The End: The Cat, The Bat, And The Pet
Manehattan, the jungle of steel, concrete, and glass. Carts in the streets, pegasi and griffons crossing the sky in numbers. Griffon technology and building methods, especially the box-like architecture of most buildings, can be noticed everywhere. The city bearing millions of souls makes me feel like home, honestly. You could pluck the entire metropolis out of the flatland, put in into the Imperial mainland, and noone would spot the difference, aside from a ton of very confused residents of course.
It's also extremely blurry as Darky leads the way, rushing just above the buildings. Even with her guiding me I'm still seething because she's the reason for this entire mess.
"Damn bat," I mutter, "You spread legs for anyone so why couldn't you just give Mistake a chance to at least buy you a drink and see where it went? Granted, he would probably spill most of it due to nerves but at least he'd find out you're not worth his time."
I grossly underestimated batpony hearing. She matches my speed and flies closer.
"You have no idea what Blaze meant to me. Yes, everypony wanted to get me to bed but that was impossible with Valiant around. When he was gone I found out that everypony would go for it again. Nopony really cared though, nopony but Blaze. I slept with most of the Guard and even some low-class nobles of Canterlot but outside of the bed nopony gave a buck about me. Nopony but three true friends who stuck with me through everything - Sharp, Blaze, and later Heavy. Mistake killed one, tried to kill the other, and killed the last one's coltfriend."
"You were ready to kill Heavy for him, Heavy told me himself."
"I thought he was Blaze!"
"HE IS! He went through the same things with you in the beginning. You two have been through much more together than you and Blazing from this reality or whatever."
"Where's a proof?"
"Your memories are a proof! The journals are a proof! Void's testimony is a proof!"
"My memory has been tampered with, anything can be written down, and Void was the one who did it."
"You know what?"
"I don't give a fuck! You can wiggle your ass in front of whoever you want. Stay with the guy who sent his minions to attack princess Luna, to kill your family if they got in the way of stealing the sword. Stay with him and get out of Mistake's life! Better chance for me and him who, just saying, went to face him alone so we wouldn't get hurt by accident. See the difference? So yeah, do whatever you want, but if you pose a threat to him you'll have to go through me."
She shuts up and leads the way through Manehattan.
"How do you know the way anyway?" I try to stop the angry shaking of my hands by focusing on the task in front of me.
I am tempted to simply knock Darky out as soon as we reach the place because I believe her presence will only make matters worse but I also think Mistake needs to see her if she betrays him just to cut the ties in his head and stop his obsession.
"I once invited his... Blaze's parents to Canterlot to see him in the hospital where he ended up after a mirror world assassin tried to kill... me to send a message. He got really badly hurt so I sent a letter to them to come and see him for what might have been the final time."
"Mistake or Blazing?" I ask, smiling to myself.
She gradually descends to what looks like a manor surrounded by large gardens with fences separating the little world of wealth from the rest of the city. A fenced off community where rich ponies live if ever I saw one. The white, multiple-story mansion would make posh unicorns in Canterlot say 'Oh my!'.
I'm not too keen on going through the front door so I wave at Darky and we land on the roof. Exploring the windows on the top floor, I get ready to punch through one but Darky just cuts the glass with her horseshoe blade and I can open the handle from the inside. Thank Emperor for the flexible claws, am I right?
The apparent guest room isn't overly decorated but it's bigger then my entire apartment. Not that it matters, it's empty which means we just sneak through, open the door to the carpeted hall, find out it's also empty, and carefully pass other doors while looking for stairs down.
We're being watched. I don't know how, I don't know by who, but the tingling feeling on the back of my neck grows and grows as we navigate the maze of halls. Few times I think I can hear scurrying of hoofsteps moving away from us which makes no sense and screams trap.
Without any opposition we enter a platform overlooking a large circular room with stairs coming down by the sides. The rich, wooden inlay in the walls and the small statues and display cases of medals and weapons come second to the three ponies on the ground floor, two of them fighting.
"Heavy Hoof?" I whisper in disbelief.
Heavy is fighting Mistake, steel staff meeting a levitating blade and armored hooves. Knowing Mistake's power, I'm sure he's not using his wings so he doesn't kill Heavy by accident. I don't know how long has the fight been going on but both seem rather tired.
The tall, bronze unicorn with sandy blonde mane and tail is just watching them, smiling. Suddenly, his sapphire eyes look straight at me, hiding behind the railings on the platform and watching the fight. From up here I can see the mark on his flank - two circles, one black, one white, interlocked together, a symbol I remember from Betty.
"And so the guest of honor arrives," Blazing proclaims loudly, "and she has brought a friend. Come down here, Choking, and join us in erasing the mistake, heh, that caused all this."
Darky stops hiding pointlessly and walks downstairs and directly towards Blazing, carefully examining his face. He stares her down without moving, small smile still gracing his lips.
Heh, Mistake would look away in the first second and blush profusely.
"Heavy, why are you here?" I ask the earthpony, resting after Mistake stopped pushing him back.
He wipes the sweat from his face, obviously enjoying the break in fighting.
"Blazing contacted me after our return from the Empire. He explained what happened during the Nightmare Night when he disappeared and showed me the true problem," he looks at Mistake, "The traitor, the murderer, the liar."
"Traitor? You DO realize the guy behind you sent a pony to assassinate princess Luna and the attempt would have killed Darky if it weren't for Valiant Charge. Murderer? Another one of his fanatics killed everyone in the Temple of Luna while attempting to get the sword Darky is holding. Liar? If this really is Blazing Light then he sent his own brother to die there!"
"What," Mistake looks at me, taking a shocked step backwards, "about my brother?"
"I'm sorry, buddy. I had to kill him. He came to the temple with the white sword and- YAAAAH!" I dodge as Mistake's sword misses my neck by a hair. I may have seen him sad, tired, cold, and even happy, but I've never seen him furious and the pink glow of his healthy eye screams a death sentence for me, "LETMEEXPLAIN!"
I roll another swing and catch a glimpse of Blazing's wicked grin.
"He attacked Darky!"
"He started it!"
"He stabbed her father!"
Quick draw of my battleaxe and a block.
"That guy," I point at Blazing, "sent him there without telling him having both swords would kill him. I just finished him off before he could kill all of us!"
"I LOOKED UP TO HIM! THE ONLY BUCKING MEMBER OF MY FAMILY WORTH SOMETHING!"
I have to let my axe go as a quick slash of the flying sword would have cut my hands off if I couldn't move fast enough.
"Buddy, I hate to break it to you but he was a dick."
I stop moving. Mistake hasn't attacked me physically which is his strongest point. I know his sword skill enough to know he would have killed me if he wanted to. I know he just wants to scream at someone for what happened but I know he knows he won't-
The sword stops at my neck, point pricking me through the feathers.
"Something happened to his magic when he picked both swords. It almost killed him so I used the only chance I had not to get killed by him. For what it's worth, I'm sorry but I would do it again. In the end he did the same thing the assassin did and exploded the entire area, killing Darky's family and probably some ponies in the houses around the place. We survived only because each one of us had one of the swords."
Mistake's sword moves lightning-fast to strike Blazing but gets blocked by Heavy's staff. I grasp my chance and charge Heavy myself.
A pair of phoenix wings sprouts from Blazing's back and they melt the sword aimed at him.
"Don't bother. I have gained more power than you can imagine and I will make you watch as all those who still believe in you break one by one."
I strike Heavy who jumps to the side, his trademark quick moves working wonders against my slow weapon.
As he tries to dodge another blow I shoulder charge him mid-swing and send him to the ground.
Lying. he has to block my next blow aimed at his head directly with his staff.
Like a woodcutter splitting a particularly thick log, I raise my axe in both hands and swing down. Heavy's metal staff breaks in two pieces but redirects my blow so the axe head buries itself throught the red carpet deep into the marble floor.
Unarmed, Heavy will be no match for my talons.
At least that's what I believe until he pulls his hind legs to his chest and bucks up, kicking me away and jumping up in one fluid movement.
Mistake grins despite the situation.
"Hey, I taught him most of what he knows. Don't underestimate him."
"No," Heavy objects calmly, standing on his hind legs with front legs ready to punch, "Blazing Light did."
I sparred with Heavy before but that was a matter of technique and style. Now I don't care anymore because the pony in front of me isn't my friend. He tries to block my swing but blood stains the carpet as I release the fist and just swipe with my sharp talons. I'm about as big as he is and his balance on all fours is lacking with his legs now bleeding. That, and he's exhausted from fighting Mistake for who knows how long.
That's why he can't possibly withstand my tackle which ends with him under me, his neck firmly in my talons, and his belly bleeding from the claws on my hind paws. I stand up, kicking him towards my goal - my battleaxe. I'm not a fighter, martial artist or whatever. Right now I just want to rip him to pieces. The red haze fades fast enough and I put one of my paws on Heavy's belly and swing the battleaxe at his neck.
Sparks singe the red carpet and Heavy's fur.
My axe got stopped by two crossed greatswords just above Heavy's neck.
Quickly, I look at Blazing who just stares at me, lack of interest apparent in his blue eyes. The situation makes sense as my gaze passes Darky, her guard belt still sliding to the floor, and ends on Mistake, the spiral of his black horn burning with bronze gleam. There is the similarity between him and Blazing, that glow that encompasses the hilts of the two swords, the spiral on Mistake's horn, and the color of Blazing's body.
The white blade flicks to the side and the wooden handle of my battleaxe splits into two. Deep in Mistake's eyes I can see a warning aimed at me.
I nod. He didn't come here alone just to lose one of his 'friends' this way.
"How... touching," Blazing laughs, "Well, I have no quarrel with you, griffon, so why don't you leave while you still have wings and legs."
I grab the twin blades still hovering above Heavy. As soon as I do the telekinesis holding them weakens and it's like tearing them out of mud. My goal isn't Heavy this time but the one responsible for this, the bronze unicorn.
A gust of fire from his reappeared wings breaks as I slice through it with the blades. I don't have the time to slash again because I have to guard against golden tentacles coming at me from all sides. A wide sweep cuts most of them but the second wave arrives before I can recover from the swing. As more and more tendrils bind my legs, wings, and go further, I throw both swords to Mistake. The golden magic covers me like a mummy, leaving only my head free, and squeezes hard.
"How do you like marmelade, Mistake? Heh, what a stupid name," Blazing snorts as I scream from the pressure, "Now give me the blades and I'll let him go."
"Why do you need them anyway since you're so powerful?" Mistake asks.
Blazing tightens the grip on me for a second and then releases it slightly just to hear me groan... probably for the fun of it.
"Heh heh heh. When you threw me through the portal I thought I was dead but, as you know well enough, it is hard to get rid of us. I absorbed the magic binding time and space, recovering my body. Every smallest noticeable splinter of time was filled with agony you can't imagine but I survived. I could kill you right here and now but that would be stupid. I want to make sure you NEVER come back."
"No!" I groan.
Squeeze. Pain. Coughing blood. One of the ribs must have finally broken and penetrated something.
"Let him go first," Mistake levitates the swords halfway to Blazing.
The tendrils unwrap from around me aside from the ones around my wings, legs, and arms. Warmth spreads through me as a different tendril harmlessly enters my chest and the paralyzing pain stops.
"I can give as well as take, griffon. You can join the rest of my friends. After all, if you could follow the killer what is stopping you from having a taste of the real thing..."
"Mistake is no killer!" I struggle against my bonds fruitlessly.
"Oh really?" Blazing closes his eyes and the lights in the room dim.
Six glowing dots appear on the ground around Mistake. The first one flickers and a lifelike image of a tall, sinewy batpony appears, causing three ponies to gasp.
"Sharp Biscuit," Blazing says coldly, "He taught you how to defend yourself so that Valiant Charge wouldn't kill you. He gave you your first kiss. He died when a barrage of projectiles sent by you shredded his body into bloody mess."
The second dot bursts and a white unicorn mare with purple mane appears.
"Rarity from your reality's mirror world," Blazing shakes his head, "You killed her while pretending to be Sombra's messenger just so her dragon mate left his ranks and you had a chance to get to the shadow king himself. You killed a pregnant mare in that cave."
The third dot lights up. A small, aging earthpony I've never seen before appears.
"Precious Gift, your mother," Blazing laughs shortly, "Do I need to say more? No. The worst mistake of your life is still haunting you. For once not a murder, just a kill in the heat of the moment."
I recognize the batpony popping from the fourth dot. It's Darky but her hind legs seems to be broken and badly healed and her wings are clipped in multiple places to be just a decoration.
"Choking Darkness from this reality's mirror world. Ruthlessly fed on by you until she was nothing more than empty husk. She will never recover despite Twilight's magic. Killing her might have been mercy but you don't know that feeling anymore, do you?"
Rainbow Dash is the fifth dot but because I met her personally I think this one might be from Mistake's reality.
"This poor mare, your first cold-blooded murder, had to die just so you didn't get caught after entering your mirror world for the first time."
The sixth one. A unicorn just slightly smaller than Mistake, bronze changeling plates covering his entire body and a red corset mimicking the belly plate of changeling queens.
"Blazing Light, a young unicorn Nightguard cursed by the changeling queen to become a monster. I was just there to enjoy the festivities in Ponyville and then my entire world turned upside down. The one murder," Blazing scowls, promising slow and agonizing death, "that you failed."
The swords levitated by Mistake are shaking.
"I wanted to give up when the eternity of pain started," Blazing growls, "to just stop fighting and disappear. I didn't know what or who you were then but all that kept me going was that I must never let Choking breathe the same air as you."
With tears pooling under Mistake I am shocked to hear:
Honestly, knowing him I thought he would break down. Noone could blame him, last weeks were too much.
"What?" Blazing asks harshly.
"I will not let you end my life. It doesn't belong to you and neither does it belong to me. It stopped being mine when I left Manehattan so my parents would never find my corpse," the two swords fly over to Darky and slide under her half-shredded belt. She sags slightly under the weight, "I almost pissed myself when I saw Sharp for the first time. Heck, a batpony for the first time. I believed the stories of my father that you were just a bunch of bloodthirsty rejects of the day. Then you came along and made me a coal-carrying colt. It was a purpose, something I've never known before, and just by that I knew I lived for you. You gave me the first chance of my real life and it's only yours to take away."
Bad idea, buddy. Very bad idea.
"THAT WAS ME!" screams Blazing. He calms down as Darky's hoof touches his side.
She struggles to pull the swords from under her belt and realizes she can hold only one, barely at that.
"How the heck do I do it?" she curses.
"You don't need to use them. You can use anything you want as long as you have the swords close to you," a defeated voice comes from Mistake.
Darky nods and takes a step forward. I struggle against my bonds again as blood freezes in my veins. Time slows down.
"End this nightmare, Choking, and you will be mine forever."
It's the twitch, the unnoticeable impact as the words hit Darky's mind. I try to decipher why my body is screaming at me that something is wrong. The obvious answer is the 'you will be mine' comment. The times when someone wanted her to be his ended up a tragedy.
Blazing has not called her Chokey a single time.
Every time Mistake talked about her he said he was hers.
This isn't the Blaze she knew and she finally realized it.
Blazing, in his gloating, doesn't notice the click as Darky's horseshoe blade slips out. He is so focused on Mistake that he doesn't notice her turning towards him. Not until the point where she buries the short blade into his neck and twists.
Now I can see the similarity between Blaze and Mistake though. The disbelieving expression on Blaze's face turning into acceptance is exactly the same as when Darky told Mistake she didn't feel anything towards him anymore. For Blaze it is the death at the hooves of his love. For Mistake just her words were as good as dying...
...and that time it was me who gave him a new chance.
Too soon, perhaps.
Blazing, gurgling and with small golden bolts of lightning dancing around him, kicks Darky hard and the swords on her back fly away as the force finally cuts her belt.
"I DON'T NEED YOU! I HAVE POWER! I CAN HAVE ANYPONY I WANT! I CAN MAKE BETTER YOU!" screams Blazing, resummoning the phoenix wings and making them cauterize his cut throat. I can feel the flames singe my feathers and fur as I run towards Mistake, ready to be his shield.
"Power?" Mistake says calmly, "You call that little trick power?"
A single purple-tipped, black ice crystal easily cuts through the fires, dousing the wings and hitting Blazing in the chest where it bursts into small black fire. Blazing's throat wound reopens and his power goes wild. As soon as I reach Mistake and take place between him and Blazing, I get shoved behind by an invisible grip, joining Heavy and Darky. Mistake's blackfire, no... blackfrost, wings spread wide and the wall of ice covers us.
The light is blinding but fades quickly. The ringing in ears stays a while though.
When everything seems to be over I peek my head out of our cover. The wings saved us but...
...spread wings can't cover their owner as well.
I breathe out when I see the two black and white greatswords crossed in front of Mistake.
The explosion evaporated the entirety of the building and a greater part of the gardens around the mansion. Only the four of us remain.
Mistake keeps sitting there, staring blankly at the floor, ehm, crater.
"Buddy," I lean to him and whisper.
He begins panically twitching his head from side to side.
"Cromach?" he lets the wings melt.
"Hey hey, it's over," I take his head into my talons to stop the nervous looking around.
"Is Chokey okay?" ignoring my talons, he turns around and looks at her, "Is she okay?"
He waves his hoof and claws until the mechanical arm hits my talons upon which he grips me tightly.
"Say something! Is she okay?" he asks again.
I wrap my hand around him to stop the shaking and looking around.
"Yes," I say, "She's alive and well."
I look into the pair of faded pink eyes.
The swords protected him against the magic of the explosion, against the impact of the explosion, but they couldn't protect him from the light of the explosion.
To confirm my suspicion I lean to his left ear.
"Let's go home, buddy."
Then I lean to his right one.
Yeah, he's still looking where my voice was. He is blind.
"Not yet," he says, "Chokey!"
"I'm here," she says quietly, looking at Heavy's wounds.
Mistake takes few steps to her but trips on a small piece of rubble and falls flat on his face.
"Chokey?" he looks around confusedly again.
"I'm here," she says, not even a claw's length away from him.
He stands up and almost pokes her with his horn chaotically swinging around.
"Calm down, you idiot," she rubs his ears with her hooves, "It's all right. Everything is fine."
The tension and panic disappear completely and once again I'm shocked at how much he trusts her after all she did. I could recount what happened, explain everything to him, but it still wouldn't even begin to approach the effect her simple words had on him.
I have no place here. He is, and will forever be, hers.
That's why, in absolute horror slowly turning into vast joy, I can only stare as Mistake pushes her away after a moment and begins stumbling back towards me. Well, completely the wrong way but as I step on a rock his ears twitch and he corrects himself.
I have to stop him from walking into me by softly scratching his chin.
"Let's go home," he nuzzles my hand.
Maybe I do have a chance.
Unable to help myself, I stick my tongue out at Darky and what I see brightens my day.
Suddenly, Mistake stops.
"My family?" he asks.
"It's all rubble and ash, the entire house and garden. I'm... sorry."
He just sighs, adding another notch to his guilt.
"Let's go home. Perhaps... perhaps they are on a vacation somewhere."
As serious as the entire situation is, I can't help but adore his little squeak as I sling him on my back along with the twin blades.
A glowing portal appears and a bunch of Royal Guards jump through.
"Princess Celestia's task force! Surrender immediate-lyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"
Unfortunately for them, whoever summoned the gate didn't account for a crater few ponies deep which gets filled rather snugly by armor, fur, and flesh. As bad as the Royal Guards are at storming places, they make a really comfortable bridge over which we walk through the gate.
We gave our report to princess Luna upon which I was promptly dismissed while Mistake recieved a medical check-up. With orders to go home and have a rest, I didn't stay there. The night of sleep was so bad I arrived at the morning practice first and had to wait for the other recruits to come.
"Rumors travel fast," I mutter to myself as I spot some of the recruits looking at me with newfound respect.
The training begins. Heavy Hoof, covered in bandages necessary with the lacerations I caused, arranges the physical exercises and we get going. I enjoy the working muscles stopping me from worrying.
Excited whispering wakes me up from pushup-induced focus.
As I look up as duo of ponies comes towards the training grounds. The whispers turn into snickering and uncontrollable giggling. I join in the laughter with no shame. Darky is leading stumbling Mistake slowly on a leash. That in itself wouldn't be a problem. What is sort of... troubling is the pink scarf around Mistake's neck and thick socks of the same color on his legs. The mechanical arm is blissfully uncovered, leaving him with a shred of dignity.
He must have spent the night at Darky's place. Well, pink on black isn't actually a bad color scheme whatsoever. What keeps me laughing is how well Darky's clothes fit him. At least the color doesn't bother him, right?
They walk directly to me.
"Hey!" Darky winks and the group of recruits explodes in cheers when she gives me Mistake's leash, "I giftwrapped him for ya."
You don't know what I went through to get this but I'll give you something to cheer for, guys.
In front of his friends, possibly a lover, random recruits, one of his changeling daughters, and a guy who tried to kill him once, I kiss him and don't let go until he gasps for air.
The jealous look from Darky says it all - the real battle begins.
Bring it on, bitch!
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