Knightfall
By 7th Librarian

A/N: Greetings, one and all, to my latest fanfic. For those of you not in the know, the 'Shadowchaser' style of stories for the Yu-gi-oh fandom was spearheaded by long-time fanfic author Cyber Commander and I thank him for allowing me to play in his sandbox. If you're wondering what a Shadowchaser is exactly, then please see his original Shadowchasers story to get a good explanation.

For everyone who does know, this story is the proper chronicle of the Backwater Shadowchasers. All of the current members debuted in 'Shadowchasers: Twice-Told Tales', so if you find yourself unfamiliar with any of them, that is a good place to start.

There is also some basic information I need to cover, mostly in relation to the card game and this story's relation to timeline.

First off, this story has been split into three separate stories, mostly for my own sanity as its much easier to tackle three thirty+ chapter stories than one giant 90+chapter story. So this is first one, though they are collectively known as Shadwchasers: Backwater'. Which is why this story doesn't carry the 'Shadowchasers' name in front of it-redundant to do so.

As per the guidelines, this Shadowchaser's story will be following the real life TCG Banlist and will stick with the March 2013 list, throughout its run. (The list that was active when this chapter was first written.) There will be exceptions to duelists using cards on this list in the name of storytelling and plot, but they will be rare, if any happen at all.

There will also be a goodly number of fan-created cards in this story as well. Such cards will be listed in full at the end of the chapter and if there are of the strength to be banned, restricted and limited, annotations regarding that also put there. I apologize if this bothers anyone, but Yu-gi-oh in both the real world and the anime constantly evolves with every set of cards released and given how this story takes place in the Yu-gi-oh 5Ds era, I think its reasonable to assume that the card pool is still consistently expanding.

Speaking of time, Backwater takes place about ten years after the events of 5Ds. This places it about two years AFTER the 'Where Are They Now' flashbacks from the final episode of Yu-gi-oh 5Ds Japanese anime. (Sorry, fans of the dub. Take a look at the Yu-gi-oh wikia to see what we missed out on.)

This also places it as the latest story story in the Shadowchasers timeline, though I don't think I'll be getting any prize for that.

This means that the Shadowchasers of Backwater all have gained a few years. I'll list them here:

Tsubasa Springweather: 28
Fayte Nyte: Immortal
Tsukihime Nyte: Immortal
Maria Temorline: 41
Gurren: Unknown
Rave: 29
Kenshin: As a spirit being, does not age. Has been 'alive' for about forty years.

Rayearth: Immortal

I'll also take this time to point out that this fanfic is rated 'M'.

Why?

In part, this is because all of my characters are adults. They can-and will- deal with adult problems and issues. They don't need to be mollycoddled and deal with Saturday morning cartoon villains. The other part is than 'M'-rated fic means I can deal with more serious subject matter freely. Also, keep in mind that 'M' does not necessarily mean 'horribly dark and sad' or 'there will be much of the sex!', either. Again, it is adult characters dealing with adult issues.

That being said, I am writing this story to have fun and entertain my readers. I promise you now that there is one key thought behind motivations and premise for this story.

When darkness falls, heroes rise. And it is always darkest before the dawn.

Now, all of the twiddly bits of background information and warnings are out of the way.

Let's have some fun!

Chapter 1: Hunt the Hunters! Shadowchasers! Roll Call!

"You ever wonder why we're here?" The speaker was a tall red-haired, young teenager. Dressed in jeans, a shirt with the words 'The Pause Button Exists So You Can Savor The Look of Terror On The Bad Guy's Face' on it and a jeans jacket, she sitting on crate and idly swinging her legs back and forth. A long staff was settled next to her, its top resembling a mix-mash of video game controller buttons and a slot to insert discs.

"What?" Her companion was a youthful-looking man, leaning across the way on another stack of crates. He too wore jeans, but had declined a jacket and instead wore a black t-shirt. Wavy brown hair was brushed out of his eyes and he folded his arms. A sword was hanging at his side and it scraped against the crates as he shifted position.

"I mean, do we have a purpose? Why are we right here, right now? What does that-" She stopped speaking and green-eyes blinked in mild surprise as a finger was thrust at her.

"Kenshin, if you try to sucker me into that gag again, I swear I will find a way to make you eat your staff!"

"Oh, c'mon!" Kenshin pouted at him as he withdrew the finger and gave her a look. "Tsubasa!"

"No! Last time we did that Blue versus Red thing, everyone heard us!" The man huffed and ignored her pouting look. "They called me Caboose for a week!"

"It's Red versus Blue, thank you very much! One of best machinma to ever exist!"

"I don't care if it is Purple versus Fuchsia." Tsubasa grunted in annoyance. "Where'd you find that show, anyway?"

"Where else? The Internet. Nothing ever goes away on there." Kenshin gave him a lopsided grin. "Not even your mom's videos of you dancing in your dinosaur underwear when you were five..."

"What? How did you find out about those!?" Tsubasa's eyebrow twitched madly, his cheeks flaming.

A see-through form appeared alongside Tsubasa, watching the two make faces at one another. He was as tall as the young man, but his hair was blonde and he was dressed in fancy armor that was more for look than function, given that it had styling in gold along the edges and a cape. He regarded the two for a moment and then lifted an eyebrow. (Isn't fuchsia a shade of purple?)

"Not now, Neo!" Tsubasa barked at the spirit.

(But if it was Purple versus Fuchsia, wouldn't they be fighting themselves?) The spirit asked curiously.

Kenshin sniggered. "Good point, Neo."

(Apparently, schools here do not teach colors.)

"That would explain why his outfits are so horrible and lacking coordination. Or he's just color blind."

"I am not colorblind! Orange goes with anything!" Tsubasa glanced back before the two snickering teammates he had and growled in irritation. "I will get you both for this."

His commpiece crackled and a lilting voice spoke in his ear. "Given that one is a Duel Spirit and the other is the spirit of a gaming console, I feel I must point that your threats against them are rather...immaterial."

"Not helping, Maria!"

TTTTTTT

"So you say." Two blocks away atop a rooftop and peering at the arguing pair through her rifle scope, Maria readjusted her fancy hat with her other hand and smiled. "I happen to think the getting some laughs on a stakeout is a great way to relax the team in preparation for our future exertions."

"Yeah, sure. This is coming from the team sniper, safe atop her rooftop and wearing a dress so poofy you could use it as a mattress. I'm sure exerting your trigger finger is such a draining task."

"Don't be frumpy, Tsubasa." Maria shifted so that her pink and white ballroom dress did provide her more comfort and space between the hard cement and her body. "You get your comedic licks in just like the rest of us...you usually just miss, that's all."

"...your dress makes you look like a layer cake!"

"My point exactly." Maria shifted her rifle a bit. "And considering you just insulted the team sniper, you've shown why you always miss. Now...how fond of you are earrings? I think you're going to be needing to borrow a pair really soon..."

"Maria. You can't shoot up teammates. We still need him in one piece." A new voice came over the comm, strong and carrying a crisp French accent. "Making fun of him is not in the team spirit or promote comradrie."

"Thank you, Fayte. I knew someone would be on my side here."

"Besides, think about all the paperwork you'd have to fill to explain a weapons misfire."

"Hey!"

"Good point. He's not worth wasting my bullets on, anyway." Maria zoomed out slightly and slowly swept her sight away from her teammates and across the warehouse they were hiding near. "I'll just trap him in a horrible paperwork illusion for a few minutes later."

"Joke is on you, fox! I like doing paperwork!"

"...I think I'll leave that one alone. Fayte, where you and the others at? I think you were supposed to be sneaking into the warehouse."

"We're in alley not far from there. Just waiting for more of them to show up first. Better if we fit ourselves into a group than just show up unannounced."

TTTTTTT

"Makes sense, but are you sure we should send you and Tsukihime in? You two aren't exactly the most inconspicuous of individuals."

"That's the point, my dear." Fayte shared an amused glance with her wife. As a vampire and a succubus, respectively, both of them possessed looks that combined the best of supermodels and porn stars. And given that they were dressed in corsets under their robes to deliver plunging cleavage and had applied make-up make themselves look like teenage girls trying to look older than they were, they were getting the most mileage out of it. "Since this group is composed of Shadowkind mostly wishing to rebel against society and find independence, we should fit in."

"While that makes sense, how about the fact being a vampire means that going for a walk in the sunlight gives new meaning to the phrase 'human torch'? Well, not human per see..."

"It will be fine. These Rare Hunter robes are big enough to cover me entirely and should something happen, my Cloak of the Night will activate." Fayte fingered the tattered edge of said cloak for reassurance. The cloak was a rare magical item that, when worn by a vampire, would turn them into an intangible mass of shadow fabric while in sunlight. "For now, just keep an eye out for some more Rare Hunters we can join to into the warehouse."

"Tch. Rare Hunters...their days of glory have been over since Battle City, right? So why are they still lurking around thinking they're scary? There what duelists dress up as Halloween for laughs!" The speaker was another young woman, wearing jeans and a grease-stained gray hoodie. Leaning back against her D-Wheel, she drummed her fingers on the frame. "And aren't they supposed to be Card Ghouls, anyway?"

"After Marik's defeat at Battle City, the group split off into a bunch of different factions. Without his Millennium Rod offering control of the more rowdy ones, it wasn't that surprising." Tsukihime explained and readjusted the clasp of her robe. "The American branch took on the name 'Rare Hunters' instead which, according to them, was to make them less threatening to the kids they wanted to duel and steal from..."

"Ah." Rave grunted. "And here I was thinking it was because of that Dead Love book, with that airheaded idiot of a main character falling for this ghoul boy, who wanted to eat her flesh, but resisted with the power of love and that somehow made him able to be normal because plot convenience."

"If I was chased out of town duel to misleading fangirls, I would change my name as well." The fourth member of the group rumbled. Looming head and shoulders over any of his compatriots, he would have looked at home in any 'Men In Black' film with his broad shoulders, nice black suit, sunglasses and flattop haircut and square jaw.

Except that square jaw almost literally square and closer examination of his appearance would in fact reveal he was carved from some kind of stone and his hair, in fact, was simply shaped and painted to look as such. "The power and fury of a fandom is not something to be underestimated."

"Neither is the stupidity of criminals, Gurren. Why should we pull off a stakeout when it'd be easier to just put some rare cards on display and let them come to us? Even if they knew its a trap, they wouldn't be able to resist." Rave said.

"I believe it is because recent reports have shown the Rare Hunter/Card Ghoul organization on the rise in several countries for various reasons and for the most part, this group has been strictly human. However, the London Shadowchasers captured a Shadowkind member of the group just last week and that led to several more arrests, but not all of the ones that in the area." Gurren explained. "Given how many Shadowkind crime organizations there are already are, it seems prudent to stop this one before it spreads."

"Which means digging out the root, not just cutting off the plant." Tsukihime put in, turning to face the other two. "According to the rumors we've picked up, the person organizing the Rare Hunters to create a cell here in Backwater is a higher-up from another large group somewhere on the West Coast. We nab him, we get another big lead to the next one."

She paused. "Rave, why are you staring at me?"

"I'm admiring the construction of that lovely steel-boned corset you're wearing and the rather snuggly-looking contents in it." Rave was indeed staring unabashedly at the succubus' impressive body.

"You just finished your umpteenth boyfriend, you're not my type and I'm taken." Tsukihime pointed out.

"Yep. But I do like well-constructed things and you and your corset qualify." Rave grinned and then chuckled as Tsukihime gave her a little bow to accept the compliment. "Careful, you might spill out."

"I doubt it." Fayte smirked playfully. "I helped her into it that and she's not getting free unless I help her out, too."

"Which I am sure will be a most pleasurable endeavor, ladies." The voice came over their earpieces at the same time-neutral, precise and meaning business. "We're nearing the time for the meeting, so if more Rare Hunters do not arrive soon, go in together and make the best of it. Rave, Gurren, get on your vehicles and to your assigned positions before the other two start kissing."

"Hey, just because I'm a succubus and she's a vampire, doesn't mean we have crazy awesome sex at the drop of a hat or on missions, Rayearth." Tsukihime protested lightly and then grinned. "There's no random passerby that we have to hide our faces from as an excuse for kissing, for one thing."

"Uh-huh..." Rave rapped on Gurren's front with her knuckle. "C'mon, ya big lug, let's get going. And hope we get to see some action this time. I don't want to be stuck playing tic-tac-toe again."

"Are you wishing to see action on this mission because you are bored or because you do not want to me increase the total of games in my favor again?" Gurren asked as he settled onto his D-Wheel, a large black-and-red three-wheeled monstrosity dubbed the 'Heavy Metal'.

"I totally have our games under control." Rave informed him as she swung aboard her own D-Wheel. Both vehicles started smoothly, their engines a surprisingly quiet purr.

"I look forward to seeing the long-term strategy you have developed for tic-tac-toe, then. I am sure that since the record is three-hundred-twenty-four to seven hundred and eighty-nine in my favor, it will-and I quote modern sayings here- 'Rock my socks off.'" The golem started for the end of the alley. "I will even wear socks for the occasion."

"Ha-ha, sarcasm man." Rave stuck her tongue out at him and zipped her D-Wheel down a different alley.

Fayte and Tsukihime watched them go and then approached the end of the alley, peering carefully out at their target building. "Is everything ready on your end, Rayearth?"

TTTTTTT

"Everything has been ready for the last forty minutes, Fayte. The Watchguard are on standby to help you engage any unexpected threats. And the police force are as well." Dressed in a black suit coat with a red ruffle at the collar, Rayearth took a short drink of her bottle. "You and Tsukihime infiltrate, Tsubasa and Kenshin spring the trap and you two capture the leader. Maria keeps track of and stops any major surprise threats and Rave and Gurren help corral any who make it to their vehicles. We have covered all of the angles."

"I know we have, but you know what the say about the best laid plans of mice and men." The vampire replied. "Sometimes the simplest operations are the ones to go the most wrong."

"If they do, I expect you to handle it. You are all professionals and a talented group of youngsters." Rayearth pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose slightly, the lenses' glare only partially hiding the criss-cross of scars over her permanently closed eyes. "The plan is there to give direction, you are all there to make it happen."

"Fayte, its Maria." The Kyubi's voice interrupted Fayte's response. "There's a Rare Hunter heading towards the warehouse, robe and all. Looks like an Aware human."

TTTTTTT

"Thank you, Maria." Nudging Tsukihime, she jerked her head towards the end alley. At her wife's nod, they both pulled up the hoods of their robes up and waited until their target had passed the alleyway before stepping out after them.

Maria was correct in identifying the Rare Hunter as a human; a young man who had to barely be in his twenties and started when the two women stepped up on either side of him. "Huh-wha-?!"

"Take it easy, friend." Tsukihime put a finger to her lips and smiled to put him at ease. "Let's not draw too much attention to ourselves-these robes can be bad enough, ya know?"

"Er-yeah." The youth hastily agreed, his eyes immediately flicking over her body and back up before red spread across his cheeks. "I just...I mean, didn't expect members to be...I, oh, I'm new and all, but I thought-"

"Ah, a rookie." Fayte patted his arm and his head swiveled around to look at her, repeating the process he done with Tsukihime. She just chuckled playfully, which only caused his blush to deepen. "Don't worry, we'll take good care of you, sweet."

"Y-yeah..." The youth stammered again and settled for looking at his feet, leading the trio along until they got to the warehouse. "I...I don't think I've seen you before. I'm Arthur."

"We're from out of town. You guys can't go up against the police and Shadowchasers without some experience, so we're here to give you some." Tsukihime informed him and tapped his nose with a finger, giving him a wink. "Just can't say who we are or where we're from. Just in case, you know..."

"Ah, yeah that makes sense. Wallace said we were meeting with someone big from another group, too." They reached the door of the warehouse and Arthur rapped on it three times.

A slot in the middle slid open and a pair of eyes peered out of the darkness. "Who is it?"

"It's me, Arthur. The new guy."

The eyes studied him for a bit and then flicked between the two women. "Who are they?"

"They said they're from out of town, here to help us." Arthur explained and the two women smiled at the eyes.

As the eyes flicked between them again, looking them over carefully, Fayte felt a slight tingle run up her spine and knew that Tsukihime was tapping her natural abilities as a succubus. When you lived a life dedicated to seduction, learning how to manipulate and cajole was a necessary secondary skill and Tsukihime was using it by subtly using her powers to muddle the man's mind slightly, reinforcing they were who they said they were.

It worked, as the eyes' owner grunted. "Fine. What's the password?"

"Ah, um..." Arthur fumbled for a moment and then snapped his fingers. "Right. It is 'All that glitters is ours to take."

"Mmmph." The slot slid shut and then after a moment, the door opened. "Enter."

The three stepped into the warehouse, the two Shadowchasers leaving Arthur behind as he had to wait for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

The building was indeed almost completely dark and gloomy. Even the windows had been boarded up or covered up in someway. About twenty or so Rare Hunters were milling about with some wearing the traditional cloaks and others apparently eschewing the idea. They were talking amongst themselves, though it was rather quietly so and it gave Fayte the impression they were all anticipating something.

She kept to the rear of the room, scanning for any other possible exit or entrance points to the building. Besides the door they had just entered, it looked like perhaps one or two of the windows were weak enough to jump through, though she doubted any of the Rare Hunters would be gutsy enough to leap through glass like that. The opposing side of the warehouse was shrouded in darkness even her eyes couldn't quite see through, so she marked it as at least one more exit on that end until she found otherwise.

The vampire leaned against the back wall, careful to make sure her robe covered her entirely. She could see Tsukihime making her way carefully through the crowd, laughing, giggling and flirting with the various Hunters who realized that this beautiful woman was one of their number. She left a trail of longing gazes as she approached the front, the better to apprehend the leaders when the time came.

And it seemed that time was approaching rapidly. Whatever light there was in the warehouse dimmed until there was barely anything to see with left. The gathered Rare Hunters fell silent and all turned to focus their attention on what Fayte realized was a stage on the opposite end. A series of candles on it suddenly ignited, revealing another Rare Hunter standing there.

"Welcome, my fellows." His voice was sharp and clear. As he spoke, he lowered his hood to reveal a youthful face. Both Shadowchasers recognized him from the reports as Wallace, leader of this particular cell. "Tonight promises to be a fruitful event, so your attendance is appreciated...and will be rewarded."

"For the longest time, our name as Rare Hunters has been besmirched, abused and degraded. Once, we were an organization who's hands were everywhere, and anything that we desired we could just take." His voice sped up slightly as he took on an urgent, excited tone. "Once, we were feared and with that fear, came power!"

The other Rare Hunters present were nodding in agreement and he continued. "You all became Rare Hunters because you refused to bow to a world who's laws meant that the weak feed off the strong and you were denied what was rightfully yours because it wasn't 'fair' to others. And with us, you found that the rule of the strong holds true- we take what we want and we draw more power to ourselves. And yet-" He threw out his arms. "And yet it is still not enough, is it? Because we skulk in the night, not to create fear in our prey, but because we do not possess enough strength to declare ourselves! Once, our name struck fear into the heart of any duelist and even the King of Games himself spoke our name in a but a whisper!"

The crowd was focused entirely on him and Fayte had to admit that Wallace was a good speaker-it was easy to see his passion and charisma.

"But then, the leader Marik was defeated and we became nothing more than a laughingstock! But under him we enjoyed an unprecedented era of terror and fear, of wealth and power! Because he gave us something that made us more than petty card thieves stealing from display cases and pilfering booster packs! He gave us purpose!"

Wallace held up his hands in a grand gesture. "My friends, tonight I bring us new purpose! One that is not simply one man's driven ambition, but a purpose that will reward all of us with more than we could have ever dreamed! It will drive us forwards- forwards into the heights of glory, wealth and power! We will herald in a new age and be rewarded for it like the kings we know we are meant to be!"

"And just how are you going to do that?" One of the Hunters up near the front shouted as the crowd murmured and shifted awkwardly, surprised by this sudden turn of events. "Its not like you have a Millennium Item, Wallace!"

"No, I do not...but with our new purpose would come an even older magic, one that would put us par with the Shadowchasers!" Wallace smiled and stepped aside as a new figure began to emerge from the darkness. "I present to you our new benefactor and the key to our future."

The crowd, Fayte included, gasped as the newcomer stepped into the light. They were average height, but that was the only thing average about them. A tattered green cape hung from their neck loosely, while dark armor covered shoulders, torso, legs, backs of the hands and was completed with a nasty-looking horned helmet. Everywhere else was naught but bone. The figure gazed them with empty eyes as they swung their head about carefully, taking it all in. Their jaw did not move, though it was easy to hear the deep, male voice that they had when they spoke. "Greetings, little mortals...I am Skeleton Knight."

Before the Rare Hunters could do more than murmur in surprise, he held out a bony hand to silence them. At the same time, a dark miasma began to crawl across the floor. "Be honored, for I have seen your potential and power and deemed it worthy!"

They regarded him warily, but Fayte had to give them credit. Despite his appearance and the thick miasma rolling across the floor, the Rare Hunters didn't panic or flee. Instead, they were looking at him more like a business partner.

Wallace returned to Skeleton Knight's side. "He has magic, my friends. Magic that would once again allow us to bring the Shadow Games with us wherever we trod and stand up even to the Shadowchasers! And more than that, he has ways of increasing our own power, as well!"

He flung off his robe, revealing armor similar to that which Skeleton Knight wore. But even with the armor, it was easy to see the power packed into the muscles underneath. "All he asks in return that we serve his cause!"

"And what cause is that?" A random Rare Hunter barked. "You talk about this being a good thing, Wallace, but it seems to me you've cast aside being a Rare Hunter as easily as you tossed the robe!"

"This is not about the organization, it is about us! Right here, right now!" Wallace snapped. "How many of you were reluctant to attend, worried about if this would just be another meeting of talking and no action! Of wondering how you were going to live off of the paltry things we steal!"

There were many heads nodding in agreement and he continued. "The Rare Hunters are nothing more than a crippled mess, limping along. But we can move beyond that, my friends. We can finally live again, instead of hiding and cowering. Skeleton Knight's oath to give us our power back is as good as gold."

"So!? You may have been spellbound by this walking horror movie reject, Wallace!" Another Rare Hunter called. "But lets see some proof! You say he's trustworthy? That he can really help us? Or is it all talk?"

"Trust...?" Skeleton Knight tilted his head at the speaker. "It is a sore day indeed when any doubt the word of a knight."

"Yeah, well, most knights aren't zombies!"

"Duty and oaths are unbreakable, even by death." Metal ground against itself as the knight shifted. "And I would think that I, vouched for by your leader would be more trustworthy than even your own kind...who foolishly let a pair of Shadowchasers into the building."

The crowd nearly exploded with surprise and Fayte was already moving to draw Tempest when the shadows at her feet sprang up around her like a blanket. She grunted and strained, but her movements were sealed even as the shadows carried her into the air towards the stage. And out of the corner of her eye, she could see Tsukihime suffering the same fate.

All eyes were on the pair as Skeleton Knight maneuvered the pair onto the stage, still trapped in their bonds. "The vampire...and the succubus...how easily they slipped through your guard."

Several members seemed ready to protest, but the Knight's hard look silenced them. "You wanted a demonstration of trustworthiness, of my power...and so you shall receive."

The two Shadowchasers watched in trepidation as the miasma covering the floor erupted into black and violet, ethereal flames...

TTTTTTT

Kenshin and Tsubasa reflexively shielded their heads the windows of the warehouse across the street exploded in a shower of ethereal flames and magic. The spirit stared with wide-eyes at the now blazing building. "What the hell was that!?"

"Who cares-Fayte and Tsuki were still in there!" Tsubasa sprinted for the warehouse and drew his sword, Kenshin a step behind him.

"Tsubasa! What are you doing!? Get back- you don't know what caused that explosion!" Maria's voice crackled over his earpiece.

"I know, but our friends are-" Tsubasa skidded to a halt as the massive front door of the warehouse suddenly fell forwards, crashing to the ground with a horrible noise.

The interior of the warehouse was a sea of the purple and black fires. Blazing in their intensity, yet their was no waves of searing heat that should have been coming off of them. Instead, they simply roared so high they were nearly howling.

Tsubasa and Kenshin readied their weapons as Skeleton Knight stalked slowly out from the flames, trailing them like some sort of ragged cape. The human narrowed his eyes angrily. "Alright, Crypt Keeper, you got one chance. Kill the flames and tells us what happened to our friends or we'll take you down so hard your ancestors will feel it!"

"Skeleton Knight does not take orders from any but his gods, mortal." The knight rasped at him. "And your friends live, for now...but you probably will not." As he spoke, the Rare Hunters emerged from the flames behind him. Most of them had discarded their robes, were taller than normal. All of their eyes were black with gold irises and each one had apparently suddenly put on thirty or more pounds of muscles. "Kill them."

Tsubasa ducked the first punch as the charging Rare Hunters reached him and came up swinging, sending his opponent staggering in pain as the blade's tip cut open a line on his chest. The Shadowchaser slid around another attacker's blow and smashed a kick into the offender's side. He felt his foot bounce off the muscle, then a backhand landed his face and threw him off his feet.

He caught himself on his elbow, rolling out of the way of a stomp meant to cave his gut in. Springing to his feet, he gripped his blade steadily as a group of them began to circle around him. "What the hell are these guys on!? They're hitting like freight trains!"

"Tell me about it..." Kenshin grunted as she strained against a Rare Hunter's pipe locked with her staff. They pushed against one another and as the Hunter leered at her, she took a swift step back. The now unbalanced Hunter received a staff strike to the back of the head and pitched forwards as the spirit whirled amongst her other targets. Her staff was a blur as she hammered at heads and torso, hooking feet to trip up others.

Using the staff as a pole, she swung herself feet first into the barrel-chest of another Hunter and winced as she felt the shockwave ripple up her body. The Hunter, for his part, merely staggered a half-step from her blow. Even as she landed and back-flipped away to put some distance between them, she could see all of her opponents simply straightening. Even the one she'd nailed in the back of his head was standing up again, merely rubbing the injured spot slightly. "And they're taking hits like they're a freaking mountain!"

"Well, if they can take it and it dish it out...then let's serve them a dish they can't handle!" Tsubasa ghosted around a punch and lunged in, a howl from his target acknowledging the fact the sword as just sliced open his side. Without skipping a beat, the Shadowchaser jumped over a clumsy kick and hacked the weapon into the offending limb. A scream and second slash to the back and that man was down.

A punch smashed into his ear and he could already feeling it ringing as he reeled. Then strong hands seized him by the arms and pain erupted as he was slammed face-first into the concrete. He felt his sword fall from his grasp and then the arms holding him hurled him into. A scream that he realized was Kenshin's was all he got before the pair crashed together and then into the ground in a tangle of limbs.

Even as they pulled themselves apart, the Rare Hunters yelled in victory and charged in to deliver a final pummeling.

With a steady 'zip!' sound, the front row screamed in pain their knees suddenly gained fresh, bloody holes. They went down, tripping those behind and the group became a heap. Those that remained standing scattered as the sniper rounds drilled holes in their bodes and the concrete.

Tsubasa and Kenshin extracted themselves, just in time to see a group of D-Wheels roar out of the warehouse, two of them with cloaked forms draped over their backs. "Oh frick!"

The human threw a pair of fingers to his earpiece. "Rave! Gurren! Some of the Hunters are trying to get away on their bikes and they've got Tsuki and Fayte! They're heading right your way!"

"What?! You guys were supposed to keep them contained!" Rave yelped back.

"Yeah, well, we didn't count on some Grim Reaper showing up suddenly and pimping the Rare Hunters up on magical steroids!" Tsubasa hurled himself to the side as he heard hoofbeats. He spared a glance after them just in time to see Skeleton Knight atop an equally skeletal mount, galloping in the opposite direction the Hunters had gone. "And is apparently playing chicken, too! Where the hell is he going?!"

"I don't know, but run him down!" Maria's voice was as steady as the 'Zip! Zip! Zip!' of her weapon that kept nailing Hunter limbs or forcing to space themselves out. "If he can do what he did to these guys to anyone, we've got a huge problem once he makes it to the residential district!"

"She's right!" Kenshin gripped her staff in both hands, whirling full-circle to land a jaw-breaking strike on an approaching Hunter. It knocked his head to the side, but did little else beyond anger him. "Maria and I can keep these guys contained!"

"What?" Tsubasa stared at her in surprise. "Kenshin, they're clobbering both of us and-"

"Not for long, they aren't!" Kenshin produced a disc from her belt and slammed it home into her staff. Instantly, she was swallowed light.

TTTTTT

Inside the sphere, Kenshin steadied herself as her staff vanished form her grasp. A ring of light spun to life at her feet and rose up around her, replacing her street clothes with a skin-tight black bodysuit from the neck down. Her hair was cropped short in a military cut as a metallic arch appeared above her. Nearly a dozen slender robotic arms popped out of the arch, each of them clutching a bright metallic green piece of armor. Smoothly and efficiently, the heavy armor was set into place on her body. As the arms and arch retracted, she held her hands up above her head and a similarly-designed helmet with a golden-orange visor appeared there. Seizing it, she slammed it into place with a sharp 'click!'

Flexing her fingers, she formed a fist and punched the ground. A small crater erupted under her feet and she pulled a battle rifle from out of nowhere, nodding confidently. "The one-man army corp! Master Chief!"

TTTTTT

Kenshin emerged from her transformation bubble just in time to catch a powerful fist to the faceplate. It snapped her head back and the offending Rare Hunter lost his grin as she forcefully straightened against his fist and cracked her knuckles. "You have no idea much trouble you're in."

Her own punch threw her attacker back against his fellows and then she was smashing in among them, powerful blows sending them reeling. A wave of them all tried to tackle her and she caught them, digging her heels into the ground for more traction. "Hurry, Tsubasa!"

There was no response, but she heard the start of a motor and the peel of rubber behind her. "About time!" With a grunt and a mighty heave, she toppled the wave of Hunters back in the direction they had come. Even as they scattered and scrambled, Maria's sniper rounds were hammering away at their numbers as fast they could.

Though she knew they couldn't see her smiling face underneath her helmet, Kenshin smashed her fists together gleefully as the Hunters barreled towards her. "Five minutes on the clock...bet I finish with a minute to spare."

"Fives bucks says you won't."

"You're on!"

TTTTTT

Rave watched as the D-Wheeling Rare Hunters barreled towards her position up on an alley on a hill. Judging by the whine of their vehicles' engines, they were all putting the petal to the medal. And they still wouldn't be going fast enough. She snorted as they zipped past her and she caught a better glimpse of the vehicles. "Cheap second-hand pieces of junk..."

A touch of a button started her own D-Wheel and she squeezed the throttle, zipping out of the alley and arcing in a smooth turn before gunning the motor and zipping after her targets.

The two trailing ones might have seen her coming in their rearview mirrors, but were far too slow to react. As she moved between them, she held both of her hands and her eyes flashed like prisms. In flares of red light, the Twin Swords of Flashing Light-Tryce appeared in her grasp. Two low-arch slashes as she passed and she grinned as she saw the two unlucky riders spin out of control, front tires completely ruined. Stowing one on of the blades across her back, she poured the speed on.

This time, the Hunter was ready for her. Even as she zipped up so that she was just within reach of his rear tire, he slammed on the brake for a brief second. She had to jerk away and lean back as he attempted to clothesline her off her own bike. "Clever punk, aren't you?"

The Rare Hunter just grinned and revved up, pulling alongside her before arcing away and then wrenching right back towards. The bikes rattled as they collided again and again, more violently each time.

"Hey, watch the paint job!" Rave grit her teeth, yanking her bike away from the collision while at the same driving him back with a backhand slash. Flipping her grip on the weapon, she took a quick stab at him as they closed again, cursing as it merely slid between his arms and the bike. "Dammit!"

The Hunter laughed and stood partially on his bike, lashing out with a hard kick to the front of her frame. The laughter picked up as Rave yelped and spun out of control.

Then the laughter was gone, replaced with wide eyes as he saw Rave zip up and move in front of him, completely backwards. She grinned smugly at his expression. "I've been driving longer than you've been alive, hotshot."

A quick press of a button activated her bike's autopilot and then she jumped forward. It seemed to happen in slow-motion, Rave landing with impossible grace on the Hunter's handlebars as her sword dove through the metal and delicate circuitry. Even as the bike began to spark and the Hunter could hear the start of his own gasp of fear and surprise, she was leaping up and over him.

Then time snapped back and Rave felt Gurren's strong hand snare her hoodie and deposit her on the back of his own bike as the Hunter's sputtered out of control and sent him crashing into a ditch. "Thanks for the save."

"That was a wholly foolish and reckless thing to do, Rave." The golem admonished her.

"You only live once and it wasn't that reckless- I saw you coming. I knew you'd catch me."

"Your faith in such certainties is refreshing." Gurren told her dryly and sped up to catch the last two Hunters ahead of them. "Ideas on how to rescue our comrades?"

"Well, we can catch them even on your bike. The pieces of crap they're driving don't have the engine power to speed up anymore and if they keep pushing them, they'll rattle apart. We can let them drive themselves into the ground."

"And if they split up?"

Rave winced slightly. "Ooh, right, didn't think of that." Gripping Gurren's shoulder for support, she stood up and popped up a case on her belt. Pulling out a handful of Duel Monsters cards, she fanned them out in front of her and stared at them for a long moment. "I've got it!"

Snaring her chosen card in her teeth, she deposited the rest back into their case. Her eyes flashed like prisms and the card glowed. An ivory bow crafted to look like waves appeared in her hand, followed shortly by a glittering silver arrow. "Don't slow down, whatever you do."

"Shooting Star Bow-Ceal?" Gurren lifted a rocky eyebrow. "The odds for any shot at this speed are incredibly poor."

"Only if I'm aiming at something small." Rave nocked the arrow and drew the bowstring back near her ear. "Something big, however..."

She let fly, followed by a few more arrows. They hissed past the Rare Hunters, all colliding with a tree on the edge of the sidewalk. The arrows exploded sharply, tearing out great hunks of the tree's trunk and with a loud snapping noise, it began to teeter over into the street. "Yes!"

Then she wilted as the Hunters simply zoomed underneath the tree before gravity decided to pull it down. "No!"

"It is not over yet. Down, please." Gurren squeezed a few more MPH out of his bike as Rave crouched and they barreled for the tree. A massive hand caught the trunk a moment before they crashed into it and he hoisted it above his head. "Drive, please."

"Wait, what are you- ack!" Rave threw herself around his massive body to grab the handlebars as the golem stood up and lifted the tree with both hands. Giving a slight grunt of exertion, he hurled the tree as hard as he could like a discus.

It spun through the air, crashing down between two parked cars in front of the Hunters. Tires screeched as both slammed on their brakes, desperately skidding to a halt just before a fatal impact.

The Heavy Metal halted with much more grace, Rave leaping free even as she produced another Twin Sword of Flashing Light and diving straight for the surprised Hunters.

TTTTTTT

The clash of steel drowned out the sound of a motor and hooves as Tsubasa parried another blow from Skeleton Knight, swearing as the hammer-like force behind it nearly ripped his blade from his hands. He ducked another strike and drove his blade for the horse the Knight was riding. But the demonic steed snorted as the blade glanced off its armor, slamming its bulk into the Shadowchaser and sending him swerving wildly.

"God dammit...!" Tsubasa watched Skeleton Knight pull ahead of him as he had to stow his sword to regain the use of both hands and his D-Wheel. "This guy's being a real jerk to capture!"

(He is a knight. He likely has hundreds of years more of mounted combat experience more than you.) Neo appeared behind Tsubasa, sitting side-sadle on the D-Wheel. (Not to mention, his mount is another opponent altogether and it puts Skeleton Knight much higher than you, making it easier for him to attack.)

"You know, for a knight who's made me his squire, you have a bad habit of listening my opponent's advantages after they've knocked me around with them!" Tsubasa shot over his shoulder while squeezing the throttle to catch up to his target yet again. "How about telling me what I got over him for a change?"

Neo smirked. (You have me.)

"Yeah, well, unless you can become solid, I-" Tsubasa broke off, then grinned as he realized what his partner meant. "Right, right...okay, short-range portal. Pop me out right in front of him."

(Difficult while moving...but I will.) Neo raised an eyebrow. (But you realize that what you are intending to do at this speed will be lethal for a human, right?)

"That's why I'm counting on you to use another portal to catch me." Tsubasa gripped his bike's handles determinedly. "Besides, the Springweather family luck hasn't failed me yet."

(No reason to tempt it to, then.) But the knight complied, drawing his sword and standing. With a rapid slash, the air in front of them split open into a swirling blue portal that they vanished into it.

Skeleton Knight felt the surge of magic behind him, but had no time to reaction as the portal opened up right in from him, spitting out Tsubasa's D-Wheel crossways across his path.

The dark knight's sword was already swinging up to knock the vehicle of his path as Tsubasa slammed on his brakes, letting his momentum throw himself over the handlebars into another portal. The demonic horse veered to the side as the sword tore into the underside of the D-Wheel, but it was too little, too late. Horse, rider and D-Wheel went down in a screeching of animal fear and metal.

Tsubasa was spat out of the portal a few yards, catching himself before he crashed into the concrete and rolling to shed his momentum. Coming to his feet, he pumped a fist in the air as he saw the pile slid to halt against a street lamp. "Yes!"

"Clever, boy..." Skeleton Knight pulled himself free of the mess with surprising ease, his broken and twisted mount simply vanishing in a burst of black fire. Gripping his weapon and shield, he glowered at the Shadowchaser. "But stupid."

"I got you to stop, didn't I?" Tsubasa brought his blade up with an easy smirk. "And now it's just you and me."

"And very soon- just me!" Skeleton's backhand blow sheared through the street lamp like it was butter. Even as Tsubasa danced to the side to avoid it, he had crossed the distance between them and slammed into the man with his shield so hard it threw the Shadowchaser off his feet.

Tsubasa caught himself as he landed, his blade coming up just in time to catch a hammer-like blow from the knight. He grit his teeth as their weapons ground against one another. "For a guy with no...muscles...you've got some power behind you..."

"My faith gives me strength, a strength you could not understand. And so does my experience." Skeleton Knight suddenly put forth more effort, his weapon shearing partway through Tsubasa's. Then the shield's edge tore into his side, prompting a tight scream of pain.

Seizing the advantage, the knight disarmed Tsubasa deftly and smashed him across the face with the flat of the shield before kicking him back hard against a building. Tsubasa groaned and took a pained step before slumping limply, out cold.

"A brave effort to fight me alone, boy. But all the brave and noble ever do is die young." Skeleton Knight advanced on his unconscious opponent...only for a half-dozen rounds to smash into his armor and envelope him in fire and smoke.

He emerged from the cloud just in time to see a blur of motion snatch Tsubasa away from in front of him. A rasping sigh at the loss of his prey escaped him as he turned to face down the street. "Magical bullets...I thought your vampire was the only one possessing such things."

"No reason she wouldn't share once in a while." Maria carefully deposited Tsubasa on the ground, then tossed her rifle away. A moment later, her black and pink parasol was in her hands and a moment after that, Chivalry's rapier and shield were in her hands and mounted on her wrist, respectively.

"Interesting...it has been awhile since I fought another shield and sword warrior..." The knight watched as Maria readied herself and he did the same. "Will you last longer than your comrade, then?"

"I'll do more than that, I'll take you down." Maria promised and her eyes flashed with a rainbow of colors.

Skeleton Knight felt the same colors flare to light around him, but ignored them. "My faith protects me from your illusions, fox."

"So it does..." Maria narrowed her still-glowing eyes slightly and then suddenly her form distorted sharply, vanishing into the air. "Good thing everything I do doesn't have to work straight on you."

"Invisibility..." The knight braced himself, but was still unprepared as her flurry of blows rained down from all sides, striking and glancing against his armor even as he twisted and spun to try and defend himself. "Your weak blows can't hurt me!"

The barrage never ceased and he lashed out blindly with his own weapon, but felt it only cut the air. Then there was a 'click!' sound and red erupted in front of him as Maria landed the full force of her rapier's powered charge on him. There just a moment to realize this, then all that energy exploded and sent him hurtling backward into an alley.

Despite the force of the blow, the Knight remained on his feet as he skidded to a halt. He caught sight of a now-blue weapon hurtling towards and threw up his shield. The piece of metal shrieked in protest as an impossible number of slashes landed on it in a single instant before it flew apart into neatly sliced pieces.

Without his shield in the way, Maria's lightning strikes rained down upon him even as his own desperate counter-attacks failed to find her invisible form. Then he felt the rapier glance of his chestplate at the wrong angle, sliding right between his ribs.

Maria's invisibility failed as he seized the weapon and she had to hurl herself backwards, his arm-severing blow barely deflected by her shield. Had he a face, the knight would have been sneering at her as he snapped the handle off the rapier with a sharp twist, both pieces clattering to the ground. "Stabbing someone without flesh isn't a very bright idea..."

"Tch..." Maria simply leveled her shield arm at him and reached with her free hand, tapping something. Impossibly, her shield was launched forward impossibly fast.

In the narrow space of the alley, there wasn't anywhere to move to and the Knight felt the spinning shield smash into his arm, sending his sword flying away. It was followed shortly by the feeling of Maria's roundhouse kick crashing into his face and staggering him.

A growl escaped him as she unleashed a barrage of kicks. They hammered at his armor painlessly, but relentlessly. A sharp lunge for her only resulted in the woman dropping to her hands and spinning on them to slam a one-two combination across his face. Then she was hand-springing away to avoid his counters. "Damn you..."

"I've been damned once. It wasn't much fun." Maria landed easily on her feet, her dress fluttering around her as she sprinted for him, vaulting off a dumpster and then a wall to land a powerful kick that sent him skidding backwards. She kept up her momentum, unleashing a series of kicks that snapped his knees straight, then hooked behind one his legs to yank him off-balance.

As he stumbled, she vaulted off his form and he lifted his head just in time to see her coming whirling down in a bicycle kick that hammered his body into the concrete so hard it cratered.

A bellow of anger escaped him as she skipped back and even as he rose to his feet, she was whirling and twisting to rain more kicks on him. With a snarl, fire erupted in his hands and the blasts forced her back- only for her to impossibly speed up and sprint under them.

To his further surprise, she didn't attempt another kick, but seized his body in her arms and with a deft foot swept to knock him off balance, hoisted him into the air. "What are you-"

TTTTTT

"Did Maria just suplex a fricking demon!?" Rave whistled appreciatively at the sight. "Gurren, what have you been teaching the woman?"

"It's not me. Muy Thai does not focus extensively on moves like that." Gurren rumbled. "Maria's fighting style relies on combos to make up for her lack of power, but that is not something I can teach her."

"Then who's-" Rave broke off and both glanced behind them.

Tsukihime was kneeling over Tsubasa's form, her hands extended and glowing with healing magic. At her compatriots looks, she huffed. "Hey, seducing someone isn't always stripping and shaking. Especially for some non-humans. They can require a different form of persuasion..."

"She'll be happy to educate you all on that later." Fayte said crisply and glanced down at her wife. "Is he going to be alright?"

"Yes." Tsukihime replied, moving her hands slowly up and down his body. "The wound in his side wasn't deep and that knight just got lucky knocking him out."

"I'll say, his head's harder than a rock..." Kenshin, her transformation having timed out, gripped her staff and pointed across the street. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get in there and take the guy do-"

The word died on her lips as suddenly both Maria and Skeleton Knight were swallowed by black and violet shadows and flame. "What the-!? Shadow Game!? No fair! I wanted to beat him up!"

"Looks like that honor goes to Maria..." Gurren folded his arms across his chest. "So now what?"

"We wait." Fayte eyed the crackling sphere of dark magic. "And trust in our friend."

TTTTTTT

"So what's this? The fact that you're losing make you want to cheat?" Maria was unconcerned by the Shadow Game surrounding them, though privately she was grateful for the reprieve. Her stamina wasn't going to last forever.

"Hardly. But you have interested me, fox. Enough so that I have decided to make you serve my cause. And while I could kill and resurrect you in service to my gods, I don't want to deal with your comrades at the same time." Skeleton Knight held out his right arm, a bone-duel disk appearing there in a flare of violet fire. "So I propose this-winner decides the fate of the defeated."

"Fine by me." Maria held up her own arm and wasn't surprised to find that a duel disk was already there, her deck in place. She ran her thumb up her deck, enabling her to pull a slender portion off of the top. She fanned them out to reveal that their number was five. "So can I expect chivalry from, knight, or do you merely wear that appellation as a title only?" (MLP: 8000)

"I am a knight and regard all who stand against my crusade as my enemy, woman. Such as yourself." The dead warrior pulled his cards carefully from his disk one after another. "And as such, the first turn in this duel is mine." (SKLP: 8000)

He grabbed a card from his hand and slid it into his disk, the air in front of him wavering as a continuous spell card appeared. "The Gathering Horde is an interesting card-once per turn, I may move one Darkspawn monster from my Deck to my Hand."

A card slid out of his disk and he caught it, tucking it amongst the other five held. "I cannot summon my selected monster, but I have others from which to choose from. Like my Darkspawn- Hurlock."

The shadows surrounding the pair peeled away nearby, spitting out a disturbing monster. It was humanoid, but its skin was either so pale as to be sickly or splattered and blotched with corruption and disease. It wore ragged rust armor and made no sound resembling speech, only a grunting cry of war. (1900/0)

Maria frowned at the new monster. It's name sounded familiar to her, but it mattered little in the face of that horrendous appearance. "Fetid creature..."

"As a bringer of corruption and despoiler, I'm sure it would think the same of you if it were capable of such level of thought." Skeleton Knight slid a card into his disk and it appeared behind his monster. "This face-down card will end my turn."

"Draw." Maria snapped the card up and then slapped it down onto her disk. "I summon Bulb Dino to the field in attack mode!"

What appeared on her field was just as interesting as the Hurlock, though in the opposite direction. It was a small, blue-gray skinned creature with darker patches scattered about and four short stubby legs And o its back was a large green flower bulb though its weight did little to bother the little dinosaur-creature. (800/800)

Skeleton Knight stared at it, though exactly what he was thinking was useless to his lack of expression. His tone, however, could probably have fit some definition of 'incredulous.' "Is that a...Bulbasaur?"

"Why would you choose to focus on that?"

His gaze moved to Maria. "What?"

"You just converted a bunch of low-class card thieves into knights for your crusade, are fighting a kyubi in a Shadow Game to the death and apparently are some kind of living knight to some dead deities. Yet you remark on the fact my monster is a pop culture reference." Maria giggled behind her hand as his stance shifted, Skeleton Knight obviously glaring at her right now. "Awww, did I wreck the poor knight's villain cred? Does this mean the other villains won't let you into their clubhouse? Or do you have to turn in your lucky decoder ring?"

She didn't wait for him to answer, already sliding a card into her disk. "If all of that didn't make you loose out on your membership card, the thrashing I'm going to give you in this duel will. By discarding a card, my Bulb Dino can poison one of your monsters and strip it of four hundred points in both stats! Poison Powder!"

The small creature nodded and a faint blue powder began to waft from its bulb. The Hurlock was caught up in a cloud of it and it rattled out a noise of pain as its already twisted body faded to ashen-gray and it slumped forward limply. (1900/0-1500/0)

"And don't bother commenting how much stronger your monster is, because I'm not going to attack you." A pair of cards flashed into existence behind the Bulb Dino. "These should keep you guessing. End of turn."

"Draw." Skeleton Knight plucked the card free and then his The Gathering Horde card glowed. "As before, I add another Darkspawn monster to my hand."

Catching the new card, he pointed at Hurlock and it vanished. What replaced it was what Maria assumed to be another Hurlock, but it was a head taller than the previous one and wore a full set of the rusted and warped armor that was complete with a face-covering helm that wouldn't have been out of place in a horror film. It wielded a pitted and blood-stained double-headed axe that it raised over its head with a bellowing war cry. (2200/0)

Then Maria's eyes went wide as two more Hurlocks stepped out of the shadow to join the newcomer and add their own blood-thirsty battle cry. "What on earth did you just do?!" (1900/0x2)

"Darkspawn- Hurlock Alpha, when it is summoned, lets me discard all other Hurlock monsters I have in my hand. And when an ordinary Hurlock is discarded for the effect of a Darkspawn monster, it generates one token of itself.." Skeleton Knight rasped out a chuckle at the Shadowchaser's surprised expression. (1900-x2)

The tokens roared as a red outline flared to life around them and without waiting for an order, the one on the left charged with its blade held high. "I don't know what you were planning to achieve with that discard last turn, but it will be fruitless!"

"Maybe, but my set cards are not!" One of the flipped up and the charging Hurlock ran straight into a swirling portal of reality that immediately spat him back out on his owner's field. "Negate Attack does exactly what it says."

"Very well..." Skeleton Knight glanced over his hand and then nodded in her direction. "I end my turn."

Maria drew and then snapped her fingers, her other set card flipping up. "Call of the Haunted special summons one monster from my graveyard. Come on out, Happy Cute!"

The trap spat out a ray of light, which resolved into an adorable little creature. Smaller than even the Petal Dino, it was 'dressed' in half of an egg shell that had red and blue triangles decorating it. A small ring of tiny spikes circled its head and it gave a cute yawn as it stood up. Catching sight of Maria, it made a happy noise and waved its stubby arms at her, obviously wanting to be picked up. (400/300)

"Aww, don't be afraid..." Maria soothed it as Happy Cute suddenly realized there was a scary group of monsters on the field. It let out a bawling wail and scurried to hide out under the poofiness of her dress. "We'll deal with them shortly, you'll see. First, I'll need to summon Ugly Fish Red in attack mode, though."

She slapped a card down onto her disk and this time a puddle of water appeared next to her Dino. A moment later, a red-scaled whiskered fish rose up out of it partway. It glared at the opposing monsters and attempted to be intimidating...by splashing up and down uselessly. (0/0)

Skeleton Knight studied the three monsters and despite his superior field, almost looked worried at what she had arrayed. "..."

It didn't go unnoticed by Maria, who smiled. "You know what Pokemon are, so you must that they can evolve. But first, I need some more cards. So my Magic Planter spell will get rid of my Call of the Haunted and let me draw twice." Her trap card dissolved away as she snapped up two more cards from her deck.

Then a spell card appeared on her field, its picture showing an oscillating sphere of rainbow energy in the foreground and behind it, silhouettes of various figures apparently changing into different forms. "Marvel Catalyst is the key card of my deck! A miracle that generates an even greater miracle! So even my poor Ugly Fish Red can have its true potential unlocked..."

The Marvel Catalyst card transformed into the sphere on its picture and it sank into the flopping red fish. It glowed with a white light and began to grow rapidly, its shaping changing impossibly fast. Then the light faded, revealing a massive serpent-like creature with three great fins on its back. Each move of its powerful body caused its blue-and-gold scales to ripple with muscle and its let out an angry roar with an expression of pure rage and bloodlust in its eyes. "...and become something truly fearsome! Atrocious Horror! Destroy his monsters! Dragon Rage!" (2500/0)

Atrocious Horror's eyes flashed red as it wound its way forwards, a jet of flame blazing out of its mouth. It swept the blast across the field, incinerating the Hurlocks into ash and leaving blackened ground in its wake. Skeleton Knight was unbothered by the heat or the attack's intensity, his set card flipping up. "The Endless Horde is a continuous trap card who's effect will come into play during the End Phase." (SKLP: 6500)

He watched as Atrocious Horror maneuvered back to Maria's field, its massive bulk stretching out behind its master while it leaned down enough for her to stroke its head. Its rage seemed spent as it made a pleased rumbling noise. "I see...it goes to defense when it attacks..."

"She does and she can't change that position, just like a Goblin Attack Force. But she did a good job, didn't you?" Maria rubbed it on the nose and then turned her attention back to Skeleton Knight. "And now its left you wide open! Go! Vine Whip!"

Vines emerged from underneath the bulb on her Petal Dino and whipped towards the knight at dangerous speeds. Then the Petal Dino made a noise of surprise as suddenly, a strange clock-work creature appeared in front of its target. The vines entangled the newcomer, which merely tolled the bell that comprised up most of its body and caused Maria to frown. "Battle Fader..." (0/0)

Happy Cute poked its head out curiously from underneath Maria's dress as Bulb Dino's vines untangled themselves from the Battle Fader. The Shadowchaser just smiled down at it. "Don't worry, we'll get it next time. I set one card face-down and end my turn."

"And during the End Phase, the effect of the Endless Horde activates." Skeleton Knight's trap began to glow. "For each destroyed Darkspawn that was sent to the graveyard, I can call out a Grunt token of a Darkspawn breed of my choice. I'll chose to summon one Genlock Grunt Token."

His new monster had the same sickly, twisted skin and rusted kind of armor that the Hurlock. But it was barely half of the size of the other and instead of a sword, wielded a short mace and small shield. (1400/0)

Skeleton Knight drew for his turn. "I use the effect of The Gathering Horde." Catching the card his deck slid out for him, he held up a spell card. "Allure of Darkness. Now I draw twice and then banish a dark monster if I have one. Obviously, I will."

Drawing, he slapped down a monster card. "I summon Genlock Rogue Archer." Like his Token, the new monster was a short and stout beast of a being. True to his name, he wielded a twisted bow and barbed arrows. (1400/0)

With a low growl, a fresh Genlock Grunt Token stomped out of the darkness to join the other two. "Darkspawn Horde lets me summon out one Token of my choice and now that I have them, my Archer's ability becomes quite potent." He waved an arm towards his three creatures and the two Grunts suddenly armed themselves with bows and arrows. "By halving their attack points, all Genlock monsters may attack you directly." (1400-700/0x3)

Maria cried out as the arrows pierced her arm and chest, stumbling in pain even as they faded away. Despite such, the phantom wounds throbbed as if they were real and she took a deep breath to help cope with the pain. "You ruin my dress and I'll kill you..." (MLP: 5900)

"I am already dead." Skeleton Knight slid a card into his disk. "I end my turn."

"Draw!" Maria did so with a focused look in her eyes. His monsters had overpowered all of hers and yet he had chosen to avoid the smart strategy and remove them to instead of focusing on damaging her. (That means he's definitely up to something...)

"I activate Advance Draw, offering my level eight Atrocious Horror to draw two cards!" The massive monster faded away as the Shadowchaser snapped up two more cards. "Then the continuous spell card Battle Training Facility! Now I can give my Cute monsters some experience and have them grow up some!"

Her little Marvel skipped out onto the playing field and put on probably what it assumed to be a stern face. Like the Ugly Red Fish before it, it began to glow and change shape. The glow faded to reveal a more cherub-like body. The eggshell was gone, its pattern have become part of its body. It had a slender neck and small, cute wings. And still attempted to look fierce. "Happy Cute has evolved to become Fortune Adorable!" (1500/1500)

Fortune Adorable suddenly floated its way over to Maria, specks of glowing blue dust falling from it. She smiled and held out her hand, the dust collecting there to transform into a Duel Monsters card. "When Special Summoned, Fortune Adorable adds one Marvel Catalyst from my deck or graveyard to my hand. And then I can reveal that card for its second effect, letting me draw one card."

An image of her key spell card appeared behind her as and Fortune Adorable glowed slightly as she drew. "Then I'll use my Marvel Catalyst, targeting my Bulb Dino!"

Unlike the previous two Marvel monsters, the Dino didn't radically change shape. Its form grew more powerful-looking and larger, while the bulb split open halfway to reveal a pink flower. "My Petal Dino not only has got some more points, but its effect is more powerful. I don't need to discard, but all of your monsters lose four hundred points! Poison Powder!" (1600/1600)

The flower shook, causing a dark blue powder to fill the air. Skeleton Knight watched impassively his Genlocks began to gag, the blotches on their skin expanding and becoming far more sickly-looking. Their weapons clattered to the ground as they staggered in pain. (1400-1000x3)

"Let's go! Razor Leaf!" Petal Dino made a noise of assent and braced itself as leaves hurled from its flower to hiss across the field and slice the Genlock Rogue Archer to ribbons. (SKLP: 6100)

"Metronome!" Fortune Adorable began to wave its stubby arms back and forth rhythmically. A blue shine covered them and it sped up for a moment before it stopped. There was a blue flash, followed by a long flat silence...and then an anvil fell from the sky crushing the Genlock into pixels. Maria giggled. "I wondered who programmed the odds of that happening..." (SKLP: 5700)

"I care not, for it will not be happening again. Reveal continuous trap card- Blight Corruption!" The card flipped up, its picture revealing a man standing in a twisted, mutated landscape. He was screaming as his skin was beginning to mottle with darkness, apparently turning him into a Darkspawn. "By destroying my monster, you have sealed your monster's fate."

Maria gasped as her Petal Dino was suddenly pulled over to Skeleton Knight's field. Its skin became patchy and blackened, fangs sprouting from its maw. The flower on its back withered and twisted, sickly and rotten. Red flashed in its eyes as it snarled at her. "My monster-"

"-is now infected by the taint of the Darkspawn and joined the horde." Skeleton Knight finished for her. "Its powers are sealed, however and it will die in three turns. But in exchange, it has become a berserker to ravage all within its sight." The Dino roared again as three black motes of light appeared above the trap card. (1600/1600-3200/0)

Maria stared at the scene for a moment and then narrowed her eyes, red flashing through them briefly. "No one screws around with my team like that..."

"You will have to wait to spend your anger, since it seems to be you have no more moves for this turn." Skeleton Knight watched her jerk her head in a nod. "During your End Phase, the effect of The Endless Horde generates me a new Hurlock Grunt token." With a guttural noise, a Hurlock lumbered out of the darkness to stand alongside Petal Dino and Battle Fader. (1900/0)

He drew for his turn. "Recurring Nightmare allows me to add two Dark monster with zero defense points from my graveyard and place them into my hand. I choose a Hurlock and Hurlock Alpha." The two named cards slid out of his graveyard and he picked them up. "And now the effect of The Gathering Horde adds another Darkspawn monster to my hand."

A card was slapped onto his disk and one of his Hurlocks reappeared alongside its brethren. But its reunion was short-lived as suddenly Petal Dino let out a hungry roar. Nearly a score of twisted vines erupted from its flower to seize its fellow Darkspawn, which were promptly ripped apart violently.

Maria stared in horror as the corrupted Marvel crammed the pieces into mouth eagerly, devouring them as fast as it could. "Oh dear god..."

Skeleton Knight remained silent as the Marvel began to shudder and expand, changing drastically. Its flesh became more more mottled and broken as it swelled and swelled in size to become wholly unrecognizable as it what it originally was. The mass kept growing, tree-trunk thick tentacles sprouting free.

With a horrible scream of twisted pleasure, the top part of the flesh peeled away to reveal a bloated humanoid face and a row of sagging, bloated teats. Black ichor dribbled out of the creature's fanged mouth and stubby, black-claws scrabbling for something more to eat. "May I present to you The Broodmother?" (2500/3000)

Maria looked a little sick, Fortune Adorable not fairing much better. "You horrible, disgusting, beast of a being...!"

"Now, now, we cannot all be as pretty as you. But the Broodmother does try so hard- she has such a glow about her..." Skeleton Knight rattled out a laugh as Maria glared at him. "Giving birth to an endless horde does that to a woman!"

He pointed at his new monster. "And her ability is very special, thanks to that. Once per turn, I can banish any Darkspawn monster I desire from my deck, save one in particular, and generate a token."

A card slid free of his deck and then dissolved away into darkness. As it did, an enraged bellow filled the air as a monster stormed free of the shadows. Covered in a ghastly purple skin, with a pair of horns curving back from its forehead, nearly as tall as the Broodmother and packed with power, it was an intimidating sight. "I banished my Darkspawn- Ogre and got a Darkspawn Ogre Token from it." (2500/0)

"Twenty-five hundred..." Maria's eyes widend as she realized that if he banished any Darkspawn-Ogre class monster, he'd get one of those tokens. Then a scream caught her attention and she snapped her gaze over just in time to see tentacles seize her only monster and drag it underground. "Fortune Adorable!" (MLP: 4900)

"My Broodmother was hungry..." Skeleton Knight pointed at her. "And my Ogre is angry! Crush her!" With a roar, the giant creature lumbered for her.

"Reverse card open- K.O. Replacement! This lets me Special Summon a level four or lower Marvel from my deck because you destroyed one in battle!" The trap card flipped up, spitting out a curious creature. It was a short little thing, its white body resembling a little dress while the top of his head was covered by a green hat of sorts, save for a little red horn poking free. "And Psychic Heart can negate one attack per turn!" (800/800)

The little Marvel shrieked in fear as it saw the ogre charging for it and its horn glowed, generating a glass-like barrier that caught the Darkspawn's charge. It roared and slammed it against it several times, but it didn't break. Instead, it flashed with enough force to send the ogre stumbling back to its owner's field, leaving both Psychic Heart and Maria to breath a sigh of relief.

"Very well, you survive for this turn..." Skeleton Knight watched his Ogre regain its footing, while the Broodmother warbled angrily. "Take your move, Shadowchaser."

Maria drew sharply and flicked her eyes at the card before slamming it into her disk without a moment's hesitation. "I activate the spell card Miracle Prayers! Now I can add all Miracle Catalysts in my graveyard to my hand, but for each one I use this turn, I must pay one thousand life points!"

She grabbed the two cards as they slid out of her graveyard and held them up. They both began to shine, illuminating her field in brilliant white light. "But for a miracle, the cost can never be too high! Evolve, Psychic Heart and grant me a miracle!" (MLP: 2900)

The small Marvel glowed itself and then was lost entirely in the light. When it cleared, it had become far more than it originally had been. It was now a foot taller than its master, its white body slender and looking much more fitting as the same style of gown Maria wore. Then, reed-like green arms tensed as it eyed the monsters across the field fiercely. "And now Psychic Heart has become my mighty Psychic Guardian! Wreck that ugly Broodmother! Psychic!" (3200/3200)

The Marvel monster glowed violet as the winds around it began to whip before erupting into a torrent of psychic energy that shot across the field. A second before it could impact, however, it suddenly careened sideways and smashed into the long-forgotten Battle Fader. "No!"

"Yes." Skeleton Knight gestured to his field and then now face-up trap card. "Shift redirected your attack."

Maria growled and glanced her scant remaining hand cards. "End turn."

The knight drew and stared at the card, pondering it for a moment. Then he slid it into his disk. "Spellbook Inside the Pot allows us both to draw three cards."

They did so, and then another card slid out of his deck, dissolving away into darkness as another other Ogre token lumbered out of the darkness. "This battle today and this duel have been most rewarding, Shadowchaser...but it is time that I end this."

Darkness swallowed his three monsters suddenly, leaving his field bare. But it only lasted a second as suddenly a tongue of flame erupted skywards behind him. With a tremendous roar, a titanic scaled form appeared out of the nothingness behind him. It was so massive that Maria couldn't see more than the front half, but that was more than enough to see the heavy scales, jagged fangs and powerful wings. (4000/4000)

She braced herself, seizing her hat in one hand as the monster roared, the action causing her clothing to ripple and flap. "What...kind of dragon is that?!"

"The Archdemon. An old god touched by the Corruption, now the leader of the Darkspawn." Skeleton Knight dropped a card into his graveyard. "By discarding a Darkspawn monster, The Archdemon deals you its attack points in damage. Feel the wrath of god!"

Fire poured from The Archdemon's mouth in a punishing blast that seared the air as it hurtled towards Maria. A blur of blue intercepted it as Psychic Guardian teleported in front of it, its eyes glowing like prisms as the flames smashed into a barrier that hadn't been there a moment before. "My Guardian's power can negate effect damage as well as attacks!"

"Then we'll see what an attack does!" The Archdemon surged forwards, its claw scraping off the barrier as well. But the force behind it was enough to shatter it, hurling Psychic Guardian to the ground so hard it left a small furrow as it slid past Maria. "Your life points-"

"-are safe. Psychic Guardian can negate more than one instance of attack per turn." Maria watched as her monster teleported itself back in front of her, looking a bit worse for the wear, but determined. "It will give its life to protect me. Will yours?"

Skeleton didn't bother to respond, merely plugging a card into his disk. "I end my turn."

Maria drew and a sly grin appeared on her face. "You want to play with our aces, Skeleton Knight? Then allow me to oblige! First, Monster Reborn returns Atrocious Horror to play!" Water fountained onto her field and the powerful sea serpent slithered free.

"Then Instant Fusion lets me bring out my level five Genome Fire from my Extra Deck!" Fire burst into life nearby, then resolved into a slender fox-like creature with red and yellow fur and the size of a medium dog. It barked fiercely at the Archdemon. "And now you'll get to met the strongest Marvel of them all! One I can only summon by tributing three Marvel Fusion monsters! Come forth, Psychic Superior!"

Her three monsters all faded out of sight. Then blue light flashed in front of her as a figure teleported in. They had a human-like frame, though it was colored gray everywhere except for a purple underbelly that lead to a long tail of the same shade. It floated above the ground by a few inches silently, an imposing blue aura surrounding it as it studied the Archdemon and Skeleton Knight with arrogance and not a hint of fear. (4000/4000)

"Once per turn, Psychic Superior lets me send a Marvel Fusion to my graveyard from the Extra Deck and in return, it gains that monster's power! So by sending my Shade Rock, I can give Psychic Superior that monster's immunity to death in battle!" Dropping the card into her graveyard, she pointed at the Archdemon. "Your so-called god falls now! PSYSTRIKE!"

Psychic Superior's glow intensified, little orbs of blue energy being drawn into its body. Soon it was blazing with and it cupped its hands in front of it. Every scrap of blue energy poured into a sphere at the end of its arms. The air shook as the Marvel monster unleashed a meter wide beam that devoured the air in front of it, which was so bright that Maria had to shield her eyes. She heard the dragon roar and then the scream of flame and energy meeting.

When she lowered her hand, her eyes widened. She could see the now headless corpse of the Archdemon falling backwards, dissolving away into nothingness. And above it, a gaping hole in the dome surrounding them. The sharp blue of the daytime sky was a hard contrast and almost unbelievable, even as bits and pieces of the edge of hole began to cave in. "Did I...break a Shadow Game!?"

"Hardly, Fox..." Her gaze snapped down to Skeleton Knight. He was clutching at his chest, a shadowy miasma leaking from various parts of his body. "It seems...I have overexerted myself today...so we'll have to call this one a draw."

"What? You can't just ignore a Shadow Game! It can't be shut off until a winner is declared! You're-" Maria started as suddenly, the dark shadows of the dome surrounding them began to pour towards Skeleton Knight.

"I worship a different darkness, Shadowchaser. One that surpasses the shadows of Egypt and Zorc, of even the Leviathan! I can do whatever my gods see fit to allow me. And they allow me this power!" Skeleton Knight's form surged with dark energy and Maria screamed as it all exploded, blinding her and throwing her backwards.

"Maria!" Rave's voice outpaced the psychic's arms by a small margin as she caught the other woman in before she crashed into the ground. "Are you alright? What happened!?"

"I'm okay, but my last attack...did something to that Shadow Game. I don't know what it was..." Maria stood, steadying herself. The rest of the team was gathered around her protectively.

"We saw the beam of light." Tsukihime frowned. "I was old when humanity was young and let me tell you, there's nothing I've ever seen that could ever do that. Not unless you've got a God Card we don't know about?"

"What? Mewtwo? No, he's not. Just a card-" Maria and the others all turned to face the other end of the alley as lighting and thunder boomed.

"Shadowchasers!" Skeleton Knight was atop his steed once again and to their surprise, the Rare Hunters that they had been fighting surrounded him once again. Shadows danced around them and it was easy to see that the thunder and lightning were caused by the crackling, thunderstorm-like portal behind them all. "You have fought well today! I salute your valor and courage!"

He drew his sword and leveled it at them. "But know this- I am the Skeleton Knight and in the name of my gods, I declare that there will be war between us! Now I have Crusaders to stand with me and today, I have taken your measure! And found it wanting!"

His blade stabbed at the sky and the portal surged violently, the fire growing more and more intense around them. "This city of Backwater will burn to ashes and you along with it!"

"Not a chance in hell!" Rave and Fayte lead the charge, already drawing their weapons. But the portal behind newly-dubbed Crusaders and their master seemed to swallow them all before vanishing into a single pinprick of nothingness. But Skeleton Knight's voice still echoed.

"You have been warned, Shadowchasers! Soon, the shadows of my masters will engulf the Earth and all you hold dear will lie in ruins! Your world is now over!"

TTTTTTTT

A/N: Well, I hope that was suitably intriguing to all of my readers. Or at the very, least you enjoyed it. This is a momentous occasion for me, as I start the largest piece of writing I ever done up to this point and certainly my largest piece of fanfiction.

Questions, comments or concerns should be left in the reviews section, as even reviews offering criticism inspire me to do better. ^^

The Skeleton Knight has declared the city of Backwater, Nebraska, to be the sight of his last crusade and the Shadowchasers who live there as his enemies...but what kind of place is Backwater for such an enemy to target it? Well, even with Skeleton Knight's dire warning and show of power looming over them, the team still has to deal with the everything else that goes on around their crazy home, too.

If you thought the Backwater Shadowchasers were a crazy bunch, just wait till you meet the people they protect...

Next time: All The World's A Dueling Stage!

Secret Life of Characters #8: Maria Temorline

"Don't worry- there's nothing special about my tricks. It's all in your head...heehehehehe..."

Maria was found as a wailing little baby at the doorstep of the Temorline family and the couple, unable to have children of their own, happily adopted the little girl. Who cared if she occassionally sprouted fox ears or tails or created her own puppet shows out of thin air?

For the most, Maria grew up like any child of rich parents. She had everything she could ever want, though her parents had earned their wealth rather than inherit it and they made sure to instill the value of hard work in their daughter, whether she wanted to or not. So from a young age, Maria was as self-sufficient as a child of her age could be.

Her parents are Awares, this trait coming from the fact David Temorline was descended from Sir Victor Temorline, a Shadowchaser during the 18th century, and Elizabeth Moonlotus, the elven princess that Victor married. They knew off the bat that their daughter was different, even from most other Shadowkind. Her ability to cast illusions and alter her appearance were definitely not standard and even Jalal and Elizabeth could not readily identify what Maria was. But it mattered little to the two happy parents- Maria was their daughter and that was that.

Until the Pleasureland Incident.

During the events of the island of nightmares, Maria was forced to tap into her own inner nature and unleash the beast inside. It was then she discovered she was Kyubi, a powerful fox Shadowkind said to be immortal, its number of tails increasing with its power and the strongest of Kyubis are as powerful as some low-level gods. This was proven true when, to protect her parents and others, from the insanity-causing spell cast over Pleasureland, Maria trapped them in all in a permanent illusion that, to this day, no one has been able to dispel.

After the events of Pleasureland, Maria was taken in by her 'Auntie Moonbeam' in hopes of helping her get over the horrific incident. But the awakening of her full powers seemed to have aged the child mentally, if not physically. Maria was no longer the innocent, carefree little girl. She was a woman on a mission-and that mission was to be a Shadowchaser.

She spent years training and preparing for the role and immediately joined up once she was of age. But even her dedication and skill weren't much against the fears and prejudices of not only the Shadowkind she was supposed to protect, but even other Shadowchasers. The rumors around her past, the true nature of what she was, of what she could do- all of it was impossible to escape and the young Temorline began to believe they were true. She became more ruthless, darker and there were several violent incidents that erupted because she could not-or would not- control her temper. More and more, the inhuman nature of the Kyubi inside her surfaced and each time, it took things a little farther.

But Jalal had more than a professional stake in the fate of his friend's daughter and refused to give up on her despite several teams refusing to taking and several more demanding her expulsion. And a few groups of Shadowkind demanding the execution of the 'monster'. He ignored them, but knew that something had to be done

So he sent the monster to fight a bigger monster.

Rayearth's encounter with Maria is not documented. But by the time they were done fighting, the hilly area that had been their battleground was a flat plain and Rayearth was demanding the Kyubi be transferred to Backwater. Jalal happily did so, knowing that in the town, Maria would not finally gain some acceptance, but some fresh perspective on herself and her life.

It seemed to do the trick, as shortly after her appointment, Maria showed signs of regaining a lot of the innocence she had lost nearly a decades before. She started wearing her habitual ballroom gowns and parasols. (resulting in Chivalry being crafted when she started refusing to carry standard sword because they clashed with her oufits.) and took up interests she had had no desire for previously- cooking, college and Pokemon, among others. When she legally inherited her parents wealth at twenty-six, she donated a large portion of it into charities aiming to help victims of magical accidents and manages the rest carefully, 'to ensure that my children have something coming to them other than all of my tasteful clothing."

At the present, Maria is more than content with her life with the Backwater team and even her parents fate does little to marr her happiness, though she is always hoping and working towards a cure. There are still rumors about that persist of her thirty-plus years as a Shadowchaser, such as she was once part of the Gotthammers. (Her shaping makes her the world's best diguise artist) or that she is secretly an envoy to the Yokai Clans of Asia. Many of the rumors surrounding her tend to stem form the fact publicly, she is often seen with Jalal at various functions and around HQ. And her most famous accomplishment, the defeat of the black dragon twins at the Third Battle of Luxemburg was her, again, working with Jalal.

There are plenty of more rumors about Jalal's interests towards the Temorline heir, given their closeness to one another. If pressed, Maria merely smiles behind her hand and responds with the above quote. Jalal simply informs one he appreciates her friendship and cooking. Judy LaBaron, if asked, just laughs a little and replies with 'Well, sure, who wouldn't want a mom like her?".

Suffice to say, the tabloids had a field day when the three were spotted together on a beach (regardless if it was not actually a vacation.) and insinuated that it was a secret marriage.

Maria's response was 'Oh heavens, no. I wouldn't be caught dead in a one-piece doing that. Weddings are a two-piece affair."

Deck: To celebrate Duel Monsters recent 50th anniversary, Industrial Illusions procured the rights to produce several hundred new cards based off of other popular, famous franchises in the 'Dreams To Reality' pack wave. Among the selected franchises were Mario, Digimon, Final Fantasy and of course, Pokemon.

The Marvel cards were not geared to be a powerful play deck, but more towards Pokemon fans. The actual monster pool is small and they lack a lot of cohesion with one another without a Spell/Trap line-up. Most of the monsters are famous Pokemon, with surprisingly few Legendaries making the list. Later releases of DTR cards saw the introduction of Legendary Pokemon cards, but all of them posses the 'Not legal for official duels' stamp.

Maria got her set through the buying and opening of many hundreds of booster packs. (I2 refused to simply allow the cards to be purchased individually, saying that Pegasus had not designed the game to solely cater to the rich.) It is a difficult deck to play, given its reliance on Marvel Catalyst to increase her monster's power and the fact her line-up has no ability to work with one another. But the Shadowchaser shows people she means business when they mock her for using a 'fun deck' seriously- a blast from a fully-evolved Pokemon sets them straight.

Design: Maria is not actually wholly my character. Her initial design, mannerisms, style of dress and the like came from ScarletWeatherman, author of the Shadowchasers fanfic Colors of Madness. We spent many hours quibbling about how her abilities should work and the like (mostly because we never really got were the other was coming from.) before settling things and even today, we banter back and forth about how Maria is going to develop in the future.

However, the addition of her tragic backstory was something that really cemented her as a character, since it gave more of a basis as to how she is than 'I'm a monster demi-god with pretty dresses!'. We're both very happy with how she's developed and grown as a character and I'm honor that Scarlet took the time to help me out with a member of my team. Kudos to you, bro.

As for some of the rumors around Maria's character? Who knows? Maybe someday those classified files will come to light and we'll see the story of Fayte and Maria's adventure together to the lands Asia or Maria's mission with the Gotthammers to the White House...

Maybe.

Created Cards:

Note: Skeleton Knight's cards will not be listed here. This partially because the Darkspawn Archetype is still under development. (Gee, I say that a lot about my cards...) and partially because it was purposefully designed to be overpowered. Storywise, they are a sign of Skeleton Knight's blessing from his gods and the fact that he is not playing around. Gameplaywise, Darkspawn take Blackwings and Dragon Rulers on in a Special Summon/Swarm Contest and eat the later two for lunch with barbecue sauce. And really, that's just horrible.

...ahem...

Right, Maria's cards.

Psychic Heart
LIGHT
4 stars
Psychic/Marvel
800/800
Effect: Once per turn, when this card is targeted by an attack, you may negate that attack.

Psychic Guardian
LIGHT
12 stars
Psychic/Fusion/Marvel
3200/3200
Effect: This card may only be Special Summoned from the Extra Deck by Tributing 'Psychic Protector' by the effect of 'Marvel Catalys!'. Twice per turn, if a monster you control is targeted by an attack, yo may negate that attack. OR if a card effect would inflict effect damage, you may negate that attack.

Bulb Dino
EARTH
4 stars
Plant/Marvel
900/900
Effect: Once per turn, you may discard a card from your Hand and select one face-up monster on the field. The selected monster loses 400 ATK and DEF points. (This change remains even if this card leaves the field)

Petal Dino
EARTH
8 stars
Plant/Fusion/Marvel
1800/1800
Effect: This card may only be Special Summoned from the Extra Deck by Tributing 'Bulb Dino' by the effect of Marvel Catalyst'. All face-up monsters your opponent controls lose 400 ATK and DEF points.

Ugly Fish Red
WATER
1 star
Fish/Marvel
0/0
Text: A useless red fish. Records suggest that in the ancient past, it was once very powerful. Now it is all this fish can do to flop around uselessly. But with some experience and patience, perhaps that ancient legacy can be reawakened...?

Atrocious Terror
Water
8 stars
Sea Serpent/Fusion/Marvel
2500/0
Effect: This card may only Be Special Summoned from the Extra Deck by Tributing 'Ugly Fish Red' by the effect of 'Marvel Catalyst'. This card deals Piercing. This card may attack all monsters your opponent controls once. If it does so, switch it to Defense Position at the end of the Battle Phase. This card's Battle Position may not be changed. (Even by a card effect) until your 2nd End Phase.

Fortune Adorable
WIND
4 stars
Fairy/Marvel
1400/1300
Effect: When this card is Special Summoned, add one 'Marvel Catalyst' from your Deck or Graveyard to your Hand. Once per turn, you can reveal one 'Marvel Catalyst' in your Hand. Draw one card.

Psychic Superior
DARK
10 stars
Psychic/Marvel
4000/4000
Effect: This card may not be Normal Summoned or Set. This card may only be Special Summoned by Tributing three Level 5 or higher Marvel Fusion Monsters you control. Once per turn, you may select one Marvel monster in your Deck or Extra Deck. Send the selected monster to your graveyard; this card's effect becomes the selected monster's effect.

Happy Cute
WIND
1 star
Fairy/Marvel
400/300
Text: Adorable beyond belief, this cute creature can siphon positive energy and release to those in need. For the one this child chooses as its parent, luck shall follow and smiles fall down from the sky like rain.

Battle Training Stadium
Continuous Spell Card
Effect: Once per turn, you may Tribute one 'Cute' Marvel-type monster you control, then apply the appropriate effect depending on the Tributed 'Cute' mosnter.
1. Happy Cute- Special Summon one Fortune Adorable from your Deck or Graveyard.
2. Spark Cute- Special Summon one 'Bolt Mouse' from your Deck or Graveyard
3. Kit Cute- Special Summon one Genome Tangent or Fire Fox from your Deck or Graveyard.
4. Egg Cute- Special Summon one Level Four or lower Marvel-type monster from your Deck or Graveyard.

Marvel Catalyst
Normal Spell Card
Effect: Select one Marvel-type monster you control. Tribute the selected Monster and Special Summon one Marvel-type monster from your Extra Deck (This counts as Fusion Summon) that can be Summoned by the effect of this card.

Miracle Prayers
Normal Spell Card
Effect: Add as many 'Marvel Catalysts' from your Graveyard to your Hand as you can. Each time you activate the effect of 'Marvel Catalyst' this turn, reduce your life points by 1000.

K.O. Replacement
Normal Trap Card
Effect: Activate when a face-up 'Marvel' monster is destroyed as a result of battle. Special Summon one Level Four-or lower Marvel-type monster from your Deck.