• 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 64: Regression
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The sound of the snow crunching beneath her hooves slowly drew Twilight into a trance. She was happy to have the silence; to have Lustrous out of her head. Those who had joined her were quiet, thinking to themselves while Twilight planned their next move. There were too many variables; who knew how the fabric of existence would react to being destroyed? Besides, even if the laws of the universe were untouched, there was still the great distance between the reflected Canterlot and the mirror. But where there was one opening, there was likely to be another. Celestia's magic was obviously failing, and with Seren chasing behind, perhaps they could be caught up in the leaking Atrocities. She wasn't entirely sure how it might work, but it was certainly worth a thought. She hated to admit it, but she'd need to see the leak in action before she could figure out how to exploit it.

The alternatives were possible, such as a mass teleport, but that would be very draining, and if she could avoid it, she wanted to be at her very best for the upcoming events. If only she hadn't been so brash and had instead set a waypoint of her own!

“He's moving,” Flare stated flatly. The group looked back at the shrinking castle. A shining form flew through the window it had previously left, followed quickly by a more silvery, glowing alicorn. Luna and Seren had been discussing something, but had largely ignored the traveling party when they passed under them. They had been too far away to hear, to Twilight's disappointment, and it seemed like she lost her mind-reading powers when Lustrous wasn't with her.

“He'll likely talk to the others for a little bit before attacking, but we don't have much time.” Eclipse looked to Twilight. “Are we to walk the whole way to Moon Pool?”

“No, I have an idea. It's going to be dangerous, and we'll have to let the minor Atrocities through first.”

“That won't give us much of a window.”

“No, but it's the best we've got, given the circumstances.”

They kept walking, each following the unspoken drive to get as far away as possible before things got bad.

They didn't have to wait long. Not more than five minutes later, there was a blinding flash of light, followed shortly by a massive, tree-shaking boom. The light didn't stop, nor did the sound. But it did begin moving closer, edging its way towards the effectively stranded group.

“So, that plan of yours, Twilight?” Rainbow began nervously. “Probably a good idea to use it now.”

She opened her mouth to object, but was stopped as she felt a subtle movement in the world around her. “Do you feel that?” she asked, the others pausing to consider. It felt like retreating water, like somebody had opened a floodgate ever so slightly. A wash of memories, the very essence of ideas being sucked towards the glorious pillar of light.

“Yeah, I feel it!” Applejack called. “What do you reckon it is?”

“I think it's the first of the atrocities leaving. Celestia's spells will probably hold back the worst of it for a while, so now's our chance!”

“What do we need to do?” asked Flare.

“I think we need to run towards it!”

Flare returned a look of disbelief, but Twilight reafirmmed what she had just said. “I mean it!” she called over the humming. “We'll be destroyed, of course, but our minds will remain intact!”

“You better be right, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash took the lead back the way they had just come, towards the beam of destruction. Twilight and the others followed quickly, the light quickly becoming too much to bear even with their eyes shut. The heat around them grew, until finally, there was nothingness. Twilight was alone, with nothing but her thoughts.

“Welcome back, Twilight.”

Well, there was Derpy. There was always Derpy.

“Hey Bright Eyes, how are you?”

“Good as ever, I must say. And how are you?” Twilight knew it was a formality, more than anything, but she took the offer.

“Well, let me tell you about my day...”



“Big Mac! Big Mac!”

The powerfully built stallion lifted his head from his work to look towards the three charging fillies. The Cutie Mark Crusaders seemed to be in a panic of some sort, even more hyperactive than usual. The red stallion furrowed his brow and stepped over towards them. “What's wrong?” he asked. He found that being to the point had a tendency to be much more effective than waiting for others to get around to it.

“I'm not sure!” Applebloom was dancing back and forth nervously. “We were running along the road, and I didn't see a rock–”

“–It was like it popped out of nowhere!” Scootaloo added helpfully.

“–and so I tripped, and hurt myself, which is normal–”

“–But then she began yelling and oozing some weird red stuff!” Sweetie Belle quipped.

“–except it hurt way more than usual! I've never felt anything so intense! It's a lot better now, but I'm scared! Big Mac, what happened? Is this that growing up thing you adults always talk about?”

Big Mac shook his head slowly. “Now, hold on and calm down. Let me see where you got hurt.”

Applebloom stuck out her front leg. Sure enough, there was a long scratch, which was caked with some sort of solidified, deep red fluid. “Am I going to be okay?” Applebloom asked worriedly.

“I'll say probably, but I've never seen anything like it.”

“Never?”

“Never. Sorry sis. I'd tell you to go see Twilight Sparkle, since she's knowledgable 'bout just 'bout everything, but she and Applejack and the others are still gone on their trip.”

“Where are they anyways? It's so boring at mom and dad's,” Sweetie Belle complained. “At least Rarity had customers coming in to keep things interesting.”

“Now, I reckon I don't know. Applejack said they'd be okay, and best to my knowledge, they're off helping Princess Celestia, so they're probably just fine.”

“You sure I'm alright?”

“Does it hurt anymore?”

“Well, kinda, but not too badly...”

“Then you're probably fine. I'm sorry it didn't feel too good, but hurtin's about keeping you safe. Just remember to watch your hooves next time.”

“You don't understand, brother! It was worse than anything I've ever felt, even worse than that one time I broke my hoof! Just for falling on a dirt road? Don't you think that's a little weird?”

Big Mac pondered it for a moment. “Eeyup. Well, if you're still concerned about it, we could go visit the repaired library, see if any of the books there have anything on it.”

“It'd make me feel better.”

“Alright then, I'll come with you. I'm ahead of schedule with today's chores, so I can take a break for my little sister.”

Applebloom grinned. “You're the best, Big Mac!”

“We'll head out in just a moment. I just need a drink, I'm feeling mighty thirsty.”

As he walked off, Scootaloo sided up to Applebloom. “He doesn't talk that much normally, does he?”

“He's been making an effort to be more conversational ever since Applejack left. It's just too quiet around here. 'Sides, he's comfortable with you guys. He doesn't have to worry about you making fun of him for his slow manner of speaking.”

“What's wrong with speaking slowly?”

“Exactly. But apparently, people accuse him of being stupid just because he takes time to think about what he's going to say.”

“That's dumb.” Sweetie Belle frowned. “Sometimes I wish my sister took a moment to think about what she's saying. There's nothing wrong with making your words count.”

“Well, you know how ponies can be.”

“I guess. Sometimes I feel like this world's a bit too silly, though.”

The bouncing fillies finally arrived at the library. It had been a town effort to rebuild it. They had even bothered to ask a couple of Canterlot University's top professors to help regrow the actual biological tree that had once made up the majority of the library. All of Ponyville was chittering, wondering how Twilight would react to her repaired home. Sadly, until she came back, the ponies would have to wait.

Scootaloo burst in the front door, playfully mocking Sweetie's slowness. Not looking where she was going, as children are prone to do, she quickly bumped into another pony. “Oh, sorry miss, I just... Twilight?”

The pony looked down at the filly. Her hair was a little scragglier than the librarian tended to keep it, and she seemed tired. Or old, maybe. Nevertheless, the purple-coated pony smiled softly. “Yeah, that's right. Twilight's back.”

Big Mac came into the room. “Howdy Twilight. Didn't know you'd come back.”

“I, uh, tried to keep my arrival quiet,” she said casually, looking around the room as if she were seeing it for the first time. “Didn't want to spoil the surprise for everyone.”

“Ooo! A surprise?” Applebloom bounded forward. “What kind of surprise?”

“That'd ruin it, don't you think?”

“Heh heh, I guess.”

Big Mac looked around the library. “Where's Applejack and the others?”

Twilight seemed to pale for a moment, before replying quickly, “Oh, they're fine. Setting up the surprise. She couldn't stop talking about how much she wanted to see you guys again, but she has a duty to the princess she has to take care of first.”

“I hope I have duties to the princess when I grow up!” Scootaloo interjected. “I want to be a soldier, or maybe a scout, or something cool like that.”

“No way, it'd be too scary for you.”

Scootaloo frowned. “How many times do I have to prove I'm not a chicken to you guys?”

“Alright, now, settle down,” Twilight held out a hoof for quiet. “You came here for something, didn't you? I need to get back to work, but...”

“But you can help us quickly, right?” asked Sweetie Belle innocently.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I guess.”

Big Mac looked her over. Something was off, but he couldn't quite place it. Her mannerisms were different than usual, like she was preoccupied by something. There were quite a few things you could pick up if you took a moment to listen and watch instead of speaking. “Well, these three youngin's came running about some sort of strange scrape they got.”

“Oh yeah!” Applebloom held out her leg proudly. “I got it doing a cool trick Scootaloo showed me.”

“Hey, I'm still sorry you got hurt.”

“Naw, it feels just fine now, though I must admit I was pretty scared when it first started happening.”

Twilight looked the wound over, her eyes lighting up in surprise and... something else. “Is this blood?” she asked.

“Dunno, that's why we came to you, of course.”

“Oh, of course. Well, uh...” Twilight looked around the room quickly, as if listening for something. “Well, you shouldn't concern yourself. It's not as uncommon as you might think. Just wash it out with some water or something, and you should be fine.”

“See, I told you guys I wasn't going to Blink!” The three fillies began to run out, before quickly turning around. “Thanks Twilight!” they called in unison.

Big Mac chuckled as they ran by him, but he became serious and stepped over to the distracted unicorn. “Is something the matter, Twilight?”

She didn't seem to have heard him, so he repeated the question.

“What? Oh, no, everything's fine. Don't worry, everything is going to be fine.”

Big Mac wasn't convinced. “You know that there are people here who love and support you, right? Don't be making any of the mistakes my sister did. If you need help, you come talk to us right away, ya' hear?”

Twilight seemed shocked, but she responded with a quiet “of course.”

“Then I'll ask again. Is everything okay?”

She looked at him for a moment. “Yeah. Everything's okay.”

He looked at her for a few more moments, before finally beginning to draw away. “If you say so, Twilight. Just keep yourself out of trouble. And tell Applejack to get on home sometime soon. Granny Smith's dying to hear what she's been up to.”

Twilight nodded politely, watching him until the door finally shut. She immediately began pacing. “So blood's already been released, huh? And pain. It's only a matter of time, then.” She stalked up the staircase to her bedroom, looking out the window over the pristine fields and laughing ponies. “I'm going to need one of those scrolls,” she decided. “Curse Twilight for killing me at the most inopportune time. I should have kept my mouth shut.”

Her lip quivered slightly as she regarded the world outside. “I can't give all of this up. I have to stop him. I have to stop me. The worlds can't merge.” She sniffled a little bit, then composed herself. “I guess I'll have to go meet the others as the welcome party. Let's just hope Twilight can keep herself from killing me again.” She paused for a moment, then laughed. “I guess for all she argues, I rubbed off onto her a little bit. I would have done the same.”

She looked around the room, then finally back outside once more. She watched the fillies finally gather around Big Mac again as they began their journey back to Sweet Apple Acres. “Then again, maybe she's begun to rub off on me...”

{- - -}

“So, you're in a race against the clock now?”

“It certainly seems that way.”

“Then I won't hold you here any longer, though I'd love to speak with you again, after all of this is over.”

“Will I survive?”

The oracle gave a wink. “You're a smart girl, I'm sure you'll find a way.”

Before Twilight could reply, a tear appeared in midair, and Thael stepped out.

Pardon us, we're just passing through.

“Where are you going?”

To Equestria, of course. I didn't particularly want to be caught up in Seren's wave of destruction, but we can hardly miss out on the conclusion to this conflict, now can we?

“I suppose not.”

With a flash of light shaped like stars, Discord appeared. “Well, well, well. It looks like it's one, big, happy family reunion! Group hug, everyone!” He gathered up the three reluctant ponies with his arms, which seemed to stretch to unreasonable lengths. Twilight was pressed against the Metaspectre and was surprised to discover that despite being made of smoke, his coat felt rather real. There was a warmth about him, and if she didn't know who she was being pressed against, she would've thought him just another normal pony. His false body was a pretty good imitation, she thought.

Discord let them go, beaming brightly. “Oh, I'm just so happy. Finally, Celestia's dreary world is going to get shaken up. I'll have a purpose again!”

Twilight rolled her eyes. Discord, not missing her displeasure, craned his head one-hundred and eighty degrees until he was face-to-upside-down-face with her. “Cheer up, Twilight. Change is a good thing! It's the only way we can progress.” Discord nodded to Bright Eyes, then to Twilight and Thael, and finally, disappeared with yet another flash.

Will you be joining us, Twilight?

Twilight nodded. “If I'm allowed to...?” she trailed off, looking towards Bright Eyes.

“Yes, Twilight. The rules of resurrection no longer apply to the Forgotten Realm. Your soul is no longer bound here, and you may pass on to Equestria. Remember, of course, this means that your life has become much more precious. Don't throw it away.”

“I won't, I promise.”

Many have made such a promise on my altar. Do keep it, Twilight Sparkle.

The two stepped through the rift Thael opened. Unlike teleportation, or the other visits through the planes, Twilight found herself in literal nothingness. The only light was from Thael's burning eyes.

“What is this place?” she asked fearfully.

It is the beginning, and it is the end. It is creation and destruction itself. It is the point in the universe where all points touch, and yet, nothing is here. I know you understand it conceptually, but it makes travel rather quick when you're literally moving a few, well, inches over to travel a few hundred miles and years comparatively.

“It must be hard to measure inches when there's nothing to measure it against.”

That's why I hesitated.

Twilight's vision was relieved by another rift opening, into a much brighter, happier world that she had begun to miss dearly.

Welcome home, Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight stepped through the gate, and paused in confusion. “Did you place me in front of a mirro-”

Her words were cut off as she was clocked by her figurative reflection. Twilight slumped to the ground, out cold. “Punch a mirror, and you'll get punched back,” Lustrous chided to her doubled.

Oh dear me, did we do that? Thael said, stepping out of the rift. Silly me.

Lustrous eyed him warily, but when he didn't intervene, she began rifling through Twilight's saddlebags, finally grasping one of the scrolls the Metaspectre had gifted her. Thael turned his head questioningly.

Are you planning on dying? Why do you need a scroll?

Lustrous tapped his brow with the scroll. “When the world's burning, it's best to have a little fire insurance.”

Oh, no doubt. By the way, if you're planning on being scarce, you might want to leave. The others should be arriving soon.

Lustrous nodded, and dashed out the door. Just as it closed, four rifts appeared, each for Twilight's attending group.

“Did you do this?” Flare demanded, hurrying over to Twilight's unconscious form.

Thael shook his head. Of course not. I'd never hurt anyone. Well, not if I didn't think it would help them in the long run.

“Oh, so you'd side with Seren, then?” Applejack accused.

I never said such. What I did say was that both systems, Finem Poenitet and Omnia Valore, have their strengths and weaknesses. But how can you have a perfect system? Why, there's only one way. You have to start seeing in gray. The Metaspectre nodded, then opened yet another rift. If you need me, I'll be at the pond near Ponyville. I think you'll find your way there soon enough. Good luck, and by the way, don't forget to wake her up. She's got an appointment that she can't miss. The fate of the world depends on it.

Author's Note:

SO
Certain things have come up, for good and bad.
I've been given a little more time to get this out, meaning it's not as much of a rush any more (I'll still keep a strict schedule, can't have me leaving everyone hanging)
However, it means I probably won't be finishing the book by tomorrow.
A little more time, but a delayed finish.

Heh, if you guys have stuck with me this long, you'll know to expect this kind of silliness from me. But hey! That means I can actually explain things now, rather than rushing along blindly. We now return you to our irregularly scheduled story..

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