The Mane Twelve Chapter 7 - The Freedom
Violet Haze led the second part of the Assault group through her proud steps. Her role as the leader fed the fire of confidence that now burned within her with passion. Right behind her stepped the Vita Twins, which accompanied Pinkie Pie. The pink mare was silent, lost in an aura of complete neutrality. The once cheerful party pony that was once well-known in Ponyville was no more, yet it was not another pony that had taken her place. She was neither happy, nor sad. She just... was
, like an empty shell. Dolce's eyes drifted to the side, and managed to land a quick glance at the mare. Perhaps their support was not enough...
Nevertheless, Dolce kept a constant smile on her face, even if it was but a faint hint. Every now and then, she let out a giggle or two, all in an attempt to lighten the burden that Pinkie carried with her. It did not make any difference. Oscura on the other hand had her lips sealed. There was no specific expression drawn on them. All she could do was tag along with her sister and the fractured Element, while behind her followed the rest of the group. Ponies spoke in whispers, yet their words could still slither their way inside her ears. Why did they pick her? Aren't leaders supposed to be inspiring? Well, she certainly isn't. What a street punk... Oscura could not help but wonder to herself what type of pony their leader really was, what their true motive is. Many questions filled her head, yet she could barely answer any...
Hooves constantly clopped. The ponies were on the move for quite some time, restlessly trotting inside the dark castle. And suddenly, they exited the dark corridors, and were welcomed by the silver light of the moon shining down on them. Violet glanced around her. The gardens. They spoke of them as the most spectacular in Equestria. They were filled with big, beautiful tress, finely combed bushes and diverse species of animals that lived in perfect harmony. The majestic beauty that once reigned the room was, however, no more. The trees were but empty branches, the vegetation was dead. No animals could be spotted in the deserted land. Violet scoffed.
"It served them right, not the animals..." She whispered to herself.
There was nothing that could be done here. Its flat terrain would not provide a preferable strategic advantage, and there was no food for them to stop and rest. The mare turned her head and looked at the ponies behind her from above her shoulder. She could not detect a tired eye, or a sore hoof. Everything seemed well.
"We keep walking. Move, ponies."
And so, hooves moved once more, creating a repetitive tune that prevented complete silence. As the relatively small group strolled through the gardens, Oscura ceased the moment to look around her, at a scenery she felt more comfortable in. It was dead, yet it hid a certain beauty, one that the creepy halls of the castle didn't have. It almost... captivated her. A sudden chill rushed down her spine. It wasn't ordinary for the pony to have symptoms such as these, yet she sensed it, a certain thing that she herself was unaware of. Something is coming. Her eyes shifted their gaze to the ground. Some pebbles that were no longer a part of the old soil were shaking.
"Dolce." She nudged her sister's shoulder in an attempt to draw her attention towards them. "Look."
The baby pink Unicorn stopped and rotated her head to face her twin. Oscura tilted her head ever slightly, pointing at the opposite direction. Following the guidance of her gesture, the mare guided her pale eyes to the dirt. As soon as she noticed the moving, lifeless pieces of stone, she almost froze. The crowd focused their attention on the twins and soon stopped, as they had. Whispers spread through the air and synched with the already depressing atmosphere. What happened? What are they looking at? Are we in danger? Violet's eyes narrowed at the sound of voices. Small talk. That was what they were having. A faint grin stretched her lips. Ponies will be ponies. And so, she paid no attention to the muffled chatter, and just kept walking.
With slow moves, Oscura leaned closer, and closed the distance between her ears and the ground. Her eyes gradually closed and the mare pushed away every possible sound. She was in complete serenity with her surroundings, until a faint sound echoed in her ears. It was weak, deep, it could barely be heard. A... breath? she wondered. Where is it coming from? Dolce's eyes were focused on her sister. It was evident that she was lost in deep thought. If she continued, she could possibly affect her concentration. With that in her mind, she looked around her. A vast, white veil, a thick fog, had surrounded them. It had spread throughout the whole garden. And then, adding to Dolce's piling questions, the sudden sound of chittering was heard.
"Um... Violet Haze?" The pony asked with a slightly raised tone, as she had created a distance gap between them.
Violet Haze stopped. A sigh escaped her lips. Turning her head around, she faced the group. "What?" Her reply was short, almost ignorant. Her eyes rolled to the side
, only then noticing the vast cloud of fog. "Is it this
you're afraid of? Pfft, it's nothing to worry about." Her own words covered the sound of the faint noise, making her unable to hear it.
The chittering suddenly got louder. Violet's pale silver pupils froze, her ears finally letting the sound in. Her lips slowly parted, and her eyes obtained their movement again. A nervous glance overtook their otherwise boastful gaze, picking a faster pace to search around, trying to find the exit. It was no use. As the sound's volume increased, the fog got thicker, restricting the ponies' vision even more.
Oscura opened her eyes, and now focused on the fog. The breath had shifted, turned into a weak voice. F...f-fo... It stuttered. It didn't even make sense. Was she the only pony that could hear it? An itch on her hoof suddenly caught her attention. Looking down at it, she noticed a large, deformed insect crawling on her skin. With a gasp, she immediately pushed it away, and into the fog. Her ears twitched on the ever growing noise of the chitter. Slowly, a swarm of random insects, of all sizes and shapes closed in on the mare. The one similarity they all shared though, was their corrupted appearance.
It wasn't just from her side
. The bugs had compassed the group, and had even pushed Violet Haze back to the team. Eventually, their trail led them on top of ponies. A compilation of screams filled the tense atmosphere. The numbers overwhelmed them. The majority fainted, and the bugs crawled through every possible hole they could, bursting out from within a few seconds later, soaked in the red liquid. With every ounce of remaining focus, the Vita Twins turned to their magic in order to fend them off. As the blasts sent them away, they constantly got back up and repeated their march. Ponies fell one after the other. The minutes passed, and from the entire team, only Dolce, Oscura, Violet Haze, and Pinkie Pie were still standing. But then, the insects suddenly stopped, and stepped back...
"Shh." Oscura cut her sentence mid-way.
The voice she heard, it was gone. Like the breath, the faint hints of that voice were replaced by the sound of steps. As the mysterious source got closer, Oscura's horn glew with a weak light, to help her see through the thick cloud of white. It was a tall pony, with a horn longer than the average one. An Alicorn's perhaps. However, as it approached more, and its physique got more clear, it became evident to the mare that his position was like that of a wild animal's. The mist could no longer hide what it was. The pony walked with its head down, with a hunch. Its long mane had fallen down, covering most of its face. Its skin was ravaged, with his flesh slowly peeling off in small bits. One of his hooves was completely bare, with not even the smallest piece of meat hanging from the pale bone.
"Famine..." The dark burgundy mare whispered to herself.
"F-food..." Famine's gaze was focused at a nearby corpse. His wide open eyes constantly stared at the pony and then at Oscura, a big questionmark written in them. His mouth was half open, dry. His moves were slow, as if every single movement, even the weakest one, hurt him.
The mare responded with a weak nod, even if she was uncertain of what she was agreeing to. Famine tilted his head to the side, as if he did not comprehend her gesture. His golden, snake eyes remained as they were, with the question still residing within. With slow, awkward steps, he approached the dead pony and sat right in front of it. Lowering his head, the Alicorn sunk his fangs in its skull and suddenly pulled away. A large chunk of the head now rested in his mouth. He chewed on it, causing a loud noise as the bone grinded against his teeth. The ponies could only watch. Trying to retreat would be worthless anyways. Where would somepony go with a mist such as that...? It only took Famine a few seconds, a little less than a munute, to pause his meal and shift his look back at the ponies. He gazed at the corpse, then right back at them.
"Y-You'r-re... not d-dead?" He asked, his throat still as dry, even after the consumption of something that was soaked in blood.
"No." Oscura replied after a brief moment of silence.
Famine stared at each pony individually. Shortly after, he returned to his meal, gnawing at it. His teeth chewed and chewed, relentlessly swallowing everything. Nothing was left when he was done, not even the difficult-to-break bones. Struggling to get up, he fought the decay of his body and pushed through the cracking noises of his joints. His nostrils opened, and he sniffed the surrounding air once or twice. Turning around, he headed towards another dead pony. It was a mare this time. Some bugs were still playing around inside her mouth. Famine lowered his hoof closer to the jaw, and the small insects crawled onto his hoof. His lips stretched back into a faint grin as their thin legs gently tickled his skin. He rested them on the soil, where they slowly walked away from him and back into the mist where they first came from. Famine watched them fade to nothingness. After a while of staring at it, he turned around and grabbed the corpse's hoof, separating it from her body with his bare hooves. He then started to chew...
Oscura looked down for a while and then took a deep breath. As she raised her head, her hooves stretched, and the mare slowly headed towards the Alicorn. Dolce skipped a breath as her eyes saw her move away. Immediately, she attempted to stop her by latching on to her hoof. Her sister only pushed her own hoof forward, freeing it from Dolce's short grip. The baby pink Unicorn was taken aback. Violet Haze on the other hand, didn't respond. Instead, her mind was set on the outcome of the situation her comrade was about to place herself into. Oscura served as a mere observation for the mare, a way to draw information from the enemy they had encountered. The Unicorn gradually closed the distance gap between her and Famine. With slow moves, she sat alongside him and quietly observed him gnaw on the dead pony. Now, there existed silence...
"Hey..." She whispered, so as not to upset him. Famine's movements suddenly ceased, his jaw frozen in place. It was wide open, ready to invite another piece of flesh inside it. As it had stopped in place, it quickly shut. His hooves let go of the remains and the Alicorn rotated his head towards Oscura, the his spine making a melody of cracks as he did so. Yet again, a big questionmark was carved in the bright gold of his irises
"Y-you... appro--approach me..." He could hardly speak. A trail of blood from the corner of his lips leaded downwards, at his jaw, and ended on the edge of his chin, a drop of the red liquid separating itself from the whole every now and then.
"Why shouldn't I?" She calmly asked. Her thoughts were in a straight line, with no hesitation to exit their enclosed space.
The Alicorn's large eyes drifted away, as if he took into deep consideration what was just imposed to him. Slowly after, his head dropped, and his mane hid his facial characteristics. "I..." He tried to form words. "I-I don't..." Nevertheless, he was in a constant struggle.
Oscura's lips stretched back, formed a faint smile. Inbetween seconds, her eyes turned to glance at him, and then looked away again. Even if he wouldn't notice, the grin remained as it was. "Take your time." Her words came out in the approach of a soft whisper.
"I..." His lips pursed as a gulp made him pause. "I... don't k-know..."
Meanwhile, Dolce looked at her sister from a few hooves back. She was sitting next to Famine, a Pony of the Apocalypse, with no fear whatsoever. Her thoughts were dipped in a pool of worry, but she couldn't just act. If she did, something bad could occur. How can she do it? she thought, even if she herself couldn't solve this riddle.
Oscura's eyes drifted to the side yet again, and looked at Famine. The decaying Alicorn stretched his hoof and lifted it. His wide open eyes looked at it as if... he was clueless of his own origin, of his own self. The mare got closer and gently pressed her hoof on his bare bone. Famine turned his sight once again at Oscura, his puzzled look still written all over his face.
"W-Why... do y-you... c-care..." The words slowly slipped out. And as they did, a hint of expression could be found from his otherwise blanc, almost dead stare.
"About you?" She replied, ending his own sentence in a way. However, this time, her words were not focused in a graceful flow. Instead, her mind had paused and had made the mare wonder. After a brief moment of silence, she spoke. "It's just... It's just that I sense... a hollow pony."
Violet Haze observed the dark burgundy Unicorn as she discussed with that... thing. The pony processed the words that had been released thus far, tried to find a pattern in what she was trying to imply. What was she really trying to do? What is her plan...?
Famine said not a word. Only actions followed his silence. Pushing his hooves, the Alicorn rose, and Oscura followed by standing up as well. He raised the hoof he was previously looking at and let it stay there. The thick cloud of fog moved and in mere seconds, swirled around his hoof until it had vanished completely. Soon, the mist that had engulfed the surrounding environment was gone, revealing the ever glimmering moon above their heads. Once he had lowered his hoof, he turned to the mare.
"H-Hollow...?" He asked her, his peculiar expression hanging from her reply. Oscura nodded her head positively.
"It's like this feeling of... emptiness inside of you. Is that why you eat?"
"I... I e-eat because I... I-I must."
"Why must you? Can't you stop?"
"T-the voice... tells m-me to..." Famine's hooves started moving, awkward steps leading him forward, to the end of the garden. "M-my satisfaction... is n-not mine... I--I'm never s-satisfied. I'm... a-always hungry... because o-of... the voice." His feet ceased in place just a few steps from the corridor. Turning around, his snake eyes faced Oscura.
"You're... k-kind... bu-but... I... I... I must eat you!!!" He burst out and his jaw opened wide. Immediately, out of it crawled a monstrous centipede-shaped creature. Its mouth opened to reveal countless razor shaped teeth. As soon as it was out, it stormed at the Unicorn, its large legs practically shaking the earth below them.
Oscura stared at the monster in shock. The beast approached her with great speeds, but the mare did not respond to it. She wanted to run, but she couldn't. Her feet had frozen, as had her mind. Dolce wouldn't stand there doing nothing though. In a flash, she ran towards her twin sister and grasped her by her hoof.
Oscura's senses returned in mere seconds and, with Dolce's words serving as their guide, the Vita's horns glew with bright lights. One emitted dark red, while the other surged with white Magic Energy. The two colors merged together, twisting and turning to create a bubble around the two. The creature collided with it, its fangs ready to ravage its smooth surface. It didn't back off. Its attacks were relentless, constantly bashing the surface harder and harder with every strike. The Twins struggled to sustain the barrier. Cracks started to form, and would eventually find their way to the rest. Their magic was slowly giving up on them. No...Not now, Oscura denied this possibility. Dolce wants to succeed, to become a designer. I mustn't let her down. Not now!
"Dolce! Oscura! Get out of there!" Violet Haze shouted at them, her eyes centered around their struggle. Even though the Earth Pony wished for their success, she knew that their efforts were futile. They wouldn't make it. The chances were... unreal.
"Not now..." Oscura whispered her own thoughts. "This is all my fault... not now!"
Oscura's crimson glow got brighter upon her exclamation. The bright red Magic Energy beamed out of the forcefield in the form of a long ray of the same color. It elongated until it had passed through the beast. The mare pushed her head upwards, rushing the energy inside the vile creature as she did so. Through her actions, she shred its body in half until the beam blasted through the glass ceiling and connected with the dark sky. As the creature fell to the ground and bits of glass rained down on them, the Unicorn fell on her hooves. Dolce's magic immediately rushed to her and held the pony in the air before she could fall. Gently, she lead both of them to Violet Haze and Pinkie Pie. Famine's snake eyes observed the centipede vanishing into the ground, and fading into the dead dust.
"N-No..." He mumbled to himself and grabbed his head with his hooves, running them along the dark strands of his mane. "T-the voice said to--to... kill... and devour. And I... I failed... I-it's desire... i-is to eat... l-leave nothing..."
Heavy breaths exited Oscura's lips. Dolce slowly loosened her of her magic and rested her on the dead soil. During these seemingly long moments she had inbetween her breaths, the dark burgundy mare constantly wondered about it. The voice... Suddenly, she pushed her hooves against the dirt, struggling to even raise herself. The thought almost motivated her. Her pale eyes turned to face Famine. And then, they shot open as she realized his condition, as she realized what was really happening. Immediately, her hooves moved on their own, leading her towards him. She grabbed his hooves, attempting to connect their eyesights.
"Famine, don't let it control you. It is you who must have control, not this voice."
A sudden cry of pain escaped his mouth. The Alicorn shook his head hysterically, his pupils trembling with fear. "M-Make it stop! His voice... he hurts me... Make the pain stop!!!" His voice had grown deeper as more words formed. To an extent, it sounded as if he spoke with two voices...
"Please, no...!" Oscura shut her eyes and tried to focus on her magic. Her horn started glowing again, and the aura surrounding her horn slowly circled her entire body. As she opened her eyes, she revealed a bright, red glimmer. "Whatever you are..." She whispered. "Go away..."
"Get out of him!"
A flash overwhelmed the ponies as they were blinded by the bright light. The minutes passed, and it slowly vanished. As it faded, and Dolce's vision resumed to normal, a few blinks helped her grow accustomed to the room's lighting only to wide as she laid her sight on her sister. The young mare lied unconscious along with the green Alicorn.
"Oscura! Oscura!" She repeated her name in an attempt to wake her up.
Pinkie Pie gazed at the mare's struggle. It all seemed so familiar, what with Dolce's worthless efforts. It was all so similar... She wished to look away. And so she looked forward, only to notice the figure of a second Alicorn now standing just a few steps away from them all. He was dressed in royal garments, in an ocean blue tunic that shrouded his smooth, silky white coat. A simple, golden headdress shone on his forehead while an empty sheath lied under his folded wing, strapped in a belt. With slow moves, he fixed a loose strand of his perfectly combed, blond mane, resting it close to his ear. And then his eye opened, revealing dark, crimson irises. Even only half-open, a stern, royal gaze was written in them. His head begun to turn left and right, analyzing the surroundings.
"This is not the world I once lived in." He spoke, merely expressing his thoughts out loud. His words echoed like a gentle melody in the wind, his tone being like soothing waves tingling the sensation of your ears, slowly rushing along your body with the purpose of comforting you. As he turned his swift glance, his eyes met with the unconscious Famine. His lips pursed, but the Alicorn remained silent. The crimson irises trailed off and wandered upwards, in the night sky. They glimmered under the silver of the moon, awakening an inner glow. His lips gradually parted from each other and stretched back, forming a calm, peaceful grin. "At long last, it has finally begun."
"Have I... seen you before?" Pinkie Pie suddenly asked him, even if he didn't seem to have noticed her.
The Alicorn's lips stopped moving, and remained still for just a second. Turning his glance, he noticed the pink mare, and the two exchanged a silent look. A pause had ceased his thoughts, but it did not stop the gentle smile on his lips. And so, with slow moves, the stallion started closing the distance gap between them.
"You are still alive. How very fascinating..." His tone was calm, polite. There was no negativity transmitted from him, only a hint of genuine worry, an uneasy feeling of tension that danced in his eyes as he awaited the mare's response. Even so, even with the Alicorn's comforting, welcoming gaze, the party pony hesitated, stepped back. The Alicorn came closer, his smile still carved on his face. Eventually, he had come as close as a single breath could take him.
"You are sad. Why...?" A glimmer radiated from the depths of the crimson, flashing before Pinkie's eyes. "Smile. Smile, my little pony..."
Only wonder struck Pinkie Pie the more she looked at the bright crimson of his pupils. This Alicorn that had appeared out of thin air, was but a complete mystery to the mare, a riddle she could not solve, for it only got more complicated the more she explored its unique nature. His eyes seemed to let out a variety of vibrant emotions. A mix of happiness, of sympathy, but at the same time a demanding stare, a glare shrouded with hostility and hysteria. Such was the glow of his eyes, wherever had she seen it before though? It was so familiar, yet the pony who had it, the stallion that spoke to her, was somepony she did not know... The minutes passed, and it was only natural that he'd discover the questionmarks.
"What is it you wonder?" He politely asked her.
"Your... eyes. I've seen them before." She did not hesitate to reply. Instead, she was drawn by their radiant glow and palette.
"I am intrigued to know how then." He moved his head back and hid them behind his hoof for a few seconds as he pulled back the already straight strands on the right side of his mane. Perhaps it was to ensure their stability, maybe seek comfort in their silky touch.
"Di... Discord?" She asked him, finally reminded of the image that lingered inside her vast compilation of thoughts. The image of the creature of Chaos, Discord. The stallion in front of her shared the same eye color, the exact same devilish glimmer. For the next few minutes, she gazed at the silent Alicorn with her lips uneasily sealed.
"Ah," He exclaimed, accompanying his action with a faint chuckle. "I remind you of our glorious ancestor. Intriguing observation." His hooves instinctively moved back, and the Alicorn rested a hoof on his forehead, hiding the red underneath its shadow. "We share so much, him and me..." As words flowed out of his mouth, he raised his head to face upwards, perhaps at the emptiness of the night sky yet again. His hoof was still resting on top of his head, yet both of his eyes could still clearly radiate light, even from under the depths of darkness of his hoof. They illuminated a red inside a sea of pitch black... "He inspired me to be this world's disease..."
"W-who are you exactly...?"
"Indeed, who am I?" A few minutes passed in complete silence as he allowed his head to drop. After a huff, he suddenly let out a cackle, sensing his apparent lack of introduction. "Foolish me indeed. Here I stand, speaking of nonsense about my past..." He gradually resumed to his ordinary, firm stance and separated his lips again, maintaining the faint hint of a grin.
"I am the First Pony of the Apocalypse. I am the greed that resides within the heart of every living pony. I am the feeling of resentment between opinions. I am the lust that leads to conflict. I am... Conquest."
Pinkie felt more lost than ever. She had found herself trapped in an unavoidable situation, yet one she desired at the same time. The Alicorn that stood in front of her was the beginning of it all. He was responsible for the chaos that had fallen over Equestria. He was responsible for the death of her best friends. He was the reason that she couldn't smile anymore. And yet, she could not bring herself to cry it out loud, to attack him, to kill him. She could not avenge her friends, and she herself was unsure of the reason.
"Y-you killed them..." It was all she could whisper.
Conquest huffed, gently shaking his head afterwards. Even if he seemed disappointed by her reply, his smile was still there, ever present. "I killed none, Pinkie Pie. The world you once lived in was but a fake layer to hide what truly hid underneath it. The decay your kind had brought upon this peaceful land." He allowed a chuckle to escape, accompanied shortly after by a mocking sigh.
"It's a shame your friends had to suffer its revelation..."
Pinkie's teeth clenched as these words reached her ears. Without even thinking, the mare rushed forward and landed her hoof on the Alicorn's cheek. The impact was strong, even pushing a pony with a stern stance such as his back. Conquest felt his cheek. Resting his hoof on top of it for a few seconds, he spat out some blood before he turned to face her again. Almost the entirety of his left cheek had been covered in a dark bruise, but his smile had not left. Instead, his expression remained calm, focused, even with a hint of red on the side of his lip now.
"You always wish for attention, don't you now, Pinkamina Diane Pie?"
Pinkie's lifeless attitude had now turned around, revealing a treacherous side to the party pony. Her bubbly pink mane fell down, turned into long, straight strands. Her lively pink color faded away and turned her coat into a bland, dark pink. The ocean blue of her eyes darkened just like her coat, shifted into a layer of blue that almost matched the darkness of the everlasting night of the Republic.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" She constantly yelled at him.
"That's right, Pinkamina Diane Pie." His tounge slipped out and ran along his top lip, eventually ending at the other side to clean the blood stain. Once it had finished, it slithered back inside, and allowed him to proceed. "Hate me."
The darkness of Violet Haze's pupils gazed for a long while at the pink party pony. A seemingly eternal feeling of wonder swam in the silver of her irises the more she struggled to grasp what had just unveiled before her. How can a pony twist another with only words? Her eyes slenderized as they turned to face Conquest. Nothing but a calm attitude, accompanied by almost nonsensical words had managed to turn a previously calm, silent pony into a borderline insane psycho. He had his way with words for sure, but his appearance suggested otherwise. Her observations did not add up to the whole picture that was the white Alicorn. Perhaps his personality hid more than what met the eye. What was he truly like behind this devilish red look...?
"SHUT UP!!!" The mare exclaimed for one last time before she stormed towards him.
Conquest's grin gradually got wider the more distance that was covered between the two. Even if it was an angered pony he was about to welcome, the Alicorn nevertheless spread his wings and allowed his body to hover slightly above the ground. Following the gentle flap of his wings, he opened his hooves. He was now ready to accept her, and only a small sentence escaped his lips before the two met.
A cry escaped Pinkie Pie as she headed with her hoof head first, ready to meet with his face once more. Instead of him though, all she met was thin air. Her dark blue eyes shot open. It made no sense. His figure was still clearly evident, but the mare seemed to pass right through him as if he was an illusion. Eventually, her own face met with the stone cold dirt of the dead gardens. Without a second to lose, she got back up and turned her body around. Conquest, on the other hand, spent quite a few seconds airborne. With slow moves it was that he descended back on the ground. Closing his wings, he rotated his head to look at her from above his shoulder. Pinkie was welcomed by the bright red of his left pupil and a faint chuckle.
"You are so entertaining, my little pony
." In the blink of the naked eye, his figure was now out of sight. Pinkie Pie suddenly felt her mane being pulled back. Unable to resist it, her whole head was pulled backwards and into Conquest's hooves. As his glowing, red magic held both her hooves and her mane back, his left hoof wrapped itself loosely around her neck with its tip under her chin, while his other hoof gently felt her right cheek. Their eyes met yet again. What Conquest saw now burnt a strong fire right in the centre of his pupils. The party pony glared at him with a hatred that was pure, a hatred that once slumbered deep within her, that was chained to her soul.
"That was what I wanted. I want your hate
..." Pinkie Pie responded with naught but silence. Her lips were sealed, but still tense. One could clearly tell she wanted to talk back. This only brought a wider smile on Conquest's lips. "And what I want, I get
Letting the next seconds pass in silence, the Alicorn moved his head closer to hers. The more he leaned closer, the more Pinkie Pie pushed her hooves against his magical grasp in an attempt to free herself. She stared with clenched teeth as she felt the fire of his eyes coming closer. Grunts escaped inbetween short breaths, but nothing helped the party pony. Her actions were soon interrupted as Conquest pressed his lips again hers, thus ceasing her breath. Pinkie's anger was at its climax, but suddenly started fading. Responding to his actions, she let the muscles of her face loosen up. Gradually, her eyes closed and the mare accepted his gesture completely. Realizing she had calmed down, the red aura vanished, and Conquest allowed her to embrace him. Suddenly, he felt a hoof pushing against his face. It was another smack he was dealt. His lips parted from Pinkie's as the impact sent him back and almost to the ground. Raising his head and turning his eyes to gaze back, he stared at Violet Haze's figure. Her back hoof remained in mid air, a faint trail of blood running on its edge. His hoof crawled along the surface of his face until he felt the sensation of the liquid. Moving his hoof away, the sight of the red of his own blood now captured his full attention.
"You have no role in my act." He was clearly referring to the hooded mare, but Violet Haze paid him no mind. Instead, she grabbed a now unconscious Pinkie Pie and rested her on her back as she carried her towards the twins.
"Here. Keep her safe while I deal with him."
A positive nod shook Dolce's head up and down. Repeating her gesture, Violet Haze nodded back before she turned to Conquest. Instead of an ordinary, confident smile she always kept on her face, her lips now remained sealed. Taking their place, her silver irises took on an analytic approach towards the white Alicorn in the seconds she possessed inbetween his recovery. The one question that lingered in her head though, was if this time would really be enough for her...
"Ponies like you serve no purpose." The white Alicorn suddenly spoke as his hooves regained their original stance. He raised his hoof and pressed it against his forehead, seemingly covering the intense color of his eyes. As soon as his sentence had ended, Pinkie Pie's eyes shot open, and the mare got up with extremely quick moves to rush towards Conquest. She now stood in front of him, with her body leaned slightly forward, as if Violet Haze was a hostile pony to her.
"Pinkie, what are y-"
"Nopony will touch him..." Pinkie Pie interrupted her. Her tone was lower than her previous one, but it was not her only change. Her eyes transmitted... nothingness. The dark blue seemed to overwhelm her pupils, fusing with the black to create a mess of the two colors. It was a shallow, almost dead stare. "Only I can have him..."
Violet Haze gazed with utter confusion. Pinkie Pie had turned from a cold, numb pony, to an insane mare, to a lifeless individual. She was but a baffled mess of her old self. Nothing made sense to the hooded mare. How could he affect ponies in such ways? Magic? Words? Looks? What is he...? Her thoughts ceased at the sound of his cackle, followed by a long exhale.
"Nopony can resist the lust of matter. Spiritual or physical, ponies desire what they think will grant them happiness. Is it not the same with you, Violet Haze?"
"W-what?" For a single moment, the mare felt her heart sinking. It was as if his words actually grabbed a tight hold of her held back feelings. It was a mystery to her, how a simple use of words could cause this, but it still hurt her. W-what is happening to me...?
"The desperation of approval you thrist for has finally been revealed. Oh but this is why you seek 'unity' in the whole, for you are weak when you are a common individual. You crave to be an inspirational leader, to cease being a shadow living under the wings of a beloved relative."
Her head dropped, cowering in the darkness of the hood. Conquest's words started echoing in her head. Approval. Desperation for something she never had... It made sense to her now, for it was all true, and she knew of it quite well. Was she just afraid to admit it then...?
"A smart pony, a strong pony, a pony that only wished to be noticed by those she loved most: The kin that rejected her, the family that loved the sibling that was better than her. And thus, it all develops into hate towards the ones higher than her, a hate justified only by her own failure."
And then, words were replaced by a dead silence. Violet's mind had gone blanc. No more suspicions on Conquest's influences overtook her head. She could think of nothing now. It was all... true. All that was imposed at that moment was but a raw expression of her train of thought. Deep down, she knew she was a fractured pony, yet the sheer reminder of such facts hurt her. It always did to think of this, of a past she never wished to remember. Her eyes slowly welled up. She tried to suppress it all once again, but there were oh so many things that had escaped already. Her tears were genuine. Tears of more than just depression. They were tears of utter desperation... Indeed, Violet had no words. The liquid ran and ran, carrying away with it her black eyeliner. Two dark lines stretched themselves individually under each eye until they had reached her jawline. Dark drops fell on the dead ground, painting it to their pitch black color. Dolce could only watch at her leader breaking down. No matter how sorry she felt for her, she could never truly grasp the complete feeling of her sadness. Her face was still covered by her hood, and only the faint glimmer of her tears could be spotted by the baby pink Unicorn.
"You have no part in this grand event, for you never had a purpose
." Conquest scoffed. "You were born a worthless pony, and you will die a worthless pony
Conquest raised a curious eyebrow. For a single moment, the Alicorn could detect movement in Violet's lips. Slowly, the mare raised her head. Her pink highlights managed to slip out from under the fabric as she did, and they glew under the moon's silver light. Conquest gazed at her with a look transmitted minor amazement. And then, when their eyes met, he could notice a purple aura hovering in them. The color had engaged in a passionate dance with her teary eyes, yet there was no sadness in them anymore. Instead, the purple merged with the liquid, and gave it a vibrant glow. During the time they spent exchanging gazes, the graceful dance of the mysterious aura circled around the mare's body. As it spread, it moved upwards, to her hoodie, and slipped it back entirely. The moment it did, the purple surged from all over her body."I aspired many things. But the years I spent away from them, I learnt to live without them. I'm not perfect, and my parents saw that, but I won't let their judgement affect me anymore...
I am the controller of my emotions.
Eventually, it all gathered around her front hooves, and started taking shape. It formed a dark, smooth -almost like leather- material that covered her whole hooves, from top to bottom. Its dance gave them a smoother shape, with curves and edges, and a distinct glimmer that only metals could possess. And on the tips of her hooves, where the aura would end, it stretched itself to its maximum extent, until it solidified into a pair of sharp claws on each hoof.
I am the master of my destiny.
In not but a single blink, the mare disappeared from Conquest's eyesight, only to reappear right in front of him. When he managed to get a glimpse of her eyes again, he noticed naught but the same purple color that radiated from her seconds ago, now resting in her irises. However, to his own surprise, as soon as Violet's claws swung themselves at him, Pinkie Pie stood between the two ponies and guarded the Alicorn with her body. The sharp claws slashed through the mare's body, and sent her back. Conquest stepped back, and Pinkie's body fell to the ground. His eyes immediately drifted downwards and towards the party pony. Contrary to what he expected to see, there were no cuts on Pinkie's body. The was no blood dripping from her, there was nothing. The crimson of his eyes resumed its focus towards Violet Haze, but the pony was not in front of him anymore. And then, a sudden chill rushed down his spine, as if something constantly lurked around him. And now, it had made its presence evident again behind him. Immediately, he turned his body, but it was too late for him to respond now. All he managed to see was the image of his reflection in the claws before they hacked through his garment. The cold steel scratched the surface of his coat, but the blood shot out nevertheless. The Alicorn stepped back and pressed his hoof against his wound. His injury seared, and it was obvious from his clenched teeth, that resisted the release of aching noises.
"Perhaps... I was wrong." Heavy breaths prevented his sentence from being a complete one, and instead, divided it into parts. Alas, a grunt finally slithered out of his lips before he proceeded. "Your part... When you think about it... It will not be yours to carry out in the end..." His eyes looked at the party pony one more time before they gazed back at Violet Haze. A single golden strand had drifted away from the perfectly combed whole, and now hung in front of his forehead. He didn't bother fixing it though. "You can have her back. A fractured pony is not my concern."
And with that, he vanished into thin air...
Violet Haze ceased a moment to let air enter through her nostrils, and see themselves out as a long exhale from her mouth. Then, as the seconds passed, the mare gradually raised her hoof and reached for her hood. When her hoof felt its fabric, the fleeces that had shaped around her front hooves vanished, as if they had been sucked entirely by her piece of clothing, even their parts of the sharp steel. With slow moves, she covered half her head under the darkness of her hood. It soothed her, just like it did ever since she wore it for the first time.
"She is not fractured, not anymore." She spoke to thin air as she wiped the almost dry, black tears. Even if the Alicorn of greed was gone, the mare felt that her words could still reach his ears. "Your influence was slashed away. I gave her back herself."
The white Alicorn's hooves moved awkwardly from one dim candle light to the other in this sea of darkness that was the abandoned castle. The experience was still carved inside his head, lingering in his thoughts. A sudden, unexpected twist had turned the situation he had found himself in upside down, and had ended up in his own injury. The sheer disgust his eyes portrayed in their crimson layers gave them a bright red glow that changed his otherwise calm, focused expression. With his hoof still against his chest, the stallion wandered around aimlessly in the countless rooms. And then, his hooves ceased. He had reached the end of the corridor, where one, final door stood in front of him. It was a door he recalled with fond memories. Gently, he lowered his hoof. As soon as his touch abandoned the tunic, the fabric unfolded from the torn parts, stretched until it had reached the other side. Once there, it sewed itself with neat stitches. It turned over and upwards, and when it stopped, as it was done, the tunic seemed as if it was never ruined. Slowly, the Alicorn pressed his hoof against the wooden surface of the door and gently pushed it forward, revealing what lied behind it.
It was a room with naturally poor lighting, yet it was beautifully decorated. Even in the darkness that surrounded him, the pony of greed felt he could see everything. The thought only served as motivation to some sets of candles all around the room that now lit themselves with a bright, blue flame. The flicker was lively, dancing with itself as it curled and reshaped. A step deeper in the chambers made him realize he was indeed not alone. This familiar vibe that tensed in the air was not originating from just the room and the magical candles, but from its one, true owner. Turning his head to the right, his eyes met with the figure of a tall, dark blue Alicorn, just like him. His body was shrouded in a royal, black cloak, but his head managed to stand out. Perhaps he was aware of his presence, for with slow moves, the stallion turned around, and the white pony obtained a better view of his characteristics...
The insignia of the Night was shaped in the silver button that loosely held the cloak around his neck. The distinct crescent moon guarded a star that lied within its empty space. His mane was short, but tuffs of hair stood out. The majority faced downwards, but some lied in front of his forehead, others looked to the right. His lips were sealed, slightly tense. And his eyes... those were what appealed to the Alicorn the most. His irises were painted in the colors of the clear blue ocean, a bleached palette of blue that captured a sadness, a melancholy that was locked in his soul, but at the same time, it was a stern look, a long, persistent stare that could pierce through skin. It made his lips stretch back and their edges to curve upwards, and towards a serene grin.
"The Lord of the Night
." He spoke gently, so as not to disturb the dark blue Alicorn with abrupt introductions. "Alas, we finally meet
"Conquest." The stallion let out a short reply. "You are the true
"Indeed I am
And then, followed silence. Nevertheless, Conquest's devilish eyes remained slenderized as he silently gazed at Nightmare Chaos. His response was indeed unenthusiastic, as if his mind was occupied by another matter, perhaps a baffling subject that the Alicorn wandered for quite some time now.
"Does the truth bother you?
" Words escaped his mouth, his eagerness to reach the truth taking over his most recent sentence. Nightmare Chaos' stare suddenly connected with Conquest's eyesight. Indeed, the white Alicorn could sense a deep wonder carved in them now, one that perhaps the stallion in front of him hesitated to reveal to the Pony of the Apocalypse. "Our minds are always connected. But perhaps, the fact that you are not complete means you do not possess this Alicorn trait yet
it was all planned." His reply was abrupt, accompanied by a purse of Nightmare Chaos' lips shortly after. Conquest's crimson irises, on the other hand, shimmered with a faint glow of excitement as his words reached his ears, somehow turning his grin into a livelier one after that.
"I don't understand why though." He paused, unsure of what to speak of. It could all be comprehended by what lied in his eyes. And Conquest just kept looking in them, and Nightmare Chaos did the same with the white Alicorn's eyes. "Why does he believe in a tyrant
? I don't even know his dream." His words were harsh, filled with intense feelings of frustration...
"Your name is rather ironic. A nightmare. A creator of chaos. But this is only what he appears to be, for when he finds the opposite word, he discovers the dream.
It was then that the stallion interrupted their exchange of sights. He allowed his eyes to rest as he fixed the single, loose, blond strand that just hung in front of his forehead all this time. Sweeping it back to the entirety of his combed mane, he let out a gentle chuckle and proceeded to face the Lord of the Night again, maintaining all the while his peaceful grin.
"You are his dream, blooming Seraphim, and you are your own dream
. And to dream-- is to reach true happiness.
There was silence. Only silence could take place after such words. Conquest could now clearly see the contradiction between himself and the Lord of the Night. Indeed, one was sure of everything, the other of none. The Alicorn that stood in front of him was confused, but it seemed he had realized only then that it was a bliss to feel lost. His bleached blue eyes had seemingly frozen in place, caught in a never-ending stare into what seemed to be more than Conquest's figure, but rather the great beyond of thought.
"Your eyes portray innocence
." His sudden sentence caught Nightmare Chaos' attention once more. "They remind me of her eyes, of the mare I once took great care of as if she was my own daughter
." He turned his body around, his crimson eyes connecting with the dark corridors. Slowly, he stepped out of the room, but he let one final sentence escape his lips before fading into the eternal night of the Republic. "Then again, we were all innocent
I am his dream.
I am my own dream.
To fulfill his dream...
is to fulfill myself...?
Will I reach true happiness then...?
Pinkie Pie's unconscious body lied peacefully on the ground, a faint smile drawn on her face. Her coat had re-obtained its original, bubbly pink color, and her mane had turned lively and fuzzy again. It all brought that confident smile back to Violet Haze's lips. Turning to the other side, she approached the twins, just to check up on them. Oscura had regained consciousness some minutes back, but such excessive use of her magical capabilities still had her feeling slightly dizzy. As she looked around, however, the image of Famine on the soil ceased her breath.
"No..." She was terrified of his condition after what both of them went through. Immediately getting up, she ran towards him.
Famine's eyes were closed. The Unicorn pressed her hoof against his neck, trying to detect a pulse. There was none. It only upset her more. No piece of his body moved. And then, she finally found the answer to the question that had overtaken her head until now. It was Conquest. He was the voice inside his head. It was all his fault then. No, perhaps it was her fault, that he might not breathe ever again. Oscura's eyes started to well up upon looking at his completely lifeless body.
"Hey, Oscura..." Dolce approached her to rest her hoof gently on her shoulder. "Why do you feel sad for this pony? Isn't he supposed to be... the bad one?"
"Shouldn't a pony care for the one next to it?" It was all she could say after a brief silence. "Shouldn't a pony care for the other's worries? The other's emptiness? The other's feelings...?!" She constantly asked, raising her tone with every question she posed.
"Hey, you went through a lot the last hour or so." Violet Haze patted the burgundy Unicorn on the back. The next minutes that passed, Oscura spend gazing at Famine. Shortly after, the tears began running. It was the natural thing to do. "Hey, you know what they say. Sometimes, it's better to let it all out..."
Oscura watched as Famine's corpse started disintegrating, turning into one with the earth, vanishing before the pony's eyes. The mare's sorrow did not stop there. Her tears seemed endless, as if they would never stop. As Famine's figure disappeared entirely, the few remnants of grass around them gave birth to more, until they had filled the garden again. Flowers of all shapes and colors grew and painted the lifeless surroundings along with the green of the grass. The trees' branches flourished as and the bushes blossomed. In the end, the gardens revealed their past beauty under the showering rays of the moonlight. The burgundy Unicorn raised her head and looked at the renewal that had just taken place. Almost miraculously, her tears started drying up, and were instead replaced by a weak smile. Her baby pink sister sat next to her and giggled.
"It's always good to be joyful, Oscura." Dolce spoke in a comforting voice, embracing her sister in a hug as she did so.
." Oscura replied, maintaining her smile.
As the three ponies admired the garden's natural beauty, resting in its fauna and atmosphere, a faint voice could be heard echoing in the gentle rustle of the leaves. It only brightened Oscura's smile. It seemed to give her a feeling of hope, one she had lost for some time now...
Thank you for freeing me...