• Published 7th Apr 2012
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Then Tomorrow Came - PonyAmorous



Twilight falls for Rainbow Dash but finds herself on the wrong end of a love triangle.

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Chapter 11

Chapter 11

The small purple filly watched in awe as Cadence cast her spell. The bickering couple across the street stopped their argument and started smiling dreamily into each other's eyes. Cadence, the worlds greatest foal sitter, turned and smiled down at Twilight, who was clapping her front hooves together in applause.

"Wow! You're amazing Cadence! How do you do that?"

The pink alicorn giggled lightly. "It's my special talent. I'm the only one in the world who can do it." She gave a small wink.

"So does that mean you can make any two ponies fall in love whenever you want?"

Cadence gave a light shake of her head. "No silly filly, nopony can do that. Love happens on its own, I just bring out what is already inside."

Twilight gave a small nod as she trotted alongside her favorite foal sitter, but curiosity picked at the back of her mind. Why should it be impossible? If 'love' was a physiological state, shouldn't recreating that state be the same thing as 'creating love'. Twilight wasn't sure, but she thought it should be theoretically possible. She hadn't read anything about magic yet that would indicate it couldn't be done.

Twilight looked up at Cadence in admiration. She had always felt the need to impress her and show off how much progress she had made in her studies. If she could recreate Cadence's own spell, that would certainly be impressive.

Over the next several days, Twilight watched carefully whenever Cadence would cast her spell. She would try to make out as much as she could about how the strings of magic wove together and interacted. When she got to her room, she would take out a quill and parchment and write down everything she could remember.

Everypony knew that Twilight was talented, a prodigy even, but nopony suspected just how brilliant she could be when she put her mind to a task. Even though her studies of magic were still in their early stages, she did her best to reverse engineer the underlying spell composition. Pieces slowly came together. Where gaps remained, she filled them in with guess work and improvisation. She found small places to make adjustments and improvements to adapt to her other modifications. She practiced her experimental spell on the bugs in her terrarium, and the occasional squirrel or bird that would pass by her window.

She soon realized that Cadence had been wrong. Twilight had figured out how to simulate love out of nothing. She grinned to herself when she realized she had not just recreated a unique spell, but actually improved upon it! That wasn't the only modification either. One part in particular had been giving her trouble. She found she could induce the desired state in a subject, but had trouble directing the affection toward a desired target. She finally had the brilliant idea to change the spell to a sustained enchantment on the target itself, that would then affect the observing subject. The target didn't even have to be a living creature, it could be an inanimate object!

Twilight realized that her modifications had made it a completely unique spell of her own. Bouncing around her room with joy at her success, she couldn't wait to show it off to Cadence.

The next day, Twilight waited eagerly on the street corner for Cadence to arrive. She sprouted a grin when she finally spotted her approaching.

"Okay Twilight, I'm here. What is this special surprise you wanted to show me?"

The young filly bounced with excitement. "I figured out how to recreate your spell! I even made some improvements. Watch! Watch!" Twilight quickly scanned the busy street and saw two ponies about to cross paths. Perfect. As she cast her spell, a small stream of hearts floated from her horn and into both ponies.

"Twilight? What are you-uggh." Cadence's concentration was broken as she looked at the enchantment and felt unfamiliar magic touch her mind. She quickly pushed it out and blocked it, an easy task for an alicorn like herself, but it had still been unexpected and disorienting. As she shook her head clear, she was aware that Twilight was talking excitedly.

"See! See! Isn't it great! Isn't it great! I'm just like you now!"

Twilight looked up and was confused to see that Cadence's face had started to turn pale, a look of horror stuck on it. Twilight followed her gaze back to the pair of enchanted ponies and realized that she had overlooked a significant problem in her testing regimen.

Since her goal was to create affection between two ponies, all of her experimental trials had only involved two subjects (or sometimes one subject and an inanimate object). In this respect she had been successful, perhaps too successful. The two ponies were clutching at each other with a look of mad desperation in their eyes. What she had really screwed up, was the fact that she hadn't tested the effect on multiple observers. Instead of only affecting the first pony to look, the enchantment persisted and spread its effect to all observers except the caster. Ponies who had turned to look at the commotion the original two had caused soon found themselves charging to join in, creating a bigger scene that was rapidly snowballing out of control.

Cadence pulled herself out of her stupor and quickly cast a mass dispel centered on the cluster of ponies. Grabbing Twilight in her hooves, she spread her wings and flew them both out of sight before any of the dazed and confused ponies could notice them. Setting down in a nearby alleyway, she turned to the surprised filly.

"TWILIGHT!" The little lavender filly jumped. She had never heard Cadence shout before. "Where did you learn to do that?!" At first Twilight thought she was angry, but soon noticed that her eyes were also filled with fear. She had never seen Cadence afraid of anything either, and didn't know which was more upsetting to see.

"I-I just made it up myself! I started with trying to reproduce your spell and then I just made some changes to it!" Her eyes started to water. Had she done something wrong? Cadence was starting to scare her.

Fear and anger changed to a brief flicker of surprise and confusion. "Just made it up? But that's...nevermind! Listen! Never cast that spell again, okay? NEVER! Don't tell anypony about it. Just forget about it!"

"Alright alright! I'm sorry! I won't cast it again! I promise!"

Cadence exhaled slowly and relaxed. "Okay. Let's go home."

As far as Twilight could tell, Cadence hadn't told her parents, so she wasn't in trouble. The whole issue was swept from her mind when she received her invitation to the entrance exams for Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns two days later. It was particularly strange and exciting as the invitations were not usually sent out until two months later.

***

Twilight thought back on the promise she had made. She had already broken it once during the smartypants incident. Sure she hadn't quite been herself at the time, had been under a lot of stress, had panicked and picked the first spell she could think of. They were still just excuses. She should have known better. She did know better, and she had been disgusted with herself after it was all over.

Celestia had been angry. A rare and terrifying sight. Twilight still remembered her heart leaping up into her throat when she saw the princess hovering in the sky, looking like a goddess about to smite her with righteous fury. She had very nearly wet herself when she heard Celestia call out her name in a booming voice that thundered across the sky. Fortunately, once they were back in the library, Celestia had noticed the state she was in and backed off a bit to calm her down first. Twilight's friends had interrupted before they could get into the princess' real concern. Wanting to keep it a private talk, she had wrapped up the rather trivial letter problem and left it at that for the night.

Celestia had returned the next day to speak with Twilight in private once she was back to normal. She had explained that mind altering magic was very VERY forbidden, and that the penalties were quite harsh. The only reason Twilight was getting off with a warning this time was a combination of the fact that Celestia knew her personally and knew she didn't have any ill intent, her friends had already been told that she wouldn't be punished, and nopony in town clearly remembered the details of what had happened. The part that had really stuck with Twilight however, had been the story of Celestia's initial reaction.

"Twilight, when I got the initial reports, do you know where I went first? To the gardens. When I heard that Ponyville was in chaos from a mob of mind controlled ponies, I thought that Discord had somehow broken free and was wreaking havoc on Equestria again."

That thought still sent chills down Twilight's spine. The thought that she could ever be anything like him. But it had been entirely true. If Discord had been around, he would have heartily approved. Probably would have cracked a joke about putting him out of a job.

No way! I'm nothing like him!

But she had been then. And here she was now, seriously considering breaking her promise again by messing with a pony's free will. It wouldn't be out of ignorance or a spontaneous act of desperation in an impaired state of mind. No, this would be carefully planned and premeditated. She would have no excuse this time if anypony found out.

She would just have to make sure nopony ever found out.

There was plenty of work to be done. There was no way she could use the current Want It Need It spell as it was. It would require some extensive modification. The most obvious problem was the unrestricted targeting. That would be easy enough to adjust. She had been a small filly when she last worked on it, and she had learned quite a bit more since then. But that wasn't the only thing that needed to be changed. She hadn't exactly known anything about what love was supposed to feel like when she had crafted the spell, and had cobbled together a crude caricature of obsession and desire. It was a decent enough first pass, but it needed refinement. Keep that core of passion and desire, but weave in some of the more subtle aspects. It would be the difference between picking a lock and swinging a sledgehammer. Speaking of subtlety, it needed a slow build up. Heads would be turned if Dash just jumped her after one glance. It wouldn't take long for somepony to put two and two together.

Twilight began writing down preliminary design notes with frantic speed. The more gradual and natural the development, the better. Not only would it make her actions less noticeable, it would reduce strain and possible resistance in Dash. It wouldn't be mind control, not really. Twilight didn't want a mindless toy, she wanted Dash just as she was, body and mind intact. It would just be a little push in the right direction. Just a small thought planted in the back of her mind. A small fixation. Dash would find her thoughts drawn toward Twilight more often, and with increasing intensity. Her brain would interpret it as growing affection and start to fill in the rest. By the end of it, Dash would come to her, and it would be her choice.

Not a real choice. Not a free choice. It's still manipulation. Coercion.

What choice is really free? Everypony is manipulated in some way. Blood sugar levels and sleep drastically affect judgement. Countless psychological studies have shown that the lighting and colors in a room have an impact on decision making. The right smells can trigger deep seated memories with significant emotional meaning. Nopony complains that makeup, perfume, and a nice dinner is unfair manipulation.

Wonderful rationlizations, but that's quite a bit different from implanting hypnotic suggestions via magic. You could get a pony to think whatever you want with enough sleep deprivation and conditioning, but that's hardly considered fair play.

Well it's a good thing we're not doing that then. That involves physical coercion and harm. Nopony is harmed with this. In fact, this should make Dash happier than ever. It'll make Dash feel the same way we do, except now it will be reciprocated. Honestly, it would be cruel to withhold such a gift. If you care for Dash's welfare, this is the best thing you can possibly do.

Twilight's concerns drifted away as she became more absorbed in her work. She could argue with herself later. If she couldn't actually pull it off, it would be a moot point anyway. The familiar comfort of a challenging project washed over her. All of these required changes were going to be difficult. The central core remained the same, but large sections had to be rewritten from scratch.

With this much revision, she wondered if there were any simpler alternatives. All she could think of was the Love Poison, and that had plenty of problems of its own. First of all, the setup would have to be a bit too contrived. She would need to have them both drink the potion at the same time. Then there were the less than desirable behavioral side effects. Finally, there was the fact that the effect would break if they broke eye contact for over an hour. That wasn't exactly a recipe for a stable relationship.

Twilight got back to work. Over the next several hours, a stack of empty inkwells piled up. Her garbage can would be overflowing with parchments full of rejected ideas, if she hadn't been careful to burn every single one. She wasn't about to just leave that kind of evidence sitting around.

Maybe if I nest this sub-spell inside this feedback loop...no, it would fail after the 5th call. Maybe if I add another sub-spell to take over those functions? No, that would take up way too much energy to be self-sustaining!

She had hit a block. She couldn't make a spell with that many intricate parts that would be able to maintain itself without collapsing. She could increase the power supply, but that risked damage to the subject, or at least possible detection that some foreign influence was present. Twilight massaged her temples. She must be overlooking some simple solution right in front of her face. All of these small threads to control and regulate. Together they would add up to the suitably complex emotional state she wanted, but they were impossible to manage individually. There had to be a more efficient form of abstraction to use. Something to hold together the concept as a whole. Something to fill Dash's heart with desire.

Desire...heart...THAT'S IT!

The flower known as Heart's Desire was able to interpret the complex wishes of others on a basic ontological level. If it could be worked in as a material component, it could be used to translate her intention to the rest of the spell's framework. Since it normally read from the part of the mind that held deep seated desire, it would also be perfect for guiding essential parts of the spell to write into that area. Twilight began scribbling with renewed energy. This would work! She would need a few other components to stabilize it, but it should actually work!

***

Twilight checked her saddlebags once again as she stood at the edge of the Everfree forest. She had finally finished her new spell design late last night and created a list of the special material components she would need. First was the Hearts Desire. This would be the central ingredient that would help translate desire from her mind to Dash's mind.

Next was a dragon scale. This spell would likely run pretty hot. The amount of magical discharge released as a side effect might be harmful when working with something as delicate as a mind. Dragons were naturally resistant to magic. She could use a scale as a kind of magical heat sink to moderate the process.

Finally, she needed some type of acidic venom to dissolve and mix the other ingredients. The dragon scale itself wouldn't physically dissolve, but most of its essence of magical resistance could be extracted and spread evenly throughout the solution.

She could come up with an excuse to get a scale from Spike later when he returned. That left obtaining the Heart's Desire as her first objective. She could borrow some from Zecora, but that might lead to questions as to what she needed it for. She could probably come up with any number of perfectly plausible reasons involving her studies, but paranoia had gripped her tightly ever since she had left the house. What if someone came inquiring after her? What if the princess really wanted to know how she was using it in her research? Borrowing that one ingredient might not be incriminating on its own, but Twilight didn't want a single possible lead pointing back to her, no matter how insignificant. The less ponies (or Zebras) saw her at all, the better.

Twilight knew it was paranoid, but considering what she was planning to do, paranoid was exactly what she needed to be. She would have to go and collect a sample herself. Fortunately, she had learned a great deal from her previous visits to Zecora's hut. She knew the type of places Heart's Desire would normally grow, and knew what to look for. She knew of at least one location that matched the description. The ruins of the ancient castle of the royal pony sisters.

Twilight hesitated as she prepared to enter the forest. The reality of what she was doing was starting to sink in. This wasn't just some idea on parchment anymore, this was action. She was actually following through on this.

The last time she had gone wandering off the trail in the Everfree alone, she had ended up turned to stone by a cockatrice. Not wanting to repeat that experience, she had taken care to fashion some reflective goggles. Completely reflective mirrors rested over her eyes. She was only able to see through the small periscope setup that led to two tiny openings that sat above where her eyes would normally be. She could navigate well enough once she got used to her vision being higher above the ground than normal. Hopefully, any cockatrice she encountered would reflexively try to catch her eyes in their normal location, and be caught by its own reflection. A weasel would be nice, but she wasn't about to go ask Fluttershy if she could borrow one.

After a triple check of her supplies, Twilight finally entered the forest. The sunlight quickly dimmed as she left the beaten path and pushed deeper and deeper into the wild overgrowth. She remained alert, eyes and ears peeled for any sign of danger. Her slightly distorted vision caused her to trip a few times over the occasional tree root, but she soon learned to readjust the length of her steps.

After twenty minutes of walking, her mind began to wander. She still had trouble believing she was actually doing this. It was crazy, but at the same time, refreshing. For two years she had done nothing but sit passively on the sidelines, accepting the hand fate had dealt her. Had done nothing but wish and dream and cry to herself about how unfair it all was. Now she was finally taking concrete action. For the first time in a long while, she felt like she had some control over her destiny. It felt good.

Twilight stopped as she spotted a familiar flash of color in the corner of her vision. Could she really be that lucky? Turning to her right, she spotted a small clearing. A small patch of Heart's Desire was barely visible under the heavy growth of a thorny bush.

Excellent! Looks like I won't have to go all the way to the castle ruins after all.

Twilight cautiously approached the mass of thorns that always grew around the precious flowers. They were said to be razor sharp and coated in an oily film that caused stinging and irritation. She was more than willing to face any pain or discomfort in her quest to win Dash. Fortunately, that was entirely unnecessary as she had remembered the old botanist saying Zecora had shared with her. "Your heart's desire must be won through blood, sweat, and tears, unless you are wise enough to bring along shears". Twilight levitated her pruning shears out of her saddlebag and neatly clipped away the intimidating thorns. Plucking several flowers and stuffing them into one of her specimen jars, she tucked them neatly back into her bag and turned to leave.

A rustling noise from the edge of the clearing froze her in her tracks. Blood ran cold in her veins as she strained her ears and slowly swept her eyes over the area. She sniffed the air, but was unable to catch the scent of any predators. Nothing but the smell of fresh wood. She was just about to relax and brush it off as pine cone falling when she noticed a bush that seemed to be slowly expanding and contracting, almost as if it were breathing. Two red spots that looked like berries were now starting to look a lot more like eyes. Once she finally saw it, she immediately noticed the others, six of them in total, almost entirely surrounding her. A single thought filled her mind.

RUN!

Twilight bolted in the one direction that remained clear, and the timber wolves broke from their cover to pursue. Despite being nowhere near the most athletic of ponies, her frenzied galloping gave her a clear speed advantage over open terrain. If she could just make it to the edge of the forest, she would be safe.

Unfortunately, her choice of direction had been limited and she currently had no idea where she was running. The longer this went on, the more chances they would get to outflank her. As the terrain got rougher, every small obstacle sapped her speed and brought the snapping jaws of death a few feet closer. She needed to do something soon or they would catch her. She needed a plan.

Twilight fought to think through the thick haze of fear and panic, doing her best to shut out the sound of hungry growls and snapping jaws that were closing in behind her. An idea came to her. As soon as she passed that thicket up ahead and was briefly out of sight, she would teleport back two hundred yards behind them and reverse direction. With luck, she would lose them and double back to the clearing.

She was almost there, horn glowing in preparation, when something lashed out at her from the right. Twilight jumped away, barely dodging a giant scorpion stinger that buried itself in the ground in the exact spot she would have occupied. In the blink of an eye, the stinger receded and a large tan paw swiped at her. She jumped back, just enough to avoid being opened up by the large claws, but still catching a glancing blow from the back of the paw. As minor a blow as it was, there was still enough muscle behind it to send Twilight flying several feet through the air until she collided with a tree. Her head exploded with pain and her vision swam as she dizzily tried to pull herself up.

Her goggles and saddlebags had been knocked loose when she had been hit. As she waited for the world to stop spinning, she wondered why she hadn't yet been torn apart by teeth and claws. As the world came back into focus, she found her answer. She was at the bottom of a small slope, the large tree at her back cutting off any escape in that direction. She was boxed in by a large manticore on her left and the pack of timber wolves on her right. They appeared to be in a standoff, the wolves trying to decide if they had a sufficient numerical advantage to take on a manticore, and the manticore trying to determine if his new lunch was worth this much of a fight. Her saddlebags were on the ground straight ahead, on the other side of both groups. A small bit of blood trickled down in front of her right eye. She could feel more on the back of her head, starting to mat her mane.

This was it. She was going to die here. A messy and violent death. It wouldn't be long until the standoff was resolved and the victor ate her for lunch. It had been stupid to come out here all alone. At first it had seemed like an adventure, a noble and daring quest for love. But this wasn't some feel good adventure story with fake danger, where she would escape unharmed just by virtue of being the hero. In reality, the forest was dangerous for a reason, and ponies who went wandering off alone tended not to come back.

She hadn't told anypony where she was going. Nopony knew where she was. It would look like she just disappeared one day without a trace. How long would her friends and family search for her? How long until they finally gave up looking? Twilight cast a last glance at her saddlebags. She had come out here in the hope that it would finally lead to happiness with Dash. Now she wasn't ever going to see Dash again.

NO.

The pain in her head faded as fear began to change into anger, which soon became a small flame of rage, burning hot in the center of her brain. The creatures before her wanted to kill her, to keep her apart from Dash. She had already suffered through too much to let that happen. Her horn started to glow.

I will be with Dash!

The white hot flame of rage blazed brighter and spread as two years worth of undirected aggression bubbled to the surface.

If you stand in my way, you will be swept aside!

The timber wolves and manticore had taken notice of her small light show, and turned their collective gaze her direction.

I will tear the world apart piece by piece if that is what it takes!

Twilight's eyes glowed a bright solid white. Bright violet magic swirled around the tip of her horn, while her mane whipped about wildly in the magical wind. She looked at the creatures before her and saw only obstacles. Obstacles placed in her path by a world that relished in her suffering. A world that refused to let her find happiness. A world that insisted on keeping her and Dash apart. She was sick of it.

This world can BURN!

A bright jet of flames burst forth from her horn, enveloping a nearby wolf with a yelp of pain and surprise. She did the same to another, and ripped a third to pieces until it was nothing but a pile of twigs and branches. The manticore attempted to strike her with its tail. She quickly caught it in her magic and snapped the stinger off, resulting in a roar of pain. Continuing to spew fire from her horn, she shattered the two blazing wolves and added their remains to that of the third, bludgeoning the manticore with the flaming brands and striking at the remaining wolves with the burning remains of their comrades. A purple glow surrounded the tree behind her as it was ripped from the ground, splintered into large pieces, then thrown forward into the the whirling vortex of flame, branches, and death. The creatures scattered and ran in fear.

Twilight stood there amongst the wreckage, breathing heavily. As the adrenaline and rage slowly faded, she looked around. A large amount of the surrounding brush was now on fire and the blaze was spreading rapidly. She had to get out of here. Not only was it a bad idea to sit in the middle of a forest fire, somepony on the weather team was bound to notice the smoke. When that happened, an emergency team would be sent out immediately with some storm clouds to get it under control. She needed to be long gone when that happened.

Spotting her saddlebags nearby, she quickly put them back on and checked to see that the contents remained undamaged. The Heart's Desire was still safe in the unbroken specimen jar. She used some quick first aid magic to close up her wounds and stop the bleeding. It would do for now, but she would have to give it some closer cosmetic attention later and find a stream to cleanup before she went back into town. All this blood and all these scrapes and bruises would be hard to explain.

Pulling herself back up the slope and walking down the path a ways, she spotted a nearby cave. That would be the perfect place to tend to her injuries, rest, and lay low for a bit until the situation with the forest fire blew over. It was upwind, so she didn't have to worry about the fire coming her direction. She stepped inside, put down her bag, and leaned against the wall to catch her breath. It had certainly been an interesting day so far. She noted that it seemed unusually warm and dry, considering that most caves in the forest were normally supposed to be cool and a little bit damp. A deep rumbling growl from behind her cut short her idle wonderings. Slowly turning around, she came face to face with a very large, and very angry looking green dragon.

Oh come on!

Author's Note:

Now that my friends, is a cliffhanger. OP Twilight is best Twilight. Somebody make me some art of Twilight raining down fiery death. By the way, if anybody is confused, weasels are immune to cockatrice stares and are their natural predators. Look it up. Next time, Twilight kicks the shit out of a dragon.