Programming Note: I'd really like it if those of you who read, but do not post, do so. It really helps my writing to know that I have more than just one person reading (though I still love you too, Star). So, if any of you have commented already and kept reading without commenting or if there are those of you who read once and are returning, I'd enjoy any comments or critiques. And in either case, it's been over a month since the last chapter, I'm sure there are some of you who are wanting to state your opinion. Thanks for reading!
The long, dusty road that leads to the sea had long since given way to the grasses and sand that lay near the western shore. It was that piece of scenery alone that informed Everett Aalto as to his location.
The smell of salt that rolled over the hills before him stung as it flowed through his nostrils and left a certain unsettling sense of longing within him; one of which he knew very well. It was this smell, this taste, which had pulled him away from the main road that had been leading him northward.
He wasn’t sure of what this sense of longing was, nor why it had made him take a detour three miles to the East, but it didn’t matter to him. He was just searching. Had been, ever since he left the circuit.
Everett Aalto had shown up, without warning, onto the amateur dueling circuit almost three years ago. Word would have it that his deck and the cards therein were created by the CEO of Industrial Illusions to Everett’s own specifications. Though the CEO, nor Everett, ever confirmed that to be the case.
There wasn’t much Everett had allowed anyone to know about his past; at least the five years prior to his appearance in the amateur league. As to the accusations– well not exactly accusations– they were true. There wasn’t any use denying that. Those cards were his, birthed and bred, and that was how he’d wanted it.
During the first tournament he had competed in in the American Amateur Dueling League (AAL for short), he was, by and far, the most dominate duelist, defeating every opponent he faced on the first turn, every time. The media had labeled him a prodigy, a man amongst boys. Everett did not doubt that last part. Not one of the duelists he faced had ever had the conviction and emotion he put into every move.
That was something that the CEO of Industrial Illusions had noticed when they had met a year before Everett’s debut. He had mentioned how ironic it was, that the duelist that used emotion so well in duels, had the hardest time expressing it. He knew why that was too, and it was part of the reason he had granted Everett the right to create his own cards.
Evert stood atop the hill, looking at the sunlit ocean. Most, he thought, would have gazed upon the vast waters with a sense of majesty and greater importance. Everett only saw a body of water, dangerous, deep, and at its core, a darkness that no man could ever truly imagine, let alone experience. It was an ocean. There were others in the world, and the Pacific, though gargantuan, was far from the most beautiful, and as Everett looked over it, he began to realize how unusually lifeless it seemed.
At least it seemed that way compared to the shore it lay against. The town that stood between the water and the foot of the dune Everett had stopped upon was busy. Everett assumed that, being a coastal town, there would be some sort of festival or party as the days grew nearer to summer.
Everett found himself curious about what was going on and slowly began walking down the sandy slope towards the town. He was walking against better judgment, and not because of the treacherousness the sand and grass that made up the side of the hill created.
He couldn’t risk getting recognized. Well, he could. He just didn’t want to. Fame had created a following to Everett that seemed to pop up everywhere he went. It was a despicable thing, having a bunch of fan-girls, and sometimes fan-boys, asking for his autograph or a picture. It wasn’t what he wanted, and it wasn’t why he dueled.
Why did he duel? Everett thought about it as he took his first few steps into town. That was the question the chair of Industrial Illusions had asked him after he’d won the championship almost a year after his charge into the limelight.
The answer he had given was, as the chair himself had stressed, inadequate. The following week, Everett had disappeared from the amateur circuit. In a same manner to his appearance, with no one, not even those who knew him well, having any idea as to where he had gone.
It had been about two years since then, and Everett wasn’t quite sure if he had found a reason. His last one had surely not been resolved.
In either case, even after two years, he was unsure if people remembered him, and if they did, how they would react.
He had made it about halfway through the town when he realized a far more pressing matter he had to put his mind and effort to, and his stomach was giving him a heads up.
“I gotta get something to eat.”
As pathetic as it may seem, Everett felt as if an iron ball chained to his feet held him down. His hand holding his stomach in comfort, he continued to drag his famished and exhausted self down the right side of the road to the beach until, finally, sitting himself down, clumsily, onto one of the stools that lined a burger and custard stand sitting on the line between the sand and pavement.
“Can I get you something?” The man behind the counter said it light-heartedly, obviously noting his potential customer’s sorrowful disposition.
“Burger. Fries. Soda. Please.”
Everett finally propped himself up as he realized the food was on its way. It was only then that he noticed what was going on around him on the beach.
He wasn’t sure, exactly, if he had been correct when he made his guess at there being a festival, but there was definitely something. From one side of the beach to the other, there were people, wearing red, yellow, and blue uniforms, most of them around Everett’s age or younger. And as he saw the first holograms of two fearsome creatures do battle on the far side of the beach, he began to get excited with the realization of what was going on.
“There a duel tournament here this week?” Everett asked the bartender.
“There is.” The man spoke as if letting Everett know that he would not be giving his undivided attention. Everett wouldn’t argue. He wanted his food quickly anyway. “Duel Academy is taking a break here this week. I guess it’s to reward the students as they near the end of their year.”
“How long they gonna be here?”
“Tomorrow is the last day, I think.”
“Hm.” Everett smirked “I’d better see as much as I can until then, huh?”
“Yeah, you know some of these kids are actually pretty good. I’ve been watching them all week and I’m telling you: I’m surprised most of them aren’t on the amateur circuit.” As Everett heard the last few words he winced a bit.
“I don’t know, I’ve always thought that going to Duel Academy would be cooler than competing in an amateur tourney.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, first off, they can still join the competitive circuit after leaving, plus I’ve always been told that the school experience is something every up and coming duelist should go through.”
“You’re not in school?” The waiter was looking more attentive to what Everett had to say, and to Everett’s dismay, less attentive to making his food. “You look like that age.”
“No.” Everett stretched his arms out, trying his best to not look too conspicuous. “I’ve taken a different road.”
“Really? What kind of road is that?” Everett smirked as the waiter asked him.
“It’s not something I like to talk about much, but it’s gotten me here and with enough money to eat, so I can’t complain, can I?”
That last part made the man chuckled, and he had Everett’s food done within a matter of seconds.
“Here you are.”
“Great!” Everett leaned over the meal, eyeing it idly.
“Say, you look familiar.” Everett froze as he heard the words. “Have I seen you somewhere before?”
Gathering himself steadily, Everett smiled and looked up at the man.
“I doubt it.”
The man gazed at Everett’s mask of innocence.
“Alright, sorry then. Enjoy the food.”
Everett readjusted himself on the stool as he looked back over the food. With two hands, he lifted the burger to his mouth. His jaw had half-bitten into the bun when he heard someone address him to his left.
“Hey, are you?” Face-still buried in the burger, Everett looked to his left to see who was speaking. “Rhett? Is that you?”
Crap. Someone noticed him.
The boy to his left wasn’t acting like an adoring fan running into his idol, nor a man with a big boot meeting the scum of the Earth. He was acting significantly… different, than how anyone else Everett had met since he had left the amateur circuit had.
Everett spent a few seconds examining the boy, wondering if he might know him. He had obviously come from the ocean: his amber-laced, brown hair lay, soaked, hanging over his ears and forehead and he wore swim trunks and an unbuttoned red and white uniform jacket, signifying his place in the Slifer-Red dorm of Duel Academy, the lowest of the class ranks at the Academy.
“Uh-hra?” Everett realized he was still biting into the burger and bit the chunk off and swallowed it. As the food billowed through his esophagus and down into his stomach, he suddenly realized who he was talking to. “Leland?”
Everett jolted as a fist came flying down and cracked onto the top of his skull.
“Ow! What was that for?” Everett clutched his head in his hands, wincing from the stinging pain and leaning away from his aggressor.
“You were supposed to duel me you a**!”
“What are you talking about?”
“The day before our duel, you just left the amateur circuit! Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten!” Okay, maybe Everett was wrong, Leland may have been acting like he was the scum of the Earth. “That was supposed to be my last duel before my parents pulled me out of the league and sent me off to Duel Academy!”
“But you had to disappear! I thought that maybe you’d show a little more respect for your best friend!”
“Wait, you can’t put that on me! You never told me, if I had known you were leaving, of course I would have-.”
“No excuses!” Leland’s foot came flying up and knocked Everett in the gut, toppling him over like pin.
Everett groaned as he hit the concrete, cussing himself that he didn’t choose a seat placed an optimal yard to the left where the ground was softened by kicked-up sand.
“Okay, okay, yeah. I’m sorry I left without telling you, I probably should have-.” Everett stopped short as he saw the menacing look on Leland’s face. “I should have told you before I did what I did.”
Leland held his fist up in the air, considering whether or not to beat the helpless idiot.
“Ugh, your not worth it.” Leland threw a hand up in the air indifferently and walked back over to the counter, being sure to take a fry from Everett’s plate as payment before sitting down on an adjacent seat. Everett, dusting himself off, soon followed.
“So, wait, you’ve been at Duel Academy for two years now?”
Leland sent a quick, but menacing glance towards Everett. Obviously thinking that he shouldn’t be the first one to answer questions.
“Well, technically speaking, I’ve been privately tutored by former DA teachers since I was five, and I’ve been going there to study during their summer programs.”
“They have those things?” Leland gave Everett a lifeless glare in response to the rhetorical question.
“My parents, always wanting me to have the best knowledge to win, told me that I had to become a full-time student at Duel Academy if I wanted to continue. I wasn’t really given a choice in the matter. I was planning on telling you a week before, but…”
“Yeah… sorry about that… again.”
“Whatever. Anyway, that’s why I’m here. More importantly, let’s talk about where you went. You’ve been off the radar for what, two years now?”
Everett laughed, “It’s a bit too long of a story. Mainly, I’ve just been traveling around. Ever since that last duel, you know?”
The duel in question, in what ended up being the final duel Everett played, taking place about a month or so before his disappearance, had left him with a few bruises and had laid his opponent in a hospital bed. No one could exactly lay a finger on the actual problem, but mostly, it was attributed to a programming error in the simulated explosions that caused them to magnify to be far larger than normally allotted.
“Alright, so how’d that bring you here?”
“I don’t know. It was mostly coincidence. Really though, I came here looking for someone.”
“Who’d that be?”
Everett responded with a bothered expression, not wanting to let loose what it was exactly that had brought him here, but knowing he owed something to Leland.
“If you’re looking for a deeper reason as to why I left, then don’t waste your time. I don’t have one for you, Leel.” Leland’s head perked up from staring down at the dark lines in the wooden counter when he heard his childhood nickname.
Leel was the nickname Everett had come up for Leland when they met almost fifteen years prior. A response to Leland beginning to call Everett by Rhett. The name stuck. Well. And it carried over even after Everett’s family moved away, all the way up until they finally reunited at Rhett’s second amateur tournament.
“Don’t call me that, man.”
“Then don’t call me Rhett.”
“Pft. Like hell I’ll do that!”
Everett sighed, “Look, Leel. If you need a reason for why I left, it’s this: I don’t know what it is I was playing for. Why should I have put myself out there and tried to win every day, and at apparent risk of health? I couldn’t find a reason to fight anymore. So I left it behind.”
Leland took a glass of water the chef had laid before him when the two sat down and took a gulp. Everett hadn’t seen him this much in thought since the first time he’d watched him duel in the amateur circuit.
“You can’t remember what you duel for, huh?” Leland pushed himself up out of his seat. “Well then.”
Everett looked up at his old friend.
“Rhett, do you still have your duel disk?”
Everett could see where this was going, and there wasn’t anything he’d be able to do about it. So, with some distain, he reached over to the tan backpack set beside his seat and opened a flap revealing his old duel disk.
“Good then.” In the most clichéd way possible, Leland pointed to Everett, “Everett Aalto, I challenge you to a duel!”
After the minimum amount of whining Everett deemed necessary, he and Leland were finally able to clear themselves enough space on the beach for a duel.
Safe to say, the other students were a bit curious as to whom it was that Leland was dueling. Gossip floated like mosquitoes around the encircled pair, and Leland looked perfectly comfortable with it. Everett, on the other hand…
“Does that guy look familiar to you?” Whispered someone close behind Everett.
“He’s not a student... Have you seen him before?”
“No, I’ve got no idea.”
Even with the gossip surrounding him centered squarely on determining who he was, Everett was actually grinning. If they were having this hard a time remembering who he was, it probably meant less trouble for him.
“Rhett!” Everett looked up at Leland, who was already set to begin. “I challenged you, so you should go first.”
Fumbling with his deck, Everett placed it into the duel disk and activated it.
“Wait, Leland challenged this guy? Why would he do that?”
“He called him Rhett, does that mean they’re close?”
“Hey, maybe he’s back from when Leland competed in the amateur league.”
“Anyone know who he is?”
The lack of a response was beginning to unnerve Everett. They were getting a little bit too close to the correct answer.
“Let’s duel!” Leland and Everett both called out as each others hologram projectors shot out of the duel disk, found their places on the field, and activated.
“As you said, I’ll start.” Everett’s hands were shaking as he drew his first card. It had been so long since the last time he dueled, he could feel his heart beating wildly.
“I set a monster and one card. Your move.”
“That’s all Rhett? I thought you’d be more aggressive on your first turn.” Everett responded with a scowl, but no words. “Nothing today? Fine then, I draw.”
Leland was a show off, Everett knew that, but he never realized it until he saw him actually draw a card. He lifted it over his head like it was the most epic thing in the world.
“I summon ‘Breaker the Magical Warrior’!”
Evert’s disappointed moan was drowned out by the roar that accompanied monster’s summoning. A crimson and gold armor-clad warrior with a sword in one hand and a shield in another rose from the light of the hologram and stepped down to stand beside his master.
“Pay attention Rhett, ‘cause I activate Breaker’s ability. You see, when he’s summoned, I can place 1 Spell Counter on him.” Everett knew the effect, but Leland wanted the moment, so he decided to just let him have it. “And by removing that Spell Counter, I can destroy 1 Spell or Trap card on the field. And coincidentally, you have one! Breaker, crush it.”
‘Breaker’ raised his sword, and from it came a dash of white lighting, streaking across the field and cutting strait through Everett’s set card. Before shattering to pieces, the card flipped up, revealing ‘Mirror Force’.
“’Mirror Force’, huh? Nice try Rhett.” Everett cringed; he was counting on that trap. Oh, well, he had a back up plan as long as Leland… “I activate ‘Magical Dimension’.” …didn’t destroy his monster.
Everett looked at his hand as Leland tributed his ‘Breaker’ for the cost of his spell. He could do something here, he just knew it, but his mind was clouded, and whatever part wasn’t was racing to figure out what Leland would do next.
“Are you paying attention Rhett?” Leland was obviously getting annoyed with Everett. He mustn’t have anticipated his moves to be made so easily. Everett nodded to show he was, but Leland was less then convinced. "By tributing my ‘Breaker’ I can special summon a Spellcaster-type monster from my hand, and the monster I choose is ‘Pelagic Wavemaster’!”
Leland threw down his monster onto the duel disk. The creature rose from the light, standing tall, revealing himself to be a large sorcerer clad in a navy cloak and black armor. Markings covered his hands, more than likely having to do with his ability to use spells.
“He have an effect?”
“Not one I can use now. Normally I can return 2 Spell or Trap cards to your hand when he’s summoned, but seeing as you don’t have any, well, that doesn’t quite matter.” Fair enough. “Now the second part of ‘Magical Dimension’ activates. I destroy your set monster!”
A vortex of unnatural winds blew from the image of ‘Magical Dimension’ and crushed into Everett’s set monster, ‘Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter’.
“Ryko, huh? You really were playing defense.” Everett looked down at his hand again in disgust. Leland was completely outplaying him.
“Now that you’re wide open, Pelagic Wavemaster, attack him directly!” The 2300 ATK spellcaster raised his hands and the water- for once, actually looking like it came from somewhere and not just randomly appearing out of thin air- rushed from the sea and onto the field, crashing into Everett without any resistance, and bringing his life points down to 1700.
The crowd was split now, half of them were cheering for Leland, the other, mainly in blue jackets, jeered at Everett for losing to a Slifer-Red. Speaking of that, Everett was going to have to ask Leland why he was still in the lowest rank, he should at least be in Obelisk-Blue by now…
“I set two cards and end my turn!”
Acting almost too quickly to handle himself, Everett drew his next card. Looking over his hand, he knew he could do something, but he didn’t quite have it figured out, so he decided to go with the obvious choice.
“I summon 'Darkfire Colt'!” The demon-like black colt with red flames sprouting like hair from it’s head, neck, and tail leapt from the hologram image of its card and raced around to stand loyally beside Everett. ATK: 1900.
“Is that all you got, Rhett? I was expecting more.”
Off to the side, the students were beginning to chatter again.
“Darkfire? Doesn’t that sound familiar to you?”
“Yeah, I think I remember someone using ‘Darkfire’ monsters in the amateur league.”
“Amateur league? Then that must have been where Leland met him, right?”
Everett was actually get perturbed by the students lack of remembrance. If they were going to figure it out, why couldn’t they just do it already?
“From my hand, I activate the quick-play spell: ‘Shrink’, which will cut your monster’s ATK in half!” Some girls off to the side giggled as ‘Pelagic Wavemaster’ shrunk rather comically, its armor and clothing becoming far too large for it’s diminishing volume. “Now that his ATK is at only 1150, my ‘Colt’ can destroy him. Attack!”
The flaming black steed charged wildly at the half-pint spellcaster, and it would’ve gone through, if not for a trap.
“I activate ‘Collapsing Water Pathway’!” Leland pressed the button on his duel disk to activate his set trap, and from that card came waves of water, that formed two walls on the side of the field. “I can activate this card whenever my opponent attacks one of my ‘Pelagic’ monsters. With it, I can tribute my ‘Wavemaster’ to destroy all your attacking monsters and then both of us must discard every monster in our hand to the graveyard.”
Stupid ‘Royal Tribute’ wannabe. The walls of water collapsed inward, destroying Everett’s ‘Colt’ and splashing up against the two duelists as they discarded any and all monsters from their hand. Through the hologram system, Leland took a look at the two monsters Everett had discarded.
“’Darkfire Swordsman’ and ‘Darkfire Avian’? Are you even trying to play me, Rhett?” Everett looked down at the remaining card in his hand. Leland was right, he wasn’t playing him like he could, he didn’t know why. Maybe it was because he was scared, or maybe it was because he never actually wanted to duel in the first place. After all, he had no reason to.
“I set one card and end my turn.” Before Leland began, Everett quickly checked the monster Leland had sent to the grave. “'Pelagic Necromancer'.” As long as he had this in the grave, his Spellcaster monsters would be safe from attack. Great, another wall to break through.
“I draw!” This draw was much more reserved than the last one. Leland must be getting angry if he’s playing so quietly. I summon ‘Pelagic Fortuneteller’.”
A smaller Spellcaster rose from the card, wearing a similar navy cloak, but this time brandishing a crystal ball.
“When ‘Fortuneteller’ is summoned, I can look at 1 set Spell or Trap on the field, if it’s a Trap card, I can destroy it and my ‘Fortuneteller will gain 200 ATK.” Up from 1600, 1800 would be more than enough to finish Everett off. Unfortunately for Leland…
The crystal ball revealed the card.
“'Charge of the Light Brigade'? Are you joking?” The words stung more than Everett had expected, especially considering the bluff had saved him from losing this turn. True, it wasn’t normally what he’d do. Setting a Spell card like that, but it was all he had. “Rhett, what’s wrong with you?”
Everett looked up at his old friend. Leland was furious, and Everett felt a bit disheartened that he had angered his friend so.
“You’re not trying, Rhett. What’s wrong with you?" Leland clenched his empty hands, trying to think it through. "Does this have anything to do with why you left?”
The crowd was starting to talk again, and more spectators had appeared since they had begun. The chatter was deafening, but people were starting to figure it out. Everett clenched his fists and stared down at his duel disk, wondering why he was even here.
“Everett, this is for your own good.” Rhett looked up, completely surprised Leland had used his full name. “’Pelagic Fortuneteller’! Knock some sense into him!”
The crystal ball the Spellcaster carried began to glow with a grey aura, and from that spun off two balls of blue light. Upon its creators command, they shot at Everett and exploded with the force of a small bomb.
The simulated explosion, though not at all realistic, was still powerful enough to knock Everett a step back and send him to one knee. His life points now stood at 100.
“It’s time to wake up, Everett!” Leland lowered his voice as he realized how hushed the crowd had become. “I don’t give a d*** why you left. You’re here now. You accepted my challenge. So duel.”
Everett held his arm so that his duel disk lay at his chest, directly under his chin, and gazed at it, trying to find himself in his deck.
“It’s your move, Rhett.”
Why am I dueling? What am I dueling for? Everett thought it through as he placed a hand on the top of his deck. D*** it, why did he have to challenge me? Then it struck him and he looked up at Leland with a sense of enlightenment.
“Fine then, Leel." Leland's head perked up from watching the kernels of sand flow across the battlefield. Everett's hand gripped the top card of the deck.
What do I duel for? I duel for those close to me. I duel because I have something I need to protect. I duel for…
“I'll duel to beat you! I draw!” Everett drew with an intensity he hadn’t shown in two years. He was back, if only just a bit. “And I activate my set spell ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’!”
Pressing a button on the duel disk, the set card flipped up showing a spell card starring ‘Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter’ in its picture.
“By sending the top three cards of my deck to the Graveyard, I can add 1 ‘Lightsworn’ Monster from my Deck to my Hand!” Everett milled the top three cards of his deck. And to his dismay, one of them was “Ryko”. His second; and his last ‘Lightsworn’ card.
“Oh, two spell cards and your last ‘Ryko’. Guess luck isn’t on your side today, Rhett.” Everett glared at Leland. “Don’t give me that look. Anyway, if you don’t have another one, I’m allowed to check your deck.”
Everett cringed again as he remembered that surprisingly lesser-known rule. But as he watched Leland merely glance at the cards the hologram projected to him before shooing them away, he grew less disconcerted. Leland, himself, was almost laughing.
“You haven’t changed a bit, have you?”
“Not a chance.” Everett played the final card in his hand. “I activate the spell card ‘Pot of Avarice!”
“Ah, crap.” Now Leland was the one looking nervous.
“By sending 5 monsters back from my Graveyard to the deck, I can shuffle them all together and draw 2 cards.” Everett grinned. “And here’s the kicker: two of my monsters, ‘Darkfire Colt’ and ‘Darkfire Swordsman’, when being added from the Grave to the Deck, are Special Summoned!”
The two monsters rose in a blaze of dark flames.
“And here’s my favorite part. When ‘Colt’ is summoned this way, I can destroy your ‘Pelagic Fortuneteller’, and ‘Swordsman’ can destroy your set card. So say goodbye to both!”
“Not so fast there, hotshot.” Leland pressed the button on his disk, activating his set card. “I activate ‘Enemy Controller’. By tributing my ‘Fortuneteller’ I can take control of one of your monsters. Seeing how your Colt is the stronger monster, I think I’ll take it!”
As the colt jumped to the other side of the field, Everett shuffled his deck and drew two cards, resolving the effect of ‘Pot of Avarice.’ When he saw what they were, his already large smirk evolved into an intimidating smile.
“I normal summon the tuner monster, ‘Darkfire Avian!’ A bird surrounded in blue flames arose from the card.
“That’s right, and now I can tune my level 3 ‘Avian’ with level 4 ‘Darkfire Swordsman’.” Leland cringed. He’d watched enough of Everett’s duels to know exactly what was coming. “I synchro summon ‘Darkfire Dragion’!”
From the rush of flames that had billowed outward from the two smaller monsters tuning together, a pair great black wings lined with the same blue flame spread out, casting over most of the field. A tail, as long as the wingspan was wide, curled itself around the ground surrounding its master. Finally, in a dazzling rush of flame, the body and head of the beast emerged. The black dragon that wields the blue flames: ‘Darkfire Dragion.’
“Wait, I’ve seen that card before.”
“No duh, Sherlock. That’s ‘Darkfire Dragion’.”
“Does that mean?”
“Yeah, that guy is Everett Aalto.”
“The child prodigy?”
“Didn’t he disappear from dueling two years ago?”
“Hey, why didn’t Leland ever tell us he knew him?”
“Cause you’re not his friend, dumb a**.”
Everett was no longer feeling nervous that people had figured out who he was. After all, no one was going to charge at him with ‘Dragion’ by his side, even if it were just a hologram.
Leland was smiling as well. Even if he was going to lose, he had brought out one of Everett’s strongest cards.
“I activate ‘Darkfire Dragion’s’ special ability. By discarding 1 card from my hand to the grave I can return 1 ‘Darkfire’ monster from my grave to my deck.” Everett discarded his final card. “And the card I choose is the one I just discarded. ‘Darkfire Colt’!”
‘Darkfire Colt’ rose from the graveyard in a flurry of flame.
“And with its ability, I can destroy 1 Monster on your side of the field!” A jet of fire flew from ‘Darkfire Colt’s’ flaming mane, destroying its enemy-controlled counterpart and leaving Leland wide open.
“Now, ‘Darkfire Colt’. Attack him directly.” The equine ball of fire charged forward and barreled strait through Leland, dropping his life points down to 2100. “And now, go, ‘Darkfire Dragion’ attack him and end this duel!”
The blue flames of the dragon turned in its mouth as it pulled its head back. As majestically as it had appeared, the dragon launched its head forward and spewed forth a wave of blue flame at Leland, who let the fires engulf him without any resistance. With that, the duel was over.
As the holograms faded away and Everett placed all the cards he had back into their proper place in the deck, he noticed Leland had fallen to one knee.
“Hey, Leel. You okay?” Everett’s attempt to rush over to check on Leel was abruptly halted when the students, no longer held back by a fear of a very intimidating dragon, began to rush them.
Everett, a bit panicked now as he tried to keep a hand his duel disk, deck, and backpack at the same time, with the majority of people grabbing at him, pushed through the crowd trying to get to his friend.
The mob finally halted when a loud and disgruntled voice rose up through the crowd with the added emphasis of a megaphone.
“Everyone settle down, now!” Everyone who was near Everett backed away from him by at least three yards as they heard the voice echo around the beach, giving him just enough space to spot, and hastily run over to Leland, who, by that point, was up on his feet and looking quite fine.
“You alright?” Leland motioned for Everett to stay quiet and pointed over to the source of the voice using the megaphone.
The man, tall in stature and wearing a uniform that signified him as a Duel Academy teacher, was staring down surrounding students as he walked his way over to Everett and Leland.
“Professor Grey! How are you, sir?” It was Leland who spoke, trying his best to act humble and respectful.
“Don’t give me that, you suck up.” Everett relaxed. The professor’s words were said jokingly at most. “Would you mind introducing me to your friend here?”
“Oh, yessir. Professor, this is Everett Aalto. Everett, this is Professor Stephen Grey.” Leland leaned over and, whispering to Everett, added, “He’s British.”
“Everett Aalto? The child prodigy? If I remember correctly, you disappeared without a trace several years ago.”
Everett shrugged and scratched the back of his head.
“Disappeared is the blunt way to put it I guess. And I’m not really all that prodigal.”
“Don’t be so humble, I’ve heard a lot about you.” Grey glanced, glaringly, over at Leland. “Though not much at all from your friend here.”
“Pft.” Leland muttered something inaudible and looked at the crowd of students that had slowly been closing in. “Now what the heck are all you looking at?”
The crowd of students quickly rescinded several steps.
“So, my lad. What brings you here?”
Everett scratched his neck, not at all wanting to be compliant. “I’m looking for someone.”
“Really? Anyone in particular?” Everett already disliked this guy.
“That’s none of your concern.”
Professor Grey sighed.
“Ah, well. Yes, I suppose you’re entitled to your own secrets, but I must say: that was one fine duel, and against one of the best duelists in the school no less!” The final statement was followed by a few obnoxious coughs from some members of the crowd. “Have you ever considered attending Duel Academy?”
The final statement was a bit surprising to Everett. Apparently it was for Leland as well, because his attention had been dragged back in. Not to mention the attention of everyone in the crowd, who had been brought into a silent lull by the question.
“I guess it’s crossed my mind once or twice.” Chatter spread like wildfire as people echoed around what had just been said. Everett took a chancing glance over the beach. There wasn’t a single other duel going on all along the waterfront. Everyone had gathered to see Everett Aalto. Unfortunately. “But it isn’t something I think I can do right now.”
“Oh well, that’s too bad.” The chatter in the crowd collapsed into a trench of disappointment.
“Hold on a second.” It was Leland this time. “Why don’t you come? The end of the semester is just a month and a half away.”
Though surprised– well, not completely surprised– that Leland had jumped in, Everett was able to come up with an answer fairly quickly.
“But that’s exactly my point. Why would I go for just a month? Besides, I’m eighteen. If I enter school now, I’d be in my last year of eligibility, I doubt your chancellor would ever accept that.”
Professor Grey thought it over for a second.
“Well, you do have a point there. Most students wouldn’t have a chance to enter the Academy at eighteen.” The Professor groaned in thought. Leland looked considerably disheartened, though Everett could see what inevitably was coming. “But, that may not be the case for you.”
“What?” Everett’s masked his disbelief with a sense of stirred up hope. In reality he wanted nothing to do with this. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I could definitely speak with the chancellor about it. If you were willing to visit the Academy for a few days, I'm sure there’d be something we could do.”
“How is that even possible?”
“Well, you’ve competed in the American Amateur League, yes? Leland, here, was a sub-par duelist in that league, and he could have skipped ahead three years.”
“Sub-par?” Leland whispered to himself.
“It’s a nice thought, but I’m not sure.”
“Hey, since you’re no longer eligible for the AAL, this would also be your last chance to play professionally.”
“That’s not exactly true.”
“Well, no, but it is, by and far, your best chance to get a professional license.”
Everett folded his arms, trying to think of the best way to get out of the situation.
“Well, that’s all nice and–.”
“Not to mention the many great duelists that have come through our doors.” He wasn’t stopping, was he? “Jaden Yuki and the Truesdale brothers dueled here once upon a time. More recently you might know Don Selenfreid, Yvette Lorette, and even I. T. Ore.
Everett stopped paying attention the second he heard those names.
“Fine then!” Everett tried his best to give himself a defiant mask. “If it means that much to you, I’ll come visit for a day or two. If I’m able to enter then maybe, maybe, I’ll attend.”
There were cheers from some members of the crowd, most of who were swiftly silenced by the Professor. Everett folded his arms in frustration. This constant persistence was beginning to annoy him. Although now, he'd actually been given a good reason.
“Alright then! Our class leaves tomorrow morning. If you’re ready to go, then you can just meet up with us back here. If you need more time, I’m sure we can arrange for transport for you...”
The Professor kept right on, even though most of the people he was talking to had taken their attention elsewhere. The group of students itself had begun to disperse as well. Many, because the action appeared over, others, because they figured they’d be able to see the “child prodigy” later on anyway.
After Grey had finished ranting, he shooed off the remaining stragglers, giving Everett and Leland some breathing room. The sun setting, they started walking back into town.
“What was it that made you change your mind about going to the academy so suddenly?”
Everett chuckled, knowing the answer would not be straight forward
“Well, I guess I just couldn’t reject a friend like that. I owe you that much.”
“Pft. That doesn’t even cover half of what you owe me.” Everett smirked, even after two years, the both of them hadn’t changed a bit. “I’ll show you to the hotel the class is staying at. Prof said he couldn’t give you you’re own room so quickly, so I guess you’re stuck with me! Don’t look so worried, there are two beds!”
Everett chuckled. Even if he hadn’t given Leland the true reason for why he accepted the Professor’s offer, he took some comfort in the fact that he was closer to his goal. And there was one thing that he had truthfully told them.
Everett Aalto was looking for someone.
Everett was beginning to realize that there were a lot of things he’d never known about Leland in the two stretches of time he’d known him. The first, obviously, being that he’d been attending Duel Academy. The second, something that he was learning quite rapidly now, was that Leland didn’t exactly handle boating like a seasoned veteran.
“You gonna be alright?” Everett was standing at the threshold to the lounge on the lower deck, holding back the sliding glass door as he checked up on his old friend currently leaning over the starboard railing.
The ferry hadn’t even lost sight of the port before Leland came sprinting outside to let out his breakfast into the vast waters. Leland did not answer Everett; he was too busy.
Back inside, several of the other students looked on from a distance. Since the previous evening, most had stayed away from Leland and Everett– though Leland would contest that every waking moment he had without Everett had led to many of the other students coming up to him and questioning him as to how he knew him in the first place.
Ever since he had come back from the bathroom with that wild story– and complaints on what must be wrong with some of the male students: annoying people while on the john – he had made it a necessity to have Everett within speaking distance at all times. Well, up until this moment.
Several of the other students began creeping forward, having a hard time hearing what exactly the two were saying. Leland had told him to be careful with everything he said, considering everyone was most likely eavesdropping. It only took a quick glance back from Everett to make every one of them retreat back to where they had started. Except one.
The boy wore a standard Ra-Yellow uniform and stood less than an inch shorter than Everett himself, which was saying something. Maybe it was this guy stepping forward or maybe it was just by coincidence, but Leland immediately stepped back into the room at Everett’s side to face the boy.
“Can I help you?” Everett, still leaning against the cusp of the door, looked on at him for several seconds of silence. He was Japanese, no doubt about that, and– though Everett wasn’t sure– looked angry.
“Yeah, you can.” Everett had hit it on the nose. “You can start by getting the hell off this boat.”
“You heard me.”
Everett took a confused glance at Leland, who responded with a roll of his eyes.
“Hey now, I think this is just one big misunderstanding.” Leland foolishly attempted to break up the conversation.
“My a**.” The kid pointed a finger up at Everett. “You’re the guy that got ‘Pot of Avarice’ banned!”
“Banned?” Leland seemed almost as vexed by this guy’s brazen remarks as Everett was. “’Pot of Avarice’ is just limited.”
“That doesn’t make a difference! My brother lost a national title because of you and your ‘Darkfire’ cards!”
“Really? “Is that so? What exactly was he running?”
“Lightsworns!” Everett and Leland cast a glance back at each other, they obviously had the same question on their mind.
“How exactly did having two less of a single card make your brother lose a championship?”
“Stop interfering, this is between me and him!”
Leland put both his palms up and out in front of himself and backed out of the conversation.
“Who are you again?” Everett decided that at least that question should be answered before this got out of hand. Of course, by this point, he wasn’t at all sure if it hadn’t already.
“Ito Ryouta.” He said it like it was an infamous name at the school. It may have well been, given the moan Leland gave– of course, that could also have meant something else entirely.
“You go by your last name?”
“It’s not my last name!”
“But… it’s last.”
“Last names come first in Japan, dumba**!”
“Is this really necessary right now?” Leland was clutching his stomach, anticipating another brief run outside.
Everett held his hand to his forehead trying to wrap his head around everything.
“Sorry, It–. Ryouta. Can we save this for another time?” He motioned to Leland. “Please?”
“Pft.” Ryouta was peeved, but shrugged nonetheless. “Fine. But this, this isn’t over.”
With that Ryouta marched off and, for no apparent reason, ceremoniously waved off to the crowd.
“What a tool.” Everett’s anger faded as Leland finally folded to his stomach and went sprinting out the door.
As Leland had another conversation with the sea, Everett looked back at the other students, many of which had already left, thinking about how some of the students might react to that conflict. Most scenarios didn’t end well. And all resulted in some sort of malicious rumor he didn’t want trailing him wherever he went.
Walking out to the railing next to Leland, he patted his old friend on the back.
“How you holding up?”
Leland cleared his mouth and spitting out into the ocean waters with a yack. “I only had a small breakfast this morning, so I should be fine in a little bit.”
“That’s good… I think.” Everett’s slight grin turned blank and inquisitive without much effort. “So tell me about this Ito guy.”
“Ryouta? Or his older brother?”
Everett thought about it. “Start with his brother.”
“Right, so you got the gist of it from Ryo’s– Ryo is what we call him– his ranting. His bro lost the Japanese National Championship a year after you disappeared.”
“You always gonna throw that in there every time?”
“Of course!” Leland laughed. Since last night he had made a reference to Everett leaving approximately thirty-four times. “Anyway, I remember watching the match. Ryo had it up in the main building’s student lounge, so whomever didn’t have a class scheduled at the time was watching.”
“So what happened?”
“Well, what’s the worst hand a Lightsworn deck could get? In his first hand he drew all three ‘Wulf’s, activated ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, and milled all his ‘Judgment Dragon’s.”
“Wow, that’s horrible.” Everett held his hand up to his forehead. “But that still doesn’t explain why he blames me for all that.”
“Even I don’t know how he made that connection, but he did mention during the later parts of the duel that if his bro could only draw a ‘Pot’ he might win. I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and say he did some research.”
“But does he really need to blame me? I mean his brother could have just as easily drawn all the ‘JD’s and milled the ‘Wulf’s. Luck had more to do with it than anything right?”
“I suppose. You know, he was one of my best friends when I started here. It wasn’t ‘till a week after that duel that he started that vendetta against you. Since then, I haven’t talked to him all that much.”
“Oh, you did that for me?”
“You? Screw you! I almost jumped on-to the bandwagon. He’s the one that got more solitary.”
Everett tried his best to let out some essence of a laugh.
“Anyway. He can get pretty agitated about it if you bug him. If I were you, Rhett, I would try to keep my distance.”
“If he’s always that rambunctious, I think I will.” Everett caught a glance of an unfamiliar expression riddling Leland’s face. “He does usually act that way, right?”
Leland tilted his head back and forth. “No, it’s really just been to you.”
“Great! We haven’t even reached the Academy and I’ve already made an enemy.” Everett held his head low in disappointment.
“There, there,” Leland consoled, “I’ll always be your first enemy here. Never forget that.”
“Oh, you’re no help.”
Everett slowly swung himself back to the door and looked through the glass paneling towards where Ryouta had marched off. The number of students left in the room had dwindled to a final few, but the one he was looking for wasn’t to be found. Opening the door, he strolled inside and started for the stairwell leading to the main deck.
“Rhett. Wait. Where are you going?” Leland called after helplessly before finally trailing behind him– followed swiftly by the rest of the students in the room.
The main deck was far more deserted than the lounge. Leland had mentioned while they were boarding that most of the students preferred to take the ride at the bow or stern of the ship, so, considering most of the main walkways between the two were located in the lower level, there wasn’t much chance of running into anyone above if you needed some time alone. Which is why Everett had come looking here.
Ryouta was leaning over the railing, gazing out over the waters up to where they connected with the horizon. He must have been deep in thought; else he’d have noticed Everett approaching him.
“Ryouta!” The surprise of dissipating solitude caught Ryouta off guard, giving him need to hold onto the railing to keep his balance as he turned to face Everett.
“Oh, it’s just you.” Ryouta glanced over to see Leland sticking his head anxiously over the top of the stairwell. He, and all the students that had followed them, waited silently off to the side to see what Everett had planned by coming up here. “What do you want?”
“Alright, look Ryo.” Ryouta’s expression was less than enthusiastic to Everett’s use of his nickname. “I’ve got no problem with you. I understand you wish that you’re brother could’ve won the national title. Really, that would’ve been cool. But, you can’t place the blame, obviously meant for luck, on me.”
Ryouta took in what Everett was saying, only to spit it on the ground.
“Are you saying that it was destiny? My brother was meant to lose? How stupid do you think I am?”
“That’s not what I mean. I mean, I understand it would have been helpful for your brother to have drawn ‘Pot of Avarice’, but just because he didn’t doesn’t mean that it’s someone else’s fault!”
Ryouta gave Leland a menacing glare when he heard that. Obviously, the details of his brother’s loss weren’t something he wanted Everett to have so easily learned.
“Are you asking me to just let it go?”
Everett breathed slowly. “Yes. Yes I am.”
“Then I’ll have to disappoint you. This isn’t something I’ll let go so easily.”
Everett exhaled, not wanting to concede the argument on an agreement to disagree.
“Fine, I didn’t expect as much. But listen Ryo: I’m not your enemy. I harbor no ill feelings for you or your brother. I don’t mind that you being angry about it. I would too, but channeling your anger into a person who isn’t involved is in no way realistic nor is it healthy. If you ever change you mind,” Everett started to walk away, “It shouldn’t be too hard to find me.”
If Everett were listening to Leland and the students that had followed him, he’d probably have heard several whispers about how cool he was looking, but that was not what he heard as he slowly turned away from Ryouta.
“Don’t expect much change, Aalto.” Ryouta’s words were meant to sting, not wrap up the argument. “I doubt I’d ever change my mind about some sleazebag who’d fall so low as to make his own cards because the rest of ‘em out there weren’t good enough for him.”
Everett stopped in his tracks, clenching both fists as he glared at Ryouta darkly through ragged brown hairs out of the corner of his eye. “What’d you say?”
“Oh, don’t deny it. We all know you made your own cards. I mean, what a pathetic excuse. What? Can’t you play with fair cards?”
“Uh oh, this isn’t good,” Leland squealed from the stairs.
Still turned away, Everett activated his duel disk, his veins clearly visible on the ridges of his knuckles.
“Oh? Looks like I hit a nerve huh?” Ryouta was laughing.
Everett turned to face Ryouta, who, in anticipation, had already set his duel disk on his arm.
Ryouta laughed as he drew his first card. Leland wasn’t sure what he was more excited about: getting to duel Everett, or how far his insult had actually pushed him.
“I begin by activating my Spell Card ‘Air Flow’!” The Spell card Ryouta played appeared on the field and from it grew a stream surrounding the field of what was obviously supposed to be ‘air’, but which looked like something you might see come out of a pit bull’s mouth.
“Alright, what does that do?”
“Here’s the summary, I’ll dumb it down for you: At the End Phase of our turns, we must send 1 card we control to the Grave, and at the end of the second round after I’ve activated it, it’ll return to my deck.”
“That sounds simple enough,” Everett stated, unsure of why such an apparently useless side-card, one that would probably disrupt both of their fields, was being used in Ryouta’s deck.
“I’ll then set two cards and summon my ‘Slipstream Lemur’.” A little, green fur ball of a monkey leapt out of the hologram-projected card.
“In attack mode?” Everett stared at the stupid little 500 ATK lemur like it was a ‘Spirit Reaper’ someone targeted for ‘Rush Recklessly’.
“Don’t be so surprised, I’ve just given you a taste. You see, I end my turn and will be sending him to the Grave as per the effect of ‘Air Flow’.” The lemur subsequently was swallowed by the floating stream of dog drool and sucked into the card’s image.
“No monsters, huh?” Ryouta smirked as he heard Everett say that. “My turn then.”
Everett smiled as he drew his card. He could get rid of ‘Air Flow’ if he wished, but seeing as it seemed so meaningless, he decided otherwise.
“I activate the spell card ‘Mystical Space Typhoon’. And I will use it to destroy one of your set cards!” The image of ‘Mystical Space Typhoon’ appeared and created a condensed gust of wind that blew straight forward over the little green fur ball and destroyed the set–. “Where the h***’d that monkey come from!”
“Oh, you didn’t notice?” Ryouta was cackling as he spoke to Everett. “Whenever ‘Slipstream Lemur’ is sent to the Graveyard for ‘Air Flow’, he returns during your Standby Phase.”
Everett gripped his cards, cussing himself for not reading the effect while it was on the field. Quickly checking to see that he had destroyed a set ‘Dimensional Prison’, Everett pulled a card from his hand and played it on the field.
“I summon ‘Darkfire Colt’!” Everett’s signature, blue-flame stallion burst from the hologram of the card and landed onto the field in a flurry of flames. “Now, ‘Colt’, get rid of that monkey!”
The fur ball gave a horrendous screech before being trampled by ‘Darkfire Colt’. Ryouta barely flinched as the defensive positioned monkey absorbed most of the damage.
“I’ll finish with three set cards and end my turn.”
“Hold up,” Ryouta interrupted as Everett set his cards, “Don’t forget to send a card to the grave.”
Everett cursed him under his breath as he looked and sent his set ‘Dark Bribe’ to the Graveyard, wondering why he hadn’t destroyed ‘Air Flow’.
“My turn then.” Ryouta’s pathetically delighted tone was beginning to annoy Everett. “I summon ‘Slipstream Warrior’.”
Everett checked his set cards. He could stop the summoning, but the monster did only have 1700 ATK, and what could Ryouta possibly do anyhow?
“Nothing? Fine then, I activate ‘Gust Fan’, increasing my monster’s attack to 2100.”
Everett looked stupefied as he looked at the equip spell; a card that he had assumed would have been destroyed in a mass burning hundreds of years ago along with ‘Invigoration’ and ‘Dragon’s Treasure’.
“Oh, that’s new.” Everett glared back at Leland for the statement, who shrugged and motioned back at him to pay attention.
“Now, I attack with ‘Slipstream Warrior’, crush his pathetic horse!” Everett checked his set cards as the swordsman clad in green armor charged forward. Nothing. Colt was cut in half before shattering in a blaze of light and dropping Everett’s Life Points to 3800.
“Ho, hum. Just as I thought, you really aren’t as good as I’ve heard.”
“Don’t you ever shut up?” Everett cringed. He needed to stop underestimating this kid if he wanted to win.
“Of course not! Well, now that I’m ending my turn, I send my Warrior to the grave per ‘Air Flow’s effect.” Ryouta’s smirk reappeared on his face. “Your move.”
“Let’s go.” Everett reached for his deck, but was stopped when a barrier made up of the same liquid from the ‘air’ stream surrounded his cards.
“Hold on now. Not so fast! When ‘Warrior’ is sent to the grave because of ‘Air Flow’, we skip your Draw Phase. Though you do get to draw two cards during your Standby Phase.” Ryouta smirk grew into a menacing smile. “Oh, and if you aren’t able to draw during your Draw Phase while ‘Air Flow’ is on the field, the top three cards of your Deck go to the Graveyard.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Everett activated a hologram image allowing him to read ‘Air Flow’s full effect. Wondering why he hadn’t typhooned it when he had the chance, Everett picked up the top three cards of his deck, looked at them and sent them to the grave. ‘Monster Reborn’, ‘Dark Hole’, and ‘Book of Moon’: all Spells, and all cards that he could’ve used. Where were all the monsters?
“So I can draw two cards now?”
“Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Ryouta’s obnoxious smirk realigned itself.
“Fat chance, I draw.” Everett pulled out two cards from his deck and placed them in his other hand. His own smirk appeared. “You really shouldn’t have made me mad.”
Everett placed his newly drawn monster onto the field.
“I summon ‘Darkfire Avian’!” The flaming, blue bird arose to its master call. “And with its effect, I can return ‘Colt’ back to the deck and summon it!”
“Yeah, right, I know its effect. Hold your horses.” Ryouta chuckled at his own pun as his trap card flipped up. “I’ll put a stop to this with ‘Solemn Warning’. With this, I’ll negate your ‘Avian’s summoning and destroy it.”
Everett looked at his set cards once again, reaching to activate one of the cards to chain. He stopped short of the button before he pressed it. The card, ‘Rising Flame’, could stop the destruction of a ‘Darkfire’ Monster and bring one in the Graveyard back to the Deck. The only problem was that ‘Warning’ doesn’t even allow the summoned monster to hit the field, meaning it would be a useless play, and one that would waste his card..
“Fine then, but you do lose 2000 life points.”
“A trivial cost to pay to avoid having to fight off your ‘Darkfire Dragion’, wouldn’t you say?” Everett let out a deep breath. Ryouta was right, two thousand life points would be nothing compared to what would happen if he could get his dragon out.
All right then, at my end phase I have to send a card to the graveyard, so I’ll just send my set trap.
“Once again, you’re moving a bit too fast.” Ryouta’s third interruption made Everett cringe. “I activate the effect of the ‘Slipstream Berserker’ in my hand. When a card would be sent from the field to the grave by a card effect, I can have it banished instead.”
The set ‘Solemn Warning’ flipped up and vanished in a flash of light.
“Oh, and now, I can special summon that same ‘Slipstream Berserker’ from my hand.”
In a gust of wind that roared like the beast it was bringing out, the giant, bear-like humanoid with green fur and rusted armor rose from the light of the hologram.
“Two things. One: because you didn’t actually send a card to the grave for ‘Air Flow’, every card in your hand is sent to the Graveyard as payment.” Ryouta cackled as he saw the one card Everett had discarded was a second ‘Darkfire Avian’. “And now that your turn’s over, ‘Air Flow’ returns to my deck.”
With no hand to fight back, Everett gazed at the monstrous 2200 ATK beast in surprising fear, calmed only slightly by the departure of ‘Air Flow.’
“And now it’s my turn.” Ryouta looked over Everett’s field. “Alright, let’s take a chance. If your set card is ‘Sudden Inferno’, I suppose this would be a bad idea, but seeing how your luck is going, let’s find out. ‘Berserker’, sick him.”
Everett, knowing that his set card was not in fact ‘Sudden Inferno’, a card that would have negated the attack and brought out a monster to face ‘Berserker’, he merely braced himself for the inevitable impact of ‘Berserker’s blade.
Ryouta laughed as ‘Berserker’s might sword came crashing down on Everett, dropping his life points from 3800 to 1600.
“Humph, you’re legacy really doesn’t stand up to a challenge does it? Pathetic.”
“This duel isn’t over yet, Ryouta.” Everett’s accompanying frown didn’t help in changing Ryouta’s tone.
“I’ll set one card and end my turn.”
“Time to turn it around then. My draw!” Everett’s next draw was more disappointing than he had hoped, and not because it didn’t help. “I set one card and end my turn.”
“C’mon, Rhett that can’t be all.” Leland mumbled to himself from the top of the stairwell.
The rest of the students had grown in number and were now almost crawling on top of each other to get a better view. Still, none moved past Leland. Fear of becoming the target of the malice, which seemed to be emanating in waves from the duel, kept them at bay.
“That’s all you have? Well, I can’t say I expected more.” Everett frowned at the unnecessary comment.
“Just make your move.”
“Alright then, I draw.” Ryouta cackled. “Do you want to see something that you’ll really enjoy?”
Everett obvious doubt of enjoyment did nothing to ruin Ryouta’s own.
“I activate my set spell, ‘Air Flow’.” Everett moaned as the stream of ‘air’ reappeared on the field. “And now, I summon my ‘Slipstream Warrior’.”
The familiar swordsman arose from his card’s hologram.
“Well, Everett. It appears that this is it. Sayonara!”
Without an order, ‘Berserker’ charged forward.
“Hey, Ryo.” Ryouta’s triumphant pose turned unsettled upon hearing Everett’s uplifted interruption. “Remember that card you assumed I didn’t have last turn.”
“I activate my set trap card, ‘Sudden Inferno’!” It was Ryouta grimacing this time. “With this, I can negate your attack and send one ‘Darkfire’ monster from my grave to the Deck, at the cost of banishing the top three cards from my deck. Oh, and you know ‘Darkfire Colt’s effect, right?”
Blue flames erupted onto the field, repelling ‘Berserker’ and, upon the stallion’s full appearance, engulfed and destroyed it. The horse rounded the field, eventually stopping before Everett, standing in between him and the ‘Slipstream Warrior’ that had yet to attack.
Everett smirked back at Ryouta as he took the top three cards of his deck and placed them with the banished ‘Solemn Warning’ off to the side.
“You really thought you were going to win that turn, didn’t you?” Everett’s smile grew as he remembered the boneheaded move Ryouta had made earlier in the turn. “Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll need to send a card to the grave for the effect of ‘Air Flow’.”
“Don’t you think I know the effects of my own cards?” Ryouta, bewildered, took his ‘Warrior’ and placed it in the grave. He was worried. If Everett drew a monster with more than 100 ATK, the duel would be over then and there, and because of ‘Warrior’s effect, he’d have two chances to do so.
“My move.” Everett took the top three cards of his deck and placed them in the grave per ‘Air Flow’s effect. He winced as he checked them; all spells and traps again. But it didn’t matter, as long as he drew a monster now.
Ryouta laughed as he saw the look that evolved on Everett’s face upon drawing the two cards. The duel would not end this turn.
“What are you laughing at?” Everett was understandably angry as he continued his turn. “I activate ‘Mystical Space Typhoon’ to destroy your ‘Air Flow’!”
As had happened the first turn, a condensed twister of wind blew through the spell card.
“Now that I’ve cleared that out of the way, I attack you directly with ‘Darkfire Colt’!”
The flames of the stallion burned with intensity that mirrored its master as it stampeded forward, rushing through Ryouta, dropping him all the way down to a mere 100 life points.
“I’ll set a card and end my turn.” Everett angrily threw down his second ‘Solemn Warning’; useless with his life points hanging below 2000.
“My move then.” Ryouta progressed through his draw phase with a new sense of confidence. “I’ll set a monster and end.”
“Not as explosive as I expected. You’re deck’s really slow when it doesn’t have a Monster on the field, huh?” Everett drew his next card and smiled. “I summon my second ‘Darkfire Colt’. Plow through his monster!”
The newly summoned ‘Colt’ charged forward at the set card, but what Everett had expected to be an easy battle turned as a gust of southern wind blew out from the set card at his other ‘Colt’.
“What’s this?” Everett held his cards tightly as the winds cut sharply against his duel disk. “What kind of monster did you set?”
“What, you don’t know? The card I set was ‘Slipstream Lynx’. When he’s flipped, I can return one card on the field to the top of your deck.” Everett scowl faded into a simple frown; even he would admit that he never did much research on the ‘Slipstream’ archetype. “But seeing as your other ‘Colt’ was summoned from the grave with its effect, it’ll just banish itself upon leaving the field, won’t it?”
The spiraling winds from the ‘Lynx’ grew larger, creating a twister that soon disappeared along with the ‘Colt’ without a trace.
Everett slouched and let loose a chagrined sigh. Why couldn’t this duel just end?
“I end my turn.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Everett certainly was not impressing anyone with his moves, he wasn’t even sure if he could pull the duel out now. Even with his ‘Colt’ on the field, the tide of the duel could turn swiftly, most certainly not in his favor.
Focus. That’s all he could do to keep himself in it. He watched closely as Ryouta began his turn.
“What is it?”
Everett braced himself for the worse. Ryouta had begun cackling the second he’d looked at the card he’d drawn.
“Well, isn’t this a pleasant sight?” Ito looked over at Everett. “Let’s see what would have happened if it weren’t for you.”
“What’d you draw?” Everett knew, everyone who knew Ryouta knew. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I activate ‘Pot of Avarice’!” Ryouta picked the five monsters out of his graveyard; just enough after ‘Lynx’ was destroyed, and shuffled them into his deck. His small-child excitement faded slightly as he looked at what ‘Pot of Avarice’ had brought him.
Everett had assumed that if Ryouta had not drawn anything, it would do well to stop the unabashed hatred that came from him. Though at the present moment, that didn’t appear to be the case. If anything, he looked frustrated, spiteful, and angry; Somehow, all with Everett.
“I set a monster and a spell or trap. Your go.”
“Gladly.” Everett’s draw made him smile; he wasn’t running low on monsters just yet. “I summon ‘Darkfire Swordsman’!”
The swordsman that had become famous among the students for it’s work in the duel against Leland rose from the field in a burst of blue flame.
“Alright. Now, ‘Darkfire Colt’, attack his monster!”
“Not so fast, I activate my trap card.”
Everett’s hand moved away from his set ‘Rising Flame’. It wasn’t ‘Mirror Force’ as he expected.
“Gravity Bind.” Everett cursed as he realized the simplicity of it. Almost every monster with an ATK worth using was level 4 or higher, meaning ‘Gravity Bind’ could hold him off for a long time. And he’d hardly even touched his deck since the first XYZ monsters were released the previous year.
“I end my turn.”
Ryouta’s smirk returned as he drew.
“I’ll Flip Summon my ‘Slipstream Warrior’.” With 1700 ATK, ‘Slipstream Warrior’ could easily overpower any of Everett’s monsters under level 4. If he wanted to get through this duel, he’d need to draw ‘Avian’.
The following three turns progressed the same. Ryouta drew and passed each time, while Everett placed what he drew onto the field: another ‘Swordsman’ and a set ‘Bottomless Trap Hole’. The standoff did little to decrease the tension, as each consecutive draw increased the frustration of each of the duelists.
Leland was essentially lying flat on the stairs by this point, plastered against the railing by the other students who had crawled up and over him to get a closer look. The numbers had not increased, at least not on the stairwell. No one had left to tell the rest of the passengers; all eyes were fixated on the two duelists.
Ryouta laughed as the fourth of his turns passed without any action. He apparently, was content on waiting for Everett to deck out, but Everett would not allow that to happen.
“I set a monster and end my turn.” If the duel continued as it had, on Everett’s next turn, he’d flip his newly set ‘Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter’ and finally break through ‘Gravity Bind’. Unfortunately for him, Ryouta would make his move first.
“And now it all comes together,” Ryouta spit while he cackled. “I summon ‘Blackwing – Gale the Whirlwind’!”
Everett muffled a gasp, “S***, a Tuner!”
“Astute observation.” Ryouta raised his hand as his two monsters moved up into the air. “And now, I’ll tune these two monsters together for my level seven….”
The pause for dramatic effect had everyone moaning.
“’Black Rose Dragon’!”
The black dragon let out a roar as the red rose petals that blew from it’s scales rushed around the field along with the force of the wind created upon its summoning.
“And now I activate its effect! Allowing me to destroy every card on the field!” Everett looked desperately at his set cards, looking for a way out.
“Well, it’s getting destroyed anyway, so I’ll activate ‘Bottomless Trap Hole’!”
Ryouta chuckled at the meaningless gesture, allowing his monster to fall into the never-ending hole as the rest of the field was blown to pieces.
Everett, left with no cards on field or in hand, cursed the new heads at Industrial Illusions for being so reckless. Cards like ‘Black Rose’ and others had once been rare and expensive. Now every duelist had one or two.
“Now that the field’s clear, I think I’ll play ‘Air Flow’ once again!”
“You’re joking,” Everett mumbled as the stream of ‘air’ reappeared on the field.
“And now, for added effect, I’ll play ‘Delay of Reinforcements’.” Ryouta smiled like he had the game won. “With this on the field, we skip our draw phase and draw at our End Phase. Do you know what that means?”
“No.” Everett lied, knowing full well that he’d lose three cards from his deck each turn and would have to discard whatever card he drew at the end phase because he had no cards to send for ‘Air Flow’.
“This is what we call a lockdown. More importantly, if I draw a monster with over 1000 attack points at the end of this turn, then this duel is over.”
Everett sighed, knowing that whatever he drew was inevitable. “If that’s the case, then don’t wait. Let’s finish this.”
“Very well.” Ryouta smirked as he set his second to last card and placed his hand on the top of his deck. “Let’s end this now.”
Ryouta’s hopeful declaration grew into anger and frustration once again as he looked at the card he’d drawn.
“I end.” Ryouta quickly took his set card and placed it in the grave. “Oh, and the card that was sent was ‘Weather Balloon’, and it’s effect lets me put another one down because it was sent to the grave while set.”
Another set card appeared on Ryouta’s side of the field.
Everett took the top three cards of his deck, glanced at them, and placed them in the grave.
“I end my turn.” Everett grimaced as if he were in pain as he placed his last ‘Darkfire Avian’ in the grave.
“My move then.” Ryouta didn’t look as he placed the top three cards of his deck in the grave. “I summon ‘Slipstream Lemur’.”
Everett grinned as the monster was summoned, thankful that the card that had been drawn was the fur ball.
Everett’s thoughts about the lemur were forgotten quickly as it jumped up and slashed him in the face, taking 500 life points with it.
“Well, since ‘Air Flow’ will be gone this turn, I suppose I’ll activate another one now.” Everett looked dismayed as he was told what the last card in Ryouta’s hand was. Not as dismayed, though, as he looked when it was played.
“I end my turn.” Ryouta drew and frowned again as he did not draw what he was hoping for before sending his second ‘Weather Balloon’ and ‘Lemur’ to the grave to fill both effects.
Everett looked at the top three cards of his deck and sent them to the grave as Ryouta set his final ‘Weather Balloon’ onto the field. A draw and a discard and it was Ryouta’s turn once again. Finally, the first ‘Air Flow’, reaching its turn limit, returned to Ryouta’s deck.
“My move.” Ryouta sent the three cards on top of his deck to the grave without looking. Since ‘Delay of Reinforcement’ would leave during the standby phase, he wouldn’t be able to draw this turn. “’Lemur’, attack.”
The fur ball slashed at Everett again, bringing his life points down to 600. “I set a card and end my turn.”
Once again, Ryouta sent his lemur to the grave for the effect of ‘Air Flow’.
Everett sighed, finally able to draw, but knowing he needed to draw the right card or it was over.
“My move then.” Everett looked at the card and smiled, a smile that broke as he saw the green fur ball return to the field with 1000 DEF. “I set a monster and end my turn”
“You fool, that’ll end it, it has to go to the grave!” Ryouta’s joyful cheers were silenced as he saw Everett place his set ‘Sangan’ in the grave.
“And because of my 'Sangan’s effect, I can add ‘Battle Fader’ to my hand. You’re move.”
“You little.” Ryouta drew and cackled as he quickly checked over his graveyard. “I activate ‘Slipstream Boost’. Now, I can banish three ‘Slipstream’ monsters in my grave to draw two cards!”
“Alright. Do you have three?”
“Thankfully, ‘Air Flow’ gave me three exactly.” Ryouta fiendishly showed off the two ‘Lynx’ and the ‘Berserker’ in his grave.
“D***, that’s lucky,” Everett sighed as he checked over his own Graveyard and banished pile.
Ryouta quickly took the three ‘Slipstream’ monsters in his grave and placed them to the side. His draw was shaky, as anticipation began to take over.
“Excellent.” Everett sighed disappointedly as Ryouta played ‘Air Flow’. “Now I summon ‘Slipstream Warrior’. I can’t beat you in this turn, Everett, but I can sure take out all your remaining moves! ‘Warrior’, attack!”
The charging swordsman was knocked back as ‘Battle Fader’ hit the field, causing a debilitating shockwave that held all attacking monsters at bay.
“I end my turn. Oh, and by the way, I’ll send my ‘Warrior’ to the grave for ‘Air Flow’, meaning…”
Everett looked down at his deck and sent the top three to the grave, checking them as he placed them one by one. Everett only had one problem: only one card remained.
“You only have one card, because of ‘Warrior’, you have to draw two. I win!”
“You’re getting ahead of yourself.” Everett smiled. The game was going to end this turn, that much Ryouta had right.
“Your card says I can draw up to two cards. Meaning I can just draw one, no problem.” Ryouta frowned. He wanted the duel to end as much as anyone watching.
One of those spectators groaned as he felt someone pulling on his pant leg. “Hey, Leland. Do you really think Everett can win this? He only has one card left.”
“He will win.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because,” Leland turned away from the student and back towards the duel, “Everett knows every single card in that deck by heart. If he hasn’t surrendered yet, then there’s only one card that that card can be.”
“One card, Ryo.” Everett had a confidence about him he hadn’t shown since the start of the duel. “Wonder what it is?”
Ryouta’s awkward and confused stare grew horrified as he realized the single card Everett had not yet played. In one swift movement, Everett took the last card from his deck and activated it.
“I play ‘Pot of Avarice’!” The fat purple pot appeared in all its hippo-sized glory. “I return to my deck my two ‘Darkfire Avian’, my two ‘Darkfire Swordsman’, and my final ‘Darkfire Colt’.”
The two ‘Swordsman’ and ‘Colt’ appeared on the field in a rush of dark flame as Everett drew his two ‘Avian’.
“Now comes the fun part: with ‘Colt’s effect, I destroy your ‘Lemur’, and with my first ‘Swordsman’s effect, I destroy your ‘Air Flow’.” The flames rushed forth from the two monsters and destroyed the monkey and spell card.
Everett was calm as he lifted his hand to direct his final ‘Swordsman’ as to which remaining set card to destroy, looking victoriously into Ryouta’s eyes as he did so.
An expression of pure defeat had spread over his face, masking him in despair, but it was clouded with something else. Something Everett had not expected. Anger.
An idea began forming in Everett’s mind, and he was beginning to realize that by activating ‘Pot of Avarice’, all he had done was proven Ryouta right. Ryouta’s convictions were not being eliminated; they were being enhanced.
As he thought it through, Everett waved his fingers between the final two set cards.
He could hear Leland cheering on from behind him and bragging to the other students about how Everett’s greatness was all from his teachings.
He’d have to apologize to Leland later.
“I destroy the set card on my right!” ‘Weather Balloon’ flew up from its set position and shattered.
Everett settled himself as the crowd of students behind him gasped. Ryouta’s expression was one even more astounded then the rest, a look he kept as ‘Darkfire Colt’ charged forward straight into his set ‘Dimension Wall’.
Everett tried to conceal his smile as he turned away from the duel. You know, once in a while, he thought, it just feels good to lose.
Leland stood more dumbfounded than Ryouta had as the rest of the students rushed past him and out onto the deck to congratulate the victor. “What the f*** was that?”
Everett laughed at his friend’s bewilderment as he made his way upstream through the crowd.
Leland was hardly able to put a full word out until Everett finally reached him.
“That…” Leland held his hand to the ridge of his nose in frustration. “That was the worst duel ever. I cannot believe you had me watch all of it.”
Everett grunted as the two made their way back down the hall to the lounge.
“Don’t you have any more ‘breakfast’ to feed the fishes?”
“Ha ha. Very funny,” Leland cackled sarcastically, “Why don’t you–.”
Leland’s insult stopped short as the boat rocked slightly. Hand to his stomach, he sprinted off ahead to find the nearest railing.
Everett laughed. Of all the things he knew of his old friend from back in the day, it was this: there was no such thing as a ‘small’ breakfast.
Leland immediately laid himself face down on the nearest grass he could find the second his feet met the land. Everett stood close by, holding his bag over one shoulder, trying his best to get by unnoticed by the groups of students filing out of the ferry that stared confusedly at Leland.
“Oh, land, I missed you so!”
“You’re embarrassing yourself, Leel.”
“No, I’m embarrassing you. There’s a difference.” Everett frowned.
“Fine, you’re embarrassing me. Get you’re a** up of the ground.” Leland groaned and rolled on his back.
“Let me have my moment.” Everett laughed at his friend, but was forced to turn away when he heard the footsteps of another person approaching from behind them.
“You still get seasick, huh?”
Ryouta held the straps of his backpack upon either shoulder with each hand. He looked upon Leland with the same look Everett had given him when they met back on the mainland, but with the kind of pity that a small child might give to an abandoned puppy.
“Ryo!” Everett exclaimed- as he failed to hold back his surprise that Ryouta had announced himself present without so much as a well-thought-out jab at him.
“What brings you over here?” Leland had pushed himself up to face Ryouta, dusting off the grass that had clung to him while he was rolling around on the ground.
Ryouta, though, holding everything in exceedingly well, let loose a slight blush.
“Well, um. I wanted to, um. I wanted to, uh, apologize. For how I acted before. I shouldn’t have blamed you for what happened to my brother.”
Leland looked more surprised than Everett.
“Really? That thrown duel actually wo–.” Leland’s comment was met with an elbow to the gut before he could even finish it.
“That’s alright. I mean, you really care about your brother and all. If I had a little brother, I’d hope he’d be as dedicated as you.”
“Really? You’re a single child? Hm, your mom seemed like the type to have more than one–. “ Leland, still hunched over from the last hit, was met with a back kick to the groin, sending him toppling backward into the grass he loved so dearly.
Ryouta let out a small chuckle at Leland’s antics before looking back up at Everett.
“Thanks Everett, that means a lot.”
“You can just call me Rhett if you want.”
“Wait, that’s supposed to be my way to torture y–.” A solemn glare from Everett kept Leland locked onto the ground and out of the conversation.
“If you ever need someone to show you around campus, I know this place better than anyone.”
Leland, still lying face down on the ground, raised a pointed hand signaling he wanted to speak. He was ignored, as the group’s attention shifted to the slightly older man who had just walked up to them.
“Afternoon, Ryouta, I see you two are doing well after your little fight earlier.”
“Oh,” Everett put his hand behind his head, “You saw that?”
“Well, of course I did! Some of us teachers that had chaperoned the trip watched it from the captain’s lounge above the deck! You two are the talk of the faculty, if I do say so myself.”
Everett slouched depressingly. By now it seemed obvious he was never going to get any peace and quiet.
Professor Grey, who hadn’t stopped talking, finally got to the point that he had come over for.
“So, Everett, are you ready to meet with the Chancellor to discuss your situation?”
“I guess so.” It was half the reason he was here anyway.
“Oh, you gotta go?” Ryouta put forward a hand, which Everett thankfully shook. “Oh, well. Anyway, my offer still stands if you ever want to take it. I’ll see you around.”
“Alright, you too.” Everett and the Professor headed off towards the main building, Ryouta waving them off until he remembered the land-deprived idiot lying behind him.
“Are you just gonna stay there?”
Leland reached out his hand and grabbed Ryouta’s ankle.
“Take me back to my dorm.”
“I am not carrying you.”
“C’mon.” Leland elongated the last part, whining intolerably.
“Alright, how about I drag you?”
“Wait, what?” Ryouta grabbed Leland’s arm and started dragging him over to the nearest dock he could find. Seconds later, Ryouta was chasing him past Everett and Professor Grey as he attempted to escape the horrible fate of being put on another boat.
“Good to see those two are friends again.”
Everett’s face allowed more of a stunned expression than the Professor’s.
“Are they usually like that?” Grey didn’t actually give an answer, but a confirming silence gave his response.
Everett would admit it: the buildings on campus were exceedingly more elegant than he had expected. Of course, all he’d actually been shown was the Obelisk dorms and most of the main building.
He was, admittedly, more interested in what kind of living conditions the Slifer-red were stuck with. After all, more than likely, that would be where Leland would talk him into staying.
“Wait here for a second.” Everett had followed the professor all the way to the top floor of the main building where he would be meeting with the Chancellor himself. After a brief entrance, subsequently followed by yelling from the far side of the room, Grey leaned out the door and turned to Everett. “This may take a while.”
Everett returned the professor a disappointed frown.
“Um, well, if you’d like to pass the time, you can check out our ‘hall of fame’, as some of the students call it. It’s downstairs. If you don’t like that, there’s a restaurant, a bowling alley…”
Grey continued naming all the things to do one floor down, even after Everett had already walked out of range.
The “Hall of Fame”, as the professor called it, was exactly that. Wall to wall, the enormous atrium was covered with photographs, plaques, medals, and trophies garnered by all the best duelists during, and, for some, after their time at Duel Academy.
Halfway down the hall, the atrium opened further, revealing it to be only a part of four different wings jutting out perpendicular to each other around a central rotunda that encircled a statue commemorating the founder of the academy.
It wasn’t the statue that drew Everett to this central area. It was that which surrounded it. Displayed in busts, trophies, and holograms generated by a technology which he assumed was no different than that inside his own duel disk, was an exhibit showcasing all the current duelists making names for themselves on the world stage. The image of one man caught Everett’s eye.
“It’s inspiring isn’t it?”
The feminine voice behind Everett caused him to jump. Turning slowly he looked back to see an amber-haired girl, no older than Rhett himself, wearing a Ra-Yellow uniform.
Her dark green eyes stared listlessly up at the images of past duelists in a similar manner as Everett had.
“When I first came to Duel Academy and the administration told us to explore the campus, this was the first place I went to too.” The girl walked past Everett, paying him no mind as if he were not even present. “It truly created a vision for what I wanted to be. These people here are achieving their dreams.”
The girl turned to Everett, addressing him as if she’d known him his whole life.
“So what is it you see from it?” Everett smirked, knowing he wasn’t going to give her a straight answer.
“I see a destination.”
The girl giggled. “That makes sense.”
Everett raised an eyebrow, not sure how it did.
“I see all of these people, and I dream of walking among them, dueling them,” She giggled again as she finished, “Beating them. Don’t you think that would be amazing?”
“Yes, yes it would.” Though Everett assumed his reasons were far different than hers. “But there is one.”
The girl perked her head to the side and looked at Everett out of the corner of her eye.
“There is one, that I don’t think I would need to duel.”
Everett straightened himself as he expected another small laugh, but the girl’s response was far from it.
“I would never have taken you for a fan-boy Everett Aalto.” Everett paused. There was something familiar in the way she had said his name. “Don’t you even know that you’ll never meet any of these duelists if you haven’t graduated from Duel Academy anyway?”
“Wait, seriously?” That was by far the most striking thing he’d heard all day, and quite possibly the most persuasive.
“You didn’t know that?” She laughed at Everett’s naivety. “The vast majority of duelists at the world-wide level are graduates from one of the Duel Academy’s around the globe, so they developed two levels in the professional league: one for educated duelists; another for everyone else. This has been around for like three years, where have you been?”
That one would sting for a while. It appeared no one had actually forgotten Everett’s unexpected departure.
The click-clack of high-heels on marble in the wing behind him alerted Everett that the chancellor’s secretary had been sent to bring him back up, a suspicion that was confirmed as the tall, stout woman came trekking around the corner.
“The chancellor will see you now, Mr. Aalto.”
Everett nodded in acknowledgement. Not wasting any time, and, assuming Everett would promptly find his way back without a problem, exited the atrium.
“I have to go.” Everett extended a hand, “Though I never got your name.”
“It’s Carina, Everett.” There was an air of disbelief in her voice, as if it were a question.
“Well, nice meeting you Carina.” Everett started back off down the hallway, stopping only when he recognized the name. “Ina?”
When he turned to look back Carina was already halfway down the other wing, waving back at Everett as she walked off.
“I’ll see you later, Ev.”
As soon as Carina was out of sight, Everett put an embarrassingly frustrated hand up to his forehead, not sure whether to be more embarrassed that he had just spent an entire conversation and had not realized that the person he was talking to was Leland’s sister, or that he hadn’t recognized a girl that he had had a crush on for at least three years prior to his family moving away.
“Mr. Aalto!” The secretary peeked her head around the corner of the entrance behind him. Apparently vexed that Everett had not directly followed after her when she came down to retrieve him.
The sliding, steel door to the chancellor’s office opened the second Everett stepped in front of it without any complication. The room itself held the same atmosphere of order. Assumingly, just the way the chancellor wanted it. The walls lay off to each side at a distance comparable to even the atrium downstairs, even though the office, undoubtedly, did not need as much space.
The professor stood awkwardly at the near right corner of the desk at the far end of the room, looking over at Everett with an expression of unease. Once Everett had reached him, he turned to face the chancellor, who sat, turned away from the others, in a rather oversized, black leather chair, gazing out through the paneled window that made up the entire back wall of the room.
“Chancellor Sabine, Mr. Autten is here to see you.”
The Chancellor hardly moved at all upon hearing Grey’s voice, and Everett was having a hard time figuring out his expression with only the crown of his head visible above the top of the seat.
“Have you informed him of everything we’ve discussed?” The voice was low and soft, as if forced. Everett could tell that he was still frustrated with having this put upon him without warning.
“Well, no. He just got in.”
Chancellor Sabine waved a hand off to the side. Quickly understanding the direction, Grey turned to Everett.
“Well, you see, since this is on such short notice, and you really only have a month left to even graduate, Chancellor Sabine thinks it would be folly for you to even attempt to join us at this point.” Grey had clasped his hands in shame. “I’m sorry, but we don’t think that you’d be able to complete the work required in time.”
“So it’s a question of time?”
“Isn’t there any way to get it all done?” Everett scratched his chin in thought. He hadn’t come up with a viable argument in the time after he’d decided that he actually wanted to attend.
“In three weeks? I highly doubt that.”
“You doubt it. So does that mean that there is a chance it can be done?”
“Well,” Grey turned to the Chancellor, who hadn’t moved a muscle since they’d entered. Whatever help he was looking for wasn’t going to be there. “No, well, I don’t know.”
“School policy does not allow us to take on a student this late in the semester.” The chancellor’s tone held more hope than Everett had expected from him.
“But Sir,” Grey looked a bit uneasy as Everett addressed the chancellor, “There must be some way. If it’s true that the highest tier of the professional league is only academy students, then this is the only chance I have.”
The chancellor did not answer.
“Sir?” Everett wasn’t sure if he hadn’t heard him or was asleep. As it would turn out, it was neither. “Sir?”
“If you really want to get in to our academy, Mr. Aalto, I suggest you begin by addressing your superior’s properly.” The chancellor turned around to emphasize the point, and it made Everett flush in embarrassment.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am.”
The Chancellor stood up from her seat, her blonde threads of hair flowing down around her shoulders. She talked into the glass of the windows behind her, looking over the campus cast in the light of the afternoon sun as she addressed Everett.
“As well you should. Now look, Mr. Aalto. I would love to add you to an already long list of excellent graduates. And I’ll have you know that rules can be bent to allow a student in late.” The uplifting statement was undercut by its general lack of closure, and the doubt in the Chancellor’s face was obvious as she turned to him. “But I don’t trust you’re motivation, and obviously, neither did the chairman of Industrial Illusions when you met with him a few years ago.”
“How did you hear about–?” Everett stopped himself short as the chancellor chuckled.
“He’s my husband, Mr. Aalto, I’ve heard about everything that you’d talked about those many years ago, and it was he with whom I recently consulted upon our professor here informing me that you wished to become a student at this academy.”
Everett was completely perplexed by the current situation; everything from the gender mishap to the revelation that the chairman had not kept their conversation to himself had him listening along silently and unassertively to whatever the chancellor said.
“Now, I’m willing to give you a chance, Mr. Aalto. My husband still thinks very highly of you. I don’t know why, nor do I agree, but if he sees something in you, even if I do not, that’s the least I can do for you. But, if that is to happen, I need to know that you actually want an education here.”
“From what Professor Grey has told me, your conversation was more he convincing you to come here than vice versa. Considering what it was that caused you to leave the amateur league,” the chancellor leaned forward towards Everett, “Why exactly do you want an education from us, Mr. Aalto?”
Everett sat up strait, clenching his fists above his knees. Someone, he assumed, was bound to learn anyway.
When Everett finally exited the building, he found Leland and Ryouta dueling diskless on the bottom steps leading up to the main building. Upon seeing Everett, the two quickly cleaned up their mess and met him at the top of the stairs.
“How’d it go?” the two questioned in unison, looking at each other in annoyance before letting Everett answer.
“Well, I’m in. Sort of.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, put simply, I have to pass a test covering all the classes I would have taken for the first three years of school.”
Ryouta, though extensively less interested than Leland, was astonished.
“Seriously? That’s impossible?”
“Ah, that doesn’t sound so bad.” Ryouta responded to Leland with a look of doubt. “What’s that face for? Look, I passed through the first three years here without so much as picking up a textbook.”
“We don’t even use textbooks, smart a**.”
“Whatever, you get the point.” Leland held his hands to his hips. “So how long do you have to study for this?”
“The test is tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? Hell, you could pass it now.”
“Is it really that easy?”
“You played in the amateur league for as long as I did, right? Well, a week less.” Leland paused long enough for Everett to get the message. “That should be more than enough to pass it.”
“You know what it’s gonna be like?”
“Well, I’d guess it’d be like most tests here, right Ryo?” Leland glanced at Ryouta for help. He responded with a sigh.
“I’d assume so. If it is, it shouldn’t be too hard, but it’ll probably come in three parts.” Ryouta lifted up his hand, putting up a single finger. “Part one will be a standardized test. It’s been mainly multiple choice for us, but considering it’ll be for just you, I’m not quite sure.”
“Just basic dueling tips and stuff?”
“Yeah, you’ll just have to read up on how exactly they teach it, cause you know it might be different than how you see it.”
“Sounds easy enough. What’s the second section?”
“Duel puzzles,” Ryouta listed as he lifted his second finger.
“Stupid duel puzzles.” Ryouta quickly cast a glare in Leland’s general direction before turning back to Everett.
“They usually mix up easy and tough ones, but considering you’re covering three years worth of material, I’d highly doubt that they’ll let you get off so easily.”
“Right. How do I study for that?”
Leland laughed, over exaggerating it to its fullest extent. “Study? You don’t study for those.”
“The duel puzzles will be based mainly on skill, understanding of the rules, and more than anything, knowledge of cards.”
“All of them.”
“Right. Great. What’s the final part?”
Ryouta lifted his third finger, but it was Leland who answered. “A duel with a proctor.”
“Alright, that sounds simple.”
“It won’t be that easy.” Leland’s usually carefree face had evolved into a serious expression. “The proctors here take these duels extremely seriously. They try to win, and win big. They’ll dominate you if you give them the chance.”
“And, considering you’re supposed to be tested on three years worth of dueling, I’m sure they’ll get the best professor they can to face you.”
“Don’t they use structured decks though?”
“Yeah, but when they say structured, they mean that they build them before each exam for every duelist to face. So, if you’re the only one dueling…”
“Then the deck will be built to face me.” Everett lifted his hand to his chin. “I guess I’ll have to prepare for that.”
A long silence followed as all three walked on in thought.
“Well, in any case, you’d better get to studying if you’re really worried about it.” Leland put a hand around Everett’s shoulder and started leading him down the road. “And seeing as you haven’t been given a proper room yet, you get to stay with me at the Slifer dorms!”
“Really? They said I could stay at the hotel in the main building.”
One look from Leland and Everett knew he wasn’t going to be getting out of this. Besides, it shouldn’t really matter where he slept, because, whatever the living conditions, he only had a day to ready himself for a test that most people would have spent three years to study for. There wasn’t any time to waste on small details.
Everett yawned as he walked through the double doors into the dueling arena. He hadn’t had much sleep the previous night, as he’d been skimming through DA’s entire curriculum. The time he had actually left himself for sleeping was quickly taken up when Leland awoke in the middle of the night and forced him to duel until daylight.
The bleachers were devoid of people, a promise the Chancellor had personally made to Everett the previous day. The only two people he could see were Ryouta and Leland, and Leland was more likely to taunt than cheer.
Everett doubted it would matter. They would have to sit in the control booth with the Chancellor and Professor Grey anyhow, and that room was soundproofed.
“Are you ready to begin the written portion?” The sharp sound of the Chancellor’s voice rang through Everett’s dormant ears and brought him to full attention. They obviously weren’t going to give him any time to get ready.
Everett gave an affirmative thumbs up, a motion that was hardly visible to the four people sitting in the control booth.
Leland and Ryouta were sitting rather uneasily in the back of the room; as far from the control panel and speaker as the Chancellor could put them without forcing them to go sit outside. Well, maybe only one of them was uneasy, Leland on the other hand was sleeping rather soundly.
“Professor Grey, would you please start the instruction?” Like an eager pup, the Professor slid his chair over to the microphone.
“Alright, Everett, if you’re ready,” a quick glance from the Chancellor told him that he shouldn’t be giving Everett an option, “Please take a seat at any of the computer terminals there, in front of the booth.”
Everett moved towards what he assumed the Professor was talking about. At the base of the grandstands, directly in front of the control booth in which Dr. Grey and everyone else were sitting, laid two rows of seats. In front of each seat lay a keyboard and a monitor displaying the symbol of duel academy.
As Everett sat down, the picture disappeared. In its place appeared the words “Entrance Exam – Section 1”.
“Now, as I’m sure you’ve been told by your two friends, against instruction no less,” Grey gave a disappointed glance towards Leland and Ryouta, to which Ryo responded by tossing his hands in the air, arguing his innocence, and to which the sleeping Leland responded with a snore. “That the first part of the exam will be a basic knowledge examination. Multiple choice. You will have half an hour to answer fifty questions. Are you ready?”
The Professor looked down and saw Everett nod.
“Alright then, begin.”
Grey pressed a key beginning the examination and flipped a switch, turning off the speaker. After checking to make sure Everett had begun, he spun his chair around to face everyone else in the room.
“Alright, it should be about twenty minutes before he finishes.”
“Twenty minutes, seriously, I have to wait that long?” Ryouta slouched in his seat in agitation.
Grey and the Chancellor exchanged glances.
“You asked to come here to watch, stop complaining.”
“I didn’t ask. I got tricked into coming,” Ryouta motioned towards Leland, who was still sound asleep in his chair. “Kind of like how you two got tricked into letting us come along in the first place.”
“By the way Professor, “ Grey gulped as the condescending tone of the Chancellor’s voice took root, “How did a couple of students talk you into allowing them to watch a private examination?”
The Professor loosened his collar as he tried to think of a viable excuse. By the fifth second of silence, it was becoming apparent that there was none forthcoming.
“I guess I’ll have to talk with you later about this, then.”
The tense atmosphere of the room was lifted as Leland awoke and garnered everyone’s attention with an overly enthusiastic yawn.
“What’d I miss?”
“Nothing, the exam just started.”
“Really? How’s he doing?” Leland walked over to the window, leaning over the control panel as he looked down at Everett. After a menacing glare from the Chancellor, the Professor pulled him back and motioned him into his seat.
“He’ll be done in roughly twenty to thirty minutes. That’s all you need to know. Considering that this is much more than you would have known if we hadn’t allowed you in in the first place.”
“Why would you have done that?” Leland asked innocently, as if there was no problem with Ryouta and himself viewing a private examination, a tone that reaped Grey a wealthy glare from the Chancellor.
“So, are the other two sections going to be the same as usual then?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” The Chancellor folded her arms as she informed the pair, “We didn’t have enough time to come up with anything particularly different, so we’ll just be giving him the toughest questions we’ve ever given for each section.”
“The toughest questions? Damn, you’re one cruel-.” Even Leland’s voice trailed off as he saw the look in the Chancellor’s eyes.
“Watch your language Mr. Autten, you’re still in a school setting.” Leland shrugged. “At any rate, he’s trying to catch up on three years worth of learning. We need to know how much he knows beforehand to determine whether or not we can possibly have him graduate on time.”
“But does that really mean you have to give him the toughest questions?”
“Under these circumstances, yes.”
Leland slouched back in almost a perfect replication of Ryouta, who by this point was trying to sleep himself, something Leland wouldn’t have, but as Leland began scheming to determine the most sinister way to wake him, a knock on the glass window of the booth attracted all of their attention.
Standing on the tips of his toes looking in on the group inside was Everett, rapping his hand on the glass and mouthing something, inaudible through the soundproof walls of the room.
The Professor, like the rest, wondering what he was doing, looked down at the screen that mirrored Everett’s terminal.
‘End of Exam’ appeared bright and clear on the monitor, and it must have been a while since he’d finished, else Everett wouldn’t be standing up at the booth attempting to get their attention.
“He’s finished? It’s only been five minutes!” The Chancellor walked over to the Professor and looked at the monitor over his shoulder. “Check his answers.”
The Professor sat silent, still looking in awe at the screen.
“Now!” Like a frightened mutt, the Professor quickly had the computer run a scan of the exam. The results appeared shortly after.
Everett wasn’t quite sure why Grey and the Chancellor were huddled over the control panel, nor why Leland was giving him a thumbs up. He could only assume that their computer had acted up, if that was the case, then he’d have to take the exam all over again.
Even though it had only been five minutes, Everett had been exceedingly agitated with the pure simplicity and facile of the test. After completing it, he had realized that he didn’t really even need to have studied for it. Leland was right, dueling in the amateur league had probably taught him everything he needed to know.
After several minutes of looking the screen over and discussing with the Chancellor themselves, the Professor turned the microphone back on to speak to Everett.
“Alright, Mr. Aalto, we’re about to begin the second part of the exam. Please return to your seat.” After returning a slightly agitated nod, Everett followed the Professor’s instructions.
“Told you he wouldn’t need to study.” Leland lay back in his seat with a victorious grin plastered across his face. “These tests are a cakewalk for us amateur leaguers.”
“You’re a C student,” Ryouta shot.
“What’s your point?”
“Will you two be quiet, we’re about to begin the second examination.”
“Which one’s that Ma’am?” Leland wasn’t even looking at the Chancellor, instead laying his head back in the chair with his forehead facing up towards the ceiling.
“Duel puzzle.” Professor Grey responded for the Chancellor, pointing at the screen that had just brought up the image of a dueling field.
The screen reset and cards appeared as the first puzzle was loaded. Leland laughed as he looked at the screen.
Sure enough, the hand Everett was dealt was all Elemental HEROs. One ‘Terraforming’, 3 ‘E – Emergency Calls’, 1 ‘Elemental HERO Wildheart’ and 1 ‘Elemental HERO Stratos’ all lay in Everett’s hand. In his deck were four Elemental HEROs: ‘Ocean’, ‘Voltic’, ‘Prisma’, & another ‘Wildheart’. Along with the monsters in the deck were one ‘Mystical Space Typhoon’ and a ‘Fusion Gate’. Everett’s Extra Deck contained two copies of every Omni-Hero in the game.
The opponent’s cards were all set. There were three monsters, all ‘Marshmallon’, and one set trap: ‘Mirror Force’.
As it was, Everett’s Life Points stood at 1000 and the opponent’s at 8800.
Leland remembered this one from a few years ago, it had really tripped up a lot of the students, while the Student’s who played HEROs finished it in seconds. The trick was not falling for the ‘Stratos trick’, as it had become known as: using the primary ability of ‘Elemental HERO Stratos’ to search right off the bat to get all of the HEROs from the deck. Apparently Everett had that all figured out.
Everett quickly activated all three of the ‘E – Emergency Call’s and added ‘Prisma’, ‘Voltic’, and ‘Ocean’ to his hand. After adding ‘Fusion Gate’ to his hand, he activated it and fused the ‘Ocean’ and ‘Wildheart’ in his hand to fusion summon ‘Elemental HERO Absolute Zero’.
With one HERO on the field, Everett Normal Summoned ‘Elemental HERO Stratos’, activating its ability to destroy the set ‘Mirror Force’. With that, he fused his ‘Stratos’ with ‘Voltic’ and ‘Absolute Zero’ with ‘Prisma’ to bring out two ‘Elemental HERO the Shining’.
The secondary effect of ‘Absolute Zero activated, destroying all three Marshmallon and the ATK boosting effects of ‘the Shining’ pushed both of their ATKs to 4400. Everett attacked with both for game.
“He’s pretty good!” the Chancellor exclaimed.
“He better be, he beat me.”
“That’s not that hard to do.”
“Shut up, Ryo.”
With the first puzzle completed, the Professor brought up the second and final one.
“Alright, Everett, this one is going to be a little different.”
“You’re not seriously giving him that one, are you?” Ryouta’s question was met with a disapproving glare from both Grey and the Chancellor. Turning back towards the microphone, the Professor continued.
“In this puzzle you are not given the cards, only a situation. Your opponent controls three Monsters: ‘Horus the Black Flame Dragon Lv8’, ‘Sorcerer of Dark Magic’, and ‘Destiny HERO Plasma’ equipped with your ‘Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon’. Your Opponent has 9000 Life Points and you have 100. You have two cards in your hand, none on your field, none in your graveyard, and six cards in your deck. You can have as many cards in your extra deck as you see fit. You must choose what all the cards are, and you can choose whatever order the cards in your Deck are in, but all cards chosen must be currently legal with Industrial Illusion’s regulations. With all that in mind, you must win this turn.”
“Wow, you guys are actually giving him this one?”
“Do you have a problem with it?” The Professor’s conceited tone was undermined by his usual disposition.
“Well, yeah. This puzzle is impossible.”
“How so?” asked the Chancellor.
“Well, there’s nothing anyone can do. ‘Horus’ locks down all Spells, ‘Sorcerer’ stops all Traps, and ‘Plasma’ stops all Monster effects on the field.”
“That maybe so, but–.”
“But nothing, this is bulls***. How could you give him this one, not even any of the seniors that graduated last year were able to answer this.”
“Could you please keep quiet back there, Mr. Autten, we’re trying to conduct an examination. If you can’t keep your mouth shut, I will have you escorted out.” Leland moved his hand across his lips showing compliance with the Chancellors irritated order. “Now I assure you, there is certainly an answer, several, in fact. Let’s just wait and see if Mr. Aalto can find it.”
Now certain that there wouldn’t be any more distractions, all four people in the booth started curiously at the monitor, unsure as to what Everett would do.
He started with the deck, selecting ‘Monster Reborn’ and ‘Megamorph’ as the bottom two cards.
“I think he’s already figured it out.”
The whole group looked over at the Chancellor, even the Professor appeared to not have any idea what Everett was doing.
“How do you mean, ma’am?”
“Just watch, those last two cards are the keys.”
Everett began adding cards in twos. Twice he added a ‘Puppet Plant’ and ‘Advance Draw’, rotating the cards so that the same card wouldn’t be drawn consecutively. Then, to his hand, for the two cards, he added ‘Electric Virus’ and a third ‘Advance Draw’.
“Do you see?”
“Wow,” Leland exclaimed, “those seniors last year must have been stupid.”
The Chancellor let loose a rare, but victorious, smile.
“Let’s see if he plays it right,” she commented as the puzzle shifted from build mode to test mode.
With his first move, Everett discarded the ‘Electric Virus’ to take control of ‘Horus’, then immediately tributed it for ‘Advance Draw’, allowing him to draw into another ‘Advance Draw’ and ‘Puppet Plant’. Through both ‘Puppet Plant’s, he was able to repeat the same motions for both ‘Plasma’ and ‘Sorcerer’. At last, Everett was left with ‘Monster Reborn’ and ‘Megamorph’.
“Okay, so he was able to take out all the monsters, he still needs to take out 9000 Life Points.”
“Just watch, Mr. Autten.”
On cue, Everett activated Monster Reborn, reviving the ‘Blue-Eyes White Dragon’ that was previously attached to ‘Plasma’. Activating ‘Megamorph’, he doubled its ATK to 9000 and attacked for game.
Leland, Ryouta, and even the Professor were equally stunned.
“What’d I tell you?” The Chancellor grinned, not at all impressed by the results of the exam.
“Whatever,” Leland slouched back and folded his arms, “When’s the next section start?”
“The test duel section of the examination will take place this afternoon. Once we figure out Mr. Aalto’s overall score.” The Chancellor walked over to the door and opened it, beckoning the two to leave. “No sense making us all go through the duel if he didn’t even pass the first two parts.”
“Please,” Leland laughed as he walked passed the Chancellor, “If that’s failing, then this school must be further down the crapper then I thought.”
“That’ll be all, Mr. Autten.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Leland sighed as he exited the booth.
“Thank you for allowing us to watch the test.” The far more respectful Ryouta bowed to the Chancellor before exiting the booth and casually followed Leland down to meet with Everett.
“So how’d I do?”
“Great.” Leland pronounced convincingly. “Final duel is in a few hours.”
“If he passed.” Ryouta’s sense of caution did not resonate well with Leland.
“Was it really that close a call?”
“No, Ryo’s just being an idiot, of course you passed!”
“We shouldn’t jump to conclusions, Lela–.”
“Screw that, I want a celebratory lunch!”
“You want a celebratory lunch? I’m the one who took the test.”
“Awesome! That mean you’re paying?”
“Pay? I thought school lunches were free?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Ryouta scratched his head in confusion, “But who eats school lunches?”
“Yeah, c’mon Rhett, that stuff is disgusting.” Ryouta paused as a thought jumped into his head. “We should go to the restaurant!”
Everett sighed in defeat. You couldn’t argue with the most stubborn of mules, but there was one thing.
“Wait, what restaurant?”
Since its founding decades ago, Duel Academy had done anything and everything it could to improve itself to better the education and experience of its students.
More recently, though, as a result of wealthier and wealthier students attending the school, all money normally reserved for furthering education was rerouted to excessive and unnecessary commodities around the campus like expanding the bathhouse, recreational facilities, and, only one month previously, building a lavish restaurant with a well-rounded menu.
“What’d you say it’s called again?” Everett was less than impressed with what Leland had informed him.
“The Obelisk Ballroom, “ he repeated, leaning back into the leather cushion that lined the booth he had reserved for them all.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Everett was considering face-palming as he looked at the over-scaled walls of the ballroom until he saw the numerous Obelisk Blue students giving the trio the evil eye. “So what exactly made them build this?”
“Boosters, man. They can pretty much put the money they give the school towards anything they want, seeing as they’re paying for it and all.” Leland took a sip from the soda he’d ordered in one expensive looking glass. “Besides, this place it awesome.”
“How much is this costing us?” Everett asked as he examined the drinks he had casually allowed Leland and Ryouta to order.
Leland shrugged, “I dunno, I’ve never checked.”
Everett slowly picked up a menu lying idly on the side of the table and reluctantly opened it. Quietly and breathing slowly, he set it back down.
“And?” Ryouta, who had been silent for most of the time after Everett’s test, finally spoke up.
Everett let out a deep breath, “I can’t believe I’m paying for this.”
“What’d you expect? You’re eating with Leland.”
“Don’t tell me you’re going to eat like this is a buffet, Leel.” Everett anxiously sighed. “You know I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Fine then, sure,” Leland chuckled, speaking under his breath, “I’ll be sure not to tell you.”
Everett looked around the room. For a bunch of kids, it was surprisingly quiet. In fact, Leland, Ryouta, and Everett were making the most noise out of anyone there. Enough so, that many of the students at other tables were glaring at the trio in irritation. A drastic change from the curiosity that had plagued Everett wherever he had previously gone.
“So. You guys come here often?”
“Nope,” Leland responded outright.
Seeing Leland wasn’t going to elaborate on his answer, Ryouta stepped in.
“Besides the fact that Leland and I haven’t seen each other all that much in the past year,” a slightly exaggerated cough from Leland made Ryouta pause, “We wouldn’t normally come here anyway.”
“Today is a special treat!” Leland almost yelled it, taking enjoyment in the indignation of the other blue-clad students.
“So why don’t you ever come here… I mean, besides the fo-.”
“Too damn expensive!” Leland was making it clear that he wasn’t going to quiet down.
“We’re not exactly the richest people here,” Ryo elaborated, making sure to jab Leland in the gut in an attempt to silence him, “And usually most of the people here aren’t all that friendly.”
“Friggin Blues!” Leland interjected, making his words definite above any other sounds in the ballroom.
“Shouldn’t you keep quiet?” Everett nervously looked around the room, uneasy with the general air drifting their way.
“Why should we? They’re dicks around us, why not be dicks around them?”
“Because we can kick you out.”
In unison, all three of the boys sitting in the booth looked over at the newcomer standing a foot away from their table.
Touting an Obelisk-Blue uniform like most of the students in the ballroom, he stood, arms folded, with green eyes staring aggravated through black hair that almost rivaled Ryouta’s in its shade.
“Teo! Good to see you!” Leland exclaimed, apparently taunting him based on the boy’s response.
“That’s Mister Souza to you, pathetic Red.”
“Haven’t changed a bit, have you?” Leland picked up his glass and chugged the remaining soda, then motioned with it from Everett to Teo, “Rhett, this is Teodoro Souza. Teo. Everett Aalto.”
“I know who he is, idiot.” Leland shrugged off the comment he had obviously expected. “I’m more curious as to why he’s hanging out with underachievers like you two.”
Leland’s eyebrow rose as he and Everett exchanged glances.
“Well I’d assume that that’s because you’re an assho-.”
“Leland!” The recognizable feminine voice that came from behind Teodoro was surprisingly assertive over Leland; much more so than anyone else had been since Everett had arrived at the academy.
“Ah, Sis. Shudda known you’d be trailing this…” Leland swirled his empty glass in the air, trying unsuccessfully to find the appropriate insult.
Carina set her hands to her hips as she slowed her pace towards them, finally placing herself between Teo and the others. “What are you doing here Leland?”
“Well, I was just showing Rhett here a good time on his first full day here.” Almost as if he were pulling something on Carina, he motioned to Everett. “You remember Everett, right?”
Everett waived casually at Carina, a move that earned him a hearty glare from Teodoro. Carina coughed out a laugh.
“Why, yes. We ran into each other yesterday.”
“Did you now?” Leland took a second to glare in Everett’s direction. Apparently whatever plan Leland had concocted had been thwarted by that unexpected turn of events. “Everett hadn’t mentioned it.”
“C’mon, baby, stop trying to reason with them.” Teodoro put his arm around Carina, setting his mouth less than a centimeter away from her ear. “Just let me kick ‘em to the curb. It’ll only take a second.”
Everett hadn’t realized their relationship until this point, and he almost flushed because of it.
Carina shook Teo’s arm off, but not in a way that dispelled Everett’s new disposition.
“That won’t be necessary, Teo.” Carina looked back at her little brother. “Right, listen Leland, I don’t mind if you like hanging out with your friends here, but you really need to quiet down if you want to continue.”
Leland sighed, not wanting to be so pliant in the face of so many Obelisk-Blues.
“Oh, I’m sorry, are we getting too much into you and your wuvie-duvie’s alone time?” Leland’s exaggerated tone and facial gestures were over the top, and Everett could tell even Leland was surprised with himself.
“Why you little-.” Teo began a reckless charge at Leland, clearly intent on beating him to a pulp.
“Hold on a second, Teo.” Carina put herself between Teodoro and her brother. “Leland, I think you should leave.”
“Pft. Don’t worry,” Leland stood up and looked Teo straight in the eye, “We were just about to.”
Keeping his eyes locked with Teo until he passed him by, Leland marched away from the booth, followed swiftly by Ryouta, who tried not to make eye contact with either of them, and Everett, who kindly nodded goodbye to Carina, who, much to the disdain of Teodoro, swiftly returned the favor.
“Leland, are you alright, man?” Ryouta was running to catch up with Leland, who stopped in his tracks, fists clenched, as he heard his friend’s voice.
The sun hung disguised behind a thin layer of clouds, leaving a shadowed impression upon the conversation.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure, Leland?”
“I said, ‘I’ll be fine!’” Leland spun around in frustration and anger. “Sorry, I lost my temper.”
Everett, who’d taken his sweet time getting there, finally caught up.
“But, god dammit, why’d they have to be there?” Leland questioned himself as he pinched the crown of his nose in frustration.
“Teo and Carina! Ugh, I was hoping they’d be out somewhere.” Leland smiled, a disturbing sight in some regards considering how he was steaming seconds before.
“Well, that restaurant is out somewhere.”
Leland silently glared at Ryouta for a small strand of seconds.
“So who exactly is Teo, now?” Everett thought he might as well figure him out now. After all, he was dating Carina.
Ryouta and Leland both looked at Everett as if he had Normal Summoned ‘Frog the Jam’ in attack mode. Ryouta stopped short of slapping himself in the face, instead resting it on his chin in thought.
“Statistically speaking, he’s the bet duelist at this school. He’s topped every single one of the student conducted tournaments for the last three years and he’s never lost to a dueling proctor in his career.”
“And his Carina’s boyfriend.” Everett decided to put it down for emphasis.
“Unfortunately. They’ve been together for about a year now.” If Everett was feeling disheartened by the information, Leland was disgusted.
“So I take it, you don’t like him?”
“Well, yeah, obviously. The guy’s a total prick. “I’m not sure why my sis is still going out with him, he’s such an ass.”
“Maybe it’s because he works hard in school and gets good grades.”
“Shut up, Ryo!” Leland hadn’t taken the joke very kindly. “We both know ‘hard work’ has nothing to do with it.”
Everett looked at Ryouta. “What does he mean?”
Ryouta tussled his hair just a bit. “Well there’s a rumor going around that Teodoro’s never won a fair fight.”
“Yup, and I got facts to back it up. Heard it straight from my sis, herself.”
“Yeah right,” Ryo chided, “If she knew he were cheating, why’d she go out with him. Unless… Agh!”
As soon as Ryouta’s statement started, Leland had put him in a headlock; not desiring for him to reach any such conclusion about his sister.
Many things change over the years, but apparently, one that hadn’t was Leland’s care and admiration for his older sister, no matter what had just happened at Obelisk Ballroom.
Leland’s vice-like headlock was beginning to take its toll on Ryouta, and in an effort to escape, he tried to bite Leland’s pinkie finger. Everett couldn’t help laughing at the situation, but was forced to attempt to intervene when it appeared that the tussle might tumble out of control.
With all that in mind, it must have been some sight for the Chancellor’s secretary as she walked up to the trio. A situation that was swiftly brought to order when her forcibly ousted cough rose above the noise and commanded their attention.
“Mr. Aalto,” she began as the three fell into line, “I’m hereto inform you that you passed the first two parts of your examination and are being awaited at the main dueling stage for the final test.”
Without batting an eye or adding anything else, she sped off like an unrestricted Legendary Six Samurai deck.
“Better get going then, huh?”
Everett almost created bags under his eyes as he sighed in anguish.
Unfortunately when he’d made the deal with the Chancellor to make the testing private, he’d completely left out the duel itself. Due to that the grandstands were beginning to fill up with students eagerly anticipating the coming duel.
Safe to say, the butterflies were beginning to stir in Everett’s stomach.
“Mr. Aalto!” The Chancellor stood with the Professor upon the duel field. “Would you join us, please?”
Everett glanced back at Leland and Ryouta, who motioned for him to go ahead.
“Wish me luck.”
“Break a leg.”
As Everett walked off puzzled, Ryouta leaned over to Leland, “Does that saying even work in this situation?”
Leland returned a bemused look to Ryouta. “What saying?”
The Chancellor stood tall, arms folded and smiling, as Everett walked up onto the platform the duel field lay upon.
The Professor had set his glasses low on his nose, emphasizing what would have been an almost unnoticeable classic, British, bowl haircut.
“Are you prepared for the final test, Mr. Aalto?”
“I guess.” Everett smiled, noticing no one else was even close to the platform. “Who’s my opponent?”
“Your final test will be a duel against our best dueling proctor, Professor Grey.” The Professor nodded in acknowledgement, and extended a hand.
“I wish you luck Mr. Aalto. God knows you’ll need it.” The smile wrangling the Professor’s face made Everett get the feeling that he indeed may need it.
“Whenever you’re ready, gentlemen.” The Chancellor walked off of the platform to give the opponent’s their space. Everett took his place at the far end and turned to see the Professor all set up and ready to go.
“This test is meant to be as tough as possible, therefore, you shall be going second.” The Professor announced as he drew his first card. A sinister smile slithered across his face.
“I activate the continuous Spell card ‘Dimensional Fissure’!”
“What?” Everett’s yell was drowned out by the sound generated of a tear in the ceiling opening and revealing another world devoid of light. A thin violet film separated the two sides, ominously waving with the force of wind that drained through it.
“Here’s the deal, Mr. Aalto, as long as this card remains face-up on the field, all monsters that would usually go to the Graveyard are banished instead!”
“Yea, yea. I know.” It was now obvious to Everett why the Chancellor had chosen Professor Grey as his Opponent, as long as Everett could not send his Monsters to the Graveyard, he wouldn’t be able to activate their effects, and if he couldn’t activate his monster’s effects, there was little doubt what the outcome of this duel would be.
“Now I summon ‘Karakuri Komachi mdl 224 Ninishi’ in attack mode!” The mechanized puppet in a kimono wore a menacing smile made out of bolts as it waved its arm around upon its summoning.
“Zero attack, huh?” Everett’s question wasn’t meant for the Professor’s ears, any monster with zero ATK worth using probably had a pretty good effect.
“Now I activate ‘Machine Duplication’!” Everett cringed as the spell card was activated, maybe the ATK was the upside. “With this, I can special summon two more ‘Karakuri Komachi’ from my deck!”
Two more of the same mechanical, kimono-wearing puppets arose in the same manner of the first.
“Now I will use the ability of one of my ‘Ninishi’ to normal summon ‘Karakuri Soldier mdl 236 Nisamu’.” Another mechanical puppet, this time with a sword, appeared next to the others. “And now I tune my level three ‘Karakuri Komachi’ with my level four ‘Karakuri Soldier’ for my level seven ‘Karakuri Shogun mdl 00 Burei’!”
The newly summoned ‘Nisamu’ and kimono-wearing tuner disappeared within the light of the summoning, which soon faded to reveal a great mechanized steel shogun.
“Now with his ability, I may special summon one ‘Karakuri’ from my deck. So why don’t I just summon another ‘Nisamu’ from my deck?” The same swordsman that previously appeared rose once again. “And you know what, I think I’ll just synch it and a ‘Ninishi’ away once again!”
After repeating the same synchro summoning a third time, the audience was ecstatic. The Professor, in one turn, had shut down Everett’s entire offensive and brought out three extremely powerful synchro monsters that each weighed in at 2700 ATK.
“And with the ability of my final ‘Shogun’, I will special summon ‘Karakuri Muso mdl 818 Haipa’ in attack position.” The professor smiled, “Your move.”
Everett was having a hard time staring down the three shoguns, the fact that a fourth monster had hit the field, let alone one with 2100 ATK, was almost backbreaking, he’d need one hell of a draw to pull himself out of this.
“I will then set one card in my spell and trap card zone and end my turn.”
“Excellent. My draw.” It took only a second for the Professor to activate the card he drew. “Mystical Space Typhoon!”
The classic anti-defense spell appeared on Grey’s field and produced a gust of wind that tore apart Everett’s set card.
“’Mirror Force’. Why am I not surprised?” Everett couldn’t help wanting to clobber the Professor in the face. No one likes the villain who talks down to the opponent every chance they get, even if the Professor wasn’t exactly a villain. “Now that your field is clear, I can end this! ‘Haipa’, attack!”
The crowd hushed for split second as the machine charged forward, only to be repelled by a small clock-like skull that appeared suddenly on Everett’s side of the field.
“Should’ve known you’d have that card.” The Professor was considerably less condescending the second ‘Battle Fader’ showed up. “Because of the ability of ‘Haipa’, he is turned to defensive position.”
The large mech knelt down and folded his arms, supposedly meant to show that it was “defending” itself.
“I will then set one spell or trap and end my turn.”
“Alright.” Everett smiled as he saw the card he drew. “I activate ‘Dark Hole’!”
A giant storm began spinning around the field as the image of the spell card appeared on the field.
“Not so quick, jackrabbit, I activate my set trap card: ‘Karakuri Cash Shed’!”
“What does that do?”
“Quite simple, Mr. Prodigy. Because I have a ‘Karakuri’ monster in defense, I can negate the effect of your card and destroy it.”
The winds quickly died down and ‘Dark Hole’ shattered.
“Fine then.” Everet set a monster alongside his defending ‘Battle Fader’ and set a final spell or trap. “Your move.”
“Boo, you suck!” The faint yell from the grandstands reminded Everett that Leland was watching. Everett scratched the back of his head, flicking him off in the process.
“Really? The child prodigy has nothing?” Two days ago the Professor was sucking up to Everett. I wonder what happened? The Professor drew and pointed at Everett. “Enough of this. I’m finishing this now! I activate the ability of my ‘Burei’ to change your ‘Fader’ to attack mode!”
“You can’t be serious!” Everett, like most of the crowd, realized that there were going to be some cards he’d need to look up after this duel.
The ‘Battle Fader’s appearance, somehow, grew exceedingly more hostile, even with 0 ATK.
“And since I have another Burei, let’s change your set monster to attack mode.”
Sangan appeared from below its card.
In response, the Professor counted his fingers. “Let’s see, you have four thousand. If you lose twenty-seven hundred from an attack on your ‘Battle Fader’, and seventeen hundred from the attack on ‘Sangan’… Well, it seems your stall tactics have failed!”
“’Burei’, attack!” The shogun charged the battle fader, smashing it to pieces as its sword came crashing down. Everett winced as his life points dropped from a perfect 4000 to a meager 1300.
“That all you got?”
“You should learn not to taunt someone that’s about to defeat you, Mr. Prodigy, because my second ‘Burei’ will attack!”
“C’mon, Professor, you’re falling for all the easy tricks.” Everett chuckled as he activated his set card. “I activate ‘Forbidden Lance’!”
The Professor cringed, knowing he would not be able to win this turn.
“Ha! Didn’t expect ‘Mr. Prodigy’ to do that now, did’ja Prof?” Even Everett looked with a disappointed stare towards Leland and the peanut gallery. It may have been a supportive statement, but Everett could already tell Leland would use ‘Mr. Prodigy’ every time Everett screwed up from now on.
“Fine, you won’t lose from this attack, but your ‘Sangan’ is still destroyed.” Everett nodded in acknowledgement as Sangan popped like a balloon under the weight of ‘Burei’s sword.
“And with ‘Sangan’s effect, I add a second ‘Battle Fader’ to my hand.”
“And I attack with my third ‘Burei’.”
Everett special summoned ‘Battle Fader’, ending the battle phase, and effectively giving him another turn.
“I will set a spell or trap card and end my turn.”
“My move then.” Everett pulled the top card of his deck with exuberance, praying that he’d top deck the exact card he’d need. “I activate ‘Lightning Vortex’!”
For the cost, Everett placed his useless ‘Darkfire Avian’ in the banished pile, as per the effect of ‘Dimensional Fissure’.
“You’re last ditch effort should be applauded Mr. Aalto.” Great, he finally dumped the whole ‘Mr. Prodigy’ thing. Right AFTER Leland picked it up. “But your luck has run its course. I activate my set trap card: ‘Dark Bribe’!”
Everett looked straight down at the ground. There was literally no way he could win now. Unless…
“Vortex may be negated, but the second part of ‘Dark Bribe’s effect allows me to draw one card, right?”
“Yes, for what it’s worth.” The Professor seemed eerily confident that whatever Everett could draw was pointless. The Chancellor must have planned for this. She saw the ‘Darkfire’ archetype’s one weakness, and she set him up to lose. If that were the case, maybe he would get in either way.
Funny thing was, Leland was two steps ahead of her, and the card Everett drew was proof enough of that. This duel was over.
“I tribute my ‘Battle Fader’ to summon ‘Cyber Dragon’!” The metallic serpent slithered out from the card frame and coiled itself menacingly next to Everett.
“Cyber Dragon? But you never used that before!” The Professor looked back nervously at the Chancellor.
“It seems that our new student still had some tricks up his sleeves.” The fact that she referred to him as a student helped to ease Everett’s anxiety.
The Professor straightened himself. Cyber Dragon was one multifaceted little machine, and if Everett were stupid enough to bring it out in face-up attack, he could only be forfeiting or planning something big.
“Alright, Professor, as I’m sure you know, when I control ‘Cyber Dragon’ I can use it as material to fusion summon the ‘Chimeratech Fortress Dragon’ in my Extra Deck without even using ‘Polymerization’. All I have to do is send it and other machines from the field to the Graveyard.”
“That’s quite some effect!” The Professor was laughing uncontrollably. Even some of the students– mainly Obelisk-Blues– could be heard snickering from the crowd. “Now if only you had other machines on your side of the field.”
“Listen up!” Everett’s voice was commanding, and immediately the entire auditorium fell into a lull. The Professor stood rigid, not expecting such a sudden outburst. Everett took a small glance past him and saw the Chancellor, smiling, obviously understanding exactly what he was going to do. “I never said that I had to use my monsters.”
‘Cyber Dragon’ quickly slithered across the field and coiled itself around each of the four ‘Karakuri’ monsters the Professor controlled, connecting small cords into thir systems and overriding their programming, taking complete control of them. Within seconds they had disappeared beneath the dragons coat, which had evolved far beyond its original style and size.
“I summon ‘Chimeratech Fortress Dragon’.” Everett smiled, making a pause before letting loose one last effect. “And because five monsters were used in its summoning, its ATK becomes five-thousand!”
“’Fortress Dragon’, attack!”
From the four wheels that had developed from combining with the four machines appeared four equally sized heads shaped much like the original ‘Cyber Dragon’. Each opened its mouth, and a small blue light slowly began to glow.
“This is the end, Professor.” The blue beams of light erupted from the dragons’ mouths and into a laser that shot forth and blasted the Professor, one by one, until his life points finally hit zero. “I win.”
The crowd had erupted into applause the second ‘Chimeratech Fortress Dragon’ appeared, and they had no intention of stopping.
The Chancellor walked up onto the platform, patting the back of Professor Grey on the way– as far as Everett could tell, not to console him, just to get him to move along with her– and extended a hand out to Everett in congratulations.
“That was one fine duel. Safe to say, you’ve passed the examination.” She closed her eyes as she smiled. “If you want to attend the Academy, you’re certainly welcome.”
Everett didn’t need time to think about it. He’d made his decision after he visited the hall of fame. “I guess it would be a waste to go through all the trouble of taking the examination and not attend.”
“I’ll take that as a yes, then.” The Chancellor grabbed Professor Grey by the collar and pulled him up in front of her. “The Professor here will give you a run-down of what exactly you’ll need to do in the next few weeks if you want to graduate on time.”
The Professor stood awkwardly with a hand behind his head. “Well, I guess I’d better start by apologizing for being such an a–.”
“We know you’re an idiot, now skip ahead to what’s important.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Sorry, Ma’am.” Certainly intimidated, the Professor turned back to Everett. “So, you’ll have to stay for extra class sessions. Private ones, just to catch up. It should feel like cram school, though I’m not sure if you Americans know what that is.”
Everett nodded. The name speaks for itself.
“That’s enough for now, then Professor.” The Chancellor stepped in front of him once again. “We’d better start with your dorm assignment. Judging by your overall skill and knowledge, I think you’d do best in Obelisk-Blue. Unless, of course, you have a different idea…”
Everett took a second to think his options through. “Well…”
“You’re an idiot.” Ryouta was putting it as simply as possible. “What were you thinking?”
“What? You have a problem with my choice?
“Yeah, kinda. You could have been in the Obelisk dorms. They have air conditioning. They have spacious rooms. They have great baths!”
“Red doesn’t have baths, Leel?”
“Not ones you’d want to use.”
The sun’s fading crimson light mixed with the darkness of night from the other side, creating an eerie twilight in the sky. It was barely enough to activate the street lamps that lined the path back to the Slifer dorms.
“Do you still have time to change your mind?”
“Why would he want to?”
“You’re not serious, are you?”
“I am.” Leland held his hands behind his head as he walked along. “Obelisk is just a bunch of stuck up a******s, I’d rather vomit than join that dorm.”
Ryouta held back an obvious boating joke. “Whatever, you guys have fun rotting in that joint, I’m going to back to the civilized world.”
Leland waved as Ryouta ran off. “Have fun in your syphillized world!”
Everett folded his arms as Leland turned back to him. “The Slifer dorms aren’t that bad, are they? They were fine last night.”
“They’re great if you know what you’re doing.” Leland looked straight ahead, walking slightly faster away from Everett. “By the way, you might want to check your duffel bag, I think the rats chewed into it and ate all your food.”
“Wait, what?” Everett tried to keep pace with him. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything, you’re the one who left food in your bag.” Leland started running ahead, making it increasingly obvious that there were no rats involved.
Everett chased after him to the Slifer dorm, laughing all along the way.
He’d need these relaxed and listless moments, because, starting tomorrow, things were going to get a lot more hectic.
Everett’s ears perked back as the closing bell rang, but he didn’t bother lifting his head off of his arms folded on the desk. Only a hand whacking the backside of his head made him make any notice of the outside world.
“Leave me alone, dammit.” Everett looked with one glaring eye out at Leland who leaned mockingly on the side of his desk.
“C’mon, it’s the first day of class for you and you’re already sleeping? I know you haven’t been to an actual school since junior high, but c’mon man.”
“It’s not my fault, you can’t f***ing sleep in those damn Slifer bunks.”
“Hey, you were the one that chose to live in Slifer, not me.”
“No. I was tricked into choosing that dorm. You completely overhyped it.”
“Overhyped it? You stayed in that dorm a full night before you made your choice.”
“Yeah, and I didn’t get any sleep then either.” Though for different reasons entirely.
“Well, whatever. C’mon I wanna get down to the cafeteria before they run out of chicken wings.”
“Ugh, fine.” Everett lifted himself up and followed towards the door, only to be stopped by the classroom’s teacher.
“Excuse me, Mr. Aalto,” Professor Grey motioned for Everett to come over to his desk. “Could I have a word with you for a moment?”
Everett looked back at Leland, who must’ve decided chicken was more important than courtesy.
“So, as you know, we’re condensing your entire semester into two weeks time. That being said, it doesn’t allow us much free time, and there are certain events planned in the coming weeks that will take up not only my time, but the time of many of the students, maybe even you.”
“Keeping that in mind, you’ll not only be taking a one on one class with me three times a week, but we’ll have you tutor with one of our best seniors every day.”
“Including today I assume?” Everett didn’t feel all that disappointed. he knew he wasn’t going to have much free time this semester. The professor handed him a small card.
“The directions and room number are on that card. Your tutor should be there soon. If you have any questions, you can ask him. Alright?”
Everett nodded. Leland was going to have to eat alone.
Ryouta’s look was one of despondency as he sat across from Leland, who’d already finished off his eighteenth wing. “How much you gonna eat?”
“’Till they run out.”
Ryouta leaned back, pushing his now empty cafeteria tray away from him.
“So where’s Everett?”
“Dunno,” Leland mouthed as he bit into the next piece of meat.
Ryo sighed and leaned onto the table, looking uncaringly out over the cafeteria. “He Lele, your girlfriend’s coming.”
“Say what now?”
Leland pulled the now uncovered bone from his mouth, looking awkwardly up at the girl who’d just joined them with barbeque sauce still hanging idly on his lips.
“Oh, hi Sylvie.”
Leland could almost see the lash around the girl’s green eyes twitch at the sight of him.
“Could you wipe you’re face? Geezus, you’re acting like an animal.”
“M’okay.” Leland proceeded to wipe his mouth with the end of his sleeve.
Suffice it to say, Ryouta’s joke was funny if only because whenever the two got together the following situations were not always pleasant. They’d managed to be able to stand each other just enough to be around each other and argue. Ryouta had come up with the theory years ago that it must because they like each other, a theory that many of the other students have scientifically tested numerous times. The result: they didn’t have a clue.
Sylvia looked like she might slap herself in the face. “Ugh, you’re impossible.”
“Sure, now whadduya want?”
Sylvia cringed at the question. Ryouta wasn’t sure if it was because she was embarrassed or because… well, actually in either case, it was probably because she was embarrassed.
“I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but,” at those words Ryo glanced over at the table over and waved two fingers under the table signaling his bet to the other students, “Carina and Teo are hosting a school-wide party and all the best duelists are invited.”
Ryo started to grin.
“So you’re here to deliver my invitation from them?”
“No,” the muscles in Sylvia’s forehead began to tense, “You weren’t invited, but, seeing as I thought you probably deserved to, and seeing as I am, and, well, seeing as all the duelists who were invited get a plus-one, I thought, maybe, if you wanted to go…”
Sylvia trailed off, but Ryouta had already won his fifty bucks.
“Meh, I dunno.” Leland lifted the wing back to his mouth and nibbled on the remaining strands of meat once again. “Is there a point to all this?”
“Well yeah. First off the chancellor’s making a big announcement....”
“Well, we don’t know.” Sylvia folded her arms nervously. “Oh! And there’s gonna be a raffle!”
Leland didn’t seem all that interested, as he reached for the next wing. “So?”
“Well, I thought… maybe you’d want to win the prize.”
Ryouta and the group a table over sat motionless, waiting to see who’d win the other half of the bet.
Leland looked at Sylvie with an eyebrow raised. “What’s the prize?”
Everett sat attentively in the empty classroom, looking at the door as it slid open, and in walked his tutor. He had to look up to get a good look at the man, something he wasn’t completely used to.
“So you’re Everett are you?” The teen walked over and held out a hand to Everett, one that he gladly accepted. “My name’s Michael. I’ll be your tutor for these last two weeks.”
“Alright then.” Everett smiled, “So should we get to work then?”
“Oh, no need.”
“Huh?” Everett sat silently, awaiting an answer.
“I find that it’s easier to learn first by yourself, so I’ll give you homework today to work on and we’ll come back tomorrow to correct it and make sure you understand everything.”
“Oh, alright, I assume that means it’s going to be a lot, then?”
“Not necessarily.” Michael sat down, and for the first time Everett truly realized how towering this guy was. “Not as much the first day, and they’re gonna be having some events tonight, so I didn’t think we should keep you too long. At least for the first day.”
“So just until I get used to it all I guess.”
“So what’s going on tonight that’s so important?”
“Oh, you don’t know?” Michael pulled out the personal PDA each student was given by the school, opening a page and showing it to Everett.
“That’s what they’re calling it. All the best duelists in the school were invited.” Michael pulled the PDA back. “You haven’t heard? That’s strange, I would have thought you’d have been invited.”
Everett chuckled and scratched the back of his head. “I guess I just haven’t been here long enough.”
“Well that’s too bad.” Michael looked over the PDA one last time. “You know, though.”
“Huh?” Every student invited does get to invite one extra person, so why don’t you tag along with me? It’ll be a great experience for you. You’ll get to see what kind of stuff goes on here at Duel Academy and meet new people as well, you’ll kill two birds with one stone!”
“C’mon, it’ll be fun.”
“Shouldn’t I work on the homework you’re giving me?”
“Ah, naw, it’ll be fine. I’m sure you’ll be fine. You look like the kinda student that can handle both of these. So whadduya say?”
Everett tried to think of something to say to wiggle his way out of this, but nothing was coming to mind.
“By the way, this is going to be a proper party, suits and all. There’s a place in the main building where you can get a good suit, I’d suggest you stop by there sometime between now and when the party starts, alright?”
Everett nodded submissively.
“Good. Then I’ll see you there.”
Everett could scarcely believe he’d been put into a situation where he’d have to wear a suit, but alas, here he was, coat and tie, leaning awkwardly against a pub table lining the ballroom.
Michael had been kind enough to bring him in, but was very quick to abandon him to go talk with some of the other guests. The ballroom was big enough, and enough people were already in, that Everett had figured that there was no need to go looking for him.
Everett picked up his PDA. He hadn’t seen Leland since the end of class, and he hadn’t responded at all when he’d messaged him. Everett sighed. He was admittedly worried.
“Is that Everett?” Everett almost lowered his head completely to the metal covering of the table, expecting some sort of fan girl to rush him. “It is! What the hell are you doing here?”
Everett jerked up. The air of that mocking tone could only be- “Ryouta!”
Ryouta walked up along with a black-haired, brown-eyed girl Everett didn’t recognize.
“How’d you get in?”
“I got invited.” Ryouta chuckled before realizing Everett was looking curiously over at the girl beside him. “Oh, this is Sylvia.”
Everett smiled. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You as well.”
Everett, still leaning on the table, looked back at Ryouta. “So’d Lele manage to get in?”
“He’s somewhere around here.” It was Sylvia who responded, with a tone of angst that caught Everett a bit off guard. “I swear, I invite him to this, get him all dressed up and looking nice, and he just ditches me the second we walk in.”
“Acting a little bit lonely there aren’t ya, Sylvie?” Sylvia glared straight through Ryouta’s skull, a stare that grew in power the redder her face became until she finally looked away.
“Ugh, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that he should show a little respect to me for even allowing him to come.”
“It’s not that bad is it?”
Sylvia cringed, unable to come up with a worthwhile reason to support her case, instead leaning against the table and looking around the room. “Where the hell’d he even go anyway?”
Leland answered that himself when he showed up moments later. Like Everett, he had on a suit assumedly tailored by the same group that’d given Everett his own suit. But unlike Everett, Leland had jacket unbuttoned and his tie undone. The only reason he most likely even had the jacket on was so that he’d have two hands to carry whatever it was he was holding.
“Lottery tickets?” Ryouta asked.
“Two-hundred of ‘em.”
As Leland set them down on the table, he flinched as Sylvia hit him in the back of the head.
“Why are you so reckless? That’s like five dollars a ticket!” Sylvia was more steamed than she was five minutes ago. “And look at that suit! I went through all the trouble to get you to look nice and you come out looking like you’ve been drunk all night.”
“Um… actually…” Leland’s joke didn’t sit well with Sylvia, and Ryouta was looking seriously worried as if she might gut him right then and there.
Thankfully a familiar voice was there to rescue them all.
“Ah, Everett, there you are. I see you were able to find some people to talk to.” The burly Michael walked up to the group, though for some reason, the tension didn’t seem to lift all that much. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Oh, it’s you.” Leland replied mockingly.
Everett glanced back and forth between the two.
“Who let you in anyway?”
Sylvia slightly lifted her hand and looked up, “That was me, Michael. Leland’s my plus-one.”
“Alright then.” Michael turned to Ryouta, who looked a little bit more nervous with the giant glaring down on him, “Then who let you in?”
Leland put his arm jokingly around Ryouta’s shoulder. “He’s my plus-one.”
“That goes against the rules labeled in the invitation you know.”
“Actually, I don’t recall there being any rules against it. After all, the second Sylvie invited me, I became a guest, and a every guest gets a plus-one, right?”
Michael glanced at Everett, who tried to show through his expression that he wanted none of this. “Whatever, it’s not really my problem. Do what you want. Just don’t cause too much of a ruckus, okay?”
“Yes Sir Rules McStricte-“ Leland’s face was shoved forward as Sylvia grabbed the back of his head.
“Play nice, you two.”
Everett looked to Ryouta for an explanation of what was going on.
“The school hires some of its students to work as security for the school, kinda like a super hall monitor. Michael was kinda like the Sheriff Super Hall Monitor. Suffice it to say, Leland wasn’t always the best of citizens.”
“Hey, hey, I wasn’t that bad.” Leland struggles to respond with Sylvia’s hand still planted firmly on the back of his neck.
“They had to rebuild the entire beach area because of you.”
“Hey it wasn’t that bad!”
“The water was on fire.”
“Hey, I take no responsibility for the events that happened on the day of-.”
“Oh, just shut it.”
Everett and Ryouta were getting a laugh out of the pair’s antics, but finally Everett decided to ask the question he’d been meaning to ask since Leland showed up.
“So what exactly are those raffle tickets for?”
“Oh you don’t know?” Leland rubbed the back of his sore head as Sylvia finally released him. “The winner of the raffle gets to get on stage and duel.”
“Really?” Everett’s feigning interest came back into focus. “With whom?”
Everett chuckled, “You’re kidding.”
“Not in the slightest.”
“So you want to duel him that badly?”
Ryouta looked condescendingly at Everett. “Have you heard Leland rant about Teo?”
“Well, sorta. Not really…”
“It can get pretty intense.” Even Sylvia had apparently heard of these legendary tirades.
“Hey, I have legitimate reasons.”
“Is it cause he’s an ass and he’s probably boning your sis-“ Ryouta actually did get punched this time.
“Don’t you dare even think about that!”
Leland was in no mood for joking, and Ryouta looked more sorry than angry, even Sylvia was more concerned with makings sure Leland was all right than Ryouta.
“Sorry, geeze.” As Everett helped life Ryouta back up, a voice rose through the speakers, signaling that the main speakers of the evening were about to begin.
“Alright, students, thank you for attending tonight’s festivities, I hope you are all enjoying yourselves.”
Leland looked off to the side, “Aw, great, if it isn’t bowl-top.”
Sylvie backhanded Leland in the arm so that they could hear Professor Grey.
“I only have a few things to announce today, so please, I’d like your attention as I get them out of the way quickly. First, whomever it was that buried my grandmother’s tea set in the equestrian club’s stables, we know you’re out there, and we will find you. Secondly, I’d like to welcome our Chancellor, Laurette Sabine, to the stage now to speak to you all.”
Swiftly, the Professor stepped to the side allowing the Chancellor step on stage to the sound of a slow and forced applause from the audience.
“Thank you, Professor. Now I won’t waste too much of your time, students. I’m sure you’d all like to get back to your party, and I certainly have work to get done. Put simply, I’m here to explain to you all the announcement that you’ve all been so anxiously talking about these past couple days.”
The whole room fell silent to hear what the Professor had to say. Ryouta flipped out the one hundred dollars in total that he’d won before when Sylvia had asked Leland to join her before motioning to a friend of his across the room as to what his bet on the announcement would be.
“At the end of the semester there will be no exams.”
The entire crowd cheered, but silence quickly followed as the students began to think it through.
“Why would they cancel exams, that doesn’t make any sense?”
“Shh, Sylvia. Just shut up and listen.”
“Shut up, Leland.”
“I should rephrase that, there will be an option to not take the exams.”
The atmosphere of the whole room was about to fall off a cliff.
“Instead, during the last week and a half of the school year, we will be holding a tournament for all students in the school. The further into the tournament you go, the fewer exams you will need to take. The final 8 students will not take any exams at all and will be able to compete for the final prize.”
The room began abuzz. The chance to skip exams while competing in a tournament was certainly a delectable idea to any weary student.
“The final prize, I assume you all want to know, will be told to the final eight students. The tournament begins in two days. I hope you’ll all be willing to participate. I should also note that prospective agents and dueling league officials will be watching these games. Good luck to you all.”
And with that, the Chancellor made her exit. As soon as the exit doors shut behind her, the whole room erupted in excited discussion, almost drowning out the Professor as he took to the podium one last time. “Students! Please, listen up! I have one last thing to say!”
Though not to a complete silence, the noise level of the room decreased to allow the Professor to give in his few words.
“I have here the winning number for tonight’s raffle.”
Leland eagerly readied himself with his pile of tickets, pushing a second pile over to Ryouta and Everett, urging them to assist.
“The number is 1-2-0-7-5.”
Quickly, the trio began running through the tickets, and as more and more time progressed without someone else calling out that they had the winning ticket, Leland got more and more excited, assuring himself that he must have the winning ticket.
But as the last of the tickets in the pile were searched he became frantic, quickly searching through it again.
"Crap, crap, crap. Where is it?"
Ryouta laughed, "You don't have it do you?"
"Shut the f*** up Ryouta."
"Will you two just quiet down? It's just a duel..."
After holding her head in her hand in disappointment, Sylvia finally looked over at the panic-stricken Leland, helpless as he searched through his pile of wasted cash.
Finally, sick of it all, she looked down at the single ticket she’d bought while Leland was running about and read it out to herself. Slowly following, she nudged Leland.
Confused, Leland took the ticket from her and looked at it. She’d bought the winning ticket.
“Thank you, Sylvie.” Emotional and without any real thought, Leland hugged her, a reaction that caused her to flush and that attracted a muffled snicker from Ryouta, who was too busy admiring his newly acquired hundred dollar bill to give the two the more deserved laugh he was accustomed to giving.
Without any more delay, Leland ran up to the stage and held his ticket up so the professor could see it.
“Ah, it appears that we have a winner. Let’s just see if…” The Professor looked back as a figure walked on stage.
Leland frowned. It was his sister, not Teo.
Allowing herself a single glance at Leland, she walked up to the Professor and whispered in his ear before giving Leland an apologetic look and leaving the stage.
“Um, well. It appears that Teo will be unable to duel tonight with you.”
“Say, what?” Leland’s jaw dropped.
“Yes, well. It appears he had to leave early due to some unforeseen… incident.”
Everett assumed Leland’s first thought was that he’d left the second the Chancellor made her announcement.
“Well, I bought these tickets to duel Teodoro, if he’s not gonna show, I want my money back.”
“Oh, yes. Well, um, you see…” The Professor paused to gather his words. “You didn’t buy your tickets. This is a charity even for the school. The tickets were given as thanks for your generous donation.”
Leland wasn’t convinced. “You’re not serious.”
Ryouta and Sylvia were already moving quickly towards Leland.
“Why I should just beat the crap outta you no good, thieving, freakin’, non-teeth-cleaning.” Ryouta and Sylvia quickly retained Leland and began pulling him back. As they passed Everett Ryouta motioned that it was probably time to leave, stopping only to pick up his winnings from one of the other students.
“Everett.” Michael walked up to him just as he was about to exit through the back doors. “I just wanted to let you know that you’ll still have to study and do your work during this tournament. They may be able to get you out of your exams, but they will not be a substitute for your cram lessons.”
Everett, disappointed because he had actually entertained the thought, nodded.
“Well, anyway, sorry if Leland ruined your night for you.”
“Oh, no, it’s fine.”
“Alright then, well enjoy your night. Make sure to finish your work up quick and get some sleep.”
Everett smiled and nodded before leaving, knowing full well that Leland’s agitation would keep him working long into the night. Still, he couldn’t help but look forward to the next few days’ events.
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Edited by Agro, 11 May 2013 - 04:44 PM.