Inner Glory

by Erindor

Chapter 62: Repulsion

Chapter 62: Repulsion

Seren grit his teeth and looked directly into Celestia's eyes. “This isn't the end,” he hissed. He flinched as his entire back portion was ripped apart and regenerated in a single moment. “Yr wyf yn ymwrthod fy rheolaeth ar gyfer dianc.” The rest of his energy was expunged in a glorious burst of light, the pulse traveling up the beam and slamming into the false sun. The creation buckled and heaved, letting off waves of light as its careful orbit was lost. Celestia released her forced connection, and with nothing keeping the power source in check, it exploded, high in the sky, in a wave of white flame.

After her eyes recovered, Celestia looked to the smoldering ritual circle. Seren had escaped, as she expected he would. But it didn't matter anymore. He was absolutely powerless. He could run, but it was only a matter of time before she caught up again. Then she, and the world, could rest.

“Equestria prevails,” she murmured.

She turned to leave, but paused as she heard heavy breathing behind herself. Seren's creatures had been awoken from their slumber, their towering forms filling the room both physically and with a soft light. The glowing orbs upon their brow had exploded like the false sun which gave them light, spreading specks of light around their bodies. Despite their gruesome figures, Celestia had to admit their glistening coats looked pretty.

“Your creator has abandoned you. I have no quarrel, but I will defend myself if you attack.”

The creatures looked the comparatively small equine over. In a language with no words, the leading creature, a bear-like beast, asked what they were to do. Without a master, they were lost. Without a source of power, they were cold. They had been given intelligence without an aim, a life without a place to live.

Celestia considered the fact. It had been childish of Seren to abuse his creative powers as he had, but she couldn't leave the mess to sort itself out. Whether or not they were aware of it, these creatures were dangerous. Their size alone was reason to give her pause.

The creature continued. The recently born beings knew that Celestia was very powerful, and they were willing to serve her, if she wished. It was better to have a directive than to wander aimlessly, especially now that their previous master had abandoned them.

Celestia found the proposition agreeable. “I will be your new master. I give you this directive; guard the forests around the old castle.” She projected a telepathic map, showing the area she wanted protected. “Dissuade travelers from wandering too far. Allow the plants to overgrow. Encourage the presence of other magical creatures, which you in turn will claim as your servants. Protect the land, but keep yourself unseen as much as possible.”

The creatures agreed. How long should they protect the forests, they wondered?

“Until your master’s star reforms. And, the name of the forest must change, to reflect your new stewardship. They shall be called the Everfree, representing both your newfound purpose and the freedoms you will help provide to the residents of the land. Your job will be largely thankless, but I will remember your contributions, and will honor you when I can.”

The creatures bowed, apparently having some sense of diplomacy instilled in them. Celestia bowed in return. “I will leave you to it, then.” She continued out of the cave unmolested. Perhaps it would be more wise to just kill the creatures then and there. But she had sworn to kill only once more. One more death, and then it would be over.

{- - -}

“So. You’ve managed to hunt me down.”

“Are you going to run?”

“No. I’m done running.”

It’d been six months since Seren had fallen into Celestia’s trap, making it a year and a half since Luna’s death. He had taken up refuge in the princess’ old castle in the already frightening Everfree, of all places. When Celestia finally found him, there weren’t any elaborate traps, nor were there any grand threats or defiance. Just a hunched form in the circular, arcane energy-reflecting room that had served as the castle’s magical laboratory, the chill of the winter outside lingering heavily.

Seren turned to face Celestia his golden eyes still burned with hatred, but the spark of life had left. “End me, Celestia. I have lived long enough being worthless. You have bested me, and I can’t bear being without Luna.”

Celestia looked him over. “What went wrong?”

“Patronizing as always.”

“No, I don’t just mean your betrayal... What happened to each of us? Why did Luna change so suddenly? Why could I find no way to console her?”

“Because we’re mortals pretending to be Gods, Celestia. It’s as simple as that. We have shaken the bands of our otherwise short lives, we have the very fabrics of reality at our disposal, but in the end, I’m a simple guard with plans too large for me to handle. You’re a good-intentioned unicorn who was once charged with protect her sister, and having failed that, is now charged to enlighten the kingdom alone.”

“Quicksilver, I’m genuinely sorry. Sorry that it had to be this way.”

“As am I. But we’ve chosen our paths.”

Celestia came closer, and Seren tensed, causing her to pause. He realized what he was doing and relaxed. “Heh. Despite all my bravado, I’m still subject to the weaknesses of the flesh.”

With a flash, Celestia materialized an arcane sword. She held it her sullen enemy’s neck, who shuddered in anticipation. “See you in a thousand years.”

Celestia hesitated. Could she really pretend to be beginning a new era of peaceful ruling with another death? His bowing form was reminiscent of a prayer, and it reminded her of just how young he was.

Suddenly, Celestia became aware that Seren was facing her. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to.

With a surge of emotion, Celestia lashed out with her weapon. It was over.

And yet, it had only just begun.

She tossed the weapon away, where it shattered upon impact, its pieces disappearing like the embers of a dying flame. Celestia curled up on herself, comforting her racing heart. At last, everything could be fixed. She had the time to make everything right.

After sitting there for a few minutes, she peeked out of her comforting position. Seren’s body was soaking in a sanguine pool, the leaking fluid echoing around the small room. Celestia decided to leave the grisly sight to decay with the castle. She might have given him a burial, except she suspected he would object if he were able to.

Celestia stepped out of the castle and into the cold night air. She looked up into the sky, taken aback by what she saw. The lights had been organized. Luna's vision of the 'stars' as she had called them had been realized. Celestia regarded it for a moment, her mouth agape. She had no idea it would have looked anything like this. It was awe-inspiring. And yet, she hadn't done it. Seren's creatures shouldn't have had any real control over the remnants of his sun, so that only meant...

Celestia sat down in the snow, considering what this meant. Seren had used the very last of his power reserves to rearrange the shattered remains of his sun to honor Luna's memory. He genuinely cared, then. There was no other convenient explanation. It didn't change the demonic actions he had taken, but it made the necessity of his death weigh more heavily on her mind. She had taken two promising —though blinded— friends from this world. Their return would be difficult for them at best, and deadly for all at worst. She was invested now, and she had to go all in. To give up now would only make all the effort spent a waste.

But how to go about it? That cursed Seren had spread his tendrils of influence far enough that even without his power, even without a body, he was still being troublesome. Only a few weeks before she had found Seren, she had been accosted by a group of ponies who claimed to be freedom fighters, denouncing her tyranny. Celestia had each of them captured, questioned, then released after a quick amnesiac spell. But sadly, the same couldn't be done for the rest of the precarious country.

Celestia's eyes flew open, her mind alight with ideas and possibilities. “Or can't it?”

She got up, shaking the snow from her coat before running back into the room where she'd left Seren's corpse. She made some quick mental calculations. It would take almost everything she had, and there was no sure way to keep it stable, but the benefits might just outweigh the risks. She'd be given a clean slate. And without any enemies, she could spend as much time recovering as she needed to.

No, that wouldn't work. Eventually, the ponies would turn to their old ways. Unless she were to refresh the amnesiac every year, but even then, it was the nature of mortals to seek out trouble for themselves. The problem was deeper than any policy, any law, any threat of an army or any promise of a reward. The problem lay in the hearts of the people. As long as they could be hurt, they would allow the hurt to fester, and eventually lash out at somebody else, perpetuating the pain.

Celestia considered the dilemma. What if there simply wasn't any pain? What if, instead of pain, there was numbness? Instead of injury, confusion? Death, a gentle passing? The more she thought about it, the more she began to allow hope back into her heart. She was the sole ruler of Equestria now; she controlled the heavens. She could utilize their power for such a task. It would be dangerous, but the results would finally justify her. A world of equality, of prosperity, of true, unfettered happiness.

Whatever the cost.

{- - -}

I'm sorry for interrupting, but I believe you've seen what you needed to, and Celestia has just arrived.

Gemini shook her head, clearing her mind from the vision. Thael stood next to her, watching the entrance to the throne room. Celestia filled the doorway, her form still glowing from her magically-enhanced flight. Celestia looked around at each of the ponies, out of breath. Upon seeing Luna, she stepped forward quickly. “Luna, are you alright?”

“I am... well.”

“Luna, Twilight, we've got to leave. A powerful alicorn is on his way, and he intends to destroy—”

“Celestia, I think you'll find us both well acquainted with Seren. Or perhaps I should say, Quicksilver?”

Celestia froze in place. “You've recovered your memories, then?”

“I have. And Twilight was just indoctrinated to the same personal history.”

Celestia looked between the two of them. When she spoke, she spoke slowly. “I can't pretend that I deserve your forgiveness, nor your support. But please, everything I've fought for will be ruined if he's allowed to escape.”

Luna stepped forward, placing a hoof on Celestia's trembling body. “Sister, I know you mean well. But it's time to stop running. I've relearned why I sided with him in the first place, and I can promise you that my malicious intent is gone. I am not here to make an enemy out of you. But we can't allow things to continue as they have.”

Celestia stepped back, hanging her head. “What am I to do, then? Can I really just let everything fall apart?”

The Metaspectre hovered over. Peace, Celestia. Seren does not come here to destroy indiscriminately. You will be given a chance to explain yourself, and the same opportunity will be given to him. It's no longer just between you and him. Everyone in this room will have to make a choice. We will let reason, not might, rule.

Celestia withdrew, making her way over to the entrance of the throne room. She started a careful watch, waiting for her deepest fear to finally show its face.

When Seren got near, there was no doubt in Gemini's mind. He was making no attempt to mask his presence, and the ambient energy exuding from him was much like the Metaspectre's altar. Celestia tensed up, but she held her ground, until finally, the hallway was filled with echoing hoofsteps.

“I'm glad I was able to catch up to you, Celestia. I've been meaning to have a chat.” The alicorn brushed past her and into the room. In person, his form was even more intimidating. It seemed a thousand years had caused his body to change, slightly. The air of desperate fervor that used to define him was gone. It was instead replaced by cold determinism. His golden eyes, rather than drawing you in, seemed to repulse forcibly, making it a challenge to hold his gaze.

Upon seeing Luna, he brightened considerably, though he still had an aura of danger about him. “Luna! Are you alright?”

“I'm fine, Quicksilver.”

“Quicksilver... yes, it's been so long since I've been known by that name.” He smiled a warm, genuine smile. He made his way over to his long-lost princess. “How are you?”

“Where I was once confused, I am disappointed. I, personally, am fine, as I have said. But there are matters we must attend to.”

Seren nodded, pausing to take in Luna's beauty for a moment longer. “Yes, the matter of the throne, of these two worlds.” From his position at the top of the steps, he looked down to Celestia, who was still waiting by the door. “What are we to do? Celestia, as long as one of us lives, we will be in a constant state of war. I want, just as much as you do, to be done with our petty past, but neither of us seem able to forget it.”

“Neither of us want to,” Celestia replied.

“And I think that's the truth.” Seren finished. “Celestia, even I must commend your tenacity. But it's been a thousand years. Has it been worth it?”

“No, I can't say that it has.”

“Then why press on? Why not pass the torch to another, more willing bearer?”

“I want what is best for the people. I realize now that one ruler is not enough, unless the ruler is perfect. As all of us are flawed, to give the throne of Equestria to any one would be to condemn it to eventual decay.”

“Then what is your proposal?”

“We return to the joint ruling that was established before your ascension.”

“Put aside our differences? Just like that?” Seren gave a short laugh. “Celestia, the trouble is, we'll never be able to agree. The joint ruling failed in the past because it was inherently flawed. The moment you and Luna disagreed on anything, the rift between you grew bigger. Add me into the equation, and you'll be even less happy than you were before. With nobody above us to make the final ruling, well, that system would eventually lead us back to where we are now, although likely with a few more deaths along the way. We simply can't forgive each other.”

The conversation was dropped. Neither party had anything more to say, for the moment. Discord was floating lazily above on an inflatable tube, and the rest of the ponies were deep in thought. It was now that Twilight realized each of the others had merged, though none had attempted to use their energy to ascend to alicorn-hood. Perhaps that was better. There was enough of a power struggle already. The only exceptions to the merging were Flare and Eclipse, who, though standing side by side, demanded their individuality. It was strange, she thought; each of the other reflections shared many more characteristics. These two didn't have the same cutie mark, the same coat, or anything. They had a passing physical resemblance, more like sisters than clones, though. Then it hit her. How had she been so blind?

“Everyone's here,” she whispered. She looked from Luna to Eclipse, then from Flare to Celestia. Of course. And if she was correct, and Seren came from Lustrous Revolt, then...

What about her? She frowned, causing Lustrous' half to ask what was wrong. Twilight gave some off-handed response, before shutting down that train of thought. Now wasn't the time to discuss it.

Finally, after about a five minute pause, Seren spoke up once more. “Celestia, you have to recognize now that your plan was flawed. Sure, everything seemed nice from the world of paradise, but how much time did you actually spend in the Forgotten Realm? A world of joy is not worth an equivalent world of misery. Speaking of which, that was a nice touch, burning my body to fuel the creation of the portal.”

“Yes, I realize now that I was short-sighted, and that I was foolish. But I was only trying to make everybody as happy as possible! I didn't realize that the spell would create equivalent beings in the world of darkness.”

“Once again, I ask, why do you attempt to carry on, when you've proven you're unfit to rule?”


“I'm sorry, Luna, but I think everybody in this room deserves a proper answer.”

Celestia stood resolutely. She took a deep breath. “Because I cannot accept a world where good is forgotten and evil is rewarded. And I will fight to my last breath for the sake of others.”

“Interesting choice of words,” Discord commented. “I wouldn't provoke him if I were you.”

“Discord, as you were so keen to prove when Luna and I overthrew you, you aren't me. So please, stay quiet.”

“Hey, hey, I'm just trying to help.” He dropped to the ground. “Listen, both of you bickering like this. How about a compromise? We return the world to its old state, a world of mixed morality. Light and dark are not separate, but inseparable, creating all the many shades of gray that make life fun. You have to admit, Celestia, Equestria was pretty boring without people like me around. And,” he said, turning to Seren, “You have to admit that vengeance isn't any fun unless the person is legitimately at fault. In a world of darkness, you can hardly expect anybody to act kindly, and so making them pay for their crimes is both unjustified and, well, boring.”

Celestia was trembling, trying to stay composed. She wasn't afraid, Twilight realized, so what was it? She reached out with her mind and touched her teacher's for just a moment. Celestia wasn't trying to stay brave; she was trying to keep herself from hurting Seren. She was trying to stand strong, to prevent herself from getting sucked back into the eternal circle of violence she had unwittingly set up.

Twilight withdrew as Celestia began speaking once again. “I would be willing to merge the worlds, but once again, as you've proven, Seren, we cannot work together. You're right, it's time for the world to return to the complex balance it was before, but I cannot allow you to be a part of it.”

Seren chuckled incredulously. “And just how do you intend to do that?”

“As I did before. By keeping your corrupting influence under lock and key.”

Before anyone had a chance to react, there was a flash of light, and an echoing phrase lingered on the air. When Gemini's eyes returned to normal, she found that she had been transported somewhere else. A familiar room. The circular chamber that housed the mirror that served as a portal between the worlds. The mirror was fractured throughout, the weblike tendrils reaching all across the surface, leaving many smaller reflections of a shocked Gemini staring back in disbelief. The mirror looked like a single tap of the hoof would be enough to let everything come crashing down.

Gemini turned around in confusion. The only other person here was Celestia, who held her head low, in shame or apology, Gemini couldn't decide.

“What did you just do?!” she demanded.

“I'm sorry, Twilight. I set a way-point here, in case I needed a quick escape. It could only serve two people, and I didn't think Luna would be willing to help me, at least not yet. The two of us have to prepare Equestria for the merging.”

Twilight sputtered furiously. “You left all of my friends there! With him!”

“I'm sorry, but it was what had to be done.”

Twilight growled. She had just about had enough of this. “Celestia!” she exclaimed. “You're good intentioned. I know that. But you've gone too far! I will not help you, nor can I stand by you, if you are willing to make yet another sacrifice for this unachievable goal of 'the greater good'.” She let out a puff of heated air before continuing. “In light of the recent events and your history which I've come to learn, I cannot forgive you for your actions. I renounce my servitude to you and my status as a citizen of Equestria.”

She turned around, preparing to reverse the teleportation spell while she still had time. “I'm sorry, Celestia, but if you are willing to turn on your sister and my friends, you do not deserve my worship, nor my friendship.”

With a flash, the spell reversed, and Celestia was left alone.