Hi, fellow readers! Welcome to my new story. I've never written a SI before, nor have I written in a story exclusively in 1st person POV, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this story goes. I've written this in spurts across the summer, whenever I haven't been working. As of the first chapter going up, I have about 50k words written. This has come pretty easily to me so far, so I look forward to writing more. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this initial chapter and what you think of this concept, as well as the few OC's I'll be incorporating. If you have any questions about writing choices I made or what inspired certain elements of the story, I'd be happy to answer them. I'll be using the dub names throughout the story, hope that isn't a dealbreaker to anyone. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Can Somebody Get Me A Banlist?!

I've never been a huge fan of self-insert fanfiction. I always looked at them as shamelessly self-indulgent wish fulfillment fantasies, and rather disliked the idea of a random joe who has foreknowledge of the plot waltzing into the story and fixing up everything. After all, what is a story without its dramas and pitfalls? What is so appealing about a hero who casually patches up all points of conflict in the story while perhaps picking up a harem or two along the way? Not much of a story at all, I thought.

Of course, I didn't exactly think that way now.

Waking up in the body of a fifteen-year old boy with the consciousness and knowledge of an adult was mind-boggling enough. Being called "son" by parents who were not by own was surreal, to say the least. Thank god I don't have to call them by their names, or else I would probably be penning this from the inside of a mental asylum.

A million questions zipped through my head as I woke up in a completely unfamiliar bedroom in a completely unfamiliar body. As soon as my eyes opened, I zipped about the room, taking in the trappings of this boy's life. He seemed to be a big fan of sports, ice hockey in particular. "At least we have that in common." I mentally sighed with relief.

Slowly, it dawned on me that I was not in the same universe that I came from. I peered through the boy's-my-desk drawers and found a collection of magazines, many of them price catalogs for the latest Yugioh cards. At first, I simply thought that the boy must be a big fan of the franchise.

Then, I looked towards the relatively ancient PC sitting on the desktop. Booting it up, I noticed the unusually long loading times the computer had, and immediately knew that the era I was in did not quite possess the same technological prowess that existed in 2016 of my world.

Sure enough, the computer listed the date and time as being October 4, 2004.

Before I complained, I reasoned that things could have been much worse. For one thing, I could have been reincarnated in prehistoric times, where there was no technology or modern luxuries available to me at all. I could have been born into slavery. I could've been born into a warzone- everything seemed peaceful so far. Not having smartphones and social media was hardly something to whine about in comparison.

Immediately, I opened up the boy's internet browser (I didn't recognize the name of the browser- it certainly wasn't one that existed in my world) and thanked my lucky stars that a search engine appeared. I hastily searched for current events under the news toolbar.


My jaw dropped when I saw this headline on the screen. This is Yugioh, baby. Specifically, I recalled with embarrassing swiftness, this is ten years after the events of the original series, which means that this is the time period of Yugioh GX.

And what do you know, I'm just the right age to begin my first year at Duel Academy. Surely this boy was a duelist, every single man, woman, and child in this silly franchise knows how to play this card game. Frantically, I looked about the room for a deck of cards. At the bottom of the closet, I found a sleeved deck neatly slot into a KaibaCorp regulation duel disk. "Thank god this kid knows to put his cards in sleeves. This way, we can sell at near-mint later!" I rejoiced outwardly, speaking aloud for the first time in this new body. My voice had a distinct west-coast inflection, and thankfully wasn't too high-pitched. Hell, maybe self-inserts weren't all that bad bad after all.

I thumbed through the cards, only to yet again pause in shock. If that kept happening, I was never going to get anything done. I was worried that I would have to learn the ins and outs of a new deck, but that was the least of my concerns.

The deck was filled with cards from 2016. Specifically, they were the new Melodious Diva Support, including those new fusion monsters of theirs. These cards hadn't even been printed in the TCG as of October 2016, yet here I held them in my hands. In fact, now that I think about, this was the very last deck I played on YGOPRO before I was warped into whatever crazy situation this was.

Coincidence? I think not. Although part of me cringed at the thought of playing cards based off of idol singers, they would undoubtedly be extremely powerful in this time period.

Unfortunately, these cards would have to be shelved for the time being. As much as I would enjoy OTK-ing every opponent that crossed my path, there's no way I could possibly use this deck without being accused of using counterfeit cards. Although such a claim would be categorically untrue, I would be guilty of using cards no one else had. Perhaps I could claim to be Maximillion Pegasus' adopted son, and these cards to be a birthday gift from him to me.

Actually, that would be ridiculous. For the time being, I would have to use some older cards. Digging through the boy's closet, I found a shoebox full of cards, and these were all congruent with the time period. He seemed to be a bit of a collector, having a few cards that I know for a fact would be quite rare around this time period. I grinned widely when I found a copy of Black Luster Soldier-Envoy of the Beginning. My smile faltered when I realized just how necessary a banlist for this time would be. I knew that Raigeki would most likely be banned, so I left it out of the build.

After about thirty minutes, I had successfully built a deck based around the infamous goat control format of April 2005. Oh, perhaps it wasn't nearly as flashy as Jaden Yuki's Elemental Heroes or as devastating as Zane Truesdale's Cyber Dragons, but I imagine their monsters get destroyed by Mirror Force just like everything else in this time.

With a sense of wistfulness, I placed the Melodious Diva deck inside of a black deck box before throwing it into a backpack. Looking up, I glanced at the clock. 7:33 AM. In times like these, I appreciated being a morning person. I could use a cup of coffee all the same though.

Suddenly, I heard a sharp rapping on my wooden doorframe. "Jamie, get out of bed! You'll want some breakfast before your duel examination. Shower up and come down!" A caring, yet somewhat nagging voice intoned from outside.

"Ah yes, the kid's mother. So, my name's Jamie, huh? Hopefully my last name isn't Lannister." I wondered if the Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire books were even a thing in this universe. If not, then I stood to make some serious coin. Come to think about it, is Kazuki Takahashi a person in this world? If so, has he written the Yugioh manga yet? Will he ever? Questions for later.

"Sure thing!" I said quickly before rising, hoping that my voice didn't sound different to her ears. I waited until I could hear her footsteps descending the stairs before I tentatively stepped out into the hallway. Luckily, the bathroom door was the only one in the hall that was open, so I didn't have to play an impromptu game of The Price Is Right to find the toilet.

Stepping inside the bathroom, I finally got a good look at this new body in the mirror. "Why, I'm starting to sound like Captain Ginyu." I chuckled.

My body was in decent shape, thankfully. I remembered being distinctly overweight at 15, as it was the year before I started lifting and playing varsity football at my high school. This kid was a little on the thin side, but that would rectified soon enough. I only hope Duel Academy has a decent gym. I was shorter than I would like to be, only coming in at five foot seven. Nothing can be done about that, though. My hair was a pleasant brown shade, with a certain messiness to it which I liked. I never enjoyed styling hair. My skin was tan and my eyes were a piercing, bright green.

"Man, this is going great so far. Then again, I suppose nothing has really happened yet. Man, I should really look into what books have or haven't been written yet. If I can get that Harry Potter money, then I will." I thought aloud as I quickly showered. There was distinct fire in my belly, a drive to go out and do things as if I were running out of time. It was a feeling I hoped wouldn't go away soon.

Despite this being my second go round at life, everything seemed so new and wondrous. The hot shower water felt incredibly good on my skin, the sunshine from the window seeming so fresh and clean. At the same time, mind was in complete disarray, desperate to find something familiar to cling to. To keep myself from going insane, I focused only on the present moment, at the current sensations I was feeling. As I settled down, I felt more comfortable diverting my thoughts towards the future.

I was going to Duel Academy. Basically, all I had to do to secure myself a decent career in this crazy world was to play a children's card game well. I was going to meet characters I had once thought as being strictly fictional. There really was a sense of childish amazement at the prospects laid bare before me. As I toweled myself off, I felt a wild grin creep its way on my face, and I felt my panic and worry melt away, replaced by an infectious confidence.

After throwing on a light blue hoodie and some grey sweatpants, I leapt down the stairs, briefly taking in the details of the house as I did so. It seemed to be a comfortable middle-class dwelling, and once again I reflected on how lucky I was. It was only by the whim of whatever force sent me here that I wasn't dealing drugs in the streets or worse, locked up in jail. Perhaps there was a reason for all this, but I hardly cared to think about who or what brought me here. Whatever brought me here did not see fit to tell me the "why", much less the "how". But that's life, isn't it? We are never told why we are created, what our purpose is for being. We create that reason ourselves. We form bonds with others, and protecting those bonds becomes a purpose for some. Others fight ultimately pointless battles in the name of their religion or political ideology. The humblest, as well as the most proud, choose to master a craft or skill. Creating is what brings them contentment. But many stay adrift and never ascertain a reason for being. They exist, work for the benefit of greater people, and die. Such a fate should be intolerable, and yet many settled for it all the same. I would create my own reason for being here, if I must.

Bounding into the kitchen, I got my first good look at my "parents". No matter what happened, I would never hold as much affection for these people as I would my original parents, but that's not their fault.

"Hi, you guys." I waved casually. My father smiled back at me, clapping a hand on my shoulder. He had the frame of a former athlete gone to seed- huge powerful muscles wrapped under copious layers of fat. He had salt-and-pepper hair and beard, with tasteful glasses framing crinkled gray eyes. He wore a three-piece suit, clearly about to head to work.

"Jamie! Good to see you fresh-faced, my boy!" He exclaimed boisterously. "Make me proud today at your examination. I've always dreamed of seeing my only son dueling in Obelisk Blue, and I'm sure you have as well."

"No doubt." I answered smoothly. From that short exchange, I could roughly discern the relationship here; he had high expectations of his son while also internally pining for his own glory days.

Nodding at him, I turned over to look upon my "mother", who was currently cooking an omelet in a skillet. I was about to greet her, but I found my words stuck in my throat as she looked up.

I found myself in a bit of a Marty McFly situation, to say the least. She was an attractive lady, with a heart-shaped face, a slim frame, and the same green eyes and straight brown hair I had. Luckily, such a thing was only a brief distraction. I had no intention on making anything weird.

"Morning, honey! Are you ready for your big day?!" She cooed, a slight contrast from her demanding tone earlier.

"Honestly, don't talk to the boy like that, he's nearly a man, about to set off on his first great adventure in life!" My not-father intervened rather entertainingly on my behalf. From there, the two spouses launched into some trivial discussion, which I hardly paid attention to.

I had no interest in establishing any real relationship with them yet. That would have to happen over the winter break, if not the summer break. For today, I could coast off of Jamie's previous interactions with his parents, most of which seemed to be positive.

My excitement was such that I could barely manage to eat the delicious breakfast my strangely attractive "mom" placed in front of me. I still couldn't get over how unreal all of this was.

I looked across the kitchen to the connected living room, taking in the various pictures and decorations that adorned the walls. I seemed to be an only child. My parents spoiled me with vacations as a kid, judging by the numerous fishing trips and summer camp photos on the walls.

Underneath the pictures was a golden banner with the words "Lancaster Family" inscribed upon it.

"Jamie Lancaster. You've gotta be fucking kidding me. George R.R Martin's gonna pull a copyright strike." I nearly laughed before remembering that I had company.

Soon enough, it was time to leave. My "father" drove off to the office while my "mother" escorted me to the arena in which the placement exams would happen. As we drove, I saw the Kaiba Corp building in the distance. I could only imagine what it would be like meeting Yugi, Kaiba, and all the other members of the original generation of duelists. The crazy thing was that meeting them was no longer strictly the object of childish conjecture.

My "mother" gave me a teary goodbye, hugging me close as she did so. I did my best to be genuine- I didn't want her to think I didn't care, even though I really couldn't. I didn't wish to hurry her out, but there was so much to do and see. If I was going to be successful at Duel Academy, I needed to get to work the moment I stepped through the door.

"Goodbye, son. Write lots, call whenever you can, ok?" She pleaded, looking me in the eye.

"Of course, mother. And thank you, for everything. I'll do my best to make you proud." The words were a tribute to my old parents, my real parents. They were meant for all of my friends, family, and even the enemies from previous life, because in that moment, I knew I would never see any of them again. They lived on only in the ways they influenced me. And for what it was worth, I dedicated those words to this woman in front of me, even though all she has ever truly done for me is cook a good breakfast. I felt sorry for her, for the son she raised is gone. I am his replacement.

It was at that moment where I understood the blessing and the curse of the self-insert. Like a great many things in life, it was funny and sad in equal measure. Yes, I was living life over again, with a sense of wisdom and freedom only brought on by experience. And yet, the crushing weight of loneliness made its presence felt upon my heart, this familiar yet foreign heart. It was good that I had little time to fulminate- I would doubtlessly think myself into a frenzy.

And so, the emotion that choked my voice as I said goodbye to my "mother" was very real. She drove off, as bubbly as ever, and I watched her leave, standing still in the shadow of the arena. After a long glance towards the clear blue sky, I turned about-face and entered the arena where I would take the Duel Academy placement test.

As I entered the atrium, I saw a small wooden table manned by two rather cute academy schoolgirls. "Hey! Do I have to register with you guys, or…?" I questioned them rather lamely.

With bored, haughty expressions on their faces, they looked upon me. I met their gazes evenly, not at all intimidated by them. After a moment, one of them replied, "Yeah, just check off where your name is. Also, we'll have to check your deck to ensure its compliance with the banlist."

"Sure thing." I was familiar with such a procedure on the few times I attended tournaments in my past life. I only hoped I wouldn't have to take much out- I only brought 45 cards.

They flipped through my deck rather roughly, which I didn't appreciate. "Nice try, pal, but Graceful Charity is banned. You can't actually be serious, coming at us with that bullshit." One of them mocked me.

"I have no idea what you mean. Graceful Charity is a fair and balanced card." I said. The two girls and I were silent for a moment before I laughed and they giggled politely.

"But really, you need to get this out of your deck. And you're lucky that Black Luster Soldier hasn't been hit yet. That card's ridiculously strong." One of the girls wryly commented. I chuckle genuinely at that- oh, if only they knew of the power creep this game would be undergoing in the next twelve years. The sheer consistency most decks would possess in the future would make Black Luster Soldier merely a decent card, and yet in this time period he was considered one of the best monsters in the game.

A fact to take advantage of later, no doubt. I was lucky that Jamie had a copy of the card in his binder. After a somewhat sardonic goodbye to the desk clerks, they handed me a piece of paper with a number on it I stepped onto the stadium's main floor.

Immediately, I was shocked at just how large it was. I didn't remember the place being this gigantic in the first episode of GX. Something told me that the surprises weren't going to be ending anytime soon. There were dozens of smaller areas partitioned for duel exams on the floor while hundreds of applicants flooded the stands.

My eyes darted all around the room, searching for Jaden Yuki. I had to see what the guy was like in person. Then I remembered that he arrived to this exam late, and his was the last duel to occur. Calming down somewhat, I looked for the people who eventually become some of Jaden's most stalwart companions; Bastion Misawa and Syrus Truesdale. That part wasn't hard- Syrus' shocking blue hair was easy to spot amongst the crowd, even as the shy boy tried to appear small.

Seeing these anime characters in "reality" was quite strange, for they looked almost exactly how I perceived in animated form. Has my perception changed to fit this new reality? How strange. Syrus looked as spineless as I recalled him being at the start of the series- his posture was hunched and defensive, his eyes flitting this way and that nervously, and his frame was frail.

Bastion Misawa calmly sat next to him. Compared to Syrus, he gave off a palpable sense of- not confidence, per se. More like mathematical certainty. No, Bastion did not consider himself the sort who would enter a battle without absolute guarantee of victory. Although the series did not portray Bastion as much of a threat, I knew that he had the ability to be one of the most dangerous men in the dueling world. If I ever dueled him, I would have to be deliberately unpredictable.

"Sup." I greeted them casually with a crooked grin. "Have you guys dueled yet?"

"Not yet, I'm afraid." Bastion replied with a level of boredom. "Yeah, unfortunately." Said Syrus.

"Unfortunately? Did you lose?" I asked.

"Yeah, but it was close! Besides, I did decent on the written exam. They're putting me in Slifer Red. Oh, and by the way, I'm Syrus Truesdale." He squeaked rapidly. It dawned on me that I've probably already taken the written exam, which is to say that Jamie did before my consciousness seemingly supplanted his. I only hoped the kid did decently.

"Well, I would consider that a success. There's nowhere else to go but up from here, right?" I nudged him in what I thought was a friendly manner.

"Yeah, maybe, I guess. I don't think I have what it takes to get promoted." He whimpered in response. I knew that this was untrue, but I was in no mood to give this kid a pep talk, especially since he was determined to drag himself down and possibly drag me with him. I had no problem letting Jaden handle this particular issue.

"If that's what you believe." I said dispassionately. He stared at me in shock while I looked over at Bastion. "How about you, man? Did the written exam go alright for you?"

"Oh, more than alright. I do believe I got the best score in this year's freshman class." He replied in that British accent which sounded so fake but supposedly wasn't.

"Oh, no way! You wouldn't happen to be Bastion Misawa, would you? I hear you're really good!" I decided to indulge in a little flattery.

"Why thank you." He responded dryly. "What is your name?"

I nearly told him my original name, catching myself at the last second. "I'm Jamie Lancaster, nice to meet you!" I thrust out my hand, which he took swiftly. He had a firm grip, which I reciprocated.

"Applicant Bastion Misawa may now report to floor A3 for his practical exam." A voice intoned over the PA System. Bastion calmly rose to his feet while fastening his duel disk to his arm. There's no way he could've possibly prepared for whatever deck his proctor was running, so I wondered what kind of deck he was playing.

"Best of luck." I smiled at him. "Same to you." He replied stoically as he made his way down the stairs. I was interested in seeing if there would be any differences from canon in this instance.

However, it appeared I would have no time to watch Bastion's match, for my name was the next one called. I was called down to floor A4, the one right next to Bastion. The duel grounds were partitioned by blue hanging curtain, so I couldn't see any of the matches going on around me.

My proctor entered the arena a moment before I did. He was a tall, muscular man with long black hair tied back into a man bun, of all things, along with a mustache and goatee. He wore the standard navy blue coat all proctors did, but his Chelsea boots and expensive watch gave him a bit of a hipster vibe.

"Jamie Lancaster, huh? I remember you did decently on the written exam. If you do well enough in this practical, you're definitely looking at a nice spot in Ra Yellow. I am assistant professor in history at Duel Academy, Vector Drummond and duel proctor for this exam." He said in a pleasant accent that I could only vaguely discern as Northern European. I did not recognize this guy at all. Then again, it makes some sense that a history teacher wouldn't receive too much screen time in a show primarily absent of most academic disciplines.

"Alright, professor, what kind of deck do you play?" I asked, genuinely curious.

"I'm not using my true deck for the purpose of this test. Rather, I'm using a standard deck all proctors duel with. Standard procedure and all that." He mumbled, sounding a bit tired.

"I imagine using such a basic deck must be very boring for you. I only hope I can provide a decent challenge. If I win, do I get a spot in Obelisk Blue?" I smirked.

He gave a chuckle. "If every cocky kid who walked in here got a spot in Obelisk Blue, the dorms would be overflowing. We'll see after you duel me."

"Sounds like a plan!" I drew my first five cards quickly, that wild grin reappearing on my face. (Jamie 4000/Vector 4000)

"I'll set one monster in face-down defense position. Then, I'll set another card and end my turn." I quickly slapped the cards upon the duel disk, eager to lay eyes on holographic monsters for the very first time.

"My draw." Professor Drummond lazily snapped his first card off of his deck. "I'll summon Axe Dragonute (2000/1200) in attack mode." A black-scaled dragon replete in steel plate and holding a shining silver axe in its talons.

"Now, I'll attack your face-down monster!" The dark dragon raised its axe in an overhead swipe before bringing it down upon my defensive creature. Unfortunately for the professor, the monster he attacked was Spirit Reaper (300/200), a purple-cloaked zombie that cannot be destroyed by battle. My wraith blocked the axe with a scythe, throwing the Axe Dragonute back onto Vector's field.

"Oh no, you're one of those kids." The professor said with a groan.

"And what exactly does that mean?" I asked sardonically.

"Listen, kid, there are two types of people in this world- the kind who play stall decks, and the kind who don't. There's the aggressive kids who have something to prove, and the defensive players who think they're clever, if you catch my drift." He laughed.

"Oh, so you don't like me playing Spirit Reaper? In that case, you're gonna love what I've got in store! Now then, I believe your dragon goes to defense mode after it attacks." I pointed out as he dragon bent the knee.

"I'll set two cards and end my turn." The professor said with a flourish. He looks like he's seen it all. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I'm a bit outside the scope of his experience.

"Then it's my go. I'll begin by sacrificing Spirit Reaper for Airknight Parshath (1900/1400)." My reaper vanished from the field in a pillar of light. From the blinding tower galloped a holy centaur, its bottom half a white horse and its top half a pale, elven warrior with a silver sword.

Now, it's time to launch an attack! Airknight, attack his dragon now!" I have to admit, it was rather exhilarating to shout out my moves, especially since I usually just played this game online in my original life.

Both the professor and I were well aware of the Airknight's effect, which inflicted piercing damage in battle. The black dragon was promptly skewered, and Drummond flinched as his life point counter dropped. (Jamie 4000/Vector 3300)

And since I inflicted battle damage, I'll draw a card." I said as my monster landed back onto my side of the battlefield. The match was going about as well as I figured it would. The proctor's decks were usually depicted in fanfiction as being rather weak, lacking in consistency or a unified archetype. "I end my turn."

"Yes, yes." Professor Drummond said sarcastically, a mocking gleam in his dark, smoky eyes. "I draw and summon Alexandrite Dragon (2000/0) in attack mode." Another large dragon spawned at his side, its scales encrusted with jewels of varying value.

"Now, I'll attack your Airknight Parshath!" The dragon's wings flapped mightily as it crossed the field in one fell swoop, ripping apart the angelic warrior in its maw. (Jamie 3900/Vector 3300)

"He's pulling out these 2000 attack monsters, yet apparently my tactics are dishonorable." I thought with a laugh. This guy's opinions did not faze me as they might have done to a wet-behind-the-ears schoolboy. I've spent too much time in my old life being looked down upon for it to have any effect anymore. A show of strength is the only thing that will ever garner any respect.

"I'll set a card face-down and set another monster." I said succinctly.

Vector sighed again, seeming somewhat disappointed. "I play Luster Dragon (1900/1600) in attack mode. Then, I'll play Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy your face-down card to your left."

I was pleased with his decision as I sent the Mystical Space Typhoon I set as bait for such a play. "I'll chain my other face-down, Ring of Destruction!"

The ring of bombs circled around his Alexandrite Dragon before blowing it up in a spectacular explosion that seemed all too real. I cringed as we both took damage equal to the dragon's attack points. I was playing with the pre-errata version of the card as well, so I could've actually defeated him if he was lower on life points.

"Sorry, I just wanted to see something blow up. Please, continue your turn." I grinned, and he seemed to lighten up a little at that. (Jamie 1900/Vector 1300)

"A clever move." The stiff history teacher admitted. "But for naught! I still have Luster Dragon to attack your face-down with, and you have no spells or traps set!" His azure dragon let forth a wave of blue flame that crashed over my monster and me. I could only marvel at how real these holograms looked- only to sober when I realized that the fights to come would not feature holographics, but real monsters and true danger.

For now, I could take comfort in the fact that I seemed to be outpacing this proctor. His dragon had struck my face-down Marshmallon (300/500) an adorable little demon that can't be destroyed by battle. This, combined with its nasty 1000 points of burn damage inflicted upon flipping, made it one of the most infamous stall cards of the early game.

After the blue flames subsided, I could hear Professor Drummond cursing himself as the Marshmallon "bit" him. (Jamie 1900/Vector 300)

He glared at me, my complacency frustrating him. "I'll set one face-down and end my turn." He snapped.

"Is something wrong? You don't seem to be enjoying our game." I commented as I drew my next card.

Up in a balcony overlooking the stadium, two individuals stood, their vantage point allowing to view of all of the duels taking place on the floor. Each of them, a man and a woman, wore the blue and white coats of Obelisk Blue.

"What do you think of this guy facing Drummond? He seems to be putting the pressure on, and cool as you please." A pale, beautiful girl with dishwater-blonde hair and clever hazel eyes lilted.

"Nothing special. His deck is filled with nothing but basic stall and burn staples- he clearly has no personal connection to his cards." Her compatriot said dismissively. His stiff navy blue hair draped down his neck, and his countenance was cool and withdrawn.

"Those staples seem to be serving him well enough." She pointed out, only wishing to play devil's advocate for the sake of annoying her companionship.

"Oh, they're enough to win battles, but he'll never be a true duelist unless he truly respects his cards and finds his own style, instead of copying from the pros. Right now, he just uses them as tools. I'm sure you understand me, Alexis."

"If he keeps winning, then I doubt his attitude will change, Zane." Alexis replied, enjoying the discourse.

"It doesn't matter if his attitude changes. He can go fill the halls of Ra Yellow with the rest of the average and uninspired masses." Zane sneered.

Meanwhile, in the lower seats, Chazz Princeton sat comfortably, having just passed his own entrance exam with flying colors. Surrounded by goons and watching other students struggle against the proctors- truly, this was a fantastic day!

"What do you think of the competition so far, Chazz?" One such goon asked sibilantly.

"Scrubs galore on both sides. These exams aren't good for determining skill, since the proctors are using such trash decks. Some of these kids don't look too bad, but there's no way they could ever stack up against me!" The black-haired Obelisk student boasted.

Down on the arena floor, Drummond shook his head patronizingly at me. "As a matter of fact, I am. You're quite good, despite your decidedly boring playstyle. You certainly give off the same vibe as a pro player. I can tell this isn't your first rodeo, so to speak. Mainly, you're really making me regret my own misplays in this match."

He was very perceptive. "I'll take that as a compliment. I can't rightly judge you until you fight me with your real deck." I responded cockily.

"Don't get too excited; this isn't over yet!" He said with a snarl as I drew. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything that could get over his monster, and he still had some backrow I had to be concerned about. "I'll set a card and end my turn." I said.

"Very well! I draw. First, I'll sacrifice my Luster Dragon for Luster Dragon #2 (2400/1400)!" The smaller azure dragon vanished, replaced by a larger beast, emerald green in hue. It's wings stretched from one wall to another, and I could feel a definite trace of intimidation as its eyes, narrowed in hate, bore down on me.

"Next, I'll equip my dragon with the Fairy Meteor Crush spell card!" A fiery red aura danced wildly around Drummond's Luster Dragon. "Shit, this is bad! Even though he can't kill my Marshmallon, the piercing damage will finish me off!" I thought frantically. "Haha, oh wait, I still have a face-down."

"Now, my dragon, attack his Marshmallon and end this duel! Better luck next year, kid!" Drummond thrust his hand out as his dragon let loose a bright burst of jade-colored energy from its mouth.

"Activate face-down card, Shrink! This card halves your monster's attack points until the end of the turn!" The dragon's fireball grew considerable smaller as its attack dropped to 1200. I still took some damage from the attack, but I was still in the game for another turn. (Jamie 1200/Vector 300)

"Clever, but that was your last trap. Next turn, it's over." He stated, and I was forced to agree with him. Most of my cards were based around accumulating advantage and stalling out the opponent- in the face of an all-out assault by the opponent, such a strategy was unfeasible. I would need a good draw this turn, or else it was over. To think, I could simply be denied entry into the academy before I would ever the chance to assist Jaden against the various foes he encountered in canon.

Luckily, my next draw was indeed a good one. I could definitely see why the card I had just drawn would be banned later, but for now, I would abuse its power for as long as possible.

"I activate Scapegoat! This spell allows me to summon four sheep tokens, each with zero attack and defense points, to my side of the field!" As I spoke, four puffballs of varying color popped onto the battlefield next to Marshmallon.

"And what will that do? Next turn, I'll be able to pierce you through your tokens, since they have no defense points." Vector cleverly questioned.

"There won't be a next turn, I'm afraid! I activate the spell card Metamorphosis!" Drummond sharply drew in breath, knowing what was about to come.

"Now, by sacrificing one of my scapegoat tokens, I can specially summon a fusion monster of the same level!" I announced with a bit of dramatic flair.

"Oh, I see…that's a pretty clever move." Alexis grinned. Zane's eyebrows rose, letting out a shrug of acknowledgement.

"I summon Thousand-Eyes Restrict (0/0)!" I bellowed, thoroughly enjoying myself. The creature I had called forth was Maximillion Pegasus' ace monster, a truly horrifying monstrosity of crimson hide and sharp steel claws. There was hardly a way to describe the monster, because its shape was so…bizarre. I thought nothing of watching Pegasus play this against Yugi in the TV Show, but now that I was looking upon it with my own eyes…I was more than a little unsettled.

The innumerable eyeballs on its hide opened all at once as its wings unfurled. The creature let out an unearthly keel, and I fought not to shiver in fear, even though it was on my side. I better finish this quickly, before everyone gets too freaked out.

"My monster's effect allows me to equip one of your own monsters to itself, gaining its attack and defense points in the process! Now, my loyal beast, assimilate his dragon's being into your own!" I decided to play up the creepiness factor for what it was worth, despite my own niggling fears.

Shadowy tentacles burst forth from the Thousand-Eyes Restrict and enveloped the professor's Luster Dragon. Although the dragon struggled mightily, it was eventually ripped from the battlefield and into the Thousand-Eyes Restrict's body.

Without any monsters on his field, my victory over the professor was certain. "Attack him directly!" I shouted, finding myself giddily enjoying these theatrics. A black beam of dark energy burst from my monster and knocked over the history teacher. (Jamie 1200/Vector 0)

"I'm so sorry you had to suffer defeat by such dishonorable play."

Brushing himself off, Drummond placed his deck back into the box on his belt. With a slight, self-effacing chuckle, he shook his head. "Not dishonorable…just unusual. Duel Academy has its eyes on you, Jamie Lancaster. I'm looking forward to seeing you in my class." Brushing a lock of raven hair out of his eyes, he gave me a two-fingered wave before smoothly exiting the playing field.

I guess that was my cue to leave as well. I diverted my eyes upwards, and I saw two familiar faces. Well, familiar to me I suppose. Kind of makes me sound like a stalker, but whatever. Anyhow, I saw Zane and Alexis coolly examining the fresh recruits, which doubtlessly included myself. Alexis' eyes were alight with curiosity, while Zane seemed unimpressed. Oh well, let them think what they will. I'm not scared of them, ranks be damned.

Deactivating my duel disk, I leisurely made my way back up the stairs towards Syrus and Misawa, both of whom were staring intently at something happening down on the floor.

Of course, it was none other than the illustrious Jaden Yuki delivering his winning move against Crowler, who was much more ugly in person than on the show. Jaden was in the process of completing his winning move, summoning the Elemental Hero Flame Wingman to combat Crowler's Ancient Gear Golem.

Of course, this explained why it seemed like hardly anyone was paying attention to my match; after all, Crowler descending to duel a lowly applicant is certainly unprecedented. And unwarranted, for that matter, considering he has everything to lose and Jaden everything to gain from this fight. Pursuing this petty grudge would do nothing for Crowler but cause himself and everyone around him annoyance. It reminded me unpleasantly of my own experiences in high school and the workforce back in my old life.

I lazily greeted Syrus and Bastion, neither of whom bothered to respond to me as they watched the conclusion of the match. I saw the Flame Wingman be enveloped in fire as it dove from the apex of the skyscraper. In moments, Crowler's golem was melted down back to the ore it was made from, and Jaden was the winner.

"Wow! I can't believe it! Jaden beat Professor Crowler's ace monster and won the duel!" Syrus said in awe. I could practically see the admiration blossoming right in front of me. Misawa was highly impressed as well, although I figured he could've beat Crowler as well, even without prep time.

"Who are those people?" I asked despite knowing the answer.

"The winner is Jaden Yuki, a rather boisterous upstart playing an Elemental Hero deck. The other one is Professor Vellian Crowler, a teacher of high esteem, although that esteem has doubtlessly been damaged by his pitiful showing today." Bastion explained to me.

"If he's such a high-ranking guy, why did he bother handling recruitment? Were they short on proctors?" I asked again.

"No. It seems that this particular examination was a personal matter. For some reason, Crowler has it out for Jaden Yuki. I believe it was because he showed up late."

I audibly scoffed. "Must not be much of a duelist if he got beat by a green boy, or a blue boy, I should say. Jaden should go directly to Obelisk Blue if there's any justice." I replied haughtily.

"I doubt that will happen. Crowler is the head of Obelisk Blue, and is picky about his selections in the best of times. I'd wager that Jaden will be getting familiar with the Slifer Red lodgings soon enough." Bastion sniffed.

"No way! He doesn't deserve that!" Syrus spoke up.

In that moment, I was struck by just how much sway the few professors on the island held over student affairs. If Crowler doesn't like somebody, it doesn't take long for that person to disappear or be banished to the pits of Slifer Red, never to emerge again. The only reason Jaden avoided such a fate was through his strong support network of friends as well as a generous dosage of luck.

Somehow, I doubted I would be so lucky. No, I would have to avoid antagonizing Crowler until my own position in Obelisk Blue was solidified. And make no mistake, I planned to be in Obelisk Blue. Most of the duelists there were arrogant windbags without an ounce of skill, but goddamn were those beds nice and soft! Besides, it would be kinda cool to share rank with Zane, Alexis, and even Chazz.

For now, though, I wanted to meet the soon-to-be famous Jaden Yuki. What would he be like in day-to-day conversation? He definitely seemed like the sort of person that could brighten up the average day.

He walked up from his duel all exuberance and smiles, his ginger-brown hair rustling slightly from a draft wind. "What's up, guys!" He greeted Bastion and Syrus like old friends, clapping them both on the shoulder. Then, his brown eyes darted towards me.

"Hey! I'm Jaden, Jaden Yuki! I'm the guy who just wrecked Crowler down there! We must have been dueling at the same time!"

His excitement was infectious. "I saw that! You did very well for yourself. I only wish I got such a good fight. I'm-I'm Jamie Lancaster, nice to meet you!" I offered a handshake. Jaden's handshake was floppy and weak, but he hardly cared seemed like the sort who would care about being presentable. I shrugged and moved on.

"The 2004 Duel Academy Freshman Duel Academy Examinations have now concluded. Shortly, we will be bussing out to Domino Airport, and from there we shall fly out to the island. Please gather your belongings and wait at the labeled stops outside." A voice I recognized as belonging to the school's Headmaster, Sheppard, boomed over the PA system.

"We'll have to get to know each other sometime soon! I'll see you later man!" Jaden bumped me on the shoulder and hopped off with Syrus and Bastion in tow. I smiled after them and leisurely made my way down the stairs as well.

Shortly thereafter, we bussed across the city, the orange evening sunlight bathing the building tops as we went. From there came a sleepy evening flight from Domino City to a seemingly innocuous island in the southern seas. With only the items I had in my backpack, I stepped off that plane and saw the school building itself for the first time with my own eyes. Surreal doesn't even begin to cover it.

Time to get to work.