0 0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Roar of the Earthbound

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0

Ember was nearly frozen in fear.

The Void Monsters had been nothing more than bait for a trap that she had walked right into.

Her side of the field now consisted of Flamvell Devil (2,100 ATK), Rose, Warrior of Revenge (1,600 ATK), one set card in her Spell Zone, and Call of the Haunted, which had no purpose, as she had sacrificed the Monster it had summoned.

But though she was winning 3,000 Life Points to 1,650, her opponent, the aboleth who had taken the form of Heavenly King Black Highlander, clearly had the advantage. It had the Field Spell Heart of the Void on its side of the field...

...and its Monster, all one-thousand feet of it, glared hungrily at Ember...

Its body was humanoid, albeit a paunchy one, seemingly made of pure darkness. Its torso was covered with strange sigils that glowed blue, and its large head, which had a face composed of the same sigils, had no neck.

The titanic form of Ccapac Apu loomed over Ember, eager to strike... (3,000 ATK)

"No way…" she whispered. "Yusei took that thing down… WAY down!"

"He did," replied the aboleth. "But Jalal was entirely correct… Using the vessels of the Earthbound Gods' servants that my Nodes made flesh, the Dark Synchros, I was able to revive it. Of course, I never intended to bother with the lesser members of their demonic court... I wanted control of the seven nobles.

"Little by little, battle after battle, I fed Ccapac Apu energy, until it gained enough power to rise again. It wasn't easy, but your final duel with Iggwilv was the clincher.

"And since it isn't listening to me right now, I'll tell you the rest of my plan before I give the order for it to squash you. It and the rest of the Earthbound Gods are nothing but pawns. I only intend to revive them so that I can sacrifice them.

"Once I bring them all back, their life forces will be the fuel for what I truly require… A process that will free Pandorym from his prison and regenerate his body."

"So that you can learn how to harness the Power Primordial!" exclaimed Ember.

"Indeed," said the aboleth. "His prison is incredibly secure… The Hebdomad made sure of it. But all seven of the demons should provide adequate energy to break the chains."

"And in the meantime," replied Ember, "you'll make them think you're helping them… Evil deceiving evil… Nice…"

"What can I say?" said the aboleth. "It would be a shame to waste this creature's power while I have it…

"You're free to try to tell it that it's being tricked… But I doubt it will listen. Demons this powerful tend to think of mortals as vermin, and they think it odd to talk to vermin. They didn't even speak to the Dark Signers, except to reassure them when they had doubts, or to control the actions of some of them after they realized they'd been had.

"Maybe they should have communicated with them more; if they did, that may not have happened. The Earthbound Gods are incredibly powerful... But they were never all too smart...

"All I need to do to cement my hold over Ccapac Apu is use the power of the Fire Node to offer two powerful souls of Fire. A bargain, seeing as it needed dozens of souls when Kiryu used it. Once I do that, reviving the other six will be easy."

"And that's where Iggwilv and I come in, I suppose," said Ember. "Well, I'm not beaten yet..."

"Easily done..." said the aboleth.

It drew a card from its deck.

(Ember: 3,000) - - - - - - - - - - (Aboleth: 1,650)

"Because, since this is truly Ccapac Apu and not a mere vestige, it has all its abilities..."

The goliath pulled back its enormous fist.

"Including the ability to attack directly! Ccapac Apu... Finish her off with crushing fist of spite!"

No... thought Ember, now in panic. It can't end like this...

"Facedown card!" screamed Gabriel. "Use it, Ember!"

Ember noticed the set Spell Card she had set last turn.

This duel wasn't over yet.

"I activate Emergency Provisions!" she shouted, as it flipped up.

Call of the Haunted vanished.

Then Ember turned and ran as Ccapac Apu's enormous hand closed in on her. She hoped she might be lucky enough to outrun it...

Unfortunately, her luck had truly run out...

(E: 1,000) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 1,650)

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Shichiro, Jinx, and Gears were staring up at the Geoglyph in the sky.

"This doesn't make sense," said Shichiro, nervously. "You'd think that if an Earthbound God had been summoned, we'd at least be able to see it... Those things aren't the sort of creatures that can hide easily..."

"People!" said Wilhelm, who was still looking through his crystal ball. "Good news and bad news...

"I found Miss Eiko. She's dueling."

"What's the bad news?" asked Gears.

"I'm afraid that is the bad news," replied Wilhelm. "Her duel is what's causing that Geoglyph..."

"Ember..." said Jinx.

She looked about ready to cry.

"Don't despair yet," said Wilhelm. "The portal to the pocket dimension that she's trapped in is close by... I think I can reopen it and draw it close to us...

"In the meantime, you all can help her by praying that she can survive until I do it.

"Sorsha, come here!"

The cat sprang over to her master.

"I'm going to need all the power I can spare for this," said Wilhelm. "So I need your help..."

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

"Hmm..." said the aboleth. "Think that might have done it..."

Then, to its unbelieving eyes, Ember walked forward. Her hair was a mess, and she was covered with bruises, but she was still standing.

"Didn't... hurt..." she said.

Of course, it was likely the biggest lie she had ever told. Right now, she felt like she had been run over by an express train. She really didn't know how she was still standing.

"I haven't seen a human as resilient as you in centuries," said the aboleth. "But anyway...

"I'll set two cards facedown, and my turn comes to an end."

Two set cards appeared in flashes of light.

Ember lifted her hand. It shivered.

She drew a card. She looked at it.

She quickly played it.

"Time to say bye-bye to your Earthbound God!" she shouted. "I play Mystical Space Typhoon!

"When I destroy Heart of the Void, Ccapac Apu will go with it!"

The cyclone tore through the field, and the dark fog lifted. The demonic eyes shattered.

But to her surprise, Ccapac Apu was unharmed.

Then Ember noticed that a new Monster was on the field. The aboleth had triggered Call of the Haunted. The Monster that had been summoned was a sinister-looking man in dark clothing covered with runes, a cape, and a hood. If Ember didn't know better, she'd have sworn that it was one of the Dark Signers. (1,200 ATK)

"Meet Earthbound Linewalker," said the aboleth. "It was the Monster I discarded when you flipped your Morphing Jar. When it's on the field, my Earthbound God cannot be destroyed by its own effect. So it can survive without a Field Spell."

Ember paused.

She looked at a Trap Card in her hand.

It was the same Trap Card she had set in the final rounds of the previous duel... The one that she had never gotten a chance to use...

Maybe it would be a lifesaver here.

She took another card from her hand.

"I summon Flamvell Paun," she said.

In a small aura of fire, the flaming monkey appeared next to Rose and Flamvell Devil. (200 ATK)

"Now... Let's Tune them all together one more time, okay?"

Rose leapt into the sky of the dark void, doing a flip as she did so, and the Pyro and the Fiend followed. The three blazing suns appeared, and they turned into ten glowing stars.

Jetta gracefully landed in front of her. (2,800 ATK)

"Why bother bringing her out?" asked the aboleth. "In case you didn't know, in battles between gods and titans, it usually tends to end badly for the titans!"

"Yeah, and I'm sure you remember the battle between Zeus and Chronos in every little detail," said Ember, now annoyed. "Well, let me tell you something about Zeus...

"He may have been a lecherous rake... He may have had anger management issues... He may even have been a pedophile according to some myths...

"But... He was far more worthy of divinity than that monstrosity up there. Zeus wasn't a parasite who snacked on human souls simply to survive. He was more of a god than that thing will ever be."

"Regardless," said the aboleth. "Ccapac Apu is stronger than she is, and she can't attack it anyway."

"But if she attacked Earthbound Linewalker, Ccapac Apu would destroy itself," said Ember.

The aboleth stared at her. Ember stared back. Ccapac Apu growled, and the ground shook.

"On second thought..." said Ember. "I think I'll just set these two cards, and end my turn..."

Two facedown cards appeared in two flashes of light.

She didn't fall for it... thought the aboleth. Not that I expected her too, she's smarter than most of her wretched kind.

If she attacks Linewalker, I can activate the Trap Card, Glowing Image of the Guardian God, and draw that Titan's attack to Ccapac Apu. With its burn effect, victory would be mine...

Well, water under the bridge.

It made a draw. It was Dimensional Prison.

"Ccapac Apu..." it ordered, "destroy her!"

Ccapac Apu lifted its mighty fist again...

"I activate... Synchro Protector!" shouted Ember, as one of her facedown cards shot up.

"This Continuous Trap lets me discard up to three Synchro Monsters from my Extra Deck..."

She held up Trymus, Shannalla, and Il Mathman's cards.

"I think I'll get rid of these guys..."

She quickly discarded them.

"For each one I just discarded, this card gets a Counter, and I can expend one to reduce the damage from your attack to zero!"

As Ccapac Apu's fist closed in on Ember, Trymus appeared between it and her, and caught it with his whole body. He strained to hold it back...

Then with a great heave, he pushed it backwards, and Ccapac Apu stumbled back two steps.

Trymus smiled to Ember before he vanished.

The aboleth set the card it had just drawn. Then it turned a card on its Disk, and Earthbound Linewalker crouched in Defense Mode. (1,900 DEF)

"I end my turn!" it cursed.

Ember made a draw.

She casually looked at the card.

Then she set it on her Disk, and a new facedown card appeared behind Jetta.

"Your move," she said.

The aboleth made a draw.

It looked at its hand, which consisted of The Transmigration Prophecy, Magical Mallet, Void Knight, Void Overseer, and Earthbound Revival.

Hmm... it thought. That Trap Card of hers will let her dodge Ccapac Apu's attack two more times... I may have the patience...

But it seems that Ccapac Apu is quickly losing its own. Maybe it was indeed listening when she insulted it a minute ago...

I could simply attack Jetta... Then Ccapac Apu's special effect would kick in, dealing her 2,800 points of effect damage, and I would win the duel...

But then... I'm not a fool...

That's probably just what she wants me to do. She probably has DNA Transplant set, and triggering it would boost Jetta's Attack Score by 2,800 points. That's not going to happen...

"I play Magical Mallet," it said, as it played the Spell Card. "Now I'll send these four cards back to my deck..."

It added the cards to its deck.


The Disk reshuffled it.

"...and draw four new ones."

It made four more draws. It saw that one of them was Nobleman of Extermination.

Okay... it thought, I have Nobleman of Extermination... Now I just have to figure out which of her two set cards is DNA Transplant...

The card on the left is the one she set last turn... But the card on the right is the one she set on the same turn that she Synchro Summoned Jetta!

That one has to be it, she set it then so it could benefit Jetta at the earliest possible opportunity!

"I play Nobleman of Extermination!" it exclaimed, as the card appeared.

The card to Ember's right lifted up, and shattered. It was indeed DNA Transplant.

"You're finished!" laughed the aboleth. "Ccapac Apu... Attack Jetta and end this duel!"

Ccapac Apu lifted its gargantuan fist again...

"You're still overconfident," said Ember, "and that's going to be your final mistake..."

Her other Trap Card lifted up.

"I activate Synchro Baton!"

"Huh?" said the aboleth. "Synchro Baton?"

Trymus, Shannalla, Il Mathman, and Flamvell Urquizas appeared behind Jetta.

"Now, Jetta can meet your Earthbound God's attack with all of the Synchro Monsters in my Graveyard supporting her," said Ember, "giving her 600 Attack Points apiece."

(5,200 ATK)

"It can't be..." gasped the aboleth in panic.

It was, and it was too late. Jetta lifted her sword, and flew at the oversized demon with her three comrades following her, Flamvell Urquizas taking up the rear.

"Send Ccapac Apu back to where it came from!" shouted Ember. "All together people!"

For a brief instant, it seemed a look of terror appeared on Ccapac Apu's face...

Then, the demon's scream echoed through the dark void as the five Synchros blasted their way through its chest and out its back. The aboleth screamed too, and fell to its knees.

"No..." it moaned, as its armor started to warp and crack. "It can't end like this... Not when I've come so far..."

(E: 1,000) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 0)

As Ember watched, Ccapac Apu melted into a pile of sludge. The aboleth let out a loud scream, and then seemingly melted as well, turning into a puddle of black ichor...

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Minerva continued to watch the large cube.

Then she heard a scream come from it. The scream was quickly reduced to a whimper, and then died completely.

She opened her eyes. She was back in the Gobi Desert.

The vision was done.

The prisoner's escape route had been cut off. And all the better.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Back in the pocket dimension, the whole place started to shake.

"What's happening?" shouted Ember.

"This pocket dimension is about to implode!" shouted Iggwilv. "Once it does, we'll either be atomized or blown out into the Astral Plane. You'd best think of something, or even if we survive, we'll spend eternity at each other's throats."

Then a light pierced the void.

"Hello?" said a familiar voice. "Miss Eiko? Can you hear me?"

"Wilhelm?" shouted Ember.

"Good old Wilhelm!" exclaimed Gabriel. "He's opening the way out for us!"

"Wilhelm, hurry!" shouted Ember.

"Wait! What about me?" cried Iggwilv.

Ember looked at her.

"Well…" she said. "I could take you with me, Iggwilv… Or I could leave you here as a punishment for all your atrocities…"

Iggwilv started to sob.

"Please..." she cried. "Please, take me with you... You wouldn't leave me to suffer, would you?"

Ember let out a sigh. The portal was starting to form.

"Uh, Ember…" said Gabriel. "You'd best decide fast…"

Ember grabbed the Highlander's scythe, and wedged it between the bars of the Cursed Prison. She used it like a lever, and spread the bars apart.

"Come on!" she shouted, as Iggwilv wiggled through. "Hurry up before I change my mind."

The three of them fled to the portal, and dove through it. Behind them, they heard one final scream...

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Ember fell to the ground like a sack of rags. Shichiro slowly picked her up.

"Ember!" he said. "Are you all right?"

"Well..." said Ember.

She took a deep breath.

"In the past three hours, I've been burned, stabbed, chilled, shot at, caught in several explosions and smashed under a huge fist... But other than that, I'm doing great..."

He hugged her.

"Where's the aboleth?" asked Gears.

"Does aboleth religion mention an afterlife?" asked Ember.

"Uh, no..." said Wilhelm. "They expect to live forever..."

"Then I have no idea where it is..." sighed Ember.

Iggwilv was sprawled on the ground, chuckling.

"Heh, heh, heh..." she cackled. "Sucker... I knew you wouldn't leave me behind, Ember... You good guys and your pathetic morals... Thinking that all life is precious... It sickens me, really..."

"All life is precious?" asked Ember.

She glared at Iggwilv.

"Iggwilv, I would say you were about as precious as an economy-size bag of fertilizer, but that would be an insult to honest fertilizer dealers.

"I saved you because I wanted you to pay for your crimes, plain and simple. If I had left you behind, who knows? You might have eventually found a way out.

"Jinx... Book her..."

"My pleasure," said Jinx.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

As they walked down the slope of Mount Vesuvius, with Shichiro carrying Ember and the four Titans following, Gears checked his equipment.

"Zero, zero, zero..." he said. "Seems the Nodes are officially out of business."

"Funny..." said Ember. "It thought it was the superior being all along... But now..."

"It had experience, but not much else..." said Wilhelm. "People think that experience makes all the difference. I'm reminded of an old joke... Something about how a Roman gladiator laughed when he found out his next opponent was seventy years old... And then someone asked him how the guy could have lived to be seventy.

"Thing is, experience is a fickle thing. Leviathan was more than three times as old as the Egyptian God Monsters... But they defeated it. The Light of Ruin had been drifting through space for countless eons... But Judai defeated it.

"Experience alone doesn't make you better than others. How you use it does."

"Well... at long last," said Trymus, "we have a bit of closure... The fiend who murdered our people is dead."

"More than you think..." said a voice.

They stopped short.

It was Judge Sirius. He was standing in front of them.

"Why are you here?" asked Il Mathman, rather annoyed.

"Don't jump to conclusions," said the judge. "A lot has been done since Jetta's release."

He waved his hand, and Jetta's eyes glowed. A small disk appeared in his hand.

"An implant?" asked Jetta.

"A monitoring device," replied Sirius.

"So you never trusted me," said Jetta, "even when the conditions were met?"

"On the contrary," said Sirius, "it was needed for an elaborate sting operation. During your imprisonment, more evidence was uncovered that made us suspect the Psurlons of not only falsely implicating you, but numerous other atrocities. We needed evidence of illegal activity on their part.

"We knew you'd likely try to clear your name. So we implanted that device, which let us hear every spoken word and telepathic message you heard."

"Then you heard every word that toad told us?" asked Shannalla.

Sirius nodded.

"Uh, wouldn't that be inadmissible evidence?" asked Shichiro.

"Yes, so it wouldn't hold up in court," replied the judge, "but it was enough to override their bargain with the Harmonium and gain a search warrant for their base of operations. And we pulled out all the stops, sent an army there unannounced. They resisted of course, but after several of them were arrested for defying a court order, we got access to their mainframes.

"And now we have all the proof we need to charge them with multiple counts of genocide, among several other abominable crimes.

"The only problem is, aside from the ones that were arrested before we gained access, they abandoned ship at first opportunity. We believe they used dimensional travel; it's the only way they could have gotten past our blockade."

"Slippery devils," said Jinx.

"Well, they're fugitives now," said Sirius, "and we will apprehend them. But first...

"Jetta... All charges against you are now dropped. I hereby restore your flesh."

There was a flash of energy. In the next second, Jetta had been transformed from a phantom to a solid humanoid.

She looked at herself, barely able to believe it. Then she realized something.

"Wait..." she said. "What about..."

"Your three companions?" asked Sirius. "Fear not... I can restore them as well... We found these when we searched their mainframe."

He held up three devices that looked like flash drives.

"You thought your bodies were destroyed in your attempt to find a sponsor for Jetta..." he continued. "But the Psurlons actually stole them and stored them, hoping to keep you out of commission forever. They had tried to delete them, but even in digital form, that is hard to do to a body empowered with the Power Primordial."

He gestured, and there was another flash of energy. In the next second, Trymus, Shannalla, and Il Mathman were restored to flesh as well

"We're whole again..." said Shannalla.

Tears of joy appeared in her eyes. She turned to Trymus, and they embraced.

"Now, like I said," continued Sirius, "the leadership of the Psurlon Trade Emporium are fugitives at this point, and we're going to need help finding them... But we were thinking if the Harmonium offered an apology...

Shannalla's joy quickly vanished. She and the other Titans gave him dirty looks.

"Uh..." said Sirius, nervously. "Maybe a public apology and compensation?"

"AND we want a full-scale investigation of the leadership of the Harmonium done," said Trymus, "and all corrupt officials prosecuted, got it? We'll negotiate. We want someone policing the police from now on."

"And from this point on," said Il Mathman, "we want the Psurlons to be regarded as the genocidal terrorists they are, not the corporate sharks you've made them look like. That means trial by special tribunal with their all their assets and accounts seized.

"And here's something to think about... If it even looks like any bribery is involved in the trials of them or the Paragons, the next criminals we'll be bringing to justice will be the Harmonium."

"And if you think we won't do it," added Shannalla, "ask Emperor Camio. Or Queen Mahlax the Punisher. Ask the leaders of any despotic governments that we helped overthrow. They all didn't think we could do it either."

Sirius looked nervous. He turned to the Shadowchasers.

"Don't look at us, pal," said Shichiro. "We've had a similar problem for a long time."

"When I get back I'll... make a few phone calls, as the saying goes..." said Sirius. "I think we can work something out..."

"So, would we count this as a happy ending?" asked Ember.

"Dunno..." said Jinx. "For those who have lost what they lost, it's hard to count anything as an ending..."

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Continuous Trap

Image: A pyramid-shaped obelisk with glowing runes on it in a wooded area, with ghostly wisps flying around it.

Card Description: If you do not control an "Earthbound God" Monster, destroy this card. When a Monster controlled by your opponent attacks, you can select the "Earthbound God" Monster as the target of the attack, disregarding its effect that prevents your opponent from selecting it as an attack target.

Note: "Glowing Image of the Guardian God" was first used by Kiryu in the "Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's" episode "A Score to Settle (Part 2). It was later used by Rudger in "Destiny's Will (Part 2)". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Trap

Image: Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, Gungnir, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, and Dewloren, Tiger Prince of the Ice Barrier, each glowing with colored energy.

Card Description: Select one Synchro Monster you control. Increase the ATK of the selected Monster by 600 for each Synchro Monster in your Graveyard until the End Phase of the turn.

Note: "Synchro Baton" was first used by Yusei in the "Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's" episode "Signs of Doom (Part 3)". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Continuous Trap

Image: A duelist in the foreground, with the shadowy forms of Junk Warrior, Nitro Warrior, and Turbo Warrior in the background.

Card Description: When this card is activated, send up to three Synchro Monsters from your Extra Deck to the Graveyard. For each Synchro Monster sent to the Graveyard via this effect, place one Protection Counter on this card. You can remove a Protection Counter from this card to reduce the Battle Damage from a Monster's attack to zero. When the last Protection Counter is removed from this card, destroy this card.

0 0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0

One week later...

Hebi-Na lay sleeping in a bed in a private room in the infirmary at Shadowchasers Headquarters. Not the prison infirmary. She had recently been moved from there. Ordinary medical equipment monitored her heartbeat, breathing, and brain activity, and she seemed perfectly healthy from the look of them. Only Jalal and the other executives gathered at the foot of her bed knew otherwise.

One of them was Maskent, the Incantifer who was the co-signer of the Great Treaty, and who was in charge of holding Shadowkind's copy of it. Another was Judge Winston Beauregard, who was supposed to preside over Hebi-Na's trial. The rest were Jalal's advisors and various other administrators.

"I still say this is dumb," said one of them. "She can't hear us."

"I know it's dumb," said Jalal. "But the rules, which we made, say that the prisoner in question must be present when this document is read. It may be a formality to do it now, but..."

He took a document out of an envelope. He cleared his throat.

"Hebi-Na..." he said. "The crimes originally pending against you were multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, aiding a terrorist group, and conspiring with a being with apocalyptic and genocidal goals.

"To that, we since added an additional count of aiding a terrorist group, and use of dark magic.

"However... In the interests of compassion, due to your current condition, which was inflicted upon you by a being far crueler than you ever were... By the power invested in me and my allies... You are hereby granted a full and complete pardon."

He sighed as he put the document back in the envelope.

"Still..." he said. "It is cold comfort... Because so long as the curse has its hold on you, Wilhelm's spell must remain in effect for your protection. Without it, the Bells of Baphomet would cause incredible agony, and then violent death when their tolling attracts their shadowy Demon.

"But I promise this... No curse is truly incurable! Somewhere, in some abandoned wizard's laboratory, there may yet be an ancient journal that can give us a clue to finding a method to curing this vile affliction.

"I promise, Hebi-Na... The cure is out there somewhere... And we will do our best to find it...

"You have my word..."

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

In Neo Domino, at the Security Academy, an interviewer looked over an applicant's application.

He wasn't Aware, so he noticed nothing strange about the applicant, who happened to be Joaquin.

"Hmm..." he said. "Well, everything seems good... I couldn't help but notice that you wrote 'none' where it says 'Next of Kin'."

"Oh, I don't have any family, really..." said Joaquin. "Not any more..."

"Ah, say no more..." said the interviewer. "These things happen."

Joaquin knew he had lied several times on the application, and had used a fake resume... But he needed a job. And he was hardly the first person who had lied on a resume.

"Well..." said the interviewer, "the initial written test for applicants is tomorrow... I won't lie to you, that will be the easy part."

"Oh, don't worry," said Joaquin, as they shook hands. "I never expected anything to be easy."

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

At the Shadowchasers' townhouse, the television was tuned to a special report. Jeager was at the foot of the Daedalus Bridge, surrounded by a horde of reporters, carrying a pair of giant novelty scissors.

"It is my great pleasure," he said, "to declare the complete Daedalus Bridge open for business. With the opening of this span, may Neo Domino and Satellite be no longer separated, and its populations live in harmony."

He cut the ribbon, and the crowd applauded, followed by flashes of cameras.

"Thank you," he said, bowing.

Ember sat in a chair by the window, looking up at the sky.

"Still bummed out, Ember?" asked Shichiro.

"You'd think they could have stayed around for a little longer..." muttered Ember. "After all we went through..."

"I got just the thing to cheer you up!" exclaimed Boris, as he floated into the lounge. "Wilhelm taught me this great recipe for bratwurst."

"Gonna take more than sausage to cheer me up, Boris," said Ember.

"You have to see their side, Ember..." said Jinx. "They were waiting two-hundred years for this... They were kind of anxious to get back to work..."

"Yeah, well... Now what?" asked Ember. "Do we just wait for the next disaster waiting to wipe out humanity before we leap into action, save the day, and then fade into obscurity?"

"That is indeed a problem with the veil that hides Shadowkind, Ember..." said Gears. "There's no fame or glory from most of the world..."

"But there is plenty of it from several other worlds," said Jalal's voice.

Everyone turned as Jalal's image appeared from the fireplace.

"Jalal?" asked Shichiro.

"What do you mean?" asked Ember.

"This was delivered to headquarters earlier today..." said Jalal.

An envelope appeared in Ember's hands.

"It seems that you four are quite popular elsewhere..."

Ember quickly opened the envelope. Inside was a DVD, and another envelope.

Ember quickly opened the DVD case, and placed it in the DVD player.

The screen went static, and then Jetta's face appeared on it.

"Hello, people," she said. "Sorry Trymus, Shannalla, and Il Mathman couldn't get into this message too, but they're very busy. We all are. They send their regards.

"I wanted to tell you that progress is being made, and we have given you all credit for the help you gave us. Your names are quickly being spread across the galaxy. Heh... Some younger folks are exaggerating your abilities a little, I'm afraid, but that happened to us all the time.

"You won't have to worry about the Paragons ever bothering the Earth again. It seems that their powers are completely gone. The good news for them is, that means their punishments won't involve being turned into living generators. But I can safely say that you've seen the last of the last of the vashar.

"Anyway, it seems we misjudged Sirius a great deal. He was more confident of your success than you might have thought. In fact, he used intermediaries to make a deal with I2 as soon as you got me out of jail, Ember. The results should be in that second envelope."

Ember looked at the second envelope. Then she opened it.

There they were. Copies of the four Synchro Monsters. Trymus the Conqueror, Shannalla the Fierce, Il Mathman the Artificer, and Jetta the Bronze-Hearted.

"Not bad, huh?" asked Jetta. "We may not be able to truly fight alongside you any more... But with those cards in your decks, we'll be with you in spirit at least, for as long as you keep dueling.

"All I can say now is thanks for everything... And whatever the future may bring, good luck..."

The screen turned to static again.

Ember slowly handed the cards out, giving the right ones to Shichiro, Jinx, and Gears.

"As for what comes next," said Jalal, "I'm already onto that..."

He gestured with his left hand, and four fliers appeared in their hands.

"The World Grand Prix?" asked Gears.

"Now that Turbo Duels have become legal to the public due to the renovations of Neo Domino and Speed World 2," said Jalal, "this tournament has been planned. It will happen in a couple of months and will turn Neo Domino and the coastal highways into a dueling field.

"I've sent in an application. You folks will be representing Great Britain."

"You want us to enter?" said Jinx, in disbelief.

"Sorry, boss..." said Shichiro. "I don't do tournaments..."

"If it was but a tournament, I'd understand," replied Jalal. "But I have it on good knowledge that Yliaster is the biggest sponsor of this event. I suspect that this is a front for a new scheme. And like I said before, the Shadowchasers will not be caught by surprise by them a second time.

"If you enter, you can keep an eye on what's happening, and find out the truth of the matter."

"Hey..." said Jinx, as she looked at the flier. "This says that the teams have to consist of three duelists. There are four of us."

"I know," replied Jalal. "Three of you will enter as a team, while the fourth will observe from the outside and act on any observations made by the other three."

"And just who will have that job?" asked Shichiro.

Jalal smirked.

"Well..." he said. "I believe the four of you can work that out on your own... Besides... You have some time to prepare...

"Good luck... Shadowchasers..."

Ember put the flier down. She walked outside, and looked up at the sky.

An airplane flew past the clouds...

She had no idea that one passenger on that airplane, in the first class section, was a man with a familiar set of sunglasses. The rest of his distinctive outfit had been traded in for a casual shirt and a pair of slacks.

All of Trueman's power was gone now. He was just as mortal as the next human. But the aboleth had put aside a great deal of monetary wealth in case it ever needed it, and Trueman had known how to access it.

Well, so much for that, he thought. Maybe once I get to the States, I can stay out of the limelight for a while... Settle in Texas or maybe Montana... Let the being I once was fade into obscurity...

He looked out the window. He took a deck of cards out of his pocket, and flipped the top card.

He looked at Dark Archetype. It was the only thing that remained from what he once was.

I wonder though... he thought. Has the world seen the last of the Messenger of Darkness?

That is one question that I doubt right now even I could answer truthfully...

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I hope you all enjoyed "Shadowchasers: Power Primordial".

As you saw, many loose ends have been left. I did that on purpose, as inspiration for other authors. They will not be addressed in my future work, but others are free to expand on them without permission.

Loose end #1: Hebi-Na. Her fate is now uncertain. The Shadowchasers have forgiven her, but a cure must still be found, and perhaps she must find a way to gain true redemption. I welcome anyone who seeks to explore this path further.

Loose end #2: Trueman. Even he does not know what his future will hold at this point. If anyone wants to use him as a plot device in a future story, they are free to submit a query.

I will be working on upgrading the Guidelines. Much has changed since last I looked at them. As for me, my future project is in development, but I'm afraid that it is time to say goodbye to Shichiro, Gears, Jinx, and Ember. As much as I love these characters, there's much more in the Shadowchasers world to explore, and it was time I moved on and left them to their futures.

And one final thing before I go... I'm having a little contest!

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Mach-2 Version Contest

A lot of folks have complained since day one that "Jalal the Dragonborn", the card that Jalal gives to every Shadowchaser with a piece of his soul infused inside, is a broken card.

Well, here's the skinny... I think so too, and so does he. So Jalal is working on a Mach-2 version, after which there will be a complete change in policy regarding which version is used.

Changing existing versions of the cards will be easy for Jalal, due to his link to them. He simply has to cast a ritual and meditate for two days. The hard part will be designing the new version.

So what will the new version be capable of? It's certainly going to be a surprise to you, because it's going to be a surprise to me!

Until the end of December, I will take submission for designs on the Mach-2 version of Jalal the Dragonborn. Just follow the following guidelines:

The card must be a Light-Attribute, Warrior-Type Synchro Monster that is at least Level 7.

Because it will be given to all Shadowchasers, and their decks vary, it cannot have any specific Tuner or non-Tuner requirements.

Its ATK should be at least 2,400 and its DEF should be at least 1,800, unless its effect is such that requires it to be lower. (I'm willing to look at something with scores of zero, for example, if it makes sense.)

Think "Jalal the Dragonborn" isn't the best name? If you think you have a better name, you can suggest that too! Just make sure that Jalal's first name is in it.

Sound simple? Good. Send me a PM or an e-mail with your design. The best design (decided by me and a confidant whose identity will be revealed later) will have his or her design implemented as the new version in all future Shadowchaser stories. It will debut in an early chapter of "Shadowchasers: Torment", my new fic that will debut on New Year's Day.

So get on it! Don't forget, this card might decide the fate of the world at some point...