Next Generation: Opening Tournament of Shadows
By Cere

Chapter 1: The Beginning

In Domino City, hidden from the sleeping populace, a duel was being played. Only the moon overhead, peering through wispy clouds stretching across the sky, could see the two below, shrouded in wisps of black and purple mist in an alleyway, standing tall behind their holographic representations of power. One monster moved, squashing the other under its attack. The loser's controller grimaced (LP: 400), but his smile didn't fade.

"You may have destroyed my Mystic Tomato," Cole said, "but you've also triggered its effect. When it's sent to the Graveyard, I can summon a Dark monster from my deck."

"I know," the opponent said, "but it'll still be weaker than mine."

"Don't underestimate my Fiends," he replied. "I summon Dark Jeroid in attack position." A horrendous mass of faces and limbs (1200/1500) sprang onto the field and spit out a steaming black acid at the opponent's monster, causing smoke to rise from its seared body.

"When Dark Jeroid is summoned," Cole said, "it lowers the attack of one monster by 800 points."

"Well then, I'll end by setting one monster face-down. Your turn."

"And you're through." He drew his card, added it to his hand, and placed the card next to it onto his duel gauntlet. "Now I tribute Dark Jeroid in order to summon the End of Anubis, who's now strong enough to defeat your monster easily." The huge purple jackal sprang across the field and tore the opposing monster's head off, thrashing it to the ground. The dark duelist winced from the attack (LP: 100).

"And now, due to my monster's effect," Cole explained, "you can't revive that monster, or any other, back to the field."

"Not that I could anyway," the opponent said. "Does your monster have any effects that I should actually be worried about?"

Cole laughed and crossed his arms. "You know you're in trouble. I'm not like those other duelists you've been picking on. I'm not some chump. I've been looking through these streets for you, ready to bring you to justice, and that time has finally come."

"You're a fool," the opponent said from behind the dark veil of mist. "You'll fall, just like the last couple duelists who have tried to do the exact same thing."

He snarled and made a rude gesture. "Just make your move. It's your turn."

"And my last," he said. "I tribute my monster to summon another to the field."

Cole laughed when the new monster appeared. "What are you trying to pull? That monster can't stand up to mine."

"Which is why I'm playing this Magic card."

His smile left his face as he felt a coldness in his heart. "No, it can't be. Not again!" He yelled as his Anubis vanished in the assault with the rest of his Life Points (LP: 0). He brushed the smoke away from his face and glared at his opponent. "How dare you defeat my-"

His words stopped suddenly, as the soul was ripped from his body and sent to a place much darker than the alleys of Domino City. The dark duelist smiled and walked over to his victim's body, reaching into his jacket pocket. "And now to leave my mark."

The work finished, he looked up and saw a poster on the wall advertising the duelist tournament the next day.

"It's almost time."

Kyra struggled to free herself from the mire. The black ooze clung to her legs, dragging her further down. She reached into the muck to try and pull out her left leg, but the goo attached to her arms as well. She grunted, strained, and managed to free her right arm, but her other arm stuck fast and was being pulled deeper into the inky slime.

She paused to catch her breath and then pulled again, causing her gaze to glance up and freeze. Two red eyes were staring at her from out of purple and black clouds. Her heart skipped a beat and then she turned back to her legs, redoubling her efforts. A high, rhythmic shrieking started echoing in the space around her, making her heart race faster as the sludge reached up to her waist.

Gradually, the texture of the muck around her body changed, became smoother and silkier. The darkness around her lightened, and slowly she realized that the ooze around her was really her bedsheets. She groaned and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. The hideous shrieking continued, and Kyra looked up to see her alarm clock flashing "8:01" at her insistently. Why did I set it so early again? she thought.

Suddenly, the answer came back to her and she shot straight up. Her attempt to jump out of bed was thwarted by the sheets still wrapped around her legs. She fell to the floor in a heap of hair and bedspread. She kicked off the sheets, flipped her hair out of her face, and rushed to her computer terminal. "Come on, come on," she said, tapping the desk while waiting for her inbox to load. "Yes," she said, noticing the subject line she wanted and touching it. "Yes!" Her arms pierced the air in triumph, and quickly she was dressed for a perfect summer day and rushing out her bedroom door.

James was broken from his sleep by pounding on his bedroom door. "Wake up, slowpoke," Kyra shouted. "Check your e-mail already." Then there was more thumping as she ran down the hall. He sighed, lay face-up in bed for a minute, and then pushed the sheet off of himself and swung out of bed. He rubbed the computer screen and, while waiting for his inbox to load, opened his door and walked across the hall to Kyra's bedroom to turn off her alarm clock. He returned to his room, saw the necessary subject line, nodded, and started getting dressed.

Kyra tore through the hallway and burst into the kitchen. She instantly stopped, sniffed the air, and smiled. "Mmm, waffles," she said. "I'll have mine with whipped cream and strawberries."

Tea looked up from the table where she was sipping coffee. "My, you're up early," she commented.

"Where's Dad?" Kyra asked, moving to the refrigerator to pour a glass of orange juice.

"Downstairs, in the store." She looked back at the hallway where Kyra had come. "Is your brother coming as well?"

She smiled, nodded, and ran downstairs with her glass. Tea smiled and marveled as her daughter's crimson hair passed out of view. Kyra had inherited her father's hair color, with long red hair and yellow bangs that stuck out at a slight angle. The sixteen-year-old also carried more energy than either she or Yugi could account for at that age.

A moment later, James came stumbling in, still blinking away some sleep. If Kyra had inherited her father's hair color, James had inherited his father's hairstyle. The soft brown strands stuck out at all angles from the top of his head. It took a couple years of trying to make it look presentable before Tea had just given up and let his hair do what it naturally wanted to do.

James's nose twitched and he smiled. "Waffles, eh? I'll have whipped cream and strawberries on mine. Is Dad downstairs already?"

Tea nodded. "I'll call you up when it's ready." He waved in acknowledgement as he walked down the stairs. "Did you both make it?" she asked, catching him just before he sank out of view.

James laughed. "What do you think?"

Tea smiled and turned back to her book.

James continued down the stairs and into the store. Dad waved at him from the counter, while Kyra snatched the paper she was reading out of his sight. "Don't read it," she said. "It's a puzzle with Graceful Charity and I want to figure it out before you do."

James smiled. "What? Just because it's my favorite card to puzzle with..."

"All right," Yugi said, "you'll both get a look at it, and I have several more for you. You'll want your minds to be sharp for the tournament tomorrow. Right?" He turned to James.

"Of course he made it in," Kyra said, sparing only a sidelong glance to her brother. James nodded.

"Good," Yugi said. "And in honor of the occasion, your mother and I have a surprise for you."

He stopped when the door opened. "Good morning," he started, "how may I help...oh, hello, Michael."

The blond raised his hand in greeting as he wiped his shoes off. "Good morning, Mr. Moto," he said. "I have a few card purchases that I need to make for the tournament, but they'll have to be conducted in secrecy. That is," he smiled "if there are any people here who are also participating in the tournament."

James blushed and turned his attention to the paper that Kyra was still trying to hide. "Yep," Kyra said, "both of us'll be there tomorrow."

Michael smiled and walked over to the counter. "Of course. How could the son of the legendary King of Games not be invited to take part of the biggest new Duel Monsters tournament?"

"Ahem," Kyra said. "Try twin children."

"Guys," Yugi said, "that's enough. I'm not the King of Games anymore."

Michael scoffed. "Oh, come on, you would have taken your title back if there had been another tournament. Maybe you could have found your Puzzle again and kicked Kaiba's butt like usual."

"Now, Michael," Yugi said, "you know that my Puzzle had nothing to do with my success."

"I'm just saying," he replied. "Your dueling strategy changed after you lost your Puzzle."

"A lot of stuff changed," Yugi said. "We graduated, for one, and Tea had gone off to dancing school. It'll be an experience for you next year as well. But for now," he said with a smile, "I've long since retired, so it's up to you guys to defend my honor."

"I dunno," Michael said. "I'm not going to take it easy on them."

"Bring it," Kyra said. She turned and noticed where James was looking. "Hey!" She snatched it away, while James looked innocently away. "You already figured it out, didn't you."

"So," he turned to Michael, "did Jacob make it as well?"

"Yes," Yugi said, "do the two great dueling families both have two entries?"

"Well," Michael said, scratching the back of his head, "there are two Wheelers participating, but it isn't Jacob."

"Huh?" The Motos looked at him with curiosity.

He sighed. "Aura is playing."

"Really?" Kyra asked with a broad grin.

"What type of deck does she use?" James asked.

"Well, good for her," Yugi said. "I didn't know that she dueled."

"Neither did we," Michael said with a chuckle. "She just told us at the breakfast table this morning. It caused a bit of a commotion."

"That's impressive," Yugi said. "How long has she been playing without telling anybody?"

"A couple months, she said."

James whistled. "She's been playing that little, and yet she passed the test to get into the tournament."

"Finished it," Kyra said, setting aside the dueling problem. "Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing her duel."

"We'll see," Michael said. "She's been playing in online tournaments, but I'm not sure how well she'll do in person. You know her, she's not that good in front of a crowd."

"Well, whatever her experience level," Yugi said, "she's a duelist, so we'll have to invite her tonight."

"Invite?" James asked.

"Yes," Yugi said. "As I said earlier, we arranged a surprise for you guys tonight. The Wheelers will be hosting a special barbeque tonight for everyone who's been entered into the tournament."

"Sweet!" Kyra said.

"So that's what they were sneaking around about," Michael said.

"Who else is coming?" James asked.

Yugi shrugged. "We don't know just yet. I'm sure it'll become clear as the day moves on."

"Okay," Tea said, skipping down the stairs, "breakfast is ready."

"Ooo," Michael said. "What are you making?"

"Waffles," she answered. "Hi, Michael. You can help yourself as well."

"Sweet," Kyra said. She and James pushed against each other to make it to the stairs first.

"Kids, kids," Tea said.

"Wait," Yugi said. "What are you going to be doing today?"

"Oh," Kyra said, putting James into a headlock, "probably just hang around, maybe go to the arcade."

"Just be careful, okay?"

The tone of his voice brought an end to their roughhousing. "What's wrong?" Kyra asked, James breaking free and fixing his hair.

"There's been another attack," he replied, holding up the newspaper page. Everyone gathered around and read the story. Two more duelists had been found in back alleys in an unresponsive coma. Their duel gauntlets registered that they had been involved in a duel that night, but the information about their opponent had been corrupted. But most importantly, there was the strange connection of the string of duelist attacks recently: a series of unknown symbols carved into the right arms of the victims.

"That's terrible," Kyra said. "Who could be doing it?"

"I don't know," Yugi said, "but I want you kids to be careful today, okay?"

"We'll be alright," James said. "This attacker only strikes at night."

"Still," Tea said. "Listen to your father, okay? Just keep in a group."

"It's okay," Michael said. "I'll keep an eye on them, and I'll beat up anybody who comes near them."

"Thanks," Tea said with a warm smile.

"Okay," Kyra said. "Now, waffles."

She took off up the stairs, James scrambling behind her. "Wait up," he said. "Don't you dare eat all of them before I get there."

"Aren't you going up?" Tea asked Michael.

"I'll be there in a second," he replied. "Like I said, I need to make some secret card purchases."

"Oh, go on," Yugi said. "Tell me what you want and I'll put it in an envelope for you when you finish." Michael whispered into his ear and then ran upstairs after the others.

Tea walked over and wrapped her arm around her husband's. "I heard him ask about the Puzzle again," she said. "When are you going to tell them?"

Yugi sighed. "I don't know. Part of me worries that they'll stop admiring me if they find out that the person dueling in all those videos wasn't actually me."

She kissed him on the cheek. "I think they'll admire you anyway."

"I don't know," he repeated, his gaze falling to the newspaper article. "This was about the time when we were getting into our own adventures back then. Would you wish that on them now?"

Tea's expression slumped. "No, I wouldn't. But if we could handle it, I'm sure that they can."

Yugi smiled. "We'll see. First, I have to get Michael's cards ready." He grinned and reached behind the glass display case. "He's made some very interesting choices."

"So," Michael said, leaning into the kitchen, "are there any waffles left?"

"Nope," Kyra said. "I saw James snarf down a stack of about ten of them." James stuck his tongue out at her and continued eating.

"Har har," Michael said. He walked over to the counter and made himself a plate of nice crisp waffles. He glanced back at the stairs to see if anyone was coming. "So, what do you think about the Millennium Puzzle?"

Kyra scoffed. "Are you going on about that again?"

"Yes, I am," he said, pouring on syrup. "I mentioned it to my dad last night. He said that there was nothing to know about it."

"Because there isn't!"

"But he said it strangely, as though he was being evasive about it."

"What's there to be evasive about?" James asked. "It's just a piece of jewelry. What would there be to hide?"

Michael sighed. "That I don't know."

"Maybe Dad was being honest," he continued, "and it was just the changes in his life at the time. I mean, what do you think your life will be like in a year?"

Michael smiled and sat down. "I'm not sure yet."

"Not sure?" James said. "But you only have a year left. Mom and Dad have already been getting on our cases about what we want to do after high school and we have one more year than you do."

"I know," Michael said. "But it's really hard for me to choose. I'm kind of leaning towards something like management."

"Management?" Kyra asked through a mouthful of waffle. "You mean, like in a store?"

"Or something like that. I guess it comes from all my years of looking after you guys and all my brothers and sisters."

"It's true," James said. "Anybody who can keep a handle on four siblings must be good."

"What about you guys?" Michael asked. "What are your plans for after you graduate?"

"I'm completely undecided," Kyra said, raising her arms over her head, "and I'm not making up my mind until after this year, at least. I want to enjoy the freedom of high school while I can."

"Mom and Dad are going to kill you," James said. She stuck her tongue out at him.

"What about you?" Michael asked.

"Well," he said, "I'm not really sure how to go about it, but I'm looking at something in game design. You know, like get a job for Industrial Illusions."

"Yeah, that would be great," Kyra said. "But do you think it's even possible?"

"Sure it is," Michael said. "I'm sure that the both of you can do whatever you set your minds to. Why, I even hear talk of reviving the professional league."

"Not really my thing," James said.

"But you're participating in the tournament tomorrow," Kyra said.

"I know," James said, "but it's just not my thing. I enjoy playing the game, and I'm sure that tomorrow will be lots of fun, but I'd rather just sit in the background and maybe playtest new card ideas or something."

The three of them nodded and finished their breakfast. "Well," Michael said, "all that stuff is in the future. The most important thing on the horizon now is the tournament tomorrow."

"And the barbeque tonight," Kyra added.

"Right," Michael said. "Now, let's go and see if Aura wants to show us her strength by dueling us."

A few stars hung in the sky above Domino, joined by the sparks rising from the grill. Joey stood with utensils in hand, masterly guiding the burgers to their perfection, while Mai stood at his arm, Yugi and Tea across from them. Michael, Aura, James, and Kyra sat on the grass around the oil lantern, trading dueling stories.

"Hello?" a voice called from the front yard.

"We're back here," Joey shouted. "Nice to see ya, Rebecca."

"Hey, guys," she said, walking around the house with her daughter in tow. "Why don't you go sit with them, Ellie?"

"Sure, Mom," Ellie replied, and she plopped down in an empty space that they made for her, sweeping her dirty blond hair out of her face.

"Here, have a soda," Joey said.

"Let me," Mai said. "You have to watch the grill." She handed a can to Rebecca. "I hear that somebody had an offer from Kaiba Corporation."

Rebecca blushed. "Yeah, they asked me to help announce at the tournament tomorrow."

"Wow," Yugi said. "And what did you say?"

"Well," Rebecca said, "I had to get someone to fill in for my lecture tomorrow, but I'll be there." The others gave their congratulations.

"That's good to hear," Joey said. "I heard that the other announcer is going to be that guy who played Jaden in that terrible series."

"It wasn't that bad of a series," Yugi said.

"C'mon, Yuge," Joey said. "Just because they gave you a cameo in the first episode doesn't mean that you have to defend it."

"I'm just saying that it wasn't a bad series," Yugi defended.

"The main character dueled in every episode," Joey said, "and the show didn't even get a plot until halfway through the series. I'm not saying that it was responsible for the death of Duel Monsters, but I'm sure that it didn't help."

"Well," Rebecca said, "I've talked with the guy, and he seems very nice in person."

"Yeah, yeah," he replied, turning his attention to the grilling meat.

"Ellie," Michael said, "I'm glad to see that you made it."

"Yeah," Ellie said, drawing back her long hair, "I was worried that I wouldn't make it. That test was really hard."

"I know," Aura said. "How were you supposed to do the one with Makyura the Destructor?"

"It was actually a trick," James said. "You didn't even need to activate its effect in order to solve the puzzle."

A figure strode around the house and waved to the parents. "Hey, Damon," Joey said. "What brings you here?"

"I heard that there was some food going on," he said, his hands in his pockets, "so I figured I'd crash the party." He wore a faded gray jacket and his brown hair stuck out in a circle around his head.

"Does Tristan know you're here?" Yugi asked. "It's his weekend, right?"

"Yeah," Damon said, "but he's busy at home, working on one of his little projects."

"What's that?" Tea asked.

"Oh, that," Joey said. "I let him have the old Harley that was sitting around the shop."

"Yeah, that's it," Damon said.

"So that's where it went," Mai said. She put her hands on her hips. "Honestly, you should let me know about these things before you start giving them away to people."

Joey laughed and cringed away from her. "That thing wasn't working anyway," he defended, "so I figured it wouldn't hurt to let him try. It'd give him something to do, and if he does get it up and running, I promised him a portion of the profit."

"Well," Mai said, "I guess it was just taking up space."

"So anyway," Damon said, "can I stay?"

"Huh?" Joey said. "Oh, yeah. The burgers'll be done in just a little bit. Have a seat with them for a while."

"Sure," Damon said, and walked over to the group.

They paused in their laughter to look at the newcomer. "What are you doing here?" Michael asked with a mock suspicious look. "This is supposed to be for duelists only."

"Oh, put a sock in it," Damon replied. "There's nothing else to do tonight, though I'll beat you up if you really wanna argue about it."

"You talk big, but you know I'd win."

"Oh, come on," Kyra said. "He's not going to hurt anything by staying."

"Okay," Michael said, "but that offer to fight is still open if he wants it."

Damon smiled. "Bring it. I've been practicing, and my old man taught me some moves."

Michael smiled back. "Too bad my dad always beat yours up."

"Boys," Kyra said, rolling her eyes.

"Hey," Ellie said to Damon, trying to break up the testosterone war, "I didn't expect to see you here."

"Yeah," he said back, "but I was in the area." He nodded. "You get your grades back already?"

"Yeah," she said. She looked over to where her mom was still talking with the adults. "Though they haven't asked about it yet, what with all the hubbub about the tournament."

"Oh, come on," he said, "it can't be that bad."

She slumped. "I got an eighty in Peterson's class."

He laughed. "Are you kidding me? I got a sixty-five. Passed it by two points."

"Yeah, well," she looked into the lantern light, "you aren't the daughter of a child genius."

"Oh, come on. It's not like they'll care that much. My parents don't care; they only want to make sure that I'm passing and that I won't flunk out of school."

She sighed. "Well, let's just hope that a successful day tomorrow counteracts any damage from my report card."

"I'm sure it will." He smiled at her.

She gave a half smile, looked away, and then turned back to him, struggling to keep a laugh in. "You got a sixty-five?"

"Oh, you've got to see this," Michael said to Aura. He motioned to the Moto children. "Do that thing."

"Oh," James said, "not now."

"Burgers are ready." Joey strode up to them bearing a big plate of hamburgers. "Everybody grab a paper towel and a burger and dig in."

"Come on, Mr. Moto," Michael said. "Make them do the game."

"Oh yeah," Yugi said, "you really should show them that."

James sighed, taking some food and setting it in his lap. He turned to Kyra. "Are you ready?"

She smiled determinedly back. "I was born ready," she said. "What should we start with?"

"How about an old-fashioned favorite," Joey suggested, "Red-Eyes Black Dragon."

"Okay," James said. "Helpoemer."

Kyra put her hand to her chin. "Giant Rat."

"That's sneaky. Headless Knight."

"D.D. Assailant."

"Let's work up higher. Wall Shadow."

She shrugged. "Blue-Eyes White Dragon."

"Too easy. Summoned Skull."

"Illusionist Faceless Mage."

"Giant Orc."

"Soul Tiger."

"Cyber Dragon."

"That hasn't even been re-released yet," she protested.

"Do you know what the stats are?" he asked.

"Grr. Shining Abyss."

"Harpie's Brother."

"Hmm." She squinted her eyes in worry. "That's six hundred, right?" He nodded. She thought for a minute longer, and then growled in frustration. "I can't think of anything."

"How about Saggi the Dark Clown?" Yugi suggested through a bit of hamburger.

"Oo, that's old school," Michael commented.

"And then we go to my Rocket Warrior," Joey said.

"Okay, okay," Kyra said. "You both got me beat. Let's dig into this wonderful food."

"Indeed," Michael said. "I think we can all agree with that."

"You're just brownnosing me," Joey said, "but I appreciate it and will take it as truth anyway."

There was a lull in conversation as the food was ravenously consumed, but finally Damon spoke up. "So," he said, wiping some crumbs from the side of his mouth, "what does everyone think of this Duelist Hunter?"

There was an awkward silence. "So," Yugi said, "is that what the media's calling this person?" Damon nodded.

"Ah, it's despicable," Joey said. "I hate it when bad people get tied up with good things."

"They say that he walks the streets at night," Damon said, "searching for duelists to challenge before silencing them forever."

"Which is why we're walking you kids home tonight," Tea said, noticing a few worried expressions.

"But it doesn't make any sense," Kyra said. "All these people duel with the attacker, and then suddenly drop into irreversible comas? How is that even realistically possible?"

"I've heard that they're researching chemical agents," James said.

"But wouldn't they have found the residue already somehow?" Aura said. "What kind of chemical is untraceable?"

"And if he's a duelist," Ellie said, "then maybe-"

"Regardless," Yugi said, trying to regain control over the spiraling conversation, "whatever twisted threat is out there, we have to rely on the police to find it and stop it. And until then, we'll take precautions and keep ourselves safe."

"That's right," Michael said. "No mysterious attacker is getting to anyone here as long as I'm around."

"Now," Yugi said, folding up his paper towel and putting it into his pocket, "let's have a more uplifting topic of conversation. I would like to share a bit of wisdom with you, something I learned from my old days of dueling."

Everyone perked up at that statement. Tea watched him with a twinge of pride, seeing how he still fit into the old mold of the King of Games.

"A lesson that I want you all to take from this night," Yugi continued, "is the heart of your deck."

"Heart?" Kyra asked.

"Yes," Yugi said. "When we put together our decks, we make a choice about every card in that deck. Some may be very difficult to decide, and we end up changing our minds a lot, but some cards remain constant in our decks." He paused a moment to collect his thoughts. "We choose our cards, but some of our cards have a deeper connection to us. Some cards choose us."

There were varied reactions on the faces of the kids, ranging from intrigued to completely lost. "I didn't want to get too deep," he continued, " but I thought that maybe we could talk about our decks and why we chose them. Maybe we can get more in touch with our decks and why they fit us."

"You're not just getting us to give away our strategies, right?" Michael asked. Several chuckled in response.

"No, no," Yugi answered, "we don't need to be that specific. Just talk about your deck's theme and why you chose it."

"Well," Kyra said, pulling her deck from her pocket and searching for a particular card, "you know that the Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys has been my favorite card for quite some time, even years before the game was revived. In fact," she smiled, "this is the first time I get to use her in a tournament." She held up the foil card and looked at it. "I always thought she was such a cool monster, but I never really thought about any connection with the card, or that it chose me." She stared intensely into the face on the card and then broke away. "That's kinda creepy."

The mood was broken by laughter. "What about you, James?" Yugi asked.

"Well," James said, "I'm not sure I follow what you're saying, either, but I've built and used a variety of decks over the past years, and I always seem to come back to one based around Water monsters." He pulled his deck out and shuffled through it. "I'm not sure why, but my very first pack of cards had some good Water monsters in it, and so I've always come back to that deck ever since."

"And you also liked the water when you were a kid," Tea said. "You used to love going to the beach and letting the waves knock you over."

"Mommm," James said, looking down and blushing.

"What do you think, Michael?" Joey asked.

"Well," Michael said, "I guess first that I just think Zombies look really cool."

"Oh man," Aura muttered, "you are so gross."

"What?" Michael protested.

Aura shuddered. "Their skin's rotting and they're being eaten by bugs..."

Michael ruffled her light blond hair. "But," he continued, "when I think about it, there's something else, too. I really appreciate how Zombies always come back from the dead. No matter how many times you knock them down, they still keep coming back."

"That's still creepy," Aura commented.

"It's also admirable," he retorted. "What about you? We don't even know what kind of deck you run."

"Oh, I see," she said. "This is just a trick to get me to reveal my deck to you guys."

"No it isn't," Joey said, "but we are curious to hear what you chose for yourself."

She blushed and looked at her feet. "Well, when I decided to give it a try, I needed a deck type to start with, so I just chose one for no reason. However, it's worked so well that I've kept with it all this time."

"And what is it?" Yugi asked.

She averted her eyes down further and mumbled her answer. "Harpie Lady."

Mai erupted in joyous noise and started hugging Aura. "You see," Aura said, "this is why I didn't want to tell you."

"Now, Aura," Joey said when Mai had calmed down a little, "it's just because we're so happy for you."

Mai wiped away a tear. "It's so good to see that my Harpies are living on."

"Then I guess that the only one left here is Ellie," Damon said.

All eyes turned to her, though Mai was still doting on Aura, but she smiled weakly and shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know," she said. "There really isn't a reason why I chose the deck I did. I just thought that they were the best cards to win with."

"But there are many different strategies," Yugi said, "and you picked the one that you did for a reason."

Ellie shook her head and shrugged again. "I'm sorry, but I don't get it."

"Well," Yugi said, "it's okay. A bond with a duelist's deck is something that takes a lot of time to develop, and I know that some of you have been just introduced to this game in the past year. For now, I hope that you all take the lesson that you should respect your deck and how it represents you on the dueling field."

Kyra yawned and walked back to her room from the bathroom. She paused outside her door when she noticed a dim glow from under James's. She knocked lightly on his door and opened it. James nodded at her, the terminal light reflected in his eyes.

"What are you doing up?" Kyra asked, stifling another yawn. "It's two in the morning."

"I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep," he said, "so I decided to get some more practice in."

Kyra shook her head. "You should get your sleep. I don't want to beat you just because you fell asleep on the field."

"I know," he said. "I just..." He made a final tap on the screen and turned to her. "Are you nervous?"

She shrugged. "A little. Why?"

"I don't know, it's just...It's the first time that we'll be in public like that. It's the first time we'll be on TV! And since we're Yugi Moto's children..." He paused. "There's a lot of pressure, don't you think?"

Kyra thought for a moment. "There's always a lot of pressure," she said. "I mean, maybe not when you're playing for the fun of it after school, but when you're participating in a major tournament like this, there's going to be a lot of pressure on everybody. That's part of the game, too. It's not just having the right strategies and knowing how to use the cards you draw, but it's also being able to handle that pressure and overcome it." She smirked and rested her hip against the door. "I think we'll do just fine."

"Yeah," James said, "I hope so."

"Well," Kyra said, yawning again, "I'm going to bed. Do whatever you want."

As she walked away, he spoke again. "Do you think he'll be there? The Duelist Hunter, I mean?"

She looked back at him and shrugged. "I can't say for sure, but I think it's unlikely. I mean, if he only attacks at night, why would he bother taking part in a public, televised tournament during broad daylight?"

"I know, but...all of these recent attacks feel like he's practicing for something."

She shook her head. "I don't think it's a problem. Besides, I'm sure that Industrial Illusions and Kaiba Corporation would make sure that all of their contestants were good people before inviting them there, don't you think?"

"Yeah..." James said. He made a few final taps onscreen, and then powered down his terminal. "Well, good night."

"Good night."

He sat in the darkness, waiting. The duelist locator light on his duel gauntlet started blinking, and he smiled. One more prey before sleep. He took one last look at his pocket computer, reading the invitation to the Industrial Illusions Summer Opening Duel Monsters Tournament again, before standing and preparing himself.

to be continued...