Marcie Pan and Fawn Doo had never wanted an understudy, but Shady Daze was a diligent little colt and a fast study, and it was what the princesses wanted, so it had to be right. "Remember to keep your dress clean at all times."
"And it doesn't cost anything to smile."
"But we're not being paid," Shady Daze said.
"Which just makes smiles all the more economically smart," Marcie Pan patted him on the head. She carefully adjusted his bow. "Look adorable, and things will inherently taste better. Trust me, I know."
While the sisters wouldn't admit it, having Shady around reminded them of some foalhood acquaintance of theirs, Flim and Flam. The two had been cute as colts, and had grown into quite studly stallions. Flim even said how, with the sisters and brothers' combined talents, they'd be rich. Marcie Pan and Fawn Doo however were confident they could be that on their own and wished the good-looking brothers luck in their own endeavors selling ponies what you told them they wanted.
Shady Daze happily delivered the sugary tea to the table in the central living room, now dominated by the photo album Bon Bon had brought over from their house to their little Princess Liza Doolots. Bon Bon admitted the tea tasted more like endearment this time, (normally, the sisters' food tasted like greed.)
Lyra, Moth, and Bon Bon sat around Tootsie, with Truffle by her side. The Nightmare of Diamond Tiara sat on a neighboring couch like a lump, her attention only barely drawn to the changeling family’s journey down Memory Lane.
Night Gale was still playing her video game. She'd reached the bonus level; busily slaughtering cherubs at their Cherub Picnic before the time limit ran out. That’d get her enough halos to buy the next big finishing move upgrade.
"And here's Princess Cadence making me her Champion of Music!" Lyra pointed at a photograph of a changeling Lyra, grinning next to Princess Cadence, the two of them holding a golden harp. "I still have that harp!"
"I...I was really proud of you," Tootsie said.
"You didn't tell me about that, Liza," Truffle said.
"Well, I'm not one to brag," Lyra grinned.
Bon Bon rolled her eyes. Moth shapeshifted into Lyra's unicorn form, but kept her flanks surrounded by the blue flames.
"I'm surprised you never told me, Liza," Truffle reiterated.
"Well..." Tootsie shifted her hooves a bit on the couch. "I didn't think it was that big a deal."
Bon Bon shook her head, smiling, and patted her filly on the shoulder. "Dear, you were bouncing off the walls, saying how we had a real life Superstallion in the family now. And that we'd fought alongside the Mare-Do-Wells, and were their friends now."
"YOU DID?!" Truffle asked excited.
"Now I know how Rarity felt," Bon Bon said, thinking back to when she told Rarity 'Never heard of you,' back when Fluttershy had been a super model.
"Yes. We all fought alongside the Mare-Do-Wells." Moth had been proud to save her sister. Bon Bon kept quiet about how she'd spent most of the final battle providing magic recharging candies instead of fighting on the front line, and how Lyra had been providing musical support, so Moon Dancer's farce as Princess Cadence would be believable.
"That's cool!" Truffle said. "You never told me you had such an awesome family, Liza! You really need to introduce them when you meet my parents!"
"Your parents? Oh… right…" Liza blushed.
"It's kinda weird we've been special friends for so long and our families have never met. My parents keep asking."
"Is it because nopony in your family is, uh, related? I promise Mom and Dad don't mind that sort of thing at all!" Truffle smiled and nodded.
"It's not that, I promise!"
"Is it because they're all changelings? I promise Mom and Dad are maybe a little scared, but they KNOW your family are good ponies!"
Lyra decided to save her foster filly from further awkward moments. "And here's picture of you getting off the Speedster carrier Royal Guard's chariot. We wanted to just take the train back to you, but Cadence didn't want to take that long!"
The first picture showed Tootsie looking dizzy. The next photo was her hugging her family, and the photo after that was her bouncing around everywhere looking at and touching everything.
"So what was that like, Liza?" Truffle asked.
Tootsie startled. "It was...really exciting...I, maybe screamed a little, but it was SOOOOO fun seeing Equestria go by so fast below!"
The next photos showed Tootsie next to Princess Celestia's Golden Apple Tree, then the royal jewels, and other spots normally barred from typical visitors in Canterlot.
"You sure look happy," Truffle said, "But I bet it was all old for you. After all, you're a Princess, I bet you've been to Canterlot LOTS of times."
"And even though you can fly so much faster than those pegasi, it was nice for you to be polite and let them to carry you," Bon Bon said nuzzling Tootsie.
Tootsie felt strangely numb at their words.
The next photo was of Tootsie playing with Sparkler, or 'Amethyst Star' as she was called by her friends in Canterlot.
"Even though you don't need a foal sitter, being a Princess," Bon Bon said, "It's nice you let her hang out with you."
Tootsie said nothing.
The next photo was taken during Canterlot's occupation and showed Alula and Tootsie hugging each other in front of the statue that Apple Bloom had made in town square, while under the influence of the cutie pox.
"I...I was so scared and worried about you," Tootsie said. "The ponies from Canterlot said the lock-down would end as soon as the rune was done. I wanted to help, but Mayor Mare refused to let me. She wouldn't let the ponies from Canterlot make the other foals work either. The Canterlot ponies said she was a traitor to Equestria for that but Alula said she was being really brave."
"And it was nice of you to let her be brave when you could have fixed everything for her. That shows you're wise and kind, just like Princess Celestia!" Lyra praised her filly.
"...Alula actually took me flying up in the clouds, her sister didn't want her to because it was dangerous, but, Alula promised she'd never drop me, she'd never let me fall...and she never did. And...the view was so beautiful. I...I never felt so excited when she showed me the sunrise from that view."
"And even if you did fall, you had wings of your own to fly." Bon Bon smiled and nodded.
The next photograph showed Tootsie in a dress holding a basket full of flowers. Her time, as the flower filly in Cranky and Matilda's wedding. "You really did look pretty there dear. But you always look pretty," Bon Bon said, nuzzling her foal, who didn't react to the touch.
"It was very nice of you to let Apple Bloom and her friends be flower fillies at Princess Cadence's wedding," Lyra said.
The last photo had Tootsie Flute, no wings, no costume, trotting up a changeling who regarded the the filly with bafflement, as Tootsie looked up at her adoringly. Tootsie remembered, her name was Jitter Bug.
"Aren't you scared of me?"
"Should I be?" Tootsie asked.
Tootsie asked about her family, Jitter Bug had a lazy brother named Bed Bug back at the Hive she said, she said he was looking forward to napping in the sunlight for the first time in his life.
The next picture had Tootsie giving Jitter Bug a bandage on her carapace after she'd been punched in the face by a pony she'd apologized to for using her mind control magic on.
"It's okay, you're like my Auntie Moth, she didn't know she was doing bad stuff. You thought you were helping ponies. Lyra always says you should just learn from your mistakes." Tootsie finished with a sweet kiss.
"I'd say you showed how much you were a princess that day," Moth said.
"Here! You seen these, Truffle? They’re her baby pictures," Lyra grinned.
Tootsie blushed red like a tomato and her eyes dilated.
Bon Bon tried another PheNOMNOMenon as she smiled at her filly's predicament.
"Excuuuuuuse me," Bon Bon said getting up and trotting over the two sisters. "Pardon me dears, but I simply MUST have the recipe for your treats! They are fantastic! You have a true gift for baking!"
Marcie Pan and Fawn Doo startled, they hadn't really been addressed this whole time, just making more PheNOMNOMenons and giving Shady Daze some good pointers on being a good presenter.
"That's..." Mercie Pan wasn't sure HOW to react. "It's...it's a...t-trademark...s-secret-, just...just between us...we can't go...sharing it with others."
"Shouldn't you share such masterpieces with the world?"
"We do, for a price. A pony has to make a living after all," Fawn Do replied. The two of them reminded Bon Bon of Flim and Flam, two ponies so closely bonded that were like one. A part of Bon Bon felt a bit jealous.
"Well, I know how that is, I'm a candy seller myself. But in my book, the only way the world gets better is if we share our discoveries freely. Let me show you something." Bon Bon proceeded to write her recipe for magic restoring candy.
"You sure you wanna give this to us? You could make a fortune off this!"
"I'm not giving away, I'm sharing, remember? We're ponies, we're a herd, we're supposed to share. Besides, I still have the trademark for them, and healthy free market competition benefits everyone in the long run."
Truffle kissed Tootsie and trotted up to the pair. "Can you teach me some stuff? You don't need to share any secrets you’d wanna keep secret, but I bet there’s some neat stuff you know."
Tootsie said nothing as Truffle chatted with the sisters, she didn't feel like talking about any Magical Filly Adventures right now.
"I bet Her Kindesty Princess Gaia was very proud of you helping Jitter Bug like that Liza," Moth said.
A while later, Bon Bon was back with her family, showing another photo, this one of the entire family in front of Canterlot Castle.
Lyra smiled. "Hey, remember what a sweet couple Princess Cadence and Shining Armor made?"
Bon Bon nodded. "Still make. Did Minuette and Twinkleshine tell you any stories about them?"
Lyra nodded. "Yeah, apparently they'd known each other since they were kids! Everypony knew they loved each other, but it took getting stuck on a ship for months to get it through their heads. So romantic. But they don't hold a candle to little Tootsie and Truffle here. They were made for each other."
Tootsie blinked, looking at Truffle. She felt a vague...hollowness trying to think of anything resembling her times together with Truffle. She twisted her hooves in her lap, not feeling comfortable at all.
Twist had abandoned Apple Bloom when she got her cutie mark. She hadn't even stood up for her at Diamond Tiara's party. That was supposed to be Truffle's special friend? Tootsie was happy she'd saved him from her. If Truffle was ever teased about being pudgy, Twist would just abandon him, Tootsie was sure. She'd done this for him.
"I hope Alula's okay. She's taking so long," Tootsie said.
"Don't worry, if she is, you can just rescue her! That's what Magical Fillies do!" Shady Daze said.
Tootsie hadn't thought about that. She was even more surprised when she realized the Nightmare of Diamond Tiara was looking over her shoulder at the family photo.
"Family photos," she stated, machine-like. "You look at them all the time? With your family?"
"No. Not all the time. Bon Bon likes looking through them, Lyra normally doesn't but can get into it, Moth said it was 'filling,' whenever we did it. What about your family? Maybe they can come over."
"I told you they were busy in Canterlot."
"But you still have pictures with them don't you?"
"We haven't looked through them in a long time. We never really did, we took pictures because it's just what families did. Memories are just as good as any photo, so it doesn’t matter. We, didn't like being reminded of...other things. I guess my family isn't like most beings."
"Did you just rhyme?" Diamond Tiara speaking in verse with that flat tone of hers was weird.
"It seems I am, but why I cannot exam," The Nightmare pony said, confusion slipping into her voice.
"So you're rhyming like Zecora?"
"Yes...like Zecora's tribe. ...But why I can't describe," She added looking slightly befuddled.
Night Gale meanwhile continued to play the video game, her skill level skyrocketing moment by moment, advancing from a casual gamer to a pony for whom video games was a reason for living. Faster and faster, she massacred angels. Smashing their pretty faces to reveal hideous forms, so the player didn’t feel a shred of guilt slaughtering them. Idiots who thought angel were good and had mortals’ best interests at heart being blind lunatics. After all, if beings from another plane of existence were hideous by your definition of beauty, they therefore had to be evil, so killing them was okay.
Night Gale grinned wide as she raked up an arbitrary high score, her witch pony player character drenched in angel blood.
"Maybe all this time you've been a poet and didn't know it," Lyra said to the dark creature.
"No it isn't that...Not sure why I'm adding verse to my chat."
This is very peculiar, dear. Very weird to my ear. Now I'm doing it! I'm going to have fit! Ugh! Is this a bug? Her father said.
"Try saying verse that don't rhyme!" Shady Daze suggested.
"Orange. ... And I didn't need to find an enchanted sporange!...Now it's just making it up, yup."
Bon Bon read from a dictionary wearing glasses. "Actually, sporange is an alternate spelling of sporangium, the botanical term for a part of a fern or similar plant."
"Silver, I am nopony's chilver.”
"Chilver: a synonym for a female lamb," Bon Bon looked up.
"Cool I'm learning stuff!" Shady Daze said.
"She's cursed, it's NOT cool!" Tootsie frowned.
"No, it's not a curse making me speak in verse. It's like there is a connection, that.. makes me speak in this direction. This is not funny. Since for those who verse it's normal like the sun being sunny." Tootsie hugged her.
Night Gale didn't stop playing her game.
Normally this would be funny to see, except it's happening to me!
Then Night Gale let a cry of frustration as the complex combo she was pulling off suddenly made no sense to her and the boss pummeled her angel killer back to her last save file. She said some words a filly shouldn't, Bon Bon thought she'd give that filly's parents a stern talking to.
"I am speaking like a zebra, not that there's anything wrong with that....Wait. Finally. There."
The plain in Spain, is covered in rain! Now I can rhyme and mean it! Let's make it rain peanuts! Ha ha!"
"Any idea what it was?" Tootsie asked concerned. "You said it was a connection?"
"A connection to what, I don't know. But it was familiar."
"Maybe you have a twin sister you're going to meet soon, and she'll be bad, and you'll be good, but you'll teach her to be good, and you'll get a combined form to help save the day!" Tootsie suggested.
"...Sure, let's go with that," The dark filly said blandly.
Surprise flashed on Night Gale's face, and looked around as if something was suddenly missing, she narrowed her eyes and clenched her teeth.
'No need to shout, cousin. I am right here after all.'
Spare me your platitudes!
'You sound so cute when you say that, little filly.'
Ugh! I've been robbed! Again!
'Oh my, what happened?'
Princess Erroria has failed, that's what. I've lost my connection to Zecora! She is no longer one of my devoted!
'Maybe somepony got lucky?'
That's the last piece of luck these ponies are going to get. Why don't you care?
'One, we still rule the rest of the world, two little annoyances aren't worth getting worked up over. And two…?'
I sensed Cadence.
My presence is in Celestia, in Luna, in each of the Chosen of Harmony, but I haven't been able to sense her at all! For a moment I sensed two new followers for my believers, but then I lost them AND Zecora! One was Cadence, I'm sure of it! The other I didn't recognize, it wasn't that nag Amicitia's masculine side! But I can’t sense him one way or another, OR Amicitia's other spawn! All I know is Zecora is no longer my cultist.
'Don't you mean Upepo Shetani's cultist?'
""""""""""WE ARE THE GOD OF THE THOUSAND MASKS! WE ARE ONE!""""""""""
'Yeow! No need to shout! Fine, fine! I'll have my baby girl send her other filly friend out.'
Send one out to fail like the other one did? I thought you were smarter than that, cousin.
'Give them some credit! Little Erroria must have been tricked or something, they sure didn't kick her flank. Besides, I AM being smarter. If you go personally, we both know you might get your flank kicked. And then who would refill the ink in the printing press? So you sensed Cadence and another one who WASN'T Shining Armor for a minute? And then simply got 'disconnected' from you? By whom? Well...doesn't that mean there's more than just those two?'
There are at least three of them then...How uncharacteristically intelligent of you.
'Psh! Don't mistake not caring for not knowing!'
And your hubris?
'I prefer to call it confidence.'
It disturbs me I can't sense Cadence's soul. She is not gone, not infected, but she is masking her presence somehow.
'You planning on 'dealing with it yourself'?''
The last thing Cadence will hear is the relentless beast howling at the pale blood moon.
'Geeze, how melodramatic. Cousin, just to check, am I being the cautious one right now? It's kind of amusing.'
Don't mistake me for you. And shouldn't you be more concerned that Cadence apparently has a wedge inside your perfect creation?
'Oh, but you see that's the beauty of little Diamond. She was nothing to no one already. At least as far as she knew. Cadence means nothing to her. She can whisper anything she wants to Diamond, all my little abomination will hear is white noise. She's unpurifyable because she was already fun to the core. You can't awaken light in something that was already black.'
It's by having ONCE been good that vaccinates one against purification, not the other way around. That's something you, and those childish inane equines never understand. Like a creature with no immune system. Good is a strange, alien newness that draws them like moth to a flame. Those who have tasted goodness and fallen? They are the true monsters. I admire them for it.
'Let's see the track record. Nightmare Moon? Was good, now purified. Nightmare Whisper? Was good, now purified. My little nephew of Pandora's? Pure evil, eaten by the Blank Wolf before he ever grew a heart. Yours truly? Pure fun to the bone, I ATE that 'stick-in-the-mud' Rota tried to force me into being. Chrysalis? Big bad witch and born sociopath, the only, blech, harmony she ever had was forcefed into her, and even then they had to kill 'Chrysalis' to turn her. Looks like you're batting zero on that bet, cousin.'
Are you done speaking, cousin? Yes? Good. You are not getting this one. I have better things to do than debate with you disconnected mind. But let me spell it out for you. Morning Star, his only desire was to repair what he saw as a broken universe, and enlighten his fellow Alicorns. Your big brother, D____, his only desire was to free mortals from what he saw as divine puppet strings. My son? Radiant Hope gave him a choice, and in the end, he chose the darkness... And you should be wary of what you eat. And you are mistaken if I am just going to blindly send out one of my avatars when Cadence has already proven a danger.
'Is this about the time one of your avatars got corrupted into that insane but cheerful neighponese school filly? By Cadence? Or somepony else?'
'Well, I think you're rather cute there, I've got pictures. And the Animane's entire box set.'
"""""She is not Nyarlathotrot, we are Nyarlathotrot. Like a diseased limb, cut from the trunk. We are eternal. Sever one branch. A thousand more will take its place.""""""
'Oh...So I suppose telling you about my stalker shrine to that avatar is a wasted gesture?'
You flatter me. Going to build one to this avatar?
'And ponies call me sick! I'm a sadistic hedonistic psychopath, not a craddle robber!'
Heh! The Shadows seem to think otherwise…
'Well I'm not those Discords. My preferences lie towards the fine art of mental violation.'
Go ahead and send your adopted spawn's playmate. 'I am' already making sure I don't deal with this problem blindly. And, I'm getting the best family for the job to remove this infection for us.
"You have a lot of gall to call on me, sibling!"
"I thought you'd be flattered. While the curse is my own work, this hell was made as a tribute of your world."
"You mean plagiarize."
"Oh please. You'd have never been able to twist that Equestria if I hadn't changed the core rules of the world...And I know how much fury you felt when Amicitia created an alternate path where Rarity in spite of being scarred never killed her cat, never fell into depravity in her desperation to be a mother, nor would be have jumped to turn the world into an even worse hell when given the chance to live her life before she fell into degeneracy." On his black throne Pharaoh of #43/#15 gestured with his scepter, and created a 2-D window showing a Rarity with scars on her face still living her normal life as a fashionista and Element of Harmony, with a stronger understanding of inner beauty. "Amicitia dared make a mockery of your work. I offer you now a chance for revenge."
"She stupidly self-destructed, I'm rid of her. And so are you. Speaking of which: never seen so many of you in one universe before."
"That's because this isn't about just corruption, it's about revenge! And look at it this way, return the favor...she took a worldline from you, oh wait, BEFORE THAT a pair of rogue avatars of Venus' and Uncle Havoc's did that before her, making it an even more bitter hopeless mess than you did!"
The response was a growl.
"Cadenza is still free, and not corrupted by my presence. She has already severed my connection to one of my cultists."
"You want me to patch up your shoddy work."
". . . What do you say...find her, and YOU can corrupt this avatar of hers into one of yours? A Princess Cadence who is the PICTURE of depravity! It'll make your other trophies seem trivial in comparison, and you'll have back the respect in our family you lost before. And... this world's Rarity? Perhaps after Cadenza is done, you can even make her your mother?"
"Now, cousin, you are talking my language."
My name is Sweetie Belle, and I'm trying to wonder why we aren't where Apple Bloom is leading us next right now if there even is any 'here or there' in the fog. I'm trying to think if now that we know what to do, if we'll be where Rarity and her friends are next. I'm trying to ponder how we're going to get where Rainbow Dash is. Will Scootaloo fly us up? I don't know the cloud walking spell! The basic magics Queen Chrysalis taught me were for changing ponies’ minds or blowing stuff up!
Chryssy...when she used her magic on me, everything felt so right. I wasn't worried or scared or confused. I meant it when I said how ponies wouldn't have fighting, that ponies would be safer and happier with changelings thinking for them and protecting them from monsters. I meant it even after Chryssy's magic was gone.
Now...I...that cursed mask went on my face, first I was scared, panicking, no magic to defend myself, then, everything was fine, everything was fine, everything was fine. Even finer once Apple Bloom and Scootaloo joined. Who cared if Button Mash got eaten by zombies? Mmm? Button Mash joined up? Let's dance with him. Not enough masks? Okay. Zecora's gonna eat Apple Bloom instead. Scootaloo broke a mask!? Scootaloo isn't serving Upepo Shetani? Then she's bad. But me, Button Mash, and Zecora are good. Then the masks came off, and I was me again.
It was like Chryssy’s magic. No doubts. No fears. No questions. Everything being right. Being a zebra filly, wearing the mask, speaking in verse, dancing, praising Upepo Shetani, everything made sense. Just like Chryssy! It was EXACTLY THE SAME!!! I could have been brainwashed to paint polka dots on houses, and call myself Jingle Bells, and walk backwards, and it would have been exactly the same! Everything right! This is...it was...
What those cursed masks did to me was horrible. What they did to Button Mash was horrible. What they would have made me me let happen to Apple Bloom was horrible. What...What Queen Chrysalis did to others was horrible. What I did to others was horrible. What...what she did to me was horrible.
And that...that was before I found out that...that the thing the mask made me love and praise was the same one who did all of this...I...I felt so dirty. Made...made to love somepony who'd hurt your friend? Was going to make you hurt them? ... Like Chrysalis did to Twilight, Applejack, Spike, Moon Dancer, so many.
And...I couldn't help thinking of it happening to her...to Kifuko I mean...what if...what if she got turned back to...I know some ponies might say she deserved it for what she did but...but she's a filly now! If she went back to her bad old ways...could I save her? I wish I had that feather she gave me, why did I leave it home?!
Button Mash is sticking close to me as my magic recharges. Even after what happened, after being made to dance with me, being made to think and feeling things that weren't his...like the rumors. Like Chryssy's magic. Like my magic?
"What is it, Sweetie Belle?! Monster?!" Button Mash looked around, putting the others on alert too.
I didn't realize I'd said that so loud.
"Uh! No! No monster! Button Mash I'm...very very very VERY VERY SORRY for what's happened to you. You didn't deserve it, you didn't ask for it, and those who made it happen...are monsters."
"...Is that all? Oh! Sorry, Sweetie Belle! I didn't mean to say that like you being sorry for is wrong!"
"Stop saying that! I'm the one who needs to apologize, not you."
"I chose to come along, remember? You don't have anything to be sorry for."
"Yes, I do! You got hit by evil magic that messed with WHO YOU ARE, because of ME! How, can you just stand there and apologize when YOU'RE the one who got hurt? When you're who got...violated like that. How can you just, smile it off? What happened to you shouldn't happen to anypony! Button Mash, please, cry, scream, something! You don't need to bottle it up! It-it's o-kay! N-no pony's going to blame you! W-wasn't your fault! It's...it's not like you wanted to help her AFTER we got the masks off!" My while body was shaking as I pressed my head against his, barely avoiding poking him with my horn.
Button Mash just stroked my mane. "Do...do you want me to cry, Sweetie Belle? I-I can if you really w-want me to."
"No!" I nearly wailed. "Do what YOU WANT, not what I WANT, you didn't WANT to dance with me, you were MADE to want to dance with me! I'm so sorry Button Mash!"
None of my friends said anything. I hated how helpless I was making them feel.
"I'm sorry that happened to you again," Button Mash said awkwardly. Again? Dancing? Chrysalis? "I...I...”
This is so much easier with dialogue options! 'Sorry I couldn't protect you when I had the chance?' No, she might be more upset! What am I supposed to say? 'I won't let it happen again?' But that always backfires! Don't worry, Button Mash, the heroes always get the filly...until the bad guy kills her halfway through and then you bond with your real filly-friend. WAIT! Does that mean something bad's gonna happen to Sweetie Belle and I'll make special friend with Scootaloo or Apple Bloom!?! But I don't want anything bad to happen to Sweetie!
Button Mash was shaking like a leaf, now he was crying! "You're the one who's hurt! It's not fair! I'm yer hero! You shouldn't have to be made to dance for baddies over and over! You shouldn't be their doll! I'm sorry our first dance had to be because of some big meanie! It was bad when the monster did the same to me too!"
"Wait! You weren't in-, did you-"
"You told me, remember? Oh right you don't. Stupid curse. Sweetie Belle, you...you told me how...how you got made into a doll by The Glitch Monster and just began dancing with another filly changed into a doll too...I'm...I'm sorry this whole mess brought that back up for you."
I...I'd completely forgotten about that. After time travel, Chryssy, everything here, getting mom and dad back, getting my cutie mark, I'd left that bad memory in the past, I didn't even think of it when playing with my dolls now. And...I didn't like it, I still hate it, but...I'm...I'm not gonna cry about it again. Button Mash calmed down some.
I hug him. "Thanks, Button Mash."
"Sorry you had to remember that."
"I'm sorry you had to be cursed like that, it really is horrible, the monster making you what THEY want you to be."
"Sorry I couldn't help more."
"Sorry you got pulled into this."
"Sorry you got cursed."
"...How about we both promise to stop saying sorry?"
"...Sounds like a great idea," he said.
"Ya...ya gonna be okay, Sweetie? Oh! And ya too Button Mash?"
"I will be." I smiled and nodded.
"Don't worry about me," Button Mash nodded and made a heroic pose with his sword. "The hero always gets over this stuff."
I trotted closer to my fellow CMC. "Girls, let me, just say one more 'sorry.' I'm sorry for being so, that is, when I was cursed, and you were just trying to help me, and I was being so...so...I THOUGHT what I was doing was right, what the monster was doing was right. But...it wasn't, at all...I hurt you guys and I just feel...icky knowing I was happy when I did. Especially AFTER you saved me Scootaloo. I should've been more grateful."
"Same here," Button Mash said suddenly next to me. "You faking out like that and breaking her power-up and that mask was cool!"
"Oh. Um," Scootaloo muttered, then looked me in the eyes. "Sweetie Belle...I'm, I'm, really happy to hear you can tell the difference between you that's you, and the you that monster made you. Apology accepted."
Apple Bloom hugged me. "Ah don't hold it against what Applejack did when she got brainwashed...or what Zecora did when she way all corrupted...Yer mah friend, there ain't no brainwashing that's gonna get in the way of that."
We were on our way again in no time. Apple Bloom's magic eye hadn't steered us wrong yet we weren't running into any of those 'random encounters' Button Mash kept talking about. It actually made the fog feel safer. And I was wondering, was her magic going to lead to Rarity or one of her friends next? I wanted it to be my sister, but at the same time, seeing Rarity as a monster...I guess Apple Bloom and Scootaloo all feel the same way. Blanky makes me feel safer too. Oh, heh, and of course Button Mash. He has that sword ready to take on any nasty we run into...it would be more fun if the nasties weren't our friends. So, this is how it felt for my friends when I and the others were serving Chrysalis. I'm happy I didn't see what Rarity was like on the World Unzipped Day.
"At this rate, I oughta get a second cutie mark for swimming through clouds." Scootaloo said to no pony, flapping her wings through the fog.
Blanky began growling, Button Mash doubled his attention with his blocky sword, Scootaloo teased. I mustered up as much magic I could. Then we all 'saw' what Blanky was growling about. It was that bit more dense fog around the edges of places. We braced ourselves, we stepped on through.
Dusty pink and black. I was home. No, not mom and dad's house, Rarity's, I still recognize it in spite of everything drawn all icky. I...I didn't know what to feel! Scared I'd see Rarity like Miss Cheerilee was? Happy we'd help her first? Ashamed I was happy Apple Bloom would't save her family first? It churned like soup in my stomach! I felt my horn crackle, calm down Sweetie Belle, stay in control.
"Don't worry Sweetie we'll fix your sister!" Button Mash said.
"Why would we want her not to have puppies?" Apple Bloom asked.
"How does fixing something make it not have puppies anyway?" I asked.
"I dunno, just what I heard," Button Mash said.
"Granny Smith mentioned wantin' ta do it with Winona..." said Applebloom.
Blanky crossed his rear legs for some reason.
I took a deep breath, and we trotted forward. And it was like a giant white ball of fog just rose out of the ground.
I saw out of the corner of my eye my friends being pushed back while I was pulled in like quicksand, the ball of fog rising up and enveloping everything!
I was floating in a white nothing. Then the fog cleared. But lots of stuff was wrong. I was lying flat on my back, looking at a ceiling and a bright light. I tried to sit up but I had straps on my neck and hooves, and I felt something around my horn, it didn't feel good at all, just feeling it made me queasy. My hind legs hurt a bit, I don't think they're supposed to be THIS straight. My saddle bags are gone.
I tried to use my telekinesis, but it just made me more sick.
"Don't do that, dear, you might hurt yourself," said a mare with a Ponygyptian accent.
I could move my head just enough to see...it looked like a hospital room with a buncha tools and a big mirror on the wall in front of me. It's not like Nurse Red Heart's hospital, everything was dirty pink, and so was the mare with the Nurse's hat, her mane cut was like a Pongypt style wig, and curly eyeshadow match. Her cutie mark was a red crystal.
"Who are you?"
"Oh I'm Nurse Dark Crystal. You awake? Don't worry, you won't feel a thing during the procedure. Isn't that right, Doctor?"
Doctor? I looked where she looked. "KABUTOMUSHI?" I exclaimed.
"'Doctor Kabuto,' Sweetie Belle, no need to shout. It'll all be over soon."
He wasn't a changeling again, he was still an earth pony, with a violet coat and black mane. HIs cutie mark still a fancy circle with a snake around it. But now he was wearing glasses and a doctor’s operation gown thingie. The scary part was...he...his colors weren't that different, but he felt like he belonged with the rest of the world.
"But!-But Cadence banished you to the sun!"
"Excuse me? Dear, I have no idea what you're talking about. I've been helping little ponies like you since the changelings were gotten rid of."
"'Gotten rid of?'"
Kabuto took a newspaper clipping out of his apron. 'Bug Ponies Squashed' it said in big bold letters, and a picture of changelings falling by the droves against sun guards.
What I was read on the page described the changelings acting...well, as weak as that sad pony general thought everypony thought the royal guard was, and as weak as he thought changelings were. And that went triple for Chryssy, I mean the Queen, the way she was described, and what she told me about how the Swarm worked, she wouldn't have lasted five minutes as Queen, let alone the years and decades she'd been silently creeping her scheme along.
The changeling wouldn't have been hidden for so long if they were that bad at what they did...just like all the ponies would've been eaten by the now if the royal guards were as bad as that crazy general thought everypony thought.
"But! Chryssy would overlook 'little ponies,' but whole armies didn't count as 'little ponies' to her! Canterlot's security, defenses, allies, she PREPARED for them! She wouldn't BE Chryssy if she didn't!"
"Clinging to such obvious lies. So sad," sighed Kabuto. "It's clearer than ever this needs to be done for your own good as much as the others."
"What needs to be done?" I asked scared.
"Nothing painful, dear," Nurse Dark Crystal assured me, "We're just cutting out the magic center of your brain."
"Dear! I said no need to shout!" Kabuto scolded me. It made me dizzy, no, no, focus, they're going to cut out the front of your brain! "It really is necessary." Kabuto sighed, doing that tisk-tisk thing adults did when a foal didn't understand something. "But don't worry, I've had plenty of experience."
A chill went up my spine. "Experience?"
"Yes, the ponies like you brainwashed by Chrysalis. Like Miss Moon Dancer. She's now leading a much happier and more comfortable life thanks to the procedure, and so shall you."
Moon Dancer? HE DID THIS TO MOON DANCER?! I'll kill him! I charged up my magic only for the sickness to get so bad I threw up.
"Let me get that, dear." Nurse Dark Crystal effectively cleaned me up. I didn't like the glint in her eye...it reminded me of Chrysalis whenever...she looked at Applejack.
"Please, Sweetie Belle, don't make this harder than it already is. They're just trying to help you!" said a voice from a little speaker on a table. I felt sick and it didn't have to do with the thing on my horn.
"I don't want this either Sweetie, but you could become another Cadence...or you could become another Chrysalis. I could never forgive myself."
Her voice, what was different about it? Doesn't matter! "RARITY! LISTEN! THINK! This isn't supposed to be going on! You just think it is! You'd never-" Click.
Hey! The Nurse turned off the speaker!
"No need to upset your sister with such nonsense dear. She just wants you fixed."
"P-Princess Celestia would never let this happen!" I choked. "She doesn't give up on anypony!"
"Of course she approves," she said. "She rewarded the pony who invented it with the Nobility Prize for Peace and Science."
She looked me in the eyes. Her eyes, they weren't shaped like a pony's, or a dragon's, they were...I don't know what! They were horrible!
"Now just relax and let it happen," She said. She ordered. She commanded. She made so. I was going to relax. I was going to let it happen. They were going to cut open my head, they were going to pull out my horn, they were going to chop out the front part of my brain. I was going to be so much happier. Maybe they'd even let me keep the piece they'd taken out when they're done. I'll be stopped from doing bad stuff I could've done. It'll be bliss. And it'll make Rarity happy, that's the important thing.
That pluck on that invisible thread in my chest again, like with Cheerilee, and Alula. I...I see, a picture of Rarity, crying next to me as I drool on myself.
"NO! THIS IS EVIL! THIS IS WRONG!"
Kabuto shrugged. "Once society has institutionalized something, it BECOMES good, and those who oppose it are evil. Society determines what is good and evil."
"Society changes according to its own will, an individual or a group of individuals can't change anything. You're just splashes in a river," the Nurse said, her eyes boring into me, I felt something inside me cracking looking in those eyes!
I-I-I couldn't think. I-I-I c-couldn't-t f-feel. I--I suddenly felt my Crusader Cape on my back. For one little moment, I felt a calm so distant, it was like the emptiness between stars. I felt something push back at the Nurse.
"How the buck did you stumble on that?" The Nurse hissed eying my cloak.
Kabuto asked, "Where did that come from?"
'Don't give answers when you don't need to,' Chrysalis had taught me. "Made it myself with gold silk, very expensive," I said evenly.
"Whatever. Keep your inane antics. It's not going to change a thing."
"This isn't a messy procedure. The brain doesn't have any sense of pain, you're going to be fully awake anyway. It's better for research that way as well, I'll be asking you some questions during the procedure."
Sweetie Belle, think! Okay...but...how do I get out of this? Kabuto would do this anyway! Remember Button Mash's rules! There's always a way!
The Nurse said, "Face it dear, this is for the best. You've taken to black magic like a fish to water, asking you not to use it would be like asking a bird not to fly. This is for the good of everypony, including yourself. Whoever heard of a good witch?"
"Kifuko will! She'll grow up to be a good witch! I know she will!"
"You are an idiot, Sweetie Belle. Her useful idiot, through and through, and a traitor besides, to everypony you know. Everypony you grew up with. Picking power-mad insects over all the ponies who made the mistake of befriending you. Of loving you!” I cringed. “She promised you power, did she not? Power over all of us. Let me ask you something, dearie, have you ever tried running for office? Studied world politics? Bought your own home? Ever founded your own business, and been in charge of lots of ponies? Or just… a job, just one simple dead-end part-time floor-sweeping job, ever had one of those? No? And yet you have the nerve, the absolute gall, to act like you’re the pious little shepherdess, and all the rest of us are nothing but dumb, lumbering livestock, who…!!!” She took a breath to calm herself. “Better if Queen Chrysalis never existed, so that you would never have been corrupted, you impressionable little puddinghead."
"Nurse, please, the procedure?"
"Oh yes, doctor, of course. May I suggest that when we’re done, we’ll want to fix her vocal chords, just to be sure. Singing that’s THAT subversive is singing nopony needs."
They pick up...sharp tools.
Somepony please, I need, I need help with this part! Blanky! Scootaloo! Rarity! Apple Bloom! Cadence! Button Mash! Mom, Dad! Silver Spoon! Spike! Kifuko! Help! Please? Rarity, please hear my singing.
...Sweet music...oh sweet music...we make sweet music you and I ...
A black and white feather? Huh? What the? It blew in from under the door, Kabuto and the nurse don't notice, it moved along a wind I can't feel, and lands on my nose.
Everything turns grayish beige, everything slows down. I'm still strapped to the table, but I'm also sitting up, see-through and free. Across from me is...is...
"Kifuko? What-how-but-I-" Fear and confusion were giving each other a shoving contest in my head.
My little zebra baby Alicorn, she sat looking at me. For somepony still wearing diapers, she had a stern look.
"You're going to have a bad headache later, but better than no headaches ever again. It's a little trick, overclocked your mind, so we can speak mentally. Or maybe it's a trick you read in one of those black magic books and just now remembered."
"You-Kifuko! You can talk?! Could Princess Celestia talk at your age?" I asked, my head trying to grasp at anything! Kabuto was still leaning over me with his butcher knives, but now time was apparently taking a coffee break. So Kifuko and me could talk? I couldn't think of the right stuff to say! Was something else going on here? Did Spike or somepony else teleport the feather here? I felt like the last support beams in my head just went bye-bye! Maybe I was going crazy!
"Maybe. Maybe I'm here, maybe I'm a trace of Kifuko's magic in her Alicorn feather, maybe the feather served as a one-use link between our souls. Maybe you've gotten so desperate you're hallucinating.
"If any of that's true, why are you helping NOW? Zecora's gonna be your teacher and gonna be one of your subjects!"
"You kept the feather in your bedrooom at Rarity's, this bubble overlapped hers when it caught you. An Alicorn is more real than most. My feather stayed, but it had to be somewhere that made sense for YOU to have it here. With your saddlebags, with your sister on the other side of the mirror. Or maybe that's what you imagined up just now. Or maybe we are connected, the three of us, remember what Chrysalis said? Or maybe you called, I answered, nothing else to it."
I didn’t try to puzzle out her ‘maybes.’ I was honestly just happy to have any help! "Kifuko, help me."
"What makes you think you need my help?"
"THEY'RE GOING TO CUT OUT MY MAGIC! THE PART OF MY BRAIN THAT MAKES 'ME' ME!"
"I meant WHY are you letting them do it? You have power! You proved that already in the Everfree. Why are you letting it end like this?"
"They've shut off my horn! I can't do anything! Kabuto won't listen! I can't speak to Rarity! And I don't think the Nurse is really a pony!"
"Sweetie Belle! Calm down! That seal on your horn...you really think something that -weak- can block your magic? You were given a crash course by a century-old witch! Even a triple seal on Miss Twilight Sparkle's horn only blocked her magic enough for her to calm down."
The one on my horn? It wasn't anything fancy at all...yes.
"You're a lot stronger than you think, Sweetie Belle. So much more."
I'm not really a bookworm like Miss Twilight Sparkle. I'm Her Majesty's little songbird. I'll do whatever she wants. But...I look at the books around me. 'Black Magic: Why It's Your Friend', 'Hexes, Curses, Geases, and Ensorcelments, For Absolute Beginnings' from the locked-up part of the Canterlot Castle Library, and, 'The Proper Manipulation And Brainwashing Of Others' Her Majesty wrote herself.
"Your Majesty? You really want me to read all these books?"
"Not just read, they're a gift. They're yours now as much as you are mine."
"I'm...I'm not sure I can do what's in them." The idea I'd fail at what Her Majesty wanted of me was heart-breaking.
"You're a lot stronger than you think, Sweetie Belle. So much more."
See-through me pushed Her away and trotted back. "You...you, get away."
"Sweetie Belle? Please don't-"
"You want me, to be like uppity she-tiny or whatever! Like you. You want me to hurt Rarity again!"
"...Why are you so afraid of me now?"
"My little songbird, Using this spell with the full incantation is time consuming and dangerous. Don't use unless your only other option is kissing death."
"I just said what! I saw what black magic did to those trees in the Everfree, and now you want me to use that spell here! It'll blow up Kabuto, the Nurse, AND Rarity! You're still her!"
"...You think this place would let Rarity die so easily?"
I blinked. "What?"
"Rarity hasn't gotten the chance to 'star' yet. Does a horror movie ever let the star die early?"
"I dunno! Which means neither do you! An its kinda obvious I'm the 'star' here. And me NOT getting my magic taken is off-script anyway, Chrysalis."
"You didn't DENY that you wanted me to use THAT spell to blow everything up! When I KNOW how nasty it is!"
"...You're wearing a magical dampener. What does that mean will happen to the spell when it's set off if it's too much for the dampener to contain? Like when Scootaloo proved strong enough to push UP on the weight falling on her?"
"The seal on my horn will just get stronger to match."
"The strange twang in your heart showed you, the narrative for this rumor ends with you a drooling shell."
"But Button Mash's rules say there's a way to win!"
"And yet the rumor was still cheating to make Scootaloo lose."
"But she didn't..."
I thought about it. "...She made it break itself."
"...She did something smart..."
"Because Scootaloo is 'meant' to be the dumb impulsive one?"
Scootaloo's my friend, but I can kind of see why somepony looking at her would think she was like that. But that was like just making some parody of her! That wasn't Scootaloo!
"And you? If Scootaloo is 'supposed' to be dumb and impulsive, what's 'Sweetie Belle' supposed to be?"
"I...I'm supposed to be...Apple Bloom's our head, Scootaloo is our soul, I'm..." I thought of everything I'd done, of everything I had before Chrysalis told making ponies like cattle was nice. "I'm the heart."
"So what’s something that a shallow parody of you would never do?"
"She'd..." Then hit hit me. "...Except...the shallow Sweetie Belle here? She's Chrysalis' little minion, she'll maul kittens and love it! She'll, she'll think Chryssy was...just misunderstood...she wasn't."
"So the parody of you would be an evil witch-in-training?"
"So she'd use dark magic in evil ways?"
"That's what...I'm...trying to say..." Wait a second.
"You remember the first thing that book said don't you?"
"...That dark magic can control you...but if you use it right, you control it."
"'The difference between black magic and dark magic is the same as the difference between desire and sin,' Notes scribbled in the side by Queen Amore. Cadence's family is descended from her. 'Desire is how we progress.'-Kenbroath Gilspotten Heathspike The Second, Spike's ancestor the scribbles said. Desire is merely a driving force, it's when it's taken too far that it turns into GREED. Same way Fluttershy's kindness was taken too far and Luna's night was taken too far when they were kidnapped by the Nightmares."
"...How do I make sure that doesn't happen?"
"The grand experiment will soon begin. We're so alike, my queen," Kabuto said, giving a death glare at me.
"Not in the ways that matter," she said.
"You can't be serious. We both break tradition. We both strive to be more than we are. How could we not be alike?"
"...Tell me Kabuto, what are you?"
"A scientist, of course. Alchemist Master of the Swarm."
"So you take no pleasure in those you make squirm or suffer because you are exacting your power over them? Showing who is not a slave?"
"Of course not. I do not take pleasure in such things. I merely take pleasure in what I learn from such things. All is in the sacred pursuit of knowledge."
"So you take no thrill in it?"
"Only the privilege of knowing that whether the subject under my knife lives or dies is mine to decide. But is a scientist not entitled to as much in exchange for the knowledge and wisdom he obtains?"
Chrysalis slapped him. "No. I'll concede one thing Kabuto, we are alike in one respect, we are both beasts, wild animals, driven by instinct to fulfill our base desires that nature forced upon us. That is all. You refuse to see that Kabuto. You always have. We do not answer to a higher calling, we heed to the lowest calling. We are depraved and filthily creatures. You hide from yourself behind that monocle. Of all the lies I've spoken Kabuto, I've never once told myself I was noble, or something serving a greater cause."
"Don't be absurd, Your Majesty! You serve 'survival of the fittest' do you not?"
"Idiot. Noling serves natural selection! She has no favorites! I've merely acknowledged the rules, without adding a fictional thing called 'morality' to it."
"My Majesty that is what I am saying! I don't let morality stand in the way of my pursuit of knowledge either!"
"And that is why you are truly an idiot. Hercules Beetle is a soldier. He knows why he is doing what he does. You keep pretending to be something more than you are. I do not. And that is where I am stronger than you."
"Acknowledge what anger, hate, envy, fear, are all capable of, never forget it. Either submit to being a beast, and cut down all in your way to survive, rip to shreds all that threatens those you hold dear. Or look to rise above nature, and hold onto your principles to the bitter end, and use what you have as a tool instead of a club. But don't skip between like steps in a dance, or you'll come to the end of the long road, and realize you didn't believe in anything in your life, and you never forged a 'self' within you to move forward. You forged your own destiny, now face it."
You have no idea how off kilter it made me hearing that come out of a baby Alicorn zebra's mouth...I wonder if I make it out of this if the others are going to believe this.
"...I'm angry these nasty baddies took my sister and made her THIS." Rarity was a lot of things...but knowing she'd let THIS happen to me was enough...Rarity would never do that. I know she wouldn't.
"Do you hate them for it?"
I had to think about that. "...I hate Kabuto. And I hate Mr. Umbra Breeze."
"Why do you hate them? Why not Cheerilee for allowing the paper to get sent out at all?"
"Because Kabuto and Mr. Umbra Breeze are evil...they hurt ponies and don't feel bad for it...Cheerilee didn't mean to let any of this happen...she's just a victim...That's why I hate them but don't hate her."
"How do you know he doesn't feel sorry for it?"
"Kabuto SMILES when he hurts ponies."
"I meant Umbra Breeze."
"Oh! Um. 'Cause he's evil?"
"And there's the trap. Beware it. Never EVER assume what your enemy is like ahead of time...Like Alula."
"...I'm afraid of losing everypony, of my friends losing everypony...That's why I'm not giving up..."
"...I...kinda envy my sister."
"And will you allow that envy to turn the beast on her?"
"Most importantly...what do you desire to do with your power?"
"Save Rarity! Help my friends save their families! Save our friends! Save Equestria!"
"And what do you need to do first to do that?"
"Save myself? But do I do it without my horn?"
"You have much more than just your horn in your arsenal. You don't NEED IT to do magic. Remember your cutie mark, remember yourself."
My Cutie Mark...Wait.
"I think I just got it."
"And what is that?"
"...'Shallow Parody Sweetie Belle'...she's an evil witch, she lets dark magic control her...they're expecting a club, not a tool. They're expecting a beast...and even if a beast can howl, it can't sing...Thanks Kifuko."
"...You're Chrysalis' heart, not the bad things she did. Thanks for reminding me of that."
This time I hugged her, leaning down, she really was so small.
"You're welcome. Remember about the headache. But maybe, if everything is put right, you'll get to skip the headache. And you better sing soon, or you'll never sing again. Good luck, Sweetie Belle."
I was looking up from solid me again, Kifuko's feather blew off me with a breath from the Nurse. And, the sharp tool was already against my head! Oh no! Wait! She was shaving me first?! Shaving me?! My mane!
Okay, stay calm...I need to do this.
I remembered back to when I did magic music with Chrysalis...it was different than just using my magic. Ponies sing, we can sing big numbers together when we don't know the words, it was like a magic all its own.
I need to channel the right feelings...Fear for my life was the biggest one. But not the strongest. I'd learned that: the emotions I'm feeling the most isn't necessarily the strongest. Fear for JUST me would be over the moment I was safe.
The strongest...was anger...Anger at what they'd done to Rarity. Fear she'd stay that way. Desire to save her.
My horn glowed, even if the magic couldn't get out that way, it didn't need to. Look into my eyes!
"I won't pretend not to be afraid,
I stay true to my friends and be their aid.
"I won't let the story end this way.
I promise I'll make a better day."
"What?" The Nurse stuffed a gag in my mouth as fast as lightning. I don't stop. I just continue to sing now wordlessly. Humming my melody.
'I may be small, but my heart is strong
I call on anger to right this wrong
A hatred of evil in my heart
Be fire to make this vile fog part.
Fear for those I love I can on
To give power to my dark song.
Night isn't just evil's might,
So long as good remains in sight.
My desire is this one thing:
Back to the light my sister to bring.'
Under these feelings, I felt a calm as pure as a frozen ocean. I saw my black magic manifest whether I was able to form words or not, because song was how I spoke, it was my Talent, my Gift, it was who I was. I spent forever looking for who I was. I wasn't going to let Kabuto steal it.
"How are you doing this?" Nurse Dark Crystal hissed.
Kabuto took a trot back from me, green threads of black magic curling off and around me. His eyes widen as he looks into my eyes, I see my glow reflected back in them. I've been here before. An Earth Pony before me, with no defense against what I could do to their mind.
The spirits of black magic ask if we can play. I tell them we play by my rules, not theirs!
I'm not giving in to anger and hate, I'm using it...Kabuto is evil, he'd have enjoyed what he wanted to do to me...but punishing him isn't what's important. I'll hurt him as much as I need to, not as much as I want to!
Kabuto lay paralyzed by my eyes.
Anger that burns within, fear that holds, want that guides, sunder the foolish that blocks my path!
Wasn't sure how much mana I'd recovered after helping Zecora. I couldn't waste it. Whatever I thought up, the curse would cheat to make things so it wouldn't work. But me using black magic without brute force hadn't been part of the script. My magic curled around the restraints, that became thicker and bigger. That's it, think I'm trying to BREAK them, it's not telekinesis, but I manage to vibrate them loose, and I pull the gag out.
"Chrysalis may have taught me to use black magic, but I get to say how it's used."
"Still the witchling," the Nurse said.
"I know she was evil! A monster! She could only love herself! The only reason she saw me as a person is because she says our hearts were the same! I'd have been just another pony for her to gobble-up the love of!"
"Then say the inane 'hungry spider' excuse."
"I don't want to give her excuses. She doesn't deserve them! The world's safer with her gone. I just want her to be judged fairly, because she did GOOD TOO! Changelings have names and families and can chose their own job because of her! She hurt my friends' minds, and nearly destroyed Equestria for her own selfish reasons! I just want her judged fairly...and I want Kifuko to be judged as what little good was in her, not what bad stuff she left behind!...And you're right, I'm a witchling. And Kifuko will be too. But we're both going to be good ones!"
Nurse Dark Crystal lets out a snarl that wasn't like a pony, or anything. She grabs one of the surgery tools like her hooves have magnets, and charges at me with the force of a buffalo, the knife aimed at my throat!
"HI-YA!" And...a blur smashed through the mirror...it was dusty pink, like everything but me and Kabuto. A flying hoof hit the Nurse in the side of the face, sending her crashing into the set of sharp tools.
The entire place began shaking, becoming fuzzy.
The nurse stared like she saw fire underwater, then she looked to me. "Enjoy the spot of hope brat, you'll wish we lobotomized you by the time-" She was kicked into the wall.
The table, the walls, everything was turning foggy, blurry. My rescuer turned to look at me, but everything went to fog right then. Kabuto and the Nurse vanished into the mists, and I fell. I landed on the dirty ground a second later.
I touched myself, my mane was fine, there was no seal on my horn. All the black magic I'd used dissipated. My saddle bags were back on me. I didn't see Kifuko's feather anywhere. Wait! I was back where I started. In front of the dirty pink style of mine and Rarity's house.
Wait! My saddle- Blanky leapt out and began licking my face, erasing lots of germs from existence.
"SWEETIE BELLE!!!" Button Mash hugged me like a freight train! "Are you okay?! DO you need a healing potion? Do you need a mana candy?! How's your sanity score?"
I looked, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom looked relieved to see me. Apple Bloom gave me the eye-examine.
"I...I'm okay, I have a BIG story to tell!"
"Where you in that big scary building?" Scootaloo asked. "Button Mash's map said you were inside and we were trying to save you!"
"Yer dog, Button Mash, and Scootaloo, ALL wanted to just storm the gates head on," Apple Bloom said. "We were makin' headway with nasty guards when it all went poof."
I should've known, my friends would never just sit around and do nothing when they thought they could help!
"I-I'm sorry I couldn't help you again," Button Mash profusely apologized.
"Button Mash," I said gently, seeing he was crying. I smiled. "Let's all just be happy I'm okay. Who cares who did how much? I'm safe, and we're together."
Button Mash looked at me, stunned for a bit, before nodding and hugging me a bit tighter before my friends did the same.
Rarity...was that you?...You're my sister, why wouldn't you be?
...Call it a spot of hope, you big meanie! I don't care!...Hope is a lot stronger than you think.
This little witchling is going to save her sister.
"Sweet music, oh sweet music, we make sweet music you and I," the pink Nightmare sang, images of Silver Spoon and her parents flashing through her mind unbidden.
"That's a lovely voice Diamond Tiara," Moth said. "Nopony is going to think less of you for being able to sing without resenting everything. You don't need to hide it."
Night Gail was having to start over from her last save file, having 'died' in game after suddenly feeling like she'd been bucked in the face twice and been stabbed by a bunch of little knives.
Night Gale snarled a bit. 'How? Rarity is still within my portfolio...Abandon, if you lose control of that bubble before Cadence even gets there-'
Somepony kick your flank? Hate to say I told you so, cousin-
'I was taken off guard. I'm fine, though Kabuto is...disabled.'
Shame, ponies with pitch black hearts are hard to come by. Anything we need to worry about?
'A stubborn little infection. But Cadence is our priority. There's nowhere in the world a little filly can run when it's our world.'
"My voice is nothing special...I don't know why I started singing," The pink Nightmare said to Moth.
Ugh! Baby Shady! M-mot-Shady Senior, Pandora, where did those thoughts come from?
"Your family or friends must be singing somewhere. Happens all the time," Lyra added. "Shows you're connected by the heart."
"They might be singing," The Nightmare replied. 'But their hearts can't connect to something I don't have.'
"See? Even when apart, friends and family's bonds hold strong." Bon Bon injected, hugging her sister and other half in front of the empty filly. Why was she thinking right now how dauntless she'd been to cure her mother?