Day One

by Miniscule Literary

The Storm

Every tale must have an end.

David, Applejack, Twilight, Rarity and Pinkie swiftly reentered Ponyville proper. With Twilight leading the charge with light from her horn, their trek was not the inaccurate fumbling Applejack and David were used to at this point.

The chaos they had seen previously paled in comparison to what befell Ponyville now. A horde of changelings were battling it out with those citizens that did not flee, both in the air and on the ground. The brave Ponyvillians were hopelessly outnumbered however, and it would only be a matter of time before all was lost. With no chance of further communication with Canterlot, they could only help their countryfolk as best they could and hope Celestia would arrive, possibly with the Elements in tow.

"This is madness!" Rarity commented as they watched the desperate struggle unfold. Applejack and Twilight were both clearly determined to fight, while Rarity and Pinkie seemed rather out of place.

"We have to help them!" Twilight declared as she downed a passing changeling with a quick burst of magical energy.

"Ya don't have ta tell me twice!" Applejack replied with an enthusiastic rear. Soon the two were charging into the thick of the battle, leaving David, Rarity, and Pinkie in darkness.

"How barbaric. Is it really necessary to settle our differences this way?" Rarity asked, the question directed at no one in particular, as her horn began to light the way for them.

"Remember: they have Fluttershy," David said, hoping to spur something out of Rarity to get her to participate.

"And Spike!" Pinkie added with a frown.

"Poor Spikey Wikey!" Rarity lamented, though her sorrow was quickly replaced with fury. "Those...disgusting...distasteful...RUFFIANS!"

Before David or Pinkie could process what had just happened, Rarity was charging into the fray with teeth barred, throwing changelings left and right with her magic. The two stood in silence for a few moments.

"Well that was easier than I thought it would be..." David said, mostly to himself. "I suppose we should help some of the ponies the changelings have tied up."

"We're not ganna help Twilight? Or Applejack? Or Rarity?" Pinkie asked with audible concern.

"They can handle themselves. I hope. They won't be able to fight for long if they have no support, now will they?"

Pinkie simply stared at him.

"Let's just go."

"Okie dokie lokie!"

The two fumbled around in the darkness as best they could, using the light from the various battles to best guide their path. David was surprised at the lack of resistance for most of the journey; the changelings were content to fight those already engaged, it seemed, rather than seek new targets.

"There's one!" Pinkie called suddenly, pointing toward two stallions caught in a mound of the putrid green substance they had seen earlier. "Make that two!"

"Good eye," David commented as they made their way over. The man tried to keep a low profile to best avoid detection, but his pink companion did not seem to care about stealth one bit. She happily hopped the distance to the incapacitated ponies and stared quizzically at the material binding them until David joined her.

The two seemed to be in a daze, and did not react to their would-be rescuers as they approached. David prodded the green material expectantly, and found it to be hard and plaster-like, rather than sticky as it may have appeared. Pinkie placed her head near to the substance, as if listening for something. After a few moments, the pink pony pulled her head away and shrugged.

"Well, I guess we have to start somewhere..." David thought aloud as he gripped the green paste with both hands and pulled. Almost immediately, a chunk of it broke off with an audible crack, causing David to fall onto his backside. The putrid material was still in his grasp.

"You did it!" Pinkie observed excitedly, giving him a wide grin.

"I've said it once, and I'll say it again: that was easier than expected."

Almost as if in response to this statement, two changelings passing overhead noticed the two trying to free the subdued ponies. Hissing, the two creatures launched themselves into a wild dive, the sound of which was thankfully loud enough to give David enough warning before impact.

Throwing himself out of the way, he watched as the two changelings collided forcefully with the material they were trying to break, blowing apart one side of it instantly. Ignorant to their mistake, the two changelings advanced swiftly, their fangs barred and their wings buzzing.

"I'll handle this!"

"Wha-" David began just as Pinkie sailed by his head with a determined growl. The two changelings seemed as caught off guard as he was, both being thrown to the ground as the pink pony crashed into them.

"That's for Fluttershy!" she yelled as she smacked one of the changelings upside their head, causing its head and neck to vibrate in a very cartoony fashion. The other changeling got to its hooves and hissed, changing before their eyes into the form of the pink pony assailing them. After being freed from the pink pony's fury, the first changeling assumed the same form and rejoined the battle.

"Aw crap I forgot they can do this!" David yelled aloud as he watched three Pinkie Pies fighting wildly. To make things worse, it seemed like they were as confused as he was; no Pinkie was spared an attack from any of the other two. He had to find a way to tell them apart, and quickly.

"Uh...vacationing bear!"

"What?" one Pinkie said.

"What?" another Pinkie said.

"Where?!" the third Pinkie said, looking around excitedly while her doppelgangers stood in confusion.

"Gotcha," David said with a smirk as he brought his fists down on the two Pinkies' heads, causing them to collapse in their true forms. The true Pinkie continued to dart around looking for the bear she had heard so much about.

"I don't see him Mr. David!"

"That's bec - You know what, nevermind," David said with a shake of his head, breaking away more of the green substance to completely free the two subdued ponies. Almost immediately after being freed, the two stallions came to, regarding David and Pinkie with wide eyes. After quickly thanking their rescuers, the two darted off to rejoin the battle.

As David looked around for another pony in need, something shot by overhead at incredible speed and smashed into the side of the building they happened to be standing next to. David ducked instinctively, fearing another aerial assault, while Pinkie simply looked up in confusion.

Two blue hooves reached up to grasp the edges of the newly created hole as Rainbow Dash hoisted herself partially out of the building. She had seen better days: her hair was dirty and unkept, her body was covered in cartoonish signs of battle, and she was practically glaring out at the battle with her teeth bared.

"They just keep coming!"

"Rainbow Dash!" Pinkie called excitedly, running up the wall (much to David's amazement) to be face-to-face with the blue pegasus.

"Pinkie!" Rainbow Dash said with some surprise, and some relief. "I'm glad you're OK. Oh, hey David," she greeted the man with a very uninterested tone.

"Nice to see you too."

"Its crazy out there! Those changelings don't know when to give up!" the pegasus growled as she pulled herself from the building and fluttered to the ground. Pinkie leapt down moments later, standing beside her friend with a frown.

"Have you seen Fluttershy yet?" David asked, suddenly becoming very serious.

"Yes. They are holding her and a lot of other ponies inside the town hall," Rainbow explained, brushing herself off with a hoof. "If they aren't coming out of there, they're coming out of the Everfree Forest! Its like the entire changeling population is attacking Ponyville!"

"They do seem pretty desperate," David observed with a frown. "Have you seen the others yet? They ran off as soon as we got here."

"Yeah, they were talking about launching an attack on the town hall. I was all for it until a bunch of changelings attacked," she explained, staring angrily back into the battle. "It was a huge swarm, and I took the fight back into the air until one got a lucky shot and knocked me over here."

"They're still fighting, then?"

"Yeah! And we're missing all the action!" the pegasus responded, flexing her wings. "We need to get Fluttershy out of there! Let's go!"

"For Fluttershy!" Pinkie called dramatically as Rainbow Dash took to the air once more. The pink pony galloped after her, leaving David in solitude.

"Why do they keep doing that..." David said with a sigh, before he, too, charged into the fray.

Traversing the battlefield proper was easier said than done. Had the Ponyvillians any organization at any point, it was surely gone by now. The changelings seemed to realize how useful their shape changing was; no longer was the battle between pony and changeling, but against pony and pony. It was even more chaotic then before, as the changelings had difficulty recognizing friend from foe as much as the Equestrians.

"Twilight?" David asked, tapping one pony on the shoulder. The unicorn turned and immediately launched herself at him with a hiss, prompting him to put up his arms in defense, catching the doppelganger by the chest. With a grunt, he tossed the disguised changeling a few yards away, where it landed awkwardly on its head, and resumed its true form.

"Not Twilight!" David breathed, the encounter leaving him more than a little rattled. A few moments later, a number of magical blasts shot past him left and right, hitting numerous disguised changelings. Another Twilight appeared a moment later, battered and bruised, but glad to see him.

"David!" she called as she approached. The man was on edge for a few moments before he realized the difference in behavior from his last encounter. "You're the only friendly face I know I can trust at this point!"

"Finally, being a human in Equestria is useful," David replied with a laugh, which quickly died in his throat. "So anyway, where are the others?" he asked, before looking around at the chaos around them. "Ok, stupid question."

"Hopefully they will regroup around you if we give them the chance," Twilight explained, blasting another doppelganger mid-air. Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie swiftly joined them, as well as numerous other ponies revealed to not be changelings. Soon, David had become a sort of rallying point for the Ponyvillians, as he was the only being that could not be copied.

"Let's start moving toward the town hall! We have to free those inside if we want to drive the changelings out of Ponyville!" Twilight called out over the crowd, standing on a large crate to more effectively get everyone's attention.

With a collective nod and shouts of encouragement, the crowd began to move toward the center of town. The group was tightly packed, and those unicorns and pegasi within it were quite effective at keeping the airborne changelings at bay. Earth ponies and pegasi of all shapes and sizes stood at the perimeters, pushing back against the swarm of doppelgangers, using David as an anchor to where there allies were located, and where their enemies came from.

Their progress was slow, but undeniable. The chaos of the battle had been cast off, and now they were actually getting somewhere. In no time at all, they stood at the entrance to the town hall. The green substance that had bound their brethren was all around the building, blocking their immediate access. But this would not stand for long.

Twilight and a few other unicorns began tearing away at the barrier with their magic, while the rest held the changelings at bay. David stood at the epicenter of the action, too far to participate, but close enough to witness it all. Pegasi and their doppelgangers clashed in the air, though those who were not changelings in disguise kept close to the group to prevent more confusion. Unicorns supported their airborne brethren as best they could from the ground, while earth ponies and grounded pegasi maintained a defensive line to keep out the doppelgangers.

Although they put up a valiant defense, they were slowly being pushed back against the barrier. The changelings were simply too numerous to avoid it. In order to stay organized, they needed to keep close, and they were losing ground fast.

"We've got it!" Twilight called excitedly as the barrier was finally pried away from the double doors. David breathed a sigh of relief. A very close call indeed.

But as the doors swung open, every bit of remaining spirit was drained from the group instantly. Inside was not only their missing kinsmen, held in grosteque pods, but another horde of changelings poised to attack. And at their center, was their queen: the terrible Queen Chrysalis.

"Oh shi-" David began, just as a changeling's hoof collided with his cheek, causing his head to jerk to the side. Attacked from both sides, the ponies tried their best to resist. The changelings were not held off as effectively as before, however. Another of the blighted creatures shot past David's head drenched in putrid green magic, singeing the side of his face rather painfully. The man's heart began to pound as he realized he was being targeted.

A moment later, a changeling smashed into his chest, knocking him to the ground. Their anchor gone from their sight, the group of ponies quickly descended into chaos; it soon became impossible to tell friend from foe. The ponies and their enemies threw themselves at each other in a wild frenzy, all to the sound of Chrysalis' mad laughter.

David quickly threw the changeling off him, even after it assumed the form of Applejack to try and confuse him. He saw the madness around him, but he also saw that he was no longer the focus. The changelings had done what they intended, and he was no longer their concern. With blind determination, David charged through the horde of battling ponies and pushed into the town hall itself.

Much to his surprise, he was not alone. Moments later, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight emerged from the crowd around him, apparently having the same idea: rescue Fluttershy. After eyeing eachother for a moment, the group was about to continue before a blast of green magic struck the ground in front of them.

"And where do you think you are going?" Chrysalis asked with a demented cackle, buzzing her wings threateningly. The changelings hovering around her mimicked her actions.

"What do we do now?" Rarity hissed to Twilight. They were all frozen mid-step.

"I'll hold her off. Find Fluttershy and get out of here!" the purple unicorn responded, her horn glowing menacingly as she stepped toward the queen of the changelings.

"Are you insane? We're here to get the last Element of Harmony! If you get captured in her place, you still won't be able to use the Elements!" David argued, stepping forward alongside Twilight. "Just go get Fluttershy. I'll see what I can do."

Twilight stared at him for several moments before she turned away. "Thank you, David."

The four ponies ran off into the rows of captive equines and out of sight.

"Did I not make myself clear?" Chrysalis called after them, buzzing forward to pursue. David took another step toward her, his arms out at either side in an attempt to block her. She could have easily flown around him, but it was the implication of his actions that made her stop.

"Why not deal with me first."

"Please," the queen of the changelings scoffed. "I know what you are trying to accomplish. Do you take me for a fool?"

"I was thinking 'coward'," David retorted with a smirk. He ignored his heart thumping in his chest.

"Take care of him," Chrysalis barked to her minions, who suddenly straightened and nodded. "I've got better things to do."

Five changelings shot toward David with manic laughter, not even bothering to change form to fight him. The man assumed a stance similar to a boxer, his fists raised in front of him as they approached. As the first tried to collide with him, he struck out with an arm, punching square at the center of its head, stopping it dead. The changeling fell to the ground in a daze, the momentum of its charge doing more damage then the punch itself.

The others, to not share a similar fate, broke off and circled around him. As one cackled and darted past, David grabbed one of its back legs and swung it into another that was coming in for a pass, causing both to soar a few yards in a tangled heap before crashing into a few encased ponies.

Chrysalis had not gone far. The man's actions had apparently made her curious, and now she watched intently with a dissatisfied frown.

The two remaining changelings darted in from either side, one slamming against David's stomach, forcing the air from his lungs, while the other collided with the backs of his knees, causing him to fall onto his back as they darted away. The man clenched his teeth and rose to a kneeling position, just as one shot past his nose, narrowly missing his face. David, with a look of determination, rose to his feet and ran toward Queen Chrysalis, forgetting the two remaining changelings.

One fist raised, the man lashed out with all his strength at the bored-looking queen. Her horn began to glow seconds before impact, and the next thing David knew, he was thrown back across the room with a burning sensation gripping at his chest. Colliding forcefully with the ground near the entrance, the man lay still for a few moments, trying to catch his breath.

"Whatever you are, you are not the challenge I thought you'd be," Chrysalis said flatly, buzzing a few yards closer. "I thought you were some sort of secret weapon! Some new tamed beast they were using for defense. Oh what a ridiculous sentiment."

For once, David agreed with the changeling queen.

Pushing off the ground with his hands, he looked down at the shirt Rarity had made for him. It was dirty, wrinkled, and singed. David looked up at Chrysalis, his eyes burning with anger. But before he could rise, he found himself floating up into the air, as if he were weightless, his vision was clouded with a translucent green color. It was not an unfamiliar feeling; he had felt the same when he had his...encounter with Twilight.

"Now if you don't mind," the queen of the changelings began. "I believe I have other business to attend to."

David was launched out of the doors of the town hall and into the large square that had hosted much of the battle. The world became a blur around him as he soared, landing hard on his side and tumbling a few yards across the ground. He gasped as he finally came to a stop, coughing as the air was once again forced out of him.

"I...tried, Twilight..." he breathed, slowly trying to rise. The battle was almost over; around him, many of the ponies he had seen fighting were restrained, and any others were fleeing into the empty streets of the town. The changelings hovered in both disguised and unaltered forms all across the town square, chasing what remained of the denizens of Ponyville.

David managed to get to his knees as he caught his breath, his mind racing. He had to do something. A reset? No, such a thing was too unpredictable. Causing a reset now might as well hand Ponyville to the changelings; the reality he would awake into may be one where Ponyville has already been taken under their control. But he had to do something. He had to help them.

The sound of a commotion caught his attention, prompting him to look up toward the town hall. He could see the changelings crowded around something, with bright flashes of light erupting around them. Suddenly, Twilight was charging through them, with Applejack close behind. Above them flew Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. They had succeeded! Incredible. Perhaps he had held off Chrysalis long enough after all-

...Where were Rarity and Pinkie?

After breaching the ranks of the changelings, the four ponies hit relatively open ground. The changelings, strangely, did not pursue. They remained clustered around the town hall, cackling mockingly as they watched the ponies flee. Twilight seemed to notice him as she scanned over the area with her eyes mid-run. Without even slowing down, she engulfed him in a field of magic and galloped away, bringing him with her as they fled toward the edge of town.

"Rarity...and Pinkie...?"

Twilight shook her head.

A few minutes later, they were back at the cottage on the outskirts of Ponyville. Twilight slowly placed David on the ground and just about collapsed herself, clearly exhausted. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash hovered above, while Applejack stood not far away, watching Ponyville with her hat held close to her chest. Fluttershy seemed visibly shaken, and Rainbow Dash seemed extremely angry.

"How could we just leave them like that?!" the pegasus yelled at no one in particular, swiping at the air with a hoof. "They were our friends!"

"We had to, Rainbow," Twilight assured, though her eyes remained locked on the ground. "We...we can regroup. Then we can rescue them and the others."

An uncomfortable silence dominated the area.

Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of flapping wings. All five denizens of Ponyville looked up as a magnificent white chariot touched down not far away. Pulled by two royal guards, the chariot was an immaculate white with gold trimming, and atop it stood the proud but concerned form of Celestia.

"Princess Celestia!" Twilight exclaimed. All four ponies' expressions immediately brightened.

"I came as soon as I could, my faithful student," Celestia replied. "And I did not come alone."

Fifteen pegasi touched down a moment later, all wearing the golden armor of the Royal Guard. Each, a force to be reckoned with.

"That's what I'm talking about!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed as she looked over the small army. "We can take Ponyville back!"

"I hope so," Celestia responded with a frown, looking out at the town in the distance. "Somehow I don't think it will be so simple."

"Queen Chrysalis is here," Twilight said as she stood alongside her mentor.

"As I feared."

"We tried our best, Princess," Applejack began, bowing her head. "There were just too many of 'em."

Celestia nodded, giving the earth pony a sorrowful smile. She looked around, and her frown returned.

"Rarity and Pinkie Pie?"

"Captured," Twilight explained, hanging her head. "Spike too."

David remained on his hands and knees, his fists clenched on the grass beneath him. His mind only continued to race, trying desperately to find a solution to the problem. He couldn't help but think of Pinkie. The only creature he had never known to be so incredibly accepting; so unfailingly kind and good spirited. Even when fighting the changelings, she made it seem like a game.

She did not wish harm on anyone. And they failed her. He failed her.

"Come," Princess Celestia said suddenly. "We must begin."

Celestia, the four ponies, their small army, and David all made their way back into the town. It was eerily quiet now, as the last of the resistance had been subdued or run out. Only the sounds of their hooves echoed throughout the dark for most of the journey. Soon, however, a new sound joined them: the sound of hundreds of buzzing wings.

The entourage entered the town square and was immediately greeted by an army of changelings standing or flying in front of the town hall. Queen Chrysalis stood on the stairs leading up into the building itself, surrounded by her minions.

"Ah, the illustrious Princess has decided to join us!" the queen of the changelings called out to them, prompting manic laughter from her subjects. "I was wondering when you would arrive, Celestia."

"What is it that you hope to accomplish here?" Celestia retorted, her voice dangerously serious. She was in no mood for games.

"Simply put, this town is now ours," Chrysalis explained bluntly, placing a hoof at her chest. "Along with those who decided to stay behind."

"You cannot hold those citizens against their will!" Princess Celestia called back, her eyes narrowing.

"You are in no position to make demands."

David sat at the back of the entourage, behind a few large crates. He held his head in his hands, going mad with the desire to help the situation. He felt so powerless. Pinkie, Rarity, and all those other ponies were now nothing but food for the changelings. Even with Celestia's aid, they had hostages, they had numbers; what hope was there for them to take Ponyville back?

"Can't we come to some sort of an agreement?" Celestia said with some difficulty. She did not like the notion of conceding something to the changelings, but she had no choice.

"There is nothing you have that we can't take by force," Chrysalis replied with a laugh, one that was quickly joined by her minions.

David couldn't take anymore. He was sick of feeling like an invader; he was sick of being powerless; he was sick of being subjected to this broken reality. It was a cartoon world, and he was a victim to it; nothing more than a pawn.

"I am a human being..." David murmured, staring blankly upward. "I am a master of my own destiny..." he continued lowly, looking down at his knees. A brilliant, blooming flower appeared before him, rising and budding in a matter of seconds. Soon, he was surrounded by a field of beautiful plants, rising into their prime before his very eyes. They appeared at his touch; their existence, a victim to his whims and desires.

David could feel his perception expanding to levels he never thought possible. His hair stood on end, and his eyes became a solid glowing white. He gasped, jerking his head upward, the experience almost indescribable. He could feel the world and all its imperfections; it was as if he had awoken from a dream, without leaving the dream. He was lucid and aware; everything was subject to his will, manipulated by the merest thought.

He was not the only one aware of this, however. The universe itself felt the danger that such an understanding presented, and threatened to close in around him. But he was beyond it now; with a single thought, it was held at bay. David's pupilless eyes shifted away from the sky, and back down to the colorful bed of flowers before him. An intense dread filled the air; changeling and pony alike turned slowly to the crates, to the source of their sudden sense of doom. The flowers began to wilt, their lives fading in an instant. Soon, the man was surrounded by death; death cultivated from beauty.

His teeth were clenched, his muscles tense. He was in control now. He would be a pawn no longer.

The crates around him exploded, sending splinters of wood in all directions. David stood slowly, his sightless gaze turning to the changelings that loomed in the distance: the source of all his woes, and the woes of Equestria; of Ponyville; of Pinkie Pie, his only true friend.

They would pay.

Glaring at his quarry as he approached, the grass beneath David's feet became blackened and lifeless before their eyes. Changelings screamed in surprise and terror as they were hoisted into the air, struggling vainly against a force they couldn't even comprehend. Chrysalis' head darted around to look at her subjects, her expression confused and desperate.

"Wh-what is this?!" she cried, her twisted horn glowing as she tried to counter the magic at work. But there was no magic at work here; David wielded the very nature of their broken reality against them now. "Stop this! Put them down!"

David, his glowing eyes shifting to the queen of the changelings, grinned. He would take pleasure in tearing the vermin apart before their queen, the way they tore apart the lives of the Equestrians. The changelings' screams became ones of pain, rather than confusion.

"Please! Have mercy!"

"Mercy?" David repeated, his voice echoing around the lifeless, battle-scared remains of Ponyville. "You ask that they be spared, the way you were going to spare those ponies a life of captivity, to be regarded as nothing but food?!"

The changelings' cries increased in volume and intensity. Chrysalis looked up at her subjects, before shifting her attention back to David, her gaze pleading and desperate. The man couldn't help but smile.

"You and your miserable kind are nothing more than a blight upon Equestria. I will make sure that you never threaten it again."

The man raised an arm, causing the captive changelings to shoot even higher into the air, screaming in pain and terror.


The sound cut through the man's deranged focus like a knife through butter. He turned with a snarl, glaring at the one response; Twilight Sparkle stood before him, a look of horror and concern upon her face. David's furious gaze lost some of its energy.

"What are you doing, David?" the unicorn asked, her eyes just as pleading as the queen of the changelings. The man looked up from Twilight, to regard the rest of the assembled Equestrians. Many mimicked the librarian's emotions, while others regarded him with disgust and anger, as if he were the enemy.

"Saving Equestria!" he snarled, clenching a fist before them to demonstrate. The changelings suddenly stopped, along with their cries. "And your friends, Twilight! Have you forgotten about Fluttershy? About Rarity? About Spike? About Pinkie?!"

"This is not the way, David!" she pleaded, glancing to the exhausted changelings looming overhead. "You're hurting them! Please, stop this!"

"HURTING THEM?!" David roared, the very air around him becoming steam, as if his body was several thousand degrees. The Equestrians recoiled back in fear. "Are you insane, Twilight?!"

The unicorn took another step back. David watched as her gaze became that of pure terror; she saw him as nothing more than a monster. The anger faded from the man's visage; the glow engulfing his eyes disappeared, revealing his own confused, desperate gaze.

"Twilight..." he began, reaching out to the unicorn, who only continued to back away. The Equestrians looked on, terrified or horrified with his actions. David looked to them with a pleading stare, but none of them stepped forward.

He was prepared to destroy the changelings, to erase them from the fabric of reality, yet they acted as though he were committing some heinous crime. Was this not war? Should they not be fighting, or retreating, even if they knew their enemy was beyond them? They did not regard him as an enemy, but as a murderer.

And so did the Equestrians.

These creatures knew nothing of death, let alone wanting to cause it. But he did. Here he was, about to bring an end to them all, as they stared, wide eyed and terrified, at the monster before them.

David collapsed onto his knees, the changelings held in his grasp falling to the ground at the same time. He stared, wide eyed, at his own hands, at what he had almost done.

Even with the power at his disposal, he could not fix this. It was as if he were in a waking coma; lucid and aware, but unable to return to the waking world. Not even this higher existence could return him to the world he knew, to rid Equestria of him completely. And even if he removed the changelings safely, returned everything to normal, and even wiped his own memory, he would not feel safe.

If he had found a way to exploit this universe's broken state once, he would surely find it again. And maybe next time, there would be no one to stop him.


He wouldn't let himself fail; he wouldn't give himself the chance.