• Published 21st Mar 2018
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Duelists of the Friendship Cup - DrakeyC



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

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Tainted Wisdom

Duelists of the Friendship Cup

Tainted Wisdom

Sunset bit her lip and looked down the row of her friends, standing in various positions around the classroom they now occupied. Most of them stood around or leaned against the chalkboard, while Rainbow sat at the teacher’s desk. Sunset turned her head to looked at Twilight, leaning against the back desk, and hesitated to speak.

Twilight must have noticed. “Tell me,” she said firmly. When Sunset didn’t answer, she continued. “I know I’m not crazy. I know what I saw. And you all saw it too.” She looked at the other five who avoided her eyes. Twilight looked back at Sunset. “What is this?”

Sunset took a deep breath. “Magic.”

Twilight’s eyebrows raised slightly. “Magic. That’s the best story you can come up with?”

“I know it’s hard to accept, but it’s true.” Sunset gestured to her friends. “I, I mean, we, apparently, have magic. It manifests in our dueling with new cards. But the magic erases memories of people who see them, so no one remembers it.”

Twilight looked at Rarity and Rainbow. “So you two have Pendulum monsters too?”

“I wish,” Rainbow muttered.

“No, they don’t.” Sunset gently shot a glare at Rainbow. “My magic isn’t the same as theirs.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“And the rest of you?” She looked at Applejack, Pinkie, and Fluttershy. “Do you have magic?”

Pinkie held up her hands.“Only in my dreams.”

“No, we don’t,” Applejack replied. Fluttershy shook her head, too.

“Why not?”

“Dunno.”

“Seriously?” Twilight scoffed, her eyes widening. “You guys brought me here to explain things, but you really don’t understand it yourselves, do you?”

“No, we don’t.” Sunset shook her head.

Rarity stepped up and put a hand on her shoulder. “I know that isn’t a satisfactory answer, but I’m afraid it’s the best we have. Rainbow Dash and I didn’t have magic until today, and Sunset hasn’t used hers in some time. We’re not entirely sure how this all works or what it means.”

Twilight barked a small chuckle and threw up her hands. “Great. Good to hear. You guys have magic you can use to cheat at Duel Monsters and attack duelists, and you don’t even know how or why.”

“What happened with us was an accident!” Sunset shouted. She stepped towards Twilight; the other girl stepped back at the same moment. Sunset stopped. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she said softly.

Twilight eyed the other girl warily. “Didn’t seem that way at the time.” She shook her head. “You guys complain about us being bullies and not dueling fair. But last I checked, none of us have ever used this game to attack anyone.”

Sunset flinched and looked away.

“Hey.” Applejack stepped up beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Y’all both need to calm down. Sunset’s tellin’ the truth. What happened in your duel was an accident, and she regrets it, we all do. We’re all tryin’ to figure this out together, but we don’t have all the answers. Sorry if that ain’t a good enough explanation for you.”

“Explanation?” Twilight hefted her backpack on the table and rifled through it. She held up several notebooks and tossed them on a desk. “I’ve spent months trying to figure out what’s going on in this school: writing down observations, and sketching your cards. I thought I could make sense of things if I just approached them rationally. But this? Magic? That isn’t rational, that isn’t sense. It’s an impossibility.”

She cupped her hands to her face. “You’re really trying to tell me that there is magic in this world that could be used like this? To hurt people, to warp their minds, to create things out of thin air? And you think I need to ‘calm down’ because the people who have this power can’t control it and don’t understand it?” She shouted her final words.

“Dear, listen.” Rarity came up to her and carefully reached up to pull her hands away. “We know this is a lot to take in. It was for us too, when we found out.” She gestured at Sunset. “You’re afraid of her. I understand, truly, I do. But what Sunset showed you during your duel, that person she was, she isn’t that person anymore. Why her magic regressed her to that state, we don’t know. But we are going to figure it out, and in the meantime she is terribly sorry for what happened and has no interest in hurting anyone.”

Twilight looked at her evenly. Slowly she swept her eyes over the others, finishing on Sunset. When Sunset looked back at her, Twilight swallowed and slowly slid into one of the desks.

“This game used to just make sense,” she whispered. “Collect cards, build a good deck and use it effectively, and you can make it in the world.” She looked at the journals scattered over the desk and flipped one open, revealing pages of sketches of monsters with card statistics next to them. She dismissively slapped the page with the back of her hand. “I was planning to be a card designer when I graduated. Make my living improving this game. That’s why I went to Crystal Prep. But this?”

She raised her eyes to the group. “I’d thought this was some sort of scam or conspiracy to cover up cheating. Now I wish it was that simple. Cheating I can explain. But magic?” She snorted. “Why even bother dueling at all, if people like you are out there? I spent years studying and collecting cards to build the best deck I can. But what’s the point if duelists like you can just magic up new cards to beat me. What kind of game is that?”

“Hey, welcome to our world!” Rainbow snapped. “Pulling cards out of your butt no one else has heard of and you can’t counter? We deal with that at this tournament every year.”

“No, she’s right.”

All eyes in the room turned to Sunset. The other girl reached up to Applejack’s hand on her shoulder.

“Using my magic to beat duelists who were better than me is how I used to control this school. I thought it made me better than the rest of you, thought it made me unstoppable. But it was cheating, plain and simple. I never could have gotten as far as I did without it. I used it to be a bully.”

Sunset slowly stepped forward and sat in the desk in front of Twilight, who backed away in her seat. Sunset did her best to ignore it as she held up her duel disk and took her deck out. “I don’t know why my deck became these Pendulum monsters. And I don’t know why these dark versions of them manifested in our duel with my magic again. I don’t know why any of this is happening.”

Twilight looked at the cards in Sunset’s hand. “Can I see them?” Sunset held them out, and Twilight cautiously reached out and took them, flipping them over and examining a few of them.

Sunset kept her eyes on the cards and bit her lip before speaking. “I am sorry for what I did to you. All I can say is that if I could go back, not use my magic, and lose to you fair and square, I’d do it.”

“What?” Rainbow exclaimed behind her.

“She’s right,” Fluttershy whispered. “I didn’t need magic and I almost beat Sour Sweet.”

Applejack nodded. “Ah kept up with Sugarcoat just fine.”

“I had fun dueling Lemon, even if I lost,” Pinkie said.

Rarity looked back at Rainbow. “Even if we two almost lost, we put in a good showing before we needed magic, yes?”

“None of us need magic to beat Crystal Prep.” Sunset looked between them. “Look at what we’ve been able to do with just our cards. Next year, if the school is really united again, and we all helped each other? Who knows what could happen? But if we just keep using our magic to win, we won’t grow as duelists or as people, and neither will the rest of the school.”

“And these?” Twilight’s voice snapped Sunset’s attention back to her. “Would you give up your Pendulums?” Twilight asked. “Even if you don’t actively use magic to win duels except against me, these are cards that shouldn’t exist and have unfair mechanics compared to other cards. So what happens to these?”

Sunset looked at the cards in Twilight’s hand and held out her own. Twilight returned the deck and Sunset fanned them out. One by one she looked at the cards symbolizing the group. Then she found her own card, and slid it aside to look at the other monsters below it, the word ‘Infernal’ a blight to her eyes.

I still don’t understand why they exist myself. Why did Twilight’s cards change into these? Why are their cards Light and mine is Dark? What is the word Pendulum even supposed to mean for me? She swallowed and slotted the deck back into her duel disk. “I don’t know. What I do know is that deck symbolizes the bond I’ve formed with these girls. They helped me be a better person who doesn’t need to use magic and dueling to push people around. And…” she inhaled deeply. “I’m not sure what it says about me.”

“Not like it matters.” Twilight shrugged. “Any new deck you tried, who’s to say your magic won’t just change it, too?”

“Yeah.” Sunset nodded. “But we’ll figure that out. All of us have dueled now, so there’s no more chance of magic happening in this tournament. Tomorrow we can sit down and think—”

“Wait.” Twilight stood up, her eyes wide. “Your last duelist.”

“Flash?”

“Does he have magic?” Twilight’s voice was urgent.

“No.” Sunset shook her head.

“But you said neither did the rest of you until today. So are you sure?”

“I… I…” Sunset’s eyes darted away. “I don’t know.”

Twilight’s eyes darted to the door. “Shining Armor…” She grabbed her backpack and notebooks and ran out of the room, the group stepping out of her way.

“Twilight!” Sunset ran to the door and looked after her.

Twilight didn’t stop. “I’m not chancing my brother’s safety on your half-guesses!” Before Sunset could respond, Twilight reached the doors to the stairwell and was through them.

“Flash can’t have magic, can he?” Applejack asked from the classroom.

Rarity tapped her chin. “I’m afraid we don’t have enough information to say with certainty.”

“We don’t even know why we have magic, why wouldn’t he?” Rainbow said.

Fluttershy looked at the doorway. “Sunset?”

Sunset turned around and found them watching her expectantly. “I…” She came back into the room and leaned against the wall. “Okay, let’s think. None of you manifested your magic until I did, right?” Rainbow and Rarity nodded. Sunset looked at her duel disk. “I could say it was just the stress of wanting to win badly was what triggered mine. But why would that trigger yours, especially if they’re not the same kind of magic?”

“Maybe it was our good magic again!” Pinkie piped up. “Ya know, we tried to help Princess Twilight beat you before and did something magical, I think. Maybe because you turned evil again our magic-senses tingled and woke up to stop you again!”

Rainbow slapped her forehead. “Pinkie, not helping!”

“Wait.” Sunset stood up. “She might be onto something.”

“Or on something…”

“You guys said you were bonded with Twilight because of her deck, right?” Sunset looked at her cards. “Maybe some of her magic is still in this one. I mean, it was her deck she left with me before it changed to these. What if when my magic activated, Twilight’s magic responded by giving you magic?”

Rarity and Rainbow shared a skeptical look. “Er, is that how that works?” Rainbow asked.

“It’s a better explanation than nothing.” Sunset rubbed her chin. “If Twilight’s deck connected you before, and there was still some of her magic in my cards, maybe when my magic tainted my deck, her magic was forced out of it and into you.”

“Tainted your deck?” Rarity tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

Sunset reached into her extra deck slot and held up her three monsters. “Well, these obviously aren’t good guys, whoever they are. When my magic corrupted Twilight’s deck and added these dark cards, maybe the light left from Twilight went to you guys.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “I don’t think you corrupted Twilight’s deck, Sunset. Maybe it’s more that your deck just needed a balance of the two of you, instead of being all Twilight.”

Sunset gave a small smile. “Thanks, Fluttershy. But that doesn’t really make me feel better if my influence was still about adding more bad guys to the deck.”

“So, if it was because of Twilight and her deck that we got magic,” Applejack began, “then Flash should be fine, right? He never bonded with any of us or with you two, not like Twilight did with us.”

“Right, but we can’t be sure. I used my magic on him in the semi-finals last time, after all. Maybe that got to him the same way Twilight did to her.” Sunset looked at the clock. “Intermission is almost done. We should get to the field. If Flash does have magic, we’d better make sure it’s the good kind.”


Twilight briskly jogged down the steps of the field and looked across the grass. “Shining!”

Across the far side of the field, Shining Armor perked up and waved. Closer to Twilight, Flash Sentry looked over his shoulder at her voice.

A whistle from the side. “About time!” Twilight turned her head and saw Indigo Zap waving her over. “C’mon, grab a seat!” She shuffled over to clear a spot on the bench.

“Now this is how you end a tournament!” Lemon Zest cheered. “Champion duelists from both schools facing off in the last duel with a tied score? This is what it’s all about!”

Twilight approached them but didn’t sit down. “Where is Principal Sombra?”

“Went off to do something, again,” Sour Sweet muttered. “Makes me wonder if he even cares about this tournament anymore.”

“What’s up, Twi?” Lemon asked.

“We need to stop this tournament. Shining could be in danger.” The group stood up and surrounded her, talking at once. Twilight raised her arms and spread them, making them back away. “I found out what’s going on with this school’s duelists.”

“Is this about that cheating conspiracy stuff?” Indigo groaned. “You lost, let it go!”

“It’s not cheating,” Twilight hissed. She lowered her voice. “It’s magic.”

Sugarcoat snorted. “Magic?”

Sunny Flare sighed. “Dearie, I understand trying to justify one’s defeat, but even I wouldn’t resort to such absurdity.”

“Think about it,” Twilight swiveled her head to make sure no one was listening before she continued. “Have any of you guys been able to look up footage of my duel yesterday? Or Indigo and Sunny’s duels today?”

“We haven’t tried.” Lemon shrugged. “So?” Next to her, Sugarcoat raised her duel disk and tapped on the screen.

“And none of you remember how the three of us lost, do you?”

“Of course I do!” Sour Sweet snapped. “You…” she paused, scrunched her face. “Uh, hang on, lemme think…”

“Don’t bother.” Twilight leaned forward. “That’s one of their powers. They can make sure you don’t remember anything, so you can’t call them out on cheating or having cards they shouldn’t have. And any time you try to look up info on them, the database is glitched and corrupted.”

“She’s right.” Sugarcoat gestured to her duel disk. “I just tried to access the videos of the tournament’s duels. The last three won’t play.”

“See?”

“Okay, whoa.” Lemon held up her hands in defense. “You really want us to believe those girls have magic and are using it to cheat at the tournament?”

“Not just cheat,” Twilight rubbed her arm. “Yesterday, I could feel Sunset’s monsters attacking me. I think they could use their magic to cause real pain.”

Indigo held her head. “And Sunny and I had our memories of it erased?”

Sunny pressed a hand to her chest, her breathing quickening. “Did they hurt us and we just can’t remember it?”

“No, they claim they don’t understand how to control it yet,” Twilight replied. “Which is why we need to make sure no one else duels them in case they lose control.”

“Our final intermission is over, so if our two duelists are ready, we can begin.”

“Wait!” Twilight screamed. She pushed through the rest of the Shadowbolts and ran up to the principal’s table. “Principal Celestia, Vice-Principal Hope?”

Hope covered the microphone with her hand. “Yes?”

“We need to stop this tournament, the duelists could be in danger.”

“Danger?” Celestia stood up. “What do you mean?”

Before Twilight could continue, Hope held up her other hand. “Apologies for this interruption, Principal Celestia. Principal Sombra has explained to me that Twilight Sparkle has a personal interest in this tournament. She’s just overreacting to some misunderstandings.”

“I am not overreacting and I am not misunderstanding!” Twilight insisted. “Something is going on here, and Principal Sombra knows about it, but he won’t listen to me and won’t do anything!”

Celestia looked between Hope and Twilight. “What is happening that you’re worried about, Twilight?”

“Magic. The Canterlot duelists are using magic to hurt duelists and cheat the game.”

After a moment of silence, Celestia sat down. “Please start the duel, Vice-Principal Hope.”

“B-But—”

“We will now begin the final duel of the Friendship Cup! Crystal Prep’s Shining Armor will face Canterlot High’s Flash Sentry!”

The roar of the student body was deafening, cheers and applause filling the air. Twilight looked back at the field and watched as her brother activated his duel disk, a card tray of blue light projecting from the front.

“They say you’re the best this school has to offer,” Shining said.

“I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve,” Flash replied, raising his duel disk in front of him.

Shining smiled. “Only a few?”

“I like to keep things challenging, or else it’s just boring.”

Twilight bit her lip and clenched her fist.

“Let the final duel begin!”

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