Yes, I'm starting another fanfic. I first came up with this idea while I was watching the duel between Yuma and III in the Zexal anime. I know the result of the duel, but this fanfic is based on Yuma either losing or just not finishing that duel at all. Everything that takes place is based on this alternate outcome, meaning there's no Astral following Yuma around...yet. With luck, I'll be able to update this one as regularly as my other two fanfics, Heir to Hellsing and Through Another's Eyes.

Another thing about this fanfic; it will be dark, there's going to be angst, and maybe even Yuma being an ass. Because of how this fanfic is set up, the Yuma here is very different. He's abandoned everything in Heartland, including his Deck. Yes, he'll be a bit more on the brooding side, but I do intend on working in some of his normal goofiness every now and then. After all, he isn't really Yuma unless he has a few derp-type moments.

I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, or any other YGO series. If I did, do you really think I'd be publishing this here?

Chapter 1

The Last Duel


Yuma opened his eyes with a gasp. He'd fallen asleep—again. That last duel he'd had with Astral… it still haunted him. The guilt that he hadn't been able to do anything was still gnawing at him, four years later.

Grunting, he pushed himself up off the ground, onto his elbows. For whatever reason he couldn't fathom, he couldn't forget that duel against III. It had been going so well…until III had used that weird power against him. It had made him forget his kattobingu—his heart. It had also rendered him unable to see or hear Astral, which III had used to capture the being and destroy him.

It had been Astral's scream of agony that snapped Yuma out of it.

It was also the last time he dueled. Anyone. He locked up his deck, and came to Neo Domino City. What irked him most was that he couldn't resist the siren call of the Duel, so he built a new deck and enrolled in Duel Academy. He told them that he had no family left.

It was a lie.

So, here he was, a senior at Duel Academy, fighting off memories from five years ago. Memories that he wished he could forget.

Memories that screamed at him the way Astral had before he died.

Suddenly, a paper bag replaced his view of the city. It was Zei Utaki, a friend of his at DA. He called him his friend because he couldn't find a better word for it. He was solitary here, and rather than his happy-go-lucky self, he stayed distant from everyone. Zei and his other acquaintance, Tōya Kotetsu, only thought he considered them friends…and he kept it that way. "Hi, Zei."

Zei took a seat next to him and plopped the paper bag down in his lap. Opening it, he found two ham and cheese sandwiches. He missed his grandmother's rice balls (which he liked calling "duel meals" back then), but didn't show anything. "So this is where you've been for the last two class periods," Zei said, taking a bite out of a tuna sandwich. "Misaki-sensei was going neurotic in Biology."

Yuma grunted. "I don't like that class," he said, nibbling at his own ham and cheese. "Not a fan of Dueling History either. Thus, I skip both."

Zei let out a long-suffering sigh. "Dude, you have got to stop skiving class." He said. "If you do, you won't have the credits to graduate."

Yuma grunted. Honestly, he really didn't care. But, if only to appease Zei and Tōya—and his teachers—he showed up to classes regularly. Or, semi-regularly at the very least. If it weren't for the fact that something inside him still couldn't resist Dueling, he wouldn't be attending Duel Academy. There were just too many painful reminders of his past.

Of Astral. Of the Numbers….

Yuma cursed under his breath and took a swig of the milk Zei had brought. "So, what was Torinote's reaction to my skipping DH again?"

Zei shrugged. "He was cool with it." He screwed up his face and did an accurate imitation of their Dueling History teacher's voice. "'Eh…Tsukumo's not here, but I won't count him anyway because he's hardly ever here. Can't blame him, since the class is boring as hell. If I had my way, we'd actually be dueling in here…' yeesh, I think he likes his class less than you do, and he's the teacher!"

Yuma snorted in laughter. "And that's when you know a class sucks; when the teacher doesn't even want to be there!" He said, waving his sandwich. He sighed and went back to his surly self. "I really don't want to be dueling today."

"Cheer up, buddy." Zei said. "At least you're only dueling Tōya instead of the brute hall monitor. You and Big T know each other's decks like the backs of your hands."

"Yeah…." Yuma fidgeted with his sandwich. He was only half done with it, but he wasn't all that hungry. The memory from his last duel was still too fresh. What didn't help was his little nap on the roof had only let him relive it…and he hated it. He looked to Zei, wishing that he could honestly enjoy dueling as much as the surfer-jock did.

Zei Utaki was skinny, tanned, had bright amber eyes, and dark hair that flopped down into his eyes like a mop. If you were looking for Zei on a weekend, especially in the summer, your best bet was to look down by the beach. The kid spent nearly all his time on his surfboard. His deck was even water-based…another reminder of his days in Heartland.

Tōya Kotetsu on the other hand was all muscle, was taller, and had hair he bleached white. Their nickname for him was Big T because of his size. Tōya intimidated most people, but Yuma and Zei knew that despite how big he was, Big T was an oversized teddy bear at heart. Thankfully, his deck didn't bring back any memories from his old life; it was a Chess deck. Fittingly enough, Tōya's second love was chess…and taking things apart to see how they worked.

And today Yuma and Tōya were scheduled to duel each other. Fun. Yuma's current deck was based around the old Dragunity archetype. He couldn't stand to use Exceed monsters anymore. Like so much else, it reminded him of Heartland…and Astral and the Numbers and….

Yuma shook his head to clear it. Zei noticed the motion. "You all right, buddy?"

"Yeah; just flashbacks." Yuma replied. "I'm fine…probably just nerves over the coming duel." He quickly downed the last of his ham and cheese sandwiches and stood.

"You are one weird dude, Yuma." Zei said, following Yuma as he strode to the door and back inside. "You're a helluva duelist, yet you seem to not like it that much." He frowned at him. "Is it something to do with how you lost your family?"

If only you knew… Yuma kept the thought to himself. "Sorta…it's complicated." He said, dodging the question. "Let's just get that duel with Tōya over with. Who knows; maybe this time he'll stop bugging me about using old cards."

Zei laughed. "Suuuure he will. And I'll hang up my surfboard and take up knitting." He patted Yuma's back. "This is Big T we're talking about, buddy; we both know he'll never stop ribbing you on that deck of yours."

Yuma shrugged. "One can always hope, I guess…."


Whistling off-tune, Yuma set the bags on the counter. School had ended half an hour ago, and he took the time just after to get some necessities; groceries, toilet paper, new light bulbs as he'd realized the previous day he was out…anything a high school student living on his own would need. He'd refused to stay in the Duel Academy dorms, instead deciding to live in an apartment by himself. He worked at a nearby coffee shop on the weekends, and that coupled with a scholarship he'd gotten from the school and help from Zei's family paid for rent, bills, school expenses, and other needs.

He was repacking the fridge as the doorbell rang. Once he'd convinced the veggies into the crisper drawer, he went to answer it. It was a deliveryman, and he was holding a small package. "Tsukumo Yuma?" He asked.

Yuma nodded. "Yeah…why?"

The deliveryman handed him the package and pulled a clipboard out from under his arm. "This package arrived for you…I was told you'd have to sign for it." He said as Yuma took the package and clipboard.

"Any idea where it's from?" Yuma asked as he signed his name. Okay, so his writing was still messy…somehow, he doubted that would ever change.

The deliveryman shrugged as he took the clipboard back. He handed Yuma a copy of the slip. "Nope; there's no return address…. At least, there's none that I can see. There might be one in the box." He tapped his hat. "Have a nice day, then Mr. Tsukumo."

Yuma raised his hand in a wave as the deliveryman left. He closed the door behind him, slipped the signed slip into a filing slot on his desk, and took a close look at the package. It wasn't too big; enough to carry in one hand, and then some. If he didn't know better, he'd think….

He snorted. "No way." He dropped the package onto his desk, took a few steps back to the kitchen, then sighed and returned to it. "It's probably just a prank that Zei and Tōya are…playing…"

He trailed off as he read the address. Just like the deliveryman had said, there wasn't a return address, and Yuma couldn't recognize the handwriting. Whoever sent it wasn't someone he knew. Ookaaay…maybe it's not a prank. He thought. But if it's not, then what is it…?

Yuma, now curious, carefully opened the package, making sure not to tear the paper. He dropped it on the desk and started on the box. He used his pocketknife to cut the tape, and when he opened it his breath caught in his throat. Inside the cardboard box was something that brought all his buried memories rushing to the surface.

It was his old Deck.

And so the wheels begin to turn. Someone has sent Yuma is old Deck, but for what purpose? It'll become clear in the next few chapters. As for what's coming next month...let's just say he's getting an even bigger surprise.