Twilight walked around the library restlessly. It had been three days since Discord’s resealing and Rarity’s funeral. All of Ponyville had turned out for the occasion. Princess Celestia had given the eulogy. It had been so touching it had brought her to tears. She spoke of Rarity’s courage and of her achievements, expressing her gratitude for helping to save Equestria a multitude of times.
Three days. Even now she still couldn’t fully grasp the idea that Rarity was gone. She had thought things would work out in the end, that their friendship and her efforts would win out in the end, but it hadn’t been enough. Rarity was gone and she wasn’t coming back.
Spike was in just as much of a funk as her. He spent most of his time cuddled up on his side in his bed, quietly crying. He would barely respond when she tried to talk to him. He barely ate anything. He was so heartbroken about losing not only a dear friend, but the mare he had a crush on. She was still wondering had things had gone downhill so fast.
She heard a knock on the door, and went towards it. Opening the door she saw Applejack and Pinkie Pie. “Hey, guys,” she said somberly.
“Hi… Twilight,” Pinkie replied slowly. Her mane was usually untidy, but today it was out of control. There were split hairs everywhere.
“Still hard ta believe what happened,” said Applejack.
“So why did you call us over today?”
“In the brink of despair all of us left the forest shortly after Rarity passed,” said Twilight, “so we forgot the most important thing. I want to move Discord’s statue out of the forest, and put it somewhere safe.”
“Oh,” Pinkie replied with a sigh. “Right…”
“Rainbow Dash should be here shortly, but I guess we should start walking anyway. She’s the fastest in Equestria for a reason.”
They slowly walked in the direction of the Everfree Forest. There was a heavy silence between them, which none of them broke. None of them had yet reconciled themselves with the fact that Rarity was dead. They had been to her funeral. They had seen her in her coffin. They had seen her placed in her grave and buried. Even so, it still didn’t feel quite real to them yet.
As Twilight has guessed Rainbow Dash caught up to them a few minutes later. She landed on the ground and, like the rest of them, barely muttered a hello before following them as they walked. Twilight told her what they were going to do, and after Rainbow gave a curt nod they continued on in silence.
When they were about halfway there Pinkie Pie said, “So… what about Fluttershy?”
“She lives right by the Everfree Forest. Even so, I didn’t want to bother her with this. Even if he wasn’t planning on conquering Ponyville maliciously she still feels like she broke her promise to Discord and she lost two friends in one day. I thought it would be best if she didn’t have to help out with moving Discord’s statue.”
Things were quiet for a little while before Pinkie finally responded, “Yeah… I guess you’re right.”
They walked in a line, right next to each other but each of them feeling alone in their hearts. As they came upon the Everfree Forest they avoided walking directly in the line of sight of Fluttershy’s cottage, refraining from using the path to hit the forest at an angle.
A few minutes later they entered the clearing, and for the first time since they had met up all of them showed emotion. Each of them gasped. Discord’s statue was gone!
“This is bad!” Twilight said, going up and down on her hooves. “Who in the world would have taken the statue?”
“I don’t know, but we’re going to find them!” Rainbow Dash said strongly. “Look!”
There were long grooves in the dirt like it had been dragged away and sloppily covered up. They had tried to make it not as obvious something had been dragged through but they hadn’t completely erased the grooves in the ground.
“Follow the path,” said Applejack, nodding, immediately getting into business mode.
The five of them began trotting, following the trail of drag marks.
As they exited the forest Twilights fear began eroding. Looking up slightly she saw the grooves in the dirt were pretty much straight on, and she began to get a strong suspicion of who had taken it, and why. Her suspicions were confirmed a minute later as she saw them end by Fluttershy’s front door.
“Fluttershy?” said Pinkie Pie. “What’s she doing with the statue? Making it into a lawn ornament?”
Twilight went to the window, hearing Fluttershy’s voice. “I know it’s only been a few days, but I hope you’re at least somewhat comfortable. I wish I could do more, but I can’t do it alone… and they would never do it anyway.”
As she looked inside she could see Discord’s statue on its side. An eyebrow went up as she saw a pillow under his head and a blanket over his body.
“Fluttershy?” said Twilight.
Fluttershy jumped in surprise, quickly turning around with a look of panic. “Oh, uh, hi.” She raced to the window and slammed the shade shut.
Twilight was about to say something when Fluttershy came out, and quickly shut the door behind her. “Hello, everypony.”
Twilight let out a short breath. “Fluttershy, I’m not even going to beat around the bush.” She pointed to the path and the obvious signs of something being dragged. “Did you really think you were hiding what you did?”
Fluttershy’s face puffed up for a second like she was about to argue, but then it deflated. She shook her head, a hopeless look on her face. “I should have known you’d figure it out sooner or later. I knew I couldn’t keep it secret forever.”
“What were you doing?”
Tears brimmed around her eyes. “I took him to my house because I didn’t want him to be stuck there alone inside the Everfree Forest.” Giving a defeated sigh she said, “I guess you should come in. I’ll tell you everything.” Opening the door she went inside, the rest of them following behind her.
Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash all looked strangely at the statue, but didn’t comment.
After all of them sat down Fluttershy clutched her hooves together and said, “It was the day after Rarity’s funeral. It took a lot of effort but I managed to drag him all the way here with the help of my bear. I wasn’t planning anything bad. I just… I just…” Now her tears began flowing freely. “I only wanted to talk to him.”
“Talk to him?” asked Rainbow Dash. “Why?”
“I was his friend. His one and only friend. I should have worked harder. He should never have felt the only way to resolve things was to mind control the town into liking him. If he had felt more accepted he wouldn’t have been so focused on getting the Element of Harmony. He would have felt safe. He could have helped Rarity. And in the end, even if he wasn’t acting like one, I never stopped thinking of him as a friend.
"I broke my promise. It may have had to be done to protect everyone, but I feel sick to my stomach for having to seal him away when I felt like I had made so much progress. All of that is my failing for not being a better friend.” She wiped her face, but more tears kept coming down. “He said that he can still hear everything even being trapped inside. I know it won’t happen for a long, long time, but I’m hoping that if I can talk to him every day and treat him like a friend then one day we can release him again and become friends like before. I really would like to see him again… but not… you know… trapped in stone.”
Twilight felt a heaviness in her chest. There had been more troubling her recently than just her feelings about losing Rarity. “No… Fluttershy. This wasn’t your failing. It was ours. You were the only one who was trying to do the right thing by Discord.”
“Hold on!” said Rainbow Dash defensively. “How was this OUR fault? Sweetie Belle was the one who went to Discord and blabbed about the Element. And Discord was the one using Rarity’s life as bait. Oh, and he brainwashed her afterward when she refused the deal. Discord got what was coming to him for returning to his old ways. Fluttershy just wasn’t taking things seriously enough. She’s always been like that.”
“Rainbow Dash!” Applejack said angrily, giving her a whack.
“Ow! What was that for?” Applejack pointed towards Fluttershy, and as Rainbow looked and saw the heartbroken look on her friend’s face she quickly backtracked. “H-hey! Twilight is right! It wasn’t all your fault, Fluttershy. So what were you saying, Twilight?”
Twilight was looking intensely at the table, not really seeing it. “I haven’t been able to dwell on it much because I was more focused on Rarity and the funeral and my own sadness at her passing, but… Discord had a point. At first I tried to turn my eyes away from the truth, but he was right. I tried to dismiss his accusations as just him trying to create strife and render us unable to use the Elements of Harmony, but now I’m beginning to understand who was really in the wrong here.
“When I first came to Ponyville all I was concerned with was studying and learning more about Nightmare Moon. All of you just annoyed me. I couldn’t stand you guys. Pinkie throwing a party for me. Applejack wanting me to meet all her family and stay for brunch. And later on you accompanying me into the forest when I felt I could handle it alone. It all just felt like a waste of my time. But as all of you helped to conquer Nightmare Moon’s tests my opinions about you slowly began shifting.
"Pinkie helping us to face our fears ended with all of us laughing. Through each hurdle I learned a little about friendship by watching you, and by the end I was glad you had come along with me. When it was time for me to leave I can’t even explain how sad it made me. I didn’t know if I would ever see you guys again. I never knew how important friendship was… not until I had friends to lose."
She looked over towards the statue. “I think Discord was much the same. When he broke out from his prison he wasted no time in trying to break us of our connection to the Elements. He played around so much because he was certain he was unbeatable. The second time when we unleashed him at Celestia’s order he wasn’t nearly so out of control because he wanted to be sure he didn’t get turned back to stone again.
"We were rightfully cautious throughout his reformation. We saw that he had been manipulating things behind the scenes to create flooding at Sweet Apple Acres. At first he was only acting nice to Fluttershy to get a promise out of her she wouldn’t use her Element against him, but when he made things worse and she threatened to end their friendship it was only when he actually realized he enjoyed having a friend that he turned things back to normal.
“I hate to be fatalistic, especially after just losing one of our friends, but the truth is that Fluttershy won’t live forever. Even if Discord minded his manners the rest of her life we don’t know if he simply would have returned to his old ways after she was gone, or gone for the plan he was trying for today, of brainwashing everyone into liking him.
“He never should have felt he needed to go to that extreme. Even though he genuinely came to enjoy having a friend and reigned in his desire for his selfish pleasures for her sake he still didn’t really feel accepted, and I think that’s the most important factor in his decision. How she got through to Discord was through her unceasing belief in him, even when he didn’t deserve it. She gave him the benefit of the doubt, gave him the run of her house to cause a little chaos, was kind, called him her friend, and never stopped trying to get through to him. All of those things played a part in getting him to change, even if he didn’t realize it at the time. It was her persistence that won him over."
"It's just part of my nature," said Fluttershy quietly.
“I can’t speak for Princess Celestia and her motives, but I choose to believe it wasn’t only out of selfishness she wanted to help him reform. She’s helped me to improve before by not intervening in situations where her aid would have solved things much faster. Perhaps the lesson she wanted to instill was that no one is truly a monster, and that, given the right stimulus, anyone can be helped to change.
“However, if that WAS her lesson, then I failed miserably to learn from it. The lesson I learned the day of Pinkie’s surprise party was that you shouldn’t expect the worst from your friends, but that was what I did in this situation. Discord had become Fluttershy’s friend and genuinely changed, so I should have been more open to believing in the little spark of goodness that had bloomed inside him. Instead I immediately opted to seal him away again. Sleep deprived or not that was unacceptable. I never even considered trying to get his side of the story."
"But it wasn't like that would have changed anything," said Applejack. "We got his side of the story when we showed up, and it was as bad as we thought."
"She's kinda right, Twilight," said Pinkie.
“Maybe so, but in the end… he was right. We brought this tragedy on ourselves. Fluttershy kept in contact with him through letters, and he gave her a phrase to use to summon him when she wanted to interact with him on a personal level.
"On the other hoof, the rest of us still retained our distrust and caution, never breaching past that wall in our hearts to give him a chance. If we had been more friendly to him and not so suspicious we wouldn’t have needed to worry so much about needing the Elements to keep him contained when he already showed that having just one friend was enough to have him adopt a new way of thinking.
"Imagine how he would have felt it he had seven friends in us six ponies and Spike. He wouldn’t have felt he was just being used, and we could have gone to him and asked him to help Rarity earlier, and he’d WANT to do it, because he valued her as a friend.
"The reason we can wield the Elements of Harmony is because we embody what the Elements represent. Spending time with Fluttershy taught him about kindness. In turn we could have taught him what it means to be honest, generous, and loyal, and how to laugh at each other’s joys instead of at their miseries. Through all of our efforts we could have helped him to see all the different aspects of what friendship is truly about, and helped him assimilate into pony society the right way.
“So, Fluttershy, you’re wrong. You played no part in how horribly everything turned out. It was my failing to see the mission as complete once Discord reformed. I should have continued to see that task through to be sure he didn’t change his mind. I failed as a good friend to you.”
“No, Twilight,” said Rainbow Dash, her standoffish voice from before gone. “It was my fault too. I… I guess I didn’t want to admit it either, but I agree with what you said. We screwed up big time.”
“The best part of being friends is trying to become friends with your friend’s friends,” said Pinkie, “but I never tried to do that. Discord hasn’t been around much, so I almost forgot about him, even with all the work I do to learn everything I can about everyone in Ponyville.”
“Fluttershy?” said Applejack.
“Yes?” she replied.
“Do… do ya think… that I kin come here to visit and talk with him too from time to time?”
“Me too?” said Pinkie Pie.
“And me?” said Rainbow Dash.
Fluttershy gave them a small smile. “That would be lovely.”
“There’ no way of going back,” said Twilight, “so we’re going to have to take what we learned and move forward. It will take some time to convince Discord we’re for real, and also to find a new Element bearer for the Element of Generosity, but after that we can restore him again and become real friends this time.”
Tears began coming down Fluttershy’s face as she nodded, a big grin on her face at the thought that she could at least get one of her friends back. “Thank you! Thank you!”