Konami Kodo hated storms.

They were messy and bleak, and almost always found themselves accompanied by a dark, depressing wind. Once upon a time they had kept him from his goal of achieving an education, and while he still despised them for that fact…as of late Konami had discovered something he hated even more than storms...or rather; someone.


The Gambler and Konami had spent quite a bit of time together following the latter's departure from Duel Academy; Pierre's knowledge of the darker underbelly of the world having been irreplaceable considering Konami's goal: namely, discovering the location of one Takuma Saiou, or as others liked to call him, Sartorius.

The man was an enigma. What little information Konami had found on him labeled the man as a fortune teller, though rumor had it he was also the manager for an up and coming Pro Duelist. Which one however, Konami didn't know. He had put up with Pierre in order to find out that information via the man's wide information network, but as usual, Pierre's gambling addiction had cost them. Now, instead of being on a flight to Domino City where they were to look into this up-and-coming duelist, they were on a yacht in the middle of nowhere, about to partake in a high-stakes game from which there was no backing down.

The name of this high-stakes gambling ship?

The Duke Devlin.

Named after the famed creator of Dungeon Dice Monsters, the ship was meant to be a beacon of hope; a chance to wipe away debts, no matter how large, in a single night. Debts…that even Pierre needed cleaned.

As he stared out over the vast sea surrounding them, Konami frowned. He hadn't agreed to this, but by the time he'd even managed to get a word in, it was already too late. Pierre, ever the addict, had already ventured inside, and given that he needed Pierre to meet with their contact in Domino, Konami had had no choice but to follow. What he had found inside was nothing short of debauchery. The smell of drugs and booze had engulfed the playing areas whole, and the sounds of intimacy had easily pierced through the thin walls between rooms. It had been too much. Minutes after departure Konami had pushed himself outside. It was the only place he could think. The only place he could breathe without taking in that corrupted, unnatural air.

"Ah, so this is where you were, Konami." The smooth, suave voice of the last person Konami wanted to see at that moment said. "Enjoying the view, are we?"

Broken from his thoughts, Konami narrowed his eyes and turned. He knew who had been speaking, of course. There was only one person he associated with who had such an annoying voice, and it was that person's fault that he was on the ship to begin with!

"Pierre." Konami said. "You better have an explanation for this. We have better things to do than waste our time here!"

Pierre smiled nonchalantly and tossed his hands up in a careless shrug. "And yet," he said then, "here we are, no? Perhaps we should take the time to relax, and enjoy the games at hand. You've been chasing this Sartorius fellow for months now. You should unwind a bit my friend! Take the time to smell the roses, as it were."

"There are no roses here." Konami grunted, turning back to face the railing. "And you and I both know that we don't have time for this! That Domino lead might go cold at any moment, and now because of you, we're stuck here on some boat in the middle of nowhere instead of where we should be, which is on a plane halfway to Domino City!"

"I apologize my friend," Pierre said, taking that moment to grab a drink from a passing waiter, "but I am afraid I have no intention of leaving this ship so soon, and even if I did, where would we go? As you just said, we are in the middle of nowhere, and I do not believe they will turn this ship around anytime soon. Face it my friend, we are in for the long haul you and I." Pierre took a sip from his glass, and then raised it to the moonlight as if giving a toast. "Best enjoy it, while it lasts. Now come, Konami. The games are about to begin, and I do not wish to miss out."

"You know I don't gamble Pierre." Konami grunted.

"Ah, but this is no ordinary gambling ship my friend." Pierre said, spreading his arms wide. "This is the Duke Devlin, and that means whatever the game is to be, it's certain to be enjoyed by all!"

Konami sighed and removed himself from the railing. He turned back to Pierre before brushing past the man on his way inside, giving his answer as he walked. "Fine, fine. Anything to shut you up."

Pierre smiled. "Then let the games begin."

He clapped his hand down upon Konami's shoulder, and together, they disappeared inside the ship.

The playroom was enormous.

Like much of the ship, it had been decorated with all manner of jewels and color, giving every inch of the room a magnificent, expensive feel. Chandeliers hovered from the ceiling, and in the center of the room stood a large, golden statue that portrayed a mountain of men, each clamoring over the other in a futile attempt to reach the top. Konami could tell immediately that it only showed what would soon happen in the room. He, after all, was no fool. He knew what gambling did to people, how it turned them from civilized men and women into bloodthirsty animals that just couldn't have enough.

He frowned.

"My, my…" Pierre said beside him, looking as cool and collected as ever. "This appears to be quite the arena, no? I can but imagine what challenges we shall be forced to face."

"Something involving chance, no doubt." Konami grumbled. "I get you're an addict, Pierre…but I still don't see why you had to drag me in on this as well."

Pierre chuckled. "I already explained, did I not? The chance to unwind from our endeavor…was simply too great to pass up. And…I cannot deny I wish to remove some of the fallout from a few of my…earlier…ventures."

Konami narrowed his eyes at the words, and he glanced at Pierre suspiciously. "In other words, you mean that you screwed up when you were younger, and you're hoping I can help you clear some of that debt away, right?"

Pierre laughed again, and shot Konami a suave smirk. "On the ball as always, it seems."

"Whatever." Konami sighed, stepping forward to join the crowd. "Let's just see what this fuss is about. The sooner it's done and over with the sooner I can start thinking of how to pay you back for making me miss out on our Domino lead."

Pierre laughed sheepishly at that, and promptly made to follow Konami into the gathering crowd. The boy was right after all; it simply wouldn't do to miss out on the rules of their newest venture. Luckily, it seemed they had arrived just in time. The man who had ordered the crowd to gather in the first place was only just making his way to the podium, flanked on both sides by large, burly men in leather suits. As he reached the podium, the crowd quieted, and their eyes focused on the man in charge.

He was a tall, muscular man, clad in a strange black undershirt with a nice blue jacket draped over his shoulders. His gray hair was just as strange, for it had a long, curved spike in its center that pointed straight up, and another, thinner spike that went down across his face. Konami almost wondered how the man could see through it. Perhaps it was for that reason the man wore such dark-tinted shades?

"Welcome, gamblers." The man said, cutting off any further insight into his description. "My name is Surtr, and I shall be your host on this most glorious occasion. While I understand that many of you may not know me, rest assured that I…know you. Your presence here is a testament to your bravery and strength, and because of it, I have been given the opportunity by my employer to reward you for it…in a high-stakes gamble worth million, if not billion, of yen."

The declaration drew hushed whispers from around the room, and even Konami found himself moderately intrigued. Surtr allowed the whispers to continue for some time before silencing the crowd once more. As they did so, he gestured to one of his guards, and suddenly, a series of waiters aboard the ship began handing out envelopes, each bearing an "A" or "B". As Konami took hold of his, Surtr began to speak once more, regaining everyone's attention.

"Within these envelopes you have been given, your glory and fortune await." Surtr explained. "Open them now, and see for yourselves, for they contain the gambling event that shall decide your destiny."

Again, whispers filled the room as everyone began opening the "A" envelope, and as they glanced inside, they understood Surtr's words, for nothing was inside the "A" envelope…except a deck of cards.

Konami's eyes widened as he stared at his own cards, surprised at the game they were to be playing.

"It can't be…" he whispered. Pierre too, looked awestruck.

"This is…"

Surtr's chuckle filled the air. "Yes. The game should be clear from the cards. That is to say…"

He held up the example deck he had brought with him, revealing the three hand gestures known worldwide.

"Rock, Paper, Scissors!"

Yu-Gi-Oh: Tag Force

Learning to Shine

Arc One – Chapter One

Once Again

"Rock, Paper, Scissors?" Pierre whispered. "Is this a joke?"

Much of the crowd agreed with him. They were expecting something typical, like Poker or Blackjack! But Rock, Paper, Scissors? For such a thing to be used…and in a high-stakes game no less! The crowd, as expected, began to rouse. The whispers grew more outraged, but a raise of Surtr's hand silenced them once more.

"I see you are all confused, but this Rock, Paper, Scissors game is not played normally." he explained. "You will not be allowed to choose Rock, Paper, or Scissors infinitely. You have been given four of each kind, so you are only allowed to play each hand once. Indeed, this is not normal Rock, Paper, Scissors…but Restricted Rock, Paper, Scissors! RRPS!"

Restricted Rock Paper Scissors? Konami thought. He's right…four of each card…there's only twelve we can use. And depending on how they're used…you can make it or break it from the first game itself!

"Now," Surtr continued, "please open the envelope marked "B.""

The crowd mumbled and grunted quiet obscenities before doing as asked and emptying the envelope's contents into their hands. This time however, instead of receiving cards, they found stars instead. Three, in each envelope.

"You should have three stars." Surtr said. "Keep them close, for they are your lifeline on this night."

"These things…?" Pierre whispered quietly. "My, this isn't shaping up to be any sort of gamble I've been in before."

"Serves you right." Konami replied just as quietly as he stuffed the stars into his pocket. "Now shut up. I'm trying to listen."

"With these stars, the preparations are now complete." Surtr explained. "In short, you will be playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with these cards, and you shall wager your stars. That's all there is to the game."

With that said Surtr quickly moved to explain the rules of RRPS, making use of his two guards to play a makeshift game. As far as Konami could tell, it was remarkably simple. Once two people had confirmed the will to fight, they would raise their chosen card, and call "Check." They would then proceed to set the chosen cards, and declare "Set." Finally, they would flip their determined card, and call "Open." That was all. If there was a draw, the wagered stars return to their owners. If there was a winner, however, then they'd take the loser's star as well as their own, adding it to their pile. The contestants could choose their opponent freely, and repeat the process as many times as they'd like. Cards that had been used would be discarded into a hole by the guards. The cards in the hole would be shown by an electronic scoreboard. Each contestant had four rocks, papers, and scissors each. On the ship there were one hundred and three contestants…four hundred and twelve cards of each kind. The game would go on for four hours. So long as one maintained three stars, they'd win. It was simple and clear, but with one final rule.

One must use up all twelve cards, and disposing of cards was not allowed. At the end of the game, those with two or fewer stars, those who did not use up their cards despite having three or more stars…and those who lost all their stars despite having cards lost. In other words, Surtr's earlier words rang true: the stars were one's lifeline, and the cards…one's opportunity.

The cards left by the losers will be deposited in the box. The number of cards left would not change.

"That ends my explanation." Surtr said then. "I wish you all luck. Remember," he finished, and for a brief moment, Konami thought the man was looking straight at him. "We are always watching."

"Wait a moment!" a small, squishy man cried out from the far ends of the room. "What happens if we lose?! Tell us how we're going to be treated! This is to clear our debts, isn't it?! Tell us what will happen! The men who brought me here said you'd explain it!"

Surtr turned his head to stare the man who had screamed, and his sunglasses gleamed in the yacht's light. "Unfortunately," he said, speaking into the microphone, "I will not answer any questions."

"What?" the squishy man asked in disbelief. You should at least tell us what's gonna happen if we lose!"

"Yeah, stop screwing with us!" another man shouted, climbing to his feet.

Before long, almost all of the crowd had joined in, screaming and shouting obscenities at Surtr and his guards on the podium. It didn't take long for Surtr to lose his cool.

"Silence." He said fiercely. "I'll send you to Yggdrasil…fools."

The declaration made Konami raise a brow. Yggdrasil? He thought. What's that supposed to be? Gambling Shadow Realm?

Surtr provided no further information. He calmed himself, and then continued to speak. "I can easily answer all your questions. But what would you do differently if you knew what would happen if you lose? If that's what you want to know, I'll tell you everything. But there's no way for any of you to know if I tell the truth. Do you still want to know?" he waited a moment, and when no one spoke up, he continued. "Many of you have suffered loss after loss in your lives, and ended up here. Others have merely appeared at the drop of a hat." Again, Konami felt he was being stared at. "Unloved by everyone, impoverished…and crawling around indecisively at the bottom of society. Forget the details of what will happen if you lose once more. Why can't you realize you're already in the depths of the cauldron of hell right now? However, there is a way out. That is, of course, to win. To win and grasp victory! Win! Winning is everything! If you don't win, you're nothing but trash! If you don't win…! If you don't win…! If you don't win…!"

The man trailed off then, taking a deep breath and stepping off the podium. Konami stared after his retreating form, and then turned to glare at Pierre.

"If something happens to me while we're here, I'm going to kill you, Pierre." He said, and Pierre knew he wasn't joking. Why would he, after discovering that Pierre had gotten them involved with whom appeared to be dangerous people…more dangerous than Pierre's usual crowd, at any rate.

"Relax, mon ami." Pierre replied. "All will be well, you'll see."

With those words, Pierre disappeared into the crowd. With those words, Konami was left alone. But most importantly, with those words…the gamble began.

Damn that Pierre… Konami thought, staring at his cards indecisively. What does he expect me to do? This isn't Duel Monsters…it's not something that I'll be able to have an edge over any of my competitors with! It's a stupid game of chance! Rock, Paper, Scissors…who the hell invented such a thing?!

"It would seem that I've won, my friend." Pierre said, drawing everyone's attention from one of the many tables that had been set up throughout the playroom.

"Already?" Konami murmured quietly. "It's barely been five minutes!"

"The Gambler does not waste his time." Pierre replied, moving to approach Konami as the guards "escorted" the loser out the room. "But you already knew that, no?"

Konami's eyes roamed across the room once more, and he watched quietly as more and more losers were declared each moment. The games were quick, less than ten seconds each. Truly, the losers of the game were…

Mindless idiots. Konami thought, narrowing his eyes. It's no wonder they lost. They're just throwing out whatever cards they have, putting no thought into it at all.

Pierre chuckled. "They are the foolish ones, no? They are treating this gamble like a game, caring not for the fact that they may end up crippled for losing." He flipped a coin, glancing at its result quickly for himself before clapping Konami on the shoulder. "I still have a few cards to get rid of. You should get started too, Red Hat."

Konami grunted and slapped Pierre's hand away. "I told you not to call me that. It's annoying."

"Yes, yes." Pierre chuckled, taking a step back to give Konami his space. "Just remember my friend, time is money, and you can't have both."

With those words the Gambler roamed into the crowd once more, seeking another opponent to defeat. Yet again Konami was left alone, though he didn't mind. Pierre's departure was entirely welcome, for it gave Konami the chance to do something many had failed to: Strategize.

Obviously, Restricted Rock, Paper, Scissors was not like the original game. Limited choices meant limited moves, and that meant each and every person in the room was bound by a statistic. How many of them had already used a rock? How many had already gotten rid of paper? If Konami was an ordinary person, the path to victory would have laid in the answers to those questions. Fortunately however, he was not. First and foremost Konami was a duelist, and a powerful one at that. And as a powerful duelist, he had access to something most humans couldn't even fathom. Namely, Duel Spirits.

"Yae." Konami whispered, prompting a soft glow unseen by most of the world to burst from his Deck Holster. In seconds the green haired kunoichi hovered by Konami's side, and she glanced at him worriedly.

Yes my lord? She asked. What is it?

"Pierre's gone and gotten us in trouble again." Konami sighed, scratching the back of his neck softly. "We shouldn't be that far from land…so I'm thinking we bail."

Bail? So…do you require Alector's services? She asked.

"I will if you don't feel like taking a dip." Konami muttered.

B-But my lord! Yae complained. The last time that happened I didn't feel clean for a week!

"Yeah, that mud pit was pretty dirty, wasn't it?" Konami wondered aloud. "Come to think of it, that was Pierre's fault too."

That man is proving to be the bane of my existence… Yae murmured quietly, and a dark gleam shone in her eyes.

"Well, it doesn't matter. That man won't be tagging along with us much longer." Konami sighed. "He can stay on this gambling ship if he likes…I on the other hand have a plane to catch. Tell Alector to get ready. I'm heading for the railing. I'll need that wind of his soon enough."

It will be ready.

With that said, Yae disappeared back into the Deck, no doubt to inform the others that Pierre had yet again managed to drag them all into harm's way. Indeed, it was not the first time the Gambler had brought Konami along for some sidequest, and if the man had his way, Konami was certain it would not be the last. It was for that reason that he needed to make a quick getaway, and with Alector's abilities, Konami knew he'd be more than capable of doing exactly that.

So he made to leave. Quickly, quietly, while the eyes of the crowd were on the many cries of failure echoing throughout the room. Stealthily, Konami slid through the doors leading back to the railing, and closed them shut behind him. It was the near-perfect escape. Yae would have been proud. For once there was no stumbling, no misstep. The advice she'd given him over the past month had helped, but as Konami was about to discover…mere advice was not enough.

"Going somewhere?" the burly voice of the Duke Devlin's host asked, and Konami froze in his steps. Slowly, cautiously, the boy turned his neck to glance back over his shoulder. Surtr was there, sunglasses in hand, looking every bit the tyrant he'd made himself out to be as he sat comfortably behind a solid glass table. "The games have yet to conclude, competitor. You should return to the playroom."

"Sorry." Konami apologized. "But this gambling business isn't for me. I think I'll just slip out while no one's looking…save you the trouble of feeding another mouth."

"I'm afraid I cannot let you do that, Red Hat." Surtr said, and immediately Konami was on guard.

Warily, the boy stared at Surtr, clenching his fists tight. "What did you just call me?" he asked softly, wanting to ensure he had not misheard.

"I believe I have already said that I have no intention of answering any questions…Red Hat." Surtr said, again making use of the name he simply could not know. It wasn't that he just wasn't allowed to use it, no. It was much, much more than that. That name was a reminder, a title, a curse set upon Konami by his peers at Duel Academy.

Duel Academy…the school that Konami had been certain to steer clear of, be it physically or mentally. There was simply no way that Surtr, a man Konami had never, ever met before, could know that name. Especially since, as far as Konami knew, the only other person on the ship who did know that name had not come into contact with the man standing before him.

"Who are you?" Konami asked.

"I have already introduced myself." Surtr said. "I have no intention of doing so again."

"Then forgive me if I cut our conversation short." Konami replied. He turned to climb aboard the railing, fully prepared to jump into the murky depths below –

"Strange." Surtr said then, again interrupting Konami's moment. "I had never expected to run into a duelist of your caliber in such a place. Tell me, for what purpose does the Lord of the Red stand aboard the Ship of Hope?"

Again. He did it again. For the second time, Surtr opened his mouth and spoke words that he could not know, should not know. The Lord of the Red was something even less known than Konami's title of Red Hat, and with good reason. It was taboo, and not even Pierre knew of that name. There was only one person Konami could think of who'd ever called him by that purposefully, and as far as he knew, she was still in a coma, recovering from -'s attack on her person.

Konami's foot scuffed against the metal of the railing, but he stopped climbing. Indeed, Surtr's use of another nickname had drawn Konami's intrigue. He had become an enigma, a puzzle that needed to be solved…and Konami hated puzzles.

"Come, Red Hat." Surtr said, offering Konami a spot at the table. "Let us converse. Let us…mingle."

Konami approached, and they both knew then and there, that the game had begun anew.

Yu-Gi-Oh: Tag Force

Learning to Shine

Arc One – Chapter One


As a new story begins, more questions are raised! Just what was Konami doing with Pierre of all people? Why have their investigations into Sartorius' identity thus far proven fruitless? And perhaps, for veterans of the original Tag Force…most importantly…what is SURTR doing playing host on some ship?! Maybe you'll find out when we next join our hero, in the second upcoming chapter of Yu-Gi-Oh: Tag Force – Learning to Shine!