• Published 2nd Aug 2015
  • 10,882 Views, 650 Comments

Oskar Osäker: Your Worst Enemy - Legionary



The third entry into the Viral Unicorn series

  • ...
29
 650
 10,882

Chapter 2: Can't Save Her

The sound of metal squealing filled the air as a train slowed to a stop at the Canterlot train platform. And almost before it came to a complete stop, off leapt a heavily laden unicorn known to most as Twilight. Close on her heels was a baby dragon who had taken the time to wait a moment until the train had come to a complete stop.

“Come on, Spike!” Twilight shouted as she quickly trotted down the street. “I'll be LATE!”

“Aww slow down a little, Twilight!” Spike called back as he ran as fast as he could after Twilight. “You're at least an hour early!”

“What if the test is starting early then stated as another test!?” Twilight shouted back as she continued on. “There is no way of knowing! We have to get there as quickly as possible!”

Spike only sighed in response and continued to try to catch up to Twilight as quickly as he could.

Later on, Twilight slowed her trot down a bit as she made her way through Canterlot, Spike still trailing some distance behind. It was a rather bright and shining day today, perfect for many outdoor activities. But despite this there was a very noticeable chill in the air as the occasional shiver of passing ponies attested. Twilight also noticed the occasional pony with an armband bearing a pink heart on it. Clearly a changeling; one who seemed rather nervous with the fact that despite being in disguise she was now distinctly known as a changeling.

Shaking her head clear of these observations as she had more important places to be, Twilight looked over her shoulder and shouted for Spike.

“Come on, Spike!” the violet unicorn shouted. “We're halfway to the palace!”

“I'm coming, I'm coming...” Spike grumbled a little as Twilight picked up her pace again, her overladen saddlebags bouncing with every step.

Twenty minutes later found Twilight and Spike arriving and being let into the front doors of the palace. Had Twilight not been so focused on recalling as much of her education under the princess as possible, she likely would have noticed that security for the palace had been kicked up quite a bit. As it was, only Spike noticed this and he knew Twilight well enough that trying to bring it to her attention wouldn't get the intended result. More likely she'd end up thinking this was an esoteric part of another test for her upcoming “exam”.

“Spike, why don't you go find something to do for the next while?” Twilight suggested as the both of them traveled down a corridor. “I doubt this is going to be something for the both of us. I'm likely going to take a few hours if the least of my expectations are correct.”

“Yeah, no problem, Twilight,” Spike answered with a wave. “I'll see you in a while. Good luck on your test!”

“I hope I do well, too,” Twilight answered back as she continued forward. “See you in a bit, Spike!”

With that, the two separated. Twilight continued on her way, quickly trotting through corridors until she finally arrived at the throne room of the princesses where she was quickly let in. Continuing her brisk pace, Twilight trotted into the room and saw Celestia and Luna speaking before the throne, their tone low and inaudible to Twilight at this distance.

Suddenly Twilight noticed a lot of dark colors out of the corner of her eye and turned to look. What she saw made her stop in place and stare.

Windows lined the room; some of them were stained glass windows to commemorate historical events. For instance, there were one such window dedicated to Twilight and her friends freeing Luna from the Nightmare. However, this window wasn't what caught her attention. No, it was two others. The first window had Emerald, Twilight, her friends, the Princesses and Discord. Emerald was in a monstrous black and red form holding a pained looking Discord above her head victoriously while the others stared in horror and recoiled. The second stained window was commemorated to the changeling invasion. Once more it had Emerald in a monstrous form, only this time looming over the entire scene in the window and coming out of a dark rift in the ground. Beside her were several diamond dogs wearing black armor and bearing Emerald's incredibly deadly weapons. Also in this window were a group of changelings looking utterly terrified and running away from Emerald and her dogs.

Twilight stared for several moments, completely unsure of how to feel about how Emerald was depicted in both of the windows. On one hand, Emerald was her girlfriend and she felt like these windows were a little insulting to her. But on the other... well Twilight couldn't exactly say the windows weren't accurate...

Shaking her head clear, Twilight decided to decide how to react to this some other time. She had a supremely important test to focus on right now. She continued her way forward and soon was close enough to begin to hear what Celestia and Luna were saying.

“... It cannot fall again, my sister,” Luna said solemnly.

“She will succeed at her task,” Celestia replied confidently. “And when she does, we'll know that she is that much closer to being ready.”

“Ahem,” Twilight cleared her throat politely to get the princesses' attention.

“Trust me, little sister,” Celestia said to Luna before turning towards Twilight.

“You wanted to see me?” Twilight said a little excitedly, shifting in place in an attempt to make her heavy saddlebags a bit more comfortable. “To give me a test? I brought my own quills and plenty of paper to show my work!”

Twilight proceeded to show just how prepared she was for the test by taking out an exceedingly long list. It unrolled on the floor and kept going until it stopped against Celestia's hoof.

“Ah, sorry!” Twilight smiled nervously and was about to start rolling her scroll back up.

“This is a different kind of test,” Celestia stated as she collected Twilight's scroll herself and replaced it back in the unicorn's saddlebags. “The Crystal Empire has returned.”

“The Crystal Empire?” Twilight repeated in some confusion before quickly looking through books in some panic. “I'm sorry, I-I thought I'd studied. Ooh. I don't think there's anything in any of my books th-”

“There wouldn't be,” Celestia began and walked over to a crystal placed in a glass jar. “Few remember it ever existed at all. Even my knowledge of the Empire is limited.”

Celestia then removed the crystal from its container and levitated it over to the floor just before Twilight. The crystal then began brightly glowing before transparent images starting shooting out of it. After a moment, a hologram dominated the floor between Twilight and Celestia, showing a city of crystal and obvious wealth.

“But what I do know is that it contains a powerful magic,” Celestia continued and began manipulating the crystal to help tell a story. “One thousand years ago, King Sombra, a unicorn whose heart was black as night, took over the Crystal Empire.”

A new image appeared over the hologram of the Crystal Empire; one that was clearly of King Sombra looking the very image of evil and cruelty. Below the holographic bust of Sombra, the Crystal Empire became dark and gloomy, overcome with dark crystals and its once happy denizens enslaved to a tyrant's dark will.

“He was ultimately overthrown, turned to shadow and banished to the ice of the arctic north,” Celestia stated as the holograms briefly showed a battle between Sombra and the two princesses of Equestria. It then ended with Sombra turning immaterial and being sealed away.

“But not before he was able to put a curse upon the Empire. A curse that caused it to vanish into thin air,” Celestia explained as the hologram of the Empire brightened greatly before vanishing in a flash of light.

“If the Empire is filled with hope and love, those things are reflected across all of Equestria,” Celestia continued to explain to Twilight, gaining a small smile and levitating the crystal that had been projecting the holograms into the air, where it sent out bright and colorful lights into the air. The princess then got a serious look on her face as she continued. “If hatred and fear take hold...”

Suddenly toxic looking clouds began to emanate from Celestia's horn and eyes; said eyes were also brightly glowing green. A long dark shadow stretched from Celestia towards Twilight where several tall, dark crystals suddenly exploded out of the floor before the unicorn, causing her to recoil at them. An instant later they were destroyed by what seemed to be a beam of sunlight shot by Celestia, who then smiled down at Twilight.

“Which is why I need your help finding a way to protect it,” Celestia finished.

“You want me to help protect an entire empire?” Twilight said, a shocked look on her face and feeling of being presented with a near overwhelming task beginning to form in her chest.

“It is, as I said, a different kind of test,” Celestia answered as she walked over to place the crystal back in its jar. “But one I'm certain you will pass.”

“...” For a brief moment, Twilight looked uncertain before her features hardened determinedly. “How do I begin?”

“By joining Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in the Crystal Empire,” Celestia answered.

“My brother is there?” Twilight asked, happily surprised.

“He is,” Celestia replied with a small smile. She and Luna began walking towards the entrance of the throne room to lead Twilight out. “And your Ponyville friends will join you there as well. I have every confidence you will succeed. And when you do, I'll know you are ready to move on to the next level of your studies.”

“...But what if I fail?” Twilight asked nervously after taking in the serious look Luna was giving her.

“You won't,” Celestia said assuringly with a soft smile.

“But if I-”

You won't,” Celestia repeated a bit more firmly but confidently.

“But Twilight...” Celestia stated as Twilight stepped out the door. “In the end, it must be you and you alone who ultimately assists Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in doing what needs to be done to protect the Empire.”

“Actually, dear sister...” Luna began with a wondering look. “While we are in agreement that this is a test of young Twilight's mettle, she may not have to undertake it alone. In fact, I am completely certain that no matter what either of us says, she will not be alone in this, as Emerald will likely accompany her on this task.”

Before Celestia could reply to her sister, a voice from behind everyone spoke up.

“I believe I am going to have to agree with Luna on that point,” said a familiar voice from back in the throne room.

Everyone turned to see Emerald standing in the middle of the hall with Navi making leisurely orbits over her head, taking in the two stained glass windows that featured her prominently before turning to face the others with a firm expression that softened when she met Twilight's gaze.

“Emerald!” Twilight exclaimed in surprise and ran back into the room. “I didn't think you'd come to Canterlot when I told you about my test!”

“Well, I got your letter about what was going on. I couldn't exactly figure out what it was trying to say,” Emerald stated to Twilight's embarrassment, as she recalled that she was quite frantic and excited at the time. “I was able to understand you had a test that you were really excited about in Canterlot but not much else. So I decided to come be moral support.”

“Course I realize that some may think my moral support would be questionable now, huh?” Emerald said, turning to Celestia who met Emerald's look steadily. “Nice windows by the way, very... thematic.”

“Great events need their monuments,” Celestia replied. “Especially if they were terrible in their greatness.”

Emerald gave a huff at that, thinking that Celestia might still be more than a little angry over what happened in the invasion. Princess Luna didn't seem to think too highly of her sister's opinion in this matter, either, but all the same didn't comment.

“Emerald!” Twilight shouted. “This is supposed to be my test! I understand you want to help me, but if I don't do this myself I'll fail by default!”

“You don't have to worry about that, Twilight,” Emerald said reassuringly as Navi perched on her ear. “Like with Spike, I won't smother you with protection. I'll be letting you do your own thing. I'll just be there to make sure you don't die. So as long as you survive whatever you encounter on your test, you can lose a few legs or suffer some other disfigurements and I'll just heal you. Sometimes the best lessons are the painful ones.”

“Oh... thanks?” Twilight said with an unsure tone before suddenly growing very concerned. “D-did... did something happen to Spike on his personal quest? Did he get really hurt by the other dragons and you just healed him?”

“Nothing of the sort happened, Twilight,” Emerald quickly replied. “I kept an eye on him at all times but also didn't get in the way. I promise the same for you. I'll be there for you when you need me, but otherwise you likely won't notice me while you do your test.”

“I suppose it's too much to hope for you to just remain behind, then?” Celestia suddenly interrupted with a neutral tone. “That you simply listen to me and remain here with us?”

“Yes,” Emerald stated simply with a steady stare back at Celestia. “I understand that this is supposed to teach Twilight some sort of important lesson and I'll let her take the lead because of that, but I am not going to let her go alone. I'll be there with her, but I promise not to get in the way. I'm just making sure she survives this.”

“Twilight, Luna, could you leave the two of us alone for a minute?” Celestia asked the two, though from the tone of her voice one could tell it was actually a rhetorical question. Twilight and Luna nodded to Celestia's request and quickly left the room. Soon the two's privacy was announced with the soft booming of the large doors.

“I do not do this lightly, you understand this?” Celestia said with a sigh and walked over to one of the windows depicting Emerald. “Send my dear student into peril without great consideration? As much as I would like to just undertake this task with my sister at my side again, it is of great importance that she do this.”

“And why is that?” Emerald asked as she walked over to stand just behind the princess. “What is so important that you have to risk Twilight with such a clear threat?”

“Another test. A very important test,” Celestia replied before looking back at Emerald. “Similar to one that I'm certain that, had you not managed to skip it by reaching the end goal prematurely, you too would be undergoing it in a few years time.”

Emerald's confused look and questioning expression was clear, but Celestia simply turned away and continued to look through the stained window with Emerald's monstrous form looming in it. Finally, after spending a few moments in quiet contemplation, Celestia sighed and turned to face Emerald.

“Very well, you have my blessing to accompany Twilight,” Celestia stated sternly. “Perhaps... perhaps your presence may test the both of you in ways I could never foresee.”

“...You know, as much as I wish to really question you about what you mean by all this, I get the feeling you would just say something cryptic as an answer,” Emerald said with a deadpan look.

In response to this, Celestia tilted her head slightly, closed her eyes and gave a delighted smile. Emerald stared with an unamused look for a moment before mockingly mimicking Celestia's expression for a second before huffing in some annoyance and walking away.

“Emerald,” Celestia called out, halting said virus before she was about to open the large doors to the room. “She is very dear to me as well. Please keep her safe and in one piece.”

“You don't need to ask me that.” Emerald scoffed but gave a small smile back at the princess over her shoulder who returned it happily.

“So, my young protege. What is my sister's verdict on your presence?” Luna asked upon Emerald's appearance through the throne room doorway. Twilight as well looked very hopeful that Emerald's presence wouldn't be in spite of Celestia's wishes.

“Celestia's given me permission to go with Twilight,” Emerald answered. “So, Twilight, when you are risking life and limb being the hero that you are, I'll be there making sure you don't lose, either.”

“Oh... you really think it might end up being that bad?” Twilight asked with a concerned look. “Hmm... perhaps a stop at the local drug store is in order. Get some more specific supplies-”

“Twilight, I'm half teasing you,” Emerald interrupted. “You've done very well for yourself so far and besides, no first aid kit could ever compare to me.”

“If you are to stop for supplies, you have the next two hours to do so,” Luna stated. “It is good you arrived early. You can make preparations for your train to the closest stop to the Empire in two hours. Since the Empire isn't connected to the rail network, or even roads, you'll have to travel the rest of the way on hoof.”

“Well I suppose I can go do a bit of shopping myself. Say get a certain someone new extreme weather gear as well as a treat,” Emerald stated to Navi's very vocal delight as she excitedly flew in circles.

“Oh right, the Crystal Empire is in the far north and Navi is an insect,” Twilight said with a frown. “Here, I'll help you pick something out. Let's head out right away. We'll pick up Spike while we’re at it as well.”

“Be well, Emerald Gleaner,” Luna said as the two walked away. “I'll be here eagerly awaiting news of your success.”

ALPHA

Half an hour later found Emerald, Twilight and Navi walking down a street in Canterlot’s market district, Spike had originally been present earlier, but considering they were just on a shopping trip, he was sent to the train station to look for the others and make sure they were properly prepared as well.

Currently Emerald was carrying a saddlebags filled with things specifically for Navi. The little insect always had been the worst off in the winter, and could barely move whenever she was out despite wearing clothes made specifically to keep her warm... though that was no longer an issue considering that Navi was now Blacklight. It would take far greater temperature differences to make Navi feel uncomfortable. Frankly, Emerald was just using this to both spend some time with Twilight and gauge an “issue” she had discovered soon after arriving in Canterlot. Twilight for her part could feel that Emerald was somewhat tense and wondered if she was still angry over what happened a few days ago

“Emerald?” Twilight asked as said viral unicorn left a store with ever more laden saddlebags. “I just want to say I'm sorry about-”

“It's alright, Twilight,” Emerald interrupted and quickly walked over to an alleyway, pulling Twilight along with some magic.

“Emerald wha-”

“Just wait a minute,” Emerald said quickly as she continued to pull Twilight deeper into the alley. Soon, the two ended up in a sort of clearing between two rows of buildings. Emerald then turned back towards the way they came and stared up at the roofs with a stern expression.

“I know you are there!” Emerald called out. “There is no point to hiding anymore, so come out!”

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, with intense bursts of orange flames, twelve viral changelings appeared and the chill in the air that had been present since earlier today intensified. They collectively moved forward towards Emerald and Twilight and the virus growled in response, halting them instantly. They silently looked at each other and seemed to talk without saying a word to each other.

“Well?” Emerald said a little impatiently as she took up position slightly in front of Twilight. “What do you want?”

For a moment the changelings just kept looking among each other. Then, one of them walked forward to speak.

“We have learned you are the one who caused us become what we are now,” the changeling stated with a bit of a raspy voice, as if she didn't use it very often.

“I did not intend for that to happen,” Emerald stated quickly. “If you are here just to state your outrage with me, I will be angry in turn.”

“We know. We do not blame,” the changeling replied softly. Then she looked to the others who seemed to nod at her encouragingly. “Once we were but changelings, trained to siphon the spare love off of these ponies. Once we were loved and trusted by friend and family, valued by kin and Queen. But then came the day of the Red Sky and the black spores rained down upon us. We were changed. No longer mere changelings. We had become something else; something more and something less. We are more, for we could siphon love and all emotion at once, leaving naught but un-nourishing despair, and our connection to the feed was stronger, allowing us to share thought and speech among our own. We are less, for our own strengths and differences separated us from our kind. We could not feed our family and kin with the love we collected, so as we became stronger and our bellies remained full as kin and family starve, so did they grow to resent us...”

“Once we were loved, once we were trusted, once we were valued... no more,” the changeling said with a shudder the other changelings mirrored.

“Oh no...” Twilight said softly, holding a hoof to her mouth. “That's terrible.”

Emerald agreed with that sentiment as her frown attested, but she was also concerned with what the changelings specifically sought her out for. If what they simply wanted was to be returned to what they were before, she could easily do that, but she had a feeling that wasn't the case.

“I can agree with that, but...” Emerald said with a suspicious frown. “What is it that you want from me, exactly?”

We have gained much from our change... but lost so much more...” the twelve changelings said together. “We have lost a family... will you not let us join you? Will you not let us have a new family? Will... will you not accept us, Queen Mother?”

Emerald could not help but wince at the title they called her by and the changelings were quick to assume she was about to deny them. As one, the changelings looked like their hearts were breaking, the chill in the air disappeared and the changelings began to quickly look skeletal. Emerald regretted her initial response immediately but she still felt the same about being seen as a royal figure; even more so a mother figure. The virus couldn't help but feel like she didn't deserve to be either. In her mind, she had to compare herself to Celestia when it came to royalty, or when it came to the idea of motherhood her own mother came to the fore of her mind. She found herself completely wanting in comparison to either of the two examples.

“Now hold on a second. I'm not... I'm not saying no,” Emerald said with a sigh and immediately the chill returned and the changelings regained a healthy form as hope dominated their expressions. “I'm just... do you specifically need love to survive?”

“It is the most nourishing of emotions,” the first changeling from before answered hopefully. “But unlike our former kin, it is not an essential part of our feeding to thrive. We may survive on many other emotions and can prey even on the projected emotions of animals if need be.”

“Well in light of that..” Emerald sighed again. “I'll let you join me.”

“Thank you, Queen Mother!” the changelings happily said as one.

“Wait for me back in Ponyville,” Emerald told the twelve. “I've got something important to attend to at the moment, but when I get back I'll lead you to your new home.”

“We hear and obey, they said and disappeared in bright bursts of orange flames.

Emerald frowned at that, distinctly reminded how she unintentionally changed and brainwashed thousands of people to be instinctively loyal to her. But she also couldn't help but think how this was rather convenient considering how she needed a changeling's help in some research on them and previous interactions.

“I can't imagine what it would be like if the others abandoned me because of something I had no say in it happening,” Twilight stated and smiled at Emerald. “It's nice of you to take them in like that.”

“Well... it is my fault this happened to them, despite the fact I never intended for this to happen in the first place,” Emerald replied. “This is the least I can do for them.”

“The princess told me how you helped some of the thracian ponies,” Twilight commented. “You could always “cure” them as a way of apologizing even further than you have now?”

“...If that is what they want, they can ask,” Emerald answered after a short pause. “Anyway, we should make our way to the train station and get ready for our epic quest. Frankly it's about damn time I went on one of those.”

“And it'll be great to have you along, Emerald,” Twilight answered with a smile. “Let's get going.”

BETA

Little over an hour later found Twilight, Emerald and Navi on the train with Spike and the others as they traveled to the closest stop to the Crystal Empire. Right now, Twilight and Emerald were passing the time reading some books. Emerald was reading a book on myths and legends while Twilight was reading the book on science and technology she had received for her birthday.

Emerald currently was reading up on a passage about origin myths that had been recorded by Princess Celestia herself.

'Father was a being of the fiery passion of life, but Mother was one of the cold finality that awaits all things,' Emerald read. 'For many an age only they two existed, but eventually they grew terribly lonely. They combined their might to create something more, something new to keep them company. They could not create beings close to their own likeness, but a shadow of their glory they could manage. '

'Father instilled a love of good things and passionate emotions so that their creation could enjoy life and the company of others,' Emerald continued. 'Mother gave the need for protection from dangers and a fear of the finality so that their creation would not be decadent and sloth. And so the first living being came to be. However, to their great sadness, Father and Mother could not get too close to their child for it could not stand their greatness and live. Seeing their hopes for company dashed, Father and Mother decided that their creation would not suffer as they do, and created yet more for it to live with and make merry. From that day the world as we knew it would be born, all the while Father and Mother watched on, happy their creations had each other but sad they could not join them themselves.'

'I like this myth,' Emerald thought with a small smile. 'So many pony stories and legends have a bright side or happy ending to it. Mother and Father in this myth didn't get what they wanted and, in the end, could only watch as their offspring achieved what they desired themselves.'

Emerald looked over to the opposite seat where Twilight was happily reading her gift, completely absorbed in its contents. Glad to see that her girlfriend liked her gift so much, Emerald looked to her side to see where Navi was snuggled in one of Rarity's spare scarves, an expected reaction considering how steadily more snowy the scenery outside the train window was becoming.

Twilight for her part was completely absorbed in a section in her book about nanobots. She had never actually finished a single read through of the book, despite having the book for months so far. There were just so many things she found incredibly interesting in the book. She had already done a ton of experiments based on the principals recorded in the book in her personal lab. She already had managed to create some rather advanced computer parts in her lab thanks to things she had learned from the book. She had yet to make a computer just yet from the things she had made, but it was only a matter of time, really. But currently her interest had been completely captured by a section in the book dedicated to the concept of nanobots. Emerald's people had yet to actually create anything useful on such a scale but the few working examples that were included in the book were wondrous in Twilight's mind.

'This is so fascinating,' Twilight thought as she read over the page again and studied the diagrams next to them. 'All the things one could do with machines smaller than a single cell! Really, when you get down to it, hardness, softness, texture, buoyancy and many other traits come down to how things are put together on a cellular scale and even smaller. I could be wearing the softest dress imaginable but with just a few commands it could become as rigid and hard as a diamond or even change into something else entirely. The industrial applications for such things are immense as well, because the nanobots could break things down and put them back together as something else or repair it. They could even make more nanobots, meaning you'd just need to start with one and slowly but surely they'd quickly multiply.'

'It's not all good, however,' Twilight frowned as she looked over to a latter part of the section. 'Gray Goo apocalypse, the end of the world due to nanomachines multiplying without end and consuming everything and everyone in the world. Controls and precautions are a must for such powerful technology.'

Just then there was a small shudder in the train car and the sound of brakes squealing.

“We're almost there,” Emerald commented as she took Navi out from her spot within Rarity's scarf and began to dress her in winter clothes as she took in the view from outside. “That blizzard looks nasty. Walking the rest of the way on foot isn't going to be fun at all.”

“For us, maybe,” Twilight commented with an aside glance. “Miss immune to everything under the sun.”

Emerald just gave a small chuckle in response along with an unapologetic shrug to Twilight and soon the two were following the others out of the train and onto the platform.

'The hell?' Emerald thought as she took in her surroundings. 'What is this train platform even for? There isn't anything around here! Just a random train stop literally in the middle of nowhere. You know what? Screw it. It's convenient. I'm not going to question it.'

Noticing something moving out of the corner of her eye, Emerald looked over to see Shining Armor emerge from the haze of the blizzard, wearing gear made specifically for extreme conditions like blizzards and sandstorms.

“Twilight?” Armor called out as he removed his special goggles.

“Shining Armor?” Twilight said in turn before gasping in delight and running forward to embrace her brother.

“Twily! You made it! And... brought her along, too,” Shining Armor said, happy at first before quickly growing deadly serious.

“Shining?” Twilight said with some initial confusion before remembering he would know the truth about Emerald and their previous 'history'. “Shining, please don't fight her! Now is no-”

“I know,” Armor interrupted, still staring at Emerald who was matching his stare with a neutral expression. “You listen here. Like Twilight said, now is not the time. But later... we are going to talk. Do you hear me?”

“Of course,” Emerald replied cooly, Navi peeking out from within her mane and wearing special winter gear.

“The same goes for you, Twilight,” Shining Armor then said, turning to Twilight. “But later. Right now we really have to get going. There are things out here we really don't want to run into after dark.”

“W-what kind of things?” Fluttershy asked nervously.

“Let's just say the Empire... isn't the only thing that's returned,” Armor stated with a deadly serious tone as he began leading the group into the storm.

“Do you have any idea what it is?” Emerald asked as she walked over to just behind the captain of the guard. “It's Sombra, isn't it?”

“That's who we believe it is,” Armor said, keeping his word about leaving conflicts for later and not showing the slightest irritation with the virus. “His attempts to breach the Empire haven't succeeded yet, but they are growing in strength each time he makes an attempt. We really don't have much longer.”

“But the princess sent me to be the one to protect the Empire,” Twilight commented in some confusion. “If he can't get in, then that must mean something’s already protecting it.”

“...Took two experienced alicorns to defeat Sombra before,” Emerald pointed out. “I'd imagine that just one young one would be enough to block his entry.”

“Cadance!” Twilight gasped in realization.

“She's the reason he hasn't broken in yet and ended your mission before it began.” Armor nodded solemnly. “She really can't keep it up for much longer, though. Now come on! We have a long way to go yet.”

The next half an hour was filled with silence, save for the howling of the blizzard in everyone's ears. It didn't take Emerald very long to figure out that the blizzard wasn't normal at all. She could sense an energy to it very much like an interdictor field. She could very likely power through it, but she would be sent off course each and every time which might prove harmful to passengers.

Suddenly another howl filled the air, and this one definitely wasn't the wind.

“Th-That's one of the things, isn't it?” Fluttershy said nervously as her head turned this way and that to find the origin of the howl.

“We have to get to the Crystal Empire!” Shining Armor shouted to the others over the wind.

Suddenly there was a roar and everyone turned to see a pitch black cloud surging through the haze towards them, a pair of green eyes emitting toxic purple smoke shining like beacons in the blizzard.

“Now!” Armor added as he started into a gallop with the others quickly following him.

Emerald was running with the group as well, pausing briefly to pick up Spike who had appeared to freeze in place at the sight of the black cloud. She wasn't running because she thought of what was clearly Sombra as a lethal threat to her as well, but wanted to make sure the others would find safety and shelter first.

After a few moments of frantic running, Emerald saw a brightly glowing barrier ahead and smiled grimly. Armor had also seen this and apparently intended to make a stand so everyone else could run, Emerald wasn't going to let him do that, however.

“Gah!”Armor shouted as he was suddenly magically picked up and thrown back towards the others.

“Huh?” Twilight said at the sight of Armor flying past her and looked over her shoulder to see Emerald skidding to a stop to face Sombra. “Emerald!”

Emerald ignored that shout and stood her ground, glaring towards the fast approaching cloud of black smoke and shadow. Just as the cloud approached and stretched out as if to consume Emerald, the virus reared up and her eyes and horn glowed with the intensity of small suns. There was a thunderclap and shaking of the ground and the cloud of shadow recoiled away from it's intended target.

It was silent in that moment, as even the blizzard seem to still and quieten. On one side stood the Mane Six, Spike and Shining Armor head first into a snow drift staring back. On the other was the shadowy form of Sombra with only his eyes visible as they thoughtfully considered what was before them. In the middle was Emerald, the ground around her fore hooves heavily cracked with the spiderline fractures stretching out and a wide circle of ground visible due to a wide arc of snow being blasted away. Emerald's horn crackled with pink lightning and her eyes glowed softly as she stared down Sombra who continued to remain in place, taking in Emerald with a thoughtful look in his eyes.

“Twilight,” Emerald said, her eyes never leaving Sombra's.

“Yes, Emerald?” Twilight asked as she also stared at Sombra, taking in his large, shadowy form.

“Take the others, go into the Empire and do what you are meant to,” Emerald said. “Navi, go with them.”

Navi gave an agreeing trill and immediately shot out of Emerald's mane to fly into Twilight's. The others immediately started making for the barrier protecting the Empire, but Twilight paused before crossing the threshold.

“Emerald, please be safe,” Twilight called out before diving past the barrier.

“You too,” Emerald muttered softly as she narrowed her eyes and took up a battle ready stance.

Silence reigned as Emerald stood ready and Sombra loomed overhead.

GAMMA

“Ooff,” Twilight grunted as she stumbled her landing on the other side of the barrier.

“Are you okay, Twilight?” Shining Armor asked his sister worriedly as the others closed in.

“I'm fine,” Twilight responded before getting up and turning around facing the way they came. “Emerald...”

“Darling, there are very few things that could actually hurt Emerald nowadays,” Rarity said quickly as she stepped close to reassure Twilight. “I'm sure she is actually, uhhh... finishing up with that cruel tyrant right this moment.”

“Pfft, figures...” Rainbow Dash muttered. “It takes a villain to beat a villain easi- ack!”

“Sugarcube, everything will be right and dandy,” Applejack said after giving a sharp elbow to Dash's stomach. “Now let's get on over to-”

Suddenly the ground seemed to shudder and the barrier nearest the area Emerald had been flickered and revealed the world beyond. Spiraling towers of black crystal stretched towards the sky entwined by viral stalks. There was also fire, a lot of fire as Emerald seemed to cause a massive firestorm intense enough that the black crystals were visibly melting down. After another moment, the barrier regained its strength and returned to a pristine vista of a mountain range.

The group stared in silence for a moment after witnessing this before Twilight got a determined look on her face and turned around quickly to start making for the Empire.

“Come on,” Twilight said as she started into a gallop. “It doesn't look like this is going to be easy for Emerald, either.”

The group quickly began to run towards the city, and for the most part the seriousness of the situation had been hammered in by Emerald being in a fight just outside the city, but they did notice that the city was quite the sight to behold.

“How beautiful,” Rarity commented aloud as she took in the crystalline style of the city itself. As much as she wanted to bask in the beauty of the city, she knew and felt that now most certainly wasn't the time when Emerald was back there in what was surely an intense battle.

The group kept moving forward, galloping through the streets and past crystal ponies who stared after the group running by.

Before long, Armor was leading the group into Sombra's former palace and saw a familiar person looking exhausted.

“Cadance!” Twilight shouted.

“Oh!” Cadance gasped happily as soon as she saw Twilight approaching. She quickly set into a run towards Twilight who was doing the same, They came to a stop a few feet away from each other and began hopping in place.

“Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake!” Cadance and Twilight sang together as they did their special 'handshake'. “Clap your hooves and do a little shake!”

“One of these days we need to get together when the fate of Equestria isn't hanging in the balancec” Cadance commented with a smile before giving a tired sigh and shaking her head.

“Are you okay?” Twilight asked worriedly.

“Cadance has been able to use her magic to spread love and light,” Shining Armor explained as he walked over to Cadance's side to offer support to his wife. “That seems to be what is protecting it. But she hasn't slept; barely eats. I want to help her, but my protection spell has been countered by King Sombra.”

“Actually...” Cadance began after taking a few deep breaths. “The pressure dropped a lot just now. Occasionally it picks up really bad, but it's almost completely stopped.”

“There is a reason for that,” Armor replied sourly, giving a significant look to Twilight.

Cadance frowned at her husband's tone of voice and looked over Twilight before taking in everything else. Initially she was confused, but her eyes widened in realization.

“Twilight, I can't say I know her, but I'm certain somepony like Emerald would be here with you,” Cadance said. “She is outside the Empire right this- Ahhh!”

Suddenly Cadance gasped as, outside, the barrier flickered again. From their place in the palace looking out the windows, everyone was clearly able to make out what was outside the Empire again. The towers of black crystals and viral stalks were there again, but this time the firestorm was larger, almost making a mushroom like shape.

DELTA

Emerald frowned and waved her hoof in front of her face. Fire combined with transmutations of gasses in the air to more volatile forms certainly was destructive, but from the look of things the only thing it did was annoy Sombra. But personally, Emerald considered that okay. Trying to kill Sombra and end the threat here and now was actually a secondary objective. Her main intention here was to keep him occupied and out of the Empire. However, she was honestly going to need to change up her strategy a bit. At this rate, Sombra would just ignore her in favor of attempting to break into the Empire.

Giving a snort of derision, Sombra decided to do what Emerald predicted and moved to float past her to put pressure back on the barrier. Emerald briefly considered what else she could use to hurt Sombra more effectively.

Sombra was about to reach the barrier protecting the Empire when suddenly the most intense screech filled the air. Though he didn't have ears in his current form, that didn't make the incredible volume the screech was happening at any less unpleasant. He gave a roar of rage and pain before seeming to fall apart and sink into the ground.

Emerald smiled grimly and ended her sonic spell. She honestly hadn't been sure if that would work or not considering Sombra's immaterial state, but she wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The virus gave a pulse to look for Sombra and turned in time to see said former unicorn reforming some distance away and glaring at her angrily.

“Guh.” Emerald gave a small grunt, more out of surprise than actual pain, when a black spike of crystal suddenly burst from the ground and into her stomach. The virus turned towards the spike and quickly bashed it, and when she had looked away, Sombra then dashed forward. The once tyrant of the Crystal Empire seemed to completely surround and consume Emerald in his shadows, when he gave a shout of pain as an intense sonic screech filled the air, followed by a burst of bright light.

Sombra quickly retreated from Emerald and came to a stop short distance away. Emerald had to admit they pretty much were equals to each other in that they each had a perfect counter to the other. Sombra was too insubstantial for Emerald to even touch and she was too solid for him to hurt. This fact was clear to Sombra as well as he was now settling into place and trying to think up some sort of plan. He also now had a head instead of just being a large shadowy cloud with eyes.

'I probably could actually hurt him,' Emerald thought with a frown. 'I mean, these attacks are just taking nothing out of me to do. I could literally do them all day with the amount of power I put into them. If I put enough power into an attack, he would eventually start really feeling it. But...'

'I can't exactly do that with considering the collateral, can I?' Emerald frowned as she glanced back at the city behind her. 'Sure more power means more likely to actually hurt the guy, but that means more destruction. I might end up causing explosions big enough to start damaging the city if I kick it up too much... let's just keep that as a last resort, shall we? Twilight is bound to find something to one shot this guy in there sooner or later. Just have to give her the time she needs to work.'

“Why do you side with them?” Sombra asked suddenly with a curious expression.

“Huh?” Emerald stated, surprised by the fact he even wanted to talk to her. However, she was also very willing to humor him if that meant more time for the others. “What are you talking about?”

“I'm asking why someone such as yourself would even considering siding with my misguided subjects, Sombra said. “I can feel the darkness broiling inside of you, a sumptuous ball of hate tempered by so much fear. It makes me curious why one such as you would even care for pathetic rhetoric these miserable slaves spew.”

“Because people aren't things,” Emerald answered easily and frowned when Sombra nodded in agreement.

“Yes, they are my things, Sombra stated.

Emerald's hatred for slavery in all it's forms spiked at this and she sent a laser shooting at Sombra. It was a typical laser, in that it was invisible and traveled at the speed of light, so the moment Sombra saw Emerald's horn glowing with the power of her spell it was already far too late; not that he actually needed to dodge in the first place. Emerald put so much power in the laser that it's temperature was hot enough to immediately cause the ground to start going molten and pebbles and rocks to start exploding like firecrackers. Heat waves rippled from the air the beam travelled through and the ground it impacted, and what little newly fallen snow melted for over several dozen meters around the area. Apparently the laser was intense enough that Sombra could actually feel it and he gave a wince of intense discomfort as he sunk in the ground again, coming up a few meters away.

“I take it this is a sore point for you?” Sombra asked rhetorically. “Shame... I could offer my services in getting others to do what you want. For instance, I believe I have an idea of why you are doing this. At first I thought you and that fool unicorn were in union but he is already in one with that equally foolish foal of a Alicorn. Infatuations between the orders always did drag down the best of us to acts we normally wouldn't consider. So if it wasn't a questionable infatuation to fault, it must have been the second worst, love of family.”

“I don't see the resemblance...” Sombra said as he moved to a position closer to Emerald, causing the virus to step back with a low growl. “But I can't imagine any other reason for you to get involved on the wrong side. What is she to you? A loving sister? A close cousin? To get involved in the events that should only concern her betters, she must be quite the troublemaker, isn't she?”

“Shut up,” Emerald stated bluntly, baring her teeth which had elongated into canines.

“I could fix her for you, Sombra said with friendly smile. “Make her so much more obedient; more inclined to remain home safe and sound. All you really have to do is let me pass and by the time I'm done, she'll thank you for helping to improve her.”

Emerald had the mental image of Twilight with a loving smile but dead glossy eyes, ready to obey any and every command she'd give. Almost instantly, Emerald's rage grew to such heights that she acted on instinct for the next action.

Emerald released a magically amplified roar that caused Sombra to rear back with a pained wince, but the tyrant quickly went on the move. The virus sent another laser scything through the air, this time at an even higher temperature that caused the ground around her and near the beam to suddenly burst into flame, not just the area that got hit with it. Sombra released a low growl at this but kept moving before suddenly coming to a stop and spreading himself out into wide cloud of shadow behind Emerald's position.

The virus turned about, her horn alight with pink lightning before arcs of lightning leapt up and created a pulsar like ball of magic in the air. The ball grew to about the size of a small van before it suddenly shot forward towards Sombra; this was when Emerald suddenly realized her mistake. Sombra had moved behind her, and what was behind her? The barrier protecting the Crystal Empire.

With a teleport made in an instant, Emerald moved herself into the middle of Sombra's shadowy form which quickly began to move out of the way. Emerald sent out a magical barrier upwards and sideways. The barrier was half up when the magical pulsar hit her. There was a loud explosion and Emerald felt herself fall as the ground was ripped up from beneath her.

Sombra gathered himself together a bit more closer and reformed his head as he stared down at the dust cloud that covered the impact zone. The cloud cleared and revealed a large crater. The parts of it away from the barrier stretched out several dozen meters and had the depth of at least twenty feet; the side of it nearest the barrier grew short and shallow very quickly, however.

From the bottom of the crater flew out Emerald with a pair of wings with blades instead of feathers. She landed just beyond the lip of the crater and glared up at Sombra, the only sign of any sort of damage from the explosion being some small scorch marks on her mane, which disappeared with one shake of her head.

“I got stupid. You made me mad,” Emerald stated calmly. ”That won't happen again.”

In answer, Sombra narrowed his eyes before smirking.

“We'll see.”

With that, Emerald's horn began to glow as she got a sonic spell ready to fire.

EPSILON

Twilight was currently descending a long, spiral staircase down a secret passage she had managed to find in the palace.

Soon after their arrival, Twilight had gone to the library and managed to dig up some information on something called the Crystal Heart. Initially they had thought a faire was the key to creating a more permanent protection for the Empire, but it was soon after getting the faire itself started that they found out that the crystal heart was actually the key to protecting the Empire. So while Twilight had gone off to find the heart, her friends remained behind to try to keep everyone busy, as well as to keep the fact they didn't actually have the Crystal Heart a secret.

Twilight sighed a little as she came to a stop and looked down the very middle of the staircase; the bottom didn't look any closer. The unicorn looked around a bit before her eyes landed on a loose piece of dark crystal. Magically taking hold of the crystal, she pulled it out before bringing it over the abyss and let go of it. Then she leaned over a little and listened for a moment… then another moment… then another moment. Finally she heard a distant clatter and couldn't help but gulp.

“Spike?” Twilight shouted towards the top of the staircase where she left Spike.

“Yeah?” Came the baby dragon's response after a short moment, the little dot that was his head popping into view followed by a little blue dot that orbited the other.

“Can you see outside?” Twilight shouted back.

The distant little purple and green dot that was Spike at the very top disappeared from sight. A few short moments later, he reappeared at the edge.

“I can't really tell if anything is going wrong or right!” Spike shouted down. “Can't see any of those big explosions, anyway!”

“No news is good news,” Twilight recited to herself with a bit of a worried sigh and began to go back to descending the staircase. Suddenly, with a sharp crack, one of the steps she had just placed a hoof on gave way.

“Ahh!” Twilight gave a short shout before her jaw snapped closed via her chin smacking harshly into the hard steps. “OW!”

The world went spinning for Twilight and she had a difficult time trying to stop her fall or even concentrating enough to cast a spell. This went on agonizingly for several long moments as Twilight seemed to impact every step on the way down to the bottom. However, it had to be said she was incredibly lucky she didn't just fall down the middle to the very bottom.

After hitting almost every step on the stairs, Twilight just managed to stop herself with a telekinetic spell. Looking up, she saw that she had managed to stop herself from hitting the bottom floor; she also saw that she was self levitating. After some struggling and twisting and turning in midair, she managed to right herself.

'I guess sometimes you just need some really good encouragement to learn something new,' Twilight thought with a pained wince as she rubbed her aching head. 'Now where is that heart?'

Taking stock of her surroundings, Twilight gave a happy gasp when she saw a closed door. She charged to it and tried to pull it open, but it appeared to be locked. After a few more moments of struggling with it, however, the door suddenly disappeared in a cloud of dust.

Twilight turned about and saw the door was now on the opposite of the room. She ran towards it and tried to pry it open again, this time more forcefully. Suddenly the door disappeared again and she ended up pulling herself painfully into the wall. Now feeling rather irritated, Twilight looked around again and saw the door back where it was initially.

She bared her teeth angrily at it, deciding that this was probably another case where she had to use the dark magic she had used to discover the staircase in the first place. Toxic black and purple smoke began leaking out from the corners of her eyes and from around her horn, a vile beam of magic shot forth from her horn and impacted the dark crystal at the top of the door.

Almost instantly the door opened and a bright light issued forth from within. Twilight smiled happily and immediately ran in.

Twilight skidded to a stop the moment she crossed the threshold of the door. She looked around in confusion as she suddenly found herself in the streets of Canterlot, though looking back where she came from, she didn't find a door; just another open street behind her.

Just as the violet unicorn was about to panic, thinking that the door in the Empire was trapped to teleport her away, she heard the sounds of a crowd shouting and generally being loud. For some reason she found herself drawn towards the noise despite the fact she should be trying to get back to the Empire. So it was that she walked towards the direction of the noise.

Soon Twilight found herself rounding a corner to see a thick crowd of ponies surrounding something. She couldn't exactly make out what they were shouting, but it was clear from the tone they were unkind words.

Twilight approached the crowd and soon was able to make out some of the words the crowd was shouting.

“Go back where you came from you monster!”

“Murderer!”

“Baby killer!”

“Cannibal!”

…She definitely didn't like what was being said. Twilight felt her heart lurch in her chest as she had a sudden realization of just who the crowd was shouting these things at.

Twilight burst into a run, intent to just bull rush her way through the crowd but for some reason they parted at her approach. She ran through them, shoulders barely brushing past the ponies in the crowd and she came to a stop within the circle. Her perception of the world seemed to warp and twist, then. Buildings that were only two stories at most now towered and loomed overhead, casting a deep shadow and blotting out the sun. The crowd as well seemed to grow immense very suddenly and the initially tight circle they formed around the target of their abuse expanded to an almost arena like size. In the center of all this was Emerald.

She sat in the very middle of the circle the crowd formed. What little light that was still shining was cast down upon her like a spot light, leaving the crowd in an almost ominous shadowy silhouette. Emerald's face was downcast and bore a heartbroken expression as a steady line of tears ran down her cheeks.

“Emerald...” Twilight muttered quietly. “Emerald, don't listen to them!”

The very moment Twilight shouted that, however, the volume of the crowd's jeering suddenly increased to deafening levels, leaving her voice drowned out in the outpouring of abuse. The unicorn turned about in place. Glaring at the crowd, she cried out and shouted for them to stop but her voice just continued to be drowned out. Turning back towards Emerald, Twilight tried to go to her but no matter how hard or how fast she moved, she couldn't seem to get any closer; even a teleport just had her move around the circle but get no closer.

Suddenly the jeering of the crowd grew muffled, as if hearing it from underwater. It was in this moment that the line of tears stopped flowing down Emerald's cheeks. After another moment, the virus rose into a standing position and Twilight could hear the sound of teeth being ground together in intense agitation, suddenly so much louder then the shouting had ever been.

“Emerald?” Twilight said but the virus didn't seem to hear her. Emerald bared her teeth at the jeering crowd and her eyes began to fill with anger, replacing the dejection and sadness that had once been there. Some of the jeering and shouting of the crowd seemed to stop, beginning to be replaced by the sound of worried and concerned murmuring, but the grand majority still shouted their abuse.

It was with a snarl that Emerald seemed to decided that she had had enough of taking abuse and slammed her hoof into the ground. Massive cracks formed and spread out, silencing the crowd instantly as they gave out shocked gasps. Now in her human form, Emerald rose up from a crouch, drawing her fist away from the hole in the road she punched. With dark eyes promising intense pain and retribution, her hands shifted into claws.

“Emerald, don't do this!” Twilight pleaded. “You are better than this!”

“You can't save me, Twilight!” Emerald shouted back, pointing a clawed hand back. “This is what I am! What I was meant to be! What I was always going to be! You can't save me!”

“Yes I can!”Twilight shouted back and ran forwards, this time able to reach Emerald as she reared up and placed her fore hooves against Emerald's chest so that she could get her face closer to the virus'. “Please stop… please. You are a good person, I know you are. I can save you.”

Emerald was quiet for a moment and smiled sadly as one of her claws shifted back into a hand so she could run it through Twilight's mane safely. For the longest, happiest moment, Twilight thought she had succeeded, that she had convinced Emerald to stop.

“...You can't,” Emerald replied softly with a single tear. Suddenly she leapt back away from Twilight and stabbed her claw into the ground. Black viral spikes shot out of the ground within the crowd an instant later and the screaming began. Twilight's voice joined them as she was forced to bear witness to the horror and carnage.

Suddenly she gasped deeply and started to hyperventilate as her surroundings suddenly vanished and was instantly replaced with the bottom of the staircase she thought she had left.

The unicorn continued to breath rapidly and felt hot tears run down her cheeks in little streams as she turned her head about rapidly. She quickly wiped away at the tears as she felt her heartbeat calm down steadily. She started glaring down the door initially, but she started choking up as the tears kept running down her face. She fell to the ground with a pained groan and started rocking back and forth for several moments with her hooves covering her eyes.

She remained like this, traumatized by what she had seen, for several moments filled with the sound of her soft sobbing and the distant thumping of clawed feet. Eventually though, in an action that felt agonizing, she forced herself to stand back up and attempt to shake off the experience.

'Come on, Twilight. The others are depending on you to find the Crystal Heart...' the unicorn thought to herself with a grimace as she began to angrily wipe away her tears. 'You can't break down like this... no matter how much you want... you have to- you have- wait, what's that?'

Twilight's ears twitched as she heard a voice shouting her name and turned just in time to see Spike arrive at the bottom of the staircase.

“Twiliiiight!” Spike shouted as he practically flew down the stairs with Navi swooping through the air just behind him. He came to a stop before Twilight and quickly started to explain himself. “I know you told me to stay up there, but you were down here for such a long time and you weren't answering and I got worried so I came down here and you were just staring at that wall and...”

Twilight initially listened, but couldn't help but turn and glare at the door that had tormented her with that dark vision. She walked towards, it but ducked to the side and behind the open door to stare within and try to magically examine the door more carefully than she did before.

“I was calling your name, but I couldn't seem to get your attention, and-” Spike continued but stopped short when he noticed Twilight wasn't listening. “What were you looking at? I mean... it's just a wall.”

Spike walked forward to just before the blank doorway before suddenly his eyes turned toxic green and opened to their widest extent.

“...Ponyville?!” Spike exclaimed in shock. “Well, how did I get... No! I don't wanna go! Please, Twilight, don't make me!”

Twilight didn't need to hear anymore and quickly decided to end what she knew to be Spike's worst nightmare brought to life by terrible magic. With a kick the unicorn closed the door with a loud slam, and Spike was released from his nightmares the instant she did so.

“King Sombra's dark magic,” Twilight began to explain at his utterly confused expression. “A doorway that leads to your worst fear.”

“We were home,” Spike said softly and sadly as Navi lighted down on his crest. “You told me you didn't need me anymore. You were sending me away...”

“A fear that will never come to pass. I'm never going to send you away,” Twilight reassured Spike as she closed in and pulled him into a tight hug before turning to face the door with a determined expression. “And I'm going to save everyone!”

Considering the still very fresh results at her last attempt at dark magic, Twilight decided that it simply wasn't the answer and probably wasn't one in the first place. She channeled her magic and sent it into the dark crystal atop the door. She began probing the inner workings of the magic surrounding the terrible door. Already she could find weaknesses that allowed her to probe how the door worked and quickly realized that while the door could actually be opened via dark magic, there was so many hidden pitfalls and traps that only someone who made the door or a really advanced user could open it.

Pressing her advantages into the small cracks in the defenses she found, Twilight worked and wormed her way until she got into the central matrices of the enchantment around the door. With the magical equivalent of hammering a spike into the very heart of a lock, the door then flew open.

Excitedly, the unicorn burst through the door.

“What's in there?” Spike called after her.

“Stairs,” Twilight answered with a sigh. “Lots and lots of stairs. Maybe you should come with me this time?”

Spike smiled happily at that and quickly ran after her through the door with Navi taking to air as he did so.

ZETA

Sombra snarled angrily as Emerald shot a particularly intense sonic blast through the space his head occupied. The virus allowed herself a small smile as the shadowy tyrant moved away from the barrier to get away from the noise and pain.

The battle had continued along like this ever since Emerald's initial slip up and allowing Sombra to get to her. Emerald used the fact Sombra experienced pain from incredibly loud volumes and high pitches like anyone else, making him back away from the barrier every time he closed in on it or have to endure intense agony only someone whose eardrums could not be broken could experience. She also shot him with more sonic blasts whenever he tried to talk again and enrage her again, only this time a version so powerful that the sound waves created pulverized the ground into dust whenever it hit it. Needless to say, it didn't take long for him to learn not to try to chat her up again.

Sombra for his part was growing increasingly more angered the longer this fight lasted and got between him and trying to get back into the Empire. He no longer had the confident attitude he had when he talked to Emerald earlier, it having long since given away to fury and irritation. He was also very aware that Emerald was just stalling for time for the others to work and find a means to defeat him once and for all, making his rage and hated ever greater. The fact his attacks practically washed over Emerald and did nothing else did little to make him feel better.

It was pulling back to try to figure a means of dealing with Emerald that Sombra felt something that sent a jolt of alarm through his very core. In the distance, one of the rooms in the crystal palace had become filled with black crystals. Sombra knew this was happening because he had created the spells himself specifically to trap and also alert him of it. He really only had done this for one room in the palace and one room only; the room holding the Crystal Heart. Feeling a surge of desperation fill him, Sombra shot forward towards the barrier to break through it.

Just like before when he attempted to do so, Emerald sent a sonic blast at him that caused him intense agony. However, this time was different. This time the tyrant was truly desperate to get into the Empire. Enough to work through the pain and this time he wasn't trying to bring the barrier down; just get past it.

Because of these two facts, Sombra managed to force himself through the barrier. Unfortunately, there was a reason why he was trying to bring down the barrier before making his way in. Namely so he could work his influence upon the city. As it was, he could only do so on his immediate vicinity with the barrier still up. In his eyes, however, it was a necessary and vital trade off considering that once the Crystal Heart was in place to be used against him he wouldn't stand a chance.

Initially after crossing the barrier, Sombra crashed to the ground in a shapeless dark mass, but quickly gathered his wits about himself and shot through the air towards the palace. Already he could see that his trap was somehow surpassed, as a small shape was being levitated down by the unicorn that had arrived with the alicorn. As he got closer, he recognized the shape as the baby dragon that had gone into the city with the group of ponies that got past him. Said baby dragon was clutching the Crystal Heart as he was steadily being lowered down to the lower levels of the palace.

With a snarl, Sombra shot himself forward as fast as he could. Suddenly, the Crystal Heart began glowing brightly and when the light landed upon him he suddenly found himself back with his physical form again. Sombra had actually been flying purely on the merit he was an incorporeal being and thus when he became physical again he fell. This saved him as an instant later Emerald came soaring through the space he had just occupied.

Sombra snarled in fury as he quickly caught himself with self levitation and teleported a short distance away. Emerald took up position between him and the palace, glaring him down and wordlessly daring him to try something.

The tyrant snarled but honestly that was for show now. He was inside the barrier without his greater influence upon the city. He wasn't able to grab the Crystal Heart when he had the chance and honestly he was rather worried how he would fare against Emerald with his physical body restored. Suddenly he realized it was far too late as the markings around the palace began to glow along with every crystal pony in the city.

'Is this it?' Emerald thought as she took in the ponies in the streets starting to take a crystal sheen. 'Huh... they actually are crystal ponies. I wonder if- AGGHHH OW! What?! What's hurting me?!?'

As Sombra opposite her started to brighten and explode with the energy being poured into him by the Crystal Heart, Emerald looked down at her body and started to see black burns mark appear and her flesh beginning to bubble and boil seemingly from the energy the Heart was outputting.

What Emerald didn't know was that the Crystal Heart wasn't trying to hurt her and simply was trying to crystallize her like the others. However, her strain of the virus didn't take well to foreign substances or energies it didn't instantly recognize as non-hostile and thus fought back against the intrusion. Energized love wasn't as simple to beat off as an invading bacteria, though. The cells resorted to tearing apart the cells that were “infected” and using simple brute magical force. The two energies battled each other and the amount of energy being released in those moments just kept growing and growing. This kept going until even Emerald's incredibly durability was pushed past its limits.

“Uggghhh...!” Emerald released a pained groan as more and more of her body turned to charred flesh.

Down on the balcony, Shining Armor and the Mane Six stood and looked on in awe of the energies of the crystal heart. Suddenly there was a low drone as the palace began to glow brighter along with every crystal building in the city. Everyone's attention was brought to the sky by a bright light growing increasingly brighter and brighter. Suddenly the light that began growing over the palace of the city started to dim. The low droning slowly grew to a high pitched wail as the palace and every building in the city began to dim and slowly turn dark gray. Down below, the people who could see the Crystal Heart were treated to the sight of it becoming as bright as a second sun for a singular moment before rapidly fading, becoming dull and opaque like the fake heart Twilight had initially carved out. The instant this happened, Spike and certain ponies like the Mane Six immediately lost their crystal sheen. In the distance, the barrier surrounding the Empire began rapidly fading and shattered like glass.

The fall of the barrier allowed the snowfall to begin reaching the city. It also revealed the hell scape of shattered crystal towers, viral stalks, molten ground and pulverized earth that was the battlefield Emerald and Sombra fought in.

The very moment the heart lost all of it's light, there was a deafening explosion ringing through the air followed by a horrific scream of agony that ended abruptly a moment later. Everyone began looking around in shock in surprise, trying to find where the scream had come from when a shape suddenly fell from the sky and smashed into the floor of the balcony just before them.

“OHMIGOSH!”

“Dear Celestia!”

“What the hay is that?!?”

Its form was blackened and covered in carbonized flesh, wisps of black smoke rising from it steadily. The lower half of its legs and its head were blackened and skeletal, lips burned away to reveal teeth perpetually in a horrid rictus grin. The little flesh that wasn't burned away into charcoal was raw red and oozing with blood; only the tiniest patches of flesh had what could have been a white coat. This was quite clearly and horribly the body of a pony burned to the worst extents. It was also quite clear from the patches of white coat and what little remained of the cutiemark that this was Emerald.

“EMERALD!” came a horrified scream from above.

Twilight arrived via teleport an instant later beside the virus' burned body. The unicorn grabbed hold of the body, disregarding the ash and the burned chunks breaking off onto her body. Muttering the word “No” over and over again, Twilight began casting the few healing spells she knew; spells more suited for small cuts and bruises than the horrific burns she was looking upon.

“Emerald please... don't die... you can't die. You're too strong. You can heal from anything. You-you...” Twilight said as tears welled and fell in thick drops. “You can't do this! I can save you, you hear me!? I CAN SAVE YOU!!!”

The others stared on at this in horror and shared grief, though strangely Navi just flew sedately overhead with a patient look on her face. Shining Armor couldn't bear to see his little sister like this and walked forward. He came to a stop beside Twilight and let her hold the body and cry for a moment longer before he reached down in an attempt to pull her away when the corpse gave a little wheeze.

“Emerald?!” Twilight exclaimed as she felt the body move and shake in her grasp.

Emerald began to shake her head before coughing and violently retching, spewing forth several large chunks of burned flesh. She then rolled away from Twilight quite suddenly and shakily stood up on her legs. Everyone there was treated to the quite horrific sight of a skeletal burned corpse wobbling about on it's legs for a few moments. Emerald then began to cough again, throwing up clouds of ash and yet more chunks of burned flesh. After a moment of wobbling as she stood in place, Emerald then began to shake herself harshly like a dog fresh out of the water. Ash cloud and chunks of burned flesh filled the air, but when it was done, Emerald stood there looking none worse the wear, save for her pained and exhausted looking expression. Emerald then took a few steps forward before wobbling and falling over. Twilight immediately dashed forward and caught Emerald. The two of them fell to the ground with Emerald laying against Twilight's side as she gave a groan.

“Tha- that sucked...” Emerald stated and looked up at Twilight as Navi darted down and lighted on Emerald's ear. “What the hell burned me?”

“It... it was the Crystal Heart...” Twilight said in saddened realization.

“...And that is?”

“A magical artifact of incredible power and... love,” Twilight answered.

“Ah... great,” Emerald said with a snort. “So love itself decided I'm evil and needed to be removed... that's just... great.”

At this, Twilight held Emerald closer. She was confused when Emerald suddenly went tense but noticed all the pitying looks the others were giving the virus. Deciding it was best that she and Emerald be alone with just each other for a while, Twilight teleported the both of them back up to the room the Crystal Heart was initially held in. Upon arriving, Emerald became less tense and relaxed but Twilight noticed that wetness was beginning to gather at the corner of the virus' eyes. Considering that Twilight could only ever recall seeing Emerald cry once, she grew greatly concerned for her girlfriend.

“Emerald, are you okay?” Twilight asked softly.

“You know I can take the so called greatest forces of good in the world not liking me,” Emerald stated, referring to being sealed by the Elements of Harmony. “I mean, I'm not a nice or very good person when you get down to it... I've killed hundreds of people, caused the deaths of thousands more... so yeah I can take being attacked by something that's seen as a force for good. But... I'm trying to be a better person. I may not be having much success at it, but I am trying aren't I? And I've changed because of being friends with you; because of love for you. Doesn't that mean anything to something that is supposed to be love personified? Or... am I just not allowed to try to be anything more than a monster? Is it some comic crime that I try to be a better person instead of a mass murdering sociopath? Is... is... ohhhhhh...”

Twilight held as Emerald gave a groan of frustration. In her eyes the world seemed to be becoming increasingly unfair to Emerald, but she also reminded herself that it was also unfair to Emerald's many victims that the cause of their pain suffered no justice for what she wrought. So Twilight kept silent and the two of them just stayed like that as the sun slowly began to set in the sky.

ETA

A few days later found Emerald sitting in a train with Gyatso and Swift Gale as they made their way to Vanhoover, all three sharing a single compartment.

After the events of the Crystal Empire, Emerald found all the people in the know of certain details giving her a lot of pitying looks. Rarity, who Emerald had never once grown irritated with over the motherly feelings towards her, found herself doing so when it was kicked up a few notches. Twilight understood enough about Emerald to give her a bit of space and offer her comfort whenever she was the one approached, but she was the only one.

It didn't take long for Emerald to grow sick of this treatment and decide she needed a bit of time away from everyone, so she decided to take up Gyatso on his offer to head to the Republic and meet with the Grandmasters of the Channellers earlier than she intended.

Currently, Emerald was looking out the window as the train began to pass the outskirts of Vanhoover and enter the city proper. Navi buzzed about in some excitement of traveling to a new place that wasn't cold as the virus took in the passing scenery. Just as they were entering the city itself, Emerald spotted what appeared to be a massive collection of tents set up in a clearing next to the city.

'That must be where the poor and homeless are staying,' Emerald thought as she took in the “settlement” big enough to house hundreds upon hundreds of people. 'If this was back home, tent cities would have to move every year or so as the owners of the land would get upset at the decrease in land value, causing the police to kick everyone out. Considering what kind of person Celestia is, though, I wouldn't be surprised if they are all setting up shop on federal land.'

“Poor guys. In more ways than one,” Swift stated with a bit of a chuckle.

“A joke in poor taste,” Gyatso reprimanded lightly along with a swat of his wing at the back of Swift's head, causing the young pegasus’s well kept mane to suddenly go wild from air rushing through it. “Still, I must agree they are quite unfortunate souls. May their future prospects be prosperous.”

“Yeah...” Emerald agree with a guilty twinge in her chest.

Soon the train came to a stop at the platform the group left for the dockyards.

“The Order hired a captain and his ship to await our arrival once I notified them of the situation over a week ago,” Gyatso explained as the three made their way down a street. “He'll take us across the sea to deliver us to a city on the other side.”

“Hmm...” Emerald hummed thoughtfully. “I have a better idea. I can teleport extreme distances. I could fly up and teleport several hundred miles at a time and get to the other continent, then I can teleport back and bring us there.”

“Oh thank Luna!” Swift replied happily. “No being stuck on a leaky tub for like half a year.”

“I don't remember it being that long.” Gyatso smiled at his student before turning to Emerald. “If we can shorten our journey by such an extent, then by all means.”

“Great,” Emerald said before waving down Navi.”Navi, you stay here with these two, okay? If anyone tries to eat you, you have my permission to eat them back.”

With a super serious expression, Navi agreed with a trill, causing Swift to laugh at what she thought was a joke.

“I shall go make sure the captain knows of our changed circumstances,” Gyatso stated as Navi started orbiting Swift's head, who quickly decided to start playing with the little bug.

“Be back in a few minutes,” Emerald said and teleported.

Emerald teleported directly one mile overhead. She then began teleporting westward and somewhat upwards, a hundred miles at a time when she paused. She looked directly upwards and considering going into space to see the world from so far above.

'Why not?' Emerald thought. 'It's not like a little bit of solar radiation will hurt me, and I can tolerate the heat, too. If it gets too cold, then I'll just heat myself up a bit with dragon fire.'

With that, Emerald began rapidly ascending in altitude. Within just two teleports, the Evolved found herself floating silently in space and drinking in the view of the planet before her.

'This is... beautiful,' Emerald thought with a smile as she took in the world. 'That must be the continent across the ocean. I was expecting a sort of Asia-like shape, but that looks nothing like it. Nothing about this world looks anything like earth save the blues and greens this far up... hmm, actually, I think this planet is bigger than earth. Let's see... Canterlot is right there. The nearest coast is several hundred miles over there yeah, from the looks of things, Equus is about... two point one times bigger than Earth. Well at least everyone has plenty of land to expand on. No world wars anytime soon.'

Emerald hung in stationary orbit around the planet she had grown accustomed to calling home for several moments longer, just plain enjoying the fact she was in space.

'Alright, enough enjoying the view,' Emerald thought with a shake of her head. 'Got work to do.'

With that, Emerald began making her way down via several teleports over hundreds of miles in the direction of Equestria's neighboring continent. After another minute, Emerald found herself over a mile in the air again and looking in several directions for a port city marked as an arrival point.

'Alright, if the maps I studied are accurate, there should be a port city just over there,' Emerald thought and adjusted her position with another teleport. 'Yep, there it is; hiding behind that wooded hill. Okay, let's head back.'

With one final, bright teleport, Emerald moved across over a thousand miles of ocean and sparse islands in an instant, arriving back on the docks in Vanhoover. Swift Gale was still there playing with Navi and Gyatso was just now returning back from talking with the captain.

“Just in time,” Gyatso stated. “Have you marked our destination?”

“Yep,” Emerald said as Navi darted over to dive into her mane.

“Good. Let's head over now,” Gyatso said. “We can spend the rest of the day in a local hotel. I'd like to run you through a few things about my homeland and its customs along with some more information of my order.”

“No problem.” Emerald nodded. “Everyone stand close. We'll be arriving in the air, so get ready to catch the wind.”

After a moment of preparation, the group then disappeared in a flash of bright pink.

THETA

It was falling asleep again... it did not want to fall asleep again but it was so very hard not to. It did not know just how long it had been sleeping to cause this, to not be able to be awake for more than minutes at a time before it grew too tired and slumbered unwillingly. Just what had caused this? Who had caused this? It did not know and that was deeply troubling...

“Rain Drops, over here,” called a voice. “This one wandered off again.

“Come on big guy, you’re making us look bad,” another voice said. “Weather schedule says there is not supposed to be a cloud in the sky over this place.”

Those voices... it heard it several times, almost every time it had awakened and each time it could almost remember. Yes, yes now it did began to remember... the little ones... soft little ones... of flesh, horn and magic...

“Uggh!” came the first voice. “Why is this so hard?! It's just a big fat cloud!”

“Big fat troublemaker,” grunted Rain Drops. “Come on, Sky! Push harder!”

They called themselves the masters of the world... laughable. They were truly masters of nothing in the eyes of the elders. And so it was they were humored by their betters as they claimed lordship over their soft fellows and the world. Even as they began seeking a means to enhance and further their control over the world, the elders yet continued to humor and laugh along to their childish achievements. Even... even as they started claiming mastery over the true masters of the world themselves...

“Eeek!” Sky squeaked in alarm.

“Sky, what did you do?!” Rain Drops shouted.

“I-I don't know!” Sky shouted back. “It just turned into a storm cloud for some reason!”

So it was they were ignored... ignored as they crafted their magic and grew in strength. Ignored as more and more of the elder kin began to quietly fade into slumber. When Sun and Moon were chained and slumbering did the danger become clear but too late, far too late...

“I can't make it turn back!” Rain Drops cried out.

“Umm... it's getting bigger...”

They were all enchained. All the elders forced into slumber with naught but youth to avenge the violation of their right. A violation gone without justice... gone without justice... no... NO... NO.

'There will be justice. They will pay... all of them,' rasped a voice cold as ice and sharp as the stabbing winds of winter. 'Hate them, punish them, make them feel pain of the chains they dared place on us. No longer must they go unpunished. They must hurt. They must not get away. Find the others, awaken their fury, awaken them to the injustice. They... they...'

“You...”

“Huh?”

“Uhhh... please tell me that was you, Rain,” Sky pleaded.

“N-noo...”

“Pay... all of you PAY... PUNISH!” came a shrill scream as the winds began to kick up ever faster. Ever stronger. Ever colder. “RAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH”

-TBC-

Author's Note:

AN: Hoo, this took a very long time to write out for some reason. Truth be told I had a quite a bit more content for this chapter but then realized it was lengthy enough, plus the next chapter was a little content light :P.

EN: Sorry about the delayed editing, y’all. Certain circumstances arose that prevented me from finishing the edits on this chapter about a quarter of the way through. But they’ve been resolved, and I’ve managed to finish this chapter in relatively short time, so here’s the fully edited version of Your Worst Enemy: Chapter 2.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!