Big turns ahead!
None of Pipsqueak's crew questioned when Ah stood at the front of the ship again, tellin' 'em where to 'sail'. It didn't really seem to matter which way we were facin', the wind seem ta be always at our backs. Olo The Owlbear steered the ship the way Ah said ta.
Instead of bein' filled with fireflies, Olo was MADE of fireflies... So kinda goes without sayin' none of us said how Owlbears aren't supposed ta be smart enough ta sail ships, and were said to eat anythin' that moved (including ponies), were always hungry with a beak like a steel trap and angry at everythin'. Ah think they were made up, they were said to be rivals with bugbears and kept each other in check.
Spike, Twist, Silver Spoon, and Shiny Star went back belowdecks 'where it was safe'.
"We art the crew, thou art the passengers, tis our duty to look after thee," Moonlight explained.
None of our friends questioned where we were going. Button Mash said it was because, "They're part of the escort quest. The progress gauge says we're two-thirds complete, by the way."
We must have given the slip to whatever spooked Blanky, ‘cause the wolf wasn't acting like a field mouse locked in a room with Opal.
After what happened with the 'side quest' trap, gettin' a taste of what it was like for everypony the curse possessed, and givin' a new home to some lonely shadows after Umbra Breeze used them to try and kill us... Ah was more determined than ever to fix this mess Mr. Umbra Breeze's curse had turned Equestria into! Ah was focused! Ah'd fought this dang curse from the inside and won! Ah felt weights gone from off my back like Ah could fly!
Scootaloo, Sweetie, and Button Mash were all practicin' their fightin' moves, while Blanky was our lookout, on our rear. Pipsqueak's crew had really appreciated the cupcakes.
My practice? Was kinda gettin' that usin' my truth eye like this. It was weird, but now Ah could actually make out which way the fog was movin'. How it was flowin'. Kinda like how an artist sees the swirls in the paint...okay, knowin' that is new.
Ah looked looked at my still-blank flank, started to pout, but changed my mind. It wouldn't be right if Ah just took Toola-Roola's mark. Ah have to find my cutie mark.
Ah saw the way truth was leadin' us comin' up.
"Girls! Button! Be ready! Here comes the next one!"
We braced ourselves. If some nasty hand or some other white ball came down to snatch us, we'd be ready this time! If it was Applejack, I'd help. If it was Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo's turn. If Fluttershy, our best chance was freein' Angel first.
Magic, wing, blocky-sword, hooves, all ready!
Ah was almost let-down when the MoonPearl just put down her anchor and extended the gangplank into the big white bubble without any nasty surprises.
Like before, 'Rear-Admiral' Pipsqueak told us his crew hadda foalsit the ship. It was gettin' a bit disturbin', frankly. Then again, maybe it really was better this way.
With Blanky in Sweetie's saddlebags, and Button guardin' our rear, we marched single-file into the next 'level' as Button Mash would say.
"Why'd the truth lead us here?" Ah asked.
It was another typical house in Ponyville. A lot like Button Mash's, but obviously a lot older. Ah think Ah'd even seen it in old pictures of Ponyville… pictures taken from the time Granny Smith was a filly. Oh, and the paint woulda looked better a couple shades lighter, but that might have been the weird shadin' the world had.
If Ah had to put a name to it, it looked exactly like the colors and details of the inside of Red Heart's hospital. The mist on the ground was less than a few strugglin' wisps. And the sky was blue again and there was Princess Celestia's sun, early in the sky!
Scootaloo's feathers ruffled. "I'm never forgetting this place or the dog barks! It's Lickety-Split's house!"
Scootaloo eyes shifted left and right.
"Button, is this here another 'side quest?'" Ah asked.
Button scrolled through his menu. "Doesn't say it is-HEY!"
A little bar filled all the way up, and there was a happy jingle sound with confetti. "Our escort mission with Spike is complete! 'Congratulations, you've escorted Spike The Dragon, Twist, Silver Spoon, and Shiny Star safely to their destination!' Another window popped up, listing how many bits and 'exp.' we got. "Oooh! We all leveled up!"
"Forget about that!" Scootaloo said, "Button Mash, you said you'd talked with Lickety-Split before, right?"
"Yeah, he seemed really happy about me asking for details about all the legends he family knew. He even said my family is from Dream Valley too, how cool is that?"
"That'll have to do! You got any silver weapons in that floating window of yours? Or we might end up as werewolves!"
"Actually it's damage REDUCTION werewolves have, so it's possible to hurt them with overwhelming force, not just silver, it's damage IMMUNITY that you can't use that type of attack against-"
"Werewolves?" Sweetie and Ah exclaimed.
"REMEMBER?! Nurse, Doctor, UGH, Red Heart's hospital?! Barking Mad was a werewolf! What does that mean for her family? Like Lickety Split?!"
We all paled.
(Button Mash's Journal): For a second, I wondered if Lickety-Split was a GIRL werewolf now... but then I remembered that we were both named after girls in our families from Dream Valley, and I hadn't turned into a girl, so I guessed he'd be okay too. And if he wasn't, I really hope I wouldn't become a girl when we met him, or else that'd make things really awkward with Sweetie Belle.)
We formed a circle and got ready for the monster attack we knew was comin'! Except it didn't. We waited, and waited, the sun risin'.
"Well... it isn't a full moon, so I guess we're okay?" Button Mash asked.
"...Good point," Scootaloo said.
We crept towards the house. Ah was still tense, just in case it turned out these werewolves didn't play by 'the rules' or there was a wicked witch or somethin' waitin' for us. This ain't 'bout there bein' NICE werewolves, this werewolf-ism is a CURSE, Red Heart said Barking Mad wasn't in control. My eyes and Sweetie's magic sense ready to pick up any bad surprises. Among the wall-side bushes, Ah crept up and took a peek inside through a closed window.
Ah saw Lickety Split, and another pony. Just sittin' in the livin' room, talkin' with books and cookies all around. Both of 'em were colored kinda like how Red Heart and her ponies' had been, like watercolors: not like the curse, but not like how Ah knew things were supposed to be neither.
It took a while for me to recognize Speedy Delivery or Post-Haste as he got called too. He was the teenage colt who delivered Applejack's letter after she didn't come back from the Canterlot Rodeo. Ah remember he thought the party was for 'im, cause it was his birthday. Ah didn't give 'em one thought as we pushed him out, Ah was honestly surprised when Pinkie Pie gave 'im a piece of cake. Ah didn't think if he was lonely, Ah was worried where my sister was...
Ah couldn't hear what they were sayin'.
Though Post-Haste had bandages here and there, my truth didn't see anythin' nasty in 'em or wrong with 'em.
Lickety-Split, Ah focused on 'em, and Ah actually fell backwards at what Ah saw.
"OW!" "Hey!" "Ouch!" "Apple Bloom!" "W-what did you see?" Sweetie asked, a little scared.
"T-there's a bug-worm inside him, like Ah'd saw with Miss Cheerilee, but it's small, and ... Ah've been on a farm enough to tell the difference between somethin' sleepin', and ... never wakin' up again. Lickety-Split has a ka-put curse inside 'em!"
That got us into a ruckus (or fracas). It's a miracle we didn't get their attention.
"Was he a werewolf?" Scootaloo asked.
"He didn't look like one."
"Maybe that's why the curse is finished in him?" Sweetie asked.
"But who did it if we didn't?" Button Mash asked.
Blanky sniffed the air, and didn't look he smelled anythin' bad.
"Well, since Ah didn't see anythin' else nasty, Ah vote for the direct approach."
One show of hooves and one paw later, we were at the front door, and gave a knock.
Ah noticed there were prayers to Megan, Princess Celestia, Luna, and Cadence written all around the door frame.
Lickety-Split looked out through the peep hole with a mirror.
"Who goes there?"
"Oh, hey, Button Mash."
"Can we come in, please? We have some friends who are looking for a place to stay for a little while."
We all looked at Button Mash.
"Hey, the escort quest led us right here, this has to be where we let them off, right?"
Ah'll admit. Ah didn't like the idea of not lettin' Silver and Spike help just cause 'the game rules said so'. Okay, Twist tried to help and Shiny Star fought somethin' nasty too and won while we fought our twins! That just made me less happy that 'the game' was sayin' that they couldn't come with us. We needed all the help we could get couldn't we?
Button must'a seen my face cause he put a hoof on my shoulder. Heck, none of us looked happy at it except Blanky!
"Girls, I know it isn't fair I got to come along while Silvery and Spike can't. But I didn't pick who got to be a player character. The game selected me, so here I am. We're the ones stuck trying to lift the curse from Equestria. At least they didn't get broken legs or turned to stone or somethin' to force us to leave 'em."
"Maybe they'll come with us anyway," Scootaloo said defiantly.
"That might cause things to glitch out-"
"That's it!" Said Lickety behind the door. "You're Button Mash! Come on in!"
The front door opened. The inside of Lickety Split's house was remarkable for being unremarkable. Oh, there were a few surprisin' things, like some little pony figures that looked REALLY old. A pink stone brick in a display case marked 'From Dream Castle.' And a tattered cloth map with REALLY OLD Equestrian that Ah think read 'Dreaming Dip.'
Lickety-Split looked at us like he was worried we were the monsters in disguise! He gave each of us except Button Mash a magnet from his family fridge that truth showed were just magnets.
"Good, you're not changelings," Lickety-Split said relieved. "Everypony knows Changelings burn at the touch of cold iron."
"I'm pretty sure that's a myth," Sweetie Belle said.
We should've been happy Lickety-Split was okay... but... we were all distracted that'd we'd drop-off our friends like cargo.
"Hey, you okay, Speedy?" Scootaloo asked Post-Haste, who just sat on the couch quietly.
"I just... had some close calls out there delivering mail yesterday... just... crashing here."
It'd been at least a day since this whole nightmare had started?
"Did you try Red Heart's hospital?" Ah asked.
"I ... couldn't seem to find it, the roads on Ponyville are... always so confusing."
Neither of 'em course so much as looked at Blanky.
Lickety-Split looked outside. "Have any of you seen mom?"
"Your mom?" Scootaloo parroted.
"She...she broke out of the house, and didn't come home after the sun rose... I'm worried." Split deflated.
Scootaloo and Sweetie looked at each other all awkward-like. Humph.
"Yer ma... she's sick like yer grandma?"
Split gave me that kind of look that said, 'Ya don't know grass is green?'
"We mighta run into 'er... we got chased by a werewolf yesterday, didn't get a good look at 'er. Sorry, Split."
What was with the look Sweetie gave me? There was no way to sugarcoat this.
"Split, could ya help us jog Sweetie Belle's memory? She forgot some of the bad stuff that's been happenin' in Ponyville. Were ya sick like yer ma and grandma? And...are ya better now?"
"That's pretty precise question," Post-Haste butted in.
"Nopony asked ya."
Post-Haste looked like somepony slapped 'em.
If this was where 'the game' was gonna force us to leave our friends, then that meant the sooner they'd be safe, right? So best figure this place is pretty safe, like Red Heart's.
And we got a bigger chance my sister's next. Don't look at me like that! Two ponies with truth can trounce these lies! UGH! Sorry! Ah gotta get used to these curve balls.
"Hey!" Split stepped up for his friend.
Sweetie trotted back.
"Please," Scootaloo flapped down between us. "Can you tell us, Split?"
Lickety-Split rubbed his shoulders, and let out a small laugh. "I-it's actually kinda funny... I was scared what I'd do to my friends... I... for... I don't know when Grandma infected me and Mom, IT WASN'T HER FAULT! I... I don't know why me and Mom weren't at the hospital too... it doesn't make sense... like Somnambula's illusions... UGH! And you three had to go posting that picture of Grandma transformed in the school paper-"
"AH SWEAR ON MA AND PA'S GRAVES: -THAT- GABBY GUMS AIN'T US! Cross Mah Heart, Hope Ta Fly, Stick a Cupcake in Mah eye!"
My voice echoed off the walls, Ah made my own ears ring. Now all eyes were on me. "Uh, can ya pretty please with sugar on tell us what happened, Split?"
"... I'm sorry," Lickety-Split said. "I remember that apology you wrote in the paper. It's just-"
"-we're just what everypony thinks about when they hear 'Gabby Gums,'" Sweetie sighed.
"Uh, Sweetie, for what it's worth, I remember how upset you girls were in class, I knew that Gabby Gums wasn't you," Button Mash said lowly.
"... Thanks, Button." She gave him a slight nuzzle.
(Scootaloo's Diary: Apple Bloom... I know her parents are gone... but no pony talks about it. At least I know mom and dad are out there, right?)
Split sat down on the couch. "It happened like this: I'd locked myself in my room. I don't know why Mom didn't do the same. Then somepony opened my door with a magic screwdriver.
"It was a brown earth pony with a spiky brown mane and an hourglass cutie mark, wearing a green tie... but all I saw was somepony to spread the curse to. But he seemed to know that already.
"'Look at me! I'm a car! Chase me!' he called as he ran. He ran down the hall into the living room, just as I was able to catch up with him, it turns out he'd set up a trap, and I was tied down like a mad dog."
The pony-shaped wolf beast snarled and howled at the uninfected pony not five hooves from him. The stallion flipped through pages of some really old book. On it was a little note that read 'Please return to secret compartment in Golden Oaks Library -Magic Star'.
He spoke like a doctor giving a booster shot, or maybe Twilight Sparkle reading off a checklist.
"Let's see here:
-Step zero: for best results, treat victim while in cursed form."
The wolf colt howled.
"That's taken care of,
-Step one: Poke the frogs/palms of both forelegs with a silver needle."
The young wolf colt yelped as something sharp poked him on the end of both his front legs.
"-Step two: Hit the werewolf (while patient is in beast form) on the head with the flat side of a silver blade three times, while calling them by their full Alicorn name or their full Human name each time. Well, that might be a problem. I'm short one blue box." He turned the page. "Except, it seems a pony qith quite lovely hoof-writing wrote down a list of 'true names' here. Like Lickety-Split the first, and for some reason the colt version of her name. Ahem." He picked up a silver knife and turned it so it was flat sided towards the werewolf. "Linus Splitter," WHACK! "Linus Splitter," WHACK! "Linus Splitter," WHACK!
"-Finally, fully believing it will work, and having trust that it will, tell the beast-curse to be gone in the name of St. Cuthbert... Very well." The stallion spoke in a stern, powerful voice that held the might of centuries behind it. "Curse of the wolf! I! Time Turner! The Doctor! Command ye! In the name of Saint Cuthbert! BEGONE!"
The wolf colt howled so loud it hurt. A massive wolf shape shadow rose out of the beast colt, which twisted and distorted, before being torn apart and fading away. The wolf colt turned back into an earth pony foal.
The world changed from the charcoal on pink paper to a watercolors style. And instead of a sun/moon constantly noon/midnight, it was dark, but dawn was coming.
"Well, that went better than I expected. Guess that wasn't just tales from the Land of Fiction. I'd stick around, lad, I surely would, but sadly, I have a million more appointments. Ta-ta... and good luck."
The stallion raced out the front door. Lickety Split got to his hooves, incredibly dizzy, but feeling himself. He looked at his hooves. "I'm free."
Less than a minute later, a bleeding teenage earth pony shambled to his family's front door. Split took one look at his injured club mate and rushed for the bandages and first-aid kit.
(Button Mash's Journal: That was quite the flash back. I knew Mr. Time Turner had a lot of neat stuff, but I didn't know he knew how to cure werewolves too! Cool! It's saved in my cut-scene archive!)
The girls all huddled together, but there was no way I was being left out this time!
"So somepony was able to take out one of the curses without us?" Scootaloo asked. "Then... " She fidgeted. "What's the point of us risking our lives like this?"
"Yer askin' that?" Apple Bloom blinked.
"Dash told me to pick my battles. And if there are other ponies who can save the day, why are we the ones doing the most nasty risks? We're just kids!"
I put a hoof to my chin. "It could be like Dragon Eggs Zenoverse."
I love Sweetie Belle, but I wish she and her friends would stop looking at me weird all the time.
"Lemme try and explain: when you're back at the hub world, you run into other members of the group you're in that are off on their own adventures stopping other plans by the same baddies you're fighting! One of them's really cool and stopping this big three-way war back in the Dragon Eggs era!"
"You're into more than just games?" Scootaloo asked.
"You know the manega's plot if you play story-mode."
Scootaloo asked, "So why doesn't he save your timeline too?"
"Oh! Because they're happening at the same time! If both of you were in the same place the bad guys would win in the other place."
Scootaloo frowned. "Why aren't we handling the little stuff and have THEM handle the big stuff?! Maud Pie said 'you're the only ones' and it turns out there are others who ARE! We've been lied to!"
"Well...Oh! Wait, Mr. Turner didn't cure Split like we did the others, did he?"
Applebloom blinked, "Wait, he's right!"
Scootaloo growled. "How?!"
She sighed. "We cure ponies by remindin' 'em of who they really are, right?"
"Yeah, or at least why...they...shouldn't be...doing what they are...oh."
"Exactly, Mr. Turner cured Split of a werewolf cure, that's different," I said. "Kinda like in Ponymon Colosseum you can't cure Shadow Ponymon the same way you cure anything else!"
Apple Bloom put a hoof to her mouth. "So... different doctors for different sicknesses?"
"What's with the huddle?" Post-Haste asked.
"Whao! Hey! Private Crusaders stuff, Speedy!" Scootaloo waved her hooves.
"Sorry, kids." Post-Haste sighed. "We haven't formally introduced ourselves, have we?" He reached out his hoof. "I'm Speedy Delivery, but everypony calls me Post-Haste."
"I'm Button Mash, these are my friends Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo. Nice to meet you Post-Haste."
"Hey Scootaloo, nice braid."
"Hey, Speedy, thanks," she looked at us. "We cross by each other at the post office sometimes."
"Nice to meet ya, again Post Haste." Ah stuck out mah hoof. "Sorry about shortin' ya on yer birthday, Ah was just worried 'bout my sister."
He blinked and tilted his head. "Huh? Oh that? Wow, haven't thought about that in forever." He shook 'Bloom's hoof, eyeing her earring just a second, before shaking hooves with Sweetie, too.
"Nice knowin' there ain't hard feelin's."
"Nice to meet you." Sweetie said.
"Likewise," he smiled. "Nice capes."
"Thanks Speedy, we're kinda attached to 'em right now," Scootaloo said.
"Nice to see you finally made it to a club meeting Button," Split said with a smile. "Sorry that it's just us two today."
"Club?" One of my friends asked.
"History before the Age of Wonders! My first ancestor, and Megan, the Moochick (I've got some of his books!), and the original General Firefly, ya know."
"Oh right, the Smooze." Apple Bloom shuddered.
"Oh! So you girls know!"
"More than ya can imagine," Apple Bloom said. She's not kidding! Believe it!
"Oh! Really? Sorry the others aren't here!"
"Who?" Sweetie asked.
"Lyra, Bon Bon, Moth, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle."
(Apple Bloom's Diary: Had AJ told me about this? Ah can't remember. Ah don't keep track of everythin' she does!)
"Twilight Sparkle visited your club?" Sweetie asked in as awe as Ah was.
"Yep!" 'Split said proud of himself. "She was really interested! She even offered to buy some of my family books for the public library! Nice to see she was willing be part of an NPC."
Button Mash's jaw dropped. "NPC?" He parroted.
"Oh, I thought you meant... never mind."
"Seriously, nice to see you Mash and... " Split hugged himself. "I'm happy I'm cured. I just wish Time Turner did this sooner for Mom and Grandma."
"I'm sure he's out there helping your mom right now," Sweetie Belle lied. Ah felt a little ripple of disgust. Ah shook my head. No! A lie is when yer tryin' to play somepony... what was that word again Sweetie knew? 'Sea-mantics'? Like when ya say yer starvin' after a hard day's work but are just hungry?
That's when Ah noticed it.
There on the table in the middle room, Ah saw the copy of the Foal Free Press. There was this tiny cover of fog around it; didn't feel important so Ah didn't talk about it.
Ah'd seen the copies of the Foal Free Press before lyin' about the school yard before when we saved the whole class from Miss Cheerilee.
But now Ah saw somethin', like a flame traveling up an invisible fuse. It was so fast Ah just had time for my brain to figure out what Ah was seein' before it reached the paper and the patch of fog rippled out, but dissolved as it got away from the paper. But Ah saw the words change.
I trotted over and picked it up. Ah saw the by line. Ugh. Knowin' how this cursed worked now Ah didn't say it out loud. It showed a picture of Bon Bon, beatin' up changelings who looked liked they didn't know the right way to throw a punch. The story was more about the Royal Guard beatin' the changelings easy peasy, but also talked about 'Royal Agent Sweetie Drops' helpin'.
After Ah risked gettin' dragon-ported inside out to save my sister, and everythin' else we went through... Ah felt insulted. Everythin' we'd worked for just brushed aside. Stepped on. ... I KNOW it would have been better if the changelings just got their flanks kicked but... from everythin' Sweetie said, the bug ponies would have fought to the end for their queen... Cadence wouldn't have become their Queen and we'd wouldn't have become friends with 'em... and... Ah hate to say it, but Sweetie's dark magic has helped us out a lot since then. Either way...there'd be trade-offs.
The Bon-Bon on the cover, and the way the paper talked about 'er, it wasn't like the Bon-Bon Ah'd seen in Ponyville or Canterlot.
"Apple Bloom?" Sweetie asked.
"Paper got updated..." Ah said, "It's just garbage from... 'Gabby Gums'. Don't believe a word of it. In fact, yer better off not even readin' it," Ah said foldin' the piece of paper that actually made me feel dirty just holin' it.
"I was going to ask Mom to return it," Split said.
"Ya should just burn it," Ah said matter of factly.
"Hey," Scootaloo said, "We still need to get the paper to write retractions remember? They stink, but we're gonna need'em ta fix this new 'Gabby Gums The Second's mess."
"Oh right." It wasn't just Ponyville that was cursed... it was the entire world... that many lies, everywhere, changin' everythin'? And more poppin' up every time somepony says a lot of things? There was no way we were gonna save the world by spadin' these lies ones by one.
"Lickety-Split," Sweetie asked pointing at the wall, "is that soccer trophy yours?"
"But I thought your cutie mark was for ice-cream."
"Just because ice cream's what I'm best at, doesn't mean it's the ONLY THING I'm involved with! I figure I'll rack up some trophies while I'm young, then work at an ice cream shop for bits to help my family keep our stories going. Ice cream's a family tradition too," Split said smiling.
"Ya care a lot 'bout tradition, don't ya?" Ah asked.
"... I know I don't seem like the colt who would be... But yeah. Have to stay the cool kid, but my family means a lot. Lot of these stories mention YOUR first ancestor Apple Bloom. Applejack The First."
"Yes really! She saved a bunch of ponies from a mean wizard! I really wish Applejack had visited more than once. She told me after... after Princess Cadence's wedding she could have saved herself and a friend a lot of trouble if I'd taken what I was saying more seriously. Or rather... she said 'not everything I was saying was distorted.'"
Now Ah'm stuck wonderin' what that meant . . .
"Wind Whistler, Shady, Posey, Megan, Firefly, Surprise, Applejack I, Moon Dancer I..."
"Moon Dancer's ancestor too?" Sweetie gasped.
"And I'm pretty sure Twilight's, Pinkie Pie's, Fluttershy's... it's amazing how many ponies who can trace their lines back to dream Valley are in Ponyville... and how many don't even know or care."
"Hey," Post-Haste patted him on the back. "I care. I don't have any fancy family history at all. My family name doesn't mean anything. But I still want to learn all this stuff. And if I do, then I'm sure lots of ponies do too... Hey! Kids! How about we publish some of Lickety's family stories in the paper? They're pretty interesting! It'll give them something to print other than Gabby Gums."
"...That's actually a pretty good idea..." Apple Bloom smiled. "Thanks."
"Where are your really old Moochick books?" Button Mash asked and smiled.
"Oh, there's on the book case over there and-"
"Thanks, friend!" Button Mash gave him a hug and scurried over, and took one book off the shelf, flipped through the pages, grabbed the next book off the shelf, rinse and repeat.
(Button Mash's Journal: I just need to look over 'em and they'll appear in my menu! Only works on 'plot stuff', not math books. I don't cheat.)
"WOW! There's MORE THAN ONE book you can read on the bookcase! And they have more than one page of text!"
Lickety Split looked at Sweetie Belle, "No matter what, Button Mash is Button Mash."
"You can say that again," Scoots remarked.
"So..." Sweetie Belle said as Button continued to skim books. "About our friends... we haven't really told them yet about staying at your place... and since your mom isn't home, it would be kinda rude ... and if your mom is... sick... it would be dangerous for them to stay."
"It's not gonna be the full moon again for another month," Lickety-Split said, "And my family LOVES company... she won't mind."
Ah was reminded how Button Mash's ma went along with with Button Mash goin' along with us. Ah guess this is 'the game' at work again.
"We... better get our friends off the ship then," Scootaloo said.
"Ship?" Split asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Uh, Pipsqueak's magic pirate ship," Sweetie said uncomfortably.
Split snorted. "Pipsqueak? Psh. he doesn't even appreciate how pirates were just dirty, nasty, thieves on water. He doesn't actually do anything actual pirates did. He's not even trying to learn his own talent, he's just riding on Princess Luna's tail."
Button Mash waved a hoof, "Split, don't start this again."
"Nothing I'm saying is a lie. He can't just play pirates all day if he wants to be anything other than Princess Luna's pilot fish."
"He has a point," Ah said.
"But you can say it a lot nicer," Sweetie added.
"Besides," Scootaloo said, "with how much he likes Luna, I'm sure he's gonna end up in the Night Guard."
"You can't make your dreams comes true if dreaming is all you do," Lickety-Split said.
"'Split," Post-Haste said, "Pipsqueak IS A KID. Like you. Let him dream for now. Let him play pretend. He's not hurting anypony. He's just a foal, and he's happy. He can worry about growing up later."
"It's what we all do, don't worry about it, Split," Post-Haste said. He wasn't doing much else, but given how he was bandaged up, that wasn't a bad thing.
"So... who are our house guests?"
"Oh," Sweetie fidgeted, "Spike-"
"COOL! I have a lot I bet we can talk about. But... I've... never really been able to make friends with him before."
"Twist. Miss Shiny Star, she's a unicorn grown-up. And... Silver Spoon?"
"... At least they're finally out of that rotten place," was all Lickety Split said on that.
Ah took another look at the paper. Why? Tah see if Ah could maybe think of some stuff ahead of time tah safe AJ! Only thing this rag was good for.
Then Ah noticed... "Girls! Button?!"
"Huh?" Scootaloo asked.
Ah pulled 'em aside. "One sec."
"What is it, 'Bloom?" Button asked as we got in another huddle.
"Look at next page's headline."
Ah showed 'em the article Ah found. It'd...been a rotten one about Zecora before. But now:
"'Local Shaman possessed by evil spirit. Spirit exorcised?!'"
"Isn't that what we made the story think happened?" Button asked, rubbing his head.
"Exactly, and look at this one, Sweetie."
"'Local Fashionista saved from eldritch monster by heroic dragon?!'" Sweetie questioned. "But...how?"
Button flipped through. "And here's where the Cakes broke up. Says they got back together!"
Ah looked at it with just my truth eye just to double check. "Girls...the ink's different."
"Huh?" Scootaloo asked.
"Ah mean...look close."
Looking close, ink for the new parts didn't have that same slight scribble everything cursed had. Thanks Toola-Roola. It wasn't printed with type, just neatly written.
"Hoof-writing looks kinda familiar," Scootaloo said. "Don't ask me why."
Ah couldn't help but smile at seein' the reminders of the good we'd done so far.
"Can you please stop doing that in my house?" Lickety-Split asked.
"Sorry," Sweetie said and we broke the huddle. "We better get our friends now."
We left 'Split's house to get our friends. Ah didn't know if Button Mash was right, but there had to be a reason why the truth brought us here, right?
Then Featherweight plopped out of the fog wall. No big introduction, poor colt just did a soft crash landing on the ground.
Ah saw no curses in 'em, guess bein' so unnoticed nopony talks 'bout ya is a blessin' in disguise today.
But his eyes, Ah hadn't seen it from this side, but Ah remember that look, runnin' for my life in Sunny Town, what had he seen in the fog?
He was battered and bruised and his body twitched. He looked at us scared, worried, but... maybe hopeful?
"It's alright Featherweight, nopony is going to hurt you," Sweetie said reaching for him, but he pulled away, scrunching his nose like Sweetie smelled bad or somethin'.
Button Mash surprised us all when he knelt down to eye level with Featherweight. "Hey dude, great to see you're okay. Have you been stuck playing a solo adventure this whole time? That's rough...Sorry we haven't gotten to play lately. I had plenty of two player game we could've tried out but we didn't. I... I'm sorry. There's no restart but, can we try again please?"
Featherweight stared at him, then reached out his hoof which Button Mash took.
Next, we had Featherweight back in the house in bed in one of Split's guest rooms with band-aids and bags of ice on him, he looked like an apple tree after a bucking contest. None of us chatted how we thought Split's house didn't look this big on the outside.
Post Haste delivered a pencil and paper for Featherweight to write anything he wanted to say.
'Auntie Mayflower?' He wrote with his mouth. His writing was shaky, he was obviously hurting.
"Ah'm sorry Feather', we ain't seen 'er," Ah said.
He looked worse.
"Featherweight... are Shady Daze and Truffle okay?" Sweetie asked.
He wrote 'Truffle? No. Shady.' He paused. 'Not seen since,' pause again. 'Since all the lies became true.'
We all gasped. Featherweight remembered. He'd been part of the paper. Maybe like bein' in the eye of a hurricane?
"Featherweight, you know?" Button Mash, promoted to Captain of Her Royal Ship The Obvious!
'So do all of you?'
"Yes!" Button Mash yelped waving his hooves.
'Please. I need to help him. Shady. Help.'
"You're in no condition to go anywhere, Featherweight, I'm sorry," Sweetie said. Featherweight tried to flap his wings to argue, but only cringed and fell back to bed. "I promise we'll help him and everypony. I know this sounds crazy, but we're on a quest to get the world back to normal instead of a horror movie!"
Featherweight frowned sadly. 'For you? No. Save Shady.'
"We will!" Scootaloo nodded.
'And,' Pause, 'Gabby Gums too.'
"You know who Gabby Gums is?" Scootaloo asked.
'Alula, Tootsie, they're lied to. Alula thinks she's a princess.'
Scootaloo looked at us apologetically then said to Featherweight, "Alula's a clubmate of mine, I'll knock sense into her, like friends should."
"And Tootsie's guardians are friends of ours too, so same there!" Ah said, determined.
'Mr. Umbra Breeze. Not pony. MONSTER! Shadows, tentacles. NOT pony.'
"We know, he's called Upepo Shetani," Scootaloo said. "We'll kick his butt, don't worry."
'Thank you.' And he drew a heart. Scoots blushed. Then he quickly scribbled. 'Alula, Tootsie, only 2/3 Gabby Gums. Pegasus. Unicorn.'
We looked at each other. The idea that Gabby Gums was STILL a trio... it hadn't even hit us as far as Ah remembered. Pegasus. Unicorn.
Featherweight scribbled more, but it was like there was nothing there. Wait... was there more? It was faded. Even with my truth eye. It hit me.
"The last Gabby Gums is an earth pony?"
A nod. He drew a pointy circle. Then he drew a crown. Then the point circle again, and circled it. 'Cutie mark.'
"That's Gabby Gums No. 3's cutie mark?"
He nodded as well as he could. He began to write down. But again it was like he was writing nothing. But my truth saw SOMETHING.
='Fall of Homura' Madoka Rebellion=
Featherweight scribbled more and more. He drew a diamond, then a crown again. Then he drew a stick pony with wings and a horn? Featherweight grunted and threw the pencil away and coughed.
He kept coughing. He was hurting. He took a deep breath and wheezed. He looked scared, but then brave. He coughed again.
"Bluban, bluara," he blurted.
We were frozen stiff. Featherweight, he spoke.
"Die...mound... tear, era." He breathed and wheezed, and tried again. "Diamond Tiara! The third Gabby Gums is Diamond Tiara! She's an Alicorn!"
Sweetie Belle fainted.
I only took a short nap. Talking for the first time in a year for Featherweight was super tiring, and he didn't have much else to say. None of us asked what he'd gone through in the fog. We were lucky we lasted till we got the truth, he'd been in there since this all started, alone.
I woke up with my friends around me; Button Mash whistling and blushing a bit, wearing a prince costume he immediately changed out of when he saw I was looking.
I promised my friends I was alright. The normal stuff. But Apple's face said she knew I was hiding something.
No more evasions. "Girls, I know where my premonitions have been coming from." No pretenses, no speeches, just go for it Sweetie. "On Discord's Day, I was turned into a real doll, and so was another filly. We danced. Like toys. We pull parts off ourselves and switched them around. Then the rainbow happened." I gritted my teeth. I HATED having to tell this. But if I kept it hidden, it would just make things WORSE when they found out later. "We didn't switch back parts before it happened." It was public secret before the psychologists got ponies to open up, how many flat out LIED that they 'only had vague recollections' of what Discord did to them. "The other filly, it was Diamond Tiara." I ignore the gasps. "I think when I was in all that pain before the wedding must have been when Umbra Breeze got her. It's why I've known little things about Diamond, her dad, her visiting big sister Rarity to learn how to sew, yes she was. I kept coming up with excuses for how I really knew. But! Please! I don't want you guys to give up on her! Silvery doesn't deserve to lose her!"
Scootaloo sighed, "I already promised that if I'd give the bugs, I mean changelings a second chance, I'd give her one, and Dash says you shouldn't go back on your word. So that's that."
"And Ah already know she's just a spoiled filly who made some really wrong choices, not a monster that needs to get banished to Tartarus," Apple Bloom said matter of fact. "Umbra Breeze is just using Tootsie and Alula too. If this was Diamond Tiara's idea we'd be her court jesters and Silver Spoon would be Sub-Queen by now, and everypony would be sayin' how great she is. And our doubles selves would've been blank flank losers, and yours wouldn't've been pretty and nice."
Blanky grumbled and looked away from me.
"Uh, I'm with you Sweetie?" Button Mash said awkwardly.
(Button's Journal: Not good time to mention how Diamond Tiara was sounding like she was gonna turn out to be the true final boss or the fake pre-final boss.)
"Anypony surprised Diamond Tiara's an Alicorn now?" Apple Bloom asked.
"She always acted like one, and her dad treated like one, I'm surprised I'm surprised with the curse," Scootaloo said.
"Her life wasn't as perfect as it looked," I said.
"More of your psychic link with her Sweetie?" Scoots asked.
"Maybe, I dunno, I think it's just super strong feelings I get." I wish I could give better answers.
Scoots shuddered. "Wait, you exchanged parts, does that mean, mean SHE can feel really strong stuff you feel?"
My heart skipped a beat. "I don't know, I... I guess?"
My friends looked at each other.
My ears wilted. "You want me to stay here, so I can't 'spy' on you?"
"NO!" All my friends echoed. "NO way!" "No how!" "Not happening!"
"So WHAT if she knows what you're feeling? Diamond Tiara never cared about feelings, it's not gonna do her any good," Scoots said.
"You bein' with us might be why Umbra Breeze hasn't used her yet," Apple Bloom said. "He doesn't dare."
"Diamond, did tone down most of her bad stuff when I was nearby for a while before she disappeared," I thought back.
Button said, "If we tell Silvery, she'll rush off to save her... and run straight into Alula and Tootsie."
"So we're gonna lie to her?" Apple Bloom didn't look happy.
"Just not tell her," Button said.
"A lie of omission is still a lie." When did 'Bloom learn that word?
"We can tell her after we snap Diamond Tiara back to ... better," I said.
Apple Bloom snorted at being out voted, and NOT looking happy.
It was strange, Diamond Tiara had been such a regular part of our lives... for good or bad... then just poof, gone. All that time Twist said she ran away just to get attention. Filly Rich was sure she'd been foalnapped. Some of us beginning to think we'd never see her again, and for Silver Spoon that wasn't a good thing. And just like that, she slip back into our lives. No fireworks, no answers, no excitement, she was just back. It was... kinda a letdown, and was its own special brand of unreal that put horror movies to shame.
We ALL needed a break after that! Bloom, Sweetie, me, and Mash. And Featherweight needed bed rest.
Apple Bloom was listening to Lickety-Split's stories about humans and the first pony herds... a lot of the details sounded different from what I'd overheard before. Had he changed them up? Or... did he have so much heart in telling things as close to what they were, his story changed to what was right instead of the world changing to what he thought was right? Ugh. What a headache.
Post-Haste shared some of the crazier places he'd delivered mail to (insisting once he'd delivered mail to somepony called 'Ponythulu').
Did I feel bad for Featherweight and Silver Spoon? Of course I did. They WANTED to help, but we were drafted to the save the world and they weren't.
I had the demented thought of Silver, Featherweight, Split, Pip's crew, Haste, all of them, running around spreading rumors that could change things to help us, like giving us armor of invincibility and excalibur or fixing the other Elements of Harmony.
But Apple Bloom was the only one who could get us through the fog safely, Pip and his crew would just go from one high-sea adventure to the next without a guide, and Featherweight had made it by the skin of his teeth, and was pretty hurt.
And I was no Mash, but I also knew game got harder the longer you played. And if we kept changing stuff, wouldn't that just make it harder for us to fix stuff back later? My gut said changing reality tra-la-la was a BAD idea. Apple Bloom had done it sure, but only when it was do or die.
And I thought of... my parents... everypony THOUGHT I was living with Dash as her student with my parents just living far away... had that become real now? Just like Glitter Glide and the rest had lives again? If my parents just sending me to live with Dash was true now, would I see them when I save Dash? If I said so to enough ponies, could I add in them being Wonderbolts and me being a secret talent scout? I instantly imagined what my friends would say.
"That would mean the Scoots we know is just for show, and she's too cool for that!"
If the story Dash invented was true... would I still be Scootaloo, the me I am now? Dangit. Well, Glitter Glide, maybe at least we can sneak you girls into the margins.
None of us expected Spike, Twist, and Shiny Star, and Silver Spoon to leave the ship on their own! But abracadabra, knock on the door, and ta-da, there they were.
Spike explained, "It was getting boring on the ship, Shiny Star FINALLY finished cleaning down there (or we ran out of soap), we noticed we'd stopped again, so we thought we'd come ashore."
Two minutes of shaking hooves and introductions later, 'Split offered. "You guys can stay here for a while if you want."
Twist took one look at Split's place, then at her friends, and back at the way she came. She said sadly.
"I'm sthorry, Apple Bloom, I'm noth asth... brave asth you."
"It's... it's okay Twist, Ah getcha." Apple Bloom sighed and the two hugged.
"Thank you," said Shiny Star, as she placed a hoof on Silver Spoon shoulder. "We happily accept your hospitality Master Lickety-Split."
Silver Spoon looked at the maid and said, "I didn't say 'yes.'"
"Indeed Miss Silver Spoon," Shiny Star said sternly. "But your parents would."
"You're not my parents' servant!"
"No, but I am an adult, which seem to be in short supply here. And while I can't pull rank on the others, your family and Rich Filth's are still close, and I am acting in their stead, and they would never forgive each other if I allowed you to go into danger and something happened to you."
"I helped during the changeling invasion... didn't I? But... that got taken care so quickly... the changelings didn't stand a chance... why... I told Daddy we needed all the help we could... but... how could I say that if the changelings all got taken care of by the royal guard." Silver Spoon looked dizzy.
I shivered. I just realized: if the royal guard 'took care of' the changelings, was Kifuko okay, or had she been just in my head? Think positive!
Apple Bloom sighed. "Silver Spoon, Ah'm sorry, Ah really am. But... maybe it's best if ya do stay here."
"You too?! You said I helped you beat that curse!"
"Silver Spoon," she leaned in and whispered in a huddle. Button Mash was saying that 'in game' nopony should've been able to overhear them except us.
"You did help... but Ah may have only beat that thing from the inside cause Ah'm protected. Maud Pie gave us these enchanted versions of our capes, and she didn't have extras."
"You're lying, Button Mash doesn't have one."
"Ah NOT lyin'!" Bloom hissed making my fur stand on end. "An' Button's got somethin' from the princesses that helps him, and we ain't got extra and no way to get more. Ah SORRY Silver Spoon, if Ah thought Ah could tear mine in two and give ya half and it would work Ah would. Ah sorry!"
Was I that upset too?... Maybe more. But we were the targets. Maybe Silver Spoon could be safe here where nopony would look for her until we had the way to the printing press unlocked, and then she could help? Maybe? Apple Bloom's eye was deciding where we went.
Silver Spoon looked down so the light reflected off her glasses and we couldn't see her eyes. "Alright. I understand. I'm not as important as you."
"NO!" Bloom squished Silver's cheeks with her hooves. "It's because yer important ya need ta stay here... trust me."
Silver didn't stay anything, she just nuzzled Apple Bloom.
And then there was one.
Spike said, "Hey, I heard you know a lot about the age of Myths, my ancestors were a big thing back then."
"Oh I know! I have lots of stories about them you won't find anywhere else!" Split nodded enthusiastically.
"Cool! I could stay here for a good while and just-" Spike gritted his teeth. He shook his fists. He had a slight glow about him the same color as his dragon fire. "But! I promised! Twilight! I'd go with the girls! And help my friends! Twilight trusted me!" Was he... was he resisting the 'game'?
(Apple's Bloom's Diary: Ah saw trees formin' outside the more Spike fought. They weren't made out of leech-bugs or fireflies, they were ones and zeroes. They were big red trees with flowers like tiger lilies. Applejack hadn't had a day of school in her life, but made sure I did. I'd seen that tree in a book, 'dragon sneeze trees'.)
Apple Bloom poked me in the ribs and pointed outside, I saw the trees appearing. She whispered what they were.
"Spike!" I said quickly holding his claws in my hooves. "You know organization and finding info better than any pony! We can't really get back to the library or anything! We could really use the whole bunch of stuff! Your dragon breath can really help us that way!!!"
"On the sidelines?"
"You're important because you can give info and guidance when we need it!"
Apple's Bloom's Diary: Ah thought of how Nightmare Spike's dragon-port couldn't send away Abandon, and our Spike's dragon breath just sent it to Nightmare Spike. Ah was about to tell Spike that he couldn't use his dragon breath, when Ah looked at the newspaper. Ah put it together.
Ah whispered to Button Mash, "How can the newspaper update itself if sendin' somethin' from one 'level' tah another don't work?"
"Uh...maybe it's cheating? The computer always cheats."
"But yah can EXPLOIT a cheat or glitch, can't yah?"
Button Mash nodded.
"Spike!" Ah said quickly. "The curse can stop yer dragon-port from reachin' us but it can't block the newspaper! It can get through the curse since it can still update! Use that instead of the normal paper!"
"My fire breath worked for contacting my-future-son."
"Don't ask!" Scootaloo waved her forelegs at our friends.
"But that doesn't mean it'll work for us! Since, after all, he's part of you right? You should use the paper instead! Just white out what's written and write on top of it!"
"Well... okay, I guess." The green glow around him vanished, and so did the dragon-sneeze-trees. Spike grinned and scratched the back of his head. "Okay, just watch, you can count on me."
Ah wasn't happy, but Ah was relieved. At least our friends would be safe here.
"So much for the replacement Cutie Mark Crusaders," said Night Gale, finishing her crayon drawing. "Back to oblivion whence they came. Easy come, easy go."
Umbra Breeze continued to type. "I wonder what busybody meddled this time."
"And what pudding-head meddled with Apple Bloom being turned into a root of the rumor," Night Gale added.
Pharaoh of #43/#15's royal staff quivered in his grip. "We are less than pleased for this. This has gone on long enough."
"Doggy is still after them," said Night Gale.
"And they'll be no busybodies when he finds them," said Pharaoh of #43/#15.
A pitch black breezie, Stormy, holding a pearl 'crystal ball' said, "Congo line plans tend to be taken down one by one. Why have that when you can mob the idiots all at once! Time to play hardball!"
Just a bit away.
"You're about to make lots of friends little blank diamond," grinned a mass of fog outside a window to nowhere, with as many eyes as fangs.
The Nightfilly's eyes widened slightly. "...Father."
"Toosie," Alula said, "I was thinking, now that we've created utopia and everypony gets to have everything be whatever they want everything to be and are free of icky 'morals'... can you introduce me to your pirate crew?"
"Pipsqueak, Ruby, Dinky, Moonlight, and Noe?"
"Yeah! I know that I've been keeping you from your other friends a lot lately. I want to show them that I still want to be their friend too, and being my friend doesn't mean you can't be their friend. And now that our great work is done, we can explain everything we did and that you weren't ignoring them! Let's get the sisters and Bon Bon to make up some cakes and sweets to show there's no hard feelings!"
"Tootsie? How do I look?"
"You look great, Truffle!"
"Is the hat too much?"
"I don't think so! Alula! You should go to Rarity too! She can improve your magical-filly dress too!"
"Right! If she can make your costume go from perfect to super-perfect, then she can do mine too! We should go right-"
"ALULA! TOOTSIE! TRUFFLE!" The Nightfilly teleported into the middle of Tootsie's room. Her Royal Canterlot Voice echoing off the walls, then assumed her toneless voice again. "Do not go outside. Do not leave the World Tower. It's very important you don't."
"Why?" Truffle asked.
"There's... a terrible storm that's coming."
"We're magical fillies! We should go stop it!" Alula said proudly.
"I'll help!" Truffle offered.
"That's a great idea!" Tootsie said.
"No. Don't. It's a normal storm," The Nightfilly lied perfectly. "Magical fillies shouldn't meddle with it. You and your families are given special royal permission not to have to take part. Besides, don't you know storms are the best time to tell ghost stories?"
"Really?" Alula asked her friend.
"Really. I'll get the sisters to send you something, I'll join you if I can, but first I've got to check with Mr. Umbra Breeze." The Nightmare filly teleported a tomb of ghost stories (complete with some minor hexes known for making shadows wiggle and lights flicker and a class 0.1 poltergeist known for making pages flutter and unseen giggles). It'd been in the children's section of the Forbidden Wing of the Canterlot Library.
"Ooooooooh," They said as the tomb's skull face seemed to wink at them.
The Nightmare teleported away.
There was no need for the printing press, so many ponies believed this rumor to be fact already that the country was already saturated with it more deeply than any of Crawling Chaos' own work. Lies were regarded as Morning Star's weapons, with horrible, horrible truths being the weapon of Nyarlathotrot's family, but the wise knew how to mix and match.
A tube appeared in the floor, rose up, and the top flipped open, Night Gale dropped her sparkling shadow crayon drawing down the chute. It closed and the pipe vanished.
Outside on the World Tower, square flood gates opened like shutters, like a circle of dams. The ring floors of openings rumbled. And darkness and smoke with twinkling lights like those of the stars flooded out in a tidal wave! Pouring like endless toxic sludge.
No ripples, only a constant endless surge of starry darkness that hit the ground, and covered everything, rose, and continued to spread outward, the 'floor water' splashing through the fog at the speed of ashes from a volcanic eruption: washing through the fog, filling it completely, and covering the bubbles, and filling them with itself.
Auntie Mayflower barely had time to hear the rumble, as the darkness crashed into her house, solid matter offering no resistance, then it crashed through her. The old pegasus gained no horn, or earth pony strength. All that happened was her coat turned pitch black, her cutie mark gained some vague constellation traits, and her eyes turned draconic, and her mane long and flowing. She let out an insane laugh. "The night will last forever!" And May Flower within cried.
The dark flood crashed into Saint Sweet Heart's hospital. It filled all floor instantly, submerging it in moments and it was at the bottom of the 'sea' of starry darkness.
"The Night will last Forever!" Laughed Nightmare Golden Harvest/Carrot Top as the darkness consumed her body. Not gaining wings or horns, only a sparkling mane and cutie mark, dragon eyes and a blackish coat. Herself screaming on the inside as her body laughed like a lunatic.
"The Night will last Forever!" Shouted Nightmare Doc Top, his red cross now being a red star on a blackish brown body.
"The Night will last Forever!" Cackled Nightmare Doctor Stables tossing away his coat.
"The Night will last Forever!" Nightmare Sea Swirl said, the nightmare seapony crawling out of her tub.
"The Night will last Forever!" Nightmare Nursery Rhyme hopped up and down, up and down, imitating what its host would do, while inside the filly cried in fear praying to Saint Sweetheart.
"The Night will last Forever!" Nightmare DJ-PON3 shouted, while inside in her mind, Vinyl concluded she'd have rather been a sparkling vampire.
"The Night will last Forever!" Nightmare Silver Spanner/Quickfix echoed with Nightmare Thor/Mjolnir, inside the self proclaimed Norse God incarnate swore vengeance on the demon controlling her and her friend's bodies.
"The Night will last Forever!" Nightmare Glitter Glide said... and fell over, her body jerking and spasming. "What the Eternal Darkness?! WHAT? What is this?!" The Nightmare Force finding itself unable to control this body properly. It lay twitching on the floor, resisting commands. Inside, the real Glitter Glide lay surrounded by fireflies. The Nightmare Force itself held its host's head and snarled in pain, unable to escape.
"You're a lie! You're a lie! You're a lie!" Vendetta Mask screamed, hitting the bodyless dark flood shadows over the head with a bedpan. "You're a lie invented to give excuses for Celestia banishing her sister to the moon because she wanted the power all to herself! You don't exist!"
Snow Heart, covered her head head shouting as the Nightmares swept around her... and passed over her like oil and water. It felt like her very blood was a fire burning away that darkness. The Nightmare DJ tried to run her through with her horn instead.
Nurse Sweetheart, (known as Nurse Battle Axe in the uncorrupted reality), kicked Nightmare P0N-3 in the face (forgetting her vows for the moment) and grabbed her cousin and ran.
Tenderheart backed away, scared out of her mind.
Doctor Redheart grabbed Vendetta Mask, who the darkness swirl around but did not touch, and ran. "FOLLOW ME!" She shouted to her family.
Nurse Tenderheart instinctively listened to her big sister, as did Nurse Sweet Heart to her cousin. They ran. Nightmare Seaswirl rode on a wave of darkness, turned into a shadow and raced along the floor ahead of them before emerging and blocking their escape.
Nightmare Candy Swirl hopped behind them.
"We can't possess them!"
"Okay let's turn them to moon beams instead! Nothing can stop the Night from lasting forever and us ruling over all creatures!"
Something in Tender Heart's head clicked. "Excuse me. But your goal is eternal night, and to rule over all creatures... but wouldn't pony kind die out and you wouldn't be ABLE to rule them? I mean, plants would all die, so we'd all die eventually. And you wouldn't have any ponies to rule over."
Vendetta Mask screamed, "THAT'S what I've been saying this whole time but no one believes me!"
"Nightmare Moon just wanted endless night because she was jealous. What exactly do all of you want? And, she wasn't Nightmare LUNA, she was Nightmare MOON, so why would somepony else possessed by the same force NOT change their names too? And this is holy ground, shouldn't you be weaker or something?" Tender Heart continued.
The two Nightmare Forces paused and looked at each other.
"Uh, can we get back to you on-ACK!" The earth ponies trampled the Nightmare Force seapony and made due to their escape, the horde right behind them.
Meanwhile, the MoonPearl rocked violently as the 'waters' turned from mist to what could've been mistaken for a cloudy night. Some dark shapes tried to climb up the sides of the ship, but had all the success of water drops climbing up a wall.
"Batten down the hatches!" Captain Pip ordered. "Looks like a storm's a coming!"
Ruby cried when she saw nothing but the sparkling shadows and smoke all the way to the horizon. Noi and Dinky hugged her. Olo did his best to keep the ship afloat.
"Be well all our friends," Moonlight prayed as she hugged Captain Pipsqueak. Their eyes on Lickety-Split's bubble.
The darkness hit the bubble of reality holding Lickety Split's home... and split away from it, not able to fill it anymore than water could 'fill' a bubble of air.
When the darkness flood hit, one thought shook through Lickety Split's mind. He didn't believe that Princess Luna and Nightmare Moon were separate beings, nor were Princess Gaia and Nightmare Whisper. A being who wanted endless night, would have never wanted a world of endless play. And the books wouldn't have mentioned Luna's OWN bitterness and jealousy turning her INTO Nightmare Moon if it was some outsider taking control of her body. And...all those villains...Katrina, the Penguin King, Scorpan, the Lava Demons, Niblick the Troll, Draggle...If they all were bad people that turned good and became friends, then why was it so hard to believe so were Princess Luna and Gaia?...
And the darkness could not breach.
"TIMED EVENT! TIMED EVENT!" Button Mash rambled.
"No..." Sweetie whispered. "I, she feels... denied? Upset?"
"What IS THIS?" Scootaloo wondered.
"It's like the Smooze!" 'Split said.
"No..." Apple Bloom said her eyes wide, as the entire sky and fog became starry darkness and smoke. "It's the biggest tall tale of them all."
"The Nightmare Force has returned!" Silver Spoon shouted. Shiny Star hugged her. Twist whimpered and hugged Bloom. Post Haste said his prayers.
Spike shook his head and fell on his rump. "No way..."
Despair began to cover the place like a shadow, dragging the ponies and dragons down.
Blanky said nothing. He only stared. He could smell it. He could hear it. He could feel it! IT WAS COMING! One thought passed through the blank pup's mind. 'Bear traps are not meant to kill.'
The Nightmare Force part ways for IT, allowing IT pass freely, IT moved now faster than ever, sped on by the dark presence around IT.
Blanky looked at his mistress, and ran for the front door, then smashed through it, retroactively creating a doggy door. Lickity Split remembered it coming with the house.
"BLANKY!" Sweetie shouted, following her pet, her fellow CMC and Button Mash doing the same. Their friends following a bit further behind.
Little Blanky stood strong and proud, his nose upward. He knew better than all that it was pointless to run now. He growled at his mistress as she got close.
Applebloom bit Sweetie's tail. "Ah only heard Winona make that kinda growl when a Timber Wolf was gettin' close tah the house."
Then, IT came... it tore through the fog wall like they was canvas, ripping it open and squeezing through, the Nightmare Force that flowed in with it evaporated before it hit the ground, the fog wall healing behind it.
Button Mash, and his friends saw the stuff of nightmares... all the others saw was empty air, and an overwhelming feeling of fear and powerlessness that glued them to the ground.
The entire world turned faded and beige except for Blanky and the little heroes. Time slowed to halt for those around them.
A canine shaped mass of shadowed nothingness, glowing white eyes boring down on them with contempt and annoyance. It was there, but more like it was there by nothing else being there!
"Moon Howler. Hound of Tindalos. Nigneb! The Hound!" Sweetie heard herself say as the string on her heart plucked again. She looked at Blanky, the little dog standing between her and the beast. Was he scared?
Then, it SPOKE.
".yOU wILL bE rEMOVED" Its voice was like a bad recording.
Button stood next to Sweetie. "Uh...I have a feeling this might be the 'wake up call boss'."
It took one step forward, Blanky howled and leapt at it, it swatted Blanky aside, not taking its eyes off the foals. The pup bounced once, and skidded on the ground.
Sweetie Belle gasped, looking at her pet, and then to the monster before them.
"WHAT THE HAY ARE YA!? Yer not a curse! Or a shadow!"
".eATER oF wHAT dOESN'T bELONG .dOESN'T mATTER .bE dELETED"
Blanky snarled and then time, he vanished into the ground, and reappeared under the Hound's belly, clawing it, and cutting through its veil of darkness. The Hound struck Blanky away again, this time towards the foals.
The foals' hearts skipped a beat at the real sight of it: It had eyes covering its head like spiders. Its mouth was like a lamprey’s. Its fur was dark dark green; three huge claws were on each paw. Its tail like a lion's, its ears long and pointed. It stood bigger than a polar bear. Its eyes... Sweetie realized, were exactly the same as Nurse Red Crystal's!
It looked at Blanky. ".rESETTING iS tOO gOOD fOR yOU .eRASURE"
"OVER YOUR DEAD BODY!" A flame of black magic struck it in the eye, it howled in pain.
"YOU BIG BULLY!" Sweetie Belle shouted. Her horn and eyes blazing fiery green. "Now you're gonna get it!"
Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Button Mash didn't need to be told to join in.
"Nopony likes a random unexplained boss! Get lost!" Button Mash drew his sword.
Scoot's wings shone blue. Apple Bloom stomped her hooves. Blanky got up and howled again. Sweetie nuzzled him.
The Hound looked confused, surprised. ".yOU fEAR tHE uNKNOWN . tIS yOUR nATURE"
Sweetie growled. "You're not the unknown. I know exactly what you are."
".tHIS iS yOUR uNBEGIN"
Apple Bloom's eyes focused like those of an artist. "The unknown is scary because it ain't got a face. Yah've got a pretty ugly one!" She ordered. "Cutie Mark Crusaders, charge!"
= 'I'm My Own Master Now' (Platinum Lyrics) Metal Gear Rising =
To Be Continued...