Ranma, Master of the Cards

Disclaimer: To all people who are planning to sue... Exodia... OBLITERATE!

< >: Thoughts

Ranma-Yami: Ranma merged with Yami

LP: Life Points

AP/DP: Attack & Defense Points

Chapter 3

Part 2

Gourry and Amelia... the Duel Monsters?

"And what do these cards do?" Luna asked as she and Ranma casually traveled down a pathway toward a nearby town. The sorceress was currently flipping through Ranmaís deck of cards. She held up two identical cards.

Ranma nodded. "Those are Polymerization Cards. They're very useful for combination attacks. You can fuse two monsters together into a more powerful creature." From the beginning of their journey, the Duelist had been explaining the rules of the Shadow Games and how to use her own deck of cards. He had also told her of the Millennium Items and how important they were to the sealing of the Shadow Games.

Luna had left her serving staff in charge of the inn until she returned. During the time they had begun their quest, she had been learning the strategies and effects of the cards in her deck. At the moment, she found three Polymerization cards in her own deck. She then continued looking through her companionís deck and came across five particular cards. Fortunately, she did not draw them in a row.

"And these?"

The pigtailed Duelist took one look and winced. "Careful with those! Thatís Exodia."

"Exodia?" Lunaís eyes widened as she realized what was in her hands. She nearly dropped the deck. "You mean... THAT Exodia?!"

"You got it." Ranma said as he gently took the cards back and put them in the case on his belt.

"Iíve... read tales about the power of those cards. Drawing all five of those cards is said to be next to impossible, but you are guaranteed to win any Shadow Game if you do. Legend states that Exodiaís power rivaled... perhaps exceeded that of the Lord of Nightmares herself. Of course, I can't be totally certain since this is just hearsay. I'd have to see Exodia for myself. Some say that he was the yin to L-Sama's yang. The lord of all creation and the entity of oblivion."

"Well... I donít know about that, but I do know that Exodia is more than capable of destroying this world without any effort whatsoever."

Luna nodded. "Yes. He certainly puts the Giga Slave to shame."

"Whatís that?"

"It is a very powerful, very dangerous spell in which the Lord of Nightmares himself is called upon. I heard that my sister had used it to destroy one fragment of Shabranigdo. However, if the user were to become possessed by the spell then this entire world would be destroyed."

"You have a sister?"

"Yes. Sheís my kid sister, Lina. Sheís sometimes known as the Bandit Killer..." She then chuckled a bit before finishing her sentence. "... or the Dragon Spooker."

"Bandit Killer? Dragon Spooker?"

The sorceress gave Ranma a warm, yet sly smile. "Well... Iím not certain if sheís ever KILLED any bandits, but I do know that she wouldnít hesitate to blast them with a Fireball and steal their loot."

"Oh." Ranma couldnít really criticize since he himself had stolen things when he was a lot younger. Of course, he did not know at the time that it was stealing, since Genma had always maintained that it was some kind of game to take things, and that it was all part of his training. "And what about that Dragon Spooker label?"

"Hmmm... I'm not too certain about that one, but I think it means, that which dragons fear to trod upon, like a pile of..."

"Never mind. I think I can dope out the rest." He then decided to change the subject. "So... er, Luna?"

"Yes?"

"Not that I'm complaining or nothing, but... why exactly did you agree to come with me on my quest? I mean, it's great that youíre with me and all, but... you said yes right after I asked. Is there any particular reason?"

Luna was silent for a very long time before replying. "I said yes, for several reasons. One of those reasons was purely selfish on my part. You see... during the time that my sister and I were growing up, I had to take a job as a waitress to support us. I found that it was a steady source of income and I was able to meet new people every day without having to leave my home town. However, when my sister left home to go adventuring and find her place in the world, I found myself a bit jealous about not doing the same. I often wondered just what would have happened if I had joined Lina on her quests for magic and fortune, though my waitress job easily earned me enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life. I receive very GOOD tips."

<I'll bet!> Ranma thought. With Luna's beauty, it would have been no surprise to him if any male customer was to give her his entire life savings for a tip. He nodded for her to continue.

"It was a good life and I saw no reason to change it. I had also found out that I had a greater talent for magic than my sister and could just as easily develop those powers without having to travel all over the land. It wasnít long before my magic outstripped Linaís. I suppose I have a very high learning curve for techniques." Lina's sister gave her companion a small, whimsical smile.

Ranma nodded. He could relate to that as he too had a talent for quickly grasping the fundamentals of martial arts techniques.

"So?" Ranma urged.

"Though it was a good life... it was also a tedious and monotonous life. Nothing ever changed. I suppose I have the same wanderlust as my sister has, but I just never indulged in it. Then you came along."

"So... part of the reason why youíre here now is because you wanted some excitement, eh?" Ranma gave her a smile.

Luna blushed slightly. "I suppose that it is a petty reason, but yes. However, there were other considerations."

"Such as?"

Luna continued. "Recently, I had received a request from the Great Golden Dragons to aid them in stopping a terrible force of destruction called Darkstar. They felt that I was the only one with enough power to win against that threat, which would have destroyed the world."

"And?" Ranma asked.

"And... I turned them down and sent them to my sister Lina. Seeing that this world still exists, itís safe to say that she succeeded."

"You turned them down? Why?" The Duelist couldnít understand it. As a martial artist, it was his duty to protect the weak and a threat that could destroy a world wouldíve had him rushing toward the enemy.

Luna took on an introspective appearance. "Now donít get me wrong. If there had been no other choice, then yes, I would have accepted. However, I was confident that my sisterís abilities would be able to defeat Darkstar, otherwise I never would have told the Golden Dragons to seek her out. I also feel that Lina had learned a few things from that experience, though I think that sheís still a bit power-hungry. In any case, I believed that quest was destined to be Linaís, and that there was something more out there that I was meant to do."

"Okay, so... youíre saying that this quest that weíre on is... your destiny?"

"In a sense." The sorceress supreme held up her own deck of cards. "These cards were given into my safekeeping and I was under the most strictest of orders to never let them fall into evil hands. I had not understood what it was all about until yesterday. After seeing that Shadow Game with Weevilous and given a small demonstration of the power contained within these cards, I knew that the time had come for me to become involved. Weíre not just talking about saving this world. Weíre talking about saving all existence."

"Got that right. The Shadow Games must be sealed away."

"Indeed. For it is through the Shadow Games... that even a mere mortal can KILL the most powerful of gods."

Ranma nodded as he remembered what Yami had told him of the history of the Shadow Games.

----------

Flashback, in the Shadow Realm, we see Yami speaking with Ranma...

"Do not think that only mortals played these Shadow Games, Ranma. They were at first the diversions of the most powerful of the Elder Gods and Demons, some time after the creation of all existence. However, with their infinite life spans, even these games of magic and strength became tiresome. That is... until a new player was allowed to participate."

"A new player?" Ranma asked.

"Mankind. With his mortality and innate creativity, the human races of countless realities added new twists and new excitement to the games. Remember Ranma, that in a Shadow Game, the life forces of both players become linked to the Duel, regardless of whether or not the players are human, demon or god. Furthermore, once a Duel has started, both will become bound by the rules. As you can clearly figure out, this gives any human Duelist an opportunity to battle, defeat... and even KILL... a god. As decreed by the ancient rules, the loserĎs fate would be decided by the victor."

"I get it."

Yami nodded. "Over time, the Shadow Games grew in power as new Duelists and more potent magic came into the fray. After countless Duels, the Shadow Games reached their peak, 5,000 years ago, when one Duelist actually tapped into the cosmic primal forces which created the games and all existence in the first place. I believe your world called that event the Big Bang. It was there that the exact opposite to the Creator was born."

"The... Creator?"

"In your world, you know him as Kami-sama. In this world, people call her the Lord of Nightmares. One cannot say who is right. In any case, this newest addition to the Shadow Games was chaos in its purest form. And because of the nature and rules of the Shadow Games, even the Creator would not have been unable to stop this monster in a Duel. Its name was... Exodia. Fortunately, he had only been summoned once."

"Exodia? What do you mean? I thought that nothing was as powerful as Kami-sama."

"Normally, yes. However, in a Shadow Game, each Duelist becomes equal to his opponent. It keeps the games fair. That is to say, both Duelists become bound by the rules and effects of the game, regardless of their status. Kami-sama himself would have become just another Duelist. This regulation acted as a kind of safeguard, so that the full power of the Shadow Games would be restricted to only the two Duelists. However, with the creation of Exodia, that all changed. Any Duel which involved him, resulted in destruction of such magnitude, that it was decided by the majority of the godly, demonic and mortal Duelists, to forever seal the Shadow Games. Exodia had the potential to destroy entire universes and cause such a disruption in the space-time continuum, that all existence would have ceased. There was also the possibility that another being of chaos would be created to counter him, thereby increasing the risk. Of course, there was the chance that the Shadow Games themselves would become a primal force of chaos. For all these reasons, I had taken it upon myself to use my very soul to seal the games away in the seven Millennium Items."

"I see. So who had summoned Exodia in the first place?"

"You'll find him in my deck."

"What?!"

"Unfortunately, since he is a part of my deck, I had to give him to you along with the other cards. However, he is next to impossible to summon, so you won't have to worry too much about accidentally calling him. Just remember that he is your very LAST option. I would much rather win the Duels without having to summon him."

----------

End of flashback...

"All right. So you felt that this quest was something that you couldn't turn down." Ranma remarked.

Luna nodded. "Yes. Unlike Darkstar, I'm afraid that this is one danger that Lina cannot handle, especially since she doesn't have a Dueling Deck."

Ranma nodded. The only sure way of defeating the renegade Duelists was through the cards in a Duel. Since Luna already had a deck, along with her own formidable powers, she was prepared to face the challenges ahead.

----------

What Ranma and Luna didn't know was that Lina was currently striving to rectify that deficiency, by getting a hold of Ranma's cards.

"So we're going to see your sister?" Amelia asked as their group traveled along.

Lina nodded hesitantly. Though she dearly loved her sibling, the red-haired sorceress was also deathly afraid of Luna. She was the one person in which the infamous Bandit Killer dared not to anger. Lina shuddered as she remembered back to the last time Luna had gotten mad at her. At the time, Lina had been making big money from selling magical images of her sister in the shower. That is, until Luna found out. What she did afterwards...

<Brrrrr! I'd rather be stuck in a room full of giant slugs than to get her THAT mad again!>

"So why are we going back to your home town? Does your sister live there?" Amelia inquired.

Lina nodded again. "Yeah. Luna doesn't travel like I do, but she's amassed a lot of magical lore and ancient texts over the years. The only archive that would be larger than hers would be the Claire Bible. I'm pretty certain that she'd have something on the Shadow Games and how those cards of the Game King's works."

Zelgadis perked up when he heard this. Perhaps this Luna Inverse would have a method to transform the Chimera man back into a full human again.

Gourry smiled as he stupidly asked, "Say Lina? Does your sister look like you or does she have bigger breasts?"

KAPOWIE!

Lina stomped off in a huff, leaving the swordsman in a mangled heap on the ground. It was bad enough that Luna had blossomed early in her life, while her sibling had yet to have the slightest increase in her bust size, but to be constantly reminded of it... GRRRRR!

<Hmmm... I wonder if one of those cards can make my chest grow?>

----------

At a small restaurant, a few miles north of Lunaís hometown...

"So tell me more about yourself, Ranma." Luna asked as she and her companion were sitting at a corner table and waiting for their food orders. She was dressed in a very becoming outfit that consisted of black leather boots, light violet leggings which hugged her shapely legs and hips and a matching, short-sleeved, silk tunic with arm-length gloves. Draped over her back was a black cape.

Ranma could only scratch the back of his head sheepishly as he tried to think of where to start. "Well... basically, I'm a martial artist. I've been in training for over ten years now."

"Martial artist? As in... unarmed fighting styles?"

"You know of them?"

"Iíve heard of such, though theyíre not widely used. Most fighters are into swordplay, archery and that sort of thing. And of course, a large number of people practice sorcery, like me. Many people believe that fighting without a weapon or magic is the same as being helpless."

Ranma snorted. "Well, let me tell you something. Weapons can be taken away and used against you. Magic is nice and all, but it does take a lot out of a person. In a lot of cases, especially in a Duel, magic comes with a price. Trust me, I should know. When you go through the proper training, martial arts can be as effective as any weapon or spell. And one good thing is that youíll always have some way of defending yourself at any time."

"I can believe it. You were certainly able to handle those bandits on the way here." Luna and Ranma had encountered several bandit groups while traveling through the forests, but the pigtailed duelist easily handled them all without Luna casting a single spell. Though she was more than capable of defending herself, she appreciated his protecting her honor.

She found Ranmaís crude personality and ideals of honor to be charming, though somewhat rough and archaic. He was honest, and wasnít like those arrogant, and silver-tongued would-be suitors that she often encountered at her inn. He wasnít trying to impress her with tales of how great he was or how much money he had. If fact he was shy being close to her. He certainly didnít have much social experience with females. She could tell that he had some tact and a few interactive skills, but he hesitated a lot, especially with her. Apparently, women were not his specialty.

Still, she could feel something with him. He was... different than all the other men that she had met. There was also something that he just didnít want to talk about. Her mystic senses were detecting a kind of irksome enchantment about him. Although, she couldnít tell whether it was from Ranma or that strange pendant that he was wearing. In fact, it felt as if there were two, separate fields that were intermeshing with each other.

On that subject, she then gestured to the Millennium Puzzle. "Tell me, Ranma... is that one of the Millennium Items that weíre looking for?"

The Duelist took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah. This is the Millennium Puzzle and Iíve already gotten the second item, the Millennium Ring."

"I see... so how many more are there before we can seal away the Shadow Games?"

"Well... there are seven in all, and each has its own unique power. Thereís the Millennium Eye which can see into a personís mind. Then thereís the Millennium Tauk which letís the user see into the future. Then you got the brainwashing power of the Millennium Rod and the personality switch of the Ankh. And the truth or consequence ability of the Scales. The Ring has some kind of directional thing that lets a person find the other items. It also steals souls."

"And the Puzzle?"

"Well... itís kind of hard to explain this thing." Ranma looked down at the artifact. "I know that itís able to put a soul back into a personís body. Iím not really too sure what else it can do." <And I donít even know how to explain Yami.> Ranma added mentally.

Luna however, was aware of the Millennium Puzzle's other ability as she had noticed it during Ranma's Duel with Weevilous. She had sensed another presence combine with Ranma just before the playing field had been created. Ranma seemed to become a different person when he dueled. And it also was apparent that whoever merged with him was having an effect on Ranma's normal personality. She could detect a few spiritual alterations within her companion's personal aura. She was feeling an aura of arrogance, recklessness, and supreme confidence that was being slowly replaced by some caution and thoughtfulness. The confidence was still there, but it wasn't as self-centered. This perked the magic user's interest as she wondered just what kind of person Ranma had been before receiving the Millennium Puzzle, though she liked what he was now.

Luna decided to put those thoughts aside for the moment and began absently wondering how her sister was faring. It had been some time since she had last seen her.

----------

Two days later, at Luna's inn...

"What? She's not here?" Lina exclaimed.

The head waiter nodded. "I'm afraid Miss Inverse had left to take care of some kind of important business. She's been gone for two days. She had left me in charge of the staff until she returns."

"What kind of business?" Zelgadis asked. The Chimera man was a bit disappointed that the Sorceress Supreme was absent. He had been hoping that Lina's sister would have a cure for his condition.

"She wouldn't say." The waiter replied. "She just suddenly told the staff that she was taking an extended leave of absence, packed a few things and was gone the next day."

"It must be REALLY important if my sister actually left her job here." Lina remarked. She remembered back to when the Golden Dragons had asked Luna for help with Darkstar. Her older sibling had turned them down and sent Filia to seek out Lina instead. As far back as the red-haired magic user could remember, Luna had NEVER taken more than one day off from her job as a waitress. If Luna had actually departed from her chosen lifestyle, then that meant that there was something out there so dire, that her sister could NOT refuse.

"So that's just it? She just up and left on her own?"

"Well, she didn't leave on her own."

"What do you mean?" Lina inquired.

"A stranger had come here and helped her save this town from an evil sorcerer. Afterwards, he had asked her to come with him. To everyone's surprise, she agreed! He made quite an impression with her, from what I was able to tell."

Lina became even more surprised. Yet another first. Luna was actually interested in a guy? Her sister had never given the opposite sex anything more than a polite smile. "Really? Who was he? What did he look like?"

The head waiter then began telling Lina and her group about the recent events and Luna's meeting with Ranma-Yami, the Game King.

----------

"SAY WHAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTT?!?!?!?!?!?!"

At that moment, the roof of Luna's inn jumped off its foundations and made three turns in the air before coming back down.

"Luna is with who?!"

----------

Somewhere else...

"Achoo!"

"Bless you."

"Thank you, Ranma. I wonder where that came from? So where are we headed now?"

"North of here. At least, thatís where the Millennium Ring had indicated. One of the other Millennium Items must be there. Are there any towns out there?"

Luna nodded. "Thereís a small town called Atlona, a couple of leagues from where we are now. It happens to have a considerable number of minor magic users and fortune tellers."

"Hmmm... remember what Weevilous had said about escaped Duelists needing the lifeforces of magic users to stabilize their own?"

Linaís sister nodded as she understood what Ranma was getting at. "Atlona would be a good place for a Duelist to steal life energy. The magic users there arenít very powerful, but a large number of them would be the equivalent to taking the lifeforce of a strong sorcerer."

Ranma nodded as he and his companion began increasing their pace a bit. "And if one of the Millennium Items is there, then you can bet that one of those Duelists will show up. Come on! We better hustle."

"Allow me. RAYWING!"

With a simple gesture, the sorceress invoked a flight spell and the two of them were soon aloft.

"Nice. Youíve got to show me how that works. However, I think that this might be better." Ranma reached for his deck and drew a card.

"Whatís that?"

Ranma smiled as he showed her the card he had drawn. "Letís fly in style! GO RUBY-WING EAGLE!"

Ranm focused his developing magic powers and activated the card's properties. The card instantly expanded into a gigantic bird of prey that was as large as a Roc, from Arabian legend. However, this avian predator had crimson-colored wings, with feathers that glittered like gemstones... the Ruby-Wing Eagle! (1600/1000)

Luna gasped in delight as she and Ranma rode its back, as it flew at high speeds toward their destination. Using the cards instead of her own magic, allowed her to conserve her personal stores of manna. She looked down and contemplated her own deck.

----------

On the outskirts of Luna and Linaís hometown, that evening...

"So you think that your sister and the Game King are heading for Atlona?" Amelia asked.

Lina nodded. "The waiter said that Luna and the Game King headed out in a northern direction. Atlonaís the only town thatís north of here and would be the most logical place for her to stock up on magical supplies and things. Thereís a fair number of minor magicians and magic shops, and they do sell some decent talismans and ingredients for potions. It would be where I would go if I was on a quest."

"All right." Zelgadis agreed. "However, your sister has a two day head start. Thereís no guarantee that sheíll still be in town by the time we get there."

"Not a problem! I can get us there in a snap! Follow me!"

----------

 

"What is this?" Gourry asked as the group stood in front of an ancient stone structure that was shaped like an inverted horseshoe. They were now near a wooden glen.

Lina walked up to the structure and explained. "This happens to be an Astral Bypass."

"An Astral Bypass?"

Amelia nodded. "I read about these. They were supposed to have been the methods in which the old sages traveled from place to place. These gates allowed people to instantly go from one place to another by bypassing the physical realm and traveling through the Astral Plane."

"Yep! They're pretty rare and you won't find too many of these anymore. This particular gate goes straight to Atlona. Luna and me found this one when we were kids. This will give us a free ride into that town without having to go there on foot. It will only take a minute for us to get there, which would be just about when my sister would arrive on foot or flying... give or take."

"But... if this gate could do that, then why didnít your sister use it?" Gourry asked.

Lina was bit surprised that her dumber-than-a-sack-of-hammers friend asked an intelligent question. "Well, there are a few restrictions to using these bypasses. One of them is that they only work during a full moon." She pointed up at the sky and indicated the rising moon. "My sister couldnít use it two days ago, but we can use it now. Another problem is that this particular gate only works one-way. We canít go back once we pass through it. In any case, letís get going."

As the moon reached its zenith, the gateway began glowing as its magic activated. Lina gestured for her friends to follow as she stepped through the bypass and vanished. One after another, her friends followed. The gateway then closed up behind them as the group was sent on their way.

The players were now assembling as a new Shadow Game was about to begin...

----------

By this time in Atlona, Ranma and Luna were already sleeping in separate rooms at a small inn. However, their slumber would be short-lived as a new evil was about to arrive. At the same time, Lina and her company appeared in the town square.

"See? Not a problem!" Lina said.

It was then that a huge explosion was heard near where they appeared.

----------

Both Luna and Ranma were startled from their beds. Though normally, Ranma tended to sleep like a rock, when danger was near, his senses were always on full alert. Furthermore, since he had been practicing magic, he was now able to sense things on a mystical level. What he just detected now made his blood run cold. Someone was using ancient and dark magic that could only have originated from the Shadow Realm. The Millennium Puzzle glowed in preparation for the coming conflict.

Without transforming into his alter ego, Ranma leapt to his feet and ran out of his room, quickly changing into his clothes on the way. His right hand went to the case where he kept his cards and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

In her own room, Luna was also rushing to meet the danger. After getting to her feet and casting a quick spell to change her nightdress into her usual attire, she then probed with her own mystic senses to determine the nature of the danger. She shivered when she recognized the telltale sensations of the Shadow Realm. A Duelist was nearby. Reaching into the folds of her cape, she took out her own deck of cards. She then cast a spell which made her vanish.

----------

A few minutes earlier...

Lina and her friends stopped in their tracks when they came to the site of the commotion. They found themselves in front of what used to be Atlonaís Archives of Magic. Now the building had been reduced to flaming rubble. And in that carnage, they saw a sight which chilled them to their very souls.

A tall figure was holding up a smaller person by the throat with one hand. In his other hand was card that was between the index and middle finger. He was dressed in dark clothes and had a jagged scar running across his right cheek and over the bridge of his nose. He had long, dark hair and his eyes were solid red with no irises or pupils.

The young man in the strangerís grasp was trying desperately to free himself with both hands, but the strangerís grip remained firm. Then in desperation, he tried to summon up a Fireball to blast himself free. However, that was when the card let off an eerie light which made the strangerís captive scream out in agony. Then his body went limp as his flesh began to shrivel like a prune. A moment later, the clothes and flesh dissolved away, leaving nothing but a brittle skeleton in the stranger's hand. With a snort of disgust, the man tossed away the remains of his latest victim, which broke apart into bony fragments when they hit the ground. Nearby were the calcified remains of a few other unfortunates. In the space of a few heartbeats, the renegade Duelist had destroyed not only the building where Atlonaís citizens had stored their magical texts, but also the mystic librarians as well.

"Pathetic." The Duelist commented as he gauged the lifeforce energy that he had collected using the Essence Card of his deck. "This wouldnít be enough to last me half a day. Looks like I may have to drain the entire town."

At that moment a shout was heard.

"YOU... MONSTER!"

The man turned to see Amelia standing defiantly in front of her friends in her usual heroic stance. Behind her, Lina and Zelgadis prepared to unleash spells while Gourry had his sword drawn.

"And who are you to call me a Monster?" The Duelist inquired without any concern whatsoever.

"We are the warriors of truth and justice!" Amelia said with her usual enthusiasm. "You have destroyed innocent lives and for that, you will be punished! Feel the power of our righteous fury!"

Ameliaís companions all developed sweatdrops as their youngest companion was off on her usual spiel.

At that point, Amelia powered up and threw a hand forward. "Fireball!"

The deadly sphere of pyrotechnic magic went hurtling toward its target, but the renegade Duelist simply held up his Essence Card in front of him. The projectile suddenly winked out of existence as the card gave off that same eerie light. At the same time, Amelia trembled as her body experienced a brief, but numbing chill.

"Aaah!"

"Amelia!" Zelgadis was instantly at her side as her legs buckled a bit.

The Duelist grinned as he saw an opportunity. "Well now... this is a pleasant surprise. I had expected to find only low-level magicians in this town, but now my Essence Card tells me that three of you possess substantial magical lifeforces! Excellent!"

"Essence Card?" Lina said, then gasped as she saw the Duelist produce a deck of cards from his pocket. "Heís got a Shadow Deck!"

The villain nodded as he gave them a cruel smile. "Indeed. I am the Duelist known as Rapteron. Now... let us see if your powers can match mine!" With these words, he drew a new card out and tossed it upwards. "GO LAVA DRAGON! MAGMA FIRE BLAST!"

The card instantly morphed into a huge fiery lizard with flames for wings. (1800/1400) Flying above them, it let off a roar and opened its maw at Lina's group. It spit out a huge stream of molten lava which threatened to incinerate them all. They all scattered to avoid being hit, but the town began to catch fire. Citizens who had woken up began screaming and running for their lives.

Lina gritted her teeth as she called out to Amelia and Zelgadis. "Try to put out those fires while I take out that dragon!"

The two nodded as they began using various wind and ice spells to put out the flames. Gourry helped out by leading several people to safety.

Lina looked up and gauged the altitude of the Lava Dragon. She had to stop it fast before it could rain down more carnage, and she only knew of one sure-fire way. The dragon was high enough so...

"Darkness beyond twilight..."

Rapteron became intrigued as he watched Lina cast her spell. He then drew a new card from his deck.

"Crimson beyond blood that flows..."

The Duelist held out the card in front of him and waited.

"Buried in the flow of time, is where your power grows..."

Lina formed a small, orange-red ball of energy in her hands.

"I pledge myself to conquer all those who stand..."

The sorceress focused her attention on her target, which was about to let loose with another attack.

"Against the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hand..."

"Take cover!" Gourry cried out as he, Amelia and Zelgadis scrambled to get out of the danger zone.

"Let the fools who stand against us be destroyed by the power you and I possess... DRAGON SLAVE!"

At that moment, Lina let loose with a full-power Dragon Slave at Rapteron's monster. The beam of multi-faceted light struck the beast in the belly. For one, agonizing moment, it seemed that the dragon was going to shrug off the attack, but it let off a final roar before being enveloped in one massive explosion.

"All right!" Lina exclaimed. However, that was when she heard a shout.

"DRAGON SLAVE!"

Another beam of power shot over her head and streaked off into the distance to impact heavily against a nearby mountain range. The shockwaves from the blast was felt all over town as Lina and her friends whirled about to see Rapteron smiling evilly while holding out his card. He then called out again.

"DRAGON SLAVE! DRAGON SLAVE!"

The card fired off two full-power Dragon Slave in rapid succession, which reduced two more mountains into craters.

"H-How did you...?" Lina was shocked. She had to chant the spell in order to deliver a full-power Dragon Slave, but that card had no problems whatsoever in recreating the attack and with no startup time. Filia had not been lying when she had said that the cards of the Shadow Games were mighty indeed.

Rapteron's smirk became even more smug as he showed Lina his card. "This is the Copycat Card, which allowed me to duplicate your fully-powered Dragon Slave."

"What?! That little card copied the most powerful black magic spell?!" Zelgadis was awestruck.

"Indeed." The Duelist then aimed the card toward the town's square. "Now you shall all surrender your lifeforces to me, or I shall unleash the Dragon Slave and destroy this town!"

"What?!" Lina gasped.

"Surrender or you shall witness this town's demise!"

Lina's group found themselves in a tight spot. The fires had not been totally put out, so Atlona was still in danger of burning to the ground. However, if the Duelist were to release the Dragon Slave, then the entire area would be reduced into a crater. And looking into his eyes, Luna's sister knew that he meant what he said.

However, it was at that moment that fate decided to lend a hand. A certain someone had appeared on the roof of a nearby building. Seeing that her sister was in a bind, Luna drew two cards from her deck and threw them down toward the ground while calling out.

"LA-DJINN THE GENIE! DE-SPELL COPYCAT!" (1800/1000)

The Monster and Magic Cards combined together and formed a green figure that resembled the ancient wish bringer of Arabian legend. The genie thrust out its hands and let loose with a brilliant burst of light, causing the card in Rapteron's hand to go dead.

"What?! Who dares?!"

At that moment, Ranma also appeared on another roof and threw out a card to take care of the remaining fires.

"MAGICAL MIST!"

The card unleashed its power and a light moisture suddenly blanketed all of Atlona. Despite the fact that it was merely a light drizzle, the magical rain caused the intense fires to die out. Both Duelists then jumped down to the ground to face off against their common foe. Luna held out her deck and recalled La-Jinn, while Ranma took back his Magical Mist Card.

"Luna!" Lina cried out as she ran toward her sister.

The elder Inverse smiled as she greeted her sibling. "Hello Lina. It's been a while."

Lina then looked down at what was in Luna's hand. "You've got a Shadow Deck?!"

"Actually, it's called a Dueling Deck, but in any case, I think it would be best for you and your friends to get out of here... now."

At this point, Ranma was facing off against the renegade Duelist. He saw the remains of the people whose lifeforces had been drained and this angered him. He pointed an accusing finger at Rapteron. "How DARE you steal innocent lives?! You had no right!"

"I have every right and those wretches were nothing! I think that perhaps you and your companion would be more satisfying!" The Duelist then eyed the Millennium Puzzle that was hanging from Ranma's neck. "If you think that you can teach me a lesson, then you shall have to do so through your deck! Do you dare to challenge me to a Duel?" He held out his deck.

"I DARE! IT'S TIME TO DUEL!" Ranma thrust out his deck to accept the challenge. At the same time, the Millennium Puzzle glowed and transformed him to Ranma-Yami.

"Let the Shadow Game begin!" Rapteron declared as a line of light began outlining the playing field.

----------

"What's happening?" Lina asked as she saw a large area of the town start to become sealed off. Fortunately, all of Atlona's citizens had evacuated the site during the Lava Dragon's attack.

"Ranma just accepted that Duelist's challenge." Luna replied. "It's a good thing that no one's in the playing field with them and... oh no!"

Lina also gasped as she saw that Zelgadis, Amelia and Gourry were inside the area that was about to become the playing field.

"GET OUT OF THERE NOW!" Luna cried out as she and Lina ran toward them.

Zelgadis and the others heard Luna's warning and began running toward the edge of the playing field. The stone-faced Zelgadis managed to make it before the playing field was sealed, but Gourry tripped and went down. This caused Amelia to pause to help him back up, but it was then too late as the playing field became active.

Both the swordsman and the young sorceress began convulsing in pain as their bodies felt as if they were on fire.

"Amelia! Gourry! What's happening to them?" Lina demanded.

Luna could only watch in despair as the barrier prevented her from getting to them. "The rules of the Shadow Games will only allow the Duelists and their decks to exist within the playing field. Anything or anyone else will be destroyed!"

"What?!"

----------

Rapteron chuckled as he watched the two in pain. "How delightful! It seems I will be absorbing the little magic user's lifeforce that much sooner!"

"Not if I can help it!" Ranma-Yami declared as he drew two cards, faced Lina's friends, and threw the cards at them. "Forgive me, but this is the only way!"

Once the cards came into contact with them, both of Lina's friends vanished from sight. The two cards then returned to the Game King's deck in which he promptly began shuffling.

----------

"What happened? Where did they go?" Zelgadis asked as he joined the Inverse sisters.

Luna nodded. "Ranma sealed them within two Essence Cards. They are now part of his deck and therefore will not be destroyed by the playing field. The problem is, now that they're part of his deck, Ranma may have to use them in this Duel. There's a good chance that they won't survive this Shadow Game."

Lina and Zelgadis were all for trying to break through the barrier, but that was when Luna explained the dire consequences of interfering in a Duel. It was up to Ranma-Yami now.

----------

Ranma-Yami: 2000 LP

Rapteron: 2000 LP

----------

The cards in each Duelist's hand came to life and appeared in larger versions of themselves. They aligned themselves in front of their master and were ready to be used.

Rapteron snickered a bit. "Well now. I certainly hope youíve made your peace with whatever gods you pray to. For this Shadow Game shall be one that you cannot win! GO LAVA DRAGON!"

The second card from his left instantly became the Duelistís fiery beast.

----------

"Wait a second! I destroyed that thing with my Dragon Slave!" Lina said.

Luna shook her head. "His cards reactivate once a Duel begins. That also includes his Copycat Card."

----------

Ranma-Yami drew two cards from his own hand. One he left face down while the other was activated.

"I shall fight fire with fire! GO FIRE LANCER!" (1800/1200) An African warrior with a flame-tipped spear appeared.

The warrior and the dragon faced each other off as their masters barked out their commands.

"MAGMA FIRE BLAST!"

"FLAMING SPEAR THRUST!"

Both attacks let loose intense flames, but each canceled out the other.

"Our monsters are equally matched!" Ranma-Yami declared.

His opponent however, shook his head while smiling. "Not when I arm my dragon with this!" A card in his hand flipped forward, reveling an image of a Fire Elemental. "This is the Spirit of Fire Card! It will increase any fire-based monsterís attack power by four hundred points!"

The Lava Dragonís aura became more intense as its attack power was raised. (2200/1400)

"Attack!"

The dragon let loose with a torrent of molten lava, which engulfed the Fire Lancer. Ranma-Yami let off a cry of pain as four hundred Life Points was lost.

----------

Ranma-Yami: 1600 LP

Rapteron: 2000 LP

----------

"Canít stand the heat?" Rapteron taunted. However, his gloating was cut short as Ranma-Yami's facedown card lifted up and let loose with a fiery blast. Rapteron's dragon suddenly exploded in a ball of flames. "What?!" He then trembled as he felt his own Life Points being deducted.

----------

Ranma-Yami: 1600 LP

Rapteron: 1200 LP

----------

"Oops." Ranma-Yami said with a grin. "I guess that Trap Card I laid face down was the real burn, eh?"

"A Trap Card?"

"Thatís right." The Duelist replied as the Trap Card vanished in into his graveyard. "It was the Double or Nothing Card, which causes your monster to receive the feedback of its own attack at TWICE the damage! Any monster with attack strength of over 2000 will be affected. I figured that you'd power up your Lava Dragon! You may have destroyed my Fire Lancer and cost me some Life Points, but I destroyed your dragon and paid you back with interest!"

The renegade Duelist snarled as he selected a card from the ones floating before him. "Bah! A minor setback! Now let us see if you can deal with this!" chosen card became a blue-white giant salamander. "Behold! The Great Sea Lizard Aquarionda!" (1700/1500) The Duelist also laid another card face down.

Ranma-Yami drew a new card from his deck and frowned when he saw it.

<Damn! It's one of those people that I sealed away!>

It was Gourry Gabriev's card, which depicted him in a ready stance with his sword held out. (1400/900)

<His attack power is too low to go up against that Sea Lizard. Right now, he's the weakest fighter in my hand. I'll try another card.> The Game King looked over the cards in his hand and decided on the strongest card, which was the Barbarian Destroyer. (1900/1600) The card became a hulking fighter with a very wicked-looking, iron club. He then let Gourry's card float over to fill in the empty space.

Rapteron smirked as he revealed that he had a magic card to be played. "Not bad, but with this Weakest Link Card, I shall take the lead!"

"Weakest Link Card?"

"That's right. The Weakest Link Card forces whatever monster my opponent has placed on the field, to be traded for the WEAKEST in his hand!"

"WHAT?!"

Before Ranma-Yami could react, the Barbarian Destroyer instantly wne tback into his hand and in his place stood Gourry. The not-too-bright swordsman looked about and saw Lina, Luna and Zelgadis watching from the sidelines.

"Hey guys! What's going on?"

----------

Lina was frantically waving her arms and shouting as she saw that Rapteron was about to make his move.

"GOURRY! LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU!"

----------

"Huh? WHHHAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!"

In the blink of an eye, the Sea Lizard let loose with its Dark Ice Attack and blasted the hapless swordsman into nothingness.

The pain that Ranma-Yami felt was especially severe as his Life Points were ripped from his beating heart. His legs buckled and he sank to his knees as his aura became dimmer.

----------

Ranma-Yami: 1300 LP

Rapteron: 1200 LP

----------

"GOURRY!" Lina screamed after seeing her traveling companion being vaporized. She reared back and focused her own power in a fit of anger.

"DONĎT DO IT!" Luna cried out.

Too late.

"FIREBALL!"

The explosion that Lina's projectile made on the barrier was huge and the effect on Ranma-Yami was just as big.

----------

"Arrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!"

The pain Ranma-Yami felt at that moment was excruciating. He almost blacked out from the pain but steeled his will to go on. He knew that it wasnít Linaís fault. It was that renegade Duelist that was going to pay!

----------

Ranma-Yami: 650 LP

Rapteron: 1200 LP

----------

Lina was struggling to get out of her sisterís hold, but Luna would not release her sibling from the Half-Nelson she had put her in. Apparently, Ranma had taught her a few things during their travels. Zelgadis stood in confusion, torn between helping Lina and thinking about what the consequences were for attacking the barrier, after seeing what happened to Ranma.

"Lina! Listen to me! I know that youíre feeling angry right now about your friend!"

"Let me go!"

"LINA! CALM DOWN NOW!"

"How can I stay calm after that?! That.. that..."

"I know! I know! But youíll do more damage to Ranma and your friends if you attack the playing field again! You just cost Ranma half his Life Points!"

"WHAT?!"

"Donít worry! TRUST HIM!"

"WHAT?!"

When Luna took a deep breath before speaking to Lina in a calmer tone. "Trust Ranma. Thereís a chance that he can get your friend back!"

"What... do you mean?" Lina asked as she stopped thrashing about. Luna released her sister and began explaining.

"I know it sounds crazy, but death in the Shadow Games is not always permanent. I had a look at Ranmaís deck and he does have a card in which he can use to revive your friend."

"He... can?" Zelgadis inquired. Only the strongest of White Magic could accomplish resurrection.

"Yes. So please. Trust him. I know that itís strange for me to tell you to put your faith in a person that Iíve only met a couple of days ago, but Ranma WILL win. Youíre only going to make things worse if you interfere."

"You... trust this guy?" Lina asked.

Luna was silent for a long time before finally nodding. "Iíd trust him with my very life."

----------

The playing field...

"It seems your companions do not know the rules of a Duel. Not that Iím complaining though." Rapteron taunted. "It makes things so much easier!"

Ranma-Yami gritted his teeth as he got back to his feet. "Where... is he?"

The Duelist shrugged. "Where all the defeated Monsters and used Magic Cards go. The discard pile or..." The cruel Duelist grinned. "...as we call it in the Shadow Realm... the Graveyard!"

----------

The Graveyard...

"Where am I?" Gourry wondered as he looked about. "Last thing I remember was being attacked, then I find myself in this cemetery."

The befuddled swordsman began wandering about the burial ground.

----------

The playing field...

"Donít worry though. Iíll be sending you to join that fool soon enough!" Rapteron declared as he drew another card.

"Weíll see about that!" Ranma-Yami retorted as he sent out his Barbarian Destroyer, as well as laying another card face down.

"Yes we shall see! Now... attack with Dark Ice, Aquarionda!"

The huge beast let loose with its attack to destroy its opponent.

"You Sea Lizardís attack power is lower than my monsterís!"

Rapteron smirked as he revealed his hidden card. "Not when I add this Magic Card... Venom Spray!"

"Venom Spray?!"

"Indeed! This card goes especially well with any water-based or Poison-type Monster, causing it to release a torrent of poison along with its attack, reducing its opponentís attack power by five hundred!"

The Barbarian Destroyer was forced back as it was doused with poison, along with the surrounding area. (1400/1600) With attack power lowered, Ranma-Yamiís card was unable to fend off the Aquariondaís Dark Ice attack and was disintegrated.

The Game King winced as he felt more of his Life Points being whittled away.

----------

Ranma-Yami: 350 LP

Rapteron: 1200 LP

----------

"Well now. This has been fun, but Iím afraid that I will have to end this Duel!" Rapteron gloated.

"Itís... not over yet!" Ranma-Yami declared.

"Oh, but it will be soon! You see, my Aquariondaís Venom Spray had not only vanquished your last monster, but it has also coated the ground and surrounding air with its lethal poison! Any other monster that you place on the field will be affected and will lose five hundred attack points each turn! The only Monsters that will not be affected are those with attack power of less than five hundred! And furthermore, my Aquarionda will gain additional five hundred attack points with each turn because of the Venom Spray! Face it, youíve lost! Admit defeat now!"

True to his word, Aquarionda got an added boost to its attack power. (2200/1500)

Ranma-Yami gritted his teeth as he drew another card. He frowned when he saw what card it was. It was Ameliaís Card. (1500/600)

<I donít dare play this card now! Iíll have to use my other card to buy me some time!>

"SWORDS OF REVEALING LIGHT!"

The card that was face down, flipped over and shot up into the air. A moment later, large shining swords of energy rained down and surrounded Aquarionda, freezing it in its tracks.

----------

"What does that card do?" Zelgadis asked.

"It freezes any of Rapteronís monsters on the field for three turns." Luna replied. "Looks like Ranma is working on some kind of strategy."

----------

"Hmpf! What difference will a three-turn delay make? You see? My Aquarionda is still being powered up by the Venom Spray." Rapteronís beastís attack strength was now 2700. Ranma-Yamiís opponent laid a card down. "And this card will also insure my victory! Your time is running out!"

"I still have time to do this." Ranma-Yami said defiantly as he laid a card face down and sent out his Mammoth Graveyard in Defense Mode. (1200/800) "Mammoth Graveyard is an Undead-type monster and therefore will not be affected by the poison!" The Game King said.

"No matter! I shall simply send out another monster to destroy it!" The renegade tossed out a card, which became a huge cobra with three heads. "Cobra King!" (1700/1400)

-----------

"Whoa! Big snake!" Lina exclaimed.

"Yes, and unfortunately, it is a Poison-type monster and wonít be affected by the Venom Spray either. And since it was not on the field when Ranma used his Swords of Revealing Light, itís free to attack."

----------

"FANG STRIKE!" Rapteron ordered. The huge reptile lunged forward and clamped its three sets of teeth onto the Mammoth Graveyard. The heads then bit down and caused the bony skeleton to disintegrate. Since Ranma-Yamiís monster was in Defense Mode, he lost no Life Points.

"That was total waste of a monster and you are only delaying the inevitable!" The Duelist sneered. "My Aquarionda gains another five hundred attack points! In the next two turns, it shall be free to move and will wipe you out! Furthermore, my Cobra King will also gain five hundred points since it is a Poison-type." (2200/1400)

Ranma-Yami smirked as he placed another card face down. "By that time, it will be too late! I have already gotten all the cards I need to bring you down!"

"Ridiculous!" Rapteron scoffed. "Because of the Venom Spray, you cannot bring out any monster without having it lose attack points. Undead and poison-types are the exception, but with my Aquariondaís attack strength now at 3200 and my Cobra King at 2200, I severely doubt that you have a card that is strong enough to defeat it."

"Oh really? Then I guess I should play this Monster." Ranma-Yami took out a card from his hand and tossed it out. "I call upon... GREMLAACK!"

The card instantly became a creature that resembled something out of a Warner Bros cartoon. It was colored gray, had bat wings, pointed ears, clawed hands and a very cute-looking face. (350/300)

"What is this?!"

----------

"What is that?" Lina inquired.

"Itís... Gremlaack." Luna replied with disbelief. <Whatís Ranma doing? Next to Kauribo, itís one of the weakest monsters!>

----------

"As you said, Rapteron. Monsters with attack points of less than five hundred will not be affected by the Venom Spray."

"Indeed. However, I see no point in playing that little runt!" Rapteron scoffed. "You must be mad in thinking that puny creature will defend against my monsters, especially when my Aquarionda will be free in the next turn, with an attack power of 3700! The Cobra King will be at 2700!"

Ranma-Yami smirked as he revealed a magic card in his hand. "Oh I havenít gone mad. However, Iím certain that youíre going to pretty mad when I use this Magic Card known as Multiply!"

"Multiply?"

"Yes. This particular card works with any monster with attack power that is below five hundred and multiplies them endlessly!"

As if on cue, the magic activated and began cloning Gremlaack at a phenomenal rate. In less than a couple of heartbeats, Ranma-Yamiís half of the playing field was filled with tiny, winged imps.

"Bah! This is all a trick! And your time is up!" Rapteron said as his Aquarionda was free to move. The Swords of Revealing Light faded away as the renegade Duelist ordered his monsters to attack. "AQUARIONDA! COBRA KING! DESTROY GREMLAAK!"

Both reptiles let loose with Dark Ice and Fang Missile attacks. Several dozen Gremlaack copies were annihilated, but to everyone's amazement, the remaining creatures simply reproduced themselves and filled up the spaces left by their comrades. The pain that Ranma-Yami felt was no more than receiving several pinpricks.

"WHAT?! THIS CANNOT BE!"

----------

"Do you mind explaining whatís going on?" Zelgadis asked.

Luna smiled as she realized Ranma-Yami strategy. "Rapteron canít take Ranmaís remaining Life Points until all the Gremlaack are destroyed. However, for every one that is eliminated, two more will take its place! Brilliant!"

----------

"Surprised? Well I should think so since Iím still standing and the number of Gremlaak are increasing."

"Blast you!" Rapteron cried out. Though his Sea Lizardís attack power had risen to 4200 while the giant snake was now at 3200, it made little difference.

"And now, itís time for me to take you down." Ranma-Yami said as he drew another card. "First, I shall equip my Gremlaak this De-Spell Magic Card to neutralize the power of the Venom Spray of your Sea Lizard."

The Gremlaak all thrust their little clawed hands forward and released blasts of energy which negated the effect of the Venom Spray Card.

"I shall also use Magical Mist, to wash the field clean of the remaining poison!" Taking out another Magic Card from his hand, he called upon the shroud of moisture to flush out the remainder of the toxins. "Now your Monsters cannot increase their attack power any further!"

"Hmpf!" Rapteron snorted. "So what if I cannot power up my Monsters! Each one is strong enough to destroy a Blue Eyes White Dragon now! Even though I cannot destroy the Gremlaak, you still cannot attack me! Gremlaakís attack power cannot harm the Sea Lizard or Cobra King! Weíre at a standoff!"

"Not really. After I place this card face down, Iím all set to defeat you." Ranma-Yami tossed his last card face down and added another stinging jab. "Youíre such an amateur!"

Rapteron growled. Ranma-Yamiís insufferable smirk and smug attitude was enough to rile him. "ATTACK!"

Both the Sea Lizard and the Cobra King fired off another barrage at the Gremlaak, but with the same results as before. The Gremlaak simply multiplied right back again.

"Temper, temper." Ranma-Yami said as he was now ready. "Such a waste of a turn. Now, it is time for me to attack!"

"You donít have anything strong enough to destroy my powered-up Monsters!"

"Oh really? Well then, I suppose you never heard of Gremlaakís special power."

"What special power?"

Ranma-Yami nodded as all of the Gremlaak suddenly merged back into one monster again. "Though Gremlaakís personal attack power is relatively weak, it does have the ability to cast a curse upon all of the monsters in my opponentís deck. Problem is that it must be on the field for three turns and be equipped with a Magic Card. Now it will use the energy of the Multiply Card to cast the dreaded Gremlaak Curse on your side of the field! This will greatly affect you for the next three turns!"

"The Gremlaak Curse?"

The tiny Gremlaak produced a soccer ball-sized sphere of purple energy, then lobbed it at the nearest monster, which was Aquarionda. The ball exploded into a seemingly harmless spray of mist, which blanketed Rapteronís side of the field. After itís job was done, it then vanished to the discard pile with no loss in its masterís Life Points. Then Ranma-Yami decided to play his trump cards. "And now, to finish my turn, I shall play... Amelia the Sorceress, in Attack Mode!"

----------

"What is he doing? That Gremlaak Curse didnít affect Rapteronís Monsters at all." Zelgadis became extremely concerned as he saw the daughter of Prince Phileonel appear. "Amelia doesnít stand a chance against those things!"

"Sheíll be wiped out like Gourry was!" Lina cried out.

Luna however, shook her head while smiling. "I donít think so. I happen to know what the Gremlaak Curse does."

----------

Amelia blanched when she saw herself facing off against two gigantic monsters, but, she couldnít bring herself to attack without Ranma-YamiĎs command.

Ranma-Yami however, gave her a reassuring smile and said. "Amelia... do not worry. They canít hurt you."

Amelia let off a whine. "Huh? But heís going to attack and... I... donít want to go to that Graveyard like Mr. Gourry." Though she was now under Ranma-Yamiís command as a card, she had seen what had happened to the swordsman from within the deck.

"Donít worry. Trust me. Besides, youĎll see Gourry again." He then drew another card, glanced at it and nodded before putting it in his hand.

Rapteron however, let off a malicious laugh. "You fool! You threw away this Shadow Game! AQUARIONDA! DESTROY THE SORCERESS!"

However, the Sea Lizard turned about and launched its Dark Ice attack at Cobra King, wiping it out. As a result, the Duelist was racked by intense pain as he lost a whopping one thousand Life Points from their difference in attack points.

----------

Ranma-Yami: 350 LP

Rapteron: 200 LP

----------

As his opponentís aura became dimmer and his body twitched in pain, Amelia glanced back to Ranma-Yami in confusion.

"W-W-What happened?"

The Game King smiled. "That was one of the effects of the Gremlaak Curse. For three turns, the monsters of my opponent will attack each other. The curse makes them see their allies as enemies and vice-versa." When Rapteron growled, Ranma-Yamiís smile became even more smug as he addressed him. "And donít think that the curse only works on your Sea Lizard. Your half of the field is affected so you canít bring out any new monsters until the curse wears off!" It was then that one of the cards that the Game King had laid face down revealed itself.

"And now it is my turn and I shall call upon the Enchantress of Light!"

The card instantly became a tall, beautiful woman with long, silver hair. She was wearing a very revealing white gown with a plunging neckline and a slit up one side. She wore a gold necklace, bracelets, and white sandals and gave off a soft amber glow. (1700/1700)

----------

Lina gulped as she stared at the activated card. <Geez! Even the cards have bigger breasts that I do!>

Luna frowned a bit when she saw such a beauty in Ranmaís deck. She then shook her head. She was not jealous of a card!

----------

"And with the magic of this Polymerization Card, I shall combine her with Amelia!" Ranma-Yami chose a new card from his hand.

The princess could only say Ďhuhí as the magic went to work to merge her with the Enchantress. In a bight flare of white light, the two became one. The end result was a VERY grown up, 5í10" Amelia, wearing the Enchantressí wardrobe. The girl couldnít believe it as she felt new power flowing through her.

"Behold! Amelia, the Mystic of Light!" (2000/1700)

----------

"ACK!" Lina stared at Ameliaís transformed state. With just two cards, her diminutive traveling companion had become the equal to her old associate Naga, the White Serpent, and had gone to a D-Cup!

Zelgadis was also in a state of shock. It was very amusing to see a Chimera man develop a nosebleed.

----------

"My turn is over." The Game King declared as he crossed his arms across his chest.

Rapteron sneered at his foe. "So what if your little friend is now more powerful! I donít need to call upon another monster! My Sea Lizard shall annihilate your Mystic of Light! ATTACK!"

However, the Sea Lizard simply bowed down its head and went into a defensive posture.

"What is this?!"

Ranma-Yami shrugged. "I only revealed one half of the Gremlaak Curse so far. Now you can see the other half. If there is only one of your Monsters on the field, then it will automatically be forced into Defense Mode. You wasted your turn."

"Curse you!"

"Nope. Youíre the one thatís been cursed, until after the next turn. In which case, I reveal my second hidden card!"

The second card flipped itself over and revealed...

----------

"Reborn the Monster!" Luna exclaimed happily.

"Whatís that?" Lina asked.

"Just watch!"

----------

"Be reborn... Gourry Gabriev!"

In another flash of light, the blonde swordsman appeared, swinging his weapon at empty air while screaming.

"Get away from me! Donít come near me! I...huh?" Gourry looked about and found that he was on the playing field again. A moment ago, he had been fending off the Reaper of the Cards. "Where did that maniac with the scythe go?"

"Mr. Gourry!" Amelia rushed over and hugged him tightly, forgetting that she was now changed.

"Huh? Amelia? Is that you? When did you get so..." The swordsman looked down and saw something firm, yet pliable pressing against his chest. "...big?"

Amelia blushed a bit as she moved away from her comrade. She made a pirouette and thought to herself. <Eat your heart out, big sister!>

Ranma-Yami nodded as he took out a Magic Card from his hand and laid another face down. "And now, I shall increase the Mystic of Lightís power even further with this Ancient Book of Secret Arts!"

Amelia became startled as a book appeared in front of her and opened up. Though it was written in a long-forgotten tongue, she understood it perfectly. Clasping her hands together, she began chanting a spell as her aura became even brighter. (2300/2000)

Rapteron was not amused as he drew another card. <Heís up to something. Neither that fool swordsman nor his Mystic of Light has enough power to destroy my Sea Lizard! However, because of the curse, I cannot attack him during this final turn, nor can I send out any other monster because theyíll attack each other!> It was then that he saw the card he had drawn. "Hah! Youíre finished! I have drawn a De-Spell Card! With this, I remove the Gremlaakís Curse!"

----------

"NO!" Lina, Luna and Zelgadis cried out at once as the Aquarionda began powering up for an attack.

----------

Ranma-Yami however, was not concerned. Mostly because the third card he had laid face down was a Trap Card.

"MIRROR FORCE! REFLECT THE ATTACK!"

The Dark Ice Attack of the Sea Lizard was rebounded right back at the beast. However, Rapteron was prepared.

"Not bad, but I shall use Negate Attack!"

The energy from the Sea Lizardís attack was dispersed before it could touch the monster.

----------

"What was that?" Zelgadis asked.

"Negate Attack neutralizes any attack thrown against Rapteron. Unfortunately, that includes his own." Luna explained.

----------

"I believe that itís time to end this!" Ranma-Yami declared as he put down the last card from his hand. "FLAME SWORDSMAN!" (1800/1600)

Once the magical blade wielder appeared, the last of Ranma-Yamiís face down cards flipped. "With this Polymerization card, I shall combine my two swordsmen to create a new fighter!"

"WHOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA!" Gourry cried out as he was being fused to the Flame Swordsman. When the magic was done, Gourry found himself in new armor and holding a magical blade. He was also more muscular. Holding the flame blade was like holding the Sword of Light again.

"Cool!"

Ranma-Yami declared. "You now face not only Amelia the Mystic of Light, but also... Gourry the Flame Champion!" (2300/2000)

"Hah! So what? Neither one of them are a match for my powered-up Sea Lizard!" Rapteron scoffed.

It was then that the Game King revealed his ultimate plan. "By themselves, they do not. However, you have forgotten that my Mystic has been chanting a certain spell from that Book of Secret Arts. That particular spell will allow her to transfer her own attack power to any fighter I choose."

Amelia smiled as she finished her chanting and directed her gaze to the Flame Champion. With a single gesture, her power was then added to Gourryís, boosting his attack power. (4600/2000)

"What?! This cannot be!" Rapteron exclaimed as Gourry prepared to strike.

The Game King nodded. "I thought that it would be more fitting that these two would be the ones to bring you down, Rapteron. YOU LOSE!"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!"

"FLAME CHAMPION... SUNFIRE SWORD STRIKE!"

With a downward stroke of his sword, Gourry unleashed a huge blast of flames which resembled a horizontal solar flare. The Sea Lizard was charred to ashes in a nanosecond and Rapteron was also caught in the attack. The barrier buckled under the stress and then exploded outward as the area behind it was scorched. Fortunately, the blast headed out of Atlona and destroyed a wide margin of uninhabited land. Then finally, the blaze died down as the playing field became inactive.

----------

Final score

Ranma-Yami: 350 LP

Rapteron: 0 LP

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Ranma-Yami stood over the defeated Duelist as he lay on the ground with some serious third-degree burns all over his body. His clothes were smoking and his deck of cards was blackened.

The Game King was all business as he addressed his fallen foe one final time. "Rapteron... you have lost this Duel and now, I shall decide your fate."

"Please... not again! We... can make a deal..."

"The only thing that I Ďdealí are cards. I hereby consign you to..."

"No...!"

"OBLIVION!" With one hand thrust out and palm spread, the Game King sent whatever was left of Rapteron back to the Shadow Realm.

At that moment, everyone came running up to the Duelist as he switched back to being Ranma again.

"You were incredible, Ranma!" Luna said.

"It was nothing." Ranma said as he picked up a card on the ground, which had belonged to Rapteron. It was the Aquarionda Card. As he slipped it into his deck, he then pointed the cards at the Flame Champion and the Mystic of Light. "Your job is done. Iím releasing you from the Essence Cards."

In an instant, Gourry and Amelia found themselves back in their normal bodies again.

"Awwww!" Amelia pouted as she found herself in her smaller and less endowed form. Gourry was also disappointed that he no longer held the magical sword.

Lina stood nearby and eyed the cards as Ranma put them back into the carrying case on his belt. She then cast a sideling glance to the cards in Lunaís possession. She had seen cards that could copy the most powerful of magical spells without any problems, resurrect people without losing life energy and a tiny creature that could curse its enemies. But most of all, Lina was thinking about how those cards had increased the size of Ameliaís bust and given Gourry more power than he ever had with the Sword of Light.

"Say... Ranma... how about five hundred silver pieces for that deck?"

To be continued...

Authorís Notes

Hoo boy, was that a long one! In any case, this duel is over and in the next chapter, weíll have Lunaís first Shadow Game plus a few more antics from the Slayers Cast. For now, Iím taking a little vacation from writing so Iíll see you all in two weeks.

NEW DUEL MONSTER AND MAGIC CARDS INTRODUCED

RUBY-WING EAGLE (1600/1000)

A giant bird with crimson feathers that it can launch like deadly missiles.

LAVA DRAGON (1800/1400)

A powerful fire dragon that can spit molten lava.

ESSENCE CARD

Able to absorb the mystic energy of the soul or combine it to create a Duel Monster Card

FIRE LANCER (1800/1200)

African spear bearer to the fire gods.

SPIRIT OF FIRE CARD

Causes any fire-based monster to be strengthened by four hundred attack points.

DOUBLE OR NOTHING TRAP CARD

Gives feedback of double damage caused by any monster with attack points of 2000 or higher.

AQUARIONDA (1700/1500)

Great Sea Lizard of the Deep. Special attack is Dark Ice.

GOURRY GABRIEV (1400/600)

Former wielder of the Sword of Light. As smart as a sack of hammers, but an expert swordsman.

BARBARIAN DESTROYER (1900/1600)

A meaner version of the Axe Raider.

WEAKEST LINK CARD

Automatically swaps whatever monster an opponent has on the field for the weakest monster in his hand.

VENOM SPRAY CARD

Works with all Water and Poison-based Monsters. Raises attack power by five hundred and coats the surrounding areas with toxins. Will continuously drain opponents monsters and raise playerís monsters. Only monsters that are undead, poison-types and those with less than five hundred attack points are unaffected.

COBRA KING (1700/1400)

Three-headed snake with fangs that can pierce granite. Special attacks include Fang Strike and Fang Missile.

GREMLAAK (350/300)

The Bad Luck Imp. Second weakest monster in the game, but it can cast the Dreaded Gremlaak Curse after three turns and if it has been equipped with a Magic Card.

AMELIA THE SORCERESS (1500/600)

Princess of Sailoon and overzealous champion of justice.

ENCHANTRESS OF LIGHT (1700/1700)

Very sexy, but extremely powerful magic user. Can be played with nearly every kind of magic card.

AMELIA THE MYSTIC OF LIGHT (2000/1700)

Fusion of Amelia and the Enchantress of Light. Basically, sheís a grown-up version of Amelia with top-notch white magic, shamanism skills and an increase of two cup sizes! She is the equivalent to the Dark Magician Girl.

GOURRY THE FLAME CHAMPION (2300/2000)

Fusion of Gourry and the Flame Swordsman. Wields the Sunfire Sword.