"If both teams are ready!"
Luna's voice booms through the microphone onstage, but you barely hear it. You're looking directly forward, tuning everything else as you stride cautiously but firmly towards your opponent.
It feels wrong to think that. Your opponent. It gnaws at you. How could you?, you think. How could you have screamed at her like that?
A part of you understands why. Understands the danger she put you and your friends in, that she's still putting them in. Understands she's not the same being you knew. But it's Twilight Sparkle.
You owe your life to Twilight Sparkle. You owe everything to her.
How could you?
She's stopped. After a moment, you stop too. You peer forward.
That... thing of hers (an amulet? a pendant?) is clutched in her hand. Even from a distance, you can see her place a finger on it. She's mumbling something, but you can't hear it. A swirling pink light emits from the device, reflecting in her glasses.
What is she doing?
The crowd is roaring, and now Dean Cadance is shouting into the mic, about to commence the event, but you still don't care about the words. You're focused too tightly on Twilight as she now fully places her hand on the device. She holds it out away from her, as if it were toxic.
And that's when it hits you.
Her hand is starting to lift upwards, a faint circle of magic escaping as the device cracks open, and you're already moving, already racing, already reaching out with your own hand to grab the accursed thing, to stop her. To save her.
But you're too far away, and she's already in motion.
You're too late.
Some nights, you still wake up screaming.
In your dreams, you can feel every moment of that night as if it were all really happening again.
The hairs raising up on your neck as the rings emanate from the Element of Magic, swirling around you. The burning on your head as you clutch at the crown, trying to keep it on for reasons you'll never understand afterwards. Leaning forward, then suddenly being blasted back by a gigantic beam of turquoise light, slamming into you with force that would send you reeling, if you weren't suddenly suspended in midair.
Your skin is crawling, your scalp on fire, and now you're arched unnaturally far backwards as you continue to elevate. You're utterly helpless. As far as you know, you're about to be incinerated. In your dreams, you know you'd deserve it.
You can't see through the beam, down to the people below. You just see the brilliant, blinding light as it sears your eyes. You seal them shut from the pain as your head continues to burn. Tears stream down your face and evaporate as soon as they leave your cheeks. You bite down hard on your bottom lip for something, anything to distract from the agony.
You don't care how this ends anymore. You just want it to end.
And just like that, you're not even yourself anymore.
Your scaled-over eyes shoot open as a scream rips from your lungs, but now you're not in control of even that. The burning spreads across your entire body as your skin starts to flay, your arms and legs now tearing apart of their own volition. Your body warps and twists and your scream escalates as you feel your bones contort.
Your feet have become a twisted mockery of hooves. Your tailbone has stretched out to huge proportions, coated with hair the color of hellfire. New skin has grown on top of the old, clothes included. And now you can feel it racing towards your head as your face reshapes.
You can't bring yourself to think as your body tenses into a ball, a black cloud enveloping you as you feel the final insult to your body emerge.
Wings... your wings... the wings you wanted, the wings you dreamed about, that you thought you deserved...
You can feel them ripping right through your skin.
And as the darkest recesses of your mind race up to the surface to take control, to dominate your movements and your destiny, a final thought escapes as you're subsumed.
Celestia... forgive me!
As you frantically leap towards the new Twilight Sparkle, somewhere in the back of your head, it occurs to you that you're now stepping onto that exact spot in the school courtyard. You can even feel a little bit of that same tingle on your neck, as though residual echoes of the magic are flittering around you.
Or perhaps it's the new magic starting to pour forth from Twilight's device.
Your mouth is open as you reach further, but you're not screaming. You're not even shouting. Your mind urges you to say something, but your face is frozen with fear.
You don't know what's going to happen when that thing finishes opening. Something will happen; even now, that's clear. Your eyes are locked onto the device, and you can see wisps of Equestrian magic leaking out as it lifts higher and higher.
Maybe something will happen to you, if you're close enough.
But you're not afraid for yourself. You've been there before. You're afraid for her.
The memory floods your brain as you see the device open ever wider. Your head throbs with it. You can't let it happen to anyone else.
And you can't possibly let it happen to Twilight Sparkle. The only reason you're still you, and not that.
No matter what this Twilight has done, you have to protect her. You must.
Suddenly, jets of violet light are bursting forth from the device. You see a glowing orb in the center. It's all the way open.
I'm too late...
Deep down you already knew you were too late, but seeing your failure come to light sends your heart plummeting. And as you feel the sphere pulse before detonating, you're left with just one more wish.
Celestia... spare her!