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Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Friendship is Magic (Part 1)

By JojoAnon
Created: 2024-07-08 16:28:39
Expiry: Never

  1. >You are Princess Luna.
  2. >And something strange has caught your eye.
  3. >The sun has fully risen, so by all rights you should be finished dreamwalking.
  4. >There are only a few lingering dreams left as ponies wake up and start the day.
  5. >But this one has caught your eye.
  6. >It's a fresh dream, so the pony who made it has only recently started to sleep, and from the comfortable feel of it, this isn't the first time.
  7. >Even Thestrals sleep during the night, save the few on duty in the night guard.
  8. >You can't think of a single creature in Equestria besides yourself that willingly goes to bed at the start of the morning.
  9. >But that's exactly what this dream is telling you.
  10. >So you decide to extend your shift slightly and enter this curious dream.
  11. >You arrive on a castle balcony with a beautiful view of the sunrise.
  12. >But you immediately realize that something is wrong.
  13. >This is not your sister's sunrise.
  14. >And although much has changed since your banishment, you are quite certain this is not a castle that exists in Equestria.
  15. >"Truly magnificent, isn't it?"
  16. >The voice comes from behind you, and you turn in shock.
  17. >The creature is shaped like a minotaur, but its chest is hairless, and it wears clothes on its lower body. It has a yellow mane and a chiseled face. It's golden eyes are small and piercing, and it has the hint of a sneer on its painted lips.
  18. >Something about it is extremely terrifying.
  19. >"This is the only time when I am able to gaze upon the majesty of the sun. It seems that curse has followed me to your strange paradise. I wonder what your sister's sun looks like."
  20. >That confirmed it. This being was not from your world. But it knows you, and your sister. And you don't know why, but you can feel that it is dangerous. You've spent plenty of time with predators, enough to mature out of the natural fear that accompanies a forward-facing gaze and sharp teeth. But this creature is different. It possesses something pony-like in addition to its hunter's instinct.
  21. >There is magic in this being, you are sure of it.
  22. >"I have been eager to meet you, Princess of the Night. I feel that you may be the only creature in this realm that could being to understand me. I, too, have suffered a cruel imprisonment at the hands of an arrogant sibling, who foolishly believed themselves to be the ultimate arbiter of justice. It only lasted a tenth of the time you spent in isolation, but at least you would have had a way to count the endless days. Of course, what truly matters is that we have both persevered against all odds. I admire your strength of will, Luna."
  23. >The creature approaches and you shrink back instinctively.
  24. >"Or should I address you as Nightmare Moon? After all, there is no need to disguise your true feelings in this realm."
  25. >Hearing that accursed name renews your courage and you find your voice.
  26. "DO NOT DARE TO PRESUME WE ARE THE NIGHTMARE! WE SHALL NEVER AGAIN SUCCUMB TO THAT EVIL, AND YOU WILL NOT DISRESPECT US OR OUR SISTER AGAIN."
  27.  
  28. >Any normal pony would be cowering on the floor after that display.
  29. >This creature simply looks disappointed.
  30. >It walks past you to the edge of the balcony. For the first time, you notice it has what appears to be a small cutie mark, although on the creature's withers rather than its flank. A single purple star.
  31. >The sight of it resonates with a distant memory...
  32. >"I dream of a world with eternal night, Princess. A world where I am truly free of this curse. And you alone have the power I need to make that dream a reality. Whether or not you desire it now, I will convince you in the end. The World has regained its full strength after years of feeding, and you possess nothing that can defeat it. You will serve me, either in life or in death, and Nightmare Moon will create a world that I can rule over in peace and security."
  33. >Feeding? Death?
  34. "It's you!"
  35. >You point an accusatory hoof at the creature.
  36. "The missing ponies. The 'zombies' attacking innocents. It's not the changelings, it's been you!"
  37. >"I'm glad you've taken notice. Then you should understand that war against me is futile. I can turn any of your subjects to my side. To defy me is to defy Fate itself, a useless endeavor."
  38. >With a single thought, the landscape of the dream starts to shift.
  39. "Thou hast slaughtered Our subjects. Thou hast threatened Our rule. We know not what land thou are from, vile creature, but even that place shan't shelter you from Our wrath. We are the absolute ruler of dreams and until We locate you in the waking world We shall mete out justice here and now!"
  40. >You melt the castle into a lake of lava, your mind already crafting various instruments of torture to make this crea-
  41. >"THE WORLD!!!!!!"
  42. >You are flying backwards at an incredible speed.
  43. >You can't feel your body smash into the side of the suddenly-intact castle.
  44. >Your chest is bloody and you suddenly realize you are not breathing.
  45. >You were struck. Somehow, before you could even understand what was happening, this creature dealt you a mortal wound.
  46. >You hear mocking laughter as you try to suck air into your body.
  47. >"A pathetic effort. I know exactly how to counter such a predictable Stand. I understood it as soon as I learned of your existence, and I always summon The World before I sleep."
  48. >You are dying.
  49. >You are sure your body in the real world has experienced the same injuries, and you no longer have power over the dream.
  50. >Your horn glows as you try to escape, but your magic is far too weak.
  51. >The creature looms over you and you anticipate the finishing blow.
  52. >"Fear not, Princess. This is not the end. A few drops of blood and you will serve me. I, DIO, shall give you far greater purpose in death than your life! I will-"
  53. >Your stomach lurches as your reality bends around you.
  54. >"SISTER! SISTER, PLEASE HOLD ON!"
  55. >You are pulled out of the dream. All you can see now is the yellow glow of Celestia's magic as you finally lose consciousness.
  56.  
  57. >You are Fluttershy.
  58. >And no matter how many times you come to Canterlot Castle, it still intimidates you.
  59. >Your friends, the other elements, also radiate anxiety.
  60. >A sudden summons rarely, if ever, signals a positive development.
  61. >Even more concerning is that you can tell you aren't being led to the throne room.
  62. >Rather than the usual comforting and splendiferous decor, the hallways you trot down are cold and utilitarian.
  63. >"Wait..."
  64. >Twilight suddenly speaks, and taking a closer look you notice her eyes are filled with panic.
  65. >"We aren't heading to..."
  66. >"Please, remain silent and follow us to the Princesses."
  67. >The guards trot on as Twilight's pace slows.
  68. >You extend a comforting wing.
  69. "Twilight? Is something wrong?"
  70. >Her mouth opens and closes in shock.
  71. >"They're taking us to... the medical wing."
  72. >Suddenly Twilight breaks into a gallop. The guards shout after her. You and your friends hurry to match her pace.
  73. >A few corridors later, Twilight opens a large set of doors.
  74. >There are several rows of beds spanning the length of the vast room, and you recognize various tools beside each one.
  75. >Only one bed appears to be occupied, next to the doorway you enter from.
  76. >Princess Celestia stands in front of it. Various ponies swarm the area, talking to each other in frantic voices, horns lighting up to perform unseen tasks.
  77. >What really shocks you is the look on the Princess's face.
  78. >Her nostrils are flared, she's breathing heavily, and her eyes stare ahead blankly.
  79. "Twilight. Stop."
  80. >Years of working with animals tell you that Celestia is on edge.
  81. >And you have no idea what could happen if an alicorn were to fly into a frenzy.
  82. >Your low voice causes your friend to pause just as her hoof extends to get her mentor's attention.
  83. >Twilight looks confused as you gently pull her back to the door.
  84. >You circle to the front of Celestia slowly. Her eyes still don't register that you're there.
  85. >You make your voice as soft yet clear as possible.
  86. "Hello, Princess. It's me, Fluttershy. Do you think you could look at me, please?"
  87.  
  88. >Celestia's eyes finally twitch over to see you, although her expression doesn't change.
  89. >"Follow me."
  90. >Without any additional greeting she walks out into the hall.
  91. >You and your friends follow, but Rainbow pulls you aside and whispers in your ear.
  92. >"That was Princess Luna on the bed."
  93. >You feel your eyes widen in shock, but don't respond. You need to keep up with the others. You need to stay with Celestia and hear what she has to say.
  94. >The Princess leads your little group into a nearby office. A nameplate on the desk states it's for the castle's head physician, but the pony isn't in.
  95. >Celestia locks the door and casts a spell that you can't identify before turning to you all.
  96. >"As you may have seen, my sister Luna is gravely injured. It is uncertain whether she will recover."
  97. >Nopony wants to breathe.
  98. >"Early this morning, she was attacked by an unknown entity while in a dream. We were lucky to find her quickly, but her wounds were severe."
  99. >"A dream?"
  100. >Twilight's voice is something between choked sob and a scream.
  101. >"That's impossible. Nopony knows more about dreams than her. She can do anything in them."
  102. >"And yet, that is the only explanation. When I found her, her mind was still lost in that place, although her body was... crushed, with no apparent cause."
  103. >You have no idea how Celestia can still sound so rational. You briefly imagine finding Zephyr in such a state, and your mind immediately rejects the scenario with a shudder of fear.
  104. >"Thankfully, she was able to leave one final message before her mind faded into unconsciousness. An image."
  105. >Celestia's horn glows and a strange projection appears before you. The background is blurry, but the creature silently rotating in place is highly detailed.
  106. >Bipedal. Mammalian. Predator features. Large cranium. Intelligent. Partially clothed, and shoed, and moving comfortably. Sentient, then. Somewhat like a minotaur, but the leg joints are all wrong, and those look like paws, not hooves. Not related to ponies. Flexible jaw, with well-defined lips, likely capable of speech. Five digits on upper appendages, but no claws. Wait... there are traces of claws, but they look worn down or torn out. Intentionally? No fur, save on the top of the head. Also intentional? Could be plumage. No visible tail. Hips suggest a male, but with nipples. Vestigial? Build is incredibly lean, well-defined muscle with very little fat. Strange mark behind left shoulder... a star? Is this creature magical as well?
  107. >This is definitely no wild critter. This being is civilized. It takes care in its personal appearance. It doesn't need claws to hunt or eat, which means it uses tools instead. Its species has been bipedal for a very long time, nothing like diamond dogs or other creatures that are only recently adapting to the posture.
  108. >This thing has evolved in a totally foreign environment, and it's been the undisputed master of that environment for a very long time.
  109. >The implications finally hit you.
  110. "IT'S AN ALIEN!!!!!!!"
  111.  
  112. >Everyone in the room turns to look at you in surprise.
  113. >Although they don't seem startled, which means that what you had thought was a loud scream must have just come out as a loud whisper.
  114. >You still shy away from their combined gaze.
  115. "I-I mean... that might be... the most likely scenario... I think..."
  116. >The Princess slowly nods her head.
  117. >"You are correct. This creature comes from a far away place, only accessible via the most secret magics."
  118. >You all gasp in shock. Rainbow starts fluttering around in anxious circles.
  119. >"Hold on. How can we know that for sure? Maybe it's just some weird thing that came out of the Crystal Empire when it returned."
  120. >Applejack snags Rainbow and drags her back to the ground.
  121. >"The Princess knows what she's talkin' about. And there's no way that thing's made of crystals, or whatever King Sombra was."
  122. >"B-but, an a-a-a-alien? That's like something out of awful Daring Do fanfiction! Not that I would..."
  123. >"Only an alien could do something as dumb as hurt Princess Luna! I bet it hates the night because it spent too much time in a spaceship where everything looks like night all the time!"
  124. >"Pinkie darling, I'm sure it didn't come here in a spaceship. It... didn't, right?"
  125. >Princess Celestia silently raises a hoof to calm everypony down.
  126. >"I cannot say how it came here, or when. But it is clear that it poses a great threat to Equestria."
  127. >Twilight finally speaks up.
  128. >"Just tell us where to go. We'll use the elements, just like with Discord. Better than with Discord. We won't let ourselves get tricked by this thing, we shouldn't even try to study it. It has to be stopped. You can count on us, Princess."
  129. >Celestia gives a sad smile.
  130. >"Hopefully, it will be that simple. However, I am afraid that the elements of harmony may not be effective."
  131. >She takes a deep breath before continuing.
  132. >"I'm afraid... I have a confession to tell you all."
  133. >You can see tears start to fill her eyes.
  134. >"All of this... is my fault. A very long time ago... I made a mistake. This being is the result."
  135. >The six of you are too stunned to speak.
  136. >"It happened nearly two thousand years ago..."
  137.  
  138. "Star Swiiiiirl!"
  139. >You are Celestia.
  140. >And you are BORED.
  141. "We hath been holding these things for HOURS, how much longer?"
  142. >The old wizard sighs as he briefly glances up from his complex spell.
  143. >"As long as it takes. Now stop complaining, I know thou art fine."
  144. >You pout.
  145. "But We are BOOOOOORED. Thou dost not have to unravel all mysteries of the universe this eve. May We not rest? Have some cake?"
  146. >He rubs his head.
  147. >"I must study these 'elements' as much as possible, they may be the only way to maintain harmony in the land."
  148. >You roll your eyes.
  149. "Discord is stone. Harmony hast returned. Of what good is peace if it is not enjoyed?"
  150. >"Study comes first."
  151. >"He has a point, sister."
  152. "Luna! HEEEEEEELP!"
  153. >She giggles.
  154. >"Unfortunately, there are still a few minutes of day left, which means the responsibility remains thine.
  155. "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"
  156. >Star Swirl groans as Luna laughs at your antics.
  157. >"Thou art supposed to be older than either of us, act your age."
  158. "We can't! We art bored and thine magic doth tickle Us!"
  159. >Star Swirl gives you a strange look.
  160. >"You shouldn't be feeling a thing."
  161. "Well We do! It tickleth!"
  162. >You focus on that strange sensation along your back, trying to ignore the continual whirring sounds of the six gems in orbit around you.
  163. >As you focus on it, the tickle turns into an itch.
  164. "Cease these sensations!""
  165. >"Sister, art thou alright?"
  166. >The itch becomes a pull.
  167. "Something is wrong."
  168. >"Sister! Star Swirl, stop all magic!"
  169. >"I did! This is not my work!"
  170. >The world around you dissolves into a bright light.
  171. >The pull becomes a powerful force that feels like it could rip you in half.
  172. >You scream, but can't hear a single thing.
  173.  
  174. >You have no idea how much time has passed when your hooves touch solid ground again, but the sky shows that night has recently fallen.
  175. >You spin around in confusion, quickly taking account of your new surroundings.
  176. >Dozens of strange, hairless creatures are in front of you, their heads bowed in prostration.
  177. >You're standing in front of a massive stone structure, and there are dozens of runes on the ground around you.
  178. >You vaguely recognize some of the magic, but most of it looks entirely foreign.
  179. >A voice calls your attention back to the creatures. The closest one is shouting something.
  180. >You frantically try to remember Star Swirl's translation spell.
  181. >As the magic passes through your body, the strange sounds start to hold new meaning.
  182. >"O Great Goddess of the Sun! We are ever your eternal servants! We humbly beg you, please shield us from harm!"
  183. "Where hath you taken Us? Who art thou? What hast thou done?"
  184. >Your voice flies free at full volume, and the creature looks up in shock before hurriedly lowering its head even further to the ground than before.
  185. >"O Great Goddess of the Sun! I am the Elder of the Hamon Tribe, ever your faithful servant! You have blessed us and shown us the way of your Rippling Light, but we remain weak! The enemy continues to hunt us without mercy! We humbly beg you! Show these monsters the full power of your mighty Sun! Save your loyal followers from certain destruction!"
  186. >You feel the elements tremble. Something is approaching. Something that seeks to disrupt harmony.
  187. >"I have found them, my masters!"
  188. >The voice comes from high above. You turn and spot something on the top of the massive wall behind you.
  189. >It looks similar to the other creatures, but far larger. It is also hairless, but adorned with cloth and metal.
  190. >You have a disturbing feeling that you are viewing this species' version of an alicorn.
  191. >Behind you, you hear the beings that summoned you scream, or flee.
  192. >"O Great Goddess of the Sun! The time has come! Please shield us from certain destruction!"
  193. >Two more massive figures appear beside the first.
  194. >"They have a magic steed, but do not flee upon it."
  195. >"They have branded it with the sun. Perhaps they imagine such enchantments shall protect it?"
  196. >"I am more interested in the gems it carries."
  197. >"Do you believe one of them could be the stone we seek?"
  198. >"Perhaps. They are clearly important."
  199. >"They would be fools to not hide them. They are likely traps for us."
  200. >"Keep one alive so that we may wrench the truth out of it."
  201. >You've heard enough.
  202. "Thou shalt not harm these innocents!"
  203. >You don't know what these creatures that summoned you are, but they clearly need your help.
  204. >And you can feel the elements are eager to destroy these monsters.
  205.  
  206. >After a short pause, the first one speaks.
  207. >"Masters. I would like to challenge this steed in combat. I sense it is a warrior of great skill and honour."
  208. >"Very well, Wamuu. Do not take too long to defeat it."
  209. >The creature called Wamuu leaps down and you dodge to avoid its powerful landing.
  210. >Up close, it looks far more terrifying, and it gazes at you like a toy.
  211. >"Show me your strength, steed of the sun. I hope you are worthy of my time."
  212. "Our name is Celestia."
  213. >It is your first time wielding the elements without your sister, but you cannot falter.
  214. >You pour your magic into them and let them resonate with each other, each element amplifying its sisters' strength.
  215. >Your opponent is preparing an attack of its own. You have to be fast.
  216. >You feel the power reverberate throughout your body, and you unleash a beam of pure harmony.
  217. >"Divine Sandstorm!"
  218. >Through the blinding light, you can barely make out the creature's movements.
  219. >Its forelegs are spinning rapidly. Wind engulfs it, directed by the flying metal attached to its mane.
  220. >You spread your wings for balance as the torrent of air is directed at you. It feels like you're diving through the air, far faster than you've ever flown in your life.
  221. >The beam of harmony twists and turns as it struggles to reach its target. Wamuu stands at the eye of the storm, body barely visible through the whirling air.
  222. >You start to lose your grip. Without Luna it takes all your concentration to keep the beam from dying out.
  223. >You have to make a choice. The beam... or your own body.
  224. >You shield yourself, and the power immediately dies out. The elements scatter to the raging wind.
  225. >It's a power unlike any you've encountered. Feathers are ripped from your wings, but your magic holds firm.
  226. >Eventually the wind dies down. You and your enemy face each other, both exhausted.
  227. >Without looking around, the enemy kicks behind itself, and you hear a scream.
  228. >"Coward! How dare you disrupt the sanctity of this duel?"
  229. >You can barely make out one of the tribe stumbling in the darkness behind Wamuu.
  230. >With a choking breath, it calls out to you.
  231. >"Goddess! The sun! Use the power of the sun!"
  232. >Angered at the sudden assistance, Wamuu leaps at you.
  233. >You focus your energies on the heavens and call your greatest ally to ignite the dark sky... and scream in horror.
  234. >This is not your sun.
  235. >This is nothing like your sun.
  236. >This is an unimaginably powerful giant, and it lashes against your attempt at control with unbearable heat.
  237. >It will not move. Not for you, or any other magic.
  238. >You are less than a speck of dust compared to this alien sun's sheer size and power.
  239. >The shock leaves you numb as Wamuu's attack shatters your spine.
  240. >Completely defeated, you collapse into the dirt.
  241.  
  242. >"An excellent battle, despite the disappointing end."
  243. >You barely have the strength to keep your gaze fixed on the monster that towers above you.
  244. >Its two companions drop down and slowly approach.
  245. >"Feel proud, Warrior of the Sun. Had you a little more strength, your magics may have even defeated me."
  246. >The monster plunges its fingers into your head. You feel sick to your very core as you realize the sensation is not only painless... it is pleasant.
  247. >With a gentle twist, it digs into the base of your horn.
  248. >"I shall carry your horn with me as an eternal reminder of your courage and skill as a warrior."
  249. >It lifts your now detached horn and places it on its own forehead.
  250. >Flesh morphs and twists as your precious horn is quickly absorbed inside the monster.
  251. >"Are you finished, Wamuu? We must gather the gems."
  252. >"Of course, Lord Kars."
  253. >It's going to finish you off now, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
  254. >You realize Luna will never know what happened.
  255. >She may spend the rest of her long life searching for her missing sister.
  256. >The pain of that thought is worse than any pain you've felt thus far.
  257. >You cannot let that happen.
  258. >You don't even have the strength to keep your eyes open, but you realize there is still one last thing you can do.
  259. >Once again, you cast your mind to the heavens and make contact with that terrifying sun.
  260. >This time you do not try to control it. You surrender entirely to its power.
  261. >Immediately your body is filled with strength.
  262. >No... it is not your body anymore. Something else possesses it.
  263. >The mane and tail that were once yours erupt into flame as a terrible yell emerges from what was once your throat.
  264. >A new horn immediately grows to replace the injury. Teeth sharpen to points.
  265. >The three monsters before you barely have time to react before they are blasted with the full power of a great sun.
  266. >You see their bodies turn to stone, but the sun within you continues to work its power.
  267. >The statues that were once living beings are thrust against the stone architecture, fusing with it.
  268. >Only when they are buried in the deep ground does the sun slowly relent.
  269. >You feel yourself return to your body.
  270. >Your injuries are gone, but something else remains. A slight shadow in your heart. The fragment of a nightmare.
  271. >You allow your suppressed emotions to come out. You shudder and gasp for air as tears flood your eyes.
  272. >The terror and rage and grief pour out, and you are content to let them flow without restraint.
  273.  
  274. >A familiar tingle on your back pulls you back to the present.
  275. >Possibilities flood your mind. Was there a time limit? Did the spell detect that your task was accomplished? Does the spell reverse when the caster is killed or flees the area?
  276. >The answer is irrelevant. You're about to go back regardless.
  277. >You quickly search for the scattered elements. With their power drained you can't feel them with your magic anymore.
  278. >One by one you spot the glint of gems in the darkness. Loyalty. Kindness. Generosity. Laughter. Honesty.
  279. >But no Magic.
  280. >The tingle becomes a gentle tug. You're running out of time.
  281. >Finally, you spot it lying next to the tribal that Wamuu killed.
  282. >You rush towards it, and for the first time you notice the fallen warrior draw a rattling breath.
  283. >It is still alive!
  284. >You don't hesitate to focus a healing spell.
  285. >These beings may have foalnapped you and forced you in battle against deadly monsters, but this one did what it could to help. You may not have tried to use the sun without it.
  286. >Your magic aura embraces the lying figure, and it lights enough of the area to see clearly.
  287. >It is soaked in a pool of blood. A massive wound starting at the neck nearly splits the creature's torso in two.
  288. >Your magic knits flesh and blood together. You have seconds left before you are pulled back to Equestria.
  289. >You shouldn't have the time, but you are dimly aware of a magical resonance accelerating the healing process.
  290. >As your spell nears completion, you finally notice the element of magic caught in your aura.
  291. >Half the element is coated in the warrior's blood. You see the other half flicker in a strange way.
  292. >Your spell ends, but the element is not finished. It appears to be casting a spell of its own.
  293. >Only a tiny cut on the body remains, and that is where the bloody element focuses its energy.
  294. >It leaves behind a mark on the creature's skin. An image of itself. A purple star imbued with energy that you cannot identify.
  295. >The element absorbs the remaining blood and returns to your orbit.
  296. >Before you can fully process what happened, you are forcibly yanked out of space and time.
  297.  
  298. >"At that time, none of us had any real knowledge of the elements. Had I simply left them behind, they would have reformed for their rightful bearers. Instead, I acted without thinking, and in doing so bound the blood of that being to the element of magic itself. Luna's attacker is undoubtedly a descendent of that being, and whatever power it possesses was bestowed by myself. All of this is because I made a careless mistake."
  299. "Don't even think about blaming yourself!"
  300. You are Twilight Sparkle and you are not going to allow the greatest pony ever to beat herself up over something that was entirely out of her control.
  301. "All you did was save a life, you aren't responsible for anypony else's actions!"
  302. >Your mentor gives you a kind smile.
  303. >"Thank you, Twilight. But I did not summon you all here to lift my spirits."
  304. >Her face adopts its usual mask of dignity.
  305. >"I have gathered you here to ask for your help in preparing a spell. When I was taken to that world, Star Swirl was able to capture the magic used and copy it. For centuries it has been kept secret as the only connection we have to that realm. For centuries, I have been dreading this day."
  306. "You mean..."
  307. >"The time has finally come. Our land has been invaded, and we lack knowledge on how to defeat this invader. It may be a task beyond even our most powerful magics. There is only one way to level the field of battle. We must use the same spell that was used on myself two thousand years ago. We must summon a true hero capable of defeating this great evil."
  308.  
  309. >You are Pinkie Pie.
  310. >Although you don't feel very Pinkie or Pie right now.
  311. >Your friends are scared, and it doesn't look like you can cheer them up.
  312. >After your first meeting with Princess Celestia you were all taken to a strange magic lab.
  313. >The spell to summon an alien was a lot more complicated than you had imagined.
  314. >Twilight and a bunch of other unicorns talked about stuff you couldn't understand for a very long time, while the rest of you were in charge of deciding the specifics of the spell.
  315. >You couldn't just reach in and pull out anypony after all. What if you got somepony bad? Or even a little baby?
  316. >So you had to set rules. Like making a cake. You can't just toss in anything and expect it to work. You need the right ingredients.
  317. >Only... turns out there's no recipe for "super powerful alien that can help find another alien and then defeat that alien that is somehow more powerful than Princess Luna and absolutely really definitely for sure won't decide to go bad and join up with that evil alien to terraform Equestria into a crazy alien world".
  318. >And that's when you all started arguing.
  319. >How powerful? How intelligent? How good? And what makes somepony good anyway? Was loyalty more important than generosity? Each element had a completely different idea of what a true hero was.
  320. >When your suggestion that the hero should wear party hats because nothing evil wears party hats was shot down, you realized that there wasn't anything more you could do.
  321. >So you left, and started to wander the castle.
  322. >Maybe there was a pony who was sad because nopony remembered their birthday. Or maybe they had just arrived at the castle and didn't know anypony. Or maybe there was a monster that could only be defeated by feeding it tons and tons of cake and then sealing it away inside the largest balloon animal ever.
  323. >Unfortunately you couldn't find any mundane and easily solvable problems like those.
  324. >This simply isn't the sort of place that needs a Pinkie right now.
  325. >So you eventually found yourself back here, next to Princess Luna.
  326. >She didn't need doctors around all the time any more, but she did need a lot of confusing magical machines.
  327. >You started to talk to her even though she wasn't awake.
  328. >The Cakes said that it's important to talk to Pound and Pumpkin even though they look like they can't understand you, so you figure it's good to talk to Luna as well.
  329. >First you started talking about how you helped save the Crystal Empire but then you remembered that it just happened a few weeks ago and you already told the Princesses all about it at the time.
  330. >Then you started talking about when you met Luna at the last Nightmare Night but then you remembered that she was there for that.
  331. >So instead you started talking about yourself.
  332. >You share your cupcake recipes, the best way to clean and polish a party cannon, and eventually you talk about your friends.
  333. >They're the best friends ever, so you talk a lot.
  334.  
  335. >At some point a twitch in your leg lets you know you're not alone. You look around to see Celestia standing at the foot of her sister's bed.
  336. >"It feels like it was only yesterday that she returned."
  337. >You stay silent. Every part of you wants to make this heartbroken pony smile, but you can't.
  338. >"In some way, I think I deserve this. I promised myself countless times that I would do things differently whenever she came back. I would tell her every day how important she is. I would endlessly praise her beautiful night. I would be perfect. Of course, things were far less than perfect. There were times when we argued, when I found myself too distracted to pay her any attention."
  339. >She lays a hoof on Luna's body.
  340. >"Why is it only when we're separated that I can remember how much I love her?"
  341. >After a second of hesitation you put your hoof on hers.
  342. >Nopony says anything. It's silent for a long time.
  343. >At some point you hear the door open.
  344. >"Princess? Is... this a good time?"
  345. >Twilight has that expression worn by ponies who suddenly realize that something they thought was incredibly important is entirely unimportant.
  346. >"Of course, my dear student. I am eager for news."
  347. >Celestia's emotions vanish once again.
  348. >"Well... I've been trying everything to get the spell ready. We have to be sure that whatever comes through is able to survive the journey, and we need protection for us as well, at least at first... anyway, we can't learn much about the other side without actually going through, but I did a few spells to try and make sure that the bridge is stable, and actually leads where we need, and...
  349. >Her eyes dart from side to side, as if hoping that the answer to her problem will suddenly materialize in front of her.
  350. >"Well, it was a success. Kind of. The spell works. It definitely, absolutely, entirely works. Completely. Except... well... it..."
  351. >She's getting stuck, but Celestia helps her out.
  352. >"Twilight, everything will be fine. Just tell me whatever the problem is and we'll fix it together."
  353. >"Right. OK. So, as I said, there's no problem with the spell. The problem is at the other end. The other world. It..."
  354. >Her mouth moves with no sound.
  355. >"Twilight..."
  356. >"Yes! I'm fine, don't worry. Everything's fine. Except that's the problem. Everything is working perfectly. If Star Swirl had made a mistake, then this would make sense. But he didn't make a mistake. I'm sure he didn't."
  357. >She sighs in defeat.
  358. >"Star Swirl made sure that the spell would specifically target the world where you were sent. No other. It's amazing, really. Throughout all time and space and how many other worlds are out there, he found the right one with pinpoint precision. It's incredible magic... and it doesn't work. The bridge leads to nowhere.
  359. >Twilight's eyes flit back and forth between the two of you.
  360. >"You're probably going to think I'm crazy but I've tested it and tested it, and there is only possible conclusion."
  361. >She takes deep breath.
  362. >"That world... no longer exists."
  363.  
  364. >You are Daring Do.
  365. >The single most awesomest pony in Equestria.
  366. >And now, you up against the most fearsome, deadly, terrifying, evil monster to ever exist!
  367. >The mighty alien stands before a throne of skulls and blood.
  368. >"Pathetic little pony! Your world will soon fall under my might! Now surrender, and I will make you a general in my robot army!"
  369. "No thanks. I work alone."
  370. >You respond in a really cool way.
  371. >The alien roars and unleashes his incredible laser beam attack.
  372. >You fly with perfect precision between the beams, ready to kick the alien in its big stupid face!
  373. >"You fool! You will never wake up, Rainbow!"
  374. >Wait, what?
  375. >"RAINBOW! WAKE UP!"
  376. >You yelp and slide off your seat.
  377. >You are Rainbow Dash.
  378. >You are on a train back to Ponyville.
  379. >After you all spent the whole day talking about the spell, the Princess decided that you should all continue to work on it from your home.
  380. >Well, mostly Twilight will work on it.
  381. >She arranged a small train to carry yourselves along with the necessary parts of the spell, which take an entire carriage as well as a special guard.
  382. >You must've drifted off, and now Twilight is looking disappointed.
  383. >"This is serious. Many lives will be affected by what we choose to do."
  384. >You groan.
  385. "But we've been talking about it all day, and we're not any closer to actually doing anything."
  386. >"Rainbow does have a point," Rarity chimes in. "Doing anything has to be better than doing nothing."
  387. "But what CAN we do? Twilight said there probably isn't anypony on the other side anyway."
  388. >Twilight huffs in annoyance.
  389. >"That's what I was saying when you dozed off. I think there's a good chance there might be a lot of trapped souls over there unable to pass on. Not alive or dead."
  390. >You scratch your head.
  391. "I still don't get it. How can the world blow up, but nopony die? That's impossible."
  392. >"Yeah, Ah still don't git how anypony is s'pposed t' live if everythin's gone," Applejack ponders. "Wouldn't it be impossible to live without... air? Wouldn't yer body be destroyed too?"
  393. >Twilight frowns.
  394. >"Did you all already forget about King Sombra? His body was gone, but he was still around."
  395. >You glance around. Seems everypony else had forgotten that as well.
  396. "So... what made him special? Why didn't he just die like normal?"
  397. >"There are only legends, but certain dark magic is said to have power over the soul itself."
  398. >Twilight's face is grim.
  399. >"It's said that there were ways to rip a pony's soul from their body, and that doing so would make them unable to die, at least until they were able to inhabit another body."
  400. "And... you think that the ponies in the other world are like that?"
  401. >"At first it seemed very unlikely. But the more I think about it, the more plausible it seems. It must've taken very dark magic to end an entire world, and anything could have happened leading up to such a disaster."
  402.  
  403. >Fluttershy speaks up.
  404. >"If that's true, then we have to help them. The critters over there must be so lonely and scared."
  405. >Twilight nods in response.
  406. >"Absolutely. This is no longer just a way to ask for help. It's a rescue mission. If anypony over there is trapped, it's our duty to save them."
  407. >Rarity's face scrunches.
  408. >"We still have to be careful about it though, yes? Maybe whatever ended that world is still out there. We should still stick with our initial plan of pulling over somepony safe. Then, once we have a better idea of what is going on, and can defend ourselves, we can save the rest of them."
  409. >"OH COME ON!"
  410. >Everypony turns to look at Pinkie in shock.
  411. >"That means that we've ended up RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTEEEEED!"
  412. >She collapses in a pile of boredom. You feel like doing the same.
  413. "I think we're never going to agree. This is even worse than choosing a pet."
  414. >You sit up with renewed energy. You just got a totally awesome idea!
  415. "Hey, that's right! When I couldn't make a decision, I held a race, and let the best pet win! It didn't go as planned, but I still found the best pet ever because of it!"
  416. >Applejack tilts her head.
  417. >"What're you sayin'? You want all those lost souls t' have a big race to decide who gits rescued first?"
  418. "No! Well, that would probably be cool, but no. What I mean is, maybe we don't have to be the ones to decide."
  419. >"An' just what is gonna do the decidin' for us?"
  420. >"The elements!"
  421. >Twilight's outburst gets everypony's attention.
  422. >"I can connect the elements to the spell! They'll automatically search for whoever is the most compatible!"
  423. >She stands up triumphantly.
  424. >"I get it now, that's why we couldn't agree! We need all the elements of harmony instead of just one!"
  425. >You all glance at each other, grins slowly growing on your faces.
  426. "I knew it was an awesome idea."
  427. >"I just hope nopony gets hurt..."
  428. >"Don't ya worry one bit, Fluttershy, Twi'll make sure nothin' goes wrong."
  429. >"They'll be like our twins! We can have a doppleganger party!"
  430. >"They must have such amazing fashions..."
  431. >"Alright, girls. It's decided. Tomorrow, we begin our rescue mission. Starting with the elements of harmony! Or, well, the next best thing from that place."
  432. >The carriage erupts into a cheerful noise as you and your friends excitedly discuss the endless possibilities ahead of you.
  433.  
  434. >You are Daring Do.
  435. >And you've just made the discovery of a lifetime.
  436. >Not only have you found a legendary tomb that nopony else believed really existed, but you've discovered an amazing secret.
  437. >As you trot towards your home, your mind reels with what you've learned.
  438. >Dozens of ponies. Maybe more. And you're sure that you've seen several of them on missing posters around Equestria.
  439. >All of them hiding out in one of the most remote locations in the world.
  440.  
  441. >What could it mean? A cult? A rebellion? Another changeling invasion?
  442. >You don't know what to think. This is something that Daring Do can't handle alone.
  443. >But who do you talk to? Can you explain something like this without giving away your secret?
  444. >Two and a half seconds after entering your front door, you know that something's wrong.
  445. >You spin around to face the intruder. It's cloaked in shadow, but you can tell it doesn't look like a pony at all.
  446. >"Daring Do... I am overjoyed to meet you."
  447. >No point in trying to hide it, you're still wearing the outfit.
  448. "Who are you? Why are you in my house?"
  449. >"Don't be so indignant. You spied on my home first, after all. And I am here simply because... I am a fan."
  450. >The thing walks forward in a strange two-legged gait.
  451. >"Particularly, I am fascinated by your account of 'The Spear of Destruction'. A very enjoyable story. Although, I do admit I found the ending... unsatisfying."
  452. >You can now see the creature's eyes. Something in them tells you to relax, to trust this being. But your instinct for danger is far stronger.
  453. >"Forgive me, but I do believe you told a slight lie in that book, did you not? The spear didn't actually fall into a lake of lava."
  454. "What makes you think it's real at all?"
  455. >"I've held it in my possession. Where I come from it was an arrow, but I believe it is indeed the same object. An ancient weapon used to bestow terrifying abilities on those pierced by it. I was intrigued by the mere possibility. I believe that it is real, that you did find it, and that it remains in your possession."
  456. >The creature smiles at you.
  457. >"Won't you give it to me? We could accomplish amazing feats if we were friends. Imagine, all the adventure your heart could possibly desire. I can provide that to you. I will show you wonders that you have never dreamed of. What do you say? Will you be my friend?"
  458. >The sweet words cut deep into your soul, past all your defences. You want nothing more than to trust this being.
  459. >But you are still Daring Do. And you know exactly what to say.
  460. "No thanks. I work alone."
  461. >You've managed to inch your way to your goal. You fling a hidden net at the intruder, and in the same motion turn to dive out the window.
  462. >Then you sputter as the creature's tight grip closes around your throat.
  463. >You are inches from its face, its eyes staring deep into your soul.
  464. >You spit in defiance.
  465. "Do... your... worst... I'll... never... talk..."
  466. >The creature laughs.
  467. >"We will see."
  468. >A strange tentacle appears. Before you can even understand what's happening, it plunges into your skull, and everything turns white.
  469.  
  470. >The Golden Oak Library is large and welcoming, its branches appearing to reach out in an invitation of friendship and knowledge.
  471. >Or, at least that's what you'd like it to symbolize.
  472. >Lots of ponies actually seem to avoid the library.
  473. >And you're beginning to have a better understanding why.
  474. >You are Twilight Sparkle, and you are regretting your decisions.
  475. >Your basement in the library, previously your personal laboratory, has been completely renovated.
  476. >Royal guards and magical scholars have been going in and out for the entire morning, dragging all manner of magical and scientific equipment with them.
  477. >The process has drawn the attention of several curious onlookers as your front lawn is littered with your various pet projects.
  478. >There's also quite a stench from the unbelievable amount of magical reagents both entering and leaving.
  479. >You've tried assuring them that the building will still function as a library, but they still seem quite concerned.
  480. >It will be totally worth it to have the complex spell components laid out in your familiar basement, but the fact that this will likely cause Ponyville's interest in literature to decline even further makes your eye twitch.
  481. >The moving lasts longer than you expected. It would have been faster if the others had respected your checklist process, but you are careful to show gratitude for their help regardless.
  482. >Soon your friends arrive, and you lead them into the basement.
  483. >In the center of the room a series of ancient scrolls lie on the floor, a thick layer of glass shielding them.
  484. >A few pipes and wires run outward, connecting to whirring machines that process piles of magical reagents, monitor energy levels, and perform other critical tasks to make sure nothing explodes.
  485. >The thought that beings from another universe risked the life of the Princess with this spell when the only technology they had was using sticks to draw runes...
  486. >Your eye twitches again.
  487. >You calm yourself by reviewing the final part of the setup: six tanks of clear fluid attached to a regulatory system that then feeds into the central spell component.
  488. >Five tanks hold floating amulets, the sixth a crown.
  489. >You hear a door open. Spike cautiously leads your friends down the steps into what you've now been calling the portal room.
  490. >They are clearly impressed, and you allow yourself a moment to bask in their appreciation.
  491. >It's not boasting if you didn't start it... right?
  492. "Alright, girls."
  493. >They turn to look at you expectantly.
  494. "Who's ready to summon an alien?"
  495.  
  496. >You and your friends focus energy into the elements of harmony.
  497. >The magic resonates within the tanks, and the entire room starts to gently hum.
  498. >The elements shine brightly, and for a moment you worry for the stability of your machines.
  499. >Then you feel it. A strange ripple in the air, a wave of magic washing over you for a split second.
  500. >"Did anypony else..."
  501. >"Yeah, it felt like I just flew through a cold front."
  502. "It's working."
  503. >The elements have stopped shining, the room has fallen quiet, but you can sense something is different.
  504. >Pinkie is the first to notice.
  505. >"Look! It's glowing again!"
  506. >You follow her hoof pointing towards the element of magic.
  507. >It's subtle, but you can make out that it has a faint glow, while the rest remain dull.
  508. >"Um... why is that one glowing?"
  509. "It's found somepony. The elements are each searching for a potential host. Magic has already found a candidate."
  510. >"What about the others?"
  511. "It... might take time for them to find the right soul. I detect energy from them. The spell is working, but nothing is responding yet."
  512. >"Aw... I wanted another element of laughter."
  513. >"Does 'at mean we'll be gettin' another powerful magician like Twi 'ere?"
  514. >Before you can answer, the element's glow becomes blinding.
  515. >A low hum in the center of the room draws your attention. Above the focus point of the spell is a shimmering golden light.
  516. "Here it comes."
  517. >"Do we... need to do anything?"
  518. "The elements should work on their own as long as we're nearby."
  519. >A familiar warmth fills you.
  520. >You sense all six elements surge with the same power that restored Princess Luna and imprisoned Discord.
  521. "It's working. It's restoring the alien's body."
  522. >The magic fades, and an imposing bipedal figure appears.
  523.  
  524. >おまえは空条承太郎だ。
  525. >おまえは死んでいない。
  526. >おまえは完全に怒っている。
  527. 「オラアアアアアアアアアアア!!!!」
  528. >スタープラチナが周囲を攻撃している。
  529. 「はあ…はあ…」
  530. >部屋を見渡している。
  531. 「馬だ?」
  532. >色とりどりの小さな馬たちが見つめられている。
  533. 「徐倫はどこだ? プッチ神父はどこだ?」
  534. >"Uh, Twi? You got that translatin' spell ready, right?"
  535. >馬たちが英語を話している。
  536. >待て…
  537. 「まさか! ここは… プッチ神父の天国のか?」
  538. >"Hold on... almost got it..."
  539. >紫の光顔を照らす
  540. 「スタンドか? やれやれ a break."
  541. >Wait...
  542. >Why are your thoughts in English?
  543.  
  544. "H-Hello? Can you understand me now?"
  545. >You are Twilight Sparkle and by Celestia this creature is terrifying!
  546. >The moment it entered it started some kind of attack.
  547. >And now it won't stop looking at you with those small judging eyes!
  548. >It's like if that one magic professor who always hated your flank for no reason suddenly turned into a minotaur!
  549. >"Where is Father Pucci? Did he create this place?"
  550. "U-Uh... sorry, but I don't know your father or anypony named Poochy, um... my n-name is Twilight Sparkle. I brought you here. W-We all brought you here so that you c-could help us."
  551. >Oh no, that sounds bad now that you say it out loud.
  552. "We-Well we also brought you here to save you! Because of how you were dead and your world was destroyed!"
  553. >Oh NO!
  554. "O-Oh... I'm really really s-s-sorry if you didn't know about those things before. B-B-But um... yes. Your world is, sadly gone. And you were just a soul floating in the ether before we called you here. So... I know it's a lot, but it really is a good thing that you're here!"
  555. >There's a painful pause where you pretend you don't hear Pinkie whispering to you about how his father must be a dog named Poochy.
  556. >Shouldn't he say something? Do something? He just keeps... STARING at you!
  557. >Wait, it IS a he... right?
  558. "Um... so, what's your name, anyway?"
  559. >"Kujo Jotaro. Was that your Stand that was used on me just now?"
  560. "Oh! Yes, that was just a simple translation spell. I'm sorry for doing it without warning, but you weren't making any sense, and..."
  561. >And you were scared, but you don't want to tell... (Huge Oat Hollow?) the alien that.
  562. "It's fine. But I need to know: who is the Stand User that brought me to this place? Can you find my daughter Jolyne?"
  563. >Oh no, of course he'd be worried about his family.
  564. "Well, that's complicated. My friends and I powered the spell...
  565. >Unfortunately your translation spell isn't working half as well as you'd like, but maybe a 'stand' is what his species calls spells?
  566. "The... stand? I think that's what you called it? But the actual spell itself was made by somepony who died a long time ago. But if we can find your daughter, we'll bring her over here to safety as well! That's a promise! We want to rescue everypony left behind! Er, not ponies. Every... alien. Um, sorry. There's still a lot we don't know about your kind, or just... what you are."
  567. >"Human. I'm guessing you're all equines. In that case, you should know that we humans are descended from apes. We're omnivorous pursuit predators, though since we're the apex predator on the planet we farm most of our food instead of hunting or gathering. We have equines in our world, although they're not much like you. They're animals incapable of speech or higher reasoning. Still, my species regards as powerful and trustworthy companions. Your skulls look far more humanoid, so I suppose we have a lot in common mentally, if not physically. As for what you refer to me as, I really don't give a shit."
  568.  
  569. >Alright, he's still scary, but at least he's talking.
  570. >And he's extremely interesting!
  571. >Even if you're pretty sure that word he just used is from The Tome of Ancient and Forbidden Curses.
  572. >You wish you brought your clipboard.
  573. >"You should also know, my main interest is to find the man that reset my universe. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that you saved me, and under better circumstances I'm sure we could learn a lot from each other. But first, I have to find that piece of shit and beat him to death. Then I can find my daughter. If you help me with any of that, then I'll gladly help with whatever you need in return. But if you don't..."
  574. >The alien adjusts his hat and stares at you like a Griffin ready to dive for the kill.
  575. >"...I'll smash through anything or anyone I have to in order to get Jolyne back. You understand?"
  576. "Y-Y-Y-Yes. And as I said before, we'll be glad to help you. But, right now, well, we don't really know much about how the spell works. If there's a new world, we don't know how to reach it. All we have is the connection to yours."
  577. >You gesture at the encased scrolls.
  578. >He turns around to study the room more closely, and you let out a sigh of relief.
  579. >You think you prefer his initial blind rage over that calm declaration of murderous intent.
  580. >Your friends aren't faring much better. Rainbow Dash looks terrified but still ready to pounce. Applejack looks like she regrets everything. Fluttershy is hyperventilating and you're not sure if it's due to fear or excitement. Rarity seems to have mentally tapped out long ago and is staring blankly ahead. Pinkie is... unreadable.
  581. >Seeing your friends reminds you that you need to pull yourself together.
  582. >Sure, things aren't perfect, but they could have been a lot worse.
  583. "Actually, we were hoping that you could help us find a... man, too. He came here somehow and has seriously injured one of our Princesses, but we have no idea where he is or how we can defeat him."
  584. >You project the memory.
  585. "Does this human look familiar at all? Could you... uh... help..."
  586. >Your words die away as the human sees the shimmering vision.
  587. >You've never seen such an expression of pure rage.
  588. >"DIO..."
  589.  
  590. >The alien's growl makes your fur stand on edge.
  591. "You... know who this is?"
  592. >It takes a moment before the human can respond.
  593. >"He's responsible... for everything."
  594. >You notice the human close his eyes, and he appears to be breathing deeply.
  595. >He's trying to calm himself.
  596. >"If he's attacked your royalty, he's confident in his ability to take over this world. And then... who knows what power he'll find. He may be able to reach Heaven just as the Priest did."
  597. >Take over your world? Could that human really be that powerful?
  598. >"You said your name is Twilight, correct?"
  599. "Uh... yes. Twilight Sparkle."
  600. >"Plans have changed, Twilight Sparkle. We have to defeat DIO, at any cost. Otherwise, your world will end up like mine. Now, all of you, tell me: can you see this?"
  601. >Energy shimmers around him, and you see a ghostly apparition appear around him, the same form that he created when he reflexively lashed out after being summoned.
  602. >You nod your head, and see your friends do the same.
  603. "I wanted to ask, what sort of spell is that? It's not like anything I've seen before!"
  604. >"It's called Star Platinum. It's a Stand, the manifestation of one's fighting spirit. And if you can see it, that means you all have them too."
  605.  
  606. "VAMPIRES?"
  607. >You are Rainbow Dash and you think you might be losing your mind.
  608. "You're telling me that not only can this DIO guy stop time, beat ponies up with his ghost Stand thing, and regenerate from any injury, but he can turn ponies... into VAMPIRES??"
  609. >"He can with humans. We have to assume ponies work the same way."
  610. >You rub your head. Next to you, Twilight is burying herself under a pile of scrolls.
  611. >You've all returned to the main library, mainly so that Twilight could start taking notes. She's been fascinated by everything the human has said.
  612. >The human has been doing that too, although he's using some weird stick he had with him rather than a quill.
  613. >And that's when things started to go downhill.
  614. >At first the alien was really scary, but also kinda cool.
  615. >But now that he and Twilight have been talking, you realize the awful truth.
  616. >The human is an egghead.
  617. >And now you've been stuck with two eggheads talking back and forth about magic and Stands and you have no idea how they can make things that should be really cool sound so lame.
  618. >Aside from Twilight, you and all your friends are exhausted, barely paying attention to the conversation.
  619. >And then all of a sudden he just mentions that you could get attacked by VAMPIRES.
  620. >"He can also control people with flesh buds implanted in the forehead. I can remove those, and the victim typically makes a full recovery."
  621. >You glance at Twilight and she scribbles frantically while shooting you a look of desperation.
  622. "Alright, that's enough. How do we know that you're telling the tru- huh?"
  623. >He just... teleported.
  624. >Not even like Twilight, there was no popping sound or anything.
  625. >"That's Star Platinum's ability. I can stop time for up to five seconds."
  626. >"Fascinating. So this is DIO's ability as well?"
  627. >"Yes. He could stop time for nine seconds in the past. But that was when he had my grandfather's blood. He must've come here immediately after I beat him to a pulp, and he would have needed to regenerate by feeding on blood. Hopefully, the lack of human blood here has made him weaker than last time. But he's still a fearsome opponent. Don't face him alone, if at all possible."
  628. >An alien drinking pony blood...
  629. >"And you said that he can only be beaten with a Stand?"
  630. >"One way to find out. Attack me with magic. Something strong enough to knock me on my ass."
  631. >You see Twilight's horn glow, and she shoots a bolt at the human.
  632. >"ORA!"
  633. >For a split second you see that ghost Star Platinum appear, blocking the magic with a foreleg.
  634. >"That's about what I expected. Only a Stand can harm other Stands. And Stands are usually fast enough to block anything you throw at it. You can still overwhelm them though. If you had a dozen or so unicorns shooting, then maybe that might do some damage."
  635. >You can see Twilight's ears droop a little.
  636. >"But that magic is still useful. Each Stand has a unique ability. From what I've seen of magic, it's strong enough to counter those abilities. Especially that shield spell."
  637.  
  638. "What about the rest of us, though? I mean, I know you said we have those Stand things, but I'm pretty sure we don't."
  639. >The human fixes his eyes on you.
  640. >"Have you ever noticed that you have strange abilities? Likely manifesting in a dire moment, like a fight for your life?"
  641. "Well, I'm the element of loyalty, but that's nothing like your ghost thing. And my special talent is flying. See my cutie mark?"
  642. >You twist to show him.
  643. >"I've been meaning to ask about those marks. Twilight, you mentioned that they signify a special ability, correct?"
  644. >"Yes! As Rainbow said, her talent is flying. Applejack's is for apples, Fluttershy's is for animals, Rarity's is for gems, Pinkie's is for parties, and my special talent is magic!"
  645. >The human nods.
  646. >"Then I'm sure that whatever your stands are, they're connected to those talents. Tell me, when did they manifest?"
  647. >"Oh! That's a great story. We actually all got ours at the same time..."
  648. "It was when I first pulled off a Sonic Rainboom! I probably flew faster than any pegasus EVER that day! And I was still just a filly!"
  649. >The human gives you a curious look.
  650. >"Describe what happened."
  651. "Well, it started when these bullies were bothering Fluttershy..."
  652. >"Just the flight itself."
  653. >You clamp your mouth shut. Something about him makes it feel like a really bad idea to waste his time at all.
  654. >"I was going as fast as I could, and then... I just had this feeling like I couldn't ever let a dumb bully like that win. I came to the last turn, and it was like... everything in the world just stopped, and I was the only thing moving. There was no noise, nothing. Then next thing I knew, I had made this totally AWESOME rainbow explosion, AND got my cutie mark!"
  655. >You puff up with pride.
  656. >"...I'd like to try something."
  657. >The human steps forward, standing a short distance away from you.
  658. >Suddenly, every nerve in your body feels like it's on fire.
  659. >Your wings move automatically, propelling you backwards.
  660. >You notice that you're screaming. Your eyes dart around the room, searching for the source of the danger.
  661. >"Rainbow! What's wrong?"
  662. >Your friends stare at you, confused.
  663. "He... He attacked me!"
  664. >You point an accusatory hoof.
  665. "I don't know how, but he did something! It almost killed me!"
  666. >The human stands stock still, not having moved at all.
  667. >"Don't worry. I aimed the punch to fall short. It wouldn't have harmed you."
  668. "Wait... what exactly did you do?"
  669. >"I had Star Platinum stop time, then aim a punch at you. I had a hunch, and it looks like it was correct. Your Stand blocked my punch while time was frozen."
  670. >Your mouth opens in shock.
  671. >"You must not have the power to summon it willingly yet, but you definitely have a Stand. From what I saw, it can only move in stopped time for a brief instant, but it was enough to reflexively protect you. That's how you managed to fly so fast. You stopped time long enough to massively increase your velocity, but not long enough to be perceptible."
  672.  
  673. >Before you can even process what the human is saying, the front door to the library bursts open.
  674. >"Twilight! You have to come, quick!"
  675. >Spike glances in surprise at the human, but doesn't let it distract him from getting Twilight's attention.
  676. >"What's the matter?"
  677. >"Outside! Quick! Before she does something horrible!"
  678. >He drags Twilight towards the door, and the rest of you follow.
  679. >A large crowd has gathered in front of the library. Before them stands a mysterious figure in a black cloak.
  680. >"Well, well, well. If it isn't... Twilight Sparkle!"
  681. >The figure tosses back its hood and you all give a collective gasp.
  682. >"Trixie!"
  683. >"You and I have some unfinished business. My magic's gotten better since I was here last. And I'm going to prove it! Me and you. A magic duel. Winner stays, loser leaves Ponyville: FOREVER!"
  684.  
  685. >You are The Great and Powerful Trixie.
  686. >And so far everything is going wonderfully.
  687. >Sure, it took longer than you expected for Twilight to actually show up, but so far you've been delivering all the lines that you've practiced flawlessly!
  688. >Although, you didn't expect to see that... thing standing next to Twilight and her friends.
  689. >You don't like how it's staring at you.
  690. >But that's not why you're here. And there's no way something like that could get in your way.
  691. >You focus your attention back to Twilight.
  692. >"Forget it! I'd never make a deal like that, and I'm much too busy right now to deal with you anyway! I have a very important guest right now, so I'd like you to leave."
  693. >You smirk.
  694. >You thought that she'd say something like that.
  695. "Too busy playing with your human? Your choice."
  696. >You reach out to the Alicorn Amulet around your neck and summon its power.
  697. >Focusing the magic, you easily grip Twilight's dear diminutive dragon and lift him into the air!
  698. >Next, you... lose your grip, and the dragon falls to the ground.
  699. >Hold on, that wasn't supposed to happen.
  700. >"Hey. Twilight."
  701. >You squeal in surprise.
  702. "Y-You! How did you get so close to The Great and Powerful Trixie?"
  703. >It ignores you and walks back to your arch-nemesis.
  704. >"This necklace, you recognize it?"
  705. >Wait... IT HAS THE ALICORN AMULET!
  706. >HOW?
  707. >You didn't even feel it get taken off your neck!
  708. >"Stop! Give that back to The Great and Powerful Trixie at once!"
  709. >You rush forward, hooves outstretched to snatch back what is rightfully yours.
  710. >"ORA!"
  711. >A sudden blow sends you flying.
  712. >You hear the crowd you've gathered gasp in shock as you crash into the ground. You're dazed, but at least you're not seriously injured.
  713. >Then, a shadow looms over you and you gulp in fear.
  714. >"You must not be very bright."
  715. >You slowly raise your eyes.
  716. >Oh no.
  717. >It's even scarier than the Ursa Minor.
  718. >"I don't give a shit about whatever grudge you're holding. Normally, I'd leave the two of you to your business. But you just made one major mistake."
  719. "W-W-What's that?"
  720. >"You called me a human."
  721. >Uh-oh.
  722.  
  723. >"Now where would you have heard a word like that? Nobody else here has any clue just what I am. I can only think of one possibility."
  724. >UH-OH.
  725. >"You've met DIO, haven't you?"
  726. "Uh... Wait. Trixie can explain..."
  727. >"You're going to tell me everything you know, and I won't break every bone in your body. Deal?"
  728. >How did things go this wrong?
  729. >You've lost the amulet, and at this rate you'll be the prisoner of an alien monster!
  730. >You only have one chance left.
  731. >Taking a deep breath, you stare the alien in the face and...
  732. "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!"
  733. >Your sobs ring through the air.
  734. "PLEEEEEEEEEEEEASE! DON'T HURT ME! TRIXIE DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG!!!"
  735. >You hear murmurs throughout the crowd.
  736. >It's working!
  737. "PLEASE HELP! THIS MONSTER ATTACKED ME! TRIXIE DIDN'T HURT HIM! TRIXIE DOESN'T WANT TO HURT ANYPONY!!!"
  738. >The crowd gets angry. A brave few yell threats at the human.
  739. >Turning its head, your looming attacker responds.
  740. >"SHUT THE HELL UP!"
  741. >That stunned everypony into silence.
  742. >But you've already gotten what you need.
  743. "They really hate you now."
  744. >Standing back up on your hooves, you address the human in a voice too quiet for the crowd to hear.
  745. "You might have spoiled my plans by taking the amulet. But Trixie is still far too Great and Powerful to be threatened by a creature as weak as you."
  746. >The human glares at you, but you can see a small glimmer of doubt in its eyes.
  747. "Now, it'll be easy for Trixie to get rid of you!"
  748. >"ORA!"
  749. >You feel the rush of air as the human punches you, but to no avail.
  750. >You see its eyes widen in surprise, and grin in response.
  751. >It must be wondering what happened to that previously spectacular strength.
  752. "Now you see it. Behold: The Great and Powerful Trixie's Ultimate Secret Weapon: MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR!!!"
  753. >Your glorious Stand is brimming with power as it pushes back against the attack.
  754. >At your command, it attacks with a powerful kick, and the human is knocked backwards.
  755. >Yes, YES!
  756. >The human crashes against a nearby building!
  757. >It's struggling to stand!
  758. >You pose for your audience.
  759. "Never fear, dear citizens of Ponyville! The Great and Powerful Trixie shall vanquish this evil monster!"
  760. >The crowd cheers. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a light blue pegasus flying directly at you.
  761. >But one blow from your Stand knocks her away.
  762. >To everypony else it appears as if she suddenly spiraled out of control and crashed.
  763. >You smile.
  764. >Magical Mystery Tour is now stronger and faster than you could have dreamed!
  765. "I'm coming for you, Twilight Sparkle. Just as soon as I finish off your little pet."
  766.  
  767. >You approach the fallen human.
  768. "Beg for Trixie's mercy, and she may spare you. Your meager power is no match for Trixie! Magical Mystery Tour is far more powerful than even the Alicorn Amulet! Ever since that alien pierced me with the spear, Trixie has been mastering her new abilities, and now it's impossible for you to win!"
  769. >Your humiliated opponent quakes before your might.
  770. >It looked so intimidating before, but now it's like a foal about to relieve itself in fear!
  771. >"What... How? How are you so great and powerful?"
  772. >Its commanding voice is now meek and pathetic!
  773. >You laugh in triumph!
  774. "You poor thing. That's Magical Mystery Tour's secret ability! Look at this crowd. They despise you, and they just ADORE Trixie!"
  775. >You strike a glorious pose, and hear whistles of approval.
  776. "My Stand can use their affection to tip any battle in Trixie's favour! Your strength will fade, and Trixie's will grow!"
  777. >You smile at the weakling before you.
  778. "So what will it be? Will you become Trixie's slave? Or shall you taste my fury once more?"
  779. >The human shudders in fear... then lets out an exasperated sigh.
  780. >"Good Grief. You really ARE dumb."
  781. "What?"
  782. >It stands up, all traces of defeat suddenly gone.
  783. >"Citizens of Ponyville! I apologize for my outburst. But I simply could not stand to let her threaten or insult to your lovely town in such a manner."
  784. >There are confused murmurs among the ponies.
  785. >"What are you talking about? What insult?"
  786. >"It's right here... in this letter!"
  787. >The human pulls out a scroll. The letters written on it are shaky, but unmistakable.
  788. >'I WILL DESTROY THE UGLY TOWN OF PONYVILLE. SIGNED, TRIXY.'
  789. >You snort in derision.
  790. "Nopony will believe I wrote that. I don't even have a quill! The alien is clearly lying!"
  791. >You extend your leg to the sky in a dramatic pose.
  792. >The crowd stares blankly at you. One stallion near the front replies.
  793. >"Then... what's that in your hoof?
  794. >What?
  795. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"
  796. >HOW DID THAT GET THERE?!
  797. >You seriously didn't have a quill on you, but there it is, sitting proudly in your hoof for everypony to see!
  798. >You fling it away like it's on fire!
  799. "N-No! Trixie didn't write that! Trixie swears!"
  800. >Ponies are glaring at you! You have to think of something, fast!
  801.  
  802. "Trixie is only here to entertain! I am but a humble showmare here to demonstrate my magic! Observe!"
  803. >You slyly toss one of your trusty fireworks into the air.
  804. >Such a display never fails to dazzle even the most-
  805. >"AAAAAHHHH! HELP! SHE'S ATTACKING US!!"
  806. >NO!
  807. >HOW?
  808. >You are sure you tossed that firework up above you, why is it exploding directly into the crowd?
  809. "Please! Trixie is not attacking! Trixie only wants to amaze, not harm!
  810. >That dreadful human speaks up again.
  811. >"Then why did you... STEAL a BABY?"
  812. >The crowd gasps in horror.
  813. "That's ridiculous, I would never..."
  814. >You feel something move underneath your cloak.
  815. >NO.
  816. >The human yanks your cloak off, revealing a small foal sitting between your legs.
  817. >The crowd erupts in screams.
  818. >"Pumpkin! Give her back now, you foalnapper!"
  819. >How could this be happening?
  820. >You haven't seen the human move at all!
  821. >The crowd looks like it will turn violent any second now.
  822. >You quickly shove the foal away from yourself and back away on shaking legs.
  823. >Before you flee, you give one last defiant shout.
  824. "T-T-T-The G-G-Great and P-P-P-Powerful Trixie w-w-will return for you, Twilight Sparkle!"
  825. >You summon a smoke bomb and toss it at your feet.
  826. >It explodes in a cloud of smoke... right in the face of one of the ponies.
  827. >"How dare you!"
  828. >"She's attacking the mayor!"
  829. >You yelp and turn to run away.
  830. >Only to crash directly into the legs of the human.
  831. "Eeep!"
  832. >You summon Magical Mystery Tour, even if you can't feel the power from the crowd anymore, maybe you can-
  833. >"ORAAAAA!"
  834. >Your Stand is flattened into the ground, with your body immediately following.
  835. >"I have to admit, your Stand's ability is pretty strong. You probably could've given me quite a bit of trouble."
  836. >You cautiously look up.
  837. >Two pale green eyes stare straight into your soul.
  838. >"But then... you just went ahead and told me exactly how to defeat you. I didn't seriously expect you to be so stupid."
  839. >It leans closer to you.
  840. >"So... Are you ready to admit defeat? Or should I give you another taste of The Great and Powerful Star Platinum?"
  841. >Your stomach does a backflip.
  842. "The G-G-G-great a-a-a-and P-P-P-"
  843. "The Great a-a-a-a-and P-P-P-P-Powerf-f-f-f-"
  844. >Your eyes roll into the back of your head.
  845. >The Great and Powerful Trixie has fainted.
  846.  
  847. 『STAND MASTER』
  848. >TRIXIE LULAMOON
  849. 『STAND NAME』
  850. >MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
  851. 『STATUS』
  852. >RETIRED
  853.  
  854. >DESTRUCTIVE POWER: D
  855. >SPEED: D
  856. >RANGE: C
  857. >PERSISTENCE: A
  858. >PRECISION: C
  859. >DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL: A
  860.  
  861. >Yer Applejack.
  862. >An' this is the most uncomfortable train ride ya ever been on.
  863. >Next t' you sits the human.
  864. >'Course, ya shouldn't be callin' him "the human". He's got a name. Even if it's a real weird one that ya can't quite remember.
  865. >After Pinkie had gotten it wrong five times in a row, he allowed y'all to just refer to him as 'Jojo'.
  866. >You don't rightly know why that ghost fella he's got has a decent name like Star Platinum when he's got some alien mumbo-jumbo, but aliens are just weird like that ya guess.
  867. >Across from ya sits Trixie.
  868. >Still lookin' a mite terrified, which is probably fer the best.
  869. >You reflect on the interrogation y'all had back at the library.
  870. >"Trixie was in Appleloosa for her act, which was absolutely amazing by the way, when she met the most... unique fan."
  871. >"Trixie always takes the time to engage with her fans, and this one was quite the conversationalist. We discussed my... disagreements with Twilight and the elements of harmony, and he became very interested. He said that his name was DIO and he was once something called a 'human'. Before Trixie could ask anything more, he attacked Trixie!"
  872. >"Of course, normally The Great and Powerful Trixie would never have let herself be ambushed, but... she was a bit preoccupied after the human had bought Trixie's favourite snack."
  873. >"The villain stabbed Trixie with a spearhead! Trixie was sure this was the end of her illustrious career, and indeed her very life, but then the wound closed as if it had never existed!"
  874. >"The human wished Trixie luck in conquering Ponyville, then vanished into thin air! N-Not that such a cheap trick impressed Trixie or anything! It was... very amateur!"
  875. >Accordin' to Jojo, that spearhead was likely an alien artifact that gives people Stands, and insisted on goin' to Appleloosa immediately.
  876. >Unfortunately, none of the other girls could leave on such short notice. Twi had to go and work on the spell again, since apparently it used up a lot more magical energy or whatnot to pull Jojo over. Fluttershy had agreed to go see Zecora and track down some more "magical reagents", which are basically jus' weird plants 'n' bugs. Rarity had a lot of work piled up at the boutique, Rainbow had trainin', and Pinkie... well, to be honest you don't rightly think that Derpy's half-birthday was worth missin' out on the hunt for this vampire, but Pinkie will be Pinkie.
  877. >'Course, ya probably won't even find nuthin' out here, but even if the trail's gone stone cold y'all didn't really have any other leads t' follow up on, and you sure are eager to give this DIO fella a piece o' yer mind.
  878. >Plus, it'll be nice t' see how Bloomberg is doin'. And Cousin Braeburn, o' course.
  879. >So here you are, sitting in awkward silence with Jojo and Trixie. It's a nice change from last night, when you were all sleepin' in awkward silence.
  880. >You'd just as soon leave the annoying unicorn behind, but Jojo insisted she be there to retrace her steps.
  881.  
  882. >He also said that it would be fer the best if she stayed with y'all in Ponyville from now on.
  883. >Nopony liked that idea, but he said that DIO might come lookin' for her at some point.
  884. >He said that she didn't have one of them 'flesh bud' thingamajigs that lets DIO control yer mind, and that seemed t' concern him greatly.
  885. >This whole thing might end up bein' a trap.
  886. >Still, it's hard for ya to imagine anythin' could beat Jojo's Star Platinum in a fight.
  887. >Which makes what he told you back at the station all the more confusin'.
  888. >"Applejack, we'll have a lot of time on the journey, and during that time it's important that you focus on learning to activate your Stand."
  889. >"Trixie likely isn't the only Stand User that DIO created in Appleloosa, and that means that we have no idea what could be waiting for us there. But DIO doesn't know that I'm here, and he has no idea what your Stand is capable of either. It may very well be that your Stand is what will give us the advantage in combat."
  890. >You tried tellin' him that yer pretty sure ya don't have any weird powers like a Stand, but he wouldn't listen.
  891. >"There are many ways that one's fighting spirit can manifest. Even farming apples can be a powerful ability. Your friends told me that you can be very strongwilled. Summon that strength, and project it outward."
  892. >You've been tryin' to do that this whole trip, but all ya got from it is indigestion.
  893. >It also caused ya to make all kinds o' strange faces, which Trixie took as a threat, makin' her cower under that silly hat o' hers.
  894. >Yer still not sure why she insisted on changing back to that goofy stage outfit, but apparently it's critical fer her self-confidence.
  895. >"How about: The Great and Apologetic Trixie?"
  896. "Ah don't rightly care what you call yerself."
  897. >She shrinks back in shame again.
  898. >You s'ppose ya should be nicer t' her, she does seem to be tryin' her best after Jojo gave her that scare.
  899. >But yer in no mood to deal with her 'Repentance Tour' or whatever hogwash she's cookin' up next.
  900. >You've got a Stand t' summon, and you don't intend to let your new friend down!
  901.  
  902. >Finally, the train arrives, and y'all enter Appleloosa proper.
  903. >Jojo goes inside to talk to the stationmaster, and you take a moment to appreciate the sights.
  904. >Ya notice there are a few buffalo here now, walkin' up and down the main street. And although there are still a few signs of minor damage from the big battle, the town seems t' have grown significantly.
  905. >The raucous sounds of wild west dancin' and the not-so-raucous sounds of mild west dancin' echo faintly between the sparse buildings.
  906. >Just bein' here again makes the whole trip worthwhile. Ya hadn't realized just how much ya missed this.
  907. >The moment is slightly spoiled when Trixie shoves 'er hoof across yer line of sight.
  908. >"That's where Trixie met him. The Salt Block. Trixie didn't see him enter, but suddenly he was sitting right next to me."
  909. >You nod.
  910. "If anypony else saw 'im, they might be in there t'night as well. Good a place as any t' start askin' around."
  911. >Strange hoofsteps behind ya signal the arrival of Jojo.
  912. >"Do either of you know of a pegasus pony named A.K. Yearling?"
  913. >You turn in mild surprise.
  914. "Sure do, that's t' author of those Daring Do books Rainbow can't stop yammerin' about."
  915. >"Several days ago she left here on a train headed for a place called... Mane-hattan. Her luggage included a small suitcase, and a metal box shaped like a large coffin. Large enough for a human to lie in."
  916. "Yer sayin' that DIO was travellin' inside a big coffin in t' luggage carriage?"
  917. >"It explains how he can move around without arousing suspicion. The eccentricities of a famous author aren't likely to be examined too closely, and most will "
  918. "Rainbow won't be none to please t' hear that."
  919. >"When we get back, we'll alert the authorities. Hopefully they'll be able to track Yearling. We have to assume that she's a Stand User as well, so it will require caution and restraint."
  920. "The Princess can make that happen, don'tcha worry. Should... we be headin' fer Manehattan then? Or back to Ponyville?"
  921. >"Neither. We still haven't found out what DIO was after. He didn't come all the way out here for a tacky stage magician."
  922. >Ignorin' Trixie's squeaks of indignation, you lead Jojo t'wards The Salt Block.
  923. >Yer a little happy that you get to spend some time here, even if it is just fer investigatin'.
  924. >The saloon doors swing open before ya. Just after you enter ya hear the sound o' glass shatterin' against the floor.
  925. >Various bits o' chatter and a jaunty piano song die away as everypony notices the behemoth occupyin' the entire doorway, 'is shadow loomin' over the entire room.
  926. >Jojo's face doesn't move, but ya think ya see a small glint in his eye that shows he's enjoyin' this.
  927. >You shake yer head. It's the same hint of mischief Bloom gets when she's up to no good.
  928. >This human might put on a big show of bein' tough, but you sense that deep down he's got the heart of a little filly.
  929.  
  930. >"A human was here. It looked just like me. Now I'm trying to find what it was after. You can either help me, and I'll leave your town all the sooner, or not. If not..."
  931. >There's def'nitely a tiny smirk on his face now!
  932. >"Then you can GO TO HELL!"
  933. >The ponies scramble fer the exit, fleeing past ya without makin' eye contact. Jojo eyes 'em all carefully.
  934. >"You."
  935. >He points at the bartender, who was just about to slink away with the crowd.
  936. >"You didn't see the human?"
  937. >"N-No! Well, yes, but it didn't order anything! I only saw it talking with that awful magician over there!"
  938. >"HOW DARE-"
  939. >"Alright, get out of here. Looks like we've got a couple leads anyway."
  940. >You squint yer eyes to look around the room more carefully. Everypony's moved on out, save fer two in the corner...
  941. "Braeburn!"
  942. >"Cos? That you?"
  943. >You trot t'ward his table. Now that yer closer, you recognize who he's with.
  944. "Little Strongheart?"
  945. >"Applejack, right? You're one of Rainbow Dash's friends. You were the one who kept talking to the tree."
  946. "Uh, yeah. This 'ere is Trixie and the big fella is Jojo. Don't worry, he don't bite. Least, not that Ah've seen."
  947. >"Well, if they're friends of yers, Ah'm sure they ain't too bad," Braeburn chimes in. "C'mon an' have a seat!"
  948. >Ya notice his cheer sounds a bit forced.
  949. "So... 'bout this other human we're lookin' fer..."
  950. >Braeburn nods.
  951. >"Yup, Ah saw 'im! Not fer very long, though. He was out in the dark, talkin' to somepony.
  952.  
  953. >"A human was here. It looked just like me. Now I'm trying to find what it was after. You can either help me, and I'll leave your town all the sooner, or not. If not..."
  954. >There's def'nitely a tiny smirk on his face now!
  955. >"Then you can GO TO HELL!"
  956. >The ponies scramble fer the exit, fleeing past ya without makin' eye contact. Jojo eyes 'em all carefully.
  957. >"You."
  958. >He points at the bartender, who was just about to slink away with the crowd.
  959. >"You didn't see the human?"
  960. >"N-No! Well, yes, but it didn't order anything! I only saw it talking with that awful magician over there!"
  961. >"HOW DARE-"
  962. >"Alright, get out of here. Looks like we've got a couple leads anyway."
  963. >You squint yer eyes to look around the room more carefully. Everypony's moved on out, save fer two in the corner...
  964. "Braeburn!"
  965. >"Cos? That you?"
  966. >You trot t'ward his table. Now that yer closer, you recognize who he's with.
  967. "Little Strongheart?"
  968. >"Applejack, right? You're one of Rainbow Dash's friends. You were the one who kept talking to the tree."
  969. "Uh, yeah. This 'ere is Trixie and the big fella is Jojo. Don't worry, he don't bite. Least, not that Ah've seen."
  970. >"Well, if they're friends of yers, Ah'm sure they ain't too bad," Braeburn chimes in. "C'mon an' have a seat!"
  971. >Ya notice his cheer sounds a bit forced.
  972. >He leads ya all over to t' table he was sitting at. Ya manage t' stop yerself from laughin' at how uncomfortable Jojo looks, wedged into a chair that's way too small fer 'im.
  973. "So... 'bout this other human we're lookin' fer..."
  974. >Braeburn nods.
  975. >"Yup, Ah saw 'im last week! Not fer very long, though. He was out in the dark, talkin' to a buffalo. Ah think it mighta been Chief Thunderhooves, judgin' from the size."
  976. "Fer how long?"
  977. >"Ah only saw 'em for a few minutes. An' Ah never got the chance to ask 'bout it."
  978. >Little Strongheart looks away.
  979. "Somethin' wrong?"
  980. >"It's not really pony business..."
  981. >"Listen," Jojo speaks up. "The creature we're tracking is the enemy of every living thing. That makes it everyone's business. We don't have the time to earn your trust, but if you value your life, and the safety of your friends and family, then you should tell us what you know. Now."
  982. >The buffalo swallows nervously.
  983. >"The Chief has been acting weird lately. He disappeared not too long ago, and when he came back he wouldn't say where he had went."
  984. >Jojo's brow furrows.
  985. >"I need to know more about the buffalo. What could he want from you?"
  986. >A strange tinglin' runs down yer back.
  987. >Before Little Strongheart gets the chance t' reply, Jojo shoots ya a look.
  988. >Ya don't know what it is exactly... but somethin's not right.
  989.  
  990. >Yer mind catches up to what yer body already realized.
  991. "Why's it so dark in here?"
  992. >It was a bright 'n' cloudless day just a few minutes ago, but now yer table is in shade.
  993. >You look to the windows. It's like somepony painted over 'em.
  994. >Just then, movement catches yer eye. Somethin's in the corner!
  995. >But as soon as ya look at it, it's gone.
  996. "What in tarnation..."
  997. >Ya might be a mite jumpy, maybe all the talk 'bout DIO's been gettin' t' ya.
  998. >Braeburn and Trixie look at ya in confusion. Ya must be seein' things. Of course the windows must'a been like that when ya came in.
  999. >"You're right, Applejack. I see it too."
  1000. >Huh?
  1001. >Jojo's walking over t' where yer eyes darted.
  1002. >Wait...
  1003. "Wha... is there really somethin' there?"
  1004. >You see... movement. Like the walls are shiftin'.
  1005. >Jojo peers closely. The others are beginnin' to git curious now too.
  1006. >"We're under attack. This has to be the work of a Stand."
  1007. >Jojo points at the still empty corner. The light is low, but ya can barely make out a weird... shimmerin'.
  1008. "It's... wet?"
  1009. >It wasn't movement ya saw, it was light! Somethin' over there is reflectin' light like water!"
  1010. >"It appears to be some kind of viscous fluid. The walls over here are coated in it."
  1011. >He looks around.
  1012. >"This is bad. It looks to be the same stuff that's blocking out the windows. The entire building could already be covered."
  1013. >The others are really startin' t' git worried now.
  1014. >"Hang on, what d'ya mean this is an 'attack'? Somepony prolly just... dropped some paint on the roof... or somethin'..."
  1015. >Braeburn doesn't seem t' believe himself. Jojo responds, but his eyes continue to scan the room.
  1016. >"This place was a trap. Stay away from the walls, keep an eye on the ceiling. That stuff seems to be leaking in from the roof.
  1017. >Little Strongheart frowns.
  1018. >"I don't get it. What is that stuff?"
  1019. >"Poison, most likely. Whatever it is, don't touch it."
  1020. "We need t' git out of here."
  1021. >"We can't."
  1022. >"Of course we can!"
  1023. >Braeburn heads fer the door.
  1024. "Hang on. Don't leave yet."
  1025. >That feelin' comes back. Somethin's dangerous.
  1026. >From where yer standin', the doors t' the saloon look perfectly normal. No trace of any o' that goop to be seen, and it's still a bright sunny day outside.
  1027. >But you know somethin' ain't right.
  1028. >"We can't leave," Jojo speaks calmly. "Not until we know how to defeat this Stand."
  1029. >"We can learn all that from outside!"
  1030. >"The Great and P-P... uh, Trixie agrees with the hayseed. We can learn more f-from outside, where it's not so... cramped."
  1031. >"If anyone walks out that door, they'll be killed."
  1032.  
  1033. >Y'all stare at Jojo in shock.
  1034. >"I don't know what kind of Stand this is, how it's attacking us, or how to defeat it. Right now it's a total mystery. But there's one thing I know for sure. We've been put in a situation where the only logical move is to leave right through that door. Which means that's the one thing we must not do, under any circumstances."
  1035. >Everypony is silent. You try an' swallow yer fear.
  1036. >The world outside looks pristine and inviting. You can make out the buildings on the other side o' the road; shops, an' houses, an'...
  1037. >Oh no.
  1038. "Where is everypony?"
  1039. >Ya feel like y'all could slice up the silence and serve it with apple pie.
  1040. "Why's it gone so quiet? Nopony's outside, there's no music, nuthin'. Where are they?"
  1041. >Now that yer listenin', there's only one thing ya hear.
  1042. >It's faint, but ya can make out a weird kinda hissin', like the fizz o' soda pop.
  1043. >Wait. It sounds close...
  1044. >Just then, you hear Trixie squeal in fright.
  1045. >"Star Platinum: The World!"
  1046. >Next thing ya know, yer lyin' on yer side, and Jojo's holdin' ya in what must'a been a huge tackle.
  1047. >It's one thing t' know he's got the power t' stop time, but another entirely for him t' use it on ya.
  1048. >Like wakin' up someplace that ain't yer bed. Only yer awake fer it.
  1049. >Gettin' yer bearings, you notice yer hat fell on the floor. And Jojo's starin' at it.
  1050. >"You're lucky. That thing saved your life."
  1051. >As he says it, you notice there's a hole in yer hat that wasn't there before. An' it's gettin' bigger.
  1052. >You hear that fizzin' sound, and can make out tiny bubbles circlin' around the hole.
  1053. >Lookin' back to where ya where, there's a long string of a syrupy substance hangin' from the ceiling. Up further, ya can barely make out a little ray o' sunlight peekin' in through a tiny gap in the roof.
  1054. >Sure as flies at a picnic, that stuff is comin' in from everywhere it can.
  1055. >"Wow. How'd you do that?" Little Strongheart stares in admiration. "I mean, I'm pretty fast and all, but that was..."
  1056. >Without answerin' her, Jojo picks up yer hat and heads toward the bar.
  1057. >"Watch the ceiling."
  1058. >Keepin' an eye peeled for more o' that deadly syrup, you follow Jojo.
  1059. >Behind the bar, he knocks over several salty drinks in search of somethin'.
  1060. >Eventually he pulls out a barrel with a big label that reads "CLEANING", along with some rags.
  1061. >After soakin' a rag, he carefully brushes it against yer hat, and...
  1062. "How 'bout that."
  1063. >The fizzin' gets stronger fer a second, and then dies out completely.
  1064. >"Alright. Now we have a chance."
  1065. >Immediately, he splashes the cleaning solution on his head 'n' shoulders.
  1066. >A flash o' memories hit ya, long hours o' learnin' 'bout how t' make sure yer trees like the dirt they live in.
  1067. "Acid! It's an acid, an' ya just mixed a base with it!"
  1068. >Ya stand still as Jojo pours some of the liquid over your mane, all the way to yer hindquarters.
  1069. >It smells awful and ya can already feel it startin' t' itch, but ya smile anyway.
  1070.  
  1071. "Thank ya kindly, by the way. Fer savin' mah hide back there."
  1072. >He looks back into yer eyes, and fer a moment, ya think ya see somethin' flash across his face.
  1073. >It looked like a deep pain.
  1074. >He quickly moves back to the other three, quietly panickin' in a tight circle.
  1075. >"Hold still, Trixie. This isn't much, but it might slow the acid down enough to save you."
  1076. >"Does this mean that we can leave now?"
  1077. >"No. There's not enough to completely soak ourselves. And there's still one more mystery to solve."
  1078. >He stands to face Braeburn and Little Strongheart.
  1079. >"We need to find out who the Stand User is."
  1080. >He quickly snatches up both of 'em by the back o' their necks, Star Platinum liftin' 'em as easily as if they was toys.
  1081. >"Anyone feel like confessing?"
  1082. >Braeburn's eyes turn wide.
  1083. >"Cos, what's goin' on?"
  1084. >It hurts ya to meet his gaze.
  1085. "This thing, it... it takes control o' ponies."
  1086. >"AJ, what're ya talkin' about? It's me!"
  1087. "Ya might not BE you, Braeburn! Same for you, Little Strongheart. Ah'm sorry, but... he's right. We can't know fer sure that you ain't the enemy!"
  1088. >Jojo's voice comes out as a low roar.
  1089. >"That's her perspective. Me, I wouldn't trust you even if I knew for sure neither of you were brainwashed. There's only way to be sure."
  1090. >He turns 'em both to face t' wall, now slick with waves of acid. It's startin' t' pool on the floor.
  1091. >"The acid itself isn't part of a Stand, meaning it'll hurt the User just as much as anyone else. If either of you are the User, you've got one chance to withdraw your attack."
  1092. >You feel a heavy weight in your stomach.
  1093. >He wouldn't...
  1094. "Alright now, ya scared 'em enough. Let's set 'em on down now..."
  1095. >The two are now fightin' to shout over each other.
  1096. >"I didn't even see what you're looking for, I swear!"
  1097. >"AJ! What's goin' on? I don't understan' any o' this, please, just let me go!"
  1098. >That weight turns into burnin' lava, and before ya know what yer doin', yer sprintin' towards Jojo.
  1099. >Time seems t' slow as you watch the human throw your cousin and your friend straight at the acid-soaked wall.
  1100. >Ya manage t' process the looks on their faces. Pure terror. Then ya feel a scream burst from yer throat.
  1101. >"Star Platinum: The World!"
  1102. >In a flash, they're flyin' backwards, away from certain death.
  1103. >As Jojo's Stand sets 'em down on the floor, you continue yer charge.
  1104. >You leap up an' smash yer hoof right into the human's face.
  1105.  
  1106. >As ya fall down, you continue to hammer against his chest.
  1107. >You can feel your blows bein' blocked by his Stand but you don't care.
  1108. >"Applejack, enough! They're fine!"
  1109. "SHUT UP!"
  1110. >Even yer surprised by how loud you are.
  1111. >You stop attackin' and look Jojo in his eyes.
  1112. "That's mah family... mah friend. Don't you ever even think of hurtin' 'em again."
  1113. >"I had to test if they were the enemy Stand User."
  1114. "Ah don't CARE! They're mah FAMILY!"
  1115. >His eyes blaze with incredible ferocity, his face as hard as stone.
  1116. >You match his gaze, an' summon all yer courage t' not waver.
  1117. "Ah don't care if yer some all-powerful alien, Ah will find a way t' end you. No matter what yer reasons, there're some lines ya don't cross."
  1118. >Ya mean every word.
  1119. "How would'ya feel if that were yer kin?"
  1120. >Seconds feel like eternities, but he finally closes his eyes.
  1121. >"Good Grief, have it your way. It's not like this is ever going to happen again, but I promise I won't ever hurt your family."
  1122. >Ya know ya should just let it go with that, but...
  1123. "Or threaten like ya did."
  1124. >"Deal. If it ever comes up again, I'll let you do the threatening."
  1125. >Yer not quite sure what t' make of that, but you nod yer head.
  1126. >"...you really do remind me of her."
  1127. >Yer anger evaporates into confusion.
  1128. "What?"
  1129. >"Forget it. Looks like there's something more important to discuss."
  1130. >He points behind ya. You turn to see...
  1131. >Well, it's somethin' alright.
  1132. >It comes up t' about yer chin. It kinda looks like it fell off o' that ridiculous Cider Squeezin' Seven Hundred contraption, or whatever it was called.
  1133. >There's a bowl-shaped dent at the top, and an apple-sized chute at the bottom.
  1134. >The whole thing is colored in soothin' reds, oranges, and greens, with a large emblem of an apple in the middle.
  1135. >On the emblem, the word "READY" is glowin' softly in some sort o' magical writing.
  1136. >An' the whole thing DEFINITELY was not here a few seconds ago.
  1137. >Not seein' any acid, ya give it a little poke.
  1138. >It's solid, but ya get a weird feelin'.
  1139. >Like ya just somehow poked yerself in a spot ya never felt before.
  1140. >"It appeared when you were shouting. Seems like standing up for your family gave you the mental fortitude you needed. No doubt about it, Applejack. That thing... it's your Stand."
  1141. "What. The. HAY?"
  1142.  
  1143. "It's still not doin' anything!"
  1144. >Ya've poked and prodded this contraption every which way, but it won't move at all.
  1145. "Now how is this thing s'pposed t' be any use? Ah thought Stands were s'pposed t' be powerful an' good at fightin'! This 'ere might as well be a fancy lawn ornament!"
  1146. >Ya want to kick it, but that would probably just hurt yerself.
  1147. >"Trixie's Stand certainly is far more impressive."
  1148. >Or maybe y' can kick her instead.
  1149. >"It looks like it's meant to process something. It could have investigative potential, or be intended to alter the environment."
  1150. >Jojo frowns.
  1151. >"But we don't have time to explore all possibilities."
  1152. >He's right. You're keepin' an eye on the deadly dark goo. It's comin' in from multiple spots on the ceiling, and a good amount o' the floor is already covered.
  1153. >"ORA!"
  1154. >Suddenly, Jojo smashes a pony-sized hole through the floor.
  1155. >"There's a cellar below. From there, Star Platinum can dig a tunnel out. Then we'll track down the Stand User."
  1156. >"Y'all. Are. Crazy!"
  1157. >Braeburn stands on shaking legs.
  1158. >"Ain't no way we're goin' anywhere with you."
  1159. "Cos, please listen."
  1160. >"An' yer just as crazy, AJ. This... monster is gonna git us all killed, and y'all're busy talkin' 'bout this silly machine?"
  1161. "Wait, you can see it too?"
  1162. >Does that mean anythin'? If it's not a normally invisible ghost like Jojo's or Trixie's, if it's a real thing that everypony can see, then maybe that's a clue as t'what it's s'pposed t'do?
  1163. >Braeburn looks as if ya'd just told 'im ya wanna be a kale farmer.
  1164. >He turns to Trixie and Little Strongheart.
  1165. >"Y'all can stay 'ere if ya wanna git killed, but Ah'm takin' mah chances outside."
  1166. "Braeburn!"
  1167. >He won't listen. He's already headin' straight t'ward the entrance.
  1168. >If Jojo's right, then there's a trap waitin' right outside.
  1169. >Only one thing t' do.
  1170. >Faster than a stampedin' ostrich, ya grab a piece o' pie off a nearby table and chuck it at the doors as hard as ya can.
  1171. >The pie flies through the air before splatterin' on the ground outside.
  1172. >Yer pretty sure it was strawberry, so nothin' o' value was lost.
  1173. >In th' next instant, ya hear a terrible sound as a cloud suddenly descends on the pie.
  1174. >Your fur stands on end, an' Braeburn nearly topples over as he recoils in horror.
  1175. >Bees.
  1176. >Giant bees.
  1177. >The biggest swarm o' bees that ya ever saw.
  1178. >"Get in!"
  1179. >Jojo grabs Trixie and shoves 'er through the hole into the cellar. Little Strongheart immediately follows.
  1180. >Ya don't bother t' look back t' see if the bees are followin' ya or not.
  1181. >After ya leap through, ya move out o' the way just in time fer Braeburn to follow.
  1182. >Last in is Jojo, and ya see his Stand flip over a table as he enters, sealing the hole behind y'all.
  1183.  
  1184. >Fer a moment, yer in total darkness. Then a pale blue light dimly illuminates the room.
  1185. >Givin' a quick nod of thanks to Trixie fer her spell, you git yer bearings.
  1186. >The cellar's cluttered. Various barrels and crates litter the floor, along with a few wheelbarrows. There're some stairs in one corner that lead back to the main floor.
  1187. >Ya look around and see a dusty lantern that you quickly light. It's enough t' let y'all see clearly.
  1188. >"Bees? Were those... actually bees?"
  1189. >Braeburn gasps fer air. Jojo nods.
  1190. >"Now we have a better idea of how the Stand works. The liquid is acidic honey, made by the bees. It forces us to leave the building in a certain way, leaving us open to attack from the Stand's main ability."
  1191. >He walks over t' the wall, leaving a massive crack.
  1192. >"ORA!"
  1193. >Star Platinum punches the wall.
  1194. >"We can tunnel out through here. We'll try to enter another building and look for the User there. It will be harder to fight in the open. Applejack, focus on your Stand. It might be able to track-"
  1195. >"Look out!"
  1196. >Little Strongheart points a shakin' hoof t'ward the far corner. Acid has started t' pour onto the floor.
  1197. >"It will take time to reach us. If you want to be useful, gather some barrels and objects near the wall here, make a platform. And keep an eye out for bees."
  1198. >Star Platinum continues pummeling the wall, and it's not long before ya see dirt.
  1199. >You help move a few barrels next t' the hole. That weird machine thing continues t' follow ya. Ya don't see it move, but it's there every time ya turn around.
  1200. >Ready. That's what it says. But ready fer what?
  1201. >"Those weren't normal bees," Little Strongheart mutters to herself. "I've heard stories of bees that grow larger and more aggressive, but nothin' like that. Those were at least three times the size of anything I've seen."
  1202. "Why ain't they followin' us?"
  1203. >"Likely because the Stand User doesn't know where we are," Jojo answers without stopping. "This appears to be an automatic Stand. They can possess incredible range and destructive ability, but that is balanced by a lack of direct control. They can only attack in predictable ways. If we can understand that underlying logic, we'll have an advantage."
  1204. >Ya look at yer Stand. Could it also be an automatic type?
  1205. >But if it was automatic, it'd be doin' somethin' already.
  1206. >Ya look at the top of it, where there's a large divot like some kinda bowl. Looks like somethin's supposed t' go in there.
  1207. >"Wah!"
  1208. >Braeburn's shout draws yer attention. On the other side o' the room ya see him reel backward in shock, falling to the floor.
  1209. >Then ya hear the buzzing.
  1210. >Trixie screams in terror. There's a small group of bees where Braeburn was, and there're comin' in fast.
  1211.  
  1212. >"ORAORAORAORAORA!"
  1213. >Jojo's got this.
  1214. >Fer now.
  1215. >The bees crash to the floor. But somethin's wrong. Jojo's wincing.
  1216. "No! Yer hands!"
  1217. >You can't help but cry out.
  1218. >The bees are carrying acid, and it's hurtin' him to fight 'em.
  1219. >He plunges his hands into the cleanin' solution.
  1220. >"We have to hurry. All of you, keep an eye out!"
  1221. >You approach him. Even though ya don't know what ya can do for him, you feel you have to be by his side.
  1222. >Ya jump up to the pile of stuff that y'all built next to the rapidly expandin' tunnel.
  1223. >He's wrappin' up his hands in cloth soaked with the fluid.
  1224. "Doesn't look like there's much left."
  1225. >Jojo shakes his head.
  1226. >"More bees will be finding their way in soon. But they just gave us a clue. Braeburn was closer, and so was the small buffalo, but they didn't attack them first. They looked to be heading for Trixie and me. Why?"
  1227. >He's right.
  1228. >It was like they didn't even see 'im.
  1229. >Instantly, it clicks.
  1230. "Trixie! Ya got any scarves?"
  1231. >"Scarves?"
  1232. "Ya know, those big fancy scarves that magicians pull outta thin air!"
  1233. >"I appreciate the interest, but this isn't the time for my-"
  1234. "Just give 'em! Quick!"
  1235. >You hear buzzin' begin again.
  1236. >"Over there!"
  1237. >Braeburn points to the other side of the room, same spot as before.
  1238. >Trixie starts to pull out a series of brightly coloured hankerchiefs.
  1239. "Perfect. That's exactly what Ah need."
  1240. >You git t' work, quickly twistin' the string of scarves into shape.
  1241. >Yer no Rarity, but ya got enough skill with a rope to make it work.
  1242. >It's a little misshapen, but there's no doubt as t' what it's s'pposed t' be.
  1243. >You toss yer makeshift flower into the middle of the room.
  1244. >Instantly, the bees shift their trajectory, attacking your colourful decoy.
  1245. >"Wow..."
  1246. >Little Strongheart looks impressed.
  1247. >"Excellent work," Jojo nods at you. "You figured out the answer."
  1248. >"What? Trixie is... slightly confused."
  1249. "It's colour. Bees are drawn to flowers 'cause of their bright colours. That's what they've been usin' t' attack. The rest of us ain't as colourful as yer wizardin' getup, or Jojo's clothes, so the bees didn't go after the rest o' us at first."
  1250. >Jojo removes his hat and coat, tossin' them next to yer flower.
  1251. >"You too, Trixie. Lose the outfit."
  1252. >Thankfully she doesn't talk back, though she does look like she might cry any moment now.
  1253. >The clothes hit the ground. Your smile of victory falters when ya realize that the acid has almost caught up to them.
  1254.  
  1255. >Ya steady yer balance on the pile of barrels. It won't be long before there's nowhere else left t' stand.
  1256. >Jojo pants with effort. He's made an impressive hole, but it ain't much of a tunnel yet.
  1257. >Every so often he swats away a bee that wanders too close.
  1258. >Ya weren't sure at first, but they seem t' be real bees. Legs, eyes, everythin' seems functional.
  1259. >There are a few dead ones at yer hooves. Looks like they only carry acid in their stingers. Ya can see a drop o' the stuff still on it.
  1260. >Ya poke one with yer hat.
  1261. >An idea is slowly wormin' it's way into yer skull.
  1262. >"Over there!"
  1263. >Braeburn interrupts yer thought process.
  1264. >"Ah didn't see it earlier, but there's more cleanin' solution in that there barrel!"
  1265. "No good."
  1266. >Ya point to the ground.
  1267. >The barrel y'all need is up on a shelf on the opposite wall. There's a pile of crates under it, but it's totally blocked off by the acid.
  1268. "That's way too far t' leap over 'n' git back."
  1269. >Little Strongheart steps forward.
  1270. >"Maybe for you."
  1271. >Before ya can reply, the buffalo girl leaps with incredible strength.
  1272. >She flips through the air like she ain't gotta bother with the laws o' gravity.
  1273. >Her landin' is perfect.
  1274. >"Woohoo! Ya did it!"
  1275. >You join in Braeburn's cheerin', but yer heart is close t' burstin' outta yer chest.
  1276. >Ya don't wanna think 'bout what happens if she loses balance. Even Jojo wouldn't be able t' help her from way over here.
  1277. >The crates beneath her hooves shift as she creeps forward, the gentle tinklin' of bottles accompanyin' each movement.
  1278. >She carefully lifts the barrel off the shelf.
  1279. >"Heh... this is... actually kinda heavy..."
  1280. "Stay calm, girl. You got this. Just toss it over 'ere."
  1281. >She nods firmly, but ya can see her shakin'.
  1282. >Whatever bravery or recklessness possessed 'er t' jump over there seems t' have faded.
  1283. "Just relax. Everythin's gonna be fine."
  1284. >Jojo is doin' his best to keep watch on y'all while still diggin' away.
  1285. >He's made a lot o' progress, but the acid almost covers the entire floor now.
  1286. >"Alright. I'm gonna throw it over. Don't you dare drop it."
  1287. >Just as the buffalo girl readies herself, y' hear a crash.
  1288. >A crate near the bottom must'a gotten too dissolved, because the whole pile starts t' slide.
  1289. >It's like the floor suddenly shifted, and Little Strongheart slides backwards.
  1290. >There's nothin' fer ya t' do except gasp.
  1291.  
  1292. >She manages to grab onto the shelf with one hoof, the other tryin' t' balance the barrel she went over fer.
  1293. >Her hindlegs are barely makin' contact with a crate.
  1294. >And there's nowhere fer her t' go.
  1295. >"I can't reach her."
  1296. >Jojo looks... scared.
  1297. >It's hard t' see with his face, but it's there.
  1298. >"Hang on. I'll make a path."
  1299. >He reaches fer a barrel but ya know it's pointless.
  1300. >He won't make it.
  1301. >The thought suddenly gives ya a moment o' clarity.
  1302. >Ya can't keep relyin' on the human to git ya outta trouble.
  1303. >But yer not helpless either.
  1304. >You've been helpin' him right back.
  1305. >An' this is a problem that ya can fix.
  1306. >You ain't gonna let yer friend die.
  1307. >Ya look back at yer Stand.
  1308. >Since it's appeared, ya've been wonderin' why it looks that way.
  1309. >Why couldn't ya have gotten somethin' more sensible? Ya've never been good with complex doodads like that.
  1310. >But the reason it's that way is 'cause o' you.
  1311. >Yer the machine.
  1312. >The Stand ain't gonna save y'all. You are.
  1313. >Yer fears and hesitations gone, ya do what ya should'a done already.
  1314. >You pick up a dead bee and put it in the receptacle.
  1315. >Instantly, a magical lid appears, sealin' it in.
  1316. >The 'READY' on the front becomes 'BUSY'.
  1317. >You hear a gentle hum, for only a few seconds, then 'BUSY' becomes 'COMPLETE'.
  1318. >Then ya see somethin' come out the chute at the bottom.
  1319. >O' course, it's an apple.
  1320. >Pickin' it up, ya notice it's not like any apple ya've seen in yer life.
  1321. >Not much bigger than a crab apple. No stem, no calyx. Flawless shiny skin.
  1322. >If it came from anywhere else ya'd swear it was made o' plastic.
  1323. >But this is yer apple, and ya don't hesitate to start chompin' down.
  1324. >It don't taste like any apple ya know either, but it's still got a strong... apple-y taste.
  1325. >Like ya somehow blended every type ya know of an' several ya don't in t' one.
  1326. >You ate the whole thing 'fore ya even realized it.
  1327. >Then ya notice everypony's starin' at ya.
  1328. >Of course they are. After all, ya just suddenly sprouted wings.
  1329. >You laugh at yer own joke.
  1330. >Ya would'a thought that suddenly growin' a giant pair o' insect wings would'a been painful, shockin', or somethin' more than what yer feelin' right now.
  1331. >Instead, it's like ya always had 'em.
  1332. >You take to the air. Yer wings are noisier than a full buffalo stampede, but they git ya t' where ya need t' go.
  1333. >It's an entirely new feelin' fer ya, but it's like ya done it yer whole life.
  1334. >Ya scoop up Little Strongheart, and head back to the tunnel.
  1335. >Jojo puts his arms under ya and helps ya both git down.
  1336. >Trixie an' Braeburn have their mouths hangin' open.
  1337. "Well... Ah think Ah done figured out what mah Stand is fer."
  1338.  
  1339. "It's a lot like me. Good at growin' apples, and helpin' out mah friends."
  1340. >Ya suddenly have a strong taste o' sour apples in yer mouth. Lookin' at yer back, ya notice that yer wings've started t' shrivel up.
  1341. "It don't work fer very long, but Ah reckon it'll help with all sorts'a things. Take this 'ere acid fer example.
  1342. >You tap yer Stand, and the lid opens.
  1343. >Takin' out the bee, ya pour in a little of the cleanin' solution.
  1344. >A few seconds later, another apple pops out.
  1345. "Anypony want a bite?"
  1346. >Jojo doesn't hesitate t' reach down and accept it.
  1347. >As he chews the apple, he bows his head in deep thought.
  1348. >Then he slowly smiles.
  1349. >"I knew you'd come through for us."
  1350. >He removes the bandage from his hand, and without an ounce o' hesitation, he plunges his hand into the acid below.
  1351. >There's a loud hiss 'fore he pulls it out. It's bubblin' somethin' awful, but sure enough, his hand is still intact.
  1352. >Wipin' off the remains, he stands up tall.
  1353. >"Now... I think I've got an idea on how to help us get out of here."
  1354.  
  1355. >You are Sheriff Silverstar.
  1356. >Ya slowly change yer position t' try an' get a better angle on the saloon.
  1357. >Ever since Lord DIO gave ya the power of Bee Gees, ya've been waitin' fer a chance t' use it.
  1358. >Meetin' him changed everythin'. He did somethin' to ya, put somethin' in yer head, and you know ya should be mad 'bout it.
  1359. >But all ya can think of is how great it'll feel to do what Lord DIO wants.
  1360. >He wants ya to kill 'is enemies, an' right now that's just what yer Stand is tellin' ya that ya should do.
  1361. >Ya thought fer sure they'd try their chances on the outside. But they haven't gone out at all.
  1362. >With how long it's been, yer sure that the honey has killed, or at least injured them.
  1363. >Now ya gotta git close t' confirm the kill.
  1364. >Thankfully, everypony else has locked themselves inside. And even if they did peek out at ya, they wouldn't suspect their brave Sheriff of doin' anythin' underhanded.
  1365. >Ya slowly trot down from yer vantage point up the hill, headin' into town.
  1366. >Ya keep a few bees hangin' off t' the side, just enough fer protection.
  1367. >The damage t' the saloon is heavy. Not much of a roof left, and the whole thing looks-
  1368. >"ORAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!"
  1369. >Yer spinnin' through the air.
  1370. >You were hit from below. Were they in the ground?
  1371. >A lasso snags ya forelegs, a second yer rear.
  1372. >Braeburn an' his cousin yank ya down to the hard ground and truss ya up like a wild hog.
  1373. >You summon yer Stand, callin' out to the closest swarm, but a quick punch from the human dazes you.
  1374. "H-How?"
  1375. >That accursed Applejack tips 'er hat at ya.
  1376. >"Y'see, this here is mah Stand," She gestures to a bizarre object. "It's got the power t' give ponies, and humans, all kinds o' useful abilities. Real extraordinary gizmo. Hey, that don't sound half bad. Extraordinary Machine. Ah like it."
  1377. >Lookin' closer, y' see the object has somethin' inside it.
  1378. >Is that... a mole?
  1379. >"Moles have the power t' dig fer ages, as well as use sound t' locate things movin' around up on the surface."
  1380. >"An' right now, there's only one thing that would be movin' around up here."
  1381. >Her eyes narrow.
  1382. >"Our enemy."
  1383. >The human leans in closer.
  1384. >"I see a flesh bud. Luckily there's enough sunlight left to kill it."
  1385. >It grabs yer head.
  1386. >"Star Platinum: The World!"
  1387. >...
  1388. >You are Sheriff Silverstar.
  1389. >The real one, not whatever monster ya were a second ago.
  1390. >And you have a LOT of apologizin' to do.
  1391.  
  1392. 『STAND MASTER』
  1393. >SHERIFF SILVERSTAR
  1394. 『STAND NAME』
  1395. >BEE GEES
  1396. 『STATUS』
  1397. >RETIRED
  1398.  
  1399. >DESTRUCTIVE POWER: D
  1400. >SPEED: C
  1401. >RANGE: A
  1402. >PERSISTENCE: A
  1403. >PRECISION: D
  1404. >DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL: D
  1405.  
  1406. >Yer Applejack again.
  1407. >An' the train home from Appleloosa ain't nearly as awkward as the one arrivin.
  1408. >You and Jojo have been testin' yer Stand. Ya can only make one apple at a time, and the effects only seem to last 20 seconds. Plus, whatever ya make it from has t' fit in yer Extraordinary Machine, though it looks like ya can stretch it a bit.
  1409. >Right now, Trixie's fast asleep across from you and Jojo, ridin' in a comfortable silence.
  1410. >You think over what you've learned over yer journey.
  1411. >Chief Thunderhooves was pleased to meet ya, and y'all soon learned why.
  1412. >"The creature on two hooves was sought my counsel," He said.
  1413. >"I was delighted to offer it. He was respectful and wise. Our kind has always been wary of strangers, but I silenced those doubts in my mind. No more shall the buffalo look to violence as an answer. That is what I have taught my people, and that is how I seek to live."
  1414. >"Yet... I believe in this case, that was a terrible mistake."
  1415. >"Buffalo roam far and wide. This is how we connect to the land. Throughout these badlands, and beyond. Last summer I wandered further than most dare go. After our needless battle when you were last here, I felt that my spirit was lost, and set on a journey to find it again. I saw many ponies, and creatures that I do not know the name of. I stuck to the wilderness, avoiding towns and cities. Save for one."
  1416. >"I knew that ponies usually do not enjoy living so far from others of their kind, but this village was very distant indeed. I was curious, but soon that curiosity turned to caution. I could see the ponies of the village, but they could not see me. What I saw, I have never before encountered with your kind."
  1417. >"Your kind are not like buffalo. You celebrate your differences. You display your marks with pride, as they are the source of your strength. But in this village, I saw at least a dozen ponies that all possessed the same mark. Two simple lines, that was all."
  1418. >"I did not wish to interfere, but I found the sight curious. I told the story to my kin, who must have told it to ponies. When the human came, it knew the story, and asked to speak with the one who saw it."
  1419. >"I told it about my journey. It wished to know the location of this strange village. I saw no reason to hide the knowledge, although after hearing your tale, I now wish I had."
  1420. >There wasn't much to do after that 'cept head back to Ponyville and regroup.
  1421. >DIO had more than enough time t' git to that village and find whatever he wanted. Chasin' him now wouldn't help, and would likely just git y'all killed.
  1422. >Ya need reinforcements, and ponies who are better at investigatin'.
  1423. >Ya asked Jojo why DIO would be interested in such a place, but he'd only say he wasn't sure.
  1424. >He's hidin' somethin', but ya trust him t' talk when he's ready.
  1425. >After all that, ya tried t' enjoy yer time in Appleloosa. Ya said hello t' Bloomberg and caught up with Braeburn.
  1426. >Ponies were mad 'bout the saloon, but luckily the damage was contained there and nopony was seriously hurt.
  1427. >The Sheriff gave his badge to his deputy, and agreed to work day and night on fixin' The Salt Block.
  1428. >Yer sure that everypony would be glad t' have him back once the damage was fixed.
  1429. >Jojo helped a lot with that, tellin' 'em all that it was the fault of that creepy tentacle thing.
  1430. >Yer thoughts drift back to the present, and the big human sittin' next t' ya.
  1431. "Y'know, you sure look strange without all those extra clothes ya wear."
  1432. >"And you look strange with a hole in your hat."
  1433. "Guess we both gotta pay a visit t' Rarity."
  1434. >Ya let the settin' sun and the rhythm of the train lull ya into sleep.
  1435. >But you decide to take a risk just 'fore ya drift off.
  1436. "Somethin' Ah was wonderin' about. Ya said Ah remind ya of her. An' you was talkin' 'bout yer missin' daughter when we met..."
  1437. >Yer both real quiet for what feels like an hour.
  1438. >"She has eyes like yours. Hair too."
  1439. >"And you've both ended up being far stronger than I could have hoped for."
  1440. >"It was my fault that I lost her."
  1441. >His face still doesn't move. To look at 'im, he seems to just be gazin' quietly out the window.
  1442. >"I had a choice. Save her, or destroy our enemy. I couldn't help but pull her to safety, and it cost us all our lives."
  1443. >"I'm not making that mistake again. DIO is alive. That matters more than anything else. I will erase him from this world."
  1444. >...
  1445. >You let yerself lean against him.
  1446. "Ain't nothin' worse than losin' family."
  1447. >He doesn't move you away.
  1448. >The train keeps on drivin' into the night.
  1449.  
  1450. 『STAND MASTER』
  1451. >APPLEJACK
  1452. 『STAND NAME』
  1453. >EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE
  1454. 『STATUS』
  1455. >ACTIVE
  1456.  
  1457. >DESTRUCTIVE POWER: E
  1458. >SPEED: B
  1459. >RANGE: C
  1460. >PERSISTENCE: C
  1461. >PRECISION: D
  1462. >DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL: A
  1463.  
  1464. >You hear the lock click, and your door opens.
  1465. >It's bringing you your food again.
  1466. >"How are you feeling?"
  1467. >You don't want to answer. But staying silent isn't going to get you anywhere.
  1468. "How much longer will you keep me here?"
  1469. >"That depends on you."
  1470. >The two-legged thing crosses its arms.
  1471. >"I promise to make your stay as comfortable as I can. I know it may be hard for you to believe, but I do wish that we could become the best of friends."
  1472. "You sure have an odd way of making friends."
  1473. >"So do you."
  1474. >Your muscles tense, and you look away in sudden shame.
  1475. >"I've heard all about how you recruit others. About how much they fear you before they love you.
  1476. "I'm helping them."
  1477. >"Of course you are. That's why I think we could be friends."
  1478. >You glare at the thing, your anger boiling over.
  1479. "You abducted me. Took my magic. I don't even want to imagine what you've done to the others. Everypony who comes to me comes of their own free will. I'm nothing like you, and I'll never be your friend. All I wanted was to be left alone. Why did you come for me? Just who are you?"
  1480. >For a moment you're sure it's about to attack. But instead, it smiles softly.
  1481. >"Have you ever had a true friend? Someone you loved dearly, more than anything else in the world? I had a friend who felt that way for me, and while I cannot truthfully say I ever had love in me, I regarded him with the highest esteem. He was as much a friend as it is possible for me to have."
  1482. >"He was taken from me, or rather, I was taken from him. It was a loss greater than words. And once again, I found myself alone in a foreign world."
  1483. >"For years, I was convinced I would remain that way. But then I learned of you. I learned of the power you possess, your vibrant charisma, and your drive to create a better world. You are so similar to my friend in so many ways. It gives me hope that I might forge a similar connection again."
  1484. >The creature turns to leave.
  1485. >"Rest, Starlight Glimmer. We will talk again."
  1486. >The lock clicks and you are alone again.
  1487.  
  1488. >"My trusted student,"
  1489. >"I apologize for not writing sooner. Know that I have read every one of your letters with the utmost attention."
  1490. >"First, you should know that the guard located a village that matches the description the buffalo chief provided. It was completely deserted. I went there myself to assist the search, and found no clues, magical or mundane. However, locals did report sightings of various ponies with the same cutie mark. I can only hope that they were able to flee in time."
  1491. >"We have also confirmed that this Kujo Jotaro's explanations of 'flesh buds' and 'zombies' fits with our knowledge of inexplicable attacks from within Canterlot. Thanks to his knowledge, we have been able to cure several prisoners of these buds, and they appear to be making full recoveries. Of course, they are still confined for the time being for their safety as well as everypony else's."
  1492. >"My sister continues to sleep, although the doctors believe the worst of the danger has passed. There is little to do for her now, save to have faith in her tremendous spirit."
  1493. >"I am afraid I can find no knowledge on the Stands that this human describes. It is a relief to imagine that this DIO's power is not a result of my actions in the past, but I still fear that the element of magic has had some part to play. Jotaro's accounts are quite extraordinary, and show that his bloodline is indeed as powerful as I had assumed. Thankfully, he and his family appear remarkably dedicated to a righteous path."
  1494. >"We will continue our efforts to track down DIO. I will spare no expense in this matter. He is an even greater threat than I imagined. I am exceedingly grateful to you and your friends for having summoned such a dependable ally. Your decision to allow the elements to search for compatible souls was a very wise one."
  1495. >"Please continue your studies on humans, Stands, and other knowledge brought to us by Kujo Jotaro. This may be one of the most important discoveries in Equestria, and I can think of nopony better to lead the way."
  1496. >"However, I have one additional task that I must burden upon you. It is of the utmost importance."
  1497. >"Befriend Jojo."
  1498. >"He is clearly a wise and powerful warrior, but even the mightiest will fall if they remain alone. Your studies in friendship have allowed you to overcome tremendous obstacles in your path. Friendship is a great gift to all, but particularly to you, as the element of magic. This human may not be magical, but he has been touched by the element, and I believe he shares the same potential that you have demonstrated so well."
  1499. >"This may be a difficult assignment. He has travelled far and lost much on the way. I sense from your description that he has encased his heart in stone, but with patience, I believe he can become as dear a friend as any other."
  1500. >"Never doubt that this is both possible and essential. The power of Stands may be the method of defeating this great evil, but I know that it will be the magic of friendship that makes such victory possible."
  1501. >"I look forward to your next update with great anticipation."
  1502. >"For all that you have done, and will continue to do, thank you. From the very bottom of my heart."
  1503. >"~ Celestia"
  1504.  
  1505. >You are Twilight, and no matter how many times you read this letter, it fills you with a strange anxiety.
  1506. >The Princess has never signed a letter without at least her primary title before.
  1507. >For the first time, it's starting to sink in just how much responsibility she is placing on you.
  1508. >Even when you were entrusted with saving the Crystal Empire, you knew that the Princesses would step in if things got out of hoof.
  1509. >Now, not only do you feel completely outclassed, but your mentor is also desperate.
  1510. >"Here's the last of them!"
  1511. >Fluttershy interrupts your thoughts by dropping a basket of exotic flowers in front of you.
  1512. "Excellent. These should keep the spell active for a much longer time."
  1513. >Your friend shoots you a cheerful grin. She's seemed so much more lively lately. Makes sense, it's not every day that a pony gets to make contact with a new sentient species.
  1514. >Calling for Spike, you take the last of the reagents down to the basement. Obsessively reading the letter won't do you any good. The best thing for your nerves is to focus on work.
  1515. >You feel Jotaro's steely gaze on you as you enter, and hear him rise from his cot in the corner of the room.
  1516. >You agree with the logic behind his decision to live down here. Somepony needs to keep a close eye on the spell components in case DIO tries to attack, and he needs a place to sleep. Still, you aren't quite used to his presence.
  1517. >For now, you try and pretend Jotaro isn't there as you finish maintenance on the various machines around the room.
  1518. >You recall Princess Celestia's directive, but every time the two of you are together, you just don't know how to begin to complete it. He has a strange way of making you feel like a tiny little filly whenever he looks like you.
  1519. >He's quite similar to the Princess in that regard.
  1520. >You... might have a bit of an issue with imposing authority figures.
  1521. >You know this is a problem that you'll have to confront sooner or later.
  1522. >Maybe you should ask the Princess how to... wait no, that's part of the problem!
  1523. >As you finish your work, you once again feel a change in the air as the spell resumes its search.
  1524. >You sense Jotaro tense. Did he notice as well? It's so difficult to get a grasp on how magical he is.
  1525. >Scanning the elements, you feel your heart rise in excitement and a bit of fear.
  1526. "Spike! Fluttershy! Gather the others!"
  1527. >Jotaro appears by your side, leaning in to peer at the subtle glow emanating from the element of loyalty.
  1528. "We're about to get a new arrival."
  1529.  
  1530. >As soon as the others arrive, the faint glow starts to shine brighter.
  1531. >The others murmur excitedly, but your attention is drawn to Jotaro.
  1532. "It'll be alright."
  1533. >He glances at you, but doesn't speak.
  1534. "Even if it's not... someone you know, we're going to get everyone eventually."
  1535. >Now he doesn't even look at you.
  1536. >Maybe it would have been better to not say anything.
  1537. >But then how do you befriend someone if they're not talking to you?
  1538. >This is like what Pinkie went through with Cranky.
  1539. >Wait, that's it! Pinkie ended up fixing that problem by... by reuniting him with the one he cared about more than anything.
  1540. >Which is the one thing you can't do.
  1541. >A shining light distracts you, one that quickly takes the shape of a lying human.
  1542. >You note the details as it takes form. It looks male, with roughly the same mane and skin colour as Jotaro, but its clothes are very different. Rarity even gives a slight coo of appreciation.
  1543. >You hear Jotaro faintly sigh, and turn to him.
  1544. >Without looking at you, he shakes his head.
  1545. >The stranger before you opens his eyes, and slowly raises himself to look upon you all in wonder.
  1546. >"...È un sogno? Paradiso? O... forse la Freccia..."
  1547. >Without hesitation, you focus on your prepared spell.
  1548. >The familiar buzz of your horn passes, and the human blinks in confusion.
  1549. >"My thoughts are... then this cannot be the afterlife."
  1550. >He turns to face Jotaro.
  1551. >"These creatures, are they your Stand?"
  1552. "Um, hello!"
  1553. >You wince a little at the awkward volume and forced cheer of your voice. The human looks at you again.
  1554. "I'm not a Stand, I'm a pony! My name is Twilight Sparkle and we brought you here. I'm sorry to say that you died under unusual circumstances, but we have brought you to this world because we really need your help!"
  1555. >There. Brief, precise, and spoken clearly. Much better than last time. That book on 'stairwell pitches' really helped!
  1556. >The human appears to see you for the first time.
  1557. >Rather, he sees you as an intelligent being for the first time.
  1558. >"You... need my help."
  1559. >Before you can explain further, the human gives a short, sad laugh.
  1560. >"No rest... even in death."
  1561. >Suddenly he stands up, facing you all with a stony expression.
  1562. >"Very well. My name is Bruno Buccellati. I thank you for saving my life. How may I be of service?"
  1563.  
  1564. >"A vampire?"
  1565. >You are Rainbow Dash, and you are pleased to see that this new human is just as confused as you were.
  1566. >Well, kinda. He still knew all about Stands already. But still, it's nice to know not all humans are total know-it-alls like Jojo.
  1567. >This Bruno guy seems way nicer too. He even started to rub Pinkie's head when she got close!
  1568. >It looked really nice... but of course you're way too awesome to have that done to you.
  1569. >You're currently all in the main library, resting on various cushions. Twilight is doing most of the talking, as usual, and is doing a alright job catching him up on what's happened so far.
  1570. >Of course, she still manages to make an alien vampire that can stop time and brainwash ponies sound almost boring.
  1571. >You make sure to add extra details when necessary. It's important that this new human understand just how totally awesome it was when Applejack saved the day with her super cool Stand.
  1572. >You look to AJ for confirmation, but she's off in the corner talking with Fluttershy. Jojo is on the other side of the room, his arms are folded and he very much looks like he doesn't want to be here.
  1573. >"So you have a Stand as well?"
  1574. >Wait, that was directed at you!
  1575. "Uh, yeah, totally! He saw it! It just... isn't really all there yet. Work in progress, y'know? But I'll get it soon!"
  1576. >Oh no, that was a lame answer!
  1577. >But it's true, ever since that day you've been trying to make your Stand appear, and it just isn't working.
  1578. >You can survive being second place if Applejack's the one to beat you, but if anypony else gets their Stand before you, you'll die of humiliation.
  1579. >"Don't be so eager to become a Stand User."
  1580. >The human fixes his eyes on you.
  1581. >"It's a dangerous path. You will be drawn to conflict."
  1582. >Now just who does he think you are?
  1583. "I'm not scared, I'll take on DIO right now!"
  1584. >You strike a cool pose for emphasis.
  1585. >Bruno seems unimpressed.
  1586. >"Courage born of ignorance will kill you faster than your enemy."
  1587. >Excuse you?
  1588. "Look dude, I'm the fastest pega- the fastest THING in Equestria! DIO won't even have time to blink before I knock him out!"
  1589. >You nod, satisfied with your battle plan.
  1590. >Then you're knocked backwards and your jaw feels like it's on fire.
  1591. >You hear your friends gasp in shock as you try to focus through your blurry vision.
  1592. >"You... villain! Twilight, send this vile creature back through the portal this instant!"
  1593. >"Hold on Rarity, he's just trying to show her how dangerous it is."
  1594. >"That's no excuse!"
  1595. >"RAINBOW! How many hooves am I holding up?"
  1596. >You focus on the spinning pink hooves in front of you.
  1597. "Uh... five?"
  1598. >"Correct! She's gonna be just fine!"
  1599. >You look past Pinkie's warm blue eyes to see a pair as cold as ice.
  1600. >"That was my Stand. From what I've gathered it isn't nearly as powerful as DIO's. Still, far faster than you. So temper your recklessness before it gets you killed."
  1601.  
  1602. >You push past the lingering pain to stand on your hooves, ignoring the sounds of your friends getting angry on your behalf.
  1603. "That was just a cheap shot! Fight me when I'm ready and I'll mop the floor with you!"
  1604. >Bruno's expression hardens further. He looks even more terrifying than Jojo.
  1605. >"This isn't a game of scopa, little girl. Your enemy won't wait for you to play your turn. He will attack when you are unprepared."
  1606. >It's hard to believe he was smiling and petting Pinkie just a minute ago. It's like he's turned into another human entirely!
  1607. >But you can be tough too, and you meet those eyes with a glare of your own.
  1608. "OK, then. If that's how you want it..."
  1609. >You launch yourself as fast as you can. Your hooves successfully make contact with his midriff and you can hear the wind being knocked out of him.
  1610. >Immediately you regret it as he counterattacks with a powerful slap to your face.
  1611. >You twist in midair and land roughly, rather than crashing to the floor again. Bruno is winded, but still standing.
  1612. "Mmm mmmhmff mmf?"
  1613. >Huh?
  1614. >Your mouth won't open!
  1615. "MMF! MMFH MM MMFF?"
  1616. >You frantically grasp at your mouth and feel...
  1617. >Is that... a zipper?
  1618. >You pull at it and breathe a sigh of relief as your lips are finally unstuck.
  1619. "Hey, what's the big idea? How'd you do that?"
  1620. >Bruno shakes his head.
  1621. >"Don't expect your enemy to reveal all their secrets to you, either."
  1622. >You grit your teeth and crouch in a fighting stance.
  1623. >"You're not finished?"
  1624. >The human raises his arms, readying himself.
  1625. >"Both of you are finished."
  1626. >Twilight's voice is strong and authoritative, and backed up by a purple bubble encasing you. A similar one covers Bruno.
  1627. >You take a measured breath in and out.
  1628. >This... this is a draw, right?
  1629. >Yeah, it's totally a respectable draw. You don't have to keep fighting.
  1630. >And you... just don't feel like fighting anymore is all.
  1631. >Maybe don't say any of that out loud though.
  1632. >It's not that you're afraid of the human... OK maybe a little tiny bit.
  1633. >But you're nice enough to be the bigger pony and let this go.
  1634. >You relax your posture and nod to Twilight. A similar gesture from Bruno, and she releases you both.
  1635. >You adjust your mane and trot back to your seat like you totally don't care about what just happened. Which you don't.
  1636. >Pinkie and Twilight are looking at you in concern, the others seem to be distracted.
  1637. >You'll just have to talk to them later to make sure they understand that it was totally a draw.
  1638.  
  1639. >To your surprise, Jojo suddenly speaks up.
  1640. >"If you've both finished, then I'd like to hear about Buccellati's experience fighting Stand Users. Twilight's told you all about DIO and this world, but we know very little about you."
  1641. >The two humans stare at each other for a moment.
  1642. >"Very well," Bruno begins. "I led a small team to defeat a mafia boss. He had an invincible Stand, and to defeat it we needed a Stand Arrow, like the one DIO seems to have. It seems you may not have known, but if a Stand is pierced with the Arrow, rather than a User, the Stand awakens powerful new abilities. But it takes enormous strength of will to control the Stand afterwards. I died from wounds sustained in that battle, and awoke here. Satisfied?"
  1643. "Did you win?"
  1644. >The human looks at you with a strange expression, before giving a small smile.
  1645. >"Yes. My companion got the Arrow and won."
  1646. >Something about the way he says it makes you uneasy, but his eyes are filled with confidence.
  1647. >"Um, Twilight? Could I talk to you for a moment?"
  1648. >As Fluttershy pulls Twilight to the side, Pinkie starts her own line of questioning.
  1649. >"If he had an invisible Stand, how would you even know it was there? And just how does getting hit with an arrow make you more powerful? And how did you make that zipper appear out of nowhere? Is that your Stand? Can I see it again?"
  1650. >"Pinkie," Jojo looks annoyed.
  1651. >"But I NEED to know how he did it! This could revolutionize gift-wrapping technology! Imagine how easy it would be to-"
  1652. >"Pinkie. Be quiet."
  1653. >Jojo walks forward. The expression on his face is completely serious.
  1654. >"All of you get behind me. We're under attack."
  1655.  
  1656. >A chill runs throughout your body. You hop next to Jojo and look around wildly.
  1657. >Pinkie and Bruno do the same. But the others...
  1658. >"So you finally realized?"
  1659. >...What?
  1660. "Fluttershy?"
  1661. >Your best friend is standing across the room from you, smiling pleasantly.
  1662. >Behind her, Applejack, Rarity, and Twilight all stand stock still with vacant expressions plastered on their faces.
  1663. "What's going on?"
  1664. >Fluttershy tilts her head as her smile grows wider.
  1665. >"Whatever could you mean? I haven't done anything to hurt anypony, have I?"
  1666. >"Don't approach her," Jojo warns.
  1667. >"I haven't seen a Stand yet," Bruno mutters.
  1668. >"Hey, Fluttershy? This isn't funny," Pinkie says through a forced smile. "Jojo said to get behind him, so come on over here."
  1669. "Pinkie..."
  1670. >"Just come on over, Fluttershy," Pinkie begs. "He said there's somepony attacking us, so stop joking around."
  1671. >Fluttershy runs a hoof through her mane, brushing her ever-present curtain of hair behind her ear.
  1672. >"Don't worry. Pretty soon, it won't be your problem anymore."
  1673. >You feel your jaw drop. This isn't her. It can't be her.
  1674. >Jojo takes a careful step forward.
  1675. "Wait! You can't hurt her. She's being controlled! She has to be!"
  1676. >"Controlled?"
  1677. >Fluttershy's expression is still one of innocent calm despite the malice in her coy smile.
  1678. >"Of course you'd think that. Poor, sad, little Fluttershy couldn't possibly be a threat to anypony otherwise. Isn't that what you all think?"
  1679. >"She's almost within my range," Jojo mutters. "I'll immobilize her without without harming her."
  1680. >Fluttershy continues her tirade.
  1681. >"Fluttershy is just so weak and helpless, huh? Well, Lord DIO knows me better. And he helped me realize my true power."
  1682. >Jojo slowly takes another step forward. It looks like every muscle in his body is tense. His eyes are locked on Fluttershy, waiting for her to...
  1683. >Wait...
  1684. >A horrible thought occurs to you.
  1685. "Stop! Don't look at her! Don't look in her eyes!"
  1686. >You almost miss it.
  1687. >There's a flash of light around Fluttershy, a faint glow that vanishes as soon as you see it.
  1688. >Jojo isn't moving.
  1689. >Fluttershy grins.
  1690. >"Get them."
  1691. >"ORA!"
  1692. >You leap backwards, barely able to dodge Star Platinum's fist.
  1693. >"ORAORAORAORAORA!!!!!!"
  1694. >Your wings spread instinctively, and the rush of air from Jojo's assault propels you backwards before you can even start to fly.
  1695. >You glimpse Jojo's eyes, and they're completely vacant. Like your friends.
  1696. >"This way!"
  1697. >Bruno shouts at you as he runs, carrying Pinkie under one arm.
  1698. >You see his Stand appear for an instant, then suddenly the wall to the library falls open, an enormous zipper splitting it in two.
  1699. >You twist in midair and shoot forward, catching up with them just as they leap through to the outside.
  1700. >Bruno instantly seals the zipper and makes it vanish.
  1701. >He shoots you a look filled with determination.
  1702. >"We have to run."
  1703.  
  1704. >Bruno rushes through the town, his zippers opening up walls to lead you and Pinkie through various houses.
  1705. >You wave to the ponies that you know as you gallop through their living rooms.
  1706. >Eventually he stops in a narrow alleyway. You think you're nearby Town Hall but it's hard to tell. The human had zig-zagged wildly, and you're not used to having to navigate on hoof.
  1707. >You glance at Pinkie. Her lip is quivering and she's staring at the ground. You tentatively put a leg around her, but she doesn't respond.
  1708. >Bruno's breathing is heavy as he talks.
  1709. >"The first priority is for you to go and get help. Talk to your Princess, or whoever's in charge around here. We need to prepare for the worst case scenario. A Stand like that could be unstoppable otherwise."
  1710. "You want us to leave you?"
  1711. >"One of us has to spread the word. You can fly, and I'm obviously not a local. Stay on foot until you reach the city limits, then take to the air when you'll be out of sight. Get to the nearest town and warn them. You made it sound like you're good friends with the monarchy, so go there and explain the situation. Your friend is probably planning to pay them a visit soon enough, and if she gets there first there might be no stopping her."
  1712. "Pinkie can go, I'm staying."
  1713. >He gives you a stern look.
  1714. >"She's not in any state to-"
  1715. >A sharp scream interrupts you. You look around in fear, but don't see anypony.
  1716. >A second scream pierces the air, and you see it. A nearby squirrel is staring straight at you and making as much noise as it can.
  1717. >You feel a tug on your tail, and turn to see Bruno already running through another building.
  1718. >The squirrel chases you, but his zipper seals shut.
  1719. >Your frantic run continues, and you quickly lose all sense of direction.
  1720. >Multiple times Bruno doubles back on his trail. You notice him scanning for animals. He sticks to running through the indoors, away from the peering eyes of the birds you see circling the air above you.
  1721. >Twice more you're caught by a small critter that starts screaming in alarm, but you continue moving.
  1722. >At last he pauses. You're inside a dark room filled with shelves and boxes. Bruno approaches a wall and crouches low.
  1723. >You see that armoured figure appear and make a small zipper appear close to the floor.
  1724. >Lying flat, Bruno slowly opens the slit and peeks through.
  1725. >After a moment he beckons you over.
  1726. >Pinkie is curled up and hiding under her hooves, so you let her be.
  1727. >"Take a look outside and tell me what you see."
  1728. >You crouch down and let your eyes get accustomed to the narrow strip of bright light.
  1729. >Ponyville seems largely unaffected. A few ponies are wandering down the street without a care.
  1730. >Then you notice the birds. They're flying in large circles. You turn to where the center should be, and...
  1731. >There.
  1732.  
  1733. >Jojo is easy to spot, despite only appearing as a thin upright line at this distance. Next to him are three familiar blurs, and just behind them...
  1734. "I see her! She's still far away."
  1735. >You look at Bruno.
  1736. "So what now?"
  1737. >"Tell me what else you see."
  1738. "Uh, birds, ponies, the usual-"
  1739. >"Not that. Tell me what you've noticed. Anything that doesn't make sense."
  1740. >He looks at you seriously.
  1741. >"Consider this your training. When fighting a Stand User, knowledge of the enemy is your best weapon. What do you know about the enemy Stand? What have you seen?"
  1742. >Training. OK, this is definitely something you can do.
  1743. "It's her stare. She's always been able to make animals and even ponies behave by using it, but it's never been this strong before."
  1744. >"Go on."
  1745. "So if it's her stare, then we can't look her in the eyes. That's what happened to Jojo. She looked him in the eyes, and then he started obeying her."
  1746. >"That's her basic Stand ability. Now, what weaknesses does it have?"
  1747. >Weaknesses?
  1748. "Well, I guess it won't work if we don't look her in the eyes?"
  1749. >Bruno nods.
  1750. >"What else. What have you noticed about what she's doing?"
  1751. >You take another peek outside.
  1752. "She's not doing anything. She's just standing there, so are the others. She's sending animals out to go look for us."
  1753. >"Why?"
  1754. >You give him a strange glance.
  1755. "Uh, because she wants to find us and wash our brains?"
  1756. >"Why is she standing outside? Why are the others? Why is she sending animals to hunt us? Why hasn't she found us yet? Always assume there is a good reason behind everything that your enemy does. Those details are what give away their weaknesses."
  1757. >Right. It's just like Daring Do. She can't just fight through every problem. There's always a puzzle, and it's always solved by noticing some little detail that most ponies would overlook.
  1758. >Aww... you're never gonna forgive DIO for what he did to A.K. Yearling! She'd better be OK by the end of this. You don't even want to imagine a world without more Daring Do books.
  1759. >OK, gotta focus.
  1760. >Why is Fluttershy outside? Why isn't she still in the library?
  1761. >You look outside again.
  1762. >Fluttershy is moving slowly. Your friends are by her sign. Every so often she bends down, presumably to use her power on another little critter. And above her, you can still see her birds slowly circle in the sky.
  1763. "She needs to find us, so she's having the birds and critters look for us... and she needs to be outside to do that. If she stayed in the library, her power wouldn't work anymore."
  1764. >Bruno nods.
  1765. >"Every Stand has a range. Knowing what range it has will let you understand how to fight it. I'd estimate her ability's range is around 200 metres. High, but not large enough to cover the entire town."
  1766. "So that's why she still hasn't found us. We're not in her range anymore."
  1767. >"There's more. Think back to what happened in the library."
  1768.  
  1769. >Library... Jojo realized what was happening, Fluttershy was really creepy, she used her power, and...
  1770. "Jojo didn't stop time. He could've gotten all of us, but he just punched me instead."
  1771. >"And I didn't see your friends use any of their magic, either."
  1772. >That really is odd.
  1773. "Twilight hasn't been casting spells. She probably could have used a spell to find us by now if she was really trying."
  1774. >"That's another weakness. Her thralls don't keep their abilities or intelligence. They're limited to basic commands. Attack, search, protect."
  1775. >You smile.
  1776. "When you lay it all out like that, she doesn't sound too scary!"
  1777. >Oh no. Bruno's face is doing that scary thing again. Is this a power all humans have?
  1778. >"Don't ever take a Stand lightly. Even a weak Stand can be deadly under the right circumstances, and the enemy's is far from weak."
  1779. >Your lips tighten. You don't like to hear Fluttershy be called that. Even if it is technically true.
  1780. >"In order to defeat her I need to get closer, and your friends aren't going to make that easy. Even without timestop, Star Platinum is at least as fast and strong as my Sticky Fingers. And on top of that-"
  1781. "You can't look her in the eye."
  1782. >Your heart sinks.
  1783. "But... her range! If we can get her out of range of the others-"
  1784. >"They'll likely recover. But she's not going to be tricked. She's sending animals to do the searching for her, and keeping your friends close by."
  1785. "There has to be a way."
  1786. >He hesitates.
  1787. >"I wanted to teach you this so that you understand why you need to get help."
  1788. "No way. You just said-"
  1789. >"Right now I'm the best chance you have at taking her down without killing her, or anyone else. But you need to be prepared for that plan to fail. And if it does, she needs to be stopped. No matter what."
  1790. >Your blood freezes.
  1791. "What do you mean?"
  1792. >The human's face shows your feelings no mercy.
  1793. >"If there are no other Stand Users available, the only practical option would be to kill her from outside her range."
  1794. >No.
  1795. >You are not going to let her die.
  1796. "I'm going to save her. No matter what."
  1797. >"If you aren't prepared to accept the possibility of her death, you aren't prepared to face her in combat."
  1798. >Bruno stands to his full height.
  1799. >"That is what it takes to be a Stand User. Death is always near. You cannot stop it from taking the ones you care about."
  1800. "I'm the element of loyalty. I won't ever give up on my friends."
  1801. >"And what about her?"
  1802. >He gestures to Pinkie, shivering on the floor.
  1803. >"Are you prepared to leave her alone out of your sense of loyalty?"
  1804. "I'm fighting for her! For all my friends!"
  1805. >"And when you get captured or killed? Will they appreciate your loyalty then? Is that what they would want from you?"
  1806. >You want to hit him.
  1807. >But you can't.
  1808. >As soon as it appeared, your anger faded away.
  1809. >He's entirely right. If he failed, if you had no other option but to turn to Princess Celestia, you couldn't be sure what would happen.
  1810.  
  1811. >She would never want to kill one of her ponies. But she might not have that choice.
  1812. >No guard could stand up against Jojo's Star Platinum, and there are many places Fluttershy could hide.
  1813. >And she would use your other friends as shields against any attack.
  1814. >Whether through accident or desperation, the death of at least one of your friends was possible. Even likely.
  1815. >You have to accept that.
  1816. "I'm not accepting that."
  1817. >Bruno sighs in resignation.
  1818. >"I cannot force you to do anything. I can only present your options to you. Go and get help, or end up as a puppet."
  1819. "No. There's only one option: we fight, and we win. Nopony dies."
  1820. >That probably would've sounded better if your voice didn't crack into a sob.
  1821. >Or if you didn't have hot tears in your eyes.
  1822. >"How? Do you have a plan? Can you even use your Stand?"
  1823. "We'll get a plan, and I'll get my Stand. It will come when I need it."
  1824. >"You cannot assume that."
  1825. "It will happen because there is no other choice. We didn't have a plan when we faced Nightmare Moon. Our plan was immediately ruined when we faced Discord. And with King Sombra... I didn't even know what was going on at the time. Twilight and Spike did all the hard work. The rest of us just had to trust that they could do it. And they did. We were seconds away from... I don't even want to know what. But my friends came through. And now I'm going to pull through for them."
  1826. >Your neck is starting to hurt from looking up at him, so with a confident flap you fly up to his eye level.
  1827. "Yeah, I know it could end horribly. I know I don't really stand a chance. But it doesn't matter how impossible it is. It's something I have to do. And that's all there is to it."
  1828. >He doesn't look quite so scary from up here.
  1829. >...
  1830. >Why isn't he saying anything?
  1831. >Why is he walking away from you?
  1832. "Hey! I'm serious!"
  1833. >"I know."
  1834. >He kneels down next to Pinkie, and starts petting her mane.
  1835. >"You are strange creatures. Childlike in many respects."
  1836. >"Yet, you have determination, and duty."
  1837. >"With duty, one cannot ever fail. That's something I used to believe with all my heart."
  1838. >"It gave me strength. It let me protect my team."
  1839. >"And I was wrong, of course. It's an idiotic thing to believe."
  1840. >"You will blame yourself for things you could not control. You will be unprepared for failure, and make additional mistakes as a result. Such a belief will only cause you pain and misery."
  1841. >"But still. When I needed it, it gave me strength."
  1842. >After several long seconds, Pinkie starts to relax.
  1843. >She looks up at him and manages a tiny smile.
  1844. >Then she turns to face you.
  1845. >"I'm helping too."
  1846. >You nod.
  1847. "Hey, I know this won't mean much to you, but trust me. If Pinkie's on our side, anything can happen."
  1848. >Bruno returns your nod.
  1849. >"I have some ideas. We will need to-"
  1850. >The sound of a door opening causes you all to whirl in panic.
  1851. >Across the room stands a familiar grey mare.
  1852. >"Uh... Rainbow?"
  1853. "Derpy?"
  1854. >"Are... you here to pick up a package?"
  1855.  
  1856. >It's another beautiful day in Ponyville.
  1857. >You are Fluttershy and you are surrounded by your best friends and countless adorable little critters.
  1858. >And they all love you.
  1859. >What more could you ask for, really?
  1860. >All you need to do now is find Rainbow and Pinkie.
  1861. >And that new human. He was trouble.
  1862. >But his power can't compare to yours.
  1863. >You had always known you were special. Nopony ever appreciated it, of course.
  1864. >Back home, they only ever valued one thing: flying.
  1865. >They didn't care about your talents.
  1866. >Well, now you've changed that.
  1867. >The animal kingdom is filled with amazing creatures, and they can all help you in different ways.
  1868. >It was only after you met Lord DIO that you realized that ponies were no different.
  1869. >Why shouldn't you use your talents with them?
  1870. >You can provide for them, take away the stress of their hectic, busy lives.
  1871. >And in return, they can help you. Love and protect you, as you love and protect them in return.
  1872. >Right now you want nothing more than to see your dear friends Rainbow and Pinkie look at you with love in their eyes.
  1873. >It would be so much easier if you didn't have to search so slowly.
  1874. >You've been trying to get Applejack to make something that would increase Eye of the Tiger's power, but so far you've had no luck.
  1875. >It's alright, though. When things are a little safer, you could release your power on her, and then you'd have all the time in the world to make her see reason.
  1876. >And who knows how strong your Stand will become in the future?
  1877. >You hear a series of shrill chirps, and turn just in time to see a tiny bird land on your shoulder.
  1878. "Well well well, by the post office you say?"
  1879.  
  1880. >More excited chirping.
  1881. "I see. Thank you very much Mr. Beak, this is very useful information!"
  1882. >He doesn't quite seem to be listening.
  1883. "Go back, continue the search."
  1884. >You reach for your Stand, feeling a flash of warmth as it delivers your command.
  1885. >Immediately, the cute little thing falls silent, and flies off in the direction it came.
  1886. >You trot along behind it, your allies accompanying you.
  1887. >It's taking some time, but they have to be feeling tired by now.
  1888. >As the post offices enters your sight, frantic hoofsteps catch your attention.
  1889. >"Fluttershy! Are you there? Fluttershy?"
  1890. "Pinkie!"
  1891. >There's a sudden silence.
  1892. >Your friend is a block away.
  1893. >This should be a crowded street at this time of day, but everypony has been giving your entourage a wide berth.
  1894. >The few who remain quickly back away as they sense the tense atmosphere.
  1895. >Pinkie is facing you, but her eyes are sealed tight.
  1896. >"Fluttershy..."
  1897. "Everything's going to be fine, Pinkie. I'm not going to hurt you."
  1898. >She shudders.
  1899. >"I just don't want there to be anymore fighting."
  1900. "I want the same thing."
  1901. >"Rainbow said that... she had to go and get help. Bruno was saying that if he couldn't stop you, then... they'd go to the Princess, and she... they said she would..."
  1902. "Nothing bad is going to happen, Pinkie. I promise. I'm not ever going to hurt you or Rainbow."
  1903. >She comes closer.
  1904. >"I'm scared, Fluttershy. If I open my eyes, what's going to happen?"
  1905. "Nothing. I promise."
  1906. >"But... the others..."
  1907. "I had to stop them from hurting me. That other human still wants to hurt me, doesn't he? I don't want to do this, but I have to protect myself."
  1908. >She nods in understanding, but keeps her eyes shut tight.
  1909. "I'm your friend, Pinkie. That's not ever going to change."
  1910. >"Rainbow's my friend too, and she said-"
  1911. "Rainbow's scared. She still believes all the lies that these humans have been telling."
  1912. >"Lies?"
  1913. "So much of what they said have been lies. We have a lot to talk about."
  1914. >"But... Jojo is my friend."
  1915. "I'm your friend, Pinkie. Please trust me."
  1916. >She hesitates... and takes a few more steps forward.
  1917. "Restrain her."
  1918. >Pinkie tenses in fear, but it's too late. Big Mac pounces from the nearest alley.
  1919. >It was pure luck that you bumped into him earlier, and you couldn't have asked for a better bodyguard.
  1920. >Well, maybe Harry. But bringing a bear into town would cause too much of a panic.
  1921. >Pinkie struggles, but Mac's sheer weight keeps her pinned down safely.
  1922. >"No! You promised! You promised that you wouldn't do anything bad!"
  1923. "Did I?"
  1924.  
  1925. >"You lied to me!"
  1926. "You lied when you pretended to come here as my friend. Do you think I'm stupid, Pinkie? I know you're trying to make me lower my guard."
  1927. You adjust your position. Jojo right beside you, Applejack on the other side, Twilight in front, Rarity in the rear. All ready for an assault from any side.
  1928. "I see what that awful human did to you."
  1929. >You gesture to her eyes. It's barely perceptible, but you can see the gleam of a zipper across them, sealing her eyelids shut.
  1930. "You can come out, now! Whatever ambush you're planning has already failed!"
  1931. >Silence. Cowards.
  1932. "Looks like they're not coming for you, Pinkie. I guess they just don't care."
  1933. >Your friend shivers.
  1934. >"Please... don't hurt me."
  1935. "I would never."
  1936. >You walk closer, making sure that you stay protected by your friends.
  1937. "But you have to look at me, Pinkie. It's for your own good."
  1938. >"Please... stop."
  1939. >She struggles, but Mac holds her tightly.
  1940. >You rest your hoof on her head.
  1941. "It has to be like this, Pinkie. Don't worry. It won't hurt."
  1942. >Your Stand materializes. Eye of the Tiger is a fierce beast, and you hear it growl in anticipation of another conquest.
  1943. "Now, let's look into those beautiful eyes..."
  1944. >You release the first zipper.
  1945. >And the world turns into chaos.
  1946. >It's like everything is in slow motion.
  1947. >Rather than Pinkie's bright blue eye, the zipper reveals a purple void.
  1948. >In the next instant, a loud screeching makes you jump in surprise and something dark flies out of the void.
  1949. >You let out a scream of your own as the thing collides directly at your head.
  1950. >You barely have time to recognize your adorable bat friend before there's a loud zipping noise, and the ground beneath you erupts.
  1951. >A fist to your jaw sends you flying up in the air, and you are instantly caught by a pair of blue hooves.
  1952. >Jojo leaps to action, his hand gripping Rainbow's leg before she can fly away with you.
  1953. >But another hand strikes, and you see a zipper immediately appear and unravel, severing Jojo's arm.
  1954. >The bat on your face is still screaming as Rainbow's wings flap hard, and you soar through the air.
  1955. >You struggle. The bat has some kind of packing tape wrapped around it, and is stuck to your mane.
  1956. >You shout, but he doesn't respond to your commands.
  1957. >He's doing exactly what you last told him to do: make a lot of noise after finding the target.
  1958. >And that noise just gave away your precise location to your blinded enemy.
  1959. >Your wings struggle to redirect Rainbow's flight path. It doesn't matter if you crash, you just need her to stop moving.
  1960. >But she's always been the stronger flier.
  1961. >You catch a glimpse of the two humans' Stands locked in combat before they're out of sight.
  1962. >Rainbow is flying blind, a similar zipper to Pinkie's protecting her eyes.
  1963. >You focus on your Stand, and its spectral legs appear before you.
  1964. >It pulls on the zipper. Rainbow's eyes are still shut, but now you just have to open them.
  1965. >Your Stand attacks, giving her a hard blow to the face.
  1966. >Then another.
  1967. >Then one to her wing.
  1968. >That last one sends her spiraling out of control, and a moment later you both crash to the ground.
  1969. >You look around as you struggle to get to your hooves.
  1970. >You're well out of town now, and can no longer feel the presence of your friends.
  1971. >The bat continues squealing as you try to tug it off of you. You quickly feel two tiny zippers on its ears, and unzip them.
  1972. "Quiet."
  1973. >The bat obeys immediately.
  1974. >You see Rainbow stand, eyes still clamped tight.
  1975. >Your wings silently spread and lift you off the grassy ground.
  1976. >Immediately, Rainbow's ears tilt in your direction.
  1977. >"Don't even think about it, Flutters."
  1978. >You drop back to the ground with a huff of exasperation.
  1979. >"Nopony else can read air currents like me. It's over. Jojo will be here soon to fix what DIO did to you."
  1980. >Her lips tighten.
  1981. >"Don't make me hurt you before that happens."
  1982. "Hurt me?"
  1983. >You walk forward, not bothering to disguise the sound of your steps.
  1984. >"I mean it, Fluttershy! Stay there!"
  1985. "You're. So. PATHETIC!"
  1986. >Your Stand strikes, slapping her hard enough to send her flying several metres to the side.
  1987. >Rainbow groans in pain, but her eyes stay shut.
  1988. "And you think that YOU'RE going to hurt ME?"
  1989. >Rainbow's ears twitch in your direction and she barely manages to roll to the side as you pounce at her.
  1990. "Let me explain to you what's going to happen next, you stupid little FILLY!"
  1991. >Rainbow's hooves fly at your face, but Eye of the Tiger easily parries them.
  1992. >A quick blow to her body, and she crumples.
  1993. >Grabbing her legs, you sharply flip her over.
  1994. "You're going to open your eyes. Whether you want to or not."
  1995. >Her wings are pinned to the ground. She slams her head against yours, but you stand strong.
  1996. >She still doesn't understand just how strong you are. How strong you've always been.
  1997. "Then. You're going. To LOOK AT ME!"
  1998. >You punctuate your declaration with another blow to her face before you tightly grasp her head in your hooves, tilting her stubborn eyelids towards you.
  1999. "And then. I'm going to stare. Into your very soul. And. You're. Going. To. Love. Me."
  2000. >Your Stand tugs at her eyelids and you feel them slowly part.
  2001. "Love. Me. Love. Me. Love me. Love me! LOVE ME! LOVE ME LOVE ME LOVE ME LOVE ME LOVEMELOVEMELOVEMELOVEMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!"
  2002. >Then something punches your face.
  2003. >Hard.
  2004.  
  2005. >You go tumbling backwards.
  2006. >Your eyes struggle to focus on what you're seeing.
  2007. >Rainbow is bathed in a powerful aura.
  2008. >Her wings flare out in a stance that exudes power.
  2009. >A huge foot slams into the ground, leaving a print the size of your head.
  2010. >Then another.
  2011. >The sunlight appears to bend around her, glittering rainbows reflecting off of...
  2012. "A shell?"
  2013. >The Stand surrounds her, encasing her in a diamond shell.
  2014. >You recognize it as a massive tortoise, but one that appears to hover as light as a feather despite its size.
  2015. >You stand defiantly.
  2016. "EYE OF THE TIGER!"
  2017. >With roar, your Stand appears in full.
  2018. >Halfway between a pony and a beast, it leaps at Rainbow.
  2019. >Its jaws clamp around the shell, and you see Rainbow flinch from the impact.
  2020. >But one swipe from the tortoise leg and you fall again.
  2021. "Such... strength..."
  2022. >The Stand slams its leg on you and your breath is driven from your body.
  2023. >Her eyes still firmly closed, Rainbow stands over you, panting heavily.
  2024. >"Now, as I was saying."
  2025. >You don't have the air to reply.
  2026. >"You're staying right here. And then I'm going to get my friend back."
  2027. >This...
  2028. >This is...
  2029. >...
  2030. >Still just so pathetic.
  2031. >Your hoof reaches into your mane, and quickly finds your hidden ace.
  2032. >Your Stand may not be as strong, but it's still fast enough for what you need.
  2033. >You grin as your attack lands.
  2034. >Your tiny viper friend sinks her teeth deep into Rainbow's foreleg.
  2035. >"AAAAAARRGH!"
  2036. >Rainbow recoils in pain, releasing you.
  2037. >You suck a deep breath of sweet air and shout in joy.
  2038. "YESSSSSSSS!!!!"
  2039. >Your Stand strikes true, knocking Rainbow over.
  2040. "THIS IS ALL I NEED!"
  2041. >Your body may be exhausted but you have more than enough strength left to leap on top of her again.
  2042. "JUST ONE LITTLE PEEK!"
  2043. >You see her eyes, wide open in an uncontrollable expression of pain.
  2044. "YOU OPENED THEM! I SEE YOU, RAINBOW DASH! NOW, EYE OF THE TIGER! STARE INTO HER SOUL!!!!!!"
  2045. >You start to laugh with wild abandon as your Stand's power activates, its piercing gaze melding with your own, peering deep into Rainbow's yellow-
  2046. >Yellow?
  2047. >That's not right.
  2048. >And why are they looking in opposite directions?
  2049. >"Alright, now I'm mad."
  2050. >A hard blow to your side sends you flying again.
  2051.  
  2052. >You smash into a nearby tree this time.
  2053. >Once again, you focus your eyes on Rainbow.
  2054. "But... how?"
  2055. >She smiles as she advances on you, and for the first time since you've been fighting, you feel a cold sense of dread.
  2056. >"Bruno. He used his power to switch my eyes with Derpy's. My eyes are back in the Ponyville post office. Derpy's probably having fun experiencing depth perception for the first time right now."
  2057. >A horrible noise escapes your throat.
  2058. "I... lost? But... Lord DIO... My power..."
  2059. >Rainbow gives you a scornful look.
  2060. >"You know, even though in a few minutes I know you're going to be my friend again... I just can't wait that long."
  2061. >"And even if you're just DIO's puppet... You've really got this coming."
  2062. >You grit your teeth.
  2063. "EYE OF THE TIGER!"
  2064. >"MR. BLUE SKY!"
  2065. >Another heavy blow knocks away your Stand's last attempt at defence.
  2066. >"Now, that attack was... just... so LAME!"
  2067. >She grips your barrel and lifts you into the air.
  2068. >"LAME LAME LAME LAME LAME LAME LAME LAME LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME!!!!!!!!!!"
  2069. >She slams you into the ground.
  2070. "Lord........... DIO.................."
  2071. >You can barely make out the silhouettes of approaching humans before your eyes close.
  2072.  
  2073. 『STAND MASTER』
  2074. >FLUTTERSHY
  2075. 『STAND NAME』
  2076. >EYE OF THE TIGER
  2077. 『STATUS』
  2078. >HOSPITALIZED
  2079.  
  2080. >DESTRUCTIVE POWER: C
  2081. >SPEED: B
  2082. >RANGE: A
  2083. >PERSISTENCE: A
  2084. >PRECISION: B
  2085. >DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL: B
  2086.  
  2087. 『STAND MASTER』
  2088. >RAINBOW DASH
  2089. 『STAND NAME』
  2090. >MR. BLUE SKY
  2091. 『STATUS』
  2092. >ACTIVE
  2093.  
  2094. >DESTRUCTIVE POWER: A
  2095. >SPEED: A
  2096. >RANGE: C
  2097. >PERSISTENCE: B
  2098. >PRECISION: C
  2099. >DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL: A
  2100.  
  2101. >You are Twilight Sparkle.
  2102. >And you are still quite nervous.
  2103. >You've done all you could to detect magic. The humans did what they could to check for the influence of Stands.
  2104. >But still, as you cross the threshold to Zecora's cottage, you feel a deep sense of dread.
  2105. >The cozy home is empty.
  2106. >"Nothing damaged," Jotaro remarks. "No blood. No evidence of a fight. She's definitely being controlled, like Fluttershy. DIO wouldn't have bothered to clean up."
  2107. "Why take her and leave Fluttershy behind?"
  2108. >"I don't see how he could have known that Fluttershy would be out here in the forest. I'm guessing he came here for your zebra friend, and Fluttershy interrupted them. When she wakes, she'll be able to tell us more."
  2109. >"But why come here for her?" Bruno ponders.
  2110. >"We might find a clue. Twilight, look around carefully. Check if there's anything missing."
  2111. >The familiar sights of your friend's home look strange to you.
  2112. >You feel your head droop as the events of the day catch up to you.
  2113. >Suddenly you feel a firm hand on your back.
  2114. >"You're not to blame for anything that's happened."
  2115. >You look at Jotaro. That's when you notice your vision is blurry from tears.
  2116. "It is. I sent Fluttershy here. It was for my spell. I didn't even notice that she was under that monster's control. And then I got caught... If Rainbow hadn't...."
  2117. >"That type of thinking is pointless. Make the best decision you can in the moment, and learn from the consequences."
  2118. >He stands up straight.
  2119. >"Guilt exists to help you learn. Acknowledge it, don't indulge in it."
  2120. >"Jotaro."
  2121. >Bruno beckons him outside.
  2122. >"We should keep an eye out."
  2123. >Jotaro nods and follows him.
  2124. >You take inventory of Zecora's potions.
  2125. >You don't know what half of them are, but at least they seem to be organized.
  2126. >"...name was familiar..."
  2127. >Oh.
  2128. >The humans are talking.
  2129. >You shouldn't eavesdrop, but...
  2130. >Well, this could be beneficial research, couldn't it? Two humans conversing alone?
  2131. >You carefully nudge the nearest window open, and Jotaro's previously muffled voice grows audible.
  2132. >"...letter from an old friend detailing a certain series of events in Rome. It mentioned a Stand User named Buccellati. Apparently he died in the battle, but his allies were able to achieve their goal and defeat a powerful enemy. Three survivors from their group, so I was told."
  2133. >"Thank you," Bruno responds. "I didn't have any doubt... but it is good to hear."
  2134.  
  2135. >"I assume there are certain details about your past life that you would prefer not to disclose to the others."
  2136. >"If at all possible, yes. I have no idea how they'd react. And that worries me. This place... these beings... they're childish. They live in a fantasy world. I'm not sure they have the necessary strength"
  2137. >"Rainbow did well enough today. And they have the willpower to summon Stands."
  2138. >"I'm not talking about willpower. There will be pain, and death. And it will destroy their resolve."
  2139. >"I've seen meek children turn into some of the most reliable companions I've known."
  2140. >"You really think they have that potential?"
  2141. >"Who can say?"
  2142. >There's an awkward pause before Bruno asks another question.
  2143. >"You're not planning on taking them with you, are you?"
  2144. >For a moment it's so quiet that you worry they'll hear your strained breathing.
  2145. >"...No. When DIO is found, I'll face him alone."
  2146. >The sound of your breathing stops.
  2147. >"You're an idiot. If he got to Fluttershy then he knows what she knows, and he'll prepare for you."
  2148. >"Which is why I won't strike until I know I can kill him."
  2149. >"He could have an army of Stand Users by now."
  2150. >"The ponies can handle other ponies. But DIO is my responsibility. And I know he feels the same way. He won't let anyone else kill me. I also can't allow DIO to use them against me. If he threatens innocent lives... I may hesitate in a critical moment. I've considered it thoroughly, and it's the best method of success."
  2151. >"No. It's the best method for you to succeed alone. Your odds are better with more Stand Users. Even if it means their deaths."
  2152. >"They've suffered enough. And like you said, they aren't ready."
  2153. >"Maybe they could be. But if you've made up your mind, you should tell them the truth."
  2154. >"No point in making them worry."
  2155. >"They deserve the chance."
  2156. >"If you want to train them, I won't stop you."
  2157. >Footsteps. You distance yourself from the window, but manage to catch one final reply.
  2158. >"We should check on Twilight," Bruno states. "Try and see if you can learn something from all her talk on friendship."

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Friendship is Magic (Part 1)

by JojoAnon