DAY 2: 1
"Rainbow! Are you okay?" Thud. "RAINBOW DASH!" "HOW DARE YOU HURT MY FRIEND!" Crunch. " Fluttershy? Oh Celestia..." "... we can't fight this thing!" "... that thing has just killed-" Crash. "...I'm going down fighting, like the others." Thump. " Spike! ...send a letter to the Princess!"
Darkness. Then everything became light again, and Twilight Sparkle sat bolt upright, gasping for breath. Slowly she remembered where she was. Manehatten. Looking around, she found she was still in the square. Not too far away from her, Pinkie was lying on the pavement, asleep. Right. So this wasn't just a dream. That was her last hope gone. She stood up and looked at the crowd around her. Busy ponies on their way to their busy lives. Living their lives while others fought for their own.
Twilight turned her thoughts away from this topic, and they settled on another one. Rarity and Fluttershy didn't recognise her. But they recognised Pinkie, even looking as different as she did. So why not her? Why had her friends forgotten about her?
The answer came a moment later. Pinkie had said that to play this game you had to sacrifice what you held most dear as an entry fee. And what did Twilight hold most dear? Her friends. And so her friends became her entry fee, or at least their memories of her. Tears threatened to well up in her eyes, but she fought them back. No. She couldn't let the others know. She had to win this game and get her entry fee back. She had to get her life back, her friends back, and her friends' lives back.
Further thoughts on the topic were interrupted by Pinkie. No, not Pinkie. Pinkamena. The pink pony was waking up, letting out a stream of unintelligible noises, her eyes still closed. "-end. Wha-" Her eyes snapped open, taking in her surroundings. "Horse apples. It must be day two then."
"Day two? You mean we've been asleep for an entire day?" Twilight asked aghast. "But how is that possible? We were wide awake just minute ago, and then suddenly we wake up here?"
Pinkamena shrugged. "I don't know how it happens, all I know is that it does." She looked around briefly. "Oh good. Rarity and Fluttershy are just over there. I should probably go explain what's going on. You want to sit through the explanation again?"
"I'll be fine. Actually, wait. Something's been bothering me. You say we're dead? Then why can't I remember how I died?"
"It could be for a few reasons. For example, your memories might be your entry fee-"
"No, not my memories," Twilight muttered under her breath.
"-Or you could have died in a traumatic way. Traumatic deaths tend to take a while to come to grips with. But you'll remember eventually." Pinkamena started walking towards Rarity, who was just waking up. She spoke over her shoulder to Twilight. "Still what does it matter? Doesn't make you any less dead."
After filling Rarity and Fluttershy in, a decision had to be reached. Since they hadn't found Rainbow Dash or Applejack yesterday, it was agreed that finding them was an important priority. But there was some debate as to how important.
"If we don't all go back together, there's no point in going back at all!" declared Pinkamena. "So we need to find them first, and focus on the mission later."
Rarity was vocally opposed to this. "How can you be so cruel Pinkie? I agree it would be best if all five of us made it back-" Twilight had to force back tears at this. "-but to say it's all or none? We've still got family to get back to! Sweetie Belle is probably heartbroken by now, and I know our parents don't have enough time to raise her on their own. And Fluttershy has her animals to look after. We can't get back unless we complete the missions!"
"That's what the other players are for. It doesn't matter which pair completes a mission, so long as it gets cleared. Which leaves us free to search for Applejack and Dash."
"But how do we know they can do it? I'd sooner not leave my life in the hooves of strangers."
"Fine, we put it to a vote then. Which do we focus on? The mission or Dash and AJ? I'm voting our friends, you?"
"The mission of course!" Rarity turned to Fluttershy. "Support me here darling. We've got to do the mission first, right?"
Fluttershy looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook her head. She pointed at Pinkamena.
"Ha! That's two votes for searching for AJ and Dash first. Sorry Rarity, looks like I get my way?"
Rarity fumed. "Oh, but the voting's not over yet. Miss Sparkle still has to cast her vote."
Pinkamena waved a dismissive hoof. "She doesn't get a vote. She has no reason to choose to search for Applejack and Rainbow Dash, so she only has one option."
Twilight didn't like being talked about like she wasn't there, especially by her friends. "Actually I think I do get a vote. And I vote we do both."
"Both?" Rarity and Pinkie echoed the last word.
"Yes, both," Twilight affirmed. "You're forgetting something. We're two pairs, not one quartet. Pinkamena and I have to stay together, and Rarity and Fluttershy have to stay together, but our two groups don't have to stay together. So one of our groups should try and complete the mission, and the other should try and find our- your friends."
Pinkamena and Rarity looked at each other. "I guess that would work," said Pinkamena. "So we'll look for Applejack and Rainbow Dash."
"And Fluttershy and I can complete the mission," Rarity added.
Twilight shook her head. "Actually I think it should be the other way around." Seeing the confused looks she got, she continued. "Pinkamena told me she'd played this game before, so she'd be best prepared to deal with whatever the Reapers throw at us. And Applejack and Rainbow Dash won't reco- don't know me, and Pinkamena doesn't look like she normally does, so they might be suspicious of us. So Rarity and Fluttershy should try and find them. Besides, being able to fly will be an advantage in looking for them."
Silence. Then Pinkamena sighed. "You make a good point. I hadn't thought of that." She looked back at Rarity. "We'll take care of the mission then. But you have to promise you'll find them."
"I'll do one better than that dear, I Pinkie Pie Swear it." Rarity mimed out the actions as she said the words. "Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."
A frown flickered across Pinkamena’s face, quickly being replaced with a half hearted smile. "Thanks Rarity. I know I can count on you. Oh, and I know this'll sound strange, but try to fight as many noise as you can safely. The more you fight the stronger you'll get, and there might be some point where you'll need to fight anyway."
Rarity nodded. "To be frank, I'm still a bit confused about the fighting. You say the we draw upon magic from these pins?" She indicated the sash she was wearing, identical to the other's except for the pins on it. Rarity had, along with the skull pin, a pin with a column of diamonds that looked a bit like her cutie mark, and one with various gems forming a staggered v-shape.
"Yup. If I had to guess, the first of those will form an ice pillar, and the other will drop rocks or something on your enemies." She then turned to Fluttershy. "Fluttershy, your ones look like they'll be a barrier that'll protect you from harm while damaging the Noise, and one that creates stationary orbs of water." Fluttershy's pins were one of a butterfly, like the ones on her cutie mark, but black and grey, and a turtle with a light blue shell.
Rarity nodded. "Thank you for letting us know. You take care dear. We'll find Applejack and Rainbow Dash before you know it." With a nod to Twilight, Rarity and Fluttershy were on their way. Just as they vanished from sight, two scrolls appeared in front of Twilight and Pinkamena. The day's mission had arrived.
"Mission 2: Find and erase the Noise in charge of Mr Ed's Theater. You have 180 minutes. Failure will result in erasure. The Reapers." Twilight felt the sharp pain in her hoof again. The timer had returned, ticking down from 180:00. She turned to Pinkamena. "So we just have to defeat some Noise? This won't be a problem, right?"
"I wouldn't say that. The wording of the mission is a clue. 'The Noise in charge?' Sounds like a boss Noise."
"You mean like in a video game?" Twilight hadn't played any video games, believing them to be a waste of time that could be better spent studying. However Spike had talked her into getting a Pon-e Haystation for him, and she'd watched him play in his off hours a bit. So she was familiar with the idea of a boss, an extra powerful enemy that had to be defeated.
"Yes, exactly like in a video game." Pinkamena stared off into the middle distance for a heartbeat, then looked back at Twilight. "It'll be tougher than the Noise we fought yesterday, so we'll need to do some other battles before then."
"Well, alright. I guess I need the experience. Can you just remind me what my other pin does?" Twilight indicated the starburst designed pin set next to the others on her sash.
"It'll shoot magic blasts rapid fire. Not very powerful, but fast. And while I'm on the subject, I guess you want to know about mine?" She indicated her two pins, one decorated with her balloon cutie mark, and the other with a knife embedded in a cupcake. "You've already seen me use the cupcake one, that's how I do the flurry attack. As for the other one..." She smiled. "Why don't we have a demonstration?"
Pinkamena tapped her skull pin, activating her mind reading. Twilight was confused. How would reading minds help demonstrate battle techniques? She was about to ask, when one of the Noise symbols appeared in front of her. Startled she leapt backwards. Pinkamena's eyes opened. "And now we fight."
The square dissolved around them, taking the passer-bys with it, replacing them with two of the frog Noise. They wasted no time, and one of them already sprung at Twilight. She made a quick sidestep, letting the frog sail harmlessly past. She followed its progress, and spotted Pinkamena on the other half of the battlefield. The pink pony, now holding Twilight's interest, smiled. "This is what my other pin does." She turned, looking at one of the frogs. Suddenly she wasn't standing where she was anymore. Instead she was hovering just above the frog she had been looking at, and crashed down on the Noise. The Noise vanished in a burst of static. She turned back to Twilight. "And that's what it does. Now, eyes front soldier."
Twilight whirled around and narrowly ducked under the other frog's leap. Time for her to try out this new pin did then. She focused, trying to visualise magic bursts firing towards the frog. She was rewarded with a stream of purple sparks firing from her horn roughly towards the frog. About half of them missed their mark, but the rest made contact, causing the frog to vanish in a manner similar to its compatriot. The world rematerialised around the pair of ponies.
"You're better at this then I thought you'd be." Twilight turned to find Pinkamena just behind her. "Have you been in battles before?"
Only against one of Equestria's immortal goddesses, Twilight thought. And an Ursa Minor. Some diamond dogs. A hydra. Huh. I guess I have been in more than a few battles. Aloud she said, "I guess I'm just a natural at this." She looked at the timer on her hoof. 168:34. "Huh. It really doesn't feel like it's been twelve minutes since we got this mission. Feels more like... I don't know. Less than twelve."
"Oh well that's because...." Pinkamena trailed off. Finally she shrugged. "Okay, I don't know why that is. Maybe time goes faster when we're fighting Noise? Look, I don't know everything."
"Well if we're going to get this mission done, maybe we should start making our way to this Mr Ed's theater, where ever that is." Twilight looked around, trying to figure out what way to go. "Please tell me you know where it is. I'm hopeless at finding my way around without a map."
Pinkamena nodded. "They had me running basically all over this city last time I played. I can still remember where everything is. Mr Ed's Theater is that way." She started walking off, only to stop a few second later. "No, wait.... that way." She turned around and resumed walking. Twilight watched just to make sure she didn't change her mind again, then followed after her.