Chapter 21 Define: Purgation
Twilight watched Rainbow run around the corner, momentarily taken aback as the pegasus left her. She was the one who told Dash to play along, so why did she feel like this? Twilight shook it off; if anything, it would give her more motivation to finish Discord’s little game that much sooner. In addition, there was a reward to look forward too, three truths, as he promised. ‘Assuming that wasn’t a lie.’ Twilight thought. If it were, she would make him regret it.
Twilight shrugged her shoulders, the sooner she got this over with the sooner they would be back together. ‘Let’s get this over with.’ She proceeded through ‘her’ entrance, or so the sign said. What she saw on the other side immediately dropped her jaw.
Books… lots and lots of books, an entire library worth of books, enough for a lifetime. ‘Is this a trick? Well obviously, it is Discord at work.’ She proceeded to grab the first one she found.
“Twilight Sparkle, age seven, Day two thousand six hundred eighty three.”
She dropped it. Picking up another, and another, and another, ‘every book in here is about me. Somepony chronicled my entire life. Every. Single. Day’. It was, confusing, on one hoof, she was flattered. As a princess, she has had several books written by ghost authors about her. However, this was not the same. She could not help but feel a sense of violation about this. Had somepony been following her around her entire life? On that hoof, it was a little creepy.
“Oh relax ‘princess’, no one followed you around.”
Discord… of course he would not wait outside. “Then what is all of this?”
“You mean you don’t like your own personal collection? I thought you would be excited to see yourself in so many books.”
“No, I mean, where did all these come from?”
“You of course. As soon as you walked through that door, these came into being from your own memories, some you remember, some you forgot. I particularly enjoy this chapter on how you suffered from bedwetting after moving into the castle.”
Twilight spun around. Discord was lying down on a pile of books with one in his lion paw, casually flipping through her life in book form. She ripped the book from him with her magic, glaring angrily at the draconequus.
“Oh well, I guess I'll just have to wait for the movie to see how it plays out. Shame, the books always go into so much more detail.”
“What's the point of all this, Discord?”
“Fine, ruin my fun, oh well. The ‘point’ of all this, little miss ‘princess’ is that YOU forgot something, something important. Something that can only be taught to you, by you. Being that you so love a good book, what better way to remind you than with books?”
“Just come out with it! You know I don't have time to read an entire library’s worth of books.”
“You cannot be that dense, Twilight.” As if to test just how dense she was, Discord pulled out a slab of steel and hit her over the head with it, she felt nothing, but the metal broke in two. “I stand corrected, you are that dense.”
“I trust there was a good reason for that.” The anger in her eyes told the whole story about what Twilight felt in regards to that little display.
“Where do you think you are, my little princess? You are in the Realm of Chaos; you think my power was strong in Equestria? The only rule here is there are no rules. Even that rule gets broken every now and again on principle alone. Of course, we then break those rules, but I digress. What laws of time do you honestly think we follow?”
“So... I can study all I want and no time will pass.” Joy started to overtake Twilight at that little prospect.
Discord slapped a hand to his face, ‘if I didn't know her better I would say that was a joke, oh well, it should still work all the same’. “Yes Twilight, knock yourself out.” With a snap of his fingers, he was gone, leaving the alicorn alone with stacks upon stacks of books.
Contrary to her earlier thoughts, studying a book, about yourself, studying books, is in no way, shape, or form, interesting. She finished the current book, adding it to the pile of finished books in which she spent the majority of the day studying. After she had finished age three, Twilight started organizing the books she finished into two piles, those where she spent over fifty percent of her time awake studying, and those days she did something, anything else. The former pile had grown exponentially. It seemed that all she ever did was study. She had gone through over a decade worth of books, and ninety-nine percent of them had gone into that pile. She even added the first three years worth of books to the latter pile just to make herself feel better. It did not work.
Picking up another book, she stared happily at it, she remembered this day all too well, the Summer Sun Celebration that had brought her to Ponyville. She flew through the book faster than ever, moving on to the next, and the next, and the next. These times were the happiest in her life and she could not stop reading about them. Her time at the Best Young Flyer competition helping Rainbow, the Incident with Philomena, the Grand Galloping Gala, defeating Discord, rescuing her BBBFF, Helping the Crystal Empire, Becoming a Princess, finding the keys to the box. All these and more flew by in a flash, this was her opportunity to relive the happiest moments of her life, and Twilight loved every minute of it.
Then it started to become not so much fun. Her friends, the ones that made her so happy, they began drifting. It was slow and gradual, only by having lived through it had Twilight been able to see it at all. She began seeing the signs for what they were. It started with her, Celestia had given her a little more responsibility that befitted her role as princess and she took to it with her usual gusto. However, there is only so much time in the day, regardless of title.
Not wanting to disappoint her mentor, she began reorganizing how she spent her time. She still made time for her friends, just a little less than normal. Slowly, over a few years, that time grew less, and less. They started drifting apart. Rarity went first. Finding a special somepony, one that just happened to show up in her shop, their courtship would last for a year, a time in which Rarity would grow to rely more on him then her friends.
Pinkie went next. Yes, Mr. Cake had given her new responsibility, yes, she deserved it, however, she took it all on her own. The cause was clear as day with the evidence in front of Twilight's face. It was due to the fact her friends just were not around that much. When Twilight did not spend the sort of time with them that she used to, they found other ways to fill in the time, ways that quickly became more prominent in their lives.
Only with hindsight had Twilight been able to see it at all. Fluttershy’s withdrawing, Applejack's refusal to seek help after Granny Smith died. No wonder Rainbow took the offer to join the Wonderbolts. It made a certain kind of sense; one Twilight did not want to admit too. It all tied into each other, they were too kind, had one of them been selfish, had one of them sought out the help of the others. They all would have come running to help. In essence, their friendship had divided them. It was a cruel twist of fate, one that Twilight resolved again to break as soon as this mess was fixed.
“Ok Discord, I'm done.”
“Not yet, keep reading Twilight.”
Twilight looked over to the last pile of books on the floor. She picked up the one on top and began reading. This set of books dealt with her decisions as a princess and the consequences that came with those decisions. It seemed Discord had indeed lied about something, she did know about some of these. They could not have possibly come from her.
The situation was different in each book, the characters involved were different, but a constant theme was present. In each case she would have to make a choice, she would have to decide on some situation that presented itself. At first, it had been easy. If the decisions were hard, Twilight would seek out advice with her friends, her trusted ‘council’ if you would. She would then make a decision and the case would be solved. Yes, it was not always the right decision but between the six of them, they got it right a LOT more than wrong.
As time progressed, she lost that council. Well not lost per se but she was not able to make use of it as much as before. She rationalized it at the time as her becoming more comfortable with making such decisions on her own. With hindsight, and the evidence in front of her, Twilight saw that was not the case. She stopped using them because she did not want to bother them. She did not want to bother them because they had other responsibilities. They had other responsibilities because they did not hang out as they used to. They were not around as much because she had not wanted to bother them.
The cycle became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ponies of Equestria suffered for it. Not in any obvious way, she made the best decisions at the time with the information she had. However, she had not considered all the possibilities. What Twilight lacked was the different perspectives that the others brought. In one example, she granted approval for a special weather consideration, only to see crops flood at a neighboring town, Rainbow would have known better than to do that. In another, Twilight authorized a parade in town, only for it to fail miserably due to lack of planning, the pony in charge overwhelmed with the responsibility. Had Pinkie been involved that never would have been an issue.
Keeping track, it quickly became apparent that the amount she got ‘right’ on her own was overshadowed by the amount she got ‘wrong’. Nopony would blame her; it was only in hindsight of her decisions and the unintended consequences involved that Twilight was even able to see where she went wrong. Even if this entire Library worth of books was presented to a jury, she had no doubt they would acquit her of all charges. There was only one pony in the whole universe that would blame her, that pony was Twilight Sparkle.
“Ok Discord, I get it.”
“Really, what do you get Twilight?”
“What I mean to my friends, what they mean to me, and the impact of our friendship on all Equestria. They need me and each other, but, nowhere as much as I need them, it was selfish to be selfless.”
“By George, I think she’s got it.”
With that, one of the bookshelves in the room opened up, giving the princess a way of leaving. Twilight walked into the next room. It was a room that would have been right at home in Rarity’s Boutique, a room that was full of mannequins. Each one an exact replica of all her friends, well almost all her friends, there was no Rainbow Dash mannequin. Somehow, this left Twilight disappointed in a way she could not describe. For her it had been months since she last saw Dash. All the time spent in the library studying.
“What's the point of this room, Discord?”
“I'm just going to have to hold your hoof and walk you through everything, huh?”
“Just get on with it.”
Discord appeared relaxing on top of the Applejack mannequin, his legs resting on her head and his head on her flank. “Very well ‘princess’, the ‘point’ of this room, as you so elegantly put it, is for you to tell the truth.”
“Sigh… let me put it another way, when we are around others we never say all we mean too. Even the best of us hide our true feelings. As such, these rooms give you a chance to admit to yourself what you truly feel. Think of this as a room of truths, you will pass through here once you finally admit to yourself what it is you TRULY think about each of your friends in turn. So let me ask, princess. What do you think of Pinkie Pie?” With that, he snapped his figures, disappearing from the room. The Pinkie mannequin came to life and bounced in front of Twilight. It became obvious that this was not the real Pinkie, as it did not say anything. It sit quietly in front of her, waiting for Twilight to say her peace. That alone was a little unnerving, seeing Pikie sat still for any amount of time, even in mannequin form, was simply wrong.
“This is stupid, Discord. That’s not Pinkie!”
Twilight tried to leave; there was no exit she could find, on the magic plane or otherwise. She sighed and walked back to the pink pony that waited patiently for her to finish. “Pinkie you are one of my best friends in the world.”
“Pinkie, you are one of the funniest ponies I have ever met.”
Twilight considered her options: she could try teleporting, although that did not end well last time, scratch that off the list. She could blast her way out, but with her powers at her current level, it would cause untold destruction, and she could not see Rainbow’s location. Unacceptable, she would not risk it. That left the last option.
“Pinkie… you are one of the most annoying ponies I have ever met. You are loud, reckless, inconsiderate, thoughtless, and have no respect for other ponies’ personal space or property." She sighed deeply before continuing.
"However, you are so much fun to be around. Before I met you I would never go to parties, I would never seek to enjoy myself around others. You are one of my best friends in the world. I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything.”
The Pinkie mannequin smiled and jumped at Twilight, wrapping her in a big hug. It then returned to its former spot and resumed being an inanimate object again.
The Rarity mannequin woke up next, making its way towards Twilight with all the grace and dignity of the real Rarity.
“Rarity, you have the oddest sense of priorities I've ever seen. I've seen you fret over dresses when the world is at stake. You worry about the silliest things at the worst times and it drives most of us completely crazy." Twilight took a deep breath.
"Your generosity puts Celestia to shame; you are so kind and thoughtful, putting other ponies’ needs before your own, even when you should not, even when the cost to you is so high. You are always there for everypony, even when they don’t want it.” Twilight chuckled a little at that. “Truly, you are an inspiration for me, somepony I look at as an example to follow in my own life.”
The Rarity mannequin nodded at that and left, soon replaced by Fluttershy.
“Fluttershy, I… I'm sorry. You have one of the worst cases of social isolation that I've ever seen; you have real self-esteem issues and constantly worry about the opinion of others. I knew this when we first met. With us as your friends you were getting better, you even started singing in front of others near the end. However, when we started drifting, you relapsed. I should have known, I should have been there for you. More than any of the others; I failed you and I'm sorry for it.” The Fluttershy mannequin walked over and hugged Twilight. Wiping a tear from Twilight’s eye. Applejack took Fluttershy’s spot, waiting patiently for Twilight to purge some of the feelings she had built up over the years.
Twilight paused, what could she say about the farmer? Applejack was stubborn, honest, caring, and helpful. None of these things were new, everypony knew all that about AJ. That is when it dawned on her.
“Applejack you are your own worst enemy. Every trait you have works against you. You are honest, sometimes cruelly, but never with yourself. The only pony who you will not tell the truth too is you. You make decisions without all the facts. Even when somepony gives you evidence you are wrong, you stubbornly refuse to accept the truth. You seek to help others, even to your own detriment. Often leading you to unintentionally hurt those you sought to help." She paused to catch her breath.
"You are also the most dependable pony I know; I can rely on you to keep your word regardless of the circumstance. Indeed every quality that hurts you helps you.” Twilight began laughing. “You are quite the conundrum you know, and I wouldn't have you any other way.”
Applejack tilt her hat to the purple alicorn and walked back to her spot. Somehow, Discord was right, after this whole exercise Twilight felt a weight come of her shoulders, one that had been building slowly over the years. She had not even realized she was carrying it until it was removed.
“One room left Twilight, one more pony to tell the truth to.”
Twilight slowly exhaled, she knew this was coming; she just had no idea what to say.
She had expected another mannequin, one shaped like Rainbow in this last room, what she got was a mirror at the end of the room. Walking up, she looked into the mirror. Although, instead of her own reflection, Rainbow Dash’s reflection looked back at her.
“Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow… what can I say about you? You seem to exemplify all the bad qualities of the rest of our friends: You are as stubborn as AJ, as socially inept as Fluttershy. Admittingly in a different sort of way, you are as fickle as Rarity, and as reckless as Pinkie Pie.”
“Yet of all our friends, you’re the one I miss the most. You remind me so much of myself. We both strive to be the best at what we do; we both have impossible dreams that can never be reached. We both suffer from the impossible expectations set by others and worse, ourselves. So much was expected of us, as fillies we achieved impossible feats. Ones that would have been sufficient for adults; something most adults would retire after achieving, yet because of those we will forever face naysayers and be held to such impossible standards. They will test us, forever. If we fail, it proves them right, if we pass… it was too easy and they should have given us something harder.” Twilight wiped a tear from her eye.
“Is it little wonder I depend on you so much. Only you can know what I go through and only I can reciprocate that for you. Of all of them, you're my best friend, Rainbow.”
Twilight expected the room to open, nothing happened.
“Discord, what the hay? I did as you asked.”
“Twilight, stop hiding.”
“I'm not hiding.”
“Really, so those where your true feelings? That is TRULY all you have to say to Rainbow. Even after all this.”
Images began flashing through the mirror, the first time she saw Rainbow after arriving in Ponyville, Twilight wanting to comfort Rainbow when she thought Rainbow was mad at AJ, the incident with the Wonderbolts at the town of Rainbow Falls. On and on they went, little tidbits here and there. None of them meaning anything on their own, but when added together, they formed something greater than the sum of their parts. “These are being taken out of context,” she rationalized.
“That may be, but what about these?”
More images appeared, recent ones, her reaction after Rainbow’s death. The time spent in the hospital, the night in the tent. They kept speeding by, her kissing Rainbow, not once, but twice. Twilight could not hide from herself anymore. What she had seen, all of it, it only meant one thing.
She started crying. “What do you want me to say, Discord?’
“I want you to stop hiding from your true feelings.”
She could not say it, Rainbow Dash would never reciprocate such emotions, she would end up losing Rainbow over it, their friendship would suffer and end, Equestria would suffer. All because she could not keep her trap shut. Twilight laid down letting the tears flow freely.
The image in the mirror spoke, “I love you, Twilight”
She looked up, that was Rainbow’s voice, she would recognize it anywhere. Rainbow said it first, even if it was not the real Rainbow, she said it. That one act gave Twilight all the courage she needed.
“I love you, Rainbow.”
The mirror shattered.