The diamond dog was soon revealed to be one fairly troublesome opponent. Not only was he fast and strong, he was also unnaturally coordinated with the spell towers and had a huge amount of resilience, both from the shield spells layered upon him and from his ability to dig into the ground as both cover and mobility enhancement.
No matter if it was elemental slashes, or a physical slash enhanced by flash step, they weren't able to get through the defenses of the enemy, and Silver Soul's manipulation of her element didn't have any better luck. It didn't help that the both the diamond dog and the towers were very magically aware, and trying to charge more powerful attacks led to the combatant retreating into the ground while the towers attacked with the intent of disrupting whatever was being done.
Rarity, even while having to deal with all of the varied spells that were being thrown at her and a fairly skilled and fast combatant that was heavily boosted by magic (and that she couldn't really hurt considering that the chances of some kind of manipulation via chaos magic were almost one hundred percent), still had enough focus to be able to think.
Specifically, she was thinking that this situation was quite bothersome, but also in a particularly important lesson that her teacher Trixie had drilled into her. The lesson was that the most perfect something seems, the most likely it is for that thing to have some huge hidden flaw.
And she was thinking about this gem magic. Not only were there different gems which were capable of different spells, but the same gems could use multiple spells as well. And they were not only simple things, but had a big variety in terms of effects and process as well as being capable of aiming. Besides that, the gems could escape from bad situations and were even capable of discriminating targets to be able to change from attacks into buffs depending on what was being targeted.
It really was far too good, and so there should be a hidden flaw somewhere, and Rarity had her own suspicions about what kind of flaw there could be in this gemstone magic. But she wanted to be sure, so it was time to take a calculated risk.
"Cover me!" She shouted to Silver Soul, returning both Ruler Swords to her back and running in the direction of the tower closest to the wall.
She had chosen a good time and a good place for it. The diamond dog was on the other side of the battlefield and too far away to easily interfere, even with his boosted speed. But even so, such was not an easy task. The towers focused more on the opponent that was coming closer, and the amount of spells sent in her direction was fear-inducing.
So this was a moment for Rarity to show, once more, why the Knights were so respected. The amount of physical training all of them had to do was no joke, and even though it wasn't her specialty, Rarity had taken well to it. She moved with an astounding speed, specially for a unicorn who was using only her muscles instead of any magic, but the most impressive part was her courage. She was moving closer without stopping, dodging sharp projectiles, area explosions and extreme temperature changes by the barest of margins, running and jumping without the least hesitation, with ferocious and yet graceful movements. She had to use her perception to read the magical pattern of every spell that shot at her and react appropriately.
And yet, even with this, she would have a lot more trouble if Silver Soul didn't immediately start moving in her direction and shooting silver spikes to intercept as many of the spells as possible. Even with this kind of help, Rarity didn't quite manage to get to the end with pure muscle power. There were still twenty meters left before the tower and she realized that she couldn't dodge and keep going forward the same way.
'Well, nothing to it then. It's a little hard to do this without the help of the Sword, but...'
And at the last moment, Rarity enhanced her body with just a touch of magic power, just enough magic power to do what was needed without messing up what she was preparing.
Then she pushed off the ground in a Flash Step, completely escaping the danger zone and reaching her goal in a single movement. At that moment, Silver Soul stopped and turned to rush at the diamond dog and prevent him from interfering, now that he was also getting closer. Rarity had asked the avatar to cover her, and that was what she intended to do.
The Knight only had a few moments before the towers retargeted, but she didn't need more than a single one. There was a reason why she had refrained from using more than a touch of magic during her advance up to that point.
'Amplify Domain.' She thought.
And with this she extended the range of her domain to cover the jewel in the closest tower. And so she could feel them, the diamond dogs that were directly connected with that jewel as well as all the others. That was the weakness of this kind of gemstone magic, they were controlling the gems from far away, and that control could receive interference.
Rarity had plans for other situations, but she had been really hoping that "direct control" was the right answer, because the plan for that situation was her favorite. After taking an instant to understand every single part of the magical pattern they were using...
"RULE!" She shouted, channeling magic through the gem.
She reproduced it perfectly, in every detail. And she used it to take over all of the gemstone towers in that particular "room". Obviously the diamond dogs on the other side didn't want that to happen, but she was close while they were far away from that place, she was fast while they were slow to react to the sudden change, and more importantly, she was full of stored magic while they had been continually using theirs.
Also, it would be annoying if they could keep trying to take back control, so Rarity broke the magical channels that could led to the "central" of the dogs. That done, she used her new control of the gems to disable the spells that had been put on the diamond dog they were fighting.
"Restrain him!" She called to Silver Soul.
The avatar heard her, and she started sending threads of silver to wrap around the dog. He moved to break out of them, but Silver Soul kept close to him and kept making more and more threads, slowly making it so that it was getting harder for the dog to evade by the minute.
Eventually, he tried to jump into the earth to escape, but without having to worry about being harassed by the towers, Silver Soul could put everything into trying to restrain her opponent. Weaving a rope of silver, she wrapped it around the leg of the dog and threw him into the air.
That was pretty much the end of it. Without being able to use the ground to aid his movements, even slashing with his claws all he could, it was impossible for him to avoid being completely engulfed in a prison of silver, up to his neck, without being able to do anything to escape.
Rarity walked near him "Are you willing to talk now?" She asked.
He growled at her, but that was all.
"Okay, I think I have an idea of what this is, but it'll take a bit of effort to be sure." Rarity said, then closed her eyes and sent a controlled pulse of magic into the diamond dog's head.
He immediately used his own internal magic to try and fight her off, but two things were working against him: The first was the fact that he wasn't particularly skilled in simple magic manipulation and defenses, the second was Rarity wasn't trying to harm him (which would allow the dog to defend himself instinctively) and instead only trying to find anything that shouldn't be there.
This was a feat of magic that demanded absolute precision, but Rarity had that in spades.
And after only half a minute of that, she found what she was looking for. It was a small and almost unnoticeable bit of magic, a mere fragment of chaotic energy. And she destroyed it.
Then she withdrew her magic and looked the dog directly in the eyes before asking "Could you tell me what happened?"
He seemed to struggle with himself for a few moments before opening his mouth and speaking:
"Dogs digging. Found big gem." His voice was gravely "Needed to protect big gem from others. Wanted to steal it. But... How would they know about jewel? Why did we need to seal cave from others?" He looked like he was trying to answer a difficult problem.
"It was not your fault. I think that gem combined with a shard of chaos from Discord. There was chaotic energy in your mind, which must have made you and every other dog paranoid." Rarity said.
His face was down "Then... Other dogs. Still controlled."
"Do not worry." Rarity reassured him "I am Knight Rarity, and I have come because of this. I promise I'll rescue your friends and destroy the shard of chaos. I'll even do my best to prevent the jewel from being destroyed, but no promises." She made a signal to Silver Soul to release the dog, and then looked at him "Do you want to come with us to help? What's your name?"
The dog looked at her for a moment and said "Named Ein."
Without waiting any longer, Twilight and Fluttershy dived back into the lake and swam into the chaotic space tunnels, the pegasus restarting her Grand Search and Manticore Spirit in order to be prepared for anything.
Still, the chaotic space was large, and for the first few minutes, the two didn't find anything dangerous. So they had time for a conversation via Fluttershy's empathy.
'This is a lot bigger and more dangerous than the shard of chaos I destroyed earlier.' Fluttershy said.
'There is a simple reason for that. Shards of chaos, even those of such a powerful being like Discord, don't really have a lot of natural power.' Twilight explained 'Their instinct is to gain extra power via creating chaos. You and Rainbow Dash managed to get two of them before they gained a lot of power, but let's say Rainbow Dash wasn't there: That chaotic storm would have swept through the city and caused a lot of damage, increasing the power of the shard.' She stopped for a moment 'In this case, the shard managed to gain power fast because there were a lot of ponies nearby for it to attack."
'That makes sense.' Fluttershy said 'I guess that means Applejack and Dark Moon aren't going to have much trouble, considering how isolated their shard is.'
'I wouldn't say that.' Twilight cautioned 'Magic in general is difficult to predict, chaos magic even more so. I can think of ways to create a big effect without using a lot of chaos magic, so it's difficult to say what that shard could do, specially if it managed to find some kind of hidden magical artifact.'
Fluttershy agreed with that assessment, and the two kept going in silence for a few more seconds before the attack.
It was completely unexpected. Specially for Fluttershy, who was using her empathy as a radar. A huge green clawed hand came scything out of the wall of the tunnel in a slash designed to cut them apart.
However, both Twilight and Fluttershy were Knights. It would take more than a simple surprise attack to bring them down. Fluttershy brought both claws of the manticore forward to protect herself, while Twilight simply turned part of the water into a crystalline shield.
Both of them were forced an entire meter back and realized that the hand was quite literally just a hand, not connected to any arm. They counter-attacked, Fluttershy with a rushing headbutt and Twilight by sending piercing crystal shards after it. But the hand seemed to have completely adapted to the environment, and it dodged by moving through the water without any resistance, better than any fish, like it was made of literal light.
Twilight realized that this must be a chaos monster made by using one of the captured ponies as a core, and as such, it was imperative for them to destroy it and rescue the pony. She passed a quick plan to Fluttershy via empathy, and charged a bit of magic in preparation.
Fluttershy dived at the monster coming slightly from above. Both of them slashed at each other, ending in a tie, but the monster was pushed back towards Twilight, exactly as planned.
"Chaos Magic: Water Chains!" The unicorn cast.
Their synchronization was perfect, which was to be expected from a teacher and a student who were also literally connected via empathy. The chains of water formed at the perfect position to snag the opponent and make it immobile. There were literally a dozen chains, holding the hand not just physically but magically. It was a spell that had no attacking component, being used purely to restrain.
And Fluttershy took advantage of that by accelerating and literally diving through the hand in a piercing rush, boosting herself with a big amount of magic (too much, was Twilight's opinion. She needed better control) ripping out a bubble containing an earth pony stallion as she passed.
And that was when another surprise attack happened. In the same way as the hand, a weird chaotic version of an octopus seemed to materialize out of the closest wall and rush at Fluttershy.
The pegasus knew what the priority was, so she threw the bubble to Twilight and raised her protections as much as possible to take on the attack.
Twilight charged a teleport spell as fast as she could, looking at the situation and getting ready for anything.
It turned out that Fluttershy's defenses were useless, because the new monster didn't want to harm her. It wrapped the tentacles around the aura form of her manticore mode and started dragging her deeper into the tunnels, moving at high speeds.
Twilight finished her spell, teleporting the victim to the outside of the lake, where the other ponies would be able to help them. As soon as she was finished, Twilight started charging a new spell at the same time as she moved forward, trying her best to remain in Fluttershy's range despite the speed at which she was being carried away.
"Chaos Magic: High-Speed Route!" She shouted.
A variation of the flying route, this spell forcefully accelerated Twilight to speeds that even Rainbow Dash would consider respectable, but there was a price to use it, specially underwater. It didn't have any way to deal with the pressure of moving at such speeds, which forced Twilight to spend a lot of energy with her defensive aura.
And the next fifteen seconds passed in a blur, as the Twilight raced to keep up with the extremely fast octopus. Fluttershy kept attacking to destroy the tentacles and try to free herself, but they were constantly regenerating, and even with all the power of the manticore spirit, she still wasn't able to free herself from its grasp.
And then, they got to the end, and Fluttershy could feel exactly what was waiting for them in that last room. As such, she quickly made a decision to take a risk.
"Magic Burst!" She shouted, forcefully disrupting her own animal spirit spell.
The rushing, explosive energy of the disrupted spell tried to go out of control, but Fluttershy forcefully channeled it into not attacking the center of the octopus, where the innocent pony was located. She grit her teeth not to cry out as her body burned in pain due to the sheer effort.
But it worked. The chaotic monster was finally destroyed, and the innocent pegasus filly was unharmed. They lost speed and Twilight managed to catch up at the next moment, immediately activating a prepared teleportation spell to send the filly to safety.
Then the two had to spend even more magic to swim away in opposite directions in a sharp dodge, as a huge spike lodged itself at the point where they had just been.
So the two finally had to face their final challenge for this mission. A chaotic creature created by a fusion of three innocent ponies with all remaining chaotic energy that the shard of chaos had, along with the shard of chaos itself.
The very arena of the fight was the definition of chaotic. It was a warped space in the form of countless bubbles of existence that wove around each other, mixed together, reflected each other and simply existed in a state of superposition that you would need an entire, thick book of mathematics to explain. The easiest way to describe was a honeycomb composed of honeycombs that were somehow all inside each other in a loop.
Fluttershy closed her eyes and decided to simply use her empathy to guide herself rather than try to make sense of that mess, while Twilight was actually making notes of ways she could use that arena against the very chaos shard that was creating it.
As for the chaotic creature itself, it was a being that could only thrive in the ocean depths that the chaotic space was emulating. It looked like three different creatures fused together. The first was a sort of centipede that served as the bottom part of the monster. It had a segmented body where the proportions were wrong, because every segment had different sizes. And the legs were shark-like monsters, many of which were already being released to go after the Knights.
The middle part was a cylinder of ice inside of which there was a huge fire. The cylinder was full of spikes, that the fire and ice combined to shoot via steam pressure, which was exactly what had been the first attack. As for the top part, it was a strange biological piramid, which was full of eyes that soon started to fire slow lasers at the two. And at the tip of the pyramid, there was a red crystal that seemed to radiate chaos itself. It was also most likely a trap.
As both of the Knights charged their own magic, Twilight had time to wonder about how her other apprentice was doing.
'Well. With the amount of power she can muster, I don't think she's going to have many problems.' Was the conclusion.
The minotaur came out swinging with a stomp, taking advantage of his heavy weight, but Applejack was already prepared to deal with him. With a shout of "Attack the head!" to her current partner, Applejack channeled her magic into the ground via her armor and raised a mound of earth to hit the side of his leg and force the stomp to miss the target.
Dark Moon had already jumped into the air, riding her own manifested solid darkness which flew through the sky with as much ease and mobility as an actual pegasus. She flew right towards the head of the monster, who brought a hand up to slap her out of the sky.
"Darkness is unstoppable! Dark Rush!" She shouted, and coated herself in a thinner layer of darkness that wavered like and aura.
The spell made her accelerate, and Dark Moon faced the slap by simply making it a contest of strength. And even with the sheer weight of the huge hand, the ice was the thing that broke in the confrontation with the darkness. It was rendered into thousands of pieces and Dark Moon barely slowed down.
But before she could actively attack, Black Hooves made his second movement. Again charging power along with his fortress, he cast a spell that created a deep black cloud above the fortress, and that cloud started to hail extremely dense and hard bits of ice. Still, this wouldn't discourage Dark Moon, who simply shaped part of her darkness into a pseudo-umbrella and kept going.
The minotaur still had one hand left, and attacked with it to prevent the unicorn from reaching his head, but Applejack (who had made herself an armor of earth to deal with the hailstones) rammed into the minotaur's right leg, unbalancing him and making his attack miss.
Dark Moon finally got close enough for an attack, which she had been charging for the last few seconds. And she shouted it eagerly:
"Darkness is everywhere! Dark Blast!" And threw a sphere of darkness at the enemy's head.
It hit, but didn't seem to have caused any impact initially, but after a moment, the minotaur's head exploded from the inside, and his body fell to the ground. Yet at that moment, Black Hooves was finishing another spell, sending a multitude of birds made of ice, of all sorts of shapes and sizes to attack.
Applejack knew that they weren't making any progress, and soon the opponent would be able to build up enough power to overwhelm them. So she decided to change strategies, and shaped the earth into a ramp as she ran upwards and in the direction of the fortress.
"Let's get inside!" She shouted to Dark Moon, who dropped down to her level and flew beside her.
"What's the deal here?" She asked.
"The shard of chaos managed bring life ta the memories of Warlock Black Hooves and his fortress. It's like a powerful illusion, ta the point where it can use the mechanisms of the fortress ta draw energy from the dragon pulse like the warlock used ta do in order to power all this." Applejack explained.
"What do we do?" Was the next question.
"The Warlock is the center, if we can destroy him..." She left it in the air.
That was the point where the two had to defend themselves against the birds. Dark Moon showed the true flexibility of her darkness magic by creating tendrils of darkness to attack the birds, shields to block their path, and all that while still flying forward just as fast. Applejack on the other hand, had a different tactic.
"Space Step!" She shouted, and stepped hundreds of meters forward, arriving inside the grounds of the fortress. Then she focused her earth magic and got to work. In the fight against Canterlot Castle, Applejack had been able to create amazing feats of earth manipulation despite a lack of training for that, or an artifact that could help, thanks to the existence of the chaos zone. Now she had both, and while this place didn't qualify as a true chaotic zone, the nature of the memory magic meant that it would serve.
And now she could do a lot more.
Huge amounts of earth came out of the ground and covered Applejack, before expanding to double the size of a house, and then start to form a shape. A bird-like head, a pair of wings, and four legs ending in claws. It a a griffin made of earth, and after being made, it flapped its wings and took off, mocking several of the laws of aerodynamics in the process.
The earth griffin flew towards Dark Moon, at the same time as Black Hooves was finishing yet another spell, a huge cone of cold energy that even her darkness powers would have difficulty defending against. But the earth griffin managed to block the attack with its body. And the ice birds also weren't having any luck with getting through the layers of defense it had.
So, Applejack could focus on trying to take down Black Hooves, and she somehow decided that the best plan was to grab Dark Moon and throw her at the warlock.
The avatar laughed as she accelerated even more with her powers, cutting through the air and approaching the surprised warlock "Darkness devours everything! Dark Abyss!"
And the darkness shaped itself into a mouth that swallowed the warlock whole.
Dark Moon flew forward a few more meters before stopping and looking back where the warlock had been and saying:
"This is the meaning of the power of darkness."
Applejack on the other hand, was focusing her sight as much as she could, having figured out that something was wrong as soon as the attack was finished.
And so, she was not entirely surprised when, in a rush of wind, the warlock appeared again over another part of the fortress, condensing out of the air like snow.
"You think this is enough to destroy me?! Outrageous!" He shouted, casting another spell that created eight manticores made of ice that joined the birds in attacking Applejack and Dark Moon.
There were another few seconds of quick combat before he cast one more spell, that summoned cold spirits who flew through the air and tried to invade the bodies of the duo to freeze them to death.
He was obviously getting stronger with time, but Applejack had seen enough.
She hadn't been wrong in her assertion that the warlock was the center of everything, the shard of chaos was definitely inside his body. The problem was that the memory magic was acting like a secondary core, forcefully keeping the warlock alive and the fortress working, and incidentally also preventing the shard of chaos from being destroyed. And the worst part was that the memory magic was tied to the place itself, being powered by the memories of the warlock, his experiences in the fortress and his final battle.
And destroying the place simply wasn't a realistic option. Due to the combination of the magical defenses which were at full strength and the simple sturdiness of its construction (most of it still remained even after a titanic battle with an entire group of Knights, after all) not even Sunset would be able to do such a thing.
This was a truly troublesome magic. And made Applejack remember one of the most tiring lessons she had ever received from Trixie.
2 Months Earlier
There was a rock on top of Applejack, that rock was incredibly heavy and impossible to move. No matter what magic she tried to use, or what movements she tried to make, it was all useless and she couldn't get rid of the rock. She was slowly being crushed, and when she got to her limit, the weight of the rock reduced itself to allow her to recover before going back to normal.
But still, she knew that were it not for that, she would be crushed to death. The fact that the rock was an illusion would make no difference.
"Why can't Ah... Break... This illusion...?" She asked with labored words.
Her teacher, the one who was controlling the illusion, answered.
"This is not just an ordinary illusion, because Trixie has actually tied it to the world itself. The illusion affects the world and the world supports the illusion. That is the true meaning of a Perfect Illusion. Normally you'd still be able to destroy one of those by breaking the connection between reality and illusion, but in this case, Trixie has made the ties to the world a lot stronger than usual. Simple power isn't enough, unless you are willing to use enough power to rip apart existence itself." Trixie looked at her apprentice seriously "Finding a way to deal with this kind of illusion is the next step in your path towards mastering the Eyes of Truth." She said in a firm voice.
As both she and Dark Moon had to deal with the new threats Warlock Black Hooves had created, Applejack reflected that this situation would be problematic... for most. But her teacher had trained her well.
She already knew what to do.
Surprisingly, even after those incredibly foreboding words, nothing happened immediately. It seemed like that particular Shard of Chaos was significantly more patient than most chaos related things.
So that meant that the Knights had some time to prepare. Trixie asked Medaka:
"Could you tell me everything about this place? The nature of the connections, the types of living beings that are part of it, the space it occupies, the geography of the underground river... Everything you can think of."
And the zebra explained things, she explained a lot. Trixie seemed to be understanding everything, while Rainbow Dash's mind was struggling as it heard things like 'colony tissue fusion', 'multiple independent cnidaria construction' and 'sinkhole dropping'.
Still, Rainbow Dash had to keep listening to what was being said. It was weird, but Sunset had determined that part of Rainbow Dash's amazing instincts had to do with her subconscious. She could absorb information that her conscious mind couldn't interpret but her subconscious was capable of acting upon. Sunset had a theory that Rainbow Dash's magic shifting was possible because of her subconsciously memorizing magical patterns.
But still, Medaka did speak a lot. To the point where Trixie conjured a glass of water for her to recover at the end of it.
"So, what is the plan here?" Rainbow Dash asked, while the zebra was drinking.
"Okay, it's obvious that the shard of chaos is somewhere inside the underground river, so first of all, we should go to the closest blowhole and-"
She was interrupted by a violent shaking of the earth.
"What's happening?" Medaka asked in a panic "This place doesn't get earthquakes!"
Her question was answered once the ground started literally rising into the earth, carrying all the trees and individuals with it. Rainbow Dash immediately flew into the air to try and take in the entire scene and understand what exactly was happening.
What she was was that a huge amount of land in the shape of a turtle shell was being raised in the air by millions of thin tendrils of earth. And then it started to walk. And as it passed through more land, it started sucking up the matter underneath and becoming even bigger.
Trixie sighed "Okay, change of plans. First, Trixie will have to limit the damage of this thing."
It would be better to do that quick, So Trixie didn't hesitate and called upon the power of the Sphere of Charge that was stored in her armor. It was a lot of power, and Trixie had to take an entire second to create a spell formula that could take advantage of such a big amount of energy. She could have done it faster, but it would cause unnecessary strain to her mind.
"Perfect Illusion: False Perception." She stated, casting the spell.
Trixie had figure that the shard of chaos had shifted things around so that the system of beings that composed that part of the forest became only a single being, which also had taken on the inorganic parts of the place of which all that life depended and made it a literal part of the resulting creature.
This was a pretty annoying situation, but that also meant that Trixie could affect the entire thing like it was a single being, and that was the meaning of the spell. The land creature clearly wanted to walk around and suck up more matter from the rest of the forest in order to grow ever larger, so Trixie's spell was aimed at preventing it from doing so.
The illusion was channeled through the nearby tree and spread through the entire "body" of the monster, and after a moment, it stopped walking and started moving backwards. What the creature was "seeing" (its perception was somewhat complex, due to being a creature of chaos made of many different things and beings all at once) were parts of itself returning to the land it had left, forcing it to go back and retrace its steps in order to get them back.
"This should keep it in a loop for a while." Trixie said, satisfied.
Rainbow Dash landed next to her and spoke:
"The underground river is different from before, the water is flowing through the sky itself while going in and out of the earth from above and below. It's very weird, but I found the closest place where we can go in."
Trixie was about to answer when suddenly a pulse of chaos magic was emitted from within the chaos creature and suddenly the minds of the Knights were attacked.
Everything was one with the chaos. Why should you be lonely and separated? All become one, bigger than the sum of its parts...
That was the message that the chaos magic was carrying to try and make its targets into another part of the creature. The chaos magic that went inside Rainbow Dash's mind found an endless sky with an ethereal version of the pegasus flying around it. The chaos magic formed itself into words to be heard by that inner self, and flew over to it. Except that the ethereal pegasus was very fast, so the words needed to make themselves faster and faster to be able to reach it, but even that wasn't enough, so they kept going faster and faster and faster and faster and faster and faster and faster and faster-
"Huh, mental attack." Rainbow Dash spoke blandly.
"Yeah, it is an interesting approach." Trixie considered.
"HAHAHAHAHA! CHAOS!" Medaka laughed, her eyes turned into multicolored swirls.
She rushed up to Rainbow Dash and tried to punch her, only to be dodged easily. The pegasus Knight then gave a punch of her own, this one successful.
"Get a hold of yourself!" She ordered, infusing harmony magic into the blow.
The zebra staggered, rubbing her head with a hoof and said in a pained voice "Owch... What happened?"
"Chaos magic possession." Trixie said blandly "And Dash, this should have happened with the other members of the town as well, you should go there and deal with it."
Rainbow Dash took off, and soon Trixie could see in the sky the glow of the sonic rainboom (harmony edition) and smiled, thinking to herself that having somepony who could use harmony magic, even in a limited capacity, really made things easier.
"We're not going to let you power up as you want so easily." Trixie spoke with a smile as she looked at the ground, like she was addressing the shard of chaos directly.
A few moments later, Rainbow Dash landed next to Trixie "Done." She said "I put in enough harmony magic in the air that they are going to be safe for a while."
"And her?" Trixie pointed to Medaka.
"I injected her directly, so..." Rainbow Dash said.
"Okay. I guess we should go, then." Trixie nodded, then did a high speed teleportation and ended up riding on Rainbow Dash.
"AH! Not you too!" Rainbow shouted.
"Fly forward, my steed! Into the depths we go!" Trixie announced grandly, and Rainbow Dash had no choice but to take off, going directly into the entrance to the underground river she had seen before.
"Inside the city... That does make everything more complicated." Lightning Chaser said grimly.
Pinkie nodded, and then one of the pegasi from the team that had tried to stop the chaotic weather phenomenon shouted at them from the distance, flying as fast as she could in the direction of the duo.
"How do you think we should best deal with it?" Lightning Chaser asked the Knight.
"Hmm..." Pinkie thought "The chaos changed that weather, that means this chaos guy likes weather things, so I think that trying to attract him by making some interesting weather would work well." She said.
Lightning Chaser nodded, and flew off. The pegasus that had been coming closer during it finally reached Pinkie.
"What's going on here?" she asked.
"Knight mission. A bunch of mischievous bits of chaos magic are causing trouble everywhere!" Pinkie exclaimed, then giggled "Mischievous. That is a fun word to say, mischiieeevooous..."
The pegasus blinked "Ah... Anything we should do?" She asked.
"Just keep yourselves safe and pay attention to any possible weird things so that you can alert us." Pinkie said seriously.
At that point, Lightning Chaser had reached an altitude she judged sufficient to minimize the problems that would inevitably arise when the chaos magic got its hooves (or tendrils, or whatever, she wasn't sure) on the weather manifestation she was about to create.
The avatar focused on her magic and started manipulating the air around, making big portions of it spin little by little and create a zone of turbulence that was similar to a hurricane. She started putting more and more strength into it, and forcing the winds to spin around themselves in multiple separate paths forming something similar to a sphere made of a multiplicity of winds spinning in every direction. And anypony who looked at the sky from the city would be able to see it, since the winds were strong and wild enough to actually distort the light passing through them.
And then a pulse of chaos magic warped through the air and entered into the hurricane.
Pinkie closed her eyes as she tried to track down the place of origin of that pulse.
And Lightning Chaser saw as her wind manipulation ripped itself away from her control, and changed incredibly suddenly. The whole thing acquired an orange tone and two eyes appeared on opposite sides of the "sphere", but the true biggest change was that the wind seemed to change to the consistency of jell-o, without changing its speed and direction of movement one bit. This meant that the wind caught on fire due to the attrition, while giving a screech that sounded like a swamp trying to whistle.
And then it started to drop towards the city, picking up even more wind in the process and getting even bigger, turning into an ersatz meteor/hurricane that was capable of cutting anything in its path and kept drawing all the dust in the air in its direction.
Lightning Chaser wouldn't simply let the chaos do whatever it wanted, especially considering that she had been the one to create the seed weather that the chaos had distorted. So she dropped after the eyed flaming jell-o wind hurricane meteor and flapped her wings to accelerate as much as possible, trying to get close to the chaotic weather event despite the heavy turbulence that followed it.
At the same time, she charged a lot of magic and used it to start creating her response to this threat. Given her name and talents, it wasn't surprising that her choice was lightning, but instead of using the same black lightning from before, Lightning Chaser was actually focusing a lot more power in order to create purple lightning, which had the reverse effect from the other. While Black Lightning represented destruction, the purple version represented creation.
When Lightning Chaser had accumulated enough of her namesake in order to do what she wanted, the meteor was still fifteen seconds away from impacting the city. That was the advantage of getting up so high before doing her job. So the avatar was almost leisurely as she threw a torrent of lightning the size of a river down into the direct path of the meteor. In the instants before impact, the lightning formed itself into a web before forcefully creating a wind dead zone.
The moment of impact started with a blinding flash of light as the purple lightning magic competed with the chaotic magic over the control of that specific area of sky. Like a negative meeting a positive, the two forces canceled each other out at a fast rate, causing reactions due to the sudden disappearance of energy, such as shockwaves that completely smothered the fire of the meteor.
The moment of impact ended with a rush of wind as the web, that had stretched itself to its breaking point, actually ended up breaking, letting a much weakened and smaller concentration of winds pass through. But that had been enough, Lightning Chaser simply channeled her magic through the remnants of the purple lightning in order to control the wind of the area directly, completely annihilating the rest of the chaotic energy and its effects.
At the same time, Pinkie Pie opened her eyes and smiled. She had managed to get the scent of the chaos shard, and looking above, she saw that Lightning Chaser didn't need any help and had already dealt with the bait. So Pinkie charged a bit of magic (it was actually a significant amount for the standards of most people, but Pinkie had reached such a high level on her emotion charge already that this level of power expenditure barely registered) and shapeshifted the air above her into a huge sign, saying:
'FOUND IT. FOLLOW ME!'
Along with a drawing of Pinkie's face. That done, she waited until the avatar had seen her message before letting it disappear and starting to walk towards her destination. Her current partner soon flew down to her level, so Pinkie accelerated, shifting forward repeatedly to the point where the pegasus had some trouble keeping up.
But it didn't take long. Soon they reached their destination... Saddleoak's Special Weather Magic Academy.
"Just as expected." Pinkie nodded.
But before they could go in, another pulse of chaos magic came from inside the academy and fused with the air in a kilometer long area around the school. The effect of this new bit of chaos... Turned the air red.
"What was that in aid off?" Lightning Chaser asked, seeing that the magic really wasn't doing anything else.
"The shard is trying to use all the chaos in the air as a smokescreen to be able to escape." Pinkie realized "Not gonna happen." She stated.
Then, Pinkie, who had already reached her current limits in terms of Emotion Charge and was covered in a pink aura of power that seemed almost solid due to the sheer amount of energy it consisted of, charged a lot of magic and prepared a spell of her own. Then she slammed her hooves on the ground and declared it:
"Chaotic Arts: Bring on the World of Chaos!" She spoke with relish.
The effects of the spell she used couldn't be described as a simple pulse of magic. Instead, they were more like a wave of magic that was nearly solid, enough to cause all ponies who were caught up in it to stumble. Lightning Chaser was the closest pony to Pinkie, and she could feel something like an impression of the Knight as she cast the spell.
She was also the first witness to the effects of Pinkie's technique, as after the wave had expanded to the same size as the area covered by the red air, the effect actually started, expanding from the ground under Pinkie's hooves and outwards, changing the entire area.
And what a change it was. Pinkie calling the effect a world of chaos wasn't overstating things. The air became multicolored and formed several shapes of warped objects and animals. Those shapes shifted and changed, mixed and matched, making more and more weird configurations in the mist.
Still, none of that prevented any from seeing the ground and the buildings which were also being affected by the magic. The ground started to sway like waves in the ocean, some of it also distorting itself to create mounds, spiraling paths and other types of rough terrain, and other parts went even further and completely detached from the ground to make flying platforms.
And the buildings were the parts that changed the most. The school itself bent and flowed until the separate buildings and their rooms forced themselves into a misshapen tower, which started to wobble from one side to another while the outside part of it started spinning around the main tower, like a wheel.
And while the other buildings didn't go that far, they each seemed to be trying to outdo each other in terms of ridiculousness. Some shifted their proportions to grotesque levels, like a completely flat building that still contained all the matter it had before. Others preferred to simply do things instead, like one that started jumping on top of other buildings while singing (somehow). There was also one who turned into a real, biological elephant. And every place Lightning Chaser looked, there was another unexpected things to see.
But in the end, this all lasted only a few seconds. Then Pinkie Pie slammed her hooves to the ground and said "Okay. Done now." releasing another wave of magic.
And suddenly everything was back to normal. The avatar almost stumbled out of sheer whiplash due to the enormous change, but a small part of her still managed to take note of the fact that the red air had also disappeared.
"What..." She managed to utter, without even being able to put a questioning tone in her voice.
But Pinkie didn't answer her, instead pointing to a pegasus stallion that was flying through the air and shouting "There! It's him!" And vanishing into a chaotic shift.
Sunset had only one thing to say to that question.
"I wouldn't be against it."
The unicorn seemed to consider this for a moment "Then it's settled. My name is Aura Music, do you know what is going on around here?"
Sunset answered quickly, not knowing when the next wave of chaotic creatures would spawn "A shard of chaos magic has come here and is causing trouble. Also, considering how the first few chaos events were very similar, and happened in different places, I can bet this isn't just normal chaos shenanigans, but there's somepony actively manipulating the shard."
The unicorn (and Spike) were trying to digest this revelation when Sunset continued "I can tell you're a user of music magic. How good are you?"
Aura Music grinned "If I say I'm the second best in music magic, nopony will dare call themselves the first!" She declared grandly.
Then Spike shouted "Problem at the river again!"
"Then let's put it to the test." Sunset said, and Spike went flying, followed by their new ally.
It didn't take long for them to reach the river, and following the tendency of the events, this time the threat was even more elaborate than ever. There was only one monster created, but that monster was really big, the size of three building forced together. The monster was made of water and had the shape of a catlike head and two square hands that weren't connected with the body.
Sunset immediately hit it with the most powerful fire spell she could muster, making a good bit of water from the head part evaporate. But that was when it became obvious why the monster hadn't bothered leaving the river, as it simply replaced the lost water with more coming from the river. Then she had to dodge a swipe from one of the hands.
Aura Music was the next one to try. With a flow of magic, she made her zither play a short melody that was beautiful yet ferocious, seeming to contain a hidden power that harmonized with the magic itself. The unicorn then grinned beastially and shouted:
"Grand Sound Vibration, Annihilate the Universe!"
It was a very overbearing and exaggerated name (even Sunset thought so), but it couldn't be said that it was entirely undeserved. The magic rushed through the air as a directed sound wave, and it forcefully spread and covered all three of the parts of the water creature. And not only covered, but the music magic forced its way through the very chaos magic that was animating the water and infected every single droplet.
And then they all vibrated. The pure energy contained on the droplets of water caused them to vibrate at high speed, the aqua monsters breaking apart due to the violence of those vibrations. But even that still wasn't enough, and the monster started reconstituting itself.
When Sunset released a spell that shot like a laser towards the part of the "left hand". And after it passed through, something seemed to have happened, as all the water on the thing dropped back into the river. Aura Music looked at the Knight questioningly.
"You exposed the weak point." Sunset said simply "But this isn't going to work. Whoever it using the shard is trying to gather power and hiding until them. You felt the chaos magic, can you use your music magic to search?"
Aura Soul thought about it "I can, but trying to search this entire place would be like a frog trying to drink an entire lake. It's too much. That's not my specialty."
Sunset pointed at herself "I can take care of the issue of power. With some care, my Magic Enhance can be used on your search spell. What do you think?"
The unicorn grinned "This would be like giving wings to a tiger! The difference between normal and enhanced spells would be like the difference between heaven and earth! Let's do it!" She extended her wind current a little to her side.
Sunset teleported to her side and activated her Trance Mode, put her hoof on Aura's shoulder and started charging magic.
The music mage concentrated for a few seconds with her eyes closed, before opening them and shouting:
"Grand Sound Search, Cover All Existence!"
And the spell activated, but before its effect could start, Sunset did the equivalent of smothering the spell formula with her own magic, forcefully preventing its activation. She didn't have the same level of harmony with this new pony as she had with her original partners, so a difference approach was needed. She couldn't hold the spell like that for long, but it was long enough.
"Quadruple Magic Enhance: No Hiding Place!" She shouted.
Then a wave of beautiful sound resounded through the entire nearby area. And if the previous sound spell had seemed powerful, this one carried the feeling of being able to crush the entire world, such was the power it had. There was absolutely no way to prevent oneself from being caught by it, it was a true and unrelenting search spell. But the real value of the magic was only shown when it found the target.
Suddenly, all the energy of the spell that was covering the area seemed to shift, and in an instant it converged in a single point, somewhere to the west of the city, where a gigantic arrow appeared in the sky to point out the result. There was truly no hiding place for the target, and the arrow carried such power that it was almost impossible to destroy.
"There!" Both Sunset and Aura shouted, and Spike went flying in the direction of the arrow, with Aura Music carrying Sunset only a little bit behind him.
At their speed, it would only take a few seconds for them to reach the arrow, so naturally, that was when things went wrong. Sunset suddenly turned back and shouted:
"Triple Magic Enhance: Blast Shadow!"
And she shot a cone of energy. It was big enough to be able to block Spike's fully adult form if he were already able to achieve it. And it was just in time.
With a violent sound, something hit the cone of energy. Sunset staggered from the pressure of whatever it was, but it didn't last for long. Blue beams of energy that had been deflected by the cone hit the ground around where the three were. And the parts of the ground which had been hit... vanished. Like they had simply stopped existing.
Sunset dropped her spell and the one responsible for the attack was revealed.
It was a minotaur. He was fairly tall, and his top half was colored red, while the bottom half was dark blue. His eyes were silver colored and shining, and he was standing on a portal in the air.
Sunset immediately recognized him. Mostly due to the portal. This was Claw Marked, the annihilation of space, an ancient enemy of the Knights of the realm of the generation of Knight Aurora Dream, the Devourer of Existence. He was a particularly powerful mage who could use space and time magic, but rarely used the latter. The reason why had become obvious for Sunset after reading the research about space magic Moondancer's group had compilated (it also involved time, since the two were connected), time magic was absurdly dangerous.
The guy was obviously another magical construct, made by the same mastermind who had created the Tempest of Destruction they faced in the Changeling case. Considering that it was very likely that he, like the other one, wasn't as powerful as the original, hopefully this meant she didn't need to worry about time magic at all.
Sunset thought all of those things in instants, then she made a snap decision.
"Spike!" She shouted "Go deal with the shard! Me and Aura Soul will take care of this one!"
Spike hesitated for a moment, he was going into an unknown situation without backup. But he remembered Sunset's words. Going into situations where he couldn't be sure whether he would be able to do anything was just business was usual for a Knight. And Sunset was counting on him. The dragon flapped his wings and accelerated.
Sunset shot a powerful fireball at the opponent, just trying to get some more time to think. She looked at Aura Music, who simply nodded at her, as if saying that she wouldn't back down at this point.
"Hey, do you want to become a Knight?" She asked casually. Many Knights were originally heroes who were later chosen by the princesses and trained to become even stronger. They had planned to offer the possibility to Venus when she turned up again.
"I can't." She answered simply.
And yet, this simple answer brought Sunset's mind into an overdrive (but not an Overdrive, of course).
Claw Marked retaliated with a swipe that sent a line of space magic into them, and Sunset again had to use a spell to deflect part of the magic. But even as she was doing that, Sunset had a series of thoughts that went through several logical jumps, but could be reasonably expressed like this:
'She can't. Not that she won't, or that she prefers not, but she can't. Just today I heard about how avatars can't become Knights. There could be other explanations for not being able to, but there's also the matter of Venus, who appeared very conveniently, like this one. They are both separate species like Luna's avatars, but from where could they have come from? Celestia never felt the need to create avatars. Cadance. Cadance was having meetings with Luna and could have learned from her. Cadance is the alicorn of Bonds. Her possible avatars use love and music magic. It all fits together.'
She didn't have proof, but Sunset felt that she was right. As Aura Music used another of her ridiculously named attacks to retaliate, Sunset decided to leave that for later.
Still, a part of her couldn't help but be glad of her luck. Sunset felt that if it was simply a question of defeating this magical construct, she alone would be sufficient, but of course, just defeating the construct would leave the mastermind completely free from reprisal, and they couldn't have that, could they?
With the help of this new ally, the chances of success of their special plan had gone up a lot.