• Published 16th Feb 2019
  • 3,698 Views, 168 Comments

Equestria Girls: Duel Monsters - Night-Quill



Twilight Sparkle's crown, the Element of Magic, has been stolen. She must now pursue the wayward Sunset Shimmer into a new world. A world where a dark magic lurks beneath the notice of its inhabitants, within a most peculiar game unlike any other...

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Duel #17: Before the Big Night (Part 2)

Twilight perused over her fanned-out deck, with everyone else huddled around in a circle, save for Rainbow who was leaning off the side of Rarity’s bed, looking like a team of surgeons during a procedure. Twilight had taken to removing and stacking cards that she hadn’t found a use for, or ones that seemed strangely contradictory to the deck’s overall functions.

Looking further at it, certain cards, such as “Nightmare Wheel” or “Unending Nightmare” elicited feelings of discomfort, theorizing them as some form of warning sign regarding the macabre effects and motifs, not unlike the more visceral Archfiends Sunset had replaced her deck with. These unsavory ones were replaced by cards provided by her friends, mostly in the form of spells and traps.

“Ya absolutely sure ya don’t want a Synchro or two in there?” asked Rainbow, “I mean you still have Effect Veiler and all…”

While Applejack seemed to visibly strain herself to not scold Rainbow, Twilight, oddly enough found herself chuckling at the athlete’s groans and pouting.

“I suppose that’s the best I can do,” said Twilight, gathering up her deck in one fluid motion and placing it back in its protective case, along with a slightly larger extra deck. “Thank you so much for your help, everyone. I don’t think I could have gotten, frankly, anywhere at all without all of you.”

“If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t all be sitting here together in the first place,” Fluttershy remarked dismissively. “We should be thanking you.”

Twilight begged to disagree; “Or rather, we should all be thanking the ones who spurred me into action in the first place.” She turned smiling towards Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.

“Aw, shucks,” chortled Scootaloo with a dismissive wave. “It was you who did all the real work.”

“But ya’ll did put Twi on the right track,” Applejack replied, giving Apple Bloom’s hair a slight ruffle.

“And you also did teach me.”

“Proud of ya for that,” said Rainbow, offering a thumbs-up.

“So let’s all just thank everyone to make things easier,” Pinkie stepped, “In thank In thank you for showing up in the nick of time in the first act. Thank you as the obligatory first associate who gets the ball rolling. Thank you as the wise mentor figures who show the chosen one to use her powers. Thank you as the stubborn ex who realizes she’s still in love with her childhood sweetheart…”

Twilight exchanged glances with whomever she could, seeing Rarity covertly jot down with a finger in befuddlement how Pinkie’s perfect coinciding of every person in the room applied to.

“And lastly, thank you for being the sixth ranger first stubborn to join the good guys until deciding to be one with the team!” Pinkie concluded, leaning her head against Rainbow’s from beside her placement atop Rarity’s bed.

Rainbow Dash stared at Pinkie with a confounded, sideward glance. “Nice to see Pinkie’s still embracing her otakudom madness…” she commented with a blink.

“Oh!” Pinkie exclaimed as if from a profound realization, “Speaking of; anyone up for some anime?!” As if conjured from thin air, the party girl, unfurled, for the lack of a better term, a series of flat plastic containers in her hand, all of them depicting highly colorful covers depicting various scenarios, usually with groups of human characters posing in what could only be described as dramatic. “I’ve got Cutesy School Girl Guardians: By this critic’s honest opinion, a good gateway in regards of be-autiful color schemes, romance, and absurdiness!”

Twilight looked about the room in confusion, least of all Pinkie’s made-up term of phrase, “So, what exactly is this “ah-ni-mey” you and Fluttershy have been on about?”

Pinkie threw an arm around Twilight’s shoulder, their cheeks touching, “I’ve got so much to show you…” she said with half-lidded eyes, her mouth suppressed to a small, knowing smile. Though she couldn’t see it, Twilight thought she heard the muffled sounds of hands tapping against one another from Fluttershy’s general direction.

“Well, alright,” said Rainbow Dash, sounding quite disinterested. “But I swear if it’s magical girls, don’t be shocked if I fall asleep.”

-

Turn 5: Spring Steel (Hand: 2) (Life Points: 2500)

Sunset grit her teeth underneath her lip as she watched Spring Steel’s Jack Wyvern and Hack Worm vanish into gates of pitch blackness. From the dark purple Graveyard portal emerged a familiar eyesore of a mechanical arthropod with a pair of missile turrets perched atop its back. His BM-4 Blast Spider, (Level 4, 1400/2200) which joined its equally mechanical companion on the field within the cage: A large machine in a bipedal gait, its head and shoulders being composed of long metallic pipes or tubes framed before revolving cylinders, each bored with six holes along its outer rims in a circle, each perfectly level with said tube. Guns, humanity’s choice of weapon in the current age. One the one in the place of a head it had a what looked to be a toothy lower jaw in place of where the trigger might normally be. On its back was a hefty series of metal plates welded together, possibly as some form of defensive shell. (Level 7, 2800/2200)

The duel started off… Decently, she supposed. She was still in the lead at 3050 life points, and she still had her Archfiend Emperor (Level 8, 3000/2000) behind her: A gigantic skeletal demon so tall the limited space within the cage had the duel disks project it as arising from the ground slightly below its shoulders, a pair of great curved tusks taller than Sunset protruding from the back of its jawbone, along with a splayed out bony crest affixed to the back of its neck.

“Now with my Spider back, I’m going into battle. Here I activate my Desperado Barrel Dragon’s effect; instead of attacking I flip a coin three times and for each heads I can destroy a monster,” Spring Steel explained, bringing his hand to his duel disk where, as also shown on Sunset’s, depicted the same coin used for determining the starter for a duel.

Spring Steel swiped a finger over the coin, making it spin with increased velocity, accented with a metallic ‘ding’. It bounced against an invisible surface, settling on the red tails side. Swiping again, Sunset pursed her lips, inadvertently holding her breath as she eyed the virtual coin in trepidation. Tails again. She heard Spring Steel curse exasperatedly before swiping it a third time.

Please be tails. Please be tails… The last flip landed on the blue side with a golden indentation reminiscent of an eye. Shit…

Desperado Barrel Dragon’s left gun discharged with an ear-shattering boom. Sunset watched distraught as her giant Archfiend’s jaw hung agape, its red, hollow eyes diverted up from the gaping hole blown through its head. The towering demon began to descend, sinking into the pit of darkness it was rising from, the pit closing behind it. Now she had nothing to defend herself with…

“And now, with my Blast Spider out, when one of my dark machine-types destroys a monster, you take damage equal to half of your monster’s attack points,” Spring Steel said with a sneer.

Blast Spider’s turrets opened, launching a salvo of spherical projectiles that began to pelt Sunset’s general area of the cage. The little red spheres sprouted claws that clung to the ground around her. After a slight delay, they all exploded in a random pattern, glancing off her segmented forcefield as she covered her face from the intense flashing and sounds. In the midst of the cacophony of explosions, the collar and bands around her neck and arms blared, and suddenly a most intense pain erupted throughout her body as they sent a strong surge of electricity through her being.

The first time that duel Sunset felt the sting of the shock-amplifiers, at best they had elicited a grunt. A champion she may have been in the underground, so being shocked had become a bit of an oddity the longer she’d remained, with no-one able to challenge her supremacy. But one could never forget the pain of the infamous devices from their first time. But this time something was different, as Sunset found herself unable to restrain herself, her body going stiff as the voltage coursed through her, and in all the ignominy; she screamed.

She collapsed onto the concrete floor, barely able to keep herself from going full-on prostrated as she just succeeded in staying on her knees and forearms. Her body quivered against her control, all her senses became muted and blurred. All she could make out was a muffed ruckus; the sounds of the rabble cheering in their amusement. When her nerves at least stopped shaking, she clambered back on her feet, but with difficulty.

What the hell was that?!

She glared at the source of an upstart laugh coming from ahead of her. Spring Steel, arms cockily crossed, sneered in her direction. He was absolutely enjoying her humiliation.

“And now with your field wide open, I attack you directly with Blast Spider!” he declared. “Enjoy another one, you damn bitch!”

Blast Spider’s turrets’ hatches opened once more and launched four of the small spherical explosives in a simultaneous burst. They embedded themselves to the ground around Sunset’s feet and exploded in unison. Another extended line of jolts was unleashed through her body, Sunset being unable to keep herself from screaming in agony once more, the kick from her duel disk’s feedback dragging her body along with it, and she collapsed. Her body quivered once more, the cards in her hand slipping from her fingers. At the angle she had fallen, this time she was able to see the blurry mass of spectators banging against the cage, once more cheering in their sickening fervor of violence. She managed to roll onto her front, and flimsily tried to get back on her feet. Her right arm collapsed underneath her, and she toppled on her side.

Her blurred eyes stared up at the rowdy masses. Ignorant, insignificant animals the lot of them, to dare and laugh at her suffering. With her disgust driving her will forward, Sunset tried again, and this time managed up into a kneel, grabbing her dropped cards whilst her body became acclimated to being upright after having her nerves blasted.

This isn’t normal. These shackles are putting out more volts than normal…

“Confused, baby?” asked Spring Steel through the duel disk com-link.

Sunset grunted, the shakiness finally abating, being able to contort and flex her muscles under her control once more, “You… You did something, didn’t you?”

“Remember me now?” asked Spring Steel, his condescending visage dripping verbal venom.

“It’s called sarcasm,” Sunset spat, literally.

“Yea, see; our pal Gauge says she don’t like you going on and off when you felt like it. So she and I, we came to a mutual understanding: She don’t want ya treating the Ghouls like you own ‘em, and I just wanna put you in your place for humiliating me back when.”

Sunset’s brow furrowed in disgust, “That damn bitch…”

“See, those shockers on ya: Gauge has those rigged to deliver double the bang. I beat ya, Gauge gets back enough dough she wasted on ya. And if you live, well,” a disgusting grin spread across the man’s face, “I get you.”

Sunset felt her guts retch at the implications. “What?” she asked, her voice the definition of spite and revulsion.

“So why don’t you be a good girl, baby, and try not to die. I mean if the shocks leave you flabbier than a catfish, that’s all well and good, but-”

“Silence!” Sunset snarled, taking a threatening step forth, “If you think I’d let scum like you touch me, you’re sorely mistaken.” She held forth an arm, squeezing her hand into a fist so tight the bones of her fingers crackled, “You are nothing, Spring. I came here because it’s the only place I knew where I would be tried to the limit. After tonight, the Gauge and her Ghouls will be of no concern for me anymore.”

Spring Steel simply mugged at Sunset, her words not having affected her in the slightest, “Big talk from a bitch who’s barely hanging on. Come on, baby, at least make it fun to watch before I fuck you up. Like how you busted my dragon with that… What was it? That pink-haired bitch of yours.”

The intensity of Sunset’s anger ebbed, “What…? What the hell are you on about?”

Spring Steel spread his arms in a taunting gesture, “What? Ya still think you’re all high and mighty to not give me the respect? You clearly used Prophecies back when we first fought. Next thing I hear you’re going through your Little Miss Darkness phase. Ya think you’re so bad that you don’t even need to Xyz Summon anymore. Big mistake, baby.”

“I have never…” something flickered within the recesses of Sunset’s memory. The less than vague description of whatever Spring Steel was talking about under any other circumstance couldn’t have painted any form of mental picture. “When have I ever Xyz Summoned, I…”

“You really don’t remember?”

The unexplained strain began to makes itself through her again. Trying to remember, but at the same time wanting not to remember…

“I wasn’t lying; part of my success is thanks to you, Sunset Shimmer. The night you snuck into the Crystal Castle, you left something behind.”

No, it wasn’t possible. She knew who she was; she was the Hornless Devil of the underground, she…

“Reveal yourself to me; let me see what plagues your mind!”

And the searing agony erupted in her mind. Grasping her head in vain, her mind burned with visions. The arrogant, haughty visage of the downward peering alicorn. When she first stepped into this world; all the awful feelings plaguing her in her darkest day, the loneliness, the sadness. The woman who appeared before her that one night, garbed in pristine white, with radiant pink hair, and always carrying an emerald tome.

“You don’t need to be alone, Sunset Shimmer. I will be here for you.”

“Hey! What’s the matter bitch?” she barely heard Spring Steel’s taunting. “Yea, you scared now, ain’t ‘cha? Knowing you’re gonna lose and how I’ll fuck you up real good?”

Enough of this!

-

Sunset roared in an almost primal fury, accented by what might as well have been the roar of flames. A dark aura wafted off her form, a shadowy flame that cast a splayed, undulating shadow around her form. She glared at Spring Steel, a most amusing expression of not understanding what was happening before him. Up above she could hear Caliber asking what was going on with the holo-projectors. Oh, how ignorant these fools were.

“You done yet, human scum?” asked Sunset. Her voice came out as leveled, yet it seemed to echo all around the factory’s interior.

“T-the hell…?” she could hear the stuttering in Spring Steel’s voice, clear as day, despite how pathetic and meek it came out as. “I… I end my turn. So what now, bitch? You’ve one foot in the grave! There’s no way in hell you’re coming back from that.

Turn 6: Sunset Shimmer (Hand: 1)

She reached for her deck, her fingers connecting with the next card she would draw, when Spring Steel ran his mouth again; “You ain’t got no chance, bitch! You only got one card in your hand, your monsters are dead and buried. Just give up and I promise me and my pals will go easy on ya!”

Sunset smiled. With a humored chuckle, her dark aura seeped itself into her deck, coating the cards in the same dark fire as what embraced her being. “Draw!” with a roar of flame, she swiped her next card, a trail of blackness following behind it in a blazing arc.

Without saying a word, she slid the card into her duel disk, and tapped the field icon. The entire interior became steeped in blackness, with only the inside of the cage being illuminated, but how and from where it came from, was impossible to see. Everyone swallowed in the blackness had fallen silent, until they ruckus began again, only this time it was not jeers and demands for more carnage. It was terror. Terror, amidst the sounds of the space around them breaking, falling apart, and a musky, sweet scent filling the room.

Spring Steel could only look about, trying in vain to see what was happening outside the ironic sanctuary that was the cage. “W-what the fuck?!” His answer came in the form of a spectator slamming against the side of the rattling wire cage, his face frozen in a contorted, unending scream.

“I activate my facedown, ‘Necro Fusion’,” Sunset proclaimed, completely disinterested as more and more bodies hit against the cage.

“Demon of bone who lurks in the darkness. Dark emperor upon his bloodstained throne. Unite in the pits of despair, as the manifestation of my will.”

She slammed her palms together, “Fusion Summon!”

-

Twilight and her friends had decided to take up on Pinkie’s suggestion in showing her some of this “otakudom”, or “otaku culture”, as Fluttershy referred to it, that they had been on about earlier that day. They had gathered in Rarity’s living room, sans Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo who wanted to catch up on their own engagements, where Pinkie had placed a little round disk inside of a device hooked up to what was reminiscent of the screens of the computers at CHS, only much bigger. Of course, deciphering their use was evident; it was a mode of entertainment, much like moving pictures they had in Equestria, only instead of being projected onto a canvas from a projector, it was projecting itself onto the screen through the internal workings. Not quite as advanced as the remarkable multi-purpose functions of the duel disk, but still far beyond what they had in Equestria. She though she’d heard her friends refer to it as “television”.

Sharing a sizable couch with Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy, with Pinkie eagerly bouncing in place on the floor, all the while Rainbow had simply resigned to reading a book on the side (which also happened to be Daring-Do by A.K. Yearling), Twilight was admittedly intrigued by what she was witnessing. Five human girls dressed in mostly uniform outfits, though with differing color-schemes, fighting to save the world using magic gifted to them by a talking magical chinchilla. “Magical girls”, if one may, hence Rainbow’s disinterest she made quite clear earlier.

For not knowing about, or shunning magic, Twilight thought back to the uncomfortable moment pertaining to the book pertaining to trials for witchcraft, the people here do seem quite taken by it.

As everyone else was either focused on, or chatting, Pinkie in particular about a moment where the show used a perfect repeat of a previous scene, this being the third in a row for the three episodes they had viewed, Twilight had completely missed Priestess’ spectral form standing to the side, looking out the window, towards the increasingly darkening sky. The spirit, often times the epitome of serenity and patience as far as Twilight had known her, appeared troubled, caressing her emerald tome to her chest.

Twilight made the effort to appear focused on the television, whilst focusing her thoughts. For the short time since discovering the phenomenon of telepathy, Twilight felt she’d become rather accustomed to its use, perhaps an attribute carried over from her magical expertise in Equestria, “Priestess? What’s wrong?

The spirit slowly turned to face Twilight, establishing eye-to-eye contact as per to not alarming Twilight’s friends, “I… I cannot piece details, but…” the spirit turned to look outside once more, “The presence I felt inside of Sunset from before is out there; and… And I fear it has done something terrible…

-

Sunset stood over the trembling form of Spring Steel, deliberately holding her head high so as to look down upon her from on high. The sight felt strangely satisfying, given the disgusting wretch’s vulgar threats from earlier. As the fool shook, his mouth babbled like an infant on the verge of crying. And if she wasn’t mistaken, his pants looked darker than normal beneath the waist area.

As she approached, Spring Steel was pathetically scooting away, until inevitably colliding with the wall of the cage. When he had nowhere else to go, her scrambled to his feet and began to fruitlessly slam his fist against the cage, completely incapable of hiding his incoherent utterances.

Spring Steel banged his fists against the wire mesh, screaming, “Let me out! Get me the fuck outta here!” He glanced behind him in panic before banging harder, “This bitch is a monster! A monster!”

The man continued to bang against the cage wall to no avail. Not that it mattered, everyone beyond the scope of their unfathomed spotlight within the cage was silent. Everyone was either dead, or some may have escaped. Not that it mattered; they were of no consequence, and no-one would believe them anyway.

Sunset stood before the panicking man, hearing, feeling the stomp of her three minions behind her, effectively cutting off any way Spring Steel could run. One stood right over her, able to feel the satisfying power behind the crackling electricity coursing through its form, tingling her skin. Spring Steel finally gave up banging on the cage and pressed his back to it. Sunset almost laughed, seeing that the man was on the verge of blubbering.

“H-h-h-hey… D-d-d-don’t kill me! For the love of fuck, p-please don’t kill me!”

Sunset leaned forward, “Remember what you said earlier?” she asked, a wry smile forming on her lips, “That if you win, you get me? Well, it looks like I get you.”

The duel was officially still on. Sunset’s life point meter still showed her with the paltry 250 she had had after the admittedly impressive display from earlier, while Spring Steel still had 2500. His field was empty though, no monsters, only a set card. But what with how broken Spring Steel was from everything, it looked that he didn’t have the faculties to even realize it.

With a wordless command, Sunset trained a casual finger at Spring Steel. Her minions elicited rattling snarls in compliance, the crackle of power surging with increased intensity. With a final scream, three bolts of lightning struck Spring Steel, and there was nothing left, only a puff of smoke, accented with a hint of ozone.

-

Sunset woke up with a start, her breathing hasty and uncontrolled as her hands fumbled about. She was lying on something soft, familiarly comfortable… On her bed? She pushed herself up, confirming that she was in her apartment, in her bed atop the small mezzanine, still fully dressed. She looked at her jury-rigged alarm clock atop her nightstand; despite having plenty to afford a proper, less ringy one, she admitted that she’d become quite fond of the little device put together by her own hand. It showed it was almost nine pm.

But… When had she gotten back? What happened at the factory? Did she win? She’d had to! Right? The threats of Spring Steel doing… Frankly, she’d rather not imagine what, to her. But then, what was she just dreaming…? In shock, she hurried over to the bathroom, looking herself over in the mirror… She was fine. No cuts, no bruises, no place hurt, as far as she felt. Her clothes looked fine, albeit her jacket smelled a tad off. Then again, the Ghouls’ establishment had always stank of cigarettes, even on the best of days. To absolutely make certain nothing had happened, she took the time to investigate herself more thoroughly… Nothing out of the ordinary.

All she could feel out of place was the soreness in her head; did she have yet another headache? She felt her forehead; normal, she believed. The best she could assume; she didn’t own a thermometer. Perhaps it was just the stress of traveling between worlds so hastily and her body was simply strained from almost back-to-back metamorphoses, on top of the big night tomorrow, the night where all would change… And how she tied with Princess Twilight Sparkle.

Just thinking about her made it exacerbate Sunset’s headache. On top of her growling belly. Sighing in resignation, she figured she get something to satiate herself. Exiting her apartment to meet the cold, fall night air, she zipped up her jacket and began a brisk walk down the street. The corner store two blocks down the block would suffice. Come tomorrow, she could finally put this anemic lifestyle behind her…

At long last, this pathetic world will know the truth. And I can finally have what is rightfully mine…

-

As the evening gradually gave way to night, everyone took it in turns to grab a shower, while retiring to Rarity’s room for some calming activities before calling it a night. Twilight let Rarity brush her hair after her turn in the shower, the fashionista continuing to be enamored by its rather unique properties on how it assumed its splayed out, alary-like state.

Now that she had a moment, surrounded by her friends’ counterparts in this world, thinking back to her and Spike’s initial observations of this world and how it seemed to have affected their perceptions: What with everything looking more angular, as she recalled, less fluid in motion, and with the smaller, ever glistening eyes, another trait she noticed was how everyone’s hair seemed almost static, neither gravity nor air currents having any major effect. She almost felt as if she had forgotten the exact look and feel of Equestria. She tucked away the mental note of needing to catalog all of these observations the moment she returned.

That was, if she was on time. If she could stop Sunset Shimmer…

“Twilight?” Rarity spoke up, as her fingers continued to gently run through Twilight’s strands between practiced strokes of her hairbrush. “Twilight.”

“Oh!” Twilight mouth with a start, “Is something wrong?”

“Well no, that is,” Rarity stuttered, “I meant to ask if there’s something the matter. You’ve been quiet for a while.”

“Just tired I suppose,” Twilight said in assuagement. “Big night tomorrow and all!”

“I’m sure you’re as good as qualified,” said Rainbow with a lax wave. “Call me crazy, but I’m thinking about a hundred and twenty percent certain to kick Sunset’s ass.”

“Here’s hoping; what with you and… Did you say a hundred and twenty percent?”

“Yea,” Rainbow shrugged, grasping her hands behind her head, “You know, twenty percent more certain.”

And the similarities just keep on piling up… “Mm, then I’ll make sure to hold onto that,” she held her hand to her heart and slightly bowed, “Swear to it.

“Don’t sweat it Twi. No matter what might come of it; it’s still just a duel,” said Applejack, looking up from a small, flat device she and Rainbow were sharing. “At this point, you winning might as well just be the icing on the cake.”

“Yea! No matter what, win or lose, you’ll still have us!” said Pinkie in cheery affirmance, sitting next to Twilight with her hair wet and drooped, having evidently just returned from the shower. Without any prompting, she produced a hairdryer and blew it at its max setting towards her face. With a poof, her hair reverted to its usual puffy, frizzled state. “Cake’s still cake, even without the icing, you know!”

“Of course,” Twilight smiled, though disingenuously. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

-

After Rarity taking the moment of putting curlers in her hair, the six retired for the night, five of them laying out sleeping bags on the floor around the bed. Twilight, being lent one, as well as a gown from Rarity (deciding not to express her thoughts of it looking like something from a catalog of… exotic tastes). But right now, for the life of her, Twilight was wholly incapable of falling asleep, the creeping sense of dread refusing her the respite of dreamless sleep.

Her second day in the human world was coming to a close, with approximately twenty-six hours and twenty-two minutes remaining: If she hadn’t garnered enough support with her feats; she would not be the one to duel Sunset. Furthermore, there was the pervasive trepidations regarding Sunset Shimmer and whether or not she would keep everything inconspicuous.

Priestess’ foreboding mention of whatever she had gleamed from Sunset’s mind, no doubt the voice, or cacophony rather, Twilight herself had heard during the attempt weighed on her mind most of all. She could still describe the sensation when Sunset’s life-draining trap seared at her throat. If such a small feat could keep her reeling even many hours after, whatever could happen should Sunset evoke the Game of Darkness. Whether or not she could even do it like Priestess for that short moment, the fact the Element of Magic would undoubtedly be present added another danger variable.

Unable to get comfortable, Twilight carefully made her way out of the sleeping back and as stealthily as she could, made for the door, opening it as slowly and steadily as she could and made her way down the hall to the top of the staircase, where she sat down, her feet resting atop the second step down from her, and leaned over her thighs.

If she failed to make it in time to the portal, she’d be stuck in this alien world for a long time, whether she won or lost. If she failed to defeat Sunset Shimmer, whatever she had planned for the Element of Magic would be set into motion, and whatever it was, it would not bode well for this world, nor Equestria for that matter. If only she knew what it was, maybe she could counteract a way to stop it should things go awry… Or make her further scared. Maybe if she failed, she could wrest the crown away and make a break for it; it was only a short run from the gymnasium to the front of the school to the portal…

“Can’t sleep?” Twilight heard as Spike padded up to her and sat down next to her. Whether the dragon-turned-dog found it endearing or not, Twilight placed an arm around him, gently scratching his fluffy chest. “I take that as a no.”

The two sat in silence, Twilight absently ruffling Spike, all the whilst eying the chandelier hung from the atrium ceiling.

“Priestess told me she felt something, which apparently had something to do with whatever forced her off Sunset,” he remarked, raising a paw atop Twilights hand as a gesture of understanding, and mayhaps as a subtle hint that he had enough ruffling.

“Yea…” Twilight uttered, caressing her fingers softly around Spike’s paw. “Spike… I can’t deny it; I’m actually scared.” Spike said nothing and simply leaned against Twilight, who continued to grasp onto his paw, “I’m scared of what might happen tomorrow. What if I can’t defeat Sunset? No; even worse: What if she finally evokes the Game of Darkness? She’s had all this time to learn, by her own volition, or by whatever that… thing I heard…”

“Twilight, you-” Spike suddenly fell silent, surreptitiously tugging at Twilight’s nightwear.

Twilight went silent when she saw someone else exiting Rarity’s room. Craning her neck, Rainbow Dash quietly approached, her hair untied and wearing a loose blue top and black, short-legged undergarments. She yawned wearily, leaning against the wall, “You okay?”

Twilight looked up to the athlete and tried to convey her concerns less outwardly, “I just can’t sleep.”

Rainbow promptly sat next to her, legs stretched over the steps, leaning backwards against her arms, “Alright, what’s up?”

“W-well…” for a moment Twilight considered spilling the proverbial beans. If not for the fact the Rainbow Dash next to her was not the one wholly privy to the meta-physical. In Equestria, the notion of sorcery at work would have anypony’s attention. Here, she could assume results ranging from dismissal of having a bad dream at best, and a trip to the mental ward at worst.

“Still nervous about tomorrow?” asked Rainbow.

Twilight strenuously weighed her options for moment, not even looking to her friend as she replied, “Yes. My first big match, after only two days since becoming a duelist; the entire school watching. It’s pretty daunting.”

Rainbow placed a hand to her shoulder, “You’re like Fluttershy on school plays…” She paused, “No offence.”

“None taken,” said Twilight. “Hey, Rainbow, can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

Twilight shifted slightly in place, “Are you really that confident that I can do it? Not that I’m doubting you, nor the girls, it’s just placing so much faith on someone like… Someone like me.”

“Twi, don’t worry about it,” said Rainbow, more softly. “Remember what AJ and Pinkie said; even if you don’t win: We’ll stand by you. ‘Cuz you’re a friend. A friend who showed what we were missing.”

Twilight looked to Rainbow, continuing to feel conflicted, but managed a weary smile.

“Now come on, let’s try to get some shuteye,” said Rainbow coaxingly. “I’m sure everything will go just fine tomorrow.”

Twilight deigned no argument as she and Rainbow quietly made their way back. Inside Twilight’s mind, Priestess’ mental voices echoed within, the spirit’s projection absent in the immediate vicinity.

Twilight. Spike and I have been considering our options: We know you feel conflicted about having used your friends for this and you might feel reluctant about all of this, but please, consider my advice, and tell them the truth. Before something horrible happens…

As Twilight huddled back into the sleeping bag, with Spike settling closely beside her, though she couldn’t see the spirit, she knew she was somewhere near, watching her. No matter how much she felt guilty for her actions in manipulating the five girls around her, earning their trust, and their friendship, towards someone who wouldn’t even share with them her most crucial secret, the thought of them being hurt, or worse, snapped the final links in her trepidations.

You’re right. Tomorrow, I’ll ensure they know everything. I can’t keep secrets like this, not from friends,” much as Sunset’s ominous implications from earlier towards her… their mentor gnawed at her conscience, “If I can’t be truthful, then what kind of Princess would I be?

Author's Note:

Next time: the duel of fate begins.