Inmate Echoes

October 13th

This was going to be a piece of cake.

Marik Ishtar parked his motorcycle near the entrance of the TV World, taking a deep breath. Pulling out the letter that was given to him by Derpy Hooves this morning, he read through it one more time.

“Marik, I know this is a little late into the plan (and you already know what I’m about to tell you, so this is just a reminder), but in order for us to be on the offensive, we’ll need more firepower. After you told me of how you freed yourself from the darkness within you, I thought it would be a good idea if you could possibly make Dark Marik into a Persona. I appreciate that you and Odion have taken on this task for Gentaro and I, and I honestly don’t know what I can do to you repay you. I wish you the best of luck. –Elena

Carly: So, you ready to go?

Marik turned around, seeing Carly Carmine appear to him on a motorcycle styled like a hummingbird with orange lines. She hopped off the bike and pulled out her camera, smiling as she took a picture of him.

Marik: I didn’t know you could ride one of those.
Carly: I obtained my time as a Dark Signer after I obtained my own Persona. You got the letter, right?
Marik: Yeah. I don’t see why neither Elena nor Gentaro could join us.
Carly: They’re at the Kamen Rider Club‘s ascension ceremony—apparently, Miu Kazashiro reassembled the club into her temple and they now all share a seat for School Club Front. I left after taking photos for tomorrow’s newsletter. Pretty cool, huh?
Marik: Yeah. So, were you able to get anyone to help us with this task?
Carly: Good news and bad news: Good news is I did. Bad news is…Well…
???: INCOMING!!!

Marik looked to see an orange pegasus filly riding her scooter at top speeds—alongside her two friends—appear, screeching to a halt. He took one glance at Carly as if to ask, “Why them?”

Carly: They’re the only ones I could ask on such short notice. Besides, they’ve already traveled to get their Personas anyway, so…
Apple Bloom: The Cutie Mark Crusaders are here to escort you through the TV World, Marik!
Marik: Perfect.

The Crusaders had a few weapons on hand (a knife and spares for Apple Bloom, a magic wand for Sweetie Belle, and a sword for Scootaloo) and each of them wore a cape that bore the insignia of the Crusaders themselves: a blue shield with a reared up pony in the center. Carly smiled and took a photo of the trio with her camera.

Sweetie Belle: This is so exciting! We get to help someone find themselves with the use of the TV World! Yu would be proud of us!
Scootaloo: I know—after everything we went through, this could be lots of fun! Plus, we can give our weapons a test run before we start our LARP next week!
Apple Bloom: Carly, do you have a weapon of your own?
Carly: Sure do! Here it is!

Carly removed the staff strapped to her back, the bottom having the end of sickle and the staff topped with a gem that had the mark of a hummingbird on it. Marik also prepared his staff—one that was a replica of the Millennium Rod—and looked at the three fillies who would be helping them out today.

Marik: Do your sisters know about this?
Sweetie Belle: We told our friends in the House of Ambiguity to cover for us—and besides, Rarity is filled with requests for costumes for Halloween to even consider the idea of me gone for a few hours. (giggles)
Marik: All right, then. And…who is that?

He pointed to Scootaloo’s scooter…or rather the wagon connected to it and the strange bear that was on its back and gasping for air.

Teddie: I’m…here for giving you intel…(wheezes as he gets off) I never thought an orange filly could go so fast!
Scootaloo: You should see me whenever I go traveling with PaRappa and Subaru Nakajima! We always become a set of trailblazers!
Apple Bloom: You’re not hurt, are you, Teddie?
Teddie: No, no…I was able to bear it no problem!

Teddie got off as he looked at Marik from head to toe.

Teddie: So, do you know what you’re going to be seeing when you enter?
Marik: (notices his letter and quickly pockets it) Somewhat.
Carly: You will be going into a dungeon that is based on your deepest fears, darkest secrets and more. (shows off her Persona card) If you survive, you get one of these.
Apple Bloom: Whoa…you got one too? What does your Persona look like?
Carly: It’s different from others, that’s for sure. When we enter the TV World, I’ll show it.
Teddie: Now girls…(kneels down) Are you sure you want to go through with this? It could be dangerous; I don’t want to get in trouble with your sisters or your baby-sitters about the stuff you’re gonna face.
Apple Bloom: After Limbo, this is nothing.

Marik was about to ask Carly about what the earth pony meant, but he was interrupted by Apple Bloom taking his hand by the mouth and dragging him into the TV World. Carly just sighed as she slipped her camera into a satchel.

Carly: What are we waiting for? Let’s go!
Scootaloo: Last one there reads The Yellow Wallpaper!
Sweetie Belle: Wait for me!

The four raced into the TV World and were soon blinded by a flash of light.

The first thing that the group could see was a gallery, with each portrait depicting two figures: a Pantheon deity, and their Persona.

This was the Persona Gallery, an entrance-way for those who had passed the trials of facing themselves to be immortalized and be seen as inspiration for those about to partake in this trial. In part by Philemon, each new portrait appears after every successful Persona-acquisition. This includes those who haven’t gone in with the Investigation Team. Marik looked around, observing each and every portrait, curious as to what type of history each deity had. Of the ones he took note of, one was framed in black and white. He didn’t know who the person was, but the Persona was dressed in a black cloak lined with skulls and a strange black and white mask. It depicted them fighting in a ring, with one wielding a black-and-white umbrella as a weapon.

Behind the way they came was another gallery, depicting the same, but of the ones actually from the Persona series, starting with the Investigation Team members, then of S.E.E.S., then of the others not fitting into that category, then of the upcoming Phantom Thieves of Hearts, and then the ones yet to (or unable to) ascend. But Marik didn’t care much about that.

Carly: There’s mine, over there!

Pointing to a picture marked with a purple hummingbird mark, Marik looked in front of it. It depicted Carly wielding her staff and her glasses raised above her head. The most notable thing about it were her eyes; instead of a bright gray, they were completely black and filled with an intent to kill someone. Above Carly’s head was the figure of a large bird.

Sweetie Belle: You can summon a bird Persona, Carly?!
Carly: Somewhat. That does make me wonder…why are all of your Personas birds in the first place?
Scootaloo: Beats me…maybe it’s about us able to fly, to be free, to see us grow and become something new.
Teddie: That’s an interesting theory. I wonder what Marik’s Persona will become when he gets it.
Apple Bloom: Maybe he’ll get a bird that looks like mine! Look!

Apple Bloom tossed her card into the air as a bennu bird with flaming wings materialized. Marik just looked in awe while Carly giggled.

Carly: This is Islington, right?
Apple Bloom: That’s right! Named after an angel trapped within the confines of London Below. Does your Persona have a name?
Carly: She does, but it’s not very creative.
Sweetie Belle: How did you get yours, anyway?
Carly: I won’t get into any details, but it was pretty hectic. Especially since this came after I learned about an alternate world where I actually won that duel against Jack Atlas and pretty much caused the end of the world all so that I could be with him.
Scootaloo:…Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.

Eventually, they reached the end of the hallway, where the last portrait (marked with a blue sphere comprised of nanomachines) depicted a young tall woman in a green shirt and black long shorts toting a black blocky futuristic gun, and behind her was a tall (by a foot or two) alien warrior clad in white futuristic armor, a blindfold over its visor, a shield on its back, a beam balance behind it with its scales visible on either side, and holding a gun just like its owner’s on one hand.

Teddie: Oh, that one! Yosuke‘s team had a lot of trouble with her! I was there, too! And she ended up changing sub-houses while she was in here with us!
Marik: Then I have a feeling that they’re gonna be glad when they see mine… What’s her Persona supposed to be, by the way?
Teddie: Iji called hers Adrestia.
Marik: Named after the minor Greek goddess of just retribution, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite?
Teddie: Mm-hmm!
Marik: I’m pretty sure there were no guns at their time.
Carly: Well, not all Personas are chronologically accurate or even look much like their actual counterparts. Mine isn’t even named after anything in mythology, history, or literature at all.
Teddie: Well, while my initial Persona Kintoki-Douji was based on the original Sakata no Kintoki, mine had a Tomahawk missile instead of just a tomahawk.
Scootaloo: My Persona, Mr. Wednesday, is a thunderbird, a legendary Native American creature, even if he’s named after an alias of Odin, the Norse god.
Sweetie Belle: And my Persona, Yvainne, was named after a woman who was also a star, but takes the form of a pomola, a Native American/Canadian bird spirit that causes cold weather.
Marik: I see. I’m honestly more surprised that you three know so much about mythology.
Apple Bloom: What can we say? We like learning new things.

Eventually, the group faced a shimmering portal that would take them into Marik’s own dungeon. Taking a deep breath, Marik gripped his rod tight as he nodded his head.

Marik: Let’s go.

The six walked through the portal, blinded by the light that took them into the dungeon that awaited them, and when they opened their eyes, they found themselves in what looked like an underground tomb.

Teddie: This looks interesting.

Interesting it was—depicted on the walls were murals that depicted Marik’s life back when he watched the Pharaoh’s tomb. There was him gaining the carvings on his back from his father, Odion revealing the marks on the left of his face, the day he and Ishizu visited the outside world and he pretended he was riding a motorcycle using a slab of a stone wall, and then, the most disheartening of them all, when Marik’s dark side took over and killed his own father in a brutal and gruesome fashion that caused the Crusaders to drop their weapons in shock.

Apple Bloom: Sweet Celestiathat’s what you went through, Marik?
Marik: And more.

He then pointed to the next mural that showed Marik cursing the Pharaoh and how he vowed to destroy Yami Yugi if it was the last thing he’d do. Teddie began to comfort the three fillies as Carly nodded her head.

Carly: (pockets her glasses as she shows off her Persona card) All right, I promised to show my Persona off when we got inside so…PERSONA!

Tossing her card into the air and slashing it with the scythe end of her staff, a dark violet glow surrounded the girl. A ring of light rose starting from her feet up to her head, changing her jeans, periwinkle striped shirt and orange vest into a black dress with a skirt that exposed her legs with the top marked with orange lines to depict the image of a bird. The Crusaders gasped when Carly opened her eyes, revealing black pupils that reminded them of Nightmare Moon and a small triangle mark on the corner of her left eye. The most prominent thing though was the humming bird mark branded on her arm that glowed with the same purple color that transformed her.

Scootaloo: You turn into your Persona?!
Teddie: And she can do even more! When it comes to summoning spells, she summons her Fortune Ladies to deliver the pain! And when it really gets tough she has a special weapon known as—
Carly: No, Teddie. (wags a finger at him) No spoiling that until we get to the boss.
Apple Bloom: Come on! (grips her knife with her mouth, muffled) Let’s get going!

The six began to proceed toward the dungeon, Crusaders in the lead while Teddie tried to catch up to them. Marik and Carly took the rear as the former tombkeeper began to ask Carly what the Crusaders meant about Limbo.

Carly: Oh, that? Well, let’s just say before you came in August, there was an incident where the House of Friendship turned into an asylum. An alternate version of Gentaro emerged and he corrupted various gods to form something he called “The Darkness Proxy”, with one of the gods affected being Yugi Muto.
Marik: And he sent them into Limbo?
Carly: (nods as she watches the Crusaders open a treasure chest) From what Elena and Gentaro have told me, those three went through Limbo around 400 times in the span of six days—around the time that the Cragmite Invasion, Kaiba triggering a Zombie Apocalypse, the Iron Giant‘s Rampage, the Egyptian God Cards causing massive destruction in their wake, and Funny Valentine nearly restarting the Pantheon came about. Despite the stuff Yugi’s done, barely anyone can forgive him for what he did to those three. (As Marik opens his mouth) And no, no one knows why he did it in the first place—in fact, he can’t even remember why he decided to send them to Limbo at all.
Marik: And I thought what I did was despicable.
Carly: But if Yugi never sent them to Limbo, Gentaro would’ve been gone forever. Limbo is where the souls are sent to suffer for as long as the summoner wishes them to. (looks at the Crusaders and frowns) This really bug me though, considering what Elena and Gentaro are planning with—
Teddie: Hey, what’s this?!

Teddie’s voice interrupted Carly’s words as the bear pointed to a wall that depicted a cloaked figure wielding a golden rod amongst a group of other cloaked beings. Marik grimaced.

Marik: The Rare Hunters—a group I created in order to collect the Egyptian God Cards and then duel Yugi for the Millennium Puzzle.
Apple Bloom: You had to duel him?! You mean, you couldn’t just go in while he was sleeping and snatch it for yourself?
Marik: It was according to ancient tradition—even as a tombkeeper, I had to follow it.
Sweetie Belle: Would’ve been so much easier if we actually snatched that stupid thing when Mr. Gangrel and Ms. Luna rescued us. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to sen us to Limbo in the first place…or maybe even better if someone actually stole the Puzzle so that he never had power over the shadows again, or that connection with the Pharaoh.
Scootaloo: It’s impossible now—I heard that the Pharaoh’s now in the House of Gaming while Yugi’s in Narrative. There’s been rumors going about how the two reunited in something called the “Nightmare Realm”. He said something about a “Rabbit Tribe” that was lead by Paul Londonwho lead him back to the Pharaoh because he was starting to—
Teddie: “Fade away and classify himself as obsolete?”
The CMC: Exactly!
Sweetie Belle: Going online, there are gods trying to find out who London’s new friends are—they’re certainly none of Brian Kendrick’s that’s for sure.

As the Crusaders and Teddie continued talking, Marik looked at the rest of the mural as it continued depicting his life up to the Battle City finals: how he used his Rare Hunters to steal Joey Wheeler‘s Red Eyes Black Dragon, how he lost Slifer to Yami, brainwashing Joey and Téa Gardener and even chaining Joey and Yugi to an anchor so that one (or both of them) would drown, and—the one that saddened him the most—seeing his older brother, Odion, dueling Joey underneath a starry sky. He was such a fool to believe Odion could pass as him—his brother was too kind, too noble and too honorable to pass as a villain.

Carly: It’s all over—or, it will be when we get to the end. I’m honestly not sure how the Crusaders are intending to distract their sisters about their adventures.
Apple Bloom: (turning to Carly) Like we said, we got it covered. Come on, let’s—

She didn’t have the time to finish when the group was suddenly attacked by a strange monster that consisted of a lit lantern on a white table that had a white hooded cloak draped over it and a single eye glaring at the six. The monster letting out a roar as Teddie began to scan it.

Teddie: It’s a Phantom King! It’s weak only to Electricity and Light. Be careful!
Scootaloo: Then it looks like this is mine! Mr. Wednesday!

Slicing her card with her sword, a blast of lightning that revealed her thunderbird Persona appeared. The bird let out a screech as three bolts of lightning struck the monster, but it barely even phased it. Phantom King roared as it fired an Agidyne at the pegasus filly, knocking her off her feet.

Scootaloo: Ow…
Carly: Not so fast! (points her staff at the monster) Come forth, Fortune Lady Light!

The crystal on her staff began to glow yellow and soon, a woman in a yellow dress with her hair in a bob cut emerged, wielding a similar staff like her master’s. Perched on her head were a pair of bat wings while she turned to the Crusaders and smiled at them.

Teddie: That’s one of Carly’s Fortune Ladies—she has six in total, one for each of the elements. Watch this.
Carly: Fortune Lady Light, use Hamaon!

Fortune Lady Light raised her staff into the air before a blast of white light emerged. Pointing it at the monster, the light flew toward it, and on impact, the two exploded. The Crusaders watched in awe as the Fortune Lady bowed before vanishing.

Sweetie Belle: Whoa…

Apple Bloom immediately casted Mediarama on Scootaloo as Marik picked up what the monster left: a Spell Card that read “Temple of the Kings“.

Marik: (thinking) This is one of Odion’s cards…
Teddie: (looking at the card) Maybe this will help lead us closer out of this labyrinth.
Marik: Yeah. (to the Crusaders) Are you sure you can handle this?
Scootaloo: We went through Limbo 400 times, we killed a bunch of zombies trying to kill our friends, stopped Jason Brody from beheading someone, oh and told Yugi to shut up about him talking smack about Mr. Gangrel and Ms. Luna. I think we can handle this.
Marik: And the stuff after this?
Sweetie Belle: We’re the Cutie Mark Crusaders! There’s nothing we can’t handle.
Marik: (recalling something) I wouldn’t be so sure

October 12th, Elena’s Temple

Marik: And you’re certain that’s what Gentaro saw in his dream?
Elena: Why would I lie about what he said?

The two were in the living room of Elena’s temple, waiting for Gentaro to return with any news regarding his “special meeting” in the House of Family. Elena handed Marik a cup of tea before continuing.

Elena: What we’re going through is dangerous, and those three are involved in the center of it. I’d tell you more but…

The door opened and Gentaro appeared, a little bit worse for the wear. It seemed like someone, or something had drained his life force as he collapsed on a couch.

Elena: Gentaro!
Gentaro: Elena…I’m fine. (struggles to get up as he looks to Marik) How’s my girlfriend treating you?
Marik: Like she’s ready to kill me with a gun.

Whether or not it was funny didn’t bother Gentaro. Elena helped him sit up as Gentaro pulled something from his pocket.

Gentaro: We’re going to need more power for this. Once Elena and I leave…you’re gonna be in charge of the operation. Can I trust you, Odion, and Carly on this?

Marik hesitated as he watched Elena’s eyes light up at what Gentaro showed her. Tears were in her eyes as she hugged him tight. He had known Elena for two months and when he first saw her, he loved her…like a little sister, of course. There was something about her friendly attitude and how she wished to go see the world to see people and it reminded him about how he wished to escape the darkness and imagined he was a riding a motorcycle the first time Ishizu brought him to the outside world.

More than anything right now, he wanted her happy like Gentaro made her happy.

That was when he made his decision.

Marik: Gentaro, Elena…I’ll do what I can to help.

Gentaro just smiled as the two brought their hands out to initiate Gentaro’s handshake: a grip, a fist tap from above, below and then a regular fist bump. Elena nodded her head.

Elena: Thank you for all that you’re doing for us. (smiles) We really appreciate it.

And then Elena stood up and approached him, her taller frame leaning against his to wrap him in a tight hug…

Carly: Marik? Hello? Hellooooo……

Marik snapped out of his memories when Carly shook him.

Carly: Are you thinking about Elena again? You know that she’s already dating Gentaro.
Marik: I know, I know. But thinking about her won’t get us any closer to him. Come on…(looking at the Temple of the Kings card in hand) We’ll need two more cards before we face what I think will be my dark side’s right-hand man.
Sweetie Belle: Ooh, this will be fun! I can’t wait to let Yvainne turn him into an ice sculpture!
Apple Bloom: Or Islington will roast him alive!
Scootaloo: You got it all wrong—Mr. Wednesday will be the one to smite that ugly bastard’s face in.
Teddie: (gasps) Scootaloo…languageRainbow Dash would turn me into a carpet if she found out about that mouth of yours!
Scootaloo: Who cares about language…I’m gonna beat the freaking crap out of these monsters!

The Crusaders raced off to another part of the dungeon all while Carly clasped his hand into hers and raced after the three fillies.

Teddie: (running after the Crusaders) I don’t want to be a carpet! Come back!

Some time later, and after they retrieved two more cards—Cup of Sealed Soul and Seal of Serketthe group found themselves at a door that depicted Odion summoning a large scorpion against Joey’s three monsters (JinzoInsect Queen and Legendary Fisherman). Underneath the image was an altar wide enough to place three cards on top of it.

Teddie: This is it. We’ll be fighting a mid-boss in this room. Are you girls ready, or should we go back and—
Apple Bloom: We’re not going to go back and have our sisters say that we’re not supposed to be here! Carly asked us to help Marik and we’re gonna do it! COME ON!

Marik looked at the Crusaders before staring at the three cards in his hand, recalling what Carly told about the three in Limbo. The last thing he needed was to have these girls get involved with his demons, but the three were more than capable of handling themselves at this point.

What did he have to lose?

Taking a step forward, Marik set the the cards down, watching them glow before the door faded. Poking his head inside, he found that it was completely dark.

Marik: (narrows his eyes) Follow my lead, everyone.

The minute he took a step inside, the room began to be lit by numerous torches. There was a figure in the center of the room, their back turned toward the six. Marik took a step back when he saw who it was.

Marik: Odion…
Carly: (thinking) That can’t be right—Odion is back at his temple at this moment!
Teddie: I sense a powerful darkness here! This is bad!
Marik: Odion, what are you doing here?
“Odion”: Do you think that after all this time, you’re just going to be forgiven for what you did, little brother?

“Odion” turned his head toward the group, his face calm but his eyes were lifeless and empty and there was a glowing eye branded onto his forehead. Marik shuddered—it was the same type of look that appeared on anyone who was brainwashed by the Millennium Rod.

Marik: I know what I’ve done is wrong, but even after all I did, I really did care for you.
“Odion:” If you did, then you would’ve never let me duel in your place, nor would you let me use that fake Winged Dragon of Ra, now would you(starts walking towards Marik) I should’ve killed you when I had the chance. You pathetic waste of skin.
Apple Bloom: Don’t listen to him, Marik! That’s your subconscious—it’s not the real Odion!
“Odion:” (turns to Apple Bloom) What would you know, my little pony? I am just as real as you are and I will prove it to you right now.

The floor began to shake and soon, a set of pincers emerged as “Odion” walked toward it. Emerging from the floor was a giant scorpion that pierced “Odion’s” heart with its stinger.

Sweetie Belle: That’s bad…isn’t it?

There was more rumbling as “Odion’s” body began to glow before the giant scorpion began to devour him. The Crusaders didn’t flinch (Teddie was screaming, Carly placed a hand over her mouth, and Marik turned away) as the monster began to morph, soon transforming into a fusion that had Odion’s upper body but the lower half of a scorpion.

Apple Bloom: On the bright side, it’s not a spider body that’s he’s fused with.
Carly: Scorpions and spiders belong to the same family though—they’re arachnids and—
Sweetie Belle: We said at least it’s not a spider body and that’s all we need to know.

“Odion” just laughed, his eyes filled with a wicked light as his scorpion stinger lashed at the unicorn filly. Carly prepared her staff while Teddie began to tremble.

Teddie: From what I’m getting, this thing is weak to Wind but be careful—it might have some nasty tricks up its sleeve!
Scootaloo: Like what? It summons minions just as ugly and gruesome as he?

From the chasm that was formed when Mystical Beast Serket emerged, there came a trio of hissing as three purple warriors wielding shields and swords emerged. The most notable things about them were the snakes that were fused onto their backs.

Marik: Those are Embodiments of Apophis!
Scootaloo: (completely unphased at the monsters) Well now.

“Odion”, or as the Crusaders would like to call him, “The Scorpion King“, charged toward Teddie and Carly, while the fillies themselves decided to take care of the serpent-warriors. Carly was already summoning another Fortune Lady to help.

Carly: Fortune Lady Wind, appear now and attack with Garula!

The crystal on her staff began to glow green, and the wind-based Fortune Lady appeared. The green Spellcaster summoned a gust of wind and hurled it at the scoprion monster, causing it to stagger back.

Teddie: Let me give you some backup! Come out, Kamui-Moshiri!

The rainbow-colored missile emerged as Teddie unleashed Gigantic Punch, causing the scorpion to be thrown back against the wall hard enough to cause it to collapse. The Crusaders in the meantime were dodging the sword swipes from the Embodiments of Apophis, with one of them getting close to where Marik was.

Scootaloo: Oh no you don’t! Mr. Wednesday, Tentarafoo!

The thunderbird flew around and around the three serpent warriors as Scootaloo hoped that the ability worked. Eventually, Mr. Wednesday let out another flash of light that caused the monsters to become confused, turning to each other in an attempt to kill what was supposed to be the Crusaders.

Scootaloo: It’s working! Now Sweetie Belle!
Sweetie Belle: Yvainne, Sukukaja on Apple Bloom!

The ice bird Persona let out a screech as a shower of snow flakes fell down on the earth pony before transforming into glitter. Apple Bloom raced toward the Serpents, hurling her throwing knives so that each were down for the count. She turned to Marik.

Apple Bloom: Don’t just stand there; you have to go out and kill that Scorpion King right now!

Before Marik could say anything, he watched as Carly was thrown back by the Scorpin King’s stinger hurling her halfway across the room.

Apple Bloom: Darn! I got this. Diarama!

While the bennu bird was casting the healing skill on the ex-Dark Signer, the Scorpion King began to talk.

Scorpion King: Look at yourself—having to let all of these fight your own battles. That only shows how weak you were to fight off against your dark side, having to rely on the very same person that caused that darkness within you to manifest to consume you. You had to become a parasite to others in order to starve off your own death—it didn’t matter who they were, as long as you lived, now did it?

Marik curled his hand into a fist as Carly slowly sat up, feeling much better from Islington’s healing magic. She slowly stood up as she planted her staff on the ground.

Carly: Rakukaja!

Fortune Lady Wind casted a veil of wind around her master before Carly charged toward the Scorpion King.

Carly: Power Slash!

Raising her staff into the air, Carly unleashed a physical blow that struck “Odion” in the chest. Sweetie Belle followed with Bufula as clusters of ice entrapped the scorpion monster. After putting away her knife, Apple Bloom grabbed onto Marik’s free hand with her mouth, dragging him toward the monster all while Islington unleashed Maragion on the Embodiments of Apophis.

Teddie: Apple Bloom, look out! He’s not…

Apple Bloom wasn’t expecting the Scorpion King’s stinger going to her and she was hit straight at the chest. She fell to the ground with a groan as she felt the monster’s poison already working.

Sweetie Belle/Scootaloo: APPLE BLOOM!
Teddie: Apple Bloom, does Islington know Posumudi?
Apple Bloom: I think he does. Islington…Posu—-AGH!

The Scorpion King grabbed onto Apple Bloom’s hoof with his stinger, ready to devour the filly until the only thing left of her was her signature hair ribbon. The only thing Apple Bloom could think of was seeing the giant spider entrap her and her friends in their sticky web to eat for later. But at least in Limbo, they never got hit with poison or paralysis—whenever they died, they were right as rain as if it never happened (barring the mental trauma of remembering how they died). She tried to call out for her Persona, but the poison was too strong—everything was turning black…

Marik looked at the Scorpion King, then at Apple Bloom, and then charged toward the monster that dared to have his brother’s face. Unsheathing the knife-part of his Millennium Rod replica, he brought it back and carved a slash on “Odion’s” torso. The monster gasped.

“Odion:” How could you?! I knew it…you really would use the Millennium Rod on your own flesh and blood if it meant getting what you want!
Marik: You shut up right now! I’ve heard enough from you!
Scootaloo: You tell him! Mr. Wednesday, Zionga!

The thunderbird responded by summoning a bolt of lightning that struck “Odion’s” tail, causing him to let go of his grip on Apple Bloom. Fortune Lady Wind flew toward the fallen earth filly and brought her over to Carly, who handed Apple Bloom a Dokudami Tea.

Carly: (twirling her staff in the air) I really hope I don’t have to resort to my big guns right now.
Sweetie Belle: Yvainne, Marunda!

Another shard of ice from the pomola hit “Odion’s” chest, weakening his physical skills and finally knocking him down.

Teddie: All right, time for an all-out attack!
Apple Bloom: Not so fast—I want to give him a Cruel Attack for the dirty trick he gave.
Marik: What do you mean by…

He was silenced as Apple Bloom charged toward the fallen monster as she brought her dagger and brought it down on his forehead. Fortunately, no blood burst out, but Marik couldn’t help but Elena once said about the Crusaders.

Elena: (in flashback) Don’t expect these little girls to be frolicking in the daisies or the like—they’re much more dangerous than they seem.

He never would’ve believed those words until now, as the little earth pony finished the Cruel Attack with a thrust of her knife into the Scorpion King’s chest.

Carly: All right then, All-Out Attack everyone!

She lead the three ponies into the attack, with her Fortune Lady firing gusts of wind, and the three bird Personas of the Crusaders scratching at the monster with their talons. Teddie turned to Marik.


Marik closed his eyes as he rushed toward the monster, silently apologizing to himself and to Odion while he landed the final blow to the monster’s chest. Then, all was silent.

Marik pulled the dagger and dropped it to the ground, his mind filled with grief at the thought of killing someone with his brother’s face. He didn’t deserve his brother’s love after everything he put him through—even if this was just a figment of his own guilt over his actions, it was too painful to watch.

Then, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Marik opened his eyes to find this so-called Scorpion King smiling at him as his body began to crumble into sand.

“Odion:” You did it, little brother. You’re ready now.

That didn’t stop the tears from flowing, though. Carly placed a comforting hand on his shoulder while Teddie picked up a card that was left in Odion’s place—The Winged Dragon of Ra.

Teddie: Do you think it’s time for us to rest?
Apple Bloom:…Yeah, let’s rest.

After using a few recovery items, and backtracking through any rooms to collect some more treasures to sell later, the group finally reached the end of the dungeon, the door marked with a scene of Marik’s dark side about to duel Yugi Muto with the spectral images of the Winged Dragon of Ra (on Marik’s side) about to go into battle with Yugi’s Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl. As they progressed, Marik’s murals became darker and more gruesome as it showed more and more of its victims: Mai Valentine, Ryou Bakura, Joey Wheeler…a part of Carly wanted to take photos of them, but thought against it since 1) it was too insensitive and 2) when she did it in her dungeon, they ended up a blurry mess.

With the Winged Dragon of Ra in hand, and an altar underneath that climatic final turn, Marik took a deep breath.

Marik: There’s no turning back now. Once we enter; we have to fight this till the end. (to the Crusaders) Are you ready?
Apple Bloom: …(grips her knife) We’re ready.

Placing the card on the altar, the mural rumbled before sinking to the floor. There, waiting for them, was their last challenge.

Scootaloo: (unsheathing her sword) All right then. If what the murals showed is correct, this is gonna get ugly…
Sweetie Belle: Those zombies were an eyesore, as my sister would say. How bad could this be?
???: How about you say it to my face?

Everyone turned to see a gold light illuminate the room. Standing in the center was Marik’s dark side: his hair spiked up that made him resemble a lion, the black cloak draped around his shoulders to resemble a cape, and the most striking thing about him…those empty lavender eyes that showed nothing about how much he was going to have fun inflicting pain on whoever pissed him off.

Sweetie Belle: Um…uh…you have beautiful eyes…?
Teddie: Gahhh! That thing is absolutely freaky! I can’t bear to look at him!
Marik: And it’s about to get worse.
Dark Marik: (chuckles) Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? Are you here to prove that you’re nothing without me?
Carly: He’s here to prove that he’s stronger than you, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Marik’s dark side laughed, causing the Crusaders to look at each other. When Yugi was mocking Gangrel, even he didn’t sound that maniacal.

Dark Marik: And you think that by sending all of you to fight me, he’ll finally feel at peace with himself. Fine then, if that’s what you want…then I’ll just give it to you!

Summoning a card into his hand, which bore the image of the Winged Dragon of Ra, a harsh gust of wind began to blow as a large golden orb materialized behind the maniacal version of Marik Ishtar.

Apple Bloom: I don’t like the looks of this…
Dark Marik: Great beast of the sky, please hear my cry! Transform thyself from orb of light and bring me victory in this fight!

Thunder and lightning began to strike as Marik brought his rod out, knowing what was coming next.

Dark Marik: Unlock thy powers from deep within, so that together we can win!
Carly: (thinking) This is really bad…the power within…could it be stronger than—
Dark Marik: Appear in this shadow game as I call your name, WINGED DRAGON OF RA!

The sphere began to open, its silhouette cast over the six as it revealed itself as a humongous golden bird-like dragon with red eyes and a blue gem on its forehead. The Crusaders heard stories of when Yugi unleashed the Egyptian God Cards after the Iron Giant went crazy—the thing was strong enough to incinerate it (a being who—if pissed off enough—could reach the power level of an Overdeity) and destroy anything else in its path with just a blast of fire from its beak. Even though this was Marik’s shadow and not the real Ra staring at them, they weren’t doubting that it would be just as powerful as its real counterpart.

Scootaloo: Oh, buck is that thing huge.
Teddie: It has the Almighty type and resists fire and light! And Dark Marik blocks darkness and resists fire! Be extra careful or else I’m going to be mounted over Rainbow Dash’s fireplace!
Apple Bloom: All right, the first thing we need to do is make sure it doesn’t hit us, or make sure that we can tank whatever that thing’s gonna give us. Sweetie Belle, you’re up.
Sweetie Belle: Yvainne, Marakukaja!

The pomola Persona appeared when Sweetie Belle crushed her card with her magic aura, and showered the group with snowflakes that created white auras around them. Carly was up next.

Carly: Fortune Lady Water, attack with Bufudyne!

The crystal on her staff was now a brilliant blue color, and the Fortune Lady of Water emerged, summoning a huge chunk of ice that slammed directly into the Winged Dragon of Ra’s chest. Scootaloo was next with Sukunda from Mr. Wednesday firing orbs of lightning that blinded the Egyptian God. Apple Bloom was already planning a surprise attack on Dark Marik with Islington by striking with Fire Break, symbolized as a red screen shattering in front of Dark Marik. With a grin, Apple Bloom then shouted…

Apple Bloom: Burn-burn-burn-BURNINATE!

Islington unleashed Agilao before Apple Bloom added a Black Spot physical attack, marked by her knife being targeted at his chest. Teddie, slightly unnerved by both Marik’s dark side and the giant dragon over them, summoned Kamui-Moshiri to unleash Mabufudyne on the Winged Dragon of Ra. Ra retaliated with a burst of fire that—fortunately for Teddie—missed completely.

Dark Marik: What’s the matter, other me? You need these girls to fight your own battles?!
Carly: (pointing her staff at Dark Marik) You’re one to talk—you’re not even fighting, and instead letting your little pet do everything for you! Poison Arrow!

A purple arrow of light flew from her staff and hit Dark Marik’s arm. The dark shadow staggered back as Sweetie Belle commanded Yvainne to use Soul Break on the Winged Dragon of Ra, the pomola flying through Ra and coating it with an icy aura.

Teddie: Hey, you know what? He’s not scary at all! I think we can beat him!
Marik: He won’t be that easy…Ra has a special trick.
Apple Bloom: Doesn’t seem so bad…
Marik: You say that now…

Just as Scootaloo was about hit Dark Marik with Zionga, she was thrown back by a burst of dark magic who collided with Sweetie Belle. Fortunately, they didn’t take too much damage, but Teddie immediately asked Kamui-Moshiri to cast Matarukaja just in case.

Dark Marik: You want to see what I’m capable of? Fine, then. Don’t say my weaker self didn’t warn you!

Soon, he became surrounded by shadows. No, it seemed like he was being devoured by the shadows as Ra stood still.

Sweetie Belle: Where did he go?
Teddie: He’s on top of Ra!

Teddie wasn’t too far from the truth—Dark Marik was now fused to the dragon, his body emerging from the blue gem on Ra’s forehead and his left eye missing. Apple Bloom gulped.

Apple Bloom: I take back what I said earlier—this is terrifying!

She was soon proven right when the Dark Marik/Ra fusion unleashed Maragidyne, causing the Crusaders to be thrown back. Even with Sweetie Belle’s Marakukaja, that still hurt!

Teddie: That thing’s attack has just tripled! I’m going to be turned into bear kebab at this rate!
Sweetie Belle: We’re going to be offerings to that thing; our Personas aren’t strong enough! We’re going to—

She never finished that sentence when the monster struck again, this time unleashing Megidola by having golden orbs of light rain down on the Crusaders’ Persona, the three birds nearly down to 0 HP.

Teddie: GAH!!!! This is beary bad!! We shouldn’t have come here in the first place! We’re powerless against him!
Carly:…Then allow me to even the odds. Stand back everyone!

Fortune Lady Water vanished as Carly approached Marik’s shadow. As she did, a violet outline of a hummingbird—very similar to the one branded on her arm—materialized on the floor. At the same time, purple lines began to form on her face.

Carly: Transcending five thousand years time, the doors of the underworld will open once more. May our souls be the food of the new world!
Scootaloo: What did she just say?!

The room began to rumble and shake as everyone, even Dark Marik, became nervous at what Carly was about to summon.

Carly: Advent, Earthbound Immortal – Aslla piscu!

Then, there was nothing but darkness.

In his temple in the House of Craft, Odion, along with two guests, were discussing strategies about what was to come. It was at that moment that one of his guests shuddered.

Guest: Did you feel that, Elena?
Elena: I didn’t feel anything. Gentaro…

Gentaro narrowed his eyes as he approached the window and stared off into the distance. Odion also stood up.

Odion: What are you sensing?
Gentaro: (pulls out a Persona card from his pocket) They’re fighting; if they’re successful, then we’ll be ready for the next step.
Elena: All of this happening so fast. It was as if it was yesterday that we—
Gentaro: No, don’t say it. (turns to her) We don’t know who could be spying on us.

The only illumination in the room was the purple hummingbird on the floor before soon, thunder and lightning struck.

Teddie: This is it, this will make your fur stand on end!

Carly’s portrait didn’t do the summon justice—its wingspan could’ve been on par with Lugia or Ho-Oh, black as the night, outlined with orange as Carly dropped to her knees. The downside to summoning this mighty creature was that she was unable to bring about her Fortune Ladies, and should the Earthbound Immortal be beaten in battle, she would be unable to connect with her Persona until she recovered. Still, if it would stop Marik’s dark side and help him face himself, she’d unleash it.

Sweetie Belle: That is so cool!
Marik: Less talk and more fighting, please!
Sweetie Belle: Go, Mr. Wednesday! Zionga!

Mr. Wednesday fired a surge of lightning bolts at Dark Marik, followed by Ascilla piscu unleashing Evil Touch to inflict Fear upon the opponent. Of course, it would be a bit of a stretch to say that Dark Marik was afraid, but the site of the Earthbound Immortal made him shudder a bit.


Kamui-Moshiri unleashed Gigantic Fist, slugging Ra in the chest, before curing everyone with Mediarahan (causing everyone to sigh in relief). Apple Bloom turned to Marik.

Apple Bloom: So tell me, while Carly’s beating the utter crap out of your dark side, how exactly did Yugi beat him in the end?
Marik: (as Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle charge into battle) He unleashed a Spell Card known as Ragnarok, banishing all monsters in his graveyard to destroy him. At the same time, I was able to finally pull through and take over him, leaving nothing more than his eye—-
Apple Bloom: His eye?!
Marik: He was summoning a shadow game where—whenever either him or the Pharaoh took damage—Yugi or I would be swallowed by the shadows, vanishing until we faded away and—-you get the point.
Apple Bloom: And I thought just giving into Limbo was bad enough.
Marik: That form you see there? It can only be used if he sacrifices all but 1 lifepoint. So after Ra was destroyed and I finally retained my body, I surrendered to the Pharaoh and my darkness vanished forever.
Apple Bloom: Well, until you ascended here and he became part of the TV World and—-(sees Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle calling for her) OH! I better get back into fighting. Excuse me for a sec. (to Islington) Islington, Foul Breath!

Islington rose into the sky, opened its beak, and released a gust of air that caused Dark Marik to cover his mouth with a hand.

Apple Bloom: Now Teddie, this move is supposed to make our opponent more susceptible to Light and Dark attacks and ailments, right?
Teddie: That’s right. But I don’t…(sees Ascilla piscu) Ohhhh…I get it!
Carly: (laughs) You’re gonna get it now, you son of a bitch! Ascilla piscu, unleash Hell’s Judgment!
Dark Marik: NO!

Ascilla piscu’s body began to glow with a purple light as it let out a screech. Then, the same outline surrounded Ra as the Crusaders smirked.

Sweetie Belle: Is it time for an All-Out Attack?
Carly: Yeah, it is!
Scootaloo: I’ve always wanted to say this and here it goes…

Islington, Yvainne and, Mr. Wednesday circled around Ascilla piscu, and for a moment, it was as if the Hummingbird showed respect toward the smaller bird Personas. They all opened their beaks to unleash their attacks to the weakened opponent.

Scootaloo: Flock off, feather face!

The four birds unleashed attacks of fire, ice, lightning, and darkness at the Winged Dragon of Ra, Marik and Teddie having to cover their eyes from the attack as a large explosion rocked the dungeon. When the smoke cleared, all that was left was a very haggard Dark Marik.

Apple Bloom: One down, one to go.

Marik slowly approached his dark side, eyes closed as he figured out what he would say to him. He knew now that the darkness could never have a hold on him, and it would never be used to hurt anyone ever again.

Marik: Through dangers untold. And hardships unnumbered. I have fought my way here through this dungeon; beyond the memories of my past, to take back the darkness that took over me. My will is as strong as yours, and my allies as great…

Dark Marik struggled to stand up, only having enough energy to glare at his other self before Marik smiled and finished…

Marik: You have no power over me.

Then, Dark Marik closed his eyes.

Carly, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and Teddie watched as Dark Marik became enveloped with dark light. Teddie gasped…this wasn’t supposed to happen.

Teddie: Something isn’t right! I think someone is taking your Shadow, Marik!

Marik: But who would do something like this?

Marik swallowed a lump in his throat as a blue card floated into his hand, signifying that he now obtained a Persona. The only question now was what it would look like.

???: Well done.

Marik gasped as he saw his Persona…gone were the dark clothes and spiky hair; in their place, the Persona dressed in golden armor that resembled the Winged Dragon of Ra and wore an amulet bearing a scarab on his chest. The figure bowed toward Marik before vanishing. Carly smiled and glomped him, her black dress transforming into her normal shirt, vest and jeans.

Carly: You did it! You got a Persona!

There was a pause as Carly realized what she did before stepping back, a blush on her face. The Crusaders giggled.

Apple Bloom: What are you gonna call him, Marik?
Marik:…Khepri, after the scarab god of rebirth and sunrise.
Sweetie Belle: Ooooh…that’s a cool name! Speaking of which, Carly, what exactly did you name your Persona?
Carly: (placing her glasses back on) It’s…well…I just call her ‘D-Carly’. I know, it’s the most uncreative name ever.
Teddie: Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find one that suits her in the end.


At the entrance to the TV World, Marik was surprised to find Odion, Gentaro, and Elena waiting for them. Carly stared at them for a moment before smiling.

Carly: We did it. Marik finally got that Persona of his!
Odion: So, how did it go?

Marik just looked at the Crusaders, then at the card in his hand before smiling.

Marik: It was a piece of cake.

The Crusaders just laughed as Teddie let out a sigh.

Teddie: That was exhausting. Now come on, Crusaders. Let’s get you back to your temple before I have to explain why you started to start cursing back there.
Sweetie Belle: Do we have to?
Gentaro: Listen to Teddie, girls. We don’t want you to go off by yourself again…

The way Gentaro said that should’ve raised some alarm bells, but the Crusaders did feel fatigued after traversing through Marik’s dungeon and nearly being blown back by both the Scorpion King and Winged Dragon of Ra. Besides, they’d want to write down their experiences before they began to forget it.

Carly: (pulls out her camera) But before we split up, how about a photo? (turns around to take a photo) Say…”Card Games on Motorcycles!”

There was a flash from the camera before the Crusaders dragged Teddie to Scootaloo’s scooter. As the four began to leave, Odion turned to Elena.

Odion: And these three are the same ones who will—-
Elena: Yeah. Marik will probably tell us tomorrow before Gentaro and I head for the mountains.
Carly: And you already told the Kamen Rider Club and Ryusei, about the plan, right?
Gentaro: (nods head) After that, we’ll just have to wait for what Fate has in store for us.

As Marik walked toward his motorcycle, Elena placed a hand on his shoulder. He wished that her special healing ability worked on others, but just the fact that she placed it there made him feel much better.

Elena: Can I see your Persona?
Marik: Sure. (summons the card) KHEPRI!

In a flash of golden light, the Persona appeared, his golden armor shining underneath the afternoon sun, a pair of golden wings growing from its back. Elena looked in awe as she placed a hand on the Persona’s heart.

Elena: His rhythm is pure…you did a good job on befriending him.
Marik: I wouldn’t know about “befriending him”, but yeah I did a good job.
Carly: We have more to do, though. We have less than three weeks until that premonition comes true, so we better get to work. Let’s discuss this back at my temple; no one is gonna eavesdrop there.

The others nodded as they proceeded to leave for the House of Personal Appearance.

After returning Teddie to his temple in the House of Friendship, the Crusaders quickly zipped toward the House of Prophecy before their sisters could return and find them missing. As much as they loved their older sisters, they really loved adventure and helping other people more. Going to help others get Personas pretty much was the best of both worlds for them.

The three entered their temple and let out a sigh—their sisters (sister figure in Scootaloo’s case) weren’t waiting for them. After parking the scooter at the corner, they collapsed onto a collection of beanbag chairs and smiled.

Apple Bloom: That was fun, wasn’t it, girls?
Sweetie Belle: Absolutely! I can’t wait for the next deity we get to help out.
Scootaloo: Don’t forget that we still have to work on our LARP with Mr. Gangrel and we have to go to “Asylum Anonymous” tomorrow.
Apple Bloom: Yeah, you’re right about that. But that’s not until tomorrow, so let’s go rest up and head to the House of Food for dinner.
Sweetie Belle: I just hope our sisters won’t ask us where we’ve been. I honestly have no idea what Ralph said to them to get them off our back.

They laughed a bit before Apple Bloom turned to a laptop that one of their clients gave them (even though Equestria wasn’t known for technology like that, it was pretty useful for gathering information than constantly traveling to the House of Knowledge all the time). It was currently on an article based on mythology that the Crusaders were using to complete a homework project.

Apple Bloom: That dungeon got me interested in reading about Ancient Egypt. What do you say we do some research?
Sweetie Belle: I’m in! I hope Marik will be okay with his Persona. Speaking of which…the way he mentioned about what we’d be doing afterhelping him getting his Persona. What did he mean by that?
Scootaloo: Beats me. But I expect we’ll just keep doing what we do—helping others find their purpose in life and all.

They said nothing else as they began to scroll through various articles of Ancient Egypt, their plans for the future coming when they woke in the morning and headed to tell their tales of Limbo once more. Until then, all was well.

October 25th

Once upon a time, there was a small dream. It used to be one of the greatest dreams of all time, where people roamed into its land when they slept, and it prospered throughout the ages.

But over time, the land had diminished, and the people had turned to other grander, stranger, brighter ideas. The dream was fading away and fast—should no one think of it, should no one dream of it, it would eventually fade away and become obsolete like many of its predecessors.”

“I don’t want to fade away, though,” It said to itself one day. For a great while, it thought and thought about how it would live. Then, an idea struck in its mind.

“If I bring dreamers into me, and let them create the world of their choosing, then I’ll never have to die!”

And so it happened that the dream gathered more and more beings into its twisted landscape, growing bigger and bigger in the process. This has brought our attention—the dreamers dream and waste away in the real world, unable to wake up. It is time to go forth into this world and cease its desires of life.

The dream has dreamed its end. Go forth and bring about its awakening!

That was the opening to the adventure that the Cutie Mark Crusaders were about to begin.

At Rainbow Dash‘s temple in the House of Nature, the Crusaders were checking out the final details of their outfits (Apple Bloom as Red Riding Hood if she was an assassin wielding a dagger, Sweetie Belle as a mermaid with a mandolin, and Scootaloo an Aztec werewolf with a sword), their bottles of potions and snacks for the trip (LARPing was tough work after all), various books for casting spells and checking up on the rules they created, and, the most important thing of all, their weapons.

Sitting at the side was Luna Vachon, who had finished the narration of the Dream-World LARP while Rainbow Dash, Wreck-it RalphTwilight Sparkle, and Spike stood at the sidelines. While the Mane Six promised not to get that involved with the adventure, they would still watch on the sidelines should the LARP go off unexpectedly or the Crusaders get into too much trouble. For this occasion, Spike had a scroll and quill in hand.

Twilight Sparkle: Spike! You’re taking notes?! That’s so amazing!
Spike: Of course I have to! I mean, I wanna see what type of scenarios I could make when Discord and I play Ogres & Oubliettes tomorrow. I think I need to spice up my campaign against the Squizard slightly.
Ralph: At least this is going to better than the time they brewed a love potion for ‘Grel and Luna.
Rainbow Dash: Love potion?
Ralph: Yeah, they were trying to get those two back together but let’s just say the potion worked a little too well. The two couldn’t stop being lovey-dovey to each other and this happened before a PWF show where ‘Grel had to fight CM Punk in an Iron Man Match and the only cure for that potion was to prevent each other from looking into their eyes for a single hour, not to mention the Ambiguity Gods who all had drinks at Moe’s Tavern that night.
Spike: Oh! I remember that fight; oh my god, all those wrestlers having to bombard the match to stop ‘Grel from leaving the ring while CM Punkand AJ Lee looked confused…(muffles a laugh) That was hilarious!
Twilight: That’s horrible! How did those three get their hooves on a love potion in the first place?
Ralph: They said that someone gave them a book that involved a prince and princess falling in love with a love potion. By coincidence the recipe of the potion was in the book. Gee, I wonder who would’ve given them a book like that…

Twilight just blushed as she recalled giving the fillies a book like that as Ralph turned to glare at her.

Twilight: Uh…oops?

Meanwhile, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were with Luna Vachon, who was acting like the Game Master for the event. In front of the three fillies were clouds sculpted into fluffy bunnies with red eyes.

Luna Vachon: All right, Dream Walkers, you know that the mission ahead of you will be wrought with dangers untold and adventures of all sorts. You must be brave, persistent, but most of all, compassionate. Many of the monsters you meant are lost souls who found their way into Aaru, and you must do all what you can to bring them to rest. Here, these creatures will be your test.
Spike: (whispers) They’re just bunnies. How could bunnies be…

A snap interrupted his thoughts. Discord materialized and soon the bunnies begin to move, opening their mouths to lightly nibble on the Crusaders’ legs. The Crusaders made quick work of these monsters, the six bunnies disappearing into little puffs. In their place were a myriad of shiny stones.

Discord: (smirks at Spike) Well, someone has to make this scenario much more lively, don’t you think?
Rainbow: Don’t pull any funny business, Discord. The last thing we need is to traumatize them.
Discord: I swear on my mother’s grave that I’m going by the script. It wouldn’t be fun if something devastating happened to them after all. Besides, Spike, you’ve handled Angel Bunny before, and there’s that Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. You should know better by now that little cute critters might actually turn out dangerous.
Luna Vachon: (continuing her tutorial narration) Don’t forget that you can always draw a safety seal to rest and heal yourself. And if you feel like you want to end the session for the day, remember the incantation.
Apple Bloom: “Dawn approaches, we must lay the memories to rest.”
Luna Vachon: All right then. Now, the first location you must enter is the Glade of Reverie, where you will find someone who will hand you the first quest. Your goal is to free the four Keys—”Alices” as we call them—and let the Avatar of Aaru itself cease its dream. Go forth, for the dream has dreamed its end!
Sweetie Belle: (saluting Luna Vachon) We will.
Luna Vachon: And if you ever need help or advice, remember this.

Luna showed them a small flower. Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow.

Rainbow: A flower? What’s that gonna do?
Twilight: It’s not just any flower; that’s Whisperweed, a plant that you can use to communicate with one another over long distances.
Ralph: Just how long?
Twilight: That bard, Edward Muir, stated that he used it when he and his friends were traveling toward the moon so…
Spike: (starts writing notes down) Okay, now that’s something I’m going to get Princess Schmari…um, something I can use to eavesdrop on the Squizard’s forces.

Discord slightly chuckled as the Crusaders prepared Scootaloo’s scooter (or, as it was called, the Chariot of the Setting Sun) and began to fly away from Rainbow Dash’s temple. Discord pulled out a book from the side and flipped through it.

Discord: And that should be our cue to follow them. Fluttershy should have the “Glade of Reverie” ready at this moment.
Luna Vachon: (turning to Discord) Make sure to remind her that they won’t hurt her animal friends—it’s not like they’re going to wrestle bears anytime soon.
Rainbow: I better start setting up monsters to distract them. Back in a flash!

The blue pegasus sped off as Discord teleported everyone else to the Nature Preservers sub-house, unaware of a curious observer watching them.

Apple Bloom: All right! This is gonna be a blast!

The Crusaders were fighting a myriad of cloud creatures (or Cloudians, they got inspired by Duel Monsters for that) that took the forms of sheep, crows, and even a lion! They all dropped shiny stones that they collected, sometimes a feather or a stick that could be used to craft weapons. As they continued on their way, they noticed a strange house with a roof similar to a mushroom.

Sweetie Belle: A Toad House! Ooh…we have a lot of dream stones and items for crafting now. Let’s see what they give us!
Scootaloo: All right, then!

Scootaloo turned a sharp left at the Toad House where a Toad was waiting for them, wielding a staff topped with a cloud that symbolized they were part of the LARP. When they entered, they were met by a variety of Toads with home-made trinkets each marked with a sign that stated how many Dreamstones (the currency for the LARP) they would cost. So far, since it was just the beginning of the LARP, there were accessories made out of cloth, beads, and wood, alongside a few potions (really bottles of juice and milk). As the Crusaders began to think of how to approach it, Apple Bloom thought she saw something watching them.

Scootaloo: I’ll take three White Fire potions and two—Apple Bloom? Aren’t you gonna buy something?
Apple Bloom: (turns around) Sorry, I’m just thinking.
Sweetie Belle: About how fun this is gonna be? I really can’t wait to see what type of fun that’s going to ensue. I wish we could’ve gotten Kaibato play along with it. He said something about the “role” we gave him as “too personal”.
Scootaloo: Must be because he got in trouble from that “Quantum Cube” Incident and that “soul split” incident with Yugi and Yami Yugi/Atem/the Pharaoh…but enough about that. Let’s get going!

The two Crusaders nodded their heads, paying the Toads with some stones they had before they hopped on Scootaloo’s scooter and rode toward Fluttershy’s temple. As the Toads began pocketing the Dreamstones, Toadette heard the door opening.

Toadette: Crusaders? Back so soon? We’re—

She didn’t get to finish her sentence. Instead, she let out a scream.

Fluttershy: And that’s how you obtained Wepawet then?
Gangrel: That’s all I can say at this point. I must say that he really does like you a lot.

Fluttershy just blushed as she scratched the chin of a Rockruff who was eating a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. The Pokémon smiled happily as Gangrel stood up from his chair, waiting for the tell-tale signs of Scootaloo was arriving with her scooter. After they wrote to him about their adventure in the TV World, he was just glad to note that today would be a lighthearted affair, one that didn’t involve dark monsters or having to traverse terrains where everyone wanted to kill the ponies just because they got too curious. Plus, if anything dangerous did happen, then Discord could easily banish it with a simple snap.

And speaking of Discord…the sound of something teleporting reached his ears. Turning around, Gangrel found Discord along with four other figures.

Discord: Judging by the script, and at the rate that Scootaloo flaps her wings, they should be appearing in 3…2…1….
Scootaloo: INCOMING!!!

A loud screech of Scootaloo putting the brakes on the scooter as Harry, Fluttershy’s friendly bear, waved a flag marked with a cloud. The three fillies hopped off the scooter and approached Gangrel while Apple Bloom held a letter in her hooves. Luna Vachon began to narrate.

Luna Vachon: High on a hill was a lonely goatherd…
Sweetie Belle: (starts yodeling before noticing everyone around her) What? It’s a classic!
Apple Bloom: We were told to deliver this letter to you.

Taking the envelope into his hand, Gangrel opened it and quickly read through what was inside (which was a note that basically reminded him of what he needed to do/say for the LARP today. After he read through it once, he placed it back in the envelope and cleared his throat.

Gangrel: You must be the ones who are to help free us all from this wretched curse that has been placed on Aaru. I can assure you that I and my assistant, Chrysanths…(Fluttershy waved a hello) would like some help in what’s been plaguing the Glade as of late.
Apple Bloom: Like what? Don’t tell me there are giant spiders here…
Fluttershy: We have spiders here, not giant ones though…but there has been a strange ghost that’s been haunting the darker parts of the glade.
Sweetie Belle: Really? Tell us more!
Gangrel: We’ll do more. (clears throat)

There was a pause as Wepawet the Rockruff tilted its head to the side. After a few seconds, Gangrel cleared his throat again before turning to Discord.

Discord: Oh right, silly me. All right then, Storyteller, let’s weave your tale.

With another snap of Discord’s claw, Fluttershy’s temple transformed into a dark forest, or rather, an opening in the forest that was signified by a tall tree that seemed to radiate a dark aura. Carved into the bark of the tree was an image of a young boy riding a dragon.

Spike: This looks interesting. (starts writing notes)
Gangrel: Long ago, this woods was the play-place of two brothers, one older and one younger.

Two boys ran toward the tree, just like Gangrel said. One had short brown hair and blue eyes shining like the sea. The other had bushy black hair and mischievous purple eyes. They were laughing and chasing each other round and round the tree, oblivious to everyone else staring at them. Soon enough, the older boy was at the tree while the younger one quickly dashed away.

Rainbow: Um…why do the two look just like—
Gangrel: (still continuing) The two had a secret game they would share: the older brother would count up to one hundred while the younger one would hide. After he counted, the older one would cry out…
Older brother: (turning away from the tree) You better run for your life, here I come!

The older brother rushed off to find his brother, currently hiding in a log. The younger brother giggled before rushing off, quickly running to the tree as if he was stealing home base. Just as he was about to reach the tree, the older brother tackled him to the ground.

Gangrel: Every day was all the same: one brother counted, the other brother would hide. But then, one day…the younger brother…“disappeared”.
The Crusaders: “Disappeared”?
Fluttershy: Yes…disappeared. (looks at Luna Vachon, who nods her head) One day, while the older brother was still counting, the younger brother was said to have fallen into the ground…or perhaps he was “spirited away” by the Red Rose Slayer…no one knows for sure, except the older brother went into a panic.

All that the Crusaders could see on the grass was the shadow of the younger brother gasping when he saw…something. It was hard to make out just what it was. All they knew was that it took the younger brother into its “arms”, and there was a scream. Then, nothing.

Gangrel: (pouring himself a glass of water) Every day, the older brother would recreate the game, always crying out that same phrase…
Older brother: (in a more panicked tone) You better run for your life, here I come!

The Crusaders watched the Older Brother continuing the same routine: counting to 100, exclaiming “Here I come!”, before searching throughout the forest…every single tree, ever single log, any place where a young boy could hide…It continued and continued until it seemed like the older brother began to fade away and classified itself as obsolete.

Twilight: (Seeing Spike’s notes)…You’ve been watching the antics of those Hardy Boys again, right?
Spike: (briefly confused before regaining his composure) “The Final Deletion” is a masterpiece of wrestling films, Twilight! (then to himself) Almost thought of Frank and Joe Hardy there…
Gangrel: (ignoring Spike) It is said that on a quiet day like this, you can still hear the older brother crying out. But the words he says now—carried by the wind—aren’t those of happiness or playtime. It is more of a warning, an omen of wickedness and catastrophe.
???: Run, you better run, you better run for your life…

With a wave of Gangrel’s hand (and another snap of Discord’s claw), the scenery soon added three or four more children playing the game. The lone girl of the group began to count to one hundred all while everyone else spread out to hide. One boy began to hide in a log, all while giggling to himself.

Gangrel: And it is said that if you begin to hear his voice in the wind, and not of the one counting down…

The melodious sound of someone singing to “Run”, reached the boy’s ears. Curious, he poked his head out and looked up. A dark shadow loomed over them, a sick, demented smile on their face.

???: I’ve found you at long last…

The young boy could only let out a scream before he became swallowed up by the shadows. All that was left of him was a pendant depicting a dragon in flight. The Crusaders huddled in fear (or at least mimed it—after all, this was the story they wrote out beforehoof) as the scenery vanished, and they were back in Fluttershy’s temple once more.

Gangrel: Then you end up “disappearing” just like the brothers did.
Sweetie Belle: You want us to uncover the mystery behind them, right?
Fluttershy: Yes. However, you’ll need to help us out first before you can do anything.
Scootaloo: Why can’t we just go and play the game and see if we can lure him out?
Gangrel: When you’re half-vampire, you’ve seen a lot of strange and eerie things and lived to tell the tale. In this temple, I have collected a few “trinkets” that you can use to make your job easier. Unfortunately…
Apple Bloon: You don’t have the keys to the room they’re all kept in?
Gangrel: (gives a sheepish grin) Unfortunately.
Sweetie Belle: Hold up. Chrysanths, you mentioned something of the “Red Rose Slayer”. What was that about?
Fluttershy: Well Sedna, it is said that there was once a warrior dressed in red who began slaughtering innocent townfolk for no particular reason…or if there was a reason, those who found out were killed for knowing too much.

To explain this, Discord dressed Angel Bunny in red and wielding a carrot like it was a knife. Angel snickered before chasing the various squirrels and chipmunks with glee. Strangely, every time Angel ran, his footsteps left a trail of red.

Fluttershy: And for every victim they killed, it was said that their blood soaked the grass until all you could do was follow it to where the Red Rose Slayer was trapped—

That was explained by a cage falling onto Angel, who struggled to escape. He let out a scream, or an equivalent of a rabbit’s scream, as he banged on the cage bars with his paws.

Fluttershy: To this day, it’s said that you could hear the Slayer screaming to be let loose. If you follow the bloody path to their cage and attempt to free them then…
Scootaloo: Okay, so we have two creepy voices carried off by the wind: one saying to run, and one that wants to run. Sounds interesting.
Gangrel: Tell that to the various souls who have been lost within these woods. Now, if you want to get a move on, you’ll need to obtain three keys that are kept by my fellow Guardians of the—
Apple Bloom: Galaxy(gets a stare from everyone else) Sorry, Glade.
Gangrel: My memory has faded slightly, but I distinctly recall the temples related to those keys. The first one revolves around a robin in a garden. The second key lies within a girl who likes to splash others with water. And last, the third is found in the nest of singing clouds.
Apple Bloom: Three places, three keys, three Crusaders. Simple enough. What do you say we split this all up? I call the Garden.
Sweetie Belle: I’m for water!
Scootaloo: I call the clouds, then! Meet you back here when everything’s done.
Fluttershy: While you do that, Brujah and I shall see to our fellow animal friends. Thank you for coming all this way.
Gangrel: The dream has dreamed its end. Go forth and bring about its awakening!

The Crusaders nodded their heads as they left the temple as Gangrel poured himself some water, ignoring the peanut gallery talking to themselves.

Ralph: But seriously, didn’t anyone tell them about that…”Uprising”?
Spike: (shivers) Don’t bring that up; I still have nightmares of zombies entering my temple to eat me alive!
Luna Vachon: We told them that it was formed because of some spiky-haired kid mad about being backstabbed…not just how he got peeved about it all.
Twilight: Not to mention that Mr. Kaiba rejected their offer to play along for today. Was it really a good idea to let them go through the LARP?
Fluttershy: Well we can’t stop now(frees Angel from the cage) Just look at how happy they were when Mr. Gangrel told the story. (pets Wepawet’s head) When was the last time they had that much fun?

That made everyone look at each other: most of the time after June was the Crusaders getting used to their new temple in the House of Prophecy, situated in the tallest of mountains covered in snow, trying to figure out gods who were in need of finding their purpose, or hanging out with Gangrel and Luna Vachon (despite the presence and moving in of Lucifer himself—for some odd reason, he decided to let the Crusaders enter the House either way until Gangrel and Luna suggested they leave for the House of Otherness to get away from it all). They were so busy they rarely had time to hang out with their sister figures (even Scootaloo rejected a day with Rainbow Dash for an all-day horror movie marathon). Fluttershy was right…when was the last time they had fun?

Twilight: All right, let’s watch as the Crusaders enter their tasks: Pinkie PieRarity and Applejack should be at their posts.
Luna Vachon: In the meantime…(goes to the side and opens a picnic basket) Apparently, Princess Celestia gave us some of her pumpkin pancakes for us to snack on while we wait. Who wants some?
Spike: Ooh, ooh! I do! I do!

As the picnic was set up, Gangrel stood up from his chair and walked to a window, watching the three Crusaders split up to their respective paths. Something about the script of today’s story, coupled with what he knew about what happened during the Asylum Incident, still bothered him. It was if…like something else was lurking beneath the surface.

Wepawet’s bark interrupted him from his thoughts, its muzzle covered with spaghetti sauce. Gangrel just sighed and scratched one of the Rockruff’s ears. Things were going to be fine…what could possibly go wrong?

Fluttershy: Come on, Mr. Gangrel! These pancakes look delicious.
Gangrel: (turning) I’m coming, don’t worry.

Vampire wrestler and Pokémon approached the make-shift picnic as Discord snapped bottles of maple syrup out of thin air. Spike was already digging into a stack of four while Rainbow Dash decided to use berries to make a bright rainbow over hers.

Gangrel (thinking) What could possibly go wrong today of all days?

A lot of things went wrong on that particular adventure, but before we delve into that, let us step back twenty minutes ago.

In another temple, far away from the story of three ponies in Dreamland, a song was being sung.

???: (singing) “Come little children, I’ll take thee away…into a land of enchantment…”
Princess Peach: Perry?
Perry: Yes Princess?
Peach: I know that I’ve told you that you could sing, but perhaps you can do something not so…depressing?
Perry: You told me to stop singing songs from that album.
Peach: We played it for you twenty times in a row. Kaiba and I would prefer something more…light-hearted.

In Seto Kaiba’s temple at the House of Commerce, Perry the Parasol closed his eyes as he thought of a song. Ever since the Asylum incident, Princess Peach would have cake and tea with the CEO when he wasn’t busy with his godly duties. No one wondered just how a friendship happened, nor as to what their “relationship” was (barring that one crazy incident Ash Ketchum thought the two were a couple and went on a wacky story that somehow Kaiba was engaged to fellow duelist Joey Wheeler), but they considered each other as friends, nothing more. Currently, Peach was preparing slices of rose petal cake for her, Kaiba, and Mokuba (the CEO’s younger brother and herald, who had decided to come up to the Pantheon to visit that day) to partake in. It had been a difficult time for the CEO—after the “Quantum Cube” incident, he had been banned from the House of Time and Space and any type of artifact/device that would let him go into other dimensions. Many gods found it despicable as to how desperate he was to go for that “one last duel”, but at least he had learned his lesson and has decided to focus on what he had in front of him.

Perry: Oh, I know what to sing. (clears throat and sings) “It’s a blue, bright blue…Satudray…”
Kaiba and Peach: (simultaneously) NOT THAT SONG!

Kaiba, who was working on some important documents, nearly fell out of his chair the minute the first line was sung by Perry. Of all songs that the parasol-boy had to choose, why that one?

Mokuba: (looking up from his copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret) Seto, what’s wrong with that song?
Kaiba: The song’s title is definitely not something children aren’t supposed to comprehend.
Peach: (entering the living room with cake in hand) The day we decide to switch albums and he found that one his favorite.
Perry: Sorry…I just really find it funny now after what happened with Ash.
Peach: (giggles) I do find it hilarious. (imitates Ash) “What do you mean you forgot the proposal? Do you know how long it took me to ask Rarity to forge a ring in the shape of—”

A knock on the door interrupted her. Mokuba hopped out of the chair to open it.

Mokuba: I’ll get it. I think it must be a delivery. (approaches the door and opens it) Hello th—

He never got to finish that sentence as it was cut off with a scream. Both Kaiba and Princess Peach were on the offensive, the latter morseo, already whacking whatever dark shadowy being that grabbed Mokuba’s leg and was dragging deep into its open mouth (or whatever it considered an “open mouth”).

Perry: Where’s the Vibe Scepter, Princess?
Peach: Back at my temple!

The dark wave tossed Mokuba to the floor, the young boy scurrying underneath the table as the dark amorphous being charged toward Peach. She opened Perry to shield her and the CEO from the attack…

Only for the dark wave to move past her and aim for Kaiba himself. Everything seemed to go in slow-motion: one seconds, Kaiba took a step back in fear. The next? The darkness swallowed him whole.

Mokuba: SETO!

Finding a cake knife on the table, the young boy began to stab the darkness in a futile attempt to save his brother. As he did so, he could hear the sound of laughter echoing in the temple, covering the windows as if it also devoured the darkness. Perry looked in fear, but Peach stood firm. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the White Magic she kept within her. Her body became surrounded by a white aura as she summoned a bomb into her hand.

Peach: Psycho Bomb!

A multitude of bombs rained down upon the darkness, causing a shower of explosions that temporarily blinded Mokuba. The darkness let out a shriek as it began to scurry back from the bombardment of white orbs.

After a second or two (or perhaps it was three or four), the last of the darkness ebbed away, leaving behind a comatose Seto Kaiba. Mokuba was immediately at his brother’s side, trying to find signs of a pulse or heartbeat. To his relief, there was a very faint pulse.

Mokuba: What was that thing? What did it want with Seto?
Peach: I…I don’t know. Or at least, I hope I don’t know…
Perry: Do you think it could be based on…that thing?

That “thing” being the asylum that once wreaked havoc in the House of Friendship in June, was what he was implying. Peach looked at Kaiba, recalling the memory of seeing the CEO almost killing Kairi and being grateful that she made it just in time. The asylum was gone for good…it had been destroyed and the creators were put to justice. Still…it did feel familiar…

Peach: No, I don’t think it is. But just to make sure, I’ll ask some of the Toads to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
Perry: Good idea! Do you think I can start singing songs to cheer everyone up?
Peach: Later, Perry…just as long as you don’t start singing “A & E” again.
Perry: Aww…

Apple Bloom: Lady Mary, your swing is fixed.

In the House of Plants, Apple Bloom was in Mary Lennox’s temple…or rather the Secret Garden that was connected to the temple. Mary looked in awe at how the small pony swiftly fixed her broken swing with ease, not to mention whipped up a potion to help her dying plants. Combined with an earth pony’s affinity with the ground itself, the garden would be blooming Autumn flowers in no time!

Applejack was also there, glad to find everything going along smoothly. After the scare of her sister in the TV World again, the last thing she needed was her sister fighting off against threats that could easily squish her to death. She made Apple Bloom tone done a bit of the writing for the LARP so that it didn’t become too “personal”…whatever that meant for the earth pony.

Mary: Thank you Asis…er, Asar. I find it to be perfect for when my friends come for tea.
Apple Bloom: We’re just happy to help. Now, do you know about the key Brujah gave you?
Mary: It is with the robin whose makes its home in the tree above you. (points above) Over there.

Just like Mary said, the robin was at its nest, a key with its bow marked with the symbol of a leaf in its beak. Mary waved to the robin.

Mary: Brave robin, could you please drop the key here?

The robin, as if somehow understanding the young girl’s words, chirped and flew toward Mary, intending to drop the key into Mary’s open palm…

If it hadn’t been snatched out of the air by a dark thorny vine.

Applejack: What in tarnation? Apple Bloom…
Apple Bloom: This isn’t my work.

The “work” was a black dragon whose body was covered with dark thorny vines and its eyes were a dark red color. Seeing the Robin caught in a vines, the dragon dragged it into its own maw and swallowed it whole.

Mary: Oh no!

Knife in mouth, the LARP-ing filly charged headlong toward the dragon, intending to slice it open and grab the key from within its body. It was a morbid thought, but her time in Limbo (with all the spiders and multiple deaths she experienced) has pretty much desensitized her.

Unfortunately, even she knew that was a very reckless thing to do on her own, so she summoned a certain blue card in front of her before slicing at it with the knife.

Apple Bloom: Islington!

The bennu bird Persona manifested itself before spreading its wings and with a single flap sent forth a heat wave that scorched Mary’s plants as it made its way toward the dragon. The dragon had no time to react as it started to burn, all while Apple Bloom stabbed her knife into the dragon’s stomach, tearing it open until she could see the poor robin stuck inside a bundle of vines which she placed in her satchel. Thinking quick, the filly slipped something into the cavity of the dragon while Applejack and Mary stepped back.

Mary: T…this wasn’t supposed to happen. What’s she doing, Applejack?
Applejack: I…I don’t know.

Apple Bloom moved back as Islington stood in front of her, all while the former waited for five seconds until—

Apple Bloom: Burn.

The dragon exploded, causing Applejack and Mary to be blown back while the Persona-user among them stood still (Thanks to Islington shielding her with his wings). Once the smoke cleared, Mary looked in horror…her garden was now a dark, blackened mess…all of that work was gone.

Mary: The garden…The garden…

Applejack just turned to Apple Bloom pointing to various parts of the garden while Islington flew into the air, spreading his wings once more as a wave of light washed over the garden, making the grass, trees, and flowers grow once again. Apple Bloom then released the robin, taking the key into her hoof and smiling as she placed the key into her satchel, not even noticing that her red cloak was lightly tattered from the flames that managed to get past Islington’s wings (she wouldn’t have cared anyway; if anything, they made her look even cooler).

Apple Bloom: That should do it. Now to get back to—
Applejack: Apple Bloom! What in the hay was all of that for? You know that you’re not allowed to use your Persona of all things! And what did you put into it?
Apple Bloom: I told you that the dragon wasn’t part of the script! And you saw how dangerous it was. I had to use Islington and a Hell Magatama or else it would’ve caused more damage. How else was I gonna beat it? With rainbow beams of friendship?!
Applejack: Apple Bloom…(steps back, whispers in shock and disbelief) What’s gotten into you?

Apple Bloom stayed quiet before she pulled the hood of her red cloak up and walked away.

Applejack: Apple Bloom, come back here! We’re not finished yet!

The young earth pony said no more as she headed out the door, brushing away the thought of how she immediately jumped into action to kill the dragon. While it pained her to see the destruction she caused, it felt so simple to just go in and start hacking and slashing at anything that could kill her. The only thing she hoped at that point was that her friends weren’t in any serious trouble like she was.

Applejack: Apple Bloom…

Scootaloo’s mission was just to race Altaria in an obstacle course. Simple? Yes it was.

Scootaloo unexpectedly thrown into a tornado after Drifblim caught her and trying to escape from it? Not so simple.

Pinkie Pie could only look in horror as Scootaloo tried to struggle away from Drifblim’s grip, all while looking for her Persona card from her satchel. If only she could fly, this would’ve been easier.

Pinkie already loaded her trademark party cannon with anything she had on hand: cupcakes, jawbreakers, rocks…anythingthat could keep the tornado from blowing Scootaloo away. Unfortunately, it made the pegasus’s job even harder, having to dodge everything Pinkie was shooting at the malevolent twister. A jawbreaker socked her in the stomach, causing her to drop her sword that fell down and nearly stabbed the pink party pony in the forehead. Altaria unleashed Draco Meteor at the blast of wind as Scootaloo finally got her card.

Scootaloo: Mr. Wednesday!

The skies darkened and lightning struck as the thunderbird zipped through the tornado and caught Scootaloo, the pegasus flying on the back of her Persona as she commanded it to unleash a barrage of lightning at the tornado, which was now hurling everything Pinkie hurled at it back at Scootaloo. Pinkie had no idea what to do…until she saw Scootaloo’s sword near her party cannon.


Placing the sword in the cannon, Pinkie pressed the button on top of it. The sword flew, along with a blast of confetti right, near Scootaloo. Scootaloo grabbed onto the sword at the last second, watching as she flew into the air directly at the tornado. She saw something glow in the center of the tornado…her key inside what would’ve been the “eye” of the tornado itself, shielded in a transparent bubble.

Without a moment’s notice, the pegasus filly lifted the sword above her head, sliced the bubble, and grabbed the key before she began to fall, only for Mr. Wednesday to catch her safely on his back. All of Pinkie’s ammunition began to fall like hailstones, littering the ground of Altaria’s temple as the earth pony used her Pinkie Sense to dodge everything. Scootaloo landed safely as Mr. Wednesday disappeared, absolutely furious as she sheathed her sword.

Scootaloo: You could’ve killed me, Pinkie Pie!
Pinkie Pie: I was just trying to help!
Scootaloo: Next time, do it without using a cannon to hurl stuff at my face!

Altaria flew down in confusion as Scootaloo placed the key in her stachel and walked off, all while Pinkie looked in horror. This…this wasn’t the upbeat tomboy pegasus that fangirled over Rainbow Dash…this was something else…something…un-Scootaloo.

Knowing that the quest was done, Pinkie grabbed her party cannon and chased after Scootaloo, all while Altaria chirped sadly.


The sound of her older sister’s voice was the only thing Sweetie could hear before the water dragged her down in an attempt to drown her just as she swam up to the surface to reveal that she had the key. Why, oh why, did she decide to write that her key was at the bottom of a 5-foot pool in Bianca‘s temple? Why?

Bianca was already commanding her Escavalier to unleash Hyper Beam on a geyser of water that was about to hit her and Rarity, while the older unicorn tried to pierce through it with anything she had on hoof (which wasn’t a lot, because she had no idea of the chaos that would ensue). She did have her Persona, but she has briefly forgotten about it in her state of panic. Meanwhile, Sweetie was able to open her satchel and pull out her card. Despite being in the water, she was still able to shout out—

Sweetie Belle: YVAINNE!

A white light surrounded her as Yvainne rose into the sky. A geyser of water pushed Sweetie Belle up who immediately leaped onto the pomola’s back as the water tried to strike again. Yvainne weaved back and forth before flapping its wings to unleash a blizzard that caused the water—and most of Bianca’s temple—to freeze up. There came a moan-like sound from the water before it became nothing more than an ice sculpture. Bianca took the hint and directed her Pokémon accordingly.

Bianca: Escavalier, Hyper Beam!

The Cavalry Pokémon fired a blast of energy that tore through the ice, causing it transform into shards that fell to the ground like snow. Yvainne gently let Sweetie Belle down as Rarity embraced her now wet, cold and shivering sister.

Sweetie Belle: D…do you have a towel on you?
Rarity: That and more…(opens her satchel and uses her magic to wrap a towel around her little sister) Are you all right?
Sweetie Belle: I will. (sneezes) Do you have any hot chocolate?
Rarity: (uses her magic to show a thermos) With peppermint marshmallows, your favorite.

As Sweetie Belle waited for Rarity to pour a cup, she felt something wrong…something that seeped into her bones deeper than the cold water. This wasn’t supposed to be how today’s story was supposed to go.

Bianca brought out her Pignite to light a campfire to hasten Sweetie’s recovery all while the white unicorn filly looked at her key. She wasn’t going to be concerned about it now…there was a LARP, an adventure, to continue with after all.

Rarity: I do say though, I should’ve made your costume more waterproof. Sweetie Belle, are you—
Sweetie Belle: (to herself) Note to self: no more swimming quests. (starts walking off) I have to get a move on.
Bianca: You just got out of some malevolent water trying to kill you! I think you should rest and.
Sweetie Belle: (drinks the hot cocoa before handing it back to Rarity) I don’t have time to rest! I have to keep moving. I have. to keep. moving.

Sweetie Belle said no more as she prepared her weapon (a lute designed with waves of water) and walked out of the temple, all while Rarity asked for her sister to come back and explain herself (or at least finish her hot cocoa) while Bianca looked at the water. Taking a deep breath, she went to the edge, placed her hand into it and waited…after five tense seconds, she pulled it out and the water didn’t try to drag her back in…almost like it was doing it solely for Sweetie Belle.

That couldn’t have been right though: the quest only stated was that Sweetie Belle had to swim to the bottom of the pool (or rather the “Lake of the Unknown” as Sweetie Belle wrote on the script) and retrieve the key. Then she would dry up then head back. And this wasn’t the unicorn filly who loved to sing…it felt like Sweetie’s heart became as icy as the water she just froze.

Bianca: (whispers) What happened to her?

Mokuba: What do we do? What do we do? What do we do?

Princess Peach tried to calm her nerves with tea, having already called the GUAG Medical Division for paramedics to arrive to bring Seto Kaiba for a check-up. Meanwhile, the younger Kaiba brother was in a panic, seeing as he had no idea what was going on (and Peach wouldn’t tell him…nor would she let Perry either).

After taking a deep breath, Mokuba heard a knock on the door. He immediately turned around, hearing the door open slightly, bringing out the cake knife to defend himself and…

Young girl: Sorry I’m late! I was asked to come by and see what the situation was like.

Mokuba calmed down when he saw the girl, dressed in pink and with a basket in hand. Princess Peach smiled though.

Peach: Goodness, it looks like you’re off for a picnic.
Young girl: I am. I’m off to with three of my closest friends into the land of Aaru, where we free the dreamers from their never-ending slumber because of—
Mokuba: This is no time for some game! My brother is in trouble!
Young girl: (notices Kaiba’s comatose body) I see that. Can you tell me what happened?

Mokuba quickly went into a a half-minute talk about everything, all while the girl nodded her head. She then looked around the room, and noticed a scrap of paper near an already-filled trash can. Going to it, she scanned its contents before placing it in her basket.

Young girl: It looks like this is more serious than I thought. I better get dressed for what’s to come. If you’ll excuse me.

The girl rushed to the bathroom and once the door closed, Princess Peach went back to her tea. There was an uneasy silence before she spoke:

Peach: That poor, poor girl. She’s going to be in lots of trouble.
Mokuba: Trouble?
Peach: She’s heading off into dangers unknown, oblivious to what is about to happen. She sees herself as a dancer who would bring happiness into people’s lives, but she’s heading off to her own death.
Mokuba: But she’s a goddess…she’ll come back to life, right?
Peach: In a way. Look at her, how determined she is, how courageous she is despite her age. I bet that if her “Big Bro” had to go somewhere and would never come back, she’d go looking for him…she just wouldn’t let her Big Bro go to the afterlife for something so…petty, correct?
Perry: Princess, how could you—(Princess Peach covers his mouth with a hand)

That struck a nerve with Mokuba, recalling the “Quantum Cube” incident and hearing his brother say goodbye before going to the Underworld. He did nothing to stop it, never told Seto to think rationally, never said how much he’d miss him…Princess Peach didn’t see the guilt on his face as she added.

Peach: I’m amazed at how she’s willing to risk her life for the people she loves, or at least have the sense to note how going to kill yourself would be something completely selfish. Don’t you agree?

Mokuba couldn’t face the pink princess now as the girl emerged from the bathroom, dressed in a pink belly dancer outfit with gold accessories, and her weapons were a pair of wind-and-fire wheels (not chakrams as they were often incorrectly called).

Young girl: I’m off to the land of Aaru, for I am Nataraja, the cosmic dancer who frees those from illusion. The dream has dreamed its end, so I must go forth and bring about its awakening! (exhales and smiles) Ooh, I’m so excited!
Peach: Get going Nanako, er, sorry, Nataraja…you have my blessing.
Nanako: (smiles and bows) Thank you. I better go. The Dark Woods of Deceit call for me.

As Nanako rushed off, Peach waved as Mokuba stayed in his seat, quiet. After Nanako closed the door behind her, he tried to say something but was cut off by the princess.

Peach: Oh dear, I think she forgot to tell us when the paramedics were coming. Mokuba, do follow her if you can.

Mokuba turned to the Peach, then to his brother, then to the door…and with his heart in pain and tears in his eyes, he rushed out to chase after Nanako. After he left, Peach let go of her hand over Perry’s mouth.

Perry: PRINCESS! How could you? How could you say such awful things?!
Princess Peach: If I didn’t, would Mokuba go out and try to stop the madness? Besides, you and I know that we couldn’t tell him about what happened in June without causing him another heart attack, right?
Perry: Y-yeah, but…
Princess Peach: And so the best thing to do is tell him once he returns. IT’ll be a lot for him, so please be gentle. Okay?
Perry: A…all right then.
Princess Peach: In the mean time, why don’t you sing to lift our spirits? Music is a wonderful thing, after all…
Perry: (smiles) All righty then. And a 1…2…3…

Ralph: None of that was WRITTEN?!

The group back in Fluttershy’s temple had heard what happened through the Whisperweed Luna carried on her, but they wouldn’t believe in them until the Crusaders returned with their keys and explained the events. Applejack, Pinkie, and Rarity were also in shock of it all, but moreso on the Crusaders’ cold attitudes in regards to the destruction and violence they created.

Applejack: I don’t care if you fixed Mary’s temple, that was absolutely irresponsible of bringing your Persona into this. We’re calling the LARP off right now and—
Apple Bloom: NO.

The single word caused everyone to look at the earth pony as she, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo gave the keys to Gangrel. Gangrel, trying to keep a straight face, took them and approached a door to the side. Wepawet tilted his head in confusion.

Rarity: (as Gangrel unlocks the door) “NO?!” You saw what happened back there! You could’ve drowned!
Sweetie: (deadpan) I’ve already done that more than I count.
Pinkie: And Scootaloo, I’m so sorry…I was trying to help you.
Scootaloo: “Help me?” (scoffs) Where were you back in June, Pinkie? Prancing about trying to convince everyone of what happened to Gentaro and being mocked at? That must have been nice.
Rainbow: Scootaloo! What’s gotten into you?! T…that was cruel! You know how hard Pinkie blamed herself for that?!
Apple Bloom: Probably not as bad as what Yugi did to us.
Spike: Sending you to Limbo? It couldn’t have been that terrible compared to what happened up here.

There was a very uncomfortable silence, with Apple Bloom biting on the handle of her knife so hard that her teeth were chattering, only broken from Gangrel opening the door and bringing out the item to help the Crusaders’ on their quest: a pendant depicting a dragon, Fluttershy took the pendant into her hooves and handed them to the Crusaders.

Twilight: Fluttershy, why don’t you tell them to stop the LARP? It’s getting dangerous!
‘Fluttershy: (to Twilight) It won’t stop unless they say the words. Besides, I’m on a script; I can’t break character. (to the Crusaders) This shall be helpful on your journey: the amulet is able to show you if you’re close to the presence of the older brother and help remind him of his younger brother. After that…
Apple Bloom: We put him to rest? Sure, why not? It’s not like everything else we ventured through Limbo…(to Spike, icily) Am I ‘right?!

The earth pony took the items, but just before the Crusaders could take one step further, they were dragged back by Twilight’s telekinesis. They looked more annoyed than surprised, though.

Luna: Girls, we can’t allow you to go any further. Your sisters are only concerned for your safety here.
Apple Bloom: There is a threat out there, dark, dangerous, deadly and destructive that is going to hurt others if we don’t stop it. It’s our duty to—
Gangrel: Luna is right, girls. (panic in his voice) Please, don’t do this again…don’t leave and get yourself sent to Limbo…I beg of you.
Sweetie Belle: You asked us to stop that spirit and we’re doing it, Brujah. So I suggest you let us go or ELSE!
Discord: (about to snap his claws) Or else what?

The Crusaders stared at each other as Scootaloo pulled out her Persona card. Everyone else looked in horror as she cried out “Mr. Wednesday”! and the image of the thunderbird appeared above Fluttershy’s temple, sending bolts of lightning raining down, causing the animals to hide, the Crusaders’ friends and sisters to shield their eyes…

And when the lightning died, they had disappeared.

Applejack/Rarity/Rainbow Dash: Apple Bloom/Sweetie Belle/Scootaloo!

The three looked out the window and saw that Scootaloo had already used her scooter to take the Crusaders to the House of Plants once more, all while Gangrel looked so silent…this is what it felt like all over again…

Ralph: This is bad, this is bad
Spike: Did I say something wrong?
Luna: That and more. Limbo changed them for the worst.
Rainbow: What do you mean? They only said that it was a “place that tortured souls” right after we had to see Belial and Nebiros give Seth Rollins a Neck Snap and stabbed Jason Brody in the heart. How could Limbo be so terrible compared to the asylum madness? I mean, at least they weren’t being munched on by zombies! (to Spike) No offense.
Spike: None taken.

Everyone then turned to Gangrel silently petting Rockruff’s mane, having said nothing since the Crusaders escaped. Ralph sat down near his friend, unable to say anything…

And then, Gangrel began to laugh.

Ralph: Once again, this is bad…this is bad
Gangrel: The girls never told you, did they? They never told you about how many times they went through Limbo in the span of six days, how many times they got killed off, chased by spiders, pressure plates, water, bear traps, electricity, saw blades and more? They never told you about how they would sneak out of their temple to go see Luna and I, all so that they knew that they were back in the Pantheon and not in that cold world that was Limbo? They never told you about how much therapy they went through, or the tears they cried, or their fear of giant spiders?! They never ‘TOLD YOU?! (starts laughing out loud)

Fluttershy backed away from the vampire wrestler as Luna went to hug her. Everyone else stepped back as Gangrel continued.

Gangrel: Oh you little ponies, you have no idea what Limbo did to them. You have no clue as to the suffering they had, all because two spiky-haired duelists wanted revenge on me. They sent their souls to the depths of Limbo and forgot about them, as if the Crusaders were just toys one could easily discard when they found them uninteresting or worthless. I bet you didn’t know what it was like for Luna and I—they go back to their temple while Ralph follows us to stop the Darkness Proxy, only to find that those dark bastards had the last laugh! (continues laughing)Last month, I had the chance to ask Yugi-boy this: “What did the Crusaders look like when you appeared in their temple?!” You know what he said? (whispers) He said that they looked absolutely terrified when he turned to them and said, “Hello, little girls…”

Everything else was left out by Gangrel’s laughter as Luna stayed quiet. No one said a word until Gangrel calmed himself down.

Gangrel: But instead of telling you, I think it’s better to show you. Discord, please prepare a shadow puppet theater for us: Luna and I have a tale to tell, don’t we dear?

Luna Vachon was quiet, almost as if contemplating whether or not to reveal the truth, before nodding her head in defeat.

Luna: Discord, set the stage.
Discord:…if that’s what you wish.

Discord snapped his fingers, and Fluttershy’s temple was now a dark forest colored in blacks, grays, and whites. Everyone watched as three silhouettes, those of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, woke up and saw their surroundings.

Gangrel: It always happens like this, every single time. They wake up into a strange world, not knowing what is in front of them, nor of what they will have to do to survive…

Sweetie Belle: Are you sure that it was a good idea to leave like that?

No one had said a word ever since they left Fluttershy’s temple, trying to make sense of their words to their sisters. Outside of Gangrel, Luna Vachon, and Ralph (and later the Investigation Team during one trip to the TV World with them), the three never talked about their excursions through Limbo. How could they? How could they talk about how three candy-colored ponies got sent into the hellish world of Limbo? It seemed too ridiculous.

Apple Bloom: Something is terribly wrong…it’s like Limbo all over again.
Scootaloo: You think?

As the trees started to become more and more, the Crusaders saw [[Pantheon/{[Plants}} Trevenant]] waiting for them, staring at the three with his only eye. Apple Bloom only showed the amulet with the dragon on it and the Elder Tree Pokémon nodded his head, stepping aside for the Crusaders to enter his temple: more and more forest, with moths fluttering around them as if warning them…as if signaling doom.

Apple Bloom: Okay, we need to find the tree marked with a boy riding a dragon and the amulet will glow when we get close. Anything else we should be worried about?
Scootaloo: How about those?!

She pointed to a strange myriad of monsters that looked similar to timberwolves snarling at them. Apple Bloom just rolled her eyes as she brought out her Persona card: piece of cake.

Sweetie Belle: Apple Bloom, remember the rules: we can’t be going around burning the temple down. Trevenant will kick us out.
Apple Bloom: (sighs and swaps it with another Hell Magatama) Let’s get this over with.

The three ponies prepared their weapons and pounced on their opponents.

Gangrel: (finishing the story) And the end was the same: after going through strange gravity fields that forced them through a strange barrier, they would wake up in the woods once again, rushing toward a bright light and enter it before…

The shadow puppet world became white before it transformed to the Crusaders waking up in the forest and off to begin their adventure once more. The whole thing was silent, but as it faded away, the shadow of Apple Bloom opened her mouth to the sky and screamed. There was nothing but silence as everyone looked in horror. Fluttershy sobbed quietly, Rarity cried loudly, and even Discord looked solemn. Gangrel let out a sigh as he was glad to get the story out of his chest. Spike, who had taken the time to write everything down, just dropped scroll and quill to the ground. Throughout the narration, he wanted to hum a certain song Brentalfloss once sang about the place, but its Lyrical Dissonance made everyone else shut him up with harsh glares.

Twilight: Sweet Celestia
Applejack: That’s what they kept from us these past few months? All that pain…all that sorrow? Why…why did they have to go through all of this?! What kind of sick being would do such a thing?!

Applejack, who Pinkie once noted “cried on the inside”, was bawling, so broken…her little sister and her friends had to go through these trials again and again and again for no sole purpose than to bring suffering. Why would Yugi Muto, one of the sweetest gods in the Pantheon, do this?

As everyone continued to cry, someone entered the temple. Rainbow turned to look at the entrant.

Rainbow: Nanako, what are you doing here?!
Nanako: (pants) I’m here to help Apple Bloom and her friends. They’re—

Discord wasted no time summoning a cage to trap her in. Nanako looked in shock for a second before trying to shake the bars in an attempt to escape.

Luna: Nanako, what are you doing? The Crusaders are in trouble and if you get in there, your Big Bro is going to have all our heads!
Nanako: That’s the thing though, Yu asked me to go and aid them!
Spike: Tell him that it’s unnecessary. We have it under control…(looks to the others) right?

There was some silence as Nanako stopped shaking the bars. Then, she placed her hands behind her back. Rockruff tensed up and growled at the girl.

Nanako: Then where are they now?
Rainbow: None of your business! We are getting Yu and his friends to get you back to your temple.
Nanako: I need to go to the Cutie Mark Crusaders!
Rarity: It’s like Rainbow Dash said, “You’re not going”. But I do admit that you look adorable in that Belly Dancer outfit. Did Kanji sew it for you?
Nanako: (smiles) He did—it’s for Halloween, but I decided to try it out earlier. (shows off her chakrams) I also got these wheel thingies custom-made and even had Axel teach me the basics by bribing him with some sea-salt ice cream. Pretty cool, huh?
Pinkie: The costume is so pink! It definitely stands out against what the Crusaders are wearing…especially if you go into Trevenant’s temple where—(Twilight shoves a pancake down Pinkie’s throat)
Twilight: Pinkie!

Nanako stayed silent as she looked at everyone scolding Pinkie for (once again) opening her mouth. Then she smirked.

Nanako: Thanks for the info, but now I have to go and bring about the dream’s awakening. (brings her hand out and shows off a blue card) And it’s not the only trick up my sleeve. PERSONA!

There was a bright light as everyone backed off to see Nanako’s Persona, Throne, burst through the cage all while Nanako hurled a wheel at a window, shattering it open. Thanks to a mechanism on her wrists, the wheel was returned to her hand by a wire connecting them winding back. She smiled to herself as she properly held the weapon in her hand once more.

Fluttershy: She…she…she has a Persona?!
Nanako: (waves goodbye) Yep! Oh and one more thing, Agidyne!

Throne summoned a burst of fire at the group, only for Discord to conjure a shield that caused the attack to collide and smoke to fill the air. The group began to cough before Rainbow created a gust of wind to blow the smoke away. When the temple was clear, Nanako had escaped.

Rarity: Oooh…Nanako is going to be in so much trouble when Yu finds out!
Rainbow: AFTER HER!

But just before they were about to go, Mokuba entered the temple, hands on his knees and panting for breath.

Mokuba: Did…a girl…dressed as a Belly Dancer…pass by here? (wheezes)
Everyone else: Yes.
Mokuba: Where…is she going? Tell me…

Before he could finish, Discord teleported everybody to the House of Plants.

In between the time Gangrel narrated their tale through Limbo and up to when Mokuba appeared at Fluttershy’s temple, the Crusaders finished the strange timberwolf lookalikes and used the amulet to find the location of the lone tree that matched the story. As they left Scootaloo’s signature vehicle, they could sense a cold wind that caused them to shiver slightly.

Apple Bloom: Okay, we’re here. Now, how are we supposed to call him out?
Scootaloo: Maybe…we’re supposed to re-enact the game.
Sweetie Belle: So, who’s going to be the counter then?
???: I think…I shall suffice.

The voice caused them to step back; it was as if it was carried by the wind. The voice laughed, the winds blowing round and round them as if the person who owned the voice was actually circling around them now. The Crusaders, knowing that this wasn’t something Discord would come up with (because if it was, they would’ve heard his signature talon snap), prepared their weapons.

Apple Bloom: Answer these questions with a “Yes” or “No”: Were you the one who brought out that dragon, the tornado and the raging water?
???: Yes.
Scootaloo: Are you the one who has been taking children away in the search of your brother?
???: Yes.
Sweetie Belle: Are you going to show yourself so we can kick your teeth in?
???: …No.

There was a bit of a pause as the wind died down, the Crusaders momentarily lowering their weapons as they looked in confusion. Before Sweetie Belle could say, “No?”, however…

???:…But I will show myself so that we can play the game together!

And in a burst of darkness that caused the three to fly off, the dark figure appeared. On their stomachs, the three gasped at who they saw in front of the tree: an exact replica of Seto Kaiba, the only differences were the dark bags under his dark blue eyes to make him look ghastly, the dragon-like armor with wings sharp enough to cut through the entire forest with a single stroke, and the knife in his hand caked with dried blood.

Apple Bloom: T…that can’t be right. Kaiba rejected our offer…he…he’s not…
“Shadow Kaiba”: Oh little dream-walkers…does this appearance not suit you? You wanted me here, you are here to put me to rest, correct?
Scootaloo: (hesitates before pointing her sword at him) That’s right! You’ve done too much, kidnapping innocent children in a sick way to bring your brother back.
“Shadow Kaiba”: He is here in this forest…(looks around and snarls) I know he’s here!
Sweetie Belle: This ends now, fallen one! We are here to bring your awakening.
“Shadow Kaiba”: Are you now?! (starts laughing) I shall awaken only if you permit me one request.
The Crusaders: And what’s that?
“Shadow Kaiba”: We play a simple game.

There was a pause—whoever was acting as Kaiba knew their script, they gave them that.

“Shadow Kaiba”: (continues) You shall hide, and I stay here to count to one hundred. When I call, you must try to make it back here before I catch you. If I catch you…(slices a nearby flower with the knife)

The Crusaders gulped, but didn’t visibly show their fear. Instead, Sweetie Belle nodded her head.

Sweetie Belle: Okay, let’s play your game. Turn around and count.

“Shadow Kaiba” nodded his head and turned his back to the fillies, walking toward the tree to count. As his voice started to count to five, the Crusaders split up, trying to find hiding places in Trevenant’s temple long enough for them to regroup and plan out their escape. Trying their best to cover their hoofprints by moving around in circles before hiding behind the myriads of trees, the three looked at each other in fear.

Apple Bloom: (whispering) This isn’t part of the script; how did that happen?
Sweetie Belle: I don’t know, but we have to figure out how to stop this quickly before something bad happens.
Scootaloo: Like what? We get bombarded unexpectedly from—
???: There you are!

The Crusaders gasped when they heard Applejack’s voice, the three turning to see the Element of Honestly slowly approaching them with a look of anger on her face.

Applejack: This game ends here right now. We have a lot of talking to do.
Apple Bloom: This is a bad time, Applejack. You see—
Applejack: Oh, I can see clearly that you’ve been through too much in Limbo and have to do something more…friendlier than going around trying to fight monsters with your Persona. And that goes for you too, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.
Scootaloo: No, seriously. It’s not a good time. And keep your voice down!
Applejack: AND WHY SHOULD I?!
Sweetie Belle: Because of that!

Sweetie Belle just pointed past Applejack, the earth pony slowly turning around to see Kaiba emerging from the darkness, knife in hand, a sick grin on his face as the Crusaders prepared their weapons.

Applejack: K…Kaiba?! But I thought he…
Shadow Kaiba: It’s time to play the game… TIME TO PLAY THE GAME!!! (laughs)

He lunged past Applejack and went straight toward Sweetie Belle, who levitated Scootaloo’s sword to defend herself all while crying out…

Sweetie Belle: YVAINNE!

And her pomola Persona emerged with a loud shriek, beating its large wings to form an icy wind that froze the strange copy of Kaiba in its place. The Crusaders began to run toward the tree that would be their safe zone all while Applejack rushed after them in confusion as to what was going on.

Applejack: What in the hay is going on here?!
Scootaloo: We don’t know ourselves! We have to get to the tree before a dark version of Seto Kaiba appears and chops our heads off! Come on, it’s almost—

She was stopped when a rainbow-blur rushed toward her and her fellow Crusaders, stopping to find Rainbow Dash gathering the trio up and tying them with rope.

Rainbow: You guys are staying right here until you cancel this LARP! This is going on long enough!
Scootaloo: Not a good time, Rainbow Dash!
Rainbow: This isn’t a good time for the LARP! You are going back to your temple in the House of Prophecy and you are all grounded until we say so!
Sweetie Belle: Really? That’s all you can think about when we’re about to be killed off by—

She never finished as a dark shadow swooped in from the sky and summoned a blast of dark energy that caused the ponies to fly off. Apple Bloom cut the ropes that bound her and her friends before they continued toward the tree.

Apple Bloom: So…tired…(panting) have to…rest…
Sweetie Belle: Wait, the seal! (starts levitating a stick and draws something on the ground) Cover for me until I have this finished!
Scootaloo: On it! (summons her Persona card) Go, Mr. Wednesday!
Apple Bloom: Islington, come forth!

The thunderbird and bennu bird materialized and summoned a blast of fire and lightning against the warrior while Sweetie Belle was halfway done with the seal…only to find Rarity stepping onto the grass where she was working on.

Sweetie Belle: Not now, Rarity! This is kinda important!
Rarity: Not as important as you getting to safety. Stand back while I deal with him!

The dark shadow laughed as his sword sliced through the two avian Personas while Rarity prepared to summon her own…only for Sweetie Belle to trip her sister up with the rope that previously bound her and her friends before going back to the seal.

Sweetie Belle: (finishing the seal) It’s done guys! Hurry up!

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo rushed toward Sweetie Belle as the dark being descended, taking a quick stride toward his prey.

“Shadow Kaiba:” You better run for your life, little girls! Or ELSE!
Rainbow: Oh no you don’t!

As the rainbow-haired pegasus zoomed toward the stranger, “Shadow Kaiba” just paused, rolled his eyes and brought his hand out. A barrier of darkness surrounded him, sending Rainbow flying to a charging Applejack, leaving them dazed. The same warrior then brought his hand out toward Rarity, and the white unicorn was hurled at Apple Bloom and Scootaloo right at his feet. Both the earth pony and pegasus filly looked in horror as they tried to run, only for a net of shadowy vines to trap them.

Sweetie Belle: NO!
“Shadow Kaiba:” Game over, little ponies. Looks like I—

“Shadow Kaiba” was stopped by a blast of fire that knocked him back as Nanako—followed by an exhausted Mokuba—rushed toward her friends, chakrams in hand. Rarity, removing the ropes that bound her, looked in shock.

Rarity: Nanako, what are you doing here? I thought we told you back at the temple entrance that—
Nanako: That was before some dark force tried to swallow everyone up! Discord couldn’t break out of it so he told me and Mokuba to go and save you all!
Rarity: You could get hurt, though! What would Yu think?
Nanako:…He’d say he’d be proud at what I’m doing. Now get to the seal, all of you!
Rarity: What seal?! What are you—WHOA!

As Rarity was dragged away by Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, Nanako prepared her weapons as the dark warrior stood up. Mokuba just stood behind Nanako, slightly embarrassed he was hiding behind a girl much younger than him.

Nanako: (whispers) Follow my lead. (to “Shadow Kaiba”) You want someone to pick on? Pick on me!

The dark warrior staggered to his feet as he took a step toward Nanako. Or at least, it looked like he took a step. Instead, he appeared by Nanako’s side, grabbing onto her wrists before she could even say something.

“Shadow Kaiba:” You have soft hands, don’t you? Tell me, do you play a musical instrument?
Nanako: (stammers) I…I play piano, like my mother did.
“Shadow Kaiba:” Well, you know what they say about piano lessons. They can be…(leans close into Nanako’s ear and whispers) murder(starts laughing)

Nanako’s eyes widened as she was thrown back, scrambling as far as she could until she reached the seal Sweetie Belle created, her body shaking with absolute fear before she grabbed onto one of her chakrams and hurled it at the laughing knight. Unfortunately, her panic caused her aim to miss, and so “Shadow Kaiba” grabbed onto the wire connected to it, and then yanking it so Nanako was hurled toward his feet with a yell.

Mokuba: NANAKO!

Nanako landed on her butt just inches away from the tree, trying to fire the other chakram mounted to her right wrist. Unfortunately, she never got the chance as the dark warrior pierced his knife through that hand, causing her to scream. She bit her tongue as she looked up, seeing those dark blue eyes stare at her own with hatred, anger and perhaps…joy at the thought of killing her.

“Shadow Kaiba”: Thought you could play the hero? You thought wrong. Now…does anyone care to see what I do to the children that I catch with my voice?

Nanako could only gasp as the knife was pulled out her hand, a stream of blood dropping down as she tried to catch her breath…which she couldn’t when a hand grasped her throat and she was slammed against the tree.

Rarity: We have to do something! (about to summon her Persona) Perso—
“Shadow Kaiba”: (placing the tip of his knife on Nanako’s chest) One false move and she dies! Willing to take that risk?
Rarity: You wouldn’t! You’re not that type of person!
“Shadow Kaiba”: Wrong. I am. Unless of course…you can convince me otherwise?

Mokuba stood still, trying to figure out what the next choice of action was. In his mind, he could hear Princess Peach’s words echo in his mind, all while Nanako was struggling for air. This…thing that took his brother’s shape only reminded him of when they were younger, and even though those events were behind him, there was something just plain wrong about this situation. Apple Bloom looked at her satchel and noticed something.

Apple Bloom: Mokuba, catch!

Hurling the item into the air, Mokuba watched as the item landed between him and the dark counterpart of his brother: it was a pendant depicting a dragon in flight. There was some hesitation as the two stared at the trinket before one of them spoke.

“Shadow Kaiba”: That pendant…how did you…
Rarity: PERSONA!

And from above the only conscious mare in the area, a black being made itself manifest. Appearance-wise, it was a black unicorn with a pale purple ethereal mane and tail with white highlights, akin to when she took the form of what people called “Nightmare Rarity”. Unlike that form, though, which was tall as Nightmare Moon, her Persona, which she called Night Rare, was just the same size as a regular unicorn pony of Rarity’s size. A storm of gem shards appeared, similar to those of Renamon’s Diamond Storm, and flew straight for Shadow Kaiba…while deliberately avoiding Nanako in his arms, even as the shards struck there, forcing him to release his hostage as she went to Rarity’s side and took out her own card.

Nanako: Throne!

Throne materialized and healed his owner’s wounds with Dia before complimenting the storm of gems with Agidyne. It had a long way to go before it could match those made by Yukiko’s Sumeo-Okami, but it did the job. The wound on her hand was quickly fading, much to her relief.

As the attack concluded, the two dazed mares managed to get the last blow with a buck to the legs (for Applejack) and the back (for Rainbow Dash), knocking Shadow Kaiba down face-first. Before he could even stand up, Apple Bloom was on the offensive with her Hell Magatama…or four, tossing them at his body all while relishing in his screams of pain with a serene smile on her face as the raging inferno began to blacken his skin.

Apple Bloom: Let these fires purify what’s left of your twisted, darkened and damned soul.
Applejack: Apple Bloom…language!
Sweetie Belle: We’ll talk about that later.
Scootaloo: Now Mokuba, take the pendant!

Confused on what was going on (and not wanting to argue with three ponies who could summon Personae as they see fit) Mokuba took the pendant into his hand and approached the tree, trying to figure out what to say. Fortunately, Apple Bloom was quick to narrate it.

Apple Bloom: “After all his years of searching, the dark knight found his younger brother…even if he gave himself up to the land of Aaru and his desire lived on even after his own body passed away…now they could be reunited.”
Mokuba: (holding his hand out, smiling) Big brother…we can go home now, right?

There was silence. The flames had died down, all while Shadow Kaiba slowly looked up. Mokuba gulped, seeing how the flames burnt half of his “brother’s” face, but he had to be strong…for Nanako, for the Crusaders, for their sisters and friends nearly swallowed by a dark wave (if it was strong enough to stop Discord of all gods, who knew what else it could do?) and mostly, for his brother.

Crawling toward the pendant, Shadow Kaiba took the chain into his hand, almost fixated with the simple trinket while Mokuba approached the tree and placed a hand over the carving of the matching dragon. Sweetie Belle was next to narrate.

Sweetie Belle: “The younger brother had finished the game the two had started long ago, he made it to the tree and was safe.”
Mokuba: I’m home…right?

There was more silence as tears fell down Shadow Kaiba’s eyes while he clutched the pendant. His body began to fade away, his knife dropping to the grass and turning into orbs of darkness. At the same time, Gangrel, alongside his ex-wife, his Rockruff, Ralph and the other Equestrian Gods was already rushing toward the Crusaders.

Gangrel: Where’s that son of a bit—(sees Nanako) billionaire
Scootaloo: (seeing Mokuba staring at a patch of grass) He’s gone. And now…
Apple Bloom: “Dawn approaches, we must lay the memories to rest.”

Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Applejack spent some time talking to their friends as to the chaos that ensued (after Discord teleported Mokuba to his brother’s temple) all while the Crusaders were having a picnic with Nanako. As Apple Bloom was finishing up her sandwich, she noticed Nanako staring at her healed hand.

Apple Bloom: You’ve been silent for a while, Nanako. What’s up?
Nanako: (looks at her hands) Remember what he said about piano lessons?
Sweetie Belle: That it was cruel and unnecessary?
Nanako: Yes, but also…that was the Goosebumps book I was reading last week, before we left Mr. Gangrel and Miss Luna’s temple and the Heartless appearing and…
Scootaloo: Wait a minute, how would Kaiba know something about that? Or better yet, how did that thing that possessed Kaiba know that. Unless…

A horrifying thought entered the four children’s minds—whatever tried to enact that scene in the LARP had been watching them for quite some time. But the only question was…”Why?”

But another thing came to mind.

Apple Bloom: Nanako, tell us something…just between the four of us…did Yu really asked you to come to help us.
Nanako: No. He didn’t.
Sweetie Belle: (looks to see her sister talking with Ralph before whispering) What?
Nanako: Ever since I got my Persona, I’ve been “sensing” the same darkness that took me to the TV World. It’s like I’m connected to it now. That’s how I was able to sense what was going on with you.
Apple Bloom: Connected?

There was some silence as the three felt a faint pulse in the air. They turned to Nanako, who showed her hand. They saw a purple-black outline surrounding it.

Nanako: I haven’t told anyone about this yet…but ever since getting my Persona, I’ve noticed something wrong. I’ve been taking good notes and became a detective like Naoto. For example, I just took a good look at Kaiba to note that he was also affected by that “darkness” that we are all are. And also…(leans closer) I think Matt Hardy might have that too.

Apple Bloom placed a hoof over Scootaloo’s mouth before waiting for someone to turn to them. No one did.

Apple Bloom: But Nanako, this is the same guy who gave that “premo-NEE-tion” of you being sent to the TV World. How do you know that for sure?
Nanako: He invited me to his temple so I could learn to play something called the “Obsolete Suite”. It was there that I noticed that same “aura” like Kaiba had. I think…I think he might be connected to whatever possessed Kaiba.
Sweetie Belle: But how? And why would it come after us?
Nanako: I don’t know…but I have a feeling that this won’t be the last we see of that thing.

No one said a word as Applejack approached her sister. Apple Bloom, too tired from the LARP itself, said nothing.

Applejack: Apple Bloom…I know you don’t wanna hear this, but you can’t be going out and about for the time being. After what we just saw and learned, it’s too dangerous.
Apple Bloom: So? (munches on some hay fries)
Applejack: Seeing you kill that dragon, and burning that evil Kaiba like he was firewood…this…this can’t be you. Did Limbo do that to you?

There was more silence as Apple Bloom took a big bite from an oat burger.

Applejack: Apple Bloom, please speak to me. I’m…I’m just worried for you.
Nanako: Applejack…do you mind if I take the Cutie Mark Crusaders to my temple for a while?
Applejack: (raises an eyebrow) What for?
Nanako: So that…that they can rest and watch The Halloween Tree. It’s thera…therapeutic! (glances at the Crusaders) Right?
Sweetie Belle: Yeah, what she said!
Applejack: Oh. A…all right, then.

The Spirit of Honesty could only watch in sadness as she walked back to her friends, all while the Crusaders continued their lunch.

Twilight: No luck?
Applejack: Nothing at all.
Fluttershy: This can’t be the Cutie Mark Crusaders now…and what about that dark force that trapped us?
Discord: Oh, I know Fluttershy. For some odd reason, it was even able to block my magic. (snaps his talon as he brings out a magnifying glass)This calls for an investigation, don’t you think?
Rainbow: Whatever that thing was, I hope it’s the last we see it. What do you think, Ralph?
Ralph: Something’s going on here…and Halloween’s coming up next week.
Luna Vachon: Ralph’s right. The night when the veil between the living and the dead is at its weakest…when anything can go wrong.
Pinkie: Ooh, that’s right! The House of Celebration is doing something big this year; anything to forget about what we’ve gone through and all.
Gangrel: But for them…(looks at the Cutie Mark Crusaders) I think that it’ll take something even more than a Halloween festival to make them forget everything they went through.

No one said anything as they continued to watch the four girls have their picnic, all of them hoping, praying, begging that whatever happened today would be the end of all of their troubles…unaware that danger was just around the corner.

Mokuba: And that’s what happened.

Princess Peach stayed silent as she let Mokuba sip some tea, spending the last few minutes explaining what happened with Nanako and the Cutie Mark Crusaders. While she was surprised about Nanako obtaining a Persona (but then again, Nanako’s “Big Bro” was a Persona user himself and perhaps it was that connection that let the young girl have one) she was more surprised to see that “Shadow Kaiba” just faded away without warning. Perry took a glance at Kaiba suddenly waking up, gasping for air. The first thing the CEO did was look at his hands before he asked…

Kaiba: I didn’t kill anyone again, did I?
Peach: No, you didn’t. Although you might want to send an apology gift to Nanako for stabbing her hand and also to the Cutie Mark Crusaders for nearly killing them, and I suppose Trevenant would like some berries or Poffins…
Mokuba: Seto, are you all right?
Peach: After some cake and tea, he will be. We’ll get around to explanations after we have Seto relax.

Nothing else was said as the princess prepared more cake slices all while Perry quickly glanced outside the window. For some odd reason, he thought they were being watched…

But that was ridiculous; who would want to watch three people (and a parasol) eat cake?

Brushing the thought aside, he watched as Princess Peach handed both Kaiba brothers a slice of rose petal cake all while Mokuba began his story once more.

Mokuba: For me, it all started when Nanako entered the temple…

Not so far away from Kaiba’s temple, the same dark force that possessed him watched in interest. Recollecting the adventures it had today, it could only smile at what fun awaited.

???: Cutie Mark Crusaders…we had lots of fun, didn’t we? (chuckles) I can’t wait for what comes in store for us in a few days. The Night of the Rabbit waits for us and I hope you give me a show…