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Parallel Thoughts (2015)

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If there is one thing you need to know in order to survive in a battlefield, that is the others. Your allies. Your enemies. What they can and what they cannot do. And when instead of guns the warriors are using cards that cause even more damage than the former, knowing the others was more important than anything.

Kurosaki Syun knew that well. Experience had taught him so. Akaba Reiji, while he had never been in an actual battlefield, he was preparing for the greatest of all wars for the last three years and knew this just as well.

Therefore, nobody had argued when the two had insisted to show all the Lancers the duels from the Battle Royale.

Actually, Reiji had. Syun didn’t want those kids to see his humiliating defeat in the hands of Shiun’in Sora. But they had watched the video anyway. Besides, Syun wasn’t capable of arguing while he was – finally! – at the hospital.

He should not have been surprised at all when the wishes for a quick recovery came in.

Except one thing.

The weird white package that he has currently holding in his hands, trying to figure out what it was. He turned it around. He tapped it a bit. Wooden. This was getting more and more suspicious. Call him paranoid, but there was no way he trusts mysterious packages from unknown senders, even though the enemy knew thousands of better ways to erase him from existence.

The only sound in his private room was the clock ticking. Wait. That was wrong. He never actually cared, but wasn’t the clock digital…?

Scratch!!! “COOKOUT! COOKOUT! COOKOUT!” Tap! And it closed.

Syun nearly dropped the package. Whatever it was that popped up, it had ripped the wrapping paper to reveal… a cookout clock?

Yes, it was a wooden happy-housewife styled cookout clock, with a miniature of Raid Raptors – Singing Lanius instead of the classic canary bird. And there was a note on it writing “Happy April Fools!”

That was why he was against showing that video. Whoever of the Lancers had sent this, they had a horrible sense of humor.

Even though the fact that everybody would see his most embarrassing cards in action had not even crossed Syun’s mind.

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Four different dimensions. Four boys with the same face. Yuzu had seen all of them. She had talked with all of them. She had touched all of them. She had seen all of them duel. And she had seen all of their smiles.

Thinking back to her first duel against Masumi, she could not help but wonder how could she have been so blind. How could she ever confuse those four totally different people.

Yuzu knew Yuya ever since they were little kids. Their parents were family friends. Especially after Yuya’s father disappeared, the two families, the single father with his only daughter and the lone mother with her only son had gotten even closer. Yuzu was always there for Yuya. And she knew his smiles very well.

Yuya had many smiles. The fake smile he was putting on as a mask for the sake of shielding himself from his pain, so painfully fake that Yuzu was tempted to hit him with her fan just to drop it. The happy smile he had during his entertainment duels when the crowd went wild, not caring who is going to win, and it makes her heart flutter happily because this was the duel that Yuya always wanted and it made him feel like he was a little closer to his father. And then there was his sincere smile, the one he had when he returned to her the Polymerization card, telling her that with this she was trying to change herself into a different Yuzu and the silent promise that he would back her up all the way through.

Yuzu had only known Ute for less than a month. Even that would be wrong. She only had a few brief encounters with him, and it was only during the last one when she had learned his name. She may disagree with Sawatari Shingo on pretty much everything, but it was him who had described Ute the best. The Black Knight. Because that’s what he was. Ute was like a shadow, a phantom, a ghost, appearing in an instance from the dark and disappearing like he was never there. The spirit of a fallen rebel who had died gloriously on the battlefield and yet refused to stay dead. So he haunted his enemies like his Phantom Knights, a silent shadow, a dark guardian.

Ute’s smile was full of nostalgia. Nostalgia for the times when this phantom knight was still alive, when he and everybody else could laugh in broad daylight without being afraid to be seen by the Academia. And at the same time his smile was so much like Yuya’s sincere smile. Full of confidence for their friends, but Ute’s smile was also full of pain, nostalgia and… hope. Hope for a world where nobody would have to get hurt, because this phantom knight would not lay to rest until that wish becomes a reality.

The third Yuya was the only one Yuzu hoped she would never encounter in her life ever again. She didn’t know his name. She didn’t want to know if she wanted to know his name or not. She had only met him once. But that didn’t matter. What did matter was what happened during that meeting. The dusk-to-dawn cat-and-mouse game, with her being the desperate mouse that was trying to get away. Because what else could that person be but a feline? A predator with keen senses, his step as silent as the snow on the Action Field they fought on, playful like a kitten and powerful like a panther.

His eyes were cold. His grin showed his fangs. Everything about him was neat yet felt terribly wrong, the unmistakable march of an Academia soldier in his step, with an air of laziness like a sleepy and hungry lion that was staring down at its pathetic prey deciding whether it was worth hunting or not. And as he took that decision, his smile widened, a barely suppressed, almost teasing chuckle inside his throat, and his eyes widened frighteningly, full of mad glee and excitement for the new round of Hunting Games. She didn’t want to know his name. But she had to learn it, so she could tell Kurosaki and Ute and Hugo who took their friends away.

Hugo… Just like everyone else, Yuzu herself had thought that the Synchro biker was the Pawn of Fusion who had kidnapped Ruri. She certainly never expected to find herself stuck with said biker in a different dimension, clinging on his for dear life because she had never been on a motorcycle before nor she wanted to spend that first time being chased by a whole bunch of crazy policemen. And this dork over here was laughing because “YES! I am finally back at the City!” Yuzu was tempted to whack him with her fan just like she did with Yuya.

Hugo’s smile spoke volumes of what kind of person he was. A wide grin full of confidence, happiness and stupidity, a guy slow in the head who was looking at everything with a positive outlook and enjoyed the right here and now. It was the smile of someone who thought simply and had his goals set straight. Get back Rin. Settle the score with Ute. Kick the asses of as many of those turning-people-into-cards bastards as possible while he’s at it. And after that, he would simple follow Clear Wing Synchro Dragon wherever it wanted to go, just like always. His smile was totally different from Yuya’s, but just like his it was infectious, and made her want to grin like an idiot too.

Now, if only they could get away from the police.

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Sawatari Shingo always had everything he wanted in his life.

He was the son of the senator, he had money, he was a student of LDS and his little fan club always did whatever he wanted them to. But there was this one thing he had learned early. Respect was earned through power.

He himself had never been interested in Fusion, Synchro or Xyz. It wasn’t like he underestimated them. He was just not interested. But Pendulum summon… He wanted it. He should be the only one to have access to those cards. Not the pathetic son of a run-away champion.

So he stole them and then challenged Sakaki Yuya to a duel, only to have them taken back. His deck must have been weak then. He made a Monarch deck after that, but just as he thought that this was a perfect deck, that Black Knight (because now that he thought about it, there is simply no way a guy this gloomy was Sakaki) crushed that deck too.

Akaba Reiji offered him yet another Pendulum deck. And with this he would finally take his revenge. Only that the duel of the first round of the Junior Youth Miami Championship wasn’t a revenge match. It turned into something totally different. Something incredible and amazing.

When exactly did he stop thinking “I’m going to win” and started thinking “I’m not going to lose”? There was a difference between the two. The audience had gone wild. They did not care who was going to win. Everybody’s smiles were like a new light in his heart, and they filled something that he had not realized it was missing. And his loss was caused by fireworks.

Beautiful fireworks that illuminated the stadium in all the colors of the rainbow, children and adults gawking in awe at the magnificent and unique sight in front of them. A loss it was, but a very spectacular one. And Sawatari Shingo found himself not caring that he was defeated, because the audience’s applause was as bright as those fireworks and he felt his chest swell with pride.

Because a match as incredible as that could only and with fireworks. And Sawatari Shingo wanted to see such fireworks again and again and again.

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Selena was at a loss. Her life until now was full of certainty. She was an Academia soldier, fighting with her comrades honorably for the noble cause of uniting the four dimensions in one. Or that was how she wanted it to be. She was ashamed of being the only one not sent to the front lines.

But now she had lost her place. When Yuzu first told her what had happened to the Xyz Dimension, she did not believe her. Laughing as if it were a Hunting Game? Ridiculous. How did that girl expect her to believe such a thing? Besides, that girl was from Standard. There is simply no way she would know. So she followed Yuzu’s suggestion and searched for the Xyz remnant, Kurosaki Syun. She would learn the truth, defeat him and prove her worth and abilities to Professor. Three birds in one stone.

She could never possibly predict what followed.

Once she arrived at the Ancient Ruins area, she saw a fellow Academia soldier with a crazed look on his face and his eyes full of sick glee ordering the final attack. “Send Kurosaki to his grave!” Kurosaki. The Xyz remnant. She could only watch frozen, as she heard his scream full of pain, rolling down the stairs like a rag doll. His injuries were horrible. Yet the man still tried to get up. She heard the blue haired boy above them asking “Yuzu” to get away from his prey.

That moment Selena found herself not knowing her place. She did not know what possessed her to help Kurosaki. But right now this felt like the most important thing. She had to get Kurosaki out of there, go somewhere safe and ask him the countless questions that had started forming in her head.

She did not understand a thing. She did not understand why there were this many people trying to help her. Why the Obelisk Force was laughing as they turned those weak and foolishly selfless duelists into cards.

The boy named Yuya was crying tears full of rage. Like he had lost the very earth under his feet. He was crying for that girl that looked like Selena.

And then there was that Action Field. Future Metropolis, Heartland. Only that the beautiful city was not a thing of the future but of the past. And even during a simple duel, watching the fake yet wonderful city crumble into ruins was painful.

But that sight was nowhere as shocking as the tortured whispers of the Xyz rebel who was struggling just to stay on his feet and not have an emotional breakdown on spot. The tales of the laughing soldiers who kept hunting defenseless people like it was a game, an image that would forever be carved in his eyes and ears…

And then there was a tortured question. “Why do you look like Ruri so much?”

Selena looked like Yuzu. Selena looked like Ruri. Selena had lost her place in the world but she had found a new one. She would take Yuzu’s place and comfort them whenever she had to. She would take Ruri’s place and fight against the Academia the best she could.

She would be their placeholder. That was all she could do.

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If one did not know better, they would say that You Show Duel School was deserted. There was not a single sound coming from inside and the whole building faded in the shadows of the night.

Except that said building was not as empty as it seemed.

The duel stadium where Action Duels were taking place was a mess of colourful blankets, pillows and cushions. A great variety of people were buried either underneath them or sitting on them. And all of them were in their pajamas.

Yes, it was a pajama party to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of You Show Duel School.

Yuya was in his usual white and green pajamas and was sitting next to Gogenzaka who had been invited, even though he was not part of the school. The very large teenager was wearing a classic Japanese robe, though considering his style and entire family philosophy, that was to be expected. They were having a duel on a long forgotten tabletop mat which someone had brought from god-knows-where.

Along with them were the other students of the school. Ayu was in her cute pink pajamas with a fish print on them, Futoshi was wearing his dinosaur patterned ones and Tatsuya was wearing plain light blue pajamas. Along with the kids was Layra from LDS who had become very good friends with the others. He was wearing light blue pajamas himself and was clutching his teddy bear on his chest like its life depended on it. And in all honesty, considering the scale of the pillow fight that had broke out, it was a miracle that nothing had been ripped yet.

Surprisingly, there were even more students from LDS in the mix. For reasons beyond everyone, Todo Yaiba and Sawatari Shingo had decided to crush the party and, as if that was not enough, they had dragged Selena, who was staying at the LDS building, and even Kurosaki, who looked like he was trying to figure what he had done so wrong in his life to deserve this. “Those two seriously need to chill out a little!” was Yaiba and Sawatari’s answer to everyone baffled expressions.

And of course, all of them had come in their pajamas.

Yaiba’s pajamas were black with a red XX print on them, an obvious reference to his deck. Sawatari was wearing the same light orange pajamas that he was wearing during his time and the hospital and Selena was wearing a plain pair of white shorts and T-shirt. As for Kurosaki… Apparently there was a bit of a problem with clothing back at Heartland because he had somehow ended up with black tracksuit pants and a purple T-Shirt with a ridiculous “Angry Birds” print on them that said “I need anger management.”

The first reason said duelist wished for the Earth to shallow him was this. The second one was currently over his head scolding him. “You need to eat much more than you do, young man!” yelled Sakaki Yoko. “You are so bony! How in the world do you expect to stay healthy with so little weight? You need a lot of food in your age, especially with your height! And besides, no girl will want you if you are all skin and bones! You look like a toothpick, honestly! You should eat more now that you are here, you hear me?” Syun did not need the mother hen lecture, thank-you-very-much.

Other than Sakaki Yoko, who was dressed in a green night gown, the only other adult was Hiiragi Shuzo. The hot-blooded principal of the You Show Duel School had stayed true to his motto and was playing referee to the pillow fight of the kids while dressed in red flame-patterned pajamas.

Somewhere from above, a shadow was staring through the window.

Barret’s orders were “protect Selena”. But in all honesty, even though she was standing on enemy grounds (because Standard had made themselves an enemy, no matter what Professor said), seeing the chaotic scene under him and Selena’s barely suppressed laughter at the Xyz remnants’ misfortune made him think that Selena was safer here that she had ever been.

Yes. Even though Selena was on the enemies’ side now, she was definitely safe. Safe and happy enough to join the most ridiculous anniversary party Barret had ever seen.

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Ushio Tetsu had seen a lot of weird things in his life.

He first realized that there was something terribly wrong with the world when he was still at high school. People never believed him when he told them that he knew Yugi Moto personally. But even if they did, they would never believe the story of their first encounter. Ushio himself had been the very first victim of the awakened Millennium Puzzle. The creepy alter ego of the Puzzle had challenged him to a Shadow Game in which both of them could very easily lose their hands, with the prize being money. Ushio really wanted to bang his head on a wall when he thought back to how foolish he had been. All he did as a teenager was bully people for their money, and the following month he had passed in the Psychiatric yard had taught him a very hard lesson.

In the following years, Ushio studied hard and managed to become a police officer, while ignoring all those weird lights and monsters and every other paranormal event. However, he still picked up a deck and learned how to duel, half because it was a new requirement for the job and half because he had a feeling that he would need it.

Next thing he knew, the Zero Reverse. A huge earthquake my ass! Ushio knew that anything that involved a pillar of light that felt even worse than his Penalty Game and literary cut the land in half could not be “just an earthquake”. He suspected it, but the truth was something he could never have guessed not even in the twenty following years. That Satellite brat named Yusei that he was always chasing after turned out to be the son of the two hot-shot scientists of New Domino City that were leading the top secret Ener-D Reactor project. Which reactor soon went to a meltdown because their lunatic co-worker wanted to awake the power of the Earthbound Immortals and the Netherworld.

For the next year or so Ushio found himself right next to the center of action. The Crimson Dragon, dirty politics, Psychic duelists, brain control, negative level monsters (that is against the rules, damn it!), a machine army and time-traveling androids, all of that turned the City that was clean on the surface but dirty in its core into a true clear and brilliant jewel.

Now, eight years later, Ushio, who was only a couple of years away from retirement as a police officer, was chasing on the streets of New Domino what could be the source of yet another round of supernatural and sci-fi mumbo jumbo. That Hugo boy who was always causing tons of trouble with his Psychic? (they felt different) powers and the teleporting dragon. Add in the mix the girl behind him whose name was Yuzu but looked like Rin from the “Missing Persons” list and the rumors about monsters with no levels and a black card frame and something among the lines of “Pendulum”, and Ushio Tetsu knew that New Domino City was in for yet another crazy ride.

He just hoped that they were ready for it.

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Dennis Macfield thought that his life right now was a lot like a circus.

The ringmaster was Akaba Reiji. He was the one that took the decisions, brought the new shows, organized the tours and kept the others under his wing. His word was the law of the circus and everyone did as he willed.

Gogenzaka was the large giant who was showing off his incredible strength, both physical and mental. He was bending mountains by his will and his movements alone were so powerful that gusts of air would rise, and his feet were so firmly rooted in the ground that had they been a little deeper, they would break the stage. His willpower in his gaze was so obvious that children were awed and adults were respectful.

Selena was the beautiful sword dancer. Her movements were mesmerizing and full of grace, but the equally beautiful weapon in her hands was sharp and could draw blood with the same ease it flashed in the light. Yet the audience would always forget about the sharpness of her blade, too caught up in the art of her dance to care.

Tsukikage was the mysterious ninja that made the audience lean at the edge of their seats searching for him. He would disappear like a shadow and appear from thin air, he would stand like a sculpture at insanely high places, looking all cool with his mask and his sword, pulling all sorts of tricks.

Kurosaki was the hunter who tamed his large and beautiful birds and let the crowd in awe for those beautiful and deadly creatures. All the crows flew as he appeared, the hawks expressed the strength of his will, the little birds were singing his tune, but every single bird was free and the sight of so many flying hunters with their sharp talons and beaks was terrifying yet fascinating.

Sawatari was the clown of the show, entering at the right moment and giving a clumsy but very funny performance. His efforts to amuse the crowd were always successful, and Sawatari appreciated the enthusiastic applause to its fullest.

Layra-kun was the little kid that helped out everyone else. This little boy knew how to put his own two cents in a performance, in fact, he could do everything but was a master of nothing. He was still a child and everybody saw him as the cute little boy he was.

The main attraction was Yuya-kun, the beast and dragon tamer that kept the audience awed and at the edge of their seats with his mastery of all those majestic creatures. The countless animals, big or small, wild or domestic, were all abiding by his will, the dragons were loyal and did as their master and tamer told them.

As for Dennis himself… He was an acrobat. He walked on the tightrope hoping that he would not fall in the jaws of the sharks underneath. He flew on the swing and executing jumps as flashy as possible, so that the people underneath would focus on them and would not see the expression on his face. And he always, always risked his life adapting to situations beyond his control, all for the sake of entertaining the audience.

Besides, this whole thing was a circus called “The Lancers”. A front. A façade. A place where everything looked impressive but nothing was truly good. Dennis was the only one who had it hard.

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Selena at times found herself wondering how the world was outside Academia. In her mind, Academia was the very essence of the Fusion Dimension itself. But she wanted out. She did not want to stay in the Fusion Dimension. Her only wish was to fight at the front lines of every single dimension, participate in the battles of Xyz and be there the day they would invade the Synchro Dimension and then Standard.

This was the world. Academia, Synchro, Xyz, Standard. But Selena had never been outside Academia. How could she have been? Academia was built on an island. Unless you had access to a boat or a plane there was no way out. And of course the inter-dimensional transportation gates were out of the question. So Selena, when she found herself in her room alone with nothing to do, she was imagining the world away from these oceans.

How did the forests look like? How did the mountains? How did the plains and the rivers? How did the cities? What about the ancient ruins and monuments? She had once heard someone say that every single country had its own language, building and culture, and most of them were nothing like her own. How was the culture different? How could it be different from Academia?

And if everything in this dimension differed this much one from another, then how did the other dimensions look like?

Selena could not go anywhere. That was why, all she could do was fantasize about the world.

Chapter Text

Once Yuya knew what to look for, it was very easy to find it. The two foreign presences in his body, Ute and the black shadow.

Ute’s soul felt so similar and yet so different than his own that it was astonishing. Yuya could literally feel the power of his dimensional counterpart leaking into himself, granting his Ute’s memories, emotions and experiences. Ute’s presence was dark but cooling, the deep purple and blue of his soul a sharp contrast to Yuya’s fiery red and orange, their two Dragons – the very essence of who they were – were calling out to each other with their roars.

There was deep hatred inside Ute. Yuya knew that better than anyone. The painful memories of Heartland being burned down to ashes brought a special kind of anguish in Yuya’s heart. Those were Ute’s memories, memories of a city in which Yuya had never been at before, but something about this city felt so familiar, as it was once a place filled with people’s smiles just like Maiami. And to see such a beautiful and peaceful place being ruined, and those people with the sword-shaped Duel Disks were laughing…

This hatred, Ute’s hatred, had filled Yuya and combined with his own. The two souls had merged together and created a darkness that could kill them both. The black Dragon of destruction was created by their will to avenge and destroy.

Even outside this strange possession, the overlaying of their two souls, Yuya could feel Ute affecting him. He did not know what had urged him to start looking at the Graveyard for extra cards rather his hand. He did not know why he had yelled at Akaba Reiji to stop him from saying another word.

What Yuya did know was that sometimes he felt a different strength supporting his own, his haters, his hope, his determination, his wishes, their promise.

Give smiles to everyone’s futures.

Yuya knew that Ute was right here. He was right here. He was not gone. As long as Yuya was alive, Ute would be here.

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Spring was supposed to be a season of rebirth and of new beginnings. It was that time of the year when the dark skies finally were bright again and the clouds made way for the sun to shine and shower everything below with its brilliant rays. It was the season when flowers bloomed and the world was filled with their scents in every corner. Spring seemed like perfection, not too cold nor too hot, the air was not moist but it was not dry either, the sun was bright but not enough to cause discomfort and create the need to sit under a shadowed tree or building.

Yes, spring was supposed to be perfection. Except that it was not.

Spring was supposed to be a time of new beginnings. But those new beginnings were not the ones they wished for.

The faces were the right ones but the people were all wrong. A bunch of strangers that did not even know each other but were supposed to, required to become a team and fight against a common enemy.

One of them was fighting in the place of a fallen rebel for the sake of his wish. One of them wished to hold up everyone steadfastly like his ways. One of them changed sides and goals literally overnight. One of them lost his old allies and has to fight with new ones. One of them at first did be because it was a job, but said job became personal. One of them just wanted the others to be proud. One of them was plainly excited for the challenge. One of them was a spy, and was forced into a new assignment with no way out.

It was a spring full of changes. A new kind of spring.

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War was like gambling. No matter how much you have planned, there was always the unknown, the X factor, the random chance, that one unexpected event that would somehow change all your plans and strategy. That X factor could either be something the gambler could benefit from or what could destroy him. And Akaba Reiji knew that right now he was playing a game on the most dangerous table, with everything at stake and two Jokers hidden in his deck.

One of those Jokers was Sakaki Yuya. The boy was at the very least interesting. At times Reiji could not help himself but see the teenager as a test subject. Pendulum summoning on its own was a wonder; a strange power that had originally only been granted to that boy, by unknown means, forces and methods. The boy at first could not conceive the full magnitude of his discovery? Invention? and yet in a matter of days the boy had found with his own strength what was beyond the Pendulum.

Pendulum summon was the very essence of Standard itself, a summoning method specifically designed for the sake of accessing all the other summoning methods, created in a dimension where every duelist could choose any kind of deck and use any kind of summoning method they wanted, but they could never touch the ideal of the other dimensions just like a pendulum would reach the closest point possible but never touch.

Only that Sakaki Yuya had touched that ideal. His Xyz summoning was right on the point of perfection. The summoning energy was at the very top of the scale, the power levels stable and the force behind it tangible on one’s skin. Akaba Reiji had no doubt that the boy’s Xyz could deal real damage without the help of Real Solid Vision. And while it was true that Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon was a card from the Xyz Dimension, the origin was not the cause. Akaba Reiji knew that the bond which created Pendulum Xyz was the one Sakaki Yuya shared with the man named Ute. But still, that did not explain the raw power, the strange red light that illuminated within the boy’s eyes as he summoned the Xyz-Pendulum Dragon that broke all rules of logic and almost all rules in the game.

That strange, possession-like state that Sakaki Yuya entered into once enraged… There was something simply unnatural about it, like the teenager possessed some mystic, dark power that he had no control over. A power that made him smile as he summoned that one monster that he knew it would beat the life out of its victims… But the boy was slowly learning how to control it. And there was no telling what he would be capable of once in control.

The second Joker Akaba Reiji played with was – completely unexpectedly – the Synchro Dimension duelist. The man who looked identical to Sakaki Yuya, like Ute had before him, had introduced himself as Hugo, had entered this dimension out of the blue and disappeared into thin air. He was not working with the Academia, but that was the extend of information they had on him. Purpose: unknown. Motives: unknown. Whereabouts: most probably somewhere in the Synchro Dimension, but that could be anywhere. And Hiiragi Yuzu was with him.

All Akaba Reiji had on Hugo was the total of less than two minutes caught on camera. And all those two minutes had told him was one thing; that the Synchro Dimension duelist was unpredictable. There was no telling what he would do next, and Akaba Reiji, despite his ingeniousness, could not predict the plans of someone who apparently had no plans in the first place, nor could he predict the orders the Synchro biker would be given when said Synchro biker was literally “him against the world”.

Yes, Akaba Reiji gambled on the most risky tabletop with all the money in the deal and two Jokers hidden somewhere in his deck. And he knew that those two Jokers would either bring triumph or destruction.

Chapter Text

All Akaba Reiji ever asked from his little brother was to watch closely. Layra would always stand next to his big brother in the observation room, watching people dueling. But those duels were scary. The people who were dueling terrified him. Layra did not know why he was this scared. But when he saw those duelists, he had that feeling of wrongness. It made him tremble. And at times like these, his big brother would put his hand on his shoulder and ask him to watch closely. This was all Akaba Reiji would ask from his little brother.

Layra admired the duelists he was watching. And most of all, he admired his big brother. His big brother was incredible. He was such a strong and powerful duelist. He had the power to fight. And Layra wanted to have the power to fight too. So that he would not be scared anymore. But most of all, he wanted to make his big brother proud. He wanted to be like his big brother so he would not be afraid any longer. Big brother was never afraid of anything. And that was why Layra was always trying his very best. His big brother was telling him to keep it up. And Layra was doing exactly that, because he knew he was nothing like his big brother yet.

But Tatsuya had told him the exact opposite. That he was like Akaba Reiji. Like his big brother. And when Layra saw that honest smile, he knew that his opponent at the finals really did mean that compliment. And that compliment made Layra happy. He smiled for the first time in a long time. “Thank you…”

Layra wanted to be like his big brother. That was all he asked.

Chapter Text

Yuya’s deck was building itself.

He didn’t know when exactly realized it. He didn’t even feel like there was a card being created out of thin air. Instead, Yuya felt like the power that was within his deck was slowly unlocking itself. His deck used to be a mass of unorganized Entermate monsters with a few other monsters and some Spells and Traps in the mix. Then one day, his deck was full of Pendulum monsters, and while it was still unorganized, it now had a winning image. He didn’t remember what exactly had happened during his match against Strong Ishijima, nor did he particularly care.

He consciously realized that there was something deeper about his power when he first dueled Mieru. The call of the sealed dragon had awakened something within Yuya. He didn’t question it. He knew exactly what he had to do with it. He summoned Rune-Eyes Pendulum Dragon and it felt great, a surge of power and certainty, and in that instance he had known, that this was what laid beyond the Pendulum.

Yuya knew that his deck would always give him what he wanted. And he believed in it. During his duel with Gogenzaka, when he knew that, even though he had no fusion cards in his deck, he had to summon Rune-Eyes Pendulum Dragon, his deck had given him Entermate Trump Witch. When he needed one more attack to win the duel, his deck had given him Double-Up Chance, and the savage growl of Beast-Eyes Pendulum Dragon had filled his heart with confidence.

But sometimes this power scared Yuya. He knew that the cards in his deck were created by his whishes, no matter what kind of whishes they were. Just like those cards could be born from hope, they could also be born from hatred. And Yuya did have the proof for it, right in his Extra Deck. The Supreme King Black Dragon, Odd-Eyes Rebellion Dragon. The result of the combined wrath of himself and Ute, their fused spirits (how ironic). The Magicians of Creation and Destruction. Two exact opposite forces that combined the two Dragons and souls and created a Dragon that could only be described as the embodiment of Chaos. This power threw him in darkness, and even when he consciously summoned the terrifying yet majestic creature, he could still feel the dark power of his anger feeding the creature with strength.

However, all those things were not the most important ones. Those cards were not the only cards he had obtained. He had Ute’s card, Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon, and his dad’s card, Smile World. Those two cards were far more important.

Besides, who knew how to duel better than the cards themselves?

Chapter Text

Ute, Syun and Ruri knew that their classmates were afraid of them.

As it turned out, once you were carded you entered into a come-like state with no contact with the outside world whatsoever. While you were a card, nothing changed, nothing moved. Not even time.

But the members of the Resistance were not a bunch of innocents who were turned into cards. They were war veterans. They had experienced at least three continuous years of war under conditions so ugly that none of the wars which had preceded could compare with it. And the people who were once cards could not comprehend what they were seeing, why the people whom it felt they had just seen yesterday were so much older, so much harder, so… dead.

The Resistance, the Lancers, everyone had tried to explain the situation. Nobody believed them. Everyone was in denial, and it seemed that soon every memory would be buried and forgotten.

There had been an issue with school. Everybody considered it only logical for the teenagers to continue their schooling. Except that the Resistance members had not been at school for three years, nor were they in the mood to be in the same class with kids three years younger than themselves. Even if they were old classmates. There was just no way.

In the end, they all agreed to study their hardest until the start of the school year and try moving up as many classes as possible. Thankfully, the school principal was understanding, having to deal with all sorts of teenagers for more years than he could remember, and Ute, Ruri and Syun, all of them having been top students back them before the war, managed to move up two years, thus being in the same Middle School. Syun was even continuing his studying hoping to enter High School this year. Better than Elementary School in any rate.

However, even with the – thankfully – smaller age difference, that, along with the fact that they still wore their bright-red Resistance bandannas, made them stand out greatly among the crowd.

Within a few weeks all the minor problems had been solved. But then, trouble just had to knock (down) the door. And said trouble came with a pillar of green light, a roaring engine, and a short temper. Poor Math’s teacher almost had a heart attack.

“Oi, Ute!” There was Hugo in all his glory, with the white Duel Runner with the spiraling lights, the classroom door currently underneath the front wheel – since probably Hugo had not even noticed its existence (or did not care) – and the trademark sounds of the Duel Runner, along with the fact that Hugo looked near identical to Ute, only served to freak out their classmates even more.

“It’s finally time we settle the score! Well? Duel me! I don’t have all the time of the world! And there is no way I lose to you in one-on-one!”

What followed was without a doubt the most insane Synchro vs. Xyz match ever. The two duelists had taken the duel to the back yard where they could both lash out freely without worrying about breaking anything. To the rest of the students who had never seen the two duel before, the whole ordeal was downright weird.

For starters, the fact alone that the holograms were created by Solid Vision and thus there was no need for D-Gazers was incomprehensible. Hugo as usual, was performing various extreme stunts while dueling (what is a fourteen-year-old boy doing on a motorcycle!?) and his Synchro Monsters, while easy to figure out after a demonstration or two, were still a foreign concept to the duelists from the Xyz Dimension.

Thankfully nobody had noticed how strange Ute’s Duel Disk was. This Duel Disk, like all the other Duel Disks from the Resistance, were equipped with a Real Solid Vision system – not that Ute needed it, the turn-people-into-cards program, the Dimension travelling program, and a laser-heat radar like those in war ships and airplanes. Not that their classmates needed to know all that.

What their classmates did find out however was that both duelists could deal real damage while using holograms, and were not holding back in the slightest. That, in addition to the beyond top-class dueling skills that they both had developed while fighting Academia, made for a hell of a show.

In the end the duel had no result because Ruri had decided to interfere and Hugo ended up back to his dimension, but the next day some students overheard the principal saying that he received a strange phone-call from a girl apologizing for the white biker’s behaviour. How in the world had Rin managed to call the principal of their school, while she herself was in a different dimension, Ute and the Kurosaki siblings would never know.

This was not the last time that the Heartland middle school received visitors from different dimensions. It was only a month after the previous incident when a no older than twelve years old boy had stormed into the school grounds and demanded from someone to bring Kurosaki Syun.

The sword-and-shield shaped Duel Disk should have been the first warning. This was not a rivalry like the one Ute and Hugo had. This was pure hatred.

Kurosaki Syun and Shin’uin Sora were officially trying to kill each other. As simple as that. And while the people of Heartland had always been familiar with Fusion monsters, even before the invasion (they did exist; it was just that very few people were using them), they had never seen Fusion Monsters like these. Every single card in Shin’uin Sora’s Extra Deck looked like it had come out from a horror movie, and everybody who knew Sora knew that his sanity was rather questionable. Both Syun and Sora were using Real Solid Vision, and by the time the duel had escalated to the point where Shun was using Action Cards (a function in his Duel Disk that had been installed after he joined the Lancers), someone had already called the police.

From time to time news about horrible crimes would be reported on TV. Usually the victims were highly wanted criminals, death-row convicts, infamous drug dealers, mafia, or even elite military units. There was no pattern in the attacks other that this: all those people were considered untouchable. Once, one of the victims said something about a pink-eyed demon and a clown. When they heard that on the news, Ruri, Syun and Ute – who had been called over their house – exchanged a glance. “At the very least those two get to put their skills into use” grumbled Ruri, she and the two boys knowing all too well that the two culprits were Joeri and Dennis Macfield.

Their parents decided not to ask. They knew better than to question their children about their new acquaintances. They had long since concluded that that place called “Standard” was the only place inhabited by sane citizens.

The big highlight was the Resistance reunion that took place on the anniversary of the start of the war. Everyone had put on their old clothes, masks and glasses/goggles included, and had gathered at the central park. To say that they were attention catching would be the understatement of the century. With everyone wearing dark, ragged clothes, red scarves and bandannas, along with all sorts of accessories, the Resistance looked like terrorists.

And they really were some sort of terrorists. Resistance had turned into a vigilante group that made every single problem not dealt by the police their own business, thus having trouble with the law all the time. Someone joked that the Synchro Dimension had rubbed on them too badly. Nobody disagreed.

But the worst of all were the gym classes at school. That was because everyone had to show their scars while changing clothes. Scars from broken bones and wounds that were never healed properly, burns from hot metallic gears and slashes from steel fangs, along with the skinny bodies that made their lean but extremely hard and tense muscles more obvious than ever, everything about them screamed the tale of a war.

The teacher, very much troubled by the terrified looks the boys and girls were giving Ute and Ruri respectively, he asked the two students to have a spar with the kendo practice swords. The sword turned hand-to-hand fight was beyond their imagination.

Because, no matter how much Heartland’s wounds were healed, they would never be able to accept their war veterans.

Chapter Text

Yuzu used to think that she knew all sorts of people. She knew brave people, proud people, cowards, intimidating people, hopeful ones, sad ones, manly ones, energetic ones, weird ones, mysterious ones and so on. But she had never, never thought that she would meet someone who could be called a monster.

Strangely enough, the first person to realize that there was something terribly wrong with Yuzu’s acquaintances was Nico Smiley, off all people. “Um… Even if it’s Solid Vision, destroying it for no reason is a little…”

“I’m sorry! It’s just that cats don’t like being out of the spotlight!” replied Sora with his unbelievable excuse, not being apologetic in the slightest.

“Cats what!?” exclaimed Nico incredulously.

That was the day when they first realized that there was something terribly wrong with Sora. His manic expression as he dueled with Kurosaki, turning the beautiful Action Field into a battlefield, saying stuff that nobody knew what they meant but everyone realized that they were horrible, horrible things. Something inside him had snapped, and it was a snap that would not be fixed easily; if fixing it was even possible in the first place, that is. Or perhaps that snap was always there, unseen from people’s eyes until the moment Sora decided to show his true colours.

The audience, themselves, everyone could only watch in horror, the brutal effects of the cards, the harsh and pained growls of Kurosaki and the malicious screams and whispers from Sora as they both were telling fragments of a tale that nobody wished to know more details about.

Yuzu thought – hoped – that she would never see anything worse than that. It was not but four, five days later when she was proven wrong.

“You people too are in the way!”

His face was the same as Yuya’s. The tone of his voice was lazy yet full of authority. His eyes held little to no interest for anything or anyone other than his prey. His words were polite but all she could hear was the mockery and the threats. Threats which Yuzu had no doubt in her mind that the person in front of her would not hesitate to carry out.

He was telling her to hurry up and go to the Professor like chasing her was a pain, but he himself did not seem to be in much hurry. He said that he was only acting on Professor’s orders, but he was enjoying himself too much for that to be believable.

He was amused by her shouts and threats. Crushing her cards and hopes one by one was his version of “having fun”. Her cries and yelps gave him pleasure. That Fusion Dragon was the very essence of maliciousness itself, so similar to Yuya’s Dragon yet so different…

He was monstrous. The man with the Fusion Dragon was a monster. Sora was a monster. Everyone from the Academia was a monster. The man who defeated Ute, Hugo, was a monster. Even Selena was half-way into turning into a monster.

But by now Selena must have met with Kurosaki. She would learn the truth and would not turn into a monster. The pink-haired monster had been sent to capture her but she had managed to get away. Hugo turned out not to be a monster but a victim himself. And Yuya would fix Sora’s snap, she was sure.

It felt like a victory. There was a way to defeat the monsters.

Chapter Text

It was too much to take in. Was it a hallucination? A dream? An actual fact? Was he the only one who saw it? Saw him?

“I believe in him. Yuya is a comrade I trust. He would never do anything like betraying us!”

That moment when Ute had talked to him.

Of course the item from the Xyz Dimension from which Akaba Reiji obtained the data necessary for dimension travelling was Ute’s Duel Disk. From where else could it be? Syun himself had never handed over his Duel Disk to Akaba Reiji until the day before when the president of the Leo Corporation had asked for it in order to instill the new functions. And Syun knew that in order for the Leo Corporation to create a new card, a lot of time was needed. Which meant that Akaba Reiji had Ute’s Duel Disk for quite a while now.

The first thing Syun thought was that Sakaki Yuya had taken the Duel Disk. Ute would never entrust his Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon to anyone. Sakaki Yuya must have taken both the Dragon and the Duel Disk by force, there was no way around it.

But… “I believe in him. Yuya is a comrade I trust. He would never do anything like betraying us!”

That was Ute. There was no doubt about it. It was his voice, his facial expression, his tone, even his choice of words and talking style was all totally Ute. But where was he? Where was Ute? What in the world had happened the day he disappeared?

Sakaki Yuya had asked him if there was something wrong. Syun’s answer was nothing. But there was something wrong. There were too many questions and not enough answers. Ute was nowhere to be found but had somehow talked to him.

Too many questions, not enough answers.

Just what is going on here!?

Chapter Text

Hugo had always known, ever since he was nothing but a little kid, that City was very, very messed up place.

City was the perfect image of the world, of reality. It was the place where one could see everything they needed to know about life. Besides, how could they not see it, when the reality was making itself painfully visible every time they lifted their heads to the sky? How could they not see it, when the ninety nine per cent of the population – Hugo himself included – lived at the very bottom of the world, while the remaining one per cent lived at the very top?

The losers have nothing. Not even rights. Not even the necessary to live. If you were seen in any place over the ground, you were thrown down into the worst pit. If you stayed on the ground where you were and always have been, sooner or later a hole would open underneath your feet and the earth – the dirty, corrupt earth – would shallow you. All the losers could do was look up and lose themselves and everything they had while imagining how their lives would be if they were up there. Those people were called the Commons.

The winners have everything. They can see the sun and the moon, they have no problems in their lives, they have much more money than they need and the privilege to do everything and anything they want to do. They never look down. Everything they need is at least a level below them. Everything they have is around them. Everything they want is above them. Because they are the winners, and the winners have everything and want even more. More money, more fame, more power, more everything! Everything and anything! And everyone is working for them! To the winners, anyone bellow them is either a tool either an annoying ant waiting to be stepped on. The people were the elite, and they were called the Tops.

This was the world. This was City. Those were the Commons and the Tops. This was Hugo’s home.

Chapter Text

If there was one thing that Akaba Reiji had in common with most teenagers his age, that was his dislike towards formal clothes.

Akaba Reiji hated suits. Reiji always thought that suits are very uncomfortable and he could never see the point of wearing a suit during work, as most people did; work is not some sort of formal event that required a high-class attire of anything similar.

From the other hand, that was what everybody thought about Reiji’s habit of not wearing shocks, but the truth was that Reiji found shocks to be very uncomfortable as well. Besides, Albert Einstein was never wearing shocks either. But that was besides the point.

The fact was that Akaba Reiji hated anything that resembled a uniform. Very ironic, considering that all teachers and top team members of LDS, along with the majority of his employees at the Leo Corporations were wearing either a suit or a uniform. However, uniforms reminded his of Academia, and even though he held no fear for the outfit itself, the whole experience with all those uniformed soldiers and teachers three years ago had left him with a bad impression about suits.

Akaba Reiji never made the LDS students wear a uniform. Only a badge. Because no matter what happens, he himself would never wear a suit.

Chapter Text

When Hiiragi Yuzu first saw City, she had thought that it was a magical place. Now she knew that it was not magical at all.

It was him, who had a dimension-travelling Dragon, and a girl with a magical bracelet, against the world. And both of them had one lookalike per dimension. What could possibly go wrong?

When Sakaki Yuya had first met Hochun Mieru, he believed that this whole fortune-telling thing was a fraud. But after everything that happened, he found himself considering fortune telling the least weird thing in his life.

Gongenzaka Noboru sat down one day and revaluated his life. And somehow, he realized that magic had not affected him in the slightest.

Ute had been magically teleported so many times that he did not even care where he landed any longer. What he did not know was that Hugo was on the same boat.

When Joeri opened his eyes and realized that he was not in the Arctic area any longer, he realized irritated that this mission would be much more troublesome than he had first anticipated.

Kurosaki Syun was not sure whether he wanted to know or not about how Ute had talked to him.

Yuya held no responsibility for any magical changes in his deck whatsoever. He was a two-souls, slowly eaten by darkness, half-traumatized teenager, not a magician.

At times Akaba Reiji stared at the security camera footage and wished that magic would somehow fix everything just like it had screwed it up.

From a point onwards, magic made much more sense than logic. Ironic, is it not?

The chess pawn was never seen again after that duel. Nor did the Duel Chaser who was represented by it. There was no magical was to bring back the fallen pawns in chess.

Chapter Text

Originally she was scared. Then she got curious, and after that she started thinking that he was crazy, and finally downright annoyed. But eventually Yuzu settled for being thankful to Hugo.

He had saved her from the Security. He had helped her spread the word of the Inter-dimensional war. He had given her the keys to Rin’s place – his place. And the most important thing of all, he had let her to change into clean clothes.

At first Yuzu had thought that Hugo was a pervert when he had started talking about clothes and sizes but as it turned out, he was not.

Hugo cared. It had taken a while for Yuzu to understand that, but he really did. It was not just that she looked like Rin; Hugo was honestly ready to offer all his help to a stranger, just because they found themselves chased by the same people purely by coincidence.

He might be brash and reckless, without any tact. He may have his own motives. But Yuzu was fine with that. Everyone in this war had their own motives; you cannot be picky about your allies. And Hugo was a great ally. The clothes alone said so.

For as long as Yuzu was in the Synchro Dimension, Rin’s clothes made a fine replacement.

Chapter Text

“You know the colour of your coffee reflects your soul, right?”

Selena just stared at Sawatari. “What are you even talking about?”

Sawatari waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, you know, like how Akaba Reiji takes it black, or Sakaki Yuya puts in all that cream in it but no sugar.”

Selena looked down at her coffee. It was a warm chocolate colour, except a tiny bit lighter. “And?”

Sawatari smiled brightly, like he was about to win a medal. “It means there might still be hope for you!”

If anyone later asked why Sawatari had a broken nose, Selena ignored them.

But she started taking it with more cream anyway.

Chapter Text

“Um , guys, move a little more to the left – your left, yes, here. Ayu, Tatsuya, Futoshi, you guys up front! Yuzu, Yuya, you go at the back… Nice! Everybody good? Alright! Ready, Set… Action!”

“My name is Sakaki Yuya. I’m the duelist who created Pendulum Summoning – sort of.”

The picture of the boy with the goggles changed to a panoramic view of a port-side city. The most striking feature was by far the hourglass-shaped skyscraper with the large golden logo on the side, glittering in the sunlight.

“This is Maiami City, my hometown! It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a very fun place with a lot of interesting people!”

“Ugh, I can’t get a good angle… The sun keeps getting in the lenses!”

“Then go to the other side! The sun will be at your back then and you’ll be fine!”

“Oh yeah, you’re right.”

“Geez… This is gonna fail.”

“Come on, Yuzu, it’ll be fine!”

The image switched to a short but strange building with a playful logo and some sort of horizontal glass tube at the top.

“This is the You Show Duel School. It’s a school that teaches entertainment dueling! My dad founded it, and I’m a student here. This is where I learned how to duel.”

“Principal, smile!”



The image switched to a man in red training clothes.

“That’s the principal, Hiiragi Shuzo. He manages all the classes by himself, but Yuzu and I help teach the kids most of the time.”

“Yuzu! Come here, it’s your turn!”

“Coming, coming!”

The camera switched to a teenage girl with pink pigtails and a bright smile.

“That’s Hiiragi Yuzu, the principal’s daughter and my best friend! She’s an awesome duelist and all around amazing. We’ve known each other since we were little kids, you know! She never gives up, no matter the odds.”

“Yuya-niichan, are we going to be in the film too?”

“Sure you are! You’re important too, after all!”



The scene changed again, this time showing two boys and a girl, of elementary school age.

“Those are the three youngest duelists in You Show! Tatsuya, Futoshi and Ayu. They may look small, but they’re pretty talented entertainers! Don’t underestimate them!”

“Hey, should we include Sora too?”

“NOW you think about that!?”

“We should! He’s a part of this school too, after all!”

“Yeah, let’s!”

There was another boy on screen, his age between the older and younger members, with blue hair and eating a lollipop.

“That’s Sora. He’s an incredible Fusion user! Well, that’s a given, since he’s a native and all. He taught Yuzu and I how to use Fusion too. At first things were really rocky between us, but it worked out!”

“Ok, we’re done with the school, so to the Dojo it is!”


The new scenery was completely different. Gone was the quirky-looking school, and in it’s place was a traditional Japanese dojo.

“That’s the Gongenzaka Dojo. They teach Steadfast Dueling there. You could say it’s You Show’s rival, but we’re all actually really good friends with each other!”

“Hey, Gongenzaka! Come over here! No, step back a bit further, your face is off-frame.”

“Then don’t focus the camera!”

“It doesn’t get more unfocused than that!”

“Is this even the correct phrase?”

The new teen was massive, and he stood proud with a severe expression on his face.

“That’s Gongenzaka Noboru. He’s my other best friend. Without him, I wouldn’t half as strong as I am today. I couldn’t ask for a more loyal guy.”

“Now, where to next?”


“…Why not.”

The scenery changed once again, but it was a familiar sight – the skyscraper from before, but this time the angle was from down below.

“That’s LDS. It stands for Leo Duel School. It’s the biggest duel school in the world and teaches all summoning methods. For the most part we don’t get along all that well, but even in here there are some pretty cool people!”

“Hey, Yaiba, Hokuto, Masumi! Come over here for a sec!”

“Huh? Is that a camera?”

It was another trio – a dark-skinned girl, a boy with a tiara and another with a wooden sword, posing with confident smiles.

“In order, those are Kotsu Masumi, Shijima Hokuto and Todou Yaiba. They’re the elites of the Fusion, Xyz and Synchro courses respectively. We dueled each other once because of a misunderstanding, but we’ve become pretty good rivals! Todou Yaiba even taught Gongenzaka Synchro Summoning!”

“By the way, did you guys see Sawatari anywhere?”

“What do you want with Sawatari?”


“Speak of the devil…”


“I’LL do the talking, Yuya!”

The brunet boy with the blond bangs practically shoved his face into the camera.

“I am the Super Ultra Hyper Strong Duelist Sawatari Shingo! And I am the very first man to use-”

“ANYWAY Sawatari was the second guy to use Pendulum Summoning other than me.”


“Glad THAT’S over… why did you include him again?”

“I kinda had to? And we’re still not done with LDS…”

“You’re right. Let’s see if he’s in his office.”

“Do you think we’ll be allowed inside?”

“Only one way to find out.”

This time the scene was completely different – a fancy and spacious office with a spectacular view of the city. At the chair sat a glasses-wearing teen with a long scarf.

“That’s Akaba Reiji. He’s the CEO of LDS and the strongest duelist in this city. He was the first one to use Pendulum other than me. If not for him, I wouldn’t be nowhere close to as strong as I am today.”

“…Maybe we should go see someone else?”

“Hmm… We still haven’t taped Michie and Mieru… And we have more cities to go through too…”

“Wait, Kachidoki isn’t here?”

“Nope. He’s with your dad.”

“Oh yeah…”

“How could you forget!?”

“Geez… At this rate we’ll miss the deadline! I’ll never get this done!”

“Well Yuya, you formed a lot of bonds over the course of your adventures, right? So it’s your fault.”

“Don’t make it sound like a bad thing!”

Chapter Text

To Hugo, riding his Duel Runner was his life. The swirling lights, the roar of the engine, the marks the tires left on the asphalt, the sheer exhilaration brought by the speed, the feel of the wind blowing against his face and the almost unbearable pressure of the g-forces that left him breathless…

It was perfection. He did not care whether it was against the law or not. Skill does not equal origin, and he could perform more than enough stunts to prove that. Heck, he was the best Duel Runner pilot on the streets of the City!

Many people were asking him about his custom-made Duel Runner, especially about the wings. Always about the wings. The answer was obvious. The wings represented his ace monster, Clear Wing Synchro Dragon.

To Hugo, his dragon represented the meaning of the word “freedom”. His dragon could shoot up to the skies in a blink of the eye and tear through the clouds faster than the sun’s rays. Its wings could spread light through the night and make all the other City lights fade to nothing.

Those wings, those beautiful and grand wings, were taking him through Dimensions, letting him see places and experience things that he would never have the chance to imagine before. Clear Wing Synchro Dragon was Hugo’s wings, and Hugo gladly let those wings take him wherever they wanted.

Besides, those wings always led him to the correct path. He and the wings had the same goal – find Rin. And Hugo knew that Clear Wing Synchro Dragon would take him to the correct turns and it would craft the bridge that would re-connect him with Rin, just like the City’s pillars would rise to the sky and connect with each other to form the dueling lane, and created countless brilliant new paths.

He even had the first foundations in place now. He had found the girl named Yuzu. She looked just like Rin but she was not her. And this not-Rin knew stuff. She would help him find the answers to all his questions.

All they had to do was keep flying until they find her.

Chapter Text

Innocence is a rather questionable concept.

What is the definition of innocence? A person who has never done, or thought of doing, any crime. A person who has never seen anything horrible or inappropriate. A person who thinks nothing of themselves and only cares about the others. Maybe innocence was simply naivety. All that could be the definition of innocence.

What is the definition of sin? “All sorts of crimes”, could be one answer. Anything against the law. Tricking people, causing physical harm, doing inappropriate things, even the mere thought of doing all that or having seen them done. All those were sins.

But do these ideas still apply during war time?

War is the ultimate force capable of bending the rules of logic. From a bystander’s point of view, the majority of the actions taken by the two or more sides of a war are illogical, insane, and cruel. However, for the opposing forces themselves, those actions are not the result of insanity but rather the result of logical conclusion.

If you fight in a war, you have to win. Not doing everything you are capable of in order to attain victory is a sin. Therefore, threatening, abducting, destroying, killing or letting someone die stops being a sin, because it is all for the sake of victory. However, during war time, the line between sin and innocence grows thinner than ever, and the boundaries between the two blur. At times like these, the line that separates innocence and sin is not the law, but emotions. During war time, regret means innocence and enjoyment means sin.

But does the fact that sinners enjoy themselves during a war makes them guilty?

Everyone has their own personal demons. Some never discover them. Some demons are worse than others.

Some people are plagued by nightmares of what they have seen. Others have nightmares of what they have done.

Maybe it is not about being guilty but feeling guilty.

And then one must asks for penance. Atonement.

And to atone is to act. To fix what you broke. To bloody your hands trying to move the wreckage you caused.

That was the only way Academia could atone. That was the only way you could atone.

That was the only way to protect innocence from sin.

Chapter Text

“You know, sometimes I really hate Link Monsters.”

Kusanagi Shoichi stared in surprise at the woman in front of him.

She struck him as unique immediately – she was wearing casual clothes, boyish in a way, but somehow still professional, and she had this presence. She had an imposing and perhaps even grandiose air without even trying – like she was naturally that much better.

Shoichi was not normally the kind of person to have these thoughts or notice this sort of thing, but something about her just made him stop for a moment and just take it in.

Of course, despite the powerful first impression, the woman did not have any special business with him. She was here for a hotdog and a coffee, just like everyone else who came by Café Nagi.

Many customers would make small talk with him but this… was not a usual topic.

“How so? I’m not much of a duelist, but they’re pretty useful.”

She let a soft sigh. “With the current rules.”

Wait, what?

“The current rules?” Duelist or not, Shoichi’s interest was naturally picked.

A new and familiar voice sounded. “It means that Link monsters are necessary for overcoming the limitations of the Extra Monster Zone.”

“Yusaku! You’re done with school already?”

“One of the instructors had an emergency” he offered as a way of explanation. “Still, that is an odd reason to dislike Link Monsters.”

The woman had an odd look in her face, like she was uncertain about the topic herself. “Like you said, Link Monsters are necessary for unlocking the power of the Extra Deck. However, the whole process slows the players and the duels down, and prevents them from revealing their full power all at once, even if they do have the means.”

Yusaku nodded. “That is true… Summoning a powerful monsters requires a lot of resources and previous summonings to achieve… You need to summons more Link Monsters gradually…”

Shoichi was confused. “I still don’t see the point…”

“With the Extra Monster Zone, if you want to summon, let’s say… a Fusion, Synchro and Xyz monster all in the same turn, and have them simultaneously on the field… Well, it’s impossible.”

Both hackers just stared at her incredulously. Shoichi tried to picture it in his mind – the sight of Clock Dragon, Quantum Dragon and eXceed Dragon on the field, all at once.

Yusaku, in a rare moment in which he showed his expressions, was completely taken aback. “What kind of situation would require going to such lengths?”

Shoichi idly thought that coming from Yusaku, this was pretty rich.

She shrugged. “Facing down three opponents at once, for instance.”

Shoichi almost chocked at that.

“That’s impossible” said Yusaku in a perfectly flat voice. It was true. With the way Link monsters and the Extra Monster Zone worked, both sides of the field had to have the same number of players.

“With the current rules.”

Now, Shoichi had a very hard time pinning down her age, but she did not look that old.

“Why, have you ever fought with an old rule set or something?”

She nodded. “When I was a kid, all duels were like that. Summoning everything your Extra Deck had to offer all at once was pretty much standard practice. Well, obviously not for everyone, but it certainly was for me.”

She was gazing at nothing, with a flat expression and an empty look in her eyes as she said that. Shoichi tried to imagine it. A little girl, fighting many people at once, with all sorts of powerful monsters on the field…

He flipped the sausages. “Sounds like dueling was kinda broken back then.”

That startled a laugh out of her. “You could say that… You should see people’s reactions when my big brother dueled.”

If her big brother had the same air she had, Shoichi could believe it. “The grandiose type?”

She snorted. “You have no idea. Sometimes I feel like Link Monsters were only created to bring him down to the same level as the other mortals. He was not happy when they were announced. Nor were my friends…”

“It sounds like it put a hamper to your own deck too” said Yusaku.

She nodded. “Yes. Many of us prefer to finish duels as fast as possible, so to suddenly limit the Extra Deck like that…”

“However, Link Monsters are powerful in their own right.”

Both of them turned to Yusaku.

“They may be slower, but with their connection through the Link Arrows they build a great power that can overwhelm all enemies, regardless of how weak the individual monsters are. The same format also means that regardless of the opponent, you are never faced with impossible odds, and you have more time to cultivate your strategies.”

Shoichi was stunned. Yusaku never spoke this openly about dueling, especially in the real world. Most definitely not with complete strangers. In fact, he barely spoke about dueling at all.

The woman smiled a little. It was a soft and sincere thing that made look younger and older at the same time. “I guess you’re right. With everything that happened, maybe it’s better this way… There are some cards that must never see the light of day again.”

Shoichi thought back to those duels against Bowman, and everything that came with it. “Yeah… I can think of a card like that.”

“What kind?”

“A spell. You?”

“A Dragon.” He could swear she capitalized that.

They were silent for a few moments. The sausages were finally done, so Shoichi moved on to finish the hotdog. The woman took a sip from her coffee.

“There you go.”

“Thank you” she replied, handing him the money. “Oh, and something else.”

“What is it?”

“I’ve been hearing a lot of strange things about Link VRAINS lately…” Both hackers stiffened. “Since you two are in this square, if anything strange happens in Link VRAINS, you see it through those screens, right?”

She was obviously pointing to the plaza’s monitors. Soichi was a little relieved. She was not onto them. Probably. “Yeah, right.”

She took a business card from her pocket. “I have a favour to ask you. If you ever hear anything extremely unusual about dueling, call this number, alright?”

“Extremely unusual”…? “Will do…”

“Then, I’ll take my leave. Thank you.”

The two of them watched leave, munching on her hotdog like they did not just have an utterly bizarre conversation.

Ai chose that moment to finally show up. “What a weirdo. Link monsters are the best! They’re the very core of the network! Seriously, what was she even talking about?”

“Kusanagi-san, what does the card say?”

“Huh? Oh yeah…”

Shoichi picked it up. It was a plain white card with a simple gold logo on it, the number and name in plain black ink. “Leo Corporation… Akaba… Layra.”