“Have you learned your lesson?” Starlight Glimmer said, smiling at him with the sharpness of a knife.
Double Diamond nodded. His ears ached with the droning of loudspeakers from the previous days, making the edge of all his thoughts so painfully fuzzy.
Starlight’s eyes narrowed, the edge of hostility in them nothing she had ever shown him before. It was certainly not anything like the look of the Starlight Glimmer behind closed doors. That was a Starlight he hadn’t known could exist. A Starlight that was almost more of a mare than their leader.
“And what was your lesson?”
Double Diamond opened his mouth, and at first nothing came out. He closed it, swallowed and pretended he didn’t see her approval at his fear.
“Love de-equalizes ponies.”
“Yes?” she whispered, tapping one of her hindlegs expectantly. Starlight’s steely stare bored into Double Diamond, one foreleg tucked under her muzzle and keeping her in the grim pose of a philosophy, even though there were no thinkers in Our Town, just revolutionaries. “Anything else?”
“L-Love is wrong. Love is foolish,” stammered Double Diamond, throat crushed by either hoof or magic. “There is no love in Our Town.”
“Go on,” she ordered, spellbound and hungry-eyed for something Double Diamond didn’t want to understand, even if he could.
“I don’t love you.” Double Diamond wished that he could say that and make it completely true, but there was no truth in Our Town. Just Starlight’s reality. The only reality. “I never did. I never have. I was blinded. I don’t love mares.”
“Of course,” chimed Starlight with an eerie half-attempt at her usual pleasantness. “Nopony is allowed to let themselves be burdened by something so terrible here. But you struggle with something just as terrible as the idea of loving mares, don’t you?”
“I don’t love stallions either!” Double Diamond pressed his folded forehooves as hard together as possible and tried not to think of Part Favor.
“That’s right.” Starlight Glimmer smiled at him, eyes oddly distant and her expression snake-like.
Double Diamond beamed at Starlight fearfully, purposefully biting the inside of his cheek as he did so.
“Can you tell me what the most important thing your learned in the House of Re-Education was? More important than following the rules of Our Town?”
Double Diamond knew now that he could never understand Starlight Glimmer, or what could possibly be more important than the rules of Our Town. He knew that Starlight telling him to something was not so much different from learning it himself. Starlight told him that, but she told everypony else in Our Town that too.
“Nopony loves Starlight Glimmer.”
Starlight stopped smiling when Double Diamond spoke. “That’s right,” she murmured, voice taut and shadowing its usual clipped, authoritative cheer.
Most of all, Double Diamond could not understand why Starlight Glimmer would make him tell her that in the first place.