= 'Heroic Battle' Digital Devil Saga 2 =
At those words, the world blurred and swirled around the charter Cutie Mark Crusaders and their curse-born replacements. It happened in moments, and when it settled, the two sides were closed off from the world. A faint glowing hexagon patterned barrier barely visible marked the boundaries of their battle field.
The two herds were lined up facing each other in two simple rows. Each foal faced their replica, Apple Bloom stood in the center, Scootaloo to her right, and Sweetie to her left and slightly further away from her double.
All six foals tried to move at once, but none could. All they could do was speak and turn their heads.
"Hey! What is this?" Curse Bloom asked.
"Hay if Ah know!" Apple Bloom shot back.
Then the emblem of the Cutie Mark Crusaders appeared above Scootaloo's head and she found herself free to move. And it all clicked.
Scootaloo looked up at the floating symbol in exasperation. "We're fighting a TURN-based battle?!"
"So what if we are? Our whole world is nonsense already, might as well throw this in too!" Cursed Scoots sighed.
"All our fights were real-time before! Agh! Fine! You're right! It doesn't matter! We won't lose to fakes like you!"
"'Can't beat the original,' huh?" the copy mocked. "Might be clever if you were still the original. But you're the modified model. Maybe you'd like to try for 'new and improved?' Oh, except you never want to 'improve,' you just want to copy Dash."
"Oh, that is it!" Scootaloo few at her double, landing a solid punch on her face.
A vaguely thermometer-shaped bar appeared above Curse Scoots' head, first filling up with red, then shortening a little.
"Weak move, tough girl."
Scootaloo found her body returning to where she'd just been standing, whether she liked it or not. The icon shifted over, appearing above Apple Bloom's head.
Apple Bloom didn't hesitate and apple-bucked her twisted mirror image. The red bar which appeared above Curse Bloom's head and shortened more than it had with Curse Scoots.
The 'It's-Your-Turn' icon shifted to Sweetie. She closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and fired a bolt of green magic at Curse Belle. No visible damage marked her opponent's body, yet the red bar showed up and shortened, all the same.
Curse Scoots snorted, "Attacking your opposite one on one? Oh yeah, that's gonna work."
After the 'It's-Your-Turn' icon appeared above Curse Scoots' head, the pegasus...just stood there.
"...Uh...it's yer turn."
"Huh?" Curse Scootaloo startled. "It is?"
"Oh! Sorry Scootaloo!" Curse Sweetie Belle exclaimed, producing a menu like Button's and turning up what looked like a volume meter. What was that about?
Curse Scootaloo fluttered off the ground and pirouetted in midair. A swirl of air appeared in front of her party.
- All Physical Attack Next Turn Are Negated-
Scootaloo shouted, "Hey, I can't do that!"
"But I can. Live with it."
When the 'It's-Your-Turn' icon appeared over Curse Bloom, this time there was an audible ding.
"Huh?" Applebloom asked.
"I turned up the volume so Scootaloo knew when it's her turn!" Explained Curse Sweetie.
Scootaloo took another look at her double's faded eyes. "You... you're blind?!" Scootaloo hugged herself with her forelegs and wings.
Cursed Scoots shrugged. "Came with the contract. Whining won't change it. Other senses and pegasus magic tell me where living things are as a trade off that was part of the contract until we beat you. There was nothing worth seeing."
"Suffering for suffering sake, supposed to be ironic I don't whine about it every five minutes."
"Same reason Ah get possessed by a demon, invent a cutie mark cutting machine, and gets put down by Applejack."
The real Apple Bloom turned green.
Curse Bloom then grinned and did her own apple buck... at Sweetie Belle.
"AH!" Sweetie's red bar appeared and shrank down more than it had for the enemy.
"No, just playin' smart!"
"Ah won't let yew erase Sweetie!"
"Look, maybe y'all won't get erased," Cursed Bloom said, "maybe ya'll get rewritten as cute little killer robots with no conscience or empathy!"
"Ah ain't lettin' that happen!"
"Ya don't get a vote!"
Curse Belle did a curtsy and her horn glowed, and a green barrier flicked in front of her team.
- All Magic Attacks Next Turn Are Negated-
"When you're gone, I'll make Rarity the pain-loving, motherhood-obsessed, corrupt mare she's supposed to be. And I'll love her no matter what she does to me."
"THAT'S NEVER HAPPENING!" Sweetie snarled.
-Sweetie Belle's Magic.Atk And Phy.Attack Rose-
Scoots immediately attacked her double again, but this time a wall of wind stopped her. "That was smart," said Curse Scoots.
"I thought her magic shield negated yours! Apple Bloom! Maybe it's only good once per pony!"
"Worth a shot!" Apple Bloom's buck was blocked by the wind wall.
Sweetie just covered her head and defended for her turn.
"Not even gonna try to see if my Sweetie wasted her turn by me using a barrier first? You won't win that way."
Curse Scoots used wind wall again. Curse Bloom bucked Sweetie again, but her bar didn't go down as far this time. And Curse Belle used her spell barrier again.
"If anypony's got ideas, go for it!"
Scoots narrowed her eyes. "I've got one!" The edges of her wings shined blue, then Scoots performed a slashing cut with her primaries.
- Scootaloo Used Wing-Blade-
-Wind-Barrier Is Lifted-
"You finally catching on?" Curse Scoots asked.
"Great job, Scoots!" Bloom cheered.
"You did it!"
She grinned. "It was nothin'."
"Ya ain't won yet, Old Gen!"
Apple Boom bucked Curse Scoots... and did LESS damage than Scoots had. "Say what?"
"You three are hopeless."
Sweetie fired a bolt of magic at Curse Scoots... who took more damage than she had from Scoots or 'Bloom!
Sweetie thought of Button Mash.
"Horn beats wing, earth beats horn, and wing beats earth."
"Finally you're catching on, now we can really fight!"
The curse foals' wings, horn, and earth pony hooves all shone white together.
The next moment the heroes felt like they were hit by an earthquake, tornado, and magic blast all at once!
"Ow," Sweetie moaned, as all their health bars went down a big chunk.
"Ready for seconds?" Curse Bloom asked.
Lacking a better plan, Scoots dive-bombed Curse Bloom, damaging her more than Scoots had her own double. Apple Bloom reached inside her saddlebag for something, anything to help. When she did, a menu like Mash's appear, listing off every object their saddlebags contained and what they did. It didn't seem to matter who had been carrying what, the list might as well have been for one big bag.
-Extra Skill: Alchemist, 'Bloom may use two items per-round-
Bloom's eyes widened. She saw candies... from Sunny Town's party from Button's bags... Apple Bloom selected two candies then selected her two friends, restoring their health.
"Forced to rely on things instead of your own strength, so tragic," Curse Belle said sadly.
"Girls I have an idea, just keep us on our hooves until then!" Sweetie said.
-Sweetie Belle Began to Chant-
"Using bad magic, the slow corruption of the pure and clean character," Curse Belle sighed.
"Ya should know Old Apple Boom, ya shoulda asked Sweetie ta give ya candy! Now yer dead. Ya ain't survivin' this one!"
Then came down the earth, wind, and thunder again.
Scootaloo zoomed in front of Apple Bloom, taking the hit! The HP of her pegasus friend plummeted, but she was still standing.
-Extra Skill: Dramatic Rescue, Scoots may take damage for a teammate if that damage would have resulted in a KO.-
"Scootaloo, give a candy to Sweetie Belle!"
"Roger!" The candy ended up restoring Sweetie's health. As Sweetie kept chanting, Bloom also gave a candy to Scootaloo, then ate one herself.
"Yer just using up stuff for a hopeless fight!" sneered her double. "Yer hidin' behind items!"
And the Cursed Trio struck each spent their respective turns calling down the combined triple mega-pain again.
"I'm getting real sick of this," Scoots coughed.
"Then lay down and die," Curse Bloom invited.
Scoots and Apple Bloom healed again, their candy was going to run out. They were just delaying.
But the moment her friends' turns were done, Sweetie called out a hexing in changeling, and her magic fired like a giant green spear at Curse Scoots, exploding with a shockwave on impact. Curse Scoots' health dropped to zero, while Curse Bloom took a heavy hit as well, and Curse Belle to a lesser extent.
Curse Scoots knelt down and lowered her head. "I'm out of this fight."
"Scootaloo!" Curse Belle cried out, horrified.
"Oh no ya didn't!" Curse Bloom snarled. She stamped her hooves on the ground. The dirt under the CMC rumbled before rocks ruptured the surface, hitting the fillies before the stones vanished.
Scootaloo's body moved on its own as she did a loop de loop in her spot, avoiding the attack altogether. Apple Bloom's bar went down some, while Sweetie's went down twice that.
Curse Belle let out a wordless vocal.
-All Enemy Party's Stats Increased-
Scootaloo reared her hooves back at the replica Apple.
"Ultimate Pegasus Kick-" Scootaloo rammed her head into Curse Bloom's own! "-to the moon!"
-This Move Bypasses All Defense, May Only Be Used Once Per-Opponent Per-Battle-
Curse Bloom's HP took a nose dive to a red stub.
Apple Bloom gave another one of the remaining candies to Sweetie Belle.
"Now I know how Moth felt about my singing," Sweetie said.
Then as her second item, Bloom threw a bag of Zecora's green illusion powder at her double!
-Evasion and Accuracy Decreased Sharply-
Then Sweetie sang a song similar to Curse Belle.
-Enemy Party's Stat Bonuses Nullified-
With her health barely above zero, Curse Bloom screamed.
"Ya know, maybe Ah'll just wait on my turn till ya starve to death!"
"Except you won't," Scootaloo said darkly, "because this is a game and games have rules. You have to take your turn whether you like it or not."
Curse Bloom's body moved on its own, "No!"
She stamped the ground, and two slabs of rock sandwiched Sweetie Belle, except...
...Sweetie Belle was revealed to be unharmed.
Curse Belle sang again, and green sparkles surrounded Curse Bloom, and her Health rose - by about one-fifth of her total.
The CMC looked at each other, three minds but one idea.
Scootaloo dived-bombed, Apple Bloom bucked, and Sweetie zapped, finishing curse Bloom who fell to her knees and looked down.
"This ain't how this is supposed to go!"
Curse Belle looked at her teammates.
"Look out! She might eat her friends to power up!" Scootaloo warned.
Curse Belle knelt down and said, "I surrender."
"HUH?!" The fillies echoed.
-Extra Skill: PeaceMaker. If Sweetie Belle used a song ability in battle before hoof, and there is one active enemy left, she can try to make friends instead.-
= 'Victory Celebration' - Pony POV Series =
An upbeat jingle played. A floating message for bits and 'exp.' earned appeared next, but the foals weren't really paying attention to that.
"So... what do we do now?" Scootaloo asked. "Aren't things supposed to be back to normal now?"
"I think you still have a choice to make," said Curse Scoots meekly.
"Why?" Sweetie Belle asked her double. "Shouldn't you have fought to the end?"
"... I want to sing. I want to sing carefree happy songs that aren't ironic. You've shown even without help you have the strength to do that," said Curse Belle.
"Come with us," Sweetie Belle said. "You can't go back to Umbra Breeze now, he'll kill you."
"Unlike the other shadows you've seen, our appearance in Ponyville wasn't an accident. Now that we can't fulfill our purpose, we'll fade back into the silent nothing. We have no light of our own."
"That's how you all feel?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Even painting ugly pictures is better than not using your special talent at all," Curse Bloom sighed, her accent gone. "You beat us, it's over."
"Just...let Blanky eat us," sighed Curse Scootaloo.
Apple Bloom offered a helping hoof. "What if we share? Ya said my 'light' was yours before, why don't we share? Ya say yer shadows from Scootaloo's old home town? Well, Ah'm sure my shadow wouldn't mind the company."
"... It was actually somepony else's between us too, but she became just a shadow too."
"We'll break that curse of bad luck then too."
"... We just tried to do to you what was done to us, and you still wants to be friends..." Curse Bloom said...then gave a genuinely happy chuckle. "Thank you...For showing that ponies are still ponies."
"It's not like ya tried to blow up Ponyville to build a road when ya coulda just asked for a way through. Ya didn't HAVE a better way, them's the difference. We're givin' ya one!" Apple Bloom looked at her friends. "Right, girls?"
Sweetie Belle shuddered at the pitiful shades before her. "I don't want them to be banished."
Scootaloo gave a smile. "...Not having a place to belong...yeah, I can see how that's be rough... It sucks that I got a new home when our home town got trashed and you girls didn't."
Curse Scoots 'looked' up at her twin through her mane, asking in an innocent voice, "Scootaloo, you remember?"
"I... I remember my life there... even if I forgot it for a while. Twilight jogged my memory after I saved Sweetie Belle in Canterlot. It came in handy helping Cheerilee, you remember her I know you do... Girls, enough with the creepy costumes, if we're gonna do this, show me, -please-."
The Curse CMC looked at each other, and sighed.
Sweetie felt sick at the sight of their own skin and clothe split like a Nightmare Night costume.
In Apple Bloom's truthful eye, it looked like snakes and centipede slithered off them.
Scootaloo simply saw somepony she already knew was wearing a mask taking it off.
= "You Have To Forgive Yourself" Pony POV Series =
Three colored shadows stood.
In front of Sweetie was a purple winged pony whose winged shifted between pegasus and butterfly/dragonfly wings. Blue eyes, various shades of magenta and pale pink mane and tail, and her star-within-a-star-surrounded-by-sparkles cutie mark (kinda like Twilight Sparkle).
In front of Apple Bloom was a pinkish beige earth pony with mane and tail kinda like rainbow Dash's, but much better kept and flowing and blue eyes. Her cutie mark was a brush with swirl lines coming from it.
Finally in front of Scootaloo was a pegasus filly smaller than her, with a silvery white coat. Her curly mane a mix of pink, yellow and orange. Her cutie mark, was a purple and yellow butterfly with two yellow flowers flanking it. Green eyes looked at the world and the orange pegasus.
"Starsong Melody, Toola-Roola, Baby Honolu-loo?" Scootaloo whispered.
"Aloha, Scootaloo," the little shadow said.
Scootaloo shuddered, feeling like she was going to cry. "Girls... it's... nice to see you again." It took all her self control not to try to huge the three colored shadows right then.
"If it's anything, I think I'm finally over my fear of the dark," Toola-Roola's shadow said.
"So you become our shadows, and that's it?" Sweetie Belle asked.
Starsong's shadow rubbed her front hoof gingerly. "More or less. You'll all still be you. But you'll have whatever it is we all have to give. We're already a bit alike...why else would we have been chosen?"
"So we're going to do a fusion like in Dragon Egg Z?" Scootaloo asked.
"Everypony is a fusion of different traits. I understand that now. It's how colors WORK," Toola-Roola's shadow said. "We became shadows... because we were already as shallow as shadows. Except Starsong."
"Once upon a time, there a pony who was good at singing, but wouldn't sing in public until her friend encouraged her to sing. Then their home was destroyed, but a new home was waiting for them, but only the singing pony had a ticket, they thought her friend wasn't special enough. So the singing pony gave her friend her ticket. And her friend would sing in her honor. She learned later that she was born from the magic of the love of singing, and the love for each other, between five sisters. And what every part of her wanted to do, was song. Maybe Sweetie Belle, joining with you, is what I was meant to do all along."
Sweetie Belle nodded, reaching out a hoof. "Let's sing together."
Toola Roola's shadow said, gaining a hint of confidence, "If you're going to fix the world, you're gonna need an artist's eye."
"Should balance out this truthful eye Ah got," Apple Bloom said pragmatically.
Baby Honolu-loo's shadow sighed. "I don't have much to give you, I was just shy and cute."
"I'm not doing this for a reward, Honolu."
The little filly's head perked. "But I think I was royalty in a previous life."
Scootaloo grinned. "Heh, alright then! Princess Scootaloo doesn't sound so bad!"
"And...maybe innocence is just the thing this dark world needs, right?"
Scootaloo hesitated, and thought about it. What was it Dash said once (or was it Pinkie Pie?), 'first part of being a mare is not to be afraid to be a filly.'
"Works for me."
The fillies touched the colored shadows, and no longer bound by the restrictions of the battlefield, walked into each other, their own shadows becoming colorful for a moment as they joined together. Scootaloo was disappointed there was no giant flash or explosion. It was like two lights shining together instead gaining a second shadow. She didn't feel herself pushed away inside her own heart or changed into somepony she wasn't. Instead, she felt her friend's traits filling in niches in her own spirit.
It was just a peaceful coming-together. A homecoming. In the depths of her psyche, she felt the presence of sleeping memories that hadn't been hers, maybe it was best they slept for now. But still, it comforting to know they were there if she never needed them.
Apple Bloom smiled, feeling like she was welcoming home a member of the family she hadn't seen in a long time. Sweetie Belle smiled and found her and Starsong singing a wordless note as the combining completed, one song, one voice, one heart.
- Starsong Melody's Levels And Skills Are Given To Sweetie Belle -
- Toola-Roola's Levels And Skills Are Given To Apple Bloom -
- Baby Honolu-loo's Levels And Skills Are Given To Scootaloo -
The world swirled again, and the fillies found themselves where they'd been before. The girls looked around.
"Apple Bloom! That wasth stho cool!"
"Twist?!" It was her friend.
"Yep! Sthomepony FINALLY thold me ya got kidnapped by an evil cloud!"
"She was banging on the 'wall' around your fight with those changeling wannabees the whole time," Spike said, as he burned away what look like an angry black cloud with spikes.
Blanky seemed to be eating something off the ground around Silver, Applebloom seeing it was the curse-things.
Shiny Star was nearby, covered in bruises and cuts. Something dissolving into shadows behind her. "If her family isn't here, I'll protect Miss Silver Spoon if I am able."
Button Mash said, sword drawn, scratching his head. "Some angry clouds and gremlins showed up, we protected Silver Spoon like you asked, but they seemed more interested in us than her."
"That wouldn't have been 'tragic' enough," Sweetie Belle said. "And if I didn't see it, it wouldn't have hurt me enough. Don't worry, that curse is over before it even began."
"Those... whatever they were, they're gone?" Silver Spoon asked, her head hurting just trying to think about what she saw.
"Not really 'gone'," Scootaloo said, "But they're on the right side now."
"Yeah, didn't expect you to fuse with your own shadows like that, maybe turn into kickass super forms to fight for you," Button remarked.
Shiny Star promptly stuck a bar of soap in Button's mouth. "And no cussing, young colt. Your mother would have my head if I let you get away with that."
"You SAW that?"
Button spat out the bar of soap. "Psssst! Yeah, but I couldn't hear a thing you said."
"Don't worry about it," Apple Bloom said, "Some homeless ponies got a place to be again."
Button Mash put away his sword bisecting the last angry black cloud into pixels. He gave Sweetie Belle a big hug. "Happy to see you're alright."
"Same here, Button Mash," Sweetie said politely.
Button Mash opened his game window, his eyes bulged. "WHAO! Did you girls EVER level-up!"
The girls crowded around, while, Spike, Twist, Silver and Shiny Star wondered what they were looking at in Button Mash's imagination. The menu listed new songs Sweetie Belle knew, and some aerial dance steps. It listed a mixing of different painting styles for Apple Bloom and perception upgrades.
There wasn't as much listed under Scootaloo, except maybe 'royalty in former life' and knowing MANY ice-cream flavors and swimming upgrades, and some 'environment, tropical island' survival bonuses. But she was awesome enough already.
"Heh, let's say aloha to this place, let's go give a taste of what we've earned to the next big nasty piece of the curse!"
Her friends laughed, agreed, and they all joined in a high-hoof. Spike, Twist, Silver, and Shiny Star got back on the ship without complaint, the crew obviously knew where they were going after all.
It was odd seeing ponies besides themselves walk through the fog wall onto the gangplank sticking through it, and onto the ship beyond.
"Sorry I'm late! I mean, fancy meeting you here." The sound of a rotor blade churning through water echoed through the foals ears. The bow of a pink one-pony boat crashing its head stuck in the fog wall, followed immediately by Razzaroo launching overhead, and miraculously managed to land on four hooves.
"I'm... I'm sorry, I got here as soon as I... I mean, ugh! I just came to pick some sweets. I hope I didn't miss anything interesting like... old friends getting a chance to live again."
Razzaroo hugged each of the fillies. None of them resisted, and all returned the hug without thinking about it.
They noticed Razzaroo was sniffing tears. "It's just... I'm happy to see you girls made it okay. I heard what happened on that little nasty island, not sorry to see it go, but I'm happy to see none of you went with it."
"Actually we did, but we got saved by Pipsqueak's privateer ship!" Sweetie Belle said.
"I'll have to thank him then sometime, but I thought it was a pirate ship."
"So, Razz', how about you write down our progress? It's been a while."
"Oh right! Sorry! I just...! Well girls, and boy, let's hear it!"
The foals recounted things since they'd last seen to Razzaroo, happening faster even as the world slowed around them, the foal somehow not overhearing each other as they spoke. Razzaroo smiled as she finished updating her book.
"I best be off girls, I think 'On A Prayer' is still mist-worthy, and I should check on Twilight just to make sure she's fine."
Sweetie ran back inside and got some more cupcakes and candy (Pinkie Pie apologizing that their mirror-match somehow hadn't triggered her Pinkie Sense and she'd been downstairs cleaning up the movie props). She ran back out and gave one to Razzaroo.
"Thank you, Sweetie."
"I think you needed one." They nuzzled.
But that wasn't all that happened while she'd been in Sugar Cube Corner.
Pinkie Pie nearly dropped the knife she was cleaning jam off of (by eating it, why waste good jam?) when she saw Sweetie Belle.
She gasped and jumped four feet in the air, landed and rubbed her eyes. "S-Star Song?"
Sweetie Belle blinked. "How...how did you know?"
"I...just know...Sweetie Belle...how do you know?"
After a brief explanation, Sweetie found herself in a bear hug. "...Thank you...for giving Star Song a new home, Sweetie Belle."
Sweetie Belle blinked for a moment...then hugged her back. She then blinked, noticing tears in her own eyes. "Huh?"
Pinkie gave a smile. "...It's okay...Don't cry."
"They're happy tears!"
Judging by the smile, that was the truth.
"Tell Applebloom and Scootaloo I said thanks too."
"Hey, Razz', mind if Ah sign yer book? Just this once?" Apple Bloom asked.
Razzaroo startled, but nodded. "Be our guest."
She gave her pen to Apple Bloom. The filly didn't write her name, instead she drew in a minute a simple but iconic pretty pony figure. "How's that for a signature?"
Razzaroo gave a hug and so did Apple Bloom. "It's beautiful!"
Razzaroo looked to Scootaloo, both smiling. Razzaroo didn't have to say a word for Scootaloo to get the picture.
"Aloha, Razzaroo, see you later."
"Aloha to you too." The two hugged.
Razzaroo pushed 'On A Prayer' back out to 'sea' and her little ship turned out to be pedal powered, making the little fan in the back turn, speeding her away.
"Girls, pinkie Pie told me to say thanks for what we did," Sweetie said.
"She hadn't seen anything yet!" Scootaloo said proudly.
The foals ran up the waiting gangplank as the MoonPearl 'hoisted anchor' and sailed again. Apple Bloom was the first to notice that Pipsqueak's hat now had a gold star sticker on it.