DAY 3: 1
For the second time in as many days, Twilight's journey to consciousness was swift and unpleasant. The last thing going through her mind before her awakening was the tree trunk... which was probably accurate on more than one level. Still, that was a memory and not a nightmare, right? It certainly seemed like it could be real... Twilight briefly checked over herself for some evidence that the events of her dream had really occurred. Nothing. Not even so much as a bruise. Still, there had to be other ways to confirm how she died. She could always ask the others. Even if they didn't remember her, the details of their deaths would have to be consistent, right?
Speaking of the others, where are they? Twilight gave a quick glance around, and spotted the other five a short distance away, chatted animatedly between themselves. Once again, Twilight felt a pang of pain at the exclusion, understandable as it was. She missed having friends to confide in, ones who knew her well enough to confide back. All the more reason to win this game.
Rarity had spotted that Twilight was awake, and was motioning with her hoof for her to join them. She trotted over to the others, glad she wasn't being totally excluded. "Good morning everypony. At least I think it's morning..."
"Good morning Twilight," Rarity replied. "I hope you don't think us rude, talking away over here without you, but we've been hearing about what Rainbow Dash and Applejack have been doing over these last two days. Oh, where are my manners, you haven't been introduced yet! This is Applejack and Rainbow Dash. I should mention though, Rainbow usually has wings, and Applejack usually has a simply appalling accent. It seems that's the only good thing to come out of this so far."
"For crying out loud Rarity, I don't have an accent!" Twilight could only tell it was Applejack speaking because she saw her mouth move. "Well, that is I do now, but I normally don't." She turned to Twilight. "Anyhow, pleasure to meet you Twilight. Rarity, Pinkie and Fluttershy seem to like you well enough, and anypony those three like is okay in my books."
Before Twilight could respond, Dash cut in. "Psh, I don't know about that. I mean, she couldn't even handle that Noise yesterday. She's got a lot of proving to do before she's got me convinced."
Applejack managed to give Dash a quick swat with her hat. "Rainbow, behave! That's no way to treat somepony you don't know."
"Quite right! Besides, Twilight has already proved herself as far as I'm concerned," Rarity added. "She managed to keep a calm head and come up with a plan of action yesterday, without which I'm sure all of us wouldn't be here."
"Yeah yeah, whatever." Dash waved a dismissive hoof. "Point is, I'm not buying all this hype. She has to prove she's as good as you say she is."
"Why of all the arrogant-" Twilight held up a hoof.
"It's okay, I see where she's coming from. Arguing isn't going to change her mind, she's too stubborn for that."
Rarity and Applejack exchanged a glance. "Um, begging your pardon Twilight, but how would you know that? You haven't met Rainbow before have you?" Applejack asked.
Too late, Twilight realised her slip. "What? Haha, no, that would be silly!" Shootshootshoot! How do I cover this up? "No, it's just I have a friend just like that." Phew, nice save Twilight. They don't need to know that Dash IS the friend I'm talking about... "Fiercely competitive, convinced she's the best at everything, and stubborn. But also a good friend to anyone who's earned her respect. So I ask you, Rainbow, what can I do to earn that respect?"
"Heh, you think it's gonna be easy? You've got guts, I'll give you that at least. But as to earning my respect... hmmm...."
"I think we have more important things to worry about right now," Applejack interrupted. "Like what kind of mission they could possibly expect us to do here."
"Speaking of here, where are we?" Twilight asked. In response, Applejack pointed up and behind her. Twilight turned around to see a giant stone pony, hoof raised to sky, holding up a torch. "Is- is that the Statue of Libmarety? But that would mean..."
"Yup. We're cut off from the mainland. We've only got this one island today."
"But what can we do in just one location? I mean, one small location." Twilight turned to Pinkamena, who had thus far stayed quiet. She shrugged.
"It's not like we did everything last time I played. We always had at least two locations to run between." There was a popping noise, and a flash. "But I guess we're about to find out."
Twilight levitated the scroll in front of her, and read from it aloud. "Mission 3: Survive the Noise attack for 60 minutes. Failure will result in Erasure. The Reapers." There was another, smaller flash, and a second scroll appeared to join the first one. Twilight read this one too. "You have 10 minutes before the timer starts. Prepare yourself." She looked at Pinkamena, who shrugged.
"We didn't have anything like this. I have no idea what'll happen. Still, they're just Noise, right? We can take 'em."
"I don't know about that dear," Rarity interrupted. "Fluttershy and I had a dreadful time trying to defeat some Parasprite Noise yesterday. They overwhelmed me, and if not for Fluttershy I wouldn't be here now, I'm sure of it."
"So it won't be as easy as one two three then," said Twilight. "Frankly, I'd be surprised if the Reapers DIDN'T have some sort of twist planned."
"Uh, hello? You guys are missing the obvious here!" Twilight was surprised to here Rainbow speaking up. "The Noise can't attack us unless we let them, right? So we just don't use that skull pin thingy, and we're home free. Easiest mission ever."
"She's got a point you know," Applejack said. "I mean, put like that, how can we lose?"
Pinkamena shook her head. "It won't be that easy. Reapers can force Noise to attack, so that's likely what'll happen."
"That's what happened to us yesterday," Rarity added. "It was a pair of them. They seemed pretty determined to erase us."
"But they can't have that many Reapers, right? And if we see any, we can just run away," Twilight suggested. Pinkie quickly shot down that plan.
"Towards the end of last game they also brought in Noise that attacked on its own accord. They'll probably have some like that as well."
"So what, we've just got to fight it out?" Applejack asked. "Great. We're going to be erasing a lot of Noise then."
"Oh! I've got it!" Everypony turned to face Rainbow. She pointed a hoof at Twilight. "A competition."
Twilight blinked in confusion. "Excuse me?"
"You said you wanted to earn my respect? Well how about this, if you can defeat more Noise than me, maybe you'll be worth my consideration."
Pinkamena grunted in annoyance. "And we thought you had an idea to make the mission easier, not harder. We should be focusing on survival, not these silly games."
There was a silence. "Never thought I'd see the day where Pinkie was against games.... Discord notwithstanding," Rarity said.
"If it was any other time, I wouldn't be," Pinkamena said. "But having the joy of life taken from you tends to have a rather sobering effect."
"That's what was taken from you? Oh, you poor thing," Rarity said.
"Well, that's the easiest way to explain it anyway," Pinkamena said. "But like I said, we don't have time to indulge in these competitions. I want to see us all come out of this alive, and if we start taking unnecessary risks-"
"I'll do it." Everypony turned to look at Twilight, who flushed at the sudden attention. "I mean, we're going to be fighting Noise anyway right? What does it matter if we keep count of how many we've erased?"
"Because, knowing Dash, she'll go out of her way to fight more than she should, putting herself in danger," Pinkamena said.
"You're forgetting something Pinkie," Applejack chipped in. "I can keep an eye on this one, make sure she doesn't do anything rash."
"Heh, you're one to talk. Who was it who refused help last applebuck season again?"
"Girls, please!" Everypony looked at Twilight again. "I trust Applejack enough that she'll keep Rainbow out of trouble, so I don't see the harm."
"Yes!" Rainbow cheered. "Better bring your A game Sparkle, 'cause this Pegasus only has one gear, go!"
Twilight smirked. "Not much of a pegasus without wings though, are you?"
"Eh, details." And before Pinkamena could talk her out of it, Rainbow had dashed off.
"I'd better follow her, keep her out of trouble then," Applejack said. "Later all." She trotted off in pursuit of her friend. Pinkamena rounded on Twilight.
"If either of them come to any harm, I will hold you personally responsible."
"I'm sure they'll be fine." Twilight however wasn't sure how much she believed her own words.
Rarity spoke up. "So, if those two have headed off on their own, should us four stick together? It'd probably be safer."
Twilight shook her head. "Sorry Rarity, but no. I intend to beat Rainbow at this game, and I'm worried that the more of there are, the less fights overall we'll get. Besides, the more fights, the stronger we become, right?"
Pinkamena sighed. "Yes, it's true. We would be best to split up. Just be careful, okay?"
"Darling, I'm working with Fluttershy. It would be hard for me to not be careful." She turned to the yellow pegasus, who couldn't participate in the conversation for obvious reasons. "Come on dear, we'll have a quick look around the island while we're waiting for the battles to begin. I've always wanted to see the Statue of Libmarety."
Pinkamena shot another glare at Twilight, who sighed. "Yes, alright I know. It'll be my fault if they get hurt, right?"
"No. This time it wouldn't be your fault. Doesn't mean I have to like it."
"They'll be fine. They're.... they seem like they’re the types to keep themselves safe."
"That they are. Well, guess we should prepare. How long do you think we have before the attack starts?"
A pain shot through Twilight's hoof. "By my guess? Not long."