Responses to Reviews

Thank you to ZarcEternal, HunterHQ, SakushiRyu, Anonymous, Ambiguous, D3lph0xL0v3r, Ethan Kironus, Noobmaster, British jack, savagemaster1999, Jason, Visitor, electriuser, FlameFireZero X, Daniel, Jonah, TheBlazingButterfly777, and Guests for reviewing Chapter 62.

ZarcEternal: There are two Xyz archetypes where monsters grant effects as Xyz Material: Digital Bugs and Zoodiacs. But there are no archetypes that grant effects as Link Material, and the monsters that do also apply those same effects if used for Fusion, Synchro, or Xyz Summoning.

Noobmaster: Bohman's only synchronized with Mirror LINK VRAINS and by extension LINK VRAINS, not the entire network. So no, he can't access Ouroboros's servers or the Ark. They're on a closed system, and only certain individuals like the Enforcers and Anguis, and those they give permission to, can access it.

Okay, let's get on with Chapter 63. This took a long time to write, so I'm sorry if it's confusing.


Chapter 63: Fighting for the Past

In a black landscape, Morningstar and Zahhak stand back-to-back. The two walk away from each, Morningstar's eyes closed. His eyes then open and they both spin around, right arms raised. Their fists connect, generating a flash of light. When the light fades, Mirror LINK VRAINS is shown, with the title "Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS: Hidden Memories" overlaying it.

Yasutake, Sachi, and Masako are shown on one side of a picnic table, across from Yusaku, Takeru, and Aoi. Takeru talks animatedly and Masako laughs heartedly while the others lightly smile. At a nearby table, Cam and Emily are sitting and chatting with a standing Kusanagi, coffee and hotdogs in front of them. Back at the first table, Masako whispers in Sachi's ear while smirking, making the other girl blush as Yasutake and Aoi give her flat glares.

Kengo Dojun is standing in front of a grave that he places flowers on. Emma is off in the distance, holding her own flowers and watching with a frown. Yukaro is shown slumped over a hospital bed, his head in his hands and a wild look in his eyes. Akira is watching a monitor, his hands steepled and concern in his eyes. The monitor shows Go Onizuka strapped to a chair and performing an exercise. Hayami looks over Akira's shoulder nervously while Queen watches smugly in the background.

Takeshi and Katsumi appear standing outside an arcade, talking amicably with each other. Shizuka walks past them, listening to music on her headphones. She briefly stops and turns her head to look at them out of the corner of her eye, then turns and continues walking. At a nearby table, Kenshin, Ryoken, and Spectre are shown drinking coffee. Ryoken then smirks and raises his left hand. He snaps his fingers.

Morningstar and Playmaker appear, back-to-back, with Cyspirit Rapid Revolutionary and Decode Talker appearing behind them. They then spiral downward and are replaced by Cassiel and Soulburner, who have Cyseraph Blazing Uriel and Salamangreat Heatleo behind them. Heatleo fills the screen with orange flames, and when they dissipate, Blue Maiden and Lilith appear, Marincess Marbled Rock and Magical Musket Mastermind Ottokar behind them. They are then replaced by Galahad and Persephone, Black Luster Soldier – Soldier of Chaos and Malacoda, Netherlord of the Burning Abyss behind them.

The screen cuts to the interior of a palace, where Bohman sits cross legged, his eyes closed. His eyes open and glow. Windy is then shown, wearing a cape and eyepatch, riding Stormridership Bahamut Bomber through Mirror LINK VRAINS. Far below him, in a field of flowers, Jin Kusanagi stands with Lightning as the Ignis raises his hand, a legion of Armatos Legio Centurions and Decurions forming behind him, with Armatos Legio Magnus Dux in the center. The screen pans to show Diana and Goldie across from the Light Ignis. The duo sweeps their right arms to the side as VirtuaBeast Cryptograph Chimera appears and roars.

Techbane and Sylphid are shown back-to-back in shadows, their heads lowered. Techbane raises his head to face Merlin, while Sylphid raises hers to face Thaumiel, anger in her expression. Galahad appears riding his D-Board and plays a card. Black Luster Soldier – Soldier of Chaos appears behind him. The screen changes to Go Onizuka with Dinowrestler King T Wrextle next to him. Soldier of Chaos's blade then meets King T Wrextle's fist, making sparks fly. Galahad's and Go's faces are shown over the monsters, with Galahad shouting while Go's face remains blank.

Spectre appears and smirks, Sunavalon Dryanome growing behind him and two Sunvine Thrashers on either side. Terminus takes his place, Subterror Behemoth Fiendess and Subterror Behemoth Hydrossuary appearing behind him. The two monsters breathe blue flames and envelop the screen. When the flames dissipate, Revolver appears, Borreload Savage Dragon, Borreload Furious Dragon, and Borreload eXcharge Dragon behind him. The dragons roar and then glow with green, purple, and yellow energy.

A chain whips across the screen, before pulling back and reattaching the scythe top to its handle. Cydevil Prideful Helel swings its scythe down and connects with Cyspirit Savage Shogun's sword. Sparks fly as Morningstar and Zahhak are revealed on their D-Boards, facing each other with Morningstar's face set in a grimace. The screen changes to Cassiel, Cyseraph Guardian Michael with her, facing off against Merlin, who is supported by Witchcrafter Haine and Witchcrafter Golem Aruru.

Lilith and Terminus are then shown, back-to-back, their hands raised. They bring their hands down, and Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar and Subterror Behemoth Fiendess appear and shoot blasts of energy and fire. The blasts impact, but when the smoke fades, Jester is shown unharmed. His mask then breaks, his face splitting into a sadistic grin as his Infinity Transformation takes hold. He raises his own arm as Life Force Trihexa forms behind him and roars.

Morningstar and Zahhak face off against each other in a field of flowers. The former raises his arm as Cyspirits Savage Shogun, Cosmic Crusader, and Martial Mameluke materialize behind him. The three Cyspirits then merge and form Cyspirit Superior Seraphim, who faces off against a massive twelve-winged figure wrapped in shadows.

Yasutake is then shown with Sachi, the two on a hill of grass and the former sleeping with his head in the latter's lap, a pine tree in the background. Sachi looks down on Yasutake's face, a loving smile on her face. Yasutake opens his eyes and both look upwards as the screen jumps to the sky and sun.


6 years ago…

"I must say, I was surprised to receive a call from one of your nationality, mister…"

"Napier. Jack Napier. And I suppose it is surprising, but I've been living in Japan for a few years now. You can consider me taking on one of these children to be my good deed to society."

"…I suppose so, but are you certain you want him? He's been a troublemaker ever since he got here. Though I suppose that's to be expected, given his parentage."

Jack's right eyebrow twitched. The matron didn't notice as she led him down the orphanage's hallway. "Well, I was an orphan myself, and admittedly a rascal too. If I can lead a similar child onto the proper path, then I will consider it worthwhile." If anyone else had said something so insincere, he suspected it would have been obvious. For him, though…

"If that is the case, then you have my thanks. Mine and the rest of the staff."

"If you don't mind me asking, what kind of trouble has he gotten into?"

The matron sighed. "A little bit of everything. He picks fights with the other kids, steals from them, pulls pranks on them… Once he was even brought back here by a truancy officer! Can you imagine?"

His opinion of the asinine woman continued to drop. However, he kept up the smile and followed her to a certain room. She knocked on the door.

"Young Kaizo," she said. "You have a visitor." Instead of waiting for a response, she opened the door, letting herself and Jack in.

The room was small, with a single bed, desk, and closet. Sitting at the desk was a boy with dark brown hair. His eyes narrowed as they focused on Jack.

"Who's the gaijin?" he asked.

"Kaizo!" the matron snapped. "Be polite."

Jack chuckled. "Do not worry, I am not offended. To answer your question, young Kaizo, my name is Jack Napier, and I was hoping to speak to you. In private."

The matron shuffled. "Are you sure, Mr. Napier? He is-."

"I'm sure," Jack said with a smile. He had seen the boy shift at the mention of his name. "Please?"

"…Very well." The woman stepped out and closed the door, leaving Jack alone with Kaizo.

The boy opened his mouth, but Jack held up a finger to his lips. He pulled a phone out of the pocket of his overcoat and put it on the bed before sitting next to it. He unlocked the phone and then pressed a button.

"Sweet dreams are made of this. Who am I to disagree? I travel the world…"

Kaizo raised an eyebrow as the British music filled the air. "To keep us from being overheard," Jack explained.

Kaizo scoffed. "Whatever you say, 'Mr. Napier.' So what's your real name?"

Jack smirked. Ah, it seemed the boy had seen that movie. He was wondering when he would get called out on it. "Jack Napier is fine for now, but if you want, you can call me Jester."

"Jester?" Kaizo repeated disbelievingly. "Who names their kid that?"

"The kind who wants their child to either end up in comedy, or in tragedy." Jester's smirk widened. "Just as I imagine any mother who names their son Kaizo wants him to one day hack into a multinational corporation."

Kaizo's eyes widened and darted to the side before he got his expression under control. But it was enough for Jester. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Jester chuckled. "No need for that, Kaizo. I work for Alba Research, and a month ago, we experienced a data breach in our Japanese office. It took a while to track the one responsible; even more so when we found out it was done from a public computer. But after all that, I felt I had to meet the 12-year-old who broke our encryption."

"Are you here to arrest me?" Kaizo asked. There was aggression there but also curiosity. And a tinge of fear, covered by bravado.

"Hardly. What I am here for depends on how you answer my next question." Jester dipped his head and looked the boy in the eye. "Why did you hack into our computers?"

The boy's eyes shifted to either side, not meeting Jester's gaze. He could see Kaizo think about his response, about what he wanted to say. Whether he should lie or tell the truth. In the end, after almost a minute of deliberation, Kaizo made his decision and met Jester's eyes.

"Because I wanted to," the boy answered simply. "I wanted to see if I could do it."

"Oh?" Jester raised an eyebrow. "So you caused significant damage to my company because… you wanted the challenge of breaking our firewall?"

"…Yes." Kaizo meet his eyes defiantly, refusing to yield.

Until Jester chuckled. "Good answer."

"What?" Kaizo blinked as the older man kept laughing. In the background, the song changed.

"Every time that I look in the mirror… All these lines on my face getting clearer…"

The man's chuckles subsided as he looked over Kaizo. "I have told the matron I wish to adopt you." The boy blinked again. "I have already filled out the paperwork. We can leave whenever you want."

"W-What?" Kaizo sputtered. "What do you mean you adopted me? Aren't you going to arrest me?"

"And let such talent go to waste? We do not destroy what we can use." Jester smirked at him. "You have a talent, Kaizo Takekura. To hack into our company at the age of 12… You would make a valuable asset for us. But beyond that… aren't you sick of this place?"

Kaizo blinked. "You're bored, aren't you? Bored by the other children, bored by the staff, bored by the rules they have put in place." Jester held out a hand. "What I offer you is a challenge. Work with me, with us, and you will never be bored ever again. That I promise you."

Kaizo stared at the hand. And then a sneer spread across his face and he chuckled. He took the man's hand. "Where do I sign up?"


Present day…

Playmaker looked around. "Everyone, can you hear me?"

"I hear you," Morningstar reported. The others gave similar affirmations.

"Let's split apart and search for Lightning," Playmaker suggested.

"With Ouroboros's Enforcers and Lightning's own team, it would be better for us to split into pairs," Revolver argued.

Playmaker opened his mouth but turned before he could respond. To his surprise, the world had briefly glitched.

His eyes widened as everything started shaking. "W-What's this?" Ai wondered, his voice vibrating.

"It's LINK VRAINS," Kusanagi told him. "It's realigning; the entrance to Mirror LINK VRAINS is closing!"

"Outside connections are about to shut down!" Morningstar realized. "We'll be on our own from now on."

Playmaker grit his teeth as Morningstar's prediction came true and he lost Kusanagi's signal. His frustration turned to panic when the flame on his D-Board sputtered out and he began falling.

"There's less Data Material!" Ai reported.

"We can't maintain our course!" Cypher said.

All ten D-Boards fell through the air, their duelists desperately holding onto the boards. Morningstar, gritting his teeth, watched as a nearby island got closer and closer until-.

He braced himself and launched himself forward, kicking off the D-Board. He hit the ground and somersaulted to bleed off his momentum. When he came to a stop, he looked up and took in his surroundings.

"Well… I haven't seen a VRAINS environment like this before," Cypher noted, his gaze following his partner's. The two had landed in the courtyard of what looked like a Shinto shrine.

"If this place is a copy of LINK VRAINS, then this environment must also exist there," Morningstar theorized. "Cypher, can you contact the others?"

"Hmm… Nope. Whatever cut off outside communications also cut off internal comms."

Morningstar frowned. "This is Lightning's handiwork. Well, we'll just have to hope the others are okay."

Fortunately, the others were indeed fine, though they had suffered a few bruises along the way. Cassiel frowned as she looked around the forest of pine trees she had fallen into. She ran a hand through her hair and dislodged the pine needles that had gotten stuck there.

"Be safe, Morningstar," she muttered.

Terminus frowned at the walkways around him. He had landed on several islands connected to each other by thin bridges, but no other decorations.

Persephone moaned and rubbed her head as she glared up at the distant cliff she had just fallen from. Now she was at the bottom of a gulch with no idea where she was.

Lilith pushed herself up out of the grass and looked over the lake in front of her. She had landed in the middle of a large clearing encompassing the lake. Looking up, she frowned at the higher islands. "Great," she muttered. "Just great." Her frown deepened at the light show that formed around the island.

Morningstar narrowed his eyes at a similar light show. "A barrier program. Cypher, can you get past it?"

"Hmph. Who do you think I am?" Cypher held out his hands and sent out two bolts of silver lightning. The lightning tore through the wall, but as soon as the lightning faded, the holes sealed themselves. "Well… that's new."

"Cypher?"

"This program is self-healing," the Silver Ignis explained. "At a very fast rate, too. Not Lightning's work, certainly. Maybe Bohman's? Or Ouroboros's? Either way, if I wanted to break it, I'd have to destroy it all at once. I can do that, but it would take a lot out of me and leave me weakened."

Morningstar frowned. "Then don't do it. Lightning might be counting on you exhausting yourself against this barrier. I'd rather have you at full strength for whatever they have planned."

"Got it."


"Why do we have to do all this work?" Windy asked. He stood with Lightning and their avatars in the central palace, observing the ten duelists that intruded in Mirror LINK VRAINS. Jester, Zahhak, Thaumiel, Merlin and Techbane stood across from the two Ignis.

"Humans have a strange power called bonds," Lightning answered. "When they're together, they unleash a power we must not underestimate it. Isn't that right, Zahhak?"

"Bonds are not limited to humans," Zahhak said. "But I see your plan: you separated them to keep any of them from helping the others. And so you can take them out one by one."

"Exactly," Lightning confirmed. "They outnumber us ten to eight, so we need to be careful and defeat them one at a time."

"That will drag this whole endeavor out significantly," Jester pointed out. "They have allies on the outside. Are you willing to give them the time to hack into Mirror LINK VRAINS?"

"The coding of Mirror LINK VRAINS is secure from them," Lightning said. "And even if they succeed, by then it will be too late; Bohman is already synced with LINK VRAINS. All he needs now are the other Ignis."

"And before we take Soulburner, Blue Maiden, Playmaker, and Morningstar out, we'll make them watch their friends get defeated one-by-one," Windy said gleefully. "Make them feel fear and humiliation."

Thaumiel chuckled. "I can agree to that plan."

"But at the same time, such an approach will make them aware of our plan," Lightning countered.

"Will them knowing about it change anything at this point?" Windy asked.

Lightning considered it and then shrugged. "True enough. It'll be advantageous if we can break their confidence."

"Then it's a good thing I just captured these two." Windy raised a finger and made it glow. Frog and Pigeon materialized in front of him, hugging each other. The two fell to the ground with a scream.

"Boss! Who are these people?" Pigeon asked.

"How should I know?!" Frog shot back.

Techbane frowned as he recognized the duo. "Merlin," he whispered. The older man turned his head. "Those two are reporters. They'll undoubtedly upload anything they record once this is all over. Won't that risk exposing Ouroboros?"

Merlin blinked and then smiled comfortingly. "Don't worry, Techbane. Ouroboros has lasted a long time. We have a few tricks to keep from being exposed."

Meanwhile, Windy's and Lightning's attention had remained on the reporter duo. "We're not people," the Wind Ignis corrected them, his annoyance clear. "We're Ignis."

"Our enemy kidnapped us?" Pigeon asked.

"Exactly. You will work for us."

"Don't underestimate us!" Frog said. "W-We won't work for the enemy!" Despite his brave words, his body was shaking.

"How admirable," Lightning said in amusement.

"And unnecessary," Jester broke in. The duo turned to the human, who snapped his gloved fingers. Frog and Pigeon gasped as collars formed around their necks.

"W-What is this?"

"Did you have to do that?" Windy asked Jester. "I wanted to put those on!"

"We can't let you have all the fun, can we?" Jester asked mockingly. He turned his masked gaze back to the duo, who shrunk back. "If you disobey any orders I, Windy, or Lightning give you… those collars will erase your avatars. Quite painfully too."

The duo screamed at the threat. "I'll do it," Frog pleaded. "I'll do anything."

"Boss!" Pigeon protested.

"While there's a scoop, there's hope!" Frog reassured him.

"The phrase is 'While there's life, there's hope!'" Pigeon corrected him.

"Broadcast what we do," Windy ordered. "The ones who brought you here will watch and fall into despair as we defeat them."

"Y-Yes sir!" Windy snapped his fingers and the duo disappeared.

"Well, I suppose the only thing left is to decide who goes first," Windy said. He turned to the Enforcers. "How about one of you goes first?"

Jester shrugged. "I don't see why not."

Zahhak turned away from them. "And where are you going?" Thaumiel demanded.

"To duel Cassiel," the armored man answered simply. "She and Morningstar are the only ones here that concern me. The others are only curiosities."

Merlin frowned. "While I understand why you want to duel her, I'm afraid I must disagree, Zahhak. My own duel with Cassiel ended in a draw. As a professional, I would like to remedy that."

"I don't care about Cassiel or Morningstar," Thaumiel interjected. "But I will have my revenge, and I am tired of waiting."

Lightning watched curiously as the tension increased between the Enforcers. Was this a sign of them breaking apart? If so, could he use this to eliminate them early?

Jester stepped forward. "Now now, we know Jormungand wouldn't want us to fight over this. And all of you know that there's an established means to solving disputes of this nature."

Zahhak lowered his head slightly. "Yes… I suppose there is. Will you be challenging us as well, Jester?"

The other masked Enforcer shrugged. "I might as well."

Lightning's interest increased as the four Enforcers stood in a circle, their postures changing so that they were leaning forward on their left feet. He supposed it made sense for Ouroboros to have a designated way to solve arguments between their members. But what method was it? Would they duel each other for the right to duel Playmaker's team? If so, he could eliminate most of them here and now just through Mirror LINK VRAINS' rules, and-.

"Rock!"

Lightning blinked as the four men brought their right hands forward, then retracted them.

"Paper!" They repeated the action. "Scissors!" Another repetition. "Shoot!" The four held out their hands. All of them had chosen rock.

"Tch," Zahhak grunted. "A tie."

"Go again," Thaumiel said simply.

Lightning watched in bemusement as the four Enforcers, two of whom were among the strongest duelists he'd ever seen, played a hand game to decide who would duel first. He glanced to the side and saw that Techbane was watching with a similar expression. The Light Ignis couldn't help but feel a sense of commiseration with the bounty hunter. He then ruthlessly squashed that feeling; he couldn't afford any sympathy for humans, no matter how much it was earned.

Windy didn't share Lightning's confusion. Instead, the Wind Ignis was openly chuckling at the display.

"Rock! Paper! Scissors! Shoot!" This time, three were paper, and one was scissors. "Ha!" Thaumiel crowed in victory. "Scissors cuts paper! I go first!"

Merlin sighed in disappointment. "Oh well. I suppose this means the rest of us will decide among ourselves who we get?"

Zahhak grunted as his hand fell to his side. "Of course. Though I suspect I'll be dueling Morningstar in the end anyway."

Jester chuckled. "Have some faith in your fellow Enforcers, Zahhak. I know that if I get the chance, I won't let him get an easy win like last time."

"Enough talk," Thaumiel said. "I am going first. And I already know who my opponent will be."


Playmaker tensed and turned around as a sphere formed in the air above him. The sphere showed an image of a girl standing by a lake. Across Mirror LINK VRAINS, similar spheres appeared above the others, save for the girl at the lake.

"That's Lilith," Playmaker realized.

"Why her?" Ai wondered. "And who's broadcasting this?"

Terminus narrowed his eyes at the projection. "Light Ignis. What do you have planned?"

Lilith tensed and spun around. She watched as the air twisted and reformed into a masked man in white and purple robes. Her eyes narrowed. "Thaumiel."

The man chuckled. "Indeed. It's good to see you again after all this time, Lilith. At least, it would be if you were anyone else."

"Film this! Film what this guy does!"

"Ugh… Understood."

Lilith glanced up and saw Frog and Pigeon hovering in the air. "Where is everyone else?" she asked. "Are they okay?"

"Worried about them? You shouldn't be; we're going to wipe you out one by one. And lucky you. You get to go first."

Morningstar frowned. "So Lilith will be dueling first. And against Thaumiel…"

"She beat him once before," Cypher reminded him. "Even if it's difficult, she can win again."

"Be careful, Lilith," Cassiel whispered. On their own islands, Terminus and Revolver frowned and clenched their fists.

Lilith frowned at the man who stood with the forest to his back. "I knew that when I came to this place, I would have to duel you again. You're the main reason I joined up with the others for this fight."

"Oh? So you're here because of me? I'm flattered. But if experience has taught me anything, it's that we make a terrible couple."

"No argument there. But before we start, there's something I have to know." Her eyes narrowed further. "How long have you been an Enforcer, Kaizo?"

Thaumiel stiffened but then chuckled. "Riling me up that way won't work, Masako," he said cheerily. "It worked for Terminus because it was unexpected, but since I know you know, it won't work. As for your question… six years about."

"So it was Ouroboros who was really behind the Breaking of Osaka?"

Thaumiel chuckled again. "Yes and no. Yes, in that I was required to make a distraction. No in the sense that I chose the method of distraction myself."

"Distraction?" Lilith repeated. "Distraction from what?"

"Ah ah, that would be telling, Lilith," Thaumiel said teasingly, wagging his finger. "All you need to know is that I am here, right now."

"Yes. You are. So why are you helping Lightning? You don't strike me as someone who wants an AI overlord."

Thaumiel laughed. "Oh, I don't know; being ruled by an AI doesn't sound too bad. But aside from that, and aside from helping the other Enforcers, I'm here for you."

"For me?"

"Yes." Thaumiel's voice lowered. "Have you forgotten what I said before, Masako? You'll never be free of me. It seems the reverse is true: I'll never be free of you either. For the last two years, our fates have been intertwined. This game of cat and mouse between us… it's never going to end. I will always seek my revenge, and you will always seek to stop me."

"This will have an end," Lilith argued. "It will end when you are arrested again."

"I was arrested before and placed in maximum security; if you're going to threaten me you should try a more believable threat. But you're right. This will have an end. And it will end here, with your erasure."

Lilith narrowed her eyes and raised her Duel Disk, her actions mirroring Thaumiel's.

"Duel!"

Lilith: 4000 LP

Thaumiel: 4000 LP

"I will take the first turn. By reducing its Level to 4 and its original attack points to 1800, I can Normal Summon Qliphort Stealth without Tributing!" A transparent air machine with a visible gray jewel appeared.

Qliphort Stealth ATK 2800→1800 DEF 1000 LVL: 8→4 PS: 1

"I activate the Equip Spell Card: Saqlifice and equip it to Stealth! While Saqlifice is equipped, Stealth gains 300 attack points, cannot be destroyed by battle, and can be treated as two Tributes for the Tribute Summon of a 'Qli' monster."

Qliphort Stealth ATK 1800→2100

"I activate the Field Spell Card: Laser Qlip! The Normal Summons of my 'Qli' monsters cannot be negated, and during my Main Phase, I can Normal Summon an additional 'Qli' monster. I Tribute the Stealth treated as two Tributes to Tribute Summon Qliphort Disk!" A circular ship with a blue gem atop it took the transparent jet's place.

Qliphort Disk ATK 2800 DEF 1000 LVL: 7 PS: 1

"Disk's effect activates! When it is Tribute Summoned using a 'Qli' monster, I can Special Summon two 'Qli' monsters from my Deck. Come, Qliphort Carrier and Qliphort Helix!" An orange and white floating carrier with a green gem appeared, along with a beige spiral attached to a boat with a yellow gem. Both monsters floated in Attack Position.

Qliphort Carrier ATK 2400 DEF 1000 LVL: 6 PS: 1

Qliphort Helix ATK 2400 DEF 1000 LVL: 6 PS: 9

"The monsters Special Summoned by Disk's effect will be destroyed during the End Phase. And since Carrier and Helix were Special Summoned, their original attack points become 1800 and their Levels become 4."

Qliphort Carrier ATK 2400→1800 LVL: 6→4

Qliphort Helix ATK 2400→1800 LVL: 6→4

"Since Saqlifice was sent to the Graveyard when I Tributed Stealth, I can add a 'Qli' monster from my Deck to my hand." Thaumiel took a card from his Deck and chuckled. "I think you know me well enough to know what this card is, right Masako?"

Lilith narrowed her eyes. "Pendulum…"

"That's right. I set the Scale 9 Qliphort Scout in my Pendulum Zone!" A blue pillar appeared on Thaumiel's left, and a long and thin ship with a yellow crystal rose inside it, a stylized "9" beneath it.

Qliphort Scout Scale 9

"Scout's Pendulum effect activates! Once per turn, I pay 800 Life Points to add a 'Qli' card from my Deck to my hand."

Thaumiel: 4000→3200 LP

Thaumiel took the card from his Deck and then played it. "I set the Scale 1 Qliphort Monolith in the Pendulum Zone!" Another blue pillar appeared on the other side of Thaumiel's field. This one held a stone tablet with a violet jewel embedded in it. A stylized "1" formed beneath the tablet.

Qliphort Monolith Scale 1

Revolver narrowed his eyes. "A complete Pendulum Scale."

"With that, he can Pendulum Summon monsters between Levels 2 and 8," Flame said.

"But it isn't to his advantage to do so," Soulburner pointed out. "His monsters have effects that weaken them when they're Special Summoned."

"True. But I suspect such a weakness won't bother him too much."

"Appear, the circuit of the ancient machine! The summoning conditions are two Machine monsters. I set Carrier and Helix in the Link Markers!" The two flying machines entered the bottom-left and bottom-right arrows. "Link Summon! Appear! Link-2! Qliphort Genius!" An oval-shaped machine emerged from the portal at the right Extra Monster Zone, a jewel in its center. The jewel broke apart, allowing a dark figure to appear.

Qliphort Genius ATK 1800 LINK-2 ↙↘

Lilith grit her teeth. This wasn't good.

"Normally, I can only Pendulum Summon one monster from the Extra Deck at a time. But thanks to Genius having two Link Markers, I can Pendulum Summon two! With the set Pendulum Scale, I Pendulum Summon! Come forth, my servants! From the Extra Deck, Qliphort Carrier and Qliphort Helix!" The two flying machines reappeared at Genius's bottom-left and bottom-right arrows respectively, both in Attack Position.

Qliphort Carrier ATK 2400→1800 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 1

Qliphort Helix ATK 2400→1800 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 9

"Genius's effect activates! When two monsters are Special Summoned to its Link Markers at the same time, I can add a Level 5 or higher Machine monster from my Deck to my hand. I'll add Qliphort Shell to my hand. I Set one card. I end my turn."

Thaumiel gestured to the side. "Qliphort Monolith's Pendulum effect activates! During the End Phase, I draw cards equal to the number of 'Qli' monsters I Tributed for Tribute Summons this turn. I Tributed one, so I draw one card."

Lilith frowned. A Set card, a Field Spell, set Pendulum Scales, and four monsters, three with 1800 attack points and one with 2800. Issei isn't holding anything back.

"If he's doing his best to defeat me, then it's only proper I respond in turn," she muttered. "My turn! Draw! I summon Magical Musketeer Kidbrave!" A young man in a cowboy jacket appeared, spinning a revolver in his left hand.

Magical Musketeer Kidbrave ATK 1600 DEF 200 LVL: 3

"So long as I control Kidbrave, I can activate 'Magical Musket' Spell and Trap Cards from my hand during either player's turn. I activate the Continuous Trap Card: Magical Musket – Fiendish Deal! While this card is on the field, my 'Magical Musket' monsters cannot be destroyed by card effects. Kidbrave's effect activates! When a Spell or Trap Card is activated in its column, I can discard a 'Magical Musket' card to draw two cards."

Lilith discarded and drew, then raised her hand. "Appear, the circuit of the devil's bullet! The summoning condition is one Level 8 or lower 'Magical Musket' monster. I set Kidbrave in the Link Marker!" Her monster entered the bottom arrow. "Link Summon! Appear! Link-1! Magical Musketeer Max!" A man wearing black leather emerged at the Extra Monster Zone, a scarf around his neck and a rifle in his hands.

Magical Musketeer Max ATK 1000 LINK-1

"That's right," Thaumiel breathed. "In addition to that Link-3 of yours, you've included a Link-1 monster. And its effect is rather… annoying."

"Max's effect activates! When it is Link Summoned, I can activate one of two effects. I activate its second effect!" Lilith smirked. "I now Special Summon 'Magical Musket' monsters from my Deck, up to the number of Spell and Trap Cards you control!"

"What?!"

"Thaumiel has three cards in his Spell & Trap Zone, and one card in the Field Zone," Ai said.

"So Lilith can summon up to four monsters at once," Playmaker realized.

"Come to me, Magical Musketeer Caspar, Magical Musketeer Doc, Magical Musketeer Starfire, and Magical Musketeer Wild!" Four human figures appeared on her field. The first was a blonde man in red holding a large handgun in Defense Position. The second was a bespectacled man in a white coat holding a sniper rifle in Attack Position. The third was a veiled woman in a black, blue, and white dancer's outfit holding a Derringer in her right hand in Defense Position. The last was a barechested muscular long-haired man in leather pants with ammunition belts crossing his chest and numerous missile launchers and heavy guns attached to his shoulders and arms, who stood in Attack Position.

Magical Musketeer Caspar ATK 1200 DEF 2000 LVL: 3

Magical Musketeer Doc ATK 1400 DEF 1200 LVL: 3

Magical Musketeer Starfire ATK 1300 DEF 1700 LVL: 4

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 1700 DEF 900 LVL: 4

"Four monsters at once," Thaumiel muttered. "Even if they aren't strong enough to defeat my monsters, their effects are still troublesome."

"I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Steady Hands! This card targets a 'Magical Musket' monster and makes its attack and defense points equal to twice its original attack and defense points until the end of the turn. I target Doc and double his attack and defense points!"

Magical Musketeer Doc ATK 1400→2800 DEF 1200→2400

"Doc's effect activates! When a Spell or Trap Card is activated in his column, I can add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Graveyard to my hand." Lilith took the card, then played it. "I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Cross-Domination! Since I control a 'Magical Musket' monster, one monster has its effects negated and its attack and defense points become 0."

"Genius is unaffected by Spell and Trap effects," Thaumiel told her.

"Genius wasn't my target. My target is Disk!" Said aircraft lost its coloring at her words.

Qliphort Disk ATK 2800→0 DEF 1000→0

"Caspar's effect activates! When a Spell or Trap Card is activated in his column, I can add a new 'Magical Musket' card from my Deck to my hand. I add Magical Musket Showdown to my hand. I then activate the Field Spell Card: Magical Musket Showdown! When this card is activated, I can add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Deck to my hand."

Lilith took the card from her Deck and then gestured to her field. "I activate Showdown's additional effect! Once per turn, I can Normal Summon a 'Magical Musket' monster!"

"Oh? It's seems you're copying my Laser Qlip."

The girl frowned at the comparison. "Our cards are similar," she allowed. "But I would say mine is superior. By Tributing Max, I Tribute Summon Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel!" The man with the rifle broke apart and a pillar of light erupted from Lilith's field. A man in a black trench coat with red wings sprouting from his back emerged from the pillar and laughed, two handguns held in his hands and a red mask covering his eyes.

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel ATK 2500 DEF 2500 LVL: 8

"Your ace monster," Thaumiel muttered.

Blue Maiden smiled. "She brought out her ace monster."

"And with Disk's attack points reduced to 0, Zakiel is the strongest monster on the field," Aqua analyzed.

"I activate the Trap Card: Magical Musket – Desperado from my hand!" Lilith declared. "Since I control a 'Magical Musket' monster, I can destroy a face-up card on the field. I destroy Qliphort Scout!" Thaumiel growled as one of his blue pillars disappeared.

"Smart move," Revolver said.

"With Scout gone, Thaumiel can no longer add new cards to his hand," Morningstar said.

"Nor can he Pendulum Summon," Cypher added. His eyes narrowed. "Though I don't know how long that will last."

"Wild's effect activates! When a Spell or Trap Card is activated in its column, I can shuffle three 'Magical Musket' cards in my Graveyard into my Deck and then draw one card. I return Kidbrave, Cross-Domination, and Max to my Deck and Extra Deck."

Lilith placed the three cards into her Deck and then drew. "Battle! Zakiel attacks Genius! Seventh Bullet!" The fiend laughed as he charged his guns. The guns fired yellow beams and tore through the broken machine. Thaumiel winced and shielded his face as his Link Monster exploded.

Thaumiel: 3200→2500 LP

"Yes!" Soulburner cheered. "She destroyed his Link Monster!"

"If Wild destroys Disk and Doc destroys one of Thaumiel's other monsters," Flame said, "Thaumiel will take 2700 points of damage. Lilith will win."

"Doc attacks Carrier!" Lilith declared. "Third Bullet!" The man hefted his sniper rifle and pulled the trigger, shooting a beam of energy at the orange and white airship.

Thaumiel gestured to his field. "Continuous Trap activate! Broken Qlinch!" The card showed Qliphort Cephalopod attached to Apoqliphort Skybase by several clamps. Only those clamps were severely damaged and biting down on Cephalopod's side. "The first time each turn my 'Qli' monsters would be destroyed by battle, they aren't destroyed! And if your Special Summoned monster battles my 'Qli' monster, I take no battle damage!"

"What?" Lilith gasped. A barrier of green light formed around Carrier and dispersed Doc's attack. The girl grit her teeth. "I should have expected you to have a Trap like that Set."

Thaumiel chuckled. "What can I say; I aim to please."

"Why didn't he activate that card when Genius was attacked?" Ai wondered.

"Because it wouldn't have helped," Playmaker explained. "Broken Qlinch only reduces damage from battles involving Lilith's Special Summoned monsters, and Zakiel was Normal Summoned. In addition, Genius was unaffected by Spell and Trap effects, so Broken Qlinch couldn't have prevented its destruction."

"Oh! I see!"

"If I can't defeat you, then I'll just prepare for you!" Lilith said. "I activate the Spell Card: Magical Mallet! I shuffle any number of cards from my hand into my Deck, then draw the same number of cards. I'll shuffle all three into the Deck, then draw three cards!" Lilith returned her cards to her Deck, then drew again. "I Set one card. I end my turn."

"And during the End Phase, Cross-Domination's and Steady Hands' effects end," Thaumiel reminded her. "So Disk's and Doc's attack and defense points return to normal."

Magical Musketeer Doc ATK 2800→1400 DEF 2400→1200

Qliphort Disk: ATK 0→2800 DEF 0→1000

Thaumiel chuckled. "You did more than you managed in our last duel. For that, I am impressed. But you will change nothing. I have worked too hard for my achievements to be invalidated by you."


3 years ago…

"Another successful mission, Adam." The youth smiled at the praise the masked man gave him. "Your hacking skills are prodigious compared to mine; at the age of fifteen, you're already one of the best hackers in Ouroboros. Under Jormungand's tutelage, you've only gotten stronger."

Adam couldn't help but preen under the praise; he'd been surprised to discover Jester worked for a secret group called Ouroboros, and even more surprised when he found out his boss, or Anguis, was an AI. That same AI let him test himself against various challenges and tests, and a year ago, had even made him an Enforcer. Enforcer No. X, as opposed to Jester's Enforcer No. XIII. Of course, the numbers had no meaning of rank; all Enforcers were equal. With the sole exception being the No. I.

"Indeed, such a success must be celebrated." Adam turned as Jormungand walked up to him, flanked by two others. One was a man in black and red armor, and the other was a visor-wearing woman in a black and green jumpsuit. "Thanks to your distraction Adam, Zahhak and Diana were able to infiltrate Kothari Industries' servers and steal the information. They would not have achieved it without you."

Diana frowned and though her eyes was hidden, Adam could tell she was glaring at him. "And yet his 'distraction' was excessive. Kothari Industries will be in chaos for months to come, and the media storm has led to several employees losing their jobs."

"Regrettable, but acceptable casualties," Jester said dismissively. "The chaos worked in our favor, and we didn't even have to kill anyone."

Diana frowned at that, but Adam didn't know why she was so uncomfortable about his work. He succeeded, didn't he? What did it matter what happened to the faceless masses? They were sheep, guided by institutions. Only he, Jormungand, and the Enforcers saw the world for what it really was: a chaotic mess where opportunity lied. And what was wrong about exploiting that opportunity? What was wrong with peeling away the layers of lies and deceit that these companies profited off of?

"Jester is right," Jormungand said. "The damage done was within an acceptable range. More importantly, I have new missions for all of you."

"Oh?" Adam raised an eyebrow. "What are they?"

"A company called Systech Engineering, based in Osaka, is supposedly working on an… 'unconventional' AI. What this means, I don't know. It will be Zahhak's mission to retrieve the research. Adam, your mission will be to clear the way for him."

Adam smirked. "Gladly."

"Jester, I received a request for you from the Second Anguis. She needs you in Spain in a few days."

"Spain, huh?" Jester muttered. "Very well; Vita's always been interesting to work with. Don't cause too much trouble for Jormungand, Adam."

Adam chuckled. "But trouble is what I do best."

Jester chuckled and logged out, followed by Adam, leaving Jormungand with Diana and Zahhak.

"Jormungand, sir, I am concerned about Adam," Diana spoke up. "It is not just his performance against Kothari Industries; his actions in the missions prior to that one also showed a disregard for the consequences."

"I agree," Zahhak said. "Adam is a loose cannon. Jester's encouragement of his behavior is not helping."

Jormungand sighed. "I know what the two of you are talking about, and yes, I am concerned. But Jester trusts him, and I trust both of them. I cannot show preferential treatment to my Enforcers." Zahhak scoffed. "Well… not too much preferential treatment." His mouth thinned. "In any case, Adam is the best Enforcer at what he does, and he has a role in the Final Ascension Plan. Until that role is completed, he has my trust."

Diana frowned. She knew that Jormungand wanted to believe the best of the Enforcers, and yet…

"But that doesn't mean I am blind to his faults." The Anguis turned to her. "Diana, this is your mission: While Adam is in Osaka, you keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't do anything too excessive. Until the Cyspirits and Cyangels are found, we are in a delicate stage of our operations; without Jester to hold him steady, Adam may cause more damage than we can handle."

Diana's frown didn't dissipate but she nodded. She would keep an eye on Adam in Osaka. And if he happened to hurt the city like she was afraid he would…

Then perhaps she would take that messenger up on her offer after all.


Present day…

"My turn! Draw! Appear, the circuit of the ancient machine! The summoning conditions are two Machine monsters. I set Carrier and Helix in the Link Markers!" The monsters entered the bottom-left and bottom-right arrows. "Link Summon! Appear! Link-2! Qliphort Genius!" An oval machine with a broken jewel emerged from the portal at the right Extra Monster Zone.

Qliphort Genius ATK 1800 LINK-2 ↙↘

Lilith's eyes narrowed. So he did have more than one copy of this monster.

"Next, I set the Scale 9 Qliphort Cephalopod in the Pendulum Zone!" A blue pillar formed on Thaumiel's field and encased a green and white airship with a red jewel in it.

Qliphort Cephalopod Scale 9

"So long as Cephalopod is in my Pendulum Zone, all of your monsters lose 300 attack points!" Lilith grimaced at that.

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel ATK 2500→2200

Magical Musketeer Caspar ATK 1200→900

Magical Musketeer Doc ATK 1400→1100

Magical Musketeer Starfire ATK 1300→1000

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 1700→1400

"With the set Pendulum Scales, I can Special Summon monsters between Levels 2 and 8 simultaneously! Pendulum Summon! Come forth, my monsters! From the Extra Deck, Qliphort Carrier and Qliphort Helix!" The orange and white airship reappeared at Genius's bottom-left Link Marker and the spiral airship reappeared at Genius's bottom-right Link Marker. Both monsters were summoned in Attack Position, and because they were Special Summoned, their original attack points and Levels were reduced.

Qliphort Carrier ATK 2400→1800 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 1

Qliphort Helix ATK 2400→1800 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 1

"Genius's effect activates! Since two monsters were Special Summoned to its Link Markers at the same time, I can add a Level 5 or higher Machine monster from my Deck to my hand. I'll add a second Qliphort Disk to my hand. And now I Tribute Carrier and Helix to Tribute Summon Qliphort Disk!" The two airships disintegrated and were replaced by another circular ship.

Qliphort Disk ATK 2800 DEF 1000 LVL: 7 PS: 1

"The Tributed Carrier's and Helix's effects activate! Since they were Tributed, I can return a monster on the field to the hand and destroy one Spell or Trap Card on the field!" Thaumiel chuckled as he pointed to Lilith's field. "I will return Zakiel to your hand and destroy your face-down card!"

Lilith smirked. "Thanks for that," she said to Thaumiel's surprise. "That means I can do this. Trap activate! Jar of Greed! I draw one card!" Lilith drew, her smirk unabating as she said, "Since my card left the field, Helix's effect resolves without a target!"

Thaumiel growled. "But Zakiel still returns to your hand!" Sure enough, the winged and suited fiend disintegrated at his words. "Disk's effect activates! When it is Tribute Summoned using 'Qli' monsters, I can Special Summon two 'Qli' monsters from my Deck so long as they're destroyed during the End Phase. Come, a second Qliphort Carrier and a second Qliphort Helix!" Two more copies of the said monsters appeared in Attack Position at Genius's bottom-left and bottom-right Link Markers respectively.

Qliphort Carrier ATK 2400→1800 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 1

Qliphort Helix ATK 2400→1800 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 9

"You aren't the only one who can activate an effect!" Lilith declared. "Caspar's effect activates! Since a Spell or Trap Card was activated in its column, I add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Deck to my hand."

"Genius's effect activates! Since Carrier and Helix were Special Summoned to its Link Markers at the same time, I add a Level 5 or higher Machine monster from my Deck to my hand."

"Oh yeah," Cypher said, annoyance in his voice. "That effect isn't once per turn. And neither are Carrier's or Helix's."

Thaumiel laughed. "It's time for you to look defeat in the eyes, Lilith! I activate Laser Qlip's effect to Normal Summon one 'Qli' monster. I Tribute Carrier, Helix, and one Disk to Tribute Summon!"

Lilith's eyes widened. "Three Tributes?!"

"That's bad," Soulburner muttered.

The three monsters turned into orbs of green, blue, and orange energy and shot upwards. They merged into a single ball of multicolored light that shone across the field. When the light faded, a massive white and violet platform supported by four legs had emerged.

Apoqliphort Towers ATK 3000 DEF 2600 LVL: 10

Lilith grit her teeth. "Thaumiel's ace monster," Terminus muttered.

"This isn't good," Ai commented.

"Oh?" Lighntning raised an eyebrow. "So he had a monster like that?"

Thaumiel chuckled at the pained grimace on Lilith's face. "This is the second time you've faced my ace monster. And unlike before, you won't defeat it this time! The Tributed Carrier's and Helix's effects activate! I return Starfire to your hand and destroy your Field Spell Card!" Lilith's frown deepened as the woman in black disappeared.

"Now Lilith only has three monsters," Cypher noted. "But Thaumiel hasn't made any attempt to destroy Fiendish Deal."

"If Fiendish Deal is sent to the Graveyard by Thaumiel's card, Lilith can add a 'Magical Musket' card from her Deck or Graveyard to her hand," Morningstar explained. "Thaumiel knows that, so he's avoiding targeting it. And besides, Fiendish Deal does nothing to stop monsters from returning to the hand."

"The Tribute Summoned Towers is unaffected by Spell and Trap effects," Thaumiel said. "As well as the activated effects of monsters with lower Levels or Ranks. And while it remains on the field, all Special Summoned monsters lose 500 attack and defense points."

"That's a nasty card," Ai commented.

"But that last effect doesn't discriminate," Playmaker said. "It also affects his own monsters."

Magical Musketeer Caspar ATK 900→400 DEF 2000→1500

Magical Musketeer Doc ATK 1100→600 DEF 1200→700

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 1400→900 DEF 900→400

Qliphort Genius ATK 1800→1300

Lilith grit her teeth but took a card from her hand. "I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Cross-Domination! The attack and defense points of one monster on the field become 0 and that monster's effects are negated until the end of the turn!"

"Towers and Genius are unaffected by Spell effects," Thaumiel reminded her.

"I target Disk!"

Qliphort Disk ATK 2800→0 DEF 1000→0

"Doc's effect activates! Since a Spell or Trap Card was activated in its column, I can add a different 'Magical Musket' card from my Graveyard to my hand. I add Steady Hands to my hand."

"Steady Hands, huh? In that case, Towers' effect activates! Once per turn, you must send one monster from your hand or field to the Graveyard!"

"I send Starfire from my hand to the Graveyard."

"Battle!" Thaumiel declared. "Towers attacks Wild! Judgment of the Divine!" Towers shot out several violet lasers at the muscular man.

Terminus narrowed his eyes. "The difference in attack points is 2100."

Lilith glanced from her hand to the field, grimaced, then made her decision. "I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Steady Hands from my hand! Until the end of the turn, Wild's attack and defense points become double its original attack and defense points!"

"But since Towers and Cephalopod are on the field, your monster still loses 800 attack points and 500 defense points!" Thaumiel pointed out.

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 900→2600 DEF 400→1300

The lasers struck Wild and made him explode. Lilith grunted as she was hit with the backlash.

Lilith: 4000→3600 LP

"Genius attacks Doc!" The broken machine fired a beam of dark energy at the man in the labcoat. He cried out as he exploded and made Lilith wince.

Lilith: 3600→2900 LP

"Lilith could have held onto Steady Hands and targeted Doc with it," Revolver noted. "That would have let her keep two monsters on the field instead of just one. But in exchange, she would have taken far more damage than she did. She chose to prioritize her Life Points over her monster. Only time will tell if that was a smart decision."

Thaumiel chuckled. "You're doing better than you did the last time we dueled, Lilith. You've actually inflicted damage to me and kept your Life Points higher than mine. But your luck won't last forever. I will make sure to make every moment you're here more agonizing than the last."

"If that's really what you want, then keep talking," Lilith snarked. "Listening to you go on and on is torture enough."

The man laughed at that. "Very amusing. But bravado won't be enough to save you. I Set one card. I end my turn. During the End Phase, Qliphort Monolith's Pendulum effect activates! I draw cards equal to the number of 'Qli' monsters I Tributed for Tribute Summons this turn. Since I Tributed five monsters, I draw five cards!"

"Ah! He refilled his hand!" Ai said panickingly.

Thaumiel drew his cards but stiffened at the sight of them. Then he laughed. "Well well… I have good news, Lilith: This will be your last turn. Make it count, because on my next turn, you'll lose!"

"That's a bold declaration," Soulburner said.

"Indeed, but likely not an empty one," Flame said. The Ignis's eyes narrowed. "You remember what monster he used against Terminus, don't you?"

"I do." Soulburner scowled at the memory. "If he drew that monster, then…"

"Yes. This will be Lilith's last turn."

Lilith frowned as she noted his reaction to his cards but ignored it. "Since you're finished with Monolith's effect, Cross-Domination's effect also ends, returning Disk's attack and defense points to normal."

Qliphort Disk ATK 0→2800 DEF 0→1000

"If this is my last turn, then I'll make it a hell of a turn!" Lilith muttered. "My turn! Draw! I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Quick Booster! This lets me shuffle a Quick-Play Spell Card in my Graveyard into my Deck. I return Steady Hands to my Deck. Caspar's effect activates! Since a Spell or Trap Card was activated in its column, I can add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Deck to my hand."

Lilith took the card, then raised her right hand. "Appear, the circuit of the devil's bullet! The summoning condition is one Level 8 or lower 'Magical Musket' monster. I set Caspar in the Link Marker!" Caspar entered the bottom arrow. "Link Summon! Appear! Link-1! Magical Musketeer Max!" The man in black with a rifle reappeared at the Extra Monster Zone.

Magical Musketeer Max ATK 1000 LINK-1

"Don't forget that thanks to Cephalopod's effect, your monsters lose 300 attack points! And due to Apoqliphort Towers, all Special Summoned monsters lose 500 attack and defense points!"

Magical Musketeer Max ATK 1000→200

"Max's effect activates! When it is Link Summoned, I can activate one of two effects. I activate the second effect to Special Summon 'Magical Musket' monsters from my Deck, up to the number of Spell and Trap Cards you control!"

"She did that last turn as well," Cassiel remembered.

"You control five Spell and Trap Cards, so I can Special Summon up to five monsters! Come forth, Magical Musketeer Calamity, Magical Musketeer Doc, Magical Musketeer Kidbrave, Magical Musketeer Starfire, and Magical Musketeer Wild!" A red-haired woman wearing dark leather appeared in Defense Position, holding a rocket launcher. She was joined by a man with a sniper rifle and a woman in a black dancer's costume in Defense Position, as well as a young man with a pistol and a muscular man with numerous guns in Attack Position.

Magical Musketeer Calamity ATK 1500→700 DEF 1300→800 LVL: 4

Magical Musketeer Doc ATK 1400→600 DEF 1200→700 LVL: 3

Magical Musketeer Kidbrave ATK 1600→800 DEF 200→0 LVL: 3

Magical Musketeer Starfire ATK 1300→500 DEF 1700→1200 LVL: 4

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 1700→900 DEF 900→400 LVL: 4

"She summoned five monsters at once!" Ai cheered.

"Hmm." Jester hummed as he watched the duel from a monitor. "She's using the size of his board against him. If nothing else, this insect is hard to put down."

"Since I control 'Magical Musket' monsters, I can activate 'Magical Musket' Trap Cards from my hand," Lilith reminded Thaumiel. "I activate the Trap Card: Magical Musket – Desperado from my hand! Since I control a 'Magical Musket' monster, I can destroy a face-up card on the field! I destroy Broken Qlinch!" Thaumiel growled as his Continuous Trap Card disintegrated.

"With that out of the way, Lilith can inflict damage with her Special Summoned monsters," Morningstar said.

"Doc's effect activates! Since a Spell or Trap Card was activated in its column, I can add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Graveyard to my hand. I'll add Cross-Domination to my hand." Lilith took her card then raised her hand. "Appear again, the circuit of the devil's bullet! The summoning conditions are two 'Magical Musket' monsters. I set Doc and Max in the Link Markers!" The two monsters entered the bottom-left and bottom-right arrows.

"What?" Thaumiel gasped. "Link-2?"

"Link Summon! Appear! Link-2! Magical Musketeer Daly!" The man who emerged from the portal had spiky red hair underneath a black cowboy hat, with said hair covering his right eye and pulled into a ponytail in the back. He wore a black vest styled with yellow lightning bolts over his bare chest, and black leather pants that ended in knee-high black combat boots. His right arm turned blue at the elbow and ended in a clawed hand that held a large grenade launcher, and a red cape was pinned to cover his left shoulder. The man laughed as he hefted the grenade launcher from the Extra Monster Zone.

Magical Musketeer Daly ATK 2000→1200 LINK-2 ↙↘

"A new 'Magical Musket' Link Monster!" Cypher exclaimed.

"And a Link-2 at that," Morningstar said, a small smile on his lips.

Thaumiel clenched his fists. "A Link-2," he grumbled. "You keep pulling off the unexpected, Masako."

"Daly's effect activates!" Lilith declared. "When it is Link Summoned, I can add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Deck to my hand. I'll add Steady Hands to my hand." She smirked. "Daly isn't my only new card; I also have this! By sending a 'Magical Musket' card from my field to the Graveyard, I can activate this card! I send Fiendish Deal to the Graveyard to activate the Continuous Trap Card: Magical Musket – Black Market!" The card showed an open-air market, with Magical Musketeers Doc and Kidbrave arguing over a stall of various firearms. Behind the stall, Magical Musketeer Wild was sitting back in a reclined chair, a beer in his right hand and a smirk on his face. "So long as Black Market is on the field, my 'Magical Musket' monsters are unaffected by your card effects!"

Thaumiel gasped. "If her cards are unaffected by his effects, then-!"

"Yes," Blue Maiden said, finishing Aqua's train of thought with a smile. "Her monsters' attack points return to normal."

Magical Musketeer Calamity ATK 700→1500 DEF 800→1300

Magical Musketeer Daly ATK 1200→2000

Magical Musketeer Kidbrave ATK 800→1600 DEF 0→200

Magical Musketeer Starfire ATK 500→1300 DEF 1200→1700

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 900→1700 DEF 400→900

Thaumiel growled. "Lilith…"

The girl smirked. "Didn't see that coming, did you? Calamity's effect activates! Since a Spell or Trap Card was activated in her column, I can Special Summon a 'Magical Musket' monster from my Graveyard in Defense Position. Resurrect, Caspar!" The blonde man with the handgun reappeared.

Magical Musketeer Caspar ATK 1200 DEF 2000 LVL: 3

"Daly's effect activates! Since a Spell or Trap Card was activated in the column of a zone its Link Marker points to, I can activate one of two effects. I activate the first effect to add one 'Magical Musket' Spell or Trap Card from my Graveyard to my hand. I'll return Desperado to my hand."

"With Broken Qlinch gone, and her monsters' attack points restored, Lilith might be able to break Thaumiel's field," Morningstar said.

"Next, I Tribute Caspar to Tribute Summon Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel!" The blonde boy disappeared and a grinning pale-faced fiend in a coat and suit appeared, spreading his wings and hefting two handguns.

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel ATK 2500 DEF 2500 LVL: 8

"I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Cross-Domination! Since I control a 'Magical Musket' monster, one of your monsters has its effects negated and its attack and defense points become 0. I target Disk for Cross-Domination's effect!"

"Yes!" Soulburner cheered. "If Disk's attack points go to 0, an attack from Zakiel will end this!"

Thaumiel chuckled. "Your tactics are obvious, Lilith. That means they're easy to get around! Trap activate! Qlipper Launch! For the rest of the turn, my Normal Summoned 'Qli' monsters gain 300 attack points, have their effects negated, and are unaffected by other Spell and Trap effects!" Lilith's eyes widened. "Cross-Domination's effect won't work on Disk now! And while Towers is unaffected by Trap effects, Disk still gains attack points!"

Qliphort Disk ATK 2800→3100

Lilith grimaced. Well, that sucked. But even if Cross-Domination's effect didn't work, that didn't mean it had been pointless. "Wild's effect activates! As a Spell or Trap Card was activated in its column, I can shuffle three 'Magical Musket' cards in my Graveyard into my Deck and draw a card. I return Caspar, Doc, and Wild to my Deck and draw!"

She looked at her new card and blinked. Lilith suppressed her smirk and chose a different card. "I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Steady Hands! Until the end of the turn, Wild's attack and defense points become double its original attack and defense points!"

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 1700→3400 DEF 900→1800

"Kidbrave's effect activates! Since a Spell or Trap Card was activated in its column, I discard a 'Magical Musket' card to draw two cards. I'll discard a second Calamity and draw again! I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Power Shot! Until the end of the turn, a 'Magical Musket' monster I control gains 800 attack points and cannot be destroyed by battle! I target Zakiel!"

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel ATK 2500→3300

Revolver narrowed his eyes. Zakiel and Wild are now both strong enough to take out Disk and Towers. Attacks on them will inflict a combined 600 points of damage. Daly can then destroy Genius to inflict 700 points of damage. That leaves Kidbrave to attack directly. Combined, they will inflict 2900 points of damage to Thaumiel's 2500 Life Points. Lilith will win. But…

"If Thaumiel has the card I think he does," Terminus muttered, "then Lilith will need to end it this turn. He has no Set cards, but he may have something in his hand."

"Battle!" Lilith declared. "Wild attacks Disk! Sixth Bullet!" The bearded man laughed as he hefted his guns and unloaded a barrage at the circular airship. It exploded with massive force, making Thaumiel flinch.

Thaumiel: 2500→2200 LP

Thaumiel growled. "If you think I'll let this end here, you are a fool, Lilith! I activate the Trap Card: Aqlimation from my hand!" The card showed Qliphort Scout flying through a storm of rain and lightning. "I can activate this card from my hand if I control an 'Apoqliphort' monster. And since my 'Qli' monster was destroyed by battle, I can end the Battle Phase!" Lilith gasped. "Haha! You thought to bring this duel to an end, but I'm afraid victory will be mine, Lilith!"

The girl grit her teeth. Damn it. But even so… "I Set one card. I end my turn. During the End Phase, Power Shot's and Steady Hands' effects end."

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 3400→1700 DEF 1800→900

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel ATK 3300→2500

Thaumiel laughed. "Ah, what a pity, Masako. You attempted to bring me down only to falter at the last moment. But with the number of cards I have on the field and the number of cards in my hand… There's only one way this duel can end now."

Lilith narrowed her eyes while Thaumiel kept laughing. "This farce was fun, Lilith. But it's time for you to be erased! My turn! Draw! With this, I win!"

"…Yes, you would win," Lilith admitted. "That card of yours is incredibly powerful. Difficult to summon, but almost impossible to overcome… If only you hadn't used it against Terminus."

"…What?"

Lilith raised her head and smirked. "My feelings about Terminus and the Knights of Hanoi are complicated, and that's an understatement at best. But one thing I am glad for is that Terminus was the one who dueled you last, and I got the opportunity to watch it. For him to get you angry enough to lash out and reveal your ultimate weapon… I can only thank him for that. After all, if I hadn't known you had that card, I wouldn't have been able to counter it."

"What?!" Thaumiel growled. "Counter it? Tierra is invincible! You can't just counter a Star God!"

"That's true… but only if it makes it to the field." Lilith's smirk widened. "And thanks to that little show you and Terminus put on, I was able to find the perfect card to defeat your monster." She gestured to her field. "Trap activate! Mind Crush!" Revolver's eyes widened. "I declare a card name. And if that card is in your hand, you must discard all copies of that card!"

"WHAT?!"

"I declare Tierra, Source of Destruction!"

A purple fog engulfed Thaumiel. The man gasped as Tierra shattered in his mind.

"Y-You… What… did you…?"

"Did she just…?"

"She did," Soulburner confirmed for Flame, his eyes wide. Then he burst into a wide grin. "YES! She defeated Tierra!"

Terminus chuckled. "Not bad, niece."

"Yes!" Cypher cheered. Morningstar smiled proudly. Cassiel pumped a fist.

Revolver closed his eyes and smirked. "It seems Lilith has more of her father in her than I thought."

"…Hmm." Jester tilted his head. "How unexpected; it seems this insect has teeth."

"You… You…" Thaumiel's fists shook before he got himself under control. "Very clever, Masako. But just because Tierra is in the Graveyard doesn't mean it's beaten! All I have to do is get it back and-."

"Then why don't I make that infinitely harder?" Lilith interrupted with a sneer. "From my hand, I activate the Trap Card: Magical Musket – Dancing Needle! Since I control a 'Magical Musket' monster, I can banish up to three cards from either Graveyard!"

"What?!"

"From your Graveyard, I banish Broken Qlinch, Qlipper Launch, and Tierra, Source of Destruction!" Thaumiel watched in horror as his three cards, among them his most powerful monster, left the game.

"Yes!" Ai cheered. "With Tierra banished, the odds of Thaumiel getting it back have gotten even lower!"

"Not just that," Playmaker said with a smile. "She just activated a Trap Card in her monster's column."

"Wild's effect activates! Since Dancing Needle was activated in its column, I return Showdown, Power Shot, and Max to my Deck and Extra Deck and draw a card! Next, Daly's effect activates! As Dancing Needle was activated in the column of a zone its Link Marker points to, Daly can activate one of two effects. I activate the first to add a 'Magical Musket' Spell or Trap Card from my Graveyard to my hand. I'll add Steady Hands to my hand."

Lilith's smirk widened as she took a card from her hand. "I can still do more! I activate the Trap Card: Magical Musket – Desperado from my hand! I target and destroy Qliphort Monolith!" The large tablet in the blue pillar disintegrated at her words.

"With that gone, Thaumiel can't Pendulum Summon anymore," Morningstar noted.

"Nor can he draw cards when he Tributes monsters either," Cypher added.

"Kidbrave's effect activates! Since Desperado was activated in its column, I can discard Magical Musket – Urgent Battle and draw two cards!"

"You… You…!" Thaumiel clenched his fists as his body shook. "Fine then! You want to play like this?! I'll bury you for all the indignities you've put me through!"

Terminus smirked. "Looks like Lilith's pushed him over the edge."

Merlin sighed and shook his head. "He's never been good at reining in his temper."

"I activate the Spell Card: Pendulum Paradox! This card adds two Pendulum Monsters from my Extra Deck to my hand, so long as they have different names but the same Pendulum Scales!"

Lilith's eyes narrowed. "I'm not letting that happen! From my hand, I activate the Counter Trap Card: Magical Musket – Last Stand! Since I control a 'Magical Musket' monster, the activation of your Spell Card is negated and it is destroyed!" Thaumiel growled as his card exploded.

"In that case, I'll just set the Scale 1 Qliphort Stealth in my Pendulum Zone!" The blue pillar reappeared, this time holding an invisible airship with a gray crystal.

Qliphort Stealth Scale 1

"While Qliphort Stealth is in my Pendulum Zone, my 'Qli' monsters gain 300 attack points!"

"But Towers and Genius are unaffected by Spell effects," Lilith reminded him.

"They are. But my other monsters aren't! With the set Pendulum Scales, I can Special Summon monsters between Levels 2 and 8 simultaneously! Pendulum Summon! Appear, my monsters!" A portal opened between the blue pillars opened and three lights shot out. "From my Extra Deck, Qliphorts Carrier and Helix! And from my hand, Qliphort Shell!" The orange and white aircraft appeared at Genius's bottom-left Link Marker, the spiral aircraft appeared at Genius's bottom-right Link Marker, and an airship shaped like a top with panels on its sides and a black jewel in its side appeared. All three monsters were summoned in Attack Position.

Qliphort Carrier ATK 2400→1800→2100 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 1

Qliphort Helix ATK 2400→1800→2100 DEF 1000 LVL: 6→4 PS: 9

Qliphort Shell ATK 2800→3100 DEF 1000 LVL: 8 PS: 9

"Since Shell was Special Summoned, its Level becomes 4 and its original attack points become 1800!"

Qliphort Shell ATK 3100→2100 LVL: 8→4

Terminus narrowed his eyes. "He's not activating Genius's effect. Either he has lost enough self-control to not notice it… or he feels like he doesn't need it."

"Lilith… you think that Tierra is my true ace monster? You are right that it is the strongest monster in my Deck. But I! Am! An! Enforcer! We are the greatest duelists in the world, the chosen few whose wills remake the world! And like all Enforcers, I make a point of having contingencies! You think you saved yourself by getting rid of Tierra? THINK AGAIN! Appear, the circuit of the ancient machine! The summoning conditions are three or more 'Qli' monsters. I set Helix, Shell, and Link-2 Qliphort Genius in the Link Markers!" Lilith's eyes widened as the monsters entered the left, right, bottom-left, and bottom-right arrows. "The ancient power of destruction resides in the crystals! Let that power be channeled to forge a new destroyer! Link Summon! Appear! Link-4! Apoqliphort Apotheosis!"

Inside the circuits, a black void full of dark purple clouds exited. Inside that void, ten gems floated in a circle. Nine of them were white, gray, black, blue, red, yellow, green, orange, and purple, while the last one was composed of numerous colors. The crystals lit up and a sphere of multicolored lit formed between them before expanding to hold them. That sphere morphed into a new monster. Said monster was the same size as Apoqliphort Towers and had the same purple and white coloring, but its body was far more complex. It stood on four legs that were spread evenly like Towers, but instead of a central tower, its main body rose up in a humanoid shape, not unlike a centaur, with white metal skin and purple lines running over its chest and stomach. Two arms hung from its sides, with white skin and violet fingers. A long tail, purple and white like the rest of it, hung from its body, and on its back, ten wings of glass sprouted, with each containing one of the ten gems of the Qliphort. Its head was bovine and colored white, with purple lines running up the sides. Its four yellow eyes, two on either side of its head, gleamed as it roared from the Extra Monster Zone.

Apoqliphort Apotheosis ATK 3400 LINK-4 ←↙↘→

"W-What the…?" Lilith muttered, her eyes wide.

"Ah!" Ai screamed. "He brought out a Link-4!" Playmaker grit his teeth.

Terminus clenched his fist. "Be careful, Lilith."

Thaumiel let out a deranged laugh. "Do you like it, Lilith? This is my ultimate monster! The culmination of my 'Qli' Deck! Apotheosis is unaffected by Spell and Trap effects, and is unaffected by monster effects, save those of Link Monsters with an equal or higher Link Rating!"

Lilith grit her teeth. That meant only Link-4 or higher Link Monsters could affect it. And her strongest monster was Link-3. That meant Apotheosis was pretty much invulnerable to her cards.

"Apotheosis's effect activates! Once per turn, I can target a 'Qli' monster at its Link Marker, and if I would use that monster for a Tribute Summon, it counts as three Tributes!" Lilith's eyes widened. "It seems you know what I intend. I target Qliphort Carrier to treat it as three Tributes. Thus, by Tributing Carrier, I can Tribute Summon Apoqliphort Skybase!" The orange-and-white airship disappeared and was replaced by a massive floating fortress with white bands atop it and a white gem in its front.

Apoqliphort Skybase ATK 2900 DEF 2500 LVL: 9

"Now Thaumiel has three 'Apoqliphort' monsters on the field," Cypher said, his eyes narrowing.

"Lilith was able to get rid of Tierra," Morningstar said, "but now she has to contend with three of Thaumiel's strongest monsters in return. This won't be easy."

"The Tributed Helix's effect activates! I can target and destroy a Spell or Trap Card on the field! I destroy Black Market! With your Trap Card gone, your monsters are now affected by Cephalopod's and Towers' effects!" Lilith grimaced at that fact.

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel ATK 2500→2200

Magical Musketeer Calamity ATK 1500→700 DEF 1300→800

Magical Musketeer Daly ATK 2000→1200

Magical Musketeer Kidbrave ATK 1600→800 DEF 200→0

Magical Musketeer Starfire ATK 1300→500 DEF 1700→1200

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 1700→900 DEF 900→400

Lilith's grimace turned into a smirk. "Since Black Market was sent to my Graveyard by your card effect, I can Set a 'Magical Musket' Spell or Trap Card from my Graveyard on my field! I Set Cross-Domination! In addition, the Set card can be activated this turn!"

"Cross-Domination? That card can lower a monster's attack and defense points to 0 and negate its effects. Unfortunately for you, all of my 'Apoqliphort' monsters are unaffected by Spell effects. Skybase's effect activates! Once per turn, I can take control of one of your monsters until the End Phase! I take control of Zakiel!" Thaumiel's opponent's smirk turned back into a grimace as her ace monster disappeared and then reappeared on Thaumiel's field. "Naturally, since Zakiel is no longer under your control, its attack points return to normal."

Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel ATK 2200→2500

"Battle! Zakiel attacks Calamity! Seventh Bullet!" Lilith blinked as the fiend fired several bullets that tore the woman apart. Why hadn't he used Towers' effect to force her to send a monster to the Graveyard? Did he not want her to send one of her Attack Position monsters to the Graveyard beforehand? "Next, Skybase attacks Kidbrave! Shadow of Imbalance! Tubes on Skybase's sides opened up and fired several rounds of missiles at the blonde man.

Lilith grit her teeth and took a card from her hand. "I activate the Trap Card: Magical Musket – Final Volley from my hand!" The card showed Magical Musketeers Calamity, Caspar, and Wild all standing in a row, their weapons raised and firing, manic expressions on their faces. "By sending a 'Magical Musket' card from my hand to the Graveyard, all 'Magical Musket' monsters I control have their attack points become twice their original attack points until the end of the turn! I discard Steady Hands!"

Magical Musketeer Daly ATK 1200→3200

Magical Musketeer Kidbrave ATK 800→2400

Magical Musketeer Starfire ATK 500→1800

Magicla Musketeer Wild ATK 900→2600

"The turn Final Volley is activated, my opponent takes no battle damage and the attack points of my 'Magical Musket' monsters cannot be changed by the effects of 'Magical Musket' cards for the rest of the turn."

"Tch. So you'll survive this turn. Even so, you'll lose your monsters!" The missiles impacted Kidbrave, making him explode and pushing Lilith back.

Lilith: 2900→2400 LP

"Towers attacks Wild! Judgment of the Divine! Towers sent out numerous purple beams of energy that bended and converged on the muscular man. Wild cried out and exploded, making Lilith wince again.

Lilith: 2400→2000 LP

"Finally, Apotheosis will attack Daly! Qliphort Devastation!" The crystals on the monster's wings lit up as it raised its hands. The wings shot lasers that converged above its palms and formed a multicolored ball of light. Apotheosis brought its hands down and launched the orb at Lilith's field. The orb absorbed her Link Monster before exploding and making her cry out.

Lilith: 2000→1800 LP

"Apotheosis's effect activates! When it destroys your monster in battle, I can send one card on your field and one card in your hand to the Graveyard! And for each card sent by this effect to the Graveyard, I can inflict 800 points of damage!" Lilith's eyes widened. "Qliphort Refraction!" The gems lit up again and fired lasers at her. Lilith covered her face with her arms and cried out as the beams impacted around her.

"Lilith!" Terminus and Cassiel shouted. Morningstar and Revolver grit their teeth.

When the smoke cleared, Lilith was still standing, but she was panting and shaking.

Lilith: 1800→200 LP

"Hmph. If you hadn't used that Trap Card of yours, that would have been the end of your pain. No matter; you have no cards in your hand. And soon, you'll have no monsters to possibly rely on. I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Mystik Wok! I Tribute a monster and gain Life Points equal to its attack or defense points. I Tribute Zakiel!" Lilith grimaced as her stolen monster disappeared.

Thaumiel: 2200→4700 LP

"Ah, he's risen his Life Points to over 4000!" Ai screeched.

"Lilith has no cards in her hand and only a Set Quick-Play Spell Card," Playmaker assessed. "Whereas Thaumiel has three monsters, all of whom are unaffected by Spell or Trap Cards and every monster Lilith can summon. This is not looking good."

"Hmm," Lightning hummed to himself. "It seems that while the bounty hunter was more skillful than expected, she was no match for this Enforcer. Even if he lacks the special abilities that the others have, Thaumiel is clearly not to be underestimated." His eyes narrowed. "Still, in the end, an adversary will be eliminated. That is all I need."

Thaumiel chuckled as he watched his opponent struggle to keep standing. "Ah, Lilith. So determined to make something of your weak self. And yet despite all of your efforts, you are still a scared little girl, desperate to cling to something, someone, so that she doesn't end up alone again. That is what happens when you rely on others. That is what happens when you define yourself through others. I end my turn."

Lilith scowled at him. "Maybe I do define myself through others. But that is what it means to be human; we define ourselves through our relationships with others. Friends, lovers, family; all of them define who we are as people. Just as my relationships define me, so too do yours define you."

Thaumiel scoffed. "My relationships? Perhaps they influence me, but they do not define me. I decide who I am, not others. Nor do I care what others think about me."

"If you don't care about them, then why are you an Enforcer? Why do you fight at Jester's and Zahhak's side?"

"Why? Because I desire challenges. I wish to test myself against the best the world can offer, and Ouroboros gave that to me. They allow me to push myself and have my fun with the world, so in turn, I'll give them my loyalty."

Lilith's scowl deepened. "So you're using Ouroboros for your own entertainment? They're the ones who freed you from prison, aren't they? That's some gratitude towards your rescuers."

Thaumiel growled. "Yes, they freed me. But only after three months of being trapped in that hellhole! I'll follow my orders and work for Ouroboros, but I will never forget the humiliation I was put through in that place…"


2 years ago…

Issei growled as he banged his head against the wall of his cell. How?! How had everything gone so wrong?! He'd done what he'd always done: Whatever it took to complete the mission! Yes, perhaps he could have taken down Systech Engineering's defenses without taking down the public safety systems, but come on! How could he resist the temptation? How could he turn down the challenge? To see how the helpless sheep would flounder and react to their precious safety net being disabled, to watch the chaos as they tried to make sense of it. It had been beautiful.

And then a bitch he had strung along had the nerve to put a halt to his fun. It had been fun to present an image to her, of a kind young man who believed in justice. Oh, how that sickened him! To pretend to be a fake to someone who so desperately wanted to cling to someone. But it had been so much fun to see her world crumble around her, to see the look on her face as she realized the truth.

And now because Masako had decided that his fun was "horrible", he had been arrested and sent to this hellhole: a heavy security prison with a lifetime sentence. And of course he had to be sent to a Japanese prison, where he would be monitored at all times and every activity was chosen for him. There was no freedom here, no choice. He could only act in the way the wardens chose. For someone like him, who wanted to be free and make whatever choice he wanted to, this place was hell.

"Nice place."

Issei tensed and spun around. He hadn't heard the door open, but then again he had been rather focused on his own thoughts. And when he saw who stood in the corner, his eyes widened.

"Zahhak."

The Enforcer No. I, for Issei had never learned his real name, looked around the room. "Most of these prisons have community cells. I suppose they gave you your own room because they didn't want you to cause trouble for the other inmates."

"How did you get in here?"

"Jormungand's, or rather Ouroboros's, reach extends far. Even here. The camera in that corner is on a loop, and the guards won't be coming for a while."

In other words, they were alone. Issei felt an excited smile rise. "So you're here to get me out? The mission was a success, wasn't it? You wouldn't be here if it wasn't."

This was perfect. With Ouroboros's backing, he could hunt Masako down and make her pay for making a fool of him. That bitch would regret the day she ever-.

"No."

…What?

"What did you say?" Issei whispered.

"Yes, the mission was a success, but no, I am not here to get you out."

"W-Why not?! I'm an Enforcer, aren't I?! A valued member of Ouroboros!"

"You are, and you will remain so," Zahhak confirmed. "But Jormungand is upset. Your actions went far beyond what he considers to be acceptable casualties. What's more, it seems Diana has finally had enough; she's disappeared, and we've lost all contact with her."

Diana quit? Well, Issei had never liked her, so he wasn't too concerned about that. More importantly…

"But I did what Jormungand ordered me to! I brought down Systech Engineering's firewalls!"

"Yes, which is why your stay here won't be permanent." Zahhak's eyes narrowed. "Make no mistake: Not even Enforcers can get away with whatever we want. It is only the Anguis who can judge us. And Jormungand has judged your actions excessive. However, we don't abandon our own unnecessarily. You will remain in this prison for three months. After that, Jormungand will arrange a transfer. We'll use that excuse to free you. Until then, you will have to wait here."

Issei ground his teeth and glared at the one who announced his sentence. Zahhak stared back, indifferent to Issei's outrage. "…Fine. I can wait three months. But once I get out-."

"You will not go after the Lilith girl."

"What?! Why not?!"

"Because she is a distraction. Jormungand has other work for you." The man's eyes narrowed further. "Do not misunderstand; Jormungand is furious with what you've done, but he will give you a second chance. A chance to prove you can control yourself. Work hard and within the boundaries of Ouroboros's rules, and he may give you a chance at revenge. But fail to learn your lesson and this place will look like heaven compared to what Jormungand has planned."

"…Understood." Issei moved away from the wall and laid down on his futon. "I'll be a good little Enforcer. So long as I can hunt down that girl in the end."

"Naturally."


Present day…

"Because of you, I had to endure hell itself. So now I'll inflict hell on you."

"…There's something I've realized about you, Issei," Lilith said, her bangs covering her eyes. "Something that I should have seen sooner but was too immature to notice." She raised her head and scowled. "And that… is that you're pathetic."

Thaumiel tensed. "What?"

"You say I put you in hell? It was your own actions that led you to prison. If I hadn't sent you there, someone else would have eventually. You say that you're real and everyone else is fake? I say that you're a psychopath who can't understand the people around him." Her eyes narrowed. "No, it's worse than that; it's not just that you can't understand, it's that you've never tried to understand. You've never cared about what other people thought, only about how they can benefit you, how you can use them. Terminus was right: All you are is a bully, looking down on the world and unable to see your own flaws. And that's why I'll defeat you here and now, so that the world doesn't have to put up with you anymore!"

Thaumiel laughed. "You think you can win? I have three powerful monsters that are immune to almost all card effects while all you have is a single useless Set card. You don't even have cards in your hand! How do you expect to win like that?!"

"Like this! My turn! Draw!" Lilith looked at her card and smiled. "I summon Magical Musketeer Caspar!" A blonde man with a large handgun appeared.

Magical Musketeer Caspar ATK 1200→900 DEF 2000 LVL: 3

"I activate my Set Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Cross-Domination and target Apotheosis!"

"Apotheosis is unaffected by Spell effects!" Thaumiel reminded her.

"Yes. But Caspar isn't! Caspar's effect activates! Since a Spell Card was activated in its column, I add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Deck to my hand. I'll add Steady Hands to my hand." Lilith drew and then raised her hand. "Appear, the circuit of the devil's bullet! The summoning condition is one Level 8 or lower 'Magical Musket' monster. I set Caspar in the Link Marker!" Her monster entered the bottom arrow. "Link Summon! Appear! Link-1! Magical Musketeer Max!" A man in black wielding a large rifle emerged from the portal at the Extra Monster Zone.

Magical Musketeer Max ATK 1000→200 LINK-1

"Max's effect activates! Since it was Link Summoned, I can activate one of two effects. I activate the second effect to Special Summon different 'Magical Musket' monsters from my Deck, up to the number of Spell and Trap Cards you control. You control three Spell Cards, so I'll Special Summon Magical Musketeers Calamity, Doc, and Wild!" A red-headed woman with a rocket launcher, a silver-haired man in a lab coat with a sniper rifle, and a long-haired man with numerous guns and missiles strapped to his arms and shoulders all appeared in Attack Position.

Magical Musketeer Calamity ATK 1500→700 DEF 1300→00 LVL: 4

Magical Musketeer Doc ATK 1400→600 DEF 1200→700 LVL: 3

Magical Musketeer Wild ATK 1700→900 DEF 900→400 LVL: 4

Thaumiel tensed. "Three monsters," he muttered.

"It seems you know what's coming next. Good." Lilith raised her hand again. "Appear again, the circuit of the devil's bullet! The summoning conditions are three 'Magical Musket' monsters. I set Doc, Wild, and Max in the Link Markers!" The two monsters and one Link Monster entered the bottom-left, bottom, and bottom-right arrows. "Link Summon! Appear! Link-3! Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar!" A white-skinned fiend in a red and gold trench coat emerged form the portal. White wings sprung from its back, and silver hair flowed down its head, topped by a golden crown. The fiend laughed and hefted two pistols from the Extra Monster Zone.

Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar ATK 3000→2200 LINK-3 ↙↓↘

"So that's Lilith's ultimate monster," Morningstar murmured. He'd never gotten the chance to see it in action before.

"It is pretty impressive; 3000 attack points for a Link-3," Cypher commented. Then his eyes narrowed. "But it is still weakened by Towers' and Cephalopod's effects. Lilith can't win with this alone."

"She knows that. She must have a plan."

Terminus watched silently in anticipation. Win, Masako.

"That monster may have won you our duel last time, Lilith," Thaumiel growled. "But my Life Points are much higher than they were last time; even if you take out one of my monsters, the others will end you next turn."

"We'll see about that! I activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Steady Hands! Ottokar gains attack points equal to its original attack points!"

Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar ATK 2200→5200

"Ottokar is strong enough to defeat Thaumiel's monsters now!" Soulburner said excitedly.

"But Thaumiel will have Life Points left after this attack," Flame pointed out. "And Steady Hands will only last the turn. She needs to end this duel here and now."

"Ottokar's effect activates! When a Spell or Trap Card is activated in the column of a zone it's linked to, I can banish a Level 4 or lower 'Magical Musket' monster from my Graveyard to activate its effect as Ottokar's effect. And I can activate this effect three times per turn. I banish Doc, whose effect lets me add a 'Magicla Musket' card from my Graveyard to my hand." Lilith took the card, then played it. "I send Calamity to the Graveyard to activate the Continuous Trap Card: Magical Musket – Black Market! While this card is on the field, my 'Magical Musket' monsters are unaffected by your card effects!"

Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar ATK 5200→6000

"She empowered Ottokar even more!" Ai cheered.

"But it still isn't enough to win," Playmaker said worriedly.

"Ottokar's effect activates! Since Black Market was activated in the column of a zone it points to, I can banish another 'Magical Musket' monster to activate its effect as Ottokar's. I banish Caspar to add a 'Magical Musket' card from my Deck to my hand. I'll add, and now activate the Quick-Play Spell Card: Magical Musket – Power Shot! Until the end of the turn, Ottokar gains 800 attack points and cannot be destroyed by battle!"

Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar ATK 6000→6800

"Just a little more," Revolver muttered.

"Ottokar's effect activates! I banish Wild to shuffle three 'Magical Musket' cards in my Graveyard into my Deck and draw one card. I shuffle two Calamities and Power Shot into my Deck!" Lilith placed her hand on her Deck and closed her eyes. Everything depends on this draw. If I don't get the card I need… then I'll lose and be erased. Even if my uncle, or Morningstar, or Revolver defeat Thaumiel… I can't let them face him. Not when I've come this far. Not when the smallest chance for victory exists!

Her eyes shot open and Lilith drew the card. She held the pose for a brief second before she turned the card over and blinked.

She smiled.

"I activate the Spell Card: Back-Up Rider! Until the end of the turn, one face-up monster gains 1500 attack points!"

"WHAT?!" The fiend laughed as he glowed with power.

Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar ATK 6800→8300

"This is the end! Ottokar attacks Apoqliphort Apotheosis! Ultimate Bullet!" The fiend cackled as he leapt into the air, his guns charging with yellow energy.

"No… No!" Thaumiel shouted. "Not again! I can't lose to you the same way again! How?! How is it I always lose to you?!"

"It's simple, Issei," Lilith murmured. "It's because you're full of shit."

Ottokar let loose two beams of condensed yellow energy that struck Apotheosis's chest. The beams tore through it, starting several explosions across its body before one massive explosion rippled outward and consumed it. Thaumiel screamed as he was knocked off his feet and fell on his back.

Thaumiel: 4700→0 LP

"Yes, she won!" Cassiel and Soulburner cheered. Morningstar and Terminus breathed sighs of relief. Revolver, Playmaker, and Blue Maiden all smiled.

Lightning sighed. "Disappointing, but this benefits us in the end. I'll just leave Lilith to one of the others."

Jester stared at the screen and uncrossed his arms. "Well… It seems I've underestimated this insect. As Thaumiel's mentor, I suppose it'll be my job to squash her."

Techbane frowned. "So even Enforcers can lose. If I'm going to help my grandfather, I'll have to keep from underestimating them."

"Boss! Lilith won!" Pigeon cheered.

"I know!" Frog shouted. "We're one step closer to freedom."

Lilith watched dispassionately as Thaumiel clawed the ground and lifted his head. Once again, his mask had fallen off, revealing his hate-filled eyes. "This isn't over," he growled.

"Yes it is," Lilith countered. "I know what happened to Haru when he lost. Now it's your turn."

Sure enough, Thaumiel's body had turned gold and his legs started to disintegrate. The man continued to glare at Lilith before he suddenly smirked. "Is that what you think?" Before Lilith's eyes, the gold turned to blue and the disintegration changed into a different process. One anyone who logged into LINK VRAINS was familiar with.

"What?" she blinked. "He logged out?"

"He can do that?!" Ai said in surprise.

"What?!" Lightning glared at the screen. How was that possible? His consciousness should have been absorbed by Mirror LINK VRAINS. He shouldn't even be able to log out!

Did Thaumiel create a program to counter Mirror LINK VRAINS's function? That was impossible, he was only human! The only one who could have would be-!

"Jormungand," Lightning growled. He opened a new window. "Zahhak!"

"So you figured it out." The armored man had answered the call, and while Lightning couldn't see his expression, he was certain the man was bored. "I'll save you the trouble of speculating and dancing around the topic; yes, Jormungand created a program that prevents our consciousness data from being taken and instead logs us out when we lose. I, Jester, Thaumiel, Merlin, and Techbane all have it."

"You…" Lightning growled. "That wasn't part of our deal! For you to escape Mirror LINK VRAINS's function! I'll-!"

"Do what?" Zahhak interrupted. "Restrict our access? Go ahead. But think before you act. Can you afford to turn this into a three-way fight at the moment?"

…No, he couldn't. The Enforcers and Playmaker's team simply had too many numbers. Not until they whittled each other down could Lightning cast Ouroboros aside. But Lightning was sorely tempted to, just to get rid of all the uncertainty these humans brought in.

"Our arrangement has not changed," Zahhak continued. "We will duel and defeat Playmaker's team. Once they are defeated, then we will fight each other. Or more likely, I will fight a complete Bohman. By that point, he will likely be strong enough to override Jormungand's program. Is that agreeable to you?"

"…Yes," Lightning seethed. "But Thaumiel's loss has not engendered confidence in your skills. I'll handle the next duelist."

"Very well. So long as I take the next one."

"Fine." Lightning ended the call and growled. Damn arrogant humans! Damn Divine Ignis! Once Playmaker and the Knights of Hanoi were taken care of, he would wipe them all out!


The blue sphere disappeared as Issei's consciousness returned to his body. He blinked his eyes opened before growling. He rose out of the chair with a shout and brought his fist down on the nearby table. "Goddamn it!" he shouted. "Three times! Three times I've fought her and lost!" He growled again. "Well this will be the last time. She wants to find me in the real world? I'll meet her here and put an end to this for good!"

Some instinct made Issei tense. Perhaps it was a shift in the air. Perhaps it was the sound of the floorboards creaking. Whatever it was, Issei spun around and ducked, just in time to avoid the fist that went over his head. But his instinctual dodge was unable to keep his assailant's knee from impacting his stomach. Issei coughed, the air knocked out of him, as he was knocked backwards through the table, breaking the wooden structure in two.

Once he was on the ground, Issei crawled backwards and looked up. His eyes widened. "You!"

"Me," Tagoma confirmed. The bald man had ditched his coat in favor of a simple long-sleeve shirt, loose pants, and gloves. "I figured that while Lilith sought you out in LINK VRAINS, I'd track you down out here. And look at that; I caught you."

Issei growled and tensed. This wasn't what he needed. How had Tagoma gotten into his safehouse? How had he found it? How come Issei hadn't gotten any warnings? Still, if he could kill Tagoma here… the death of her guardian would certainly hurt Masako far more than anything else he could do. Issei sneered. "You think you're going to bring me in? How laughable. Even if you manage to hand me in to the cops, Ouroboros will just have me out in a few months. Your little protégé will never be able to rest again."

Issei kicked out with his right foot, aiming for Tagoma's knee. The man hopped back, giving Issei the room he needed. He shifted his weight to his hands and flipped backwards, landing on his feet. He and his opponent stood opposite each other, their hands raised in defensive postures, waiting for the other to move.

It was Issei who lost patience first and leapt forward with a jab to Tagoma's face. The man deflected it with the back of his left hand and swung his other arm out in a haymaker. Issei ducked below it and lashed out with a cross punch with his other arm, striking Tagoma in the chest and knocking him back.

Tagoma retaliated with a spin and lashed out with his left leg, catching Issei on his side and kicking him away. The man growled as he stumbled before leaping back at his opponent with an uppercut, only for Tagoma to dodge it and strike his own cross punch to Issei's gut.

Their fight continued on from there, with Issei aiming for Tagoma's head while the latter kept his focus on the former's center. Issei's style was wild and adaptive, while Tagoma's was more controlled and analytical. They shifted around the room, Issei trying to get to the chairs and put them between him and Tagoma, while his opponent did his best to keep Issei in the open area.

Finally, with a frustrated growl, Issei managed to kick Tagoma away and ran towards the kitchen area. He pulled a chef's knife out of the knife holder and spun back around. He grinned fiercely at his enemy before lunging at him. Tagoma leapt backwards, keeping an eye on the knife and either leaning out of or dodging Issei's cuts. With a manic laugh, Issei lashed out again, only for Tagoma to suddenly grab his wrist and twist. With a cry of pain, Issei let go of the knife. He tried to grab it with his other hand, only for Tagoma to grab it first and wrench it forward.

Issei cried out as he felt the knife puncture his body. In a panic, he kicked out and away from Tagoma, leaving the knife in his side. "W-What's wrong with you?" Issei ground out. "Are you here to capture me or kill me?"

"The latter." Issei paled as Tagoma answered coldly. He then watched with dread as the man pulled something out of his back pocket. It was a gun: a revolver. "You're right. If we just arrest you, you'll be out again in a few months. But I am tired of chasing you. And I'm tired of all the pain you've caused the little girl. So I'm going to make sure you never get the chance to hurt her again."

"You… You bastard!" Issei growled. He gasped in pain as he pulled the knife out. He ignored the blood that fell from his side as he palmed it. "You think you get to kill me? I still have things I need to do! Goals I have to achieve! I won't be stopped by a goddamn thug!"

Issei charged at Tagoma. He wasn't sure what he hoped for; to hit the gun away, to grapple for it. All he knew was that he wanted this man dead. This man and his bitch of a ward. For all the indignities they dealt him, he would-.

BANG

Issei stumbled as an impact struck his chest. He tried to move forward again, only for three more impacts to strike his chest. He fell back from the force onto the ruins of his table, gasping for breath. He looked down and his eyes widened as red stains spread across his shirt.

"Not… like this," he whispered. Blood was gathering in his mouth, making it hard to speak. Oh, look at that; he couldn't see out of his right eye anymore. His head fell back to the ground. Everything hurt. Nothing hurt. He could see everything. He could see nothing. He could feel every inch of his body. He couldn't feel anything at all. "Jester… where are you? You said… you said I'd never… never be bored again. Well… this is… so… bori…"

Tagoma watched dispassionately as the light left the man's eyes. As his chest stopped moving. As the man's heart stopped beating and his lungs stopped pumping in air. He frowned and closed his eyes. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He entered a number and put it to his ear.

"Tagoma?" Cam said on the other end. "Did you capture him?"

"…No," Tagoma said softly, turning back to the door. "He struggled and pulled a gun on me. I didn't have a choice."

"I… I see." Cam's voice was a whisper. Understandable; he hadn't planned on helping a murder. "W-Well, you should get out of there. The loop on the cameras and other surveillance devices is about to end."

"Right. Thanks for helping with this."

"Yeah, just… Just do me a favor. If you ever want to ask someone for help again… ask someone else."

Tagoma's lip twitched. So softhearted. "Got it." He reached the door and opened it, stepping out of the safehouse on the docks. He paused in the door and looked back at his work. At the ruined living room and the body on top of the broken table.

It was done. Issei Kamakura, Kaizo Takakura, Adam, Thaumiel… was dead.


Lilith vs. Thaumiel

This Duel is conducted as a Master Duel.

Turn 1: Thaumiel

Thaumiel Normal Summons Qliphort Stealth without Tributing, but its Level becomes 4 and its original ATK becomes 1800 (2800→1800/1000/8→4). Thaumiel activates the Equip Spell Card Saqlifice and equips it to Stealth. Stealth gains 300 ATK, cannot be destroyed by battle, and can be treated as 2 Tributes for the Tribute Summon of a "Qli" monster (Stealth: 1800→2100). Thaumiel activates the Field Spell Card Laser Qlip, which lets him Normal Summon 1 "Qli" monster during his Main Phase in addition to his Normal Summon/Set. Thaumiel Tributes Stealth to Tribute Summon Qliphort Disk (2800/1000/7/1). As Disk was Tribute Summoned using a "Qli" monster, Thaumiel can Special Summon 2 "Qli" monsters from his Deck, but they will be destroyed during the End Phase. He Special Summons Qliphort Carrier (2400/1000/6/1) and Qliphort Helix (2400/1000/6/9), both in Attack Position. As Carrier and Helix were Special Summoned, their Levels become 4 and their original ATK becomes 1800 (Carrier: 2400→1800/6→4) (Helix: 2400→1800/6→4). As Saqlifice was sent from the field to the GY, Thaumiel can add 1 "Qli" monster from his Deck to his hand. He adds Qliphort Scout to his hand. Thaumiel activates the Scale 9 Qliphort Scout in his Pendulum Zone. Thaumiel activates Scout's Pendulum effect to pay 800 LP to add 1 "Qli" card from his Deck to his hand (Thaumiel: 4000→3200 LP). He adds Qliphort Monolith to his hand. Thaumiel activates the Scale 1 Qliphort Monolith in his Pendulum Zone. Thaumiel uses Carrier and Helix to Link Summon Qliphort Genius (1800/2/↙↘) to the right Extra Monster Zone. Thaumiel Pendulum Summons Carrier (2400→1800/1000/6→4/1) and Helix (2400→1800/1000/6→4/9) from his Extra Deck to Genius's bottom-left and bottom-right Link Markers respectively, both in Attack Position. As 2 monsters were Special Summoned to Genius's Link Markers at the same time, Thaumiel can add 1 Level 5 or higher Machine monster from his Deck to his hand. He adds Qliphort Shell to his hand. Thaumiel Sets 1 card. He ends his turn. During the End Phase, as he Tribute Summoned this turn, Monolith's Pendulum effect lets Thaumiel draw cards equal to the number of "Qli" monsters he Tributed for Tribute Summons this turn. He draws 1 card.

Turn 2: Lilith

Lilith draws. She Normal Summons Magical Musketeer Kidbrave (1600/200/3). Kidbrave's effect lets Lilith activate "Magical Musket" Spell/Trap Cards from her hand. She activates the Continuous Trap Card Magical Musket – Fiendish Deal from her hand. While Fiendish Deal is on the field, Lilith's "Magical Musket" monsters cannot be destroyed by card effects. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Kidbrave's column, Lilith can discard 1 "Magical Musket" card to draw 2 cards. She discards Magical Musket – Cross-Domination and draws. Lilith uses Kidbrave to Link Summon Magical Musketeer Max (1000/1/↓) to the Extra Monster Zone. As Max was Link Summoned, Lilith can activate 1 of 2 effects. She activates the 2nd effect to Special Summon different "Magical Musket" monsters from her Deck, up to the number of Spell/Trap Cards Thaumiel controls. Thaumiel controls 4 Spell/Trap Cards, so Lilith can Special Summon up to 4 different "Magical Musket" monsters from her Deck. She Special Summons Magical Musketeer Caspar (1200/2000/3) in Defense Position, Magical Musketeer Doc (1400/1200/3) in Attack Position, Magical Musketeer Starfire (1300/1700/4) in Defense Position, and Magical Musketeer Wild (1700/900/4) in Attack Position. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Steady Hands, targeting Doc and making its ATK/DEF double its original ATK/DEF until the end of the turn (Doc: 1400→2800/1200→2400). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in its column, Doc's effect activates, letting Lilith add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her GY to her hand. She adds Magical Musket – Cross-Domination to her hand. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Cross-Domination, targeting Disk and making its ATK/DEF 0 until the end of the turn and negating its effects (Disk: 2800→0/1000→0). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Caspar's column, Lilith can add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her Deck to her hand. She adds Magical Musket Showdown to her hand. Lilith activates the Field Spell Card Magical Musket Showdown. Since Magical Musket Showdown was activated, Lilith can add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her Deck to her hand. She adds Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel to her hand. Lilith activates the effect of Magical Musket Showdown to Normal Summon 1 "Magical Musket" monster from her hand. Lilith Tributes Max to Tribute Summon Zakiel (2500/2500/8) via its effect. Lilith activates the Trap Card Magical – Musket Desperado from her hand. As Lilith controls a "Magical Musket" monster, she can target and destroy 1 face-up card on the field. She targets and destroys Qliphort Scout. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Wild's column, Lilith can shuffle 3 "Magical Musket" cards in her GY into her Deck and draw 1 card. She shuffles Kidbrave, Cross-Domination, and Max into her Deck and Extra Deck and draws.

Zakiel attacks and destroys Genius (Thaumiel: 3200→2500 LP). Doc attacks Carrier. Thaumiel activates his Set Continuous Trap Card Broken Qlinch. The first time each of his "Qli" monsters would be destroyed by battle each turn, they are not destroyed, and Thaumiel takes no battle damage from battles involving his "Qli" monsters and Lilith's Special Summoned monsters. The attack continues, but Carrier isn't destroyed and Thaumiel takes no damage. Lilith activates the Spell Card Magical Mallet, which lets her shuffle any number of cards in her hand into her Deck, then draw the same number of cards. She shuffles 3 cards into her Deck and draws 3 cards. Lilith Sets 1 card. She ends her turn. During the End Phase, Cross-Domination's and Steady Hand's effects end (Disk: 0→2800/0→1000) (Doc: 2800→1400/2400→1200).

Turn 3: Thaumiel

Thaumiel draws. He uses Carrier and Helix to Link Summon Qliphort Genius (1800/2/↙↘) to the right Extra Monster Zone. Thaumiel activates the Scale 9 Qliphort Cephalopod in his Pendulum Zone. While Cephalopod is in the Pendulum Zone, Lilith's monsters lose 300 ATK (Caspar: 1200→900) (Doc: 1400→1100) (Starfire: 1300→1000) (Wild: 1700→1400) (Zakiel: 2500→2200). Thaumiel Pendulum Summons Carrier (2400→1800/1000/6→4/1) and Helix (2400→1800/1000/6→4/9) from his Extra Deck to Genius's bottom-left and bottom-right Link Markers in Attack Position. As 2 monsters were Special Summoned to Genius's Link Markers at the same time, Thaumiel can add 1 Level 5 or higher Machine monster from his Deck to his hand. He adds Qliphort Disk to his hand. Thaumiel Tributes Carrier and Helix to Tribute Summon Qliphort Disk (2800/1000/7/1). As Carrier and Helix were Tributed, Thaumiel can target and return 1 monster on the field to the hand, and target and destroy 1 Spell/Trap Card on the field. Thaumiel targets Zakiel and Lilith's Set card, but Lilith chains her Set Trap Card Jar of Greed, which lets her draw 1 card. Zakiel is returned to Lilith's hand, and Helix's effect resolves without a target. As Disk was Tribute Summoned by Tributing a "Qli" monster, Thaumiel can Special Summon 2 "Qli" monsters from his Deck, but they will be destroyed during the End Phase. Thaumiel Special Summons a 2nd Carrier (2400→1800/1000/6→4/1) and a 2nd Helix (2400→1800/1000/6→4/9) to Genius's bottom-left and bottom-right Link Markers, both in Attack Position. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in its column, Caspar's effect lets Lilith add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her Deck to her hand. She adds Magical Musket – Cross-Domination to her hand. As 2 monsters were Special Summoned to Genius's Link Markers at the same time, Thaumiel adds Apoqliphort Towers from his Deck to his hand. Thaumiel activates Laser Qlip's effect to Normal Summon 1 "Qli" monster. He Tributes Carrier, Helix, and the 1st Disk to Tribute Summon Apoqliphort Towers (3000/2600/10). As Carrier and Helix were Tributed, Thaumiel can target and return 1 monster on the field to the hand, and target and destroy 1 Spell/Trap Card on the field. He returns Starfire to Lilith's hand and destroys Magical Musket Showdown. While Apoqliphort Towers is on the field, all Special Summoned monsters lose 500 ATK/DEF (Genius: 1800→1300) (Caspar: 900→400/2000→1500) (Doc: 1100→600/1200→700) (Wild: 1400→900/900→400). Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Cross-Domination from her hand, targeting Disk and making its ATK/DEF 0 until the end of the turn and negating its effects (Disk: 2800→0/1000→0). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Doc's column, Lilith can add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her GY to her hand. She adds Steady Hands to her hand. Thaumiel activates Towers' effect to force Lilith to send 1 monster from her hand or field to the GY. Lilith discards Starfire.

Towers attacks Wild. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Steady Hands from her hand, targeting Wild and making its ATK/DEF equal to twice its original ATK/DEF until the end of the turn (Wild: 900→2600/400→1300). Wild is destroyed (Lilith: 4000→3600 LP). Genius attacks and destroys Doc (Lilith: 3600→2900 LP). Thaumiel Sets 1 card. He ends his turn. During the End Phase, Monolith's effect lets Thaumiel draw cards equal to the number of "Qli" monsters he Tributed for Tribute Summons this turn. He draws 5 cards. Cross-Domination's effect ends (Disk: 0→2800/0→1000).

Turn 4: Lilith

Lilith draws. She activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Quick Booster, which lets her shuffle 1 Quick-Play Spell Card in her GY into her Deck. She shuffles Steady Hands into her Deck. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Caspar's column, Lilith can add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her Deck to her hand. She adds Magical Musket – Desperado to her hand. Lilith uses Caspar to Link Summon Magical Musketeer Max (1000→200/1/↓) to the Extra Monster Zone. As Max was Link Summoned, Lilith can activate 1 of 2 effects. She activates the 2nd effect to Special Summon "Magical Musket" monsters with different names from her Deck, up to the number of Spell/Trap Cards Thaumiel controls. Thaumiel controls 5 Spell/Trap Cards, so Lilith Special Summons Magical Musketeer Calamity (1500→700/1300→800/4) in Defense Position, Magical Musketeer Doc (1400→600/1200→700/3) in Defense Position, Magical Musketeer Kidbrave (1600→800/200→0/3) in Attack Position, Magical Musketeer Starfire (1300→500/1700→1200/4) in Defense Position, and Magical Musketeer Wild (1700→900/900→400/4) in Attack Position. Lilith activates the Trap Card Magical Musket – Desperado from her hand, which lets her target and destroy 1 face-up card on the field as she controls a "Magical Musket" monster. She targets and destroys Broken Qlinch. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in its column, Doc's effect lets Lilith add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her GY to her hand. She adds Cross-Domination to her hand. Lilith uses Doc and Max to Link Summon Magical Musketeer Daly (2000→1200/2/↙↘) to the Extra Monster Zone. As Daly was Link Summoned, Lilith can add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her Deck to her hand. She adds Steady Hands to her hand. By sending Fiendish Deal to the GY, Lilith activates the Continuous Trap Card Magical Musket – Black Market. While Black Market is on the field, Lilith's "Magical Musket" monsters are unaffected by Thaumiel's card effects (Calamity: 700→1500/800→1300) (Daly: 1200→2000) (Kidbrave (800→1600/0→200) (Starfire: 500→1300/1200→1700) (Wild: 900→1700/400→900). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Calamity's column, Lilith can Special Summon 1 "Magical Musket" monster from her GY in Defense Position. She Special Summons Caspar (1200/2000/3). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in the column of a zone Daly points to, Lilith can activate 1 of 2 effects. She activates the 1st effect to add 1 "Magical Musket" Spell/Trap Card from her GY to her hand. She adds Desperado to her hand. Lilith Tributes Caspar to Tribute Summon Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel (2500/2500/8) via its effect. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Cross-Domination, targeting Disk, but Thaumiel chains his Set Trap Card Qlipper Launch. Until the end of the turn, all of Thaumiel's Normal Summoned/Set "Qli" monsters on the field gain 300 ATK but are unaffected by other Spell/Trap effects and have their effects negated (Disk: 2800→3100). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Wild's column, its effect lets Lilith shuffle 3 "Magical Musket" cards in her GY into her Deck and draw 1 card. She shuffles Caspar, Doc, and Wild into her Deck and draws. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Steady Hands, targeting Wild and making its ATK/DEF equal to twice its original ATK/DEF until the end of the turn (Wild: 1700→3400/900→1800). Since a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Kidbrave's column, Lilith can discard 1 "Magical Musket' card to draw 2 cards. She discards a 2nd copy of Calamity and draws. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Power Shot, targeting Zakiel. Zakiel gains 800 ATK and cannot be destroyed by battle this turn (Zakiel: 2500→3300).

Wild attacks and destroys Disk (Thaumiel: 2500→2200 LP). As Thaumiel controls an "Apoqliphort" monster and his "Qli" monster was destroyed by battle, Thaumiel activates the Trap Card Aqlimation from his hand, which ends the Battle Phase. Lilith Sets 2 cards. She ends her turn, and Power Shot's and Steady Hands' effects end (Wild: 3400→1700/1800→900) (Zakiel: 3300→2500).

Turn 5: Thaumiel

Thaumiel draws. Lilith activates her Set Trap Card Mind Crush, which lets her declare 1 card name. If that card is in Thaumiel's hand, he must discard it, otherwise Lilith must discard 1 random card. She declares Tierra, Source of Destruction. The card is in Thaumiel's hand, so he discards it. Lilith activates the Trap Card Magical Musket – Dancing Needle from her hand. As she controls a "Magical Musket" monster, Lilith can banish up to 3 cards in the GY. She banishes Broken Qlinch, Qlipper Launch, and Tierra, Source of Destruction from Thaumiel's GY. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Wild's column, Lilith shuffles Magical Musket Showdown, Power Shot, and Max into her Deck and Extra Deck and draws 1 card. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in the column of a zone Daly points to, Lilith activates Daly's effect to add Steady Hands from her GY to her hand. Lilith activates the Trap Card Magical Musket – Desperado from her hand, targeting and destroying Qliphort Monolith. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Kidbrave's column, Lilith discards Magical Musket – Urgent Battle and draws 2 cards. Thaumiel activates the Spell Card Pendulum Paradox, which lets him add 2 face-up Pendulum Monsters with different names but the same Pendulum Scales from his Extra Deck to his hand. As Thaumiel activated a Spell/Trap Card while she controls a "Magical Musket" monster, Lilith activates the Counter Trap Card Magical Musket – Last Stand from her hand, negating the activation of Pendulum Paradox and destroying it. Thaumiel activates the Scale 1 Qliphort Stealth in his Pendulum Zone. While Stealth is in the Pendulum Zone, Thaumiel's "Qli" monsters gain 300 ATK. Thaumiel Pendulum Summons Qliphort Carrier (2400→1800→2100/1000/6→4/1) and Qliphort Helix (2400→1800→2100/1000/6→4/9) from his Extra Deck to Genius's bottom-left and bottom-right Link Markers, and Qliphort Shell (2800→3100/1000/8/9) from his hand, all in Attack Position. As Shell was Special Summoned, its Level becomes 4 and its original ATK becomes 1800 (Shell: 3100→2100/8→4). Thaumiel uses Helix, Shell, and Link-2 Genius to Link Summon Apoqliphort Apotheosis (3400/4/←↙↘→) to the Extra Monster Zone. Thaumiel activates Apotheosis's effect, targeting the Carrier at its Link Marker. Until the end of the turn, Carrier can be treated as 3 Tributes for the Tribute Summon of an "Apoqliphort" monster. He Tributes Carrier to Tribute Summon Apoqliphort Skybase (2900/2500/9). As Helix was Tributed, Thaumiel can target and destroy 1 Spell/Trap Card on the field. He targets and destroys Black Market (Calamity: 1500→700/1300→800) (Daly: 2000→1200) (Kidbrave: 1600→800/200→0) (Starfire: 1300→500/1700→1200) (Wild: 1700→900/900→400) (Zakiel: 2500→2200). As Black Market was sent to the GY by Thaumiel's card, Lilith can Set 1 other "Magical Musket" Spell/Trap Card from her GY. She Sets Cross-Domination. Thaumiel activates Skybase's effect to target and take control of 1 of Lilith's monsters until the End Phase. He takes control of Zakiel (2200→2500).

Zakiel attacks and destroys Calamity. Skybase attacks Kidbrave. Lilith activates the Trap Card Magical Musket – Final Volley from her hand, which lets her send 1 "Magical Musket" card from her hand to the GY, then until the end of the turn, the ATK of all "Magical" Musket" monsters she currently controls become double their original ATK, also their ATK cannot be changed by the effects of her "Magical Musket" cards for the rest of the turn and Thaumiel takes no battle damage for the rest of the turn. She sends Steady Hands to the GY (Daly: 1200→3200) (Kidbrave: 800→2400) (Starfire: 500→1800) (Wild: 900→2600). The attack continues and Kidbrave is destroyed (Lilith: 2900→2400 LP). Towers attacks and destroys Wild (Lilith: 2400→2000 LP). Apotheosis attacks and destroys Daly (Lilith: 2000→1800 LP). As Apotheosis destroyed Lilith's monster in battle, Thaumiel can send 1 card on Lilith's field and 1 card in her hand to the GY, and for each sent card, Lilith takes 800 damage. Thaumiel sends Starfire and Double Summon to the GY (Lilith: 1800→200 LP). Thaumiel activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Mystik Wok, Tributing Zakiel and choosing its ATK to gain LP equal to its ATK (Thaumiel: 2200→4700 LP). Thaumiel ends his turn.

Turn 6: Lilith

Lilith draws. She Normal Summons Magical Musketeer Caspar (1200→900/2000/3). Lilith activates her Set Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Cross-Domination, targeting Apotheosis, but Apotheosis is unaffected by Spell/Trap effects. As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in Caspar's column, Lilith can add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her Deck to her hand. She adds Magical Musket – Steady Hands to her hand. Lilith uses Caspar to Link Summon Magical Musketeer Max (1000→200/1/↓) to the Extra Monster Zone. As Max was Link Summoned, Lilith activates its effect to Special Summon "Magical Musket" monsters from her Deck, up to the number of Spell/Trap Cards Thaumiel controls. Thaumiel controls three, so Lilith Special Summons Calamity (1500→700/1300→800/4), Doc (1400→600/1200→700/3), and Wild (1700→900/900→400/4) from her Deck, all in Attack Position. Lilith uses Doc, Wild, and Max to Link Summon Magical Musket Sovereign Ottokar (3000→2200/3/↙↓↘) to the Extra Monster Zone. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Steady Hands, targeting Ottokar and making its ATK double its original ATK until the end of the turn (Ottokar: 2200→5200). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in the column of a zone it points to, Ottokar's effect lets Lilith banish 1 Level 4 or lower "Magical Musket" monster from her GY and activate its effect as Ottokar's effect. She banishes Doc to activate its effect, which lets her add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her GY to her hand. She adds Black Market to her hand. Lilith sends Calamity to the GY to activate the Continuous Trap Card Magical Musket – Black Market from her hand. While Black Market is on the field, Lilith's "Magical Musket" monsters are unaffected by Thaumiel's card effects (Ottokar: 5200→6000). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in the column of a zone it points to, Ottokar's effect activates, and Lilith banishes Caspar to activate its effect to add 1 "Magical Musket" card from her Deck to her hand. She adds Power Shot to her hand. Lilith activates the Quick-Play Spell Card Magical Musket – Power Shot and targets Ottokar. Ottokar gains 800 ATK and cannot be destroyed by battle until the end of the turn (Ottokar: 6000→6800). As a Spell/Trap Card was activated in the column of a zone it points to, Ottokar's effect activates, and Lilith banishes Wild to activate its effect. She shuffles 2 copies of Calamity and Power Shot in her GY into her Deck and draws 1 card. Lilith activates the Spell Card Back-Up Rider, targeting Ottokar and increasing its ATK by 1500 until the end of the turn (Ottokar: 6800→8300).

Ottokar attacks and destroys Apotheosis (Thaumiel: 4700→0 LP). Lilith wins.


Thaumiel:

Apoqliphort Apotheosis
Attribute: EARTH Type: [Machine/Link/Effect] ATK 3400 LINK-4 ←↙↘→
3+ "Qli" monsters
This Link Summoned card is unaffected by Spell/Trap effects and monster effects, except for Link Monsters with an equal or higher Link Rating. If this card destroys your opponent's monster by battle: You can send 1 card your opponent controls to the GY, then you can send 1 card in your opponent's hand to the GY, also inflict damage to your opponent equal to the number of sent cards x 800. Once per turn: You can target 1 "Qli" monster you control that this card points to; until the end of the turn, that monster can be treated as 3 Tributes for the Tribute Summon of an "Apoqliphort" monster.

Broken Qlinch Continuous Trap Card
The first time each "Qli" monster you control would be destroyed by battle each turn, it is not destroyed. You take no battle damage from battles involving your "Qli" monsters and your opponent's Special Summoned monsters. If you control no "Qli" monsters: Destroy this card.

Aqlimation Normal Trap Card
When your "Qli" monster is destroyed by battle: End the Battle Phase. If you control an "Apoqliphort" monster, you can activate this card from your hand.

Lilith:

Magical Musketeer Daly
Attribute: LIGHT Type: [Fiend/Link/Effect] ATK 2000 LINK-2 ↙↘
2 "Magical Musket" monsters
If this card is Link Summoned: You can add 1 "Magical Musket" card from your Deck to your hand. During either player's turn, you can activate "Magical Musket" Spell/Trap Cards from your hand. Once per turn, if a Spell/Trap Card is activated in the same column as a zone this card points to (Quick Effect): You can activate 1 of the following effects.
-Add 1 "Magical Musket" Spell/Trap Card from your GY to your hand.
-Target 1 "Magical Musket" monster in your GY; Special Summon it to your zone this card points to.

Magical Musket – Black Market Continuous Trap Card
Activate this card by sending 1 "Magical Musket" card from your field to the GY. "Magical Musket" monsters you control are unaffected by your opponent's card effects. If this card in your possession is sent to your GY by an opponent's card effect: You can Set 1 "Magical Musket" Spell/Trap Card from your GY, except "Magical Musket – Black Market". The Set card can be activated this turn.

Magical Musket – Final Volley Normal Trap Card
Send 1 "Magical Musket" card from your hand to the GY; until the end of the turn, make the ATK of all "Magical Musket" monsters you currently control equal to double their original ATK, also your opponent takes no battle damage for the rest of the turn. The turn you activate this card, the ATK of your "Magical Musket" monsters cannot be changed by the effects of "Magical Musket" cards, except "Magical Musket – Final Volley". You can only use 1 "Magical Musket – Final Volley" per turn.


Chapter Preview

Next time on Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS: Hidden Memories. Chapter 54 – The Queen and the Demon. Thaumiel has been defeated, but the other Enforcers and the rogue Ignis are not disheartened. Lightning goes forth to challenge Spectre, and when their duel concludes, Persephone is approached by Zahhak…


Question of the Chapter

What do you think of Tagoma's actions in the last scene of this chapter?


Author's Notes

Thank you to ThePLOThand for helping with the duel and the OC cards, and thank you to Haoh Ryu Z-ARC for helping with OC cards and the design and effects of Apoqliphort Apotheosis.

Well, this chapter took a long time to finish. Part of the reason was because the duel was really complicated and difficult to write, but the main reason this chapter took so long was because I wasn't really feeling motivated to write it. Part of this lack of motivation was because of the duel, but most of it was because of the fight scene at the end. That was supposed to be the first major fight scene I've ever written; I have no idea how I did, so if anyone would like to pick it apart and tell me honestly how good it was or how much it sucked, I would appreciate that.

Moving on, this chapter is where the Mirror LINK VRAINS arc moves onto individual duels, with our first duel being Lilith vs. Thaumiel. One of my main goals with this duel was to showcase the full power of the Qli and Magical Musket Decks, so I hope I managed to do that. Aside from that, we got some flashbacks of Thaumiel's past, from when he was recruited to Ouroboros at the age of 12 by Jester, to a meeting before Osaka where we see Diana as an Enforcer before she quit, and then him in jail and receiving his punishment for his excessive actions.

This chapter was really long and complicated for me, but I'm going to assume the part everyone will talk about is the last scene. So I'll confirm it right now: Yes, Issei Kamakura is dead. He didn't have his consciousness taken, he didn't lose his account, he was shot to death by Tagoma. I'll admit I was hesitant on killing him off as I had some ideas for Thaumiel in season 3, but I realized that in those plans, his presence would be superfluous, and all he would do is fill a slot on the villain's side. I didn't want to cheapen him like that, so I decided that I would give him a proper send-off. But considering the kind of person Thaumiel is, the only way he could be stopped would be if he died. Do you agree with me? Was his death cheap or was it earned? Either way, that will be the last we see of Issei Kamakura/Thaumiel.

Of course, this leaves me with a problem: I need another Enforcer for season 3. I had said that Hidden Memories would end at Chapter 117, but now I want to look over what I have planned for the season and see what works best. This means I'll likely need a new Enforcer for Ouroboros to take Thaumiel's place. I'll fully accept suggestions from anyone, though I would prefer it if the new Enforcer was a woman; aside from Diana, there's only one other woman in the planned Enforcers and her situation is… unique, to put it lightly. So I would like to even out the gender ratio in Ouroboros a little for season 3.

One last note: Yes, Ouroboros's Enforcers and Techbane have a program that will log them out instead of letting their consciousness data be absorbed. It's cheating yes, but I felt like it was something an organization like Ouroboros would do. And while Lightning is furious about it, it's too late for him to do anything about it. Right now, his only options are to betray Ouroboros and let this whole situation devolve into a melee-a-trois that he'll certainly lose or stick to the current plan and place his hopes on a complete Bohman. So he doesn't have much choice in the matter.

Thank you for reading Chapter 63 of Hidden Memories. This was a long chapter to write and a complete pain. But I'm sad to say there will definitely be a delay for the next chapter. For once, this isn't because of my descent into gacha hell; no, this is because the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is releasing on Friday and I'm going to play the shit out of it.

See you all next time. I'm scififan599, and this is my favorite fanfiction on fanfiction dot net!