• Published 15th Dec 2014
  • 9,851 Views, 575 Comments

This Cruel and Random World - Bluegrass Brooke

It was a simple bet. Spend one month as a pony, and prove to Celestia that he had been right all along. Discord never thought he would actually enjoy it. As the days pass, he finds himself desperate to keep up the façade a little longer.

  • ...

Coming to Grips

Early mornings were Discord's least favorite time of day. Normally, he would not have dreamed of attempting anything productive before say eight o'clock. Today was different, however; today he had to focus. He stood, panting knee deep in the dew laden grass, trying desperately to control the harmony magic surrounding his horn. It was of little use, and the golden lightning arched into the pre-dawn haze before dissipating like a cloud of smoke. He snorted in frustration. Great just great.

In all his years of living, Discord had never really been interested in harmony magic. There was little benefit he could draw from it, apart from understanding its use in besting his own chaos magic. Harmony was like a dull bran muffin next to the fabulous, besprinkled cupcake that was chaos. Now, for the first time in his life, he was honestly regretting not paying attention to his early training in the subject.

Discord looked around at the isolated meadow. The crickets had silenced, the birds had yet to wake, and everything seemed frozen in place. It would have bothered him if he had been here under any other circumstances, but this was far from normal circumstances.

Yesterday's fiasco had proven that Twilight was incredibly vulnerable to corruption magic. The only way to stop corruption magic was with pure harmony magic, as had been shown time and time again with the Elements of Harmony. It seemed as though Celestia intended on leaving Twilight to her own devices. That was dangerous, and Discord feared what would become of Equestria without anyone to watch over her temperamental power. For his friend, and the safety of everyone involved, he would take on that role.

Discord sighed, beginning his attempt at a transportation spell again. The half-baked spell flickered spastically and rebounded, this time in a kind of explosion that set him jumping back as quickly as his current form would allow. Damn. Not even close. This practice of his was threatening to drive him to fits. If one young alicorn could use corruption magic, then it stood to reason that he, the master of chaos, could use harmony magic. So why were his attempts being rejected so violently?

He closed his eyes, inhaling the crisp morning air through his nostrils. Ponies really did have a wonderful sense of smell; far better than his own. In an odd way, taking long slow breaths as a pony had a greater effect on calming his nerves than it ever did as a draconequus. You can do this, Discord. Sure it's a little different, but it's just magic. Just as he was about to give the spell another attempt, a familiar burning sensation in his throat preceded a jet of golden flames issuing from his mouth.

Discord coughed for a long while. The spell used to transform him into a pony was powerful, but it came with a few nasty drawbacks. After all, pony throats were not designed to suddenly spew out flames at the drop of a hat. He glanced down at the cause of his discomfort. A single scroll was lying innocently on the grass. Swishing his tail irritably, he scooped it up. His name was scrawled on it in Twilight's unmistakable loopy handwriting. Discord could not help but chuckle at her method of sending it to him. Really, flames? Am I Spike now? How uninspired.

He started to open it, but the sealing spell refused to break. "Oh, come on. It's me!" Snarling, he transformed the hoof into its true form as a talon. Without ceremony, he broke the seal and began to read.


Thank you for taking my concerns seriously. I'll admit, I had my doubts when I decided to write to you, but now I see there was nothing to worry about. I know how difficult it must have been for you to stay so serious, but it really did cheer me up. You're a good friend.'

Discord felt a strange pull on his heart at those words. Twilight considered him a good friend. He was certain that he had hopelessly botched that title forever with his continued screw ups. It felt good to know that there was one alicorn in Equestria who considered him worthy of that title, and a part of him knew that she would not toss it aside as readily as Celestia did. Chuckling, he read on,

'Yesterday, something really bad happened. When I was worrying, my magic began to corrupt, at least that's what Entropy said. If he hadn't been there, I'm afraid something terrible might have happened.'

Discord snorted. Understatement of the century my dear.

'Does your magic corrupt like that when you're stressed?'

Gods no. Then again, I don't really get stressed. Discord paused, thinking about that for a moment. It had been centuries since he had been really stressed. Frustrated, yes, especially about being turned into stone, but not stressed. He always knew he would get out of his predicament eventually, so it did little to worry him. Whenever he felt even the slightest hint of stress coming on, he simply thought of a good joke or prank, and the stress would melt away. He returned to the letter,

'Entropy gave me a few of your journals he found in the Castle of the Two Sisters. I hope you don't mind; he said you gave him permission.'

Discord realized how strange that sounded. I gave myself permission. Yes, I suppose I did. He barked a laugh. "Oh, dear. I've started talking to myself. Whatever am I to do?" His eyes darted back to the parchment.

'What I read got me thinking. Maybe your chaos magic, my harmony magic, and corruption magic are connected somehow. I won't say any more here, but I'm going to dig into my research, and discover the truth.

Your friend,

-Twilight Sparkle'

"Argh, now you've done it, Discord. She'll be pouring over books for days now." Discord grimaced at the thought of sitting down and reading books upon books for days. Better find an excuse to help the townsponies. I wonder if I could improve the fountain again. Ice water's an idea; that might even be refreshing.

With a sigh, he teleported the scroll away with a snap of a talon. He would reply later. Just as he did, another jet of golden flames shot out of his mouth. Spluttering in shock and annoyance, he looked down at the much less welcome handwriting. Celestia. Sighing, he scooped it up, and tore it open.


I trust you've been keeping your end of the bargain and not causing trouble for the ponies.'

Discord bit his lip. Define trouble.

'I have sensed you breaking your illusion spell and using a touch of your magic. I do hope it was for something truly important. In any case, I shall know if you dissolve it completely.'

The letter shook in his talon a bit, surprising him a little. For some reason, her words came close to angering him. This was not about him playing around, it was far more important than that; something Celestia ought to know if she were doing her job. Snarling, he read on,

'How goes your harmony magic training? Luna is quite curious if you've managed any spells yet. I should very much like to see that. It has been many, many centuries since I have watched you so much as attempt harmony magic. Perhaps you can give a demonstration upon your return? That would be most amusing.


"Oh, I'll give you a demonstration all right." Discord chuckled, burning the letter with Celestia's precious harmony magic. "Right after I have my bit of fun." Discord smiled to himself, transforming the talon to a hoof once again.

He was the spirit and master of chaos itself; it did little good for him to get angry or serious over anything; even the uptight sun princess. After all, life was too fun to dwell in a dark closet feeling sorry yourself. It was something Twilight desperately needed to learn, and a lesson he was all too willing to teach her.

Discord looked around him at the awakening meadow. If Twilight was going to learn how to have fun, then he would have to keep her as relaxed as possible. What better way than to learn her harmony magic? His horn lit up, arching rays of magic in all directions. Try again, Discord. You can do this.

Discord wandered into town around eight thirty, head hung low. Every inch of his artificial form ached. Hours of practicing harmony magic wore him out more than days of chaos magic ever could. Not only were his limbs exhausted, but his mind felt dull and numb. Despite his best efforts, he had made little more progress than when he first started. It was embarrassing to say the least.

He was so distracted in his own thoughts that he almost slammed headlong into the library's oak door. Flinching a little, he took a step back and opened it quietly. Instead of the usual, excited greeting, he found Twilight lying down in the center of the library on a pile of cushions. She was so intently focused on the book between her hooves, that she probably would not have noticed him charging in and screaming at her.

Sighing, Discord started to walk over when Spike trotted up to him. "Good morning, Spike."

"Morning Entropy." Before he knew why, the dragon grabbed a hoof, directing him away from Twilight. Spike motioned him to lean down, and Discord obliged. "Twilight's in intense research mode."

"Intense what now?" Discord made to look up at Twilight, but Spike held his head down.

"Ever since she got Discord's letter last night, she's been researching." Spike bit his lip, shooting a quick glance over to Twilight and back again. "I don't think she's slept at all. When I got up, she was already down here."

"I see." Discord sighed, rubbing his temple with a hoof. "What do you want me to do about it?"

Spike tapped a foot, jerking his head over to her. "Isn't it obvious?"

"What? She likes research, I'm not going to stop her." No one could stop her when she's like that.

"Yeah, but she likes you more." The dragon looked as though the next words were practically painful to say. "Maybe . . . take her on a . . . on a date or something." His face turned cherry red, and he quickly avoided Discord's gaze. "Just to get her mind off of stuff." He added in a rush.

Discord gave one of his booming laughs, "Really?" Then, lowering his voice again, "I'll see what I can do, but no promises." With a good natured wink, he trotted over to Twilight. "Good morning!"

Twilight glanced up from the book only long enough to acknowledge his presence before she returned to reading. "Good morning."

"Would it be all right if I grabbed a bite to eat?" Discord took her slow nod as acknowledgement of the request, and walked over to the kitchen. It was a small, functional space, but pleasant enough if left messy, which it almost never was. He quickly grabbed a glass of lemonade and a piece of bread. Munching slowly, he contemplated the best way to break Twilight's trance. The idea came to him in no time. Smirking to himself, he finished off the bread and pulled out a bag of leftover spaghetti noodles from the fridge. This ought to be fun.

Discord walked back into the library, smiling a greeting to Spike who looked more than a little taken aback by the noodles. Judging from Twilight's unwavering attention on her book, the prank would be a walk in the park. He settled down a little behind her on the cushions, eyeing her tail appraisingly. Then, gently, he began to braid it, weaving in the noodles as he worked.

Pony mouths were incredibly awkward to maneuver, but he was somehow managing a passable job. How does Cheese make Pinkie's braids so tight? Rolling his eyes, he took another mouthful of the floral tasting strands in his mouth. She really needs to use less shampoo. He was careful to be as gentle as possible, and in a few rather tense minutes, he had finished. Unfortunately, Twilight chose that exact time to notice him.

Her eyes grew as wide as saucers. "What are you doing back there?" She shot up, face crimson, "Were you ogling me?"

"Not hardly." He rolled over on his back, smirking up at her. "I was braiding."

"Braiding?" Twilight spun around in a perfect imitation of a dog chasing its tail. She squeaked with surprise when the embedded noodles slapped her sides. After the first three times, she shot up in the air, beating her wings furiously.

Discord roared with laughter, rolling on the ground. Priceless. Simply priceless. Spike's own laughter joined his, and together they watched Twilight attempt to magic the noodles out.

She was having little success, and flew down, stamping her hooves hard against the ground. "It's not funny! What kind of stallion does something like this?"

"An ignored one." Discord put on his best innocent expression while avoiding eye contact with the irate mare.

Twilight looked nearly desperate now. "What am I supposed to do? It's all tangled in my tail!"

"Relax, relax." Drama Queen. Discord patted the cushions in front of him. "Lay down, I'll get them out."

"Fine." Twilight lay down, eyeing Discord cautiously as he began to work. Apparently satisfied that he would not try any more stunts, she turned back to Spike. "Spike, can you get me some more quills?"

Spike groaned, "Again? We just bought some!"

Twilight held up a snapped quill in her magic, grinning sheepishly. "I've been a little too excited with my research. I broke all but one."

"Fine." Spike grabbed his knapsack, and headed to the door. "Be back later."

"Later, Spike." Discord said with a mouthful of Twilight's tail. The noodles had broken up into little chunks, and really made a mess of the once silky strands. "You want me to magic them out?"

"What?" Twilight wheeled her head around, looking terrified. "I don't want to lose my tail!"

Discord spoke around the strands, "I've been practicing this morning you know."

Twilight's voice softened to a near whisper, "You have? Really?"

"Really. Been outside since four." He hummed a nameless tune as he worked, slowly working the sticky pasta out of the hairs. "You know, you made a big mistake letting Spike go like that."

Twilight stopped tapping her hooves to his song's melody to stare at him. "Hmmm? Why's that?"

"Well, it's not every day a middle aged professor like myself gets his face in a young mare's tail." Discord chuckled as he pulled out yet another chunk of noodle from the tail. "I might get tempted you know."

"Tempted?" Twilight's voice almost quivered. "Entropy, what do you mean?"

Discord could not believe how perfect his little setup was for teasing her. He inhaled the heavily perfumed scent of lavender and the softer, earthy smell of her coat. He never imagined ponies could be so pleasant up close. "You smell nice." The words came out before he had actually contemplated what he was saying. You smell nice? Really, Discord, is that the best you can come up with?

Twilight's voice wavered again, "Really? I thought I smelled like book worm, that's what everypony says."

"No, more like lilacs." The smell really was amazing, and he did not even like flowers all that much. He found himself resting his chin gently on her rump to get a better sense of the earthy undertones. Discord knew it was a stupid thing to do, but he really could not resist the urge or the strange pleasure it brought. A soft, low nicker came out almost as involuntarily as he brushed his cheek against the smooth hairs.

"What are you doing?" She practically squeaked, turning to face him.

In an instant, Discord snapped out of his little daydream; pulling back as fast as he could. "I'm so sorry," he stammered, finding his face heating up. What's wrong with me? Taking on a pony's body for the month seemed easy enough when he had agreed to it, but now he was seeing the major flaw in the plan. Damn stallion hormones are addling my brain.

Twilight just stared at him as though seeing him for the first time. "So, you really do like me. You weren't teasing?"

Gods, I don't even know, mare! I just acted, isn't that explanation enough? Discord felt his heart and mind racing a mile a minute, trying to come up with some legitimate excuse. On one hand, he wanted to continue his little game with her, but a new, more nagging sensation was telling him that it was an extremely bad idea. "I . . . I don't know." The words came jumbled and stupid, but he could not stop himself, "I was teasing you earlier, but now . . . now I don't know . . . maybe a little?" Argh! Why did I tell her that?

To his mixed horror and relief, Twilight began to giggle, then burst out laughing. She rolled on the floor, waving her hoof helplessly at him. After a time, she sat up straight, grinning back at him. "I'm so glad." She wiped the tears of laughter away with a hoof, "Here I was thinking you were this suave stallion with all his emotions put together. But you're just as confused as I am! Guess that makes us both idiots."

"Both? You . . . you feel the same?" Discord felt his heart rate slow, and the internal panic ebb.

"Yeah, I was nervous because I thought you wanted me to make a decision right away." Twilight ruffled his forelock, grinning playfully. "But, I'm glad it's not like that."

Discord gulped, nodded weakly. "Me too." Trying to recover some of his dignity, he jerked his head towards the wash room. "I think you ought to wash that tail of yours. I can't get all the bits out. Sorry."

"It's fine, it was a pretty funny prank." Twilight trotted towards the hallway, "I won't be long!"

"Okay." Discord sighed looking down at his hooves. Though his little hiccup had worked itself out, it still made him numb all over. Centuries of living, and he had never once felt any pull like he had around her just then; it was as though his body had simply thrown away common sense. What if, gods forbid, he took it one step too far and gave into temptation? Discord felt a shudder run through him at the thought. We're not even the same species. A slip up like that could never be undone, and he would have more than a broken friendship to answer for. This little game of his had gone far enough; it was time to end it.

There were plenty of ponies in Equestria that sought thrill in extreme sports. Rainbow Dash could probably list at least five she had tried and another six that she wanted to try. Twilight on the other hoof, was more of an observer. If librarians had an extreme sport, it would be research, and Twilight the grand champion. She knew all the little idiosyncrasies, the subtle, yet telltale signs she was on the right track, and of course the best way to compile her findings. Yes, she, Twilight Sparkle was a master of her craft. But, at that moment, Twilight would have given anything to have a skill more in line with Rarity's.

She peered up from the journal at Entropy. The stallion was engrossed in a rather large textbook on spell theory, his eyes darting quickly across the page. After she returned from her bath, he had not said two words strung together. He had purposely picked a spot as far away from her as possible, and dove into researching his own predicament while she followed her "rabbit trail."

He looked up from behind his glasses, then back at the page again. Twilight wanted to slap him. Act all friendly, then pretend nothing happened, huh? Reading ponies was a soft skill, one she was none too good at. Was he mad at her? Embarrassed? Or did he actually want to continue where he left off? She felt like an idiot, but she had no idea what to think.

Twilight glanced at her perfectly smooth tail with a flush. Entropy really had been very gentle sorting out the strands, and even she had to admit, if the noodles had been omitted, the braid would have been lovely. A part of her knew she should be offended by a stallion putting her tail in his mouth without permission, but for some reason that did not bother her.

On the contrary, she could not help but think back to the feeling of his muzzle against her hair with a kind of longing. And then he had to go and make it worse by resting his head on her rump. If it had been any other stallion in all of Equestria, she would have kicked them senseless. But it was Entropy, and he was the last pony in Equestria she wanted to hurt; especially after yesterday's incident. As strange as it sounded, the only part of Entropy's actions that bothered her was that he had stopped.

"Twilight, could I ask you a question?" Entropy looked up from his book with an almost cautious expression.

"Of course!" She flushed at her volume. Calm down, it's a question, Twilight, not a date invite. "What did you want to ask?"

Entropy frowned at the book, "Well, I'm wondering how you think about spells before you cast them."

"How I think about spells?" Twilight closed her eyes, trying to imagine how she pictured them in her mind's eye. It was a difficult question. Her eyes drifted around the quiet library for inspiration. Everything was neat and organized, just like it always was with her spells. Maybe, that analogy would work. "I think about a pattern I suppose. Each spell has a set path, so I just follow that it. What about you?"

"Me?" Entropy's frown deepened, as he glanced from her to the pile of books strewn at their hooves. He levitated up a small spell text book until it started to vibrate violently. "It's like I take the magic and smash it up."

"Smash it up?" In all her years of magic training, Twilight never heard of something so ridiculous at that. "Magic's not meant to be smashed up, Entropy."

Entropy flushed, pawing at the ground. "Well, maybe not smashed up, but it is all jumbled. But I don’t try to put it into a pattern like you."

"Huh? How do you expect the spell to work if you don't follow the pattern?" It was a valid question. There was no way in Equestria that magic could possibly work the way you want it to without a pattern to follow.

"It works." He said it confidently, as though his attempts at spells the past week had been every bit as effective as her own. Twilight doubted that his magic had ever really worked, but she decided to listen anyway.

Entropy lit his horn, allowing the sparks to dance and arch around the library. "I guess you can say I see all the pieces, floating around, then I slam them together and force them to take the shape I want." The golden magic condensed into a writhing ball of energy before dissipating.

Twilight raised an eyebrow, "Slam it together and force it to take the shape you want?" Somehow, Entropy's description seemed familiar, as though she had read something about that before. Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. Her head wheeled to the journal beside her hooves. "That's it!"

"What's it?" Entropy's voice shook ever so slightly. "Is this about your research?"

"Yup." Twilight turned her attention to Discord's journal again. The way he described chaos magic, it's eerily similar to how Entropy describes his own magic. Is it possible that anypony can use chaos magic? Oh, Celestia, I'm onto something big.

For the next few hours, they worked in companionable silence. This time however, Twilight was completely focused on the research. She was on the precipice of a breakthrough, and nothing was going to stop her. Nothing but reality that was.

"Twilight. Twilight!" Entropy's hoof shook her out of her reverie. He was leaning down to her eye level, looking more than a little concerned. "I'm going to hang out with Bulk and Cheese."

Her eyes widened, "Huh? Now? But I thought you weren't going until one."

Entropy pointed to the wall clock. "It is one, Twilight." He sighed, rubbing his temple with a hoof. "Promise me you'll get some rest?"

"But . . . the research!" She tapped a hoof pointedly against her latest pile of books.

"It can wait." Entropy jerked his head towards her loft. "Go and take a nap, you'll think better." He started to the door, "I'm taking Spike! Male bonding time and all."

Twilight scrambled to her hooves, "What? But I need him to find books!"

The stallion gave one of his booming laughs, "I'm sure you'll manage by yourself." With that, he stepped out the door and out of sight.

"Ponyfeathers." Twilight sighed, and turned her attention to the books again. Just as she was about to settle down, she caught herself thinking on the time. One o'clock, one o'clock . . . Where was I supposed to be at one o'clock? Then it hit her. Rarity's! Twilight scrambled out the door, and down the street to her friend's house. Of course Rarity would not mind if she was late, but Twilight certainly did. After all, no matter how important her research was, it meant nothing compared to her friends.

"This is going to be awesome!" Spike fist bumped the air while perched on Discord's back. "I've never been 'male bonding' before. What are we going to do?"

"Work out, I would imagine." Discord tried to remain optimistic that he would be wrong. There was nothing he detested quite as much as unnecessary physical activity. Spike's sudden kick on his left side made him wheel his head around, "What?"

"You're going the wrong way." Spike pointed to the bridge leading out of town. "We're meeting Bulk at the training field, not in town."

Discord took the child's continued tapping against sides as a signal to get a move on. "You know, I'm not your taxi."

"Yeah, you're way too bumpy for a taxi." Spike patted his mane like a dog. "But, it's a lot quicker this way, and we're already late."

"All right, all right." Discord snorted in annoyance, walking across the bridge to the fields beyond. It was oppressively warm out, far too hot to be wandering around the countryside with a baby dragon hitchhiking on one's back. Might as well get to talking, or this is going to be an incredibly boring trip. "So, how did you like my little prank earlier?"

"Brilliant." Spike chuckled slapping him on the neck. "I've never seen Twilight so surprised! It was perfect."

"Yes, I thought we might get a good laugh out of that. Though, I will admit, spaghetti's not my first choice." Discord laughed at the memory, then paused upon tasting the floral shampoo on his tongue. "Her tail doesn't taste good."

Spike leaned down to stare into his eyes. "Does anypony's?"

Discord shrugged as best he could carrying Spike. "Not really. But," He closed his eyes, still trying to get the taste out of his mouth, "it would have been better without the soap."

The child laughed and laughed. It was good to see him so relaxed around him, especially after the way he had thrown him to the ground the other day. But, he was not convinced the dragon really liked him yet. Perhaps a test was in order. "Say, Spike? Were you serious about my taking Twilight for a date?"

"WHAT?" Spike's claws began to twist his mane in uncomfortable spirals. "Well . . . yeah, I guess. I mean . . . Twilight likes you, you know." The words were nearly as jumbled as his own had been, and Discord could not help but chuckle.

"I know she does, I'm just starting to think that . . ." He gulped, looking away, "Never you mind, it's nothing important." For once in his life, he was not sure what he thought about the whole situation.

The rest of their trip was spent listening to Spike's rendition of his favorite comic book. Discord really could not complain, it was surprisingly enjoyable, especially the bits where Hum Drum nearly destroyed the world through his klutziness. It was simply delightful to hear how much chaos one bumbling assistant could cause. I have high hopes for you, Spike. High hopes.

They walked onto the training grounds; a kind of track in the middle of nowhere Ponyville. Discord took in the weights, jumps, hurdles, and sundry other exercise equipment with distain. How terribly dull. Before he really got a good look at the place, he was greeted by an overly enthusiastic Cheese Sandwich.

"Entropy! You made it." Cheese was hopping up and down with so much energy that Discord started to feel dizzy. "Are you ready to party?"

Discord rolled his eyes, bending down to allow Spike to clamber off of his back. "Last time I checked, physical training did not a party make."

Cheese, waved the thought away with a hoof. "Shoot, any task can be a party as long as you're doing it with friends. Besides," He jerked his head over to the grass where Bulk was lifting some weights. "Bulk needs our support." His emerald eyes took on a dreamy quality, "We're just like the girls, all gathering around to support one another."

"Sure we are." Discord cleared his throat, putting on his imitation of Cheese's enthusiastic expression. "Let's get to it!"

"That's the spirit." Cheese led them over to join Bulk and begin what promised to be a very long and exhausting afternoon.

"Sorry I'm late, Rarity, I—" Twilight stopped short upon entering the Boutique. The entire place looked as though a bomb had gone off. Clothes, ribbons, fabric, and papers strewn the usually tidy floor. Careful not to step on anything important, Twilight made her way inside. "Rarity? It's Twilight."

"Twilight?" Rarity's head appeared from around the corner to her sewing room. "Oh, I thought you decided not to come. Do come in."

Twilight treaded cautiously over to her, wading through the clutter until she reached her friend. Rarity was looking more than a little strung out, with her mane at frayed angles and a piece of measuring tape draped around her neck like a scarf. Twilight looked behind Rarity at the even more jumbled sewing room. "What in Equestria is going on?"

"Deadlines, Darling, deadlines. Nothing to worry about. I wouldn't miss our chat for the world." Rarity waved her in with the air of accepting some foreign dignitary.

Twilight settled herself down on the windowsill, watching the unicorn levitate supplies in all directions. "So, you said you wanted to talk to me. What about?"

"Isn't that obvious?" Rarity ceased her aerial display to pull up at stool across from her. Her lips parted in an almost predatory smile. "I wanted to talk to you about Entropy."

Twilight felt her heart leap inside her chest. "What about him?"

"Well, it's not every day you get an available stallion as your pupil for the month." Rarity leaned in closer, smile stretching from ear to ear now. "How are you getting along?"

"Good." They really had gone through a lot in a few short days. Through it all, Entropy had not only been supportive of her mistakes, but he had gladly helped her out whenever he could. And, even after yesterday's fiasco, he treated her just the same as always. Getting along with him was an understatement; it was a wonder she ever got on without him in the first place.

Rarity shook her head vigorously, threatening to shake her red spectacles off of her muzzle in the process. "No, no, no. I'm talking about romantically." She gave one of her overly theatrical sighs, clutching the fabric she was working on to her chest. "Ooooh. I'm just dying to hear all the juicy details."

"Details? Rarity, there aren't any juicy details." Though her mind flashed back to Entropy holding her yesterday in the castle and today's incident. That doesn't count, does it?

Rarity gave an uncharacteristic scoff, rolling her eyes. "Twilight, please. You and I both know that isn't true." Her hoof rested on Twilight's, "Come now, you can tell me. Do you have feelings for him?"

For a moment, Twilight thought about lying, saying that Entropy was no more than a student, but that would not do and she knew it. Entropy was different from any other pony she had met; yesterday had been proof enough of that. For hours after the incident, she could feel his hooves wrapped around her, and the soft smile he gave when he knew she was all right. It was greedy of her, but she wanted more. "I . . . I think I like him, not just as a friend. I know it's stupid; we just met after all. And I know I'm rushing into things and –"

"Twilight." Rarity stopped her with a hoof, "It's not stupid. Not every romance has to move slowly. You enjoy spending time with him, getting to know him, so why not ask him out?" She laughed, clapping Twilight on the back. "There's no harm in a little experimentation, is there?"

"No . . . I guess not." Twilight felt a mixture of guilt and relief at those words. Experimentation? What would happen if she "experimented", and it did not work out? Worse yet, what would happen if she did? If she did prove to be immortal, how would Entropy react? It was no longer a simple matter of liking somepony and dating them. Would anpony understand that? "Rarity. Can I . . . can I ask you something serious?"

"Serious?" Rarity's eyes flickered with surprise, then returned to their usual soft expression. "What is it?"

Twilight bit her lip, contemplating the words. "What if I told you that, as an alicorn, I'm like Celestia and Luna. That I," She gulped, sinking her head to her chest, "that I can't age like you. What would you do?"

Rarity gave a high pitched giggle, "You are so funny, Twilight. You just grew a set of wings. That doesn't make you immortal."

Twilight felt a stab of annoyance at her for the words, despite knowing their intent. Rarity had not felt the creeping darkness encircling her mind and corrupting her magic. She did not snap out of a daydream to find that she nearly became a more terrifying monster than Nightmare Moon. Rarity did not spend every minute of the past few days worrying about her position in life. Her situation, her worries, really were not relatable to anypony besides herself.

"Twilight?" Rarity waved a hoof in front of her face, frowning a little. "Are you all right?"

"Fine," she snapped. Then, flushing, she got to her hooves. "Sorry. Just, I'm going out. You're really busy, I should just leave you alone."
Rarity looked taken aback, "All right. Do stop by again."

Without another word, Twilight left the Boutique to stand outside in the sunshine once more. The heat felt good against her coat, and calmed her now frantic heartbeat. Relax, Twilight, relax. Don't need to lose it again. Gritting her teeth, she started out of town towards some peace and quiet.

It truly was a beautiful day; perfect for a long stroll. The steady thud of her hooves against the soft dirt lulled her into a kind of trance. For once, she did not care where she going as long as she was allowed to think. Despite her self-assurances, Entropy's kind words, and Discord's advice, she could not shake the nagging fear that had plagued her. All she wanted to do was find some way of returning life to some semblance of normal.

She paused as she reached the familiar crossroads to Sweet Apple Acres. Normal life, huh? Twilight could not help the smile from stretching across her face. Nopony in all of Equestria knew more about normal life then Applejack. Even if she did not understand all that was bothering her, Applejack would have some practical advice for her; she always did. At the very least she would be able to vent some of her frustration.

This is supposed to be good? Discord frowned at the mug of whatever it was with distain. It tasted like leftover dishwater, and had the same, off brown color. "Cheese, I know you're trying to be nice, but this tastes terrible."

Cheese leaned against the tree with a wicked grin on his face. "It's not supposed to be good tasting, it's supposed to be good for you."

Discord could have told him that the only thing good for him at the moment would be a long nap and a date with an ice pack. Their little training exercise had gone on for hours now, and it was becoming abundantly clear that his middle aged pony form could not keep up with the young stallions' enthusiasm. He moaned, lying flat against the grass. "I can't go on."

Bulk patted his back in what Discord could only assume was a comforting gesture. It came out as more of a bone jarring slap, but he did not have the heart to tell off the pegasus. "You'll be fine. Yeah!"

"Yeah." He muttered weakly, turning his head to Spike. "Spike, you still with me, buddy?"

Spike waved an arm weakly before allowing it to slap down on the ground once more. The poor kid had collapsed spread eagle the moment they finished. Though he had become their cheerleading squad for most of the second half of the workout, Spike had more than worn himself out.

Discord looked up at Cheese who settled down across from him and Bulk on the grass. A suspicious smile had stretched across the party pony's face. He groaned, "What? Don't tell me there's more."

"Nope. Just thought how fun this was." Cheese gave one of his carrying laughs that seemed to ooze good cheer. Then, slowly, it subsided. He rubbed his scarred hooves together, an almost glum expression taking over. "After what happened last year, well . . . I thought I'd never feel comfortable hanging around other stallions again."

His ears perked up, "What happened last year?" Bulk elbowed him hard in the ribs. Discord rounded on him. "WHAT?"

Cheese laughed again, causing them both to stare in surprise. "It's okay, I don't mind talking about it." His gaze drifted across the tree line towards Ponyville. "Pinkie's helped a lot with that. Just, I was starting to think I'd be afraid of making friends, with what happened to Milo."

"Oh, that friend of yours that got caught in the fire?" Discord waved the thought away with a hoof, "I don't think I'm the kind of pony to be caught in a fire. More likely the one to set it." He puffed out his considerably less muscular chest in an imitation of Bulk. "I can handle myself."

Apparently that was funny, because both the stallions burst into laughter. "What?" It was so strange to see any creature laughing at him. Most of his jokes did not go over half so well. "I'm strong! I kept up with you kids, didn't I?"

Cheese snorted, rolling his eyes. "Kids? You're not that much older than we are."

Discord raised an eyebrow. Seriously? Seriously? I'm old enough to be your great, great, great grandfather. He sighed, parting the blades of grass in a rather bored manner. "I'm well over twice your age. I'll call you what I want."

"Over twice my age? Really?" For a moment, Cheese stared open mouthed at him, then continued in a would-be-casual manner. "So, you been getting along with Twilight okay?"

Discord felt his heart leap in his chest as his mind rushed back to his little slip up. His hoof started to part the grass a little more vigorously. "Okay. I guess . . ."

Bulk looked like a foal in a candy shop, eyes darting from Entropy to Cheese. "Fluttershy said you really, really liked Twilight." He flexed his biceps, "She knows a lot about that kind of stuff. Yeah!"

"What? I . . . I don't know if I like her like that." Discord looked to Spike for backup, but the dragon was now fast asleep. Way to back me up, Spike. Bulk and Cheese continued to stare relentlessly at him. Though he hated to admit it, Bulk had a point. Perhaps it was time to organize his thoughts. His mind raced back to this morning's incident. That might be a good place to start. He proceeded cautiously, "Say, Cheese? Why do . . . why do stallions put their muzzles on mare's rumps? What's the point?"

Bulk gave a very girly gasp as though Discord had just uttered a string of curse words. Cheese's eyes immediately darted to Spike who was still out cold. Then, he leaned in close, "Seriously? You're a professor and you don't know that?"

Discord was starting to feel like an idiot again. Of course he had spent years around ponies before, but it was not like he studied the idiosyncrasies of stallion behavior. "I don't know. I'm a hermit that lives in his apartment, teaches class, and comes home. I've never even dated a mare before, okay?" It was sadly, very close to the actual truth. He never really bothered interacting with other creatures unless it was for a good laugh.

That got both of their attention. Cheese's expression flickered from surprise, to embarrassment. "Sorry, Entropy. I assumed that you had experience in that area. But, I guess I can explain it." A bright flush started across his young face, "You see, stallions do that when they're asking for an invitation, you know? To get personal with a mare if you catch my drift."

Discord felt his heart skip a beat. That's what I was doing? It was a small wonder Twilight had not kicked him to Tartarus for trying a stunt like that. Instead, she had just looked at him. His stomach dropped at the realization. Oh, gods. She wanted me to continue? I definitely can't do that. He gulped, burrowing his face into his hooves. "I'm in trouble."

"What did you do?" Cheese sounded very suspicious. "Entropy?"

The words came out before he could stop himself, "I might have done that to Twilight this morning."

"You didn't." Cheese rolled on the grass, moaning something about stupid professors, and Bulk gave another girly scream, completely obscuring his head in his tiny hooves.

Discord waved a hoof dismissively, "It was an accident. I played a prank on her, and was helping clean her tail up, and I really liked the way her tail smelled and," He gulped, realizing how incriminating his story sounded, "It was really, really hard to resist. I didn't know why I did it, I just did it. Honestly I had no idea it meant that."

Cheese shook his head, giving him a comforting pat on the back. "Guess you'll just have to beg for mercy."

"But, she wasn't mad at me." Discord bit his lip, remembering Twilight's actions that morning. I think she liked it. Gods, I think I liked it.

"WHAT?" Cheese leaned in close, staring him down. "So she really does have a crush on you. Pinkie was right."

"You gossip about Twilight with your wife?" Discord rubbed his temple with a hoof. How low you have fallen.

Cheese waved the thought away with a hoof. "That doesn't matter. The real question is, do you like her?"

He moaned, "I don't know! Why does everypony keep asking me that?"

"Because it's something you need to think about." Cheese sighed, "But it doesn't have to be right now. You'll figure it out, and, if you want to talk, we'll be there. Right, Bulk?"

"Yeah!" Bulk clapped him on the shoulder, smiling in that overly caring way of his.

"Thanks, guys. But, I don't know if liking Twilight's all that great of an idea." For a lot of reasons.

"Hmmm. Well, you can't predict the future, Entropy. Don't give up before you even start." Cheese got to his hooves, looking around at the now setting sun. "We should probably head back."

Discord reluctantly got to his hooves, feeling the limbs shake at the sudden exertion. He hobbled over to Spike, nudging him with a hoof. The dragon was as sound asleep as ever. Snorting in frustration, he made to scoop Spike up, but Cheese held out a hoof. "I'll get him." With a much smoother motion than Discord could have managed, the young stallion placed the still sleeping dragon on his back. They made their way back towards town together, too tired for conversation.

With each step he took, Discord felt a shock of pain going up his legs. The day had been a great deal more taxing than he originally planned; both physically and mentally. Though, even he had to admit, it was nice to spend time with ponies that considered him a friend instead of public enemy number one. Perhaps, with all the added encouragement, he might manage to learn harmony magic after all.

The thought made him chuckle a little. Imagine me, the master of chaos performing harmony magic. Twilight has no idea what kind of miracle she's asking for. Poor, ignorant mare. As they walked closer to Ponyville, his thoughts focused on the warm bed waiting for him when he got back. That, and the promise of some liniment was all the motivation he needed.

Sweet Apple Acres had never looked so good. Despite the recent storm, the trees were trimmed neatly back, fences mended, and even the overgrowth around the posts was trimmed back. She's been busy. Twilight's eyes darted towards the overlooking hills and spotted Applejack reclined under a particularly large apple tree. Twilight grinned, cantering over to her. "Applejack! Hey, Applejack!"

Applejack looked up, returning the smile as Twilight pulled up. "Howdy, Twilight. You need somethin'?"

"Yes and no." Twilight found herself panting a little more than she cared to admit. It took a few moments, but she managed to stammer. "I was hoping to get your honest opinion about something."

"Well, you've come to the right pony." Applejack patted the grass beside her.

"Thanks." Twilight joined her, looking out over the spectacular orchard scene below. Though she tried to steady her nerves, should could not help but glance nervously around. "The orchard looks nice."

Applejack puffed out her chest, a confident grin on her face. "Yup. We've been workin' real hard this year. An with Flim 'round, well, there ain't no tellin' how much better Sweet Apple Acres will be." She stopped, looked around Twilight as though just seeing her for the first time. "Say, Sugarcube, where's that student of yers?"

A tinge of embarrassment came with the thought of Entropy. The poor stallion was probably so confused with all the mixed signals she had given him over the past few days. It was probably for the best he was having time to himself. "He's with Cheese and Bulk. They're doing some kind of physical training." She let out a heavy sigh, "I didn't want to join them."

Twilight felt Applejack's hoof rest on her shoulder. "That don't sound like you, Sugarcube."

"Urgh. I haven't been acting like myself for days." Ever since her mind had wrapped around that poisonous subject of immortality, she could not be herself. There was no way the new her could be as carefree and happy as the old her, at least not completely. But Discord had been right, she could not dwell on that her whole life. So why was it so difficult to forget? Twilight buried her face between her hooves. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

Applejack rubbed her back gently, "You want to talk about it?"

She nodded slowly. It would be okay, Applejack would listen to her. Then, as though her mental flood gates opened up, she began to talk more than she had in months. It was closer to a rant than a conversation, but she could not stop herself. Everything that had bothered her for the past few days came out; her insecurities as a teacher, her attraction to Entropy, her fear of failure, and of course, the entire immortality fiasco. She had just finished her narration of yesterday's near disastrous incident when Applejack stopped her.

Her eyes were as wide as saucers, "Are you tellin' me that you were goin' to end up like Nightmare moon if Entropy hadn't done somethin'?"

"Yes." She squeaked, burrowing her head in her hooves. "I didn't realize it, Celestia never told me, but my magic corrupts more easily now that I'm an alicorn." The image of the dark tendrils reaching out to her sent an involuntary shiver up her spine. "It was the worst feeling in the world. Like I was drowning in a sea of my own thoughts with no way out."

Applejack nodded sagely, though it was clear she did not understand anything about the magic. "Entropy's pretty talented to snap you out of somethin' like that. How'd he do it?"

Twilight's throat felt tight as she spoke, "I don't . . . I don't remember. When I woke up, he was holding me and crying. I think he was really scared." I don't blame him.

"He must really like you. An, from the sounds of it, you must really like him." Applejack rolled on her back, staring up at the lazily drifting clouds. "Sounds to me like he'd be real good for you."

It's not so simple, Applejack. Twilight contemplated how best to explain her problem, "I'm afraid Applejack. I'm afraid to hurt him, afraid of what would happen if I turn out to be immortal." Her heart began to pound faster than ever, "How can I go around being a normal mare, going on dates, laughing and joking around with that hanging over me?"

"Twilight. You really are overthinkin' this." Applejack turned to face her, a soft smile on her face. "All you can do is be yerself. Don't you think somepony as smart as Entropy knows what he's gettin' into hittin' on the princess of magic herself? Don't you think he's figured out what's botherin' you?" She snorted, "Shoot, I don't think he could have stopped that little surge of yers if he didn't care for you an understand what's on yer mind."

"I guess you're right." Twilight gulped, digesting Applejack's words. If that was true, then maybe, just maybe she had a shot at it. That did not erase the fact that she had made a bumbling idiot of herself in front of him. "I think I'd like to try, but I've been sending him so many mixed signals. I think he's really starting to get confused."

Applejack raised an eyebrow, "Mixed signals?"

"Yeah." Today's incident came to the forefront of her mind. That had to be the definition of mixed signals. "Like today, Entropy was cleaning my tail."

An expression of admiration and amusement stretched across her face. "What? You let him do something like that?"

"Not normally, but he thought it'd be funny to tie noodles into a braid since I was so busy with the research." Twilight felt a little guilty about ignoring her student for a wild goose chase. She made a mental note to try and improve the next time around. "Anyway, when he was working, he sort of put his chin on my rump . . ."

"He WHAT? Twilight, that's harassment!" Applejack's expression of terror was beyond priceless, and Twilight could not help but giggle at it.

"Well, he didn't do it intentionally; it just happened." Twilight giggled louder still, "He jumped back so fast when he realized it. I've never seen any stallion so embarrassed in my life." A sinking feeling hit her when she thought of the near terror on Entropy's face. "He's really scared about my reaction. I don't blame him after I snapped at him yesterday. And, it's not like," She flushed, stammering the words, "it's not like I didn't like it. I kinda wish he had kept going . . ."

"You wanted him to keep going?" Applejack just stared open mouthed at her for what felt like an eternity. Then, slowly, she seemed to regain her composure. "You must really like him, huh?"

"Yeah." Twilight rested her head on her legs, staring out at the sun lit orchard below. "I think I want to give him a try, Applejack. He's different from any stallion I've ever met. It's like, like he's made for me, you know?"

"I can't rightly say that I do, Sugarcube. But, maybe someday." She mirrored Twilight's posture, smiling down at her farm. "If I did like a stallion like that, well now, I don't think I'd beat 'round the bush with him. I'd tell it to him straight, and take what came."

Twilight nodded, "Yeah, you're right." She shot up, puffing out her chest confidently. "I'm going to tell him, Applejack, I'm going to do it."

"There's the spirit." Applejack waved goodbye as Twilight made her way down the hill. "Say, Sugarcube?"


Applejack winked, "You do remember you can fly, right?"

Twilight glanced down at her wings, feeling a flush stretch across her face. "Uh, yeah. I knew that!" With a running start, she took to the sky, enjoying the odd sensation of the warm breeze against her wings. Flight was one thing she simply could not get used to. A part of her enjoyed the connection with the ground, and another part enjoyed the freedom flight offered just as much. In the same way, she supposed that was how being an alicorn was. It had its benefits, but there were still some things she could not get used to. At the moment, it was like Applejack said; she could only be herself. The pieces would come together someday, they had to.

Princess Luna stood, admiring her current masterpiece with satisfaction. A little tweaking on her part had allowed the Solaris constellation to shine with a purity not seen in months; a perfect display for a cool summer's night. She strode along the garden path, enjoying the reflections her moon cast upon the blades of grass and the pond. It was all peace tonight, and nothing could break that. Except, perhaps her sister.

"Luna, I must seek your counsel." Celestia flew down beside her, white coat glistening like a string of pearls in the moonlight. Luna had to admit, the look suited her. Seemingly ignorant of her disturbance, Celestia plowed on, "I have received a most troubling letter from Discord."

"Discord?" Luna could not help but snort a laugh. Their resident spirit of chaos never sent troubling letters. At worst, they were mildly inappropriate, but never troubling. "Truly, sister, I see no cause for alarm."

Celestia gave a creditable impersonation of a frustrated child, stamping her hoof against the grass, and holding up a piece of parchment. "Read it, Lulu, and you will see what I mean."

Rolling her eyes, Luna humored her older sister. The fine calligraphy was indeed Discord's writing, though the decided lack of childlike drawings in the margins did take her by surprise. "I see he has learned to compose a professional letter."

Her hoof stamped against the ground once more. "Luna! Just read it."

"Fine, as you wish, as you wish." Luna cleared her throat, and began to read. "'Dear overlord Celestia,'" She sniggered a laugh, "I thought he would tire of calling you that."

Celestia huffing, looking away and mumbling something along the lines of, "I am not an overlord."

Her eyes darted back to the parchment, "'Don't you worry your oversized head about my end of the bargain. I keep my word. You will be happy to note that I will be,'" Luna frowned, deciphering the overly artistic calligraphy. "'dismantling the mechanisms of harmony magic under our dear princess Twilight's tutelage.' I do not see the problem here, Tia."

"Read on." Celestia jerked her head back to the letter.

Sighing, Luna continued, "'Your continued ignorance continues to astound me; your letter is proof enough of that.'" Luna felt her heart skip a beat. What does he mean? "'I am starting to wonder if you ever cared for that pupil of yours. Do you really know her? Did you ever pause to consider the consequences of your decision?'" The words struck her like a punch to the gut. It was uncharacteristically harsh coming from Discord.

Curious to see where this was going, she read on, "'Not once did you seek my council on her ascension. Not once did you ask for my opinion on the matter. I could have told you it was a bad idea, that she was too young, but you refused to see me as anything more than a fool.'" It was strange, but she felt a sudden connection to the draconequus. Many centuries ago, Celestia had refused her council in much the same way. She glanced over at her sister, now staring hard at the ground. Oh, Tia, how this must pain you.

Her voice shook as she read the next bit, "'You have been blinded, Celestia, by your own stubborn independence, and mark my words it shall be your downfall.'" It took her a moment to regain the composure to read on, "'If you still do not know what I speak of, I shall not enlighten you further. Needless to say, if I had not been here, your precious student would have been lost to us forever.' It ends there."

Celestia bit her lip, nodding slowly. Her gaze met hers, "What do you make of it, sister? Does he speak truth, or is this another of his tricks?"

"I cannot say." Luna frowned at the parchment, handing it back to Celestia. "I fear there is some truth to the matter. Twilight is young, and perhaps unsure, but," She chuckled weakly, "Twilight would not allow herself to be lost. Her friends would never let her slip so far."

"True, though for Discord to speak in such a manner . . ." Celestia frowned, looking more serious than she had in months. "Do you think he will return to his old ways, sister?"

"No, Tia, I do not." She shrugged, starting down the path once more. "He is bored; you said so yourself. Perhaps he tries to entice us for sport. Do not think upon it too much, sister."

Celestia nodded, flying back towards the castle. Luna watched her go, heart heavy. Though she believed what she told her sister, she could not stop the nagging suspicion that Discord was up to something else. It could be another one of his tricks, but perhaps, just perhaps, he was genuinely concerned for the country. Either way, she would keep a watchful eye. There was too much at stake to let a warning like this one slide. Luna looked up into her sky, remembering the many similar nights Discord, Celestia, and herself had spent in each other's company. It seemed so very long ago now. My old friend, what trouble have you gotten yourself into?

Author's Note:

Well, I tried, I really tried to make a short chapter, but it didn't work out. Sorry for being so wordy. :fluttershyouch: Next chapter will be leading up to my "halfway climax" as I call it. So, there's that.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. As always, comments are ever appreciated.