RANMA, MASTER OF THE CARDS

Disclaimer: I should think that the readers would know the drill by now.

< >: Thoughts

Ranma-Yami: Ranma/Yami fused together

Chapter 6

The Gathering of Duelists

"Come on, Ranma. We have to hurry and register." Luna said as she, Ranma, Gourry and Amelia walked toward the place, in which to sign up for the Tag-Team Tournament. The booths had long lines in front of them and it would take some time before they would be able to register. Though they could have just stormed the place where Pegasus was staying at, both Luna and Ranma agreed that any direct assault would endanger the souls of Lina and Ukyo. They have to play Pegasusí game... for now.

The pigtailed martial artist sighed and nodded. He didnít like being manipulated, but he didnít have any choice. With Ukyo gone, the only other person with any considerable Dueling experience was Lina Inverseís sister. After all, she had participated in the Shadow Games and knew even more magic than her sibling. The problem was that Pegasus had forced the elder Inverse sister into the tournament and to be Ranmaís partner for some reason. The mad creator of Duel Monsters was already interested in the Millennium Items he had in his possession, but why include Luna? Something didnít add up, and the bearer of the Millennium Puzzle had to determine just what Pegasus was up to.

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Ryoga was in Heaven as he was being pulled by Akane toward the registration booths. As soon as Akane saw his invitation, she immediately grabbed hold of the Lost Boy and said that they needed to sign up. With no Ranma in sight to spoil his moment with dear, sweet Akane, the Lost Boy hoped that heíd never wake up from this dream. She had actually chosen him over Ranma! Oh happy day!

<Iíll show Ranma whoĎs the best Duelist!> Akane thought as she and Ryoga neared the registration booths. She was still irritated that her fiancé had rejected her as a partner, and though she was in fact, using Ryoga to get back at him, she figured that the Lost Boy would understand and help her. After she and Ryoga humiliated Ranma in a crushing defeat, then heíd take her Dueling skills more seriously, just like her martial arts. (1)

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"Where is Airen?" Shampoo said as she looked about for her intended Dueling partner. "Must sign up for tournament before too late!"

Beside her, Mousse was still pleading with his beloved to be her partner. Of course, he didnít have his glasses on and was currently begging to a telephone pole.

"Oh Shampoo! Weíll be the perfect Dueling Team!"

Beside her great-granddaughter, Cologne looked about for any sign of her future son-in-law. She had come to the gathering to check up on her relativeís progress. However, as the deadline drew near, the matriarch decided that Shampoo had best take whomever was available, or sheíd forfeit her entry into the competition. After much discussion and assuring the purple-haired girl that sheíd get a chance at snagging Ranma during the Duels, Shampoo reluctantly agreed to take the myopic Hidden Weapons Master as her partner. This of course made Mousse happy, but Shampoo vowed that sheíd be dueling with Ranma at the finals, one way or another.

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"What?! The fair Akane has a partner other than my glorious self?!" Kuno started frothing at the mouth when his manservant Sasuke gave him the bad news.

"Iím afraid so Master. Miss Tendo has been registered with the one called Ryoga Hibiki."

"NAY! I WILL NOT ALLOW THIS! ONLY THE GREAT BLUE THUNDER IS WORTHY ENOUGH TO DUEL BY THE SIDE OF THE LOVELY AKANE! I SHALL SMITE THIS CAD WHO DARES TO PRESUME TO BE HER PARTNER IN THIS COMPETITION!"

"Wait Master!" Sasuke said as he stood before his employer, blocking his path to the Registration booth. "Itís already been done, and according to the rules, you canít attack anyone! Youíll forfeit your invitation!"

"Heís right you know."

Both men turned to see Nabiki approaching them with her usual mercenary expression on her face.

"What business is this of yours, Nabiki Tendo?" Kuno demanded as he was about to lay Sasuke low and go off to attack Ryoga.

Nabiki smirked as she replied. "Well, if you play your cards right, (pardon the pun), then you just might be able to get Akane as your Dueling partner for the finals. Interested?"

"Continue."

Nabiki held out her hand and her smile became more smug. Kuno immediately slapped a wad of yen notes into her hand.

The middle Tendo daughter counted the cash, then replied. "Well, if you were to SHOW my sister just how great a Duelist you are, then Iím SURE sheíll drop Ryoga in a flash and beg to be your partner. Ranmaís not going to be her partner, so that makes things easier for you. If you cause trouble now, then you can kiss all your chances of ever winning her as a partner goodbye."

Kuno stood motionless for a few moments, considering his options. Though he could just go off and smite Ryoga, Nabiki had raised a valid point. Surely, he was far superior to the Lost Boy in all things and the fair Akane would see just how great he was in comparison to that crude Hibiki boy. Without that foul sorcerer Saotome, then victory would be assured.

"You are... certain that the demon-spawn Ranma will not be an obstacle in this tournament?"

"Word of honor. Iíve already gotten wind that Ranma already has a partner and itís not my sister. Iím sure that a great... er, Duelist such as yourself will be at the finals, with Akane."

"Very well then. I shall stay my rightful wrath against Hibiki until we meet each other on the Dueling Field."

"But... Master? What about your partner? Youíve got to have one in order to compete." Sasuke pointed out.

"Well said Sasuke! Nabiki Tendo, would you consider...?"

"Donít go there, Kuno." Nabiki said, cutting him off. "Iíve got odds to set up and bets to cover. Besides, I donĎt have a Dueling Deck." With those words, she walked away and disappeared into the crowds.

"But..." Kuno looked up at the clock that was above the registration booth and saw that he only had minutes to register. "No! I MUST have a partner!" He began desperately looking about, but it appeared that everyone was already paired off. He then looked down at Sasuke, winced, then decided that scraping the bottom of the barrel was better than nothing. "SASUKE! DO YOU KNOW HOW TO PLAY DUEL MONSTERS?"

"Er... why yes Master. I have my own deck and... WHOA!"

Kuno grumbled as he grabbed Sasuke by the collar and dragged him toward the registration booth. <Oh how low the noble Tatewaki Kuno has sunk, in order to achieve true happiness! Be patient my beloved Akane, for soon, we shall be Dueling in not only the tournament, but in the game of our hearts!>

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A little distance away, in a private limousine...

Nabiki almost had a stroke when she saw that briefcase of money. She then looked up at the man who had contacted her earlier, Maximilan Pegasus.

"Well done Nabiki Tendo. You averted that disaster with that Kuno boy splendidly. It wouldnít do to lose any of our contestants so early on, especially over such trivial matters."

"Uh... thank you." Akaneís sister took a deep breath to calm herself, then asked. "But why did you contact me? I mean, why didnít you use your own men to kick out Kuno if he got out of line?"

"Well, I could have done that, but I feel that the best way to handle such situations, is to use the local expert. And you are reputed to the one to call for, how should we say, special arrangements and negotiations?"

"How did you know about me?"

"Oh, I have my ways." Behind his afro of silver-blond hair, the Millennium Eye twinkled. "But keeping the tournament civil is not the only reason why I called for your services. You see, I have a very special interest in one of the contestants, whom you happen to be acquainted with."

"Donít tell me, let me guess. He wouldnít happen to be someone with a pigtail and had just beaten Seto Kaiba, right?"

"My, my. You ARE very perceptive. Yes, and if someone were to provided me with information about him, as well as keep tabs on him and his partner, during the tournament, then I would be VERY appreciative." He emphasized his point by opening up another briefcase, this time with triple the amount of yen than what was contained in the first.

Nabiki smiled as she estimated the amount within the case.

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"I canít believe that youíre willing to be my partner!" Kodachi exclaimed as she signed the registration form.

The person in question smiled as he too signed the form. "Not a problem for my little Keiki. When I be hearing that my little darliní be needing a partner for this here tournament, the big Kahuna be steppiní in to help her." (2)

"Why thank you, Daddy dear. I had hoped that I would have my darling Ranma as my partner, but with time running out, I canít wait for him. I suppose that I will find him eventually."

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One minute before midnight...

Ranma and Luna both took a deep breath as they finally got to the front of the long line and signed their names to the register. It was done and there was no turning back.

"All right. You two are now participants of the tournament." The attendant said as he entered their names into the computer terminal he had. He then gestured to Amelia and Gourry. "Are you two going to enter?"

"Huh? Who us?" Gourry pointed to himself.

"Iíd love to be able to compete, but Iím afraid neither Mr. Gourry or I have an invitation." Amelia said.

The attendant smiled as he handed out a special ticket. "Youíre in luck. We do have these wild card spots for every 1000th pair in line, regardless of whether or not they received an invitation. We have two wild card positions and this is one of them." He gestured to Ranma and Luna. "They were the nine hundred and ninety-ninth, so that means you two are in, if you both have Dueling Decks."

Amelia jumped up and down excitedly. "Mr. Gourry, this is wonderful! Itís just lucky that weíve got our decks today!"

"Uh... I guess so." The dim-as-dirt expert swordsman scratched the back of his head in confusion.

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"Oh my!" Kasumi looked down at the ticket that an attendant at another booth had given to her. She had decided to check up on Akane and had accidentally gotten in one of the registration lines. By sheer coincidence, she had been the 1000th person and had been given a wild card invitation.

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Flashback...

"Congratulations. Youíre the 1000th person and are eligible to enter the tournament." The female attendant said as she handed the eldest Tendo daughter the ticket. Strangely enough, the woman was wearing a hooded cloak and her face could not be seen.

"But... I canít enter. I..."

"You do know how to play Duel Monsters, donít you?" The woman asked. "Do you have a deck?"

Kasumi blushed as she shyly reached into her apron and pulled out a Duel Monsters deck. Apparently, even the quiet and mousy Tendo daughter had caught onto the card craze. And though she hadnít admitted it to anyone, she had been practicing and had become acquainted with the strategies and the best uses of magic cards. However, the brown-haired girl shook her head as she placed the deck back into her apron. "Iím afraid that I still canít compete since I donít have a partner."

"What do you mean? Isnít he your partner?" The woman pointed to someone who was standing behind her.

Kasumi turned about and saw...

"Dr. Tofu!"

The gentle, bespectacled physician smiled back at her while holding up a deck of his own. He then said, "Kasumi, I be honored if you would allow me to be your partner tomorrow."

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End of flashback...

Kasumi still could not believe her good fortune. Dr. Tofu was going to be her partner tomorrow! He had not gone all flighty and crazy at the sight of her! She was actually going to take part in something that promised to be fun! Kasumi made a note to meet up with Dr. Tofu early tomorrow so that they could practice.

As she walked away from the registration booth, the attendant who had given her the ticket smiled. Hanging around her neck, a certain piece of jewelry with a strange eye symbol in its center glowed briefly. (3) It had taken some doing, but things were starting to fall into place.

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When the registration booths closed and the majority of the contestants were gathered in the center of the park, a large monitor screen lit up and the image of Pegasus was displayed. The creator of Duel Monsters smiled as he paused to gaze upon the throngs of eager participants, then spoke.

"Greetings Duelist Teams and welcome to the Duel Monsters Tag-Team Tournament, sponsored by Industrial Illusions and Kaiba Corp. Among you are the elite Duelists of the world, as well as those whose hidden talents have yet to be seen. We have already had an amazing beginning to this competition as the reigning champion Seto Kaiba was defeated! There will be more surprises in store as the tournament shall begin at seven oíclock tomorrow morning!"

The crowds let off a thunderous round of cheering as Pegasus held up a device for all to see.

"As you are now aware of the new Duel Disk System from that outstanding Duel between Seto Kaiba and Ranma Saotome> Each team shall receive theirs when they come to complete tomorrow. I shall now review the rules of the tournament and add a few more as well. As stated, Duelists can only summon Monsters of up to Level Four, and must sacrifice them in order to summon higher level ones. Levels Five to Six shall require one sacrifice and Levels Seven to Eight will need two. Any higher and a total of three Monsters will be needed, a Ritual Card or Special Summoning. Fusion Monsters cannot attack during the turn they are summoned. Duelists may only play one Magic Card and one Trap Card per turn."

Pegasus flicked a switch on the demonstration Duel Disk and showed the LIfe Point Meter. "Each Duelist shall be given 4000 Life Points. Duelists shall play in alternating turns per team. A Tag-Team loses when both members lose all of their Life Points, surrender or cannot play any more cards."

Another round of cheers went out.

"And here is an extra rule. A Duelist can use his or her turn to transfer up to 500 Life Points to his or her teammate at any time. This competition shall be a true test of teamwork and only the best teams will be able to reach the finals and a chance at the ten-million-dollar grand prize."

The crowds roared again at the mention of big bucks.

"And finally, despite the upset he had suffered, Seto Kaiba himself shall be taking part in this tournament, so I think that itís fair to warn you all... and especially you, Ranma Saotome. He shall show no mercy."

The crowds became silent as many looked in the direction of where Ranma, Luna, Amelia and Gourry were standing. At that point, Ranmaís Millennium Puzzle glowed as he triggered the transformation. Ranma-Yami stood tall and defiant.

Pegasus grinned as he finished with his speech. "Each win and loss will be recorded by your Duel Disks. When you are given a Duel Disk, you shall also be given two Star Chips. You must wager these chips. Once you and your partner have attained ten chips each, then a circuit within the Duel Disk shall give you the location of where the finals shall be held, somewhere within Tokyo. And so, I bid you all to have a good nightís rest. For tomorrow, the Duels shall begin!"

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Later...

Pegasus smiled as he sipped a glass of wine as the camera which had transmitted his speech shut down. All was going according to plan as he gazed upon the two Soul Cards that were lying on the table before him. He nodded as he pocketed the two cards that contained Ukyo and Linaís souls into his vest. He then took out another card which depicted an image of a striking young woman. A lone tear rolled down from his right eye.

"Cecelia..."

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Somewhere else...

"I swear that Iíll get that punk for what he did to me!" Kaiba growled as he and his little brother Mokouba prepared for the night in their hotel room.

"You bet Seto! Youíre the best! That Ranma guy was just lucky! Youíre going to cream him the next time!"

Seto nodded as he shuffled his deck, then addressed his brother. "Mokouba, Iím going to need a partner since this is a Tag-Team, so..."

"No problem, Big Brother. I know that youíd rather duel alone, so Iíll just do whatever you say and let you take of it."

"Good to hear squirt. Now letís get some sleep."

<I swear that I WILL beat you Ranma Saotome!>

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Ranma sighed as he walked back to the Tendo home, after escorting Luna and her party back to their hotel. When he got to the front door, he began hearing some cheers and shouts that were coming from the dining room. He felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he came through the door.

"Just you wait! I'm going to win this tournament!"

"Oh, Akane! I'm so proud of you!"

"That's wonderful, Akane. Congratulations!"

"What's going on?" Ranma asked as he came to the dining room.

Kasumi smiled as she turned to face him. "Oh Ranma. It seems that Akane will be taking part in the Duel Monsters Tournament after all. I'll be competing as well! Isn't that wonderful?"

"You Kasumi? I didn't know you played Duel Monsters."

Akane's sister blushed a bit as she showed him her deck. "It was just coincidence that I received one of the two wild card spots. Dr. Tofu has agreed to be my partner. I hope we'll do all right."

Ranma smiled a bit, though he was more than a little surprised to hear that the normally gibbering Tofu had actually gotten the nerve to become her partner, without losing his mind. "I'm sure you'll do fine Kasumi."

At that moment, Akane came up to him with a smug smile as she held P-Chan in her arms. The bearer of the Millennium Puzzle frowned as he saw the pig, and guessed who had become her partner. <Hmpf! Figures! It'll be a miracle if she makes it through the preliminaries tomorrow... provided that Ryoga actually manages to show up on time.>

"I'm going to crush you tomorrow! You're going to regret not taking me as your partner!"

"Bwee!" P-Chan agreed. He was going to enjoy rubbing his nose into the fact that Akane is his partner and that he was going to beat ranma in something other than martial arts.

"Whatever." Ranma shrugged as he turned to head for bed. "I need to get some sleep. I've got to get up early and meet up with my partner before the tournament begins."

"Hah! As if you could ever wake up on time, much less early!" Akane scoffed.

Ranma simply ignored her as he headed toward the stairs. Before he began his ascent, Kasumi stopped him and asked him, "So who is your partner, Ranma?"

Soun, Genma, Akane and especially Nabiki listened in for Ranma's answer. Akane's brow furrowed as she naturally assumed that he had chosen Ukyo, Shampoo, Kodachi or some other hussy. That pervert!

The pigtailed teen however, shrugged as he replied. "You'll meet her during the tournament."

He was turning to go to bed when Soun's Demon Head suddenly sprung up behind him, forcing him to face it.

"WHAT DO MEAN HER?! HOW DARE YOU CHOOSE SOMEONE ELSE BUT AKANE?!"

However, the Millennium Puzzle glowed and Ranma-Yami's penetrating glare shrunk Soun back down. "I don't see why you're getting involved. This tournament has nothing to do with you and besides, Akane already has a partner and I am free to choose mine. We'll see just how well she fares tomorrow." Without another word, he headed up the stairs.

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Nabiki's eyes narrowed. This time, she had noticed something different about Ranma and how his change seemed to have something to do with that strange pendant around his neck. It was if someone else was talking WITH him. She began wondering if that pendant had been responsible for Ranma's new confidence and ability to win at card games. She would have to watch him very carefully during the competition.

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The next day...

Ranma and Luna's group walked toward the center of Tokyo, where the Tag-Team Tournament was to begin. Strapped on their arms were the new Duel Disks and their shuffled decks. Each was ready to do battle.

"Nervous Ranma?" Luna asked.

"Nervous? Nah. Tense yes. Anxious maybe. On alert, that for sure, but I'm not nervous."

Luna chuckled as they approached their destination. "Good. It wouldn't do if you were nervous. Any problems last night?"

"Oh, just a minor... inconvenience."

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Flashback...

Genma quietly crept toward Ranma's backpack as his son slept. He was certain that Ranma's Dueling Deck was in it. After seeing the high-powered Monster, Trap and Magic Cards, he had decided that Akane's deck could (ahem), borrow them for the tournament. After she won several Duels, he was certain that Ranma would see the error of his ways and beg to have her as his partner. Then they would win the competition, and the prize money would set him up for life, as well as assure the union of the Anything Goes! Genma was certain that Ranma would not mind missing a few of his cards. Silently, he opened the top flap of Ranma's backpack, reached in and...

SNAP!

"YEEEEEEAAAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!!!"

Genma woke up the rest of the household as he went rushing out of the room with a very large and nasty mousetrap attached to his hand. Lying on his futon, Ranma's Millennium Puzzle glowed slightly as the Game King smiled.

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End of flashback...

Ranma chuckled a bit as he remembered Yami's precaution against Genma's thievery. As they reached Tokyo Square, a large monitor lit up and the image of Pegasus was shown.

The Tournament was about to begin...

 

To be continued...

Author's Notes

Not much Dueling action here, but I had to set up the lineup. Now the stage is set and we're also going to see a few more characters from the Yugi-oh series make appearances. First Duels will be with Akane and Ryoga Vs...Aw, that would be telling!

 

(1) BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

(2) Hoo boy! You can just imagine the kind of deck he has!

(3) Yep, thatís what you think it was. I changed its powers a bit to suit the story. After all, how else did Tofu confront Kasumi without losing his mind?