This chapter is dedicated to Kendell2, my dear true friend.
How can I always have company, but still feel lonely?
'I don't understand either, my princess. After all, I've always found myself to be fantastic company.'
You are such a liar 'father'.
I clawed my way through of the red crystal's portal. The faux fairy land of smoke and shadows fell away, replaced with the uncaring winds of the Crystal Tundra. The Umbrum couldn't follow, but I still heard them, ‘Rabia’ in particular. A combination of cursing that I'd gotten away, and jeering at me to come back and try again.
I heard my 'father' say, 'I told you it wouldn’t work.'
I didn't dignify that with an answer. I’d tried to fight fate, but I'd forgotten, I wasn't one of the heroes, so unlike them I didn't get to heroically defy the forces of destiny.
I'd gone to the prison of what should be Nyarlathotrot's last surviving Equestrian avatar... I'd tried to just destroy the red crystal that was one of only two portals into their pocket realm, but it just absorbed my magic, and 'father' said using his magic here didn't exactly have a successful track record.
So I'd gone inside. 'Father' objected, I ignored him. If I couldn't stop Sombra without hoofing Equestria to the Cursed Changelings, at least I could keep his rancid family from causing more trouble than Equestria needed. I'd bring the entire place down around their ears, I'd bury us all. That would be the end of it.
Except... my magic seemed to actually feed these ponies of smoke and shadow, making them stronger. And the unicorn who was with them, her healing magic... it was like being stabbed with a hot poker. Ugh, didn't she use her magic to heal SOMBRA? She was so powerful, she could have become the goddess of healing if she'd wanted. I bet she could defy Death himself and rebuild a pony's body at the point of dying if she was backed into a corner.
"You're being used," I tried telling her. "They don't care about you. You're just their backup plan in case Sombra fails."
"Yes, I'll be there to pick him up if he falls. I won't fail him again!"
She'd been living with them for a thousand years. Why would she believe a random Nightmare?
Her magic pierced my barriers like they were paper. I think being the only crystal pony 'alive', the Crystal Heart, wherever it was, might have been channeling all its magic through her. Or maybe I'm just making excuses for myself.
"Don't worry little filly! I'll fix you!"
Still, I didn't think about retreating. 'Father' kept screaming at me to run for it, I ignored him. I thought I'd go down having finally defied fate.
Then Rabia whispered in my ears, too low for the crystal unicorn to hear. Thank goodness ‘Umbra Breeze’ loved to explain his evil plans to his 'peers', and the few remaining masks inherited that.
"After Radiant Hope blasts you apart to rebuild you... we're going to feed on all that delicious despair inside you! We'll be so powerful, well, you know the rest. Or just blow yourself up now, and the rune will have us born again in no time. We’ll have our feast either way!"
Turning to shadow didn't work so well when your enemies are already shadows. They clawed and bit at me as I tried to escape... and finally pulled myself out of the portal again. Their weakened Breezie forms may have fooled Radiant Hope, but their claws were sharp and brutal enough.
I fell to the ground, making an imprint in the snow, becoming solid again, feeling pain, but really caring. I lay there still as a corpse as 'father's' shadow rose up and covered me, protecting me, while my own magic healed me.
Radiant Hope's magic had been able to heal Sombra... and it still hurt me. There is no escape from what I've become. Wish I could I say the cold didn't bother me.
Zephyr Breeze woke in the middle of the night with me hovering over him. Before he could scream and wet the bed, my horn glowed white, and so did his eyes. It was a rudimentary charm, but it would do. Resisting mind control requires a strong will, imagination, and focus, and a lazy parasite has none of those things.
His expression went completely slack. “Uhhh..."
I plucked out one of my own feathers, twirling it before him in the cold and empty light of my magic.
"You will obey my instructions. You won’t remember that I charmed you. Until your strange dreams of living your life in reverse stop, when you dream of your parents making love', you will keep my feather near you at all times, no further than one hundred yards away. Do you understand?"
"Sure thing, princess..." Zephyr droned. “I will do all that stuff you said… and, uhhh… could you tell me again?”
I twitched, resisting the urge to hoof him in the face. "You know what? Forget it. Just hold still and be quiet."
I jammed my feather into his wing. No one would notice it, and it would fade away once its purpose was done. Zephyr Breeze mimed yelling and yelping without making a sound.
"Forget everything that just happened,” I hissed. “Go back to sleep!"
Zephyr Breeze didn’t have any trouble with those orders… he was sawing logs before his head hit the pillow.
Eventually, the Blank Wolf came, still very young but bigger than before. It looked around, confused and bewildered, sniffing all over the bedsheets and even patting right on top of the sleeping stallion without noticing a thing. The Wolf growled faintly, then vanished back into the shadows, and so did I.
I snuck back into Canterlot Castle. As long as I avoided direct eye contact with anypony, I was safe. I wasn't invisible, just unnoticed. I trotted through the barriers and wards like I wasn't there.
Even if I wanted, I wasn't insane enough to try and enter the vault where the Elements of Harmony were. My foreleg and rear-legs still felt stiff from the last time I'd been on the receiving end of that power...
Without Twilight Sparkle and her friends, they're just jewelry? Yes, and no. They’re awake, bonded to the Bearers who woke them. That’s enough. I wasn't about to test it.
Besides, 'Father' didn't want to share how he'd pulled off stealing the Elements the first time. This is where I'd have felt flustered.
"Do you want an anti-climax for your 'last show?' I can feel how terrified you are of being a peaceful statue again. And I know you'd hate a glorified reset. Or do you want me to get turned to stone again? First Cadenza, then Gaea Everfree. Third time's the charm?"
'Don't worry, my dear. We'll both get what we want.'
He didn't respond.
I returned to the world mirror, the same one that Sunset Shimmer used once, and would again. It wouldn’t open naturally for another year, so it sat in a storage room for magical artifacts, inspected by the Royal Guards every few days, if that often. Few ponies alive today remembered that there had ever been such a thing as a security camera. Nor did Princess Celestia suspect that Sunset would be able to disable the security wards from her side of the mirror.
There was also the fact that Celestia hoped against hope that Sunset had reformed since she had gone, and would return to be with her mother again. 'Father' had taught me how Celestia's feelings for her family always did blur her judgement.
I touched my hoof to the glass, letting 'father' use his magic to pry it open. The gate moaned, and 'father' literally ripped a hole in time and space where the 'wall' was weakest.
'You know, my dear, recklessly opening portals like this could eventually cause all sorts of fascinating chaotic mishaps, like random catastrophic memory loss for a random future traveler coming from their native Earth to Equus.'
"That's rather precise."
'It is. Would you like some red herring?'
"No. And I'm the villain remember? What do I care?"
A chill in the air woke Silver Spoon from her dreams. In her half asleep state, she thought she saw a winged shadow dance along her wall. 'Don't be just her lackey,’ whispered a voice. ‘Be what she needs. Be her FRIEND who can say NO to her when she needs to hear it.'
Silver fumbled for her bedside lamp, hands groping in the dark, feet getting tangled in the sheets, but when the light came on, no ghost or burglar was revealed, only her bedroom. She must have imagined it.
But if she had, then where had the necklace on her bedside table come from? It was identical to one Diamond Tiara had, one that didn’t really suit her, but would look perfect on Silver herself. Diamond Tiara had so many trinkets, what would she notice if Silver Spoon borrowed one without asking? That's what Silver Spoon had been building herself up to at least. But this necklace looked brand new.
There was a note on the jewelry:
'Now you can share instead of take.'
I stalked away from Silver Spoon’s house, ignoring the chilly night air. The cold bothered me here too, even though I couldn’t feel it. Or maybe it bothered me because I couldn’t feel it.
'Oh yes, getting an alternate version of your best friend jewelry she really wanted is so evil.'
"With gold bits I stole."
'From your allowance bank account.'
"You're the one who opened my eyes to what I am remember?"
'Yes... I know.'
"Are you saying I was a mistake? I knew that the moment I became a Nightmare. I've always been self-centered misery. Besides, I'm a Nightmare, of course my actions are utterly insane. Shouldn't that please you? Whatever. I'm used to disappointing family."
'You've come a long way from that scared and confused little bully I convinced to stab the mare who'd shown her generosity, and whom I made eat the insides of a timber wolf after sleeping under leaves for months. Quite an adventure we had, didn't we? Your nightmare of being in Tartarus, seeing my memories of... of Shady,
almost getting caught by that insane doll maker, meeting Fancy Pants, getting past those guards and crazy butler, me clawing one of those meddling spirits, making friends with that filly... While I helped you along to my statue, it was your own cunning and determination that led you to the finish line.'
"If both of us had just sat on our flanks and done nothing, the Heart World would have brought about what we wanted anyway. Everything we did was a complete and utter waste. Nothing in this world is better for it, even the clean up Apple Bloom did to the misery that was here before was because of filth that wasn't supposed to be here to begin with. Our adventure, all the adventures that happened were a mistake… and some mistakes can't be fixed. I can't become that Diamond Tiara, any more than you can become that Discord."
'I'd say we helped out a good deal with Chryssy's glorified sideshow.'
"Something again that was handled so much more simply and cleanly in the Heart World and was made worse because of things that weren't supposed to be here. What did you ever do with that calendar art of you and Chrysalis anyway?"
'I observed it for its artistic merit for a while, then I burned it because Fate-Net was doing a content sweep.'
Even after all this time, I couldn't always be sure when he was lying or not, but I wasn't about to tell him that. "What about the Shrine to Pinkie Pie?"
'I sent it to the Preceding Prestigious Party Pony And Puppies Plus Popping Poppies Preservatorium And Prankster Prehabilitation Party.'
"You just made that up. You had to have."
'Did I? Did I? Heh.' I could feel him wiggle his eyebrows.
"Life is a runway," Rarity sang to herself in the little mall she worked at.
The door entrance bell rang, and Rarity turned to greet her customer.
"Welcome to... oh hello Diamond... Tiara? Oh dear!"
"Hello, Miss Rarity." The girl was missing her yellow jacket, and had adopted goth colors and make-up. She now wore a circle spike pendant instead of her crown Mark.
Rarity came over to the younger girl, but when she got close, Tiara flinched away from her. "Dear, it's fine," said Rarity tenderly. "I don’t bite. You can trust your upper class mate."
Diamond Tiara seemed afraid to touch her, as if Rarity was made of glass. "... It's not you I don't trust."
Rarity's eyes widened. She knelt down, eye to eye with the middle school girl. "What happened, dear?"
Back in grade school, Tiara and Silver Spoon had been bitter enemies with Rarity's sister and her sister's friends, but that was water under the bridge.
"... I... I hurt a friend."
The girl's eyes shifted about, but she nodded slowly. "She just wanted to help me... and I hurt her because I couldn't see that."
"Dear, it's good that you can admit to it."
"It's only the tip of the iceberg." It disturbed Rarity how calm the girl's voice was. "I've done some truly terrible things."
"... It's important that you're willing to admit that. You were willing to admit you were a bully before, and you're willing to admit you made mistakes now. Excuse me, dear." Rarity took out a handkerchief. "Please hold still." Rarity cleaned off the gothic face paint. "I think you're a little young for that, sweetie, it's overselling the look."
The girl touched her face and looked up at Rarity.
"You're always too generous."
Rarity smiled. "Dear, I'll decide how generous I should or shouldn't be. If you give because you're obliged to, then it's not really being generous. Taxes are obliged to be given, paychecks are given because they're earned. A favor you expect to be repaid isn't generous: it's a loan. And generosity, is about inspiring others to give, not an investment to expect a return on... OH MY-!"
Rarity's body glowed purple. Pony ears sprouted, her hair became a long, free-flowing mane, and a bindi-like blue mark appeared on her forehead. This time, Diamond Tiara jerked back like Rarity’s touch had burned her.
"Oh! I'm so sorry, darling! I've never touched anyone except my friends when 'ponied-up' ... It’s never hurt anyone before."
"... It's alright." The girl glanced around the shop, not looking at anything in particular. "You have a very beautiful shop, Miss Rarity."
"Well, it's not exactly 'mine', not yet, but I have done a great deal to improve the presentation and inventory."
Moving away from Rarity, the girl went to one of the dresses, pale blue, with sparkling white sequins. She touched the collar, stroking the fabric...
I entered Rarity's little dress shop. It was small, yet Rarity's clientele included Sapphire Shores, so she had to be good, right? I kept my prim and proper attitude in place like I did everywhere, letting the competition know who was in charge. Even if I had to put a little more effort into it with... with so much to think about after... after that ... after Silver Spoon. And... what, that THING had done to me, and how it had CHEATED ME... from mommy...
I spotted the unicorn at once, and reminded myself to say everything like I should, leaving no room for the opposition to think they could get the better of me. After all, this mare might be my business rival some day. I would give her the respect she deserved, though. She was still part of the surprisingly high number of upper crust ponies who'd chosen little Ponyville as their home.
"Welcome to the Carousel Boutique, young miss! What can I help you with today?" She spoke in a 'this is business, so I'll be polite' tone that I could see right through.
I moved closer. She took a step back. I didn't know what her deal was, but if she could make what I wanted, I didn't care.
“Your little store,” I said proudly with my nose in the air, "has the honor of accepting a VERY IMPORTANT commission from me, Miss Rarity! I expect it to be completed before the week is out. I assume this won't be a problem for a store with so little business as yours."
I saw her eyes flicker. She didn't like me. Well, we had more bits than her, so of course she didn't, that was basic economics.
"And what is this dress of yours that you would like me to complete?" She looked past me, probably wondering why I had no escort. I should have had one, but I didn't want to risk being found out.
I took out my brilliant and expertly drawn diagram I'd created, with a little help from my servants. This would be mommy's gift, this would be what made her happy! It was my own design… that much had been purely my own! The hired help had offered some suggestions, like cutting down on the number of diamonds. They were, of course, ignored.
"Here. I trust you'll be able to do an adequate job. Ignore what the notes say, include at least five times as many diamonds, and make sure they're the largest you have! I know you're a so-called expert at finding diamonds, so no excuses!" I gave her a good look at what she'd be expected to make. I couldn't exactly go to Photo Finish or the like without daddy finding out, so I had nowhere else to go. There was no way she was going to turn this down.
"Remember, quintuple the number of diamonds, and remember to get the color just right, no excuses! I insist on a strong yet soft material, something gentle that will hold up to a lot of creative uses, and I really want you to keep this quiet, if you please! There's no need for my parents to know. I can even include some extra bits if you're feeling talkative, I’m sure you can use those. That sounds like good business, right?"
I didn't really notice how sick her face was starting to look until right before-
"NO!” shouted the white unicorn. “And get out."
"WHAT?" I couldn’t believe my ears. When was the last time somepony had told me 'no?'
"I SAID NO!” she snarled. “YOU MAY TAKE YOUR BUSINESS ELSEWHERE! NOW GET OUT, AND DON'T YOU DARE COME NEAR MY STORE AGAIN!!"
"YOU-you-you-can't-" I stuttered.
"Oh, can’t I?!" Suddenly she used her magic to lift me up by my behind. I was confused, angry, then very scared. I saw the familiar look of satisfaction on her face. "SO who's a narwhal now?"
I was shaking. She leaned in close, I felt like a guppy in front of a shark. "Now listen here, you greedy, ill-mannered little foal! If I EVER hear that you called my little sister that again, I am telling your teacher and I PROMISE she'll listen to me! And if I find you near my home again I'll see you in a dungeon for trespassing! Don’t even bother dreaming up some revenge fantasy. My customers will never listen to anything you or your parents say!"
"MY PARENTS-" I began to snarl. How DARE she mention them?! But she just threw me out! My tiara fell off, and she threw it at me. I managed to avoid being hit, picked it up in my teeth, and ran away crying.
Rarity finally figured out to 'pony-down,' and gave the girl a gentle hug from behind. "Diamond Tiara, I know I'm not your mother, but you shouldn't bottle up your problems. It only leads to worse troubles."
I was in my room, hoping That Mare, didn't tell Daddy. Normally I'd have gone screaming to Daddy for what she dared to do... but if I did... that would leave him wondering what I was doing there to begin with... and that would be trouble.
Then one of the servants told me I had a delivery, and I had no idea what it could be. I hoped it was a gift, presents always made the hurt go away for a little while. If it was another stupid note from school, it could go straight into the wastebasket! I had better things to do with my time.
Then I saw who brought the delivery. "YOU!" I glared at the old maid. "THROW HER OUT!"
My servant prepared to do exactly that, but That Unicorn quickly said, "I've brought you your commission, Little Miss Tiara."
"Huh?" I blinked, confused.
"Free of charge. And free delivery to you personally. On one condition."
"Condition?" I asked, not sounding very pleasant, and I wasn't feeling it either! This Unicorn had ruined everything.
That Unicorn telekinetically opened the case she was carrying, showing ... the dress... my dress... mommy's dress... the one for her birthday. Except... there were a buncha my namesakes in the box too. "You sew in the diamonds yourself."
She had SOME NERVE! "You dare-"
"You want to show your mother that you still love her? You want to show her that you haven't given up on her? That you still believe in her? That she's still your mother even if your father says otherwise, young lady? That you're still waiting for her to get better? The best gifts, little filly, -AREN'T- the most expensive ones. They're the ones you've put the most time into yourself, the ones you've put your own effort into. They're the ones that show you really care about the person you're giving the gift to."
My jaw hung limply from my face. She knew? SHE KNEW?! But... she didn't... she didn't tell Daddy... she... she... she HELPED ME... anyway... My head was swimming. She said some goodbyes I responded to mechanically... She left... I heard Daddy's hoof-falls. I quickly hid the box and Mommy's dress behind the servant.
"Who was that?"
"Just some salesmare."
Daddy shook his head. "I see. She should have been thrown out if she didn’t have an appointment. I’ll speak to the staff."
The girl shuddered, looking like she wanted to cry but had forgotten how. Rarity hugged her tighter.
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to... but burying your problems won't fix anything, and if what you did was really that terrible, then you have to face it, not run away from it."
= 'Rain' - Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood =
I carried the bag in my mouth, tiny red marks surrounded my front hooves and face. Sewing without claws or a magic horn is even harder than it sounds. I told daddy I had an accident while playing.
A large white burly pegasus walked next to me and Shiny Star. It couldn’t be helped, there was simply no way in Tartarus this place would EVER let me in without protection and an adult. Shiny Star had promised not to tell daddy where I'd really been this afternoon.
I looked in the other rooms only once, and wished I hadn't. I saw a pink pegasus with stumps instead of wings singing to herself.
"Screwball! You got a visitor!" Said the burly pegasus, sliding the small door within a door open. Ick! Why did the oversized feather duster have to call mommy that nickname?
"Her name is Golden Tiara," I whispered to nopony.
"Oh oh oh? Is that so so?" Asked mommy on the other side. "Who could it be-be on this special of days?" She said, sounding weird and happy.
I pushed the bag through the opening lower on the door. "Happy birthday, mama."
"Oh baby... is that you? Does dear know you're here?"
"Of course he does," I lied. "He's hoping very much that you'll get better."
Mom opened up the bag and examined the dress from every angle, trying it on in every way except the way it was meant to be worn. "OH? Is this for me-me? OH OH OH! It's so pretty! Did you do this? It's so wonderful!... Come to mommy."
I didn't even hesitate. I pressed myself against the door, hearing mom's heart beating as she heard mine.
"You know dear, the world was finally right again a few weeks ago. Everything stopped being confusing and everything made sense again. The doctors even started making sense and let me and everyone out... and then that rainbow came and the world was confusing again... But don't worry, if it could all make sense again once, then I'm sure it'll make sense again real soon, dear. Then mommy will be back home. I bet it'll be in time for YOUR birthday! You'd like mama to be there, yes dear?"
"...yes, mama. That would be very nice." I realized I had to end this conversation now. "I'm sorry mama, I have to go, daddy's waiting!"
"Okay sweetie! Tell dearest that his princess still loves her prince when you see him!"
"I... I will mama! Bye!" I ran. I couldn't bear to have mama see or hear me crying.
"Diamond Tiara," asked Rarity carefully, "where did you get these scars?"
When Rarity had hugged the girl from behind, she was close enough, and had the right angle to see what could have been anything from bite to claw marks, Fluttershy would've been able to tell.
The little girl said nothing.
"... Who did this to you?" Rarity pushed.
"A pack of soulless beasts," the girl said sincerely. “It was a trip up north.”
"Diamond, is there anything else you wish to tell me about them?" Rarity felt the girl bristle.
"No. No, there isn't."
Rarity didn't know when Diamond Tiara learned from Maud Pie to mask her emotions like this.
Silence struck the store, the noise of mall shoppers going about their business echoing from outside. Rarity realized it would look rather awkward if a customer walked in and saw her hugging Tiara, and relaxed her grip.
Rarity didn't like any of the many possibilities of those scars: some of them, she didn't even want to think about.
"Diamond Tiara, were you trying to run away from your problems?"
"I was trying to do some good while doing it. It didn't work out. So I came crawling back."
"That was the wiser thing to do."
Silence again. Stupid silence. One not wanting to push too far and break the other, and the other not wanting to reach out 'too far.'
Rarity knew you couldn't force these things, or they break or push you away.
"Diamond Tiara, how about I take my break and we go get something to eat?"
"... That would be nice."
Some minutes later, they were at the food court. Rarity insisted on paying. Rarity's eyebrow rose when Tiara ordered a sprouts sandwich.
"It's been awhile since we've done this, hasn't it?" Rarity remarked over her ham salad.
"Eh?" Diamond Tiara started. Her eyes widened.
"Spent time together, like our sewing lessons." Rarity didn't know if Diamond Tiara's father wanted Diamond out of the house or to appreciate hard work.
"Oh, right... They were wonderful."
A glimmer of sadness ran across Rarity's face. "I know your family seems like it's going through trouble right now Diamond, but I promise these rough seas happen with any couple. Feeling happy around and looking up to another more mature lady isn't betraying your mother."
"I wish I figured that out sooner," the girl said in her monotone.
"Did you make the dress you're wearing? It's quite good."
"I had a good teacher."
"You flatter me."
"You deserve it."
"And you deserve not to lock yourself away from your own feelings, nor to think you can just escape your problems by doing so."
"I'm not escaping."
"There are many kinds of escape, some good, some bad."
"Maybe it's others who need to escape from me."
"That's a very toxic way of thinking."
"Maybe I'm just being pragmatic."
"Diamond, darling, listen to your elder: I know for a fact there is a big difference between pragmatic and pessimistic. Beauty isn't about going from one extreme to the other, nor being in the absolute middle."
The little girl was silent as she mechanically ate her food.
Rarity reached out and took hold of the little girl's hand, appearances be damned.
"Diamond, who was really on the other end of that cell phone when I last saw you?"
The girl's jaw dropped, alarm and horror splashed across her face.
"Somepony I should've never listened to. I have to go, right now."
"'Somepony?'" asked Rarity, a certain purple-haired girl suddenly in her thoughts.
"I'm sorry Rarity, but for your Diamond Tiara's sake, I wasn't here."
Gold coins were on the table, with markings not of this world.
Rarity, alone at the table, didn’t know where they’d come from, but she had the powerful impression they were hers for services rendered. She didn't notice a winged shadow race away.
'Did I go on a pirate adventure I don't remember, or did a memory erasing alien just pay me for a dress?'
My name's Diamond Dazzle Tiara. I’m sure you've heard of me. You won't find a family better off than mine in town… but I'd never been in this part of town before.
I walked down the sideway, looking this way and that, worry creeping up inside me like bile. My base impulse was turn and run… This was not a good neighborhood, even less so for a middle school girl barely out of grade school whose parents happened to be wealthy. I gripped my bag so hard my knuckles turned white.
"Did you remember to wear that cheap dress I told you to buy? And bring the taser?" asked the savvy voice over the nondescript black cell phone. It was a far cry from my usual pink rhinestone-encrusted one.
"Yes," I said. Instead of my favorite bright yellow jacket and jewelry, I wore subdued browns and grays. Ick.
I’d followed the instructions and not told my parents where I was going. They thought I was hanging out with Silver Spoon, and Silver Spoon thought I was with my parents.
He'd said, "It's VERY important that you do NOT tell your little friend Silver Spoon what you are doing, where you are going, or about me. Otherwise, I can't help you. Loose lips sink ships, and in case you forgot, high society runs on gossip. That goes double for that magical horse girl with the fashion obsession. She and her friends want all the magic for themselves, because if others have it, they go back to being nobodies. She'll tell on you, she won't care it's to help your family. She's just like everyone in the world, she wants to be special and important, and you can only be special or important if you have something others want and don't have! And what she's been feeding you is sweet sounding poppycock meant to confuse you and make you dependent on her, you the wealthy heiress. Do you think she was nice to you out of the generosity of her heart? It's just a deposit in the favor bank to her."
I'd paid for the items all in cash, avoiding using my family's money or my credit cards. I'd even worn my hair differently so people were less likely to recognize the heiress to the Rich family.
I crept like a mouse, and scurried like a rat, not the attention grabbing strut I normally used wherever I went. He'd told me over the phone how to dress without getting too much attention, but still being just noticeable enough that I wouldn't be mistaken for someone who could be made to 'disappear' and nobody would notice. It was a dangerous balancing act that he'd told me the fine nuances of.
He'd also talked about political theory they wouldn't teach in school.
"Democracy and dictatorships are two sides of the same coin, sweetie. After all, no one can (in theory) rule by themselves, or bring about their vision by themselves (in theory). So those who hold the 'keys to power' have to be paid off, and the one 'in charge' remains in power only as long as it benefits those key holders. Democracies are the exact same way, after all, those who can't vote, like little girls, hold no sway, so why waste money on you? And when the people revolt, they don't get past the army, the army lets them pass so they can dispose of the now useless leader for them.
"Families aren't made for the sake of 'love', they're made so the transition of power will be smoother for those who 'hold the keys' rather than a messy scramble for power that might result with them on the outside rather than the inside. Once a leader MIGHT be ill, the key holders sense weakness and immediately find a replacement and install them preemptively rather than wait for the leader to die, rumors or not. The people don't remove the ruler, the court LETS the people remove the ruler. Why do you think dynasties exist in democracies, business, monarchies, and dictatorships?
"Only the sociopathic rise to the top my dear, and 'love' is a drug fed to the masses for the truly stupid and truly gullible to swallow.
"If your parents separate, you won't end up with the parent that loves you more. You'll go with the one with more expensive lawyers, and they won't want you because they love you... they want you so their rivals will be less eager to depose them. Love is a lie told to hold society together," he'd told me.
I had never met who was on the other end face to face. He claimed he was a distant relative. He did say, however, that he could help me. His first message had been over text with no ID. Then I'd gotten a cellphone with no caller ID, and he’d sent me more. I would have dismissed him as a scammer or a kidnapper without another thought… except, he offered me a way to help my family.
And, he knew about the magic at Canterlot High, somehow... The same magic Sunset Shimmer had used to turn me, Silvey, and everyone else at the prom into her zombie slaves, planning to use us as a demon army to invade the world inside the statue.
I'd seen inside Shimmer's head a little. She hadn't even intended us to live long, just to distract a sun goddess or something on the other end long enough for her to corrupt more creatures into her slaves. She'd intended to have more time to collect more slaves over three days, but the purple-haired girl had gotten in her way. It had all been just vague ideas and even vaguer images, but was it any wonder that me and nearly everyone else at school had hated Sunset's guts?
The same? Yeah, right. I'd teased other kids, I didn't try to conquer two worlds!
Snips and Snails? "We don't remember anything from when she turned us into demons and ordered us to herd everyone to the portal! And the purple haired girl and the hippies turned into horse women and zapped us all with rainbows!" No comment.
The voice on the other end said that if I trusted him, he could take the magic Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer unleashed, and use it to help my parents. He also explained over the phone about the principles of magic, something about waveforms and a unique kind of energy. It had gone way over my head, I’m ashamed to admit, but it didn't sound like mumbo-jumbo, or fantasy novel nonsense.
He said he was a ‘chaos theorist,’ and claimed to have been the principal of Canterlot High before Principal Celestia. I looked him up online, and found surprisingly little about him, except mentions of him being an anarchist and a mad scientist. Yes, the news articles actually said 'mad scientist'.
I confronted him with the articles, but he had an answer for that too. "My dear, a bright girl like you with a rich family should know, the media lies all the time to protect those who pay the media, and to demonize those who oppose the tyranny of those who pay the media. This is reality. Of course, we can end this right now, and you can wait for mommy and daddy to break apart, knowing that you could have done something and didn't. I guess that means you really didn't love them at all. You’ll make a splendid politician someday, my dear."
"... What do you want me to do?"
The stuff I bought came from ordinary hardware and electronic stores. He'd given me careful instructions on the circuitry. I knew it wasn't a bomb, I wasn't that stupid, but was something else, and he wouldn't tell me what.
There were some things he had me build that he told me precisely what they were: an EMP generator, lock picking tools, even a police scanner. I'd kept them buried in my room where even the maids didn't look. I wish I could take pride in building that stuff, but I was mostly his puppet.
"What a good girl you are for your uncle," he'd told me. I'd had to seriously cut out time with Silver Spoon to make this stuff, and I couldn't tell her what was going on, not a word. It hurt her, I didn't like that at all, but I'd made her promise not to talk to anyone about it, ever. Silver Spoon had left biting her lip. "A very good girl indeed, for your dear uncle," he'd said.
Then came the REALLY weird stuff. Freaky drawings, vows against Harmony like it was a goddess...
"Are you just playing with me?"
"My dear, if I was toying with you, you wouldn't think to ask that."
And it had all come down to this, sneaking into this neighborhood that none would look twice at, and most would rather just avoid.
"You see my dear, those in power, those with power, have kept me under house arrest... but you've been touched by that magic, thanks to bacon hair turning you into one of her puppets and the rest. Help me, and I'll help you."
The house I saw couldn't have looked more ordinary, if not for the odd graffiti that looked a lot like inversions of the symbols that the Professor had told me to draw, and the police tape around the place, and the warnings on the doors. The place was made out of stone except for the windows and pipes.
Were those security cameras? No, those were just street lights, right?
"Now my dear, this is-" And then, a black feathered bombshell fell right in front of me.
= Dark Souls III Soundtrack OST - Soul of Cinder =
I was face to face with... myself?! Geeze, I'd never wear that much black! And what had she done with her hair? She looked like a skunk... with a weird jewel mark thing on her forehead, and big black wings like a vulture, and her expression made Pinkie Pie's even weirder sister look lively! Lifeless slit-pupiled eyes narrowed at me. She... she looked like Sunset Shimmer when she turned into a demon!
Striking like a cobra, the other me snatched the cell phone and crushed it with one hand.
"NO!" I reached for the phone like I could magically put it back together. Then black flames appeared in her palm and she melted what was left of the phone. She turned into a shadow, slipped behind me, and literally ripped my dull fanny pack off before crushing that too, along with all the stuff inside. No... No no no no no no!
I tried to stop her. I… I’m not sure what I was thinking, grappling with someone like that. She grabbed my jaw, faster than I could cry out. She pulled me, not gently at all, so we were face to face. Those eyes, my face, looking like demon Shimmer... I felt terrified, sick to my stomach, and confused all at the same time! What was going on?! This didn't make any sense! Did I hit my head and I'm having a nightmare?!
"You stupid-stupid-STUPID girl." She held me tighter, hurting me. "Do you have any idea what you almost threw away? Who you almost threw away? What you almost gave up? Do. You. Have. Any. Idea?"
I whimpered. Everything had gone crazy. Were we the only ones on the street? Why wasn't anyone else noticing the black angel of doom with my face? Like, like even those who didn't go to Canterlot High not calling the zoo when they saw a winged horse girl walk outside a music store... Why didn't I think of that before?
I couldn't smell her breath even when she spoke to me, and she cast no shadow, but there was nothing 'not real' about the grip she had me in!
I tried to kick her and run for it, but she blocked my leg with her wing! I threw a punch but she just blocked it with her other wing. With her free hand she jabbed me in the gut. I gave a muffled cry.
"Signs of an actual spine, good." Her eyes narrowed, and and the frown she gave me made my skin crawl. "Now hear my voice and listen, you spoiled brat: our ‘uncle’ is not into change, he just wants chaos for chaos' sake."
"He-he won't-" It was all a lie?
"He'll keep his word, but you'll hate yourself forever. And what you wanted fixed? Love and family are much better magics to use than the ones he's been teaching you. And even when he fixes it for you? He's going to tell you things you were better off not knowing. You won’t care if our parents are together or not, and our parents will be miserable because of what we become.”
She shook me again. “Never listen to him again, do you hear me? Don’t talk to him. Don’t trust him. Don’t make a monster of yourself, the way I did. Do you understand?"
I whimpered and nodded, actually proud that I didn’t wet myself.
"Good. I am going to tell him to stay far away from you, and every creature you care about, or else." I swear I felt her touch turn to ice. "And I want you to remember! Silver Spoon is your best friend. Not your lackey, not your tag along, not your accessory. Listen to her. Now get to your sewing lesson with Rarity." She hurled me to the sidewalk, giving me more bruises.
I looked up at her. It... it was just horrible, seeing my face like that. I ran. I ran without even knowing where I was going. I was crying. I felt what happened turning into a blur in my head, not sure what was real or all in my head, but, what ... I told myself, stayed crystal clear.
I didn't know where my feet were taking me, until I ran through a pair of automatic doors.
"Welcome to... Tiara? Oh dear!"
I ran straight into Rarity's arms, still crying. She gently put her arms around me.
She stroked my hair. "It's okay dear... It’s okay. You're safe here."
Pony POV Series Diamond Tiara Equestria Girls: Reharmonization Begins
At the Rich Mansion, Shining Star and Randolph were both surprised to find some of their daily duties already done for them.
"Think we have house gnomes?" Shining Star had asked, herself not sure if she was serious or not, not with the 'strange things' that supposedly happened by the high school, assuming it wasn't just exaggerations and glorified pranks, but giant holes in the school front lawn and the front of the building missing surely hadn’t happened by themselves.
Randolph wondered if some of Mr. Rich's 'hard work' lessons on Tiara had paid off. Stranger things had happened in this town.
Neither noticed a winged shadow that crawled along the walls.
There was a knock on Filthy Rich's at home office door.
There was no answer. Curious, the business man got up and opened the door. There was no one there.
On top of the Rich household, the Nightmare of Diamond Tiara sat, looking out over the town populated by humans. Any who looked up would've seen just a shadow.
'Well, that was pointless. Do you think you can fix every world where Diamond Tiara has been a very naughty filly? What a thankless job that would be! I can’t fathom why you won’t visit your spoony friend, and your biological kin instead of these look alikes.'
She hugged herself, folding her wings around her body. "I don't want any of them to see me like this."
'A human? That isn't an issue back home.'
"You know what I mean."
'Dear, we're chained to each other, of course I know what you meant. So why chicken out with your old daddy? I thought you couldn't feel chicken about anything more. Or anything.'
"I... I couldn't let him, even another version of him, see me... like this."
'Pst. Didn't stop you from hiding the wings and visiting another Rarity.'
"It's different... he's... he's my... we're still family."
'And so are we.'
"I... I can't look even another him in the eyes... I don't have a right to. Apple Bloom was right, everything I've done is insane. I’m a mad dog who should be put down."
'Madness is just what the minority think, as opposed to the majority. I taught you better. We had quite the journey, didn't we?'
I look beautiful again. Looking right out of the fairytale I belonged in. Just like my last birthday. My birthday. I had missed my birthday. I was a year older, and I had missed the day that was always my day. No cake. No presents. No party. No weird feeling from the random visit by Pinkie Pie. It was gone.
I always invited everypony in my class. I didn't care they were there for the party and not me. Me and Sil-Silver Spoon, we were princesses and we had our royal subjects. That's what mattered, right?
Something else floated to the surface: I wasn't there to visit mom on my birthday like I promised.
'Mom I promise, my birthday will be when I make you well again.'
"I... I can't remember."
'Can't remember our quest? It's hard to forget having your mind fractured and your soul ground to powder, I should know.'
"I can't remember when my birthday is." The Nightfilly wrapped her arms around her knees, hugging herself tightly. Another broken promise...
'Welcome to the club! Me, Lulu, Celly, we've had so many that they can slip right by us. You've got a head start.'
'A very handsome friend of hers designed the magic for this maze for her and her sister's last birthday party before he got eaten. That birthday was so much fun, so many laughs. This must be her idea of a joke. Now go left, I can tell you it will make a difference.'
'And I didn't even think to use it as part of my pocket world for welcoming Lulu's avatar... I'm slipping. It's time to begin the finale.'
"We did. It was a bust."
'This time let's try for something on a personal level. One last grand performance.'
"You're suddenly talkative. You didn't have much to say when I was with this world's Rarity."
'Maybe I simply had nothing to say during that sappy stuff.'
"Why do I find that hard to believe?"
'I know this sounds not very funny, but let's be realistic for a moment dear. How well do you even know HALF of the heroes you're going to be fighting? You're the bully Rainbow Dash shot lightning at once to protect her precious chicken. Pinkie Pie of course knows everypony but not intimately. Applejack knew your family, but you were just the bully of her baby sister, and... oh yes, Rarity, that goes without saying. But Fluttershy? Twilight? The Princesses? Any other random grass eaters who show up? You're just a 'kid around town.' Where's the emotion? Where's the drama? Where's the personal stake in it for them? I'm their 'evil overlord' for them to heroically triumph over. You'll be just their stepping stone in our last fireworks show. You already had your 'epic duel' with your arch-enemy! I... You don't need to... You don't need to be involved anymore. Please.'
"I'm counting on them not having a stake in 'saving' me, when their major worry is you. They can do what needs to be done. Apple Bloom started the job, but there's one more monster who spreads corruption and misery for misery’s sake everywhere she goes. She needs to be obliterated, and I'll make sure the heroes of Equestria destroy her completely. Then their Equestria can be free of the extra fake ordeals they were never meant to have to begin with. They can focus on the wolves they were meant to face, like Sombra, and you."
'... Is this... really what you want dear? What you really want princess?...'
"...Yes... I did what we came here for, let's go."
'Looks like I'm not that much of a step up from your last father after all... I can't tell you no.'
I sat in front of the statue portal that connected these two worlds. Right now it was closed, but like I said, opening a gate here would cause fewer disruptions, ironically.
"Diamond Tiara? What are you doing here?"
I turned around, and saw middle school age Sweetie Belle looking at me with wide eyes, like she could just barely not see the THING that actually lay before her. "... You can see me?"
She tilted her head, confused. "I can see you... but it's like I don't want to."
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised,” I said wistfully, looking off into the distance. "Of course, you’d notice a piece identical to your own soul. I'll have to remember that. Don't worry too much about it, this chat will be just a blur soon, like an interesting bug you saw on your way to school. Fate will see to that." I wished I could remember how to cry. "... I came here to say goodbye to those I can't say goodbye to, and to try and make amends to those I mustn't make amends with. Before I end it. That moment when you realize what you loved about something was just what you wanted to see, it was never there to begin with."
Sweetie had something to say, but I cheated and simply stepped through the portal. She wouldn't think to follow me, any more than you'd think to follow a mole down its hole you saw on a carriage ride.
The magic of the portal twisted me back into the shape I was 'reborn' in when I lost my heart to black magic, and I ended up back on the other side of the mirror, landing on four hooves. Without trouble, I left Canterlot Castle. Now excuse me, and don't plan on us talking again.
I don't belong in this or any other world.