• Published 24th Oct 2020
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Danganronpa: In Harmony's Wake - Dewdrops on the Grass



Trapped on a cruise ship with fifteen others, all with lost memories, Sunset Shimmer struggles to survive a killing game orchestrated by a mysterious being only known as Monoponi. Post Season Nine FIM. Now complete!

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Chapter Six: Dead in the Water Part 4

Chapter Six
Dead in the Water
Trial Part 3

Cozy’s echoing laughter filled the courtroom as my fellow passengers and I stood in mute horror. “The real fun begins?” I whispered. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Her mouth snapped shut as she leered at me, those scarlet eyes as full of malice as Monoponi’s ever were. “What do you think, Sunset?” she scoffed, taking a moment to examine her fingernails. “It’s my turn to shine! This is the part where the mastermind talks all about her plans, right?”

“Scootaloo wasn’t kidding,” I replied. “You really are a fangirl, aren’t you?”

“Goodness me, of course I am!” Cozy tittered, a nasty little laugh that sent goosebumps running up and down my spine. “Ever since I showed up in this Celestia forsaken human world, the only good thing I’ve found about it is Danganronpa. Oooh if only I’d known about it while I had control over the School of Friendship… can you imagine the sort of killing game a bunch of ponies and other creatures who don’t understand friendship would play out?”

“The what now?” Applejack inquired, a look of confusion on her face.

“The School of Friendship,” Cozy repeated, glaring at the farmer. The tip of her wand rose to point at Applejack briefly, before dropping back down while Cozy smiled. “Of course you wouldn’t know what that is. You’re not the real Applejack. You’re just the pathetic human version of her. Not that the real one is any better!”

Applejack’s lips pulled back, her muscles rippling as she unconsciously brought up her fists. “Ah ain’t a fake! Ah’m me!”

“Don’t let her get to you, Applejack,” I said, despite feeling equally upset on her behalf. “Cozy’s too stupid to understand that people are people.”

“Stupid? Stupid?!” Cozy’s left eye twitched, then bugged out as she raised her wand to point at me. A small jet of scarlet red light shot out, wrapping itself around my throat just like a telekinetic field would. “Let’s see how stupid you think I am when you’re choking to death, Sunset!”

I didn’t give her the satisfaction of struggling, because I knew she was bluffing. The magic grip wasn’t tight at all; I could still breathe easily. “I told you before, Cozy, it’s not scary anymore. Nice try though.”

One corner of her mouth quirked up before she burst into peals of laughter. “Ohohoho, oh Sunset, this is just like old times. Well, with a few more death threats, of course!”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said in a flat tone.

Releasing her magic hold on me, Cozy lowered her wand to her side. “No, I guess you wouldn’t. Too bad. We did have lots of fun together.” She raised a finger at me and waggled it in a chiding gesture. “Oooh, but you’re not going to distract me. I told you I was going to tell you all about my plans. Don’t you want to hear them?”

“No, not really,” Tiara grumbled under her breath. “But you’re going to tell us anyway.”

“Oh boo, Diamond Tiara, and here I thought we got along sooo well,” Cozy said with a sadistic grin on her face. She fluttered her eyelashes at the rich elitist. “We never did get to kiss. Should we make up for lost time?” She puckered her lips up and made kissing noises.

Tiara slapped a hand over her mouth as her face turned green. “N-no,” she whimpered. “Please no.”

Cozy shrugged in a playful manner. “Alright. Your loss.” Facing me, she brought up her wand and pointed it at me. I flinched, expecting more magic to fly out, but it seemed she was using it just to gesture with, because nothing happened. “So, tell you what, Sunset. Since we’ve been doing such a wonderful job playing with the Danganronpa formula, why don’t we turn this into a question session. You can ask me what you’re wondering, and I’ll actually answer it instead of giving you grief. Sound fun?”

“Oh yeah, tons of fun,” I said with a fake smile.

Cozy beamed anime-style, cocking her head to the side and closing her eyes and everything. “Great! Let’s get started.”

Rarity reached out to tug on my shirt sleeve. “Sunset!” she whispered, giving me a scared look as she leaned in. “She’s crazy! What’re we going to do?”

“I’m working on it, Rarity,” I whispered back. Facing our captor, I said in a louder voice, “Okay, first question, Cozy: how are you alive?”

“Oooh, that’s a really good question, Sunset!” Cozy grinned, showing off her teeth. Much like her Monoponi disguise, her teeth were pointier, sharper than they should be even for a human. Whether that was the real deal or an affectation, I couldn’t be sure. “So, once upon a time, a cute foal named Cozy Glow started attending Twilight Sparkle’s School of Friendship. All she wanted to do was make more friends than any other pony ever had, but what did Twilight and her friends do?”

She abruptly slammed both fists onto her podium, her eyes glowing with an unnatural scarlet light. “THEY IMPRISONED HER IN TARTARUS!

Tiara screeched and dove under her podium, covering her head with her hands. Applejack let out a deeper yelp and took a few steps back, but managed to keep her cool. Rarity reached out and clung to my arm, thankfully my good arm and not the broken one. Scootaloo, meanwhile, seemed mostly unfazed, her rapid breathing the only sign she was worried.

I simply stood up straighter and asked, “Princess Celestia wouldn’t imprison anypony in Tartarus without a good reason. What’re you leaving out, Cozy?”

Cozy giggled like a schoolgirl. “Oh nothing big. I just maybe used a few magical artifacts to create a spell that drained all the magic in Equestria so I could use it instead.”

My jaw fell open. “You did what?!”

“Well that don’t sound that bad…” Applejack said, scratching her head in confusion.

“See?” Cozy snickered, gesturing with her wand towards Applejack. “Fake Applejack gets it.”

“For pete’s sake, Ah’m not... “ Applejack trailed off, growling obscenities under her breath.

I rapidly shook my head. “But that’s absurd! Do you know how many ponies you could’ve killed doing that? How many were on life support, or depended upon magic for food preservation? Not to mention Cloudsdale and the other pegasi communities depend on magic just to stay afloat! No wonder they imprisoned you. It sounds like it was too good for you.”

“Who cares about some stupid ponies who’re too old and frail to keep on living?” Cozy sneered with a shrug that made me want to punch her in the face. “What matters is power. And that’s what I was after. And Twilight and her friends denied me!

“Hey!” Scootaloo shouted, aggressively flipping Cozy off with her right hand. “People matter, no matter how ‘old’ or ‘frail’ they are! They’re just as important as everyone else, you jerk!”

Cozy’s mouth turned down as she raised one eyebrow, looking at Scootaloo like she was an insect crawling on her sandwich. “I’m sorry, I don’t think your opinion matters, fake Scootaloo. The real you is way less annoying and preachy. And I still can’t stand her face.”

“For goodness’ sake, would you stop referring to us as fakes?!” Rarity ground out through gritted teeth. “We are not fake people just because there are ponies who happen to look and sound just like us!”

Cackling at the top of her lungs, Cozy gave Rarity a simpering grin. “As if I care what you think. It’s too bad you didn’t die, you know. Wanna know how Twilight was supposed to kill you?” She leaned in, held a hand up to her mouth and stage whispered, “It was supposed to be lead poisoning!”

“Wait, so you didn’t just plan the victims and blackeneds, but the murder methods too?” Tiara asked.

“Weeeellll…” Cozy snickered and rolled her eyes. “Sort of. I made sure certain things were available that I figured you would be drawn to with your personalities.”

“But you screwed up,” I said.

Fact #1: Mastermind’s Diary Fragment: “‘What the hell was wrong with Timber? Why couldn’t he have drugged Wallflower right? Why did he make such a stupid note?!’”

“You couldn’t get things right, even from the start.”

Cozy’s left eye twitched as she growled at me, her hand dancing on her wand like she was itching to use it. Then she suddenly beamed at me. “Oh Sunset, even if I made a few mistakes, we still got here in the end, didn’t we? We still had five wonderful, fabulous murder trials! Six murders! And five survivors, all right here, listening to your good old Captain Cozy! Everything’s going my way.”

I still haven’t figured out what you need five survivors for. But I’m going to hold back on asking that question. Somehow, I feel like she won’t answer it yet. “If you say so. But let’s get back to my original question. What happened after you were imprisoned in Tartarus?”

“Well, that’s a good question, Sunset!” Cozy said, her voice syrupy in a way that made my skin crawl. “You see, I’d made an important penpal many moons prior, a mean old centaur named Tirek! He’s the one who taught me how to absorb magic. Everything I know about that, I got from him. So when I was imprisoned…” Cozy’s eyes glowed momentarily as her smile slipped. “I got to meet him face to face! But then this meaner, older goat named Grogar released us!”

“Grogar?” I whispered. “He’s a famous necromancer, but he’s been dead for thousands of years.”

“I know!” Cozy nodded, looking for all the world like a school teacher proud of her student. “It wasn’t even him! It was that stupid chaos freak Discord pretending to be him, all so he could ‘teach Twilight a lesson!’” She performed air quotes and stuck out her tongue. “Ugh, Discord. What a creep.”

“Takes one to know one,” Scootaloo murmured.

“So he got together with me, King Sombra, and Queen Chrysalis, and was trying to make us bond so we could conquer Equestria together,” Cozy continued while casually flipping Scootaloo off. “And for a while there, I thought it could work! United as one, we had the perfect opportunity to bury Twilight and her stupid friends for good. We even found Grogar’s Bell, and wow was that a rush! I still haven’t regained that level of power, and I’ve been trying my heart out!”

“Grogar’s Bell?” Rarity inquired, looking at me for an explanation.

I shrugged. “Some artifact of Grogar’s, could absorb power or something. I don’t remember much.”

“It was more than just a power absorber, Sunset. It was a game changer!” Cozy leaned back and sighed like a teenager in love. “We came so close to conquering Equestria with it too. But then Twilight had to cheat!” She shot up straight, her face twisted up in rage. “And do you know what she did to us? Do you know what she did?!”

“She petrified you,” I replied, resisting the urge to grin. “Can’t imagine it happening to a nicer group of people.”

With a flick of her wand, Cozy froze me in place. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breath, even my heart started to still in my chest. Naked, undeniable fear ran through my body as I screamed in my head, begging to be allowed to move. A stone shell slowly formed over my body, starting at the tips of my toes, running up my legs, my torso. Just before it got to my face, however, Cozy released the magic, and I crumpled to the floor. “Tell me, Sunset,” she said as I laid gasping for air. “Were you afraid, just now? Terrified that you’d never move again, that you’d be trapped in a single spot with your conscious mind running at every hour day or night, unable to scream or move or do anything?!

Her magic lashed out to hold me again, hauling me up to my feet and forcing me to stand, before releasing me. My whole body shook like a leaf as panic and adrenaline pumped through my veins, my pony instincts begging for me to run, run far away without looking back. “Y-y-y-yes... I’m a-a-fraid,” I said, my eyes watering. “I’m afraid!” I can’t handle that again! God, what was I thinking constantly provoking her like this? She’s terrifying!

“Good. You should be,” Cozy replied with a menacing grin. “Because now you have an inkling of what I went through!”

Tiara had hidden herself behind her podium, and I could hear her whimpering. Scootaloo was also hidden behind hers, whispering silent prayers. Rarity was frozen in mute horror, unable to speak or say anything. Only Applejack had the strength to speak up at this point, despite her own fear. “Um, beggin’ your pardon, but Ah would’ve thought bein’ turned to stone would mean your mind would too, and you wouldn’t feel anythin’.”

“You’d think that, wouldn’t you?” Cozy said. Her ears flattened against her skull as an ugly sneer pulled at her lips. “You’d think that they wouldn’t inflict the sheer hell of being awake while petrified on anyone, let alone a poor, helpless filly, but they did. They did!” Her sneer vanished as she broke into mad laughter, cackling higher and higher pitched by the second. “They did!”

“How long were you frozen like that?” I whispered, horror warring with certainty of justice in my heart. No one should have to suffer like that, not even a monster like Cozy. But what else could they have done? It’s Equestria. It’s not like Princess Celestia would execute anyone, least of all a foal.

“Two years,” came the sickly sweet reply. “Twenty-four months. Four of those months were spent in Equestria. The rest spent on this excuse for a mudball.” Cozy’s lips spread into a cunning smile. “I’ll bet you’re curious as to how we ended up here.”

“It was some kind of portal, wasn’t it?” I suggested. “Like the mirror portal.”

Cozy gestured with her wand towards me, her ears popping off her skull. “Exactly! Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of portals between Equestria and Earth floating around? I sure didn’t, not until our statue fell through one. And do you know who was waiting for us, on the other side?”

Scootaloo, who’d apparently managed to summon up some courage through her prayers, stood back up at her podium and said, “It was your alternates, wasn’t it?”

“Right again!” Cozy extended her wings out and posed like an innocent fairy, an image entirely at odds with her sinister nature. “Apparently, in this world, Tirek and Chrysalis were… ugh… my alternate’s parents. Can you believe that? That’s so sickening! And gross! To think I’d even be related to those two in any kind of way….augh it makes me want to puke!

“Wait, I got the impression the three of you worked well together, since that’s how you were able to attempt your coup of Equestria,” I said, frowning.

Cozy snorted, her nostrils flaring. “Oh, sure, maaaybe I tried to teach them a better way to be bad, once upon a time. I tried to be their friends, to work together to crush our enemies, but they never really learned. And the more time I spent with them, the more I hated them. It was their fault our coup failed! If they hadn’t wasted time with trash like Discord or Starlight Glimmer, we could’ve succeeded! I had a long time to think, stuck as a statue. A very, very long time, Sunset. I couldn’t sleep. I was awake every single second of the day. Do you have any idea how much longer days are when you can’t sleep?!”

“Ah’m guessin’ about eight hours longer?” Applejack quipped.

“Oh my word, Applejack, do not taunt her!” Rarity whined, fidgeting at her podium,.

“Seriously, Applejack, maaaybe don’t taunt the creepy pony girl,” I said with a sheepish grin.

“Oooh…” Cozy moaned, her lips swelling up into an atrocious pout, giving us puppy-dog eyes and a convincing sad sniffle as she drew her hands up beneath her chin, “You think I’m creepy?”

“Holy shit, yes!” Tiara shouted from behind her podium.

“You forced us to participate in this killing game,” Scootaloo added with a glare. “You’re not just creepy. You’re messed up!”

Cozy spread out her hands and wings. “What can I say? Guilty as charged!”

This is odd. She was in such a hurry before she revealed herself. Now she’s acting like she has all the time in the world. Something doesn’t feel right.

Right on cue as I thought that, the ship SHOOK like a rubber toy capsizing in a bathtub, everyone crumpling to the floor. Tiara shrieked as she skidded halfway across the courtroom, while Applejack barely managed to stay in place by holding onto her podium. Rarity fell over on top of me as we both rolled, every impact exploding through my body with waves of pain. Scootaloo kept the most control as she skidded on her feet and grabbed Diamond Tiara before Tiara could fall against the fall.

“Oh, finally!” I heard Cozy shout from somewhere in the room. “Took your sweet time, Princess!”

Then the ship righted itself, causing Rarity and me to roll over some more before we came to a stop. Rarity, to her credit, hauled herself to her feet immediately, and helped get me up to a sitting position. “I’m so sorry about that, darling,” she murmured. “Are you alright?”

I waved off her concern despite a few tears dripping from my closed eyes from the pain. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine… jeez…”

Obviously not taking my word for it, Rarity reached under my arm on my good side and used that amazing strength of hers to lift me onto my feet. “There. Better?”

I had to lean on her for support, but it was better, less pressure on my ribs. “Yes, thank you.”

Scootaloo helped guide Tiara back to her podium as Rarity and I returned to ours. Cozy seemed entirely unperturbed by what had just happened. “What the hell was that, Cozy?” I demanded.

Cozy let out a demented little giggle. “You’re about to find oooout!”

BANG!

The doors on the far side of the room exploded from a blast of lavender magic, sending wood chips and metal fragments flying everywhere. My heart soared as I beheld a figure flying in. Over six feet tall, purple and blue hair streaming down between two outstretched lavender wings gracing an evening gown and a small satchel worn by her side. Sharp amethyst eyes just like a pair that used to glare at me so much scanned the room, while her hands glowed with power, ready to unleash another blast. “Where are you, Monoponi?! I’m here to put an end to this!” announced Princess Twilight Sparkle in a magically-enhanced voice.

Confused, I looked over to where Cozy had been floating, only she’d vanished. Worry flooded my system, overtaking any sense of joy I had upon seeing her. “Princess Twilight!” I shouted, waving my arms frantically.

Twilight flew in with a burst of speed, still scanning the room as she came towards us. She smiled at me, but it was a grim smile. It was only as she entered the room that I realized she had something floating behind her in her magic grip, some sort of large cylindrical object, like an oversized metal cigar. A primitive computer display with a boxy-style screen lined one end, with a large keypad made for hoof-entry. “Sunset Shimmer!” she replied, a half smile gracing her face even as she continued to scan the room. “Diamond Tiara, Scootaloo, Rarity, Applejack! You’re all safe!”

“Uuuh, not really, Princess!” Tiara said. “You should really get out of here. Like, right away.”

But she didn’t seem to be listening as she continued to search the room. A boxy object with a long antenna floated out of her satchel, wrapped in her telekinetic field. “Avenger, I’ve found them. No sign of Monoponi yet.”

“Understood Princess,” squawked a staticy voice from her radio. “Advise extreme caution.”

“Yes, yes, I know, Captain, thank you…”

“Princess, please, listen to us!” Rarity added her cry. “It’s not safe! You need to run!”

“Upupupu, there’s no running for you, Princess Twilight!” Cozy’s Monoponi voice echoed throughout the room, jumping from source to source so it sounded bizarrely distorted and ephemeral, like a mirage.

“I don’t intend to run, monster!” Twilight said. She floated closer to the center of the room, getting near us as if she intended to shield us. She set down whatever object she had floating with her to the side. “Show yourself, you coward!”

“Seriously, Princess Twilight, you have to run! Now!” Scootaloo shouted.

Twilight grimaced. “Thank you, Scootaloo, but I can handle this.” She squeezed the button on her radio. “Avenger, Monoponi is here, but is making me search for him. I recommend retreating for now. No need to expose the ship to this one’s guns more than you have to.” The glow suffusing her hands intensified as she began casting a sensing spell. Magic laced across the room in streams, like watching an old 80s computer scan, forming a purple grid of lines.

“Already on it, Princess. We’ll hold at five miles till further notice.”

“Ahahaha!” Cozy’s Monoponi voice bounced around the room, all over the place like a rubber ball moving at highway speeds. “You’re not going to find me like that!”

“Oh I’ll find you, all right,” Twilight vowed as she grit her teeth and poured more magic into her search. as she did so, I started noticing that near the edges of the room, the lines… wavered. Trailing downward, disappearing into the floor like smoke being sucked into a vent. The instant I saw that I realized what Cozy was doing.

I waved my arms frantically again and shouted, “No, Princess Twilight, it’s a trap!

But it was too late. Before our eyes we watched as Twilight’s magic abruptly fed back on itself, runes lighting up all over the floor in a myriad of colors. As the lines curled backwards, threatening to form a cage, to her credit Twilight didn’t panic. “Avenger, Code Thistle! I’m arming the device! Retreat to a safe distance!” She inched closer to the device she’d left on the floor, pouring more magic into fighting off the absorbing spell even as she landed. Groaning from the effort, her teeth gritted, she had to let go of the magic with her left hand so she could punch in some sort of code.

“Princess, are you sure?!”

“Yes, damn it, go! I’ll get them out of here, don’t worry.”

I wanted to help. I wanted to do something, anything, but I couldn’t. I was helpless, forced to stand there and watch as she struggled against it, managing to input something enough for it to beep and echo, in a feminine voice, the word “Armed” before she collapsed, her own magic swirling around her to form ropes, hogtying her to the central display, and pinning her wings against her back. She tried to pour more magic into it, but every ounce she spent seemed to secure her harder. “Sunset!” she shouted as she looked at me with wide-eyed panic. “You have to finish what I was doing! Set the timer! Hurry!”

“What?” I gasped as I stared at her, stunned. Then I shook my head clear and started to make my way for the device. But before I could move more than an inch, a scarlet glow enveloped my fellow passengers and I, freezing us in place.

Then, like a mirage solidifying into reality Cozy appeared, hands raised in applause. Clap. Clap. Clap. “Well well, look at you, Princess, all tied up with nowhere to go. Very good job. I’m so impressed.” Withdrawing her wand from her dress she aimed it at Princess Twilight’s odd device and levitated it out of reach, setting it atop her throne. She erected a shimmering scarlet forcefield around it, then released her hold on us.

I heard Twilight gasp in sheer horror, fear contorting her face. “Cozy Glow?! Cozy Glow?! You’re Monoponi? How?! You’re supposed to be dead! I saw your body myself!”

Cozy unleashed another fusillade of maniacal laughter. “Oh my poor dear itty bitty widdle Pwincess, don’t worry your widdle head. I’ll explain everything before I kill you.”

Twilight struggled against her bonds, eschewing magic in favor of physical force. Her arm muscles rippled with effort as she strained, trying to break them. But it was no use. It was using her own magic against her. Everything she did just made it stronger. She looked up at me, tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Sunset, I thought I was ready for her trap, I wasn’t expecting--”

I held up a hand, and gave her a smile of confidence I did not feel inside. “It’s okay. You did your best.” Despite my reassuring words, internally my mind was screaming in panic, desperately trying to figure out how the hell we were going to get out of this situation. We were counting on you, Twilight! Augh, I should’ve expected you’d mess up. You really are our Twilight’s alternate, aren’t you?

“Some best,” Tiara moaned, terror undercutting her words. “We’re so screwed.”

“That you are, my lovely passengers!” Cozy tittered. She sauntered up to Princess Twilight and poked her in the cheek with her wand, trailing it down the Princess’s face like she was lovingly stroking with a finger. “Oh I cannot tell you how long I’ve waited to see this. This has been a long time coming, Twilight.” The tip of her wand moved along Twilight’s neck, poking her in the throat hard enough to elicit a drop of blood. “I could just stab you right now, but where would the fun in that be? Besides, I don’t know what this lovely little thing you’ve brought with you is. Care to tell me all about it?”

Twilight’s eyes were like twin orbs of hatred as she glowered at Cozy. “No.”

Cozy shrugged lazily. “Oh, fine. I’m sure I’ll torture it out of you later.”

“You’re not going to get away with this,” Twilight growled, refusing to show a sign of pain from her bonds. “My ship has orders to sink this one if I don’t return.”

“Your… your ship? Your ship?! Ahahahaaha!” Cozy whisked her wand away, spinning on her heels as she leaned her head back to laugh. “Ahahaha! You think that ship’s a threat to me? Oh you stupid little moron, the only reason you did any damage was because I let you.

With a flick of her wand she lit up the displays around the room, showing off security footage from outside the ship. The cameras zoomed in to show a ship moving at full speed away from us about a mile off the horizon, a vessel that, while large, looked absolutely puny in comparison to the cruise ship. It was much more advanced than I expected, like something out of the First Great War, which I didn’t even know Equestria could produce. Then again, she’s had access to Earth’s tech for at least, what, six, seven years? Maybe eight? No wonder they’re more advanced than they used to be. Go Equestria.

One of the wall displays shifted to a different image, showcasing a set of weapons aboard the cruise ship. Unlike the large cannons and machine gun barrels, this looked frightfully advanced. Rising up out from a hole in the deckplates were two long, lithe cylinders painted in white, with fins and rocket engines at the end. “Those are cruise missiles!” I yelped.

“Yes, they are!” Cozy said, nodding gleefully as a savage grin spread across her face. “Very powerful, these missiles. Nothing your dinky little outdated ship can do about them either. That’s all it’ll take, Princess Twilight. Two quick explosions and it’s all over for that ship. How many people are on it, I wonder? How many lives will I get to snuff out of existence?

“No, please, don’t destroy them Cozy!” Twilight babbled, all sense of defiance evaporating. “There’s over eight hundred ponies on that ship. You can’t!”

“I can’t? I can’t?!” Cozy whirled, pointing the tip of her wand right at Twilight’s chin. “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t.”

I raised my voice, “Twilight, don’t give in to her--”

A quick zap from Cozy’s wand was all it took to muzzle me, her magic clamped around my mouth like a vise. “Ah ah ah, Sunset, I’m not talking to you right now.”

“Please, Cozy,” Twilight pleaded. “Please don’t kill them. If you have any decency left in you, please don’t kill them.”

Cozy slowly shook her head. “Tsk tsk tsk, Princess. Haven’t you learned by now I have no decency at all?” She whirled on her heel, pointed her wand at the screen, and flicked it.

“No!” Twilight screamed as the missile's engines lit up and with a horrifyingly loud roar they soared off the platform, screaming their way towards the Equestrian ship. We watched in mute horror as they reached it within a few seconds, both erupting in a massive fireball.

And then it was gone. The ship was gone. Eight hundred souls, erased without a moment’s hesitation.

Along with any chance we’d ever escape.

Cozy cackled with mirth as she used her magic to withdraw Twilight’s radio from her hand and hold it up to Twilight’s mouth. “Go ahead, Princess. Check with them. See if they’re still alive.”

Twilight swallowed, tears running down her face, her voice shaking as she spoke into the radio. “Avenger, this is Princess Twilight. Respond.”

Nothing.

After about thirty seconds Cozy waved a hand for Twilight to try again. “Avenger, this is Twilight. Respond, please!”

Still nothing but static.

“Damn it, Swifty, Shiny, answer me!”

No answer came. After a couple of moments, Twilight broke down crying. “No…”

“Ahahaha!” Cozy laughed as she shoved the radio back into Twilight’s satchel. “I guess they’re gone! Oopsie! Here, keep this as a memento!”

My heart sank in my chest till it felt like it’d pooled into my feet. Despair opened its jaws wide, yearning to take me inside, to suck me down into an eternal, endless abyss of hopelessness. I wanted to scream right along with Twilight, but Cozy’s magic kept me silent. But it didn’t stop the tears falling down my cheeks. It didn’t stop the pain in my chest, the hurt. It didn’t stop the spreading of numb apathy throughout my body. It didn’t stop me from wanting to give up.

To my left, I heard Rarity break into loud sobs. To my right, Scootaloo did the same, albeit quietly, with a bit more angry punching of her podium. Tiara dropped to the floor entirely, her face going blank, like she’d fallen into shock. Applejack took her hat off, but instead of holding it to her breast like she usually did in moments like this, she set it down on her podium, and then crumpled atop it. No crying, no tears. Just quiet breathing.

Princess Twilight wept quietly for several long moments until she uttered, “Why...? Why?!”

“To prove a point,” Cozy said simply. She returned to her own podium. “I told you, Princess, when I contacted you over that lovely television I sent you, that I’d keep the killing going till everyone you cared about was dead. I’m sick of playing by your rules. I want power, I’m going to get power, and anyone in my way dies. It’s that simple.”

“You monster,” Twilight choked through her tears. “You horrible monster.”

“Yes, yes, I’ve heard it all before,” Cozy groused, rolling her eyes. “Do you know how many times these people said it to me? They said it a lot. Golly, I loved running the killing game, but who knew it’d be so frustrating dealing with these morons?” She glanced my way and with a flick of her wand the magic covering my mouth vanished. “You may speak now, Sunset.”

“What’s there to say?” I said, a bitter laugh tumbling from my lips. “You… you’ve won. What’s the point?”

“Aww, don’t be like that, Sunset,” Cozy said while making her puppy dog eyes at me. “There’s still plenty to talk about! I’ve got all kinds of things I want to explain.”

“Who gives a fuck?” Scootaloo moaned, before beating her head against her podium softly. “Just kill us already. Get it over with.”

Cozy chuckled, then unleashed a full set of evil giggles. “Sowwy, Scootawoo, but that’s not going to happen until I’m done.”

More sorrow filled my breast at the thought. She’s going to use us, abuse us, then kill us. We’re fucked. I’m sorry, Trixie, everyone… I… I tried, but what am I supposed to do?! I…

I took in the sight of my fellow passengers, of Princess Twilight, of Cozy posing before us. Everyone was in the depths of despair, completely lost, like they couldn’t think or breathe anymore. Just like I’d been when I was told I was the traitor.

Somehow, that buoyed my spirits. Like it was giving me a cause to fight for. I didn’t give up then either, I realized. So why should I give up now? We’re still alive, right? So’s Princess Twilight. Maybe… maybe we don’t have a ship now, okay, but so what? If we’re alive, there’s a chance.

I took in a deep breath, steeled my nerves, and stood up straight. There’s always a chance.

“Okay, Cozy, we’ll play along,” I said.

“Yay!” Cozy said, wiggling her hands like a four year old. “I’m so excited.”

“We will?” Rarity breathed, her expression aghast as she looked at me. “Sunset, why--”

I reached out and took her hand, giving it a squeeze. “Trust me.”

She sniffled, nodded, and replied, “I can do that.”

“Ah suppose Ah can too,” Applejack rumbled as she pushed herself up off her podium. Her face wasn’t tear stained or anything, but she looked exhausted, as if she’d suddenly gone several days in a row with no sleep. “C’mon, Scootaloo, up on your feet now.”

Scootaloo allowed Applejack to tug at the back of her shirt to help lift her up. “Fine. But don’t expect me to talk much. I… I can’t take much more of this.”

I glanced over at Tiara, who was still catatonic behind her podium, but she didn’t move. I sighed and decided to leave her to it for now. “Okay, Cozy, you were just telling us how you survived.”

Princess Twilight, who’d been too busy crying to pay much attention, perked up at those words, her ears shooting up from her head in a way that, in a different circumstance might’ve been considered adorable. “I’d like to know that too.”

“Oh, well, I don’t want to bore you by repeating too much information…” Cozy said with a chuckle. “But since Princess Twilight over here didn’t hear it, let me abbreviate: portal. Statue fell through. Was found by my alternate and her parents. Two years in stone.”

Twilight’s face worked through a myriad of expressions as she took that in, then she asked, “So then how’d you get free of the petrifying spell?”

“Good question!” Cozy said like a schoolteacher praising a student, cackling when saw Twilight’s hate-filled returning glare. “Soooo, you see, my alternate wasn’t very smart. Nowhere near as smart as me. But she was interested in what humans call the occult. And what we real people call magic studies.”

“Real people?” Twilight said.

“Yes, Twilight, real people, like you, and me. Ponies!” Cozy flared her wings out and waggled her ears for emphasis. “Not these stupid humans. I hate humans. I hate being human! I don’t even like these fingers! I mean sure, they’re handy, but uuugh. At least when I was disguised as Monoponi I was a proper pony!”

Twilight started to growl something in response, but I interrupted her, “Don’t bother, Princess. We’ve had to sit through a lot of that already. She won’t listen.”

“So, anyway,” Cozy continued as if we hadn’t spoken, “Like I said, my alternate was really into magic. She thought we were demons. Demons! What even is a demon? Stupid human nonsense, that’s what. But her parents… aargh!” Cozy abruptly pitched over her podium, retching, though thankfully she didn’t actually expel anything onto the floor. “I can’t say it anymore. It’s so gross.”

“Then just say their names,” Applejack said, her tone harsh.

“Oooh, but I can’t stand those either… augh. Okay, okay.” Cozy stood up straight and smoothed out her dress. “Tirek and Chrysalis--”

“Wait, Tirek and Chrysalis were your alternate’s parents?!” Twilight shouted, her face twisted up in disgust.

“I know, right? Blech!” Cozy wriggled like a millipede. “Can’t stand it. And stop interrupting me. So rude!” She sighed, brushed her hair back, then grinned at us. “So, Tirek and Chrysalis were just as interested in magic as their… as my alternate was, and they thought we were demons too! They started worshipping us, hoping we’d wake up one day. They tried all kinds of silly pointless things, fake human magic to wake us up.”

“Hold on a second,” I said, something having just occurred to me. “When you went through the portal, did your bodies change?”

Cozy tittered. “Nope! We were still our perfect selves!”

“But that’s not possible!” Twilight objected, shaking her head despite the ropes. “I-I--it took years of effort to solve the problem of the portal’s transformation magic twisting up technology! Starswirl only solved it because he had that television you sent us that proved it was possible to do that, but even then, there’s still no way to prevent it from changing us.

Cozy winked at me like she was about to crack an in-joke before saying, “Nope! That’s wrong! There is a way. And it’s all to do with petrification.”

“Petrification…” Twilight repeated. “Petrification… how could it… oh, of course! Because a petrification spell turns you to stone and binds your mind to the statue, you’re like an inanimate object instead of a living being! So the portal’s magic must’ve sent you through untouched. Except… that still should’ve weakened the petrification spell, because the portal tries to strip magic away whenever you cross over to this side.”

“And that’s exactly what happened,” Cozy said with a nod. “After almost two years of listening to those morons waste their time with pointless rituals and other crap, we were released! And oh, I was mad. I was so mad! I was sick and tired of dealing with these idiots. So do you know what the very first thing I did was?”

I gulped. “You killed them, didn’t you? Your alternate and… and Tirek and Chrysalis’ alternate.”

“What? No!” Cozy let out a massive groan before slapping her free hand to her forehead. “Good grief, Sunset, do you think I was born bloodthirsty? No, no, no. The first thing I did was yell at them. I told them how stupid they were for thinking we were demons, how tired I was of listening to them prattle on about this and that. Tirek and Chrysalis--my Tirek and Chrysalis--weren’t any happier. There was a lot of shouting and yammering and blah blah blah!”

Twilight fidgeted like she was trying to raise her hand. “Wait, but then how did you get from that to where we are now?”

“I’m getting to that!” Cozy screeched. She waved her wand around and fired off a jet of light that exploded against the far wall past the doors Twilight had blown in, then sighed. “Ugh, stop interrupting me. I can’t stand when people interrupt me.”

I managed to fight down the urge to snark at her as we waited for her to calm down. “So after all the yelling was done, the humans wanted us to leave. But I wasn’t going to. Oh no. I worked on so many plans for revenge while I was trapped in stone. I was so eager to grind you into the dust where you belong, Twilight! And it turns out, we were lucky. See, the reason our alternates could afford to spend all this time worshipping us like morons was because they were filthy rich.

“Daddy?” Tiara murmured, showing the first sign of awareness in quite some time.

“No, not your Daddy,” Cozy growled at her through gritted teeth. “It turned out Tirek’s alternate was the CEO of QGT, and Chrysalis’ alternate was CFO of RECL. Can you believe that luck? These two rich morons had no idea the power they commanded. And they were grooming my alternate to be important too. So by the time we were freed, I’d already settled on a plan. And it would just take a little bit of effort. Oh, and the magic of my two former allies. But who cares about them? They were stupid. Chrysalis had so many issues about her hive stuck up her bug butt she couldn’t get over it, while Tirek, all he cared about was how hungry he was. But me? I’m more than that.”

“Your first plan nearly killed thousands of ponies across Equestria!” Twilight shouted, her face twisted in rage. “Your second plan blew up half of Canterlot and would’ve caused our whole society to collapse! What makes you think your third plan would do any better?”

Cozy’s lips spread in a simpering smile. “You’re right. My old plans were stupid. Accumulating friendship? Wiping out society with Windigos? No no no. That won’t do. I had plenty of time to come to grips with that. To accept my mistakes. To see what truly mattered. Because see, what truly matters, is power. Control. I don’t need to make everyone love me or fear me. I don’t need to split society apart. I just need to take it over.”

“And you were going to do that with this ship,” I said.

She dismissed me with a wave of her hand. “Yes, yes, we’ll get there. I’d learned a lot, frozen in stone. They’d put our statue on display inside their home, somewhere where they not only worshipped, but also had a lot of board meetings via the internet. So I paid attention. I listened. I learned all about the way their world worked, as much as I could. So after we yelled at them, I started to use my charm. The other Tirek and Chrysalis, they… ugh, as soon as they realized their daaau... “ She stuck her tongue out and shook her head. “Their kid was my alternate? They started doting on me. Like we were twins.”

“And just like you did with my friends and I, you played the pure, innocent child, didn’t you?” Twilight sneered.

Cozy flipped a hand through her hair and smiled. “But of course. I’m oh so good at it, don’t you know? They forgot pretty quickly the things I said when I shouted at them. But Tirek and Chrysalis, they were a problem. Chrysalis, she had enough magic left to take a human form, but Tirek couldn’t do that. So he was forced to hide, just like I did, while Chrysalis got to walk around with the humans.”

“Wait, hang on a second,” I said, holding up my hands. “I’m getting confused. I need to ask Princess Twilight something.”

Rolling her eyes, Cozy gestured to the bound Princess. “Go ahead. Suit yourself.”

I took a hesitant step from my podium, but when Cozy cleared her throat and raised her wand, I stepped right back. Okay, no whispering. Fine. “Princess Twilight, first of all, I’m… I’m sorry you had to try and come rescue us. We don’t remember much of you at all, but unless I’m wrong, we’re friends… right?”

Twilight managed a watery smile and a nod. “Yes, Sunset. Best friends. I had to save you. I had to try.”

I nodded. “I wish I could remember. I…we figured out why we lost our memories. It was because Cozy stole my magic.”

“Your magic?” Twilight repeated, puzzled. Then a look of comprehension dawned on her. “Of course, the Memory Stone. It left an imprint you could utilize.” The look faded into more sorrow. “I’m so sorry I never thought about that, Sunset. If I’d realized it left something you could’ve used, I would’ve offered to find a way to wipe it. Magic like that is too dangerous to keep around.”

“Hey!” Cozy shouted, her lips pulled back into a sneer. “Is this going anywhere, Sunset, or are you just going to prattle on giving the Princess a recap?”

Grimacing, I flashed Twilight an apologetic look. “Princess, you said you saw Cozy’s body, right? What exactly did you see?”

What little sparkle was left in Twilight’s eyes flashed into fury. “We found Tirek, Chrysalis, and Cozy’s bodies frozen in a glacier on Mount Everhoof. They appeared to have died while fighting each other. Chrysalis had impaled Cozy on her horn, while she was eviscerated by Tirek.”

“Holy shit…” Scootaloo whispered, her jaw dropping. “That’s disgusting.”

“Yes, it was,” Twilight agreed, her fury growing. “And now I think I understand how we were fooled. You used the human Tirek, Chrysalis, and Cozy, didn’t you?!”

Cozy let out a sinister laugh. “I did! And you bought it, hook, line, and sinker. You, and Discord, and every other stupid little pony working under you. Oh and before you ask, I am getting to how they ended up on Mount Everhoof. Just be patient. You can do that, can’t you, Pwincess? Since you’re so much older than I am?”

“No wonder we thought the bodies were legitimate,” Twilight continued, heedless of Cozy’s words. ”Because they were. They were just the wrong ones. Why didn’t that cross my mind?! I should have seen this coming! If I’d only bothered to--”

“Uuugh, would you just shut up?” Cozy groaned before raising her wand and zapping Twilight’s mouth shut with a scarlet telekinetic field. “I asked you to be patient. So. Be. Patient!”

Rarity leaned over to me and whispered, “Maybe she should take her own advice.”

Cozy’s ears pointed our way. “What was that?”

Blanching, Rarity stood up straight and took two fingers to run across her mouth like a zipper.

“So, where was I? Oh yes. Like I said before, my alternate was huge into magic, even if she was too stupid to know the difference between real spells and rituals and the fake stupid human crap. You get the picture. But she did have one very interesting book. She couldn’t read it, but I could! You might recognize it, Princess.” Cozy pointed her wand at the ceiling, and a book flashed into existence. It was an Equestrian tome, much like the ancient book on the Memory Stone, only this one was one even I recognized.

“Is that… one of Starswirl the Bearded’s journals?!” I gasped.

Cozy made the book vanish into the aether. “Got it in one, Sunset, very good. Specifically, one of his journals on the mirror portal. You know, the only portal ever stabilized? Well maybe he forgot in his old age, but old Beardy actually did a lot of research with it! Somehow the book must’ve fallen through and ended up passed down until it was in my alternate’s family’s collection. By using it, I figured out how we ended up on Earth, and that there were a lot of other portals out there. Enough that I found a way back home, one that led to, naturally, the top of Mount Everhoof.”

Twilight mumbled something through her magic gag, loud enough that Cozy sighed and undid the hold. “But we never witnessed you in Equestria. Not alive.”

“Of course not,” Cozy scoffed. “Like I said, I had a plan. You see, Starswirl’s journal wasn’t the only book from Equestria my alternate had. I discovered, early on, an even more impressive tome: a full spellbook from Grogar himself.”

“Which is how you knew all the necromancy and healing spells you’ve been using,” I said.

“That’s right,” Cozy nodded. “Not just that though. He had other spells too! Turns out that Sombra's mind control spell was originally based on Grogar's work. And the Staff of Sacanus? He made that staff, based upon his own weather spells. And the best part? Some of those spells could be used by me even as a pegasus! They were really hard. But I practiced performing them. I didn’t have enough power to make them work on Earth, but I wanted to memorize the method. Then, when I was ready, I told the Equestrian Chrysalis and Tirek about the portal. I made it sound like we were gonna go home and set up a new base to conquer Equestria with. They were both so happy they didn’t notice that the instant we crossed over, I started up the ritual. They sure noticed when I stole their life away, though! Ahahahaha!” She leaned back to unleash her cackles. “Ahahahaha!”

Twilight scowled at her. “I don’t know why I should feel surprised. Of course you killed them. And if you used necromancy… you are beyond evil, Cozy.”

“Betcha you’re wishing you’d killed me when you had the chance, huh?” Cozy said, waggling her eyebrows at the Princess.

I saw Princess Twilight move one hand enough to extend a middle finger. “I have never wanted to kill someone as badly as I do you,” she hissed.

“Ooooh, but you have wanted to kill people before? Naughty naughty, Pwincess Twiwight. Whatever would Cewestia say to that?” Cozy said, her speech regressing to something far more childlike, probably to wind Twilight up.

And it worked. Twilight’s lips pulled back as she growled under her breath. For a moment, just a moment, I saw her eyes flash with power, her hair and wings doing likewise before she groaned as Cozy’s magic-sucking trap forced it right back into securing her bonds even further. “You…”

I decided to intervene. “Cozy, may we ask what happened next?”

Cozy looked up at me and winked. “Why sure. Anything for my best friend in the whole wide world!” She grinned further at my repulsed shiver. “So, once I stole their life, and their magic right along with it, their corpses basically disintegrated. It was really cool. And gross. All that was left was their horns. Tirek’s was useless, but Chrysalis’... that was useful. I took it with me when I came back to Earth. I knew I’d turn into this instead of my true pony form.” She poked her ears and wings with her wand. “Like these, by the way? I don’t have to show them. I can hide them if I want. Absorbing the magic of a changeling really gives you some options.”

“Wait a minute…” Twilight said, her eyes widening in panic. “Let me see that wand again!”

A series of demented little giggles bubbles forth from Cozy as she leaned forward and held out the wand for Twilight to investigate, and giving me the best look I’d had at it yet in the process. Like I’d noticed when she first brought it out, it had a crystalline handle, and was formed from some sort of black stone or keratin with an odd curvature and a wickedly sharp tip. Like a unicorn horn, only… twisted. “Recognize it? I was wondering how long it’d take you!”

“What?” I gasped. “Is… is that…”

“That’s Chrysalis’s horn!” Twilight squeaked. “You turned her horn into a wand?!

“What kind of sick bastard does something like that?” Scootaloo added, rearing back in shock.

Ahahahaha!” Cozy ripped the wand away and leaned back out of reach. “Of course I did! Even if I had their power, I still needed a focus. I still needed a way to draw it out. And lucky for me, Grogar had a method of creating wands rights in his little spellbook. It didn’t take me too long to fashion this beauty. Combine that with some of old Beardy’s research, and I figured out how to keep my magic power while crossing over. And with this little number, I can use it all I want just like any unicorn would use a horn!”

“But why would you do that?” Rarity gasped. “If I understand correctly, you, that centaur, and that changeling were friends, if ghastly, evil friends. How could you just murder them like that?”

“Ooh, you still don’t get it, do you? Once upon a time, I had morals. I had things I wouldn’t do. I sought power for the sake of power, but I wouldn’t backstab my allies. I wouldn’t have used necromancy. But you know what I learned, after two years in stone? Morals. Are. BULLSHIT! Why bother with them? It’s not like Celestia or Luna or Discord cared about morals when they locked a little filly away in a stone statue! It’s not like Equestria cared about morals when it imprisoned a little filly in Tartarus. Why should I care anymore?”

“You’re completely insane!” Twilight shrieked. “What did we do to you?!”

Cozy pointed her wand at Twilight, a sphere of scarlet light glowing at the tip. “Don’t call me insane! I am many things. A monster. A killer. A power-hungry dictator. But insane? No. I am perfectly sane. I know exactly what I’m doing. I know society considers it wrong. I know it bothers everyone. I know that, in the view of most sapient creatures, pony or otherwise, I’m evil. And I. Don’t. CARE! This is who I am. And I’m glad you’re finally acknowledging you had a part to play here, Twilight. Because you did. If you’d just let us win last time none of this would’ve happened. But here we are. All because of you.

Twilight’s breath caught in her throat. Her whole body slumped. “This is all my fault…” she whispered as she broke into tears.

“That’s it,” Cozy said, a smirk splitting her face from ear to ear. “Cry it out, Pwincess. Own up to your guilt. You made me into this. You caused all of this to happen. Everyone’s blood I’ve spilt? On your hooves!”

NO! THAT’S WRONG!”

I whirled to see who’d spoken. It wasn’t me, nor Rarity, nor Applejack, not even Scootaloo. It was Diamond Tiara, who was standing up at her podium, a finger outstretched to point, face burning with righteous fury. “I’ve heard what you’ve had to say, Cozy Glow,” Tiara shouted, “And I’m sick of it! You don’t get to foist off responsibility onto someone else for your actions!” She pointed at Applejack, then at herself. “I was rude to Applejack for our first week here. I made fun of her for being poor. I used her career as an insult. I was an asshole. And you know what? I took responsibility for that! I didn’t try to blame Applejack for getting angry at me because I was a jerk. I didn’t blame her for punching two of my teeth out when I attacked her because she called me a bitch. She only did that because I treated her like dirt. It was my fault that things ended that way, because it was my actions that led to that result! And I can accept that!”

She pointed at Twilight now. “I don’t know shit about this pony Princess, other than she looks just like someone who ought to still be around. But I know this. It wasn’t her that executed our friends and family. It was you! It wasn’t Twilight that put us through this killing game. It was you! It wasn’t her that blew up that ship full of over eight hundred people! It. WAS. YOU!

Holy shit, Tiara. You’re doing the same thing to Cozy that Rarity did to me, only you’re doing it even better. I’m impressed!

“And?” Cozy said, examining her fingernails with a bored expression on her face. “What’s your point?”

“My point, you crazy psycho,” Tiara retorted, “is that you’re the one actually responsible for everything that’s happened to you. I was a bit out of it, but I heard what you said. How you attacked magic pony land not once, but twice. Both times you almost killed thousands, if not millions. It’s no wonder they punished you the way they did! If you suffered while you were trapped as a stone statue, it was because you deserved it for being such a sick monster!”

That got under Cozy’s skin. Her mouth pulled back to show her teeth as her wings extended, like she was trying to make herself look bigger, more intimidating. Her right hand gripped her wand so tight her knuckles turned white as a sphere of magic formed larger and larger at the tip by the second. “I deserved it? I deserved that hell?! To be trapped forever?! No! You have no idea how horrible that is! It is absolute agony like nothing else I’ve ever experienced!”

“Maybe not,” Tiara said, a smirk spreading on her face, the same exact one I remembered wanting to punch off way back when we first met on the ship. “But you know why I don’t know what that’s like? Because I didn’t do anything to deserve it. You did. Psycho.”

“No! No no no no no!” Cozy’s hand shot out and fired off the scarlet bolt of magic in Tiara’s general direction. It whizzed right past Tiara’s ear, singeing a few of her hairs off before exploding against the other door, scattering piles of wood and metal shrapnel. “Shut up shut up shut up!

“Wow, look at you,” Tiara laughed, holding up her hands and shaking her head. Despite the damage to her hair she showed not a hint of the fear that had always brought her down before. Instead she was cool, confident, and completely in control. “I guess you really are still a little kid, huh? Did you ever grow up, you whiny little baby? Because it doesn’t look like you have, judging by this temper tantrum you’re throwing. But really, is that any surprise? A little girl like you, always trying to cling to power. Always needing to be in control, because you’re too scared of everything around you to cope otherwise. Know who else was like that?” She jammed a thumb into her chest. “Me. But you know what I found works a lot better than trying to be a controlling asshat?” She pointed at Rarity, at myself, at Scootaloo and, after a moment’s hesitation, at Applejack. “Friends.

NO!” Cozy roared, her voice layered over with that deep, monstrous tone we’d all heard emerge from Monoponi’s throat before. She whipped her wand through the air, building up magical power. “No, I am not going to sit here and listen to another stupid, insipid, bullshit lecture on the magic of friendship. None of that shit is happening here. I was going to keep explaining every last bit of my plans to you, keep this game going a bit further, but you know what? I’m done! If even Diamond fucking Tiara is standing up to me now? I’m through with you. I don’t need you anymore. I’ve got my real source of power right here, in Princess Twilight. The rest of you? You’re just a waste of space at this point. I’m not having fun anymore. And if I’m not having fun with my toys? I discard them.

Diamond Tiara whimpered, her confidence breaking under this display. “Uh, Sunset, can uh, can you take over n-now? I-I’m getting pretty s-scared here!”

“You got it, Tiara,” I said with a grin. Facing Cozy, who was still summoning up power for… something… I raised a finger and pointed it at her. “You don’t want to explain the rest of your plan? Fine. We can figure it out from here. You gave us enough information to determine what you did. You used your alternate and her family for as long as you could, biding your time until you made your move. You had them all killed and their bodies trapped on a glacier in Equestria for safety, so that when you made friends with me, Twilight wouldn’t put two and two together and connect my ‘young friend’ to you.”

“That’s right,” Cozy replied, while still building power. An aura began to form around her as she swished her wand about. “Remember my fun with Rainbow Dash? That’s how I posed them. Corpses are real easy to puppet when you know how!”

I cringed. “I didn’t need to picture that.” Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I continued. “You then got close to me, just like we determined before, and used us to throw together this game to trap Princess Twilight. I’m still not sure how you learned about my connection to her. Was it during your time at the School of Friendship? When you, Tirek, and Chrysalis were plotting your coup? It probably doesn’t matter. But there is one question you still haven’t answered.” I spread out my hands to indicate all four of my fellow passengers. “Why did you need five survivors?”

“Oh, that?” Cozy sneered. A scarlet aura surrounded her now, like rushing flames washing over her, bathing her in light and not a small amount of heat. She continued to twirl her wand for some purpose I hadn’t yet determined. “Why don’t you look at your Monopad. There’s still one piece of evidence you haven’t touched. That’s your answer.”

Puzzled, I decided to open up my pad’s evidence tab and scrolled through, trying to figure out what we hadn’t addressed. But when I spotted it, it didn’t answer any questions. It just left me more confused. “Wait, you mean this?”

Fact #21: Elements of Harmony, A Reference Guide, Updated Edition: “A guide to the Elements of Harmony, describing them as the six virtues of Honesty, Loyalty, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, and Friendship, also known as Magic.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Yes it does, Sunset!” Twilight shouted back at me. She’d inclined her head enough to see the evidence rotating on the display above her head. “Cozy was defeated by those using the power of friendship, the very power that powers the Elements of Harmony, twice. Once by six of my students from the School of Friendship, the other by my friends, the Pillars of Equestria, and the students all together.”

“No, I get that, Princess,” I said, frowning. “I figured that much based upon what we’ve learned. But how does that apply to us? We don’t represent the Elements of Harmony. Those of us who did have magic had it drained, and two of us never had magic to begin with.”

“Yes you do!” Twilight insisted. “The magic of friendship is always--Mmmph!” Her eyes widened to the size of saucers as a scarlet field wrapped itself around her mouth and head, shoving her against the display hard.

“Oh that’s enough friendship bullshit out of you, Princess,” Cozy snarled. She wrapped her magic around Twilight’s head and smacked her against the display, hard enough to draw blood. Twilight screamed behind her gag as the pain filled her, her eyes beginning to roll back in her skull. “I need you alive to keep draining you, but that doesn’t mean I need to listen to you talk.” Cozy looked up at me. “You want an answer, Sunset? I’ll give you an answer. It’s because I know how many it takes for the Elements to work. Count how many there are on that list.”

“Uuuh, well, there’s six,” Rarity stammered.

“Precisely. Six. Not five. Five is one too little!”

Dawning horror filled my breast as I realized what she meant. “You… you were going to make us try to use this against you, weren’t you? You were going to taunt us with it, deliberately, because you knew it wouldn’t work without six of us! You were going to give us that last bit of hope and then yank it away!

“Correct again, ‘bestest friend!’” Cozy said gleefully. “And it’s still true! It doesn’t matter what kind of friendship baloney you morons try to peddle to me. You don’t get a last minute victory. I’ve had that deus ex machina bullshit happen to me twice now! I wasn’t about to let it happen a third time.” Laughter escaped her, at first quiet, then rising to an ear-splitting cackle that filled the room. “And it won’t! You said it earlier, Sunset. I won. I did it. I finally beat Princess Twilight! Do you want to know what I've got in store for her? Tell you what. Before I kill you, I’ll tell you.”

She spread her wings out to their fullest extent and rose up into the air, her magic swirling around her like a tornado of flame, burning hotter and hotter the longer she hovered. “I’m going to drain her of her magic until every last bit of it belongs to me. I’m going to suck the very life out of her until every last bit of her alicorn lifespan has been consumed, all to keep me alive. You see, I’ve learned so much from Grogar’s works. The bodies of your dead friends? I found a way to turn them directly into a source of power. Break down the dead bodies until they’re nothing but a scrap of dust. Oh, I had to waste a lot of what I’d gained from the early bodies on fake Twilight’s execution, but it was worth it to torture her, even if it didn’t last that long.”

Her magic shifted in color, from scarlet to a roiling, unholy acid green and deep purple. “That ritual is great for keeping you living longer, but you never get much from the average person. You get a small portion of their life span, of their potential, but little else. But an alicorn? An immortal alicorn, who’s been granted the power of Celestia and Luna? That very same ritual will be endless agony. A torture that will last for centuries until she’s finally a withered husk. Only then will I let her die. Meanwhile, I’ll take this ship and wipe out the pathetic excuse for a military she’s built up in Equestria, and rule it like I should have all along. Everypony will bow to me. The whole world will bow to me. And when I’m ready? I’ll come back to Earth and conquer it too! Or maybe I’ll just set off all the nukes in the world, unleash a global apocalypse. Doesn’t that sound fun?!

She looked down upon me, and stretched out her wand, the magic surrounding her twirling towards it like water down a funnel, till it was aimed at me. “By the way, Sunset, do you know what happens when you use that same ritual on someone living instead of dead? Tirek and Chrysalis found out the hard way. And guess what? You get to as well!”

“How dare you!” Rarity shrieked, throwing herself around me. “Don’t you dare hurt Sunset! I won’t let you!”

Applejack left her podium to stand in my way as well, hunkering down in a stance with her fists raised till she was like an unmoving tree. “Ah ain’t gonna let you do that to my friend!”

Scootaloo, despite a tremble running through her body, leapt up over her podium and took up a spot right next to Applejack, holding up her arms in what looked like a clumsy version of the martial art I’d once seen Rainbow Dash practice. “You’re going to have to get through me first!”

Diamond Tiara, her whole body shaking, whimpering like a scared puppy, still managed to throw herself around me too, on the opposite side of Rarity. “I-I won’t let you kill Sunset! It’s not h-happening!”

Cozy rolled her eyes. “Oh please.” With a single wave of her hand my four friends were ripped away from me and shoved up on their podiums. “Nice try, morons, but you’ll get your turn. I want you to watch. Watch as Sunset Shimmer dies in fucking agony like she’s deserved ALL ALONG!

Before I could do more than throw up my good arm to block it, she fired. The evil magic wrapped itself around me. A flash of indescribable pain ran through my body.

And then everything went black.

Author's Note:

So now we understand how and why Cozy Glow survived, as well as how she uses magic, how she had the opportunities to do everything she did, and where got that necromancy from. Gifts from Grogar, as it were. Her ability to use this to drain their magic was key to how she set up the game. She wouldn't have been able to do it without it.

Of course, special applause goes to our lovely Princess Twilight, who, as usual, found a way to screw up and get captured by the villain. I swear she gets captured so often she ought to have a punch card. One more and she gets a free meal at Hay Burger!

Why are human Tirek and Chrysalis human Cozy's parents? Well, besides the fact that the mental image cracks me up to pieces (what a dysfunctional family THAT would make) I wanted to give a parallel to the connection their Equestrian counterparts had. They formed a bond, working together, but not liking each other very much. And since just having them be a villainous trio in both worlds would be a bit boring, I chose this option. It helps that we have no idea who Cozy's parents are, so it lets me get away with this.

Oh, if you're wondering why Grogar knows wandcraft? Because the original Grogar, in G1, used artifacts for power, as did Discord's impersonation of the G4 Grogar. A wand is by definition an artifact of power. Crafting a slain opponent's body parts into something you can use works very well with necromancy as well, and Grogar's association with necromancy does have basis in canon, in how he restored Sombra. Sombra was not resurrected, because as I've already declared in this story, that's impossible. What he was, instead, was something akin to a lich, a soul bound to wander that needed to be tied to a new body. I always thought he lived on in that bit of red horn that went flying off in the distance at the end of Crystal Empire Part II, and I'm certain that's how he was able to be brought back by Grogar for The Beginning of the End. And then Twilight and co. vaporized him, completely this time. No coming back a third time, Sombra, sorry.

There's also plenty of association with dark magic from G1, what with him having been banished to the realm of darkness. So together, these allow me to justify making him a necromancer. This is also how I Justify things like Sombra's mass mind control spells and the Storm King's weather spells being based upon his work: because he was first, basically, thanks to being from G1.

Admittedly, a lot of this is headcanon I'm throwing around, but gosh darn it, it's my story and I'm sticking to it. :rainbowlaugh:

This being Cozy's plan is also why, ultimately, I never wanted to do anything to mess with the structure of the killing game itself. The killing game was never, ever the point. It was window dressing. It was a method to torture Princess Twilight with, something that Cozy, a total fangirl, decided she wanted to live out because it happened to work with her intended goals. But she also would've happily abandoned it at any time if it was proving to not work out for her. That's why she called them expendable back in Chapter Five. That's why a plan to mess with the structure wouldn't work, and why I never considered it.

That, and, well... the intent was that both Sunset and Cozy knew the games like the back of their hands, and so Cozy would see through a Kokichi style plan easily, and Sunset would expect her to.

This part, by the way, was the other reason I gave Twilight her cool moment back in Interlude 5, because I knew this was coming.

One final note: next part is the single longest part in the entire story, at over 15000 words. It shall be fun and exciting.

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