• Published 21st Mar 2018
  • 2,049 Views, 583 Comments

Duelists of the Friendship Cup - DrakeyC

Friendship Games is retold, but with less academics and athletics and more card games.

  • ...

Prepare To Strike Back

Duelists of the Friendship Cup

Prepare to Strike Back

The crowds on the back field of Canterlot High were growing larger by the minute when Sunset drove her motorcycle into the parking lot and into an empty space. She skidded to a stop, turned off the engine and kicked down the stand, but didn’t dismount. Face concealed in her helmet, Sunset watched the crowds begin to filter into the stands. She pulled her phone from her pocket and glanced at the display.

10:50. They’re probably already down there. Her hand still on the handlebars of her bike tightened its grip. They want me to come cheer them on. They’ll be worried if I don’t show up. Especially with what happened. Taking a deep breath, Sunset slid her phone back into her pocket, took her helmet off, and hung it on the handlebar, and stood up. She slowly walked to the entrance to the field, her boots crisp on the pavement.

At the stairs down to the grass she paused and looked at the bench for Canterlot High. Her friends were there, some sitting down and others standing, but they all turned their heads towards her when she came into view.

Rainbow Dash ran up to her. “Hey!” She stopped at the foot of the stairs and reached into her pocket. “These are yours.”

Sunset stepped down the stairs, her eyes locked on the three cards in Rainbow’s hand. She swallowed and slowly reached out to take them. “Thanks for getting them.” She fought the urge to rip the cards up then and there. Somehow, I have a feeling it wouldn’t do any good.

“Sunset?” Sunset girl raised her eyes to see Fluttershy stepping up behind Rainbow. “How are you doing?” she whispered.

“I’m… doing. Thanks.” Sunset looked over at the Shadowbolt bench, five of the opposing duelists already seated and chatting with each other. “Have you seen Twilight? The other Twilight, of course.”

Rarity sighed. “I’m afraid not. I had wanted to check on her myself, but she’s a no-show.”

“Darn.” Sunset scrunched her face. “I hope she’s okay.” She looked at her new cards in her hand, then folded them up and slid them into her duel disk.

“Too bad you’re not allowed to duel again,” Rainbow said, eyeing the cards as Sunset put them away. “You kicked some major butt yesterday. Wouldn’t mind seeing you do that again.”

Sunset’s head snapped up, her mouth hanging open. “How can you say that?” Her expression twisted into one of anger. “I could have hurt her, Rainbow!”

“Yeah, but you didn’t.” Rainbow held up her hands. “And you got those sweet new cards out of it.”

Sweet new cards?” Sunset jabbed a finger at Rainbow’s chest, making the other girl step back as Sunset came towards her. “I just tapped into magic I wasn’t even sure I had anymore, and I turned back into that arrogant, violent duelist you saw from the Autumn Crown tournament and before! Is that the kind of teammate you want?”

“No; I want the kind of teammate that wins!” Rainbow pushed Sunset’s finger away. “I don’t see how this is any different from what Twilight did during the tournament!”

Sunset paused. “That…”

“Well, dear…” Rarity put a finger on her cheek as she thought aloud. “If memory does serve, Twilight would become more cold and direct when her magic activated. Perhaps it’s just this type of magic as a whole that affects a duelist, so not just you?”

“All the more reason not to use it.” Sunset shook her head. “Twilight had to use magic, the fate of Equestria was at stake. This is just some silly school competition.” When several of her friends narrowed their eyes at her words, Sunset immediately grunted and held up a hand. “You know I didn’t mean it like that!”

“Yup.” Rainbow nodded. “You sure weren’t thinking that way yesterday when you used it in the first place.”

“Because I didn’t know that would be what happened!” Sunset insisted. “I didn’t think I’d lose control like that.”

“So if you could control it, you’d be okay with using it again?” Rainbow continued.

“You’re…” Sunset huffed. “This isn’t the same. There’s a difference between having stronger cards than them, and using magic to make new cards they can’t hope to counter! Is that how you want to win, Rainbow? By cheating?”

Rainbow’s jaw dropped. “I’d never cheat to win anything! How can you even think that?”

“Because that’s what you’re asking.” Sunset looked down at her duel disk. “Twilight is right on one point – if I rely on this kind of advantage to win, it’s cheating. And even if they are elitist, Crystal Prep doesn’t deserve that. And Canterlot High deserves to have duelists representing them who won’t stoop that low.”

“Yeah… you’re right.” Rainbow slumped forward. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Sunset shook her head. “But you shouldn’t go thinking this is a good thing, it isn’t.”

“I know. It’s just...” Rainbow nodded over at Crystal Prep’s bench. “They’re still gonna wipe the floor with us. And it’s still gonna suck when we lose.”

“And if we do lose, we should at least lose fairly,” Sunset finished.

Rarity coughed lightly and gave Sunset a small smile. “Well, I do agree wholeheartedly with half of that – we should play fairly, yes?” She looked between the two expectantly. Sunset nodded. Rainbow caught her eye, shrugged, and pulled out her deck to begin looking through it.

Sunset felt a chill go down her back, and turned her head.

Sombra stepped down the stairs onto the field, his shoes echoing crisply on the concrete.

“Excuse me,” Sunset said, waving at Rarity. She jogged up to Sombra as he touched down on the grass. “Principal Sombra!”

Sombra turned his head and smiled softly. “Ah, good morning, Sunset.” He put a hand on his breast and gave a small bow of his head. “I trust all is well with you?”

Sunset swallowed heavily. “As well as could be expected.”

“Good to hear.” Sombra raised his eyes, green eyes gleaming in the morning sun. “Is there something I could do for you?”

“I just wanted to make sure you hadn’t told anyone else about…” Sunset looked around; no one was nearby. She erred on the side of caution anyway. “What we discussed yesterday?”

Sombra’s smile faded. “Why would I, Sunset? I above all others understand the need for discretion in these matters.”

“Right.” Sunset nodded. “I just thought, I mean, I said no to you. I thought you might be upset or offended.”

“No. Disappointed, perhaps, but not offended.” Sombra held a hand out beside him. “I extended a generous offer to you for your own benefit, and you declined it. That is your choice to make.” He drew his hand back. “Although, as I said before, the offer is still available until the end of the tournament, if you wish to accept it.”

“Thank you.” I won’t.

Sombra raised his head and looked around the field. “On another note, Sunset, have you seen Twilight Sparkle today?”

Sunset’s brow creased. “You haven’t seen her either?”

“No.” Sombra shook his head. “After the events of your duel with her yesterday, I wish to make sure she is well. I was indisposed last evening and had to refuse attempts from her to contact me. When I called her house this morning, her brother told me she had left to come here early. But I’ve not seen her here and she was quite terse when I called her cellphone.”

“Are you worried about her?” Sunset asked.

“I do not know. But I would like to see her myself to make sure of her well-being.”

“I’ll let her know to come see you, if I find out where she is,” Sunset said.

“Thank you, that would be appreciated.” Sombra looked at his watch. “Pardon me, please, I expect my fellow principals are waiting on me.” He bowed his head again and turned to approach the principal’s table.

Sunset looked at her phone. Time to start. Where’s Twilight?

Twilight yawned, blinking rapidly. She looked over the page again and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Of course there’s no video available.” Sitting alone in Canterlot’s computer lab, the school’s website for the Friendship Cup displayed the results of her duel with Sunset. But where a video of the duel – typically taken from the school’s security cameras – ought to have played, there was only a static screen with a ‘Video Not Found’ message. To the right, where a synopsis of the duel turn-by-turn should be, there was a more simple line of text reading ‘Records corrupted’.

Letting her eyes remain closed a moment before continuing, Twilight lowered her hand to the mouse and clicked back to the tournament rundown, then clicked on the link to the second duel, Applejack vs Sugarcoat. The statistics came up and the video appeared with a thumbnail of the two, and on the right side the synopsis of the duel. She clicked to play the video and watched for a few seconds to confirm its contents, then clicked back again.

“There must be a way.” Twilight sat back in her chair and folded her arm, thinking and giving the webpage an accusing glare. If a hundred camera phones were aimed at this duel, hypothetically speaking, would they all malfunction? That’s a statistical impossibility. But the idea itself is unviable. I can’t simply ask every student who recorded the duel to let me see the video. It’d take too long and draw too much attention.

She took a breath. “This is a dead end. Step back, redefine the parameters of the problem.” She looked at the navigation bar of the webpage and moved the mouse cursor over them to view the menus. Coming to one, Twilight’s eyebrows raised, and she clicked the button for the Autumn Crown Tournament.

The page showed a poster for the tournament, and below it the brackets of the top sixteen duelists’ progress through to the finals. Twilight’s eyes zeroed in on the empty silhouette opposite Sunset’s portrait in the last duel, the space where the duelist’s name should have gone under their portrait a blank line. Twilight clicked to view the duel’s page, and once again found a corrupted video and duel summary.

“Sunset’s duels are unreadable, but what about you?” She looked at the empty opponent profile and clicked to the previous page. The mouse cursor moved over the duelist’s profile and a subsequent click prompted no result. “No profile page, makes sense.” She scrunched her nose. “Did they keep track of the results of the preliminary round?” She shook her head as soon as she finished. “No, even if they did, there’d be dozens of duels to scan and no duelist to filter them by; I’d have to check the list one by one.”

Twilight’s eyes moved backwards through the brackets, tracing the unknown duelist’s progress. “Rainbow Dash and Rarity. They won’t reveal anything they didn’t before.” Her eyes came on the bottom of the brackets, to the duelist’s first opponent in the top sixteen. Twilight looked at the listed duelist and clicked to open their profile.

“Trixie Lulamoon…” Her eyes scanned her profile. “Win-loss record, 27-7. Deck, Magician Girl.” Twilight scrolled down and found a brief summary of Trixie’s past duels outside the tournaments. “Even if they don’t keep full records and video of standard duels, the fact her opponent history and profile exist are good enough. It’s something to try, anyway. Unless of course she’s in on this… whatever it is.”

Distant cheers drew Twilight’s attention to the window. She pushed her seat back and walked over to look down at the field behind the school.

Radiant Hope cleared her voice before raising the microphone to her lips. “Students of Canterlot High and Crystal Prep, welcome to the second day of the Friendship Cup!” She paused while the crowd cheered. “For any of you who may not have been present yesterday, a brief recap of the duels.”

The display screen over the field showed the seven portraits of Canterlot and Crystal Prep’s duelists in a row, the portraits growing larger as Hope spoke of them. “Crystal Prep’s Sour Sweet defeated Canterlot’s Fluttershy Breeze, Crystal Prep’s Sugarcoat defeated Canterlot’s Jacklyn Applejack, Crystal Prep’s Lemon Zest defeated Canterlot’s Pinkamena Pie, and Canterlot’s Sunset Shimmer defeated Crystal Prep’s Twilight Sparkle!”

Sunset saw several Crystal Prep students look at the Canterlot bench at Hope’s final remark.

“Today, the final three duelists from either school will face off. If, at the conclusion of all seven duels, there is a tie, we will hold a tiebreaking duel shortly after today’s third duel. Otherwise the tournament will be rewarded to the first school to achieve four victories.” Hope handed the microphone to Luna sitting beside her.

“And now, let the second round begin!”

The students cheered again while the portraits of the schools’ remaining duelists began to flash at random.

“It’s one of us,” Rarity whispered. Rainbow reached over and patted the back of her hand laying on the bench.

The portraits stopped, two of them lit up.

Rarity’s breath caught.

“Our next duel is decided! Canterlot High’s Rarity Belle will face Crystal Prep’s Sunny Flare!”

On the Crystal Prep bench, Sunny Flare stood and tossed her hair, then walked onto the field.

Rarity inhaled. “Very well.” She stood and walked out, stopping at the close end of the markers. Sunny Flare reached the other end of the field, spun on her heel, her hair flying about her, and raised her arm.

Rarity smiled. “May the best duelist win.”

Sunny returned the smile with much less sincerity. “I will, yes. Thank you.”

“Let the duel begin!”

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