I let the lantern fall from my mouth. I'd been good all my life at being unseen and unheard. Better than making a fuss, like foals were supposed to, better than starting a mess.
I'd been told it was very important that I get to the Tower at the center of the world: where Diamond Tiara was. Where she, Alula and Tootsie now ruled over this vomited nightmare the world was now. I didn't even know if my family was okay.
Then I was told that it was best if I traveled alone.
"How DARE YOU ask a foal something like that?! If none of you will go and be a bodyguard, I will!" Shiny Star hissed.
It'd almost turned into an all-out hoof-fight.
But she was told that anypony who went with me would be in more danger than me, and possibly ADD to my danger, that 'stealth missions are easier with only one set of hoofsteps to hide.'
I wondered if Shady Daze was okay. He'd been on the writing staff too, after all, so how had Alula, Diamond Tiara, Tootsie, and the monster treated him? At least Umbra Breeze is gone for good.
I was told how, "Ya gotta be brave, braver than ya've been in yer entire life, the fate of the world depends on them." Yes, I was scared.
I'd been told, "The lantern will guide yer way, help ya bypass trouble on the way to the Tower, avoid the nasties lurkin' in the fog, and avoid bubbles that're holdin' ponies twisted into bad ponies. If ya just rely on yer talents, yer courage, common sense, and yer heart, ya'll make it through."
I'd even come across Cheerilee's school... but the printing presses weren't in the basement any longer. The Countess was giving an emergency performance for the foals still there... but I had a quest to fulfill... no matter how badly I wanted to stay.
I also came across Nurse Red Heart's Hospital. It was nasty on the outside, and weird on the inside, but the lantern had to have guided me here for a reason, right? I found out Nurse Red Heart was now Doctor Red Heart, and she healed me up with only a touch of her hooves.
But... all the movie creatures made real... all the horrible lies told about the town's heroes and their families that were now real... all the friends and neighbors turned into monsters that wanted to hurt me or worse... it was nothing compared to what I saw now.
Chaos. His Chaos. The puzzle-monster. The patchwork-thing. The ugly-zoo-thing! This was him! Swirly-eyed ponies who I wasn't sure if I recognized or not danced, laughed, reenacted silly characters from movies, played basketball with their own heads, and the earth ponies swimming through clouds and pegasi burrowing holes.
And so many sightings of a twisted version of her cutie mark.
I remembered that day... when my body was changed against my will, when I was branded with a fear of adults that took so long to fight through and even now lingered slightly. What I was and who I was were stamped out... and when the rainbow ended the nightmare, all I knew was shame at myself. My belief in who I was hurt.
I fell to my knees, laid on my side and wrapped myself into a ball. I shook like a leaf. I shut my eyes. It was too much. Too much! I couldn't! NOT AGAIN! PLEASE!! PLEASE, NOT AGAIN!!! I cried. Everypony depended-BUT I CAN'T DO IT!
I don't know how long I shook there terrified. Then I felt somepony stroke my mane. My eyes snapped opened and I cringed away.
= Drift - Kan Gao and Laura Shigihara =
"It's okay, pal, I won't hurt you."
It was a colt about my age... what did he look like? I... I don't remember. He was smiling.
"Hi, my name's Buddy Zion. What's yours?" He asked friendlily.
I told him.
"That's a nice name."
"... Everypony seems to think that name means I'm weak."
"Well, names are important. They're a gift from our moms and dads. Your name carries a lot of weight if it's been in your family for a long time... but when your friends say your name... do you hear what your name makes you, or do you hear your friends calling you?"
... I remember when ponies used to think my name was funny... but then... I made some friends who didn't think my name was a joke. Who actually learned what it and my special talent meant.
"Is there somewhere you need to be?" Buddy asked.
"Are you staying put here because you're scared?"
"There's no shame in being afraid. Nopony could be brave if there was no such thing as being scared. Let me ask; did something hurt you really bad?"
He hugged me. "It's okay. It wasn't your fault. You weren't to blame. Not all adults are like that. It wasn't his fault either, he was hurt too, by a VERY BAD creature who needs to be stopped, and they need your help to stop them, or others might get hurt by them too."
His voice didn't sound like he was just saying what I wanted to hear, more like he was saying something he knew without a doubt.
My eyes misted. "B-but, I couldn't stop it, I couldn't do anything, I was weak... just like they said."
"No, you're not. You've made it this far. You've made it through all of this. You got back up and kept going. That makes you very strong."
"Will the hurt ever go away?"
"... Maybe... if you and your friends win this... maybe the pain can be washed away... if that's your choice... "
"I don't have to do it alone?"
"Even if you can't see me, I Pinkie Promise that I'll be there for you. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."
I hugged back. "T-thank you."
"Go get'em. She's waiting for you at the top of the tower."
I pick up the lantern and ... still super-mega-ultra scared... and marched into the chaos, towards the Tower.
"So what's your evil scheme?" The Doctor asked.
The Valeyard shrugged. "Oh, you’ve probably guessed what it is, you're me after all. Well, first I'm going to kill you, and kill her. And then, I'll go from bubble to bubble, piecemeal spreading the idea that I am the supreme Time Lord Victorous of the universe and you can guess where it goes from there. I'd do that first, but sadly I'm bound by my benefactor to kill you first, but at least he's giving me infinite regenerations once I finish you off."
Lemon Hearts summoning her Angry Daddy Lemon. "Don't bet on it, handsome," the unicorn mare said.
"Moth, stay with Truffle and his family, you should be safe in the top floor hamlet," Agent Bon Bon the changeling said as she readied herself.
"Sis, do you really have to go?" Moth asked.
Bon Bon growled. "I HATED the idea of my daughter having to fight but... she's a Princess, a Magical Filly, it's her responsibility... just like it's mine."
"And wherever you go, Bon Bon... I go... I'm a champion of music, after all," Lyra said... after all... that was something cool that her foster foal admired about her... so of course that was true... so why... so why did Princess Cadenza do that again? Weren't the changelings weaklings? No. Of course they weren't. Where had that idea come from? Lyra shook her head in confusion.
Bon Bon looked at Lyra, but knew better than to argue with her. But she kicked a wall, cracking it. She'd worked hard to build up her strength to protect the Princesses and her family, and spite those who mocked her as 'weak' compared to a real earth pony.
Lyra sighed. "I hope Sparkler is okay... Liza loves having her foalsit so much... and Mineutte... and Lemon Hearts... and Moon Dancer... and Twinkle Shine... and Octavia, and Vinyl Scratch. I don't understand, why would Princess Luna, after beating the Nightmare Force... turn evil and send her bat ponies to hurt everypony... and why would the changelings all turn evil and work WITH them?"
Bon Bon sighed. "Ours is not to reason ‘why.’ And seriously, what DIFFERENCE would it make? They're here to hurt our families, and destroy the world. Reasons, motives, NONE OF THAT MATTERS! They're the threat, and we need to defend ourselves... that's how fighting is. Sorry Lyra."
Moth could only looked with growing sickness and dread as her family left for the lower levels.
"Remember! We're not supposed to... " They were already gone.
I got kicked in the ribs. Okay. Pain was a sign I wasn't dead. I looked up to see a gray earth pony mare with a face as expressive as a rock gazing down at me.
"Daring Do, you're not the one destine to meet their end here today," she said as matter-of-fact as a spread sheet.
Mysterious mare telling me weird stuff? Sounds like the beginning of another one my adventures. I stood up, not nearly as beaten up as I should’ve been after being caught between two explosions. She wordlessly offered me my hat; I put it back where it belongs.
No sign of the girls, the giants, and the armies still busting it up outside, how many of those monsters were there?
"Are you here to help me?"
"The end happens or doesn't happen yet. It doesn't help." I saw the slightest hint of a twitch.
"Well, thanks anyway. I'll remember this."
"I won't," she replied without emotion. "And I meant that literally. This 'I', will not remember. It doesn't concern you."
"Well, what DOES concern me is Scootaloo and her friends! So I'll just be going now!"
"Going? I'm afraid this is as far as you go for this adventure, Daring Do. You have another responsibility to take care of."
"Not interested, I'm already in the middle of something," I snarked.
"I'm always willing to wait, but your enemy isn't."
"Talking to yourself, my dear Daring Do? I hope you've retained enough of your senses to appreciate your end by my hands!"
I didn't need to turn around to know who this newcomer was. I spoke with irritation and familiarity. "Really, Ahuizotl? You want to pick a fight NOW? Don't you know the world is in the balance?" I turned to face my lifelong archenemy: big, mean, blue, and full of himself. The gray mare was suddenly just not there.
"Oh but I do, Miss Do! That is the point! I intend to see that the balance tips in my favor! There are certain, heh, rumors. Rumors about the top of the Tower of the princesses holding the means to remake this half-baked joke of a world into a true world. You're just in my way, as usual. You should be helping me."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, that's new."
"Oh, but you see, Miss Doo, It takes a being with moral conviction and philosophical resolve to remake the world. Things a naive ignorant foal lacks. But I do not."
= A Resolute Person - Okami =
I narrow my eyes. "I know you, Ahuizotl. I know how you crave destruction for everything. No way am I letting you through."
"But for how long can you hold back an immortal?"
I grinned. "Immortality? Invulnerability? Heh. That just means I don't have to play NICE!"
The foals and dragon whelp stepped out of the entry hallway that was both insanely long and impossibly short at the same time.
"Well, that was different," Apple Bloom said hugging her cloak tighter.
"I almost wish I hadn't been wearing the sunglasses, going crazy might have been nicer," Button Mash said, and Sweetie Belle gave him a sympathetic pat on the back.
Spike listed off, "First we turn into rolling eggs, then into snails, then into tanks, then chickens, then into plastic ponies on a desk in front of a camera... then we get turned into computer images."
As though on cue, a slot on the wall popped out a triangle-shaped picture of them as computer images. “Thank you for walking through the Hallway of Chaos. If you are still sane, please take your photo!” spoke a voice like an amusement park announcer. The picture was nothing to write home about.
"Then we're in Canterlot in the middle of the night on a crumbling bridge. Then we were on the moon. Then we're in the Everfree Forest. Then we're made out of clay. Then we're made of foam. And then-"
"We don't need a recap!" Scootaloo snapped. "I don't think I'll be able to look at checkerboards the same way again!"
"Being shape-changing robots wasn't all that bad," Button Mash grinned.
"Sorry, REALLY not my thing." Sweetie Belle shook her head.
"It was better than those demons trying to possess us," Apple Bloom said.
"I said cut it out!" Scootaloo heaved. "Any sign of Daring Do?"
Apple Bloom dared look back the way they came, now looking like a completely unexceptional hallway with plaster walls, wooden floors and red welcome carpet.
"Ah hate to say it, but we can't afford ta wait for her."
"Are you sure?" Sweetie Belle asked, concerned.
"Hey, she's Daring Do, she'll be fine," Scootaloo said putting a hoof on Sweetie Belle's shoulder.
The young heroes stepped into another room. This one was square with pillars, and a wide-open stairway leading up on the opposite side. The floors, ceiling and walls were made up of glowing blue hexagons.
"Sense any traps?" Scootaloo asked.
"Ah don't see anythin'."
"And I don't feel anything," Sweetie added.
Button Mash took a rock from his inventory and threw it... nothing happened when it landed, he then rolled another one and still nothing.
"Well, we can't keep testing forever. Let's go," Scootaloo said, flying ahead.
A digital voice rang out.
A filly's voice echoed. "Hello, ponies. If I'm not here, that means I ditched my cousin and niece and I had greener pastures to raze. That or the Dorito had a party. I was going to trounce you, Button Mash. But my high score can crush you instead! Here's your welcoming committee! Bye."
Rom Emulation Start
Ghost Save Data Loading
The hexagons on the floor glowed. Then four elaborate ponies were built out of little squares that rose from the floor.
The only mare was a unicorn whose mane and fur were pitch-black and was braided over and over again behind her to make room for more hair. She wore glasses, had a pistol on each leg, and her cutie mark was a red pentagram circle. Her every motion was sultry.
Next to her was a peach colored earth pony stallion whose muscles looked almost sculptured. His eyes glowed solid white, and his face looked to be frozen in a fury filled grimace. His mane was wild and white. He also appeared to have two extra sets of forelegs on his shoulders. His cutie mark was a fist.
The next was a completely baled pegasus stallion. He looked to be ashen white with a red stroke across his face and body. Wrapped around his forelegs were a pair of chain blades. He also had mod-podge of other pieces of equipment that looked like trophies. His cutie mark was a screaming pony head wearing a circlet made of tiny leaves. His face wasn't a constant expression of blind fury, but somehow that made him more terrible.
Next was a teenage thestral with a slim build. He had pale fur, covered by a black pattern trimmed by green glowing lines, and a spike sticking out of the back of his neck. His eyes glowed yellow. His cutie mark was similar to the mare's but white, and had numerous runes in and around it.
Cleared Game Save Data Loaded:
Hex Hair 2
Legendary-War-General Of the East
Alicorn of War 3
True Resurrection Of the Princess III Morning Star's Calling
The muscular stallions engaged in what looked to be a contest of who could give the more rage filled expression.
"I lost my wife and was betrayed by my comrades!"
"I lost my wife and daughter and brother and my father is my worst enemy!"
"I lost my parents," The witch said. "And nearly my entire clan."
"I lost my friends," the teenage colt 'said', a floating window with text appearing. "And my universe."
It sounded more like they were listening to sound clips than the ponies' actually speaking.
But then they all turned towards the CMC+2.
The bald stallion pointed his weapon at Button Mash.
"Are you gods?"
A 'Yes/No' appeared in front of Button Mash. The foal grinned. "YES!"
"Then DIIIIIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Screamed the bald stallion; every vein on his neck bulging. It was echoed by the six legged stallion. The teenage pony merely looked at them like you would flies that needed squashing.
The witch smiled. "What cute little angels... their bloody halos are sure to be worth a lot at the store!" Sweetie swore she saw something in her 'animation' flicker, like someone had cut-and-pasted two different things together.
Spike said with fire on his breath. "Button Mash, when somepony asks if you're a god, you say 'NO!'"
"Sorry! I saw it in a movie! And I'm pretty sure mom wouldn't let me buy any of their games to know that would happen!"
= Staring Down Eternity - Blue Dragon =
Existence itself seemed to blur and distort. The little heroes felt like they were being super imposed on four different film strips at once. Their heads were left whirling. Every motion was like they were trying to control four bodies at once; four different sets of eyes and ears.
In one they were all lined up evenly with their opponents, like they'd been with the Anti-CMC.
The teenage colt made a gesture. And in a flash of purple lightning he was joined by others. One was a skeleton pony in a yellow monk robe with a bell. Another was a pegasus with a red long jacket, white mane, and a giant sword. And... a tiny fairy pony of all things.
Fire Immunity Trait Detected. Prepare Gaia's Vengeance on next turn.
In another layer the witch did a bizarre dance and did an incantation. The youngsters (all with little halos over their heads that looked like rings a blue hedgemouse would collect) were literally paralyzed; unable to do anything. Her mane acted like it had a life of its own, growing and expanding, and from it emerged a black and blue Alicorn with glowing red eyes and blutterfly wings. The Alicorn was the size of Spikezilla, and she reared up her hooves as a gauge appeared below her.
Megatons Limit Reached!
The layer of multi-armed stallions had them in a white void. They could move... but were doing so at a snail's pace; all their actions were in disorienting slow motion. The stallion's front hooves, all six of them, were headed straight for their little head, the slow motion ensuring their heads being crushed would be appreciated in all the brutal detail.
The final layer was with the bald stallion, intense violin cords played against a chorus. The youngsters noticed that they had glowing symbols above their heads... like... like the Bloody Hooves had in the Everfree just before Button Mash unleashed a devastation move on them. The bald stallion ran at them swinging his chain blades.
"Apple Bloom, use the Smoke Bombs! Spike you too! Sweetie flash blind them if you can. Button Mash use the Escape Option!" Scootaloo shouted. "And... you're the best friends I could have ever asked for. Sing a song for me sometime Sweetie."
"Scootaloo!" Sweetie gasped. "What are you saying!?"
The Heir To Loyalty tearily prepared to sacrifice herself, she remembered what her 'special ability' was from the Anti-CMC fight: 'Dramatic Rescue.' She'd take the hit while her friends survived. She'd take all these ultra-finale-attacks at once. What was it Phobia said? Oh right. Anypony who died wouldn't be brought back. Maybe reincarnation was real and maybe she'd get to come back as Rainbow Dash's foal someday? She'd like that.
All four layers shattered, ripping apart everything around the foals including the four pixelated ponies, it was like being hit by a tidal wave, force and confusion swept over all of them. They found themselves back in the hexagon room without fanfare.
"Anypony get the number of that bus?" Spike moaned.
Maud Pie trotted up behind the orange filly. "This isn't when you die little Horsefly. Don't be in such a rush."
= Final Fantasy 6 - 'Zozo Town' =
The foals turned to see Phobia hopping along side her. And behind them, were a pair of foals that only Scooaloo readily recognized. Maud Pie kept a healthy distance from the filly like she was on fire.
"Y-you guys?!" Scootaloo gasped in utter confusion.
"Hi." The starry colt waved.
"Sorry, but we don't have time for a 'meet and greet.'" Phobia pointed back towards the room.
Freeze State Data Reloaded
Freeze State Data Reloaded
Freeze State Data Reloaded
Freeze State Data Reloaded
And one by one, the pixel ponies came back into being.
"Dad was right, emulation IS evil," Button Mash said in awe.
“Looks like somepony was hacking to,” the filly remarked.
"Ahem," The starry colt began with a little cough. "Illegal device usage detected: deploying anti-cheat and anti-piracy measures."
"You should go," said Phobia. "You can go forward, but the nature of this place means we can't squeeze in any further without ripping the world apart. We're pushing at the seams as is. That makes sense."
"Yer crazy!" Apple Bloom shouted. "We can expect ya to just throw yer lives away fightin' these things!"
"You're worried about us how adorable," Phobia said, then got smacked in the face with a wing by the other colt. Had he always been a pegasus too? "Ow! Sorry! Don't worry. We aren't losing to these things."
"We just had to leave Daring Do behind! We can't-" Scootaloo continued.
"I know video games! I know can help-" Button Mash said at the same time.
Maud Pie picked up Spike and Scootaloo and threw them over the heads of the video game characters. Spike smacked into the wall, peeling himself off looking no worse for wear. Scootaloo's wings helped her stop in time.
"Catch!" The rest of the foals still in surprise at Maud's actions, found themselves tossed over to their friends next, Apple Bloom first, then Button Mash, who were caught by Spike and Scootaloo. And finally Sweetie Belle who slowed her fall with her magic just enough to be caught by her friends.
The witch turned around, aimed her guns at the foals, and got kicked in the back by a leaping Maud Pie, smashing her into the ceiling.
Freeze State Data Reloaded
"Climb, you fools."
The CMC climbed up the stairs.
"And remember! Just because you shouldn't do something when it's the easy way out... doesn't mean you shouldn't do it when it's the HARD way out!" Phobia shouted and waved.
The video game characters began to pursue.
"Hey! We're all top gods! Wanna kill us?" Buddy shouted.
"Hello, Aunties! Uncles! I had this recording made just for you. And any of your relatives might have come. I'm going to have this recorded so I can watch it over and over and over. In this Tower, you're as killable as everyone else! And my heroes get as many tries as they want! And no matter how much collateral damage you think is worth it, they'll kill you eventually. After all, they're video game heroes, you're concepts, killing you is what they do."
"But if here we're as killable as mortals, doesn't that kinda defeat the point?" Buddy asked.
"It's a recording, don't bother responding," Not-Maud said.
But the video game heroes glitched at Buddy's words.
"Maybe it's not a waste," the filly said, then looked back to the enemy. “...I'm disappointed nephew forgot Hex Hair has a soft spot for kids.”
“Yes, would've made a lovely tragedy if she was forced into this situation with that intact, I'm surprised he didn't realize that,” Phobia replied.
"Nopony should have as much power as you," The six-forelegged stallion said in an angry tone striking an epic pose.
Not-Maud Pie almost rolled her eyes. "Power can't be destroyed. And I may be a pony... but I'm also something else."
The game characters flickered again.
"You're a goddess because you're a goddess because you're a goddess. A looping mantra you've thrown about to justify murdering countless innocents, and none less gifted with a soul and mind than you deserving life and freedom from your tyranny," Snarled heroically the six-armed stallion missing eye contact.
Maud Pie... MAUD PIE laughed. The other three in the room felt chills.
Not-Maud Pie flung Boulder with her mouth, hitting the six armed stallion right between the eyes, and catching Boulder back in her mouth. "You have no clue what I am or what concepts are." She cracked her forehoof joints. "Is a pony, more, less, or equally deserving of freedom and life than a mountain? Or the ocean? Or a sunny day? They're so different that comparing them is absurd."
The game heroes began to glitch again.
Auto-Miro-Bot Enabled: 'Would You Like To Skip Cut Scene?' Yes.
= White Light - Okami =
Buddy and the red-haired filly flashed white. In the space of a moment, there was a mare and stallion in their place.
A mare with a cream colored coat, and an ink well and quill cutie mark. Her mane was bright red and her eyes blue. Her body was decked out in gold barding with flame-like leaflets. She telekinetically drew an identical pair of golden swords.
Her husband was dark as the night sky, but the patterns on his coat looked like stars. His mane was twilight purple. The video game constructs didn't care what his cutie mark was, and those present didn't have to look at it. A giant war hammer appeared, which he held easily in one wing. "My wife is gentle, I am not. Sanity rarely is."
Not-Maud's expression didn't change at all. "Showoffs."
From under his wings, Phobia pulled out a dime-store 50s style plastic ray-gun with its price tag still on.
"Pick a partner and let's dance!" Phobia said.
= 'Now That We've Come So Far' - Red vs Blue =
The teenage thestral took one look at Not-Maud Pie, and summoned the same set of allies as before with the CMC.
Void Immunity Detected, uses Gaia Vengeance.
The Thestral stomped on the ground, growing white hot cracks spread over the floor, the entire room shaking.
Her face not so much as twitching, Not-Maud Pie stomped the ground too. Like a movie playing in reverse, the glowing white cracks retreated, and exploded around the thestral and his allies. Numbers in the four to six digital range flickered above their heads. The Thestral's allies fell over and vanished in a flash of purple lightning.
A glowing purple energy sword with no hilt formed in the thestral's mouth, and he slashed at Not-Maud Pie, she blocked it with one hoof.
Then Not-Maud Pie seemed to slide right to the teenage thestral.
"Would you join my rock group?" Not-Maud Pie said emotionally.
The teenage thestral flickered.
Not-Maud Pie gave him 999,999 bits (from her collage fund and collective family savings).
Not-Maud Pie gave him an infinitely reusable healing rock.
Not-Maud Pie gave him an infinitely reusable mana rock.
"If everything you say is lie, then what you just said is also a lie. Which means sometimes you tell the truth, and sometimes you lie."
"If an all powerful draconequus couldn't limit her power by making a rock she couldn't lift, she wouldn't be all powerful, and if she couldn't make herself capable of lifting the rock, she again wouldn't be all powerful to begin with. So the answer to both questions is yes."
"The force and the object, cancel each other out."
"Welcome to the team."
The teenage thestral glitched and froze. The pixels making him up fell apart. “Game over.”
Error. Load Failed. Freeze State Data Irretrievable
Phobia fired a volley of powerful laser blasts from his plastic toy; the statuesque stallion tirelessly punched them away.
"You make my daughter cry! Therefore, I must kill you!" The stallion pronounced; a stilted sound clip.
"I appreciate being a protective father, but I think I'm outside your context. Shame, if you weren't a shallow mass of pixels I'd invite you to have tea with my potential daughter, she'd really like you."
"And that is why I will not be worshiped and worship no one!"
Phobia sighed. "I had a son who said something similar once... sad given his concept he didn't realize faith isn't a weakness. Now it's time for you to see my ultimate form!"
Phobia dropped the ray gun, and powered up. Calling upon all his cosmic energies, his cutie mark and eyes glowed crimson, becoming bright against the gathering darkness. And in a flash of blood red light, he shrank down to the size of ant.
"Come and get me, big guy!" Phobia hopped from one rear leg to the next, punching the air like a boxer.
Laughing out loud, the stallion stepped on Phobia. Or tried to. The floor underneath Phobia cracked and rumbled, but the little pegasus continued to push up against the hoof of the stallion. The stallion grunted and roared as he pushed down harder, but no avail, and finally Phobia pushed his hoof off Phobia!
The stallion glitched. Phobia then ran up and began quickly climbing up the stallion's leg. He tried to slap and shake off Phobia, but the pegasus held on, and hid in the crevices of the stallion's muscles.
Finally Phobia reached the stallion's face.
"Here I am! Nya nya!" Phobia stood on the stallion's nose and stuck out his tongue.
The stallion followed its programming, and punched with all his might at where the little colt was. Phobia jumped out of the way just in time, growing back to his normal size before he hit the floor.
As for the six forelegged stallion, everything went into slow motion as he punched himself in the face, flesh rippling and bones being pushed out of place.
The force of the impact made him spin like a top, going "Blblblblbl!!" Grunting as he ricocheted into one pillar after another like a pinball. Finally he smacked into the far wall looking like a squashed spider.
Error. Load Failed. Freeze State Data Irretrievable
And he fell apart into pixels. Phobia gave a chuckle. “There's a reason elephants are afraid of mice.”
The witch fired a hail of bullets at Sanity, who managed to block them all with his war hammer at blinding speed.
Cheat Code Entered, Infinite Magic Meter
The fictional torture device, the iron maiden, appeared behind Sanity itself, who the witch kicked him into and slammed it closed. Or tried to... an immense pegasus flight field pushed back at the sarcophagus.
The iron maiden exploded, Buddy emerging unharmed.
The witch glitched.
Then the witch leapt on top of a wooden horse with a jagged back, and flung a chain lasso around Buddy's neck and pulled. The pegasus responded by pulling her off the wooden horse and slamming her to the ground. The wooden horse vanished.
A Guillotine appeared between them, and the witch pulled Buddy inside it and let loose the blade. Buddy caught the blade with his wings and pushed it back the way it came, breaking the Guillotine apart from the force.
A vice appeared around Buddy that the witch turned. Buddy pushed one side with his wings and the other with all four of his legs, just as it seemed he was about to be crushed, the device snapped in two.
The witch summoned a chainsaw that she slashed at Buddy's head, it met with his war hammer and shattered. "Why does everypony think those are useful weapons?"
A treadmill appeared under him with a hungry wall of spinning blades behind him, the witch knocked him towards the wall, Buddy turned in one fluid motion and cut the wall of blades in two with a wing blade spell.
The witch danced and flung her hair about, that twisted into a portal that a large hoof covered in black silk came through, Buddy met it with his hammer, and the hoof withdrew to the sound of cracking bones.
This was followed by a giant sharp-heeled shoe with similar results. She then went for something else...
“Queen Sheba requires at least two witches to summon, Omne requires one Witch and one Sage working together to summon, you possess neither,” he pointed out logically.
The witch glitched worse than ever.
Buddy formed a cloud from the water particles in the air, and charge up a lightning strike that powered up his hammer that struck the witch dead center.
But instead of being shocked, the witch poofed into a little girl. Buddy swooped in, put the little witch on his knee, and gave a swatting on her rear with his wings.
A meter appeared with a score meter that filled up as Buddy spanked the girl until she was crying. He then set her down. "Now, then. You were going to hurt little children, that's bad. You know that, you LIKE children and protect them, so why try to hurt them now?"
The witch glitched and seemed to once more have a response cut and pasted in rather than acting as her actual programming would react.
"Messengers of gods are angels, angels are bad, I get fun stuff for killin' angels."
"But weren't you your family's little angel? They're their family's little angels. Wouldn't it be wrong to take them away from their families like yours was?"
The little girl witch flickered more.
Buddy pointed, and said sternly. "Now go to your room, and think about what you did."
The witchling turned around and scampered, bursting into pixels.
Error. Load Failed. Freeze State Data Irretrievable
"This is meaningless." Fauna Luster shot the bald stallion in the knee with a blast form her horn.
Freeze State Data Reloaded
"You don't have to-" His chain swords wrapped around her throat. Her horn glowed. Her swords did a dance that chopped him into pixels (there was no blood nor insides).
Freeze State Data Reloaded
"We have no reason to fight!" She dropped a pillar on him that he caught and threw at her, that she then used as a baseball bat to knock him through a wall.
Freeze State Data Reloaded
"You have no reason to want to kill those foals!"
"The gods betrayed me and killed my family!" Went the sound clip. And the two sets of blades furiously clashed, creating sparks.
"And does killing them bring your family back?"
The mare narrowed her eyes. "Losing a foal you can never get back. Even in the afterlife… you were denied being with them. You blame yourself, even if you were used and manipulated. Yet there's too much anger to go around, so you blame the rest too. There is no justice there, only vengeance. Who cares about the rest if they get in your way. After all, just like the gods, you have the strength to do whatever the Tartarus you want, why let the death and suffering of those who you don't love stop you from having your revenge? And yet the pain doesn't go away."
The bald stallion glitched. "CEASE THY BABBLING!" he cried, shattered her swords.
"But there is something in you besides rage... something that keeps you going... almost against your will..." She said, giving a smirk.
Then she took out a blue ring. It flew about the room and landed snugly on the bald stallion's hoof.
( Ghost Of Roam - You Have In You Great Hope )
The bald stallion was engulfed in a blue light from without and within as his eyes and mouth let out a blinding blue light.
When the light cleared... the red marks and pale fur was gone, leaving behind a brownish bald stallion... he stood there... swaying left and right... aimless... meaningless... pointless... he dissolved back into pixels.
Error. Load Failed. Freeze State Data Irretrievable
Fauna Luster sighed. "I'm sorry," she said to the pixels as they vanished.
Buddy nuzzled her. "Crawling Chaos always did see ponies and characters more like set pieces."
Phobia twirled his laser gun. "To nephew, they were always one note ponies. Not entirely his fault, really, most of the Shadows who birthed him are no different."
Fauna Luster said, "Nothing is sadder seeing a representation of a hero lose their depth." She looked at the stairs. "You carry my daughter's blessing, be brave."
"Little fillies.... good luck," Phobia said.
"Little ponies... you have my blessings . . . I should get back to Pinkie Pie," Not-Maud Pie said.
"I should get back to Pinkie Pie," Maud Pie repeated feeling dizzy, wanting to hurry back and make sure her family was still safe. Phobia gave her a nuzzle and led her along.
Fauna and Buddy hugged each other, waiting for the next arrival.
The CMC+1 lay at the top of the stairs, catching their breath.
"Daring Do, Maud Pie, Phobia and their friends.... A-Applejack... ponies sure seem to be sacrificin' a lot of us huh?" Apple Bloom breathed.
"Rainbow Dash never had to have ponies make sacrifices like that."
"Because we're foals..." Sweetie sighed.
"Hey!" Spike protested. "Lots of ponies had to play decoy when Twilight and the others were saving the day at the wedding!"
"... I guess, wish I'd had a chance to see Dash up-close during that."
"Agh! Rainbow Dash this, Rainbow Dash that, don't you have your own identity?!" Spike snapped.
"You're one to talk Mr. 'Whatever-You-Say-Twilight'!" Scootaloo got in Spike's face.
"You take that back!"
"ENOUGH!" Apple Bloom pushed between them. "We're all tired, scared, and angry! But we're all friends here! And we can't let our friends who helped us down!”
"Uh..." Button Mash injected. "Look! A map!" The colt pointed at the convenient map the foals hadn't notice before.
"Not much of a map," Spike said looking at the bare bones details.
"At least it gives us an idea for the haystacks we gotta jump over." Apple Bloom said. "Outer Grounds, Inner Grounds, First Floor, Lower Floors, Inter-mededatation I mean Middle Floors, Upper Floors, The Hamlet, The Mansion, The Royal Chambers, and The Inner Sanctuary. That last one has gotta be where the printing press is. Says here we're on the lower floors. So that's three parts of this place outta the way already."
"And seven to go," Scootaloo said. "Bring it."
"Let's just hope it isn't revealed the final room is an illusion and we gotta do the entire adventure again for the true ending." Button Mash was met by four death glares. "Shutting up now."
"Cutie Mark Crusaders World Savers!" Apple Bloom said putting a hoof forward, the other girls doing the same. "Yay!" Spike and Button Mash looked at each other, raised their limbs high and repeated, "Yay!"
= Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne OST Kagutsuchi Tower =
And so the CMC continued their tower ascent. A while into it, Apple Bloom remarked, "For a place built by him, this part seems kinda tame."
All around them, everything looked to be made out of blocks of faded colors. There was certainly a maze-like feel to it, and the kids stayed all the closer together in fear of a wall rising up and separating them. Random blocks floated in the air in a circular orbit. After several twisting passages, they came to a huge hollow room with stairs on the sides. And other sets of blocks that served as elevators. Nothing seemed to serve any purpose. They'd even found blocks that had healing and restoration items inside.
"Be careful, some of the boxes are gonna have monsters in 'em, or be monsters in disguise, that's how it always goes," Button Mash warned.
"If they're hidin', it would explain why nothin's tried to eat us yet," Apple Bloom remarked.
"Yeah. For the final dungeon, there sure aren't any random monsters," Button Mash said looking around.
"I think we met them all at the front door," Scootaloo said.
“But that doesn't make sense!” Button replied.
Next there were floating blocks that served as elevators, and next some bridges that parts of it constantly appearing and disappearing that the girls had to run across... or just have Scootaloo ferry them one at a time through the air.
'If they can make the bridge vanish, why not have all of it vanish to keep us away?' Scootaloo thought, but didn't want to say this out loud and give the enemy ideas.
Occasionally, the girls would come across the eight diamonds symbol, but again, it didn't really seem to serve any purpose.
"If Diamond Tiara helped design this place, I'm kinda surprised at the lack of pictures and statues of her," Scootaloo said honestly.
None present could argue against the existence of Diamond Tiara's vanity.
Sweetie Belle sighed. "I think... she just didn't really think about it."
Scootaloo blinked. "Diamond Tiara's gone crazy, has the power of a Princess, and she doesn't think about filling her new castle with statues and paintings of herself?"
"Maybe fer the same reason this place ain't got statues of Discord everywhere?" Apple Bloom said.
Spike let a small laugh. "I think that would remind him too much of Princess Luna kicking his flank."
'Oh right,' Apple Bloom thought. 'Spike remembers Princess Celestia as the bad guy.'
The discussion was forgotten at what the foals encountered next. Several equinoid figures lay, leaned, sat, and stood among the stairs and hallway. They ranged from foal to Big Mac size. There were randomly scattered about, wrapped up in brown moth eaten sheets, nothing was visible of what lay underneath.
Apple Bloom, saw with the Truth. "Them snake-leech-centipede things."
"... Must be the last of them," Scootaloo said.
Both Button and Sweetie considered zapping them where they stood, but didn't want to stir up the hornet's nest.
"Remember... we need 'em to fix things as much as Diamond Tiara needs them to make things unfixable," Apple Bloom whispered.
"From what their mom said, and what Tornado Twister said, they're just raw material like this," Scootaloo said.
The curse things didn't physically react to the foals' presence at all.
"Any way around?" Apple Bloom asked.
Button Mash looked at his game window's map. "Doesn't look like it." It was a relief to see the window still listed Daring Do as 'alive.'
Without much choice, the kids began to tip toe around the curse things in rags. Button Mash was surprised when the option to 'Talk' appeared above the curse things' 'heads.' Ever the lore lover, Button Mash couldn't resist.
The group jumped, finding a living pony doll standing behind them. She looked...creepy. Like just close enough to a pony to be disturbing.
Apple Bloom blinked, then looked closer. "She's like Olo."
-Heh. Yes, I am...-
Button blinked, getting another prompt, this time saying 'examine'. He clicked it.
-Those who were not granted the chance to become part of existence now await here. For the last great rewrite. Once the rewrite is complete. They will be wiped away.-
Apple Bloom read over Button Mash's shoulder.
"Ah... Ah'm sorry for all yer kin we made-never-heard-from-again," She said, both to the strange doll pony and the strange things.
-Thank you...but they do not care- the doll said.
"What?" Sweetie Belle asked.
- They are gone. They are not. What else is there? They shall either become one with the newborn reality, or be wiped away. What else is there? - the doll replied.
Apple Bloom staggered. "Ya... ya don't feel anythin' for 'em?" she said, more directed at the creatures than the doll.
- They don't feel anything,- was the doll's simple answer.
"Wha... what about Mr. Olo Owlbear?"
-I like him, he like me...- the doll replied. -But our...siblings do not feel anything...for him or for me.-
Apple Bloom looked a bit green in the face.
"...Why are YOU different?" Sweetie Belle questioned.
-...Because me and Olo...we're born from Imaginary Friends- the doll explained. -Imaginary friends aren't alive, but have an identity in a way...so when we combine, we become whole...Without that, I'd just be following my programming without thinking. Like an animal following its instinct. I know this, because it is written as thus.-
"...And the ones inside ponies?" Scootaloo asked, trying not to look at Button.
The doll looked like she was trying to think of the right words. -...The ones who's hosts didn't embrace them...-
"The wasp things?" Apple Bloom asked.
-Do you know how a virus works?-
"A virus kinda...copies itself onto cells, right?" Sweetie Belle asked. "That’s what Cheerilee said."
-Exactly...they copy the rumor they're born from onto the pony... parasites...-
"And the fireflies?" Apple Bloom questioned.
=If they're like me and Olo, they're born from an imaginary friend or something similar. If not, they're symb-symbio...-
"Symbiotic?" Sweetie Belle asked. "...Cheerilee read that to us once too."
-Yes, that...they combine with their host and give their host everything they have, and in exchange get to exist...I'm just here to watch over the ones who haven't become ANYTHING yet.-
"...Thanks...let's go, girls..." Apple Bloom said, still looking disturbed.
"...Who's imaginary friend are you?" Sweetie Belle asked.
-...I think you're best not knowing, darling.-
(Apple Bloom's Diary): Ah ... they really didn't care about each other. Miss Neighurath DID care about them... but I gotta wonder if they even care about her! Ah'm... Ah'm sorry... Ah'm an Apple. Family is everythin', that's what Ah've always been taught. Those things... they ain't got no hearts! It's just... ugh! Family without any heart to it... it ain't no family at all.
Leavin' the curse things behind, we came to a big door with the eight diamond logo on it. And at the bottom was a ring of numbers that ya see on some locks... except there was over fifty of 'em! And there weren't just numbers, there were all the letters in Low Equestrian too!
"Well this is stupid," Scootaloo said. "Why doesn't she just include a picture of her waving her flank in front of us? UGH! FORGET I SAID THAT!"
"Wanna bet the answer is how many blocks there are in this place?" Spike quipped.
"This is gonna take us a million years!" Ah blurted.
"Actually, I'd say longer," Spike said with a claw to his chin.
"Maybe Ah can use the truth to figure out the combination."
"Maybe I can pick the lock," Scootaloo said.
Button Mash wasn't freakin' out like Ah thought he might. Instead, he trotted up... and rolled in the numbers and letters one after another, glancing back at a little note book from his inventory.
"1-7-3-4-6-7-3-2-1-4-7-6 Charlie 3-2-7-8-9-7-7-7-6-4-3 Tango 7-3-2 Victor 7-3-1-1-7-8-8-8-7-3-2-4-7-6-7-8-9-7-6-4-3-7-6! TA-DA!" The door slid open. "I knew that would come in handy later!"
(Scootaloo's diary:) Me? I wonder if the only reason this door with that crazy password Evil Twilight came up with showed up again in Diamond Tiara's castle was because Button Mash was so certain it would.
After that giant door, the inside of the tower finally changed. Now it was that scale-patterned stone stuff for the floor, and torches on the walls. The walls had crazy pictures carved into the stone everywhere.
"Button Mash, are we out of the Lower Floors?" I asked.
"Sorry, no," he said his nose against his magic window.
I know houses are bigger on the inside in video games, but aren't giant fortresses supposed to be SMALLER? I swear if this takes as long as it took for us to snap Rainbow and the others out of it, I'm gonna scream.
There was a big golden question mark right along the hallway we were in on Mash's map. What's it called? An alcove? Thanks, Sweetie, but stop looking over my shoulder!
Unlike the rest, it had a polished white stone floor and ceiling, the walls were polished pink stone. It looked like it belonged in another castle. There was a polished golden bowl raised in front of a huge painting of a blue-maned unicorn I didn't recognize wearing a crown with a blue four flower-thingie cutie mark. I'll admit, that little spot felt nicer than the rest of Diamond Tiara's new place... but something about it made me uneasy...
Words glowed on the rectangle stone the golden bowl was on.
'If ye do not fear death, place but a single horseshoe upon this alter. Ye shall call forth the most powerful unicorn royal to ever live. She shall battle ye with all her might. Should ye prove victorious, the greatest armor, weapons, and tools in all the world will be granted upon ye.'
Button Mash took the horseshoe out of his inventory. I grabbed hold of him! "NO!"
"But! But the best equipment in the game!"
"'If you don't fear death!', 'most powerful unicorn royalty to ever live?!' 'All her might?!' No Way, Jose!"
"Since when do YOU turn down a challenge, Scootaloo?!"
"Since 'pick your battles' got added to my vocabulary!"
"But... if we can't beat the greatest unicorn of all time, how can we beat Diamond Tiara as a Nightmare, or Discord?" Sweetie asked.
"Spike, do ya know who that is?" Apple Bloom pointed at the painting.
"... I'm.... I'm not sure! It's not Starswirl the Bearded, I can tell you that!"
"Alright, let's vote... whose fer challenging her for the best stuff we can get?" Apple Bloom asked.
Button Mash and Sweetie Belle raised their hoofs, figures.
"And whose fer movin' on?" Me, Apple Bloom, and Spike rose our hoof (er, claw in Spike's case). "Three ta two, we're movin' on."
Button Mash took a good long sad look at the little shrine. "... best equipment..."
"There, there, Button Mash, it's okay," Sweetie said sadly as she helped him along. Me and Spike both kept our eyes glued on both of them until we were a good ways away from that thing.