What Doesn’t Kill You
Chapter 27: Adrift – Part 6/13
A Yu-Gi-Oh Fanfiction
By: Azurite – azurite AT seventh-star DOT net
Site: seventh-star DOT net
Conceptualized/First Written: 6/28/05
Completed/Final Edit: 8/6/16
“Thanks to my Solemn Wishes, I get another 500 Life Points. Another turn and it’ll be like we’re right back at the beginning, won’t it?” And right now, that would mean she and Mai would win. But no, she wouldn’t be content with stalling and winning just by having more Life Points at the end of the duel. No, she would make sure they both hit rock bottom before that timer got anywhere close to zero.
She added Paladin of White Dragon to her hand with only a glance at the blue-tinged card. Her fingers were tingling again. The beginnings of a simultaneously odd and pleasurable cold sweat built at the base of her neck.
‘What is this sensation?’ She couldn’t recall any of the boys –or even Mai– talking about it. Was it some well-kept Duelist secret? Some sort of near-victory high that Duelists only got when they were teetering on the edge of a momentous victory?
Téa wasn’t arrogant; she didn’t think she had gotten to this point on her own. No, she’d gotten to this stage, to this duel with the help of Mai and yes, Seto, Yugi, Joey, Pegasus, Malik, and all the others. But she wouldn’t be thanking them in her victory speech.
After all, anyone could have a deck of cards. Only she could combine the strength from the cards Kaiba had given her with her own. Only she could use the strategies she’d seen and adapted from duels with Yugi, Joey, Pegasus, Malik, and others. She was the one standing here now. Not them.
“I activate White Dragon Ritual by tributing Mystical Elf from my hand– and I summon the Paladin of White Dragon!”
A murmur went through the crowd; Téa could hear them asking “why does she have a Paladin of White Dragon? What is she thinking?” While it wasn’t as rare as the legendary Blue-Eyes White Dragon, the cards were pretty intimately connected.
They hissed about her having made a mistake, switching out 15 cards she’d been dueling fine with. They whispered about the Paladin of White Dragon. It was little more than a substitute collectible for a Blue-Eyes; didn’t she know that? Was Alessa right all along; had Téa somehow skated through the tournament on pure luck?
That last murmur threatened to snap the growing smirk curling Téa’s lips. But she clenched her jaw and continued staring straight ahead at Alessa.
‘Let her think that she’s right, that the crowd’s on her side. She’ll never know what hit her.’
Téa’s smile only widened when Alessa glanced back at her from the crowd with a trimphant look on her face. The Italian duelist didn’t expect Téa to look even more confident after having played what appeared to be a simple Level 4 card.
Téa favored Mai with a laughing smile. The blonde returned the look with wide, joyous eyes and a Cheshire grin.
The paladin, wearing gold-trimmed white armor, sat atop a beast. Téa supposed it was some sort of Blue-Eyes White Dragon chick, if such a fearsome creature had ever existed as a hatchling.
It sat on the field for only moments before Téa took another deep breath. She made sure that not only Alessa and Serena heard her, but the entire crowd –all the cameras, all the crew, everyone on the ship and beyond. “I Tribute the Paladin of White Dragon and Special Summon a Blue-Eyes White Dragon from my Deck!”
In seconds, her Duel Disk shifted the last remaining Blue-Eyes not already in her hand to the top of her deck. Téa placed two fingers on her deck, tucking her thumb under the top card. She pulled her elbow back in a rapid arc, her fingers barely gripping the card with its back facing her opponents. She smirked and paused for a brief moment before thrusting the Blue-Eyes White Dragon card onto an open slot on her Duel Disk.
The Blue-Eyes had just materialized on the field when Téa saw Alessa trying to form words. She kept failing, repeating a series of exasperated “Buh…wha…ah…ha…” Alessa squeezed her eyes shut before trying again. This time she managed a stuttering “Th-That’s not– she’s not– I–”
“I tried to warn you, Alessa!” Serena snapped, her voice rising above the murmurs of the crowd. The emcee snapped her head around from where she’d been looking at Téa. Her eyes were wide as she clutched her microphone in both hands, like it might slip away at any moment. Within seconds, all eyes were on Serena.
“But no, you refused to listen to me! Instead, you barged on up here and started the Duel without stopping to think! She exchanged out almost half her deck, and every single one of her cards passed the validation test!”
Alessa finally gained some color in her face, but it was a brilliant shade of red coloring her cheeks. “I– She’s just some nobody cheerleader…” The words came out, but as a mere whisper. Alessa fixed her gaze on the Blue-Eyes White Dragon towering over her Monsters on the side of the field.
“Obviously not!” Serena actually looked like she had more to say, but she clenched her teeth and remained silent.
“I would thank you,” Téa started, but she shook her head, still smiling. “But instead, I’ll just play this: Polymerization! I fuse the Blue-Eyes White Dragon on the field with the other two in my hand and Summon the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon!”
Her heart was pounding in her chest now, threatening to burst out of her rib cage. She could feel a strange pressure behind her eyes, and an intense coldness sliding down the length of her spine. This was way different from all the other duels. It was way different from that dizzying feeling when she’d dueled Mai, back when she’d been trying to convince Téa to go on this insane cruise.
And now, here she was –blazing lights all around her, the crowd murmuring in shock and awe: she had all three Blue-Eyes White Dragons? Everyone had seen Seto Kaiba kiss her before she’d boarded. A guy like that didn’t let his most precious cards get “stolen” from some nobody cheerleader. That meant he’d given them to her, of his own free will… and here she was, using them like the champion no one thought she could be.
“Alessa, I just want to remind you of one thing: you started this. You don’t know me at all. And you dismissed me, even when I got here, to the same stage as you. You treated me like a nuisance, and then you ignored me. And now…” Téa closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
This was what Dueling was all about, right? Not saving anyone’s souls, not saving the world. Not getting revenge. Just this…
And yet, it didn’t quite match with the feeling Téa associated with “fun.” She tried to remember the last time she’d felt this way. But the feeling she was having now, whatever it was, was too strong. Any memories of the past –of a friendly game with Mokuba or Seto or Yugi or any of the other guys– flickered away like a candle snuffed by the wind.
Téa opened her eyes and stared at Alessa, her blue eyes blazing like twin fires. “Now you’re going to pay.”
“Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon, attack her Legendary Hero Achilles! Neutron Blast!”
“Not so fast!”
Téa turned her startled gaze to the source of the voice… Serena?
“I activate Chasm of Spikes! Your Dragon is dust!” A massive pit with gleaming spikes opened up under the Ultimate Dragon. Within seconds, there was a shriek and then an explosion of bright shards bursting forth from the chasm. Téa knew her Life Points had gone down. The Chasm had the unfortunate side effect of taking half the attacking Monster’s ATK value and dealing it as damage. But she wasn’t looking at the counter on her Duel Disk, or even at the screens looming above her head with those same numbers shining blood red.
She felt as though a vice was squeezing her chest, tighter, tighter… The world had almost blanked out to white before the emcee’s voice split into Téa’s mind.
“Whoa, talk about a sudden turn! What will Téa do now…?”
Téa glanced up and let her hand fall from her chest. Her entire body shuddered, her spine revealing it wasn’t cold steel, but fragile human bone, brittle and weak. Cold sweat streaked down and pooled in the small of her back, giving her the disgusting sensation that she’d like to crawl out of her own skin.
‘No. Not yet.’
This wasn’t over.
Far from it.