#7: Dark Truths and Quiet Moments

After Blue Angel and Playmaker begin facing off, Sable Luna watches in silence. White Reaper is there too, and despite her unease, the Knight of Hanoi has not made any extra attempts to take her down or interact with her. Instead, they're just standing there.

Just standing there.

Blue Angel Link Summons Holly Angel, but… something just looks wrong about the duel.

It makes her uneasy.

"What did you guys do?" She says. "Is that what she… what Baira wanted to do to me?"

White Reaper shrugs. "Why ask questions that you already know the answer to?" They say. "It'd be safer if you stayed out of VRAINS from now on, Sable Luna. Only the strong will be able to survive what they have planned."

Sable Luna brings a hand to cover her mouth. She's there, horrified, unable to make a move as this monster tells her to her face that she can't do anything here. That she can't even survive this, let alone protect anyone.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" White Reaper says, having the gall to sound genuinely confused. "I'm just trying to help you."

"You can't act like this is helping me," she says. "You guys are destroying everything. How can you even say that?"

Shiryō, who has been equally quiet, flies upwards. "Yeah!" She declares. "You Knights of Hanoi are nothing but monsters!"

"Monster," White Reaper says, before they let out a soft laugh. "Really? That's the insult you chose? Try again. I'm a lot of things, but a monster is the least of them." They step closer to Sable Luna. "I'm just acting on my own purpose. But I didn't expect you to get it, anyway. You'd never have understood me."

Sable Luna stares forward evenly.

Terrorists, extremists, people filled with violent, empty strength.

"I know you," she says coldly. Her voice isn't that of the idol Sable Luna, or of the kind girl Shiroshi Mitsuba. It's of a corpse. "I've met people like you. And I'm pretty sure the destruction that they brought meant nothing, too."

White Reaper freezes.

"Nice," they say after a moment. "You know how to be philosophical. That means nothing in this world though."

The two of them sit there, watching the duel.

When the odd card emerges, Sable Luna flinches.

Dark Angel?

That's not a card that Blue Angel ever had…

She watches Blue Angel scream and scream, and her heart feels hollow. Playmaker defeats her and logs her out, but Sable Luna still remains worried. She flies down just as Playmaker is moving back upwards, and their eyes meet, green against blue, quiet apathy against fearful anxiety.

"You," she says. "Playmaker."

The purple AI sticks its head out of the duel disk. "Hey, Playmaker, that's Sable Luna. She's the one with the—"

Playmaker shoves the AI back into the duel disk. "I already logged Blue Angel out, if that's your concern," he says. "You can check on her outside VRAINS."

"That's a relief," she says. "I want to thank you for saving her, but I can't." She steps forward. "I really can't. Because you're the one that caused her to be in trouble in the first place, right? Hanoi infected her with that virus in order to get to you, and that AI in your duel disk. You're the reason that Blue Angel was attacked, aren't you?"

"You're in hysterics," Playmaker says bluntly, not moved by anything that she's saying. Sable Luna swallows her apprehension slowly, taking deep breaths, but before she can say anything, Playmaker continues. "What are you doing here? It's still school hours."

"What are you doing here?" She shoots back. "You're not nearly old enough to escape that question too."

The AI laughs, peeking from the side. "Imagine being outtalked by an idol, Playmaker!"

"That has no relevance to this," Playmaker says. He turns to her. "Were you fighting Hanoi too? We detected more than one agent here, but there's none now."

None? Sable Luna glances back at where White Reaper was, but the weird Knight of Hanoi has already left. "Yeah," she says. "Someone infected Blue Angel with a virus and tried to do the same to me." She clenches her fists. Somehow, thinking about those two Knights and whoever else was there was going after Blue Angel makes her want to go back and hit them in the face.

It's just a thought though.

She's never been… violent, so she stays there.

"I see," Playmaker says.

"Will Blue Angel be ok?" She asks. "Were you able to get the virus out of her?"

Playmaker stares at her. She meets his gaze.

"I just want to know," she says. "She's my friend. She's my confidant. Just tell me, Playmaker, please—"

"I'm not sure," Playmaker says. "She was unconscious. Ai ate up the data of the virus, but she didn't wake up. I guess we'll have to wait and see."

Sable Luna rubs at her eyes.

She's just… exhausted. Frustrated. She doesn't want to express all of that in front of this empty, emotionless stranger.

The AI, who is apparently named Ai, stares at her. "She's really pretty," it says. He says? Something says. "You should ask her out, Playmaker."

Both Playmaker and Sable Luna shoot the AI disbelieving looks.

"No," Sable Luna says. "He's the opposite of my type. Anyway… thanks for helping her."

"It's the least I can do," Playmaker says.

"Huh?"

"You and her… you're innocents caught up in this battle. I'm the only one that should get hurt in this."

She shakes her head. "I don't know why you think that," she says. "But you're not the only one that Hanoi is hurting right now. I don't know what they did to you in the past, but this is the fight of everyone that has had someone hurt by Hanoi too."

He stares at her.

Then, moments later, he leaves.

Sable Luna logs out too.


She wipes at her eyes the moment she gets out, and her tears are already leaving her eyes despite her best efforts to fight them. She furiously forces herself to hold her breath until the tears stop, and with several fast, pained gasps, she pulls herself back up, ignoring Shiryō's panicked voice and all the worried questions.

She needs to get out of here.

She needs to breathe.

She leaves the house.

She doesn't know how long she's been walking for until a hand lands on her arm, and she blinks, turning behind her to see a taller girl looking at her, honey blonde hair tied into a messy ponytail with a single cowlick sticking out of the front. Her eyes are bright, gleaming gold.

She's kind of one of the prettiest girls that Mitsuba has ever met, even if she isn't really able to appreciate that now considering that she is barely able to breathe.

"Yes?" Mitsuba says, taking a deep breath.

"You don't look good," the girl says. She pauses. "Um… that was probably the biggest understatement of the year. I swear I'm not trying to look down on your clear state of distress! I'm just expressing my observations—ah, I think I'm just making things worse, aren't I?"

"Kind of," Mitsuba admits. "Who are you?"

"Oh…" The girl shrugs. "Nobody important. Anyway, want to get a drink or something so that you can calm down a bit? Or spicy food, I heard that actually helps with tears."

Mitsuba shakes her head. "I'll be fine…"

"Will you?" The girl says, tilting her head. "I don't actually think so." She pulls Mitsuba over to a nearby tree, letting her lean down before letting of her arm. "I don't feel like leaving a person who's clearly in a panic here by herself, so…" she shrugs. "What calms you down, silver girl?"

Mitsuba frowns. "Reading, I guess. Tea… maybe dueling, I don't know." She buries her head between her knees. "I really don't—"

The blonde girl sits down next to her, staring at her with clear worry. "Hey," she says. "Sorry for asking." She hesitates. "Can I hug you?"

Mitsuba nods. The girl hugs her for a moment, and then she lets go immediately, shuffling away. It's one of the most awkward things that Mitsuba has ever seen, and that actually helps her calm down a bit.

"Sorry," the girl says. "I want to help, but I'm… socially awkward. Not really good at helping anyone."

"You're doing fine," Mitsuba says. She holds out her hand, still feeling worn-out but deciding to be polite. "Shiroshi Mitsuba."

The girl smiles, shaking her hand firmly. "Kizoku Mizore," she says. "Nice to meet you, Shiro-chan." She sighs. "I'm not going to ask what messed with you, but do you need help or gossip right now?"

"Gossip," Mitsuba says. "I guess." She doesn't necessarily want to talk too much about the emotions running through her brain right now.

Mizore nods. "Alright," she says. "So, have you heard the ghost story about the hotdog truck in this area?"

… what?

"They say that it's a truck with an assassin, a superhero, a terrorist, whatever, it's something super secret." Mizore has lowered her volume at this point, as though she's telling a secret. "So the hotdogs are a conspiracy in order to hide the four hundred and twenty mutants in the back of the truck."

Mitsuba resists the urge to laugh, because she's met the owner of the hotdog truck, and she's not sure how to react to this story. "Really?"

"Nope," Mizore says, popping the word. "But it sounds like something that people would believe, right? 'Cause—I mean, because people are idiots." She shrugs. "I mean, I just assume that any story with four-twenty in it is a joke. The world works in that way."

Mitsuba does not quite know what to think of her. She seems so… weirdly normal, in comparison to everything that she has just gone through in VRAINS. A normal girl in a normal city, next to Mitsuba herself, who is anything but normal.

Mizore sighs and stands up. "Don't give me that sad look," she quips. "Come on. I'll get you a hot dog and stuff, how about that?" Mitsuba ends up pulled into her pace (not that she minds, anyway.) They get to the stand, where the vendor seems strangely distracted as he passes them the hotdogs, constantly glancing at the door behind him.

"It's mutants, I'm telling you," Mizore hisses as they walk away. "He's focused on the mutants so that they don't escape."

"You already told me that you made that up."

"Well crap, you're right." Mizore lets out a light-hearted laugh. "So you did listen to me, platinum girl?"

"You said silver just now."

"So I did! But your hair is honestly so shiny that it could be either." Mizore sighs, biting onto the bun of the hotdog. "So, where to next? I've never been in this city before today."

"What?" Mitsuba glances around. "Where's your… guardian? Parent? Sibling?"

"Do you think I can't take care of myself?" Mizore says cheerfully. Before Mitsuba can say anything though, she continues. "Nah, don't worry about it. My guardian is coming over later. I just moved back here, so I wanted to explore the place by myself…"

"Moved back?"

"Yup," Mizore says. "Used to live here when I was a kid, moved away then, moved back now. The works."

Something that Mitsuba finds really odd about Mizore is that she's surprisingly refined. She keeps on smoothing out her long skirt, as though on reflex. She folds her hands together on her lap and keeps her knees pressed together. She's… odd. Formal. And yet her speech pattern is both formal and informal, and it feels like it could go either way.

"So," Mizore says. "Want to duel me, Shiroshi Mitsuba?"

Mitsuba blinks. "I don't use VRAINS that much," she says.

"That's fine," Mizore says. "You do have a duel disk, right? It may not be as cool as in VRAINS, but I think that we could still have fun here."

Mitsuba shrugs.

It is a good idea.

It might be comforting to duel… not for her life, not as Sable Luna the Charisma Duelist, but as her.

There's a safety net when it comes to dueling in real life.

"Sure," she ends up saying.

"Great!" Mizore stands up. "We can duel… I don't know, there's a nice area in the park nearby that I found just now." Mitsuba knows what she's talking about, so they head over to the park. It is private enough, with not that many people around, so she feels a bit better dueling like that. They stand on opposite sides of the grass.

"Alright," Mitsuba says. "Are you ready?"

"I'm ready," Mizore says with a wink. "Let's have fun, ok? No hard feelings, Shiroshi-san!"

"None," she replies. "Let's have fun."

[MASTER DUEL!]

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 4000LP

Kizoku Mizore: 4000LP

"I'll start," Mitsuba says. "I'll set a monster and activate The World Tree. (Spell/Continuous) Then, I'll set a card too. Over to you."

Mizuko winks. "Good job. So, World Tree? That's a Plant monster support card, isn't it?" She takes the next card. "I guess I'll have to show off to you then, Shiroshi-san!"

What kind of cards would a girl like this use anyway?

"I'll activate my own Continuous Spell," Mizore says. "Valhalla, Hall of the Fallen!" (Spell/Continuous) She plucks out another card. "And since I don't control any monsters, I can bring out a Fairy from my hand, like my lovely goddess of wisdom here! Emerge now, Athena!" (7*/2600/800/LIGHT/Fairy/Effect) A tall, pretty woman emerges, dressed in a white dress and silver armour as she swings out her shield and weapon.

"Fairies?" Mitsuba says. "That's… an interesting choice."

"Hey, some really popular people use them!" Mizore says. "People like Blue Angel and Sable Luna! They're both really cool." She twirls a lock of hair between her fingers. "I guess I already had my original deck in real life, but I added a few of these brighter ones afterwards… heh! Guess I'm a bit of an emulating copycat. No Trickstars or… any of Sable Luna's ones though."

"I see," Mitsuba says. "I don't think there's anything wrong with using cards that remind you of people."

Mizore smiles calmly. "Yeah." She sighs. "But that's not really what I am, so shall we get to it? I'll Normal Summon the lovely dark angel—"

"I'll discard Dark Angel and tribute Lilybell to change your attack target to Holly Angel!"

Mitsuba tries very hard to avoid cringing.

"—Indulged Darklord!" (4*/1600/0/DARK/Fairy/Effect) A beautiful girl with purple skin appears, a dark, spiked halo above her head, red with corruption. It does nothing to ease her thoughts about Hanoi's cards, or if Blue Angel will be ok—

"Hey," Mizore says. "Do you want to stop? You look paler than before."

Mitsuba shakes her head. "I'm alright," she says. "And I do want to duel you… I was just thinking about some things."

"Ok," Mizore says. "But tell me if you're uncomfortable, ok? I know that it can be… yeah." She doesn't seem to know how to finish her sentence. It's oddly endearing. "I'll activate Athena's effect first. When I summon a Fairy, I can deal you six hundred damage! Holy Spear!"

Light shoots down at Mitsuba, and she winces.

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 4000 - 600 = 3400LP

"And then Indulged Darklord will activate her effect too. I can choose two Darklords from my deck with different Levels. I can Special Summon one of them to your field, and add the other to my hand. So I'll be giving you my Darklord Ukoback, (3*/700/1000/DARK/Fairy/Effect) while I'll add my Darklord Ixchel (10*/2500/2900/DARK/Fairy/Effect) to my hand!"

A small, cartoonish fairy with red wings appears on her field, floating on a low level from the ground.

"Of course," Mizore says, giving a small wave to Ukoback, "I can't use any other monster effects other than those of Fairies this turn, but that's basically no restriction to me, since I don't use any non-Fairies."

Mitsuba nods, merely waiting to see the next move.

"I'll activate Ixchel's effect," Mizore says. "I'll be discarding her and another one of my other "Darklord" cards from my hand in order to draw two cards." She cycles through her hand, eyeing the next few cards. "And I'll activate Athena's other effect. I can send one of my other Fairies to the graveyard to bring back a different one. So I'll send Indulged Darklord to bring back Darklord Superbia." (8*/2900/2400/DARK/Fairy/Effect) A beautiful angel made of black stone appears, with red gems embedded in its body and bronze wings folding around it nearly. "And of course, Holy Spear!"

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 3400 - 600 = 2800LP

"And now, Superbia will be bringing back another one of my Fairies other than itself when it is Special Summoned from my graveyard. So I'll return Ixchel to the field."

A beautiful woman with four long black wings appears, floating above the ground with a cunning smirk and a similar red halo over her head.

"And now, Holy Spear!"

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 2800 - 600 = 2200LP

She points forward. "Come on, Ixchel! Take out that set monster!"

Attacking with the monster with the most attack points first, huh? Mitsuba's set monster flips over, and Mitsuba smiles.

"Meet Hopeful Sleep Sprite - Anise!" (3*/1600/700/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect) A short, small blonde girl appears, flowers sewn into her white dress. Essentially, she was a much younger version than the ace of this deck.

Hopeful Sleep Sprite - Anise

(3*/1600/700/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect)

FLIP: Special Summon 1 Fairy monster from your Deck in facedown Defence Position. If this card is Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect: Change it to facedown Defence Position; and if you do, all Flip Monsters on your field gain 1000DEF until the End Phase (even if this card leaves the field.)

"When Anise is flipped up, I can bring out a Fairy from my deck in facedown Defence Position! So I'll be Special Summoning my Protective Sleep Sprite Familiar - Atelerix!" (3*/800/1400/LIGHT/Fairy/Flip/Effect) A small hedgehog appears, before it flips back downwards. "And my World Tree gains a Flower Counter!" (The World Tree: Flower Counter - 1)

Protective Sleep Sprite Familiar - Atelerix

(3*/800/1400/LIGHT/Fairy/Flip/Effect)

FLIP: Destroy 1 card on the field; then you take 1000 damage. If this card is Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect: Change it to facedown Defence Position. If this card is sent to the GY (except during the Damage Step): Gain 500LP.

"Alright," Mizore says. "Nice! Come on, Superbia! Take out that… cute hedgehog." She mutters the last two words, and her monster glances back at her, before it flies forward.

Mitsuba gives an amused smile as Atelerix flips over. "Don't be too upset! When Atelerix is flipped over, I have to destroy one card on the field, and then take one thousand damage."

"Wait, that's overpowered—"

"I'm taking the damage, not you," Mitsuba clarifies. "So maybe it's an equal trade. Maybe not. I'll destroy your Athena though!"

The lovely silver woman vanishes, and Mitsuba's life points drop.

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 2200 - 1000 = 1200LP

Mizore nods. "I'll set a pair of cards and end my turn there," she says. "Over to you, silver girl!"

"Draw," Mitsuba says. "I'll activate my Juxtaposition of Waking Dreams." (Spell/Continuous)

Juxtaposition of Waking Dreams

(Spell/Continuous)

Once per turn: You can send 1 Fairy monster you control to the GY; Special Summon 1 Plant monster from your Deck in facedown Defence Position. Once per turn: You can send 1 Plant monster you control to the GY; Special Summon 1 Fairy monster from your Deck in facedown Defence Position. If this card is destroyed and sent to the GY: Add 1 "Sleep Sprite" monster from your Deck to your hand.

"And I'll activate its effect. Thanks for the Ukoback, though you really should have attacked it. I'll send it to the graveyard and bring out a Plant monster in facedown Defence Position."

Mizore smiles in that knowing way. "That's fine," she says. "And if I had, this duel would have ended too early, anyway."

Hmm…

"No," she says. "It wouldn't."

I can defend myself, after all.

"I'll activate my third Continuous Spell now. Hibernating Beasts of Spoken Lore." (Spell/Continuous)

Hibernating Beasts of Spoken Lore

(Spell/Continuous)

Once per turn: You can Flip Summon a monster, even if it was Set this turn. You can not Flip Summon a monster that has already been Flip Summoned this turn with this effect. Once per turn: If a "Sleep Sprite" monster is destroyed by battle or card effect: Target 1 Spell/Trap on the field; destroy it.

"And that one lets me Flip Summon a monster once per turn, so I'll Flip Summon Watchful Sleep Sprite - Thyme!" (3*/1400/100/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect) The cute brunette appears, tilting her head and blinking, before finding her glasses and putting them on.

Watchful Sleep Sprite - Thyme

(3*/1400/100/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect)

FLIP: Special Summon 1 Flip Monster from your Deck, other than "Watchful Sleep Sprite - Thyme". If this card is in your GY while you control a Fairy or Plant monster: You can Special Summon it, but its effects are negated, also it is banished when it leaves the field. If this card is Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect: Change it to facedown Defence Position. You can only activate each effect of "Watchful Sleep Sprite - Thyme" once per turn.

"And when she's Flip Summoned, I can Special Summon a Flip Monster from my deck! I'll Special Summon Skelengel!" (2*/900/400/LIGHT/Fairy/Flip/Effect) She sighs. "I'll Normal Summon Spirit of the Fall Wind." (4*/1800/900/WIND/Fairy/Effect) The green-haired fairy emerges, floating next to the other two monsters. "And she'll add a Flip Monster to my hand. Now, open, circuit of the restful realm!"

Mizore smiles, seeming amused by the move.

"Arrowhead confirmed! The conditions are two or more LIGHT monsters! I'll set my three monsters in the Link Markers!" She reaches out her hand. "Wishes, fall from the sky with all the light of a shooting star! Nature, rise up to the call and form the bridge to the world beyond sleep! Circuit Combine! Link Summon! Link 3! Wishful Sleep Sprite Angel - Star Anise!" (L3/2100/LIGHT/Plant/Link/Effect/↓, ←, →)

Wishful Sleep Sprite Angel - Star Anise

(L3/2100/LIGHT/Plant/Link/Effect/↓, ←, →)

2+ LIGHT monsters

If this card is Link Summoned using only Fairy and/or Plant monsters: It cannot be targeted or destroyed by card effects. Once per turn, if a monster on the field declares an attack: You can discard 1 Fairy or Plant monster; negate the attack, and both you and your opponent gain 500LP. Once per turn: You can target 1 Flip Monster in your GY; Special Summon it to your field, and it is treated as having been Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect. You can only activate each effect of "Wishful Sleep Sprite Angel - Star Anise" once per turn.

The blonde girl glances at Star Anise. "She's your ace?" She says dryly. "Interesting."

Mitsuba isn't sure why the other girl sounds so skeptical, but she carries on with her turn. "I'll activate Star Anise's effect! I can revive a Flip Monster and treat it as having been Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect! So I'll bring back Skelengel! Spacial Restoration!"

She doesn't want it to flip back down yet, after all…

"And since I control a Fairy or Plant monster—in this case, both—Thyme will revive herself!" Thyme, Star Anise and Skelengel all exchanged high fives, floating around each other.

Mitsuba glances at her field, and her Extra Deck.

Ok.

She can… "I'll open my circuit of the restful realm a second time! Arrowhead confirmed! The conditions are two LIGHT monsters! I'll set Thyme and my Skelengel in the Link Markers! Now, stars, find your light, and descend down to illuminate the darkness! Circuit Combine! Link Summon! Link 2! Hip Hoshiningen!" (L2/1400/LIGHT/Fairy/Link/Effect/↙, ↘) A large gold and yellow star emerges, light gleaming from it as it gives a cheeky, confident smile.

"Oh," Mizore says. "That's the LIGHT Attribute Booster one, right?"

"Right," Mitsuba says. "So all LIGHT monsters on the field gain five hundred attack and defence points, and all DARK monsters, being the opposites of light, lose four hundred attack and defence points instead!" The light flashes, and every monster left on the field seems to sway. (Hip Hoshinogen: 1400 + 500 = 1900ATK) (Wishful Sleep Sprite Angel, Star Anise: 2100 + 500 = 2600ATK) (Darklord Superbia: 2900 - 400 = 2500ATK; 2400 - 400 = 2000DEF) (Darklord Ixchel: 2500 - 400 = 2100ATK; 2900 - 400 = 2500DEF)

"Oh," Mizore says.

"That's probably the best response," Mitsuba agrees. Now, Superbia technically had more attack points, but if she sent it to the graveyard, Mizore could probably revive it and revive Athena too, which would… not be good? But Mizore could also just send it there herself through Link Summoning or something…

It might be better to try and deal a bit more damage now, since it felt like it would be the same either way.

"Star Anise, attack Ixchel! Sleeping Mist!" The angel is crushed, and Mizore shields herself.

Kizoku Mizore: 4000 - 500 = 3500LP

"And now, I'll end my turn!"

"Draw," Mizore says, still sounding surprisingly calm. "I'll activate Banishment of the Darklords. (Spell) I'll add a "Darklord" card to my hand. I'll add another copy of Darklord Ixchel and discard her and another one of my Darklords to draw two cards again."

She seems… weirdly experienced, as though she's been dueling for a very long time.

"I'll activate my set Call of the Haunted. (Trap/Continuous) And I'll revive Indulged Darklord." Mizore winks. "And you already know what's going to happen, Shiroshi-san. I'll give you Darklord Marie (5*/1700/1200/DARK/Fiend/Effect) in Defence Position, and I'll add this card to my hand." She flips it over, revealing a white-haired angel with a red halo as well. "My Darklord Morningstar." (11*/3000/3000/DARK/Fairy/Effect) A black-winged angel appears on Mitsuba's field, and she frowns.

"Your monster seems pretty powerful," she says. "But are you going to tribute your monsters for it, or…"

"Oh," Mizore says. "Don't worry that I'm going to pull out something from nowhere. Morningstar can't be Special Summoned." She sighs. "But that's not to say that I have to tribute these guys to bring it out though. You've shown me yours, so how about I show you mine? Open, circuit of the disgraced, cruel angels! Arrowhead confirmed! The conditions are two Fairy monsters! I'll set Indulged Darklord and Darklord Superbia in the Link Markers! Now, beautiful maiden tainted by the darkness of the forbidden! Emerge from the hell that you were cast into and tempt all others into damnation! Circuit Combine! Link Summon! Link 2! Condemned Darklord!" (L2/1600/DARK/Fairy/Link/Effect/↙, ↘)

A white-haired lady appears, dressed in a very opulent set of clothing. Black and gold layers of robes adorn her, making her seem far more imposing, while her black, beautiful wings flap, wind rushing around them. Red horn-like structures can be seen sticking out of the fallen angel's wings, as well as the sides of her head.

"So that's your Link Monster?"

"One of them," Mizore says. "She does have a pretty sad story, this one. She's a curious Pandora, who constantly went after things that were forbidden, got punished and cast into hell, and slowly morphed into the thing that you see before you." Condemned Darklord turns to Mizore, making a crooning noise. "Yes, yes. I'll activate her effect. I'll discard a card and either add a "Darklord" monster from my deck to my hand or send it to the graveyard. I'll add it. And next…"

She smiles.

"My Link Monster lets me Tribute Summon a monster that needs two tributes by banishing two monsters instead."

Oh.

"I will banish Ixchel and Ukoback. Now, emerge, fallen angel that was once the most handsome angel of light! Darklord Morningstar!"

Darkness.

Black wings—overlapping, hard to see the shape of and harder to count. Black armour around another white-haired angel. A red halo in the shape of a blazing sun, jagged and floating. A dark blade is in his hand, and he slashes it outwards.

"Cool," Mitsuba says in an attempt to be polite.

"Hey, no need to lie." Mizore shrugs. "I'm aware that he can seem pretty creepy." She holds out her hand. "But I'm sorry. You're not winning this, Shiroshi-san. I'll activate Morningstar's effect! Since you have two Effect Monsters, I can Special Summon two "Darklords" from my hand or deck. Come from the deck. Darklord Nasten (7*/2600/2600/DARK/Fairy/Effect) and Darklord Tezcatlipoca!" (9*/2800/2100/DARK/Fairy/Effect) Two gigantic monsters emerge around her. "Now, Morningstar's effect. Since I control four "Darklord" cards, I can send four cards from the top of my deck to the graveyard, and for each Darklord, I can gain five hundred life points. Daybreaking Rejoice!" She reveals the top four cards. "Three."

Kizoku Mizore: 3500 + 500 x 3 = 5000LP

"Don't forget that Hoshiningen lowers your monsters' attack points!" (Darklord Tezcatlipoca: 2800 - 400 = 2400ATK; 2100 - 400 = 1700DEF) (Darklord Nasten: 2600 - 400 = 2200ATK/DEF) (Darklord Morningstar: 3000 - 400 = 2600ATK/DEF) (Condemned Darklord: 1600 - 400 = 1200ATK)

"Yeah," Mizore says. "But that only lasts while you have him." She points forward. "I'm going to level with you—that's not going to happen. Take him out, Tezcatlipoca."

"I don't know," Mitsuba says, flipping over her facedown. "I might like defending my monsters. Negate Attack." (Trap/Counter)

"Ok," Mizore says. "During my End Phase, Condemned Darklord will give me five hundred life points for each Fairy monster I control."

Kizoku Mizore: 5000 + 500 x 4 = 7000LP

"I'll end my turn there. I don't see how you can turn it around though."

Honestly, I don't know either.

But I can try.

"Draw!" She glances at the card. "I'll set this monster. Then I'll activate Spoken Lore's effect to Flip Summon Bittersweet Sleep Sprite - Roselle!" (3*/1400/1000/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect)

Bittersweet Sleep Sprite - Roselle

(3*/1400/1000/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect)

FLIP: Add 1 Fairy monster to your hand. You can only activate this effect of "Bittersweet Sleep Sprite - Roselle" once per turn. If this card is Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect: Change it to facedown Defence Position.

"And I'll add a Fairy monster to my hand with her effect. I'll activate Fragrance Storm (Spell) next, and I'll destroy a Plant monster I control, like Roselle, in order to draw a card. And if it's a Plant, I can reveal it to draw another!" She picks up the next card. Spearmint, huh… She reveals the card, and draws another straight away. "And my World Tree gains a second flower." (The World Tree: Flower Counter - 2)

"I see," Mizore says.

"I'll now activate the effect of Verdant Sleep Sprite - Spearmint (3*/1900/600/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect) in my hand. Since I control a "Sleep Sprite" Link Monster, I can reveal a Fairy monster in my hand, like my Hanewata, (1*/200/300/LIGHT/Fairy/Tuner/Effect) to Special Summon her!"

Verdant Sleep Sprite - Spearmint

(3*/1900/600/LIGHT/Plant/Flip/Effect)

FLIP: Special Summon 1 "Sleep Sprite" monster from your Deck. If this card is Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect, except "Verdant Sleep Sprite - Spearmint": Change it to facedown Defence Position. Once per turn, if you control a "Sleep Sprite" Link Monster: You can reveal 1 Fairy monster in your hand; Special Summon this card from your hand, then gain 500LP. You can only activate each effect of "Verdant Sleep Sprite - Spearmint" once per turn.

A young girl in a bright green dress hops out, a sharp spear in her hand as she rubs away the sleep from her eyes. She glances at Mitsuba, who gives her an apologetic smile. Then, the girl's left hand, which isn't holding the spear, glows and Mitsuba glows too.

"I gain five hundred life points," she says.

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 1200 + 500 = 1700LP

"And next, I'll activate Juxtaposition's effect. I'll send Soearmint to the graveyard to bring out a Fairy monster from my deck, like Atelerix!" She glances at her Extra Deck. "I'll open my circuit again! Arrowhead confirmed! The conditions are two or more Fairy monsters! I'll set Atelerix and Hoshiningen in the Link Markers! Angelic wings, descend with mischief! Circuit Combine! Link 3! Trickstar Foxywitch!" (L3/2200/LIGHT/Fairy/Link/Effect/←, ↑, →)

Mizore stares in shock as the familiar pink idol emerges. "Oh, you're a fan of Blue Angel too?"

"A little," Mitsuba says. She thinks back, feeling both nostalgic and worried all over again.

"Hey, Sable Luna."

She glances up. "Oh," she says. She hasn't really come online in a week, so she's surprised that Blue Angel would know she was here so quickly. "Hi. Hey. Yes."

Blue Angel winks. "I've been waiting for you to come back!" She holds out a card, and Sable Luna glances at it.

"This is…"

"Well," Blue Angel says, "she's the only one of my Link Monsters who doesn't require Trickstars, so she's the only one that you can use. What do you think?"

Sable Luna takes it. She glances back up at Blue Angel. "Why would you give me a card like that?"

"Well…" Blue Angel smiles. "You're my friend, aren't you? And we're… quite similar in a lot of ways, I think. So keep it with me and think about me if you're ever sad, ok?"

Sable Luna tilts her head. "I don't have much I can give you," she says.

"That's ok. I'm not expecting anything." Blue Angel holds out her hand again. "Come on! We can go hang out somewhere."

"Now," she says, "firstly, since Atelerix was sent to the graveyard, I can gain another five hundred life points! Gift of the Sleeping Hedgehog!"

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 1700 + 500 = 2200LP

"And now, for every card on your field, Foxywitch deals you two hundred damage—and you happen to have four monsters, a set card and your remaining Call of the Haunted. So that's six!" The cute idol shoots out six blasts of light, with Mizore sighing as the blasts wash over her.

Kizoku Mizore: 7000 - 200 x 6 = 5800LP

"And next, I'll—"

"You actually have to attack to defeat me," Mizore says.

"You sound like my brother," Mitsuba says. "I'm fully aware, don't worry. I'll activate my World Tree's effect. By removing both of its flowers, I will destroy a card on the field! Begone, Morningstar!" The large fairy vanishes, and Mitsuba sighs. "I'll activate Monster Reborn to bring back Hip Hoshiningen. So the effects remain." The only different monster on the field now is Foxywitch, so it's the only one with a notable change. (Trickstar Foxywitch: 2200 + 500 = 2700ATK) She points forward. "My Hoshiningen will attack your Condemned Darklord!"

Kizoku Mizore: 5800 - 700 = 5100LP

"And Foxywitch will take out Nasten!"

Kizoku Mizore: 5100 - 500 = 4600LP

"And finally, Star Anise, take out… Tez! That thing!"

Kizoku Mizore: 4600 - 200 = 4400LP

"I'll activate Star Anise's effect to revive Spearmint, and Spearmint will swap herself to facedown Defence Position! Spacial Restoration!" Mitsuba sighs. "Over to you."

"Draw," Mizore says. "Heh. You're really good, Shiroshi-san. I don't think I want to lose to you here though. Darklord Contact. (Spell) I'll Special Summon Darklord Superbia from my graveyard in Defence Position. And Superbia will return Nasten to my field. And Nasten's effect will activate! I'll pay a thousand life points and shuffle Banishment from my graveyard into the deck in order to activate its effect again!"

Kizoku Mizore: 4400 - 1000 = 3400LP

"So I'll add Ixchel to my hand. And you know the drill." She cycles through two cards in her hand again. "Alright. That works. I'll activate Polymerization (Spell) from my hand!"

Mitsuba's eyes widen.

"Hey," Mizore says. "Azalf, Sable Luna, Borea Riverus… they all use different Extra Deck monsters, right? I see nothing wrong with following in their footsteps. And they're pretty cool, too…" Three orbs of dark energy levitate above her. "I'll fuse Darklord Superbia, Darklord Nasten and Darklord Morningstar. Suns burn in the sky. Stars freeze. Now, with the power of your lost, broken halo, bring corruption to every other angel who considers the art of falling! Fusion Summon! Progenitor! Darkest angel of light! The First Darklord!" (12*/4000/4000/DARK/Fairy/Fusion/Effect)

If Mitsuba had thought that the previous version of Morningstar was creepy, this one is perhaps creepier in a different way. For one, his wings are a little more distinct and glowing with a little red. There is a beautiful halo above this one's head too, but the halo is slightly more white, slightly brighter. He swings out his blade and shield, at the ready to battle.

"Level 12… and…"

"It's an evolution of Morningstar," Mizore says calmly. "And when he is Fusion Summoned using Morningstar as material, I can destroy all cards you control."

Ah.

Most of her monsters vanish, but Star Anise remains there.

"Star Anise can't be destroyed by card effects since I only used Fairy or Plant monsters to Link Summon her. When Juxtaposition of Waking Dreams is destroyed, I can add a "Sleep Sprite" monster from my deck to my hand. And Hoshiningen lets me add a LIGHT monster from my graveyard to my hand."

"Sure," Mizore says. "But you're pretty much defenceless now, right? I'll activate my own copy of Monster Reborn too. And I'll revive my lovely Athena."

The silver warrior goddess emerges. Both her and the Fusion Monster give deep bows to each other.

"Attack it, Athena!"

"I'll activate Star Anise's effect!" Mitsuba declares. "I'll discard Thyme and negate the attack, and then we both gain five hundred life points! Hope Elation!"

Kizoku Mizore: 3400 + 500 = 3900LP

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 2200 + 500 = 2700LP

Mizore nods. "Now, rain down your unholy light! Morningstar—Destruction Ray!"

Mitsuba smiles, and she flips over one card in her hand.

"Honest," (4*/1100/1900/LIGHT/Fairy/Effect) she says. "By discarding it, Star Anise will gain attack points equal to your monster's attack points."

Mizore gives her a sweet smile. "You're so cute," she says.

H-huh? What?

"Sorry, silver girl." She discards a card from her hand as well, and shadows dance around Star Anise. "That's my Dark Honest. (4*/1100/1900/DARK/Fairy/Effect) And it's the opposite of yours. It drains your monster's attack points by its current attack points. In simple language? You're going down to zero."

"But you chained it second," Mitsuba says. "So yours resolves first. Your monster will be going down with mine!"

"True," Mizore says. "Let's go down together then." (Wishful Sleep Sprite Angel - Star Anise: 2100 - 2100 + 4000 = 4000ATK) The two monsters clash, and they both explode. "And now, I'll activate my set card. Banishment of the Darklords. I can add a Darklord card to my hand."

"So that was a fake out?"

"Yup." Mizore shrugs. "I'm adding my Capricious Darklord. (4*/0/1900/DARK/Fairy/Effect) And I'll Normal Summon her." Another one of the odd purple fallen angels appears. "I'll activate Athena's effect. Holy Spear!"

"Did you forget?" Mitsuba says. "I have a Hanewata, too." She discards it. "I don't take effect damage this turn."

Mizore gives a nod. "So you live the turn," she says. "I'll have Athena swap out my Darklord for The First Darklord again." The imposing Fusion Monster reappears. "Over to you."

"Draw," Mitsuba says.

Her entire field is empty.

All she has is this card.

Against two terrifyingly powerful monsters.

She sighs.

"I'll Normal Summon Wild Sleep Sprite Familiar - Lemuroidea!" (2*/100/1500/LIGHT/Fairy/Flip/Tuner/Effect) A cute lemur appears, fur blinking with bright constellation-like patterns of light.

Wild Sleep Sprite Familiar - Lemuroidea

(2*/100/1500/LIGHT/Fairy/Flip/Tuner/Effect)

FLIP: Your opponent takes 300 damage for each Set card on the field. If this card is Special Summoned by a Flip Monster's effect: Change it to facedown Defence Position. Once per turn: You can target 1 Spell/Trap in your GY that lists "Sleep Sprite" in its card text; Set it to your field, but the next time it leaves the field, it is banished.

"And with Lemuroidea's effect, I can set a "Sleep Sprite" supporting Spell or Trap from my graveyard to my field. So I'll take back my Waking Dreams and activate it again. I'll Special Summon Thyme back from my graveyard again. And now… I'll tune the Level 2 Lemuroidea to the Level 3 Thyme!"

"Oh, you can Synchro Summon?"

"Yeah," Mitsuba says. "Scents drifting through the air. Take form with a sharp aroma and pierce through! Synchro Summon! Level 5! Avid Sleep Sprite Angel - Rosemary!"

Avid Sleep Sprite Angel - Rosemary

(5*/2200/2000/LIGHT/Plant/Synchro/Effect)

1 LIGHT Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner LIGHT monsters

If your opponent controls 2 or more Special Summoned monsters: You can banish 2 Flip Monsters from your GY; This turn, this card can attack your opponent directly. When your opponent takes damage from a direct attack: You can send 1 card from their field to the GY. You can only activate each effect of "Avid Sleep Sprite Angel - Rosemary" once per turn.

A beautiful woman with dark blue hair appears, green leaves threaded through her hair as she floats in the air, a pillow floating above her. She swings around a bow, and a bright glow surrounds the ground beneath her.

"That just looks like an older version of Aromage Rosemary," Mizore says.

"Does it?" She shrugs. "That is the card though. Rosemary's effect. Since you control two or more Special Summoned monsters, I can banish two Flip Monsters from my graveyard and let her attack directly this turn!" She points forward. "Rosewick Arrow!"

The tall woman shoots out an arrow at Mizore, who winces.

Kizoku Mizore: 3900 - 2200 = 1700LP

"And since you took damage from that attack, I can send a card from your field to the graveyard! I'll send Athena back there!"

She glances at her monster, giving her a quick nod.

"I'll activate Juxtaposition's effect. By sending a Fairy monster like the Ukoback you gave me to the graveyard, I can Special Summon a Plant monster from my deck in facedown Defence Position." She still can't get rid of Marie, but… "I'll end my turn."

Mizore gives a cheerful smile. "Draw," she says. "My Darklord's effect. I can revive a Fairy once per turn."

No way.

So those two can just keep on reviving the other over and over?

"My angels don't die," Mizore says. "Not permanently, at least. They resurrect themselves, they don't leave each other behind, and they always push forward. So much for being fallen angels, right?" She sighs. "I thought it was cute, anyway… and now, I'll Normal Summon Darklord Ukoback. And now, Holy Spear!" Athena tosses out her spear, and Mitsuba winces.

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 2700 - 600 = 2100LP

"And I'll be sending Ukoback to the graveyard to revive Darklord Ixchel. Holy Spear!"

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 2100 - 600 = 1500LP

"And that's lowered your life points enough. The First Darklord will attack Rosemary! Destruction Ray!"

Mitsuba sighs, lowers her head, and finally accepts her defeat.

Shiroshi Mitsuba: 1500 - 1800 = 0LP

Mizore practically skips over. "That was great!" She says. "You're… really strong, huh?" She raises Mitsuba's hands up. "I actually think that there was a chance that I could've lost there! So don't get too sad about it, ok, Shiroshi-san? I'm sure you'll only get stronger from here!"

"Kizoku-san…"

Why is it that even though she lost, she feels so much more calm?

Ah.

This duel means nothing, in the grander scheme of things. There are no stakes, no problems that have to be dealt with through it. It's just her and her new friend dueling together.

She tried so hard to win, too.

That, more than anything, helps her a little more.

I'm not ok.

But I think I can be.

Just maybe, I can.

She glances at her watch and blanches. "Ah, I have to get to dinner with my brother!"

"You're late?" Mizore sighs. "How far is it from here?"

"Thirty minutes by walking, fifteen by bus. I need to—"

"That's fine." Mizore lifts her phone. "Come on. I already called my driver. He'll bring you there."

Mitsuba blinks, but follows.

You have a driver?


A while before Shiroshi Mitsuba logs out, Greystorm does. He ends up lying back in his seat, exhaling at the stupidity of everything that is happening around him. Damn it, Baira. If I get stabbed by White Reaper tonight, I'll take you with me. He stretches, and then he stands up.

He needs to start preparing to go out, anyway.

He has dinner arrangements today.

He dresses up, combing back hair that is entirely grey. (Everyone likes commenting on it and calling him an old man all the time, despite the fact that there are literally people with white hair that exist.) Once he's done, he heads out, and he ends up getting to the restaurant five minutes early. His best friend shows up a while later.

"Yo, Shun!" Shiroshi Mitsugi calls. "Sorry, were you here for a long time?"

"No," Haiwata Shun says, discarding the mask of Greystorm entirely. "Actually just got here."

"You overslept, didn't you?" Mitsugi says, amused.

"Not answering that." He sighs. "Where's Mitsuba?"

"Apparently she went out for a walk and lost track of time. Her friend's driving her over now."

"That works." Shun glances at the restaurant. "Italian again?"

"You know that's her favourite."

"Yeah."

Truth be told, as much as Shun adores Shiroshi Mitsuba—it's hard not to have affection for someone that you've known and been friends with for ten years—he can also tell that Mitsugi's little sister is hiding something big. Something that her entire family isn't really sharing with anyone, let alone him. The reason why Mitsugi and Mitsuba both stopped coming to school for a while, and why Mitsuba was… different, when she came back.

He hasn't pushed them for answers though.

If they ever want to tell him, they'll tell him when they're ready.

Then, one of the shiniest limousines that Shun has ever seen pulls up to the curb. Mitsuba comes out, looking equally shocked at the car, before she waves to someone in it and shuts the door, letting it pull off.

Mitsugi speaks up first. "I did not know—"

"Neither did I," Mitsuba says. "I did not know she was that rich."

"Aonami Kaiyō?"

"No," Mitsuba says. "She said her name was Kizoku Mizore?"

"Kizoku?" Mitsugi and Shun exchange a look, before Shun speaks up. "Not familiar to me."

"Not to me too." Mitsugi shrugs. "Well, I'm glad you made a new friend, Mitsuba. Let's get our seats though."

As Shun walks in, he gives Mitsuba a short look.

She… seems around the same age as Sable Luna.

No. He shouldn't make associations like that. It will just make it harder for him to do his job. Besides, Shiroshi Mitsuba is innocent in all this. She's just a girl in a school, with friends and—

He really does want to protect her.

"Hey," he says, catching her attention. "Do you use VRAINS?"

"Not much," Mitsuba says. "I didn't really see a point. I duel enough with people in school anyway. And it's pretty dangerous there right now, what with the Knights of Hanoi and Playmaker constantly attacking each other…"

Yeah.

Yeah, he is part of the danger, right?

"That's good," Shun says. "Take care of yourself first, ok?"

"Anyway," Mitsugi says, cutting in with his usual ease, "let's talk about some less scary stuff! People are talking about stuff like VRAINS way too much now anyway, aren't they?"

So they talk, and after dinner, they separate off again. Shun returns back home, and he lies down for a bit.

"Hey!"

Nine-year-old Shun looks up, and for a moment, he is blinded by the bright white hair of the duo in front of him. "Hi," he says.

"I'm Mitsugi," the taller boy says. He's gripping onto his sister's hand, and she's giving him a shy but determined smile. "This is Mitsuba. Want to play?"

He blinks. "Ok."

That was when they first met, wasn't it? Then, when they came back to school…

"You're a lot quieter now," he says. Mitsugi glances up at him.

"Maybe I am," he says.

Shun doesn't say any more. He's seen the odd, foreign look in Mitsuba's eyes. Whatever happened… He just puts a hand on Mitsugi's shoulder in a silent show of support.

… he has to go to meet up with the other Knights of Hanoi now. He wants to stop thinking about this.

When he logs in, White Reaper is doing so at the same time, and the both of them look at each other for a moment, but neither of them say anything. Instead, they turn to listen to Revolver.

Maybe he's not in as much trouble after all…


Mitsuba glances at her duel disk. "Coast's clear," she says.

Shiryō emerges slowly, looking oddly timid.

"I don't blame you," Mitsuba says. "And I'm not going to kick you out. I just want to understand. You were made in the Mark-II project, right?"

"Yes," Shiryō admits. "We were made then. From you guys. That's all I really know about the project. I'm sorry, I don't want to talk about it anymore."

"You said…" Mitsuba sighs. "You said that you were made to destroy the world. So they did that, huh? They kidnapped and tortured children all for the sake of creating things that could destroy the world."

What utter bullshit—

She reaches over, and her hand brushes through the feathers on Shiryō's head.

"I'm sorry that happened to you," she says. "But I won't let anyone hurt you now. No matter what."

Shiryō looks back up at her. "I know," she says. "You can't stand to leave people in trouble, no matter how afraid you are. That's what makes you Sable Luna. That's why I choose to stay with you."

They both exchange small smiles.

"That's it then," Mitsuba says. Shiryō flies over and snuggles in her hair as she heads over to her desk, turning on her laptop. She has a message from… ok, she has a few messages, from Kaiyō, Borea and Masquerade, all asking if she is alright. She quickly replies to all of them, before she clicks on the last one.

'Hey. Come online when you can tomorrow and drop me a message. I'll show you something fun.'

She sighs.

Everyone's trying to keep her happy, huh?

… she's glad that she has all of them. These people that love her, that care for her, that try to make sure she's alright.

'Ok. See you tomorrow.'

A/N:

Hooray for the longest chapter in this story yet! Before everyone murders me for having Mitsuba lose yet another duel—

*hatchet flies past head*

Yes, anyway, Mitsuba is still trying to move forward and become stronger. She's not as strong as her real life self compared to as 'Sable Luna' yet, but she is actively trying to change that. She's… not really as powerful as certain characters like Playmaker at this point, but… mmm, I've always been a fan of showing characters growing rather than being super OP at the start.

I would like to say that the number of characters right now might seem overwhelming, but that's mostly because I've been trying to keep the online personas of the characters separate from real life. Those lines will likely break down soon, and make keeping track of things easier.

Anyway, yes. Mizore isn't going to play that big of a role here compared to later arcs, but at least she put up a good fight. I don't know if her role in the plot here is obvious, but either way, I'm pretty satisfied with her introduction.

Greystorm (or Haiwata Shun, as mentioned here) gets a bit more screen time here. Hopefully that was up to standard.

Ok, see you guys next time! For a bit of a small spoiler, the next chapter is going to have the one duel that I've been sort of hinting at this entire time. (Hopefully it's not as painful to write as this one. Like dear god this one took a long time.)

Thank you to 2003 for favouriting and following! And thank you to Diabolic Tracer for your review. :)

~ Blaise :3