Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls - FiMFetch.net (2024)

Episode 204: The Nitty Gritty

It wasn’t as if Rarity had been expecting Hell itself to be a picnic, but she was rapidly reaching a limit on just how much concentrated awfulness she was willing to tolerate within a single, twenty-four hour period. Or however long it had been since she had arrived in this filth encrusted city which, as far as she could tell, was actively trying to scrub any sense of decency out of the mindset of those who walked its streets. Few of the buildings crudely carved from stone had anything resembling doors or windows, aside from rough openings that rarely had any kind of covering. This meant that whatever debauched and depraved forms of fun local Sinners came up with to have in the “privacy” of their own homes was quite audible, and echoed across every street, lending the city an ever churning ambiance of screams and moans that hung in the air with every step.

Worse was the smell. Rarity didn’t know Tartarus’ population, but however many thousands might reside here, the city had nothing resembling a waste disposal system, nor bathing amenities. The pungent stink of so many humans cramped together with no way to deal with their own waste or clean themselves, combined with the regularity of violence spilling blood at any opportunity, created such a thick fog of overwhelming stench that Rarity had crafted a mask of finely woven crystal over her nose and lower face like a veil to attempt to filter some of it out. It... sort of worked, at least a little.

Setting aside the issue of Tartarus’ foul atmosphere, it was practically impossible for her to walk fifty feet without having to defend herself from some sludge-brained moron of a Sinner who didn’t quite seem to get the notion through their skulls that she was not to be trifled with! She kept a perpetual line of crystalline weaponry floating about her in a scarlet cloud, like a glittering and lethal school of fish. Whenever someone inevitably tried to jump her from the blood coated shadows of some alleyway, they were usually shorn into giblets or impaled before they got within ten feet of her. It was at the point she barely even looked at their faces as she went about her business, searching the cobbled together walkways of Tartarus’ westernmost habitation block.

She was in search of somewhere in particular, a place Cozy had told her of after Rarity had agreed to a few favors. Favors were, by and large, a potent currency among Sinners, as Hell lacked the kind of natural resources one could use to base any other kind of economy. At least, depending on how desperate one got. Rarity, as a new arrival, was still debating with herself just how desperate she was getting. Hunger and thirst assaulted her every minute now, so she surmised she’d been here long enough to truly be feeling the bite of her body’s desire for sustenance it could no longer find, but also no longer die from.

She believed she could stand up to the increasing pangs of agonizing need. Her resolve wasn’t about to break. She certainly wasn’t planning to assuage that pain in the manner Hell’s denizens did. Having seen it at the place Cozy and her so-called ‘Legion’ had carved out for themselves as a personal fortress, Rarity still felt queasy. Bereft of food or liquid of any normally natural kind, Rarity had swiftly discovered that Sinners took full advantage of the fact that their bodies regenerated and could not truly die. It disgusted her, but it seemed like if one spent enough time here, one might not balk so much at the origin of the meat one eats or what manner of liquid fills one's cup. The one thing the Sinners had in infinite supply was, horrifically, the meat and blood of their fellow Sinners.

She planned to escape this wretched place long before she ever got close to being that desperate. Hunger and thirst be damned.

After about the fifth attack of local, grubby ruffians that she left in shreds behind her, Rarity finally found what she was looking for. Cozy had described the location as a long hut of laced together bones, sitting under a cleared area beneath several swaying bridges between clusters of buildings, like a bleached out carcass left too long in the sun. Bone was used for plenty of decorations around Tartarus, Rarity noted, but few of the buildings themselves were formed wholly from it. Finally coming across the bridge in question, she looked down to see just such a hut. The bones were twinned together by straps of... well, it wasn’t cloth, and Rarity, with a resigned sigh, guessed it had to be skin. While most of the bones in the hut’s construction were human sized, she spotted a few that were larger, or more deformed, as if from something hulking or mutated.

Given she’d seen Hollows like Typhon here in Hell, perhaps others resided here that lacked a human form? She tried not to think too hard about it as she jumped down from the edge of the rocky cleft the bridge was strung along, and landed in front of the hut. A rather silly looking picket fence of bones surrounded the hut, and a post with a skull upon it had a slate of stone hanging from its mouth, with a sign carved into it.

‘Trespassers will be donating future construction materials!’

“Hmph, lovely,” Rarity said to herself, opening the little, creaking bone gate that led through the picket fence, and proceeded to approach the door. The door itself was mostly fashioned from lashed together leg bones, which Rarity knocked on a few times while allowing her flotilla of escorting weapons to hover a bit further behind her. She hadn’t bothered summoning her knights in force, but was ready to spring them out if this proved to be more trouble than it was worth.

There was a scrabbling sound from behind the door, along with a muffled, guttural muttering. Soon, one of the bones in the door slid aside and a single, irritated red eye peered out at Rarity. A voice as coarse as gravel said, “Did I not make the sign big enough, or is English not your language, lady?”

“Would you be named Ahgg, by any chance?” Rarity asked back, ignoring the man’s comments. The single red eye narrowed at her, and she heard a large body shift aggressively behind the door.

“If I am, who’s asking? Speak up fast, because I’m this close to deciding to add your bones to my increasing collection I’m using to make a summer home on the Fourth Layer.”

Rarity casually hovered some of her weapons closer, several blades flipping horizontal to aim at the door with a razor air of menace, “You’re welcome to make the attempt, but before we spend too much time posturing, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Rarity, and Cozy Glow told me where to find you. I am to understand that you owe her certain... favors.”

“...sh*t,” was the reply after a slow, poignant second. She heard the rattle of bones as something shifted behind the door and it opened a creak, showing a shadowed face attached to a hunched over, broad body, still cloaked in the hut’s gloom. “The f*ck does that pint-sized terror want now?”

“Ah, it isn’t what she wants, but rather what I want, dear fellow,” Rarity said, managing a diplomatic tone despite the fact that a part of her was eager to just get this business done with so she could return to the Legion’s base. Not because it was all that much better than the rest of the city, but because every second she left Blueblood there on his own, she worried something might happen to him. She still was far from trusting Cozy Glow, and her gang of micreants had not left the greatest impression.

Ahgg’s single red eye, set more in the center of his face than Rarity had expected, flickered over her with critical scrutiny, “You’re not one of hers, are you? Too clean. Too clean for Hell. You just got here. Heh... hahaha... did Cozy snatch you up, fresh from the Gate?”

“Something like that,” Rarity said, “Now are you going to let me in, or are we to conduct business here on your doorstep? I know we’re in Hell, but some manners would not go unappreciated, Mister Ahgg.”

“Drop the ‘mister’ crap, girl. I’m one of the least respectable assholes you’ll meet down here, and trust me, clean and frilly thing like you doesn’t want to see what I’ve got in my hut,” he said as he slipped outside the door to join her. Rarity only caught a faint glimpse of the hut’s interior as he did so, along with a wafting gust of scents form within, and she swallowed to keep bile down. There was a distinct smell of decay, but somehow mixed with a burning chemical air that made her nostrils twitch. She saw briefly what might have been tables lined with scraps of what she suspected were body parts and bones in various states of cleaning before the door closed behind Ahgg and she got a full look at him.

He wasn’t human. She wasn’t entirely sure what he was. Hollow? Perhaps, but she didn’t see anything resembling a conventional Hollow hole or skull mask. He had a body of soot black skin clad in rags that was probably someone else’s skin at one point or another. He had four legs and four arms, all ending in clawed points, save for the two uppermost arms that ended in more conventional “human” hands. His broad body bore a head of brutish countenance, with a mouth jutted out with large, white tusks. A single red eye burned from beneath a furrowed brow, his head topped with short, fuzzy black fur.

He held his body in a hunch, but once outside he straightened up to a height that towered a good two feet above Rarity’s head height as he crossed his arms and looked down at her, “So get on with it, girlie, and quit staring at me. You’re making me self conscious.”

“Apologies. I have never seen someone quite like you, so don’t take my staring as rudeness, merely surprise,” she replied, rubbing her chin for a moment before taking the crystal mask off that she’d made to handle the city’s smells, “Would it be terribly rude of me to ask just what you are?”

“Yes, but considering I’ve deboned assholes for trying to break into my home or take a crack at me on the streets, good ol’ curiosity is a lesser offense so I’ll cut you some slack,” Ahgg said, cracking his neck slightly as if unused to standing at his full height, “I’m a ‘Fomorian’. And no, ain’t shocking you haven’t seen my kind around, if you were human. My folk call the Beast Realm home...”

A dark, ugly surge of anger crossed his face like a storm, not directed at Rarity, but she could hear the murderous vitriol in his words, “Where I should’ve gone after croaking, but certain folk had other ideas about where I belonged, so here I am. So, backstory sh*t aside, what do you want from me? Or rather, why’d the tiny-tot-of-terrible send you?”

While she was deathly curious to inquire more about just how Ahgg ended up in Hell, considering her own experience with the Zero Division and knowing they were the only ones with the ability to decide who ended up here, Rarity decided to focus on the matter at hand, “I’m given to understand that out of Tartarus’ residents, you are the one with the most experience in exploring the lower Layers, yes? The territories claimed by the likes of Typhon and Cerberus?”

Ahgg’s posture stiffened, and Rarity felt the way he began to pick at her even more critically with his gaze. His eye shifted to her still floating weapons, and there was a pin-prick of sensation across her skin as she felt his reiatsu slowly stir, probing at her. There was an undercurrent of fear, carefully layered under a tone of indifference in his voice, “Might be I do. People think Hell’s got nothing to give, but you dig deep enough, in the right places, you can find all sorts of useful sh*t. So yeah, I’ve gone down a few Layers, scuttled about here and there. It’s why me and Cozy have our arrangements.”

“Yes, she did tell me that some of the more unusual amenities her Legion enjoys is the result of your work,” Rarity said, “Which is why she directed me to you. You see, I have a keen interest in going to the lower Layers myself, and am in need of information from someone who’s already been there, so I won’t be going in blind.”

To this, Ahgg made a wet, gutter noise in the back of his throat that took Rarity a few moments to realize was derisive laughter, “Pffhaha! Look, girlie, I can tell you’ve got a bit of power, what with those pretty looking pokers you’ve got floating around. I mean, you walked here to my hut in one piece, so you must be able to handle yourself against the average, brain-dead Sinner. But the lower you go in Hell, the worse it gets. The Kushanada get more aggressive, and bigger. The environmental hazards go from inconvenient to downright torturous. And that’s nothing to say about the fact that you’ve got the Lower Lords like Typhon and their crew down there, who don’t respond well to strangers in their neck of the woods. So knowing all that, the f*ck you want to go down there for?”

“I believe the proper phrasing is that it's ‘my own damn business’ why I want to go there. The more pertinent question is what will it take for you to agree to guide me as far into Hell’s depths as you are presently able to go?”

“Cheeky ass response for a girl who clearly doesn’t know what she’s asking,” Ahgg used one long, greenish tongue to lick one of his tusks, his single eye still measuring her, “When I go down into the bowles of this festering cyst of a realm, I only go alone. Looking after some teen f*ckwit with hash for brains is exactly the kind of thing that’d get myself into trouble I don’t need. You looking for a guide? Ask somewhere else.”

He turned to rip open the door of his hut in a crunching rattle of bones, but as he did so Rarity cleared her throat and said, “Cozy Glow told me you’d be difficult about this, so informed me to pass along the message that if you do this for me, she’ll consider your debt fully cleared.”

Ahgg froze in place as if struck by a binding Kido. His single red eye flicked back towards her, even as the rest of his body remained paralyzed in place. An unsteady note entered the Fomorian’s voice, “Is that her exact words? Fully cleared? I won’t owe her anything else after this?”

“That was what she said. You tell me what she meant by that,” Rarity said with a curious shrug, “I don’t know what went on between you two or what arrangements existed before this. I’m merely passing along what she told me when she sent me your way. I gather she must have done something significant to garner your debts to her?”

Ahgg, with clear reluctance, closed his door again, turned around, and leaned his rather broad bulk against his hut, “Could say that. Little bitch has a way of getting her hooks into you. Consider that a fair warning to you, girlie. Don’t toy around with Cozy Glow. She’s got a talent for getting what she wants.”

“Well, so do I,” Rarity replied, “But I’ll take the warning to heart. At the moment my choices of allies are too slim for me to be picky.”

“Which, nothing against you girlie, doesn't much add up to me,” Ahgg said, pulling himself back up and scratching his thick skulled head, “My debts to Cozy still run pretty deep. Doesn’t make sense to clear them just to help you out. What’s in it for her? What are you to her?”

Very good questions, and ones Rarity didn’t have anything other than theories on. Theories she wasn’t precisely eager to share. Ahgg seemed to be dealing with her fairly enough, but it wasn’t as if she had much reason to trust him beyond the necessity of relying on his knowledge as a guide. From the sound of things he wasn’t strictly in Hell due to misdeeds so much as the possibility of having gotten on the wrong side of the Zero Division. Very curious, but Rarity wasn’t yet willing to broach that subject, nor share her speculation on Cozy Glow’s motivations for being so helpful.

“I imagine she thinks I can be useful to her,” Rarity ventured with intentional vagueness, “Bolster her Legion, perhaps.”

“You?” Ahgg said, still looking at her as if he couldn’t gaze past her exterior as a teenaged girl in a dress, no matter how blood splattered said dress was at this point.

“I’m stronger than I look, darling,” Rarity said, flashing a smile, “If anyone accosts us on the way back to Cozy Glow’s stronghold, I’ll happily demonstrate just how strong.”

“It’s Tartarus. It’s Hell. Someone is always going to accost you. Eh, I’ll get my cloak. Ugh, because of course I have to go sort this sh*t out with Cozy, and make sure she isn’t trying to scam me,” Ahgg said, shaking his head, “Hold on while I go get dressed. Hate leaving my house.”

“I’ll wait right here, darling, taking your time,” Rarity said, feeling relaxed and fairly patient now that it looked like things were moving along. There was an increasing anxiety in her chest, like gray claws digging in slowly through the hard exterior of her outer calm. She needed to get herself and Blueblood out of this place. She had to escape, no matter the cost. Not only were her friends and family waiting for her, enduring who knew what trials and dangers, but the longer she stayed in Hell the more she felt worried she’d begin to lose parts of herself.

The mere fact that her Sinner power had manifested into such a distinctly selfish ability was a hook in her heart. She hadn’t quite gotten the image of Blueblood, drained and weakened by her chains, out of her mind.

Nor had she ignored the fact that she was willing to cut down Hell’s residents with such brutal ease. Sure, they would get right back up due to the nature of Hell, but she didn’t think it was a sign of anything good going on in her psyche that she hadn’t even bothered to clean the blood off of her clothing yet. She’d only been here a few days at most and it was already changing her in ways she didn’t like. Rarity would scour Hell’s very depths and face down Typhon and Cerberus both if it meant getting even one step closer to escape...

Perhaps that’s why Cozy is being so helpful. She knows I’m going to try to escape, so on the off chance I succeed, she’s probably planning an escape of her own.

Rarity wasn’t sure how she felt about that prospect. On one hand, she felt a bit of sympathy for the child, born into this ugly place. She couldn’t even imagine what Cozy’s existence here must have been like. How could any child grow up in Hell as a well adjusted, mentally stable human being? Yet for that very reason it was clear Cozy Glow was not the kind of person to either be wholly trusted, nor allowed to walk freely into the world of the living.

Chances were, come the end of this road she found herself on, Rarity was going to have to make a less than pleasant choice concerning Cozy Glow.

“Alright, let’s get this over with!”

Rarity nearly jumped as Ahgg came back out from his hut amid the sound of bone rattling and clinking... metal? Rarity looked at him, surprised to see the accouterments the Fomorian had equipped himself with. He wore a leather harness that Rarity had a bad feeling she didn’t want to know the origin of, but it also held up an equally unpleasant set of leather satchels and a huge knapsack over his broad back. Bones of various lengths dangled from the harness and poked from the sacks, including a trio of skulls that hung from a bandolier over his chest. The metal clinking came from several tools hitched to his knapsack, including a huge and spade-headed shovel and an iron pick nearly as large as Rarity’s own height. A dark, hooded lantern of metal and a set of chains dangled from his side belt, and on his other hip was a wide cleaver blade that appeared freshly sharpened.

“I didn’t think so many metal tools were readily available in Hell,” she commented, to which Ahgg sputtered out a low laugh.

“There aren’t, but you’re looking at one of the few people in Tartarus that can both get at some of Hell’s rare veins of reishi ores, but can also forge it into something better than sh*tty pokers or pots. My talents don’t come cheap, either, so while Cozy may be offering to clear my debts, I’m thinking you, me, and her are going to have a long talk about just what this little trek into Hell’s lower Layers is going to cost.”

“Let’s not waste time then. Time is... well, not money, obviously, but too valuable to spend pointlessly,” Rarity said, turning and easily vaulting up out of the stony chasm and back up to the ledge she’d descended from earlier. Ahgg watched her go, her cadre of floating weaponry following her, and rubbed his chin for a second before making a leap that took him to the cliff. There, his pincer arms and human capped hands dug into the stone and he climbed up as readily as any spider might.

“You like to show off a bit, eh, girlie?” he said, reaching the top to join her.

“Why do you ask? Was merely leaping out of a chasm so impressive?” she shot back with a coy raise of her eyebrow, briskly walking along. She wasn’t joking about not wasting time. Idle chatter was fine by her, but they’d be walking as they talked.

“Nah, more talking about all those fancy pig-stickers you keep floating around you all the time. Got a feeling you don’t actually need them out, and you’re just doing it to scare off trouble.”

“Hmm, if I really wanted to make an impression I’d be more... grandiose about it,” Rarity said simply. Honestly she’d been tempted to. Just open up her gate and let the Court of the Generous Rose march in full knightly procession down the streets of Tartarus. She’d like to see the local gangs and murder-hobos of Hell try anything against her full army of knights, her marching at their head astride her crystalline pegasus construct.

But she wasn’t here to stir up trouble. She wanted out, simple as that. Fighting turf wars with the local gang leaders was not her idea of well spent time, however much Cozy Glow seemed to think it was inevitable that Rarity would get targeted. So she’d opted to try to at least keep something resembling a lower profile while meeting with Ahgg, and hoped equally to avoid trouble on the way back to Cozy Glow’s stronghold, which was located on the north eastern habitation block.

Her hopes withered as she noticed the abrupt lack of people nearby. On her way to Ahgg’s hut she’d seen no shortage of Sinners flitting about the streets or watching her from behind the openings to their dwellings. On the central block she’d even passed an entire courtyard given over to Sinners engaging in violent play with each other, using one another’s heads as balls in some manner of game the rules of which she neither tried nor wanted to grasp.

Yet as she passed by that same wide courtyard of bloodied stone, the hoops of bone used for ‘scoring’ in that game now standing empty, she noticed not a soul about. It was frightfully quiet, and only after taking a few more cautious steps forward did she notice the fog.

A thin gray mist trailed along the ground of the courtyard, growing thicker by the step, until the air grew into a haze thick as soup. Rarity paused, no longer able to fully make out the buildings around her save for their vague black shadows in the fog. Beside her, Ahgg grunted and put a hand on his cleaver.

“Well sh*t, you really did catch the eye of a heavy hitter...”

Rarity glanced at him, as it was clear Ahgg recognized the nature of the fog now surrounding them, “And who, pray tell, am I about to have to deal with?”

Her words were answered by a distinct and pointed *clack* of noise. One after another, at a steady pace, this sound of wood on stone clacked, the noise echoing across the fog with muted eloquence. Rarity frowned, peering ahead through the fog as a figure of darker gray emerged from the wall of mist, each step punctuated by that piercing clack of wood.

A cane of black wood touched the stone, capped with a silver fox head, and held in the gloved hands of a tall, lanky man dressed all in black. Rarity blinked, surprised to see someone dressed in actual finery rather than the savage norm of Hell’s Sinners. His suit was immaculate, as was the mantle of his long, elegant black cloak. A similarly dark top hat graced his head, which had a smooth and shoulder length spill of black locks frame his face. His features were pale as a specter and almost as gauntly skeletal, with a razor of a nose and chin that seemed to compliment the sharp blue of his eyes.

When he spoke, it was with the crisp, posh accent of a British gentleman.

“Good evening, my fair lady. I would like to have a moment of your time if you could be troubled to spare it.”

----------

Hydia laid about left and right with her fire-poker of a Zanpaktou, puncturing eyes, gaping toothed grins, and cotton candy clawed limbs with every movement. She was a big woman, but Hydia made it work with a penchant for rolling with her rotundness in a manner that gave her a powerful momentum, like a boulder ever tumbling downhill. A hundred Pinkie Pies of grossly stretched and frightening proportions and visages assailed the Espada from all sides amid the ghostly pink flickers of neon light in the horrid, phantasmal circus.

Limbs like gnarled tree branches in shadow sliced and diced with claws as gleamingly sharp as razor wire, and Hydia felt the bite of them on her flesh even as she pulped clone after clone in a welter of gore. Yet even the gore was not real, a part of the nightmare realm, for blood and guts ran into tendrils of sickeningly pink mist that became clones afresh, all giggling and wailing like a chorus of damned souls.

It was impossible for Hydia to even grasp her position in the three-ringed horrorscape, nor where the real Pinkie Pie was amid the horde of her conjured terrors. Every flash of strobing neon light revealed little, and only in snippets. The string of wire upon which a gratingly cackling Pinkie rode a unicycle, juggling lit explosive sticks of dynamite that tumbled down around Hydia, forcing her to barrel through the horde of zombie mouths as pink detonations of neon flame hammered the circus. Or the similarly laughing Pinkie spinning upon a giant wheel adorned with hatchets, knives, and chainsaws that then flew out like a storm of serrated death, making Hydia drop to the ground lest she be torn to the bone. Each flicker of lights, a new danger, ever surging with more of the salivating maws of the Pinkie clones, thorny teeth gnashing as they laughed.

Even moving quickly was made difficult, for Sonido itself seemed to have lost its potency in this place. Every time Hydia tried to rely on such Hollow-born speed, it was as if her feet got stuck in mud, the air cloying and thick, slowing her. A sensation familiar to anyone who’d had a genuine night terror. Indeed, fear was coiling itself around Hydia’s heart, unnaturally so. Her mouth, wide and frog-like, drew in sharp breaths as she rammed her Zanpaktou through one clone, only to find another clamping sharp teeth and claws on her arm.

Hydia shrieked, and flung with all her not-inconsiderable strength, sending the cackling clone bowling through her fellows with a literal burst of clanking sounds like a strike of pins at a bowling alley. Phlegm on her lips, Hydia spun around and drew forth her poisonous might, exuding a fog of thick, violet gas from her armpits while shrilly crying, “Alright, done being nice about this! Gonna melt all of you super-freaks with enough toxin to boil your whole menagerie, Pinkie Pie!”

“Ooooh!” echoed Pinkie’s voice from somewhere in the strobing lights of the dark circus, rising over the howling chorus of her clones, “I like your energy, Hydia! We’re having so much fun, right!? Let’s crank up the fear and see how crazy we can both get, hahahaha!”

Hydia grimaced, but continued to exude her filth of deadly poisonous gas. Even if the clones didn’t have nervous-systems, per se, it was irrelevant to Hydia’s poison. It was corrosive to the bonds of reishi itself, and as she expected, clones by the dozens began to bleed away and melt into piles of choking and coughing mush under the touch of her gas. As much as this warped space of manifested terror was an issue, Hydia felt like she’d be fine if she could just fill it all up with enough poison to weed out the real Pinkie Pie, wherever she was hiding.

Yet no more than a few seconds later, after her gas had swallowed up hundreds of the giggling, melting clones, Hydia felt a sudden splash of cold water as scores of sprinklers activated across the darkened rooftops of the circus and began to drench the area in a torrent of water far more intense than any conventional sprinklers should be capable of. It was a true flood, and to Hydia’s immense horror, she began to see bubbles fill the air as a few dozen clones that had been further back in the shadows of the circus’ outer rings all laughed uproariously as they dragged in and upended cartons of powder detergent the size of vending machines!

“Oh hell no!” Hydia shouted, bouncing back as the detergent and torrential rain of sprinkler water combined to form a horrifying wave of soapy doom! The flood of unnatural cleanliness hammered through her poison fog and swept Hydia up, her mouth open in a silent scream of bubbles as she was swirled around wildly. She felt the wretched soap cleansing her pores and with deep seated fury, Hydia gripped her fear and hammered it outward in a belching Cero.

Her belly bulged and her throat followed suit, glowing purple as she opened her maw wide and vomited out a booming burp of a Cero that she used to blast the tide of water around her in a blast of destruction. She was tossed backwards by the force of the Cero as well, and rolled across the circus floor in a dizzy spin until she wobbled to her feet, brandishing her Zanpaktou.

“Nope! Not screwing around with this anymore! Covering me in suds is where I draw the line, kid! You’ve just went and hacked me off royally.”

“Aww, scared of a little bathy wathy?” said Pinkie’s tone, half-joking, half-threatening, voice gaining a static grain to it as a pink shadow began to swirl around Hydia amid the neon lights that still flashed with erratic strobes. Pinkie’s body was all but invisible amid the lights and shades, but her eyes had grown to shades of manic pink and Hydia could see the girl’s mouth stretching impossibly to a rictus grin of teeth like a titanic shark as she laughed.

A hundred hands of warped spindle claws dressed in jester motley assembled an arsenal of comically huge yet horridly deformed cleaners, spray bottles, liquid dispensers, and aggressively sharp soap bars, as if Hydia was about to be pummeled and dissolved into acidic clean.

“Who’s afraid of a little bit of HYGIENE!” Pinkie’s distorted voice howled, and Hydia, terrified as much as she was enraged, tried to dodge as one massive bar of soap the size of a sedan and shaped like an axe hammered her gut and crushed her to the ground with earth shattering force.

She rolled away from a flood of liquid pink cleanser that sizzled across the ground, then Hydia looked up as an aerosol bottle bigger than her head aimed right at her face with spray of sweet smelling air purifier. Hydia let out a bellow as the terrible stuff burned her eyes and felt like it was corroding her skin, Hierro be damned. Nothing made sense in this circus of madness, but Hydia knew that it had to work no differently than when Pinkie had been simply cracking jokes. It was a spiritual power, grounded in reishi.

Hydia just had to rip it apart with an even greater amount of spiritual pressure.

So, amid her pain, nightmarish cleaning products assaulting her from all sides, Hydia inverted her grip on her fire-poker Zanpaktou and proceeded to open her mouth to extend her tongue around it. The Zanpaktou appeared to start to melt as noxious purple fumes rose from Hydia’s mouth and dissolved the weapon into her as she uttered the phrase, “Degenerate; Alcantarilla.” (Cesspool)

A thick sludge akin to mucus and the rancid pale white of a corpse grew from every pore on Hydia’s body. The slime expanded like living putting around her, enshrouding her body in a ever widening growth of putrid liquid that further exuded a toxic spiritual pressure that took the form of a gaseous purple aura. Pinkie’s assault of cleaning products all but melted in this aura, and even the shadows drew back from Hydia as her form continued to change.

From the nodule of pulsating white muck, like some living fungus, long trunks began to form, extending outward then down to slam into the ground with solid ferocity. Like drying mud the white sludge hardened, shaped into five long, legged limbs ending in clawed, four fingered feet, each attached to a central mass that continued to bubble and pulsate as it, too, grew in size. This center mass grew definition as a mollusk-like bulge formed at its top, growing further to form an almost conical rise of twisted tubes that poured forth thick streams of gas so darkly purple as to be nearly black. From the crest of this mass thick, flabby limbs that also bulged with muscles sprouted, and Hydia’s face, stretched to an even more toad-like width, her eyes grown large and bulbous as beach balls, grew forth as if melded with the rest of her body. With a wet ripple, her mouth spat out an even larger version of the fire-poker she’d been using, only this was a ten foot long, thick pole of bone white, dripping mucus and steaming with toxic fumes which she now clutched in her meaty hands.

“Auuuwaaggh...” she either groaned or yawned in a voice warbling with phlegm, “That’s the stuff! I feel so much better in this form. Even my Groggykin couldn’t improve on this perfection, ghehehe!”

There was a momentary stillness and silence from the deep shadows of the surrounding Circus of Terror, and somewhere amid that ink dark, the faint rustle of Pinkie Pie shrugging could be heard as the girl called out, “You know, I’m not one to judge. Whatever you’ve got going on, Hyds, you seem to be making it work for you. I mean, you do kind of look like a weird modern art project that then got dunked in a vat of bird poop, but if this is what you like, who am I to say it’s fugly?”

“See, kiddo, you get it! My body is a damn temple to self-assurance and acceptance, and soooo many people just go ‘Oh, that’s so hideous! You look like a monster!’ Pffft! Please! I’ve seen too many ‘beautiful’ people with personalities like a pile of dogsh*t. As if washboard abs or a titanic rack mean diddly if your brainpan is made of tar.”

There was a rattling shift amid the shadows of the circus, as if dozens and dozens of feet were shuffling and rearranging a theater set, while Pinkie’s voice seemed to echo from around Hydia’s transformed body, “I bet if you weren’t trying to kill us, we’d get along great! Buuuut you are, so gonna have to keep the knives out, Hyds! I really dig your body positive attitude, though, so nothing personal!”

Hydia felt the ground beneath her five new, deadly clawed feet rumble, and then she heard a cracking noise as the circus literally crumbled out from under her and the Esapda found herself tumbling down what looked like the spiral plastic chute of a funhouse slide! However at the bottom of this slide, a pile of pink mist formed into a gigantic version of Pinkie Pie’s head, yet split by a massively wide mouth of razor teeth that began to chomp rapidly like a steel rock crusher!

“To show how accepting I am, I’ll nom you, like a tasty treat!”

“Hah! Not this time, Pink Menace!” Hydia cackled, digging her massive poker blade into the floor of the slide, ripping through it as if it was sheet metal howling. Her five clawed feet dug in as well until she had braced her massive body along the chute, and then with a gesture of one of her thick hands, she conjured blasts of poison cloud from the protrusions on her back. “But if you’re hungry, I got something yummy to chew on! Have a taste of my Asesinato Fragante! (Fragrant Murder)

The miasma of incredibly dense poison gas, like malignant purple tar, poured forth down the chute, corroding the very spiritual essence of Pinkie Pie’s Fullbring as it went. Anything the gas touched rotted like dying flowers, and Pinkie’s giant head made a loud ‘eep!’ noise as it vanished in a puff of pink smoke to avoid the spearing cloud of murder gas.

“Ghehehe! What’s the matter!? Not so eager to bite down on my tuckus now, are you!?” Hydia laughed with a belly rumbling bellow, only to find gravity shifting as the chute suddenly upended and shook like a giant hand had grabbed it and was trying to dislodge a spider from a shoe, “Whoa! H-hey! Cut it oooouuuut!”

She was forcefully dislodged, but Hydia’s reflexes were boosted in her Resurreccion form, and despite the ungainly, strange bulk of her new body she spun herself with rather unusual elegance as she popped out of the chute and fell towards the ground. She landed, once more in the middle of the familiar nightmare circus, only this time instead of a horde of zombie Pinkie Pies waiting for her, it was a series of reflections. Towering around her were warped mirrors, a funhouse maze that took Hydia’s shape and distorted it further into a collage of stretched and squished shapes.

“You think this impresses me!?” Hydia called out, her five legs stamping forward as she lunge through the mirror maze, smashing left and right with one meaty fist and the blunt butt of her poker blade. Mirrors smashed as she went, and she hissed as the glass shards leaped like crazed piranha, gaining sharp mouths that snapped at her body.

Hydia’s Resurreccion’s form was built tough, however. Not as tough as Torch, perhaps, but what her bulky form lacked in speed it certainly made up for in resilience. The hungry, living glass shards tore little chunks from her thick, white armored hide, but in most cases failed to penetrate deep. Hydia spat as her back heaved and more of her Asesinato Fragante gas poured forth to start melting glass shards like bits of broken candy under a summer sun. “Gonna need to try harder than this to scare me, now, Pink! In this form, I can rip this little circus of yours to pieces, bit by bit, until I find your ass and give you a direct dose of my toxic bliss. You’ll just die laughing, ghahaha!”

She was aware that Pinkie’s Fullbring was distorting space, the question was by how much? Was she still inside the rough area of Guto’s arena, or had this crazed circus literally created some kind of subspace pocket, like a Negacion? Hydia knew that as long as this space had some manner of limited border, then she could eventually fill it to the brim with her poison gas. Assuming Pinkie didn’t have some way to vent things from her Fullbring’s space she didn’t want in it, or that this wasn’t all some illusion. But Hydia was no stranger to fighting those with unusual powers, both Soul Reapers and Quincy alike had their own curveballs to throw and Hydia had survived centuries despite being among the lower rungs of the Espada.

Because her Asesinato Fragante was made up of her reishi, she was attuned to it and could use it as a means of expanding her senses, not simply as an offensive tool. She let it spread out low to the ground, filling through the countless twists and turns of the mirror maze. Hydia didn’t give the faintest fart about actually navigating the maze, because she was just going to smash her way through it, but she did want to find Pinkie Pie. Because the damn circus was made entirely of Pinkie’s spirit energy, it all radiated her reiatsu, which made pin-pointing her via Pesquisa alone nearly impossible.

With hefty blows Hydia began to barrel through mirror after mirror, surrounding herself in a thick mantle of her toxic gas so any of the biting shards of glass melted before severely damaging her. Her momentum built as her elephant sized body crunched through the maze like a bulldozer. Cackling, Hydia barreled onward, until up ahead the next mirror showed not her own reflection, but the blindingly clear image of her two daughters.

Reeka and Draggle looked at her without the usual simple devotion Hydia was used to, and instead had lines of disappointment and disdain etched on their faces as their images turned their backs on Hydia, vanishing further into the depths of the mirror.

Instinctive fear clutched at Hydia for a moment before fresh rage lit a fire in her chest and she took her fire-poker blade in both hands and smashed the mirror with three times the force she’d used before, “Don’t you dare use my kid’s images against me!”

Pinkie’s voice skittered over the shadows, not quite toned normally, as if somehow muted and reflective, “I don’t tell the Circus what to show those trapped inside, Hyds. But just like Laughter, Fear is an instinctual thing that rumbles right into your gut, primal as it gets. What are you afraid of, Hydia?”

Her eyes darted left and right rapidly as Hydia tried to spread her poison gas further, growling as she tried to pin down Pinkie’s location. She felt the walls of dense violet poison rushing beyond the edges of the maze, the mirrors melting away, but aside from the wide three-ring circus grounds she couldn’t sense anything. At least, not until with a loud click a wide, neon pink spotlight illuminated the center ring, where a stage of wood painted in a kaleidoscope of colors rose. Upon it Pinkie Pie stood with her spiked hammer twirling in her hands, the bells of her jester outfit clinging with a chorus of rings like laughter. The mask on half of her face remained black, her one visible eye glowing yellow in the shadows.

“Little something I learned from Mena is that if you can’t figure out how to live with your fears, you won’t be able to laugh like you mean it.”

“Ghahaha! You want to lecture me, kiddo!? I’ve never been afraid of anything! I live life how I want, and piss on those who’d try to judge me.”

She reared up, raising three of her legs that were facing Pinkie Pie. From within the gnarled palms of these clawed hands, holes opened up like slick orifices, and from them jetted a trio of nearly tar black poison streams. Pinkie Pie leaped up into the higher reaches of the circus tent’s ill-defined shadow space as the toxic sludge streams melted through the stage. Hydia flung her arms upward, crisscrossing poisonous rivers through the air at Pinkie’s flitting form.

Like some ephemeral, pink ghost Pinkie just kept blurring amid the dark perimeter of the circus’ big top, and Hydia snarled at how readily the girl could slip away like a puff of smoke.

Pinkie’s giggle bounced around the air from all directions, leaving Hydia further unable to pin-point her.

“You sure do! But I gotta wonder if that’s for real, or if you’re putting on a brave face. I used to do that all the time.”

Rolling masses of liquid pink and darkly crimson energy flowed around the circus, growing into jagged tendrils that formed into a landscape of gnashing, sharp teeth that speared towards Hydia. She felt Pinkie’s erratic reiatsu inside these tendrils, and a little taken aback by the direct attack, Hydia coiled her poison fog around herself and swirled the Asesinato Fragante about her in a scything motion. With terrifying slams the tendrils lashed upon her, three from the left, another four from her right, and a single wide with with its mouth gaping as broad as a garage door as razor teeth spun. Hydia’s boiling fog melted most, but the top one forced her to use her pitchfork to jam into the terrible mouth and keep its pink saliva at bay. She felt several other tendrils bite into her legs, the Hierro armor holding but pain cracking through her.

Hydia grunted and heaved with her arms, ripping the tip of her pitchfork through the giant mouth above her, then she skittered back, throwing her left arm out and two of her lower legs. More black, toxic sludge battered the growing mass of Pinkie Pie’s tendrils, while in Hydia’s palm a swirl of purple smoke condensed and bloomed with destructive light as she charged a Cero that she then fired in a wide sweep at the walls around her.

“Nope! Nope! Nope! Not playing any mind games today, Pink! Don’t want no damn therapist and even if I did, you’re not on the top of my list for people I’d choose as my personal shrink! Going to blow up this whole damn freak show now!”

Suddenly beneath her she felt something rise with the force and speed of a rocket launch, and Hydia found herself getting impacted in her lower gut by a giant sofa that then flipped her over until she landed on top of it on her back as it slammed back to the ground. Suddenly the mass of Pinkie’s tendrils pulled back, with one of them, still salivating at the mouths, held a notebook and pen up to Pinkie herself, who appeared in a tacky pink suit and wearing glasses as she pretended to take notes.

“Mmmh, yes, I see, so let us unpack how that makes you feel. Does the idea of confronting your fears, in and of itself, generate fear?”

Hydia blanched, her bloated face screwing up even more into a sour grimace, “I thought you were done with the comedy bit and going for ‘fear’ now?”

Pinkie adjusted her fake glasses and giggled, “Fear and Laughter are two halves of the same balloon. Besides, I thought you were afraid of therapists?”

“This is admittedly the most horrifying thing that’s happened yet in this screwy circus of yours,” Hydia admitted, paused, then with a feral growl she leaped from the therapist sofa and tried to impale Pinkie Pie on her massive, ten foot long fire poker! “Haha! Surprise face stab!”

For added effect, Hydia had called forth her thick smog of lethal fumes to swirl around and surround Pinkie Pie, who’d finally gotten close enough to Hydia that she felt confident she could trap the girl! Hydia wasn’t all that surprised when Pinkie gave a speedy poof of motion that sent her flying above Hydia’s stab. Pinkie’s therapist attire vanished and her jester motley reappeared, her scarf billowing wide as it came alive, grabbed the hilt of her giant hammer from seemingly nowhere, and swung it around to clock Hydia in the face. But even as the huge impact rocked Hydia’s jaw, she grinned past a cracked tooth and sent a blast of her death fog right into Pinkie Pie in a swirling cloud.

“Got you!”

Pinkie went flying out of the fog, a mass of liquid tendrils of gnawing pink mouths opening wide to absorb and literally eat the poison fog. Although the tendrils grew sickly purple and some melted, many more remained intact as more tendrils snapped at the fog while Pinkie landed in a crouch on the circus ground while Hydia slammed down a dozen meters away, sending dirt flying.

Hydia frowned, her big, bulbous face breaking out into a sweat. She knew she’d bathed Pinkie in her Asesinato Fragante just then, even with those ugly tendril mouths eating so much of it. And Pinkie was coughing a bit as she stood and faced Hydia, hefting her hammer with both hands. Pinkie’s face was paler and a bit of blood trickled from her eyes, but she was still very much alive. That poison, Hydia knew, should be making the girl vomit up blood and melt skin off the bone.

The fact that Pinkie had taken it meant that the girl’s reiatsu was actually on par with if not outright stronger than Hydia’s own. No wonder her Cero from moments ago hadn’t torn the circus apart. No wonder she couldn’t seem to get a physical upper hand on this girl, even in Resurreccion form. It wasn’t just that Pinkie’s Fullbring was bizarre beyond accounting for. The girl was just flat out that potent in terms of spiritual pressure.

Hydia licked her own face with her long tongue, wiping sweat off. She wasn’t about to admit it, not at all, and least of all to Pinkie Pie, but the fear that she might actually lose this fight was creeping into Hydia’s skull like worms working their way into a coffin to get at the rotting meat within.

If I don’t kill her quick, with a serious deathblow, she’s... going to wear me down.

But Hydia’s growing sense of desperation went beyond merely the fear of losing. It was the fact that Pinkie was right. This blasted Circus of Terror seemed to know what Hydia truly feared, and Hydia didn’t want to be forced to dwell on it let alone face it directly. Even now, out of the corner of her eyes, like snippets of a chilling dream, she could see visions dancing in the shaded reaches of the circus. Her daughters in the stands, looking at her with disgust. Her loyal minions, all deformed Hollows she’d given a home to, turning from her, or vanishing into ash.

Hydia would tolerate none of it. As always, fear was bashed down by gregarious anger and overwhelming, if fragile, self-confidence that bordered on the insane. This included making insane decisions mid-battle, on a whim.

“Think I’m going to make this simpler for both of us, Pink,” Hydia said as she locked eyes with Pinkie Pie, and gripped her pitchfork from both ends. Then, her arm muscles bulging, she crushed the weapon of pale bone down, and poured spirit energy into it. Like putty the weapon was molded into a new shape, that of a skeletal chalice with a misshapen skull’s face carved into it. Then, Hydia heaved, her throat making wet hocking noises as she pulled in the dense fog of her poison cloud to her mouth.

The near solid toxic cloud entered her mouth and then combined with a thick glob of black mucus that she vomited out into the chalice, the liquid glowing around its edges with deathly purple light and smoke. The chalice took more and more, beyond what its size indicated it should, until Hydia had all but spat a small pool into it.

Pinkie’s head tilted to the side, eyes wide in the manner of someone looking at a train wreck and unable to tear their gaze away.

Finished with filling the chalice, Hydia held it up, the eyes of its death skull lighting up green to contrast with the purple aura around it as the terrible brew within bubbled over.

”Vino del Verdugo.” (Executioner’s Wine)

She saw Pinkie Pie’s jester mask shift, going from black to white as it moved to the other side of the girl’s face and her eye flashed from yellow back to blue. Pinkie was still smiling, but there was a look and faint movement to her mouth as if she was conferring with someone unseen. Hydia didn’t much care what the girl was doing, with the creation of the Vino del Verdugo, the battle was in its final stretch, and the clock was already ticking.

She tossed the chalice, although rather than fly in a tumble and splash the intensely vile brew within, the chalice floated as if born by an invisible hand until it landed softly upon the ground between Hydia and Pinkie.

“Before you ask, kiddo, let me spare you the trouble and explain,” Hydia said, “This here bubbling cup contains the most concentrated, deadly version of my poison I can concoct. It's so bad that even the resistance powerful folk enjoy from their strong spiritual pressure isn’t proof against it. Moreover, the fumes become rapidly invisible, spread instantly over an area of my choosing, and get into your system just as fast. Which means both you and I should already be feeling the effects...”

Pinkie’s skin turned a faded tone, like heavily chewed bubblegum, and she wobbled a bit on her feet, “Uh-oh... yuppers, can totally confirm I’m feeling extra barfy. But hold up, you said this stuff was super lethal right? So shouldn’t I be croaking already? And why do you look all woozy too?”

It was true, Hydia was feeling the effects of her most potent poison as well. She was normally immune to her various toxic powers, but Vino del Verdugo was the sole exception. That was part of the price for making it so singularly powerful, she had to take the risk of its effects as well.

“Normally it’d be dumb of me to answer any questions about my powers, but in this case it’s actually important you understand,” Hydia said as she began to slam her clawed legs into the ground as she stomped towards Pinkie, the potent purple spheres of twin Ceros appearing in her open palms, “This poison is one hundred percent lethal, but the effect is designed to take full effect over time. The smaller the area I set for it to affect, the shorter the time frame. Meanwhile the poison works its way through us, burning, hurting, draining us of power...”

Already she was feeling that painful, scathing sensation like sandpaper scraping its way through her veins. She hadn’t felt this pain in a long, long time. So few opponents were worth the risk of Vino del Verdugo. For every second that passed her and Pinkie’s bodies would be assailed by growing agony, their reiatsu lowering as the poison did its work. Since Hydia had constrained the area to just the arena, the lethal dosage would be reached in a matter of minutes.

“...And I give us five minutes, maybe six, before we both croak. Wanna know how to avoid that, Pinks?” Hydia chuckled, and discharged both her Ceros, one after the other. The first was meant to force Pinkie to dodge, which the girl readily obliged by blurring into a pink streak that ran to the left. But Pinkie’s speed was already flagging due to the poison. Granted, so was Hydia’s accuracy as it was hard to concentrate with the sensation of razors in her blood, but she still managed to judge where Pinkie’s evasion took her and aimed the second Cero beam appropriately.

Pinkie managed to bring her hammer down on the head of the second Cero, the huge weapon of ornate pink smashing into the violet beam in a shuddering clash that exploded the ground around Pinkie and sent her flying back to smash into the pieces of the partially melted arena.

Hydia at that point did notice that the Circus of Terror had vanished, and in fact had done so while she’d been placing the chalice. It briefly confused her as to why, because Pinkie had seemed to be relying on that ability’s fear factor, but Hydia didn’t think on it too much as she leaped into the air in a curving arc that would end in her slamming down on top of Pinkie if the girl didn’t move. As she did so she shouted, “Whoever bleeds their opponent into the chalice and drinks the mixture of the poison and their enemy’s blood receives the antidote. So to survive, you got to get my blood, and same goes for me! Four minutes left, Pinks”

No point in having such a lethal and dangerous poison if she couldn’t survive using it in some way, despite her lack of innate immunity to it. It was a power meant to lock her and her foe into a limited time deathmatch in which her enemy couldn’t afford to run away or surrender. Of course ironically it was a power that Hydia was behooved to explain to her enemies so they grasped that fleeing wasn’t an option... mostly because if they did, it'd put Hydia up the proverbial creek as well.

She let out blasts of murderous dark, corrosive poison from her claws as she impacted where Pinkie Pie should have been, but the girl slipped away by tapping her hammer against the ground and dropping through it like some cartoon trap door. The air above Hydia opened up at the same time, Pinkie instantly leaping out of it with her hammer arcing around in an arc at Hydia’s chest. A bit wiser to Pinkie’s erratic fighting style by now, Hydia anticipated the move and caught the hammer with her broad arms, hands clenching around the hammer’s octagonal head. Even so, Hydia felt the impressive strength of Pinkie’s strike, and the candy scented burst of power as the head of the hammer opened up, produced a smaller hammer held in a miniature robot version of Pinkie’s arms that then shot out and struck Hydia in the chin like some prank boxing glove.

“Arrgh! I preferred the creepy circus to the damn gags! We’re both dying, Pinks, you could at least try to take it seriously for the few minutes we got!”

“Suuuure, I could do that,” Pinkie said, lightly bouncing back from several of Hydia’s counter swings with her thick, clawed legs that dug gouges of the stone arena stands as Pinkie dodged about, “Or I could do what I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and have ourselves a cathartic rap battle to the finish!”

“Huh?” Hydia said as impromptu techno music started playing and Pinkie Pie spun her hammer around in her hands until it turned into neon pink mist that in turn reshaped itself into a pair of handheld microphones. Before Hydia knew it, one of the microphones was tossed her way and she caught it on reflex. As Hydia was still staring, flabbergasted, at the situation, Pinkie Pie was drenched in flashing neon light from several suddenly appearing spotlights and she started singing.

“Lemme lay it out for you, pal, I’m a gal who likes to bust a gut
And spark grins on folk who are stuck in a rut
Now I get you, you’re big, you’re mean,
You’re the queen with a poison sheen
But tear away the mask of glee and it's clear to see
You’re even more insecure than me.”

Even with blood seeping from her nose and eyes, and face sweaty from the lethal poison working its way through her, Pinkie Pie seemed alive with energy, her body wreathed in bright pink aura as she danced circles around Hydia, who growled as she lashed out with another sweeping Cero that Pinkie readily flipped over, landing safely behind the blast of destruction that crater the far well.

And as crazy as this was, Hydia felt a bubbling surge of desire to just sing right back, and she wasn’t even certain if this was the result of Pinkie’s bizarre power or her just getting caught up in the moment, but as she came at Pinkie in a blur of slashing claw legs she put the microphone to her mouth and belted out some verse.

“Tch, you wanna play games, Pinks, then you’ll have your fill!
Against me and my toxic flow you’ll feel only chills
‘Cause this big mama's gonna put you six feet under
And you’ll see why screwing with me was a total blunder
Every moment my poison will make you cough and sputter
While all this sh*t talk about my ‘insecurities’ will be put in the gutter.”

Hydia could feel her own poison sapping her own strength as it coursed through her veins, her strikes slowing even as she redoubled her ferocity as she sang. Pinkie Pie was slowing as well, and Hydia felt a burst of glee as one of her massive clawed feet tore a gouge in Pinkie’s side, blood flowing red across the stone of the arena. Yet Pinkie kept grinning, and twirled with a haphazard grace under one of Hydia’s leg strikes to appear under Hydia, where her jester scarf, billowing with multiple colors, looped around one of Hydia’s legs and yanked the Espada off balance and sent her tumbling like a ten ton bowling ball. Pinkie Pie jumped on top of Hydia’s rolling form like someone balancing on a log in water, spitting her own verse right back.

”Oh you can bet I’m feeling this lethal dose, but I’m not one to give up the ghost
You may be the deadliest poison, but laughter is the best cure
So no matter how much I bleed, my heart and my focus are pure
I’ve seen what makes you quiver and shake, an loneliness isn’t a fear you can fake
You’ve got so much self-love its become thicker than your triple chin, but even so
You’re scared of being abandoned by your kin.”

With her vision spinning, Hydia felt Pinkie’s words create a stab of momentary panic that she quashed with quick denial and rage. That emptiness that was her Hollow hole all but ached, but she ignored it as she dug her hands into the floor to halt her tumble and managed to catch Pinkie Pie with an elbow to the girl’s gut. The blow slammed Pinkie to the ground, and Hydia gurgled deep in her throat as she loomed over Pinkie.

“Nope, not hearing this, you’re full of it
And we’re down to three minutes left of this pathetic bit
I’ve had it up to here with your saccharine sh*t
Time to melt your face off with some acid spit!”

She let out a belching burst of thick purple gas, a focused burst of her Asesinato Fragante that slithered towards Pinkie Pie. Yet there’d been just enough of a momentary hesitation in her actions from the way Pinkie’s words struck her that by the time Hydia was vomiting up the poison gas, Pinkie had already used the cord of her microphone like a whip to snag something “off screen” and pull herself up in a swift arc over Hydia’s head where she then proceeded to create a throng of crimson pink tendrils from her shadow that slipped around Hydia’s head and, like some deranged laffy-taffy, Pinkie had the tendrils yank her down with both feet extended to land a dropkick that produced a shockwave through the air and smashed Hydia into the ground hard enough to rattle the Espada to her bones.

Landing a few paces from the fallen Hydia, Pinkie paced around the chalice that contained the Vino del Verdugo and actually picked it up while still singing into her mic.

“If I’m so wrong then why the long face
This rap battle was going at your pace
But I think you know that I’ve touched a nerve
So it's time for the flow of this battle to swerve
Towards a climax that I hope will help you see
When it comes to our fears, you’re a lot like me.”

Coughing and spitting out blood, Hydia rose with fresh fury. It shocked her how much strength Pinkie still had, even as the poison must have been making a ruin of her insides! Hydia was feeling it acutely as well, her vision getting blurry and her breath growing haggard as she felt herself nearing the limit. Was there two minutes left now? It was hard to tell. But she was shocked to see Pinkie holding the chalice, and couldn’t fathom what the crazy brat was planning. Regardless, Hydia didn’t like the way this ‘rap battle’ was going, and the way Pinkie kept digging at ideas Hydia didn’t want to think about. So instead of think, Hydia went with her gut, which was mostly full of acid, blood, and anger.

Jumping straight up into the air, the nodules on her back exploded with thick strands of violet death gas, and every one of her five meaty claw legs glowed with the crackling power of a Cero. While it occurred to some back part of Hydia’s mind that if she blew up Pinkie Pie into little pieces, or melted her entirely, there might not be any blood left to make an antidote with, Hydia was at the point where she was perhaps willing to just double K.O herself with this pink terror.

“The Hell you say? If you were a candy, you’re clearly an Airhead!
Meanwhile I’m the living poison that leaves everyone dead!
Nobody can match my overwhelming, boisterous smarm
Even Grogar will eventually succumb to my charm!”

She unleashed all five Ceros at once, along with the broadest and thickest stream of her Asesinato Fragante yet, filling the arena with potent explosions that cratered the ground even as the purple gas flooded the place to the point of making it all look like a soupy lake of death. Surely, Hydia felt, this would put this girl down, and if Hydia was lucky there’d just be enough blood or guts to scrape off the floor to put in the chalice and get her antidote before time ran out.

Yet to Hydia’s wide eyed shock and horror, an object rose out of the pea-soup fog cloud of poison as it made a loud klaxon blaring sound. A pink submarine, short and rotund as any cartoonishly drawn one with an overemphasized periscope and big bubble windows. It splashed up, and from its hatch leaped Pinkie Pie, who then jumped skyward as the cartoon submarine fired a torpedo with a clown’s face on it that Pinkie landed on and rode like a hypersonic surfboard. Hydia was still blinking in pure confusion as both Pinkie and the torpedo struck her dead center in the chest, and with incredible force rammed her into the upper wall of the circular chasm. The ground shook and rock cracked up and down, Hydia letting out a rush of air and blood from her trembling lips.

As she peeled off the wall, Hydia fell, and Pinkie landed on her head to ride the Espada down to the edge of the arena, holding her mic to her lips as they went.

“But there it is, clear as a bell
One note of hesitation that makes it easy to tell
There’s a lot in you that I genuinely vibe with, Hydia
But your taste in men is worse than chlamydia
Nobody who’s got an ounce of real self love
Would do anything other than off a cliff, Grogar shove.”

Hydia groaned loudly, and not just in physical pain as she hit the upper benches of the arena stands and lay there in a bloodied, exhausted heap. She tried standing, but found she couldn’t as her body was not only wracked with pain from Pinkie Pie’s last hit, but the poison had finally done enough work that she was barely able to crawl. Even so she managed to look incredulously at Pinkie, and said, “Really? ‘Off a cliff, Grogar shove’? What are you, Yoda?”

Pinkie, sitting next to Hydia’s busted up body with her own face a mask of bloody death, clearly not doing much better than the Espada, just grinned happily, “Hey, rhyming is hard! Besides, you haven’t countered my point. Why are you so into that grody, grumpy-pants supreme? You can do waaaaay better than him, girl. Personally I think this is a self-confidence issue.”

“Uugh, I’m almost glad I’m dying of my own damn poison. The psycho-analysis is torture.”

However, there was a lack of ‘omph’ behind Hydia’s protests. Perhaps because there was something to what Pinkie Pie was saying. Hydia had her reasons for hitting on Grogar all the time. It was hellaciously fun, for one. And for two... she knew he’d never respond to her. She could flagrantly play the flirt for centuries with the guy and he’d never so much as look at her with anything other than his usual disgust, and she knew it. So it made the whole game... safe. She could be secure in the knowledge that she’d always know what to expect from him. Didn’t mean the game wasn’t fun, but it was irritating to think this stupid girl could actually see through part of Hydia’s mask.

Her self reflection was interrupted by seeing Pinkie spitting some of her own blood into the chalice that the girl had managed to hold onto after picking it up.

“The hell you think you’re doing...?” Hydia rasped, watching as Pinkie strung out some more blood from her nose into the chalice, which hissed and bubbled at the addition.

“Curing you, duh. Oh, also me, because dying would be way boring, although I guess Rarity is making it work for her so I dunno, maybe I’d manage. But not eager to try it out yet. Besides, I don’t know what me dying would do to Mena.”

As Pinkie talked she forced herself to stand, like some wobbly, bleeding zombie, and put the chalice under Hydia’s chin, which was dripping some of Hydia’s blood as well. As the Espada’s blood joined the concoction in the chalice, the purplish and green brew within sizzled and fumed until it turned a swirling, bright red.

“Hope that color means ‘cure’,” Pinkie said, and Hydia boggled at her.

“How the heck should I know!? I’ve never put both my blood and my opponents in it at the same time! I’ve... I’ve never even thought to try something like that.”

“Heheh, experimentation it is, then! Bottoms up!” Pinkie said, and took a big quaff from the chalice. She gulped it down and let out loud cough afterward, hitting her chest with a fist, “Wheeeew, that’s some serious sour. Ugh, but medicine is supposed to taste bad, so maybe that’s a good thing. Here ya go, Hyds, drinkie drinkie!”

Hydia almost said no, but then again, given she figured both she and Pinkie Pie had seconds left to live anyway, she really had nothing to lose. With a deep groan and sigh, she let Pinkie Pie upend the rest of the chalice’s contents into her mouth. Pinkie hadn’t been kidding, the thick, gurgling liquid tasted like someone had squashed up a whole bushel of rotten apples and added a seasoning of cat puke to the mix, but Hydia got the stuff down after a few gulps.

For a few seconds the pair stood silent, waiting, still feeling the poison scathing their guts.

But then Hydia felt the tell-tale wash of cool relief start to pass over her, and to her shock it turns out the cure still worked even if multiple people’s blood was added to the chalice. She filed that tidbit away for the future, just in case it ever became pertinent. Still, even with the feeling of the poison leaving her body, Hydia remained utterly exhausted, badly wounded, and near her breaking point. Pinkie didn’t look much better off, nursing several nasty injuries from their fight...

A fight that technically wasn’t over yet, because nobody had surrendered or died.

“Soooo,” Pinkie said, “We doing a round... what are we up to, now? Three?”

Hydia considered it. Or tried to consider it. Quite frankly her mind was a bit of a tangled mess. She didn’t like losing. She’d also only been fighting because it was overall part of the plan to support Guto until Adagio could be dealt with. And speaking of Guto, now that she wasn’t so focused on Pinkie Pie, Hydia couldn’t help but notice that the Seventh Espada’s reiatsu had vanished from above. Had the damn bastard gone and bit the dust while Hydia was having a rap battle with a crazy human girl?

With a loud groan, Hydia let herself lay back, and released her Resurreccion form. Her massively transformed body was surrounded by a swirl of reishi particles as it deflated back to her more normal, if still bloated and roundish body. Her Zanpaktou took shape next to her and clattered to the ground, and Hydia didn’t even feel like picking it up again, yet.

“Meh... I think I’m done for the day. I’ll let you off by calling it a draw.”

Pinkie Pie let out a small, weak giggled, and fell back as well, the microphone in her hand transforming back to a hammer form that fell next to her.

“Yeah, I’m fine with that. Let’s take five, and if neither of us passes out, we can go find out what happened up top.”

Hydia let herself smirk with a hint of self-degradation at those words. Even if she called it a ‘draw’, she had a feeling they both knew Pinkie Pie had won that fight. At the end there, Hydia couldn’t move, but Pinkie had still had the strength to do so. Pinkie could have simply taken Hydia’s blood to cure herself and left the Espada to die of her own poison, and Hydia couldn’t have done anything to stop her at that point. Galling as it was, the human had beaten her, if just barely. Hydia had to wonder if there was something to some of the crap Pinkie Pie had been talking about Hydia’s fears?

Eh, Hydia wasn’t really one for too much self-doubt or thought.

But she was worried, now. If Guto was dead, presumably beaten by that butter colored girl, and she’d lost to Pinkie Pie... just how much stronger were these magic-fueled gals going to get?

Whatever else Hydia might think of Grogar, the ancient, withered evolution-nut was probably right about one thing; without magic, the Hollows were going to fall behind the new power curve that was being set. And one way or another, Hydia wanted to be on the winning team.

Pinkie Pie fights are always a balancing exercise between letting myself run wild vs still trying to keep things within a sensible set of established boundaries for the setting. Her power very much gives her a lot of leeway to do almost anything, and with Circus of Terror acting as the "Fear" counterpoint to Laughter of Madness, she's even more flexible.

Been wanting to have her use her power to do a "rap battle" ever since I saw it Bleach Abridged:

Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls - FiMFetch.net (1)

Hope you folks enjoyed it as much as I did.

Anywhos, thank you all for reading, and as always I appreciate any and all comments, questions, or critiques. 'Till next time!

Next Chapter: Episode 205: Back to BasicsEstimated time remaining: 4 Hours, 17 Minutes Return to Story Description

Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls - FiMFetch.net (2024)

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