Chapter 6: God of the Unknown
Two duelists took the field, but only one held Matt's attention. Even though the mystery man wore heavy snow gear, Matt was transfixed by his exposed face and the similarities it bore to his own. There was something Cary told him during the Spirit Day festival last semester: She'd said that Matt's birth records indicated he was one of twins. Without a doubt, this mystery man was that twin brother Matt never met.
"Dude," Bryan said with a nudge. "Are you okay? You haven't said anything for like, twenty minutes."
"It's been one minute," Garry corrected him.
"Still. For a guy like Matt who talks a lot? That's the same as twenty minutes."
Garry stepped right beside Matt, looking sympathetically at the mystery twin. "It must be weird finding out you have a brother like this. You didn't know about him?"
Matt shook his head. "No. I mean, I heard about him a few months ago, but I never expected to find him so soon." He scoffed and added, "Here, of all places, too. At a tournament of the gods."
"Not to mention the fact that he's supposed to be dead." Bryan's point was blunt, but accurate. At the same time Cary found the certificates of live birth for Zeke and Andrew Apple, the birth names of Matt and his twin, she found the death certificate for Andrew. Then and there, Matt assumed he would never find his twin brother.
"So how is he here now?"
Bryan shrugged. "Do you think you were actually triplets?"
Matt made a face. "It's possible. Unlikely, though. Cary found birth certificates for twins. Why didn't she find certificates for triplets?"
"She didn't know she should look for them."
He retorted, "She didn't know she was looking for twins, either. Her search was only to find my birth parents. And once she did, all that other information was easy to find. Including an apparently fake death certificate. But why would someone fake his death?"
Garry suggested gently, "I don't know what's going on, and I didn't even know you were adopted, but maybe the best way to get information about your twin brother is to talk to him."
As if he hadn't even considered that method, Matt stared at Garry for a moment with a big grin. "You are brilliant. Of course that would work!" He began to approach the duel stadium, but Garry held him back.
"Not right this moment," he protested. "He's dueling."
"Then now might be the only time to talk to him, right?" Bryan pointed out. He made a good point. Leo Gambini was in no condition to talk after his loss to Ren Bacon. Depending on the course of the duel, Matt's twin might not be, either. It depended on the will of his opponent. "Who is his opponent, anyway?"
Matt answered, "His name is Ignacio Scocco. He works for Titus Industries."
Puzzled, Garry asked, "Are you sure that's his name?"
"What do you mean?"
"Ignacio Scocco is an Argentinian soccer player. People call him Nacho."
Scratching his imaginary beard, Matt said, "No. That doesn't sound right. He went by the name Iñaki. But this guy's pretty good. He's the one who knocked me out of the GX Tournament at Duel Academy."
"Is that so?" Garry asked. "He must be tough, then."
"He is. He was the finalist on the Titus team. Rory beat him to take the contest home for Kaiba Corp."
Iñaki was a native Costa Rican, and he was an avid student of the flora and fauna found throughout his homeland. Joseph Titus was the man who discovered Iñaki's untapped dueling prowess and established him as a skilled face of the company. Even if he lost during the GX tournament to a lowly sophomore, Iñaki was undeniably still the most skillful duelist in the entire Titus Industries.
Suddenly Garry went wide-eyed. "Oh! I read about that tournament. Ignacio Velez-Menendez! That's the name of the Titus employee who nearly wiped out the Duel Academy students."
"Yeah! That's him."
Bryan laughed, "How did you get from Menendez to Scocco?"
"No idea. I don't even watch soccer."
"So wait," Bryan said. "If there's someone here from Titus Industries, then they had a god card, too? Justin told us something about cards he thought were god-like. But he said those cards didn't quite have the same feel." Confused, he asked, "Do you think someone mistook their special cards for god cards?"
"Anything is possible," Matt admitted, "but Justin should scarcely be wrong when it comes to god cards. And keep in mind what Potter told us when he broke the Seventh Seal: All the dark spirits of the world had their seals removed. The god cards we know have gone from pieces of the Shadow Realm to being windows straight into the Shadow Realm. In essence, they are the Shadow Realm."
"You're saying those 'maybe god cards' have also gotten stronger, and now they're legitimate gods."
"That does explain how a representative of Titus Industries received an invitation to this contest. It is strange, on the other hand, to see Iñaki here and not that guy Orik who Justin dueled. He was the one wiping the floor with our classmates throughout the tournament."
Bryan replied matter-of-factly, "Titus obviously left him at home this time because he lost. Iñaki beat you without even using god cards. If Titus gave him the power of three unknown god cards, this guy might be nearly unstoppable."
"Three god cards?" Garry repeated. "This guy has three?"
"He very well might," Matt said. "We will simply have to watch and see what happens."
Five minutes earlier, Iñaki extended his hand to his familiar opponent as a friendly greeting before their duel. "Buenos días, Matt. I did not expect to see you here."
"I'm not Matt," his opponent replied. "I'm his twin brother Zeke." He motioned to the group of three duelists chattering like monkeys while one of them was being examined by the paramedics. "Matt is over there."
Recognizing the student duelist he met at Duel Academy and comparing him with the man currently standing across from him, Iñaki almost flinched. "Wow. You two look the same." He took another look at the one who introduced himself as Zeke and said, "Maybe I see the difference in the eyes."
"That doesn't surprise me," Zeke admitted. "We're twins, but we have little in common. He didn't even know I existed before he saw me come over here and take off my snow mask for an introduction."
"Sí? He doesn't know you?"
"No. But his reputation is obvious in Duel Academy. I know everything about him and his dueling ability, including that you beat him when you two dueled in the GX Tournament pitting Titus Industries against Kaiba Corp. And I promise you that I am far more powerful than he is."
Iñaki was accustomed to hearing smack talk from his opponents. Every duelist always thought he was the best. The fact that Iñaki walked into every duel acknowledging his inexperience and expecting the opponent to win was how he kept his emotions steady at every twist and trick play. "You are that good, are you?"
"I assure you that this place is a whole new world for you. The combined power level in this citadel is immeasurable. You're clearly just a friendly guy who was pulled into this tournament without a clue what to expect."
"My boss think I'm strong enough to defeat a few god cards. He is the one who invite me."
Iñaki could see his father's face as he lay there inside the MRI machine. He didn't look like he was in pain. That was a reassuring sign. He only looked scared. They both were. Iñaki's father had collapsed in the field and no one was sure why. The physician had suspected it was a heart condition and wouldn't condone the use of drugs without further testing. The MRI alone would cost more money than Iñaki would be able to pay back in a year.
Money problems became worse as soon as the results came back cancer. Iñaki gripped his father's hand reassuringly, but all he heard through much of the doctor's debrief was a dry ringing in his ears. Cancer was fatal without treatment. His father couldn't continue to work with cancer ravaging his body, but Iñaki would never be able to afford the treatments that could make his father well again.
"Mr. Menendez?" the doctor called to get Iñaki's attention.
"You understood what I've said?"
"Lung cancer. Inoperable."
"I'm sorry. I just need to make sure you and your father understand the situation as I've explained it to you."
Iñaki was hesitant, but he nodded and relayed the question to his father in Spanish. Hearing his father acknowledge that even with treatment, he might live only another few years nearly broke his heart. That sweet man with the smile glued to his face was suffering from one of the worst afflictions that could happen by chance. He never even smoked, and their Costa Rican home was a lush example of fresh air. It wasn't fair.
"I just… do not know how we will pay for it."
The question plagued Iñaki as he stood in the waiting room, filling in discharge papers and scheduling the first treatment. As he watched his father sit there, putting together his last will and testament with one of the hospital lawyers, he made the decision to speak with Joseph Titus. The man was always busy and worked on the top floor of the office building beside the hothouse where Iñaki worked, but Titus had sought Iñaki's father for the company when he learned of his special soil treatments for coffee beans. Surely Titus thought such a man was worth keeping around.
But Iñaki couldn't get past Titus's bull dog of an assistant. She was insistent that Iñaki couldn't bother "Mr. Titus" because his schedule was "completely booked," and that Iñaki didn't leave on his own, security would do it for him. He couldn't give up, though. There was no other way to get the money he needed.
Just as the secretary was ready to hurl Iñaki out of the building by her own power, the door opened to Titus's spacious office as he exited the room. His suit was flawless and perfectly pressed. His tie striped with multiple blues perfectly matched his charcoal suit and brought out his eyes. He walked with such confidence and poise that Iñaki momentarily lost the ability to speak to such a regal man.
"Sally, I have a research meeting. I'll be back in an hour."
"Yes, Mr. Titus."
Titus merely glanced at Iñaki out of the corner of his eye as he walked by. "Ignacio, isn't it?" he asked, receiving a shy nod in reply. "Come with me." The command caught Iñaki completely off guard, but he was compelled to obey. After all, speaking with Joseph Titus about treatment money was exactly what he wanted to do. If only he could find the courage to bring it up. He stood in stunned silence while the elevator carried them to the bottom floor.
Out the building they went, down the street three blocks until they reached a Starbucks café. It was a curious place for the CEO of a rival coffee enterprise to go for his morning coffee. But he said he had a research meeting. Who could he be meeting at Starbucks, and why did he invite Iñaki?
Titus ordered a cup for each of them and sat down across from Iñaki as he drank. "What do you think, Ignacio?"
"About the coffee."
"Oh." He looked into the cup. "It's tasty. Maybe too bitter. Needs sugar."
"I agree. Your father's soil treatments help our company to brew coffee that is naturally less bitter without sacrificing the caffeine content. You know what that means? Fewer people adding sugar to their coffee. Less obesity. Those who drink your father's coffee will be healthier than the poor saps here."
Curious, he asked, "Then why did you bring me here?"
Titus shrugged with a half-smile on his face. "In order to overcome your rival, you have to know what you're up against." He raised his cup. "Drinking this mud makes me more confident in our product."
"I think I understand." Iñaki was silent for another moment while Titus watched him drink his coffee. "Um, Señor Titus? About my father…"
"I wondered when that would come up," Titus replied. He sat up and reached into his pockets, producing two small piles of playing cards. He lifted one and showed it to Iñaki. "Tell me, Ignacio. Have you ever seen these cards?"
"We see Duel Monsters on TV. I never play."
"Then you know the basic rules." He shuffled one of the decks and placed it in front of Iñaki. "These two decks are starter decks. They're commercially-prepared decks intended to teach beginners how to play. I'm curious to see what you're capable of."
Titus chuckled in an effort to loosen up his startled escort. "I do this with all my serious business partners. It shows me how well you think on your feet and adapt to unexpected situations, information I can always use in my business. But you can think of it as the great equalizer. With the cards, our birthrights and social status hold no bearing. We are not CEO and employee. We are simply Joseph and Ignacio. Are you okay with that?"
For the next hour, Titus proceeded to play four duels with Iñaki. Though each duel dragged longer than the one before it, never could Titus defeat Iñaki within the first ten turns. For Iñaki, playing with the cards was relaxing. The cards practically spoke to him, setting up each play almost the instant he read a card's effect. It was truly an impressive showing for a beginner.
"You duel well," Titus said.
"Gracias. It is a fun game."
"To many people, this is not just a game. A duel can be used as a means of making money, or it can be used to demonstrate one's power over others. It all depends on the situation and the stakes."
He leaned in toward Iñaki. "I know your father has lung cancer. None of my employees gets an MRI without my lawyers hearing about it. I would have thought nothing of it until I saw you outside my office this morning arguing with Sally. If I had to guess, the results were not favorable, and you wish to discuss health care with me."
"Ignacio, I cherish your father's contributions to my company. He is a darling man and the world will be a little bit darker the day he dies. I would like for us to work together to delay that day as long as we can."
Iñaki perked up a bit. His English wasn't perfect, but Titus may have just agreed to pay for his father's cancer treatments. "I give thanks, sir."
"I'll get my medical lawyers to set up the payments," Titus told him. "In the meantime, I need you to take some time off from your current work. Whatever the project, drop it. You will still be paid, but your time will be learning how to play this game and everything there is to know about Kaiba Corp. and Duel Academy."
The request made little sense to Iñaki, but he also didn't want to question it for fear that Titus might change his mind and withdraw his offer to pay the medical bills. "Of course, sir. I will do exactly as you ask. Anything to help my father."
Zeke returned an intense gaze. "This is far more dangerous than paying for your father's cancer treatment is worth."
With a gasp, Iñaki asked, "How do you know that?"
"I'm completely unknown in this place," Zeke replied. "But I did my homework and thoroughly researched everyone else who might be here. I know all about your boss's arrest and subsequent release. I know that your cancer-ridden father is brilliant when it comes to soil treatments and that Titus is only paying for his medical care to pad his wallet and to pull you into his fights. You saw what Ren Bacon did to Leo Gambini using the power of his god card. I'm worried that you do not have the will to compete against the ruthless foes you will find here."
Iñaki was always nervous about dueling. Why shouldn't he be? He only learned how to play the game about six months earlier. There were always new cards to learn and infinite strategies developed by duelists even more variable than the cards. Sometimes he also struggled with English, which could make understanding the cards tough. But that's why he studied hard to adapt his familiar deck for a few new tactics. And all the stress of a duel was worthwhile if it meant his father would continue to live.
"I appreciate the worry," Iñaki said, "but if the choice is to let my father get sick or to play a game with dangerous people, I will take the risk. I'm not helpless, even if everyone else knows more than me."
Zeke nodded. "Alright, friend. Then let's have a good duel here."
With that friendly agreement, both duelists stepped onto the platforms and rose to their positions above the dueling field. The Nine of Spades stood directly beside the field to act as judge and intermediary as needed. He gave Iñaki the first turn.
"I set one card and end my turn."
Zeke looked unimpressed. "You beat my brother with this simplistic strategy? I'll summon Daeva – Saurva (3/1800/1000) and clear your field." A man appeared on the field wearing expensive but ancient-looking silks. An orange shirt covered blue undergarments, which pulled over his shoulder to create the effect of half a cape. He carried a single short sword, sheathed, in his left hand. At Zeke's unspoken command, Saurva held the sword in front of him and took the hilt with his right hand. He held the position for a moment until he shifted slightly and blinded everyone with a flash of steel. By the time everyone's eyes adjusted so they could see the field, Iñaki's monster—a tall, gray slab of stone—was split in half.
"Impresionante," Iñaki replied. "Instant destruction?"
"Of monsters in defense position," Zeke agreed. "All monsters, actually. If you had an army of monsters in defense position, he would slash right through all of them, even if they were especially defensive like Spirit Reaper or Marshmallon. In fact, there's nothing Saurva can't cut through—only things that are more difficult to cut through."
"Okay, okay. Well, you destroyed Naturia Cliff (4/1500/1000), so I can play another one." A second rock wall appeared on the field, sitting in front of Iñaki as a defensive barrier.
Zeke just nodded. "Decent start. I'm still annoyed by all the defensive monsters, but I'm sure you'll change that up in the next turn, right? I'll just set a Trap and end my turn."
Iñaki 8000: Zeke 8000.
"Aquí vamos!" Iñaki said excitedly. "I use Naturia Cliff as a Tribute to summon Naturia Bamboo Shoot (5/2000/2000)." A small patch of sod sprouted on the field, producing a cartoonish bamboo shoot with large, purple eyes and a small mouth. "Also, I play Naturia Stinkbug (3/200/500) because Cliff left the field." Unintimidating in stature, the second monster was even smaller than the bamboo shoot—nothing more than a green stinkbug. "Now, attack Saurva with Bamboo Shoot and then you with Stinkbug." He rightfully showed no concern for Zeke's face down card. Bamboo Shoot squeezed its eyes shut and pushed hard into the ground until more shoots exploded from its body, flying through the air like arrows piercing the skilled swordsman. After that, Stinkbug hopped across the field—slowly, due to its size but with extra-proportional distance. Within four hops, it was right in front of Zeke's field avatar. Instead of a grandiose attack, Stinkbug produced a visible cloud of gas.
"How apropos," Zeke remarked. The duel station even produced a foul stench to add effect to Stinkbug's attack. "And I've noticed that many of those little bamboo shoots have covered my Trap card zones."
Iñaki chuckled. "Is a nice effect, sí? Bamboo Shoot was summoned by Naturia monster, so you cannot use Spell or Trap cards."
Iñaki 8000: Zeke 8000 – 200 – 200 = 7600.
"Sure is nice," Zeke agreed. He took a moment to look over his hand. Unfortunately, as long as Bamboo Shoot was on the field, his options were severely limited. But he had one obvious choice available. "It's my turn to play on the defensive. I'll set one monster."
"That's it?" Iñaki asked playfully. "Is a simplistic strategy, no?"
"Sure. And the strategy disgusts me. But sometimes you just have to wait until you find that little bit of magic every deck holds."
Iñaki laughed. "I'm kidding you. But I do play Naturia Cliff (4/1500/1000)." A giant, rock monolith appeared beside his Bamboo Shoot, standing tall over the stronger monster and potentially giving vertigo to any opponent who gazed at its sheer face. "Now, Bamboo Shoot attacks again." Another forced expulsion rained more shoots down on Zeke's monster, but the shoots failed to pierce its massive, orange hands.
The monster covering Zeke's field revealed itself as Renge, Gatekeeper of Dark World (4/100/2100). It was a fiendish monster with a body shaped like an enormous tick or mite, except he only had two legs and two arms. His mechanical body made him strong enough to resist the rain of shoots.
"Aw! Good monster," Iñaki moaned. "I move Stinkbug to defense. I set one more card and end my turn."
Iñaki 8000 – 100 = 7900: Zeke 7600.
"All my monsters are good monsters," Zeke remarked. He smiled at Iñaki for a moment as if toying with the idea of toying with his Columbian opponent. "I'll set one more monster and do nothing else for now."
"You're going easy on me," Iñaki said.
"You've blocked my Spells and Traps," Zeke reminded him. "Not a lot else I can do."
"Okay. Buen punto." He drew and looked over the cards he held. His love of nature made the Naturia monsters perfect for keeping Iñaki calm. Their low attack power made them difficult to use effectively, but the awesome effects they brought could lock down the field so the opponent couldn't do anything to defend himself. Bamboo Shoot was an excellent start, preventing Zeke from using any of his Spells or Traps. But he still had access to monster effects for the moment.
"Okay. Stinkbug (3) and Cliff (4) will Synchro summon Naturia Landoise (7/2350/1600)." His two monsters faded into the backdrop of nature and emerged as a towering tortoise with skin like stone and a shell coated with lush greenery, including a deciduous tree that appeared nearly as a second shell. This monster would make an excellent addition to the lockdown he was forming against his especially confident opponent.
Iñaki commented, "I have a new monster. Plus, Cliff plays another Naturia when he goes to the Graveyard. This time is Naturia Mantis (4/1700/1500)." With claws like leaves and a body almost microscopic relative to the Landoise, Mantis looked like a blue-eyed version of its namesake. "Now I have two attackers. Landoise is strong enough to beat Renge…" The tortoise lumbered forward a few steps, but its movements were slow as it rattled the field. Impatient for its opponent's destruction, Landoise lifted one leg high and slammed it into the ground. The shock caused Renge to stumble, receiving enough damage to collapse from the attack. "…and Bamboo Shoot can maybe kill your face-down monster." Spewing another rain of prickly shoots, Zeke's monster revealed itself as a sickly, zombie-like monster.
"When you destroy Newdoria (4/1200/800)," Zeke explained, "he destroys one of your monsters in return." Weakened by the shoots sticking to its skin, Newdoria showed one final burst of energy to leap at Landoise's legs, grabbing one and preparing to explode.
"I don't think so, my friend. If I discard a Spell card, then Landoise negates a monster effect." Newdoria exploded in a vicious burst of blood and tissue, but Landoise showed no outward signs of even noticing the effort, apart from the blood staining its leg. "And now, Mantis can attack straight." The mantis may have been tiny and slow as it hopped across the field, taking several bounds to reach Zeke's avatar, but its leafy scythe was as powerful as a farmer's scythe as it swiped clear through Zeke's Life Points.
Iñaki 7900: Zeke 7600 – 1700 = 5900.
Zeke was displeased with the situation before him, but he was also good at hiding his disdain from his opponent. "I'll summon the monster Daeva – Zarich (3/1200/1000)," he declared. The word "monster" would be used to describe his card by few duelists. She resembled a human woman: red-hair capped with a golden tiara; a slender, toned body covered by simple silk and a loincloth; and feathery, red wings like that of a phoenix—strong enough to carry her through the air. She carried by her side a long, curved blade resembling the tooth of a giant demon.
"Sorry again," Iñaki spoke, "but Mantis has an effect, tambien. I discard a Naturia card and destroy a monster you summon." Without even maneuvering across the field, Naturia Mantis took a powerful swipe with its scythes and sliced Zeke's monster into three pieces. "Maybe the duel is not so one-sided like you say?" To himself, he added, The lockdown is nearly complete, Papa. I will always win anywhere as long as it means I keep you alive.
"I have yet to see your god." Zeke's unerring confidence was slightly worrisome to Iñaki, but what more could he do without the ability to play Traps, summon monsters, or use effects? "What will you do with your turn?"
Iñaki 7900: Zeke 5900.
As he drew a tuner monster, Iñaki wondered if it was worth the effort to summon the Aesir when he already had the field locked down. "Maybe later I'll play my god card, if you still have Life Points left."
With a nod, Zeke noted, "You don't have it ready, then. I thought giving you time to summon it was the only way to make you play it. I see instead I'll have to push you to the brink. Starting with this: Effect Veiler." He discarded from his hand, and a green-haired spellcaster—flying by wings of the air—floated above Bamboo Shoot, instantly decaying all the shoots produced by the Naturia monster's body. Iñaki wished to combat the effect, but he was without a Spell to discard for Landoise's effect.
"Is not too bad," he decided. "My monsters can attack."
"But I can defend myself with my Trap now," Zeke countered. "Daeva – Aka Manah lets me summon as many monsters from my Graveyard as you currently have on the field." A demon of great size emerged along the backside of the field just in front of Zeke. With bat-like wings stretched from sideline to sideline, a thin body with narrow limbs and claws, and a mouthless face dotted by deep-red eyes, the Aka Manah demon ripped open three plots from which Zeke's previous monsters emerged in defense mode. "By that right, I'll summon Renge (2100), Zarich (1000), and Newdoria (1000)."
"Just like that?" Iñaki said. He was baffled by how powerful Zeke's card was considering it didn't even cost him Life Points to play it, and he was annoyed that an apparent victory slipped away so easily. At least he still had the upper hand. "Okay. We'll repeat the attacks. Landoise to Renge, Bamboo Shoot to Zarich, and I will wait before attacking Newdoria." His monsters struck Zeke's defense with their powerful blows once more, but Zarich withstood the barrage of bamboo shoots, and everything seemed to cower in the face of Newdoria's destruction effect. "Zarich was not destroyed?"
"Not by battle."
"Oh. That's no good. Well, I will find a way to get rid of Newdoria and not let it destroy my monsters."
"You won't have to. Aka Manah's effect only lasts until the End Phase of the turn." His slender demon, recognizing the end of its strength, reached out and grasped Newdoria and Zarich within its claws, squeezing the life from its prey and they both withdrew back into the ground.
"Ohhh! That is the bad part. You don't keep the monsters."
Iñaki 7900: Zeke 5900.
"Right," Zeke acknowledged. "That means your near-perfect lockdown is safe from Newdoria. But I've decided that letting you keep the lockdown in play stops you from dueling as hard as you can."
"What do you mean?"
"If you want to beat any of the other opponents here, your game will have to rise to another level. But as long as you feel like you can stop your opponent from making a play, you won't put forth any extra effort."
Iñaki shook his head, confused by Zeke's taunt. "You say is not good strategy to stop you from playing Monsters and Spells and Traps?"
"Did you stop me?" Zeke replied. "See how easily I stumped you with a single Trap card? And now, a single monster will obliterate your lockdown."
There was no way for one monster to do all that, Iñaki thought. He didn't have a perfect lock in place, but it was pretty close. He may not have a Spell to prevent monster effects, but he did hold a Naturia monster to prevent Zeke from summoning any monsters and mounting an attack.
"Let me show you the Lava Golem (8/3000/2500)." Landoise and Bamboo Shoot—the heart of Iñaki's lockdown—disappeared as a wave of lava erupted from the ground and washed onto Iñaki's field. A gargantuan beast emerged from the lava, humanoid in shape with massive limbs that dripped lava with every twitch. "I've summoned it to your side of the field by offering up the two monsters that pose the biggest threat to me," Zeke explained. "Not only that, but your Mantis can't do anything about it because it was a Special Summoning. For the time being, that monster is yours. I'll simply lay down this Trap card and let you have your turn."
As soon as Iñaki drew his first card, he watched a large glob of lava fall right by his feet on the platform. The Lava Golem was a slow-moving yet restless creature. Its constant shifting its feet threw lava from its body, occasionally striking the nearest duelist—the one controlling it on the field!
"That's hot. That play might hurt me a little, but you did give me a big monster with no restrictions on attacking."
"Only the restrictions you give it," Zeke agreed.
"That I give? No, no, my friend. I will attack with it. First, I am going to summon Naturia Marron (3/1200/700)." A new piece of nature sprouted on the field, resembling a spiny chestnut with big, cartoony eyes. "His effect puts Naturia Fruitfly in my Graveyard, and I shuffle Cliff and Cliff back into my deck." He combined the two cards with his deck and offered it to Zeke to shuffle before loading it back into the duel station, but Zeke simply shook his head and allowed Iñaki to shuffle it himself without complaint. "Okay. Then Marron will attack."
He was no fool, keeping in mind that Zeke had a Trap face-down to defend him. He had even went so far as to declare it was a Trap and not a Spell. But even though Iñaki lacked the means to defend against the Trap immediately, he guessed he was safe if he allowed his weakest monster to attack first. He wanted to keep Lava Golem for a direct attack, if possible.
"I'll activate Rainbow Life," Zeke replied. Marron's body began spinning in place, building up speed until the moment it shot across the field and tried to collide with Zeke's avatar. But a barrier shining with seven colors surrounded the avatar and absorbed the kinetic energy of the attack. "I discard one card, and until the end of this turn, all attempts to lower my Life Points will increase them instead." Sure enough, Marron's attack points were absorbed as Life Points without dealing any damage to Zeke or his avatar.
"Good card," Iñaki confessed through some disappointment. With that move, Zeke retook the lead, and Iñaki had no significant moves available at the moment other than to set a single card. "Acabado."
Iñaki 7900 – 1000 = 6900: Zeke 5900 + 1200 = 7100.
"Gracias. I'll summon Daeva – Aeshma (2/1600/500)." The monster that appeared on the field was tall and muscular, donning a complete set of bone armor and wielding a heavy-looking bone hammer as if ready for war. "This messenger of war will obliterate Naturia Marron (1200), and then I'll set one card face-down." The fiend swung his bone hammer around over his head three times. On the third swing, he pulled the hammer down in front of his body toward the opponent. But the head of the hammer spun still too greatly to strike the ground, instead causing Aeshma's entire body to flip over behind the force of the spinning weapon. After a single flip, Aeshma planted his feet and used the momentum to slam his hammer on the ground so hard it rent the field and parted the land beneath Marron's tiny body. "That ends my turn."
Iñaki 6900 – 400 = 6500: Zeke 7100.
After Iñaki drew another card and Lava Golem nearly melted his duel platform by its mere existence, he suddenly regretted having even a powerhouse like that on his side. Zeke played only a single card to make Lava Golem's 3000 points moot. His new face-down card could do the same thing.
"Maybe now is time," he told his opponent. "I use my card Gleep-neer, the Fetters of Fenrir." He spoke the name of the card slowly because the spelling made it a tough word for a Spanish-speaker. "I can take a monster card from my deck to my hand, and I will play that card: Mara of the Nordic Alfar (2/1000/500)." The air on the field darkened as a blue imp with wild hair appeared from a short break in the clouds above. "She is a good tuner for you. You said you wanted to see my god card. Mara can tune to the two monsters in my hand. L-josalf? of the Nordic Alfar (4)."
"It's closer to Yo-salf," Zeke explained. "Germanic languages can be difficult."
"You speak it?"
"I speak a lot of languages," Zeke confirmed with a nod.
"Cool. Anyway, you were waiting to see my god card: Loki, Señor de los Aesir (10/3300/3000)." His blue imp disappeared just as suddenly, but her residue energy sparked the appearance of a tall, lanky monster with a jester-like appearance, from his flamboyant robes to his curved hat. While not dressed the way one might imagine of a god, Loki's aura was undeniable. The air around him sparkled, and the only light on the field came from around his body. It was as if he generated his own spotlight just for the attention.
Zeke smiled at the sight, even though Loki's aura targeted Zeke with hostility. "Beautiful. I can sense his aura. The spirit of that card is everything the rumors say and more."
"I feel it, too," Iñaki confessed. "It's like he is standing behind my shoulder and pushing me during the duel." He gazed awkwardly at the giant before him. He didn't want to admit to everyone present that sometimes Loki scared him. When Joseph Titus entrusted Iñaki with Loki, he referred to it as the "weakest of the Aesir." But way the card felt when he touched it and the way its spirit nudged him along, he couldn't imagine that being true. "Weak" was a subjective word. Loki was powerful in many tricky ways. Right then, Loki was itching to attack.
"Alright. Loki (3300) wants to attack your Aeshma (1600)." Loki's eyes flashed red brightly, and his body flickered as he stepped forward and squared off on the warrior demon. Accepting the challenge, Aeshma squared off and prepared his bone hammer. Loki pointed his finger and produced a sharp, powerful beam of energy that bounced off the reflective head of the war hammer, which appeared momentarily to be glass. Aeshma rushed his opponent and performed a single spin move against his towering opponent, swiping clean through Loki's knees like he was a cloudy mirage.
"Tricky, tricky," Iñaki said. It was just a mirage. The real Loki appeared out of thin air directly behind Aeshma, who stumbled to the floor after missing with a full-force swing. As Loki reached out with his finger, a glass dome surrounded him.
Zeke announced, "I activate Mirror Force. Your attack is negated, and all your monsters in attack mode are destroyed."
But Loki simply cackled, and his finger stabbed through Aeshma's backside like it was butter, shattering the glass barrier effortlessly. "Loki's effect negates Traps in the Battle Phase. So Aeshma is destroyed, and finally I can attack you with the Lava Golem (3000) you made me summon." The mighty golem reached out with its lava-soaked hands and grasped Zeke's avatar tightly. There was no physical effect on Zeke himself, but his avatar was damaged as his Life Points dropped sharply.
Iñaki 6500 – 1000 = 5500: Zeke 7100 – 1700 – 3000 = 2400.
"Trap negation is perhaps one of the most useful effects for a god to have. Certainly one of the most powerful," Zeke commented. When he lifted the top card from his deck, a slight wisp of steam appeared in the air for just an instant. "It forces a change in my strategy. I will set one monster and activate Darkworld Shackles to hold Lava Golem in place." Two shackles clasped around Lava Golem's ankles, attaching the beast to a giant ball of iron with a demonic face. Emitting powerful shadow energy, the ball could not even notice the effects of the lava as its prey attempted to remove the shackles. "As long as that card remains, Lava Golem (-100/-100) can't attack and its attack and defense points plummet all the way down to 100 each. That's all for now."
Unfortunately for Iñaki, the Lava Golem was stuck in place, but every effort to remove the shackles threw another glob of hot lava at the avatar, reducing his Life Points even more. For a monster with 3000 points given for free by his opponent, Lava Golem was a huge burden.
"I will summon another Mara of the Nordic Alfar (2/1000/500). And your monster might be another strong one like the one with big hands, so Loki (3300) will attack." Another blue imp flipped into the air beside Loki as the mighty god blasted another powerful beam of light through Zeke's monster—the raggedly-armored Newdoria (4/1200/1000).
"You were right to attack with Loki first," Zeke said, "because Mara wouldn't be able to destroy Newdoria. But tell me, does Loki also negate monster effects?" Just as Zeke had attempted earlier in the duel, his second Newdoria staggered across the field. Having received a grievous wound and with no energy to attack, he did nothing more than grab Loki's ankle and self-destruct. For such a small creature, the explosion dealt massive damage: It took Loki's entire leg and the lower section of his torso. Blue blood spilled from the nastiest wound Iñaki had ever seen. It was too much even for a god to survive. Loki's entire body turned to stardust and dissipated into the air.
"That was not good. At least you have no defense." Mara floated across the field until she rested before Zeke's avatar. She flipped around once, smacking the straw man with her weighted tail.
"Before my turn ends," Iñaki announced, "I would like to show you something. It is Loki's real most powerful effect." He kicked a card from his Graveyard out of the pile and removed it from play as the stardust on the field began collecting in front of him. "I remove my old Mara from play so Loki (3300) is summoned again." The stardust took form as the same giant jester, emitting the same powerful aura as before. "Summoning him once was the hard part. Now he will be almost impossible to destroy."
Iñaki 5500 – 1000 = 4500: Zeke 2400 – 1000 = 1400.
"That sounds like a challenge," Zeke said. His face peeled into a wide grin. "I love an opponent that always comes back for more. It makes the duel so much more interesting. But before I begin…" Lava Golem, who had been frantically trying to free itself from the Darkworld Shackles, attempted to break the iron chain by swinging the demonic ball and slamming it on the ground. Unfortunately, its aim was poor, and the ball slammed on Iñaki's avatar, resulting in some personal damage.
At this point, I'll banish three of my fiends from my Graveyard to summon Daeva – Nanghaithya (6/400/3800)." A chimera-like creature with a humanoid head, a feline body, and a serpent for a tail fell from the sky to the field, landing on all fours with a powerful slam and loosing a mighty roar. Riding on its back was a slender woman, nude though with hair long enough to cover her body. She carried a golden staff capped with a jewel of blood red on the end.
"Wow. She's pretty, and her defense is high. Is that your god card?"
"She is not. She merely stands as one of the servants of my god. For now, she and her mount will defend me until the next turn. I'll set one more Trap to end my turn."
Iñaki 4500 – 500 = 4000: Zeke 1400.
"Another Trap," Iñaki noted. "Well, I finally have a way to get rid of Lava Golem. I use it as a Tribute to summon Svartalf of the Nordic Alfar (5/1400/1600)." After flinging another glob of lava at its controller, the Lava Golem and its Darkworld Shackles disappeared, replaced by a hefty, pink imp with a club-tail—very similar in appearance to a larger version of Mara. "When that is summoned, I can move a Nordic monster to my hand from the Graveyard, like Yo-salf of the Nordic Alfar." To finish his turn, he set Gleipnir a second time. He could use its effect on his next turn to pull another Nordic monster to his hand and potentially summon another Synchro monster.
Or, if his luck really held up, he might draw his Bound Wand. That card would make Loki stronger than Nanghaithya, and Svartalf might take the rest of Zeke's Life Points. Not only that, the Bound Wand would let him summon Loki back to the field no matter what attempt Zeke made to destroy it.
Iñaki glanced behind him, looking hopefully at Joseph Titus. He respected Titus and all he was able to do with his company at such a young age, but all he really cared about was getting all the money for treatment his father would need. ¿Estás viendo? he wondered.
"You played a good duel." Iñaki turned back to his opponent, who offered him a half-hearted smile and a slight nod. "Through the strength of your god's attack, I felt how passionate you are. Clearly you spare no effort in order to protect your father as well as you can. But this duel has to end now. I'll activate my second Aka Manah to summon Daeva – Zarich (3/1200/1000) and Daeva – Tawrich (3/1800/1000) from the Graveyard." Again, he summoned his ginger-haired beauty with the red wings and the tooth-like sword. Zarich was joined by a second creature of equal beauty, though with an opposite aura. Though both women had similar figures and thin clothing, Tawrich had black wings, and horns adorned her head where Zarich wore a crown.
"All three of my monsters will tune to summon Angra Mainyu (12/4000/4000)." The air shifted tremendously, as though a heavy blanket were dropped over the entire citadel. A masculine body emerged on the field—unclothed but with skin hardened and red like armor. Four, blood-red wings spread from his shoulders like a segmented cloak. Spines ran from the base of his skull down into a thin tail. Flaming horns erupted from his forehead over his thick, yellow eyes and stern visage. The mere presence of Angra Mainyu brought with it a powerful aura—so imposing it rendered most of the Numbers-guards standing along the perimeter of the citadel to drop to their knees, and many more to pass out in the snow. Even those spectators strong enough to remaining standing still felt the urge.
Iñaki struggled to resist the force. He held no doubt that Angra Mainyu was a god card as much as Loki—though, perhaps even more powerful than Obelisk the Tormentor!
"Papa," he uttered with a thought to his sick father. "Lo intenté."
Boastfully, Zeke announced, "This is where the duel ends. Once per turn, Angra Mainyu can target himself and one of my opponent's monsters for destruction. You then lose Life Points equal to your monster's attack points." Angra Mainyu turned his palms up and they immediately burst into flame. The flames grew larger as they seemed to draw all heat from the room in order to produce greater power. Finally he waved his arms and the flames left his hands. For a moment, everything was still, but slowly the ground turned orange as the platform heated up. The fire exploded from the ground, spraying both sides of the field with ash and debris. And then a second explosion centered on Loki! And a third centered on Angra Mainyu! Explosions continued bombarding both sides of the field until it seemed unlikely even the two duelists would emerge alive.
Iñaki 3000 – 3300 = 0: Zeke 1400.
Spectators waited for three whole minutes after the last explosion for the dust to settle and the field to be visible again. Loki, Lord of the Aesir was gone, but Angra Mainyu was still standing. Zeke didn't bother to explain how his god survived. He simply watched Iñaki's Life Points drop to zero, retrieved his deck, and lowered the platform to ground level. He walked around the platform to where Iñaki had collapsed. He took Iñaki's deck and Graveyard from the platform and combined them. He kept Loki for himself and then he slipped the rest of the cards into Iñaki's coat pocket.
Zeke leaned in close where no one else could hear him. "You should still be able to hear me like this. You have been hurt by Angra Mainyu's attack but not fatally so. I withheld malicious intent for one reason: You deserve to live." He glanced across the courtyard to where Joseph Titus stood. He was heavily covered to mask his identity, making no immediate moves to help his fallen employee. "Titus will fall when he faces me in this tournament. He can't protect you or your father anymore. But you have marketable skills. Between your knowledge of the soil and your ability with the cards, you can be the salvation your father needs." With that, Zeke walked away while the paramedics retrieved Iñaki to examine him.
Where Bryan and Matt watched, some shock regarding Zeke's god card still lingered between them in the air. "Did you feel that?" Bryan asked.
"Yeah," Matt said. "The similarity with Spenta Mainyu was undeniable. Angra Mainyu was the same. More powerful, maybe, but definitely of the same family."
"So that guy really is your brother this time. Probably not a clone."
"Not this time."
Garry looked between them for a moment to see neither noticed what he did. "Hey, guys? I have a few questions. You said your twin brother's death was faked, right?"
"And the death certificate was for Andrew Apple."
"And that guy calls himself Zeke."
"Nothing gets by you."
Garry huffed. "Apparently it gets by you, though." He waited silently to see if Matt and Bryan could make the connection even while the Numbers told them to return to Yasna for a two-hour recess. Bryan's wide-eyed expression suggested he may have figured it out, but Matt's brain was so fixated on Angra Mainyu and the tournament of god cards that he didn't realize it until the Garry repeated the facts for a second time.
Bryan saw it in Matt's eyes finally. "There it is."
"Wait. I'm supposed to be Zeke. But he…?" Matt's expression fell. "So I'm the one on the death certificate?"
First, thanks go to tiramisu19 for contributing Iñaki to the story and for writing the first draft of this duel. I tweaked it since then, but the base came from his help. I just hope I didn't screw up the gameplay rules in the meantime.
This chapter came out much longer than I intended. It could probably be cut into two chapters, but I'm not a big fan of doing that unless circumstances call for it, like deadlines or distinctions in the narrative. I hope you enjoyed it. The next chapter will show Matt meeting Zeke face to face and learning just a little bit about himself.
Trivia: I enjoyed giving Iñaki a flashback demonstrating his purpose in this chapter. I feel like it makes him a more solid character than I had done for most of mine so far. It's partly because I've been rewatching Yu-Gi-Oh! and hearing everyone say why they "MUST win this duel." But I think it worked. What do you think?