Good whatever-time-it-is. You may call me the Man Called True. If you're reading this, you know the story's title, so I won't waste our time repeating it.

The rules this story will use are simple: to my fullest understanding, they will follow the rules of the real TCG. 8,000 Life Points, Tributes for monsters of Level 5 or higher, monsters must be Set to be played in Defense Mode, Rituals and Fusions require the proper Ritual or Fusion Monster card, Fusion and Ritual Monsters don't need to wait a turn before attacking, and so forth. The only true divergence is the Image system, which will be explained on its first appearance.

Because I hate the term "Spell Card", I'm calling cards of that type "Magic Cards", as per the old name.

Most real cards will have their real effects. The prime exception is Card of Sanctity, which uses its show effect. Other exceptions may occur. (Allow me to take this opportunity to apologize in advance if I fudge a card's rulings.)

I will be using show and created cards from time to time. All stats for such will appear at the end of the chapter in which the cards first appear.

This story is set one year after Cyber Commander's "Yu-Gi-Oh: The Thousand-Year Door". By the series timeline, it is after the KC Grand Prix and before Pharaoh's Memories. In calendar years, it takes place in the early summer of 2005.

Under the MPAA system, this story would be rated PG-13; by this site and the ESRB's standards, it would be rated T. It contains explicit language, violence (both hologrammatic and physical),adult themes, and religious themes that may offend some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

I think that covers everything, so I'll shut up and let the story do the talking. Strap in, my friends...

Go ahead and call me what you want. I'm used to it by now.

They call me Gerald Laxina, the Laziest Duelist Alive. To be honest, I guess it's a fair assessment. I am the only duelist ever disqualified for falling asleep in the middle of a match, after all.

But I wasn't born lazy. I was a fairly active kid… but when my parents started to move around a lot, my life started to go far too fast. My instinctive reaction was to put on the brakes. I learned the value of patience at a young age – just relax, and let life do its work, and everything comes together. Everything's eventual.

Or so I like to think. It's my motto.

There are two famous stories about me, and both are true. The first story is that I got into the dueling business when another duelist, having lost to a Yata-Garasu lock, threw his deck down and it landed next to me. The second is that I lucked into my strongest card when it turned out to be a bookmark in someone's library book.

I'm one of the strongest duelists in the United States, having won state championships in sixteen of the continental forty-eight by the age of nineteen. Everything seemed about normal…

And then the Monster Island tournament came about.

Yu-Gi-Oh: Tilting the Balance

Written by Man Called True

A sequel to "Yu-Gi-Oh: The Thousand-Year Door" by Cyber Commander

Prologue: The Laziest Duelist Alive

The place: Trenton, New Jersey.

The time: 4:43 P.M.

The event: The New Jersey State Duel Monsters Championships, final round.

On one side of the field was a revved-up teenager named Lawrence Nobel, a boy in blue shirt and pants who was staring at the field with a look of hatred. He currently had three monsters in play: Alpha the Magnet Warrior, Beta the Magnet Warrior, and one monster facedown. He had no facedown cards, and his current Life Points were 5,600.

And strapped to his chest was a small box with the number 5 in bright red lights on the center.

Across the field sat a young man with mussed brown hair, leaning forward in his chair. The young man wore gray clothes, and he had slid his feet out of his loafers. Currently, his field consisted of a Wall of Revealing Light at 3,000, a facedown monster, and two facedown cards. He had 2,300 Life Points left.

At the moment, he was snoring softly.

"Gerald Laxina, you have thirty seconds to make your move or be disqualified!" declared the loudspeaker.

Gerald raised his head, shook it to clear the cobwebs out, and said, "Oh, sorry about that." He took a card from his hand and set it on the Disk. "One monster in facedown Defense Mode. End turn."

The counter on Lawrence's chest clicked to 4.

"You punk! Two more turns is all I need to finish this!" Lawrence drew and then smiled. "I summon Gamma the Magnet Warrior in Attack Mode!"

The Magnet Warrior rose into play, hefting its sword. (1500/1800) Its brother Magnet Warriors looked to each other and nodded.

"I suppose you're going to summon Valkyrion now?" Gerald said, his usual tired drawl developing a bored edge.

Lawrence snickered. "You bet!" he replied. "I sacrifice all three of my Magnet Warriors to summon the mighty Valkyrion the Magna Warrior!"

The three Magnet Warriors disassembled, their pieces spinning around each other. Somehow, from this chaotic start, they began to form a complete being, one much larger and more powerful than the sum of its parts. A moment later, from the chaos descended Valkyrion, blade at the ready. (3500/3850)

One of Gerald's eyebrows rose. "Impressive," he muttered.

"You know it!" Lawrence answered. "And she's more than powerful enough to beat your Wall of Revealing Light! Valkyrion, attack with Magnetic Pulse Blade!"

Valkyrion raised her mighty sword, turned it point-down, and impaled Gerald's left facedown monster. The Magician of Faith appeared on the end of the sword for a second before shattering.

"Well, so much for her," Gerald thought aloud. He showed the Pot of Greed he was retrieving to his opponent and slid it into his hand.

"That's it for my turn," Lawrence stated. The number on his chest went down to 3.

Looking at his latest draw, Gerald said, "I play the Pot of Greed." He drew his two cards, glanced to them, and then said, "My turn ends now."

The counter clicked to 2.

Sweating, Lawrence drew another card, and then set his hand down and pumped his fist. "You are so finished! First, I activate Valkyrion's special ability!"

"That thing has a special ability?" Gerald asked.

Suddenly, Valkyrion exploded into her component parts, which began to rebuild into the Magnet Warriors.

"Forget I asked…" Gerald muttered.

Lawrence grinned and explained: "By sacrificing Valkyrion, I can bring back the three Magnet Warriors I gave up to bring her out! Next, I play Monster Reborn to retrieve Valkyrion herself!"

Even as he said it, the Magnet Warriors were back in full force, weapons raised. From the ground beside them rose Valkyrion, who slid the flat side of her sword along her palm.

"And finally," Lawrence declared, "I can Tribute the Magnet Warriors for another Valkyrion!"

Once again, the three Magnet Warriors shattered into their component parts, which whirled about before reforming into the Magna Warrior herself.

Gerald looked to his Duel Disk and then shrugged. "This is your last turn," he said. "You have no choice but to attack."

"Damn straight!" Lawrence said. "First Valkyrion, attack his facedown monster!"

The Magna Warrior raised her blade and slammed it into Gerald's facedown monster. It briefly appeared as a shiny turtle before shattering.

Laughing, Lawrence declared, "And now, second Valkyrion, attack his Life Points directly and win this duel!"

But even as Valkyrion raised her sword to land the finishing blow, a sudden wave of electricity filled the room, temporarily blinding the audience. It also blinded the referee, the sponsors, and Lawrence. The only person in the room who looked away at the right time was Gerald.

As the light cleared, Lawrence blinked several times, clearing his vision. He then looked to Gerald's Life Point counter.

It still read 2,300.

"How did you survive that?" Lawrence yelled.

"The monster you destroyed was Electromagnetic Turtle," Gerald answered in his usual drawl. "When it is sent to the Graveyard, I can end your Battle Phase that turn whenever I wish. And I chose right when you attacked me with the other Valkyrion."

The truth of the situation sank in. "I lose," Lawrence whispered. "I can't do anything to beat you now."

"Is that your turn?" Gerald asked.

Numbly, Lawrence nodded.

Drawing again, Gerald sighed. "I shouldn't do this to you," he said, "but I can't resist. I play the magic card named Special Hurricane."

As he played the card, gale-force winds tore across the field. Lawrence shivered, and then a gust decapitated his Valkyrions. "What happened?" he called out.

"By discarding one card from my hand," Gerald explained, "I can destroy all Special Summoned monsters in play. Valkyrion can only be Special Summoned, and thus this spells the end for both of them."

The wind cleared, and the scattered pieces of the Magna Warriors shattered. Lawrence gulped.

Taking a deep breath, Gerald exhaled and said, "I end my turn, so the Final Countdown reaches zero. I win."

The box on Lawrence's chest reached zero, and a computerized voice declared, "Final Countdown complete. Duel end."

With that, the box exploded, throwing Lawrence to the floor as his Life Points fell to zero.

There was a pause, and then the audience roared its applause.

"The winner of the New Jersey State Duel Monsters Championship is… Gerald Laxina!" the loudspeaker blared.

As the applause died down, a very familiar noise filled the room…

The loudspeaker paused, and then said sheepishly, "Would someone please wake up the champion for the awards ceremony?"

0000000

The place: Ewing Township, New Jersey.

The time: 8:21 P.M., same day.

Striding through the door of the latest house his family was renting, Gerald Laxina took another look at the trophy he'd carried under his arm. It resembled a number of his other acquisitions, but this one had the New Jersey state flag engraved on the front.

"This makes ten states and six regional," he said under his breath. "And yet I'm never around to defend it the next year…"

He set the trophy down on the kitchen table with a thump. Even as he did so, his mother walked in, still drying a dish in one hand.

"Oh, you're back? It took you a while," she said.

Glancing to a clock, Gerald shrugged. "The awards ceremony ran long."

Reaching up, Gerald's mother tugged one blonde curl. "The awards… you won?" She then dropped the dish.

Having expected that, Gerald shot a foot out, catching the falling flatware on the toe of his loafer. "Yes, mother," he said. He then twitched his foot, sending the plate into the air.

His mother caught it, leaned forward, and kissed his cheek. "Well, congratulations," she said. "By the way… there's a package on the table addressed to you. It came in the mail today."

"All right," Gerald said. Turning to said table, he picked up a golden envelope. "'Sydney Meyers, Rogueport, Monster Island'? Interesting…"

Slitting the envelope open with his thumbnail, he slid out the contents.

0000000

Somewhere in the world, two men reclined in their chairs, watching Gerald reading his invitation to the Monster Island tournament via a strange set of mirrors. One wore black, the other green.

The one on the left, in the black, tapped the bridge of his sunglasses. "Mind telling me why we're spying on the lazy guy and not on the Three Heroes?"

"Because he may yet be a threat to us," the man in green, on the right of the mirrors, said, cracking a smile, "while the Three Heroes will actually be a benefit."

"How so?"

"Remember what I told you about the Balance?"

The man in black shut his eyes for a moment, and then grinned. "Oh, you are devious, my friend," he said. "So, so devious…"

"I was taught by the best," the man in green replied.

0000000

The place: just off Chesapeake Bay.

The time: 12:01 P.M, some few days later.

All throughout the ship, duelists were chatting, making friends, declaring threats, and the usual activity of a social mixer… with one exception.

Gerald Laxina had swiftly occupied a deck chair, and was dozing calmly, his sleep aided by the gentle rocking motions of the ship.

0000000

The place: Rogueport.

The time: 9:43 A.M.

After the debriefing, Gerald, understandably, didn't rush off to find a duel. As a matter of fact, he hadn't rushed anywhere. He was currently leaning against a building, napping briefly.

Unbeknownst to Gerald, an old man with frizzy gray hair stopped his secretive movements and looked at him.

"Oh, ho, ho… Y-You w-won't find m-much here, Mr. L-Laxina," the old man whispered, "b-but destiny has s-something s-special p-planned for y-you..."

With that, he slid away unnoticed.

0000000

The place: Glitzville.

The time: 11:51 A.M., two days later.

"Final Countdown complete. Duel end."

An explosion was barely audible above the usual background noise, but when the smoke cleared, a terrified young woman stared at her opponent, legs shaking. Her Life Point meter took a dive to zero.

"That's my victory," said Gerald, leaning back against the bench he was sitting on.

The young woman blinked, and then screamed, "How could I lose to a lazy bastard like you?" Throwing the Crystal Card at him, she turned and stormed away, audibly crying.

Taking the card, Gerald fanned out the other four in his possession and slid his latest acquisition into place. "That makes five," he muttered.

Securely locking up his deck, he fell asleep once again.

0000000

The place: the edge of Twilight Town, in the woods.

The time: Late afternoon, several days after that.

Under a tree, Gerald was once again sleeping. Unfortunately, his luck had failed him between the duel with the young woman and this point, and he'd gone down to four Crystal Cards… but his luck had returned, and he'd just won two more off a now-dazed teenager. As usual, he had taken a nap afterwards.

The nap came to a crashing halt as a fairly high-pitched male voice yelled, "Who wants some of Andy Markova?" Gerald blinked awake and sat up, turning in the direction of the yell.

He had seen those three before. They traveled almost as a pack, and he'd caught glimpses of each of them dueling. The one in the back, Stan Mason, irritated him irrationally – perhaps it was just jealousy. The girl, Francesca whatever-her-last-name-was, simply terrified him. It was the deck, he was sure of it – he found her and her theme to be overly militaristic.

But the one who had just yelled, Andy… he liked him. The boy seemed different than the other duelists on this island. Gerald couldn't put his finger on how.

Shrugging, he leaned against the tree again, blinked…

…and woke up to the sound of Andy yelling, "Hey, Rip Van Winkle!"

0000000

The time: Thirty minutes later.

Gerald woke up, shaking the cobwebs from his mind. Taking the Crystal Cards from his pocket, he sighed. "Five again," he said.

Just then, he heard a series of footsteps. A man dressed like a samurai was tramping through the forest. Gerald asked, "Excuse me, who are you?"

"My name is Ushio, and I seek an opponent," he replied. "And you are?"

Gerald grinned. "Gerald Laxina. Care to bet two Crystal Cards?"

0000000

The time: twenty turns later.

"Final Countdown complete. Duel end."

And there was yet another explosion. Gerald Laxina was now eligible for a Crystal Star.

0000000

The place: the Wonky Circus, in front of a sold-out crowd.

The time: early evening, the same day as before.

Not for the first time in his life, Gerald Laxina was in over his head. He had a 3,000-point Wall of Revealing Light, a Spell Sanctuary, and a Grand Tiki Elder on the field in Defense Mode, but none were doing him much good. The reasons were self-evident – the Sanctuary had a Mask of Dispel stuck to it, and the Grand Tiki Elder was stuck with a Mask of the Accursed. Gerald's Life Points were currently at 2,100, and sinking fast.

On the plus side, his opponent had furnished him with a very comfortable chair.

Across the floor from him stood an individual in a white, circles-for-eyes-and-mouth mask. Said individual, known as the Shy Guy General, had two facedown monsters – and his magic and trap zones were full. There was a Mask of Dispel, a Mask of the Accursed, a Mask of Restrict, and two facedown cards. His Life Points were at 4,500.

On the General's chest sat the Final Countdown, with eight turns to go, but that no longer mattered.

"Will you make a move?" the General asked.

"I set one monster in defense mode and end my turn," Gerald said, sighing.

Nodding, the General declared, "I draw!"

Both the Masks struck Gerald with energy beams, causing his body to jerk spastically and dropping his Life Points to 1,100.

"Next," the General continued, "I activate my Emergency Provisions, sending my Mask of Restrict to the Graveyard and gaining 1,000 Life Points."

A weird mouth emerged from the Emergency Provisions card, snapping the Mask of Restrict in half. The Shy Guy General's Life Points rose to 5,500.

"With that out of the way," the General continued, "I Tribute my facedown Grand Tiki Elder and Melchid the Four-Faced Beast for Masked Beast Des Guardius!"

The two facedown monsters shattered, and from where they had sat a gigantic silhouette rose to its feet. It had a gigantic set of claws on either hand, and over its face sat a blank white mask. Flexing its muscles, the creature howled. (3,300/2,500)

Gerald began to sweat. Even unenhanced, Des Guardius was more than powerful enough to break through his Wall of Revealing Light. He glanced at his own copy of the card, sitting useless in his hand.

The Shy Guy General tapped a button on his Duel Disk. "Next, I activate Final Attack Orders, forcing the Grand Tiki General into Attack Mode!"

A horn blast filled the air, and the Elder staggered to its feet, hands holding the Mask of the Accursed.

"Finally," the General said, "I equip my Des Guardius with the Mask of Brutality, granting it 1,000 extra Attack Points!"

A hideous mask appeared in Des Guardius's hand. Lowering its head, the beast took off its own mask and slid the Mask of Brutality onto its face. Its muscles bulged, and it roared at the top of its lungs. (4,300/2,500)

Steeling himself, Gerald shut his eyes and curled into a ball.

"Des Guardius," the Shy Guy General declared, "attack with Claw of the Masked!"

Raising one claw, the Masked Beast Des Guardius brought it down hard, shattering the Grand Tiki Elder into a thousand pieces. Gerald's Life Points plunged to zero.

The crowd let out a roar of approval.

When it was all over and the holograms vanished, the Shy Guy General walked up to Gerald's chair. The young man was asleep once again.

"Huh. Most duelists just cry," the General said.

0000000

The place: Rogueport.

The time: early the next morning.

One hand tangled in his unusually-mussed brown hair, Gerald glanced at his milkshake. It was half-empty now, and it was also his second since breakfast. Getting kicked from a tournament in one fell swoop was not something he was new to, but the circumstances were a true downer.

"Usually my audience is smaller than that," he muttered, sipping the milkshake again afterwards. "And usually it's not an all-or-nothing affair."

Seeing a similarly-dismayed young man walking past, Gerald signaled to him. "What's gone wrong in your life?" he asked.

"I lost a Crystal Star duel…" the young man replied.

Gerald sighed. "Join the club," he said. "What's your name?"

"Aesop."

"Sit down and relax, then, Aesop. Have a milkshake if you want… I'm buying."

And thus did Gerald find himself at the center of a support group.

0000000

The place: somewhere at sea.

The time: 12:35 P.M., after the tournament's completion.

Most of the duelists aboard the ship home were cementing whatever friendships they had started on the island, cursing their luck, or otherwise reminiscing before it was time to rejoin the real world.

There was one exception.

Gerald Laxina, of course, was the exception. He had found the deckchairs again, and was asleep once more.

0000000

And somewhere in the world, the man in black and the man in green watched this last image on the array of mirrors before the man in black snapped his fingers, turning them off. "And so that's that," he said. "Now, remind me why we're so concerned about one lazy young man."

"Because the Light's interested in him," said the man in green. "But enough about him…"

The man in green snapped his fingers, and the mirrors showed another image entirely.

They showed the death of the Shadow Queen.

Both of the men smiled at that. "Oh, what little fools the Three Heroes are," the man in black said. "Don't they know that when you destroy something that steeped in Darkness, you throw the initiative to the other dark sources?"

The man in green shrugged. "They didn't know about the Balance," he answered. "This, of course, is music to our ears."

Pushing his sunglasses back up on the bridge of his nose, the man in black nodded. "Shall we begin the preparations now?"

"Of course. But relax…" the man in green said. "We have all the time in the world."

ELECTROMAGNETIC TURTLE
Type: Effect Monster

Stats?

Image: A turtle with two magnets, one positive and one negative, on its shell.

Effect: If this monster is sent to the Graveyard during your opponent's turn, you may end your opponent's Battle Phase at any time during that turn.

Note: This card was used by Yugi in the original series episode "Clash in the Coliseum, Pt. 3". All creative credit goes to the writers of that episode. (I was unable to locate its statistics.)

Coming next chapter: One year has passed since the events on Monster Island. Gerald's life seems to have stabilized, and his biggest concern at the moment is dealing with the rude duelist who's interrupted activity at his job. But life can't always be peaceful… Keep an eye out for Chapter One, "His Life as a…".