• Published 13th Mar 2012
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Inner Glory - Erindor

A utopian society cannot exist without the corpses of the revolutionaries.

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Chapter 63: Tides

Gemini reappeared in the room she had just left. Nobody had moved much, though it looked like she had interrupted an argument of some sort. Applejack was leaning aggressively towards Seren, who had been staring her down.

“Back so soon?” Seren asked mockingly.

“We had a bit of a disagreement.”

“Funny, we did as well.” He stalked towards Gemini. “Tell me, where did Celestia go?”

Before Twilight could respond evasively, Lustrous took control of their shared mouth. “She transported us to the gate between this world and Reality.”

“Did she now? Interesting...”

Applejack frustratedly groaned and ran over. “Twilight, we have to get out of here now. Seren won't listen to logic.”

“Matter of perspective. You won't listen to my logic.”

“What's going on?”

Applejack jerked her head towards the arrogant alicorn. “He's talkin' about blowin' up this whole place.”

“What, the palace?”

“No, the entire Forgotten Realm!” Seren crowed. “It'll be nice to see my prison crumble around me.”

Twilight shook her head in surprise. “What? Why? There's no need for wanton violence.”

“It's hardly wanton. A bit... extreme, perhaps, but it'll be the fastest solution to our problems.”

“Our problems being...?”

“The separation between the worlds. If Celestia hasn't already, she's likely to repair the distinction between the two. She's still trying to run from her problems. Can't say it's not warranted, seeing as I intended to slaughter her, but...”

“Is this why Celestia was so eager to tear me away? How is destroying everything going to help us at all?!”

Luna stepped forward quickly. “If I may explain? We've been speaking telepathically, and I think I might be able to explain it more clearly than he can. The Forgotten Realm exists as a counter-weight, so to speak, of Reality. For every good in Equestria, there is an agony in here. As Celestia allowed some minute darkness to remain in Equestria, just enough that free will could still exist, there was some good in the Forgotten Realm, like the concept of Respect. Even amongst thieves and murderers, you'll find it. Quicksilver's plan, while I don't fully agree with it, is to destroy everything in a path to the mirror, effectively tipping the scale the worlds reside on towards the side of the darkness. In an attempt to re-balance, Reality will begin drawing in more of the natural darkness from this world, and before we know it, the Forgotten Realm and Reality will be one and the same, and the distinction will cease to exist.”

“Who's Quicksilver?”

Twilight realized her friends hadn't had the chance to see what she had seen in the memory bubble, she opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Quicksilver himself.

“That would be me. I was once Celestia's guard, but I was awarded a new name for my radical ideas. I've come to prefer it, actually. My old self was foolish, and still somewhat blinded by the sun, so to speak.”

“Names aside, the problem still comes,” Applejack huffed, “from the fact that merging the worlds like you plan would be too sudden of a change. Once the worlds merge, death will become real, and permanent. Until the personalities can all find each other and merge, the sadly ignorant ponies of Equestria will be gettin' themselves eaten by hydras and nagas and who knows what else. Then they'll be dead, forever, and the dark personality will eventually just wither away. Neither of our societies is ready for such a quick merging.”

“Do I care of the societies when I intend to tear them down anyways?”

“And there's the problem! You don't care about the common folk! How do you think you'll be a better ruler than Celestia if you don't see that what's best for the people is best for the kingdom?”

“But I do! Obviously, the people can't handle themselves; another tyrant will always rise up, no matter how good the system is. That was proven with Discord, and it was proven with Celestia. It's better to have a benevolent tyrant who knows what's best and doesn't have any qualms about enacting the law. Casualties will happen, yes, and it's a shame it has to be like that. But the only other option is to allow the system to become corrupt in its infancy, and that will only lead to greater pain and more blood in the long run. Best to nip it in the bud.”

Applejack stood resolutely. “I can't let you do this.”

“Standing in my way is ill advised.”

Luna stepped forward. “Quicksilver, consider for a moment---”

“Luna, dearest, you and I have waited a thousand years for this. We can't back out now.”

“If you think I intended to back down, you're mistaken, but antagonizing those who have the potential to be our greatest allies is probably not wise.”

“Potential allies? I don't care what kind of world you see at the end of the tunnel, it's not worth even a single life!”

Ah, the battle between Omnia Valore and Finem Poenitet. Every world has champions for each.

“Pardon?” asked Rarity.

Omnia Valore is the belief that every life has distinct and great value, so much so that a single loss, whether it be through death or through undeserved misery, is a crime of terrible measure.

“Exactly,” Applejack affirmed. “Nothing's worth more than happiness. Even if you claim that that's your end goal, it's better to stick with the tried and true methods.”

“And Finem... Poenitet, yes? What does that mean?” asked Rarity, trying to keep the two sides from butting heads any further.

Finem Poenitet is the idea that, essentially, the ends justify the means. 'The End Repents', translated directly. Those who hold to it claim that the masses are, as a general rule, ignorant of their own state, and so a knowledgeable, all-powerful leader must keep them in line. I've seen both philosophies work, in the right circumstances, but it comes down to what the people are made out of.

Seren turned to Gemini. “Well, you obviously thought Celestia's plan was silly, if you came back so quickly.”

“Well, it wasn't quite that... It was more...”

“You didn't like getting bossed around?” Sergeant Flutterspry guessed, strangely looking both concerned and condescending. Twilight had yet to become used to her merging.

Seren barked with laughter. “Well, you and I share that, er... Gemini, was that your combined name?”

Lustrous answered. “We're rather distinct beings, still. Our merging didn't go too smoothly.”

“Just further proof we can't force this on people before they've even had the chance to hear about it,” Applejack interjected.

“Well, for one so opposed to the idea, your merging seemed to go rather well,” Seren chided.

“We had similar motivations. When our minds touched, we saw that it wouldn't be too much of a change from our old lives. Now, Twilight and Lustrous, however, just can't work together.”

“They're doing a spectacular job despite their differences.”

“Let them speak for themselves.”

The arguing parties looked towards Gemini, who nodded in reply. “Our goals are a bit too different to facilitate a proper merging.”

“There, you see?”

“One counter-example doesn't prove anything.”

“It proves a lot more than the hypothetical you're providing.”

The two stared each other down, and despite the size difference, Applejack seemed to be holding her own.

“You really will defy me so openly?”

“I fight for what I believe.”

Seren leaned in closely. “That does not make you honorable. A lost cause is not one worth fighting for. You're an idiot, a blind follower.”

“Say that again.”

Seren sneered. “You're a fool, and your blind courage will only get you killed. I'm going to merge the worlds through mass destruction, and I don't particularly care if your pretty little family is affected.”

It took Twilight a moment to register that the short, airy sound was Applejack, or rather, the combined personality, spitting in Seren's face. A collective gasp filled the room. For once, Seren was at a loss for words. He stood shocked, before finally managing to sputter his response. “You... you degenerate little harpy!” He lunged forward, teeth bared, horn shining, and wings flared.

“Sit down.” Applejack's voice was laden with malice. Her presence dominated the room, and her dark glare exuded danger. “Sit down, or so help me, you will not breathe another minute.”

Every rear in the room hit the floor.

“Get out.”

Seren held her gaze, but his head began to shake from the effort. Finally, he couldn't take it any longer, and dove out one of the open windows, his wings catching him as he fell. Luna, free of the spell, went after him as well.

After it was clear that Seren had actually left, the orange pony fell to her haunches, breathing heavily.

“What was that?!” laughed the merged Rainbow Dash.

Applejack chuckled quietly. “I'm not entirely sure, but I have a guess. Pinkamina was talking about how merged personalities get special powers, right? It looks like mine's intimidation. I don't think I could do it again, though. Not so soon, not against him. Twilight, if we're going to have a plan, we need to make and act on it pretty much right now.”

Twilight nodded, Lustrous reluctantly taking a back seat in the conversation. “It looks like Seren can't be swayed. We need to work on the assumption that he'll go through with his plan. If the Forgotten Realm is going to be destroyed for the sake of merging, we need to do all we can to make sure Equestria's ready for the change, and more importantly, that none of the destruction will meet them.”

“So what do we do?” asked Spike, flapping his wings excitedly.

“We'll have to bottleneck the entire realm. If we can control the gate between the worlds in the Natural Plane, we'll be able to let things through slowly. I'm not sure if it'll work, but it's the only thing I can think of.”

“Then let's get to it!”

“Hold on, I don't think it's that easy,” Rainbow Dash began. “I mean, if nothing else, it took us two weeks to get to this castle, and we have armies behind us. We won't be able to get through.”

“What about the waypoint Celestia made?” Applejack asked. “Could you go back through?”

“Let me try.” Twilight closed her eyes, trying to focus on the signal she had felt earlier, but to no avail. “It looks like Celestia destroyed it. I guess she didn't want Seren to follow after her.”

“Or she didn't want you to come back, now that you've abandoned her.”

All eyes fell on Pinkie. She just shook her head slowly. “There aren't clear sides anymore, Twilight. The trouble is, without blacks and whites, the world's full of grays. It makes everything much more pretty, but so much more confusing. You can't really be mad if somebody sees things differently than you do.”

Twilight frowned, eyes narrowing. “What are you saying?”

Pinkie stood up. “Thank you, Twilight and Gemini, for all that you've done for me. But the truth is, well, I can't support you any longer. Not because you're wrong, but because you're not the most right.”

“So who are you going to support?” Twilight asked, struggling to keep her voice steady.

“Seren.” The word came like a blow, and Twilight staggered a few feet.

“Is this Pinkie or Pinkamina speaking?” Applejack demanded.

“Neither, and both. There's no longer a distinction. We're a single being. Were this the right circumstance, you'd see me as cheerful as ever, laughing and throwing confetti around. But I now know when it's time to be serious. By delaying the merging, you'll only be making it harder for the people of Equestria. You underestimate them, Twilight. While you were in libraries and dusty basements, I lived their lives each and every day. And you know what? Even in the 'perfect' world Celestia set up, there's plenty of hardship. And guess what? The race lives on. It's like removing an old bandage. You can do it all at once, or you can peel it off agonizingly slowly. I say we make it happen in one go.”

Applejack looked absolutely horrified, and Twilight wasn't certain what to make of her own feelings. The only one that was clear was the pain of betrayal. Speaking of Betrayal, she turned to Rainbow Dash.

“And what about you? What does Spectral Slash have to say about all of this?”

“She... I want to cause the least pain possible. But we've also come to the realization that the worlds have to be merged. Things can't go on as they have. Should we do it quickly or slowly? Heh,” she laughed, keeping her eyes on the ground, “You know how I am. Can't stand to do things slowly, once I've begun.” But then she looked up, capturing Twilight's gaze. “But my opinion doesn't matter. I'll stick with you to the end.”

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. “Rarity? Temperament?” Now that Twilight looked her over, she saw how much the beauty queen had let herself go. Her mane was messy, her coat was covered in grime, sweat, and dirt, and yet, she seemed genuinely happy. “What about you?”

“Temperament taught me something when we first arrived in the Forgotten Realm. Metals have to be burned of their impurities before they can withstand their intended purpose. We came in here, unwittingly thinking that we could stop progression. I think we all know that the worlds have to be merged, but we're reluctant to let go of our past lives. That's okay, that's natural. But progression isn't a friend of nostalgia. To continue forward, we have to look to the future, not the past. The truth of the matter is, Twilight, while I don't fully agree with his methods, Seren's plan makes the most sense. You don't put the ore in a cold oven and slowly heat it up, you throw it into roaring flames that you've already prepared. I think to say that everyone will go around killing each other is just foolish. The people of Equestria will avoid causing harm, and the people of the Forgotten Realm will be so ecstatic to be free of this world that they won't ruin their chances. There will be fighting later, but that will be because of selfishness and trying to elevate oneself in the new order, whatever it may be. That can't be avoided. But how did we come so far, Twilight? By meeting our darkness, or as the case may be, our light, head on. Like a hammer to the anvil, we are strengthened by the blows we withstand, and like the needle and thread, it's the pricks that keep us together.”

“But what about the people who die in the ensuing chaos?”

Rarity bit her lip, but then continued slowly. “People will die every day from this day forward. It's not ideal, but neither is the alternative. If everybody was guaranteed a good life, there'd be no progression, no creativity, nothing that makes life worth living. Our struggles to survive keep us strong. Whether they die today or die tomorrow is unfortunate, but, in the end, only the strong will remain. And I think you'll find the people of Equestria as a whole much stronger than you're making them out to be.”

Twilight shook her head, trying to digest what Rarity was saying. “And you, Fluttershy? Shuddercry?”

The yellow pony looked up from the stone she had been tracing with her hoof. “I'll be honest. Half of me would be willing to take all the pain of the world if she could, and the other half is a bit of a sadist. The truth is, we have to merge as quickly as possible. It will be a greater amount of pain, but for a shorter amount of time. That's the only compromise I can find in myself, and I think it's the best you'll find out of us as whole. I hate Seren. If for no other reason that he thinks he's better than me. But he's a means to an end. Rather than treat the symptoms, let's treat the cause of the disease, yeah? Focus on a way to defeat him assuming he will win, because truth be told, Celestia's been caught without a towel on, Luna's on his side, at least for the moment, and the worlds are already beginning to collapse. As any good caretaker or military commander would tell you, you need to be a few steps ahead of what you're fighting. If you really want to stop him, be ready for when he arrives.”

Twilight couldn't believe it. Three of her friends were staying behind to assist the very monster they had been trying to fight!

Remember, Lustrous began, I'm that monster. You are rather literally trying to stop yourself from winning, Twilight. Accept it or not, Seren is an off-shoot of you. He has all your knowledge, all of your skills, but he's a thousand years older, and has quite a bit more experience. When all your friends are turning against you, that means only one of two things. Either you're wrong, and you're the one that needs to change, or you picked the wrong friends. You're me, I'm you, and there's nothing you can do to change it. You should just give up, join Seren.

“Never... EVER doubt my friends," Twilight hissed.

With a flash, the unicorn separated herself into her two halves. Lustrous fell to the ground, having not expected such a sudden answer. She looked up at Twilight, who was towering over her. “You'll never be me," Twilight continued angrily. "If you can insult my friends, don't even try.”

The body slumped to the ground, where it bled out momentarily before being drawn back into the natural plane until it would be reborn.

The room sat silent, shocked. Twilight turned to face her companions. “If you choose to stand against me, so be it. But I will fight to my dying breath to protect Equestria. Is the merging inevitable? Certainly. But don't you dare tell me that one life is worth more than another.” She turned to Applejack and Rainbow Dash. “Come on, we've got a world to protect.” Her friends nodded, while the others stood dumbfounded.

Flare and Eclipse ran up to Twilight. “We'll be coming with you.”

Twilight looked up in surprise and gratitude. “You agree with me?”

“Not entirely, but your heart's in the right place.”

Eclipse nodded at Flare's answer. “What Seren's doing isn't just. It'll only be a matter of time before Luna realizes it. But we'll have to be careful. As dangerous as Vengeance paired with Justice is, at least it's restrained. If she abandons him, he'll hold nothing back.”

Twilight nodded. “Let's move, then. I have a couple ideas of how to make it back in time.”

As they ran, Thael's gaze trailed after them. The day of judgment has arrived, Twilight Sparkle. Who will you become?

I will become me, she answered shortly. That's all I ever should've wanted

For once, Thael smiled. At last, you've realized.

Author's Note:

You might notice some different formatting, that's because I switched from OpenOffice to Lyx, since that's what we'll be using to get the book published. Everything looks good in the eBook and print preview so far, but for the last couple of chapters online, things might look a little weird.

In related news, the eBook is just about finished, I pretty much just need to write out the last chapters. The cover's almost finished as well. If you paid for a copy of the book, email me which cover you want, the full art with Twilight, Lustrous, Thael, and the Mirror on the front, or, if you'd like to be a little more inconspicuous, you can get a version of the cover that only will have Thael's soul orbs on it, if you don't want to have a pony book laying around your house for visitors to see.

The art cover will make a really nice conversation starter, though.

My plan is to be done with the entire story by tomorrow evening.

Yeah, I'll be dumping a few more chapters today. I need to shower, do three errands for my family, but the rest of the day is devoted entirely to this. See you soon enough!

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