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Yu-gi-oh 5Ds: Rise of Darkness and Corruption (Athene/ImaginaryMuse & Razgriz)

Razgriz

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Hotsuma was notably silent as Yuna made it clear they needed to stop. She was right, even if her words said nothing to suggest what was actually being relayed: Once he was dead, they would have all the time in the world to rip into each other. But for now? Stopping Ignacious was their only priority at the moment; everyone else was fighting as best they could. They had to at least try to succeed, even if it wasn't going to work.

A low snicker left Hotsuma as his former lover took off in a sprint, him giving chase right behind her, able to start actually outpacing her. If they looked down, they would see strands of wind enabling his faster movement. But when she transformed? Hotsuma had to shield his eyes for a second, but when he looked back he saw she had transformed, now able to keep even and even run a bit ahead of him.

Made sense though; Demon Slayers had to be incredibly quick to battle the monsters their clans were destined to fight against. "So that's your Yutsu form, then? I like it." Hotsuma would compliment her, adding " But in any case, we just have to run straight; flight would get us there quicker, but we can still make time. I'll let you know when we're getting close." And with that, the pair hustled as fast as they could.

Time was running out, after all; this ritual would be settled this day, one way or another.



A silence hung heavily in the air after Hajime had called out his stalkers, the pair keeping themselves hidden for a brief moment. All the while that sensation of being watched would never leave them.

Moments later, however, two cloaked figures leaped from the shadows. Both of them were brutish and tall, wide shoulders betraying rather massive physiques. "So, the blue-haired boy was able to sense us, Karasu." said the cloaked figure on the left, the one off to the right replying "Indeed, Torume; it seems his senses are quite keen. A product of living in the Satellite, I'm sure. Hyper-vigilance would be key in that sort of situation."

Karasu snorted, "Remember too that he is a Psychic; so perhaps he had that to his advantage." Something that Torume laughed at, "Right enough." And then Torume addressed them both, "Psychic or not, I highly advise you leave this place. Those without Marks should not be close to any of the Towers..It has a tendency to...Well, swallow them up." And as if to emphasize his point, twin tendrils of energy lashed out from the Tower; far more quickly and violently than either Hajime or Shivini would even have a chance of reacting to.

And in that same moment, they would hear and feel the ground behind them being utterly destroyed: Lines of destruction a mile long trailed behind them, evidence of the sheer power contained in this active Tower.

"Last chance, you two; leave now and you will be spared." said Torume, Karasu adding, "But stay, and your souls will become food for the Gods."



Mister E seemed quite pleased with his previous turn; even if he did end up taking some more damage, the truth was his Field Magic was one key to his Deck's success. If only he could access his Synchros, this would be much easier. But at least he was able to fend her off long enough to get this initial play going.

Certainly was not the optimal strategy, but a key to victory was being adaptable when new situations arose. What the humans called 'rolling with the punches'. No other expression could fit what he needed to do here to win.

"My turn! I draw!"

He saw one of his more powerful monsters in his hand at the moment, but playing it now would be a waste. "I activate Cyclone Creator's effect! I discard one card from my hand to return Spell and Traps cards from the field to the owner's hand! I will return the same 3 cards as before!" Another gust had Ling's backrow removed once again, leaving her monsters wide open..And both of them weaker than his machines.

"That is more like it...Now let us begin! Cyclone Creator attacks Debris Dragon!" The bird-like machine flapped its wings, letting out a mechanical shriek before it bolted towards Debris Dragon. A flash of light cutting it half, the image shattering as Ling's Life dropped by 500. "And next, Birdman attacks Luster Dragon!" The smaller bird-like machine leaped skyward, then came crashing down, a foot crushing Luster Dragon's head as it roared in pain, its image shattering as well, Ling losing another 800 Life Points.

"I will then end my turn...." he would say, hearing Yamichi groan in mind-breaking agony. "I have heard the human mind is quite fragile when pain is involved....Hopefully your lover's will as strong as his analytical abilities."
 

ImaginaryMuse

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Hajime quirked an eyebrow; why in the hell did these pricks know about him being a Psychic? Had they been with Divine and he just never saw them when he was held hostage? Well ... it didn't matter. What did was the revelation they were on the wrong side and were indeed individuals to look out for. Once Shivini noted the two were in front of Hajime, she pivoted gracefully around, now standing beside the blue-haired lieutenant.

And it would appear Shivini had moved at the perfect time, too. What used to be the area behind her would just as swiftly get completely destroyed in a matter of seconds. All from the Tower they were attempting to head towards. She turned, getting a better look at the damage, and grimaced before looking back towards Karasu and Torume. "If we wanted to leave, we wouldn't have bothered coming here to start with!"

Hajime grinned at her reply, nodding adamantly.

"Indeed," he concurred, "It's going to take a lot more than a mere scare tactic to make us give up and leave. Two on two ... four thousand life points each. No one attacks on the first turn. Simple enough, yeah?"

When no objections were made, both Shivini and Hajime held their right arms up, activating their duel disks. A simultaneous cry of "Duel!" from all four individuals would ring out before Hajime pointed to himself.

"I'll go first .... then he can .... "

He would point to Karasu.

"Then Shivini and last, but not least, that one."

Referring, naturally, to Torume. He offered Shivini a sideways glance, hoping she didn't mind him volunteering himself first. Shivini would shake her head, smiling. "Nah, not at all. Power wise, yours is better than mine. It would be smarter if you got your cards set up before me."

"Thank you. That is indeed partly why I agreed to go first. Then .... draw!"

And once he looked down at his hand? He had to hide a smirk from appearing. Yes, yes, this hand could definitely work out very well for him. Hopefully, Shivini had something just as decent with her own deck. Either way ... this was a very smooth and much needed set up.

"I'll set two cards then summon X-Saber Airbellum. Turn end."



.... Damnit ... please not now ....

Her deck wasn't responding as well as it could have. Something that not only infuriated her, but equally terrified her. Her teeth latched onto her lower lip as she studied her hand more carefully ... seeming to hope and pray she had simply missed something. But no. Her eyes weren't deceiving her, much to her disappointment.

"Tch ... " she scoffed, eyes softening as Yamichi let out another pained groan. "I'll set a card face down and end."

It was definitely not her favorite move to make. But it was basically the only one she could resort to.

Well ... if push comes to shove, he shouldn't be able to deplete your life next turn.

That was what his field implied, at any rate. Granted, that could quickly change. She knew and understood that much. But his monsters didn't really come off as overly strong, not naturally nor without effects like his field. So Ling liked to think there was still some way to turn this duel around. Hope wasn't completely gone just yet as far as she was concerned.
 

Razgriz

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The pair waited and listened as Hajime made his declarations clear: They would fight. No doubt as an attempt to preserve their world. "Your tenacity is commendable, young man. As is yours, young lady." said Karasu, his voice dripping with excitement at the prospect of crushing such a brave opponent. Something Torume shared, "Indeed; let this Duel serve the Gods well."

Both men were agreeable to the conditions of the Duel, Torume then adding "I should warn you: Each time a player's Life turns to 0, their soul and entire being shall be taken into the Tower. Naturally, that applies to us as well. Defeat us, and the path to the Tower is yours to take. But be warned: While we might fall, our Masters are far stronger than we servants." To this, Karasu added, "Indeed; even when we once served the former King, we were but the vanguard before one would have the right to challenge him."

However, both men also knew from their tone that these two would not go down without a fight. And with that, the Duel began, all four Life totals going to 4000 apiece, each taking 5 cards into their hand. A circle of flame appearing around the four, sealing the combatants inside much like every other Dark Duel had gone before them.

The first turn was Hajime's, his monster brandishing its blade menacingly. Next was Karasu himself, who would proceed. "My turn! I draw!"

Pulling a card from his hand, he then declared, "I first activate the Permanent Magic, Worm Calling!" At this a vortex of light appeared in the sky, seeming to emanate from the ground between them. "Once on each of my turns, I can Special Summon a Worm monster from my hand in face-down Defense Position. I Special Set a monster!" Placing the card, its reverse image appearing. "I then Normal Summon Worm Xex in Attack Position!" he would then say, the green starfish-like monster appearing. "I then activate its effect! I send the monster Worm Yagan from my Deck to the Cemetery. Then Yagan's effect activates! Since Worm Xex is on the field, I can Special Summon this monster from my Cemetery in face-down Defense Position!"

And just like that, Karasu managed to assemble 3 monsters on one turn. Truly, this one was no slouch. "I will then set 1 card face-down. Turn end." He then motioned to Shivini, "You're next, young lady."

It was here, however, that the sound of a Runner would break the landscape...And lo and behold, the one responsible for this Tower's activation rode up to the right of the two Yomi Duelists. "Oi, I thought I felt something fun going on here! Karasu, Torume...Don't tell me these two are trying to take down my Tower?"

Torume would respond, "We do not know for certain, Master Kiryu; we were only guarding the Tower as instructed. These two approached, but they did not back down." At this Kiryu grinned, "Is that right?" At this, he then turned and looked at the pair, giving a light grin as he said, "Well, hopefully you don't mind me as an observer!"

Swinging his legs off the side, he then leaned on his Runner, saying "Well? Go on! Just think, the winner here might get a chance to face me! So fight to your heart's content! Try and break yourselves through this wall before you! Hahahaha! Then I'll grind you down and kill you!"



"Why, whatever is the matter? Does this boy mean that much to you? Worry not, Queen; I will ensure both of you depart this life together~ That way you both will have each in the arms of eternity." Mister E would say, having noticed her eyes changed when the man let out that noise of discomfort.

"My turn! I draw!"

He took a quick look at this hand of his, seeing only the one card...Nothing he could use. And besides, that face-down of hers might give him trouble. But thankfully his own Sets would disrupt her if she took the chance to try and Fusion Summon something.

Few of her remaining Main Deck monsters would be able to match him at this point, and he wasn't about to let her build materials on her field to get those monsters out. "First, I discard a card to target Spell and Traps on the field and return to the hand!" With that, one of his two Sets and Ling's own face-down would be bumped back into his. "I then Set a card face-down....Now, let's get rid of that eyesore of a Keeper! Birdman attacks Keeper of the Shrine!" That same downward kick shattered the draconic monk, Mister E then declaring "Next, Cyclone Creator attacks you directly! Cyclone Rush!"

The larger bird-like machine bolted skyward, its body rotating violently into a whirlwind as it then dive-bombed Ling, crashing into her and depleting her Life by 1900. Now at less than half her starting Life, Mister E seemed poised to take this victory.

"I end my turn....Best pray to whatever Gods you believe in, Miss Ling. May they have mercy on you in the afterlife."
 
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ImaginaryMuse

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... Former King?

Picking up on their words plus Hajime's thoughts, Shivini rose an eyebrow, looking quizzically at them both. "So ... you're saying you two worked for Jack Atlas then?"

Well ... that was certainly a twist neither had seen coming. Sure, they had seen that quite a few not-so-typical people had ended up becoming Drones and Dark Signers. But for some reason ... the thought of individuals who once worked alongside Jack hadn't crossed their mind. Hajime would be the first to shake his head, glancing over at Shivini.

"Ultimately, it doesn't matter. They're here and we're starting this duel, so ... even if they were truly once affiliated with him, those ties are gone. Take a breath and focus."

But before Shivini could even attempt to do that much, let alone draw, both turned quickly as a D-Wheeler rapidly approached. And when they both saw the driver, especially Hajime? Shivini had to grab quickly onto his arm to keep him from doing anything overly foolish. Because it was easy enough to see that even the barrier surrounding them .... yeah, Hajime wouldn't care about that. Not right away. Sure enough though, him feeling Shivini keeping him somewhat restrained allowed him to avoid making a reckless mistake as he stood as close to the wall as possible without actually touching it.

"YOU LITTLE SHIT!" Hajime angrily snarled, glaring furiously straight into Kiryu's eyes. "Be grateful I'm in the middle of something and that my powers aren't as good as Yuna's. Otherwise I'd gladly kill you just from where you're fucking standing!"

And just because he could? Hajime flipped Kiryu off, making it clear he wasn't out of sight and most definitely not Hajime's mind. Only when a slight squeeze upon his arm registered did he turn and find himself looking at Shivini.

"I do get it. Believe me, I do. But now ... it's your turn to take your own advice. Take a breath ... and focus. Before you do anything too hasty and foolish, we need to finish this duel ... one way or another."

" .... And what's that supposed to mean?"

"Exactly that," Shivini replied as she moved back to where she'd originally been standing and pulled the top card off her deck. "Draw! I'll reveal Amazoness Paladin in my hand so I can special summon Amazoness Spy! I then normal summon the same Paladin I revealed onto the field! Her effect then activates, and her attack will increase from 1700 to 1900. I'll set two cards and end my turn!"



Ling had truly been trying to keep her composure calm. Whether the stakes were higher than they'd been in the past few duels, his words were simply getting to her, or it was just as simple as wanting to run away with Yamichi instead of partaking in this duel at all .... something was getting at Ling. And now ... it wasn't doing her many favors in this duel.

"I'm so sorry, Yamichi ... " she whispered, tears stinging at her eyes as her hands began to tremble. If she was going to lose ... so be it. But she was not going to surrender.

I guess you'll be Queen soon enough, Fayth. Hold that title well ...

"I set another card. Turn end!"
 

Razgriz

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Kiryu just grinned as Hajime lost his cool, that coy smile on his face as he asked, "Oh come on, don't tell me you're still sore about what Misty and I did to your girlfriend? She was the one who chose to resist us. Probably should have just killed her...But hearing her beg to be let out, to stop the torture was just too much fun. Besides...Like you could actually do anything. Even your precious Yuna couldn't save her old boytoy, and you being weaker than her? You won't be able to do fuck all against us. You or the skinny little bitch with you. In fact, I predict she'll be the first to die!"

Karasu and Torume remained silent as Kiryu taunted their opponent's, Torume watching as Shivini took her turn. Amazons...The warrior culture of old. Said to despise all of men, believing them inferior and only usable as a means to procreate. An interesting deck for a woman who likely held no such views herself. And one worthy of caution.

"Torume, choose your moves carefully. Lest her warriors or the lad's impale your beasts on their spears. Two tribes of warrior-folk are a difficult combination to overcome." Karasu said, Torume nodding beneath his hood as he added, "So long as our teamwork is solid, we can prevail over them, and let the Light of Destruction cleanse this world of sin."

And with that, Torume took his own turn. "I draw!"

He then held up his Disk arm, sliding a card into the field slot. "I activate the Field Magic, Otherworld Zone - "A" Zone!"

The environment shifted, becoming a distorted realm of swirling matter and drifting asteroid-like rocks. "So long as this field remains in effect, your monsters shall be weakened in battle if they combat my Alien army. I then activate the Quick-Play Magic, Cellular Recombination Device - Type "A"! With its effect, I send the monster Alien Buster from my Deck to the Cemetery and place A-Counters on your Paladin equal to its Level! Buster is Level 4, so Paladin gains 4 A-Counters!"

At this, a crown of 4 sickly green orbs - fluid and seeming to writhe like a disgusting tumor - appeared over Paladin's head, but his turn was far from done. "And since Alien Buster was sent to the Cemetery, its effect activates! I place 2 A-Counters on your Spy!" An apparition of the jet-black Alien appeared from a portal, its eyes glowing bright and two of those same green orbs appeared over her head.

"I shall Summon my monster, Planetary Invader - Class "A"! in Attack Position!"

At this, a very odd - and slightly unnerving - four-limbed beast emerged on the field, its tube-like mouth giving a strange groaning noise. "I shall then activate the Equipment Magic, Heart of Clear Water, targeting Invader! As long it wears this shield, it cannot be destroyed by battle or effects that designate it as a target!" A coat of water-like film appeared over the creature, shielding it from harm.

"I shall then set two cards...And end my turn."

And with this, it was Hajime's turn.



Just one set card? Had she honestly been bested by her nerves? Did the sight of the boy in agony work that well?

Questions like this flowed through Mister E's head...But ultimately it did not matter. He heard her muttered apology, but said nothing of it. Instead just grinning as the turn was passed to him.

"Allow me to finish this. First, I will use Cyclone Creator as before....Your face-down and mine are returned to the hand." Doing so, he would then just reset his own. Leaving her wide open.
"Before you die, I will tell you this: Embrace the memory of your lover as he is now. Because in truth...I am not from this dimension. No, I come from another....One where your precious Yamichi also resides, one set in the far future. And it was him who created me...This body of perfection, of Light-destroying technology you see before you. I wonder how you would see him, knowing this now...But I suppose it does not matter. Because you will not be alive to appreciate everything he has done for the people of the future. His genius knows no limits, even if he will not admit so himself."

A wicked grin crossed his face, "Worry not; I will ensure both you and this lesser iteration of my master die painlessly. With your death, I can now see about ensuring Fayth's own. Birdman...Creator. End this Duel....Crush her."

And with that both machines would launch themselves at Ling, dropping her Life to 0. And with that, the forcefield around Yamichi fell....Mister E's boot finding the tech's neck.

"CRACK!"

A quick twist of his foot made Yamichi lie still, his body falling limp as his suffering was ended. "You fought valiantly...As expected of the Queen. I should commend you...But that's not within my programming to do so. Remember you could have avoided all of this by simply submitting to your fate."

And with that, his hand closed around Ling's throat, the cold metal of his endoskeleton evident against her flesh as the digits squeezed...And squeezed. And once she might pass on, her body was thrown next to the dead tech's own, an act of apparent mercy from the machine. But it was more than that: It was symbolic of the total domination he planned to inflict on Fayth and everyone else in this dimension.

The dimensions were about to merge, and he was part of the solution to ensure the Lancers had no back-up left. Fuyu was already dealt with...Now it was down to him to get rid of Fayth to rid that troublesome group of soldiers.
 

ImaginaryMuse

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Shivini shook her head as Hajime drew the card off the top of his head.

"What? Can you hear me now all of a sudden?"

A soft chuckle elicited as Shivini shook her head again. "Of course not. I'm not that good. That said ... how long have we been together?"

" .... I suppose long enough you know me well enough."

"Exactly. So forget him and put your efforts on the duel."

"Rather be a boytoy than something twisted like whatever he is even." he mused to himself, hiding those thoughts so only he could hear them. His head lowered as he seemed to heed Shivini's advice for now, taking note of what the newest card in his hand was. Yes, this could also work. And now that everyone had taken their first turn? It was definitely the absolute best turn to use this.

"I summon X-Saber Emmersblade to the field. I activate the first Saber Slash and use it to destroy Worm Call and Otherworld Zone. I then activate a second Saber Slash and use that to eliminate Worn Xex and Planetrary Invader - Class A."

And with the very last card, that also ended up destroying Heart Of Clear Water, as it wouldn't no longer be attached to anything. "I'm not done! Trap card open, At One With Sword! I attach it to Airbellum, increasing his attack to 2400!"

Hajime gave a knowing grin towards Torume.

"You are wide open. Airbellum! Emmersblade! Direct attack!"

As they went in for an attack that should have been 3700 LPs lost ... Karasu would speak up.

"I can't quite let you do that. I'll use W Nebula Meteroite to flip my set monster up to face-up defense. When Yagan flips up, I can select one monster and have it returned to my opponent's hand. I don't think I need to say what my decision is, do I?"

Hajime scoffed, not overly content in watching his At One With Sword going to the graveyard now that it didn't have a monster equipped to it. Despite the cocky counterattack and tone, Hajime noted Karasu flashing Torume an irked glare. Even if the direct attack got reduced to 1300 instead of 3700, blood was still drawn, and it went in favor of himself and Shivini .... something that Hajime definitely felt proud about. Then, of course, there was seeing them having their own struggles in this duel.

"If we can keep that type of pressure up ... we can deal with them easy enough ...."

Nodding at the secluded thought kept solely to himself, Hajime looked back over his hand ... and regrettably didn't see anything that could be done during the second main phase.

"That ends my turn for now."
 

Razgriz

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Kiryu watched on as Hajime took his turn, seeing the bluenette try to build an offensive. What a laughably idiotic move; few people knew of Karasu and Torume at all, and that was the people who had seen them guarding the King when Jack was still the champion. People no one but the paparazzi paid attention to, people Kiryu had originally planned to kill, until Mister E and Ignacious decided to have them conscripted to serve their side.

A weird proposition, giving the android's obsession with destroying the Light; he still did not know how the Emperor managed to convince the mad machine to let them stay alive. But that was neither here nor there; the fact was these two would be useful tools for ensuring that the Gods' revival went off as seamlessly as possible. And besides, these two were technically threatening his God's Tower; it should only make sense he would ensure no brave morons tried to shut it off, right?

At least...That was the excuse he planned to give for why he wasn't trying to relight the Tower of the Whale.

The play went on, Torume preparing for a dire hit as he was likely to be near instantly defeated....But thankfully Karasu had a card in play, though he was planning on using it later at a more convenient time. "I can't quite let you do that. I'll use W Nebula Meteroite to flip my Set monsters up to face-up Defense Position. And when Yagan is flipped face-up, I can select one monster and have it returned to my opponent's hand. I don't think I need to say what my decision is, do I?"

Something that probably irked Hajime, his 2400 monster being returned to the hand and the powerful Equipment Trap being sent to the Cemeterty. A low grunt left Torume as his Life was dropped to near half his starting total, letting a cry of pain as his body was slashed, a red line drawn across his front as his Life fell to 2700, blood seeping out and down his front. The irked glare from Karasu was not missed by Torume, him saying "Sorry...I did not expect him to clear our fields so easily. I will do better."

Karasu said nothing, only speaking up once Hajime ended his turn. "Think nothing of it; just be more cautious. But at this time, during the End Phase, the effect of my W Nebula Meteorite flips all my face-up LIGHT-Attribute Reptile-type monsters on the field to face down Defense Position. And for each one, I can draw one card from my Deck. Both my Noble and Yagan were flipped, so I draw two." Taking two cards from the top of his Deck, he then continued, "Additionally from Meteorite's effect, I can also Special Summon one Level Seven or higher LIGHT-Attribute Reptile-type monster from my Deck. Descend, mightiest patriarch of the Worm Empire! Worm King!"

At this a bright yellow quadrupedal beast emerged on Karasu's field, towering over the field with 2700 Attack Points. Kiryu let out a low whistle, saying "Man, glad we conscripted you two! Be a real sure if those losers convinced you to fight for them!" he would jeer playfully.

But then Karasu went ahead, declaring "My turn! I draw!" He knew what he had to do; the boy could mount a serious offensive, as could the girl. But these 'X-Sabers' he did not know, though they did give the feeling of being more dangerous. He had to weaken their offensive as much as possible.

"I Flip Summon Worm Yagan again!"

And again the twin-headed worm creature appeared, its body glowing. "Worm Yagan's effect activates! I select one monster on the field and return it to the hand! Be gone, X-Saber!" And just like that, Hajime's Emmersblade was returned to the hand. "I then activate Worm King's effect! I release Worm Yagan to select and destroy one card on my opponent's field. Target the boy's Set card!"

The mouth on King's lower half seemed to twitch grossly, a sticky appendage shooting out and pulling Yagan into it, devouring the lesser creature....Before long a glob of yellow acid shot out, shattering Hajime's Set card and a few drops splashing on his skin. Indeed, this Duel was going to be quite real, evidenced by the burning he might feel on his skin. Nothing life-threatening, but very much an indicator this was no ordinary Duel.

"Now, Worm King attacks you directly! Worm Supremacy!"

The same mouth from before seemed to glow now, a sphere of energy gathering into it as the Light it fed on condensed, Hajime seeming about to take a direct attack with dire consequences. Except fate held a different plan in mind for this battle.

"You're not laying a hand on him, and neither is your gross-ass King! Reverse Trap, Open! Magical Cylinder!"

The energy blast was get to get sucked into one tube...And violently blasted out the other, Karasu's eyes widening as he tanked the blast, crying out as it ripped into him, depleting his Life by over half. "Karasu!" Torume shouted, the man shaking as he stood back up, his body bleeding a little more heavily from the wounds. "I....I am fine...I did not expect her to have a Trap like that...I set 1 cards face-down, then activate the Permanent Magic, Future Fusion!"

When that card was activated, a dark entity hovered above them. Something gigantic...Spherical in shape, but otherwise indistinguishable from what it might be. "I end my turn." Karasu would then say, his breathing heavy as he felt pain wrack his body.

At this Kiryu had to groan, grumbling "Oi, shit for brains! You're in a Tag Duel! You really sure you were Jack's bodyguards? For crying out loud....Show some fucking balls and kill them already!"
 

ImaginaryMuse

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"Nice job, Hajime!" Although .... Shivini couldn't help but grimace as she watched blood began to pour from the wound across Torume's torso. Her own memories about those kinds of duels were less-than-fond. And back then? They had appeared to be mere 'freak accidents', with the last one happening between her and Takeshi. At least when that had occurred, Takeshi was genuinely horrified and sorry. These two, though? There wouldn't be such feelings, no mercy, no nothing. And now that Kiryu was here? He'd all but encourage them to be as sadistic as possible.

Well ... just more reasons to ensure this duel somehow ended. And in case she needed anymore good reasons to stick with that conviction? It would arrive as both her and Hajime witnessed what was likely the strongest monster in his deck appear; Worm King.

"Tch ... really? Usually, it's lower than X level, not higher. Oh well, at least I still have ...."

And as if his thoughts were being read ... his set Magic Cylinders was destroyed due to the Worm King's effect. The image of the Magic Cylinders card would flicker, only to shatter and vanish as the acid ate away at it.

Hajime winced, both from what drops landed on his actual skin and the sight of his card vanishing. Now he was left open. He let out a deep breath and closed his eyes .... expecting to be in a world of pain very, very soon.

"Oi, don't forget I'm here, Hajime. You're not laying a hand on him, and neither is your gross-ass King! Reverse Trap, Open! Magical Cylinder!"

Hajime's eyes opened ... and then he chuckled as he looked down, just to see if his ears had deceived him or not. And his smile widened as he saw, indeed, he'd heard right.

"I wouldn't have blamed you if you saved that for yourself, you know? But ... thanks."

"No sweat. Seriously, I'd be a shitty partner if I didn't try to help out."

With this, now both of their opponents had lost some of their life points. Good. They could keep working with this .... even with a massive monster being on the field. They both just needed the right cards, and this could go in their favor easily enough. Besides ... her other set could keep her alive and well. So it wasn't like Shivini was without any cards that would assist her.

"I draw! I summon Amazoness Tiger! Due to its effect, it gains 400 per Amazoness monster on the field, including itself!"

Which caused the originally 1100 attack point monster to quickly become 2500 in a matter of mere moments. "Amazoness Paladin's effect also activates, as she goes up by another 100 points!" Which made her now 2000 attack points. After a brief pause, Shivini nodded, then moved her hand over the one card she had yet to touch; her Amazoness Spy. "She'll go to defense mode. Now .... battle! Amazoness Paladin! Attack Torume!"

But once again, Karasu found a way to prevent her from getting what she or Hajime wanted.

"Trap Card, open! Negate Attack!"

Shivini let out a huff, knowing and understanding this meant she couldn't bother having her Tiger attempt to follow up with its own attack. No, Negate Attack was one of the cards that ended the battle phase completely.

Well ... I've got some defenses still on my field at least ...

"Very well. I suppose that, for now, my turn will end then."

Now she was even more grateful for being able to wound Karasu with Magic Cylinders. It was a decent enough way to get back at him for stopping her from eliminating his partner.
 

Razgriz

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"Partner, are you alright?" Torume said, going to check on his partner who seemed to just be barely standing. "I said I'm fine; Master Kiryu is in attendance, we are here to defeat those that would interfere. Stay focused on the mission, Torume." Karasu replied heatedly, Torume seeming to recoil a bit before saying "Understood." Turning back again to face his opponent watching as Shivini might take her turn.

Now it was his turn to see her build an appropriate offense, even calling one of the Amazon's war beasts into the battle scene. Spurned by its master's presence, its form grew even more mighty, now at over 2000 Attack Points. And Torume, being the one with the higher LP total, would be an obvious target; she sought to eliminate him first, to prevent him from trying to save his partner for being annilhilated.

But as Shivini might declare her attack, it was Karasu's turn to mess with her plans. "Just as you prevented me from reaching your partner, so shall I prevent you from reaching mine! "Reverse Trap Card, Open! Negate Attack! Your attack is negated, and your Battle Phase ends!"

And with the attack stopped, all three of her monsters would be unable to act. Leading to a slightly tense staredown; indeed, both the Drones were quite injured, and meanwhile Shivini and Hajime were completely untouched, their teamwork leading them to form quite the battle formation as both Torume and Karasu had predicted. Things were looking bad.

"Oi, you two...."

Kiryu then spoke up, making both Drones look back at him, seeing the rather cold and angry expression developing on Kiryu's face, a miasmic energy starting to emanate from him, the Tower's energy starting to resonate more strongly in response to his God's growing impatience. "You had your fun dicking around...Now I'm being dead serious. Finish them off."

And with that said, he then looked Hajime dead in the eyes, those golden-irised hues staring at the bluenette. "And don't think I forgot your rude little gesture, shithead...In fact...Torume. Kill the broad first. Let that teach him a lesson about showing his superiors respect."

Instead of being gleeful, Torume would just reply as someone who was truly a soldier of this monster's will. "Understood...My turn! I draw!"

Taking a look at the card in his hand, a slight smirk appeared on his face. "I activate the effect of Cellular Recombination Device - Type "A" in my Cemetery! I can exclude to call one Alien monster resting in my Deck to my hand. I think I will replicate my partner and call out my stronger forces, taking Alien Revenger." Showing the six-star monster to Hajime, he then said, "I will call him out now...I can remove 2 A-Counters from anywhere on the field to Special Summon this monster from my hand. I will take two from your partner's Amazoness Paladin..." At this, two of the green orbs disappearing from the sword-maiden's head as he then said, "Come! Alien Revenger!"

A burst of light appeared on the field, Torume now having a six-star monster with 2200 ATK. As it stood, even that would not be strong enough, since Shivini's Tiger forced all monsters to attack it. But, as she would see, Torume would have a plan to circumvent that. "I then Summon the Level One Tuner monster, Alien-Monite from my hand! And when it's Summoned, I can resurrect one Level Four Alien monster resting in my Cemetery! Revive! Alien Buster!" And just like that, Torume now had three monsters...None of them string enough to take on Tiger, but his turn was far from done.

"I then activate Alien Revenger's effect! All my opponent's monsters gain one A-Counter!" Three glowing orbs emerged from the six-armed extraterrestrial, each being hurled at Shivini's monster, leaving Tiger with one Counter and both Paladin and Spy with three.

"Level One Alien-Monite tunes Level Four Alien Buster!"

That familiar animation played forth, the energy of the fires rising as Torume chanted, "Truest embodiment of the star's might, descend now and cast Destruction's Light upon our foes! Synchro Summon! Cosmic Fortress - Gol'gar!"

The combined forms of the two lower Aliens merged into something so incredibly massive it blocked the Tower from view, a relative behemoth now hovering overhead, casting its long shadow over both Hajime and Shivini, a very loud and audible roar leaving its throat as eye-tipped tendrils thrashed about its massive organic upper-half. Its body pulsed and quivered with each deep and shuddering breath, a true abomination of the cosmos.

"I shall activate the effect of the Alien Buster in my Cemetery! Since it was sent there, I place two A-Counters on one my monster my opponent controls! Tiger gains another two counters!" The same as before, Buster re-emerged as its glowing eyes made the Tiger shudder, three sickly green orbs appearing overhead. "I then activate the Permanent Trap Card, Mass Brainwashing! I can take control of up to three of my opponent's monsters that have an A-Counter on them!" He then held out a fist, "Proud Amazoness Spy and Paladin! You now belong to me!"

And with that, Shivini's field would be left wide open save for her face-down and Tiger. her brainwashed monsters now facing her with glowing green eyes as the warbeast's ATK fell to 1500...But yet, he would still go on.

"Apologies...But I will not allow you to delay the outcome any further. I activate another of Gol'gar's effects! I remove two A-Counters from Amazoness Spy to destroy one my opponent controls! Cosmic Slasher!" At the declaration, one of the Skybase's tendrils lashed out, destroying Shivini's reverse card in a dramatic display of power. "Brainwashing's effect would see these monsters returned to you during the End Phase...But I will not let that happen easily! Reverse Card Open! Crop Circles! I send your Spy to the Cemetery to Special Summon Alien Hound from my Deck!"

A rather unattractive new beast appeared in place of the - admittedly alluring - tan-skinned assassin, its mouth wide in a snarl as it stared down Shivini's Tiger, its ATK falling to 1500 as it lost its fellow warriors. "Battle! Alien Hound attacks Amazoness Tiger!" The cosmic canine rushed forward, its form shifting into a hideous - even more so - long-limbed and clawed mutant, Torume declaring "And thanks to Revenger's effect, your Tiger loses 300 Attack Points for each A-Counter on it when it battles! It has three, so Tiger's power goes down 900 points!" Sitting at now just 600 ATK, Hound's long talons severed through the brave feline, shattering it and dealing 900 damage to Shivini.

"Now....I shall use your own monster to attack you! Amazoness Paladin! Direct Attack!" The female warrior rushed at Shivini, her blade striking true as it cut her former master, reducing Shivini's Life by another 1800. "And in honor of your conviction, I will use my strongest beast to defeat you! Gol'gar, Direct Attack! Burst of Annihilating Light!"

The massive fortress-monster's lower cannons all turned to face Shivini, orbs of energy appearing at the end...Slowly building power as they readied to fire...And in one massive blast, Shivini's form would be completely atomized, not even a speck of ash remained behind....though her Paladin card would be seen floating into the air.

"And lastly, Alien Revenger! Direct Attack! Revenge of Alien!"

The six-armed monstrosity rushed Hajime, its half-dozen long-clawed hands cutting into him over and over, its mouth wide in a hissing snarl as it tore into him with a single-minded rage. And when it might knock him down, it retreated...Shivini's card coming to land on his torso.

"I end my turn...And at this time, Mass Brainwashing is destroyed...And since your partner is no longer with us...Her monster becomes yours." The glow from Paladin's eyes disappeared, her mouth wide in horror as she rushed to aid Hajime...However she could. "Well done, Torume....We just have one more." Karasu would say, Torume giving a nod, "Indeed...But this battle is not yet over..."

At this Kiryu could not help but bust out laughing. "Whoooo! Now THAT is what I'm talking about!"

But his joy would turn to sourness as he heard Karasu then say, "Young man....You have fought bravely, but in the face of our might, your body is too damaged to continue. Cease this folly and retreat..." At this Torume would also chime in, "If you leave now...We will not pursue you. A warrior of your caliber should not throw his life away meaninglessly." Kiryu's brow then twitched, his voice growing bitter as he said, "Oi, the fuck are you two on about?! He's an ENEMY! DON'T FUCKING SHOW HIM MERCY! KILL HIS ASS!"
 

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"There's something ironic about someone who used to lead a group of rebels being unable to handle another person standing up against them." Hajime quipped, unable to help but allow his thoughts to be voiced this time as he heard Kiryu getting absolutely livid with the two drones. He knew and understood it was likely dangerous that he was in this type of mood. But there was something that made watching him get upset at all satisfying. Probably as his own way to get back at the silver-haired youth for all the shit he'd done to Yuna. It made up for Hajime being unable to do anything about those events. It wasn't the biggest victory, no, but it was something. And something did always tend to be better than nothing.

"Oi! She's got a name, you prick!"

"Let him say whatever he wishes. Besides ... we've got more things to worry about soon. Hajime .... "

"Hm?"

As Torume began taking his turn, Shivini moved beside Hajime and whispered into his ear. Though the words couldn't be heard, the sight of Hajime's eyes widening and the tone he held as Shivini pulled away hinted well enough what it may have been about.

"Don't joke with me like that!"

"I'm not," Shivini firmly replied. "At least one of us needs to get back to her fine enough. Besides ... are you going to tell me all honesty that you had any intentions of dying here today?"

"No! But I sure as hell didn't have any of just letting you give yourself up, either!"

" .... You do know she'd be madder at you for tossing your life away, right? Besides ... you're not letting me die."

She'd nod down, and Hajime would look in time to see her set card destroyed by the tendrils. Shivini would give Hajime a small smile. "See? And since you don't have your own ..."

" ... Why are you fine with this?!"

"Because I'm trusting you to be smart and listen to me. Give me a reason to ensure this mess can be turned around in any form or fashion. Don't you dare let this be in vain. And if that means living by any means? You'll fucking take it!"

"Shivini ... "

Hajime felt himself wanting to run towards Shivini as the attacks began, but his leg gave in and he fell to one knee. "NO, STOP! WAIT!" Assault after assault landed upon the Amazoness user ... and she wasn't able to get many sounds out. The cry that did echo throughout the air? It was cut short by the power from the unholy energy, and the agreed upon stakes as Shivini was instantaneously sucked away into the nearby tower.

"FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKK! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"

Hajime kicked the dirt angrily, looking for something - anything - to punch or hit. But since the barriers kept him away from Kiryu .... he went to the only thing in reach.

SLAP!!!

A bright red handprint appeared on his own face as he trembled in a mix of rage and sorrow, hating he couldn't direct his anger at the source he wanted to focus his emotions on. Hating that just as he let Eikichi perish, he'd done so with Shivini. But perhaps worse than that? Hating knowing her words did hold truth? And now that they were even extending that offer - words he barely managed to hear with how strong his own feelings were surging through him - Hajime knew that it was indeed the right thing to do. Even though it made him a bit sick to his stomach to retreat ...it was all he could do.

And in case he needed anymore proof? It arrived in the form of the top card of his deck. Fulhelm Knight, while useful, could only do so much with the other monsters in his hand. And truthfully, even if he'd drawn a spell or trap, it would need to be very specific ones to even offer him a true chance. The Raigeki in his deck as a great example ... had that come to him, then maybe he'd be fine even taking his turn. But as things were?

All he could do was bow his head ....

"Fine."

The word came out in a low tone ... barely avoiding a whimper as it echoed through the stadium. While keeping the Amazoness Paladin card held gently in between his fingers, he placed a shaky hand atop his deck.

.... Except .... the barrier didn't vanish. Which caused his eyebrows to furrow.

"Oi, don't go back on your word, you pricks! I'm taking the offer up!"

And that was when he looked over at Kiryu ... and saw a very, very sadistic, murderous glare in his eyes.

"Fuck no! I refuse to die by your hands of all people!"

But realistically ... he knew he didn't have any cards in his deck he could use to help with escaping. And that in itself made his heart begin to pound. His teeth and jaw all clenched, his fists quickly following suit as he slowly took trembling steps backwards. He slid the Amazoness Paladin card into his side deck ... then lowered his head as he felt it slide along something else. Another card? That was ... odd. That section of his disk should have been empty, so ... what was there?

An eyebrow quirked as he found himself looking at a Teleport magic card. There was only one logical place - let alone person - who may have given him that. Even though he didn't directly recall her handing it to him.

"Not tonight, you fucker!" he snarled, allowing a smug smile to appear on his lips as he placed the card roughly into one of the empty magic slots. And as quickly as Hajime had been before all of their eyes ... he just as swiftly disappeared.

As the energy around him disappeared, he found himself back in Yuna's house. Finally, he allowed his legs to give in as he shuddered and panted heavily. No wonder even he had creeped Yuna out at all. He did have quite the way of making even the strongest willed people crack.

"I will get back at you, Kiryu! One fucking way or another!"

For now, though, there was something more important than revenge. Healing. Tears started to fall, but he forced those away. If he was going to even begin attempting to heed Shivini's words, he needed to stay strong. Mourning could wait. After all, that was effectively what she'd said she wanted from him - to move on and help Yuna win this battle. So he was going to honor those words and not let her sacrifice go in vain ... just as she'd asked from Hajime.

"I'm sorry Shivini ... Yuna. Whatever is asked of me next ... I will not fail in that endeavor. I fucking swear it!"

The Teleport card was hastily pulled off and slid back into the side deck pouch. He began quickly rummaging through his deck, letting out sighs of relief as he found his two Draining Shields. Right as he was about to slide them into the spell and trap components, however, the door abruptly opened. His eyes widened, temporarily afraid that he'd been found and followed .... and visibly relaxed as he instead saw Judai and Mei as opposed to Kiryu like he'd feared.

"Fuck sakes, please give a warning next time. You know, declaring you're home or something?"

"Sorry," Judai replied with a coy grin on his face, rubbing the back of his head. "I wasn't expecting anyone to be here. But ... looks like you're coming back with us. To make up for the destruction of Puzzle Hospital, we've sorta turned Crow's place into a makeshift hospital. Jack and Fayth are both getting treated and since you clearly need it, you're coming along. Can you even stand up fine?"

"Y-yeah, I can." And sure enough, he would get up to his legs, forcing them to cooperate as he sauntered over towards Judai. When he got close enough to be able to see Hajime's disk, Judai couldn't help but smirk as he noted him putting the Draining Shields back into the deck. "Good. Good to know you got extras. I'm not sure if the others are still holding up in their power usage ... they should be, mind you, but more won't kill us, and certainly not you. Okay .... so what'd you need again, Mei? I'm should be able to help you find whatever it is."
 
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Razgriz

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Both Torume and Karasu were silent as Hajime weighed his options, Amazoness Paladin helping him to his feet as he got himself steadied. Thankfully his own Psychic abilities lessened the damage, but it was still a brutal barrage from Revenger. And it seemed the bluenette took the two's advice seriously, even if Kiryu was less than pleased. And his own energy was the one that was causing the fires to stay alight instead of dissipating as they should have.

Eventually though, Hajime managed to slip away right as Kiryu would reach his boiling point, the materialized hand of his God crashing down where the Yomi lieutenant had been standing. Kiryu could feel he hadn't got him; this time it was not his fault that he didn't kill their enemy. What the hell made them back off like that? The apparition of the limb vanished, leaving only a smoking crater where it had collided.

And it was here that he turned on Torume and Karasu, his hands gripping them both by the throat. He might be dead, but they were still very much alive. Something made evident as they flailed and struggled. "YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!" Kiryu shouted, adding in that same heated tone, "WHY THE FUCK DID YOU LET HIM GO!?!"

"He....He was beaten....He would not have won...." Karasu struggled to speak, Torume adding "He...He will be broken....He can no longer do anything..." Kiryu squeezed harder, making both men gasp as he growled, "No....If anything he'll try harder! You don't beat the enemy by letting them live...YOU STOMP THEM LIKE THE COCKROACHES THEY ARE!" And with that, Kiryu slammed both of them to their backs, the ground cracking from the force as both men wheezed from the collision.

Kiryu snarled as he stared down at them, "The only reason you two aren't dead right now is because you did manage to kill one...Now go to the Whale Tower. And I don't care who it might be, even if it's a five-year-old that challenges you. You beat them, you annihilate them....Got it!?!"

At this Kiryu then heard Ccacc speak, "Kiryu....We are being summoned back to base. The time of the Ritual is nearly at hand. It seems the one known as Mister E has dispatched of the Duel Queen and one of Yomi's other members. With that, every other means of resistance has been disabled...And our special guest is ready as well." At this Kiryu smiled, "Finally, someone who knows what no mercy means!" Hopping back on his Runner, he then bolted back to their base.



Judai and Mei hadn't been expecting to find Hajime back at Yuna's so soon...Or in the rough shape he was in. Even with Draining Shield being used, it was clear he had suffered some serious injuries, especially if the state of his shirt was anything to go by.

Mei knew they had to move soon; even with Fayth and Jack's injuries treated, they still needed something for the pain and bandages for the more serious wounds. "Go into the kitchen, Judai; in the cabinet above the sink I have lorazepam and morphine solutions, as well as gauze and thread. I'll help bring Hajime to the Runner."

It was going to be a very cramped ride back...But with Hajime looking quite weak, they needed to get out of here. And with Judai at the helm, the trio was off back to Crow's place in a matter of minutes.

Unknowing that the time of the final showdown was at hand.



It was a long run, and unfortunately for Hotsuma and Yuna neither of them would know what was happening with their comrades that were attempting to shut down the Towers. Though it was more than evident that nothing had happened yet; those columns of light were still going hard and strong. And with how the intensity was increasing? The Ritual was about to begin...Time was running out.

And as much as Hotsuma wanted to wait and see if perhaps one of them might get lucky...The pressing sense of urgency he felt pushed them both onward. Four Towers were lit...And Akiza was still in the Emperor's possession.

Hotsuma and Yuna would be able to feel the air around them change: It was getting heavier, more sinister. And eventually the pair came upon the same building where it all began for them. Well, truly began. Where the aftermath most definitely changed their lives forever.

The old building, the reactor complex entrance they were so sure was something Sector needed. And in a way? It was kind of cathartic knowing they were sort of right...But neither of them could have possibly known how deep this ran. It wasn't like Goodwin was forthcoming on this...At all.

"Man...I know it hasn't been years or anything...But seeing this? It feels like a lifetime ago. Shit was so much simpler...even if that day did go forty-one flavors of sideways." Hotsuma would comment, taking a second to look up on it. Remembering how they were split up...The cringe the tech must have felt having to guide him through hacking the mainframe...How Yamichi and Yuna managed to escape while he drew their attention. The chaos afterwards...And when he finally learned who Yukio truly was.

Things were so much simpler...It fucking sucked that either way this was it for him. What he wouldn't give to spend one more day here...Hold Yuna for one more night.

But....This was where his life led him. If his death meant a potentially safer tomorrow? This was worth it. And its own way, maybe it might put a dent in the debt he owed Yuna.

Taking a deep breath, he then said, "Come on....With any luck, all this shit should still be open."

And once inside? It was like they were back on that first mission again...But this time no splitting up. No, both would be going in together. Both rushed through the depths of the complex, soon emerging to the main and exposed chamber where the reactor once had been.

And at the apex of the massive crater? Both would see the hulking form of Ignacious...A series of stone tablets around him, all covered in a strange transcription, each of the remaining Dark Signers knelt in front of one. A look would reveal the text that was colored to match each of the Gods...And if they looked closely, they would see it was being formed by energy threads....Being pulled directly from the redhead knelt in front of him.

It was Akiza...And even though they had to hide to avoid being seen, a look revealed she was looking quite ragged. "Yuna...Remember the plan. Once Wiraqocha and I strain his binds to Akzia...You'll need to cut them as quick as possible. Just...Be careful alright?" he would say.

At the apex Ignacious felt the energy growing around him; already the local area was starting to warp, distort. "Ahh.....Feels like home. Can you sense it, Black Rose Witch? The darkness below reaching up, clawing at the chance to escape. To consume everything around us. Worry not, your death will be guaranteed. Even with only four Towers lit I will have more than enough energy, especially now with the number of Signers being killed. It is a shame the one named Fayth will die once this completes; I would tear her apart myself for what she did to my beloved. So you will suffer in her stead."

At this Ignacious's iron-tipped fingers dug harder into her head, causing fresh streams of red to drip down her jaw and cheeks. The malevolent aura around him only grew, his form seeming to gain even more mass as he grew; yes, just a few more moments, and victory would be his!

All around him the Dark Gods absorbed power from the tablets, which was being funneled through the Towers that were still alight. Three of the tablets were blank however, most notably the one behind Ignacious himself, likely because the Gods that were responsible for filling those Towers with the souls of mortals were defeated.
 

ImaginaryMuse

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"Alrighty. Here you go then." Once Mei was standing beside Hajime, Judai would quickly but carefully move his arm off his own shoulder and allow it to drape over the doctor's. "Thankfully, it seems we're all relatively light as far as weight goes."

Hajime merely replied with a silent smirk, flashing it towards Judai as he shakily half-walked, half-limped with Mei towards the Wheeler. Heavier than his feet was his heart, the recent losses literally weighing harshly upon him. Knowing it was the right course of action made him as infuriated as it did relieved. He could forgive himself eventually ... but that night would not be tonight.

As Judai returned with all of the supplies, he opened a small satchel they'd taken along to make transporting such vital supplies back to Crow's place. Now ... there seemed to be an even more vital reason to have it. With Hajime joining in on this ride back, he wouldn't be able to hold these medicines. Or perhaps the better wording was Judai wasn't going to try to coerce him into doing such a thing, and he very highly doubted Mei would do that either. This way, it would allow Mei to drape the bag over her shoulder while still holding onto Hajime, who had taken the middle this time to ensure he wasn't flung off the Wheeler.

"Alrighty, Hajime. Hang on tight. I've been making these trips pretty damn fast."

After making sure everyone was ready, the Wheeler would start up and then just as quickly speed off, heading right for Crow's residence.



The sight of the same building where Yuna had lost her ability to remain as Yukio due to a lucky bullet from a Sector officer most certainly brought back quite an array of memories. Amazingly, they weren't nearly as dire or bad as one may have assumed. Even before they'd come here, there had been their share of decent times ... which made Yuna's fists clench. Knowing that after this, they were going to come to an end.

What bullshit, Yuna bitterly thought to herself.

Be grateful he was able to return and help you in this endeavor. We all meet our end eventually.

Be that as it may, I'd like to think most people can usually have the luxury of meeting a more natural end. You know, older age or something as opposed to these weird ass supernatural forces?

Just make sure to do whatever is needed. If you hesitate too long, I'll take fully over if I really must. But I'd prefer to let you have some control over this.


"Yeah, yeah," Yuna muttered, rolling her eyes at the words. It wasn't that she thought Getsu wasn't serious - far from it. She already heard the implications of her words well before they were finished. The chastising wasn't needed - not in her mind. But honestly, it may have been the best gesture to make, who knew? Only time would tell.

Yuna merely nodded, not finding it in herself to reply verbally to Hotsuma. A knot formed in her stomach as she walked alongside him, ducking behind one of the nearby walls that, thankfully, were still standing. Barely some could argue, but as long as she had any cover of any kind? She'd take what she could get. She made sure to stay hidden while peeking from around the corner ... and indeed she did see both Aki and Ignacious.

Apparently, they'd gotten here at the best possible timing. Because whatever this ritual was going to do ... it was supposedly going to take Fayth's life.

Like fucking hell, Yuna internally growled, giving Hotsuma a smirk as she acknowledged his words. Since they were hiding ... she replied non-verbally once more, this time giving him a simple thumbs up. Speed had always been a trait both of her forms she'd used thus far had been blessed with. So if anyone could quickly react and see about freeing Aki? It would definitely be Yuna ... or Yutsu in this case.

There it finally was. If Ignacious was hoping to earn a sliver of regret from Aki ... it did arrive in the form of hearing that Fayth would somehow be affected by this. Given she had seemed to win her own fight - or at least the one that had involved Niari - it seemed like utter bullshit to Aki. But ... she supposed there wasn't really anything positive to expect from someone like Ignacious.

"Shut up and get on with it already," Aki managed to choke out, her breath coming out in a struggled tone due to the broken ribs. "You've drawn this out long enough. I've been ready since losing to Misty." And indeed, she did seem to be ... hinted by the sight of her body relaxing and eyes closing. Even the claws drawing blood from her didn't seem to bother her ... or was it she didn't want to risk causing more pain by trying to wince, only to agitate her lungs in the process?

Whatever the case, there would be no doubt that neither Hotsuma or Yuna had seen Aki anywhere close to this sort of state. One where she'd all but surrendered herself and was perfectly fine with accepting something as grim as death.

Only after Hotsuma ran out would Yuna wait. She'd count down from ten ... before dashing forward herself. The "URRRRRGGGGHHH!!!" eliciting from Yutsu caused Aki to lift her head ... and then her eyes to widen as Yutsu landed in front of Aki, swiftly slashing at the chains with her sword.

"Foolish of you to just toss yourself away like that. You may have been ready to perish tonight, but we've got other plans."

" .... Yu ... na?" Aki asked weakly, seeing a nod from the fused form in front of her.

"Indeed. Now ... hang onto my shoulder."



Nightmares hadn't been something Fayth had never experienced in the past. They just weren't something she was used to. Even after the brutal blinding from Sora, she recovered from that sooner. With help from Reiji and Fuyu, of course. Which was exactly why these were worse. With everything that had happened and not having nearly enough time to try to mentally or physically heal up ... her mind was a wreck. And that was just the more generous word anyone could use at the moment.

A sharp gasp and then the sight of her tossing her head from side to side would be the first hint Jack would take note of to indicate Fayth wasn't sleeping peacefully anymore.

"No ...." she whimpered. "Go away ..."

It wouldn't really take a rocket scientist to guess who these were about. But then again ... given how many of the events had involved Kiryu ... it wasn't really amazing, either.

"No more .... I didn't even want this .... "

"Then stay still," he replied in her head as he stalked towards her. "I can make this quicker. I would have last time ... if you'd let my Demon have his fun first. But since you were so adamant ... fine." His eyes were practically beaming with a sick sense of pride as he continued closing the distance on her, moving closer and closer. With her seeming to be stuck in an undisclosed alley - at least as per her nightmare - she felt the horrible truth. There was nowhere to go ... and even if she could try ducking under him? Well .... he was making it clear he wouldn't allow that to be an easy task for her to achieve, evidenced by at two more Infernity Demons flanking either side of him and forbidding her from escaping.

"It's okay," he added in a warped attempt to 'reassure' her about the seemingly inevitable demise. "You can join your other self this way. You can finally be free."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

Fayth quickly sat up ... only to fall back down, wincing as her own body now screamed at her for recklessly moving when it was still very much in pain. Especially now that the medicine was indeed beginning to wear off. Her head bowed as it rested back on Jack's lap, a grimace spreading over her lips. " .... Sorry. Hope I didn't wake anyone."

"Guess we got back in time," Judai would say, frowning as he walked in on the sight of Fayth having a clearly rude awakening.

"God," Fayth groaned, "You saw that, huh?"

"Yeah. But hey, it's fine. The last thing I'm gonna do is judge you. Now .. you both got company. We found someone else when we got the morphine and supplies."

"It's just me, so ... please don't freak out ..." Hajime would greet sounding ... disheartened. Clearly giving enough of a hint that his own night had been pretty shitty in its own rights.

"Ah ... Hajime ... no, it's fine. Umm .... definitely better you than .... the prick who was trying to visit me in a nightmare."

Hajime merely nodded at that, slumping down nearby the two underneath all of the Draining Shields. "You can focus on her first, Mei. I see what Judai meant ... she definitely needs help more."
 

Razgriz

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Jack had been resting with Fayth, trying to keep her safe and calm; the pain was starting to get to them both, however, though it was more than obvious that Fayth had it far worse. At least when he was brought back, a lot of the damage from Duels both past and present had been repaired. Not all of it, but enough to where he could at least not be a shuddering wreck.

He did stir awake as he felt Fayth shake in his arms, her head turning this way and that as she clearly was experiencing a nightmare. Of what, he could not know for sure; though to be fair, it wasn't like there was a shortage of things that would give her those in the first place. Fighting against murderous Gods? Sociopathic/psychotic vessels of said Gods? Actual breathing monsters?

It was a wonder neither of them were reduced to sputtering invalids yet; such things would have broken many other people. But....Maybe despite how things looked, maybe it was a benefit of wearing this Mark. Perhaps it gave them a sort of resilence...Enough to where they could at least muster the will to keep fighting.

And when she awoke? He held her comfortingly, letting her head fall back on his lap, gently touching her cheek as Judai, Mei and Hajime would return.

"Thank you, Hajime...." Jack would say to the bluenette, scooting back and letting Mei get to work.

"Fayth...I have some more medicine. This will help ease any pain. But you have not eaten..." Mei would say, handing her a packaged protein supplement drink she had kept in her bag. There wasn't many left, but Fayth needed something. As she might drink it, Mei would then load a small syringe and after asking Fayth for an arm, tapped to find a vein. This wasn't a full dose; she was too light for that. So a half-dose would give some relief without any complications, as well as help her relax.

"Judai...Please take Hajime and Jack to the living room for a while. I will call you back in once she is decent again." Mei would say, Judai nodding "Alright you two...Come on. Let's give the ladies some space."

Once the trio were away from Fayth, Jack sat down on the sofa. With Crow and Rua and the children gone...It was just them five here. It felt so empty, but they would be safer with Martha.

"Judai...I just want to thank you again. For everything you've done for Fayth...And all of us. I just wish things had gone more smoothly.



The energy field around the Emperor and Akiza was rising higher and higher; it seemed the time was nearly upon them. Rattling chains of solid energy began to appear, the other Dark Signers waiting patiently, the Gods within them beginning to manifest overhead. Slowly tearing through the reality that sealed them away for so long.

Soon...they would walk free again. And in time, they would bring Aslla and Chacu into this plane as well; their defeats at the hands of the Signers left them weakened, unable to cross over even with the aid of the Emperor's ritual.

However, the group got quite the rude awakening once they heard a loud yell...And then something striking into Ignacious like a violet flash. The Emperor was knocked back and slid, Hotsuma's fists having shattered the Emperor's armor plate, breaking the concentration needed to carry this ritual out in full. "GARGH!" Ignacious gargled, streams of purple ichor flowing from his mouth, Hotsuma shouting "Yeah bitch! How's that feel?! I got plenty more where that came from!"

*CRACK!* *CRACK!*

And once the chains were broken? Hotsuma would just shout "NOW!"

As a pulse of energy shot out from his own undead form, the mystical chains quickly converging on Hotsuma's body and penetrating him, his face contorting into a grimace as he felt his spirit being hooked into like meat on a butcher's hook. But...This would be enough, he thought.

Blow after blow rained on the Emperor, pieces of armor flying off as Hotsuma let loose all that rage he felt; with Wiraqocha at his back, and Yuna working on freeing Akiza, the other Dark Signers were quick to rise as well. Soon encircling the pair after Yuna shattered the chains; and with practiced harmony, those harsh flames encircled the entire ritual area, shadows of the giants that were the Gods looming over Yuna and Akiza.

"You two, eh? Should have figured you'd come here....Actually....We kinda did." Kiryu sneered, Ccacc's giant face opening up into a line of gnarled teeth, that breath of decay and death washing over them both.

"Sorry to disappoint you, brat; but we fully expected you to try and interfere. And even as strong as you both are...You cannot last against four of us." Misty would say, Rutger adding "Indeed...Now you both will die."

However, a cackling laughter broke the air; all the Dark Signers would turn to see Ignacious was shaking. Not from pain....But from joy. "Oh, yes....This is beautiful. Everything is assembled here." Ignacious grunted, reaching up for his helmet...An odd action.

"Hotsuma...Tell your allies to flee. RUN! DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO STOP HIM! DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO BUY THEM TIME!" then came the panicked out of Wiraqocha; yep, definitely was something wrong here.

"Wiraqocha...You really think I would let my former vessel see the way to undo this? Do you honestly think me so foolish as to let his actions or any other affect the outcome in any possible manner?" snarled Ignacious, his armor falling away as his massive form began growing even more; at this the Dark Signers then grunted and collapsed as well.

"What...the hell..." Kiryu grunted, a massive pressure beginning to fill the air.

"I can't move....Rutger..." Demak wheezed.

"I should have known..." Rutger hissed, glaring at Ignacious; and yet, despite their obvious desire to turn on the Emperor, their fates were already sealed.

Misty glared up at Akiza as the pressure rose to an intolerable degree, the massive crater beginning to spew lethal clouds of darkness from its mouth, the brunette's eyes then turning to the Emperor as she shouted, "AFTER ALL THIS, WHY?! YOU JUST NEED TO KILL HER!"

But Ignacious could only laugh, "Foolish harlot...She is the key to this entire ritual. She must live for my plan to come to fruition. But the rest of you....Oh, you other foolish Gods...Are disposable." Black tendrils then erupted from his body as his form grew, ensnaring Hotsuma and literally crucifying him on a slab of iron in the form of a cross, the lad shouting as his body was pierced over and over, "YUNA! AKI! RUN NOW! GET AWAY!"

"NOW....WITH THE BINDS SEVERED, I HAVE ALL THE ENERGY I COULD POSSIBLY NEED! VOX EXTERMINATUS!"

The Gods roared individually, their essences pulled forcibly from their hosts....Their bodies crumbling to ash as the Gods were sucked in, Hotsuma too crying out in pain. But the nature of their bond would prevent Wiraqocha from being removed...At least for the moment, but in truth, with this adaptation and now with Yuna having done her part, he needed only a taste of the Condor's energy. A violent storm enshrouding the Emperor in darkness as the energies whipped about, the flames turning from a painter's palate into a cascade of crushing blackness.

If they looked around after everything was done? The Towers had all gone dark, the distant echoes of their crumbling into nothing ringing across the landscape. And the Emperor...Gone. As was Hotsuma. But then the earth began to rumble and quake, the crater both Aki and Yuna were left standing on shaking as it opened up, certainly forcing her to move unless she wished to be swallowed in its depths.

And from the mouth came a mountain of skulls. Some larger than even the biggest buildings of the Satellite, others the size of a pea....All bleached white and shining, a testament to the force of Death that was emerging. And yet even still the black flames impeded any sense of real escape; even their Teleportation would not work here.

Then the bone pile quivered and fell; and from the scattered fragments came a throne of hellish iron and blood: The Emperor had undergone a true transformation, his form more massive than anything either Yuna or Akiza could witness. And yet...He was here, very much tangible. His very force of being of such magnitude it would certainly crush any others; even miles away his choking aura would be felt, the land beginning to corrupt and weather the storm of the Abyssal energies that now tore its surface, turning the already scarred Satellite into a nightmarish hellscape.

"Admittedly...This is imperfect. But it will serve well enough....Hmm?"

Ignacious looked down, those flaming eyes seeing a familiar red barrier dissipating. "Tch....Seems I have another ant to squash. Count yourself lucky the Signer managed enough energy to protect you." Ignacious grumbled, toying with something around his neck. "I suppose this makes it more fun; what a better irony than a demon-destroyer being responsible for ushering in a new era of Demon domination?"

If Yuna looked close enough, she would see it was Hotsuma...Still affixed to a now eight-armed wheel, his body run through painfully with spikes of rusted iron, streams of blood dripping from him. One spike in particular having run through where his heart used to be; thankfully this wouldn't kill him, but it still fucking hurt.


"It has been so long since I felt this kind of power...I thank you, Yuna Takeda...Akiza Izayoi....Without you, without these vengeance and power-driven Gods being so easy to manipulate and fool, none of this would have been possible. Now, Akiza...Let us see if the skill of your ancestor was passed on from five thousand years' time. Given your past performance, however...I am going to say, not so much. Will you accept this challenge? Or condemn yourself still to die? I can easily arrange your deathwish for you if you so choose."

Hotsuma grunted as he looked down; holy fuck he was high up. "Yuna...Akiza...SHIT!" he grunted, trying to pull himself free. Something that made the Emperor laugh, "Ah yes, and you as well...Consider it an honor, Hotsuma Oboro....As I take the life of your beloved. And then, my Empire will expand from this planet to the next, even between realities! Thank you for being such a guillible puppet!"



As Jack, Judai and Hajime would sit and wait, Jack would sense a disturbance, which likely meant Hajime and Judai would too.

It was here that he then noticed the Towers that were visible: They were flickering....Even more intently than usual. And then they...Exploded. Loud echoing booms, but that was nothing compared to the storm from the Center of the Satellite.

Jack's Mark then glowed...And a pained scream left him as he collapsed, the Mark burning harder than ever as a surge of demonic energy washed over the house, a reviling wave of darkness that would make even the hardiest creatures shudder in fear.

And if Judai or Hajime looked out the window? They would see the very source of this, the towering Demon Emperor very visible even from this distance.
 

ImaginaryMuse

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Fayth relaxed ... as much as she could do so without giving her body too much discomfort while her head was guided back onto Jack's lap. Her head turned as she blinked a few tears away, picking up on Mei's voice. "I ... I know I haven't, but .... that's kinda ... I don't even feel like I want to. I know I should, but ... " And it was precisely because she was speaking to a doctor that Fayth could already feel ... she wasn't going to win this argument. She nodded weakly then carefully sat up, accepting the protein drink. A slight frown appeared as she felt the tap on her arm ... but Fayth would nod and stretch her left arm out.

"W-wait, do they really need to leave?"

It was clear enough she didn't really want to be split apart, if absolutely nothing else.

"We're not going far," Judai reassured Fayth. "Besides ... with this being Mei helping you out, we should be able to come back soon enough."

" .... Okay. Fine."

The voice was low. Defeated almost. Clearly still depressed. Yes, she'd beaten Niari, but at what cost? Granted, she did keep her promise and revive Jack ... but it didn't change the fact that there were only four Signers, including herself, alive. And three of them weren't really in any shape to fight. So it'd be up to Aki ... whom was, supposedly, imprisoned by Ignacious.

This feels impossible ... how are we supposed to turn this around?!

Her fist clenched, at first doing so from just the frustration surging through her. But then .....



"Tch ...." Yutsu growled, looking around as all of the other Dark Signers slowly began to saunter towards her and Aki. Speed ... that was one thing. Flying? Well, that was another, and something her forms direly lacked. And even if she attempted to jump over, well ... she doubted that'd work out. So as she stood there, turning around in circles to try to avoid being completely ambushed ... Yutsu gritted her teeth.

"Fine! I guess I'll take all of you bastards on!"

Except ... she didn't need to? Both her and Aki rose an eyebrow as the Dark Signers all fell to their knees, as if forced by an invisible source of gravity. That probably should have been Yutsu's cue to run while they were being held back. But her own legs were feeling a bit heavy ... partly from fear and also whatever they were feeling.

"Fuck! Got enough energy to get outta here, Aki?!"

"N-not ... not really, no," Aki choked out, her ribs still very sore and screaming in agony. Yutsu gripped hard onto her lower lip ... frustrated and furious enough to draw some blood. And as quickly as everyone had been around them ... they all vanished. Replaced by what may as well be a massive cemetery surrounding them. As if there weren't enough things to be bothered by? Yutsu's eyes found Hotsuma, trapped upon a cross.

"Damnit. Hotsuma?! Let me ... "

But before she could even try to take a single step towards him ... a deeper, more demonic voice rang out. It was indeed Ignacious ... but somehow a more sinister version of him, if that was possible at all to imagine. Then again, with all they'd endured, it wasn't as unbelievable as it should have been. Yutsu growled as she looked between Ignacious and Hotsuma ... and reluctantly held her ground.

Not out of spite ... but because she'd agreed with Hotsuma that priority number one was Aki.

"And what the hell are you playing at, huh?!"

Yutsu's head would turn as she saw a rare look in Aki's eyes. Uncertainty ... something that made her own orbs narrow. "Don't you dare tell me you're seriously still fine with the thought of tossing your life away! Be glad I can't rip that stupid mark off you myself, otherwise I'd just agree for you!"

"Y-Yuna?"

"Look, I get you've probably been through some dire shit. Trust me, I do. Don't even get me started on all the bullshit I survived from Kiryu in particular! And he wasn't even the only one! But Aki .... I'm going to say this once and only once. You are the only Signer who can do anything right now. The others?! Too fucking wounded. They wouldn't be able to even try to fight for a few good days to week, depending on who you're talking about. If you really are keen on perishing here and now though ...."

Yutsu turned, staring straight into Ignacious's eyes. Right as she opened her mouth ... Aki shook her head.

"No. You're right ..."

Crimson orbs shut as Aki winced while taking a breath ... then nodded and looked with Yutsu towards Ignacious. "Very well. I - we - accept. We're just two women. I doubt you'll care about a two on one duel, will you? I'm assuming that's what your challenge is, anyway."



... her eyes widened ... and her own pained scream joined Jack's as her Mark soon activated, revealing to Mei the reason why she abruptly dropped the drink and writhed desperately on the floor. Fuck the consequences. Fuck if she risked reopening some wounds. She did not want this pain ... not again.

... What the?!

Though Judai didn't say those thoughts aloud, he certainly wore the same look as Hajime as he looked out the window with the bluenette. Judai remained close beside Jack, trying to help him avoid thrashing too violently to avoid tearing his own wounds open.

... And after a few moments of staring, Hajime's eyes widened.

"Wait! Does this mean she's there now?! Fighting Ignacious?!"

"Probably," Judai replied, tilting his head as he saw Hajime attempt to get to his feet. "Don't be ridiculous. I don't need Psychic powers to tell you barely got away from your own mess. Don't be --- "

"Shivini's dead because of me! If I let Yuna die too .... "

.... No wonder he looked pretty down. Judai grimaced at that, shaking his head firmly. "You believe in her, don't you?"

"Of course, but we don't know if she's got help! We don't know exactly what's going on! I know that Hotsuma should be with her, but ..."

"Then use that to ... "

And that would be when Hajime, Jack, and Judai would all hear Fayth scream. The frown widened on Judai's face as he stared down at Jack's mark. "Guess hers is acting up. Tch. Anyway, use the knowledge of what should be happening to stay here. Hajime ... now that Crow and Rua are gone, I need a bit extra help. Please. Just ... just in case more bullshit happens. Trust that somehow ... Yuna will come back. But with Jack and Fayth too hurt and Mei not really being a fighting type ... even one more person would be a great help. Please, Hajime."

" ...."

It was all he could do. He slumped back to the floor and sat beside Judai, helping in trying to keep Jack relatively calm, still, and sane .... even if none of those would be an easier said than done task to achieve. Because ultimately? Judai was right. He had to hope for the best. Gods help him, he didn't even want to think about Yuna failing here and now. It would lead to nothing at all good ... that was the only certain conclusion. And it was dire enough to make his heart begin to pound rapidly in his chest.
 

Razgriz

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Jack 's thrashing about had not gone unnoticed; in moments, both Hajime and Judai were helping to try and calm him down. But this pain was unlike any other...What the hell even triggered it this badly? Naturally he could not see what Judai and Hajime had. Else he would definitely have his answer.

After a few moments, the pain had subsided; though now outside the house - still intact thanks to both Jack and Fayth having their Marks literally form a protective shield around it together - Death stalked them all. Demons of all sizes patrolled the outer area of the house, seeming to wander freely as if they already owned the land. And one look outside the windows would show a view of the Tops as well: It was a city on fire, humongous monstrosities knocking down the once proud buildings of the Tops, laying to waste the architecture the utopia once held.

And no doubt destroying any survivors of their rampage; even from here, Yubel, Judai and Hajime would be exceptionally sensitive to everything that was going. The Emperor's dark legions had risen...

Hell had come to Earth.



The massive form of the Emperor glared down at Akiza, swinging Hotsuma's crucified body back and forth on that cross necklace as if it were a toy of amusement. The boy served his purpose; even so, he should bear witness to this. And then, only then, would the Emperor finish him. This time for good.

A smile cracked beneath that wicked bloodiron helmet, his mouth a roaring inferno of deathly flames and rancid ichor and decay; so, Akiza was indeed on the verge of surrender. Just so much like her past self...Before Goodwin's past ego caused her to gain a surge of confidence. He would crush them both in an instant, even if he had to conduct the Ritual Battle to make it happen.

A booming laugh shattered the air as Akiza then issued her challenge. So, Yuna inspired her to fight did she? "A two on one? Very well...But since you'll have an advantage on me, I will have some stipulations in place. First is the matter of Life Force: You two shall split a pool of eight thousand, four thousand. Myself? I will have the full eight...As well as an additional five-hundred for every God I have within me. As they will be fighting too...Though not in the manner they might have liked, hehehehe."

Hotsuma groaned as the swinging of his body slowed, hearing the initial terms; what a cheap bastard! "Hey...Fucker! You might be a demon...But that's low, even for you!" he strangled out as he tried to shout. The Emperor then turning his attention to Hotsuma, "Low? Hardly; the Gods have just as much a stake in this as I do. It is not my fault they violated their own contracts, after all; they should be so grateful I am letting them even have a presence here at all. I could easily just take them in their entirety; their failure to secure all six Towers allows me to do as such, from the terms they agreed to."

But then Ignacious would say, "As for turns...Let us make this interesting. Akiza shall take the first move, followed by Yuna, and then myself." And on he went, laying out every specific circumstance, including how Yuna and Akiza's respective turns would each count as 1 single turn for the sake of the battle, neither side being allowed to attack during said first turns. All in all, it was growing more and more unfair.

Hotsuma then tried to confide with Wiraqocha, "H..hey...Isn't there something we can do....He's gonna make them fight a stacked battle...We...Gotta even the playing field somehow." Wiraqocha was silent, but then said,
"There is...But it will require you to surrender all but the smallest piece of your soul to make it have a chance to work. On top of that...You will need to surrender complete control to me. If we have any chance of truly aiding them...I will need every ounce of access to your latent energy as I can muster." Something Hotsuma was quick to agree to, "I don't...care if it destroys all of it. Make it happen..."

At this Hotsuma's body went limp...And all three might feel his essence effectively flatline. There was virtually nothing there, making the Emperor stop in his speech as he looked at the cross-beared boy.
"Well now...I suppose even with a God giving him life even his spirit could only take so much. A shame. I wished to see him watch you both die." The Emperor then said nonchalantly, dropping the cross from the great height it was held.

Landing with a heavy "CRASH!" as a thick stack of skulls splintered and shattered, the cross sticking out from the ground as Hotsuma's body laid on its surface, head lolled as if he were well and truly dead. Only seconds afterwards a pair of doubtless human-leather scrolls appeared before both Yuna and Akiza; if the color of the ancient text was anything to go by, it was doubtless this was written in blood ink. The format had been modified to look like a contract a human would offer to another, and at the bottom of each scroll was a large circle with the X next to it.


"Now then....Do we have a deal? All you need do....Is sign, then defeat me. Do that and this world is saved. Lose and...Well, I think that needs no explanation, hehe....Just a drop of your blood will suffice as signature, just right in the circle."

Once they might agree and sign, both Yuna and Akiza would feel their Disks and even their Decks slip away as the Duel began, turning into particles of light that traveled skyward before being swallowed by the darkness. And then....A surprise for them most assuredly: Five massive stone tablets apiece crashed down in front of them, the images upon them doubtless the cards in their respective Decks.

However, that wasn't the only surprise; Hotsuma's body also began to glow as they might sign with their blood; a violet wave of energy rocketed out. Unseen to the Emperor or the two female Duelists, the text of the contract was altered. Not as much as Wiraqocha would have liked...But hopefully the additional restrictions would tilt the balance more Yuna and Akiza's favor, or at least make it neutral. "


"IGNACIOUS!"

Wiraqocha bellowed from Hotsuma's mouth, his voice carrying a significant weight behind it, a tone full of fury and malice. "You have gone too far this time! No matter how this Duel turns out, I will tear your flesh for what you have done! For the damage your ceaseless need for conquest has wrought!"

At this Ignacious just laughed, "Ah, so the great Wiraqocha comes out at last. How very convenient that it is when I cannot undo your bond..But that does not mean I can't access your power all the same!"

Wiraqocha grunted as the Emperor closed his right hand, a flow of purple energy falling into his palm as it was ripped from the Condor's vassal, before long the flow subsiding. "Now be a good little bird and be silent...The fun is about to begin."

And with that, his attention then returned to each of the Duelists before him, the battle now officially underway, "Let us see if you remember how this truly works, Akiza. Defeat me if you think you are strong enough."
 

ImaginaryMuse

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There wouldn't be any arguments about the life point stipulation, nor even the turn arrangement. In fact, if either woman had to be completely honest, they were both a bit amazed Ignacious would even allow them to go first. However ... it quickly dawned on Yutsu that the last reason he was offering such a thing was because of mercy. No, it was strategy. They may be able to set up everything first, but it would allow him to see about ruining all of their efforts. Still ... Yutsu wanted to believe that even with that being the case, he couldn't counter everything the two of them could play, be it monsters, spells, or traps. A good chunk, maybe, and that was a huge possibility as it was.

But not every single thing. Even when he was just Hotsuma himself, Yuna had seen more than enough examples of weaknesses and flaws. Surely, Ignacious wasn't immune to this rule.

Before she could dwell too long on that though ... Yutsu's head jerked roughly over as the sensation of Hotsuma's own life seeming to deplete registered. "Hotsuma? HOTSUMA?!"

What in the fuck had even happened?! She turned frantically to Aki, only to find she was just as taken aback and confused as Yutsu was. Yutsu's fists were tightly clenched, as was her jaw. Were it not for the fact she'd just talked Aki out of giving up ... it was obvious she wanted to storm over and go beside Hotsuma. At this rate? It was fair to assume his timer had run out, just as he'd warned everyone.

"Deal!" Yutsu growled, raising her thumb up and rubbing it roughly against a canine, allowing the blood to swiftly fall upon the parchment. For better or worse, Aki didn't have to make herself bleed. Enough blood was still flowing from when the claw had gone into her temple and made her life force spill. With Yuna having sealed her fate away .... well, she'd look cowardly not to do the same.

So, nervous as she was, Aki moved her finger beside her head, making sure enough droplets fell onto her fingers and landed upon her own contract.

While neither had been the most keen about their disks and decks being converted to the stone tablets ... the change had happened too fast. "Guess I'll have to make do with this format," Aki muttered, taking a few extra moments to ensure they couldn't be peeked through. When she was satisfied enough, she made the gesture of drawing .... which did, indeed, result in her sixth card landing in front of her.

Both Yutsu and Aki would nod, seeing at least these tablets responded to them appropriately.

"Very well, I ... "

And that was when another voice joined in. Not quite Hotsuma ... but it did come from where he was. With her not having known about his revival, it definitely took Aki aback to hear Ignacious address him as Wiraqocha. "Who?" she asked, glancing over to Yutsu, who was barely fighting tears back.

"One of the other gods. Long story, but the short version ... these fuckers made me kill the human version of him once already. He'd been vivisected and was already basically a corpse. Well ... Wiraqocha offered to revive him."

"So ... he's technically a Dark Signer?"

"Technically, yes. But very much on our side."

And fortunately, seems to have enough power to still speak ... maybe even help out somehow.
Yutsu would internally add.

... If all of this was indeed the case, then ... her words likely held truth. That plus knowing she wasn't fighting this duel alone helped Aki regain her confidence and composure. This wasn't going to be an easy duel. No, that was a given. But now, it didn't feel nearly as impossible either, particularly with Ignacious having well over ten thousand life points due to his added stipulation involving the gods in question.

"As I was saying, I summon Lonefire Blossom, then use its effect to release itself and special summon Queen Angel of Roses onto the field. I then equip her with Thorn of Malice and set a card. Turn end."

Thank fuck that card's not being used on me this time, Yutsu thought. Oh yeah. She definitely didn't forget how that card had been last used ... on both herself and Hotsuma. Shaking her head and forcing the memories to be dismissed, Yutsu mimicked the same motion to 'draw', confirming it did indeed seem to work as she'd seen Aki do.

"Heh. Very well then. I summon Getsu Fuhma to the field. I also give her an equip card from my deck. Magnum Shield, which raises her to 2900!"

In the span of one turn, Aki and Yuna now had a 3000 and 2900 attack point monster on the field. Even though Ignacious was far from a 'normal person', it still held true that not many people could get those types of cards with such high attack out on the first turn. So hopefully ... that'd work out in their favor somehow.

"Turn end!" Yutsu officially declared, crossing her arms and waiting to see what Ignacious would do.
 

Razgriz

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Ignacious watched on with amusement as the two ladies took their respective turns; indeed, it was impressive they were able to get out such powerful monsters. "Excellent....Good, entertain me as much as you can. I have not waited fifty thousand years for a borning Ritual. At least you both seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation you are in." Ignacious remarked, handing them a surprising compliment, or at least it would be if his tone weren't filled with condescension.

"But this does leave something to be desired...Ah yes, of course! I forgot to mention one tiny little detail. I myself will not be Dueling you...No, I have a very special guest in mind for you. I believe it is someone you are both intimately familiar with. Likely more so little Yuna than Akiza...".

At this a column of black light descended in front of both Akiza and Yuna, quickly dissipating to reveal none other than Rex Goodwin himself...But he looked very different. Gone was the suit and professional demeanor; though those cold eyes would be something very easily recognized by Yuna herself.

For Akiza? She might get a real sense of deja vu, mostly from the attire as images might race through her head; scattered, fragmented, largely indecipherable...But it would be like she had seen this before. "Goodwin...Your own wish has been fulfilled. Now, make yourself useful and fulfill the end of your bargain with me."

The heavily-tattooed man then looked up, his head having bowed before, as a smirk crossed his face. "Gladly....I had thought you would reneg on our agreement, Ignacious. And if I win, you promise to uphold the terms of our agreement?" A chuckle came from the Emperor, "Of course. It would bring dishonor to my Empire if I backed down from a bargain. And besides, you wished to rectify your past self's error, did you not?"

An amused huff came from the muscular man, his voice light as he finished, "Indeed I did; I will not show her the same mercy as he did. This time the cycle stops. And to think I might even get the honor of destroying Yuna as well? Truly a blessed day!"

"My turn! I draw!" he would then say, drawing his arm across as a sixth stone tablet would fall from the sky. "First I activate the Magic Card, Pot of Greed! I can draw 2 more cards from my Deck!" The first stone tablet turned around to reveal the card, shattering as two more then fell to take its place.

"I then activate the effect of the monster in my hand, Death Priest - Supay! I discard one card to Special Summon her from my hand!" One card in his hand shattered into dust, the second falling over to materialize the image of a priestly woman, a masked staff brandished. "Additionally, I can then Summon the Tuner monster, Supay, from my Deck!" Death Priest raised her staff, a low hum filling the air as a small mask appeared next to her. "Level 1 Supay Dark Tunes Level 5 Death Priest!"

Already a Synchro Summon? This was not good, evidenced moreso as that same black of the Dark Signers appeared, apparently his new form able to channel their power through him. His voice boomed with power as he chanted, "When the moon is full in the darkness, the whispering of the Devil will be heard! Entice them over to death! Dark Synchro! Show yourself, Moon Dragon Quilla!"

As the black radiance vanished, left then was a howling moon surrounded by three violet dragon heads, the Dark Synchro complete...Likely causing Akiza to experience another strange flashback, to that time in the past. "But I know even this is not enough...I will let you both taste despair for working to undo everything I have tried to accomplish! I summon the Tuner monster, Morphing King - Hell Slime!"

Now this would be a card Yuna recognized: This was a Tuner Hotsuma used in his Deck. "Before you stands the ultimate testament to the Darkness' ability to mold anything it wishes into whatever it chooses! I activate Hell Slime's effect! I target Quilla, and make Hell Slime's Level equal to its own! And along with, I regain two hundred Life Points!" Hell Slime's body convulsed grotesquely, growing and shifting until it was a near perfect copy, the only difference being the slight translucence it now possessed, Goodwin's Life rising to 12200.

"I have waited so long for this...Now, come to me! CRIMSON DRAGON!"

Pain would certainly wrack Akiza hard as she felt her Mark practically ignite with agony...Unknown to Yuna or her, Jack, Crow and Fayth would be experiencing that fresh wave of hellish pain all over again. "I will pull everything into me, even from beyond death itself! Level 6 Hell Slime Dark Tunes Level 6 Quilla!"

And once more, the black light surrounded them, creating a crushing pressure that threatened to destroy everyone in this arena. "Source of strength that wells from the dimension of chaos!! The origin and the apex of everything!! Slake your boundless thirst!! Dark Synchro!! Descend!! Ultimate God - Ultimaya Tzolkin!!"

And just like that, the remaining Signers would feel their pain vanish...Their marks utterly gone from their bodies, quick to bind themselves to Goodwin as the Summoning complete, the very same Dragon that Akiza and the Signers had been fighting for now apparently under Goodwin's direct control. The combined Mark of the Dragon burning on his chest, making him shiver in delight. "Ahhhh....Yes! This power! It is everything I have ever dreamed of! The ability to create whatever I wish!"

He then stared right at his opponent's monsters, grinning as he gleefully muttered, "And I will get rid of that particular eyesore Queen Angel! Just seeing her fills me with rage! I will Set a Magic Card face-down!" Strange that he declared the Type...Though it likely meant something important.

And with that, he would confirm, "And at this time, Tzolkin's power manifests! I can call forth one of your allies' Dragons to my field! Let us welcome a very special friend, the darkness-infused spirit of Ruka's dragon! Come forth to me! Ancient Dragon of the Forest! Ancient Pixie Dragon!"

And indeed, a very familiar Dragon to Akiza would appear, giving a pained howl as her body shuddered. But with this came a Defense of 3000 points, something neither Yuna nor Akiza could overcome currently. "I will then activate the Magic card I Set! The Field Magic - Earthbound Geoglyph!"

And this time the earth truly broke, the black flames around them burning even more intensely as all of the Earthbound Geoglyphs appeared across the Satellite, empowering the Darkness even more. Allowing the chaos to settle down, Goodwin then said, "And thanks to Pixie Dragon, I can draw one card! Then I I think I will use its power right now! As I said...Queen Angel of Roses is destroyed! Spirit Burial!" Pixie Dragon spread its wings wide, a howl of sheer agony leaving her as it bombarded Queen Angel, shattering her and destroying both it and Malicious Thorn. "And since I cannot attack this first turn, I will then Set two cards...Turn end. And before you both get any funny ideas about trying to get rid of Tzolkin, I will tell you this: While I control another Synchro monster, this card cannot be destroyed. So do your best to break this wall."

Wiraqocha snarled, "I had though the boy paranoid when I saw his memories of you, Goodwin....But I see now even he underestimated your wickedness. Even your past self was not so cruel as to parade a dead girl's companion before others!" Something Goodwin just shrugged as he said, "She played her part. Sacrifices have to made...And you are no one to lecture me, Wiraqocha. Those past Ritual Duels had even you participating in some respect...And once this Duel is over, the Emperor and I will unseal the True God...And bring true unity and order to this world."
 

ImaginaryMuse

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....Tch. Of course there's more bullshit surprises from him.

Both Yutsu and Aki rose an eyebrow as Ignacious revealed they would be dueling someone else. But ... who? He'd basically absorbed the Dark Signers, so ... who was even left? Who could he possibly allow to take his stead? When the answer arrived .... Yutsu's fists clenched tighter, her knuckles a bright white hue. "I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that someone as shady as you is here."

"W-wait ... so .... does this mean you were never on our side from the get-go? You just used us all, didn't you?"

Now Aki was seething and trembling in rage. That exact type of behavior had been what she'd tried to get away from years ago. It was a large part of why she ever joined Divine at all; because everyone else? They'd either used her, feared her, or resorted to both in the worst case scenarios. So to see and hear yet another person added to that list? Oh yeah. She wasn't happy about this at all.

Yutsu, meanwhile, shrugged as if to say 'Duh, yeah he did' to Aki. A small scowl appeared on Aki's lips, but ... pissed as she was, she couldn't take it out on Yutsu. Or rather, it wouldn't be right to. Admittedly, thinking back ... Divine never did trust Rex Goodwin herself. That should have been the biggest red flag, but for some reason ... it'd never clicked. Not until now.

"Hmph. No matter. We'll still find a way to overcome you."

When Rex played a very familiar Tuner ... that would be when Yutsu's eyes narrowed. "And why do you have that card, exactly? You'll have to forgive me if I don't easily believe you happened to think it was a decent card to use." No matter whether he responded or not ... Yutsu was already getting a decent enough idea of why in her mind. And especially if he refused to answer? Well ... he wasn't trying to prove her wrong, so she would assume it was exactly as she was thinking.

"Let's try that again," Aki replied in a calm voice ... not at all seeming as upset as one may have thought she'd be considering her monster was rather swiftly eliminated by an effect. "Draw! I activate Miracle Fertilizer and use its effect to Special Summon my Queen Angel of Roses back to the field." Alas, Miracle Fertilizer had its drawback, and it came in the form of Aki not being able to do a normal summon. But just as annoying? She didn't have anything else she could use, be it as a set or equip. So, even if somewhat reluctantly ...

"For now, that ends my turn."

Yutsu gave an understanding enough nod. Monsters may not be an issue, but she was also holding an average hand as far as support cards went. She did, though, purposely avoid playing certain cards in her hand precisely for this situation. "I also draw. First thing's first! I activate Raigeki!"

..... Buuuuut of course there was a counter for that. Courtesy of a Return of the Dragons that had been in the graveyard, and could be banished in order to activate. A crimson aura appeared around Yuna as she glared furiously towards the opposite side, staring right at both Rex and Ignacious. If looks by themselves could kill, this may very well succeed in that endeavor.

"Alright, you fuckers! Enough of your tricks! You wanna keep them on the field that bad?! Fine! I'll wipe them away by force then! I summon Rose, Warrior of Revenge onto the field! My past and present self ... "

"And for you, nee-san,"
Yutsu internally added, raising a hand high up into the air.

"I will not let this effort be in vain! Go up forth and call out another comrade in arms for us! Giant titan sleeping underneath the rocks and surface, come forward! Synchro Summon! Colossal Fighter!"

And there it was, the answer on how they would be able to handle the 3000 defense. Just by itself, it was 2800. However ...

"Its effect activates. With Rose and Getsu in the grave, Colossal Fighter gains two hundred more attack. But I'm not done yet! I activate solidarity to increase it by 800 more attack!"

With this, Colossal Fighter now had 3800 attack. Were this a normal duel, it'd put anyone at risk for being caught in a one turn kill ... assuming their field was clear, that was. Even still, as long as progress could be made in any form, Yutsu would take whatever she could get.

"Even if Tzolkin didn't have its effect, I'd go after this one first, so .... Colossal Fighter! Annihilate Ancient Pixie Dragon!"

Contrary to how it sounded, there was zero spite against Ruka. If anything, it was precisely because her dragon had been forcibly summoned to the field. She was trying to do the deceased Signer a favor, as Yutsu doubted the girl would have wanted her own dragon being involved during such a brutal duel. "Turn end! Enjoy that wall while you still got it. I'm fully intending to get rid of it sooner than later."
 

Razgriz

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Goodwin could only shrug nonchalantly as Akiza posed her question after his turn was completed. "Not how I would have put it. Admittedly, I did not expect so many of you to become incapacitated so quickly...Least of all you, Akiza, Divine's most loyal servant and guard dog." It was true, even if neither of them woudl believe; he had not expected so many of the Towers to be standing when the Ritual started.

In all honesty, the Emperor had thrown him for a loop...So it was all the more shock when Ignacious found himself conversing with someone who could easily be considered even beyond a God. He had subjugated the Earthbound...What more proof was there? And they seemed to at least have an understanding of each other.

"But this is how it has played out...And for better or for worse, everything will work out as I expected. Just under new management...Better management than the chaos the Gods would have caused." he would then say, laughing a little as Yuna inquired about the card. "Oh, Yuna; you cannot possibly even pretend to be that ignorant. Your precious little Fiend wasn't using...And besides, I figured having it be instrumental in killing you would be some form of wonderful catharsis for me. You and that thrice-damned Oboro have been nothing but pains in my ass since day one. Besides...Him letting me use it is the least he can do."

The Thunder Bolt play wasn't totally unexpected, but he was hoping to save this for a later point in the Duel. "Not quite...I use Return of the Dragon Lords resting in my Cemetery. By excluding it, I can negate the destruction of my Dragon monsters!!" A white barrier appeared around Ancient Pixie Dragon, the lightning bolt dissipating harmlessly. "Sorry, but I won't let you destroy what I've built so easily." he commented snidely.

Only to watch on as Yuna might take her turn, her past and present selves becoming one. Forming into a cybernetic fighter of great strength. Strength used to break Ancient Pixie Dragon, the dragon's spirit seeming to issue a pulse of energy as a 'thank you' to both Duelists. "Tch....I think you'll find I'm just as capable of attacking! And I'll prove it here! My turn! I draw!"

Goodwin had another card crash down in front of him, three stone tablets now facing him. "I will Set another Spell face-down! And I think you realize what's coming next! Appear,proud and absolute King! Jeweled Red Demon's Dragon!"

Now they would face a second of their comrade's dragons, this one too corrupted by Darkness. A roar leaving the Red Demon's Dragon clone as its wings flapped with great strength, its body seeming to glimmer and smolder, steam coming from its mouth as it waited for an order. A light grin crossing his face, "How could I possibly know that I would be using my own prodigy's Dragon like this....Small world, it seems."

He then pointed at both Queen Angel of Roses and Gigantech Fighter, "Now my newest monster will be more than glad to rid you of your inferior stock! Hell Judgment Flame!" Flames would coalesce around Dragon's wings, before long twin searing torrents of fire reduced both Akiza's and Yuna's monsters to ash, the heat washing over both Duelists as they lose both their powerful monsters. This was as dead as dead could be.

"I will then activate the Magic Card I Set. A second Pot of Greed." Two more stone tablets fell down, four now facing Goodwin as his eyes switched between Akiza and Yuna. Both of them were defenseless at this point. "Now....The question is who do I damage first..."

Considering it for a moment, he then looked right at Akiza, "How about you? Yuna seems hellbent on making sure you survive. Jeweled Red Demon's Dragon..Attack directly! Hell Power Flame!!"

However, as the attack declaration was shouted, violet chains of energy erupted from the ground...And slammed down against the mighty beast, it giving a harsh roar of anger as it was pinned to the earth. "What?! What is this?!" Goodwin shouted, before long a low chuckle could be heard, Goodwin and the Emperor both looking at Wiraqocha in Hotsuma's body.

"A gift...From Oboro and I to you. We made a...slight change to the rules of this battle...He gave me just enough of his energy to force a last-moments rewrite to the text of their contracts. It was not nearly...as much as we could have managed. Every second of your turns...You are forbidden from attacking. You may think...you have clipped my wings....But I can still help those two...ensure you fail in your mad endeavors." Wiraqocha grunted, trying not to strain himself too much."

Goodwin's eyes narrowed, a grimace crossing his face as he turned back and faced the two Duelists, "So, this is the level you have fallen to. No matter, I can wait a turn. Turn end."
 

ImaginaryMuse

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"Ah. So you admit to being too scared and wanting to save your own hide. Well, thanks for the honesty anyways."

Yutsu rolled her eyes, flipping Goodwin off, something made even easier now that she didn't have her deck and disk to worry about. It still wasn't an overly amazing thought, all things considered. But it was equally as infuriating to see the truth here and now and in some respects? She was glad something finally caused Aki to feel an emotion aside from depressed. It helped Yutsu feel reassured. Like she wouldn't have to worry about her partner failing to function during this duel, because at this rate? Yeah, it was obvious this had needed to be a two on one instead of just one on one.

Hmmmm ... so he can summon their dragons with this much ease? No excuses, we need to get rid of Ultimaya next turn, or this will turn ugly very quickly, Aki thought.

Were this a less dire duel, she may have taken a few moments to better admire the presence of these newer versions of the dragons. Even with the corruption surrounding them ... they were all beautiful. That just was exactly what made her feel not as bad about knowing they needed to be defeated; they were the other Signer's Dragons and yet not.

Aki grimaced and shut her eyes. Well ... as painful as this would be, she could survive.

... Only to open her eyes as she heard Red Jeweled Dragon roar angrily, and saw why. It was held down by chains, but ... how? Both herself and Yutsu would hear the answer ... with Yutsu chuckling as she heard Wiraqocha's revelation.

"Sorry, Goodwin, what was that? We were pains in your ass? No no, correct that. We still very much are and will be throughout this cursed duel! Something I intend to use if that's the last thing I do!"

... This probably was the worst time to try to taunt their opponent, and yet .... Aki couldn't help but feel proud and admire the courage coming from Yuna. Well ... if anymore encouragement was needed, Yutsu would see Aki's eyes brighten, her resolve strengthened. "Well, since you're done ... my turn! I draw!"

A coy smile appeared as Aki turned and flashed Yutsu an apologetic look. "I'm going to apologize now, because I know this card doesn't have the best of memories with you."

Yutsu wove a hand through the air, merely smirking back, "Oi, oi. It's cute you're worried about my PTSD, but it's not that bad. Kinda got more things to worry about now anyway, don't you think?"

Aki nodded in agreement, shook her head, then resumed her turn. "I activate Mark Of The Rose! In order to use its power, I banish Lonefire Blossom to my removed from game pile. Come over here, Red Jeweled Dragon." And once it arrived ... she nodded, knowing that this, somewhat unfortunately, was the right move to make. "I then release Red Jeweled Dragon and summon my Gigaplant to the field. Now that there are no other Synchro monsters on your field .... Tzolkin isn't safe! Gigaplant! Attack Ultimaya Tzolkin!"

Even though she was trying not to show it, Aki's heart was pounding rapidly. She half expected something to be activated ... and let out a long sigh of relief as the dragon finally vanished! "Unfortunately ... that's all I can do. Go for it, Yuna!"

"You don't even need to tell me. I had full intentions of doing so." Yutsu swiftly replied as she drew. Well ... it wasn't as amazing as her Colossal Fighter, but this would have to do. "I summon Tune Warrior to the field. Thanks to Solidarity, it jumps up 800 more power. Tune Warrior, direct attack!"

Now both women would see why nothing had happened during Aki's turn ... because the traps he did have needed this sort of event to activate them. Yutsu's aura grew even brighter as she watched Call Of The Haunted getting activated. But then ... she just shook her head and snickered.

"I believe I said on my last turn enough of your shit! I'M NOT FUCKING AROUND, GOODWIN! Trap card open! Battleguard Rage! With this, Tune Warrior gains 1000 more attack! Now, as I was saying .... ATTACK!"

Finally! First blood! Not as much as it could have been, but dear gods, Yutsu would take it.

"Part two of Battleguard Rage's effect activates. Normally, your monster would go back to your hand. But since it's a Synchro, it goes to the Extra Deck. Suck it, Goodwin! Turn end!"

.... Aki finally lost it. She'd been trying to hold her composure. But just from hearing Yuna tell Goodwin to 'suck it' ... she couldn't. She finally began laughing, even at the expense of her sore ribs. "R-Really Yuna? Of all the things, that's what you go with?"

Yutsu grinned as she shrugged. "Trust me, if it weren't me saying it, Hotsuma would have by now. It's the least I can do for him."
 

Razgriz

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Goodwin sneered as Yuna poked at him with her words; Gods above, this woman was insufferable. But no matter; it would make their inevitable demise all the sweeter. And besides, neither of them had monsters that could break past his barrier. While this combination was in play, he would be untouchable, able to whittle their life down as he pleased. Even if he was forbidden from attacking every other turn, he still had the advantage in field, LP and hand cards.

However...It seemed Yuna reinspired some vigor in the red-headed Signer, able to only watch as she played a particular card of hers. One that her past self had also used: Rose Mark. Damn it...This was also where the last Duel turned around for his own past self. On the cusp of victory, she managed to call forth her strongest servant and defeat him in their past encounter. He would not let that happen again...But as of now, he could do nothing.

And then...Instead of using it to attack, she sacrificed it...Granted, the move was a good. Her Magic would have worn off during the end of her turn, returning his own beast to him. But now, it was forever sealed away alongside Pixie Dragon, as would be any of the Signer Dragons called forth by Tzolkin's power. And as such, he could only watch as the massive plant-beast struck at Tzolkin, its image howling as the Crimson Dragon shattered and faded.

And then came Yuna's turn, his field wide open. Or at least she thought it was. "Reverse Continuous Trap, Open! Cry of the Damned! Be reborn as my shield, Moon Dragon Quilla!" And as it returned, its ATK exceeded that of Tune Warrior, something Goodwin was quick to point out as Yuna re-declared her attack. "It seems the constant struggle of death has drove you insane. By all means, kill yourself; it will save the trouble." But then came that Trap, something that boosted Tune Warrior even higher past Quilla's own. "Moon Dragon Quilla's effect activates! When it is targeted for an attack, I regain Life equal to half the power of the monster attacking it! Luna Power Ray!"

A beam of moonlight then enveloped Goodwin, boosting his Life to 13900, before Tune Warrior would destroy it, reducing him to 13000 LP. Barely a scratch on him, the extra Life serving as a significant buffer. Though he did not know of Rage's second effect; his strategy worked best with Quilla in the Cemetery, so having it returned to the Extra Deck was an unwelcome surprise. Evidenced by the sheer grimace that crossed his face as Quilla formed into particles of light, returning to the sky.

"Goodwin...Remember you are here on my good faith. Do not fail me here, else I will ensure your end is most unpleasant." Ignacious spoke, his voice booming as the priestly man just laughed, "Relax, Ignacious; this is but a minor setback. I have the advantage here. On my next turn, I assure you these two wil meet their end."

Ignacious growled in displeasure; he better have something good; this was the third turn of his, so he should be able to attack.

"My turn! I draw!"

However...It seemed fate had forsaken him this turn; he had options, but with both of them having powerful monsters, he had little recourse to deal with them. As such, he was going to take some damage...But even if they summoned stronger beasts, nothing they had could deal 13000 damage in two turns.

"I end my turn....Here, as a gesture of good faith, hit me with everything you can." he would say, cockily tapping his chin.

Something that made Ignacious most displeased; oh no, he was not letting Goodwin's sadism ruin his centuries of planning! But sadly, due to their contract that Goodwin actually took the time to read, he was forbidden from interfering....Unless he was on the verge of loss. And right now, that was nowhere near the case.
 

ImaginaryMuse

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If Aki had a card such as Snatch Steal, for example, she may have been more inclined to use Red Jeweled Dragon. But with that being her card, she knew all too well how it worked. As such, he would have gotten it back at the End Phase, and then what? Continued to clear their field. No thanks. Even if the old her used to be a sadist, she was not a masochist.

Both Yuna and Aki braced themselves ... knowing fully well that Rex could now attack them.

But .... nothing happened?

"Not getting soft on us, are ya, buddy? Well, you heard him Aki. So let's bring forth every single ounce of strength we can muster."

Aki merely smiled and nodded as she drew her next card. "Ask and thou shalt receive, as they say. Draw! I summon Angel Trumpeter to the field!" Aki's eyebrow rose. Surely, she had to be seeing things. The cards looked like they were almost ... glowing? No, that couldn't be. There was actively no reason for that to happen. Her head shook as she decided it wasn't seeming to interfere or affect the duel in any form or fashion.

"Since you asked ... here you go, Goodwin! Angel Trumpeter and Giga Plant! Direct attack!"

Had this been normal? It'd be over. What she did not expect, however, was the damage to .... increase? Even though simple math showed she had two monsters with 4300 attack, it ended up being ... more? Huh? Another thing Hotsuma did, or ... had Ignacious done this himself?

Yutsu looked absolutely ecstatic as she drew. Sure, she didn't have her Colossal Fighter on the field anymore ... which would have been a surefire way to make damn sure this duel could have ended. But as far as she was things looked? This duel was all but secured so they would win it. Somewhat regrettably, the only monster she had? Well ... it wasn't the most impressive going off attack. Its effect, however, would more than make up for it, as would Solidarity.

"I summon Fortress Warrior!"

Normally a very, very foolish move. But now especially that she'd seen Rex had indeed all but invited herself and Aki to come at him? Who was she to decline, and that was exactly where Fortress Warrior's effects would come into play. He'd likely get something stronger next turn ... fine. She had a way to avoid getting hurt from any monsters that would target Fortress Warrior.

"Thanks to Solidarity, Fortress Warrior goes to 1400! Now .... Fortress Warrior! Tune Warrior! Direct attack!"

And indeed ... it seemed neither Aki or Yutsu's eyes had deceived them. By the end of the assault, what used to be 13,000 life quickly - and dangerously - depleted. Soon, it read as Rex only having 500.

"I'm ... not at all complaining, but ... the actual hell just happened? Last time I did math, that literally doesn't add up, so .... "

Ultimately though ... Yuna smirked and shrugged. "Well ... sucks to be you right now, doesn't it, Rex? Turn end."



Pain .... god, it'd been horrible. Literally burning, even. And if none of that was bad enough, it had - somehow - been worse than all of the other times that Fayth had been around any of the other Dark Signers. All things considered, the fact Fayth had managed to endure such agony was an impressive yet terrifying feat in itself. But now .... there was an almost calming and soothing sensation surging through her. As if it were ... healing her?

" ... Fuyu ...??" Fayth weakly whispered, damn well nearly jumping as she heard a voice she temporarily forgot about.

"Sorry, no. Just me."

"Wh...what happened?"

Hajime frowned as he shook his head from side to side. "That I'm not quite sure about, but given Jack's own mark acted up? Something linked with all of the Signers still alive, I'm guessing. Yuna is facing Ignacious now as we speak. Hopefully still with Hotsuma. Maybe even with Aki, but I know for sure that's where she was heading. So ... that's what's going on now."

"And .... I'm guessing there's some form of visual proof I'm missing?"

"Yep. In fact, I'm going to be honest. I kinda envy your state, because .... well, I'm not overly fond of the site around us. You remember all of the demons that guarded the Facility before it fell? Well ... multiply that amount by .... ten, maybe even more so. All outside."

At this, Fayth tried to hastily sit up, only to be gently guided back down. Probably by Mei, but it was difficult to tell. "W-what do we do?!"

"Well ... the good news is they haven't come in. Yet. That said ... I feel like you and Jack should be moved into a more secluded area of this place. Just in case."

"What's that mean? You're not really going to fight them, are you?"

"Me and Judai may have to. Fortunately, he's got Yubel's powers. And while my own aren't as awesome as Yuna's, I do still have mine. I can probably manifest some cards if needed and if nothing else? Judai will definitely help out. I'd very seriously see about getting them moved stat, Mei."

Hopefully it wouldn't come down to needing to fight, especially in a place that wasn't his. But Crow would likely understand if push truly came to shove why his place may look pretty shitty after this was over.

Judai, meanwhile, had stayed with Jack. The two agreed after hearing Fayth scream in agony that at least one of them needed to be with her, so Hajime had volunteered. Thankfully, the pain seemed to have stopped quicker than Judai had feared, and Jack seemed to be able to rest. As his ears registered the sound of Fayth's voice, he smiled.

"Can you hear that? She's okay. Quite the strong partner you've gotten yourself. Just keep trying to hang on a bit longer, Jack. Hopefully this'll be over soon than later."

"Preferably with Yuna and whoever else is with her winning." he added, not really wanting to think about what would happen if this fight was lost.
 

Razgriz

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Goodwin seemed quite displeased with how nonchalantly they were treating this; did they honestly think shaving off a few thousand of his Life would be anything significant? They made a mockery of what he was trying to accomplish. Especially that damn Takeda!

But fine...He would show them the error of their thinking.

The initial hit from Trumpeter and Gigaplant did not hurt that much, his Life down to 8300. But then he felt a sharp surge of pain run through him, making him cry out in agony and double over, his Life falling by another 2000 to a dangerous 6300. And then came another sound that none of them would expect: The Emperor also clutched at his chest, hearing his voice bellow as trails of orange and purple flowed down...Being absorbed into Hotsuma of all people.

And even more? The Emperor's massive figure beginning to shrink, nearly halving in size. Still a giant, but definitely smaller than he had been, much of his energy stolen. And what made it worse...Was that Akiza and Yuna would see their Life totals rise...Going to 6000.

The explanation came soon enough, another low chuckle from Wiraqocha leaving the lad's mouth as the God then said, "My apologies...It seems this old bird has a bad memory. The boy did request one other thing: Each loss of life of 1000 or more means you lose another 1000...And I take one of the Gods into myself....And those terms are something even YOU are not immune to, Ignacious. And...Those two shall gain that much each time I take a God. Surely such a small price should be easily paid by one as mighty as you?"

A loud 'SNAP' could be heard as Ignacious' iron hand broke the end of the armrest to his throne, watching as Yuna would prepare to strike. This blow would render him lifeless...No, he could not allow that. Perhaps he wasn't immune to the deal...But that didn't mean he didn't expect some form of interference. And with this...That last contingency was fulfilled.

As Yuna's combined attacks might collide, the smoke and debris from the life-zeroing strikes obscured Goodwin's form....And when it cleared, Goodwin was just...standing there. Head bowed. But instead of his Life Points being at 0 like they should, they were at a measly 500.



The demons outside seemed to ignore the house for the time being, like it was invisible to them...But after Jack and Fayth's marks had mysteriously vanished? It was doubtful it would remain that long. Even so, the pain that had been coursing through Jack.

He had managed to be able to be calmed down, enough to be debriefed himself on everything that had happened. The sight of the Emperor's massive form had shocked him, as did the size of the Demons now skulking about. The three in the living room had been smart enough to stay away from the windows, lest they be spotted. Of course it was still very much likely that the Demons themselves could sense their energies at any point.

"Fayth did open up some of her wounds, Judai; moving her now could be extremely dangerous." Mei said, Jack replying "Not to be rude, Doc...But I think if one of those Demons gets wind of us, they're going to pose a much greater danger to us."

Without much of a word, he would then gingerly pick up Fayth, finding his strength to help get her out of the bed, starting to carry her out. "Mei...Crow has a cellar access in the main room. If we move now we can..."

"Wait....Look, that giant Demon where Yuna and everyone was....He's gone!"

Mei pointed out the window, Jack chancing a look as well; indeed, the massive Demon Emperor was gone. Did they...Win? Jack then felt a familiar tingle on his arm, craning his neck to see none other than his own Mark having reappeared. The Demons outside as well had all stopped in their movement, their attention turned towards the now-vacant towering throne their Emperor had once occupied.

"They won...They had to have...Right?" Jack asked, now staring out the window with Fayth in his arms.



The scene was quiet, Wiraqocha looking up from his crucified position; he had counted 4 of the Gods now joined to him, helping to limit his power use and bolster his own efficiacy. Even now...He could sense it.

This Duel was not yet over.

And this made itself quite clear...As Goodwin then threw out his arms, a demonic roar leaving him as his body was enveloped in black light; Wiraqocha had to avert his gaze as the winds kicked up, threatening to blow everyone away.

"I GROW TIRED OF THIS...."

The same demonic sounding voice from before emanated from the black-light, the crushing darkness dispelling to reveal a different form: Hotsuma himself, or at least a very convincing doppelganger. Criminal Mark and all, body clad in the very same clothes he seemed to wear all the time as the former Leader of the Disciples. "I suppose it is good I hung on to his fleshier pieces...Goodwin has failed me, so now I will take his place. If I cannot trust others to do a simple task as eliminating you two, then I will handle this myself."

"Ignacious, what trickery is this!?"

Wiraqocha shouted, the Emperor smirking as he replied, "Trickery? Hah! I am not like you; this was a drafted item they agreed to. In the event of a loss catalyzed by outside interference, or if the agreed Vassal would not fulfill his part of the deal, I am allowed to forcibly take his place, allowing myself only 500 LP to do so. Goodwin could not deliver, so his soul became his payment to me."

Wiraqocha snarled, Ignacious then turning back to Yuna and Akiza, "See? I duel with far more honor than either of you. The only reason you have been able to deal me any damage at all is because you had to rely on another to cheat. Well, rest assured, this is the last time you will cross me! I draw!"

A fifth stone tablet crashed to the earth, Ignacious going forward with his turn. "I activate the effect of Envoy Priest - Ascatl in my hand! I discard one card to Special Summon it, then I can Special Summon the Tuner monster Red Ant Ascatl from my Deck!" Both monsters appear, one a five-star and another a three-star Tuner.

"Level 3 Red Ant Tunes Level 5 Envoy Priest!"

The Synchronization played out once again, Ignacious chanting "When the Sun rises, it will illuminate all darkness! Pour down, Light of Destruction! Synchro Summon! Burst, Sun Dragon Inti!"

And much like Quilla, this one was a celestial body surrounded by three dragon heads, these ones orange-red. "And since I have Synchro Monsters on my field and resting in my Cemetery, I can Special Summon this! Come forth! Earthbound Supreme Priest!"

Now it seemed Goodwin was going to embody himself as he should be: Fully committed to this Duel, his former figure appearing wordlessly in Defense Position. "I then use Priest's effect! Earthbound Calling!" The Priest then produced a sigil, his marks upon his flesh glowing as a loud hum echoed, the air quaking as another tablet descended, this time gently landing upon the earth.

"Now I will show you what power truly is! Thanks to the effects of the Field Magic, I can treat any Synchro monster I choose as two releases for the Advance Summon of an Earthbound God!" He then pointed at Sun Dragon Inti, "Dragon of the solar might, become food for someone who surpasses you!" The sun dragon howled as its body broke apart, that pulsing heart-like core appearing overhead as the dragon's energy fed it into it, the beating of the construct growing faster and faster.

"Advent! Earthbound God - Ccacc Apu!"

A hellish torrent of energy erupted from the center of the field, soon the same God that Kiryu once possessed now under Ignacious' control, its massive form shaking as the earth quaked, large iron chains erupting to secure it place, as it was a turn where he could not attack. "Even now, with how much you've stacked against me....I could still do this much! You have no chance of winning! And since I called God to my field, Priest's effect activates! I make your Life 3000 points each! Liturgy of Damnation!"

The Priest once more called a series of sigils...And it was here that Yuna and Akiza would both suffer a column of blinding and burning light crashing down on to them, their LP falling from what they had gained to now within a one-hit kill range of the God.

"So long as I have this God, you can no longer even hope to touch me! I Set two cards! Turn end!"



The follow-up scene could be witnessed from Crow's place, Jack's eyes widening as he saw an unmistakable entity: That was one of the Earthbound Gods now towering overheard...Even with the massive chains on its limbs, it was still a terrifying presence.

Even now though, the Demons that had been struck with horror at their Emperor's apparent loss cheered with glee, loud brutish howls, roars and shouts echoed across the scarred landscape...It seemed this even reinvigorated their drive to fight. To find those still walking along the surface and annihilate them.

"Crap...Sorry, Fayth Mei...But we need to move...Now..." Jack would say, going with Mei to the cellar door and pulling a rug out of the way to reveal a hidden entrance, helping them both down and getting Fayth set up on a small cot left down there. Once they were both down, Jack then moved to climb back up, making Mei move to step in front of him. "No....Jack, you're not going back up there." Jack's fist clenched, "Why not...I can't just sit here. Fayth is too badly hurt; I can still at least move."

At this Mei had enough, roughly shoving Jack back down, making the blonde blink in surprise as he landed on his ass. "No....I've seen too many good people be sacrificed. In case things don't work out....We need as many Signers left as we can. Even if it is just you two, you have to be alive. So even if you try to move past me...I won't hesitate to knock you out, Jack."

Well...This was a shock. Jack was frankly left speechless, making Mei sigh as she wiped off her glasses, "I'm sorry, Jack; I know you want to fight. I can see it in your eyes...But please, try to understand that we do not have an advantage here. We need you both as our ace up our sleeves, just in case things go even worse than they are now."
 

ImaginaryMuse

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A smile crept on Fayth's lips as Jack pondered over the mere thought that maybe - hopefully - this fiasco might actually be over. Did it sit well that Yuna had ended up having to get involved in the first place? Not overly. On the flip side ... she had been ready for this to be over. All of them probably were thinking as much, Signer or not. That hope, however, was smacked away by the harsh reality as Yubel temporarily took over, noted by both the new tone Judai suddenly possessed and - for those who could see - seeing Judai's eyes becoming heterochromic.

"Not quite yet. Ignacious is pulling out one last stunt. It should have ended, yes, but ... well, as a demoness myself, I can attest we are very horrible losers. Ignacious is no exception. If anything, he's worse than myself. That said, if they got him to that point .... it probably will be over with soon enough. Assuming they keep their cool and continue to focus on the duel."

Judai would blink as his eyes returned to normal, grimacing slightly as he went over everything he just heard. "So it's like that, huh?" he muttered to himself.

As Jack agreed with the idea of moving Fayth, Judai nodded. He knelt down, grabbing the disk with all of the activated Draining Shields. Wordlessly, he followed Jack down into the concealed room, unable to help but smile in amusement. "Clever," he muttered, setting the disk nearby so Fayth would be engulfed once more by the healing energy. On the plus side, the morphine did still seem to be working.

"I'm gonna head back up in case Hajime needs me. Try to stay put, okay Fayth?"

Fayth nodded, only lifting her right arm, which was much more intact than her left, up and gently holding onto Jack's hand. The message was pretty clear as it was; she did not want to be alone. Especially now that she knew how the outside was looking.



" .... Tch."

After hearing Wiraqocha's explanation on why more life was being depleted, it dawned upon Yutsu and Aki that indeed, the duel should have been over. Hence exactly why Yutsu scoffed.

"Leave it to a demon to be the worst loser ever. Oi, oi! I don't wanna hear jack shit about you trying to accuse us of cheating! We didn't ask Hotsuma to add anymore rules! So fuck you, we've been playing this stupid duel fair and square! We could have done that back with your lame ruling on all of those extra life after the eight thousand, but we didn't! So fuck right off with that shit!" she bitterly quipped back, not overly happy with knowing they'd already technically won and were still dueling due to Ignacious all but pulling a miracle out of his ass. But ... fine. If they'd gotten him down this far, they could end it all. For good, too.

.... Though he was clearly making that an easier said than done task. Revealed by not only the Earthbound Immortal Ccacc Apu, but their life plummeting to half of what they had and now at 3000 each. Even Yutsu couldn't help but gulp nervously. It'd been a while ... but she had faced this monster at least once before. Its presence hadn't felt great before, and it most certainly didn't feel any better right then and there.

"Draw!" Aki declared, trying to focus on anything but a seemingly inevitable loss. Yuna had done more than inspired Aki to avoid giving up. Her will to live had returned and thus ... she was indeed terrified knowing all it would take was one direct attack. Even if she got a Wall of Thorns ... it wouldn't matter.



"Jack, no!" Fayth protested, trying to tighten her grip on his hand, wincing as the muscles seized up, resulting in her letting go long enough for Jack to start going up. "I already almost lost you once! Don't go, please! That was terrifying enough as it was!"

Fortunately ... someone else seemed to agree about Jack not leaving. Mei. A bit after she shoved Jack backwards, Hajime would appear, shaking his head towards the former King.

"Welcome to my own mindset. It hasn't been fun. I definitely do get it. The moment I realized Yuna was already there? I wanted to go myself. But between what we've already seen and what still lingers out there? I can almost guarantee that the moment we step foot out there?"

Hajime snapped his fingers. "That's it. We'd probably be killed on sight."

"No deals this time around, I doubt, either." Fayth added, her voice shaking as her mind begrudgingly recalled how the duel with Jack and herself versus Niari went. "And ... if that is the case, no. You're literally one of the few things keeping me even remotely sane."

Hajime would nod in agreement with Fayth. "For better or worse, staying with her is one of the best things you can do. By no means do you have to like this. But please at least listen to me and Mei."

After uttering those words, he rejoined Judai in the living room, watching from a distance to see how the rest of the duel would play out .... and also whether he might need to help fight off some demons. Hopefully not ... but he was mentally preparing himself just in case it came down to that.



"Draw ... " Aki murmured, a faint smile appearing as she looked between the tablets. There was still a way to turn this around, and that was exactly what she intended to do. "I summon Lonefire Blossom then release it to special summon a monster from my deck to the field. Talaya, Princess of the Cherry Blossoms, I special summon you! Her effect activates! For every plant monster on the field I have, it gains 100 more attack."

Which would at least be enough to deal with Linebreaker, even if not Ccacc Apu.

"Talaya, attack Linebreaker!"

But ...

"Trap card, open! Ultimate Earthbound Immortal!"

" Fine, then I .... set a card. Turn end." Aki bitterly declared, watching her Talaya vanish as quickly as it'd appeared. Yutsu gritted her teeth as she drew, looking between her hand.

"I summon Command Knight onto the field!" And as it appeared, it literally doubled in attack points. "I'm sure you know the reason why that happened, so excuse me if I don't explain myself. You, therefore, should understand why that is happening ..." Yutsu would nod towards her other monsters, whose attacks were also going up by another 400 points.

"Now that Tune Warrior has enough ... attack Linebreaker!"

Granted, her true target would have been Ccacc Apu. But as things were? Its effect kept it safe. So ... she went after the only card she could target. Granted, it was better than nothing, and it certainly was a relief that the attack was successful. But otherwise? Yutsu was frustrated that she hadn't been able to deplete Ignacious' life any further.

"Turn end."

Well ... if this was about to be the end ... at least she hadn't gone out without fighting. That was a bonus in her books. But damnit ... this wasn't what she'd wanted, either. But the unfortunate truth was Yutsu had nothing on her end to stop Ignacious from using his Ccacc Apu's effect. So unless Aki did and was fine using it on her as opposed to herself? It was a no brainer that one of them was probably going to die soon.
 
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Razgriz

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Jack just grimaced as Hajime joined in; damn it, he knew things were bad. But he didn't want to just sit here, useless like a lump. Even with Fayth begging him to stay...It was hard to want to listen.

But then Fayth spoke those words: "You're one of the few things keeping me sane."

That made him pause; sure, things had developed between them a good deal...But like that? He didn't expect her to feel that strongly about him...Maybe it was because things were so dire here. Maybe it was because she had in fact changed him. All he knew was that he had a feeling now to not want to see her upset. Even if it meant having to sit this one out.

"...Alright...But just for the record, no, I don't like this. I should be out there fighting."

Mei nodded, getting restarted on helping to close up any of Fayth's re-opened wounds.




The Emperor - still posing as Hotsuma - gave a sneer as Yuna rebuked his extra Life. "Think of it what you will, but in a manner of speaking? You were fighting all of them including myself. It only allowed them to have a stake in this Duel. Be grateful I only granted them the smallest measure needed." He didn't expect Yuna to fully understand the real intricacies of demonic contract writing; there was much that few knew, and fewer still understood the true power of.

As such, he bothered not with a response, only taking some solace that she seemed rather bitter about it. And as Akiza might take her turn, summoning the second of her Bloom Queens, Ignacious knew exactly what she was going for. But no, he would not let her have this so easily.

"I believe I said I would not let you touch me, witch! Reverse Permanent Trap, Open! Ultimate Earthbound God! While I control a God, I can target a monster my enemy controls and destroy it!" Ccacc Apu's eye glowed as Talaya might charge at his Priest, unleashing a beam of devastating energy that vaporized her on contact, leaving Akiza without a way to attack him.

Yuna, however, seemed hellbent on fulfilling her own promise to destroy his wall of power. And as such, her own Warrior attacked as well, Ignacious going to activate another card, but found his movements bound. He could not reach, even as he might struggle and writhe, Wiraqocha growling "Not...Today!" And just like that, Tune Warrior destroyed his Priest, his life untouched, but his expression one full of rage.

"YOU SWINE!"

Ignacious' human arm erupted into a mass of black tendrils, quick to penetrate Hotsuma's reconstructed body...And started slamming his cross-bound form against the earth repeatedly, before giving one last toss directly at the wall of hellfire. Making Wiraqocha scream in pain, soon replaced by Hotsuma's voice as the God was forced to retreat; and with how the cross had fallen over, Hotsuma himself was now pinned.

"That....Is.....It! DRAW! Ccacc Apu, direct attack on Yuna! Earth Crush!"

And predictably, these two had counter-measures ready.

"Reverse Permanent Trap! Spirit Barrier! I take no damage while I control a monster!"

"Reverse Trap Card, Open! Dividing Wall! Your God loses 800 Attack Points for each monster you control!"


Ignacious just snarled, his form quivering as he shouted, "I said enough! Reverse Counter-Trap, Open! God Wave! While I control a God, I can negate the activations of my enemy's Spell and Trap cards and destroy them! Continue the attack!"

Both the barrier and wall that Yuna and Akiza had thrown up resisted the God's impending attack for a few seconds, before long a surge of energy ran through Apu's massive form, his fist busting through both of them...And striking Yuna directly, the force comparable to having a thermonuclear warhead go off in her face. Even if her bond with Getsu might stop her from succumbing to the likely fatal wound, she was going to be very badly hurt.

"One....One down....On my next turn, Akiza...You're dead as well. Turn End!"
 
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