In a brown field of long-dead plants, two ponies stood. A lavender mare, and a tan stallion. The stallion looked mortified at something, as he took a couple of steps away from the mate.
"No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no," he said repeatedly. "You can't mean what I think you mean."
The lavender mare put on a sad little smile.
"It's the only way," she told him.
"You can't-- you couldn't possibly-- you're asking me to--" The stallion spluttered, unable to complete a full sentence.
"Everypony else is already dead," she reminded him. "The rest of the world will follow. Millions more will die. Unless we do this. This is the solution, this is the way."
Then, next moment, her eyes turned pitch-black, and there was a large knife in her ribcage. The stallion cried out in alarm, as she fell sideways onto the ground. Something black, like a tear, slid down the lavender mare's face. Blood oozed from her wound like tar. Then, next moment, the mare's head snapped up again, causing the stallion to jump a mile into the air. Her neck twisted around at an impossible angle, making several sickening crunching sounds as the dead mare turned to looked at him.
"I love you," she said, eyes still just as dead-looking. "Why did you leave me? Why did you kill me?!"
Ventus awoke with a jolt, sweating and panting hard. His heart was quickly beating the rhythm of fear. He looked around, horn aglow, expecting to fight any second. After ensuring there was nopony there, he flopped back down onto his bed. Looking at the sky outside, he saw white, fluffy clouds billowing by. Although it was only an illusion, it usually gave him an accurate estimate of the time. Right now, he figured it was about noon.
Getting up, he moved about his ordinary morning routine. His breakfast consisted of a single hay sandwich, which had been growing stale in his magical storage for some time. After the devastation to Equestria, he had packed away as much of the food as he could find, so that it wouldn’t go bad. But eating the same sandwich every day grew incredibly boring after a week or two.
It’s all you’ve got, he reminded himself. After a month alone and no way to create food, it tended to run short.
He then moved to the bathroom, showering and brushing his teeth as he normally did. Everypony else might be dead, but he was still concerned for his own well-being. He moved back out of the bathroom, and into the main room.
It looked the same as it had when he had first visited this place, aside from the fact that there were now various books strewn across the floor. The other thing that was out of place was the small, blue crystal that was lying on the wooden table. He picked this crystal up, and lit his horn in a black aura. A shadow illusion appeared a few feet away, which had a dark cyan coat, dark red eyes, and long black hair. Ventus then created a magical link between the illusion and the crystal, and the spirit connected to the fake body.
Honestly, why do dark spirits have to thrive off of fear? a deep voice asked with annoyance, as the shadow illusion grew slightly more believable. You don't fear me, and there's nopony else here!
I know, Ventus replied in his mind. But there's nothing we can do about it yet, is there?
Ventus could see the annoyance on Midnight Sky's face, and he was annoyed himself. It was hard to talk to Midnight Sky anymore, since he was becoming weaker and weaker with no fear to feed on.
They had worked out this system near the beginning. Ventus would create an illusion of Sky's body, and Sky could 'possess' it to use for a while. But all of the talking still had to be in Ventus' mind, since Sky had no way to use the fake mouth to make sound.
So, what insane training do you have in mind today? Ventus asked, apprehensively.
You know what we're doing, Midnight Sky said.
Ventus sighed. More mind reading.
Damn straight, Midnight Sky said, looking slightly amused. It'll be one of the most useful things you'll learn.
Ventus hated mind reading. It was hard to do, and to resist. He wasn't that great at it, either. It mostly ended in reliving old nightmares, painful memories. Although he didn't want to, he looked into the horribly convincing scarlet eyes of Midnight Sky.
Without warning, Ventus felt the familiar, but extremely uncomfortable feeling of Midnight Sky forcing his way into his mind. He couldn't do anything about it. He immediately tried to not focus, to not think. Thinking was dangerous.
It was impossible to completely block out mind reading, but it was possible to resist. If you didn't leave anything for the invader to look at, there would be nothing to see. Ventus always tried to block out his thoughts, but it was hard. He had gone through so much emotional trauma that it was constantly trying to resurface. His nightmare from the previous night played through his head, clear as day. When it had finished, Midnight Sky pulled out from his thoughts.
Come on, Ventus, Midnight Sky said, with a rare hint of impatience in his tone. You didn't even try that time.
I have a lot on my mind, Ventus bit back.
Yeah, that's the problem, Sky said, exasperated. I know it was hard to watch everypony die, but that's why we're training so hard. Focus.
It went on for several hours. Ventus only successfully blocked out all of his thoughts one time. The rest were just as bad as the first. Ventus' head began pounding, as the mental stress began taking it's toll.
Let's stop the mind reading for the day, Sky decided, after Ventus failed again and collapsed to the ground in exhaustion. Let's move on to the other things.
Grateful for the break, Ventus walked outside as Sky's illusion dissipated into the air. He transformed into his demonic cloud form, and flew a few minutes east. There, he has seeds of all kinds planted.
Not that they were producing anything.
But that was part of the training.
You been studying the theory like I said? Sky asked along the way.
As they were talking in his head, Ventus didn't need to wait for the use of his mouth to respond.
Yeah, I did.
Good. Now, this is on a much smaller scale than what you'll need to do when we go, Sky reminded him, but if you want even a hope of being that strong, and some other food to boot, you need to master this.
Ventus looked down at the dirt that held the seeds, and took a deep breath, closing his eyes. His horn glowed black as usual, and he focused on the dirt. Each plot where seeds were planted was surrounded by a greyish transparent field, as the spell began to work its magic.
Focus on the theory, Sky reminded him. Make sure the clock spins forward, not backward.
Ventus didn't reply, keeping his entire focus on the plants. He opened his eyes as they turned pitch-black, the signature of his demon magic. He envisioned a giant clock in his mind, also surrounded by the greyish field, and began forcing the hour hand to jolt forward. Soon, the clock was spinning through the days as though they were seconds. The dirt patches began to tremble, and soon, stalks burst forth.
Yes, that's it, that's it! Sky exclaimed in triumph, magically observing as the plants aged at impossible rates. Keep going!
Soon, the plants reached their full growth, and Ventus let the spell die, his eyes fading quickly back to deep blue. What had been plain dirt moments before now sported large, overflowing plants of all sorts.
Beautiful, Sky said softly, looking down at the plants. I couldn't ever pull that off. The negative energies from the time magic would've killed me.
Didn't you die for that same reason? Ventus asked.
Sky chose to not comment. Ventus looked down at the plants that he had just super-grown.
So I have a question.
...I don't know a thing about gardening or cooking. What the hell do I do now?
Sky hadn't thought of that.
...That, Ventus, is an excellent question.
Ventus sat at the wooden table, across from a new illusion of Midnight Sky, as usual. But this time, instead of a hay sandwich, Ventus was eating a rudimentary form of Shepard's Pie.
"I've never eaten anything so good," Ventus said aloud, chewing noisily. When you had only been eating stale hay sandwiches for almost a month, any other real food tasted like heaven.
Quit rubbing it in, Sky said, sounding annoyed. Dark spirits can't eat.
"Do you have to keep talking in my head like that?" Ventus asked, in a sudden moment of inspiration.
Uh, yeah. Otherwise, I can't talk to you.
"Can't you alter the illusion?" Ventus asked.
Your illusion, not mine, Sky replied.
Ventus had already asked those questions, but he had just thought of a remedy.
"Whatever you do, don't block out this spell," he requested.
What are you doing? Sky asked, receiving no reply. Ventus had closed his eyes, and they had turned their demonic black again. He focused some magic on the blue crystal, and Sky felt something change within him.
What-- what the hell are you doing?! Sky exclaimed, looking panicked. It was the most anything had physically affected him since his soul had been yanked back from the crossroads and sealed in his crystal. And he wasn't used to it anymore.
Ventus didn't reply, and finished his alterations. He returned to his normal state.
What did you do? Sky asked again.
"Gave you a couple of my abilities," Ventus replied, with a smug smile. "Try to alter the illusion."
Sky looked down at his illusionary chest, and tried to give it a voice. To his immense surprise, his fake horn glowed with black aura, and he felt vocal cords grow into his throat.
When he had began registering feeling in this illusion, he had no idea, but it shocked him even more.
"How..." He croaked, not having spoken aloud for a month. He cleared his throat. "How the buck did you do that?"
"As I said," Ventus said, now smiling somewhat triumphantly, "I gave you some of my abilities. Now, take a bite."
He sat back down, digging into his Shepard's Pie once more. Sky looked down at the second plate of food that hadn't been present a minute before, and tentatively leaned down and took a bite.
The wonderful feeling of taste washed through his mouth, stronger and much clearer than he had ever remembered it being. He couldn't help but moan slightly, as he felt the food run down his fake esophagus and into his stomach.
"Sweet Celestia," Sky muttered, as he leaned down to take another massive bite. "I forgot how good food tastes!"
"Don't stuff yourself," Ventus said. "You're sharing my stomach. What you eat goes into me."
Sky didn't acknowledge him, as he dug even deeper into the shepard's pie.
"Ow lohn deos this las?" Sky asked, through a mouthful of food.
"Not sure," Ventus shrugged. "A couple hours, I think."
Sky was shoveling down so much food that Ventus stopped eating in the end. He could still feel his stomach filling up, though, and eventually told Midnight Sky to stop.
"I'll explode with one more bite," he moaned, hooves over his stomach.
"I won't," Sky pointed out, jokingly raising his fork to his mouth again. But he couldn't finish, as his body disappeared a moment later.
Oh, come on! Sky complained immediately. Give me my body back!
"Not your body," Ventus pointed out. "My illusion. And no."
I know I got carried away, Sky admitted, But you try not eating anything for a month, and talk to me.
"I'm done for the day," Ventus declared, retrieving the blue focus crystal from his magic storage and set it upon the table. "Gotta sleep off all this food you stuffed into me."
That's exactly the wrong approach to-- Sky began, but Ventus walked out of range before he could finish. Ignoring his pre-bedtime routine, he flopped down on top of his bed, exhausted and stuffed.
Why is he pushing this so hard? Ventus silently wondered. Then, as it did every single time he had this thought, the first day after Equestria's death flashed through his mind.
And how in the mother buck do we do that?
Not easily, Sky said. It'll take weeks, if not months of hard training.
Let's do it.
Sky's eyes would've widened, if he had them. I wasn't expecting to convince you that easily.
If it can bring them back... If it can bring everypony back, I'll do whatever it takes.
It's also dangerous. If we're not careful, we could do some horrible damage to history.
History? Ventus had no idea where this was heading. What do you mean?
Here's a little secret most ponies, even the dark ones, don't know. Dark magic isn't the main magic type for demons. The real magic, that almost none of them can use... is time magic.
Ventus looked dumbfounded. Doesn't time magic always revers itself in the end?
That's basic Time Magic, Sky smirked. Demonic Time Magic doesn't.
How do you know about it then? Ventus asked.
I could use it... sort of, Sky admitted. If I wasn't careful, it would kill me, just like dark magic kills regular ponies.
"8000 years..." Ventus thought aloud, rolling over on his bed. "It's a long way to go back..."
He didn't have any other thoughts, as he fell asleep moments later.
"Do it. Please."
The stallion raised the knife high, and brought it down hard, sending it straight through the heart of the lavender mare. He saw black liquid escaping the wound, but the dark blood was attempting to do its job. Despite having the knife that could kill all things in it, her heart continued pumping. But the efforts were in vain, as the injury was too severe to survive.
But the knife exited her body soon after, and she looked up in surprise. The stallion had raised the knife, which was now black with blood. He brought it into her again, and then again, stabbing repeatedly. Dark blood spilled onto the ground in torrents, and the mare finally fell dead to the ground.
It was then that Ventus realized he was outside his own body, watching himself do this. He jumped in surprise, as his other self turned to look right at him. Ventus would've screamed, but he was completely paralyzed with fear.
His other self looked exactly like his demonic self.
It raised the dark, bloody knife. Ventus tried to run, but he still couldn't move. His demon self galloped right up to him, bringing the knife down into his chest.
He screamed with pain, feeling the knife drive itself deep into his heart. But his demon side didn't stop there. It pulled the knife back out, inflicting just as much pain as it had going in. It stabbed him again and again, and he watched his own tar-like blood spill onto the dull, grey cloud below him. He fell over backwards, as the demon loomed over his head. He watched as his own blood-splattered face split in a horribly evil grin. The demon was clearly enjoying itself, as it used it's tongue to lick some of the fresh blood off of it's face. It rose the knife to drive it into Ventus one final time...
He jerked awake with a start, panting and sweating hard, just as he had the previous night. Just another nightmare.
Then, he shivered violently.
It's plenty warm in here... he thought to himself. He had set a spell to keep the room at 75 degrees.
But it certainly wasn't 75 now.
There was only one reason why that could be.
He lept up, charging his horn. One of his dark spells of revealing swept the entire place, but it returned nothing. Not that he had expected it to. Powerful dark magic users could hide very well.
You should use your demon half, he told himself, as he prepared to summon the dark forces from the depths of his soul.
But something kept him at bay. He didn't know if it was the nightmare, or if he just couldn't do it, but his demon powers wouldn't stir up.
Guess I'll have to do this the hard way, he thought.
He began creeping down the hallway, attempting to keep completely silent. He managed it, even though he didn't think keeping quiet actually mattered.
He turned into the main room, finding it empty. His dark vision pierced straight through the emptiness, but he didn't see anything unusual.
As he took a couple more steps forward, however, he felt a familiar aura behind him. Of something ceasing to use shadow magic.
He jumped into the air as he burst into smoke, just in time to avoid the second cloud of black smoke that had appeared out of thin air. He flew a few feet upwards before pausing, turning to look at his assailant.
He could sense the auras now, and there was no mistaking it.
It was a demon.
The demon flew up at him again, but he looped around it easily. Landing on the ground, he instantly solidified into his body.
Then, completely out of nowhere, his eyes turned pitch-black. He hadn't even felt the demonic forces stirring in his soul as he usually did. It just came without warning.
Though surprised, he found himself immediately ready to act. He extended a hoof, and forced the demon to the ground as easily as if he had pushed a falling piece of parchment. The demon, with no physical form, didn't smash into the ground, but it was certainly pinned down. It wasn't going anywhere.
"Why have you come here?" Ventus asked, surprised to hear his regular voice issuing from his mouth.
"Talk," Ventus snarled. His hoof clenched into a tight fist. Though the demon had no way to scream, Ventus knew he was inflicting serious pain. After several moments, he stopped with the internal torture.
You must die, the demon rasped in Ventus' head. I used... a lot of... magical power... to come here. You. Must. DIE!
The demon tried its upmost to escape, but Ventus' grip was true.
"Why must I die?" Ventus asked, surprised at how calm he was feeling, despite having been attacked by a full-blooded demon at 3 AM.
DIE! the demon yelled again.
"Fine," Ventus said, indifferently. "You won't talk, I'll make you talk."
He reached out to the magic focus crystal still sitting on the table, and contacted Midnight Sky.
What the hell, Ventus?! Sky did not sound amused. It's 3 in the bucking morning, and dark spirits need sl--
He cut off, as the impact of what he was sensing hit him.
"We have a guest, Sky," Ventus informed him. "But he's refusing to tell us why he's visiting. Can you... force it out?"
Of course I can, Sky said, still sounding surprised.
Sky focused on the demon's essence, and watched as its soul opened up like a book. He prepared himself for the searching through all the random junk, to try to make sense of the little bits and pieces of the puzzle.
But there was nothing.
...Well, Sky said, sounding as though he had been hit by a truck, Either his soul is empty, or he's the most brilliant anti-reader I've ever seen.
"So there's nothing?!" Ventus exclaimed, suddenly infuriated.
Nothing. I'm sorry.
"Then there's no use for this thing," Ventus said malevolently, looking down at the black smoke cloud. "Absorb it."
Wait, WHAT?! I can absorb demons?!
"Indeed," Ventus replied. "But first, I'll need to teach you how."
"...I feel like a cannibal," Midnight Sky complained, looking down at the breakfast Ventus had made, not eating.
"Quit your whining," Ventus said, taking a bite. "It made you stronger, didn't it?"
They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, before Sky broke it.
"Can we talk about your demon half for a bit?"
"What is there to talk about?" Ventus asked, with a blank stare. "You know as much about it as I do."
"No I don't. I didn't find out about it for a long time, and you can tell me about it. How do you know so much about demons?"
Ventus pondered the question, taking another bite. How did he know how to throw them around like ragdolls?
"I have no idea," he confessed. "It's almost like my demon half has a mind of its own... What I know and what it knows are completely unrelated. That's why I've been needing practice at dark magic."
"But you can summon your demon side at will?"
"...Not all the time," Ventus confessed. "Sometimes, when I really need it, I can't bring it up. Then at other times, it just bursts in out of nowhere, like last night."
Sky didn't say it aloud, but he found that information very worrisome. Why did that happen?
"And it's been with you for your whole life?"
"Yep," Ventus replied. "At least, ever since I was eight. That was the first time it showed itself."
It was information that Sky would deliberate in his free time. But right then, he had more pressing matters to attend to.
"Hurry up and finish eating. We have more training to do today."