Dark Genesis

by Darkened5ky

First published

Ventus, in a final ditch effort to save Equestria, travels back in time to stop the terrorizing of Unicornia. But he is completely unprepared for what he finds hidden within the folds of history...

WARNING:
If you have not read Dark Cloud already, I strongly recommend NOT PROCEEDING. This description will ruin a huge chunk of that story. You have been warned. Please, before you ruin this for yourself, go check out Dark Cloud via. the link above.

And please, for the love of God, don't leave a dislike on this story just because you ignored this giant warning and read on anyway.


Equestria has been completely wiped off of the map, along with everypony in it.
Except one.
Ventus, in a final effort to save everypony, learns time magic from his half-brother, Midnight Sky. He travels back in time almost 8000 years to stop his evil ancestor Gale from terrorizing Unicornia. But little does he know that he and Midnight Sky could never have prepared for what they find hidden within the folds of history...

Dreams

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In a brown field of long-dead plants, two ponies stood. A lavender mare, and a tan stallion. The stallion looked mortified at something, as he took a couple of steps away from the mate.

"No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no," he said repeatedly. "You can't mean what I think you mean."

The lavender mare put on a sad little smile.

"It's the only way," she told him.

"You can't-- you couldn't possibly-- you're asking me to--" The stallion spluttered, unable to complete a full sentence.

"Everypony else is already dead," she reminded him. "The rest of the world will follow. Millions more will die. Unless we do this. This is the solution, this is the way."

Then, next moment, her eyes turned pitch-black, and there was a large knife in her ribcage. The stallion cried out in alarm, as she fell sideways onto the ground. Something black, like a tear, slid down the lavender mare's face. Blood oozed from her wound like tar. Then, next moment, the mare's head snapped up again, causing the stallion to jump a mile into the air. Her neck twisted around at an impossible angle, making several sickening crunching sounds as the dead mare turned to looked at him.

"I love you," she said, eyes still just as dead-looking. "Why did you leave me? Why did you kill me?!"

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Ventus awoke with a jolt, sweating and panting hard. His heart was quickly beating the rhythm of fear. He looked around, horn aglow, expecting to fight any second. After ensuring there was nopony there, he flopped back down onto his bed. Looking at the sky outside, he saw white, fluffy clouds billowing by. Although it was only an illusion, it usually gave him an accurate estimate of the time. Right now, he figured it was about noon.

Getting up, he moved about his ordinary morning routine. His breakfast consisted of a single hay sandwich, which had been growing stale in his magical storage for some time. After the devastation to Equestria, he had packed away as much of the food as he could find, so that it wouldn’t go bad. But eating the same sandwich every day grew incredibly boring after a week or two.

It’s all you’ve got, he reminded himself. After a month alone and no way to create food, it tended to run short.

He then moved to the bathroom, showering and brushing his teeth as he normally did. Everypony else might be dead, but he was still concerned for his own well-being. He moved back out of the bathroom, and into the main room.

It looked the same as it had when he had first visited this place, aside from the fact that there were now various books strewn across the floor. The other thing that was out of place was the small, blue crystal that was lying on the wooden table. He picked this crystal up, and lit his horn in a black aura. A shadow illusion appeared a few feet away, which had a dark cyan coat, dark red eyes, and long black hair. Ventus then created a magical link between the illusion and the crystal, and the spirit connected to the fake body.

Honestly, why do dark spirits have to thrive off of fear? a deep voice asked with annoyance, as the shadow illusion grew slightly more believable. You don't fear me, and there's nopony else here!

I know, Ventus replied in his mind. But there's nothing we can do about it yet, is there?

Ventus could see the annoyance on Midnight Sky's face, and he was annoyed himself. It was hard to talk to Midnight Sky anymore, since he was becoming weaker and weaker with no fear to feed on.

They had worked out this system near the beginning. Ventus would create an illusion of Sky's body, and Sky could 'possess' it to use for a while. But all of the talking still had to be in Ventus' mind, since Sky had no way to use the fake mouth to make sound.

So, what insane training do you have in mind today? Ventus asked, apprehensively.

You know what we're doing, Midnight Sky said.

Ventus sighed. More mind reading.

Damn straight, Midnight Sky said, looking slightly amused. It'll be one of the most useful things you'll learn.

Ventus hated mind reading. It was hard to do, and to resist. He wasn't that great at it, either. It mostly ended in reliving old nightmares, painful memories. Although he didn't want to, he looked into the horribly convincing scarlet eyes of Midnight Sky.

Without warning, Ventus felt the familiar, but extremely uncomfortable feeling of Midnight Sky forcing his way into his mind. He couldn't do anything about it. He immediately tried to not focus, to not think. Thinking was dangerous.

It was impossible to completely block out mind reading, but it was possible to resist. If you didn't leave anything for the invader to look at, there would be nothing to see. Ventus always tried to block out his thoughts, but it was hard. He had gone through so much emotional trauma that it was constantly trying to resurface. His nightmare from the previous night played through his head, clear as day. When it had finished, Midnight Sky pulled out from his thoughts.

Come on, Ventus, Midnight Sky said, with a rare hint of impatience in his tone. You didn't even try that time.

I have a lot on my mind, Ventus bit back.

Yeah, that's the problem, Sky said, exasperated. I know it was hard to watch everypony die, but that's why we're training so hard. Focus.

It went on for several hours. Ventus only successfully blocked out all of his thoughts one time. The rest were just as bad as the first. Ventus' head began pounding, as the mental stress began taking it's toll.

Let's stop the mind reading for the day, Sky decided, after Ventus failed again and collapsed to the ground in exhaustion. Let's move on to the other things.

Grateful for the break, Ventus walked outside as Sky's illusion dissipated into the air. He transformed into his demonic cloud form, and flew a few minutes east. There, he has seeds of all kinds planted.

Not that they were producing anything.

But that was part of the training.

You been studying the theory like I said? Sky asked along the way.

As they were talking in his head, Ventus didn't need to wait for the use of his mouth to respond.

Yeah, I did.

Good. Now, this is on a much smaller scale than what you'll need to do when we go, Sky reminded him, but if you want even a hope of being that strong, and some other food to boot, you need to master this.

Ventus looked down at the dirt that held the seeds, and took a deep breath, closing his eyes. His horn glowed black as usual, and he focused on the dirt. Each plot where seeds were planted was surrounded by a greyish transparent field, as the spell began to work its magic.

Focus on the theory, Sky reminded him. Make sure the clock spins forward, not backward.

Ventus didn't reply, keeping his entire focus on the plants. He opened his eyes as they turned pitch-black, the signature of his demon magic. He envisioned a giant clock in his mind, also surrounded by the greyish field, and began forcing the hour hand to jolt forward. Soon, the clock was spinning through the days as though they were seconds. The dirt patches began to tremble, and soon, stalks burst forth.

Yes, that's it, that's it! Sky exclaimed in triumph, magically observing as the plants aged at impossible rates. Keep going!

Soon, the plants reached their full growth, and Ventus let the spell die, his eyes fading quickly back to deep blue. What had been plain dirt moments before now sported large, overflowing plants of all sorts.

Beautiful, Sky said softly, looking down at the plants. I couldn't ever pull that off. The negative energies from the time magic would've killed me.

Didn't you die for that same reason? Ventus asked.

Sky chose to not comment. Ventus looked down at the plants that he had just super-grown.

So I have a question.

Yeah?

...I don't know a thing about gardening or cooking. What the hell do I do now?

Sky hadn't thought of that.

...That, Ventus, is an excellent question.

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Ventus sat at the wooden table, across from a new illusion of Midnight Sky, as usual. But this time, instead of a hay sandwich, Ventus was eating a rudimentary form of Shepard's Pie.

"I've never eaten anything so good," Ventus said aloud, chewing noisily. When you had only been eating stale hay sandwiches for almost a month, any other real food tasted like heaven.

Quit rubbing it in, Sky said, sounding annoyed. Dark spirits can't eat.

"Do you have to keep talking in my head like that?" Ventus asked, in a sudden moment of inspiration.

Uh, yeah. Otherwise, I can't talk to you.

"Can't you alter the illusion?" Ventus asked.

Your illusion, not mine, Sky replied.

Ventus had already asked those questions, but he had just thought of a remedy.

"Whatever you do, don't block out this spell," he requested.

What are you doing? Sky asked, receiving no reply. Ventus had closed his eyes, and they had turned their demonic black again. He focused some magic on the blue crystal, and Sky felt something change within him.

What-- what the hell are you doing?! Sky exclaimed, looking panicked. It was the most anything had physically affected him since his soul had been yanked back from the crossroads and sealed in his crystal. And he wasn't used to it anymore.

Ventus didn't reply, and finished his alterations. He returned to his normal state.

What did you do? Sky asked again.

"Gave you a couple of my abilities," Ventus replied, with a smug smile. "Try to alter the illusion."

Sky looked down at his illusionary chest, and tried to give it a voice. To his immense surprise, his fake horn glowed with black aura, and he felt vocal cords grow into his throat.

When he had began registering feeling in this illusion, he had no idea, but it shocked him even more.

"How..." He croaked, not having spoken aloud for a month. He cleared his throat. "How the buck did you do that?"

"As I said," Ventus said, now smiling somewhat triumphantly, "I gave you some of my abilities. Now, take a bite."

He sat back down, digging into his Shepard's Pie once more. Sky looked down at the second plate of food that hadn't been present a minute before, and tentatively leaned down and took a bite.

The wonderful feeling of taste washed through his mouth, stronger and much clearer than he had ever remembered it being. He couldn't help but moan slightly, as he felt the food run down his fake esophagus and into his stomach.

"Sweet Celestia," Sky muttered, as he leaned down to take another massive bite. "I forgot how good food tastes!"

"Don't stuff yourself," Ventus said. "You're sharing my stomach. What you eat goes into me."

Sky didn't acknowledge him, as he dug even deeper into the shepard's pie.

"Ow lohn deos this las?" Sky asked, through a mouthful of food.

"Not sure," Ventus shrugged. "A couple hours, I think."

Sky was shoveling down so much food that Ventus stopped eating in the end. He could still feel his stomach filling up, though, and eventually told Midnight Sky to stop.

"I'll explode with one more bite," he moaned, hooves over his stomach.

"I won't," Sky pointed out, jokingly raising his fork to his mouth again. But he couldn't finish, as his body disappeared a moment later.

Oh, come on! Sky complained immediately. Give me my body back!

"Not your body," Ventus pointed out. "My illusion. And no."

I know I got carried away, Sky admitted, But you try not eating anything for a month, and talk to me.

"I'm done for the day," Ventus declared, retrieving the blue focus crystal from his magic storage and set it upon the table. "Gotta sleep off all this food you stuffed into me."

That's exactly the wrong approach to-- Sky began, but Ventus walked out of range before he could finish. Ignoring his pre-bedtime routine, he flopped down on top of his bed, exhausted and stuffed.

Why is he pushing this so hard? Ventus silently wondered. Then, as it did every single time he had this thought, the first day after Equestria's death flashed through his mind.

...Everyone?!

Everyone.

And how in the mother buck do we do that?

Not easily, Sky said. It'll take weeks, if not months of hard training.

Let's do it.

Sky's eyes would've widened, if he had them. I wasn't expecting to convince you that easily.

If it can bring them back... If it can bring everypony back, I'll do whatever it takes.

It's also dangerous. If we're not careful, we could do some horrible damage to history.

History? Ventus had no idea where this was heading. What do you mean?

Here's a little secret most ponies, even the dark ones, don't know. Dark magic isn't the main magic type for demons. The real magic, that almost none of them can use... is time magic.

Ventus looked dumbfounded. Doesn't time magic always revers itself in the end?

That's basic Time Magic, Sky smirked. Demonic Time Magic doesn't.

How do you know about it then? Ventus asked.

I could use it... sort of, Sky admitted. If I wasn't careful, it would kill me, just like dark magic kills regular ponies.

"8000 years..." Ventus thought aloud, rolling over on his bed. "It's a long way to go back..."

He didn't have any other thoughts, as he fell asleep moments later.

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"Do it. Please."

The stallion raised the knife high, and brought it down hard, sending it straight through the heart of the lavender mare. He saw black liquid escaping the wound, but the dark blood was attempting to do its job. Despite having the knife that could kill all things in it, her heart continued pumping. But the efforts were in vain, as the injury was too severe to survive.

But the knife exited her body soon after, and she looked up in surprise. The stallion had raised the knife, which was now black with blood. He brought it into her again, and then again, stabbing repeatedly. Dark blood spilled onto the ground in torrents, and the mare finally fell dead to the ground.

It was then that Ventus realized he was outside his own body, watching himself do this. He jumped in surprise, as his other self turned to look right at him. Ventus would've screamed, but he was completely paralyzed with fear.

His other self looked exactly like his demonic self.

It raised the dark, bloody knife. Ventus tried to run, but he still couldn't move. His demon self galloped right up to him, bringing the knife down into his chest.

He screamed with pain, feeling the knife drive itself deep into his heart. But his demon side didn't stop there. It pulled the knife back out, inflicting just as much pain as it had going in. It stabbed him again and again, and he watched his own tar-like blood spill onto the dull, grey cloud below him. He fell over backwards, as the demon loomed over his head. He watched as his own blood-splattered face split in a horribly evil grin. The demon was clearly enjoying itself, as it used it's tongue to lick some of the fresh blood off of it's face. It rose the knife to drive it into Ventus one final time...

He jerked awake with a start, panting and sweating hard, just as he had the previous night. Just another nightmare.

Then, he shivered violently.

It's plenty warm in here... he thought to himself. He had set a spell to keep the room at 75 degrees.

But it certainly wasn't 75 now.

There was only one reason why that could be.

He lept up, charging his horn. One of his dark spells of revealing swept the entire place, but it returned nothing. Not that he had expected it to. Powerful dark magic users could hide very well.

You should use your demon half, he told himself, as he prepared to summon the dark forces from the depths of his soul.

But something kept him at bay. He didn't know if it was the nightmare, or if he just couldn't do it, but his demon powers wouldn't stir up.

Guess I'll have to do this the hard way, he thought.

He began creeping down the hallway, attempting to keep completely silent. He managed it, even though he didn't think keeping quiet actually mattered.

He turned into the main room, finding it empty. His dark vision pierced straight through the emptiness, but he didn't see anything unusual.

As he took a couple more steps forward, however, he felt a familiar aura behind him. Of something ceasing to use shadow magic.

He jumped into the air as he burst into smoke, just in time to avoid the second cloud of black smoke that had appeared out of thin air. He flew a few feet upwards before pausing, turning to look at his assailant.

He could sense the auras now, and there was no mistaking it.

It was a demon.

The demon flew up at him again, but he looped around it easily. Landing on the ground, he instantly solidified into his body.

Then, completely out of nowhere, his eyes turned pitch-black. He hadn't even felt the demonic forces stirring in his soul as he usually did. It just came without warning.

Though surprised, he found himself immediately ready to act. He extended a hoof, and forced the demon to the ground as easily as if he had pushed a falling piece of parchment. The demon, with no physical form, didn't smash into the ground, but it was certainly pinned down. It wasn't going anywhere.

"Why have you come here?" Ventus asked, surprised to hear his regular voice issuing from his mouth.

No reply.

"Talk," Ventus snarled. His hoof clenched into a tight fist. Though the demon had no way to scream, Ventus knew he was inflicting serious pain. After several moments, he stopped with the internal torture.

You must die, the demon rasped in Ventus' head. I used... a lot of... magical power... to come here. You. Must. DIE!

The demon tried its upmost to escape, but Ventus' grip was true.

"Why must I die?" Ventus asked, surprised at how calm he was feeling, despite having been attacked by a full-blooded demon at 3 AM.

DIE! the demon yelled again.

"Fine," Ventus said, indifferently. "You won't talk, I'll make you talk."

He reached out to the magic focus crystal still sitting on the table, and contacted Midnight Sky.

What the hell, Ventus?! Sky did not sound amused. It's 3 in the bucking morning, and dark spirits need sl--

He cut off, as the impact of what he was sensing hit him.

HOLY--

"We have a guest, Sky," Ventus informed him. "But he's refusing to tell us why he's visiting. Can you... force it out?"

Of course I can, Sky said, still sounding surprised.

Sky focused on the demon's essence, and watched as its soul opened up like a book. He prepared himself for the searching through all the random junk, to try to make sense of the little bits and pieces of the puzzle.

But there was nothing.

...Well, Sky said, sounding as though he had been hit by a truck, Either his soul is empty, or he's the most brilliant anti-reader I've ever seen.

"So there's nothing?!" Ventus exclaimed, suddenly infuriated.

Nothing. I'm sorry.

"Then there's no use for this thing," Ventus said malevolently, looking down at the black smoke cloud. "Absorb it."

Wait, WHAT?! I can absorb demons?!

"Indeed," Ventus replied. "But first, I'll need to teach you how."

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"...I feel like a cannibal," Midnight Sky complained, looking down at the breakfast Ventus had made, not eating.

"Quit your whining," Ventus said, taking a bite. "It made you stronger, didn't it?"

They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, before Sky broke it.

"Can we talk about your demon half for a bit?"

"What is there to talk about?" Ventus asked, with a blank stare. "You know as much about it as I do."

"No I don't. I didn't find out about it for a long time, and you can tell me about it. How do you know so much about demons?"

Ventus pondered the question, taking another bite. How did he know how to throw them around like ragdolls?

"I have no idea," he confessed. "It's almost like my demon half has a mind of its own... What I know and what it knows are completely unrelated. That's why I've been needing practice at dark magic."

"But you can summon your demon side at will?"

"...Not all the time," Ventus confessed. "Sometimes, when I really need it, I can't bring it up. Then at other times, it just bursts in out of nowhere, like last night."

Sky didn't say it aloud, but he found that information very worrisome. Why did that happen?

"And it's been with you for your whole life?"

"Yep," Ventus replied. "At least, ever since I was eight. That was the first time it showed itself."

It was information that Sky would deliberate in his free time. But right then, he had more pressing matters to attend to.

"Hurry up and finish eating. We have more training to do today."

Departures

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"Try harder."

"How can I try harder to not think? If I try harder, I have to think about trying harder, and that means I'm thinking about something, right? Which means trying harder is actually not trying. It's--"

"Let me rephrase that. Don't try. Do."

"How helpful."

It was the end of a particularly long day. Ventus lay on the ground, exhausted. He had, at long last, mastered reading minds. But he was still struggling immensely with preventing his from being read. He had trained in nothing but mind-reading all day, and he was finally at his limit.

"I'm done," he declared, standing up.

"At this rate, we'll never make enough progress to even go back!" Sky said in exasperation.

Ventus didn't make further comment, walking towards his bedroom.

"What about dinn--" Sky began asking, but Ventus walked out of range before he could finish, and the illusion of Sky faded.

Truth be told, Ventus was hungry. But he was too frustrated and exhausted to care.

The next few days passed by in a similar manner. They had finally finished working on everything Sky thought they would need, apart from blocking mind reading. Five nights after the demon's appearance, Ventus was still struggling to repel Sky's mind reading.

"Honestly, we could go back without you having mastered it. I seriously doubt you'll need it very often. Ponies of the past didn't have dark magic, so they couldn't read minds."

"Why didn't you tell me that ages ago?!" Ventus asked, annoyed.

"Because I still want you to master it. Ponies won't be able to do anything, but the demons of the past will."

"Is there any other way we can do this?" Ventus asked. "Could--"

He cut off, as he was hit with a moment of inspiration.

"How good are you at mind reading?"

"I've been reading up on it..." Sky hesitated. "Not to brag, but I think I'm the most powerful mind reader in existence."

"I have an idea," Ventus informed him. "It might be hard for you to do, but if we can do it, it will speed this up immensely."

"What's this idea?" Sky asked, curious.

"My demonic half knows how to stop mind reading. When I was more in-tune with it, I easily stopped a live demon from reading my mind. I'm going to summon my demon side, and I want you to read my mind and find out how I do it."

"Sounds risky," Sky said, cautiously. "I don't know if I'll be able to do it. Your demon side is more powerful than anything I've ever seen."

"But your mind reading is more powerful than any other we've ever seen," Ventus pointed out. "If anypony can do it, it's you."

"...All right," Sky said. "Let's try it."

Ventus breathed in deeply, bringing the demonic forces up out of his soul to the surface. On the second breath, his eyes turned black.

Immediately, Sky began forcing his way in. Ventus winced, as he felt the incredibly powerful force of Sky's full mind invasion. He tried to force the unfamiliar energy out of his mind, and it slowed down immensely.

Sky was unblinking, his deep red eyes staring as hard as possible into Ventus' black ones. Ventus seemed unable to look away, as his black eyes also didn't blink. It was a battle of willpower now, to see which pony could hold out longer.

But no creature had ever been born with greater willpower than Midnight Sky.

After another minute, black blood began trickling from Sky's nose, as he exerted his mind even more. Finally, Ventus' mind resistance broke.

"There we go," Sky muttered, as he searched through the contents of the demonic half of Ventus. He quickly located the area of the brain that dealt with magic resistance.

"Now, if I just..." he muttered some more, as he opened the part that held mind resistance.

He had never done anything like this, but he figured he might as well try.

He took the energies from that area, and created an exact carbon copy in himself. Then, he let Ventus go.

"Scan my focus crystal," Sky instructed.

"What did you do?" Ventus asked, his eyes having returned to normal.

"I copied the raw thought waves from your demon side, and brought them into myself, or in other words, my crystal. I don't know if you'll be able to interpret it, but you can try."

Ventus did as he was asked, scanning the crystal.

Immediately, he was met with severe pain.

"AGH!" He screamed, as his vision blacked out and he crumpled to the ground, hooves gripping his head.

"Ventus? Ventus!" Sky exclaimed, running over to him.

Ventus' vision hadn't returned, but flashes of light appeared before him. It was little snippets of thought, forcing their way into his mind.

His head threatened to split open from the pain of it.

Then it ended, as suddenly as it had began.

"...Aaahhhh..." Ventus moaned. "Hurts..."

"Feel different?" Sky asked.

"Yeah, I feel like my head split open," Ventus said.

"Well, you feel like you can block mind reading?"

"How the hell should I know?"

"Let's find out," Sky said.

"Wait, now?" Ventus said, alarmed.

Sky didn't reply, and a moment later, Ventus was feeling Sky's presence in his mind again.

But this time, something was different. Ventus flashed back to the moment in Celestia's throne room, when the demon there had attempted this very thing. That wasn't different - he thought back to that scene every time this happened.

But this time, he was able to replicate the results.

Just like he had in the throne room, Ventus pushed the unfamiliar feeling of Sky's mind down and out of his own, just as he did with his demon side.

"Sweet Celestia," Sky said softly, with a slightly-evil triumphant smile. "He can finally do it!"

Ventus opened his eyes.

"Did it work?" He asked, hopefully.

"You bet it did," Sky said, still with the evil smile. "I've never been forced out like that before - only repelled. That was stronger than anything I've seen."

It was no wonder the demon in Canterlot had been so surprised.

"You're not pony. There's no way a pony could've done that."

Well, it was right, Ventus thought to himself. Only demons can do that, it seems...

"For once in your life, I can't tell what you're thinking right now," Sky informed Ventus, bringing him out of his stupor of thought. "It's weird."

"Well, get used to it," Ventus said, blankly. "I'm gonna be doing this a lot now."

"It looks like you could interpret all of the raw thought," Sky said, ignoring him. "Your head must be killing you. That's a lot of information we just crammed into it."

"Can I be done for the night, then?"

"Sure," Sky said, taken aback. "I'm sure you need the rest after that."

As Ventus began walking away, Sky added something else.

"We're about ready to go," he said. "Are you ready?"

"I think so," Ventus said.

"Go rest up," Sky said. "We'll leave in the morning."

Ventus went through his pre-bedtime routine as usual, albeit rather robotically. He flopped down on his bed with a groan.

You're almost there... he thought to himself. Almost time...

Eight thousand years, though, another part of his brain, the pessimistic part, added in. Don't think you can do eight thousand years...

Midnight Sky thinks so, he continued fighting with himself. And he's the expert.

You really think so? The guy died using time magic. Is he really in a situation to be the judge?

He knew the time magic he used would kill him. That's why he was prepared to become a dark spirit.

Yes, but still, he's never tried eight. thousand. years.

He let his brain continue arguing with itself, before he drifted off to sleep.

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Running. Running hard. Faceless blurs flying past. Extreme fear. Adrenaline. A slight ringing of the ears.

So much running...

Panting. Out of breath. Glancing back. Nothing.

Why all the running?

What is there to run from?

Not looking. Distracted.

*SMASH

He ran smack dab into something right before him, falling backwards. In his panic-stricken state, he didn't register what it was as he scrambled away from it across the ground.

He had never been so scared in his life. Even facing Gale hadn't been this bad.

After a few more moments of frantic movement, he looked up at the thing he had ran into, and it came into focus.

It was his demon half.

He yelled out as he awoke, springing up ready to fight.

Again, something wasn't right.

Again, it was at least ten degrees colder than it should've been.

Another one? he thought. How were these demons tracking him here?

Then he remembered he was the only pony left in the land.

However, his confusion only grew greater as he walked down the hallway. This aura was exactly the same as the last demon's had been.

Sky, Ventus thought, reaching out to the magic focus crystal sitting on the table.

...What? Sky grumbled, having obviously been asleep.

We've got another one.

...Another what?

I'll give you one guess.

Sky awoke more fully, before his surroundings came into focus. And he sensed the demon floating right behind Ventus.

It was exactly the same demon.

Impossible, Sky breathed. It's exactly the same demon.

"You're sure?"

Definitely. I don't know how it's possible, but this is the same demon.

"Absorb this one too," Ventus said.

Ventus' eyes went black, as he forced the now-visible cloud of smoke over towards Sky's focus crystal.

YOU! MUST! DIE! it screamed.

"Oh, put a bucking cork in it," Ventus said, as he forced it onto Sky's crystal.

It screamed in pain, as it slowly melded into the little blue crystal, dissolving. The raw dark energies melded with Sky's soul, and his magic essence grew slightly stronger. As soon as the demon was completely trapped, Ventus let go of the dark powers, letting his eyes return to normal.

I don't understand, Sky said, as soon as the demon faded out of existence. How did it come back? It was exactly the same as the--

Oh, you didn't think I'd actually come, did you? a new voice, an icy, cold voice, added in.

Ventus jumped, his eyes turning black once more, whipping around to look behind him. But there was nothing there.

Oh, I'm not there, don't worry, the voice said, with a slight hint of amusement.

What are you?! Ventus snarled. And what do you mean, "you won't actually come?"

What do you think I am? the voice said, still with that slight hint of amusement. I'm obviously a demon. And I meant I wouldn't dare come and face you myself. So I sent empty projections of myself, just to see how ineffective I would be against you.

What do you want? Ventus cut in. If you know how strong I am, you should know to never come anywhere near me.

Why do you think I sent the empty projections? the voice asked, slightly impatient now. I needed to establish some form of contact.

And why did you need to contact us? Sky added in, speaking for the first time.

I know what you are, the voice said, what you're capable of, and what you're planning to do.

All right, good for you, Sky said nastily. You know how terribly slaughtered you would be if you came. What does it matter?

I want to warn you, the voice said, now with a sense of urgency. You cannot go back in time.

Watch us, Ventus snarled. I'm bringing everypony back, and nothing alive or dead will stop me. Including you.

You don't understand, the voice replied hurriedly, even more urgently now. You'll do irreparable damage to the world when you go back!

Right, Ventus said sarcastically, and Celestia wasn't Princess.

I'm on your side! the demon yelled. I hate demons just as much as you do!

Says the one full-blood demon in the room, Sky said with a sneer. Get out of here. You aren't fooling us.

The demon knew there was no convincing them. Plan B time.

If you try to go back... I'll have to stop you, it said.

There's a flaw in your plan, Ventus pointed out. If you or your "projections" show your face around us at all, I will obliterate you.

It was a problem. The demon knew he stood absolutely zero chance of even harming Ventus.

Midnight Sky. Ventus. I am BEGGING you. PLEASE, do not go back. You'll do greater damage than you can ever imagine.

"If you don't leave our presence right now," Ventus yelled both in his head and aloud, his patience finally snapped, "I will track you down and throw you into the torture chamber for all eternity!"

Too late, the demon thought to itself, with a horrible sinking feeling. It's already begun...

The dark presence withdrew, finally leaving Ventus and Sky alone. Ventus' eyes receded to their natural blue.

"The demons don't want us going back," Ventus said, immediately beginning to pace the room. "They might be ready for us when we do."

Rather than wait for Sky's reply in his mind, he mindlessly cast the spell that created Sky's illusion.

"That was something different," Sky said, sitting down one of the chairs. "Demons don't normally operate like that."

"They're desperate," Ventus replied, with a small glare. "Whatever happens in the past, it must work out in the end if they're resorting to negotiations to stop us."

"What could make them that desperate, though?" Sky asked, deep in thought. "We're only going back to restore Equestria... what could happen that affects the demons?"

"Maybe we stop them from coming into existence?" Ventus suggested.

"We can't know that," Sky said. "We have no idea how long the demons have been around... It could be eons."

"True," Ventus admitted. "What else?"

"Maybe they have something to do with Gale..."

"What makes you think that?" Ventus asked, raising an eyebrow. "For all we know, Gale was just an evil bastard from the beginning."

"I don't know..." Sky muttered, falling into silence as he went even deeper into thought.

An hour passed, and they couldn't come up with anything that explained it. But if there was one thing they learned, it was this;

If they would end up doing something that scared even the demons, going back was definitely the right choice.

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"No food," Sky informed him, as he pulled some cooking ingredients from his storage.

"Why not?"

"You don't want to time-travel on a full stomach, trust me. I saw you throwing up after flying for too long."

Ventus flushed. "I wasn't the one flying. I don't do well when I'm not the driver..."

"Take that nausea, multiply it by ten, and you've got time-travel," Sky pressed. "No. Food."

With a sigh, Ventus ignored his churning stomach and put away the cooking ingredients.

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"Got everything?" Sky asked for the third time. "My focus crystal? Food? Anything else unnecessary you feel like bringing?"

"Yes, I have it all," Ventus said, rolling his eyes slightly in exasperation. "Can we go now?"

"I suppose so," Sky nodded.

The illusion faded, leaving Sky tethered to the focus crystal again. Ventus took one final look around the room that he had called home for almost a month now. The room that Sky had called home for a millennium. Both of them knew it would be the final time either of them set hoof in it again. It had been a good home, but Ventus knew he was abandoning it for a good cause.

"Sayōnara," he said under his breath. An ancient farewell.

Let's get moving, Sky said.

Turning from the room, Ventus closed the iron vault door behind him with a deep metallic bang. He magically spun the giant dial that locked the door eight times. Then, he cast several dark spells. When he was done, the room was completely undetectable. He knew nopony would ever set hoof in it again. Nopony from foreign lands would ever discover the generations of dark books, never utilize their power. With one final look back at the space that he knew held the iron door, he turned, never to look back.

After exiting the cave, he transfigured into a dark cloud of smoke, and took off, heading south.

They had chosen the center of the Everfree Forest as the place to travel back from. When you travel forwards or backwards in time, you end up standing right where you were when you began, unless there was some kind of obstacle in your way. But in order to not land smack-dab in the middle of the city, they needed someplace they were sure would be empty.

And without maps from the past to work with, the Everfree was their best bet.

It took a little over an hour for Ventus to reach the northern most border of the Everfree. Ventus soared over the tall trees, looking for a decent spot to descend. When he had finally found a clearing close to the forest's center, he descended.

As soon as we arrive, be on your guard, Sky began reminding him for the fifth time. Even though we've prepared, we could still get into trouble if we appeared right in front of someone.

I remember, Ventus said in exasperation.

He solidified into his pony form, looking around the clearing.

Your flying is scarier than mine, Sky said, absent-mindedly.

What's that supposed to mean?

Your smoke looks less like a dark magic user, and more... demon-y.

Demonic? Ventus corrected him, helpfully.

...Shut up, Sky muttered.

With a slight smirk, Ventus continued trotting around the clearing, looking at his surroundings. There were a few small rocks poking up out of the ground, but it took him a minute to find one he thought would work.

How about this one? he asked. It's big enough, and looks flat enough.

Looks good, Sky replied.

Ventus lit his horn, and a moment later, a pink beam shot from it, beginning to carve into the rock face. Ventus moved slowly, making absolutely sure he was drawing this symbol right.

Ventus? Sky said a minute later.

Yeah?

You never told me how you got your cutie mark, did you?

Ventus raised an eyebrow. No. Why?

I was just thinking... your cutie mark looks a lot like this symbol. I just want to know where yours came from.

Ventus took a break from his carving to look at his cutie mark, which he hardly ever thought about. It was a clock face, with ancient symbols engraven on it. The numbers were impossible to read, as they too were in the ancient language.

He couldn't recall if he had ever told anypony the story of his cutie mark before, but he seriously doubted he had.

It started just a few months after I went demonic in front of my class, and Celestia pulled me from public school for my own safety. She told me she was going to be gone for a while, and without even knowing where she was going, I told her she would be gone exactly three days, eight hours, forty-two minutes and fifty-three seconds. She had somepony time it, and I was exactly right.

That's the only time I've ever gotten it exact. But I showed talent for time in other ways over the next few years. Anything I did, I did much faster than they expected. I figured out the quickest routes around the castle in about two seconds, and when Celestia asked me the fastest way between two areas, I always got the fastest one. Celestia knew my special talent revolved around time, but she couldn't figure out exactly what it was.

Fast-forward a year, to when I was twelve. I was walking back to the castle, and I heard somepony call for help. I ran, and found a stallion collapsed on the road. His sister was screaming that he couldn't breathe, and was dying. She said he wouldn't survive long enough for the paramedics to get there.

I ran to the hospital as fast as I could. I got the paramedics, and led them back to where the dying stallion was. My flank flashed with light, and my cutie mark appeared.

The mare told me later that she had never seen anypony move so fast. Even though I wasn't going that fast. Celestia finally connected the dots.

And this connection was...? Sky pressed, not knowing where this was leading.

Almost everything I do is done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Running to paramedics, moving around the castle, even driving the train. Nopony had ever done it faster than me. We never figured out exactly what happens, but I always move as fast as possible.

As he said this, he drew the final line in the sigil of the dual-clock faces. The perfect sigils proved his point even more.

...That's insane, Sky breathed in amazement. He hadn't even realized Ventus had resumed drawing, and here he was, finished.

I'm ready for this, Ventus declared boldly, a lot more confidently than he actually felt. Let's do it.

He climbed on top of the rock face, and sat in the point of the sigil where the two clock faces met. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes.

Since this was demonic magic, a Unicom horn was not required. There is ancient dark magic associated with the symbols, which allows any demon to use it, even if they're possessing an earth pony or pegasus. Of course, unicorns could do all of the magic without the sigils, but in cases like this, having the sigils helps immensely.

It was for this reason that Ventus needed to draw them, especially since he was throwing himself so far backward through time.

As he breathed, he could feel the demon half of his soul slowly stirring, slowly beginning to rise to the surface. The earth around the clearing began to tremble, as Ventus breathed deeper. Soon, the pieces of the earth began to crumble away, falling into the dark abyss. Soon, only Ventus and the sigils were left.

At this point, he began to struggle. They had decided early on that he needed to summon his demon half to rip through the fabric of space and time, but he was struggling to get it to surface. He strained his head, forcing the demon up and out, until finally, his eyes turned black.

He began straining even harder, throwing everything he had into the spell. The further back you go, the harder it is to punch the hole in time. He gritted his teeth, and his head began pounding like a bass drum as he struggled. His headache grew even greater, and he began groaning from the pain of it. His pain reached even greater heights, and he was almost yelling from the effort.

Then, with an almighty shove and a distorted scream of determination, the tear in reality formed.

And Ventus' head exploded.

It was ten times worse than when he had forced all of the mind reading information into his brain. Never before had he felt greater magical pain, including when he had cast all of those light spells during the war.

He experienced all of that in a split second, before the tear pulled him through the air and into the void. It sealed shut immediately behind him.

Ventus struggled to even stay conscious as he was hurtled backwards through time. The world had transformed into swirls of color, as he flew backward, backward, backward...

He fell to the forest earth with a mighty crash, as the world reformed itself around him.

...en...s, he heard, from a distant part of his brain.

But it didn't register. Without even taking in the world around him, Ventus lay on the ground, and finally slipped out of consciousness.