Oh, and one more thing happened I think I should note…
"Nice?" asked Fluttershy's Scootaloo, sneaky little filly had been listening in the whole time. Which was actually pretty impressive, considering the number of ponies she'd had to fool.
She gave her a big hug. "...I know we never met during our loop and if we did…but I'd still like to be your friend…"
"But I...we were…"
Her Scoots took a nasty bump during that fight. "...I don't care. If every other Scoots want to help the ponies from their loop, then why shouldn't I?"
So yeah, turned out Nice had more ponies that cared about her than she thought..
The big fat sense of 'so now what do we do?' only mostly vanished.
I mean, I was gonna become a goddess along with my friends of a new universe we were gonna build with our own hooves. I finally buried the hatchet with Discord once and for all. You think that would be a pretty sweet deal. But...
I'd... I'd never become a member of the Wonderbolts. Kinda dumb I know to think about that now, but- okay, let me explain this.
I was busy saving the world last time I was Rainbow Dash, then Rainbow Dash having cookie-cutter adventures... now I was Rainbow Dash that could stop and think and it hit me. That dream, that vision I'd put so much into before Discord ruined the world, poof.
I spent so long in Fluttershy's fantasy thinking how'd I'd be the greatest Wonderbolt ever, and here I was again, that dream would never come true. I didn't even get to have a fantasy of being one.
No, it was worse than that….that vision and all my effort? It technically never happened...and it was all my fault. Don't talk me out of this one. I was the one who gave up my timeline by taking Eclipse's deal...my entire life and only me and Scootaloo #1 are the only survivors...now I know how Pinkie felt.
I wasn't about to rush to Spitfire and demand she make me an honorary Wonderbolt, I'm not that pathetic. That and where would it go from there? I couldn't exactly have a career now. It'd be just an empty title. It was just another sad reminder of things I wouldn't be getting back. At least I can call Spitfire my friend now.
And there was a dark feeling in the pit of my gut that wouldn't go away whenever I thought of Twilight. And I was just thinking of Twilight often.
"Butterflies in your stomach?" Sweetheart had asked as she and Bon Bon did their regular visit. "You… you can ask any time you know."
"Nah," I told her. "Just... I dunno. It'd been so long since I've seen her, y'know? Maybe I just want the dust to settle once and for all before kicking up a new storm."
Between therapy sessions, none of us knew what we were supposed to be doing with ourselves.
Zecora refused to leave the fake Ponyville and sleep like the others, insisting she'd stay until our initial business there was done (when we'd take the step to become concepts).
The Scootaloos, meanwhile, were all judged on a case-by-case basis. I didn't like it. I didn't like it at all. There was no easy solution here. And there wasn't a perfect one either. 171,015 fillies, and deep down, my only regret for them is that I wasn't able to save more.
Fluttershy, hearing what the angels were planning, dug up her old puppets and began reconfiguring them so they could hold lights of existence. Discord's magic would then turn them into flesh and blood ponies.
It was cheating, I knew. Every light of existence was meant to experience the world from the ground up, and here they were being used like batteries for custom ponies to replace those who no longer even existed.
Bright Eyes explained, "Their pasts are still going to be their own choices." Then she went into a 'time double reverse forward' thingie, time-space magic had been Nightmare Eclipse's thing, not mine. Otherwise I'd be explaining all this to a mortal psychologist somewhere.
Razzaroo had a different take on it. "You were my Rainbow Dash's light...was your life any less valid because you had her Light of Existence? Or that you have Firefly's Shadow?"
I guess that made it hard to argue. And yes, it was a bit shocking to learn half of me was bucking General Firefly the First.
The Scootaloos had been with Razzaroo at the schoolhouse when we had our meeting with Starlight's herd. I guess they chose that spot out of nostalgia. That and Cheerilee's Scoots wanted to make sure the place would be clean for her to come back to.
"You ever feel distressed or uncomfortable looking at all of them?" Sweetheart asked.
"No. Because I didn't see the same filly 171,015 times over, I saw an individual filly in each face."
However, we'd forgotten one thing. 171,015 Scootaloos were 171,015 fillies, and they had the energy to match. So they got bored really quick.
And apparently Scootaloo #171,000 (who'd ended up with the Wonderbolts in her loop (I convinced Nightmare Eclipse to let me arrange them to be purified in some loops) and was from the same line as Soarin') decided to organize a race.
Pinkie and Razzaroo suggested they turn it into a triathlon party or something. I wonder if any of them knew why they enjoyed it so much.
While they were all the same pony from different iterations of the same universe, they'd still differed from each other enough that different ones won different events. No pony minded, they were just happy to have something to do.
Yeah, I'd call all those Scootaloos awesome. Though coming up with that many events was not easy I tell you that.
Then Sweetheart asked Melody to hold a solo concert for the swarm.
"But I don't have my bandmates, or an electric guitar!"
Sweetheart gave her that Fluttershy like look. "I'm sure you can manage."
Melody used her sword's power to amplify her voice for the crowd. Her singing voice was if Rarity had been into rock and roll. The fillies loved it.
For the last bit of it, she 'invited' me to play guitar (and by invite, I mean 'showed me the Scootaloos giving me puppydog eyes'). What? You though I didn't really know how?
Melody was exhausted by the end, but smiling.
...ugh, and now to the dark stuff. Seriously, I wish this whole thing had been sunshine and rainbows.
What was REALLY creepy was my imitation Ponyville and Cloudsdale, so many ponies no longer in it, it was hollow husk. And we were gonna use it to build a real home for refugees. It wasn't our home anymore.
I'll admit, I spent most of my time resting in my cloudhouse between sessions. Letting it drifts where it would over the fake Ponyville.
Didn't stop Pinkie Pie from visiting, or Applejack, or Fluttershy, or Spike, or Razzaroo, or any of them really.
My dreams were a lot more mundane and weird now... almost 'mortal,' if you will. I never once ran into Princess Luna. Yes, I did have a few nightmares, but not as many as I expected.
At least I knew the Scootaloos weren't going to be just shipped off to the afterlife. And... after what Patch did, I realized there was no way Starlight and her friends would have done that anyway.
"What you do mean dear?" Sweetheart task.
"After seeing how Patch reacted to Flutternice's bad mouthing... it hit me. You're ponies. You're not some aloof creatures from beyond. You have hearts. You're friends."
Sweetheart had nuzzled me. "Thank you for seeing that."
So yeah, after the bomb got dropped on Flutternice, her family and her Scootaloo took her home, along with most of my friends and Starlight's.
Both of us stayed behind.
"So... " I asked awkwardly. "Because you made one mistake, your entire world paid for it?"
We sat down at one of the dusty Sugar Cube corner tables, munching on leftover cake and cider. Yes, hard cider, but considering one of us was an angel and the other was a Nightmare, we didn't have to worry about getting drunk unless we drank a cider store.
She nodded. "It wasn't just my world. It was Pinkie Pie's world. During my trial, the defense argued that Bright Eyes and the others involved in the project didn't spot it either. But the prosecution said that just because others fell short it was no excuse that I did too."
"You meant the absolute best of intentions," I said, "You were gonna fix the world. You were gonna save everypony. But at the big moment, it all went boom. And a million years later, it STILL hasn't magically gone away."
"It never does," She replied. "They tell you to move on. But you keep clutching to it, because you don't want to be dismissive of those who suffered because of you."
"But because you have friends who won't give up on you, no matter how hard you try, you realize sitting on your flank whining about it all day is only making your friends more miserable."
"Even if the pain won't ever really go away-"
"-you have to live with it."
"Or be with it in our case."
"But you still have friends that won't ever abandon you. That are true to you. That love you. That are shouldering their own pain, but are still willing to help you through yours."
"And you can shout and accuse all you want at the world for it letting it go that far-"
"-but you're responsible for your own life."
"So you do the best you can with what you got-"
"-even if it's just a few drops in a bucket of blood."
"The point isn't to 'balance' it all out like a checkbook. You... just want to help."
"Even if you're worried you'll just hurt others again?"
"You gotta try anyway, or you might as well just sit down and stop existing."
"And then there's your friends. As long as they're around, you won't give up for anything."
"Even if all the world becomes your enemy, calls you a monster, they'll still stand up for you."
"And loyalty like that should BE repaid."
We sat in silence, just letting our thoughts run through our minds a bit.
Then something occurred to me. "...Hey...do you know...you know, who I was in your world? Before I became the original Rainbow Dash?"
"I do, but ... do you think it matters?"
I blinked. "Huh?"
"...You weren't some big hotshot. You weren't one of my friends...Even if that you was a no pony, would you still want to know?"
I stopped for a minute and let me really think that little bit of trivia over. "...Saying somepony was a no pony was Nightmare Eclipse's excuse. And the last thing I ever want to be is another Nightmare Eclipse."
Starlight smiled. "That's the answer I was looking for."
I'll save you the long winded story. Like Starlight said, I wasn't anypony big or important, in fact I probably couldn't tell you one of my descendents...I wasn't like Sweetheart and remembered as a saint. I got left out of the folklore and history books: a dear member of my family made it though. But Starlight remembered, the concepts remembered...and now so did I. And that was better than them just being a 'prop.'
After that, we just sat there, thinking about everything we'd talked about, Starlight thinking about her side of it until she said.
"Pinkie Pie sure makes really good cakes doesn't she?"
Oh, and I asked her for that list of deaths she'd showed me earlier...I realized that even Discord had taken the time to memorize his victims since he saw the error of his ways, so it was the least I could do to do the same.
Oh, and one little thing. Patch also invited me to play a few video games. Of course I didn't say no.
"Just one question," I asked, breaking the sacred rule of playing video games with somepony. "Why?"
"Sweetheart told me I should get to know you girls better after I gave Flutter-Not-So-Nice that smacking and told me to start with you. And you don't seem like the dancercise kind of girl, and there's nowhere to really dangerous explore around here. And pranks don't seem the way to go in a place like this. So, video games."
I suddenly saw Patch a tiny bit more as a fellow. "I don't really mind pranks myself. But given our limited pool of targets, I'd rather not accidentally declare a prank war against 171,015 fillies legendary for infinitely creative ways of causing trouble."
"And I'd rather not declare prank war against five Nightmares with magic powers. And I have a Sis-Tail Promise with my friends not to prank them ever again. Video games it is then."
She brought her own system and games, I had never heard of the system or the titles (or the TV she used, those hadn't even been INVENTED before Discord's take over), but I recognized the genres and the controls weren't that hard to figure out. It was kinda stunning seeing those 'sticky hooves' in action playing video games, I had to use telekinesis to press the buttons they were so close together.
Of course, since she knew all the combos and had this video game for who knows how long, she kept kicking my flank. "If this was one of my video games I'd be kicking YOUR flank," I said.
"But this is neither here nor there." She grinned.
"Oooh! I remember this! Can I play?"
"I don't really feel comfortable playing with an imaginary friend," Patch said.
"Now who sounds scared of having their flank kicked?" I grinned.
"Uh, it's only two player."
"No it isn't! It's up to eight player! See? There in the corner."
"I didn't bring any extra controllers!"
"Good thing I keep extra controllers around town of every possible console ever made, and some that were purely hypothetical in subspace pockets in case of emergencies."
I grinned ear to ear. It lasted until Pinkie Pie began kicking my flank as hard as she was kicking Patch's.
Also, some of the Scootaloos were drawn in to the sound of video games, and wanted to jump in and play too, on rotation. Since we had eight players possible Pinkie Pie said yes to them before we could stop her which lead to (besides being VERY tired and taking game advice from my Wonderbolts action figures near the end)…
"Hey...did you notice something?" Scootaloo #1992 asked.
"We both have orange fur and similar colored manes, and are both tom colts…"
Patch stared at her for a moment. "...I hadn't noticed that...and my husband did have blue hair so mix our colors and...Does weird stuff follow you around like a plague?"
"I'm a Cutie Mark Crusader, we ran into a giant squid in a lake and got mixed into rainbow colored taffy! And that's actually kind of tame...oh, and there are over 100,000 of me running around so...yeah."
"...I think I need to check with Bon Bon's records..."
Spike, AJ, and the others would eventually join in, and we had a video game tournament of sorts... it was one of the few times which, without mind control involved, we were able to forget our situation and just be friends hanging out again.
But for now let back to something that I REALLY should have mentioned before.
"Rainbow Dash," Razzaroo came to me. Normally she was hanging out at the imitation Golden Oaks. She looked sad.
This actually took place a bit BEFORE she told me how alike we really were.
I told you our notes got scrambled. This is what happens when it takes you so long to get anything together and then you go back and realize you missed some big parts.
It's also what happens when you say 'mount this, I'm outta here' and go sit on an asteroid for however how long. The world doesn't stop for you. The story just goes on.
Starlight Angel and her friends and Zecora had set up shop at Applejack's farm house while I'd been gone to 'review' the Scootaloos' and how to handle each one. The Scootaloo Alliance Army of Awesome was hanging out in the orchard, eating apples, chatting with each other, none of them having exactly the same expression. Applejack wasn't objecting. The Scootaloo army coming in and out of the barn and the clubhouse one at a time.
"I was going to tell the moment your meeting with Starlight and her friends was over but . . . you just hid yourself away before I could. I felt you'd want to hear this before you found out on your own."
"You're not going to make me find out on my own?" I almost said, then stopped.
"While at the schoolhouse... the Scootaloos all told me to make them remember in their minds what their souls already remembered."
My heart shook.
"You did it didn't you?"
"And I don't like myself one bit for it," she said sternly, her eyes narrow.
"You could have said 'no' to them."
"Could you have said 'no to them?"
"... No I couldn't." I sighed.
"I asked them to wait until the meeting was over so you'd be there for them but... "
"But I flipped out at seeing Discord, and left without even a good-bye to them." I sighed.
"At that point they thought I was making excuses and demanded I do it on the spot. It was to make sure they made an informed decision knowing everything it entails during their talks with Starlight's herd. I Swear Rainbow Dash, this wasn't a conspiracy."
"If it was, you wouldn't have told me," I said.
"I was scared, when they remembered, that they'd hate you. That you'd want to spend one last day with them. That you'd lose your chance to say goodbye to the innocent Scootaloos."
"But... they don't hate me," I pointed out. "They ALL must've known who I was.... WHAT I was already in their souls. Scootaloo is like me. She trusts her feelings. And she'd have not helped me if that what she'd truly felt. They still all fought for me... with me... All of them."
Yes I had been the one to say that this time. I'm stubborn, but I wasn't that thick headed.
"I'm sorry Rainbow Dash, I really am. I didn't mean to doubt you. I was scared. Scootaloo is my friend too! Whether she remembers or not. I never even got the chance to say goodbye to her when my world ended! I didn't want that to happen to you too. All I want is for her to be happy and alive and for each of them to not have to endure remembering that horrible world... I guess I was just being over cautious."
"You always intend well," I stated, filling up a glass with apple juice. "It's a shame you don't just make a whole separate universe for each one of them."
"Say, that's a super-swell idea, Rainbow Dash!" Razzaroo told me with a bright smile. "And we'll put you personally in charge of all of them!"
She'd timed it perfectly for me to do a spit-take.
"Joking aside," she continued, as I choked on apple juice. "I asked that before. And we're bending the rules as it is. We're making a single new universe for all the ponies in your Ponyville because they've bonded in the time they've been here. And...creating so many new universes for just one foal? It's disrespectful to the inhabitants of that universe."
"And it isn't to the ones of the new universe you're going to be making?" I asked, after clearing my throat properly.
"We don't have a perfect solution. When a pony is erased, only their shadow goes to Oblivion, their light returns to Fauna Luster and is sent back into the universe as a new life. We'd be DESTROYING souls if we tried to remake the universes all these ponies individually came from."
"I thought there wasn't a 'law of conservation of souls' or something like that? Wasn't that how the last Twilight Sparkle kicked Nightmare Eclipse's flank?"
"I was the first one to ask about that. Just THIS many Scootaloos all born from the same Light of Existence is already stretching that law really thin."
"How does that work?"
She looked like somepony trying to explain the color blue to a blind pony.
"Sorry, I'm not a concept, or an angel, neither is Twinkle Wish, it's hard to explain when even I don't understand it completely yet. But...You remember how the last cycle's Twilight Sparkle and Minty Pie nearly fused together?"
"That was a pony that was born from the Light of a pony meeting the one born from their Shadow. For lack of a better term, that was the universe's 'base code' being confused. That's a gross oversimplification but if anypony understands how complicated this can be it's you. That was a glitch in the fabric of reality more or less, that wasn't supposed to happen and doesn't happen every time. Or Bright Eyes would currently be fusing with Fluttershy and Sweet Heart with Applejack."
"I think I get it...wait, what?!"
"Long story! In that case, actually, Rota made sure it wouldn't be fixed because...well, in some lines it would be vital to defeating Nightmare Eclipse. Now, when a timeline splits, the lights are subtly different, like...remolds of the same doll, so to speak...that wouldn't be the case with this. If we tried making multiple universes all with exact replicas of their Lights of Existence, and ponies with the same Lights as the ones in this world...their UNIVERSES would try to do what Minty and Twilight almost did. The fabric of reality is already 'overheating' so to speak, trying to keep the Scootaloos from all merging together into some giant...Scootaloo...Legion...thing."
"Oh boy," I gulped. Nightmare Eclipse had shared notes with us on Nightmare Legion, the big THING that Entropy had forged from Her Shadows for the war with the alicorns, so I had some idea what that would be like...it took a lot of willpower not to have a panic attack imagining one made entirely of Scoots.
"If I kept saving Scootaloos?"
"They were OUTSIDE of time in your domain, they were in no danger. 'Mass' isn't the true issue, think of it how some ponies use the word 'many' for anything higher than a number they know. Reality feels there are 'many' Scootaloos."
"We aren't forcing the ponies of this Ponyville to consciously remember what their souls already do because we have the power to let them go on with their lives from when you 'collected' them as...as the thing that was a mockery of my little sister was destroying the universe each time. Scootaloo, all of her, each of her: I...could you erase her memories of taking part in battle with Nightmare Whisper? Of proving to creation that yes, she is real, she is alive, her choices matter?"
"...No, I couldn't."
"Each Scootaloo is going to be free to choose what she wants to become of herself, and they're free to discuss it among themselves. And like you said, they all still love you. They all forgive you. 171,015 worldlines, and out all of that, they all chose to love you and forgive you of their own free will. Think about that."
"...Thank you, Razzaroo. If their heart already remembered, what made you think their heads remembering was going to make a difference?"
"You have a point," she smiled.
I really should've paid attention to those discussions Nightmare Eclipse had about Pinkie Pie's old universe (we were together for millions of years, you think Pinkie Pie wouldn't share what she knew? Which wasn't everything.).
"Rainbow Dash!" One of Starlight's friends flew right in. The one who was Minty's previous incarnation, and Twilight's.
"The Scootaloos from their friends worlds. They...they all said they were going to..." She panted. She then told me we had a special guest to do a special service for 'Scootaloo from Sweetie Belle's world' and 'Scootaloo from Apple Bloom's'.
"Razzaroo..." I started.
"I SWEAR I had no clue about this!" Razzaroo growled, grabbed me, and teleported all three of us straight to Sweet Apple Acres, she'd been studying.
The Scootaloos who had been mostly watching their clubhouse somberly or looking the other way gasped a huge collective gasp when we teleported in.
I zoomed straight into the Clubhouse.
I saw the mare speaking with the two orange fillies.
Nightmare Eclipse had us all read long and boring profiles on the Alicorns and Draconequi from what she had learned from her trips through the worldlines. Pinkie Pie called them 'spoiler-tastic.'
Naturally, Nightmare Eclipse being Nightmare Eclipse, those profile has a lot of biased content, but also being Twilight Sparkle, she presented all the cold hard facts before going into her 'conclusions.'
I'd never seen the Alicorn speaking to them in person before but I knew this was Venus: the concept of love. I admit...while at the time I was distracted by being worried, I felt...warm just being near her. Eew! No, not THAT kind of warm. I mean like when your mom hugs you or when a friend hugs you or...well, anyone you care about does. She just felt like that feeling.
And she wasn't standing over the two Scootaloos like a god, she was laying down so she was on their level, like a mother would when she's talking to a kid.
A third Scootaloo stood behind them, but didn't seem directly involved. Cheerilee's Scootaloo.
"My Little Ponies, You do realize the three of you are going to give up something to the other for this, correct?" Venus asked. "...That all of you forfeit something to others?"
The three nodded.
"You all know exactly what you're giving up?"
"And this cannot be undone once done?"
They nodded again.
"Scootaloo!" I completely ignored the goddess in the room. In retrospect, considering Venus was the Goddess of the power sources behind several of Equestria's 'do not under any circumstances buck with this' magical objects, I probably should've been a tad more careful, but she seemed to take it well.
"Oh." "Hi, Dash." "Nice cosmic weather we're having, huh?"
"Why didn't you tell me?!"
"I hoped...you wouldn't notice us missing." "I didn't, I didn't want you have to watch." "I just wanted it over with."
"I don't...do you have any idea…"
Apple Bloom's Scootaloo spoke, I could tell Scootaloo's entire herd apart as easily from night from day. "I'm giving up my wings and...and being your apprentice...to be Cheerilee's little sister."
"...How can you do that and still be okay with this?"
"...Because I still want to be a Crusader."
"And so do I," said the Sweetie's.
"You can both be without...without one of you…" I shuddered. She...she was talking about giving up her wings...she was… "Mutilating yourself!"
"Being an Earth Pony is that awful?" Cheerilee's Scootaloo asked.
"That's not what I meant Squirt!"
"I can be a another Sweetie Belle's Scootaloo," Sweetie's Scootaloo said.
"And I can be another Applebloom's Scootaloo," Applebloom's.
"But we can't both be ours," they both said.
I took a trot back.
"We took a vote Dash, all 171,015 of us. This is what we want. We want Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle both to be with their Scootaloo."
"But...why like this?"
"Because we were Cheerilee's sister, Rainbow," said Applebloom's Scootaloo. "In Pinkie's world...in the world that wasn't...this way...we're still ourselves we're just…" she looked like she was trying to find the right words. "We're just importing an old save from the previous game."
"Y-you can be identical twins! You don't have to do this!"
"...Yes we do Dash...I'm Scootaloo." "And I'm Scootaloo." Said Applebloom's and Sweetie's.
"How are we supposed to decide which of us is Scootaloo and the other the 'twin sister?' Flip a coin? In the order we were taken?"
I tried to think but nothing came out of my mouth.
"...There's only one way we can both be Scootaloo in this world, Rainbow Dash," said Applebloom's. "If we're twins, we have to pick which one of us is the original Scootaloo and which is getting a completely different life...but if we started out as strangers…"
"Then it's just a coincidence we have the same name," Sweetie's finished. "We're both Scootaloo, we're both somepony our souls and theirs remember as Scootaloo...and we can both be the Cutie Mark Crusaders, we'll just have four members instead of three."
I swear I could hear Fate grinding her teeth at that last part. And Ponyville's insurance premiums taking a jump.
"But...one of you...why can't she have a pegasus sister?" I grasped at straws.
"Because Cheerilee's family has no pegasi in it," Venus of all ponies said. "And to force one into it? It'd either be an act of lust, or a forced love solely for the sake of allowing Scootaloo to be a pegasus. And neither of those acts am I permitting...I care about these ponies as greatly as you do, Rainbow Dash, but I have my rules, rules I will not break."
Venus shot me a glare that made my heart skip a beat. "Do you desire for one of Cheerilee's family to be violated? Or for one of them to experience a marriage that can only bring them suffering and part two ponies who might actually live long happy marriages? I do not."
"...No…" I finally admitted. "...But...Scootaloo...I…"
Cheerilee's Scootaloo looked at me. "...You think I don't want that spot too, Rainbow Dash?"
I blinked, looking at the little pegasus. "...Scootaloo…"
"I...that's my Cheerilee," she said. "...I'd give up these wings in a heartbeat to be her sister...but…" she looked to the other two. "...Cheerilee getting a sister is an open slot, only one of us can fill it. We all agreed ahead of time we wouldn't be overcrowding Equestria with identical sisters.
"And if I took it, that'd just be to make me happy, right? If she takes it, it's to make Applebloom happy...And a Scootaloo is always loyal to her friends and puts them before herself, right?"
Couldn't argue with that logic. In fact I was proud of it.
"...Scootaloo...are you sure you're okay never flying again?" I asked Applebloom's.
"I'm okay with being with my Applebloom. And that's more important to me than my wings."
"...Are you okay with...with…" I started crying. "With...not being...not being my…"
It wasn't that I was worried for her...I was worried for me.
Applebloom's Scootaloo hugged me instead. "...I'll always be your friend, we were friends when you dressed with style, we'll be friends when I don't have wings...we might not be AS good of friends, but...I'm sure Scootaloo will still start a fanclub, and I'll be lining up for my rainbow wig."
"You got that right Scootaloo!" said Sweetie Belle's.
I admit, I smiled at that. "...Well then, Darlings, I won't stop you…" I don't care how weird that sounds.
Group hug followed.
"Alright then," said Venus, stepping forwards. "...As an act of your love...from this moment forth, you, Scootaloo will be Scootaloo Punch, youngest sister of Cheerilee and Berry Punch. And you, Scootaloo shall be the friend of the Crusaders and apprentice to Rainbow Dash. Let your love make it so."
She touched her horn to Applebloom's Scootaloo's head and she transformed. Her wings...I forced myself to watch. They didn't just get lopped off in a gory display, they didn't shrivel up into dust. They simply glowed white and receded into her. Her body type changed a little bit, becoming less lightly built and more muscular, like an Earth Pony. Her mane style changed, becoming a ponytail.
Razzaroo had come up behind me overheard, and after giving me another hug, Scootaloo Punch came over to her. Since she 'reverted to a previous save' so to speak, I think she thought what came next made sense: namely hugging Razz and telling her she wished they'd gotten to say goodbye.
Razaroo broke down in tears hugging her.
You can imagine Pinkie's reaction when she found out.
Cheerilee's Scootaloo told her that she needed to promise her she would be the best little sister ever for Cheerilee, for her sake. I don't think anyone doubted that's exactly what would happen.
Me?...Well, let's just say seeing Scootaloo do that...it made me realize one thing: if they were willing to do this for their friends...I should be willing to sacrifice a little for them to make sure they're happy.
"So long to the flight and omni-elemental powers, and welcome back to the super-strength and life-sense club Scootaloo. . ." Pinkie Pie had said later, but for once didn't offer to throw a party.
Oh, and Pinkie was also the one to point out that Ruby Pinch now had an aunt her own age, Scoots was happy about that...I was kinda scared since that meant the Crusaders might pick up a fifth member. On the bright side, Melody pointed out that Berry Punch having a baby sister that looked up to her on top of a daughter might help her overcome a certain habit.
Outside, 171,012 little fillies were waiting to give the earth pony filly a hug too. And a 'congratulations' to the crowned 'Scootaloo' who'd take the throne of being Scoots in the new world and have Scootaloo's original life.
Then a congratulations for the other Scootaloo that would be Cheerilee's sister. What? Like Applebloom's Scootaloo said, neither was any less a Scootaloo than the other.
Venus looked to me. "...I know how painful that must have been," she told me... sounding a lot like Celestia would to ponies. "But know this: Cheerilee's bond of love with her will be strong, both of them will be happy...that much I can feel. And Scootaloo, both of them, will have a new bond of friendship."
"...Why do you care? You've done your job."
"I am Love. Mother may be the Perfect Empathy...but I'm still everypony's love."
"Including that Pegasus you killed?...Uh...sorry." Nightmare Eclipse's exposition had that marked in red.
She didn't snap, she didn't bring down the thunder and lightning, she didn't get into a tirade about judgement, she just, sighed sadly.
"…That filly had no love in her heart, literally. She murdered my son without regret, and would have done the same to me. She was shown the damage she caused, and felt no repentance. ...Rancor told a half truth when she destroyed that Spear, we'd actually been planning to destroy it from the moment that we got it...because in that moment when my son died, so did more relationships than you can imagine."
"I can imagine quite high."
"And with them, so many ponies went to oblivion...second only to the number this tragedy has caused..."
"More than Pinkie Pie's world?"
"Yes. Because Star Catcher was the only child born in that world, the population hadn't changed other than a few accidental deaths. When Cupid and his concept was erased...all those who were alive because of it and him were erased with him, past, present, and future."
She didn't explain it like she was defending deleting Pinkie's world, if anything the look on her face made me want to hug her.
"...When I struck her down, I acted not just in rage at my son's death...but in rage for all those she carelessly slaughtered, and to stop her from causing greater harm, and unlike you...she had no desire to repent for that ocean of blood. You still love."
Instead of a thundering commanding voice, she said that last part encouragingly. "Thanks. I'm going to try my best."
Venus nodded in approval. "Not just your best, but your successes! Because you love your friends, they love you, and you love Ponyville, its ponies, and Equestria. And love isn't cruel.
"That's the secret of love: it never holds a grudge. It never lacks confidence in others. I have faith in you, Rainbow Dash." she said, I swear channeling Scootaloo for a moment...oh, right, she's Scoots' love for me too.
"...Also, I feel I owe you this: Rainbow Dash, I forgive you. For helping manipulate hearts and tearing apart friends as part of the Nightmare Gallery. For every crime against my concept you've committed." She hugged me. "You've done NOTHING since you were purified but prove your love for your friends and fellow ponies."
"Rarity and Zecora?"
"You're not perfect. But you're trying and you aren't making excuses for yourself and you realize your mistakes and you're trying your hardest to learn from them. They love you as their dear friend."
How did she know? She's love. I could feel one less weight on me.
"...Also...one more thing?"
"The soul always remembers. Know this: no matter how any of these Scootaloos change...in the end their soul's bond to you never will."
I remembered Pinkie Pie and Clover. "Hehe...Yeah...thanks."
She knew what she needed to say...love always does. Okay it's mushy, but I think we're all overdue for some mush at this point.
171,013 Scootaloos left to make their choice.
And as it turned out, more than one Scootaloo would be willingly giving up her wings. And I'm totally proud of every last one of them!