Summary: The second day has finally arrived, yet the morning is not all sunshine and rainbow as old faces come back into the fray! Heartland City is suddenly back in trouble!

Meanwhile, within the depths of LEO Corporation, a surprising declaration is made, spurring an unprecedented match of resolve between two souls!

"You think you're dealing with life alone. You couldn't be any more wrong!"

Episode 12 - I'm With You

...

Author's Note: Hi there, everyone.

I once again brought another chapter, as you can tell. Story's slow, I know, but I can only repeat how busy I've been these past couple of weeks. You can expect me to continue writing, however; The story has just begun, after all.

Now, I did go back and add a few things with the last chapters. For instance, I specified how Kaiba back in the last chapter was also a combined version of DM and DSOD Kaiba, as he had both a card necklace and black Duel Disk. Just to clear up any possible confusion.

Also, did you guys know that the first 11 chapters all take place in one day? More specifically, in the afternoon after Yuya duels Yugi. Yes, I know it's unbelievable, but it's true. Hopefully the next chapters do a better job of speeding up time to prevent this. I'll also specify what day it is as a safety measure.

In any case, I hope you guys enjoy the story. Any questions or comments you have would be well accepted; Leave them in the comments if you do wish.

Have fun!

Trigger Warning: Idealization of suicide (I know, ironic placement, but seriously, read at your own caution).

...

In Paradise Park, roughly midnight:

"...Where am I?"

The magenta-haired girl slowly sat up before studying everyone's faces. Declan, Yuya, the Bracelet girls; Everyone looked as if they were seeing a ghost.

Zarc only shuffled behind her.

"..."

"..."

...

What happened from then on quickly went by in a blur. Zarc raised his hands and put them behind his head as the LEO guards grabbed both his arms, forcing him towards the corporate building.

The demon was forced to pass by the group of watchers as a confused Yuya asked, "...Zarc?"

The demon slowly turned to him.

"Why... why are you not fighting us?"

The demon looked away. His eyes were tired.

"I just don't feel like it."

He was then forced towards the building once again by the guards, leaving several confused duelists behind.

However that wasn't all that caught his attention. The pendulum duelist quickly turned to Declan, who was helping Ray get ahold of her bearings as she slowly stood up.

"What is your name?", asked Declan. The girl rubbed her eyes momentarily to get used to the light levels.

"...Ray Akaba."

"Age?"

"16."

"Alright, so you're fully conscious", Declan pushed up his glasses reflecting the moonlight. "It's been 12 hours ever since Yuya's duel against Yugi Muto. As such it has been 12 hours since your last talk with the four girls. It is currently 12:01."

Ray nodded slowly, almost tripping herself if it weren't for Declan's firm grasp in her arm.

"Be careful", the D/D/D Duelist stated. He then lowered the girl towards the grass, "Sit down if you need to."

The rest of the group simply observed silently. They've only seen Declan be this gentle with Riley before.

Ray momentarily thought about how Declan resembled her father in some way, yet he was much more calmer than she expected.

Or at least as calm as suddenly seeing your sister from another reality can be.

"You're... really cool, you know that?", asked Ray, surprising Declan out of nowhere.

"What?", the CEO's eyes slightly widened.

"Having to carry a lot of burdens... while still having a hard and collected exterior... Not many people are like that" the girl explained with her head down. A faint memory of her father appeared in her mind; A happy one in which he hugged her younger self.

It was quickly replaced by a memory of horror, one in which Leo looked horrified as her daughter ran towards-

The girl couldn't help but grimace at such memory. It still hurt.

This didn't go unnoticed by Declan. The D/D/D duelist slowly let go of Ray's arm, before slowly sitting down next to her.

"...Thank you very much for the input, Ray; I value how you feel about me", Declan stated, the girl turning away in hopes of no one seeing her expression. He then hesitated for a few seconds, but he eventually finished, "...Sister."

Ray looked at him shocked for a few moments, before growing into a soft smile.

"You're welcome...", stated Ray, who then closed her eyes momentarily. It took some effort, but she pushed the memory away, the girl looking up to see the large moon instead. "Brother."

Yuya was at a loss for words, however there was no need to say anything, as instead he was gripped by the shoulders.

The duelist turned to see his mom.

"I think we should let them have their space for now", Yoko spoke up as the rest listened to her. "We trust that you can handle it from here, right Declan?"

The D/D/D duelist turned his head with his usual expression, however slightly gentler than usual, "I'll handle Zarc and Ray, just as we planned. It won't get easier from here, but I'll manage."

He then felt a hand on his shoulder, the CEO turning to see a smiling Ray. "I trust you'll do great."

"...Thank you", Declan nodded.

With this in mind the rest of the group began leaving the park, none of the members saying a word for a good while as they crossed the many flower fields.

"..."

"..."

Yuzu was at a loss for words, most specifically.

I didn't know what to expect when Ray would revive, nor did I have an idea of what she would be like.

The Melodious duelist then remembered Ray's soft smile against the dark night.

But... she was so peaceful... I definitely didn't expect that.

Declan, meanwhile, only stared at the large full moon in front of him, Telling father about this will not be easy, and Zarc's willingness to surrender is highly concerning.

He turned to his sister silently, whose bright eyes were still peeled to the bright moonlight. But... I feel like I can do this. Somehow I'm not as afraid as I initially thought I would be.

She felt Ray place her hand comfortingly atop of his.

The D/D/D turned one last time to see his sister's smile.

It didn't take long for him to produce a smile of his own.

Maybe it's because I won't be as alone as I once felt.

...

Yuya on his part couldn't help but think about the scaled Supreme King, who was all too willing to be captured a few minutes ago.

"Something... something feels off."

Everyone stopped walking.

Yuto turned to look at Yuya.

"It's about Zarc, isn't it?", he asked.

"How wouldn't it?", asked Yugo. "He acted strange earlier."

"He probably has something in mind", Yuri quipped in with a hand to his chin. He sounded just as tired as Zarc, although probably just from the lack of sleep. "Declan will need to look out for him."

Shun simply turned away, "I just want to sleep already... I'm tired."

Ruri reached out to rub his back soothingly.

"There, there."

"..."

Yoko decided to do something about this.

"I think it's best if you guys come and sleep in our houses for tonight", Yoko spoke up, everyone turning to her. "Skip, can you handle the four girls? I can take care of the boys."

"...Huh?", looked up a tired Skip. "O-Oh, yeah, of course! Of course..."

The mother simply nodded before gathering the five boys with her arms, "Come, you boys need to rest already."

Neither of them resisted as they accompanied Yoko, the other four girls being guided by Skip to sleep at his house as they all exited the park.

...

"If you boys need anything, my door will be open", Yoko rang out before gently closing the door, both the other three Yu-boys and Shun sleeping on the floor with sleeping bags. Yuya was laying on his bed face-up with his arms behind his head.

"This isn't Academia's lush bedrooms", Yuri shifted in the magenta covers. "But I think I'll be fine."

"Shut the fuck up", Shun snored, his back turned away from the Fusion soldier.

Yugo had to hold a giggle as Yuri stared annoyingly at the Raidraptor duelist; Yuto allowed himself a small smirk.

"Rude", Yuri retorted before turning away.

"You deserve it, eggplant!", Yugo whispered loudly before turning away, Yuri looking at him indignantly for a moment before silently turning to the other side.

"...I'm not an eggplant..."

Yuto on his part turned to Yuya, who was still in pensive thought.

"..."

Yuto face's darkened. "Yuya?"

The pendulum duelist turned his head, his forlorn expression suddenly gone within curiosity. "What is it, Yuto?"

"...You don't need to keep worrying about Zarc anymore."

"Huh?"

"If Zarc decides to do something tomorrow, then we need to be ready for it by sleeping first; If he does something right now, then we can always just wake up", Yuto explained. He then turned to Yuya again, "So there's no need to worry."

"...I understand", Yuya looked at the ceiling.

Yuto could tell he wasn't fully convinced.

"...Have a good night, Yuya", Yuto stated before pushing up his covers. "Just remember you aren't alone in this."

Yuya was surprised to hear that as he looked at the Phantom Knight duelist. He was already asleep.

Why would he...?

The boy shook his head as he instead tried to think about everyone who was willing to fight alongside him.

Yuto

Yuri

Yugo

Declan

Shun

Skip

Yoko

Yuzu

"..."

Yuya then took grabbed the pendulum in his neck.

"I won't forget."

...

Yuzu held the rims of her bracelet in her right hand. Her other one was behind her head as she was laying on her bed face-up.

"..."

"Yuzu?"

She turned her head to see Ruri below her. The rest of the girls were inside individual sleeping bags. "What is it, Ruri?"

The girl shuffled inside the covers. "What do you think Zarc is going to do?"

"Zarc?"

"I don't think he'll do anything", they both turned to Serena laying on the room's far right. The Lunalight duelist was still awake as she stared at the ceiling, her expression pronouncing thought on her features. "He didn't carry anything with him; Neither his Duel Disk, his Deck, his Dragons; He didn't have any of that with him."

Serena then remembered the tired look on the demon's eyes; They didn't even glow their usual eerie yellow. "I could also tell he wasn't willing to fight. He didn't have any remaining desire."

That was certainly a surprise. "Really?", asked Yuzu.

Serena only nodded.

The pink-haired girl turned and focused back on her bracelet, still wary of the once-Demon Duelist. "Declan can tell for sure tomorrow. He'll find the answer, one way or another."

"He does seem the type to do that", Rin suddenly yawned as she flipped inside her bag. She then repeated tiredly. "He does seem the type to do that..."

The green-haired girl started snoring gently. Ruri nodded in satisfaction before turning to Yuzu again. "And what about Ray? How do you feel about her?"

Yuzu turned to face the purple-haired girl. It was still a little weird staring back at the same face, even after all this time.

"I'm still taking that in", Yuzu admitted as she instead looked at the ceiling. "Timing was just one factor; She also seems peaceful and... beautiful, I suppose, but she also gave off this different aura, that I don't know how to describe. Do you get what I'm saying?"

Ruri shrugged. "Somewhat."

The pink-haired girl sighed before stated, "Maybe I'm overthinking it too much. I need a rest already."

"Alright then", Ruri nodded before giving a gentle smile. "Have a good night, Yuzu."

Yuzu breathed, "Same."

Ruri nodded one last time before shifting inside her covers, and finally trailing off to a peaceful sleep.

Yuzu was next, although it took her some time to finally drift off to the unconscious.

Serena was the last one awake, her eyes still peeled to particularly nothing on the ceiling.

"..."

Her mind wandered off to what she spoke to Rin about earlier:

...

Serena asked Rin a question she had, "Where do you plan going after this? I'm asking you since you're the closest person I have that's in a similar situation than mine."

"Oh, well I plan to go back to Neo Domino", answered Rin, before turning to a bickering Yugo and Yuri. "The place is far from perfect, but it's the only thing I have closest to a home. Plus, me and Yugo still have a dream we want to chase there."

"Really?, asked Serena.

Rin nodded before asking, "But, you said you don't know where to go either. What if you ask Yuzu?"

"Yuzu?", the Fusion asked again as she tilted her head. Now she was even more confused. "And why her?"

"Well, we were stuck with her for an entire year; Maybe she has an answer to your problems in some way", stated Rin as she offered her own explanation. "I am saying 'maybe', though, so that you don't hold me accountable if it doesn't work."

...

Back in the present day:

Maybe I'll talk with her tomorrow about it, was all Serena could come up with as a conclusion, before shifting inside her bag and finally heading off to sleep.

...

The next day started off pretty uneventfully, much to Yuya's shock. Nothing in particular woke him up. No screams, no dragons, no burning fires; Nothing. He instead woke up to see Shun grumbly putting on his dark coat while ignoring Yuri's intentionally-annoying Union monster ramblings.

"Good morning, sleeping beauty", Yuya heard Yuto say jokingly. He turned to see the Phantom Knight duelist have a tired smirk.

"See how nothing happened?", asked Yuto.

The pendulum duelist had a surprised face for a moment, but he quickly smiled. "Thanks Yuto."

The XYZ counterpart nodded in response, before both him and Yuya suddenly see Shun storm out the door.

They both then looked at the obvious cause, even Yugo doing the same from inside the bathroom.

"He lasted until the ABC monsters", Yuri noted to himself with a drowsy grin. "Not a lot of people do that."

...

The four boys quickly went down to the kitchen to find Shun already munching on some rainbow-themed cereal that completed mismatched with the look of his grouchy face.

"Dear Venom, what an image", Yuri smiled.

"Have you numb-skulls woken up yet?", they all heard Yoko ring from inside the kitchen. "Because these eggs and bacon aren't going to eat themselves!"

"I'm already at the table!", Yugo suddenly ran from behind Yuto, immediately being the second one waiting for his food.

"You need to wash your hands first, Yoga", Yuri mocked him as he passed by, Yugo almost strangling him if it weren't for Yuto silently grabbing his arm.

"I was gonna do that!", Yugo shouted. A few seconds passed. "And don't call me Yoga!"

...

A few minutes after eating and the five boys were outside the house, Yuya in particular headed for a specific direction:

The pendulum duelist turned his head to gaze at the distant building and current objective.

LEO Corporation.

-(YuGiOh GX OST 41: An Exciting Duel)-

He looked behind him to see Yuto and Shun following after, followed by both Yugo and Yuri close behind.

"Don't get yourselves in danger; It's way too early in the morning to get involved in any shenanigans!", shouted Yoko from inside the doorway.

Yuya couldn't help but chuckle as he waved, "I'll be careful mom, don't worry!"

Yoko nodded with a smile before closing the door.

"You ready to go, Yuya?", asked Yuto.

Yuya nodded, "Ready."

"Then let's get going", Yuri turned to face the building. Even the bracelet girls began leaving Skip's house. "The sooner we deal with this, the better."

"In that case, I'll go first!", Yugo suddenly began sprinting towards the corporation building.

"Oi, Yugo; Don't go running without us yet!", Rin shouted before chasing after the Synchro counterpart.

...

"We're here to see Declan", Yuya stated, the rest of the group behind him. "We wish to have a meeting with him."

"Well you're going to have to forgive me", explained the assistant. "But he's currently busy right now and-"

A pair of doors suddenly opened to reveal not only Declan walking into the foyer, but also a magenta-haired girl walking beside him.

Ray.

"Yuya, everyone", Declan stated, the group turning to look at him. The D/D/D duelist turned around, "Let's go."

-(End of OST)-

...

A winged demon.

In a white-tiled room, chained down by multiple black-colored ensnaring machines, forcing the monster to be held in a "Y" shape.

It was similar to a horrid fusion between a mentally insane prisoner, a dying animal, and a rotten cadaver.

He didn't express a single emotion on his scaled features.

Dead, barely-glowing eyes.

"Zarc...", Yuya looked at the monster from the other side of the window.

"He looks...", Yuzu wanted to say something. However she was quickly shut up upon Zarc slowly lifting his head to stare at the girl.

Dark, baggy eyes of a demon from under his droopy hair.

He looks like a living corpse.

"Unbelievable...", Serena awed at the monster.

"That's who I used to be?", gaped Yugo.

"Looks like he's seen better days", Yuto stated. However he too was intimidated. This was his originator?

Shun gave himself a slight gulp down his throat.

"So, what type of torture did you put him under?", Yuri suddenly asked.

Everyone turned to look at him. Even Zarc slowly raised his head.

"...Really?", asked Ray.

"I haven't put him under anything for the last 10 hours, other than the restraints you see him under right now", Declan pushed his glasses up, seemingly unfazed by the question. He then approached the glass barrier, "However I have interrogated him heavily to try and pick apart what he is planning."

"And what did you get?", Yuya turned his head.

Declan shook his head, "Nothing."

"What?"

"Huh?", asked Rin, before giving Zarc another look. "Nothing?"

"He insisted he doesn't have anything planned, and since he doesn't have neither his monsters or Duel Disk, he can't escape", Ray added as she recalled what her brother told her last night. Those memories were still fresh in her head. "He can't even escape by regular conventions if he tried; Any normal human put under the restraints would theoretically suffer a spinal collapse, from what Declan told me."

The rest of the group turned to Declan.

"Theoretically", the CEO clarified with a push of his glasses. "We have no actual evidence."

"Oh, the infinite number of obscenities I can respond to this revelation", Yuri smirked amusingly.

"But, this just doesn't make sense", Yuya suddenly spoke up, everyone now turning to look at him. The pendulum duelist placed a hand on the glass, something not unnoticed by Zarc. "I've heard stories of how he was like from everyone who dueled him; Jack, Sylvio, Kite, Gong..."

...

"...He was the true embodiment of the devil personified in a duelist", Jack sighed as he put down his helmet, his practice run against Yuya back in the Syncho Dimension finally coming to a close. "The mere fact that we won was a miracle."

...

"O-oh, him, yeah", Slyvio scratched his head nervously, both him and Yuya walking down their way home. "He definitely was no easy sleaze, but, umm... I almost had him! Yeah, I definitely had him on the ropes!"

...

"With only one duel he could strike a plunging fear into your heart. Nothing from the war gave me as much uneasy dread as he did", Kite recalled the duel as he leaned against a cracked wall. "Nothing I had could stop him, despite how hard I tried... but none of this should concern you, Yuya. You shouldn't feel chained down by his actions."

...

"If you really want to know, every human has the basic instinct inside him to survive, one that is driven from inner fear", Gong gave in from Yuya's insisting as he explained. "Even I, Gong Strong, was constantly altered by these signs to run away and try to survive, to flee from the horrible demon Zarc was. But, I didn't do so because I wanted to save you."

...

"But... none of those stories line up with who I'm seeing right now", Yuya continued. "This doesn't even match up with the Zarc we saw yesterday after my duel with Yugi! This can't be the real Zarc!"

"Yuya!"

The pendulum duelist's eyes widened before seeing Declan. Everyone else did the same.

"...Calm down, and begin thinking rationally. This can't be anyone else", Declan reasoned to his dueling rival.

Zarc seemed to move slightly.

"I... understand", Yuya turned away. He knew well what atrocities Zarc had done in his past life.

But, seeing the once-demon king like this...

It was miserable.

Yuya..., Yuzu could only think to herself.

"...Ray, how do you feel about this?", Yuzu turned to her originator, deciding to distract her thoughts for a change of pace. It was still a little weird seeing her own predecessor like this, however.

The young woman let out a small sigh. "Not much. It is sad seeing Zarc like this, and maybe it's true that he doesn't have anything planned, but for now this is necessary. If he shows no more resistance, however, we could soon lessen the punishment he's going through."

"I wonder if he'll still be sane by then", Yuri smirked.

"Shut up", Serena whispered.

Declan eyed his sister. Her eyes seemed distant while staring at the demon in front of her.

She's hiding something.

"In any case, I'll soon release the restraints, and place him in a solitary room", Declan explained. "I'll then interrogate him again for more information."

"And what if he doesn't say anything else by then?", asked Shun.

"...He won't have any other choice", answered Declan.

He then turned to the group. "In any case, that is all I wanted to show you. I'll let you guys keep the walkie-talkies I gave you yesterday, that way you guys can use it to communicate with me in case of any emergencies. Any questions?"

Silence.

"Alright then", Declan turned to the demon. "That is all for now; You guys can leave."

The group then left the room, one by one, until only Declan and Ray remained.

"...", the demon kept his head down.

"...", Declan stared at the demon even more.

"...", Ray shifted in place.

"...Begin relocation at once!", Suddenly shouted the CEO, the back wall folding within itself to reveal a large, dark corridor. The dark restraints began moving alongside a pulley system, dragging the demon with it backwards.

"Follow me", Declan then turned to the exit, his sister running close behind as the back walls closed on themselves once again.

...

Yuya looked worried as he exited the doors once again, having to shield his eyes from the sun's early light rays.

Yuzu was concerned as well, but her own concern was directed at Yuya.

"-And that thing we saw yesterday; That was a huge dragon!", Yugo recalled yesterday's events as both he and Rin exited the door, followed by both Yuri and Serena.

"Technically, Cyber End isn't even an actual Dragon", Yuri spoke up, the Synchro pair looking back at him. "It's a Machine-type monster."

"Eh??? Well that's just misleading!", Yugo shouted in confusion. "Seriously, who made that decision!?"

Yuri could only give a nonchalant shrug.

"But it does get to enjoy benefits from Machine-based support like Limiter Removal and Cybernetic Zone", Serena added with a hand on her chin. "So it's got that going for it."

Yuya meanwhile was still worried about what he just saw. Yuto knew very well what it was about, but there was no point in repeating his thoughts.

He could only hope Yuya would understand his words from last night and apply them.

"...I think it's best if we return to Heartland. I miss everyone there", the Phantom Knight duelist spoke up, the rest of the group turning to see him. Even Shun raised his eyes; He didn't expect that.

Yuto then turned to both Shun and Ruri, "Do you guys feel the same way?"

While Shun didn't respond immediately, Ruri smiled, "I wouldn't mind returning. I want to help out everyone there as fast as possible."

They both then turned to Shun, who was still surprised.

However seeing both Yuto and Ruri so eager calmed his heart quickly.

"...Sure, let's get going", Shun gave in.

Yuto nodded while Ruri smiled back. "Then what are we waiting for, let's go get our stuff!"

Yuto began running towards the house, followed by Shun who kept a close eye at both XYZ individuals.

Ruri sped up to catch up with them, however she also added while passing by Yuya and Yuzu, "Thank you for the hospitality! See you all later!"

"Be sure to be careful out there!", Yuzu waved them off, alongside Yuya who silently did the same.

Ruri did a short wave before turning around and catching up with both Shun and Yuto.

A few seconds after the XYZ duelists were gone, Yuzu turned to Yuya, "Are you sure you're okay?"

Both the Synchro and Fusion pairs turned to face them.

"I am", Yuya nodded, before taking a hold of his pendant. "I just need to remember I'm not the only one in this."

Yuzu nodded satisfyingly at his answer. That's the Yuya I know.

Both Synchro and Fusion pairs caught up with Yuya and Yuzu soon afterwards, the 6 remaining duelists watching the slow sunrise adorn Paradise City.

...

Not everyone could appreciate the beautiful sunrise.

Zarc was suddenly dropped off the dark restraints and thrown into a gap in the floor, revealing to be an opened ceiling into a jail-like compartment. As soon as he was dropped off into the small room, the open ceiling closed up again.

A few seconds later both Declan and Ray caught up to the recovering monster, and were now facing him through reinforced steel bars.

I deserve this.

"Zarc", Declan stated, the monster turning his head like a rusted machine. "I am still expecting answers."

Declan Akaba...

"...I have nothing else to say; I've already repeated myself several times, much more than I needed to", the winged demon sat up, using his shaky wings as support as they pierced the concrete ground. "I don't want to do anything to this rotten world anymore."

Declan's eyes kept piercing him.

"Or... or is there something else you want me to say?"

"Maybe there is", Declan nodded with a glint of his glasses. He then turned to his sister, who still looked reserved. "However it won't he me doing the questioning; Ray will take the position this time."

"What?", both Zarc and Ray asked surprisingly.

"I trust you won't let me down", Declan passed by his sister as he turned to leave the hallway. "Make sure to leave when you feel satisfied."

Ray was still shocked from the order, but before she could speak up Declan already closed the door.

"..."

"..."

...

Declan closed the door handle before walking towards his recording room. He didn't say this, but he left a minuscule set of cameras embedded inside each of the top concrete corners, as well as a smaller one right in front of the hallway that pointed towards the cell.

The CEO had a theory about what was happening with his sister. It was one he didn't hope was right, but one he knew very well he had to accept if it was.

...

Meanwhile, back at the hallway, Ray slowly approached the cell.

"Zarc."

The winged demon slowly looked up at her.

"Ray."

A few more moments of silence.

Then, something the demon didn't expect; Ray reached out to caress Zarc's arm.

"You have no idea how much it hurt me to hear what you said yesterday."

The demon was initially surprised from the sudden affection, however his left wing gently moved the arm away.

"Nothing I do will ever amend what I've once done before, Ray. You should know that already."

"Zarc..."

Declan eventually reached the recording room, the CEO sitting down a nearby reclining chair to hear what both Zarc and Ray had to say.

"This is taking it too far, even you know that", Ray insisted as she held the iron bars separating the two. "What you plan to do won't help anyone."

"It'll finally close the story I've written for myself; A fitting end for the once-Supreme King I once was", the demon emptily laughed to himself. "Nature was what produced me. It is only natural that it takes me away, as well."

The girl gripped the iron bars.

"But none of this makes sense! None of what you're saying makes sense!", Ray suddenly shouted. The iron bars in her grasp dented from the sudden force. The girl sounded desperate. "Suicide isn't the answer!"

Declan raised his eyebrows.

"...You wouldn't understand me, Ray", the demon turned away grimly, much to the girl's disheartening. "You never did back at the Original Dimension, and you never will, in both present and future."

"But that was different too! Don't you get it, none of this is necessary; Things don't have to end like this!", Ray shouted once again, trying to reach out the person in front of her.

Or rather, the afterimage. All that remained in front of her looked to be a horrible monster.

The once-king found her persistence to be irritating as always. He decided to counteract. "Then tell me, Akaba Ray; Why do you think I was reincarnated into a scaled abomination like the one you see before your eyes right now?", Zarc turned towards the girl and shifted, Ray suddenly steeled up. "I want you to give me an honest answer."

The girl could only look at Zarc seriously.

"As I thought", the demon said, now fully stood up. "You don't have a clue."

Declan leaned forward with interlocked hands.

"Then listen well; The reason I came back like this was because of all the atrocities I committed back at the Original Dimension; It was payback for all the lives I've taken away from my power, and for all the power I've abused by using my dragons", Zarc said with outstretched arms and unfurled wings. "Don't you see Ray; This is the curse that's been placed upon me!"

The iron bars in Ray's grasp suddenly snapped.

"That's enough! I don't want to hear you berating yourself like this anymore!", the girl shouted.

"And what are you going to do, Ray!? Nothing you do will ever reach me from here!", Zarc shouted with the same ferocity, however he once again didn't expect what happened afterwards:

WHAM!

The girl kicked the bars wide open, an metal piece just barely grazing the Supreme King's cheek as it pierced the wall.

Declan's eyes widened. What!?

A small trickle of blood ran down from where the bar made contact, the demon himself at a loss of words.

"Y-You...", Zarc quieted down as he tumbled towards the floor, just noticing the injury in his cheek as the young woman approached him.

Ray was standing merely a few inches in front of him.

"I forgot how powerful you became after using the En Cards", Zarc touched the small cut in his face.

"Zarc, I want you to know that I haven't given up on you", Ray stated as she kneeled down in front of the demon. Zarc did the mistake of interlocking his eyes with hers.

She sported a serious, yet determined expression. Her magenta eyes proved uncompromising. "Nothing you do will ever change that."

The demon was momentarily shocked.

However he quickly regained his composure.

"Oh, is that so?", asked Zarc with amusement, reminiscent to Yuri's. "Then tell me Ray; How can you prove such a bold declaration?"

The girl's eyes narrowed.

GRAB-

"!"

What Zarc didn't expect was Ray's firm grasp on his face.

What??

The scaled king was once again one-upped by Ray as he didn't even have time to speak, the girl holding his face firmly:

And planting a deep kiss in his lips.

"..."

"..!"

Zarc's eyes widened.

Declan dropped his mouth.

He was right.

FWAP!

The demon forcefully gripped the girl's arm to try and pry her off, however it seemingly didn't budge Ray at all. Not even the scratches he left made a mark.

Eventually, though: The girl finally let go of the demon as she backed away.

And as her hand left his cheek the injury wasn't there anymore.

"You bitch... that didn't count, I wasn't expecting that", Zarc wiped away his mouth while panting. Ray still kept that cursed, steely gaze in her eyes.

A gaze to which he fell prey to a long time ago.

"I never got to save you back in the Original Dimension, but I can most definitely save you now that we're alive again", Ray stated as she looked down on someone she once knew.

Her partner from long ago.

She then sat down in front of him. "I won't let that opportunity pass me by now that I have it."

"Oh? Is that what your think?", asked Zarc, now facing the girl in his way. He outstretched his left arm, an energy-based Duel Disk and Deck suddenly materializing in his arm and ready for use.

Declan was completely agape. He can do that!?

He then realized Zarc was holding back the entire time. The scaled demon could have just forced his way out of the building anytime he wanted to.

He just never did because he wanted to...

"Then answer me this; What if I were to turn evil again? What if I decided to destroy all dimensions, just like I did last time?", asked Zarc confidently, his piercing-yellow eyes prying on the girl. "Would you still try to save me?"

Ray didn't seem fazed by this sudden turn of events.

Instead, she raised her own arm, a magenta Duel Disk and Deck slowly manifesting in her arm in sparkling pink dust.

To this Declan stood up. Ray can do that too??

"Then I would do the same thing I've done last time; I would try to stop you", Ray declared as she readied her own Duel Disk in the same way Zarc did. "But that still doesn't mean I wouldn't try to save you."

This girl...

"...Your dueling skills don't compare to mine", Zarc tried arguing.

Ray remained serious. "We haven't fought a proper duel yet."

"I can use Z-ARC to destroy everything in my way!"

"We would be ready by then."

"The En Cards don't exist anymore!", Zarc gave a desperate, manic smile with open claws. "You can't use them again like you once did last time!"

"I have no need to when all their energy is in my body", Ray responded calmly.

"OH FOR FUCKS SAKE, WOMAN; LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY!!!", Zarc pounded his hand onto the floor, cracks splitting everywhere across the room.

The building even shook for several seconds. Declan took ahold of the desk to prevent himself from falling.

And yet Ray still wasn't moved.

"..."

"..."

Zarc panted even more heavily, his eyes dilated from frustration.

This woman... this woman...!

The only sound in the compartment was his heavy breaths.

Ray remained silent, only staring at the monster in front of her.

"...Zarc, why do you think we're still alive?", questioned the girl.

"...Just leave me alone already", the demon trailed off. By this point he already gave up, despondence clear in his voice.

Zarc felt the girl's soft hands hold his face once more, the demon being forced to look into the fierce, gentle look in Ray's eyes.

"I'm going to repeat the question. Why do you think we're still alive?"

"...I have no idea."

"Due to our powers clashing against each other not once, but twice, I'm now certain that we can repeat this fight we have eternally, over and over", Ray explained as Zarc tried looking away. However he was redirected to the girl's face as she continued, "And yet you have no idea why, but I do."

Zarc couldn't help but look at the girl at that. "Really?"

Ray nodded.

"And what's the reason?"

A small pause.

"We were destined to be together."

"..."

"..."

Zarc took a pause. "What?"

"Think about it", the girl let go of his face. "I've reshaped the dimensions several times, you've tried destroying the world, we've both reincarnated into different people, we've both died in our attempts to accomplish our goals, and yet we're both still here. We were always fated to be together, one way or another."

Zarc couldn't believe what he was hearing. His face was indescribable. "And no matter what we do, it will continue to be this way forever."

Declan couldn't believe what he was hearing, either. He was at a loss for words.

"..."

"..."

...Seriously?

The demon clicked his teeth as he turned away in frustration, "You were never this sappy before."

"I just wasn't forced to", Ray leaned her head.

"It's all cheesy and stupid."

"You know it's true."

"...I don't love you anymore."

"I know you're lying."

Zarc couldn't help but stare annoyingly at the girl in front of him. He could see that small, diminutive smirk the girl allowed herself to show.

It didn't matter the fight, he just couldn't win against her.

"Say what you will, but I still haven't changed my opinion", Zarc eventually turned away from Ray, shielding himself inside his dark wings. "I still plan to... yeah."

The girl sighed, but she wasn't surprised. "Well neither have I", she stood up to hug Zarc from behind. "I'll be there for you when you need some support, you can count on that."

"Yeah yeah, as if that mattered", Zarc didn't move. Ray didn't seem to mind.

The girl let go of the demon as she backed away, turning to exit the room and into the hallway.

"..."

"..."

After a few moments, the girl spoke up, "You can come out already, Declan; I know you've been watching us the entire time."

"!"

Both Zarc and the CEO gasped.

Ray then looked directly into the hallway camera, Declan looking at her face from the room.

She knew.

"..."

The D/D/D duelist stood up as he could do nothing but acquiesce. I couldn't have done anything about this.

A few seconds later, Declan opened the door.

"What an interesting revelation", he stated.

"You didn't bother telling me that you had cameras recording us", the girl reprimanded.

"I didn't see a reason to."

"You know I'm not happy about this", Ray stared into her brother.

"Then why didn't you do anything about it?"

Zarc turned his head slightly to look at the girl.

"...I would have done what I did regardless of whether you were watching or not", Ray crossed her arms as she turned to her right momentarily.

She then eyed Declan. "But, I also figured this would be a perfect chance to confirm your little theory."

To this Declan couldn't help but widening his eyes, "So you knew."

"That's what I surmised, from how you were looking at me earlier", Ray stated. "Turns out you're not the only perceptive person around here."

"..."

Declan remained nonplussed for a few moments, however he soon went back to his usual expression. "It seems so."

He then turned to Zarc. "But I won't say anything in response to this revelation. The only thing I'll indulge in is how moderately successful this strategy turned out to be. If you don't mind, you'll be keeping check on Zarc for the next several days."

The girl then looked at the demon, who in turn looked away again.

"You'll continue to do so until you see signs of improvement", Declan ordered as he once again turned to the exit. "Until then I want you to prevent any possible attempts of suicide from him, as well as any attempts of escape or mass destruction."

He then grabbed the door handle. "I'll be here if you need any help. I wish you good luck, sister", before closing the door once again.

The girl stared at the door in front of her silently, before turning to face the demon.

Zarc growled at her, "You haven't won this."

...

Meanwhile, at Heartland City:

Dr. Faker looked at the dim-lit screen in front of him.

It has been 1 day since Yuma's duel against Don Thousand.

Kite walked over to him with a cold voice, "You've been in this room for the entire day ever since yesterday. You haven't even eaten yet."

"I've operated a part of my stomach a long time ago; My eating cycle has become more sparse since then", the pale man boasted.

Kite visibly grimaced, "Spare me your eating tendencies."

He then looked at the screen his father had been looking at. There showed a green circle representing Earth, and two different-colored dots approaching it.

One was red.

And one was blue.

"I remember you telling me about those two dots that appeared on the radar after Yuma's duel", Kite mused as he began explaining, "The red dot represents an individual from Barian world, and the blue dot represents an individual from Astral world."

The ex-Number Hunter's father nodded in agreement.

"You're telling me they're even closer to Earth now?"

"No, even worse", Dr. Faker stated as he fully stood up, the two dots on the screen now stopping as they touched the green circle's surface. The red dot grew even larger.

"They're already here."

...

"There's still a lot of work to do", spoke a dark-scarfed Yuto as he surveyed Heartland City on an elevated platform. He was accompanied by both a newly-dressed Ruri and a crossed-arm Shun.

"Duel Academia was helping us with reparations after the war, but they eventually ran out of funds and gave up", explained Shun, reminiscing about early memories. "They also decided to focus on themselves to rebuild their infrastructure."

He then kicked a small stone by his feet, "But, I couldn't believe what Yuri said earlier. They're really trying to help us again..."

...

"Oh? Duel Academia?", asked Yuri as both he and Shun woke up earlier than Yuya. The blinds were still closed. "Yeah, it was chaos yesterday; Even the alternate academia's owner dropped a visit."

Shun kept listening as he rubbed his still-weary eyes.

"But, Leo eventually agreed to help rebuild Heartland, amongst other things", Yuri then turned to the Raidraptor duelist. "So you can expect a few more things to improve for you guys."

Shun was at a loss for words.

A few seconds of silence.

"...Anyways, what if I were to begin talking about Fusion Summoning?", Yuri asked, Shun immediately gone back to an irritated face. The Raidraptor duelist quickly stood up from his sleeping bag. "That would surely get the day going."

"Don't bother", Shun went inside the bathroom.

"Heh, as if I'm giving you a choice", Yuri smirked like usual.

...

Shun fell silent in reminiscence.

"But, at least there's no war anymore", added Ruri, before looking down in a mournful expression. "And hopefully, there never will be."

She then felt a gentle hand touch her shoulder, turning to see a reassuring Yuto looking at her with a gentle smile. She then turned the other way to look at a mellowed Shun.

Yuto's face still showed a smile, but rather a slightly pained one this time. "Wars are something that you can expect to last forever, unfortunately. There's a good chance something like this will repeat in the distant future, and people will feel deep pain like this once again", the Phantom Knight duelist admitted.

Ruri grew despondent. She knew he was right.

"But, one of the things Yuya had to learn throughout the inter-dimensional war was to not lose his smile despite everything life threw at him", stated the dark-cloaked individual. "And yet there was one thing he was always right about. Smiles are what drive people forward, and leave an impact on people more than any pain wars will ever bring."

"Yuto..."

"I also want to see Heartland City smile again, especially after everything everyone has gone through", added Shun as his sister turned to look at him. "That's why I kept moving forward, as hard as it was, and despite you both not being there with me anymore."

Shun...

He then turned to face Ruri with a warm smile. "But, I'm definitely glad I can see you two's smiling faces again."

"Shun...", Ruri's eyes watered, the girl giving back a smile before suddenly wrapping her arms in both Shun and Yuto's necks.

"Huh!?-"

"Wha-!", Yuto stammered with a surprised face. He then suddenly remembered the three doing the same pose before:

A happy memory from way back when.

The sun was still glowing a soft orange on their faces.

"You dummies, I'm also happy I can see you both smile!", Ruri beamed as she began tearing. Shun couldn't help but let out a deep laugh.

Yuto himself gave a small chuckle. Yes, he was certainly lucky to be alive again.

...

Meanwhile, in another part of Heartland:

Yuma kicked a few pebbles on the sidewalk as he walked by himself, currently exploring an abandoned part of the city. Yesterday he said his goodbyes to Don Thousand after their interrogation with Declan, to which the alien decided to situate himself in the forest nearby Duel Sanctuary to settle in peace.

...

As he saw the black giant leave to the forest, Yuma felt a hand touch his shoulder.

The kid turned around to see Rei.

"Yuma", stated Rei.

"Rei", Yuma fully turned around.

Both kids stood in place.

"..."

"..."

"...Were you serious about what you said in your duel earlier?", asked the orange-haired kid. "About helping Don Thousand?"

Yuma was momentarily shocked, "You still remember that??"

Rei's face turned serious. "You know not a lot of people agree with your idea."

Yuma's expression softened, "But, it was the only way we could get him to help us, plus he deserves it after being alone for who knows how long!"

"Yuma, he was our enemy", Rei stated.

"He was", Yuma agreed, before taking both of Rei's hands with his. "But, don't you also get rid of your enemies by making them your friends?"

To this Rei stood speechless. Yuma...

This kid's eyes proved he was being serious.

"...You're quite the nutcase, you know that?", Rei chuckled, separating himself from Yuma. "Sorry, I forgot who I used to be when I said he was our enemy. I myself was once..."

The image of millions of helpless citizens dying by his tyrannical hands.

Fuck.

"That doesn't matter anymore, Rei", Yuma spoke up.

"No, it's fine", Rei turned away. "In any case, if Don Thousand decides to do something, we can always just stop him together, can't we?"

"Rei...", Yuma trailed off before nodding. "Of course!"

Rei turned to face Yuma again. The first friend he's ever had. "Trusting others no matter who they are... many would say that's a weakness. But, that's what saved me back when I was Vector."

He then thought back to when Yuma was holding his hand in front of Don Thousand, back during the Numbers War a few days ago.

Yes... back then he saved me.

"I think it's one of your greatest strengths, Yuma; Don't you ever lose it", Rei smiled sincerely.

"Rei...", Yuma's eyes watered. The kid then dried them off with his hands. "Don't worry; I never will!"

"That's the sprit", the orange-haired kid nodded.

...

From there Rei told the kid he had something else to tell him, but that it was best for the entire ex-Barian group to be there to talk to him about it:

"You kidding? Tell me now! What's it about?"

"Heh. You'll see soon enough."

...

From there Yuma returned back home and reunited with his family, before turning to his destroyed room's remains to try and settle in.

...

"It's as I thought; None of the Numbers I used to have are in my Deck anymore", Yuma spread out his Deck of cards in the floor, among most of the rubble that remained even after he cleaned his room. "That's not all; Double or Nothing!! isn't here for some reason, either..."

The boy then grabbed his key pendant. "Not even Utopia, who..."

The kid fell silent.

"..."

...

We cut back to the present, where the kid recently stated to his friends and family that he needed some alone time, mostly to take a lone jaunt and help collect his thoughts. Kari tried insisting to go with him, but she was eventually convinced otherwise and let Yuma go on his own.

As he kept walking, Yuma couldn't help but remember what Declan told both him and Don Thousand back at the interrogation room.

...

"However it is not necessary to find her; She has no further plans other than to pursue a normal life. If she were to be exposed to the public then said goal would vanish."

...

His mind wandered off back to the image of the maiden inside the crumbling Door of Destiny.

The girl exists.

Yuma was conflicted about what to do with the information he received. Yes, he finally realized the full context behind the recent events, but what use did it serve now? And would there ever be a need for him to even meet the girl, and if so, what would he tell her? And what for?

What was her name?

There were so many questions going around the kid's mind, This isn't even like me; I'm not the type to overthink about stuff!

However all that was brought to an immediate halt. He almost bumped into someone.

"Wha-! Woah there, sorry for not paying attention!", Yuma stated as he quickly took a few steps back to prevent a collision, however something about the man in front of him seemed eerily familiar to the kid.

"Wait... do I know you from somewhere?", asked the kid curiously, however he was caught off guard by the man's strong hand immediately grabbing his neck.

"Ack!"

"Yuma Tsukumo...", began the man as the kid tried prying himself off his grasp. "You're the one who ended my power streak, and took everything away from me; My gang, my reputation... my freedom. And since then I've only been stuck in jail thinking about how to pay you back, every broken bone in your body imagined for every ounce of agony I've felt rotting inside the place. However, all of that changes today!"

The man then threw the kid at a large distance, the poor Yuma colliding with the hard ground several times before hitting a stack of boards leaning against a wall.

A large cloud of dust formed around the area of impact as the man laughed. "And that is only the beginning of the payback you deserve!"

The kid weakly stood up as he studied the familiar man's appearance. He was a tall, muscled guy with a strong build, white eyebrows and a cross-shaped scar covering the central part of his face, and a mangy combination of white and grey hair surrounding his smiling face.

"Wait a moment, I do know you!", Yuma stated before wincing in pain, gripping his right arm to forcefully push the pain away. The man approached him as the kid got to a makeshift defensive stance.

"You're... Fender!"

"And it's not just him!"

Another familiar voice rang cheeringly at him, however this cheeriness hid a swab of condescension and, even a small hint of hate like Fender's.

The kid looked up to see a tall-suited man sporting a green-colored hairstyle and white hat. He stood cross-legged atop a nearby roof.

"And you're... no way!", Yuma took another step back before dodging a large metal board headed his way, thrown by the muscled man.

"Yes way! As it turns out I was revived by some sort of miracle!", explained the suited man before jumping towards the ground. He managed to land majestically before adding, "And even with all my Barian powers back, too! I'm sure it had something to do with that blue-haired girl I saw in my dreams earlier, but I won't sweat any details about her. No; What I really want to focus on right now is settling back in Heartland again and operating it as it should be: With me on the throne!"

Mr. Heartland was now standing behind Fender, his eyes glowing a tint of red.

The red dot came first.

Yuma then moved to his right as he dodged a wooden board, however he soon tripped to the ground as both Fender and the suited man approached him even closer.

"Declan explained that she didn't mean to revive the bad guys, but...", Yuma trailed off in frustration before mustering all of his strength to stand up and face the two people. "I'll fight with all I have to protect Heartland City!"

"Oh, but don't you realize? You won't have anything left after Fender gets his well-deserved revenge!", Mr. Heartland laughed as Fender picked up a pointy wooden board. "I'm sorry, Yuma, but you're just too unpredictable for my liking and should be dealt with first! However you'll soon be just another thing less to worry about! He's yours, Fender!"

The man in front of him smirked before driving the spike towards a terrified Yuma.

-FOOM!

A blue forcefield suddenly surrounded the kid as the pointy board snapped in two, both Fender and Mr. Heartland taken aback by the interference.

"Oh?", asked the suited man as he looked up. "And what's this all about?"

Yuma looked up to see a familiar blue spirit.

"Wait a moment, you are...!"

"Rise up, Yuma."

The blue dot came second.

...

"Yuma's been gone for a long time, hasn't he?", asked a sitting Caswell, both he and the rest of Yuma's friends hanging out together at the park.

"Yuma promised he wouldn't be gone for long, but I feel like there's something going on with him", opinionated Tori worriedly.

"What if we look for him, then?", asked Bronk. "Yuma's sister did say that she was fine looking for him alone, but lending a hand is what friends do, and we're all Yuma's friends for a reason!"

The group nodded as Cathy stated, "So much has happened the last few months, but I'm glad we're still together even after all that, nya!"

"Yeah, and we don't plan on leaving him anytime soon, either!", Caswell stated. He then stood up with regained energy. "Alright, we'll search in groups! I'll go search with Flip; Bronk you go with Cathy and Tori!"

The group then nodded before each person placed a hand in the center, "Alright, for Yuma!"

"For Yuma!!!"

"Whoever finds him first tells the rest of us with the Duel Disks! Until then we keep in touch!", Caswell stated one last time as they each put their D-Gazers on. The group then split as they all began searching.

Meanwhile, Rei looked at the ongoing scene atop a roof in silence. After a few seconds he simply turned around and left.

...

"Astral!", Yuma smiled as he stood up, all the pain he once felt now seemingly gone as he saw his partner.

"Yuma", Astral smiled back momentarily. "The forcefield I've given you only works on weaker forces like debris and physical attacks, which is why I recommend to ready yourself now."

The glowing alien then turned to face both enemies, "If you want to seriously hurt Yuma, you'll have to defeat him in a duel first. But he won't be alone!"

"Is that so?", asked Mr. Heartland amusingly before turning on his Duel Disk, Fender doing the same as a Barian crest monetarily appeared on his forehead. "In that case you guys wouldn't mind a 2v1 Duel, would you?"

"Just bring it!", Yuma declared as he put on his D-Gazer and activated his Duel Disk. He then remembered something as he took off his D-Gazer, "Oh yeah, I forgot; These things aren't necessary anymore."

"Hmm?", asked Astral as he turned to look at the kid.

"Nah, it doesn't matter; I still look cool wearing this!", Yuma smirked as he put the small device back on.

"If that is your definition of cool, then I can't feel any more sorry for you!", Mr. Heartland stated before turning into a Barian-human amalgamation, turning on his Duel Disk as Fender soon did the same. "Now here's a look that'll really freeze you over!"

"Yuma, is there anything important I need to know before we begin fighting?", asked Astral at his partner.

"Don Thousand came back, although I convinced him to help us reorganize Heartland, since half the city was destroyed all of a sudden", Yuma explained as he turned to look at Astral. The alien only remained attentive. "Multiple dimensions have combined together, including an alternate universe with a destroyed Heartland, and the Numbers have lost power, so they can be destroyed by non-Numbers now."

"I see", stated Astral solemnly. "In that case we are at a disadvantage. However we have no choice but to fight back."

"Yeah!", Yuma stated. He then turned to look at both of his opponents, "Well you got yourself a duel, Mr. Heartland and Fender, so get set to get decked!"

"The only setting you'll get is a ride set straight to hell!", laughed Fender as he put on his D-Gazer. Mr. Heartland simply smirked.

"DUEL!"

"DUEL!"

"DUEL!"

Fender: 4000 LP

Mr. Heartland: 4000 LP

Yuma and Astral: 4000 LP

...

"There's no still sign of him anywhere!", Caswell shouted as both he and Flip ran across a deserted street. "The ground we're covering isn't enough; We might have to split up ourselves!"

BOOM!

Suddenly both he and Flip had to dodge a blast sent their way. "WHOA-!"

"I've heard you were looking for Yuma?", asked a familiar voice as both Flip and Caswell looked up to see the blast's source, who currently sat atop a floating red-and-white rocket.

Anna Kaboom.

"Yeah, what for??", asked Caswell.

"And why did you even blast us!?", shouted Flip.

"Well, I'd reckon I could lend a hand, after all I haven't seen much of him after his big duel yesterday, and I'm kinda bored right now and don't have much else to do", stated the girl as she embarrassingly ruffled her hair. "But enough of that! You guys now have an eye up in the skies, and that eye is me! I'll notify you guys if I find him!"

The girl then blasted off before disappearing between the buildings. Flip was at a loss for words.

"W-Well, at least we have an ally", Caswell sweat-dropped before getting out his Duel Disk. "Hey guys, Anna is joining us in the search; She'll let us know if she finds him!"

Tori could only imagine the type of trouble Yuma would be in if the hot-headed girl were to find him first. "Well I won't let that happen; Let's pick up the pace and find him first, guys!"

"I'm right behind you!", Cathy meowed as she ran right after her.

"Whoa, at least give me time to prep my legs!", Bronk shouted as he followed after the two girls. "And this ain't even supposed to be a race!"

...

"Oh no, this is worse than I expected", stated Dr. Faker.

"What is it?", asked Kite.

"The red dots; There's a myriad of them!", added the pale man as he kept typing away. "5 of them, to be exact! And they're all after the blue one; Kite, go to-!"

He then turned to see he was the only one in the laboratory.

"Well, you certainly act fast", Dr. Faker sweat-dropped as he stated to himself.

...

"Guests go first!", Mr. Heartland stated as he looked at his hand.

Turn 1, Mr. Heartland's Turn, 5 Cards in hand, 4000 LP

However immediately after his turn began a red lightning strike hit Yuma.

"GAGGHH!"

"YUMA!", Astral shouted.

Yuma's LP: 4000 - 2000

Mr. Heartland's LP: 4000 - 6000

Fender's LP: 4000 - 6000

"T-that strike", Yuma grunted as he held his chest. He then looked up at the smirking Heartland, "That was...!"

"Yes, that is the Barian Emblem I activated before the duel began!", smiled the suited man as he took a bow. "You like seeing it again? I figured you wouldn't mind if you started with a small handicap!"

"Y-You...!"

"I'll begin my turn by summoning Infection Fly to the field!", began the Heartland amalgamation as he brought out a fly-like monster to the field.

Infection Fly; Level 1 DARK Insect Effect Monster; 100 ATK, 0 DEF

"That thing...", Yuma stated, now fully standing up. "He hasn't changed his Deck. I don't think Fender has, either."

"Looks like we'll be singing the same song and dance all over again", Astral surmised.

"I then activate the Spell card, Multifly!", continued the demonic man as he placed a Spell card onto his Duel Disk. "I now get to special summon two monsters from my hand with the same name as a monster in my field!"

"So with this I'll bring out two more Infection Flies from my hand!", continued Mr. Heartland as he summoned two more fly-like monsters.

Infection Fly; Level 1 DARK Insect Effect Monster; 100 ATK, 0 DEF

Infection Fly; Level 1 DARK Insect Effect Monster; 100 ATK, 0 DEF

"Three monsters...", grinned Fender maliciously.

"And they all activate their effects!", stated Mr. Heartland with an outstretched arm. "They each get to double their levels!"

Infection Flies' Levels: 1 - 2 - 4 - 8

"Three Level 8 monsters", stated Astral. He then turned to his partner, "Yuma, it's coming!"

"I know!", responded the kid.

"I then overlay all three Level 8 monsters, and build the Overlay Network!", shouted the amalgamation as all three insects vanished into dark bursts of light, setting themselves into a spinning void before exploding to reveal a familiar monster.

"The amazing Fly Lord's buzz echo fantastically throughout the night, he descends from the throne of hell to manifest among us; Behold the freakiest fly of them all, the King of the Swarm himself; Appear! Number 1: Infection Buzz King!"

Number 1: Infection Buzz King; Rank 8 DARK Insect Fake Number XYZ Effect Monster; 3000 ATK, 2500 DEF

Onto the field descended a large, dark-clothed insect monarch with Barian-like additions, creating a perfect blend between insect and foreign demon.

"It's finally here, Yuma!", Astral stated.

"I know", Yuma looked at the monster. "However we should be fine; All Numbers are fair game now that they can be destroyed by anything."

"Oh, is that what you think?", asked Mr. Heartland.

"Huh?", asked Yuma.

"Notice anything else about the field?", the ex-major outstretched his arms.

Both the boy and alien looked at their surroundings.

"The field... why is it a different color?", asked Yuma.

"Our dueling field is tinted red", Astral noted.

"Have you finally figured it out?", grinned Mr. Heartland. "It's because I activated another special ability besides the Barian Emblem before the duel! This allows me to protect all Number monsters on my field from battle destruction against non-Numbers!"

"WHAT?", asked Yuma.

"What? I heard what you said yesterday about the Numbers being destructible by anything and decided to fix that; Nothing wrong with that!", Mr. Heartland shook his head playfully.

"You mean you cheated!?", shouted Astral.

"Hmm, well I wouldn't call it cheating, but...", Mr. Heartland put a hand on his chin as he thought pensively. "Oh, I know! Let's call it a Skill; Yes, I activated my Skill!"

"Like heck that's a skill; I'm paying you back double for this, you big cheater!", Yuma pointed angrily.

"Of course that's how you react; I now activate Buzz King's effect!", stated Mr. Heartland. "When it's XYZ summoned, I get to send a Number monster from your Extra Deck to the graveyard!"

"Now, send that new Utopic Future Dragon of yours to your graveyard!", ordered Mr. Heartland, now forcing everyone back into the duel.

"Utopic Future Dragon?", asked Astral.

"It's a new evolution of my Utopic Future", explained Yuma before getting out his Extra Deck. He then widened his eyes before reading out loud, "Wait, Utopic Draco Future? His name changed!"

"It did?", asked Astral curiously. This never happened before.

"Just send the card to the graveyard already, it's still the same monster at the end of the day!", ordered the demonic man. Yuma had no choice but to comply as he sent the card to his graveyard.

"Ahh, parting is such a sweet sorrow, fortunately that monster of yours won't be gone for long; Buzz King can now use that monster as an Overlay Unit!", explained Mr. Heartland as an additional Overlay Unit orbited the demonic monster. "Come join the party, Draco Future!"

Buzz King's OU: 3 - 4

"I now finish my plays by setting a card!", Mr. Heartland finished with his turn. "Now, Fender; You continue with the act!"

"Don't mind if I do!", laughed the muscled man before stating, "I draw!"

Turn 2, Fender's Turn, 6 Cards in hand, 6000 LP

Mr. Heartland's hand size: 0 cards

"I begin by summoning Djinn Cycle!", began Fender as he brought out a small demon-themed motorcycle of red and black.

Djinn Cycle; Level 3 DARK Machine Effect Monster; 400 ATK, 400 DEF

"And he won't be alone; Thanks to Machine Duplication I can bring out two more copies of it from my Deck!", continued the muscled man as he brought out two more fiendish vehicles to his field.

Djinn Cycle; Level 3 DARK Machine Effect Monster; 400 ATK, 400 DEF

Djinn Cycle; Level 3 DARK Machine Effect Monster; 400 ATK, 400 DEF

"Here it comes", Astral added.

"I now Overlay two Djinn Cycles together, and build the Overlay Network!", Fender pointed stars the field, his two dark riders spiraling each other before disappearing into a black hole. Out of it came a navy-blue weaponized machine with the shape of an angel.

"XYZ SUMMON! Appear, Mequipped Angineer!", Fender outstretched his hand as the black hole exploded, leaving only the navy-blue machine behind. He was placed by Buzz King's right side.

Mequipped Angineer; Rank 3 LIGHT Fairy XYZ Effect Monster; 1800 ATK, 1000 DEF

"There it is...", Yuma trailed off.

"I then activate the effects of both Djinn Cycles' used as Overlay Units!", Fender continued. "Each one deals you 400 damage when used for an XYZ summon!"

"That's 800!", Yuma stated.

"FIRE!", Fender raised his arm, his Angineer shooting two red blasts that impacted Yuma's LP.

Yuma's LP: 2000 - 1200

"N-No big deal", Yuma wiped away the dust in his cheek as the smoke cleared.

"Oh but I'm not done; I activate Mequipped Angineer's effect!", the large delinquent continued, one of the Overlay Units from the machine suddenly vanishing. "I now get to change a monster to Defense Position and protect it from battle or card effects for the rest of this turn! I choose the Old Man's monster!"

"EXCUSE ME! I am not old!", Mr. Heartland shouted, his Buzz King now taking a kneeling stance.

"That move didn't make sense", Yuma stated.

"He did it for a reason", Astral mused.

"I then activate Iron Call!", Fender smacked the card on his Duel Disk, a hole opening up beside the third Djinn Cycle. "This card allows me to revive a Machine monster from my graveyard, to which I'll use to revive the Djinn Cycle I detached from Angineer earlier!"

Djinn Cycle; Level 3 DARK Machine Effect Monster; 400 ATK, 400 DEF

"Two Level 3 monsters again!", Astral's eyes widened.

"Now watch this", Fender lowered his face with a devilish grin. "I Overlay both Djinn Cycles, and build the Overlay Network again!"

"Another XYZ Summon?", asked Yuma.

"Appear, a second Angineer!", Fender laughed as a copy of the navy-blue machine appeared on the field, placed on Buzz King's left side.

Mequipped Angineer; Rank 3 LIGHT Fairy XYZ Effect Monster; 1800 ATK, 1000 DEF

"A second Angineer?", Astral studied the mechanical copy. "I didn't know he had two copies."

"Me neither", Yuma added.

"But I'm still not finished; First I activate both Djinn Cycles' effects again!", Fender shouted, the second Angineer firing two red blasts directed at Yuma.

BOOM!

This blast in particular caused a large ball of smoke to form around Yuma, something that a certain trio didn't miss from their viewpoint.

...

"A smoke cloud?", asked Yuto, looking at the smoke from a distance.

"A duel must be happening", Shun noted, however Ruri immediately began running towards the point of impact. "Ruri, where are you going!?"

"I don't know why, but something's telling me we should go there immediately!", Ruri turned around to face both XYZ duelists. "For all we know the people dueling could be in danger; Or else why would someone duel in an abandoned area??"

Shun remembered the helpless Resistance members getting carded back during the war and gritted his teeth. "Fine, I get it but don't get out of my sight!", the Raidraptor duelist dropped from the rock he was in alongside Yuto, before they both caught up with Ruri.

...

They weren't the only ones who noticed the smoke. Rei was still observing from the rooftops above.

"Buzz King...", the ex-Barian narrowed his eyes. However in the distance he heard a faint screeching sound similar to an eagle. He turned around to see three people atop a mechanical bird approaching the dueling are.

"Looks like I wasn't the only one to notice."

From within the mountaintops a large giant saw the scene unfolding in the city.

"That smoke...", immediately caught on the black alien, before standing up and searching for his flower parasol.

Meanwhile back at the city, Tori's search group was greeted with a nearby explosion sound.

BOOM!

"Nya!?", Cathy jumped reflexively.

"What was that!?", Bronk almost flew off from the large sound.

"A duel must be happening. Quick, let's get going; Yuma might be there!", Tori ran towards the explosion, followed by both Bronk and Cathy.

...

Yuma's LP: 1200 - 400

"...That all you got?", Yuma breathed within the smoke clouds as they slowly cleared up, the kid grabbing his arm once again. Two turns into the duel and he was already taking damage without the need of battle.

"He's dueling better than I thought", Astral noted.

"Oh, and if you're scared by that then you're not ready for what I'm about to do next; I now activate the all-powerful Spell card, Rank-Up Magic Barian's Force!", Fender revealed the card in his hand and placed it on the Duel Disk, a familiar crest suddenly materializing in his forehead.

"Wait what!?", Yuma took a step back.

"This card allows me to Rank up an XYZ monster I control to its Chaos counterpart!", the delinquent laughed as his second Angineer vanished into an overhead dark-green hole, before suddenly exploding into a new machine. "CHAOS XYZ CHANGE!"

"How is he doing this without being brainwashed??", Astral shielded his eyes as the new machine extended its large wing appendages.

"Oh great Angineer, infuse with the power of chaos and blast away your foes with your new power!", chanted Fender with dilated eyes. "Transform into the invincible Rank 4, CXyz Mechquipped Djinn Angeneral!"

CXyz Mechquipped Djinn Angeneral; Rank 4 DARK Fairy Chaos XYZ Effect Monster; 2600 ATK, 1600 DEF

"Yes, yes; What a wonderful performance!", Mr. Heartland clapped his hands in celebration.

"I now activate Angeneral's immediate effect!", Fender raised his hand. "It changes a Defense position monster to Attack mode!"

The kneeling Buzz King to Angeneral's right was forced to stand up again as it switched to Attack position.

"I now finish my turn with two cards facedown!", Fender completed his turn by setting twice. "Now how was that for size!?"

Fender's hand size: 0 cards

"Unbelievable", Yuma let his breath escape through his teeth. "He actually managed to control Barian powers enough to Rank-Up his XYZ monster."

"And this time, he doesn't seem to be brainwashed like in your previous duel", Astral added as he floated downwards.

"You mean the big brute that controlled me?", Fender's expression soured. "He's next after I'm done with you two."

"Yes Fender, but for now these two are our top priority", Mr. Heartland smiled. He then turned to both ZEXAL pieces. "Now, what will you two do?"

Yuma's face darkened. He let go of his own arm. "Oh I'll tell you what we'll do; We're gonna bring it to 'em! Let's go, Astral!"

Astral immediately knew what he was talking about. "Yes!", the blue alien shouted, before lowering himself to hold hands with Yuma. Both individuals then vanished into two different-colored rays of light; One blue and one red, before combining to form a new individual. "Now, let's combine our two distant souls together, and high five the sky with the returning power of ZEXAL!"

"Oh?", asked Mr. Heartland. The delinquent simply smirked.

"APPEAR; ZEXAL MORPH!", the two individuals shouted, both their voices now combined within ZEXAL I.

...

"The duel should be just around the corner!", Tori shouted to her friends as they neared an alley, almost close to where Yuma was, however she was almost blown away by someone forcefully landing right in front of her.

FWOOM!

"Ahhhhh!", the girl was thankfully caught by Bronk who arrived just in time, the cat girl besides them shouting, "And who are you supposed to be!?"

"Heheh, you can say I'm a little buzz returning from hell", the unknown man smirked, however not before suddenly transforming into an mosquito-like monster.

"Wait, that guy's Scritch!", Bronk shouted, both he and Tori taking a step back.

"Oh, so you people remember me? I can't say I expected that", Scritch raised his arm as it formed a Duel Disk. "However I couldn't care any less; I came here to drag you big brutes back into the scorching flames of hell!"

However what the mosquito monster didn't expect was a small bomb dropping near him, sending him flying back into human form.

BOOM!

"GAHHHH!"

"What!?", Yuma's friends all looked up to see a mechanical bird screeching above them.

Raidraptor - Rise Falcon; Rank 4 DARK Winged Beast XYZ Effect Monster; 100 ATK, 2000 DEF

"Did you hit it?", asked Yuto, both he and the other two XYZ duelists atop the metallic monster.

"Yeah, it should be blasted away by now", Shun answered with crossed arms.

"Wait, look over there!", Ruri pointed into the distance, everyone turning to see the blasted ninja suddenly do a series of aerobics before landing smoothly into a deteriorated building wall.

"No way!", Bronk awed.

"You brute...", Scritch wiped a smidge of blood off his mouth, "That blast wasn't fair! You and your big birdie there came out of nowhere and ruined the party!"

Shun's eyes narrowed.

The human suddenly jumped out of the building wall and landed in another one, causing the shaky building he was in to suddenly collapse. He then flashed between more building walls and destroyed them before landing in front of the group once more.

"Who are you?", asked Tori at the Raidraptor duelist perched above. Shun suddenly jumped off the monster and landed into the ground.

A few seconds passed as Shun studied the recovering enemy in front of him. He then turned around to face the girl. "...You guys want to see who's dueling over there, right?", he asked, the girl nodding nervously.

"Y-yeah...?"

"Then go", Shun turned on his Duel Disk. "I'll take care of him."

"What?", Tori gasped.

"Shun, are you sure?", asked Yuto.

The Raidraptor duelist nodded silently, both Yuto and Ruri taking it as a sign to jump off Raid Falcon. Both duelists nodded before doing so in time, the monster itself vanishing back into Shun's Deck.

Yuma's friends took this turn of events as an opportunity to continue running towards the other duel, Tori silently thanking Shun before turning and joining her group.

"Good luck, Shun", Yuto nodded.

"Don't think I appreciate that little stunt you pulled off earlier!", Scritch frowned as he transformed back into his monstrous form. A red dome suddenly trapped everyone nearby inside, including Shun and the two XYZ duelists. "You've turned on the Duel Disk, so there's no turning back now!"

"I wouldn't have it any other way; I'll show you what the Resistance's dueling is all about!", Shun readied his Duel Disk as he drew his hand.

"Take care, big brother", Ruri trailed off.

"DUEL!"

"DUEL!"

Scritch: 4000 LP

Shun Kurosaki: 4000 LP

...

"I can't say I've found Yuma yet, but...", Anna turned her head from one direction to the next, however she was caught off guard by a nearby explosion.

BOOM!

"Whoa, and what was that!?", Anna struggled in staying above her vehicle. However she soon saw a small cloud of smoke in the sound's direction. "A duel is taking place; Yuma might be there!"

She then shouted into her Duel Disk, "Guys I found a trail of smoke where a duel is happening, I'll be going there to find Yuma!"

"Okay okay I get it; just don't shout into the Duel Disk!", Caswell reprimanded as he rubbed his ear. He then turned to Flip, both boys nodding before running towards the smoke clouds.

...

Meanwhile, on yet another nearby section of Heartland:

A certain, burgundy-haired woman continued running as she dodged yet another tentacle.

Kari Tsukumo.

The slimy appendage retracted back into a suited man's sleeve, who was walking alarmingly close behind.

Chironex.

"I really don't appreciate you running away from me", frowned the suited man as he parted his white-wavy hair. "Erazor, your turn!"

The woman then nearly bumped into a large, bulky man, before running towards the left and dodging another tentacle. The woman then grabbed a nearby wooden board and swung it towards the man, however he managed to push the woman face-first into the ground, forcing her escape to a close.

THUD!

Both Erazor and the other man approached the lying woman, the suited man launching yet another tentacle towards her. This time it succeeded, however, the appendage quickly injecting a liquid through the woman's skin.

"AHH!"

"There we go", the suited man retracted his tentacle. "With that the poison should begin circulating her body. Erazor, you finish the job."

"Don't mind if I do", The large man cracked his fists with a lick of his lips, however both were blasted away by a sudden blast.

BOOM!

Both Erazor and the suited man hit a nearby building wall before falling to the floor, the injured woman looking up to see a familiar face.

"K-Kite!"

Galaxy-Eyes Cipher Dragon; Rank 8 LIGHT Dragon XYZ Effect Monster: 3000 ATK, 2500 DEF

The ex-Number Hunter atop the dragon looked at the two enemy duelists, before looking at the person he just saved.

Kite's eyes widened. "Yuma's sister?"

"Well if it isn't Kite Tenjo", the suited man stood up as Erazor wiped his head.

Kite then turned to the other two enemies. "Erazor. Chironex. Neither of you two should be alive."

"Feh. You're not supposed to address a senior like that", Chironex smirked as he approached the ex-Number Hunter. Erazor finally did the same before licking his lips again. "Say, you're not the person I'm interested in dueling, but I was given orders to eliminate as many of Yuma's friends as possible."

"Oh?", asked Kite.

"You're not afraid of my tentacles as the woman here is, however; I can assume you have an antidote of some sort protecting you from my poison", Chironex mused. "So how about it? We duel for the antidote; Winner gets the prize."

Kite frowned, "So be it."

He then activated his lunar Duel Disk as Cipher Dragon disappeared into his Deck, the ex-Number Hunter now standing in front of Kari as he faced both Chironex and Erazor. Chironex was then engulfed in a water bubble before transforming into a mutant jellyfish monster.

Meanwhile in the distance, both enemies saw a flying rocket headed towards Yuma's duel.

One in which Anna was atop of.

"Erazor, you know what to do."

The large man nodded before jumping towards the vehicle.

Kari groaned as she sat up, slowly rubbing the affected part of her leg as she could only watch the ongoing duel.

"Kari, stay strong."

The sister nervously nodded.

The monster hummed satisfyingly before turning to the ex-Number Hunter. "Now, try and hit me with everything you've got, Kite!"

"DUEL!"

"DUEL!"

Kite Tenjo: 4000 LP

Chironex: 4000 LP

...

Anna gasped with a smile as she was finally close enough to identify one of the duelists in the field. "Wait I see him! It's-!"

BROU!

The vehicle was suddenly rammed by an unknown object as a swarm of cicadas surrounded both the girl and rocket, the insects immediately destroying the engines and driving the machine downwards.

BOOM!

"WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUU-", Anna screamed as she struggled in holding the failing rocket. However she was quickly caught by something as her vehicle and insects crashed towards the ground in an explosion.

BOOM!

Anna gasped for air as she was still recovering from what just happened, however her thoughts came to a stop as she saw what saved her.

"...Huh?"

Number 40: Gimmick Puppet of Strings; Rank 8 DARK Machine Number XYZEffect Monster; 3000 ATK, 2000 DEF

"AHH!"

"Calm down already, would you!?", stormed over an angry teenager with a balled fist. He had magenta-yellow hair and wore a neat set of medieval-like clothing. "I get you're scared and all, but you don't need to scream every five seconds, jeez!"

"Quattro!", screamed yet another voice, the new duelist turning to see two more people approach him. One looked older with blue clothes and silver hair, the other one looked younger and had a combination of both red clothes and hair.

The Arclight Brothers.

"Wait, you guys are...!", Anna was about to speak, however the cicada swarm back at the explosion suddenly reappeared between both her and the surprise helper.

From within the swarm emerged Erazor once again with an activated Duel Disk.

"You got in my way...", the cicada duelist rolled his neck, before turning to the new duelist. "So I'll get in yours! Turn your Duel Disk on, kid!"

"You don't tell what to do, bug stench!", the duelist turned on his Duel Disk, however he forgot that his ace monster was still holding the girl.

Gimmick Puppet of Strings suddenly vanished as the girl fell towards the ground, however the red-hair member managed to catch her just in time.

"Got you!", smiled the red-head.

"Trey!", Anna shouted before getting off him. "And your brothers, too!"

"Quattro! You forgot that the girl was still held by the monster!", the older brother smacked the duelist's head from behind.

"Hhrrrggh but don't treat me like a little kid, Quinton; Just let me be for a few seconds!", Quattro roared back.

"Guys, the duel!", Trey shouted.

Both brothers looked at the red-head before getting back into their positions.

Trey then turned towards Anna, "Let's get going; I know you wanna get to Yuma."

"But, but what about my rocket?", asked Anna, before both kids jumping reflexively from the girl's vehicle exploding again.

"..."

"..."

"Weelllllll we can always fix it later, Anna- LET'S GO!", Trey grabbed the girl's arm and began to run, the still-recovering Anna having no choice but to follow as they headed towards Yuma.

That little brat..., Erazor recalled seeing that red-haired kid, Trey, sometime before... when was it?

He couldn't quite place it yet, but something about the kid made his blood boil.

"..."

I'll figure it out eventually.

In any case, he couldn't care any less. He just wanted to focus on destroying the opponent in front of him now and getting his revenge later.

"Now, shall we get going?", asked Quattro. Erazor was swarmed by yet another cicada gathering before revealing his monstrous form.

"If you insist, brat!"

"DUEL!"

"DUEL!"

Quattro: 4000 LP

Erazor: 4000 LP

...

Meanwhile, back at Yuma's duel:

"So you formed ZEXAL? Big deal!", Mr. Heartland pointed at the combined duelist. "You can duel in pajamas for all I care; You still won't win against me like last time!"

ZEXAL's face grew serious before hovering his hand towards his Deck. "The strongest duelists can generate the very cards they need. The time has come to make ourselves a miracle, I dr-!"

"Yuma!"

ZEXAL stopped as he turned to look behind him, revealing to be Tori, Bronk, and Cathy.

"It's you guys!", ZEXAL's eyes were wide.

"We couldn't just leave ya' behind!", Bronk smiled.

"And what about the others?", asked Cathy.

"Yuma!"

ZEXAL then turned to another opening, revealing both Flip and Caswell.

"Flip! Caswell!", ZEXAL stated.

"I really need to exercise more", Flip panted before comically falling towards the ground in exhaustion.

"You guys...", the shining combination trailed off.

"We were worried about you Yuma; We couldn't just leave you alone after your duel yesterday!", Tori shouted as Caswell sat Flip up. "You looked sad afterwards!"

ZEXAL was at a loss of words, however he was taken aback once again by Bronk, "But that's no big deal! No matter how much alone time you need, you'll always have our support as friends, including now! So go kick some Mr. Heartland butt!"

ZEXAL stood silent for a few additional moments before nodding with a smile, "Yeah!"

"Bravo; What an inspiring act of friendship!", the demonic amalgamation clapped once again as ZEXAL turned to face him. "However it won't matter once you're gone, all your friends will soon follow after I'm done with you!"

"Well you can keep dreaming, because your plan will never come to pass!", ZEXAL shouted before placing his hand on the top card of his Deck. It glowed momentarily as light sparkles scintillated on the card. "Now, I'll show you how powerful miracles can be when combined with everyone's strength! My turn!"

"Go on, Yuma!", Bronk shouted.

"We believe in you!", Tori cheered.

"Let's go, Yuma!", Astral shouted

"I DRAW!!!!!!!"

Turn 3, ZEXAL's Turn, 6 Cards in hand, 400 LP

Author's Note: Chapter 12 completed! With this we have now encountered even more returning enemies that desire vengeance! It will take everything both Yuma and his friends have to drive them off! Who will emerge as the victors!?

Thanks to everyone still reading the story; Once again I'm thanking you for making it this far. I'll make sure the story is worth the wait. But until then, I'll see everyone later!