(Well, hello and welcome to my Shadowchasers fic. I PREFER TO BE A BIT UNCONVENTIONAL ABOUT THIS, posting one-chapter everyday cases, INSTEAD OF STRUGGLES THAT COULD END THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. Why? I don't want the commitment. I'm neck-deep in other projects, and I freely admit that I'm doing this to relieve stress. It seemed like fun. Even so, I plan to give each chapter (if I end up with more than one—remember, I DON'T WANT THE COMMITMENT) my all. I may not want to sink in too deep, but I still take pride in my work.

As for rules, like all other Shadowchasers authors, I plan to follow the real-game rules, which, if you don't know, you can look up on any self-respecting Yu-Gi-Oh! website.

With all that out of the way, I'd just like to give the disclaimers: "SHADOWCHASERS" IS OWNED BY CYBER COMMANDER, and I use the concept with his given permission, and Yu-Gi-Oh! is owned by Kazuki Takahashi, and the song "The Fair" is owned by Ann Reed, but I'm not making any money off of either, so I'm not too worried about lawsuits. Enjoy!)

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Shadowchasers: Miscellaneous Files

Beatdown at the Fairground

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"Appearances often are deceiving". Aesop said that. An old line, but one that I take to heart. Steven Hawking looks brain-dead, but he's one of the greatest minds of our generation. And Lizzie Borden seemed like just a harmless little girl, but she's believed to have brutally murdered her own parents. No matter where you go or how much you see, things will surprise you, and that's exactly what I love about life. Heck, I even got my job because I can see things that others can't!

Unfortunately, a lot of others aren't so open-minded. They can only see what lies right in front of their noses. A lot of people underestimate me, for example. I pity them, really, except when they find a way to really tick me off. Like right now, for example.

Minnesota is a cold, cold place in the winter. Everybody knows that. And St Paul is no exception. What they don't usually know is that it's actually quite pleasant in the spring and summer months. Perhaps this is why they host the annual State Fair at the end of August—as one last hurrah before the weather once again becomes brutal.

As far as state fairs go, Minnesota's is the very tops, running twelve days with the record for the country's top daily attendance (though Texas's state fair goes twice as long with a higher annual attendance). "The Great Minnesota Get-Together" is an event for all ages, featuring rides, games, folk art, food (most of which is on a stick—one of the fair's themes), animal judging, and everything in between. In recent years, they'd even added Duel Monsters tournaments, which became a roaring success.

It was for this event that Jalal had sent nearly all of the Twin Cities' Shadowchasers out. In a gathering of both humans and Shadows this large, trouble was practically inevitable.

Justine Rosenbaum found this to be the ideal working vacation, and she had just exited the cattle barn when she found what she had been hoping not to see: trouble.

"Minnesota, Minnesota,

We are south of Manitoba.

We are east of North Dakota.

We've got something really rare.

It's fulfilling, entertaining,

It's true culture you'll be gaining.

Accept no imitations, it's the Fair!"

This song alone was in no way unusual—Ann Reed's iconic song about the State Fair (well, one of them, since she'd written at least five) was often playing at this event, but never in this admittedly unpleasant location. They were wedged between three animal barns, and the smell was unbearable, but here they were nonetheless, and people were pouring out of the attractions to see the performance.

Looking up at the performers, Justine understood perfectly what was happening. The band was composed of three members, all of whom looked like they should be playing something by Kiss, not this cheery country tune. They all had long, dark hair and Goth-style makeup, completed by dark, feathery clothes. Their faces were masculine, but that was the only thing about them that suggested it aside from the Adam's apples on their long, bent necks—their hair was long, their fingers were skinny with very long nails, and, most disturbing of all, they had breasts, even though they were stick-thin.

They looked like cosplayers of Tim Curry's character from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".

At least, that's how Mundane humans saw them. What Awares like Justine saw were inhuman creatures. Their faces and hair were the same, but they had birdlike talons for arms and legs, torsos covered in dark feathers, and big wings erupting from their shoulders.

These were harpies, predatory Shadowkind with the power to ensnare unsuspecting victims with their voices. Justine was only unaffected because she'd been through training to resist it.

The weird thing was that, though these harpies were clearly hypnotizing the people, that seemed to be all that they were doing with them. Attacking seemed completely out of their minds.

Suddenly, another sound came to Justine's ears: a loud chorus of squeals coming from the swine barn. Things were starting to add up.

Justine ran into the swine barn and saw just what she had suspected: at least two dozen harpies were swarming around the scores of pigpens, about to dig into a feast.

"Ahem!" Justine shouted, loudly clearing her throat.

All of the harpies stopped and turned to her.

"What have we here?" one of them shrieked, a female with rust-red feathers and tangled blonde locks. "A straggler?"

"Orpheus, Plato, and Midas must've missed one!" shouted another, this one an older male with grey plumage and a shaven head. "I knew we shouldn't have had those imbeciles distract the crowd!"

"It's not their fault," Justine said casually, putting a hand to her cheek. "It's a little harder to charm us Shadowchasers."

"Shadowchaser?!" the harpies all squawked in unison.

"That's right. My name's Justine. And I'm here to stop you from stealing, killing, and consuming all this livestock! Get ready to duel!"

"You?" another harpy cackled, this one with jet-black feathers and matted, silvery hair. She seemed to be their leader, since her talons were the longest, and she was perched over the pen of Piggy Mama, the enormous sow with the year's largest litter of piglets (oddly a famous attraction at the Fair every year—this one had twelve). "Are you sure? You look like you can't even pick up a Disk!"

Justine frowned at this. She got a lot of jokes about her looks. She was a petite, redheaded girl, and very skinny—and not in the attractive supermodel way, either. She just looked fragile, like she might end up a hunchback just by carrying her backpack and sword around. Frankly, Jalal was one of the few people she'd ever met who had confidence in her strength from the very beginning.

"You should be more worried about yourselves," she shot back. "I've handled far tougher threats than you!"

"Don't be so sure," the lead harpy snarled. "When it comes to dueling, I'm the best in my flock!"

"Prove it!" Justine shot back.

The harpy rolled her eyes and turned to look behind Piggy Mama's pen. Suddenly, she let out an enraged shriek and whipped back around to face her flock.

"All right!" she demanded. "Which of you pathetic turkeys stole my Duel Disk and deck?"

All of the other harpies avoided eye contact with their leader, looking both insulted and terrified.

"Hang on," Justine said, opening her backpack and pulling out her own Disk. "This thing has a function that can locate any other active Duel Disk within 100 meters."

The petite Shadowchaser strapped the Duel Disk onto her wrist and hit a button. The dueling device lit up, projecting an arrow forward and to her right.

The lead harpy quickly caught on and left her perch, landing next to the harpy to whom the arrow was pointing, a younger male one with dark brown wings and hair. His talons were noticeably shorter and duller than most of the other harpies'.

"Where is it?" the lead harpy demanded. "Tell me before I tear out your kidneys and show them to you!"

The younger harpy whimpered and slowly pointed down, into the sawdust-filled pen over which he was perched.

The lead harpy dove into the pen and dug around, pulling out a Duel Disk with a deck inside. She fluttered back up to the younger harpy's perch and pulled out the deck, examining the cards.

"Everything's there," she said, shuffling them and putting them back. "Lucky you."

Then, out of nowhere, she slashed him across his breasts. "That was for stealing from me!" she shrieked. She slashed him again, this time across his right wing. "That was for leaving it in a pigpen!" She gave him one more slash, this one right to the face, harder than the first two, leaving deep, bloody marks. "And that was for incriminating yourself by leaving it so close to your own perch! You should know by now that someone else must always take the fall!"

"Y-yes, mama!" the younger harpy stammered, clutching his face in both agony and shame. "I-it won't happen again! Promise!"

"You do that to your own child?!" Justine gasped.

The harpies (save for the one that was just injured) all cackled at this.

"I forget," the leader said, still fighting off the giggles as she returned to her perch on Piggy Mama's pen. "Your kind are so sentimental. You don't understand that a child must be raised with a firm talon to make them strong. Humans have such weaknesses for their chicks."

At her words, the other harpies began laughing again.

"Now, deary," the leader said, holding up a claw to silence her flock. "I'm ready to duel you, and when I win, you'll make a nice snack for Julius. He just lost his pig privileges."

The injured harpy started to tear up at this.

"Come on, mom!" he complained. "She's got almost no meat!"

"That's what you get for your unforgivable behavior!" his mother snapped, and Julius sucked up his tears and scowled.

And I thought my mom was bad!, Justine thought to herself, before addressing the leader.

"You realize...uh…" she stopped, realizing something. "Sorry, I didn't get your name."

"Alcestis," the lead harpy said proudly, puffing up her feathers slightly. "Matriarch of the Twin Cities harpy flock."

"Well, Alcestis," Justine said. "You realize that as the only harpy here with a Duel Disk and deck, you'll be representing your entire flock for this crime, don't you?"

The other bird-people cringed slightly, but Alcestis just chuckled.

"If you're trying to scare me, it won't work," she squawked. "As the flock's matriarch, I represent my people on many occasions, and I'm sure I can handle whatever you throw at me."

"Well, then," Justine replied. "Let's cut the intimidation tactics and duel!"

Both duelists activated the holo-imagers on their Duel Disks and drew five cards.

(Justine: 8,000) - - - - - - - - - - (Alcestis: 8,000)

"Oh, and one other thing," Justine announced. "While we're dueling, none of your flock can kill or eat these pigs. If they touch so much as a hair on their chinny-chin-chins, I can arrest you all without the need for a contest!"

"You?" a random harpy called out. "Are you kidding? As if you could do a thing about it!"

"You'd be surprised what I'm capable of," Justine smirked. "I might be carrying a concealed weapon as we speak."

That was a bluff, but it seemed to work. The harpies went silent and began staring at the Shadowchaser with nervous expressions.

"I guess we'll just have to wait for our feast," Alcestis sighed as she drew a sixth card from her deck (how was she able to hold those thin cardboard cards in those gigantic sharp talons of hers without damaging them?). "Thankfully, it won't be for long. I Summon Ancient Gear Knight!"

The harpy matriarch slapped a card onto her Disk, and a Machine appeared. It resembled some kind of robotic soldier, with old and rusted gears and armor, made of iron, not steel. Despite the Knight's fragile appearance, it stood strong holding up the lance that was its right hand and the gear-shaped shield that was its left. (1,800 ATK)

"Ancient Gears, huh?" Justine commented with a neutral, almost bored tone to her voice. "Interesting."

"What were you expecting, girlie?" Alcestis inquired, before quickly speaking up and adding an immensely sarcastic manner. "Oh, right, Harpie Ladies. Yes, the law states that all harpies must always use Harpie Lady decks! We're never allowed to use anything else!"

She punctuated her point by spitting right on Piggy Mama's ear.

"That's not what I meant," Justine replied. "I just wouldn't have pegged you with such a slow strategy. It doesn't seem to be the style of a hunter—rushing the field is more appropriate. A Blackwing deck, perhaps…"

"Bah!" Alcestis retorted. "That's no fun at all! I like to savor my opponent's pain, and I absolutely cherish seeing them standing there, completely unable to defend, as I attack! It's such a pleasure!"

"Hear, hear!" called another harpy, and the others muttered their agreements.

"To each her own," Justine sighed. "Anything else for this turn?"

"No, I'm finished," the lead harpy replied. "Hurry and make your move!"

Justine nodded and drew a card, then smiled.

Perfect!, she thought. This hand is amazing! I'll get an early lead for sure!

"I'll start by Summoning a Monster," she announced, placing a card on her Disk. "Say hello to Kuribull, in Attack Mode!"

With a loud roar, a Monster erupted onto the field. It looked a lot like the famous puffball Kuriboh, but far, far larger, with bright scarlet fur, bloodshot eyes, bull's horns, and a large, silver nosering, despite its apparent lack of a nose. It snorted, and released two small clouds of steam. (2,100 ATK)

"What in blazes is that monstrosity?!" Alcestis squawked, her wings fluttering nervously.

"This 'monstrosity', as you call it, is my Kuribull," Justine replied. "One of the protectors of the Kuriboh community, for obvious reasons."

"That thing is far too strong for a four-star Monster!" the harpy matriarch insisted. "It must have some sort of cost!"

"Actually, it's a five-star Monster," the Shadowchaser corrected. "But you're right—if I Summon Kuribull without a sacrifice, I have to destroy it at the end of the turn. But I'm not too worried about that, and you'll see why soon enough.

"For now, though, Kuribull, attack Ancient Gear Knight! Rage rampage!"

Kuribull snorted out more steam and charged forward, tackling the rusted Machine and goring it with its horns.

Ancient Gear Knight groaned and shattered into pixels.

(J: 8,000) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 7,700)

"And now, to save Kuribull the humiliation of self-destructing," Justine continued. "I'm playing one of my favorite cards! Go, Five-Star Twilight! I just sacrifice one five-star Monster…"

She slipped a Spell card into her Disk and Kuribull vanished, leaving behind five shining stars.

"To bring out five one-star Monsters, namely Kuriba, Kuribe, Kuribi, Kuriboh, and Kuribu, the five Kuriboh brothers!"

The stars lined up horizontally in front of the Shadowchaser and faded, revealing five adorable puffballs.

"Kuri, kuri!" they cooed, waving their paws in unison. (300 ATK x5)

Alcestis said nothing, struggling to fight back the giggles as she stared at these new Monsters. One of them was the original Kuriboh, brown with big, adorable eyes and green paws, and the others were completely identical to it, save for the colors of their fur: lavender, turquoise, pink, and white.

"That's it?" she laughed. "You brought out a platoon of weak little rodents?"

That comment struck a nerve for Justine.

"They're not rodents, they're Kuribohs!" she snarled. "They may not seem like much to you, but they're far more than annoying vermin! They're hardy, kindhearted creatures that have managed to construct a society that far outstrips yours!"

"I'd like to see that!" Alcestis snorted, leading her flock in a chorus of laughter.

"You will soon enough," Justine promised. "But for now, I'll just set a card facedown."

A holographic card back appeared behind the pink Kuriboh.

"Your move, chicken-fingers."

Alcestis scowled at the Shadowchaser as she drew a card, and looked over her hand.

"Ah, this will do nicely!" she said. "I activate the Continuous Spell card, Ancient Gear Castle!"

She placed the card in her Disk, and, with a rumble, a huge structure rose up behind her. It was a massive castle, with gears, sprockets, and gewgaws galore, and cannons mounted on its turrets.

"With this active, not only do all of my Ancient Gear Monsters gain 300 Attack Points, but—"

"Every time either of us Normal Summons or Sets a Monster, the Castle gets a Counter, and you can offer the Castle itself to Summon a high-level Ancient Gear Monster using the number of Counters as the number of tributes," Justine finished impatiently. "I know how the card works! It's a staple in Ancient Gear Decks!"

"Okay, okay," the harpy matriarch replied. "No need to tear my head off—that's my job!

"Anyway, I'll continue by Summoning Ancient Gear Soldier, in Attack Mode!"

Another rusted Machine appeared, this one smaller and bulkier than the last, with a rifle for a right arm. It glowed with a faint light, drawing strength from the Castle. (1,300 ATK) -) (1,600 ATK)

With that Summon, one of the cannons on the Castle's turrets began to charge up, glowing with yellow energy.

"Now, I may not know just what these other fuzzballs are hiding," Alcestis casually admitted. "But I do know that one of them is just a normal Kuriboh, whose ability is useless if it's Summoned to the field.

"You even placed a facedown card to protect it when I attack, but you forgot then when an Ancient Gear Monster attacks, you can't activate facedown cards until after the Damage Step!"

"Yep," Justine sighed, rolling her eyes. "You caught me."

"That's right I did! Ancient Gear Soldier, attack Kuriboh! Rapid-fire flurry!"

Ancient Gear Soldier lifted its rifle and fired off a round of shots at the brown creature.

"Gotcha!" Justine chuckled. "I don't need any Spells or Traps for this! Kuriboh brothers, activate star defense!"

The five Kuribohs all nodded and launched into what was clearly a rehearsed formation, each of them conjuring a small, glowing, star-shaped energy shield (each star the color of its conjuror) and leaping forward, their shields combining into one, much larger rainbow-colored shield. The ancient Machine's rifles struck the shield full-force, shattering it and sending the little puffballs tumbling apart, dazed but otherwise unharmed.

"What the—?" the harpy matriarch gaped, unable to compose a cogent sentence. "How did—?"

"That's Kuribi's special ability," Justine smiled, gesturing to the pink furball. "Once per turn, I can negate one of your attacks on him or any of his friends.

"You see, what Kuriboh lack in brute strength, they make up for in teamwork and superior numbers. One alone may not seem like much, but if you know anything about Kuribohs, you'll know that they're never alone!"

Alcestis just grunted and slipped a card into her Disk, causing a holographic card back to appear behind her Soldier.

"Your move," she muttered.

Justine drew a card and smiled.

"Okay, you've seen Kuribi's ability. Now it's time for Kuribu's! Kuriball roll!"

Justine slipped a card from her hand into the discard slot, and the five Kuribohs moved into another planned formation—this one far more unusual. The little puffballs climbed up, one on top of the other, and formed a tower. Then, the white one (which was on the bottom) upset the tower and sent the others onto the floor, where the four others tucked up and began rolling forward. Finally, quick as a flash, the white one opened its mouth wide (yes, apparently Kuribohs do have mouths!) and swallowed up the other four, swelling to five times its size.

"Kuri, kuri!" it cheeped, its voice slightly garbled by the four Kuribohs in its mouth as it rolled forward, right over Ancient Gear Soldier, practically crushing it, before the white Kuriboh exhaled and the five powder puffs returned to their places in front of their controller.

The weathered automaton struggled to its feet, severely damaged. (100 ATK)

"Bet you're wondering what just happened," Justine giggled, reading the look on Alcestis's face. "You see, by discarding a Trap card from my hand, I can have my friends here lower the Attack Score of one of my opponent's Monsters by 1,500 for the rest of the turn. Cool, huh?

"Oh, and speaking of discarding, it's time to activate my Trap card, Forced Requisition!"

Justine's facedown card lifted up, revealing a Continuous Trap card with the image of a soldier carrying a small treasure chest away from a desperate-looking woman.

"This card can only be activated after I discard a card from my hand, and from then on, every time I discard a card, you have to discard one, too!"

"Well, that will probably get annoying," Alcestis muttered.

"Yeah, probably," Justine agreed. "But for now, it's time to show off another of these little critters' abilities, this one courtesy of Kuriba! Kuriboh brothers, combine to form Kuribabylon!"

The little fuzzballs chirped again and leapt forward, once again forming a tower as a cloud of smoke rose up. When the smoke faded, instead of five Kuribohs, there was only one—a much larger, teal-colored one with angry purple eyes, long, clawed paws, long, sharp fangs, and a wicked horn sticking out of its forehead. (1,500 ATK)

"Now I can do some decent damage with a single attack. Kuribabylon, destroy that turkey's Ancient Gear Soldier!"

"Kuri, kuri," the creature grunted, before leaping forward.

"Hang on, girlie!" Alcestis shrieked, hitting a button on her Duel Disk. "Did you forget about my facedown card? I activate Draining Shield! Now all your attack will do is pad my Life Points!"

Alcestis's facedown card lifted up, but Justine just laughed.

"Oh, it's not so simple, Alcie!" she chortled. "You see, I'm activating a special ability! Go, Kuribookworm!"

Justine slipped a card from her hand into the discard pile, and suddenly another Kuriboh appeared on the field, this one a soft green color with a thick pair of glasses.

"Kuribookworm is one of the Kuriboh community's greatest minds. He's studied all sorts of traps at length, and knows how to diffuse them all. So, all I have to do is discard him from my hand, and he'll negate any Trap card as soon as it's activated!"

Kuribookworm bounced right up to the Trap card and waved its arms around rapidly. It looked like something you'd see in the Charlie Brown Christmas special, but it was just as effective. The Trap shattered and Kuribookworm disappeared with a triumphant chirp.

"And that means that you have to discard a card, too, thanks to my Forced Requisition card!" the Shadowchaser reminded.

Angrily, the harpy matriarch selected a card from her hand and shoved it into the Graveyard slot.

"Plus, my attack continues! Kuribabylon, pulverize that sorry excuse for a Soldier!"

Kuribabylon leapt forward and stabbed the Ancient Gear Soldier with its horn, destroying it and sending Alcestis's Life Points tumbling down.

(J: 8,000) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 6,300)

"And finally, just to be safe, I'll activate Kuribabylon's special ability, sacrificing it to bring back the five Kuriboh brothers."

Kuribabylon snorted as another puff of smoke engulfed it. When the smoke faded, the five original puffballs were back on the field.

"End turn."

"Finally!" one harpy cried out, an older female one with curly, gunmetal-grey hair and silvery feathers. "Honestly, Alcestis, at this rate we're all going to starve before this duel is done!"

"I'm doing my best, Iole!" the lead harpy snapped. "But don't worry; we'll all have an all-you-can-eat pork buffet soon enough!"

"Well, move it along!" yet another bird-human hybrid, the hairless, grey-feathered male who had criticized the harpies still singing outside, squawked. "We need to gather our strength for the journey!"

"'Journey'?" Justine repeated, confused. "What journey?"

Alcestis rolled her eyes, but elaborated.

"Our migration, of course!" she said, as if explaining that two plus two equals four. "Every year, just before the cold weather begins, we migrate south to a warmer climate until spring! It's completely normal avian behavior."

"Yeah," the harpy with the shaven head added. "And we need to carbo-load on these pigs for the journey. With all this food, we can make it down to Texas in just over two days! Then it's a six-month banquet of beef and veal—mm-mm!"

"Omeros, quit drooling!" Iole snapped, though her mouth was beginning to water, too.

"Look, you guys don't have to steal to bulk up for the trip," Justine suggested. "We've got plenty of lakes. You could get fish. They're a natural resource—they don't belong to anybody!"

"Fish don't have sufficient carbohydrates for this trip," Iole responded. "We'd have to completely empty two or three small lakes to get enough, and it's just not worth going to so much trouble."

"Plus we don't get along too well with the local nixies," Omeros added. "They're pathetic fighters, but they've got the home turf, and that's enough to hold us off."

"So," Alcestis summarized. "As you can see, girlie, gorging ourselves on all this pre-packaged livestock is the quickest and easiest way to get what we want."

"Quickest, maybe," Justine sighed. "But it's certainly not the easiest. After all, you have to go through me to get them."

"And I plan to," the harpy matriarch answered. "Now, if we can just focus, I can finish this duel and get all of us a proper meal!"

Eagerly, Alcestis snatched another card from her deck in her long talons. She began eyeing the cards, looking slightly nervous.

"Bad draw, Alcie?" Justine inquired, a cocky look on her face. "Too bad."

"I, uh, I activate the effect of my Ancient Gear Castle," Alcestis finally choked out. "I'll sacrifice it to Set a Monster in Defense Mode."

The colossal Castle vanished into oblivion, and a horizontal card back appeared on Alcestis's field.

"End turn."

Justine's smile spread even further as she drew a card from her deck.

"I get your plan, Alcie," she said with a smirk. "You brought out a higher-level Monster to act as a shield until you can find a way to get past my Kuriboh brothers' defensive strategy—clever, but hardly original. And, even better, I just drew a card that will allow me to obliterate any defense that your deck can churn out!"

"What card could a Kuriboh deck possibly have that would allow you to do that?!" Alcestis said. She was trying to laugh, but her nerves were beginning to show.

"I'll show you," Justine replied, selecting the card she had just drawn.

The Field Spell slot in Justine's Duel Disk opened up and she inserted a card. Instantly, their surroundings began to warp, changing from the filthy interior of the State Fair swine barn to a lush, verdant meadow with dozens of large animal holes. The pigpens, pigs, and harpies stayed in plain sight, though, making the whole scene even weirder.

"Welcome to Kuriburrow, home base of the Kuriboh community!"

The five Kuriboh brothers seemed to be greatly enjoying themselves in this new location. They were bouncing around and chirping happily. All of them had a faint glow around them. (300 ATK x5) -) (800 ATK x5)

"As you can see, Alcestis," Justine elaborated. "Kuriburrow increases the Attack Scores of all 'Kuri' Monsters by 500 points."

"Big deal," Omeros squawked. "You took five weaklings and made them into slightly stronger weaklings! They're still far too weak to actually be a threat!"

"Use your head, Omeros!" Iole screeched, rolling her eyes. "That Field Spell must have some sort of secondary effect if she's that happy to have drawn it!"

"Actually, it does," the Shadowchaser smirked. "But it's the first effect that should worry you, since I'm forming Kuribabylon once again!"

Once again, the Kuriboh brothers stacked up in a tower formation, then vanished in a puff of smoke and left Kuribabylon in their place.

"He's still not a threat!" Alcestis insisted. "Even with two-thousand Attack Points, it only qualifies as 'adequate' against my deck!"

"'Two-thousand'?" Justine echoed, grinning wide. "I think you need to take another look."

It was then that Alcestis noticed that Kuribabylon looked far bigger and fiercer than the last time she had seen it. (4,000 ATK) -) (4,500 ATK)

"What?" the harpy matriarch whimpered. "I don't understand! How did it suddenly get so strong?!"

"Kuribabylon's base Attack Score isn't a definite number, Alcestis," the petite girl explained. "It's the combined Attack Scores of all five of the Kuriboh brothers when they're sacrificed. Since each of them had eight-hundred Attack Points, Kuribabylon now has four-thousand, plus the boost from Kuriburrow!"

"This is insanity!" Alcestis shrieked. "That Kuriboh is as strong as Kaiba's Ultimate Dragon!"

"I know, I know," Justine nodded. "It's as if the entire game has been flipped upside-down, isn't it? It seems like some sort of weird fantasy, but I guarantee you, it's all true. Like I said, Kuriboh specialize in teamwork.

"And now, Kuribabylon, wipe out that defensive Monster!"

"Kuri,kuri," Kuribabylon grunted as it rushed forward and stabbed at the facedown card.

The image of a giant mechanical wolf, made of similar parts to Alcestis's last two Monsters, appeared, crouching down (2,000 DEF), before shattering into pixels.

"Your Ancient Gear Beast may have been strong, Alcestis," Justine jeered. "But it can't hold a candle to Kuribabylon when it draws power from Kuriburrow! In fact, I'm almost positive that there's nothing in your deck that can outmuscle this guy on its own!

"Now, just one last thing before my turn ends."

"And what's that?" Alcestis demanded.

"The second effect of Kuriburrow," the Shadowchaser replied. "Once per turn, I can take any 'Kuri' Monster in my Graveyard and add it to my hand. I think I'll go with Kuribookworm."

A card slipped out of Justine's discard slot and she added it to her hand.

"And, with that, I end my turn."

The other harpies grew increasingly anxious as their leader drew her card.

"Come on, Alcestis!" Omeros urged. "You can't afford to lose!"

"Yeah!" Iole agreed. "Otherwise we may never hunt again!"

Justine glared at them. "You call this hunting?!" she exclaimed. "Hunting is capturing and killing wild animals! These are domesticated livestock! It's not hunting, it's stealing!"

"You say that as if we care about the difference," Alcestis responded, rolling her eyes. "Stealing is practically encouraged among harpies. After all, if someone isn't strong enough to protect what's theirs, then they don't deserve to have it in the first place!"

"Kind of a depressing philosophy," Justine said quizzically. "Don't you think?"

"Only to a weakling like yourself, deary," the harpy matriarch replied. "As I intend to demonstrate right now. I'll start by Summoning Ancient Gear Cannon, in Attack Mode!"

In a flash of light, a Monster appeared. It looked like a large, rusty cannon made of very old materials. (500 ATK)

"Fat load of good it will do you," Justine taunted. "Kuribabylon is nine times as strong!"

Alcestis just smiled and showed Justine another card in her hand.

"Aw, nuts," Justine muttered, her face falling instantly.

"I activate the Spell card, Creature Swap!" Alcestis laughed, inserting the card into her Disk. "Now, we each choose one of our Monsters, and trade them on the spot! And, since we each have only one…"

The two Monsters vanished in cascades of light, then reappeared in each other's places.

"What's yours is mine, and what's mine is yours!" the harpy matriarch cackled. "Good for me, and not so good for you. Now, let's test this giant owl pellet's strength! Kuribabylon, tear Ancient Gear Cannon asunder!"

Kuribabylon bounded forward and slashed the worn weapon with its claws, blowing it apart.

Justine cringed and tried to stand her ground as a massive blast of energy came at her from the inordinate Life Point loss. Eventually, it got the best of her, and she was thrown back and slammed into a wall before collapsing on the floor.

(J: 4,000) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 6,300)

There was a long pause as the harpies stared at the petite Shadowchaser.

"I think she might be dead," Iole finally spoke up.

"That's a forfeit, right?" Omeros asked.

"Probably," Alcestis shrugged. "I don't think anyone's ever dropped dead prior to the duel's end before…but still, I'll take it. Eat up!"

The harpies whooped in joy, but their ecstasy was short-lived as Justine slowly got to her feet, looking livid.

"You turkeys really shouldn't jump to conclusions," she spat. "I may have taken a big hit, but I'm still in the game! And, just for stealing my Monster like that, I'm about to tear you a new cloaca!"

"Go ahead and try," the harpy matriarch jeered. "It's your move."

Justine growled and drew her next card.

Not much for mounting an offense, she thought to herself. But I can at least hold her off for a little while.

"Okay," she said. "I'm Summoning another Kuriboh!"

Justine placed the card on her Disk, and the adorable brown puffball sprang up and bounced around in the meadow. (300 ATK) -) (800 ATK)

"And you expect that to help you against Kuribabylon?!" Alcestis screeched.

"Something like that," Justine muttered. "I'm activating Multiply, sacrificing Kuriboh to bring out five Kuriboh Tokens!"

The Shadowchaser slipped the card into her Duel Disk and her one Kuriboh suddenly became five, all of them crouched down in front of their master. (200 DEF)

"Now, I'll use the effect of my Kuriburrow again, this time to retrieve Kuriboh."

Another card shot out of her Graveyard slot, and she ended her turn.

"And with that, I end my turn."

That ought to hold her for a few turns, she thought.

Alcestis drew a card and stared at her two cards.

"Yes," she commented. "These will do nicely. I'll start by replacing this annoying Field of yours with my own. I activate Geartown!"

The Field Spell slot of Alcestis's Duel Disk opened up and she set a card within it, and just like that the area around them morphed again, turning into a city that seemed ancient and futuristic at the same time. All of the buildings were old and rusted, made with a combination of bricks and the same materials that composed Alcestis's Ancient Gear Monsters, and it was always rotating, whirring, or cranking.

"Nice, isn't it?" the harpy matriarch said with a smirk. "And it gets even better—you see, here in Geartown, Ancient Gear Monsters can be Summoned with one less sacrifice than they actually require, which means I can Summon Ancient Gear Engineer right away!"

She set her other card down, and a new Monster appeared. It looked a lot like Ancient Gear Knight, but slightly shorter, and with a clamp for one hand and an enormous drill for the other. It held its drill out in front of it, as if daring Justine to attack. (1,500 ATK)

"Now, both of my Monsters, wipe out those annoying Kuriboh Tokens!"

Kuribabylon rushed forward and rammed its horn into one of the Tokens, obliterating it, as Ancient Gear Engineer started up its drill and destroyed another one.

"And," Alcestis continued. "After Ancient Gear Engineer attacks, I'm allowed to destroy one of your Spell and Trap cards, and I'm getting pretty sick of looking at that Forced Requisition!"

Ancient Gear Engineer drove its drill through the Forced Requisition hologram and blew it to smithereens.

"That ought to keep my cards safe," she smiled.

"Way to go, Alcestis!" Omeros cheered. "You've got her on the ropes now!"

"Don't let up, boss!" Iole squawked. "I'm starving here!"

"Well, you're not getting any of these pigs!" Justine insisted as she drew her card and placed it in her Disk. "I activate Graceful Charity, to draw three more cards, and discard two!"

Three cards shot out of her Disk, and then she selected two and sent them into her Graveyard.

"And now, I activate the Pot of Greed, granting me two more cards!"

She took the cards out and looked them over, before slipping another one into her Graveyard.

"Next, I'll activate the effect of my Kuribenefactor, discarding it from my hand to draw two more cards, so long as I show you my hand afterward!"

The image of a female, golden Kuriboh with a briefcase appeared, and Justine snatched two more cards off of her deck, then turned her hand around for Alcestis to see.

Alcestis' eyes went wide as she stared at Justine's hand. She only recognized two cards! In addition to Kuribookworm and the Spell card Reload, Justine was holding a low-level Kuriboh-like Monster named Kuribowman, and two weird-looking Spell card called Detonate and Kuribeckoning. This girl was clearly obsessed!

"This is ridiculous!" she screeched. "I've never so much as heard of any of these cards!"

"Not my problem," Justine shrugged, concealing her hand once again. "The effect requires that I have to show you my hand—it doesn't say anything about explaining their effects. Anyway, I'll continue my move by activating Detonate!"

She slipped the card into her Duel Disk, and, suddenly, her Kuriboh Tokens rushed forward. One of them latched onto Ancient Gear Engineer's helmet, another to Kuribabylon's horn, and the final one onto the nearest building.

"Kuri, kuri!" they all chirped in unison, before they started glowing and finally self-destructed, taking what they were holding with them and returning the players, harpies, and pigs back to the swine barn's interior.

"As you can see, Alcestis, Detonate allows me to destroy all Kuribohs and Kuriboh Tokens on my field to wipe out one of your cards for each one. Now the field is once again clear!"

Alcestis cracked a smile, which slowly built into hysteric laughter.

"'Clear', you say?" she cackled. "Not quite. You see, when Geartown is destroyed, I can bring out an Ancient Gear Monster from my hand, deck, or Graveyard! Say hello to my Ancient Gear Gadjiltron Dragon!"

A card slipped out of the harpy matriarch's deck, and she threw it onto the field, causing a terrifying abomination to rise up in front of her. It resembled a dragon only in the most basic shape, as it was a fully mechanical being, covered in gewgaws, sprockets, and doodads, with a massive pair of wings and a long, menacing tail. It spread its wings and roared. (3,000 ATK)

Justine, however, didn't even flinch. She just selected two cards from her hand and slipped them into the Graveyard.

"I'm activating the effect of my Kuribowman!" she declared. "By tossing him and one other card, I can negate the Special Summon of a Monster and destroy it!"

The ghostly image of a Kuriboh appeared on the field, this one a bright blue color with a Robin Hood hat, a bow, and a quiver full of arrows. It chirped, then took out an arrow and fired it at Ancient Gear Gadjiltron Dragon's breast. The monstrous Machine let out a roar before shattering into pixels.

Kuribowman tipped its hat at Justine and vanished into her Graveyard.

Alcestis's jaw practically hit the floor.

"M-my greatest Monster…toppled in an instant…and by a Kuriboh—how?!"

Justine just laughed at this.

"You just never stop underestimating my Kuribohs, do you?" she asked. "Well, there's even more to come! For my next move, I'm activating Kuribeckoning!"

She played the card, and the holographic image came up. It was a comical picture, showing three Kuribohs that Alcestis had yet to see (a rust-red one holding a shield, a yellow-brown one with a cowboy hat, and black and white one with the colors arranged in the form of a yin-yang wearing a headband and a black martial arts belt) staring at a very distressed, bright yellow Kuriboh with a bishop's miter and a staff, which was holding up a big sign that read "EMERGENCY!".

"If I have five or more 'Kuri' Monsters in my Graveyard, and we both know I do, this card allows me to Special Summon up to five of them in Attack Mode—and I think you know exactly which ones I'm choosing!"

In five bright flashes of light, Kuriba, Kuribe, Kuribi, Kuriboh, and Kuribu appeared once more before Justine.

"And now, I'll have them attack you directly!"

The five Kuriboh brothers chirped and rushed forward, scratching and biting at Alcestis. It didn't even hurt, but it was sure annoying. She angrily swatted them off as soon as she could as her Life Points plummeted.

(J: 4,000) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 4,800)

"And now that that's out of the way," Justine continued. "It's time for me to show you the final effect of my Kuriboh brothers, this one belonging to Kuribe!"

"And what's that?" Alcestis inquired, looking a little worried about what the answer could be.

"Why tell you when I can show you?" the petite girl laughed, then turned to her Monsters. "All right, boys! You know what to do!"

"Kuri, kuri!" the turquoise powder puff chittered, nodding before ramming into the other four, sending them bouncing off in four different directions. They started bouncing off of invisible walls and ceilings, the floor, and even each other, their movements seemingly chaotic, but they appeared to know what they were doing.

At long last, all four of the critters met right back with the turquoise Kuriboh and they collided in a puff of smoke, and, when it faded, there was a whole new Monster in their place: larger Kuriboh, about the size of Kuribabylon, with dark grey fur, long fangs, and an eyepatch-bandana combo that gave it a pirate-like appearance. (1,000 ATK)

"Say hello to Kuribandit!"

All of the harpies in the barn could do nothing but stare in silence at this new, pirate-themed Monster.

"I can see you're speechless," Justine smirked. "I don't blame you. This is where a lot of my opponents go mute.

"Let me explain Kuribandit's ability. Kuribe allows me to bring him out by removing him and all four of his brothers from the game. 'Why would I do this', you ask? Well, normally I wouldn't, but Kuribandit helps me when I'm low on cards. You see, by sacrificing Kuribandit…"

At these words, Kuribandit vanished in a cascade of light.

"I get to draw five cards…"

She took five cards off of the top of her deck.

"So long as I toss any Monsters drawn through this effect—but that's not a problem with my Reload card!"

She slipped the card into her Duel Disk, and then shuffled her hand back into her deck and drew five more cards.

"Using this combo, I'm able to draw five cards without paying a dime! Cool, huh?"

"Clever, I'll admit," Alcestis replied with a scowl. "But you've still got nothing left on your field."

"Easily remedied," Justine shrugged. "I'll just Set a Monster in Defense Mode and end my turn."

She set a card down and a holographic card's back materialized in front of her.

"Your move, pigeon-girl."

That quip struck a nerve on one of the harpies.

"'Pigeon-girl'?!" Iole raged, her wings beating furiously. "Oh, you impudent, foul-mouthed little beast! How dare you compare my sister to those disgusting, mindless rats with wings! Forget the duel! I'll tear you apart myself!"

She leapt off her perch and began flying toward Justine, but was quickly pulled aside by Omeros.

"Are you mad?!" he demanded, struggling to hold her. "She may have a gun! And even if she doesn't, she's a Shadowchaser with a sword! You know they can hold their own!"

"I don't care!" Iole shrieked. "That brat needs to be taught a lesson!"

"And she will!" Alcestis screeched. "Just as soon as I've defeated her. And if it makes you feel any better, sister, you may be the one to kill her before my son dines."

That seemed to calm Iole. She stopped fighting against Omeros's hold, and perched down next to him.

"Now," the harpy matriarch said. "Where were we?"

"It was your move," Justine informed.

"Right," Alcestis replied, drawing a card. "Thank you. I'll just play a card facedown and end my turn."

"That's all you can do," Justine smirked, drawing a card.

"And all I need!" the harpy leader shot back. "Since you now hold six cards in your hand, and I have none, I can activate Gamble!"

Her facedown card lifted up, and a holographic coin appeared, spinning in midair.

"Now, if I call this toss correctly, I get to draw until I hold five cards."

"Yeah," Justine smirked. "But if you don't, you have to skip your next turn, and I can promise you that that'll cost you the duel. You're taking a bigger risk than you think."

Alcestis began to sweat at this.

"She's bluffing, Alcestis!" Omeros shouted. "No Kuriboh is strong enough to deal 4,800 points of damage in two turns!"

"You're jumping to conclusions again," Justine smirked. "My deck has secrets that I've yet to reveal. I could have some very tough customers waiting in the wings. Now, Alcie, go ahead and make your call. Just remember—it could make or break this duel for you."

Alcestis gulped, but finally managed to choke out a single word.


The coin was thrown high up in the air, spinning faster and faster, before it finally hit the ground.

It was tails.

The harpy matriarch heaved a big sigh of relief and drew five cards.

"Well, even with those cards, there's no guarantee that you'll win!" Justine announced. "Summoning another Kuribull!"

She played the card and another large, bestial furball burst into being. (2,100 ATK)

"And I'll also Flip-Summon my Kuribrain!"

Her defensive Monster's hologram vanished and was replaced by a creature that was obviously based on Einstein. It was a small, grey Kuriboh with wild hair, glasses, and a small, toothbrush moustache. (300 ATK)

"It just keeps getting weirder and weirder…" Iole muttered.

"Yes, it does," Justine agreed. "You see, Kuribrain, like Kuribookworm, has been studying all his life, but unlike Kuribookworm, he's been studying Synchro Summons—in other words, he's a Tuner! So, I'm bringing him and Kuribull together to form a whole new Monster! Get to it, boys!"

Kuribull snorted and vanished into five glowing stars, and Kuribrain leapt over and allowed them to absorb into his body, slowly morphing him into something new. In a few seconds, where Kuribrain had once stood, there was a large, purple Kuriboh with a pencil-thin moustache and a monocle. (2,400 ATK)

"Say hello to Kuriblueblood, one of the higher class of the Kuriboh community! "Now, Kuriblueblood, attack directly!"

"Kuri, kuri," Kuriblueblood said, in a deep, husky voice, before running forward and slashing Alcestis across her chest, sending her reeling back.

(J: 4,000) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 2,400)

"Now, I'll just set a card facedown and end my turn."

Another holographic card's back appeared behind Kuriblueblood.

"The girl wasn't kidding when she said she'd win if Alcestis had lost that coin toss!" Omeros exclaimed.

"Kuribohs with all this power!" Iole wailed. "It's insanity!"

"But nothing I can't handle," Alcestis said, with a steely tone in her voice. "It's my turn, and I'm about to put things right!"

She drew a card, then smiled at her luck. This hand was amazing!

"Okay, girlie," she laughed. "I think I'll start by activating Ancient Gear Factory! This allows me to Summon a high-level Ancient Gear Monster—like my Ancient Gear Golem" (here she flipped one of her cards around and showed it to her opponent) "Without sacrifices, so long as I remove Ancient Gear Monsters in my Graveyard whose total Levels are exactly equal to double that of the Monster I choose to Summon—and my Soldier, Beast, Knight, and Cannon are exactly that!"

She inserted the card into her Disk and a carousel-like machine covered in stars erupted from the floor.

Justine, however, just smirked and slipped one of her cards into the Graveyard.

"I don't think so," she said. "Not while my Kuribishop has something to say about it, anyway!"

Another ghostly image appeared in front of the small Shadowchaser, this one the same bright yellow Kuriboh with the bishop's miter and staff that was featured on the Kuribeckoning card. It cooed and waved its staff over the machine, causing it to shatter into pixels.

"Let me guess," Alcestis said, annoyed. "Discarding it allows you to negate and destroy one of my Spell cards?"

"Bingo!" Justine laughed. "I won't be facing an Ancient Gear Golem this turn!"

"Too true," Alcestis replied, snickering evilly. "I actually have even bigger plans, and they start with this! Ancient Gear, in Attack Mode!"

She threw a card onto her Disk, and a small robot appeared in front of her. It was shoddily built, just a gear attached to an old motor and wheels with two spindly arms coming out. (100 ATK)

"But why stop at one? I activate Machine Duplication to bring out two more!"

She played the card, and two more of the little Machines materialized, this time in Defense Mode. (800 DEF x2)

"And that's just the beginning, because with three Ancient Gear Monsters out, I can activate this! Go, Spell Gear!"

Justine gasped as Alcestis played the card and the Ancient Gears disappeared.

"Now, by sending three Monsters with 'Ancient Gear' in their name—or in this case, as their name—to the Graveyard, I can ignore the rules and Special Summon two Ancient Gear Golems from my hand and deck!"

With a loud rumble, two towering colossi burst out of the floor. They towered above the players, standing at least fifteen feet tall, loudly rumbling as their gears and cogs struggled to mesh. Unlike the other Ancient Gear Monsters, these had hands, and they were the size of Piggy Mama! (3,000 ATK x2)

"You were right, girlie," the harpy matriarch cackled. "You won't be facing an Ancient Gear Golem this turn—you'll be facing two!"

"Way to go, Alcestis!" Iole whooped. "That's enough to wipe her out of the game!"

"Yeah!" Omeros agreed. "Unless she has a Kuriboh in her hand, she's finished!"

"I can honestly say that I don't," Justine smirked. "I guarantee that there's nothing in my hand or on my field that can protect me from your Golems."

All around the barn, the harpies stared at her suspiciously, wondering if this Shadowchaser was off her nut.

"Well, I'm not worried," Alcestis insisted. "That smug look on your face is just a bluff. You're trembling inside because you know what's coming! Now, Ancient Gear Golems, atta—!"

"Hang on!" Justine interjected. "I activate a Trap card, Emergency Trash Barricade!"

The harpies stared at Justine's facedown card, but it didn't lift. Instead, the ghostly image of a Trap card materialized in front of her, magnified to twenty times its normal size. It bore the image of a group of terrified people piling up garbage to block an oncoming attack.

"I wasn't lying when I said there was nothing in my hand or on my field that could protect me," Justine said, grinning wide as the hologram vanished. "I did, however, have something in my Graveyard, namely my Emergency Trash Barricade!

"You see, this Trap card can only be activated from my Graveyard after being discarded from my hand or deck by a card's effect, which I did myself when I activated Kuribu's effect. With it there, once per duel, I can end either player's Battle Phase whenever I please, and I choose right now!

"Sorry, Alcie, but your assault will just have to wait!"

"Oh, very well!" Alcestis snarled. "I'll just play a card facedown and end my turn!"

"And that means it's time for Kuriblueblood's special ability!" Justine declared as a facedown card materialized in front of the harpy matriarch. "During the End Phase of any turn that I discard a 'Kuri' Monster to activate a card's effect, I get to draw one card for each 'Kuri' Monster that I tossed!"

"You'd best be careful," Omeros jeered. "You'll deck yourself out at this rate."

"Not likely," Justine responded, drawing her card. "One way or another, this duel will likely be over before that."

I just hope it's in my favor, she thought as she drew again.

"Activate Trap!" Alcestis suddenly squawked. "Go, Drop Off! Now you have to discard whatever you just drew!"

"No, I don't!" Justine shot back, slipping one of her cards into her discard pile. "You remember Kuribookworm, don't you?"

Alcestis snarled as the bespectacled Kuriboh appeared on the field and destroyed her Trap card.

"You just ditched one card to save another," she growled. "You must have really wanted to save whatever you just drew."

Justine said nothing, but inside she was panicking.

No kidding!, she thought as she stared at the card she had just drawn. This card is my key to winning…but it's useless right now! I'll have to hold out for at least another turn. Good thing I have just the way to do it!

"I activate my Kuriblessing Spell!" she announced, slipping a card into her Disk.

The image of the card sprang up, and it was a peculiar one. It depicted Kuribishop tapping its staff on a Winged Kuriboh's head.

"This card grants me three-hundred Life Points for every 'Kuri' Monster in my Graveyard! And, if you've been counting, I have eleven!"

Images of Kuriboh, Kuribabylon, Kuribandit, Kuribrain, Kuribowman, Kuribishop, Kuribenefactor, two Kuribookworms, and two Kuribulls appeared all around Justine, and quickly absorbed themselves into her. Her Life Points shot way up.

(J: 7,300) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 2,400)

"That's all I've got for now," she declared. "So I'll just end my turn and draw a card from Kuriblueblood."

She drew her card, and all attention turned to Alcestis.

"All right, girlie," she said, drawing a card and immediately playing it. "I'm activating the Spell card, Trade-In! Now, by tossing the Level Eight Ancient Gear Golem in my hand, I can draw two more cards!"

The harpy's Duel Disk spat out two cards, and she eagerly snatched them up and looked them over.

"Now, I'll summon another Ancient Gear Knight!" she shouted, slapping one of them onto her Disk.

Another old, rusted Machine appeared on the field, but, once again, Justine simply smirked and discarded two cards.

"Oh, what now?!" Iole shrieked. "Don't tell me she you can—?!"

"That's right," the Shadowchaser interrupted. "By discarding my little friend Kuribomber and one other card, I can negate one Normal Summon and destroy the Monster!"

Another Kuriboh popped up, this one orange in color and carrying two black cartoon bombs. It cooed and tossed the explosives at the Ancient Gear Knight, blowing it to smithereens before disappearing.

"Well, I have another card to play!" the harpy matriarch raged. "I'll equip one of my Golems with Ancient Gear Tank to increase its Attack Score even further!"

She played the card, and a device similar to a motorcycle (definitely NOT a tank), just the right size for one of the Golems, appeared next to the Golem on the right. The juggernaut climbed on and revved the engine. (3,000 ATK) -) (3,600 ATK)

"Now, I'll—!"

"Hang on!" Justine interrupted again. "I'm activating my facedown card: Interdimensional Matter Transporter, to remove my Kuriblueblood from the game for the rest of the turn!"

The facedown card lifted, and a strange, silvery device mounted on a tripod materialized on the field. It hit Kuriblueblood with a beam of light and they both vanished without a trace.

"Fool!" the harpy matriarch cackled. "Now you'll have to take my attacks directly!"

My least favorite part of the plan, the Shadowchaser thought, trying to tighten her muscles to withstand the oncoming assault.

"Go, my Golems!" Alcestis screeched. "Turn that girl into roadkill!"

The stronger of the two Machines rode forward and crashed into the girl, sending her crashing into the wall and onto the floor once again. Then, just as she was picking herself up, the second one charged over and punched her with all its might, knocking her back down.

(J: 700) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 2,400)

The harpies broke into hysterics, barely able to breathe, as Justine slowly picked up her cards, got to her feet, and checked herself for injury.

Two arms, two legs, and one head, she thought. Good, I'm all there. Lucky me—that last attack was pretty much how Houdini died!

"What in the world?!" Omeros squawked. "How is this girl even still breathing?!"

"I'd say she has dwarven blood," Iole commented. "But she's far too scrawny for that!"

Justine just laughed, though it was very painful for her.

"I told you that you need to stop jumping to conclusions," she chuckled. "You assume that just because I'm small, I can't take a hit. Well, here I am, living proof that you're wrong!"

"The 'living' part will be changed soon enough!" Alcestis quipped. "You have almost no Life Points left, and I control two Ancient Gear Golems, and even if you do manage to destroy them, you'll lose six-hundred Life Points due to my Ancient Gear Tank's effect, which will leave you with only one-hundred left! Face it, you have no chance of winning!"

"And more jumping to conclusions," Justine choked out. "For your information, I have a very good chance of winning!"

"What are you blathering on about?" Alcestis raged. "You've lost and you know it!"

"I haven't lost," Justine said calmly. "I may have done a lot of drawing in this duel, but I remember every single card, and, out of the seven cards left in my deck, there are three that would allow me to win this duel. So, I've got just one turn left, and I'm betting everything on my one draw!"

"'One'?" Omeros repeated, puzzled. "What about your Kuriblueblood's effect?"

Iole smacked him upside the head for that one.

"Oh, right, Kuriblueblood," Justine realized as that very Monster appeared back on the field. "Yeah, his effect doesn't work this time. He returned too late. It's one of those 'missed your chance' deals."

"A relief for us," Alcestis said with a grin. "Now, draw your final card so we may end this duel once and for all!"

Justine nodded and closed her eyes as she reached for her deck.

Please, please be one of those three cards!, she begged inside her mind as she drew a card. Slowly, very slowly, she moved it right in front of her face and opened her eyes.


"Okay, Alcestis," she called out. "It's time I wrapped things up! First of all, I'm Summoning Kuribelle, in Attack Mode!"

She slapped the card onto her disk and a new Kuriboh appeared, this one a mauve-colored female with a wide-brimmed sun hat and a parasol. (300 ATK)

"Next, I'm activating Kuribrain's special ability. You see, if he's in the graveyard after being used in a Synchro Summon to bring out a 'Kuri' Monster, I can Special Summon him back to the field!"

There was a flash of light, and the Einstein-esque Kuriboh appeared back on the field, chittering happily.

"Now, it's time for another Synchro Summon! Let's get together, little buddies!"

Kuriblueblood and Kuribelle nodded and vanished from view, leaving behind seven stars that absorbed themselves into Kuribrain's body. This time, its shape changed far more drastically, becoming taller, skinnier, and more humanoid.

When the light faded, Alcestis saw a Monster that was by no means a Kuriboh. He looked like a heroic knight, decked out in armor with a shield emblazoned with a golden dragon in his left hand, and a gleaming longsword in his right. His skin was richly tanned, his hair a beautiful golden blonde, and his face richly tanned with sharp, feral features and long, pointed ears. (2,600 ATK)

"Say 'hello' to Jalal the Dragonborn!"

Indeed, this new Monster was the spitting image of her boss (although the actual Jalal rarely wore armor), and not by accident. He gave one of these to every Shadowchaser after they had passed all of their tests. No normal duelist had access to these.

"Bah, Jalal!" Alcestis spat. "He and that Treaty are always getting in the way of our meals! Still, he's weaker than either of my Ancient Gear Golems, and crushing his avatar would be pretty satisfying…"

"You won't get the chance!" Justine spat. "I'm ending this right here and now! Now, I equip Jalal with Kuriblanket!"

Sorry, Jalal, she said inside her head.

She played yet another card, and a small cloth appeared. It was designed to look just like a Winged Kuriboh. Quickly, the cloth wrapped itself around Jalal's face, giving off the appearance that a Winged Kuriboh had sprouted out of his neck.

The harpies burst into peals of laughter upon seeing Jalal defamed by his own representative.

"You're just making this more entertaining for me, girlie!" Alcestis laughed. "In addition to making your Monster look ridiculous, he hasn't even gained a single point!"

"I'm aware of that!" Justine snapped. "But it'll all make sense soon. For now, I'm activating Jalal's effect! By paying half of my Life Points, I can remove one Spell or Trap card from either Graveyard…"

Her Life Points dropped slightly as a card shot out of her Graveyard.

(J: 350) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 2400)

"And then, Jalal gets a little something called a Rune Counter."

Jalal's sword glowed bright with golden energy, and a strange symbol appeared on it.

"And then, by simply eliminating the Rune Counter, Jalal can activate the effect of the card I just removed, without even having to give any sort of payment, should the card require it!

"And here is the card I just removed!" she finished, flipping the card around.

It was Multiply.

Jalal became enshrouded in magical energy, and when it faded, there were four Kuriboh Tokens surrounding him, crouched down in Defense Mode. (200 DEF x4)

"Okay," Omeros shrugged. "So now you have a full field. So what? None of those Monsters are strong enough to take on either of Alcestis's Golems!"

"They don't need to be," Justine smiled. "Because I don't plan on attacking. I have just one more card to play, and it's a doozy."

"Oh, really?" Alcestis quipped. "Then let's see it!"

Justine just shrugged.

"As you wish," she said, inserting the card into her Disk. "I activate…Kuribazooka!"

There was a bright flash of light, and a large bazooka covered in glittering stars appeared slung over the petite Shadowchaser's shoulder. It seemed to be taking all of her strength just to hold it properly.

"This card brings a whole new meaning to the term 'live ammo'," she laughed. "You see, for every 'Kuri' Monster I sacrifice, I can blast you for five-hundred points of Direct Damage!"

"That's…two-thousand points!" Iole whooped. "Close, but not enough to win!"

Justine sighed and rolled her eyes.

"You guys just won't stop jumping to conclusions, will you?" she complained. "Any Monster equipped with Kuriblanket is treated as both Kuriboh and Winged Kuriboh!

"In other words, I don't have four shots—I have five!"

Upon hearing this, every harpy in the room gasped and began beating their wings in panic.

"That's right," Justine smirked. "It's over.

"All right, guys!" she shouted, addressing her Monsters. "One last maneuver! Let's go!"

"Kuri, kuri!" the four Tokens chirped, just prior to turning into balls of light and flying into the bazooka. Shortly after, Jalal turned to Justine and smiled before mimicking their move.

Taking careful aim, Justine fired all five shots and knocked Alcestis right off her perch and behind Piggy Mama's pen.

(J: 350) - - - - - - - - - - (A: 0)

"Game over, Alcestis," the Shadowchaser declared as the holograms faded. "Looks like the only food your flock will be seeing in the foreseeable future will be brought to them on a metal tray."

Alcestis, however, just got to her feet and began laughing hysterically. Slowly, the rest of her flock joined in.

"Silly girl!" the harpy matriarch cackled, spreading her talons. "You actually thought I'd keep my word! My flock will eat their fill and take their leave, and, after the beating you've suffered through, there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop us!"

Once again, in the face of crisis, Justine just smirked and rolled her eyes.

"Oh, I won't be doing anything!" she countered. "You see, I knew you wouldn't keep your word, so, while you were busy attacking your own chick, I was sending a quick text message to Shadowchaser Headquarters asking for backup!"

"Really?" Iole shrieked. "And just where is this 'backup'?"

"Right here!" a British-accented voice rang out, coming from just outside the barn.

The door behind Justine burst open, and a dozen armed and heavily-muscled dwarves charged in, three of them carrying the three harpies from outside, which had been knocked unconscious, and the rest of them pointing their weapons straight at the harpies around the room.

"Good work getting word to us about this near-disaster, Justine," said the one who appeared to be the leader. "We can take it from here."

"My pleasure, Hank," she replied. "You sure you don't need me for anything else?"

"Nah. We'll call you to get your side of the story later. For now, we have processing to do. Just taking the flock over to Headquarters, investing the crime scene, et cetera, et cetera. Boring stuff, really. Just go enjoy the Fair and we'll contact you tonight."

"Thanks," Justine responded. "Good luck."

Then, just for kicks, she turned to Alcestis and grinned wide.

"Now do you see how much trouble can come from jumping to conclusions?"

Another day, another criminal sent packing. I've gotta say, it's very satisfying to beat someone so narrow-minded. It really made my day—even more so than the Fair itself! Still, there are a lot more people and Shadows like that out there. I'll just have to find and change them, one by one…

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Spell

Image: Five multicolored stars with the five Kuriboh brothers hiding behind them.

Card Description: Offer 1 Level 5 Monster on your field as a sacrifice. Special Summon "Kuriboh", "Kuribi", "Kuribu", "Kuriba", and "Kuribe" from your deck to the field.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBA (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: You can offer a face-up "Kuriba", "Kuribe", "Kuribi", "Kuribu", and "Kuriboh" as a sacrifice together to Special Summon one "Kuribabylon" from your hand, deck, or Graveyard to the field. This card cannot be used as a sacrifice except to Special Summon Kuribabylon.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBE (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: If you remove a face-up "Kuriba", "Kuribi", "Kuribe", "Kuribu", and "Kuriboh" on your field from play, you can Special Summon one "Kuribandit" from your hand or deck to the field. This card cannot be used as a sacrifice except to Special Summon Kuribabylon.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBI (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: Once per turn, if either "Kuriboh", "Kuribi", "Kuribe", "Kuribu", or "Kuriba" is designated as the target of an attack, you can lower the ATK of the attacking Monster to 0 and negate the attack. This card cannot be used as a sacrifice except to Special Summon Kuribabylon.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBI (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: Once per turn, if either "Kuriboh", "Kuribi", "Kuribe", "Kuribu", or "Kuriba" is designated as the target of an attack, you can lower the ATK of the attacking Monster to 0 and negate the attack. This card cannot be used as a sacrifice except to Special Summon Kuribabylon.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBU (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: You can discard one Trap card from your hand to the Graveyard to reduce the ATK of one Monster on your opponent's field by 1500. This card cannot be used as a sacrifice except to Special Summon Kuribabylon.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBABYLON (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 5

ATK: ?

DEF: 1,000

Card Description: This card cannot be Normal Summoned or Set. This card must first be Special Summoned by offering a face-up "Kuriboh", "Kuribi", "Kuribu", "Kuribe", and "Kuriba" as a sacrifice together. This card's ATK is equal to the combined ATK of the sacrificed "Kuriboh", "Kuribi", "Kuribu", "Kuribe", and "Kuriba" when they were tributed. During your Main Phase or when an attack that this card makes is negated, you can sacrifice this card to Special Summon "Kuriboh", "Kuribi", "Kuribu", "Kuribe" and "Kuriba" from your Graveyard to the field.

Note: The preceding six cards were first used by Yugi in the "Yu-Gi-Oh!" episode "Fate of the Pharoah, Part 1". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

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KURIBANDIT (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 3

ATK: 1,000

DEF: 700

Card Description: This card cannot be Normal Summoned or Set. This card must first be Special Summoned by removing "Kuriba", "Kuribi", "Kuribu", "Kuribe", and "Kuriboh" on the your field from play. While this card is face-up, you can offer it as a sacrifice to draw 5 cards. Any Monsters drawn this way are discarded to the Graveyard. This effect can be activated on your opponent's turn as well.

Note: This card was first used by Yami Yugi in the "Yu-Gi-Oh!" episode "Grappling with a Guardian, Part 2". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: During your turn, you may discard this card from your hand to negate the activation of an opponent's Trap card and destroy it.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBISHOP (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: During your opponent's turn, you can discard this card from your hand to negate the activation of a Spell card and destroy it.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBOMBER (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: When your opponent Normal Summons a Monster, you can discard this and one other card from your hand to negate the Summon and destroy the Monster.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBOWMAN (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: When your opponent Special Summons one or more Monsters, you can discard this and one other card from your hand to negate the Summon and destroy the Monster(s).

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBELLE (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: When you would take Direct Damage from an opponent's card effect, you can discard this card from your hand to reduce the damage to 0.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBRAIN (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Tuner

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: During your Main Phase, if this card is in your Graveyard after being used to Synchro Summon a "Kuri" Monster, you can Special Summon this card back to your field. Afterwards, if this card leaves the field, it is removed from play.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

KURIBULL (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 5

ATK: 2,100

DEF: 1,400

Card Description: You can Normal Summon this card without a sacrifice. If you do so, this card is destroyed during your End Phase.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 1

ATK: 300

DEF: 200

Card Description: During your Main Phase, you can discard this card from your hand to draw two cards. Afterwards, show your opponent your hand.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Card Specs

Type: Fiend/Synchro/Effect

Attribute: Dark

Level: 6

ATK: 2,400

DEF: 1,600

Card Description: Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner Monsters

During your End Phase, draw one card for every "Kuri" Monster discarded from your hand to activate an effect this turn.

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Field Spell

Image: A field full of holes similar to a prairie dog village with Kuribohs poking out their heads.

Effect: All face-up "Kuri" Monsters (this includes Tokens) gain 500 ATK. Once per turn, you may take one Level 1 "Kuri" Monster from your Graveyard and add it to your hand. You may not discard this Monster to activate a card's effect this turn.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Spell

Image: Kuriblocker, Kuribuckaroo, and Kuriblackbelt staring at Kuribishop, which is running forward, panicked, and holding a sign that reads "EMERGENCY!"

Effect: You can only activate this card if you have 5 or more "Kuri" Monsters in your Graveyard. Special Summon 1 Level 1 "Kuri" Monster from your Graveyard to every available Monster Zone in Attack Mode. During the End Phase of the turn that this card is activated, destroy all face-up Monsters on your field.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Spell

Image: Kuribishop tapping its staff on the head of a Winged Kuriboh.

Effect: Increase your Life Points by 300 for every "Kuri" Monster in your Graveyard.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Equip Spell

Image: Ojama Black covering itself in a sheet designed to look like a Winged Kuriboh.

Effect: A Monster equipped with this card is treated as both "Kuriboh" and "Winged Kuriboh".

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Spell

Image: Several Kuribohs being loaded into a bazooka covered in glittering stars.

Effect: You may sacrifice any number of "Kuri" Monsters (this includes Tokens) on your field to deal your opponent 500 points of Direct Damage for each sacrificed Monster.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Trap

Image: Several panicked people piling up garbage as a makeshift shield for an oncoming attack.

Effect: This card can only be activated while in the Graveyard after being discarded from your hand or deck by a card's effect. Once per duel, during either player's turn, you may end the current Battle Phase whenever you wish.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Card Specs

Type: Warrior/Synchro/Effect

Attribute: Light

Level: 8

ATK: 2,600

DEF: 2,400

Card Description: Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner Monsters

This card cannot be Special Summoned except via Synchro Summon. Once per turn, during your Main Phase, you can pay half your Life Points to remove from play one Normal or Quickplay Spell or 1 Normal or Counter Trap from either Graveyard to place 1 Rune Counter on this card (max. 1). At any time during your or your opponent's turn, you may remove a Rune Counter on this card to duplicate the effect of the card that was removed from play as this card's effect.

Note: This card was created by Cyber Commander. Creative credit goes to him.

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(WHEW! THIS MAY BE THE HARDEST I'VE EVER WORKED ON A SINGLE CHAPTER! For those who don't know, before this, I'd never written a duel all by myself. It's actually a very satisfying feeling. WELL, I HOPE THIS IS UP TO PAR FOR A SHADOWCHASER FIC, and, even if it's not, I've got to say that I'm proud of myself. BUT STILL, FEEL FREE TO TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK IN THE FORM OF A REVIEW! Until next time, this is MultiplePersonas signing off!)