Emerald came shooting out of the portal on Oskar's end with clawed hands outstretched and magical aura crackling dangerously around her form. Her head whipped about back and forth to take in what awaited her on this side of the portal.
Strangely, instead of the incredibly massive viral defenses and countless hordes of blacklight creatures Emerald expected, she found precious little in the form of active defense. The earth around the portal had been torn away and the harsh edges in the earth pounded smooth from the passage of countless beasts. Viral stalks towered over the portal and cast deep shadows and within their presence she saw brawlers and the occasional twisted pony scurry out of sight.
Emerald lighted down on the shore of the portal with a frown. She could make out the baleful stares of Brawlers in the thicket of viral stalks and dead trees surrounding the area. Closing her eyes, she stretched out her senses. The echoes of sound formed a vivid mental picture in her head. For miles around, viral beasts stood packed in practically shoulder to shoulder but they were moving away. Massive Goliaths lumbered along the packed masses of infected, uncaring of watching their step and squashing a brawler every time they moved one of their limbs. It seemed Oskar realized there was no point in wasting infected on Emerald. Hearing the buzzing of many wings drew Emerald's attention upwards. She saw nothing except for the thick layer of broiling storm clouds that very nearly blotted out the sun far above.
Bending down, Emerald reached back through the portal with her hand and waved everyone through before standing back up and intently focusing on all sources of viral infection. The two Discords floated through first followed by the Princesses, who were quick to cast a barrier around the group, before the Mane Six finally came through.
“O-Oh my...” Rarity said softly as she took in her surroundings. “We've only just arrived and it's already looking quite grim.”
“So this is what you could do if you were evil?” Dash asked as she took in the viral stalks and black storm clouds above.
“Pretty much,” Emerald answered with a sigh as she kept alert. Everyone had come through yet the infected hadn't immediately turned around to try to attack them. Yeah, Oskar definitely wasn't going to bother annoying her with fodder. “This is very likely the tip of the iceberg, though. We'll be seeing much worse when we get out of the wilderness.”
“Just look at what's he's done to the sky,” Rarity stated as she looked up. “Those clouds are just horrid.”
“Those aren't clouds,” Emerald stated.
“Really?” Twilight asked and narrowed her eyes at the sky. “What are they then?”
“You... probably don't want to know,” Emerald answered as she glanced up towards the sky, her powerful sight able to see the distant broiling “clouds” for what they were. Little over two miles up into the sky Blacklight Parasprites buzzed, swarming the skies in their teeming quadrillions, forming vast, thick storm clouds that blotted out the blue sky.
“... I'll just take your word for it,” Twilight stated, memories of asking what a prostitute was once again going through her mind.
“So where we findin’ this evil you?” Applejack asked as she scanned the dead trees and stalks, eyes sharp enough to note the twisted ponies and brawlers staring at them from the distance. “Doubt the fella’s just going to make it obvious.”
“... I don't know,” Emerald said honestly. Oskar was her, an alternate version whose only difference was just one choice. He knew all her tracking tricks and was immune to her most powerful one. If Oskar wished, he could simply sit on the bottom of the ocean on the opposite side of the planet, and even if Emerald searched said ocean, chances were she'd miss him. “I guess we just move forward and hope for the best.”
“Well fortunately for you, my senses are quite sharp when it comes to the matter of the enemy,” Alternate Discord stated simply and raised a hand and pointed. “He is that way, barely ten miles away in fact,; dangerously close. If I was alone, I'd be quietly making my exit right now.”
“Thank you,” Emerald said and took a breath to steel her nerve before looking over her shoulder at everyone. “Let's get going.”
“One thing,” Cadence said, looking at the portal with a worried frown. “What is to stop Oskar from simply dodging past us and attacking our world again?”
“Nothing,” Emerald said bluntly. “However I should point out that for someone like a Blacklight Evolved, it would take just a moment's instant to cause great harm if they had any inclination for it at all. It's even more so the case pf me and Oskar. If Oskar's target was the world on our side of the portal it would have already suffered crippling injuries during my fight with him. I might have been able to stop or maybe reverse anything he'd do, but the damage would be still done.”
“Well that's nice to know,” Cadence stated with a forced smile but couldn't hide the grimness she felt, something everyone save Discord's alternate shared. After that, the group began moving through the thick viral stalks. The stalks soon gave way to some sickly looking trees so it was clear that while Oskar had no reason to preserve nature, he didn't outright seek its destruction either. Before long they began moving into a heavily damaged section that was likely caused by the passage of numerous infected.
'That glow he made around his claw...' Emerald thought as she stared down at her hand as she traveled. 'That must have been a sign of the presence of that attack Discord mentioned, the ability to strike at the very spirit of a being. I know how to do that as well, but I've never had the time or really the need to practice it... but it should be simple enough to get working since I understand the principles of it. You concentrate, focus your senses inward upon your very being. Then you channel the energies that make up your spirit and make it more “real” upon the physical plane.'
Of course it was far more complicated than Emerald was thinking, but said virus also had the advantage of memories of several masters who each mastered the spiritual art. So for her it was rather simple and straightforward due to literal generations spent learning the needed skills. As she walked forward, Emerald's form slowly began to shimmer, her eyes closed as she absently concentrated. Then the odd sensation of an out of body experience began to fill her senses before it focused and moved towards her arm primarily.
'And... there, that should be it,' Emerald thought and opened her eyes. Initially it seemed like nothing happened and her hand looked no different, but upon moving said hand there was an ethereal afterimage that followed her hand movement. 'It works just like I knew it would. Hmm... if I reach out just so, then...'
Emerald then began the mind twisting part of the exercise. She had to move her arm without actually moving her arm. This was where the sensation of feeling like she was out of her body came into play. She had to focus on that sensation and visualize the intent to move the limb through it. Despite the memories, this was her first time actually doing it and it was honestly a little different for everyone so it was rather difficult. Her arm kept twitching instead of resulting in the desired movement for several moments but eventually the out of body sensation moved away from her arm and into empty air. Looking now she could see a ghostly blue apparition of her arm stretching out of her right shoulder. What she found odd about it, however, was the fact her right arm wasn't feeling numb.
'Hmm...' Emerald hummed in thought as she looked down at her right arm and the ghostly version of it beside it. 'It's supposed to feel numb. It felt numb for the other master every time they used the “phantom limb”. What could it be... ah, I'm a shapeshifter and can have as many limbs as I please, therefore my spirit must be able to account for this. Good to know.'
“Interesting,” Emerald heard Discord's voice say. Turning, she saw that it was the alternate who spoke.
“I've seen him use it and I've been the victim of that ability,” he stated. “But I've never seen him use it in such a manner.”
“Hmm... I was given knowledge by the spiritual masters of the Channelers,” Emerald muttered. “They were pretty much ghosts, nothing to eat and consume for knowledge. He definitely only knows as much as the flesh and blood masters knew.”
“A secret weapon to use at its most devastating.” The Alternate nodded. “You are going to need it.”
“I know.” Emerald sighed and dispelled her phantom limb.
Soon the group reached the end of the forest and moved past the treeline. What was healthy green fields of grass and rolling hills in their world was a wasteland here. The constant presence of the overwhelming swarms of Blacklight Parasprites robbed plants of most of their sunlight, leaving what little that did survive brown, sickly and growing in patches. The apple trees of Sweet Apple Acres were mostly dead, withered gray husks in the dirt with the occasional struggling tree clawing to life. Ponyville itself was a slowly crumbling ghost town without a single soul in sight. The biggest reason for why no one had decided to stay and try to retrofit Ponyville into a fortified community was highly visible in the distance.
“Canterlot...” Celestia said softly in horror.
The capital city of Equestria was nowhere to be seen. In its place was a massive viral stalk that in a way was like a twisted mockery of a tree. Half of Mount Canterlot had crumbled onto the fields below, the reason being that the “roots” of the tree dug deeply and thoroughly into it. Said roots also grew outwards along the land and off into the horizon. Orange bioluminescence shined across the tree and its roots brightly. To Emerald's eyes, she could see great boils across the roots and surface of the tree constantly bursting and spilling forth brawlers and the odd goliath. Up in its branches that reached out like great claws were fruit like growths that rapidly expanded before bursting and releasing a cloud of black parasprites.
“I know that he would have destroyed it...” Celestia said, her expression a mask of sorrow and grief. “But to see with my own eyes.”
“Dear sister, we are here to put a stop to this,” Luna said as she stepped close to Celestia and wrapped a wing around the older alicorn. “He will pay for this. We will not fail. Today is the day that this Oskar is brought to justice for all his horrific deeds.”
“I do not wish for vengeance,” Celestia said softly as she shook her head. “I wish for there to be peace and my ponies to live long, happy lives... but theses last few years, it seems like something is insistent upon making Equestria a land of catastrophe.”
Emerald's expression hardened up hearing and focused her sight onward towards the ruins of Ponyville. She simply turned towards Discord's alternate who nodded in reply to her look. Emerald took point, leading the way into Ponyville. Empty buildings with broken windows passed the group by, a horrid, unnatural silence making itself impossible to ignore. There was the occasional scrape of claws upon a hard surface, something tumbling in the distance, all signs of infected creatures clearing out of the way or moving away from the group but apart from that there was heavy silence. That the world could be as silent and quiet as it was now grated on everyone as intensely as nails upon a chalkboard.
Eventually the group found themselves stepping into the very street that Twilight's home should be on. It was the tree house, and the sight of it made Twilight choke audibly. It was a living tree despite being hollowed out as a home and it suffered the effects of the blotted sky just as badly as other plant life, however it was still alive, as its yellowed leaves attested. And standing before this building, staring upon it was Oskar.
The group came to a stop about thirty feet away from Oskar who continued to stare at the treehouse for a moment longer. Then he turned to face the group, taking them all in, his eyes noticeably narrowing in in annoyance at the sight of Cadence before returning to their calm state. Oskar and Emerald stared at each other neutrally for several moments in silence before he finally spoke.
“I've been thinking... about us,” Oskar stated. “About what could have happened to make the both of us different from each other. Why you haven't pacified your world and I have. It didn't take long. After all, the clue that gives the moment away is very obvious.”
At this Oskar waved his hand towards Twilight who flinched at the memory of Emerald telling her how she almost decided to kill her. For Emerald, she found herself reliving the moment in which she decided not to kill Twilight in her mind.
“One choice is all that divides us, makes us any different from one another,” Oskar continued. “We both know that; we both know we are the same. You wouldn't be here if you didn't. And since we already have an understanding in one another... I'm going to make this request again...”
“Leave my Discord behind,” Oskar stated to the alternate's stiffening. “Take you and your own back home. I will not follow you or set foot upon your world again. I will destroy the portal and we both go back to our own businesses. Deal?”
Emerald closed her eyes and took a breath. She was silent for a long, poignant moment that had everyone thinking she was about to accept. She knew Oskar was speaking honestly. If she took his offer, he would remain true to his word and wouldn't bother her or the world on her side of the portal again. At the cost of one life, a threat to countless millions could be pacified and kept from ever threatening her or her own ever again. Now that she was in a calm state of mind, the urge to simply accept the deal and turn around and go home was strong... oh so strong. But...
“No,” Emerald said calmly.
“...W-what?” Oskar said with an incredibly incredulous expression as well as a feeling that he must have misheard.
“...” Emerald took in her surroundings, the empty husk that was Ponyville, the blotted out sky, the half dead world around her, the hideous viral tree that sat upon the half destroyed remains of Mount Canterlot, Twilight's treehouse... “I said no. I will not leave your Discord here and go home. I will not simply just turn around let you continue on tormenting this world, killing its people and keeping the survivors pacified through threat of utter annihilation.”
“This... this doesn't make any sense!” Oskar growled in confusion. “Why?!”
“Once upon a time I would have gladly accepted your offer with a smile,” Emerald said as she seemed to stand taller than she did before and stared Oskar down with a determined stare. “I would have gladly let things go. As long as they didn't bother me or the few people I cared about, why should I make it my business? But now... I understand now. I can't let you go and pretend that the simple act of letting you go wouldn't bother me. I won't let you go.”
“You know better than this... this... naivete!” Oskar snapped, hands clenched tightly and eyes widening before pointing at the Mane Six. “They know now, know what we, what you can do! Do you honestly think they'll stay your friend after this? That they won't eventually decide to betray you and attempt to seal you away with their Elements of Harmony?”
Emerald's expression remained unmoving, looking as determined as ever but the Mane Six winced or cringed in guilt at Oskar's words. This didn't go unnoticed by Osker whose eyes widened in shock as he looked from Emerald to the Mane Six. His mouth opened and his jaw worked, but for a long moment he just stared at Emerald, disbelieving and words refusing to form.
“They... they already did betray you...” Oskar finally said in a quiet voice that quickly raised in volume. “Then why?! How can you possibly still trust them to not betray you when they already have before?!? How could you possibly still see them as your friend!?”
“Because people aren't perfect and make mistakes,” Emerald answered simply before waving to the world around them. “Because their intent behind the ‘betrayal’ was understandable and after everything I've seen here I can't blame or hold it against them anymore. Because it's thanks to them that now I've no longer given up on becoming the kind of person my mother would like me to be... and while I don't believe I'll ever fulfill those exact expectations, I think stopping you is a good first step.”
Oskar stared, gaping at Emerald for a long moment, an expression shared by a certain rainbow maned pegasus.
“It's... it's not fair... IT'S NOT FAIR...” Oskar said angrily before his shoulders slumped and his face became blank of all emotion, his voice becoming almost silent in it's softness. “It's not fair...”
Oskar then met Emerald's gaze and he suddenly flared up like a small sun and moved. Emerald couldn't help the shout of surprise that left her mouth as she stumbled back, her leg kick up into the air. Oskar's speed was incredible, far faster than even Emerald was capable of managing. It was only thanks to Emerald's startled reaction that Oskar's sudden offensive didn't give him the advantage. The male Evolved blurred towards Emerald like a bright blazing bullet and his stomach impacted the sole of Emerald's raised foot. His momentum carried him forward and he was launched into the air thanks to the impact with Emerald's leg. Emerald quickly cleared her mind and teleported after Oskar.
Emerald arrived in the air as Oskar forcibly brought himself to a stop, the both of them quickly grew wings as interdiction fields were raised. Oskar brought himself to face Emerald and the female Evolved barely was able to roll out of the way as he suddenly shot past like a shooting star.
'Fast. How did he get so fast?!' Emerald thought with wide eyes as she was forced to dodge Oskar shooting at her almost faster then she could react. But as soon as he flew past once more, she narrowed her eyes at him. 'Wait, he isn't really maneuvering all that well and his magical aura is intensely bright. He isn't actually faster now, he's just forcing himself to move faster than he is able to control. I can manage this.'
True enough, Oskar was forcing himself to move faster than he could control, giving him extreme tunnel vision and awareness of only what was directly in front of him, plus he couldn't exactly bring himself to an instant stop either. Emerald quickly started moving and kept up a high level of speed. It wasn't as fast as the speeds Oskar was forcing himself to move, but she could actually retain full control.
“Oh what do we do, what do we do?!” Fluttershy asked frantically as two balls of light moved at incredible speeds overhead, one in orbiting circular movements and the other in a zigzag pattern.
“Nothing,” Luna said as she and her fellow Princesses kept up a constant barrier around the group. “Even with the Elements of Harmony, none of you have the capability to assist in a fight of this level. Sadly, the same can be said for us as well.”
“Hey where did those two Discords go?” Rainbow Dash asked as she turned in place. “I bet they ran off.”
“That sort of behavior I've come to expect from our Discord, but from this world's Discord?” Celestia stated and then shook her head. “He would never allow it. I think they are simply awaiting the right moment to strike. Even for them, this fight is extremely dangerous.”
“Are you okay, Twilight?” Rarity asked her fellow unicorn who looked like she was a moment away from nervously chewing her hooves off as she watched the skies above.
“No I'm not,” Twilight answered honestly, her gaze still fazed to the sky. “It's hard just sitting here waiting, hoping that our part in this comes to play. It's horrible to just sit here knowing Emerald could actually be killed here.”
Rarity was about to say more when a deafening boom echoed through the air. Looking up, Rarity saw that one of the balls of the light was shooting up to the skies with the other in quick pursuit.
After orbiting Oskar and easily dodging his attempts to strike her, Emerald had baited him several times in order to attempt to open him up to a hit. She waited for several opportunities to strike before she actually did. timing it just so as he shot past and struck out as she dodged. It worked, though he impacted her so hard that her leg was torn off, an easy enough condition to fix. Her leg was fully regenerated half an instant later as she raced through the air and past Oskar as he shot into the sky.
Emerald flew at Oskar's flying body with a kick, but as soon as she neared the male Evolved's body, he shimmered and spikes suddenly exploded out of his body towards Emerald. Emerald's blow still landed, sending Oskar flying but the instant she felt the spikes sink into her flesh she felt intense stabbing pains where they pierced her.
Emerald came to a stop in midair just before the Black Parasprite swarm, gasping for breath. She had turned off her pain receptors for this fight, yet the pain she felt was still there and it was intense. It was as if someone had turned her into a normal human and then proceeded to stab her several times in the chest. She barely had the presence of mind left to keep herself afloat in the air, so shocked by the pain as she was it was no surprise she didn't see Oskar's followup attack coming.
Suddenly he was before her and she absently realized she had lost control of her interdiction spell. She saw the gleam of a sharp edge and shimmer of an ethereal afterimage before she felt intense agony fill her being.
Oskar had stabbed her, impaled her with an arm shifted into a blade. Her stab wounds from his spikes glowed brightly with a burning orange light reminiscent of the alternate's own wounds. From around the blade entering her stomach and exiting her back an even brighter glow emitted. The pain was horrific and Emerald could not help the tears streaming down her cheeks or the scream that was ripped from her throat. Despite this, however, she still had the presence of mind to strike back at Oskar, snarling through the pain.
The only bit of warning Oskar had was Emerald glaring at him when two ethereal claws erupted from her shoulders and stabbed him deeply in his head and chest. That broke the concentration on his own spirit striking attack around the blade still impaled in Emerald and she easily booted him away from her. The two came to a stop fifty feet from each other, panting and clutching at their wounds, glowing burning orange tears in their very being.
“Horrific, isn't it?” Discord heard his alternate state. “That there should be such beings that can survive such injuries to their innermost being. Even for a Primal such wounds could never be ignored, but just by feeling their energies from here I can tell they are more than ready to continue tearing each other apart.”
Discord and his alternate were rather close by to the fighting and yet they were weren't. The two of them were currently disembodied and resided in a place called the Spiritual Plane, a different layer of reality that also coincidentally happened to be the same realm newly ascended alicorns went. Discord himself merely appeared to be a ghostly version of himself and glowed softly in an ever changing array of colors. His alternate was the same, but his glow was noticeably weaker and his two maiming injuries were far more obvious here, with clouds of burning energies billowing out from the holes in his very being. Said billowing energies seemed to attract a large amount of small parasprite sized lights of various colors. The little “Sprites” gathered around the billowing clouds and seemed to bathe in them and simply fly around them excitedly. The alternate paid them no mind.
Through a complex array of highly attuned senses and a different way of “seeing”, Discord and his Alternate were able to watch as the two Evolved battled and tore into each other from their place on a different layer of reality. Through their sight within the Spiritual Plane, the two Spirits of Chaos could see the broiling clouds of energy practically blasting out of the open tears into the two Evolved's being. So much energy and power was being lost from the open wounds but other then the clear pain from said wounds the two seemed not to pay any mind to the energy loss, which spoke more for the amount of power they must have then any demonstration of power ever could.
“She really is a monster; an alien from another world,” Discord stated. “Just what kind of place can birth beings such as this? His head injuries would have killed even The Fury and I doubt even The End could ignore an impalement like hers.”
“They are hardly ignoring them,” The alternate stated with a considering stare. “But they are adapting rather quickly. This fight will continue in but a few more moments.”
“Should we act now that he is so hurt?” Discord asked.
“No. We must wait for the perfect moment,” the alternate replied. “Despite the rate he is losing power, he still has far more to spare. We must wait for him to grow weaker still or he will likely work to strike the both us down the instant we make our presence known and he still has the power to spare against both us and Emerald.”
“... I haven't felt this level of power in a very long time.”
“It brings back memories, doesn't it?”
Her wounds still ached horribly, but Emerald forced her breathing to come back under control and stood upright to face Oskar. He was doing the same as her, recollecting his composure and likely preparing to continue fighting. He had two small holes in his head and one large rent. The two little holes were in his left cheek and in his forehead. The rent was large and was where his left eye used to be. His torso had several little burning orange holes that glowed as well, five of them from the clawed phantom limb Emerald used on him. Emerald for her part was just as damaged as him, possibly even more so. She had only a few little holes in her body but the massive impalement injury caused by Oskar's blade burned horribly and ached with every movement. The worst part about the injuries however wasn't the pain but the way she felt her power draining through the holes in her like water under pressure shooting out cracks in a tank.
'The... the only saving grace here is that he is likely suffering just as badly...' Emerald thought. 'If I don't e-end this s-soon, this fight will c-come down to who can endure the most injuries without f-falling over.'
Emerald willed her biomass to replicate and fill in the holes that had been turn into her form. It was done simply and easily enough, but the pain remained despite looking no worse for wear. Instead of healing her wounds, it felt more like she was simply patching over the damage. Oskar had done the same thing and his concerned expression at finding out that didn't truly fix the damage was likely as obvious as Emerald's own.
The female Evolved quickly took the initiative. She burst forward in an explosion of speed, her body aching horribly with the surge of magic. She felt herself actually going slower then she was used to and attributed to her new wounds. Thankfully, Oskar seemed to be suffering the same side effects as her. Though he saw her coming, he couldn't move fast enough. There was a massive explosion of kinetic force and Oskar was sent flying through the air. The wave of kinetic force from the point of impact spread out and killed a large chunk of the black parasprite swarm nearby overhead. Hundreds of thousands of black parasprites rained down around Emerald as she shot forward after Oskar.
A large group of gruff looking ponies wearing battered and cobbled together looking metal armor went through training drills, some of them going through a cheaply made obstacle course and many others sparring. Watching these ponies train was a pink alicorn who had more than a few old scars darting her form. She wore scratched and battered looking purple armor that had a pink star on the front as a crest. Despite the condition of the armor, it was clear she took great care in maintaining it, though it was also clear it had to be modified to fit her. Her tail was roughly cut short and bound together with rugged white wrapping, and sticking out of the top of her purple helmet was her purple, pink and yellow mane which had appeared to also be roughly cut short and was a tad spiky looking.
'Cadance' took in her resistance fighters in their daily training sessions with a cool stare. They had all come a long way since their formation several years ago. It wasn't really surprising, they had all lost someone to the monster that now controlled the world, and that loss gave them the determination to push and reach for goals they'd otherwise fail to reach. The same could be said about herself. She had no doubts in her mind if the current her met the her from the very beginning of this nightmare she'd be shocked at the change.
'We've all lost somepony that we loved and cared for...' Cadence thought, an old pain flaring up and she allowed herself a brief moment to close her eyes. 'But their loss is not forgotten, nor in vain. We remember them and the pain of their absence drives us to reach ever greater heights. I will avenge the husband I never had and the mare I never got to call sister.'
Suddenly, the training session was brought to a halt as a low boom seemed to shake the skies. Ponies stopped their activities and stared upwards, gasped and talked, pointing to the black sky. Cadance looked up herself and saw large chunks of the black sky falling away, the countless black insects that made up the black sky dying in massive droves with each sound of a low explosion. The princess turned warrior removed her helmet, revealing her short, spiky mane to stare up at a yellow and orange evening sky that was exposed for the first time in years.
“Commander!” exclaimed a mare. “What's going on?!”
Cadance didn't reply immediately, still not knowing the answer herself but continued studying the skies. Eventually she saw two bright lights darting amongst the “clouds” and impacting against each other every few moments, a low boom resounding through the air every time they impacted against each other. So great was their clashes that great swathes of black parasprites died and fell out of the sky from the impact forces.
“I think... that someone is fighting him,” Cadance said to everyone's collective gasps. “And they aren't losing instantly...”
Everyone watched on in silence of the battle overhead, all knowing that deep down this would decide the fate of their home turned hell. There was another loud boom and one of the lights was sent shooting off into the distance at incredible speeds with the other light chasing after it.
“Whoever you are...” said one resistance fighter aloud. “Please win.”
'Please...' Cadance added her own prayer as she clutched the helmet to her chest.
Emerald shouted in pain as Oskar's claw raked the side of her face, leaving glowing rents. Shifting a leg into a whipfist, she paid him in turn with a deep stab into his gut. With his own shout of pain Oskar quickly formed a death orb in his palm which grew to the size of a small house and shot off towards her. Emerald recognized this for what it was; buying time to lick wounds a little. Considering she needed it as well, she allowed it. A beam of energy lanced forth from her palm and raked across the surface of the sphere, causing a massive explosion that vaporized the black parasprites around them. The two Evolved were little bothered by it and were simply sent tumbling through the air.
Bringing herself slowly to a stop, Emerald brought a hand up to her face and felt the cuts that burned like someone forcibly rubbed salt into them. She had gained more of them, though none of them were as bad as the massive impalement wound she felt throb agonizingly in her chest. Simple little burning orange cuts in her form, flesh wounds basically. Patching over the glowing rents, Emerald looked towards her opponent who was just finishing doing the same.
Suddenly he shot forward at her and her hands met his. The two tossed and turned, spinning through the air at incredible speeds. Normally grappling with Oskar was simply a practice in futility, but while the cuts made Emerald go ever slower as she gained more, the same could be said for Oskar who grew a bit weaker with each wound he gained of his own. Of course the issue here was that every time one of them got a decent blow on the other with the spirit cutting technique, the other was able to as well. A battle that was grinding the both of them down equally.
Suddenly Oskar's arms froze solid down to his elbows and Emerald brought both legs up and kicked him solidly in the chest. His arms shattered and the male Evolved was sent flying again through the air, the explosion of force ripping apart the parasprite swarm surrounding them. Emerald pumped her blade wings, channeling power to go faster and chase after her male counterpart, all her wounds burning ever more intensely the more power she used.
'I won't beat him like this...' Emerald thought as she quickly spun away from Oskar, barely missing a shimmering claw. 'This is grinding the both of us down... I can't even use the phantom limb, either. All these wounds get in the way of my concentration... I can only do what he does with the spirit cutting technique. B-but... I don't need to win, do I? I'm not alone here... if I can grind him down enough, then the others will be able to fight him without help... hopefully.'
Emerald gritted her teeth as Oskar rushed at her, her hands met his again but she was at the mercy of his momentum now as the surroundings blurred around her.
In the countryside of what was once the Heron Republic, a pegasus sat in meditation. She was a weary looking mare with a blue coat and silver mane. She was wearing a patched white haori with light blue trimming and wore a conical hat. On the front of the hat and back of her haori was kanji that translated into the word 'wind'. Before her laid down upon some slightly dirty looking cloth were two swords, one longer than the other. Some distance before her was a singular wooden post and the telltale sign of a grave. All around her were the corpses of several brawlers and lesser infected.
Swift Gale sighed tiredly as she gathered up her blades and replaced them back in their sheaths. It had been a while since the Channelers had been shattered and their remains scattered throughout the pillaged lands of the former Republic. More than a few had certainly survived, but a vast majority had gone to defend the grand monastery of their order. It was two weeks of solid fighting against a seemingly endless enemy when he arrived and ended the battle within an hour. That was all anyone really knew of what happened at the battle for the monastery. The only survivors were people who managed to get out before he arrived. Some say the ancient masters of the order had gone to face him in battle... it was clear who won that fight if it was true.
'I still wish you hadn't sent me away,' Swift thought as she stared at the white post. 'You were the closest thing to family I had left when Equestria fell. I know I would have been dead too, but... at least it would have been over. There's just nothing left... couldn't even get your body; had to bury your things...'
Suddenly, Swift felt the edges of her senses twinge and turned to look just in time to see and feel an explosion in the sky. She leapt to her hooves, thinking Oskar had come to cleanse the remains of the Republic when her senses caught what was happening. The movement of the wind and changing air pressure acted as a sort of radar to Swift Gale. Straining these special senses to the limit, she was able to feel two figures amongst the parasprite swarms battling.
She watched as one of the battling beings released a massive beam of energy at the other, swiping it through the air and unintentionally annihilating a vast swathe of “cloud cover” as they did so. In response, the other being dodged and ducked around the beam intended for them and got under the other before shooting up into them. Swift watched as the two then rose far into the sky, growing smaller and smaller before they disappeared from sight.
“Looks like you were right after all...” Swift muttered quietly before sending a glance at the post. “There is always hope for the future.”
Emerald let loose a barely audible scream of pain before quickly retaliating at Oskar with clawed slashes that managed to bite deeply into his right arm. The female Evolved clutched at the minor impalement wound in her side, right over where her left kidney would have been..
'Fuck that hurts!' Emerald thought with a growl before she quickly moved out of the way of Oskar barreling at her.
Both Oskar and Emerald were now at the very edges of Equus' atmosphere, far away from anything they could accidental damage if either of them were willing to work through the ever increasing pain of using ever greater magic while damaged as they were. The passive drain on their magics increased with every new tear into their souls. Their well of power was immense, but everything runs out eventually. For the first time in years, Emerald was beginning to feel the onset of magical exhaustion. It was very telling that movement at speeds that rendered the two Evolved a blur to the naked eye was now saved for quick assaults upon one another.
'Concentrate. Just concentrate,' Emerald told herself as she twirled out of the way of a beam of plasma. 'You are better than him at magical control. He wastes far more than he uses. The damage is only making that waste even worse.'
Emerald began to fly, dancing on the edges of Oskar's defenses and dodging his ranged attacks with some minor aerial acrobatics. Recalling the sensation of breaking the sound barrier, Emerald channeled power to her blade wings. One moment Emerald was a mile away, dancing around Oskar's probing strikes, the next she was suddenly in his face and burying her claws into his chest.
Emerald forced her claws in deeper, ripping and tearing at Oskar's flesh before ten blades fully impaled him through. However... while Oskar didn't have nearly as much magical control as Emerald had, he more than made up for it with pure, raw power and more magic than he could ever use at his beck and call. Suddenly the male Evolved's body lit up like a flare as he called upon his magic, old wounds and tears into his spirit seemed to blow away viral flesh that had been grown over them as magic blasted out of them like a blowtorch. Realizing she may have miscalculated, Emerald tried to pull away but Oskar's hands gripped one of her arms, his strength as great as it was at the start of the fight. Before Emerald could command her arm to self destruct and disconnect, Oskar shifted a blade and brought it down on her caught limb.
Emerald went spinning away into space, twisting and grabbing at the glowing stump where her arm had been. If it were not for the void, her screams would have been bone chilling to hear. The female Evolved struggled to return her senses and focus on the fight. She saw an intense bright light and for a moment mistook it for the sun. Getting a better look, she saw Oskar at the center of the “sun”, giving a silent roar of both pain and exertion before pointing the palms of his hands at her.
Emerald widened her eyes and pointed her own palm at Oskar, bringing up the strongest barrier she could as the light seemed to rush at her.
“Come on you monster, I can do this all day!” Gilda shouted as she hefted her mace meaningfully.
Raising its massive mitt-like rocky fists in reply, the Juggernaut roared a challenge before charging.
What was happening currently was a rather large battle between Griffin Anvil Knights and a large horde of infected with various viral creatures mixed in. Most of it was the infected, twisted griffins, ponies and various other sapient species that had called the Principalities home. Brawlers and Juggernauts were among the infected, but in place of Goliaths were infected mega fauna that the Principalities were famed for. Thankfully for the Knights, only a few mega fauna infected were in this battle.
Gilda took to the skies the moment the Juggernaut leapt at her, bringing its hammerfists crashing down on the ground she just vacated. She turned in midair and faced the viral creature. She was wearing a plain steel suit of armor, sloping plating with steel chainmail underneath. Her helmet was fairly basic as well; it had ridges over the eyes to deflect blows and sloping armor over the beak as well as camail that hung from within the helm and dropped over the shoulders for extra protection. Her mace was specifically a flanged mace with six pointed sides to it.
The Juggernaut turned in time to see an up close look of Gilda's mace rushing towards it. The mace crashed into its face with a small crunch and tearing of flesh. The viral monster stumbled back, more out of surprise and pain than actual harm, though. The creature briefly pawed its face before quickly turning about to face Gilda and leapt at her into the air where the griffin almost effortlessly dodged it. That was the issue with the Juggernauts. Much of their effectiveness dropped against extremely agile foes, especially ones that could retreat into the air. However, it wasn't like they weren't expendable and literal millions were waiting to be eagerly thrown into whatever grinder they faced. Still, they were quite meaty and for someone like Gilda they proved a tiring opponent to wear down. Gilda, however, never did intend to be the one to bring it down.
Hearing a loud war cry, the Juggernaut turned to see a griffin wearing ornate battered brass armor wielding a spherical spiked mace arching with electricity, his wings doing the same. There was a boom like a thunderclap and suddenly the Juggernaut was without the upper half of its head. It balanced a few moments on its stubby legs, its arms twitching as a final death rattle gurgled out of the hole of its throat before it fell over.
Gilda gave a relieved sigh before looking over the battlefield just in time to see the shooting star that was her father flying through a mega infected like it wasn't there. The massive, unnaturally spindly and emancipated creature gave a groan before it fell over with a hole the size of a minivan through its chest.
Turning away, the griffin looked around to see that her fellow Knights were also on the way to winning the battle despite it currently looking like they were badly outnumbered. The major viral beings like the Brawlers, Juggernauts and Mega Infected were all nearly dead. The minor infected, even the ones with advanced infection, were practically fodder for a seasoned knight to work through so they barely mattered.
It had been a long and harsh constant three years of fighting for the Principalities but it had weathered them as best as they could, standing tall and defiant in the face of threat that constantly overshadowed them. The dedication of this defiance was no more clearer than the fact the large force of Anvil Knights were all battling in the crater of what used to be a mountain. This mountain had been the base upon which a Great Hold of the Principalities had stood but had been rendered into nothingness by Oskar. Still, the Griffins did not kneel in the face of this clear show of power and intimidation. Collectively, the Anvil Knights hardened their wills and raised sword, axe and mace to protect friends, family and innocents from the ravening hordes.
Suddenly it was as if a second sun had been born over head. A bright, blinding light shone through the thick layer of black parasprites. A moment later, a blast of kinetic force cleared away vast swathes of the parasprites, revealing a massive crimson explosion in the night sky.
In a place both near and eternally far away, two ghostly spirits of chaos seemed to stand just before the surface of a sun.
“The moon?” Discord's Alternate spoke. “Hmmm... perfect. You go get Cadance, I shall ready my things.”
Emerald vision was one massive blur of black and red. Everything hurt and she couldn't feel her limbs. An instant later and sensation returned, bringing with it even more pain and sense of her surroundings. Equestria seemed to be above her, it was an angrily pulsating ball of black due to the thick clouds of black parasprites, though there was a few clear spots created by Emerald and Oskar's fight. Looking around herself, Emerald saw that she was on the moon in a large crater created by her landing. The female Evolved gave an audible groan as she attempted to get onto her feet before her eyes widened in surprise.
'Huh... there's air on the moon,' Emerald thought as she stood up. 'Pretty comfortable temperature as well.'
The virus released another pained groan and reached down to hold the remains of her arm. The point where the rest of it had been cut off hurt worse then the impalement. And speaking of injuries, all of her “healed” soul tears had been opened up again. That last attack by Oskar had been incredibly powerful, however it had basically been raw magical energy shot in her general direction. She was able to avoid most of it via a shaped barrier. Emerald was about to fill in the damage again when a bright light shined down on her and a roar filled the air.
Overhead, Oskar was charging another attack to blast Emerald with. Bringing up so much magic in his state hurt horrifically, but in a battle to the death he was willing to experience agony if it meant victory. Knowing she only had moments to act, Emerald brought forth her channeling abilities to buy her some time. An instant later, she sunk into the dust of the moon like it was water.
Emerald sunk down quickly, rock and dust rushing past her. Her senses stretched out, her mastery of earth channeling practically made the rock around her an extension of her own body. A moment later she felt it, a blast of heat and energy tearing away countless miles of dust and rock from the surface of the moon. As dust and rock boiled and was incinerated, Emerald dived as fast as she could, feeling like an inferno was chasing her, gaining on her almost faster than she could dive down.
The female Evolved seemed to go down for miles, rock and dust just a few feet behind her turning molten before being vaporized away. Finally, the advance of the heat slowed and eventually stopped and Emerald brought herself to a stop as well. She took just long enough to patch over the tears in her form and regrow her arm before shooting back upward.
The female Evolved burst through a thick layer of molten rock. All around her was the presence of a glowing crater several hundred miles wide and many miles deep. Oskar hung however in the air, suspended by his blade wings. He was panting and his breath came in loud wheezes.
Emerald came to a stop in midair about thirty feet away from Oskar who, despite his wheezing, kept a careful eye on her. Wordlessly, the both of them agreed to a brief ceasefire as the both of them desired to recover. Suddenly there was a pop that attracted the both of their attention. They were met with the sight of Discord's Alternate hovering in midair a short distance away. Beside him was Cadance who was holding aloft a scratched looking and noticeably dim crystal heart. Along with the two were hundreds of clearly magical objects. Everything from jewelry to tools hovered in the air. Musical instruments from horns to harps, weapons from swords to bows and arrows, pieces of armor, specially shaped gems much like the crystal heart but clearly lesser. Every single one of them were aimed toward Oskar.
Oskar was moments away from flying away as fast and as far as he could from the array of magical firepower that was intimidating even for him when he was struck. Emerald came flying at him like a bullet and the two were sent flying into space. They spun rapidly head over heals and grappled and wrestled with each other. Emerald managed to get the upper hand thanks to channeling a ton of magic like he did with her. It was agonizing, but like him she was willing to power through the pain for victory.
With an arm around his neck and another arm around his waist, Emerald forced him to face towards Discord's alternate and Cadance. Knowing that Emerald wouldn't be able to hold Oskar for long, Discord quickly charged up his arsenal, pushing them so hard and fast they would likely be destroyed or too damaged to be used again. Recalling what had happened in the Crystal Empire, Cadance hesitated to use the crystal heart with Emerald in the firing line, but the alicorn knew what exactly was at stake and quickly shook it off.
Emerald felt like Oskar was an instant from tearing himself free out of her grasp when a bright blinding light was all she knew. She felt intense, burning pain and a sudden sensation of movement but that faded quickly. She heard what sounded like screaming in her ears but she was honestly at a loss of whether it was her or Oskar's voice. Emerald's world remained in darkness until she finally realized she had actually lost her eyes at some point. Regenerating her eyes, what met her restored sight was the image of Equestria's moon missing a good sized chunk of it, a third of its visual surface turned into a molten crater. Oskar was still in her grip, but he wasn't fighting against her anymore. Considering he took on the full brunt of the blow, he was likely far more out of it than her. She wasn't naive enough to believe for a moment she was simply holding onto a crispy corpse and nothing else.
Her view started to turn red and heat started to rise greatly. Wearily looking over her shoulder, Emerald saw the world of Equus rushing up at her, the friction of her and Oskar shooting down directly into the atmosphere turning the both of them into a shooting star for anyone below to see. The both of them were flying quite fast, it didn't take long at all for impact to be imminent.
'... Good aim,' Emerald mentally complimented the Alternate Spirit of Chaos as she saw the viral tree and the remains of Mount Canterlot it sat rooted on rushing at them. Oskar choose this moment to gain some sense of what was going on and wiggled out of her barely resisting grip.
Leaving two smoke trails in their wake, Emerald and Oskar impacted the viral tree at two separate points with a massive crash. Despite the fact the tree was probably quite a bit tougher than the mountain it sat on, the both of them tore through it, only losing most of their momentum. The tree shuddered after their passage before slowly tipping over and falling down into the field Canterlot once loomed over.
Emerald and Oskar continued their flight for a couple dozen more miles before crashing down into some plains, their impact separated only by a hundred feet and the both of them created very large craters with their impact. And for several long, quiet moments, the two Evolved lied still in the centers of their respective craters. The exhaustion of their wounds and battle beginning to really catch up to the both of them.
Finally, the two of them got up and started walking out of their craters and towards each other. Reaching the very edges of their craters they stared at each other. Oskar's body was covered with glowing rents in his form, several dozen shallow cuts marked his limbs and torso, several small holes all the way through him also marked his chest and head along with a very large one where one of his eyes had been. Seemingly as a sign of his own exhaustion, the glowing wounds weren't as bright as before. Before, the impalement injuries were completely opaque with bright orange light, but now the light was faded enough to see completely through. The male Evolved released a pained groan as his wounds filled in rather slowly in comparison to what he and even she was capable of. Emerald was actually little better and it actually took her several seconds to close up her reopened wounds and regenerate her arm.
Just as the two were about to charge at each other once more, there was a bang and flash of light and suddenly Oskar was surrounded. The three princesses were around her, their horns aglow with magic and the two Discords were over head pointing the palms of their hands towards the male Evolved. A short distance away was the Mane Six, wearing the Elements of Harmony.
A multicolored magical aura coalesced around Oskar and his arms seemed to be firmly bound to his side and his feet rooted to the ground. Grimacing, Oskar gave a shout of exertion as he fought again the magical bonds on him, his arms quickly rising up. The three Princesses gritted their teeth and closed their eyes tightly as they tried to push back against a force that seemed unstoppable. The two Discords were the same, though they were also countering magical force as well. Just as it seemed like Oskar was about to break free, Emerald dashed forward and around his side before wrapping her arms around his chest and arms. Immediately, the unstoppable force pushing against the others grew far weaker, now reduced merely to something that would eventually break free in a minute.
“Hurry!” Emerald shouted towards the Mane Six as Oskar twisted and writhed in her grip. “Use the Elements! SEAL HIM!”
“B-but the last time they sealed you too!” Twilight shouted in response, her hesitation and worry clear to see. “Emerald we-”
Suddenly Oskar's form glowed intensely, his wounds ripping back open as they released magic like water under pressure. He gave a loud roar and everyone reeled back as raw magic released from Oskar buffeted them. Emerald barely held on to him by the tips of her fingers. Her eyes became almost wild as she looked towards the Mane Six again.
“DO IT!” Emerald shouted.
With a look that made it clear that what she was about to do was tearing her apart inside, Twilight nodded and as one the Mane Six rose into the air. Their Elements and their eyes glowed and released ever brighter light as their power charged for release. Oskar's struggles increased in intensity and desperation all the while, pushing everyone who tried with all their might to keep him still to the point of exhaustion and collapse until...
Suddenly Oskar went still as the light from the Elements of Harmony prepared to fire died down. Emerald wondered if something had gone wrong, if the Elements had gone inert due to not being in the right world. But then she started to hear the sound of stone grinding together and backed away from Oskar. She looked at his form to see patches of stone spreading slowly and looked down at herself and felt intense relief to see nothing.
“... I knew... deep down I knew...” Emerald heard Oskar say, his voice so soft it was nigh silent. “That I would end up killing myself... she... she would like you...”
With that, Oskar turned his face up to look towards the sky, cleared by their battle and looked up at the war torn moon. His bucket hat fell off the back of his head and rolled along the ground as he closed his eyes. The sealing ran its course and finished turning his flesh to stone. After a few moments of standing upright on the ground, Oskar tipped backwards and fell back onto the dirt.
Emerald walked forward and looked down at her alternate universe self. He looked... very tired. Not scared or angry that he was sealed, he was just... very exhausted and tired looking. Seeing his cut up and torn hat sitting on the ground beside him, Emerald bent over to pick it up when a wind picked up. She watched as it rolled away on the ground before picking up a strong breeze and flew into the air. She watched it dance on the wind and flew off into the distance, wondering if she should call it to her with her magic for a moment before shaking her head.
She turned away from Oskar's sealed form and walked a few steps away. She reached out with her senses and almost reeled as countless quadrillions of viral lifeforms eagerly reached back to her. She could feel every single viral lifeform Oskar had seeded on the whole world. From every black parasprite blotting out the sky, shambling infected stumbling through ruined cities, towering mega infected and the tiny spores drifting in the air, she felt every single one in her mind. Suffice to say it was a tad overwhelming.
“It's strange...” Twilight began as she walked over to Emerald. “We've won but it doesn't feel like we won. It just feels like... we survived.”
“That's what happens when you save the day several years too late,” Emerald replied tiredly. “And I am not done just yet. There are all these viral lifeforms flooding the world to deal with.”
“What are you going to do?” Twilight asked worriedly.
“Save who I can,” Emerald answered, getting a hopeful look from Celestia which was ruined by what the virus said next. “Kill the rest.”
With that, Emerald gritted her teeth and reached out to the countless creatures that responded eagerly to her prodding. Giving the kill command to the various beasts and monstrosities infesting the world was almost as easy as simply saying the word itself. What proved to be infinitely harder and complex was going through all the infected ponies and other infected sapients of the world and trying to reverse the infection in them. She was able to cure hundreds of thousands of “sleeper infected”, people who did not know were infected and would quickly explode into a monstrosity at a single command. But she was having much greater trouble reversing the damage and “curing” people who had been turned into a shambler. She was able to do it for people who had been freshly turned but for those who had been infected for any decent length of time the infection became too great in their bodies for her to truly reverse. Make no mistake, she could reverse their conditions to a pre-infection state but the issue lied in the brain, by that point the virus had badly corrupted the brain and Emerald did not know nearly enough about the brain for badly gone people to retain any memories. For a tiny lucky fraction they were saved. For the rest... at least they finally got to rest.
All over the world countless beings got the command to commit suicide and had they the emotion for it, they would have done so happily. Instantly, viral creatures fell over dead and rapidly degraded, seemingly rotting away within seconds and breaking down into dust. One instant there was a thick ceiling of broiling clouds of black parasprites, the next the skies were filled with dust and ashes. The remains of the great viral tree and its roots that stretched on and on for miles and miles practically became a tidal wave of dust and any viral creature that happened to be in sight followed suite.
“Woah!” Applejack exclaimed at the transformation to the sky that had taken mere seconds to happen.
“Is it done?” Celestia asked. “Have you managed to save them?”
“Ye-yeah but...” Emerald stuttered as her body started to get uncontrollable shakes, especially her right arm. “Not n-nearly enough of t-them...”
“Emerald?” Twilight stated with great concern as she took in Emerald's shaking. “Are you okay? Emerald? Answer me please... Emerald?!”
Emerald wanted to say she was fine, but her mouth simply moved and no sound left it. She brought up her arm to clutch at her throat only for it to rapidly rot away and expose the glowing stump where her arm had been lopped off. Looking down at herself she saw the wounds she had patched over reopening but glowing far more faintly then they had before. Her vision started growing fuzzy and turning black at the edges.
“Stayed up all night, honey?” Emerald heard a familiar voice say. “It's okay, you can take a short nap upstairs. You can come down later and help out, okay? We'll make some nice cakes.”
“M-mom?” Emerald asked in confusion as she fell down onto her knees before crashing face first into the dirt.
“Emerald!” Twilight screamed and quickly darted to her side before turning her over. She gasped in silent horror at what she saw.
Emerald was completely covered in glowing rents in her form. There was this massive tear in her torso you could see the dirt she was lying on through. One of her arms was half gone, and she had this large hole in her side. There was many deep gashes in her as well. Some was so deep that had Emerald had a bone structure, it likely would have been easily seen through some of the cuts. She had several deep cuts in her face as well, her right cheek was completely shredded and revealed the insides of her mouth. There was another large gash running down the middle of her face and along her nose before ending at her lip. Possibly the absolute worst part at seeing all this was the glow from the wounds. Or rather, how faint it was. If they were anything like Discord's, they should have been so bright you couldn't see the torn flesh beneath. But this wasn't the case currently for Emerald. The glowing rents in her form were still bright but you could still easily see and make out the torn and shredded flesh beneath.
“Emerald stop doing this to me!” Twilight shouted, her heart beating deafeningly in her ears as she reached over and clutched both sides of the virus' head. “Wake up! Open your eyes! PLEASE!”
For a long, horrific moment there was silence, then Emerald released a wheeze and her left eye cracked open a little. Her eye rolled in its socket, taking in the world but not comprehending what was going on. After another moment, the eye slowly closed again.
“No, no, no, no, no.”
“She lives,” Discord's Alternate stated as he stepped over. “As long as those wounds in her form continue to glow, then her soul shall persist.”
“Will she get better?” Twilight asked quickly, her expression practically begging Discord for a positive answer.
“I... do not know,” the alternate answered honestly. “The wounds she and Oskar inflicted on each other in the first few minutes of the fight would have killed me near instantly had I been the one to suffer them. She did not die and continued to take more and more damage to her very soul. Give me a moment to study her.”
With that, the alternate stepped over Emerald and narrowed his one good eye at her, not truly seeing her presence on the physical plane but the one she presented on the spiritual plane. She truly was a horrific mess to behold there. It was a total and complete miracle that her soul simply didn't pop and fade from existence. But as he watched her, he saw her wounds ever so slightly start to glow brighter, the magic she lost through them, as immense as the waste was, still wasn't enough to overcome the amount she was regaining.
“She... should live,” the alternate said to Twilight and everyone else's visible relief. “I am unsure how long it will take her to actually heal from these injuries, but provided she actually doesn't suffer any more damage she should survive this.”
“That's okay,” Twilight stated as she reached over and pulled Emerald into a hug. “I'll take care of her. It's the least anypony can do after what she just went through.”
“So what are we gonna do about this baddy here?” Rainbow Dash asked, kicking Oskar's stone side in emphasis. “Can't just leave him here, right?”
“There is nothing more any of you need to do,” the alternate stated firmly to everyone's surprise. “Oskar has been sealed and his near infinite armies of infected are dead and gone. I can handle the rest here. If I do everything right, then not only will Oskar cease to exist but all of this world's problems from his presence shall be undone.”
Everyone got a confused look on their face at that answer, except for Discord who looked rather thoughtful. He got a look of sudden realization and looked at his alternate with a solemn stare.
“It will kill you, you know,” Discord said. “Even if it were me that did it, it would kill me too... instantly. You would need a lot of help to ensure you had any time at all to do anything truly useful.”
“I know who to ask,” the alternate replied. “She may be completely annoying, but she would want to get things back on some semblance of a track.”
“Discord what is it you two are talking about?” Celestia asked with a frown. “Even if this helps everyone, there must be another way. Self sacrifice is noble, but-”
“Hmph... suddenly I remember why I found you so annoying,” the alternate said, looking down at Celestia but slowly a small smile formed. “I think it's time you all went home now. Don't you think so, my mirror self?”
Discord nodded at that and snapped his fingers, and the group disappeared. The now singular Discord stared at where everyone had been standing for a moment before turning away. He stopped and stared at Oskar's sealed form for a bit and continued on his way.
'You'll be gone forever soon enough,' Discord thought and teleported to Canterlot's ruins.
An instant later, the Spirit of Chaos arrived in the ruins of Equestria's capital. Unlike Ponyville, the ruins here were practically nonexistent due to the fact the viral tree had been sitting atop it. At most there was broken stone outlines of where the homes of ponies had been. Wandering through the ruins here and there were a few ponies who must have had the luck of being cured of their conditions. They poked at the torn ruins of former homes barely halfheartedly, their eyes glazed over saying all that needed to be said of their mental states. Discord ignored them and was ignored in turn.
After a few minutes, Discord arrived at the ruins of the royal palace. For some reason the first floor of the palace existed in some fashion. Obviously the ceiling wasn't there and some of the walls were just gone but the floor was still there along with a good many of the furnishings.
'A trophy of his victory perhaps?' Discord thought as he made his way through the ruins. 'There are so many questions about my enemy. Why did he leave anyone alive? Why did he not put in more effort into dominating resistance? Why did he not destroy the Elements of Harmony? Why did he keep them? So many questions... it doesn't really matter, I suppose. Nothing will in a few minutes.'
Eventually Discord found himself in the remains of the throne room. The walls were barely standing and the glass windows were completely shattered, and where the throne had been was a crater in the ground. Sitting in the very middle of the room were the Elements of Harmony, tarnished and their gems cracked but they remained whole. Discord walked forward until he was only a few feet from the Elements of Harmony and came to a stop.
“Well?” Discord said a tad impatiently. “I'm waiting.”
Instantly the cracks in the gems filled and the tarnish was removed from the Elements of Harmony and they rose into the air. There was a flash of light and a moment later ghostly apparitions of the Mane Six appeared wearing the Elements of Harmony, each one the color of their coat in life. The others stared at him blandly without a single trace of emotion but Twilight had a look of utter scorn.
“Well, well, at long last The Chaos speaks to me directly,” 'Twilight' sneered.
“You know why I am here, Fate,” Discord stated simply. “Or at the very least can approximate it very accurately.”
“Oh certainly, for one who valued chaos so much you are ultimately quite predictable, I'm afraid,” Fate answered honestly. “What was the matter? Was true and total chaos too much for you? Was the truth of order's dark mirror too much to stomach?”
“Does what I intend to do mean nothing to you?” Discord asked with a sigh and closed his eyes.
“... Make no mistake, I more then appreciate it,” Fate answered, her expression turning serene and voice losing all disdain. “I still find you an utterly childish and a poor example of a Primal compared to your kin. But for what it's worth, I shall refrain from further insults in respect of your decision.”
“Good, let's begin,” Discord said.
“Just so you are aware...” Fate began with a interested studying stare at the Spirit of Chaos. “Even with my help, you will not survive.”
“That's fine,” Discord replied unhesitatingly. “...It's probably for the best.”
“Then prepare yourself,” Fate said before she and the other ghostly apparitions disappeared. The Elements of Harmony flew through the air before taking position around Discord. The tiara placed itself directly over him while the five necklaces took orbit around him. As the necklaces started to spin around him faster and faster, Discord drew upon the entirety of his magic, preparing to use nearly all of it at once. He only had one chance to do this right...
A shade like being hovered over Oskar's sealed form. He wore a tattered black robe with sleeves that ended half way down his arms which were completely covered in bandages, some of which dangled freely in long lengths and flitted in the breeze. His head was hooded and he had a mask over the lower half of his face that revealed his topaz colored eyes and sickly green flesh. In his right hand was a lantern that burned softly.
The shade continue to stare down at Oskar with a considering look in his eyes. After a moment there was the sound of glass cracking and reality seemed to crack and shatter just behind him. Then shards of reality collapsed in within itself and revealed a shadowy realm of total black with a single light. This light came from a patch in the ground just before a tall, bipedal draconic being who was sitting in a stone throne. His head resting boredly upon one of his clawed hands.
“Curse, leave him be or take him,” a low booming voice echoed. “Tis a simple and straightforward decision, is it not?”
“Not nearly as much as you think,” Curse replied without looking to his companion. “He could prove to be exceedingly useful to our goals, or he could prove to be our downfall if that proves false. The decision to leave him to his fate is far more complicated and possesses many potential consequences.”
“Hmph... make thy choice soon, Curse. Lest you meet the same fate as him.”
The shade wanted to sit and think upon the potential pros and cons of taking Oskar with them more but his companion had a point. He had to make his decision now.
After a moment more spent in deliberation, Curse reached out with his lantern towards Oskar. The sealed Evolved lifted into the air and quickly shot into the hole in reality. The shade followed after him an instant later.
'I can keep him sealed for a time more to think on whether or not I should free him,' Curse thought as the hole closed behind him.'This way I have all the time I need to think.'
After the hole in reality closed, all was silent for a moment until an odd thing began to happen. The dust filled sky started to clear, grass started to fade into existence upon the ground. In the distance the mountain regained its missing upper half and Canterlot started to return back to its destroyed state. Within barely a minute, it was as if Oskar's destructive actions upon the world had never happened.
Discord was dying. He knew this with total and complete certainly. He could feel the finality of all things reaching out towards him, ready to grab him and pull him into its embrace. He was more than willing to accept this, but not yet. No, he had yet to complete his self imposed mission.
Looking around himself, Discord saw that he was in Ponyville before it was destroyed. He also saw that he was in a ghost like state that could not be seen or heard by the ponies walking along the street he was on now. He was fading more and more as time went on. Any moment now he would completely cease to exist. Turning in place, the Spirit of Chaos saw Twilight's home. Today was the day that sealed the world's fate as the plaything of a viral psychopath. In fact, the next few minutes were likely the fated moment itself if Fate knew what she was doing.
'Just enough time and enough power to do what I need... then it's all over,' Discord thought as he floated into Twilight's treehouse, finding the thought strangely relieving.
As soon as he entered, Discord heard voices from the library and moved towards them.
“I'm a speed reader and possess a photographic memory,” He heard Emerald's voice say.
“Really?!” came Twilight's excited reply.
“Yep!” Emerald replied cheerfully.
Discord floated into the library and saw two ponies sitting at a table and reading together. One he recognized as Emerald's pony form and the other was Twilight. It didn't look like Emerald was mere moments away from murdering Twilight, but clearly appearances were deceiving. Dearly hoping inwardly that it would happen soon as he felt his very being wasting away, Discord began to settle in to wait when a moment later it began to happen.
Emerald stopped her reading to look up and meet Twilight's eyes who caught the look and smiled happily at her newly made 'friend'. The hidden virus took a breath and reached over and pulled Twilight into a hug as said unicorn blinked in surprise. Discord quickly darted over and reached out with a finger, ready to tap her head at the exact right moment. He recognized the moment when Emerald's arms began to tense, ready to flex and snap bones in an instant. Discord's hand lashed out and he channeled what remained of his power into one spell to influence the mind, a spell he was normally capable of doing with abandon felt like he was lifting and moving a several hundred pound weight. Once he cast the spell a feeling of intense exhaustion and feeling of falling away filled him but Discord fought to not fade away just yet he needed to stay a moment more and see that he did it...
The dying spirit relaxed when Emerald relaxed her grip around Twilight's neck with a sigh. He laid back as he continued to watch Emerald continue to hug Twilight, content to spend his last moment watching the changes he brought about as he started to fade away in earnest.
“Twilight?” Emerald said.
“Yes Emerald?” Twilight replied.
“I'm sorry about being testy earlier,” Emerald said with the other unicorn still wrapped up in a hug. “It's just...”
“It's okay. I understand,” Twilight replied with a sympathetic smile on her face. “Such a thing is not something anypony would want to even remember let alone talk about... you know, it's strange...”
“We only just met and I already know so much about you,” Twilight said with a short laugh.
“...Yes,” Emerald's voice held a hidden threat that Discord was able to detect thanks to years spent fighting her. “...yes you do..”
“No!” Discord shouted in alarm as Emerald's arms tensed again and she seemed moments away from killing Twilight. Discord reached out with his power again and... nothing happened. He simply had nothing left to give and his attempt to do something only accelerated his death. With a despairing cry that could never be heard by those present, Discord faded away completely and died thinking he had failed.
The moment he did so, Emerald relaxed her grip on Twilight and let go fully, there was a brief moment where if one was looking they'd see Emerald's face looking disturbed and that she had forced her expression into a credible smile. She then turned her face down towards her book to continue reading, her completely worried expression hidden from Twilight's gaze.
“Ah... Fate is a cruel mistress, is she not?” Fate quoted snidely, her voice silent to any that could possibly hear. “In any case, thank you for returning my world to me my dear Chaos. Working with something still strongly living is far easier than something that is half dead.”
“Why will you not let us return?” Celestia demanded as she tried to retain her calm.
Everyone had soon found themselves back on their side of portal and on the shore of said portal. Almost the instant they arrived, Discord created a barrier around the portal and refused to let anyone past, let alone answer any questions. Off to the side, Twilight was sitting by Emerald's side along with quite a few Warhounds. Suffice to say it was an utter shock to see Emerald actually be injured to the point of unconscious, or be hurt at all.
“Because anything you intend to do won't matter before long,” Discord finally said.
“Cease these purposefully cryptic statements this instant!” Luna demanded. “What is the reason for your obstruction of our path?”
Whether or not Discord would have answered the two princesses was interrupted by the portal beginning to flash. The waters of the former mirror pool glowed a bright white and started to bubble violently. Then with a loud bang, the waters instantly stopped glowing and bubbling.
“Looks like it has happened,” Discord hummed and reached out with his senses towards the pool. “Yes it has, the spells that converted the mirror pool into have snapped so badly the pool has been rendered into a simple pond of water.”
As Discord spoke, the waters of the mirror pool turned brown and muddy before sinking into the earth. Within moments all that remained to show that the pool had existed was a large, perfectly circular shallow indent into the earth.
“Explain thyself!” Luna demanded as her sister stared at the muddy hole. “What has happened?!”
“My alternate made the ultimate sacrifice, it seems,” Discord commented with a faraway look in his eyes. “Using what power he had combined with those belonging to the Elements of Harmony, he rolled back time and changed his present. I don't know if he succeeded, but the world on that end has clearly changed enough for the portal there to no longer exist.”
“He did that?” Celestia asked wide eyed before her expression turned solemn and respectful. “I dearly pray that his sacrifice was not in vain. For one to sacrifice so much only for it to fail in the end would be cruel beyond words.”
“Indeed,” Discord answered before looking around and starting to smirk. “Well, well, it appears I am the strongest being left standing. I wonder what I shall do with this fac- AUUUGH! FIRE!”
Discord had been interrupted by a sudden beam of plasma slicing through the air and setting his mane on fire. Over beside Twilight and mostly surrounded by Warhounds, Emerald was partly sitting up and glaring at Discord.
“I might be mostly dead, but if I hear you say something like that again I'll finish what I started last year,” Emerald growled.
“It was a joke!” Discord protested honestly as he struggled to stay still as Fluttershy tried to pat all the flames as quickly as she could. “An attempt to lighten the mood, you violent cretin!”
“...I know,” Emerald said with a slight smirk as she sat up fully before leaning against Twilight.
“...That's it, I'm done for today.” Discord waved both hands in the air before grabbing Fluttershy and putting her under one of his arms. “I did my part, helped a lot, probably saved a world. We're going home.”
With that, Discord and Fluttershy disappeared from sight.
“I'm so happy you're awake,” Twilight said and pulled the virus into a hug, nuzzling her neck.
“You alright there, boss?” a Warhound asked, worry plain in his voice and likely mirrored in the others. “Should I get Belvedere?”
“No, I just hurt... a lot,” Emerald said with grimace as she wrapped her one arm around Twilight. “What happened? Why are we back?”
“The alternate Discord sacrificed himself to revert his world to a state where Oskar hadn't gone on a rampage,” Twilight answered. “He had apparently rolled back time with the use of the Elements of Harmony.”
“Hmm...” Emerald hummed as she gained a deeply thoughtful look on her face. “That sounds like it would take a massive amount of power and control to manage. I doubt he would be able to kill Oskar at a point before he was incredibly powerful, so what could he have-”
“Emerald?” Twilight said at the wide eyed and shocked look on the virus' face. “What's wrong?”
“...Nothing,” Emerald said, closing her eyes as a hollow feeling deep in her soul mingling with the pain before it was ruthlessly washed away by purposeful determination. “Nothing wrong at all with doing what needs to be done. Now! We aren't done just yet. We still have a lot of things to get done.”
“What?!” Twilight exclaimed. “Emerald, look at you! Discord said his wounds healed so slowly they might as well be permanent! You've practically been completely mutilated! You can't possibly be up and doing anything like this! Don't you see? You might never be the same again in our lifetime.”
That gave Emerald pause and she looked down at the glowing tears in her form and her missing arm.
“Discord also said that Emerald and Oskar suffered wounds so severe they would have been instantly lethal even for him,” Cadence said as she walked over. “Emerald is different. She might not need nearly as long to heal.”
“Well... maybe,” Twilight said, biting her lip as she considered Cadance's words. “She should still try to rest and recover, though. She just woke up from spending a few minutes unconscious. That can't be nearly enough time.”
“Whether or not I take some time to rest and recover depends on a single fact,” Emerald stated and looked over to Celestia. “Tell me... are the ponies who died during this going to be put under stasis right away?”
Moon Dancer sighed in some boredom as she sat at a table.
It had been roughly eight hours since the battle between Emerald and the other being that had yet to be officially identified, though there was a rumor going around that it was the same species as her. That part had gotten a lot of people talking, wondering if all of Emerald's species were naturally so strong and if more were coming. Princess Celestia had been quick put those rumors down before a right panic could get fully under way, stating that the being Emerald fought was purely a special case and that an official statement on the situation would be coming soon. All during this, more and more ponies came into the palace seeking refuge, filling the building to the brim fairly quickly.
The bespectacled unicorn sighed again and looked around her. This room was one of the least occupied and it was still fairly crowded. The table she was sitting at had all its seats fully occupied , making her feel like she had no space to herself at all. Suddenly there was a harsh cry of grief that filled the air for a moment and stilled any soft chatter. Frowning uncomfortably, Dancer glanced down the room towards the large double doors leading into a ballroom. There was a reason why this room didn't have as many people in it as the others and it was because the ballroom was where bodies were stored for identification.
'I wish I at least had a book to occupy myself,' Moon Dancer thought as she laid her head down on the table. 'Or even one of those mares I used to talk to back in school, ANYTHING at all to distract me. Not even any new news yet. The fight is over, obviously, but no one has told us anything about what happened afterwards, or more specifically what happened to Emerald Gleaner. The only news we got so far is the fact that Canterlot may need to get evacuated due to the damage to the foundations.'
That was another bit of news that had gotten people almost as worked up as the rumor about Emerald's opponent. Canterlot, the crown jewel of Equestria, one of the most respected kingdoms in the world, to be abandoned? Quite a few nobles and many ponies who had nowhere else to go were practically up in arms over this and had demanded that something, anything be done to save the city. So far any news on that fact was slow coming.
Another shout filled the air followed by many others. Everyone looked up towards the double doors in curiosity. This was because the shouts were ones of shock, relief and absolute joy. A moment later the door opened and in walked Emerald Gleaner. Behind her in the ballroom, ponies began to dance and embrace each other.
Moon Dancer immediately sat up straight and stretched her head up to look over the crowd to see Emerald. The shape shifter was in her formal regalia rather than the odd casual clothing she wore the last time Moon Dancer saw her. She also appeared to be injured as she had quite a few bandages covering her face and one of her arms was in a sling and bandaged.
“Uhh, Lady Gleaner?” an officer of the Royal Guard said as she approached Emerald. “What's going on?”
“I have just revived everyone I could in there,” Emerald said, a statement that rocked everyone who heard to the core. “I want you to spread the word. Every body is to be brought to me so I can examine them and see if I can revive them.”
“O-oh of course!” The officer saluted and quickly rushed away to do as commanded. Emerald then surveyed the room, taking in some bandaged injuries and ponies lying prone on the ground due to the severity of their injuries.
“As you may surmise, I can also heal,” Emerald said, her voice the sole noise in the silent room. “Anyone that needs healing, come here.”
There was a moment where ponies simply stood in place and stared. That soon ended, though. Injured ponies were pushed and helped to the fore. Everyone in the room stared with awe and more than a few cases of adoration as Emerald set to work, quickly undoing any injury that was presented to her seemingly with a touch.
Moon Dancer smiled at this, happy that people were being helped and that her savior was safe and sound, though apparently injured. Looking around, Moon Dancer saw an opportunity to get herself some solitude. As the crowds pressed in on Emerald's location, both to get the injured to her and give their heartfelt thanks, Dancer walked away and towards a pair of glass doors leading to a balcony. Closing the glass doors behind her, Moon Dancer looked around and saw the shattered remains of a statue on one of the sides of the balcony. Transfiguring the remains into a comfy arm chair, Moon Dance made sure it was out of sight before settling into it.
Dancer stared out over the city, the late evening sun shining out from the horizon. The unicorn couldn't help but find herself frowning at the sight. The oranges, yellows and pinks of the sky as it slowly turned to night was certainly beautiful, but it was at odds with the badly damaged city below and the wrongness of Cloudsdale's absence. Once more, the fact that not a year passed without some horrible catastrophe afflicting Equestria made Moon Dancer feel an impulse for possibly finding somewhere else to live.
'I've been here for so long, though. I spent my whole life here,' Moon Dancer thought with a frown. 'I can't possibly imagine ever moving somewhere else. Plus I don't exactly have my own money to make that a reality... I hope my parents are alright.'
Moon Dancer was knocked out of her musing by the sound of a door closing. Looking over, she was met with the sight of Emerald standing beside the door.
“Oh!” Dance exclaimed in surprise. “Uhh... h-hello.”
“Hope you don't mind,” Emerald said and moved over to the banister to lean on it. “Fixed everyone available in there. Decided to take a breather and wait for more people to arrive and other bodies to revive.”
“Uh, not at all, ma'am,” Dancer stated, averting her eyes a little from Emerald.
“It's nice to pay respect to someone but I think we can relax that a little,” Emerald said with a wave. “I'm here for a bit of a break after all.”
“Oh, sorry,” Moon Dancer apologized.
Emerald just smiled at her at that.
The unicorn found herself feeling rather embarrassed as the minutes passed by with just her being the sole focus of Emerald's attention for some reason. Moon Dancer tried to ignore it and focus on the scenery but out of the corner of her eye she could see Emerald looking at her curiously.
“Umm, is there something wrong?” Moon Danced asked after a moment.
“I'm going to make some assumptions here,” Emerald stated. “If you would mind humoring me?”
“You must like to read, that much I can surmise with a bit of certainty considering where I first met you,” Emerald hummed, her eyes looking skyward. “Your cutiemark can imply a lot about your likes and skills so... you must know a lot about magic. You probably spend all your free time in study and research into various magical fields. I bet your are rather advanced in your theoretical work as well; much further along than your practical work. Am I right on the money? Close?”
“You... you are completely right.” Moon Dancer blinked in surprise. “How did you manage that?”
“You remind me a lot of someone I know.” Emerald shrugged. “So... what do you do for work?”
“Ah... I'm currently... not employed,” Dancer replied in more than a bit of discomfort. She really didn't like to think about her current unemployment and her lack of effort into finding work. The best education her parents could get her and here she was just spending her days at home and a library reading and studying. Her parents were being rather patient with her, probably thinking that her studying was for getting into a difficult field when it was actually her falling back onto the one thing she had confidence doing.
“Perfect,” Emerald stated with a smile. “You see I've been thinking of getting an assistant to help me with various magical projects back in the Enclave. Before, our industries were fairly mundane and easily taught to be built and operated by the dogs there. But now I've started creating quite a bit of fully automated magically powered industries as well as more increasingly magical equipment. I'm currently the sole person in the whole Enclave who can use magic if you discount the ponies I've hired to teach my dogs some computer skills. So... I need an assistant to help me go over various projects, especially when I'm busy.”
“And you want me?” Moon Dancer asked with wide eyes.
“The pay is most certainly great if that is your worry, but I highly doubt it is,” Emerald said with a sly smile. “I've done quite a bit of research and experimentation into fields that ponies have only done theoretical work into. I've even created a brand new branch of spellworks into one such field thanks to my experimentation. Obviously you are going to have some access to this as well. And to sweeten the deal a bit, I'm a leader of my own nation and therefore technically a Princess, so... interested in becoming my student?”
Moon Dancer gaped at Emerald, her eyes wide and staring. The unicorn couldn't help but think about the mare she once wanted to be friends with who was Celestia's student. She also suddenly recalled that said mare was also in a relationship with the very person offering her a job. Moon Dancer felt her gut twist up a bit and wasn't sure what her exact feelings on this matter was. Emerald, however, was taking Dancer's silence as a negative sign and decided a bit of humor would do some good to lessen the tension.
“Come on, this opportunity is practically falling into your lap,” Emerald said with a faux pout before walking over to the unicorn. “Do you want me to beg you? Is that what you want? For me to get onto your lap and beg you to become my student?”
“W-what?” Moon Dance said and boggled when Emerald did just that.
“Well I hope you are proud of yourself,” Emerald said faux haughtily as she settled into her new position on the unicorn's lap. Crossing her arms as best as she could, she continued. “You've now gotten quite possibly the most powerful being in the world, on your lap, while she is injured, begging you to work for her.”
“Bu-wh-I-errr...” Moon Dancer stuttered with a blush before spotting the poorly hidden smile on Emerald's face. Feeling the heat of embarrassment on her face, the unicorn pursed her lips and puffed her cheeks out in annoyance before huffing and crossing her forelegs as well. “Fine, I'll be your student.”
“Fantastic!” Emerald smiled. “Just in time, too. I've got this project I plan to get started and finished right away. It involves getting some specialized transmitters into orbit to get an instantaneous global communication network set up.”
“Really?!” Moon Dancer's eyes instantly lit up in fascination. “That's incredible! How are you getting them into the void of space? I've heard that a few times Princess Celestia attempted to help out with a like minded project but wasn't able to get high enough for anything to remain in orbit.”
“I'm capable of surviving up there myself, plus I'm great at teleportation,” Emerald answered. “A quick teleport is all it will need.”
“I can't wait to get into the details of this,” Moon Dancer smiled for a moment before it faded and grew slightly uncomfortable. “Umm... Emerald?”
“Can you get off my lap now?”
A week later found Emerald wearing her regalia again and flying alongside Celestia and Luna as they took their royal Chariot to the latest League of Nations meeting.
'Been quite the hectic week,' Emerald thought and brought up her fully healed arm to look at. 'I'm glad I wasn't terribly injured for all of it. A full twenty four hours and I'm completely healed. I'm glad I don't take decades and centuries to heal wounds to my soul. Definitely want to avoid taking damage like that again, though.'
Over the entire week, Emerald spent her time in near constant work to Twilight's worry and chagrin. The first thing she did was reviving the ponies who died and healing those who were injured, adding in the sick and diseased as well while she was at it. Not everyone could be returned to life, however. It was less the conditions of their body and more their mind. Some ponies suffered such great damage to their brains there was no chance of being little more than small children in an adult body if she healed them. The second thing was helping out in not only repairing but saving the city of Canterlot again. Using her earth channeling, Emerald was able to repair the mostly stone buildings of Canterlot and did the same for foundations of the city that had been rendered unstable. Another thing she started doing to help was offering financial aid to Equestria to make recovering from this latest disaster as painless as possible. It was dearly needed as well. The pegasi of Cloudsdale had decided enough was enough. Not believing that the third time would be the charm, the many pegasi took what little of their things that survived Cloudsdale's destruction and looked for somewhere else to settle. The vast majority of them simply moved to camp outside the nearest settlement which was Ponyville for the time being. With Cloudsdale being no more, the weather quickly started to fall into disarray. Making use of the financial aid and the already present construction companies attracted by the railroad work, Mayor Mare was given royal permission to blaze through as much red tape as needed to get a weather industry built in Ponyville. Everything was still backed up, but people were putting up with it knowing it was getting fixed quickly.
Ponyville was proving to becoming quite the boom town in recent days. The massive railroad networks being constructed which were already being put in use shipping meat fruit, the foundations of the new weather factories being lain. It all lead to the village getting quite the population boost. Already Mayor Mare had to authorize expanding the city limits several times in the past week to account for all the new homes that would be going up in the near future. More than a few people had started grumbling about their “peaceful, carefree” small town life being disrupted by all the new people going to be moving in. No one left, however, despite this. It likely had to do with the fact they would be swarmed by house hunting ponies the moment the intention to leave left their mouths.
Another thing was Emerald's reputation and how it had been impacted by recent events, namely the actions Emerald took to undo as much of the damage of Oskar's attack as possible. Ponies revived from death, the crippled and sickly, all the financial aid; it all came from Emerald Gleaner, leader of the Enclave. Whereas before Emerald was a very polarizing figure with just as many ponies criticizing her as those speaking up in her defense, now you couldn't say anything even approaching critique in earshot of most ponies before they were upon you for daring to say anything about the person who saved and healed friends and family. Needless to say, Emerald's reputation was practically almost as golden as Celestia's was in Equestria thanks to her efforts, though the Evolved was fairly certain it would die down somewhat as time passed. Tons of people were now referring to her as 'her majesty' and Princess Gleaner now. Emerald found this a bit disconcerting but frankly there was no escaping such things the bigger and more important she made herself so she resolved to get used to it.
'Now I just have to handle the address of the League of Nations,' Emerald thought with frown. 'That's going to be a little tricky. The only reason there wasn't another emergency meeting was because Celestia gave her assurances that the situation had been handled. Everyone is itching for an explanation, though. Understandable, really. Massive explosion goes off in the sky that likely everyone in this hemisphere saw, so of course everyone wants an explanation for what happened. I doubt the League wasn't able to get some kind of news, though. I'm going to have to go into this expecting everyone has heard the worst rumors and are relying on those in place of the truth.'
As the sight of the Kraken came into view, a flash of multiple colors appeared in the corner of Emerald's eye. Looking over, she saw an empty ocean and a sky full of clouds. With a hum, Emerald looked back towards the Kraken. Celestia and Luna landed and Emerald followed suit, shifting her wings away.
“Are you ready, my young student?” Luna asked with some concern.
“About as ready as possible,” Emerald said, taking a breath. “I like to believe I'm about as prepared as last time despite changed circumstances.”
“I hope so, Emerald,” Celestia said. “I fear despite my not saying anything official, most representatives here would know most of the story by now. They may not have a very pleasant reaction towards your alternate self and, by extension, you.”
“Yeah that's how it works, isn't it?” Emerald sighed. “Let's get going, shall we?”
The group of three moved into the League of Nations headquarters and immediately the sound of people deep in conversation washed over them. The lobby of the building was filled with workers and representatives talking to each other. As Celestia, Luna and Emerald moved down towards the meeting chamber, people began pointing at Emerald and more than a few people started whispering her name. No more proof was needed that more than a few rumors found their way to the world at large.
The meeting chamber was half full when the three walked in, with many people waiting quietly for the other League members to join them. The three took their seats at one of the many rows, their seats right next to each other due to the nearness of their respective nations. Emerald crossed her legs and folded her hands together on the desk in front of her and settled in to wait as well.
Over the next half an hour, representatives trickled in bit by bit and took their seat. Towards the latter end of the half hour there was a flood of people coming into the room and settling into their seats. Despite the sheer number of people in the room, the noise from the talking did not rise any higher than a low buzz with a lot of people shooting looks at Emerald. The virus for her part remained still and silent, simply waiting for when she had to talk. Eventually the Secretary General, who was looking even worse as time went by, ascended up onto his seat at the very front of the room.
“Can I get silence from this august body, please?” the zebra called out. “Thank you. We have one major issue and many minor ones to go over. Normally I'd like to get the minor issues out of the way, but I believe no one really has the patience for it today. Princesses Celestia and Luna and Emerald Gleaner of the Enclave, if you would stand here and address the League, please?”
“Moment of truth,” Emerald said to Celestia and Luna as they got up.
“Greetings, my fellow League members,” Celestia called out, standing before everyone with Luna and Emerald. “I have no doubt most if not all members of this august body bore witness to the incredible light in the sky. That, my fellows, was a massive explosion.”
There were more than several exclamations of shock and some fear as well as a low buzzing of conversation.
“As to what caused this event,” Luna stated. “It was no natural occurrence. It was caused by a sole, singular being of incredible power who sought the destruction of all who stood in his way. This being was an enemy from another world, one that mirrored this one save for one difference. In his world, he is a heartless being of great apathetic cruelty while in this one... Emerald Gleaner is not.”
There was definitely a lot of surprise there and more than a few angry exclamations drowned out in the cacophony of voices.
“ORDER!” the Zebra Secretary General shouted.
“My alternate self came here and I ended up battling him,” Emerald said after some quiet returned. “The attack you all saw was his attempt to destroy all of Equestria and likely more than a few nearby nations as well. I managed to catch it and send it up into space before it exploded on the surface. Afterwards, I and a select few individuals followed him back to his world and defeated him and destroyed the connection between our world and his.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” a llama representative shouted. “This being was basically you, correct?”
“Yes.” Emerald nodded.
“Then wouldn't it be possible for you to be capable of the same attack he was?” he asked.
“He was far stronger than me,” Emerald said. “Much more magic to bring to bear on massive spells like the one that almost annihilated Equestria, but... with a bit of time and effort? Yes, I am capable of doing the same.”
What followed was a disquieting amount of silence as people stared at her in varying amounts of shock and horror. One could argue that it really shouldn't be such a shock to have someone this powerful around considering just what Celestia and Luna could do. However, the difference here was that the Nightmare Moon event had happened a thousand years ago and everyone was born knowing Celestia was a part of the world and that fact hadn't changed in generations. But here was Emerald coming literally out of nowhere, changing the political landscape, inventing greats scores of deadly weapons and a few wondrous products. People knew she was powerful, but only now did they know just how much.
Celestia and Luna both gave Emerald worried looks as the Heron rep chose that moment to speak up.
“As shocking as this is, I have a question about what happened in the aftermath,” the heron said with a deeply curious expression. “I've heard quite a bit of rumors, but nothing certain just yet. I have heard that you were busy helping Equestria recover in a number of ways. Namely you were healing people who suffered from injury and sickness, but not only that... you also revived people from death. Is any of that true?”
“Yes, all of it,” Emerald answered and instantly the mood and expressions of practically everyone in the entire room changed to disbelief and awe. “You see... fighting against my alternate self, seeing what he was capable of and what he chose to do with his power made me question myself about a great many things. Though we are interacting with the world at large now and engaging in a goodly amount of trade, we are still fairly isolationist. Fighting this battle convinced me that us being isolationist doesn't helps us as much as it helps the rest of the world...”
“So today I am announcing the opening of a hospital, a FREE hospital!” Emerald shouted raising her arms. “One dedicated to healing incurable disease, making the lame walk, and returning life to those who had their lives tragically cut short! Where all are welcome!”
“But that's not enough!” Emerald shouted as people began to cheer and applaud her. “Unicorns have a spell to put the dead into stasis and I can only revive those who weren't dead too long. Not everyone can cast magic like a unicorn. I shall create a special device that anyone can use to cast this spell and commercialize it at cost for all members of the League to use!”
The cheering and applause grew and grew in volume. Celestia and Luna stared at Emerald, shocked and more than a little impressed at how she managed to twist herself into a favorable position in the League once more. Emerald for her part smiled widely and spread her arms wide as if to embrace the accolades the League was pouring upon her.
'Once again I landed on my feet,’ Emerald thought a bit smugly. 'Don't even have to pay people off this time.'
In the rear rows, a certain griffin clenched her fists tightly, tears gleaming in the shadows of her cloak. This announcement was nothing more than a mockery of what she lost, in her mind.
In a place that was both incredibly far away and so near as to be on top of you, several ghostly beings watched on in awe as something incredible happened. Before them was the tapestry of fate, a metaphysical construct that held the life records and ultimate destinies of all beings that live and ever had lived. Countless strands that were once were doomed to end at a determined time suddenly shot forward into the future full of life and purpose.
“It's beautiful...” Song said softly.
“Indeed, we've made the right choice,” one of her fellows spoke.
“But... what is that?” Song said, pointing to a nebulous point in the future of the tapestry.
Looking closely, the group saw that an alarming trend, thousands, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of strands ending around this point. Extremely concerned at this development, the Ancient Masters of the Channelers tried to examine the strands to see what caused them to end. But as was the case with all changes to the tapestry, they couldn't get more than impressions from the futures of these strands. But what an impression they were.
Great firestorms scouring the land, tsunamis smashing into coasts, the earth tearing open and swallowing people whole and massive cyclones rending the world around it with the power of its winds. And through each impression of the future the sun and moon both hung in the sky together, splitting the sky in half into day and night.
What could have possibly been the cause for all these cataclysms to ravage the world? The Ancient Masters didn't know, but whatever it was, it was coming in little over a year.
Emerald sat outside the League Headquarters, staring into the sun as it set on the horizon.
It was a rather busy day today, but despite everything it wasn't at all stressful for her. What she had said earlier regarding her thoughts around Oskar had indeed been the truth. What she had seen in that other world had affected her deeply and made her rethink who she was as a person. All she could do now was think of all the times she could have helped people, all the times she practically purposefully put off Twilight's idea of healing and curing people simply because she didn't care for them. Even after stopping all the horrible things she used to do, she was still a terrible person in the end. It was a miracle she had people that liked and loved her at all...
Hearing a flutter of feathers and wings, Emerald turned to see Rainbow Dash settle in beside her to watch the horizon too. The virus opened her mouth to say something, but paused and thought better of it. The two of them continued to watch the sun slowly set into the horizon for ten minutes before someone finally said something.
“So...” Dash began.
“Yes?” Emerald asked.
“I...” Rainbow Dash's mouth opened and closed for several moments, likely intensely thinking of what to say before she suddenly chuckled and shook her head. “Hey, did you know they have ice cream here?”
“Really?” Emerald smiled.
“Yeah. wanna get some?” Dash asked with a grin. “Your treat!”
“My treat...” Emerald said softly. “So basically you are volunteering me to pay for it?”
“Hey you said it, not me,” Dash said and whistled innocently. “Now come on! Let's go get some!”
“...Sure,” Emerald said as Dash took off into the air, following soon after.
In the end, Dash was more of a person who demonstrated her feeling by action rather than words. There was no need to say anything more about what was between them. They were definitely friends again and that was all that mattered.