• Published 3rd May 2012
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The Powers of Harmony - CyborgSamurai



The Mane Six develop the powers of the Elements of Harmony and must use them to stop a new villain.

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Chapter 27: Deceivers and the Deceived

Chapter 27:

Deceivers and the Deceived

That Night-

When most Equestrians thought of Whinnyapolis, the first things that came to mind were snow, frozen lakes, permafrost, fattening foods, questionable hygiene, funny accents, and other ludicrous notions. Those who’d actually visited the city knew better, but alas, the stereotypes were too widespread to be overruled. Whinnyapolis was, in truth, a cultural hub due to being located in the center of the country, and subsequently, home to its largest airport. Coming and going airships were a permanent fixture in the skies, and travelers from Antelese to Dromardia could always be found coming and going between flights on steam-powered airships.

Rarity’s opinion of Whinnyapolis was exempt from the norm, but not because she’d been there before. She’d always had her hoof on the pulse of high society, and therefore knew that the best foreign restaurants in Equestria could be found in the city. One such establishment was a Prench restaurant called Goûts Raffinés, and it was here she and Eclipse found themselves after a hard day’s travel.

A violin played softly in the background as Eclipse and Rarity sat alone next to a bay window. They were wearing the dream dress Rarity had made in weeks past, its shimmering, shifting colors a perfect complement to the faint ethereal quality of their mane and tail. Rarity’s Symbol of Generosity necklace was around their neck, and their sapphire earrings glinted in the candlelight as they read their menu.

I neither had, desired, nor worried about such frivolous things as appearance and culture during the days of the war, you know. Eclipse looked up at their reflection in the window. Their cat-like eyes, sharp horn, and long fangs gave them a menacing, but also quite attractive appearance, and they were drawing more than a few curious stares from the other diners. The only ‘clothing’ I ever wore was my battle regalia, and I wouldn’t have bothered eating at all if my body wouldn’t have become weak as a result.

It’s not my fault you picked up on my preferences and mannerisms after reading my mind. Rarity looked past their reflection to admire the the cityscape in the light of the setting sun. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating the finer things in life, especially when there are those who’ve dedicated their entire careers to the perfection of their crafts.

At the cost of ignoring everything else. Eclipse folded the menu and set it on the table. Take you, for example. This dress is astounding, and the Generosity necklace is among the highest quality I’ve ever seen. Yet even though your skills might be among the best of your generation, it took you years to hone them, and as a result, you’ve barely seen any of the world, developed no combat experience, and your knowledge of Arcana leaves something to be desired. The only compliment I have is that your font’s become large enough to house all of my magic, though that’s partially because of Cetus’ efforts.

Rarity withheld a sigh. To say that Eclipse disapproved of her choice in profession might be the understatement of the century. She’d never paid much attention in Psychology class, but from what she remembered, psychopaths were completely self-centered, assigned no value to the preservation of life, and were extremely driven when pursuing and accomplishing their goals. Rarity was quick to see these characteristics in Eclipse, but even with that knowledge, it was jarring to see somepony with such a cold, detached outlook on life.

If my goals and ambitions required me to go abroad, learn to fight, or bone up on spells, I would. I’ve put as much work into being a fashionista as I have because I can, dear, not because I’m flighty or incompetent.

I’m well aware of your intelligence and drive. Eclipse took a sip of wine from a crystal glass. Not many would’ve persisted as long as you did while suffering from such an extreme handicap. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve asked for your aid in the first place. I’m just telling you that your ‘passions’ don’t have near the value that you seem to think they do. Just think, if you’d dedicated the same amount of time and effort into learning Arcana instead of your dressmaking, your knowledge and ability might rival Twilight’s!

Rarity also quickly realized Eclipse respected power, dedication, and skill above all else. What was interesting, though, was that she was able to identify those things regardless of the context. Eclipse essentially saw fanaticism as a transferrable skill, and believed that if one could learn to transfer it, they could accomplish anything.

So you’re saying that being a fashionista is impractical, and I should pour my energies into something that has real-world applications, or at least, is more widely accepted and recognized by society.

Eclipse watched through the window as a purple airship with gold fins descended to land at the airport. Emblazoned proudly on the side of its hull were the words ‘Fancy Free.If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that ponies only respect something if they know why it should be respected in the first place. You see the hat and cape of an Arch-Magus, and instantly know that that individual has worked their flank off to get where they are. What lasting recognition is there for a fashionista? What sign of status can you point to in order to make a stranger understand how hard you’ve worked, and what you’ve sacrificed? You can wear beautiful clothes, showcase your designs, walk the walk, and talk the talk, but how many ponies understand what all of it means?

It was like talking to her mother. Rarity had lost count on the amount of discussions she’d had with her about this exact same topic over the years, always ending in the same way. Mother wanted her to be a doctor, not only because it’d be easier on her magical font, but also because she knew Rarity had the brains to get through medical school, and the heart to selflessly devote herself to the betterment of others. All she had to do was put forth the same effort she did into being a fashionista, and she’d be at the top of her class, no sweat. She’d be part of an established system that’d recognize and take care of her, and she wouldn’t have to constantly struggle and worry about her own financial stability.

The barrier of shadow separating Rarity and Eclipse’s psyches pulsed as the latter’s voice became earnest. You’ve the potential to be so much more. Your efforts could be spent doing so much more productive things than sewing, jewelcrafting, and elegance. Why bother assigning worth to things that are inherently worthless?

Rarity had a reply to that, one that’d never failed to silence her mother, and it was the same one that she so desperately wanted to give Eclipse now. She couldn’t, though, as their relationship was decidedly one-sided, and letting on that she wasn’t interested in becoming Eclipse’s right-hoof mare was a bad idea.

Besides, she was already working for somepony else.

Regardless of what I have or haven’t assigned value to in the past, the important thing now is figuring out how to overthrow Cetus. Isn’t that what we should be concentrating on?

It was almost frightening how well that worked. Rarity felt their pulse rise as Eclipse squirmed with barely contained excitement. Yes, yes, you’re right. So then, you’ve had time to think on everything I've told you. Have you come up with any ideas?

The waiter came and took their order as Rarity gathered her thoughts. There are three main obstacles that I can see. Cetus is more powerful than us, has more resources at her disposal, and most problematic of all, knows how we both think. However, she’s not aware of how we work together, so that might work to our advantage.

True. Eclipse glanced over at their ‘escorts,’ a pair of stoic, heavily armed Royal Guards standing dutifully at the door. There’s also that she’s had more time to plan. Not as much as she claims, as there’s no way she’d have as much magic as she does if she’d stayed awake for the full one thousand years, but still, more than we’ve had. I suspect she only spent a year coming up with her schemes before placing herself into stasis.

Rarity ignored the pang of sadness from seeing Elo and Grovi’s replacements. Let’s look at these problems one at a time, then. In addition to her reserves, Cetus’ greatest weapon is that she’s possessing Princess Celestia’s body, which gives her immortality, as well as immense magical power and authority. We’ll need to get her out if we’re going to defeat her, and from what you’ve told me, the best possible way to do that would be with that magical hook she threatened you with.

I thought of that, as well. The waiter returned, carrying with him a bowl of onion soup topped with cheese-covered baguettes. That ‘hook’ was actually an Effulgent Epuration, which is a powerful Abjuration spell that absorbs any kind of magic it comes into contact with. Celestia used it against Cetus, but it didn’t work for some reason. She must’ve found a way to prevent herself from being exorcised, but I’ve no idea how.

Perhaps it simply wasn’t strong enough? Rarity felt their mouth watering as the heavenly aroma of the soup rose up from the steaming dish. Are there any other spells that you know of that can absorb or negate a magical creature?

None more powerful than what Celestia used. Eclipse selected an oval spoon from their considerable choice of silverware and began to eat. Exorcism would indeed be the most efficient course of action, but just from being around her, I can tell that Cetus’ essence is so dense that the magic required to expel her would have to almost be on par with the Elements of Harmony themselves. And what’s even worse, she’s getting stronger by the day as she continues to gorge herself on Celestia’s font.

Which can’t be fully exhausted due to her immortality. Rarity savored the rich, heavenly taste of the soup as she thought for a moment. Could you tell me more about how that works? I assume your relationship with the moon is similar, if not the same.

Eclipse lightly dabbed the side of their mouth with a napkin. I assume so. I don’t actually know the specifics.

...what? Why

I’d rather not get into the details. Eclipse finished the soup just as the main course arrived, which was a sautéed eggplant glazed with a brandy-infused pepper sauce. Celestia may be a lying, backstabbing, attention-soaking piece of trash, but on this, I’ll admit that she was right. There are some things we're better off not knowing.

Rarity was stunned... or at least, she was pretending to be. One of the tricks of acting is to use your surroundings to help invoke the emotion you’re trying to portray, and right now, she was concentrating on the eggplant. It was quite possibly the most delicious looking thing she’d ever seen, and she’d be drooling all over the table if she was in control of her body. As for why she was feigning surprise in the first place, Harmony had told her all about Celestia and Luna’s immortality during their talk in Limbo, as well as why it was crucial to her plans.

“I’m afraid you’re going to wake up soon,” Harmony said to Rarity, “but before we part ways, there’s one last important thing we need to talk about.”

The illusion of Prance still remained as the two of them sat at the sidewalk cafe, watching stoically as the lifeforce of the departed passed them by.

“Why do I get the feeling this is the biggest one of them all?” Rarity’s voice still echoed with the power of her Element, and her shining eyes cast long shadows on the table.

“Because you’ve always had good intuition, and your Foresight power is telling you so to boot.” Harmony swayed her head from side to side a few times before speaking in a rushed voice. “This is going off on a tangent, but before we get into it, I want you to know this. The future—well, time in its entirety, really, is made of and built upon choices. Infinite possibilities and timelines are written and obliterated with every decision, act, or lack thereof that everypony makes, has made, and ever will make. Your Foresight gives you glimpses of the events that are likely to come to pass, but always be aware that nothing’s set in stone. In the end, you’re the one who makes your own choices, and while outside forces, both good and evil, will try to sway you, they can’t override your free will. Not without powerful magic, anyways.”

Rarity fiddled with her teacup. She was conflicted on hearing that the future wasn’t a definite thing, but in the very least, it made her realize that her Foresight power was more complicated than she thought. She’d always believed that everypony in the world had a purpose, not just that of their cutie mark, but also a role or service to perform in a much grander design. She hadn’t had a chance to properly try using her Foresight before Cetus had possessed her, and only had what she’d seen and experienced in her dreams to go by, which wasn’t much. Somewhere deep down, though, she’d always known she was ‘destined’ for great things, but she’d thought it’d be in fashion, not saving the world.

“I wasn’t entertaining any notions of becoming a Seer or somesuch, but thank you for the warning.” A sly grin crept up on Rarity face. “Although, I’ll bet there are things that are certain enough to predict... like lottery numbers, for instance.”

Harmony gave a look of mock reproach. “You’d get found out for cheating.”

“Oh, I know,” Rarity said with a wink, “but it’d be worth it to see the look on Mother’s face.”

They both laughed, their voices carrying far out into Limbo. The passersby paid no notice to them as they continued their march, and after a few seconds, Rarity and Harmony calmed down and continued.

Harmony smiled weakly. “This is going to take a bit to explain, so bear with me.”

“Of course.”

Harmony cleared her throat. “Not long after the end of the War of the Sun and Moon, I brought Celestia here to assign her an important task. It was very, very dangerous, and took her a long time to do, but she managed to succeed in the end.”

Rarity leaned forward. “What was it?”

Harmony’s ears drooped. “To learn the secret of her immortality, and how to safely rid herself of it.”

Rarity scrunched her eyebrows as she decided which part of that statement to ask about first. She decided on the former.

“How could it be a secret? I thought that Princess Celestia and Luna were, well... like you, I suppose.”

“Not quite.” Harmony’s gaze lingered on the Eifoal Tower. “A little over nine thousand years ago, Celestia and Luna were born as everyday, normal unicorns, just like you. When they came of age, I guided them to a special cavern where I’d created the Elements, and impressed upon them the desire to use them against Discord. They did so, but unfortunately, they weren’t able to use them to their full power, and instead of purifying him and releasing me, they only weakened him.”

“I... see.” Rarity’s attitude was subdued, but mostly because that was basically what she’d been taught in school, just not with the weakened part. It was reassuring to know that Princess Celestia hadn’t altered history other than the messiness of the War of the Sun and Moon, but wanting said reassurance in the first place was something in itself.

Harmony tucked her legs under her body. “Discord fled from Celestia and Luna, but he could feel the magic of the Elements sapping his power away, and knew there wasn’t anything he could do to stop it. He always was a sore loser, so instead of succumbing to a slow, drawn-out fate, he expended all his power at once to give his subjugators a parting gift. He altered reality so that the Sun and the Moon couldn’t move on their own anymore, and at the same time, linked Celestia and Luna’s lifeforces to them, thereby making them immortal.”

Rarity felt a chill. “He did... what?”

Harmony’s face was humorless, and her voice was without any note of jest. “This is the full extent of what Discord can do. He can bend reality to his will, alter anything into any shape, and deconstruct all types of matter. He originally used his powers to help us traverse the stars, but against Celestia and Luna, he used it as a unique form of torture.”

Rarity pursed her lips. “I don’t understand. How is making the Princesses immortal and turning them into alicorns a kind of torture?”

Harmony shook her head. “You’re confused. Celestia and Luna’s transformation into alicorns had nothing to do with Discord’s actions; it was caused by using the Elements.”

Rarity gasped. However, Harmony put up a hoof before she could say anything.

“I see you’ve caught on, but I want to finish explaining Discord’s actions. I’ll explain what that means for you and your friends later.”

Rarity swallowed hard. She looked down at herself, then, with a shaky hoof, reached back to touch between her shoulder blades.There wasn’t anything there, but still, she couldn’t help but feel a slight tingle at the base of her spine.

“Go on,” Rarity said.

Harmony motioned to the fake sun above them. “When Discord put Celestia and Luna in charge of the Sun and Moon, he burdened them with the conservation of all life on the planet. Every single living thing needs the Sun and Moon to survive, and if they ever stop, Everything. Will. Die. The plants will wither and crumble, the animals will weaken and starve, and all civilization will cease to be. The planet will return to being a dusty, barren rock, and no shred of life will remain.”

Rarity shivered. “Why would he do such a thing?”

Harmony sipped at her tea. “Can you imagine the pressure that comes with knowing you’re the caretaker of all life on the planet? No mortal is capable of handling such a monumental responsibility for long, let alone forever. When you really think about it, what word would you use to describe such an absurd arrangement?”

‘When you really think about it.’ Those were the words that struck a chord with Rarity. She admitted she hadn’t paid much attention to what Celestia and Luna did, but then again, the functions of the solar system are a little beyond the scope of a fashionista. To Rarity, the Princesses were simply very old, very powerful, and had a lot of important duties that came with being in charge. Those definitions could be used to describe just about any ruler, but now that Rarity understood the magnitude of what the Princesses were truly tasked with, there was indeed a word that came to mind to describe it.

“Insane.”

Harmony nodded gravely. “It was the perfect act of chaos, one that’d go on to echo throughout the ages. Discord knew either Celestia or Luna would eventually crack under the stress and try to escape his curse, and when they did, the Chaos magic binding them to the Sun and Moon would warp them, and usher in a new Era of Discord.”

Rarity tilted her head. “Chaos... magic?”

“The substance that resulted from the fusion of Discord’s lifeforce and magic when he expended all his power,” Harmony said. “Luna came up with the name, and since I did something similar when I became fused with the planet, I suppose we could call the Elements a pure manifestation of Law magic. Both substances are similar in makeup, but have completely opposite effects. Chaos magic makes ponies extremely violent, passionate, and eventually mad. Law magic does the opposite, making ponies passive, dispassionate, and finally, completely inert.”

“Pardon me.” Rarity rubbed her ears. “Let me make sure I heard that right. Chaos magic is a combination of Discord’s lifeforce and magic, and the Princesses have it inside of them. Law magic is a combination of your lifeforce and magic, and if we’ve the power of the Elements inside us, does that mean—”

“Structurally, the easiest way to think of it is like a current of electricity running through a wire,” Harmony said unhurriedly. “The wire is the link, and the electricity is the magic. As long as a wire isn’t tampered with, it does nothing more than its intended purpose, yes? The same goes for this. However, you and your friend’s links are functional and whole, whereas Celestia’s and Luna’s have always been sparking and frayed.”

Rarity frowned. “That seems a little simplistic for something as complex as this.“

Harmony shifted in her seat. “You and your friends’ links are comprised of Law magic, while Celestia’s and Luna’s are made of Chaos. You and your friends’ links will only give you power when you call upon it or in times of distress, while Discord’s spell was extremely sloppy, and the power of the Sun and Moon is constantly leaking into Celestia’s and Luna’s bodies. This is why they have ethereal manes, tails, and increased stature. You and your friends’ links were securely welded to your lifeforces the instant you were conceived, and are the most intricate, stable pieces of spellwork I’ve ever crafted. Celestia’s and Luna’s are hastily made, unstable, and were slapped onto their lifeforces through a multi-dimensional tear in space. If they try to alter them, they’ll expose themselves to raw Chaos magic, and be subsequently turned into psychotic monsters with unfathomable power.”

Rarity lips parted as she was struck with an epiphany. “That’s what happened to Luna, isn’t it?”

Harmony then did the last thing Rarity would ever expect a godlike entity to ever do. She facehooved.

“I did everything I could to try and stop her. I knew she and Celestia would jump to conclusions and blame me for their fate if I revealed myself to them, so I resorted to my usual ways. It worked for eight thousand years, but eventually, Luna’s curiosity won out, and she experimented on herself to see if she could figure out how her link worked.”

“And Nightmare Moon was born.” Rarity winced. “Is there any danger of something like that happening to any of us? I know you said our links are stable, but—”

Harmony waved a dismissive hoof. “You’d have an easier time of trying to sew without a needle. It took me one thousand years to craft you and your friends’ links to the Elements, and I made sure there wasn’t any chance of them ‘leaking’ in any way. I even tested them ten years ago to make sure they were working properly before fully activating them.”

“Ten years ago?” Rarity echoed. “I don’t—”

She stopped dead as a particular memory struck her, that of her magic suddenly coming to life and dragging her halfway across Equestria to stand in front of a plain, unassuming rock. It was actually filled with gemstones, but she hadn’t realized that until a massive prismatic explosion went off from somewhere, shattering the rock and revealing its contents. She’d had no idea what’d caused it, but as she’d gotten her cutie mark from it, she hadn’t particularly cared.

Rarity snickered. “So that’s what all that business was about! You scared the living daylights out of me, you know.”

Harmony shrugged. “I had to test it somehow. Would you rather I ‘flipped the switch’ without any idea of what was going to happen?”

“I suppose not,” Rarity said with a giggle. “And I didn’t feel anything strange at the time, aside from my magic going off all on its own, so I guess it was a success.”

Harmony pointed at Rarity’s Soul Tether. ”Another way to think of it is like sucking water out of a straw. You need a certain amount of suction to bring the water all the way up, and if you don’t have enough, the water will fall back down. By using your Element, you’re actually ‘pulling’ on me, trying to free me from the planet, but you don’t have enough ‘suction’ to get me out. In order to damage your link, you’d have to draw ten times the amount of power it’s going to take to release me.”

Rarity gave a sigh of relief. “Okay, so let me see if I understand what you’ve told me so far. Celestia and Luna are immortal due to being linked to the Sun and Moon by Discord, and Luna’s inadvertent exposure to Chaos magic was what turned her into Nightmare Moon. You said you brought Celestia here to tell her all of this after the War of the Sun and Moon, and then tasked her with figuring out how to rid herself of her immortality, correct?”

“That’s right,” Harmony said.

Rarity chewed on her lip. “I’ve only met Princess Celestia a few times, but she’s always seemed normal enough, albeit a little sad. She must’ve been quite cautious if her link to the Sun is as dangerous as you’ve been saying.”

“Cautious doesn’t even begin to describe it.” Harmony crossed her forehooves. “She spent one hundred and seven years making failsafes and wards alone, and even then, her first test almost went haywire. She spent another fifty years making more wards after that, and only then did she start making progress.”

Rarity met Harmony’s eyes with a fervent gaze. “This all has something to do with preparing us to fight Discord, doesn’t it?”

“Partially, but that’s not all.” Harmony took a deep breath. “Only Discord can undo what he did to the Sun and Moon. If Celestia and Luna destroy their links, his lifeforce will return to his body and he’ll be freed. However, the Sun and the Moon won’t be able to move anymore, so he needs to be purified immediately, and only I can do that. I’m trapped in the planet, so I created the six of you to wield the Elements to their fullest extent. Doing this will pull me out of the planet, but it’ll take time, and Discord isn’t going to just sit and wait around while that’s going on. You and your friends need to grow as individuals in order to have the necessary knowledge and experience to simultaneously hold him off and draw out the Elements’ full power, and because of your nature, the only way to do that is through adversity. Fortunately, there’s plenty of adversity to be had in the way of Nightmare Moon, and more importantly, her Echo.

“While Cetus was inside the Element of Magic, I coaxed her into coming up with the plan to steal Celestia’s body.” Harmony stopped to make sure Rarity was still with her. “Meanwhile, I promised Celestia that I’d free Luna, so when you and your friends used the Elements on Nightmare Moon, I had Cetus go inside you so that she’d use your Soul Tether power to completely separate her from Luna. I did this for three reasons. The first was to get Cetus out of the Element of Magic, which normally resides in a pocket dimension that only its Bearer can access, which meant Celestia couldn’t get her out. The second was to use Nightmare Moon to hamper Cetus’ efforts, which also included you being healed from your disorder and giving you the experience you need. The third and final reason is that Luna is going to meet your friends at the Caverns of Harmony, which is guarded by the Dragon Turtles, and they won’t have anything to do with her if Nightmare Moon is still inside her.”

Rarity couldn’t help but laugh. “Now I know what you mean when you said you liked to micromanage! And here I thought I was bad fretting over loose seams!”

Harmony curled her lip. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m not as bad as I used to be. There was a time when I was guiding the lives of insects in order to try and bring about specific changes in the food chain.”

Rarity shook her head in amazement. “I can’t even begin to comprehend that, so I’m not going to try.”

“It sounds more complicated than it actually is, but let’s not get off-topic.” Harmony finished off her tea. “There have been a few snags here and there, but things have largely gone as planned. The biggest hurdle was getting Celestia to cooperate, but she agreed so long as Luna was freed, and that was a part of the plan, anyway. She also demanded that she get a clear shot at Nightmare Moon and Cetus, but that proved to be too complicated for me to arrange, so she agreed to settle for only Nightmare Moon.”

Rarity was about to ask what Harmony meant by ‘clear shot,’ but the longer she thought about it, the more it made sense.

“She’s never gotten one, has she?” Rarity asked. “Celestia, I mean. Both Nightmare Moon and Cetus have always had hostages with them.”

“Which has left Celestia more than a little frustrated,” Harmony remarked mildly. “There’s always been something, or somepony in the way, and never once has she been able to use all her power against either of them. This has been intentional, of course, as while both Cetus and Nightmare Moon hate Celestia, they’re also terrified of her, and are very aware that if they go head-to-head against her, they'll lose. Badly.”

“So they always hide behind something, and now that ‘something’ happens to be me.” Rarity rolled her eyes. “Well, you’ve already said martyrdom isn’t an option. What else can I do?”

Harmony gestured to the cafe around them. “Remember how I said this place can be your sanctuary? Thanks to your stamina from dealing with your sleep disorder, you can resist Limbo’s aura, and your Soul Tether power will allow you to stay here for as long as you like, regardless of the state of your body. The only one who can do anything to you here is me, and to be perfectly honest, you’re stronger than I am in this place.”

Rarity’s eyes lit up. “So if Celestia becomes freed from the Sun, all I have to do is come back here.”

When she’s freed,” Harmony corrected. “For you see, her experiments resulted in an array that can sever any link to either the Sun or the Moon, and in it are literally millions of wards. One thousand, three hundred and fifty-three of which are solely dedicated to nullifying Banishment spells, so all Cetus has to do is step inside it, and Celestia will return. She can then kick Cetus out of her body, subdue Nightmare Moon, and finish her off while you wait safely here in Limbo.”

Rarity was about to clap her hooves, but then a morbid thought struck her, one that made her stomach drop out as she stared at Harmony.

“What’s going to happen to my body?! Celestia’s going to be so angry at Nightmare Moon she’ll incinerate her to cinders! There won’t be even enough left to fill an ashtray! I don’t care if I can make this place look however I want, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life here!”

“You won’t,” Harmony said calmly. “Celestia understands the circumstances, and isn’t going to go overboard. Pinkie can restore your body once Nightmare Moon’s lifeforce is completely severed, and you’ll be able to return.”

Rarity anxiety slowly faded. She made a hmph noise, and tossed back her mane with a flourish. “Well, I’ll admit I’d prefer a plan that doesn’t put my body through the wringer, but considering the circumstances, I suppose it could be worse. What of Cetus, though? I assume she’ll just die without a host?”

Harmony clicked her teeth. “Actually, by that point, Cetus will have devoured so much magic that she’ll be able to sustain herself even without a body. She’ll be so powerful, she won’t need the Elements in order to bring about Eternal Night, but she won’t be aware of that thanks to me ‘convincing’ her otherwise while she was in the Element of Magic. There’s only one thing that’ll be able to defeat her at that point, and ironically, it’s something that’s been in front of you for a long time.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Whatever might that be?”

Harmony grinned. “Twilight’s thesis spell.”

It took a few seconds for Harmony’s words to register, but when they did, Rarity’s jaw promptly dropped. She did indeed remember Twilight telling her about how the spell she was making could theoretically break down all kinds of magic, and while it wasn’t as powerful as the Elements themselves, it could theoretically become close.

“This leads me to the third, and most important thing I’ve come to tell you.” Harmony spoke clearly and concisely. “Twilight brings the release of Day, when Night and her Twin are in the Array.”

Rarity smiled as she committed the simple rhyme to memory. “I think I can remember that. Where is this array?”

“In the very center of Canterlot Mountain,” Harmony replied. “The entrance to it is inside the Millennium Archives, second floor, back wall, center shelf. Stand on the blue square in the checkered carpet, and say the word ‘Equinox’ to open the door."

Rarity blinked several times. “That’s going to be difficult to pass off as circumstance. How do you suggest I do it?”

Harmony’s eyes twinkled. “It’s not hard to convince any Bearer of Magic, current, corrupted, or otherwise to go into a library. Getting Eclipse and Cetus in the Archives and having one of them say the word will be the easy part, the difficulty will be in getting them out.

Rarity was about to reply, but suddenly felt a jolt like static electricity run through her body.

“Ah!” She sprang to her hooves, looking wildly around. “What was that?!”

“That would be you waking up.” Harmony got to her hooves. “It’s been nice talking to you, Rarity, but I’m afraid we have to part ways for a while. Don’t worry, though, if all goes as planned, we’ll meet again soon.”

“Wait!” Rarity said in a rush. “Tell me about the alicorn thing!”

Harmony stopped, then wrinkled her brow as she remembered what Rarity was referring to.

“Right, that. Well, like I said, it’s a side-effect of using the Elements. Law magic reverts anything that‘s been changed back into its original state, and balances out anything it deems to be disproportionate. Back when Discord and I created the pony race, I made the base template that held all the characteristics of the three sub-races, and Discord used his magic to split it into thirds. This resulted in the Pegasi, Earth Ponies, and Unicorns you see today, but since Discord’s magic is technically an imbalance, anypony that uses the Elements will slowly revert back to the base template. The process took ten years for Celestia and Luna, but for you and your friends, the influx of Law magic residing inside you will cause it to happen in spurts. Cetus already awakened your Earth Pony bloodline, and your Pegasi bloodline will be roused when you obtain the Necklace of Generosity.”

Rarity bit her lip. She’d be lying if she said she’d never wondered about what it’d be like to be an Earth Pony or a Pegasus. She wasn’t willing to give up Arcana, mind you, but still, one couldn’t help but daydream from time to time. To soar through the air and have the weather answer to her beck and call? To have a long life, be resistant to disease, and never have to worry about getting lost in the wilderness? Those were appealing traits, and now she was getting them on top of her magic?

Rarity felt a creepy-crawly sensation spreading through her limbs. She looked down, and saw they were blurry and fading out. “I guess that makes sense, but you said Celestia and Luna’s immortality was Discord’s doing, so does that mean—”

“No.” Harmony’s outline was fading out, as well. “An unending lifespan would do nothing but wear on your psyche, gradually wearing away on you bit by bit until you’re nothing but a shell. A true alicorn has a lifespan of two hundred and fifty to three hundred years, so while you and your friends will enjoy longer lives than most, you’ll all eventually pass on.”

Rarity’s limbs had vanished, and now her torso was beginning to fade.

“It’s strange,” she remarked.

“What is?” Harmony asked. The illusion of Prance flickered, then faded away to leave the two of them floating in a void.

“To be given something you’ve always wanted for no reason other than that the stars aligned.” Rarity now saw that the void wasn’t entirely featureless, for where the Eifoal Tower had once been, there was an archway, black, ominous, and covered in ornate markings. “I’ve always wanted fame and success, but I wanted to earn it, not have it hoofed to me on a silver platter. Becoming an alicorn is a dream come true, yes, but to look at it and understand the only reason it happened was because I got lucky?”

Rarity watched as the line of the departed marched endlessly towards the archway, and as they crossed its threshold, they disappeared.

“It feels... hollow.”

Harmony’s body wasn’t vanishing as fast as Rarity’s, and only half her legs were gone. “Try looking at it as a down payment for your services. If all goes well, you and your friends are going to be the saviors of the world, and that’s worthy of a great reward.”

Rarity lowered her eyes. It still all sounded ridiculous to her, but she wasn’t about to argue with her maker. At least, not any more than she already had. “I suppose I’ll have to believe you.”

Harmony waved as Rarity’s torso faded away, leaving behind only her head and neck. “Goodbye, Rarity. I know you and your friends have it in you to bring about balance in all things.”

Rarity smiled back as her vision went white. She wasn’t looking forward to what awaited her when she woke, but she had confidence she could face it.

“We’ll certainly try, at least.”

Back in the restaurant, Rarity was silent as she watched Eclipse cut the eggplant into pieces. You know, there is one thing I can think of that might be worth looking to.

Eclipse hesitated. And that would be?

Rarity chose her words with utmost care. You went through my memories, so you should remember Twilight telling me about her thesis spell.

I only perused your memories to get an idea of how the culture and grammar has changed, Eclipse said. I didn’t have enough time to go through your entire life, nor would I be particularly inclined to if I did.

Rarity withheld a cheer. She’d suspected that indeed was the case, but she had to be sure. Yes, well, she told me that she’d made a spell that could do something everypony thought was impossible. There was a specific word she used for it that escapes me... Discharging? Disseminate? Dismantling?

There was a loud clatter as Eclipse dropped their fork and knife. Rarity tried her hardest not to laugh as she felt their eyes unfocus, and the barrier of shadow pulsed with unnatural force.

Are you telling me Twilight Sparkle has created a Disjunction spell?!

Rarity adopted an excited tone. Disjunction, yes! That’s the one. She was extremely excited about it because she said it could break down all kinds of magic.

Which is why it’s impossible! They were getting even more stares from the other diners now as they stared blankly off into space. Twilight’s a prodigy, yes, but there’s no way she could’ve done what thousands of Magi, including myself, have tried to do for centuries without success! You must’ve misunderstood her.

Why does everypony think I’m some kind of magical dunce?! Rarity huffed. That thing sticking out of my head isn’t just for show, you know! Twilight had to explain some of the advanced concepts and terminology to me, but I understood her just fine after that!

Explain it to me, then. Eclipse shook their head and resumed cutting up the eggplant. Explain to me how a spell that can break down other kinds of magic doesn’t rip itself apart!

Rarity paused as she searched her memory. In truth, Twilight’s spell hadn’t been complete when she’d told her about it back at Edith’s birthday party, but Harmony said it was going to work, so Rarity believed the theory was sound.

She used the Symbols of the Elements as Catalyst Runes in a hexagonal Fusion Array, then fed the magic into all six Runes simultaneously at a gradual rate to create the Disjunction effect.

I already knew that. Eclipse raised a piece of eggplant to their mouth. The problem is that when the effect occurs, it immediately explodes. Dozens of Magi have been killed that way, including Starswirl the Bearded.

That’s why Twilight used a Dacrenzic Containment Field to hold the effect together through centripetal force, Rarity said. It requires an enormous amount of energy to sustain due to the magic constantly remaking and destroying itself, but it can draw that energy from whatever it’s disjoining, so the stronger the magic is, the more stable the effect becomes.

Eclipse let the piece of eggplant fall back onto their plate, much to Rarity’s disappointment.

That’s... brilliant. Centripetal force? Why didn’t I ever think of that?! The spell can’t be kept together through the laws of Arcana, so you have to use the laws of Physics, instead! Genius!

Rarity could’ve left it at that, but she figured a little grease on the wheels couldn’t hurt. Twilight said she had a few more kinks to work out before she presented it to the University, but it worked well enough when she showed it to me. I’m sure she’s got it in tip-top shape by now.

Hmm. Eclipse rested their elbows on the table and put their hooves together. I’ve no reason to doubt you, and while a Disjunction spell would be the perfect weapon to use against Cetus, if what you’re saying is true, that presents a new set of problems. I don’t remember what all the Symbols of the Elements are, and even if I did, I’d need to do several weeks worth of research in order to properly construct the array. We could get the information we need from the libraries here in Whinnyapolis, but we can’t spend that much time here, and even if we just checked the libraries in each town we visit, I’ll need to conduct experiments to make sure everything is working, and I can’t do that on the road.

Rarity already had an answer to that problem, but she knew she couldn’t be overly enthusiastic about it, as Eclipse might then catch on that she was being led into a trap. Better to play like she was thinking all this up on the fly than to risk revealing she was doing the equivalent of reading off a script.

Perhaps, Rarity said haltingly, we don’t need to.

Eclipse looked at their reflection in the window again. Oh?

Rarity imagined herself speaking to Eclipse from the other side. Anything we try or do is going to be subject to suspicion because Cetus expects a betrayal from us. As you just said, if we stay overly long here in Whinnyapolis, or anywhere else for that matter, she’s going to know something’s ahoof. And as for doing any experimentation, I’d bet my Boutique those brutish louts over there have been ordered to to report any suspicious activities we perform.

She’s probably also told them to give daily reports so that she’ll know if we dispose of them. Eclipse adjusted their mane. What’s your point?

Rarity was suddenly grateful that she wasn’t in control of her body, as she’d be terribly nervous for proposing something that so much was riding on. Why bother taking the risk when Twilight’s already done all the work? We’re supposed to be looking for her, anyway. Why not just continue to do so, then, when we find her, convince her to use the Disjunction spell against Cetus while we keep her attention on us?

Eclipse lowered their chin and frowned, their fangs glittering in the dim light. And how exactly do we convince her to help us? She’s not going to agree once she finds out who I am.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Rarity had never liked that saying, but she supposed there was some truth to it in this case. Twilight wants to take out Cetus as much as we do, and you’re as much of a prisoner as I. She’s the most logical pony I’ve ever met, and if we inform her of our situation, I know she’ll be willing to make a deal.

The last time I ‘made a deal’ with somepony, I took the Elements of Harmony to the face. Eclipse turned her attention back to the eggplant. You’ll forgive me if I’m not eager to repeat the experience.

Which experience? Rarity asked. Making a deal, or getting hit by the Elements?

Eclipse snorted. Both.

Rarity’s temptation to feel sorry for her was tempered by the reminder that this was a mass murderer responsible for the continued suffering of an entire host of ponies. I could try talking to her instead, if you’d like. She’ll listen to me.

Eclipse gave their burly guards a perfunctory glance. That might work. However, if you do, I want to know exactly what you’re going to say. And fair warning: if you try anything funny, there’ll be painful consequences.

Yes, yes. Rarity said dismissively. Now, can we please eat?! I’m positively starving, and the smell of that eggplant is driving me up the wall. I feel as if I could eat the whole thing!

Good, because that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Eclipse picked up their fork and put a piece of the eggplant in their mouth at last. You’re a growing mare now, so we need all the nourishment we can get. It’s a pity your Pegasus bloodline didn’t awaken first, as some fish would go nicely with this. Oh well, good things come to those who wait.

Rarity would’ve replied to that, but the taste of the eggplant had rendered her speechless. It was soft and juicy, with a hint of spice that sent her tastebuds into a state of bliss. Her train of thought was completely derailed, and she hummed as she lost herself to their dinner. There were a few more things to work out, like actually finding Twilight and figuring out what to tell her, but that could wait until they picked up her trail. It didn’t make sense to figure out how they’d get back to Canterlot when she didn’t know where they were going to end up, let alone how she was going to get both Eclipse and Cetus in Celestia’s array. Rarity had a few ideas, but without more pieces to the puzzle, all she could do was wait.

And if said waiting involved more things like this, then she certainly had no complaint.