Chapter Title: Phase 1? Round One Fight?
Greetings, my name is Twilight Sparkle. I am a unicorn and I am -not- a goth. These are my natural colors. Yes I am the personal apprentice of Princess Celestia and holder of the central Element of Harmony 'Magic' and basically the leader of the Elemental Harmony Squad (Pinkie or Rainbow came up with that name, not me).
We've come a long way, haven't we? But somehow, we're right back where we started, facing Discord again.
The first time, we faced a mad god with a sick sense of humor who had stolen the Elements and was toying with us the whole time, corrupting us one by one, until Princess Celestia reminded me of all the lessons I'd learned together with my friends. I brought them back to reality and together we defeated Discord.
Now, along at our side, we have the Princesses, little sisters, friends of little sisters, Spike, and Trixie too. It looks like we have the upper hoof, but at the same time it would be illogical NOT to notice how wrong all this seems.
The Princesses themselves pointed out how Discord could have sucker punched us at any time or used our families against us, but didn't, and now we know that Discord and Diamond Tiara HELPED against Chrysalis from behind the scenes? Celestia then offers Discord cake (I remember that part of her tale.) Discord wanting to CONNECT with Fluttercruel? Asking Pinkie Pie to marry him? Celestia still has hope that her old friend Dissy is still there somewhere in Discord.
It makes me wonder what's truly going on here. Some of my friends want to try and save Discord as much as we're here to also save Diamond Tiara. Princess Celestia said it best, it doesn't matter if she's a school bully or not, she's lost in the dark like Princess Luna and Fluttershy were, and it's our responsibility as the Bearers of the Elements to save her.
Objectively, if we COULD save Discord from himself, he'd be an immense ally. Before and after Celestia told me about their history, I would have immediately dismissed this as a foalish pipe dream, but now I'm not so sure. Don't think I'm naive, I know that I'm dealing with a dangerous chaos spirit who has committed countless crimes against ponykind.
There is a reformation spell I could use... don't give me that look! It ISN'T mind control, but it's bad enough that I couldn't bring myself to memorize it from the books I have it in. It forces the subject to experience every evil and slight they've done their entire lives from the point of view of their victims. It can be so traumatizing that it's reserved for the worst of the worst, like Discord, but it still requires there to be a shred of SOMETHING in the soul of the subject, or their heart would be too corrupted for it to have any effect. I didn't think there was, but maybe that's changed.
I'm proud of Moon Dancer and the others for being able to pull off their part. Now we have to handle ours.
Discord is bound to Diamond Tiara's Nightmare, and Sweetie Belle is connected to Diamond. If one is turned to stone, then the other two might turn to stone as well. Call me a fool all you want, but there's no way I'm sacrificing Sweetie Belle nor Diamond Tiara to stop Discord. We've always found a way before, and we will this time too.
I sound like Rainbow Dash. Heh, now I know we're in trouble.
I just need to figure out what that way is! I look at my friends and their friends: Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, the Flutters, Princesses Celestia and Luna, Trixie, Spike, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, Silver Spoon, there's fifteen of us here, enough to crowd out most sitting rooms. Between all of us, we'll think of something! Until then, we can take anything Discord or anypony else can dish out!
Diamond Tiara raised her hoof at me. I readied myself to teleport, dodge, block, or deflect whatever magic she was about to cast.
"Twilight Sparkle, are you sure your friends are your friends?"
"Ugh! THIS routine again?" Rainbow Dash snorted. "Get some new material!" I felt indignant too.
Diamond's face remained neutral. "Remember the memory spell you used to harmonize your friends? How do you know it didn't simply re-brainwash them? That you didn't just reprogram your friends into who you think they should be? How would they even know the difference? How would you? The day you fought Nightmare Moon... did you meet your perfect circle of friends... or did you create them on the day of Discord?"
At first I was shocked at what she was saying. I glanced around at my friends, who looked varying degrees of disturbed. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna looked at me in concern.
That beat of… what's this I feel? I'm... insulted. Really angry...
"Don't lecture about magic you don't understand, Diamond Tiara. That isn't how the memory spell works at all!" I stamped my hoof. "All the memory spell can do is make the pony remember memories they already have! It works as an anti-brainwashing spell since it gets the pony to realize how out-of-character they're acting!"
"And that's a swing and a miss!" said Pinkie Pie, tossing a pocket mirror over her shoulder.
I pointed my hoof towards her. "If you think you're going to break us with words like Discord, you're going to have to try a lot harder than that! I have never, would never, and will never do that to my friends! They're not golems for me to program! If anything, I've become who I am because of them!"
"Well spoken, Twili'!" Applejack cheered.
"Awww, thank you, Twilight!" Pinkie Pie smiled.
"You're welcome!" Rainbow smirked.
"I'm happy to help," Fluttershy said.
"It's been my honor darling!"
"I can vouch for that!" Spike shouted.
"Of course you mean me too, of course," Trixie proclaimed, of course.
"Tiara, you're losing your touch!" Silver Spoon called out.
"And I am thankful and proud of all of you for that," Princess Celestia said, warming my heart.
"I will concede one thing," I continued. "The memory spell wasn't perfect... it helped my friends out of the darkness, but it didn't address what pulled them into it to begin with." I looked around. "We did all that on our own, together!" I reared back my hooves, feeling a little like I had 14,000 friends behind me.
Diamond Tiara's Nightmare took a trot back.
"Good try, princess," said Discord. He rolled up his arms like they were sleeves leaving his claws disembodied for a moment. "Now watch daddy at work and take notes. There'll be a quiz later!"
Applejack snorted, pawing at the ground once. "Ya've done this song and dance already, Discord."
Trixie scoffed. "A good showmare KNOWS not to repeat the same trick to the same audience!"
Discord's eyes narrowed.
"Did you all think you only had -one- mental problem your entire lives? Oh that's right, blame Discord for everything wrong with you. Much easier than accepting the blame yourselves, isn't it? Your inner demons were always there, I just invited them out!"
The mirrors that Princess Celestia had used to fence in Discord reappeared, shuffling themselves around in midair like a giant card trick before crashing down and embedding themselves in the ground. Discord and Diamond's Nightmare teleported off to one side and flashed a spotlight on us.
"Fear the light," said Diamond Tiara.
Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were out of the range of the light, but it was like Diamond and Discord didn't even try to aim for them. The CMC must have realized something bad was going to happen, as they hid under their enchanted capes, and used them to shadow Silver Spoon as well.
Meanwhile, Trixie threw Spike off her back and used her own body to block the light from touching Spike.
"Hey! I can take care of myself!" sweet little Spike insisted.
"Protecting the young is what adults are SUPPOSED to do!" Trixie snapped back. Thank you Trixie.
As for the seven (eight?) of us meanwhile, our shadows stretched until they touched the mirrors' surfaces. Then, our shadows stepped out.
And we saw ourselves... seven ponies, discorded and gray.
The Nightmare of Diamond Tiara said, "Ugh, no. We can do better than that." Her eyes and horn glowed ghostly white.
And our 'shadows' twisted and changed.
Trixie's 'shadow' lost her hat, and her cape became a solid black hooded cloak, the clasp was silver with wings and a unicorn head with a red jewel at the center.
Rainbow Dash's shadow was now wearing a Shadowbolt's uniform with a 'knife in the back of a pony' cutie mark.
Pinkie Pie's was wearing... wait, are those... cutie marks? Oh Celestia, I'm going to throw up! Please don't ask me to say any more!
Fluttershy's shadow shifted about until half of her body was randomly replaced with parts that would have belonged on Discord.
Rarity's shadow grew larger, its fur turning almost black. Its cutie mark became a series of sparkling stars with three noticeable blue ones. Her eyes becoming draconic, and her horn longer, her mane and tail were huge and flowing with stars in her mane like Princess Luna. Diamond-studded golden barding appeared on the shadow, grandiose in design, but I recognized the traditional Nightmare chamfron. It didn't have wings.
Applejack's shadow was almost exactly the same, except for an Element of Harmony around her neck that actually looked bigger. Her colors appeared brighter and more intense!
And... my Shadow... it... it grew to the size of Princess Celestia... dark coat, draconic eyes, a purple mane like flames, wings with flame shaped feathers, a color inverted cutie mark, and she was wearing white barding, with the chamfron covering half her face.
= 'Justice Lords Theme' - Justice League Unlimited =
(Unicorn's Notes: But, she is impossible... please Mother, no.)
(Pegasus' Notes: NO!)
(Earth Filly's Notes: I'm... I'm scared! I need to get away! Far away!)
(Pegasus' Notes: YOU DON'T EXIST, YOU NAG!)
(Unicorn's Notes: Please! Stop!)
(Earth Filly's Notes: Make her go away!)
Wait! Stop! Stop talking all at once! Too much noise! I can't think!
Just looking at this... this thing that emerged from my reflection scared and confused me in ways I didn't even understand.
Discord had an odd, almost childish curiosity looking at the thing. "Well now, that's new..." And then all Tartarus broke loose.
"We've lost their trust," said the masked Nightmare, in a chilling echo of my own voice! "Ponies are afraid of us." It blasted me with a spell from its horn. I brought up a shield just in time, keeping the dark energy back, but the force of the impact still sent me hurtling backwards.
"Smarty Pants, the wedding, how many 'slips ups' are we allowed?" She trotted forward, spreading her wings. She flew up, and came down with her four hooves. I teleported out of the way as she left craters where my skull was a second ago. "Power corrupts, after all, and who has more power than Twilight Sparkle?"
"P- Plenty! There's Celestia, Luna, Discord..." My shadow flapped her wings, sending a tornado my way, I teleported out of the way again.
"And how long until we surpass them?!"
"Well, given the exponential growth of my magic, and- Hey!" A boulder was about to fall on my head; I caught it in my telekinesis and threw it to the side. Then came fireballs! I counter with ice magic, creating an explosion of steam, hiding us from each other. "As long as I LISTEN TO MY FRIENDS, instead of thinking I ALWAYS know best, then I'll never become you!"
"And if your friends become corrupt?" Lightning! Summon lightning rods!
"We won't let that happen to each other. And if we failed, Spike, our OTHER friends and family won't let that happen! And they'll be there to save us if we are! If they didn't, they wouldn't be our friends! I have faith in them!"
I floated the soapbox from under me and threw it right at her. She blasted the box apart, and magically tossed the 'frozen on the outside, super heated on the inside' rock bomb that the soapbox had concealed into the air, where it exploded. Had she seen it coming?
"And when our friends die? Or do you plan to die before all your friends? Or you'll all die at the exact same time? When you've surpassed death and they're still mortal, what then? Will you try to cheat death in every possible way? Bind their souls to your body? Give birth to their reincarnations? Transfer their spirits into golem bodies? Use the CMC as replacement vessels? How far would you go? After all, we'd do anything for our friends!"
She created a forcefield shaped like a drill and spun it towards me like a rocket. I created a barrier behind a barrier, behind a barrier, renewing each one as the other fell, this really hurt! She broke each one faster than the last.
"Yes... I would do anything for my friends... including let them go... it would hurt worse than anything... but I'd do what a friend is supposed to do, and honor their wishes. If they wanted to stay, I'd help them, if they wanted to be with their ancestors, I'd honor that too!"
I teleported away. The forcefield-drill bore into the dirt; I appeared above and behind her, landing on her back like Spike at a rodeo. I blasted her from behind. She kicked, and I caught her wings in my telekinesis, but a pegasus' tactile-kinesis came up and blocked my magic. She flipped over and tried to crush me with her weight, but I teleported away again.
"Friendships can die. Friendships can be destroyed. Friendships can end. Like life itself, friendship is beautiful, fragile, precious, and especially delicate, it has to be allowed to grow."
I blinded her with a flash spell, and electrified my fur. Back when I was brainwashed, I made this spell to defend from Pinkie Pie's hugs, now I rushed in and hugged my shadow, it screeched out as lightning coursed through its body. Then I transmuted her barding into candy glass.
I shattered the armor off her with a
sonic musical blast, thank you, Cadence.
"The fires of friendship can wink out. It can be completely extinguished. And only the most arrogant of ponies believe that what they hold dearest can't be taken from them, can't be lost, can't be broken."
"Darkness beyond twilight-" I used a mute spell. There's a reason why spells complicated enough to need a verbal component are better used in rituals than a battlefield. This didn't stop her from using her horn, so I turned a bunch of leaves from the garden into feathers and used them to tickle her in her sensitive spots that were the same as mine. The Nightmare me began laughing mutely and twisting, her focus broken.
"We ponies, our hearts swelled by pride, did not want to see that the friendships we hold can be destroyed from within far easier than from the outside.
"I WOULDN'T ACCEPT THAT LESSON! I COULDN'T ACCEPT THAT LESSON! AND I PAID THE ULTIMATE PRICE FOR IT! I LOST MY FRIENDS! But I turned a blind eye to it! I told myself 'it was only because of Discord! If Discord vanished, or if there was never a Nightmare Moon, or never any changelings, then we ponies would live in a perfect world. BUT THAT IS A LIE! We ponies make choices, and that means sooner or later we'll make the wrong one! Celestia guides us through the dark times, but we ponies..." I panted for breath. "We're not perfect. We're not 'superior' to dragons, griffons, or diamond dogs, we've only had a very good teacher, and we got lucky before our own hate destroyed us. And if any of them are willing to listen to what Celestia has taught us ponies, then I know they'll find harmony within themselves too. I am not afraid! I'm free!"
The Nightmare me cried out and shattered like glass, the mirror it had come from cracked and powerless.
(Friend's Notes: (Pegasus): You beat her!)
Well, of course! I'm not going to lose to Nightmare Library.
(Friend's Notes: (Pegasus): Nightmare Library... Right.)
Princess Celestia hugged me from behind and gave me an approving nuzzle. "I knew you could do it."
I, the Great and Powerful, I mean, the One and Only Trixie, found myself under attack from another Trixie! This Trixie had red glowing eyes, and she wore a black cloak and... that amulet from Trixie's nightmares!
And she was dishing out an amazing assortment of spells, which, of course, trying to spell copy left me feeling like I was trying to grasp a reflection. Such lovely spells! Disintegration, petrification, death-ray (that poor caterpillar), and you can guess the rest from there. Trixie is happy that her duel with Twilight gave her plenty of experience teleporting.
"You wanted control over your destiny, Trixie?" it snarled. "Well guess what? You do! Everything that's happened to you is your own fault!"
"Trixie accepts this reality. Trixie is nopony's pawn of fate."
"You exist but to make Twilight Sparkle look good!"
"So, is everything Trixie’s fault, or isn’t it? Trixie thinks you must be very confused."
That was when the plants around me glowed red and wrapped me up like a mummy and thorns dug into my hide. "Fraud! Fake! Weakling! Understudy! Coward! Hack! We have no place here among Equestria's true heroes!"
Spike tried to tackle this fake me, but he just passed right through, tumbling to the ground.
"Says you! I'll have you know that I intend to have a big throne at the big conference table, with my cutie mark carved on it!"
I blasted her with mother's destruction magic. I won't forget the look of surprise and bewilderment as it was atomized. "It still searches-" It began, but then it was no more. I left a trail of obliteration behind her, and destroyed the mirror it had spawned from.
"Nice job!" Spike praised, with a small leap of joy.
However, Trixie's exertion did make Trixie rather dizzy, Trixie's mana pool had sadly remained relatively small compared to the likes of her mother and Twilight Sparkle. "Not doing that again anytime soon."
So here Ah am, facin' myself. Here we go again.
"Ya know what the worst truth is, darlin'?" asked fake me. "Discord was right."
"Oh, a Discord denialist." Fake me smiled. "Not the best thing from the Element of Honesty."
"Call me a Discord skeptic instead," Ah said flatly, not smiling one bit.
"Come on, darlin'. White lies that hurt less than the truth? Tellin' fillies granny's moved to a tropical island instead of dyin'? That their pet hamster ran away and joined the circus? Don't they hurt less? Bein' wrong 'bout which cousin's birthday party yer comin' to and havin' to re-label yer present just before ya get there? Not tellin' a friend who voted differently from you how they're a brainwashed robot? Don't pretend ya don't hate every last one of 'em."
"Yer right. Ah do. Ponies should be straight up in what they mean. Not dance around it with substitute words and not admitin' to makin' mistakes, or pretendin' yer alright with everythin' a friend does."
"And that's what makes ya heartless. Rarity has more heart than ya! Do Ah gotta spell it out? Nightmare Whisper's title was 'Kindest of Lies', Nightmare Mirror's was 'Cruelest of Truths?' Ain't it obvious?"
"Ah ain't no monster. Ah just don't think ponies should bury their heads in the sand."
"Even when the sun will burn 'em? Yer every heart beat cries out for a world where ponies have to adapt to a world where they can't deceive others no matter how it hurts them."
"You shut up!" snapped Apple Bloom. "Mah big sister ain't some bully!"
Ah smiled. "... Thank ya kindly, but don't worry, big sister's got this."
"She's right, ya ain't no bully... yer a clown. Who else but a silly pony could embody honesty and promote truth when civilization runs on a million tiny lies? Ponies lie to themselves every day. Go join the circus with the rest of the fools."
Ah breathed in deep. Ah'd be lyin' like nopony's business if Ah said what she said didn't hurt worse than a hot poker through the chest. Because Ah know it's true.
"... Ah do want ponies to grow up, so we ain't lyin' day by day. It was easier when Ah just sucked at lyin', instead of havin' a gift for seein' the truth. But if Ah want ponykind to grow up, then Ah need to grow up too. Ah hate lies and Ah always will." Ah stamped my hoof. "Ah did find Nightmare Mirror's world pretty! ... Ah can't deny what Ah am. But Ah'd be lyin' if Ah didn't admit there's plenty of room for improvement. There's a time to play nice, or ya'll destroy everythin' yer tryin' to help. And there's a time to take off the kid gloves, or nothin' will change. Ah need to better learn the difference. Maybe holdin' onto truth when lies are all over the place is silly, maybe. But even if Ah'm silly, AH AIN'T NO CLOWN!"
The fake Applejack shattered. The mirror remained.
"Ya beat 'er, Applejack!"
"No, Apple Bloom, Ah just rose above 'er."
Princess Luna flew next to me and put a hoof on my shoulder. "And we art quite proud of you little pony." She leaned in and whispered. "You'll make a good Alicorn yet."
"You think anypony in Cloudsdale or Ponyville wouldn't despise us?" The fake me in the Shadowbolt's outfit snarled as our wingblades clashed. I might've well been fighting a mirror in the air, a really ugly mirror. The dark evil costume is cool and scary and everything, but I'll stick to wearing it on Nightmare Night!
Oh yeah, I didn't dignify that taunt with an answer.
"Oooh, Rainbow Dash not saying anything?" sneered fake me. "Stop the presses!" We switched to lobbing punches at each other with our hooves, using all four in the air. I had nothing to say to this thing.
"Come on, me! We've always wanted to be in the center spotlight! To be the coolest, most radical pony there is! Best way to wipe away 'Rainbow Crash!' Isn't that right Rainbow Crash? We really hate being called Rainbow Crash, don't we, Rainbow Crash?"
I gritted my teeth. Not getting to me. Not getting to me. At least I'm wearing holy armor and this thing isn't! So its kicks aren't hurting as much as mine are, I hope.
"After all, first we were the big hero standing up for the filly who had been teased all through flight camp and we didn't do a thing while it was part of the crowd, but against the colts we had a grudge against, we rushed to defend her... Just like Gilda. And the moment Gilda wasn't part of the 'in' crowd anymore, we turned our back on her, it's so much easier to just cut ties than to TRY isn't it?"
Okay, now I had stuff to say! "I defended Gilda and Fluttershy because it was the right thing to do, not because it made me cooler! I know what it's like to be laughed at. I stood up to Gilda because she was being a flank-hole to all my other friends! She left on her own!"
"After you told her to go find some new friends."
"The whole bucking reason I sent that letter was to let her know I still wanted to be friends!"
"And you wouldn't be in that position in the first place if you hadn't-" I punched the fake in the mouth, then slashed with both blades, electrifying my wings while I was at it, and then I jack-hammered the fake's gut on top of that, slamming her into the ground hard enough to make a crater!
"I admitted I made a mistake, and I sent that letter because I want to believe Gilda is a friend enough to know. And that I'm willing to forgive her for screwing up too." I floated down, keeping my guard up while I couldn't see her. I knew how super fast her the reflexes could be.
But what came out of the dust, wasn't Shadowbolt me. It was Shadowbolt... "Fluttershy?!" my voice squeaked.
I looked around, where was the real Fluttershy? She was facing her fake, right?
The Shadowbolt Fluttershy fluttered up, making no move to attack. I drew back as she flew closer. In my guts, I felt like I was Superstallion facing glowing green rocks. She just smiled at me the way that Fluttershy would when handling one of her animals.
"How silly is this, Dashie? You? Saving the world not once, but twice, three times, four? Becoming best friends with the Wonderbolts? Best friends with Princess Celestia's student? Offering Spitfire comfort in her time of doubt? Oh, Dashie, how do you know this isn't all just some delusion you're having? And the guilt of having killed me just made you snap?"
"Because the Fluttershy I know would never try to guilt trip me, not in my mind, not in real life. And we already dealt with that!"
"Fluttershy wouldn't." Then Shadowbolt Fluttershy unzipped the back of the uniform... and the uniform, and the long pink mane, and yellow face, all fell away with it... and... I was looking at Traitor Dash. "BUT I WOULD, YOU LITTLE BACKSTABBER!"
I winced... I can't lie on that one... that hurt. I kept retreating as she kept advancing.
"You always mess up and let everypony down, just like that time in the maze. Your best just isn't good enough!"
"NO SHE HASN'T!" Scootaloo shouted, like white light through a bad dream. "She's come through for me! She's been there for me! She beat you once to protect me and she doesn't need to do it again to show how awesome she is!"
I stopped retreating. I smiled. Pegasi live in flocks, we support each other.
Traitor Dash hissed. "You know you're just gonna screw up again with the orange freak, Rainbow Crash, like Gilda, like Cloudsdale. All this 'loyalty' shtick? It's just you trying to make up for your own screw-ups!"
Okay. This piece of garbage did not just say that about Scootaloo. I'm done playing around.
"All that's a nice little explanation for MAYBE why I'm loyal to Fluttershy...but here's a question: if that WAS all it is, why was I loyal to everypony BEFORE becoming friends with the others? Because if that's the ONLY thing any of this was about, I'd have NO REASON to be loyal to anypony else because she'd be the only one I CARE about being loyal to! I'd fight the world for Scootaloo but I wouldn't set it on fire! I'd be SELFISH to be like that!...I'm loyal because my friends are my FRIENDS!"
"Logic schmogic! Loyalty is part of friendship. And in spite of what you or anypony else says, the Dash is no fair weather friend! And... You're always scared you'll mess up. Always scared you won't live up to your friends. As much as the Dash loves to say how she's earned all she got by herself, if the Dash is only loyal to herself, what's the point of her? But it's always been when it was for somepony else the Dash was her strongest. I hate admitting it more than anything, but the Dash makes mistakes too." I took in a deep breath and said. "I forgive you, I forgive myself."
There was nothing holding her together at this point, and Traitor Dash shattered, gone for good this time! And the mirror broke with her.
Scootaloo circled around me and hugged me. I hugged her back. "You did it again Dash! I knew you could beat her again!"
"Speaking of 'nothing'!" Old Ugly stretched out like taffy right in my face. He whispered, "How about I tell the rest of Equestria's pegasi about your dirty little secret?" The sicko grinned, kneading his paw and claw diabolically. "Starting with the orange horsefly, of course."
In spite of everything, I couldn't stop from thinking how at least Scootaloo wasn't being called 'chicken.'
Scootaloo looked confused at what we were saying. "Dash? What is she talking about?"
Discord appeared in an instant. "Oh lookie! You made it just in time! I guess I can't go leaving everyone you know with wings homeless after all! Not to mention all those pegasi in the city hospital with broken wings who may or may not have been able to have been saved by others before they went SPLAT!" Discord chuckled at that. Bastard.
"BY EXCHANGING YOUR SAFETY WITH DOOMING THE REST OF THE WORLD!" They all gasped. There was silence as a giant spot light came from nowhere above me and my face appeared on a giant, floating screen behind me.
The noise went on for several seconds before Discord said casually, "Oh don't worry, they're all about to become too insane to care or remember what I just told them. That was all for your sake my dear."
I breathed in deep. And wished Discord was solid so I could kick 'em in the face.
"I'll face the consequences of my own actions! Like 'em or not, that's what it MEANS to live in a world with rules!"
"WHAT?!" He looked even more upset with each word I spoke.
"If yer gonna bring 'em up, then I'm not hiding from my mistakes. AJ already told me someday they'd need to know, maybe they do. I'd say 'they won't believe the king of lies over me', but I know how good you are, and I'd tell them the truth afterwards anyway. So go right ahead, save me the trouble."
"But... but... you have an EGO! You're supposed to CARE what others think about you!"
"I do. But if I had to choose between stopping you and helping my friends or my rep? It's a no brainer, I'm sticking with my friends. And as for Equestria? You can't very well threaten it if you're a statue, can you?"
"Heroes aren't supposed to accept sadistic choices! They're supposed to shatter trying to find third options!"
"Sorry, I stopped being a donkey trying to pick which pile of hay to eat a long time ago."
"A couple of seasons to be exact!" Pinkie Pie of course had to pop in and give some random remark then pop right back out.
Discord looked super confused, and I think a little scared, and he snapped back like a rubber band.
"Dash? What was all that?" Scootaloo looked confused, and confused that she was confused!
"Meh. Discordion mistook my reputation for my loyalty. I'll tell ya some other time, maybe."
"Heh, I've SEEN how indestructible your loyalty is! I bet nothing can break it!"
"... Thanks Scoots... " I nuzzle her. True too. The others were right, of all that jerk's mind games, he still needed to set my loyalty against itself to win, he couldn't convince me loyalty wasn't worth having if he tried!
Yeah, it's me, Fluttercruel. Finally getting around to speaking with me again? I bet Purple Scales has had more chats with you than me. Scared I'll give ya another broken nose?
You know it's crazy, here I am finally my own pony as a person, yet I'd feel incomplete without 'Shy around. Huh? So it's like being married? Do I do WHAT in bed?!
Psh. I didn't buck 'er that hard. Don't overact so much. I'm sure they'll wake up in a bit. Naw, see? The bleeding's already stopped on its own.
Yeah I know my mother didn't get many talks with you either, but she isn't exactly the chatty type anyway!
(Friends' Notes (Unicorn): Fluttercruel, I just want to say, all of us want to say, we're all very proud of the pony you've become, and you should be too.)
Heh! Thanks! But I'm not done yet, I'm only a year old after all.
(Friends' Notes (Earth Filly): That's okay, we were born a year ago too... but we talked a lot with Shiny before then, so does that make us two years old? But we skip around a lot, so maybe we're younger.)
(Friends' Notes (Pegasus): Never mind her! Don't you have something important to talk to us about?!)
Huh?! Oh right! Well, those mirrors came down in front of us, and then the bastard and his braindead stooge teleported behind us and made that big flash of light. I felt myself being pulled like taffy and I couldn't hear Mom's thoughts or feel Mom's feelings anymore! I felt alone and vulnerable, like a shell had been removed that I didn't even know was there!
And I felt flat, being pressed into a pancake, then blown up again like a balloon. And I was staring at mom face to face. Except I wasn't looking through her eyes at the mirror. Was I using my own body? And I was eye-level with her, but I wasn't flapping my wings (so I can't levitate, sue me).
I looked down at myself... I was all grown up... my avatar, I mean. It was an adult mare's, the same age as Mom. It also still had the yellow bat wing and other bits my Mom didn't have.
I looked around, seeing the fakes pounce on our friends. I looked back at mom.
"Fluttercruel, is that you?" Mom asked, unsure.
"I think Dad accidentally manifested me when he was drawing out... your inner demon... Oh boy."
"Well." Mom smiled. "Maybe this is good. Perhaps this shows you were born from Discord and me after all."
I quickly put on a confident smirk. "Ha! As if I cared about that one way or another!" I took a pose Great and Powerful Blue would have been proud of.
"Yes dear." Mom smiled and nodded. "You didn't care in the least," she said politely. Thanks mom.
Geeze, make it stop before I start crying.
"So, uh," stammered Mom, "does this mean you'll have your own adult-"
Ya know... I could likely help out a lot more like this. I could be taken seriously by everypony. I could even eat meat without making Mom sick! I looked at the jerk who cursed my mother.
I snorted. "I don't want to owe that bastard anything." My entire body glowed, and the extra bits all went all sparkly and floated away like star dust. Leaving me back in my one year old pony/draconequus form.
"Are you sure, dear?" Mom asked... and did Discord just ask the same thing? I must have imagined it.
"I'm sure," I lied. I flew back inside mom, my spirit form taking residence inside her again. Does this make me like the bastard, hiding in Diamond Tiara? It's NOTHING like that. Not at all! You hear me?
WHOA! And hello! Don't go! Don't fear Pinkie Pie is here!
Now where was I? Oh right: the Pinkamena in front of me in the really 'not fun' Nightmare Night costume.
She looks at me like I'm a cupcake. Yeah. I think everypony's heard this one by now. She really shouldn't point that candy cleaver around like that, she could poke her eye out.
She's saying bad stuff at me. It's nothing important.
"I already faced my deepest inner demon, thank you very much."
I hug her, and back in me she goes, where she belongs. The ugly necklace, cloak and cleaver just shatter into nothing, along with the mirror.
Sure, I get angry and sad without Pinkamena there to feel all the bad stuff for me, and I've got a lot to learn about those feelings still. But there's a big difference between being angry and sad, and doing bad stuff to my friends while acting all happy like, that's mean nonsense. Pinkie Diane is only in it for the fun nonsense.
Hello, dears. It feels like it's been forever. Rarity Belle at your service, more commonly known simply as Rarity. Business pony and expert dress maker! Oh and holder of the Element of Harmony known as Generosity.
We've come so far, haven't we, darlings? The road so long, feeling like it twisted back on itself countless times, before coming back here.
I'd be lying if I said that the pseudo-Nightmare version of myself in front of me wasn't stunningly beautiful. That statuesque figure, that grand flowing mane, that star cluster-like cutie mark. The gold and diamond barding could use some adjustments, but I always think that of nearly any clothing I wear. Even the ghostly purple and dark gray colors compliment each other rather well. The extra long horn feels like a vanity but aren't we all entitled to a little of that? Ugh!
"Like what you see?" asked my inner shadow, with a glint in her draconic eyes, already knowing my answer.
"I'll say!" Dear Spike couldn't seem to resist drooling at the sight of two of me.
"Spike," I said, putting a light frost of disappointment into my words. "I hope you're not saying that you'd prefer me evil."
That broke the spell on the little drake, and fast. "W- What? No way!" His scales blushed. "Not that she isn't... you know..."
I keep a stiff upper lip. "I am able to appreciate beauty regardless of where it comes from."
It was awkward to have my inner shadow looking down at me. She was the size of an Alicorn! "We can always count on Rarity and her vanity can't we?"
I frowned. "I put blood, sweat, and tears into my appearance on a daily basis, it's not a sin to enjoy being appreciated for your own hard work."
"Being generous, means being generous to yourself ALONG with others right?" She elegantly sneered.
I rolled my eyes. "Yes darling. Ignoring your own needs is just being inconsiderate in a different way of those who love you. That doesn't mean caring only about yourself." I tapped one hoof against the Armor of Generosity I was wearing. "I had this discussion with myself already today."
"Yes... You're all so supportive of Applejack, not treating her as any different. Not caring she's no Pinkie Pie, no Rainboom Maker, no Celestia's student, no Stare."
"That's because she isn't any different. She's a friend and part of the team," I said with matter-of-fact annoyance.
"Yes... but what about us, Rarity? You want to help, to give the most you can of what you have, but you're the one who actually has the least to give."
"W-what?" I said, feeling shaken.
"Applejack isn't the weak link in the Elements of Harmony, Rarity. You are. What do you bring to the table? Rainbow Dash is willing to do what has to be done as well. She's also a martial artist. Fluttershy and Applejack have the Stare and the Truth. Twilight can move multitudes of books around with her magic as precisely as we can, darling. Pinkie Pie can fold the laws of physics like paper. And now we have Trixie, who is better with illusions than we could ever hope to be. What's your contribution? Go on, tell me what mighty powers and abilities you bring to the group. Super dress-making?"
I took a step back. "Well... that is to say..."
What? What do you mean I'm not generous?! What do you mean I'm the weakest link in the chain of the Elements of Harmony? Get out! Sorry about that, some ponies can just be so shallow.
"We've known it for ever so long, even when we denied it to ourselves." My pseudo-Nightmare looked bigger, and I felt smaller.
Me? Not generous? The nerve! Just because I take pride in my appearance does not mean I'm not generous!
"It's not being 'not generous' that makes her weak. It's having the inner strength of glass." My nightmarish shadow winked at Spike. "Honestly, dear, why would you devote yourself to a weak mare like her when I would be a prize far greater? Are you sure you wouldn't like to be my big, strong dragon, hmm?"
I step between her and Spike at once. "You leave him alone!"
She stepped closer, towering over me.
"Discord didn't even have to show us the other side of our Element to break you, my dear. Did everypony here all know that?" She shouted out to the others. "Discord didn't even have to show this lovely pony that giving away everything you have leaves you empty and with nothing! All he needed to do was appeal to the greed already inside us! I guess that makes Rarity the weakling here, doesn't it, Rarity dear?"
"Don't ever call yourself weak, Rarity!" shouted a filly's voice. "You didn't need spells or a trip to the center of yourself or a peek at the world's heart to free yourself! All you needed was somepony who needed your help! That makes you the strongest pony here!" Wait! What? I looked from Sweetie Belle, to what Diamond Tiara has become. And I realize I couldn't tell which one had spoken. Sweetie looked... surprised?
"And I bet that scares you to pieces, Discord! The rest of us needed somepony to help us to escape the darkness. All Rarity needed was for somepony for HER TO HELP!" I knew one of my friends had said that, but in the bedlam I couldn't tell who.
The fake Nightmare snorted. "Bah! You mean like Twilight Sparkle? Even our crawling out of the dark is just extra!"
"I didn't magically enter another pony's mind, I just helped a little girl who I should have treated better instead of first treating her as an outlet for my misery." I looked at Diamond Tiara. "I don't believe I ever apologized for throwing you out of my store in the mud. You've done many naughty things, Diamond Tiara, but you were just another pony who wanted a dress made for somepony you cared about, regardless of your attitude. I was over the line."
"Oh yes! And the way that you helped her worked out SO WELL! Just LOOK AT HER! Your help did SO MUCH GOOD!"
"Actually," Discord pushed his claws together repeatedly, pointing them upwards like he was embarrassed. "Getting my little princess to hurt you wasn't easy. Why, she would have backed out and spoiled the whole plan, if I hadn't played her love for you and her mother against each other."
A soft wind blew within me.
"She didn't need to know that father. She already knows she tried her hardest for a filly who didn't deserve any of the love and attention she was giving her. Or that she has the heart of a saint. That part of me died when I ceased to be Diamond Tiara, remember?"
"Bah, I say! Bah!" Shouted my fake Nightmare. "The rest of your friends didn't need help to fight their demons! You're STILL the weakest Element of Harmony! In spite of all our so-called 'growth!'"
"There is no sin in accepting help from others!" I snorted back.
This time I know it was Applejack who shouted, "Rarity! When Ah first got the truth eyes Ah first saw a lot of stuff that COULD have happened! And Ah haven't seen a single world where you become a Nightmare, Rarity! NOT. A. ONE! Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye! As Ma and Pa as my witnesses, that makes ya the strongest pony here!!!"
I'll admit, I didn't grasp fully what Applejack meant, but I understood the core of it well enough!
"I HAVE NO NIGHTMARE!" I shouted at the big black mare, standing tall. "I have desires that balance out my generosity! I'm not a slave to either extreme! It's one of my strengths! And you're one of my strengths too!"
"WHAT?!" The fake Nightmare echoed.
"I've been able to notice my own mistakes, on my own! I realized I was becoming a green eyed monster when Fluttershy became a model! Perhaps one of the reasons there's no possibility where I become a Nightmare! Maybe I'm the type who actually REALIZES when she's going too far!"
"How do we know Applejack didn't just say that to make us feel better?!"
"Maybe if Fluttershy said that! But Applejack doesn't lie! She'd hit us with a harsh truth and help us get through it! If she says there's no possibility out there where I fully and truly become a Nightmare, then there isn't one!"
Applejack trotted alongside me. "That makes Rarity the one MOST worthy of her Element! She ain't the weakest! She's the strongest! That's what she brings! How do ya like THEM apples?"
"Burnt to a crisp!" My fake Nightmare snarled, and a cone of flame shot out from her elongated horn. I moved in front of Applejack, and my Element in my armor shined brighter, and a barrier came up the color of my Element and my magic, that shielded us both.
With a thought, my chaise longue zoomed in from behind my fake Nightmare, sending her spinning upwards like bowling pins before landing back down. She didn't have wings to so much as slow down her second impact.
Unexpectedly, Spike stepped forward too! "Rarity could have defeated you by herself just fine. She just took longer because she had to listen to you talk and talk!" He rested a claw on my leg. "And, she had to save me from getting tempted by you. Thanks, Rarity."
I smiled. "Anything, for such a noble gentledrake." I trotted up to my fake Nightmare, looking down on her. I said to her calmly, yet harshly, "You are not in style, and you never shall be!"
She shattered, along with the mirror. I looked up at Discord.
"You never had any place in Diamond Tiara's story. The story should have been about a broken little girl who meets a pony that helps her heal her heart, a friend that is always there for her, and a family giving their lost mother a rope to pull herself out of the fog. You've tarnished that happy ending enough already, now shut up and let this story end as it should have what feels like years ago!"
Discord stared at us, going from face to face of my friends. We stood united. "Well, that worked out a lot better the first time."
"You separated them the first time," said Diamond Tiara's Nightmare.
"Which wouldn't have made a difference!" Twilight said boldly.
"Well, for most of you," snarked Discord. No, I didn't feel any sting. After all, Discord did set me up against my harshest critic, myself. And I've been able to best her before, and I've bested her again, and I will best her once more! And truth be told, I welcome her, after all, how would any artist improve without actual feedback from an audience like her? But after all's said and done though, a true artist should never cling to a single pony's opinion.
I did have to admit, Discord was much more subtle in his corruption the first time around. Was he being so brazen this time because he knew we'd be on guard, and thought it a waste of energy?
Pinkie Pie grabbed the surviving mirror and stowed it in the place she keeps things.
"I'll be expecting that back later dear," Princess Celestia said.
Pinkie saluted. "No problem!"
Celestia chuckled. "I am proud of all of you my little ponies."
"We dare say, thy armor is as strong as thy hearts, and ye have proven its mettle!" Princess Luna praised.
"I'm kinda disappointed we didn't get to fight our inner monsters too," Scootaloo would say.
"I'm not sorry," Silver Spoon replied.
"I'm happy that we didn't!" said Apple Bloom.
"We did that already," little Sweetie Belle said. Why am I not surprised by that?
"Back you go, Spike," Trixie said, levitating Spikey Wikey onto her backside again. I never imagined those two would become friends.
"You girls all rock!" Spike cheered.
"It's a good thing you beat that cheap trick," said Tiara's Nightmare mockingly. "We wouldn't want you all to go down too quickly."
"Tiara! Just stop!" Silver Spoon called. She was still keeping Tiara's crown safe. "You don't need to prove anything! If I can be something besides a 'tag along' then you can be more than what ponies say you are!"
"Don't let that bastard decide who you are, you stupid brat!" Fluttercruel shouted.
"Discord, you can't seriously be alright with Diamond Tiara doing this, can you?" Fluttershy pleaded.
Diamond Tiara's Nightmare snorted. "As if I care what Discord approves of or not."
Discord lowered his head.
"Ah never thought Ah'd see somepony with clogged ears as much as this!" Applejack said.
I appreciate Rainbow Dash not shouting 'Is that All You've got?'
Then Discord perked up, that wasn't a good sign.
Discord raised up his upper limbs and wiggled his claws. Discordant colored lightning shot into the sky, then came crashing back down around us, not hitting any of us, not even close. Creaking and moaning came from everywhere. "Let's see if you're still patting yourselves on the back after this! Are you ready for round two?"