Shylight - Chapter Four - A Greater Good
"Sis, wait! What's the big hurry?" Applebloom cried as Applejack was carrying her to Twilight Sparkle's library.
"Somethin's happened to Twilight an' Fluttershy," Applejack said as she panted for breath while in a gallop. "Ah figured since you was helpin' Zecora out, that you might be able to help us out."
"Oh no..." Applebloom said. "They gonna be okay?"
"Ah hope so, lil' sis, Ah truly hope so..." Applejack said. The sun was setting as Applejack dashed past Quills and Sofas.
Pinkie Pie was struggling at this point to even maintain anything faster than a power walk. "I guess... we're lucky the... Crusaders were at... the school, huh?" she said as she desperately tried to keep pace with her friend.
"Somepony's lookin' out for us today," Applejack said as Twilight's library was within sight.
Zecora and Luna were both trying to work together on a counter for the hybridization spell. Complicating matters, they were faced with a ticking clock and no documentation remaining on the spell itself. Luna was having to work from memory alone, and Zecora was working off of information passed down through generations of perceived gossip.
Still, as the sun was setting, they were making tangible progress. Zecora's potions were no longer exploding and Luna's incantations were no longer killing the test plants she was trying to separate. Both knew they were very close.
Meantime, Rainbow Dash was upstairs trying to talk to Shylight. "Please, Shylight, it's important," she pleaded as Shylight tried to sink from sight.
"But... I didn't... I didn't..." Shylight tried to say. As much as she knew what she wanted to say, it was as though her fear was keeping her words from making the trek from her brain to her mouth.
"Didn't what?" Dash asked. She felt like she was speaking to the air, with as much helpful feedback as Shylight was providing.
"Zecora... she did warn Twilight... ugh! She warned me about the spellbook..." Shylight forced herself to say. Her confusion over her very sense of self was making it hard for her to assist herself. Even coherent thought seemed out of her reach. The part of her that was Twilight was finding it hard to work against the unfamiliar sense of fear. The part of her that was Fluttershy couldn't even make the words she was thinking make sense.
"Yeah, she told us that already," Dash said. "Did you have the book when you went to Fluttershy's?"
"Dash, I..." Shylight began before crying. "I... I'm scared to say..."
"Why, Shy?" Dash asked. She unconsciously used her pet name for Fluttershy.
The damage was done, though. Shylight let her head fall into her forehooves as she began crying.
Back downstairs, Luna finally made a breakthrough. "That was it!" she cried triumphantly. "That was the spell!"
"Great work, Moon Princess," Zecora said, working through her fatigue. "But we're still faced with our greatest test."
"Yes... yes, I know," Luna said. "Plants and ponies are two way different things, and we'll only have one chance at this. If we make a mistake, we risk losing Twilight and Fluttershy forever, as well as Shylight."
"Perhaps it would be best for all, if Shylight were allowed to make the call?" Zecora asked.
"I've seen her, Zecora," Luna said. "She's a complete wreck. As separate ponies, each could at least function. It's like the worst of the flaws of each are crippling Shylight."
"You are just worried she'll actually say yes," Zecora observed as she mixed another potion. "Speak the truth to me - confess."
"I know what the spell was meant to do," Luna said. "We're not just dealing with a magical accident up there. We're dealing with a new life. She has her own rights. I'm worried about asking her to choose suicide to bring Twilight and Fluttershy back. I don't want to force her either... that'd be murder."
"It is a tough call we must make. I too think this weight is hard to take," Zecora said. "If it is nothing we do, then not one do we condemn but two."
"I know... sunset is coming, at least," Luna sighed. "Maybe my sister will help make this choice clearer for me."
"We have enough time for you to reflect," Zecora said. "Work through your emotional conflict."
"If that's Zebra for 'get some tea,' I think that's the best idea I've heard today," Luna sighed as she walked over to the kitchen. "Want some?"
"A relaxing drink? Perhaps I will," Zecora said as she joined Luna. "Its calming effect should fit the bill."
"Exactly," Luna said. "You know, this could be the start of a great friendship..."
Princess Celestia finished putting the sun away and started raising the moon. She was hesistant to let Princess Luna go to Ponyville in her stead, but she could sense her sister felt she had some personal demons to overcome, and the fewer of those she had to struggle with, the better.
Still, the tone of Spike's earlier letter left her with a nagging feeling that all was not what it seemed. When Luna sent her a second letter saying she knew the problem, her doubts increased somewhat.
As she completed her task of raising the moon, she called to one of her assistants. "Scribe?"
An aged grey unicorn stallion with a scroll and quill for a cutie mark soon walked into the throne room. "Princess Celestia? What can I do for you tonight?"
"Please let the guards know that night court has been cancelled for today," Celestia said as she tied the last loose end. "My sister is dealing with an urgent personal matter in Ponyville, and I must leave now to join her."
"As you wish, Highness," Scribe said as he bowed and left to relay the news to the guards.
"Thank you, old friend," Celestia said as she walked over to the balcony. She opened the window and was soon soaring through the air.
"Hey! We're home!" Pinkie Pie called out as she, Applejack and Applebloom entered Twilight's Library.
"We're in the kitchen," Rarity called out. "Did you find Applebloom?"
"Ah came as quick as Ah could," Applebloom said, not exactly lying. Riding on her sister's back certainly wasn't the slowest way to cross town.
Zecora coughed as the three earth ponies got into the kitchen. "Ah, my young friend, welcome! Your assistance tonight will be no burden."
"Yeah, my big sis told me everythin' that happened," Applebloom said. "Is there anythin' Ah can do to help?"
"Little one, indeed there is," Zecora said, smiling. "Please help Dash allay the new one's fears."
"Okay!" Applebloom said.
"They're upstairs," Rarity said. "Be careful, though. She's still very confused."
"Gotcha, Rarity," the young filly responded as she headed for the stairs.
"Her heart is in the right place for sure," Zecora said. "But I've done most of the work for her."
"Dash? Hello?" Applebloom asked quietly as she climbed the stairs.
"I'm up here," Dash whispered loudly.
Shylight had finished crying and was finally starting to feel a little better. "Come on up," she said softly.
Applebloom turned toward the closet and saw Dash holding Shylight gently. Spike was asleep on a nearby pile of towels. "Are you okay, ah... um..." she asked as she struggled to figure out what to call the timid alicorn.
"Shy... Shylight," she offered. "Other than feeling like I'm going to explode from panic... I... I think I'm okay, considering everything that's happened."
"Wow," Applebloom said as she knelt next to Dash and Shylight. "What's it like? I've never met two ponies in one body before."
"That's just it," Shylight said. "I... I don't feel like two ponies. I mean, I... I can remember being Twilight Sparkle. I can remember being Fluttershy. I know what each were like... I'm starting to figure out what I'm like. I feel like parts of both of them have been tossed in a cotton candy machine and... and I came out."
"How so?" Dash asked, still holding onto the timid alicorn.
"The... the stuttering, for one," Shylight said as Twilight's analytical mind finally began to make its way to the surface. "Neither of us stuttered... Twilight never did, and Fluttershy would... would just kind of go silent."
"I did notice that," Dash conceded. "I thought it was unusual."
"There's other things," Shylight said. "Sunflower sandwiches. Both Twilight and Fluttershy loved them. Right now the... the thought of one is making my stomach do back... backflips."
"How's your magic? Or your flying?" Applebloom asked curiously.
"I... I'm not sure yet," Shylight said. "I'm kind of scared to try to fly, even though I should know how, and my... my magic feels weaker somehow. I kinda did the... the invisibility spell by accident because all I wanted to do was disappear."
"But you're an alicorn now," Dash said. "Shouldn't you be better at both?"
"You'd... you'd think that, but no," Shylight said. "I'm not an actual alicorn. I... I don't have the strength of an earth pony like the Princesses do. I'm just... just a hybrid of a pegasus and a unicorn, and I think even those traits are diluted."
"Weird," Dash and Applebloom both said as most of the words Shylight used were outside both of their vocabularies.
Applebloom spoke up. "You owe me an apple juice!"
"Yeah, I guess I do," Dash said.
All three erupted into laughter.
Another hour passed before Luna and Zecora felt confident enough to attempt the complex reversal spell. They had reached the point where living plant hybrids remained alive even after being split back into their component parts. Zecora had already went down to the basement to start preparing for the ritual.
"Shylight?" Luna called. "Could you come down here, please?"
Shylight, with Applebloom and Dash's encouragement, came downstairs.
"Wow," Luna said. "If I were that pretty, I wouldn't want to hide it."
"Th.. thank you," Shylight said very quietly. "Are... are you ready to try to get me back to normal?"
Shylight's statement gave Luna pause. "What did you say?" she asked quietly.
"I... I asked if you were ready to try to get me back to normal," Shylight said, confused.
"You said 'me,'" Luna observed.
"Yes?" Shylight said.
"I... I wasn't expecting this," Luna said. "I'm not sure I can do this."
"What? Why?" Shylight asked. "I... I want to be Fluttershy and Twilight again."
Celestia knocked on the door. "Sister? Are you there?" she asked.
"Yes... please come in," Luna said, sighing. "I need your counsel. You can head back upstairs for a few more minutes, Shylight, I need to discuss something with my sister."
"Okay..." Shylight said as she went back up the stairs. She stopped at the top of the stairs and listened to the conversation.
"What's wrong, sister?" Celestia asked as Shylight departed.
"I'm scared, sis," Luna confessed. "This isn't just a magical accident. If I try to reverse the spell now, I'd be killing somepony."
"I see..." Celestia said. "But if you don't do this, then everyone here will lose two of their friends. Even you."
"I know, I know..." Luna said as she ran to the nearest wall and put her head against it. "I... I don't know what to do."
"What does she want?" Celestia asked, referring to Shylight.
"She said she wanted to go through with it," Luna sighed. "She's willing!"
"So then, doesn't that make the choice easier?" Celestia asked.
"I can't..." Luna cried.
Celestia went over to her sister and hugged her gently. "You can't do what?"
"I can't ask her to commit suicide to bring Twilight and Fluttershy back," Luna said as she wept. "She's her own pony. She doesn't refer to herself as Fluttershy or Twilight... I don't think she even thinks of herself as either. I don't want to kill her."
"Pr... Princess?" Shylight asked as she walked up behind the Princesses. "Respectfully..." She recoiled as Luna and Celestia turned back to face her.
"Don't be afraid, my faithful student," Celestia reflexively replied. "Speak your mind."
"That... that's just it, Princess," Shylight said. "I'm... I'm not your faithful student. The ponies here are my friends, but... but I'm not. I want to do what's right for them. I want to do what's right for Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy. They deserve a chance to live. They deserve to be with their friends."
"You understand what you're saying, correct?" Celestia asked.
"I understand..." Shylight said. "I'm... I'm not changing my mind on this."
"Are you really doing it for them?" Luna asked, still unsure. "Are you willing to do this because you feel you shouldn't exist?"
"No... no, Princess," Shylight said softly. "I believe... I believe I have every right to exist, except that it denies two others their lives and everyone present their friends. I'm ready."
"I'll get Zecora," Luna said. "I'm still not sure this is right, though..."
"The sad thing is, sister, there is no right choice here," Celestia said. "This brave young mare has made her decision, though. We must respect it."
A few minutes later, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Applejack and Pinkie Pie came into the main part of the library.
"You don't have to do this," Rarity said. "Surely there's another way to do this..."
"Yeah, if you're just doin' this for our sake, you don't have to," Applejack said. Her normally tough exterior was cracking and she was sobbing.
"I... I have to," Shylight said quietly, looking away. "I have to do this for me, too. If I didn't have Twlight and Fluttershy's memories, it wouldn't be this hard for me, but I know those two better than anypony here... and I know they'd do the same for me if they could."
Pinkie was letting the tears flow. "Awwww... I didn't even get a chance to get to know you, Shylight! We don't even get enough time to throw you a 'Welcome to Ponyville' party?"
"If... if it helps, you already have," Shylight said. "You're all here. This... this place looks like it's fit for a party. You even surprised me..."
Dash was doing the best of the four at not letting her emotions show. "You're brave, you know that, Shylight?" she said.
Shylight blushed. "Dash... I'm not brave... I... I don't even know how I'm managing to keep it together," she said. "Every fiber of my being is telling me to go back to the closet and hide forever."
"Yeah, well... I couldn't do this if it were me, so that makes you a better pony than me," Dash said as she snatched Shylight into a hug. "I'm glad I got the chance to know you..."
"We all are, even though it was brief," Rarity said.
"If it helps, you'll be with us all the time," Applejack said. "Ah know you'll be in my heart."
"Ditto that!" Pinkie said, trying to regain her composure.
"I'm... I'm glad I got the chance to know you... again..." Shylight said. "I guess all... all that's left to say is goodbye..."
They all embraced in the center of the room. Even Dash began to cry.
"...Goodbye... and see you in a few minutes," Shylight said as she went down to the basement where Luna and Zecora were waiting.
Celestia was sitting upstairs, watching the sky. She could sympathize with her sister. She could also understand Shylight's wishes. It didn't make any of it easier, which is why she chose to remain in Twilight's bedroom instead of joining her sister and Zecora in the basement.
"Truly, you are a brave soul, Shylight," Celestia said softly as she closed her eyes and turned her head away from the sky.
When she opened her eyes, she was looking directly at a book atop a bookcase at an angle only she was tall enough to see. The writing on the cover was ancient Zebra.
Celestia's jaw dropped. "Oh no," she said. "Oh no! If the book is here, then... then..." She grabbed the book with her teeth and ran down to the basement.
Shylight stood in the center of a magical circle. She looked down at the potion.
"Drink that first, it will start the spell," Zecora said. "When Luna does her part, all will end well."
"I hope so," Luna sighed.
Shylight tried to focus her magic on the vial. Zecora had told her earlier that by doing so, her magic would activate the mixture. It was hard for her, but she finally managed to lift it to her lips and drink the contents.
"...I'm sorry, Shylight," Luna said as her horn began to glow.
Shylight began to levitate as Luna's spell started taking effect. Soon, she began glowing.
Celestia busted down the basement door. "Wait!" she said as she threw the book to Zecora, who had stepped aside.
"The book? It is here? Luna! We're making a mistake, I fear!" Zecora cried as she looked down at it.
"It's too late!" Luna cried. "I can't stop now..."
Smoke soon began to rise from Shylight, and a blinding light filled the room...