This story was written solely to answer the question, "What would happen if these two characters dueled?" I took a lot of inspiration from the anime, at least in the way of dialogue and deck construction. (And of course, I don't own any of the characters.) For some card effects, I have followed the anime; for others, I followed real life. I invented no cards, and I added exactly one card to each player's deck - but they're cards that the players totally would have used.
That being said, I tried to stay in character as much as possible, and at the same time, I wrote a duel that I thought others would like to watch. (I'd know I'd want to see this!) You just don't see many anime characters with a sound grip on card advantage. Well, here's my spin on that.
[EDIT: Upon further review, I can count - at the least - one out-of-character tactic and one incorrectly-used effect for each of the duelists. If you're interested, I leave it as a puzzle for you to discover them.]
Comments, please! I can't become a better writer unless I know how my audience reacts.
After an exceptionally trying day, the surrounding city bore the deep night hours in drowsy silence. As if in protest, the bright-red motorcycle and its lone rider dashed from side road to access ramp to freeway at a speed that would have killed a lesser man. No lines of worry broke his stare as his lean arms and firm frame adjusted the speed and angle of his craft with the precision of long-tended familiarity.
Being on the road again was a blessing after finally being released from the hospital, but his thoughts were anything but restful. He could clearly remember the look on the doctor's face.
"Well, young man, I'm surprised you weren't more seriously injured. If the impact was what you said it was-"
"Will Jack and Crow be all right?"
The doctor's eyes had narrowed at this repetition, responding, "Yes, once they've had some time to rest. They'll have to stay at the hospital until their fractures mend, but they tell me they've been through worse. And they also say," he added as his patient's gaze turned away, "that you shouldn't worry about them."
Yusei had given no reply, nor did he respond when the doctor steered him out of the disappointingly-empty waiting room with the clearest strictures to go home and get some rest. He had no intention of doing either just yet, and he realized, with the outer blocks of the city now receding around him, that he really had no home to go to. It couldn't be seen from here, but somewhere across the bay was the Satellite area, long since torn from the city by the catastrophic explosion of the local power plant. His parents had died that day, as had Jack's and Crow's and countless others, changing all their lives permanently. Even those who were still alive soon realized that there was little help to be given from the city, and that there was no escape from the ruin that was now their world.
But he had escaped, not long ago. Yet had he known what war was waiting for him, he might have hesitated. Yusei shook his head, reset his gaze and eased off of the throttle - he had left Neo Domino City and reached the beltway without noticing. Even after regaining some control over his headlong pace, he felt no calmer than before. It's over, the darkness is gone, and our friends... but can they really come back? Brought from the dead just to fight a war that wasn't theirs... I hope Godwin was right, that they will return. They didn't deserve any part of this! No one would! His glare drifted to his sleeved right arm as the thought burned, To twist our bonds into that... I can't let that happen again! I can't let anyone else be hurt because of-
His thoughts were broken by a glow at the corner of his eyes. From a pocket at his hip, he drew a card with a white background and the image of a cloud-white dragon, wide-winged and sharp-limbed. But the card's glow came from deeper within it than the picture. Too late, Yusei looked at the sky; the red phantom dragon was already swooping down from the starry heavens, engulfing him and his vehicle all at once within its searing light. He felt the wheels lift from the ground, he felt all sensation of speed fall away, and then he knew no more.
When he regained his sight, he was still driving on a road, but he was surrounded by buildings again. He immediately pulled over and stopped, black hair sticking up as he removed his helmet, his piercing blue eyes taking in his surroundings. He had stopped alongside a park - a fairly clean one, with the benches and duel courts looking well-maintained - but several more urgent facts occurred to him. For one, none of the buildings looked like anything in Neo Domino City. But more than that, it was just past noon, the sun burning all the brighter after the night he had been through. Where am I? More than that, when am I?
A wail from nearby made him spin around suddenly - he relaxed only somewhat when he realized it had been the sound of a yawn. Gradually walking closer, he saw the culprit sitting up from behind a shaded bush, stretching and rubbing his brown hair out of his eyes.
"Ahh..." An almighty grumble shot through the air, and the other guy smiled, murmuring, "Guess it's later than I thought." Digging through his nearby knapsack, he pulled out a box and pair of chopsticks. "Mmm... grilled shrimp, my favorite! Hmm?" He had noticed Yusei staring just as he had taken the first bite. Swallowing forcefully, he called out, "Hey there!"
Blinking unsteadily, Yusei managed, "Hi."
Now speaking around bites, the other guy added, "Great day to be outside, isn't it?" But his chewing slowed as he saw Yusei's drifting gaze. Pausing the chopsticks' delivery, he asked, "Is something wrong?"
"N- no, I just... lost my way." About to ask where he was, Yusei did a double take. For an instant, those eyes had caught the light strangely, just as the other guy had looked from his face to his arm - his right arm... He moved back a step and turned away. He picked out the card again, staring intently at it. The glow was gone now-
"Ah, you're a duelist!"
Turning back, Yusei saw the other guy was smiling again, eyes still a sharp brown, brighter than before. He must have imagined what he had seen in them... "Yeah. You too?"
He grinned, "Oh yeah." With one more glance at Yusei's arm, then back to his face, he swallowed the last bite, then stood up and said, "Hey, do you want to duel me?"
"What? But... why?"
"Well, why not?" Seeing the off-balance reaction, he added, "Of course, if you're on your way somewhere, you don't have to stop."
"No, it's not that. I didn't come here for a duel."
"No... but you do seem worried about something. Maybe this can clear it up. When a duelist remembers his bonds, he can figure out all kinds of things."
A duelist's bonds? The remark sounded uncannily like something Yusei would have said. "Who are you?"
"Ah, right!" He held out his hand. "Yuki Judai."
His brow still furrowed, he responded, "Fudo Yusei- wait, what!" Dropping the handshake, eyes wide, Yusei stammered, "You- you're... Yuki..."
Waving his hand, he answered, "It's no big deal. Just call me Judai. So, how about it, Yusei?"
Closing his slack jaw, Yusei tried to restore order to his thoughts. This couldn't be, it was impossible, and yet his blinking eyes saw the same person. It really was him, and this only confused him further. Countless heroic stories and towering descriptions - all of these were the legacy of this one man.
He inhaled sharply, annoyed with himself for having been so unnerved by a name. With a closer look, he saw the two of them were in fact about the same age. For one with such a legendary reputation, Judai had put the question so simply. Do I want to duel you? Resigned, Yusei realized that he still had no idea why he was here, but neither would Judai. Truth be told, he had always wondered what this guy was really like. For now, the explanations could wait. Nodding, he answered, "All right. I'll accept that duel."
Arriving at one of the duel courts, Yusei felt strangely glad that the area was deserted. They seemed an odd pair, him in dark coat and riding gear, Judai in jeans and short-sleeves, now covered by the red jacket that had served as a pillow. The jacket was somewhat ragged at the edges but was still clean, and the duel disk Judai now wore on his wrist was in perfect condition. Each drew a deck of well-kept cards from his pocket and handed it to the other, shuffling with unconscious ease.
As Yusei took his deck back, he saw Judai was still smiling. The other had oohed and aahed at the vehicle from which Yusei had retrieved his duel disk - has he never seen a D-Wheel before? - but there was nothing distracted in those eyes as the two of them took up their positions and faced off. Taking one more deep breath, Yusei thought, All right... let's see if the legends are true.
Swiftly, they both loaded their decks into their duel disks, drew five cards each and declared, "Duel!"
Judai declared, "I'll go first. Draw!" He looked closely at the card he drew, smiling and saying, "Hah, you're here already, partner?" Looking across at his staring opponent, he added, "Yeah, I want to see what he can do, too. I summon Winged Kuriboh in defense position!" The card appeared before him, glowing brightly, revealing a brown-furred, bright-eyed imp with petite wings. Picking up an extra card, Judai called, "I set one card. Your turn, Yusei."
"Draw. I set one card and summon Max Warrior in attack position." From the summon's glow sprang out the block-armored knight, wielding a two-pronged staff and 1800 attack points. "When this monster attacks an opponent's monster, he gains 400 attack points for this battle only."
"Hmm... not bad."
"Battle!" The fighter leapt at the fairy, weapon stabbing from all sides and angles at once. In one squeak, the tiny fairy burst and vanished.
"When Winged Kuriboh is destroyed and sent to the graveyard, all damage to my life points becomes zero this turn. Activate trap, Hero Signal!" The hidden card turned over, projecting a spotlight into the sky, marked by a winged H emblem. "When my monster is destroyed in battle and sent to the graveyard, I can summon a level 4 or lower Elemental Hero from my hand or deck! I summon Elemental Hero Bubbleman in attack position!" The spotlight dispersed, revealing a blue cape-armored warrior with 800 attack, water gun forward to receive the challenge.
So this is it, thought Yusei. Yuki Judai's Hero deck...
"When Bubbleman is summoned and I control no other cards on the field, I can draw two cards." He did so with a smooth flourish.
"When Max Warrior destroys a monster by battle, until my next standby phase, his original attack and defense points are reduced by half and his level becomes two." Even as he said it, the knight fell to 900 attack and a loss of two levels. "Turn end." Will you play that card, Judai?
"My turn - draw! Here we go, Yusei. Activate spell, Polymerization!" As the other watched closely, Judai called, "From my hand, I fuse together Elemental Heroes Avian and Burstinatrix. Fusion summon - Elemental Hero Flame Wingman!" The winged and firesuited warriors leapt from their master and dissolved together to create a scale-skinned fighter, battle-scarred wings spread wide, one arm extending to a dragon's head. Flame Wingman landed to the field, 2100 attack points strong and poised to strike. "Go, Flame Wingman - attack Max Warrior! Flame Shoot!" He soared up, gathered his power and launched a solid stream of fire from his weapon to the target.
"Activate trap, Scrap-Iron Scarecrow!" Immediately before Max Warrior appeared a cross-knotted effigy of metal, and though the fire gnashed at it, all the energy was deflected in a vain confusion of noise. "This trap negates one opponent's attack and is then set on my field again."
"Nice one. I switch Bubbleman to defense position and set two cards face-down. All right, Yusei - let's see how you deal with my favorite monster! I end my turn."
For a moment, Yusei's eyes narrowed again. Is this a trap? He must remember that Max Warrior returns to full strength on my next turn. But he doesn't know that my deck's abilities go far beyond this monster. Judai... I'll show you something you've never seen before! "My turn - draw! In my standby phase, Max Warrior's power returns to 1800. Activate spell, One for One. By discarding one monster in my hand, I can summon a level one monster from my deck. I summon Tuningware in attack position!" From the glow appeared a tiny figure, swaddled in cloth and scrap metal, bearing 100 attack points, but Yusei had already called, "I summon the tuner monster, Junk Synchron!"
"Huh? Tuner monster?"
The orange-garbed goggle-toting fighter sprang to the field, 1300 points strong as Yusei added, "When Junk Synchron is successfully summoned, I can summon a level two or lower monster from my graveyard in defense position. I choose Fortress Warrior!" This platform-hoisting golem locked down beside his allies with 1200 defense points. With all four monsters in place, Yusei called, "I tune my level three Junk Synchron to my Tuningware, which can be treated as a level two monster for this summon!"
Scratching the side of his head, Judai answered, "Changing the level? For what summon?"
"Go, Junk Synchron!" His monster seized a cord and yanked it, the engines strapped to his back sputtering to life. Roaring at once, the synchron burst into a ball of power, releasing three green stars that spun themselves into as many rings of energy, aligning into a column. As Tuningware passed into the column and shone at every edge, Yusei chanted, "Clustering stars will become a new force. Become the path its light shines upon!" With a resounding hum, the monster in the column released two stars of its own that ignited with their guides into a pure beam of light. "Synchro summon - Junk Warrior!"
Judai's eyes grew very wide as the column dispersed, revealing a dark-blue warrior armored from head to toe, gliding neatly on the lean-winged engines on his back. Even with this grace, the gauntlet-encased fists flexing and crackling with electricity looked heavy enough for their jobs. "Synchro summon... then that makes this a synchro monster! Hey, hang on..." Pointing to where the previous monsters were, he muttered, "Level three and level two... and that one's level five!" Seeing the approving nod, he mused, "This is incredible! I never knew monsters could do that. You're really something, Yusei - there aren't many duelists out there that get to know their cards that well."
Yusei had to blink several times before he caught back his voice. His eyes again... But it's gone now... "When Junk Warrior is synchro summoned, he gains attack points equal to the attack points of all level two or lower monsters I control!" Fortress Warrior gained a humming glow the same as that of the new monster, raising the latter's attack strength from 2300 to 2900. "Also, Tuningware's other effect lets me draw one card after using it for a synchro summon."
Even as Yusei did so, Judai murmured, "It looks like you've got a lot of practice with synchro summons." Gazing at his Flame Wingman, he added, "In fact..."
"Go, Max Warrior - attack Elemental Hero Bubbleman!"
Judai gasped as the revitalized knight rushed at his kneeling warrior, breaking the aquatic hero before he could see the weapon move. "That monster's effect-"
"Max Warrior becomes a level two monster, adding 900 more attack points to Junk Warrior." The hum rose ever higher, and Junk Warrior's strength rose to 3800 as Yusei called, "Go, Junk Warrior - attack Elemental Hero Flame Wingman!" The engines on his back flaring to life, Junk Warrior rocketed towards the opponent, one fist searing with fire. "Scrap Fist!"
"Trap card, activate - Hero's Guard! This trap prevents my Hero monster from being destroyed by this battle!"
"But I'll still have you take the damage."
Judai grinned as Elemental Hero Avian was ejected from his discard pile. "My trap's other effect lets me remove one Hero from my graveyard to reduce damage from this battle by half and draw a card."
With a defiant yell, Flame Wingman sprang forward, enveloped in a windy aura and taking the attack head-on. Both monsters strained and winced in the burning cyclone from their collision, and not until Judai drew his card did they push each other back to their starting points.
Though his life points had fallen from 4000 to 3150, Judai's voice rang clearly as ever. "Good attack, but my monsters aren't done yet."
For the first time in a while, the edges of Yusei's mouth turned up. "Neither are we."
"In a turn in which I've normal summoned a monster, I can special summon Turbo Booster from my hand!" The new glow revealed a bright yellow twin-engined robot, humming and looking to the ally that still held his fists up. "By releasing Turbo Booster, I destroy one monster on your field that battled one of my monsters this turn."
"Then that means-"
"I release Turbo Booster to destroy Flame Wingman!" From Junk Warrior ran a bright current, energizing and pressurizing the two engines on Turbo Booster until they both shot off and rocketed across the field. With a resounding concussion, they crashed into the dragon-armed warrior, knocking him to the ground and into one final explosion.
Judai's raised arm only dispersed the shockwave somewhat, and when he looked again, no sign of his monster remained.
The only ones left standing were the three monsters on the other side. "Turn end."
"Fudo Yusei... My turn - draw!" Checking the new card against the other three in his hand, Judai called, "Activate spell, Convert Contact. This spell can be used when I control no monsters. I send one Neo-Spacian from my hand and one from my deck to the graveyard, then draw two cards!"
"I send Dark Panther from my hand and Aqua Dolphin from my deck." Examining his new cards, he went on, "I activate the spell, Take Over 5. This card sends five cards from the top of my deck to the graveyard."
From his distance, Yusei could only see that there were three monsters, a spell and a trap. "You're just throwing them away?"
"Monster effect, activate - when Cross Porter is sent to the graveyard, I can add a Neo-Spacian from my deck to my hand!" With his deck already shrouded in the full-spectrum aura, Judai picked his card and played it immediately. "Go, Neo-Spacian Glow Moss!"
From high in the sky, a white dot twinkled before sharpening into a beam of light crashing to earth. The impact dazzled Yusei before he could see the form within. The humanoid light growth appeared with 300 attack, slim but standing tall. "This is one of the heroes from space?"
"Continuous trap, activate - Call of the Haunted! I summon one monster from my graveyard in attack position. Go, Elemental Hero Wildheart!" Conjured from the earth, the muscle-bound swordsman leapt, bearing 1500 attack. "Then I activate the spell, NEX!" Glow Moss's body began to morph, becoming leaner and more built. "My monster becomes the fusion monster, Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss!" Spiked head high, she stood with 500 attack.
Yusei unconsciously took a step back. Already, he's gathered his heroes again!
"Just one more card... go, R - Righteous Justice! This spell destroys spell or trap cards equal to the number of Elemental Heroes I control!"
Yusei's gasp went unheard as, with a yell, Wildheart drew his wide sword. Bounding at Yusei, the swordsman skewered Yusei's face-down card, shattering the scarecrow.
"Elemental Hero Wildheart, attack Max Warrior!" The target barely had time to raise his weapon before the sword met its mark, breaking him in an instant. Even as Yusei's life points fell to 3400 and Junk Warrior's attack fell back to 2900, Judai called, "I also attack with Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss. When this monster attacks, I draw one card, and then apply an effect based on that card's type." Between the humanoid's hands appeared three orbs - one yellow, one green, and one violet, each glowing in turn. Judai drew, then swung the card to face Yusei, declaring, "Spell card, Rainbow Veil! That means my monster attacks you directly!"
"What?" But the green sphere had already burst into light, gathered into the creature's hands. Effortlessly, she catapulted the blast straight into Yusei's chest, and the detonation took the wind out of him, dropping his life to 2900.
"I set one card. End turn."
Yusei's eyes lifted to survey the warriors - all of them - looking eagerly at him. Voice ringing out, he called, "My turn - draw! I summon Speed Warrior in attack position!" Spinning to the field, the streamline-armored fighter appeared with 900 attack.
"Another one?" Sure enough, Junk Warrior's attack points rose again to 3800 upon Speed Warrior's appearance. "Activate trap, Hero Ring!" As a shield appeared on Wildheart's arm, Judai clarified, "This trap becomes an equip card, which I equip to a warrior-type monster with 1500 attack or less."
"Wildheart isn't affected by trap cards."
"Right, but this trap affects your monsters. It prevents all monsters with 1900 or more attack from attacking the equipped monster! That means Wildheart won't be beaten by either of your monsters."
Yusei smiled again. "Speed Warrior, attack Wildheart!" Even as Judai watched, the skating warrior's armor roared with energy. "In the battle phase of the turn in which he's normal summoned, Speed Warrior's original attack points double! Go - Sonic Edge!" With a resounding crash, the shield and its bearer shattered from the roundhouse kick, Judai's life dropping to 2850.
"And with that effect..." But Junk Warrior's armor was already howling with the same electrical wind as the smaller warrior. As the energy gathered into his gauntlets and rockets, his attack strength finally peaked. "4700 attack points?"
"Go, Junk Warrior - attack Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss!" Engines roaring, his monster launched out to match his call.
"Twinkle Moss' ability activates." Judai closed his eyes, fingers on the top card as his monster's three-point energy source appeared.
Yusei's thoughts beat fervently. If this attack lands, I win the duel! "Scrap Fist!"
Eyes still closed, Judai called, "Monster card!" and drew.
The fist stopped dead in its path, its flames radiating out so widely that Yusei could not see Judai or his creature. He could only see Junk Warrior, rockets grating in protest, fist shuddering against the wall of power. With a few sputters, the drive cut out, and Junk Warrior leapt back to his side as the final shocks dispersed. "What happened?"
"Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss' effect for a monster card ends the battle phase immediately."
"But... did you draw a monster?"
"Not just any monster," and he lifted his gaze and his card's face to his opponent. "My ace monster - Elemental Hero Neos!"
"It- can't be!" But the image was unmistakable, and as Judai took the card back and his warriors' attack strengths receded, Yusei realized, With that card in his hand... "I set one card and end my turn!"
As Judai drew, Yusei looked at his hands, and to his surprise, he found them shaking. Trying to calm his quick breaths, he wondered, What's happening? The only time I've ever excited like this is in a Riding Duel. But this guy... this duel...
"In my standby phase, I activate the effect of Take Over 5. Removing this card in my graveyard from play lets me draw another card."
Yusei saw Judai's hand was now at four, but then he saw the specter of a mottled black-and-red monster around Judai. "That's..."
"When Elemental Hero Necroshade is in my graveyard, I can normal summon an Elemental Hero one time without tributing! I summon Elemental Hero Neos!"
The summoning light filled Judai's field, but Yusei could not look away from the brightness. Eyes wide, he saw the champion appear, taller than either player, muscles clear beneath his white jumpsuit, further emphasized by the red and blue insignia and lines. As the newest hero took up his place with a resounding yell, 2500 attack strong, Yusei tried to meet Neos' masked eyes. Neos... So you are the one I must stand against.
"Let's go, Neos! I activate the equip spell, Rainbow Veil!" In and around Neos flowed the spectrum of power, gathering in one fist. "Go, attack Junk Warrior - Wrath of Neos!"
"Counterattack - Scrap Fist!" The two warriors sprang at one another, fists colliding precisely, releasing a concussion of power as two struggled for ground. "He can't surpass Junk Warrior!"
"In the battle phase, the effect of Rainbow Veil negates the effect of any monster that battles the equipped monster."
"What? That means..." Junk Warrior shuddered as his opponent's light reached its crescendo. His strength dropped to 2300, and Neos' attack followed through, sending the blue-armored warrior flying and disappearing with a crash.
Even as Yusei's life fell to 2700, Judai called, "Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss, attack!" Drawing a card, he held it out. "Spell card, O - Oversoul! Direct attack!" The luminous hero gathered a fresh ball of light, launching it at the opponent, the blast knocking Yusei back a step.
Life at 2200, Yusei fought for breath, eyes burning towards his opponent. "Activate trap card, Desperate Treasure! This can be activated when the total attack of my monsters is less than the attack of one of your monsters."
Judai nodded, acknowledging, "Neos meets that requirement."
"It lets me draw two cards, and I can't summon monsters or change their battle positions in this turn." Standing straight once more, he drew.
"I end my turn. So, did you get what you need?"
Yusei couldn't help but return the excited smile. "Not yet. My turn - draw!" Swinging this last card to the disk, he called, "I summon Hyper Synchron!" The comet of energy spiraled to the field, dispersing to reveal a compact android, red eyes and engines ready to go.
"Another tuner monster, isn't it?"
"I tune my level four Hyper Synchron to my level two Speed Warrior and level two Fortress Warrior!" The synchron's chest plate opened up to expose a swirling power core, humming pitch rising to a peak before releasing the monster's self into four stars. As the two companion monsters entered the column of energy rings, Yusei called, "Clustering hopes will become a new shining star! Become the path its light shines upon!" Four stars in all were given to the column, igniting into the searing beam. "Synchro summon! Stardust Dragon!"
All other sounds fell away before the birdlike roar of the dragon bursting from the light. Its wiry limbs ended in piercing claws, and it had a sweeping neck and narrow-fanged head, eyes set unflinchingly on its target. Sky-white wings beating fiercely, it landed with 2500 attack.
"Amazing," Judai breathed. "This is the monster I've been sensing. This your ace monster - no, much more than that..." It was not a question, and it was not a surprise to either duelist that Yusei's right arm was now glowing with the crimson image of a dragon's head in profile.
"Judai... this is the sum of my bonds to my monsters. Go, Stardust Dragon - attack Elemental Hero Neos! Shooting Sonic!" The lean neck whipped forward, jaws wide open, launching the attack in a howling wind of energy.
"Neos!" The warrior had already leapt to meet the attack, and even its luminous fist could only hold the stream at bay, barely dispersing the roaring power. "Without any effect, our monsters are evenly matched."
"Except Stardust Dragon isn't alone. When Hyper Synchron is used for the synchro summon of a dragon-type monster, the summoned monster cannot be destroyed by battle and gains 800 attack!" The machine's ghost appeared at the heart of Yusei's champion, setting the dragon aglow and heightening the torrential attack further.
Groaning from exertion, Neos finally vanished from sight within the crushing stream. Judai's life fell to 2050. "No way..."
Yusei called out, "I set two cards. End turn."
"Draw! Activate spell, O - Oversoul! This card summons an Elemental Hero normal monster from my graveyard. Return, Elemental Hero Neos!" As his monster sprang back to the field, Judai was already picking the next card. "I summon Neo-Spacian Grand Mole!" The new meteor of light burst from the ground, dispersing to reveal a sharp-furred rodent, shoulders armored by twin auger halves. "Go, Neos and Grand Mole!"
Yusei gaped as the two heroes nodded to each other, then leapt to the sky - no, farther than that! "What's happening?"
"Yusei - this is the future from my monsters' bonds. By returning Neos and a Neo-Spacian to my deck, I can unite their powers in a contact fusion!"
"Contact fusion!" The monsters met, and the window in space opened, releasing a new monster from the light. Neos was now coated in the lean fur, one arm terminating in the massive drill. With 2500 attack, he coolly met the eyes of the growling dragon.
"Elemental Hero Grand Neos, activate your ability! Once per turn, a monster on the field is returned to its owner's hand, and I choose Stardust Dragon!" The drill spun, gaining speed until it was a shrieking blur. Arm flexed, Grand Neos lunged for its target, energy spiraling from the edges of its weapon.
"Activate trap, Shooting Star! When Stardust Dragon is on my field, this destroys one card on the field. Destroy Elemental Hero Grand Neos!" Stardust Dragon burned brightly, rushing headlong at the earthen warrior as the drill lanced out. The impact exploded into a tornado of noise, the warrior's and dragon's voices barely audible as their forms were relentlessly buffeted in the swirling power. Even the final burst of light could not escape the vortex, and it was several seconds before it dispersed, leaving no trace of either monster. "Both gone..."
"Not for long. From my hand, I activate the quick-play spell, Reverse of Neos! When my Neos fusion monster is destroyed, this card summons Elemental Hero Neos from my deck and increases his attack by 1000!" As bold as ever, Neos appeared again, power soaring to 3500. "Go, direct attack!" Neos leapt high, swooping down to deliver the blow.
"Activate trap card, Spirit Force! I take no battle damage from your attack! Also, I can add a warrior-type tuner with 1500 defense or less from my graveyard to my hand. Let's go - Junk Synchron!" A burning aura sprang up around Yusei, and as he picked the card from his graveyard, the ghost of his leading tuner appeared beside him. Both of them met the chopping attack open-eyed, blocking it as one, bringing Neos to a halt and throwing him back to his starting point.
"Go, Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss!" Judai drew, holding out the new card almost immediately. "Spell card - Fusion Weapon! Direct attack!" This time, Yusei took the attack unflinchingly, life points decreasing to 1700. Judai went on, "In my main phase, I activate the equip spell, Fusion Weapon. This increases the attack and defense of a level 6 or lower fusion monster by 1500!"
Yusei watched closely as a two-pronged blaster of the same glowing substance appeared on the back of Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss' wrist. Energy crackled between the prongs as her attack strength rose to 2000. "And with only 1700 life points left..."
Picking out the last card in his hand, Judai called, "I set one card. In my end phase, Reverse of Neos destroys the monster it summons." In a final glow, Neos broke apart and disappeared. "I end my turn. So, Yusei - do you still think you can turn the duel around?"
Smiling, he answered, "No... I know I can. Draw!" Picking out one of the two cards that had already been in his hand, Yusei called, "When my opponent controls a monster and I don't, I can special summon Level Warrior from my hand!" In a flash, a red caped hero appeared on the field, his visor and armor marked with stars. "When summoned in this way, this monster becomes a level four monster!"
"A level four special summon... Then this is it!"
"I summon Junk Synchron!" The mechanical fighter appeared, already holding out a hand to generate the light. "This lets me summon a level two or lower monster in defense position. Go, Tuningware!" The scrap-metal supporter appeared from the synchron's summon, kneeling but ready. "I tune my level three Junk Synchron with my level one Tuningware and my level four Level Warrior!"
The cord revved Junk Synchron's engines to life, releasing the three stars and rings, then gathering the other two monsters in. "Contacted minds will find a new possibility! See the path your light reveals!" Fresh and bright, the summoning beam burned forth. "Fly on - Stardust Dragon!"
Judai nodded firmly at the returning call of the bright dragon. He held the gaze of the other's monster, free of anxiety.
Yusei called, "I draw one card after using Tuningware for a synchro summon." He paused as he prepared to draw, but the dark clouds that had confused his thoughts before were gone now. He thought of Satellite, and of the war... and then he thought of the people he had met by facing it. Rua and Ruka, Aki... even Jack and Crow had come back to rebuild their friendship. Judai, I remember my bonds now. I remember why they're here. It's so we could build a new future, no matter what happened in the past! That's why I won't be afraid anymore. I've - no, we've gone past that already. And we will keep going!
With all his heart, he drew. "Activate spell, Synchro Blast Wave!" His dragon's cry became tangible, energy building from deep within its chest.
"What's going on?"
"This spell can be activated when I control a synchro monster, allowing me to destroy one monster on my opponent's field. Go, destroy Neo-Spacian Twinkle Moss!" The scream that was more than sound launched from Stardust Dragon's throat, obliterating the creature in one shot. "Stardust Dragon, direct attack!"
"Activate trap, Hero Blast!" The ground around Judai's feet trembled as light appeared in hairline fissures. "This trap lets me select one Elemental Hero normal monster in my graveyard. That monster is returned to my hand, and I destroy one monster on my opponent's field with equal or less attack!" Bursting from the earth, the ghost of Neos appeared in the air, soaring down to strike at his opponent's heart.
"I activate Stardust Dragon's ability - Victim Sanctuary!" Making no move to flee, the dragon glowed softly at the edges, catching the impact in the chest without a sound. "By releasing Stardust Dragon, I negate and destroy a card effect that would destroy a card on the field!"
"What?" The dragon's radiance rose to its peak, and Judai's trap shivered and burst. Above them, swirling particles of light enveloped the dragon and Neos' spirit, turning both monsters within to vapor, vanishing in a final song. "But that's not the end of it, is it?"
Picking out the last card from his hand, Yusei answered, "I set one card. Stardust Dragon's other effect is that, after being released for its effect, I can special summon it in my end phase!" The bright window opened anew, and the dragon's call rang clearly as it landed to protect its companion. "Turn end."
Empty-handed and alone, Judai at first could not tear his grinning eyes away from the dragon. "My turn..." Closing them for an instant, his eyes flashed open. "Draw! Activate spell card, Fifth Hope! By returning Elemental Heroes Grand Neos, Wildheart, Necroshade, Bubbleman and Burstinatrix from my graveyard to my deck, I draw three cards!" Smoothly shuffling the returned cards, he drew and smiled sharply at one of the new cards. "I summon Elemental Hero Bubbleman!" Back with 800 attack, the blue gunman stood before his owner. "Because I control no other cards, I draw two cards. Activate spell, Cocoon Party. This summons one Chrysalis monster from my deck for each Neo-Spacian with a different name in my graveyard."
"Each one?" Yusei could already see three ghosts around Judai: the black-caped panther, the blue-muscled dolphin, and the luminous humanoid.
Before Judai appeared three creatures veiled in fibrous wisps. "I summon Chrysalis Chicky, Chrysalis Larva and Chrysalis Mole!" The pink fledgling, orange insect and tan critter gazed back, and Judai's disk now opened a slot on the side to accept his next card. "Activate field spell, Neo Space!"
All around them, the air was filled with energy in all colors of the rainbow, and even as Yusei watched, the light flowed around the three monsters across from him. "This is the stage for Neos monsters, isn't it?"
"With Neo Space in play, I can tribute each Chrysalis monster to summon their next forms from my hand or deck!" The monsters grew larger, free of their shells, developing into a lanky red bird, a coal-black beetle, and the drill-armored mole, with 600 defense and with 500 and 900 attack. "I summon Neo-Spacian Air Hummingbird, Neo-Spacian Flare Scarab and Neo-Spacian Grand Mole!"
"Three Neo-Spacians at once... does this-?"
Yusei's eyes had locked on Grand Mole. "That card... Grand Neos' effect..."
Reading his thoughts without difficulty, Judai answered, "Right, Grand Mole's effect is similar. Grand Mole returns itself and the monster it battles to the owner's hand. But I'm not going to use it. Not again."
"What? Why not?"
"Yusei - you respect your monsters so well, like they're your family. I met someone else like that... and from him, I learned that there are better ways to answer an opponent than by shutting them out. And an opponent like you doesn't come along every day! No, I want to see the full power of you and your dragon." Picking out one more card, he declared, "I'll answer it with everything I have! Activate spell, Space Gift! This card lets me draw one card for each Neo-Spacian I control with a different name." Fingers atop his deck, he took one deep breath and drew. "I set two cards and activate the spell card, Silent Doom! This card special summons a normal monster from my graveyard in defense position. I summon Elemental Hero Neos!" The warrior appeared kneeling amongst his allies, but Judai had already called, "Go - Elemental Hero Neos, Neo-Spacian Grand Mole and Neo-Spacian Flare Scarab! Triple contact fusion!"
The three heroes soared to the sky and reached to space, joining together in a burst of energy soon overwhelmed by a fiery explosion. Yusei's eyes opened wide to behold the immense warrior descending from the summon. Equipped with the fire monster's wings and armor, it had the beast-like muscles of Neos' earth form and the piercing stare of all of them. Judai called out, "Elemental Hero Magma Neos!"
"The effect of Neo Space increases the attack of any Neos monster by 500. Also, the effect of Magma Neos increases his attack by 400 for each card on the field."
"You control two cards, and I control six. That's 3200 more attack points!" The behemoth's skin came alive with fire, quickening around his calm demeanor as his attack strength skyrocketed to 6700. "Go, Magma Neos - attack Stardust Dragon!" Raising one arm high, he conjured a roaring meteor even larger than himself. With a yell, he heaved the spherical inferno, scorching the air in its deafening trajectory.
"Activate continuous trap - Forceful Stop! By sending one card on my field to the graveyard, I end the battle phase. I use Forceful Stop itself as the cost!" Mere feet from Stardust Dragon, the meteor stopped against an unseen barrier, blinding both dragon and duelist before gradually shrinking and fading away.
"My turn is over."
Reaching to draw, Yusei released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Nothing left in my hand, and my field only has Stardust Dragon... That is enough. Judai's bond to Neos is stronger than the bond from any other opponent I've faced! Even so, we'll face that together! "Draw! Activate equip spell, Fighting Spirit!"
Stardust Dragon blazed with a new flame in voice and body, and Judai took in the sight silently.
"This card increases the attack of the equipped monster by 300 for every monster my opponent controls. You have three monsters, bringing Stardust Dragon to 3400."
"This is the will from both of you..."
"Yes, and it's enough to win this duel!"
"Go, Stardust Dragon - attack Elemental Hero Bubbleman!"
Looking at the monster that was not kneeling, but standing tall, Judai blinked and murmured, "You saw it, then." Turning back to Yusei, he called, "Activate quick-play spell, Contact Out! This returns a Neos fusion monster from my field to the fusion deck, then special summons all of his material monsters from my deck!" In a burning light, Magma Neos vanished, and the three smaller heroes leapt from the summon.
For an instant, Yusei only had eyes for the one with attack strength rising to 3000. "Neos... and with those monsters..." The magic in his dragon burned all the brighter, soaring to 4000 from the additional summons. "But I won't choose that opponent. The previous battle continues!" He only has 2050 life points - this attack finishes everything! "Shooting Sonic!"
"Yusei - I'd hoped you would find the motive inside you." With eyes closed, he smiled, saying, "You've really brought out your greatest strength." His eyes blazed open. "Now I'm going to do the same!"
The sight hit Yusei like a hammer. There was no mistaking it this time - Judai's eyes were glowing, one green and the other orange. Those were the same eyes that had seen his anxiety and the mark of his dragon, and now...
"Activate quick-play spell, Super Polymerization! This card is activated by discarding one card, and no card's effect can be chained to this card. Let's show our power - Yubel!" With the discard completed, a new spirit appeared alongside Judai. It was a dark-constructed monster, mostly a person, neither man nor woman. It had bare-skin wings and three eyes, and the main two of them shared the same pattern that Judai's now showed.
It spoke, "Judai, are you saying you need my help again just to face this guy?"
Smiling, he answered, "Don't kid around. You've been waiting for me to get you into this. So let's show what our bond can do!" As Yubel soared into the air, the spell ignited, the sky filled with swirling black clouds, and Judai answered Yusei's silence. "Super Polymerization is the ultimate fusion card, allowing me to conduct a fusion summon using monsters from anywhere on the field!"
"Relax. Stardust Dragon is yours, through and through. For this, I already have all the power I need." Pointing to the sky, he called, "I fuse Neo-Spacian Air Hummingbird, Neo-Spacian Grand Mole, Neo-Spacian Flare Scarab, Elemental Hero Bubbleman, and Elemental Hero Neos!"
"All five monsters!"
The team took flight, and the four smaller monsters crackled with energy, dissolving into solid streams of their elements, swirling and howling. "Heroes, gather from every corner! Believe in the one last chance!" Neos became bathed in Yubel's spell from above and encircled by the four streams like a sun surrounded by planets. "Wind, earth, fire, water, light and darkness - fusion summon!"
Yusei shielded his eyes and lost his breath as the monsters were enveloped in a blindingly bright column that only faded gradually. Then he realized the spell was complete, but instead the new monster was the source of the radiance. It was shaped like Neos, but it stood multiple stories tall, coated with golden armor, winged at its shoulders and helmet. The spectrum of energy in the field spell around them could very well have been emanating from this colossus. His dragon's power had fallen to 2800, and Yusei likewise whispered, "Level twelve..."
With his monster rising to 3000 attack points, Judai called, "This is the opponent to meet you, Yusei - Elemental Hero Divine Neos!"
Yusei's gaze dropped, then lifted again to Judai, whose eyes were brown again. Resetting his stance, he called out, "I end my turn."
"Draw. Activate equip spell, Assault Armor, increasing my warrior's attack by 300. I also activate Divine Neos' ability!" As he spoke, a card emerged from his graveyard, and the ghost of a familiar monster appeared.
"Elemental Hero... Flame Wingman?"
"By removing a Hero, Neo-Spacian or Neos monster from my graveyard, Divine Neos gains 500 attack, and he also gains that monster's effect until the end phase of this turn!"
"What effect does Flame Wingman have?"
As the spirit flew to the heart of the shining warrior, Judai responded, "Whenever this monster destroys a monster by battle and sends it to the graveyard, he inflicts damage to the opponent's life points equal to the attack of the destroyed monster!"
As Yusei looked on, the monster above gained his own fire, burning all around him, but gathering and focusing in one hand as his attack rose to 3800 total.
"Elemental Hero Divine Neos, attack Stardust Dragon!" Pulling his blazing hand back, the colossus released a roaring golden flame that lanced across the field almost as quick as the eye could follow. The impact with the dragon echoed massively, and the dragon was knocked back without a cry.
"I activate the other effect of Fighting Spirit - by sending this card to the graveyard, the equipped monster is not destroyed in battle one time!"
Stardust Dragon strained and growled, head and limbs crushed by the blast, but its backwards flight ceased. By fractions, it pushed back. Then ever so slightly more, it turned itself to face the attack, responding with every limb until, with a rush, it pushed the flames away, finally dispersing them with a beat of its wings and a resounding call.
Yusei's life points fell to 700, and his dragon's power fell to 2500. His breath, however, had calmed long ago.
"Then..." Judai stopped, took a deep breath of his own and called, "I activate the other ability of Assault Armor-"
"By sending itself to the graveyard, it allows the equipped monster to attack twice in this turn's battle phase."
For a moment, Judai was surprised at the other's completion, then he reflected Yusei's smile. "Right. Then we're both ready."
"It's been an honor, Judai."
"Go, Elemental Hero Divine Neos - second attack!" Gathering all the flames that had shrouded his armor into his hand, the champion held the attack for only an instant before launching it at the waiting dragon.
Yusei did not look to see it connect or to see his score drop to zero. His smiling eyes were fixed on the one across from him. Thank you, Judai. I won't be afraid of my past anymore. It's already been forgiven, and by building new bonds, the new future will open.
The light had faded, and he found himself on the highway again. The stars... though many were hidden by the shining city, the few he could see were quite beautiful. Even the moon had come back out... His reverie was broken by the sound of his D-Wheel's communication system. Answering the call, his video monitor showed a young girl with a worried look. "Ruka!"
"Yusei, finally!" Turning aside, she called, "Rua, I found him!"
"Is something wrong?"
"Where have you-" but her twin brother had just shouldered his way to the monitor. "Hey, Yusei! Ha, I knew you'd be all right. Nothing's dangerous for Yusei - nothing and nobody! See, Ruka, it's just like I said. Do you believe me now?"
"Rua, didn't you tell Yusei he could come here?"
Yusei tried not to laugh as Rua's face froze up, stammering to his sister, "Well... I- I... almost did-"
"Well, what could I do? The doctors wanted all of us to get some rest, and you were almost asleep, so I had to get you home. I mean, they practically threw Aki out, even though she said she had to stay, so how was I supposed to-"
Sighing and turning away from her babbling brother, Ruka said, "Anyway, Yusei, we just got a call from Sector Security. They found the others - Demak, Bommer, Kiryu, Misty, and Carly!"
"Ushio sent search parties out all over Satellite, and now they're all at Satellite's best hospital. They weren't awake, but the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with them. They'll be okay and might even be awake by morning."
"Yusei, you're not going to stay out there, are you?" "Yeah, Yusei - come on back! You can use my bed and everything!"
"You two... thank you. I'll be there soon." Clearing the screen, Yusei took one more look at the sky. Something caught his eye - no, it wasn't a red star, just a shooting star. Smiling, he put on his helmet and climbed back onto his D-Wheel. Revving the engine back to life, he spun around and took off like a shot, back into the heart of the city.