Octavia had to ask, "How did the changelings brainwash you anyway?"
Vinyl said, "The aliens are devious and cunning!"
"Lots of us were born in Equestria you know."
"Don't interrupt! Even I was caught off guard by their insidious trap!"
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Flashback!)
"HA! I've seen a million alien-invasion plays! As long as I wear sunglasses, I'm safe! Let'em come with their hypno-rays!"
"Vinyl, I have something in my eye, could you please have a look?" She asked politely.
"Sure, Tavi!" Vinyl took off her sunglasses to look into Ocatvia's glowing green eyes.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): In the present!)
"Even I couldn't have predicted their unearthly ways!"
'Hello my little fallen flutterpony...my little niece, I'm sorry it had to come to this.'
AUNTIE CELESTIA! How?!
'The old mare you enslaved and her sisters offered me to speak with you in these final moments.'
You knew all this was going to happen didn't you!? How? What plan did you have?!
'None. You undermined them all. You were right, I didn't have any plans left, I didn't to the end. I was at your mercy. But I still had hope in my subjects.'
Why?! Why didn't you just give in?! You said it yourself that you had nothing! Nothing!
'A thousand years.'
'That's my personal best for hanging onto hope when I should have none. And I've done it twice. I watched my mother die, more brutally than anything you're physically CAPABLE of, I watched my aunt die, I watched my last chance to save the world be crushed in Discord's claws, I watched the ponies I'd grown up with grow old and die. And I didn't give up hope. I watched my sister descend into madness and had to banish her to the moon by own hooves, and watch her there every night for a thousand years. I didn't give up hope. That is how strong my hope is, Cadenza.'
W-Why is that important?!
'Because you could never have THAT victory, Cadenza. You couldn't transform me into your thrall as long as I held onto hope. Your people were the survivors of a curse, proving stronger than it was. As long I didn't embrace your visions, or give up hope, you could never change an Alicorn. And you could never break me. No matter what happens, from this moment on, you'll know that's one victory that could never be yours.'
You think I care?
'Oh yes you do, foolish little filly. I could see it in your eyes: somepony like you can never stand the thought of something stronger than they are. You have to be on top.'
Why are you telling me this?
'I admit, part of it is to show you how much you didn't know...But also because I still hope you might see the light before Tartarus claims you. Because I still hope that your herd will see the light. I hope somepony believing so strongly in that will make a difference.'
What differences does hope make? It's a ghost! Mist! Fiction! A delusion!
'...My little pony, you became an Alicorn, but you still didn't understand. I'm sorry I didn't find you earlier. In every ending, there's hope for a new beginning.
'You're so vehement about not being a slave, and clawing to the top on only your own will and ability. Only somepony who's been a slave would speak like you. If you hadn't had hope, would you have done anything but accept being a slave? You talk so much about your own guile and detested your victory over me being downplayed, Cocoon was more powerful than you in your duel. Without hope, wouldn't you have just given up against her? Hope is PART of living, niece! Those who lose it are the walking dead, but they can be brought back to life again. That's also nature's law.'
Their attack takes a shape, but I can't make out details. She looks familiar...I can't hold it back...no...I tried my hardest...why did I still fail Maua!?
Their love! It's burning me away! Stop it! The pain!
Everything inside is been swept away! Empty! So empty!
THEY'LL KILL ME!
'If you believe that then you really don't understand my little ponies.'
Only...only one shred of love left...Maua...is that you?
The witch screamed as she was punched straight through the roof of the crystal mines by Cadence's attack, through the aqueduct and basement levels, and straight through Canterlot's cobblestone roads.
"Sister! We sense Cadence's power! Let us go and smite yonder witch!"
"...There's no need Lulu.... Chrysalis' evil is no longer a threat to anypony."
At the same time, love washed over Canterlot...through every pony and creature alive...and nearly all scars and demons of ponies from this conflict, the inner hurts burdened by those touched by the evil queen's magic...were washed away. The wicked queen, would not leave the legacy of a second Day of Chaos. Cadence didn't care who thought it was cheating or 'against the rules', she was determined to see these ponies would not be dealt a cruel reversal for all their hard work to regain their lives again. They were all free.
'Darn it! And here I was hoping to have plenty of mental scarring to exploit. Stupid Harmony, always ruining fun things.'
A pink filly that cast no shadow sat shivering wrapped in a warm blanket, the raw harmony that petrified her body slowly being cleansed. In front of her was a cup of hot coco and a 'Get Awful Soon' card. "Throwing a tantrum is pointless, father."
'It makes me feel better!'
Cadenza was not blown over the horizon, instead she crashed back into Canterlot after she was blown back to the surface and skidded several dozen yards, blazing a trail in the street like a comet.
Her body lay limp, unable to move, not even able to feel so much as a spark of unicorn or changeling magic, not a vibration of an earth pony's connection to the earth, not a flutter of pegasus magic, her body was empty. She was spent.
And she felt it...her body...the fire within was dead...and the embers were dying...all that would be left was ash.
"So in the end, I lose just like Cocoon. I worked so long, so hard, I sacrificed so much, I waited so patiently, I planned so carefully, I dreamed of today since I was small, everything was just perfect, I finally had what I wanted and...AND THEN IT'S JUST GONE?! AND I'M LEFT WITH THIS NAG OF A HEART TELLING ME I WAS WRONG?!
WHAT A TOTALLY WONDERFUL SWINDLE!
She laughed even if she felt it causing her body to give way faster.
Umbra Breeze stood on a nearby roof-top, smirking. "My...what a lovely pointless tragedy your life turned out to be, wasn't it, Cadenza? I love it."
The dethroned Queen rolled her eyes...she saw six ponies...and a blue one...a dragon...and... some fillies...there was...she was somepony important to her. Everypony had seen the pillar of love, but these heroes had all come running faster than everypony else, pressed on by a hero's little sister or a baby dragon.
Cadenza fought back, even to the bitter end, she'd hold onto her consciousness and memories. 'Sweetie Belle, it's Sweetie Belle.'
Her other half and her stallion emerged from the giant hole in the destroyed house (lucky it turned out they had very good insurance that explicitly included 'power struggles between goddesses' on their policy), using his force fields like a flight of stairs.
"Don't bother staying back, I couldn't drain you anymore even if I thought it'd do any good," Cadenza said.
Cadenza looked at the assembled ponies around her. From the lack of rubbing her face in her defeat or attempted Coup de Graces, they must have noticed she was wasting away. Pandora's half-flanked job at the foundation of her existence finally giving out.
'So even after having my freedom, I'll leave no corpse like the changelings I've led for so long.'
And that rotten conscience she'd been saddled with was making her sad she would never get the chance to say goodbye to them. 'Pitcher Plant. I'm sorry you and Sweet Belle will never get to meet now. So much you could have learned from each other. And I'm sorry, that it seems you won't be queen with me dead after all. Pitcher Plant, I guess I won't be having you join with Maua's essence after all. I was looking forward to see if you'd usurp me first. Why do I feel so...guilty about it now? So much for that plan, and the plan after that, and the plan after that, and the plan after that....In fact, all my plans are as much ash as I'm about to be.'
She turned her head at the pink earth pony, feeling her body slowly going numb.
"I-it...after...after everything...I was free. And all of it, a lifetime of dreams, such careful and detailed planning...and now it's all gone?
"Y-YOU'RE the Element of Laughter! Then tell...TELL ME PLEASE! You got the joke right? How could you miss it?!...T-then...why aren't you laughing?"
"There's nothing funny about this happening, especially to bad ponies: 'cause it means they couldn't become good ponies."
"Dummy, if I lived, I'd have sworn revenge on all that you love. Remember that when you sweep my ashes into a dust bin. Don't use me as fertilizer, I'll just poison the flowers."
"I swore revenge too," said Trixie, "But I was saved."
"You flatter yourself. If Discord hadn't violated you, Twilight would have never been able to rebuild you into the kind of pony others wanted. Thank the freak who caused nothing but misery to your kind for your salvation. Well? Any other final quips to flaunt? Any more moral grandstanding? Come come hurry up, I have many ponies, zebra and changelings waiting to collect debts from me where the weather is always nice and hot, and one fat slug waiting for me to wrap my hooves around her throat, and I'm not delaying that for the likes of you. What's the matter with you? Hypocrites to my end, you spent the last few days insulting and mocking me every chance you got, this is your last chance to say it to my face with me physically incapable of fighting back, and you're wasting it looking at me? Come on, you have at least enough time to sing 'Ding-Dong The Witch Is Dead' before I'm ash."
"...Who was Maua?" Rarity asked simply.
"...Now you choose to ask that?!"
"Because you don't have much else to do but answer."
"...A filly I knew. The most wonderful zebra in the world."
The dying ex-Queen chuckled at her expression in return.
"I never got it...why...why can't changeling magic feed off pity like we can compassion? It's...it's both feeling sorry for somepony...what's the difference?"
"That you don't know the difference is part of why you lost Chrysalis, Cadenza," Cadence said.
"Pst. You're the Cadenza now. I'm going back to what I began as. Rubbish. Hurry up, your new subjects are waiting for you, the old changeling Queen isn't given a funeral, her corpse is thrown into the nearest waste disposal unit. Hurry up and take my crown like I did from Cocoon. I'd throw it at you but the rest of my body is dead. Or just make a new one if it's it 'too evil' for you."
"You came close but still cannot grasp the truth, can you?" asked Cadence...or rather, a part of her. "Every being to ever walk this universe has meaning, Cadenza...Every life is a new story never before told...That includes you. That's why none of them are mocking you right now: because to them, even a life like yours has worth."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better I'm going to be in Tartarus in a couple minutes?...Don't act all high and mighty. I know you got what you wanted... You've killed me Cadence... The victor's the hero, the loser's the villain, that's how it works. Aren't you happy?"
"...You want to hear the real bad joke, sister? One so bad even Gag would find it terrible?"
"Even after everything you've done...I didn't want to kill you with that attack. Only beat you."
The ex-Queen stared for a moment...then started laughing, furthering the decay of her body, then broke into hacking coughs. "...That actually is...pretty funny...I guess it's Fate's last laugh on me...she can't even let me die how I wanted."
"Darlin', Ah hate to burst yer bubble," Applejack said. "But Ah broke our world's bond to the Heart World good while ago, and the break headed backwards and forwards...what happened here? It never had to happen here at all...this wasn't Fate, it was all you...Ya knew that, didn't ya? Or else yah'd never have changed yer plans."
Most there had no clue what Applejack and Cadenza were talking about and had a gut feeling they didn't WANT to know.
"You think Fate went away just because the link to the heart world was broken? You naive pony. Fate's designs are everywhere. Whether you chose to believe it or not."
"Here's the thing. Awhile ago, Ah got a good look at the big picture. And Ah saw some glimpses of how things are in the Heart World. Ah didn't see it all...but Trixie wasn't there to try to help my family with Flim and Flam. She was here, which means she's changed her fate big time."
"I can vouch for that," Pinkie Pie said looking through a stapled book from nowhere.
"What the buck are you talking all about?" Trixie eyes widened. Rarity slapped her for such language in front of foals.
Applejack looked to Trixie. "Trust me, Trixie, all ya need to know is yah made the right choice. And ya should be proud."
"Trixie will...take your word for it," Trixie said, giving a small smile at the praise.
"Then why didn't me changing my choices resolve anything?" the dying ex-queen asked. "Why did I lose when I changed so many of my choices!"
Pinkie Pie stepped forwards, and whispered in Chrysalis' ear. "Something those stories about endless loops don't like to think about? The first event you change doesn't JUST affect that part. It can affect EVERYTHING. If we got a do-over and beat Discord easily, then you'd KNOW we beat him easily and take us more seriously, and a dear friend of ours might not even EXIST. All because we changed one little point. Trust me, that's why I'm careful when I get to read ahead."
"That's exactly what I DID. I took you more seriously, so why did everything turn out this way again? Simple: Fate won't let me win. What other answer is there?"
"Simple: if you change one thing, you can't guess what ELSE might change, because it's like ripples in a pond. It's like if when you hit continue in a video game, the first choice you made different changed the ENTIRE outcome of the rest of the game," Pinkie replied hushly.
Only Applejack heard. "That's the cold truth: our choices don't effect just us."
Cadenza roared with laughter and would have banged her hoof on the ground if she could still move her body. "You all would've made perfect changeling Queens, you can't stand NOT getting the last word!"
"Ya miss the point, girlie," Applejack said.
Applejack ignored the interruption. "We're not tryin' to get the last word in, we're tyin' to light up that black heart of yers before ya face yer judgment!"
"Can't let a dying mare have any satisfaction can you?...Ugh! There goes my rear legs. At least I know what my Tartarus will be, this lecture over and over for eternity."
Applejack sighed. "...Princess, Ah've tried...she's set on where she's headed...she don't want Pony-Heaven."
"Finally you get it. I want to reap what I've sown, I'm proud of every accomplishment I've made no matter what this stupid THING you put in me says. If that earns me Tartarus, I'll autograph my list of sins when they're read to me and I'll ask they're hanged in the hall of fame. I'm not going to take back anything, because each and every one of those actions is mine, they're the only thing Fate can't take away from me!"
"Chryssy..." Sweetie Belle said getting close to the the Queen.
"Sweetie Belle Ah don't-"
"Applejack, be quiet," said Sweetie Belle.
AJ was silenced at the filly's curtness. The fillies and tried to block Sweetie Belle's way, she brushed them aside. Rarity's eyes widened aghast.
Silver Spoon stayed the closest to her, but knew the stubborn filly wouldn't let her be just pulled away.
Sweetie Belle inched towards the former queen, her horn glowing, "If love is what you need, I'll give it to you."
Cadenza's eyes blazed. "STAY AWAY!"
Sweetie Belle startled and trotted back. AJ shook her head getting cobwebs out.
"B-but Chryssy...I, I can save-" tears formed in the filly's eyes.
"You shouldn't see this! I lose! I won't live to be a prisoner or a trophy! I'm already nothing! You will do no such thing! That's an order!"
It was no spell or magic that made Sweetie Belle whimper, "If...if..." She sniffled, "If that's what you really wish."
Rarity said, "Sweetie, if you can save her, she needs to stand trial for-"
"If that's what she wishes! I... I chose to ... to let ... " She just cried. Silver Spoon put a hoof on her shoulder but said nothing.
"Silly Sweetie Belle, please don't cry, I don't want that as the last thing I see. You don't need to listen to a thing I say anymore, a winner doesn't need to listen to the loser. There go my wings. Weren't they pretty, Sweetie?"
"I've lost too. I'm losing you," the filly said.
"...The winner doesn't need to forget the loser was a pony," Cadence interrupted, "Chrysalis...Cadenza, you know you'll be remembered by Equestria as only a monster?"
"I'd expect nothing less."
"I've seen enough history 'written by the winner's' already. So...as an act of mercy, the good you've done for the changelings will be remembered with the bad...the Changelings can remember your mask...And Sweetie, if she so chooses...may remember you as she sees fit so long as they respect other's right to see you as they will."
"Queen Cadenza, ponies will always bring their points of view on others, remember that," said the dying former Queen, almost in pity. "I know you don't have any mercy left for me."
"I don't," said Cadence, looking to Sweetie Belle, then towards the battlefield. "That wasn't for you."
Cadence then took a step back, busying herself with checking on her husband to be.
"Chryssy... we are friends, right?"
"...Please don't look sad Sweetie...that's only pain I can still feel...I can't say, because it's been so long since I had a friend. I ate my last one." 'Why are my eyes so blurry?' "Remember the secret story I told you? I'm a monster whose the opposite of everything you hold dear, I'm a murderer, now please stop feeling sorry for me, please! Don't waste yourself on me. Your soul and mine, and Cadence's...I don't expect you or want you to understand this, Sweetie...but your soul came into being from a whim of fate like mine...I think I saw in you a kindred spirit...or maybe family. I guess if me and Cadence are sisters, we are cousins...that magic I taught you is yours, use it however you want my song bird. You surpassed me from the beginning. I'm done. At least I can boast to Cocoon I took longer to die than her, I should be ash by now."
Pinkie gasped in realization. 'Wait...if the Second Age was rewritten into my world and Cadence was Brightglow in the Second Age...then...does that mean Sweetie Belle was...'
Sweetie frowned. "...I...I don't want you to die, Chryssy...or...if you do...I...I want you to be somewhere I can be with you some day...And my sister...I want to be with her and my friends in the next life too...That includes you."
"You won't let go of what's yours, I approve. But I think not..." Cadenza looked at the sky. "You think I can't sense you, you black wind gelding? Wasn't there a poem you wrote? A innocent soul dragged into Tartarus to suffer because that was the worst punishment they could give to a wicked soul who loved her?! Tartarus doesn't even work that way, moron! About time that foreleg went." She looked back at Sweetie. "No my song bird...that's the last thing I want, because where I'm going, is the last place I ever wish to see you. You're far too beautiful a little pony for such an ugly place. "
Cadenza moved her eyes to Rarity. "...I'm not going to apologize, ever, no matter how much this stupid conscience you forced on me begs me to...but I'll give you this Rarity, you kept Sweetie safe...please keep it that way."
"I will never do anything else," Rarity said icily.
"Her feelings for you devoured mine, you win...You're the better mare."
Twilight Sparkle was busy hugging and nuzzling her foalsitter and brother, and the siblings paid the witch little mind, and Spike did the same, they were his family too after all. She was more interested in those she loved than those she hated. And seeing the image of their foalsitter/fiancee turn to ash wasn't a selling point either.
Rainbow Dash merely stood vigil as the witch wasted away. She wasn't used to this. Princess Luna and Fluttershy were back to themselves after the fighting was done, Discord became an ugly statue. Rainbow Dash had been thinking that they'd throw the witch over the horizon with her brain-dead stooges with a message to never come back. Or maybe Cadence would have her work as a maid for the rest of her life, keep things nice and ironic, maybe force her to live as just another pony. Seeing her just, slowly dying like this, no longer a danger, and still not sorry for a thing, and KNOWING she was dying, and then turning away a chance for Sweetie to save her?
'I don't get it! I don't get it at all!' Rainbow Dash thought. While she was the one Princess Celestia told to kill if needed, it was just surreal and wrong to see an enemy slowly dying. A death in the middle of a fight, RD had been prepping for, but not this. She wasn't sorry to see her go, but this felt so upside down. Where was the dramatic 'Nooooo!' as she went poof and the sunshine came out? Rainbow Dash sighed, and spread a wing over Scootaloo's eyes, she'd seen enough.
Scootaloo, much to her own shock, realized she could understand Sweetie Belle right now. 'What if the witch had found me after I ran away from Ponyville when Discord hurt everypony? Or when I first came to Ponyville?...What if she wanted to be my mother?...Dash, do you think I would have become a little monster if that was what made a new mother happy? ...Just... somewhere to belong. Dash, thanks for being there. And, Applebloom, Spike, Sweetie, Silver, Cheerilee, thank you all of you too.'
Rarity tried to shield Sweetie Belle's eyes as the sight got worse, Sweetie pushed her back, but not without feeling sorry for pushing her sister, but even Chryssy deserved somepony to be with her at ...at... at where this was about...about to go...
Applebloom for her part, let Silver Spoon hide her face in her forelegs, the filly having endured it for Sweetie as long as she could. Applebloom had seen death up close more than some of the adults here. She didn't want Silver to have to see it too. 'Ah guess, Ah'm like Silver Spoon's pa that way after all, maybe.'
Silver Spoon, fought against the horrible imaginary picture of it being Diamond Tiara there, fading away and refusing any pity from anypony. Even if Silver felt no pity at all for the monster that'd tortured everypony, she felt sympathy for poor Sweetie. 'No, Diamond Tiara would accept help, no way she wouldn't, she'd be crying for help from the start...she wouldn't just go away. Diamond Tiara, I don't want to see this happen to you.'
Twilight Sparkle likewise turned Spike's head from looking at the witch's final moment.
"I'm sorry," Fluttershy whispered looking into the eyes of the defeated queen, locking Fluttercruel in her room if that was what it took to keep her in. There was no point in harsh words now.
"I'm not. I merely did what it's my nature."
"And that's why I am. I'll be sorry for you."
"Because this is what's in my nature to do. The pain will be over soon, I promise."
The edges of Cadenza's vision began to dim to nothing.
"Chryssy...you...you made me do really bad things. But, a lot of what we did...the happy parts, I'd do that part over for you."
The witch whispered, "...I don't deserve a friend like you Sweetie Belle, and you most certainly don't deserve a friend that's the likes of me. I...I've earned this."
Then Sweetie Belle, against the wishes of those around her, nuzzled the wicked witch.
Cadenza grasped, jerking her head up, what was left of her body breaking apart like burnt wood. When was the last time anypony, had seen her true face, and shown her true tenderness? And...by Rosedust...she felt her love. In that same moment, Chrysalis, Cadenza, Kifuko, felt the ashes reach her heart.
"Kifuko...Kifuko, just a sup... Kifuko wake up!"
The little zebra's eyes fluttered open. She was in her bedroom, her mother's mask hanging on the way to keep the bugs away. A Zebra mare she didn't recognize stood in the background.
"W-where?" She coughed, her throat raw.
"There there sweetie," a beautiful mare with the same stripes as her hugged her. "Everything is going to be okay now my little beauty."
"You caught a horrible fever worse than any flu after the celebration of you saving everyzebra from the parasprites out of the blue. Then after you fell in a heap, you kept crying out in your sleep."
Kifuko turned to the source of the voice, she saw a Zebra filly with a flower in her hair.
"M-m-Maua!" The zebra filly began to cry and didn't understand why.
"It's alright Kifuko," she nuzzled her best friend, "Whatever you thought was real was just a nightmare's chafe, it's all over, you're safe."
"I-I'm..." Kifuko finally looked into the eyes of the mare who was hugging her, a zebra stallion behind her waiting his turn smiling warmly. "M-m-m.... MA-MA!" She returned her mother's hug with zeal! Crying rivers. "MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!"
"I almost became your griever. You're lucky Teacher Dawa knew how to mix a cure for your fever," Maua said, relief in her voice.
"You helped more than just a bit. You were the one who got the ingredients for it," Papa-Nondo said.
"Well, it just involved a long journey to the edge of the world and its seasons, and beating a troll at a guessing game and tricking a giant spider into wrapping itself up and convincing some flowers that I didn't want the root for selfish reasons. It was nothing I defend." Maua hugged her, "For my best friend."
"T-Thanks...I could kiss-" Kifuko's eyes finally fell on the unknown mare. She wore jewelry and carried a small treasure box, her Cutie Mark was a maze of some sort. Her eyes and the jewelry were violet in color. Kifuko couldn't help feeling she was familiar. "W-Who is this?"
Maua explained. "I was blessed, that I met her on my quest. Mawazo is her name. She gave me tips on the troll's guessing game. She wanted to meet you, Kifuko."
Mawazo trotted forwards and smiled to the mare. "Hello, Kifuko...I've not seen you in a very long time...I wanted to see you at least once."
"We've met before?"
"Not met exactly...I saw you when you were very, very young, you probably don't remember...but I knew you were special when I saw you."
"Thanks," the young zebra blushed. "Is that why you helped Maua?"
"Part of it...part of it is...I lost my son not too long ago...I didn't want to see her suffer the same thing. All she's ever wished is your happiness, if I could help grant that, I wanted to."
"I'm sorry about your son..." Kifuko found herself saying. "But thank you..."
"You should thank Maua...she was the one who never gave up on you. Even to the very end. She believed there was a way to cure you even when everyzebra said it was better to just let you fade away."
"I waited so long Kifuko, so very long, but we're back together, where we belong!"
Kifuko cried as she hugged her best friend. Maua tearfully returned the hug. "Maua! Please promise me you'll never go away! I promise I'll never go away!"
"I promise I'll never flee, if you can promise something for me."
"...please before this ends, make friends with my friends."
"...y-yes! Yes! I promise! I was so alone! So alone! I promise I will!"
"And I'll be in your heart the whole time, at your side I'll stay, I'll lead you every step of the way."
"You were always best zebra!"
Mawazo gave a smile and said, "You know, in fairytales ...when you love somezebra enough... sometimes a miracle will happen."
Kifuko didn't care what Mawazo meant, it just felt right, her horrible nightmare was over, and she was with Maua, Papa-Nondo and Mama-Kipepeo. All together again. The two best friends hugged closer, and closer. Then she was free.
-FullMetal Alchemist-Ray Of Light Theme-
Sweetie Belle didn't understand as she saw Chryssy's eyes glaze over as her horn and final leg began turning to ash, deaf to the world. Sweetie cried. She knew what Chryssy really was, a wicked witch, but she wished and wished that the Chryssy she had seen inside was somehow real. But she knew that could only happen if she could start over. She wasn't like Silver Spoon who still had a chance to change...
"Goodbye Chryssy," she whispered, tears falling, shining bright in the sunlight.
A tarot card, numbered XI and marked with a picture of a naked mare holding a chalice or lantern on top of a lion with several heads sat deep in the darkness in the depths as Death waited to claim it.
Light green fires ignited in the darkness. No. They ignited the darkness itself, burning it away.
Fluttershy felt something...something she vaguely recognized. "Listening to the animal inside doesn't have to be a bad thing...sometimes it could be good..."
The shadows took on a dragon-eye shape and roared as it continued to be burned away.
"...sometimes if we direct it instead of suppress it..."
The Hunger Tarot caught fire from within as a tiny, almost unnoticeable light was finally uncovered in the darkness and took shape, looking up at the darkness as it burned. The innocent light didn't comprehend the sight before it...but it felt comfort.
"..we become that much stronger..."
A new card began to burn through the Hunger Tarot. While the image remained the same, it became golden and a new name began to emerge...
"...If we control it and don't let it control us..."
'The Passion Tarot.' The fires accelerated, burning the darkness away as it struggled to escape its fate.
"If we take the reigns instead of letting it drag us..."
The darkness let out one last feral roar as it was incinerated into nothingness...leaving only an innocent little white light sitting in a beautiful savannah. Safe and sound.
"...we can become complete."
"Fluttershy..." said Rainbow. "What was..."
"...It was what needed to be said...that's all I can say..."
"Fluttershy." Rainbow was tired of word games.
"No no no I'm serious, that's all I know."
What remained of Cadenza imploded in on itself in a flash of blinding light green flames. For a brief moment, Fluttershy and Cadence felt the presence of something. Something both immense and great but close and comforting at the same time.
The dust settled, and everypony present could barely believe what they were seeing.
"Oh you are KIDDING ME!" Rainbow Dash exasperated.
"Now I'm totally confused," Scootaloo said.
"Well...this is unexpected," Fluttershy said.
Rarity fainted right onto her chaise longue.
"But...how...that doesn't even make sense." Spike just stared.
"Spike, I total agree." Twilight stared too.
"Well, that's an interesting surprise..." Pinkie Pie said.
Umbra Breeze gasped from his perch glared. "Impossible..."
Silver Spoon just stared with her jaw open.
Shining blinked in confusion. "Well...this is...honestly kind of refreshing considering how the last two times ended."
"Trixie has the strangest feeling that she is missing some of the script."
"Applejack, what is...is that...how is..."
"That there is as real as it gets 'Bloom, that's all Ah can say."
"I think this actually makes more sense..." Fluttershy said, a part of her finding this...right, like an instinct. "She was an Alicorn already...she was touched by the Elements, by Applejack, by Sweetie Belle, by Cadence and Shining's love...maybe it's just a miracle."
Cadence whispered as she leaned over the small form.
Sweetie Belle whispered lowly to only herself, "Because this was when she was happy."
A infant Alicorn zebra lay on the ground, wrapped up in her own wings, sleeping, slowly breathing, "Mama...mama..."
"...You got what you really wanted after all, I guess. You're free." Cadence whispered.
"Uh...not to spoil the moment," Rainbow Dash said. "Just being sure, how do we know this isn't another trick?"
"Like Ah told Applebloom...this is her now...this is real."
The sleeping foal's hooves found a piece of her now oversized regalia and suckled on it.
Shining nodded slowly. 'Girls? Can you tell me if this is for real?''
(Friend's Notes (Noon): Short answer, we aren't worried. And that's ALL we can say.)
Shining smiled and trotted over next to Cadence. "...So for once we get another Luna instead of the bad guy getting locked away forever or dying?...I like it."
Pinkie blinked. "...He has a point, why are we complaining? I mean didn't we want everypony to live?...And now the Zebras can be happy they finally have a designated goddess?"
"Because it feels out of left cloudbanks," Rainbow said.
Fluttercruel nodded, finally breaking out of her mental room. "I agree, but I'm not about to complain."
Sweetie Belle leaned to the sleeping Alicorn. "Chryssy?" She nuzzled the sleeping toddler. Sweetie looked under the baby's wing. "...Chryssy." And Sweetie Belle cried again.
Cadence leaned in close and looked for herself. Her eyes went wide.
"There's no cutie mark..." Cadence said, "...I guess you really do get a fresh start."
A part of Fluttershy felt nostalgic and she didn't know why.
Twilight's mind wandered back to the story she'd learned. When Luna had been aged down as punishment...when they'd been reborn in the mortal world. Something was different between that and what had happened...And then it clicked in Twilight's mind.
"...If her Cutie Mark is gone..." said Twilight. "That means...so is Chrysalis, or at least her Ego must be gone."
"So she won't be an swelled-headed evil jerk this time?" asked Rainbow.
"No!...I mean yes, but wrong kind of Ego. Self-image, I mean the dominant part of her mind must have either been forgotten or...been destroyed."
Sweetie perked up. "You...you said, dominant? So...the wicked witch is gone but...the Chryssy I knew might still be in there? The part of her she only showed me?"
"...It's...possible. A clean slate means she starts over but...certain aspects of her might remain. But for her Cutie Mark to be gone...yes, that means, if nothing else, it's safe to assume Queen Chrysalis has been entirely buried or destroyed...if any part of her IS left, it's her Shadow...and the Shadow isn't just our negative traits, it's the us we refuse to admit we had. The us we try to hide..."
"So to put it in none egghead terms," Fluttercruel said. "Queen Chrysalis the Wicked Witch is gone for good and what little, tiny speck of equinity she had kept buried in her subconscious be all that's left?"
"...You're not going to start doing this to everypony, are you?" Silver Spoon asked, seeming a bit disturbed.
"...No," said Applejack, shuddering at a certain memory from another world. "But Ah think Ah prefer this tah the alternative."
"Twilight, can I borrow some soap? I want to clean her off," Cadence said.
"But there's no soap in those boxes!" Shining said.
"Yes but I'm sure Pinkie Pie just happens to have some in case I need to clean out Spike's mouth."
"You know me too well Twilight!" Pinkie Pie said.
"Got any diapers?"
"Yep! In case of diaper emergences!"
"Okay. Time out. Stop." RD made the 'T' with her hooves. "Reality check, we've got two armies busting each other up back there right? Time for their new queen to tell 'em to call it quits!"
Everypony looked at everypony else.
Spike said, "Oooooh-"
"Blech!" Spike said trying to get the taste of soap out of his mouth.
The changelings were now all busy bowing to their new queen, while the cat tribe held up various victory posters drawn in crayon.
Cadence had chosen to wear the thinner Changeling crown in the middle of her Equestrian one for the moment until she figured out how being the Queen of the Changelings and a Princess of Equestria would even work.
"Wait, so if Cadence is the new Queen, what does that make Shining?" Pinkie asked.
"I don't wanna think about it," Shining shuddered. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact my fiance is now queen of a lost tribe of insect ponies, and the mare who's spent the last three days trying to destroy us all is our adopted daughter...probably, maybe, I don't know how this'll work...even by my standards this is pretty weird."
"Patty cake, patty cake, baker's mare," sang Sweetie playing with the baby Alicorn.
Twilight watched the sight. "I...just hope Chrysalis' evil is really gone for good...that it's not lurking in her somewhere." 'Like Discord's did.' she added mentally.
Applejack shook her head, watching. "...No...there ain't no evil left in that foal's heart...she's innocent."
Twilight blinked. "How can you tell?"
"The Princesses said an innocent soul can look right into the Truth and not see anything. Even if the taint were buried, they'd see somethin'."
Twilight followed Applejack's eyes and realized the baby Alicorn had looked away from Sweetie and right into Applejack's eyes. She didn't cry, she didn't whimper. She just stared inquisitively like a innocent little baby. "...Oh...I guess that means the Queen Chrysalis we knew really has been destroyed forever."
"Looks like it...ironic, ain't it? The Truths Ah showed her that hurt her so much was that the past wasn't dead like she thought and that her conscience had come back from the dead after she killed it...now she's the part of her life that's gone, leavin' only the innocent kid she started as and that conscience we helped be reborn."
"...I guess it is ironic... I didn't know you were such a philosopher AJ."
"Ah'm not. Now…if ya'll excuse me, Twilight, me and Applebloom have three cousins we've been worried sick about the last three days to catch up with and a weddin' and a coronation dinner to get cookin' on," the farmer said with a smile.
Twilight blinked, watching Sweetie begin something with the newly reborn Alicorn. She was even more surprised when the child slowly joined in.
"Sunshine, shineshine! Ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!"
Of course the clumsy little infant didn't have much coordination and couldn't talk yet (and may not have truly remembered the hoofshake), but still...
Twilight remembered her own words: the evil had been destroyed, the good would endure.
She couldn't help giving a small smile.
Twilight looked over to see Cadence already beginning what she'd sat out to do and live up to her campaign speech.
"Citizens of Equestria, my little changelings, I hereby declare the war over," the Princess of Harmony/New Changeling Queen announced. "Peace negotiations will begin as soon as possible to ensure an end to conflicts between us, the Changeling tribe, and the Kingdom of Equestria, and prevent conflicts with the rest of the world."
Cadence then turned to the Changelings and concentrated, causing a new sheen to appear on her wings, like those of her changelings subjects. It didn't look wrong in anyway, to neither changeling or pony, in a way that felt like how the wind blowing didn't feel wrong to you. It looked natural like it belonged there.
"My Little Changelings, I represent all tribes of ponies, and I now proudly show I represent us Changelings as well. You don't wish to hide your faces from the world? Then I will not hide the part of me that is from us either."
Shining Armor sighed, happy that in spite of the nightmare he and his friends had gone through, at least it was over, and their happy story could begin AT LAST.
He heard an odd grinding sound. Then a familiar pony popping in into his view.
"Shining, I'm here to help, sorry I'm late!" It was, of course, The Doctor, Shining noticed a gray pegasus, a purple unicorn mare and a small gray unicorn filly sneaking a peek behind the corner.
Shining smiled, "Actually, you missed it."
"Blast it! What happened?"
"We won, everypony lived."
"Yep, even the villain...sorta. She got a second chance and is now a baby...and Cadence was kinda talking about somepony needing to raise her right this time with a gleam in her eye...Oh, and now I'm apparently the king of a lost tribe of insect ponies...decidedly now the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me."
" ...Well...that's a pleasant surprise! Normally works out well in my experience! Even with that one Argolin...Did I miss the wedding?"
"No. You're early!"
"Well, that's a relief. Girls! Get on your Sunday best! We made it!"
Shining Armor then blinked, watching a confused and familiar unicorn stagger in. "Audience? How did you-"
"I have no idea sir."
The baby Alicorn stood still as a beautiful, surprisingly mundane butterfly landed on her nose and looked in her eyes. She giggled, it was so pretty.