Chapter 1: Ordinary day

It was a normal day in Tokyo, with the sun high in the sky and no clouds to be seen. A boy felt the sun rays on his face, passing from the window of his bedroom, and woke up. His name was Yoshimitsu Hayashi. He had short fair hair and green eyes. His room had a bed, a chair, a desk with a computer, several chests of drawers, a wardrobe and some bookshelves stuffed with books and manga, which he was passionate about. He checked the clock.

"It's 7 o'clock! I should hurry...".

He brushed his teeth, washed his face and changed from his pajamas to his school uniform, a light gray jacket over a white shirt, and matching pants. He had just finished changing when his mother called from downstairs

"Yoshimitsu! Breakfast is ready!"

"I'm coming, mom!" he answered readily as he descended the stairs and came into the kitchen. His mother, who had shoulder long fair hair tied up in a tail and amber eyes, asked him in a gentle tone "How's it going? It hasn't been that much since school started, after all...".

Yoshimitsu laughed lightly and answered "Don't worry, mom. I'm slowly but steadily getting used to it again.".

His mother joked "Maybe with that you mean getting used to be waiting for the end of the year again!"

"Ahaha! Mom, please!" said Yoshimitsu with a laugh as he finished his breakfast. He then went to the door of their house, put on his shoes and headed off to high school.

"I'm leaving!" he said to his mother, and she told him "Take care!".

Fortunately, his high school wasn't very far away from home, and so, after ten minutes, he arrived in time.

In the Makuhari High School of the Chiba Prefecture, in his class, excitement was in the air, and Yoshimitsu was quick to notice it in the voices of his classmates as they greeted him while he headed to his desk.

"Oh, hi Hayashi-kun!"

This was routine, after all, but still, everyone looked more psyched than usual. He was about to reach his desk, when he was grabbed by the shoulder by a guy who told him, with a familiar voice and a grin "Wazzup, Yoshi!"

He had short, slightly spiky brown hair and matching brown eyes, Yoshimitsu recognized the voice, turned around and greeted his classmate back

"Hello, Zappa! How are you?".

"I'm fine, thanks! Have you heard?" Zappa asked his friend.

"I was about to ask you, in fact… What's going on?" the fair-haired boy asked back, with perplexity, eager to know the reason of the excitement in the class.

The answer to his doubts came shortly "We're about to have a new classmate!". The news surprised Yoshimitsu, and his classmate, enjoying the look of bewilderment sitting on his face, kept going "As you have most certainly noticed, everyone is curious to know who's it gonna be, and of course, that goes for me, Kurosawa Zappa, too!" as he put up a glory fist.

A classmate interrupted "Kurosawa-kun , Hayashi-kun, you should get to your desks, the teacher is coming!"

"Oh, thanks!" Yoshimitsu said with gratitude, as he got to his desk, followed up by Zappa.

Their homeroom teacher entered the room.

"Hello everyone! As you know, today a new student will join our class." he said, with a serious but still somewhat bright tune. Then, he turned to the classroom's door and said "Please, come in!".

A boy with spiky orange-red hair and brown-red eyes entered the classroom and bowed respectfully to everyone. Yoshimitsu turned to his friend and saw that there was a stunned, petrified look on his face. Then, the boy introduced himself with a bright smile after writing his name on the blackboard

"My name is Yamazaki Ryuuji, Nice to meet you!".

The teacher showed him to an empty desk, at Yoshimitsu's left side, while at his right side was Zappa's desk, and he sat right there. Then, the teacher said

"Well then, if there's nothing else, let's proceed with our lesson.". It was time for History class, a subject that Yoshimitsu enjoyed very much, alongside Philosophy. The teacher said, with a serious tone

"Now I will call a student to tell what did we do in the previous lesson, so that our new classmate may catch up. Hayashi Yoshimitsu! Stand up!". The boy was a bit startled by the call, but he did what he was told.

"Y-Yes sir?"

Two classmates behind him talked about him. One of them chuckled as he talked "Hehehe, it's always like this, Hayashi-kun is quite the shy guy.".

The other one replied "Yeah, but that doesn't change the fact that he is usually the best in our class in History. How will he go now, I wonder..."

Both Yoshimitsu and the teacher heard them, though Yoshimitsu understood what they were saying, and it made him feel more uncomfortable and nervous

"Silence!" the teacher shouted at the two students, before turning back to Yoshimitsu and questioning him

"Hayashi, have you been paying attention?"

"O-Of course, sir!" the student replied, before cleaning his throat and taking a deep breath, in order to ease himself up, and giving a clean answer to the teacher's inquiry.

"We had just begun to talk about Emperor Mutsuhito, also known as Emperor Meiji, who ruled Japan from 1867 to 1912 and, taking advantage of some Western knowledge, modernized the country, in order to make it able to stand up to Western nations, both economically and politically, thus creating the premises of the future massive growth of Japan!".

The teacher smiled at Yoshimitsu's performance "Excellent! Is there something else you can add?".

"Well, he was the one who broke the de-facto dual power system between Emperor and Shogunate which controlled Japan until then, and, to further ensure and celebrate the return of the Imperial power to its full extent, he transferred the capital from Kyoto to this city, Tokyo.".

"Outstanding! I expected nothing less from you. Sit back down, please." said the teacher. As Yoshimitsu sat down, his classmate behind him whispered to his fellow

"See?".

The rest of the day went quite smoothly, and then came break time.

Yoshimitsu, before leaving the classroom, decided to ask Zappa about his reaction to the newcomer's arrival, so he turned to him.

"Why were you so surprised to see that guy in here? Do you know him?".

"Yeah… You know that I play Force of Will, right?" his classmate replied, not fully answering his question, with a slightly nervous expression on his face.

"Yes?" the fair-haired boy replied, urging him to continue.

"Well..." Zappa added, embarrassedly "I challenged him to a card duel and he… Yeeeah, he thrashed me."

"Oh." Yoshimitsu replied in surprise. He had heard a lot about that card game, and knew that Zappa played it, but he never had a chance to try it, even though he had a deck.

"That's not all that bad, though." Zappa continued, a smirk making its way on his face "Since he entered our class, this will allow me to study him and finally have my rematch against him! He will fear the wrath of Zappa Kurosawa!". He then put up another dramatic glory fist, much to his friend's slight embarrassment, as he scratched his cheek with his index.

Ryuuji, however, had overheard the conversation and turned to the two.

"If I were you, I would further train my skills in the game, instead of getting any funny ideas like trying to studying me!" he suggested "There's not much that you can learn from me that way, y'know?".

Zappa was petrified, his mouth gaping wide in disbelief, as the satisfied new student got out of the class. As he walked out the door, Yoshimitsu thought

"But aren't duelists supposed to learn and improve from seeing how others do?" However, his train of thought was interrupted as he could see that Yamazaki was hiding a stack of cards in his uniform jacket. He followed him in the hallway and eventually caught up to him. He then shyly approached him and called his attention

"Um…".

The boy turned around and answered him happily "Yes?".

Yoshimitsu backed off a little, startled by his sudden turn, then he mustered up some courage and asked, in a low voice "You know it's not a good idea to take cards at school, right?".

Ryuuji laughed it off "Ahaha, so you've noticed my cards. Don't worry, I'm not using them. It's just a beacon for potential players!".

"A beacon?" asked the fair-haired boy

"Yes, I show those cards and bring them up as a topic to talk about with people that I think could enjoy the game I'm playing at."

"And in which you've destroyed my classmate, I've heard.".

Ryuuji scratched the back of his head and, with a grin, said "Yeah, he loved to show off even then, but sadly he wasn't really as good as he said himself to be." then, his enthusiastic gaze fell on his fellow student "Anyway, I have a feeling that you would like playing this game a lot, even more so now that I know that you're friends with that guy.".

"You think so?" asked Yoshimitsu, surprised.

Ryuuji happily answered "Absolutely! Tell me, have you played any trading card games before?" "No..." Yoshimitsu replied, scratching his arm bashfully "...But I love anime, manga and games, and so I heard about card games a lot, even though I never played one. In particular, I've followed a lot Force of Will, and I always check the news about it, since it's one of the most popular card games out there."

"Ooooh" said the red-haired boy. "So this is your first time playing a card game, eh?"

"Er… Yes." answered Yoshimitsu, a little embarassed.

Ryuuji, noticing his discomfort, chuckled as he decided to avoid teasing him any further and cut to the cheese. "Anyways, your name is Hayashi Yoshimitsu, right?" he asked, tending a hand to his new classmate

"Yes. I'm pleased to meet you, Yamazaki!" he answered, shaking Ryuuji's hand.

"The pleasure is all mine!" he replied, with an enthusiastic smile "And please, call me Ryuuji. So, I'm going to my hideout this afternoon, wanna join in?"

"Hideout?" Yoshimitsu asked, slight confusion plain to see on his face.

"It's the place where I train in this card game." the red-haired boy explained.

"Ohhh..." His classmate replied as he thought about it for a moment, "Well, I'm free this afternoon, so why not?" he concluded, as he ultimately accepted Ryuuji's offer, with a firm nod.

"Great!" Ryuuji exclaimed, excitedly "Don't worry, It won't be right after school. The name of the place is Yellow Submarine. You can't get wrong!".

"Yellow Submarine?" Yoshimitsu replied, as that name was familiar to him I"'ve heard a lot about that place..."

"Then it won't be a problem for you to reach it, I hope." Ryuuji retorted with unbridled enthusiasm, before heading off to the hallway "I'm looking forward to it!"

"See you soon!" said Yoshimitsu. However, as the fair-haired youth saw his fellow classmate off, he was unaware that a girl was approaching him from behind...