• 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 76: Resolve
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Twilight's head began to swim as she was confronted with the shadow that'd been hiding in plain sight. She had gotten to a point where she could excuse each of her friends for their mistakes, because they'd been doing their best. She had been able to forgive each of the reflections for their actions because they were simply making do with what they had been given. She'd forgiven Discord, because he had been consumed with grief. She'd forgiven Quicksilver, because despite his arrogance, he had been well-intentioned. She'd forgiven Luna, because she was only trying to make the world a better place. And she had even managed to forgive Celestia, because she saw in her the frightened filly Twilight herself had once been.

But it all came down to this, the pony she was staring at, and the image she represented. Twilight wasn't stupid. Indeed, she prided herself on the opposite. She knew what Lustrous was saying made sense. If you're going to allow others mistakes and poor decisions, you had to be similarly kind to yourself. It was a perfect blend of justice and mercy. And yet, her mistakes seemed so much worse than the ones others had made. She knew better, so why should she allow herself any leeway?

“Forgive myself?”

“If you don't, you'll carry the ever-growing weight, and it'll only become that much harder for you to improve.” Lustrous sighed. “I'm not saying it's going to be easy. But like all things, it comes with practice. You see, Twilight, I never had the trouble with pity or self-doubt until these last few weeks. Every choice I made was perfect, because I was the one who made them. Everything was justified from my viewpoint. A bad guy never sees themselves as a bad guy, at least not anyone who has a semblance of sanity left. No matter how much I regretted the past at times, I found comfort in realizing that it was the only way it could've turned out. After a weighing of emotions or logic, and whichever one had a tighter grasp on my mind at the time, the decision was made, and it'd be the same if I were to do it again. We're given the ability to analyze the past so we can shape the future, not so we can be buried under every mistake we've made. The beauty of making mistakes is that it makes us stronger!” She chuckled. “But perhaps I've already spoken too much. I've had the same conversation with Pinkamena at one point, and there's just no convincing people to suddenly become happy. It just doesn't work like that, no matter how much I wish it did. But Twilight, consider all the good that you've done. Mistakes? Alright, you've ticked off a few people, and perhaps you could be in a better position now if you had changed a few key variables, but what does it matter? It's not like you can go back and fix it.”

“But I can.” Twilight pulled out the time-travel scroll, tapping it against her head. “You forgot about this already?”

“Uh, no. Not so easily. But that's part of this resolution. Twilight, after you've given up all your shame, and own up to your mistakes for the hope of a brighter future, I'm going to consume the scroll, insert that seed of shame you still have left into Quicksilver's mind, and die. In oblivion, I'll finally find peace, and who knows? Perhaps in time, you'll pass on into the next world as well, and if there's any form of poetic justice to this world, perhaps we can reunite as equals.”

Twilight's eyes lit up. “So that's where that Lustrous came from! But you- are you sure you're alright with this?”

“I've had a long time to think it over, Twilight. Don't consider it a suicide; it's a sacrifice. A suicide is selfish, and I do this for the sake of everyone else.”

“You big buffoon. If I wasn't certain it was you, and consequentially, me, I'd bring up that you might just be trying to trick me into handing over the scroll.”

“I propose a trade, to put your mind at ease. I don't know if you've noticed, but the majority of myself dying means you're not quite a whole pony. You can't ascend until we merge one last time. But I'd like nothing more than to be a part of your triumph. Heh, the others will be so suprised to see you come out of your trance with wings.”

Twilight giggled. “I'd be honored to take you up on the offer, Lustrous.”

“Then you'll have to fulfill your part of the deal.”

“Oh!” Twilight handed over the scroll. “Here.”

Lustrous Revolt grinned. “No, no, you dork. That's not what I meant. There's the little part of forgiveness?”

“Ah.”

“You were intentionally avoiding it, weren't you.” A statement.

“Yes, I was. It's just... it's such a part of my core personality to be self-critical. Only by examining my mistakes can I ever improve myself.”

“Examining, yes, but not dwelling.”

“And, well, I've done some pretty stupid things.”

“Could hardly call yourself alive if you hadn't.”

“And I've hurt a lot of people.”

“And healed so many more!” Lustrous pulled Twilight into a hug. “Listen to me, for every act of darkness you've committed, you've caused so many others to see the light! You are a beacon of hope, of love, of purpose, of strength! The mistakes you've made will always be there. But they do not define you.” She pulled back, her lip quivering a bit. She turned away quickly. “I'm sorry, I don't mean to get emotional. You know how we are. Get started and the tears begin flowing, and there's no stopping it. You just-”

Twilight put a hoof to her double's mouth. “Thank you, Lustrous. You know, for a pony of darkness, you certainly have a lot of light.”

“It's nothing, really.”

“I think it is. Despite your surroundings, you kept hope. And I think that says more about you than my triumphs do about me. Lustrous, I forgive you for what you've done. Fate may have decreed you'd always be a shadow, but I see nothing but your inner glory.”

“And yourself?” Lustrous' eyes were beginning to wet, but she pressed onwards. “What about yourself? Can you forgive?”

“I thought I just did.”

Silence fell, and for minutes, there was nothing except Lustrous' quiet sobbing. Tears were streaking down Twilight's face as well, but her lip never wavered. There was a strange sensation in her bosom, one of ultimate warmth. It was a pressure, almost, like a coiled spring. It was something she remembered feeling long ago, back when she was a filly. Peace.



Twilight shook as her consciousness popped back into the pocket-plane. It was strange. Here she was, the light inside of her expressing itself as an aura, signifying her ascension was complete. And yet, she never had the spiritual vision that was supposed to come with ascension. She didn't really consider that last bit to be it; that was simply talking with Lustrous. Confused, but pleased nonetheless, she examined the area her body had been left in. Things seemed to have moved a bit while she had been gone. Celestia and Luna had entered the expanse, followed by Discord, and her five, very living friends, each sporting the appropriate gifts of alicorn-hood. They were in a semi-circle around Quicksilver, who stood alone. They were speaking quietly with him, and Twilight was pleased to see that Celestia didn't look upset, or even unhappy. She was, once again, carrying herself with an air of grace and dignity, and yet, as Twilight watched, she caught an ever-so-subtle shifting of weight as she leaned against Luna, who leaned in turn back. Twilight quickly glanced around; Celestia's world-destroying button had been cast to the side, forgotten. She breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like Celestia had finally given up that foolish idea.

“Twilight! You're awake!”

Twilight looked down in surprise. “Spike! Where have you been?”

He chuckled, flexing his wings. “Well, everybody got so caught up with saving the world that I was, as expected, -and pretty quickly, I might add- forgotten and left to my own devices. I've had a few things set up for when you return. I've refreshed the stocks of quills and ink, and got to thinking, you know, I might want to be a writer. I already read so much, and write so much for you, that I could certainly get something done for myself if I just sat down and took the time. I might just be taking a few tips from this crazy journey we've been on. Anyways, I was in the middle of drawing up an outline, when Discord himself came along. Heh, he was carrying a frozen Celestia like she was a plush, glad she doesn't seem to mind. Anyways, he said something about 'looking out for the underdog' and that 'those who are forgotten need the most attention' so he asked if I wanted to come along for a ride, and now I'm here. And now you're here, so it wasn't a wasted trip.”

“Glad to see you again, Spike. I have a feeling that familiarity is just what I'll be needing after all of this.”

He gave a toothy grin in response, and stepped aside so she could join the conversation with the other ponies, who had paused at her arrival.

“Twilight,” Celestia began, lowering her head to Twilight's level. “You've presence is greatly appreciated. And you've got wings, just like the others? But I thought Seren had only initiated their progression, not yours.”

“I couldn't show up as the only one without wings, could I?”

“Well, uh,” a baritone voice piped up, “That'd technically be me now.” Shining Armor smiled sheepishly. Now that Twilight's attention had been pulled to her brother, she made a special note that Chrysalis had been revived as well, but appeared to have been completely separated from Cadance. And under careful watch by the same pony.

“Where is that black goop that attacked you?” Luna did a quick aura-scan of Twilight, but any trace of the darkness that had once been Lustrous Revolt was gone.

“Taken care of, and in the best way possible. I'll explain later, but we just lost -and gained- a wonderful ally.”

Quicksilver turned to look at Twilight. “Seeing your face once filled me with rage, but that hatred was never my own. I am pleased to meet you in what I consider my own mind, miss Sparkle.”

“And to you, Quicksilver.”

“I am a pony displaced in time, ascended and sustained by methods less than savory. I do not think I have a place in your world, but these ponies have been trying to convince me otherwise.”

“Yes,” Luna huffed coyly, “He's being particularly difficult on the manner. I would've thought the Captain of the Guard would be excited to return to his post, now that Shining Armor's will soon be attending to the Crystal Empire.”

“It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture, it's just...” Quicksilver's ears flattened against his head. Something was very clearly wrong.

“Quicksilver, what is it?”

“I'm sorry, but I don't want to burden you with it. It's better that each of you return to Reality. The day has been won, and the threat is gone. Leave me here. It's better for us all.”

“I think I might have something to say on the matter,” Chrysalis began with far too much joy. “I believe I heard whispers one way or the other on the matter of Shining Armor's reflection, did I not?”

“You did,” Twilight began carefully, “But if you mean to imply that Quicksilver's Shining's reflection, you need to consider the time-lines. Quicksilver came from a time before the worlds were split; even without Lustrous' influence, he is a whole pony.”

“But what about this? Remember that Celestia and Luna reflect each other, in title and duty, though not physical or emotional ties.”

“But they're sisters, and from the same time period. Quicksilver and Shining were both Captains, yes, but that's hardly enough of a connection to go off of.”

“Then consider this. Shining has no reflection. He is a whole pony. And trust me, I of all ponies would know, heh heh heh.” Her joking advances were spurned by a dark glare from the butt of her joke. She rolled her eyes and continued. “I have a dark secret to reveal to all of you, and I think even lover-boy here isn't fully aware. Shining works for me.”

A murmur spread throughout the half-circle. Cadance, of course, was the first to speak. “Hardly. And trust me, I of all ponies would know.”

“Oh, that's the beauty of it, and it's also how you two managed to defeat me those months ago. He doesn't know. And I didn't know that he didn't know until it was already too late.”

Shining stepped forward, shaking his mane aggressively. “Are you just trying to confuse the matter again?”

“Oh no, of course not. I'll just tell the truth, and you can decide for yourselves. No interrupting, if you please. A while back, around the same time Cadance ascended through natural means, I made a deal with that accursed metaspectre. A deal for power, for the ability to take what I needed from the world. In retrospect, I technically ascended as the alicorn of Selfishness, but hey, that's fine by me. If not me, who'll take care of me? Anyhow, part of that deal for power, besides my physical transformation and the disguising powers granted me were my minions, which came to be called the changelings. The metaspectre called them husks or something, I don't know. None of them were particularly intelligent, and all seemed to be missing any sort of memory or real definitive personality, but that changed as time went on and each experienced new things. Very quickly, some were found to be superior to the others, the most cunning becoming my generals and the sneakiest becoming my spies. But there was one that stuck out to me. He was the most loyal of them all, the one who'd answer my call no matter how quiet, or how far away he was. That changeling was you, Shining. And before you speak! Please, let me finish.”

She began strutting around the area, obviously loving the attention. “I was still stuck in the bland Forgotten Realm. My new body -and those of my minions- fed off of emotions, and we could only stomach so much animosity. We craved for love, and as luck would have it, I found a way in to reality, the greatest source of it I could've even hoped for. Who would I send in? The most cunning? The sneakiest? No, of course not. I'd send the most loyal. And so I did, with my only instructions being that a way be prepared for me and my army. Fast-forward a good deal of years. I've been watching my right-hoof; he managed to infiltrate an upper-class family, he managed to get my reflection to be his adopted sister's foalsitter, and then, and this really takes the cake, he became captain of the guard, and the adopted sister became the personal student of the greatest threat to my invasion. It was too perfect. But like a good wine, I knew it would only get sweeter the longer I waited. I bode my time, and finally, the announcement came. The captain and the princess were to be married. It was the perfect moment. With such an occasion, the nation would be distracted, and certainly wouldn't notice a large group of ponies moving around. But things began to go south after I entered the world. I heard that there'd been some sort of warning slipped out. I dismissed it, thinking it might've been another terrorist who just happened to have good timing. But then everything came together, after I replaced the lovey-dovey bride with myself. The captain, oh, my captain had somehow fallen astray! He seemed confused. He didn't know who he was, he didn't know why he was here, and funnily enough, he didn't even know why he'd raised the alarm. It seemed somewhere along the way, he'd developed a personality of his own, after he fell for your full lashes, pretty Cadance. It was easy enough to break him once I got close -after all, control over him was granted to me through the metaspectre's deal- but, apparently, love is enough to overcome a legal obligation. That last spell where you cast us all out? Yeah, that wasn't supposed to work. Why do you think I even gave you the chance to cast it? And, furthermore, he's no longer a changeling, else the spell would've caught him too.”

Shining shook his head. “I'll admit my memory's a little fuzzy from those days, but I figured that was just the stress of it all. And the mind control. Say this ridiculous claim is true. You're right. I'm no longer a changeling. What does this effect? What does this have to do with Quicksilver?”

“Beats me, but it's closer than anything you guys came up with. You had to come from somewhere, and there has to be a reason that you were so loyal over all the other masses of changelings.”

Twilight had been looking around while she was in thought, thinking it impolite to pace. For the last minute or so, she'd been looking at the pedestal-table that Celestia had left behind, the pedestal that could end it all. The one, where, if the last of the soul orbs returned to the center, it was over.

The last of the soul orbs had returned to the center.

Twilight, finally shaken out of her stupor by the pause in conversation, carefully paced over. “Rather arrogant making your own soul the 'destructo' button. Why haven't you gone off just yet?”

We should think you would know, at this point. We don't take action until others do. Are you ready for it all to end, Twilight, dearest? All you have to do is give the word.

With a fluid movement, Twilight wrenched each of the seven orbs out of the small table and tossed them towards the collected group, who dodged out of the way. She trotted over to catch up. “No thanks, I'm not quite finished. You've got some explaining to do, and I think we deserve it without any arm-twisting or dodging.”

The soul took up a gentle levitation, simultaneously pulling smoke out of nothingness to form the now-familiar, once-dreaded body. As we said, we wouldn't return until the end. So perhaps it's time to come clean. It might be fun, however, to just wait for you to figure it out on your own...

A well-placed kick from Applejack's well-purposed leg knocked out a chunk of the ash from his right cheek.

Ah. Ouch. Right. I get the hint. We'll begin.

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