Chapter 28: Fight Club

Tetsuo looked down to see that his tight, orange shirt was replaced with a yellow undershirt. He also noted that his suspenders had changed from a black tint to a navy blue hue.

"What's going on?" he wondered, gulping and trying to remember undergoing this physical transformation. "What happened to me?"

He tried moving his numb feet to see if they would move. Fortunately, they did move, although there appeared to be something wrong with them. They scratched against the ground roughly, causing markings in the dirt below him.

"What in the…?" Tetsuo questioned as he careened his head down to see that his feet had now changed a magenta color. In addition to that oddity, they weren't human anymore. Metal straws replaced his toes as a glossy sheen reflected off the sunlight of the day.

It wasn't until that moment that Tetsuo had taken in his surroundings fully. He looked up from his feet to see that he was standing behind silvery, iron bars. He looked up to see a roof only four feet above his head.

Then he looked back to see that his new accommodations came with an unsafe-looking tire swing hanging from a thin piece of rope that was connected to the ceiling, a floor lined with imitation grass to emulate a feeling of the wild, and a large pile of leaves. Whether the third item was primarily there for bodily functions, a makeshift bed, or both remained unknown to the boy with the new pink feet.

"Mommy, look," Tetsuo heard a small child's voice say from outside his iron prison.

Tetsuo's enormous ears, now colored orange and shaped like a spade from a deck of playing cards, sensed the vibration in the kid's words. He turned his chocolaty head to see a small girl, no more than seven years of age, pointing a human finger at him. The mother of the child smiled at her daughter, rubbing the girl's back through her protective, pink raincoat.

"What is it, Mommy?" the little girl inquired, her finger still aiming in Tetsuo's direction. He tried to recall if his arms ever got tired at that age because it seemed like the girl had been holding hers up for an eternity.

"It says it right here, sweetheart," the mother replied, bending down and reading the plaque outside of Tetsuo's new habitat. She brushed a strand of her red bangs from her eyes before placing her finger on the marble tablet and moving her digit along as she read.

"Well would you look at that?" she said as she read. "It says here that these are called aye-ayes and that they're native to Madagascar. I guess they took this little guy and transported him all the way here in Japan, huh?"

"It's cute, Mommy!" replied the little girl with a nod. "Can we have one?"

The mother closed her eyes and gave a nervous giggle.

"I'm not sure we have room for that, sweetie."

"Aww," sighed the little girl, her hand still up in the air, her accusatory finger unmoving.

An aye-aye? Tetsuo thought.

Then another idea came into his mind, something a lot less reassuring and comforting.

Blue suspenders? Yellow undershirt? Where have I seen this before? Wait a minute…

Tetsuo expanded his range of vision even further, not confining it solely to his cage and the little girl and her mother. He began to turn his head slowly, looking around to see what else inhabited the animal pens.

To his left was something that resembled an ordinary tortoise. However, upon further examination of the creature, Tetsuo saw that something was unordinary before it even stuck out its green head. The shell on the creature's back resembled that of a spacecraft, with porthole-styled circles flashing gold lights here and there.

Isn't that…he thought, gulping as the saliva traveled down his extended neck.

The climate of the habitat to his right was far more diverse than his own. Instead of a jungle theme, this cage contained something close to an aquarium. Something swam in the water, making ripples on the surface. Suddenly, water went every which way as the fish swimming in the murky depths surfaced and leapt before going back into the unobserved safety of its liquid. Before the blue-tailed aquatic enigma submerged, Tetsuo saw hundreds of intricate red scales on the fish.

Wait a minute…what's going on here? UFO Turtle to my left and Tinplate Goldfish to my right? And…

He looked down one last time before thinking about what the woman said. 'They're called aye-ayes', she'd said.

I'm…Aye-Iron! But how did this happen? He speculated. And what is this place? A captivity for Duel Monsters? A zoo of some sorts? This isn't right though. Duel Monsters shouldn't be subjected to this. They're not minions, they're allies!

When his thoughts were collected and stored away, he noticed that he was no longer being monitored by the little girl or her mother. His subconscious had picked up something one of them said about the aye-aye exhibit being boring after the animal wouldn't perform a trick.

There was another person who had now taken the place of the little girl. A young boy who was about the age of thirteen stood in front of Tetsuo with an orange shirt and a hat of a similar color. Two other boys stood next to him, but this one stood out to Tetsuo more than the others. However, there was a reason this one was the most engaging for Tetsuo.

It was himself, or at least his former body. He stood face to face, staring at what he once was.

"Well?" asked his human doppelganger. "Is the big bad Duel Monster gonna perform a trick for us or what?"

Tetsuo attempted to speak but a feral ape-like noise slipped out of his mouth. He quickly pressed his thin lips together, terrified of any other sounds that he was now capable of making.

"Come on!" shouted the human. "Do something! Obeying is all your Duel Monsters are good for anyway!"

Tetsuo would have furrowed his eyebrows if he wasn't contemplating whether he had them or not. What was going on? Why was his human body now mocking him? He would never say such malicious things to Duel Monsters, the game he loved so much.

"Obey," commanded the boy in the orange shirt as he scowled at the animal before him. "Obey me!"

Tetsuo sat up in his sleeping bag, his heart nearly pounding out of his chest. He looked down to see that the pillow that was provided to him was completely drenched in sweat, as were the insides of his bag. He looked around to his left and right to see what surrounded him, although the only things he saw in either direction were the inside folds of his tent.

That was some bizarre dream he thought as he lifted his arm in the air. Thankfully it was still relatively bright outside, despite the fact that the sun had set. In the luminous moonlight he noticed that both of his hands, in addition to the rest of his body, were completely human.

He found that deep breathing decreased his sweating and calmed his mind rather quickly as turned his pillow around before placing his head atop it.

"I wonder if that meant anything," he said to the sky as he reflected on his dream. "I can't imagine…"

He stopped speaking the moment he heard a loud rustling noise. His tent shook slightly as somebody on the outside bumped into it and fell on the ground. Another person's footsteps inched closer to his tent as they heavily stomped on the ground to reach their fallen friend.

"Hurry up, Daichi!" urged the one with the heavy stomping. "We're going to be late for our chance to enter the underground tournament!"

"I'm trying, I'm trying!" replied the one who Tetsuo correctly assumed was Daichi. "As if I'd really want to be late for my only chance to duel against the great IV-san!"

IV-san? Tetsuo marveled in surprise. What do they mean by that?

He got up and crawled over to the entrance of his tent, which he quickly unzipped. He scrambled to pop his head out of the opening in time to question the two boys, but he had missed the timing for they were both gone.

That didn't stop him from noticing something that was on the ground however. Lying where the boy named Daichi must have tripped was a strip of paper that the light from the moon shone on. Curiosity eventually overwhelmed Tetsuo as he inched out of his tent and walked over to the misplaced object.

Admit one for the Underground Duel Tournament! read the ticket in bolded lettering. This is a chance of a lifetime for one lucky winner to obtain a duel against the great Duel Champion of Asia, IV! The tournament will take place in the Heartland City Abandoned Underground Duel Center! Registration ends at 9:45 p.m., tournament begins at 10:00 p.m. Tickets must be shown at the entrance for a chance to register!

"Underground Duel Center?" Tetsuo repeated, trying to recall where the location was. "I remember my mom telling me when they shut it down. She said not to go near the…"

It was almost as though a light bulb flashed above Tetsuo's head because he instantly knew what route to take to reach the destination.

"But am I in time?" he asked, reaching a wide arm into his tent and grabbing his D-Gazer. He clicked one of the black buttons on the side of the device before a holographic projection depicting the time appeared in a three-dimensional illusion. The clock read 9:29 before flashing twice and reading 9:30.

Tetsuo's eyes widened, knowing that he would need to hurry if he wished to participate in such an event. Even though he felt remorseful for robbing another person of their chance to duel against IV, by the time the boy known as Daichi realized that his ticket was missing, he would have missed the registration deadline anyhow.

With one last feeling of guilt, Tetsuo climbed back into his tent and put on a dry shirt. Then he grabbed his skateboard from the far side of his sleeping quarters and hopped on the wheeled transportation device. With one powerful kick of his left foot, the wheels of his skateboard rotated faster and faster, making tracks in the dried soil that informed everyone that whoever made the markings was clearly on a mission. He sped past a crowd of people as fast as his wheels turned, never once deterring from his goal or his path.

"Am I too late to register?" huffed Tetsuo with his skateboard under his right arm as he ran up to the registration counter nearly thirteen minutes later.

"Actually," replied a perky blonde woman from behind the counter, "you're just in the time! It looks like you're the last participant for this tournament! May I see your ticket please?"

Tetsuo reached into his pocket and retrieved Daichi's pass to the competition. The woman took the item from him, scanned it quickly, and handed it back to him.

"Thank you for your registration, Daichi," she smiled, obviously unaware of her faux pas. "I hope you do your best and have fun while you're out there!"

"Thank you," Tetsuo said, ignoring the name confusion. He bowed to the woman as a sign of respect, prompting her to smile and wave to him as he walked away. "Could you change my name to Tetsuo Takeda, though? It's uhh…what I go by at school."

"Why, certainly! The brackets will be up in a little while," she called out to him as he continued his amble. "They'll determine who your first opponent is! Good luck again, Daichi…oops, I mean Tetsuo!"

And with that, the woman grabbed a wooden sign from behind her desk and placed it in front of her window. In big capital letters, "CLOSED" was visible to all the late competitors who had arrived too little, too late.

While waiting for the preliminary brackets to appear on one of the giant flat-screen televisions in front of him, Tetsuo reached into his pocket and retrieved his deck. He turned the cards over so that their images were facing him and he began moving through them to see if he could make any last minute adjustments.

Clockwork Shikigami, Iron Draw, Clockwork Explosive...

He stopped when he reached the card behind Clockwork Explosive. Ordinarily he wouldn't take more than five seconds looking at Aye-Iron, but the memories of his dreams flashed back in his head.


"Tetsuo Takeda?" asked one person, snapping Tetsuo back into his mind frame. "I wonder if he'll be an easy opponent."

Tetsuo looked up to see that the brackets had already been filled out and posted on the screen. He also realized that someone named Takumi Fukuoka was slated to best his first opponent, on the assumption that he lasted longer than one round.

"Right here!" he said, rising from his seat.

"You're Tetsuo?" asked the one named Takumi. The man looked about twenty years of age with scruffy brown hair. His cranberry jacket and cargo shorts reflected his lax demeanor.

"That's right," the boy nodded, the green curl that was sticking out of the opening of his hat bouncing as he did.

"Wonderful timing!" Takumi smiled. "How about our duel then?"

"Ready when you are," Tetsuo said, grabbing his silvery D-Pad from his hip and throwing it up in the air. Then he placed his D-Gazer of the same hue over his left eye before the automated voice reassured the two duelists that the AR Vision was properly established.

Nearly fifteen minutes later, Tetsuo raised his fist in the air.

"Attack him directly and win this duel now, Tinplate Archduke! Strike of the Archdukes attack!"

With a finalizing swing of its sword, Tinplate Archduke annihilated the rest of Takumi's life points. The young adult shouted a bit before hitting the ground. The buzzer then sounded, proclaiming the results of the long-fought battle.

"I gotta admit," Takumi said with a genuine, but sad smile, "you're a better duelist than I initially gave you credit for. It's good to know that I was wrong about that."

Tetsuo smiled as his cheeks became red because of the compliment.

"T-thank you," he said, bowing his head so that his opponent couldn't see the profuse cherry color that his cheeks now produced.

"Good luck in the semi-finals too," Takumi said. "I know that you'd be able to hold your own against IV if you have to face him!"

With that, Takumi walked away from the scene and from Tetsuo, the latter who still held their head down.

Could I really hold my own against IV? He questioned in his head before a buzzer sounded above his head. Then he turned his head to the side as someone with an amplified voice began to speak.

"And with the end of that duel," shouted an announcer into a megaphone (something which made everyone near him at that moment plug their ears and risk losing valuable information), "we now progress on to the semi-finals of this tournament!"

The giant screen monitor in front of Tetsuo turned on quickly as four names were posted on the screen. He didn't recognize any of the other ones besides his own.

"So I'm up against someone named Haruki Hisashi?" Tetsuo asked himself before becoming quite still and scared as a hand gripped his shoulder.

"So I presume you're this Tetsuo Takeda?" asked someone from behind the heavyset boy.

Tetsuo turned around to see a younger boy with bright ruby hair. The locks flowed down the child's back, stopping near the bottom of his spine. With a turn of his head, his beautiful hair flipped around decadently. He looked about ten years in age, but it apparently didn't stop him from beating his opening opponent.

"That's right," nodded Tetsuo. He looked down at the D-Pad on his arm, which he hadn't bothered to put away after his previous duel.

"Well then," Haruki said, releasing his grasp on Tetsuo's shoulder blade, "how about we get down to business? My mom's already complaining that it's past my bedtime so I'd like to finish this quick!"

"Then you've got yourself a duel!" Tetsuo smirked.

Any spectator who had watched the duel from start to the very last turn had seen an impressive clash of offense and defense among both of the young duelists. However, with the ball presently in Tetsuo's court, it was clear who the winner of the duel would be.

"Alright, UFO Turtle!" Tetsuo chanted. "Attack Haruki directly and end this duel!"

The boy cried out as the turtle pulled its green head and legs back into its hovercraft-shaped shell. Then the animal glided over to Haruki's side of the field, connection with the grade schooler and knocking him over before the buzzer once against sounded.

"Rats!" sniffed the child as tears strolled down his face. "I was so close!"

Tetsuo gave a sympathetic look at the boy and was about to praise him before the child's mother ran over to him, comforting and consoling him. She took his hand and headed toward the exit of the property before turning to Tetsuo and glaring daggers at him.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, young man," she hissed angrily. "Come along, Haruki."

With a squeeze of her child's hand, both evacuated the area as soon as they could.

"But I…" Tetsuo began before heaving a sigh. It was no use to try and explain. He sighed again before realizing that his tongue had become rather dry, as was his throat.

I guess those duels must have taken more out of me than I thought…

He looked around the room, spotting a water fountain to the side. Tetsuo came staggering over to the reservoir of hydration, taking a long sip of the cool, refreshing spring water.

"Ah," he moaned in relief as the cold liquid hit the back of his throat in the same way a country undergoing a drought would feel relief about a rain shower.

"I've been watching your duels," said a voice from behind Tetsuo.

The immediateness of the sound not only caused him to choke on the water that was traveling down his throat, but also hit his head on the fountain as he rapidly tried turning it around to see whoever it was that was talking to him.

He whirled around to see a youthful looking girl that couldn't have been more than fifteen years of age. She had beautiful, light blue hair complete with a rosy bow. Her yellow dress nearly blinded the boy as he blinked twice. She stared at Tetsuo with beautiful blue eyes and a pink handbag strapped around her left shoulder. Inside of her purse, Tetsuo could see a deck of cards arranged neatly and tied together with a rubber band. Then he put two and two together.

"So you're…" he began.

"The one who're going to face in a couple minutes for the finals," she completed. "My name is Misato Hayashi."

She extended her hand to the boy. It took him a couple seconds to register her gesture, but then he shook her palm slowly.

"I'm Tetsuo Takeda," replied the capped child. "It's nice to meet you."

"And the same to you," Misato smiled before reaching into her purse and taking out her deck. "It's just too bad…"

"What is?" asked Tetsuo.

"Too bad that I have to destroy you to get my duel with IV," she said quickly, suddenly turning somber and solemn.

"W-what?" Tetsuo asked, a bit appalled by how quickly the girl changed her cordial tone and attitude.

"After all," she said, getting up and turning around, "we both can't face IV. And wouldn't we want the superior duelist being the one to get the chance at defeating him?"

Tetsuo frowned, unable to think of anything to say to her before she had walked away.

"I wonder what her problem is…" he huffed.

He crouched down to take another drink from the water fountain, his mind still on Misato, when the announcer's blaring voice resounded.

"Attention duelists, spectators, and IV-fanatics alike! It is now time for our very last duel between both finalists to see which one will take home the ticket for the duel against IV tomorrow!"

The giant television flashed three pictures of Misato, two depicting her previous dueling victories and the third displaying her posing for a camera.

"First up, we have the girl that's been taking the competition by storm! Give a warm welcome to Miss Misato Hayashi!"

Misato came out from behind the announcer as a ray of spotlight hit her. The nighttime air brushed against her cheek, chilling it and yet exhilarating her.

"And over here," shouted the MC, "the iron giant, the last registered participant for the tournament! Put your hands together for Tetsuo Takeda!"

Before he knew it, a blinding light pierced Tetsuo's eyes. He heard applause around him, but couldn't see a thing. It wasn't until somebody behind him gave him a push forward that he noticed the area around him had suddenly changed.

Standing before them was something close to a duel machine that Tetsuo assumed must have come out from a zone in the ground when his eyes were incapable of sight. It reminded Tetsuo of the dueling machines that he'd heard about years and years ago that were used in a similar style tournament called Duelist Kingdom. The only visible difference that he could discern from the pictures he'd seen was that this machine had a coil dangling from it, which presumably attached to the duel disk.

But for what? He wondered.

His question remained unanswered as a man to his left ran over and grabbed the coil on his side of the machine. Without warning, the man plugged the cord into Tetsuo's D-Pad, connecting the device to the dueling machine. A woman performed the same menial task with Misato.

Both duelists immediately felt a great burden on their arms as the machines weighed them down. However, they were still able to move with relative ease so they wrote the feeling off.

"Are both duelists ready?" the announced queried.

"Whenever he is," Misato replied.

"Always ready!" Tetsuo responded.

Both duelists hit the auto-shuffler on their D-Pads thrice before picking up their five cards each. Then they looked at each other with a look of passionate determination.

"Then it's time to duel!" declared the announcer before turning of his microphone and watching the fight unfurl.

Tetsuo Takeda – 8000 LP

Misato Hayashi – 8000 LP

"Ladies first," declared the girl in the bright yellow apparel as she picked up a card. "Draw!"

Her eyes darted back and forth, analyzing each and every card, not daring to take a moment to give Tetsuo even a hint of a glance.

"I set a monster in facedown Defense Position and end my turn."

Instead of showing Tetsuo her game plan, which he had hoped would happen, Misato vertically threw a card on one of the monsters slots of her D-Pad, instantly bringing forth a concealed card in front of her thin body.

"That's all you got?" chuckled Tetsuo as he placed his hand on the top card of his deck. "Don't go easy on me!"

I wouldn't dream of it, Misato thought to herself. Not with what I have planned.

"Draw!" Tetsuo shouted, picking up a card of his own.

He turned his head over to the side to see what his new card was.

It's him...Aye-Iron…

It must have been at least a minute that Tetsuo had been inside his mind before Misato finally asked a question.

"What're you nervous or something? You've been standing there for a whole sixty seconds just staring at that card you drew."

Tetsuo looked up at Misato before remembering that he was in a duel.

"Oh, r-right…I summon Aye-Iron in Attack Position!"

A spherical portal of golden light appeared on the ground as Tetsuo's favorite aye-aye jumped out of it. The wind-up toy clapped its cymbals together, making a rather boisterous noise three times. (1600 ATK)

"Here goes nothing…I send my buddy Aye-Iron to attack your facedown monster! Go, Cymbal Cruncher!"

The toy animal outstretched both of its mechanical arms as far as they could go before rapidly bringing them together and crashing the cymbals on one another. The resulting sound from the collision pierced the sound waves enough to create a sonic boom which traveled at a heightened velocity at Misato's facedown monster.

Tetsuo raised an eyebrow as he saw the girl's monster for what it was. It resembled tiny bug-like creature with giant goggles and jet black skin. Arrow shaped eyebrows sat above the creature's eyes as it opened its mechanical mandible to shriek in agony before dissolving into particles of darkness.

"What was that thing anyway?" asked Tetsuo curiously.

"Thing?" Misato hissed, making Tetsuo take a step back at her sudden shift in vocal intonation. She took a deep breath before sneering and responding. "It was Steelswarm Scout, if you must know."

"Steelswarms?" Tetsuo questioned to no one in particular. "If that's the case then I'll set one card facedown to end my turn!"

Behind Aye-Iron came a reversed card that sat waiting.

"If that's all you're going to do then I seriously suggest you quit while you're ahead," Misato scoffed with a hand on her hip.

"Not a chance!" Tetsuo laughed, gripping the bill of his hat and twisting the cap over so that his long strand of green hair jutted upward.

"Suit yourself," shrugged the girl. "I was just trying to be helpful by sparing you a humiliating defeat in front of all these people."

She motioned around Tetsuo, prompting the boy to look. What had only been one person originally watching their fight was now had now become a fifteen person audience, at least.

"Whoa…" Tetsuo gulped, beginning to perspire just a tad.

"Anyway, it's my go now!" Misato remembered, spinning her head around and turning to her deck as the pink bow in her hair bounced upward. "Draw!"

After adding a card to her hand, she grinned and shifted all of her six cards to her right hand. Then with her left hand, she dug into her Graveyard and retrieved an item.

A dark, spherical portal opened up on the ground as a screeching noise was heard. Tetsuo raised an eyebrow as he witnessed Misato's Steelswarm Scout scurry on back to her side of the field like an invincible cockroach.

"What in the…?" he began.

"Oh, did I not mention?" grinned the teenage girl with a superior smile. "Every turn, if I don't control any Spells or Traps, I can resurrect Steelswarm Scout from my Graveyard just like that!"

"No way!" Tetsuo gasped, his eyes widening at this new revelation.

"Way!" Misato rebutted, making a fist with her free hand. "Of course, I'm not able to Special Summon any other monsters this turn now that I activated that ability…"

Black flames enveloped the Steelswarm monster as a mounting inferno rose in front of Misato, obstructing her from Tetsuo's gaze.

"However, I can still Tribute Summon monsters! Therefore, I offer my Steelswarm Scout in order to summon one of my greatest creatures! Arise, Steelswarm Girastag!"

The ebony embers died down as Steelswarm Scout dissolved into motes of darkness. Following this came a demonic looking creature made of pure black. The hulking mass of monster stood nearly six feet tall a tail that was half the size. Scales ran up its legs and arms leading up to darkened limbs. With a movement of its orange palm on the creature's left hand, Girastag tapped the devilish horns on its head. Its right hand, however, was a different story. Instead, a miniature cannon replaced the area where its limb should have been. The creature looked up to the sky before giving something close to a satanic war cry. (2600 ATK)

Tetsuo's argent D-Gazer flashed repeated while informing Tetsuo of something that seemed more than a little suspicious.

"W-wait a second," he stuttered, looking at Misato's monster. "That monster is Level 7! How did you get it on the field with only one Tribute?"

"Through my monster's effect, of course," Misato responded. "It's true that I can no longer Special Summon during the remainder of my turn. Thankfully, I can Tribute Summon even easier than usual, because my Steelswarm Girastag's primary effect allows it to be Tribute Summoned by using only one Steelswarm monster!"

"Hmph…I see," Tetsuo nodded, bobbing his head up and down twice. He looked down at his facedown on the second bob, trying to contain a smirk.

"And now it's time for the secondary effect of my Girastag!" Misato continued, bringing Tetsuo back to the duel.

She lifted her finger up and brought it down quickly, pointing immediately at Tetsuo's facedown Widespread Ruin.

"Ooh!" shouted one of the teenagers in the audience, bouncing up and down as his spiked, brown hair adjusted accordingly. "That's the same effect she used against me in the first round!"

"Me too!" claimed a second victim. "Now Misato is able to get rid of one of the cards on that kid's side of the field!"

"And that's not all!" interrupted Misato with a wide grin. "I also receive a 1000 life point increase when it does hit the Graveyard! Ready…"

Girastag raised its literal handgun of a right arm as a white beam of energy charged within the barrel of the weapon. Visible floating particles of light danced around each other as the strength of the blast increased.


The demon lowered its weapon and directed it straight at Tetsuo's facedown. Needless to say, it didn't assist Tetsuo's perspiration dilemma.

"Fire!" shouted Misato.

On her command Steelswarm Girastag released a pent-up blast of power. The white stream of light zigzagged past Tetsuo's aye-aye's head, focusing on its sole target. The burst of power then consumed Tetsuo's facedown, momentarily elevating it so that Misato and the ever-expanding audience could see what it was.

Hushed murmurs moved through the crowd like a blazing wave of wildfire.

"It was a good attempt though," one young girl nodded to another.

Misato's keen ears overheard their conversation as she began to giggle a bit to herself, once again without emotion.

"Good won't be enough to defeat my deck!" she said, her smile instantaneously vanishing. "And I'm about to show you the reason why! Steelswarm Girastag, unwind that Aye-Iron now!"

With an alarming sense of speed and alacrity, Misato's heavy-hitter nodded and whipped its head around, focusing all of its attention on Aye-Iron. With another loud battle cry, the devil raced toward the wind-up toy. The mechanical animal raised its cymbals up to cover its face and body as a paltry defense. Unfortunately, with a swipe of its cannoned hand, Steelswarm Girastag swatted the brass instruments to the ground with a "clang". Then with its normal hand, it gripped Aye-Iron's mocha-colored neck, choking the monster until it asphyxiated and perished.

"Aye-Iron!" Tetsuo shouted before the resulting impact pushed him backward. Luckily though, he retained his footing and balance.

"Whoa, that's amazing!" declared one of the viewers in the audience.

"Tell me about it," replied another. "Did you see the way that girl took that monster down?"

Although there were earlier drops of sweat that had cascaded down Tetsuo's face like a waterfall, new beads of sweat appeared, these ones from embarrassment rather than fear.

Cut me a little slack…he whined in his head. I mean it's not easy to take on that…

"Are you going to make your move?" Misato wondered, clearly growing impatient as evidenced by her tapping her nails on the center of her D-Pad.

"I was just getting to that!" Tetsuo smirked, placing a hand on his deck of cards.

Tetsuo – 7000 LP

Misato – 9000 LP

"It's my move! Draw!"

He gave the card he was holding a firm, but gentle yank before turning it around so he could see it. Then he looked at the rest of his hand and noticed that the chance to play a card had now been opened.

"Here I go!" he shouted to the moonlit sky. "I summon my Biofalcon!"

The sound of a hawk screeching entered the air, although it sounded more robotic and mechanical than a usual one to slew the duelists. Chrome wings, legs, and talons shimmered faintly in the darkness as Tetsuo's favorite bird of prey swooped down menacingly. In the darkness it's most visible feature were the two red eyes that focused on Steelswarm Girastag and Misato at the same time. Rather than flapping its metalline wings to stay afloat, a giant wind turbine attached to the monster's back aided it in its off-air movement. (1700 ATK)

"And moreover, I'm also going to activate the Iron Call Spell!"

In front of Biofalcon came the two-sided megaphone that emitted a pink wave of high-pitched frequency that flew into Tetsuo's Graveyard. All of the other duelists, aside from the card's owner, plugged their ears as the sound continued.

"What's the point of this anyway?" Misato hissed loudly, trying to hear her own voice over the sound of the device. "Are you trying to give us all hearing loss by age thirty?"

"I could think of a couple better ways to do that," chuckled Tetsuo as the pink sound waves retrieved Aye-Iron before the sound vanished completely. "And the point of that was to gain the ability to revive my Aye-Iron from the Graveyard!"

The megaphone disappeared altogether, leaving only the lemur with the golden key infused in its back. (1600 ATK)

"Now I'm going to overlay both my Aye-Iron and my Biofalcon together!" screamed Tetsuo as he moved his fist above his head. "With these two Level 4 monsters, I create the overlay network!"

A beam of gold and a beam of orange swirled around together, creating somewhat of a peach ray of light that was forcibly dragged down into the red vortex that was now rotating on the ground.

"Xyz Summon! Come forth now…"

After the vortex ingested its necessary components, it exploded into motes of rainbow light before a new machine appeared. Dressed in an opulent, regal-looking blue dress, was a giant woman with wide hips and bolted down arms. She was near the size of Tetsuo's Tinplate Archduke, although quite a few inches shorter. Ruby red lipstick smudged her lips as her red locks of hair flowed down in the front and back. In lieu of a bronze-hilted sword, the woman carried with her an enlarged, silver kunai knife in one hand and a sharp shuriken star in the other. (2000 ATK)

"Tinplate Archduchess!"

Tetsuo beamed proudly as the audience now gave him praises of admiration and excitement. However, they fell short quickly once the people realized the meager attack power of Tetsuo's monster in comparison to Misato's.

"What gives?" asked Tetsuo's foe. "You used two good defenses of monsters that could have shielded you to summon something that's weaker than mine?"

"Bigger isn't always better," Tetsuo philosophically pointed out. "Allow me to demonstrate now with Tinplate Archduchess's special ability!"

The machine-woman opened her mouth as one of the two overlay units that diagonally circled here was promptly devoured. Then she raised one of her arms (the one with the kunai knife) and gave a quick, unexpected thrust downward. She released her grip on the knife, causing the weapon to fly at Steelswarm Girastag and stab the monster's tail while dually sticking into the ground. Misato's devil-like beast roared angrily, trying to free its tail to no avail. (2600 – 0 ATK)

"0 ATK?" she screamed in disbelief, shaking as she watched her monster's futile effort.

"That's right," smiled Tetsuo, proudly balling his right hand into a triumphant fist. "Once, during either player's turn, I'm able to swap the ATK and DEF scores of all monsters on the field until the End Phase!"

Misato frowned, but couldn't help but feel something akin to interest in Tetsuo.

So he was able to figure out the weakness of my Steelswarms? Not bad…

Then Misato's eyebrow rose as she noticed Tinplate Archduchess's ATK score.

"I know what you're going to say," Tetsuo preemptively spoke. "Her ATK score is the same right?"

He didn't wait for Misato's nod of her head to continue.

"That's the beauty of Tinplate Archduchess! Even if she changes the ATK of all her loyal subjects, she isn't subjected to the change herself because her score is 2000 for her ATK and DEF!"

Misato gasped, once again realizing the reality of the situation at hand. She took a step back from her monster and braced herself early. She knew what was coming.

"Tinplate Archduchess, you know what to do! Attack Steelswarm Girastag now with Duchess Destruction Devastation!"

With the hand that wielded the shuriken shooting star, Tinplate Archduchess tossed the item up into the air twice, watching the spikes as it spun in the sky. When it came down in her hand on the second toss, without warning she threw the weapon. Girastag, who had since given up on its endeavor the rescue itself, accepted defeat. The shuriken star sliced through the creature's stomach, tearing it in twain before it exploded, shrouding Misato and the people near her with a dark cloud of smoke.

"Alright!" Tetsuo cheered, jumping up and down a couple times before refocusing his attention. "With that I'll end my turn!"

Tetsuo – 7000 LP

Misato – 7000 LP

"Hmph," cried Misato as she picked herself up from the cold earth and brushing off the clods of dirt from her lovely, bright shirt. "I'll admit that you got the better of me there, but I'm starting to see how you operate! Now I can finish you easier!"

She picked up a card from her deck and laughed, as if her mind was dominated solely by the idea of how fortunate her deck's sense of timing was.

"This will do just that!" she announced, waving a card around and speaking through gasping breaths of laughter. "But first…"

The dark portal that Tetsuo had become accustomed to since the beginning of the duel reappeared, as did Misato's Steelswarm Scout. The goggled fiend crawled out of the gateway on all fours but soon stood up on its hind-legs, scratching behind its ears with its forelegs. (0 DEF)

"I'm getting kind of tired of this already," confessed Tetsuo with a heavy sigh.

"Then I'll mix it up a bit!" Misato smirked, lifting the card that she'd waved moments earlier. "I sacrifice my Steelswarm Scout in order to Tribute Summon my Steelswarm Moth!"

Sparks of electricity flew from the sky and zapped Steelswarm Scout. The insect hissed before melting into a puddle of liquid flesh before transforming into something large and ominous. Perky lavender wings hung from a creature's neck and backside as though it were an accessory rather than a body part. Dark skin that went from the devil's feet to its upper body where it split into a vest of ebony was lit by crackles of static. This creature too had a tail, although this one resembled an electric eel more than anything. (2400 ATK)

"Another Tribute Summon?" inquired Tetsuo.

"And it's just as fatal as Steelswarm Girastag was," sneered Misato. "Once my Steelswarm Moth is Tribute Summoned using a Steelswarm monster, I can select up to two cards you control…"

She pointed to Tinplate Archduchess.

"And, for the measly cost of 1000 of my life points, return them back to your hand! Or in this case, back to your Extra Deck!"

Tetsuo gasped, as did the automated archduchess on his side of the field. Then he quickly remembered a crucial factor.

"Just before you do that," he interjected, removing the Aye-Iron that was lying underneath Tinplate Archduchess's black-bordered card, "I can activate the quick effect of my Tinplate Archduchess to swap the score of your monster!"

Although weaponless at that time, Tinplate Archduchess muttered an incantation as a pink stream of magical energy escaped her scarlet lips. The stream of power soon filled the arena, covering everything and turning them the same hued color.

Steelswarm Moth's electricity began to fade (2400 – 0 ATK), but not before it shot one last blast from its right palm. The high voltage beam zoomed across the field, striking Tinplate Archduchess in her stomach, causing her to fall. However, she dissolved into yellow granules of incandescence before she fully collided with the soiled earth.

"That's fine by me," Misato declared. "I end my turn by setting two cards facedown!"

Behind Steelswarm Moth sat two new cards, both unknown to anyone except Misato. As her turn concluded, her Moth flew up into the air, breaking away from the fading pink wall of magic. It spread its wings as it soared in the clear sky, its powers over electricity returning as it did. (0 – 2400 ATK)

Tetsuo – 7000 LP

Misato – 6000 LP

I've only got one turn to try and destroy that Moth before she Tribute Summons another monster, Tetsuo thought to himself. If that's her plan…but then why did she play those facedown cards? Steelswarm Scout needs a clear back row if it's going to be resummoned.

"Well?" Misato said.

"Right," Tetsuo said, his eyes widening a bit because he was truthfully a little taken aback by the sound of someone else's voice other than the one inside his cranium.

He looked down at his deck and moved the bill of his head back and forth before looking up with a smirk.

"Here goes something! It's my turn! Draw!"

After drawing his card, Tetsuo looked at the rest of his hand and strategized for fear that haste would cause him to lose out on his one chance to meet his idol.

"I've got it!" he thought aloud, prompting stares from those around him. "I'm going to activate the Automated Clockwork Machine Continuous Spell from my hand!"

The turquoise clock with the red numbers inscribed in the center of the face appeared. Ticking noises were audible as the red "0" turned twice, quickly producing a red "2" in its place.

"Now that I have that I also have two Clockwork Counters!"

"Clockwork Counters?" Misato questioned. "Should I be concerned about those?"

"I would be," Tetsuo replied, lifting another card in his hand, "because they're beneficial to my Tinplate Duke!"

A giant crevasse opened in the ground as a monster wielding a sword emerged from the trench. The man was dressed in all red apparel and even had an ascot wrapped around its neck as a meager means of warmth. It wasn't too evident, but the man was an android (a fact which nearly remained unbeknownst to the onlookers of the duel had it not been for the clanking noise that came with each step that it took. (1800 ATK)

"And now it's time for the Continuous ability of my Tinplate Duke!" Tetsuo announced. "That means that it gains 500 ATK for each Clockwork Counter that's on my side of the field! And thanks to my Automated Clockwork Machine, that's an extra 1k in attack points!"

A holy shower of rainbow colors sprinkled on Tinplate Duke's shiny armor, causing luminous sparkles of glitter to infuse with the armor and create a solid, iron defense. (1800 – 2800 ATK)

"2800 ATK?" Misato gawked, staring at Tetsuo's monster in disbelieving shock.

"That's right! And you're about to experience it all!"

He pointed to Steelswarm Moth and shouted with a declarative voice, with no fear or hesitation present.

"Go, Tinplate Duke! Attack with Tin Tremor!"

The duke made of tin raised its weapon and smashed it roughly on the ground. The strength that came as a result of the strike was powerful enough to shake the earth, causing tremors and aftershocks left and right. Unfortunately for Tetsuo, Steelswarm Moth jumped into the air at the exact moment when the shaking began, narrowly evading death's grasp.

"What gives?" Tetsuo frowned, looking at the surviving monster. "That thing shouldn't have been able to escape that attack!"

"It's going to do a lot more than that," Misato smirked, pointing to one of the facedowns on her side of the field, which had since flipped face-up. "The moment you attack, I countered it with my Infestation Tool!"

A card slipped out of Misato's deck as she grabbed it and sent it to her Graveyard. Her deck then auto-shuffled itself as she elaborated.

"You see, by sending one Steelswarm monster from my deck to my Graveyard, one monster I control gains 800 ATK until the end of my turn! And what better candidate to give the bonus to than my Steelswarm Moth so he can fend off your assault!"

Magenta fire shrouded the youthful girl's Trap card, causing the paper to melt into the AR vision before those same flames rose higher and higher until they reached Steelswarm Moth, who was a good fifty feet in the air. (2400 – 3200 ATK)

The lavender-shaded wings morphed into the same color as the flames, as did the creature's lurid tinge of voltage electricity. When it completed one full, circular rotation of flight in the sky, Misato's Moth dive-bombed down from its position, catching Tinplate Duke off-guard. The warrior had no time to reach as Steelswarm Moth's wings scraped against its chest plated armor, breaking the covering and exposing its vulnerable spots before sending a jolt of lightning flying at this bare spot and frying Tinplate Duke's inner circuitry.

Tetsuo held his hands up to his face, assuaging the blow he received from the head-to-head between both monsters. He coughed twice, trying to exhale the resulting smoke and smolder from the explosion. His wiped his red eyes rapidly as he noticed the two cards sitting in his hand.

"I set two cards facedown and end my turn like that," he wheezed as his remaining two cards appeared in front of his feet.

Steelswarm Moth descended from its hierarchical mentality, once again walking (or technically floating) among the ground of the commoners. (3200 – 2400 ATK)

Tetsuo – 6600 LP

Misato – 6000 LP

"It's my move!" Misato said, picking up the top card of her deck before grinning wide.

Tetsuo's brows furrowed. He didn't like the way that she was scrutinizing the card she'd picked up.

"Allow me to show you the card that I just drew," she beamed, as though she had read Tetsuo's thoughts. "I summon Steelswarm Sting!"

Tawny wings scraped against one another creating a high-pitched frequency that came in the form of buzzing while the monster that emitted this noise appeared before Tetsuo. The card was clearly designed to be a bee, evidenced by the antennae atop its skull, the charcoal-tinted thorax and mandibles, and most obviously the large stinger attached to its posterior. (1850 ATK)

"Look at that," Misato smirked. "Two against none! But don't worry, I can unbalance the scales even more than that! Trap card activate, Infestation Ripples!"

A dark pool of crimson blood swirled on the field like a whirlpool. One single drop fell from the sky, causing the vortex of red to ripple and create minute waves. Then something began to rise from the liquid, shocking Tetsuo.

Long legs stepped out from the portal, despite the creature that possessed them having wings. Its bald cranium shone a midnight black that contrasted nicely with its orange butterfly wings. Foot long nails scraped against the ground as the insectoid creature bent down to drag its cuticles across the earth, making cryptic symbols. (1700 ATK)

"As you can see," continued Misato, "my Infestation Ripples has the power to resurrect one low-level Steelswarm monster from my Graveyard! Therefore, I chose the Steelswarm Caller that I sent away last turn from my Infestation Tool!"

Gasps and cheers alike erupted almost instantly as Misato's fearsome triumvirate materialized together.

"That's amazing!" shouted one small boy.

"I want those monsters!" agreed another girl.

"It's game over for that kid," whispered a sixteen year old boy to his friend, who almost instantaneously began nodding.

Misato began to laugh in twisted delight, rubbing her hands together in pleasure and anticipation.

"With nearly 6000 points of power, there's no way you're going to survive this turn!" Misato declared. "Not once I play my Axe of Despair anyway!"

From the sky fell a giant, brown axe. Despite its handle made of wood, veins pulsated and throbbed as the weapon descended into Steelswarm Moth's grasp. When the winged Steelswarm turned the hatchet at a forty-five degree angle, a reflection of Tetsuo was refracted. This made the portly boy uncomfortable because it looked as though it was a premonition of his future.

"And I'm sure you're familiar with this card! It gives my Steelswarm Moth 1000 more points of power!"

A red aura, now visible around the frame of the axe, transferred from the weaponry to Steelswarm Moth, coating it in a shroud of energy the same color. (2400 – 3400 ATK)

"Now then, my duel with IV tomorrow awaits! Let's begin the finale!"

She pointed to Steelswarm Moth and then to Tetsuo.

"See that mean boy over there?" she queried, feigning hurt and pain. "He attacked me earlier and it hurt, so I want you to return the favor!"

The moth glared directly at Tetsuo and nodded, complying with its master's wishes. It flew up twenty five feet into the air before aiming the axe at Tetsuo. With a dominant heave of its right arm, it threw the blade which spun round and round rapidly before it connected with Tetsuo's gut. The black-haired boy fell down immediately, his face hitting the ground and a modicum of dirt unwillingly entered his mouth.

Tetsuo – 3200 LP

Misato – 5500 LP

"And don't forget that I still have my Steelswarms Sting and Caller that have a combined power of 3550 ATK!" Misato reminded Tetsuo. "Any last words before I snatch that title?"

"I've got a couple," Tetsuo grimaced, clutching his stomach, "but they're hardly appropriate for some of the members of the audience."

Misato glared at him, but broke this ferocious stare as her eye lifted and her gaze was averted to the right facedown card on Tetsuo's side of the field which was now facing upward.

"What's that?" she asked, pointing to the card.

"It's called Tinplate Turnaround," Tetsuo answered, grabbing his deck from the machine and picking up three cards. "It activates when I take damage and it allows me to send three Machine-Type monsters from my deck to the Graveyard, one for each interval of 1000 Battle Damage that I received from that assault!"

Tetsuo took the three cards that he'd searched for and threw them into his discard slot one by one.

"You could send your whole deck to the Graveyard," Misato laughed. "It still wouldn't save you because the same outcome is going to occur no matter what you do! Needle, Caller! Attack him directly at once!"

Steelswarm Sharp hissed, pointing its stinger at Tetsuo before giving an internal push and squeezing the organ and sending it flying at the capped kid. Then Steelswarm Caller gave a tumultuous screech, causing a black air wave to be ejected from its mouth. It meshed with the gliding stinger, causing an increased rate of travel.

The audience members waited for the buzzer to announce Misato's curb-stomp of a win as the attack hit Tetsuo, causing a billow of fog to blanket him. However, they were all surprised to see Tetsuo not only standing, but with the same amount of life points as before the dual assault.

A shield of electricity cloaked Tetsuo, barricading him safely. In front of the barrier sat a gray tortoise with spikes jutting from the top of its emerald shell. The animal's plastron contained two letters, an "S" on the left and an "N" on the right.

"What is this!" Misato groaned animatedly, looking at the one card that Tetsuo was still holding. "How could you protect yourself without using that last card that you've been holding onto?"

"You didn't think I'd play Tinplate Turnaround for nothing, did you?" Tetsuo beamed, having a sense of pride in holding on until the bitter end. "On the turn that Electromagnetic Turtle is sent to the Graveyard, I can choose to end that turn's Battle Phase at any given moment. Therefore, I chose to halt both of your attacks right before they hit me!"

Rounds of applause and accolade surged through the mass of persons as Tetsuo modestly, but plentifully basked in the fickle limelight.

"But I've gotta thank you for that," smirked Tetsuo. "I couldn't have saved myself without your monster!"

Misato clenched her fists, upset and yet intrigued by the lad.

Again he thwarted my plan and saved himself…Tetsuo Takeda, huh?

"Alright then, Takeda," she said, starting to gain some fervor in her voice. "I'm going to set this card facedown…"

One facedown appeared behind Steelswarm Moth, lying motionless beside Axe of Despair.

"And since I can't attack with my weaker two Steelswarm monsters, I guess I'll just have to do something else with them! With these two monsters, I build the overlay network!"

Two spheres of indigo churned together as though they were circles of butter being rotated. Both fell on the ground as a red gateway absorbed their separate energies.

"Xyz Summon! Scourge of darkness and foreteller of despair! Live on and fight! Steelswarm Roach!"

Following the laser light show created by the discharged portal came a humanoid creature. Saffron patches of armor stuck to the insect's shoulders, thighs, legs, tail, arms, and head as it struck a heroic pose. The abomination withdrew a rapier from the sheath attached to its leg while touching the tip of the weapon with its fingers to ensure that it was powerful enough to do the job required. Although it had a pair of golden wings, the Xyz Monster remained stationary in its spot on the ground. (1900 ATK)

"Turn end!" Misato proclaimed.

Tetsuo – 3200 LP

Misato – 5500 LP

Now she only has two monsters, Tetsuo thought, attempting to work out a strategy mentally. That Moth already used its effect, but I don't know what she could be planning with that Roach Regardless, I can't give up here! I've made it too far to quit now!

"I guess this card may make it or break it for me," Tetsuo gulped, reaching down to grab the card as his hands violently shook. "It's my move! I…draw!"

Tetsuo liberated his card from its silvery prison and turned his head to the side, looking at the back of it. He was afraid to turn it around, but he knew that he'd never get his chance against IV if he didn't fight his hardest.

Let's see what this is…

Hesitantly he moved his card to the left before he saw its picture and text. Then came a wide smile as his heart filled with relieve and joy.

"First things first," Tetsuo remembered, pointing to his Automated Clockwork Machine. "Once during each of my Standby Phases my Continuous Spell there gains one more Clockwork Counter!"

The red number in center of the miniature tower turned slowly to the left, replacing the "2" with a "3."

"And with another Clockwork Counter in my possession, I'm able to activate my other facedown. Go, Clockwork Explosive!"

Three bombs, one for each Clockwork Counter, now sat on Tetsuo's side of the field, quickly ticking as he elucidated.

"You see, now that one of my cards just garnered another Clockwork Counter, I can use this Trap to deal you damage equal to 800 times the number of Counters on my side of the field! And I count three!"

The three bombs bypassed Misato's monsters and rolled straight toward her as she gasped, lithely moving retrograde. However, that didn't lessen the impact caused by the explosives as they detonated in her face, sending her flying backward and tumbling on the ground manically as though she were on fire while her life points took a sharp decline to the tune of 2400.

"And now that I have no more use for my Clockwork Counters," Tetsuo went on, "I'm going to also use my Clockwork Treasure!"

Tetsuo's Automated Clockwork Machine began to illuminate vibrantly before bursting into particles of the same radiance.

"By activating this, I destroyed a card on my side of the field that had Clockwork Counters placed on it! Then, I'm able to draw a number of cards equal to the number of Clockwork Counters the destroyed card had! And if I'm not mistaken, my Clockwork Machine gained its third counter during my Standby Phase!"

Tetsuo reached down and picked up three new cards from his deck after sending both Spell cards on his field into his discard slot. His eyes widened as he saw just what he'd drawn.

This is exactly what I needed!

"I hope you weren't planning on keeping that Steelswarm Moth around much longer," grinned Tetsuo, raising one of the new cards that he'd received from his deck. "Because since I control only Machine-Type monsters in my Graveyard, I can Special Summon a monster from my hand that's going to defeat it! Go, Clockwork Shikigami!"

A light breeze brought forth a tattered piece of white cloth that fell to the ground. Suddenly the garb began to levitate, revealing a pair of long, pasty legs, arms and finally a female, wolf-like head. (100 ATK)

Misato sneered, quickly snagging one of the dormant cards underneath Steelswarm Roach.

"It was only a matter of time that someone like you would try to out power me," she said, frowning as she sent her Steelswarm Caller into the Graveyard. "It was certainly predictable, hence why I played my Steelswarm Roach!"

"What are you going on about?" Tetsuo wondered, trying to cut straight to the chase.

"What I'm going on about is my Steelswarm Roach's special ability! Once you Special Summon a monster that's Level 5 or higher, I can instantly destroy it by detaching one overlay unit!"

One of Misato's lavender-colored overlay units moved to the blade of the sword before being absorbed. Then the cockroach threw the rapier at Clockwork Shikigami's heart, impaling the vital organ before it stopped altogether. Clockwork Shikigami didn't even have time to scream before it vanished just as quickly as it had arrived.

"Looks like you're back to square one," Misato smiled deviously, hand on her hips again.

She's right, thought Tetsuo, unconsciously biting his lip. But I can't give up now! Yuma wouldn't do it, even if he was about to lose, so neither will I!

"Well if I can't summon out high level monsters, I'll just have to switch my game up!" Tetsuo said, twisting his cap to the side and grinning. "Get ready for this one, Misato! I activate the Spell Card known as Monster Reborn!"

The familiar cyan ankh soared down from the sky, covering one empty zone of Tetsuo's field in a heavenly shower warmth and luminosity. Once it vanished, a small portal opened up on the ground and a mysterious figure floated out.

Appearing to be cloaked in an all chrome robe with a mechanical staff was something close to a wizard. A droopy hat covered most of the sage's face, although it was clear from the parts that were visible that he was robotic rather than human. Pointed elf-like shoes protruded from under the purple cloak as the automaton mumbled something unintelligible. To those around it, it sounded close to binary code. Dark mauve energy rotated around the magician in a steady stream as he lifted his head. (0 ATK)

"Due to Monster Reborn's effect, I was able to revive the Tinplate Necromancer that was resting in my Graveyard!" Tetsuo beamed.

"That was never in your Graveyard!" Misato argued, prompting agreement from other audience members.

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Tetsuo refuted. "After all, Electromagnetic Turtle wasn't the only monster that I sent to the Graveyard through the effect of my Tinplate Turnaround!"

Misato closed her mouth quickly and stopped talking upon remembering Tetsuo's Trap card. She tried to shrug and play it off, although it was clear that she was embarrassed to have made a big spectacle about something so blatant.

"Anyways, when Tinplate Necromancer is Special Summon from the Graveyard like that, I'm able to use his effect which lets me summon yet another Tinplate Necromancer from my Graveyard!"

The third and final card that Tetsuo sent to his Graveyard through Tinplate Turnaround appeared now, standing beside its clone. The only noticeable difference between the two necromancers were their clothing colors, one being purple and the other being sea foam green. (0 ATK)

"And next I activate my Iron Draw Spell which allows me to draw two more cards since I control two Machine-Type monsters!"

Tetsuo placed the last of the cards he'd drawn from Clockwork Treasure's effect into the Spell/Trap zone of his D-Pad before his arm momentarily turned metalline. He touched the top two cards of his deck before drawing them. Soon after, the cold steel that sat atop his hand disappeared and his flesh was once more seeable.

Tetsuo's heartbeat increased as he looked at the two cards, trying to formulate the best plan. Then he had an idea.

"That's right!" he thought aloud.

"What's right?" wondered Misato and a couple viewers.

"My Tinplate Archduchess was never destroyed! You sent it back to my Extra Deck instead! That means that I can overlay my two Tinplate Necromancers in order to reuse it!"

Both monsters combined into one single entity of violet before splashing down into a pool of red. Once the cardinal-colored spiral dissipated, Tinplate Archduchess returned, twirling both her knife and throwing star in both hands. (2000 ATK)

"And before I use her effect, I'm going to Normal Summon my Tinplate Goldfish!" Tetsuo yelled.

A tiny wave of water brought with it mechanical goldfish coated in primary colors. Its googly eyes swayed back and forth lazily as though they weren't glued onto the machine properly. (800 ATK)

"And for my last trick," Tetsuo said, his voice emulating that of a magical birthday party entertainer, "I'm going to use my Goldfish's special skill which allows me to play one Level 4 monster straight from my hand! Come out now, Clockwork Savior!"

A dimensional ripple cut the sky in two as a new monster dropped from the multi-space opening. It hit the ground with a "thud" and "clank" noise at the same time before standing up slowly. Oddly enough, the name of the card was clearly a misnomer because instead of something holy and pure, the actual creature resembled a rusted version of Yogi Bear. (1400 ATK)

"So you've brought together a bunch of weak monster," Misato commented. "What good will those do against my two monsters and facedown card?"

"We'll just have to find out now, won't we?" smiled Tetsuo, getting almost as fired up as Yuma would. "By the way, I hope you didn't forget the effect of my Tinplate Archduchess!"

This time Tetsuo's giant woman threw up her shuriken star in the air and the many spiked ends of the weapon scattered as the whole thing burst like fireworks. The spikes sprayed down from the sky like an acidic downpour, transfixing each monster on the field, one by one.

Steelswarm Moth screeched as its wings were clipped a bit, however its red aura from the Axe still aided it. (3400 – 0 – 1000 ATK) Steelswarm Roach hissed and swung its sword blindly, fighting off an enemy that wasn't there. (1900 – 0 ATK) The spikes bounced off Tinplate Goldfish who actually became stronger for overcoming the adversity. (800 – 2000 ATK) Clockwork Savior lifted its paws to shield itself, but it didn't prevent a large dent from being placed in its backside. (1400 – 1000 ATK) Tinplate Archduchess herself sat motionless in the eye of the storm, watching the events transpire before her eyes.

"What was the point of that?" asked a young girl to someone that looked to be her older brother.

"See that Takeda kid there?" replied the boy, pointing at Tetsuo. "He's trying to end this duel with one final strike. If all these attacks go through to that girl, he'll win the ticket and the duel against IV. If not…"

Tetsuo heard what the boy said and thought over the idea in his head.

He's right…If I can get all these attacks through to her, I can win! However, she's still got that facedown card and…

"What's the matter?" Misato said, unknowingly interrupting Tetsuo's scheming. "You're not afraid of one little old facedown card, are you?"

"Well, I…" Tetsuo stuttered.

"Come on and get me if you can!" she shouted, making a fist with her hand and raising it up to her face. "You'll never be able to defeat IV if you're in your head the whole time! You have to take action!"

Tetsuo's eyes widened as the words danced around in his head. Despite the crude and callous manner in which they were spoken, they seemed to have a resonating and harsh reality.

"You're right," Tetsuo concurred. "I won't get anything done if I don't try. That's a good lesson that I should have learned from a friend a long time ago…"

For a moment he remembered one of his most fond memories; the day that he'd met Yuma.

Then Tetsuo raised a bulky arm before swiftly lowering it and motioning to Steelswarm Roach with his index finger.

"Tinplate Goldfish, I send you to attack that Steelswarm Roach!"

The aquatic house pet bobbed its head down, mentally creating a portal of water on the soil which it swam down. Another portal appeared unexpectedly behind Steelswarm Roach as the fish escaped the confine. Misato's ace monster turned on a dime and tried choking the carp with its bare hands. Unfortunately, even though the monster got a hold of Tinplate Goldfish, the automated animal slipped away, slapping its tiny tail across Steelswarm Roach's unprotected chest with a great deal of force and vigor. The roach gave a cacophonous cry before clutching its chest and dying.

Tetsuo – 3200 LP

Misato – 1100 LP

"And then I'll attack your Steelswarm Roach with my Tinplate Archduchess! Duchess Destruction Devastation!"

Tinplate Archduchess fondled its precious kunai knife before placing one index finger in the circular end of the jagged instrument. Misato watched as the woman twirled the item thrice with her index finger before releasing her grasp on it. The dagger moved so fast that it was practically invisible to the human eye. The only sign that showed that it had hit a target was the cloud of smoke that surrounded Misato's side of the field after the attack had struck.

"Alright!" Tetsuo cheered, jumping up and down. "And now…"

He stopped as he saw that Misato's life points remained at 1100. However, he didn't understand how it was possible given the fact that Steelswarm Moth had indeed left the field.

"W-what just happened?" Tetsuo sputtered, unable to grasp the simple answer that was right in front of his face.

"Infestation Wave happened," Misato retorted, pointing to the Trap card on her side of the field. "Right before your monster's attack hit, I activated this card which allowed me to return Steelswarm Moth by to my hand."

She turned around the card so Tetsuo could see the validity of her statement.

"Why would you do such a thing?" Tetsuo asked. "Don't you know that I now gain a replay, which means that I can attack you directly instead!"

"That would be the case if Infestation Wave only had one effect," Misato disagreed. "The one that I told you about was just the cost for the activation of the card. The real effect destroys one card on your side of the field!"

"What did you just say?" gasped Tetsuo.

Sure enough, Misato's statement became a reality once a purple coil of energy shot from the Trap card. The ray of colored light illuminated the nighttime stage and all the monsters while it travelled from one side of the showground to the other. Tinplate Archduchess fell to one knee as the wave smacked her chest. Then she dissolved into golden atoms altogether as the beam passed through her chest and out her back, completely making its way through the solid tin.

"And I'm sure I don't need to tell you that even though Tinplate Archduchess is gone," Misato clarified, "her effect still remains until your turn is up."

Tetsuo scowled, looking at his Clockwork Savior. Although it originally had 1400 ATK, its points had been lowered by 400 during the swap, meaning that it alone couldn't defeat Misato. Nevertheless, he wouldn't give up hope.

"Clockwork Savior," he commanded, "attack directly!"

The bear bent down, crouching on all four legs. Then it sniffed the ground, finding Misato's sweet scent near to it. Becoming strangely attracted to the smell, Clockwork Savior ran over the girl, pouncing on her and smothering her with its hundreds of pounds of rusty, copper weight. Eventually the bear became bored and scurried back to Tetsuo's side of the field, leaving a discombobulated Misato unaccompanied.

"That's all I can do," he confessed, ending his turn prematurely, turning both of his vacant hands into fists.

When his turn had finalized, the spells on Tinplate Goldfish and Clockwork Savior lifted and their dented exteriors reverted back to the ways they had previously been. (2000 – 800 ATK and 1000 – 1400 ATK respectively)

Tetsuo – 3200 LP

Misato – 100 LP

"That was a nice strategy, I'll admit that," Misato praised, "however not finishing me off completely will be your undoing! My move! Draw!"

Misato picked up another card which caused the size of her hand to go from two cards to three.

Ok, thought Tetsuo as Misato looked at her cards silently. She's got three cards in her hand and none on the field. I know that one of those cards she's holding is Steelswarm Moth and that she has too little life points to pay for the effect. But if that's the case, what are the other two?

"There's no point in harboring a card that you already know about," Misato figured, "so I'm going to use my Allure of Darkness!"

The top cards of her deck glowed with a dark aura as she touched them. Darkness surrounded her fingertips and traveled down her hand as she picked up two new cards.

"By activating this card, I can draw two extra cards just as long as I banish one Dark-Attribute monster from my hand!"

She turned around Steelswarm Moth before placing it neatly in her shirt's pocket. Then she looked at the two cards in her hand and frowned.

"Not what you were hoping for?" asked Tetsuo.

"I can make it work with this," replied Misato as she played another Spell. "It's called Dark World Dealings and once it's played we each get to draw a card…"

Tetsuo and Misato both made one draw.

"But then we have to choose one card in our hand and discard it."

Tetsuo sent the Clockwork Catapult he'd picked up seconds before the Graveyard while Misato took a monster from her hand known as Steelswarm Genome and sent it to the Graveyard.

"Next I activate my Burial from a Different Dimension!" Misato continued, not slowing down a bit.

A giant coffin embroidered with opulent gold markings and red rubies appeared. The lid of the casket unlatched and a card flew from it into Misato's Graveyard.

"Since I had banished my Steelswarm Moth for the effect of my Allure of Darkness, my Burial returned it to my Graveyard!"

Tetsuo scratched his head, still not understanding Misato's plan.

"So far all you've done this turn, besides draw cards, is send your monsters away," he noted. "Why are you getting rid of your allies?"

"Allies?" Misato repeated inquisitively.

"Your monsters aren't just cards," Tetsuo responded. "They're there for you when you need them and they respond to your feelings and wishes! Sending them to the Graveyard and banishing them is no way to thank them for what they've given you!"

Misato scoffed, but didn't make any attempt to deflect Tetsuo's commentary.

Could he actually be right? She wondered. No, he can't be…even if I'm sending my monsters away, they're not just going to abandon me!

"It's time to show you the error in your thinking," Misato announced as she played the last card in her hand.

Tetsuo, as well as many of the people watching the duel, joined together for a collective gasp.

"Since I've accumulated exactly 7 Dark-Attribute monsters," Misato explained, "I can use my Spell Card called The Beginning of the End! And once it's played, all I have to do is remove 5 of those said Dark-Attribute monsters…"

She immediately reached into her Graveyard and threw five cards up in the air. The zephyr of the warm night blew away the cards, revealing them to be Steelswarms Moth, Girastag, Scout, Caller, and Sting.

"And by doing so, I'm able to replenish my hand by drawing three all-new cards!" Misato said excitedly.

"Misato…" Tetsuo said, shaking his head as he watched the girl make her three draws.

Misato looked at her new hand before smirking. The cards couldn't have been more perfect.

"Since you control a face-up monster, or in this case two, I can automatically Special Summon the Steelswarm Cell that's in my hand!"

A giant ball materialized in front of Misato. Rectangular symbols lined the outside of the sphere as a head poked through one of the orifices of the object. Milky white eyes in the middle of a heart-shaped head stared blankly at Tetsuo. Saliva dripped down the creature's open, circular-shaped mouth as six legs jutted from the sphere and balanced the insectoid. (0 DEF)

"And next I activate my copy of Monster Reborn to bring back to Steelswarm Genome that's in my Graveyard!" Misato broadcast to the public.

Shadows waltzed around Misato's field, moving in an unknown, but fluid rhythm. The dance ceased once the shadows were hit by the moonlight, revealing the real culprit of the arts. Although it was both handless and legless, the levitating creature moved gracefully. Brown leeches attached themselves to the host's blue body, slowly draining its life force. Creamy blank eyes looked for help amongst the legion of people, but found no such thing. (1000 ATK)

"T-two monsters already?" Tetsuo said, shaking as he saw that Misato still had one more card in her hand.

"Three," she corrected quickly. "When Steelswarm Genome is used for a Tribute Summon, he alone counts as two different tributes. That means that I can summon this by only using those two monsters! Come forth my mighty beast and destroy everything in your path!"

Magenta lightning shot down from the sky, zapping both of the weak Steelswarm monsters and causing their death. However, the sacrifice wasn't in vain because a new creature, a giant creature had taken their place. An enormous, dark demon with elongated claws roared at the sky. Dark wings tinted with sporadic drops of gold extended, revealing a wingspan of at least thirty feet. Serrated parts of the monster's body shone gold while its predominately black parts absorbed the illumination from the moonlight. The thing that perhaps caused Tetsuo the greatest deal of stress however was the crab claw of an attachment atop the monster's skull. The claw clamped down on the air, threatening to do the same to Tetsuo in no time flat. (3200 ATK)

"I summon you now, Steelswarm Hercules!"

Tetsuo froze in place, testing his neck muscles by staring at the ten foot tall menace. Though his mind formed many words, his paralyzed mouth was unable to speak any of them.

"Tetsuo Takeda…it was an honor dueling with you," she said in an unexpectedly nice tone of voice. "You've been the only one in this tournament to push me to the brink, but I'm afraid that it still wasn't enough."

Purple lightning sparked around Hercules, coating him with voltage energy.

"By offering half of my life points," she proceeded, "I can destroy every other card on the field thanks to Hercules' ability!"

One of the bolts of lightning backfired, hitting Misato as she paid the cost for Hercules' superpower. Then the rest of the shockwaves of lilac shot from the monster's hand, instantly incinerating Tinplate Goldfish and Clockwork Savior in a blazing inferno.

Tetsuo covered his eyes in shock and looked down at his hand, only to remember that he was all out of cards, all out of options, and all out of time.

That's it, he thought as he watched Misato command her monster to attack. This is game over for me…

Tetsuo's ears, deafened by the cheering and hollers of the crowd, didn't hear a word that Misato had said. They couldn't even hear the lightning being produced by the gargantuan monster. He could only look on and see his fate. Lightning shot from Steelswarm Hercules' hand, travelling towards Tetsuo with each passing second.

Tetsuo closed his eyes now. Despite knowing the outcome of the duel, he couldn't bear seeing his defeat. The reality was entirely too much.

"I've got you now!" Yuma declared, his squeaky, high-pitched, seven-year-old voice practically shouting. "For once I'm going to defeat you Tetsuo!"

"Just try it, squirt," mocked the younger boy, his long, black hair messily concealing the grin on his face.

"You asked for it!" Yuma laughed, pointing at Tetsuo. "I send my monster to attack you directly!"

"Not so fast, Yuma!" Tetsuo interjected. "I activate the effect of my Clockwork Savior!"

"Wait a minute," Yuma said slowly, clearly taking his sweet time to think. "How can you do that? Clockwork Savoir is in your Graveyard."

"That's why I can use it," grinned Tetsuo. "Man, you sure do have a lot to learn about this game, don't you?"

Tetsuo's eyes widened as his flashback brought him back to reality. He opened his eyes to see the lightning a little less than a foot away from his face.

Misato watched as the bolt collided with Tetsuo which resulted in an eruption of think carbon fumes, making Tetsuo invisible from Misato's gaze.

"Game set and match," she whispered to herself as she reached up to adjust the pink bow in her hair. Her hands fell from her head and back down instantly, becoming like limp noodles as she saw something that she didn't quite accept.

Standing before Tetsuo were the illusory forms of both Clockwork Shikigami and Clockwork Savior. Additionally, Tetsuo's life points were also intact, although heavily reduced.

Tetsuo – 100 LP

Misato – 50 LP

"That's impossible!" Misato barked. "How could you survive that blast?"

"The card you destroyed earlier wasn't called Clockwork Savior for nothing, you know," Tetsuo smirked. "It's got quite a unique effect. You see, if and only if my life points would reach 0, Clockwork Savior gets banished from my Graveyard. Then I also banish another Clockwork Monster with 500 or less ATK my life points instead become equal to the ATK of that banished monster!"

He picked up the Clockwork Shikigami card from his D-Pad and waved it around.

"Lucky for me you put my friend Clockwork Shikigami in the Graveyard, right?" he asked rhetorically before pocketing his two Clockwork monsters.

Misato looked at her empty hands in the same way that Tetsuo had. They were signs of a duelist who had nothing else to do, no more tricks to play.

"Just…go…" she said, spacing out the words in an attempt to maintain her calm.

Tetsuo took a deep breath through his nose and looked at his deck cautiously. Just like Misato he was all out of options and plans. However, unlike Misato he wasn't in control of a supercharged monster.

Everything is riding on this draw…Tetsuo gulped, looking at the top card of his deck. If I can't get what I need now, I won't get that duel with IV. But with that Steelswarm Hercules on her side of the field, it definitely won't be easy. I still have to believe though…believe that my allies are behind me one-hundred percent!

"It's my turn! I…draw!"

With one swipe of his hand, he drew the top card of his deck before spinning it around.

"And to think that I was about to take this out…" Tetsuo gasped, looking at the card.

"What are you talking about?" Misato asked, frowning at Tetsuo's persistence.

"Normally I use Machine-Type monsters that resemble animals," Tetsuo stated, "however I made an exception for this one because of its effect and it's good to see that I didn't make the wrong choice…"

He slapped the card he'd drawn in the middle zone of his monster slot.

"Get ready to come out now! I summon out my Drillago to the field!"

The noise that came from Tetsuo's monster reminded Misato of her dentist's office. The sound of activate, spiraling drills whizzed around the arena as a creature made up of ten separate drills walked onto the field. Pieces of lustrous gold armor held the collaboration of tools together as it whirred perpetually. (1600 ATK)

"It's about time that you gave up," Misato said, heaving a thankful sigh of relief.

"Give up?" Tetsuo laughed. "I guess you don't know about the special ability of Drillago, huh?"

"W-what special ability?" Misato solicited.

"Since your field contains only a monster card, and one with more than 1600 ATK, Drillago is able to attack you directly!"

Misato's eyes widened as her mouth dropped wide open.

"You're joking right?" she stuttered.

"'Fraid not!" Tetsuo replied with a smirk. "Show her now, Drillago! Spiral Thrust!"

The drill monster stood on the tips of one of its drill-shaped feet before twirling around and around in a pirouette. This motion caused a tornado of wind to be yanked from the atmosphere and transferred to the drill creature. This wind moved around it like a hurricane as it jumped into the air before dive-bombing at Misato. Steelswarm Hercules tried to grab the annoyance, but Drillago avoided the creature's grasp in the eleventh hour. The wind from the machine removed the pink ribbon from Misato's hair, causing the item to fly into the air. When it fell back down, it hit the ground carelessly as the owner of the decoration fell backwards onto the ground as well.

Tetsuo – 100 LP

Misato – 0 LP

"Fantastic!" screamed the announcer, forgetting that his microphone was still off. "The duel has concluded with one winner that will advance on to face IV tomorrow! Ladies and gentlemen, that winner is Tetsuo Takeda!"

Applause and cheering erupted from the spectators, not so much as from the outcome of the duel, but from the skill that both duelists exhibited. Tetsuo ignored the accolade as he unhooked his D-Pad from the machine and walked over to Misato.

She was looking down at the ground when he stopped a couple feet away from her fallen body. As she looked up, Tetsuo noticed tears in her eyes. He extended his arm to her the same way that she had done in their exchange before the duel started.

Misato looked at his hand as if she was untrusting. However, she took the boy's limb and he helped her up off the ground. She brushed her florid dress before sniffling a bit.

"Y-you were really g-good out there," she admitted, trying her hardest not to allow her tears to fall over.

"Thank you," Tetsuo nodded. "So were you. I just wish both of us could face IV. He would definitely get a run for his money if you were up against him."

Misato managed to find a smile within her sullenness. A single tear dripped down her face as she looked at the cards in her deck.

"Thank you, Tetsuo," she said. "My monsters…I mean my allies and I will be practicing super hard for the next chance we get to face IV! And we'll train even harder to beat you!"

"I wouldn't have it any other way!" Tetsuo smirked, looking at his own deck. He closed his eyes and imagined each and every card that he owned in his deck.

Thank you, my friends…

"That reminds me of something," Misato said, wiping her eyes quickly.

She retrieved her deck from her D-Pad and shuffled through the cards at a breakneck pace. She looked at each one only briefly until she had stopped at the one that she was looking for. She pulled it out of the pile of cards before placing the rest of her deck in her pocket.

"When you beat IV tomorrow," she said, handing Tetsuo the card that she'd scoured her deck for, "would you put this in your deck for me? That way it's like I'm helping you take him down. Then we can both get our dreams accomplished, right?"

Tetsuo tenderly took the card from Misato's hand before looking at it. He didn't see much use in the card in his own deck, however he wasn't a person that would easily break a promise. He instantly placed the card in his own deck and shuffled it manually.

"I promise that I'll beat IV tomorrow, Misato," Tetsuo smiled. "I mean…that we'll beat IV tomorrow!"


Misato smiled widely, but was now unable to contain her tears. The slid down her face one by one, showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. She clutched the closest thing to her (which happened to be Tetsuo), and cried into his shoulder.

"Misato…" Tetsuo began before he saw a woman out of the corner of his eye. She was the same one that had registered Tetsuo in the tournament in the first place.

"Hi there!" she smiled, as chipper as ever despite the sight of the little girl crying on Tetsuo's shoulder. She pulled something out of her pocket and handed it to Tetsuo.

He took it, noticing that it was a slightly bent admit one ticket for a free duel against IV. What really set it apart from a regular ticket though was the fact that it seemed to be made of pure gold (or at least so impressive of an imitation for it that Tetsuo couldn't tell the difference.)

"Just don't lose it," laughed the woman as she smiled and waved at Tetsuo before returning back to her post at the entrance of the underground arena.

He looked back at the frustrated and crying Misato before looking at his ticket. His brow furrowed as he determinedly balled his hand up into a fist.

IV…you better watch out tomorrow because I'm going to bring everything I have in my arsenal to defeat you! I'm definitely going to take that winning streak of yours away, not just for me but for Misato as well! I promise you that!

New/Anime Cards Shown in This Chapter –

Electromagnetic Turtle (Monster)

Machine/Level 4/Effect/LIGHT

0 ATK/1800 DEF

Effect: You can choose the Battle Phase of a turn in which this goes to the Graveyard. You choose the timing in which to you the effect.

Note: This card was first used by Yugi Muto/Mutou in Episode 131 of "Yu-Gi-Oh!" Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

Tinplate Duke (Monster)

Machine/Level 4/Effect/EARTH

1800 ATK/1000 DEF

Effect: This card gains 500 ATK for each Clockwork Counter on the field.

Tinplate Necromancer (Monster)

Machine/Level 4/Effect/DARK


Effect: When this card is Special Summoned from the Graveyard, you can Special Summon 1 "Tinplate Necromancer" from your Graveyard. That monster's effect is negated while it is face-up on the field.

Clockwork Savior (Monster)

Machine/Level 4/Effect/LIGHT

1400 ATK/1000 DEF

Effect: Banish this card from your Graveyard when your life points become 0: Target and banish 1 "Clockwork" monster from your Graveyard with 500 or less ATK. Your life points become equal to the ATK of that target. Each player can only use the effect of "Clockwork Savior" once per duel.

Tinplate Archduchess (Xyz Monster)

Machine/Xyz/Rank 4/Effect/EARTH

2000 ATK/2000 DEF

Effect: 2 Level 4 monsters

Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; switch the original ATK and DEF of all face-up monsters on the field until the end of this turn.

Tinplate Turnaround (Trap)

Normal Trap

Image: Tinplate Archduke standing on the opposite side of a revolving stage while Tinplate Archduchess stands on the other side.

Effect: Activate only when you take Battle Damage. Send 1 monster from your deck to the Graveyard for each multiple of 1000 Battle Damage you take from that battle.

Note: These five cards first debuted in this chapter.

Author's Note: Sorry for another long wait, but with Spring Break next week, I can assure you that another chapter will be up shortly! In fact, I've already started the next couple of chapters as an added motivation! Stay tuned for the next one which is looking to be one of my favorite ones that I've ever written! Here's a preview…

Yuma is released from the hospital early, but wakes up to find that his sister has already transported his belongings back to their house. When Yuma shows up to grab his items and return back to the World Duel Carnival, he finds someone unexpected waiting for him. Yuma can't believe his eyes when he sees who it is! However, all is not what it seems when he's challenged to a duel, and it's even worse when Astral turns up missing! Who is Yuma's mysterious rival and what will happen in the duel that will change Yuma's life forever? Find out next time!