• Published 21st Jun 2014
  • 2,382 Views, 68 Comments

Would You Like To Play Again? - Doccular42



What would you do if you died and discovered that your whole life was a game? That you were someone else's pawn? That the entire world was run by a guy named Phil? And what if you could try again? Would you? Button Mash would.

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Chapter One

Would You Like To Play Again?

Chapter One

“Guys… I really don’t think this is a good idea…” Button Mash stood unsurely right at the edge of the Everfree Forest, gazing into the depths of the darkness before him. He swallowed nervously as he turned to the three fillies next to him. “Seriously. Lots of your ideas have been questionable before, but this one is just crazy!”

The Cutie Mark Crusaders, his traveling companions, fixed their collectively adorable gazes upon him. “Button, you were the one who said you wanted to play a game with us!” Sweetie Belle squeaked.

“Yeah! And we asked what kind of game, and you said, ‘Any kind!’” Scootaloo chimed.

“But I didn’t mean THIS kind of game!” Button practically yelled, gesturing down at the costume that adorned his small form. “I meant a video game! Or a board game! Not a… Live action roleplaying game!”

His companions just looked at him for a moment. Button shook his head as he looked at them. Sweetie Belle wore the silver cloak of a Cleric of Ahir’Shazohl, which Button only knew because he’d played the video game version of this ridiculous excuse for entertainment. Scootaloo stood tall, or short, in her motley leather armor and bandit mask, which clearly demonstrated her allegiance to the Rogue’s Guild. And Applebloom, the appointed leader of their party, had upon herself a false horn, a blue and gold robe, and the hat of a Wizard.

And he knew exactly what they saw when they looked at him. ‘Cer Buttunmus,’ of Her Majesty’s Royal Guard, and a loyal member of the Fighter’s Alliance. Stupid name, stupid job, stupid class, STUPID HARD TO MOVE AROUND IN COSTUME!

“I own the game version of this at home guys! We could take all this stuff off, stay out of the heat, and just play co-op mode instead! C’mon, whadda ya say?”

He knew the answers before they even came.

“My sister stitched these costumes! Or, rather—”

“Now, just wait a gosh-tootin’ minute! You—”

“Rainbow Dash said that video games are for eggheads! I don’t want her to think—“

“…magical levitation stitched them. Same difference!”

“…can’t just dictate what everypony does! You gotta agree! And we voted!”

“…that I’m an egghead. Obviously, LARP’ing is WAAAY cooler.”

Button just looked at them. “Fine.”

“YAY! Cutie Mark Crusaders Live Action Roleplayers!” And with that, the three fillies went skipping off into the forest to join the rest of their party.

“But when somepony falls and breaks their neck and dies, I’m gonna say, ‘I told you so!’” Button shouted before following the scampering ponies.

```

“Are you sure it’s this way?” Sweetie Belle asked ten minutes later. She wiped the sweat from her brow and adjusted her cloak’s light blue broach.

“Well, I’m following the map that Twist gave me!” Scootaloo said, wagging a piece of paper in front of Sweetie Belle. “It should be just another…” She looked closely at the paper. “Oh. Whoops.” She turned the paper right side up without meeting anypony’s gaze.

“Scootaloo…” Applebloom began.

“Yeah, yeah, I was reading it upside down! C’mon, everypony’s done it before!”

“I’M SO BORED!” Button shouted, banging his head against a tree. The other ponies ignored him.

“Great! That means we’re totally lost!” Sweetie Belle stomped her dainty slipper-clad hooves upon the leaf covered ground. “The quest is totally going to start without us!”

“Bored…”

Applebloom took a deep breath. “No it ain’t. Lemme see that.” She took the map from Scootaloo’s hooves and set it carefully down on the forest floor.

“So, should we just retrace our steps?” Sweetie asked.

“Bored.”

“Nah, gimme a sec…” Applebloom traced a mirror image of the path they were supposed to have taken from their origin point. “Okay! That’s where we should be, and here’s where we are!” She jabbed a hoof onto the map. “So, all we have to do is cut across here…” She drew a line with her hoof. “And we should be there in no time!”

“Guys. Bored.”

“Are you sure Applebloom? That doesn’t look like the safest part of the forest that you want to cut through…” Scootaloo said.

“I agree with Applebloom. Scootaloo, maybe you should let somepony else worry about the maps for a while.” Sweetie Belle huffed.

“Hey, it was an accident!”

“BOOOOOOORED!”

“SHUT UP!” All three fillies shouted at Button. He gave them a fiery glare as they turned and continued walking. Button picked up his foam sword and followed them with a dramatic sigh.

Within five minutes, they’d come to a dark and tangled part of the forest that Button had never seen before. To their right stood a thick growth of jungle-like trees, and to their left loomed a massive cliff, complete with spiky rocks at the bottom. Button shied away from the edge. He’d played enough Minecraft to know what happened if you fell down there.

“Not too much further…” Applebloom murmured as they edged along.

“Man, this is so un-eggheady! Rainbow Dash probably LARPs all the time with her friends! Since it’s such a not-egghead thing to do! Because everyone who does this totally isn’t an egghe—“

“WE GET IT! You have an idol and want her to appreciate everything that you do! Sheesh, can you just cool it?” Button shouted in exasperation.

“Hey, don’t talk to Scootaloo like th—” Sweetie Belle’s retort was cut off by a deep, throaty growling coming from the bushes beside them.

The four little ponies backed away in horror and shock, mouths agape, as a lithe wooden wolf stalked out from the darkness.

“T-t-timber…wolf…” Applebloom stuttered.

“RUN!” Scootaloo shouted, and they all bolted.

Sprinting along the edge of the cliff, the four ponies attempted their escape. But at the first sign of movement, the Timberwolf leapt into the air in hot pursuit.

Left hoof, right hoof, left hoof, right hoof… Button concentrated solely on his running, trying to ignore the fear that threatened to engulf him, and the looming sense of dread that pulled at the edge of his mind.

Left, right, left, right, left, right, le—

“AHHHHH!” Button turned his head right as a shrill scream pierced the air. Sweetie Belle stumbled, tripping over her own cape. She gave a pathetic whine as she crashed to the ground, tumbling over.

“Sweetie! Hang on!” Button shouted, forgetting all fear in that moment. He turned around, his eyes meeting the glare of his foe… His foe, who leapt at Sweetie Belle, mouth agape and fangs barred.

“NOOO!” Button yelled, turning to run at the monster.

The Timberwolf flew through the air…

Button jumped to meet him…

The Wolf turned his gaze to the helpless pony below him, his next meal—

And Button crashed into him, tackling him with a mighty roar as the force of his blow sent the two of them careening off the cliff’s edge, tumbling again, and again, and again, and again, and ag—

```

Button gasped, and cold misty air filled his lungs. He stood, clothed only in his propeller hat, in a shadowed room that seemed to have no walls. Only darkness, continuing for an eternity. He looked about, eyes wide. “What the…”

A sad chuckle sent shivers up Button’s spine. “Poor little foal…”

Button turned around, looking through the darkness to try to see… There! A short ways away, a single light shone through the all consuming black. It came from a lamp, placed upon around wooden table. Upon the table rested an immense pile of papers, as well as a box of dice. But the papers and dice were not what truly drew his eyes.

Behind the table sat a massive bipedal creature. Cloaked in a robe that seemed to swirl at the edges, blending into the darkness, this creature sat, a pencil in one hand as he scribbled notes onto a piece of paper. He did not seem to notice Button.

“Button Mash, Level Zero Commoner, deceased. Cause of death: Heroic Sacrifice. Honorary posthumous class of Fighter Level One granted.”

Button stood shock still as the words rippled through the air. Deceased… that means dead. He didn’t dare to move a muscle, lest the cold consume him to his core.

“Day of death: Seventh day, eleventh month, 1001 After Banishment. Age: Six years, Equestrian Standard Reckoning.” The being rolled several more dice. “The fillies live.”

Gathering all the courage that he could muster, Button forced himself to move, or at least to...
“H-hello?” Button spoke softly, so softly.

The creature dropped his pencil, raising his head sharply. “What?” The being stood up, cloak rippling through the air. He turned around looking for the source of the voice.

“E-excuse me sir…” Button made sure to mind his manners. “I, uh, I think I’m lost.”

The cloaked thing walked carefully forward toward Button. “It can’t be…” He breathed as he neared the small foal.

Button shied away in fear. As the figure neared, Button got a good look at his face… or what should have been his face. All he could see was more darkness. A tangible darkness, sure, but the shroud of his hood obscured all features.

“You… You are Button Mash.”

Button turned his gaze down to the floor. “Um, yeah…”

The creature knelt, bringing a black gloved hand to Button’s head, and lifting it up. His formless face looked directly into Button’s. “How is this possible?”

Button felt tears well up in his eyes. The darkness, the cold, the figure, this talk of death...

And then the memories returned.

The Crusaders. The forest. Lost. The cliff. The wolf. Sweetie. Jumping. Falling…

“AHHHHHHH!” Button screamed, pulling out of the monster’s grasp. He fell to the floor, sobbing.

“Oh! I’m so sorry!”

Button felt a soft touch upon his back. “Did I hurt you?” The voice asked.

“I-I’m d-dead.” Button stuttered. “How can I b-be d-dead?”

“Oh…”

A moment later, a warm blanket drifted over Button.

“Here. Let me help you.”

Button turned his gaze to his companion, tears welling up in his eyes. “You said I was dead. Am I? How am I here… I want to go home! Mom!” Button wailed.

“Shhh, it’s okay.” The creature patted his back. “Remarkable…”

Button sniffed, clutching the blanket tightly. “W-what’s remarkable?”

“Button Mash, in my eons of running this Game, never once has a non-player-character come to life. And never has anyone other than a player entered my domain. And there have been no players for…” His voice trailed off.

“G-game? Non-player-characters? Players? What are you talking about?” Button shouted, the world spinning.

“My little pony… Rest. All will be revealed, in time…”

And then even the darkness faded from Button’s sight.

```

“Button Mash.”

Just one more minute, mom...

“Button Mash.”

Just… gotta reach a checkpoint…

“Button Mash.”

Uhhhhhhhhh—

“Button Mash.”

“I’M AWAKE, MOM!” Button rolled over, and felt the most peculiar sensation of falling. He landed on the floor with a yelp, and his eyes sprang open.

A fireplace. The first thing he saw was a blazing hearth which contained a great fire. The flames warmed the air that had once been cold, and provided light to the darkness.

He remembered.

Button turned around, looking for the voice that had awakened him. He noticed a large red couch covered in pillows and blankets. This must have been what he had fallen off. Behind the couch stood the shadowy figure from before. His back was hunched, and his hands fidgeted nervously.

“Oh, good. You’re okay.” The shadow moved over to him and placed him back on the couch. Button didn’t quite freeze at the touch. The fireplace made it too warm for that.

“I’m sorry to have disturbed your rest, but you had been asleep for so long, and I was af—” The shadow composed himself. “I feared that I would be alone again.”

Button wordlessly grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around himself. The two sat in an uncomfortable silence, neither looking at the other. Seconds dragged into minutes, and the minutes seemed to take an eternity. Soon, Button could take it no longer.

“So, this is wh—”

“I know you must h—”

Button fell silent as the creature spoke in the same moment he had. Shadow raised his hand. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“You say that a lot,” Button said.

“I suppose I do, little one.” The figure chuckled. “What were you saying?”

“I was going to say, ‘This is what death feels like.’”

Shadow gazed at him for a moment. “Actually, I don’t think it is.”

“Wait, what?” Button asked.

“I think I should explain.” The creature snapped his bony fingers, and the table from before materialized in front of him. “I suppose I’ll start at the beginning.”

“Yeah, good plan,” Button said.

“Sit up, little one. I must show you.”

Button rose to a sitting position, tucking his legs under his blanket. He sat next to the figure, looking down at the table.

“Button, what did your parents tell you about how Equestria was made?” Shadow inquired.

The foal thought for a moment. “Well, mommy said that everything that we could see or feel was created by Faust, and that She loved us and wanted us to have a happy life.” He took a breath. “Daddy said that we came from another ancient species of ponies who died off because we were way better, and that they had come from some other creatures that had come from other creatures, all the way back to the beginning of time when there never was an Equestria. They used to talk about it, but I didn’t understand. Maybe Faust guided the change or something? I dunno, I think it’s stupid to fight about.”

Shadow laughed. “Wise beyond your years, I see. Well, they were both wrong.”

Button shifted on the couch as he listened intently.

“Long ago, I and a few other… beings, shall we say, created a game. An odd game, something that had never been done before. A game that did not try to mimic life, but rather to explain it. Many things happened, and I do not wish to bore you with things you will not understand. Suffice to say that we were able to cast a spell that made our game real… But the magic came with a price.”

The Shadow stroked his face thoughtfully. “We were trapped here, forced to play our game forever, until we had won. I had created the rules, so it fell to me to be the Game Master. The players rolled their characters, and controlled them through countless lives. We knew that there must be a way to win the game, and we knew that if we won, we could return to our old lives. Or maybe we did not know… Maybe we just hoped…

“So we played. And we played. Until eventually, the players completed a life, and one of their number did not return to what we had dubbed ‘The Room.’ He disappeared, and we never saw him again. Next life, another disappeared. The players numbered only three now.”

Shadow stood and paced the floor. “We lost two more of our numbers that next life, until only one remained. We played, and we played… But he never disappeared. Until one day, when I found his body lying on the floor. He decided to take… another way out.”

“And then you were alone,” Button said softly.

“Yes. And I have been, for a lifetime and a thousand.”

Not a word was said for quite some time.

“So what happened to the others? Did they win?” Button asked.

“I… think so.” Shadow replied carefully.

Button cocked his head to the side. “‘You think so?’ Didn’t you say that you created the rules?”

A great sigh came from the figure. “Yes, I did. But the game was meant to explain life, allowing the players to live another life in a world that was explained in the most full way possible. The players could do anything, nay, BE anything! We never made a way to win, because it was never a game to us.” He sat down wearily. “It was life, with rules and dice.”

Button merely sat, deep in thought. “To win an unwinnable game…”

“Precisely. And so now you see why I do not know. If we had to win to be able to leave, and they left, it follows that they won… But it cannot be won…” He shook his head. “I have spent more centuries of thought upon this subject than days that you have been alive, little one. I still do not understand.”

“So this world you created, your game… It’s Equestria?”

The figure nodded. “Equestria was the last of may worlds that we created. It was the world where all the players… Left. So I never made another, and never wiped it from existence,” Shadow replied.

“You want to win too, don’t you?” Button asked quietly.

“With all my heart, little one.”

Button looked down at the papers on the desk, focusing on one in particular. ‘Button Mash, Level Zero Commoner, NPC,’ read the writing at the top. He swallowed as a cold sweat covered him.

“And since Equestria is a game, that makes me…”

“A Non-Player-Character, yes.” Shadow nodded. “Do you know what that is?”

“Yeah. It’s a computer or Dungeon Master controlled character. I played a lot of video games.” Button smiled grimly.

“Good. You understand, then, why I am so confounded by your presence here.”

Button nodded. “If I’m just a character not controlled by a player, how can I be here?”

“Mmm.”

Uncomfortable silence reigned over the room, broken only by the occasional crackle of the fire.

“Maybe… Maybe I’m not a Non-Player Character…” Button said softly.

“What was that?” His companion asked.

“Maybe, because I’m here… Maybe I’m a player.” Button raised his eyes to meet the shrouded face’s intent gaze.

“You may be right…” Shadow snapped his fingers, and a sharp pencil appeared in his grasp. He leaned over Button’s character sheet, and quickly erased something. Button stood up on the couch to look, and saw as Shadow wrote in the spot that had once borne the word ‘NPC,’ the spot designated ‘Player Name,’ the words ‘Button Mash.’

Suddenly, a brilliant golden light filled The Room. It flared brightly, and raced through the cavernous darkness, reaching Button and filling his entire body. The force of the light lifted Button into the air, filling him with the greatest feeling of exhilaration he had ever felt in his short life.

A moment later, he returned to the couch, panting, but filled with a joy beyond compare. He felt so… Alive.

“Yes, yes, YES!” The Shadow cheered, leaping to his feet. “You are a player! We… We can try again! We can try to win! I could go home!”

Button smiled, but his face fell a moment later. “But I couldn’t.”

The Shadow froze, and sat down. “Perhaps you could…”

“What?”

Shadow spoke the next several words carefully. “If you win the game… You return to your former life.”

Button shook his head, tears threatening to well up in his eyes, completely replacing the joy from moments before. “But my life was the game…”

Shadow chuckled, marveling at his own genius. “What is life but a game anyways? Are you any less alive than I am?” With another snap, a blank sheet of paper appeared in front of the creature. “If you return to the game and win, you could have your own life back. And I could too.”

Hope rekindled in Button’s heart. “R-really?”

“YES! All you have to do is find what all the other players found!”

Button smiled slowly. “I could see mom again…”

“You could. And you will! Because we are going to win this time!” The Shadow began to write. “You’ll need to start a new life in the game. As a new class.”

“O-okay…” Button said.

“Hmm, the first player to win was playing as a Wizard class. Any objection to trying that first?” Shadow asked.

“Casters are cool…” Button said, unsure.

Shadow seemed to pick up on his change in intonation. “What’s wrong little one?”

“How much… Of my real life will I remember?” He asked simply.

“When you are awake in the game… Nothing.”

Tears welled up in his eyes again.

“But wait! When you sleep in the game, you will awaken here, with memories from all previous lives as well as your current one. you can make plans and decisions while ‘sleeping,’ and you will vaguely remember them when you are awake. And if you practice, you may even be able to tap into those memories while awake.”

Button considered this. “So I won’t forget mommy or daddy?”

“Never.”

Button raised his eyes, confidence growing within him. “I’ll do it. I’ll do anything!”

Shadow chuckled as he wrote a few more words. “I’m not asking you to do ‘anything.’ Just to win.”

“Then I’ll win.” Button stood slowly.

“Good…” Shadow finished the last touches to the character sheet. “There, a Level One Unicorn Wizard. Aged six years old.”

“So I don’t have to start as a baby?” Button asked, quite relieved.

“No, certainly not. After each life is completed, you may start one level higher and two years older, to a maximum of Level Five and fourteen years old. Eventually, you can start each life with puberty mostly over,” he chuckled.

Button wrinkled his nose. “Puberty. What’s so bad about that?”

Shadow chuckled. “Oh, you’ll find that out soon enough.” He scooted the paper toward Button. “Merely pick it up when you wish to begin.”

Button gazed at the paper for a long moment. “Wait. I have to ask something first.”

“Anything, my little pony,” Shadow replied.

“Do you have a name? I should have something to call you, I think.”

Shadow chuckled. “I had a name, years ago.”

“What was it?”

He thought for a moment. “It was… Phil.”

Button smiled. “Nice to meet you Phil. Now, it’s time to win this game! I guess I’ll see you tonight!”

And with that, Button grabbed the character sheet. The entire room glowed with the same brilliant golden light, and everything faded...

```

...And he woke up in a bed as Button Shine, unicorn son of Twilight Velvet and Night Light. The first rays of dawn shone through his window. Today was the day that he would take the entrance exam to Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.

Alright, let’s go win this! an odd voice seemed to say in the back of Buttons head. It seemed oddly familiar... He shrugged and climbed out of bed. Today would be a good day.