It's a long story…
Rex had just declared a halftime break, which allowed Asahi to begin telling his story.
“It all started in elementary school,” Asahi began, “That’s when I met them… “
“Met who?” Makoto asked.
“Reiji and Jun,” Asahi answered quickly.
“Jun… Jun Mutsuki? The leader of the underground circuit?”
“That's the one,” Asahi answered, “But he wasn't always the one in charge.”
“I see,” Agrise observed.
“Let's see…” Asahi continued, “I was ten when I first saw Vanguard. Reiji taught me.”
“Reiji taught you?!” Makoto was shocked. “How long has he been playing?”
“I'm not entirely sure,” Asahi replied, “He had already been playing in major tournaments. He even defeated your dad by the time I started playing.”
“He fought my dad…”
“I remember reading about that,” Agrise added, “Naito Sakaki died that very night.”
“My uncle got a phone call that night saying my dad got in some kind of accident,” Makoto also added, “I was told he would come back home, but he never did…”
“I'm… I'm sorry I brought it up…”
“Don't be,” two people said at once. One of those was Makoto. Makoto them turned around to see who else was talking. It was Reiji.
“The old man died because he couldn't handle the raw strength of my Kuromi,” Reiji answered.
“Old man?” Makoto asked, incredulous.
“He was only 35,” Agrise added.
“He was weak,” Reiji answered them, “Vanguard killed him. And if you're weak, it will happen to you…” He began to turn around. He then added, “Oh, and Asahi? Oh, Makoto, too, I guess…”
“What do you want?” Asahi asked him.
“If the only reason you came here was to best me in a Cardfight, forget it. You could never defeat me in a real Cardfight…” Reiji then walked away.
“I could never defeat him before…”
“What was that, Asahi?” Makoto asked.
“Even before he went crazy,” Asahi answered, “He was unstoppable…”
“I attack with Beacon of Light, Kuromi!”
“Drive Check, Critical Trigger!”
“Aww man, lost again…”
“Even when he played Royal Paladin,” Asahi continued, “There was just something about the way he played…”
“Wait…” Makoto stopped him, “He used to play Royal Paladin?”
“Not only that,” Asahi continued, “but Kuromi was also a Royal Paladin unit.” He reached into his pocket and revealed a card.
“Beacon of Hope, Kuromi?”
“I stole this from him the day I left Japan,” Asahi answered, “It's my reminder of the way things used to be.” He then reveals another card behind it. “This was my avatar back in those days.”
“So what made you stop being friends?” Hanako asked him.
“You see,” Asahi began to answer her, “Reiji was becoming bored with Vanguard, so we came up with a way to make it more exciting. That's where the underground fight circuit came from. The three of us ruled the country for a while, but Reiji was still unsatisfied…”
“I need to surpass him, Asahi-kun…”
“Surpass who, Reiji?”
“Naito Sakaki. Even though he's been dead for years, everyone still calls him the best.”
“Reiji, you've already surpassed him. When is enough enough?”
“Shut up! A weakling like you could never understand my struggle…”
“You're the number one ranked Vanguard fighter in the world. You've done all you can. Sometimes people are just not going to be convinced…”
“I refuse to stop. Not until I reach the pinnacle of perfection…”
“Perfection was a word he threw out a lot,” Asahi continued, “We thought winning was everything. Really, we all strived for that same pinnacle. For me, the major obstacle was Reiji…”
“Ride! Dauntless Drive Dragon! Attack!”
“I realized by that point that Reiji’s constant quest for perfection was destroying the thing that was more important, our friendship,” Asahi admitted.
“Check the drive trigger… Critical Trigger! Five damage! I'll finish you off next turn!”
“There won't be a next turn…”
“Arise, Demonic Madness Dragon, Kuromi!!! Attack!”
“Check the drive trigger, Critical Trigger! Power to the Vanguard. Restand Kuromi, attack once more!!!”
“I lost that fight, just like I lost all the other times against him,” Asahi continued, “I needed to become stronger. I convinced my aunt that I needed to travel the world for a while to discover myself. She was kind enough to oblige.”
“I actually met Yuto-san the night he left for Europe,” Agrise added, “He attended a shop tournament, remember Makoto-kun?”
“Oh yeah,” Makoto realized, “I was wondering who won that tournament then stormed right out… That was you?!”
“It was my last chance to blow off some steam before leaving,” Asahi admitted, “Then I started my travels, which led me to the Euro League and the one man whom I thought could help me, Toshiki Kai, the Solitary Fighter.”
“Ride! Dragonic Overlord, The Vanguard!”
“He was unstoppable,” Asahi continued, “Maybe that's why I sought him out. He reminded me of Reiji…”
“You want me to what? What was your name again?”
“Asahi Yuto, sir, and I want you to train me in the ways of Kagero.”
“Train you? You came all this way for training?”
Asahi nodded in agreement.
“Okay then, I must admit… I like your determination. Okay, I'll train you. First, let's look at your cards.” Asahi handed him his Kagero deck and watched as Kai looked through it.
“Is it bad?”
“Not at all… Could use a few adjustments, but nothing too major. Let's get some practice fights in. Tomorrow night, meet me at the docks.”
“And so I did,” Asahi continued, “That night was a very long night…”
“Ride! Dragonic Overlord the Great, attack!”
“Grr… no guard…”
“Check the drive trigger. Get, Critical Trigger! Second check. Get, Critical Trigger! Overlord the Great and Dragonic Neoflame stand up.”
“You lost again… I'm starting to wonder if you are strong enough to beat him…”
“Fight me again!”
“Ride! Dragonic Overlord the End!”
The waves crashed onto the pier constantly throughout that night. Neither of them got much sleep.
“Check the drive trigger. Get, Critical Trigger! All the effects go to the vanguard. Stand back up, Dragonic Overlord the End!”
“Grr… no guard…”
Asahi fell to the ground, tears welling from his eyes, rolling down the sides of his face. Kai looked down at him.
“You won't win unless you have the Flames of Apocalypse raging within you.”
At that moment, Asahi closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he saw a vision of Dragonic Overlord staring at him where Kai should have been.
It's you! Asahi told the vision, I want to win with you!
Kai must have heard him, because he replied with “I said the same thing when I was about your age.” Hearing Kai’s voice made Asahi open his eyes for real.
“One more fight oughta do it…”
“You've lost 15 times in a row. Do you really have what it takes?”
“I've got a feeling…”
“That day,” Asahi said in the present, “All my dreams, all my wishes, all my desires manifested into one card…”
“Ride the Vanguard! Dragonic Overlord! The Conquest!”
“Check the drive trigger… Got it! Double Critical! The Conquest stands up!”
Kai stared intently at his student, and smiled.
“I want to win… I want to defeat him! Overlord the Conquest attacks!”
Kai continued to smile. “No guard…” Kai didn't check any damage triggers. Asahi finally won, but he collapsed from the stress of fighting. Kai walked over to him and have him a card.
“No…” Asahi said, “I can't have your best card.”
“It's not about earning it,” Kai answered him, “You need this card in order for your deck to function properly.” Asahi understood, and took the card. Dragonic Overlord.
“I told you it would be a long story,” Asahi told the group in the present.
“Yeah,” Agrise agreed, “But I doubt it's as painful as mine.”
“That reminds me,” Makoto began to ask, “How did you get into Vanguard in the first place?”
“Believe it or not,” Agrise began to answer, “You helped me get into this game.”
Makoto was shocked, “Who? Me?”
“Of course you,” Asahi answered, “Who else would she be talking about?”
“I'm sure you know about my overly obsessive and domineering parents,” Agrise added, “Well, they forced me from a young age to master all the games they played. Shogi, Go, you name it…”
“No! No! No!” her father told her, “You cannot lose! Losing brings shame to your name!”
“Again! For the hundredth time!” her mother added.
“So I played and played and played again and again until my hands, my arms, my mind ached,” Agrise continued, “But it was never good enough. Never enough for them…”
“I remember now,” Makoto replied, “That was horrible…”
“I managed to catch a break one day after school.”
“I ride! Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi!” Makoto said inside Agrise’s flashback, “Kotaro, what do you think?”
“Why would you ride a girl card?” Kotaro asked, “Aren't there any boy grade 3s in that Oracle Think Tank?”
“I mean there are,” Makoto answered, “But they aren't as strong as Tsukuyomi and they have weak effects like Counter Blast 2, draw a card. Stuff like that. Besides, Tsukuyomi is a boy in the stories we hear at the shrine.”
“Then why did they make this Tsukuyomi a girl?”
“How should I know? That's not important. What's important is her skill.” Before he could say what the skill was, he was interrupted by a very quiet “Hi…” The two boys turned around to see a girl about their age.
“Hi there!” Makoto said, “We were just finishing a game of Vanguard if you wanted to join us.”
“Yeah,” Makoto answered, “It's really popular at our school. Watch this.” He then turns back to face Kotaro and their game. “Tsukuyomi’s skill, Counter Blast 1 and discard one. I draw cards equal to the number of Tsukuyomi in my soul up to three. And since there's three in the soul, I draw three.”
“Hold up,” Kotaro said, “There should only be two. You only just rode to grade 3.”
“Remember when I had Silent Archer, Temna on my field?” Makoto asked, “I used his skill to add a card to my hand in exchange for putting a card in my soul.”
“And since I drew three cards, I can place two cards from among the top five on top of my deck and the rest on the bottom. Attack, Tsukuyomi!”
Kotaro sighed, “No guard.”
“Twin Drive Check, the first… Draw Trigger! Power to Silent Tom and draw one! The second… Critical Trigger! Power to Torte, critical to Tsukuyomi!”
“Arrgh!” Kotaro complained, “How did you get so good at this game anyways?”
“Lots of practice,” Makoto answered, “That and going wherever the wind takes me.”
“The wind?” Agrise asked.
“Yeah, that feeling of going with the flow, of making the most of what cards are in your hand.”
“I think I can understand,” Agrise replied.
“I don't,” Kotaro replied, “My deck doesn't make any sense!”
“Hmm…” Agrise went to look over at Kotaro’s board and hand cards. “You have too many grade 3 cards…”
“Huh?” Makoto asked, before looking over as well. “She's right!”
“But… aren't grade 3s the best cards in the game? Isn't that what you said?”
“I said that grade 3s are the main cards in your deck,” Makoto answered, “You need a balance between all four grades in order to be good at Vanguard.”
“Hey, uh, Makoto is it?” Agrise asked, “Where can I buy a Vanguard deck?”
“You're in luck!” Makoto answered, “My uncle owns a card shop, and it's right here!”
“That was the most fun I've ever had,” Agrise admitted, “I wanted that kind of fun every day.”
“I thought for all these years you just stopped playing,” Makoto realized, “You had to hide it.” Agrise nodded in agreement.
“Hey, Makoto-kun,” Agrise then said.
“When we face each other in the tournament,” she continued, “Let's just have fun out there, okay?”
“And go wherever the wind takes us,” Makoto added.
“Don't forget about me, you two,” Asahi also added, “The three of us are in this together now.”
“Hey,” Agrise continued, “Since we still have a little bit of time, how about we look at each other's decks?”
“I think that's a good idea,” Makoto agreed.
“Me first!” Hanako shouted, “I still need to learn how to play!” Makoto offered to have a look first, and the first card he looked at surprised him.
“Is this?” Makoto tried to ask, “No… No way!”
“What is it?” Asahi asked.
“This is my old Tsukuyomi deck!” Makoto answered, then turned to Hanako, asking her, “Where did you get this?”
“Uncle Kenji gave it to me so I could learn how to play,” Hanako answered.
“AGRISE ATTORNS AND DREW MAJORS, REPORT TO THE FIGHT TABLE IMMEDIATELY.”
“So much for that…” Makoto said, “Every time I go to teach Hanako how to play…”
“It’s okay, Makoto Onii-chan,” Hanako answered, “We've got tomorrow off!”
“I guess you're right!”
“I'll catch you guys later,” Asahi said to them as he began to leave.
“Where are you going?” Agrise asked.
“I need to take care of something…”
Meanwhile, in another part of the mansion, Reiji stared out of the window in his bedroom. In his hand was a card, but not a Dark Irregulars card. It was a Royal Paladin card instead, Clowdia.
So… Asahi-kun is in this tournament as well… Too bad. Just another speed bump in the way of perfection… He has some new cards… Let's see what he's got. I'll have to fight him before my rematch with Makoto… This might be fun…
Elsewhere, Asahi was sitting on the bed in his room, staring at the Beacon of Light, Kuromi card he stole from Reiji two years ago.
I just want things to be the way they used to be.
In his mind, he imagined the two of them and Jun as little kids again. They were having fun like they always had. Before the Underground Circuit. Before Kuromi became a Demonic Madness Dragon. Before the desperate search for perfection…
Asahi had decided it. He would defeat Reiji. Even if he didn't win the tournament. That didn't matter. Defeating Reiji was all that matters.
Watch out, Reiji… Here I come!
You're too weak, Asahi-kun… You'll never have what it takes to defeat me…
I've gotten a lot stronger since we last met… You won't see it coming… Let's go!
Asahi Yuto vs. Reiji Midorihara (Reiji won many times) (Reiji used Royal Paladin)
Asahi Yuto vs. Reiji Midorihara (Reiji wins) (Reiji used Dark Irregulars)
Asahi Yuto vs. Toshiki Kai (Kai won 15 times)
Asahi Yuto vs. Toshiki Kai (Asahi wins) (Here, Asahi acquired his Overlord cards)
Makoto Sakaki vs. Kotaro Mitoshi (Makoto wins) (Makoto used Tsukuyomi since he didn't have Starburst Dragon yet)