Warning this chapter contains suggestive dialogue.
"Flash, look!" Sunny Day gasped.
"What is it?" I asked. "Another giant cyclops spider? What color is this one? Teal?" I know we're fighting for our lives, but it'd gotten crazy fighting what was effectively the same monster over and over and over!
"It's the door to Princess Celestia's room!"
"ABOUT TIME!" I gasped out. Okay, wasn't very Guard-like, but we'd been grinding against different colored versions of the same monsters for what felt like weeks!
Philomena let out a cry of excitement. She'd helped roast more than a few imps along the way. Someone else might say a guide who didn't speak your language, and helped fight was an 'upgrade' over Triangle Crown, but Philomena just set the carpet on fire behind me if she thought we were dragging our feet, er, hooves. She’d also helped us earlier by pecking out a Basilisk's eyes so we could beat it, so that was helpful.
"We made it," Golden Tiara gasped out.
"Our true task has just begun," Princess Luna said. "Guard our flanks, tis' our sister, we shall free her of this curse.”
(Twas us to be honest, we would have ordered all our company to part from us, and remain safe outside, while we faced our bewitched sister. Our sister always feared her own might, and if evil had taken her, she'd have no restraint, and we fear for our subjects, tis our duty to protect them.
But having fought this far, we knew they'd never truly obey such a command. Only Flash Sentry is duty bound to obey our commands. As 'Royal Commands' aren't what they used to be (blast you 'Tia). And we fear leaving any alone in what was our castle.
So we would sadly have to be content to keeping our comrades to the rear and ourself to take point. If it came to blows, we could hopefully lure our sister outside and away from the peasantry, we mean civilians. On another note, twas around this time we noticed a slowly building something in the back of our mind, we knew it was not Nightmare Moon, but that was all we knew.
Yes, we were quite aware of the vile lies spread about our sister. Yes, we did think of loyal Flash Sentry's safety. But ye underestimate the magnitude of the lies. Sunny Day, Lady Golden Tiara, even Philomena and ourself were no more safe than he was in the presence of my sister molded against her will to comply with the lies ponies told themselves about her.)
Princess Luna trotted up to the two guard stallions on either side of Princess Celestia's door. Like clockwork they stepped in front of her, still clad in that 'armor' that was more bedroom than battlefield.
"We are sorry, Your Nightjesty. Queen Celestia left explicit commands that none are to be let in or out."
"Tis a relief in a way, but we must see our sister."
"Princess Luna," Golden Tiara said, "I mean no disrespect but... if Princess Celestia is locked up in there... and nopony can get in to see her, and she can't see anypony... isn't it better to ... just leave her there until things are fixed? ... It's what she'd want."
Luna's eyes narrowed. "Who art ye to know what our sister would..." Luna's eyes widened. "Our royal apologies, Miss Tiara... we know the pain thou haft endured. But... even for the good of Equestria... we ... "
(Princess Luna's Journal)
Twas in that moment I realized. Celly, this was how you felt, wasn't it? The horrible pain of keeping me away from others I could hurt, when madness took me. ... Forgive me, Celly... but that is WHY I cannot leave you like this! I must endure the memories of my time as Nightmare Moon every day I sleep. Not just my actions, but my thoughts, words, feelings, all that poison directed at you. You have ENOUGH horrible memories to endure, I won't leave you to endure more!
"I am sorry," We said. Then I swiftly struck each guard with a beam of my magic, both fell asleep on their hooves.
"Stay behind us," we ordered. "If it comes to blows with my sister, do not meddle, ye shall put thyself in far greater danger and we shall have a hard enough time protecting you and trying to reason with her as is. Forgive us, but she and I have literal eons of fighting experience ye do not. And even if we did not, our power is more than enough for ye to stand back."
We undid the locks on the doors, and slowly swung them open. At the very least, our greatest fear was not realized.
We, I did not see Discord having 'fun' with 'Molestia.' I had feared to witness the most profane of images of them intertwined as Discord's parody of what they once shared, to him having cohabited her body as a spirit and 'Molestia' pleasing herself. A Celestia who thinks like Discord, that personal pleasure, THEIR OWN personal pleasure, was the true calling and meaning of existence, even if, especially if that pleasure came at the cost of others. I feared Discord would have seen this twisted thing my sister's soul was trapped in as the ideal Celestia he pinned for. I'd say more, but foals might be readin-
UGH! Hey, Lulu, I know it's not nice to write in other pony's diaries, but I have SO got to explain something here. Yes, I'll admit, I CONSIDERED IT... after all, I'd freed my dear Celly from the shackles of sanity before, we had such fun together... I'm actually grateful that dear Twilight held out as long as she did... otherwise I was bound by that stupid bet to turn her and Lulu into gold and silver statues... Maybe I DON'T think things through as much as I should. But I wanted her to be CRAZY FUN, not crazy for everything that moved. Calamari-For-Brains got the kind of crazy wrong!
Whatever Flash Sentry, Golden Tiara, and Sunny Day had been expecting entering Princess Celestia's private chambers, it wasn't this. And from the looks on Luna and Philomena's faces, they hadn't either.
Princess Luna's face twisted in disgust. Philomena hid her eyes in shame. The mortals' minds couldn't form thoughts at first at the sight.
Stacks of Play-Filly, and other magazines that hadn't existed before the twists to reality had hit. Dresses that would have made the loosest mare on Equus blush were thrown about like dirty socks. Stains covered a much larger bed than the one Luna knew. Nearly mindless animated blow-up dolls of stallions lay and sat, eager to be used. So many pillows. And the place stank of perfume and something else.
And seeing it all... as that charcoal on pink. The signature of this world that for every intent and purpose wasn't supposed to exist.
Princess Luna already hated what had been done to her world, her kingdom, her subjects, to herself, but seeing her sister's bedroom reduced to this sick parody rekindled her burning hatred for this cancer that had violated her, her sister, the world, everything, and her unyielding desire to see this degenerate pile of filth washed away!
Truthfully, had Applejack not vanquished the Crawling Chaos, Luna would've called dibs for what she saw in this room alone!
It broke Luna's heart in two seeing what the rumors had turned her sister into. Far worse than the chaos filled filly she'd been made during Discord's Day.
For the others, it was like being run through with a spear. This was PRINCESS CELESTIA. She was constant. She was the sun. She was the one truth and the one light that could always be relied upon to be there in the darkest of times.
Flash Sentry had respected and admired Celestia, for her wisdom, her insight, her kindness, her will, as both a princess and teacher.
To Philomena, Celestia was her constant friend. Even if, as time had marched on, Celestia hadn't had the time for her she once did.
For Sunny Day... she felt dizzy, unsure, her head spun simply LOOKING at the Princess in this state. It went beyond what she was seeing. Like Sunny was going to fly apart at the seams for a moment. She felt deeply ill.
Golden Tiara felt tears go down her face... because she knew exactly where Celestia was right now. Her perception of reality twisted, everything so right and yet so wrong at the same time. Trapped at the bottom of an ocean there was no escape from, seeing your reflection above, and thinking you were on dry land. "Oh Princess, I'm so sorry."
It was Celestia, but also decidedly not, her mane a single faded pink, her coat tinted gray, her eyes also a gray pink. No sign of her regalia. Her motions were a clashing mix of predatory and submissive.
She was chained to the floor, but most of the chains were broken. The only ones really left was one around her horn, one around her wings, and one around her lower body.
She looked at the mortals like they were pieces of meat to devour. She looked at Luna with insane delight.
"OH LULU! HOW WONDERFUL TO FINALLY SEE YOU! MY HOW YOU'VE GROWN UP! TEE-HEHEHEH!" Her high pitched tingle of a laugh was nauseating. "Feeling better are we? Heheheh! HOW WONDERFUL! I was just explaining to my friends what a wonderful time we could have! Oh! And you brought one of THEIR friends too! Fabulous! Hehehehh!"
Behind Celestia, amidst the depravity, was a low glass round table. On the table were wine glasses, punch cups and a mess of playing cards from several different card games, plus a few baseball cards. None were full decks.
Around it were squat thrones that looked like the illegitimate child of modern art and a foal's arts and craft project. Two of the thrones were empty, while the other two were occupied. One by a bald stallion wearing slippers, a medical gown pierced with pins and buttons, a king's robe, who was using a crown as a bracelet. The other was occupied by a pink mare, with many wings; that of a thestral, a flutterpony, a siren fin, a giant breezie, and a crystal pegasus. She had decorated her wings with so many pieces of royal jewelry worn so mismatched that Twinkle Shine would have needed to borrow Rarity's fainting couch.
"Hi, Screwball!" The mare waved.
"Nice to see you!" Said the stallion. "Welcome to Bug-Free-Land!"
"Cupcake?! Creepy Crawlie?! What are you doing here?!"
"You know them?" Flash asked.
"They were at the same... 'hospital' as me."
"That's putting it nicely," Cupcake said.
"How did ye enter here?" Luna demanded.
"Tucan the Talking Tuna gave us a ride."
"Yo! I'm Tucan, the Talking Tuna!" announced a giant sunglasses wearing flying fish outside the window. It had a Jamarecan accent.
Princess Luna shook her head in bewilderment.
"We're so happy to see you, Screwball," said Cupcake.
"Barking Mad couldn't join us." Creepy glanced at one of the empty thrones with a dog bowl next to it.
"We never heard back from the messenger we sent to collect her."
"And what did you say your name was?" Tender Heart asked behind the desk.
The plate-mail covered giant scratched his helmet. "Uh... Mr... Family... Member."
"So it's great you're finally here, Screwball! We've been having a great time! Hey! With all your super-strength maybe YOU can break the the Princess' chains, Screwball! They're being so stubborn!"
"The name is Golden Tiara! Screwball is gone for good!" She shouted determined.
"Hey!" Cupcake asked innocently. "What happened to all your self-loathing under your blithe exterior?"
"All the self-loathing in the world isn't going to change what happened, I'm going to put that energy to better use!"
"They LIED to us, Screwball! The doctors weren't trying to help us, they were trying to enslave us! I'M DISAPPOINTED IN YOU that you abandoned your freedom!"
"I... I didn't ask for it... I'm... I'm not sure WHAT happened..." Golden Tiara slightly lied, remembering the strange letter she'd found right after the world had changed. "... BUT I'M GRATEFUL IT HAPPENED NOW! IT GAVE ME BACK MY LIFE! My REAL life! What's WRONG with you Cupcakes?! You've NEVER acted like this before!"
"I got my wings back!" She fluttered the mismatched collection on her back. "We were all treated wrong before! Badly! Meanly. When we should have been treated as friends!" She said excited, then said the next sentence in a plain tone before switching to manic again. "That was wrong. So now we get to be the viceroys of Canterlot and lots of other places! Changing depending on the second or third letter of the name of the day of the week of course after going through the hourly cryptogram!"
"I ROYALLY APPROVE!" Celestia cheered.
"Oh but you should beeee!" Grinned Celestia, and clambered over with the chains. She looked Golden right in the face, nose to nose, pushing back against Luna. "You're a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD pony Screwball!"
"Not working!" Golden said defiantly.
"You have a chance to make EVERYTHING RIGHT, to fix EVERYTHING, but you being a selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, pony, like the rest of your family has always been selfish, you did the selfish thing, you selfish, selfish, selfish selfish pony!" She giggled.
"What are you talking about?" Golden asked in sincere confusion. Did she mean not agreeing to the letter?
= 'Number One' - Bleach =
Guard Flash Sentry said to Celestia. "Stop it! She's not selfish! I was THERE when we took back Canterlot! I saw her! She was willing to DIE to help! She fought for her friends then! And she's been fighting for her friends now! The REAL Celestia would never say that!"
"Oh, excuse me," said Cupcake politely and bright. "This is a 'pony's only party'." She snarled. "And you're not invited!"
The two mad ponies jumped off their throne, hopped off the glass table that cracked under their hooves, jumped on top of Celestia and leapt straight at Flash Sentry.
Philomena balked. It was over in a flash.
Flash Sentry's friends readied themselves to help him, set to protect him and safely disable the mad ponies. Instead, he flew back and grabbed Cupcakes using royal guard CQC, gripping her with his rear legs, and using his forelegs AND his wings to wrongly bend Cupcake's five wings. The two rolled over with Flash landing on top. Flash used his own weight to keep her pinned. Creepy Crawlie came right behind the faster pegasus. Flash just stuck out his rear leg, and Creepy's own momentum did the work for him, making the mad pony gasp out as he was rammed in the stomach, and Flash gave him a head-butt, knocking Creepy dizzy.
Sunny Day took her cue and knotted the bedsheets into a rope, tying up the two with her telekinesis. She regretted the unsavory things she knew were staining the sheets.
"I've been fighting monsters endlessly since this whole thing started. What chance did you have?" Flash asked.
"Please be gentle," Golden pleaded. "They honestly don't know what they're doing. They're at the asylum because they're not responsible for their actions."
"Don't worry," Luna said, then used her magic to put both mad ponies to sleep.
"Yo! I'm Tucan, the Talking Tuna!" Shouted the giant fish as it began to force its way through the window. Without missing a beat, Philomena dove through the air and set the fish on fire.
"Yo! I'm Tucan, the Talking Tuna!" It cried as the fish was flambéed and fell away from the window into fog below, breaking apart back into the chaos magic it was made of.
The ponies and Phoenix as one turned their attention back towards the thing that used to be Celestia. She shrank away from them slightly.
"L-lulu! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
"... I'm saving you, sister, just like you saved me. With the help of others... "
"They attacked our viceroys! And Philomena just slaughtered an innocent creature! They all need to be Banished!"
"... They attacked a Royal Guard. And that thing was not a creature to be slaughtered to begin with."
"Lulu! Help me get these chains off! Nopony has been able to get them off so far! Maybe you can!"
"Not until you are yourself again, sister."
"Of course I'm myself! I've never felt so alive! Since... well, since I last had a nice stallion to have fun with, the dolls are fun, but nothing compared to a real pony! Or a faithful student."
"The worst part is that I know you'll be disgusted and horrified at yourself after this."
"Well then! Isn't it much better if 'after' never comes?!" She grinned. "Wouldn't that be wonderful!? Tee-heheheh!"
"No. It's horrible. And I know, deep down... you want to be yourself again. You are a teacher, a mother, a protector... not a defiler... and I will help you break free of this curse."
Luna and what-was-Celestia both stopped as both felt a wave of unhealthy migraines.
Then what-was-Celestia eyes zeroed in on Sunny Day, like she was a life preserver.
"Sunny Day, come to me. Time to come home. I'll be taking back what I gave you," she cooed.
"?!... You are NOT my home! And you've never given me anything!"
"Tee-heheheh! That so? Oh how adorable!!" She grinned sickly. "Tell me my dear, what's your home town?"
Sunny Day startled at the question, like it had never occurred to her in her life. "I... I was born in Canterlot!"
"True, I guess. What were your parents' names?"
"M... Mr. and Mrs. Day!"
"OH come on! Tee-heheh! What adult pony doesn't know their parents' first names?"
Now Flash Sentry and Golden Tiara were looking concerned for their friend. Why was Celestia asking these questions? And why was Sunny having trouble answering them? It didn't make sense!
"I... I don't know!" Sunny replied shaking a little.
"What was your first job?"
"That's all? That's all you've ever been your entire life?"
"Heh. What's your favorite flower?"
"I ... I don't have one."
"What's your least favorite?"
"What was the name of your first grade teacher? Was it a mare or a stallion? Can you name any of your classmates? Can you name one friend you've ever had? Can you tell me what your stress address is? What color are your bedroom walls?"
What used to be Celestia licked her lips hungrily.
"I... I... I don't know!" Sunny cried out, terror striking her like lightning. She remembered the articles she'd written, but... there was nothing beyond that... just... just a void.
'Celestia' showed no mercy. "How old are you? When IS your birthday? Come now, any REAL pony can answer that! You ARE real, aren't you? It's not like you just POPPED into existence from nothing! Tee-hehe!"
"I'm 190 pounds! I'm ten HH high! I'm thirty years old!"
"Oh really? Funny since Sunny Day has been in operation for fifty years."
"T-that was my mother!"
"Oh? Then shouldn't that have been EASY to remember when I asked you what her name was? Tee-heheheh!"
Sunny Day started at the contradiction. Flash and Golden were terrified for their friend, what was Not-Celestia doing to her, and for what?
"What's your favorite anything? Color. Bird. Book. Play. Ice-Cream. Cake. Number."
Sunny Day was shaking, she looked about wildly like she was cornered... she started to glow golden... Philomena squeaked at Princess Luna. The night Princess blasted Sunny Day, who fell asleep on her hooves. She stopped glowing.
(For a moment, we doth truly considered forsaking our oath as an Element of Honesty yet again to save Sunny Day. To give her imitation memories to fill the void of her past. But nay, we realized that this could damage reality further. One life, means parents, means childhood, means meeting foals at that school, every pony leaves a ripple on the world. And she is ultimately Celestia's responsibility to...handle her new existence, not my own. So instead we simply put her to sleep. Thankfully the mind often blocks out existential threats. We admit tis but a temporary solution. But we shall cross that bridge when we come to it.)
"Lulu! No fair!" Not-Celestia protested.
"‘Fairness’ is for laws and games, Celly, not war."
"Princess Luna! What was she doing to Sunny Day?!" Golden Tiara asked for the sake of her friend.
"Oh, tee-heheh, I was just getting her to realize she doesn't-"
"ENOUGH, SISTER!" Luna cut Not-Celestia off with the Royal Canterlot Voice at maximum force. The others in the room folded their ringing ears. Sunny Day, the Mad Ponies, and the Guard outside didn't awake from their nap, for Luna did not wish it thus. "We have come here to save ye! And save ye we shall! Tis trite, but we know thy real-self is within ye somewhere!"
"Oh Lulu you're so silly! This IS the real me! The me I want to be! The me that's FREEEE!"
"What freedom is there in being a slave to thy base impulses?"
The wave of headaches hit both again.
Not-Celestia pulled at the chains, and they creaked.
Flash Sentry's Journal:
That is when I got the single most stupid, crazy, reckless, Pinkie Pie-esque idea I've ever had.
"Princess Celestia! Cake!"
I pull out the treat that we'd picked up on our trip through the castle, and slid it over to her, followed by every single cake we'd taken.
The Princess' eyes zeroed in on the prize, and dug in face first, everything else forgotten.
( . . . When this is over, we art demanding sister give this stallion a promotion!)