• 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 #20: Game of Darkness Unleashed: Twilight Sparkle vs. Sunset Shimmer (Part 2)

Celestia barely had time to pull an aluminum attaché case hidden underneath the table before it was consumed by the spreading stone-like resin, or when the cheap chairs she and Luna had been sitting on too were subsumed and shaped into what looked like vaguely chair-shapes slabs of stones with iron wrist and ankle restraints. The familiar gymnasium of their school was completely transformed by whatever card Sunset Shimmer had activated; not just the illusion of a field, but genuine tangible nightmarish realm where the floors and walls were consumed by cold, grey, rough stone, spreading out from its source that was none other than one of their very students of three years now. Their other students had unwittingly become shackled to the bleachers, save for five who tried to bum rush for the fire alarm it seemed, each and every one of them trying to get free.

Far across from the field the mysterious Twilight Sparkle stood behind her two spellcaster type monsters, looking just as perplexed as Celestia felt. Sunset Shimmer’s strange speech about her disgust towards humans, not just those around her, but humans specifically, and calling Twilight Sparkle a princess. Had she been harboring some sort of cultist, or monster, or was Sunset Shimmer going through the mother of all misanthropic emo phases?

To her side Luna was hurrying to open an attaché case of her own (a blackened aluminum as per her propensity for darker colors). From within the foam padded insides she produced a dark blue duel disk with a navy-blue tray. Quickly following suit, Celestia opened the first lock to her own, when the second seemed to choose just the opportune moment to jam (something it had done previously on the odd occasion). With a frustrated grunt, she pried it open by slamming the release against her transformed chair, snapping the obstinate clasp open, granting her access to the contents. Her golden yellow duel disk with a transparent tray, save for the circuity board and the exposed conductor rods leading into the device as a whole (as per the devices’ carbon fiber construction).

-

Sunset Shimmer Life Points: 4000

Sunset Shimmer’s field
Monsters:
Archfiend Cavalry (Level 4, 1900/0) Attack position
Archfiend Heiress (Level 3, 1000/0) Defense position

Spells/Traps:
Facedown
??? (Field Spell)

Twilight Sparkle Life Points: 4000

Twilight Sparkle’s field
Monsters:
Amores of Prophecy (Level 3, 600/2000) Defense position
Slacker Magician (Rank 1, 200/2100) Defense position

Spells/Traps:
Facedown

“I have entrapped us within ‘Archfiend Palabyrinth’,” Sunset stated, spreading out her arms in a grandeur posture. “The perfect arena for this most unique game; these vermin can sit and watch, whether they like it or not, as I destroy you, as an example of what happens to those who get in my way.” She revolved in place, calling out to the ensnared students, “That’s right, everyone; you have none other than your chosen contender to blame for this. I could have played by your rules, but when she decided to oppose me, I’m afraid she forced my hand.”

“Sunset!” Twilight shouted in anger across the field. “Stop it! This is between you and me: They’re innocents in all of this!”

Sunset did not so much as twitch, “Once the game of darkness is evoked, the only way this will end is when one loses.” A glint of red pulsed from Sunset’s eyes, “However, either loser will be subjected to a most dire penalty: Death.” A venomous smirk formed on her lips, “And will you have the will and drive to go through something like that, even in order to save the lives of our audience?”

Twilight furrowed her eyes, a tearing ache ripping through her chest at the ultimatum. Priestess said there’s the possibility that Sunset isn’t entirely herself. But now she’s put everyone in danger… And if the only way I can save everyone is… to do the unthinkable…

“Now-now; let us not keep our captive audience waiting,” Sunset sneered. “With Archfiend Palabyrinth activated, all ‘Archfiend’ monsters on the field gain an increase of 500 attack points.”

Archfiend Cavalry: 1900/0 -> 2400/0

Archfiend Heiress: 1000/0 -> 1500/0

“I shall then activate my facedown card: ‘Return from the Dark Dimension’,” Sunset swiped a hand over her screen. “This trap card lets me Special Summon a banished Dark attribute monster, the conditions which have been met thanks to Allure of Darkness.” She held up an arm, a great swirling speck of dark shades unveiling above her.

Descending through the newly opened portal, onto the field lowered a large skeletal demon, quite similar to Sunset’s Terrorking Archfiend from before, but standing an imposing ten feet in height. Its body was composed largely of thick, engorged glistening red muscle tissue, framed within plates of bone around its chest, scapulae and pelvis, whilst its forearms and shins down were encased in thorny, bone carapace. Four horns protruded from its grinning, skeletal visage, two forming into downward curving tusks, and two into upward curving horns. To its back was affixed a wide bone frame from which hung a dark auburn, membrane-like cape. (Level 6, 2500/1200 -> 3000/1200)

“When ‘Archfiend Commander’ is Special Summoned, I am forced to choose and destroy one ‘Archfiend’ card I control,” she glanced at the mounted Archfiend Cavalry, to which Archfiend Commander deflated its chest. The newly descended demon drew in a gust of air… A gust that Twilight could even feel, as could the other students, a few of them screaming in fear as their hair billowed in the force. Archfiend Commander’s form degraded into dust that was sucked into Archfiend Commander’s mouth.

“When Archfiend’s Cavalry is destroyed by an effect; I can special summon one ‘Archfiend’ from my graveyard.” Sunset fed Archfiend Cavalry’s card into the graveyard slot, in return getting another card, the one she’d sent there earlier with Foolish Burial. “Arise: The demon of bone who lurks in the darkness; ‘Summoned Skull’!”

A sudden rumble emanated from up above. Looking up, Twilight could see ripples of energy coursing in the endless blackness, believing to have seen vague hints of dark clouds, where it raced. In an instant a bolt of lightning struck the field in front of Sunset, a familiar form appearing on the spot, hunched over, covered by a pair of dark, leathery wings. The new monstrosity arose, looking very much similar as Skull Archfiend of Lightning from before; its body the same, ghastly mass of muscle tethered to a slim-waisted, skeletal frame, a rattling snarl emanating from its skull visage. (Level 6, 2500/1200 -> 3000/1200)

-

“Two monsters with 3000 attack points…” Fluttershy choked, trembling on the floor with Spike wrapped tightly in her arms.

“She’s gonna take out both of Twilight’s monsters and attack her directly with Heiress,” Rainbow presumed, nursing her scratched knuckles, the rough stone having drawn blood.

“It all depends on which she attacks first,” Applejack remarked, “Slacker Magician’s got an effect to protect itself. If Sunset screws up, she won’t inflict any damage whatsoever.”

Rarity stared between Applejack and Rainbow Dash, “We’re seriously talking about the duel and not the fact the gym became something out of a horror movie?!”

Pinkie brought a thumb to her lip in contemplation, “Hmm… Yea, I guess we are.”

-

“I then switch Archfiend Heiress into attack mode,” Sunset turned the respective card right side up on her tray, to which the grinning, female demon arose to its feet, folding up one leg in a mischievous pose (ATK: 1500). “Now to make sure you don’t gather further resources for summoning: I attack Amores of Prophecy with Summoned Skull! Dark Thunder Strike!”

Summoned Skull (ATK: 3000) snarled, hunching down as bolts of electricity began to run up its sinewy form. It swung its arms behind itself and buffed out its chest, a single bolt of lightning launching from its horns into the blackness above. The darkness rumbled, before a larger bolt struck out from within, striking Amores (DEF: 2000), the magical archer’s form being consumed by the violent blast.

Twilight had to genuinely shield herself from the shockwave of the blast, causing her hair to billow wildly. Whatever kind of magics Sunset had evoked; the monsters seemed to be exhibiting at least partial manifestation into reality. Now it only remained to be seen if she could weather the Games of Darkness. For the time being, however, being struck by something with almost enough attack power to end her right then and there was out of the question.

“And then; I attack Slacker Magician with Archfiend Commander!” Sunset called out, pointing at the disheveled blue-haired magician.

Archfiend Commander’s (ATK: 3000) chest bulged as it sucked in a sizeable volume of air, then proceeded to unleash it a dark smog flooding directly towards Slacker Magician (DEF: 2100). Before the smog managed to reach her, she reached into her belt pouch, from which she produced a blue, spherical vial and shattered it onto the ground, a blue miasma erupting from whatever reagents it contained. The smog dissipated, Slacker Magician remaining unharmed.

“Once each turn, Slacker Magician can’t be destroyed in battle,” Twilight announced.

Sunset frowned, “It seems you’re going to be difficult to the end, Sparkle.”

“It’s not too late!” Twilight cried out in desperation. “Please, Sunset! You need to stop before someone gets hurt!”

“I already told you, fool: Once a Game of Darkness is invoked, the only way out is for you to win.”

She won’t listen to you,” Priestess’ mind echoed within Twilight’s. “Twilight, I understand your want to stand by your convictions, but when Sunset started this, there is no way back… Twilight, I’m afraid…” The spirit visibly hesitated, closing her eyes in an expression of regret.

There has to be a way!” Twilight retorted, knowing full well what the spirit was implying. “If she’s not fully in control, then I can’t just condemn her to…” Twilight felt strongly strained from using that particular word.

In Equestria for many centuries during the reign of Celestia, the notion of punishment by death had come to be viewed as an utmost atrocity to inflict upon someone. The mere thought of her having to actually take a life, as illogical as it would sound in terms of a mathematical dilemma of one sacrifice being acceptable to save hundreds: A fellow human or pony was not a variable!

“You’re afraid, aren’t you?” Sunset asked out of the blue. “You’re tearing at yourself on the inside; afraid of what everyone-… every-pony would think of you.” She raised her head, casting a condescending glare towards Twilight, looking over her nose to imply a grander stature, “Things are different here, Princess Sparkle: To humankind, violence and meting out death to one another is near second nature. If you don’t have the guts to do what’s needed to even save yourself; your death is assured.”

“Maybe she doesn’t! But we do!” came the sudden shout of Principal Celestia. Twilight flinched, seeing both Principal Celestia and Vice-principal Luna arise from behind the cover of the table, also turned to stone, atop the stage, both of them sporting their own duel disks, a golden one with a partially transparent tray, and a dark and navy blue one respectively. “Who- or whatever you are, you will not harm our students!”

Before Twilight could comprehend, her duel disk blared, warning of an “intrusion”. Possibly some additional function she wasn’t aware of, as two additional player profiles split the two player grids into four. However, the two additional grids suddenly flickered and became unintelligible.

“You will not interfere…” growled Sunset, not even looking at the two heads of CHS.

Twilight felt as her hair began to violently billow over her face, feeling a powerful gust blow against her back. She would have been blown off her feet, when someone grabbed her around the waist to hold her back. Slacker Magician had moved behind her, pulling on her waist with both arms, stopping her from being blown away, as if the blue-haired spellcaster weighed a ton. She couldn’t do anything but watch as Celestia and Luna were blown away. Everyone voiced great fear when Luna was sent through the stone wall at the back of the stage breaking a hole through it as if it were plaster. Celestia didn’t fare better as she slammed back first onto Vinyl’s transformed sound booth.

“Celestia! Luna!” Twilight shouted in shock, whereas her foe remained unmoved.

Sunset proceeded to turn around, and clambered upon the stage, and then atop the petrified table that may as well have become a permanent part of the stage. Upon the table, one thing remained unchanged, something Sunset was eyeing with great focus; the Element of Magic, unguarded, hers for the taking.

“Sunset! Don’t!” Twilight began to run for the stage, when Archfiend Heiress pirouetted in front of her, and with a deranged giggle, delivered a forceful kick, sending Twilight flying. She thought she could hear someone, perhaps more than one, call out her name in the split second she was airborne, when she did not impact onto the coarse, twisted ground of the Palabyrinth, but instead found herself collide with two bodies, catching her, albeit wonkily, with only her feet impacting with the ground.

“Ya’llright, Twi?!” came Applejack’s voice to her left as she and Rainbow Dash steadied her.

Twilight shook her head, a fearful shudder racing down her spine after almost suffering a potentially debilitating injury, “Yea, I’m okay- Sunset!”

Sunset Shimmer had picked up the Element of Magic, silently standing elevated over the stage, intently marveling at the crown in her hands. Despite everything happening around her, the three fiends standing as a bulwark between her and Twilight and her friends, the transformed, hellish landscape that began to genuinely emit a genuine chill under the dark sky that had overtaken the ceiling, Sunset looked strangely… emotional. She took to running one hands fingers across the front of the crown’s golden surface, the intensity in her eyes seeming to fade ever slightly, still retaining the intense, red hue.

“Such a small thing…” Her slightly distant voice said, carrying over the duel disk communicators. “And yet this little trinket can change worlds… It’s finally mine…” She slowly held the crown aloft, raising it over her fiery hair.

“Sunset! Don’t do it! The Element is not meant for-!” Twilight tried to rush at Sunset again, when a bolt of lightning struck the ground barely less than a foot from her, the culprit, Summoned Skull snarling threateningly in defense of its master.

“Now everyone, bear witness…” A broad smile stretched over Sunset’s lips, “to my ascension!”

With those words, the crown was set atop her head, the star gem on top lighting aglow in a radiant violet. This glow came to envelop Sunset’s entire form, who seemed elated, when her feet left the surface she stood on, her form coming to hover over everyone. Twilight could only stare at her aghast, knowing the Element might respond negatively to an unintended bearer, or the surrounding darkness.

A triumphant laughter escaped Sunset’s lips, “I’ve done it!” She threw out her arms, as if beckoning all who witnessed her, suspended in the air by the Element’s inherent power. “The power I’ve sought for so long; I finally have it!”

“Okay, so you stole Twilight’s crown!” Rainbow Dash shouted defiantly up at the hovering Sunset Shimmer. “What then? You going to let us go or are you just going to gloat?”

Sunset gazed down, this time quite literally, upon Twilight and her friends, casting down a most arrogant smirk, “You would do better than talk back to your Queen without her say.”

“Why, Sunset?” Twilight let out in almost a plead. “What are you going to do with the Element? Why go through all of this?”

“Shortsighted fool!” Sunset spat. “This world has all but forgotten its own magical inheritance; you and I, we have the potential of those who would be called gods in this reality. With my mastery over Games of Darkness, and the raw power of the Element of Magic; I now have the power to crush those who would claim sovereignty over this world: And it’s all thanks these,” she patted the top of her deck. “Every last one of you; so ignorant as to not realize you were using the forces of your cosmos as mere entertainment!”

“So that’s it then?” Twilight asked, her tone belying the disgust, mixed with a strong undertone of pity. “You turn your back on Celestia, and decide on conquest over innocents?” She looked away in contempt, her right hand clenching in anger.

“Oh my dear, ever shortsighted successor…” Sunset feigned, assuming a needlessly dramatic, thinker pose. “Why would I be content with ruling just one world? No-no-nooo…” she chuckled, straightening herself. “Even with the Games of Darkness at my beck and call, there’s no assured victory in my true goal: Once this world has been subjugated under my will, I’ll take not only an army of demons, dragons, machines, and undead, but I will also have the conventional might of an entire planet full of warmongers, to wage my takeover of Equestria!” her fist clenched tight in declaration.

“So that’s what this is all about?” asked Twiligh. “This all a petty act of revenge on Celestia?”

A venomous glare etched onto Sunset’s visage, “Celestia abandoned me. I just wanted to get stronger, so I could do the one thing even she couldn’t…” Her expression, strangely, softened, belying not only an inherent rage, but a subtle… sorrow? “To make everything right again.”

To never be alone again?

Twilight saw how, upon hearing Priestess mental echoes within her mind once more, Sunset seemed to veritably freeze in place. Priestess’ astral form hovered before Sunset, the pink-haired, white garbed sorcerer staring back at her former charge in sadness. And Sunset… Sunset could see her? Her red glowing eyes, as if forgetting everything around her, everything being said, focused directly on the spirit.

That is what you told me when we first met, wasn’t it?” Priestess asked, unflinching. “That you don’t wish to be alone? After you lost those most dear to you, twice? Tell me, Sunset Shimmer: Will you ever, truly not be lonely and lost by forcing your will on others, because of your pain?

“I probably shouldn’t temp fate, or whatever…” Rainbow remarked, all eyes focused on the sporadically unfocused Sunset. "But, what's up with her now?"

“She can see her,” Twilight responded, looking to the girls over her shoulder, “She can see Priestess.”

“Uh… Right…” Applejack drawled, “That spirit... you’ve been talkin’ to?”

“Yes,” Spike replied bluntly from Fluttershy’s hold, “I see her too, she’s right up there, and Sunset sees her too.”

“I thought you said she couldn’t see her,” said Fluttershy, continuing to hug onto Spike for comfort.

“Then… Did something else happen?” Rarity inquired.

“You…” Sunset muttered, continuing to stare at Priestess up above, “But… You… You left me! I couldn’t see nor hear you! I thought you’d…”

No, Sunset,” Priestess hovered closer, reaching her hand out to Sunset, “I never left you. I told you; you do not need to be alone. I wanted to help you, but you stopped hearing me.

“Stopped… Stopped hearing you?” Sunset choked, a black line drizzling from her eye. “But then…” The gymnasium, or Palabyrinth, was suddenly filled with an abrupt scream, as Sunset grasped at the sides of her head, her entire body curling up in what could only be gleamed as pain. “W-what is this?! Why does this keep happening?! It… it hurts!”

“It’s like back at the soccer field!” Rarity fretted. “So then it wasn’t just…?”

“Insanity? Bad sportsmanship?” asked Rainbow dryly as everyone watched Sunset begin to descend, still grasping her head. “I don’t think so. Twilight, you’re the magical unicorn-”

“Alicorn,” Fluttershy interjected.

“Whatever! What the hell’s happening right now?!”

Twilight didn’t answer; her entire focus was on Sunset, whose form had slumped down on the ground behind her Archfiends. The girl was writhing on the floor, lying in a fetal position as she continued grasping at her head, her blustering replaced with wails of what sounded like pure agony.

“Make it stop!” She screamed, managing just barely to get on her knees, when her head touched down to the ground again, her legs dragging against the rocky floor impotently. “For the love of Celestia! Please! Make it stop!”

Twilight tried to rush to Sunset’s aid, when Summoned Skull and Archfiend Commander stepped forth to bar her path, the former threatening her with its rattling snarl.

“Let me through; I’m trying to help your master!” Unless… They’re not protecting her, but…! Priestess!

The spirit was already descending down towards Sunset to try and aid her. But before she was even close enough to try and peer into her mind, a black flame erupted around Sunset, the very presence of which seemed to force Priestess back, vanishing only to appear beside Twilight. Everyone witnessed in horrified confusion as Sunset, her voice entirely muffled by the roar of the shadow flame, limply clambered to her feet. Her eyes, the whites turning black as ink, leaking tears of pitch blackness as she tried… To reach out to Twilight, or Priestess, maybe both, but her Archfiends continued to bar their path. Sunset collapsed back to her knees, and her form was consumed by the dark.

-

“Sister… Tia… Tia!” Celestia groaned. Her head throbbed, feeling what was no doubt a fresh bruised underneath her hair. Through her blurred vision, no doubt thanks to trauma to the back of the head, she could vaguely make out a greyish blue visage before her. “Luna…?” She mouthed, closing her eyes tight before fluttering her lids. Her vision seemed to gradually return to her, with her sister’s features coming into focus. “Luna? Are you alright?”

“I should be the one asking you that,” said Luna, though given the clear signs of scratches, some of which were clearly drawing blood, Celestia disagreed with the notion.

“What’s going on?” Celestia gasped, as she tried to get up, only for Luna to hold her down from the shoulders.

“Stay down, Sister,” said Luna urgingly. “We couldn’t interfere and… It’s getting worse.”

“So that wasn’t just a sporadic nightmare,” Celestia quipped, to which Luna did not bother to scold her for. “What’s happening?”

“I…” Luna frowned, craning her neck to peek behind the stone table that was obscuring much of heir vision, save for Twilight Sparkle and five other students taking up the far end. “I don’t even know where to begin…”

-

Where Sunset had fallen, something unveiled itself from within the blackness. Twilight hadn’t the faintest idea how to describe it, but it was certainly not human, nor pony. Where Sunset had knelt, a pair of great, leathery wings unfurled, the edges being frayed with rips and tears and the occasional hole.

Its body was covered in red, engorged sinew, taking on a distinctly feminine form, or at least some sick, twisted mockery of a human female, which tethered to distinct bits of bone; the pelvis, the clavicles, and the shins, which gave way to gnarled, talon-like feet the gripped into the stone of the Archfiend Palabyrinth with enough force that their tips sunk into it.

The shoulders gave way to elongated, distended, nearly skeletal arms, covered in only faint traces of tendons. These unsightly limbs were nearly double the length of the body, ending in bony, gangly claws. The left forearm had something adhered to it; a black duel disk module, which had become subsumed in bulbous, writhing flesh. The tray of the disk had been severed, which lay on the floor, emitting the odd spark.

Rib-like bones looked to be almost grasping around fleshy mounds on either side of its chest, between which was a bared sternum. Up the neck, the sinew seemed to give way to a seam, almost like it wasn’t so much skinned, but covered in a suit of flesh. Sinewy red gave way to golden yellow, which seemed to be engorged with throbbing, pulsating veins. What used to be radiant red and yellow hair had billowed back into a solid mass, looking like a mockery of Twilight’s own alary-seeming hair. Atop it was a discernible golden band and filigrees adhered to it, at the center of which protruded a violet star-like gem. The Element of Magic.

Its face… It had Sunset’s face, but even that had been twisted. Reaching from her neck, the throbbing veins had encroached around her jawline, marring the otherwise disturbingly pristine visage, save for her forehead being marred in a bony crest in the likeness of a sun protruding through the skin. It opened its eyes; the whites still an inky black, and the irises a glistening, hellish red, with the pupils replaced by reptilian slits.

Sunset, or whatever she had become, looked disoriented, reaching a gnarled hand to her head… That’s when her hellish eyes widened in… realization? In… horror. Sunset looked at what had become of her arms, wriggling the claws that were now her fingers. Her limbs started trembling, as she moved them as far away from herself as the physically could in terrified disgust. Upon beholding what had become of the rest of her body, she screamed. A scream of utmost horror, towards the darkness up above, a haunting wail that reverberated throughout the hellscape of her own making.

“W-what am it?!” she screamed pleadingly, desperate for an answer. “This isn’t what I wanted!” her slitted eyes turned directly towards Twilight, and presumably Priestess. She reached out a gnarled hand towards the both of them, a motion that made Twilight reel, “H-help me… I don’t want… I didn’t want this… You said I would…” A sobbing gasp escaped her lips, “Who…? What have I…?”

Her neck suddenly craned to the side in such an angle Twilight thought she might have heard her neck snapping, when another voice, or several voices speaking in unison, emanated from her mouth, “I have had enough of your whining!” Her neck straightened back out, “G-get out! Get out of my body-” Crack. “Be silent! You belong to me now!” Sunset grasped her head again, wailing in further agony.

Twilight heard Rarity being on the verge of screaming herself, who proceeded to cling to Applejack. Rainbow Dash was staring at the abomination before them in a horrified intrigue, her feet slowly forcing her backwards, all the while Fluttershy and Pinkie were embracing one another in sheer horror, with Spike being suffocated in between them.

“P-princess Twilight…” Sunset croaked, reaching a hand out towards her, her eyes continuing to seep tears of blackness, “P-lease…! Help… me…” She collapsed to her knees, her gangly arms almost too oversized to catch her before her face impacted with the ground.

“S-Sunset?” Twilight, trying to swallow her fear took a step towards Sunset, when with another disturbing crack the being stared back at her, those inhuman eyes switching for terrified pain to a haunting spite.

Sunset stood back up, holding her arms outwards at an angle to compensate for their freakish length, her voice once more reverberating with multiple voices speaking in unison, “The Game of Darkness must continue.

“No!” Twilight retorted defiantly. “What are you?! What have you done to Sunset Shimmer?!”

Sunset Shimmer belongs to me now,” the abomination stated, seeming to not care for Twilight’s query. “She made a pact; her body is now my vessel; therefore, I am also Sunset Shimmer.

“Made a pact? How? When? What do you intend with Sunset?!” Twilight pushed on.

I required a suitable vessel for my purpose: Sunset Shimmer proved most adequate, being an anomaly to this existence.

So then you…” Priestess telepathic echoes ringed with an underlying anger, very much unlike the usually composed spirit. “You were the one who poisoned her mind further!

You were an impeding nuisance, spirit. I offered Sunset Shimmer liberation from that which she feared most of all. Simple misdirection of her perceptions and memories had to be done, thus I blocked out her memories of you. She was irritatingly persistent in breaking through my mental blocks, but now with the Element of Magic in my possession, my work can at long last begin.

“Misdirection of her perceptions…?” Twilight looked at Sunset, or whatever the entity possessing her was, in anger. “You mean you tricked her!”

An irrelevant detail, alicorn,” it brushed off dismissively. “What matters is that Sunset Shimmer need not be alone anymore, and shall have the honor of aiding me in my ultimate purpose. You, however, remain a threat to that purpose, with your mere presence, Twilight Sparkle. I cannot allow you to interfere, therefore I must eliminate you before my work can begin.

“What purpose?! What exactly are you? Another spirit?”

It grunted impatiently, “My purpose is to liberate the world from the pain that all share, alicorn; the pain of existence itself. My goal is to revert this existence back to the way it was. But you need not fear, alicorn; for without existence; there is no need to be afraid anymore. If you surrender, I’ll release you and everyone here from their pains and fears. Your life-forces make me stronger, to which I can pass the gift of liberation to every soul on this world. Do not fear, unwilling Princess, for I shall extend this invitation of liberation to your world as well.

Twilight looked at the being masquerading in a twisted image of Sunset Shimmer in puzzlement, “Liberation?! You’re talking about killing everyone!”

In death, you need not suffer any longer, you poor, misguided creature. Take Sunset Shimmer; a lone unicorn, so desperately wanting a place of belonging, and yet it was taken from her, by tragedy, then abandoned by someone she thought she could trust. Once my purpose is complete, I will liberate her as well, while in the meantime,” it spread its unsightly arms in what Twilight could only view as a mockery of an inviting embrace, “she does not need to be alone, when we are here, together, fulfilling the wish of this cruel, cruel universe…” it continued, placed its gnarled, bony hand to her chest.

“Bullshit!” Rainbow retorted.

“Ah beg your pardon who-… or whatever the hell you are, but Ah for one ain’t very keen on your idea of ‘liberation,’” said Applejack, complete with quotations.

“You’re saying you have a purpose,” Rarity added, “but it happens so do we. Applejack and myself,” she visibly tightened her hold onto Applejack’s hand, “we’ve just had something very important given back to us by Twilight; our very happiness. Who are you to say your awful purpose takes precedence over ours?”

And yet your bond with Applejack was so easily broken.” It responded. “Tell me, Rarity, how much did it hurt when she left you on that Valentine’s day? Or Applejack, how enraged and empty you felt when you saw the image of the one you cherished above all else in the arms of the one you thought your friend?

Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow looked between one another, each of them appearing dumbfounded, “Uh, you know that was Sunset’s, or your, doing, right?” Rainbow asked, sounding strangely calm in her flat delivery, given the circumstances.

Sunset Shimmer was merely proving the fickleness of happiness. You may live in the delusion of bliss, and yet it is so easily broken,” it looked towards Pinkie and Fluttershy. “Pinkie Pie; you delude yourself with bringing joy to others, and yet you so brazenly hurt Fluttershy over a simple mistake on your end. Need I add that Fluttershy, outside of the company of animals, needs to constantly fear whether she’s inconvenienced you, let alone her crippling loneliness when all five of you shattered your bonds of friendship.”

Fluttershy and Pinkie exchanged looks between each other, to which Fluttershy was the first among the two to step forth, “But… again; it was Sunset, or you, who was behind it. And I fret out of habit only out of politeness. You’re right about me being alone without my friends, but I need to stress that it was out of your actions we were split apart in the first place.”

“Hey, yea…” Pinkie eyed the being in Sunset’s body suspiciously. “Sounds to me like you’re just using all these problems you caused as if to make yourself feel important about this whole “life sucks and therefore everyone should die” thing.”

The entity grit its teeth, revealing them to have also been altered with slightly elongated incisors, “Once Twilight Sparkle has been dealt with, I shall feast on your life essence first…” It held up its left arm with the adhered duel disk module ingrained to it, “My turn has not yet ended. With my level six Summoned Skull and Archfiend Commander; I construct the Overlay Network!

The two demons devolved into cold, white swathes of light that shot up and converged within the nebula forming on Sunset’s field. The being reached for the broken off trey and grabbed the respective cards still on it and dropped one after the other into the nebula.

“Within the deepest darkness, a power stirs. Ascend from the abyss, in its purest form.”

Xyz Summon! Arise from the endless abyss: Rank 6; ‘Archfiend’s Ascent’!” The extra deck compartment of the broken duel disk module opened up, despite the extensive damage. With her body’s disturbingly elongated right arm, Sunset grabbed a card and dropped it to he ground.

The dropped card vanished, and in its place emerged the monster from within the nebula: It looked very similar to Summoned Skull, however a few minute changes told it apart: The sinew of its body took a more purplish hues, and the horns on the sides of its head darkened and had sprouted thorny growths, as did its shoulders. Most distinctive was the distended, slithering tail protruding from behind its pelvic bone, as well as the larger wings, the limbs of which also grew thorny. Two cold white orbs revolved around its form, whilst what could best be described as bolts of pure darkness raced through its body. (Rank 6, 2500/1200 -> 3000/1200)

I set one card. My turn is over,” it dropped a card on the ground, which proceeded to grow into the size their projections took. “If you wish to prolong the suffering, Twilight Sparkle, then I shall be forced to oblige. In the end, you shall know the futility of your struggling.

(Hand: 1)

Turn 5: Twilight Sparkle (Hand: 4)

Twilight set her fingers upon the topmost card of her deck, yet, she found herself unable to draw. Possession or not, physically the being in front of her was still Sunset Shimmer, to some extent at least. Seeing the one she’d viewed mostly as a misguided enemy of her and Celestia struggle, the images of her transformation replaying in her mind like a film reel on a loop.

P-Princess Twilight… P-please…! Help… me…

Twilight felt her hands quivering.

“C’mon! What are you waiting for?!” Rainbow shouted.

Twilight drew a sharp breath, shutting her eyes, fighting over the two arguments within her conscience: Lose and die, along with everyone else in the room, or possibly the whole world, and in Equestria. Or win and kill Sunset… The solution was so evident, yet she found herself unable to come to terms with taking a life.

The weight of such a grim decision on your mind, yes?” the entity possessing Sunset stated, sound almost like it was encouraging her, “Why fight, knowing one way or another, someone must die? Come, Princess, just forfeit everything, and all burdens will be lifted from your shoulders.

“Twilight!” Rarity downright shrieked, “For goodness’ sake, draw!”

Why are you hesitating?” Priestess mental echo ringed inside her mind.

I… Priestess, I can’t! I can’t just kill her!

Twilight; the lives of everyone, including your friends, both here and in Equestria, are on the line!

I know, Priestess! I know! Every logical argument I can come up with is telling me that I have to commit this one necessary evil! But I can’t! I’ve never had to do something like this before! Any other instance I could plan around and find a solution, but here, I feel so lost!

How do you thin Sunset feels about this? Or Celestia?” Priestess asked, her echo sounding stern. “I understand your world is much more peaceful and your range of actions extensive, but… I’m sorry, Twilight. I will see if something can be done, outside of a draw. But for the sake of everyone, you need to fight.

“Twilight!” the prod of a paw against her leg brought Twilight’s focus to Spike, now free from the deathgrip of Fluttershy and Pinkie. “C’mon! You can do this!”

“Spike… I… If I’m going to save us all, I’m going to have to…”

Spike nodded somberly, “I know…”

“I just feel so helpless… If there was any other way, I would take it, but now there’s nothing else.” She sighed, “I didn’t expect my first act as Princess to be a glorified execution.”

“Twilight, I’m sure Celestia would feel the same way. I won’t feel any different towards you, and neither will anyone else. That’s a promise.”

“Princess…”

Twilight’s attention was drawn back to Sunset. She was covering one half of her face, as best the sinew covered, skeletal hand could, her uncovered eye staring back at her, her teeth gritting in strained desperation.

“Princess… Twilight… You have to… You have to do this! I’m… I’m sorry, I thought I could have… The world the way I wished, but…” she grunted, her other hand clawing at the floor, clearly in pain, “This is what I deserve for my… my arrogance. Please… J-just let me…”

Her arm was pulled away from her face, “Silence!” And with no hesitation, said hand was plunged into Sunset’s stomach, a wet, visceral sound of flesh tearing permeating the room. “Just let me go!”

Twilight sniffed, seeing that Sunset was still somewhere in there, and whatever force was controlling her would so callously even harm her just to silence her… “I’m sorry,” and with that, she drew her next card. “I summon ‘Charioteer of Prophecy’ in attack mode.”

The green garbed spellcaster mounted atop his white steed emerged onto the field, the white horse rearing when, he managed to calm him with a vocalization. (Level 4, 1800/1300)

“With his effect, I discard one ‘Spellbook’ from my hand to the graveyard,” Twilight slid Spellbook Oragnization into the slot, “to return Amores of Prophecy to my hand. I then activate ‘Spellbook of Power’, to increase Charioteer’s attack by 1000.”

Charioteer drew a sword, the hilt of which bore resemblance to the crest of the Prophecies, and held it aloft. The fiery tome appeared over it, opening itself to conduct the inherent power within into the blade, giving it a fiery glow like molten steel. (ATK: 1800 -> 2800)

Your monster is still not strong enough to destroy Archfiend’s Ascent,” the entity stated.

“I’m not intending on attacking it; my target is Archfiend Heiress,” Twilight said in rebuttal, to which the female demon’s deranged grin changed to a toothy frown. “I attack her with Charioteer!”

Charioteer’s (ATK: 2800) mount reared with a gallant neigh before galloping towards its intended target, Archfiend Heiress, who took a visibly fearful step back (ATK: 1500). With a skillfully sharp turn, Charioteer and his steed skimmed past her, his glowing sword lashing out, cleaving the demoness in half at the waist. A gust of ashes and soot billowed towards Sunset, the entity within her grunting in discomfort as it burned into its exposed sinew.

Sunset Shimmer Life Points: 4000 – 1300 = 2700

“Alright, first blow went to you!” Spike declared with excitement.

The entity however, despite the strands of smoke emanating from bits of its exposed flesh, simply chuckled, “And with it, you shall witness the truth.

“What are y-?!” Twilight’s vision was suddenly overcome by a blinding whiteness.

-

She found herself in… A foals’ hospital ward? But she still was in her human body. Before her was a hospital bed, atop which sat a young unicorn filly, possibly younger than the Cutie Mark Crusaders, with a golden yellow coat and a fiery red and yellow mane and tail, both looking messy and disheveled. The mark of a brilliant red and yellow sun emblazoned her flank. The little one had clearly been crying, given her eyes looking puffy, added with the wet streaks beneath her brilliant teal eyes, which continued to express what Twilight could only fathom as a great sadness.

Twilight almost instinctively reached out to the little one, only for her hand to faze right through her, her mere presence going unnoticed. It was here Twilight noticed something around the filly’s horn; a silvery band, studded all around its circumference with deep red stones. A nullifying ring? That’s when Twilight also took note of the bandages wrapped around both her forelegs, torso, and the band-aid X on her cheek.

What happened to her?

Outside the ward, Twilight could see the outline of a pony behind the blurred glass of its window. Based on the lither body shape, it belied her as a mare, who seemed to be addressing someone taller. Despite the door, Twilight could clearly make out what they were saying, starting in mid-conversation.

“Not much to say, your majesty,” came a female voice through the door. “An eager little filly, an early bloomer for her mark, went in way over her head with her talent. The home caught fire, combustions, and some phenomena I have never even heard of. From what the investigators from the RMI, they found the parents… transmuted into an eggplant and a head of broccoli. Unfortunately, they were unable to revive them due to extensive damage from the fire, I think, it might have had something to do with the magical properties… Balefire maybe? Suffice it to say, the results were… Forgive me, I’d rather not go into the finer details.”

A moment of silence followed, after which another voice, a familiar one, with a soft tone, laced with a strong hint of understanding, and wisdom, “May I see her?”

The door to the ward was opened with a glimmering blue aura of a unicorn’s telekinetic touch. But who walked in was not a mere unicorn: She stood taller than most, if not all other ponies, atop her slender legs, her hooves adorned with glimmering golden shoes. Her coat was a shimmering white with the barest hint of a hue of soft pink, and atop her head upon a slender, swan-like neck, wafted a four-colored mane of brilliant teal, sky blue, royal purple and soothing pink, seeming to forever flow as if caught in an endless breeze, as did her equally regal tail. To complement her already regal form was a golden crown and collar, as well as the great wings folded upon her back. A pair of soft, magenta eyes looked down upon the filly as she approached.

Princess Celestia… So then, this was when the two of you first met.

Twilight watched in silence, if she was even able to vocalize in whatever, or wherever, this was, as Celestia stood over the filly, who even in her visibly sorrowed state was incapable of not looking upon the majesty that was the ruler of all Equestria. The regal alicorn looked down upon the filly, before slowly lowering her head, necking the little one behind her head.

“I’m so sorry,” Celestia said in a hushed tone.

That’s when a faint sniffle escaped the filly’s nose, Sunset Shimmer, her brilliant teal eyes seeping tears of sorrow. Breaking into a strained cry, she snuggled close to Celestia’s cheek, to which she embraced her closer with a hoof, and let her cry against her.

-

Twilight gasped like being abruptly woken from a deep slumber, finding herself back in the transformed gymnasium, Charioteer and Slacker Magician before her, whilst on Sunset’s field stood only the newly formed Archfiend’s Ascent, while Archfiend Heiress was missing.

“What was…?” Twilight shook her head, a feeling of abrupt drowsiness overcoming her. “Was that from Sunset’s past?”

The terms of this Game of Darkness; waking memories,” the entity declared, pointing a gnarled claw towards Twilight, “For each blow dealt upon us, the both of us shall peer into your memories, to show you why my purpose must be fulfilled: What you saw there; was Sunset Shimmer’s first, greatest sadness. A young filly, so eager to prove her worth, that in her own hubris she brought about the deaths of those most dear to her. And how she’s had to live with that sadness all her life. Is that a life worth living, knowing you killed those you loved?

Twilight glared at the entity, “It was a tragedy. But even then, others were willing to help her. Someone who herself understood the loss of someone she loved, by her own doing.”

Before this duel is over, you will see the folly of your thinking, Princess Twilight.” The entity took the card of Archfiend Heiress and slid it into the still somehow functioning graveyard slot. “When Archfiend Heiress is destroyed, I can add an ‘Archfiend’ card from my deck to my hand,” the automatic shuffle proceeded to function too, to which a card was ejected for a gnarled claw to take.

“When a monster affected by Spellbook of Power destroys a monster in battle, it lets me add one ‘Spellbook’ spell card to my hand,” Twilight responded in kind, to which Spellbook of the Master was ejected from her deck. “I end my turn. To which Charioteer’s attack points return to normal.”

(Hand: 4)

Turn 6: Sunset Shimmer (?) (Hand: 2)

My turn,” the entity drew a card, the process of which looked disturbingly bizarre with the distended arms. “I summon ‘Archfiend Soldier’ in attack mode.

Dropping the card to the floor, with a surge of power, it expanded into the summoning portal, from which emerged a purple humanoid demon in the same vein as many others: A body composed of engorged muscle tissue tethered to a thorny framework of bones, topped with a skull-like visage with vicious, forward curving blade-like horns. A great, green cape billowed from a bladed frame which may or may have not been either embedded or growing out of the creature’s back. (Level 4, 1900/1500 -> 2400/1500)

Twilight swallowed, constantly being reminded how the landscape they were bound inside was constantly strengthening any Archfiend. I need to destroy that field spell so that everyone can get out of here.

Perhaps you are thinking, that with my Palabyrinth empowered minions I would simply charge forth to tear down your Slacker Magician wall monster. However, you insisted on continuing your misery, therefore I shall respond in kind, and show your folly,” the entity held forth its right arm, its gnarled claws hovering over the set facedown, “Trap card activate: ‘Shapesister’!

The card unveiled itself as some form of trap, the card of which suddenly turned into a mercury hue and melted into a gelatinous puddle. The substance writhed and swirled, shaping itself into a bizarre nude, shapely feminine form, a pair of red eyes gazing from underneath a splayed, horned crown, a gaggle of writhing, glistening tentacles slithered from the back of its head. (Level 2, 0/0)

Shapesister is a trap that summons itself as a level two normal tuner monster to my field. Now, I shall tune my level two Shapesister, with my level four Archfiend Soldier.

Shapesister’s form immediately began to degrade back into a shapeless puddle, when two glowing orbs burst from within the slimy substance which slowly spread out and seemed to evaporate in front of everyone’s eyes. The orbs extended into two tuning rings, which settled around Archfiend Soldier in a vertical line. The demon within faded into nothing but a glowing outline, unveiling four more orbs that lined themselves within the rings.

“From the depths of the unending abyss, let your destructive call ring out, as its portent of the end.”

They erupted into a cold white pillar of light.

Synchro Summon!” The entity extracted another card from the extra deck compartment, tossing it within the pillar, which began to take a new shape, “Level 6 roar of the abyss: Archfiend’s Call!

The light erupted, unveiling another demon, once again highly reminiscent of the form of Summoned Skull. This one’s muscle tissue was a putrid, deoxygenated blue, whilst its horns took on a more honed, blade-like shape. Its wings were both nearly the size of its body and seemed to be permanently spread out, between which revolved a green tuning ring. White streaks of electricity race across its sinewy body, in contrast to Archfiend’s Ascent’s black. (Level 6, 2500/1200 -> 3000/1200)

“She… It… Whatever, can Synchro summon too?!” Fluttershy exclaimed.

“Just great, and it’s another 3000 beatstick to boot,” Rainbow Dash added. “And Twilight’s left one monster in attack mode!”

“To battle,” the entity declared, pointing a clawed finger towards Charioteer. “I attack Charioteer of Prophecy with Archfiend’s Call.”

The blue demon snarled (ATK: 3000), the electricity coursing through its body congregating to its horns, which then conducted the accrued energy into a cracking sphere suspended within the revolving tuning ring between its wings. With a rattling roar, the sphere spread out into a surging web, before launching a beam of lightning towards Charioteer (ATK: 1800).

“Trap card activate! ‘Magicians’ Defense’!” Twilight just barely managed to call upon her set card, when the beam engulfed Charioteer. A blast rang out from behind as the beam connected with the stone encased wall, leaving a large, black area, filled with a veritable web of cracks and chips. Applejack and Rarity had dropped to the floor, the former holding a protective arm over the latter, who had her hands covering her head. The air around them stunk of the distinct hint of ozone.

“Magicians’ Defense halves any battle damage I take, so long as I have a spellcaster on my field.”

Even so, you still take some damage,” the entity replied, pointing a finger towards Twilight.

In an underhanded move, a bolt of lightning struck Twilight from the darkness above. She screamed in pain as she felt a flaming throb course through her body, potent enough to send her to her knees, a series of uncontrollable spasms following.

Twilight Sparkle Life Pointe: 4000 – 600 = 3400

Now, reveal your fears, Princess Twilight Sparkle!” Another rush of blinding whiteness overtook Twilight’s vision, when she could feel as if her mind left her body spasming on the floor.

-

Twilight found herself staring at a reflection of herself, seeming to be back in her true form as a pony. It was through the mirror of a vanity in a room within the Crystal Palace, the Element of Magic sitting atop her head, her face expressing a longing sadness. She could hear herself sigh, outside of her own control, so she must have been experiencing the world through her past.

“What’s wrong, Twilight?” came the voice of Spike from behind her.

“I don't know, Spike. I'm just... worried, I guess,” she heard herself speak, watching as she turned around to face Spike, in his own true baby dragon form. “Princess Cadance was given the Crystal Empire to rule over. What if, now that I'm a princess, Celestia expects me to lead a kingdom of my own?”

She watched, in every sense of déjà vu, as Spike approached her, “That would be awesome!”

“No, it would not! Just because I have this crown and these wings, it doesn't mean I'll be a good leader!” Twilight saw as she levitated the horn off her head to the nightstand beside the large, four-poster bed, an ability she’d come to dearly yearn for during her stay in the human world.

-

Twilight was snapped back into the moment once more, only to come to when her shaking arms gave way under her weight.

I see; so you already live with the impending burden of being thrust into the role of leadership. A role I understand you never sought in the first place, all at the whims of your beloved mentor,” the entity reiterated. “It would seem your dear Celestia does not have your best interests at heart, little alicorn.

Twilight managed to get back to her feet, her right shoulder spasming once more as the effects of the shock seemed to otherwise fade, “I am personal student of Princess Celestia; no matter what misconceptions you may try to feed me, I was well prepared for the notion of not having an ordinary life since I was a filly.” She clenched her right hand into a determined fist, wiping a speck of saliva that had slipped from her mouth in her spasming state.

And yet there is also the wish to remain who you are, is there not?” the entity goaded. “Wouldn’t you sometimes wish you weren’t student to such an arrogant being who thinks herself a god? Never needing to adhere to her whims, have a life free of her, to frolic with your dear friends? It seems Celestia is all too willing to set those reluctant down a path of hardship, and cast out those who desired the greatness you have.

Twilight glared at the condescending entity, “Finish your turn, monster.”

And you continue to dwell in your sad, pitiable existence. So be it. I end my turn.

(Hand: 2)

Turn 7: Twilight Sparkle (Hand: 4)

Twilight drew her next card, It’s time to take the fight back! “I summon back ‘Amores of Prophecy’ in defense mode.”

The arcane archer remerged onto the field, assuming its vigilant kneeling pose. (Level 3, 600/2000)

“Next, by revealing a ‘Spellbook’ from my hand,” Twilight pressed Spellbook of the Master against her disk’s screen in confirmation, “I use Amores to special summon ‘Temperance of Prophecy’, also in defense mode.”

The brown robed, teal haired sorceress with her dual linked chalices in each hand emerged to the field through a screen of ethereal smoke, her arms crossed over her chest. (Level 3, 1000/1000)

“I then activate the continuous spell; ‘Spellbook Star Hall’,” the card’s image arose to her field. “Since I have activated a ‘Spellbook’ spell card, I can send Temperance to the graveyard to special summon one level five or above light or dark attribute spellcaster-type monster from my deck.”

The twin chalices or Temperance expelled white and dark purple smoke, prompting her to hold out her hands as her form was obscured by the smokescreen. With a shimmer of light, the smoke dissipated, revealing High Priestess of Prophecy upon the field, her emerald tome appearing in her hand at the snap of her fingers. (Level 7, 2500/2100)

The entity in Sunset’s body snorted, “Your and Sunset’s pet spirit I see.

“Laugh all you want, but it’s through her guidance that I’ve been able to make it this far. I promised I would stop Sunset from wreaking havoc on this world. And my promise still stands, even if it wasn’t truly just Sunset behind everything,” a card was ejected from her graveyard. “I banish Spellbook of Knowledge from my graveyard to destroy your field spell! Lexicon Designator!”

Priestess hovered her tome before her, fluttering through its endless ethereal pages. Rather performing the incantations and hand signs, she curled up off the ground, her hands gnarling in exertion as green flames flickered from her palms. Throwing out her arms in a strained grunt, a wave of green fire erupted from around her. The flames peeled away the cold grey stone from the floor, racing up the bleachers and stage. The sounds of numerous chains snapping off their placements rang throughout the gymnasium, the fire failing to harm any of the bound students, all the while their shackles snapped and faded away like wisps of smoke.

“Everyone! Get out of here, now!” Twilight called out to everyone, jerking her arm towards the exit.

The entity growled in frustration as the students began to make their way towards the exit. The first to reach it were the Cutie Mark Crusaders, of whom Apple Bloom threw the door open, but rather than fleeing, she began to urge everyone else to file through.

You impudent gnats!” The entity in Sunset’s skin growled. The gem of the Element of Magic suddenly expelled a black plume, whilst her arms spread out and forcefully swung them upwards. A gaggle of black chains suddenly erupted from the walls before anyone could get through, Apple Bloom just barely managing to get away as they formed into a disheveled barrier. “None of you will be going anywhere!

“Let them go! This Game of Darkness is between you and me!” Twilight spat back in defiance.

In ages past misguided monarchs would always have witnesses to such spectacles. What makes you any different, Princess Sparkle?” The entity held out her arms in what was meant to be a grand gesture, the effect of which felt amplified by the great swirling blackness overtaking the ceiling, leaving the gymnasium in a state of dark, with a cold illumination with no discernible source present. “A grand commemoration in honor of your liberation from the cruelty of existence, is it not?

Pinkie hummed in thought, “Doesn’t that kinda make it pointless since no-one would technically be around to remember? For an evil horrific demonic entity, you sure don’t think things through, do ya?”

Twilight turned to address everyone gathered behind her, “Everyone, get as close to the sides as you can. I don’t want to risk any of you getting hurt. I promise I’ll free all of you, by winning this.”

“You heard her,” came the voice of Flash Sentry, indicating the right-side bleachers. “As far back as you can.”

“Same on this side,” said Spitfire in urging with an authoritative tone. “C’mon; move it, move it!”

As the trapped students did their best to stay as far back up the bleachers for the grim spectacle before them. Behind her, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow, Pinkie and Fluttershy remained where they were. “You should stand back too.”

Rainbow Dash, despite the urgency of the predicament, still managed her usual air of confidence, “With all due respect, Twilight, but leaving you to stand alone with Demon Sunset over there; doesn’t feel right. We made a promise to stand with you.” The other girls voiced their shared sentiments.

How very touching,” the entity grinned, “friends to the bitter end. As you wish, you shall be the first to join your princess in oblivion.

“Without your Palabyrinth, your Archfiends have been reduced to their base attack strength,” Twilight noted.

Your Priestess and my monsters are all equal in strength. Do you seek to send her to her death in battle just to eliminate one of my own?

“And you should know by now my propensity for planning,” Twilight responded, sliding a card into her disk. “I active ‘Spellbook of the Master’. By revealing another ‘Spellbook’ from my hand,” she pressed Spellbook of Eternity to her disk’s screen, “I can choose a Spellbook normal spell card in my graveyard, and use its effect. I choose ‘Spellbook of Power’s’ effect on Priestess!”

Priestess’ emerald tome turned from its soothing green hue to a fiery orange, opening its covers for her to course the power to the tips of her fingers, coalescing into the crackling sphere of energy. (ATK: 2500 -> 3500).

“In addition, for each ‘Spellbook’ I use, Star Hall gains a Spell Counter, increasing the attack points of all spellcasters I control by 100.”

The image of Star Hall lit in a white aura, manifesting into a black sphere containing an upside-down triangle composed of three smaller triangles, which too shone in the same aura. (High Priestess of Prophecy ATK: 3500 -> 3600, Slacker Magician ATK: 200 -> 300) Twilight further proceeded to insert another spell card into her disk.

“Next I activate ‘Spellbook of Eternity’, to add one banished ‘Spellbook’ to my hand,” the exchange brought Spellbook of Knowledge to her hand. “As another Spellbook was activated, Star Hall gains an additional Spell Counter (x2). Next, I activate ‘Spellbook of Knowledge’ again. By sacrificing Amores of Prophecy, I draw two cards.” Amores stood up, bidding farewell with a refined bow as his form faded in a flash of light. Twilight slid his card into her graveyard, after which her duel disk chimed her to draw twice, after which Star Hall was added another counter (x3). “Now, Priestess; attack Archfiend’s Call!”

Priestess (ATK: 3800) flung the orb towards the blue demon (ATK: 2500), careening towards its destination before striking with an explosive impact. Archfiend’s Call roared in discomfort, all the while embers from the explosion wafted towards Sunset, the entity grunting in pain, raising her arms in a vain attempt to protect herself.

Sunset Shimmer Life Points: 2700 – 1300 = 1400

As before, the blinding whiteness overcame Twilight’s vision, bringing with it another vision from the past.

-

Twilight this time found herself standing in a darkened room, surrounded by an assortment of objects, big and small, covered in white cloths. Before her, a sliver of light shone into the dark, illuminating the unmistakable form of Princess Celestia, who stood before a familiar, arced mirror amidst the items. Looking upon the unnaturally pristine surface of the mirror, the alicorn stepped forth, gingerly reached out with a forehoof. The surface rippled like a disturbed pond upon her touch.

A sudden gasp escaped the princess’ lips, before turning her head towards the door; somepony was standing there, watching her: A golden yellow unicorn with brilliant teal eyes and fiery mane and tail.

“What are you doing here?” asked Celestia, her tone belying a hint of shock.

Sunset Shimmer, awkwardly eyed the ground, before looking back to her mentor, rubbing at her head with a hoof, “Well… You left the door open. And the sunrise is getting late.” Her horn began to glow with a light green hue, closely matching that of her eyes, as the illumination spell took effect. She leapt down the three steps leading into what Twilight assumed was an artifact storeroom, and trotted next to Celestia, her eyes fixated on the mirror. “So, what’s so special about this mirror? It’s magic?”

The moment Sunset’s hoof reached forth to touch the newly settled surface, Celestia spoke out in protest, “Don’t touch, please. That’s meant for highly skilled students.”

Sunset jerked back from the slight scolding, her face distorting upon the watery ripples of the mirror, looking to her mentor in surprise. “And I’m not a highly skilled student?”

“That’s not what I meant,” said Celestia in apology to the misconception.

Twilight then found herself following the two through the familiar halls of Canterlot Castle, coming to the balcony atop the highest spire of the princess’ home, the sky enshrouded by the darkness of the morning twilight. Sunset eagerly trotted to the golden filigree railings, looking over the nation of Equestria in wonderment.

The unicorn turned to Celestia, an eager smile on her face, “Can I try lifting the sun? Can I?! Can I?!” she asked like an overeager filly.

Celestia smiled, and like an indulging parent nodded to Sunset. In exhilaration, Sunset reached forth, her horn aglow in her magical aura. Her face strained from the task that no regular pony would ever have the hopes to achieve, not by their lonesome. Trying to raise her head in strain of lifting the life-giving celestial body, she finally gave way to exhaustion, her head held low, in disappointment.

Celestia reached forth with her hoof and gently stroked the red and yellow mane atop Sunset’s head, “You’re… not quite there yet, Sunset,” she said softly, walking into a comforting embrace.

Twilight startled, as the world around suddenly split and crackled, like a plate of glass tromped under hoof, and it all came shattering down, leaving her suspended in a white void.

“I wanted to become powerful… I needed to… To fix my mistake. To fix everything.”

-

Twilight awoke from the trance-like state of the imposed visions, shaking her head as she regained her focus. Her return to the waking world was met with shock, as Archfiend’s Call still stood, one of the revolving spheres around Archfiend’s Ascent vanishing in a ripple.

If Archfiend’s Call would be destroyed, I can remove one overlay unit from Archfiend’s Ascent instead. Your efforts are wasted, alicorn.

Twilight looked over her hand, “During my second main phase, I take Slacker Magician to construct the overlay network.”

Slacker Magician, with a wry, tired smile, pulled her goggles over her eyes, before fading into a dark purple swathe of light that swerved and plunged into the forming nebula.

What? How can you Xyz Summon using a single monster?

A card ejected from Twilight’s extra deck port, “By the effect of this new monster, as long as it’s my second main phase, I can conduct an Xyz Summon using a rank three or below Xyz monster.” The nebula erupted in a pillar of light.

“Newfound patron of the magical arts, lifted from the prison of doubt, unveil to the world your untapped potential.”

“Xyz Summon! Your potential unleashed: Rank 4, ‘Downerd Magician’!”

Emerging from the pillar was what appeared to be slacker magician; the same pale skin, the disheveled, long blue hair, and the red revealing top from before. However, her purple skirt had been accompanied by an additional, sturdier layer that billowed in the draft, and a pair of heavy boots adorned her previously bare feet. She lifted her goggles from her face, revealing a pair of emerald green eyes, accented with dark bags underneath. (Rank 4, 2100/200)

The entity frowned in suspicion, “You traded your wall monster for one with a mere 2100 attack points?

“Downerd Magician gains 200 attack points for each overlay unit she possesses, all of which are transferred from Slacker Magician. In addition, with Spellbook Star Hall in play, she too gains its attack boost as well (Spell Counters: x3).” (Downerd Magician ATK: Overlay units: 3 (x200 = 600) 2100 + 600 + 300 = 3000)

“Now all your monsters are stronger than either of them Archfiends,” said Applejack in confidence.

“Without that Palaba-whatever, those Archfiends got cut down to size!” Rainbow boasted, slamming a fist into an open palm for emphasis.

“I set one card facedown, then end my turn,” Twilight declared.

(Hand: 1)

Turn 8: Sunset Shimmer (?) (Hand: 2)

My turn,” the entity drew a card, the motion continuing the disturbing awkwardness due to the gangly, thin arms. “Your display of not only destroying my field spell and overtaking my monsters in pure strength is impressive, alicorn. However, what is a mere, misbegotten mortal compared to one such as I in the end?

“He’s just waxing all philosophical again,” Rainbow muttered with an eyeroll.

In the Game of Darkness, it is not only the cards within your deck that determine the outcome, but the will and drive of one’s convictions fueling their will for victory, impudent girl,” the entity glared at Rainbow. “Misguided beings such as yourselves lack the true conviction, one grounded in the ultimate truth of the universe. Now, you shall see the will and power, of that truth.” She slid a card from a clawed hand into the graveyard slot. “I discard ‘King of the Swamp’ from my hand, to add the spell card ‘Polymerization’ from my deck to my hand.

Wait… Xyz, Synchro, and now she’s added Polymerization…?!

Next, I activate the spell card, ‘Summoner’s Art.’ With it, I add my second Summoned Skull from my deck to my hand. All the pieces are now in place, to which I cast ‘Polymerization’

“She can Fusion Summon too?!” said Rarity in surprise. “She can so flawlessly balance the three disciplines!”

“That’s what she and Twilight had been sayin’, haven’t they?” Applejack remarked. “That it’s not just about cards and ratios and all that, but about will.”

The Fusion vortex opened up above before the black void, the form of Summoned Skull, and another, taller, skeletal demon appearing at its mouth before swirling together in a red and blue glow, coalescing into a harsh, violet glimmer within the eye.

“Demon of bone who lurks in the darkness. Demon giant towering over the unworthy dead. Unite in the pits of despair, as the manifestation of my will.”

Her gangly claws threaded together, her distorted voice echoing with an unnatural reverb, “Fusion Summon! Level 6 darkness incarnate: ‘Archfiend’s Manifestation!’

The violet light within the eye shot forth into a violent beam, sending everyone’s hair and any loose clothing billowing in the powerful draft it kicked up. From the beam arose a third incarnation of Summoned Skull, retaining most of its original features, with its flesh a glistening crimson. Key differences where the larger, blue leathery wings upon its back, and the snaking tail its Xyz and Synchro kin bore. Its eyes glowed with a virulent purple, and its right arm, instead of the clawed, bulbous bony limb, was a thorny, pronged gauntlet looking extremity seemingly grafted in place of its original arm. Purple streaks of electricity coursed through its sinewy body, most of them racing down its arm into this grafted extremity. (Level 6, 2500/1200)

“A third iteration of Summoned Skull?!” Twilight swallowed. “I didn’t think it would be possible to use all three disciplines simultaneously…”

Archfiend’s Manifestation increases the attack points of all ‘Summoned Skull’ monsters by 500. It, along with Archfiend’s Manifestation and Archfiend’s Call are also treated as ‘Summoned Skull,’ therefore your stunt of decreasing their attack points was wasted.” The entity held forth a skeletal arm, pointing towards Priestess. “Archfiend’s Manifestation, attack High Priestess of Prophecy!

The newly formed demon held forth its mutilated appendage (ATK: 3000), the entirety of its purple lightning accruing between the pronged claws protruding from its end, condensing it into a crackling projectile which was launched with an ear-piercing shriek towards Priestess (ATK: 2800).

Author's Note:

I would like to point out that Sunset's backstory is heavily based on the animated iteration of The Fall of Sunset Shimmer by Minty Root, with some new additions and alterations by me.