The Chase

Bucky Bitters struggles to escape the airborne affections of Derpy Hooves after a chance encounter caused them to bump noses together. His real mistake was trying to comfort the mare after the snoot-bump. Little does the poor stallion realise that their meeting was only the prologue to a journey that will change not only his life, but the lives around him forever.

This story is a sequel to The Catch

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A silent shadow moved through the Crystal Empire, followed by two figures. The shadow did not walk so much as it did glide, moving along in a semi-solid state as it slunk from shadow to shadow, moving from building to building, unseen by those rare brave few that walked the streets after dark.

Twilight Sparkle, with Shining Armor now wobbling along behind her, went unseen as well, the powerful aversion spells cast upon her and her brother made them both all but invisible. For somepony to see her, they would really have to be looking, as well as having enough willpower to overcome not only Bucky, but the force of Sombra’s will as well.

Still unsure of her own feelings, Twilight Sparkle remained resolute to her task. This was Sombra, but not Sombra, she told herself in a somewhat frightened mental voice. This was the good part of Sombra, the part of him separated by the Elements of Harmony, she reasoned internally. These were the best parts of Sombra, the redeemable parts. What made him great. Still, cold fear gripped her. She knew enough of Sombra’s history to be very, very afraid.

“If you are slowly killing Bucky, I’m going to come to Tartarus myself and have words with you,” Twilight Sparkle hissed as she followed after Bucky.

“No… I would never take more time from my beloved son… his time is too short as it is… he is already the walking dead. He lives on borrowed time,” Sombra replied. “It is regrettable… had I the means in my power, I would gladly give another thousand years of suffering in Tartarus to give him just ten more years of life for him.”

“Don’t tell me these things… I can’t bear to think of him suffering or dying,” Twilight whimpered.

“Nor I… yet every day for over ten years, I was forced to assume the form of his butcher… I was made to geld him, rip his wings off, eviscerate him, and leave him on that hook. You can’t even imagine the guilt I feel,” Sombra hissed.

You did that?” Twilight asked in an incredulous voice.

“I didn’t have a choice… I was made to do it… my beloved wife ran her mouth… she said things that she was not allowed to say… they punished her… they punished her and made me watch… I offered to take her torments… all of them… you don’t understand what it is like down there,” Sombra answered as his shadow form slithered forward.

“I see,” Twilight responded. “I’m sorry… that was noble of you… if Bucky… if Bucky had to endure that, I’m glad it was somepony that loved him that was doing it… that makes it a little better somehow… at least somepony cared about his pain.”

“Do not tell him. Please, do not tell him. He has suffered enough. You can scarcely comprehend what he endured down there,” Sombra requested in a pleading voice.

Ahead of them, the Crystal Tower shone in the darkness, illuminating the city around it. Sombra moved swiftly now, no longer caring about being seen. Nopony saw them as they passed, even as they moved through the light.

Shining Armor, having recovered some of his strength, trotted ahead of his sister and moved near Sombra. “It’s funny… the things we will endure for those we love.”

Sombra stopped and went still for a moment. Turning his head, he glanced at Shining Armor. “You do not yet understand the full meaning of those words, but you are about to find out.”

 

 

The chamber for the crystal heart thrummed with energy, a faint pulsating throb. It grew brighter as Bucky drew nearer, its luminescent intensity increasing, becoming brighter and brighter. The chamber filled with floating motes of light.

As Bucky stood beside the crystal heart, lightning arced and struck Bucky on the nose.

“I know I am unwelcomed… I am here to pay for my sins and offer compensation for my past evil,” Bucky said in Sombra’s voice as he stared up at the crystal heart.

Flashing, the crystal heart zapped Bucky again with a painful sounding crackle.

“I suppose I deserve that, but must you punish this body?” Bucky asked in Sombra’s voice as he stood there looking up. He stood watching as the heart flashed a few times and then dimmed slightly.

“You speak as though the heart can understand you,” whispered Twilight in a voice of befuddled curiousity.

Bucky turned to look at Twilight, his Taint filled eye flashing within his hood. “I made this. It holds a part of me. I gave it life… it has been dormant all of these years… if only you understood its true power.”

“I suppose we are about to find out,” Shining Armor said in a subdued whisper.

“Tonight we correct a mistake of mine and restore this city to its rightful glory,” Sombra whispered as he began to circle the circle heart. “We will need four wizards of the highest calibre-”

“FOUR?” Twilight Sparkle interrupted. “I knew something seemed off with that spell!”

“When this spell was first cast, only my brother Star Swirl and Clover the Clever were capable of such magic. I believe you call them type fours now. We will need four ponies to stand on each one of the compass points where the ley lines enter the chamber and intersect,” Sombra instructed.

“Four?” Twilight Sparkle repeated.

“Have you no grasp of time travel?” Sombra responded in a vaguely sarcastic voice.

“Well yes… but I… well… I-”

“You are entirely too much like my brother,” Sombra grumbled as he shook his head. “He once got lost inside of his own hat.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Twilight retorted.

“Sadly, I am not,” Sombra answered.

“How do you get lost inside of a hat?” Shining Armor asked as he blinked in confusion.

“Wizards these days. No grasp of time travel or extra dimensional spaces,” Sombra seethed as Bucky’s horn began to glow. “This horn… so much power… it is like the alicorn amulet I created but connected directly to his brain… such power... This body stays in such horrendous pain… the source of all of his dark magical might. It scares me how much power he has. I hope he never stumbles… please, look after him.”

Twilight had her eyes closed, trying to recall the time travel spell, her lips moving silently as she went through one of her recollection exercises.

“What do I do?” Shining Armor asked.

Turning to look at Shining Armor, Bucky pointed at the floor directly below the crystal heart. “You… stand right here and grit your teeth. I remember what this did to me.”

“Okay, this is going to hurt… I can deal with that,” Shining Armor said as he moved beneath the crystal heart. He stood resolute, ready, awaiting the fate he had chosen.

“Hurt? No… we are going to kill you for a moment and rip out a piece of your soul,” Sombra stated as Bucky’s horn continued to glow brighter and brighter, the blue-green glow of harmony magic now piercing.

Nodding, Shining Armor did not reply.

“Do you have the spell ready?” Sombra inquired as he looked at Twilight. He saw that the alicorn was lost in concentration and he patiently waited.

After several minutes, Twilight Sparkle nodded as she opened her eyes. She was serene. She was calm. Her face held no trace of emotion. Her eyes were white, her body was flooded with raw mana. Flames danced along her wings.

“NOW!” Sombra commanded as his horn flashed.

Twilight Sparkle’s horn flashed as well.

A moment later a second Bucky appeared and a second Twilight Sparkle popped into existence. They moved to the compass markers along the floor, filling the two vacant spaces. The four of them shot beams from their horns into the crystal heart, which burst into eldritch fire. The fire became a pillar that consumed Shining Armor, burning him to ash which whirled in the chambers, swirling in the air around them, caught in the vortex of magical energies.

Burning Shining Armor to ash was not a part of a plan.

A moment later, two of the figures vanished, and after that, Twilight and Bucky vanished, both going back in time to begin the spell. Of Shining Armor and the crystal heart, there was no sign…

 

 

Twilight Sparkle came back first, followed by Bucky. She staggered around the chamber, dizzy, almost blind, her horn spewing sparks as she tried to recover. Bucky fell to the floor, laying on his side, he remained as still as possible while he lay there groaning.

A tall white figure stood in the middle of the chamber. He looked around, blinking, and he slowly focused upon Twilight Sparkle. “Be still,” Shining Armor commanded as he took the weakened alicorn in his magic and held her up.

“Shiny? You look funny,” Twilight Sparkle mumbled as she squinted up at her brother.

Shining Armor was now tall, much taller than Twilight even, but not as tall as Celestia. He was gleaming white, a tall powerfully built figure with a crystalline appearance, and he glowed with a powerful inner radiance.

“Something went wrong,” Bucky moaned as he rubbed his head.

“No… something went right,” Shining Armor said in a gentle voice. “The spell finally worked as intended. When this spell was first cast, Sombra held a dark shadow in his heart even then… the spell failed. It worked, but not as intended.”

“How… how can you know this?” Twilight stammered as she stared up at her brother.

“I have become the Crystal Defender. The Crystal Heart and I have merged. We are now one. I can hear it speaking even now, telling me everything it knows… I can hear the ley lines whispering Twilight… I can feel them flowing through me,” Shining Armor answered.

“You feeling okay Shiny?” Twilight Sparkle asked, sounding more than a little panicked as she continued to study her brother.

“I feel fine Twilight… I feel better now. Much better,” Shining Armor replied as he released his sister from his magic. “I can feel the love Twilight. It is all I can feel. There is no grief, no sorrow, no misery or pain. There is only love.”

“What have we done?” Twilight whispered.

Shining Armor chuckled. “What Sombra intended to do. I will defend the empire until the Empress returns. I hope she is the Cadance I know… if not, then I will continue to serve the empire and guard the Empress that I still love. I am the living will of the Crystal Empire now. The crystal ponies and I have merged. We are the Crystal Collective. I hear their thoughts. They are aware of my presence. They gather, awaiting their defender but not knowing why. Finally, the last half of the spell cast long ago is completed. We are one.”

“Bucky, what did we do?” Twilight asked as she wobbled over to Bucky and lifted him from the floor. She reached out a wing and gently patted Bucky, trying to revive him.

“I don’t know,” Bucky replied as he was held aloft by Twilight’s magic. “The spellbook mentioned none of this… it seems we have succeeded where Star Swirl and Sombra failed.”

Shining Armor’s cutie mark had changed completely, much like Cadance’s had. It was now crystalline in appearance and it pulsed with inner light. His horn was long, no longer a unicorn horn, but a straight crystal spire, smooth, long, white, transparent, with a rose pink tip.

“Are you bound to the Crystal Empire?” Bucky questioned as he looked up at Shining Armor with a look of dumbstruck awe. Still unable to stand up on his own, he hung limply in Twilight Sparkle’s magic.

“No,” Shining Armor replied. “I am the crystal heart now. Wherever I go, its power comes with me. But I am strongest here. I did not have a dark shadow in my heart when the bonding took place. I was full of love and mindful of my duty. The crystal heart has accepted me entirely and completely. And before you ask… no… I do not know what this has done for my longevity. But I shall serve until such a time that I crumble into dust.”

“Shining… I don’t know what to say,” Twilight murmured as she took a step towards her brother. “I expected a change… but not this.”

“Sister… I love you… and what I am about to do pains me to no end… but I must ask both of you to leave. Both of you have borne the taint of dark magic. I can feel the will of the Crystal Collective. You are unclean... touched by evil. For the good of my empire, I must ask the two of you to leave and to never come back. You are banished from this place. I have looked into your hearts and seen the shadow deep within. Sombra has cleansed this place… his spell finally worked as intended. The darkness has finally been driven from the Crystal Empire, and as its defender, I will not allow for it to creep back in. Buckminster, former rightful Emperor of the Crystal Empire, you are banished. You will look after Cadance as the Fates have decreed until such a time that I come to collect her. If you ever return here, I will kill you, make no mistake. The love of this place will thoroughly obliterate you. The Crystal Collective has spoken. Now please go, both of you. I have my subjects to look after and there is much I need to do to restore order.”

“Shining… I love you… come visit me in Ponyville sometime… come and see Cadance,” Twilight Sparkle said as the tears began to flow down her cheeks.

“Yes Shining Armor… you are always welcome at my door,” Bucky said as he looked up at Shining Armor. “Do what is good and right. Be mindful of your duties.”

“I am sorry,” Shining Armor apologised.

“I’m not,” Twilight replied. “We all must play our part. You’re still my big brother, best friend forever… even if I can’t come visit you… come on Bucky… I know we’re both weak and weary, but we need to go. We must do what is right.”

“Shining Armor… Cadance would be proud of you I think,” Bucky said as he was carried out the door by a departing Twilight Sparkle.

“Goodbye Buckminster… do not return. You are not welcome here,” Shining Armor said as Bucky and Twilight exited. “This city will never again know shadow or darkness.”

 

 

 

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