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Yu-Gi-Oh: Rage of the Duelist's Soul [M]

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Mist87

Mist87

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This fanfic is rated M for Mature, for suggestive adult themes, coarse language, and violence. (Keep in mind I'm naturally a horror writer, so expect some influences here.)

 

I do not claim to own the rights to Yu-Gi-Oh!, or any series bearing its name in the title.  Please enjoy my story, and, naturally, feel free to post any comments, criticisms, praises, or thrown tomatoes below ^_^:

 

                                                         Chapter 1:

     The crowd of one thousand cheered in the stands, beckoning their hero, their icon, to summon his next monster, the big boss of his deck.  Only one hundred lifepoints remained for each opponent, the audience screaming for the last drop of blood.  The boy stood confident, his black, slicked-back hair, hazel eyes that glistened from the light-rays pouring from the glass ceiling above, broad shoulders high, filling his letter jacket with his team logo, a constellation of stars forming the word “Celestial,” on the back.  His opponent stood the same, cloaked in a black hood, no form, no hands, just a dark Duel Disc strapped over wrist-cloth.  He summoned the boss of his deck...  Celtic Guardian?  That's not what I played.  The crowd laughed, booed, threw food, drink-filled cups into the arena.  The fifteen year-old stood wide-eyed at the field.  A ring of bombs materialized around his monster's neck, obliterated the Celtic Guardian, and the kid fell to his knees.  His lifepoints ceased to exist, yet his opponents remained.  His fists clenched at the impossible outrage.  Then a finger, a bone covered in skin, accused from the dark cloth.  The hood blew back from the face, revealing a dried cadaver he recognized as his mother.  His eyes teared, mouth expanded in horror, then he woke up.

     The boy from the dream, aged five-plus-years, sprung from his bed, a river of cold sweat dousing his body and sheets, raising goosebumps from his pores.  His eyes scattered, found himself in his spartan room, an LCD television on the floor, a desk, laptop, his full-sized, inflatable bed taking most of the room space.  A series of loud knocks abetted the pins puncturing his skull.  
    “What?!”
    “You okay in there, Nova?” said the male voice from the other side.  “You were screaming loud enough to wake the dead, man.”
    “It's nothing.  Just stubbed my toe.  Going back to sleep.”
    “Yeah, that's what you said last night, and the night before...  You know the best cure for restlessness and night-terrors:  a little nookie.”
    “You should take your own advice, then you wouldn't give a damn about your male roommate screaming all night.”
    The voice from the other side chuckled.  “You mad?  Just trying to help, man.”
    “Okay, Mom!”
    “Night, Nova.”
    “Goodnight Mist.” Once he heard his roommate's door shut, he threw his soaked blanket off,  lay face-up, looking at the ceiling, and massaged the bags under his eyes.  He probably wouldn't get any sleep tonight either.  

    The next day, Nova stood outside Wordsworth Hall, the English building at Wildace University.  A shadow overcast his open book, interrupting his cramming.  Wearing a tight, low-cut shirt and a jean miniskirt, a young woman looked up at the 6' 02” Nova, granting him a full view of her cleavage.  She was cute, girl-next-door-cute, yet he refused to give a smile.
    “Still struggling with your math, Jill?”
    “Hey to you too, Nova,” she said with a giggle.  “Think you'll finally be free to help me tonight?”  
    He shut the book.  “Don't know.  Matters if you can finally pay me for the last three lessons I gave you.  I'm calling your tab, Jill.”
    She put her hand on her hips, the sudden motion making her D-cups jiggle.  Nova's expression remained static.  “I'm pretty sure we can work something out.  So, just one more time, pleeeeaaassse?”
    He blinked twice.  “Yeah, we'll work something out.”  From the corner of his eye, he saw something that made his heart skip, then averted his eyes to the patio below.  Jill noticed, turned around, and saw a woman with bob-cut, black hair with blonde highlights, a jean jacket with torn jean pants, though the most defining features were the permanent scowl, the eagle eyes, sword nose, thick eyebrows, and the arrogance in her stride.
    “Belladonna Shade?  What's that know-it-all doing here?”  To worsen matters, Mist Carver  leaped from behind her with his goofy smile, thrift-store clothes, and his I-don't-care-poor posture.  Jill inherited Belladonna's scowl.  Great!  What on Earth could bring together the world's greatest hippie and the world's greatest Nazi...  
    “Hey buddy!” said Mist.  “Wanted to know if you had a spare pen I could borrow for my next class, and it just so happens she was...”  Belladonna stepped forward, and Nova's eyes met her's.
    “If you have time to daddle, Nova, you have to time study, or improve your dueling skills.”
    He returned her stare, both searching each other's eyes for something, something Mist and Jill were clueless about.  “Something on your mind, Belle?”
    “Only how you could have given up so easily.  How the mighty Nova could become such a sniveling coward while the world turns around him.  You think the world owes you something?”
    Jill raised a clenched fist to her chest.  “Who the hell do you think you are?!  How can you say that when you were there!  Because of everything he's been through...”  He raised his hand, silenced her.  
    “I'm through with children's card games, Belle.  Finished.  And there's nothing you, or anybody else can say that'll ever make me change my mind.  Come on, Jill.  I'll walk you to your next class.”
    “ 'Kay.”  Jill followed after him, but not before sticking her tongue at Belle.  Belle bared her teeth.  
    “That's always going to be your damn problem, Nova.  You always throw yourself in the fire for others instead of trying to help yourself.”
    The young man with the lax eyes laughed at her.  “Come on.  Do you really think they're gunna study tonight?”  Belle threw Mist a glare that made him flinch, then marched forward.  “What?  What did I say?”  Several yards away, a figure wearing a black hoody, his eyes completely concealed, stood around the corner on grass, below the patio.  His dry, bleeding lips formed into a demented smile, then under the harshness of the sun, he walked off.

    A loud noise woke him in the middle of the night.  No, an omnipotent vibration that shook the whole house, and him from flesh to soul.  DOM!  He practically jumped from the bed, eyes wild in all directions.  Wearing only a pair of sweat pants, he rose from the bed, scanned the black room.  The noise again. DOM! DOM!  Someone bouncing a basketball against his door,  a tyrannosaurus walking down the hall, a giant tackling the walls...  Nova placed his hand on the door knob, and opened it.  He saw nothing.  A foot away, his roommate's room lay across from his.  
    He yelled at the door:  “Mist!  If you don't turn those damn speakers down I'll...”  DOM! DOM! DOM!  He swore the house shifted on its foundation.  Before he was confused; now he was frightened.  He proceeded further, his knees bent, ears high with caution.  The small corridor that connected his and Mist's rooms led into the living room area, and to the right after that led into the kitchen.  Beyond the small kitchen rested the backyard, a fenced in area, yet the security system for some reason didn't cover it.  He walked into the living room, bare except for the shadow of a fifty-inch LCD screen, and a green sofa that smelled thick of “green.”  He tried flicking the lights.  Darkness still.  He took another step toward the kitchen, and saw something that nearly stopped his heart.  An enormous shadow towered over the back door.  It lowered its gaze, and peeked through the plexiglass pane with red, cat's eyes, and a spiked crown of black.  DOM! DOM! DOM! DOM!  The door trembled, the house quaked, all the strength in Nova's legs slipped away.  He fell to his knees, tears forming in his eyes.  
    “Why am I being haunted like this?  I did my best.”  DOM! DOM! DOM!  “I did my best!”  He ripped his body away, clawed at the carpet to escape, and came face-to-face with a small boy.  The kid, who must have been eight to ten years old, frowned in his face, holding both hands on his hips like Superman.  Nova was embarrassed to show his true feeling, the true terrors of his mind to a child, yet fear consumed him, drove him, hid away the shame.  Nova trembled.  
    “You're acting like a scaredy cat, Mister,” said the boy with a voice indistinguishable from a little girl's.  “And I thought you were the adult here.”  Nova heard the door smash to the floor.  A heavy foot crunched it underneath and marched in his direction, each stomp shaking the house as tiny quakes.  “Don't be a sissy!  Look at it and fight!  And if you can't fight it, then die!  Die like a man!”  He felt the monstrosity directly behind him.  Its breath trembled down his shivering form, made gooseflesh rise on his nape.  He turned his head as a saint opening a door to hell, but halfway through he stopped.  He couldn't do it.  Nova realigned his head with the child's eyes, a waterfall of tears shaming him further.  The child opened his mouth and released a shrill scream.

    Covered in sweat, grunting, Nova raised his upper body from the air-mattress.  Jill, naked under the sheets, clung to his arm.  If this can't put me to sleep, then what the hell can?  He sat on the bed after pulling his arm from a moaning Jill.  The nightmares, the guilt, the fear and the pain, all remained the same.  He failed to know why he remained in the past.  Why, with him a sophomore in computer science, with enough left over scholarship money to pay his part for an apartment, and a sexy firecracker in his bed, could he not have a good night's sleep?  His hand itched for the remote.  He needed something to take his mind off the worries of the past, and the choice of most of his generation was some good ole, mind-numbing television.  He flicked it on.  It was a news broadcast featuring an up-and-coming perky reporter interviewing the ever-scowling Seto Kaiba outside one of his many ten-story businesses.  
    “Mr. Kaiba,” she said with a smile that could blind the sun.  “The public wants to know, sir, how did your company invent the idea for Synchro Monsters, a new strategic and competitive way to play the popular Duel Monsters card game?”  
    “Hmph.  It's only natural since my primary investment lies with the Duel Disc System, which revolutionized the trading card scene altogether, I'd discover ways to maximize my investments by researching new ways to make the game more lucrative...  and more fiercely competitive.”
    “Your company has been described as a bumble bee in the TCG industry because of your genius, Mr. Kaiba.  Feel like informing the public of any future projects from Kaiba Corp?”
    Kaiba glared down at the reporter, making the cute girl flinch.  “Considering you could be a spy from a rival company, 'Mrs. Sanchez,' I'd say whatever plans I have in production are none of your business.”
    “Okay...  Well, Mr. Kaiba, do you have any comment on Universal Innovations, and C.E.O Ms. Abacas's plan to introduce a new duel system that eliminates the cards from the game entirely?”
    Kaiba snatched her mic; Nova's eyes widened.  “Now you listen here and listen well:  I'm tired of hearing about this!  Lise Abaca's 'business move' of eliminating the cards from the game not only makes the distributors lose money in card sales, but also alienates the hardcore enthusiasts who have “personal” relationships with hardcopy versions of the monsters.  Any C.E.O who's first major move is to dig her company into the ground isn't worth my time, or even the breath you've made me waste addressing her garbage of a company.  This interview is over!”  He tossed the mic over his shoulder as he proceeded beyond the building's sliding doors.
    “What a complete, arrogant dick,” said Nova before smashing the channel button.

    He turned to, surprisingly, an interview with Lise Abaca cutting the red tape at a new silicon chip development plant, an old, male reporter by her side.  She had red, bob-cut hair, freckles, and tailor-made business suit.  If it wasn't for her large breasts jutting from the front, Nova would have sworn she was a man.  
    “Ms. Abaca, with the unveiling of this new microchip development factory, you've added another business chapter to your already flying success.  And I must say, with the invention of your Universal Card Database System, the UCDS, the momentum of your company seems unstoppable.”
    She smiled, and looked kind of cute.  “Our company is always happy to meet our community of customers' expectations.  We will continue to push forward with new products that will innovate the computing, and currently, the Dueling world.”  
    “And what is your opinion of Mr. Seto Kaiba, the president of Kaiba Corp, who says, and I quote:  'Ms. Abaca is the worst C.E.O in the history of the Dueling world.  Her move of eliminating the cards from the Duel Monsters game makes a piss salesman look like a magician.'”  Her smiley disposition instantly cracked into a glare that made the reporter break a sweat, the crowd of photographers around her gasped.  She then forced the glare to a smile, like a child trying to hold a fifty pound box.  Nova blinked his eyes twice; it barely held.  
    “Mr. Seto Kaiba is a respected businessman and an idol of mine in the Trading Card Industry.  As such, I respect his opinion and hope to aspire to his lucrative heights in finances and customer satisfaction.  Thank you for your time.”  She marched inside the building, her security personnel keeping the news teams from following behind.
    Nova flicked off the television.  “Someone better stop her before she slips poison in Kaiba's Blue-Eyes Tea.”  Something struck the young man's mind; his eyes widened as he dropped the remote.  He was disgusted with himself.  He dreamed about a much hated Duel Monsters card that tried to kill him, with a mysterious kid that questioned his masculinity, and now he was watching news about the card game?  What the hell was happening to him?  And now he found himself thinking about things related to the card game he hated?  Nova rose, a grimace wearing heavy on his face, his body moving without his consent.  He went to the closet across from his bed, opened it, and began sifting through piles of boxed paper, until he lifted a collector's tin ten inches long.  He brought it face high, blew the dust from it.  Embroidered across the bottom, gold above black metal, read:  “CONGRATULATIONS!  CHAMPION  OF THE CREATE-YOUR-OWN-CARD TOURNAMENT.”  Above that he saw a monster that resurfaced memories.  Her skin sky blue, galaxies in her hair, she used the Milky Way as a seat in the ocean of the cosmos.  In her lap, she held a scorpion, which contained a series of stars in its tiny body.  Finally, she winked at the card holder with a smile that could melt over ten thousand degrees Fahrenheit.  The memories all flooded back at once, memories of his foolishness dueling beside this monster, fighting for something he failed to obtain when he should have stayed at his dying mother's side, the oblivion he faced from his family for his decision, failure creating the heaviest burden, all because he played this one card... Nova's gums and eyes flared.  He ran through the house, through an already opened front door, and tossed the box as far as he could muster.  He smiled to himself as the deck spilled from the box and the fierce winds outside swept the cards further into darkness.  He stood too pained from his thoughts to actually smile.

    He walked inside, shut the door behind himself, when he stopped.  The front door...  was already open.  Did Mist leave it open?  He took a step forward through the black living room.  His eyes caught something that stopped his body:  a little guy, wearing a hoody blacker than the darkness around him, and a green, demonic mask with a  creepy smile etched into it, stood.  The situation was certainly odd, but the little guy's eyes glowing like  a cat's made it eerie.  Nova and the intruder stood in silence.  The mask for some reason gave him déjà-vu.
    “H...Hello?”  The figure walked towards his room with no sense of urgency.  “Hey, stop!”  The young man felt a firm tap punch the back of his head.  His body fell to the carpet, then his mind blanked-out.  

    Wet cold engulfed his entire body, his nose, eyes, ears, even his lungs.  Nova sprung from ice-cold wetness, thrashing, coughing and gagging to expel water from his chest.  He wiped  chips of ice from his eyes with shaky, numb hands.  His blurred vision made out a group of muscular men holding shotguns, all wearing suits as white as ivory.  His situation remained unclear, but he knew he couldn't take the cold anymore.  He jumped from the bathtub, slipping on his way out, and got saved by one of the muscular men, who punched him in the stomach before two more dragged him down the hallway and into an enormous, concrete area.  His vision returning now, he spied an enormous, upside-down eye of Horus beneath their feet.  He raised his head; more than twenty figures wearing white cloaks and the same green, demon's masks he saw earlier surrounded the circle.  All of them chanted the same words he failed to understand and didn't care to.  Another one stepped forward, this guy the same one who intruded in his house.  His voice mismatched his size; six different accents struggling to break through a dog's bark, and a big dog at that.
    “Ethan 'Nova' Eternim, I have heard much about you in my travels.  At such a young age, you managed to become the National Duel Monsters Champion three consecutive times, and even emerged victorious in the Create-Your-Own-Card International Tournament, where you won the right to create your signature deck, the Celestials.  You have a very powerful soul.”
    “What...do you...want?” said Nova through chattering teeth.
    The masked man laughed as if possessed by six demons.  “Your soul, of course.  I will claim it for The Order of the Fiends after I claim your title.”
    “W...Wasting your time.  G....G....Gave it up.”
    “Don't be such a fool, Ethan Eternim.  You relinquishing your title doesn't mean you've lost it.  The pride of containing an earthly object with one's name stamped across pales in comparison to the achievement of accomplishing a task of astounding magnitude, that task currently being defeating you.”  The guards released his arms, dropping him to the floor.  The strength in his legs returning, he stood and faced the little green goblin while rubbing his hands together.  He knew running with a group of fanatics pointing shotguns at his back would be pointless.  The chill abated as he let anger replace fear.  
    “I...I won't play, goblin.  Even if I win, you could just kill me anyway.”
    The little guy clicked his teeth three times.  “Always the same, Ethan.  Selfishly thinking about what satisfies you over the wishes of others.”  He snapped his fingers.  Stadium lights illuminated the area inside the eye of Horus, but the outside remained darker than a moonless night.  Behind the head-masked man, a twenty-foot cross proceeded from the darkness and into the light.  Nova looked up, and saw Jill, wearing the white gown of sacrificial priestess, tied to the cross.  Dried tears dirtied her face, her eyes drifted madly for hope.  She honed on the man she shared the night with.
    “Nova?  NOVA!  HELP ME, PLEASE!”
    “JILL!  Let her go, now!  She has nothing to with this!”
    “No, Ethan, you involved her in this when you tried to use her body to heal your sorrows.  But her flesh is not fine silk, her mouth is not an oasis of bliss, and her liquid essence is not a panacea that will revive your heart.  She will be a means to us, just as she was a means to you.”  He heard footsteps from behind.  
    “NOVA!” screamed Jill.  Too late.  One of the guards grabbed him in a full-nelson,  lifted him high so his legs swung useless.  
    “Let go of me!  Let go of me!”  Another snapped a three inch, blue bracelet on his right wrist.  He heard noises resembling metal released from a spring, then felt more than ten, hell, maybe twenty needles piercing his wrist.  The guard released him; he yelled in agony, gripping his arm, afraid to agitate whatever stuck into it.  The bracelet had a right-side up eye of Horus with carved feathers forming a circle around it.  “What the hell have you done to me?!”
    “That is a bomb.  The moment your lifepoints reach zero, it will detonate, and the ritual with conclude.  If my or your lifepoints don't reach zero in thirty minutes, it will detonate, and the ritual will conclude.  Also, for each 1000 lifepoints you lose...”  A heavy device wheeled itself behind Jill's cross, making her wide eyes stretch in vain.  Nova failed to see it in the blackness, but still trembled, knowing it was only another torment to his and Jill's condition.  “She will share portion of your Lord's passion.”  A guard presented the little green bastard with his Duel disc, while another presented Nova with his, a deck already inside and waiting.  The angry young man glared at the onyx-black card game accessory.  
    Not again.  How can they make me do it again?  
    “Strap this on and get ready to Duel,” said the guard.
    “You can't be serious.”
    He cocked the shotgun.  “Dead serious.”  Ethan Eternim looked at Jill, her mouth open to compensate for the congestion, more tears supplanting the old ones.  
    I just can't let this happen.  His mother's face flashed in his mind, skin hanging off bone, him arriving a failure, his family on both sides staring at him with concentrated malice.  He snatched the Duel Disc and activated it.  It flashed open as a sword.  The reader expressed 4000 lifepoints.  His opponent did the same.  “Your whole gang of f***ing freaks don't know me.  I'll send you, all of you, to the stars.”

    Him and his opponent both drew five five cards, then the short man with the demonic mask drew one.  (Feral Imp Priest 4000 / Nova 4000)
    “Let the ritual begin!  I will now summon the most powerful monster in Duel Monsters.  Behold, the mighty, omnipotent lord of fiends, the Feral Imp (****/1300 ATK/1400 DEF)!”  The monster projected to the field.  Now it all made sense to Nova.  The green fur, the ever-present, stupidly vacant smile, all like the masks these crazies wore.  Nova grimaced.
    “If that is the strongest monster in Duel Monsters, then next time I'll let Jill f*** me with a dildo.”
    “Then for your sake, Ethan, I hope this duel at least proves to be a challenge.  I set one card face-down, and end my turn.”  
    “That's it, huh?  My turn.”  He drew a card, his expression cold stone at the result.  He swore he would make this freak pay double for forcing him to touch this deck again, for making him touch any deck.  He'd make them all pay.  “I summon Aries, The Celestial Soldier, in attack position (****/2000 ATK/1500 DEF).”  As he placed the card on his duel disk, a brilliant flash of white illuminated before him, materializing a beautiful yet stern woman, a scar running a hooked fissure from her left dimple to cheek.   She threw back her long hair as red as crimson, her left foot forward rattling the chain mail covering her chest and pelvis, and raised her sword.  “I then activate the spell card Foolish Burial, which lets me send a monster card from my deck to the grave.  I send Sagittarius, The Celestial Spirit to the grave.  And now...”  With a firm finger, he pointed to the object his contempt, and actually felt a tinge of delight in ordering his Duel Monster to destroy it.  “Aries!  Cut down that stupid looking creature with your Blade of Ram!  Oh, and did I mention for Aries to declare an attack, I must banish a Celestial in my graveyard?”  Aries glowed with red light; Sagittarius, a young man with the body of a human and the legs of a horse, wielding a bow, ascended from the duel disc's graveyard as a floating spirit before dissipating into the ceiling.  The red-haired warrior dashed forward.  A demon's high-pitched chuckle escaped the cult leader's lips.  
    “How predictable of Ethan Eternim; how predictable of any duelist wielding a Celestial deck.  You are such a fool!”  Nova clicked his teeth, lowered his head at the potential aftermath of the boast.  “I activate the trap card, Bark of Dark Ruler!”  The facedown, virtual card set behind the green imp became erect.  Purple trim bordered the king of fiends himself,  Dark Ruler Ha Des, barking, followed by an actual, nerve-nauseating screech blasting Aries.  She stopped in her march, covered her ears in vain.  “If you battle one of my fiends, I can pay lifepoints to reduce your monster's attack by the amount I paid.  I pay 1700 to reduce your impotent “Celestial Soldier's” attack.  Strike back, my lord and king!  Send his Aries to the grave!”  The playful imp, never losing its stupid expression even during its assault, moaned like a gentle beast, then slashed Nova's warrior-goddess into shards of light and nothingness.
    Nova stood dumbfounded.  Why did he pay so many lifepoints to destroy my monster?  Then the horror hit him.  His heart accelerated; his palms nearly sweated his cards from his grip.  He was stupid, so f***ing stupid.  How could he?  He looked up at his crucified lover.  “Jill!”  The noise of a drill echoed deathly through the entire warehouse, followed by a metal spike drilling through Jill's right hand.  She screamed such a terrible scream, the likes Nova never heard before in his life.  She screamed until her voice broke, and her own choking caused the shrill cry to die.  
    “You son of a b****!” yelled Nova.  “I'll kill you!  I'll kill all of you!”
    The green-faced f*** lifted his arms, took a large whiff of the air.  “Yesssss, let your sins consume you.  Let wrath fill your every thought and action to make you ripe for our sacrifice.”  Nova clenched his teeth like a rabid dog, bit iron from his tongue to regain his thoughts.  He couldn't waste time getting mad or making empty insults.  Thanks to his carelessness, Jill wasn't just in a bad situation anymore, she was now bleeding to death; he could hear her blood staining the floor between her labored gasps.  He needed to play smart, to beat this bastard without losing anymore lifepoints.
    “I...I play the spell Celestial Genesis.  For the cost of banishing my entire field, I can add the spell card The Red Giant from my deck to my hand.  Since I don't have a field, I pay no cost.” He inserted the Celestial Genesis card in the slot meant for graveyard-bound cards as the duel disc shuffled The Red Giant to the deck's top.  Nova drew The Red Giant, played it.  “Since I control no cards, I can activate The Red Giant.  I special summon to my side of the field a Red Star Token (*******/ 3000 ATK / 3000 DEF).”  A red sun, twice the size of Nova, materializes before him, the solar body rumbling with nuclear reactions and arcing solar flares.  “I can't attack with it or change its battle position, but its more than enough to keep your imp from attacking.  I end my turn.”
    
    “This day will mark the easiest ritual we've ever performed,” laughed the green demon as he drew.  The fiend's eyes widened as his eyes scanned the card, then pressed like a keened blade.  “Ethan, aren't you curious as to why we chose you, the creator and master of the Celestial monsters?  Why we would risk challenging such a powerful duelist for our ritual?”
    “Who gives a s***! Just hurry and make your move,” he said while his eyes floated back and forth between a heaving, crucified Jill.
    “It's because of the weakness concealed within your soul, Ethan.  You display strong bravado with your Celestial monsters, yet when one looks at your actions outside Duel Monsters, you're nothing but a weak coward.”
    “You know nothing about me!”
    “Oh, but I know do, Ethan, more than I'd ever like to.  Your existence is like a pestilence that festers a populace despite sacrifices to crimson tables and wails to idol gods.  Your mother was diagnosed with cancer. She became a living skeleton, her sole solace crying, begging to see her prodigal son, who separated himself from his family by drowning himself in the fame.”  The image of bones holding skin, hair that once smelled of strawberries fermenting in the trashcan by her bedside, the aura of cocoa butter replace with the waft of an open grave, the images remained stapled to his mind's eye, persisted.  His left hand gripped his eyes to block the feed, but the flashes refused to die.
    “That's... not true.  We needed the money to finish her treatments.  I wasn't running away!  I wasn't!
    “It will be okay, Ethan, for today you will pay for your sins by becoming a sacrifice to the mighty Feral Imp!  I activate the Spell card, Path of the Feral Imp.  I will now tribute my lord and king so he can progress to an even higher form.”  The green imp disappeared in a flash of sparkles.  “I special summon the Feral Imp King, in attack position (***** / 2000 ATK / 1500 DEF)!”  Nova couldn't believe the annoying goblin was replaced by... an even bigger green goblin that looked just as dumb and cheerful as its predecessor.  It looked no different, only it now wore a black crown, and was the same size as his Red Star Token.  Well, at least only in size.
    “Your moves are as empty as your “lord's” stupid expression!  You still can't attack over my token.”  
    “Oh, but I don't have to.  My Feral Imp King can destroy one card you control per turn.”  Nova's armpits became fountains of ice water, his cards overripe fruit dangling from dead branches.  “You may have created the Celestial Monsters, but in reality you're nothing but an average duelist who hides behind a powerful deck.  Feel your sins, Ethan, and drown in despair!  Feral Imp King, destroy his wall of cowardice with your Deathly Nocturne Scream!”  A screeching roar, so crippling Nova had to cover his own ears, emanated from the green fiend's throat, shattering his mighty star as if it was made of glass.  “And now attack him directly.”  It marched forward, pleasantly moaning in its drive for the kill.  Nova stepped back in vain as the fiend slashed with its huge claws.  He fell to his knees while tears rolled down his cheeks, for he knew what came with the lost of his lifepoints.  He couldn't look, but he heard the drilling, and the subsequent screams as two more pikes impaled her remaining hand and legs.  He fell to his knees, slowly let hands grip the floor as his head bowed before the large Feral Imp.  
    “Stop this, please.  Just let Jill down.  I'll do whatever you want.”
    “But we are already getting what we want, Ethan.  We want you and your sinful lover as sacrifices to our lord and master, The Feral Imp.  When your lifepoints reach zero, the last spike will pierce through her side, the bomb around your wrist will explode, and the ritual will be complete.”
    It will pierce... her side?  Nova imagined Jill, the beautiful biology major who dreamed of treating animals in her own clinic someday, with such a cute smile she could melt the moon, who burned with such passion she could melt the Sun, getting spiked through the back and dieing in this old warehouse.  The thought burned his heart, caused the grip on his cards to tighten.
    “I set one card facedown, and end my turn.  And now the ritual will be finished!”  

    The king of freaks raised his arms as if he already won, the chanting of his followers intensifying around Nova.  Still on his knees, the fallen duelist looked up at the Feral Imp King; his heart nearly froze upon realizing the creature's height and build looked familiar, like something in a nightterror.  Then the worlds merged.  His apartment, this warehouse, his mom's hospital room, the Fourth Duelist Kingdom Championship Tournament, they all looked the same.  The dark shadow in his room, the Feral Imp King, Elemental Hero Neos, they all looked the same.  So did that boy, Jill, and his mother...
    That boy?  Who was that boy?  He refocused his eyes, noticed the entire world before him frozen in gray.  The vacant expression of the large fiend, the chanting of the hooded cultists, the breeze in the air, all frozen, all silenced.  Then a child's voiced thundered through the ice:  
    “Do you see it now?  Do you remember why you created them?”  He saw the same kid from his nightterror smiling from over his shoulder.
    “Why I created them?”  He hears wings flap open, feels blazing heat burning above him.  Nova spies, above all the turmoil below, on my level, a seraphim with long, blazing hair, standing taller than Kaiba Corp tower, its expression impossible to read, yet its energy not.
    “That's your soul, Nova.  That's why you created the deck, to house your soul.”  His pupils dilated in epiphany.  He remembered the joy of penciling his monsters, drawing as a kindergarten toddler trying to emulate Vincent Van Gogh on a shaky surface.  He remembered the thrill of touring one of Maximillion Pegasus' factories, and of walking alongside the man himself while his deck was produced around him.  And he remembered the rush of playing the game with all his heart, of his boss monster burning through his opponent's lifepoints with the entire game condensed to one move.  He remembered the man he was, the man he is.
    Whether I win or lose doesn't matter; it never mattered.  “Okay kid, I got it.”  He tried to stand, but fell back to one knee.  The child giggled.
    “There's still something holding you back, silly, but I have something for that.”  He handed Nova a glowing card; he took it.
    “Who are you?”  The kid smiled, then ran away as an airplane, his arms outstretched, leaning to the right before swinging to the left.  
    “I'm closer than you think, Nova.  You may have forgotten me, but I'll forget you, big bro.”  Before he could even ponder the boy's words, the card glowed, illuminated so bright it engulfed all the grey, then he returned to the present.

    He stood.  Blue energy engulfed him like a flickering flame, his hair spiked and arced into ridiculous angles, the style resembling the King of Games.  He also felt a steady burning sensation building, as if he was slowly catching fire, on his skin and in his every joint, muscle, and organ.  
    What the hell?  The white cloaks released gasps around him.
    “The Feather of Atem!” said the ringleader.  “It activated!”  He looked at his burning, blue hands, and at the shimmering feathers and eye of Horus on his new arm accessory.  Then he heard Jill scream his name, and truly woke up.
    “My move!” said Nova.  It was time to do what he always did.
    I wish I never had a son!  his father's voice echoed. He never made a mistake.
    You've always been a punk, man, his brother's voice said.  He never was.
    You should have been there; she died saying your name! his sister's voice said.  He was always there.  
    You do nothing but fail, for those goddamn pieces of paper, said his grandfather's voice.  He never had, never would.  The blaze around him intensified, whipping the air in the warehouse.  He drew his card; blue sparks flew as he relinquished it from the duel disc.  
    “I activate the spell Ursa Major, the Celestial Compass!  As long as I have three cards in my hand, I can banish my entire hand to draw the same amount of cards from my deck.”  His duel disc snatched a card resembling a lion made of stars, one a goat soaring from a dark sky, and twin fish swimming amongst the cosmos; he drew three cards, the draws causing more blue sparks to fly after each swing of his arm.  
    How is he still standing after using so much of its power? the green-masked cult leader said internally. Their organization chose wisely; it was now undeniable.  Nova smiled at his last draw.
    “I summon my old friend, Scorpius, The Celestial Void (****/1800 ATK/1000 DEF), in attack position!”  In a blast of white light, she appeared.  If he made Nova Soul to house his spirit, Scorpius housed his heart.  A beautiful maiden of long, blue hair, flowing like ocean waves, she floated in her pink top and sky blue, billowing dress, held a miniature galaxy resembling a scorpion in her hands, and smiled back with warm acceptance only born from a mother's love.  
    “Yeah, I know; I've been a bad boy.  You can ground me later.”  She winked, then faced their opponent.  “I activate her effect:  By banishing a monster on my side of the field, I can special summon any Celestial monster from my deck.  So for now, I'll send Scorpius back home to summon an even greater threat. I summon...”  Scorpius floated into a virtual galaxy shining in the sky, and from it descended...  “Gemini, The Celestial Sabre (****/1700 ATK/1000 DEF)!”  Two twins, both wielding swords, riding the back of a blue swan composed of stars.  The female twin grabbed her brother before he could slip off the giant bird, then they dawned their war faces.  “When Gemini hits the field, I can special summon one of my banished Celestial monsters.  It may lose its effects, but that's a small price to pay for my next move.  Now return to the battle, Ares!”  With a flash of light and a swing of her sword, Ares graced the field once more.  “Since you know me so, you must also know Gemini is a Tuner monster, and the hell I'm going to make you swim through this turn.  I synch my Gemini and my Aries to summon forth Hercules, The Celestial Might (********/3500 ATK/ 500 DEF)!”  A white light spiraled around Nova's two monsters, followed by them vanishing, and the mighty Hercules, a body builder with the outfit of a caveman, the height of a basketball player, and the club of a demon, a six-foot long, foot-thick metal rod with spikes protruding from its bulbous end, appeared and roared.  The big, green “Lord of Fiends” shrunk back.  “When he's summoned, Hercules can banish up to five cards in my graveyard from play, so, return home, Scorpius, Aries, and Gemini!” He looked up, saw Jill unconscious on the cross, blood steadily pouring from her hands and legs to the concrete below.
    Don't worry, Jill.  I'll finish these f***s, then get you to a hospital.  You're going to be okay! Nova told himself.  A sharp laugh from the masked demon interrupted his hopes.  “What's so funny?  Remembering when my big guy over here bent over your mother last night?  Good times, right?”
    “Oh, how the naïve and foolish celebrate early.” With a wave of his hand, the agitation among his men, manifested as whispering gossip, dissipated.  “So what you summoned a large, bohemian  troglodyte with a big stick?  Even if you bypass my facedown to attack my monster, I'll only lose 1500 lifepoints, and who knows if I have another Feral Imp and Path of the Feral Imp in my hand?”  Nova grimaced; the giant imp teased its tongue while making its large hands resemble dumbo ears on the sides of its head.
    Nova smiled like a thirsty fiend.  “Who cares?”
    “Huh?”
    “To a true Celestial Duelist, death means nothing.  Our souls don't lie in our bodies, but in blackness of space, where the monsters we wield live and thrive.  A spineless f*** like you, who pushes all your hopes on your cards, would never understand the raging heart of a Celestial Duelist.  We just don't burn for ourselves, our cards, or the ones we love:  We burn for the cosmos!”  The blue, blazing Nova lifted a card as the warehouse's air pressure whipped to tropical storm levels.  All the cultists in the warehouse covered their faces from the assailing blast.
    “How is he still alive?!” screamed the cult leader.  “How is he still conscious?!”  Nova flinched.  He couldn't feel his skin anymore, and he imagined his headache was the equivalent of someone driving nails into his forehead, but he didn't care.  In his death, he was having the time of his life.
    “Did you forget about Sagittarius, oh-he-who-knows-me-so-well?”  Nova happily saw the masked bastard's eyes widen, as well as his oversized Feral Imp abandoning vacant stupidity for terrified confusion.   “If it is banished, while I control a Celestial monster, I can bring it back to the field!”  With a clattering hoof, the centaur of the zodiac descended from the galaxy above, stood confidently beside Hercules.  “And now...  I play Miracle Synchro Fusion.  I banish my Hercules, The Celestial Might, and my Sagittarius, The Celestial Spirit...”  Taking the cue of his previous banished monsters, Hercules and Sagittarius ascended into a brilliant galaxy above.  “To summon Nova Soul! (**********/ ? ATK / 2000 DEF)”  Before and above, its head reaching to the enormous warehouse's ceiling,  a shining seraphim materialized.  His form glowed a vibrant, pulsing orange, his six pure, white wings and hair shone with a light blinding the imp and cult leader, and he wielded a small, condensed sun in his left.  His expression was impossible to read.  After his masked adversary's eyes adjusted, he stepped forward, his hands still providing some shade.  
    “I see you've learned nothing!  For you to worship your left hand as it still offends you, to summon the same monster that damned you and your mother's soul!”
    “Don't you dare talk about her!”  The Feather of Atem was spiraling out of control, some of the sparks even arced from Nova, whipped a few of his followers to the ground as thrashing solar flares.  “You seem familiar with my Soul, but I'll explain it anyway.  His summon cannot be negated.  When he's summoned, he gains the attack of all my banished Celestial monsters combined, making his current attack 15,900.  When he attacks a defense position monster, you still lose the difference between his attack and your monster's defense from your lifepoints.  And, finally...”
    “If he leaves the field, you lose lifepoints equal to his attack, and no card effect can be activated in response to this effect.” the cult leader finished.  “So this is the mind of a fool, to selfishly sacrifice everything without any regard for the consequences.”
    “Wrong!” Nova barked.  “This is the spirit of those who live by the stars!  When things are at their worse, when you have no more strategies to think of, when you run out proverbs, idols, or ideals to place your faith in, you burn away everything, everything holding you back, and march forward!  You stop thinking, you stop reasoning, you stop praying, you just burn!  Even when the knife's to your throat, the gun's to your head, or the ones you love are slipping away, you just burn!  Because the moment you stop...”  Tears ran down his cheeks, but he dared not bat an eye from the masked demon before him.  The thoughts hit him, the delay in playing Nova Soul when the opportunity arose, the defeat by Jaden Yuki, and the depression that caused him to miss the plane back to his Mom's hospital.  The day his heart froze and died, like a neutron star set adrift in the cosmos. Nova Soul glanced back, its gaze impartial to his turmoil, simply demanding, Make your move already.  Cry me a river, Nova.  And fill me a glass so I can drink it while you're at it.  “Nova Soul, send him and his pathetic lord and master to the stars!  Galaxy Eclipse Destruction!”  The sun he wielded grew as large as The Red Giant, but shined and vibrated with twice as much energy.  The Feral Imp King trembled, shivered back.  The masked owner threw his right arm to the side, standing as stone before the rumbling star.
    “I reveal my facedown card.”  The large, virtual card slowly rose, like someone raising a loaded gun.  
    Nova smiled.  “I'm coming home, Mom.”
    “Mystical Space Typhoon.”
    Nova's jaw dropped in disbelief.  “Eeeh?”  Like a baseball player the size of a planet throwing a pitch, the seraphim released the sun; the Feral Imp King screamed with bulging eyes.  The resulting explosion blinded  everyone in the warehouse, sent the robed cultists to the floor, nearly popped Nova's eardrums.
    Damn, I missed playing that card.  The Feral Imp King disintegrated in the brilliant flash.  The green-masked cult leader's lifepoints fell to zero.  

    As the white-cloaked cultists regained their footing, the blue blaze and crazy hair, along with raging headache splitting his head, diminished before fading completely.  Unfortunately, all his other feelings returned as well, including a sharp burn in all his limbs as if he just ran a marathon, twice, and a sudden wave of nausea.  He stumbled forward, then vomited last night's dinner.  He couldn't fall to his knees in front of these bastards again; he wouldn't.  Everything suddenly looked blurry; his legs became rubber, yet he still saw traces of blood in this vomit through wavering eyes.
    What the hell is happening to me?  He raised his head, saw Jill on the cross, even though he couldn't see her through his fading vision.  He wiped leftover vomit and snot from his face, slapped himself until he cried, then marched toward the green-masked f***.  
    “You performed admirably, Ethan Eternim,” said the leader of the cultists.  “Better than we could have ever dreamed.”  Nova gave him a swift right hook to the face, sending the creep on his back.  On cue, the cultists sans robes, Nova believed the dumb, hired help who probably doubled as cheap butlers, punched his liver, then clubbed him to the ground before kicking him repeatedly.
    “That's enough!” yelled their master while he got helped to his by a fellow robe.  “Ethan Eternim: master Celestial Duelist and attacker of unarmed women; you are full of surprises this day.”  The burly men in suites pulled Nova to his feet with the grace of one lifting a feral cat.
    “An unarmed... woman?” said Nova through gulping breaths.  He removed the mask, revealing a beautiful she with shoulder-length, blonde hair, calm, blue eyes, and a thin nose.  She had the smile of a nurse, with a voice even and articulate, like one permanently set to bedside manner, complete opposite of the monstrous vocals the Feral Imp masked produced.  He saw the bruise he left on her cheek, looked away in chagrin at harming something so beautiful.
    No... keep your head!  He reaffirmed his gaze not on a beautiful blonde, but on the monster who tortured him and Jill.  “Get Jill down now!  Do it right now!”
    “I still cannot believe you survived the Feather of Atem activating not once, but four times,” said the cult leader.  “You are truly an amazing specimen, Ethan Eternim.  A miracle among one hundred trials.”
    “You evil b****!  If she bleeds to death...”  Another punch to the stomach almost made him vomit again.  
    “Oh, please forgive me, Ethan!” she said, cupping her mouth with her left.  “Your partner in sin is currently not in any danger.”  She snapped her fingers.  Before Nova's eyes, the cross, the blood, the pained Jill unconscious on the cross, it all corrupted into pixelated static before fading away.  He had to blink twice.
    It was a hologram?  “Where is she?!”  With a calm smile, the queen of the cult pointed behind him, the area the bodyguards dragged him from.  There, in the same white nightgown the hologram version wore, escorted by two men so over-muscled their business suites stretched, Jill walked.  Her head was down, she looked scared, but she was safe.  
    “We passed your test,” said Nova, “Now let us go.”
    “No, Ethan,” she said in that perfect voice beginning to sound eerie to his ear.  “I am afraid we cannot let you leave.  You are going to help us whether you desire to, or not.”  
    





                        

    
 





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