A Sparkle-ling Perfection

by Cast-Iron Caryatid

Chapter Seven 【Twilight】

I can feel the hive mind churning in my head just as I can feel my amoreal sack churning at the base of my throat, and I’m forced into the exceedingly rare situation of having to correct myself. The love of an alicorn—well, this alicorn, anyway—is worth any cost, and the hive must have it.

That’s not my job, though. The chittering of plans and counterplans echo through the hive mind as I feel myself shunted aside with the weight of command pressing down on me.

Act normal.

Do not buzz this up.

Don’t forget to brush your teeth.

I resent the decrees and the power behind them, as would anyling when told to do something they are already going to do—well, anyling who isn’t ninety-nine percent of changelings, anyway, but drones hardly count; they’re basically furniture.

I dutifully scrub the tooth-rotting love out of my mouth and gargle some pony mouthwash for good measure; no need to risk the goddess of love smelling it on your breath. It occurs to me too late that I don’t actually have any data on what is done with mouthwash after it has been used. I deduce that either it is to be spat out, or ponies have no taste.

Prior experience with ponies has me leaning towards the latter.

In any case, mouth clean and stomach a little queasy, I begin making my way back upstairs before I suddenly remember something important—the dragon egg! I just chucked up a kilonuzzle of love and left it sitting in the lab with the egg! If the dragon’s egg absorbs enough ambient magic from the raw love, it could develop far enough to form a soul, and I’d be in real, serious trouble! Tartarus, with as much love as we were going to have to deal with because of this, the buzzing thing could hatch!

With no time to waste, I rush back down into the lab and… and… aw crud. I look up in dread at the egg on the shelf. The cursed thing is as big as I am and it absorbs magic; I can lift it, but with the amount of magic down here already, it’d be like taking something out of the oven with a wet towel; I’d just be making things worse by conducting all that magic into the egg. Just about the only saving grace of the situation is that dragon eggs are amazingly tough.


And my face is soft. Mother buzzing ow! That particular sign of maternal affection is never going to heal until I get rebirthed, is it?

Groaning, I pull myself up and roll the egg out of the lab and away from the radioactive love bomb I upchucked earlier, stopping only briefly on the other side of the faux wall of junk to hide it in a soup pot.

Should I be worried that ponies have soup pots large enough to fit several small foals?

The egg rattles around in the pot as I lift it in my magic—I’m lifting the pot, not the egg, see? No magic conductivity problems; I am a genius! Also, there’s much less magical contamination even on this side of the wall, so it’s not as much of an issue anyway.

Still, genius, though the dragon egg rattling around in the pot is about as inconspicuous as… an ostrich egg in a stew pot? You try putting a giant egg in a stew pot and tell me you’ve got a better example of conspicuousness; I’ll wait.

Wait—no! No waiting! I’m rushing up the stairs when a white blur almost bowls me over. Crud, was Shiny going down to relieve himself of his love already? Strange, I didn’t see Sunset Shimmer with him; was her amoreal sack not full as well? What kind of foalsitter pays more attention to a stallion than the foal she’s supposed to be sitting on? A bad one.

The hive mind is very graphic in explaining exactly what kind of foalsitter does that, which is unnecessary because that was sarcasm. It’s sarcasm now. Because I say so. Also, I totally knew that foalsitters do not actually sit on foals like they are eggs. That was a joke, and the hive mind is dumb for not realizi—shutting up now.

Wait, if Shiny is downstairs, that means Sunset Shimmer is alone with the goddess of love.

Sunset Shimmer does not like the goddess of love.

Sunset Shimmer is not known for making good decisions.

The pot and egg reach peak conspicuousness as I burst out into the hallway hoping to prevent a disaster, all the while dozens of nightmare scenarios flash through my head. What if she says something that causes her to be recognized? What if she says something to scare off the princess? What if she says… anything! I am unable to actually come up with any scenarios where Sunset Shimmer opening her mouth makes anything better.

The hive mind once again provides graphic commentary to spite me. Gah! It seems to be of a randy disposition tonight and I am not sure if it’s because of the ginormous influx of love from the goddess in the next room or if the queen is just in a fertile mood.

Or, given the number of changelings that have just taken pink disguises in the queen’s presence, both, it would seem.

The hive mind is not exactly safe for foals, in case that wasn’t already abundantly obvious. Also, ew; my impressionable foal brain didn’t need to know what the queen gets up to in her chambers with a dozen consenting adults. Sometimes I really hate my pony maturation rate. A small portion of the hive mind like a niggling voice in the back of my head representing foal-aged infiltrators agrees with me.

Why yes, I am a hypocrite, thank you for asking.

I hear voices coming from the communal room. There is no shouting—yet—so even though I wish to rush in, I resist, as I still have the egg to deal with. My commendable restraint lasts just long enough for me to ditch the pot in the kitchen sink where it is unlikely to be exposed to much scrutiny or magic. Thus divested of my burden, I continue my mad dash to forestall any possible missteps, reassuring myself that this small delay of a few seconds will surely not make any difference in the grand scheme of things.

The door to the communal room is open, so I hear Sunset Shimmer talking before I get there; she is not quiet. “So, basically, changelings need love to survive,” she tells the alicorn, to my shock. “Love is—”

“Sunset Sh—” I start to yell in anger and maybe a little hurt as I burst into the room, but a weak green glow catches my front hoof and I go crashing into the carpet. When I recover, I see the small white form of Sunset Shimmer getting her whole body underneath a thick book and lifting it up so I can see the cover, which says Changeling: The Harvest.

What. Who in the hive—oh, her. That doesn’t even… I mean, kind of, I guess? My stunned silence and fitful communication with the hive mind allows Sunset Shimmer to steal a march on spinning my completely reasonable slip of the tongue.

“It’s not sunset yet!” she says with a mock pout that… is actually very good, to be honest. The hive mind rates it eight-point-three out of ten, which is just stupid because if you’re going to use decimals on a ten scale, you might as well just go with percentages instead. The hive mind counters by changing its rating to four and a quarter stars.

The alicorn in the room—Cadance, she had introduced herself as—looks confused, but not suspicious, thankfully. “What happens at sunset?” she asks, glancing at the window to the reddening sky. “It’s still a way off.”

“Dinner!” Sunset Shimmer says perhaps a little too quickly. “She’s just excited for dinner; she likes all sorts of weird things. You know she eats eggs for breakfast? Just… eggs! Fried!”

Cadance rolls her eyes. “Fried eggs. Imagine that,” she deadpans.

The excellent usage of sarcasm does not go unnoticed; Sunset Shimmer looks shocked. “Not you too!”

Cadance pinches the bridge of her nose in the crook of her hoof, muttering something about unicorns before snapping back into foalsitting mode with forced cheer. “Eggs are actually a common breakfast food… pretty much everywhere that isn’t full of stuck up—err—cultured ponies with delicate tastes… and horns on their heads. It’s important to accept other ponies’ and creatures’ diets. In fact, did you know that before I became an alicorn, I was a pegasus that grew up in an earth pony village? That means that not only did I have to eat fish once in a while, but I had to catch it myself!”

“Vindication!” I cry, raising my hooves in the air.

Cadance gives a quiet giggle. “Quite, but we also shouldn’t make little Whitewash feel bad,” she says, running a hoof down the mane of the stunned and queasy-looking filly. I assume it is because of the subject matter until she glances to me in a bit of a panic. Crud, her amoreal sack must be full already!

“Eheh,” I scratch the back of my neck and fake a blush. “Sorry—uh—Whitewash. Um, also—Shiny wanted to talk to you in the basement before he leaves so he can explain that urgent thing you need to do. How far did you and Cadance get with the… game?”

Sunset Shimmer pauses to swallow down her gorge. “I was telling her about changelings and love so she can get in character. You know, see it as a resource not to be wasted, that sort of—urp—thing. Gonna-go-see-Shiny-now-bye.”

Cadance and I watch in silence as Sunset Shimmer dashes off to relieve herself of love. Coincidentally, this also means that she is not present to experience my reaction to this plan of hers. Loathe as I am to admit it, this is fortunate for me, as I am not certain what that reaction should actually be. Getting the alicorn of love to think like a changeling? Getting her into the mindset that love is something that should be min-maxed, streamlined—even farmed? It is the kind of idea that seems brilliant at first before rapidly waffling between ‘no, that’s dumb,’ and ‘dumb enough to work!’

So, pretty much exactly the sort of plan I was hatched for.

Cadance, with no such inner conflict keeping her busy, has already gone back to the book. “So, tell me more about these changelings, Twilight. It seems a little odd that they’re the heroes, doesn’t it?”

It takes me a moment before I’m hopping over to set myself down beside her and give the book a once over. “Well, they’re the underdogs, aren’t they?” I ask, looking up at her with eyes full of innocence. “They just want love, but nopony wants to give it to them.”

“Well, it does make them relatable,” she admits, looking over the book. “But it’s still wrong to just take things that aren’t yours, even if you need them—and there’s a difference between wanting to be loved and consuming it.”

I pretend to think on that. “Well, it’s spent either way, right?” I finally say. “They feel just as loved as a pony does—more, with the emotion sense—they’re just also able to make use of it. Weren’t you just saying I shouldn’t make ponies feel bad about their diet?”

“Um… yes. That is a thing I said. Still…” Cadance flips forward a couple of pages until she finds what she’s looking for. “I’m getting mixed signals with the thirteen kinds of acids and venoms they can spit.”

I roll my eyes. “It’s a game,” I remind her with a pout. “Oubliettes and Ogres is about ponies killing each other with swords and fireballs while they go around robbing graves; Changeling: The Harvest is about secret loves and hidden conspiracies—it’s way better. If you don’t like it, though, Shiny also got Dragon: The Hunger—I bet I can roar better than you!”

Cadance seems to pale just imagining it. “N—no, that’s alright.”

“Or! Or!” I continue, getting excited. “We can play sky pirates! Those wings work, right?”

“Changelings are fine!” she rushes to say. “They’re great! Super, even! Let’s read about changelings!”

In spite of her initial reluctance, the goddess of love quickly becomes enamored with the concept of changelings—so much so, that Sunset Shimmer and I are able to take turns catching her attention, filling up on love and going down to my lab to disgorge the glowing pink substance into a growing tumorous growth. I would complain about the amount of space it is liable to take up by the end of the night, but it’s pure, undiluted love. It would be like a dragon complaining about all that gosh darned gold that keeps piling up in their bedroom, or a gryphon complaining about the fermented whale carcass the neighbors gave them for Hearth’s Warming.

Okay, gryphons would absolutely complain about that, but mostly because they don’t celebrate Hearth’s Warming and they like complaining.

They are not dissimilar from Sunset Shimmer, in that—not that Sunset Shimmer is in the habit of keeping carcasses around as edible décor… probably. No, no, she definitely reacted poorly to the idea of eating meat; she would properly dispose of any carcasses she creates, I am almost certain. No, it’s the capacity for complaining that she shares with gryphons. Thankfully, I have not had to listen to the no doubt many objections she most likely has about the process of repeatedly expectorating love, but I do not expect that that will last, nor do I look forward to reminding her that she will need to ingest and digest it in order to incubate the egg.

“…ilight? Twilight?”

I blink away my daydreams of whiny entitled ponies as the actual entitledest pony is attempting to get my attention. “What? Sorry, I was distracted. Did you finish picking your perks?”

She looks at me with some concern, feeding me even more love. “Yeah, I finally decided on broodmother for the last one,” she says, sliding her character sheet over with one hoof.

I look it over and it seems fine at first glance. On second glance, I realize that she has essentially recreated Queen Chrysalis on paper down to the last detail—including the name! “She seems kind of mean,” I say without thinking, earning the… complete ambivalence of the entire hive mind, actually. Except one. My cheek aches in sympathetic response.

I am going to be so dead the next time she sees me.

“I—I mean, compared to what you were saying before,” I clarify, earning absolutely zero clemency from that single presence and the overwhelming enmity it is directing at me.

Cadance shrugs it off. “Well, you had a point; it’s a fantasy. Sometimes it’s just fun to do something different.”

“And… How did you come up with the name ‘Queen Chrysalis?’” I ask.

Cadance narrows her eyes at the sheet. “Oh, sorry, my hornwriting is still terrible. It’s Queen Crystalis—you know, kind of going with the bug theme, but more original than just a boring old noun.”

Yep. So dead.

“Is something wrong?” she asks, then glances out the window at the dusky sky. “Oh, no wonder you’re distracted. It’s past sunset; you must be starving!” Cadance shuts the book with the character sheets inside and sets it on the coffee table with her magic as she gets up and stretches. “Come on, let’s get you something to—wait, where’s Whitewash? Wasn’t she just here?”

I pretend to look around for a moment, then run off before she can stop me. “She must have wandered off. I’ll go find her!”

For all we have collected a gluttonous amount of love tonight, much to the detriment of the crack in my face, Sunset Shimmer looks paradoxically worn out when I enter the lab. Well, I say it is paradoxical, but it it also expected as she hasn’t been given a chance to keep any of it to digest. Shining Armor is also tired, but for a different reason; he is digging a cistern to store the love in.

Sunset Shimmer looks to me with vexation in her eyes. “Tell him he’s wasting his time.”

I cock my head in question. “He is not. A properly insulated cistern is vital to preventing overexposure of the egg to the magic of the love that will be stored inside.”

She rolls her eyes at me. “Yeah, sure, whatever, but he could just wait until he’s in my old body. I could have had this thing dug by the time the perfect princess up there had her attributes rolled.”

“Perhaps,” I say. “But changelings are good diggers on their own, and do you really want to be the changeling who has to line it with magic-insulating resin?”

Sunset Shimmer looks a little green. “Good point,” she says and to my shock, actually reaches up to slap Shining Armor on the flank with only a minor shudder. “Go for it, big guy.”

Shining Armor throws her an indulgent smile and gets back to work.

“Hey, speaking of Her Royal Highness, how come you’re down here?” she asks. “You left her alone and didn’t even need to rush over to empty your gullet when you came in?”

“Ah!” I quickly jolt back upright with the reminder. “Yes, it’s time for dinner and she noticed you were missing, so I came to get you lest she attempt it. She should have found the peatloaf in the icebox by now, so we should really get going.”

Sunset Shimmer pushes herself up with significantly more effort. “Alright, alright. Ugh, give me a hoof up the stairs; you’re the only one here who’s not exhausted. I swear, once I have claws and no fur to get dirty, I am going to climb the shit out of this place.”

I shake my head, but pick her up in my magic and head out of the lab anyway. “I am sure no cookie jar will be safe from you.”

“Hey, come to think of it,” she says, floating upside-down beside me. “You said all this love needs to be insulated because of the egg, right? Where’s the egg until then?”

It takes me a moment to remember. “Ah, I put it in a stew pot and left it in the kitchen sink.”


“And Princess Tooty Fruity is…”

“…In the kitchen. Buck”

By the time we reach the kitchen, hooves scrambling for purchase on the hardwood, it is clear that we are too late. Princess Cadance has the lid of the pot levitating in her magic, an incredulous look on her face. “Girls,” she says in a slightly stressed, exasperated tone. “Why is there a giant egg in the sink?”

I do not have an answer prepared.

“When you were talking about eating eggs, I didn’t think you meant… what even is this?” She pokes the egg with a hoof, gingerly, her frown becoming more and more distressed. “I don’t know how to cook this! It probably should have been put in the oven an hour ago!”

Sunset Shimmer and I share a look and a shrug. “That’s an experiment,” she says. “Please be careful with it.”

“There’s peatloaf in the icebox,” I add.

The princess blinks at us, checks the icebox and lets out a sigh of relief. “Oh.”

In spite of the truncated episode of drama, the princess actually manages to impress me by throwing together freshly fried onion rings and sautéed mushrooms to go with the peatloaf in less than five minutes.

Sunset Shimmer, too, appears to be impressed, as she spends most of the meal just staring at the source of the fried deliciousness. In fact, it’s so blatant that even the princess notices. “Did you have a question, Whitewash?”

“When the buck did you get that good with magic?” she blurts out.

The question clearly takes Princess Cadance by surprise. “Okay, first off, I’m going to have to give you twenty minutes in the corner for that kind of language,” she says, chiding the ‘young’ pony. Sunset Shimmer looks like she wants to argue, but bites her tongue. “But to answer your question, it may have only been six months since I became an alicorn, but I’ve had very good teachers and worked very hard to live up to the expectations of ponies who… well, the expectations of ponies.”

Open mouth, insert hoof, Sunset Shimmer. I’m kind of tempted to kick her under the table just so I can remind her over the hive mind that part of Disguise 101 is to not remind ponies of your previous identity.

“B-but—” Sunset Shimmer stammers, apparently not willing to leave it alone. “You were failing—I mean—”

Princess Cadance looks chagrined as she leans back and sighs. “Well, I suppose I’m in no place to complain about gossip.” It takes her a moment to collect herself. “Yes, I admit, my tests are terrible. I’ve got a lot on my plate and I’m not practiced in memorization. You fillies are lucky, you know? Just from what I’ve seen so far, you seem to like learning, even if it’s about make-believe changelings, and that kind of habit will be very valuable when you grow up. As for me, I do much better with hoofs-on learning—err, or is it horn-on for magic? Anyway, that’s why I can bring cooking oil up to temperature in an instant but can’t read a spell diagram to save my life. I’ve still got a long way to go, but Princess Celestia is actually really happy with my progress.”

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk-clatter. It is a good thing that Sunset Shimmer has already finished the food on her plate, as her horn does not agree with the tableware.