My life, I think, is surprisingly normal in spite of the circumstances. I go to school, have friends I adventure with, and have an embarrassing Family that I care for—that I love—nonetheless. Or at least, I tell myself that I think I love them, for what wouldn’t I do for Mother? I think, if it ever came to such a thing, I could bring myself to die for her, and isn’t that love? I’m not sure, but I like to think it is, even though I know thinking alone has never made anything true.
How do I know? Because of my friends, or who I call my friends, as I’m sure they would abandon me in an instant if they ever found out the truth about my Family—about me… I don’t think about that, though, even though I know thinking alone has never made anything true. I know that because my friends, my two friends, to be specific, have certainly dragged me into enough experiences to figure out a lot about Equestria.
Equestria… that “magical land of ponies” which is filled with so much love that it makes me feel empty. So much so that sometimes I think I really am empty—maybe even incapable—of love, but that surely can’t be true… Can it? No… that I know can’t be true, because even if my friends did find out about my Family and abandoned me I would still care for them, and that’s love, too, right? Even if they didn’t care about me in return; even if they wished for my death instead?
Still, I am glad that, for now, those questions don’t have to be answered; that, for now, my life is normal—a lie, but as I said, “in spite of the circumstances.” A lie, yes… and not just a lie to them, but, sometimes I fear, to myself as well. I try to tell myself that I care—that I love—but if that’s so, then why do I remain? Wouldn’t their lives be better without me? Without risking their finding out and wondering what had gone wrong; making them question their lives?
I’m not sure… I never am, and I don’t think I can ever be sure. Not of myself, anyway. I do know that I’m here for a reason, and that if I insisted I cannot continue, I could be replaced. Would the one who replaced me be better or worse? I don’t want to think ill of my Family, but I want to stay, so I tell myself, whenever I wonder about this, worse… I am the best for them… Mother wouldn’t have sent me unless she thought I could do this better than everyone else.
All the same, I doubt she chose me to care about who I would come to regard as true—and, I would like to say, “honest,” but who would I be kidding? Not myself—friends. Certainly, anyone can pretend to care, but can they pretend to love? I don’t know… I don’t pretend to even know what love is, but I hope what I feel is love, even as I wonder if it is possible for me to love. For my friends, I would wish nothing else for them but real love.
Why I care about giving them real love is hard to say. I know, at least, that they love me; I know that, if they ever found me out, they would go searching for the “real” Scootaloo—a pony who doesn’t actually exist. It’s a comforting sentiment in its own strange way… Well, perhaps not exactly comforting, but… No; it is comforting, for it is—and I know this—love, and while it is difficult to imagine the situation being reversed, I like to think I would do the same if in their place.
Then, at the same time, there is always the fear that their finding out the truth is inevitable, so even as I care for them, I try to distance myself from them for, as I tell myself, their sakes…
Such a feeble and fragile lie, so transparent even I cannot fool myself with it for a second. I may not know exactly what love is, but I do know what it’s not. I know that it sounds paradoxical and impossible that I can tell when something isn’t love, but can’t tell what is love… yet here I am, stealing energy from “Scootaloo’s” friends in the form of love that I wish I could reciprocate without resorting to a lie, yet that very same love would leave me in an instant if I should ever try!… THAT is a paradox!…
The paradox of my life. A paradox I must solve if I am to ever be able to relax…
So absorbed am I in such thoughts—though never enough to forget the personality of my disguise, for I am still a Changeling; faking, hiding my true thoughts, is all but engrained in my DNA—I almost don’t come back to myself in time to avoid what could have been a nasty crash with a trio of rabbits who had hopped into the middle of the road and stopped right in front of my speeding scooter. Fortunately, for both me and the rabbits, Sweetie Belle’s and Apple Bloom’s eyes were shut in anticipation, so the discrete adding of a few inches to my wingspan go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, Applejack, apparently chasing the rabbits, isn’t quite “pegasus” enough to avoid same with me, the other Cutie Mark Crusaders, my scooter, and the wagon, as her leaping for the rabbits only ends with all of us in a painful, certainly bruised heap (did the rabbits use us as a trap? clever things). I suppose I should also count myself lucky that all my time spent as a Cutie Mark Crusader has apparently strengthened my ability to remain transformed with ever harder knocks to my head—one of the few certain ways to identify a Changeling. Now there’s an idea… something definitely worth talking to Mother about tonight…
That’s for later, though. Right now, I need something else, or rather, somepony else: Somepony who can help me sort through my divided loyalties… without her knowing what she’s actually doing, of course. The easiest cover, naturally, would be to talk about her Cutie Mark—something I can only hope to reveal the best course of action for me. However, this has the side effect of Apple Bloom now asking her sister about how she got her Cutie Mark, which, I can hardly believe, Apple Bloom has never heard before.
Long story short, Applejack had earned her Cutie Mark by being honest with herself about how she felt. If anything, this only makes me feel worse. I had gotten myself into this whole dilemma by being honest with myself about how I feel towards Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom and everypony else whose love for Scootaloo feeds me!
If anything, lying and telling myself I can’t care about them because they’re my food would arguably leave me happier!
But now that the revelation has hit, I can’t go back… quite unlike Applejack, who afterwards goes right back to chasing the rabbits who had stolen some food from Sweet Apple Acres. However, I know I cannot stew in these unfortunate thoughts, so I urge the other two to get on with our “quest.”
This day, it seems, is simply not a good day for traveling, for some distance after our meeting with Applejack, Fluttershy all but falls out of the air to block our way. This time, I know I can’t risk her—a pegasus who would be able to spot such much more easily—seeing me alter my wings. Attempting to turn, however, turns out badly as a rock I notice too late catches on the wheel, launching the three of us to the ground before Fluttershy’s hooves.
More animals, this times ducks, are what Fluttershy had been trying to warn me about. Fluttershy. If it seems the Universe is to deny me the chance to talk with Rainbow Dash, I couldn’t ask for a better second choice. Convincing her to tell the story behind her Cutie Mark doesn’t take much effort, either, and my enthusiasm I only have to halfway fake.
By the end of it, however, as she performs a small musical number, I have to focus to keep from cringing and backing away in shame. Love everything? I can’t help but think there must be some terrible irony or other trick-of-the-Universe being played against me here. Surely, if Fluttershy knew what I was doing to the poor fillies sitting beside me, then what she had done to the cockatrice would look positively comforting compared to what she would do to me. She wouldn’t love me-… She couldn’t love me if she knew the truth.
If the Element of Kindness couldn’t love something, then what hope would it—would I!—have of even gleaning a little snack of pity from anypony else?
With Fluttershy finally finished, I can barely contain myself from running away right there. Still, the way I hop onto my scooter, ready to continue—finding myself in even more dire need for Rainbow Dash’s advice than before—does not raise suspicion. So distracted and distraught am I now that I barely register anything when I am stopped yet again by Rarity; not even really listening to her as I just grunt affirmatives and go with the flow.
I come back to myself just as Rarity seems intent on making us Cutie Mark Crusader Ponyquins. Jumping quickly back into Scootaloo’s personality, I sigh mentally in relief at how the other two seem not to have noticed for being distracted by their pony-worry of Cutie Marks. Upon hearing of our quest, the Element of Generosity decides to make our “chore” (really, it’s just standing there, frozen by not wanting to be pricked by a levitated pin) a bit more bearable with her story.
I can’t help but feel… disappointed… afterwards, however. Not that I had expected much from Rarity, but something about her story is distinctly strange. Not just the weird time screw-up, but… the ending. She wasn’t any more skilled with design or being any less Generous than she had been in the beginning, but instead she only received her Cutie Mark after receiving the praise she wanted?
There has to be something more to the story… something I’m missing. Ponies earn their Cutie Mark when they realize what their talent is; Rarity only got her Cutie Mark in clothing design after she got the praise she wanted. No; that’s not right. It’s not that she had been fishing for the compliment, but she had only accepted her own talent after it had been subjected to a test of standing up to her own standards… of standing up to another’s standards.
How she imagined that this would help us—or rather, those Cutie Mark Crusaders who are actually ponies—to earn their Cutie Marks, I haven’t the faintest idea. As for me, it steels my want to speak with Rainbow Dash to the point it becomes a need: a need for another to evaluate me…
Someone to judge me.
Given the recently developed pattern, I couldn’t help but be right when I guess that, after running into Twilight Sparkle, we would end up hearing her Cutie Mark story next. Somehow, her story ends up even worse than Rarity’s: so there was an explosion at just the right time to not only “unlock” her magical reserves and prevent her from failing her entrance exam, but got her noticed by the Princess and her got her her Cutie Mark as well? What kind of realization was that supposed to represent?
First… if I know anything about Twilight, it’s that she trusts Princess Celestia “unconditionally” (of course, it’s not truly unconditional… for example, I would hesitate to say that Twilight would still trust her if she wasn’t The Princess, at least not without something else to compensate; thus, conditions). If Celestia said exactly as Twilight just told—or close enough—then Twilight may had simply taken Celestia’s words closer than the Princess may have intended (or Celestia looks far too much into the future to be called a simple “chessmaster”), and took her words as evidence that magic is her Talent.
I don’t know how I should feel about that useless tale, either as myself or as Scootaloo.
Freed from Twilight’s “yesyesyes” trap by the staring crowd, I'm not surprised at all by Pinkie Pie’s appearance and insistence of telling us her story. I don’t waste any time thinking about it, thanks to Pinkie’s perfect example of the obviously unreliable narrator, but at least I think that her tale, even if untrue, does provide the best example for the other two Cutie Mark Crusaders on what an actual realization of one’s talent looks like.
Not that I expect either of them to understand, nor do I care… yet; I need Rainbow Dash before I can decide to care or not!
Of course, with only one Bearer of the Elements of Harmony left, I feel more anticipation than worry.
There she is, waiting for me.
The one who exemplifies loyalty.
That nature I must test myself on.
To choose loyalty to one, and abandon the other…
When her story is done all too soon, I can feel my mind falling apart—shards of broken pieces piling inside my head. The answer is right there; I know it is, but I don’t want it. I never wanted it. I don’t want to choose…
As I sit there, my Scootaloo persona running on autopilot, I notice something as the Elements gather into a hug:
Twilight’s Cutie Mark.
It can’t be a coincidence.
Even Celestia wouldn’t be able to change the form of a Cutie Mark.
A Cutie Mark of one large star surrounded by five smaller ones.
It finally becomes obvious to me as she sits surrounded by her five friends.
Her fellow Elements of Harmony.
They were fated to be the Elements of Harmony.
Just as I was fated to be born a Changeling.
There was, and is, nothing either of us could or can do about those facts.
The fact the Elements are Heroes.
And Changelings are the Enemies.
“Gimarazrasu Maraza, I have a… suggestion I think may interest you.” I hesitantly propose as I prostrate myself uzhkaalav before my Queen Chrysalis.
“It can wait, Amaa Ufazun. Now, rise, for I need you to listen closely to my new plan, and your new mission… if you feel up to it.” Queen Chrysalis smiles sadly down at me, the youngest Changeling in Equestria; I know she regrets—wishes there is some other way, but there isn’t… the Matabara had been weakened too severely by Shining Armor and Cadance’s spell.
Before I can ask—before can decide if I want to ask, already suspecting and fearing the answer—Queen Chrysalis goes on, “Going over your reports again, I and my advisers have finally agreed that impersonating Scootaloo’s friends—Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom—will provide enough love and tactical positioning to warrant the risk, and we’re going to need you to both help capture them, and train and advise the tagarsharuti.”
As much as I hate it, I know I have to make a decision, and I know what it has to be. “Baysamira, Gimarazrasu Maraza.”
Something—pity, I guess—takes over her eyes as she corrects me, “Baymatabira, Amaa Ufazun.”
She may say Baymatabira; that what I’m about to do is for the entire Family, and that is probably true, but the reason I do it is the one word I hear in my head as she gives me my instructions: Baygimariza.
I have chosen you.