"""""You wanted Nightmares who were alien parasites?! I'LL GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES WHO ARE ALIEN PARASITES!"""""
Echoed Umbra Breeze and his other parts. They were atop the black balcony on the edge of the royal hamlet on top of the World Tower inhabited by the world's new lords and their families and servants. Nyarlathotrot had wanted an ominous all-seeing eye, but the 'princesses' had wanted a quaint place to watch the sky. Discord had agreed with the princesses because the flaming eyeball would make sense, and what fun is there in making sense?
Letting out an almost equine sigh, The Nightfilly of Diamond Tiara look down at the flood of starry darkness that now covered the land below.
'I would say... this has become rather routine. Not chaotic.'
"It was becoming that already, father," The true Nightmare said, matter-of-factly. She was certain if she could still feel emotion, she'd feel disgust and scandalized at the parasitic send-ups below. "Uncle is a virus, all he cares about is spreading. Once the monsters had killed all the victims, what would be left? Monsters killing monsters?"
'This isn't what I wanted. I just wanted to SHOW Celly, Lulu, Pops, that everycreature is HAPPIER being an evil jerk! Where ponies never feared doing wrong because there is no wrong! Sure that means there's just the bullied and the bullies. But it inspires the bullied to push their way up to the top and become the bullies. No different from the 'haves' and 'have-nots.' All incentive for them to move up the ladder as big sister would say! None of that friendship and harmony garbage holding them back! Celly's certainly happier with those annoying inhibitions gone, lot more fun too... You think it would have set in the first time I showed her. And they'd all accept I was just having MY fun! If somepony could turn me into their plaything then obviously it was their right to, OW! The irony meter broke the needle!'
"And now every pony is just possessed by a discarded the-second-shadow-who-makes-all's note picked up by the secondary heart world's makers."
'…We need to come up with shorter names for those things, methinks. And exactly! Not what I wanted!'
"Feeling regret, father?"
'My beautiful little filly, I'm a concept, a force of nature, it's scientifically impossible for me to feel regret. It's just… somehow I feel like I've made this boo-boo before.'
"I thought feeling nothing BUT regret was the only thing that separated Alicorns from Nightmares."
'I'm sure, my sweat dear, there are Nightmares that feel no regrets. It just means you're not of that 'all in one, one in all' sort.'
"Given how close we are, perhaps I'm effecting you?"
'Dear, your daddy is far too strong-willed for me to wish to undo my non-existent oopsie-poos.'
"Shoo be doo! The night will last forever! Shoo Shoo be doo! Just signal SOS!" shouted the pitch black seaponies around Pip's pirate ship.
"If we must hear their song once more, we shall go mad!" Moonlight declared.
"I sorta like it," said Dinky.
"The night shall last forever!" Said a possessed changeling, bobbing on the surface of the nightmare flood. She then shape changed into a pony with butterfly wings and antenna. "Utterflutter the sky with endless night!"
'In retrospect, two thousand years after the fact, the whole 'flutterpony collection thing'...might have been, kinda, sorta, maybe, not the same thing as intelligent on my part. Oh Queen Rosedust squirming WAS fun... for a while until dying was all she wanted, why I gave her to Shady to begin with... yeah. I think I meant to enchant those nails so they'd live... or maybe they did and I forgot to feed them. Probably because I was preoccupied playing catch the giant ball of molten caramel with some giant-somethings-or-others and they were being very stubborn about losing. I mean, once sometoy is dead, there's no way I can play with them! I never did like Mortis. He's so final. And chaos doesn't like final. Another reason Mom and I never got along well. There's no chaos in the last big burn out! There's no chaos in paradise! And there's no chaos in eternal punishment... you think it would be paradise for my old mentor. Geeze! Alicorns! Mom's boring but She has the right idea, if someconcept is a threat, get rid of them. Don't just lock them up like Celly's parents do.'
"Perhaps then it's my link to Sweetie Belle?"
'Yes! I'll accept that answer! I guess it's a good thing Nythy's pet hotdog is going to erase her from...Hmmmm... you know I never did find out if those fillies squabbling broke me free or just sped up my release. OH WHAT THE HAY! I don't know! It'll be EXCITING to see if her erasing gets me locked up, and undoes all of this! Then again, things are such a retroactive mess who can say WHAT will happen! It'll be a fun gamble! For all I know maybe we'll be stuck on a sitcom because reality was that desperate not to fall apart!'
The Nightfilly regarded the ocean of curses. "...Father... did I kill Neatly Spell?"
The Nightfilly tone remained monotonous. "Is that a straight answer I'm hearing from you?"
Umbra Breeze laughed. "You help caused all this, and you wonder if you snuffed out one insignificant mortal, what a joke!"
'... You had better clean up this mess after your doggy takes care of Cadence's toys, Cousin.'
"Heh. What makes you think I can call it off? This rumor is like a virus, it won't stop until it infects everything."
'Did you just say, 'Please oh pleeeeeease rip up my green card?''
"You made this world one of my stories, do you really think it's that easy to get rid of me? I'm the tone of this story, and only the proof I don't belong here can get rid of me, and I KNOW you'd never do that. Because it'd be proof neither do you."
'I have a heart world twin, you twit! I'll always be a bajillion times more 'belong here' than you!'
"And your heart world self surrendered to Harmony's whims and became a slave to friendship."
'Psh. As if that's ever stopped the shadows-who-make. One world line had Moon Dancer become active with the Elements of Harmony before she was ever noticed in the heart world, and she was a shameless spy and backstabber for the true villains of her world line. Do you think that world line's shadow-who-makes is about to rewrite one of his villains just cause?'
"The only difference between us is that my life story isn't a convoluted disaster."
A giant fly swatter struck Stormy, who was flipped up like a spatula flips a burger. And Stormy was jammed into a small jar with holes.
'Don't get too big for your breeches, Cousin.'
Umbra Breeze frowned. "Point taken... Cousin."
The Nightfilly tossed the jar back and forth between her hooves, considering dropping it into the dark ocean below.
"Father... I wonder if I could get ponies to assimilate the Nightmare Forces, devour the parasites from the outside in, then they'd truly be Nightmares... if a different breed."
'A BRILLIANT idea, my little filly! Start looking into that.'
The jar containing Stormy teleported into Tootsie's bedroom.
'Hey, kids! If you shake this jar hard enough, it makes the fairy pony inside glow in the dark!'
"COOL!" The foals exclaimed, gathering around.
= 'I'm My Own Master Now' (Platinum Lyrics) Metal Gear Rising =
The little heroes charged the Hound head-on, then scattered in every direction but forwards, leaving it clawing and biting air.
'Alright, Apple Bloom, ya took charge. Five of us, and one of him. He's got eyes all 'round his head, so catchin' 'em off guard is gonna be a lot harder.'
Thankfully, the Hound didn't seem interested in attacking any of their friends who were frozen in time (or was it these heroes who were the ones caught in the space between time?).
Primary target Cadenza Temperance undetected: Possibility concealing herself in the shadow of one of the foals or possessed by Nightmare Force flood.
Multiple disruptions found. Isolate and exterminate, one by one!
= Feeling Good (Instrumental) - My Little Pony =
Sweetie began to sing; a simple, worldless upbeat vocal.
As the music flowed through them, the little heroes all felt slightly stronger, braver, and sharper. The Hound, meanwhile, whined and quivered involuntarily, experiencing the sensation of a thousand needles prick its body.
Just when it seemed to Apple Bloom that Sweetie could just sing the monster into running away, it roared. And the waves of its howl protected it from further music-based damage. So much for a quick win. But so what? The CMC+1 were four foals with one truth -- they'd help Blanky just like everypony had been helping them!
The Hound stormed toward its most logical target: Sweetie Belle. Sweetie cast a flash spell (had she known that spell before?), blinding it long enough for Apple Bloom to lob a bag of Zecora's illusion powder right in its many, many eyes.
"Scootaloo! Idea!" Button Mash shouted. His teammate flew towards him unhesitant, and a moment later Scootaloo flew up Button Mash and dropped him right above the beast with his sword pointed down.
Even with its hampered vision, the Hound had eyes to spare, and rose up to eat the foal alive, which exposed its underbelly which had been struck before by Blanky. Sweetie managed a minor spell blast right at the wound, disorienting it. Blanky bit its rear ankle, and it fell over on its back.
Button Mash's sword dove straight through the underside injury Blanky had made with tremendous momentum. Before the creature could rip Button Mash to non-existence, Scootaloo grabbed Button Mash in a flyby blur, leaving the beast clawing air again.
"Don't let him claw or bite you! Not even once!" Sweetie warned, her heart telling her.
The Hound rolled on its belly, leaving a black bloodstain, and leapt at Apple Bloom as though from a springboard. Apple Bloom may have been a foal, but that also meant she was SMALL; she fell down flat on her belly, and the monster leapt over her, just barely missing her bow. Upon landing, the Hound rebounded right at the foal, its mouth opened like a flower in bloom, displaying a circle of inward-pointing teeth. There was nowhere for Apple Bloom to buck in return.
Then the Oblivion Trophy was lodged down its throat, delivered by a fast-flying orange bomber and a beanie-wearing bombardier. The monster rolled backwards, bounced once, choking, twisting left and right as its claws tried to pull the object out of its mouth.
Button smirked as Apple Bloom got to her hooves. "Told ya completing optional side quests help out later!"
Sweetie didn't waste the chance to fire several blasts of angry black magic at the monster, leaving smoking holes in its hide. Blanky could only stay at her side.
The Hound finally pulled the trophy out of its mouth, (made all the harder by the fact that lamprey jaws such as his were made to not allow food to escape). The trophy landed by Button Mash's side, covered in slobber and other things.
"Ick!" Button Mash cringed.
Letting out an angry new howl, the Hound's body was then covered in its shroud of cloudy black nothing again.
Blanky slipped into the ground as a shadow to attack it from below again. But this time, the Hound stomped on the ground, knocking the pup away and out of the ground.
"Don't try to attack it!" Sweetie screamed at the top of her lungs.
Apple Bloom didn't need to be told that, when looking at it now... with her truth's eye the Hound was just a hole, like the kind they'd all almost fallen into at the red-light house. But she saw something else as well.
The Hound made another dive for Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo grabbed her at lightning speed and zoomed out of its invincible path. So it turned its attention towards Button Mash instead; not in a mad leap this time, but intentionally and directly.
Sweetie remembered what Chrysalis taught her. "He's baiting us! Button's not the target! YOU are, Scootaloo!"
The Hound didn't flinch at being found out; soon enough the inconsistency who had just humiliated it would find herself deleted. The foals only choice was who they'd lose first.
"Scoots can ya follow my line of sight?"
"Sweetie, magic up Scoot's wing blade!"
Sweetie obliged. Blue and green magic complimented each other.
"Cut at the angle Ah'm showin'!" Apple Bloom angled her hoof just so.
As if the Hound would let them do whatever it was they were going to do! Its prime target flew right towards it, moving in a zigzag as she closed in, rearing up her right wing, then pirouetted and cut with the left wing?!
And Scootaloo's wing blade, cut through the Hound's shroud of nothingness! It ripped open, leaving the Hound a creature of mass and volume again.
Impossible. An atomic bomb couldn't have done that! No mortal force could cut nothing!
The Hound did not smell odors, it smelled souls, and underneath the scent of the unicorn filly, it smelled something else. And the farm filly, something else was there.
The Hound drew in a breath.
".yOU bREAK tHE lAWS oF nATURE .wE aRE rIGHT tO fEAR yOU, lITTLE fILLY"
"The truth sees yer a flawed copycat!"
The Hound snarled as it was rapid-fire stabbed from behind in its behind. It turned to see the brown colt, smirking at him, having attacked it in its only true blind spot.
Button Mash stopped smirking when the Hound wrapped its tail around the colt's neck, lifting him up in the air, his little face turning blue. An orange streak of light cut open the tail; the pain forced the beast to release its grip. Button knelt on his back legs and coughed as he was pulled away by Sweetie's magic.
With the rest of the CMC gathered around its rear, the Hound made a beeline for Apple Bloom, then dived into the ground like Blanky had, then emerged as smoke along the angles of existence behind the foal. Too far away for the others to do anything and Sweetie already using her magic.
But Apple Bloom was ready this time, and bucked one of the items Button Mash had bought from Zecora; the golden apple, right down the monster's throat.
The beast still smashed into Apple Bloom knocking her back and making her skid far across the ground, making her right side feel like it was on fire. Thank goodness for Earth Pony durability! "Guess that apple wasn't a waste of rupees after all," she remarked.
The Hound fell like a jar of acid had broken open in its belly. Then it got bucked in the eyes with apples as hard as rocks. This was insane! Their tricks shouldn't work at all!
"Baby crabapples are harder than some trees," Apple Bloom stated proudly.
A solid punch of wind from Scootaloo deflected its claws as the filly retreated, but the Hound lumbered after her relentlessly, only a moment behind her. Apple Bloom was sickened by the reality that it'd been Sunny Town, not the cockatrice, nor Nightmare Moon, nor this horror world, that'd conditioned her to run for her life, for all she had, for all she was, and now had enough experience to duck when Button Mash came flying at her from the opposite direction.
Why did Button Mash looked good as new? Healing magic? His sword glowed with Sweetie's magic, as Scootaloo threw him like a torpedo. The sword cut through the monster as he sped past it. Blanky, meanwhile did the same, leaping off Button Mash's back and onto the face of the Hound, clawing out some of its eyes and raking its back. The Hound rolled over to crush him, but Blanky slipped into the ground as a shadow and sped away.
The beast continued to roll instead of letting its exposed wound be attacked again by the unicorn's black magic, returning to an upright position.
"AH SEE RIGHT WHERE TA HURT EM! Follow my eyes!" Apple Bloom shouted.
= Intertwined - Wonderful 101 =
Sweetie sliced and hammered the Hound with black magic while eating candy like it was Nightmare Night, her horn following Apple Bloom's gaze, hitting sensitive spots the Hound hadn't even known it had!
[=Make a New Friend Every Day - My Little Pony G3 - Starsong's Party=]
Sweetie sung the wordless vocals of a song the new part of her soul remembered, causing the beast to shudder and let out another counter-howl.
Scootaloo followed Apple Bloom's eyes, promptly flying around the Hound in a tight circle to dizzy the beast, practically dancing between its instant-nonexistence-slashes before slamming into the beast's stomach with the built-up speed. The image of Rainbow Dash performing similar moves on clouds went through her mind as the force of the blow and her momentum propelled it into the air. Black blood spurted from the Hound's maw, and Scootaloo propelled herself back to her friends using the monster itself as a springboard.
"Give me a boost!" Button called, charging forwards.
Sweetie and Scootaloo crossed forelegs, allowing Button to do a front flip onto their crossed hooves and boosted his jump straight above the Hound.
Envisioning a pony from his O-Celest video game helping Celest defeat a big dragon with the Sword of Luna, the colt did a front flip and brought his sword down right on the beast's back, Neighponese kanji for 'great god' manifesting as the blow was struck.
As the wounded beast fell to the ground, Apple Bloom took a stance; her mind's eye seeing her big sister bucking an apple tree, while using both the artist eye and truthful eye she'd been granted to aim carefully. Right as the Hound came down, she delivered her best apple bucking kick to its exposed back in the exact same place Button had slashed into it, knocking the Hound to its side.
'.tHESE oDDS aRE nO lONGER dESIRABLE !bACK-uP rEQUIRED'
The Hound turned into a shadow and climbed onto the top of Lickety-Split's house and let out a howl that made the foals' coats stand on end and rattled their bones.
Pushing their way in like thorns through skin, nearly a half-dozen monsters clamored their way in, Nightmare Force spilling inwards like black blood. At first the foals mistook them for walking trees. They weren't. They were beasts of tentacles, arms, trunks, black flesh and living armor. No eyes or mouths were visible, or at least the foals didn't THINK they had any. Maybe? The way they couldn't focus on details reminded them of Abandon.
"Dark Spawn," Sweetie whispered, not caring how she knew.
The five Dark Spawn towered over the foals, semi-circling as the Hound leapt down leaving them the only 'exit' through it.
Instead of forming a defensive circle, or trying to go through the Hound as it had expected, the foals attacked the Dark Spawn. Nopony spoke strategy, no vote, no hesitation! The foals merely attacked them head on!
"?wHAT ?!aRE yOU aLL iNSANE"
The foals didn't dignify The Hound with an answer.
Like a demented bumblebee, Scootaloo zipped about, her wing blade scoring only superficial damage to the open spots of the alien horror, but getting it angrier and angrier. Scootaloo landed on what MIGHT have been its face (maybe, kinda), and zipped out of the way just as it struck the spot itself with enough force it fell over backwards unconscious, with a huge dent in its own body… landing with a thunderous crash.
Blanky moved like a ghostly white lightning bolt, leaping from limb to limb, severing flesh branch after flesh branch. By the time the Dark Spawn struck where it had been, Blanky had already torn off another appendage. The creature fell to what MIGHT have been its knees, wailing in pain, unable to do anything.
Button Mash struck a pose, holding out his sword at angle behind him. His sword sparkled and gleamed, as he spun like a whirlwind around the Dark Spawn. Until Button Mash finally slowed to a dizzy stop with little Sweetie Belles dancing around his head.
The Dark Spawn let out an incomprehensible cry and smoke came out of wounds sliced into it...then fell backwards, twitching slightly, what might have been mistaken for eyes, (if it had eyes, maybe) replaced by swirls.
Apple Bloom's truth showed her where to strike, where to put the muscles of a little earth pony to work. She was no Big Mac, let alone Applejack, and she faced a monster whose autonomy was completely alien, but with the truth guiding her vision and her hooves, she made every scrap of her strength count, hitting points of its body the Dark Spawn had never thought even vulnerable. Its body froze up, and fell over backwards like a chopped tree.
Sweetie Belle… did you even need to ask? The magic surge of black magic that burst through her sent green lightning through the Dark Spawn's entire being, lighting up its unfathomable insides, and it fell over like its sibling, leaving a scorched twitching heap.
The foals turned from their defeated foes.
"Get 'em out of here! They ain't gonna be fightin' anypony for a good long while!"
The Hound snapped out of its shock. Had this farm filly given the Hound of Tindalos an order?!
"!tHOU aRT dEAD"
The Hound saw red and charged at Apple Bloom, its only thought to rip her to shreds, blind to all else, its lamprey mouth making strange suction motions. The unicorn and the colt were still recovering. The outdated pup was too weak to stop the assault. No orange bullet, no matter how fast, could stop a boulder on the roll! The Dark Spawn had blocked the foals from simply running with their own downed forms. She couldn't escape! She was the one who held the poison to the world! She was doomed! He'd won!
Scootaloo pushed her UNDERNEATH HIM!? Skidding her two front hooves on the ground, Apple Bloom turned, and her eye saw the truth of where to strike. She apple-bucked the Hound upwards, right in the wound Blanky and Button Mash had made, at the same point in its backbone they'd hammered before. And in one magic surged moment, with the sound of a sickening CRACK, she knocked the Hound back and onto its back with a thud, shaking the ground.
".eNOUGH .yOU wERE dOOMED fROM tHE sTART .yOU jUST dIDN'T kNOW iT .tHIS gAME iS oVER .gOOD-BYE .yOU nEVER hAD a cHANCE .hEAR tHE wORD oF yOUR dOOM"
"Zargoth! Zargoth! Zargoth! Zargoth! Zargoth! Zargoth! Zargoth!"
Before the foals' eyes, Spike, Silver Spoon, Twist, Lickety-Split, Shiny Star, and Post-Haste's eyes all turned pitch black with red pinpoint centers. Tentacles sprouted from their bodies, they grew second mouths full of sharp teeth on their stomachs, and trotted upside down with their backs to the ground like spiders towards the heroes. Black ichor dripped from their heads as their hooves split into claws. Their cutie marks become gooey red 'z's on a black splotch.
Button Mash screamed, shouting, "No! NO!" Over and over again as he held his sword, trembling.
Scootaloo lost her lunch. Sweetie Belle looked confused and tilted her head innocently.
Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. She and Blanky shared an annoyed look and looked back at the Hound. "Yer pathetic. That's all ya got left? Ya really got nothin' if that's the only move ya have left."
"You call turning our friends into zombie-morphs pathetic?!" Scootaloo shouted. Enraged at this horrific world again throwing such a cheap shot at them.
Sweetie Belle blinked. "What!? But can't you see-"
"That ain't our friends!" Apple Bloom shouted as the horde shambled close. Apple Bloom picked up the Oblivion Trophy from where it lay. "These here are pranks to scare Nightmare-Nighter!" Apple Bloom tone was of a pony insulted. The horde of things that were once their friends fell upon Apple Bloom, enveloping her, her voice added to the chant of "Zarogth! Zargoth!"
Button and Scootaloo gaped in horror. Sweetie looked at her friends confused. Blanky didn't even react.
Then the Hound was struck by an invisible pony in the head with the strength of earth pony and fell on its side. Then the horde vanished, their real friends reappeared where they'd been since they slipped in the space between moments, and the real Apple Bloom stood there, looking both angry and annoyed, holding the Oblivion Trophy in both hooves, now the trophy had a big dent in it and she tossed it over her shoulder.
"DID YA REALLY THINK CHEAP ILLUSIONS WERE GONNA WORK ON ME?!"
"Illusions?! ILLUSSIONS?!" Scootaloo screamed an ancient pegasus war cry (invented by the centaurs) and flew at the beast.
"Full combo-attack!" Button Mash shouted close behind. So was Blanky, followed by Sweetie.
Now it was the monster who tried to escape, He began to slip into the ground as a shadow, only for Button Mash to do a front flip and stab its tail to the ground. "OH NO YOU DON'T!"
The monster's back legs and tail were no longer moving, the Hound's movements were slowing, its body now covered in cuts and bruises, stained black with its blood.
Scootaloo, Button, and Sweetie with edged-wing, hooves, and magic pounded on the horror.
"Now just give up!" Apple Bloom shouted. "Yah ain't got nothin' left. Not strength, not fancy tricks, and nothin' to scare us with we ain't already seen. And yer back is BROKEN! It's over!"
The other foals stopped immediately at Apple Bloom's words that the monster was paralyzed.
"!a hOUND oF tINDALOS nEVER gIVES uP iTS pREY"
"You can't win this anymore, you idiot!" Scootaloo snarled.
".tO nOTHINGNESS wITH yOU"
It tried to claw away with its forelegs by steer strength, but found them lifted off the ground by Sweetie Belle's magic, Sweetie sweating and trembling from the effort, looking ready to collapse into the ground, she wouldn't last long.
It was all Blanky needed. Blanky spared one look at the foals. In the space of a moment, the CMC+1 saw Blanky grow several times bigger, tackling the monster from above, putting his jaws around its neck.
"!mE wolF !!!noT yoU"
The foals looked away as Blanky's jaws closed.
Pharaoh/Umbra Breeze/Night Gale/Stormy screamed, holding their necks, the shadows themselves twisting.
And an instantly later, Blanky was again a white ghostly puppy. The Hound was nowhere to be seen. The watercolors style had returned to Split's little world opposed to the beige overlay it had while frozen.
The black sparkly smoke outside the bubble... remained outside.
"That's the most freaky high speed blurs I've ever seen!" Spike said, "Girls, what did you just do! You're a mess and, WHAT ARE THOSE THINGS?!" Spike pointed at the downed Dark Spawn.
The CMC+1 all looked at each other and sighed. Blanky licked his mistress and her friends.
A few minutes later, Button Mash had put the dented Oblivion Trophy back in his inventory, not wanting to see it ever again, but real gamers held onto every achievement and trophy.
"So you didn't see a...really big and ugly dog monster?" Apple Bloom asked cagily.
"Just the really big and ugly tree monsters!" Silver Spoon said. Spike and the others said much the same. "It was like time sped up by a million for you, I didn't have time to think what was happening before it stopped."
"Just monsters attacked, tried to kill us, we fought 'em off," Apple Bloom said, since that was the truth.
"It's scary how easily you can say that," Silver Spoon said.
"With all the monsters around Ponyville?" Apple Bloom asked.
"Yes, no, maybe? Ugh! I have a headache again!"
The others gave similar testimony. Lickety Split admitted he had never heard of these living tree monsters before. "They don't look like Flories to me."
"Silver Spoon," Apple Bloom said, "For what it's worth, if we could get ya and Spike to come along with us, (even with Miss Shiny Star not wantin' ya to get hurt), Ah'd gladly accept yer help, we're all in this together. But like Ah said, we don't have anymore 'protect us from the bad stuff' items. Ah'd be askin' ya to go into a blizzard in the Frozen North at night naked, and Ah'm never doin' that!"
The foals hugged. Then Silver Spoon shivered. "And I'd rather not know what Button Mash had to do to get 'protection' from Princess CELESTIA."
Apple Bloom couldn't say she wasn't hurt at Silver Spoon thinking Princess Celestia, PRINCESS CELESTIA, their sun goddess, would EVER do anything bad to her ponies. Ponies' trust in Princess Celestia was part of what gave Equestria her strength, even little Apple Bloom knew that. Only Princess Celestia was perfect.
Button seemed equally confused. How could the nice mare who'd taken him to the moon just to be nice do anything super mean?
On the bright side, the 'strange appearance' of the 'tree monsters' and the CMC+1 'speeding up' there, had taken the others' minds off of the flood of darkness now all around them. The fight with the Hound had taken the CMC+1's minds off of it too, and none of the foals DARED bring it up right now least the floodgate of fear and worry came crashing down in all their hearts.
Next came pushing the Dark Spawn outside of Lickety Split's bubble. Spike, Silver Spoon, Twist, Shiny Star, Post Haste, and Lickety Split, all loaned their brute strength (or magic in Shiny's case) here.
It was really no different from moving logs, except these logs were alive, made alien noises, and would have likely eaten them if they weren't so beat up.
"I'm not sure these things comprehend mercy," Sweetie whispered, almost surprised at herself to hear herself say it, and actually SCARED she could say it.
"Lucky for them we do," Apple Bloom said matter of fact with no room for discussion as they pushed the last one out into the Nightmare Force flood.
"Maybe this will teach 'em?" Button Mash questioned. "That's how you get allies in a lot of games."
"Would feel a lot more like Equestria that way," Scootaloo remarked.
After that came the bath. Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo weren't known for them, their families might've fainted at them wanting one. But they were covered in monster gunk, and not-meant-to-know.
A part of Apple Bloom wondered why she was surprised that the plumbing was still safe and had water in spite of being in a pocket reality surrounded by a flood of an imaginary evil alien parasite magic thingie brought to life by a curse. There were times it just wasn't worth overthinking every little thing.
Button Mash and the fillies didn't once object to taking a bubble bath together, and would have found Button Mash getting the whole tub to himself after they were done just plain weird. It wasn't like they didn't see each other naked constantly anyway.
Blanky, of course, had a perfectly clean coat in spite of everything. Sweetie regarded her pet, with a bit of fear. Had he not been able to do that before? Had he been waiting for the right time? Would he do it again? Had he found the strength in that one moment like a pony's magic surge?
Blanky saw the reaction on his mistress' face and whined and nuzzled her hoof.
As the foals cleaned the filth off themselves, Apple Bloom said, "Ah can't believe... did we really... did we really make somecreature never-heard-from-again?"
The foals all froze.
"Well," Scoots laughed nervously. "It was technically Blanky, and maybe it... ya know... just got magically sent away somewhere?"
"We're the ones who held'em down as Blanky did the deed, we're as much a part of it as him."
"Girls," Button said, "It was a monster, ya know, pure evil?"
Sweetie said, "So was Discord, Sunny Town, Nightmare Moon, Queen Chrysalis... but... we never made them never-heard-from-again. And they weren't crippled when it happened. I just thought, we'd turn him to stone or something. Maybe banish him back where he came from... or seal him away somewhere."
"We... never had to, make somecreature never-heard-from-again before," Apple Bloom admitted.
"What about that evil you inside you at Sugarcube corner?" Scootaloo asked.
"That was just the part of me the curse got hold of and Ah had to free. Ah didn't make 'er, vanish."
"What about what happened to the bug-pony, sorry, changeling queen?"
"That wasn't on purpose," Sweetie said. "Cadence was trying to BEAT her, not kill her."
"That's supposed to make it all better when she turned to ash?" Scootaloo asked.
"No," Sweetie sighed, "But, we're ponies, we're supposed to find a better way, we're the GOOD GUYS! What if that Hound used to be the same as Blanky, but evil magic MADE HIM that way?"
Blanky growled and furiously shook his head. Looking insulted.
"Okay, scratch that idea," Sweetie said, "I'm just worried... we're facing our friends and family turned into monsters... what if... what if we end like
Fiesta Flaire wanted us? Making ponies never-heard-from-again because they were turned into monsters when it wasn't even their fault?"
"We won't!" Apple Bloom said firmly, splashing her hoof down. "We are NOT becoming that! Not now! Not ever! Ah SAW Sweetie Belle! The truth doesn't lie! He wasn't under any kinda curse! He wasn't turned into something he wasn't! There weren't one of those slug-things in him, if anythin' it was like he was in one of them. He wasn't somecreature TURNED into a monster, he was what he chose to be! . . . Ah just... Ah just don't LIKE IT! Ah don't LIKE that we had to let Blanky do that! Ya HEARD'EM! That monster HAD A FAMILY, and now they got an empty chair. I don't WANT to bring that on ANYPONY."
Sweetie thought of how the eyes of the Hound and of Nurse Red Crystal were alike, Sweetie thought of how awful the Nurse was, tried to kill'er, and Sweetie still wouldn't want her to lose a member of her family.
Scootaloo stayed silently crossing her forelegs and looking down at the water lapping in the tub and the fizzle of little bubbles.
"Fluttershy," Scootaloo said. Her friends all looked at her. "Remember? The times she foalsat us and Silver Spoon? And when she was acting weird? She told us how some animals eat other animals, and it's not them being evil."
"But we have SMARTS, they don't," Sweetie said.
"I've played a lot of video games, I know I know, I mean, I've played a lot of games where you have to make choices, and not all of them are good/bad choices. But... here? He wasn't gonna eat us because he was hungry or under mind control, like Apple Bloom said. And we gave him a chance to give up, but...he didn't take it."
The colt looked strangely thoughtful. "...In my games, I never really care about my KO count or anything...I just want to stop help every pony and save the world...that's more important to me than how many monsters I beat, and if I can choose to spare somepony, I do. Even if it doesn't get me a reward. I like the good-path whenever it's there. I don't like it either we made him never-heard-from-again... I'm just glad we had each others backs and kept each other safe."
"... Maybe... " Sweetie said, "Maybe it's BECAUSE we don't like it, that we know we aren't going to become like that. Maybe that we hate it, means we're gonna keep looking for the right way to save the others? Like Tootsie? Alula? And Diamond Tiara?"
"Just 'cause it's the right thin' to put down a rabid animal don't mean it's somethin' ya should get used to doin'," Applebloom replied. "If ya can save it? Yer gonna do yer best to."
"AGH! I don't wanna think about this crude!" Scootaloo flap her wings, spraying her friends. "We saved our friends! And each other! And kick the butt of a big bad monster!"
"And..." Apple Bloom smiled. "We did it TOGETHER! Us! Not Doctor Hooves! Not Nightmare Applejack and her friends! Not Razzaroo! Not Trixie! Us together! We did it!"
"Since Silver Spoon isn't here, I'll say it! I just wanna be a foal again for five minute while we splash each other with bubbles! Umbra Breeze's outta trump cards! We'll take'em down! Just you watch!" Scootaloo declared.
"Not quite outta cards," Apple Bloom pointed out a window at the sparkly dark Nightmare Force beyond their bubble, hoping Pipsqueak and crew were okay.
"Meh," Scootaloo said to the flood of sapient dark magic covering the land. "I'm not scared. Not anymore." Scootaloo thought to when the three of them had hid under a table at the sight of Nightmare Moon. "We can take it. We'll figure out something. It would stupid for the 'game' to end right here. You said it yourself, there has to be a way to win."
"And if we can't, maybe one of those other groups will do something," Sweetie Belle said.
"Don't count on it Sweetie, sorry, we're the game's 'heroes' we expected to do everything, remember?" Button reminded her.
"Maybe. Or somepony else'll get a 'level' where they're the heroes," Apple Bloom said. "At any rate, Ah'm sure we'll figure out somethin' from all of Lickety Split's books."
"We CAN do it!" Sweetie said.
"We WILL do it!" Scootaloo said. "We'll save the world! Then maybe we can finally get back to crusading!"
Apple Bloom blushed at her friends' two cutie marks and then her own blank flank.
"Now don't go starting that again." Sweetie giggled cutting Apple Bloom off, giving her a nuzzle. "We're Crusaders till the end!"
"Ya got that right!" Apple Bloom laughed, feeling light and happy.
"And friends too," Button smiled, patting the filly on the back, not letting himself be left out. "Right?"
"Couldn't agree more!"
The foals all hugged in the bathtub. Promising to be ready for whatever came next.