This tale’s guest Itoakami Star gets to play a children’s trading card game.
Meanwhile at the Lair of Dr. Callyco
“And just like that, you’ve walked right into my trap.” Dr. Callyco laughed as he stood on top of the kitchen table that Dr. Cutie Pup was seated behind.
“… What trap?” Dr. Cutie Pup looked down at the table. “Pretty sure I just won the game.”
“That’s what I wanted you to think… But with this one card I’ll flip the game right on its head!” Dr. Callyco reached into his lab coat and drew out a yellow card with an R on it. “The Yellow Reverse! With this card… I reverse the turn order, causing the turn to go back to me skipping your turn…”
“Okay but-“ Dr. Cutie Pup started.
“And now back on my turn… I play… The JACK OF DIAMONDS! His special ability allowed me to activate a spell card within my graveyard and in exchange I must skip my combat phase… And so… I activate again… YELLOW REVERSE! Skipping your turn yet again.”
“But the thing is-“ The wolf pup tried to interrupt.
“And now on my next turn! I draw more cards… And play… the queen of diamonds! Now… YELLOW REVERSE! I go again, and play the King of Diamonds! Yellow Reverse! And now-“ The kitten continued excited as he threw down the cards onto the table.
“I get it! Just get to the point!” The wolf gave an exasperated sigh.
“Continuing this combo, I can bring out the King, Ace and Ten of diamonds as well! And now with all of them combined… I activate their special ability, Diamond Flush! Sacrificing all of them I can summon my ultimate monster!” The kitten crossed his arms and smiled smugly. “Behold! JOKER THE WILD ONE! He has a total of 5000 attack points!”
“Callyco we’re playing checkers.” Dr. Cutie Pup sighed. “And I literally have ten kinged pieces while you have one piece left trapped in a corner.”
“Yes, but do any of those kinged pieces have more than 5000 attack points?” Dr. Callyco grinned.
“Well no but-“
“Then Joker the Wild One! Obliterate the battlefield! ROOOOOOOOOOOAWR!” The kitten walked around on the checkerboard kicking all the pieces off.
“You don’t actually know how to play checkers do you?” Dr. Cutie Pup snickered.
“Sure I do!” Dr. Callyco huffed as he sat down in the middle of the board. “Just… Gotta always be aware of tricks and secret techniques! Otherwise you never know what might happen! Sometimes the game has more depth… And more stakes than you first thing! That’s a lesson tonight’s guest had to learn the hard way. His name is Itoakami Star. Guess he’s some kind of winter fox-rabbit hybrid with aspirations of being a mage. Took one break from studying though and found himself in a battle with higher stakes than he could imagine.”
“I’m not sure if you actually prepared this to introduce tonight’s tale…” Dr. Cutie Pup rolled his eyes. “Or are just trying to cover up you not knowing what you’re doing.”
“La la la can’t hear you new tale starting!” Dr. Callyco shouted. “We bring you, our fifth tale! The Tale of the Transmogrifying Card Game!”
Thirteen Tales From Dr. Callyco
The Tale of the Transmogrifying Card Game
Itoakami sat at the back table in the comic book shop waiting for the first round of the tournament to be called. Human shops like this weren’t the usual hangouts for the white rabbit-fox but even he needed a break from his studies every now and then. Becoming an accomplished mage was no easy task… And so sometimes he just wanted to take a break and just relax.
Still… If one more person asked him who he was cosplaying as he might have to bonk them the head with his staff. He wasn’t sure why so many humans had a hard time understanding that his yellow and black robes weren’t a costume. They were the garment of an actual mage. He could totally hex them if he wanted to! He wouldn’t… Because that would be pretty petty… But still. It was annoying.
Granted… He had run into a human who had identified themselves as a cosplayer and was wearing a very similar outfit to himself. Itoakami had just concluded that this person was simply a very good at what he did to get such an accurate portrayal. Still… There was nothing to be done… And he was here to try to enjoy his night, not nitpick at the silly humans and their ridiculous ideas.
“Next round… Itoakami Star Versus Radella.” The judge called out from near the front of the shop. It seemed like Itoakami was up. He had entered a tournament for a new card game that had just come out today. This was the release party. It was called Cryptid Wars. The concept was passable enough. Basically, it revolved around the idea of a bunch of different creatures from various folklore around the world engaging in a secret war that normal people didn’t know about. Not the most original story, but a decent enough excuse for a game to just let players throw monsters at each other.
Since the game had just come out though there hadn’t been time to go through and actually learn which cards were best or form any kind of official tiers. No one actually even had a proper deck. Tonight’s tournament was essentially just a booster pack tournament. After paying the entrance fee Itoakami had been given several packs to open and assemble his deck. He had a fairly reasonable idea of how it was meant to work and was hopeful about his odds tonight.
Then his opponent Radella appeared, gliding up to the table and sitting across from him. Itoakami wasn’t really sure what to make of her. She was a green skinned woman that the rabbit-fox couldn’t quite place her age… And she was dressed almost in all black including a pointy hat upon her head. She very much looked the part of a cartoon witch. And that brought up an important question to Itoakami.
Real witch? Or cosplayer? Though Itoakami had never met another spellcaster who looked like they had just come out of a cartoon… That was a point for it being a costume… But then again, it didn’t matter. Tonight, they were both just players.
“This won’t take long dearie…” Radella let out a small chuckle. “But this game might be a it more intense than what you’re used to.”
“Oh? Are you that confident?” Itoakami smirked. He wasn’t going to begrudge the witch for being a little haughty. It was part of the fun.
“That… And we’ll be taking this card game to the Arcanum.” She smirked.
“… I’m sorry what does that even mean? Is that a reference to something?” Itoakami tilted his head. “Because I’m not sure I got it and…”
“I take the first turn, summoning the Bunyip into attack mode!” Radella was suddenly screaming at the top of her lungs. “Normally you can’t attack on the first turn… But with the spell card Hastes makes Wastes I can attack right away at the cost of moving my Cryptid to the grave yard when my turn ends. Now… Bunyip attack my rival directly! Take away his first heart point and bring this duel into the Arcanum!”
“ARRRRRRRRGH!” Itoakami shouted as one of his five heart points were destroyed. “Wait why am I screaming? This is just a game, it doesn’t physically hut me at all.” He crossed his arms. “I think your overacting rubbed off on me somehow.”
“Oh, you’ll find this game can harm you more than you think.” Radella smirked. “Now watch as the Arcanum takes effect!” What happened next truly caught Itoakami off guard.
A pool of dark violet mist began to emanate from the witch. It flooded the entire comic book shop and seemed to form a wall around the table Itoakami was sitting at. The only things he could see at this point other than the mist were his opponent and the cards on the table.
“Okay… What kind of spell are you trying to pull?” Itoakami was familiar enough with magic to recognize a spell when he saw one… Especially when it was this over the top obvious.
“Simply adding some stakes to the game. Look at your hands.” The witch smiled as Itoakami obeyed, seeing that the normally white fur on his hands had changed colors to a solid black. They also now had small retractable claws on them. “I’m in the market for a new familiar… And lucky you, you get to be it! But… Apparently some rule says I can’t just whisk you off without asking and there has to be some kind of contract. So… A card game it is. For each heart point you lose you’ll transform further and further into my new familiar. When you lose all five… You’ll just be a normal cat, not even able to talk to anyone else but me.”
“I never agreed to any kind of contract like that!” Itoakami slammed his fist on the table.
“Did you read the terms and conditions of entering this card tournament on the comic shop’s web site?” Radella gave a wry smile.
“No but-“ Itoakami felt his ears flatten.
“Always read the end user agreement!” Radella let out a maniacal laugh. “But my turn ends… And now Bunyip goes to the graveyard.”
“Fine… Whatever…” Itoakami growled as it became his turn. “Then I’ll just win this card game and be done with you! That opening was a cheap shot… But you’ve left yourself completely open for just one hit!” He looked over his cards. He had to be careful… There was obviously a lot more on the line than just the tournament prize money now. Yet… He couldn’t let himself be cowed by fear. Last thing he wanted was to be too scared to act that he wound up sabotaging his chances in the game.
“I summon Chupacabra in attack mode! Then I activate the spell Genbu’s Shell to increase his defense… And now I attack your undefended heart points!” Itoakami smiled as he took away one of her points. He had a monster out while Radella was defenseless… She’d only be able to summon one cryptid a turn… Meaning the worst she could do next round was kill his creature… But even that was unlikely. With Genbu’s Shell in effect Chupacabra’s defense was way too high to be taken out by any basic creature. Nothing she could summon could kill it.
“You’re feeling confident.” Radella sighed. “But I suppose you think you’ve put up some kind of defense. But… I didn’t sacrifice my Bunyip just for an easy attack… I needed something in the graveyard for this next effect.” She revealed a card from her hand. “The magic card, Lemure Soul. I can remove a creature in my graveyard from the game and in exchange destroy any creature on the field… In addition, that creature’s owner losers a heart point. Say goodbye to your little chicken eater.”
“No!” Itoakami began to change as his cryptid was destroyed. His ears grow shorter, more pyramid like and his tail thinner. His clothing started to feel loser on him as he shrunk in size slightly.
“And now you’re defenseless again… With only three heart points. I summon Dobhar-chu, the giant otter! He may not have much in the way of attack… But his defense is impregnable… Of course, attack points don’t matter when you have no monsters to defend yourself with! Go… Attack and take his third heart point!”
“This game has some serious balance issues.” Itoakami growled as he felt magic flow through him a third time. His body was becoming more feral as it grew smaller. He didn’t even have proper fingers anymore, but just paws in place of his hands… He gripped at the table to avoid slipping out of his chair, letting his pants fall to the ground and leaving him in just a very oversized robe.
It was his turn… And he had nothing he could do. None of the cryptids he could summon could deal enough damage. Even if he summoned one monster to defend him… Radella would no doubt summon a second monster and use one to destroy his while attacking his heart points with the other. He only had two left… And there appeared to be no way for him to target her heart points. He was stuck on the defensive for now…
But if he couldn’t attack… Maybe he could at least prevent her from attacking as well. But… If he could at least trap her in a stalemate for now it’d buy him some time… And he just might have an idea.
“I play Jackalope!” Itoakami threw down his card.
“You’re kidding right?” Radella laughed. “That’s the weakest card in the game! You think that’s going to take me down?”
“Maybe it’s weak… But you know, jackalopes are at the end of the day rabbits. And you know what rabbits are good at?” Itoakami grinned. “Multiplication. I activate the Spell Card Mirror Image! It allows me to create copies of existing monsters in play! And the weaker the creature, the more copies I get! With the jackalope, I can create a wall of infinite bunnies. No matter how strong your cryptids are they can only attack once a round! You’ll never be able to get through the wall…” And the part Itoakami didn’t mention was that if this was a true stalemate then he won. Radella had gone first… That meant she’d run out of cards first.
“That’s a cheeky move…” Radella growled. “I can’t believe you’re forcing me to use my trump card.”
“NANI!?” Itoakami paused. “I mean… What!?”
“I summon Steller’s sea ape… And then sacrifice him and Dobhar-chu to power the magic card Driftwood! This lets me summon the most powerful cryptid in my deck… THE LOCH NESS MONSTER!” Radella threw down the card.
“It doesn’t matter how much attack it has; it can’t defeat all my Jackalope mirages!” Itoakami protested.
“You don’t realize the Loch Ness’ Monster special ability! By sacrificing my own heart points I can eliminate visual based magic… At the cost of three years, your Jackalope and it’s mirages are gone! Leaving you wide open for Nessie to take your second to last heart point!”
“Ugh…” This time the changes were more extreme. Itoakami shrunk right into his robe, far too small to possibly wear it. His body collapsed onto all fours into a quadruped stance, unable to get back up on two legs. He squirmed out of his robes and leaped onto the table… He was basically all cat now, and pure black from head to tail. There was nothing left to change.
“You make a good witch’s cat.” Radella grinned. “And one more hit and you’ll lose your voice too.”
“It’s not over yet…” But Itoakami wasn’t seeing too many options. He had one heart point and nothing in his deck could take the Loch Ness Monster in a fight. His spells were useless too… It was frustrating. After Radella’s sacrifice she only had one heart point left. If he could just get on the attack for one turn…
“… I see. You’ve thrown the game and you don’t even realize it.” Itoakami grinned as he quickly clumsily pulled a card from his deck with his forepaws. “And this is the exact card I needed… Mothman come forth!”
“What’s a tiny monster like that going to do?” Radella yawned.
“Heh, well I acknowledge he can’t take the Loch Ness Monster in a fight… But it doesn’t matter!” Itoakami sat up on his haunches to gesture forward with his right paw. “Because… Every single one of your cryptids is a sea type!”
“Yes and?” Radella was getting annoyed.
“Meaning not a single one of them possesses the Flight ability… Not even Nessie. So… None of them can defend against a flying creature.”
“Wait no! Radella’s face changed to anger.
“Mothman… Take out her last heart point!” Itoakami had won! The purple mist began to fade as the comic shop came back into view with the last heart point defeated… Except he was still a cat. “Hey what gives!? Why haven’t I changed back!”
“Heh heh.” Radella smirked. “I said if you won you wouldn’t become my familiar. I never said it would reverse the changes that had already occurred.”
“Oh come on! You lost fair and square! Change me back!” Itoakami hissed.
“Never! That was a cheeky move at the end, and I’m mad!” Radella crossed his arms. “Now I have to find a new familiar, do you have any idea how hard it’s going to be to find someone else now?”
“Probably not that hard!” Itoakami bristled. “Have you tried just asking people? Putting out an ad? Literally doing anything other than kidnapping!?”
“Oh? And who’s going to answer an ad to turn into an animal for a few years in exchange for learning some magic?” Radella shot back.
“I WOULD!” Itoakami screamed.
“If you’re so willing then why are we fighting?” The witch demanded.
“Because you just pulled this on me without warning! I freaked out and didn’t know what was going on! But it’s literally my dream to be an accomplished mage! A few years as animal is a small price!” Itoakami spat back.
“Well gee! If you feel that way why don’t you just become my familiar now without any ridiculous game!?” The witch demanded.
“I’m actually fine with that!” Itoamaki shouted.
“Then why are we still screaming at each other!?” Radella demanded.
“I DON’T KNOW!” Itoamai shouted. Then both of them pause and just stared at each other before bursting out laughing.
“Well this was all pointless.” Radella giggled. “Guess I should be getting you home to show you the lab then.”
“Apparently?” Itoakami wasn’t 100% sure what all had just happened… But he supposed he was a cat now and was going to be given magic lessons. So that was a thing. He made no attempt to resist as the witch picked him up clutched him to her shoulder.
“So… Um… No hard feelings about the trying to kidnap you by force thing?” Radella asked.
“Can I keep my voice if we do this now?” Itoakami asked.
“I… suppose.” The witch shrugged. “Normally familiars only get to talk to their witch and other familiars… But I feel like we’re already breaking some traditions.”
“Then I’ll get over it.” Itoakami purred smugly and allowed himself to be carried out of the shop.
“Sooooo…” A random teenager sitting at a nearby table spoke up after they left. “Everyone else saw that, right? Not just me?”
“Eh, that’s card games for ya. These kinds of things happen all the time.” The store owner replied. “At least no one gambled their soul this time. I hate when they do that.”
“I’m finding a new hobby…” The teen muttered.