Credit for the characters, locations, cards, and so on go to the one-of-a-kind Kazuki Takahashi and the rest of the Yu-Gi-Oh! crew.

Names for the cards will translate from the OCG, and their effects will follow their latest anime appearance as of this story.

Finally, a big shout-out goes to the Yu-Jyo episode guides, which were a brilliant help for sketching the characters. There's already so much of a story behind these guys, it's no wonder that the writers didn't need to show this duel. Here's my vision of it nonetheless.

Without further ado: showtime.

The pharaoh stood calmly, not minding the darkness and silence surrounding him. He thought only of his target, and little by little, he brought his breath and heartbeat down to the right rhythm. Then he sensed the path open before him, and he spun in place and pointed.

A pair of torches flared to life. He did not flinch as their searing light flanked a vertical stone tablet carved with the image of a lance-wielding man on horseback. Gale Dark Knight Gaia...

He turned again, maintaining a fluid pace as he pointed twice. Two by two, the next torches illuminated one image of a big-eyed furry imp, then the shape of a creature being copied in a countless row. Kuribō... Multiplication.

Barely blinking, he spun in one smooth circle, hand and finger flicking three times. Six more flames lit up three more carvings, two of which bore horned, muscular, clawed creatures – Baphomet, Fusion, Phantom Beast King Gazelle.

Breathing just once, he spun to a spot straight behind him. Buster Blader. The corner of his eye – Black Magician Girl! Behind him again – Black Magician!

He dropped his arm and exhaled. The segments of dancing torchlight flitted across the tight brick floor and stone portraits, but his eyes focused somewhere beyond that. They are ready, and so am I, just as he will be. He closed his eyes, but instead of restoring the darkness and letting the tablets rearrange themselves again, he willed the rest of the torches to light up the long hallway. I will be as strong as I have to be, no matter what happens. That's my promise and my duty, and both he and I—

A booming tone echoed throughout the crypt, then again, and again, a pulse that shook the stone walls every second.

His eyes flashed open, and he turned towards the heavy door of metal at the hall's lighter end. That door swung open as he faced it, and he strode forward with a will that blurred the distance past him...

He reappeared in the shadowy bedroom. He saw the blanket-shrouded form beside him reach up, fumble a hand across the nightstand, find the beeping alarm clock and click it silent. More rustling and bumps, and the lamp snapped on.

The teenager in the bed rolled over, then eventually sat up, rubbing an eye. His hair stuck out in spikes even more scattered than usual, but he straightened up as best he could when he saw the spirit of his twin standing and waiting. "Hmm? Oh... Hey, other me – just give me a second."

"There's no hurry, partner. We have time."

"Are you—" He covered up a yawn. "Are you sure? We can switch now."

The spirit prevented himself from stepping forward. "No, not yet. You should wake up at your own pace."

"Well, all right." Yuugi stood up, stretched, and padded across to the closet.

The spirit's eyes drifted to the desk, which was completely bare except for a stack of cards in its very center. Eventually, he wrenched his eyes away and chose to look out the windows instead. The city remained dark, save for a single pair of headlights rounding the corner, then receding again. He watched the red glows as far as they went, fainter and fainter, until they rounded a corner and vanished.

"Other me?"

He turned back as the room's overhead light switched on.

Yuugi had put on his school uniform that they'd hung up the previous night, a simple blue jacket and pants. Now, he placed around his neck the chain that bore their Puzzle, a seamless inverted pyramid of golden metal bearing the eye of Wdjat. "It's your turn now."

"Very well." He saw the Puzzle glow, and in a rush, his vision blanked out, refocusing with him viewing the world from his partner's body, with Yuugi's spirit standing and smiling alongside him. He immediately strode to the desk and sat down. With deft movements, he picked up the deck and dealt the cards out into face-up stacks and waves. Most of my combinations are already set. I only need to change a few cards to be fully prepared.


The sheets tangled around his waist as the blond guy tossed, turned, and muttered in his sleep. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open, and he breathed in sharply, staring at the wall for a few seconds before rolling over. He grunted at the utter lack of daylight outside the windows, then picked up the round alarm clock from the floor. He angled it at the streetlight's beam, scowled a bit, and rolled onto his back again, letting his arm droop and his gaze drift at the ceiling.

Then he clutched his eyes. What's it matter how early it is? This is worth it. Jounouchi switched off the clock, and he swung his legs out of bed. He walked lightly, navigating the cluttered floor without thinking about it, and he heard no waking grunts or squeaking bedsprings from the next room as he switched on his lamp.

His smile returned as he gently gathered up the pile of cards from a scuffed chair. He passed them one by one between his calloused hands, occasionally pausing. When he finished, he went back to his bed and tugged a box out from underneath. He searched the handful of cards inside, and then he leafed through his deck again, lips moving as he counted quietly. At the end, he nodded, squared his deck back up, and carefully closed the box before putting it back.

Another glance to the window, but it was still entirely dark, minus the streetlamp. He shrugged, then went to a corner and picked up a white and blue shirt from there, but he paused at the sight of its new wrinkles and lumps of dust. Tossing it back, he searched the room, occasionally angling a piece of clothing towards the light. Once, he sniffed a shirt and cast that aside without a glance. Finally, he checked the closet, reaching all the way in. He pulled out a hanger, chuckling at the sight of his school uniform.

He put on a white shirt to go with it, and he pocketed his deck before strapping his folded-up duel disk onto his left wrist. He exited his room noiselessly, but the apartment remained silent. He crossed the flat carpet and creaking linoleum, shut the apartment door firmly behind him, and strode towards the glow of the exit sign.

Here I come, other Yuugi. Bring it on.


Once more as a spirit, the pharaoh could only somewhat feel the quick breeze slice between the high buildings as his partner strode down the street. Some distance away, startled cats fled down the empty streets. Closer at hand, his partner's jacket fluttered a bit in the wind but remained firmly done up, and a hint of a smile on that steadfast face eased the pharaoh's heart. He turned his own eyes due east, glimpsing a solitary silhouette amidst the pavement and dormant buildings.

Vaguely, Jounouchi guessed that his ears and fingertips were cold, but he stood firm, arms at his sides. He'd known his route and which way street to face as easily at night as in day, and sure enough, a figure appeared now from the dimness. Come to think of it, the cold really wasn't so bad. As the air grew lighter, he felt his eyesight sharpen and his thudding pulse pick up a bit.

The sight of that figure in those clothes set the pharaoh remembering. Jounouchi... I thank the gods for the day when my partner first stood for you.

This is it, other Yuugi. After all we've pushed through, we're here.

The pharaoh felt the wind stirring again. I have looked forward to this moment ever since you promised it, and I am happy that our hopes have borne out.

We've fought all kinds of battles together, and you bet I won't forget that.

His partner silently beckoned him forward, opening his jacket in one move and letting it fly back from their sleeveless black shirt. The pharaoh stepped into that smiling stride comfortably. No matter what opponent has threatened you, your heart has never faltered. I have prepared my own heart, and I have every confidence that this battle will rise higher yet.

Knowing you, though... If I'm any duelist at all, I'd have to aim for this. You and I both know that.

Here and now—

Let's go.

They stood a few dozen feet away from each other, just looking. Calmly, the pharaoh noted, "You're early."

Jounouchi mirrored the easy tone. "That's all right. That just means the sun'll still be going up, even when we're done."

The pharaoh nodded as his eyes adjusted to the brightening sky ahead of him.

The sunlight began to glint off the topmost edges of the highest buildings. Jounouchi flexed his left arm, declaring, "Other Yuugi, our Battle City isn't over yet." The fins at the sides of his disk swung around, joining to form one platform facing his opponent, and his disk hummed to life.

The pharaoh smiled. "True." He activated his disk likewise as sunlight pushed the shadows ever further down.

Simultaneously, they slotted their decks into the centers of their disks, then drew five cards each as their life point meters filled to 4000. Over the rush of wind, their voices rang throughout the clear street.


The pharaoh declared, "I'll go first. Draw!" He picked up one card, then chose a different one from his hand. "Activate magic card, Angel's Charity!"

Jounouchi nodded familiarly as his opponent drew three cards, then swiftly discarded two.

"I set one card, and I summon Queen's Knight in defense position!" One oversized holographic card appeared face-down before him. In front of that, a burst of light brought forth a blond woman in red armor. She kneeled, but she held her sword on guard, her youthful eyes alert and stern. (DEF: 1600) "Turn end."

"All right, other Yuugi. Draw!" Jounouchi skimmed through his hand and called, "I'll set a card and summon Wyvern Warrior in attack position!" This glow brought out a lanky lizard standing on his hind legs. His toothy lower jaw jutted out, and one claw swung a jagged sword. (ATK: 1500) "I end my turn."

"Draw." The pharaoh already had the next card ready, and the back of his mind confirmed, He knows what's next. "I change Queen's Knight to attack position, and I summon King's Knight in attack position!" She stood up and shifted her wrist just so, and next to her appeared a bearded man in yellow armor, his own sword out and ready. (ATK: 1600) "With my knights together, I summon Jack's Knight from my deck!" The new, broad-shouldered swordsman stood taller than either of his allies, his clean-shaven face openly staring at his scaly target. (ATK: 1900)

Jounouchi didn't flinch as the wind picked up around him, and his eyes remained on the pharoah's.

"Go, Jack's Knight – attack Wyvern Warrior!" The blue-armored knight dashed forward without a sound, pulling his sword back for the swing.

"Trap card, go – Chain-Equipped Boomerang!" The lizard's free claw clutched a chain that terminated in a curved, barbed hook of a blade, and he swung the new weapon like a lasso. Then, he grinned at the halted knight, and instead of throwing it, he simply caught his weapon in the chain-wrapped hand. (ATK: +500 = 2000) "Get him – counterattack!" Crouching, the lizard pointed his sword, sprang forward, and– "What the...?"

The pharaoh smiled to see Jounouchi's dazed face. All three of his knights were floating calmly a few feet above the ground.

Meanwhile, the frantic lizard had only managed half of his leap before losing his grip and hovering. His arms and legs churned at thin air before he fell onto the pavement. (DEF: 1200) Jounouchi shouted, "What's the deal here?"

The pharaoh pointed to his own trap. "Gravity Release causes the positions of all face-up monsters to switch." The blue, yellow, and red knights each dropped onto one knee. (DEF: 1500) (DEF: 1400) (DEF: 1600) "I set two cards and end my turn." He folded his arms and stood calmly. You've been using that trap for months, Jounouchi. It's the first I one I ever saw you use. What else will you show me?

"All right, other Yuugi. Draw! I summon Iron Knight Gearfried, attack position!" From the light, a man charged forth, encased head to toe in black armor, and he raised the blade attached to the back of his arm. (ATK: 1800)

We're almost there. "Trap card, activate – Black Magic Revival Casket!"

"What? That means..."

"I sacrifice your summoned monster and one of mine!" A metal coffin marked with a cross stood next to the pharaoh, and the gem at its center shot red bolts of magic at Iron Knight Gearfried and Queen's Knight. Both monsters became absorbed into the energy, and the coffin shook slightly and then creaked open. "Rise to join our duel, Black Magician!" A purple-robed man sprang out from it and landed to the field gradually. His keen eyes stared into Jounouchi's from beneath his pointed hat, and his slim fingers swung a green-jeweled staff with silent aim. (ATK: 2500)

Jounouchi muttered, "A revival from Angel's Charity – I should've guessed." His eyes fell shut for a moment.

Don't tell me you'd stop as easily as this.

His opponent's eyes flashed open with a renewed smile. "I change Wyvern Warrior to attack position!"

The pharaoh kept his face motionless as the lizard got to his feet. (ATK: 2000)

"Now go, attack Jack's Knight!" His monster dashed forward, swinging his weapon high.

"Instant magic, Magical Silk Hat!" A six-foot-tall top hat appeared in the air, slammed down over the blue knight, and leapt to swallow the other two monsters as well. Sliding back and forth across the pharaoh's field, the hat left a trail of blurred afterimages, and gradually, these images sharpened into three new hats. With a whoosh, the four copies came to rest in a row.

Jonouchi chuckled, "Heh... come on, other Yuugi. It had to be that card?"

"Choose wisely, Jounouchi."

"Yeah, because if I get the hat with Black Magician..." He waited only a second, and then he pointed to one end. "That one!" Claws tore across the pavement, the jagged blade ripped the fabric apart–

They had a brief view of King's Knight wincing before bursting into shards of light.

"Hmph. I set two cards. Your move, other Yuugi."

"Draw." He studied the card for the barest instant. "I change Jack's Knight to attack position and activate Brainwashing – Brain Control!"

Jounouchi's brown eyes opened very wide as a giant brain projected two psychic hands across the field. Wyvern Warrior's protesting face went slack as they clamped around him and pulled him alongside the giant hats.

"Wyvern Warrior, attack his life points directly!" The monster turned to his target, lifted one arm, and charged.

"Go, instant magic – Scapegoat!" Four balls of light sprang forth, and each one popped to become a tiny round sheep with stubby legs and horns. (DEF: 0 x4) The sword sliced through one, which vanished with barely a sound.

"Good save, Jounouchi." The pharaoh pointed, and the hats opened up, two of them releasing the knight and wizard. Jack's Knight sprang forward and sliced through another sheep. "And now, my magician – attack with Black Magic!" The towering spellcaster spun his staff in one hand before swinging it and launching a blast of searing magic.

The third sheep exploded in an instant shockwave, and Jounouchi gritted his teeth at the pounding blast of one more lost monster. "Not so good..." He took a breath, looked back at his faraway monster, then met the pharaoh's eyes. "I've still got my chance, especially when your spell fades after this turn. Ready, other Yuugi?"

"Of course. And I'm not the only one."

"Huh? What are you...?"

The pharaoh picked out the card. "Go, Wyvern Warrior and Jack's Knight!" The two monsters vanished with a pulse. "Tribute summon!" He placed the card, and a column of blazing red power erupted from the field. High above them at the heart of the column, a dark and spiny form became visible. Two black wings unfolded from the dispersing fire, a scaly armored tail uncoiled, and the thin and sharp limbs stretched out. The long, pointed jaws exhaled warm air through countless fangs, and the black-horned head sighted its burning eyes on the one standing opposite him. (ATK: 2400)

Jounouchi swallowed and stared back with shaking eyes.

As the roaring monster landed alongside the smirking magician, the pharaoh called out, "This is where our true duel begins, Jounouchi. I summon Red-Eyes Black Dragon!" Folding his arms and standing still, the pharaoh declared, "End turn."

Jounouchi didn't move, and his breathing looked shallow and unsteady. Then his eyes narrowed, and he wrenched them from the dragon to look back at the pharaoh. "I... I draw!" He checked his new card against the other two he still held. "I summon Landstar Swordsman in defense!" A slim, leather-armored warrior crouched on his field, his large face and bright eyes looking out from behind a round shield. (DEF: 1200) "I'll set another card, too. You're up, other Yuugi."

"Gladly. I draw! Magic card – Pot of Greed!" He drew two cards, and one of them caught his eye. "Instant magic – Cyclone! This card destroys one magic or trap card on the field!" He pointed at the newly set card, and a funnel cloud shot out, blasting its target skyward. The hidden card spun around before it shredded to bits. "What!? Your set card was Magic-Arm Shield?"

Jounouchi's thin smile had flickered at the sight of Cyclone. When he heard the pharaoh's tone of voice, his face furrowed in confusion. "Yeah, so what?"

"A trap like that is unworthy of you, Jounouchi."

"Hey, this card's saved the duel for me. You wanted to see me duel, and here it is!"

"Is that what you want? You would fight back by using a card that forces your former ace monster to fight mine?"

Jounouchi's indignant glare drained away from his face. "I..."

I thought you'd learned more than that. "I summon Phantom Beast King Gazelle in attack position!" The snarling creature leapt to the field, his black mane loose and his four clawed feet digging at the ground. (ATK: 1500) "Now go, Red-Eyes Black Dragon!"

Jounouchi's eyes gravitated to the dragon as it took flight, breathing deep and igniting the power within its mouth.

"Attack the Landstar Swordsman! Inferno Fire Blast!" A fireball built up between the dragon's jaws, and it reared its neck back before whipping forward and launching the spherical inferno at the kneeling warrior.

The impact hammered Jounouchi's monster and field with a blazing concussion, and his arm flew up to cover his face from the blistering heat.

"Gazelle, attack the Sheep Token!" The beast shot across the field in a blurring dash. He pounced the last few meters, piercing the target with one claw and skewering it to the ground very close to Jounouchi's feet.

Jounouchi stood as straight as he could, but he flinched at the next call.

"Black Magician – direct attack!"

He took half a step back as the robed magician leapt through the air, spinning the crackling staff. Then he stood forward again and braced himself as the blast of dark magic fired. The impact struck him in the heart, and he gritted his teeth throughout the onslaught, letting no other sound out with the roar of the magical shockwave. (LP: -2500 = 1500)

The thunderous echoes dispersed, the magician returned to his field, and the pharaoh felt a fleeting impulse to run over to the opposite side.

As silence regained the air, Jounouchi winced and thumped his ear. "Owww..." Then he sighed, "I guess I was asking for that one." His gaze flicked back and forth between the dark monsters.



For a rare moment, the pharaoh was at a loss for words. Part of him wanted to push onward, but the rest lost its rhythm at the memory of Jounouchi's flinching eyes. "Would you like some time to rest?"

He blinked, and he tore his sight from the dragon to return to the pharaoh. "...Seriously? Don't tell me I'm doing that bad."

"I wouldn't say that! ...But I do wonder where you've put your focus."

Jounouchi returned his stare, and the seconds stretched. "Huh." Then his mouth turned up. "Heh... heh-heh." His chuckles split his mouth into a laughing grin.

"What's so funny?"

"I'm sorry, other Yuugi." He settled down and added, "I didn't mean to get distracted. We've been through enough of that fear and darkness stuff already. This one's our duel." His smile sharpened quickly. "You're not gonna lose me that easily!"

The pharaoh took heart at the steady voice. "Then I end my turn."

Jounouchi took a deep breath, sized up all of the cards with a simple glance, and returned to the pharaoh. "My draw!" He swung the card to the disk. "I summon Blue Flame Swordsman!"

The pharaoh blinked at the name, and then the fire sprang up around the new monster. He stood as tall as Jounouchi, dressed in blue from the cloth draped around his waist to the curved spikes on his helmet and shoulder guards. Both his bare arms swung a sword forged of blue metal, dispersing his summoning fire with a yell. (ATK: 1800)

"Now this looks more like it, Jounouchi."

"Not yet, it doesn't." He took the last card in his hand. "I equip him with Salamandra, making my fire-attribute monster stronger!" The warrior's sword ignited, and the flames spiraling around the blade grew larger at the end of it, gathering and reforming into the shape of a dragon's head. (ATK: +700 = 2500)

"Impressive." Is this your last stand, Jounouchi? A final challenge against your dragon?

Only one thing gave him caution: Jounouchi's eyes didn't go near the dragon, instead remaining locked on the pharaoh. "No more waiting around, other Yuugi. Time for our fight! Blue Flame Swordsman, attack the Black Magician!"

The pharaoh gaped, and his magician was already working to regather the dark energy.

In that second, the swordsman took a step, swung his sword, and launched the fiery shape from it. It seared through the air, its lean jaws opening wide just as the wand struck out.

Fire met purple robes, and black lightning met blue armor at the same time. The pharaoh winced and shaded his eyes as the fire blazed high so close at hand, and he could just barely hear both monsters gritting with effort before the double burst cut them off. He looked back, and within the dispersing embers and sparks, there was no sign of either monster. "A brave attack, Jounouchi."

"What, you think that's all? Guess again." Wisps of flame rekindled around him as he grinned at his puzzled opponent. Then the fire blazed up in earnest, gathering into a new column as tall as the fallen monster. "When Blue Flame Swordsman gets destroyed, he summons Flame Swordsman!" The fires opened, and there stood the same warrior, this time wearing a skintight tunic accompanied by cloth and armor of bright orange. (ATK: 1800)

"A reinforcement summon..."

"Flame Swordsman–"

The pharaoh glanced at Gazelle.

"–attack Red-Eyes Black Dragon!" The warrior raised his sword and took off at a run.

"What?" The pharaoh searched Jounouchi's eager face while the dragon took flight, inhaling and gathering its power. I know that monster. It has no effects, unless... He realized what he'd overlooked.

Jounouchi grinned and pointed to his lone set card. "Instant magic, Devil Dice!"

All that time, he couldn't use it, and now...

A beady-eyed imp with a bat-winged hat flew from the card and flung a red six-sided die across the ground. Flame Swordsman leapt up towards its target before the die finished tumbling, slowing, rolling to a stop... on three.

Pharaoh looked up in time to see the soaring Flame Swordsman's weapon ignite and the black dragon growl in response. (ATK: ÷3 = 800) The dragon mustered its fireball regardless and blasted it at the airborne swordsman.

Jounouchi yelled, "Get him – Spirit Flame Blade!" With a shout, his warrior dropped towards Red-Eyes and struck as he fell. One slice pierced the fireball and broke it to embers as he fell faster. The second caught Red-Eyes Black Dragon at the base of the neck. When he landed lightly to the ground, a clean, glowing line stood out on the dragon, running across and down the body.

Then the fire surged along the wound, then beyond it, and Red-Eyes Black Dragon roared to the sky once and briefly before the explosion overwhelmed it. The pharaoh took in the sight without a word. (LP: -1000 = 3000)

Jounouchi had to catch his breath, and he even sniffed a bit, but his smile never wavered. He held a fist over his heart as his swordsman returned to his side. "With all my heart..." He stood up straight. "That's my turn, other Yuugi! Now we've got a duel!"

"No question of that. Draw!" With one last appraising glance at the swordsman, he called, "I set one card and switch Gazelle to defense position!" (DEF: 1200)

"Heh, don't tell me I've got you on the run that easily."

"Oh, I won't." He took his own last card and said, "I summon Big Shield Gardna in defense position!" The shaggy-haired warrior was barely visible as he crouched behind the massive shield. (DEF: 2600) "Turn end."

"Blocking me out?" He couldn't hide a smirk. "That might not work for long."

He sees it. He knows that Big Shield Gardna switches to attack position after a monster attacks him, and his 100 attack points would easily fall.

"My turn! Draw!" The card wiped away his grin. The stunned silence lasted a second or two, but only enough for him to glance across the field again. "You almost had me there, you really did."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Nothing, after I do this. I offer my Flame Swordsman as a tribute!" The warrior vanished, and a dark portal pulsed and crackled from the ground where he had stood. The monster standing up from the summon had the shape of a person, but its only visible flesh was its bare, veined head with a metal-jawed visor installed over its face. The rest of its body was made of green and yellow metal, plated and armored. "I summon Android – Psycho Shocker!" (ATK: 2400)

The pharaoh breathed sharply at the sight of the seven-foot-tall monster. Then he nodded in approval.

"You know what's next, other Yuugi. There's no way your face-down card isn't a trap."

The pharaoh watched as a laser gathered before the android's plated face. The beam fired, piercing his face-down card and incinerating it. That's the end of Holy Barrier – Mirror Force.

"Psycho Shocker, attack his Gazelle! Cyber Energy Shock!" Holding its sharp mechanical hands together, the monster conjured a howling sphere of energy, the sound of its power rising. As soon as it turned its palms outward, the sphere shot across the field, collided with the crouching beast, and erased him from the field. "I end my turn." He raised a hand and beckoned.

The pharaoh returned the smile. "Draw! Activate magic card, Treasure From Heaven!"

Both players drew until they held six cards. Jounouchi smiled with each one. "What's wrong – you have to refill both our hands just to beat my monster?"

"Your monster? No. I offer Big Shield Gardna as a tribute! Go, Black Magician Girl!" A rosy glow filled the pharaoh's field, and a young spellcaster levitated out from the summon. Her short pink cape and skirt fluttered from her shoulderless blue outfit, and her bright green eyes flashed open as she grinned and twirled her staff in one hand. (ATK: 2000)

Jounouchi frowned in thought. "Okay... she's gonna get 300 points stronger, but I'm not in trouble yet."

"Wrong, my friend. She's better prepared than you think." The ghost of Black Magician appeared, watching over her shoulder... and over her other shoulder, another ghost faded into view. The mage's lean black robes matched his wildly long hair, and he held a staff as heavy as a mace.

"Magician of Black Chaos!? He's part of her ability too... and he's in your cemetery?"

"Yes, which means she's more than ready." Fragments of purple and blue light gathered around her and her staff, and her power rose by two bonuses instead of one. (ATK: +600 = 2600)

"You've had this ready since the first turn!" But he couldn't maintain an angry expression. "Nice one."

"Thank you, but there's more. Equipment magic – Incantation Book of Black Magic! That's another 500 points for my spellcaster!" A giant leather-bound tome appeared in her hands, and its golden gilding caught the sunlight as it opened for her. (ATK: +500 = 3100)

"Here it comes..."

"Black Magician Girl, attack his Psycho Shocker! Adept Black Burning!" The ghosts of her teachers crossed their staffs with hers as she swung and fired a spiraling beam of pink, purple and blue light.

The beam drilled through the android instantly, and sparks flew from ruptured circuitry before the monster exploded. Jounouchi shielded his eyes from the smoke and shards of metal. (LP: -700 = 800)

"I set one card. Turn end."

Jounouchi reviewed every card in his hand, but nothing altered his grim face. "All right, then... draw!" He broke into laughter. "Perfect! I play Shield in the Right Hand, Sword in the Left Hand!"

Black Magician Girl wailed and clutched her forehead. Magical static blurred her image, and the pharaoh felt a heart-dropping chill in his nerves.

"You know the drill, other Yuugi. All her defense points swap with her attack points."

"And her bonuses go with them," whispered the pharaoh. His mage let go of her head and staggered a bit, trying to refocus. (ATK: 1700) He breathed as steadily as possible.

Jounouchi's hand darted towards one card, but he hovered over it. Then he picked a different one. "Yeah, this calls for it. I activate Hurricane!"

This time, the pharaoh gasped out loud as the sky went dark, and a giant tornado struck the earth. It whipped across the field, seizing the set card from near his feet and the gilt book from the frantic mage's hands. The cards spiraled into the sky, and two sparks of light tumbled back down to the pharaoh, who dutifully took his cards back to his hand.

With nothing to pick back up, Jounouchi seized two more cards from his hand. "All clear, other Yuugi! I summon Peregrine-Falcon Knight, and I equip it with Lightning Sword!" The new warrior had a falcon's head and legs with lightweight armor and lanky arms ending in talons. (ATK: 1000) The thin saber it held crackled with electricity, morphing into a wider sword of glowing metal. (ATK: +800 = 1800)

The pharaoh closed his mouth, and his mage renewed her fierce expression.

"Knight! Attack the Black Magician Girl!" His monster darted out, a blur with a bright sword swinging back.

The mage swung her staff of burning magic to block the attacker, and her yell fell silent when the blade cut through her spell and herself. An electric shockwave pulsed across the field as she vanished. (LP: -100 = 2900) "That was a good combo, Jounouchi."

"Well, thanks. I guess I should try it again, then."

The pharaoh blinked, realizing that Peregrine-Falcon Knight had not retreated. It remained before him, sword still leveled at his chest. "Is this–"

"You got it – my monster can attack twice! Go, direct attack!"

The pharaoh fell half a step back as the electric sword swung back and the knight leapt at him. The blade slashed out, and he seized up, vision whited out as shock convulsed through his spine and clawed at his throat. (LP: -1800 = 1100) Silent save for a groan, he slumped forward.

Jounouchi looked intently at him. "Other Yuugi... you okay?"

The pharaoh breathed sharply through his nose, feeling the fresh air surge through his lungs and a smile stretch across his face. "I am more than okay, Jounouchi." His eyes flashed open, staring straight into Jounouchi's. "I feel great."

"Heh, yeah..." His smile wasn't quite as broad as usual. "I set a card face down. I end my turn."

"Draw! I set two cards this time." He let a second stretch out as the blank card backs appeared at his feet. "I set one monster. Turn end."

Nothing new stood between them, and for an instant, Jounouchi's hand trembled as it reached for his deck. Then he breathed deep, and his hand fell calm when it touched the new card. "Draw! I summon Goblin Assault Force!" A mob of lump-toothed goblins crowded onto the field, jabbering and growling. (ATK: 2300) "Attack!" They charged, hoisting their mismatched clubs and stampeding the hidden card.

There shone a glimpse of a squat imp – a three-eyed fuzzy lump of a monster (DEF: 600) – and then the clubs swung down and crushed it.

As the cheering and hooting goblins retreated, Jounouchi muttered, "Critter... so you get a monster from your deck to your hand, but only up to 1500 attack."

The pharaoh only needed to glance at his deck before plucking the card and showing it.

"What? Magnet Warrior Gamma? That's the max attack! ...But it can't block this. Peregrine-Falcon Knight, direct attack!" The avian knight crouched–

"Permanent trap, Curse of Hexagram!" A circle of energy etched itself around the knight's waist, and when the intricate, angular pattern within the circle completed itself, a shock surged across the warrior.

It kicked and squirmed, but it could not escape the snare. (ATK: -700 = 1100) Jounouchi wiped off a bit of sweat. "Crap..." Then he remembered and looked at his goblins. They slumped forward by their own effect, wheezing for breath, some leaning on their clubs. (DEF: 0)

The pharaoh looked up from shuffling his hand. "Oh, are you finished attacking already?"

"Har har. I end my turn."

"Draw!" This card needed only a glance before he added it to the others he held. "From my hand, I combine Magnet Warrior Alpha, Magnet Warrior Beta, and Magnet Warrior Gamma!"

Three sculpted iron monsters floated to the air, one faceless and gunmetal gray with a sword and shield, one with a rounded yellow body and horseshoe magnets for hands and feet, the third pink with wings, a visor, and spring-loaded fists. They disassembled, and their parts swarmed around one another before rebuilding. In a pulse of power, the new warrior descended, its magnetized wings and sword glinting with the silver of its body. "Magnet Warrior – Magnet Valkyrion!" (ATK: 3500)

Jounouchi met the visored eyes, letting out a low whistle.

"Magnet Valkyrion, attack Peregrine-Falcon Knight!" The massive metal arm hoisted its sword, and the warrior flew at the trapped target.

"Instant magic – Monster Box!" A brightly-decorated box appeared, and one of the many holes in its lid sucked the knight down into the shadowy interior. The magnetic monster loomed over the box as the beaked head popped up out of one hole. Almost instantly, the head retreated, then popped up elsewhere, then down and up, down and up, no telling where it would reappear.

"Valkyrion..." The pharaoh cleared his mind and pointed. "Attack!" The monster raised its metallic sword and sliced down. With a crack of splintering wood, the blade crushed through the box. Jagged colorful chips flew as half the box smashed apart, and there was no other sign of movement.

Then the other half of the box disintegrated, revealing the cursed Peregrine-Falcon Knight, unscathed. Jonouchi released his breath.

The pharaoh nodded. "Fair enough. That's one more, Jounouchi. End turn."

"All right... Draw! I activate a magic card, Distressing Decision!"

The pharaoh's brow furrowed with recollection. Jounouchi used that card in one of his Virtual World duels. It lets him pick up two cards from his deck, and I choose one of them. If it's a monster, he special summons it, but if not, they both go to the cemetery. The pharaoh smiled, studying his opponent's face for signs. When he saw his previous opponent choose a fatal card, he bluffed him into a last-second doubt, but this time– "What?"

Jounouchi held one card in each hand, calmly smiling. He held the cards with equal ease... both face-down.

"You're not looking?"

"Don't need to. Not here. Not now."

The pharaoh closed his slack jaw and tried to read that face.

"All down to the turn of a card. Go on and choose."

He grinned back. Neither duelist moved, nor spoke, or barely breathed. He pointed to the card Jounouchi had drawn second. "That one!"

Jounouchi swung the card around, and its flash of color caught the pharaoh's eye. Light burst out, and a small wizard appeared. A red and yellow clock with eyes formed its face and body, and its purple cape fluttered as it clutched a roulette-wheel staff in one gloved hand. (ATK: 500)

"Time Magician," murmured the pharaoh. "Then this comes down to a final gamble."

"With this card? Yeah, that would figure, but not this time, other Yuugi."


"Where we're at now is beyond big. You've got Valkyrion, for crying out loud! Against that, I need to branch out a bit." He glanced one more time at all his stalwart monsters and added, "I've got just the card." Holding it high, he called, "Gilford the Lightning! And I'm offering all of my monsters as tributes!"

The pharaoh winced as scorching bright energy surged throughout Jounouchi's field, and everything else vanished from view. Then it cleared, and one warrior stood head and shoulders above either duelist. Muscles stood out on his bare chest and arms, a sharp metal helmet masked his eyes, and a bright red cloth was wrapped around his waist. The electricity crackled around him as he yelled his challenge. (ATK: 2800)

Jounouchi shouted, "And with that extra tribute, he destroys all your monsters!" Gilford drew his wide sword and swept it high, gathering all the lightning into it. Instantly, bolts shot up to the sky then lanced down all across the pharaoh's field.

One bolt smote Valkyrion, and the iron warrior barely had time to groan before it exploded.

Jounouchi didn't hesitate. "Gilford – attack him directly!"

"Instant magic card, activate – Spell Textbook! To use this, I must discard my entire hand!" He placed Incantation Book of Black Magic into his cemetery without looking. "I draw one card, and if it's a magic card, I activate it immediately!"

"Oh, man..."

He put his fingers to his deck, and as if in slow motion, he saw the warrior prepare to spring – the shifting feet and knees, the aiming grip and sword. Then he saw Jounouchi, with fist clenched and teeth gritted. He drew. "Magic card – Raise Dead!" A silver ankh shone above him, and a column of white light blazed up around it. One monster appeared, and the light faded to reveal Valkyrion, revived and whole. (ATK: 3500)

Jounouchi's frustration turned to shock as his warrior leapt forward. "Gilford, stop!"

Valkyrion raised its sword up to meet the incoming slash. The swords swung towards each other, and then the upper one froze. Gilford had ground to a halt inches from contact.

Jounouchi let out a tight breath, and it took a few seconds before he shot back, "Come on! I was that close!"

"So it goes, Jounouchi."

"Ha... yeah, it does. I set one card and end my turn."

The pharaoh felt an excited lightness in his heart, and his sight of the duel seemed sharper than usual. Jounouchi has 800 life points against my 1100. On this turn rests either one battle... or the last battle. For you, my friend. He drew.

He looked.

"Other Yuugi?"

He didn't answer at first. When he did, it rang clearly. "Magnet Valkyrion, activate your effect!" The giant warrior flew high up, shining at every joint. Then it broke apart, its components reorganizing themselves, gray and yellow and pink. Silently, the previous magnet warriors landed to the field. (ATK: 1400) (ATK: 1700) (ATK: 1500)

Jounouchi studied them warily. "Why would you split Valkyrion into the other three–" Then his eyes went very, very wide.

He sees. "Alpha, Beta, Gamma – usher my monster into this world!"

Jounouchi watched the three magnetic monsters glow as though ablaze before they vanished into sparks and vapor. Then he breathed in sharply, for the pharaoh had closed his eyes and begun to chant.

The deep, resonant words flowed from his mouth like song, and the pharaoh felt rather than saw the sunlit sky overhead open up. A great sphere of golden metal descended, looming larger than a building and bearing the glint of symmetrical lines and seams etched across its curved exterior. The pharaoh felt its descent as closely and comfortably as if he were moving his right hand, and as he concluded his verse, that hand placed his card onto his disk.

The sphere split down the center, opening its hinges and joints. The bright shape unfolded legs with sharp talons, long arms ending in mighty claws, and giant wings that filled the sky. Then the light cleared, revealing the colossal dragon-shaped being. The metal arc set between its wings ringed a nearly-neckless head with blazing red eyes, and its pure-toothed jaws opened wide and roared, shaking the world and overwhelming all thought.

The pharaoh announced, "With the combined strength of my monsters, I summon you – Winged God-Dragon of Ra!" (ATK: 1400+1700+1500 = 4600)

Jounouchi's eyes had gravitated to Ra, and his breathing fell in shallow, absent gasps. Then he wrenched his gaze away, dropping it before returning to his friend. "Hey... good job, other Yuugi."

The opposite duelist stood silent amidst the rumbling.

This time, Jounouchi gave a smile and a thumbs-up. "Seriously, nice one."

The pharaoh nodded, but his voice caught in his throat. He looked at Jounouchi, standing calmly in the warm wind, and the pharaoh blinked the moisture out of his eyes, willing himself to answer. "...Thank you." He raised a hand toward the sky. "Winged God-Dragon of Ra, attack Gilford the Lightning!" Burning energy generated within the circle behind Ra's head, and it sparked around that head to charge within Ra's mouth. In seconds, the fire amassed to a roaring ball bright enough to hurt the eyes. The pharaoh pointed. "God Blaze Cannon!" The inferno blasted down, the very air in its path scorched into thunderous rage.

Jounouchi had barely enough time to swing a fist, and Gilford swung his sword around as the fire crushed into the field.

The explosion covered the field with flames, wiping everything from sight. The pharaoh did not cry out for his friend, although he felt traces of tears reforming at the corners of his eyes. His gaze remained at the heart of the fire, unflinching. The flames and smoke had begun to slow, then to calm and settle, and his friend was soon visible– "Great heaven!"

Three giant top hats stood across the field. The ashes of the fourth had already dispersed. Instead, the scorched pavement bore a skinny figure with a pickaxe and low-brimmed hat, snickering and holding an oversized card.

"You... you used Grave Vandal... to activate my Magical Silk Hat."

Jounouchi grinned like his trap's vanishing icon. "I meant it – nice move. But we're not done yet."

The pharaoh gaped, unmoving. Then his mouth twitched up, and his shoulders shook. "Heh... hahaha..." He bent at the stomach and laughed out loud, over and over until his lungs ached.

The subject of this humor smiled and chuckled along with his friend.

Gradually, the pharaoh calmed down, and his fierce eyes flashed open. "Jounouchi – I end my turn! Show me your answer!" Ra roared along with him.

"You got it. My turn – draw!" A glance, and he pulled the other card from his hand. "I summon Baby Dragon – attack position!" The little ball of light popped into a bright-eyed dragon with leathery yellow scales and stubby limbs. (ATK: 1200)

The pharaoh didn't even blink.

"Gilford, get back out here!" A sword punctured a hat and sliced it open, revealing the towering warrior. Jounouchi held his last card. "And now... I use Raise Dead!" The ankh appeared above him, the light shone up, and it dispersed to show the vivid blade and armor of Blue Flame Swordsman. (ATK: 1800) The three monsters stood ready for combat while the divine colossus stared down at them.

The pharaoh mused, This is your final combo, but what effect are you planning? I know two of those monsters, and neither of them can succeed... "It's your swordsman. He's your key."

Jounouchi grinned. "Do you remember the Virtual World? And how it gave my Flame Swordsman an effect?"

"Yes, he was able to..." Understanding struck him like lightning. "Unbelievable!"

"I'm decreasing Blue Flame Swordsman's attack strength to boost another monster, and I'm giving every last point!" A swirling blue aura shone around the swordsman, whose blade glowed before dispersing into fragments. (ATK: -1800 = 0) Gilford shouted to the sky as lightning ignited around him, surrounding and charging him from head to toe. (ATK: +1800 = 4600)

The pharaoh had fallen silent, and he felt an uncontainable smile stretch across his face.

Jounouchi swallowed, breathed deep, and called, "Gilford the Lightning! Attack the Winged God-Dragon of Ra!" Gilford crouched, gathering energy under his feet, and he rocketed into the sky, riding the lightning directly towards Ra.

"God Blaze Cannon!" Ra charged its sun flame rapidly, and just as the surging warrior shot in, it fired.

White light from above blinded both duelists before the sky exploded. A round wall of fire burst out, expanding to enormous size and slamming into the earth. Shockwaves pounded and roared in their ears as barraging waves of fire continued to storm down around them. Before they could look up without pain, a crack shot through the air, the sound of splitting metal. Then another crack, then again and again, and the golden giant detonated in a burst of fire and whirling noise.

Flames and smoke swirled and buffeted the pharaoh. All sound fell lost in a cacophony of wind and debris. Then, the moment the noise began to abate, he heard, "Baby Dragon – direct attack!" He looked forward into the settling smoke just in time to see the young dragon soar out of the clouds.

It dispersed the clouds with a flap of its wings, banked up to face him and breathed deep.

The pharaoh stood tall, arms at his sides and palms forward. His eyes held calm and steady as the cyclone hit him. (LP: -1200 = 0)

Every hologram vanished.

Silence reigned.

The empty, daylit street held nothing but the two of them.

Jounouchi stood with one fist still raised, breathing hard. His eyesight swam a bit, but he watched anyway.

The smiling pharaoh slowly raised one hand and gave a thumbs-up.

Jounouchi jumped and whooped to the sky. "Aw, yeah!" Then he clutched his chest, smiling through his shaking. "Oh man... oh wow..."

The pharaoh strode across to him and held out a hand.

Jounouchi swung and clasped the handshake solidly, and then he pulled the pharaoh into a brief one-armed hug.

The pharaoh's stunned joy lasted even after they stepped back, only releasing their handshake after a moment. "That was an excellent duel."

"Thanks, right back at you."

The pharaoh reached back for his disk, found the card immediately, and held it out.

Jounouchi whispered, "Red-Eyes..."

"He's yours, undoubtedly."

A sniffle, and with a slow but steady hand, Jounouchi accepted his card. After a few watery blinks, he smiled at his friend and gave a brief upper-body bow. "Thanks again, for everything."

The pharaoh inclined his head in return. "You're welcome, always."

A shadow flickered across Jounouchi's face, and his grin became a little less certain. "So... what's this going to mean for you? You and your record?"

This was bound to come up. "You may speak as you like of this duel. My record already speaks for itself – and it will continue to do so."

"...What's with the strange smile?"

"This duel puts us at one victory each. That will only stand..." and he grinned openly, "...until our next duel."

Jounouchi gaped. "What?! Ah... well, all right... all right, bring it! I'll–" He coughed and wheezed a bit, and he took a second to settle down. "I'm looking forward to it, other Yuugi."

He nodded as the clean breeze washed around the two of them. Here and now, this is enough.

Jounouchi offered his hand, and the pharaoh clasped it tight. Then they turned and walked off.

Jounouchi sauntered down the open street. Until next time. He held his head high. A thought struck him, and briefly he imagined summoning Red-Eyes Black Dragon outside Honda's window. Maybe... but he was in no hurry. He'd think of the right way to share this with his other friends.

For now, the sun shone clear and bright overhead. Amidst all the high buildings, he heard only the steady beat of his feet down the pavement and the high whistle of a nested bird taking flight.