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PaulAsaran


Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords and reviews. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

Sequels1

T
Source

This story is a sequel to The Challenge of Fleur


This story is a sequel to The Weed.


When Trixie's untimely arrival ruins a local charity auction, she finds herself and three other ponies swapping bodies. Now Trixie, Applejack, Golden Harvest and Fleur de Lis are stuck in the uncomfortable position of living one another's lives until they can find a solution. But what starts as a bad situation for all grows into something different for each of them. From crises of conscience to deeply romantic personal conflicts, all four will find their integrity challenged. The clock is ticking, and if they don't hurry they may find themselves stuck in one another's bodies forever.

For some, that might not be such a bad thing.


Other stories inspired by music:
Escape
Bed of Roses
Bulletproof Heart
Drops of Jupiter
How to Save a Life
Forgive Me, Friend
Time for Tea


Read the Seattle's Angels review!

Overall winner of the Transformations group's Body Swap Contest.

Special thanks go to Hopeless Appraisal and Danger Beans for editing.

Artwork commissioned from the talented CaptainPudgeMuffin.

The Fleur-Verse
Chronologically from Top to Bottom:
Shadow Pony
Reddux the Tyrant
No Heroes Part I - The Roster
No Heroes Part II - The Journey Home
Lightning's Bolt
The Weed
The Challenge of Fleur
Ordinary World
A Challenge for Fleur
Sweet to Eat: Tales of Nightmare Night

Chapters (5)
Comments ( 49 )

I was literally just checking Fimfiction before I went to bed, and this pops into my screen. . . you have good timing, I'll give you that.

the world needs more Applejack and Trixie friend interaction.
:ajsmug::heart::trixieshiftright:

I wasn't logged in at the time I found this story and didn't realize it was you who wrote it. Even if I hadn't, I would have continued to read this regardless.

Yes, body swapping stories are a dime-a-dozen, but that doesn't mean you can't put a fresh spin on it. I'm liking how this started and eager to continue.

Of the characters so far, I'd say Fleur is the most interesting. She's got a viscous edge to her that I don't see very often Intriguing!

Continuing on!

Lovely reactions! I enjoyed each one for different reasons.

It was funny seeing Carrot trying magic. That's always amusing to see characters try out new powers they never had before.

It took me a second to place FC, but then I remembered who I'm dealing with. I suppose the dubious bastard will be making his move soon.

Ew, it looks like Fleur is being put in her place. A little "tough love" from FC, perhaps?

Trixie earns her keep in being able to come up with ways to keep the act going. Crafty mare. :trixieshiftleft:

As for the last one... I'm going to admit, I find Applejack's crush disappointing. And Rarity's sudden interest in mares. It comes out of nowhere and feels contrived in order to set up drama. Of all the characters, Rarity is the one who shows the most interest in getting a relationship. With stallions.

That aside, I'm looking forward to how this day will play out. Moving on!

4620695
Enjoying your praise, but I just had to note that you've clearly not read The Weed, for which this story also serves as a sequel. In that story Rarity's relationship with Golden begins (in fact that's all it's about), and you'll find that there's nothing sudden at all about it.

But I suppose that's my fault for not clarifying things from the get-go in the long description. I shall remedy that shortly.

4620277
you'll get no argument from me. I was actually rather surprised at how easy it is to work with the two of them.

I liked all the different encounters each character had, particularly Applejack and Trixie's. It gives me warm and fuzzy feelings to see a little friendship crawl into their hearts.

Once again, Fine Crime tends to steal the show. Fleur's lucky this isn't the Trixie Vs Equestria universe...

Heh, cute interactions with Golden here. She's doing surprisingly well for being in a complete 180 to what she normally has to live through.

I go!

4621898
I feel the Trixie/Applejack interaction is one of the better parts of this whole story, if only because they're a pair that don't interact much at all. I mean really, how many stories out there feature these two in the same scene together, much less talking?

I suppose Fine does have a tendency to steal the thunder from others. Wait 'till you see how he does so in Chapter 4. :trollestia:

Regarding Golden... there's a reason she can handle herself fairly well in these situations. It's a subtle nod that, when taken in context, can have some interesting implications.

A pretty satisfying conclusion to the whole debacle.

Had a feeling Fine Crime was going to let them go. He's a softie under all that gruff.

4622507
That would be Fluttershy's bad influence on him. :yay:

Wow, Trixie really won the lottery in this one. It only took a ancient artifact of doom to pull it off.

A lovely story! My issues with pairings aside, I really enjoyed this. I got to see some sides of characters I normally don't see in fanfiction, which is a major reason I read stuff like this.

I look forward to any future works!

4623585
Glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully next time I won't forget to mention super-pertinent story links in the description next time.

Twinkie? Twerky? :rainbowlaugh::rainbowlaugh::rainbowlaugh:

As always, another superbly-crafted piece of pony goodness from you; kudos sir! :pinkiehappy:

Was rather neat to see Trixie in her initial TvE circumstances make an appearance in the main NH family of stories! I really love your depiction of her. :heart: Although I am curious about the AU tag on this story? Pretty sure NH didn't venture into AU territory until book 4, and I dont recall any of the side stories being labeled as such. Just curious :trollestia:

Only noticed a handful (hoofful?) of typos, but I couldn't stop reading long enuff to make notes :twilightblush: I'm seriously considering going back to read it again right away (yes, it was THAT good) and if so I'll jot them down. But I still need to read Tyrant, so, yeah, I'm torn :derpytongue2:

Anyways, have yet another upvote and fave, and keep up the excellent work! :yay: :moustache:

Oh, and also:

"Regarding Golden... there's a reason she can handle herself fairly well in these situations. It's a subtle nod that, when taken in context, can have some interesting implications."

Further hints plz? Cuz I don't get it. :applecry:

4645431
Why thank you for the praise! It's always good to see a familiar face in the comments. :twilightsmile:

Ah, you make an easy mistake. Although some of the No Heroes history is valid for these stories, this is actually part of a different AU, which I've come to call the Fleur Universe. The Fleur AU is very similar to the No Heroes AU, but at some point (I haven't decided upon) the two universes took different paths. Right now I'm thinking that would be between books II and III. The Fleur Universe is so-named because she will have a presence – usually an important one – in all the related stories. The only exception is The Weed, where her appearance was little more than an unnamed cameo, but that's because I didn't know at the time that The Weed would be part of the Fleur AU.

Regarding the AU tag, I felt it was obligatory due to me having shipped Rarity with Golden, which is definitely outside of canon.

4645447
The point here is that Golden is much more than a mere farm pony. That's her reputation and it's how everyone sees her – Golden included – but she's smarter and more capable than anyone gives her credit for. Through her interactions with Rarity she has come to learn about etiquette and proper elite behavior, even if only on a subconscious level. This is one of the big things that differentiates her from Applejack, who is a farm pony through-and-through: if Golden moved to the big city, she would be able to adapt and, with a little encouragement and assistance, even thrive.

This is exactly what Rarity was talking about in her little confession: Golden might prefer the farmer's life, but she is capable of understanding and appreciating Rarity's lifestyle almost as well as Rarity does.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Okay, I was not expecting Caballeron to show up. That stopped me in my tracks. Also, there's a hell of a lot more to Fleur than you ever let on in the last story

4967232
When I realized I was going to go the 'ancient artifact' route as the cause of everything, Caballeron immediately came to mind. He struck me as the perfect sub-par villain to be chasing after the Ring, and it saved me from having to conjure up some OC for the purpose.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

More than even Caballeron's unexpected presence, what's really got me hooked is Fleur's situation. Why are her subordinates holding her if they know it's her? And will Carrot Top be able to survive a day as her? I also appreciate Trixie's canniness, the idea that she's a particularly strong age and Fleur can't control her magic, and the temptations lined up before Applejack. This is gonna be good.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Likewise, Fine Crime didn't leave much an impression on me in Challenge, but here I find I'm liking him. Initially, I said I was going to be pissed if it turned out he'd set Fleur up, but the moment that was revealed, I instantly realized the misjudgment I'd made of both of them. Meanwhile, seeing everyone learning about themselves as well as each other -- Trixie bonding with the Apple Family? Adorable -- is keeping this a really engrossing read. :D

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I was all set to take back my praise for Fine Crime, then figured out his game about two seconds early. I suppose I could complain about him being so far ahead of everyone else, on the other counts at least. I mean, he just shows up out of nowhere and finishes everything, and Fleur seems so shocked by this, I had to wonder at his estimation of her as a top agent. It's all very confusing. Stop being confusing! D:

4967521
You wouldn't know this thank to having not read my No Heroes series (the first two books are canon to the Fleur AU, of which this is a part), but Fine is a natural. While Fleur's continuously learning and having to work to come up with plans, Fine was already at a very high skill level by the time he earned his cutie mark. Plans form in his mind more-or-less naturally. Fleur is good at deception, but not scheming; Fine's got both in spades.

But again, without reading the source material, it's impossible to know that, so perhaps that's my bad for never clarifying in an AU or the description or... or something.

One of my current major projects actually shows how Fine and Fleur met, and I aim to show exactly why he took her on as his apprentice.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Marvelous. Getting here was a bit of a trip, but The Weed was hardly a burden to read, and it's all been absolutely worth it. You wove together four very different stories into an engaging read, and used the body swap trope to good effect. Plus, there were lots of surprises! I'm impressed. :D

Also IF THERE ISN'T A TRIXIEJACK FIC SOMEWHERE DOWN THE ROAD, SO HELP ME ASARAN

(Though I have to admit this is also a great setup for hilarious tsundere Twixie. Not that I approve of such shenanigans, mind.)

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4967543
Yes, I noticed that was marked as a prequel to your newest story. If ever I have a chance, I'm going to have take time out and read your stuff, because I'm very intrigued by the world you've made.

4967582

Glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully this redeems the... 'ick' that is The Challenge of Fleur.

Believe me, I am not unaware of the strong potential for a TrixieJack left in the wake of this story. I could of course turn it into a Twixie instead, and I fully acknowledge that I greatly approve of that particular pairing, but I'm much more likely to go with TrixieJack. It's far less common, which is what I look for. All I really need is a proper idea; I'm not going to write a sequel until something worth writing comes to me.

Although I should note that a TwixieJack triangle sounds like a ton of fun...

4967618
Two worlds, actually. Although the No Heroes AU and Fleur AU share a lot, they diverge at some point. I know, it's confusing, but there were certain things going on right out the door with both The Weed and The Challenge of Fleur that directly and blatantly contradicted No Heroes, and I hate plot holes.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4967624
DO IT

DO IT RIGHT NOW

WHY AREN'T YOU DOING IT

4967650
Ohhh. That's even more confusing. :|

Wouldn't be bad if they weren't able to switch back for once. Fleur knows how to Trixie spells, Carrot can... migrate to Prance, Trixie can run a farm and Applejack something apples. :ajsleepy:

I liked this story, everyone learns a lesson or comes out better than they started out at. Trixie begins to fix her reputation and her standing in the world, Fluer learns she needs to have Empathy with others, Applejack learns more about her friend and her neighbors, and Golden Harvest learns that she is loved by Rarity even though she had her doubts. Yes, in all of that it was a very nice tale.

Why doesn't this have more views? This was really good.

5339111
Hmm...
1) It features the (tragically) least popular of the Mane 6?

2) Rounded by two less-than-famous background ponies.

3) Trixie isn't enough on her own to catch readers attention with the others' presence holding it back.

4) It's about body swapping - already a common topic to the point of yawning - and isn't a comedy, which is expected in body swap stories.

5) It's too long for the 10-minute-attention-span crowd.

6) No clop.

Take your pick. Feel free to mix and match.

All sarcasm aside, I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's always nice when someone discovers this fic.

5339168 That's too bad. Looks like I've found a good amount of stuff to read. Well, on to the next one.

Really enjoyed this story.:pinkiehappy: I love how each character had some great conflicts going here. Fleur's attitude, Applejack's jealousy, Golden's insecurity, and Trixie's depression and need for respect.

Thank you for the story. :twilightsmile:

5385876
Glad you enjoyed it. This is certainly one of my favorite shorts of my own creation. Well, by my definition of 'short.' Maybe 'average' would be a better term? Point is, I'm really happy with how this one turned out.

I'd totally read a side-fic about Trixie working on the farm and going to Twilight for an apprenticeship. I think it'd be interesting to see how Twilight taught Trixie, as it would no doubt have to be somewhat unconventional from standard learning. Unless you already have one, in which case I'm commenting here looking like an idiot.

5521832
No, I don't have one. Yet. There's always the possibility, though, and I have to admit that the potential for some Trixijack or tsundere Twixie really appeals to me.

I've been reading so many of your stories (I'm currently reading Twilight's Inferno and will continue on with TvE once I've finished it) and I simply don't see myself slowing down, I love your writing that much. This story was just as good as the last. It really does deserve more attention than it has, perhaps you should submit it to ED over Of Angels, but it's a close second.

5707496
I have indeed noticed your name popping up in most of my stories by now. Always good to know that my work is appreciated!

Unfortunately, Ordinary World can't be submitted to EqD until The Weed is accepted, and that means it's going to be Of Angels for the time being.

5521851 I also would like to see a continuation of Trixie on the farm from this. A Trijack shipping (or Lulajack?) woeld be interesting to see, though not a requirement. I did enjoy this piece though!

5820009
What's this? People are still reading this story? Pardon me while I :pinkiegasp:!

But really, I dunno if I'll get to that sequel, but it is a very interesting and tantalizing thought. Maybe someday. Glad you enjoyed it!

Fine Crime For The Win!

Wonderful story. Fine Crime was pretty amusing in this, though what he did at the end with Fleur was pretty apparent. How long he planned it to turn out that way though I have to wonder.

I really liked Fleur trying to do a convoluted plan like her mentor without realizing how annoyed he would be at the lack of need for one. Does tell something about Fine Crime though, more on how people see him and his plans. His convictions about how messed up Fleur was treating Trixie's life was also a feel good moment to me. :pinkiehappy:

A very nice read and continuation on the prequel's. Happy I finally read this.

5820886
*Reads the story. Enjoys it a lot, for how wholesome and wonderful it is in the end, and how things work out for all four of them in the end. Hopes to also see more of Trixie on the farm...and hopes the author doesn't get toooo surprised at folks still readin' their stories.* :pinkiehappy:

9374717
Aaah, I miss this one. Thanks for reminding me it exists. :twilightsmile:

Then Granny Smith grinned. “Well good mornin’, Miss Licksie.”

She turned her smiling attention back on Trixie. “I meant, good morning Miss Twixie.”

“That’s all right, Twinkie,” Granny declared with head held high.

Granny Smith nodded her approval. “Welcome aboard, Twerky.”

I thought you might be interested to hear that your stories are still being read so long after you wrote them.


Golden Harvest and Trixie are my favorite characters in this particular timeline.
As far as Fleur is concerned, she sounds like a real cold ditch, firing her staff for trivial reasons and her high-browed attitude towards Trixie. In the no heroes timeline the few times we saw her, she was a consummate professional, sure she had her issues, but here she sounds more like Spoiled Rich.
And AJ, I honestly hope that she gets a firm talking down(at the least).

Trixie was my favorite part of this story hooves down.

I'm still somewhat cross with AJ, but I will give her credit for prying her head from out of her rump.

I was glad to see Fleur taken down a peg or ten.

Golden has perseverance and is something of a "diamond in the rough". I wish her and Rarity well for the future.

10689415
I'm quite proud of this one, even after all these years. The flawed characters, how everypony learns a valuable lesson and grows, the feelings involved all around. It was a fun one to write, too.

I actually ended up rereading this one because enough time had passed that I needed to refresh my thoughts on it. Not that I'm complaining, this is still an entertaining read and I got to notice a few new details and take in the full story with a broader perspective.

Having been going through so many of your older works, I feel that this one in particular marks a noticeable point in which your writing style and quality had begun to develop in the direction toward what it is now. It's a bit difficult to pin down exactly, but in general it comes off feeling more refined and concise. The descriptions are more varied and the characters are more fleshed out. No Heroes might have been stretched a little thin having to accommodate a cast of six different characters, in addition to the Mane Six and other side characters and villains along the way, but this story does a good job of juggling these four key characters, I don't think that any of them were especially left behind compared to others.

Something I find interesting is that the conflict for all of the characters is feeling some sense of inadequacy or general unrest in their lives. Golden Harvest is worried that she can't match up to Rarity's high standards. Applejack feels frustrated that Golden Harvest is catching Rarity's affection and doubts herself as a result. Trixie suffers from a lifetime of failing to achieve what she wants. Fleur de Lis is less obvious but she does go into this with a desire to show off to Fine Crime, and not only does that fail spectacularly but she's made to realize how empty her life is. Then each one in their own way comes out on the other side with the reassurance that they needed.

Between both this story and The Weed, Golden Harvest was another pleasant surprise for an inclusion of a character that I never really would've bothered to pay much mind to. I don't know if there's any fanon interpretations going into the decision to go this route with her. Funnily enough, I was rewatching Sweet and Elite recently and did notice that a pony that looked like her wearing a dress appeared at one of the parties, not sure if that might be part of it.

It's appropriate that Nye is the one who tries to bring Rarity and Golden together in The Weed since their relationship can be seen as very similar to that between him and Rainbow Dash. Golden struggles with the idea that she isn't worth Rarity's time and the anxiety that Rarity might have lost interest in her. I've never been in a real relationship myself, but I have to imagine that this is exactly how I'd feel if a Rarity-like individual were to snatch me up into a relationship with how often I beat myself up.

The only qualm that I have with Golden Harvest in this story is that she feels...not exactly underdeveloped or underutilized, more that she's out of the loop compared to the others. She doesn't have as much of a connection with the overarching cast and plot of the story. It's particularly notable that she's largely absent from the climax after everyone returns to their original bodies and Golden stays behind with the unconscious Rarity while the others run off. At the end of the day, Golden's main arc here is not about her connection with any of the other characters, aside from a brief heart to heart with Applejack, it's all about her relationship with Rarity. In that sense, it's more that she is the protagonist of her own separate story, a continuation of The Weed that incidentally happens to overlap with this other story about ponies dealing with bodyswap shenanigans.

It also seems odd to me that Golden doesn't really form any connection with Fleur, in contrast to any of the other swapped pairs (Golden/Applejack, Applejack/Trixie, and Trixie/Fleur), and I feel there's some real untapped potential there. Golden Harvest wants nothing more than to be a princess, to be fancy, to be classy, and what pony would be better to show her what it means to be that way than Fleur de Lis? I could easily see Fleur taking Golden under her wing and showing her what it really means to be a Canterlot mare so she can woo Rarity better, and for good measure she throws in some Kingsman-style self-defense training. And if you don't do that then I'm going to have to do something like it myself. Eventually. Maybe.

Applejack is a character that I have a complicated relationship with. I really, really want to like her, but I think that the show never fully realized what her potential could have been, her character didn't get explored much beyond...kind of milquetoast nice traditionalist person...and farmer. In that sense I feel that, more than any of the other main characters, writers really have an uphill battle with her if they want to give her a dynamic and engaging presentation. Kind of hilarious to me reading the author's note where you said you specifically wanted to go into this to give her more flaws and that's what I feel is really necessary for her to be more well-rounded. I'm oddly attracted to stories where Applejack is more openly flawed--there's also Bulletproof Heart of course, and Estee's Triptych comes to mind in particular.

I can understand a lot of readers coming into this story being perhaps alienated to Applejack's portrayal being so mean and selfish. On going through this again, though, it occurred to me how the way Applejack interrogates the idea that Golden Harvest and Rarity are together almost mirrors the way a skeptical reader might view their relationship--especially those who didn't read The Weed. I have to imagine that Applejack never truly loved Rarity, she just admired her and thought that she was pretty, and it was only when Golden came into the picture, when the possibility of having Rarity for herself was abruptly snatched away, that she wished she had acted sooner. She thinks that she, being more important, ought to be the one who deserves Rarity, but it's only when she sees how much Golden cherishes Rarity that Applejack realizes how shallow her own affections are.

I also like how Applejack's accent comes into play. I see some bodyswap stories in audiovisual media will just nonsensically swap the characters' voices too even though that doesn't make any sense. Here, though, Applejack's natural inclination to speak in her southern drawl carries over to Golden Harvest, so you get to imagine this character speaking in a completely abnormal way and having to stumble over themselves to avoid standing out to those who would be familiar with them. And the inverse happens for Trixie, now inhabiting Applejack's body and having to attempt to mimic the accent as best as she can in order to fit in with the rest of the Apple family.

Trixie is a lot like Lightning Dust--both in canon and in these stories. Much like Lightning Dust, I was disappointed in how Trixie got railroaded into staying a jerk when she finally returned to become a mainstay character, even though the ending of Magic Duel made it seem like she would be changing her ways. I guess it might have been kind of hard for Trixie to be a repentent former baddie unicorn in season 6 when Starlight Glimmer was going to be filling exactly that niche, a niche which had already been filled by Sunset Shimmer too.

Trixie shares a lot of Lightning Dust's qualities, of wanting to stand out, wanting to be recognized for something, but also of being unable to recognize how she is treading over others in the process. In particular, though, the way Trixie is presented here is almost like the end result of what would have happened if Lightning Dust had truly hit rock bottom in Lightning's Bolt--if she had really had an all-out brawl with Rainbow Dash and been fired from her job and maybe the team, and/or, heaven forbid, lost custody of Keen Arrow. This is a Trixie who recognizes that she messed up and wants nothing more than to make up for it, but at this point it's too little too late and she's left with nothing but to coast along on what little she has left. She no longer wants to be famous--if anything she hates fame; it's tragic how she has to go around terrified of simply being recognized--she just wants to be happy.

I also noticed Trixie swears in Luna's name instead of Celestia's. Interesting. It's kind of surprising that Trixie didn't appear in the No Heroes series at all, one would expect her to be a perfect fit there. Then again, I suppose therein lies exactly the problem, she's too easy of a pick for the team--I imagine that a lot of these Luna's team/alternate Mane Six stories from the early days of the fandom cast Trixie since she's such a natural foil to Twilight Sparkle. Maybe if Fine Crime hadn't ended up joining the team himself as it was implied he was supposed to be separate from it at first, Trixie could have had room to come on, but I could never see her replacing Upper Crust.

I have to wonder whether the rock farm she went to would be the Pie family one in this continuity considering Pinkie killed all of (or most of?) them in No Heroes.

Overall Trixie's arc is probably the highlight of this story, and I feel she is perhaps the true main character. She has the strongest emotional resonance out of all of the characters and the most to overcome. It's sad to imagine how simply existing as Applejack brought her more happiness than she had known as Trixie for a long time. I like how Fleur's meeting with her is like her own version of Fine Crime's interactions with Keen Arrow and Sunflower, urging her to move on happily with her life and continue to seek more. At long last, surrounded by ponies who love her, Trixie can live in an ordinary world.

But...on the topic of Fleur...

It goes without saying that reviews are largely based upon one's personal opinions and biases, but I feel like emphasizing here that a lot of what I'm about to say is the result of the particular way in which I approached this story and the expectations I had as a result, not necessarily the text itself.

I went into this expecting that Fleur de Lis was probably going to be a bitch. A stuck-up rich Canterlot mare with a hoity-toity job and also the position of illusionist and secret peacekeeper. It's all there for her to be in this role of a character who looks down upon others and needs to be taken down a peg or twelve. I was all for that kind of arc. That was exactly the content that I was interested in seeing when I started reading all these stories.

But I wasn't prepared for just how meanspirited Fleur turned out to have become. Willing to throw innocent civilians under the bus for her plans to go off? Not taking the time to do all the research necessary on the person of interest in her mission? Not even knowing the names of her subordinates? And all this...because she wanted to impress Fine Crime? I just don't understand where all of this came from.

The concept of the Fleur-Verse has...confused me. I said before that I came into it because I was really curious to see what a series of stories about Fleur de Lis would be like, I wanted to see how she would develop. And after Reddux the Tyrant, I was feeling pretty good on that front, it seemed like she was on a good path, I was genuinely really excited for what would be to come. Then...I waited...and waited...and I didn't get much in the end. Out of the ten stories which are listed under the Fleur-Verse banner, I'd only say three of them actively feature Fleur as a main character and entail her development--even in The Challenge of Fleur she's really only present to get the plot kicked off in what is ultimately a story about Luna and Fancy Pants. Then I finally get to Ordinary World, in which it turns out that all of the development since Fleur came to Canterlot has just...happened offscreen, and it turns out to have largely been to the effect of her becoming a worse person. I know that Reddux the Tyrant was written later, as it's hinted toward in this story, and I wonder if I wouldn't have been so bothered if I had come into this when it was first published and I could have had more neutral expectations.

There's really a lot of this jarring cruelty in this story where Fleur and Fine and the Archons are concerned. This is the most that we've seen of the Dark Archons in action since Reddux the Tyrant and No Heroes Part 1 (depending on chronological or publication order) and it's here that we see a lot more about how they are as an organization. And it's...really, deeply unpleasant? I'm not very fond of the way this shadowy group apparently has free rein to play with the lives of ponies as they deem necessary. Fleur's punishment is kneecapped somewhat by the fact that she's stuck in Trixie's body, which is part of a larger bodyswap problem, and if she doesn't get let out so they can fix this then they're all going to be screwed over, and the Archons know that this is the case. What was Fine going to do if Fleur didn't make this discovery about Trixie's untapped potential and promise to help her get better? Would he have just left her in the cell after all even if it meant dooming the others? For all his talk about not putting innocents in danger, he really doesn't show much compassion at all.

But the point where I have to draw a hard line is when Fine Crime dresses down Trixie. Beyond it being extraordinarily hypocritical of him after he was the one who brought up to Fleur how tragic and miserable Trixie is, it just doesn't make any sense to me. I can understand him being callous to Fleur since the point of this is to teach her a lesson and he needs to put up this act for the sake of consistency, but I see absolutely no reason to act that way toward Trixie when he easily could have subdued her without actively targeting her fragile emotional state. Even with all of them getting off the hook at the end, that's the kind of thing that can leave deep scars, and I really can't get behind a character who would act that way toward someone vulnerable, even more when they know how vulnerable they are, that's abusive manipulation shit. It makes me think of a lategame episode of Batman TAS where new-style gruff asshole Batman laughs mockingly at Harley Quinn before breaking down her fantasies, then shows no concern for her when the Joker shows up and nearly kills her, where pre-art-shift Batman would have shown a deep level of sympathy for her and his other antagonists when they were at their most vulnerable. Out of all the stories that I've read thus far, this is the one where Fine Crime comes off the most like a mary sue, the plot is constantly bending around him and talking up how cool and competent he is whenever he's onscreen, and there's convenient justification for all of his actions, no matter how cruel or harmful they might be. I think that he really needs to be a main character of a story to work best, because when you aren't getting his innermost thoughts you're only getting the surface-level impression, the illusion of being smug and confident that he puts on in public, and that doesn't really do him any favors.

In spite of all this, I really genuinely did have a lot of fun reading this story--I did read it twice, after all, and still enjoyed it despite knowing the parts that were going to get under my skin, however briefly. Despite still having aged a bit, it's written well and all of the characters have strong arcs, even Fleur's I have to admit is effective at its core. It's just that I have a hard time fully committing to everything that it wanted to show with what I had been led to expect from the stories that came before this. As much as I may not understand the cohesion of the Fleur-Verse as a whole, I can't really complain about it considering that I still read through it, and I still had a good time with the individual stories. I easily could have just skipped to this installment since it seemed to show the most of what I was looking for, but I wanted to see what might lead up to it instead. Shadow Pony confused me a little--I wasn't sure if Sunflower might have been Fleur at first and this was going to be her origin story--but I still kept going with it even after it became clear and I was surprised by how charming it was. I hadn't been sure if I could commit to reading a big story like Reddux the Tyrant, but it was clear that Fleur was actually in this one so I settled in and quickly got engrossed in the turmoil of the dragon war. I don't know if I would have given No Heroes a chance if it hadn't been included among these, but after Reddux I was curious for more so I kept eating it up. Without all this, I might not have bothered to read Lightning's Bolt, and that would have been truly tragic. And I might not have read the charming romance of Rarity and Golden Harvest in The Weed and the heart-pounding rollercoaster ride of Trixie in Ordinary World.

So, even with all its ups and downs, thank you for this story, and for the Fleur-Verse; it didn't entirely give me what I had hoped for, but what it did have to offer was a whole lot more than that.

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