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Upon a Star: The Barefoot Empress
Prologue
By Yurix

To those who read this, do not think this story is like all others spoken before. This is not a knight’s tale where a young hero saves the beautiful princess from the evil sorcerer. This is not the story of a young maiden who falls in love with a dashing prince and lives happily ever after. This is not the words of a bard, of a crier, or of a scribe. This tale is not that of a nameless observer who speaks of a story from his own point of view, like an omniscient Planar who can shape the world to his whim to make the legend more interesting to tell.

This is my story.

Before I introduce myself, let me tell you about the world I lived in. Now, don’t go thinking that I am a mere spirit who lingers somewhere in the pages of this tome. The world did not die, nor did it change into something completely different. Truth is, it is only beginning to usher into a new era, one I fear may be one of conflict – now only between good and evil, but within the Houses.

I may have to explain myself. If you have not heard of the Houses of Bejem, then let me explain. Yes, I am from Bejem, the Island-City born from the nests of dragons and the richest quarries of the world. However, my story is not one of riches and nobility; it is one tainted with greed, corrupted by dark ambitions and scarred by the harsh reality of the world.

Before I begin my tale, let me tell you – in my own words – the tale of the place I uneasily call ‘home’.

In the beginning, Medierth was nothing but the wreckage of a past world – one where humanity grew so numerous that they threatened the land that fed them. In a matter of a century, the population had grown too important and throughout those years, people began to polarize in groups.

Some of the population lived in luxury and complacent idleness, living their daily lives without a care in the world, save for the hunger of the body and of the lust of riches. These select few wielded power through currencies made of paper and ink and strived for profit through means other than physical labor. These humans, I will call them ‘Luxurians’ for now.

Another group of the global populace are those working below the Luxurians, who strive to become like them. These humans, far more numerous, do not have as much riches as the people of the upper-crust they wish to join, but do not have the difficulties of the poorest populations, which I speak off later. These people lived their daily lives in contemplation of the rich, working to mimic them and earn their moments of fame, the profit following suit – or so they believed. Like a herd of sheep, these people were led by governments and laws that kept them safe… but also ensured that they wore the noose like collars. Such people would tilt one way or another or remain as they were: middle-class people, fully complacent in their beliefs that the world was good as long as they possessed riches and yearned for happiness – sometimes artificial, sometimes true, but often never achieved. These people, I will call the ‘Middlers’.

The last population, the ‘Casualties’, are that the Middlers and Luxurians do not see: the poor, the downtrodden, the desperate, the needy… the many. If you were to take the entire population of the world and ration them down to one hundred people, there would be one Luxurian, fourteen Middlers, and the rest of them would be Casualties. These people live in hunger, suffer from thirst, and work like slaves to obtain some minute riches from the Luxurians who take everything from them, and from the Middlers who care for them only as long as it makes them feel better. The moment the Luxurians spread riches around, the Middlers quiet down and live happily in their sheltered lives while the Casualties suffer from the wars created by the former. These people are those who live on the street or in houses made of remnants left behind by the Luxurians and Middlers, feeding off the scraps of the banquet.

According to legends, a group of people – mostly Middlers – had enough of the world’s decay as the Luxurians continued to pollute the air, drain the water from the land and raze the land to feed their own ambitions and give the population a banquet they could no longer hold. Using the same hundred, imagine thirty of them overfed, bloating with food and wine, and five them are so immense in girth that they can no longer live properly. Of the rest, imagine that thirty of them were looking on from the back of the room with little food to eat, while ten of them were so famished that they have nothing but skin and bones, not possessing enough strength to crawl towards the scraps left behind from the gorging of those participating at the banquet.

As I was saying, some of the Middlers – who had enough of sitting idly at the banquet – decided to turn the table over and crash the celebrations. Seeing that the Casualties were beginning to trade what little food they possessed for arms to fight against those who instilled the banquet, they watched as conflicts raged for what scraps were left behind, the world no longer possessing the means to keep them all alive.

What began as conflicts between Luxurian countries became wars of survival as disease and death made the people devour one another – figuratively, of course – as they tried in every way to turn the tide and become part of the Middlers or Luxurians… even if it meant stepping on or selling off Casualties.

Throughout these conflicts, old religions became the standards of the oppressed and the needy. Middlers and Casualties reached out to the Outcriers – those who believed their prophet spoke the word of truth – for salvation, and were only awarded death for their fanatic beliefs, imagining a better world on the other side of the Cycle of Life and Death… one they would never truly reach.

Seeing the wars rage on, the other religions tried to turn away from the battle, only to be forced into them as weapons were raised against them. The cycle came to a point where the most devastating arms of the Luxurians were used. These objects, remembered only in Medierth lore as “Black Eggs”, brought devastation beyond words as people died – no, were erased from existence – in a matter of seconds. Those who survived the end-war spent years living deep within the ground, on the seas, or in the sky… until what remained of food and drinkable water became scarce.

All those saved – mostly Middlers and Luxurians – began to scour what remained of the world, in hope of others like them – survivors. What they found instead was a world far too inhospitable to live in. In their greed, the Luxurians found that their riches could not be eaten: they had become Casualties by their own fault.

The Middlers who saw the old world end decided to rally the survivors and create new cities from what remained… until they decided to bury the past once and for all and start anew. As their numbers dwindled due to the hardship of the new world, they found a place to bury their dead and their past. As a way to remember their shame, these people erected a monument to the destruction of the old world – the Spire – and sealed the way to the marshlands before moving north, thus creating the myth of the Southern Unknowns – a land where nobody returned from.

During an encampment, where a family of survivors rekindle hope of the future, these people discovered that the world, for the great sacrifice that had been done to save it, decided to give them grace by allowing them to tap into the purest of mana, granting them the ability to weave powerful incantations. Deciding not to repeat the mistakes of the past, the blessed few taught the rest of the survivors how to strive using fragments of that power, making sure that everyone had their share.

Because of this, some people began to covet that power and wish for more, but the blessed few knew that it would only awaken old terrors in the new world, so they refused. One of them, in mad vengeance, used his own power to force himself against the mother of the family. Though his punishment was severe – sentencing him to a powerless immortality – the man swore he would make the leader of the blessed few pay… which happened many long years later.

At that time, the leader was trying hard to raise his youngest son, the mother having died at childbirth. Deciding to run away, the boy was found by the vengeful condemned and adopted in secret. The man, having scavenged remains of the past, darkened the boy’s mind by telling him of the past world, and how the boy’s father had sacrificed the lives of so many to save so few. In a matter of months, the man had turned the young boy into a force of revenge and spite, armed with relics of the past that launched fire and metal… weapons that delivered death from afar.

Though many died because of the boy’s warped mind, the father could not bring himself to kill his son, and instead banished him to an island far from any survivors, somewhere in Weepfall – the ocean of tears.

After some time, the father took pity on the boy and came to visit him on the island, where he found the boy struggling to survive in his madness, scraping food from hunt and picking precious fruit from trees. The man, seeing the make-shift cot the boy lived in, used his power to create a house for the boy, now a young man. The father did not know it, but his act of benevolence sparked greed in his son’s heart.

Some days later, the father returned to see his son and listened as the boy complained how the House – which had been created from the earth itself, was too dark and musty, and did not hold well against the rain. To fix it, the empowered man created a new house made of coarse diamonds. Impressed but not satisfied, the young man asked for a house that would not blind him, as diamonds sparkled in the daylight.

For days, the father tried his best to please the boy, creating houses of different jewels – the most important resources of the island – and created one house after another from different gemstones he found. When the tired man, after creating a house made of sandstone, asked his child if it was enough, the boy ridiculed his father by striking the house with lightning, turning the stone to glass, then told him how terrible a parent he was.

Having pieced together that the boy had manipulated him, the man’s wrath consumed him and he ripped the ground beneath the boy’s feet. However, rather than let his son fall, the man channeled his power into his hands and tore the boy’s darkened heart out of his chest before dividing the child’s essence into four parts: the flesh, the mind, the heart and the soul. Still filled with anger, the man threw the darkened heart into the abyss, used his power to create a pure mortal coil for the boy’s mind after ridding it of impurities and reshaped the body into that of the one creature he believed would embody the futility of greed and ambition: a dragon.

Dividing the boy’s soul into three, the man placed one part in the newly-created dragon, one part in his new son, and the rest into the heart – hoping it would redeem it – and plunged it into the abyss, closing the chasm later on.  After seeing the blood on his hands, the father realized what he had done too late to change anything. To make up for it, he ordered the dragon to safe-guard the island, then brought his newly-made son back to the others.

Time passed before the father returned to see the dragon. After making sure it would not hurt him, he asked it what it wished for. Knowing that he could not ask for freedom – as people had begun to fear the dragon’s screams, thinking it furious when it was sad -, he wished for someone to take care of him. Seeing how lonely the dragon was, the father answered his wish and created another dragon, one that would become its mate. The two dragons, after some time and effort, mated and had a brood.

As time passed, the dragon children began to take on the aspects of each house they were told to protect, their scales becoming like gemstones. Each house now had a protector… but there was no one to live in them… until a fateful day, where my ancestor was found washed ashore by the dragon of the House of Onyx.

The dragon, curious and confused by the newly-found creature, took it back to the other dragons and asked what to do. Some of them, who had grown suspicious of the outside world, thought it would be best to let her die. Others, as curious as he was of the outside world, wanted her to stay. Deciding that it would be best to let her survive, the dragon tore off one of its smallest scales and placed it on her forehead, using it as a way to cover a wound she had from the crash of her ship. What happened next led to the creation of my people: the scale lost its color and changed shape, becoming a diamond-like gemstone that socked into the wounded, becoming almost seamlessly part of her skull. The onyx dragon tried anew, pressing another scale to her sternum, and noticed the same result. However, the process had awoken the young woman, who was scared of the dragons who helped her survive.

After some time, trying to still her fears, the dragon of onyx, who still bore memories of the old times, made a gambit: to make her at ease, he sacrificed his draconic form through a powerful ritual and took that of a man, one who bore the same gems as my ancestor. The two began to care for one another and bore the first children of Bejem: humans gifted with incredible lifespans and power over the stones that were etched into their foreheads and chest.

As they grew, these new children claimed the houses as their own and learned from the dragons. Being creatures of innate power, the children returned to the continent and enlisted survivors into building the land into a new home – Bejem. Fearing what would happen if the people of the continent came to the island’s shores, the dragons decided to hide within and around the mountains… all but one.

When the dragon of onyx saw the people arrive in such numbers, he became angry and attacked the newcomers, believing his children had brought them to kill their kin. During the conflict, one of the volunteers, a druid woman, used her powers to seal the dragon – who had broken his pact to reclaim his power – within the largest tree of the island, condemning him to isolation for a thousand years. In shame, the dragons – who had watched the conflict from afar – destroyed the House of Onyx.

It took nearly nine centuries before the Bejemi people – who had now created a council-ruled empire – before one of them made contact with the population of the continent... and her fate became a dramatic story for our people.

On a day like any other, one of our Aquamarine ships… oh, sorry. Perhaps I should explain more about the caste system. You see, as time passed, people began to view the stones not for what they are, but for their value. Having forgotten that the gems they bore were from dragon scales, they began to see them through the eyes of merchants. As it went, houses began to grow weary of one another, as some people began to buy or steal stones from the continent’s peddlers to change the ones they bore and become of higher castes. This, in Bejem’s society, is a taboo: if a person is born into a House, he or she must stay within it for the rest of his or her life. Therefore, marriages amongst houses, which had been accepted before, became banned.

The way the merchants began to shape Bejem’s society was somewhat like this: they believed that the more durable the stone, the longer the person’s life, and the greater its value, the higher its rank. Therefore, the House of Diamond became the ruling house. Among the other great Houses were those of Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire, the latter representing what the ‘Middlers’ that I spoke of before. Among the lower ranks were the House of Lapis Lazuli – the tribe of merchants -, the house of Peridot – the farmers – and at the very bottom of the list was the House of Glass – those who only lived to serve.

You may wonder about the taboo I spoke, but there are three great ones:
1- A Bejemi cannot remove the gems on his body;
2- A Bejemi cannot marry into a new house;
3- A Bejemi will not sell the gemstones of the departed.

As you may expect, some Houses do not obey these rules. Many have tried to barter their way into the new Houses, but many of those died because of it. This led to many a tragedy, forcing the Houses to bring volunteers from the continent to populate further.

Now, back to the story… Not mine, but that of another Bejemi woman. On a day like any other, one of the Aquamarine ships – the House of Aquamarine being that of sailors – was attacked on its way to Gullreach by a pirate ship. On board was one stowaway – a young mother and her baby. The pirate captain, thinking that the mother carried precious treasure with her, stole the child from the mother’s dead hands. It was to his surprise that the child, who had been sleeping quietly, awoke with a start. Seeing the mistake of his ways, the man decided to wipe all traces of the event from history – or so he thought – by prying the gemstone from the baby’s forehead and making it into a pendant he wore.

After disbanding his crew and tearing his ship down to lumber, the man wiped the slate clean by taking the child with him to a small mining settlement on the edge of the Citadelan territory – a small port town that would be known as Gullreach. Raising the child as his own, the man made up a story that the girl’s mother was his own wife who had died during a storm on the seas. No one was the wiser, until the girl became of age to be courted. Fearing she would learn the truth, the former pirate refused all the man who came to ask for her hand – her delicate beauty inspiring much awe to the local populace – and decided that, for her safety, she would be sent to the Temple of Prolectae – the Planar-Mother and Aspect of Womanhood – to become a priestess, a prospect she refused.

Deciding to accept only to turn away from the temple at the last moment in an attempt to find a better life, the young woman was placed in a carriage and wheeled to the temple… until the soldiers who accompanied her were attacked by the rest of the pirate crew, along with some local cut-throats – to steal her and demand a ransom to their former captain.

The ensuing battle was not without consequence: though the rogues had all been killed, only one soldier survived the conflict… a man who had fallen in love for the young woman. Seeing her dead body, he pleaded with the Planars to let her live, but was answered by the Planar of the Underdeep, the Aspect of Destruction… Xelnos. While he granted him his wish – the wish that she and his comrades survived -, they lost all memory of the moments of their death, and thus believed that he had slaughtered the pirates and tried to steal away with the young Bejemi woman.

Claiming his innocence even through torture, the man was greeted by Xelnos’ shadow who had claimed the young woman’s soul and learned from it that his hasty wish had a very limited timeline. The soldiers and his beloved would survive… until the moon’s first light in the night sky. Afterwards, his soul, along with all those who died on that day, would become the propriety of Xelnos.

As said in the pact, the young woman died during the night, a pirate’s dagger having slit her throat after stealing into the former captain’s home and slaughtering him. However, the soldier who loved her did not see her burial, for his execution happened moments after the Aspect’s shadow gave him the morbid truth.

Many believed that, because of this, the House of Lazuli – from which the mother was born into – fell into disgrace. Had it not happened, perhaps my own fate would have been different.

To those who wonder who I am, know this: Bejem is not a fairy tale, nor is it a tale where the hero lives happily ever after… for it a place where ends and beginnings are written in stones.

Bejem. An empire on an island. A place coveted by the greedy. A land marked by castes, living in Houses made by Reveen. A place where nobility and slavery are worn on the foreheads and chests of the people. A city where your birth stone dictates your life...

I live in this world. One of betrayal... of ambition... of false hopes...

I lived in its streets... saw its people... felt their pain.

My story is not one of happy endings... But it is my story.

My name? Even I do not know... the truth of my name.
Upon a Star: The Barefoot Empress, prologue
I'm having way too much downtime nowadays, so I decided to start writing the newest story in the 'Upon a Star' series. However, rather than begin the story immediately, I decided to explain things. For instance, the story of Bejem's first moments, the caste system and some of its society's taboos. Also, I wanted to give the story a '1st person' feel, since the heroine of this story - Lady Xera - will actually speak out most of it... and I said 'most' because some of the earliest chapters will be written in a different narrative, due to her young age at this point.

They will all have a meaning in the story... but from thereon, things will be difficult, since a lot of the story - especially the first chapters - will be off the top of my head.
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I just finished playing Tales of Xillia 2. I know there are several endings - one bad, one good, one best, and a couple post-game - but I decided to go for the 'best' ending.

Throughout the game, I wondered of the possibility behind the 'fractured dimensions' - worlds similar to our own, save for a single event that causes the fracture. We know that more as 'alternate dimensions', but in this case, the 'fracture' is a test from the Great Spirits to humanity: if the fractured dimensions would reach 1 million, all of humanity would be wiped out.

Still, the game also covers choices: that of siding with family over friends (bad ending), of doing what others expect (normal ending) or doing what you think benefits the greater good (best ending). The lines can often seem blurry or grey, so it doesn't always make choosing easy. Saying one thing over another can have people like or dislike you, and choosing whether to fight or negotiate can change lives.

The game has some odd ideas that work sometimes haphazardly, but the overall result is well executed, and the better endings lead to the possibility of a new world.
  • Mood: Noble
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Solid Experience
Chapter 21
By Yurix

Tacey looked incredulous at what just happened. It had been ages since she had heard from her father, and there he was. The man had slightly-darker blonde hair and wore a set of sunglasses that gave his authoritative features some mystery. His clothes - she expected him to wear those of a policeman, due to her only photo of him – looked almost like armor on his frame. He stood about a foot taller than she was, giving him a strong stance that would have scared young criminals out of their ways.

However, something was definitely amiss. She did not remember him wearing armor, or even possessing something of the sort. Moreover, he sported a duel disk – something that she remembered he never wanted. As much as the man looked like her father, it was clear that the force behind him was not.

“I don’t know who you’re supposed to be, but I want to know: why do you look like my dad?” Tacey questioned the man.

Kether raised his free hand and extended it towards Tacey. As it did, the cards that had been ejected from her deck flew from the ground into his hand. Moments later, another card shot out of both Miss K and Dan’s decks before reaching the others into the stack, then vanishing.

Tacey looked in shock as she recognized Dan’s card: ‘Aspect of Destruction, Xelnos’. “What are you doing?!?”

“I am doing what is right.” The man cryptically answered before pointing at the girl. “The man-made spirits were never meant to be of this world… and I will erase them one by one!”

Before the girl could answer, she felt a hard pull against her body and heard Tierra’s voice screaming in her mind. “Tierra, what’s happening?!?”

“He’s… draining me… the Ascents…” the Duel Spirit struggled to say before she was ejected from the girl’s mind, forcing the latter to revert from her adult form to her younger self.

“Tierra!” the girl let out, only to feel a throbbing ache in her chest, as if something was tearing her apart from the inside. “What… urgh…”

“As I thought.” The armored man let out, his face completely blank of expression. “Without this artificial Duel Spirit, your body is beginning to break down. You will soon have no strength of your own, as the disease will reclaim its hold on you.”

Tacey gasped as the realization of what the man said: if that was true, then Tierra was not the reason for the leukemia, but rather what stopped it from killing her. “But why would you want me dead? I don’t understand!”

“I do not.” The man spoke as he activated his duel disk. “But the world hidden within your cards will end… that is my mission.”

The yellow-haired girl took a moment to try and calm herself. “But why take the face of my father?”

Kether looked down at the girl. “You deserve to know the truth before your life comes to an end.” The man began. “You know of the Solid Experience program, where duelists were created to become the ultimate dueling force. To counter-balance the destruction made by such a program, one of the creators turned away from the project and created the Ascent cards.”

“Mr. Busuku…” the girl figured.

The man made a slow nod. “Yes. This man thought that the program was far too dangerous for the world and turned against them. However, by that time, the Solid Vision system had become so realistic that duelists now faced Duel Monsters and fought with life and limb against adversaries for the pleasure of an unknowing crowd.”

Tacey took a moment to think through the man’s revelations. “You mean… the Action Duels?”

“Very perceptive.” The male duelist spoke. “As many of the early duelists lost their lives or sanity in the first of these duels, the man you know as your father began to worry that you would end up your days the same way: broken or insane. Hoping to keep you alive, he made a pact with us. In exchange for his body, we promised to eliminate all traces of the project. In doing so, we came in contact with his boy.”

The man pointed at the still knocked-out Dan. “One of the last candidates.” He continued, his voice showing as little emotion as his face. “How simple was it to make him believe that the Ascent cards… and their loyal servants… were a threat. He willingly hunted you down and almost succeeded in stopping you before you awakened to the temptation of the Ascent… until she came along.”

Kether pointed at Miss K. “The moment I saw her deck, I knew that she would soon enough fall to the manipulation of the machines. All I had to do was wait until these abominations, named after the darkness of man, took over.”

The young duelist clenched her fists and activated her duel disk. “That’s enough!” she screamed out. “Miss K is like family to me, and Dan… before you toyed with his mind, he was my friend!”

“Nothing but pawns.” The man continued, ignoring the girl’s outburst. “Do you even know what would have happened if you possessed all of the Ascents? Let me tell you. The moment Tierra would have achieved her full power, you would have ceased to exist… and she would live on through your flesh.”

The girl gasped at the explanation. “What?!?”

“No matter the outcome, death is your only end.” The man spoke. “What the man did not think of before he made his pact was that he and you are also traces of the project. You may stand to protect those people, but that is futile. As soon as your body gives away, I will destroy it, along with everyone you came in contact with.”

The girl unclenched her fists. “Yuki… my friends at You Show… Miss K…” she muttered to herself, head drooping.

“There is no other outcome but death.” He says, as he drew his opening hand, like points on Tacey and Kether’s deck starting at 8000. “If you wish to save them, you will have to defeat us… and end the suffering of your father.”

Tacey found herself in the hardest situation she ever had to face. Accepting the duel would mean the death of her father. Refusing the duel would be the death knell of her friends… and losing the duel could end her life. One way or another, a sacrifice had to be made… and she did not accept it. “Fine. I’ll duel… but if I win, you give me back the Ascent cards and Tierra!”

“I accept, but know this…” the man said as he placed one monster face-down on the field and the rest of his cards in the spell/trap zone. “The more life points you lose, the sooner your death will ring.”

The girl drew her opening hand, heavy-hearted as what she once used as a way to stop her from hurting from the chemotherapy treatments would now be the weapon to end her life. “Then I will fight with all I have!” she let out before placing a monster on the field. “I summon ‘Chosen Girl’ in attack mode!”

“Foolish!” Kether let out as one of the face-down cards flipped. “I activate ‘Solemn Warning’! By paying 2000 life points, your weak attempt to resist becomes null.”

The girl let out a sigh of relief. Even though her monster was destroyed, the man’s life points had dropped to 6000. “I kinda expected that.” She replied. “Thanks to her special ability, since you destroyed her by a card effect, I can special summon two ‘Chosen’ monsters from my deck with the same level, but with different names, so I’m bringing out ‘Chosen of Flame-Sword’ and ‘Chosen Spellblaster’!”

“I will warn you once more, girl…” the man let out as another ‘Solemn Warning’ activated. “Your efforts are in vain!”

Tacey began to wonder why the man was deliberately dropping his life points so quickly. Given her hand, she could try another summon, due to Chosen of Battle-Axe’s special ability, but wondered what else would come out. Deciding to be cautious, she placed one card face-down. “I end my turn.”

“You struggle for naught!” Kether as he revealed another face-down card. “I activate the continuous trap ‘Solemn Wishes’. Now, every time I draw a card, my life points recover by 500… and so, I draw!”

The girl looked worried as the man was slowly rebuilding his life points, now at 4500. ‘What is he planning?’ she wondered.

“I shall start by flip summoning ‘Skelengel’, thus allowing me to draw one more card.” The man said, as his life points increased to 5000 thanks to the man’s monster. “Next, I play the spell card ‘Graceful Charity’, allowing me to draw three cards, as long as I send two cards to the graveyard afterwards.”

“What are you planning?” The You Show duelist said, having trouble understanding the man’s strategy, his life points now increasing to 5500.

“You will see.” Kether calmly said. “Now, I release ‘Skelengel’ to special summon one of my elite angels, ‘Mask Angel AB’!”

The creature that appeared on the field did not look like an angel. Rather, it looked like an immense mass of golden tendrils wrapped into a human-like form, spikes serving as both feet and sword, an oversized mask serving as a shield. The creature, even in defense, was imposing in stats: 1700 attack and 2700 defense for a level 7 Earth/Fairy.

“That’s not a Fairy-type… it looks like…” Tacey tried to say, feeling nauseous just looking at the creature.

“Allow me to explain.” Kether spoke with the same solemn tone as the cards he used before would have sounded, had they voices. “Mask Angel is but one of many, and thanks to its special ability, it can special summon another monster from the grave with the same level. However, that monster cannot attack this turn. Therefore, I call back from the graveyard ‘Fist Angel ME’!”

The creature that appeared looked even less of an angel than the first, as if looked like a human-dragon hybrid’s head held by two immense alabaster arms, shaped like gauntlets, a dragon’s body growing behind the strange head. The creature, as repulsive as it was mysterious, possessed 2700 attack for 1700 defense for a level 7 Fire/Fairy.

“Next, I play the spell card ‘One Day of Peace’, allowing me both of us to draw a card, but no battle shall be done until my turn begins.” The man said, as his life points increased to 6000, with both duelists drawing a card. “Now, I place one card face-down and end my turn.”

Tacey drew her own card, leaving her with six cards in hand. “My move…” she said before looking at the oversized abominations the man called angels. Given how both had stats stronger than any of her monsters, she had to play safe. “Since you have monsters and I don’t, I can special summon ‘Chosen of Battle-Axe’ in attack mode!”

“I will not let this stand!” Kether let out. “I activate ‘Solemn Judgment’! By paying half of my life points, your monster is banished to oblivion!”

The girl was beginning to figure that the man was not just deliberately paying his life points – now at 3000 – for a reason, but the name of the monsters meant something. So far, with ‘Fist Angel ME’ and ‘Mask Angel AB’, she couldn’t quite make up what was going on.

“Then I’ll summon “Chosen of Greed”!” Tacey continued. “Since you send so many of my monsters to the graveyard, I can banish ‘Chosen of Battle-Axe, Chosen Spellblaster and Chosen Girl’ to the graveyard to draw 2 cards thanks to his special ability!”

“Draw as many cards as you wish, for I activate my continuous trap ‘Appropriate’! Since you drew a card out of your draw phase, I can draw two cards.” Kether explains as he drew his cards, his life points increasing to 3500.

Tacey looked at the cards she drew, then looked at her monster. “I place two cards face-down and end my turn.

“Then I draw.” The man began his turn, his life points increasing to 4000. “First, I send ‘Appropriate’ to the graveyard to special summon from my hand… ‘Wing Angel ‘AH’!”

The creature that appeared looked as revolting as the first of these so-called angels, save for a winged-face mask if wore as a breast-plate. The massive creature, wielding a spear, possessed 2700 attack and 1700 defense for a Wing/Fairy.

“Thanks to ‘Wing Angel’s special ability, whenever it is summoned to the field, it can take control of one monster you possess… so it’s time for your thief to repent!”

“No!” Tacey let out as the tendrils that made the creature wrapped themselves around her monster before pulling it to the man’s side of the field.

“Next, I release your monster to special summon, via its own effect, ‘Blade Angel RK’!” Kether continued as one more monster, also made of coppery tendrils appeared, wearing a girdle in the shape of an alabaster face with a pair of twin blades on held between its teeth. Similar to the other Angels, this one possessed 2700 attack and 1700 defense for yet another level 7 Fairy, but this one was Water-attribute.

“Urgh… those things look horrible.” The girl let out, feeling queasy at the sight of the monsters.

“Because of RK’s ability, since I summoned him by tributing a single monster, I have to pay 1000 life points to compensate.” Kether explained, his life points dropping to 3000. “Now, let the judgment begin! Fist Angel, attack this infidel directly!”

“Not quite!” she said. “I activate the trap ‘Emergency Evacuation!’ Since you’re attacking me directly, this trap not only ends the battle, but it sends all the monsters you control back to your hand!”

Kether looked unaffected as his four angels vanished from the field. “A feeble attempt.” He said before looking at his hand. “I play the spell card ‘Upstart Goblin’! By allowing to gain 1000 life points, I can draw one card.

Tacey figured that the man’s gift was double-edged as his own life points increased to 3500. “Is that all?”

“Don’t get cocky…” he said before placing one card face-down. “You only delayed the inevitable.”

“Then I draw!” she said, beginning her turn. Looking at the field, she figured that it would be best to bait him into using his face-down card before dishing out real damage. “I summon ‘Chosen of Rune-Forge’ in attack mode!” she said as the dwarf appeared on the field, his forge hammer at the ready.

Taking a moment to look at the field, she noticed that her bait did not go as planned. Deciding to take advantage of it, she decided to get ready for more damage. “I activate my Chosen’s special ability: by switching him to defense mode and halving his attack power, I can attack one Equip card from my deck to my hand.”

Still no response. Tacey was wondering what the face-down card was, but she knew that, should he wish to bring back any of his monsters, it would take time and cost him resources.  “I place one card face-down and end my turn.”

“I draw…” the man began, his life points increasing to 4000. “By sending ‘Fist Angel ME’, ‘Blade Angel RK’, ‘Mask Angel AB’ and ‘Wing Angel AH’ to the graveyard… I can summon ‘Solemn Chariot MERKABAH!”

For a brief moment, all four of the distorted angels appeared on the field only to begin a strange transformation as the tendrils vanished, leaving the alabaster body pieces behind. Moments later, the different pieces began to move and merge, creating a massive column of light that sent a shockwave through the field, knocking Tacey off her feet. The immense creature was female-looking, but was surrounded by misshaped, gold-and silver wings where some parts of the previous creatures appeared. Two hands were locked in prayer as two arms held the blades that once were in Blade Angel’s mouth, the wings and faces of the other angel serving as armor. A massive silver halo appeared behind it, with two of the wings serving as hair on its head.  The creature was impressive to look at, but its stats were horrifically powerful: 4000 attack points and defense points for a level 10 Light/Fairy.

“Four thousand attack points?!?” Tacey let out in shock.

“It may be strong now, but the Chariot of God has other special abilities. For instance, I can banish one monster from my Graveyard to increase Merkaban’s attack power by half the amount of the banished monster, and it also gains its special ability… so I banish ‘Mask Angel AB’!” Though the increase in attack was low, seeing the immense angel’s attack power increase to 4850 made her even more dangerous. “And thanks to Mask Angel’s special ability, I can special summon one monster that sleeps in my graveyard, so come forth…  ‘Fist Angel ME’! Now… Fist Angel, attack and destroy her creature!”

Watching the fists fly on their own, held by the dragon’s tendrils would have grossed Tacey out, but seeing the next monster for the Battle Phase strike did not bode well. “Next, I activate Fist Angel’s special ability: as it destroyed one monster this turn, it can attack one more time!”

Tacey did not expect such a powerful ability, but she knew it would be best to keep Merkabah from obtaining it should Fist Angel return to the graveyard. “I activate the trap card ‘Dimensional Prison’! You’re not the only one who can banish angels… so I’m getting rid of one!”

For a moment, the girl could see the spark of angel in the man’s eyes. “You will not stop the end… Merkabah, attack!”

“I can try!” she let out, activating another of her face-down cards. “I activate ‘Defense Draw’! Thanks to this, I take no damage from the attack, and I get to draw a card!”

“Then I shall place one card face-down and end my turn.” The man answered, the anger in his eyes now evident.

“I draw…” she began her turn. With five cards in hand, she knew she could at least survive the next turn, but what bothered her was that, without Spellblaster, she had no means to get rid of Merkabah. “I place one monster face-down, then place two cards face-down. I end my turn.”

“I was expecting more from you.” The man said as he drew his card, his life points increasing to 4500. “I play the spell card ‘Soul Charge’!”

Tacey knew too well what that card did, as she once used it. Given that two of the distorted angels laid in the graveyard, as well as ‘Skelengel’, she knew it would cost me at least two thousand life points to bring out his larger monsters, but would he dare summon the smallest one?

“I pay 3000 of my life points to bring back ‘Blade Angel’, ‘Skelengel’ and ‘Wing Angel’!” he let out, confusing her as his life points dropped to 1500. “Now, Skelengel, attack her defense!”

The girl cocked an eyebrow, then shrugged. “Sorry, but you hit my Chosen of Throwing Knives.” She said as the dark-skinned elf appeared on the field, her 1900 attack far more than enough to knock Skelengel back, Kether’s life points dropping to 500. “That was a stupid move.”

“Hardly, for I activate my trap ‘Life Equalizer’!” the man let out. “Since the difference of life points between me and you is more than 8000, our life points become 3000.”

“What?!?” Tacey let out as she felt something press hard against her chest, feeling increasingly weaker as her life points plummeted. The girl had trouble breathing as she dropped on her knees, feeling as though she was experiencing a stroke as her life points dropped to 3000. “Urgh…”

“Now you see? Your efforts to protect yourself, while valiant, were futile.” The man said as he looked at the girl with disdain. “In mere moments, your life’s flame lost most of its brightness.  Merkabah will now extinguish it! I activate his special ability: by absorbing ‘Blade Angel’, it gains half its power and its special ability: whenever it attacks a creature in defense position, it deals damage equal to the difference to your life points!” Tacey was too busy trying to stand up to notice Merkabah’s attack points increasing to 6200. “Merkabah, attack and destroy her and her creature!”

“I activate… ‘Fortress Defense’!” The weakened girl let out as one of her face-down cards activated. “By banishing ‘Chosen of Throwing Knives’ from the field, I can stop your attack and end your battle phase!”

“You have nothing left to fight me with, girl… Your monsters are nearly all banished, and the Ascents are no longer there to aid you.” Kether chided. “Show me your last feeble struggle before I end you.”

The yellow-haired duelist had trouble drawing her card as she was short of breath, but knew the man was partly right: the Ascent cards had been taken from her, so she could not rely on them. Moreover, Tierra was also gone, so she could not request aid from her friend. She was alone, weakened, and struggling to find a solution. “I… draw!”

Looking at the field and her hand made things difficult. With 3000 life points, four cards in hand and one card face-down, should she summon a monster, it would likely not have enough power to rival Merkabah’s. However, with Skelengel on the field, she could deal some heavy damage by striking at the weakest link. “I play the spell ‘Reinforcement of the Army’, so I can grab a level 4 or lower Warrior from my deck and add it to my hand… and I choose Chosen of Twin-Blades!”

“No matter what you summon, you cannot stop Merkabah’s wrath…” the man let out as he folded his arms.

“Let me prove you wrong.” She said after finally catching her breath. “I summon ‘Chosen of Twin-Blades, in attack mode, then equip it with the Equip spell I got a few turns ago: Three-Blade Sword!”

As the elf swordsman appeared on the field, the longer of its blades soon turned from a normal long-sword into a weapon that looked like it was forged from three swords and made into one. “Thanks to Three-Blade’s special ability, whenever my monster attacks, I can target one monster on your side of the field, other than the attacked monster and destroy it, so first… Chosen of Twin-Blades, attack Skelengel!”

Kether knew the attack was coming, but had nothing in play or in hand to stop it. The monster’s attack – increased to 2300 – ripped Skelengel apart – dropping his life points to 1400.

“Next, I activate Three-Blade Sword’s ability… wipe out Merkabah!” Tacey continued.

“Not likely…” the man retorted. “I activate ‘Wing Angel’s special ability. By sending him to the graveyard, I can negate the activation of a card’s effect and destroy it!”

Tacey grit her teeth as her monster lost its weapon, the swordsman’s attack power dropping to 1600. “I’m not done yet.” She continued. “I play the spell card ‘Chosen’s Return’! By paying 500 life points, I can add one banished ‘Chosen’ monster to my hand.

The moment the life points began to drop, the girl’s vision began to blur as she felt like throwing up, then starting to cough. As she did, she gasped as blood splattered from her mouth onto the concrete.

“You are foolish, girl, killing yourself to stop me.” Kether spoke as the girl’s life points dropped to 2500. “You have nothing left.”

“I can still fight…” she replied before looking at her hand. “…and I can still do this! I play the spell card ‘Polymerization’! I combine ‘Chosen of Twin-Blades’ with ‘Chosen Spellblaster’ to fusion summon… ‘Ascent Chosen Star-Hero’!”

Seeing the angelic spell-warrior appear on the field did nothing to impress Kether. “She is nothing against the might of Merkabah…” he said. “Your attempts are in vain!”

“I still have one card in hand… and I’m using it right now… I play ‘Ascent Blessing’!” she let out. “By banishing ‘Chosen of Twin-Blades’, ‘Chosen Spellblaster’ and ‘Chosen Rune-Forger’, I can draw two cards. I place one card face-down and end my turn!”

Kether looked at the girl whose was struggling to stay on her feet. “Your efforts end here!” he said, drawing his cards, his life points increasing to 1900. “Merkabah, end this girl’s suffering now!”

“That won’t happen!” Tacey lashed out. “I activate my trap ‘Forced Defense’! Thanks to this, you have to draw a card, and if it’s a monster, not only is your attack cancelled, but Merkabah is forced to switch to defense mode.”

The man let out a sigh. “If you were not so foolish, I would admire your tenacity.” He said before drawing his card. “Hmm… I reveal ‘Disastrous Angel Mastema’.”

Seeing the immense angel fold her wings into a defensive stance relieved the girl for a monster, as the monster did not increase its still formidable 4000 defense. “I don’t know who are what you are… but I won’t be dying any time soon…”

“Then you have not heard or understood the message…” the man said. “God is angry at you, and he will rain down flood and fire upon your kind! I summon ‘Disastrous Angel Mastema to your side of the field in defense mode!”

Seeing the black-winged and haired angel appear on Tacey’s field confused her, even more that the monster had 0 attack and defense for a Dark/Fairy. “What’s that for?”

“Mastema is the one who will call the flood. The moment you dare an attack, he will strike, and against the might of Merkabah, you will have no way to keep him from snuffing your life! And to ensure your downfall, I place one card face-down and end my turn.”

Tacey was getting tired – literally and metaphorically – of hearing that man’s rant. “I draw…” she said before looking at the card in her hand. “First, I equip my Star Hero with ‘Treasure Sword – Eclipse’, increasing its attack power by 700. Next, I send Mastema to the graveyard to summon ‘Chosen Rune-Smith’! Thanks to his special ability, I can banish the top card from my deck and add one equip card to my hand… so I choose ‘Treasure Sword – Daybreak’!”

“You may have stopped the disaster, but you cannot destroy Mastema!” Kether let out, irate of the girl’s struggle.

“That’s what you think.” She continued. “I equip my monster with ‘Treasure-Sword – Daybreak’! With two swords in hand, that’s more than enough power to destroy Mastema! Star-Chosen, take out that angel!”

Seeing the near-impenetrable monster fall to a barrage of slashes from the fusion monster angered the man for a moment before he made a grim grin. “You may have defeated Merkabah… but that was only its first form! By destroying it, you allowed me to summon its ultimate embodiment!”

Expecting the monster to be destroyed Tacey let out a gasp of shock as the monster split in half, part of its body growing corrupt and blackened, the remains of its purity stained with blood. Tacey looked at her duel encyclopedia, but did not recognize the name of the creature, only its stats: 5000 attack and 0 defense for a level 12 Dark/Fairy. “What in the-?”

“You fought well, but no living being can destroy Merkabah’s ultimate form!” Kether let out.

Tacey looked at the field. Given that her monsters were powerful, they were nowhere strong enough to defeat the divine chariot on their own.  “I place one card face-down and end my turn.” She said, leaving her with an empty hand.

“Then I draw…” Kether continued, his life points now at 2400. “Merkabah, destroy ‘Chosen Rune-Smith’!”

The girl was beginning to run out of options. “I activate my trap: Backhand Slash!” she let out. “Thanks to this card, I can stop your attack from happening. Also, you have to reveal the top card of your deck. If it’s a monster, you take damage equal to its attack power. If it’s anything else, it’s added to your hand.”

Kether pulled the top card of his deck and frowned. “The spell I drew is Raigeki… and it will be my weapon of choice!”

Tacey braced herself for the spell’s shocking effect. “Thanks to Star-Hero’s effect, my monster can’t be destroyed by card effects, as long as she has an equip card attached.”

“You humans are miserable fools, unwilling to bow down to God… Forget destroyed just you and your friends… I will end all of you myself!” the man let out as his armor began to darken.

“If you’re done raging… it’s my move!” the girl let out, hoping her moment of bravado would suffice in keeping face, for she was feeling light-headed and weak. “I play the spell card… Harsh Bargain! By paying 1000 life points, I can banish as many cards in my graveyard to draw that many cards…”

Forcing herself to lose life points was hard on her body, but she had to finish the duel this turn or else. “I banish… ‘Reinforcements of the Army’, ‘Fortress Defense’ and ‘Chosen Rune-Smith’ to draw… three cards.”

“You are immolating yourself… is your life meaningless?” Kether remarked as the girl drew three cards.

“I’d rather… save my friends… and my dad… then live with them gone…” the girl answered as her life points dropped to 1500. “Next, I equip Star-Hero… with ‘Treasure-Sword – Daybreak’.” Looking at the field, the girl let out a sigh before drawing to one knee, both monsters now at equal strength. “Next, I banish ‘Chosen of Flame-Sword’ from my grave to… give Star-Hero 800 more attack points.”

“You wouldn’t dare…” the man stoically said as Tacey’s angelic creature now stood 800 attack points stronger than his.

“I do… and I will… Star-Hero… wipe out Merkabah!” the struggling girl let out.

Kether looked in shock as the Star-Hero’s blades burned red-hot as it slashed Merkabah’s ultimate form to shreds, his life points dropping to 1600. “All this pain… and you have yet to end me. Let me tell you Merkabah’s ultimate ability… at the beginning of the next turn, it will arise again and destroy your monsters. For each one, you will lose every single attack point they possess in life points!”

“I got… one last move…” she said before sliding the last card on her deck, her vision beginning to darken. “Chosen of Tri-Bow… and for its effect, you take 500 points of damage for each of my banished cards…”

“Impossible!” the man let out. “You dare strike down God? Your punishment will last for all eternity!”

Tacey let out a sigh as she dropped her hands and knees, struggling to stay conscious. “Oh shut up…” she managed to say before her monster readied its bow, firing arrow upon arrow, knocking the man’s life points to 0.

---

Yuki looked at the doctor with worried eyes. “Any news?”

The man shook his head. “While Miss K is showing signs of recovery, Dan seems to show little sign of mental activity.” He explained as he walked the girl out of the room where the three duelists lay in beds. “I’ve seen this kind of mental breakdown before. It may take some time, and he may suffer from partial amnesia, but given a few weeks, he should have fully recovered.”

The doctor took a moment to look back at Tacey’s bed before closing the door. “As for your friend… do you know if she has any living relatives we can call?” he asked, letting out a heavy sigh as the Leo Duel School student shook her head. “I’m afraid that… what we thought was leukemia turned out to be a far more aggressive form of cancer. She was lucky to have survived this long…”

The young woman clenched her fists as she looked back at the room. Seeing her friend attached to an artificial respirator sapped her morale. “Can I… stay with her… just a little more?”

The man took a moment to look in the girl’s teary eyes and nodded before opening the door.

---

“Tacey…” the girl heard from somewhere.

“Huh…? Tierra?” she said, having no idea where she was, except that she was surrounded by a bright light.

“You won… you saved me and the Ascents.” The Duel Spirit’s voice resonated. “You defeated him… and almost died.”

“I’m… I’m dead?” the young woman wondered.

“Not yet.” The spirit’s voice spoke. “The Ascents told me of my power. I was created to change the world… but instead, I will use my power to save you.”

Tacey looked around, trying to find her friend. “Tierra-“

“You have proven that you are a strong duelist, and that you did not need the Ascent to defeat the most powerful of enemies.” Tierra continued, her voice almost as sad as Tacey. “Know that I cannot eliminate the disease in your body entirely… but you have friends that wish you to live. Take care of yourself, my friend… and one day, we may meet again…”

“Tierra…” the girl whispered before the light around her grew brighter. “Wait… No!”

---

“Tacey!” Yuki let out in surprise as she held the girl’s hands, seeing her friend open her eyes. “Oh God, I’m so glad you’re awake!”

The girl felt too weak to move. “Yuki…”

“Please… stop scaring me like that!” the older of the two girls let out as she let go of one of the bed-ridden girl’s hands before wiping a tear. “Don’t you know how worried I was?”

“Sorry…” the girl weakly replied before looking at what remained of her duel disk. “What happened?”

“A taxi driver almost drove over you, that’s what happened!” the girl said. “If he hadn’t crushed your disk… I’m really sorry.”

Tacey took a moment to turn her head, noticing her deck next to the broken duel disk. “I guess I won’t be dueling anytime soon.”

Yuki let out a sigh of relief. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”

The girl took a moment to think of everything. Maybe her father was still alive somewhere, but with Yuki and Miss K around, she knew things could only go for the better. “Yeah… I’ll be alright… maybe not soon, but someday… I will be.”
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Solid Experience: Conclusion
Just so you know: Tacey never had a story with an ending... and in the endings that had been set up before, she actually died.

Given that I had no idea what Tierra could do as for powers, I decided to do the right thing: have Tierra save her friend. It's not something we see often in Duel Monsters, but given the feel of the story, I thought this would work out.
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Bejem. An empire on an island. A place coveted by the greedy. A land marked by castes, living in Houses made by Reveen. A place where nobility and slavery are worn on the foreheads and chests of the people. A city where your birth stone dictates your life...

I live in this world. One of betrayal... of ambition... of false hopes...

I lived in its streets... saw its people... felt their pain.

My story is not one of happy endings... But it is my story.

My name? Even I do not know... the truth of my name.

---

This story will take place several years before Alban, Onyx, Yu Shaia and Meilin first liberate the city of Bejem from its blockade. This story will introduce a new cast of heroes and dig into the past of some villains from the previous 'Upon a Star' books. The action will center around Xera, her broken past, and the lines she will have to cross to learn the truth about herself and the fate of the Empire-City of Bejem.
  • Mood: Noble
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Solid Experience
Chapter 20
By Yurix

Tierra looked at the two that stood before her, duel disk ready. “If you are so intent on dueling, what are you waiting for?”

The black-haired woman looked at the Duel Spirit with a concerned look in her eyes. “I was expecting Tacey to be the one to face me.” She said, before looking at the still-quiet Dante. “There is something important she should know before this duel begins.”

“Why not say it now?” the spirit replied. “Or is it something you would rather not tell me?”

Miss K took a deep breath before looking at her. “If you wish to know, then very well.” The woman began. “The ‘Solid Experience’ project her mother and I worked on was part of a special operation to create the perfect duelist, one that would master every single known method of duel. However, there have been multiple attempts to create such, and all of them failed. In most cases, the subjects were placed in mental institutes due to developing multiple personality disorder… and in some rare cases, physical disorders that reduced the subject’s life span drastically.”

“What does any of this have to do with us?” Tierra snapped back, using ‘us’ in reference to both her and Tacey.

The woman looked back at Dante. “He is the first of them.” She explained. “Dante was created through science as part of the project, but sadly, his implementation into human society was unsuccessful due to his multiple personality disorder. One of his personae is Dan, the boy who befriended Tacey. However, there is also Dante, the one who tried to destroy her, and Xelnos, the Ascent that you two seek.”

Tierra cocks an eyebrow. “How can that be? How can Xelnos be both human and Duel Spirit?”

“Because he is not.” Miss K continued, her tone still overly formal. “The Ascent cards, like you Tierra, are artificially-created. You were made as defense parameters in case the subject’s mind begins to degrade. In this case, you awoke when Tacey was under an excessive amount of stress from dueling. However, while she may be the most flawed of the subjects, she is also the nearest to perfection. Her duelist skills are above expectation, but her physical capabilities…”

“Wait…” the spirit figured. “Are you saying that… that I’m just a part of her? What about my duel form?”

Miss K shook her head and pressed a hand against her face. “The story she reads…” she spoke in a struggling voice. “…the Ascent cards… they are a code that unlocks her full potential. Without the full code… she won’t live much longer…”

Tacey was beginning to panic in Tierra’s mind. Hearing that she was a dueling experiment would have made her angry, but what was shocking her more was how Miss K was reacting. Her moment of struggle felt as though she was fighting something in her own mind, and the way she spoke – which seemed almost mechanical – made it feel as though whatever she was dealing with was not human.

“You wish to duel me to keep Tacey from dying… but it sounds like you are the one who needs to be saved.” Tierra spoke. “What’s happening to you?”

“The Qliphort cards… the Tierra code…” Miss K struggled as she reached for her cellphone. “Initiate Duel Program… Booting ‘Autonomy Mode’.”

Dan’s eyes shot open. Looking around, she noticed Tierra before her. “Hmph. It seems her deck is taking control of her.” The boy spoke, though in a voice that Tacey recognized – not that of the boy, but an older, darker voice.

“Xelnos…” Tacey whispered in Tierra’s mind.

“What is happening to her?” Tierra exclaimed before pointing at Miss K.

“Simple: your dear friend is just like you and me.” The dark Ascent cryptically worded. “She is not just one who experimented on duelists, but one who was experimented on. Her mind is filled with so much information and so many facts that she is losing herself in information that was never hers. You see… the moment she understood that it was me who was pulling Dante’s strings, she tried to stop me. Sadly, while she was put a leash on me, she was unable to stop me from returning. Moreover, her Qliphoth machines, unbeknownst to her, are not creatures made to serve her, but actually serve a different master: one that you have already defeated – and you have my thanks for that.”

“What?” both Tacey and Tierra wondered, not understanding what it meant.

“If you were a Duel Spirit, you would know that the Qliphoth appeared sometime after the fall of the Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom.” He continued his explanation. “These creatures were sent to locate and retrieve her remains, buried within the Great Naturia Tree, to duplicate it and create a new Goddess… Given that these things are mere machines, they do not understand the concept of deities, and have given it a programming name… the Tierra program.”

Tierra grew shocked at the words. “Me?!?”

“Yes, but what they did not expect was that beneath the tree was a banished race of duel fiends… the Infernoids.” Xelnos concluded. “These creatures are the true form of the Qliphoth… and by defeating the assassin sent by him to destroy you, you freed them from their slavery to these fiends. However, their program remains… and has been left free. As we speak, they are trying to eliminate your guardian and continue the program used to upgrade her dueling skills. They are turning her into a perfect duelist… at the cost of her humanity. Once this is done, they will have no more use for any of us…”

Inside Tacey’s mind, two conflicting thoughts were clashing: on one hand, losing Miss K meant that Tacey would be spared, but on the other, it meant losing the only family she had.

“Enough talk!” Tierra snapped back, tired of trying to make sense of the explanations spoken by the Duel Spirit and machine-struggling woman. “I will duel to stop you…”

Tacey momentarily pulled the spirit’s reins and spoke. “And I’ll save you all!”

“Duel!” the three duelists let out in sync, their life points increasing to 8000.

“Initiating duel.” Miss K spoke, though her voice was no longer her own except in tone, her movements too mechanical to be human. “Placing ‘Qliphort Assembler’ and ‘Qliphort Helix’ in Pendulum positions.”

Two large machines – the former a jeweled monolith and the latter a massive spiral-like airship – appeared in their appropriate positions, the numbers 1 and 9. “Initiating Pendulum Summoning… Pendulum Summon of ‘Qliphort Carrier’.”

A massive airship appeared on the field, its stats 2400/1000 for a level 6 Earth/Machine. “Activating spell card ‘Saqlifice’.” The woman spoke. “Carrier now accounts for two creatures for Tribute Summon. Begin Tribute Summon of Carrier. Executing summon… Qliphort Shell summon.”

The large airship soon vanished as an even more massive form – a sea-shell shaped floating fortress – appeared from the sky. The creature was even more impressive in stats than the former, with 2800 attack and 1000 defense for a level 8 Earth/Machine. “Activating Qliphoth Helix ability: increasing all Qliphoth attack power by 300.” The woman continued, no longer in control of herself. “Activating Saqlifice effect: as sent to the graveyard, one Qli card is added to hand. Selecting and recovering Qliphoth Alias. Activating Qliphoth Carrier ability: returning Qliphoth Helix to hand. Ending turn, activate Qliphort Assembler ability: one card drawn for every tributed monster for tribute summon this turn.”

Tierra looked at the immense fortress with worry. She had never faced something this powerful on a first turn, and given that the woman – who seemed under full control by the Qliphoth machines – had removed one of the Pendulum cards, it seemed that the machines were thinking several steps ahead.

“My move!” Xelnos spoke as he drew his card. “I summon ‘Evilswarm Castor’!” he said, as a dark, knight-like figure appeared from a shadowy gate. “Next, thanks to his ability, I can summon another Evilswarm monster from my hand, so I release Castor to summon ‘Evilswarm Golem’!”

The creature that appeared looked like a cross between a machine and a shadowy cricket, as if the latter was wearing the former’s decrepit form. “Next, I activate my Golem’s special ability! Once per turn, I can target a level 5 or higher monster on the field that is not of Dark attribute and destroy it!”

“Incorrect.” The woman replied, turning her head slowly towards the infected machine. “Qliphoth Shell special ability activated: all monsters with rank or level lower than Qliphoth Shell can function against it.”

The boy made a smirk. “Who said I was targeting your Shell?” he replied before pointing at the monolith. “The card I’m after is Qliphoth Assembler!” The corrupted machine rushed towards the monolith and jabbed its shadowy tendrils into it.

Both Tacey and Tierra could hear an unusual message being emitted through the object before its blew apart: “Unhandled exception at 0x1i-666 in qliphort.exe
Access violation writing location 0x00-000
Ignore the error and continue? <Y/N> … [ ]
=== CARNAGE===
.reverof evil dna, taeDOOLF dna efil foERIF eert eht foGNIRB osla ekatOT dna dnah sih tuoTNAW hcaer eh tsel, wonDNA .live dna doogGNIOD gniwonkRUOY ni suNO fo eno ekilYRGNA emoceb sahSI nam eht, dlohebDOG”

“What was that?” Tacey wondered.

“Try to make sense of this while I continue the duel.” Tierra said, as if speaking to herself.

“Don’t mind if I do.” Xelnos continued, as if he believed she was speaking to him. “Next, I play the spell card ‘Allure of Darkness’! You probably know it by now: I draw two cards, and have to banish them all unless I banish one Dark monster from my hand… and I will banish Necroface!”

Tierra grit her teeth at the thought of what was coming: now, all three of them had to banish the top five cards of their decks. Given that Miss K – or at least, the machine that was controlling her – had used different effects to add cards to her hand, her deck was much smaller than hers, but about the same as his. “Now, I place two cards face-down and end my turn.” Xelnos said before looking at the golden-haired young woman.

It was hard to think of it this way, but it felt as though the boy was trying to help her. Now that she knew part of Qliphoth Helix’s effect, she could come up with a way to stop it. Given that she left no card face-down meant that she might be able to dispatch her… but she feared that he would do next.

“It’s my move.” Tierra said before looking at her hand. Through triangle-duel rules, no monster could attack on the first turn, meaning she had to think defensively. “I place one monster face-down, as well as two cards face-down. I end my turn.”

“That’s all you can do?” the young man snapped back. “I’ll show you how a true duelist does it! I activate my trap card “Deck Devastation Virus! By sending Evilswarm Golem to the graveyard, I’m forcing those machines to show their hand, and all monsters they possess, and those on the field, that have 1500 attack or more are now grave-bound!”

Miss K’s face was expressionless as Qliphoth Shell began to ring out in alarm as the virus contaminated it, causing it to break apart. Revealing her hand, the only card that was a monster – Qliphoth Helix – was sent to the graveyard. The other one – the spell Ancient Rules – remained in her hand.

“Beginning draw phase.” The woman spoke. “Revealing Qliphoth Scout”. Activating spell ‘Ancient Rules’ allowing special summon of ‘Qliphoth Scout’ in defense mode.”

The creature that appeared looked like a sword and shield made into a jet-like object, its stats 1000 attack for 2800 defense. “Turn end.”

“Then I draw!” Xelnos began his turn. “First, I play my spell card ‘Different Dimension Reincarnation’! By sending one card from my hand to the graveyard, I can resurrect one of my banished monsters, so… I sent ‘Tribe-Infecting Virus’ to the graveyard and special summon Steelswarm Longhorn!”

“What are you doing?” Tacey let out through Tierra’s lips.

“You need duel energy to bring them back… that’s what I’m offering.” The boy replied. “I can’t let him do what he wants… and you need them more than I do.” Looking back at the duel, he activate one of his set cards. “Next, I activate my face-down trap ‘Shield and Spear’ to give Longhorn an extra 400 attack points this turn… now, Longhorn, destroy Qliphoth Scout!”

The duelists watched as the massive creature ripped through the sky and struck as the Scout, forcing it to crash on the ground before exploding. “I end my turn.”

Tierra looked at the field. With Miss K with no cards in hand and nothing on the field, she was defenseless. However, Xelnos’ viral trap made it impossible for her or Tacey’s guardian to summon a monster with a high amount of attack power. Her face-down monster, ‘Chosen Girl’, would not be enough to do much damage, but it would keep her safe, should Xelnos decide to send his Longroach in her direction. “I draw.” She flatly began before looking at the three cards in her hand. “I flip summon ‘Chosen Girl’ to attack mode!”

The young girl that appeared from the flip summon surprised Xelnos and caused Miss K to cock an eyebrow. “Why would you place something that weak in attack mode?” he wondered.

“I have my reasons.” Tacey spoke through Tierra’s lips as she continued her move. “Next, I summon ‘Friendly Familiar Chime’ in attack mode!”

As the tiny winged creature appeared, Tierra was wondering what her host was planning. “I don’t see what such small creature could do to help.” She whispered.

“Let me deal with this.” The You Show Duel answered. “You try to decode… whatever that thing said, and I’ll handle the duel.”

Tacey felt control of her body return, though her body did not change in proportions. “First off… Chime, knock some sense back into Miss K!”

The little creature scampered over to the woman and leapt in the air before pouncing head-first into her, dropping her life points to 3200. Tacey took a moment to look for some sort of reaction from her guardian and was somewhat relieved when she reeled, brought her free hand momentarily to her face, then slowly put it back down. “Not much, but close…” the yellow-haired girl thought before continuing her attack. “Chosen Girl, your turn!”

The moment the young duel spirit walked over to the girl, rather than attack, she looked into her eyes for a second before frowning, only to deliver a hard stomp from her small foot against the woman’s, Miss K’s life points dropping to 2800.

“What are you trying to do?” Xelnos muttered. “Clobber her with cute?”

“She’s still in there! I just need to bring her out!” Tacey said, realizing that the consecutives attacks had caused the machine-controlled woman to flinch.

“Whatever… but don’t think I’ll go easy on you!” Xelnos replied, not really caring about what had just happened.

“I end my turn.” Tacey concluded, hoping her face-down cards would keep her safe on the next turn.

“Initiating draw.” Miss K began her turn. “Due to virus effect, revealing ‘Call of the Haunted’. Set card and end turn.”

Xelnos drew his card. “Heh… get ready, because I don’t plan on making your life any easier!” he said. “I release ‘Steelswarm Longhorn’ to summon my avatar, ‘Ascent of Destruction, Xelnos’!”

Tacey braced herself as she remembered the abilities behind the Ascent: should it attack, his effect would destroy the monster it attacked no matter its power, and deal damage to the destroyed monster’s control for each of its attack points.

“Now, my effigy, destroy Chosen Girl!” the young man let out as the immense giant raised its axe high to strike.

“No!” Miss K let out as she tried to break out of the machine’s control. “That’s not how it… that’s not how… that…”

Tacey looked worriedly at her mentor, not watching the attack go through as her monster was wiped out, her life points dropping to 3600.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Xelnos snapped back. “Use her special ability!”

“R-right…” The yellow-haired duel replied, visibly shaken by Miss K’s struggle. “I activate Chosen Girl’s special ability: by banishing her, I can special summon two Chosen monsters from my deck with different names, so I choose ‘Chosen Spellblaster’ and…”

There was a problem to the tactic. Normally, she would summon ‘Chosen Spellblaster’ and ‘Chosen of Flame-Sword’, but the latter would be infected by the virus. That meant that she had to summon something weaker. “…and Chosen of Throwing Knives!”

Xelnos smirked as he noticed the dark-skinned elf appear. “So there’s some darkness in you…” he commented. “I like that, but I’m not done! I activate my face-down “Darkfall”! Thanks to this trap, since you special summoned two monsters at once, both are destroyed!”

“What was that for?” Tacey shouted in response, not liking where this was going.

“Hello? Aspect of Destruction here! It’s my job to bring destruction to the world!” the Aspect replied, seemingly beaming with pride. “I place one card face-down and end my turn.”

Tacey let out a sigh as she began her turn. “I draw!” she said before turning the card over, revealing ‘Chosen of Song’. “Yes… I summon ‘Chosen of Song’!”

Xelnos looked at the other child that appeared. “Another child? Are you crazy?”

“Not if I activate her special ability!” Tacey let out as the young girl began to sing. Moments later, ‘Chosen Girl’ reappeared on the field. “Thanks to her effect, I can bring back a Chosen from my grave, and both monsters gain each other’s levels!”

“Meaning you have three level two monsters…” the young man concluded before his eyes shot open. “Wait… you’re not!”

“Exceed Summoning?” Tacey finished the Aspect’s question before looking back at Miss K. “Not yet… Alright, you three, dog pile her!” The two girls and cat-sized creature rushed over to the woman’s side and proceed to bowl her over, knocking her down as her life points dropped to 1300. “Next, I activate my trap card ‘Emergency Overlay’! With my three level two monsters, I build the Overlay Network, and XYZ Summon… ‘Ascent of Song’!”

The creature that appeared shocked both Xelnos and Miss K, whose mind had temporarily reclaimed control long enough to see the woman appear. The being in question was dressed like a diva, had short black hair and had no weapons whatsoever. Her stats were not very impressive: 900 attack and 700 defense for a Rank 2 Light/Spellcaster. “Since this is still my battle phase, I’ll have Ascent of Song attack, and by detaching one Exceed Material from her, I can negate the effects of one monster on the field and increase her attack power by the rank or level of that monster times 100, so Xelnos, I’m attacking you!”

Xelnos did not have time speak of his objection to it as he watched his demonic effigy lull down before dropping to the ground, a clef-shaped blade having appeared in her hand. The duelist looked spooked as his life points dropped to 2500.

“Melody…” Miss K whispered as she looked in the duel monster’s direction with teary eyes.

“Huh?” Tacey wondered, never having heard such a name from Miss K’s lips before.

“Melody?!?” the Aspect of Destruction let out. “How is that even possible?”

“Hold on a sec… who’s Melody?” Tacey asked, confused by how the two seemed unable to grasp what spooked both of them.

“One of the lost Ascent.” Xelnos explained. “The long-lost wife of Reveen… the one you know as Ascent Chosen Lord Magician. Only… this is just part of who she is.”

Tacey looked at the field. The best she could do now is end her turn and wait for more explanations.

“I… draw…” Miss K struggled to say before the mechanized creatures kicked in. “I… In… Initializing reveal of monster card ‘Qliphoth Scout’. End turn.”

Xelnos let out a sigh. “Still out of it.” He says before drawing his card. “I play the spell card ‘Darkworld Dealings’! Thanks to this, we all draw a card, as long as we discard one as well.” All three duelists drew from their decks. Tacey looked at the card she drew – Ascent Fusion – and decided to ditch the other card from her hand, ‘Chosen of Shackles’. Xelnos drew his card and immediately discarded it, while Miss K drew her card and send ‘Qliphoth Scout’ to the grave. “I end my turn.”

Tacey drew her next card and cringed as she noticed that it was ‘Chosen of Battle-Axe’. Given her current field, and what the Aspect told her, tributing Ascent of Song for it would make no sense. “The best I can do now… is attack.” She realized before looking at her opponents. Miss K had the lowest amount of life points, so her best bet would be against Xelnos… but with his remaining face-down card, she figured it could be a trap. “Miss K, I’m sorry… but I’m attacking you!”

The woman barely had time to brace herself as the monster struck her and knocked her down, her life points dropping to 400. “That’s all for now.”

Miss K stayed on the ground for a long moment before she picked herself up, her hands twitching as she drew her card. “Systems critical… initiate spell ‘Dark Factory of Mass Destruction’. Reclaiming ‘Qliphort Scout’ and ‘Qliphort Assembler’.

Tacey looked at the woman’s hand. With the two monsters in hand, she could Pendulum Summon anew, but had no other cards to summon… except with the face-down trap. “I’m not liking this one bit…”

“Placing Qliphort Assembler and Qliphort Scout’ in appropriate Pendulum Scales.” Miss K continued. “Activating ‘Call of the Haunted’. Special summon of Qliphorth Shell-“

“Denied!” Xelnos let out. “I activate ‘Dark Bribe’! Now, your trap is worthless, but you can draw a card instead.”

The machine-controlled woman drew her card, looked at it, then placed it on her deck. “Pendulum Summon initiated. ‘Special summon of ‘Qliphort Disk’ successful.”

Tacey looked on as a massive, flying saucer-like air carrier appeared on the field, its stats 2800 attack and 1000 defense for a level 7 monster appeared. “Another of those things?!?” she let out in shock.

“Qliphort Disk, lock-on target. Direct attack.” Miss K continued.

“Wait!” the yellow-haired girl let out as she watched the immense machine fire down at Xelnos, knocking him down and out, his life points dropping to 0. “Xelnos!”

“End turn.” Miss K said, her voice showing signs of fatigue, as if the one inside was losing the war against the machines.

The girl let out a heavy sigh as she pressed her hand against her deck. “It’s all or nothing… I draw!” she said before looking at the card. “Yes… just what I need!” Looking back at the woman, she made a defiant smile. “I didn’t figure your message out… but I’m going to save my friend here and now! I play the spell ‘Ascent Fusion’! By sending ‘Ascent of Song’ and ‘Chosen of Battle-Axe’ to the graveyard, I summon “Ascent Chosen Star Hero!”

A faint glimmer of light appeared in the woman’s eyes as she recognized the card, the one that looked so much like her.

“Next, I play the spell card ‘Revolution Helix’!” Tacey continued. “I banish ‘Chosen of Battle-Axe’ to increase Star-Hero’s attack power by Battle-Axe’s attack points!”

Tacey looked on with hope that the one last attack, which increased Star Hero’s normal 2900 to a massive 5500, would free Miss K’s mind. “Star Hero, attack Qliphoth Disk!”

A battle-axe shaped energy form appeared in Star Hero’s hands as the angelic creature charged at the Disk, dodging energy blasts before slicing the machine in twine, knocking what remained of the woman’s life points out.

“Miss K!” the You Show Duelist let out as she rushed towards her knocked-out guardian. “Are you alright?”

“Oh, she will be fine…” an older man’s voice was heard from nearby. “However, I can’t say the same for you.”

Tacey quickly turned around before feeling her duel disk shake as the auto-shuffle function began to go into override, spitting out cards at each shuffle. “Who are you and… what’s going on?!?”

“I am Kether…” the man let out as he removed his trench-coat, revealing a set of armor reminiscing to the design on the Qliphoth cards, but the color palette was reversed. “I am the voice of the divine… and your wish to bring Tierra to this world will not stand!”

The young woman looked over at the man and gasped as she recognized the man’s face. “It… it can’t be… dad?!?”
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Solid Experience, chapter 20
This is the longest chapter I've ever done for this story... and perhaps the second to last one chapter.

I tried to tie in the Terminal World story with this one, showing some aspects of the story through the cards. Also, given the references of the Qliphoth cards to both Bible and Kabbalah, I wanted to have the last 'boss' fight represent something of the sort, due to an idea of a made-up deck I had for a long while. In a sense, Tacey will end up fighting to save Miss K and Dan who were touched by the darkness of the modern world and Tierra who was made from technology as a weapon, against a force that took the one thing Tacey has left in the modern world - the memories of her father - and is using them to force her to choose.
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I just finished playing Tales of Xillia 2. I know there are several endings - one bad, one good, one best, and a couple post-game - but I decided to go for the 'best' ending.

Throughout the game, I wondered of the possibility behind the 'fractured dimensions' - worlds similar to our own, save for a single event that causes the fracture. We know that more as 'alternate dimensions', but in this case, the 'fracture' is a test from the Great Spirits to humanity: if the fractured dimensions would reach 1 million, all of humanity would be wiped out.

Still, the game also covers choices: that of siding with family over friends (bad ending), of doing what others expect (normal ending) or doing what you think benefits the greater good (best ending). The lines can often seem blurry or grey, so it doesn't always make choosing easy. Saying one thing over another can have people like or dislike you, and choosing whether to fight or negotiate can change lives.

The game has some odd ideas that work sometimes haphazardly, but the overall result is well executed, and the better endings lead to the possibility of a new world.
  • Mood: Noble

deviantID

mistylear
Sebastien
Artist | Hobbyist | Other
Canada
Current Residence: Montreal
deviantWEAR sizing preference: XL
Print preference: No real preference
Favourite genre of music: Broadband
Favourite style of art: I usually draw manga style, but without Photoshop
Operating System: Mediagrafx Picture Publisher
MP3 player of choice: iPod
Interests

Almost done with my Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfic. What should I write next? 

46%
6 deviants said A new 'Upon a Star'
31%
4 deviants said A new fanfic
8%
1 deviant said A process story
8%
1 deviant said Something in French (propose ideas)
8%
1 deviant said Other (comment with some ideas)

Comments


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:iconmegauploadrebel:
MegauploadRebel Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2014
question are you going to or use Qliphort Shell in a duel?
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:iconmistylear:
mistylear Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Maybe. We'll see.
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:iconmegauploadrebel:
MegauploadRebel Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2014
ok.
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:iconreliusmax:
Reliusmax Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2014
Thanks for the watch.
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:iconmistylear:
mistylear Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
My pleasure. I wanted to ask a commission, so I decided to DevWatch you in the process.
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:iconreliusmax:
Reliusmax Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2014
Ok no problem :)

When you want one just note me and we'll talk details.
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:iconmistylear:
mistylear Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
That's not the right effect. That effect belongs to Asuna.

Xelnos' stats and effect would be something like this:
Level 6, Dark/Fiend, 0/0
"This card cannot be destroyed in battle or by card effects. If the controller of this card takes damage from a battle with card, that damage is dealt to the opponent instead."

I'm also thinking of giving him a second form, with new stats and abilities later on.
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:iconmegauploadrebel:
MegauploadRebel Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014
a level monster?
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:iconmistylear:
mistylear Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
All the current Deities are level six and higher, each with different effects and abilities.
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