisty." Sai narrowed his own eyes, almost as if he were a mirror for Rosalia. While the top half of his face held an expression of rage, brow furrowed like a beast about to attack, his lips curled into a gentle smile. "I understand you, better now than ever. Make sure to take some of this fury into your duel."

The door opened before Rosalia could react to this, as a very tired-looking Vega came into the room. Sai turned to greet their coach, all smiles suddenly as he greeted her, asking something about when Evelyn would be joining them. Rosalia took a deep breath, looking down at her duel disk. She reached up and closed the video that had been pulled up, before Vega had a chance to see it. Vega didn’t need to get involved. She could handle this.

- - - - - - - 
And I’ll handle it without rage, Sashisematta, she thought as she watched Jonathan with rapt attention. You misunderstand me. It wasn’t rage that motivated me to confront you… It was what the team needed. The only way forward. Just as I’ll find the way forward now. 

- - - - - - -
Back in the box, as Daichi moved one of his packs aside, it exposed the small envelope that had been on the table beneath it, unseen up to this point. It was labeled simply with Kendra’s name in what was recognizably Rosalia’s smooth cursive. 

The contents were just as simple, once Kendra saw it and was able to open it. Just a short note and a single black-framed card. The note read merely:

Thank you for helping me find a way forward. I thought it only fair to help you do the same.

-R

- - - - - - -
I don’t need rage. All I need is to see the path forward… and take the shot.

She took a good twenty seconds between Jonathan’s End Phase and the start of her turn, as the drama with Sai started to fade slowly to the background of her mind. To the back of her mind as the only thing that took up her thoughts was the duel.

Solemn Warning…. A powerful card, to be sure. But considerably less powerful when I know about it. She thought back to her duel against Kendra in the mall a few days ago. Normally I would want to Link Summon Striker Dragon… But with Solemn Warning he can leave me defenseless. I have two paths forward. I’ll attempt to bait him into using it… or I’ll have to reduce his Life Points below 2000 first! Then he’ll have no chance to activate it.

Already everything felt so much simpler, so much clearer. As if everything else was being forced to the sides, out of the long scope she felt in her mind’s eye, a scope that aimed directly at Jonathan. 

“Draw!” At last she drew for turn, just as the commentator was drawing breath to comment on how long she was taking, hurriedly stopping himself so as not to talk over Rosalia’s move. “First, I activate a Continuous Spell: Supply Squad!” She placed the card in her Duel Disk, in zone 1. Unlike Jonathan, she didn’t verbally clarify the placement. Every piece of a duelist’s turn reveals information… and he’s given away something already. She moved her hand to her cards, taking hold of another one. The fact that he’s so used to clarifying which monster zones he’s using means only one thing… He’s used to summoning Link Monsters as well.

“As long as Supply Squad is in play, I draw a card when one of my monsters are destroyed. This ability triggers only once every turn. Summon! Silverrokket Dragon!” A silver-armored dragon with a long, rounded head appeared, searing wings of violet energy issuing from its back. 

Silverrokket Dragon
Level 4, 1900/100

Rosalia waited a few brief seconds after her dragon appeared before she spoke up, allowing her voice to carry across the duel field. “So you’re not using it, then? That face-down card you have?”

“Nah, it can wait for now.”

Rosalia swept her eyes over Jonathan, appraisingly. Not even a single twitch. He clearly had never even considered activating it. I suppose that’s the difference with S-ranked players… Some would negate the summon of a monster with attack power this high, use it as an opportunity to strike at my Life Points while they’re undefended. I figured it wouldn’t work, that he’d hold onto it for later. But that’s fine. It lets me take away something else from him!

“Battle! Silverokket attacks Starfire!” Her monster flew upward, changing into a bolt of violet light as it streamed into the blade of Rosalia’s Duel Disk, suffusing it with glowing sparks. “Fire!” As she pointed at Starfire, the bolt flashed out, piercing directly through Starfire’s chest and colliding directly with Jonathan as his monster shattered into pieces.

Jonathan: 4000 > 3400

Every Life Point I take from him makes using that Solemn Warning that much more of a cost, she thought, pulling her hand up to look at her cards. “I place two cards face-down!” As the cards appeared she tried not to look directly at the one she had set right in front of her. Now I’m all prepared for the counterattack… I’ve already lined up the shot. Sashisematta is wrong about me… Rage is something for a pitched battlefield. That is not my duel. I sit far away from the fury of the skirmish, plan everything for the exact opportunity where the enemy exposes themselves to the fatal blow. That, Sashisematta, is the duel of the Sniper.

“I see. So you live in fear of my trap.” John nodded as he drew for turn, glancing at it, “Perhaps that’s what Charlie meant when they said this would be a perfect matchup…” 

Rosalia merely narrowed her eyes at John, almost like her eyes were a warning. “Walking around a Trap you’ve been kind enough to show me is very different from being afraid of it.”

“Perhaps. Anyway, I activate my spell, Ties of the Brethren, targeting Caspar.”

John’s LP fell another 2000 points as he activated the spell, with Caspar taking a shot into the air, his own red-magma like wing materializing.

Jonathan: 3400 > 1400

“For 2000 lifepoints, I can summon two monsters with the same level, attribute, and type as the targeted monster from my deck. I choose Kidbrave to zone 2 and Doc to Zone 5.”

Magical Musketeer Kidbrave
Level 4, 1600/200

Magical Musketeer Doc
Level 4, 1400/1200

Rosalia’s narrowed eyes opened up quickly as she saw John’s Life Points plummet. What?! She stared at the field as two forms started to take shape on the other side of the field. 

A smug kid, maybe 18 at most, appeared on one side of Caspar, tipping his cowboy hat to Rosalia, while a man with greying hair and a high-tech monocle appeared on the other, brandishing a sniper rifle.

He… he threw away 2000 of his Life Points just like that… He’s lost the ability to play his Trap… But he’s traded it for something else. She stared across the field at the suddenly much larger crop of monster John had. None of them were as powerful as Silverrokket. But she knew that likely wouldn’t last long.

“No response? Very well. When the new chain begins, Caspar activates, allowing me to search for a Musket. I’ll add Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel. Then I’ll use Upstart Goblin, behind Kidbrave. You’ll gain 1000, I’ll draw one, and…”

Rosalia: 4000 > 5000

Whipping its pistol out, Kidbrave fired two bullets, the first hitting John’s hand and the latter hitting his deck, as the Musketeer’s demonic wing took form. “By discarding the Magical Musketeer Wild in my hand, I can draw two more. Next, I’ll tribute Kid for Zakiel in my hand, which can be summoned with a single Musketeer tribute. I’ll place him in Zone 1.”

With a loud chorus of demonic laughter, Kid was grasped by a massive claw and dragged into the ground… only for a demon to rise from it, pointing his fingers at his head like a gun, before taking a mock shot at himself.

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel
Level 8, 2500/2500

“This is what your intent was,” Rosalia said aloud now, finally voicing her internal thoughts as her dragon let out an echoing screech of challenge to the horde of gunmen John had in play. “You were counting on me avoiding your Solemn Warning. That’s why you made sure I knew what it was… So your Life Points were safe and you could use Ties of the Brethren.”

“Well, that’s one possibility, I suppose. But I believe thinking I know the top three cards of my deck may be giving me a bit too much credit, miss.”

Rosalia shook her head. “No, it’s not that simple. You had no control over the top of your deck, but you immediately knew what the best way forward was… At least at the time.”

Rosalia’s hand went to her Duel Disk. “But I’ve set up my own plan. I activate my Trap card!”

The set card directly in front of her flew upward, as a massive roar of crashing water started to sound throughout the stadium, a herald of what was to come. “Torrential Tribute can activate whenever one of us summons a monster… And it destroys every monster in play!”

This is it, she thought to herself. He’ll be left with no monsters… And I’ll still be left with the leavings of SIlverrokket. All Rokkets can replace themselves with another whenever they’re destroyed. He’ll have no defenses left to protect his Life Points… And they’ve just been lowered to the point where almost any Rokket in my deck can take them all out!

At least, that was what she expected. Instead, when she looked at the card, there were multiple holes through the card, before it shattered.

“I activated my counter trap, Magical Musket - Last Stand behind Doc, in response. It negates the activation of your trap and destroys it.”

“But-” Rosalia’s eyes whipped across John’s field, taking in that the card she knew to be Solemn Warning was still there. “You only have that one card set! Explain yourself!”

For the first time, a smirk crossed John’s face, though it didn’t seem to bear any ill intent. “All of my Musketeers enable me to play Muskets from my hand during either player’s turn, without needing to be set. Also, that activates Doc. He can’t add Last Stand back, but… I’ll add Wild back from my grave to my hand.”

The sniper took a shot at John’s disk, causing the card to pop out of his grave, before he picked it up and added it to his hand.

Rosalia had an expression on her face that was familiar to many on the dueling circuits, but it was one her teammates had rarely seen on her. Her wide eyes, surprise and confusion evident in her face. For the first time in quite a long while, Rosalia had been knocked off balance. 

“Well, why don’t I take the rest of the turn easy on you? I activate my own Supply Squad behind Zakiel, then I’ll pass. Make your move, miss.”

The roar of the audience surged in the wake of John's move, and the commentator was swift to jump in again. "Woah! John has ended his turn with the very card that started Rosalia's own! His field has exploded outward in the wake of his Solemn Warning gambit! The only thing holding him back now is that TIes of the Brethren prevents him from attacking! How will Rosalia Marlowe respond?!?"

Slowly, slowly, Rosalia took a step back, her heel sounding like another gunshot in the orchestra of gunfire that made up this duel, taking a more steady stance as her expression slowly settled back into the familiar narrow-eyed, frowning stare, the almost-glare that made up her dueling. 

Okay… she thought to herself, slowly. So this is how he duels. Perfect matchup indeed. In her minds eye Rosalia idly imagined the scope, with Johnathan in it, a gun raised and smoking in the aftermath of firing a bullet directly into her own. Every move I make in this duel has to be careful, every decision three steps ahead… If I give him an opening, I can already tell he’ll be more than capable of taking it. 

This is a duel where every. Bullet. Counts.

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Falisha sat cross-legged with her eyes glued to the screen as her teammates were introduced. At least most of them were getting good reactions. Except for the obvious one, of course. She let out a small sigh as she listened to the boos, "You'd think he'd be at least a little more concerned, but ah well." She gave a small shrug before taking out her deckbox and shifting through a few cards.

She went through editing her deck for a few minutes before looking up at the duel screens again, "Gotta admit I wasn't expecting gun decks." She gives a small laugh before she glanced over to Daichi, giving a nod as she clasped her deck box back shut before hopping up and strolling over to him.

"Sure, I don't see why I wouldn't be able to help you out. How many ya gotta get through?" She gives a cheeky grin, already grabbing a pack and gingerly tearing it along the side of the pack before taking the cards out by the side. She flicked through them rather rapidly, "Also ya like, know it tends to be cheaper to get what you want by not buying from packs, yeah? Makes it kinda hard to get multiples though..." She lets out a deflated sigh and pouts as she looks at her deckbox, "Unless ya got friends, that is!" Her grin returns as she pushes the booster of cards back in the pack, holding it out to Daichi, "Sadly not too much in that one, granted I tend to go for some of the janky stuff seeing as I can afford it."

She hummed to herself and sat down next to Daichi now, kneeling on the floor as she started to help him sift through cards, "By the way, what do you think of how they're dueling? And uh, I know I was kinda unavailable to hang out the other day, sorry about that. You mind if I treat you to coffee or like the arcade to make up for it? I-It's okay if no!" She held up the cards and waved her hands frantically, "But I managed to set aside some cash for extracurricular stuff. If you decide not to I can just use it on like boosters and stuff. Or uh... or my bike. Though granted I'm trying to get better about how much money I'm putting into it..."

She scratched her cheek a bit, obviously a bit embarrassed, "I just feel bad I got so obsessive over my baby that I didn't notice it had been a couple days... and well when I realized that uh... I don't remember how long I was out, though I think someone was checking up on me...? I woke up with a blanket so..."

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"Sure, I don't see why I wouldn't be able to help you out. How many ya gotta get through? Also ya like, know it tends to be cheaper to get what you want by not buying from packs, yeah? Makes it kinda hard to get multiples though... Unless ya got friends, that is! Sadly not too much in that one, granted I tend to go for some of the janky stuff seeing as I can afford it."

Daichi laughed as he waved this off. "I honestly didn't spend any money on this. As you said, got to have friends...I was given some of these by one of my friends who runs a card shop in town. I'm a regular at the shop annnnnd he knows I'm looking for some good Pendulum cards, so he knew I'd be enjoying them." He grabbed another pack, opening it and sifting through them slowly. "No worries about that pack...still got plenty."

"By the way, what do you think of how they're dueling? And uh, I know I was kinda unavailable to hang out the other day, sorry about that. You mind if I treat you to coffee or like the arcade to make up for it? I-It's okay if no!"

He paused at the moment Falisha saying this, as he looked at the young woman, giving her his trademark smile. "Honestly that's why I was offering the card opening right now, since we didn't have a chance earlier. Ya know, better late than never." Daichi nodded, before his smile turned into a smirk. "Same time, the arcade or coffee offer does sound good too...so perhaps I'll hold ya to that!" A light laugh came from the young man, before returning to this opened pack and immediately seeing the card he stopped on.

He slowly thumbed it to the side and brought it closer. "Hatrickuriboh...well, that's certainly adorable." he nodded. "Same time, seems like a perfect fit!" Sliding the card over to his deck box, Daichi was thrilled about the new addition.

"Oh right, as for how they're Dueling? Well...so far it seems like, at least, in our esteemed captain's side, it seems like it's going to be an even match up between our Duel Sniper and theirs...though Rosalia isn't the type to be so easily beaten. She holds the captain position for a reason." he gave the other two screens a side glance. "No doubt Eve will be fine with her Turbo Dueling...that said…" Daichi's gaze turned towards the one with Charlie and Sai. "...he's representing us...in my stead. I can only hope that he doesn’t lump us further down the path of a Heel...or for that matter...make a mockery of Action Duels for entertainment purposes." He sighed heavily at that last part, although this was what he wanted...didn't still mean he didn't have this innate fear of Sai sullying the grandeur of an Action Duel.

"I just feel bad I got so obsessive over my baby that I didn't notice it had been a couple days... and well when I realized that uh... I don't remember how long I was out, though I think someone was checking up on me...? I woke up with a blanket so..."

"Oh no, don't apologize for putting effort and love into that D-Wheel of yours, Falisha." Daichi put that pack down and went for another, opening it immediately. "Honestly, I don't mind helping if I can. After all, your idea to utilize your gemstones in a flashy display that will stun audiences has intrigued me greatly. Remember, I'm all about the flashy presentations that will leave the audience speechless." Glancing down, he saw another card and it intrigued him so. "Crystal...Horned...Dragon…" A hush came over him as his eyes closed, seeming to be thinking about something. Suddenly, a wide smile appeared on his face yet again. "Perfect! This is just what I needed!" With that, he put this card also in his deck box. "I'm starting to think you may be a good luck charm, Falisha!"

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"I honestly didn't spend any money on this. As you said, got to have friends...I was given some of these by one of my friends who runs a card shop in town. I'm a regular at the shop annnnnd he knows I'm looking for some good Pendulum cards, so he knew I'd be enjoying them." 

Falisha gives a small nod, humming as she slipped open a few cards, shifting through the packs a bit more, "There's definitely some odd cards in here. I admit I don't much pay attention to non-synchro cards!" She smiles before looking up as Daichi responded to her question.

"Honestly that's why I was offering the card opening right now, since we didn't have a chance earlier. Ya know, better late than never." Daichi nodded, before his smile turned into a smirk. "Same time, the arcade or coffee offer does sound good too...so perhaps I'll hold ya to that!" A light laugh came from the young man, before returning to this opened pack and immediately seeing the card he stopped on.

"Well then, sounds like it'll be a lovely day out whenever I can manage to drag myself away from my D-Wheel! Oooooh..." She seems to get a bit of a glint in her eye, "You wanna see how fast an unclocked D-Wheel can go on a straightaway interstate that doesn't have much traffic? We're not too far away from some of the high-end video game head offices and I'm certain we could have some fun there." She gives a small chuckle, whispering that entire sentence and seeming to eye towards Vega to make sure she wasn't heard.

He slowly thumbed it to the side and brought it closer. "Hatrickuriboh...well, that's certainly adorable." he nodded. "Same time, seems like a perfect fit!" Sliding the card over to his deck box, Daichi was thrilled about the new addition.

Falisha grinned and gave him a thumbs-up, "Nice, that's great! Though if you wanna use me as a good luck charm..." She pouts at him, "You're supposed to invite a gal out before you use 'em, Daichi! How rude!"

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╔. .═════════╗

Kendra glanced to the table where Daichi and Falisha had been opening packs, a pair of folding tables in front of her where she had her own deck sprawled out on one... And a binder full of cards right on the other. The little conversation the two of them had caught her attention for a moment, Sai was representing Daichi here... And technically, Rosalia was representing her.

She had no issues on her side, Rosalia was reliable. She didn't got into a duel without being prepared for the worst, meanwhile... She would've just made of mess of it with the state of her deck at the moment. She wanted her first duel on the stage to be explosive in a way people wouldn't expect. She wanted to catch them off guard. If that meant she needed to throw her full power into it, that's exactly what she would do.

The problem was getting her deck into that position.

As the other two sorted through cards, she noticed the little envelope getting shifted around, her eyes narrowing in on it for a moment... And just barely able to make out her name on it. She muttered underneath her breath, already having an idea where this was coming from... And she would have to have a talk with Rosalia at some point. That handwriting was too precise to be anyone else's, except for maybe Sai's. She never knew what to expect with him. "Oh for fucks sake..."

Kendra stood up as she adjusted the tables to make room for her to pass by, taking a little glance between Daichi and Falisha, straight at the envelope, "Uh, sorry. Just need to kinda... Get in here for a second." She pointed to the envelope positioned underneath the cards, "...Rosalia snuck something in for me there. I don't know how she managed that..."

"Perhaps some of my sleight of hand tricks have finally rubbed off on her." Daichi laughed at this thought. "If that's the case, I'll have to commend her for it."

Falisha would look down at the envelope before giving a small chuckle, slipping it out from under the cards and holding it out to Kendra, "Seems like you'll need to be keeping an eye on what she does with your belongings if she's going to be hiding messages around for you. What, got a bet with an egg hunt going on?"

Kendra let out a muffled sigh as she rubbed at her head gently, "...I have an idea on what it is, and if it is... Well, I'm gonna have to do something later..." She let out a small sigh as she took the envelope from the two of them, opening it... And letting out a brief sigh as she turned her attention to Rosalia's duel. The captain wasn't in the best spot, she was playing around something, Kendra wasn't entirely sure what. But it was obvious from the way she paused before making certain moves. With her opponent ending the turn, Kendra propped her head on her hand, elbow on her arm rest as she paused her thoughts to focus on it briefly.

But in the end, all she could think about was the frustration sinking in on her.

╚═════════. .╝

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"Yo, I got it!" he beamed, pointing to Evelyn, "Just wait until it's my turn!"

“Passion is great and all, but you should keep your eyes on the track,” Evelyn pointed back, before drawing her starting hand. Looking over the cards she’d been dealt, there was a lot of potential here for later. All she had to do was set it up.

“I’ll start by normal summoning Defender of Nephthys, and activating her effect!” Just as her monster entered the field, Evelyn already started reaching for the next card in her hand. “By destroying Matriarch of Nephthys in my hand, I’ll special summon Disciple of Nephthys from my hand!”

“Oh, sick!” Agira grinned wide as the matriarch exploded, giving a thumbs-up to his opponent, “Looks like we’re on the same wavelength!”

Evelyn didn’t really get it, and gave her opponent’s comment the appropriate shrug, before continuing “Next, I’ll activate Disciple of Nephthys! I’ll destroy the Chronicler of Nephthys in my hand to add Conductor of Nephthys from my Deck to my hand.” After moving some monsters around, Evelyn reached for one of the two remaining cards in her hand, and placed down the one she’d been hanging on to this whole time. “And to finish up, I’ll activate Dark Hole, destroying all monsters on the field!”

They were all her own monsters, of course, but that didn’t stop the field from being wiped clean. With her setup made, Evelyn concluded “And that’s my turn. Make sure the wait was worth it, okay?”

As Eve ended her turn, there was an awkward silence, other than the humming of the engines. Agira just stared at the empty board for a moment, before.

“Motherfucker! What do you mean you end with nothing on the board!? Come on, lady!” the boy roared, holding the card he had been excited abotu earlier up, “Now I have to change my plan entirely! Draw, then normal summon Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear!”

As the armored beast-warrior appeared out of a portal at Agira’s side, there was a bit of an ooh from the audience, and the MC quickly joined in.

“Brotherhood of the Fire Fist! We haven’t seen any of those cards in this circuit in years now! Does Agira have connections we don’t know about!?”

“Eh? Nah, I just bought them off someone who said they didn’t really need them anymore,” Agira muttered, rubbing the back of his head, though unlikely that the audience heard him. “And hey, they work well with my stuff! I’ll proceed to battle, Bear, attack Eve!”

Evelyn: 4000 -> 2400

The warrior nodded as it drew its burning blade, charging forward to slice at Eve! When it did, the flames flared up on the sword immediately after, as a card appeared on Agira’s board.

“When Bear deals damage to my opponent by battle, I can set 1 Fire Formation spell from my deck, and I chose Tensu! Next phase, I activate the set Tensu… And with its effect, I normal summon a second time! Appear, Fire King Avatar Arvata!”

With a triumphant trumpeting noise, a pink elephant warrior appeared, brandishing an axe and a sword bathed in purple flame. Its golden headdress shone bright, trailing down to feathers in the back, where the purple flames licked as well.

“Better be careful, Arvata can stop your effects!” Agira gloated, grinning like an idiot, “And then I’ll set 1 and pass. Your go!”

Edited by yui

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"The winner of the first match between Team Genesis and Team Free... Is Charlie Robin, Captain of Team Free! Let's hear a round of applause for them!"

While there was some cheering, it wasn't as much as anyone would have expected. For Sai receiving a loss. For Charlie winning. In general. The duel simply felt... empty to the audience, who reacted rather lukewarmly.

-----

“Alright. I draw!” Shortly after doing so, Eve turned her attention to her graveyard. “And during my standby phase, I activate… a whole bunch of effects in my graveyard! Take a moment to read over them. If you want to put that Arvata to use, this would be a good time.”

“Nah, I doubt it’s relevant,” Agira gave a hearty laugh.

“Alright, then. First, Matriarch of Nephthys will special summon itself in defense position! Next, Disciple of Nephthys allows me to add a “Nephthys” spell from my deck to my hand, and I choose Rebirth of Nephthys. Then, Defender of Nephthys destroys Devotee of Nephthys from the deck, and finally, Chronicler of Nephthys lets me return it to my hand.” After moving around the relevant cards, Evelyn commented “You really should have stopped something. Probably Disciple. Because now I’ll activate the Rebirth of Nephthys I was able to get from her effect. By tributing Devotee of Nephthys, I’ll ritual summon Conductor of Nephthys! And since I tributed Devotee, the spell’s additional effect activates, letting me destroy one card on the field. Since you don’t seem to want to use that Arvata, I’ll take the liberty of getting rid of it!”

“Wait, what?”

As a blue flame appeared on the field, from which stepped a young woman in a red outfit with an elaborate headpiece, the fires behind her took to the sky, before crashing down on Agira’s elephant, leaving not even ashes behind when the fires had faded.

“Ah fuck, maybe I should’ve paid attention earlier… Well, live and learn I guess!”

“With Conductor on the field, her own effect activates, letting me summon a ritual monster from my deck. Before you ask, yes, this does count as a proper ritual summon. And I choose another Devotee of Nephthys!” After a brief chant on her Conductor’s part, a second pillar of blue flame appeared beside her, soon subduing to reveal a woman in a blue outfit not entirely unlike Conductor’s. And in response to her own appearance, a third - yellow this time - pillar of flame appeared, behind Evelyn. "And when Devotee is ritual summoned, she can summon any non-ritual “Nephthys” monster from my deck. I choose Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys!” With her field going from near-empty to four monsters of varying levels of power in a single turn, Evelyn took a sharp turn around the track’s corner, before declaring “And now, my battle phase!”

“Hold it! I activate my set Threatening Roar, which prevents all attacks this turn! Bet you didn’t see THAT coming!”

“Tch. I didn’t, in fact. I have no choice but to end my turn, then.”

A big grin etched itself on Agira’s face as he drew for turn, glancing at the card before pointing at Bear.

“I activate my Fire Fist guy’s effect! By sending this Tensu to the graveyard, I can target and destroy one monster you control… and I’ll choose Conductor!”

 Evelyn muttered, moving her monster to the graveyard. The plan had been to eventually destroy her all along, but…

“If I read right, she only activates when destroyed by your own cards… so I’ll continue by activating the card I drew, Share the Pain! We both choose one monster from our field to send to the grave. I choose Bear, obviously.”

“And I’ll tribute Devotee of Nephthys…”

“Perfect… now it’s finally time! I activate Onslaught of the Fire Kings! While my opponent controls a monster while I don’t, I can summon 1 FIRE Beast, Beast Warrior, or Winged Beast from my deck, at the low price of having its effect negated. Burn bright, Fire King High Avatar Garunix!” From behind Agira’s bike came a massive burst of red-orange flame, roaring wildly before taking the form of a bird with wide wings, fanged beak, and ornate designs, all flowing with the fire that made its body. “It’ll fade away in the end phase, so you don’t get to see its fully majesty, but that’s still enough. Next, I’ll normal summon Fire King Avatar Yaksha from my hand and… Battle! Garunix, destroy Nephthys with Flame God’s Ire!”

The effigy of flame behind Agira let out a shrill roar, before charging forward to the sacred phoenix, engulfing it in flame as its owner grinned. As Eve’s life fell from 2400 to 2100, Agira pointed at Eve directly.

“Then I’ll have Yaksha attack directly!” The saber-toothed warrior nodded, brandishing its burning staff, before striking at Eve, causing her life to drop to 300. With a triumphant look on his face, Agira proudly declared… “And with that, I end my turn!”

“...eh? Just like that?”

“I’m not sure, but… Did Agira just spare his opponent from Team Genesis!?”

“Say wha?” Agira looked up to the announcer’s voice with a confused look, giving his head a scratch, even though the helmet made it pointless, “I don’t have any way to win this turn, do I…?”

“Well, you did…” Drawing her card, Eve explained “I don’t know if you’re new to Turbo Duels or what, but each turn, both of us receive a Speed Counter to use on the effects of Speed World 3. Right now, we have four counters - five now that it’s my turn again - which is just enough that you could have used them to deal an extra 800 damage and win the game.”

Agira stared in silence for a moment, before taking a deep breath. However, when he spoke, his mic appeared to have been cut, leaving only Eve to hear the string of expletives from his mouth. Once he calmed down, he took another deep breath, slapped at his face with both hands, then shot a grin at his opponent.

“I mean, hey, if you win from that you deserve it! I messed up. Besides, it’s not like I’m defenseless… Return from the ashes, Garunix!”

A pillar of flame erupted around Agira’s field, leaving only the same phoenix as earlier… but now covered in flesh and blood. Bright red feathers adorned with rainbow tips, golden adornments, and a long, reptilian tail adorned the same figure as earlier as it now stood in its full glory.

“When Garunix is destroyed by an effect, it revives during the next standby and destroys all other monsters on the field… So I have to say goodbye to Yaksha, but it’s worth it! Take me down, if you can!”

This was it. A measly 300 life points, and only two cards in her hand. Looking over her options, the potential was something was there… but only if she was really lucky. Taking the next turn on the track, Evelyn put down a spell card.

“I activate Pot of Avarice! By shuffling five monsters from my graveyard back into the deck, I can draw two cards!” After returning her monsters of choice to the deck, and drawing her cards, Evelyn wasted no time putting down another spell card, already reaching for her deck again. “Next, I activate Preparation of Rites, allowing me to add a ritual monster from my deck to my hand, and a ritual spell from my graveyard as well. I add Conductor of Nephthys to my hand, and pick up my Rebirth of Nephthys again. Before using it though, I’ll activate the effect of Devotee of Nephthys from my graveyard. By destroying this Last Hope of Nephthys in my hand, Devotee can special summon herself!” Putting down the third spell this turn, Evelyn continued “Now I activate Rebirth of Nephthys! By tributing Devotee of Nephthys, I summon Conductor of Nephthys! And surely you’ll remember that by tributing Devotee with this effect, I can destroy a card. I’ll be taking that face-down out of the picture now!”

"Ooooh, that's not good..." Her opponent muttered, hand rubbing his head as his eyes glanced to the booth his team sat in.

“And surely you remember what Conductor does as well. This time, I’ll summon the other ritual monster up my sleeve. I summon Cerulean Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys!”

From behind Evelyn’s bike, the two duelists were washed in the blinding light of a tower of blue flame erupting from the track, shooting up about as high as hologram technology would allow. A pillar that branched out, creating wing-like appendages before swirling around, closing in on itself. Once the pillar-gone-sphere burst in an azure explosion, a bird-like monster similar to the one Eve had summoned last turn, albeit quite a bit larger and with a different color, occupied the airspace just behind her.

“I won’t waste any time, and get straight to activating Cerulean Sacred Phoenix’s effect. By destroying “Nephthys” cards from my hand or field, I can destroy an equal amount of cards you control. I’ll destroy this Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys in my hand, and your Fire King High Avatar Garunix!”

The card that Evelyn discarded for the effect appeared over the blue phoenix’s head, going up in bright flames that became a blazing fireball, bound directly for Agira’s monster, and impacting with an explosion she could only describe as “satisfying”.

“Ha, that’s not… Hey, wait, no that’s…” He muttered, before smacking himself in the face, “That’s lethal!”

“It certainly is! With your field wide open, I’ll go into the battle phase, and attack directly with my Conductor and Cerulean Sacred Phoenix!” On her cue, the two monsters moved to go on the offensive, each channeling forth fire of their own respective colors. The two burning attacks were then fired forth at Agira; a red fireball from Conductor, and a blue stream of flame from the phoenix.

“Belle’s gonna call me an idiooooooot,” Agira whined as the two attacks converged on him, wiping out his life points from max. As the holograms began to fade, the two duelists’ bikes followed suit, slowing down for a safe stop. Once they did, Agira tugged his helmet off and dramatically rifled his fingers through his hair, groaning loudly, “I can’t believe I threw like that! And against someone with the same decktype, I should’ve known!”

“Consider it an important reminder for later, then,” Evelyn suggested, removing her own helmet. “I’ll admit, I only remembered Speed World’s effects because most of the pros I watched before joining a team were turbo duelists.”

“I getcha, and I mean hey, I’m the one who screwed up. Just gotta do better next time, you know?” The boy grinned as he got up from his bike, walking over to Eve with his hand extended. “I’d love to have a rematch sometime, cause… well, we saw it could go either way!”

“I’ll look forward to the rematch then,” Evelyn said, giving Agira’s hand a firm shake.

-----

"Ugh... Hey guys, I might need to dip out for a bit." Vega spoke from the side as the first two matches came to a close, clutching her head, "So, uh... meet up and have your discussion here when it's done, yeah? And then the meeting will be on Tuesday... Sorry..." She gave a weak thumbs-up as she headed toward the elevator from the booth, sighing as the doors closed behind her... And, before long, getting off and heading for the nearest restroom, where she found herself throwing up before long. That would teach her to drink before a match again.

-----

“Well, why don’t I take the rest of the turn easy on you? I activate my own Supply Squad behind Zakiel, then I’ll pass. Make your move, miss.”

“Draw!”

Rosalia examined the cards in her hand critically as she gathered herself, eyes panning over her cards slowly. 

He’s faked me out successfully, and managed to stop my counter, she thought to herself quietly, raising her eyes a fraction to examine her opponent across the field. He’s also using the same Supply Squad card I’m using, which means he draws a card if I destroy any of his monsters… But.

She raised her eyes to glance up at one of the large screens that ringed the arena. Sai was nowhere to be seen, and it seemed Eve had narrowly escaped defeat. But her eyes finally found what they were looking for: Jon’s Life Points.

His Ties of the Brethren lowered his Life Points low enough that with a single strong hit… She ran through some of the monsters in her Extra Deck, her mind settling on one large dragon that let out an echoing roar. I only need to line up one solid shot to finish it. And he’s no longer got the Life Points to use his Warning to stop it!

“I set Silverrokket as Link Material!” Her monster blasted forward, streaking into the Link portal. I’ll have to be careful of the cards his monsters let him use from his hand, but that monster. It can put them all to a stop. All I have to do is reach it! “The materials for this monster is a single Dragon of Level 4 or lower! Link Summon! Striker Dragon!”

Striker Dragon
Link 1 (Left), 1000

Her monster was only on the field briefly before the hammer on the back of its head began to move. “When this card is Link Summoned, I can add the Field Spell Boot Sector Launch to my hand, and then, my Dragon can destroy itself to return any Rokket to my hand! I return Silverrokket!”

Her monster erupted in a sudden and massive explosion, the shockwaves roaring out across the stadium and sending Johnathan and Rosalia’s hair flying back in its wake. Even in the face of this Rosalia was already continuing, as the chamber of the massive revolver appeared below her.

“Boot Sector Launch gives all my Rokkets 300 extra attack and defense points, and it lets me choose one mode each turn: To summon any two Rokket monsters from my hand, or to summon any number of Rokket monsters from my Graveyard, so long as I don’t exceed the number of monsters my opponent already has.”

“Hm… I suppose that’s fine. After all, nothing to revive right now.”

“I summon two Rokket monsters from my hand! Summon again, Silverrokket! And Shelrokket!”

Silverrokket and Shelrokket appeared on the field, both letting out echoing shrieks as they appeared in Rosalia’s 2nd and 4th monster zones. 

Silverrokket Dragon
Level 4, 1900/100 > 2200/400

Shelrokket Dragon
Level 2, 1100/2000 > 1400/2300

However, the two’s shrieks were quickly muffled as they began to be dragged downward, a trap rising on John’s side of the board.

“I think that’s a good time to stop you… I activated Floodgate Trap Hole, which flips any monsters you summon simultaneously face-down.”

And just like that Rosalia’s line of play disintegrated before her eyes. In that imaginary space within her mind, she saw her bullet perfectly deflected once again, with the offending shot now streaking straight for her.

If my monsters are face-down, I’m unable to Link Summon! Rosalia took a small, hesitant step back, watching with clenched teeth as her monsters kept being slowly dragged down, full-size images of their cards appearing to begin to smother them and cover them completely. 

“Your set card… wasn’t Solemn Warning…” was all she was able to feebly say.

And then, just before Silverrokket and Shelrokket were about to be forced beneath their cards and out of sight-

A massive explosion took up Rosalia’s side of the field, violent and forceful, the commentator taken aback briefly.

“Wha- What is this?! Something has exploded on Rosalia’s field! Did John have yet another trick besides his hidden Floodgate Trap Hole?”

Smoke began to disperse from Rosalia’s field. There was only one face-down monster on her Duel Disk, and a gleaming spell card was in front of her, as the girl herself gazed warily from behind it at John.

“You hid another Trap in place of Solemn Warning,” she commented simply.

“Yep. Like I said, miss… There was no way I knew the top 3 cards of my deck. Only how to bluff. After all… the best way to mislead people is with the truth. Now, where’s that other Rokket?”

“I activated my Squib Draw quick-play spell,” Rosalia explained. “I can destroy any Rokket monster, in this case Silverrokket, to draw two more cards to replace it.” She went to her Disk, taking two cards and adding them to her hand. Whereas she normally took only passing glances at her cards in hand before making a decision quickly, Rosalia now considered her hand very deeply. 

The commentator took the opportunity to add more of their take to the match. “Rosalia has traded out her monster for additional options against John! But by doing that she has made her defense against his massive horde of monsters that much weaker!”

Rosalia closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. Her heartbeat was hammering in her chest. It was so hard to focus under the onslaught of the commentator’s loud (and incorrect, not that he knew that yet) calls and the roar of the crowd. It was almost like the entire crowd was pressing in around her, every surge of sound throwing off her train of thought. 

“Hey. Focus.” She paused, opening up her eyes. Once Rosalia looked at John, he continued, clearly speaking as quietly as possible, “Don’t lose yourself now. You’re not out of this yet, but you will be if you don’t lock on.”

What? Rosalia frowned, unsure what to think of this… encouragement? Was it encouragement, or just stating a fact? He’s right. This isn’t going well… I may have the advantage of Life Points but the monsters on his field far outnumber mine. If I don’t get it together… She shook her head, trying to quiet the deafening noise of the crowd, and her own heartbeat in her head, a single bead of sweat dripping down from the side of her forehead. I could actually lose. 

The thought was like a bucket of ice-cold water: Brief and horrid, and bringing a bracing focus. She slowly clenched her teeth, her grip on her cards in hand becoming tighter. 

This is the first time anyone’s gotten to see the captain of Team Genesis duel. If I look weak, they all look weak. I can’t let that happen to them. I cannot lose!

She finally moved her fingers along the cards she had assembled, taking two and setting them on the field slowly. “I set two cards face-down,” she said, her voice more solid, measured, having once again leveled the intense gaze directly at John. “During my End Phase… Summon.”

A card ejected from her Deck , Rosalia taking it and placing it directly on the field. “Your Magical Musket monsters all share the ability to fire your Spell and Trap cards from your hand… My Rokket monsters all have an ability in common as well. During the End Phase, if a Rokket monster is in my graveyard after being destroyed, it replaces itself with any other Rokket from my Deck! The Silverrokket destroyed by Squib Draw lets me summon: Anesthrokket Dragon!”

Her new monster was the smallest one yet, a beast with a head resembling a syringe, appearing on the field in Defense mode with tiny arms crossed. It briefly glowed with an emerald sheen.

“The field spell Boot Sector Launch increases Anesthrokket’s defense points… To 2500.”

Anesthrokket Dragon
Level 1, 0/2200 > 300/2500

“Oh my!” Rosalia winced, just once, very slightly, as the announcer realized why that number was significant. “Rosalia’s monster has JUST enough defense points that none of John’s monsters can destroy it! Not even his mighty Castiel! Has Rosalia managed to stabilize against his onslaught?”

Hardly, Rosalia thought grimly to herself. If he was able to suppress me this long, then this is only temporary. But it doesn’t need to be much more than that… I WILL find the way forward! Team Genesis won’t have any losses from me!

“Y’know, it’s poor taste to spell that out.” John spoke as he looked up to the skybox, “I realize you’re gunning for Genesis to lose, but… Don’t you think that’s looking down on us both? Well, what would I know…”

Rosalia blinked, legitimately surprised. She opened her mouth to say something, but at the end of the day really wasn’t sure what to even respond to that with. 

Drawing for turn, he placed the card on his disk immediately.

“I activate Monster Slots behind Doc. By banishing a monster from the Graveyard with the same Level as one of my other monsters, I draw a card, and summon it if it also shares that Level. I’ll select Doc, banish Kidbrave from my Grave, and draw a card… which is Magical Musket Cross-Dominate. And then there’s Doc… Who will add Last Stand back to my hand… Unless you have a response?”

Rosalia almost hesitated. A flicker of doubt ran through her as John correctly guessed her intention before she had moved to even make it. But her hand continued to her duel disk to strike a button, one of her Traps flipping up and lashing out several large black-iron chains to lash around Doc. “Last Stand will be staying in your Graveyard,” she declared definitively. “Fiendish Chain negates Doc’s effects, and also prevents it from attacking!”

“Not bad… You stopped that.“ A small smirk crossed John’s face as he nodded… Before the chains fell away, clattering to the ground and staying on the field. “So I’ll use Doc as Link Material instead, in order to summon Magical Musketeer Max.”

“Another user of Link Summoning… I figured as much.”

“A bit more than just Links, but… This is probably the most important one.”

Magical Musketeer Max
Link 1 (Down), 1000

John snapped his fingers as a zombie-like man with a demonic claw grasped the rifle left behind by Doc… transforming it into a rifle made of wood and bone, pointing it at Rosalia’s board as it appeared, then taking the shot, breaking the bullet into pieces that hit each of her monsters. But when it did, they ricocheted off, returning to hit John’s deck. “It was a good attempt, but now I’ll add another Last Stand and Magical Musket - Desperado from my deck to hand. Which I’ll immediately activate behind Caspar, in order to destroy Anesthrokket.”

The trap card shone bright behind the blonde musketeer, causing a rocket to shoot from it, destroying the Rokket monster walling John’s attacks. Rosalia scowled, her mind racing. In a single move he’s invalidated two of mine, she thought, drawing a card as her Supply Squad briefly glowed. Now he has Last Stand, and he’s destroyed the only monster that can defend my Life Points! Then, like before, Caspar’s demonic wing suddenly appeared once again, shooting a bullet at John’s deck.

“And now I’ll search Magical Musket - Fiendish Deal… Switch Caspar to attack position… and then… Hm…” He took a moment to consider, eyes glancing across the board and field, before looking back to his own hand. “Then I’ll normal summon the Wild I added back last turn.” Fitting its name, the Musketeer appeared, bare chested and roaring, with an absolute arsenal carried on his back. “And I think Battle is next up. So first, Zakiel will destroy the set Shelrokket.”

With a wicked laugh, the masked demon took a bow, before standing upright suddenly with its two guns cocked and ready, firing at the set dragon. Once it flipped, the yellow dragon quickly exploded, pierced by the demon’s bullets. “And then the others.”

Before Rosalia had a chance to think, the other three Musketeers took aim. Caspar, then Max, and finally Wild took their shots, with bullets and rockets flying to Rosalia’s side of the board, leaving a cloud of smoke as John waited to see the outcome.

The first noise to come from the cloud of smoke was coughing. Rosalia had taken another step back, this time just to brace herself, and she was barely visible inside the cloud. “That’s… quite an onslaught.”

“‘S not much. I’m sure you can tell my deck isn’t nearly as good at outputting damage as others.”

“Would you like a little help with that, then?”

“Oh? Are you conceding after that?”

A rectangular shape appeared in the cloud, a card that started pulsing with violent purple light. “Card of Endurance… This lets me draw one card… IF I increase the damage you deal to me by 1000 extra points.” Though Rosalia wasn’t quite visible inside the smoke cloud yet, she was glaring straight out at John, almost daring him. Do it, I dare you… use Last Stand!

“I see… Risky, but maybe it’ll work out for you.” 

Rosalia allowed herself the smallest of triumphant smiles. On her duel disk screen two images of Shelrokket and Anesthrokket pulsed on her screen. “I’m confident it will. DRAW!” And as she pulled the card from her disk, the Card of Endurance erupted in a cloud of purple smoke, completely re-obscuring Rosalia just as the first smoke cloud disappeared.

Rosalia: 5000 > 3800 > 2800 > 1100 > 100

“I hope what you drew was good, though. After all… your hand’s all you’ve got.” John placed another card on his disk from his hand, “I activate my Magical Musket - Dancing Needle.” As the trap card from his hand activated, three tiny bullets shot from it… and hit Rosalia’s graveyard on her disk. Anesthrokket, Silverokket, and Shelrokket each dissolved from Rosalia’s display as the card resolved. “Dancing Needle banishes up to three cards from my opponent’s graveyard… and I don’t think I want them resolving. Or for your field’s secondary mode to be live, while I’m at it.”

“What?!” Rosalia was truly alarmed now, the smoke clearing to show she was wide-eyed and, after being at the heart of so many large eruptions, considerably more bedraggled than she had been at the start of the duel. Her hair was heavily windblown, and she stood with a definitive slacked posture, breathing hard as she watched Dancing Needle take away her last line. In the mind’s eye vision she shot three times, and had each bullet struck out of the air with ease.

“That’s enough for now. I’ll set one card and end my turn.” John did just that, before glancing at Caspar. “Shame he isn’t a level 4 monster. I would have had lethal if he was.”

Rosalia felt the noise closing in around her once again. “Aaaaand Marlowe has had EVERY play she’s tried to set up countered by Nava! And now that massive advantage of Life Points has been whittled down to her last sliver by Johnathan’s assault! What will this captain do in their first challenge here in this league???”

Rosalia took two halting steps forward, returning to the position she had held before Johnathan’s attacks. All the shots in her head were a confused mess. Almost had lethal… And yet it feels like every shot he’s lined up has been perfect. Her hands tensed around the cards she was holding, gazing down at the ground with her mind in a furious flurry of confused thought. An S+ class duelist… I’m on this team for my skill and I’ve already gone up against someone I can’t defeat, the one thing I’m here for. The tension of the crowd was palpable, and Rosalia felt like every single audience member was personally breathing down her neck. The team was 1-0 right now, with Eve barely winning...

Rosalia’s eyes flew to the screen like a magnet, and as she saw Sai’s life counter reach 0, her blood turned to ice. They will line up out the door hoping to see me lose. Sai’s words, his justification, ran through Rosalia’s head. So too did the sound of something deflating with gusto. Rosalia wasn’t sure if it was Sai’s ego, or her own. That was a loss to the team. A loss she all of a sudden couldn’t afford to stand alongside. 

 I don’t know what to do.

“Breathe.” John cut through Rosalia’s thoughts, speaking softly like before. His eyes trained on her, but his gaze didn’t feel stern. “Don’t get too lost in your head. One of your teammates won, the other has been on the backfoot this entire game. Show them you can lead. Ignore the MC. He’s an idiot.”

She hadn’t even realized that her breathing had slowed. She forced herself to take a slow, rattling breath, the slight redness that had begun to build up around her collarbone lightening slightly. She continued to look down at the ground, not wanting to look up at the roaring crowd, the bright lights. She reached up with her spare hand to draw some of the hair out of her eyes. She caught sight of what she had drawn off of Card of Endurance, only now registering that she even had it. She let out one quick huff of a sigh, adding the card to her hand. 

“Evelyn. Sashisematta.” As the attention of the stadium turned towards the only duel still ongoing, Rosalia slowly raised her gaze to level back on John. “Thank you for your dueling so far. Like I told you before we started today… I won’t lose.”

“Draw!”

Only the briefest of glances before Rosalia was off like a shot. I have to move quickly. There’s a chance, a small, tiny window for him to make a mistake… I won’t rely on it, but if he stumbles I’ll take the shot! If not… Well. Like I said.

“My graveyard has no Rokket monsters for Revolve Boot Sector. My hand is another matter. Activate my Field Spell! Summon! Metalrokket! Magnarokket!” Two blue-armored dragons rose from the revolver chambers, one the thin-headed missile that had been the cause of Kendra’s recent loss, the other a bulkier beast with a hollow-pointed head. 

Metalrokket Dragon
Level 4, 1700/1400 > 2000/1700

Magnarokket Dragon
Level 4, 1800/1200 > 2100/1500

“Your Life Points are too low to activate your Solemn Warning,” Rosalia called across the field, raising her hand to point directly towards John’s set card.

“HOOOO! Rosalia has once again decided on John’s face-down card to be Solemn Warning! But has he set up a second bait, as he did with Floodgate Trap Hole???”

“Hm… And how do you know that it’s Solemn Warning?” John smirked a bit, hand at his side, “Let me hear the line of thought.”

Rosalia slowly raised her hand to point at John’s own… and the cards within it. “Process of elimination,” she said with finality. 

“I see… Now you’re thinking a bit more clearly. Well, I’ll admit it. It’s Solemn Warning, since you know all I’ve got. Show me what you can do with that knowledge!”

“Do you know what nickname some of the members of our dueling club got to call me?” Rosalia’s eyes stayed focused on John’s hand, and the arsenal she knew it contained. “The nickname they gave me was ‘Sniper.’ They seemed to think I had almost a sixth sense to anticipate their moves and stop them before they’d even begun. But it was just that. Process of elimination.” Her eyes flicked to the Supply Squad card on her field, and its mimic across the way on John’s. There had been a reason she had been so loathe to destroy his monsters with that card in play. “I know every card you’re holding, and what they’re all capable of. Giving me the time to collect that knowledge… was a mistake.”

“When I control any Rokket monster, I can summon Absorouter Dragon from my hand!” Another blue-armored dragon appeared, but this one lacked the glimmering wings that all her Rokkets seemed to share, and was much larger than any of the ones seen thus far.

Absorouter Dragon
Level 7, 1200/2800

“I set Absorouter and Metalrokket as Link Material! The materials for this monster are any 2 DARK Dragon monsters! Link Summon! Dillingerous Dragon!”

Dillingerous Dragon
Link 2 (Up, Down), 1600

The purple-armored dragon appeared on the field, the one that had blown Kendra’s Thunderbird into smithereens. But Rosalia knew that wouldn’t happen here. “Your Fiendish Deal trap card in your hand stops me from destroying any of your monsters with my dragon’s effects. But it gives me the effect of Absorouter: It adds any Rokket from my deck to my hand, and the one I choose is Autorokket Dragon! Summon!”

The card ejected from her deck, allowing her to grab it and place it on the field, the tan-armored dragon flying to land alongside Magnarokket. 

Autorokket Dragon
Level 3, 1600/1000 > 1900/1300

“It’s time for that dragon, then?”

Rosalia’s eyes narrowed. “Seems I’m not the only one who’s figured a few things out. I set Magnarokket, Autorkket, and the Link 2 Dillingerous Dragon as Link material! The materials are any three effect monsters!” Almost subconsciously she heard that roar again; The roar of the dragon she had wanted to call forth previously, the creature lurking in her Extra Deck: Her ace monster.

Her dragons all collapsed into rays of light, Dillingerous splitting into two bright winding trails of sparks. “Roar of the battlefield, coalesce into a mighty shot,” Rosalia intoned, in a rare bid of activity for her: A summoning chant. “Take aim and let your bullet become victory! Link Summon! FIRE! Borreload Dragon!”

The three dragons flew into the points of the link portal… And it erupted in fire and billowing green sparks, a huge mushroom cloud of flame that held a large, bulky silhouette. Large, metal-tesselated wings stretched out, searing emerald light ringing the mighty dragon, as the smoke cleared and red armor plates shone in the light of the afternoon sun, and the body of a gun barrel slowly clicked into place, heralding a mighty roar that echoed across the field.

Borreload Dragon
Link 4 (Left, Lower-left, Lower-right, Right), 3000

The announcer was practically having a conniption. “What is this?!? Rosalia has managed to turn things around somehow, and summon the strongest monster to grace this duel so far! Is this it? Can she turn the corner on this duel?”

“Just as I thought. Well, that is impressive,” John began, flicking his fingers, “But you’ve already normal summoned… and you already used your field… And, most importantly,” he held up his hand, “You know what I’m holding. So, how do you overcome this?”

“Borreload Dragon has an ability… Anti-Enemy Rokket,” Rosalia said simply. “It lowers any monster’s attack power by 500 at any point in the turn. Most importantly, you can’t activate Cross-Domination in response to it, meaning I’ll keep all 3000 of Borreload’s attack power.” Rosalia waited. She knew the ‘but’ would come from John shortly.

However, she was met with the same smirk as before. Not taunting, not demeaning, just… There. As if challenging her to meet him on the same level.

“... But we both know it’s not that simple,” she said softly. Instead of proceeding to battle, she reached to her hand and pulled out one of her signature cards. “I’ll supplement Borreload with this Spell! Quick Launch summons any Rokket from my deck! Go ahead! Negate it with your Last Stand!”

“One step ahead of you, miss. No… Rosalia.” He snapped, the spell shattering almost as soon as she activated it, Last Stand appearing behind Caspar, “And you know that allows Caspar to search a card, of course. So I’ll have him-”

”-find Magical Musket - Desperado,” Rosalia interrupted, pointing at him, almost daring him herself.

“My, where were you this whole game?” John chuckled heartily, adding Desperado from his deck to his hand, “Took you a while, but you’re getting into the groove now. Show me what you’ve got!”

“I’ve been here the whole time. I’ve just been… lining up my shot. And there’s something you should know. Once I’ve lined up that shot…” She reached to the last card in her hand. “I do not miss,” she intoned, turning it around to reveal-

“A SECOND Quick Launch is in Rosalia’s hand!” The announcer called.

Rosalia took the brief moment of crowd fervor at this to close her eyes and breathe one more time. It had been on top of her deck. The first one had come from Card of Endurance. One after another. A double tap, as it were.

“Ah, there it is… Is that really enough, though? In response, I use Desperado from my hand, behind Wild, to target your Borreload!”

Wild raised his hand, taking aim and firing straight into the gun-barrel chest of Rosalia’s Dragon… only to have the shot ruined in an instant by a curtain of dark mist erupting around Rosalia’s side of the field, the bullet being swept aside to shoot through the air approximately one foot away from Rosalia’s head. She didn’t flinch. Just allowed herself the satisfaction of watching John’s face as her Trap card revealed itself.

“Dark Illusion. This stops one of my DARK monsters from being targeted by an effect. And notably… You aren’t the only one in this duel who knows how to use a Counter Trap.”

John froze as he watched his card get negated, never speaking as his eyes darted to see what came from Quick Launch. “As I said, Quick Launch summons any Rokket. I choose this one: Summon! Exploderokket!” A long, many-segmented dragon with bronze armor burst forth from the card, each link of the beast chinking back and forth as it snorted crimson flames from its mouth. “And it has an extra 300 attack and defense points added from Boot Sector.”

Exploderokket Dragon
Level 7, 2000/2000 > 2300/2300

“Locking me out of the chain with a counter trap was clever, but…” Another hearty laugh escaped the man as Exploderokket was summoned, “That old man told me it was the worst Rokket, not worth playing, so I didn’t play around it… now here we are. I see what you mean by you won’t lose, Rosalia! But first, Wild procs, which lets me shuffle in Doc, Needle, and Last Stand into my deck, then draw 1.”

If Rosalia’s feelings were hurt by this comment on her card quality, she did not show it. A brief flutter of doubt came into her mind, a twist of sickness in her stomach as John drew. This was the only weak point. That one card could mean her downfall, the one piece of knowledge she did not, could not have. But she merely raised a hand and pointed at Magical Musketeer Max. “Battle.” Her single word was heralded by a growing whoosh noise as small lights started to spark to life in Borreload’s eyes, and the gun barrel began to revolve. “Borreload Dragon-”

“It’s now or never. Let’s go down together… I use Cross-Dominator, targeting Borreload Dragon! If your attack connects, your life points will be wiped out, and I have an unknown quantity in hand, unlike you.” As he finished speaking, Max raised his weapon again, taking aim at the massive mechanical dragon roaring at it.

“The shot’s been lined up… Evelyn! Sashisematta! As I said. I won’t lose. Anti-Enemy Rokket!” Even as a cross-hairs appeared on Borreload’s face, it roared, a great bellow that synched with the whirling of the gun barrel in deafening harmonics. “I target any monster on the field to lose 500 attack points… And I choose Exploderokket!”

To say this heralded confusion from the crowd would have been an understatement. To say it heralded confusion from the announcer was both an understatement and expected. All the while, John just smiled and nodded. But even as Exploderokket glowed with a harsh green light, it suddenly shrunk down, coalescing into a green sphere of light that rose up into the air. 

“Rokkets all have another effect, one that only activates when they’re targeted by the effect of a Link Monster,” Rosalia said, the light of her monster casting half her face in shadow as it rose towards Borreload. “An effect that activates by destroying them. In tandem with Anti-Enemy Rokket, my dragons become its bullets.”

She took one last deep breath. I’m sorry, Team Genesis, she thought, with a touch of anger at herself. No, not anger. Disappointment. That she was to fulfill her promise in the letter and not the intended meaning. I promised you I would not lose. Against him… This is the best I can offer.

“When Expldoerokket is targeted by a Link monster’s effect, I can destroy it to inflict 2000 points of damage-” A crackle of feedback as the commentator fumbled his microphone, before she finished: “To us both.”

The orb of light entered into one of the chambers of Borreload. Instantly the chamber halted, and Borreload opened its jaws to reveal a massive gun barrel sticking forth, one that shone with horrid lurid orange light that erupted out as if from a flamethrower. The spearhead of the fire struck the center of the arena like a meteor, and it exploded out in a huge disaster radius that wreathed the entire duel field and its inhabitants in flame and smoke.

Jonathan: 1400 > 0

Rosalia: 100 > 0

Rosalia had taken the window of time that the field was wreathed in smoke to gently run her hand through her hair and make it look a touch more presentable. It had been blown out of its style by the many blasts she had endured over the course of the duel. Readjust her hair and take a brief solace in the fact that for just a few brief moments every eye in the stadium wasn’t on her. As her Borreload hologram faded from sight beside her, she resumed the neutral expression she had carried onto the duel field, and the smoke parted to reveal a girl who looked unruffled, and accepting.

“Good game, Rosalia.” John extended his hand to her, having walked over during the explosion and the smoke that followed, “You played to your outs. And, if it helps… You chose the right line of play, considering my draw.”

Rosalia reached forward, and very gently accepted John’s handshake. “And to you as well… Thank you for the duel. You and all your team.”

At last the announcer managed to splutter out. “Oh my! The duel has ended… in a draw! Well that’s certainly not something you see every match, folks! And with that draw, and a win for both Team Free AND Team Genesis, we have us a good old-fashioned draw to the ENTIRE match!”

Despite the enthusiasm the announcer mustered, the crowd remained silent, other than a few rare claps echoing quietly. Inwardly Rosalia had a slight flutter of the heart, wondering if she had done something wrong. She kept her hand in John’s for as little time as seemed polite, and turned to walk back, back off the duel field.

“Hey, before you go,” John added, motioning to her, “You have a lot of potential playing a control deck… And I know the deck you’re playing fairly well. Why don’t you come to Team Free’s next meeting and we can have a low-stakes discussion and practice? Trust me, the rest of the team won’t care… and your coach is good friends with our captain. What do you say?”

Rosalia turned back, pausing at the edge of the duel field. The offer surprised her, though it was only apparent on her face for a moment. Her pale eyes flicked to Johnathan’s for half a moment and then away again, the girl now unable to maintain strong eye contact. “I’ll… have to see,” she said back, barely loud enough for him to hear. It was not a no, though it was by equal measure not a yes. She wasn’t sure herself what the answer would be. 

-----

"And with that, this match comes to a close, with a draw! Neither Team Genesis nor Team Free walk away with a win this week, due to a single misplay sparing Team Genesis! Despite their strong start last week, are they already out of steam!?"

As the duelists returned to find their coach missing, hopefully explained by the three viewers upon entry, they were left to their own devices, to discuss amongst one another, while the booming MC's words still hung in their minds.

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"The winner of the first match between Team Genesis and Team Free... Is Charlie Robin, Captain of Team Free! Let's hear a round of applause for them!"

These words made Daichi sigh heavily, looking at the screen and seeing the fact that Sai lost. "From on top of the world, straight back down to earth..." he sighed again, shaking his head. "...still, he gave them a show. And for our 'heel', guess this'll give the audience the chance to see him fail and crave that more if he keeps up the heel aspect of his performance.'"

Still, while the young man was ruminating over Sai's Duel, Eve's Duel came to a close with her victory. So perhaps this wasn't a total loss today. Even so...Daichi noticed Vega standing up...oh she wasn't looking too good.

"Ugh... Hey guys, I might need to dip out for a bit. So, uh... meet up and have your discussion here when it's done, yeah? And then the meeting will be on Tuesday... Sorry..."

"Alright coach...try and get better." he called after Vega, before shaking his head. "And this is why you don't drink the night before a big match..."


Later

"And with that, this match comes to a close, with a draw! Neither Team Genesis nor Team Free walk away with a win this week, due to a single misplay sparing Team Genesis! Despite their strong start last week, are they already out of steam!?"

This was...a predicament. And without Vega here to start these proceedings off, it was up to them...so joy...

Daichi glanced at the three that came from the match and greeted them with his trademark smile. "First things first, I guess. Coach had to dip for a bit...probably due to the drinking the night before...but still, she wanted us to do the meet and discuss thing." he explained the best he could before chuckling lightly. "Me personally...I think you three did great out there. And really, if you want to look at it...we technically didn't lose this match up. I mean, it's not a win but it's also not a loss...so I'd call that an accomplishment too!"

He was trying not to specifically stare at Sai the entire time, only because he didn't want to make the guy feel even worse than he already did...if he felt bad that was. Same time, he also didn't want to specifically call him out on his constant playing defensive which was extremely uncharacteristic...even for him. Daichi was an avid believer of everyone having their own style of Dueling and that style eventually evolving into something even better...but this...? This was something else completely and he couldn't put his finger on it.

"Anyway, I've said my peace...so who's next?" Daichi smiled, putting his hands behind his head.

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