Pumpkin beamed as she hugged Masky. “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe you came all this way to visit me!”
Pound stayed at the top of the stairs, tapping a hoof, feeling annoyed. The cause of all his recent problems not only had been causing trouble at school, but now the colt had even invaded his home.
His plans were now ruined. There was no way he could tell Pumpkin about Masky’s true nature while the colt was there. His presence would only make things worse. Either he would deny it and play innocent just to drag things out, or he’d admit that he was just playing her and exacerbate the pain she’d already feel when she heard the truth.
Pinkie walked up next to him, seeing the frustrated expression on Pound’s face. She glanced down the stairs. “Well, I guess it’s a dumb question, but that’s him, right? The master actor himself?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Well, let’s go take care of things.”
“No!” Pound said firmly. “We can’t.”
“If it’s too tough for you then I don’t mind doing it myself. I don’t want to prolong this.”
“You can’t!” He stomped a hoof. “Not as long as he’s here. If he decides he wants to make things difficult and deny everything who do you think she’s going to listen to and believe? Not me or you, that’s for sure.”
Pinkie’s head tilted as she considered things. “You’re probably right. But I’ll be staying close by to make sure he’s not doing anything fishy.” Patting him on the head she said, “Well, I guess I better go introduce myself. Mere words can’t replace actually observing someone for yourself.”
Pound joined her as they went downstairs, hearing Pumpkin calling their dad out of the kitchen.
Pumpkin saw Pinkie coming downstairs. “Auntie Pinkie! Come here!”
Once their parents and Pinkie were close-by she said, “This is my classmate Masquerade Ball, the one I told you about.” She rubbed her cheek against his several times. “He’s the love of my life and just the coolest pony ever!”
With none of his usual swagger he gave a feeble wave. “H-hello.”
Pound’s eyebrow rose. Something about the colt seemed different. His eyes looked a little red like he had been crying, and he looked troubled about something.
“What was that?” Pumpkin asked, giving him a little shove. “Where’s your ‘be jealous and bow down at my hooves, peasants’ attitude?”
“I left it at home,” he said quietly.
Pumpkin began laughing. “You’re such a joker!”
Carrot looked at the colt. From what Pumpkin had said about him he had expected someone tough, but in person he didn’t seem to have much presence. “Nice to meet you, Masquerade Ball,” he said kindly.
“Likewise,” he responded, “but you can just call me Masky.”
Cup gazed at him with some concern. “Are you alright, Masky? You’re looking a little ill.”
Pumpkin’s eyes widened, and her head spun to face him, finally noticing how out of it he looked. “Oh, no! What happened?”
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He shrugged. “Just… just having one of those days, you know.”
“Awww.” Pumpkin gave him a big hug. “Well, I’m happy to help. Would you like a snack? We have a huge variety to choose from.”
He shook his head. “I’m not hungry. My parents are still working, and I just couldn’t stand being alone.”
“Of course. Who can?”
Pound observed thoughtfully, trying to discern Masky’s game. Was the colt really feeling lonely? Did he actually have something upsetting happen to him that he wanted help through? Or was it just another act, a way to look appealing and garner sympathy from his parents? There was no way to know for sure. All he could do was keep an eye on him and pay attention to his words to see if he was going to lead Pumpkin astray again.
As he was pondering things the bell on the front door rang and he heard a familiar voice. “Hello, everyone.”
Pound looked over and saw Fluttershy in the entranceway. “Hi, Fluttershy!” He trotted over to her and gave her a hug.
She hugged him back. “Hey, Pound. How are you?”
“Um… I’ve been better.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. So what brings you here?”
“We’re having a picnic in Ponyville Park. We wanted to know if the rest of you would like to come.”
Cup looked at the time. “It’s a little early, but I guess we can close up shop now. It’s been pretty dead the past half hour.”
“Sounds fun,” said Carrot. “We’ll grab a few things and be right with you.”
Pumpkin dragged Masky over to Fluttershy. “Fluttershy, I want you to meet my boyfriend Masky.”
Fluttershy blinked. “Boyfriend?” she said incredulously. “Aren’t you a little young for that?”
Pumpkin shook her head strongly. “Love has no age!”
Masky suddenly perked up. “Fluttershy!” he said excitedly.
“Y-yes?” she responded.
“Pumpkin told me about you. She said you were one of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony and reformed one of the greatest evils Equestria ever faced. That’s super cool!”
Fluttershy blushed deeply. “T-thank you, Masky.”
Pound’s eyes narrowed. There it went again. Like a flip of a switch his personality changed… though he supposed getting to meet one of Equestria’s heroes could have pulled him out of his depression.
“So is the draconequus going to be joining us for our picnic?”
“I don’t know. Am I?”
Masky heard a voice right in his ear. He turned his head and saw a head coming out of his neck. He let out a scream and jumped away, and the head remained where it was, suspended in midair.
That made Pound bust out into laughter. He had missed Discord’s impossible pranks.
Pumpkin chuckled too, but helped Masky up.
“Discord,” Fluttershy said in a scolding tone, “behave yourself.”
Masky gaped as the head disappeared, and a kitten took its place, rubbing up against Fluttershy and purring.
“Don’t try and butter me up, mister,” she said, but she was smiling. A few seconds later she gave in and rubbed his head.
Discord turned back to his normal form, and Masky just stared. He had heard the story from Pound and Pumpkin, but seeing it in person was something else entirely. A hungry look came to his eyes. If he could just talk Discord into giving him the tiniest sliver of power, even if it was just enough for a single spell…
He went into his saddle bag, taking out his camera. “Excuse me, Mr. Discord, can I get a photo of you for my photo album?”
Discord considered the colt, his head stretching out of his neck until he was face to face with him. “And who might you be?”
Masky gulped, a little intimidated. “My name is Masquerade Ball, sir, but you can just call me Masky. I’m, um, a friend of the twins.”
Pound fought the urge to roll his eyes.
“Is that right?” His head tilted to the side, then kept going until it was upside down and there was a cracking sound. Discord let out a gurgle and collapsed.
Masky let out a scream, looking around at everyone else for help, but none of them reacted with any sort of alarm.
“Discoooooord,” Fluttershy said warningly.
“Spoilsport,” he said, fixing his head and getting back up.
Pound was smiling again. Even Masky was unprepared for Discord’s antics. He giggled, no longer minding if the colt joined them on their trip to the park.
Masky took a deep breath, settling himself.
“Well, Discord,” said Cup Cake in a disapproving tone, “if you’re done tormenting children for amusement can we get on with things?”
He sighed. “You try to make an impressive entrance, and you see where it gets you?”
“I thought it was impressive,” Masky responded. A little buttering up, a little flattery, a few hints here and there, and pointing out the potential for some friendly chaos; he was sure he could win Discord over before the end of the day.
He hadn’t thought it would be so easy. Frankly, he had thought it was going to be nearly impossible to meet Discord before his time was up. But here he was, everything the twins had described him to be. It was surely a sign that things were going to start going his way.
Pinkie wasn’t sure what she thought about Masky. Based on what Pound had said, and her own brief observations, she couldn’t figure him out. Whatever her own thoughts were she had to agree with Pound that telling Pumpkin the truth about Masky while he was there would only make things more complicated. So she would wait, and just keep on watching.
“Where are my two little masters of chaos?” Discord said, his eyes going in two different directions as he looked at Pumpkin and Pound on opposite sides of the room. “Come on over here. I have a present for you.”
Masky’s heartrate increased. Things might be even easier than he thought if he was going to give the twins a piece of his power like before. Pumpkin would give him some of that power for sure.
When the two were in front of him he backed up a step and pointed at the space between them, and a plaid stream of magic came out of his finger.
Masky observed the process curiously. If that was Discord’s magic, then maybe he could get that power by jumping into it. He wasn’t willing to test that theory, though. Discord’s magic was so different he might wind up cut into a hundred pieces if he did so.
The magic slowly took the form of a creature, and then solidified, it’s color changing to Discord’s own. “Hey, guys!” said the mini-Discord. “Long time no see.”
“MAYHEM!” the twins shouted, both hugging him.
“I sure missed you. I haven’t had a kid to play with since the last time we met.”
Letting him go Pound said, “How have you been?”
“Well, I don’t really care for this guy here,” he said as he pointed to Discord, “but I do love Mommy!”
“Mommy?” they both said simultaneously, looking at each other.
“Who else?” he said, disappearing and then reappearing on Fluttershy’s back. He leaned over, hugging her around the neck. “I just love her soooooo much!”
Fluttershy giggled at the expression on the twins faces. “It makes him happy, so I let him call me that.”
“I guess it makes sense,” said Pound. “You were the one who redeemed Discord, and then you gave him a chance for redemption too.”
“And you’re the Element of Kindness too,” said Pumpkin. “And we know from experience when we ran away that any kid would be lucky to have you as a mom.”
Fluttershy blushed heavily. “I appreciate it, but I can’t agree. There’s more to being a parent than just good listening skills and kindness. One of the reasons I was glad Pound took Champ was that I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to his recovery.”
“I guess you’re right, but you’re still great in our books.”
“Wait a minute,” said Pound. “Does this mean you and Discord are a couple?”
“Huh?” Discord and Fluttershy replied.
“Well, Mayhem comes from Discord, so he’s the daddy. And you’re the mommy, soooo…”
“Oh,” she said, blushing slightly, “I guess if you put it that way it sounds like it, but me and Discord are just really good friends. There’s no romantic attraction between us.”
“Hmph,” said Mayhem, hopping off Fluttershy’s back, “Who would ever fall in love with that jerk?”
“Be nice, Mayhem,” said Fluttershy.
“Mayhem, what do you have against Discord?” asked Pumpkin.
Fluttershy gave his head a rub. “Oh, Mayhem doesn’t actually hate Discord. It’s just the matter that he can’t come out unless Discord says so. He’d rather be out all the time.”
Mayhem crossed his arms, letting out a disgruntled noise. “Who wouldn’t? No one likes being trapped in a cage.”
Fluttershy moved until she was in front of him, pulling on his arms until they were straight out. “Of course not,” she said kindly. “But that’s what we’re working on, remember? You’re learning fast, and trying to be the best little draconequus you can be.” She nuzzled his nose. “And I love that about you.”
His sour mood vanished instantly and he let out a joyful sound.
“We’ve talked about this. Once you’ve proven you have enough self-control and understanding of others feelings we’ll gladly give you more time outside.” She pulled him close, snuggling with him. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing you grow and learn.”
Mayhem giggled. “I’ll do whatever makes you happy, Mommy.”
Cup Cake came into the room. “Mommy?” she said incredulously, then her expression became strained as she looked at Mayhem. “Oh, it’s you.”
Fluttershy set Mayhem down. “Go on.” She gently pushed Mayhem toward her. “Show her what we’ve been working on.”
Mayhem nodded, walking up to Cup Cake. In a contrite voice he said, “I’m really sorry that I took over your children and attacked you. That was wrong of me, and I won’t do it again. I know that scared you and hurt you, and it was really bad, but I know better now.” He summoned a bouquet of flowers, holding them out toward her. “Can you ever forgive me?”
Cup blinked, taken aback. Fluttershy had struck again. Although she had allowed Mayhem to play with her kids following Fluttershy getting through to him, she couldn’t say she really wanted to see him again. Discord was annoying at the best of times, but he wasn’t dangerous. Mayhem had tried to use her kids to callously kill them all just because they were a damper on him having fun. In his own words, “I want fun, and I want it all the time.”
Looking at him now, she could see that Fluttershy had been right. By experiencing love she had won him over just like Discord, and it seemed he really grasped the consequences of his behavior. If he was tame now she thought he wouldn’t be any more trouble.
Taking the bouquet from him she said, “Thank you, Mayhem. I can forgive you as long as you don’t corrupt my children again.”
Mayhem beamed, hugging her leg. “Thank you!”
Cup awkwardly smiled, before setting the bouquet down and putting a hoof around him. He really was a child in all but age.
When she released him he ran back to Fluttershy on all fours like a dog. “Did you see that?” he asked brightly. “It was like, like, WHOA!”
Fluttershy put a hoof over her mouth as she chuckled. “Yes, I saw it. And I’m very proud of you for accepting responsibility for your bad behavior.”
Mayhem put a claw over his heart. “This feels nice. Now I get why Pound and Pumpkin were able to stop me when I tried to attack everyone.” He frowned. “If anyone ever tried to attack you… BAM! They’d regret it. No one’s gonna hurt my momma on my watch.” He smiled. “Ya know?”
In a meaningful tone she said, “I understand, but you should try to STOP them, not hurt them. Everyone deserves a second chance. That’s how I came to know you, after all.” She gave him a kiss. “And I couldn’t be happier about it.”
Mayhem threw his arms into the air, letting out a happy squeal, before running in circles.
“Awww,” the twins said, finding his joy infectious.
Masky was delighted. The appearance of Mayhem only gave him another potential source of reality-changing magic. From what the twins had said Discord’s magic had its own childish consciousness. It sure acted like a child.
What was the most obvious was the reverential, hero-worshipping attitude he had toward Fluttershy. Maybe the most he’d have to say is just that it would make Fluttershy happy or proud if he shared a little of his magic with others. Things were just getting better and better.
Soon… soon his life would become perfect.