Ponies angry at a baby dragon.
Changelings descending like flood.
Half the building collapsing.
Rainbow appreciating why Celestia didn't use her full power in a room of innocents.
All escape by the skin of their teeth.
Changeling guards split between rescuing their comrades from the rubble and pursuing the enemy.
Chrysalis' crystal ball buried as well.
Public warning giving out about the 'brainwashed ponies' on the loose.
Lots of interview notes lost in the havoc.
"Thank you for helping us, darling," said Rarity.
"Rarity baby, when I found out ya were in danger from Fancy, how couldn't I help out when I saw ya? Now you'd better hurry on, I don't know how long they'll listen tah Jewel Tide's complaints that our chariot out of the city was delayed by this whole mess," Sapphire Shores said, leading them out the back door of the hotel.
"I can't believe Sapphire Shores has a twin," Spike said.
"Ah don't honey, she's my body double."
Pinkie chuckled. "...Well, that was an odd offscreen adventure."
"Yeah, tell me about it..." Rainbow muttered. "I never thought I'd have to run away from Wonderbolts."
Rarity said, "And I never thought I'd have to run from my own business partners."
"Trixie never thought she'd have to be saved by Sapphire Shores," Trixie stated, then smiled. "Not that I'm complaining I got to meet Sapphire Shores...can I have your autograph?"
"Normally, I'd love ta, but maybe later when ya ain't savin' Equestria."
Suddenly, Spike burped out and scroll and opened it. "Hey! Listen! They freed AJ and got away!"
Subdued cheers went around for a moment.
Sapphire smirked. "Good tah hear. I'll let Fancy know you all are making head way. If ya need anything, don't hesitate ta ask, okay?"
"We won't, and do stop by my boutique after we've saved Equestria, I owe you at least a free dress for this, Sapphire."
Twilight looked at the letter that came back, a wave of relief washing over her. "Okay, they got away from the ambush...and were saved by Sapphire Shores and Fancy Pants is leading an anti-Changeling resistance trying to undermine Chrysalis..."
Everypony blinked. "...Well okay then..." muttered Applejack, not sure what to say to that.
Lyra groaned. "Why couldn't we have been in the group that got to meet Sapphire Shores?" Bon Bon gave her a good whack.
Lemon Hearts was beating her head against the wall at how weird the day had been. Moon Dancer gave her a nuzzle, followed by Twinkle Shine, and finally Lyra.
"I think mom would have fainted if we were there," Fluttercruel said.
"...I would have..."
Twilight thought about it. She looked at Applebloom and Applejack. The family reunited. "...Applejack...did the Changelings ever catch my parents?"
"No, Ah think some of the weddin' guests managed tah get away since the Changelings had better things tah do."
"...But they also kept the castle more or less locked down, considering we keep having to fight our way through Changelings to get back in," Twilight stated thoughtfully. "Twinkle Shine...can you please lead everypony back to the hideout?"
"Twilight, yah ain't goin' after Shinin' alone," Applejack stated.
"I know...I didn't mean him. The Changelings are in disarray, their queen is wounded, and most of the Changeling army is on the other side of Canterlot looking for the others right now, and the rest are probably going to be rushing to the Queen's side...This could be my only chance to look for my parents."
Applejack gasped. "Twili..."
"Look, the more ponies we have, the harder it'd be to hide...and most of you have been through a lot in this fight, and so have the others...but I didn't take a major blow in the fight, and if it's just me, I can do a sweep of the castle in hiding and get out without being detected. They're lookin for a herd, not one pony who can disguise herself."
To prove her point, Twilight used an illusion copied from Trixie to disguise herself as a female day guard.
Applejack sighed. "...That's true."
"Please, Applejack...all of my mom's legs were broken. I need to get her help and Minuette is the closest thing to a doctor we can get right now."
"Your dad was with her I thought," Lemon Hearts pointed out pragmatically.
"Dad is great, but he's not a doctor. If anything him being with her in that state is making it harder on him because he can't help mom."
"...Twilight...Ah get what you're sayin'," Applejack said, sympathetically. "But Ah don't like the idea of yah goin' it alone with no pony tah watch yer back in a castle infested with Changelings."
"Then how about another changeling?" Moth said.
"No. You're going to be needed with the others to bluff their way through now that Moon Dancer's been exposed," Twilight said.
"...I could go with her..." Scootaloo said.
"What?!" Everypony asked.
"I'm small, I could sit on her back under some illusion or something and keep watch for her. And if she got in trouble, I'm REALLY fast, I could run and get help."
"...A filly WOULD be really easy to hide with an invisibility spell," Twilight stated. "Especially if they're just going to sit still on my back and look around..."
"...Twilight, ya can't be serious! Now's not the time for humorin' fillies! We gotta get outta here before them bugs all get back here!"
"Hey! We saved Spike all by ourselves!...Almost," Scootaloo argued.
"They...actually did...And knocked out two Changelings...and summoned a Water Elemental to cover everypony's escape..."
"We did it on purpose this time! And last time was a Fire Elemental!"
"What were ya youngin's even doin' there? Ya shouldn't be here ta begin with! Ya should have just stay where our friends put ya and stayed safe."
"Applejack," said Twilight. "The others NEEDED them to save Spike. I was still brainwashed and Rarity and Moon Dancer weren't as close to him as the Crusaders are, at least not in the kind of way Spike THINKS they're close to him. They were the best option of saving him from what I was told."
"And sis..." Applebloom said, looking up to her sister. "If Ah'd just played it safe, then...then yah'd still be brainwashed, Twilight would be dead, and everypony would be brainwashed...Ah know we're foals, but we can help. We HAVE helped."
"Don't go assumin' things ya don't know Applebloom! Ya helped, thank ya, it worked, it's wonderful, but yer foals! Ya shouldn't BE puttin' yerself in danger ta begin with! Rarity and Moon Dancer should have figured out a plans that DIDN'T involve little girls without even their cutie marks yet being involved in fighting MONSTERS who don't even see ponies as PEOPLE!"
Moth cleared her throat. "Um..."
"Er...sorry, Moth forgot yah were a Changelin' for a sec... But get a clue Applebloom! Ya think yer invincible cause yer little, but ya ain't! Yer MORE likely ta die in danger than us! Ya got a life ahead of ya! Don't go thrownin' it away cause ya don't know what could happen! And Ah'm likely gonna regret askin' this, but how the heck ya follow everypony this way by yerself Scootaloo? And if you were on some crazy scheme of yers, Ah can't see Applebloom not bein' with ya ta begin with....Yer not under mind control are ya?"
"What? No!" Scooctaloo said.
"AJ..." Twilight said carefully, "I selected Scootaloo as part of the team for what was supposed to be rescuing Princess Celestia, and Applebloom was supposed to be on the team to save YOU while the others fought Chrysalis, I was only here because we were afraid Celestia might be geassed."
"What?" AJ asked.
"Well, Applebloom, Spike, Scootaloo, and Silver Spoon, they've been very helpful so far, all of them, and they're all safe."
"You brought the fillies here on purpose?"
"ARE YA ALL JUST PLAIN STUPID?!?! Ya think them buggers are gonna play nice just cause they're attackin' foals?! And Silver Tongue? He's still with you? Ah can't believe a Pa would ever his filly inta danger like this! You LET'ER do this?! What the buck is wrong with all of ya? You're buckin' ADULTS, it's yer JOB to keep foals OUT OF DANGER NOT PUT'EM IN IT!"
Twilight, Lyra, Moth, Bon-Bon, Twinkle Shine, Lemon Hearts, and the Flutters were all cowed by Applejack's words.
Applebloom looked determined. "We know how dangerous this is! Ah've been in danger, yah saw it, remember!"
"Applebloom that was-"
"How was that different? Because Ah didn't know what Ah was gettin' inta? Yer right, Ah didn't. But they WERE tryin' tah kill meh! Ah know that...Ah know how dangerous this is...but Sweetie is still in trouble, she's mah friend. And Ah'm an Apple to the core!"
"Applebloom! These creeps are gonna do things ta ya that ya don't even know THE WORDS FOR YET! It's NOT the same as Sunnytown!"
"...Yer right...it's not...Yah know why? Because all these bugs can do is brainwash meh! Sunnytown? They'd have killed meh and made meh a zombie FOREVER!"
"No! What they can do is turn ya into a empty husk that can't feel a thing, FOREVER! Like a Vampire Fruit Bat!"
Applebloom shuddered at the last words her sister spoke, but didn't seem to change her opinion.
"Or ya'll just slowly twist and squirm inside ya own head until ya die inside! Ya fillies shouldn't be in that kinda danger! And ya know what? These things WILL do things that Ah CAN'T say in front of foals to ya! Things ya don't know exist yet! Ah heard'em CHATTIN' about it when Ah was brainwashed! Ah won't put ya or any foal alive in that spot!!!"
"Ah've seen somethin' a foal shouldn't have tah see...Yah want tah know what the worst part of all that was, sis? Seein' Ruby wander around...just wantin' tah play with meh...then findin' her bones in a fireplace where her own so-called FRIENDS burned her alive!...And Ah'm sorry sis, but if they're gonna do all that stuff tah foals? Ah ain't sittin' by and lettin' it happen tah Sweetie. Tan mah hide, lock meh in a box, tie meh up, whatever! But Ah was a thousand years too late tah save Ruby, Ah ain't gonna be too late tah save Sweetie!"
Lyra and Bon Bon nearly fainted at this description. The others looked sick. What the Tartarus was the filly talking about?!
"...When this is over, I'm getting the biggest bottle of salt water I can find and getting very drunk..." Lemon Hearts muttered.
"...Me two." Lyra chimed in.
"Me three." Bon Bon added.
"Ditto." Moon Dancer answered.
"...Twilight, can I borrow the library's copy of your mom's book if we get survive this?" Moth asked. "In fact, make that the entire book series."
Twinlight Sparkle groaned, "You just blew a very large public secret.
"Oh..." Applebloom shrank lightly at Twilight's gaze.
"Wait, you mean those weren't just bucked up nightmares?!" asked Twinkle Shine.
Twilight face hoofed. "And I just blew it wider..."
Applejack looked into the foal's eyes. The legendary Apple Family stubborn streak stared back at her.
"...Yah gonna use yer truth vision on meh, sis?"
"...Ah already am...there ain't a truth Ah can show yah that's gonna change yer mind, is there?"
"Except we were talkin' about Scootaloo goin' with Twili', not ya."
"Yah think she's any less determined than meh? She learned loyalty from Rainbow Dash."
"I can cover for one foal with my magic, not two," Twilight said.
"Can I speak for myself please?" Scootaloo said irritated. "I hate to tell you Appleboom, but I've known Sweetie Belle longer than you. Rarity wouldn't let Sweetie Belle near you before she became real friends with Applejack."
"That's a myth actually darlin," AJ said.
"And Applebloom, thanks for standing up for me, but that was all about you! Dash wouldn't have let me go if she didn't trust me already! All that talk was for yourself."
"You barely mentioned me, it was all you you you!...! You're trying to prove that she doesn't need to look after you after what happened in Sunnytown!"
"I...that's not it!" Applebloom stuttered.
"So...Sunnytown?" Twinkle Shine asked. The canterlot ponies and Lyra's family inched near.
"Don't ask," Twilight whispered.
"At the end of the day, yer still just foals, and ya don't even realize it," AJ sighed, looking ready to cry.
"Applejack, me, Applebloom, Sweetie, Silver, Spike? We all already know what it's like to be in danger...and...I promise, I'm not forgetting I'm a filly, I promise. I...I just wanna help...and isn't it better if Twilight has a second pair of eyes with her?"
AJ sighed again. "Ah'm not standin' up fer RD ta yer parents if somethin' happens ta ya."
"I'll tell them myself." 'If I ever see them...'
"Thick-headed brats," Lemon Heart said.
"Come on Twili!" Said Applebloom, "Ah know yer the best unicorn there is! If yer magic can hide Scootaloo! Ah bet it can hide me too! There's no way Ah'm lettin' Scootaloo go alone."
"...Applebloom...Ah don't like this...But if this is a situation where Ah gotta let foals put themselves in danger..." Applejack looked at herself in the eyes in the reflection on a dirty old window. "...Ah get it...fate don't call on yah when yah think yer ready for her or when yer big sister thinks yer ready fer her...she didn't call meh and the others tah stop Nightmare Moon, Discord, or Nightmare Whisper when we thought we were ready tah save the world, and she didn't call yah tah survive Sunnytown when yah thought yah were ready tah face zombies...she calls yah when yer needed...and Ah guess maybe today she called for yah...but Ah ain't makin' Twilight put yah in MORE danger by tryin' tah put a spell on two foals instead of one," the farmer said. "...If yah wanna help, then be MAH second pair of eyes on the way outta here or Ah'll have Twili' put a sleepin' spell on ya."
Twilight for once held her tongue and didn't mention that she didn't know any that were absolutely safe. Applebloom looked at the adults around her...none of them budging an inch. Applebloom growled.
"And if Twilight won't, I know some," Moon Dancer said.
"And I have angry lemons who can just carry you back."
"If ya think this means Ah'm done helpin' every time it's dangerous, it ain't happenin'."
"Ah know Applebloom, Ah know...Ah just can't wait fer this tah be over so yah can go back tah bein' foals..."
"...Fer what it's worth, sis?...Neither can Ah..."
Applejack hugged her baby sister. "And Ah'm sorry yah had tah see Ruby's...Ruby's remains...that ain't somethin' yah shoulda had tah see..."
Applebloom didn't argue with that.
"Wait one minute, Twili," said Applejack. "Look, Ah get it, yer parents are in trouble, and if yah don't save 'em, Chrysalis might find 'em and use 'em against us or somethin'...goodness knows if Ah had a second chance tah save mah parents, Ah know Ah'd take it in a heartbeat. But if yah find yerself in ANY trouble at all, you WILL send Spike a letter so we can come save yah and yah DON'T go bein' meh and be so stubborn about it yah don't know when tah quit," the farmer said with absolute seriousness. "If Ah find out yah didn't listen tah meh or get yerself brainwashed again, then Ah'm gonna have every unicorn or Alicorn we got combine their magic if that's what it takes tah turn yah inta a filly so Ah can give yah the spankin' of a lifetime, then ground yah, got it?!"
"...If I don't, I'll help them turn me into the foal, it's high level magic...and Cadence was my foalsitter, so she'd probably beat you to the spanking..." Twilight responded, writing a prewritten letter to Spike with a tracking spell on it.
Applejack looked Twilight in the eye. "...Alright. Now put an anti-brainwashin' spell on BOTH OF YAH if yah know it."
Twilight did so without hesitation.
"...My eyes feel like red and I feel like there's a bike helmet in my head..." Scootaloo remarked, rubbing her eyes.
"Yes, I know, that's supposed to happen."
Applejack nodded. "Now go look fer yer parents and come back ASAP, got it?"
We separated. Eight ponies under a copy of Trixie's illusion magic magic going one way, and the two of us going another. I didn't like doing this. But it might be the best chance we had. The fewer ponies with me...the fewer I had to worry about getting hurt.
Princess, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I was there to save you with my friends. You were there looking us in the eyes. Just because we ran into more resistance than we thought we would, I just ran away. I left you there. Anything that happens to you is my responsibility. I'm just so sorry. I'll make for it, I promise.
My sister put her shape shifting to the best use she could. We didn't make it back to the church scott free. I'm surprised we haven't been seen exiting or leave the place yet, I mean, the queen has to know what all of us look like now. I'm happy for the illusion spell...Moth gave herself the illusion of an officer's rank so she could bluff our way through things. A bunch of changelings stopped us on the way, telling us to get back to the castle, but we said we had orders to search for the rebels that had injured the Queen. They asked what unit we were in, we made something up on the spot. But wouldn't you know?
"Hey! Lollipop was ordered back to the castle too!"
Then it was Twinkle Shine who bluffed us the rest of the way through. She spieled about military, political, and royal protocol so much that it made my head spin, and it made the guards' heads spin too and let us pass I think just so their brains didn't melt.
I thought Twilight's plan was crazy. I love my parents' too. But the castle was huge, how do you think we spent so much time running in it before? Did she know some kind of tracking or scying spell to find them? But wouldn't she have used that before if she could do that already? But 'talking daughters inside their mothers', zombies, and what I had seen in AJ's eyes...it had left my head spinning. I couldn't bring myself to say anything about it.
Applejack's eyes had shown me, the one who was putting herself in the most danger by being here, the one who brought the least to the table, wasn't one of the fillies: it was me. I had no experience fighting. I had no unique spells I brought to the herd. I wasn't brilliant or cunning, I wasn't the strongest, fastest, stealthy, or have an insight into the enemy, I couldn't provide for us, I couldn't be an instant messenger, and I couldn't free any of those enslaved by the queen.
The only reason I'm here, was because I'm always alongside Lyra, and Moth and I always stay together. I was just an average mare.
Then came the worst part. That how little of a 'me' I had. I only defined myself with how I was connected to Lyra, Tootsie, and Moth. If you cut them away, I wasn't anything.
Oh! What did Applejack's truth show me the second time?...That Moth would have broken down if I hadn't been here. And I was a part of the lives of my family too. And I was the one good at making magic candies, not them, and that being good at fighting or being useful in a fight...aren't the only point of living, the world was full of soldiers who were useless for anything but fighting and couldn't live a life after leaving the army...Maybe I'd ask Pinkie Pie if she had any supplies for making candies when we got back...and if that didn't help, so how I was special didn't apply to fighting, who cared? Life wasn't about who could kick whose flank, that was what BULLIES thought life was all about.
Moth told me how she pulled off her facade with my parents. My parents lived far away and hadn't visit often, so she'd never tried brainwashing them. She'd...just made it 'slip my mind' to mention her when I talked with them or wrote them letters. She'd already taken all her mind magic off
me...so I can introduce them.
But how do you tell your parents 'I adopted a Changeling as my sister?' For starters she's helping us save the world and the others would vouch for her being a good pony. So everything will work out, I have hope it will!
Oh, and when we came to a locked door and didn't have keys, Applebloom had the idea that since Miss Cheerilee had been able to plow through a wall while under the Love Potion, that we probably could do it too. So me and Applejack ended up being living battering rams to get us through...But that wasn't as important as finding my purpose here.
By the time the rescued Applejack and co made it back to the church...their friends had beaten them there...and Minuette complaining she had run out of bandages (having to borrow some from Pinkie Diane's 'party accidents' supply).
"Ya know the thing about changelings who pretend to be royal guards?" Rainbow Dash had said, bandages on one of her flanks, "They aren't able to pretend to be royal guards by being pushovers."
"Can't you just speed up the flow of time and heal these faster dear?" Rarity had asked, small cuts crisscrossing her body that she could only hope didn't scar.
"If I could do that, that time would count as part of your life-span, so no, I would't even if I could," Minuette said. "I'd rather not learn how to age ponies into dust."
"Look on the bright side!" Pinkie Diane said, "We fought an entire army of trained-soldiers that took us by surprise and we're still around to talk about it! We're totally bad-flank! Ouch!"
"Did you guys have to keep using me as a shield," Spike said.
"Fireballs to you are a warm bath Spike, and your skin and bones are far stronger than ours," Trixie said, "I shielded YOU from the ice-blast remember? I still have the frost bite on my flank to prove it!"
"And thanks for spotting that ninja."
(Afterwards's Notes (Half-Light Dawn): This is where things get really confusing, we lost a lot of notes here, during the big big battle, so please be patient. Ah! We still have this bit here from earlier.)
"Where is Applebloom you dumb lizard?!" Silver Spoon shouted shaking Spike back and forth like he was a piggy bank that would drop Applebloom coins if she shook him hard enough.
(Afterwards's Notes (Half-Light Dawn): And a bit later.)
"Silver Spoon I'm sorry."
"You should have just told her no!"
"My sentiments exactly," Somepony else said (we lost track of who).
"She said it was the only way to save Applejack!"
"She's not psychic!" Silver Spoon snarled.
(Afterwards's Notes (Half-Light Dawn): It was then that Rainbow Dash had to either bring the house down or they'd be taken down. And when the two group came back together.)
"Don't do that again!" Silver Spoon cried hugging Applebloom when she laid eyes on the filly.
"Don't try! Promise!"
"Alright, Ah'll promise."
"Cross mah heart, hope tah fly, stick a cupcake in mah eye!"
"Applebloom?" Spike said, "Here's your bow back."
Group hugs ensued.
(Afterwards's Notes (Half-Light Dawn): But there was also: )
"Scootaloo! How could she? We work best AS A TEAM!" Silver Spoon lamented, "If she doesn't come back in one piece, I'll kill'er!"
"Ditto for Twilight!" Rainbow Dash said, "Since when does Egghead Twilight do things this stupid? I never thought I had to explain 'pick your battles' to her! GAAAHHH! I don't know if Scootaloo being with her makes it more stupid or if she'll keep Twilight grounded! If she gets turned into a zombie again, I'm snapping her out of it with a Sonic Rainboom to the head this time!"
"Family makes can you do very very foolish things," Rarity said. Fluttershy nodded as did Silver Tongue, who seemed beyond relieved to have his daughter back safe and sound.
"Yes Silver Axe?"
"If you were not the only present Princess . . . I'd have told you to put your orders to have my daughter take part in that operation where Celestia doesn't shine."
" . . . I understand completely Silver Axe." Cadence sighed. 'Twilight, what is wrong with you? Have you forgotten everything you told me you've learned? I . . . I hope that you find Starlight Sparkle and Moonlight and get back here with them. Then all three of us can talk with you. Please come back safe little Twilight.'
"So how long until we start planning 'Rescue Twilight The Sequel?'" Pinkie Pie asked.
"Now let's not go assumin' the worst," AJ said.
"The worst is if she's brainwashed again, or Scootaloo is, they'll know where we've been hiding," Minuette said.
(Afterwards's Notes (Half-Light Dawn): And sadly there was some of this.)
"Couldn't your pets have TOLD US that Chrysalis was in two places at once?!" Rarity snapped at Cadence.
"I can't look through all their eyes at once! And we had such a short window that we focused all our attention on the theater!"
Minuette, hugged Moon Dancer, Lemon Hearts, and Twinkle Shine.
"I'm just happy you girls made it all back." Mineutte whispers.
"Believe me," said Lemon Hearts. "I'm glad we made it back too after that chaos."
"Girls," Moon Dancer said simply. "Can you all do me a favor?"
"If I ever look like I'm getting too reckless, losing my self control, tell me, splash water on me, kick me in the flanks, but get me to stop and THINK."
"What brought this on?" Mineutte asked.
"I . . . during the battle with Chrysalis, I began to lose my head, I was relentless, but I was also reckless, and . . . I don't like the feelings I was having. The things I wanted, weren't things I SHOULD want. That ... that isn't the pony I want to be. I might be a mage, I might be willing to do my part, but I don't want to lose who I am in the process. So please, if I begin to lose my head. Please be there to bring me back down."
"I promise," Twinkle Shine said. "We LIKE the pony you are Moon Dancer."
"I swear," Minuette added. "Normally I'd say 'don't be afraid to change' but that's a change you're right not to want to make."
"Don't have to ask me twice," said Lemon Hearts.
"Don't have to ask me once." They all looked at Lyra. "I'm part of this little circle too aren't I? Newest Hoofmaiden and all."
The unicorns nodded and hugged her too, and they all then hugged Moon Dancer.
"And me too."
"I'm your friend too right?"
Moon Dancer made a small laugh. "Right!" She gave him a short nuzzle.
"And THAT is what Ah think of puttin' fillies in danger!" AJ's tone put the Royal Canterlot Voice to shame.
"Are we gonna have to deal with this every time?" RD said clearing out her ear at the outburst.
Rarity said, "It would be a bad day for Equestria if we didn't."
-And of course-
"The daughter of the Draconequus!" Silver Spoon shouted in a panic hitting Fluttercruel over the head with a pew. Then Bon Bon threw a life-sized statue of Celestia at 'Cruel's face.
- Bit later -
"Uh, heh heh, love and tolerance?" Bon Bon sheepishly offered a hoof as Minuette finished putting a bandage on Fluttercruel's nose who glared at the earth pony.
"Alright," said Lemon Hearts. "If anypony else is secretly not a pony-"
Minuette opened her mouth.
"-please kindly keep your mouth shut!"
And promptly shut it.
- And after all of that -
"You know darlings, I've come to the conclusion that tensions have been strung high among us in spite of our string of victories in light of our near crushing defeat and I want my baby sister back already!" Rarity suddenly burst out crying.
- A few seconds later -
"Thank you, darlings, I needed that," Rarity said about the gigantic group hug she had just been given.
"I think we all did." Pinkie Pie said.
- And during that -
"Shining...I'm sorry, I should have been able to save you this time...I'm so sorry."
(Afterwards's Notes (Half-Light Dawn): Yeah...there was a lot shouting between friends...it wasn't nice. I really don't want to go over those notes again. Oh wait wait! I found it! Here we go! This is one you should see! I'm happy this one survived the explosions and the fire, just kidding, what actually happened was crazier!)
"AJ!!" RD shouted and she scooped up the pony and gave her an epic hug.
"Oh! I'm so sorry! I didn't think to give you lots of hugs after we saved you! I'm so sorry! Sorry! Please don't hate me!" Fluttershy gushed as she flew up and hugged her friend too.
"HEY! Save some for me!" Pinkie Pie bounced up and hugged the palomino pony too.
"Darlings please there's plenty to go around," Rarity said telekinetically dragging her orange friend into hugging range herself.
"Please permit Trixie to have a turn," The show pony teleported right into the middle of the group hug and added her share.
"Sorry Spike," Trixie said, teleporting Spike onto her back and into hugging range of he earth pony too.
-Enough Hugs and Nuzzles To Distort Space Later-
Applejack said, "Everypony, Ah'm gonna say the this when Twili' and Scootaloo gets back, and when we free Princess Celestia, when Princess Luna gets back, when we get Sweetie back, and when we get Twili's brother back, and Ah'm gonna say it now! Ah'm sorry. Ah bucked up and bad. That witch zapped meh long before she zapped Sweetie, or Twili'. Ah had a way tah end the whole mess before it even began. Ah hate it, but that witch had a point, if Ah hadn't been so caught up in the truth Ah can see upsetting the applecart every which way, Ah could have stopped everythin' with a look! Ah didn't because Ah knew this was the place where everypony says somethin' and means another. If Ah had used mah gift to see truth from the start, none of this would be happenin'."
"...a lot of readers were kinda banking on you ending the changelings' evil plan hard and fast with being able to see through illusions." Rarity backhoofed Pinkie Pie, not even looking at her as Applejack pinned her ears. "OW! I'll be quiet."
Rarity said, "Dears, allow me for speak for all of us. I'd prefer to do this with Twilight and little Scootaloo here, but this will have to do. Applejack, you couldn't have known in any way or expected this psychotic she-demon existed, so you shouldn't feel guilty, but ONCE we save Equestria, remember one thing: Canterlot high society is the LAST place you should turn that little gift of yours off."
"But nothing! You have a gift, dear, and I respect 'great power comes with great responsibility,' but that gift of yours could be the difference between being scammed by a merchant and getting the right price for your family's apples here! You weren't foolish to respect other's privacy, you were foolish to relinquish a VALUABLE GIFT!"
"So Ah screwed up by tryin' tah control mahself? Thanks for tellin' meh what Ah already knew."
"NO, look me in the eyes with that truth vision of yours as I'm talking to you."
"NOW!" Applejack reluctantly did so. "Your mistake wasn't trying to control yourself, Applejack. It was SHUTTING IT OFF instead of trying to control it. That isn't controlling yourself, it's WEAKENING yourself. Controlling yourself would have been being able to detect MEANINGFUL lies but shutting off hearing little white ones and forcing ponies to tell the absolute truth. Like how Rainbow Dash has developed that mini version of her devastating Sonic Rainboom she's been using against the Changelings, allowing her to use that legendary power safely. Think of it like this: you're an earth pony, your race has great strength, correct?"
"Do you just shut it off because you're afraid of hurting somepony? Or do you hold back?"
"...Hold back, first thin' we learn as foals..."
"Then why is that truth vision of yours any different?"
"...Ah guess Ah'm just not used to showy magic like unicorns, somethin' ya can see, earth pony magic isn't so flashy...Ah didn't get the comparison...Alright, Rarity, but there's ONE place Ah AM turnin' my truth vision off."
"And where is that?"
"The movies! It makes 'em a whole lot less fun when Ah can see all the wires!"
The church was filled with laughter.
"Rainbow..." Applejack said, looking to her friend. "About...about before...when Queen Chrysalis first revealed herself and Ah..."
"I'm not going to lie, I DON'T like the idea my own best friend did that to me...but thanks for making me face up to how much of a jerk I can be to Derpy some times."
"...Yer welcome...But Ah gotta give yah a kind truth tah balance it out..."
Rainbow. You've come a long way from Flight School. You were a jerk to Derpy back then, you were a troublemaker. Now you're the most loyal friend a pony could ever ask for. You're still rough around the edges, but you never put yourself before others.
"Ah might pride mahself as the most dependable of ponies...but sometimes, Rainbow...Ah think that's you. Discord and Mare-Do-Well were big exceptions, not a rule. When the chips are down, our friend kicks the braggart right inta the back seat and will do anythin' tah save us...the pony yah were in Flight School just makes meh that much more proud the pony yah are now is mah friend."
Rainbow tried not to cry, but hugged her friend. "Thanks AJ... but I don't think that really makes the problem go away..."
"Ya gotta do that on yer own RD..."
"Guess I have a lot of talking to do with Derpy next time I see her."
AJ channeled her brother, "Eeyup."
Moth flinched in preparation to meet Bucky MacGillicuddy and Kicks McGee after explaining her failure to act to Applejack...instead she got a hug.
"...Moth...Ah know how yah feel right now...like Ah said, Ah was a coward who was too afraid of herself tah save the day and Ah can see how much yah've been beatin' yerself up over it already...The TRUTH is yah need a hug more than a beatin' right now."
Moth returned the hug. "Thanks..."
Yeah, Ah was a bit miffed Moth had decided tah hold back what coulda freed meh...but like Ah said, she'd spent a lotta time beatin' herself up already or havin' the others beat her up, she didn't need another whoopin'. And Ah weren't lyin' when Ah said Ah knew exactly how she felt. Ah felt like the rodeo all over again times ten, only this time Ah knew Ah weren't bein' stubborn...
On top of that...that buckin' witch made meh spend the past three days hurtin' ponies. It felt good tah be the pillar for somepony tah lean on again.
Besides, if Ah wanna buck a Changelin' tah get some payback fer what their Queen put meh through, Ah'm gonna have plenty of chances without takin' it out on the one on our side.
Moth turned and looked to her sister, who had what seemed to be a plate of freshly made candies balanced on her back. "...Where did you get the stuff for that?"
"Well, mostly Pinkie Pie, she had plenty of sugar. And it turns out the church has a kitchen in the basement for dinners and stuff, though no ingredients...Can you try one?"
Moth carefully sniffed one and gagged. "Lemons?"
"Normal lemons. Pinkie didn't have any ingredients I could use for flavor."
"...How did the Angry Lemons like that?"
"Lemon Hearts has apparently explained it to them...somehow...I don't speak lemon."
Moth chuckled a little and took the little candy. Most Changelings may have hated the smell of lemons, but the taste was one she rather liked, as she'd said.
Holding her breath, she put it in her mouth...and felt a rather large rush of love into her. "What the-how did you put love into a candy?!"
"...I asked Rarity why that song Sweetie sings seems to be powering the Changelings up...she said it's an old family song that means a lot to them. That's all she would say, and I think she only said that much because of what Sweetie's using it for... so...I decided to try and put my family's love of baking into my candies...I know from that journal Twilight gave me that it's just as old..."
"I don't know if it's that strong...but I think it worked, it definitely gave me a boost and I can hold it easy...What gave you the idea to do that?"
"Well...you see when AJ looked in my eyes...I realized I was trying to fight like everyone else...trying to be their mirror...so far that's all I've really been, a mirror...If it weren't for you and Lyra I might as well not be here..." Bon Bon gave a chuckle. "Ironic, isn't it? Of the two of us it's me that thinks I'm just a mirror...So I decided to try and do something helpful...something I know how to do to help... "
"...Bon Bon...you don't need to help to be somepony..."
"I know...but I want to..."
Moth hugged her sister. "...So help... but you're still you, Bon Bon...you're my sister... and... and I think I'm the one who'd be nothing without you..."
The two hugged tight, Moth feeling the love between them.
"...Everyone used a lot of mana recently," said Bon Bon. "...I think I might know some magic candies that can help them recharge, want to help?"
Moth smiled. "...Sure..."
"...Mind if I help too?"
The two turned to Lyra, standing there. "...I had to accept that humans were saints and sinners...if I can accept that, then that Changelings are too isn't a stretch..."
"...I'd be happy if you did too..."
"Applejack, as a Princess, I ORDER you to lay down and get some rest while we finish patching ourselves up and do some planning."
"No buts. Twilight and Spike were puppets, you were Chrysalis' toy. She's spent the past three days torturing you."
"But Ah didn't break!"
"Yes, but that's exactly why you need some rest. I could not be more proud that you managed to withstand Chrysalis' torture, but what do you do after working yourself ragged on the farm?"
"...Lay down and take a good nap cause mah body needs it..."
"And a mind is no different. Trust me, Applejack. I don't physically NEED to sleep...but mentally? I'd go insane without it...I promise, if we need you for anything, we'll wake you."
"...Alright, Princess...yer tellin' the truth..."
And so hardworking Applejack got what she often tried not to admit she needed: a good rest. A tired little yellow filly laid down beside her and Fluttershy carefully pulled a blanket over her.
"Sleep well, Applejack. You've earned it."
Applejack looked up at the fire damaged apple tree. "...Poor girl...looks like yah need some TLC, don't yah?"
"Mind if we help?"
She turned to see another pony looking a great deal like her, only without a hat, a tail bow, and five apples instead of three in her Cutie Mark, a red pony with a green and yellow mane and an apple on a picnic blanket for her Cutie Mark, and a white, pink maned pony with three hearts as her Cutie Mark.
Applejack smirked. "The more the merrier!"
And three Applejacks and one Sweet Heart got to work tending to the damaged tree.
"Now Your Highness," Rarity said, "I know you didn't wish for us to risk tipping our hooves, but we can't afford to just sit around and wait, we have to know what Twilight darlin' and little Scootaloo are doing! I don't know how much direction you can give your song birds, but, pardon my force Your Highness, we have to get one inside the castle no matter what. If we have to mount a rescue or need to abandon the church, we need to know sooner than later! And if that includes saving Twili' dear from her own foolishness, again, then the sooner, the better."
"Uh, Twilight," I asked, Twilight's illusion magic made me look like an owl, "I don't mean to be pushy or anything, but, how are we going to find your parents? I mean, this castle is really big, if the bugs haven't found them, how are we going to? Do you have a 'find parents' spell." I gasped out loud.
"What is it?!" At my gasp Twilight's horn charged up and she looked around. She was as nervous as I was.
"Nothing, nothing, but..." I whispered, I felt myself shaking a little, "Do you have a 'find parents' spell? Can you really do something like that? Do you have to know them before, or do you just need to know whose parents you're search for?"
"Why the interest?" Twilight asked not even looking at me (she already had Applebloom hug me and say she loved me as a friend to make sure I wasn't under mind control).
"Huh? Oh! I'm just... curious, I figured it might be a cool cutie mark, I mean, a pegasus wizard! And if I could get one, then Applebloom could get one too! I could be the next Element of Magic!"
Twilight chuckled. "Well...I haven't heard of an earth pony or pegasus sorcerer, but, if you're that interested Scooaloo, I'm sure I could show you some books."
"So do you know a 'parents finding spell?'"
"...Yes I do, but I need something to pull it off."
"What?" I asked. My heart was pounding. I heard hers too.
"Just a little trinket of mine, something that holds a connection between them and me," she opened a door to a bedroom, "I think I left it in here for safe keeping."
"Why in here?"
"This...used to be my room." She magically opened up a chest and began pulling out random junk.
"Hey! Spike said your room was a library tower!" Struck Twilight in the horn, giving her an instant hornache and jump and turn and ran, but was floated up by her magic, I flapped my wings like crazy until they burned...and was magically pushed into the big trunk Twilight had been clearing out, and it slammed shut with me inside it, I heard it lock and something heavy being put on top of it.
"TWILIGHT! But-this doesn't make sense! What did-"
"I'm not geassed Scootaloo. And don't make so much noise, you have to stay hidden. I'm sorry, but Applejack is right, you fillies have been put in more danger than we've had any right to put you in. Just stay put, I'll come back with Shining and get you out. I promise."
"You-" I felt tears down my face. "YOU DIRTY LIAR! You don't know a 'find parents spell' at all do you?! LIAR! LIAR! LIAAAR!"
"...N-Not E-Element of Honesty. I...I do want to look for my parents, I wasn't lying, and I will if I get the chance, but there's something I need to do more...I'm s-sorry...I'm so sorry, Scootaloo."
She gave a gasp and a few sobs. Good! I hope that hurt!
"...I-I'm sorry. This might be my only chance to save Shining. I...I had to make sure they thought I would be safe...I'm sorry Scootaloo, A pony should live up to her mistakes."
I kick and snarled in my prison, I heard her trotting away and closing the door behind her.
There are not words to describe how much what Scootaloo called me hurt. I'd spent most of yesterday being forced to act against my Element, against my heart...stabbing my friends in the back...that wound was still wide open. Even telling a half truth to AJ in hopes her mind was still not completely clear from being freed hurt. But for what I was about to do, I couldn't have Scootaloo with me...I couldn't have anypony with me. I needed her with me at first so the others wouldn't worry as much, to give me more time... I wouldn't have to worry about collateral damage if none of my friends were nearby.
...The others had Trixie. If only I was at risk, everything would be okay. Queen Chrysalis has no interest in brainwashing me anymore. I was the only one at risk here...
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Twilight...you know that's not right.)
I don't care. I've got to try.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): STOP THIS RIGHT NOW YOUNG MARE!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Please stop and get Scootaloo out of the trunk! It's mean putting a pegasus in there!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Okay, I'm leaving it up to some creepy Chrysalis post-hypo-suggestion-magic-residue that your brain suddenly shrunk three sizes!)
I JUST WANT MY B.B.B.F.F. BACK!
I...He was right there...but I wasn't strong enough to save him when he and Chrysalis were at full power...now Chrysalis is weakened and he's probably tired from what Chrysalis made him do in the fight...I've got to at least try...
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Twilight, you know this is insane!)
...Maybe I've gone insane then...It wouldn't be the first time...
The entire castle is still under anti-teleport wards. I'll just have to smash through a window and teleport out immediately before we pick up speed. Unlike the others I barely depleted any mana during that fight. And I have power to spare. I don't need to fight Chrysalis. I just need to free Shining. With him free, Chrysalis would have to be insane not to surrender, or her changelings would have to be crazy not to demand she surrender.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Actually, you ever heard the term 'zealot?' You're just going to stroll in there and ask for your brother back? You don't know the first thing about stealth!)
Moth said that all Changelings are physically incapable of generating new mana, and Chrysalis was fighting full on during that battle on top of Applejack and Applebloom wounding her, and badly. All her power comes from what she stole from Shining, and she turned off his emotions. If I'm fast, she won't have TIME to recover.
I'm not...I'm just not putting my friends in harms way AGAIN. I feel horrible at having just brought Scootaloo with me to give myself more time.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I am telling you to stop this! Stop this right now! Go back, get Scootaloo out of the trunk and get back to your friends! I order you! You can't do this!)
Shining has always been here for me...now the one time that he needs me, I couldn't save him when he was right in front of me! I'm not passing up this chance! By the time the others get here or I get to them, Chrysalis might have recovered and I'll have lost my one opportunity!
I need to at least try...
Unlike you I care about Shining.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): We do care about Shiny! He doesn't want this!)
There is nopony else, I am the only pony here!...And that's exactly how it should be...
(Noon Notes: Dang it she's not listening to us!)
(Dusk Notes: We're the good alicorn. The voice of reason...sometimes a pony can get so worked up or so upset...they forget to listen to reason.)
(Dawn Notes: Like that one reality's Twilight who experimented on her friends no matter how hard her conscience tried to make her stop?)
(Dusk Notes: Exactly...)
(Noon Notes: Dang it, why is it always Twilight Sparkle?!)
(Dusk Notes: ...Because this Twilight was never forced to harm her friends before.)
(Noon Notes: What?)
(Dusk Notes: ...She was only Tragedy for a few minutes at the most...not long enough to hurt anyone. This time? She was forced to hurt her friends and almost murder her babysitter...And while everyone was worried about how Applejack would take the trauma...)
(Noon Notes: ...No one thought to talk to her about having hurt her friends so badly under Chrysalis' control.)
(Dusk Notes: And then she ended up watching her friends be struck down one by one by Chrysalis and Applejack, only surviving thanks to Applebloom's desperate gambit. Applejack has experienced being made to hurt her friends and lie by brainwashing before thanks to Discord and her mental stability and will power has always been high. For better or worse, Twilight...wasn't so...experienced.)
(Noon Notes: Dang it Twilight! Why do you always bottle SOMETHING up?!...Because you're Twilight...and you don't like admitting you're wrong...)
To Be Continued...