Chapter 5: Stand up!

"I will explain the placements on the mat and the rules as we go along," Misaki said briefly. Yata nodded, listening attentively. She took out her deck from her case and selected a card and placed it face down on the top-middle circle.

"Pick a Grade 0 from your deck and place it on the 'Vanguard' circle as I have just done," she instructed. "Then shuffle your deck and place it on the place for the deck." Yata looked through his deck, eyes searching for a certain card, then had done what was told. "We draw five cards. If you're not happy with your hand, you can mulligan." Both didn't need to do so.

"And then what?"

"We start with Grade 0, then to Grade 1, Grade 2, and lastly Grade 3."

"Grade 3 is the best and most strongest! Such as myself!" Morikawa boasted. "Hey newbie, I'll see if you're worth fighting me! I would gladly accept more apprentices with me as the master, of course! It'll be an honor worth having!" he pointed at himself with his thumb proudly, chest risen. Yata ignored him and set his attention on Misaki's instructions. There was only one person who can call him his apprentice; that person that he admires so much. Misaki ignored the boasting-teen as well.

"You actually cowered to the back when he first came," Morikawa's best friend, Izaki pointed. The black-haired teen didn't seem to admit as he laughed. "Haha! I didn't run away! I was plotting ultra-something that is secretly awesome!"

Izaki could only stared and sigh in disbelief with Miwa grinning. At hearing a bit more of Morikawa's boastings, Misaki and Yata started to feel a bit annoyed and hoped he wouldn't say another word next.

Setting their mind full on the game in front of them, both players placed their fingers onto their starting Vanguard. In a beat of a second, they shouted simultaneously as they flipped the card, "STAND UP, VANGUARD!" in less than a moment, their spirit forms elsewhere engulfed in a wind spiral and took form as the unit they played.

"Lizard Runner, Undeux!" Yata called. (Grade 0/power 6000/shield 10000/ Kagero) A red dragon in metallic battle armor on his claws, chest, and head and clad with sabers in his claws appeared; metallic wings spread with sheathed swords at the root of the wings.

"Lozenge Magus!" Misaki called. (Grade 0/power 3000/shield 10000/Oracle Think Tank) Yata blushed. What was this game anyway? The image he just witnessed and the battlefield. He set those thoughts aside in watching what Misaki would do next.

"I'll go first; draw. I ride Battle Sister, Cocoa! (Grade 1/power 6000/shield 5000) And move Lozenge Magus to rearguard due to herskill." She moved the card onto the circle under the Vanguard Circle. A young woman with elf ears in what resembles a nun outfit materialized; she had long slits on both sides of the dress and long-length white socks. She wore a necklace with a big ruby diamond gem. "I end my turn as you cannot attack on the first turn."

Yata drew from his deck, initiating the start of his turn, "I'm… gonna do this ride!" He rode Embodiment of Armor Bahr (Grade 1/power 8000/shield 5000) He rested the card and aimed the attack at Misaki's Vanguard.

"You can call more units to the field, but their grade must be equal to or less than the Vanguard," Misaki informed. "But you must call before your battle phase."

"Oh, that's nice to know!"

"No guard. Do a Drive Check and if it's a trigger unit, your Vanguard power can be raised, and higher the power, the attack will go through."

Yata drew for the trigger, which revealed to be Demonic Dragon Mage Raksha (Critical Trigger (+5000, +1 critical)) "Hah?"

"Nice! Beginner's luck!" Miwa piped. Misaki stared blankly and could only agree with Miwa. Her agreement wasn't evident in her composed features as her gaze and concentration was set on the game. Lourdes' power boosted to 10000 and the attack hit. "Since you've drawn a Critical Trigger, it added one critical to your unit and I Damage Check twice." Misaki drew two cards from her deck one by one and placing them in the damage zone, located at her left side of the mat. Those cards being E Alarmer (Stand Trigger) and Weather Girl Milk.

"…..I end my turn."

Misaki drew a card. "I ride Maiden of Libra!" (Grade 2/power 9000/shield 5000) An angel with long twin braids with flowery decorations in her hair manifested. Her chest was bound with bandages and drapery flowed around her. She held a golden scale in her grasp.

Yata's face flushed red in seeing Misaki took change of "cosplay". He turned his gaze away slightly with a free hand covering his mouth and nose, feeling like he almost had a nosebleed. Misaki had taken notice and stared at him blankly. "Pay attention, please." A hint of sharpness evident in her tone. He snapped back his gaze towards her.

"How am I supposed to play with the cute, yet revealing, girls on the field?!" he bellowed, still with flushed cheeks. Evidently, the tone held a childish pout.

"…" Misaki glared at him, thinking his reason was ridiculous. A snort escaped from Morikawa then erupted into laughter. Izaki had joined in with a teasing chortle. Miwa grinned, chuckling lightly behind his fist.

"He's quite a sensitive guy, isn't he?" Miwa remarked cheekily.

Yata griped. He just had to blurt out more things to make feel uneasy and in front of Misaki and the crowd, again! He released a slew of curses under his breath. "Just…continue…" she sighed. The decision whether to punch the daylights out of the ones laughing at him or not came to mind. He'd think of that later, as he has a challenge with Misaki right now! Yata took notice of the look Misaki gave him. "What?! Did I say or do something?! I'm paying attention to you, Misaki!" The lilac-haired woman released an aggravated sigh.

"Call! Oracle Guardian, Gemini! And Silent Tom!" Two cards were placed in the front row, one on each side of Maiden of Libra. (Oracle Guardian, Gemini: Grade 1/power 8000/shield 5000) (Silent Tom: Grade 2/power 8000/shield 5000)

Yata shuddered lightly in seeing the ghost lady hovering behind Silent Tom with arms wrapped around his shoulders. He was man in a suit that looked like he belonged in a mafia. Yata hated ghosts and ghost stories.

Misaki rested Lozenge Magus, then Maiden of Libra. "Boost Maiden of Libra's power and along with Lozenge Magus' skill, more power is added. 15000 power total!"

Yata quickly scanned his hand. "Uh.. I'll guard or whatever!" He slapped two cards in the guardian zone, which was the big oval outlined in blue and is the centerpiece of the mat. Those cards being Embodiment of Armor Bahr (shield 5000) and Flame of Hope Aermo (shield 5000)

"Drive Check." Misaki drew. It revealed to be Oracle Guardian, Nike (Critical trigger, +5000, +1). "The attack goes through!"

"Damage Check…." Yata drew and revealed: Dragon Monk, Goku and Berserk Dragon before placing them in the damage zone. Tch!

"And since the attack hit, counterblast and draw one card due to Maiden of Libra's skill," Misaki said as she did just that. She flipped the two cards in her damage zone, and drew. She placed the cards from her hand face down on the table. She picked up Lozenge Magus, placed her in the deck and shuffled. Yata watched her.

"Let me guess, it was her effect?"

Misaki nodded. "I end my turn."

Misaki:

first row: Oracle Guardian, Gemini, Maiden of Libra (vanguard), Silent Tom

second row: none

hand: 5

damage: 2 (flipped)

drop zone: none

Yata:

First row: Embodiment of Armor Bahr (vanguard)

Second row: none

Hand: 3

Damage: 2

Drop zone: 2

"They're even in number of cards in the damage zone," Miwa remarked.

Yata drew and glanced at his cards then at the table. A broad grin curved on his features. "Ride! Dragon Knight, Nehalem!" (Grade 2/power 10000/shield 5000) "Call! Wyvern Strike Tejas (Grade 2/power 8000/shield 5000), Beserk Dragon (Grade 2/power 9000/shield 5000), and Wyvern Strike, Jarran (Grade 2/power 6000/shield 5000)!"

"ALLLLLRIIIGGGGHHHHT! Lend me your power! Boost and attack!" Yata shouted at the cards. It had taken Homra's vanguard a few turns since the start to get a hang of the game. It is to say it had gotten him fired up! In seeing the line-up, Misaki hadn't flinched with nervousness at all. Instead, she stared blankly at him, mostly to his hand and to the field. Yata didn't notice his mistake, and it was a regular mistake to most beginners anyway. He'll learn one day Misaki surmised. Unmistakably, her lips curved into a small smile admiring the bit of fiery spirit Yata emanated.

"Berserk Dragon's Counterblast!" Yata flipped the cards in his damage zone. "And using his effect, I retire Silent Tom!" Misaki frowned and casually moved Silent Tom to the drop zone, placed behind the deck. "And I attack Gemini!" the unit soon joined Silent Tom. "I boost Jarran giving Tejas power and also Jarran's effect… which the power is….. uhh…" His features scrunched in calculating the total.

"18000!" Miwa remarked. Yata murmured in protest. He didn't ask the cheeky blonde to respond. He could have figured it out—with help! Mikoto was much better at math than him anyway, he thought. "Attack, Maiden of Libra!"

"Guard! Oracle Guardian, Nike (shield 10000)!"

"Attack with Nehalem!"

"…No guard"

Drive Check!" Yata drew. It revealed to be Lizard Soldier, Ganlu (Stand Trigger, +5000)! "all effects to Berserk Dragon!" The card stood before in a heartbeat was rested again. A card fluttered to the damage zone, which revealed to be Security Guardian. "Turn end"

"Stand and Draw." Misaki was barely put in a spot to teach a beginner basics as she mostly watched others in the shop do that job. She mentally smiled, proud that Yata understood the basics at least. He still had a long way if he ever wanted to become stronger in this game. After one glance at her drawn card, she closed her eyes for a moment before revealing determined ones. She raised her card over her head as she chanted and sent the card on the vanguard.

"Shine the path towards the future, Yata no Kagami! Ride CEO Amaterasu!" (Grade 3/power 10000) "Call! Oracle guardian, Wiseman! (Grade 2/ power 10000) And White Rabbit of Inaba! (Grade 1/ power 6000)"

Yata shook his head vigorously. He hoped he was hearing things at her chant.

Misaki picked a card from her hand and placed it in the soul. "The soul is located under the Vanguard unit," she mentioned. "What I've done is due to White Rabbit of Inaba's skill. I do a soul charge." She placed a card from her deck into the soul. Then looked at the top card of her deck, placed it on the bottom. She rested Inabe and Wiseman. "Boost and attack Nehalem! When a rearguard attacks a vanguard, you either guard or a Damage Check."

Yata studied the field and gritted his teeth. He thought frantically of what to do. Should he guard with the one card in his hand and intercept? Or should he guard and intercept the next one? Argh! "No guard!" He drew for his Damage Check and received no triggers.

"Amaterasu, attack Nehalem! Drive Check, first check!" Psychic Bird (Critical Trigger +5000/+1 Critical) Two cards were added to Yata's damage zone.

"Tch"

"Second check!"

Yata watched her carefully hoping she won't draw another Critical Trigger or any trigger. Misaki flipped revealing what she drew: E-Alamer (Stand Trigger +5000) "All effects to Wiseman and finish the blow!" Yata drew for his last Damage Check, then bowed his head in defeat along with slamming both hands in the table. His shoulders shook slightly. The feeling of defeat…is this what it felt like? And to think it was only from that one game. Misaki stared at him for a moment.

"…Yata?"

"I lost!"

"A loss becomes one gain, a win or many wins," Shin remarked. "If you learn from a loss, you'll be sure to win next time." Yata glanced at him before setting his gaze at Misaki, who had nodded. A sheepish, yet cheery, grin spread his features.

"Ah.. yeah… this game wasn't so bad! Teach me again! And again! Misaki!"

Misaki sighed with a slight smile placing a hand over her hip, shifting her weight. "This game is based on luck and how well you build your deck," she responded bluntly. Yata scratched his chin. "Well… I have terrible luck, but I did meet you so…"

"Hm?"

What did he just blurt out again?" "ARGGH! Wait! Forget what I just said!" A blush appeared on his cheeks. Miwa grinned and applauded.

"Let's give a round of applause for the newbie!" A few joined him in applause. Yata turned with bewilderment and suddenly felt sheepish. He then felt a much braver emotion took place. "Hah! She challenged me good, didn't she!"

Misaki shook her head in disbelief, mentally chuckling to herself. "It kind of reminded me of Kai and Aichi's first fight, although Aichi won in the end," Miwa thought to himself. "That reminds me…" He scanned the area looking for said boys, but none of them were in sight. "Oh~ they left early~"

Others looked around the surroundings as well. Only then they realized the karaoke stage had gone quiet. No one admitted to seeing them sneak out as the guests were occupied with their own conversations and/or Misaki and Yata's fight. Ren guessed and half-joked that the two young "lovers" went to elope somewhere.

"That's quite a nice sunset outside," Shin said. "Time flies when you're having fun, right? And I have been filming the whole party with my camcorder!" He caressed his camcorder by his face, proud to catch the moments of Misaki having a good time with everyone.

It almost felt as if the Homra teen fit right in with everyone and it was all thanks to Misaki. Yata wanted to hold her hand just then, but his fingers curled into a fist instead. Aimlessly, his eyes trailed over to the doors and as his luck would have it, his watch vibrated. He answered the call instantly, only glancing around to check who may have caught him afterward, "Yeah?"

"Yata-chan? Where did you go to all of a sudden? We missed you! We're going to ask Anna to search for you if you won't be coming back soon."

"Hmph..." he paused and glanced over at Misaki, "Fine, I'll be back in 10 minutes...If I don't get lost again..."

"Sounds good. See you when you get back."

Misaki stared at him, getting the feeling that he had to leave. That call must have been urgent and it's late so she has to let him go. "Keep that deck. And also... " she took out a card from her pocket. "For your Kagero deck" (Heal Trigger: Dragon Monk, Gonjo)… if you decide to use that clan." She handed him the card.

"Ah...thank you, Misaki," he replied honestly, bringing the card close to his heart, "I'll become a stronger player for the both of us! A girl's never beaten me before. … ...Um…" he hesitated and held back the urge of doing something he may regret later on. Instead of embracing her, he quickly turned his heel and retreated out the door. Shyness was evident in his tone as he shouted a brisk "Bye!"

Misaki stared blankly, watching him leave. A smile graced her lips along with a chortle. A few moments later, Misaki and Shin stood in front of the entrance waving everyone goodbye along with parting accolades of: "I had a great time!" and "Tell Aichi and Kai we'll see them later?" Ren had said he forgot to give "Misa-Q #2" the treaty bag from the piñata...that Kai had "mutilated" the middle of with the bat. Kai and Aichi had gone last after the younger ones. This day had truly been a remarkable one.

o0o0o

The ground shook with the wheels gliding against the steel tracks in a fast speed. Yata heaved a sigh as he slouched on the seat of the train, closing his eyes. What was that first thought? He wasn't thinking of kissing her, was he? As her "gift". He just met her! He groaned and breathed out a curse. He glanced out the window staring out into the horizon noting it was close to night. Shizume city was getting closer in eye-shot. Almost home… to Homra. Maybe that crowd of friends back at the card shop were Misaki's "family". Yata shook his head vigorously before a certain thought or memory that triggered in his mind. He didn't want to dwell on those types of concerns or possibilities, now.

As the doors slid open at the destination, he darted out the door and headed towards the bar.

o0o0o

Later that night, Shin and Misaki ate their dinner quietly at the table. It had been silent for a moment until Shin spoke, "You acted quite generous, maybe more than usual, Misaki," he commented. Misaki huffed.

"It was nothing. I just felt the need to," she replied plainly, before taking a bite.

"I think he took quite a liking to the game," Shin said in hope of seeing Yata again in the shop. "And then you could…"

"…Excuse me." Misaki placed her napkin on the table beside her plate as she stood, leaving the table towards upstairs to her room. She didn't want to hear anymore of Shin prodding her into these things. She would refuse and somehow in a way, Shin often got her to do it anyway in the end. She mentally sighed, closing her bedroom door behind her.

Memories of today had repeated in her mind. She admitted that it was definitely a birthday she would never forget and great to see that boy again…

It had all happened too fast. When they both wake up the next morning, will it all be just a dream? Had they really just not seen each other for several weeks? It was a childish thought, as everything was evidently real. Secretly, she was very glad that it had been.

0o0o0o

A/n: First time writing a Vanguard fight….was kinna fun… I had to look at it over and over! Checking to see if any corrections need to be made concerning the power and skills. And I made the chant up as I don't remember it from the anime…