I didn't think anything could surpass the despair Discord gave me, I was so wrong.
- Discord Ponies Rock Intro -
My thoughts, my feelings, my memories, were all going in a million directions at once. Brawling out for space inside as I was smothered underneath!
The maze again! Discord again! Cloudsdale again! Scootaloo again! Gilda again! Best Young Flier again! Shadowbolts again! Dad again! Flight camp! Didn't save Fluttershy! I told myself that we'd be okay, that we'd win, that we always win, that we'd bury Discord in our memories and go back to friendship reports and Pinkie Pie's parties! Thousand years of having my face rubbed in it!
I felt like my insides were on fire, followed by a feeling of dry-ice!
Was afraid for everypony that was going to come next. I lose again.
I was angry at this monster and her buddies for doing this to my friends and everything I've known. I was angry at myself for failing right at the finish line. I hated Discord for making this monster. I hated myself. I'd failed again. I'd fallen for the oldest trick in the book. I screwed up when everypony was depending on me, again. Black tears came down my face. I failed my friend, I failed everypony. The whole universe hated me. I felt like I was all alone in a frozen wasteland.
I'm sorry. Oh what good does SORRY do? What good has sorry EVER done?
I felt blackness bleeding out of me where I was stabbed. There was only one way left to keep my promise.
"Now where were we?"
"Please, take me with you."
"If I start taking souvenirs from movie sets, my home will be filled with clutter."
"PLEASE! You look like you have a spot open for a Rainbow Dash on your team. Please. Let me be with her. Let me come with her and...I'm yours. The rest of the world is gone. I'll be loyal to her more than anything, that'll be my absolute loyalty. Just don't make her be alone."
"She has a point," Mirror said reluctantly. "But she really shouldn't-"
"She sounded so cute when she said that!" Granfalloon pinched my cheek.
This was the only way. It was the only road I had left.
"Let me continue to protect her, if she's really you now, then please, let me protect you then. You saw how I took out AJ and Pinkie Pie, I'd say I'm overqualified for the job."
This was the only chance I had left to save her.
I'd rescue her from the inside. I'd save her from the inside. And all the other Twilight Sparkles inside her. I'd save them all. I'd beat this monster. I'd save Twilight Sparkle. I'd pull my Twilight out of this monster Discord made.
"Come'on Twilight, you know you want me with you," I grinned.
Nightmare Dusk blinked then grinned.
"Rainbow Dash? Is that you? The real you? Oooh I've been looking for you everywhere!" She nuzzled me, I resisted not to flinched.
Nightmare Granfalloon hugged me like a plush toy. "Welcome back, Dashie! I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!"
Nightmare Mirror hugged me gently and nuzzled me. "Oh sugarcube, ya have no idea how big a mistake ya've made."
Twilight's Nightmare twisted the sword still inside me. I felt my Element break in half. I wrenched my head back and howled.
- 'Birth Of Demon Homura' - Madoka Rebellion -
"B-but-" Had she been playing me?
"Now now, don't be scared Rainbow Dash. I certainly I can't kill you if you're not alive. But you'll be a person soon, just like me, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack."
Her chains reached into me like they were, or I was a ghost! They pulled out a piece of my Element.
I screamed. It was a pain that I still can't describe. It went deeper than PHYSICAL pain. It was like what she did hurt my very BEING.
She grimaced like holding it hurt even with her chains hurt. "Element of Free Will? More like Element of Not-Being-Reliable-To-Your-Friends. Don't worry, Dash, I've freed you of this horrible evil fake Element!" She tossed it over her shoulder like it was junk.
"N-no!" I tried to reach for it.
"This is my world, my choice. You don't get a say in the matter. How could you? You're not a person, yet. But you'll be soon, don't worry. That fake evil Element was holding back your ascension into a goddess."
"Yer gonna be TOTALLY COOL, Dashie!"
"Ah'm sorry, Dash," Mirror whispered. "Yer doomed."
A huge gusher of darkness leapt out of me from my own Element. Nightmare Dusk pulled the sword out of me, and the others let me go.
I croaked out my last words as Rainbow Dash, "Twilight, help me."
"I am helping, you Dash, because you're my friend," She smiled happily. "Friends help friends to not do bad things. And trying to stop the golden world from existing is very bad indeed. Be loyal to us, Nightmare of Loyalty."
The darkness became long arms with hands, and they wrapped themselves around me like a mummy. I couldn't move. I couldn't breath. I couldn't think. All I could do was feel myself devoured from the inside out by my own Element of Loyalty.
Nightmare Dusk...Twilight Sparkle, she's my Twilight too, she's doing this to me. My friend...Her chains whip out and wrap themselves around me even as the darkness does.
I manage to cry one last tear as Rainbow Dash, and for one moment, I wished there was just a way to make it fair.
I see my Element inside my soul burn away everything that wasn't connected to my loyalty, the regalia taking on a completely new design with more jagged angles, and the jewel without a casing.
The darkness explodes in a twisting maelstrom of black threads, shadowy mist, and gray lightning bolts. A horn punctures my head. My strength increases as I become aware of the life around me, and all the death. My wings turn black like storm clouds. My mane and tail become jagged and crackle with red and gray lightning. My legs become longer and thinner. My muzzle elongates. I keep growing.
I feel Twilight's chain spears pierce my skull. I scream louder than before.
"Now now, you just have some nasty defects in your brain, I wouldn't be a good friend if I didn't fix you. Be happy, you'll be well very soon."
"Load of horseapples from beginin' to end."
"Oh Applejack, you're such a kidder!"
Applejack and Pinkie Pie, they just. . . watch. I feel like a part of my soul's being lobotomized.
"And you'll make sure all our friends stay stay loyal to each other right? We're going to make a golden world. And we're gonna need loyal friends."
I grunted back. Y-yes. Friends need to be loyal to each other. Y-yes.
My new horn glowed.
Armor formed around me vaguely like the barding of ancient pegasi warriors. Black armor with rainbow highlights. Plates of metal connected at the corners to each other by chains. A champron with an extra large visor above my eyes.
My cutie mark...white becomes black, and the rainbow colors, like my own mane, become like a photo negative.
"Welcome back, Rainbow Dash," Twilight smiled. "Tell us your new name. Who are you? What are you?"
"I...I am Nightmare Manacle...The All-Consuming Loyalty." I grunt out.
"Wonderful! You've been uplifted from a simple mass of temporal possibility to a real person! Congratulations!"
I grunted back. Bowing my head.
"Now, let's reset the stage, and get you comfortable in our house, don't worry, you get to make your room exactly the way you want it."
"I'll get the popcorn!" Pinkie Pie cheered.
"It ain't a show," AJ said, everypony ignored her.
I grunted and bowed to my friend, as she tore creation apart one moment at a time in reverse order. And I just stood there like a good friend, as she destroyed the entire universe.
In order she collected us.
Cruelest of Truths.
The Endless Laughter.
Fluttershy was next.
Pinkie and me, both tried to bring her into the fold, as a loyal friend would, it was better than being erased into nothing right? We failed. It was Applejack and her cruel truths that made Fluttershy become the Kindest Of Lies. She introduced us all to her loving and caring daughter after she 'fixed her' from Discord's 'bad influence.'
Applejack naturally told us what she did was nothing to cheer her for. I could relate. Me and her never stopped hating ourselves.
And finally she claimed The Beautiful Fury Of the Generous Green Flames.
Rarity, no matter what Eclipse did, no matter how she rigged the game, no matter what changes she made to the script, Rarity refused to become Nightmare Charity, The Fairest Of Gifts.
Even dying, no Rarity accepted what Twilight was selling. Spike on the other hoof...to save her? Well...what's Twilight Sparkle without her number one assistant? The Nightdrake, Nightmare Banneret. Too bad Rarity hadn't wanted Spike to become a monster just for her.
Our little stable existed in what you could call the space between world-lines. It was latched onto this world-line like a tumor. I fell asleep through Twilight's lecture, but basically it was able to exist in and out of time and space at the same time thanks to her Element of Magic, being nowhere and everywhere at once. Being OUR private, separate universes, like the 'other' concepts had. Which meant the concepts would have to FORCE their way inside and play by our rules if they wanted to come inside. Oh, they tried. But the point is that we could do our business and exploring without leaving us vulnerable where the rules of interaction weren't in play. We also ultimately had our own cute little gatekeeper.
I remember the first time. That very time. As we watched the world be torn to shreds over and over going backwards through time.
Deep down...no, it wasn't deep. I never hid it anymore than Applejack did. I HATED myself for every moment of that. Hatred that made my self loathing as traitor Dash look like child's play. And that was only the first loop. Even with what had been done to me, I knew this was all my fault. Each loop, a part of me wondered if that Rainbow Dash would succeed where I failed and save both our Twilights...that was deep down, I couldn't dare admit it out loud.
I remember Scootaloo.
The way the world was ripped apart atom by atom, moment by moment, starting with Discord's statue and spreading out from there, all the way back to the day Discord was freed. Spreading faster the bigger it go, until the last half of the universe is torn to lights and shadows in less than a instant.
I remember Scootaloo.
For the poor ponies at the start, it wasn't a black sphere or white void, or a gray fog. It was like they were looking at the sensation of being blind marching towards them, consuming everything.
Maybe I couldn't pretend I wasn't Rainbow Dash after all, maybe seeing it all be destroyed, all the murder of moments, up to that point was the straw that broke the Nightmare's back. Maybe I was still hanging onto the idea I could save one pony that meant something to me.
My former self's body was torn away into nothing, the same as everything. The universe I belonged to was dying before my eyes.
But...with everything being torn to pieces, the walls were coming down the same as everything, along with the rules of before and after.
At that last possible moment, as Scootaloo watched the Royal Garden, Canterlot, and Ponyville dissolve, I moved.
I dived in, breaking through what little remained of whatever barriers could have stopped me. And I took Scootaloo from our world.
Twilight...she...she...she said how I shouldn't . . .
I told her she was just memorabilia, like my collection of Wonderbolts merchandise. Mirror said I did it on instinct.
Twilight, she patted me on the head and told me not to make a habit out of it, and that she'd 'throw out' my 'junk' if it proved to be trouble 'for my own good.'
The next time, my first time fighting on HER side...she was watching too closely for me to save Scootaloo. I had be careful, I had to pick my battles, I had to sneak Scootaloo past Applejack and Twilight each time.
Until...until Applejack recruited Fluttershy…Nightmare Whisper helped me save Scootaloo almost every time, but even she couldn't perfectly run interference every time. She even helped me to save other ponies from Ponyville, I was able to tell Twilight about those, saying how I just wanted a complete collection. She believed me.
My room...in our domain...I made it into a copy of Ponyville and Cloudsdale. First Scootaloo and I were the only real ponies there, using just wooden dummies animated by Fluttershy's magic. But I slowly replaced them with real ponies from countless times.
Made to be like from before the day of chaos. Twilight once said it reminded her of a universe where Discord created a fake Ponyville and populated it with constructs he had the gall to think were alive.
She'd ask why I always seemed to be sadly sitting in my cloud castle whenever she visited my room.
"You could make any pocket dimension they wanted, why did you make something that only seemed to make you sad?" She kept asking. But I refused to answer.
Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy only told her that it was personal and I'd tell her when I was ready. Eclipse accepted that as friends should. I hope she never noticed the orphanage.
Scootaloo, I kept her asleep the whole time. I went out to where the Asylum was supposed to be, and set up a crude orphanage. And in there, I kept every Scootaloo, sleeping in dreams where they never had to think about the bad things.
I NEVER spoke to them. Never interacted with them. I didn't deserve to be called Rainbow Dash by them anymore.
My plan was to integrate them all into one Scootaloo once the golden world was created. I also cherry picked ponies from various different loops to populate my imitation Ponyville and Cloudsdale that I turned my private room into.
I was an idiot. Each Scootaloo was a complete soul. Even if their futures were erased, they weren't clones of each other. It was like some residue of the timelines they were from carried over with them, and they dreamed of the futures they had chosen for themselves in Discord's dungheap of a world. They were all Scootaloo, but they were all unique.
As for the rest of my 'collection', they lived each day being simply 'The Day, The Week, The Month, The Year', dates were meaningless, they just lived each day oblivious to any desire to leave town, or that Scootaloo wasn't there, they didn't remember her.
My magic rewrote their memories, keep them happy, and let them be a Ponyville and Cloudsdale I could pretend was real. They had no idea who Discord even was. Or that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna never visited.
Bright Night...she was right, she'd been completely right. She couldn't steal something that was already lost, something that hadn't been there to begin with. I'd almost killed her over nothing. My own selfishness to have Scoots close by, but never having to face her.
Endless cycles, bury the guilt and the shame, create a little pocket world for ponies from the cycles, can't fit that many, Eclipse doesn't want me growing attached to 'stage props.' Save Scoots, try to always save Scoots, when the world resets, snatch her in the moment as the timeline is reduced to ether and everypony in it, sometimes on the day of chaos, sometimes a day before...Keep them safe, keep them happy, don't let them interact with a Rainbow Dash who betrayed them.
Create a golden world, where monsters like us could never come into being.
I remember my sins.
Doing NOTHING while Twilight led one Twilight after another to becoming a Nightmare.
Those who resisted, were absorbed kicking and screaming.
I remember helping her break Twilight and her friends when they refused to bow to the script. I became trivial after the first few hundred times. They weren't fights. They were routines. Their struggle was futile and meaningless.
Twilight sometimes let us add in our own personal torments to Discord for what he had done to the world.
My favorite moment was when I blew up Discord right after he was free of his statue self with a bunch of grenades around him, but then again all that changed was that the Draconequus possessed one of the guards that would have gone with Cadence on her tour. I, the Nightmare of Loyalty didn’t bother to remember the names of the hosts.
NO! I...I hated Discord! I didn't think the ponies were worthless! No please!
I'd never abandoned Fluttershy, even if she thinks Discord has suffered enough after endlessly watching his daughter, her daughter, their daughter, die.
Stop it, please! I never meant to not realize how it hurt her too all that time!
Or that Discord remained loyal to his daughter to the bitter end in that final loop, caring more about her than he did about himself as Twilight used 'stock footage' from previous timelines she had 'recorded' to keep him 'in character.' Like when she made him murder Apple Pie.
"Ya KNOW that Twili' been copyin' and pastin' parts from earlier loops ta keep Discord on track right?"
"So, that means sugar that whenever RD is forced ta kill Scootaloo, that means it's Twili' now whose makin' it happen. Not Discord."
"And whaddya think?"
"If Discord is going to pretend that he's changed so he think we'll somehow forget all the horrible things he's done, I need to make sure our complete selves don't forget or are fooled." Eclipse said, matter-of-fact spreading her wings grandly.
"I think AJ, that I'm loyal to you guys, and nothing is ever ever ever EVER going to change that! I'll never abandon any of you ever again even if every entire universe becomes our enemy! Scootaloo won't have to remember any of that when we make the Golden World. Twilight promised. Was she lying?"
"And I think that's a buckass question to ask in the first place AJ!" I finished.
"Yes it wasn't very kind to say all!"
"I don't really really really get the joke either."
"Oh don't worry girls. She's just being true to herself. You can't expect her to be more than that can you?" Eclipse asked, the smile only slightly shrinking.
I looked at Eclipse, then at Mirror, and then put a chain-barding hoof on her mirror shined barded shoulder, "It'll be both our redemptions, we'll pay back in interest. Scootaloo will have a Golden World to live her life in instead of the cruddy one she was living even before bastard-Discord." I turned to Eclipse. "Speaking of which Twilight, isn't it time to help Twilight Version One Point Oh, down the path of leveling up to totally awesome super-mare?"
STOP IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEAS-EASE-EASE! I DON'T WANT TO REMEMBER ANYMORE! STO-O-O-O-OP!!!
I wanted...I wanted Scootaloo to have a better life!
Scootaloo's one drop in a very deep bucket of blood.
Back in the orchard, back in what may or may not have been reality, I held my hooves to my head as I rolled back and forth on the ground wailing.
Scootaloo's one drop in a very deep bucket of blood.
I sat up in bed waving Eclipse off, "Hey! Calm down Twilight, you'll pop a blood vessel. We'll make Rarity our Nightmare Charity," Manacle maniacally grinned as she brought her hooves into a crushing motion, "Even if we have to grind her spirit into paste and rebuild her from the ground up to do it!"
Please...stop...please...I...I lost track of myself...of what I wanted, of what I hoped for...I . . .
Scootaloo's one drop in a very deep bucket of blood.
Eclipse looked at the transparent glass sphere containing a mobius loop shape of stairs sitting on the table. "Last time I let you, you shook it like a snow globe to watch the stars settle."
"I just destroyed a few galaxies," I said.
"Yes, but you could have damaged something important. I'll just give a quick little debugging before resting."
Scootaloo's one drop in a very deep bucket of blood.
Estimated death count: 6,432,132,341,255,ERROR
What did any of that have to do with absolute all consuming loyalty?
Scootaloo's one drop in a very deep bucket of blood.
Red isn't my favorite color anymore.
Serve without question, full herd of Nightmares, except Rarity.
Scootaloo's one drop in a very deep bucket of blood.
I hated myself.
I never stopped hating myself.
So I buried myself.
Then things go off the rails, new relative of Discord...things go crazy...another intervention...things really go off the rails, they actually BEAT the five of us and make us retreat back into Eclipse. . .We pull the rug out from under them when it seemed they won...no, they PLAYED us... six Elements groups against us? A stab from Rancor? Twilight's parents extra grow thanks to a Minty's magic sword? Torrent of Rainbow Colors, tearing us away from her...and then...
Back in the orchard. Back in the present. I rolled on my back, looking up at the sky, the rain slapping me in the face like reality.
"What good am I?" I ask, nopony answers.
-'English Cover 'Rain'' - Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood-
I cried, letting them mix with the rain. All my sins laid bare. My sins were beyond counting. And I was sorry. For whatever good it did. Guys, I'm sorry. Scootaloo, my Scootaloo, I'm sorry. All of you, whatever remains of you in Nothingness, I'm sorry. Who am I kidding? There aren't enough 'I'm sorries' in the world. Not for what I did. Not for what any of us did. My sins as Discord's favorite toy were nothing compared to what I stood by and let happen as Nightmare Eclipse's little buddy.
I'd say 'dammit', but that's kinda given right now. I'd get to see Fluttershy and Spike turned into monsters as well, and one Twilight after another consumed by Nightmare Eclipse as the rest of the world died.
And Eclipse dangling her perfect, impossible golden world in front of me like a carrot, promising everything would be alright if I continued to be a good friend to her and continued to destroy universes all for the matters of one tiny planet in one small galaxy in an infinite expanse. So many worlds and super-galaxy clusters out there I now understand, so many that had nothing to do with any of this, and we kept destroying everything for the tiny matters of one planet. We were the definition of selfish. What right did we ever have?
My Twilight had been absorbed into a monster. And my friends that I fought so hard alongside to free from Discord, were simply erased. Their lights of existence recycled while their shadows were tossed into that glorified garbage can that Entropy calls a realm. Everypony I had known and loved no longer even ever existed!
That Rainbow Dash who helped kick our flanks in that final cycle, she'd been more of a Rainbow Dash than I'd ever been.
...And she succeeded where I didn't. She saved her Twilight. She zoomed in as the big hero and rescued her and her friends from us. She did EVERYTHING I should have been able to do...no, if she was able to do it, why couldn't I have? She's proof I could have done it...proof that in the end, the only one I have to blame for me failing is me, myself, and I. She's the real Rainbow Dash now. The better Rainbow Dash.
Me? I was a nightmare left over from a night that was already over. But… there were still ponies suffering for Eclipse's selfish screw-ups. Well, time to clean our mess.
I admitted... maybe eternal punishment wouldn't be so bad . . . if I got to lay eyes on the true Alicorn Twilight Sparkle will have become. Because I know, that all those Twilights over the cycles are her, and that means my Twilight Sparkle, is now a beautiful goddess, just let me lay eyes on her just once. That's all I ask.
I looked at Berrybarble, the one orange tree of the apple orchard, cracked in two by an overzealous buck but then mended back together. From Applejack's orchard in her own private domain. But this...this was my world, I could feel it in my bones.
"But we were all hit by that super rainbow too!" I looked at my flank. "Why am I still a Nightmare?" And now I realized, I felt like I was in a body two sizes too small. "There were six groups of Elements, there were six of us. There should have been enough to go around. We were all hit, TRYING TO PROTECT HER FROM IT! We should have gotten hit by the lion's share!" I stamped my hoof.
I wish I was smarter, Twilight could have figured this out.
I look at the Official Wonderbolts Pin on my breast that Twilight had given me. I REALLY look at it. Sensing the magic around it, and felt something painfully familiar. Like a tiny reflection of myself. It ripples, and faded, turning into, a broke off half of my purified Element of Chaos: Free-Will.
A piece of my soul returned to me, everything considered, I'm still going to have to thank her.
"We were all astral projecting through her when we got smashed by the six squared Rainbow of Light. So were our spirits hit, but our bodies weren't? Our real bodies were still back in the Nightmare Stable. So...does that mean I'm Rainbow Dash on the inside but Nightmare Manacle on the outside? This makes my head hurt.
Ugh! I really do feel like I'm in a body two sizes too small!
"Nap time's over!"
"It's time to play with us again, Rainbow Dash."
"We've had such fun times before."
"And we know it'll be fun this time too!"
I'm surrounded by little foals in a perfect circle. All of their coats as white as snow, dressed in black dresses and shirts all different styles and types. They all looked at me with the same smile. I couldn't see their cutie marks or be sure what pony race they were.
"Who, who are you?" I looked at them, they felt familiar. But not sure how.
"You remember us!"
"You just spent all that time remembering us!"
"You've been calling out our names!"
"So it's time to play again!"
"I'm angry!" Huffed a colt with a little red stuffed tie.
"I'm lonely," sighed, a filly in a black poncho with a purple scarf.
"I'm sad," looked down a filly wearing a blue ribbon.
"I'm scared!" Said the filly with a yellow flower in her black sun hat.
"I'm hateful," Icily stated the only other foal in the group, only one without a bit of color.
"I'm greedy," grinned the filly with an orange sash.
"And I'm quite vain." The filly wearing a pink brooch stood proud.
They all stood perfectly still in the rain, and weren't getting wet at all.
"W-What do you want from me?" I asked, taking a step back.
"What do we want? What do you want?"
"What do we want? What do you want?
"What do we want? What do you want?"
And they each repeated those same eight words, one right after the other until they'd all said it. Then they just repeated it over and over the same exact way. Was it like a kid asking a question until they got an answer? Or was it like someone DEMANDING an answer? Or neither? Both? I couldn't tell!
"Why are you here?!" I finally asked, as they all looked at me expectantly? Intrigued? Confused? I just couldn't make heads or tails of it?
"We can lend you power."
"We're here to return the Queen of Chains her crown. But we know we'll have lots of time to play after!" Said the vain filly. "We crowned you at your coronation."
"So now it's time for you to take it back."
"It wasn't nice you ignoring us, after we gave you so many gifts."
"Now it's time-"
"-to take back your crown-"
"-Queen of Chains."
"Hide and seek was fun but-"
"-now we found you and your friends again-"
"-so let's play a new game!"
"So now it's time to anointed the Queen of Chains again-"
"-let your second coronation begin!"
They all looked at me with the same blue eyes and the same smile.
-Clara Dolls - Madoka Rebellion -
Transfixed. I watched they linked together links of chain into something resembling a crown.
Then, they sang.
The Queen of Chains was oh so sad
None as miserable as she.
When ponies turned their backs, she did get so mad,
With her friend she wanted to be.
Why she wanted this is no riddle
For stolen away from her was she.
So to be with your friends do prepare
That's where she'll make you have to be!
Six of them prostrated before me like you would Princess Celestia suddenly flanking me in rows of three, but I didn't see them move.
Lonely was holding the crown in her hooves like she had magnets inside them. Like...like ponies of the world Pinkie'd been born from. Where Rarity and me had each other's hearts.
The rain actually split, and a row of rainbow colored flowers appeared on either side of me like the trim of a carpet.
Lonely knelt before me and held up the crown. I spread my wings. I didn't fight it. I didn't run from it. I didn't deny it. I could only accept my reality.
I lowered my head.
Blackness appeared on me and spread like cancer cells.
"I crown once again ye, the Great and Powerful Nightmare Manacle!"
Sure. Why not? The world already has a Rainbow Dash.
She placed the crown on my head.
I felt the seals on my power and my body shatters. My transformation happened in an explosion of rainbow colored lightning. The storm vanished like a switch was flipped.
I stretched my wings, and let my horn glow as my first act as a Nightmare again was to take a bite out of one of Applejack's apples. Then I looked at myself over in a reflective puddle.
My cutie mark inverted. Horn and wings. The strength of an earth pony within. Thousands of thousands of years of life giving me the figure of an adult Alicorn. My coat darkened a shade, but that was par the course. Slit rose red dragon eyes looked back at me. So much for white-eyed blind loyalty. My mane's colors were inverted like a photo negative, just like my cutie mark, it shimmered ghostly a bit like it was made of light.
My black plates of barding held together by chains in place again covered my body with an old pegasi warrior off the style of something Commander Hurricane would wear if she was into a fashion statement.
"Alright, Nightmare Manacle...one last adventure. Then you can owe up to everything you've done."
I didn't need to look for my friends. Even sealed away, we were connected by the Elements, and could sense their power.
Let's do this.
I flew into AJ's house, I could have teleported or used the door, but I felt like smashing some walls.
AJ looked up at me bug eyed from her couch. "RAINBOW?! THAT YOU?!" Her hoof instantly reached for a cider bottle that wasn't there a moment before. I shattered it with my telekinesis. Before AJ could get another word in edgewise, I pull her up with my magic, and placed my horn against her forehead and cast the memory spell. "Sorry Applejack, this is really going to hurt."
The seals on her broke like cheap glass. The drinking geass placed on her that kept her from using her truth vision dissolved.
What looked like glass crystallized around her, making a reflective silver shell like she was a statue. It shattered open a second later as silver shining light shockwaved in the room, knocking things off their selves and flipping tables and couches upside down and blowing out windows.
Applejack's coat was darker, her cutie mark now green apples with red leafs. Her body type now that of an Alicorn, the oldest of us now. Green dragon eyes stared back at me, that pierced me to my soul, but I was done looking away. Her barding was smooth sleek bright reflective silver with emeralds set in shaped to look like eyes that also armored her wings completely, or maybe her feathers of her wings were silver, the truth was hard to tell. Her mane reminded me of an autumn sky at sunset.
"Ya just had ta wake me up, didn't ya?" She said curtly. Same old Nightmare Mirror.
"Yes I did. I still have the others to do. You comin' or not, AJ?"
"Don't call me AJ! Ah ain't got no right ta that name no more!"
"Yeah, yeah I know."
"And you better not have hurt any of Bloomberg's family transformin'!"
"Don't worry. Vacation's over. I'm gonna go tell the others. You coming?"
"Yeah, Ah'm comin', Ah can't stand this disgustin' lie. And Ah can't stand so many innocent ponies livin' in it!"
"Hey, I built this place."
"Fer ya it was a fantasy. Different thing. So we gonna move or chatter?"
"RACE YA!" I zoomed out the other side of the house.
"HEY NO FAIR!"
"So do you hate me for waking you up?"
"It's the truth. Deal. My motto remember? Nightmare Eclipse was so delusional that every time Ah told'er to her face she was evil and doin' evil she brushed me off!...Stubborn Twilight."
"Oh right, you were with her the longest."
"By the time of that last battle, Manny? Ah HATED what were doing even more than ya! But Ah had nowhere else to go. And figured the golden world was the only way left to make any of it mean anythin'. Oh. And Ah was plannin' ta drag all of us to Pony Hell after."
"Honest Mirror, remember? Ya think we don't deserve it? It would be a betrayal? There we go. Without Eclipse 'round, Ah wonder how long we got before we start fightin' each other."
"Not on your life AJ, and I'll call you that. Ya TRIED to do the right thing after you realized your mistake, that's more than I did."
. . . AJ told me...her first cycle, her native world.
She'd protected and saved her Apple Pie, and FOUGHT Eclipse when she tried to end the world...when she realized she wasn't out to avert Discord's reign, but just repeat it over and over so she could torment him. AJ said that if she knew Eclipse was going to ACTUALLY advert his reign by erasing our reality, she said she'd have felt it was a fair trade. Then she found out what would happen to all those souls of all the ponies erased.
In the end, Nightmare Mirror was on the ground, bleeding, her wings and armor shattered, with Eclipse's spears in her body Mirror told me. And Apple Pie, looking up in fear as Eclipse looked at her like she wasn't even a living thing.
AJ always choked up at what happen next. I couldn't get the whole story out of her. She'd say something about saving Apple Pie the only way she could, but wouldn't go into details.
"...Rainbow, one thing yah shouldn't be ashamed of? Yah got closer ta beatin' Eclipse than Ah did, and ya weren't a Nightmare yet…"
"I still didn't win…Upset the AJ that beat her was an Element of Fantasy?"
"Ah'd be upset if a LIARjack did it...It's the corrupt version of that Element Ah take issue with...Ah'm proud that meh managed tah save Apple Pie in a way Ah couldn't."
"That's pretty mature of you."
"No, it's pretty honest of meh."
I wanted to crash right into Sugarcube corner, but Applejack didn't want anypony hurt, and teleported us inside instead. I still put on a great big show.
I scanned the place with my eyes. Sweetie Belle wasn't here. But Apple Bloom was along with most of the foals. Cheerilee was there. I guess she was there to remind them that it was only a half day off from school.
Cheerilee jaw hang out at the sight of us, and like any loyal teacher should, put herself between us and the foals. We were Nightmares after all.
I spotted Pinkie Pie. She was sitting next to Bright Night.
"APPLEJACK!? IS THAT YOU!?" Apple Bloom gasped.
"Ah'm sorry Apple Bloom," Mirror said. "But Ah ain't yer Applejack, and this ain't yer Ponyville."
"W-what?" The poor filly asked completely lost.
"OH! Is it Nightmare Night already?" Pinkie Pie asked. "Oh wait! This is what you were telling me about Bright Night?"
"Yes Pinkie Pie, it is."
"Pinkie Pie?" I asked.
"Bright Night says I forgot an important promise. But I didn't think you'd come back to the party as scary Alicorns with AJ, so are you going to apologize to Bright Night? Or are we gonna have round two?"
I looked at the pink pegasus filly. I sighed. "I'm sorry, Bright Night." Her reason for being here had nothing to do with an evil scheme to take over Scootaloo's life, and I had attacked her for a bogus reason. I'd already caused enough pain and misery without giving a flying feather, I might as well take one tiny little drop out since I had the option.
"Apology for what?" Apple Bloom asked.
"It's not important anymore, Apple Bloom," she said.
Cheerilee was looking left to right trying to figure out what was going on, looking on the verge of a break down. "Bright Night! Get away from them!"
"Don't worry Miss Cheerilee, they're won't hurt us."
"Pinkie can ya please stand still fer a moment?" AJ asked reluctantly.
"Are ya gonna turn me to stone, a brainwashed zombie, a freaky apple-pony hybrid, or revert me to a former life?"
"Yes on the last one."
"Okay! Should be fun."
"Prepare to be disappointed, sugarcube. It ain't a lie that Ah wish Ah was wakin' yah up tah a better sight," AJ touched Pinkie Pie's head with her horn and cast the memory spell.
Pinkie Pie did what looked like a lifetime of Pinkie Sense twitches in under a minute.
Then she stood perfect at attention. She then got down on all fours and shook her head. "Geeze, you weren't kidding about being disappointed. I was hoping for generation three me. Or Surprise. Or a My Little Horsey toy prototype from Hasbro, that would be new."
"Remember? Ya Pinkie Promised, Pinkie Pie," AJ said.
"Yeah I did. Oh well. Apple Bloom, Bright Night, everypony, sorry but the party is over for now. Thanks for coming." She then stood up, and pulled on the back of her body where there was now a zipper, and upside herself like she was a costume. Out came a darker shade of pink Alicorn, with the colors of her balloon cutie mark inverted. Her eyes were blue and like a dragon's. Her wings and horn looked like crayon drawings. Unlike us who wore barding, she was wearing a party dress with candy shaped jewelry (or jewelry shaped candy knowing Pinkie Pie). She wasn't wearing her clown make up. Her mane looked almost like a foal's rendition who had forgotten to color in the lines.
She neatly folded up her, ugh, 'Pinkie Pie costume.'
Cheerilee looked in dismay and horror.
"Don't worry Cheerilee...I'm most ME ME ME instead! I think! Maybe maybe maybe....Dang. Being, more sane really stinks." Nightmare Granfalloon, the eternal laughter, DIDN'T look like laughing! "..." Out of all of us, Granfalloon had been crazy in a way that made Eclipse run for her money. She looked at Applejack.
"Jackie...I...I thought it was all just a game, I didn't mean to laugh AT all those ponies...I didn't...I wouldn't...I didn't think anypony was really... I thought everything just..." She whimpered. "Am I a bad pony?"
"...You WERE a bad pony...we all were...Now?...The honest truth is it's up tah you…"
Pinkie Pie didn't answer.
Pinkie looked in a mirror. Instead of putting on her clown make up however, she put on some buffalo tribe war paint. Only Pinkie Pie, Nightmare or not.
What is there to say? We were ALL crazy as Eclipse's circle of friends, but that first step? Giving into the monster inside? BECOMING the monster inside? That was our own choice.
"Where's Rarity and Sweetie Belle?" I asked.
"If you think I'm going to tell you anything-" Cheerilee began.
"I suggested to her that she should leave the party early when I got back, considering everything that happened yesterday, and that was a good idea to spend as much time with her big sister today as she could. Since there was no telling when they'd meet again."
"It's okay Miss Cheerilee, they aren't the enemy."
"How can you know that though?! And what they just did to Pinkie Pie!" Cheerilee was even more confused that the Cakes were doing nothing more than continue to pony the counter and kitchen.
"I promise I'll explain everything soon." She looked right at us. "But I you really need to hurry!"
"Do we REALLY need to wake up Rarity too? Can't she just be happy?" Pinkie Pie asked, almost pleading.
"Pinkie, whatever put us here brainwashed Nightmares and took over this place. We'll need all the power we can get," I explained...and I admit, I wish we didn't have to either.
"Bye everypony! Thanks for coming! I hope we get to have some fun later! Oh and help yourselves to whatever you want behind the counter! For the rest of the afternoon, everything is free!"
Cheerilee looked confused when the Cakes didn't give so much as a peep. Then dismayed as her students looked ready to spoil their appetites, but not as much as should have.
"Applejack! WAIT! WHADDYA MEAN YER NOT MAH SISTER?! WHADDYA MEAN THIS AIN'T PONYVILLE?!" Apple Bloom was crying.
Applejack tried to hug Apple Bloom with her wings, and grimaced. Mirrors did not make the most warm and comforting of wings. Applejack FORCED her wing eyes closed to avoid accidentally driving her sister catatonic with things ponies were not meant to know. She hugged her with her hooves and nuzzled her. "Ah wish Ah had time to explain. Ah'm sorry Apple Bloom." With more strength than it should have taken, AJ let go of her.
We didn't bother to watch what happened next. And I didn't bother to see if Bright Night tagged along or not, I think if she was needed, she'd be there.
My sensing lead us straight to Carousel Boutique.
Bright Night was right. Whatever was here had eyes and ears everywhere. We didn't have time to waste.
We all teleported inside Rarity's living room. She and Sweetie were sitting on a couch having cookies and tea (more like sweetened water in Sweetie's case).
Rarity did what you'd expect from a big sister. She pulled Sweetie Belle close to her and assumed a hard style-karate pose that looked self taught. "DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!"
Sweetie Belle yelled and held onto her big sister for dear life.
Three Nightmares with the forms of her friends had just teleported into her living room after all. She was going to fight to the end to protect Sweetie or for a way to get themselves to safety. Protecting her like a dragon would its treasure.
Ya know, I really hated to do this, I really did. This was a cheap way to win. But against the telekinesis of four Nightmares, she didn't stand a chance. She didn't even try to use hers to counter ours. Instead she told Sweetie to run, but Pinkie Pie picked up the filly with her tail and started tickling her.
"Un-tail her you-" That was when Pinkie Pie touched her forehead, and used the memory spell. Eclipse had taught it to ALL of us.
Rarity let out a gasp, her eyes wide in shock, then confusion, realization, followed by shame, and finally, sadness.
"Please let me and Sweetie Belle go," She said.
We did so.
Sweetie was confused by her big sister's change in behavior, enough to take her mind for the moment off of escaping.
"Sweetie Belle." Rarity hugged her. "I am very proud to be your big sister, you're the best little sister I could ever hope for. It would be a shame for anypony to lose a little sister like you." She kissed Sweetie Belle on the forehead. "There are so many things I want to say to you. But...please just know, I am proud of you, I KNOW you'll find your cutie mark sooner than later, and be sure to share your gift with the world, and remember that getting a cutie mark is only the beginning. And that I love you. And I know you love me. Don't spend your life trying to imitate me. Be your own self. And you have a beautiful voice Sweetie Belle. Please let everyone hear it. Don't let anyone steal that from you."
Sweetie Belle looked understandably confused and scared. I have a feeling she was expecting somepony to come and tell her to get to school already, not to have four monsters pop up, cast a spell on her sister, and then for Rarity to spill her heart out. I didn't have it in me to say this Sweetie might had been a child for hundreds of thousands of years (I'd picked the Crusaders early on) and letting her grow up was something a long time coming.
"R-Rarity!? What happened? What happened to your friends? What did they do to you? Are you going to turn into a Nightmare too now?!"
Rarity cried. She nuzzled Sweetie Belle who eyes were brimming, and their tears mixed together. "I'm sorry Sweetie Belle, it's better you don't know. I love you and you're a good filly. Now, big sister is telling you to get RUNNING! Things are going to be dangerous soon and you need to be near friends!" Rarity said, trying not to sound angry. She didn't want this moment to be an unhappy one. "If you love me! Then please!"
With more heaped on her shoulders than any foal should have, Sweetie Belle meekly nodded and ran out the door.
"Goodbye, Sweetie Belle," Rarity said as her tears hit the floor.
Rarity wiped her tears away. She stood up, not even looking at us.
She trotted on her back legs towards a mirror on the wall. She sighed. Growled. Closed her eyes. And slammed her head right into the mirror.
Her face...cracked. Like it a piece of a porcelain doll, a part of her face fell away, just some hard material, no flesh or bone.
She said, "Goodbye, Rarity."
She held held up a hoof to her face. In the cracked mirror, a slit dragon eye looked back.
She turned around, still holding her face, and trotted past us like seeing us was the most normal thing in the world. Like the calm before a storm.
"R-Rarity?" Pinkie Pie asked.
"I don't want to damage the dresses. Please come outside."
She trotted out the door, still trotted on two legs.
We followed outside.
She looked, making sure Sweetie Belle wasn't hiding nearby, and got on all fours, and slammed her face into the ground on a rock at full force. More of her body cracked. She breathed heavily. A pair of membranous wings broke out of her back.
She stood back on two legs and looked at us without a trace of humor or fear on her face, but a nasty seriousness.
She roared in fury and frustration, breathed fire, and with her own strength, shattered her own body.
The pieces fell apart lifeless, and where the white unicorn had stood, was now a green eyed dragon, with dark purple scales with a dark green underbelly. This form held only a moment as green flames erupted around him, and he grew in an adult dragon that was over a thousand years old.
He landed on all fours, making the entire town shake. He was big enough to squash any of us with one claw, oh right, Alicorns, correction, one hand. His body shape and design reminded me of Tiamat, even if he only had one head.
He was clad in gold armor with sapphires. Many of the jewels were as big as a mortal mare. I never really understood why the Nightdrake of Generosity would go around decked out in bling. My first guess (which would be my second and third too) that it was meant to be a welcome gift for whenever he met that particular Rarity that was willing to become Nightmare Charity. It's less blunt than saying engagement gift.
None of us said it. But we had all guessed.
There had never been a Rarity saved for my room.
The Rarities kept refusing to become Nightmare Charity, and Eclipse kept erasing them.
Nightmare Eclipse never allowed us to save other versions of ourselves. She didn't want 'the fakes' 'corrupting' us.
By the time we visited Rarity, we all noticed Spike was missing. There was only one other Element of Generosity we knew personally.
Granfalloon flew up to him. "Hey Spiky! How ya feelin'?"
Hopefully he didn't eat her. I didn't want to listen Pinkie chat about what the inside of a dragon's stomach looks like. I knew that plenty from all the times I've busted out of a dragon's stomach.
"Angry. Robbed. Violated. Want to destroy something," Spike said in a conversational voice. "Eclipse kept trying to turn Rarity into a monster and I didn't even try to stop her. And sad Sweetie Belle's big sister is never coming back to her."
"Spike," AJ asked in a disarm, pleading lose, "Ah know this ain't the best time ta ask, but ya wouldn't happen to remember ANYTHING from after we got six-rounds-rapid loved-and-friendshipped?"
Nightmare Banneret moved his eyes towards her. "All I remember, was somepony saying I could help Sweetie Belle and all of you be happy, and that I'd be with Rarity forever. I remember agreeing, then my memories and form being violated. Then, I woke up, living Rarity's life, in her body, all my memories tell me I was her," Spike said inscrutably.
"Anypony else think it's weird that we don't have ponies screaming and running at the sight of us and Spike?" Applejack asked off handedly.
"Maybe they turned up the happy juice on the real ponies after Cheerilee?" Pinkie Pie suggested.
"Girls! Things are bad when I'm the one who has to keep us on track!" I shouted. "All four of us are awake and we still need to deal with Fluttershy! There's no way they aren't picking up something is wrong by now!"
"What about Twilight?" Nightmare Banneret asked, every bit as concerned as Spike would be.
"I don't think Twilight needs 'dealing', I think she dealt with herself."
"What are you talking about?" Pinkie asked.
"I'll explain later!"
Spike grabbed and held me up to his face.
"Uh, hi Spike?"
"Zecora and I were worried sick when you left without a word this morning!"
"We searched the town and the Everfree for you. Finally, Sweetie Belle used her pout on me and I couldn't tell her no to going to her club's anniversary party and told her everything was fine to not worry her!"
"Sorry, I . . . I wasn't think about you."
"Then we raced to Sweet Apple Acres when we saw your fireworks, but there was nothing there when we arrived! Then it started to rain and against my better judgement, Zecora went home to stock on 'supplies' while I continue my search, and I ran into Sweetie Belle and had to take her home insisted we spend a little time together . . . so tell me Nightmare Manacle, did you just forget about us?"
"I . . . I did." I lowered my head. Yeah, the Nightmare of Loyalty had forgotten my friends. That hurt. A lot.
Not about to risk teleporting we flew towards Fluttershy's. I wasn't thinking clearly. Or maybe I'd have asked the others, or realized we were stirring up the hornet's nest.
"So Spike, uh, what was it like being Rarity?" Pinkie poked.
"Like a dream. I've woken up to a Nightmare. Rarity's gone. And I let Eclipse do it."
Mirror spoke. "You didn't 'let' Eclipse do anything to your Rarity. Rarity made her choice, she was hoping her choice would snap you back to reality."
"I know that, now. And it doesn't change the fact I kept trying to make every Rarity become Nightmare Charity, ignored that I was stealing her from another Spike, and humbly assisted Twilight in destroying the world and her with it over and over," the Nightdrake said in pain. "None of them were static 'recordings' like Eclipse said as she murdered her, every Rarity was real."
"Yep," Mirror answered. "Apple Pie was real, Rarity was real, the Spikes were real, the Twilights were real. Them being fake was just the lie Eclipse used to live with herself."
"At least that last Rarity still has her Spike."
Before Mirror could reply I saw Twilight Sparkle on top of the library, waving at us, her book still under one hoof.
She wasn't scared, confused, or intimidated by us at all.
We landed without a word around her, Spike landed on the ground and leaned his neck down.
"Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Spike, and you too Applejack. It's good to see you." She smiled wistfully. "I only wish I had a way I could have helped you myself. Thank you, Rainbow Dash and…" She bowed her head. "I'm sorry for baiting you so much. I had to play the part of somepony you wanted to prove wrong so it would override your desire to stay in your fantasy, and to wake you up to the clues you were being made to not notice. I'm sorry for acting the way I did. I didn't like it." She bowed lower.
"Stop apologizing so much, it makes you sound like you don't believe what you're saying," I said sincerely.
"Sorry, heh, it just seems like I'm made to play the role of the bad guy whenever somepony needs a challenge to rise to. Nothing like a little competition to bring out a pony's full potential, eh, Rainbow Dash?...And nothing like a game where nopony can lose to keep ponies from improving themselves."
I thought of all the effortless victories I'd had in this place, no real challenge, just empty ego stroking.
"Rainbow Dash what is going on?" Spike asked.
"I think we missed half the story." Pinkie added.
"I think we all agreed we didn't have time for story storytime," AJ reminded us.
"Oh yeah, we gotta wake up Fluttershy next!" Pinkie Pie said.
"That may not be your best move," Twilight said.
"I know," I said.
"Why? OH! They'll have realized what's up and set up a trap with Fluttershy as bait! Those big meanies!" Pinkie Pie declared.
"I'm afraid there is something I do need to apologize for. I don't care if it was necessary or not." Twilight standing up on her rear hooves, putting them v-shape across her stomach and bowed her head. "I'm not lying when I'm your friend, though I know Applejack the least....But I'm afraid Twilight Sparkle was never here, and she isn't standing before you now."
I thought I'd be the only one not to gasp when she said that. AJ didn't flinch either, oh right, eyes of truth. AJ must have known the moment she saw her. Why didn't she say anything? Maybe she'd been waiting for her to say it.
Pinkie Pie and the Nightdrake gasped in shock. I swear I heard their hearts crack a little. Mine and AJ's already had.
"I'm a relative and a dear friend of hers, and I'm here because it's what she'd want. I was sent here to rescue the innocent ponies trapped in this false Ponyville. I came here because you're my friends too." She didn't look ready to defend herself at all.
"Then where is Twilight?!" Spike demanded. Pinkie Pie painted a blue tear on her face.
"I don't know where she is right now, or I'd tell you. Please just know she'd be here to help if she could but...it took so long to find you. It took so long for us just to get inside. And she still loves all of you, and she does apologize for everything she did to you as Nightmare Eclipse and just wanted to make up for it a little."
"I forgive her," Spike said.
"I forgive her too," Pinkie Pie said placing a hoof over her heart. AJ said nothing. "But what about the Twilight who was here before you got here?"
"There was no Twilight here before, it was a puppet, just wood, string, and illusion magic, it was never Twilight," I said.
The others shuddered in pain that wasn't physical.
"Ah'm the one supposed ta give blunt truths remember sugar?"
"So sue me."
"So Rainbow Dash...have you figure out the whole truth yet? Yes, yes, yes?"
"One question, weren't you worried the pin was gonna be swiped and I'd get my memories rewritten again?"
"I actually put a perception filter on the pin so nopony would notice it unless it was pointed out to them, compliments from Time Turner."
Pinkie Pie and Spike blinked. "What pin? Oh, that one."
"For starters, there's no way in Tartarus you're behind this. You've done nothing but keep me on the right track this entire time. No jailer is that crazy, and you don't watch somepony squirm by helping them every step of the way."
"And I know whose behind this. Not Heaven, Hell, Nothingness, Limbo, or Purgatory? But something I built myself? The moment I recovered my memories, I knew there could be only one answer. It's-"
"Rainbow Dash!" Our favorite yellow pegasus shouted as she fluttered onto the top of the house tree. "Applejack! Pinkie Pie! Oh! And Spike! It's been forever since I've seen you! How have you been? I hope you've been getting enough rest!"
Pinkie Pie waved her hooves. "Fluttershy, don't be scared. We're still us! And I don't mean evil or brainwashed us'! Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!"
"Don't worry, Pinkie Pie, I know it's you, even if your bodies are twisted by black magic I know it's still you inside." She smiled, not cowering in fear of us, only showing love.
"Okay," Pinkie Pie smiled back, "Spike could you do the honors? I'm really really REALLY sorry about this Fluttershy but Dashie said we need all the help we can get to save everypony from these big meanies who have everypony under mind control! I mean, how cliche can you get right?"
"I'm not scared. Let's touch minds. If it means protecting my friends from hurt, being a Nightmare can't be that bad."
Applejack looked at me. Twilight stayed perfectly silent and still.
I sighed. It was time to end this performance. Part of me wanted it to go on a little longer, but the rest of me was just tired of this.
"Don't bother, please, guys." I sighed again. "I know who did this to us. But I wasn't sure how to confess it. I didn't want to believe it. After everything. I didn't want it to be true. I really didn't....Guys I'm sorry. Since this was my place, I should have known."
Eyes turned towards me.
"Dashie what are you saying?" Pinkie Pie's lip trembled.
I think I also didn't want to hurt you more than you'd already been Pinkie, in case I was wrong. But I wasn't."
I looked down at myself in one of the library's windows. "I knew even before I got my memories back that it had to be one of us." Fluttershy, Pinkie and Spike gasp, AJ and Twilight look down sadly.
I continued. "Only a Nightmare would have done this 'erase memories, trap them in their own world like pets 'for their own good.' I wanted to tell myself it had to be a DIFFERENT Nightmare, maybe a delusional friend, but what friends did we have left?"
Twilight put a hoof over her heart.
I listed off,
"This is all one big lie: it's something Applejack, Nightmare Mirror, would have never done.
"Everything is too focused on me to be Spike since if it was him, it would be a perfect place where everypony had everything they wanted, or at least a paradise for Rarity and Sweetie Belle.
"This place is missing WAY TOO MANY details to ever be run by Twilight Sparkle.
"The adventures we've had just aren't imaginative enough to be Pinkie Pie, and the puppets wouldn't be following such shallow and predictable routines. No show of Pinkie Pie's is PREDICTABLE!"
"It would have Minty too," Pinkie Pie said.
"And Pinkie Pie, wouldn't have fought so hard to STOP me from attacking Bright Night, since everything here has been about me doing whatever I want and it always being right."
"You attacked Bright Night?!" Spike asked stunned.
"I thought she was a pod pony!"
"Oh. Is she-"
"She's fine Spike."
"Fluttershy, this was my pocket domain. Who else had the keys?...But then it really hit me. The pony who hates me more than anypony, is me! There's no bucking way I'd create a fantasy world I'm always the hero and everything is great because of me! I built this place to have everypony get along fine and great WITHOUT ME! I was the most insignificant pony in the background alive when I rested in here!"
"You shouldn't do that to yourself, Rainbow Dash," Fluttershy said.
"It's never stopped you Fluttershy. I recognized the magic signature of the drinking geass on Applejack. And there was only one other pony I gave the keys to my room to! AND! I was at your house when we were having tea and I didn't find anything wrong with it. I. Don't. Like. Tea!"
It clicks in everypony's mind present and they all look at Fluttershy, who takes a trot back.
"Yer still 'kidnappin' Philomena,' Fluttershy, please just stop," Mirror said.
"Discord must be doing this to us!"
"Somethin' THIS orderly ain't his style, sorry sugah," AJ said.
"This is just our version of paradise! We must have all died!"
"We wouldn't be in heaven," I said.
"This isn't her idea of love, or revenge," the Nightdrake said.
"He wouldn't have done this half-flank a job," I said. I'd captured his TARDIS with my chains enough times.
We all closed in around her.
"Please! We're all happy here! Let me reset your memories and everything can be okay again!" She begged us.
"No!" We all threw back.
Fluttershy's eyes became draconic, and the all-mighty stare was struck down upon us. Be they dragon, changeling, Discord is the only entity I've EVER seen outright immune to Fluttershy's power.
"I'm sorry, but I can't let you hurt yourselves."
We were all bad bad fillies. We should be doing what Mama Fluttershy wants. Bad fillies. Bad. Listen to your mother. You-
The Cruelest of Truth resisted the Kindest of Lies just enough to fling a reflective wing in front of herself.
Fluttershy gasps in surprise, not in shock or pain, then Fluttershy turns to fog before our eyes and dissolves.
"Fluttershy?" Pinkie Pie whispered horrified.
"It was one of her constructs! She must have been in the driver's seat this whole time!" Mirror shouted. "Since it wasn't her real body, it couldn't handle the stare being thrown back at it."
"So that wouldn't work on the real Fluttershy?"
"Slow her down, cut her off, but it wouldn't stop her," I said.
"Should've known it would be that easy," Twilight sighed.
"Don't you have 'turn ponies' spines to goo' vision too?" Spike asked.
"...In straight-up eye-to-eye, hers trumps mine."
"...Ah can't beat her with mine. We're meant to TEMPER each other. But when one of us...well, carries so much guilt on her shoulders she figures she deserves Hell and the other is...well, Fluttershy, the Stare has the upperhoof."
"TERRIFIC!" The Nightdrake roared in frustration. This reminded him of an O&O game where he took the sword from fallen ogre and it 'mysterious broke' when he tried to use it himself.
"FLUTTERSHY! LISTEN TO AUNTIE PINKIE PIE! NIGHTMARE TWILIGHT IS GONE! THE ELEMENTS WOULD HAVE MADE HER GOOD AGAIN! LET'S JUST STOP ALL THIS! THEN WE CAN START HELPING PONIES!" Pinkie Pie yelled into a giant megaphone, making several real ponies in the streets below cover their poor ears. "I'LL MAKE CAKE!"
"If she's gone to this much trouble, sugarcube, then a few words like that isn't going to change her mind. When a ponies' beliefs are challenge, they become even more zealous, not less, that goes double for Nightmares."