Oswald trudged along the surface of the moon, dragging along a mortar and pestle. "I swear," he grumbled, "if I ever get my hands on the guy that started the whole rabbit on the moon thing, I am gonna-"
"You're gonna what?"
"I don't know! Maybe cover his house in moon pies, or somethin'-wait."
Oswald turned around, and then just stared.
There, standing in front of him was a navy blue horse...thing with wings and a horn. Her mane, Oswald noted, was apparently made of stars, and she bore a symbol of the moon on her flank.
Also, she was radiating magic on a level that Oswald had never seen before, excluding deities.
The alicorn and the rabbit just stared at each other for a few seconds. "Please tell me you know what Looping means." Oswald finally stammered.
The alicorn smiled. "Indeed. My name is Princess Luna"
Oswald nearly collapsed in relief. "Oh, thank the stars. I'm Oswald. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit."
Luna tilted her head confusedly. "I don't believe I have heard of you before."
"Not many people have. I've only just started Looping recently. Just after the Crash."
Luna nodded. "Yes, this makes sense. We have some Loopers from that time period. Anyway, welcome to Equestria. Or at least, Equestria's moon."
Oswald grinned. "Aw, neato! Mickey told me about this place after I started Looping!"
Then the Loop memories hit. Luna waited politely while Oswald got them sorted out. His grin turned into a pensive look. "...Okay, that's odd. Luna?"
"Why the blazes are we married?"
Luna looked at Oswald in confusion, before her Loop memories came in. "Ah. it seems that the Magic Kingdom is an actual country in Equestria this Loop, and you and Mickey got hitched to me and Tia as a political move."
"Mickey's here? Then why didn't he respond to my ping?"
"He is probably not Awake this Loop. Celestia isn't Awake either, or we would not be sitting up here."
The two Loopers thought for a moment, then slowly started to grin.
"Oswald?" Luna asked. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Twilight Sparkle, Celestia's personal student, and Spike, her number-one assistant and King Mickey's personal apprentice simply stared at the chaos that was unfolding on the stage.
Celestia (who still wasn't Awake) was staring at the strange duo standing on the stage with an expression of shock. Mickey, (who was Awake) looked like he was desperately trying to fight off an attack of the giggles.
Luna, dressed in a white tank top with a large red N on the front and a matching white skirt posed on one side of the stage while Oswald, in a ridiculous purple wig, white shirt (also with the red N) and pants posed on the other side.
In the center, a strange bird-like robot with a tape recorder taped to it and a gold coin glued to the head scanned the crowd.
"Prepare for trouble!" Luna began.
"And make it double!" Oswald continued.
"To protect Equestria from devastation!"
"To unite all ponies within our nation!"
"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"
"To extend our reach to the stars above!"
"Team Nightmare, undisputed rulers of the night!"
"Surrender now, or prepare for a fright!"
The tape recorder clicked on, and played, "Beep-boop! That's right!"
As Mickey finally burst out laughing, and Celestia couldn't make up her mind whether to attack the members of Team Nightmare or check on her husband, Twilight sighed, and brought a hoof to her face. At least this Loop would be interesting.
Tony Woke Up running down a hill. Normally this wouldn't have been a problem, since he often Woke Up during the track meet. Normally, however, he didn't have four hooves. And normally he didn't have a grand piano chasing him. "Why did it have to be a piano!? Why couldn't it have been a toaster?" he cried. “Toasters are small. Toasters are safe. And why is it a random piano?!”
Spotting an alleyway ahead of him, he darted into the alcove just as the piano was about to run him over. "That was way too close." Glancing out the alleyway, he could see that the instrument had crashed at the bottom of the hill and was being looked after by several townsfolk. He could also see a few tired ponies nearby; clearly he hadn't been the only one in danger. Several of them were glaring angrily at a cross-eyed mare at the top of the hill.
"Definitely not the best way to begin a loop." he muttered to himself. "Probably about as bad as the one where I looped in as Korg." He paused for a moment, thinking it over. "No, the Korg loop was worse. But not a good start either way." Now that he had a moment to breathe, Tony checked his loop memories. "Okay, my name is Solar Shard and I moved to Ponyville a month ago to study the animals of the Everfree Forest. Not a bad profession, really. I think Strag lives in town, so I should probably check in with him first thing. No memory of Edyn though; she probably looped in elsewhere."
Tony stepped out of the alleyway and into a dark pavilion. Nearby he could see Edyn and Strag were prepared for battle (both ponies as well, though Edyn looked like a unicorn and Strag had wings) and around the three Final Dreamers the townsfolk were talking nervously. He could hear them murmuring about someone named Princess Celestia having gone missing. "Do either of you know what's going on?" he asked.
It was Edyn who answered. "Long ago, two royal sisters ruled Equestria together. The older sister brought day and helped crops to grow and flourish, while the younger sister brought the night and kept dark forces from invading the Dreams of the three tribes. In a distant land, an evil sorcerer grew hungry for power; he turned his eyes to Equestria, but was driven away by the two sisters. The sorcerer would not give up, however. He entered the Dreams of ponies and tried to corrupt them, in order to turn them into his loyal servants. This time he was defeated by the younger sister, and so the sorcerer hatched a devious plan. Slowly and subtly, he sent parts of his dark presence into the Dreams of the younger sister. He convinced her that the ponies shunned her and her night, corrupting her into a Shadow of her former self. On the night before the longest day, she transformed into a wicked mare of darkness and did battle with the elder sister. The younger was defeated and sealed into the moon, while the sorcerer was imprisoned in the deepest pits of Tartarus. It is said that a thousand years after her banishment, the younger sister will return and seek to free her dark master. Guess what today is?”
Tony gasped and stumbled; his visions always came at the least opportune times and were usually info-dumps. From what it sounded like, Agram had turned one of Equestria's rulers into the equivalent of a Shadow Magi and was trying (once again) to escape his seal. And having an evil night-goddess opposing you didn't sound like a good thing either way. "Now I really have to find the others."
“The first thing one should always do upon Waking Up is to check one's Loop Memories. They will have crucial information on whatever Variant or Fused Loop you find yourself in.”
This mantra had become a part of Edyn's routine whenever she began a new Loop. She couldn't remember when she had begun to recite it, but it often helped to calm her down in a new place - especially if that place happened to be dangerous. Thus she began to take stock of herself and her environment: she seemed to be named Moonbud, she was a Unicorn and was the personal apprentice of the local ruler. As for location, she was in a public garden located in the capital city of Canterlot. A book was lying open in front of her, and she seemed to recall that she had been reading it before Awakening. In addition, her Unawake self had been rather frantic for some reason.
“The second thing one should do is to test all available magical frequencies with a Ping. It will inform you of any other Loopers who are currently Awake.” Having allies was always useful; even though Tony and Strag always Awoke with her, it could get a little boring sometimes with just the three of them. A quick pulse did the trick, with two responses echoing back - one seemed much fainter than the other. It reminded her of how Tony used to Ping, before they had learned that all three Final Dreamers were Co-Anchors. Since he Woke Up on Earth, his had always been much fainter than Strag’s.
"That's odd." She thought to herself. "I always heard that Equestria had one of the most numerous Loop populations; I guess we got a quiet Loop. And since I’m certain that I’ve Replaced the local Anchor, I guess I won’t be able to debate magical theory with her.
Now that she'd gotten the important things dealt with, she turned her attention to the book in front of her. It appeared to be some sort of creation myth about two sisters and an evil sorcerer - she was willing to bet that Agram had had a hand in things - and how the younger sister had been locked away. What was most disturbing was the threat of the lunar Diarch's return. "An ancient legend about a fallen princess returning? That could partially explain why I feel so nervous… Not counting the fact that she's probably a Shadow Magi (or whatever the equivalent here is), I'll have to do a little bit of research on the topic in order to get a better grasp of the situation. According to the Loop Memories, I should have a good reference book in my room."
She rose to her feet and reached out for the book with telekinesis; she was pleased to find that her new Unicorn magic responded readily and in much the same manner. As she was packing the book away, she heard the sound of approaching hooves behind her. She turned around and found a trio of ponies all chatting as they ascended a near-by path. One of them noticed her and waved.
"Hey Moondbud! We're going to Moondancer's birthday party; do you want to come?"
Edyn smiled. "As much as I'd love to, I'm afraid that I just found a really intriguing legend. If I don't follow up on it now, I'll probably be awake all night studying it. Give her my regards though, will you?" The other ponies agreed, and the two groups spilt ways.
The Naroomi-turned-Unicorn was able to find her chambers easily enough; Loop memories were useful for small things like that. Upon entering the room, she was greeted by her assistant for this loop - Spike the Baby Hyren. The dragon-turned Dream Creature held a colorfully wrapped package - most likely for Moondancer, given his crush on the Unicorn. She almost felt bad asking for his help, and had to remind herself that he could always attend the party later. "Spike, would you please give me a hand for the moment?"
Spike glanced at the package sadly before placing it safely on a table. "Sure Moonbud; what can I do for you?"
Edyn was already busy examining the shelves for anything that might provide a clue. "Could you please help me find that old compendium of (let’s see, what was it? Oh yeah!) Myths, Legends and Old Mare's Tales? I was pretty sure we had one here, and I want to use it for something."
Spike floated up to one of the upper shelves, and spotted the book easily. "It's over here!"
Edyn glanced up from the shelf she'd been on - a particular book on mixing magical and herbal remedies had caught her eye - and took the book from the Baby Hyren with her telekinesis. "Thank you, Spike. Would you mind waiting a few moments longer? I want to check on something, and I may need you to send a message to the Princess. You should be able to head to Moondancer's party after that though."
The Dream Creature was only too willing to oblige. "It’s not a problem! I like helping you, Moonbud!"
Edyn opened the book and skimmed the table of contents. "Let's see now... Mare in the Moon, page 228." She turned the pages to the appropriate section and glanced over the pages until she found the passage she was looking for. "The Mare in the Moon - also known as Shadow Moon - is believed to be a spirit of darkness that once served an Ancient sorcerer. She will bring about nighttime eternal to weaken the bonds of her master's cage, releasing his evil back into the world. Some scholars believe that it is possible to banish this dark spirit permanently using a magical artifact called the Book of the Ancients. However, the location of the Book is unknown and many claim that the Book itself does not exist."
Edyn glanced over the passage again. So far, what she had found did appear to conform to Agram's plan - even the eternal night brought to mind the many Shadow Geysers Agram had set out to use in the Baseline. Though her loop memories were still nagging at the back of her mind... Oh! The thousandth year of the Summer Sun Celebration was in a few short days! That explained the sense of urgency she had been feeling all morning. "Spike, please prepare to take a message." The young Hyren snapped to attention and fetched both quill and parchment.
"To my honored teacher; I have recently found an old legend claiming that your sister - tainted with dark magic - will return during the Summer Sun Celebration. It is my request then that I act as overseer for the preparations in order to ensure that there are adequate facilities to provide aid in the off-chance that something does happen. Your gracious student, Moonbud."
Spike breathed a green flame over the scroll (probably a dragon leftover, since Hyrens were incapable of such magic) and it vanished in a puff of smoke. Edyn turned back to the shelf and was about to pick up the book on herbal remedies when a burp and flash of heat caught her attention.
"Wow! I didn't expect her reaction to be that fast!" the Baby Hyren said. "Should I read it?" Edyn nodded and he unfurled the scroll, coughed twice and began to read.
"My dearest student; I am touched by your concern for what you have found. I am well aware of the legend, and emergency preparations have be accounted for. However, I do feel that perhaps you are spending too much time in Canterlot. I will grant your request to oversee the festivities in order to provide a change of pace; all I ask in return is that you take this opportunity to relax and to not worry about what may or may not be. Take a vacation and make some friends! Signed, Celestia, Diarch of the Day."
A vacation? With Agram plotting and scheming behind the scenes? It was almost enough to make Edyn scream.
Zecora watched the warship limp away with minor misgivings. While these 'Blue Rogues' seemed more akin to Luffy and his Straw Hats in their conduct, they had still stolen every single thing of value from the Valuan ship save personal items and just enough fuel for them to reach safe harbor.
What had made it awkward was the Valuan soldiers swapping increasingly exaggerated tales of how Zecora had saved their Sub-Commander from certain death (at the hands of their much hated Commander, no less) and went on to defeat the ferocious Antonio single-handed. It had nearly come to blows when the pirates made it clear that Zecora was also coming with them.
But even the more devoted of Zecora's new fans had to admit that they were the ones who'd attacked Zecora without provocation, sinking her ship in the process, and so off they went.
As for Zecora, she and her new companion Cupil were heading to the pirates' base. The two youths who had chased off Alfonso seemed to have been assigned as her minders...but there was something about the boy that made Zecora suspicious...not the least of which was when she introduced the two to Cupil, Vyse and Aika were immediately on the receiving end of a somewhat squishy hug.
Vyse watched the blasted and ruined Pirate Isle disappear into the distance with a familiar clench in his belly. He really didn't like doing this, in fact it went against every fiber of his being not to at least warn his dad or the rest of the crew about what was going to happen, but...he'd learned the hard way that having Pirate Isle evacuate ahead of the attack, raising their defense or putting up any resistance, or even just the act of taking Fina with them to Shrine Isle that day ended BADLY. It resulted in Galacian shelling the island until it broke apart, planting Valua's flag on the biggest remaining piece that still floated, and yet another loop where Vyse was responsible for the horrible death of his family. At least with the original course of events everyone lived.
Aika still didn't approve, even having seen the result firsthand. How Fina had forgiven him was mind-boggling...though the fact that Ramirez was now looping might've had something to do with it. Even if the man's devotion to Galacian had lasted through the loops and he would never dare gainsay that monster's order to open fire on innocent women and children -
His thoughts derailed spectacularly as Vyse, opening the door to their ship's little cabin, found himself face to face with an extremely unamused Zecora. And no matter what Aika might claim later, Vyse certainly did not scream like a little girl, flail his arms, or fall into an undignified heap on the deck.
"Once you have recovered from your place on the floor," Zecora said dryly, "Perhaps you can explain your deception from before?"
"Hey, won't Galacian notice if you're, y'know, not his prisoner anymore?" Aika pointed out as the three of them prepared to set sail again.
"Aika, I must say you are quite mistaken," Zecora answered with a sly smile, "For indeed, as their prisoner I was taken."
"...and that is why I remain a loyal servant of Lord Galacian," Ramirez concluded.
He hesitated for a moment, before adding "You were right, it was a relief to finally share my thoughts. Vyse is a strong warrior but he hates my lord far too much to ever accept my reasons."
Zecora - or rather, a Kage Bunshin of her - nodded solemnly. Ramirez returned the nod as he straightened his uniform.
"Sadly, I must return to my duties. Unfortunately as you are replacing my sister, I must ask that you stay in this cell for the time being. Vyse typically arranges her rescue after breaking into the Coliseum."
The Zecora clone glanced around her cell - which was actually a luxurious stateroom - and smiled.
"Do not worry for my sake. But as for your duties, should you not arrive late?"
Hopefully her real self would follow up on this budding friendship, the Zecora clone thought as Ramirez took his leave. He was a very interesting young man. Perhaps they would get a chance to speak more before she was dispelled. That would be...nice.
122.4 (Hubris Plus)
Lyra fidgeted in the town hall, waving off the various concerned ponies who wondered what was wrong. All four of them were full of nervous energy, except for Sweet Roll, who was full of honey glaze. It wasn't that she knew that Nightmare Moon was about to put in an appearance. She might not be the strongest Looper, but she thought she'd be able to take a baseline alicorn in a pinch, especially with Seapony at the helm.
She tossed a glance towards the crimson stallion watching the balcony expectantly. His black mane had been pulled back into a topknot, showing off the pair of curved horns twisting out from his forehead and causing no small amount of gawking from the other unicorns. His right forehoof was encased in what appeared to be a cylinder of elaborately carved stone the same color as his coat.
Hellcolt, he called himself. When she'd told him that Equestria was a sanctuary he'd just grunted and said "we'll see."
She wasn't offended. A lot of Loopers were incredulous the first time they heard the offer. But usually one of the Bearers was on hoof to enforce things. If not the first six then Trixie or Gilda or, larch, the crusaders in a pinch. At the moment, Cheerilee was the oldest local Awake. And, while the teacher could be exceptionally kick-flank when she wanted to be, there was an irreplaceable comfort to having friendship powered artillery backing you up. Just in case.
"What have you done with the Princess?!" The Mayor called out, shaking Lyra from her reverie.
"Her hour has passed," Nightmare Moon spoke, unhurried. "The day has ended and night is upon you. A thousand years ago I sought to rule over this world, but in my exile I have learned humility in the service of my master, who lies sleeping upon the edge of eternity. This world will be his as it was in ages past. Darkness is his purpose and his blood and his prison, and through me it shall be his freedom also."
As she'd spoken, Nightmare's mane had billowed out above her, filling the ceiling with abyssal darkness and a million points of dying light. One in particular began to grow larger, or closer, a misshapen seven pointed star. Lyra shivered. This was new, and she wasn't sure if she was feeling up to new just then. Around her ponies stood, transfixed in horror.
"Seven is their number, seven in heaven and seven in the earth, but they are also one, one in name and one in purpose," the usurper continued, eyes aglow with eldritch light. "They are the wind of destruction, for mighty children are they, and their time is come again. Behold, the Great Dragon, Ogdru Jahad! Returned from the abyss by my hoof and my-"
"And though evil winds may blow and chaos fill the sky, I am sheltered 'neath your bough and thy roots hold firm..." Cheerilee's voice rose in counterpoint as the pages of a small book rippled in an unseen wind before her. As they'd worked out over a hoof full of vampony and demonic variants, prayers to trees worked just fine while the Tree of Harmony was in place.
Across the room, Vinyl swept a hoof through the air. The prayer's words, backed by a melody blaring from her speakers, were compressed into a physical force and hurled at the chanting goddess.
"Naught but sound and fury, signifying nothing!" She snarled as the attack forced her back a step. "Your precious tree holds no more power here than your Princess. Neither holds the faintest glimmer of might next to that which-"
She was cut off once more as Lyra dropped her disguise, falling to the floor in her seapony form. The released illusion allowed her to devote her full power to a conjured whip of water. The liquid weapon struck with a sickening crack and Lyra's eyes widened as one of Nightmare Moon's wings went limp. She'd only put so much force behind the attack because this version of Nightmare seemed so much stronger than the usual, she hadn't wanted to hurt her that badly!
"ENOUGH!" Nightmare Moon roared, ignoring her injury as she reared up and launched lightning from the abyssal chasm her mane had become. Where the bolts landed the room erupted in black fire, burning high and hot. The cracks of thunder had finally rattled the non-Loopers from their stupor and a stampede began for the doors. "Surrender. This is the end of your era. From this moment on there is no joy, no courage, no hope. Only the endless night and terror of-"
"Lady," Hellcolt said as he strode through the flame without fear or discomfort. "You talk too much."
"Anung Un Rama," she breathed. Above, the star had resolved itself into a massive amber crystal. Larger than cities, than continents, than worlds, it loomed overhead, waiting. "Your place here was foretold, Right Hoof of Doom. As I am the Gate, so you are the Key. Together we will rule over the last bleak days of this realm and watch the destruction of all from on-"
"Yeah yeah, I've heard it all before," he grumbled, more annoyed than anything. He turned in Lyra's direction. "You guys wanna handle the portal? I got this one."
"Um, sure," Lyra answered uncertainly before perking up. "Could you go easy on her? She's pretty nice once she comes down off the crazy."
He regarded her for a long moment before offering a curt nod. "Yeah. Alright." With that, he bunched up his rear legs before springing at the balcony and cracking his stone hoof across Nightmare Moon's jaw.
"Alright," Lyra said, encasing herself in a sphere of water and floating over to the only other ponies still on the ground floor. "Ideas?"
"You are blinded by my sister's lies, Anu-"
"Ain't my name," The conversation, punctuated by heavy blows, drifted down from above.
"Feels weird," Vinyl commented, horn glowing as she scanned the aetheric vibrations around the hole.
"Agreed," Cheerilee nodded, waving a heavily modified tricorder. "It's less a gateway-"
"You cannot fight your fate, child. Your destiny has been laid since long before your birth."
"Shut up, lady!"
"-And more a foreign set of physics imposing themselves on the world," she finished.
~Oh, oh, tag in!~ Miscellaneous enthused from within Lyra, and Seapony obligingly slid aside. The other personality rummaged through their Pocket for a moment before stabbing a six foot steel post covered in blinking lights and loose wires into the ground.
"What's that?" Vinyl asked.
"You are a fool if you think you can-"
"I told you to shut up, lady!"
"I call them Regularity Rods, they're kinda the opposite of Peppermint Pylons," Lyra explained. "They enforce local physics and make them harder to override. Real useful for limiting damage during mad science, saved me a trip to Eiken more than once."
The three looked up again and saw an edge of Nightmare Moon's mane bulging up and away from the rod.
"Seems effective," Cheerilee agreed. "If we can set up more of them we may be able to pinch it shut."
"You will open the way, if not today, then-"
"Lady, you and me, we got a problem!"
"Again, we're really sorry about that," Lyra told their guest after things had settled down. "We can usually manage on our own."
"Don't worry about it, kid," Hellcolt answered.
"No, she's right," Cheerilee insisted. "Equestria is a sanctuary Loop, and we take that seriously. You shouldn't have had to get involved."
"I'm serious too," he assured them. "Admins tell me my universe got whammied by a bunch of the Outer Gods before the Loops started, and well... Lets just say that I got troubles, an' they tend to follow me. Ain't your fault most of the big guys shrug off anything that didn't help make 'em."
"Trust me, just getting someone out from under the Dragon is miracle enough for me." Luna had come out of it looking much worse for wear than usual, having been held in the tender mercies of dark gods for a thousand years, but she had come out of it. "And that thing with the prayer was clever. Probably would have worked if she weren't getting backed up by squid-face. Now..." He lit up a cigar and clamped it in his teeth. "Anything else I should know about? Imprisoned devils, sealed monsters, ancient civilizations, Fae courts, stuff like that?"
The trio of locals exchanged glances. "That... Yeah, that might come up."
"Well, I usually work with a team, and I like having a fish-man at my back, so..."
"Oh, and vamponies are a thing this Loop," Vinyl added, peeling back her lips to show off a set of fangs. "Thought you'd wanna know."
One otherwise calm and quiet day, the doors to Big Mac's bars swung open, and a pony dragged themselves in. Slowly, they made their way to the bar, and collapsed before reaching it.
Big Macintosh just watched this with concern. He didn't recognise the pony, one of a dark blue colour, thin and tall build, and greying hair, but they looked like they were going to be requiring his services all the same.
Slowly, the pony lifted his head, revealing a set of eyebrows best labelled as "ferocious", brows that would instill unease in the eldest of dragons. Or they would have if their owner didn't look so weary.
"Hi" the pony said, casually, as if he had not just dragged themselves into a room.
"Morning" Big Macintosh said, carefully. He couldn't help but notice the distinctly Scottish accent the pony had. That combined with everything else led him to one conclusion.
The man nodded, gloomily.
Big Macintosh eyed the man carefully. He hadn't as much experience with the Time Lord as some of his other Loopers, but he could still guess that whatever had caused him to be this despondent had to have been something truly horrific.
"What happened?" he asked. The Doctor paused for a moment.
"'s them ponies. Wanted to turn everyone else into more ponies."
Without a single word, and without any appearance of actually having moved at all, Big Macintosh had reached under the bar, pulled out a large tankard, and placed it next to the Doctor. He stared at it, then to Big Macintosh.
"That was fast" he noted, apparently for lack of anything else to say.
"Brain bleach" Big Macintosh replied, "standard procedure with Bureau Loops."
The man glowered at the drink, and Big Macintosh was impressed. The way he was glowering, the liquid would have been well within its rights to just combust there and then.
"Worse than just a Bureau" he said, "it-"
"Nope" Big Macintosh cut in, before pointing to an adjacent sign hanging above the bar. There, drawn in friendly letters was the phrase "first rule of Bureau Loops: Do not talk about Bureau Loops."
Just underneath it, someone else had thoughtfully added "Until Very Drunk."
The Doctor just nodded at that. "Right."
As the man stared cautiously at his drink, Big Macintosh set off to find Miss Sparkle, and anyone else who happened to be Awake that Loop. He had the feeling they would be needed.
Mac and Berry, having just finished setup of the bar for the new loop, looked up in surprise as the door to the bar slammed open and the front half of a silver draconequus poked through.
"Thank oak, you're both Awake!" Silver exclaimed, "I need some kind of brain bleach that can also replenish chakra! Do you have anything like that?"
"I can whip up something quick," Berry said, already rummaging through the bar's supplies, "Had a bad loop?"
"Yes, but it's not for me."
Silver proved her point by sliding the rest of the way into the room, revealing that she was carrying a pony on her tail. She dumped her passenger on a bar stool, where he proceeded to slouch against the counter while covering his face with both forelegs. The grumbling complaint at the rough treatment proved that the pony wasn't unconscious, but by the sound of it he might've been happier that way.
Mac spotted the scarecrow cutie mark on the pony's flank and frowned.
"We can give Twilight a ring, have her come in from Canterlot early," Mac offered.
Kakashi made another grumble. Then, after Silver nudged him, repeated "M'fine" at a slightly higher and surlier volume.
"It's not THAT serious, but...we just finished a rough loop in Kakashi's baseline," Silver clarified, "It started off pretty normal, except we had a stealth Anchor and we were the only ones Awake. Stuck with baseline powers and no pockets too."
Mac nodded, encouraging Silver to continue.
"Well...we were twins, and the preawake us had been working together for our whole lives, so we decided to finagle the Hokage into assigning us as dual sensei for Team Seven. I mostly was curious about Sakura's genjutsu potential, Kakashi basically turned Sasuke into a trainee hunter-nin, and Naruto bounced around between the two of us."
Berry slid a glass of something green and softly fizzing over to Kakashi, who grabbed it without looking and drank. He perked up immediately, though even after Kakashi removed his hooves from his face, he didn't open his eyes.
"Our universe is going through these 'expansion' things nowadays," Kakashi said, continuing the tale, "Irregular ones, and the other loopers in our branch derail things pretty fast."
"So we decided that as long as we were there, we might as well see how things were supposed to go," Silver added, "And it got WEIRD around the time that the Infinite Tsukiyomi activated. Especially with the Ten Tails changing forms and blowing up everything like we were in a Dragon Ball fused loop!"
"Not to mention Naruto never bothered to mention who 'Tobi' was ahead of time," Kakashi growled, "I could have done without that surprise."
"The loop crashed right after Kaguya was defeated though. Not sure why."
"Must've been one tough fight if you're still tired after the reset," Berry said, "Silver, you need a pick-me-up too?"
"Err, that's not really..."
Silver trailed off, looking over to Kakashi. Kakashi sensed what she wanted, sighed, and reluctantly opened both eyes. Mac and Berry were treated to the sight of a matched set of Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan for four whole seconds before Kakashi slammed his hooves over his face and slumped back down onto the counter in renewed exhaustion.
Much like his original Sharingan, Kakashi couldn't figure out how turn them off. At all. Obito was probably laughing at him from the afterlife.
"Really hope this is temporary..." Kakashi groaned out loud.
Silver patted his shoulder sympathetically.
"I'll just go ahead and make you a double," Berry said, already heading back to her tools.
Rainbow Dash stuck her tongue out-or tried to. It was kind of hard to move when you were a pile of rocks.
I'm trapped... And I'm lonely... So very lonely...
Won't you join me?
"Oh, you poor creature! Have you been trapped up here in Pokemon Tower all this time? Of course I'll join you for a while!"
Fluttershy rummaged through her subspace pocket for a little bit, before finally pulling out a stasis container with what looked to be preserved brains (ethically sourced, of course). She looked over to her companion, a decaying corpse of a man sticking halfway out of the floor. It just grunted and groaned a little bit, but wasn't actually going after Fluttershy, or pulling out it's Pokemon to battle.
Fluttershy had been told by Loopers about this possible variant, where this zombie would challenge them to a Pokemon Battle at the top of the Pokemon Tower in Lavender Town, and pulling them into the ground and eating them if he won. All they knew of him was he went by "Buried Alive", or "Buryman" for short. For the most part, he wasn't enough of a challenge to warrant much attention from most Loopers. And to her knowledge, nobody had tried to have a picnic with him.
But there was a first time for everything. Fluttershy took the brains out of the stasis jar, and put it on a plate in front of Buryman. The corpse looked at it for a second, before taking it with his free hand, a grin on it's face.
Finally... Fresh meat...
"What?" Was all Red could manage, his brain unable to come up with any better statement to being told about Fluttershy's adventure.
"Oh, I just showed him a little bit of kindness." Fluttershy said. "Being buried alive must have been horrible! It was the least I could do for the poor thing..."
"Well, that is a first for dealing with him." Red allowed, before a thought crossed his mind. "Hey, if we're trying for kindness, want to come with us over to Cinnabar Island? I know a certain something that could use a bit of kindness. Just... don't try to catch him, okay?"
Flutershy's face brightened "I'd love to. But if you don't mind, do we have time to grab a shovel and head back to the Tower? I kind of promised the man I'd dig him out..."
"...Sure, why not?"
122.9 (The Cyan Recluse)
“Hurry up Twilight! You’ve got to put a stop to this!” An Awake Spike demanded, practically pulling Twilight Sparkle along behind him as he stomped towards Sweet Apple Acres.
“Spike! I’d have better luck ‘putting a stop to this’ if you took a moment to explain what ‘this’ is!” The purple furred unicorn reproached her number one assistant / son /brother / personal postal service.
Spike didn’t bother slowing down as he replied.
“Look, you know how Big Mac started installing one of Pinkie’s mini Candy Cane Pylons in the bar to deal with the unexpected ‘problems’ variant or fused loops sometimes cause?”
“Yeah, so? It seems like a good idea to me.” Twilight replied, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, Pinkie and Trixie are abusing it to have a drinking contest!” Spike grumbled, clearly unhappy with the situation. Twilight just blinked in confusion.
“A drinking contest? Is that all? We have drinking contests all the time Spike! I don’t see what has you so worked up.” She huffed as they neared the entrance to Mac’s bar.
Truthfully, both Pinkie Pie and Trixie could be a handful when sober and on their own. Pinkie had a tendency to casually violate the law of physics. And Trixie tended to violate laws regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. If the two of them were drinking and egging each other on... Well, that could lead to the sort of event where reaching ‘minimum safe distance’ required leaving the planet’s orbit.
For non-looping Equestrians such an event would be terrifying beyond their ability to comprehend. For individuals such as Spike and herself, it would be a rather hum-drum Tuesday. In short, something that needed to be handled, but certainly nothing URGENT.
Which made the way Spike was rushing her so peculiar.
“It’s not the contest that has me so riled up!” Spike groused. “It’s WHAT they’re drinking!” Before Twilight could reply, he pushed the door to Mac’s bar open and gestured inside.
Twilight glanced through the door and noted that Mac’s bar was more or less in its normal configuration for this early in the loop. The scorch marks on the floor and walls were a new touch however. (Major property damage usually didn’t occur quite THIS soon.) Some of the tables were also looking a bit... melted. Then there was the fact that Mac was hunkered down behind the bar, wearing a clear plastic blast shield over his face, and looking ready to duck.
In front of the bar stood a grinning Pinkie Pie, with a smile on her face and a glass in her hand. A heavily shielded and enspelled glass full of a simmering, smouldering liquid that had most certainly NOT been designed for equine consumption.
“Bottoms up!” The pink party pony giggled before downing her beverage in one shot.
“PINKIE!” Twilight’s eyes went wide in alarm as she rushed forward to try to stop her friend. She was far, far too late of course.
“Ooooh… I feel tingly….” Pinkie began to wobble from side to side after a few moments, before holding still and emitting an enormous, echoing BELCH! Twilight blinked and slowed her headlong dash towards her friend.
“Ooooh! That feels MUCH better…” The element of laughter began to grin.
Then she exploded.
In video game terms, it would be referred to as Ludicrous Gibs. Bits of fluffy pink fur and meat went flying in all directions, trailing pinkish colored ‘blood.’ After a few seconds the giblets came to rest on the ground, forming little pools of blood.
Then the pieces exploded too.
Twilight’s pupils shrunk down to pinpricks as she stared around the room at the (relatively few) remains of one of her best friends. A few puddles of pink goo were all that remained, sizzling as they started to eat into the floor.
Before she could fully wrap her brain around recent events, where was an electronic ‘whoop-whoop-whooooop’ sound… And suddenly an intact, perfectly hale and hearty Pinkie Pie was standing in the middle of the room again, flashing in and out of existence for a few seconds before fully solidifying with a grin on her face.
“That was AWESOME!” Pinkie bounced up and down in excitement. “I really love those fizzy drinks!”
“Trixie believes the proper word is ‘fissile.’ Hello Twilight!”
Twilight managed to pick her jaw up the floor and turned her head to spot Trixie, who had apparently been standing in the opposite corner of the room. Twilight had completely missed the show-mare’s presence in her rush to save her friend. The blue furred pony smiled and waved as she approached Pinkie.
“Well, I don’t care what it’s called, it’s awesome! So, your turn now?” Pinkie grinned in excitement.
Twilight groaned and face-hoofed. “Pinkie’s Candy Cane Pylon. Of course. I’m an idiot.” She sighed and glanced around the bar as Pinkie and Trixie began mixing another one of Berry Punch’s ‘Dragon-Specials.’ The damage to the scenery was surprisingly superficial. Most of the blast marks looked identical and seemed almost painted on.
“Well, at least I won’t have to douse the place with an entire lake. Again.” She muttered to herself. Giving her head a shake she walked over to Big Mac, who was cautiously standing back up from behind the bar.
“Please tell me that you didn’t think this was a good idea.” She asked plaintively.
“You try to stop them?”
“And how well did that work out?”
Big Macintosh just give her a long suffering look and sighed.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Twilight sighed herself. “We really have GOT to get that mare a HEALTHY hobby for loops when Chrysalis isn’t Awake.”
By now Spike had entered the bar proper, and arrived at Twilight’s side.
“Don’t just stand there Twilight, get them to cut it out already!” He demanded.
“Spike, while I agree that this behavior isn’t exactly... healthy... They’re not actually harming anyone.” She paused, then shrugged. “Well, not harming anyone PERMANENTLY. So long as they fix Mac’s bar when they’re done, I don’t see a reason to stop them.”
“Not harming anyone my tail!” Spike crossed his arms and eyed the other two mares angrily. “They’re going through the bar’s stock like Celestia through a cake factory! Do you have any idea how hard it is to get some of the ingredients for those drinks? Red mercury doesn’t grow on trees you know! At this rate there won’t be any left for us dragons!”
Twilight just blinked. “What?”
But Spike was paying her no mind, instead stomping over to Pinkie and Trixie, who had just finished (carefully) pouring another cocktail into an enchanted glass. Which was already starting to dissolve.
“Alright you two, you’ve had your fun! Now cut it out!” He waved his arms about in frustration. “Go have some cider or something and leave the good stuff for those of us who can’t get drunk off of alcohol! I want to have something left to drink after a Bureau loop too you know!”
Twilight face hoofed again. Sometimes she envied humans. Pinching the bridge of your nose was a surprisingly effective way to relieve stress. Difficult to do when you lacked hands though. And a nose.
“It is WAY too early in the loop for this.”
Big Mac patted her on the shoulder consolingly. “E’Yup.”
Then he used that hoof to pull her down behind the bar at the sound of Trixie’s voice.
Pinkie Pie bounced in through the closed door of the treebrary. "Hi Twilight! I've got a surprise for you! Come outside and see!"
Twilight shrugged, placed her bookmark, and complied.
Twilight stared, turned around, and was blocked by Pinkie Pie.
"Remember the chocolate syrup swimming pool that randomly showed up? Well you never even tried to swim in it, so I thought, 'how can I change this so that Twilight can enjoy it', and then I remembered that you really really like mint, so I filled a swimming pool with mint jello!"
"Wait, that's mint?"
Twilight turned back towards the mint jello swimming pool, grinned, clapped, and squeed like a filly, then jumped in with a running start. She took three bites before she realized something was wrong. Horribly, horribly, wrong.
"EEEEEUGH! Pinky! What in Yggdrasil possessed you to add chlorine to mint jello!"
"Oh, that's easy! Trixie said it would make the jello jell faster, and it did!"
"UGG! When I get my hooves on her..."
122.2 continued (TangleKat)
My Little Magi – Part 2
Strag was convinced that Yggdrasil had to be a troll in some capacity or another. It was the only explanation for all of the odd situations that he seemed to Awaken in. Case in point: he was an Underneathian. He was familiar with the earth, with having a tunnel over his head and solid stone beneath his boots. Thus it was logical (and he had assumed) that he would enter the Equestria Loops as an Earth Pony.
He had instead Looped in as a Pegasus. He was no stranger to flight; he didn’t at all mind visiting the cloud-lands of Arderial nor did he have issue with Magining the bird-like Epik to aid him when need be. No, it was the sheer oddity of Looping in as something completely foreign that confused him. At least the whole Pegasi-stand-on-clouds thing wasn’t out of the ordinary for a Moonlander. It was a fairly useful thing to know since he was currently sitting on a cloud above town.
He shook his head and resolved to worry about odd Loop behavior later. Right now it was time to check his Loop Memories.
First – his Equestrian name was designated as Nightfall. Probably due to his duties as a Shadow Stalker, but one could never be too sure. Especially a person with his heritage. Second – He was a part of the local weather team. His duties were primarily to observe the current conditions and to ensure that nothing unexpected happened. And third – he seemed to be a fairly athletic pony. In his baseline he had been a strong contender in the various coliseum battles, so it was only fair that it had carried over somehow.
Just as Strag finished this examination, he felt Edyn pinging from far away. There was no need for him to reply, since she would already know that he was Awake. What did interest him were the responses. One was faint and likely indicative of someone on another planet or some such, while the other was very strong. In fact, it was strong enough to have come from directly below him. Best to check it out and introduce himself.
If he could find a way to actually fly first – being stuck on a cloud was problematic.
Edyn stared out the window at the mountains, and was immensely relieved when she saw Ponyville emerge from between them. The small town was nestled between a thick forest and the sprawling plains beyond. “I’m glad we’re almost there; this trip has been entirely too long.” She turned to Spike, who had fallen asleep to the train’s gentle rocking. “Time to wake up; we’ve almost arrived in Ponyville.”
The Baby Hyren yawned and stretched like a cat before turning to her. “What did you say? I was having the nicest dream…”
Edyn giggled. “I said that we’re almost there. I wouldn’t want you to sleep through our arrival, would I?”
Spike’s face flushed bright blue, and he scratched his chin with a claw. “No, I guess that would be kinda bad. Do you want me to go over the list of tasks now?”
Edyn tapped her chin with a hoof. “Yeah, that would probably be a good idea. What do we have lined up?” She got off of her seat and looked up at the baggage rack, eyes searching for the saddlebags she’d packed before leaving. Spotting it nearby, her horn flared to life with magic and she pulled out the scroll sticking out of one corner. Spike flew up and grabbed it, eagerly unrolling it.
“Okay, first things first – we’ll have to visit Applejack of Sweet Apple Acres and the proprietors of Sugarcube Corner. They’re going to be doing the catering.”
Edyn nodded, both memorizing the agenda and listening intently for any sign of her fellow Magi.
“Next is Town Hall; a unicorn by the name of Rarity is supposed to be in charge of the decorations.”
Edyn smiled at that; the Looping Spike and Rarity’s wedding was legendary among Loopers. Although she had only heard of it, she thought that what the two had managed to accomplish was both incredible and heart-warming. Shaking the thought from her head, she turned her attention back to her assistant.
“After that we have to check on the Weather Patrol; a Pegasus named Nightfall is supposed to be watching the skies.”
The Naroomi’s attention was piqued by that; wasn’t Rainbow Dash usually in charge of weather? The possibility of it being one of her friends was very high. “Actually Spike, can we do that one first? I don’t want to be worrying about the condition of the skies during everything else.”
Spike nodded. “Sure thing, Moonbud. I guess it really doesn’t matter what order we do them in, huh?” Spike coughed once for effect and returned to the scroll. “The last one on the list is music. Apparently an Earth Pony named Solar Shard has volunteered to handle it, with an animal-based choir.”
Edyn had to refrain from clapping her hooves. That one was definitely Tony; of the three of them, his skill with Dream Creatures was the strongest. That left Strag as Nightfall. Her face fell a little as she wondered what he felt of the name he’d been given by this Loop. And certainly as she wondered how he felt about being a Pegasus.
As Spike rolled up the scroll and returned it to the saddlebag, she felt the train slow and noted that they were currently pulling into Ponyville Station. Lighting her magic once more, she pulled her belongings onto her back and felt the Baby Hyren land just behind her neck. “Ready for this, Spike?” He nodded his affirmative, and together the two of them set out to see what the Loop had in store.
Three armies prepared to face each other, under the supervision of Professor Quirrell, who was bald and didn't wear a turban this loop.
Dragon Army had a simple insignia: a patch of fire. This was generally agreed to be a bad sign.
Chaos Legion had a hand poised to snap. This was universally agreed to be a bad sign.
Team Happy had three balloons, which freaked out eldritch entities throughout Yggdrasil.
Quirrell rubbed his head, headache rising. "Harry, Draco, Pinkie...you three are hereby forbidden from participating in all future battles."
The three loopers grinned sheepishly as they glanced at the battlefield, which was littered with glowing green craters and flying streamer monsters.
One of the things which was common knowledge to all ponies in general and Sound Mind in particular was whenever Princess Celestia needed to meet somepony she'd do it in the Royal Hall, as if it was a single-pony Day Court...
'Scratch that, there's two Princesses now.'
Apparently with the recent incident of the Summer Sun Celebration in Ponyville there's was a second Princess, Princess Luna, younger sister of Princess Celestia, even if nopony had known of her attending any official events or holding a Night Court yet.
'Now I'm just diverting my own thoughts, I must be more nervous than I thought.' Anyway, the point was it was unheard of having Princess Celestia requesting anypony's presence to her private quarters, unless she'd need a stallion for... 'Hold that thought! Obviously she wouldn't have send one of her guard to make such a pompous request in my psychologist clinic if she were just looking for a stallion... right?'
With that thought in mind Sound Mind had the doors opened to Princess Celestia's bedroom. The place was huge and beautiful decorated with day and night motifs on the walls and bed, but he didn't have much time to admire it. Princess Celestia and a unicorn, which Sound Mind recognized as the Princess' personal student, were at a table, their worried expressions thankfully sobering his previous thoughts. Steeling himself he went to speak with the two ponies.
After bows given, introductions were interchanged and any Royal Guard dismissed Princess Celestia spoke to the stallion. "What do you know about the Summer Sun Celebration two days ago?"
The question threw Sound Mind a bit off (probably to shake him from his nervousness, his own mind provided) enough to not to measure his answer "Not much, Princess. I only know that night lasted considerably longer than usual and the rumours of a new Princess, by the name of Luna."
Princess Celestia nodded. "Both things are true, even if that isn't precise on everything which happened that night. I had to wait for a thousand years for my sister Luna to return," Princess Celestia's voice took a sad note. "However, in her return there were complications. Have you heard the tale of the Mare in the Moon?"
Sound Mind blinked, "that old's mare's tale about the two sisters which raised... and imprisoned in the moon..." his eyes widened in surprise as realization hit him. "They were you and Princess Luna?!"
Ignoring the obvious outburst Princess Celestia answered. "Yes, though at the time my sister was corrupted by a dark force and took the form of Nightmare Moon." Nightmare Night's patron? "When we fought I couldn't heal her myself, and she ended sealed in her moon, still as Nightmare Moon. And she was in that form when she returned, a thousand years later, still corrupted.
"I can't thank my faithful student and her friends enough for bringing Luna back, healed," Princess Celestia said while smiling to the unicorn by her side, "but their victory wasn't without casualties. Blinded by the corruption, Nightmare Moon managed to bring one of the ponies who confronted her to madness before being defeated.
"Sound Mind, I'm in need of your services as psychologist. Please heal this pony, both for her own sake and Luna's: I don't want to burden my sister even more with the reminder of her shattering the sanity of one of my little ponies."
If somepony were to ask Sound Mind's thoughts at this moment, he'd comment on how the powerlessness expression on Princess Celestia's face goes against the natural order of things. She... she was Princess Celestia herself!
'Diverting thoughts detected, correct course ASAP.' With that Sound Mind took a long sigh, trying to gather his own thoughts. Eventually he spoke: "Is she in Ponyville? I have many other patients and I would make a disservice to them if I couldn't make to their appointments just because of a new patient." Wait, had he just rejected Celestia's personal request? 'Horseapples!'
Princess Celestia's smile and words calmed his own thoughts. "I wouldn't expect anything less. Don't worry, she's living here in the castle right now and will be as long as she needs to."
"Then there's no trouble, I'll see her," Sound Mind nodded. "Who is this pony, anyway?"
"It's one of the friends I made in Ponyville a few days ago," it was the white unicorn, Rarity according to her introduction, who spoke while levitating a folder towards him. "Her name is Twilight Sparkle and she was working as Ponyville's librarian." The folder has a picture of a lavender earth pony with a purple mane and a starburst as her cutie mark. "I... please help her!" Rarity suddenly broke down crying, barely holding herself with both forelegs in the table and surprising Sound Mind at how much Rarity was holding herself back all this time. "She helped us so much and now... and now she just... lost herself."
Closing the folder Sound Mind decided "I don't have any appointments this afternoon. Let me check her file and I can see her in about an hour."
"Thank you." Rarity said on a soft voice, showing a small if tired smile.
"Then you can use the royal study, and in an hour we'll lead you to Twilight Sparkle's room." Princess Celestia provided.
Sound Mind nodded, taking the folder and... "Erm..." the earth pony mumbled and looked around as he realized he didn't have anything to carry the folder.
That somehow made Rarity bounce back to normal immediately. "Oh! Wait a moment." Going to a corner of the room, Rarity emptied a saddlebag, most probably hers at it had her cutie mark, and brought it back with her magic grip. "Here, darling. Please use this."
"But it's yours, there's no need," Sound Mind shook his head to try to reject but Rarity wouldn't have anything of it.
"Don't worry about it," Rarity said in a genial tone. "I can always get another later or levitate my things myself."
Sound Mind got a little nervous. 'Darling'? offering those gifts so easily, marked with her own cutie mark no less? He just hoped Rarity didn't get a crush on him, he had a wife after all.
Apparently Princess Celestia realized this as she made a small laugh. "Please don't worry too much. This is just how Rarity addresses everypony."
Calm Mind blinked, more relaxed. "Okay..." After a moment of silence he spoke again. "So, where's the study? I'd like to start reading Ms. Sparkle's file right away."
Rarity just nodded. "No problem, Princess."
"Rarity will lead you to the study, and we'll be carrying you to Twilight Sparkle's room in an hour. See you later, Sound Mind."
Not forgetting to bow, the stallion answered "Until later, Princess Celestia."
In one of the guest bedrooms Twilight was resting on the bed. "So, still feeling woozy?" she said, apparently to nopony in particular.
'Still a bit, mom.' Nyx answered from inside her. This was a variant where Rarity was Princess Celestia's student instead, though something interesting happened when confronting Nightmare Moon: Nyx Awoke just when the Elements were healing Princess Luna, somehow making the Elements place the weak last remains of Nightmare Moon's consciousness, Nyx, into Twilight's mind. Not that she minded, she loved to meet her daughter again.
"You realize you're making me look like a crazy pony, right?" Twilight asked in mock annoyment.
'As much as you realize you don't have to speak aloud to talk to me? Yes.' Nyx snarked back before mother and daughter giggled in unison.
After calming themselves Twilight started walking to the door. "Well, when you're better we can make the whole Eternal Twilight routine again. Meanwhile, why don't we get us some ice cream?"
'Yay!' Nyx happily agreed. She couldn't eat ice cream as she didn't have a body but this was the next best thing.
"Yeah, this is going to cause comment," Twilight observed.
"How so?" Rarity asked, with a frown. "It's hardly the first time Spike and I have re-married in a loop."
"Well, yes, I admit that." Twilight then pointed. "But this is the first time you've been a sea pony and Spike has been a griffin."
Spike examined his plumage, which was mostly purple. "That's not the most fun bit, either."
"What is the most fun bit, then?" Twilight asked, in the tones of someone who was determined to get this over with.
"Before you stands the ruler of the Griffins!"
Twilight blinked. "Wow. Okay, you've only had a couple of days since I saw you last, and you certainly weren't Emperor then. How did you pull that off?"
"Oh, I didn't." Spike pointed at his wife. "That would be her."
"...right." Twilight shot Rarity a look. "Seriously?"
"I was visiting my dear Spiky-feathered-Wikey's parents - Gilda's his sister, small world - and the Emperor insulted his judgement for becoming infatuated with a hippocampus." Rarity examined her fins. "One thing led to another."
"At least partly because of a hippopotamus joke," Spike stage-whispered. "Anyway, the coronation's tomorrow and the wedding two days after that. That does mean we're going to miss Discord's return, though."
"Right. No problem, Diamond's around, she can sub in for you." Twilight sighed. "Just... please give me a warning before the next time something like this happens?"
"Where would the fun be in that?" Spike asked.