Ride 1

Beep! Beep! Beep! Really? Does it have to go off right now? My alarm clock kept blaring loudly across my room. I would do something about it, but it's too early in the morning. Maybe if I ignore it, it could shut itself off. But it didn't shut itself off. It just kept beeping.

I actually thought that the more I ignored it, the louder it became. I couldn't take it anymore; I was gonna' snap at any moment! "Fine! I'm up, you stupid clock! I'm up!" I reached over to turn it off, but it was too far. I fell out of my bed and hit my floor with a loud thump! That's right. My clock is way over there, on the other side of my room. I thought.

"A~gh". I quietly groaned. I slowly lifted myself while rubbing my sore back: I'm not used to falling on hard wood in the morning. "Why does wood have to hurt more than carpet?"

My fall echoed through the entire house. A woman's voice as equally booming followed: "Scarlett, dear, are you awake?" My mom asked from the bottom floor.

I rubbed my eyes to get the sleepy-stuff out and replied, "Well, I'm awake now!" Seriously, why does she need to ask? Who stays asleep after a fall like this?

"Oh, okay. Could you get dressed and come down for a minute?"

"Sure, why not." My back kept telling me "stay on the floor", but we both knew I wasn't gonna' listen.

I got up on my feet and walked across my empty room inhabited by: me, my bed, and my desk. When I got to my closet and opened it up, I was greeted by skyscrapers upon skyscrapers of boxes: I was too lazy to hang my clothes during the unpacking, so I just kept them in the boxes. Why does mom need me to get dressed? Why aren't my pajamas good enough? These thoughts cycled through my head as I brutally dug through the boxes. Don't tell me some new neighbors are gonna greet us: I hope they're not those overly-happy, sunshine-y neighbors that obnoxiously greet us with "Howdy, neighbor!" Ugh, just thinking about that makes me want to vomit.

By the time I found the outfit I wanted, my floor was swamped with clothing: there was practically no square-inch of wood left to see. My favorite clothes: my black crop top, purple button up shirt, and blue short jeans were laid out across my bed in that order. I think these should do. It's not like I'm meeting the President of the United States or anything.

I walked down the stairs drowsily: each step was creaking louder than a symphony orchestra. You'd have to be a ninja to not make any sounds walking these steps.

"You're not excited to see me?" He asked. "We haven't seen each other for years."

I let out a loud yawn, "No, no, I am. It's just too early for me to show it." That was true.

"So, Markus, I hear you opened a card shop. How exciting." Mom was delighted about his accomplishment.

"Oh, yeah, I had it for about a week, now. I've been getting a lot of customers lately." Really? Markus accomplished something, and it was popular? When did that happen?

"So what kind of cards do you sell?" I asked him. I had to admit, even I was a little curious.

"A bunch of cards, actually: Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic the Gathering, Pokémon. But the hottest seller is Cardfight! Vanguard."

"Cardfight? I never heard of it before." Mom asked. That made the both of us. I quit playing card games back when I was younger. I couldn't win a single game back then, and I just stopped altogether.

"Trust me, it's amazing. I even built my own decks and take them to tournaments. Red, would you like me to teach you how to play?"

"What? No!" I responded brashly. "I hate card games! Besides, wouldn't you be too busy managing your store than teach me?"

Markus chuckled loudly, "you definitely don't know how card shops work, Scarlett."

"Come on, honey," mom begged, "It could be fun. It would give you a chance to socialize."

"No thanks, I'd rather not. A lone pretty girl like me wouldn't fit in with a shop filled with depressed nerds."

"Actually, there are a lot of pretty girls there, at least for my standards." He commented.

"My standards are higher than yours, Markus!"

"Well, okay. I gotta' leave now. Just stop by the shop when you feel like it." Finally, he left our house.

Mom looked at me with a disappointed frown. "You could've been a little nicer to him. He's your brother, after all."

"Mom, come on. He knows I hate card games. He was the one who caused me to hate'em. I bet he's just tryin' to get me back into it."

"It wouldn't kill you to have a hobby, you know. Who knows, you could make some friends." She said as she unwrapped some dishes.

"I…I have friends. A lot of friends." I think she knows I'm lying. "I have too many friends to count."

Mom couldn't resist giggling, "Okay, honey. I guess you do. Still, it's not a bad idea to check it out this one time. Just stop by, say hello, and leave."

I groaned at her, "Ugh, fine. But I'm only going to say hi."

All afternoon, I've been walking around Queens, New York to find Markus's stupid card shop. After many wrong turns, I think I found the place. A Fighter's Paradise. I thought to myself. What a stupid name for a card shop. Oh well, might as well get it over with.

I entered the shop, and it was somewhat filled with people. There were playing tables in the back, with at least half a dozen players hurdled around each one. A glass case covered the face of a wall, and was filled with the rarest and most expensive cards the shop had.

From the playing area, I heard Markus shout-

"With a special boost from Lizard Soldier, Raopia [power: 10000], Dragonic Lawkeeper [total power: 23000] attacks your vanguard!"

"Oh, man! That's too high for me to guard!" His opponent shouted. "Man, I would've won if I had pulled a heal trigger at the last minute."

As his opponent left the table, I ran over and saw him playing a strange card game. "Hey, Markus. What game is this?"

"Oh, hi, Scarlett. This is Cardfight! Vanguard. You wanna play?"

"It looks kinda interesting." I replied. "But I don't have a deck."

"Don't worry; I'll grab one for ya'." He left the table, and went to his cashier. When he returned, he had two decks in his hand.

"What's the extra deck for?" I asked him.

"Since you don't know how to play, I thought I could use a deck that's as equally built as yours. Now, which color do you want? Red? Or yellow?"

"I want…yellow." Markus happily handed me the deck, and I grazed through it. Gold Paladins. I thought to myself. Their pictures look pretty. That's kinda good, I guess.

Markus got comfortable at the table and said, "Okay, Scarlett; close your eyes, and imagine that we are on a world identical to earth: a world with luscious green fields, tall, unconquerable mountains, and fierce, roaring oceans. Close your eyes, and imagine it-"

I saw no point in doing this, it just sounded so stupid to me. But if it would keep Markus from lecturing me about this, I suppose there was no harm. I closed my eyes, and tried to picture the world the best I could to my abilities.

But when I opened my eyes, the image in my head came true! I wasn't in the shop anymore, I was on the surface of another planet! I stood inside the basin of a mountain range, the ground under my feet felt incredibly smooth and even. I examined myself- I was almost ghostly enough to blend right in to the background. In front of me, I saw what appeared to be Markus's spirit develop from nowhere.

"Amazing! What is this place?" I asked Markus.

"This is the planet Cray." He answered. "This is where Vanguard fights take place. On this planet, we are but ethereal beings. In our weak spirit forms, we have two unique abilities: the first is to call upon the inhabitants of this planet to aid us in the fight- the ability to "call." Our second allows us to possess and promote the leader of our respective armies- the ability to "ride." You catchin' all this?" He asked.

"I think that's a little too much information for me." I stated.

"Oh well, I suppose it'll make sense when see them in action. Here's what we need to do: first, we need to choose a card from the deck, and lay it face down on the table. This will be our "vanguard," our indestructible avatar. We need to start off with a grade 0."

"Okay." I found the one I want, and laid it down. "Now what?"

"Next, we shuffle our decks and draw a hand of five." We both did as he instructed. "How does your hand look, sis?"

"Uhm, I don't know."

"Don't worry. If you think it's bad, you can always mulligan. That's when you take a certain number of cards from your hand, shuffle them in your deck, and then redraw the same number back. For example, I'm gonna mulligan two cards, shuffle them in my deck, and draw two cards back. But you can only mulligan once."

"Okay." I don't know how good my hand was; but to be safe, I mulligan my entire hand. I think I new hand looked better. "Now what?"

"Now, we reveal our vanguard, and say "Stand up, Vanguard!" Like this- Stand up, Vanguard! Lizard Soldier, Rishin [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/power: 5000]!" He revealed.

"Okay. Stand up, Vanguard! Grassland Breeze, Sagramore [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/power: 5000]!" Our spirits were engulfed in a vortex of wind, and metamorphosed into completely different beings. My spirit changed to that of a young boy in a wolf helmet, whereas Markus changed into a Lizardman in black armor.

"In order to make it easier for me to teach you, I'll go first. I draw! I ride to grade 1, Wyvern Supply Unit [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/Power: 6000]! Scarlett, one of the game's objectives is to ride to each grade each turn. It goes from grade 0, to grade 1, to grade 2, then finally to grade 3. Each grade has a special function- grade 1's and 0's are able to boost units in front of them, totaling their powers for a bigger attack. I call Dragon Dancer, Rai Rai [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/power: 6000] behind my Wyvern. Since I can't attack the first turn, I'll end it there."

"Okay, Then I draw! I ride Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 1/power: 8000]! Behind him, I call Blessing Owl [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 1/power: 6000]! When Blessing Owl is placed on a rearguard circle, he gives one of my Gold Paladins +2000 power, so I give it to Gareth [power: 10000]! Now I attack your Wyvern!"

"Okay. When you declare an attack, you must tap the cards sideways. Since you have Blessing Owl behind Gareth, you can tap it to give Gareth +6000 extra power. That is called "boosting." Gareth [total power: 16000] skillfully slashed at Wyvern Support Unit [total power: 6000]. "Since I took the attack, you reveal the top card of your deck to me, and then put it in your hand. That is called a "drive check."

"Okay, like this?" I revealed the top card, and shown- Charjgal [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 1/no trigger].

"Now I reveal the top card of my deck, then put on the side of my field. This is called a "damage check." He revealed- Red River Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/no trigger] and placed it at the side of his field. "The first player to accumulate six damage loses. You're learning quickly, Scarlett. I didn't even have to tell you about rearguard circles." At the end, Gareth's power returned to normal.

Scarlett – Markus

5 –hand- 4

1 –soul- 1

0 –damage- 1

0 –counterblast- 0

Empty, Empty –left column- Empty, Empty

Blessing Owl, Gareth(vg) –central column- Wyvern Supply Unit(vg), Dragon Dancer, Rai Rai

Empty, Empty –right column- Empty, Empty

"Now, it's back to my turn, Scarlett. Before we start our new turns, we have to tap our units right-side up again so they can attack. This is called "standing." After that, I draw. I ride Thunderstorm Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/power: 10000]! I call Shieldblade Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/power: 8000]!" Markus tapped both Thunderstorm and Rai Rai, first. "With a boost from Rai Rai, Thunderstorm Dragoon [total power: 16000] attacks Gareth [total power: 8000]! Are you going to guard, Scarlett?"

"How do I guard?"

"Do you see the number value on the left-hand side of your cards? That's your shield value- when you block, your adding that left-hand value to your vanguard's power. To block, just place the card from your hand into the "Guardian Circle," the space between our playing fields."

"I don't guard." I replied.

"Okay, then. I do my drive check." He revealed- Old Dragon Mage [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/draw trigger]. "Oh, look. I got a trigger!"

"What's a trigger?" I asked him.

"A trigger is a card with a box in its top right corner that activates when revealed during your drive or damage check. There are different effects for different triggers. The red ones, like this, allow me to give a unit +5000 power, and lets me draw an extra card. And I give my Shieldblade Dragoon the extra power." As Markus drew an extra card, Thunderstorm Dragoon swooped down to attack Gareth. Gareth couldn't withstand the attack!

"I'll check my damage, then." I revealed- Battlefield Storm, Sagramore [Clan: Gold Paladin/no trigger], and put it in my damage zone.

"But I'm not finished yet! I attack Gareth [total power: 8000] with Shieldblade Dragoon [total power: 13000]!"

"I won't let you! I use Fortune Bell [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/ stand trigger/shield: 10000] to guard!" Shieldblade Dragoon dashed crazily toward Gareth, but was blocked by a girl holding a giant bell. The girl disappeared, and Shieldblade stopped in front of Gareth. Feeling his power diminish, Shieldblade retreated before assaulting the enemy vanguard.

"Oh darn, my attack didn't go through. I guess I can end my turn there."

"I stand and draw! I ride Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 2/power: 10000]!" A pillar of light exploded underneath Gareth, and who stepped out was a knight in large lion-like armor. "I call Sacred Guardian Beast, Nemean Lion [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 2/power: 8000], and Precipice Whirlwind, Sagramore [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 1/power: 6000]! With a boost from Blessing Owl [power: 6000], Beaumains [total power: 16000] attacks Thunderstorm Dragoon [total power: 10000]!"

"I don't guard." Markus said. I revealed my drive check- Silent Punisher [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/critical trigger].

"Hey, Markus, what does this yellow one do?"

"Ah, a critical trigger. That increases the damage a selected unit deals."

"Okay, so I give all the effects to my vanguard." Beaumains attacked Thunderstorm Dragoon with power he never knew he had. This new power was able to damage Thunderstorm much more than normal.

"Because I didn't guard that attack, I take an extra damage. I check the first- Brightjet Dragon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/no trigger], then I check the second- Demonic Dragon Nymph, Seiobo [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/heal trigger]. Look, a heal trigger!"

"Let me guess, the green ones-"

"As long as my damage is higher than or equal to yours, I can heal one damage. As I do that, I give Thunderstorm dragoon the extra +5000 [total power: 15000]." He said as he took the Red River Dragoon out of the damage, and into the drop zone.

"Okay then, I boost Nemean Lion [power: 8000] with Sagramore [power: 6000], and attack your vanguard!"

"Too bad my vanguard's attack is higher. Your attack won't go through." He chuckled.

"What?!" No matter how hard Nemean Lion [total power: 14000] tried, it couldn't get past Thunderstorm Dragoon's defenses [total power: 15000].

"If only you gave the +5000 bonus to Nemean Lion. Oh well."

Scarlett – Markus

3 –hand- 6

2 –soul- 2

1 –damage- 2

0 –counterblast- 0

Empty, Empty –left column- Empty, Empty

Blessing Owl, Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains(vg) –central column- Thunderstorm Dragoon(vg), Dragon Dancer, Rai Rai

Precipice Whirlwind, Sagramore, Nemean Lion –right column- Shieldblade Dragoon, Empty

"My turn. I stand and draw." Markus laughed to himself at the card he just drew. "Oh, man. I was actually waiting for this unit. This may be your first fight, Scarlett; but you will feel the crushing power of thunder! I ride! Thunderbreak Dragon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 3/power: 10000]! His vanguard suddenly erupted into a column of lightning. His Thunderstorm Dragoon was being transformed into the terrifying Thunderbreak Dragon. "Since he was placed on the vanguard circle, his ability activates. I can counterblast two cards from my damage to retire one of your units!"

"Retire? What does that mean?"

"It basically means I'm killing one of your units. And the one I have in my sights is your Nemean Lion!" As Markus paid the counterblast cost, Nemean Lion was struck by a stray, fierce lightning bolt. When the dust cleared, Nemean Lion was no more. "Call- Lightning of Hope, Helena [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/power: 6000], and Djinn of the Lightning Flash [Clan: Narukami/Grade 3/power: 10000]! I attack Beaumains [total power: 10000] with my Djinn; and when Djinn attacks the vanguard, and he's in the rg circle, he gains +2000 power [total power: 12000]!"

"I guard with Weapons Dealer, Gwydion [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/draw trigger/shield: 5000]!"

"In that case, I boost Thunderbreak Dragon [power: 10000] with Rai Rai [power: 6000] to attack Beaumains [total power: 10000] again; and when Rai Rai boosts ThunderBreak Dragon, I can soulblast 1 card to give Thunderbreak +4000 extra power [total power: 20000]!" When Lizard Soldier, Rishin became absent from the soul, Thunderbreak Dragon's power increased.

I don't have enough shield to protect myself. I thought. "No guard."

"When you upgrade to grade 3, you are allowed to drive check twice. This is called the "twin drive." Here goes, first check- Plasmabite Dragon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 3/no trigger], second check- Zephyr Kid, Hayate [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/stand trigger]. Boy, I just keep getting triggers today!" He shouted in amusement.

"What do stand triggers do?" I asked.

"They let me stand a resting unit, and allow me to attack with it again. I give all the effects to Djinn of the Lightning Flash [power: 15000]!" Thunderbreak Dragon overwhelmed Beaumains. The knight couldn't handle being struck by a lightning storm.

"Damage check-" I revealed- Sleygal Sword [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 2/no trigger]. "No trigger."

"Again, I attack Beaumains with my Djinn [total power: 17000]!"

"Silent Punisher [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/critical trigger/shield: 10000], protect me!" A blue ninja boy appeared from nowhere, and deflected the Djinn's lightning shot.

"I'm not done yet. I boost Shieldblade Dragoon [power: 8000] with Helena [power: 6000], and attack your vanguard." Combined with Helena's power, Shieldblade Dragoon [total power: 14000] successfully landed a hit on Beaumains [total power: 10000].

I revealed- Evil Slaying Swordsman, Haugan [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 1/power: 7000] for my damage. "This is the power of the Narukami!" Markus proclaimed loudly. "They silence their opposition with the wrath of the sky! Sorry of that was a little loud. I'm just a little excited."

"This game actually isn't half bad." I admitted. "Even I'm getting a little excited."

"Good, I'm glad you like it."

"Now it's my turn! Stand and draw!" I examined the card that I drew. Great Silver Wolf, Garmore. I thought to myself. This could help me. "Alright, Markus; it's time for me to play my grade 3! The glistening wolf appears in my time of need! His prideful howl unites his allies! I ride my avatar- Great Silver Wolf, Garmore [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 3/power: 10000]!" Beaumains felt a power surge he never felt before, and exploded in a column of light. He was transformed into the warrior in gold and silver wolf armor, Garmore-

"I activate Garmore's skill- Prideful Howl! when he's placed on the vanguard circle, I counterblast 2 to summon an ally from my deck!" I skimmed through the deck and found the card to target. "I call Charging Chariot Knight [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 2/power: 8000] from the deck! From my hand, I call Charjgal [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 1/power: 6000]!"

"Boy, you're getting really good at this, Scarlett." Markus commented. "I think you can handle yourself now."

"With Owl boosting [power: 6000], Garmore [total power: 16000] attacks your vanguard."

"No guard."

"I check my twin drive! First check-" Weapons Dealer, Gwydion [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/draw trigger], "I give Chariot Knight the +5000, and I draw. Second check-" Silver Fang Witch [Clan: Gold Paladin/grade 1/no trigger]. Garmore furiously slashed at the enemy dragon, damaging it. Markus revealed Thunderstorm Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/no trigger] as damage. "I boost Chariot Knight [power: 13000] with Charjgal [power: 6000], and attack Thunderbreak Dragon [total power: 10000]! And when Chariot knight attacks while I have fewer cards in hand than you, he gains +3000 power [total power: 22000]!"

"I guard with Old Dragon Mage [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/draw trigger/shield: 5000], Then I intercept with my Shieldblade Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/shield: 5000]." He said while moving his Dragoon into the guardian circle.

"Why? Your total shield is 10000. That's not enough to block my attack."

"Ah, but when Shieldblade Dragoon moves from the rearguard circle to the guardian circle, his shield value doubles; making my defenses high enough to block your attack." Charging Chariot Knight moved in for the kill, but was blocked by Shieldblade and Old Dragon Mage. Thunderbreak was left unharmed.

Scarlett – Markus

3 –hand- 6

3 –soul- 2

3 –damage- 3

2 –counterblast- 2

Charjgal, Charging Chariot Knight – left column- Djinn of the Lightning Flash, Empty

Blessing Owl, Garmore(vg) –central column- Thunderbreak Dragon(vg), Dragon Dancer, Rai Rai

Precipice Whirlwind, Sagramore, Empty –right column- Empty, Lightning of Hope, Helena

"Well, Scarlett, looks like we made it to the mid-game. This is where things get interesting." Markus announced. "No more Mr. Nice Guy from here on. I stand and draw. I call Red River Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/power: 8000], and Plasmabite Dragon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 3/power: 10000]. With a boost from Helena [power: 6000], Plasmabite Dragon attacks Charging Chariot Knight [power: 10000]. I counterblast 1 to give Plasmabite Dragon +3000 power [total power: 19000]. With an explosive attack, Plasmabite removed Chariot Knight from the fight. "With a soulblast cost, Rai Rai [power: 6000] combines her power with Thunderbreak [ total power power: 20000] to attack Garmore."

"I don't guard."

"Twin drive check: first check-" he revealed Djinn of The Lightning Flash [Clan: Narukami/Grade 3/no trigger], "second check-" he revealed Brightjet Dragon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/no trigger]. I revealed Blessing Owl [Clan: Gold Paldin/Grade 1/no trigger] for damage. "Boosted by Helena [power: 6000], Djinn [total power: 18000] attacks your vanguard [power: 10000]."

"I guard with Elixir Sommelier [Clan: Gold Paladin/grade 0/heal trigger/shield: 10000]!"

"Ah, so that's what you drew with your draw trigger last turn. You have survived this long, Scarlett; but how long do you think you'll last on my next turn?"

"I will survive for as long as I need to!" I replied.

"Keep in mind- I know the cards in your hand. I know their shield values. My hand is three times as big as yours, you'll never get through." We'll see about that.

"Now it's my time to make a comeback! I stand and draw!" I peered at the Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains card I drew. Okay, I could play this card in front of Sagramore, I thought; But then again, my hand needs an extra shield. And if I play him, Markus is smart enough to kill him off on his turn. Or maybe I can let him do that; I can use Beaumains to waste a card or two from his hand.

"Thinking hard over there?" He asked me. "You almost look like you'll pop a blood vessel."

"I call Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 2/power: 10000]! I use him to attack your vanguard [power: 10000] with a boost from Sagramore [power: 6000]!"

"I guard with Zephyr Kid, Hayate [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/stand trigger/shield: 10000]-" Beaumains' power [total power: 16000] fell short from damaging Hayate and Thunderbreak's combined defenses.

"I boost Garmore [power: 10000] with Blessing Owl [power: 6000] to attack your vanguard-!" as soon as I called the attack, my Garmore card started to glow a yellow aura; "Huh? What's happening?"

"Looks like you activated Garmore's Limit Break ability." Markus said amusingly. "It's an ability that could only be used when your damage is at 4 or more-" Garmore let out a proud, wolfish howl; his power is increased by +5000 more points bringing his power to 21000. "I'm in no hurry of winning. I'll take the attack."

"Then I check my twin drive! First check-" I revealed Sacred Guardian Beast, Nemean Lion [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 2/no trigger]; "second check-" I revealed Silent Punisher [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/critical trigger]; "a critical trigger! I give all the effects to Garmore!" Garmore [total power: 26000] dealt even more damage to the enemy Thunderbreak Dragon [total power: 10000].

"Wow, I never expected that to happen." Markus revealed Red River Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/ Grade 1/no trigger] and Thunderstorm Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/no trigger].

Scarlett – Markus

4 –hand- 6

3 –soul- 1

4 –damage- 5

2 -counterblast- 3

Charjgal, Empty –left column- Djinn of Lightning Flash, Red River Dragoon

Blessing owl, Garmore(VG) –central column- Thunderbreak Dragon(VG), Dragon Dancer, Rai Rai

Precipice Whirlwind, Sagramore, Beaumains –right column- Plasmabite Dragon, Lightning of Hope, Helena

"Well, Red; if you manage to deal one more damage to me, you'll win the game; but I won't let you win so easily."

"This has been the closest I've ever been to beating you, Markus. I'm going to win! I just know it!"

"We'll see about that. I stand and draw." He put a card in his hand, and asked "before I continue, I need to know something- why did you suddenly decide to come to the card shop? I assume it wasn't because you chose to, I know how you are."

"Mom practically forced me to come. She wanted me to socialize and stuff, and I didn't want to. I dropped by to just say "hi," but look at me now- I'm playing a card game instead."

"This isn't just any card game. What players can't say with words, they'll say through their fights. Fighters are able to speak with their heart by playing. Through the course of this fight, I could read your heart by the way you played."

"Really, that's just ridiculous-"

"It's not as ridiculous as it sounds. From how you played, I can tell you're inexperienced. You've made some mistakes here and there- but you want to win so badly, you'll lay everything on the line to achieve it; a common strategy for newcomers. Sadly, I'll have to put this game to an end now."

"Bring it!"

"Oh, I will. With a boost from Helena [power: 6000], Plasmabite Dragon [total power: 16000] attacks Garmore [power: 10000]; I counterblast 1 to give Plasmabite +2000 extra power, making his attack hit for 19000!"

"I guard with Silent Punisher [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/critical trigger/shield: 10000]!"

"With a boost from Rai Rai [power: 6000], Thunderbreak Dragon [total power: 16000] attacks Garmore [power: 10000]-" When Thunderbreak attacked, his card glowed a red aura.

"That aura; does that mean-?"

"When I have four or more damage, Thunderbreak Dragon's Limit Break activates! When he attacks, he gains extra +5000 power to his existing attack; but that's not all- I soulblast 1 from Rai Rai to give him another +5000 on top of that! He's now coming in at 26000!"

I have enough shield to block that, but only barely; If I drop my entire hand, and he draws one trigger, not only will his attack go through, but I'll be defenseless against an attack from his Djinn! "I don't guard!"

"I thought so. First check-" he revealed Lizard Soldier, Riki [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/no trigger]; "second check-" he revealed Yellow Gem Carbuncle [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/critical trigger]; "oh, my; you were so close to defeating me, Scarlett. I give Thunderbreak the extra crit, and djinn the extra power."

"Nooo-!" Thunderbreak Dragon crushed Garmore with the full weight and fury of the sky; Garmore was unable to withstand the attack.

"Well, Scarlett, the only thing left is for you to check 2 damage. Then I'll win." Grrr, I was so close. It would've been nice to actually beat him for once.

I revealed my first damage- Evil Slaying Swordsman, Huagan [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 1/no trigger]. I felt my gut tighten up.

"1 down, 1 more to go." Markus commented.

I got nervous about the next card I'll reveal. What if it's not a heal trigger? I thought to myself nervously. If I don't get a heal trigger, I'll lose the game. I slowly picked up the top card of my deck. Please, please be a heal trigger. I want to beat Markus! I can't beat him if I lose now! I turned the card over anxiously, and revealed- Elixir Sommelier [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/heal trigger]! "Haha, yes! A heal trigger! I give the effects to Garmore [total power: 15000], and heal a damage; I'm not out yet!"

"Looks like your deck wants you to play one last round; but I'm not gonna' let that happen!" Markus shouted. "With a boost from Red River [power: 8000], Djinn of the Lightning Flash [total power: 23000] attacks Garmore; and since he's attacking the vanguard, he receives another +2000 power [total power: 25000]!"

"I guard with Weapons Dealer, Gwydion [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/draw trigger/shield: 5000], Silver Fang Witch [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade: 1/shield: 5000], and Nemean Lion [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 2/shield: 5000]!" Garmore accumulated a defense of 30000, enough to avoid damage from Djinn of Lightning Flash [total power: 25000].

"The damage is 5 –to- 5." Markus commented. "If I survive your next turn, I'll win, Scarlett. Let's hope you'll make this last turn count."

"Don't worry, I'll make it count! I'll find a way to win this turn; then I would've finally beaten you, Markus!"

"You have no cards in hand. I have 8. You would need a pretty lucky draw and some trigger checks to get through me."

"That's not going to stop me! I stand and draw! I call Sleygal Double Edge [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 3/power: 10000]!"

"Huh, now that was a lucky draw."

"I activate Sleygal's skill! I counterblast 1 and he gains +2000 power when I control at least four other Gold Paladin rearguards, and I do! But why stop there? I'll counterblast two more times, to give him a boost- now he's sitting at 16000 unboosted!"

"That's going to be a problem for me."

"Not yet, it isn't; because I attack your vanguard with Beaumains [total power: 16000] with a boost from Sagramore [power: 6000]!"

"I guard with Yellow Gem Carbuncle [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/critical trigger/shield: 10000]."

"Boosted by Blessing Owl [power: 6000], Garmore [total power: 16000] attacks Thunderbreak; Garmore's limit break activates, giving him +5000 extra power [total power: 21000]!"

"I guard with Zephyr Kid, Hayate [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/stand trigger/shield: 10000], Lizard Soldier,Riki [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/shield: 5000],and Thunderstorm Dragoon [Clan: Narukami/Grade 2/shield: 5000]. Your vanguard needs two triggers to pass!"

"Here goes! First check-" I revealed Weapons Dealer, Gwydion [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/draw trigger]; "I give the bonus to Sleygal, and I draw an extra card. Second check-" I revealed Silent Punisher [Clan: Gold Paladin/Grade 0/critical trigger]; "I also give all the effects to Sleygal!"

"Wow. A double trigger check."

"Yes! And I'm gonna use it all to beat you! With a boost from Charjgal [power: 6000], Sleygal [total power: 32000/crit: 2] attacks Thunderbreak Dragon!"

"I don't have enough shield to guard against that." He said. Markus started to check his damage; his first check- Demonic Dragon Nymph, Seiobo [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/heal trigger]; "heal trigger activated! I give Thunderbreak +5000, and heal one point of damage."

"You still have one more damage to go, though!"

"Yes, and if I happen to pull another heal trigger, I'm still in the game. Here goes; second damage-" he revealed Yellow Gem Carbuncle [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/critical trigger].

Scarlett – Markus

3- hand- 4

3- soul- 0

5- damage- 6

5- counterblast- 4

Charjgal, Sleygal Double Edge- left column- Djinn of Lightning Flash, Red River Dragoon

Blessing Owl, Garmore(VG) –central column- Thunderbreak Dragon(VG), Dragon Dancer, Rai Rai

Precipice Whirlwind, Sagramore, Beaumains –right column- Plasmabit Dragon, Lightning of Hope, Helena

Winner- Scarlett

"Yeeaaahhh! I finally beat you!" I was so excited I jumped out of my chair. The victory felt too good to take sitting down.

"Congratulations, you actually did it."

"Man, that felt good! Really good!"

"You won because your image of victory was stronger than mine." Markus commented. "You formed a connection with your cards, and they trusted in you to win."

"Markus, wanna play another round? I promise to go easy on ya' this time!" I know I was letting my victory get to my head. But I couldn't help it!

"Sorry, as much as I want to, I can't right now; I need to be back on shift in a minute or two."

"Agh, what? Really? Well, here; take this deck back." I handed him the deck I borrowed, but he rejected it.

"It's okay, you keep it. I sensed a connection between you and that deck during our fight- I'd say Gold Paladins could be your ideal clan. In fact, with a little more practice, I bet you could even master them! Consider that deck to be your "welcome back" gift from me."

"Oh, wow. Ugh, thanks, I guess." Showing appreciation was never really my strongest character.

"If you're really interested, Scarlett, you should tune into channel 3 this evening. They're showing the finals to the King of Queens Local Tournament. It's gonna' be a great fight!"

"I'll consider it." I left the card shop when there was nothing left to do.

In the evening, I tuned into Channel 3 just as Markus requested. The final fight looked like it was half way over.

"Amazing! Kenneth was able to survive Kane's demonic onslaught!" The announcer shouted out loud. "This has really become a close game; with both players down to 5 damage each, either one of them could nab the win!"

"Give up, Ken. You were never destined to win this tournament." The long, black haired Kane taunted his opponent. "You barely survived the barrage from my Dark Irregulars; come my turn, I'm going to finish it. You have no hope of winning."

"Hmph, please. if you spent as much time honing your skills than you do talking, you might've beaten me a few turns earlier. But you're last twin drive was weak; you won't be able to survive past this turn. Final turn!"

Kenneth – Kane

2 –hand- 5

5 –soul- 9

5 –damage- 5

2 –counterblast- 4

Red River Dragoon, Thousand Name Wyvern Knight -left column- Demon of Aspiration, Amon, Doreen the Thruster

Photon Bomber Wyvern, Martial Arts General, Daim(VG) –central column- Beelzebub(VG), Devil Child

Red River Dragoon, Demonic Dragon Berserker, Garuda –right column- Dark Soul Conductor, Poet of Darkness, Amon

"It's my turn, Kane! Stand and Draw!" He lifted his drawn card high in the air and ranted "What was born from a subtle zephyr grew into a magnificent tempest! Nothing can withstand the power of demonic wind! I ride- Lord of Demonic Winds, Vayu [Clan: Narukami/Grade 3/power: 10000]!"

"Wow! There it is, folks! Kenneth's ace unit finally hit the playing field! And it couldn't have come in a better time!"

"I activate my Wyvern Knight's skill- by soulblasting 1, he can share the name of my Narukami Noble vanguard; so now his name becomes Vayu as well!"

"You're wasting your time, Kenneth." Kane remarked. "You can waste all the effort you want, but it will never be enough to beat me."

"We'll see about that. With a boost from Red River Dragoon [power: 8000], Garuda [total power: 17000] attacks Beelzebub [power: 11000]!"

"I intercept with Dark soul Conductor [Clan: Dark Irregulars/Grade 2/shield: 5000], and guard with Hysteric Shirley [Clan: Dark Irregulars/Grade 0/draw trigger/shield: 5000]. Then, when Conductor moves from the guardian circle to the drop zone, I can soulcharge 2 from the top of my deck." Kane moved Dark Knight of Nightmareland [Clan: Dark Irregulars/Grade 0/critical trigger], and Mad Eye Basilisk [Clan: Dark Irregulars/Grade 3/no trigger] into his vanguard pile. "Look at you, struggling against a strong player like me. You have no hope of defeating me!"

"Then, with a boost from Photon Bomb Wyvern [power: 6000], Vayu [total power: 16000] attacks Beelzebub [power: 11000]! Then I activate Vayu's counterblast!"

"What? Counterblast?" Kane was snapped out of his self-absorbed state.

"Yes- when Vayu attacks, I can pay counterblast 1; then he gains +10000 extra power for each "Lord of Demonic Winds, Vayu" in my rearguard circles. Since Wyvern Knight changed his name to "Vayu," my vanguard gains +10000 power! And with Photon Bomber's special boost, he also gains +4000 power when my opponent has three or more damage; meaning Vayu is swinging for a total of 30000 power!"

Kane was shocked to hear the result. He looked at his hand, it would practically be wasted he guarded against this attack. "I don't guard." He grunted angrily.

"Then I check for a trigger. First check-" Kenneth revealed Wyvern Guard, Wuld [Clan: Narukami/Grade 1/no trigger]; "second check-" he revealed Malevolent Djinn [Clan: Narukami/Grade 0/critical trigger]; "The extra power goes to my rearguard Vayu, and the critical goes to my vanguard." Beelzebub was absolutely overwhelmed by the hurricane Vayu summoned.

"Rggh. Damage check-" Kane revealed Doreen the Thruster [Clan: Dark Irregulars/Grade 1/no trigger] for damage.

Kenneth – Kane

4 –hand- 4

4 –soul- 11

5 –damage- 6

3 –counterblast- 4

Red River Dragoon, Thousand Name Wyvern Knight -left column- Demon of Aspiration, Amon, Doreen the Thruster

Photon Bomber Wyvern, Lord of Demonic Winds, Vayu(VG) –central column- Beelzebub(VG), Devil Child

Red River Dragoon, Demonic Dragon Berserker, Garuda –right column- Empty, Poet of Darkness, Amon

Winner- Kenneth

"Incredible! Kenneth managed to beat Kane with a powerhouse play! Kenneth Madison is the new King of Queens!" The stadium rejoiced for their new champion. I turned the tv off before they started the award ceremony.

"Hey, honey, what were you watching in there?" Mom asked from the kitchen.

"Nothing, it was nothing. Just something Markus told me to watch. It was over anyways."

"Oh, ok. I finished preparing dinner, so come and eat." We were having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I wasn't very hungry, but I could eat a quick bowl.

"So, how was your day into town?" Was it alright? You were gone for a while."

"It was okay, I guess. Nothing spectacular happened. It took me a while to find Markus's shop, I got lost so often."

"Well, I'm glad you're safe now. Just as long as you're careful out there, you can go about the city. Did you have fun while you were in town?"

"Meh, it wasn't so bad." I wanted to keep my experiences at the shop a secret from her. Even if I didn't admit it, I did have a little fun at the shop. That little rush winning against Markus gave me, oh man did that feel good. I think I judged card games a little too harshly before today. I was too mad to play them because Markus would always beat me. I think I can give Cardfight a chance.

After dinner was finished, I stayed up late to write in my diary. I felt the drowsiness kicking in, and decided to make this diary entry short. I only had my lamp light illuminating my room while writing in my entry:

Jul. 7, 2014

Dear Diary,

Today Marcus showed me a new card game called Cardfight! Vanguard. It was different from the other card games I've played when I was younger. The rules are simple, the artwork is pretty, and it seems decent enough to play. I even beat Marcus for the very first time, which was exciting for me.

As a welcome back gift, he even gave me a deck. It was a deck of Gold Paladins. He thinks that this clan might be my one true clan; he thinks I won because of some "connection" I had with the deck. Him recruiting me back into card games is one thing, but I'm not going to believe his ridiculous superstitions.

I think I might go back to his shop tomorrow, maybe play a game or two. I have a deck now, might as well use it. But it's not like I'm gonna be playing Vanguard all the time, maybe just as a hobby.

Sincerely your only friend,