How'd everything gone wrong? I have to go over it again. I'm Twilight Sparkle, I came to the castle to rescue Her Momjesty. Trixie scared me with the idea that Chrysalis might have cracked Princess Celestia, after all, I never imagined Shining Armor could be, or I or my friends could have been. Trixie you dummy, you know I can be a worry wart, did you have to say it?
There's nine of us. Five as our front line: myself, the Flutters and three of our gifted unicorns, and four of us as support: Lyra's family and Scootaloo. The idea was our friends would keep the Queen, our enslaved friends, and my brother, away while we rescued the Princess. We weren't prepped for a big fight against a few strong enemies, but a bunch of regular nasties. And that means we're in deep deep trouble.
Getting in was almost too easy, there were fewer guards than we ever expected, I dreaded this meant we'd meet a brainwashed goddess who we all loved more than our lives waiting for us in the wedding hall, or moved somewhere else and leaving a room now covered in explosive runes. Maybe a changeling disguised as The Princess that we were supposed to take back with us to base?
I won't say 'I should have known.' Or 'how could I be so stupid.' Or blame Trixie for making a logical assumption that Chrysalis wouldn't expect us to play smart. The problem was that we'd fallen for a con. After facing Discord, the king of lies himself, I thought I 'd wised up to tricks with us assuming we would be given a chance to win. Maybe that was the problem. Chrysalis isn't Discord, nopony is, but I assumed, since she saw ponies like talking stacks of hay, that she wouldn't think we'd be clever enough to save the Princess while the others struck where she expected us to fight, but in front of so many ponies, unable to play all her cards and staying in character.
Discord truly made us brainwash ourselves. Chrysalis tricked us into out-smarting ourselves.
Now we're in the wedding hall that served as Chrysalis' throne room. I should've sent a warning to Spike, or a message for help, buck it, I should have written warning letters in advance so I could quickly send them. Instead I was too shaken to even think of just writing: 'fake Chrysalis, fake friends'. They'd suffer because I didn't think right.
Lemon Hearts, Moon Dancer, and Twinkleshine looked on Celestia in horror, so did I. She didn't seem broken or controlled, but seeing her so helpless…
The Queen gave her mocking giggle. That it was like a school filly's made it more wrong. We'd learned the hard way from Discord that having a childish streak doesn't make a villain less dangerous. Foals can be the worst monsters, and a foal with power is dangerous, that's why me and Shining both got a a lot of training to control our power responsibility. A child with the brains of an adult on top of that power? Celestia save us.
Looking at the Queen, she reminded me of what a dragon said on Draco Island during our world tour. I...may have let slip how greedy some of the dragons were. Thank Tiamat dragons are goodnatured about that, but one of them, one of the ancient ones, told me something:
'If you think we're 'greedy', little pony, you should see what 'greedy' is by OUR standards. Greed is our virtue, we always strive for more. We believe we're entitled to what we want because we EARNED it as we kicked and clawed our way to wyrmhood living in the parts of the world ponies never dare to tread. But we can be satisfied thought we desire more. We can be happy with what we have even if we desire more. A truly greedy dragon is never rests. He's an abyss that devours everything. He won't rest until all belongs to him, and still want more. It is at that point, we consider a dragon 'greedy.' Because when greed consumes you to that extent, your hoard loses its value.'
Tiamat explained that this meant where a dragon stops caring for their loved ones', which should be their prized possessions. When their heart becomes an abyss that 'their most important treasures become as rocks,' that's when dragons consider their 'virtue' to have gone too far.
With Chrysalis looked at everything, how she treated Applejack and Shining... she's what dragons consider greedy.
"Twilight! Chrysalis' real reason for the rune is-"
A force field silenced Momjesty's words.
Admittedly, we did give a sigh of relief. Her speaking meant The Princess was still herself, even if we couldn't hear her.
"Oh poor Twilight, did you honestly expect me to leave Celestia unguarded? With you free? Did you think I didn't see the heartbreak in your pretty little face when she fell for my crocodile tears? When who you loved like a mother looked at you with such hard eyes? Oh it was deliciously tragic."
"That and you knew that we saw her almost beat you before," I said defiantly. Thank Celestia I'd gotten all the 'you're a monster Chrysalis' speeches out of my system. I looked to my bound Princess. "And I don't hold that against her either."
"True. You had reason to go for both, so why wouldn't I have my bases covered? Didn't think you'd be stupid enough to walk into both traps."
"Both?" Moon Dancer whispered.
"Oh yes, Moon Dancer, and I was wondering how you all kept making it past my security. Bluffing your way past armed guards with fake authority and ad-libbing? You'd have been a wonderful changeling Moon Dancer. I should have put you in a cocoon instead of leaving you to rot."
"Mad she turned the tables on you, you psychotic witch?!" Twinkleshine asked, glaring daggers at her. I can't blame her. Moon Dancer wasn't as close to me as my friends, but she was still somepony I'd known...somepony I knew cared about me.
Chrysalis didn't seem to note Twinkleshine. "I humiliated, demeaned, used you, saw you as less than a person, you lived only by my graces. Yet instead of cowering before me, the look in your eyes saying you want to feed me my own horn, you are truly a mare after my own heart."
"You don't have one!"
"Don't you DARE compare yourself to her you monster!" Lemon Heart yelled. I barely held them BOTH back from charging to the entity that had...that had crushed my mother...I hope she's okay.
"She does too have a heart! Don't say mean things to others! You should be proud to be compared to her!" Sweetie snapped. "If everypony just did what Chryssy said then everything would be better!"
Lemon Hearts narrowed her eyes at Chrysalis. "You make me sick."
It made me sick too. Sweetie Belle, what has she done to you? Sweetie's smile, didn't seem so mindless.
And then we all saw it, Chrysalis' repaired and functional crystal ball, current in 'receive only' mode. Showing our friends, surrounded behind closed doors by an ARMY of changelings.
"Oh no," I whimpered. This can't be happening...
My brother just stood there like an automaton.
Sweetie Belle shook her head like she was looking at an animal that needed to be put down. "PLEASE! Come back to the right side, and you can explain to Luna, to Rarity, to the other Crusaders, that it's no good fighting and ponies should just listen to what Chryssy has to say!"
"I'd rather die."
Sweetie Belle looked at me in horror.
"Ya shouldn't have come're Twili," AJ said, "Her Majesty is gonna rip ya ta shreds, ya shoulda just stayed away, let Princess Luna smash 'er way through Shinin' shield, pray it didn't kill 'em, have Luna and Her Majesty's armies kill each other, and have Luna take down Her Majesty. Instead, yer gonna be put back in Her Majesty's collection, like the property ya are, and yer gonna go back to workin' for 'er and lovin' 'er. On the bright side, at least none of us are gonna mind...we'll be good trees . .. and good animals...fer the farmers. Lied before Twili', she's might just kill ya."
"But-but you promised Kabuto he could experiment on me later!" I said grasping at straws.
"I can give him Trixie if he whines about it. You on the other hoof, well, if you haven't guessed by now I'm not about to say."
I was tempted to say 'take me instead', knowing what Kabuto would do to her...but I knew that'd only encourage Chrysalis.
"Twili', fer what it's worth, Ah'm sorry, but Sweetie and Her Majesty are right, ya shoulda just behaved. Ah'll try ta make it quick so she can't draw it out."
"BAD property!" Chrysalis hissed, "BAD! If I wish to draw it out, then that is what my property wants too!"
"That's...what Ah want too."
I was...mixed to still see the pain Applejack experienced when made to say that. On one hoof, it meant there was still an AJ to save...on the other, it meant my friend was suffering...like I was. Every lie, every deceit. It must have been like boiling water poured down her windpipe when she was already suffocating.
AJ...please let that stubborn heart of yours hang on a little longer.
"You're almost nice and house broken Applejack! Admit it! You felt HAPPY when you played the fiddle for me and Chryssy! Don't deny! The truth!"
The worst part was, AJ realized in her heart of hearts, she meant it. -Several hours before.-
"I'll admit, a private concert for Princess Cadenza at a time like this took me by surprise," Octavia said, "But it wasn't half surprising as having you Miss Applejack sit on the band. You really are good with the fiddle."
"Thank ya kindly."
"See Sweetie? I told you it was too risky to go outside right now, but all you had to do was ask politely and I'd figure out a way," Her Majesty said.
"And Octavia," Her Majesty said, "I was particularly impressed by your performance." Her horn glowed slightly.
"T-thank you, Your Majesty!" Ocatvia felt her heart race and her face blush, "I-it was an honor, I loved performing for you!"
"I know you did," Her Majesty said sultrily. "How'd you like to be my personal musician?"
"P-personal-" Octavia's face was bright red. "O-of course I would Your Majesty, your wish is my command."
"Excellent, we'll work out the contract after the emergency has passed. You may go."
Octavia couldn't hide the disappointment in her voice. "As you wish Your Majesty, let's go ponies."
"And remember to stay out of sight here at the castle for now, the queen and her brainwashed slaves are still about."
"A-as you wish Your Majesty." Her friends all looking at each other, Octavia left, her eyes never leaving Her Majesty.
"You used mind magic on her?" Sweetie Belle asked conspiratorially like it was an afternoon prank.
"Oh no, nothing so forceful. I'd never do so to a fellow performer and possibly tarnish her music, I just did some creative chemistry with her hormone levels."
"What are hoar-moans?"
"...I'll explain when you're older princess."
The queen chuckled. "Take that you spoiled brat, I got the song bird you never could."
"That's a good pony for your princess," Sweetie Belle said.
"That's not good for Celestia!" Twilight shouted.
"She was talking about herself," Chrysalis said gently putting a hoof on the filly's head. The most shocking thing was the pride in her voice, not of herself for twisting the little filly, but for the small filly.
"Why are you torturing the poor mare like this?!" asked Twinkleshine, looking sickened.
"Because she gets off on it," Dancer said with venom in her words.
"Oh immensely," the Queen said, giving a smirk as if she was talking about proper love making instead of psychological torture. Then she looked at drolly, "But don't think for an instant I'm doing this SIMPLY because I enjoy bringing order to chaotic little minds. You disappoint me Moon Dancer."
"Because it'll make Sweetie Belle happy to see you all embrace the changeling way."
My heart fell out of my chest. Rarity...even if you being here would help so much, I...I don't think I could bare for you to see Sweetie like this.
"You know, your friend is impressive," said Chrysalis, petting Applejack's head. "Such a strong heart, most other ponies would have been indoctrinated a long time ago. I can respect a fellow survivor, and I'm enjoying Sweetie tackling the challenge. When you're this good, you appreciate challenge: makes it all more satisfying when they inevitably breaks. Maybe after I'll one up myself trying to break Loyalty next."
"I'll kill you," Fluttercruel said slipping in control for a moment.
"Much more powerful and fearsome beasts than you have made that promise when I was an insignificant nothing, they're dust, I'm not. But some of you are about to be. Enough speeches. Run if you want, you won't get far."
A part of Twilight was too afraid to run. Would there still be an Applejack left to save if she wasn't freed now? How much longer could Applejack's will hold out before the Queen's torture broke it?
"Don't worry Applejack, after Chryssy is done, you'll be with your friends, and that's a good thing isn't it? And if it's a good thing, you should WANT Chryssy to win," Sweetie Belle said.
"Y-yeah, it is," AJ said like it was a great revelation.
"Sweetie if you can hear me, stop it!" Fluttershy cried out.
"Why should I? Fighting Chryssy hurts Applejack, ponies hurting themselves is bad, so Applejack being a good property and NOT hurting herself, is a good thing." Twilight felt her horror rise as it hit her like rampaging dragon it wasn't Chrysalis who was breaking Applejack the most. "But you heard Chryssy, time to knock some sense to you!"
Twilight looked between the brainwashed victims. "Flutters?" she whispered, making sure to not be heard by their enemy.
"Yes?" Fluttershy whispered back.
"We need to get Applejack out of here, freed or not. Chrysalis and Sweetie are trying to break her spirit, not just control her...she's held out for days, but I'm not sure how much more torture her sanity can take even if her will can. If we don't save her soon...there might not be an AJ to save. You focus on that, I'll focus on Shining...I can save him and I'm the only one here that can hold him off."
The two nodded and kept their eyes on the enemy.
"Lemon Hearts, keep Chrysalis distracted, break-out Celestia, Twinkle Shine: grab Sweetie Belle if you-!" Twilight in a flash brought up a shield that broke from the blast Chrysalis threw at them intended to knock them all out in one blast.
"Now who said you were allowed time-outs?" Chrysalis said simply. "I said the time for talking was done!"
A forcefield appeared around Chrysalis that moved as she moved, Sweetie Belle proudly riding on the queen. A new, pillar shaped forcefield appeared around Princess Celestia.
"Reckless, when I free Shining, he'll crush you inside that shield," Twilight said.
"Which you aren't counting on if you TOLD ME!" Chrysalis fired another spell bolt. Apparently her magic could be fired out of it just fine.
"Afraid to face me without using Shining?" Twilight said quickly.
"Yes, I should throw away an advantage for ego's sake, MORON!" Twilight gagged as her throat was caught in Chrysalis' telekinesis.
"HI-YA!" Twinkle Shine used her flash spell, breaking the queen's hold, but not Shining's shield.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Twilight! Chrysalis wants you DEAD, be careful!)
Dancer moved to figure out a way through Shining's field, only to be struck by a flying kick by Applejack, who was then was tackled by Fluttercruel.
"CHARGE!" Lemon Heart said, the Angry Baby Lemons and Angry Papa Lemons summoned in the meantime and now mobbing the queen.
"You're truly a gifted unicorn because you are no general!" Chrysalis took the air out of the lemon's reach.
AJ kept her eyes closed as Fluttercruel shifted to Fluttershy to use the stare, but kicked the mare so far she went straight into air. She stopped herself with her wings. AJ rolled in front of the lemon army and looked into the lemons.
The simplistic minds of the lemons stopped dead in their tracks, as Applejack TRULY looked into them. They fell back over catatonic, Angry Papa Lemon made the room quake.
Lemon Hearts stopped in dismay.
Recovering, Twilight realized what just happened. "BUT THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! THEY DON'T HAVE EYES!"
"Uh, they actually DO have a sense of sight but-"
"TRUTH PIERCES ALL SUGAR CUBE!" AJ rammed Lemon Hearts in the gut, then looked her in the eyes. Lemon Hearts gasped, and felt herself crying.
"They... everything they've done to Canterlot...they just want to feed their families." The yellow unicorn whimpered, cowed by the truth, Applejack knocked her aside. "One down."
"Don't you know little ponies, truth is the most deadly of weapons?" Chrysalis said.
Applejack found her legs caught in Moon Dancer's telekinesis outside of her field of vision. Fluttercruel came down on top of her and grabbed her into a sleeper hold.
"Give up, Cruel, it's the truth ya can't out brawl me!"
"I don't need to!"
Moon Dancer was broadsided by one of Chrysalis' spell beams, burning her side and freeing Applejack who punched Fluttercruel in the face and getting her off her back.
"Ah say, ya do."
"Stick with what works!" Twinkle Shine said panicked, and fired another flare at Chrysalis, who wasn't effected.
"Shining is a dear, I've turned off his freedom of will but like a good machine he's adjusts the shield so your light show won't work twice."
Chrysalis was then blasted by Twinkle Shine's 'darkness' spell, blinding her another way.
"How about good old fashioned lasers then?" Twinkle Shine fired a barrage right where the Queen was.
"My my, that's a lot of force. Of course, Twilight Sparkle! I've given my dear Shining orders to keep his shields up even if it kills him! So every time your friends try to smash through these shields, the shorter time my Shining has until he's, used up."
Twilight gasped in horror, and shook he head, "That just means I have to save him now!" Twilight couldn't teleport with the wards up, but she could gallop just as well. "Shining! I just need to touch our horns and I break Chrysalis' spell on you!"
Shining responded with the independent thought of an outboard motor and Twilight's face smashed into ANOTHER SHIELD right between her and her brother. "No!"
"Ha! Did you REALLY think you ever had a chance of saving him, Twilight Sparkle? I'm such a tease!" giggled the Queen.
Shining Armor groaned as Twinkle Shine continued her laser fire at Chrysalis, who wasn't even trying to return fire.
"TWINKLE SHINE STOP!"
"Sorry Twilight!" Twinkle Shine said not even losing pace.
"I said stop!" Twilight wailed, grabbing Twinkle's head and redirecting her lasers downward, where they reflected off the polished floor.
The Flutters took the air, out of AJ's earth pony reached, and began diving bombing her, knocking off her hat, and knocking her to the floor before she could get a bead on them. But the Flutters felt their wing struck by one of Twinkle Shine's stray shots, they hit the floor.
"Sparkle you idiot!"
"How can you be so heartless!"
"I traveled for TWO YEARS with your brother, he WOULDN'T WANT YOU to risk everypony for him stupid! That'll hurt him more than anything!"
"Across the ancient wind,
The battle cries of forgotten warriors fly,
Dancing in despair,
With only their scars and honor to wear,
Enemies left and right they march down fate's hall,
And one by one they fall."
The four heroes still fighting whimpered and held her ears as Sweetie Belle sang, her song like icy fingers worming into their hearts.
Chrysalis aimed a deadly shot right at Twilight's head.
A high pitched musical note pierced the ears of everypony present, bells rung in their heads, glass ware cracking and the queen felt her fangs ache.
Even Shining was effected enough that for a moment the two smaller barriers flickered. Sadly song couldn't tell friends form foe but the ponies were no longer sinking into despair.
"You're way too young to be singing depressing song like that filly," Lyra said, galloping into the room.
"Lyra! Get back!"
"What's the point of back-up if we don't back you up?"
"We? Thank you for telling me we had more bats in the belfry," Chrysalis hissed.
"Lyra!" Minuette snapped.
"HEY! QUEEN UGLY!"
Chrysalis turned her head, and her face made contact with Fluttercruel's hoof, during the flickering of the field around her, at the at the highest speed the pegasus could muster on the queen, ignoring the pain her wing. And made contract. CRACK! Blood got on the demi-draconequus' hoof from the knocked out tooth.
Everypony got ready to barrage the Queen, until they saw Fluttercruel's hoof begin to turn to stone. "W-wh-what?! What is this?!"
Princess Celestia's eyes widened in horror and realization as the pieces all fell into place.
Chrysalis pulled out the tooth, and in a flash of green flames a new one grew in its place no problem. She magically flung the tooth right into Fluttercruel's shoulder, petrification began to spread from it.
"You can keep your bastard father company in the garden!" Chrysalis said and the barriers were restored.
"FATHER?!" Twinkle Shine gasped.
"H-how-" Fluttercruel gasped as the stone spread, in pain yet lethargic. Fluttershy tried to emerge but the blood was blocking her.
Twilight felt shame at everything she had told the queen about her friends as she rushed to her friend's side, creating a barrier around her, magically wiping away the blood and taking out the fang (more bleeding or not, you TOOK OUT a stinger after be stung by a bee or it would keep pumping poison!) and applying the strongest anti-petrification spells she knew. The fang crumbled into dust as soon as it was out.
Chrysalis smirked...then got an annoyed look and looked towards the orb. She seemed to concentrate for a few moments before her horn glowed and she seemed to break a spell and levitated the orb to her and began talking into it.
A magical yellow glowing hand picked up Applejack. "Now you stay-" Applejack glared at Lyra. Lyra gasped and faltered, "Humans were...humans are...no, no no no, but..." Her magic grip dissolved.
"LYYYYYRAA!" Bon Bon emerged from a window like freakin' Daring Do, kicking AJ in the head.
"KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED!" Dancer yelled at Bon Bon before firing several spell blasts at Chrysalis, abandoning her post, and created a couple blades of solid moonlight along her forelegs began to slash at Chrysalis' barrier in a wild fury, forcing the queen back soon. The queen simply got airborn, but Moon Dancer timed it right in a jump so she ended on TOP of Chrysalis' bubble, slash and blasting away at it.
"ABOUT TIME! I was beginning to think I was mistaken about you Moon Dancer!"
"What do you care?!"
"An animal should fight its hardest to survive! No sacrifice is too much, and things like restraint and scruples are weaknesses!"
"Sorry Bon Bon, Ah may be a farmer who doesn't like lyin', an' yer a candy maker with a talent fer voices, but Ah'm been in more fights than ya. And fightin' blind ain't so good unless ya got lotsa practice and ya dancin' partner can't see neither," she said kneeing the other earth pony in the gut, and back, before: blob of darkness.
"How's that?" Twinkle Shine said blasting AJ, who DODGED in the momentary cloud of darkness.
"Ah told ya, truth pierce all. Ya can't blind me! Yer illusions are worthless!"
Twilight regretted, since they hadn't been supposed to rescue AJ and the others, she hadn't given them the full details of everything her friends could do.
'Of course, because Applejack never used her power like this before.'
Twilight's blood ran cold as she realized how little of Applejack's truth vision she and the others truly knew.
"SHUT UP ALREADY!" Bon Bon GOT UP and rammed AJ in the back knocking her off balance, and letting one of Twinkle Shine's blasts hit her knocking her back.
"Dang girl, yer determined."
"Not a house of cards yourself," Twinkle Shine said.
Suddenly, Chrysalis snarled in rage. "THAT WAS AN AVATAR YOU TWIT!" she yelled into the crystal ball she'd been in talking with an uninterested tone to before, muting whenever she needed to address what was going on in front of her. "The real Cadence was never here! I suppose the two of us DO think alike after all!"
'At least that still worked,' thought Twilight.
"You should just get Lyra out of her Bon Bon, keep her safe, she's not going to help here, and neither are you, you should just hurry and run," Sweetie Belle said. "You've got to know when you can help and when you can't."
"I-I-" Bon Bon startled, unsure, before being head slammed into the floor by Chrysalis' telekinesis.
"You're not entirely useless," the Queen hissed, right as she telekinetically dislocated one of the pony's forelegs with a smirk that made Twilight's heart skip a beat. "I can at least blow off some steam with you to make up for the disappointment your Princess just caused me."
Bon Bon with sheer Earth Pony strength pushed against Chrysalis' telekinesis, shocking the changeling queen, getting up on her three good legs, she glared at the queen...then was looking into the eyes of Applejack.
"And that's three down. Anypony else wanna come outta the woodworks and get blown away by reality too?" AJ sighed.
Shining Armor cried out in pain, more like an animal than a person, being purely instinctive, as the barrier around Chrysalis finally broke and Moon Dancer moved in for the kill...or would have...except Sweetie without hesitation used herself as a shield. She smiled calmly at the unicorn who found herself unable to cut through the filly to harm Chrysalis...and blasted dead-center at point blank range. She hit the floor, twitching. Chrysalis rubbed Sweetie's mane.
"That's four," AJ said.
Twilight who had just finished healing Fluttercruel, immediately had to begin work on Moondancer. OH IF ONLY SHE HAD CHOSEN MINUETTE for this part of the mission instead! But she felt the medical unicorn being near Cadence when using her Avatar was the safest bet! And if Cadence was ambushed while her mind was somewhere else, a pony who could stop time could help for a quick retreat!
And now, Twilight had to heal her friends instead of fighting off Chrysalis.
"Now that you can actually be hit, let's see what-" The barrier around Chrysalis reappeared and absorbed Twinkle Shine's shots. "OH COME ON!"
"Ta-da!" Sweetie Belle bowed.
"Lure the enemy in when they think they're invading and they never smell the trap!" Chrysalis hissed. "Isn't that how I got you here?"
"Now you're just making crud up!" Twinkle Shine snapped.
"She may or not be, Ah can't tell." AJ said, a part of her sounding distant.
Twinkle Shine was magically spun upside down, her eyes-lids pulled open. Chrysalis said, "Now lookie, lookie-"
"I buckin' get it! I'm buckin' alone! I don't have a stallion while my closest friends did! I talk about love when I've never gotten to find my very special somepony, I'm like an Earth Pony trying to teach a pegasus to fly, I BUCKING GET IT ALREADY!" Twinkle Shine snarled even as wept looking into the truth.
"At least yah can actually face the truth, too bad Ah can't jus-"
AJ was blasted by a unicorn spell...by a second Moon Dancer?
"I smell a back stabber," Sweetie Belle said.
If Pinkie Diane was made out of rubber, AJ was made out of rock, particularly after all she had endured and got back up.
"KEEP THE QUEEN BUSY!" Fluttershy shouted in her imitation of the Royal Canterlot Voice.
The two unicorns nodded and proceeded to hit the queen's protective shield with a gifted unicorn all out barrage, Twinkle Shine using her light-based illusions to keep the queen double guessing herself.
Applejack and Fluttercruel clashed hooves.
"Ah told ya, yer good Cruel, but ya can't beat me! Ah can out endurance ya, Ah can out muscle ya, Ah got more experience, Ah'm built ta take more damage," AJ said, acting like she didn't even feel the bruises Fluttercruel was giving her, "and Ah can see where ta hit ya the most!"
She jabbed Fluttercruel in a nerve cluster that instantly caused her wing to lock up in position. Then jabbed her in a cluster that locked up her rear leg.
"And 'Cruel, ya may be born from Fluttershy's cruelty, but the truth is the cruelest thing in the world!" Applejack and Fluttercruel's eyes, met, Fluttercruel couldn't look away, she Stared at Applejack, she gritted her teeth. Fluttercruel thought of when her Stare had overpowered her mother's Stare in her twisted Nightmare state...the kindest of lies didn't compare to Truth.
"No...no matter how much I hate him...he'll always be a part of me...I can't escape a part of myself...I can't escape him." Fluttercruel whimpered as she fell to pieces inside, AJ knocked her back as she fell to the floor.
"And that's five," AJ said.
Fluttercruel's cutie mark and coat changed, she got up, one wing and leg still not moving, but Fluttershy getting up and assuming a defensive pose all the same. "It's okay dear, I'll finish things. Then I'll help you cope like a mother should."
"Oh, sorry, four and a half, Ah'm sorry Fluttershy, Ah didn't mean to forget about ya. Funny how yer the pony always hidin' in the background when Ah'm the pony nopony thinks much about. Being the delicate little flower must mean more to ponies than being an apple that provides for 'em."
"I provide for my animals, and I provide for any creature in need comes to my cottage, and...I don't have the courage to risk for myself...but risk for my friends and family? I've have plenty of that! And I'll face the truth of everything I am for them!"
"Don't just stand there staring like idiots, you idiots! Cocoon and break them then get back here! I have surprise guests, my dear Sweetie, Shining, and Applejack are busy entertaining! So get on with it!!!" Chrysalis yelled into her orb, then looked up and gave a smirk. "Applejack, be a dear and crush your friend. Seeing you do it has been so entertaining so far."
"And Her Majesty Commands, Her Property Obeys. Ah don't wanna hurt ya Fluttershy, but Ah need ta put ya under. Her Majesty's magic will fix ya up after ya see da truth, Ah promise."
Fluttershy was pierced by truth.
But Kindness Stared back at Honesty.
It was like lightning flashed as the Stare met the Truth. Both intensified their glares.
Twilight had no delusions about this being a stare down. The Element of Magic could feel it in her heart: it was as if Honesty and Kindness incarnate were clashing with one another. She went on the defensive and made sure to shield Fluttershy from Chrysalis if needed.
She swore for a moment she saw auras of orange and pink surrounding her friends. The orange had taken the shape of a Nightmare Moon like Alicorn, green mixed in like chains that seemed to be FORCING it into that state while the pink seemed to take the shape of a beautiful, butterfly winged Alicorn, organic and natural.
Both began to sweat as their eyes burned into the other.
Chrysalis stopped her assault and watched the two. A part of her sensed the two forces of Harmony colliding with one another.
"Kindness tempers Honesty, Applejack! You can't beat me!"
The pink Alicorn seemed to send a gust of energy at the orange one.
"And Honesty tells Kindness when it's bein' TOO Kind! Yer the one who can't beat meh!"
The orange Nightmare retaliated by opening her wings and sending her own back, the two colliding.
"But mercy tells Honesty when it's being too cruel."
The Alicorn flapped harder and pushed the Nightmare back.
"But cruelty tells mercy when it shouldn't be given!"
The Nightmare pushed back.
"Kindness tells cruelty when it's not needed."
The Alicorn took the edge.
"Honesty tells yah when yah NEED tah be cruel!"
The Nightmare regained the advantage before a stalemate was once again reached. It didn't last long as the green chains sprang like cobras around Fluttershy's butterfly aura, constricting around her, slowly crushing her.
Should I give into the Nightmare? Is the Nightmare the only way to win? To save Applejack? Is the Kindest Lie the only thing that can stand up against a self proclaimed queen of wicked lies?
...But that would be the easy way out, wouldn't it? Applejack's endured all this pain for days, it wouldn't be fair for me to take the easy way out of this now. Ugh...I...I have to try...
Nightmare Mirror...is letting ya loose on Equestria the only way Ah can stop this? Stop from bein' Her Majesty's loyal and true servant to bring the glorious age of the changelin'-AGH! No! AH WON'T! AH CAN'T! Her Majesty! Mirror! See Truth! Obey Her! Celestia help meh! Ah'm tryin' as hard as Ah can but Ah need help! Ah admit it! Ah need help! Somepony help meh please!
"That's it Fluttershy, just give in to Her Majesty's kindness!" Sweetie Belle like Fluttershy was being reharmonized.
"Maybe just in case she doesn't," Chrysalis whispered charging up her horn, she aimed behind Twilight's head. "Only bet on sure things."
A green wisp of smoke slip into the hall through one of the windows.
"That isn't kindness! It's cruelty DISGUISED as kindness!" Fluttershy shouted, the chains crushing her shattering as she regained her footing and leveled things out again. "And that's the worst cruelty!"
"Cruel to be kind little cattle, cruel to be kind," Chrysalis said.
The green smoke condensed then grew in a flash, turning into a yellow filly with a red mane and knocking Twilight off her hooves. This changed where her head was, and startled the queen, sending her shot off course and through a smoking wall.
-A minute before-
Ah looked right at the baby dragon next to ta me, "Spike! Ah need a favor!" Ah whispered.
Ah grabbed Spike and pulled'em down, the adults figured we were duckin' fer cover.
"Ya can send more than just letters right?"
"Well, sort of, I haven't exactly practiced it a lot. I've sent armor and Changeling slime today, so I guess."
"And ya can send stuff to Twili' right?"
"Yes, what do you need sent?"
As a Crusader, we had three kinds of stunts: fun, dangerous, and 'if our families found out, we're not gonna be able tah sit right for a year'...Mah idea was of the last sort...but Ah had to try.
"What? That's crazy! I can't send a pony! Too much mass!"
"Ah'm a filly! Ah should be light enough!"
"Applebloom! This could kill you, turn you to ashes, or teleport you there without your skin!"
"Ya said could, that means it won't certainly, right?"
"You won't 'certainly' die if you jump off a cliff but-"
"Applejack is there! They ain't got nopony whose bestest friends with Applejack like me and sis'! She's mah Big Sister Best Friend Forever like Ah told Twili'!"
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): 'Bloom! Applejack wouldn't want to you to risk yourself like this! And they have Fluttershy and Twilight! Together they can free AJ!)
But are they gonna be able ta?! They didn't go there expecting ta fight the witch queen!
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): We aren't fortune tellers Applebloom, we can't predict the future.)
But ya do know lots of stuff! Lots and lots of stuff! Ya always seem ta know stuff when it's important ta know stuff! It's super important Ah know if they're gonna save Applejack! So are they gonna?!
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): What? How did she...she isn't supposed to be aware of things like that! She's supposed to only perceive what we let her!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Applejack might...and probably could see through our glamour in its current state, and Applebloom looked into the Truth with lost innocence too. And now what she seeks is the Truth of how to save the one she loves the most.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Wow...Grandma and Grandpa would be proud.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I'm sure they are.)
Stop mumblin' and listen tah meh!
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): If we look at how things are going, there is no guarantee that is how things will turn out, events have completely spiraled out of-)
Ah don't care! Tell me!
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn):...Without intervention into their situation, Princess Cadence and your other companions here, will end up having to fight your friends who went to save Teacher Celestia next time you see them, now enslaved by Chrysalis, including Scootaloo...and Twilight...Twilight will almost definite die.)
"SPIKE! YOU HAVE TO! Or our friends are gonna end up like mah big sister!"
"You don't know that!"
"Know what?" Rarity asked.
"Nothing Rarity!" Spike said.
"Spike, Twili's in the throne room fightin' her brother, da Queen, and Applejack! She ain't got the firepower tah win that fight! But if Ah can free Applejack...What's gonna even the odds with the Queen of Lies more than mah Honest sister?!'"
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I'm sorry Spike, but if somepony doesn't change things and now: then Moon Dancer, Scootaloo will be in Chrysalis' clutches. And Twilight...Chrysalis will kill her.)
Spike looked worse than awful. "Applebloom, NEVER expect me to do anything this EVER AGAIN. Everypony is going to HATE ME if I kill you this way, it'll be MY FAULT. I'm banishing myself from Equestria if you don't come back. I swear on Princess Celestia, Luna, Cadence, and Queen Tiamat I will."
Ah gave'em mah hair bow. "Ah'll be back fer that, Ah promise. And this here is that kinda story where a slim chances means there's no way Ah'll fail if Ah give it Mah all."
"Everypony ready!" Rainbow Dash shouted.
(Interviewer's Notes (Noon): Kid! RELYING on that sorta thing causes 'em to always backfire!)
Ah don't care, Ah have a sister ta save along with her friends and mine. We were the ones supposed to save Applejack and fight da queen...Ah'm just followin' the plan. We can't fight through to them from the other side of Canterlot and help 'em now...Ah'm gonna do it.
(Interviewer's Notes (Noon): You're just like your sister. A silly pony.)
And stubborn as a mule. That's a family trait...if Ah don't survive this, tell Silver, Sweetie, AJ, Mac, Cheerilee, and Scoots Ah love 'em.
"Do it!" Applebloom snapped. "For our friends! For our families!"
Spike sighed, "For friends and family."
Applebloom was engulfed in green flames, and felt her body being torn to tiny pieces and being turned into raw mana then green smoke and being carried along a magical wind. Who was she again? Right she was Apple...some...thing...
"Uhhhh, never doin' that again," Applebloom said. "Why does everythin' taste like green?"
"What the buck?!" Somepony shouted.
Everypony's eyes were drawn to the new arrival.
"Wow! Hiii Applebloom! You're just in time! I'm gonna be Princess of the changelings! You and Scootaloo can be my official royal playmates! We're SURE to get cutie marks for this!"
"Applejack!" Applebloom had never moved so fast in her life, not even when fleeing Sunnytown, her legs hadn't carried her so fast. Sweetie whimpered at her friend ignoring her.
"STOP HER NOW!" Chrysalis bellowed.
With nothing but heart, reflexes, luck, and pumping adrenalin, Applebloom plowed through a instant mine field of forcefields, notes of darkness, and angry green lasers.
"No you don't!" Twilight yelled, firing the most intense beam that she could, colliding head on with one of Chrysalis', detonating it the moment it left the barrier, forming a blinding cloud of smoke in front of the Queen. "Run Applebloom! You can do it!" she yelled, putting every ounce of faith she had into the filly.
The filly put every ounce of Earth Pony strength and durability into dodging shields still being put in her way.
Shining tried to put a shield around Applejack, but Twinkleshine detonated a darkness charge right in his face before he could, breaking what concentration his mind could manage.
Fluttershy's head came up. "Applejack, this is very kind of your sister, isn't it? Risking her life to save you? I don't think a kinder act exists."
Their eyes met again...but this time, an outline of a pink butterfly flashed over Fluttershy's chest and the pink Alicorn overpowered the orange Nightmare.
The Most Selfless Act of Kindness vanquished the Cruelest of Truths.
"A-Applebloom...Ah..." Tears flowed down Applejack's cheeks as she was left frozen in place until it was too late to evade the filly making a beeline for her with the key to her chains.
Applebloom made the leap, and hugged her, "AH LOVE YA BIG SISTER!"
An apple tree stood burning in green flames, trying its hardest not to burn to ash, and to resist the hurricane winds that battered it, trying to break it in two...until apple red flames sprung up around it, choking off the green and extinguishing them. The winds died in an instant, letting the wounded but unbroken tree begin to regrow.
Pinkie Pie gasped as a familiar Pinkie Sense sprang to life, then smiled from ear to ear. "They did it!"
Rainbow Dash grabbed her, "Less cheering! More running!" A slew of fireballs hit the wall behind where Pinkie had been standing.
Spike smiled as he carried by the group, trying to avoid a stink eye from Silver Spoon. "...Way to go, Applebloom..."
Ah've been tryin' tah drag mahself tah the surface for days...Ah...Ah won't lie, Ah was startin' tah think Ah'd never get out. That Ah'd drown before Ah ever would. That all Ah could hope fer is mah mind would break before mah will so the witch wouldn't be able tah use meh. Then Ah felt like Ah Ah wanted to lose.
"AH LOVE YA BIG SISTER!"
...And then Applebloom dove right in head first and grabbed meh, breakin' the chains keepin' meh tethered tah the bottom and haulin' meh back tah the surface.
Ah gasped fer breath like Ah really had been drownin'.
Ah...Ah'm free...AH'M FREE! Thank Celestia! Ah'm free! Haha!
Ah return mah sister's hug in an instant. Yes, Ah'm cryin' mah eyes out but Ah don't care! Ah'm free! And Ah got mah sister back! Ah...Ah don't know what tah say tah her...Ah...
So Ah speak the truth.
"Applebloom...Ah missed yah."
"Ah missed yah too."
Twilight couldn't smile wide enough at the sight of her first pony friend free and herself again. That Applejack's three day ordeal was finally over. The only reason she didn't hug her right now was the space between them.
Twinkleshine chuckled, still doing her best to recover from what Applejack had made her face. "In your face you ugly witch!" she yelled.
Fluttershy smiled widely. "Welcome back, Applejack." she said, then began consoling her daughter.
Celestia couldn't help but smile. 'Silly Applejack...your descendants are every bit as tough as you were...When this is over perhaps I'll add a statue of 'Determination' to the garden.
A foal in the rafters smiled. 'Way to go Applebloom...'
Sweetie Belle's eyes filled with tears. "We've lost her."
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): She did it! Applebloom did it!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): It seems even in this world, Applebloom is good at saving hearts.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey, our Applebloom wouldn't have become a Saint if her heart didn't have the potential for it.)
And Chrysalis was left speechless in psychopathic fury at the sight of the filly who'd managed to derail her plans when victory was in her hooves.
We hug for a moment. Just a moment...Oh Celestia, Ah missed this so much, Ah'd been so worried about her under all that tar...But now...Ah got a job tah do.
"Hey, yer MADjusty!" Ah yelled, turnin' tah face the queen meanie. Oh boy is she mad. In fact, Ah think fer once, she's speechless. "Ah got a truth fer yah: Ah. Didn't. Break!"
"But Applejack, you-"
"Yah know, Sweetie, yer right, Ah AM like a tree! Strong, reliable, and Ah bend but Ah don't break!"
"But trees are supposed to-"
"Let meh tell YOU about apple trees, Sweetie Belle. That orchard? Ah don't tend it just fer food. Ah tend it cause each an' every one of them trees? They're mah FAMILY! Ah LOVE them trees! If them trees sprouted legs and wanted tah take care of themselves? AH'D LET THEM! But Ah'd be right there if they needed meh! If all they were tah meh was food, Ah wouldn't NAME 'EM!"
Ah know it ain't her fault...but Ah needed tah say that fer meh tah get it off mah chest.
"You...you...you..." Chrysalis mumbled, glaring daggers at Applebloom. "YOU LITTLE BRAT! HOW CAN YOU DO THAT?! YOU CHEATED ME! HOW DARE THIS BE!"
"Ask anypony, we Crusaders mess things up all the time," 'Bloom said still standing besides meh.
Ah pull her close to meh. Yes, Ah'm scared. Not fer meh, Ah'd taken that sick buck's worst and survived, Ah'm scared fer mah family.
"I'm going to kill you! That's what's true!" Chrysalis roared, soundin' like a wild animal. She placed Sweetie next to her and surrounded herself in a green fireball and barreled right fer us. Too fast to outrun her without a head of steam we don't have.
"Applebloom, run! Ah'll hold her back!"
"No way sis! AH AIN'T LOSIN' YAH AGAIN!"
"APPLEJACK! APPLEBLOOM!" Twili' yells and tries to blast the Queen along with her unicorn friends, but their beams are blocked by her brother's barrier. Fluttershy tried to fly in tah help, but her wing is still hurt from before.
...Ah do all Ah can do. Ah prepare tah give the witch a spoon full of the same medicine she's been makin' meh feed all mah friends. But Ah ain't sure it'll stop her in her tracks...somepony like her has the truth locked up tight...
Ah feel somethin'. Applebloom...she ain't runnin'...she ain't abandonin' meh. She's stickin' by meh and pullin' close tah meh...
And Ah'm stickin' by her.
If this is how it ends...
...at least Ah'm gonna die with mah family...
...Ah feel something inside meh...no...inside US. Inside meh and Applebloom...
a fire...a strength...Ah feel like her...Granny Smith...Big Mac..Braeburn...Ellis...Mom and Dad...Ah feel like Ah can feel them all.
Ah feel that power rush into mah eyes...no...intah mah heart. Into the truth that blackhearted witch has kept buried all this time!
="Innocence" Sword Art Online=
Moth struggled to try and get her sister and Lyra to safety...then stood fixated on the growing surge of love that took the shape of a red energy apple surrounding the Earth Pony sisters. It felt like an entire family's worth of love surging into one spot and growing stronger.
Twilight stared in awe of the sight before her. 'It feels like...the Apple's reunion for the Summer Sun Celebration.'
Celestia's eyes went wide. 'Mother...Father...Venus...they're channeling you?'
Twinkle Shine could only stare in shock at the sight before her while in the middle of trying to get her friends to safety.
A little pegasus foal climbing across the ceiling to try and drop down on Sweetie blinked, watching the scene with wide eyes.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): This is...)
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): It's like the entire Apple Family is here!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): In a way...they are.)
The two siblings turned their gaze on the Changeling Queen, eyes igniting the same orange as Applejack's Element. The outline of an orange apple manifested around Applejack's eye.
"YAH CAN'T ESCAPE YERSELF!" they yelled.
The Queen stopped in her tracks as if she'd just accidentally run herself through on a spear.
Five black locks in the Changeling Queen's heart shattered. Not into pieces. Into dust.
Honesty and her sister's eyes lit up orange, the same color as that stone she wears. A circle of love looking like an apple appears around them both...Wait this seems familiar...oh no...
For a moment I saw a white Alicorn mare and a black Alicorn stallion looking at me with disappointment. What is this-...
"YAH CAN'T ESCAPE YOURSELF!"
GAH! My heart?! My heart is stone! So what in me shattered?
Their words just keep echoing over and over again in my head!
What's this I see? No! It cannot be! That's
not me anymore! That past is buried in the mud! It's no more! Stop showing me the past I abhor!
You can't hide from yourself. You never can. The you you tried to bury? The past you tried to hide? The past you think is dead and buried? It will ALWAYS be a part of you. No matter what you try to do, it will NEVER be gone. Ever.
You can't escape who you were. You will always be that pony. That ZEBRA. You can't run from the past. It will always be there. You can't escape yourself.
Chrysalis crashed to the floor, screaming in agony and clutching her chest. Shining Armor, still programmed for her protection, rushed to her side and kept the barrier up except to allow Sweetie in.
All eyes just stared in shock at the Queen who up until that moment had yet to suffer a true defeat lay in agony on the floor.
Applejack blinked for a moment...then rushed to her downed friends and looked in their eyes, giving them the OTHER side of truth she hadn't before. The KIND side of the Truth.
Lyra blinked. "Humans...may not ALL be saints but...some are."
Lemon Hearts gasped. "They...they might be feeding their families...but Moth showed they didn't have to do this."
Fluttershy let Fluttercruel come forwards. "I...I can't escape my father but...I still don't have to be like him...that makes me STRONGER."
Bon Bon simply hugged her sister and Lyra tight.
The Lemons soon followed and hugged Lemon Hearts.
"A-Applejack...how did you..."
"No time! There are still a buncha Changelings in the area and they're gonna come runnin' as fast as they can with the screamin' their Queen'ss doin'!" Applejack picked up her sister as the Lemons got their beloved mother on their backs. Then AJ remembered to pick up her beloved replacement hat Rarity had made her as well.
Twilight looked at Chrysalis, surrounded by her brother's barrier with both Shining and Sweetie surrounding her. She knew it'd take a lot of force to break through it, and they likely didn't have the time. They were still wounded and if Chrysalis got back up while they were fighting off her army, there was no assurance they could put her back down. She quickly grabbed Moon Dancer in her telekinesis and ran, the others following suit. The purple unicorn gave a whimper as she left her brother again.
"Sis...what did we just do?" Applebloom asked as they ran.
"...Ah don't know...Ah don't think we could do it again if we tried....But...if Ah had tah guess, Ah think we just used all the love our family can muster tah gave her MADjesty a taste of truth."
"Chryssy? Are you okay?" Sweetie Belle asked worriedly.
It felt like she'd been impaled through the heart. "No, I'm not. My past is
dead...why...why can't I say that?! Why can't I think that?!"
Celestia smirked in her cocoon. 'Congratulations, Applejack, I'm so proud of you.'
"Now Applejack's gone too," Sweetie said mournfully.
"Yes, pity...I'll miss her fiddle."
Sweetie Belle looked ready to cry more.
"But I'm sure we'll get her back dear!" Chrysalis lied quickly, relieving the filly some. Chrysalis was shocked at herself that she genuinely didn't want to see the filly upset.
Chrysalis stood up with a grunt, the sharp pain still there.
Sweetie hugged herself. "Now it's just me and Captain Shining."
"Don't worry dear, things are almost done. Then none of it will matter...Y-yes Maua, this is inexcusable, that I would allow fate to make a fool of me."
"You're...you're not going to let them take me are you Chryssy?" The entranced filly asked worried.
Chrysalis hugged her like a teddy bear, making the pain go away. "No dear, I will let no one take you from me," she swore.
"Applejack was great to have around."
"Yes...but we'll have to make due."
Chrysalis looked at Princess Celestia.
"All your actions suddenly make much more and much less sense. I saw what your blood did to Fluttercruel. I know who you are 'Chrysalis.' And I know why you truly chose to assume Cadence's form. And please, stop this, call off this insanity, and I'll try my hardest to see you and your people are treated fairly. Just stop. You can end all this with a word! Equestria has more than enough love to spare, and what you're truly after doesn't need to be gained this way either! All you're doing is making enemies for your tribe and closing your own doors! My sister and I thought you were extinct! Please! Let us help you! I don't want to see your people vanish into the night again. Rosedust thought you were all gone! Please! She wouldn't want this!"
"Hideous!" Chrysalis made a face in revulsion, "You're disgusting. You don't plead with the enemy! I preferred your condescended baiting and back-hoofed insults!"
"We're not enemies, we're family."
"YOU WILL NEVER CALL US THAT AGAIN!...At least you're doing something natural and showing concern to something to similar DNA as yours."
"Wrong. I'm doing this because I know for a fact that the person before me is not the person you have to be. I KNOW you can be better than this! And I know somewhere in your heart of hearts, that what you truly want, isn't what you're seeking. And I know your people can be better than this, I've seen them at their best! This is pointless! What Applejack showed you only proves it...You're lost, you-"
"Mute. Don't pretend you suddenly know me Celestia. Don't presume you know what I am. And I think I've now had just about enough of your baiting, distractions, insults, mockeries, dribble, and noise. You're far too risky a prize to display as a trophy. I'm putting you in cold storage until I need you."
A ring of green flames surrounded Princess Celestia's cocoon prison, and she was dragged UP through the castle ceiling and out of sight. The Princess' eyes didn't change from a look of worry and pity the entire time.
'What you seek won't save your soul, Chrysalis.'
The queen's anger returned as she tried once more to proclaim her past
dead and buried to no avail. 'What did that pony do to me?!'
"Chryssy, where does it hurt?" Sweetie Belle asked nuzzling her. She hadn't ordered her to shown concern for her well being.
"You shouldn't lie Chryssy."
"When...what Applejack showed, she said I can't escape my past."
Sweetie Belle hugged her, she hadn't ordered her to do that either, "The truth is the past is in the past, and you have me, you're not alone."
Chrysalis felt the pain her chest subside some. Chrysalis held the filly like she was an anchor in a storm. "She's right Maua, I'm not alone."
Changelings swarmed into the room. "My queen! You were screaming! Are you alright?!" they asked, worried for their monarch.
"Our other Element was stolen and none of you idiots came to help me IN THE MEAN TIME, but fine, just singed," she lied.
"Should we pursue your attackers?" they asked.
Chrysalis gave a look down the hallway so filled with hatred it made every changeling in the room feel sick to their stomachs. "No...I have another idea...I still need Applejack alive...but Twilight Sparkle, you're expendable," she said, her voice becoming unhinged as the most sadistic smile imaginable formed on her face. She began to laugh. And it made every Changeling in the room's blood run cold.
"Uh, Applebloom," said Twilight. "Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but how did you even GET here?"
Applebloom looked sheepish. "Well...Ah kinda...maybe...made Spike dragon mail meh?"
"It was either that or let you all get brainwashed and you die!"
Twilight cringed. She remembered. Had Applebloom not arrived, she'd be dead right now.
"Thanks for saving my life, Applebloom."
"...Applebloom, Ah ain't gonna say Ah'm mad at yah. Yah risked yer life tah save mine, and Ah'm grateful! Ah love yah!" Applejack said, giving a grateful smile.
"But if Ah ever catcha yah doin' that trick again, yer gettin' such a spankin' yah won't be able tah see a Cutie Mark if yah earn one yer flank will be so red and ain't leavin' yer room till yer twenty! Got it?!"
Applebloom gulped. "Crystal."
Applejack reached back and nuzzled her sister. "But Ah love yah...thanks fer savin' meh."
Applebloom returned it without hesitation. "Yer welcome."
Twilight's nature got the better of her. "Um...Applebloom, what was travel by dragon mail like?"
"Hmm...kinda like when we got caught in that taffy machine...only on fire. And smelled like Spike's breath...and everything was green."
"So everything looked green?"
"No, everything was green! In fact mah mouth still kinda tastes like green!"
"...What does green taste like?"
Applejack looked at Twinkle Shine and the others. "Uh...look...Ah...Ah'm sorry...Ah...Ah'd never have done that if-"
"We saved Moon Dancer from that monster, we know you didn't mean it...and I think sometimes, ponies need to have the truth shoved in their faces," Twinkle Shine said. "Water under the bridge."
"Twinkle Shine, was it?"
"Can yah look at meh for a second?"
Twinkle Shine looked, seeing into her eyes.
You aren't alone. You have your friends. And you're one of the best they could ask for.
Twinkle Shine had tears in her eyes again, this time of joy. "T-Thanks."
"Ah don't like showin' just the cruel truth tah hurt, if Ah can, Ah like tah show the kind truth tah heal."
"Hey! Wait for me!"
The group blinked, turning around to see an orange filly speeding after them. Twilight let Scootaloo jump on her back and they took off again.
"Scootaloo you were supposed to wait at the, never mind." Twilight sighed.
"Scoot', where were you?" asked Applebloom, blinking.
Scootaloo panted. "I...I wanted to rescue Sweetie but...she was inside Shining's forcefield, so I couldn't..."
"Did the queen see you?" asked Lemon Hearts.
Scootaloo shook her head. "No...But I couldn't get to Sweetie either...not get to her and get out anyway."
Twilight frowned at the dejected look on the foal's face, being reminded of her own pain at leaving her brother. She gave her a nuzzle. "It's okay, Scootaloo, you'll get another chance..."
"Yeah..." Scootaloo said, then managed to cheer up. "Great job kicking Queen Meanie's flank Applebloom!"
Applebloom smirked. "Yeah! It's like Rainbow told yah! we just needed tah wait for the right moment!"
Scootaloo smiled. "Yeah!...I know I'll get the chance to save Sweetie...I just need to pick my spots like Rainbow said."
"Wait, Rainbow told yah tah pick yer spots?" Applejack asked, blinking in confusion.
"What the hay did Ah miss while Ah was brainwashed?"
"Uh, girls," said Moth, worriedly. "My sister's got a hurt leg," she explained, carrying her on her back.
Applejack narrowed her eyes for a moment, looking Moth in the eyes as she talked.
Twilight realized what was going on. "Applejack! Moth's a-"
"Changelin', Ah can see that, but don't worry," Applejack replied. "Ah can tell she ain't lyin' that she worried about her sister, and Ah know Bon Bon ain't one."
Moth almost tripped. "So you're not going to attack me in a blind panic?"
Moth and Bon Bon both sighed in relief. "Thank Rosedust, I was getting tired of that."
Applejack blinked. "How many times has it happened?"
"Geeze, got some bad luck, huh?"
"But she is right," said Twilight. "We need to get Bon Bon back on her hooves."
The group ducked into a closet really quick, Lemon Hearts having to send the Angry Lemons back to the church. Fluttershy checked Bon Bon's leg quickly. "It's not broken, it's just dislocated...I can pop it back in place, but it's going to really hurt."
Applejack looked around quickly. "Dang, nothin' she can bite. She'll be screaming her head off."
Without hesitation, Moth shed her disguise and held out her leg for Moth to bite. "I have an exoskeleton, it won't hurt."
Bon Bon nodded and put her mouth around her sister's foreleg.
"Applejack, while we're healing things, my leg is still a little numb from your nerve thing earlier, do you think you can fix it?"
Applejack nodded and hit another nerve cluster to reverse it, doing the same for her wing.
"Thanks," Fluttercruel said, rolling her wing. "Much better."
Applejack nodded, but frowned. 'Sorry Ah ended up usin' your teachin' for the wrong reasons, Red Heart.'
"One...two...three!" Fluttercruel said, popping Bon Bon's foreleg back into place with a loud pop.
Moth cringed as her sister bit into her leg. "Ow."
Once her sister was done biting, Moth looked at her slightly dented exoskeleton. "It's alright...forgot for a moment you were an Earth Pony."
The sisters hugged.
Taking their cue and finally having a chance to breath, Twilight and Fluttercruel finally pulled Applejack into a group hug. "We missed you so much!" the lavender unicorn said, letting tears flow.
"Oh yes, and we were so worried! I'm sorry I had to use the Stare on you! Are you mad?"
Applejack chuckled and hugging her friends back. "Ah missed yah too, and no, Fluttershy, Ah ain't mad. Ah was more worried yah be mad at meh for hurtin' Fluttercruel."
"Applejack," Fluttercruel said, taking over. "I was born a psychopath, I think mom would forgive you even if you weren't brainwashed."
Fluttershy nodded. "Don't be too hard on yourself, Applejack."
Applejack gave a small smile. "Thanks Fluttershy."
'Ah'll apologize to 'em all when we get back together.'
Twinkle Shine looked cautiously at the Flutters, but said nothing.
"I have no idea what you girls are even talking about," Lemon Heart said.
Fluttercruel sighed. "Guess I can't hide it considering I almost bucking turned to stone back there...Look, I don't want you guys to go berserk on me like you did to Moth."
"We didn't go berserk...we just panicked."
"Long story short, I'm Fluttershy's daughter and we share a body," Fluttercruel fully took over, changing to her coloration and Cutie Mark. "I was born this way, alright? Celestia herself even said so. I don't want to explain this to just a few of you."
"When did my life get this crazy?" Lemon Heart lamented.
"For me? When I was born," Fluttercruel stated. "If you think these past few days have been crazy, try having to defeat your own mother turned into a Nightmare who tried to take over the world while fighting out of limbo, then earning a Cutie Mark when you thought you were just a mental clone of her...I was a few months old when that happened."
"Personally Lemon Hearts? I feel the pain," Lyra said at her sane life having turned upside down.
Twilight wondered if she should confirm to Lyra that humans were real when this was all over. The mare probably deserved it.
"Why am I always brushed under the rug in this adventure when I'm not being beaten up by my own teammates?" Moth asked. Scootaloo gave a grunt of camaraderie.
Bon Bon gave her a sympathetic pat on the back.
"Moth...for what it's worth?" Fluttercruel asked, turning to her. "Now that I'm actually able to talk to you in person, I RESPECT that you had the guts to be more than what you thought you were born to be and be good when you thought what you were was bad...trust me, that's not easy."
Moth nodded. "Uh...T-Thanks," she said, blushing a little despite her exoskeleton.
"Why does Fluttershy's creepy split personality have to hog the spotlight wherever she goes?" Scootaloo said under her breath, "She's worse than Trixie."
"Okay, so how are we gonna get outta here?" asked Applejack.
"Even if the changelin' didn't probably already know Ah was free from meh and Applebloom blastin' Chrysalis, even brainwashed lyin' weren't easy for meh." The orange pony shuddered at the memories.
Moth gave it some thought. "Well, I can shapeshift, but that's only useful if the rest of you could be disguised as ponies being lead around by me. And...well...Applejack isn't feeling up to lying right now."
Twilight nodded. "I guess we'll just have to sneak out while the Changelings are still in disarray."
"Do you think I can still bluff the changelings guards?" Moon Dancer offered. Everypony shook their heads. "Didn't think so."
"Uh, one other thing?" asked Applebloom. "Shouldn't we send a letter to Spike so the others know we ain't dead? Spike was kinda scared meh dragon mailin' mahself might kill meh and we thought that Chrysalis was gonna kill yah and brainwash everypony."
"...Yes, probably a good idea."