Celestial Signer

Race to Beating Wings


Chapter 26

Race to Beating Wings

Everyone imprisoned by Earthbound Immortal Uru was released. Rally and Martha were among them.

Martha looked around for Yusei and any of the others, a little confused as to why they weren't there. However, she breathed a heavy sigh of relief when she saw Rally standing among the crowd of mystified people.

Jack saw the group appear out of an orb of purple light as he was heading up an old highway above them. It was good to know Yusei had won his duel. But, Jack still had his duel with Carly. He didn't quite believe it was here, though. 'Could she really have become a Dark Signer? Why?' he thought.

The truth was he owed a lot to Carly. She saved him and cared for him after he dueled a possessed Officer Trudge. She didn't take any garbage from him, and when she was at Awards Ceremony… she knew something wasn't right.

In midst of all this, Carly had disappeared, and for the longest time he thought she had been a sacrifice. He noticed her glasses that were in his pocket. It forced him to remember Carly, to realize she had gone out of her way to help him even though he acted like a jerk.

And he repaid her with abandonment, with forgetfulness. Perhaps by defeating whoever this Dark Signer was, even if it was her… He secretly wished it would somehow bring her back. Somehow it would save her.

Even though all these thoughts were inside of him, his face was expressionless. He jumped over a rock with ease. The tower of the Hummingbird was dead ahead. Was Carly even there?

He still had her glasses tucked away in his pocket. This time he wouldn't forget. This time he wouldn't abandon someone who had given so much to him. "Carly? Say something if you can hear me!" Jack called out.

The sound of an engine flooded his hearing and turned his attention to the opposite side of the tower. Someone on a red, stylish Duel Runner came around towards him. He thought they might hit him, but the Duel Runner jumped and glided over him, coming back around in a half-circle. The Runner finally stopped and front of him and he could see that the rider was Carly.

"Where did you get that Duel Runner, Carly?" he asked, "Second of all, since when did you ever learn to use one? Last I checked, you don't know how to Turbo Duel."

"Let's just say I thought it'd be more of a thrill to take you down on your own turf." She removed her helmet. "I was waiting for you, Jack. I'm glad you made it…"

'No, this can't really be Carly, can it?' He shook his head. He couldn't believe that this Dark Signer was really her. But his eyes were telling him another story.

"I came back from the edge of death just so I could meet you, Jack," she explained in an almost dreamy tone of voice.

Jack was still unconvinced. "What do you mean by that? What happened to you, Carly?"

He remembered her glasses in his pocket and looked down towards them for a moment or two. Carly's face turned grim.

"When you left me, I didn't stop my investigation into the mystery of the Crimson Dragon. So, I went to the Arcadia Movement looking for Akiza Izinski and was killed by their leader, Sayer."

Jack face twisted in shock. "Why would you do something so reckless? So stupid! Granted, I figured you a little clumsy from what little time I spent with you…but this…"

"I just wanted to get a little closer to you, Jack! But you pushed me away!" Carly retorted.

Jack averted his gaze, tightening his fist. "You're right, I did. I was self-absorbed and I didn't bother to stop and actually worry about someone besides myself. But, I thought you were sacrificed to the Earthbound Immortals!" 'And Era was right. I do have an ego to hide my true side. But I'm going to change that right now!' he thought.

"You thought you could save me by defeating the Dark Signers. But, instead, I am the Dark Signer you have to fight in order to save everyone," Carly mused. "Tell me, are you having doubts about having to duel me?"

"No, so, why don't we quit joking around and get on with it," Jack growled. "If you truly wish to aim a bow and arrow at me, I promise you I will break it by force!"

Carly laughed. "That's what I would expect from you. As Signer and Dark Signer we are bound by destiny to hate one another as the Immortals and the Crimson Dragon hate each other."

The symbol of the Hummingbird glowed on her right arm and its violet flaming geoglyph appeared along the ground. It reminded him of Yusei's first duel with Kalin. He would have to be careful, and hope that he could manage to bring her down before her Earthbound Immortal came into play.

The two of them took off on their Duel Runners. "So what do you say we start this duel of destiny, Jack?"

Jack still felt uneasy. Did Carly really want to fight him?

Meanwhile, off in the distance, Mina and Akiza could see the reflection of the geoglyph hanging in the sky. The two of them realized the duel had started. Mina paused and gazed at the reflection anxiously.

Akiza calmed her by putting her hand on Mina's shoulder. "Jack will be alright."

Mina sighed. "He has to be. But, I'm still worried about him." She started up the Jeep again. "We have to keep moving. It won't be long until we reach the tower where Misty is supposed to be. Are you ready?"

Akiza fell quiet. "I… I don't know. But, I have to be. I don't have a choice."

Inside the raging flames, Carly raced ahead of Jack, looking back at him with a look of disappointment.

"It's so ironic. You paid no attention to me when I was on your side. But now that I'm a Dark Signer you come to rush to my rescue! You're something, you know that?" Carly said.

"Carly!" Jack tried.

"Jack," Carly snickered sardonically, "You can't avoid destiny. This duel was fated to happen. Now activate Speed World so our destiny can unfold!"

Jack pushed the button. A card flashed on his screen and suddenly the sky around them seemed to take on the hue of the flames that surrounded them.

"I don't need you to tell me how to duel," he grumbled, "Now let's see which one of us is going first, shall we?"

The two of them sped up towards the first turn. Carly smirked. She knew Jack could fight if he had to rise to the occasion, and she liked that. But, the darkness inside of her waited quietly, watching for any trip that would cause Jack to fall.

"If you want to die, Carly, I will grant your wish!" Jack said.

"I'm not the one who'll be dying, Jack," she responded.

As Jack sped up to pass her, she rammed into him with her Duel Runner. His Runner hit the wall of flames. The fire licked at Jack and he felt a searing pain on his right side. He tried his best to keep it in but yelled out.

Carly laughed as she passed him and turned the corner. "I guess fate has decided that I should have the first move," Carly said.

"As if…" he muttered sarcastically.

That was definitely something Carly wouldn't have done. 'If this really was Carly,' he thought, 'then the same malevolence hung over her that had taken hold over Kalin and the other Dark Signers. It was malevolence,' he suspected, 'that would do whatever it took to win.'

She could say whatever she wanted to about fate. But her actions spoke louder than her words. "I draw a card, and summon Fortune Lady Light in defense mode!" A deathly pale skinned woman emerged in a blast of radiant light, wearing a skin-tight, short golden dress and thigh high black boots. She wore a head piece that looked like a pair of bat wings erupting from her hair. (Fortune Lady Light is a level one Light attributed Spellcaster type monster whose attack and defense are determined via its special ability.) "On my next turn, and every turn after that, the level of my Fortune Lady Light increases by one, and her attack and defense become 200 times her current level. Because my Fortune Lady is level one this turn, her attack is 200."

As Carly looked at the cards in her head, she thought back to the other Dark Signers that brought her back with them.

~Flashback~

She had sat in her room along, sobbing. She had not yet accepted her fate and couldn't come to grips with what had happened to her or why.

In the midst of it all, a voice from nowhere. It told her that if she wanted answers they would be revealed in her fortune. That would be the path destiny had planned for her. She went along with it, even though she felt like she was going crazy. Why should she listen to a disembodied voice?

Then again, fortune telling had been a hobby of hers in the past. She would use her cards to divine her fortune every day, and doing so that night eased her mind, at least for a moment. A card in the middle of her deck had begun to shine brightly, and when she picked it up, it was a Trap card. Its name was Prophecy of the Future King, a card she was holding in her hand right now.

That night when she was alone in her room, that card had shown her a vision of the future. Her future. It was then she accepted her fate and her eyes blackened with the darkness of the Earthbound Immortals.

~Flashback Ended~

"I'll end my turn with a facedown card. Prepare yourself, Jack!" she called back.

Jack looked sternly at his deck as he drew a card. "Fine then, it's my turn!" At this point, Jack saw he and Carly were beginning to accumulate Speed Counters. He looked at the card in his hand. Jack had no idea what Carly's strategy would be. What could he do? "I end my turn here."

Carly looked up. "You're not going to do anything? No summon? No monster attack? Not even setting a single card on the field?"

She looked back down at her deck and drew a card to begin her turn. "I see. You've accepted your destiny haven't you? If this is what you wish, I will gladly take your life with all the force I am capable of throwing at you!" She looked at Jack with a hardened gaze. "I'll sacrifice my Fortune Lady Light to advance summon a much stronger power! Fortune Lady Earth!" Fortune Lady Light disappeared in a golden burst. In her place was a sorceress with a similar appearance. However, this one was much taller, with glasses, short brown hair, and a tan color to her clothes. Her skin had a slightly darker hue, and her expression seemed apathetic. (Fortune Lady Earth is a level six Earth attributed Spellcaster type monster whose attack and defense are determined via its special ability.) "Since I removed Fortune Lady Light from the field, I can special summon another Fortune Lady from my deck, and I choose Fortune Lady Dark!" A woman in a purple robe with midnight violet hair emerged. Like Fortune Lady Earth and Fortune Lady Earth, she wielded the staff with a decoration and a blade on each end. (Fortune Lady Dark is a level five Dark attributed Spellcaster type monster whose attack and defense points are determined via its special ability.)

Jack looked at the monitor on his Duel Runner, and as he suspected, the abilities of these two monsters echoed her previous one. However, when her saw their actual numbers, he was stunned.

Fortune Lady Earth had an impressive 2400 attack points, and Fortune Lady Dark wasn't that far behind with a similar stat of 2000 attack points. He knew if both of them attacked, he would lose right then and there. He had nothing protecting him. "Get ready Jack, this is going to hurt."

'This is unreal,' Jack thought. 'No, it's insane.'

"Alright! Fortune Lady Earth, attack Jack directly!" Carly ordered.

With a wave of the sorceress's arm, sharp spikes burst forth from the ground, scratching and stabbing at Jack and bombarding his Duel Runner.

Jack howled from the pain and his life points dropped to 1600. Any Speed Counters he had gained were wiped out.

Blood started trickling down Jack's face and seeped into his clothes. Carly didn't hesitate to launch her second attack with Fortune Lady Dark. As her monster jumped at him to strike, Jack remembered the time he had spent with Carly, thought it was brief. She had been kind to him. She looked after him. She stood up to him once when he was a jerk. But, she always tried to make sure he was okay when he was with her. She couldn't hurt anyone.

'That was the real Carly,' he thought. 'Carly couldn't hurt anyone…'

As Fortune Lady Dark's staff came swooping down, cloaked in black energy, Jack grabbed a card and looked up at his attacker unflinchingly. "I'm activating the ability of a monster in my hand! Whenever I receive and take damage from a direct attack, I can special summon Ogre of Bloody Tears from my hand if my opponents declares a second attack. The attack and defense of my Ogre becomes equal to the damage of the first attack, and your monster is forced to attack my Ogre instead of me." The Ogre was a massive, muscular creature with cobalt skin wearing a scarlet wrapping around its torso. It had sickly yellow hair and three horns jutting from its head. As its name implied, crimson tears flowed from its eyes. It bore up its club against Fortune Lady Dark and the two charged against each other into battle. (Ogre of Bloody Tears is a level four Dark attributed Fiend type monster whose attack and defense are determined via its special ability.) The Ogre swung his club and smashed it into the Fortune Lady, causing her to fly through the air and disappear into a puff of smoke. Carly felt a sting shoot up through her body and saw her life points drop to 3600.

"So, you are fighting back? Very well. You still can't oppose destiny, Jack. I end my turn by placing a card down on the field. Come get me if that's your plan!" Carly growled.

"It's not you Carly," he muttered. "If I have to give my life to free you from whatever if possessing you to be this way, then so be it."

. . .

In the meantime, Akiza and Mina were off in the distance at the lights of the duel flashing up in the sky. Nobody knew that Jack was dueling Carly, and the only people who had even a faint knowledge of Carly and her relationship to Jack were Mina and Era.

But, only Era had the knowledge that Carly had become a Dark Signer. Mina didn't know at the moment, though. However, she had her suspicions.

"I think… There was a girl that was captured by the Dark Signers… and I know Jack felt bad because this girl had tried to help him… I wonder if that's who he is fighting now," Mina said.

Akiza looked at her glowing arm. "It seems that the Dark Signer we fight is always connected to us somehow, either a loved one or someone who bears a grudge against us. It wouldn't be surprising if someone like that was Jack's opponent."

"When you were fighting Misty back in the Arcadia Movement's headquarters… I heard you and the others say something about two Earthbound Immortals."

"Yeah… Sayer was dueling someone Misty called her 'friend.' Her monster was supposed to be… a Hummingbird," Akiza explained.

Mina thought that either way, Jack had Carly's glasses with him. Despite her care for him, she seemed distant. Carly had a special place in Jack's mind and heart, perhaps. Not an obsession. But he did have a place for her. Mina sighed. But, what made her hopeful was Jack wasn't consumed with his own self-interest anymore.

He was fighting for someone else now.

. . .

"It's my turn!" Jack drew his card, and saw he was starting to gain Speed Counters again. "I'll start things off by summoning Power Supplier in defense mode!" (Power Supplier is a level two Earth attributed Spellcaster type monster with 400 attack and defense points.) "With its effect, Power Supplier can increase the attack power of my Ogre of Bloody Tears by 400 points; this will give him 2800 attack," Jack explained. Power Supplier raised his oversized contraption and multicolored energy sprang forth, surrounding the ogre. The ogre roared at pumped its fists.

But Carly was rather unimpressed with the display. "I already have a trap lying in wait for you, Jack," Carly revealed her hidden card with a sickening glee, "I activate the Trap, Twist of Fate!" Suddenly Power Supplier disappeared from the field in a puff of light and the energy around Ogre of Bloody Tears dissipated. "Your Power Supplier returns to your hand, and you cannot use it for the rest of this turn. Whatever you are trying to do is useless." Jack's Ogre still remained at 2400 attack points. Jack shook his head in frustration. "Your destiny has already been determined, Jack."

Jack could see that on Carly's next turn, her Fortune Lady Earth would gain more attack power and exceed the power of his Ogre. He looked down at his hand for something that might be of use. A trap card titled "Change Destiny" caught his eye.

"I set one card face down and end my turn," he declared. As the sped along the trail of violet flames, Carly looked back at him with a curious smile.

"Interesting you choose to end it there. Not what I would expect from you, but that's fine by me. It is my turn and I draw!" As Carly drew a card from her deck, each of them gained a Speed Counter. She mused as she looked at her hand, assured that Jack's fate was sealed. "I will finish you off completely in this one turn."

"If you think you can do so, they bring you best…" Jack braced himself. Carly chuckled to herself; she had no intention of being merciful, despite his show of good courage.

She then looked to her Fortune Lady, which increased in level from 6 to 7, making its attack power 2800. Jack felt a sudden shock as the effect of her monster drained his life points down to 1200. He cried out from the pain, but tried to cut himself off. He relent here, even when staring down such daunting odds.

"Fortune Lady Earth! Attack with your cursed skewer!" Her Fortune Lady flew above the Orge, impaling it with its weapon and shattering it, and reducing Jack's life points to 800. The force of the impact caused Jack's Duel Runner to shutter and shake, and in moment her lost control and the Runner stopped altogether, halting in the middle of the field.

Pleased with her work, Carly rode back to him, laughing at her handiwork. Jack felt himself growing weak and beginning to slump over and desperately tried to get back up. He cannot be stopped her. He's handled worse than this, has he not? He put his hand to his face and when he draws it away he sees it covered in blood.

"Don't worry, Jack. Your destiny is about to begin soon."

"Carly…" Jack breathes, "The destiny of which you speak doesn't exist. I will wake you up with my own hands. I will not be defeated here."

"You're the one that needs waking, Jack. Don't you realize what this duel is about? This is a fight for the two of us to be together," she began to speak more softly to him, "When all is done, we will be promised to each other in a destiny that is eternal. This is what my cards have told me."

Jack wasn't quite sure what to make of what she was saying as she began looking at one of the cards she had set down on the field. "This is the card that revealed our destiny… Prophecy of the Future King!" A bright light began to shine, and Jack could feel himself beginning to fade. "When a Spellcaster of mine destroys you monster, I can use it to attack again…" Suddenly, everything went black, and his thoughts became clouded and confused. At first he felt an incredible pain, and then a resounding in silence. But, after what seemed like an eternity, a voice called out into the darkness.

"Jack! Wake up! Open your eyes!" came a voice.

Jack's eyes shot open and he leapt up. He looked around to see he was not in a duel anymore. The room around him was ivory with rose silk curtains hanging around the windows and a massive bed and carpet with a similar color scheme. There was a faint scent, perhaps of incense or a fire burning. All seemed quiet at first, but then he remembered hearing Carly's voice.

"What's going on, here?" he asked.

"Jack, are you okay? You seemed to be in the midst of a nightmare," Carly asked.

He turned to see Carly sitting quietly in a chair by the bed, smiling at him. But, she was still a Dark Signer. He shook his head and looked down and was shocked to see he was different. His clothes were black with orange trim, similar to hers, and instead of the mark of the Crimson Dragon's Wings on his arm, the mark of the Hummingbird was glowing an eerie violet where his original mark had been. Perhaps this is the nightmare, he thought.

"How can I be a Dark Signer? When did this happen?!" He looked over to a massive mirror hanging on the wall. His eyes were blackened and a red mark coursed across his face like a scar. Carly stood up and hugged him tightly around the waist.

"It's okay, Jack. You might still be a little fogged over from the dream. You were already taken once. You need not worry," Carly said.

Jack hesitated. Taken once? Had he lost the duel… and died?

"The effect of Prophecy of the Future King allowed my monster to attack again; it reduced your remaining life points to 0 and you fell off your Runner. Don't you remember? You died because I defeated you… But I brought you back with my power so we could be together. You're just like me now."

Jack pushed her back at first, not at first believing what she was telling him. He can't be a Dark Signer!

He made his way to the window to see the ominous outside world. All the buildings around are cracked, toppled over, and otherwise ruined. Rivers of Lava were flowing in every direction around. Jack stepped back, finding difficult to swallow that this was what had become of the world.

"Do you remember Jack? The 5000 yearlong battle between the Signers and Dark Signers ended, with the Dark Signers claiming victory because Jack had become one of them. The Crimson Dragon and the dragons that gave birth to it and their Signers are destroyed now… it was truly a day for us. Wasn't it?"

These memories she spoke of started flowing into his mind like water flowing out of a vase. He allowed Carly to approach him and put her hand over his.

"I…I already remember…Because of our victory, the world is now becoming as it is," he said. But he realized Era wasn't in any of these thoughts. "What about Era?"

"She was consumed by her power. And just as the prophecy stated became the portal that would be her world's and her own demise," Carly said. "And this world you see is yours. It was given to you for you to ruler over it on high as its Dark King…" Carly looked up at him longingly. Suddenly, Jack felt a sudden feeling of satisfaction he couldn't quite explain. He had awakened from the slumber of death to be a king. He didn't need his friends and the bonds that tied him to them. They couldn't make him happy, but this world where he could be king…it was ideal, the thought occurred to him. He at first wanted to question it, but he felt easily dismissive of it. "Isn't it wonderful, Jack? We live in a world where everything is as we want it. This is the future foretold by Prophecy of the Future King and the future that led me to becoming a Dark Signer. It's all so I could be with you…"

Suddenly, an image of Carly declaring her second attack flashes across his consciousness. He can see himself almost immobilized, as if waiting to receive the Fortune Lady's attack. He sees an object drop from his pocket.

The vision fades and he sees that things around him have changed. Jack found himself now sitting on a golden throne with Carly at his side, leaning on him and caressing his arm. He could see below him that it was on a platform, being carried by what appeared to be spirits with the appearance of withering corpses wearing tattered rags. "Everything in this world has already turned their loyalty to you."

Jack looked at the spirits, understanding that this was a sign that no living humans were alive. He looked down at the mark on his arm. He was the king of Duels, only to have his title and his pride stripped from him. But now he was much more than that, he was the High Ruler of this dark Earth, with all creatures at his command, and Carly lovingly at his side.

He turns around and leans in to kiss Carly, their lips just barely centimeters apart. But, then he feels a sudden urge to look to his side, as a faint glimmer catches his eye.

He squints and sees the object nearby is the old pairs of glasses he kept that were Carly's. He suddenly sees Carly in his mind as she was before she became a Dark Signer. He remembered how when Trudge was possessed by them that she came to his rescue. He remembered how she had stayed with him for a time to make sure he was alright, and how she had been there when Goodwin used him for his own plans.

"No…" He drew away from her; suddenly rejecting everything he saw and looked at Carly with an indignant expression. "This isn't what you would want. The real Carly… no, this is all wrong!" he said.

Carly's face twisted into an expression of shock. It is at this point he stirs awake, in the midst of his duel with her. 'It was all an illusion,' he thought. 'It was the effect of her card, but it won't be the world that is to come.'

"I open my trap… Change Destiny! It allows you to select your monster and either inflict its attack points as damage to me or increase your own life points!" he informed.

Fortune Lady Earth stopped in her tracks, staring at the Golden Light glowing from the card. He had escaped his foretold death… for now. Jack searches desperately until he finds Carly's glasses, and clenches them in his hand.

"Why must you oppose destiny, Jack? If I win, we'll be so happy together!" She demanded. He glared at her and held out her old glasses to her.

"This illusion you showed me is false! It isn't what you want, and you taught me something about wanting something that's real when I was with you. But it took me until now to realize it!" 'My future has not been determined yet,' he thought. 'I can change this around.'

He felt himself changing, from being jealous of what someone else had to saving someone that wanted him, saving them because he couldn't repay them or apologize enough for leaving her to become what the Earthbound Immortals had turned her into.

The duel still seemed in Carly's favor with the Dark Signer having 3600 life points. Jack was scraping by with only 800. But, with Change Destiny now activated, there was a chance to recover, and perhaps get through to the good person Carly was underneath. He still held out her glasses, trying to remind her of that person.

"I refuse to accept this," she hissed. "I know you would want this world of darkness I offer. I will not listen to these lies of yours." She tried to outride Jack on her Duel Runner, but even with his injuries he kept his pace the best he could. It was not long before he was right behind her again. "Do not persist, Jack! I came back as a Dark Signer for you! I came back to create a world where we could be together. This is my wish, my fate."

"You're wrong, Carly. You've never been so wrong. Would you listen to yourself?" Jack asked. Carly growled at Jack's retort. "Listen, you were the one who told me to stop feeling sorry for myself after I lost to Yusei in the Fortune Cup," Jack replied. Carly gave no response. "You told me that night that I was chasing a part of my life that was dead and buried. You asked why I didn't choose to start a new chapter in my life and live as the King Jack Atlas that I could be and that so many people had come to admire. Well, you were right. I was caught up in my jealousy and I let my pride take me down the path of ruin. I wasn't true to myself. You were the one who made me realize that, Carly. If only I has listened to you sooner… after all, I didn't forget those words."

He looked back to his Trap Card, reminded that the duel was not yet over. "Now that Change Destiny has activated, you have one of two choices, Carly. You can gain life points equal to half of the attack of your Fortune Lady Earth, which is 1400. Or… you can inflict that same amount as damage to mine. This is, as I said, a choice you must make."

Jack knew well in his head that he was making a gutsy move. The logical move would be for Carly to inflict damage to his life points and win the duel, as the amount of damage would be greater than what life he had left. Anyone could see that. However, he was banking on something he had not thought to put much faith in until now. The heart Carly still had within in her, or so he hoped.

"What are you playing at, Jack? I can easily end you right here! You're so stupid… stopping my attack when you're just going to lose anyway. How can you be so calm when defeat is staring at you with its gaping maw?" Carly glared at him with annoyance.

"I'm trying to show you that you're in control of your own fate, Carly. Not someone else or any unseen force of destiny. I believe in you now, as I should have from the beginning… now, make a choice for yourself, not some predetermined force!"

Carly scoffed. "You are acting as if a choice exists where there is none. But, regardless, you will be mine very soon Jack, as I have already made my choice, I will chose the effect that…" Suddenly, she stopped in midsentence, as though her lips were sealed shut.

The Dark Signer turned her gaze, only to see Jack's eyes boring into hers. Suddenly, her eyes flashed, the whites of her eyes temporarily taking on a normal tone before returning to their darkened state.

Her mind was immediately flooded with the few memories she had of Jack, not only the arguments and the heartbreak, but the teamwork, the support, and all the good things she could possibly think of. What was this swarm of madness that had overcome her? Or was it perhaps…a swarm of sanity?

"I will… choose… the effect that…" Her voice became the timid, hesitant one that Jack had remembered of the Carly he knew. She closed her eyes, only to open them again, her eyes once again flashing normal colors instead of the blackened dusk of a Dark Signer. "…the effect that…restores my life points."

Suddenly a wave of golden light washed over her as her life points climb up to 5000. Jack stepped on the accelerator of his Duel Runner. He pulled up alongside her, never taking his eyes away from hers.

"Carly…are you ready to be yourself again?" he asked.

Tears began streaking down her face, and it was then then that he was sure that he was speaking to Carly as she truly was. "I'm so sorry, Jack… I'm so sorry, I never wanted any of this, you're right, I don't…"

She was trying to keep herself from sobbing, causing something to tug at Jack in his mind. "It's not your fault. I know you're not the type of person who hurts others, more than most."

Through her tearstained face, Carly managed a smile, and Jack looked up at her, hopeful that this battle was finally coming to an end. However, his hopes were dashed when a violet light started to emit from the Hummingbird birthmark on her arm.

Carly instantly shrieked in pain, her face twisted in agony. "Carly! Are you alright?"

"Her wish is irrelevant," an ominous voice boomed, seemingly from nowhere, its words echoing across the terrain, "Carly belongs to us. She is a Dark Signer, and the fate of a Dark Signer is to fight the Signers and destroy them."

A large, heavy black shadow formed above Carly, like a wash of black ink pouring over her. Jack's expression turned to that of rage and dismay. "You! You did this to Carly!"

"Dark Signer!" The voice cut through the air like a knife. "You WILL bury this chosen of the Crimson Dragon."

"No… I won't…" Carly fought back.

"It is not your choice, and you have no power to resist. You belong to us," the being retorted angrily.

The cloud of black started to rush into Carly's ears and mouth, her eyes beginning to glow with the same light as her Dark Signer birthmark. When it disappeared completely, Carly grinned at Jack wickedly, her eyes brightly aglow.

"Now, let us continue without pointless interruption." She spoke with the disembodied voice echoing her words. The one dueling Jack now was not her at all, but the true force of evil Jack had to contend with. And it now held Carly's mind and spirit hostage while using her body as its tool to carry out the dark purpose of the Earthbound Immortals.

And so, the duel continued, it still being the turn of Carly, or the thing that was now controlling her physical form. A card was picked from her hand. "I activate the Speed Spell, Curse of Fate! Beware this, Signer," spoke the possessed Carly. "In exchange for two or more speed counters, I may place two curse counters on one of my monsters. In exchange for not attacking, I may remove one of these counters to inflict half of my monster's attack points to you as damage. However, I have already attacked so I may not use the effect immediately. Make your last pathetic move." The turn was ended by placing two cards face down. The evil that took hold of Carly laughed at Jack mockingly and sneered at him. "You will be crushed by the one you love. You cannot escape this fate."

"I will win, and I will make you pay for using Carly for your ends! I will not forgive the Earthbound Immortals for making Carly a Dark Signer, and for trying to destroy everything! If you want to fight me, then fine. But you will be the one who is buried. Right back in the hole in the earth you dragged yourself out of!" Jack yelled.

It was Jack's turn again, and he had only three Speed Counters while 'Carly' had five. He drew a card to begin his turn, determined to bring this insanity to its deserving grave.

"I'll start things off by summoning Vice Dragon in attack mode via its special ability. Since you are the only one with a monster on the field, I can summon my dragon without a tribute even though it's over level four." A muscular green dragon appeared on the field in a beam of light, growling at Carly's Fortune Lady. (Vice Dragon is a level five Dragon type monster with 2000 attack and 2400 defense points.) "However, the attack power of my dragon is halved if I summon him in this way," Jack added. Carly noted the monster's attack points drop to 1000. "Next, I'll summon Dark Resonator, a tuner monster. And, with that, I'll immediately tune my monsters together for a synchro summon." (Dark Resonator is a level three dark attributed Fiend type tuner monster with 1300 attack and 200 defense points.) Before his monster could fully appear on the field, a circle of light appeared, making the monster's form look white. A pair of red eyes glared at Carly as Vice Dragon was sucked into the circle of light. The light turned into a beam and a draconic form began to replace the ones of the two monsters that had been there before. "Come forth, my soul, Red Dragon Archfiend!"

His ace monster appeared as a horned, demonic dragon. Its red and black body rippled with muscle and power, and its golden eyes gleamed in the light of the violet flames surrounding the two duelists. It roared triumphantly as Jack's signer mark began to glow with an intense red light. "Carly" smirked, knowing that this was the form of the Signer's dragon. (Red Dragon Archfiend is a level eight dragon type monster with 3000 attack and 2000 defense points. It is a synchro monster.) "Your dragon, your symbol as a signer, has come to join us. Good, I have been waiting to destroy your beast since the beginning of this game." A Trap card was then revealed. "I activate the card, Class Change, which increase the level of a monster on the field by one. I will use it to increase the level of my Fortune Lady, this allowing her attack power to exceed that of your Red Dragon Archfiend."

Jack remembered that with a Fortune Lady, their level determines their power. Fortune Lady Earth's attack power increased to 3200 points, and a fierce look appeared in her eyes. However, there was one part of the effect he had not quite remembered. "Oh, and that level increase results in 400 points of damage to you. Have fun."

Jack howled in pain as his life points dropped to a sliver of 400. He could hear the possessed laughter of his opponent. "Hanging on by only a thread. I am certain you will be finished on my next turn."

Jack did his best to keep himself going. "I assure you that won't happen." He then revealed a face down card of his own. "I'm going to activate my Speed Spell, Half Seize, which I can play now that I have three speed counters. What it does is that your monster's attack points are cut in half, and I get to add the amount to my life points. Maybe you shouldn't count me out just yet."

Fortune Lady Earth shrieked, and she seemed drained of her energy. Her attack went down to 1600, a clear indicator of its weakened state. Jack felt a restorative feeling as he saw those points put into his life points, the number climbing up to 2000.

The possessed Carly grimaced, fuming at how the Signer had managed to pull himself from the Trap that had been set. With her monster now weaker that Red Dragon Archfiend, it was clear what Jack would do next. He declared his monster's attack, and in a burst of flame and ripping claws, Fortune Lady Earth was gone. The Dark Signer let out a cry as her life points were dropped to 3600, and she also lost a speed counter in the process for taking more than 1000 points of damage.

The Dark Signer began to lose control of her Duel Runner, and the vehicle slammed into the flames of the geoglyph. She shrieked, and Jack eyes widened, wondering if the real Carly was feeling just as much pain as the evil that was possessing her.

"Carly!" Jack yelled. At first, he received no response. "Carly! Answer me! Are you alright?"

He heard a groan of pain, but when Carly looked back up he saw that her eyes were still emitting that light of the evil that was controlling her. She briefly glared at Jack before hitting the accelerator of her Runner to put some distance between the two of them. "Wait! Carly!" he called.

She completely ignored him, moving to activate a Trap Card. "I counter with Fortune Inherit. When a Fortune Lady of mine is destroyed, I can have two Fortune Lady's take her place on my next turn." The card faded. Jack shook his head before setting a card of his own face down.

At this rate, it didn't seem like he was going to win Carly back from the Dark Signers. He then mentally slapped himself. And with an attitude like that, he told himself, he might as well seal his own fate here and now. And there was no way he was going to do that.

It was Carly's turn, and now their speed counters were nearly even, Carly having five while Jack had four. Following the effect of the Trap she played earlier, she summoned two Fortune Ladies, declaring their names as they were summoned to the field. "Fortune Lady Wind and Water, come to my aid!"

Two similar looking Fortune Ladies of green and blue color scheme appeared on the field, with the same style of outfit and weaponry as the previous monsters. Their hair billowed in the breeze, looking like a cascade of water of air currents. (Fortune Lady Wind is a level three Wind attribute Spellcaster type, while Fortune Lady Water is a Water attribute Spellcaster type. Both have 0 initial attack and 0 initial defense points.)

Going with similar effects as the Fortune Ladies before, each monster gained 300 attack and defense points per level they had, giving Fortune Lady Wind 900 points in both stats and Fortune Lady Water 1200 points in each stat. "I activate the secondary effect of Fortune Lady Water, which allows me to draw cards for each Fortune Lady on my field. That's two cards." She did so, and a wicked grin appeared on her face. "You shall become my sacrifice, Jack… for now you shall tremble beneath the might of a God. My Earthbound Immortal Aslla Piscu!" A giant heart of stone appeared in the air above them, beating as the bodies of the Fortune Ladies turned black and crumbled to dust. White lights began to shine all around the heart and the earth shook beneath them. "Now, let the door to the Underworld open! Come forth, my Earthbound Immortal!"

Jack remembered what was said before, and he guessed the lights around the forming monstrosity were the souls of captured people being used to fuel the beast. Out of the ground, a twisted, bird like creature with orange lines crossing its body emerged. It flapped its skeletal wings, letting out a blood curdling cry. It was absolutely massive, towering over everything in sight. (Earthbound Immortal Aslla Piscu is a level ten Winged Beast type monster with 2500 attack and defense points.)

Jack wondered if the real Carly felt what was happening was her fault. 'It wasn't,' he told himself. 'And if she didn't know that, well, as soon as everything was over I'll tell her a thousand time over. It was the fault of the Earthbound Immortals, and it finally took form, and now was the time to fight or die.' And he kept telling himself he and his Red Dragon Archfiend could not fail. It wasn't an option.

However, knowing the effects of an Earthbound Immortal from previous experience, he knew just was about to happen next. Earthbound Immortals could make direct attacks, and most monsters could not stand in their way. And so, that is what the possessed Carly set out to do. "Now, Jack! Receive the judgment of a God!"

"I will die before I lose this duel, before I lose you to this madness!" he retorted, finding that this was not yet the end.

"I activate the effect of Battle Fader! When you attack, I can special summon this monster from my hand and automatically end the Battle Phase, thus cancelling your attack." The Earthbound Immortal stood still, and a small ball of light revealed of curious monster with a body like the hands of a clock, and round eyes peeking out from its metal body. (Battle Fader is a level one monster with 0 attack points and 0 defense points.)

Carly leered over at the little monster, muttering that Jack was only delaying his fate. She set a card face down before turning things over to Jack for his turn. However, before Jack even turned to draw his card to begin his turn, he looked at her with a somber expression.

"Carly… listen. Before any of this happened, I was a very selfish man. Even after this started, I was selfish. I betrayed my friends and I exploited others for power and personal gain. And I didn't care what anyone thought," he started to speak, saying what was on his mind. "But, you taught me that that's not the kind of life I should lead. I remember running into you that one day, when we fought together against those possessed by the Dark Signers. I remember that you wanted to help me get back on my feet, encouraged me. You told me that someone who had lost their way could be redeemed by compassion and someone who cared for them. I didn't believe that back then. But, if it's only my heart that can save you…" He put a hand on his chest over his heart. Carly seemed unchanged, but perhaps somewhere inside of herself, she was listening. "Then I will give all of my heart that I might save you. Because… Because…" He paused. "Because I've never felt this way about anyone else. I don't know any other way to say it… but because of you… because of what you did and who you really are… I love you, Carly."

Suddenly, Jack could feel his entire body brimming with energy, some sort of force pooling into him. A few moments later, his Signer mark faded from his arm. He wondered what was going on, only to feel the energy surging towards his back. In a flash of red light, the full mark of the Crimson Dragon appeared on his back. The possessed Carly glared at him.

He felt the support of all the people he had hurt, the people who were meant to be his friends. Yusei, Luna, Akiza, and Era…Their power was now granted to him in this one moment, this moment that he might save the person who taught him to rise above the sins of his past. He looked down at his deck and his eyes widened. The top card was shining brightly like it had been hit with starlight. He quickly checked the speed counters he and Carly had, noting that they were still fairly close, though up one counter each from before.

And so, he drew the shining card from his deck, knowing that this was his moment of truth. He looked at the card in his hand, and noted the name on the card. "Majestic Dragon…"

"Jack!" came a voice.

He heard Carly's voice, but when he looked back to Carly her mouth was not moving. He felt a sudden twitch of pain that caused him to close his eyes. But, when he did, he saw a vision of Carly as she had been before she became a Dark Signer.

And it was this Carly that was speaking to him. "Jack… please… End this."

"Carly… no, don't talk like that, there has to be another way," Jack said.

"But, Jack, I don't want to hurt anyone anymore," she said.

"But none of this is your fault!" Jack retorted to the vision. Carly nodded.

"I know. But, please, do this for me. I don't want this thing controlling me anymore…I want the freedom to choose my own destiny," she begged.

Jack shook his head. "This is stupid. What if defeating you means you're gone forever?" He briefly felt the touch of her hand on his own within the vision.

"Jack, listen to me. Understand me, this is what I want. I don't want this monster to be the end of me. You have to destroy it… you have to defeat me. I don't know what will happen… but… this is what I ask of you. Will you do this for me, Jack?" Carly begged.

Jack sorrowfully nodded, coming to terms with what he was seeing and hearing in his mind, not quite sure of his was the real Carly talking to him or if he was hallucinating.

"If this is your wish, I will do as you ask, Carly," he agreed.

He opened his eyes slowly, briefly looking over at the possessed Carly before executing his turn. A brief image of a dragon flashed across his mind, and he knew what would decide the end of this duel. "I summon Majestic Dragon, a tuner monster, in attack mode!" A light colored, archaic dragon appeared on the field, wrapping its body around Red Dragon Archfiend's hand. Their bodies turned white and soon then disappeared into a cloud of light. Battle Fade soon joined them. "Now, I will tune all of my monsters together to summon…" The name of the monster flashed in his mind. "Majestic Red Dragon!" A dragon similar to Red Dragon Archfiend appeared on the field, with awe-inspiring wings and a long, twisting body. It was monstrous in size, though not nearly as big as the Earthbound Immortal. But, size was not the deciding factor in this duel. (Majestic Red Dragon is a Dragon type synchro monster with 4000 attack and 3000 defense points.)

"Majestic Red Dragon is specially built to take on an Earthbound Immortal," Jack explained, reading off the effect of the monster, "It negates the effect of Aslla Piscu and gains its attack points for the turn."

His possessed opponent looked utterly stunned as the Earthbound Immortal gave an ear-shattering scream. The dragon became cloaked in white light, and its attack was elevated to a staggering 6500 points. Aslla Piscu's wings drooped and dark energy was seeping out of it, a sign that the dragon was more than a match for the so-called God.

It would all be over in a single attack. However, Jack intended that Carly would not have to go down alone. The card he placed was a Trap card known as Shock Wave, and with its effect, his dragon would be sacrificed to deliver the killing blow to both of them. Perhaps it was what he deserved after everything that had happened. And he didn't know if he could make it up to Carly another way. But, if he had to grant her wish, perhaps he could at least go with her, wherever it was she would go.

When he looked back up to Carly, he was shocked to see her eyes return to normal. Carly shook her head as she revealed the Trap card she had laid down last turn. "I activate Earthbound Release," she declared in a tearful voice, "When you summon a level six or higher monster to the field, I can release my Earthbound Immortal to inflict damage to you and Majestic Red Dragon will be destroyed."

Jack quickly looked at his cards, and then at his Majestic Red Dragon, and realized she was walking into a suicidal move. "Carly! Wait! There's another part to the effect of Majestic Red Dragon. If you target it with a destroy effect, the card is negated and destroyed! And then you take damage equal to Majestic Red Dragon's attack… which means…"

"Which means this will finally be over, and you will be safe, Jack. This is the choice is I make," she said.

"Carly, no!" Jack tried to plead with her, but she had made up her mind.

In her moment of clarity, she was determined to take her fate into her own hands. The cards was played, and the Earthbound Immortal crumbled into the shadows, only mists of energy remained.

A wave of energy came at Majestic Red Dragon, only to be deflected by a barrier of light. It bounced back at Carly, smashing into her Duel Runner and throwing her off the vehicle. The flaming geoglyph disappeared as her Runner blinked with her final life point count before giving out to zero.

Jack stopped and jumped off of his duel runner running towards where Carly had fallen. An image of her as she was before flashed across his mind, showing him another vision as he kept running towards where she fell. The Carly in the vision was holding a deck of cards, and drew a card from the top.

"This is what I really wanted for you, Jack, the fate I wished for," he heard her voice echoing in his head. Was this another hallucination? He saw the card that she turned over had a picture of himself, surrounded by children and fans. He looked proud but had his hands extended in a kind gesture.

"I wanted you to be a true king: beloved by your people, and full of nobility and strength. I wanted you to heal and become something greater than what you were," Carly said.

The vision faded, and he found himself standing directly over Carly. He knelt down, picking her up and cradling her in his arms. Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled at him weakly. "Jack… Oh, Jack…"

"Carly, it's over," Jack said.

"Yes, Jack, I can feel… the evil is gone, but… I am bound to it… so… until this nightmare is over… I must go with it…" she murmured. He felt her body grow lighter, and a thin outline of lavender light curved around her body.

"No, Carly, don't go, please…" he begged.

She cupped his cheek and stroked it lovingly. "Jack, I love you. Don't give up on this, okay? Everyone needs you. I…need you."

Starting from her feet, her body began to disintegrate into particles of light. Jack leaned down and kissed her forehead, before her hand pulled down his face to kiss her lips. In a few seconds, he felt nothing, and saw that her body was gone, and a stream of light floated into the air, whisked away by the wind.

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