• Published 10th Mar 2012
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Guilt and Hate - Mindblower

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Chapter Five

Chapter Five

*******

A pony shrouded in darkness appeared outside a decrepit castle. Rusted metal and curly spikes jutted from the ground. The pony watched his step as he carefully traversed through the winding passageways of the ruins toward a central point.

If Hate called this meeting, it must be important, he thought as he made his way to his destination. He walked into a clearing, his hooves stepping onto one of several metal bridges that supported an ancient iron structure in the center of the circular canyon.

A fountain was at the center of the temple. A black gem hissed and fizzled at the top of the rusty fountain, and smooth, oily water flowed from it. A yellow pegasus mare with a fiery dark and light orange mane was washing her hair in its thick, foamy waters.

“Hate,” the pony hissed. “We do not take baths in the waters of the Lock.”

The pegasus, Hate, turned around and revealed her slitted indigo eyes. “Are they your sacred waters, Envy? Huh? Are they?” she challenged, glaring over her shoulder threateningly.

The pony, Envy, backed down. “Sorry.”

“Remember, I have to be all nice and grimy for my grand appearance. Deception told me her target is especially fond of this body, so my two choices were extra girly or extra dirty,” Hate explained, drying off her sopping mane.

“Hmph,” Envy snorted. “I suppose it’s obvious which one you picked.”

“No duh,” Hate muttered.

“So why did you convene this big and important meeting of yours, hmm?” Envy asked.

“‘Cause I wanna know when I get free rein on those Elements of Stupid,” Hate said.

A unicorn teen with a magenta coat and a purple and white mane hopped out of a mid-air portal. She landed gracefully on the uneven metal surface with Envy and Hate. Her slitted eyes were a striking blue in color, and she was surprisingly well kept and beautiful. She walked toward the group with a smug look on her face. “Glad to see I’m not the only one here. It’s creepy coming to the Lock all alone.”

Envy smiled. “Good to have you with us, Arrogance. How do you like your new body? I picked it specifically for you.”

“Oh, thank you soo much!” Arrogance said, her sinister grin stretching from ear to ear. “This is just the best body ever. Makes me almost sad I took it; the girl could have made an excellent apprentice.”

“I have her friend, Silver Loon or something, in storage, too,” Envy added. “She’ll make a good backup if you get your body beat up.”

“You possessed her right in front of her friend, didn’cha?” Hate sighed. “Jeez, Arrogance, don’cha have any decency? She’s just a kid, y’know.”

“Like I care. She’ll be dead in a few days or so anyway,” Arrogance shrugged. “Besides, brats like her don’t deserve to live. At least I’m trying to do something productive.”

“I guess,” Hate said.

A bright orange portal opened up in the ground beside the group, and a maroon unicorn stallion with a chocolate-colored mane stepped out of it.

“Guilt!” Hate exclaimed, running over and giving the stallion a high-hoof. “What’s shaking, bro?”

Guilt shrugged, but didn’t say a word.

“Nothin’ much? Aight, I’m cool with that. And nice job taking care of the Elements of Dumb the other day,” Hate grinned, giving Guilt a friendly shove.

Guilt smiled, but remained mute.

“Yeah, I know, but I gotta practice this character for now. All part of the show, right?” Hate asked sheepishly.”

“Deception’s taking her sweet time,” Envy observed.

“Always does, always will,” Arrogance grumbled, using telekinesis to levitate a comb and brush her hair. “Can’t we just start without her?”

“No can do, sis,” Hate said. “The reason I made this entire meeting thing is to get Deception’s ‘Free-reign’ approval stamp. Then I’ll be all over those little pests.”

“Ugh, why did you choose today to be especially annoying?” Arrogance complained.

“‘Cause I can,” Hate answered simply.

A thick, yellow energy crackled above the fountain. A hazy black form tried to materialize, but it was undefined and wavy. “Greetings,” the form whispered. “I trust you are all well?

“Look, Imma get to the point, Decepty,” Hate said. “What I wanna do is make the Elements of Ugly wish they’d never set foot in our territory again. Plain and simple. I’m all gussied up for the occasion, too, so let me show them what you mean when you say ‘Fear us,’ or whatever.”

Granted, just make sure you don’t strain yourself,” the hazy form of Deception said. “As for the rest of you, I want no interference on your part. Ivy, are you recovered?

“Don’t call me that!” Arrogance hissed. “Have you forgotten our agreement? And of course I’m ready; do you seriously expect anything less?”

My apologies. It’s just th--” the vision fizzled out for a moment before refocusing. “Confound this connection. That annoying spell of theirs keeps me from properly utilizing my abilities.

“Well, that’s gonna be history once Celestia’s gone,” Hate said. “Anyway, Guilt’s readied the cast. Discord is prepping the stage. All you have to do is give the actor his cue.”

Your clearance is going to be limited to torture for now. Make them wish they were never born. However, killing them will come later, I assure you,” Deception finished.

“Ugh, whatever,” Hate rolled her eyes. “This better be worth it, though. I’ve been waiting for this payoff for five thousand years.”

I am aware,” Deception said sternly.

Hate vanished in a puff of smoke. Envy coughed and tried to brush the soot off her face. “I keep forgetting not to stand so close to him.”

As for you, Envy, I wish to see you in Canterlot as soon as possible. There is something you and I need to discuss. I bid you all good day,” Deception finished, her signal dissipating.

“I wonder what that’s about,” Envy thought aloud.

“Probably to discuss your complete and utter failure as an Element, but we all knew you had that coming to you,” Arrogance mused, covering her grin with a hoof.

Envy shot her a glance, then vanished. Guilt’s eyes narrowed slightly in suspicion, probably of Deception’s motives, but he simply re-opened a portal and leapt through it.

Arrogance shivered in the cool wind, and glanced around at the rusty iron and broken chain links that characterized the Lock. She adjusted her mane, pulling a few locks of purple hair back behind her ear. “Yeah... It’s still pretty creepy,” she muttered to herself, opening a dark gateway and vanishing through it.

=====================================================================

*******

“What do you mean, Centime’s gone?” Rarity gaped.

“I mean, he ran away,” Celestia growled, gritting her teeth. She swore and said, “I should have chained him to the tree!

“N-Now, Celestia, don’t overreact...” Fluttershy began. “He couldn’t have gotten far. I think we should go search for him as soon as possible.”

“We’ll go look for him,” Scootaloo said, motioning to herself and Dash.

“Sure you’re fast enough?” Dash asked, nudging Scootaloo playfully.

“Pretty sure,” Olly said, motioning to Dash’s wings. “You still can’t fly, y’know.”

“This isn’t a game!” Rarity hissed. “There is a foal somewhere out in the wilderness and he could have gotten hurt, or worse, dirty!

“Okay, okay! We’ll get going right away,” Dash said. She tried to take to the air, swore, and then took off on hoof. Scootaloo departed as well, headed the other direction by wing.

“We should split up so we can cover more ground,” Applejack suggested.

“That’s just what Discord wants,” Celestia warned. “Dash and Scootaloo would be fast enough to escape most trouble, but if we’re going to search on hoof, we need to travel as a group. Let’s pack up camp as fast as we can, then we can get moving.”

“I think he went this way,” Olly said, pointing to the small tracks on the ground in the direction Scootaloo had taken off. “The ground’s soft, which is lucky for us. We should be able to track him down in, eh, maybe an hour or two, give or take.”

Celestia nodded. “Let’s move.”

They hurriedly bundled their gear together and followed the tracks Olly had pointed out. They, surprisingly, led into lighter, thinner sections of the forest.

Centime is either a really smart little colt, or a really lucky one, Celestia remarked as she saw her light begin to break through the canopy. After examining the newest trail, Celestia turned back to the group and said, “We’re close. These tracks are a lot fresher.”

They continued for a few more minutes, following the tracks until they abruptly stopped.

“And then they vanished. Perfect,” Olly muttered.

“Is there another way he could have gone?” Sweetie Belle asked.

Celestia’s eyes darted around, trying to see where Centime’s trail continued, but her efforts were fruitless. She moaned in exasperation. “I just can’t win today!”

“We don’t have any choice but to split up,” Twilight said. “We might never find him otherwise.”

“I know,” Celestia said. She pawed her hoof on the ground angrily. If I ever see that stupid little foal again...

=====================================================================

Scootaloo was racing through the forest, scanning the ground for Centime. She used her frictionless hooves to slide up trees and skim the ground, taking to the air only when necessary. It allowed her to fluidly move through the forest without having to concentrate and make sure she didn’t run into a pine tree and get the usual mouthful of sap.

Spotting a little green lump deep in a crevice, Scootaloo skidded to a halt and turned around. She heard a whimpering noise, and as she drew closer, she recognized it as Centime’s.

*******

She slowly approached him, but his eyes were still as full of hate and fear as usual. “Go’way,” he mumbled.

“It’s just me,” Scootaloo said, offering her hoof. Centime was about a meter down in a muddy crack, with a fresh cut on his cheek. He refused her hoof, though, and instead shrunk deeper into the pit.

“I said, go away!” he rasped, his voice hoarse.

Scootaloo was confused. “Why are you even here, anyway?”

“So that you wouldn’t find me, and...” Centime shivered. As Scootaloo studied him in greater detail, she saw that he was pale, and his eyes were glossed over.

“And?” Scootaloo prompted.

“And... And I don’t wanna go anywhere,” Centime finished.

Scootaloo felt a twinge of frustration, but let it pass, thinking, Maybe the only way to get him to stop being so stubborn is to be stubborn, too. She laid down next to the ditch and continued to offer Centime a way out.

She sat there for a few moments, staring into Centime’s eyes, before asking, “Well? You can’t stay here forever.”

“I’m. Not. Leaving,” Centime said firmly, turning his head to the wall.

“Well, I’ve got news, Centime: Neither am I,” Scootaloo stated. “I’m not going to leave until you say why you’re in this hole, for real.”

“...b-because I just wanna be alone. Forever,” Centime whispered. Though he tried not to show how upset he was, his quivering voice gave it away.

Scootaloo was crushed. For a moment, she was unsure how to respond, but she finally said, “Centime... don’t do this. We can help you.”

“Y-You can’t,” Centime mumbled. “Just go away and defeat the bad ponies... I don’t care anymore.”

“...I’ll kick those bad ponies right back where they belong,” Scootaloo promised, “but I can’t do it without you. Let me help you, Cent. You deserve better.”

Centime sniffled, shrinking back into the hollow for a moment. When he finally saw that Scootaloo wasn’t leaving, he grasped her hoof, though hesitantly. She pulled him up and hugged him tightly despite the fact that he was covered in mud and icy cold to the touch. Instinctively, she rocked him, and he slowly fell asleep in her embrace. His eyelids closed as he nodded off, more from exhaustion than anything else.

When Dash finally found her, she expected Scootaloo to leap for joy and to celebrate a job well done. She expected a high-hoof and a cheerful attitude.

What Scootaloo said, in a quiet, pained voice was, “Dash... I need help.”

=====================================================================

Over at the stream they had found later in the morning, Dash was treading water while Scootaloo sat motionless at the riverbed.

“C’mon, Scoot, the water’s only cold until you get used to it,” Dash persisted.

Scootaloo slowly poked her hoof into the water, but decided against going in. “I think a bath can wait...” she muttered.

Dash swam over to her. “What’s wrong?”

“Dash...” Scootaloo began. “Can ponies really be monsters?”

“Monsters aren’t ponies, and we’re not fighting ponies,” Dash stated as if it were a simple math problem. “You saved Cent’s life, Scootaloo. Why aren’t you proud of it?”

Scootaloo wiped her eyes. “Because I had to see him, just as he...” She rested her head in her hooves. “I’ve never seen anypony so beat up before. I’ve never seen a pony, especially one as young as him, to just want to... give up.”

“Then why don’t you go, y’know, cheer him up?” Dash suggested.

Scootaloo nodded and stood up, though she didn’t go over to see Centime. She went to her sleeping bag and tried to take a nap, but she couldn’t quite sleep. Olly put a hoof on her shoulder and nudged her gently.

“What’s up?” Scootaloo asked drowsily.

“Oh, the sky, Cloudsdale, a few other things,” Olly said, though his expression was more concerned than jovial. “I heard Centime wasn’t looking too good when you found him.”

Scootaloo shook her head, staring at the ground. “I could have been him... If I hadn’t found the others before Apple Bloom died, I might have just wanted to let go. I’d do anything to see her again, even if it meant... even if it meant leaving behind everything else.”

“It’s hard to lose somepony. It’s different each time, but it still hurts just the same,” Olly said. His eyes lost focus for a second, and he had to blink before they regained their typical sharp and witty light. “You rest up, and don’t forget to tell that big marshmallow pussycat in Dreamland to pay me back by next Thursday.” He tussled her mane for a moment before walking off.

Twilight walked over to Celestia, who was bathing Centime in a shallow pool. What caught her eye, though, was the vapor rising from the little oasis.

“Why is there so much steam?” Twilight asked, feeling the water. It’s warm, she observed.

“I superheated it so that Centime wouldn’t get infected. Hold still,” Celestia insisted while trying to get the dirt out from under Centime’s ears.

“Ow, ow, ow!” Centime flinched away from Celestia’s hoof. “I have a cut there!”

Twilight observed him. Reminds me of somepony. Maybe the child I don’t have yet. She smiled, liking that thought, before realizing what it implied. I hope nopony ever has to go through anything that awful ever again, she thought sorrowfully.

After his bath, Fluttershy bandaged Centime’s most major injuries, which were mostly along his hind leg. The rest prepared for the trip.

“Okay, so, I made a list of things to do,” Twilight said. Her horn crackled and fizzed as she tried to use magic. She yelped in pain, putting both hooves on her temples.

“You have to be a little more careful, Twilight. The Thaumic Incindia is still blocking your magic,” Celestia warned. She used telekinesis to pull a scroll out of Twilight’s bag. “Is this it?”

Twilight nodded weakly.

“Hmm...” Celestia mumbled, taking stock of everything on the list. First aid, bread, celery, rope, umbrellas, raincoats, extra sweaters and socks... “Everything’s accounted for. We should get going as soon as we can.”

Applejack nodded. “Let’s move ‘em out,” she called, slinging a pack onto her back.

The trail was very poorly kept. The group had to slog through the stretches of mud, clamber through rocky paths, and wade through streams as they made their way along the path Twilight had predetermined; the path straight into central Equestria, where they could lay low and hopefully avoid Discord. Tall, snowy mountains lined the horizon.

Twilight approached the front of the line to speak with Celestia. “Celestia, you said that you were only here five thousand years or so. Who raised the sun before you?”

“The Element of Magic did, before the Dark Times,” Celestia explained. “They were literally dark. Without anypony to raise or set the sun and moon, the time was suspended at dawn. Some unicorns tried to raise the sun every now and then, but they were quickly rounded up and put down.”

“What happened to Magic?” Rarity asked, joining the conversation.

“Deception happened,” Celestia said angrily, though she tried not to show it. “Magic was immortal, but there are ways to remove immortality. Deception took Magic and split his body into two parts. I keep one half, and my sister keeps the other.”

“How’d ya get ‘em?” Applejack asked.

“Long story short, Deception gave them to us,” Celestia sighed.

“Wha?” Dash asked. “That doesn’t make any sense!”

“That’s what I thought at first as well,” Celestia sighed, “but she had her reasons. She’s still plotting something; I just have no idea what.”

“Sounds like Deception has a couple screws loose,” Olly observed. “I wonder, what could have driven her to what she’s doing right now?”

“She’s a monster, just like the rest of Discord,” Celestia scowled. “They have no place in this world. Not in the Equestria we’ve grown to know and love.”

They journeyed to the edge of the forest, and the air turned cool and breezy. Far off in the distance, a town could be seen.

“Good. We can finally drop this little tyke off,” Olly said, motioning to Centime.

Centime threw him an indignant glance, but remained silent as they continued. When they finally reached the town, they immediately noticed several things out of the ordinary. One, it was empty. No farmers, merchants, or townsfolk of any sort seemed to be present. The second thing that was out of place was the material the houses were made of.

They looked nice from a distance, but upon closer inspection, they were just cruddy shacks with a straw-like roof. The ground was muddy, but it wasn’t the texture of ordinary mud; it was thin, and the group’s hooves almost sank through it. The homes were identical, as well--as if they had been cut from a cookie cutter.

Celestia rolled her eyes. “Where are you, Discord?”

*******

“Right behind you!” The group snapped their heads around to see Discord, lying on an invisible lawn chair, sipping from a glass of lemonade. The glass portion of the glass slowly drained into the straw, leaving the lemonade seemingly suspended in midair. “I do like a lemonade of glass when it’s hot out, don’t you?”

“Discord? Again?!” Rarity asked. “What in the world compels you to visit us so often?”

“Force of habit,” Discord grinned.

Pinkie tasted the mud. “Chocolate fudge!” She stuck her head into the ground and stuffed herself, pausing only for air.

“Why are you obsessed with food?” Dash asked Discord.

He shrugged. “What can I say? I have a sweet tooth. Or thirty-two.” He studied the town. “Though... this place could use a little sprucing-up, now that you mention it.”

With a snap of his talons, giant plaid crystals sprouted from the ground. Most of the group leapt out of the way, but one of them caught Pinkie by her mane and pulled her upward.

“Whee!” she squealed as she was sent three meters into the air.

“Stop it!” Celestia yelled, exasperated.

“Right you are, Celestia,” Discord continued, throwing the solid chunk of lemonade behind him. When it hit the ground, the bottom started to fizzle, and it rocketed up into the air, exploding high above the group in a burst of poka dots. “I do put on quite a good show, though, don’t I?”

“Ooh...” Pinkie gaped, craning her neck to watch as the light quickly faded away. “Again! Again!”

“Wh-Why are you here this time?” Fluttershy asked, ignoring Pinkie.

“More guiding. More leading,” Discord shrugged. “There’s somepony very special that I want you all to meet.”

“Where is he?” Sweetie Belle asked.

Discord pointed to the ground. “Far down below.”

Suddenly, the chocolate fudge thinned. It began to swirl in a counter-clockwise motion toward a drain the in center of the town. The shacks crumbled and were dragged down into the vortex as the town’s infrastructure gave way. The Elements yelled as they were sucked down the drain. Only Scootaloo and Celestia remained aloft as the rest disappeared beneath the sweet brown liquid. Gasping, Scootaloo dove down the middle of the drain to try and save them.

Celestia glared at Discord. He can’t kill us. Not yet. “I could kill you where you stand, Discord.”

“You could,” Discord began, “provided I was in the middle of singing an opera for some of my most loyal subjects and in no way paying attention to my surroundings, like you did last time. Quite a pity I didn’t get to finish that, by the way. La Coup de Grace is one of my favorites.”

Even as her friends fell, Celestia’s gaze remained locked tight with Discord’s. Eventually, Celestia sighed in defeat and dove down below into the cavern.

“Predictable,” Discord scoffed, rolling his eyes. He sealed up the pit. “She would have been better off up here.”

*******

=====================================================================

Rarity sat up and rubbed her eyes. It’s so dark down here, I can’t see six inches in front of my face, she muttered to herself.

“Is everypony alright?” Celestia asked, lighting up the room with her magic.

They glanced around. Everything seemed to be in order. Surprisingly, the chocolate sauce had vaporized as soon as they landed--each pony’s pelt was as clean and fresh as before.

“Yeah... I guess so,” Scootaloo said, inspecting her feathers.

“You won’t be for long,” the group heard somepony say.

Sweetie Belle yelped as flames lit up the edges of the circular cavern, forcing all of them into the center. A pegasus mare slowly walked into the light.

*******

“Right on time,” she muttered, glaring at them. Her pelt was a dirty yellow with grimy and haphazard wings. Her greasy mane would have been striped light orange and dark orange, but it was hard to see through the utter lack of care. Her slitted indigo eyes and devilish grin could only mean one thing.

“No, no, no!” Celestia screamed. “Not yet!”

“Funny how things never go your way, innit?” the mare laughed.

“I recognize your voice,” Dash squinted. She gaped in shock. “S-Spitfire?”

“Bless her soul,” the mare smirked, putting a hoof over her chest in a false show of faith. “I take it she was a dear friend of yours.”

“What have you done to Spitfire’s body?!” Dash yelled, rapidly getting furious.

“Jus’ the usual thing. Ruin it,” the mare taunted.

Dash was in utter shock and fury. She... She tore apart the body of the best flier in Equestria! Just for fun!

Celestia stared at the mare, fear glistening in her eyes. “It...” she shook her head vigorously. There’s no way to run! No way out...

“W-What do we do, Celestia?” Twilight asked.

Celestia hung her head. “...Nothing,” she finally mumbled.

Twilight looked up in shock. Nothing?! But... we can’t just give up! Can we? Are we up against somepony so powerful we can’t do anything but surrender?

The mare laughed. Her laugh was high and harsh, ending in a sinister giggle as she looked at her prey. “So you know you’re toast this time, ‘Tia,” the mare giggled. “That’s a first.”

“W-Who are you?” Pinkie asked.

“Me? Guess,” the mare dared.

“He’s Hate,” Celestia muttered, falling to her knees. “With powers second only to Vengeance.”

“Right!” the mare, Hate, grinned. “And guess what else, my little Elements of Worthless?”

“Don’t call us that!” Dash yelled.

“What’s to stop me, little filly?” Hate challenged. She flicked her hoof to the left, and tiny sparks danced at Fluttershy’s hooves, biting at her legs. She yelped and tried to evade them, but another psychic blast forced her into the ground, and she writhed as the black sparks stung her like a swarm of angry bees.

“Leave her alone!” Dash yelled leaping at Hate.

Celestia looked up sharply at Dash. “NO!” However, it was too late.

Hate glanced at Dash, and indigo energy shot from her eyes. Dash screamed as the energy tore through her, frying her from the inside out. Dash collapsed on the cavern floor in a fetal position, twitching slightly.

“I may need to tone it down a bit,” Hate observed.

“What did you do to me...?” Dash groaned in intense pain. I feel like I’ve been turned inside out! Ngh... How?

Hate looked up and glared at the group. “So... who wants to go first?”

Twilight looked to Celestia desperately for guidance, but the sun goddess wasn’t all there. She just gave up. This isn’t good!

Hate slowly walked toward the group, forcing them into the heat of the fire. Suddenly, Hate leapt at Sweetie Belle and tore her from the group. Kicking and screaming, the white unicorn tried to escape, but one quick burst of negative energy was enough to subdue her.

“Let her go!” Applejack yelled, trying to pull the dazed Sweetie Belle away from Hate. Hate just turned and stared at Applejack feircely.

Indigo energy crackled from both Applejack and Hate’s eyes. A small stream of blood flowed from Applejack’s ears before the orange earth pony slumped to the floor, unconscious.

“Jeez,” Hate remarked. “Only two of you have realized your Potential? That’s just sad.” She tossed Applejack aside.

Hate glanced at the rest of the group, and they suddenly found themselves slowed almost to a stop, unable to move a muscle. The air grew as thick as syrup, and Twilight was barely able to move. Her thoughts slowed for a moment, but quickly got up to speed as Hate lessened the effect of the spell.

“My little pony, my little pony,” Hate hummed, cancelling the spell on Pinkie and tossing her into the air. Pinkie fell onto the ground with a yelp and a thud.

“Why are you doing this?” Twilight asked in shock. “You... You monster!

“You mad, Twilight?” Hate grinned. “Good. Get angry!” she yelled, punching Twilight in the face and kicking her when she fell over. The purple unicorn was now dangerously close to the flames, her hair a bit singed.

Hate swung Olly aside and pummeled him into the floor. “Stupid little runt,” Hate sneered, kicking Olly’s midsection.

“Barbarian!” Rarity yelled.

“If I were in your position, sweetcheeks, I wouldn’t be trash talking,” Hate smirked at Rarity, cantering toward her. “‘Cause y’know what? I can do a lot of really nasty things to you, Rarity. Lotsa reeally nasty things,” Hate whispered, leaning in close. “But I’ll settle for this.” Hate spit in Rarity’s eye, and then reversed the paralysis spell on her.

Rarity screeched and desperately tried to rub the spittle out of her eyes while Hate erupted into a fit of giggles.

“Girls get upset over the stupidest things.” Hate wiped her eyes; she was crying from laughing so hard.

What are we supposed to do?! Twilight screamed at herself. I can’t just sit here and let my friends get demolished!

Centime was petrified and crying in a corner next to Fluttershy and Scootaloo. Why is she hurting them? Why?

“This is boring,” Hate complained. “That’s what I hate about you Elements of Bogus. It’s always unfair one way or the other.”

“Y-Yeah? Well you just wait, mister!” Fluttershy exclaimed. “Once I’ve realized my Potential, y-you’re going to w-wish you’d never messed with us!”

Hate turned suddenly to face Fluttershy, her eyes deathly serious. Hate slowly walked toward the now terrified yellow pegasus. “Y’know what?” Hate asked. “You wanna go head-to-head, Flutters? I’m game.”

Hate swatted Centime and Scootaloo away, looking at Fluttershy with murder clearly showing in her eyes. Fluttershy was trembling with fear.

“I’m going to let you know something right now,” Hate snarled, gritting her yellowed teeth. “Grass grows, birds fly, sun shines, and you know what, Kindness?” Hate asked, getting so close to Fluttershy that their snouts were touching. “I will never. Stop. Killing you!” Hate hissed.

Fluttershy was crying now, unable to stop the tear flow. Her mind went completely numb with fear.

Hate backed up, still glaring at Fluttershy. “Get that through your thick head. Filthy little monster,” she muttered before vanishing.

*******

“Of all the worst things that could happen, this is the worst--possible--thing!” Rarity cried. “She spit in my eye!

“I feel the urge to upchuck,” Olly said, walleyed.

Celestia drew a shaky breath. “I should have seen it coming. Hate wouldn’t stand idly by while we tried to make our way.”

Sweetie Belle took a deep breath and began to sing. Healing energy spread throughout all of them and repaired their wounds.

Dash stood up suddenly, furious. “Why didn’t you do anything, Celestia?”

“Because there was nothing to do,” Celestia said sadly. “I’ve seen Hate’s power. Without flight or magic, we didn’t stand a chance.”

“But you gave up, Celestia!” Dash barked angrily. “What’s your problem? We could have used your help!”

“What difference would it have made?” Celestia asked. “You saw how easily Hate took you down. His power and experience is unmatched. Even if we could hurt him, which we can’t, he would have easily demolished us.”

“Y’know what the problem is? Your attitude,” Dash said resentfully. “At least I tried to protect us! You just sat there feeling sorry for yourself.” She turned around. “If you don’t think you can protect us, Celestia, we’re better off without you.”

Celestia turned away, hurt.

“Stop this!” Twilight commanded. “Dash, face facts. You were next to useless against Hate and only got yourself hurt. That’s been happening a lot, too. You can’t say you’re better than Celestia if neither of you accomplish anything!”

“None of us are better!” Pinkie blurted. “We’re a team, right? We don’t have ranks; this isn’t an Iron Pony competition! We’re all equal. If one of us fails, th-then we all do! ...Right?” She traced a circle on the ground with her hoof, suddenly unsure.

“Pinkie’s right,” Celestia said firmly. “We’re not fighting Discord to prove ourselves. We’re fighting them to save Equestria.”

“But it doesn’t matter if we can’t even fight them!” Twilight argued. “We’ve been giving it our all, especially Dash and Pinkie, and they just walk all over us every--single--time! It’s like we’re not even there! Celestia, aren’t we supposed to be more powerful than they are? How can we save Equestria when we can’t even hold a candle to Discord?

“We’ll only beat them if we work like a team,” Celestia elaborated. “So far, we’ve all been fighting as individuals. Unless we act like a team and help each other fight, we won’t get anywhere.”

“...I guess that’s right,” Twilight said. She paused, unsure what to say next.

Scootaloo checked Applejack’s pulse amidst the awkward silence. She’s still alive, somehow. Whatever magic Hate worked on her looked deadly. “Well, what are we supposed to do now?” she finally asked. “Give up and die? Or keep going and die anyway?”

“Discord’s keeping us on a track we can’t get off,” Sweetie Belle mumbled.

“There is something that I can do,” Celestia murmured. “But... it’s risky.”

Twilight turned to the sun goddess. “What is it, Celestia?”

“You know spells that can reverse the damage Guilt has done, right?” Celestia asked. “You just can’t use them because of the Thaumic Incindia.”

Twilight nodded. “Why?”

“I can lend you my immortality for a brief time, about a minute or so. That should be enough to get rid of that nasty spell,” Celestia explained.

Twilight smiled. “Great!”

“Wh-Why haven’t you, then?” Rarity asked.

Celestia sighed. “There are awful side effects.”

“Such as?” Olly asked, rubbing his eyes and looking over.

Celestia paused for a moment, collecting herself. “The only other time I tried was with my sister, Luna. She had a nasty form of lung disease about three thousand years ago. She would survive, but she was suffering a lot. Her immortality is weaker than mine, so we were forced to try and remove her tumor using surgery and intrusive magic. I was upset at seeing my sister in so much pain, so I offered to lend her my immortality for a while. It worked, and Luna’s lungs were back in top condition.

“However, ten years later, something happened that was directly linked to my lending Luna my immortality,” Celestia continued, taking a deep breath. “One of Luna’s lungs suddenly stopped working. It died so rapidly that her immortality wasn’t able to save it. She’s only had one working lung ever since. She’s forgiven me, but I’ve never forgiven myself.”

Twilight bit her lip. “What could happen to me, Celestia?”

“I could give you back your magic now, Twilight,” Celestia began. “However, in a few years, your magic could suddenly disappear. I have no idea what could happen in the short-term, because you aren’t immortal like my sister.”

Twilight looked back at the others. I could give them all back their abilities, but I might be sacrificing my life in the process. A unicorn without magic is a dead unicorn. “It’s probably for the best,” she decided, though something in her gut still pulled her in the other direction. It was the nagging feeling she always got when she knew that she was taking a risk that might not pay off.

“Are you absolutely sure, Twilight?” Olly asked.

Twilight sighed, but nodded. “Well, is there another option? Like Scootaloo said, it’s die now or die later. At this point, we really have to look at the bigger picture. There’s no guarantee that we’re going to survive after we complete this ‘job’ that Discord keeps mentioning, but if we stay in Discord’s grasp, then we’re definitely going to die, or worse. ...I’m ready when you are, Celestia.”

Celestia nodded. “I didn’t want to force this on you. There’s really no predicting if something’s going to happen to you anyway.” The sun goddess stood up. She touched her horn to Twilight’s, and both of them glowed with a powerful aura. A shockwave of energy spread from Celestia’s hooves to her horn and then travelled into Twilight’s body.

Twilight felt very hot, so much that she began to perspire. The purple unicorn began to cough, on the verge of throwing up. She choked up a thick, burning hot black liquid from her throat. Celestia quickly conjured a bowl of water for Twilight to clean her mouth with.

Once the awful taste was out of her mouth, Twilight felt herself slowly revitalizing. She felt energy pulsing through her veins as pent-up magic started to weave its way back into her system. “I feel great!” she smiled. “Thank you, Celestia.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Celestia said, smiling sadly.

Twilight looked at her battered and broken group. “We have work to do.”

=====================================================================

[Note]: I do not own anything in this story that already belongs to someone else.
This story takes place BEFORE season two, but AFTER season one.
Please let me know if a link doesn’t work.
Hate’s laugh.