• Published 16th Feb 2019
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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 #5: Mending Hearts: The Beautiful Warrior

The morning had been thankfully uneventful after Twilight’s apology. After breakfast, which Applejack had prepared herself for Twilight, before waking her up, perhaps as a subtle gesture of forgiveness, there had to be a division on who traveled with whom to CHS. Big Macintosh, would ride Granny Smith and one person more in the jalopy, while the rest would need to take the school bus as they referred to it.

Twilight offered to commute with Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo while the rest of the Apple family took the jalopy. Everyone was surprisingly open to the idea, mostly due to the human Cutie Mark Crusaders having taken a genuine liking for Twilight after the time they’d spent together practicing Duel Monsters.

The commute to school was onboard a long, yellow automobile, helpfully labelled as a school bus on its sides, like a much larger variant of a Manehatten taxi, only pulled by whatever engine it utilized (which, based on a dark gaseous exhaust expelled by all the mechanical vehicles, might have been combustion based). Twilight and the girls sat near the back, her having insisted she take the window in case of the phenomenon Applejack referred to as car sickness as she had suffered yesterday.

As the bus went on, Twilight, having seemingly no problems as of yet, saw as Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo leaned over the back of their seat.

“I guess you now know the reason, huh?” Sweetie Belle asked. “About our sisters.”

“How did you…?” Twilight inquired, when the curly-haired girl held up both hands.

“I wasn’t spying on the two of you, honest! I was going downstairs when I heard the two of you and I eavesdropped… I guess that is spying then, isn’t it?” she murmured sheepishly.

“If it were up to Applejack, we prolly wouldn’t even be able to hang out afterschool. Ah gotta have Granny Smith at my back, like yesterday, and obviously we can’t hang around Sweetie’s house,” Apple Bloom emphasized.

“And my mine’s in the exact opposite direction of either, so the commute is murder,” Scootaloo muttered, lazily resting her chin against the backrest, looking dour, “Plus Rainbow doesn’t seem to like me hanging near AJ.”

Alright, that felt like going well over the line as far as Twilight was concerned, what with Scootaloo not being Rainbow’s sister, and even if she were it’d been overboard.

Twilight looked among the three girls. With everything she’d learned about her friends’ dimensional counterparts and how the symbolic wedge had come between thanks to Sunset Shimmer, she at the very least owed it to those three and hopefully rekindle the shared kinship between their sisters (and equivalent). Twilight gave the three a reassuring smile.

“Don’t worry, I’ll do my utmost to try and fix this. It’s the least I can do for three good teachers.”

-

The bus came to a halt in a parking lot behind the school, several other busses having already arrived while a few more were still pulling up. The passengers filed out in a haphazard manner, with Twilight and her three friends coming up among the last. The three of them made their way to the crowding back entrance, when Apple Bloom bid them to the side.

“Twilight, since you’re goin’ out of your way to help us, and since you’re serious about gettin’ at Sunset Shimmer,” she handed Twilight a card, which she fanned out into three, “Me and the girls want you to borrow these. Maybe you can use ‘em if ya find yourself in a pickle.”

Though hesitant at first, Twilight accepted the loan. As the crowd of students began to flow into the school proper, the four began to follow suit, when Scootaloo looked up at Twilight;

“So what exactly are you gonna do?”

Twilight eyed the crowd, intentionally trying to see if she could spot a certain someone, “First off, there’s someone I need to talk to…”

As the crowd thinned further indoors, Twilight went looking around. The striking pink hair was easy to spot, finding Fluttershy going through her locker down the same hallway where the gymnasium was.

“Good morning, Fluttershy,” Twilight spoke softly, given the counterpart in question.

The human Fluttershy peeked from behind her locker’s hatch, seemingly only slightly surprised, “Oh! Um, Twilight, right?” she stuttered, closing the locker. “Good morning,” she smiled in slight nervousness, “Um, I saw your duel yesterday. It was… It was fine. That is, for a beginner. N-not that I’m saying you are a beginner, but-”

Twilight lifted her hands dismissively, “No, no it’s alright.” She smiled sheepishly, “I hope you don’t mind, but I kind of need your help again.”

Fluttershy gingerly pointed at herself, “Me? Well, of course I would love to help… That is, I’m not so sure I can, n-not that I want to disappoint or anything!”

Twilight couldn’t help but smile, if a bit uneasily, at just how almost exact the human girl was to her mare counterpart.

“It’s nothing complicated; I would just like to ask if you’d know where I can find Rarity,” she elaborated.

Fluttershy looked at her with an undetermined expression, “Why are you looking for Rarity?”

Twilight looked around, then motioned Fluttershy to lean in, “I spent the night over at Applejack’s house; she insisted since I helped her with her probation in the library yesterday (please don’t tell anyone). I assume you knew of her and Rarity’s relationship from before…”

Fluttershy seemed to visibly flinch at Twilight’s words, taking a step back, pressing against her locker with a look of trepidation on her features. When Fluttershy failed to respond for a moment, Twilight apprehensively tried to approach her, when at last the pink-haired shy girl spoke up;

“They were two of my best friends,” she murmured, her gaze falling to the floor. “But… Ever since that Valentine’s Day… That’s when everything fell apart. It’s been awfully lonely since then.”

Twilight looked at her… She wanted to earnestly think friend, but… No, no, this Fluttershy, as far as she was concerned, she counted as a friend. She was the first among the school to approach her openly as a friend, allowing her to observe the duel between Rainbow Dash and Applejack through her duel disk’s spectator function, and was kind enough to direct her without asking. If there was a constant between the two dimensions, she was certain that this Fluttershy was just as kind and caring as the one back home.

Twilight took Fluttershy’s hand and held it between hers, giving the shy girl a reassuring smile, to show that she was not alone, “Fluttershy, do you know what exactly happened that day?”

Fluttershy seemed to blush slightly from Twilight’s gesture, “W-well, all I know is that… at least, as far as I know, Applejack stood up on Rarity that afternoon when they were meant to go someplace special together…”

Applejack did say Rarity was purportedly cheating on her… “Do you by any chance recall anything else? Perhaps something you did that day; did you talk to either of them? Or perhaps anything about what Rainbow did that day…?”

Fluttershy brought her free hand to her chin, looking to be deep in thought. She hummed contemplatively, her lips pursing, trying her best to try and remember.

“I think I remember me and Rainbow having helped Rarity with something…” she muttered, furrowed her brow. “Hold on, maybe it was… I think… I can’t remember the exact details…”

When Twilight was about to relent, Fluttershy looked up in a sudden realization, to which she looked at Twilight, “That’s when Rarity hugged and kissed-!” she had to stop herself midway through the sentence when some students cast confused stares at her. She ducked her head, edging closer to Twilight, who in turn did her best to keep her composure, glancing side-to-side idly.

When everyone else’s attention seemed to veer away, Fluttershy muttered, “Rarity hugged and kissed Rainbow Dash for something we did. I don’t remember the details… And there also went my train of thought…”

At least Twilight now had something to go by. If Sunset Shimmer was involved, as the Priestess had claimed, perhaps she’d used that moment as a means of misconstruing the situation in some way.

“Um, excuse me, Twilight,” Fluttershy uttered, still standing perhaps a tad too close, what with her larger chest obstructions pressing against Twilight’s upper arm awkwardly, “Why are you so interested in all of this?”

Twilight looked at Fluttershy, adorning an expression of determination, “Because I want to help,” she stated firmly. “Not just Applejack and Rarity, but also three concerned sisters who are afraid that their friendship will only be strained by all of this,” she looked at nothing in particular, indicating everyone still in the hallway.

She could see subtle hints pertaining to what the Cutie Mark Crusaders had told her of the school from the inside. Most students went about on their own, alone, perhaps in pairs, while seeming to ignore or purposefully avoid one another. The odd few would be conversing with one another, though not very openly, which, despite the number of students, added barely anything to the clamor in the hallways, which already felt rather quiet to begin with. She could have sworn earlier on to have seen two boys casting antagonistic notions at one-another not long after she came in. It felt overall quite hollow, for lack of a better description, compared to when she went to school. She might have been the odd one out, being more focused on her studies than camaraderie, but she was not so oblivious as to have never noticed the coming and goings of her fellow students.

“Yesterday I found out much about what’s been going around this school. That everyone just sequesters themselves to their own cliques instead of coming together to share their differences. I may be new here, and some might just say I need to get in line and stick to my own kind from here on out,” she looked back at Fluttershy, “All for what? To see whose side is best in regard to this?” she used one hand to fish out her deck box. “I don’t know about you, but I do not want to go to school in a place of enmity.”

Fluttershy finally had the courage to back off from Twilight. The pink-haired girl seemed to look her over, as if she were evaluating Twilight over what she’d just said. She would then look down at the ground, looking conflicted. It was understandable, or at least Twilight had an inkling. Fluttershy back in Equestria was very much a shut-in, induced by an inherently meek and socially anxious disposition, one of her few known outlets being the caring of animals. Her other's self-confidence was highly dependent on the support of others, so Twilight and the of their friends, had made impressive strides in bringing Fluttershy out of her shell. This Fluttershy, assuming she was at all a shut-in herself, did not have that necessary interactive support of those she could trust, which Twilight felt she would have needed, if not yearned for, similar companionship.

“Well…” Fluttershy mumbled, gingerly fingering her long, flowy hair, “It has been kind of lonely. Applejack won’t talk to me because of Rainbow Dash, and anytime they meet up it becomes a fight, and Pinkie abruptly stopped talking to me…”

Twilight’s heart felt like it sank a few inches further along her sternum. Pinkie Pie? As in the bouncy pink girl she sort-of met abruptly yesterday preceding her duel with Flash? If she was anything like her Pinkie Pie, somepony with no vindictive bone in her body, then whatever happened here must have been utterly devastating for the lot.

“Fluttershy… I know we’ve just met, and maybe my forwardness is a bit… unconventional perhaps,” she watched as Fluttershy did nothing to interject, “If so, may I ask just one simple question?”

The pink-haired girl simply nodded.

“Do you trust me?”

Fluttershy looked away again. She finally, after a deep breathed sigh, she gave her answer, “I… I do trust you.”

Twilight sighed internally herself to said answer. She was relieved to have managed to establish a fledgling rapport with her friend’s counterpart. And hopefully it would serve as a start to making things right again.

“So what do you intend to do?” Fluttershy inquired.

-

Being forced to wait until the lunch period this time, and thus spending more of her time in the school library (the constant need to wait weighing on her mind as she knew each hour wasted was one less she had to get her crown and return home), Twilight would refuse to let starvation hold her down this time around. Reuniting with Fluttershy, the two of them made their way down the cue together (to which greetings were exchanged with Granny Smith), mostly sticking to what Fluttershy was having, just hoping that, as befitting her counterpart’s love of animals, she was a vegetarian.

As they made their way down the rows of tables, Fluttershy pointed Twilight in the direction of the fashionista clique’s informally allotted space.

“Alright, let’s hope this works,” she whispered to her new friend as the two separated, Twilight making a beeline towards the fashionista clique’s side of the room.

Feigning to look for a seat anywhere around her, she surreptitiously tried to spot the one person she was looking for among the chatting students. Given how thus far every counterpart she’d run into had been a perfect duplicate from Equestria in terms of personalities and colors, it shouldn’t have been too difficult to… There.

Much like the Equestrian one had her alabaster white coat and luxurious, arduously kept curled purple mane, the human girl seated at the end of a largely occupied table matched her coloration exactly. Like the one from Equestria, her hair was styled into a series of long, elegant curves to the side of her head, while the thick back of it cascaded gracefully down her back. Her skin looked almost pristine compared to several other people Twilight had seen that day, and her outfit gave a clear indication for her sense of style: A white, flowy shirt-dress suspended around her neck, clenched to her body with a purple belt and a matching skirt that reached just above her knees, her slightly side-angling legs adorning what looked to be slightly elevated boots made of a felt-like fabric with elegant patterns embroidered on their sides. The only major difference was a hairpin composed of three gems.

And what luck; there was one more seat to the very end of the table that was free, right next to Rarity. Twilight thanked Celestia under her breath as she approached, looking casual.

“Hi,” she beamed at Rarity, to which the fashionista looked up at her, “This seat taken?”

Rarity looked over Twilight in scrutinization. Like her equestrian counterpart, her eyes were a striking shade of sapphire blue, accented with light blue eyeshadow and her eyebrows had been plucked into a tidy formation. “No…” she replied simply, indicating the last seat, “Please.”

Twilight set her tray down and seated herself, largely ignoring the glances, and a few stares from Rarity’s select clique. No-one said anything, not even in greeting, perhaps as an outsider, or because they did not know what to think of the total stranger who just invited herself in.

“Thanks,” Twilight nodded at Rarity, “I’m new here, just looking to get acquainted.” She took a sip of water, “Twilight Sparkle.”

Rarity, in a well-mannered gesture, placed her fork down and turn to Twilight, “A pleasure. My name is Rarity,” she said bringing a hand to her sternum. “If you permit me; I love what you do with your hair.”

Twilight raised a quizzical brow, “Oh, uh… Thanks?”

She honestly didn’t know what to think of that. Her mane had largely maintained the rather bizarre shape it had taken when she’d emerged through the portal. In the morning the most she did was brush out the tangles and try to look presentable. Possibly some form of side-effect of her inherently magical makeup perhaps?

“Oh my, yes; I especially adore the back,” she stated, leaning out just slightly, “It’s almost like you had little wings,” she tittered, “No offense, of course.”

Twilight chuckled awkwardly; stunned at how spot-on this alternate Rarity was to some of the truth about her, “Yea, I suppose that’s true…”

“Oh!” Rarity beamed suddenly, “I simply must make a note of this! No! Better…” she pulled out a phone, something Twilight had noticed many people seemed to spend much time fixated on, and what sounded like a muted camera snap emanated from it. “Could you turn sideways, darling?” she asked motioning with her hand.

Twilight complied, followed by a second snap. Rarity then bid her to turn her back. Another snap.

“Much appreciated,” the human fashionista declared, looking at the device for a moment before returning her attention to Twilight. “You said you were new here?”

“Yes, I transfer next week, so I’m-” she feigned as if a realization had come upon her, “Wait… Did you say your name is Rarity?”

“Yes, Rarity Belle, but please, just called me Rarity, darling.”

“Ohhh…” Twilight took a sharp breath though gritted teeth, “This is awkward…”

Rarity looked perplexingly at Twilight, “Pardon? Is something the matter?”

Twilight, while never the one for acting, mirroring past genuine moments similar, brought a hand to the back of her neck, “Well, it’s just that, well, I met your ex yesterday…”

Rarity’s body went stiff, “My ex…? Applejack?!” at that the rest of her clique occupying that table fell completely silent. One of them, through a panicked expression of gritted teeth, doing a motion Twilight did not recognize; swiveling her palms sideways close to her neck. Another one next to her shook her head with pursed lips.

Able to piece together what these two were trying to tell her, Twilight held up both hands, “It’s not what you think!” she blurted, “In fact it’s completely the opposite!”

Rarity frowned, her mild, courteous demeanor having drastically altered, now eyeing Twilight with suspicion, “Explain. How do you know Applejack?”

Twilight reeled slightly at the undertones of hostility in the human Rarity’s voice, her neatly kept brows having furrowed just enough to show aggression, albeit her eyes betrayed more of a sense of concern. Rarity seemed conflicted; was she assuming Twilight was Applejack’s girlfriend? The notion sounded preposterous. Twilight wasn’t even human, the idea of her being attracted to one seemed highly unlikely. Not that humans looked all that odd, now that she’d been stuck in the body of one for over a day now, but also since she was not into females, as far as she knew, anyway, though she would not discount the possibility… And she felt her mind going off track.

Twilight straightened herself and opted to approach Rarity as calmly as she could, “Rarity; I swear, me and Applejack are not doing anything together. I honestly just met her yesterday in the library. I assume you know about the duel that took place in the gymnasium?”

Rarity nodded, her sternness softening, though she still looked warily at Twilight, “Continue.”

“Right; and Applejack’s probation was to empty the returns cart of the library. I was in the library at the time, doing some independent studying,” which was truthful in retrospect, “I lost track of time, everyone left. I came across her there with the book cart. She was not very good when it came to the Dooey Decimals, let me tell you…”

This seemed to elicit some form of reaction, a sharp rush of air through her nose. A chuckle?

“Just between us; I helped her finish it. Now, this might sound… questionable, but you see; I lost my wallet. I came here by commute because I do not know the school bus charters, and because of this accident I was ostensibly stuck, so Applejack offered me to stay the night at her house, which I took her up on,” Twilight decided to omit mentioning Sweetie Belle for the time being, “I was in her room where I found a photo of the two of you “hidden” behind her lamp.”

Rarity’s sternness had completely evaporated, replaced by an expression of confusion, “A photo…?” she murmured.

“Yes, with a Duel Monsters card. I believe it was…”

“Rose Lover?” Rarity finished for her, her hand having slowly made its way to her chest, over her heart, “She… she kept it?”

Twilight nodded, able to relax fully now that Rarity’s passive aggression ceased, “I tried asking her about it. She was stubborn at first, but, Rarity,” she gently took Rarity’s other hand in her own, “I think she misses you.”

Rarity, stunned by Twilight’s words, looked up at her, eyes completely given over to a note of sadness. Her eyes trailed away, focusing on nothing, the young fashionista appearing conflicted.

“But then… How come she stood me up that Valentine’s Day?” she asked, looking close to pleading, her and Twilights hands now grasping at each other, as if the aggression never occurred, “I waited for her… I tried calling her, e-mails, tried talking to her! But she just… She wouldn’t even address me. And then she started coming between our sisters, the fights with Rainbow Dash… Why? Please, tell me she told you why?!”

“She…” Twilight hesitated, “She told me you cheated on her. With Rainbow Dash.”

Rarity looked aghast, the student sitting closest to her inching away, “What?! That’s preposterous! Why would she think that?!”

“Fluttershy did mention you kissed her,” Twilight remarked.

“That was a spur of the moment as thanks. I happened to have lost the pair to a one-of-a-kind set of earrings!” she seemed to sporadically switch tones, “I should know, I made them. Haven’t managed to top them so far.”

“It’s true, she hasn’t!” one of the other fashionistas declared as confirmation.

“Regardless; Rainbow Dash had found it, I was ecstatic. I may have hugged and kissed her from spontaneity. But that doesn’t mean I like her that way!” she paused for a moment, “And how did she find out anyway?”

Twilight already knew the culprit. Of course, mentioning that a spirit inhabiting a card told her would be the end to this endeavor, so for the time being she had to feign ignorance, “That is… an excellent question, actually.” Now was the perfect opportunity, “Regardless, you might be happy to learn that I convinced her to talk to you.”

Rarity looked conflicted about the offer, “I… I don’t know… Twilight, it’s been two years. She broke my heart. I’m not even sure I want to have anything to do with her.”

“I understand that it hurts,” Twilight replied, “But what if in the very least, you consider closure? Applejack told me you’ve been close since you were little. Will you at least grant her that?

Rarity slowly pulled her hands out of Twilight’s, dragging them up her upper arms in a self-embrace, looking to contemplate on what Twilight had said. Twilight could not rush her decision in this very delicate matter, even if time was soon going to become a factor when lunch period would end. She tried to appear the model of patience as the fashionista weighed on her choice.

Finally, when Twilight was internally beginning to feel at her wits’ end, Rarity sighed and took a steady breath before her choice…

-

Twilight seated herself on the ledge of the library’s rooftop. It wouldn’t have been her first choice in the matter. In fact, it was Fluttershy who recommended as, barring the occasional group gathering from time-to-time, the rooftop was perhaps the best place of privacy at CHS. It might as well have been the best meeting location, in case things turned hostile or audible. She’d let Spike out of hiding from her backpack, to Rarity’s surprise, having snuck some food for him. Otherwise, the dragon-turned dog seemed slightly dismal, remedied only when Rarity gave him an affectionate rub under the chin.

For the moment they waited, Twilight staring over at the landscape; made up mostly of suburban houses in a specific grid-like pattern, while over on one side in the distance she could make out much larger buildings. It only made it a further shame she could not explore this new world further once she’d secured her crown. Perhaps once thirty moons had passed, she could request Celestia and Luna about future forays…

Their attentions were caught when the doorway to the rooftop opened. True enough, there was Applejack, her eyes squinting ever so slightly under her Stetson under the late morning sun, while Fluttershy followed closely behind, looking apprehensive. As the two approached, Fluttershy took the initiative to hurry over to Twilight’s side.

“Fluttershy?” Rarity spoke at the presence of the pink-haired girl, “Why are you-?”

“Rarity?” the three of them looked at the farmgirl, who seemed perplexed, “Twilight? What are you…? Was it you who put Fluttershy up to this? She told me this was something to do with Rainbow Dash!”

Twilight looked at Fluttershy, who covered the lower half of her face with her hair, “I’m sorry! I panicked!” to which Twilight could only sigh.

Rarity looked uneasily between the duo and Applejack, “W-what’s going on?” she asked, “Twilight told me you wanted to speak with me. She said you miss me.”

Applejack then stared at Rarity. Though her body did not show it, Twilight could catch a glimpse of something stirring within her through her eyes. A silence fell on the rooftop as the two former lovers looked at one another. Rarity took a timid step towards the farmgirl, Twilight unable to see her expression, but she could well enough imagine it.

“Applejack…” she spoke in a tone of uncertainty, “Is it true?”

Applejack did not respond and merely continued to stare, her eyes diverting away uneasily for just a moment.

“That photo of us from out of junior high?” she took a step closer, “The card I gave you as a present for your birthday? Twilight told me you still have those. On your nightstand.”

“It…” Applejack grunted, looking away from Rarity, “I… Twilight, I told you not to get involved with-”

“Applejack!” Rarity retorted, “Whether or not Twilight put you up to this or not, just answer me honestly! Is it true?”

“Why should I even answer that when you’re the one who went all gropey with Dash?!” the farmgirl blurted.

“What?!” Rarity exclaimed in response, “I did nothing of the sort!”

Applejack took out her phone, fiddled with it for a moment before very much shoving the device in Rarity’s face. Rarity took the device, eyes glue to the screen. Twilight took the initiative to get in close to see. To her amazement; there was a picture of Rarity and Rainbow Dash kissing, and what clearly looked like it was being reciprocated by the rainbow-haired girl, and seemed to have a hand going down Rarity’s… tuckuss.

Rarity gawked at the image in disbelief, “This isn’t true! Applejack; whoever sent you this, they’re lying! I waited for-”

“Can I have my phone back, if’n ya please?” Applejack interjected, “I’m not interested in anymore lying. An’ Twi; I’d kindly appreciate if you-”

Twilight yelped when Rarity, with an exasperated grunt shoved the green phone in her hands and a distinct mechanical rev permeated the area. Rarity’s duel disk, one of two distinct shades of sparkling blue whirred to life, the two halves of the tray sliding forth, combining and sliding along her arm.

“Fine,” Rarity said darkly, glaring at Applejack, “If you’re not going to listen, Applejack, then let’s see how you like it when I knock you down the roster for the fall formal mid-term.”

Twilight looked between the two, almost failing to notice Fluttershy taking the phone from her. Rarity’s threat seemed to ring with its intention as Applejack’s own red and green trayed disk revved to life.

Rarity Life Points: 4000

Applejack Life Points: 4000

“Um, was this part of your plan?” Fluttershy asked, looking up from Applejack’s phone as the duel disks proclaimed detecting a duel.

Twilight said nothing, just looking on as the two took some distance between one-another, almost like in a western frontier quick-draw slingshot duel. A certain proclamation rang in her mind;

“Such is the nature of the Games of Darkness. It can be used to destroy, but, as a part of the primordial energies of this world, it can be used to create.”

“The coin landed in my favor,” Applejack called, giving her the first move, and thus no draw. The duelists drew their starting hands.

Turn 1: Applejack (Hand: 5)

“Ah play the spell ‘Sylvan Charity,’” Applejack played her first card, its image arising from the ground upon being inserted into her disk, “With this, Ah draw three cards…”

Twilight pursed her lips; a three-card draw would give the farmgirl a huge advantage. Although, based on her own experiences when it came to draw effects; there would be some form of catch to it.

“Then Ah need to reveal two from my hand for ya, including one ‘Sylvan’ card,” she flashed the two of them; revealing two monster cards. “They’re ‘Sylvan Bladefender’ and ‘Princessprout’. With it Ah place these two on the top of my deck,” to which she slid them both stacked up atop her deck.

“Apple Bloom told me that Applejack’s deck focuses on excavating cards to activate their effects…”

“Ah then play ‘Seed of Deception,’” Applejack played another spell card, “This lets me Special Summon one level 1 or 2 plant-type monster from my hand. So Ah’ll summon ‘Sylvan Cherubsprout’ in defense.”

From the summoning portal emerged a small, very unassuming green creature with a body seemingly composed of folded leaves, complete with pronounced ears that looked like clovers and a tail composed of a leaf equal in length of its body. (Level 1, 100/100)

“When Cherusprout is Special Summoned, Ah can declare either “one” or “two”. Ah choose two. Then Ah excavate that many cards from the top of my deck, but Ah reckon we know what they are,” she said, removing the top two cards, openly revealing them once more, “Any ‘Sylvans’ excavated go to the graveyard, to which their effects activate: Firstly, ‘Princessprout’ is Special Summoned from my graveyard as a level one monster, in defense mode.”

Through another portal emerged a small creature resembling a small greenish, little girl with long green hair in two long tails, adorned in a most intricate, beautiful ground trailing robe made of a myriad of bright, flowery colors in ornate patterns and a golden headdress. (Level 1, 100/100)

“And ‘Bladefender’ gets added to my hand. Who Ah then Normal Summon in attack mode!”

Applejack managed a third summon on her first turn: This one a regular-sized, tan-skinned man adorned in a kimono composed of shades of green, complete with winding lush red leaves around the top half of his body like some ornate shoulder armor. He wore a wide, conical hat, its rims lined with leaves, and two elegantly curved swords hung edges up from a thick sash. He slowly drew the longer of the two blades and stood in a relaxed, honed guard position. (Level 4, 1900/700)

“Ah then take my level one Cherubsprout an’ Princessprout to construct the Overlay Network!”

“Overlays. So, Applejack uses Xyz monsters, just like Flash.”

The two plant creatures turned transparent, their forms sliding together as Applejack slid their respective cards atop one another, to which they erupted into the pair of blue orbs, just like with Flash and his Heroics.

“Young sapling of the groves, young ruler of the glades, come together in the life-giving sun, and bring forth one who tends to the sacred tree.”

“Xyz summon!” Applejack swung forth her arm as the orbs united, coalescing into a new glowing form descending onto the field, “Rank 1: ‘Sylvan Princessprite!’”

The light abated revealing what may have been an older, more refined Princessprout. Her hair was woven into intricate bangs on the sides and back of her head complete with a familiar looking headdress, and her kimono was now a predominately aqua green with wide, flowy sleeves. Like with Heroic – Excalibur, the glowing orbs revolved around her form. (Rank 1, 1800/0)

Rarity looked at the creature with a clear indication of sadness in her eyes.

“Ah remove an overlay unit from Princessprite,” one of the orbs vanished, “Ah excavate the top card of my deck,” she turned her deck’s topmost card over, “It’s a trap card, so Ah add it to my hand. Ah then place two cards facedown. Ah end my turn.”

(Hand: 3)

Turn 2: Rarity (Hand: 5)

Rarity drew a card, fanning her hand out as she looked at the field, sliding her new card among them.

“I remember…” she stated, looking at Princessprite, “When you found the cards of your calling, you absolutely refused to use her because she wasn’t powerful.”

Applejack said nothing in response, keeping a level, almost cold expression.

“Applejack, why? Why won’t you even talk to me?!” she called out, despite being the one who instigated the duel in the first place. “I knew you were stubborn, but this is ridiculous!”

“Are you going to make your move or not?” Applejack asked bluntly.

Rarity’s right hand clenched as an expression of hurt took over her face, “You…” she cried exasperatedly as she held up her hand, “If you won’t listen, then fine! I set one card facedown, and set a monster!”

Two cards appeared facedown on her field, one among her spells, one sideways in her monster zone.

“I end my turn,” she declared.

(Hand: 4)

Twilight looked flummoxed at the contrastingly lackluster performance of Rarity. She was half expecting her dueling to reflect on her sense of dramatics like her Equestrian counterpart. Or did she draw a bad hand and this was the best she could do?

Turn 3: Applejack (Hand 3)

Applejack drew her next card, to which she indicated Princessprite, “Ah remove the last overlay unit from Princessprite to excavate my top card,” she flipped it over, revealing a monster, “Ah send ‘Sylvan Komushroomo’ to the graveyard. When he’s discarded this way; Ah can target one spell or trap on your field and destroy it.”

A swirl of flames began to emerge around Rarity’s set card.

“I play my facedown card: ‘Common Charity’!” she retorted, revealing itself as a trap card, “I draw two cards, and then I must banish a normal monster from my hand,” she concluded by sliding a card into the banished compartment at the back of the boxy rear part of the duel disk, “Your effect was wasted.”

“In that case Ah activate Princessprite’s second effect,” Applejack interjected, “She lets me Special Summon one plant-type monster from my graveyard once per turn, by discarding or sacrificing a plant-type monster,” she slid a card from her hand into her graveyard, “So Ah’m bringin’ back Komushroomo in defense mode!”

From the portal emerged what looked to be a small stumpy-legged anthropomorphic mushroom with a tall, drooping cap that was literally aflame. A single eye peered out from under a less drooping section of the cap, while in one tiny hand it held a wooden staff. (Level 2 100/2000)

“Ah then tribute Komushroomo to summon from my hand ‘Sylvan Guardioak!’”

Komushroomo erupted into a puff of glowing particles that elicited another portal opening. From within arose a creature that must have been at least twelve feet tall in stature. Like many of Applejack’s monsters, it had a predominately green color scheme. It was some form of ogre or giant with a burly but chubby frame, its feet and hands were composed of wood ingraining into its arms and legs with a many of leaves for hair and what looked to be branch stubs for horns and the two tusks jutting from its mouth. It wore a white loincloth and a necklace made of giant acorns, and was wielding a large wooden bludgeon over half its size over its shoulder. (Level 6, 2400/1500)

“Trust me; Ah know what you’ve got under there,” Applejack stated ominously, “When Guardioak is summoned, Ah can excavate one-to-three cards; Ah choose two,” to which she flipped over her first card, “The first card is a spell, so Ah return that to the bottom of my deck,” then the second, “Ah send ‘Sylvan Flowerknight’ to the graveyard. Then with his effect Ah choose one ‘Sylvan’ card from my deck and place it on top.”

Applejack’s chosen card slid out from her deck. Upon removing the deck was shuffled by her duel disk before placing the card back on top.

“Then Ah attack your set monster with Guardioak!”

Guardioak lunged forth with reverberating stomps and swung down with its hammer. At this moment the set monster revealed itself as a turtle or tortoise whose tiny claws and head were encrusted with brilliant emeralds, and its entire shell was one large shimmering emerald that glistened under the sunlight. (Level 4, 0/2000) The hammer crushed the turtle, resulting in a billowing dust cloud.

“When flipped face-up, Gem-Turtle lets me add one ‘Gem-Knight Fusion’ from my deck to my hand,” Rarity’s duel disk ejected a card which the fashionista took into her hand.

“Ah then attack you directly with Sylvans Bladefender and Princessprite!” Applejack continued, pointing directly towards Rarity.

Bladefender first lunged forward and swung his green blade, sending a veritable gust towards Rarity, which sparked against a transparent, segmented forcefield over Rarity.

Rarity Life Points: (-1900) 2100

Princessprite in turn swung one of her arms, sending a gust of glowing cherry blossoms towards Rarity, which began to violently crackle as they struck the flickering forcefield, the illusions being intense enough that the fashionista had to cover her eyes.

Rarity Life Points: (-1800) 300

Twilight gawked at the brutal display by Applejack, to the point where even Spike in his fondness for Rarity began to growl at the farmgirl.

“Ah end my turn,” Applejack declared bluntly.

(Hand: 3)

Turn 4: Rarity (Hand: 5)

As Rarity was preparing to draw her next card, her hand simply froze, her finger tips merely inches from her deck. Her head lowered, closing her eyes.

“Is there any point to it?” she asked, her tone sounding utterly defeated, “It’s evident from your display…”

“Ah beg your pardon?” Applejack asked, sounding uncomfortably bemused.

Rarity lowered her right hand, “Perhaps I should just call my turn here, and let you whale on me.”

Applejack seemed to scoff at that notion, “Excuse me, Rare, but that’s not how this goes. You challenge someone to a duel, you fight to the end.” She pointed a finger at Rarity, “Don’t even think about just giving up if you consider yourself a duelist.”

Rarity smiled. Or rather, exhibited the hollow imitation of a smile, her eyes finally turning up towards her ex, “Because you don’t want to beat the fashionistas’ choice by a surrender because it wouldn’t affect your credibility in taking Rainbow’s spot for the jocks?”

“What?! Well…” Applejack hesitated, “No… I… You don’t just give up when you commit to somethin’, Ah thought you knew that, Rare!”

Rarity let out a hollow chuckle, her hand coming back up to draw her next card, “If you insist…” het eyes steeled once more as she inserted a card into her disk, “I activate the spell card ‘Gem-Knight Fusion’!”

“Gem-Knight Fusion?” Twilight wondered aloud.

“Oh, yes,” Fluttershy spoke up, “Rarity’s specialty is Fusion Summoning.”

Fusion Summoning; using a spell to combine monsters into larger, more powerful ones. I remember reading about the principles, but I didn’t come upon this type of card…

-

“I activate the spell card ‘Polymerization,’” Sweetie Belle declared, playing her card, “With this I send ‘Aria the Melodious Diva’ on my field and ‘Sonata the Melodious Diva’ in my hand to the graveyard…”

-

Rarity took two cards in her hand and inserted them into her graveyard. A swirling red and blue vortex appeared above the field, to which the shapes of two humanoids appeared in the air: One looked to be covered head to toe in a suit made of a reddish-brown and white streaked stone, akin to sardonyx, with a long chain dangling from its hands, a jagged, red spiky chunk hanging off one end of it. The other was wearing an almost jet-black suit of armor that still glistened akin to obsidian, a ring floating around its body composed to equally glistening orbs. The vortex began to suck the two beings into its eye, the two seemingly melding together like mixing colors. Rarity held her hands up at an angle.

“My valiant gems: The onyx red like fire. Obsidian, the shimmering blackness. Unite in your splendor, and create a new jewel, so that the world can bathe in its luster…”

Her hands came together, fingers intertwining, “Fusion Summon! Arise, my champion! Level 7 knight of passion, ‘Gem-Knight Citrine!’”

From within the vortex erupted a new being, landing into a kneeling position. It then arose to its feet; its figure encompassed entirely in a glistening bronze armor, complemented with a flowing navy cape. Its gauntlets glowing a warm, fiery red, with a matching stony greatsword brandished in one hand. The knight hefted its sword, resting the flat of the blade against its shoulder, looking as if the sword weighed nothing in its hands. (Level 7, 2200/1950)

“I activate the effect of Gem-Knight Obsidian in my graveyard,” Rarity declared, “When sent from my hand to the graveyard, I can Special Summon a level 4 or below Gem-Knight normal monster from my graveyard: Revive, ‘Gem-Knight Sardonyx’!”

A dark purplish portal appeared, from which the aptly named Gem-Knight Sardonyx arose, gripping its spiked ball and chain. (Level 4, 1800/900)

“Next, I Normal Summon ‘Gem-Knight Alexandrite’ in attack mode,” Rarity slapped a card on her tray.

Another glistening knight arose to her field; this one wearing a pearly white suit of armor with specific parts studded with a particular gem, including rubies, emerald, sapphires and opals. (Level 4, 1800/1200)

“I activate Alexandrite’s effect; by sacrificing him, I can Special Summon one Gem-Knight Normal Monster from my deck.”

Applejack in response, seemed to manage what looked to be a slight smile, “Well, that’s somethin’ Ah haven’t seen yet…”

This is very conflicting, Twilight thought looking between the two in the midst of their duel. First they seem to be dueling out of spite, but I keep spotting moments where they seem to be almost passionate…

A card slid out of Rarity’s deck, which was then shuffled the moment it was retrieved, “I summon ‘Gem-Knight Iolite’ in attack mode.”

Yet another glimmering knight arose on Rarity’s field, this one, as befitting it name, adorned in a slightly more minimalist bright blue armor. It flexed its right arm, emanating a metallic rattle, possibly indicating something about the cannon-like protrusion jutting from its gauntlet.

But even if she now has three monsters, Rarity’s down to only 300 life points. Applejack’s Guardioak is stronger than even that Fusion summoned knight. Plus she has two facedowns; for all we know she might have traps set up in case Rarity tries to counter.

“Next I activate Gem-Knight Fusion’s effect from the graveyard; by banishing a ‘Gem-Knight’ monster, like Obsidian, I can add it back to my hand,” two cards slid out of her graveyard, one being placed in the banished slot while the other went to her hand and back into her disk, “And I activate Gem-Knight Fusion a second time!”

Two Fusions in one turn?!

“I fuse my Gem-Knights Sardonyx and Iolite on the field,” to which the two knights hovered off the ground, the vortex once more appearing, sucking and blending the twos’ forms.

“My valiant gems: The onyx red like fire. The stone blue like oceans’ depths. Unite in your splendor, and create a new jewel, so that the world can marvel it its resplendence…”

“Fusion summon! Arise, my champion! Level 7 knight of spirit: ‘Gem-Knight Amethyst!’”

A new combined monster emerged alongside its citrine comrade; this one in a glistening amethyst purple armor, very similar in overall design to Citrine’s, complete with a matching cape, but with a differing helmet design and its right gauntlet brandished a forward pointing blade that looked blue like ice, and a shield looking like a spiraling mass of ice which it held forward in a hunched pose. (Level 7, 1950/2450)

“And now, I attack Gaurdioak with Gem-Knight Citrine!” Rarity held forth her arm in signaling one of her knight, the glimmering bronze knight hefting its sword off its shoulder to wield it with both hands.

What?! Guardioak is stronger! Twilight watched helplessly as the citrine knight lunged forth seemingly to its demise.

As Guardioak prepared its massive club to crush the charging knight, Rarity took a card from her hand and slid it into her graveyard. (Gem-Knight Citrine ATK 2200 -> 3200) The knight’s sword flared up in flames and cleaved the earthen ogre’s club in half before swinging it down vertically across its whole body. Guardioak’s body erupted in flames and it burst into bits.

Applejack Life Points: (800) 3200

“What did she-?!”

“By discarding ‘Gem-Merchant’ from my hand, a Gem-Knight gains a thousand attack points for the rest of the turn,” Rarity explained.

“But then why did Applejack not activate a facedown? Are they dummies?” Twilight wondered aloud.

“Gem-Knight Citrine prevents the opponent from activating cards and effects when it attacks,” Fluttershy chimed in, still grasping Applejack’s phone.

Rarity slid one card in her spell and trap ports, “I place a card facedown. My turn is concluded.”

(Hand: 1)

Turn 5: Applejack (Hand: 3)

Applejack smirked as she drew her next card, “Ah shoulda known. You had somethin’ up your lack of sleeves the entire time.”

Rarity did not reciprocate in the exact demeanor, “Because you urged me to. I wasn’t joking about just letting you do away with me, if you hate me so much.”

Applejack looked very uneasy at those words, “Ah… Ah don’t…”

“Then why? Why didn’t you just talk to me? Applejack; do you have any idea how I felt when I was waiting for you that day and you didn’t show up. Or when I tried to call you? Text you?”

“Rarity, please, just stop lyin’ to me,” Applejack said harshly as she placed her latest draw into her hand.

Rarity scoffed, “Come at me then.”

“Fine, Ah will,” she slid a card into her graveyard, “Ah discard ‘Sylvan Sagequoia’ to activate Princessprite’s effect; lettin’ me bring back Sylvan Guardioak!”

The purple graveyard rift opened: A familiar giant club emerged first, then the wooden hand gripping it. The lumbering tree ogre climbed its way back onto the field and brandished its massive weapon. (Level 6, 2400/1500)

Just then something erupted its way from the floor. A large tree arose, a face composed of squinted eyes, pouted lips with that looked like little spectacles at the top of a low stretching nose. Its leaf-heavy branches looked to almost form a puffy head of hair at its very boughs, sides and back, with three lengths of braided grass forming a beard underneath its lips. Four root-like tendrils snaked at the bottom of its trunk body. (Level 7, 2600/2100)

“When ‘Sylvan Sagequoia’ is sent to my graveyard from my hand, Ah can Special Summon him,” Applejack elaborated, having amassed four impressively powerful monsters on her field thanks to her deck’s unconventional mechanics, while her life points remained almost untouched, as opposed to Rarity who had a measly 300 left.

Neither of Rarity’s knights could stand up to Sagequioa with its 2600 attack points, and should it strike the vulnerable Citrine it would be the end. In a prolonging sense she could also use Sagequoia to destroy the defending Amethyst, take out the 200 points weaker Citrine with Guardioak and finish it with a full-on direct attack with Bladefender or Princessprite.

“Once each turn, Sagequoia lets me excavate one card,” the farmgirl spoke in confidence as she inspected her deck’s topmost card… Only to fall utterly silent, looking as if she’d perfectly frozen in place.

The silence that followed, barring the slight hum of the duel disk’s cooling systems and emitters, went on for an uncomfortable while. Applejack’s first motion was her looking up from the excavated card towards Twilight, her visage appearing distantly blank, with perhaps the slightest hint of confusion, or accusation.

“She found it,” Twilight thought to herself, locking eyes with the counterpart of one of her most stalwart friends. “She can deny all she wants and avoid the truth. But can she deny her heart?”

-

Applejack and Twilight’s eyes looked defiantly at one another. Only this time it was Twilight who was taking the assertive position. How could she have missed this card not being were it belonged? Obscuring the image of those happier times she’d rather had buried. At least, that’s what she had wanted. For two years she could never bring herself to toss that accursed photo, or the card serving as an eternal reminder of how she was betrayed. And yet, there it was, bereft of even the film of dust it had accrued behind the lamp.

“Applejack,” the memories of that one particular day came flooding back, “I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to give you this when we were alone,” she thought back to her sixteenth birthday, after the festivities a la Pinkie Pie had slowly come to a close, with Rarity being the last guest to remain, when she handed her a final gift in a golden plastic fold sleeve.

“I know you’re not exactly into… froufrou, but when I found it while gem hunting, I thought it would be perfect. Not only is it a plant-card, but I think she even looks just like you~”

-

Applejack said nothing as she slid the card into her graveyard as Sagequoia effect demanded. Twilight grit her teeth underneath her lips, hoping her engineered plan of reuniting two broken hearts would come to fruition.

The farmgirl forcefully pointed at Gem-Knight Citrine, “Ah attack Citrine with Sylvan Sagequoia for game!” Sagequoia’s tendril-like roots sank into the floor upon its master’s command.

Rarity’s facedown revealed itself as a trap. Whether or not Applejack was just confident, or desperate to have ignored the possibility was up for debate, but perhaps Rarity could still turn the tide in her favor.

“I activate ‘Pyroxene Fusion!’” Rarity responded, “This lets me perform a Fusion Summon using monsters in my hand and field as materials, “I send Gem-Knight Citrine and Gem-Knight Amethyst from my field, and ‘Gem-Knight Lazuli’ from my hand to the graveyard.”

The vortex appeared once more, the two knights on Rarity’s field arising towards it, when a third figure, a shorter, clay brown, almost like a little metallic girl with long tassels akin to pigtails appeared between the two, until the vortex swirled them together once more.

“My valiant gems: The knight of passion, the knight of spirit, the right hand of the Lady: Unite in your splendor to create the ultimate jewel, so the world may marvel at its perfect spectrum.”

Once more Rarity’s hands came together with fingers intertwined, “Fusion Summon! Arise, my champion! Level 9, Knight of Spectrums, ‘Gem-Knight Master Diamond!’”

A new knight emerged, more resplendent that the last, adorned in a pristine sparkling suit of armor that shimmered in the sun like the gemstone of its namesake. A large carved diamond rested at the center of its already shimmering chestplate, along with the upwards curving diamond horns adorning its slit helmet. Like its other higher tier brethren, a billowing cape hung from its back, a royal purple with a red inner layer. Hefting from the ground, it brandished its own massive sword, a black blade with pristine white edges affixed to a golden hilt, with a line of gems of each color of the spectrum adorning the central ridge. (Level 9, 2900/2500)

Spike barked cheerfully and pranced in place at the counterpart of the target of his affections. Even Twilight found herself calm, seeing the larger, glistening knight stand defiant before the quartet of monsters whose power it alone trumped.

“Gem-Knight Master Diamond gains one-hundred additional attack points for each ‘Gem’ monster in my graveyard,” Rarity added, “Sardonyx, Iolite, Lazuli, Citrine, Amethyst, and of course Gem-Turtle. (ATK: 100 x 5 = 500 + 2900 = 3400) However, when Gem-Knight Lazuli is sent to the graveyard by an effect, she lets me bring one Normal Monster from my graveyard to my hand. So I return Sardonyx back to my hand.” (ATK: 3400 – 100 = 3300)

“Ah call off my attack with Sagequoia,” Applejack replied, to which the tree rewound its tendrils back out of the nonexistent hole, “Ah change my other monsters to defense, then end my turn…”

(Hand: 2)

But, even with her new knight, Applejack still has her facedowns. Rarity would only attack safely thanks to Citrine’s effect…

Turn 6: Rarity (Hand: 1)

Rarity drew her next card, “I activate Master Diamond’s effect: By banishing one Gem-Knight Fusion Monster from my graveyard, his name is treated as that of the banished knight, and gains its effect,” a purple card slid out of her graveyard. “I banish Citrine, so now Master Diamond prevents you from activating cards and effects when he attacks.”

The orange gem embedded in Master Diamonds sword lit up, to which a fiery aura erupted around the great blade. (ATK 3300 – 100 = 3200)

Rarity swung forth and arm, “I attack Princessprite (DEF: 0) with Master Diamond!”

The towering knight charged with its flaming greatsword, thrusting at the reeling kimono adorned sprite, whose image erupted in flames. Applejack’s life points remained unchanged due to Princessprite being in defense position. Of course, now Applejack could no longer special summon plants from her graveyard.

Rarity looked at the two cards currently in her hand, “I end my turn.”

(Hand: 2)

Turn 7: Applejack (Hand: 2)

Applejack drew her next card before indicating Sagequoia, “Ah activate Sagequoia’s effect again,” to which she flipped over the top card of her deck. Not saying a word, she placed the card at the bottom of her deck, meaning it wasn’t a plant monster.

The farmgirl looked at her hand, appearing uncertain what to do. Twilight assumed she had nothing in her hand for the time being to deal with Rarity’s glistening Master Diamond, who stood defiantly ahead of his master, sword held to the side as if to shield her from oncoming threats. The view was fitting, to say the least, knowing the Equestrian Rarity’s penchant for dramatics and love of gemstones.

-

Applejack’s current hand was… Not preferable, to say the least. Her facedowns had served as an excellent deterrent; ‘Sylvan Waterslide’, which at the moment would do nothing. Her second, ‘Wall of Thorns’ was the ultimate game breaker in this scenario, were Rarity foolish enough to attack brazenly. But of course, Rarity would not attack as such; she was no Rainbow Dash and her eye for detail would deter her from such a simple mistake. She knew her so well. Just like Applejack should have known that she would have had something to counter her brute force rush she had intended.

Of course, the card she just drew could even the odds…

-

“Ah activate ‘Fragrance Storm,’” Applejack made her play, a familiar card materializing on the field.

That’s the one she used against Rainbow Dash: She sacrifices a plant monster to draw a card, and if she draws a plant type monster, she can draw again…

“Ah sacrifice my Bladefender,” the plant swordsman burst into bits upon Applejack’s declaration, “To which Ah draw a card,” and she did, her expression hinting at desperation. She inspected the card, then flipped it over, revealing itself as a monster, “Ah drew ‘Mariña, Princess of Sunflowers,’ so Ah can draw again…”

-

The first card she drew could work, but the only means she could do so now… She prayed her next draw would be something preferable, hopefully A Feather of the Phoenix to- Wonder Clover. Great…

Applejack looked at Mariña, Princess of Sunflowers: It’s 2800 attack points were insufficient against the 3200 of Master Diamond. And even if she wanted to summon her, she would have to give up both Sagequoia and Guardioak, all for a meaningless summon. Perhaps if she put her faith in Sagequoia once more…

-

“Ah activate the effect of Sagequoia,” Applejack once again flipped over her top card.

-

‘Sylvan Mikorange’. That would not help her, even as she slid the card into her graveyard slot. Doing so increased her monsters’ attack by three-hundred, still not enough. Would it have been Marshalleaf she could have left Rarity defenseless. Dammit, it was as if her deck was deliberately working against her.

Of course, there was a way she could summon Mariña easily and still make use of her ability. She could just attack with Sagequoia or Guardioak for minimal damage and use her ability to destroy Master Diamond, leaving Rarity open for the final blow with no facedowns. But that would mean having to…

“Oh, sugar cube…” the memory echoed in her mind, “You’ve already given me too much. It’s enough just to have ya and everyone else together with me. Especially you, darlin’.”

“But this is special. I picked this one specifically to represent something most dear: It may be a card to anyone else, but between us… It represents us; our hearts, and my love for you.”

“Rarity…” Applejack uttered, her finger hovering over the icon accessing her duel disk’s graveyard.

-

Twilight watched on as the farmgirl went silent, her finger only inches away from her duel disk’s screen.

Her heart is conflicted,” a familiar echo reverberated inside her mind.

Twilight surreptitiously glanced around, when she spotted a familiar pink-haired figure in white hovering just to the side, emerald tome still grasped in her hand. No-one else reacted to the Priestess’ presence, indicating she was the only one capable of seeing the spirit.

Priestess?” Twilight reached out with her mind, “You’ve been watching too?

The spirit looked at Twilight with a serene smile, “You really are a clever one, Twilight. You snuck the card into Applejack’s deck in her sleep and brought them together for a clash between their souls. A true Game of Darkness it is not, but it seems working.” The spirit looked at Applejack, her smile flattening out slightly, “All we can do no is see whether or not she will follow what her heart is telling her, or if she would rather accept defeat. Or worse, crush her other half…

Twilight looked worriedly at the Priestess, who had subsequently vanished following her ominous remark. Applejack still hadn’t done what she had been hoping. All it would take was finding the symbol of her heart, or remain stubborn to the end and have it shattered in her denial. Twilight’s unknowingly clenched her hands tight, praying to whatever powers that be that Applejack would make the right decision.

“Ah…” Applejack’s lips pursed, shutting her eyes as her finger touched the screen, “Ah activate ‘Rose Lover’s’ effect in my graveyard!”

The image of the lady in the red rose-themed dress appeared behind Applejack. The projection of the card really did emphasize on the similarities between her and Applejack, as her blonde hair flowed in a nonexistent breeze. A saddened expression decorated the beautiful maiden’s features, as she brought a gloved hand to her lips. With a grandiose motion, she swept her arm out in a blown kiss, a single petal wafting from her onto Applejack’s field. A light erupted from where the petal landed.

“By banishing her from my graveyard, Ah Special Summon ‘Mariña, Princess of Sunflowers’ from my hand!”

From the light arose a giant closed bud of a flower. The bud immediately sprang open into a radiant, giant sunflower, from within its center a womanly figure uncovering her pristine, tanned face. Conjoined to the center of the flower by her waist, donning a red-skin tight vest decorated with silvery white petals and matching arm-length gloves. A headdress composed of an arching cloth and lined with golden petals adorned her equally golden hair, her eyes revealing themselves a radiant fiery orange. (Level 8 2800/1600)

“You did keep it…”

Both Applejack and Twilight looked at Rarity, her alabaster face frozen into an expression of indetermination. Her right hand found its way to her sternum once again as a slightly breeze wafted her elegant purple curls. Twilight swore to have seen something glistening off her well-cared skin.

“Applejack…” she mouthed the name, almost unheard, but it was evident from just watching her lips.

Looking over to Applejack, the farmgirl held a single card in her hand, whereas her eyes were affixed to Rarity. Twilight held her breath, her stomach twisting as she anxiously awaited what was to come next.

“All we can do no is see whether or not she will follow what her heart is telling her, or if she would rather accept defeat. Or worse, crush her other half…”

Breaking the silence was the clap of a boot against the floor. Applejack stepped forth, hesitating as she moved one foot ahead of the other, then again, and again, until she’d gone past her monsters and onto Rarity’s side of the field. She walked past Master Diamond…

-

As soon as she’d passed the diamond white knight with his giant greatsword, there was nothing between them. Applejack, still grasping the Rose Lover card, not having slid it into the banished slot as her disk continued to remind her, stood still, gazing into the pair of sapphire eyes before her, framed by the slightly wafting purple hair. She thought she could have seen it even from across the field, a little shimmer trailing down from one of those very eyes.

“You kept… my heart…” she whispered a tear rolling down her other eye.

Applejack may be self admittedly headstrong and stubborn, but she just couldn’t stand it anymore. Never letting go of the heart she grasped in her right hand, she closed the distance between them and threw her arms around Rarity, even if her weighted left arm made it awkward. Her right slung around Rarity’s back and pressed tightly, yet gently close to Rarity’s right shoulder. As her freckled cheek pressed against the side of Rarity’s head, her Stetson fell off her head, which she very much didn’t care to notice. She could feel as Rarity’s arms found themselves wrapping around her lower back.

“Ah'm sorry…” Applejack mouthed, a single tear trailing down from her eye as she embraced Rarity. “Ah’m so sorry…”

Rarity said nothing, only snuggling herself closer against Applejack’s cheek, her fingers caressing at her firm back.

-

Twilight brought a hand to her mouth, a sniffle escaping her nose. Fluttershy on the other hand, was shedding tears beside her, sniffling profusely, seeing the two opponents embrace in the middle of a duel. Twilight put a comforting arm around the pink-haired girl’s shoulder, giving her a side-hug.

“We did it,” she whispered in assurance to Fluttershy, “We really did it; we mended two broken hearts…"

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