I Can Read Names in Clouds

by Yuu

Return to Innocence

“Ma'am, you are hurt,” Curiosity said, her voice tight, “we need to...”

“Please wait, Lady Curiosity,” the queen said, as if she hadn't even noticed the injury. “I’m waiting for Lady Gloaming to speak.”

Rainbow came closer and put her forelegs on Gloaming’s back. Gloaming just sat on the floor, staring at the queen. Rainbow sat down next to her, slowly wrapped her forelegs around in a hug, speaking to her quietly. I came a bit closer to hear.

“...fine, Gloaming. The queen’s fine, everypony else is fine too,” Rainbow whispered. “You made a mistake, but Gracia can heal her. I know you don’t really want to cut ponies with magic. It's going to be okay.”

“I’m so sorry, Ma'am,” Gloaming said, “I went too far.”

The queen nodded. “Don’t do that again.”

“I’m...” Gloaming started to say, but her voice stopped in her throat. She cried, silently.

“It’s alright,” Rainbow said, “everypony will be fine, including you. Look, the queen already forgave you.”

Azure Sky nodded to Gracia, and the pool of blood beneath her stopped growing, started shrinking, then disappeared completely. The cut on her shoulder closed itself. Even the blood on her coat disappeared.

“What happened to Rainbow?” Curiosity asked Medley, then turned to me. “I can’t say it’s a bad thing, but it is very unusual.”

“She will tell you herself soon, I think,” I said. “She's not a doppelganger, if that's what you're thinking.”

“Yes, Lady Gracia would have noticed that immediately,” Curiosity said, smiling.

Gloaming wrapped her legs around Rainbow in return, and sobbed into her shoulder. Rainbow stroked Gloaming’s head tenderly, though she caught my eye and nodded once, subtly

Azure Sky sighed and sat down next to Gloaming and Rainbow, hugging them both. Rainbow smiled when she noticed. Gloaming’s response was between a gasp and a laugh, but then she became inconsolable.

“Poor Gloaming,” Curiosity said. “I can only imagine how it would feel to harm the pony you most respect. Even by accident...” She turned to Gracia. “Is the queen all right?”

“It was a very deep cut, even going through bone,” Gracia said. “But it was also very thin, so I just connected the tissues back together. Your doctors could do the same, though it would take more time.”

Curiosity folded her ears and lurched slightly.

“I’m glad you are with us now, Lady Gracia,” she said.

Gracia nodded. “Well, even if Lady Curiosity managed to sever the leg, I’m sure I could have reattached it quickly,” she said, talking more to herself than to Curiosity.

After a few minutes, Gloaming finally stopped crying and just sat quietly next to Rainbow. The queen left her and came back to us.

“Your Majesty, I’m sorry, but will Lady Gloaming be punished?” Curiosity asked.

“She already punished herself enough, when she cut me,” the queen said. “I believe it was the fastest way to make her understand, compared to consultation with a psychologist. Though she will still need to work through her conflicts with somepony.”

“But she may harm you even more, Ma'am,” Curiosity said. “As Lady Gracia told us, Lady Gloaming could have cut off your leg.”

“I hardly think so,” the queen replied. “It was a calculated risk. Lady Gloaming is an inexperienced fighter, so she aimed exactly where she looked. I decided to take the attack myself to prevent this from escalating any further. I know, I could have moved and exposed my regalia, which are designed to absorb these kinds of attacks, but it would be less effective in the long run.”

“So you knew Lady Gloaming didn’t want to kill Lady Violet Cloud?” Medley asked.

“Yes, because she still wanted answers,” the queen said. “Lady Violet Cloud would have gotten similar cut, nothing life threatening.”

“Actually, you shouldn’t have worried about me,” Violet Cloud said, walking closer to our group. “This body is not my sole vessel.”

“Regardless, I would like to apologize for the behaviour of Lady Gloaming,” the queen said.

“Yes, I understand, she has had a rough time recently.” Violet Cloud took a plush toy, which had a striking similarity to Gloaming, from her saddlebag. “But this body for me is like this toy for you. You may have some attachments, but it can be easily replaced.”

Violet Cloud laid the toy down on the table and covered it with a small piece of cloth. Then she took another toy from her bag, this one similar to Rainbow.

“Aren’t those toys from abroad?” Medley asked. “I’ve heard they make toys of the element bearers, because some people think they bring good luck, but I’ve never seen one myself.”

“I just brought them today to illustrate my point,” Violet Cloud said. “You can take them if you like, I don’t need them anymore.”

“Oh, thank you very much.” Medley smiled and immediately took the Rainbow toy. “I’m the fastest pony, vroom, vroom...”

“I can even make you an autograph,” Rainbow said, who came to us with Gloaming behind her.

Gloaming stopped next to Rainbow for a second, then made several steps closer.

“I’m sorry for my attack,” Gloaming said, without raising her gaze from the floor. “It won't happen again.”

Violet Cloud simply nodded.

“And as I said before, I’m not angry at you, Lady Gloaming,” the queen said.

Gloaming nodded as well, saying nothing.

“And before I forgot, thank you, Rainbow.” Medley hugged her. “I mean Lady Rainbow. I couldn't have done any better.”

“I...” Rainbow’s cheeks became sapphire. “I just did what I thought was right.”

“Anyway, we came to you to ask you something, Lady Violet Cloud,” the queen said.

Gloaming sighed. Azure Sky waited several seconds, but no one else wanted to take the initiative.

“We recently discovered that Disaccord, the embodiment of chaos, escaped a long time ago,” the queen said, “even though I, my sister, and the elements of harmony thought we had defeated and contained him.”

“I know,” Violet Cloud said, grinning.

Gloaming opened her mouth, but closed it a second later.

“So we want to ask you, Lady Violet Cloud. Could you help us counter him?” the queen asked. “Maybe we can make a deal, a trade for something useful against him?”

“Sure,” Violet Cloud said. “As you correctly guess, he is only a person, and even if he tries to make a deal with me, many ponies could do the same and he would be outmatched.”

“Thank you.” Curiosity sighed. “I suppose we shouldn’t fear him so much. We understand that you can give us some information in exchange for something else. But can you answer some questions without any deals?”

“I'm sure she can answer a question for free, if it increases the odds of a deal,” Rainbow said.

“Your multicoloured friend is correct, actually,” Violet Cloud said. “I can also answer a question if the answer has little value for you. Usually it happens when a pony can deduce the answer herself. I just save her some time.”

“That is good,” Gloaming said. “Maybe you can tell us how long until the embodiment of chaos decides to visit us?”

Gloaming still didn’t sound very confident, but she could speak normally now, more or less. It seemed like she had moved aside her own problems, in order to concentrate on the well-being of other ponies. Or her inquisitiveness simply outweighed her other concerns.

“He doesn't check his statue often,” Violet Cloud said. “I expect him to do that next in two or three months. In approximately the same time-frame he should know you have found out about him, and he will then wait for some chaotic event, in order to make his appearance.”

Gloaming stood motionless for a short time, gazing at Violet Cloud. “So he would try to convince us that he was in the statue all along? I'm wondering, why? To hide the fact that we couldn't catch him?”

“Yes, he has done similar things in the past,” the queen said. “That was one of the reasons why we couldn't do anything with him for a long time. He was good at misleading us in different areas, including his abilities.”

“This is correct,” Violet Cloud said.

“By the way, have you ever served in the Royal Guard, Lady Violet Cloud?” the queen asked. “I remember somepony similar to you in their ranks.”

“I thought it would be an interesting experience, to train as a guard and to work with them for some time,” Violet Cloud said. “So I did, and it was.”

“That is really interesting,” Gloaming said. “But why go through training? I mean, if you can give abilities to other ponies, you can make yourself capable enough to join Royal Guard.”

“That wouldn't be interesting enough for me,” Violet Cloud said. “I use my abilities on myself from time to time, like today, when I just came here, but I prefer to live the life of a regular pony.”

“But why live here?” Curiosity asked.

Violet Cloud looked to the queen, who nodded.

“I think I may know the answer,” the queen said. “Lady Violet Cloud prefers to see for herself the main events of modern history, and right now the element bearers live here.”

“Yes, it is more interesting to live through the events surrounding you than it is to read about them in history books,” Violet Cloud said, smiling.

“Alright then. Are we all in agreement, as to how to handle Disaccord?” Gloaming asked, looking around.

Most ponies nodded. An agreements with Violet Cloud should work, and the Coalition would also help. So I nodded too.

“Don’t worry about him too much,” Violet Cloud said. “Any value the Coalition see in cooperation with you would be ruined by his meddling. They will respond, if it comes to that. And if one of the Royal Sisters agrees to visit Earth, the Council could arrange for some of their best operatives to visit you, in kind.”

“Thank you, I will consider it,” the queen said. “I know my subjects wouldn't like that, but they should understand.”

“For your information, the Coalition scientists could make a copy of you,” Violet Cloud said. “They don't do that very often with mages, because the procedure can't reliably copy a connection to genius. But your magic depends on your physical body, so this they can copy.”

“That sounds like a good plan,” the queen said, smiling.

“Do you really want to make a copy of yourself,” Rainbow said, and quickly added, “Ma'am?”

“I’ve considered it myself, actually. Unfortunately we don't have the means to copy a conscious mind,” she said. “Another me would be so helpful for diplomacy, but it could also serve as a backup, if anything happened...”

“Yes, and the Coalition could simply make another copy, in that case,” Violet Cloud said after a pause.

“Thank you, I will discuss it with the Coalition representatives,” the queen said. “Both of me could even share experiences with the same method we use to re-educate criminals. Now, let’s talk about Lady Medley.”

“Yes,” Medley said, “I also have a teeny tiny problem. Unfortunately only you, Lady Violet Cloud, could possibly help me.”

“I’m aware of your problem,” Violet Cloud said. “Do you have any idea what may have caused it?”

“Well, I’m not sure,” Medley said. “Disaccord may target me because my abilities can potentially harm him. But in reality I don’t want to harm anypony. And we haven’t found any traces of his magic.”

“Still, that is a valid assumption,” Violet Cloud said.

“But what can I do to travel to other worlds myself?” Medley asked. “I can do something, in return for—”

“You don’t have to,” Violet Cloud said. “You have shown you’re mature enough to travel to another inhabited world. Or I can say you needed this restriction to grow up a bit.”

“You mean I could go to uninhabited ones?” Medley looked wide-eyed at Gracia, who shrugged. “Too bad we never tried that.”

“Maybe it wasn’t bad actually,” Gracia said, “because we would have more theories, and needed more time to test them. And finally we would possibly come to the same conclusion later.”

“Fine,” Medley said. “But what now?”

“Now you can travel to other worlds,” Violet Cloud said, but Medley disappeared in the middle of her sentence.

Curiosity sighed. “What an impatient girl.”

Before we had even changed the subject, Medley appeared again, smiling.

“I just went to Lady Gracia’s mansion! I can travel by myself now!”

While Gracia and the ponies congratulated Medley, I turned to Violet Cloud.

“I have one request,” I said, “but, for obvious reasons, I don’t want to voice it before we can make a deal.

She nodded.

Gracia turned her ears to me, but didn’t say anything and continued to look at Medley.

“Would one service be enough?” I asked.

“Yes, that would suffice,” Violet Cloud said.

“Darling, what are you talking about?” Curiosity turned to me. “A service?”

I ignored Curiosity for a moment and nodded to Violet Cloud.

“Deal,” I said.

She nodded too. I turned to Curiosity.

“I think I was partly responsible for Rainbow's amnesia,” I said. “Yes, it was an accident, but I still feel bad about it.”

“You know our medicine can't restore memories, and asked Lady Violet Cloud,” the queen said.

I nodded. Because she confirmed she has necessary back ups for that.

“But you have to do something for her in return,” Gloaming said, “and you don’t even know what.”

“I’ve made a deal like this before, and I don’t regret it,” I said.

“But I don’t feel any different,” Rainbow said.

“You won’t,” Violet Cloud said. “You will need some cue to remember something you couldn't before. And even if you remember, you may not notice it was something from the period you had forgotten.”

“But why I can’t get all my memories right now?” Rainbow asked. “Or, at least, the most important ones?”

“Lady Rainbow, if you see your life from half a year period during the short amount of time, that wouldn’t do you any good,” the queen said. “I have studied this area, and my sister has, too, so I know that what Lady Violet Cloud did is a much better solution. Over time she will recall these memories naturally, as if she had never lost them.”

Violet Cloud nodded.

“I believe we discussed everything we need for this moment, didn’t we?” the queen asked.

Everyone remained silent, some ponies nodded.

“So, Ladies, if any of you wants something to drink or to have a snack, we can arrange it,” she added.

“Yes,” Medley said, smiling, “the town hall has a kitchen which we can use.”

Curiosity and Rainbow asked for a beverage, I volunteered to help Medley bring everything here. I also wanted to see more of the rooms here.

“Does anyone else want something?” I asked before going through a door to another room.

I waited several seconds and already turned to the door, when I heard Violet Cloud.

“Could you bring me a glass of water?”

“Sure, I will,” I said and went after Medley.

We came to a big kitchen, but there wasn’t much food. I only saw some dried fruits and jars with water—maybe the ponies weren’t planning anything right now. Medley took out some glasses and I filled them with water. Then she put a tray on her back and asked me to put the glasses on the tray.

“Are you sure you won't drop them?” I asked.

“Of course not, silly,” Medley said. “Many land ponies carry things like this, and they become quite proficient with that.”

I nodded and carefully put glasses on the tray. When I went back to the other ponies, Medley followed me. I gave a glass to those who wanted to drink. Everyone had been waiting for us, and hadn’t started any new conversations.

“By the way, Lady Violet Cloud, how old are you?” Gloaming asked.

“Do you really want to know?” Violet Cloud asked in her turn. “This information has very little value for you.”

“Oh… Well, I would still like to know,” Gloaming said.

“Very well,” Violet Cloud said. “Consider me older than dirt.”

“What?” Rainbow said. “Is that a joke?”

“You will understand after some thinking,” Violet Cloud said.

“Another question, how did you get your mark, Lady Violet Cloud?” Medley asked.

“I found a song that represented my abilities quite well,” Violet Cloud said. “Metaphorically, of course.”

“Oh, could you please tell us, Lady Violet Cloud?” Curiosity asked. “Maybe not the whole song, but at least the relevant part.”

Violet Cloud nodded. “I can read names in clouds of ones able to fly.”

“Wait a minute, I know this song,” I said. “I even performed it several times. How do you know songs from Earth?”

“I know many things about other worlds,” she said. “After I got this cloud mark, I chose my current name.”

“You don’t say,” Medley said.

“But why this song?” I remembered more of the lyrics now. “It is about social problems. While we still have a lot of problems on Earth, I can hardly say the same about ponies.”

“You are correct. Still, other sapient inhabitants of this world have similar problems.”

Right, I had forgotten that. Griffins lived here, and some other species too...

“How can we find you in the future, if somepony wants to make a deal with you?” Gloaming asked.

“Well, I believe Medley knows where I live,” Violet Cloud said.

“Hm, I hadn’t thought of that,” Gloaming mumbled.

Gloaming appeared thoughtful and remained silent. I looked at others and noticed Curiosity’s gaze. She slightly nodded and came closer to me.

“I’m still concerned about you,” she said.


“It is about the deal you have made with Lady Violet Cloud. We have our theories, but we really don’t know her. She could ask you to do anything, it could be dangerous.”

“I made a deal like this before, and it was beneficial to me,” I said, “and the service wasn’t too difficult.”

“And the curing of amnesia doesn’t change much in your lives,” Violet Cloud said, coming closer. “So you have already fulfilled your part of the deal.”

“How?” And when?

“A glass of water,” she said, then drank some more.

“But why do you follow rules like these?” Curiosity asked.

“I like to see when ponies do something in exchange for my services,” Violet Cloud said. “It’s more entertaining than to just grant wishes for free.”

“I can assume you aren’t actually a pony, especially after your words about replaceable bodies,” Gloaming said. “No pony has abilities like yours.”

“You are right and you are wrong,” Violet Cloud said. “My current body is a genuine pony body. But this body isn’t the whole me.”

“So you created your current body to live among ponies, Lady Violet Cloud?” the queen asked.

“That is correct.”

“Is that the only reason?” Gloaming asked.

“It would be less convenient to live as another race here,” Violet Cloud said.

“Well, how do we know you’re telling the truth?” Gloaming asked.

“If I’m not mistaken, you should be taught how to do that,” Violet Cloud said. “I can only say that I don’t like lying, and I usually just omit something in a conversation.”

Gloaming opened her mouth to say something but Curiosity was faster.

“Lady Violet Cloud is correct. Please consider what we know about her and her reasons. The idea that she doesn’t speak the truth is supported by very few pieces of evidence.”

Just then I realized one of the main reasons why ponies lived better than people on Earth. The queen had told me about improving education here. The ponies around me had shown great respect for reason and evidence, and they always seem to take new information into account and correct their own errors and biases.

“Excuse me, Ma'am, was education one of the first things you decided to improve?” I asked.

“Yes, it was,” she said. “I wanted ponies to have as good a conception of the world as our science can provide. I also saw how a poor education could make citizens obedient, and decided to do otherwise, to allow ponies to think for themselves.”

“So schools teach ponies not only about world, but...”

“...also about using their minds as a tool,” Azure Sky said, finishing for me.

“I’m wondering now, if maybe the Coalition could ask to send some people to study teaching here,” I smiled, “or request that some teachers be sent to Earth. Even if they only teach about decision making.”

“I think it could be arranged,” the queen said.